Sean Sons Of Crosby Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Rachel Daniels was in over her head, and it didn’t take a genius to see it either. Her niece and nephew had been through a lot, and it was up to her to take over where their mother had failed them. Now finding out that she was Sean Crosby’s mate had her head spinning. She was just getting used to the idea of being a mother. Taking on the role of being a mate to a vampire was another daunting matter.

Sean Crosby had always been considered a loner. Now finding himself with a readymade family, Sean couldn’t be happier.

Sandy Farley didn’t really want her kids back. She only wanted the benefits of having the kids gave her. And if it took ruining Rachel’s good name to make things go her way, she was all for that too. What did it matter if her lies sent Rachel to jail? She killed Rachel’s brother. She would kill her too.

 

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AMAZON AU https://amzn.to/35cBOSD
B&N
GOOGLE PLAY https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kathi_S_Barton_Sean?id=YJ4DEAAAQBAJ
SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1049234
KOBO  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sean-19
ITUNES https://books.apple.com/us/book/sean/id1536480063
PAPERBACK  https://www.amazon.com/dp/1953271286/ref=sr_1_7?keywords=kathi+s+barton&qid=1603103246&sr=8-7

 

 

 

 

Spencer Graham had been trying to get a hold of Jason Crosby for weeks, but he didn’t seem to answer emails, mail or the telephone. She had an idea that would make them a great deal of money, but she needed him to invest in her project before it was too late. So, barging into his home at 4 a. m. was the only solution as far as she was concerned. She didn’t, however, expect him to answer the door naked and proposition her as soon as she walked in the door. Spencer did the only thing that came natural to her, she knocked him on his ass….

Jason Crosby was nearly two thousand years old, and in all his days as a vampire, he’d never seen anyone quite like her, not that he thought that was a good thing. He didn’t. She was his mate, and he was only going the tolerate her because he had to….

 

Chase Crosby didn’t know what he wanted right now. He was trying to get a grip on who his new mate was. He was told she was an ice dragon, but that wasn’t right either, she was a protector of the ice dragons. He had so many questions, and all he could do was sit there while she was locked away in his freezer to recover from her injuries.

Emerald was a warrior, and she had no idea what she was going to do with a mate. Even though the vampire appealed to her, she was worried the people chasing her would hurt him or his family to get to her, and she couldn’t allow that.

A Homeland Security Agent had gone rogue and he was after Emerald. He didn’t know exactly who or what she was, but he was going to prove she’d been around for centuries, and it didn’t matter who he had to go through to get to her.

 

Elliot knew the little boy, Cody, was in trouble. When he found the boy hiding out in his greenhouse, he could see that he was starving and battered. The boy’s little dog didn’t look like he was faring any better. When the boy’s father, Duncan, busted down the door of the greenhouse, Elliot had had enough.

Hannah didn’t have much use for her idiot brother, Duncan. And when she heard her brother had murdered his wife, and her nephew Cody was on the run from his father, she wasn’t surprised. She was surprised, however, and elated to find out her sister, Julia, was alive. Julia’s slimy ex-husband, Nathan, had Hannah believing Julia was dead.

Elliot was sent to bring Hannah back. Nathan had learned that Julia had left town and taking Hannah would be his leverage to make Julia do as he wanted. Elliot knew Nathan was on his way, and they had to hurry to keep Nathan from finding her. What he wasn’t expecting to find was his mate.

Hannah had had enough of men telling her what to do and finding out Elliot was a vampire didn’t make the situation any easier. He would take it slow and tread softly, or she would stake him, simple as that.

Finding out Nathan and Duncan had banned together spelled trouble for everyone. Even though Hannah was now immortal, Elliot still worried about her because she could still be hurt, and no one touched his mate if they wanted to live.

 

 

 

Misty Quartermain met Sean Crosby in college. One night, before they’d met, he’d saved her from a vicious vampire attack and after that they become close friends. He’d shared his family secrets with her and took a little of her blood so that they’d always share a connection. Sean knew Misty wasn’t his mate, but he’d always felt protective of her. A few years later, when Misty and her family were in trouble and on the run, Sean enlisted his family to come to their aid.

Grayson Crosby had always been somewhat of a loner. He mostly kept to himself but was there for the family when they needed him. Sean said he needed help to keep his college friend safe so Grayson was there for him, maybe not enthusiastically, but there. He heard Sean making the family introductions and came out of the kitchen. His beast suddenly had the poor woman backed into the wall.

“You said that she knows all about us?” Sean said that she did and that he was terrifying her. “Yeah, I know, but my beast, he won’t let me go enough to help her.”

“Well, let me help you then. I’m sick of men running over me.” Misty doubled up her fist and hit Grayson square in the nose. Then, when he was going back, she swung her leg around and did a roundhouse slap with her foot to his head. He went to the floor in a thud, breaking the end table behind him.

 

Melody Harmony had had a rough start. Mel had lost her parents young, and she fell in love hard and fast only to lose both her new husband and her unborn child to a drunk driver. As a result, Mel didn’t have much use for many people.

Mel loved kayaking on the river. On her morning run, she found a floater and called it into her friend at the sheriff’s office. The mayor showed up instead and cut the body loose and proceeded to fire her and her friend for their troubles.

Ryan Crosby was one of the two remaining Crosby brothers who hadn’t found their mates. When good friend and family, Jamie Nash, told Ryan his friend Mel was in need of a good attorney, Ryan was more than happy to help.

But when Mel showed up for the meeting, expecting to get things underway with the attorney, she was floored when his handshake nearly took her to her knees. The man uttered several times that they were mates. She wasn’t entirely sure what that entailed, but she was sure she wanted no part of it.

With the mayor harassing her daily, and a new mate sniffing around, Mel had some decisions to make fast. The only problem was, it might be too late to do anything about either one of them….

 

 

 

 

The Sons of Crosby Series
1.Jason http://amzn.to/2rBDG5A
2.Chase  http://amzn.to/2BcTznZ
3.Elliot https://amzn.to/2y7mPMm
4.Grayson https://amzn.to/2zGRO0E
5.Ryan https://amzn.to/2T9sVTl
6.Sean https://amzn.to/357xyUE

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Brashears  Signed Coloring Book
Buffy Bourne  Signed Cup Winner

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Elizabeth Cranage
Kaylee Rankins
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Becky Eiden  Signed Cup Winner

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If you have not gotten your prize please contact my PA Denise at denisek0319@gmail.com  

Happy Reading,

 

 

 

Prologue

Sandy waited to talk with her attorney. He didn’t cost anything, and her experience on that seemed to be a person got what they paid for. But he seemed to have his shit together, for which she was very glad. Of course, he didn’t know the whole truth about anything that she’d done. Especially when it came to her past and the life she’d had with her children. Sandy didn’t think that Rachel would say anything different, not if it kept her from going to jail again. “You told me that your sister forged your name to legal documents, correct?” Another lie she’d told him, but he believed her. “You’d think that someone that works for the government would know better than to do something like that. I mean, that’s serious jail time for her.” Sandy felt a little guilt for that, but let it go. Again, Rachel would want her to be with her kids, wouldn’t she? That’s all she ever talked about was how they needed their mom out of prison. Not that she wanted to hang around them much either, but it was either Rachel claimed that she was a wonderful mom or Sandy would end up in jail forever.

The third time, she knew, was not a charm. “Did you go and talk to her about it?” He said that no one was home. “It’s Wednesday, right? That’s pizza night at the house. That’s probably where they are.” “I don’t think so. According to the landlord, Rachel had him pick up her mail for a week and to make sure that no one got into their place. She even said not to allow you in. What’s she hiding from you?” Rachel had taken her kids on a trip? Sandy wondered if there would be gifts for her when they returned. Then she remembered that she’d turned her kids over to Rachel. “Do you know where she might have taken them? I mean, if she forged your name to those documents, then she isn’t allowed to take someone else’s children across state lines. Did you know that?” “No, I didn’t.” She didn’t either. But now that Sandy thought on it, it would be like her sister to take the kids someplace special, to probably break the news of what she’d done. “You think she would have told them about the paperwork? I mean, not that she forged my name, but that she believes what she did is right?”

“If she did forge your name to those papers, then she’d be in trouble more if she took them across the state lines. We can attach kidnapping to what she’s doing.” Nodding, Sandy wondered if her sister would ever forgive her for this and decided that she would. Rachel had a soft heart. A soft head too, but it was her heart that she was playing around with. “I’ll have someone check the airports for a ticket in their name. Maybe she’s only taking them to an amusement park or something. But what we have to work on now is this shoplifting charge against you.” “I was so depressed about not seeing my kids.” The attorney nodded. Sandy supposed that it helped her, too, that the man was a new dad. “I knew as soon as I did it that it was wrong, but you have no idea how it feels when you’re not able to get a hug when you can.”

Hugs. Sandy hated hugs more than she did nasty noses and dirty diapers. Her kids were well past that now, of course, and had been for some time. That was why she’d moved in with Rachel and the kids again because she figured that she’d be able to handle all their shit now. But it had been one thing after another with them. Always with their hands out for something they needed for school. They needed a coat or boots before winter. Finally, she told them to see Rachel for that shit, cutting out the middle man, so to speak. Not that she didn’t have the money, Sandy thought. Rachel had all kinds of money. Sandy had tried her best to figure out how to take cash from her sister’s accounts, or even to get a check to write out to cash. But Rachel was very careful of that, never leaving anything out where she could find it. Sandy was sure that Rachel was well aware that she’d been looking. Rachel had always been stingy with her money. It was always like she was saving for something big. So far as Sandy could see, she’d not spent any of her money on anything bigger than a car, and even that was older than dirt. It didn’t even have air conditioning. “Did you hear me?” Apparently, she’d been daydreaming again and told the attorney that she was sorry, just thinking about her children.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Farley. We’ll get them back for you. But, we just found out that Rachel has gone to Ohio. Do you know anyone there?” “No, I don’t think so. But her job, they send her all over the place when they need her.” He asked her what she did for the FBI. “I don’t really know, to be honest. I know that she’s been doing her job since she was just out of college.” “Well, it won’t get her anywhere for much longer. I have someone from this office going there now to see what is what. If you hear from her, not that I think you will, being in jail right now, you give her my name and tell her that I wish to speak to her.” It was then that Sandy realized that she didn’t know the man’s name. Not even a hint of it. Then he laid his card in front of her. “That’s my direct number. You have one of the officers call me no matter when you hear from your sister.” “Is it important for you to know that she’s not really my sister?

Rachel is my sister-in-law by my dead husband.” He said that it was important. “I knew Rachel long before I met her brother. Jonathon and I were married for about a year when he was killed.” “I’ll make a note of that.” Sandy nodded and was glad that he’d not asked her how Jonathon had been killed. She’d done it while stoned out of her mind one night. Sandy didn’t even know what the argument had been about. That was when her children had been taken from her the first time. Rachel had gotten them just before they’d been put in the system because she’d been put in jail for his murder. Not that anyone believed that she would actually kill her own loving husband. Rachel had helped her out with that as well. When she was taken back to her cell, Sandy laid down on her cot. It wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be when in jail. She kind of loved it. Three meals a day that she didn’t have to cook or clean up after. A nice cozy bed that had as many pillows and covers as she wanted.

The best part was she didn’t have her kids around whining about this or that. And no sister nagging at her to get a fucking job, either. ~*~ Sean got off the phone with Ben Shore and looked across his desk to Rachel. She’d not said much since they moved into his home. It had made him laugh when she asked for a key to the room she was in. While he could have broken down any door that she put between them, he had Conner, his butler, call someone to put the lock on her door. She didn’t seem to be any happier about that than she was anything else. “Do you want it easy or hard? I can do either one for you.” She told him that she wanted him to never lie to her. “I would never do that. Besides, I can’t anyway. However, I can be gentle about the information that I have if you’d like.” “How is that not lying?” He told her that he’d tell her the truth but be nice and ease her into things. “I’m not my niece and nephew. Just tell me what you’ve found out.” “Your sister is in jail for shoplifting. To play on the sympathy of the courts, she’s telling them that you forged her name to the documents you filed. Also, you took them out of the state without her permission.” She asked him how that would have been gentler. “I might have started off saying that your sister is full of shit and that if she touches one of those kids or you, that she’ll live to regret it.” “I don’t think you fully understand the meaning of gentle.”

Sean laughed and saw her smile too. “What happens now? I mean, I’m sure that someone somewhere is going to want to speak to me about my side. If they do, what happens to Becky and Jon? I don’t want anything else to happen to them.” “I don’t either. I’m going to talk with my brother, Ryan. He’s an attorney and has been one for a long time. Longer than any sitting judge has. He’ll have answers. Between him and Misty, my sister-in-law, they’ll have something that we can work with.” Rachel got up and started walking around his office. He didn’t say anything to her, letting her roam around while she thought. They were having dinner with his entire family tomorrow night, and he was sure she wasn’t too thrilled about that either. “Those men that hurt Becky have you found them yet?” He nodded when she looked at him. “And they’ve been dealt with? Legally?” “No. Not legally, no. But they won’t hurt anyone ever again.” She just nodded, and he let out a long breath. “You’ll meet Emerald tomorrow night. She’s sort of our go-to person in finding people. When she caught up with them, they were doing the same thing. But this time, they didn’t get far enough to hurt the young girl. She was eight. Emerald made them suffer a bit before—” “I want you to tell me things gently from now on. Or better yet, I’d rather you said to me, ‘You don’t want to know.’ I will know then that I really fucking don’t want to know.” He said that he could do that for her. “I don’t know what’s going on here with you and I. I know that you’re not going to hurt me. I have a friend that I spoke to when we got here. She told me that you were one of the nicest men that she knew. Your whole family was people that could be depended on when the shit hit the fan.”

“That’s very true.” Rachel sat back down in the chair. “Do you have questions? Or too many to ask?” “Both. You said that you were old and powerful—what does that mean exactly?” Sean wanted to tell her that she didn’t want to know but thought that perhaps she did need to know just what she had at her beck and call. “I’m thousands of years old. My family was powerful before we were given the gifts from Killian. With what she gave us, we were more than likely the most powerful beings in the world, with the exception of the queen. But since then, we’ve merged with a great many other creatures. Emerald is the queen of dragons. Protector of them, too, with the help of my brother.” Rachel asked him if there really were dragons. “There are. Unicorns, as well as a few other creatures that people think aren’t real. I can introduce you to them when this is all done if you’d like.” “I don’t know. What else is in our corner?” He told her. “So there are faeries and brownies that we can call on, as well as an army of wolves. You do know that this is a lot for me to take in, don’t you?”

“I do. But you’re doing just fine so far.” She got up to pace again. “I wanted to make you aware of something that your friend might not have known if she’s not a vampire. I can no longer drink from anyone else but you. Ever again. In an emergency, I can drink from my brothers, but no one else.” “No, she didn’t mention that.” Sean nodded but didn’t say anything more, waiting for Rachel to ask whatever she wanted. “You’re wealthy, she told me. Beyond any wealth that anyone has ever been able to calculate.” “That’s partly true. You’re very wealthy too, now that you’re my mate. The children too are wealthy, and I will do whatever you wish regarding them.” She asked him what he meant. “If you’d marry me, which is no big deal to think about now, then everything that I own will be put in your name. That’s to keep people, mostly people that aren’t aware of what we are, from becoming suspicious of us being around so long. Then after a while, it will come back to my name. But I will forever think that whatever I have is yours, and whatever is yours is yours.

In several lifetimes, Rachel, you could not spend all the money we have so that we’d have nothing. There is always money to be had. Legally.” “I need to think about this.” He told her that he had no doubt that she did. “Where do I go when I have questions? To you? I don’t want to take up your time.” “You can come to me whenever you wish. Or to any member of my family. They’ll answer everything and anything you wish. But, like me, you’ll have to tell them how you want your information. Also, the women in this family are very strong, like you are. And they’ll be almost too much. But I have no doubt at all that you can stand up to them.” When she left to see to the children, he leaned back in his chair. He was nervous as fuck around her, and he thought she might know it. Sean was as excited as he’d ever been about having anyone in his life. He just hoped that he didn’t have to kill anyone around her to keep her safe.

 

Stanley Dalton’s Kiss Release Blitz & Giveaway

Elizabeth Strickland, Lizzy, to her friends, found herself in a predicament. The last thing she remembered was attending her own bachelorette party, then waking up in a cave with six other women. They all had wounds, just like hers, only they were dead. Lizzy had awakened as a newborn vampire. She had no idea why they died, and she had lived, but she had wished every day that she had died with them.

Stanley Remy, better known as just Remy, was an old vampire and close friends with Bancroft, their leader. He had his own issues. He was being falsely charged with making baby vamps and leaving them to fend for themselves.

Lizzy just wanted the bodies of the other women found. Once they were, she had every intention of meeting the sun. What she didn’t need were two overbearing old vampires dictating to her what she could and couldn’t do. She had killed her maker, she wouldn’t hesitate to take them out if they didn’t let her be.

But then Remy gifted her with something she never thought she’d have again. To feel the sun without burning. She could have her life back. Maybe this mate thing wouldn’t be so bad after all.

If only it were that simple….

AMAZON USA https://amzn.to/33rA2O3
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AMAZON AU https://amzn.to/3izdxuU
SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1046713
GOOGLE PLAY https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kathi_S_Barton_Stanley?id=d7MAEAAAQBAJ
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ITUNES https://books.apple.com/us/book/stanley/id1534655810
PAPERBACK https://www.amazon.com/dp/1953271227/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=Kathi+s+barton&qid=1601849860&sr=8-6

 

Kelly Roman was good at her job. As a forensic anthropologist, she could help the dead and help the families find closure. The one thing she hated about her job was her boss, Shamus Van. That man was out to sabotage everything she did. And when he brought in the new chief of police, Bancroft Dalton, to make her look bad, that was the last straw. She’d quit before they had a chance to fire her.

When Bancroft showed up at her front door, he asked to be invited in, and when he told her he couldn’t lie to her, it set off all kinds of bells and whistles in Kelly’s suspicions. It wasn’t the fact that he was a vampire that bothered her, it was the part about him not being able to lie to her. She knew shifters couldn’t lie to their mates. There was no way in hell she was letting a man barge into her life and take over….

 

 

 

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Linda Brashears  Paperback winner
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Wesley Bishop’s Snowy Leap Release Blitz &Giveaway

Wesley Bishop was helping out a friend by letting Emmie stay with him. He knew she wasn’t his mate, but she was good company. Emmie was hiding from her abusive brothers. When she asked Wesley to take her to the bank, she was meeting her best friend Penny and Penny’s grandfather, Joe, to go over their accounts, Wesley readily agreed.

Wesley thought Penny was about the prettiest woman he’d ever seen—feisty too, and when her scent hit him like a freight train, he was the happiest tiger shifter on the planet.

Penny, not so much. Like Emmie, Penny’s family had a way of getting their point across with a heavy fist. Trusting a man wasn’t easy for her.

Wesley was no quitter; he’d convince his new mate to trust him if it was the last thing he did. And keeping her safe was proving to be more difficult by the day.

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AMAZON AU https://www.amazon.com.au/Wesley-Bishops-Paranormal-Shifter-Romance-ebook/dp/B08JJPRJMN/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=wesley+by+kathi+s+barton&qid=1600692840&sr=8-1
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Raven Addington was happy with her life the way it was. She and her daughter, Molly, were doing just fine on their own, despite what her mother had to say about it. Merriam, Raven’s mother, never had anything nice to say about anything, so why should now be any different.

Sawyer Bishop had turned in his notice at the police force. No matter how bad he needed the money, he wasn’t about to let a hot-headed partner make him a mark for an early grave. His parents needed his help on the farm, so he was happy to leave the force.

Sawyer was supposed to be on desk duty, but they were shorthanded, so he took the call that came in from the 911 dispatch. It would be his last, and then he would be a poor but free man.

When Sawyer arrived on the scene, it was bad. The poor woman had been beaten until she was unrecognizable and barely breathing. Although he didn’t know her personally, he knew Raven Addington was extremely wealthy, and that bothered him more than he cared to admit. Being a Bengal tiger, he knew from her scent that she was his mate. Her station in life was so far above his, he didn’t think it was going to work. But when she coded in the hospital, he had to make a quick decision and hope it wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass later.


Sasha Harvard had returned to the small town in Ohio because Hailey Riddle, a ghost, had led her there. Sasha had been speaking to the dead for as long as she could remember. In working with the police, Sasha had been in the field, helping to look for Melinda’s spirit when Melinda Havard had found her. Melinda told her that they were sisters, and the man that had killed her thought that she was Sasha. Melinda had done the best she could to deliver the child she was carrying before she succumbed to her wounds. The child was marked like Sasha, and the dead would find her when she was older. Melinda wanted Sasha to raise her child, and she warned Sasha that the man who had killed her would come after both her and the child because of what they could do. Sasha pulled out the business card of Sawyer Bishop, the officer in charge on the field, and told him that she’d like to meet him at his house and to send someone to pick her up.

Chandler Bishop knocked on Sasha’s door to pick her up. He heard a scuffle inside and broke down the door. A man was standing over Sasha with a baseball bat, and she had been beaten. When Chandler yelled at the man, he just disappeared. Sasha was shocked that he’d seen the man. Chandler thought the man was a vampire, Sasha told him the man was dead.

Chandler had found his mate and could see the dead now too apparently. And the little girl, Pip, her niece, would be theirs as well. A readymade family and he couldn’t be happier. But would he and his tiger be able to keep them safe from both the living and the dead?

the living and the dead?

Sawyer https://amzn.to/31RAKBo
Chandler https://amzn.to/38w7ouj

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Debbie Whitley Paperback winner
Cheryl Lopez  Signed Cup Winner
Julia Bystedt Signed Cup Winner

Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

Please make sure you put all the  Info in  for a chance at winning A   Signed Mystery Paperback Or Signed CupOr Coloring Book

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Maria Dalmau
Katherine Humphreys
Sarah Black
Sonja Zucker
Niki Driscoll
Cheryl Lopez
Teri Bellville
Joyce Mirabello
William Cheney
Elizabeth Cranage
Kaylee Rankins
Hena Rahman
Angel Young
Joyce Mirabello Paperback winner
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The equipment was larger than life. It didn’t so much scare her, but it did intimidate her something terrible. Emmie waited at the end of the row that Wesley was putting in for pea planting. He’d told her just this morning he’d never realized what real anticipation was until he had to wait months and months for something so simple as peas. Waving at him when he looked in her direction, she wondered how hard it would be to run over one of her brothers with the sucker. “You all right?” She nodded at him and thanked him again for allowing her to hide out in his house while her brothers were around. “It’s not a problem. You keep cooking for me like you are, and I might just keep you around.” “You’d not like having me beaten up all the time if anyone of my brothers shows up. You’re a good man, Wesley.” He was embarrassed, and she had to laugh. “I’ve been called into the bank for a little bit. While I know Dutch is in jail, I’m still afraid to head into town. I don’t suppose you can call one of your brothers to take me in, can you?” “I can do you one better. Raven, I think you know her?” She said she knew of her. “She’s scarier than your brothers. Smarter too. But then that’s not all that hard. Anyway, she’s on her way here to get some information on the tractors I’ve been using for her grandma. I know you might not be too thrilled to have your brothers arrested, but they’ve been—” “If anyone can get them off the streets and out of my life, I’m all for it. Penny and her grandda are going to meet me at the bank. They have some clothing for me from Mr. Joe’s house.” He said that was good.

