Burke Bentley’s decision to quit the hospital and go into practice with his brother was the best decision he’d ever made. With the daily pressures gone, he could do what he loved to do most –be a doctor.
Piper Cordale, Pip to her friends, just wanted to bust her friend out and go. She didn’t handle people well and needed to be on her way, but fate had other things in store for her. Her friend’s gorgeous doctor, Burke, insisted that he was her mate. Pip didn’t have a mate, nor did she want one. The chore of breathing in and out was hard enough.
But when she saw Burke’s nephew, Shane, sitting all alone, she reached out to him, and they formed an instant bond. She was fae and told the boy if he ever needed her, all he needed to do was call out and she’d be there.
When the unthinkable happens, and Shane and his brother Walter are targeted by a madman, can Pip reach his side fast enough? Is she strong enough to save them both?
The Bentleys must band together like never before to protect their young and pray that it’s enough….
Kathi S Barton
THE BENTLEY LEGACY
Burke stretched his neck and heard it pop twice before he leaned back in his chair. The ding of his computer, telling him he had an email, didn’t even faze him. He was beyond exhausted, but as happy as he’d ever been in his life. He looked up when he felt someone in the room with him. Nolan smiled as he sat down across from him.
“What did he weigh?” Burke just slid the file over to him without moving much. “Wow, you were almost dead on. Nine pounds, ten and a half ounces. Christ, you might have hit the all-time record with this one.”
“He was a bear to get free.” Burke smiled again. “His daddy is about to bust his shirt, he is so proud. But I have a feeling that Momma is going to be saying no a lot more now that they have a son. Seven little girls and now a boy. I don’t envy that little guy.”
Burke had been worried for a bit when the baby had been breach. But the mom, a tiger, had told him to fix it. Burke did and then twelve minutes later, little Cartwright James had come into the world screaming his head off.
“You’re settling in okay, right? I know it was hard for you at first.” Burke nodded at Nolan and told him he thought he was. “When you came out of your office that first visit, I thought you were having a heart attack.”
“I did too, to be honest. I wasn’t used to people being so frank about why they were there. And then when he showed me his arm and told me that he’d cut it doing something so mundane as chopping wood on his farm, it was all I could do not to call the cops, thinking of foul play.” Burke sat up in his chair when his computer dinged again. “I’ve been getting emails since Monday from the hospital. I’ve only read the first couple of them, but it looks like they’re wanting me to come back at any cost. What do you suppose is going on?”
“I heard from Mom that there was a shake up about some of the surgeons. Something about a rotation schedule. To be honest, didn’t really listen. What are they wanting you to do? Come back part time?” He told him what the one email said. “They want you to come back as chief of the hospital’s emergency room? Wow, there really must be some shit going down. What are you going to tell them?”
“Nothing. I mean, as I said, I’ve not read more than a few of them, but even after the first one, I knew that I’d never go back. I love this job. I like what I’m doing. And I know that I’ve only been doing it for about a month, but I feel like I’ve found my dream job.” Burke heard the computer again and turned off his speakers. “Mom told me that next week we’re going over to her house for a little pre-Thanksgiving test tasting. I have no idea what that even means.”
“It means that she’s going to try and cook up something strange and she wants us to approve it. I hate pre-whatever meals.” Nolan stood up. “I have two more patients tonight, then I’m done. What about you?”
“I’m done. I have a few notes to make, but I have nothing to rush home for just now, and I thought I’d hang a few more things up. I finally got my things out of storage yesterday.” Nolan nodded and told him not to be late tonight. “Nolan? Will you do me a
favor? I’d like to find me a house. Nothing on the scale that you guys have, but something sedate and sort of smallish. Do you happen to know of a realtor, or someone selling?”
“We don’t do smallish and sedate in this family. Haven’t you learned that by now?” Burke was afraid he’d say that. “But it would be my pleasure. Do you have any ideas? Other than I’m assuming close to home?”
