The death of his sister and niece brought Easton back into town. He carried the guilt of not protecting her from that monster she was married to. Now she was dead, and that monster was in jail where he belonged. Easton would take his infant nephew Alex to raise as his own.
Wayne and Cara had come from the same wolf pack and had both lost their families when the new alpha took over. For years they had only had each other and loved each other like brother and sister. Wayne was gay, but he wanted a child. Cara agreed to be a surrogate and grant him his wish.
Easton had been waiting for the elevator when the doors opened. Cara was in labor and Wayne was doing his best to keep her calm as he pushed her off the elevator. When the wheelchair rolled past, Cara grabbed Easton’s hand like a lifeline when a pain hit her. In the confusion, Easton and Wayne touched hands and the connection was instant.
Easton had found his mate. Both men knew it as soon as they touched, but the past had a way of sneaking upon them. Both men had past baggage and Wayne had a secret he feared would tear them apart….
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Jake Winslow’s marriage to the money-grubbing shrew is over. Cutting off her funds, and the simple use of the word “no” sends her packing. When he comes home from work and finds his house empty of everything, including food, he feels—liberated.
Jake’s grandmother, Jenna, calls her friend and attorney, Forrest Stout, to handle Jake’s messy divorce. She can’t stand Jake’s soon-to-be ex-wife and is leaving nothing to chance. Only the best for her grandson and the best is Forrest.
Forrest is a Were Tiger, and he knows “who” he is. He is an oddity in his paranormal world because he is gay. His kind mate for life, and after a recent disastrous attempt to find companionship, he has given up hope of ever finding his life mate.
From the moment Forrest meets Jake for the first time, he knows that Jake is his lifemate, and he wants to run in the opposite direction because Jake isn’t gay. To claim and lose a mate would spell disaster for him. How can he ask a straight man—that he wants with every fiber of his being—to conform to his way of life? He can’t….
Ex-lovers and ex-wives can be a dangerous combination. Especially when neither are right in the head….
Henry Myers never kept his gender preferences a secret. His mother supported his choices and stood by his side even when his acting career tanked because of it. Now she was gone, and so was his career. Henry was at a loss.
Patrick Garrett, Paddy, was now in a bad place. He had worked at the precinct since he was in his early twenties, and now he could trust no one. Not his captain nor his partner it seemed. He was shot and bleeding, and it seemed the whole precinct was on the take.
Henry had been able to talk to ghosts since a near-death experience he had as a child. They had been following him around ever since. Now it seemed Paddy could see them as well. But when Wally, Henry’s ghostly companion referred to Paddy as Henry’s mate. Neither man was sure how to take that news.
Henry couldn’t deny the attraction to the rugged cop, and if the man didn’t put back on his shirt, he wasn’t so sure he’d be able to control himself.
Cameron knew it was a setup before he and his sister Caitlynn got there. It was supposed to be a hit to take Cattie out. Cam being there was just a bonus. Had they been entirely human, the explosion would have killed them both. With them both being critically injured, they were taken to a private clinic owned by Jake and Forrest. To the world they would appear to be dead, at least until Cattie could put together who was out to get them.
Rick wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing here. He’d been asked by his buddy and longtime friend, Forrest, to come by his house—he had a gig for him. Rick hadn’t had a gig of any kind for years now and getting a call from Forrest out of the blue, like it had been, couldn’t have come at a better time.
Cam had many abilities. One he felt was somewhat of a curse. He was so in tune to everyone else, like an empath he felt what they felt, so much so that he couldn’t separate his own feelings from theirs. Because of this, he avoided ever having a relationship.
Being an elite shifter, Rick wasn’t confused. As soon as his fingers brushed Cam’s at the kitchen table, he knew they were mates, and he was about the rock Cam’s world.
Dr. Brody Downs was ready for a fresh start for him and Jordan both. Filing for a divorce from Rachel was the most prudent thing to do under the circumstances. He had known Jordan wasn’t his son when he was born, but he couldn’t love the little guy more if he had been. Rachel wasn’t fit to raise the boy, and he’d fight her for custody if it came to that. Until that time, he was offered a new job in a small town in Ohio, he and Jordan would settle there and try to start anew.