“You’ve been a real hero for me, Wesley. I don’t think anyone else would have just taken in a stranger like you did. I can’t thank you enough.” “It wasn’t anything. As I told you this morning, you’ve been really nice having around. Stems off some of the loneliness I didn’t realize I was having.” When he got down off the tractor, Emmie was again surprised by his height. She wasn’t a little person at five-eleven, but he seemed to tower over her. “Am I making you uncomfortable?” “At first, you did. But for whatever reason, I feel safe around you. Since we both know we’re not mates or whatever white tigers call their other half, I’m assuming you’re just a nice guy.” He threw back his head and laughed, and Emmie couldn’t help it, she joined him. “I’ve only been here for three days, and I don’t think I’ve had this much fun in all my life.” “The same with me. All right. I’m finished helping the neighbors with their fields, and I have about an hour before I have to meet my dad and his cronies over at Mom’s again with the tractor, so how about I just run you in? You’ve been great for helping me get my stuff packed up to move, so I’m going to treat you to something you don’t have to cook.” She thought she could fix something the house, but being waited on sounded too good to pass up. “I just need to take a quick shower and change. Even with air in that sucker, it still gets mighty hot when I’m working.” He did take a quick shower and was ready to go in less than twenty minutes. By the time they’d pulled into the bank parking lot, she was just nervous enough that she felt slightly ill. Wesley didn’t say anything to her or even tease her as she sat there.

When she told him she was ready, he still hadn’t made fun of her, nor had he hit her. Emmie thought she could get used to this. Mr. Joe was sitting on one of the many benches in the bank. After he shook hands with Wesley and thanked him, Mr. Joe hugged her like he’d not seen her in years. Letting him hold her while he seemed to gather himself, she took him into her office so they could wait for Penny to return from the store across the street, Mr. Joe told her. “I think being thirsty all the time is making me a little nervous. Penny too. She’s taking me by the doc’s office after we leave here. I’m not even gonna argue with her about it. I think she gets enough of that from our stupid family.” Mr. Joe was sitting in one of the most comfortable chairs in her office, which wasn’t really saying much. They were all about as comfortable as sitting on a slab of concrete. “You’d think for as much business as you’re bringing into this little bank, they’d be happy to spring for new chairs. This one is worse than my old mattress at home.” Penny entered the room and kissed them both. She sat down beside Mr. Joe. While she didn’t have any idea what they were going to need, Emmie closed her office door and locked it, a habit she’d gotten into when she lived at home. Locking her door always afforded her just enough time to know someone was about to enter her room. “You doing all right out there with Wesley, child?” She told him she was doing great. He was a wonderful man. “He is at that. All them Bishop boys are as good as gold. Their parents, they did a great job of passing down their kindness to them. I’m here to fix some things that I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. First and foremost, honey, I’d like for you to make sure the account Wendy had is closed up from her kids.” “It is. As soon as I heard about her death, I locked hers and your accounts. I hope I didn’t cause you any trouble with that.” He said he’d not noticed.

“Good. I figured you’d have your hands full with the other two around, and I didn’t want them coming in and trying to cash out your account. Also, I did put a reminder out to the people who work here that your account could be touched by you and only you, Penny. I figured that would save you a great deal of heartache as well.” “Thank you so much. I would never have thought of that.” Emmie told her she’d do the same for her if they were in the same situation. “I owe you so much, Emmie. Had you not talked to me about your brothers, I might well have been six feet under by now. They’re already pissed because I’m not allowing them to sponge off Grandpa Joe. The police have been really good about having someone watch his house. They had to run in my dad and his brother earlier today. They were in Grandma’s house, moving their crap in. She’s not even in the ground, and they’re already shoving her things to the side of the road.” After they were finished with all the changes Mr. Joe wanted, they set up a reading of the will with an attorney. A friend of the family, Mr. Brooks Hall, wasn’t the attorney that had handled Wendy’s will in the first place, but he said he’d be happy to come to them anytime to read the will. Apparently, everyone mentioned in the will was right there in the room. Her sons weren’t even named in it.

“That’s going to cause a fuss, I think. Well, it’ll be more than a fuss, but you understand.” Mr. Joe laughed and said he’d been the one to write out what the will was to say, and since Wendy couldn’t read all that well, she was more than happy to have him take care of things. “I figured what little money she had should go to the one that helped her the most. Them boys of hers, they were jerks all their life to their mother. And it’s doubtful to me that her brother or sister will come around. They didn’t have too much to do with her after she moved into that house. Not that she ever noticed it.” Grandpa shook his head. “I’m telling you right now that my will is simple. What I have goes to the two of you.” “I’m not really your granddaughter, Mr. Joe. I mean, I love that you think of me that way, but all I’ve ever been is a very close friend to Penny.” Mr. Joe said that was good enough for him. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what to say. Only that you’d better not be thinking of leaving us anytime soon. I need you as much as your flesh and blood does.” “And I need you, two girls, around too. Why, just the other day, I was thinking that a parent shouldn’t have to outlive a child. But then I got to thinking about how much drama I was going to be out of. I loved my Wendy—more than I should have, I think—but she gave me you, Penny, then, in turn, Emmie here. A great-granddaughter and a little girl that I’ve loved more than anything.” Emmie was just finishing up when one of the tellers knocked and was let in. She looked upset, and it took her five minutes to let her know that James Harold was in the bank demanding to have his mother’s money. “He threatened me with harm, Miss Emmie. I mean, he said that not only would he ruin my body so not even dental records would be helpful in identifying me, but that he’d kill my entire family. I can’t work that way.” Emmie told her to have a seat, and she’d take care of him.

“You should know I’ve buzzed the police too. I never would have thought we’d use those security buttons until today.” The police plus Sawyer came in just as she was headed to the slot Shelly had been at. She asked James what she could do for him. After a short round of cursing, he finally told her what he’d been trying to do. “I want all my mom’s money in my hand right now.” She told him no and asked if he needed anything else. “What the hell do you mean, no? It’s not your money, it’s mine now that she’s dead. Give it over, Emmie, or so help me, I’m going to kill you. I need it.” “I’m sure you do since you’ve not had a job in— I was going to say in a long time, but I don’t think I’ve never known you to have one. But you’re not getting anything from the account because the will hasn’t been read.” James told her to fuck the will. “While that is tempting, I don’t think it’s physically possible. Now, you go about your day and try very hard not to piss anyone else off, or so help me, James, I will have these nice men behind you keep you in the cell right beside Dutch. You’re not going to get into her account.” He turned when Sawyer laughed and asked him what the fuck he was doing there. James told him he thought he’d been fired. “Nah. I’m still a cop. I help the police out when they ask, especially when they have to go collect an idiot from the banks. You should really leave here now, James. Because if she has to tell you again, you’re not getting the money, I’m going to have one of these fine officers blow your head off”.

It was then Emmie noticed that every other customer in the bank was leaving. This might not end well, and the home office was going to be pissy about it, but she didn’t want anyone harmed by James. Or anyone for that matter. Sawyer put his hand on James’s shoulder, and it was over before James was able to pull the trigger on his gun. While James lay screaming on the floor about his right to the money, with the other man’s boot at his neck, Sawyer asked her if she was all right. Emmie didn’t think she’d been all right in a long time, but told him she was fine. Then he asked her if she wanted to press charges. “I do, as does Shelly Crabapple, one of the tellers that works here. She told me he threatened her as well. I know you’re more than likely aware of it, but James here isn’t supposed to have a weapon. He’s been convicted of a crime, and only just got out of prison a month ago.” Sawyer told her he’d not known but thanked her. “Anytime. Wesley is outside. Would you mind asking him if he’d escort us home? I have Penny as well as Mr. Joe in my office right now.” “Good idea. Wesley might look all relaxed like he’d not hurt a fly, but we all know better.” She thanked him. “It’s fine, Emmie. Also, Raven, my wife, she might come by the house later to talk to you about some of the other things she has on her list from yours and Penny’s family.” “I don’t know where we’re going to be after today. I don’t want to wear out my welcome with Wesley. You should also know, my brothers are on the same warpath as this one is. I’ve been staying at Wesley’s home for a couple of days now.”

He said he knew that. “I figured as much. Thanks for keeping an eye on them for us.” “Mr. Joe is a good friend to our family. And by extension, you are as well.” Again, she thanked him. Wesley came in and told her he was going to lock up and sit out there to wait for her to be finished. For her to take her time. “I’m going to keep an eye out for those brothers of yours too, Emmie. They’ll regret any kind of move they make to hurt any of you.” James was still under Sawyer’s foot, and his threats were becoming more violent and creative. Emmie had to think that when he was let go, he’d be up and trying something stupid with Sawyer. As soon as she thought that, one of the officers with Sawyer cuffed James by his wrists. “You’re fucking going to pay for this, bitch.” She pointed out she’d done nothing more than tell him no. “You think that’s all? Well, I got news for you. You’re not going to be telling me no again.” “That doesn’t even make sense.” He lunged at her, and she was glad she didn’t even flinch when he did it. “Get out of here, James, before I think of another thing to bring up about you. Stupidity, sadly, isn’t cause for an arrest, or you’d have been jailed a long time before now.” Wesley joined her in the office as soon as she locked down the bank. The police would take the footage of today, and she’d send a copy of it to the home office. Today was turning out better than she could have planned it to be.

~*~ Wesley tried his best not to stare at the other woman. He knew he was making her uncomfortable, but he just couldn’t believe she was the granddaughter of Wendy Harold. Not only that, but her uncle was one of the worst kinds of people in the world. Tony wasn’t too bad, not really, but he was an odd noodle at times. “Are you going to take a picture or something?” Wesley just smiled at her when Mr. Joe laughed. “The way you’re eyeing me, I feel like I have something in my hair. I know for a fact I don’t.” “You don’t. I’m sorry for staring, but I was just thinking about your relatives. I can’t believe you are part of the same gene pool.” Her face told him she didn’t believe a word he’d just said to her. “Honestly. First, there is Wendy. I’ve known her all my life. You? I didn’t even know Tony was married, much less had a daughter that looks like a goddess. I’m assuming you look like your mother. You certainly don’t look like your dad.” “You look just like your father. You could almost be his twin.” He thanked her. “I don’t know who my mother is. I never knew, as a matter of fact. So I think you might be right on that. I’m sorry for giving you a hard time. Things just haven’t been going right for the last few days. Well, that’s not true. Not going right for most of my life.” “I know your uncle and dad as well. You and Emmie are the opposite of your family in just about any way you wish to compare yourself to them.” She thanked him for this time. “No worries. I was coming into town anyway. Emmie and I are having lunch together.” He could tell she was disappointed, but when Emmie invited her friend and Mr. Joe to come with them, he was glad for it. It would be fun to get to know this woman a lot better. He picked up the book he’d gotten at the library earlier today and started reading it. Wesley realized he’d read the same page six times or more while he was waiting on the group to be finished up. It wasn’t normal for him to do that, not be able to tune things out around him while he read. But today, with this group and especially Penny, he just couldn’t concentrate.

He stood up when they said they were finished, and they headed to the pizza shop across the street. Going to the door first, he held it open for the other three, who went in ahead of him. Penny’s scent nearly took him to his knees. Standing in the doorway so that his mind could catch up with what his nose just told him, it was Mr. Joe that came to get him. “Are you all right, son?” He nodded at him, and couldn’t have stopped the smile on his face with a gun to his head. “Son, you’re scaring this old man. What’s wrong? You can tell me anything, and I’d not say a word to anyone.” “Penny is your great-granddaughter.” It wasn’t a question, but he nodded anyway. “She’s my mate, Mr. Joe. I didn’t expect to find her at all, much less in a pizza joint.” Mr. Joe laughed. “Well, I guess this is about the best news I’ve heard in a while. Congratulations. But I think you should close the door there. People are beginning to wonder if you have all your marbles. It’s chilly out.” Wesley laughed and let the door swing shut. “You going to tell her? I’d like to be right there when you do. I don’t rightly know how she’ll take it, but you have to tell her. She’ll be safer with you than anywhere else she can hideout.”

They both sat down, and he picked up the menu to think. He was never so glad to have a big house to go to than he was right now. Putting the menu in the middle of the table when the waitstaff came to take their order, he looked at Mr. Joe first. “Raven purchased all of us brothers of Sawyer a home. Mom and Dad are having one built that they’re excited about. I’m moving into mine tomorrow. It’s been repainted, as well as the carpets cleaned. There are about ten bedrooms in the place.” Mr. Joe told him he was lucky to have such a generous person in his family. “Yes, I think so too. I was wondering if the three of you would like to come and live there with me. It’ll have plenty of room for us all. Not to mention, it has an indoor pool I’m excited about playing around in. My mate will be there too, so it wouldn’t be anything but family around.” “That’s a very nice thing, both the house and inviting us to stay. However, I can’t imagine your mate would be all that keen on you having an elderly man and two single women in your home.” He told Penny that only one of them was single. “I don’t understand. You said your mate will be there too.” “She will be. If she wishes. I just think you guys will be safer in a big house that your other family doesn’t know about than the ones you live in now.” Penny looked at Emmie, then back at him. Then she asked him if Emmie was his mate. “No.” It took her several seconds to figure out what he was saying. She stood up and sat down a total of three times before she glared at him. He thought her adorable when she told him he wasn’t funny but wisely kept that to himself. “You could have just said that when we were at the bank.” He said he’d not figured it out until they came in here.

“Why the roundabout way of telling me? Is this your way of doing everything? I will tell you right now, I don’t think you’re the least bit funny.” “You’d not be the first person to tell me that. However, I was working up to telling you. I didn’t want to just blurt it out and have you toss your salad in my face.” Penny glared harder. “You really should stop that now, Penny. You’re even more beautiful when you’re pissed at me. Not that I don’t blame you, but you are my mate, and the offer of you three staying with me stands. Things are going to get nastier as the next few days go by.” “I, for one, would love to live with you, Wesley.” He thanked Mr. Joe without taking his eyes off Penny. “Those boys of Wendy’s aren’t going to take too kindly to the reading of the will. Scratch that. I think the only one that will care is James. And you know as well as I do, Penny, that when James is pissed off, so are the Donnelly boys. They feed off each other.” “I don’t want to. I will, but I really don’t want to.” Wesley nodded at Penny. “I mean, I really don’t want to live with you, but I’m thinking you’re right. We’d all be safer in a house rather than an apartment, or even Grandpa Joe’s home. It’s not very big either, and we’d be falling all over each other in no time. I’ll live there, but I’m not going to sleep with you.” “All right. I can understand that. We barely know one another, and I won’t take advantage of you. I have some furniture in the house. Holly, Raven’s grandma, sold her house to my brother, and she had a great many things still in storage.

After Chandler got what he wanted, the rest of us took what was left. I gladly took the other bedroom suites to be in my home. The others, my brothers, took the things for the living room, feeling they’d be in there more than they would in any of the other rooms.” Their subs were brought to the table, and he dug into his as he continued. “I have a live-in cook as well. Her name is Caroline. She’s a member of my brother Sawyer’s leap and needed to have a place she could call her own. Her family was all gone, moving away to have better-paying jobs. I was lucky enough to have a place for her to live in on the property.” Wesley answered all the questions put to him. Most of them were from Mr. Joe, about his planting in the spring, as well as his helping the others around town. He told them about the tractor and the attachments he had been trying out and loved. “They just gave you a tractor worth more than a house for nothing?” He told Penny what had happened that he ended up owning it. “Okay, I guess I can see a company doing that. Having a farmer that no one knows trying it out and then telling others would make for a good cover. Congratulations on that. I have to admit, I do miss having fresh vegetables all the time. Grandma always had fresh food from her little garden. What she didn’t eat, she’d put up. Do people still do that?” “My mom does. Jellies and jams mostly. Here in the last couple of years, she’s been donating what she can’t put up to different people around the town. You’d be surprised how far a couple of rows of green beans can go when you’re as good as we are about taking care of our gardens.” He realized then that just the other day, he’d been bitching about having a mate to his brothers and him only being a lowly farmer.

However, right now, he thought he had the best job of all. His mate was into fresh things as much as he was. “Today I was going to put the tractor and the implements away until early spring. I was even able to put in a garden for my mom this year, and decided to grow some fresh peas in the early spring.” They talked all through their meal. When they brought the check, he was more than happy to pick it up and pay. He noticed that all three of his lunch guests put down money for a tip. Being glad they’d not put too little on the table, he still added more to the bill when he paid. “Where is your home? I have a feeling it’s close to your parents’ place.” He told Penny it was, but it also had a large barn and a place for him to play around in. “I’m not sleeping with you, Wesley. I’m not easy, and I won’t put out just because you’re keeping my family safe.” “I wouldn’t have it any other way, Penny.” She cocked a brow at him. “I’m serious. I don’t know you anymore than you do me. I’d like to take our time, get to know each other before we go right to the making love part.” She said she might not ever want to have sex with him. “So long as you’re happy, then I will be too.” She snorted at him when she walked away. They walked to the new home, his first time seeing it in the daylight, and he was glad now that he carried around the keys to the place. Wesley handed the second set to Penny, so she could come and go when she wanted while here, he told her. Wesley was thrilled when she didn’t toss them back in his face.

The house looked beautiful with the new walls and the hardwood floors all shiny from their treatment. Every room they explored, he was just as pleased with it as they seemed to be. The kitchen, where Ms. Caroline was making a list, had been updated recently, and a pantry had been put in. Penny seemed to be more impressed with the kitchen area than she had been about the indoor pool. “I love to bake. Would that be a problem for you, Ms. Caroline?” When the older woman looked at him, Penny answered her unspoken concern. “He claims I’m his mate and that we’ll be living here with him. No hanky panky, but we’ll be safer here, I think.” “If Wesley says you’re his mate, then you can count on it being true. You couldn’t find you a better family to be getting into either.” Penny thanked her. “Now then. Yes, you come on in here and bake all you want, mistress. I’ve never been known to bake all that much, but I’d surely like to have the smells coming from here. You just give me a list of what you need, and I’ll order it with the rest of the kitchen stock-up.” While they worked on the list, he moved into the living room and looked around. There was a great deal of open space in this area, and he hadn’t a clue how to fill it. While he didn’t watch all that much television, he would like to have a nice sized one for this room. He thought it might be necessary for the sheer size of the room so you could see it. “I don’t have to move in here with you, Wesley.” He turned to look at Emmie and asked her why not. “Well, you have a new mate, for which I’m so happy for you both, and Grandpa Joe living here. I’m not related to either of them, as you know. Also, I have been hiding out on my own for a very long time.” “There isn’t a single reason I can think of that would make me want to have you not move in here with us. And you are family. I know Mr. Joe thinks of you as his great-granddaughter as much as he does Penny.” He smiled at her then.

“You know my parents. If they found out I was shoving you out to live someplace in the woods as you wanted that first day, Mom would take me to the woodshed in a minute and make me change my mind about being too old for that particular punishment.” “I don’t want to be a bother to any of you.” He assured her she wouldn’t be. “All right then. You will tell me if I’ve overstayed my welcome. Right?” “I promise you, Emmie, I don’t have a doubt in the world that you’re going to be as much a part of my family as you are to Mr. Joe and Penny. Besides, I think with you here, Penny will feel more comfortable. And believe it or not, I want her happy no matter what.” She mentioned her brothers. “Don’t you worry about any of them. I’m going to have the police, as well as my family, making sure you’re all safe and sound. I just ask that when you do go out, don’t do it alone. Nor to go out without telling us where you’re going and when you’ll be back. I don’t want to have to worry that they might have hurt you when you’re in my care.” “You’re a good man, Wesley. And a good friend. I hope you can make sure they’re not going to harm any of us. I have a feeling they won’t just hurt us the next time but will try and kill us. Especially Grandpa Joe.” He asked her why. “Because Grandpa Joe is a very wealthy man. More so than anyone in this world gives him credit for.” “I’ll keep that in mind when we’re out.” He hugged her back when she hugged him. “Thank you, Emmie. Without you being the bank manager, it might have been years before I met Penny. I owe you a great deal.” “Pay me back by making sure she’s safe. And happy. I know you will, so I’m not worried about it, but I don’t want her to be hurt or sad.” He said he could do that. “See that you do. I love both those people more than I do anyone else.”

Oakley Marshall’s Shadow Release Blitz&Giveaway

Lachlan Russell had been rushed into emergency surgery. Her boss’s daughter took exception to Lach, telling her no, and went ballistic, throwing anything and everything she could at Lach until Lach finally collapsed from her injuries. Lach was also pregnant at the time, tricked into being a surrogate to carry her sister’s child.

Harris Marshall, Shep’s wife, was called in on the case. Lach’s boss and daughter were now both in jail, but Lach’s family was another matter—they were worse. Harris would make sure this woman pulled through if she had to kill Lach’s family to see to it. Calling in reinforcements, her brother-in-law, Oakley, was the first to arrive at the hospital.

Oakley was thrilled to have found his mate. As far as he was concerned, Lach was perfect. But her sister and brother-in-law were both insane. Would he and his family be enough to protect her from their madness?

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Harrison Parker had no family and no ties. She was invisible to be traced. Her job with the government was top secret. So secret that she only reported to two people. Now, she was the target and she had to figure out who wanted her dead. Hurt, and laying low, she reached out to the only man she trusted, an old man she had befriended in the cemetery, Sheppard Marshall.

Sheppard Marshall had been grieving the loss of his Millie for the last fifteen years. He would sit by her grave every day. He was an old man of ninety, and he looked forward to the visits he received from the sassy woman, Harrison Parker. Over time he had grown very fond of her, and when he received the message that she needed his help, Sheppard would help her or die trying.

His grandson, Sheppard or Shep, wasn’t letting the old man go alone. If he got hurt, Shep wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Even though the Marshall men were jaguars, that didn’t mean the old man couldn’t get into a situation that got him hurt or possibly killed.

The bullet had gone clear through, but the poison it had been laced with left Harrison with a high fever and near death. Shep didn’t know what this woman was into, but he knew two things—she was dangerous, and she was his mate. What kind of mess had the old man gotten him into now?

 

Isabella Booth was tired of all the sexist crap handed to her on a daily basis.  When her father wouldn’t even consider her as an heir to his lawn care business because she wasn’t a man, and left it to her brother Hunter instead, she had done the next logical thing. She opened her own lawn care business, and it thrived.

Dean Marshall was renovating his family home. As far as the landscaping was concerned, he was told to go big or go home. When Shep invited the owner of the landscaping company to his home for dinner, Dean wanted to be there to see about getting some things done for his place. He didn’t mean for his jaguar to knock the woman to the ground.

Bella was thoroughly pissed when the big cat ruined her jeans and favorite shoes, and when he announced that they were mates, Bella was seeing red. No way, no how, was she having another sexist, overbearing man in her life. Not if she could help it….

 

Marshall’s Shadow

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Harris walked the hallway while she waited on someone from the police department to come and give her a hand. The locals had their hands full with this one and were more than happy to let her not only take over but to make sure that things were done correctly. So far, all Harris had been able to figure out was that Allison Gray had hit the cook, Lachlan Russell. It had taken her only a minute after finding a nurse by the name of Dutch Jasper. He and Harris had known each other for a while. A couple of times when she’d been in this very hospital taking care of someone, she’d been able to depend on him to make sure she’d gotten out of the hospital without being seen. Harris didn’t know why she trusted the man, but she did. With her life, as it turned out. “I have copies of all the recordings of the conversation with her boss, a jerk by the name of Lance Gray. He’s currently sitting his pretty butt in jail, right alongside his daughter, Allie.” Harris asked him for a recap of what had gone down. “Her boss was pissy that Lach had his daughter arrested. He told her—point-blank, mind you—that he wasn’t paying any of her bills.

I have the name of the cop that arrested him. Officer Hamilton heard what he said as well.” “Is there anything else?” Dutch told her about the baby Lach was carrying and that it was her sister’s child. “That was very generous of her. Or was it?” “Not from what I’ve heard. They bullied Lach into it. You have to meet them only once to know they’re not the kind of people who tolerate those they think are lower than them. To me, that isn’t a far drop, but then I don’t give two hoots about them.” Harris laughed. “Lach told me right before they took her into surgery that her sister had told her she wasn’t able to carry a baby to term. That’s not right. I went to talk to someone about it, on the sly, and they’re saying that Rita—that’s her sister—didn’t want to have to carry a child, but she really wanted one. They’re paying half of Lach’s medical for her carrying the baby. Half? Like she wanted to carry it. I’m telling you now, Harris, if you were still working, I’d hire you.” She thought about that for the rest of the morning. Dutch was one of the nicest people she had ever encountered on her jobs.