“Yes, close to home. I don’t want to build. I have no desire to pick out carpets and wall shit. Just a house I can go to when I want to unwind, as well as a nice yard. Shane gave me a list, but I think the kid has it in his head that all of us Bentleys need giant homes. The two that he showed me were as big as your house.”
Nolan laughed as he made his way out the door. But when he stopped and looked at him, Burke felt his cat run along his skin. “Are you happy, Burke? I don’t mean with coming to work with me, but in general terms, are you happy?”
“I think so. I’m lonely most of the time. Not so much anymore because I can see the family more because I have a better schedule. Did you know that Walter has been popping over a lot? Well, he and Shane sometimes, too. And I’m telling you right now, that car you helped him buy has that kid thinking he’s king of the world. And I guess he comes home from college a little more too since he got it.” He knew he’d not answered his brother’s question, not really, and changed the subject before he could ask him anything else. “I’ll see you at Mom’s at six for dinner. Then maybe we can go on a run if you and Rylee aren’t too busy.” Nolan told him it was a date.
When he was alone, Burke pulled out the boxes that he’d brought in on Monday. Then he got himself a bottle of water and his tool box. He smiled when he looked at the name that was engraved on the top. It had been his dad’s, one that Burke had gotten for him when he’d been about ten. Running his fingers over the crooked letters that spelled out Dad, he thought of his father again.
Burke and his father had been close. Not as close as he and Micah had been, but almost. His dad, Grandda, and he would meet up once a week to go fishing, even if his dad had to miss a little overtime to do it. It had become their time. Then one day, it had only been him and his grandda.
“He loved you.” Burke told Grandda that he knew that. Burke’s father had been killed a couple of years before, right around Thanksgiving. This time of year as a matter of fact. “Didn’t think I’d outlive him, never dreamed of it. And here I am, sitting with my grandson, feeling both our grief overwhelming us.”
“Grandda, I think he knew that he was going to die.” His grandda had nodded but said nothing as they both sat there with their poles forgotten in the water. “He told me that if I did nothing else in life, that I should be happy. No matter if I wanted to be a homeless man. Just so long as I did something that made me feel good and happy.”
“He sure did love what he did.” Burke knew that as well. “My boy Micah told me once that being a cop like I had been was one of his greatest pleasures in life, besides marrying your momma and having you boys. I wish all the time that he’d not been killed and that he was right here with us. I worry about your momma too.”
“She’s really sad. And I hear her crying all the time too.” Grandda had nodded and blew his nose in his handkerchief. “I don’t think she wants to live anymore. Her heart is just too broken.”
“No, but she will. Now she will.”
Burke had heard them talking. Mom was telling his grandma and grandda that she wasn’t fit to be their momma anymore. She didn’t have it in her to want to go on. Grandma had sobbed hard, and Grandda got mad at her. Burke wasn’t sure what had happened after that. He’d been called away by one of his brothers.
And she had gotten better after that. Flourished even more since the grandchildren had come along, as well as the three wives of his brothers. Burke took out the first framed picture and smiled. It was the one they’d taken at the charity event last month, all of them standing in their finest and happy. There were others of them as a family…the babies, as well as Shane, were in them. But this one, the one taken of them sitting at the table all together and smiling when someone asked them to turn to them…Burke thought it was his favorite.
Burke was just putting the nail in the wall for the last framed picture when there was a knock at the door. Telling his assistant, Margaret, to come in, he turned to her when she didn’t speak. The man at the door with a knife to Margaret’s throat had him reaching for not just Micah, but all of his family to tell them what was going on.
You know him? He told Garth that he did not. We’re coming. I’m with Tony, and Micah and Reggie are close too.
The man started talking to him, using Margaret as his shield. “You go over there.” Burke did what he was told and moved with his hands up. “Where is she? I want you to bring her right on out here now.”
“Her who?” When he hit Margaret with the knife butt, Burke felt his cat run along his skin. “I’m trying to be helpful here, but I don’t know who you might be talking about. And that being said, I can’t bring her without that information.”