Aaron Wright was aware of the kind doctor at the airport that helped his sister. Emmi had been at the airport to pick him up from his flight when security tackled her to the ground for being with the little boy. It was all a mistake, she was just trying to help the boy find his dad, but they discovered how severely beaten Emmi truly was. Now that Emmi was safe, Aaron was very aware of Dr. Downs, and that had him worried. Aaron wouldn’t consider himself gay. That thought had never crossed his mind—until now.
Brody was too focused on the woman and her injuries to notice the man with her. But now that things were settled, he noticed, and he was confused. Brody wasn’t gay or he didn’t think he was. But when Aaron took his hand, he didn’t want to let go….
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Easton watched the football game without really seeing it. Once in a while when the others would shout he’d tune into it, but for the most part, he wasn’t enjoying himself. He had a feeling that neither were the rest of them. Because he was there, Easton felt that he was stifling their fun. Getting up, Jake asked him if he was all right. “I’m going to take a little walk.” Jake then asked him if he wanted company. “No, thanks. I’m just going to take a walk and clear my head. I won’t be long.” He was just navigating the house to find the outside deck when he heard a familiar sound. Peeking into the room, he saw Jorden playing a video game. He didn’t look to be enjoying it either. Just as he tossed the controller to the floor, Easton asked him what the name of the game was. “I don’t know. Dad found it for me and said that it was for my age.” He looked at him and Easton smiled at him. “I don’t think Dad gets out much. I’m not a baby.” “How about I see if I can help you out with that?” Jorden told him that he wasn’t allowed to play violent games, nor ones with curse words in them yet. “That’s a good idea. Grow up a little before you start hearing that crap.” “I heard cursing all the time when my mom was alive. She sure had a mouth on her. Her boyfriend used to cuff me in the head too.” Easton sat down on the floor, pulling out his phone. “Whatcha doing there?” “I have my phone connected to my computer back at my home. This way when I have time I can work on projects that I have going. When I’m not coming up with programs for the company that I own, I dabble in making games for gaming systems.” Easton pulled up the game he’d been working on when the call came in about his sister. “This one is still in the works. You could help me out a lot by telling me what you think of it. Usually, I have to put it on the market to have people try it. This will be great.” “Wow, look at those cool looking monsters.”
Easton explained to Jorden that the way the game worked was, he’d have to find parts to the monsters by figuring out clues. “I’m pretty smart.” “I know you are.” Starting at the beginning of the game, Easton handed him the controller that he’d attached to his phone as well. “Okay, it doesn’t have a name, but I do have a place where you can make your own character. See him?” Easton noticed that a couple of people came into the room. But he and Jorden were having so much fun that he didn’t pay them any mind. He was getting something that he rarely got—firsthand information about a game while he was still developing it. “Dinner is ready, guys. Are you ready to eat?” Easton looked at his watch and couldn’t believe that hours had passed since he’d come into the media room to hang out with Jorden. Easton told Cameron how sorry he was. “For what? You were having fun, and Jorden looks like he was as well. I’m glad to see him having so much fun. I bet that Jake is glad too.”
He and Jorden talked about the game and the improvements that had yet to be made on it. The kid really was smart, and the fact that he’d been having so much fun made Easton feel much better about being there. Thanksgiving wasn’t anything that he normally celebrated. There hadn’t been anyone in his life but Todd, his deceased partner, for a very long time. Todd had family that he rarely saw, and the pack that they both belonged to wasn’t really all that friendly, so they didn’t go there often enough to get close with them. He hadn’t been able to see his sister. When he had, Wendell had made it hard on her, even when he’d been there when Peaches was born. Wendell had beaten Mary nearly to death a couple of days later. She had called him a week or so later, while still in the hospital, and begged him not to visit again, telling him that she was afraid Wendell would hurt her baby next. Easton hadn’t liked it, but he did stay away. He had stopped sending her money too, when all the envelopes that he’d sent with cash inside were returned to him. And now she was dead. He looked to his left when someone poked him. It was Cattie. “You’re going to be fine, Easton.” He nodded, and then passed the bowl that he’d been holding to her. “With all of us around you, you can’t help but be fine. We’ll make sure that justice is served, as well as have a lovely funeral for your sister and niece.” “She was only a baby too.” Cattie handed off the bowl and hugged him. He couldn’t help it, Easton cried on her shoulder as she held him tightly. When he was in control again, he told her that he was so sorry.