For him to want to make these people gone was very telling. Pacing the long hallway on the surgery floor, Harris thought about everything she’d found out about Lach. All of it good news until she found out about the rest of her family. Her parents were divorced. Frank Russell had taken off about the time Lach had turned four. He’d had enough, apparently, and didn’t care to be around people he just couldn’t make himself love. Harris didn’t know the family as yet, but even hearing about them made her think she didn’t blame him. Frank had also tried to get custody of Lach, but Rebecca, his ex-wife, had hired a shark of an attorney and had won the case. Harris wondered if she’d thought she could make Lach into someone like her and Rita. Apparently, it hadn’t stuck, because Lach was her own woman and didn’t hang around her sister and mother unless necessary.

“Mrs. Marshall? There’s a phone call for you. He said it was urgent.” She nodded and followed the nurse to the front desk. “I think it’s Dutch. He didn’t tell me his name, but I think it’s him.” “Hello?” It was Dutch, and she had to tell him to calm down three times before she was able to get a word out. “Just take a deep breath and let it out slowly. In and out, Dutch, so I can figure out what the fuck is wrong.” “Did you see today’s paper?” She reached for it as it laid on the nurse’s station counter. “Frontpage too. I have to tell you, Harris, I never in all my wildest dreams would have thought someone could do this to one of the sweetest people I know. I love you too, girl, but you’re not sweet. You’re hard.” “Thank you.” She asked him to hold on while she opened the paper. “Mother fuck. How the hell did they get this out so quickly? Not to mention, how did the person putting this in the paper get this printed without all the facts? Or any, from what I’m seeing.” Harris told Dutch she’d talk to him later as she stood there reading the article. It was about Lach and her having to be in the hospital.

It said she’d tried to kill Allie Gray by throwing a hot dinner at her, and when she’d retaliated, Lach had faked an injury in order to get out of going to jail. It went on to say she’d been feeding the entire staff dinners every night instead of the patrons of the restaurant. There were accusations about her stealing money from the cash drawer, taking money from the waitstaff in the form of tips, as well as taking home some of the products that the restaurant had ordered. Taking out her cell phone, Harris called her office. She had three people working on this for her. A lot of shit was going on, and since the locals had turned it over to her, she was free to do whatever was needed. Turned out, when she called her office, she found there were more than the three she had assigned to this, as the things they were finding out were too much for the first men to work on. “I have a man going to the newspaper office as we speak. He’s taking one of the local jurisdictions with him. The article was out before we knew about it. Sorry about that, sir.” She told him it wasn’t his fault, as she’d been blindsided by it as well.

“You should also be aware that we’ve found Frank Russell. He’s remarried. A background on him didn’t show anything other than one parking ticket. How would you like us to work this?” “Call him. Tell him his daughter has been hurt. Don’t give him any details until he asks for them. I’m not keeping them from him, but if he’s broken all contact with them, he might not care.” Agent Gunn told her he could do that. She could hear the pen scratching across the paper. “I want you to do a complete background on Lachlan Russell. I have some personal information, but not much more. I want to know the last time she had a shit; that’s how thorough I want it. Also, on her mother, Rebecca Russell, and her sister and brother-in-law, Rita and Roger Underwood. Make sure you find out what you can about her ability to have children.” “Got it.” He paused a moment. “I know Rita Underwood.” She asked him how. “We were upperclassmen together. I didn’t realize that when I started helping you with this. To say she’s a bitch doesn’t even come close to painting a picture of this woman.

I think she’d murder her own family if she would be able to make some cash off it.” “Do you know Dutch Jasper?” He said he did, but only by name. He was younger than him. “He’s a good friend and ally of Lach. Also, the one that called me. See what you can find out about him, too, while we’re looking. Also, what his debt to income ratio is.” She didn’t have to explain herself to this man, but she told him he’d helped Lach out and had helped Harris a few times as well. Harris just wanted to know if he was being paid off to make the family look bad. But really, she was going to help the nurse out if he needed it. Harris owed the man a great deal. “Sir, did you know what Lachlan means? It means warlike. The Vikings called their land of lakes Lachlan too.” Harris told him she’d not known, but was glad for the information. “I hope this girl is warlike. Having a sister like Rita, she’d need it.” The more she found out about this family, the more she wanted to bundle up Lach and take her home with her. She wasn’t prone to taking adults home with her, but in this, she thought her and the other woman could be tight as in friends. Harris didn’t know why, but she thought this Lach might be more badass than she was. Not by much, though.

When Lach came out of surgery, Harris was able to go and see her. The doctor told her what had happened in the operating room, and the concerns he had about what he’d had to do to remove the large shard of glass from her head. “It was deep and pierced her skull. I could see the damage to her brain—it has a deep cut in it. The brain surgeon with me said she thought that having it cut in her frontal lobe might cause her some memory issues, as well as a change to her personality.” Harris asked the doctor how they’d figure it out. “We’ll have to wait until she’s awake. Which isn’t going to be for a few more hours. I’d like her to remain still for at least that long.” Pulling out her cell phone, Harris looked up what she could about frontal lobe injuries. There was a lot, she could see, that was all speculation about the brain. It would be difficult, she supposed, to have someone test your working brain before you were finished with it. In her field, Harris was sure there were a lot of people out there that didn’t have a brain. Or, in fact, they didn’t use it all that much. She was smiling when she made her way to recovery to sit with Lach for some quiet time. Opening her laptop, she pulled up the information she had been sent from her office.

It was about the recording that had been generated from here, as well as from the restaurant. Allie was going to be in deep shit when this thing went to trial. Having admitted that she wanted to kill the other woman was right there for anyone to hear. Harris looked at the other recording and cringed when she saw the mother and sister. Typical rich women that wouldn’t do a thing for anyone in need, she thought. The fact that the mom was more concerned about her shower and going home told her a great deal. Closing those down, she pulled up the first report. Allison Gray had been in trouble like this before. As she read over the three counts of abuse and battery from the police, Harris had to wonder how she’d even been able to be out and around others.

Her violent nature was one that should have been recognized and monitored before now. Then she got to the records that told the outcome of each of the crimes. Daddy was paying the people off. Charges were brought against his daughter, but after Lance paid the people a great sum of money, Allison was set free. The amounts were staggering too. Two of them were upwards of a million dollars. The last one was nearly two mill. Harris read the reports on what had happened and noticed that with each arrest, Allison was getting more and more violent. Harris did wonder how much he’d pay Lach to shut her up. She also wondered if she’d take it. Hoping she wouldn’t, Harris looked at the woman laying in the bed next to her. She knew from the report that her left arm had been burnt badly. She could see that it had been wrapped up but was seeping. The one at her back had been the worst the doctor had seen on someone. It was about two feet wide and almost that long. The pain while it healed would be horrendous. Harris couldn’t see much of her face. From the top of her head to her nose, just peeking out of the bandage, she could see that there were bloodstains on the gauze. She was being monitored and had several IV’s running to keep her quiet, as the doctor had said.

When a nurse came in to take Lach’s blood pressure, she told Harris what she knew. “They had to remove nineteen pieces of glass from her head. Some of them were so tiny, I was told that they had to be found with a microscope.” She asked about the one that had caused the skull injury. “Doctor Sampson is the best brain surgeon around. She’s a ballbuster, but good at her job. She was telling us the piece that had done the most damage was about an inch wide, and sharp like a razor on the end that hit her. She’s lucky that none of the flying glass hit her in the eye.” “I’m sure she’s just glad to be alive. Did anyone mention the baby?” The nurse told her the OBGyn would be in later to examine her. “But they didn’t say anything about it? I mean, to even tell if the meds might hurt it?” “No.” The nurse came closer to her. “She’ll be lucky to keep the baby once she’s awake. I’ve seen what this sort of stress can do to a mother. Lach is going to be in a great deal of pain when she wakes up. Being with child, she won’t be able to take the good medication that will keep the pain at bay.

I feel sorry for her. And for the unborn child. This will be hard for her to handle on top of being hurt like this.” After the nurse left, Harris watched Lach breathing. Her thoughts were centered on a single thing right now, but executing them might cause more trouble than Lach might want. Harris didn’t want her to lose the child. Even if it weren’t hers, she thought that the pain of that would put her into a deep depression. She’d seen enough of that for several lifetimes and wanted to keep Lach from having that weight on her as well. Harris nodded at her thoughts and put out an all-call to her new family. I need Rodney and the other three unmated Marshalls to come to the hospital for me. I have a woman here that is going to be in a great deal of pain, and I don’t want her to suffer. There is also an unborn child that I’m thinking of. She told them what was going on with the baby, as well as her reasons for asking them to come here. Harris also warned them about her mother and sister’s troubles.

She might well be one of your mates. In fact, I’m hoping she is. You could make her life a great deal better than it is at the present time. Harris smiled when Grandpa spoke first. I’m coming too. If she ain’t one of these knuckleheads’ mate, I might can heal her myself. Poor things. To think that— Hey, is this the girl I was reading about in the paper here? Where she tried to kill off the owner’s daughter? Harris told him she was having that retracted. I don’t blame you. It sure didn’t paint her in a good light for all the things they were saying about her. I’ll be riding up with the others—no point in me sitting here waiting on someone to tell me what’s going on with her. I’m going to drive up. Anyone want to ride with me? The other three and Grandpa said they would ride up with Oakley. Just so you know, I’m not going to be happy if she is my mate. It’s not fair that you get to meet her before I do. What things could you be telling her, I wonder? She’s in a coma right now, medical. They want her to remain stable for as long as she can. Oakley said he was kidding. I know that. I just wanted to give you all a rundown on what we might be dealing with. I’ll keep you updated as I find out more about her. Oh, if you hear about someone being murdered, don’t worry about it. I might have saved you the trouble of meeting your in-laws. They were still laughing when she closed the connection. Harris was glad now that she’d contacted them.

If nothing else, they’d keep her entertained. Pulling out her computer again, she read the other reports that had come in with the first one. This was a family that needed to be beaten, Harris thought. ~*~ Frank made his way up to the fourth floor of the imposing hospital. It wasn’t as if he’d not been in a hospital before, but this one was much larger than he’d thought, even with different buildings attached to one another with complicated walkways and bridges. He finally made it to the correct floor twenty minutes after arriving. Frank made his way to the nurse’s station to ask where he needed to go. “Mr. Russell, my name is Harris Marshall with the FBI.” He took the younger woman’s hand while his mind pinged all over the place about what his ex-wife had done now. “They’re setting your daughter up in a room right now. My family is in there helping. I’ll take you to see your daughter in a moment. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions for you.” “Of course. But if you don’t mind me asking, what has Rebecca done now? Or is it Rita again?” Agent Marshall told him they were still looking into that. “They’re not the brightest tools in the shed if you want my opinion. Not only that, but they think they’re better than anyone. Not most, but anyone they come in contact with. How’s my daughter doing?” “Lach is doing as well as can be expected. She was burnt badly. But that’s nothing to what was done to her brain when a plate was thrown at her. They’re waiting to make any kind of prognosis until she’s in less pain. The medication she’s on is making sure she’s not hurting, but is also not harming the baby.”

“Baby? Lach is pregnant? No one told me— Well, I guess I never expected anyone to call me on that, but it would have been nice.” Agent Marshall told him what she knew. “That’s not true. When I was still living with them, Rita had gotten pregnant three times by the time she was seventeen. She carried one to term without any issues. That one was put up for adoption. I suppose there could have been problems starting after I left there, but I’m not aware of any issues she had.” “I’ve done some research on the family, and you’re right. There are no issues for Rita not to have been able to carry a child. Someone on my team thinks it’s because she doesn’t want to be pregnant.” Frank told the agent he didn’t believe that either. That Rita thrived on having all the attention focused on her. “Could it be that she is trying to hurt her sister in some way?” “I wouldn’t know. I do know Lach wasn’t anything like her sister or mother. I tried to have her come to live with me after the divorce, but Rebecca wouldn’t have it. I think, and this is just me, she thought she could turn her into a person like her and my other daughter. I never thought it would stick. Even as a child, Lach was more boy-like than any boy I knew at her age. And stubborn.” Frank thought about that.

“I guess things could have changed, as I said, but I don’t think it would have been easy on my wife or daughter. Lach is very stubborn.” He was talking with Harris, as he’d been asked to call her when a man came out of the room he thought his daughter was in. After kissing Harris on the mouth, the big man introduced himself to him as her husband. Good lord, he’d never seen a pair so perfectly matched before. Tall and muscled. It made him wish he’d used the gym membership he had more. Shep seemed like a good man. He had a dry wit and was so in love with his wife Frank could almost taste it. Other men came out of the room one at a time, all of them introducing themselves to him as a brother to the one before. Then an older man, who said he was their grandda, Sheppard, introduced himself to him.

This man he thought he could enjoy talking to. “My family here is trying to make sure nothing more happens to your little girl. Harris here, she’s told us what is going on, and who we should be looking out for. I don’t think there is much going on right now, but we got your back.” Frank thanked Sheppard. “You’re welcome. I do want to ask you something before much longer here. Do you believe in shifters? I mean, people having another self?” “My wife was a wolf,” Sheppard told him they were jaguars. “Jaguars are beautiful cats. I’m happy to meet all of you. You must have an enormous food bill to feed all these boys, as you call them. I’d hate to have to feed them all at one time.” “They’re good boys, Mr. Russell. The reason I said anything at all right now is that your little girl is the mate to one of my grandsons.” Frank wasn’t sure how to take that, so he said nothing. “My boys here, any one of them would save her from hurting so badly, as she’s gonna. But Harris here, she wanted them to come along and see if any of them were her mate before we doctored her up with a little of our blood.”

“You’re not going to help her now?” Sheppard told him they couldn’t, but Oakley could. “I don’t understand. How is he going to help her? And what does her being this man’s mate have to do with it?” “Cats are a jealous lot. Wolves too. Had any one of them tried to save her, Oakley would have killed them. He’d not want to, but it’s in his DNA to protect what he would consider his own.” Sheppard asked him if he was understanding. Frank told him to go on. “Oakley, he’s staying with her right now on account of you being here. He wants your permission, you see, to take care that she’s not hurt anymore.” The monitors went off down the hall. They were loud and scary. It occurred to him that they were saying that the room his daughter was in was the one the staff was rushing to. Standing up, he was asked to wait as all the staff gathered in the room. A tall, good looking man came out just as the door was closing. No one said anything for a long time. Then the man he assumed was Oakley came toward him with his hand out. After introductions were made, Frank found himself sizing the younger man up.

Whatever had happened in Lach’s room, it had affected the young man quite badly. “She was awake for about a minute before she said anything. As you can imagine, I was shocked to see her awake when they told us it would be a few more days before they started weaning her off the meds.” Sheppard asked him why the staff was in the room. “She told me to call them. That she thought she was losing the baby.” Frank sat down. He’d not seen his daughter in twenty years and knew he’d missed a great deal. But the child he remembered was now losing her child. It hurt him deeply that she was going through this. Especially, he thought, with so much going on right now in her life. “How about you and me, we go and get us some dinner, Frank?” He started to tell Sheppard no, that he wanted to stay close to see his daughter when Sheppard continued.

“You don’t want to go and see her like you’re looking right now. You’re hurting, I can see that. I am too, and I’ve not met her yet. But a good cup of tea or coffee with a piece of pie might do wonders for you. It’ll also give you time to figure out what to say to her when it’s time to talk.” “I suppose you might be right. I was wondering why the FBI was in on this. Seems like it would be a local thing.” As Sheppard explained it to him, Frank found himself not only going with Sheppard to the cafeteria but also ordering himself two pieces of pie and a cup of coffee. When he sat down with the other man, Harris and her husband joined them. He had a feeling he was going to learn a great deal about his other family. “All right, Frank. How do you want this? Rip the sucker right off, or do you want it in bits and pieces? I’m more of a rip it off sort of teller, but I’ll do what you need.” He said he wasn’t sure what he wanted, as he’d not been around for twenty years. “I’m here because a friend of mine called me in. Dutch Jasper, he’s not only a friend of mine but also your daughter. Do you remember him?” “Yes. I mean, I remember the name and a little about him. Dutch would come over when they were little and hang out with the family when his mom had to work late. My then-wife didn’t like him. I haven’t any idea why, but it didn’t stop him and Lach from being friends. He called you because she’d been hurt?”

Harris told him that was part of it. “Why then? I mean, if you can tell me.” “Have you seen the papers?” He said not since he left home last night. The paper was handed to him. After reading it, he looked at Harris. “None of that is true. Well, some of it is. Lach was burnt, but not how they describe it. We’re having a retraction put out tomorrow. Fact-checking is a biggy for me. Also, we’ve arrested Allison and her father, as well as a med student, for taking pictures and sending them to the father and daughter duo.” Harris told him of the other attempts of murder by Allison, as well as her father buying the victims off. His head was spinning when he thought of all the things going on surrounding this other family. Asking for a moment, Harris didn’t say anything more other than she was sorry. “Don’t be. I’m just thinking how very little I knew before coming here. So this, all this with my daughter being hurt, was over a fake order so Allison could have a steak dinner? What is this world coming to?” Harris said she asked the same question every day. “I bet you do. You more than likely see very little good come out of your job.” “I see the good when I have someone in jail for something. But this, it should never have been allowed to happen. Someone’s head is going to roll for this. Allison is a danger to people and has been for some time. I’m going to make sure justice is served for Lach.” Frank asked about the baby. “When I came down here, the staff was still in the room. Oakley went back in too. He’ll let me know when he knows anything.”

They told him what they knew, which wasn’t a small amount. Harris and her family not only knew what Rita had done to her sister to make her carry her unborn child but also how Rita was making sure she only paid half of what it was costing Lach to do this for her. “The contract I saw wasn’t signed by Lach. There is a signature in the line where she was supposed to sign, but your ex-wife signed it. Then she wrote that Lach wasn’t of sound mind. I find that hard to believe, but that’s what happened. Rita and her husband have been spending money like they’re drinking it, and they’re not planning to pay Lach for any of this. You’ll have to trust me on that one, Frank. I can’t tell you who told me that, but it’s straight from Rita’s mind.” Frank could believe that. Rebecca and Rita both hated when they were told no on something. “I can believe that too. The two of them are like two she-devils fighting over a tiny pea. I don’t think either of them are aware of what sort of shit is going to rain down on them now that I’ve had a look into their lives.” “Explain to me how it is you’re involved. You might say you came here for a friend to make sure my daughter wasn’t screwed, but I think it’s more than that. Something you’re not telling me.” Harris nodded. “Is it bad? Is it something I’m going to regret knowing?” “I doubt that last part. However, I am here for a friend. Once I got here, things changed a great deal, but that is why I came. So I could see that someone wasn’t getting shafted.” He said he still thought there was more. “There is. The fact that this girl tried to kill Lach pisses me off.

Then to find out she could have killed the mate to one of my brothers makes me want to see bloodshed.” “I have a feeling you’re good at making bloodshed anyway.” They all laughed, and Harris patted him on the back. “I want you to know this, Harris—I’m not going to piss you off in any way. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of your wrath.” “Smart man.” She pulled out a gun and laid it on the table. He didn’t think she was showing off but had put it there because, as she said, it was digging into her hip. For whatever reason, Frank didn’t think Harris had to show off. She was that good at what she did.

Fisher Prince Of Tigers

Piper James was at the funeral home doing the hardest thing she’d ever had to do—bury her mother. The last ten years had been difficult, with her dad’s illness then him ultimately dying, and then her mother being diagnosed with cancer. Her siblings, Mary and Louis, had been no help at all, financially or lending a hand with their care. Now that their mother was gone, those two were going to be a handful, Piper just knew it.
Fisher Prince, a rare black tiger shifter, had a gift. He was able to find people and things with little effort. When a judge called him and asked him to find Piper and keep her safe from her siblings, Fisher agreed to help him out, but he wasn’t expecting to find his mate in the process.
The bond between the two was nearly immediate, and when he gave her a ring gifted to him by Aurora, queen of the earth, neither were prepared for what happened next.
Mary and Louis were never going to stop pursuing Piper unless someone intervened. Would the Prince family be in time to stop the inevitable?

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Harper Wilson and all her siblings were relieved when they received the notice of their parents’ demise. No one deserved it more, and the only reason Harper agreed to go back to that little town in Ohio was to make sure they were truly dead.

Bryant Prince and his family were immortals and hadn’t aged since they’d reached the age of twenty-eight. He and his family had always lived next door to the Wilsons, but he never knew the Wilson children. The Wilsons had always kept to themselves, so no one had any idea what was going on in the little house of horrors. If they had, the Wilson parents would have been dead a long time ago.

There was nothing left of the Wilson house but one wall. The fire had taken the rest. The garage, however, was still intact, and this was where Harper wound up. Drawn in by dark, morbid memories from her childhood. Bryant watched her, knowing that he’d found his mate.

 

Allison Sheppard had come back to town to bury her siblings. Allie’s sister and two brothers had robbed the local bank. Samson Prince had killed two of them to protect the innocent people in the bank, her baby brother was sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial. Allie wanted to wash her hands of all of them.

It didn’t take Allie but a moment to realize that the entire town looked on her as a pariah, like she was responsible for what her siblings did. Not that she could blame them, but the silent accusations did hurt. The sooner she was finished with this mess, the better. She would leave this town and good riddance.

Samson only wanted to make the woman understand that they weren’t monsters, and he had no choice in the bank, but from the moment he was within two feet of her, her scent overwhelmed him. Allie was his mate, and this changed everything….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Ms. James, I’m so sorry, but we’re going to have to proceed. Have you heard from your family?” Smiling at the funeral director, she told him she’d not. “What would you like us to do?” “Let’s start. I should have known they would not be on time.” Standing up to tell her mom goodbye once more, she turned to sit back down as Mr. Edwards was closing the casket. The noise from the back had her temper flare. “I told you to be here yesterday, Louis.” “We’re here now, so shut up. Is he closing the casket already?” Piper told her brother that the service was over. Her sister Mary came in, making enough noise to wake the dead. “She is having him close up Mom’s casket before we even arrived.” “Piper, why do you persist in pissing me off all the time? I don’t know why you were in charge of the arrangements anyway. As the oldest, I should have been the one to have done this.” Mary huffed all the way to the casket. “You didn’t have them dye her hair? Christ, she looks terrible.” “Because she was old and sick and died. I didn’t make the arrangements, Mom did. If you have a problem with it, then I suggest taking it up with her.” Piper smiled. “Oh, that’s right. You didn’t know her plans because when she called to tell you both what she’d done, you were too busy to speak to her.” Piper sat down with her niece and nephew while her brother and sister went to the casket. Mr. Edwards wasn’t at all happy with the two of them. Neither was she. But soon, the funeral would be over, and she’d not have to deal with them anymore. They weren’t bad people. It wasn’t as if they were terrible to her.

They were just indifferent to anyone or anything that didn’t involve them, always wanting people to cater to them—in everything. Today was no different. When they sat in the front row, she stayed where she was. She much preferred the company of their children than her brother and sister any day. The eulogy was up to her according to what her mom had requested. When she was asked to say something about her mom, Mary pushed her out of the way and stood by the podium. When she started speaking, telling the few of them how much her mother had meant to her, Piper just let her. Instead of paying attention to her, Piper thought of the last conversation she’d had with her mom. “You know they’re going to demand you sell the house for the estate, don’t you?” Mom had been in the hospital then, her last time there as it turned out. The cancer was taking her. “Don’t let them bully you, Piper. You’re not that shy child you were when your pop died.” “No, I’m not. But it’s doubtful they’ll ever see me as an adult no matter how old I am.” Mom laughed. “As for the house? Well, they’ll figure that out when the will is read, I suppose. I don’t have to explain anything to them. Nor do you.” “I’m ready to die, baby girl. I’m tired of fighting this war. But you gave me the best ten years an old woman like me could ask for. The camping trips. The vacations we took.