“Captain McClure. I want her now.” It took him several seconds to remember who he was talking about. Rylee, Nolan’s wife. “You tell her that she needs to come and see what she’s done to me.”
“All right. I’ll do that for you if you let Margaret go. She’s done nothing to you.” He told Nolan what was going on and he asked for the man’s name. “You just tell me who you are and I’ll call her right now. No funny business.”
“You fucking damn well right there won’t be no funny business. I want her here, and if you think I’m giving over this woman, then you’re stupider than them bastards at the hospital.” He told Nolan what he’d said. “My name is Franklin. They won’t treat me no more.”
“What is it you need treating for, Mr. Franklin?” He told him that his first name was Franklin. “All right then, Franklin, what is it that you need treatment for?”
“I got me a wound.” Burke nodded as he made his way to his desk. There was nothing there that he could use against a knife, but he was going to be calm and cool about this. “They said that it’s not nothing they did, so they ain’t gonna help me out.”
“Can I look at it? I’m not sure what you thought that McClure could help you with, but I’m a doctor.” He nodded and held the knife tighter to Margaret throat. “You hurt her and I won’t have anyone to help me treat you. And I won’t, either, if you don’t let her go.”
“She said that we could get fixed up. But that guy down there said no. He said that it wasn’t related to the army.” Burke asked him what place he’d gone. “Down to the new place that has been helping us out. You know, the Micah Bentley place.”
“Yes, I know the place. I work there, as well as one of my brothers. He’s the one that started it.” Franklin looked as if he didn’t believe him. “Nolan, he’s my brother and a good doctor too. He did that for you. And if someone turned you away, I’ll find out why for you.”
“I hurt.” Burke nodded and moved a little closer. Franklin was looking weaker now, his face pale. Burke could feel something wrong with him but not what. It wasn’t until he felt Chris touch his mind that he knew.
He has something on his spine, a cut along with a few other injuries. He had to escape. But to be honest, I don’t know what that means. His mind is all jumbled up. They won’t treat him because he’s got other issues. Mostly that his mind is hurting. They thought him too depressed to help. But the doctor there is being dealt with as we speak. Your mom is there at the clinic now. Burke could almost feel sorry for whoever it had been. Your brothers are nearly there, but I’ve told everyone to wait. You have this under control, don’t you, Burke?
He told her he hoped so, but to send in Rylee if that was okay with Nolan. The man was a human, and he might not know that he was a panther. Instead of pretending to use the phone, he told him that he’d contacted his brother.
“I want McClure here. She told me I’d be all right.” He told him how he was related to her. “Oh. Then she’s coming here?”
“Yes, but I won’t let her come in here until you let Margaret go. You’re scaring her, and I really like her. I need her to work with me.” Franklin said he was right sorry. “I know you are. Just let her go and I’ll have a look at your back. Then when Rylee gets here, you can talk to her.”
He staggered back from Margaret, who turned and slapped Franklin. When he just stood there, his face looking sort of sad, Burke asked her to set up a room for them. She nodded once and started out of the room.
“You do something like that to me again, Franklin, and you will think that Rylee is sweet on you when I’m finished with your old body.” Franklin looked at him when Margaret left the room. “Rylee is on her way.”
“I think that nurse is mad at me.” Burke nodded. “I want you to know that I only came here on account’a I knew the Captain was here sometimes. I heard tell that she hangs out here. Guess nobody knew that she had herself a husband that worked here too.”
“She’s married to my brother, Nolan.” He knew he was repeating himself, but Burke was trying to get his thoughts together. When Margaret came back to say that Rylee was here, Burke put out his hand. “I want the knife. And any other weapon you have on you. I’ll not have you trying to hurt her when’s she’s done us both a favor.”