“I’ve only just realized how much I’ve missed by staying away.” “There isn’t much you can do about that now, young man.” He liked Willey and his new wife Ann. He was a direct speaker, and didn’t pull any punches. “You just let your heart hurt for a time. It’s the only way. People, they’ll tell you that this pain, it’ll fade. But it doesn’t. What it does is take up less of your heart and lets you live again. I know that pain. I’m sure just about anyone at this here table will tell you that they know it too.” Nodding, he tried to enjoy the rest of his meal without making too much of a fool of himself. Easton did find it difficult to wallow in his misery. There was so much going on at the table that he had a difficult time keeping up with the conversations. They not only talked over each other but when they had a point to make, usually nothing more than what kind of ice cream was the best, they were loud as well as loving about it. When he was ready to admit that he was as full as he’d ever been, Brody asked him what it was he did for a living. “I was just telling Jorden that I usually work on security systems for large companies. It’s not too hard for me, as I love working with computers and such. But in my spare time—once I can get a program up and running, I have a bit—I design video games. For all the systems.” Brody asked if the one that he and his son were playing was one. “It is. It’s still in the working stages, but it’s getting there, thanks a great deal to Jorden. He’s given me input that I rarely get from a focus group. I think it’s because we’ve been using the wrong sort of players.
I need kids that are just a little younger to show me what I can improve on. It really is amazing how much I got from him.” “You said security systems, correct?” He passed the pie plate that had several slices of different pies on it to Cattie. She simply set it down in front of her. Easton looked around the table and realized that was what they were all doing. Brody asked him again about the systems he developed. “Yes, that’s right. Well, not entirely right. There is security for the companies that I work with, but a lot of them are going lower-tech on some other things I can incorporate into the workings.” Cam asked him what that might be. “One company that I was just working with wanted to be able to shut down the parking garage at certain times of the evening. He wanted to make it so that his employees didn’t come back into work when they should have been enjoying their time off. He was very big on that. Another company wanted to make certain days for the vending machines to be free. That took some time, as I also had to add in that each badge only get one free thing a day. That made him a huge hit if you ask me.” “So you can pretty much program anything.” He nodded at Cattie when she asked, then shook his head. “You can’t or you won’t?”
“Won’t. There are things that I won’t mess with. Not much, but like patented things. That, I know, will land me in jail. Then there are times where the person who wants my help can’t—or again, won’t—explain to me what they actually want my work for.” Jake asked him what that might entail. “There are all kinds of monsters around, as you well know. I had this person who wanted me to come up with a device to open a door easier. It wasn’t until I was nearly finished with the door lock that I figured out that it would not only unlock doors that had electronic locks on them, but also ATM machines.” “Do you have that happen a lot?” He told Willey that he didn’t really because he didn’t do much in the way of outside work anymore. “Are you willing to work on a project for me?” Willey was about the nicest man he knew. Not only did he make him feel comfortable being a homosexual around him, he was accepting toward him. He also talked to him like he was one of his own grandchildren. Telling Willey that he’d do whatever he wanted was exactly what Easton meant—anything. “Tell me what you have in mind.” While he explained what he was thinking about, Easton was already working on a program in his mind to make it work. It wasn’t too terribly complicated either. “How many pounds to you think you might have to move with this thing?” It was based on the lift that was at most pools now, where a person in a wheelchair could be put into the water with a harness around them. It would not only keep them afloat, but it would also give them a good deal of movement, and they wouldn’t need someone keeping an eye on them so that they’d not slip under the water. He wanted something that would lift a person out of their bed and into their awaiting chair or even a bathtub that was a part of the wheelchair.
“I don’t know what that would entail. Is that important?” Easton said that he could work around that. “I know about counterweights and stuff like that. I’m thinking that something that could lift, say, a two or three hundred pound person would have to have stabilizers on it as well. Correct?” “The most trouble would be with the weight of the chair once the person is out of it. There would have to be weights under the wheelchair itself so that it wouldn’t topple. Yet light enough that it wouldn’t be too heavy for things like elevators, or even floorboards. It’s a great idea, however.” Willey explained how he had a friend that just wanted to be more independent. “I can understand that. Let me work on it a couple of days and I’ll see what I can come up with. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get things to balance out for it.” Easton was excited to have something that would keep his mind off what he was there for. He couldn’t bring Alex home for another few days. While he was healthy, Brody told him, he was still worried about the trauma of his birth. After dinner was over, he with the rest of them cleaned up the dining room and the kitchen. He loved to wash up pots and pans, and no one objected when he said that he’d help. Easton hadn’t any idea that they’d had things nearly finished up before he brought the first stack of plates in from the dining room. Everything was catered, so there weren’t any pans to wash up.