You surely made this as good as I could have ever hoped for.” Piper told her she’d had just as much fun. “You’re going to take off as soon as the will is read, aren’t you? Don’t sit around being a sad mushroom about me dying. I’ll surely come back to haunt you if you do.” “I made you a promise, and I will keep it.” Mom nodded and closed her eyes. Piper knew what it was costing her mom to speak to her. “Mom, I’m ready when you are. I don’t want you to die, but you sticking around here talking to me is costing you more than you have, I think. We’ve had all the fun we could, and now it’s time for you to go tell Pop what you’ve been up to with me.” Mom nodded but didn’t open her eyes. The monitor measuring her heartbeat was slowing. As per her mom’s request, nothing would be done to try and bring her back. Piper let her tears flow unheeded. Her mom was dying, and it hurt her own heart with every pause of her mom’s. “Piper? Did you hear me?” Piper looked at her brother, jerked from her thoughts about mom. “For the love of Christ. Are you on drugs again? This isn’t the time for you to be stoned out of—” “I’ve never taken so much as an aspirin. Why would you even say that to me?” Standing up, Piper straightened up her dress and made her way to the podium. “Mom asked me to read this today. When the doctor told us there wasn’t much time left, she wrote her own eulogy. Mom got sassy in her later years, so laugh if you wish. But don’t be offended, please.” Looking at her mom’s handwriting made her smile. She’d had the most beautiful script Piper had ever seen. Knowing she’d treasure this letter, Piper had made copies of it to read from today, and in case the others wanted a copy. Which Piper doubted. “If Piper is doing her job and not grieving over me, I’m fucking dead.”

She looked up when Louis asked her to not curse. “I’m going to read just what she wrote. Word for word. Deal with it.” She looked back at the writing, needing a moment until the tears dried up a little. “I’ve lived a great life. But now I’m going to be worm meat. I don’t care. I’m more excited for this phase of my life anyway. To get to see my only love and tell him of all the adventures I’ve had with Piper. In my final years, we did so much together. Things that would wear me out, but it was so well worth it. Every fucking minute.” “Wait just a minute. Wait right there. What does she mean, adventures with you? We had adventures.” Piper didn’t comment to her sister. Her mom knew they’d not let it go on how much time she and Piper had together. “We did lunch all the time when we were in town. Remember those times, Louis?” Peter, Mary’s son, cleared his throat and stood up. “What are you talking about? Didn’t you just say on the way here that you’d not been here in ten years? That you’d not even recognize Grandma or Piper if they were in a lineup? I think you said you’d not been here since Grandpop died.” Piper could have hugged Peter, Mary’s oldest. “Go on, Aunt Piper. Read her note to us and give us a good laugh.” “Thank you, Peter.” She looked down at the letter again. “Let me see. The camping trips made me laugh so much. Figuring it all out took ten years off my life. However, Piper’s driving put it right back on me.

I’m sorry we couldn’t do more towards the end there, but you of all people know why we couldn’t.” Mom talked about the camper being renovated and how much nicer it was to be able to make coffee and brush her teeth at the same time. The Christmases they had at the shelter. Piper looked up when she got to the part about the house being sold to her. “You took her house from me?” Folding up the letter and putting it away, Piper ignored her sister in favor of telling Mr. Edwards it was time to go. It didn’t matter really what the rest of the letter said. They’d only hear what they wanted anyway. “What did she mean, she sold the house to you? You know it’s going to be mine. I’m the oldest.” “You were notified of the sale nine years ago, Mary. Both you and Louis were. Not that I have to explain anything to you, but she sold it to me first, so I’d be able to use it as collateral to finish my education.” Mary asked her why she thought the house should have been hers. “I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life, more than half of it, caring for first Pop, then Mom, while the two of you went on with whatever you wanted to do. Without one hour of help from you two. All your promises of coming here to give me some time of my own.

All the money you said you’d send, which again you never sent. She sold the house to me when it was obvious neither of you were going to come to help her. Then when it got to the point where neither of us could afford it, I sold it to use the money for other things.” “That’s not fair at all. We had lives. Families to care for. You don’t know how difficult it was for us to find servants to help us. And don’t get me started on nannies and the like. You just don’t know what it’s like, Piper. Mom should never have singled you out in that letter, either. She did that to be mean.” Piper moved past her brother to the front doors of the chapel. “Piper, this isn’t finished. You’re not going to rip us off now that my parents are both gone.” Piper made her way to the limo that had been hired to take her to the cemetery. She wasn’t surprised at all when Mary got in with her son, then Louis did the same with his daughter, Rachel. When it was obvious there wasn’t enough room, Peter and Rachel said they’d take the cars. That, of course, pissed Mary and Louis off, that she’d not made better arrangements. The graveside service was beautiful. She and Mom had picked out the marker that Mom would share with Pop when she’d been making the arrangements. It was a testimony of their love for each other, with a carved picture of them on their wedding day under their names. Mom had made sure it was also covered with the stickers of each camping spot they’d gone to, so she’d be able to remember them when she told Pop about them. Of course, Mary and Louis thought it was tacky and demanded they be removed. “You touch even one of them, and I’ll have you arrested, Louis. That is what Mom wanted, and that is what she gets.” He asked her when she’d gotten so touchy about things. “The day my mom passed away with her other children too busy to make their way to be with her.”

The service was quick. They were headed to their cars within minutes afterward. Piper had brought her car here yesterday so that she could leave when she wanted too. The limo was gone, with her sister and brother arguing about how they wanted to be alone when she sat on the ground to watch the deep hole being filled in. Piper told both her parents that she loved them and would think of them often. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning. Or tonight if Mary or Louis stick around too long.” Piper thought about talking about the letter Mom had written. She knew that Mom had known what the reactions would be. It was why she’d written it, after all. “Give Pop a hug for me. Pop, I love you so much. Take care of Mom.” The drive back to the funeral home was her time to grieve. Being strong for her mom had been difficult. But the ride gave her a much-needed outlet. She’d not get much of quiet time once she arrived to take care of the last few things at the funeral home. Getting out of the car, she made her way inside just in time to hear Louis arguing with Mr. Edwards. Putting her fingers in her mouth, she whistled loud and long. Everyone turned to her, and she smiled. “While I have an idea what this is about, you will not harass Mr. Edwards about it. He’s just the person who was nice enough to allow Mom and I to make payments on the billing until some money came in.” Louis asked her for the bill. “For what?”

“The bill to this second rate funeral. Mary and I are going to pay for it. As soon as we have the billing turned over to us.” Mr. Edwards moved away while she waited on Louis to continue. “We’ve decided to take the burden off you on this. This way, you can pay us back from the proceeds from when you sold the house. I don’t think you should have gotten a thing from the estate of either of them. It’s not like you paid rent or had any other bills while you were living the life of a freeloader with first Dad, then Mom. We’ve decided we’ll split the money five ways. You’ll get one fifth, and as we’re married and you’re not, it’s only fair that we get a portion for our spouses, as we have to support them as well. It’s the least we can do for you.” “Yes, I’m sure this is the least you can do. However, the house was sold too long ago for you to be coming back on me to get anything from it. There were bills that we had that had to be covered.” Louis asked her what she was talking about. “I sold the house and the contents several years ago when the bills were too much for Mom to handle after Pop died. You do know she had cancer, don’t you? I mean, that was what eventually killed her. Then, just before she died, the doctor explained that this was the end and that the hospital would be a good place for her to be comfortable. So that’s where she was when she passed.” “You had no right to do that. None at all.” She said that since she owned the house, she could do what she wanted. “We’ll just see about that.” When he walked away, Piper found Mr. Edwards. Apologizing to the man for her family, he smiled at her.

When he told her he’d not worry about it if she didn’t, Piper assured him that she wouldn’t. The two of them finished up the paperwork, then made arrangements for the flowers. They were going to be donated to the local nursing homes. There were quite a few of them from her clients, so it didn’t bother her that she was able to make the decision about them. Most had sent small arrangements and donated to the charity that Mom had helped when they’d been able to donate. “The donations were ample, Ms. James, well over ten thousand dollars. The children at the hospital will have nice things for their stay now.” Mom had wanted to have readers with games on them for the kids in the cancer ward. “I’ve made sure the attorney for the estate is aware of it.” “Thank you. Mom would have been incredibly pleased.” Signing off on the bill that had been paid over the years, Piper stood up to leave. “I’m not sure what happens next with my sister and brother, but don’t hesitate to call the police if they become too much of a nuisance to you.” “They don’t bother me. It’s you I worry about. You aren’t sticking around for the reading of the will, are you?” She told him she had what Mom had given her. “Well, child, you have—” The knock at the door had her turning toward it. The officer standing there seemed as confused as she felt. He told her he was sorry about this. Rocky and her had dated a couple of times before he’d found and married Janine.

“The man out there said you had stolen from him. He said you took his inheritance. Then that woman—please tell me she’s not really your sister—said the same thing.” She told him, sadly, that they were both related to her. “I’m sorry, Piper, I’m gonna have to take you in until in the morning. Judge Parkerson is having a look at all the paperwork you gave to Mr. Jackson. I guess you figured this would happen.” “I did. I had hoped it would be after I left town.” She put out her wrists to be cuffed, and he told her to just go with him. “They want the works, Rocky. Also, for me to be humiliated. You’d better cuff me up. Otherwise, they’ll say you didn’t do your job.” She was walked past her family. Peter was pissed at his dad, and his cousin Rachel walked away when she saw what was happening. Piper would bet there was going to be trouble tonight. Winking at Peter, she got in the back of the cruiser. ~*~ Judge Homer Parkerson looked at the paperwork, and his heart broke once again for Mrs. James and Piper. Up until Piper had gotten out of college, they’d been living in a very tight way. Little Piper had started working from home, and just like that, things started turning around. Then Mrs. James had been diagnosed with cancer. It was all over her body by the time they’d found it.

“Need some help?” Homer looked at his wife of forty-four years, Penny, who was sitting at the dining room table with him. “I’m assuming this has to do with that hullabaloo at the funeral home today.” “It does. The brother and sister of Piper had her arrested, telling the police she took their inheritance. What a crock of shit, pardon my language. But where were they when the two of them, one being their mother, had to decide whether to buy food or make a house payment? Why, if I had my way, I’d make a list of every bill Piper and her mother paid, including the funerals of both of their parents, and have them pay her back.”
“Why don’t you?” Homer asked her what she meant. “Add up all the cost the two of them had to pay, and then divide it by the three of them. I’m sure Piper could use the money. Even selling off their home didn’t pay off as much as they had hoped. Mary Margaret told me if it hadn’t been for Piper having a good job, they might well have been homeless.” They both worked most of the night. Homer was sure that had Piper not kept meticulous records all along, they’d never have gotten it figured out in time. As it was, he’d gone up to take a nap when Penny made copies of it.

There had been more red than black balances. Even with the total income from Piper’s job, they’d still end up in the red at the end of the month, mostly because of hospital stays and medication for Mary Margaret. Piper paid every bill incurred by her mom without any complaints. Nor had she ever left her mom to deal with things herself, as Louis and Mary had done. He was looking forward to this, perhaps a little more than he should have. But he’d liked Mary Margaret, and thought of Piper as one of his girls. He thought Piper would have been a better daughter than the three he had. Closing his eyes, working hard at making his body relax, Homer finally gave up and went to the kitchen. Penny was there waiting on him with scrambled eggs and bacon. Homer called the jail at six-thirty to tell them to have Piper at the courthouse at eight. He even told them to take her by her trailer so she could clean up and get fresh clothes on. Homer felt so good about what he was about to do that he said he’d spring for breakfast for the officer and Piper. Leaving word at the little hotel, the only working hotel in town, for the family to be at the courthouse at eight, Homer said to tell them if they were late, he’d find them in contempt and put their asses in jail. Mentally rubbing his hands together, he was as excited as he’d been in decades. Homer had everything ready to go at seven forty-five. Piper arrived at ten till the hour. Her family showed up at eight right on the dot. Homer made a point of looking at the clock when they started bickering about the time. “You’re the ones that had Piper arrested. When I’m involved in such a thing, you can bet I’m going to make things convenient for myself instead of the fools that waste my time.”

He banged his gavel on his dais and told them to sit down and shut up. “Now, do the two of you have an attorney?” “I wasn’t aware that we’d need one,” Homer asked them if they thought they knew what they were doing, suing their sister for the inheritance from their mom. “She took our mother’s home right out from under us. Then she told us she’d already sold it. We weren’t informed of any of that. Not to mention, she sold all the household items. Where does she get off doing something like that?’ Homer asked Piper if she’d notified them. “I did, Your Honor. If you have all my receipts, you’ll find where I sent them each a certified letter two weeks before I put it on the market. Also, three months prior to Mom signing the house over to me, I sent them another certified letter telling them not only why she’d done it, but also offering them the opportunity to purchase the house from her for us.”

“See? She just took it from us.” Homer pulled up the receipts he’d found in the file that held all the receipts. “I didn’t sign for anything from her either.” “According to the receipts here in my hand, you both signed the attached receipts. The courier not only wrote on here who had scrawled their names, but also what you were wearing when you did.” He looked at the two siblings. “Are you still going to tell me you didn’t get notified? It also says he has a recording of the two of you if there is still any question about you not receiving it. Shall I call the company and have them bring us over the video of you?” “That won’t be necessary.” Louis glared at his little sister. “This doesn’t negate the fact that she took our home from us. My sister Mary and I had plans for our two fifths each of that money.” Homer asked Piper why they were thinking they got two fifths. “Their thinking is that, as they’re married and I’m not, they should get a larger portion than I do.” Homer burst out laughing before he could stop himself. “I’m not entirely sure about their math myself, but that’s what I was told.” “I see.” He didn’t really, but looked at his notes and laughed a little while recalculating the totals to reflect their two-fifths. “Give me one moment here, if you please. I’m going to figure out how much things should have come to. Piper, did you also care for your dad when he fell ill? I believe you did. Didn’t you, child?” “Yes, sir. I was fourteen when he had a stroke. My sister and brother had already left home by then. I had to finish high school online, as I couldn’t leave them alone.

Dad was a handful on his best days. After the stroke, he was meaner than a rattlesnake.” The little bit of laughter was sad coming from Piper. “Your Honor, I only asked for help from them when Dad was sick. Mom wouldn’t allow me to bother them anymore when they didn’t help with Dad.” “She was already living there, Your Honor. It would have been a waste of our time and money to have a nursemaid come in our home when she was already there. Don’t you agree?” Homer told Mary he did not agree. “Well, it’s too late now. They’re both dead and gone, so it’s nothing we can worry about now. We just want our share of what she got.” “Oh, but there is something you can worry about, young lady. I’m going to give you a running total of where the money went from Piper working, the social security that your parents received, as well as the sale of the house.” He had his deputy hand the three of them what he and his wife had come up with last night. “Now, let me go over these numbers for the three of you.” Homer had all the income written on the first page he’d given them. At first look, it seemed that there should have been more than enough money for a small family to live on. Piper did make good money. There was also the addition of the sale of not just the home, but the sale of the family car and the furniture that had filled the home. The car that the two of them, Piper and Mary Margaret, had depended on was forty years old and ran like it. He was glad to know that at some point, Piper had purchased a truck and paid it off to pull the camper they’d been living in for the last several years. Homer put the old car in the assets column as valued at twenty-five dollars.

He was probably padding it too much, but in the end, it wouldn’t matter. “You see right here, Your Honor? She no more needed to sell the house than she did the furniture. She is going to owe us a great deal more than I thought.” Homer told Louis to hold his water. “Hey, I don’t mind at all now that I know she’s going to have to pay us more than we thought. This is so worth the extra night in the hotel for her bullshit. Hell, I won’t even charge her for what that cost us now.” Almost giddy now, Homer had the debt part given to them. Once they were looking at it, he started telling them the numbers he’d come up with. He’d made a call last night to find the going rate for full-time live-in care for someone. He knew that Piper would never have calculated that as something to charge her family for, but damn it, they’d started this. “Now, the way I see it, this young lady here is entitled to reimbursement for her time, as well as the nursemaid service she did for the two of you. And since you’ve decided you wish for two-fifths of the estate….” He laughed at their expressions. “The way I have it figured out, you—you and your spouses, I mean—owe Piper nearly a hundred thousand each. Now we can take care of that here, or I can put you in a cell until such time you can pay—” “What the hell are you talking about? I am not paying her shit.” Homer told Mary to watch her mouth. “You old fool. She’s supposed to be paying us, not the other way around. It’s her that stole our mother’s house and sold it.” “Yes, she sold it because there was no other choice but to do so. It was that or your mother wouldn’t have lived as long as she did. Part of that money paid for her to have the medicine to help her day to day. The money from the sale paid for her to have treatments when it was needed.

” He looked at Piper, realizing he’d hurt her in doing this. “I’m sorry it’s come to this, child. I truly am.” “I did the best I could under the circumstances. Mom and I had each other. I was able to be at her side when she took her last breath. We got to laugh and cry. If I had to do it all over again the same way, I’d do it. Simply because I was there when she needed me.” Homer hurt because Piper was sobbing now. “She was my world and I hers. We had to do what we needed and never let it take us apart.” “What would you like to do about the rest, honey?” She said that if the other two wanted to pay her, she’d not take it. It would be too little too late. Homer looked at the other two. “What do you have to say for yourself? I think you should be ashamed of yourself for the way you’ve treated your sister. “Nothing. She’s lucky she lives here in this little town, or we’d be the ones in the right.” Telling Rocky to get Piper out of here, he was happy that she hugged her niece and nephew before leaving. “So, she gets off scot-free, does she?” Homer dismissed the case and left the two idiots there to figure out their own crap. Once in his office, he sat down and shook his head. No one would believe what he’d just witnessed. He didn’t much either.

Ian McCray Bruin Release Blitz &Giveaway

 

 

Things hadn’t been going very well for Lucy and her two sisters. When their parents died, their uncle had moved in and took over. The girls, apparently, were too much trouble to worry about, so he’d dumped them onto the streets to fend for themselves.

It was just luck that Ian McCray and his family had found Lucy that day. Both Lucy and her sister, Jilly, were in bad need of medical attention. Ian was just thrilled to have found his mate alive. In their situation, it could have been much worse.

Lucy was thankful for the help, but she was just going from one man to another lording over her and dictating what she could and couldn’t do. It was marry Ian or lose her sisters for good. Ian was a nice man, but she was tired of everyone telling her what to do.

 

 

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Demi Morgan was good at keeping her identity hidden, so when an attorney found her at a restaurant she owned, she was more than a little angry. Very few people knew how to find her, and she took her privacy seriously. His news that her mother had passed, several months ago, did nothing for her. Her family had never wanted her, and in turn she didn’t want them either. He knew her family, and he understood her feelings, but the will had to be read.

Reluctantly, Demi made her arrangements to travel back to her hometown in Ohio. Her intentions were to either decide to stay, or to sell the home her grandmother had left her. Living in the same town as her brother and sister didn’t appeal to her at all. When her brother, Nathan, coldcocked her in the elevator, an unlikely savior came to her rescue, Madden McCray.

Demi wanted to hire Madden to be her bodyguard while she was in town. Madden said as much as he could use the money, he told her he already had a job, but his brother, Lucian could use the work.

Lucian wanted to meet Demi before he accepted the job, and when her scent hit him between the eyes, his bear rolled over him—she was his mate. But reality hit him like a freight train. She had money—a lot of money—and he and his family had always been dirt poor. He wanted his mate too—more than anything, but he’d have to get past his pride first….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meadow Springs had been locked away in a hospital for several years. At sixteen she was a victim and sole survivor of the mass murder of her family. The ordeal had left her semi-comatose for a long time. Since she was the only survivor and couldn’t talk, the police tried to pin the murders on her, but it didn’t stick.

Josiah McCray was there the day that Meadow was brought to their home to go into hiding. The beautiful blonde in the wheelchair was a shadow of the woman she should be. All Josiah saw was his mate, and he loved her no matter what.

The killer was still out there, and Meadow had his identity locked inside her mind and the killer knew it. Everyone previously in charge of her care was now dead. There was no way that was a coincidence.

Meadow was a loose end, the one that got away. There was no way the killer could let her live….

Melody Austin was afraid of nearly everything, but like it or not, she was a survivor. When she was seventeen, she had survived a harrowing attack that left her mentally and physically scarred. Now, ten years later, her brother, Daniel, repeatedly asked her to talk about the disturbing events, to tell him what happened so that he could understand, but she remained silent.  She knew he meant well, but telling him a bear was behind the attack at the school would get her locked up in a mental institution. No one would believe that story, and she couldn’t blame them.

Daniel had taken a job working for the McCrays. He made Mel promise that she’d join him in just a few days, but instead, Daniel received a call that his house was on fire, and Mel had been burned in the process. Daniel took Gannon with him to check on his sister.

Daniel had told Gannon that Mel was a bit skittish before they arrived on the scene. But the moment Gannon caught her scent; he knew she was his mate. He meant to reassure her by telling her that she was his mate and that everything would be all right, but the instant she heard that he was a bear shifter, she went wild, running back into the fire to get away from him.

When Gannon discovered that a bear was the cause of all her fears, he didn’t know how he could get past this. He couldn’t change what he was…. Was this doomed from the start?

 

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Ian waited in the lobby for Lucy to be brought back to the ER department. She’d been gone for about an hour when his dad had brought her sisters in, just to have them looked over too, he told him. Jilly sat across from him while Cybill glared at him from several seats away. It was his nature to laugh at someone disliking him. He thought, however, if he did that now, even the hospital wouldn’t be able to save him. They’d kill him that quickly. “What are you?” Ian asked Jilly what she meant. “You’re not human. I don’t think you are. So, tell me if I’m wrong or what you are. I don’t want to be waking up some time with you looming over me like some sort of monster. Not that we’re going to be staying with you or anyone else.” “First of all, take it down a notch. I’ve given you no reason whatsoever to be nasty to me. Also, I’m not going to loom over any of you. I’m a black bear. My entire family is.” She glared at him harder. “Look, why don’t you just say what you’re thinking and we’ll go on from there? We’ve done everything we said we would without once trying to loom or any of the other things going on in your mind.” “What’s going to happen to my sister and I when you force Lucy to come and be your slave?” Ian stood up and walked away from her. He wasn’t going to lose his temper with a kid. Not today. “Where the hell are you going? I’m speaking to you.” “No, you’re not. Speaking to me would mean you’re having a conversation with me. All you’ve done since you were brought here was snip and snap at me like I was the one that left you at the side of the road. I’d never do that.

Not even with the way you’re treating me right now.” His mom and dad came back from the cafeteria with a bag of things. When Mom gave the girls an apple apiece, he declined to have one. Mom asked him what was going on. “This one, Cybill, hasn’t spoken to me since she got here. But I think Jilly here is making up for it by being nasty and accusatory at me. Like I’d hurt any of them. Oh, and she’s accused me of planning to dump her someplace when I take their older sister as my slave.” “What a thing to say to my son.” Mom sat down by Jilly and asked Cybill to come closer. Of course, she just sat there. “When I tell you to come to me, you’ll do it. I’m going to be your grandma, and I do expect you to respect me as an elder. You don’t have to like me, but I’d like you to. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself at the wrong end of my heart. Now, come here so I can tell you what is going on with your sister. And what I would like to see happen to the two of you.” Cybill came to sit next to his mom, and Dad sat with him across from them. Mom told them that Lucy had a bad sprain on her wrist, and they were going to set it with a cast. Cybill told Mom they didn’t have the money for that. Ian spoke up. “I spoke to the bursar’s office before you got here. All the bills are going to be sent to me. There won’t be many of them, since as a family we’ve donated a great deal of money to this hospital in order to have the best of the best here. Lucy is in good hands.” Jilly asked him where he lived. “About a twenty-minute drive from here.

Not too far. I’m thinking they more than likely will keep her overnight simply because she’ll need more in the way of pain medication than they can send her home with. I’d very much like it if you two were checked out. I know you said you didn’t want to be but think of this. If you have a cold or some other sort of illness, you might make your sister weaker. They’ll keep her longer if that happens. I’m not blackmailing you into anything, but I’m not too keen on either of you being sick either.” Cybill stood up, and so did Ian. She was so stiff it worried him. Was she hurt? Did something happen to the three of them to make them like this, other than being abandoned like they were? Ian wondered how soon his sisters would be able to track down the uncle. “I’d like to make sure we don’t have anything that would make Lucy sicker. She’s all we have.” Ian didn’t point out that they had him too. He was working hard at making them believe in him before he tried to convince them he was going to be there for them. “But I’m not going to allow you in the room with me.” “Of course, I won’t go into the room with you. Christ, kid, I’m not sure where your mind is all the time, but if you give me half a chance, you’re going to see that I’m nothing like whoever shit in your oatmeal.” Mom told him to behave. “Tell her that. I’ve done nothing to either of them, but try my best to show them I’m not the bad guy in this.” “Be that as it may, son. They’re terrified and untrusting. We have to work on one thing at a time here.” He nodded and went to the desk. Jilly came with him. Instead of asking her what she wanted, he asked the nurse if there was someone who could look the girls over to make sure nothing was hurting them. Ian turned to Jilly.

“I’d very much like for my mom to go back with the two of you. She can keep in contact with me through our link. Just in case the nurses or doctors ask you for something that you might not understand.” Jilly looked at her sister, then nodded to him. “Thank you for that. I know how hard it is for you to trust us. But I swear to you, we only have your best interests at heart.” “I don’t trust you,” Ian told her that was fine. Hopefully, she would someday. “What are your plans for us? Sending us away won’t get you in good with my sister.” “I don’t have any plans for you and your sister, other than wanting you safe and healthy. I want to take care that your uncle, wherever he is, knows he’s messed up badly by treating you the way he has. Also, and this is true for my entire family, I’d very much like for you not to jump to the wrong conclusions about everything we say to you.” Jilly’s cheeks brightened up a little, and she turned away from him. “Is there anything wrong with you, Jilly? I mean, are you hurt in any way that the doctors are going to find? I’d really like to know.” She turned to him then. While she looked at him with such intensity, he let her. Whatever she was thinking, he was sure it wouldn’t bode well for him to try and read her mind. He was determined to allow her to make this call on her own. “Three weeks ago, we were sleeping in a van. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the one we’ve been in lately, but that’s not saying much. It was all we could find at the time.”
He nodded. “There were no bathrooms, of course, so we had to go outside and do our business. Someone hit me from behind. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I did get hit hard enough to draw blood. I still have trouble seeing things clearly, and I seem to have a headache all the time.”

“Did you tell your sisters?” She shook her head gently. “All right. I’m going to go back with you to tell them what you’ve just told me. Also, I’d like to get my sisters-in-law involved. One of them is freaky scary magically powerful. However, she’d never harm either of you. She can find someone just by touching something. I don’t know if she can with a head wound or not, but it’s worth a try. Okay?” “Why are you really doing this? Lucy won’t care how much you say you’re going to keep us safe. The first time something happens, you’ll not find us.” He told her he would now. “Because of you being a bear? I don’t believe you.” “Believe me or not, Jilly, I’m a man of my word. If I tell you something I’ll do or have done for you, I’ll do it. I can find you because I have your scent. It won’t be as easy as it would be if I had a taste of your blood, but you don’t trust me enough for that. Not yet.” She said she doubted she ever would. “I’m sorry for that. I truly am.” The nurse came to get the two girls, and he went back with them to wait for the doctor to come in the little room they were in. He’d asked the doctor, a woman he’d known for a while, Hallie Jamison if the girls could be in the same area, as they’re still frightened of him. He knew her from helping set up some of the computers they now had. Hallie laughed. “You go on with you, Ian. I’ve got them here. They’ll not be bothered.” Ian told her what had happened to Jilly and how he was worried about her. “Head wound, huh? Well, you let me have a look-see at it, honey, and I’ll see what I can get going for you right away.” Hallie had a gentle touch, but he could tell it was still painful for Jilly.

Taking her hand into his, Ian held it tightly as Jilly tried her best not to cry. Cybill held her other hand. When Hallie stepped back, she looked at him. He could tell the news wasn’t going to be good. “She’s got herself a piece of something under the skin. I don’t know what it is right now. Not unless she can tell me what it was that hit her.” Jilly told them she didn’t know. There hadn’t been anyone around. “I’m thinking you did lose consciousness for a little bit, honey. Not long, but long enough for whoever hit you to hit you a second time there. I found two places where the skin was broken. Whoever it was, they left you to die.” “But she’ll be all right, won’t she? Whatever it takes for her to be better, you do it, Hallie. I don’t want anything to hurt them again.” Jilly looked at him when he spoke to the doctor. “Just tell me what you’re going to need to do to remove whatever is in her head.” “Nothing, Ian. You did good just getting this sort of information from her. She’ll be right as rain.” Hallie looked at Jilly. “I’m going to have them X-ray your head, honey. After we have a look at the films that come back, we’ll be in a better position to figure
out where we’ll go from here. In the meantime, I’m going to give you a little something to make you relax a little. Being tense is not helping your head, I’m betting.” As soon as she left to get whatever was going to be needed for Jilly, Ian asked Cybill the same thing he’d asked Jilly. She told him she was always being babied by the other two, and she was never alone. Ian thought while she resented it a little, Cybill was glad not to be hurting like her sister.

“I’m going to check on Lucy while you’re getting X-rays, all right?” Cybill said she didn’t want to leave her sister. “I don’t think they’ll allow you in the room when they do that. However, they’re going to bring her back to this area, and you and I will be here waiting for her. My mom will be, as well.” “I don’t want either of them hurting,” Ian told her he didn’t either. “What will happen to me if they have to stay here? I can’t go home with you. Not without my sisters.” “I know that. I never thought to make you leave them. I’ll make a few calls, and we’ll make sure, if we can, that all three of you are in the same room. If not, then you can move back and forth between their rooms to make sure they’re all right. Would that be all right?” Cybill nodded, her big blue eyes dark with fear. “Good. Now, I’m going to reach out to my family with my link to them. You won’t know I’m talking to them, but I promise you I’ll tell you everything I find out, even about your uncle. I won’t keep things from you guys. Ever, if I can help it.” Ian reached out to Demi first, telling her what he knew about the girls. She told him she was looking into the uncle for them and was looking for someone that might have a copy of the original will. I don’t for a minute think anyone would have left their children in his care if what they’re saying is true. We have to assume this could be just a case of the girls not wanting to be around him. I’m not going to jump to conclusions. He told her that was a good idea. Meadow is here with me. She’s doing her thing too to find out what she can about the accident that killed their parents.

Also, you should be aware that Melody is clothing shopping. They’re going to need more than what they currently have even if they take off again. I don’t think they will, but with kids, you never know. Thank you for that. I would like for Meadow to figure out what happened to Jilly that gave her the wound she has. Demi said she’d have her look. Another thing—is there any way you can have someone go to my house and fill up the cabinets and fridge? I wasn’t expecting anyone, and now I have three mouths to feed. I’m thrilled to death about it, but I also don’t want them to think I’m planning to starve them. Closing the connection when Demi said she’d take care of it, he watched as a young aide took the bed out of the room to take Jilly to X-ray. Mom and Dad both joined them in the room while they waited. “Do you think she’ll die?” Mom told Cybill she didn’t think either of her sisters would die. “I don’t want them to. They’re all I have left as my family.” “You have all of us now, Cybill. I want you to know that right off.” Dad took the child’s hand into his much larger one. “Yes, ma’am, you’ve got all of us now, and we’re
not going to let anyone hurt you again. Nor will you ever have to sleep in some old van. Unless it’s a camping trip—then that’ll be fine. You ever camp?” Dad and Cybill spoke quietly while Mom peppered Ian with questions. Nothing he could answer for her, but it didn’t stop her from asking. Mom went with Cybill to get her checkup while he and his dad waited. They didn’t speak much. Ian was worried for his new family, and Dad seemed to be content with watching whatever was on the television while they waited. When Lucy was finished with her arm being set, he went to see her in the room right next door. Telling her everything that was going on, he could see she was in a great deal of pain. When the nurse came in to give her something more for it, Ian stayed with her.

She was asleep in a matter of minutes. ~*~ “I’ve removed the bullet without any trouble, but I still want to keep her for a couple more days just to make sure there is nothing more with the wounds. It’s a small wonder she was having trouble seeing and a massive headache.” Lucy didn’t have any idea who would have shot her sister. Fearful of whoever it was coming for her again had her reaching out and grabbing the closest thing to her. It just happened to be Ian’s warm hand. The doctor continued. “She’s quite the trooper, I have to say. Not only was she fantastic at following instructions on what I needed her to do while I removed the bullet, she asked me questions about the procedure while it was happening to her.” “You mean she was awake?” Her voice squeaked, but she didn’t care. They’d made her suffer through this without putting her out? “Isn’t that sort of cruel?” “Oh, no, Ms. Jackson. She didn’t feel anything until I was ready for her to. When working with the brain or the skull, we want patients to be able to tell us if there is a change in their vision or speech. This way, if something were to have changed for her, Jilly was still in the operating room, and we could fix it immediately. She didn’t have any trouble at all.

Jilly even told me while we were working that she could see a little better.” “I don’t understand.” Ian turned to her, asking her what it was she needed clarification on. “Who would have shot her? Why? We weren’t hurting anyone where we were. Why didn’t she tell me she’d been hurt? I’m supposed to be taking care of them.” When the doctor left them, Ian sat in the chair next to her bed. Lucy wasn’t sure what he was doing there, but it did occur to her that having him close was making her feel safer than she had at any time in the last year. “I’m having my sister-in-law look into the shooting. The police have allowed her to touch the bullet. I did tell you she has some kind of thing going on with her mind, didn’t I?” Lucy said he’d not explained that either. “All right. Do you remember the Spring murders? When the entire family was murdered except for one daughter?” “Yes. They thought for a long time that it was her that killed them all. Even the dog, I believe.” Ian told her that was it. “Are you telling me Meadow is that woman?” “I am. When she was cut up like she was, her body sort of woke up some kind of mental ability. She can do all sorts of things we’re still learning about. She was hoping that with her touching the bullet, she could backtrace the reason for it being shot at your sister and who might have done it.

” Lucy’s head was spinning, and Ian seemed to understand she was overwhelmed. “When she has information, she said she’d tell me or come by, and I’ll tell you without holding anything back. I’m going to be as honest and as straight up with you as I can. All right?” “Yes. Do you know why she told you she’d been shot and not me?” He nodded. “I don’t know why, but I have a feeling I’m not going to like the answer, am I?” “I don’t know if you will or not. But I do understand her motive for it. She thought you had enough on your plate, she told my dad, and she thought having a headache all the time was minor compared to what was going on in your lives. She would have told you, Jilly said, when you were safe, but it never seemed to be a good time to speak about it. Also, she had no idea she’d been shot. Jilly thought she’d been hit in the head with something.” “What about my other sister? What has Cybill been holding back from me?” Lucy hated the way she sounded as soon as she spoke. Ian had been nothing but nice to her, and here she was snipping and snapping at him. “I’m sorry. I’m trying to deal with this. I don’t know you or what you are going to want from me. What you’re going to do with my sisters, either. It’s too much, but I know I have to deal with it. Deal with you.” “Dealing with me is going to be easy. I don’t want anything from you or your sisters that you’re not willing to give. I’m going to care for the three of you. As for what I’m going to do with them? I don’t have any plans to do anything with them. I’ve provided them with rooms at our house. They have clothing now that my sisters-in-law got for them.

As soon as you’re up and around, we’ll take them to get more. It’s only fall now, so we’ll have to look for winter things too, I guess. I don’t know a great deal about teenage girls, to be honest with you. But I’m so very proud of you for keeping them safe and together.” “The doctor said we are all undernourished. I thought he was going to take them from me when he said that. But all he said was that with the cook you have at your house now, we’ll be fattened up soon enough. I don’t even know what that means.” Ian laughed, and she felt a smile pull at her mouth. “You have money, don’t you?” “I do. I also have a home, a great job, and insurance that you and the girls have been added to as of this afternoon. I don’t know a great deal about any of you, but I’m assuming you drive.” She nodded and told him she had a license, but it had been taken from her at her uncle’s. “They’ve found him, by the way. Demi isn’t going to contact him until she figures out a few things about him. I’m not sure what those are, but she said she’d have you some information soon.” “They’re very resourceful, aren’t they?” Ian laughed and told her that was an understatement. “What will they do with my uncle now that they know where he is? I mean, it’s not like my sisters and I have any recourse. I’ve been so worried he was going to come after us and ditch me in order to keep them around. I suppose he could. I’m an adult, and they’re not.” “I did mention that to the others. Mr. Shoe is an attorney for the family right now. Mostly Demi, but he’s looking into what can and can’t be done. You told me you didna know where the will was.

If you can tell me where your parents died, then we can go there and find their death certificates and work backward from there.” She told him everything she knew, which, after saying it aloud, she thought was a pitiful amount of information. “Once they know where to look, finding it will be easy. I mean, they would have filed it in order for it to be legal and binding.” “I have some questions for you. I know you’re telling me I’m your mate, but how do I know you’re not trying to scam me into your home and bed? For all I know, you could be a murderer or a rapist. I don’t want to go from the pot to the fire without knowing what I’m getting into.” He told her that was fair, then to ask him whatever she wanted. “I don’t know what to ask you. I don’t know you at all.” “Nor do I know you, Lucy. But I’m a college graduate of the local college. I have a computer science degree that is helping me while I learn what Demi and Meadow have me do. I can, and do most of the time, build computers for the elite. All the family is now the owner of a great many properties all over the world, and I keep the computers working so Demi’s cameraman, my brother, can install cameras and keep them as well as anything else in the homes up and running.” She asked him about his house. “Ah, there is a funny story to that. Demi and Meadow purchased the houses for all of us a while back. All I’ve done to it since moving in was throw a mattress on the floor and look for things to fill it a little at a time. It has nine bedrooms. Also, I’ve managed to find a couple of ponies I’m working with so they’re not afraid of me.

I’m not a rancher by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m having fun just hanging around the place when I’m not working.” “Nine bedrooms is a huge house.” He told her about the kitchen and how it was supposed to be a cook’s dream. “You don’t cook.” “No. I mean, I know how, but I don’t unless I’m too hungry to wait until I can hang out at my mom’s house for a meal.” He grinned at her. “When I first figured out the three of you would need a place to stay, I had my mom and sisters go and fill the place up with food. While I don’t have any idea what they purchased, I’m sure it’s going to be a good mixture of good for you things as well as fun food. My mom is a wonderful cook. I’m to understand that you love to bake.” “I do. I’m good at it too. Not tooting my own horn, but I used to have people come from everywhere to have some of the bread and cakes I make.” Ian had the most generous smile. When he smiled, it was like he was telling her he was as happy as he could be. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with you.” “With me? I don’t know either. As I said, I’m not going to rush you. I’ll take whatever you wish to give me. However, I plan to pamper you so much, you’ll wish to bash my head in.” This time she laughed. Laying her head back on the pillow, she watched as he explained to her what sort of pampering he was planning to do. When the door to her room opened, she was so happy to see Cybill that she had her climb into the bed with her, simply so she could make sure she was all right. Ian didn’t make fun of her, nor did he scold her sister for climbing over her and causing her pain. Lucy thought he would have for some reason.

“I’m going to go and check on Jilly if you two will be all right.” Lucy thanked him. “You can have anything you want to eat. Would you like me to pick you two up something and bring it to you? The sky’s the limit.” “I would love a hamburger. With everything.” Ian told Cybill he could get her that, then asked her about fries. “No, I don’t care for potatoes. But if they have onion rings, I’d really enjoy that. Are you sure you don’t mind getting it for me?” “I’m positive. I’m hoping we can be a family. But I’ll settle for good terms for now.” Lucy told him she’d like the same, but she liked fries. None of them liked soda, so he was going to bring them back bottled waters. “I’ll be back. If there is anything I find out about Jilly, I’ll let you know that too.” When he was gone, Cybill told her she liked the McCray family. “You’ve been getting to know them, I guess,” Cybill said mostly she’d been with Grandpa McCray, but Grandma was nice too. “You’re already calling them your grandparents? Cybill, do you think that’s a good idea? We shouldn’t get too attached to them right now. Don’t you think?” “I don’t think that at all. We’re warm and getting taken care of, Lucy. I’ve been checked out and given a vitamin D shot so I could be better. You’ve had your arm looked at and fixed. Jilly is getting taken care of, and tonight, when I go to bed, I’ll have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and a bathroom all my own.” She asked her where she was staying. “I’ve been taken by the grandparents to Ian’s house. You’re going to love it, Lucy. It’s so beautiful, and I can’t wait to live there for the rest of my life.” Lucy was worried that something was going to happen to take all these plans away from them. A roof over their head was a good thing, but at what cost? When she thought of all the things that Ian or the rest of them could demand of them, Lucy had a feeling they’d not want anything in return. They were, she hoped, just what they looked like—a good family with no ulterior motive of any kind.

North Wilkerson Dynasty Release Blitz & Giveaway

Amy Hamilton never had much of a home life growing up. Her sister Phoenix and her mother demanded all the attention, so much so that she and her father didn’t have a relationship at all. Now that her father was filing for a divorce, he felt guilty for not being a part of her life and wanted to make up for it, but Amy wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

North Wilkerson had a similar upbringing. Although his mother was dead now, before her death, she was an awful person and an even worse mother. After having sworn off family ties to his parents, he was just now allowing his father back into his life.

Amy and Booker Wilkerson were close friends in college. Amy was only supposed to be in town for a few days, and when Booker called inviting her to dinner, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up on old times. When Booker’s cousin North and his uncle joined them for dinner, they all had a blast.

But when North just showed up at her father’s house and took over, Amy wasn’t sure what to think of him. What did he think he was doing? She barely knew him. Amy needed to nip this in the bud before it went much further. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She didn’t need a man now, or would she ever need a man, any man….

 

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When Marsden Wilkerson received the phone call that his mother had been in a car accident, he wasn’t letting anything get in his way to get to her. Not a pushy boss, and especially not his Aunt Eita. Then his world crumbled when the doctors told him that his mother, Holly, didn’t make it.

Gabriella Farley, Abby, could hold her own, and she wasn’t about to take any flack from a rich bitch like Penelope Wilkerson. All the Wilkerson women, with the exception of Holly, could fit that description. Abby stood up for Mars at the funeral home even though she really didn’t know him. What she did know was his mother, Holly, was a fine woman, and the family had given them both the shaft Mars’s entire life.

Mars wanted to apologize for his Aunt’s actions, but there was something about Abby that sparked a flame in his heart. From the first kiss, they knew they had something special, but going against the Wilkerson family could be very dangerous. Will this new love be doomed from the start?

 

MARSDEN  https://amzn.to/38Zq06Y

 

 

 

 

Kaylee Rankins  is the winner, Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

Please make sure you put all the  Info in  for a chance at winning A   Signed Mystery Paperback

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This  newsletter winner is Hena Rahman Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

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Kaylee Rankins
Hena Rahman

 

 

If you have not gotten your prize please contact my PA Denise at denisek0319@gmail.com  

Happy Reading,

 

 

North was ready to call it quits. Moving around the house he hadn’t liked even before he walked through the front door, he decided he’d just live in the condo for his entire lifetime. It was better than trying to decide what sort of house he was going to buy. “Sir, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re going about this all wrong.” He cocked a brow at Libby, the woman showing him the home. “Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to sell you the biggest house on the market around here. But you’re not thinking of this as a house to warm up to a home. You’re looking for your home.” “There’s a difference?” Libby smiled and told him there was a huge difference. “All right. I’m game for it. Tell me what it is I need to do to get myself done for the day.” Her laughter made him smile. He was glad that Abby had told him about this particular realtor. She was much like Abby, though older, and seemed to have taken him under her wing in an odd sort of way. Smiling again, he did as she asked and went out to the front porch with her. “Close your eyes and think of this doorway you’ve just gone out of. Tell me what you remember.” He looked at her. “Trust me. It’s going to help you out with this. Tell me what you thought about when you first came up the steps to enter here.” “The door looks like it’s from some kind of institution. The windows on either side of it are not right for a house this large. They look cheap and out of step somehow for the wooden doors.” He looked at her. “I hate it. The door. It was the first thing I looked at, and it’s soured the rest of the house for me. I guess you’d say the first impression was off.” “All right. That’s good. Remember that the door and the windows can be changed by you. Now, what about the house? First impressions on it, and what you saw when you walked inside. You have to remember; the front of the house can be changed if you want to live here.”

He was liking this. North had no idea why, but it was helping him to see what his feelings were for the house rather than just hating it and not moving beyond that. They re-entered the house to the front entrance hall. “Now, the door is fixed. The glass on the side has been updated. What would you like to see in here that you didn’t before?” He didn’t close his eyes this time, but looked around, changing things as he went, such as the wallpaper in the room next to where he was. Then he changed the flooring. His mind skittered over the staircase twice before he came back to it. That was the issue. “The stairs are off-center. What I mean is, it looks like they’ve been put in as an afterthought. I suppose I could change them too, but then the room would look off balance because of the way everything is centered squarely around the staircase.” She told him they’d move on to the next house. “This really is helping me. Thank you so much.”

The next house was just as bad for him. As an attorney, he wanted balance in his home. North had never considered himself to be obsessive compulsive, but he did like things in straight lines where they were needed, and curves that would be well blended in the flow. Things just where they were supposed to be. He was ready to call it a day, perhaps a week when they pulled up in front of the next house. Christ, it called to him. North got out of the car and stood staring at the way the house looked with the backdrop of the sky behind it. “I saved this one for last because when you told me what you were looking for, that there should not be a long pretentious drive, I didn’t think it would be something you’d like.” Nodding at her, barely paying attention to what she was saying, he made his way to the front door. “This house had eleven bedrooms. Each of the bedrooms on this floor has a half bath inside. There is a shower/bathtub between each set of two bedrooms that would be shared. The master bedroom not only has its own bathroom, but it also has its own deck that has a two-person hot tub on it. Also, there is a place to bring firewood up to be used in this room.” “Are the turrets from the original build?” Libby told him that according to the paperwork, not only were the turrets built with the home, but there was extra shaped glass stored away in the basement of the utility building out back. “Several years ago, the entire house was sandblasted to remove all the paint from it. I have no idea why someone would have painted it, but it’s better now.” There was a turret at each corner of the massive building, both front and back. He loved the way each of the three floors had a window looking out over the lands. How the very top of each of them had ivy growing from the top down.

The way the house spread out from each of the sides showed him that someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to use a great many of the stones around the area. The walls between each window on the main floor were tall, stone, load-bearing walls. Going into the house, he decided that the front of the place just screamed at him to live here. Libby laughed when he handed her back what he thought was the specs on the house. “I’m sorry. Did I miss something? I’ve fallen in love with this house. I’m sure you know that without me telling you.” Libby told him she could see that he had. “I’m not very good at poker either. Tell me this place isn’t going to cost me more than the purchase price to have it brought up to this decade.” “The kitchen was redone just last year. The roofing gets a good power wash every other year. It’s made wholly of slate with a tin seal under it. There is a new furnace and air conditioner on each floor. The house, only about ten years old, is about as modern as one could be, I’ve been told. There are no carpets in the home. I believe the homeowners didn’t care for the way carpet had to be replaced every several years and opted to have area rugs put into the rooms. That way, they could change them out when the room needed to be redecorated.” He asked her why the house was being sold. “The previous owner designed the house himself. You’ll find large pieces of furniture in some of the rooms that cannot be removed without tearing out walls. As soon as the house was finished and set to be moved into, the man died.