Sitting back in the really nice living room, he was happy to see that they were all settling down for a nap. He wanted one as well. Even as a wolf now, he knew that he could eat more and not gain any weight. But turkey and all the trimmings still had the same effect on him as it did as a human. He was exhausted. ~*~ Wendell wasn’t happy about the eating arrangements around here. Jail wasn’t a place that you were supposed to get a good meal anyway, but on Thanksgiving, he thought that there should have been just a little something special. Not even a cupcake or anything like that had graced his tray. When the man came back to get it, Wendell asked him if he could have a bit more. “Nope. You’re to have a meal three times a day. We don’t have the funds or the previsions to make everyone that comes in here extra.” Wendell pointed out that it was Thanksgiving. “I know. My wife, she brought us all in some leftovers so that we’d not have to miss a single bite of her cooking. Even brought us in some cider and pie. It sure is nice to have someone that loves you enough to care.” “Are you giving me shit about Mary? You know that I’d never kill her. You know that.” Picking up Wendell’s tray, the officer just looked at him. “She was going on about shit when I was trying my best to watch my show. Jesus H. Christ, she was bitching so much that I had to get her to shut up.” “Did you kill her?” Wendell wasn’t as stupid as they might think he was, so he just played dumb, telling the officer that he didn’t know what he was talking about. “Someone slit her throat and then wrapped her up on a rug. Then—I’m assuming after whoever was finished watching their show—someone took her out to County Road 40 and dumped her body there. Did you know that she was having a baby?”
“Nope.” He didn’t ask what the kid had been. When he’d dumped her into the ravine, obviously not far enough off the road, Mary had still been expecting. Hell, he knew it was impossible to have a kid while you were dead. “What the hell does that have to do with Thanksgiving anyway?” “To you? Nothing, I guess. They’re having a funeral for your wife and little girl in a few days.” Wendell settled back down on his little cot. Of course Mary would have birthed another fucking girl. That other one was always underfoot as it was. Until he’d put her in a cage, that was. Never had a kid whined so much about being hungry and cold all the time either. Once he found the dog cage out by the dump, he’d thought of the perfect plan to keep the kid from bothering him too much. Then he told Mary if she so much as touched that cage he’d put her in one too. Wendell had to stop eating at home after that. Stop doing anything at home, as a matter of fact. He knew that with the kid not able to get out of the cage, her taking a shit would smell up the house. But it got to be so bad that he wasn’t even able to sleep there without it gagging him.
Wendell did wonder how Mary had stood it, but he’d ended up locking her in the storage shed a couple of days after putting the kid in the cage and forgetting about them both for a couple of weeks while he was out with his buddies. When the cop came back a bit later, he asked him where the kids were. As soon as he turned to answer him, Wendell backed up from the doors. Christ, he looked pissed enough to come right through the bars and get to him. “I told you earlier that the little girl was gone.” Wendell said that he’d figured that it’d not survive after her momma was dead. “I don’t understand—the little girl that you had, Margaret, she was starved to death at your hand. The other child is a boy and he survived, no thanks to you, when his mom was murdered. Did you do it, Wendell? Kill his momma?” “I got me a son? Well, how do you like that? A little boy. I’d sure like to see him. Where is he? You bring him here and I’ll just be as quiet as a mouse for the rest of the night.” The officer asked him if he thought he was getting out soon. “Sure. I mean, you got really no reason to hold me here. I can understand overnight. I was a bit loud at the bar, but I’m not having any more issues with that. A little boy. Can you believe that?”
“You’re not in here for drunken behavior, Wendell. You’re in here for murder. Double murder. And I hope they hang you for it.” Wendell asked him what the hell he was talking about. “We got you on murdering your wife and little girl. I guess Doc Brody could see what you had done, and we found enough evidence around to charge you with—” “Murder? I didn’t do no such a thing. Whatever you’re thinking, you get that out of your head right now. I’m not no murderer.” The guard asked about his daughter Margaret. “Is that her name? Whatever it was, she was acting up and shit, and all I did was keep her out from under my feet. How the hell does that come to murdering her?” “She was found in the cage that you locked her in, starved to death, laying in her own fecal matter. Doc Brody seems to think she’d been put in there a lot over her tiny lifetime.” Wendell said he didn’t know what he was talking about. “Yeah, you go on thinking like that, Wendell, and see where it gets you. In the meantime, you’re going to be staying here until your trial.