Not here, I assure you, but when he was visiting his parents in another country. That’s all I know about that.” Nodding, she unlocked the door for him. Stepping in first, he turned to Libby and told her he wanted to buy it. The house seemed to wrap around him and make him feel like he’d just found the perfect house. Nodding, she handed him the paperwork. “I know you want it, but I’d like you to go through the house once. That way, if you get up on the third floor, you can change your mind.” He asked her if there was something wrong with the third floor. “Not that I’ve been made aware of. But the house has been sitting for eight years now, the first two in probate, without a single person wanting to go through it after seeing the front of it. Also, the drive to the house. The driveway is longer than some people want to travel, I guess.” North had started to leave Libby in the largest dining room he’d ever been in when he asked her if he could bring in someone to be objective. Nodding, Libby told him to do whatever he needed to make sure he was making a good choice. North decided if he ever needed any kind of land, he was going to ask for Libby. He was even going to recommend her to his cousins. Calling Mars to ask him if he could come by hooked him up with Abby. She said her mom was out shopping and she was bored. Asking him if she’d be good as a standin for Mars, he readily agreed.

Abby had become the go-to person, since Holly had been murdered, for just about everything they did. He couldn’t have been more happy than to have her in his corner, as well as the rest of his cousins. When she got there, he was in the kitchen. While he knew how to cook, due to Holly, Mars’s mom, taking the time to show all of them how to make a few dishes to survive on, Abby had been expanding his skills. “Holy shit, North. This is a fucking wonderful kitchen. You have to buy this for that alone.” Libby was laughing when she showed him the other features of the kitchen. Such as a large pantry for extra storage, a huge freezer, as well as a restaurant size refrigerator that would be good to hold food for parties. The three of them walked the rest of the house. There were rooms that had large furniture in them, but he found that he loved them as well. The master suite had a bed in it that was larger than a queen in both length and width. It was the gas fireplace in the room that made him as happy as he’d ever been about a home. “There are some things I am required by law to tell you. Nothing bad, but it does need to be disclosed. The bank has been trying to sell this home for several years now. Just recently, a company was set to purchase it, but there was a death in the family, and the deal was closed. In the back acreage of the lot is a family cemetery that—”“What was the name of the company that was set to buy this house?”

North wondered why Abby would care when Libby said she’d check. “Just wait a second, and I’ll tell you why I care. It’s important for all sorts of reasons.” “Abode Well.” It took North a few seconds to catch up with Abby when she started to dance around the room. “Did I miss something?” “Holly was going to buy it. If for no other reason than that, North, you must purchase this home.” Abby looked around, then back at him. He was going to buy it,
but knowing that Holly had approved in some way made it all the more special for him. “If you don’t buy it, I certainly will.” He turned to Libby and told her he’d buy the house. “Also, you mentioned when we pulled in that there was an empty lot next to this one. I’ll take that as well.” Libby said there was a rental on that property that was currently being rented. “Who are they?” “Mr. Oliver lives there. He used to teach here at the local school. He’s retired now, and his wife passed on a few years ago. Lately, he’s been late on his rent. That’s something else I was going to tell you that you might have to deal with him sometime soon.” North told her he’d deal with it later if that was all right. “It is. Once you purchase the house, all of that will no longer be a concern to anyone at the bank, nor my offices.” It took him nearly two hours to get to sign his name on the deed. With the help of Mars and his dad, he was able to get a very low-interest rate, as well as some extra from the equity from the house to fix the barn out back. It needed a new roof. North took out a loan, even though he had enough money to pay cash for the house. His dad told him that the loan would help him establish a line of credit, as well as help the town. Always, he’d been told by Dad, help the town more than he had ever done.

North, with his new outlook on life, told his dad he would do that. Anything to help the town, after all, it had muscled through when his mom and aunts had gone on a rampage recently that ended not just in the death of his mother, but in all the other women being in jail. The five of them had done enough harm to the town and the people living here, North was still surprised the townspeople were nice to him and his cousins. ~*~ Amy had been summoned home from college a couple of times since she’d made a hasty exit. This time, however, had been different. She not only had her own place, but she was also making her own money. Not sure where to enter the house, she opted for where she knew she’d be welcome. The timing couldn’t have been better, she thought. While in town, she was supposed to look at some paintings for a person by the name of Wilkerson to evaluate them. Then she’d be in charge of cleaning them, bringing them back to their natural state. It was a hobby she did when she wasn’t on a job taking pictures of animals. Going to the back door of the house had been her way to escape all the drama in the front rooms. As soon as she walked into the big warm kitchen, Amy felt the stress of the last few days roll over her. The big hug from Lulu and her husband Hank was just what she needed. Sitting down when they asked her to, a large plate of not just her favorite fruits were given to her, but scones warm from the oven as well. A cup of tea, her preferred flavor, was also there. Just like when she’d been living here, they never discussed the household, neither the people living in it nor her family. It was just the three of them enjoying a nice little break from whatever else was going on.

“I’ve been working out of the country since January. It’s been fun having a new job waiting for me every time I finish one. Did you get the pictures I sent you?” Lulu told her how she’d been putting them in a big album. “I’m going to have the ones that weren’t picked by the company I work for put into an album someday. They paid me for fifty pictures and ended up buying an additional fifty. I have no idea what they’re going to do with that many shots. I’ve made it so they have to get approval from me for whatever they want to use them in. That way, they’re not all over the Internet used as book covers. Not that I’d mind that, but I have to have some say over them.” “The one you took of the elephants playing in the water is my favorite of them all. And the monkeys throwing around leaves. They’re all wonderful.” She hugged Hank when he blushed brightly. “When are you leaving again? I’m sure someone is good as you isn’t going to be idle for very long.” “No. I have two more shots this year for the same magazine, then I’m taking a month off. I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with so much free time, but I think I’ll manage it.” Lulu asked her if she enjoyed taking the water photos. “I did, as a matter of fact. The ones I was able to take of the polar bears was heartbreaking. They’re having a rough time of it.” She turned when her dad walked into the room. He glanced at her, then looked at Lulu. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had company.” Then he looked at her again. “Amy? Is that you? My goodness, you’re beautiful.” “Thanks, Dad.” Unsure if she was supposed to hug him, she waited for him to make the first move. When he just kissed her on the cheek, she didn’t let the disappointment hurt her too badly. “I had some extra time before I was to meet with you, then later the job I have. So I came to see what Lulu and Hank were up to.” “I can see that. Things have been very quiet around here.” She figured with Phoenix gone on her honeymoon, things would be considerably quieter. Amy didn’t ask about her or her mother but laughed when Dad asked for the same thing she was having— and was denied.

“Just this one time, Lulu. You know how I’ve been keeping close to my diet.” He was eventually given two cookies and half a scone. Again, Amy didn’t ask him what was going on. She’d learned the hard way that she wasn’t a true part of this family. Phoenix and Mom had been louder and stronger than her since she figured out she wasn’t welcome here. Amy was never sure what she’d done other than to be born that had pissed them off. But since she didn’t care much about parties and socially mandated appearances, she kept to herself and entertained herself when necessary. “I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you for some time now. I wasn’t even sure how to do that until I asked Hank. I’m glad you had them here for you, or I might not have been able to call you home.” She nodded at her dad, wondering what she was going to be forced to do for a “family function” again. “If you don’t mind, we can just talk in here.

I’ve been confiding in these two much more than I think they wanted.” “No, sir. I’m just glad you finally got that big head of yours out of your ass and saw what was going on right under your nose.” Amy laughed at Hank. He’d always been one to say what he thought. It had helped her be what she was too.

“Now, you go on and tell this little thing why you called her here. She’s a right to know.” “Have you always been this pushy? If so, why am I only just now noticing it?” Hank told him he had that ass thing going on. Dad laughed, then looked at her. “I’ve filed for divorce from your mom. It’ll be final in a few weeks. Phoenix isn’t married either.” Amy wished she’d not been taking a sip of tea when he said that. It burned her lip and her nose as it spewed from her mouth. As she coughed her way to breathing again, she watched the rest of them try and mop up the mess she’d made while pumping her on the back to help her breathe. When she was finally able to inhale again, she looked at her dad.

“Phoenix isn’t married? So Doug Schmidt is dead? I mean, that’s the only reason I can think of that would make it so Phoenix didn’t get her way. It would be death or— Oh no. She was caught with her panties down. Wasn’t she?” Dad just nodded with a huge smile on his face. “Did Doug leave her at the altar? I do hope someone took pictures of it. That will do me— I’m sorry, Dad. I truly am. After spending all that money on her day, it was all for nothing. I’m really sorry.” “Only you would think of me in this. Thank you for that. But if I’m honest with you, and I plan to be from now on, I’d tell you it was well worth it. But Doug and his dad, they’re thrilled so much that they paid me back in full for the wedding, as well as the tickets for the honeymoon. I’m not planning on telling your mother or sister. I’d like to let them think that I’m still out the money. It’ll be good for them, I think. I guess the Schmidts were more thrilled that the wedding of the century didn’t go on after finding out that not only was Phoenix a piece of trash, but she was an expensive piece too.” Dad laughed, but even to her, it sounded bitter. “Fran, your mom, she was in the pictures I had taken of them with several of the groomsmen.” “You knew what was going on.” Dad looked at Hank and Lulu. She did too. “You told him what was going on. Thank you for that. I don’t care for Phoenix or Mom, but it must have been hard on you to have gone to Dad with this information.” “I hired a man to take the pictures. It was easy. The only issue I ran into was finding a night to pick from. Since the invitations went out, there had been an orgy of sorts going on here nightly.” Hank handed her another scone, which she declined. “I didn’t want another family hurt by them. What it came down to was them or us. We’re too old to be cleaning up a room four times a day after the two of them had their friends over. Here, you’ve lost some weight you can ill afford, young lady. Eat.”

“I have lost some weight, but I’m not worried about putting it back on, thanks. At least while I’m here.” She winked at Lulu when she huffed at her. “I’m headed out again soon, so getting the weight on right now isn’t a priority. I need to be able to get in and out of places, and being the size of one of the elephants I’m working with won’t be a good thing.” “What do you do?” She looked at her dad. “I know so very little about you that I’m ashamed of myself. I don’t even remember the last time you and I had a conversation.

It’s totally my fault, I’m aware of that. But I just realized there is no relationship between the two of us.” “It is your fault, but it’s all water under the bridge now. I mean, it’s much too late for us to have you come to my art exhibits, or any of the other million and one things I was in while living here, with Phoenix and Mom always taking up your time.” Amy knew she’d hurt him, but it wasn’t in her to be lovey-dovey with him anymore. “I’m a photographer. I’ve been one since I graduated from college a few years ago. In the event you tell me you don’t remember paying for it, you didn’t. I paid my way—” “That’s enough, Amy. You’ve proven your point quite well, I think.” She looked at Hank when he spoke to her. “I know you’re hurt, but there is no reason whatsoever for your father to be made a target. You know it isn’t entirely his fault that you stayed away.” “What do you mean?” She just looked at the plate in front of her without answering her dad. “Amy? What’s Hank talking about? Tell me, please, why you stayed away for so long. I’m begging you.” “The missus and your other daughter made her life a living hell while here.” Lulu took her hand into hers as she continued. “If she wasn’t being ambushed and beaten by one or both of them while living here, it became a nightmare for Amy to even be in the same room with them. Several times I had to care for Amy when they poisoned her food. Food that I cooked, mind you. There were credit cards taken out in her name that she had to go to court over. Clothing of Amy’s was torn to shreds, shoes filled with unspeakable things.

Once there was a scorpion put in Amy’s bed. If not for her spending the night in the hospital that night, she would have been killed, I think.” “Why wasn’t I informed of any of this?” He looked at her, and Amy saw the exact moment he understood. “You did come to me, didn’t you? You tried several times to tell me what was going on, and I shoved you away.” Dad stood up, and so did she. When he hugged her, then left the room, she sat back down. Not saying a word to either of the two people that had practically raised her when her mom and dad didn’t, Amy got up and left the same way she’d come in. Once she was in her car, she drove out the front drive and onto the main street. Once there, with nowhere to go, she decided to take a little time for herself. Finding herself a hotel with a pool, Amy opted for two nights and pulled her luggage from the trunk, full of clothing that was going to need to be washed before she could wear any of it. But instead of doing any of those things, she laid out on the bed and cried. Cried until her heart felt like it would never mend. Waking when her phone rang, she didn’t bother picking it up to see who it was. Instead, she staggered to the bathroom and turned on the water to take a bath. It had been literally years since she’d been able to soak in a tub. The phone rang several more times while she lay there in the too-warm water. Amy tried to think of anything other than what was going on with her family for a while. Just as she was thinking there would be nothing to take her pain away, she remembered her good friend Booker Wilkerson. It only then occurred to her that he was more than likely related to whoever had asked for their paintings to be cleaned.

They’d been in a couple of classes together. Hitting it off as well as they did, they would go on shoots together during her assignments or when she was helping him study for this or that. Afterward, they’d go out to someplace fancy, always his treat as she was dead broke all the time, and then hang out at his place. Unable to recall even a short conversation with him, Amy did wonder how welcome a call from her would be. Finding his phone number proved to be a tad more difficult than she thought it should have been. But once she found it, calling him was easy. Getting a busy signal, Amy opted for not leaving a message. It was silly anyway, wanting to get in touch with someone from years ago. Putting her phone back on the nightstand, Amy pulled out her clothes to sort out. When her phone rang again, she saw the face of Booker. Wondering how much the man had changed over the years, she answered the phone with a smile. “Amy Hamilton, how the fuck are you?” Amy laughed and cried as she told him she’d just gotten to town. “I’m going to pick you up, take you to dinner, then we’ll go over all the shit that has happened since I spoke to you last. It’s been far too long if you ask me.” “For me as well. I’m only home for a couple of days. I’m thinking I’m here to assess your family pictures. I’m staying in a hotel.” After giving him the name of the place she was staying, he told her he was leaving now. He also told her that Mars, one of the cousins she never met, was the one with the paintings. “I’m going to talk to him soon, just not today. I spoke to my dad earlier today.

I don’t think I’m any more a family member than I was before. How is your family?” “Too much to tell you over the phone. I’ll be there in about ten minutes. I’ve missed you so much.” Amy said she’d missed him too. Very much so. “All right, dear. You wait for me in the lobby, and I’ll come in and get you. Remember what I’ve always told you, love.” “I remember. You told me that you are the only man in the world I needed. I don’t know how true that is anymore. Do you?” He said he didn’t know, but would be there soon. “I’ll be in the lobby. I can’t wait to see you.” When he came in the front doors of the hotel a few minutes later, Amy went to him, sobbing about how much she’d missed him. As they hugged, talking over one another, she knew she’d made a good decision in calling him. If nothing else, she knew she’d feel better just hanging out with him for a while.

Donahue Foster’s Pride Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Parker Carter spent eight years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit—murdering her father. Now that the justice system had finally admitted their mistake, Parker was set free. Parker could have left anytime she wanted, she was a powerful witch, but for reasons of her own, she had remained locked up and didn’t use any of her magic.
Donahue Foster, a teacher at the local school, was having a hard time resting. Taking a run and stretching his legs as his lion was something he hadn’t done in a while. He hadn’t gotten far when he noticed two things, he smelled fresh blood, and he felt a presence. Don was dumbfounded when the woman used a mind link to communicate with him. She told him her name was Parker Carter, she didn’t like people, and she was his mate.
Don was so stunned with that news that he was nearly run over by the night hunters Parker chased off.
Now that Parker was back, her past needed to be settled. Half-truths and well-kept secrets needed to be exposed. And the possession of her mother, Meggie, was the most mind-boggling of all. What kind of screwed up magic was this?

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Brook Garrett had learned to live by her wits. When she was very young, she lost her father to a car crash. When her mother remarried, her nightmare really began. A few years later, her mother died the same way. She was next.

Ronan Foster was an officer out on medical leave. He was a lion and wasn’t hurt in the least, but the guy responsible for shooting him would go free if he didn’t take the sabbatical. The guy was responsible for much more than shooting him, and justice needed to be served.

Trust was hard for Brook. Her stepparents had seen to that. Now the big lion was telling her that they were mates and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She had been doing just fine without a man in her life….

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Chapter 1
Parker didn’t move when the warden came to stand in front of her cell. She’d learned a few things while being incarcerated. One of them—and it hadn’t taken her long to figure this one out—was that she was never in the right. Also, in this case, she wasn’t to talk or move toward the cell door until they said she could. “Miss Carter?” She turned and looked at the speaker from her position on the floor. Carter had been doing push-ups when she heard the footsteps coming toward her cell. “I’m to tell you that you’re going to be set free today. They proved you didn’t kill your father.” She was sure it was a joke. For the last eight years, she’d been saying she’d not killed him. It had been tempting, on a daily basis, to get rid of him. However, she’d not been the one who murdered him. Standing up, she saw Warden Peck back away, as if she could reach him through the bars she’d come to call her front door. She could, actually, not just reach him, but leave the jail without anyone knowing. However, Parker didn’t. Without a word from her, she was handed a bag as well as a checklist. Inside the bag was the bloodied clothing she’d come here in, as well as her possessions. Not much of it would do her any good now, but she stripped down right there and pulled the jeans and shirt on while the men turned their backs to her. “You could at least have waited until we were gone to do that.” Standing back when they asked her if she was finished, she waited as they unlocked the cell door. “There is some paperwork we have to have you sign. Also, because you were wrongly accused, there will be some money coming to you.

Do you have any questions so far?” “No.” She followed the three men, two of them guards she’d had extraordinarily little to do with since arriving here eight years ago, and was taken into a smallish room where her attorney was waiting, as well as two people she’d never thought to see again—her aunt and uncle on her father’s side of the family. “They have it in their heads that you didn’t kill my brother. I still don’t believe it, but then they never asked me for permission to let you out of here, where you belong. But I told them that you’d be back. Soon too, if I know you well enough.” Parker said neither of them knew her. “I know you well enough to know that even though they said you didn’t kill him, you were a part of his death. I’ll always believe that of you.” As they said their piece, however incorrect they were, Parker kept her mouth shut. She wasn’t what they thought she was—a person with very few morals and no sense of the laws of the land. Instead, she was an immensely powerful being—mostly, she reasoned, because of her mom. Few people, including the few she’d shared a cell with over her time here, had any idea what she and her parents were. As she waited for the paperwork, Parker thought of the things she was going to have to do when she was out. First and foremost, she had to figure out how she’d ended up in here.

Given a few minutes alone with her only living relatives, Parker wondered why they had been called. Or, for that matter, why they’d even bothered with her at all. It wasn’t until she was given the first thing to sign that she knew. They were supposed to be helping her acclimate herself to the outside world. Signing her name to the places marked, she didn’t bother asking questions. She might get some of them answered, but not to her satisfaction, that she could count on. Standing up, she was asked to sign the list stating that she’d received all her belongings from when she was arrested. Parker had a feeling she was going to have to figure out her own way home. Aunt Mae and Uncle Raymond left her standing by the open gates to her freedom. “You can press charges if you want. They’re supposed to keep you in their home for a few weeks.” Parker told the guard, Mary, she didn’t want to be around them. “Yes, I guess I can understand that. They were at your hearing, the one where it was figured out you couldn’t have killed your dad. I never heard such language from anyone in my life as I did when your aunt started screaming at the lawyers how you had to be guilty. She’s a piece of cake, isn’t she?” She and Mary had gone to school at the same time. It was funny to her that Mary had gone into law enforcement and been on the opposite side of the cells. Mary and her brother Thomas had gotten into more trouble before breakfast than a hardened criminal would in all his life. After Thomas had been killed, gunned down by a man who thought he had been having an affair with his wife, Mary had taken a good look at her life and changed.

Not once in the ten years he’d been gone, had Mary ever slipped back into her dangerous role. Parker had been with her when the news came that Thomas was gone. It had hurt the two of them more than it had when her father’s life was taken. “Do you know what you’re going to do now, Parker?” Shrugging was answer enough for her friend. “I’m going to miss having you around. Honestly, it’s what made me want to come to work every day. And I’ve been making some money off the investments you’ve been having me do for you. Do you have a way to get to the halfway house, or do you need a ride?” “I’ll walk.” Mary told her it was a good ten miles. “I’ll walk. It’s not that far.” It wouldn’t feel like it either. Parker had been into fitness as well as self-defense since before they’d arrested her and had been able to keep up with it after being put in prison. There was a nice treadmill she thought no one but her used in the fitness room. Weights too. Even in the time allotted to her for being out of doors, Parker had walked the fence line every day she could. It was the only reprieve she’d ever had from being locked up. Mary had been taking care of little things for her since she’d been assigned to a cell. She’d also been helping her out with her investments, as well as a few other things. Nothing to do with the crime she’d not committed, but things like her home, her car, as well as money she got each month from her stocks. Without her helping, Parker would have been in serious trouble. No money, no home, and especially nothing to support herself while trying to find gainful employment—something she’d been told she had to do before she’d left the prison.

Walking to town was soothing to her body and mind. There were things she kept thinking about, like the list of shit she had to take care of because she’d been locked up for so long. Mostly little things, but there were other things too. Her craft, her father had called it, didn’t have to be hidden away any longer. A lot of the magic she’d been gifted when her father was killed had grown with each day, it seemed to her. Witchcraft had been in her family since well before even her father was born. Dad had told her it had been dwindling out, their magic because a lot of the older generations had married nonmagical people—just as his sister had done. But Parker seemed to have gotten the lion’s share and then some, Dad had told her. Aunt Mae neither believed there was any magic to use nor that anyone in their family had ever practiced it. Aunt Mae was an idiot. Her mother, a witch with hardly any magic, had been married off to her dad just so they could have her. It had never been a secret that her mother didn’t love her dad. Parker thought she made up for it by loving her so much. Since she’d been born at home, everyone present knew Parker had more magic than her mother would ever have. As it turned out, more than her father did as well.

“Need a ride?” Shaking her head at the car moving along with her, the man laughed. “Come on, honey. You know you’ll have a good time. I’ve been told you were just let out of prison. You have to be hard up for a real man between your legs.” She didn’t have to ask him if it was her aunt who had told him to find her. Parker knew it for a fact that one or both of them had paid the man to come for her. The two men in the car smelled like her relatives. As she continued to walk, she snapped her fingers, and the man and his passenger swerved off the road and into a ditch. They’d not be killed, not if they stayed with their car. Lucky for them, the fresh air and the nice walk had put her in a wonderful and forgiving mood. Parker left them to their new dilemma as she reached out to her aunt and snapped her fingers again. Having her aunt and uncle embarrassed was the best she could do without them being in front of her. Not that she couldn’t do something from a distance, but she wanted to see them suffer—at least a little. When Parker dealt with her relatives, she wanted them to know who was turning their life upside down. Besides, having her dress split up the back was no less than Aunt Mae deserved for wearing a dress two sizes too small. Her uncle was embarrassed too, but all she’d done to him was make sure he was present when Aunt Mae’s dress fell to the floor. People shouldn’t have to see that much flesh without it being a porn movie.

Reaching town at a reasonable hour, Parker found a restaurant and asked for a seat in the back. Her credit cards were still good, her credit rating better than it had been before she’d been put behind bars. Ordering herself a large diet cola as well as a large pizza, she looked around the room and the people there having dinner. Much had changed while she’d been away, but most of it wasn’t new to her. Mary had helped her keep up by bringing her magazines monthly, as well as a newspaper daily. It wasn’t forbidden for her to do that for her, but it was sort of frowned upon.

Parker owed Mary a great deal for her help. And she’d pay her back too. As her pizza was set in front of her, a police officer sat too. He didn’t take her pizza, which surprised her, but he did introduce himself by telling her his name. Captain Donny Franklin told her he’d heard she was headed this way. “Do you have any plans of sticking around?” Parker told him she was only eating her dinner. “I’m not going to ask you to keep moving. I’m not even going to point out you should be with your aunt and uncle. If they were related to me, I’d have kept my distance from them too. Mary Cunningham is my cousin. She said you were an all right person.” “I have a home here. One that I owned before I was arrested.” He said he knew that. That just today, he noticed it was being cleaned up and aired out. “I wasn’t the one that killed my father.” “I know that. I knew that before you were taken away. But they don’t ask cops what their opinion is before they arrest someone. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I knew your dad. He was a terrible man. I’m sorry if you think differently, but for some reason, I don’t think you do.” She nodded, putting down her slice of pizza. “Don’t let me ruin your meal, Parker. I only came to sit with you because I’m aware of you and why you’re here. There are a few things I want to talk to you about. But it’s fine if we wait.” “I don’t need a job. “ Donny said he was all right with that, and he knew that she had some money. “Yes. Not as much as I’d like, but I can live off it for a while. Until I can get myself some income.” “There is a construction company here in town.

It’s been here for some time, but it’s owned and operated by Brook and Ronan Foster. I think you know Ronan.” Nodding, she told him that he was a year older than her. “I thought so. Mary said you should go and apply to work for them. Not that you’re considered an ex-con, but Brook has a habit of hiring those sorts of people to help them get a foot into the working world. She’s a good person too. We’ve never had any kind of trouble with their employees for as long as I’ve been an officer.” “Brook Garrett?” Donny said that was her. “I knew her parents. Not so much her. They were killed.” “Yes, both of them were by the same couple. The Quarters.” Parker knew who they were as well. “They’re both in prison and will be for a long time. Bethy is married now, with the cutest little boys I’ve ever seen. Twins. Married to a man whose name I can’t remember right now. He’s not been around here much so far as I know.” Parker didn’t know why he was taking her down memory lane but let him talk. When offered a piece of her pizza, he took a slice. Parker ate with him. As he told her other tidbits she couldn’t understand why he was sharing with her, she didn’t pay much in the way of attention until he mentioned Carmilla Foster. Carmilla had helped her out a couple of times when she’d been hiding from her parents. “She’s living with her mother-in-law over by where Brook used to live with her family. All the Fosters live right around there. Do you remember them?” Telling him no seemed to make him have to tell her everything about them too.

“Ronan has retired from the police force. He was going to be a part of our crew, but he’s now the king of all lions. Pretty nice set up for them if you ask me. Don still teaches. He’s really good at it too. My kids have been in his classes. They liked him. Quin is the town vet. It was a little touch and go there for a while whether or not he was going to find a place to open his practice, but he’s got it going now. Cass is the attorney for the family. A good one too that you can depend on. Keegan, he’s running some of the businesses for Brook and Ronan. I guess she’s pretty wealthy. Then there is Loman. He’s always been a loner and hasn’t changed all that much. He’s living here too when he’s not out taking pictures of endangered animals or just things in general. What are you going to be doing, Parker?” “I’ll have to report to you because my relatives aren’t going to help me.” He said he’d figured that. It was another reason he’d come to sit with her. “You said you knew my dad. So you know about what I am.” “Yes. It’s not common knowledge just so you’re aware. I know, and a couple of the other cops know. Mary told me. The others? I don’t know how they found out. Your aunt and uncle, they don’t know, do they?” Parker said she thought they didn’t believe what she was. “Figures. They never mentioned it when they came by the office yesterday to tell me you were getting out. Since I already knew from Mary, I tuned them out when they were talking to the boss. I think they would have said something about you being a powerful witch. Don’t you?” “Yes. Anything to make me stand out.”

Donny asked her if she’d like to help him out when he needed it. “For solving crimes? I suppose. So long as you don’t make a habit of it.” “I won’t. I know you’re a loner.” When they polished off the rest of her pizza, he took the bill when it was laid on the table. “This was sort of a business meeting, so I’ll pick up the tab. My wife, so you know, has been hired to work at your home. She’s looking forward to getting to know you.” “I’m not good with people.” Donny simply nodded. When Mary came in and joined them at the table, Parker had to breathe slowly so as not to overwhelm herself. She wasn’t kidding when she told him she wasn’t good with people. Parker didn’t particularly like them at all. Especially when there were too many of them around her. “I have to go.” Neither of them stood when she did. Mary would know, and more than likely Donny too, that she’d been in confinement for six of the eight years she’d been locked up. Parker had to save Mary and a lot of other guards once, and that got her special treatment from a lot of the guards inside. She never had to share her space with anyone. Nor did she have to be outside when anyone else was. It would have been dangerous to the others. Not her—she was too strong to be caught off guard—but from anyone gunning for her to take what her father had wanted from her that day. That was what made her a danger to herself. People would get themselves dead if they tried anything with her. Parker made her way to her home. There didn’t seem to be anyone there, as all the lights were off, so she let herself in via the back door and made her way up to what had always been her bedroom.

The master suite was the perfect size for her to spread out should she need to when casting spells or practicing. There was a note on the bathroom vanity. Picking it up, she read who was going to be working in the house with her as well as what her job was. She supposed Mary had made sure she had this note. Parker could only hope that Judith Franklin was going to be all right with a witch in the house. The name would also keep her from having to fumble around for a name when she met her. Parker couldn’t make herself relax enough to sleep. Pulling the sheet off the bed, she dragged it and her pillow out to the wrap around second story deck and laid out there on a lounger. The slight breeze and the sounds that only living in the country could bring a person helped her to fall asleep. ~~~ Don was happy for the summer months. Not that he changed up his schedule all that much when he didn’t have classes. He still rose at the same time and went to bed when it was barely dark out. However, tonight he was having some trouble relaxing enough to make himself sleep. Shifting into his lion, he roamed around in the fields behind the houses along the area he lived in. He knew if one of his brothers were out and about, they’d join him. Don would be just as happy if they were all cozy in their beds and left him to his own. Not that he didn’t love his family, but today had been a particularly long day, one that had him spending too much time behind four walls and doing things he wished he’d just done at home. Shopping for furniture wasn’t exactly how he wanted to spend a lovely June day. The worst part about the day from hell, he’d dubbed it, was that he’d not found a single stick of furniture to go in his home.

Nothing suited him—it was all chrome and glass, nothing wooden or smooth. That was another thing he couldn’t understand. Why did everything have to have texture to it? Why not just leave wood alone? Of course, he’d not put that question to anyone. He didn’t want to seem stupid, and he thought if word got around of his query and his mother and grandma found out, they would murder him. Smiling to himself, Don lifted his overly sensitive nose to the air and inhaled deeply. Someone was close. Not only that, but he could smell blood. Lying down in the soft grass with his head only inches above the highest reeds, he looked around for the source of the scent. It wasn’t until he saw her, the woman standing in the moonlight, that he realized someone besides his family had access to the wooded area behind their homes. Don didn’t want anyone around that he didn’t know. Nor did he want someone around that would harm one of the kids that might be hanging around. His plan, if he really wanted to call it that, was to sneak up to her and scare her—just a little. But almost as soon as he moved again, she turned around and looked directly at him. Don’t move.

He didn’t. Don’s paw was up, his tail curled next to his body. It took him a full minute to realize she’d just told him not to move. Him? A lion? Wasn’t she scared of him? Or at least impressed or something? When she put her finger to her lips then pointed, he looked in that direction. There are two men beyond here that have no right to be on the land back here. I can smell the fresh blood. I’m assuming that’s what brought you to me. Don kept an eye on the men he could see now and spoke to the woman in the same way she’d done for him. Is it a human that is bleeding? She told him it was a deer. They had been night hunting with goggles on. This is private land. Did you know that when you came out here? Yes. Nothing more. Nothing to say she was sorry, nor did she make excuses for why she was out here too. I’m going to give them a scare. You could, I suppose, but if you show yourself, everyone in the territory will be out looking for a large cat. It won’t even matter to them if they happen to kill a house cat. Don watched her move. She wasn’t touching the earth. Not a single blade of grass bent under her feet. The branches surrounding her didn’t snap or make a sound when she moved over them. So caught up on watching her, he nearly leapt up to take the men down when they began to scream bloody murder about something hurting them. The two men nearly ran over him in their haste to get away. Moving quickly, Don barely managed to get out of the way of their feet when they kept knocking each other over. Every time one of them would fall, they’d scream about something grabbing their legs.

Don didn’t see anything that looked as if it was touching them. However, they were running through the brambles. After they were out of sight, Don looked for the woman again. She was far enough away from him now that he knew he’d have to run to catch up to her. Not knowing a thing about her, not her name or even her scent, he only just realized he was going to be at a loss to ask her what she’d done to the men. As he hunted for her scent in the area where he’d seen her, he noted to himself that there was nothing of her anywhere. Looking for her again, he noticed that she’d disappeared as if she’d never been with him at all. Perplexed, he made his way back to his home. The waterway that ran directly behind his home was the first place he stopped by as he walked. The night moon was bright with light, but he couldn’t see where the woman had gone. Moving his now exhausted body up onto his deck, Don reached out for her. She’d spoken to him, so he thought he should be able to speak to her too. I’m not much of a people person. He thought that was an odd way of answering his call. I’m also not human. Neither am I, as you well know. Where do you live? After asking, he knew it was a long shot if she told him that kind of personal information. I live in this cul-de-sac with the rest of my family. Why are you roaming around here in the middle of the night? Another dumb question, but he was glad he asked when she laughed. I was having trouble sleeping. The same as you. Why do any of these things you’re asking me matter to you? I’ve not intruded on your personal life. How about you do the same for me? He didn’t have an answer to that. Don thought that telling her he wanted to meet her face to face would get him killed. I don’t murder people for being curious, Mr. Foster.

I’m a better person than that. He’d hurt her. Don wasn’t sure how he’d done it, but he knew he had. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come across— You know my name. Her laughter again. You have a lovely laugh. It reminds me of summer. How that connection was made, I haven’t any idea. But that’s what I feel when you do it. Also, I have no idea why, but I don’t think you’ve had much of an occasion to laugh as late. That is about as close to the truth as you could ever be. However, you’re inevitably going to hear about me, so believe what you wish of whatever you hear. I was only just released from prison today. My name is Parker Carter. I was wrongly accused of killing my father. I live on the next street over from where you are now. He wondered why she’d been in prison and for how long. If you have questions, Mr. Foster, ask them. I’m not in the mood to sugarcoat the answers. Actually, I’m rarely in the mood to do that.

I know your mother. She saved me a few times when my father was out looking for me. I’d rather hear information from you if you don’t mind. I don’t know why, but it seems important to me that I hear the truth, and not someone else’s version of what they think has happened. She thanked him. For whatever reason, Don thought she didn’t quite believe him. Why do I have the feeling that the two of us are going to be good friends, Parker? Because, Lionheart, I’m your mate. When the connection between them closed, he didn’t move off the deck until the sun was coming up over the forest of trees behind his home. If asked, Don wasn’t sure he could have put his finger on a single thought that had been roaming around in his head. Parker was his mate? She knew his mother. Don shifted back to his other side and went into the house. It was time, he thought, for him to speak to his mom. Other than Parker, he knew she might be the only one that would make sure he had the truth as much as Parker would have told him. She was his mate?

 

Finn Release Blitz &Giveaway

 

Finn Manning had so much on his plate, he wasn’t sure which end was up. He’d been there six months, and the pile of work on his desk hadn’t diminished by one sheet of paper. None of the construction projects the family had lent the money for had even been started. The foreman was a bully, and Finn had had enough.

Rachel Merkel had literally felt the earth move from beneath her feet. The plates she had been stacking at the restaurant crashed around her when she hit the floor. Her sister-in-law Sandra, instead of being concerned, threatened to fire her. Rachel was wondering how that worked, considering she owned the majority share in the restaurant, but instead of arguing with her, she clocked out and went home.

After a heated argument with her brother, Chad, about Sandra, Rachel quit to keep the peace. Then, Rachel felt the earth move again. This time she was sick with it.

Finn had felt it too through an unseen connection and came to Rachel’s rescue. He didn’t know the woman, but he had an overwhelming need to help her. As soon as he caught her scent, he knew what she was to him.

Rachel, not entirely human herself, could sense Finn was a dragon, and she felt the connection when he did. What she wasn’t sure about was what all came with it—the Mannings—all the parents, brothers, aunts, and uncles—it was overwhelming….

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Prologue
Long ago, at a time when all creatures roamed the earth as only their true selves, working with and helping humans in whatever way they could. Where magic was celebrated, and dragons darkened the skies every day. It was then man discovered there was magic in the dragons, and hunted them almost to extinction.
“I’m afraid there is no hope for us.” No one made a sound as their leader continued. “Since the humans found out about us and what we can do for them dead, we have been doomed. I’m so terribly sorry.” Coop looked around the cave. There were so few of them now he could easily count them. When he had been younger, thousands of years ago, there would not have been enough space for all of them to share this cave. Now they were down to having a quarter of them left, because so many, his own wife included, had been murdered so needlessly. Coop was saddened by it all. Turning to leave the large cave, he was stopped by his brother, Xavier. “The boys, they are well?” He nodded and smiled. Coop felt it all the way to his heart, a place that had been dead for so long, it seemed. “You have the spell? You are going to use it on them? I so wish I had thought of this before my own family was taken from me, Coop. You are a brave man and a good father.” “Thank you. And I shall use it tonight. It is the only way to save them.”

Xavier nodded his own heart heavy with the losses they had suffered. “You know I would have shared should I have had it sooner. I am so sorry, Brother. All of my heart, it’s sorry for you.” “I know that. I do. But they are all gone now—my other half, my children. Killed for things not fair to our kind.” Coop knew all too well. “Aria was a good woman, Coop. A good woman and mother to your sons. She will be missed forever.” “Aye, in my heart and those of my sons.” Xavier stood there for several seconds, and Coop told him he must go. “They’re awaiting word on what is to happen with us all.” “One more thing, if you please. It will not take but a second. I have left them all I have. It is where you keep them hidden away, the boys. Deep within the cave, it’s all there.” Coop asked him what he meant. “I cannot go on, Brother. I cannot. There is too much grief in my heart for me to live. I have left my things for them there. They might survive this, with the magic you have to give them. And if so, they’ll need more than you have to help them.” “Xavier, please, you mustn’t do this. They’ll miss you as much as I.” Xavier nodded and said it had begun. “You can come and stay with them. You’ll live with them in the caves.” “Nay. I cannot. I must go. Just tell them I love them, with all of my heart.” There would be no stopping him once his heart was made up. Coop knew this, but it made his heart ache no less for it.

“Goodbye, my brother. Take care you are not caught by the humans.” Coop made his way back to his hidden cave and sat before the fire. The boys, he knew, were resting, their bodies getting stronger daily with their age. Soon they would be as big as him, dragons of worth and size. When his eldest son came to him, his eyes full of fear, Coop knew it was well past time for him to do what he had been practicing. The magic would keep them safe. Gathering his sons, six of them of varying shades of blues and greens, he asked them to have a seat, that he had a story to tell them. It was not a story, not truly, but a tale that would hopefully keep them safe. “A witch told me once of a great magic, only a few can do. It takes a loving heart and a strong dragon to make it work. I have asked her, and she has told me how to make it so. This magic, it will keep you all safe from the humans.” They nodded, each of them knowing it was a human blade that had taken the life of their dear mother. “I will perform this upon you, each of you at the same time, and give you some magic you will use when you need it. This magic, strong and powerful, will let you roam with the humans, and they’ll not know your true self is just below your flesh.” “You mean we’ll be humans as well?” He nodded, then shook his head at Cooper, his oldest. “I don’t understand, Father. Will you explain?” “Yes. The magic I will give you will let you change into your true self when you are alone. But when you are out in the world, you will need to be a human. A man.” Cooper looked at his brothers, then back at him as he continued.

“With this magic, I will also give you a gift. Something you will need to keep yourself safe should they find out. A stronger armor than any other dragon before you, as well as the same immortality you have now, as man or dragon.” Hudson stared at him for long moments. He was the thinker, and if he could think of a reason for this not to work, he would voice it loudly. He was much like his mother in that. She would be the first to say when she did or did not like something. And the first to say the plan was perfect. He only hoped she would have approved of this. “I think you are very smart, Father, to try and keep us safe. But I can only think this will not work on you. Or is that your plan?” The boy was much too smart, Coop thought. “If you change us, who will change you?” “There will be no one to change me, son. I will…. It is my wish to join your mother in this earth.” He watched them, seeing if they understood the love he had lost when she was murdered. “Giving you this magic, it will be something I can tell her I’ve done for her sons. You know as well as I, she loved you more than anything on this earth, including herself.” “She died saving us.” Coop nodded at Lincoln. “I’m not happy you’re going to die, Father, but I understand wanting to be with Mother. I miss her more every day.” “As do I.” He looked at his sons, all of them growing into dragons of worth. “I must have an agreement from you all. Even if one of you does not want this, then it will not work. I would say you should think on this hard. For once I have given this to you, there will be no going back.”

“I wish to have it.” He had known Cooper would be the first. Not that he did not love his father, but Cooper would see things in a way most would not. To not do this would mean certain death for them all. Dragons were too valuable dead not to be hunted for all time. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure you are proud of me, as well.” “I am already, Cooper. Forever.” The others nodded too. They were ready for this as much as he was dreading it. Because once he started the process to change his sons into men, he would begin to die. It would take all he was to change them. Standing up, spreading his wings out behind him, Coop told them about the things their uncle had left them. They knew where the family jewels were, the things their mother had left them as well. Once they were standing, their bodies strong and healthy, he felt his heart swell and break for what he was about to do. “I, Cooper Manning, of the Manning Dragons of the earth, give to my sons, Cooper, Hudson, Lincoln, Lucas, Tristan, and Xavier, all that I am. Each of you will take a part of the earth with you when you are converted. The part of you that is unique in all ways will be strengthened and enhanced. You will be immortal, forever, and those you take to your heart will be as well.” His sons bowed before him when he told them to. He said the words over them that would change them to men. Coop could feel his body shutting down, his heart beating a little more slowly. But he had one more thing he wished to bless them with, and held himself upright to give it from his own dying heart.

“One day, true love will come to you. And you will have more than you have ever known. It will fill you in ways you cannot even imagine. Love will be yours for all time. For only then will you become a true dragon, a Manning Dragon.” ~~~ Cooper sat with his brothers while their father lay dying. Coop’s heart was weak from what he had done, and it was tearing Cooper apart. Father was weak, yes, but he continued to tell them tales of their mother, of their adventures when they were only small dragons. They were going to be alone soon; their father was so close to joining their mother; it hurt Cooper in ways he had not expected. “What shall we do with his body?” Cooper looked at Tristan and asked him what he meant. “He will not be able to lie here. If the humans were to find him, they would surely cut him up into pieces. I do not want that for him. We were never able to bury Mother in the proper way after what they did to her.” “We could burn his body.” Cooper wondered how it would work when Hudson continued. “His scales will be worthless to them should they come upon his body. The magic he held within him also will be useless to them. He will be nothing more than a carcass. They’ll leave him alone.” Burn his body—it was something to think about. But he did not want to, not while he was still breathing, his body still alive. When he laid his head upon his father’s chest, hearing his heart beating slower and slower, Cooper wondered what his father would think if he knew the magic he had given them had not worked. They were all still dragons.

“He gave his life to keep us safe. But it did not work.” No one said anything to him as they each watched their father. “Dragons such as us, we’ll be hunted and killed by the humans. There is nothing we can do but wait for them.” “We will survive if we stay here,” Cooper told Xavier they would have to leave here eventually. “To feed and to fly, yes. But perhaps we could do it only at night. To keep to the skies and not let them see us.” “They know we are about and will have spies out looking for our lairs. We will have to kill any man should he come for us, and still, we will not be safe. We are, after all, dragons who have a great deal of magic.” Coop stopped breathing. Cooper did not hear his father’s heart and knew it was at an end. He was quiet for a bit longer, waiting, hoping for just one more beat, one more sound that would mean he was still alive. But there was nothing. Their father was dead. Sitting up, Cooper told them their father had passed from this world into the next. None of them had ever seen a dragon die before. Their mother had been dead when they found her. Each dragon they had come upon when they were out had been dead long before they found them, their bodies stripped of every part, so they resembled more a pile of bones than a dragon. Their scales were used by the humans for roofs for their homes and for shields. The very meat of them was roasted and stored away so it could be used for medicines and potions. Hearts were cut up and dried, then ground into a powder to use for other things the humans would use to keep them from sickness, as well as magic to have a grand garden and trees heavy with fruit. The only part that would be left was the bones, and sometimes even those were carried off and used for something. Cooper hated all humans. “We will do as suggested by Hudson. It is the only assured way we can—” Before he could finish, he felt the stirring of the earth.

It shook so hard it knocked each of them off their feet. As they lay there, terrified someone was coming for them, their father appeared before them. His body was still aground, but instead of dark in death, he was brilliant in light. Faeries, thousands upon thousands of faeries, seemed to be covering him. Before Cooper could tell them to stop, to leave him alone, Father spoke. “I love you, my sons.” Each of them nodded, fear almost something Cooper could touch. “I will now and forever join my true love, your mother. I must warn you when you find your other halves, and you will, you will have to be careful of the slayers. They will know what you have found by the magic you both will share. My sons, you will leave this place and take your place among men. Becoming someone I will be proud of.” “Father, the magic didn’t work. We’re still dragons.” Cooper felt shameful to say a thing to his father. To tell him his sacrifice had not worked. “We will be hunted and killed.” “Nay, you only need to think of being your other half. Becoming a man is simple. The same when you wish to be your true self.” Cooper was not sure what that meant, but his father continued before he could ask. “Go now, before the men come. The magic to hide me will draw them here.

Be safe, my sons, and know I love you more than I do any other creature on this earth.” Cooper stood then, the faeries still working, taking the body of his father apart. But as he watched, he could see they were not doing anything but preserving his body. Faerie ropes encircled him, strings of magic wrapping around him like a cocoon, making him invisible to all. As Cooper stood there, his brothers beside him, he knew, like him, they mourned the loss of yet another parent. “You are the eldest.” He nodded to the faerie when she asked. “We have a gift for you. For all of you, but you will receive the most. Your father was a great man, your mother, a queen among her people. We wish to bestow upon you all your father had.” “My brothers, they will need it as well. I should like to share.” She smiled at him and bowed. “What have you done with his body?” “He is being prepared to be moved. We will make a grand garden upon him. Flowers will be there for all to see, but only a few will know a dragon is there with his other half, his love.” He nodded. It was as it should be. “You will take this gift? You will share, but as I said, you will get more than the others.” “I don’t care. Please, just do what you must so we can hide.” She nodded again and touched her fingers, tiny ones, to his forehead. Then she did the same to the others before coming back to him. “It is done? You have shared it with us?” “I have, Lord Cooper. But you must leave here now. There are humans coming. The magic we used to do this thing has given them cause to come here.” He nodded and looked at the ground where their father had been. “He is safe. Just as your mother is now. Go, before they find you here and murder you as well.” He thanked her for her help and left.

The exit from this part of the cave was hidden so well only they knew about it. As they made their way into the night, he thought of the human inside of him, and the pain of it took his breath away. In seconds he was down on his knees. Whatever was happening, he was surely going to die. “You’re a man.” He looked up at his brothers as they began to transfer to their human versions. “We’ll be safe now, all of us. We’ll be humans for them until we can find a safe place where we can be ourselves.” “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.” Hudson nodded and held his head tightly as he did so. “We will need to train ourselves in their ways. Become what they are. But never monsters.” “No, never.” They made their way to a building; any would do for now. Hudson, like Cooper, was staggering a little, but they were getting stronger as they moved. He turned to look at him as they were settling in the empty shell of a house. “We will need to buy things, houses and such.” “Yes. But tomorrow. I am too tired to think beyond how much we have lost.” Hudson and the others agreed. “When the humans are gone from our cave, we’ll go and find what Father was telling us about earlier, the wealth that will keep us safe.” “I only hope there is a great deal of it. I don’t know how to work.” Cooper told Xavier, the youngest brother, they would soon learn. “I hope so. I hope so.”