After that, I’m hoping that you end up in the big house and someone takes exception to you killing a little girl and her momma.” After the cop left, Wendell sat down on his cot again. Did they really think that he’d killed his daughter? All he’d done was want some peace and quiet. What man in his own home wouldn’t have wanted the same thing? It was bad enough that his wife was forever complaining about shit that didn’t concern her. Like paying bills. Wendell hadn’t thought it was his problem to pay bills. Because his parents had left him the house, he figured that they should have made provisions for the bills to be paid for. A house wasn’t free if you had to keep paying on it month after month. Then there were the taxes. Why did he have to pay taxes on his house when he owned it? It wasn’t like he’d gone down to the store and picked his house up at the local Walmart so they could tax him. No, the government wanted him to pay to own his own home all the fucking time. For something that was none of their beeswax. He hated government people and their rules. He hated rules all around, Wendell figured. There were plenty of them too. You had to wear a shirt and shoes to go into most places. There were rules on when you could park on the main street of any town. His personal non-favorite was having to pay for doctor’s appointments. Again, because he owned his home. The government didn’t help those that had a house, nary a bit. His buddies tried to tell him not to take the house, to sell it off. But then he’d found out that they’d take that as some money coming in, and he’d not get anything that way either.
He just didn’t understand why they’d not just let him have one of them cards to get himself some steaks and shit like that. Thinking about the girl, Wendell had wondered off and on where it had gotten to. When he’d remember that she was in the basement in a cage, he always thought that he’d get back to it. He’d only think about her when he wanted her to fetch him a beer or something. But by the time he’d think about her again, the need for her to be helping her old man out had passed. But kill her? Nah, that couldn’t be right. Could it? Well, he thought, he supposed that he had. In an indirect way. Not that he’d meant to—no, not that. But she was just a girl, and he doubted very much that anyone was overly concerned about it. Besides, he thought she was addled too. Thinking on that, Wendell wondered whether if he’d have turned her in, the government would have given him some kind of kickback or something. Whatever, it was too late now. Killing Mary hadn’t been an accident—he’d wanted her to shut her trap. But all she’d been talking about all day was taking her someplace. Now that he thought on that a little, he remembered her saying that she was in labor. But he was too busy watching his game when she was complaining. Just as his team was starting to win, she’d come into the room and told him something about water. Telling her that he was busy didn’t seem to do much good. So finally, having enough of her shit, he smacked her a good one. Two minutes later he heard his car start up and she was pulling out of the drive, after he’d told her to drive herself to the hospital if she was in such a fired up need to go. But he’d not meant it.
And when he saw her back into one of the trashcans on her way out, Wendell grabbed up the first thing he could touch and went out to teach her a lesson in taking things that didn’t belong to her. He’d cut her throat right there in their yard. Without thinking about anything but getting her out of sight, he’d gone to the front porch, where she’d made her some kind of place of her own, and grabbed up the rug that was cleaner than the one in the house, he remembered thinking. Knocking over her flowers that weren’t nothing but weeds, Wendell even managed to break a couple of her ugly assed treasures, as she’d called them. Then after wrapping her up, he put her in the backseat and took her to the next town over. Christ, it had been a mess. Now he was caught. If they made it out to his house, he’d hang for sure. There was enough blood on the yard that he was sure it looked like he’d slaughtered a hog. Now that he had time to think on it, he should have done something about that. But it was too late now. Having plenty of time, thinking of a reason that she was dead and for all the blood was something that he needed to work on, Wendell told himself. But as he sat there, feeling full for the first time in a while, and warm, another thing that he’d missed at home with the power off, he took himself a nap. A man like him, he deserved naps when he wanted them. Cuddling down on the bed with the blankets that smelled fresh as the sunshine, he closed his eyes. Wendell had a son. The world could go to hell now for all he cared—he had him a son. And he was gonna name him. Wendell James Bennet, Junior would be just exactly like him.