He did, as well. It was going to be hard enough for them to learn to eat and dress like humans, much less get around. Cooper hoped this worked, for he was as afraid as he had ever been in his life. ~~~ After a time, thousands of years, each of the dragons, turned into men, forged their way into a world so different than the one they had been born to it seemed a different planet. But survive they did. Having their mates come to them, children born to all of them gave them hope. A small and fragile thing after such hardships they had been born to. Cooper became, as his father had been before him, the king of dragons—his mate, Carson, their queen. It had been and still was a time for celebration. To this day, they commemorated often and hard at each new birth of the dragons turned men and women. The others, his brothers, prospered too, finding their other halves, making their magic stronger for having their love.

They worked hard in keeping everyone safe and well-fed, humans or other dragons. No one, not anyone in need, was ever turned away from their help. The Manning Dragons, true to their father and mother, became the most powerful dragons ever born. Of the six sons, Xavier’s sons, four hatchlings and two humans moved far away to be the next generation of Manning Dragons who would open their hearts and doors for all creatures. Even the sons of his heart, the two human born men, carried a powerful magic. They used it, with their brothers, to help as many people as possible, humans and dragons alike, to live in the ever-changing world. To help them not only succeed but to, perhaps, help someone else when they needed it. These boys, now men, have stories to tell.

 

 

Houston Release Blitz & Giveaway

Trudy Justice was good at her job, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t vulnerable. Caught unaware by a fellow FBI agent, the gunshot wound to Tru’s gut nearly did her in. To the world, Tru was dead. Rogan was hiding her out until they could figure out who had marked her to be a target.

Houston Robinson, a tiger shifter, was preparing to shift and take a much-needed run when a strange woman’s voice interrupted him before he could remove his pants to shift. At first, he was irritated, but when he saw the blood, he wanted to help.

Hurting bad and suspicious of everyone, Tru was in no mood to listen to anyone, especially a shapeshifter claiming to be her mate. She didn’t care how nice he pretended to be….

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A fresh start was what Rogan Hall needed. A small town, out of the way, where no one knew her or her brother was where they’d start over. She worked from home, and they kept to themselves. The only thing Rogan couldn’t give up was her early morning run.

Like clockwork, she ran every morning, and again, like clockwork, the same family would pass her on the country road heading to who knew where. The little boy in the back seat would wave at her with such enthusiasm, it made her heart melt. However, that morning, everything would change. Only moments after the car passed her and drove around the bend, she heard a loud commotion. Another car barreled past her, and she found the quaint family’s car overturned and on fire. Rogan did the only thing she could do, she saved them.

Thatcher Robinson was on duty at the hospital when his parents contacted him through their link and told him about the accident and what to expect when the ambulance arrived. Thatch, his dad, told him they had to save the woman by changing her, but her burns were severe, and his dad wasn’t sure that the new tiger would survive.

When Rogan regained consciousness, she was unsure where she was, but she knew she was different. She could feel the tiger move just beneath her skin. Rogan knew very little about shifters, but what she did know had her cringing. Why someone would take it upon themselves to change her, she didn’t know, but when the young doctor, Dawson, said his brother was her mate, she was furious. If the big, bad, Thatcher thought he was going to order her around, he had another thing coming….

 

 

Anna didn’t know what to do with the man who acted like he was attached to
her hip. Every time she moved, just to get up and move to the bathroom,
he’d be right there with her, helping her into a panic attack. Not really,
but that was what it felt like to her.

Morgan wasn’t sure what he’d have to do to convince Anna that he wouldn’t
just up and leave her. She was a tiger too, and she knew they were mates
just as well as he did. But for some reason, he couldn’t get her to trust
him.

“I don’t think that I’d offer you my hand. You’d more than likely bite
it off.”

She growled at him.

“I’m not sure if you feel the same way I do about me growling at you,
but all it does when you do it is making me want to spread you out before
me and lick every square inch of you.”

 

 

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HOUSTON https://amzn.to/2Z6v0ob

 

 

 

 

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Happy Reading,

Houston looked around his house again. It looked better than it had since he moved in. Dusting and running a vacuum were just too easy to let slide. Thus the reason his home had resembled the haunted house he’d gone to every year since he was a kid. He’d been wanting to hire a cleaning service to come in once a week and clean up after him, but he’d not been able to sit still long enough to do it. Mom had come to the rescue for him once again. Not that he’d asked her to hire someone, but when she’d come over yesterday morning, she’d commented on how much laundry wasn’t done. “I’ve been working on the spring catalog my agent wants. I had this idea, and instead of just letting it stew, I went ahead and worked on it to make sure it was plausible to put together.” Mom looked at the piece he’d been working on. “I know it’s rough right now, but I can see it finished. The way the pieces I threw fit together was what I was having so much trouble getting my head wrapped around.” “You need to take better care of yourself and your home, Houston. What if your mate had to come here? What do you think she’d think of me if you were to have a home looking like this one?” He kissed his mom on the cheek and told her he wasn’t worried. “You’d let her think I raised a slob? Shame on you, Houston Robinson. I would have been mortified if she were to see this house looking like this. Why have I never noticed this before today?” “You’ve been really polite?” She smacked him on the chest. “I’ll get around to it when I have time. Which, as I said, hasn’t been all that much lately. As soon as I can, I’m going to hire someone to come in here and dust and stuff for me.” “I’ll do it.” Houston didn’t even bother arguing with her. It would get done without any effort from him. Not that he was lazy—he was just really busy at the moment. “I’ve also been thinking about something else. The reason I came here.

What do you think of me getting a job?” “Do you need one?” She said not for the money, but she’d like something to do every day. “Okay, I guess I can understand that. What about the kids? Are you tired of babysitting already?” “No. Never that. I was just thinking if I were to babysit them all the time, I might become a little adult starved. Like needing adult company. I know the girls and I are hanging out more, but to be honest with you, son, they sort of scare me to death at times.” Houston told her they scared him as well. “Yes, well, I’ve seen the lot of you around them. You’re like putty in their hands. I suppose when you have someone pull a gun on you a couple of times to get people to listen to you, that will do it. I don’t want to have to do that.” He got it as soon as she turned away from him. “You think we don’t respect you, Mom?” She didn’t turn back around. Nor did she tell him that wasn’t it. And to Houston, that was very telling. “Mom, you do know we’re all terrified of you much more than we are of them. I mean, with them, it’s just a matter of choosing to do what they tell us. With you, it’s a need to do what you tell us.”

She looked at him oddly, and he smiled. Telling her it came out wrong, he started to tell her what he meant. But she put her hand over his mouth then and looked up at him. Houston in that moment realized how much older his mother looked. How there were wrinkles around her eyes. Her hair was graying. Houston hugged her tightly to him until she begged to be let go. “I can live without them coming around here every day. But my day isn’t complete unless I see and speak to you at least twice. I want to seek you out when I need a good slap on the butt to get my bottom in gear. I love seeing you smile at me when you think I’m doing something wonderful. Mom, when you come into my studio and look around, it makes me feel proud—not just of myself, but of you. To have a mother take such an interest in what I’m up to, what I’ve been doing, even how my home looks, makes me feel loved and cherished. And that is how I feel about you, Mother dear. Like I couldn’t love you anymore. I couldn’t cherish your love more without a bigger heart. You give me that. Every time I see you, you make me want to be the best man there is.” He grinned at her. “I don’t think I said that quite right.” “You did it very well.” She hugged him again. “Oh, Houston. You are the sloppiest of all my sons, not even counting that mess of mud you work in, but you are also by far the most romantic.” “Thank you. I think seeing the way Dad would simply bring you flowers, whether he messed up or not, showed me you could show your love for someone all the time, not just when the other person is upset with you.

He even brought you candy when he heard you were trying to diet. I realized when he did that, he was telling you, in his own way, that he loved you just the way you were. Dad, for all his faults and crazy sayings, made us want to be the most romantic men in the world. But I think I’m the only one that paid attention.” Mom said she thought he was right. “I love you so much, Mom.” “You’ve made this old woman feel very special today, Houston.” He told her he didn’t know any old ladies. “I cannot wait to see you with a mate. I have to tell you, it’s you I’ve been waiting to find her. I only hope she sees all this goodness in you and doesn’t try and beat it out of you because she doesn’t like it.” “If she does, then I’ll have to use my charms on you. Just so I don’t lose any of it.” They were both laughing by then, and he knew his mom was feeling better. He thought about the job she’d been asking him about. “What is it you’d like to do? Anything at all comes to mind?” “Nothing really. But then everything does. The one thing I was thinking the hardest on was flipping. I know I can get things cheaper than they sell them for in those big fancy stores. And I so love going to auctions. What if I were to open a place for second-hand goods? Not an antique store, though I would have a few antiques in there. Just a place where someone could browse around and pick up something they might need for a much better price than brand new.” He told her she’d be perfect at it. “I don’t know about perfect, but it would give me a chance to go every day. Not every day. I don’t know. But a place all my own where I could just talk to people. I’m not as social as your father, but it would be nice.”

“Mom, no one is as social as Dad.” They’d had had a good laugh about it, and he’d taken her to lunch. Now, two days later, his home was looking good, he had food in the fridge, and clean clothing hung in his room. The area rugs in his living room looked so good he found himself eating in the kitchen more so as not to mess it up. Stepping out onto his back deck after having a couple of sandwiches for lunch, he took off his shirt. Houston didn’t usually allow himself a good run until he was finished with a project. But today, and yesterday for that matter had been really productive days. Treating himself felt kind of good as he put his hands into his pants to remove them. He might even call one of— “Hey there, Tarzan. Don’t do that just yet.” He looked to his right and saw the woman, dressed in a shirt about four sizes too big for her and a pair of tennis shoes. If she had on anything more, he couldn’t tell. “I’m just passing through, and I’d like to not have to witness any kind of that shit going on.” “What is it you think I was going to do?” She told him. “I don’t usually masturbate out on my deck at one in the afternoon. I hold off until twilight, so I can sleep better.” He grinned at her. “Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. I’m only passing by but still have no desire to witness anything you might be doing. I was told I could cut across the lawns back here and no one would bother me.” He watched her make her way through his yard until she was standing near the pool and him. “You’re one of the brothers. Did your mom by chance take any kind of enhancement drugs to have you guys? You’re bigger than fuck, aren’t you?” “I have no idea what that might even mean. I’m tall, yes. Wide? I suppose so. I’m also a tiger.

Why were you given permission to cross my yard? You’d better have a good answer before I call the police.” She asked him if he was one to call the police on someone crossing his yard. “I am if I don’t know you. There are children that play in these yards. Not to mention, my parents.” “I’ve not met your parents, but by the looks of you and Thatcher, I’d say they were big enough to take care of themselves. Rogen could kick some major ass too if she— I was going to say if she had to, but I think she enjoys it too much to limit it to when she has to.” Naming names of his family wasn’t endearing her to him. Houston told her that. “I’m not going to tell you my name because I don’t know you either. I will tell you I’ve been staying with Rogen and Thatcher for the last week. They have a son named Jimmy, and Rogen is going to have another child. I don’t know when, and frankly, I don’t care, but that’s what I feel comfortable telling you.” “You’re hurt.” She nodded at him and put her hand to her belly. The blood seeped through. “Christ, why didn’t you say something? Come here.” Houston reached for her only to come up short when she put a knife at his balls. He didn’t move but looked at her face. She was beautiful, but he could also see that she wasn’t at all trusting. Fine by him, he didn’t trust her either. Not yet. “I’m going to pick you up and take you into my house. I’m also going to reach out to Thatcher and let him know his patient is here and bleeding.” She didn’t so much as blink at him.

“You’re getting weaker by the moment here. In a few seconds, I’ll be able to pick you up without your permission, but I’d rather have it before I do.” “I fucking hurt.” He nodded and moved slowly to pick her up in his arms. When he had her there, he told her what he was doing with each step he took. “Look, fucktard, I’m not addled, just hurting. I shouldn’t have gone on a walk at all, much less one that wore me out. Just fucking put me on your floor and let me die right here. I’m in fucking pain. If you ever see my dog, Charlie, tell him I’ve missed him and love him to pieces.” Thatcher. Come here quick. I have a pretty redhead in my arms who is bleeding and in pain. Thatcher said he was on his way and asked him what her name was. I have no idea. She said she doesn’t trust me with that. But she knew you. Her name is Tru Justice. You can’t tell anyone who she is. He asked if that was really her name. It’s Trudy, but that’s what she goes by. She, Rogen, and now Anna all work together. They had an argument, and that one took off. I think she was ready to kill the other two. Seriously? She really must be addled. Thatcher was still laughing as he came up on Houston’s deck and into his home. “She said she was told she could cross the lawns back here and not be bothered. Someone might have told me. Oh, and she must have a dog named Charlie someplace.” “He’s at her parents, I guess. And when are you ever out of your cave over there this time of day? I thought it would be easy sailing for her since no one is in their homes until dark. Especially you. What happened? Did you have a need to come out during the daylight hours?” Thatcher was so funny at times. Right now wasn’t one of the times. “Tru, I’m going to give you something for pain. Then I’m going to check out your wounds. What happened that you started bleeding again?” “I thought while I was out, I’d join a gymnastics team.

The issue was, instead of me getting to work up to being on their team, I was running hurdles. Those fuckers are hard to jump over when there are stitches in a belly.” Houston laughed, and Thatcher growled. “Oh, grow the fuck up, you moron. I was walking, and I leaned over to pick up a rock to skip it over the pond, or whatever that is back there. What the hell happened to your sense of humor? Or does the rod in your ass make it so you can’t find a joke funny?” “He’s been like that since he was a child,” Thatcher told Houston he wasn’t helping. “Oh, I don’t know, I seem to be having fun. And she is smiling now and working through the pain. You really are a stick in the mud at times. Me? I’m always up for a good laugh.” “I know. Just look at your hair.” He didn’t trust Thatcher to tell him if his hair really did look bad. But looking at Tru, she only had to nod to have him turning to his reflection in the glass door out to the deck. “Made you look.” Houston started to reach for Thatcher to put him in a headlock when he got a look at Tru’s belly. Christ, she’d been walking around with that? He moved around his brother and got a little closer to her. Houston didn’t know what he was going to do, but comforting her came to mind. As soon as he was close enough to smell more than her blood, it hit him hard who she was to him. ~~~

Tru watched the other man closely. Something had changed in him in the last few minutes, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what it was. Thatcher was so intense all the time in showing Rogen he loved her, or when he talked about his parents and brothers. This one, Houston, seemed to be the fun one in the family. Right up until he touched his fingers to her belly wound. “You’ll have to lay low here for a couple of days, I’m afraid.” She told Thatcher no. “I wasn’t putting that up for debate, Tru. You’ve pulled a few too many stitches for me to think taking you back to our home is going to make things any better for you.” “I was fucking taking a walk. It can’t possibly have done anything that bad. I mean, fuck, I just needed to get out of the house for a little while. You have to know what that feels like.” Thatcher nodded and told her he did. However, she needed to stay here. “Mother fuck. Why does everything have to backfire on me? I needed a walk, not a whole new set of four walls to fucking look at.” “I’ll take you out onto the deck when you want. That’ll be something different.” She eyed Houston and asked him what his problem was. “Problem? I don’t have any problems. I was just trying to make your stay here more comfortable. If it helps you decide, I don’t spend a lot of time in the house lately. I have a deadline.” “You’re the potter.” Houston nodded. “You’ll have to be briefed on me staying here, I would imagine. It seems someone is out to kill my ass, and we haven’t figured out who it is yet. I mean, I know who shot me—I just don’t know who told her to do it. And contrary to popular belief, I know a man from a woman.” “I’m sorry?” She told him how the person who shot her was a woman. That at some point, it was thought a man had done it when his body was found. “I still don’t get your reference on that, but that’s all right. So long as you’re safe now.

Also, if you work with Rogen, I guess I can understand that someone might be out to get you. They are her too sometimes.” She still didn’t like this version of Houston. He was as uptight as Thatcher was most of the time. “Or you might like this better. I could heal you, and then you’d be about as good as new. I’m betting you’d like that. I know I would.” “Houston?” He just looked at his brother and nodded. “All right then. This might work out better for both of you. You can let him heal you, and he’s right—you’ll be about as good as new—” “What the ever-loving fuck just happened here?” Houston asked her what she meant. “That little nod. I’m paid to pay attention, and something just transpired between the two of you. You either tell me, or I blow your fucking brains out all over this nice soft sofa.” She was armed, as she was when she was out working. Only today, she was only carrying a gun and not a lot of other things to kill with. Putting the gun to Houston’s head, simply because he was closer, she watched him smile, and her heart did a little flip in her chest. “You’re my mate. While I know anyone of us could have healed you, even Thatcher, he didn’t because you’d smell like him, and my cat, a tiger, would be really pissed off.” She asked him why the hell that should matter to her. “That my cat would be pissed off? I guess nothing to you. But I would have had to hurt my brother.”

“Because you would possess me, and he would have his scent all over me. You know that makes absolutely no sense at all. Who the fuck cares who heals who, and why the hell wasn’t I given that option the first time you operated on me?” Houston told her for the reasons he’d just said to her. “I don’t give two fucking figs who does this, but I don’t want either of you to do it now. Find another one to heal me. Another brother to come here and fix me.” “I’ll have to kill them if they do. Or at least try.” Tru rolled her eyes. She wasn’t hurting right now, but the thought that she could not be hurting was very appealing. All these rules, however, were just pissing her off. “I can do it.

I would gladly do it for you. But it will be me only because I have no desire to lose one of my brothers over this. I hate to do this to you. You have no idea how much it hurts me too. But it’ll have to be me, or you wait this out like a human.” “I see.” She pulled her shirt down over her wounds and looked at Thatcher. “I’m finished here. I want you to take me back to your place. If you can’t do it, then I’ll find someone who can so dumbass here won’t get his underwear in a cinch. Your mother? Father?” “I’ve called Rogen.” She nodded and then looked at Houston, who was just staring at her. “Mate or not, you come near me again, and I will not ask questions as to why you’re there. I’ll blow your fucking dick off, then your brains. If you have any.” “Houston?” She could hear the voice but didn’t know it. “Houston, why is there a woman on your couch bleeding?” He didn’t take his eyes off her as he spoke to the woman behind her. “Mom, this is my mate, Tru. Tru, this is my mom, Meggie Robinson.” Meggie came to the side of the couch where she could see her. “She’s pissed off right now and wants to go back over to Thatcher’s home. I don’t know what is going on, but I plan to find out.” When he stood up, she could see the anger all over his body. Stiff as a rod didn’t cover how angry he seemed to be. She waited for him to—well, she didn’t know what he might do to her, so when he turned on his heel and went out onto the deck he’d been on earlier, she laid back and closed her eyes. Tru had no idea why, but she felt like she’d just lost a major battle. And she was going to wear the scars for the rest of her days. “Houston said he’d stay at our home and have someone come here and take care that you’re all right,” Tru told her she didn’t want to push him out of his own house.

“Well, you did, didn’t you? I’m not sure I like you overly much right now, young lady. To think I was excited for him to find someone to love. Then in less time than it took for him to figure this out with you, you crushed him.” “I didn’t ask to be his fucking mate.” Meggie just glared at her. “That won’t work with me, Mrs. Robinson. I’m made of sterner stuff than most people. I’m a hired killer, and nothing much bothers me.” “Well then, I wish you luck with this. Because I believe you’re going to need it. I was asked to come here and take care of you by my son. I’ll do that. But you, you’re on my list.” Tru didn’t know why, but that hurt her heart more than she’d ever been hurt by any of her family members. “All right, Ms. Justice. Can I get you anything right now?” “No. I’m fine.” Meggie nodded and left the room. Tru looked at Thatcher. “Do you have something to say to me? If you do, then say it and leave me alone. I didn’t ask for this bullshit, and I don’t need someone else telling me I’m fucking up.” Thatcher stood up.

“No. Nothing to say to you about this. Your wounds were looking better until today. If I were you, I’d try very hard to stick to resting rather than running around in the yard. Otherwise, you might have to spend more time with this family than you obviously want to.” He laid a cell phone on her lap. “That’s from Rogen. She said she’d get in touch with you if she needed something.” When he left her too, Tru laid there on the couch, fighting tears. It had been a very long time since she’d been so upset and hurt she wanted to cry. Forever since anyone had spoken to her as Meggie had. When she heard Meggie speaking again behind her, it took her a few moments to realize she was more than likely talking to Houston. He was there, Tru figured out, to get some clothing. She laid there for a while before she tried to figure out if she could sit up or not. When the pain took her breath away, she laid back down. The remote to the large television was within her reach, but she didn’t want to see what she could find to occupy her mind. Not yet at any rate. This was just bullshit. Why was she the bad guy in all of this? She’d been a bitch, she told herself. And she’d hurt someone who was only doing what they’d been trained to do. Well, that’s what she’d done as well. Done what she’d been trained to do. Pushing people away, so they didn’t get too close, was something she’d been doing since she was in the service. Having a family or even friends could get both of you killed.

Tru had seen it happen time and time again. Even children were nothing more than a pawn in her line of work. That was why she’d been so surprised when she heard Rogen had not only married but had children. Not me, she told herself. Looking out the doorway to the back yard, she wondered what it would be like to be free enough to take off your clothing and run. How it would make her feel not to have to put her gun on her person before she did her clothing. To know the next time her phone rang, it wasn’t going to be someone needing a clean-up. Tru figured she’d never know that sort of companionship with anyone. When the phone did ring, she declined to answer it. There was no point in talking to Rogen right now. She had a feeling she was going to chew her out about how she’d treated her brother. When it rang a second time, she nearly answered it but declined it as well. It wasn’t until it rang for the third time in as many seconds that she finally answered it. “What the fuck do you want? Another pound of flesh?” Rogen laughed. “What the fuck do you find so funny? Is it that I was put in my place by your mother-in-law, or the fact that I’m stuck here and can’t get out?” “You’re stuck there until you’re released by my husband. First, the fact you did what you did is all on you. Secondly—and this is very important. You’re very lucky no one wants to kill you right now. Hurting the sweetest woman I know will get your ass plugged. Thirdly, you fucked up.

Badly. Either fix it now, or I call your boss and have him come and get your ass. Just so you know, he’s not been cleared as not being your killer either.” She told her to call him then. “You have a death wish? Well, I’ll be happy to help you out with that. Straighten your ass out or so help me, Trudy Justice, I will bury you in the back yard alive.” The line went dead, and Tru was tempted to toss the fucking phone across the room. But she only laid it down on her lap and counted. It was the only way she knew that worked to bring her temper down. When she got to five hundred, Tru stretched and tried again. Nothing was working right now, and she had a feeling that was her fucking fault as well. Screaming made her feel better, but Tru was startled when Mrs. Robinson came into the room with a gun in her hand. Staring at each other, Tru nodded when Meggie asked her if she was all right. Then she simply turned and left her there. Tru had no idea why, but she thought that was the funniest thing she’d seen in a long time. The mild-mannered Mrs. Robinson standing in the living room, with a flower in her hair and wearing a huge apron—obviously meant for a man—pointing a gun at the outside door. Tru thought that image alone would get her through the worst of times for the rest of her life. Suddenly exhausted, she pulled the pretty afghan over her body and closed her eyes. Perhaps when she woke up, she’d feel well enough to go back to Rogen’s home— if she’d be welcome there. Tru knew she’d fucked up big time, but right now, she didn’t care if she fixed it.