“I like her.” Burke said he did as well. And when he put the knife in his hand, he asked him if there was more. “They took it from me when I went to the hospital once. Said I was unfit to carry any more. I was fit to carry when I had a bullet in me and they was needing me overseas, but now that I need to get some help, I’m unfit.”
“You come on along then and we’ll work in this.” He saw Rylee just as he was guiding Franklin into the room. He asked for one minute and she nodded. Burke went in and saw that Margaret had gotten his shirt off already. Burke wasn’t prepared for what he saw on the man.
Pip searched up and down the long building, trying her best not to cry. Franklin had been missing for four days now, and she was sure that he’d been arrested again or murdered. When the young man who had been trying to keep up with her finally did, she asked him again if he’d heard that he was here.
“His name isn’t on the list, miss. You said he could write, and he’s just not there.” She’d been confused by that when he’d asked her if he could write his name. He explained that there were plenty of men there that could not. “Mrs. Bentley is with the doctors now or I’d ask them if they—miss, you can’t go in there.”
She’d seen the room earlier where a bunch of people were closed off in a room. Pip knew they were mostly doctors and other staff. Why they were having a meeting now was sort of mind boggling to her since there were people everywhere that needed help. But she was missing the only man she’d ever loved, and one of them had to know where he was.
The door opened easily. She’d been sure it would have been locked. And when she walked in, she almost had the feeling that they were expecting her. Which wasn’t possible, as she’d only just gotten into town. A woman sitting at the head of the table was laughing, but the older woman who looked to be in charge just stared.
“I’m trying to find out if my uncle has been here. I heard from someone at the VA that he’d been…well, he escaped. They’re not very good at keeping him safe, and I’ve tried my best to get them to understand that he hates to be tied down, but they don’t listen. I’ve had to take on two jobs as well as move here to try and get him to be signed over to me.” She looked around the room. “I’ve shared too much. But I need to find him.”
“What’s his name?” She told the older woman. “Ah. We were just talking about him. Come on in, dear, and have a seat. And so you know, we know just where he is and he’s in good hands.”
“I want to go to him. Now if you don’t mind.” The woman nodded but didn’t move. “Perhaps you didn’t get it. I want to go get him and take care of him. Wherever he is, it can’t be safer than when he’s with me.”
“He’s with my son, Burke, who is taking care of him. He broke into Burke’s offices and demanded to see a woman by the name of Captain McClure. That would be my daughter-in-law, Rylee.” She asked what this man was doing for him. “He’s a doctor. Burke said that he’s doing some minor surgery on him now, and that he’d have him brought here in about thirty minutes.”
Before she could think that she was light headed, she was sitting in a chair with her head between her knees. The shoes in front of her were expensive and looked comfortable. For a moment she wondered what it would cost to have something like that, and heard someone laugh. Pushing against the hand that held her, she looked at the face of the younger woman that had been seated.
“You all right now?” Pip nodded. “Here, you drink this juice and I’ll tell you what I know. Franklin Bradshaw was here earlier today. And yesterday, from what we’ve been able to piece together. He was turned away both times.” Pip emptied the tall glass of orange juice and realized it was fresh with pulp, the best kind.
“Why? I mean, you have your doors open for anyone, correct? Not that he should have been out and about on his own, but I thought this place was for people like him, vets.” The woman nodded. “I’m Piper Cordale, everyone just calls me Pip.”
“Chris Bentley.” Pip looked around then back at the woman. “Yes, my family owns and runs this place. That’s why we’re taking care that your uncle gets the best care now and that the people who turned him away are dealt with. Not everyone is cut out for helping the lost.”
“I’ve been trying to help him, but he’s a lot to handle. I suppose he’d say the same thing about me.” Chris nodded. “And you should know that I’m not his niece but his friend. For some reason it’s easier to get someone to listen to me when I say that I’m related to him. Franklin hasn’t anyone left, and I’ve been trying to make things easier for him.”
“At what cost to you?” Pip said nothing but played with the condensation on the now full glass. “Does he know what you are?”
“No. I don’t think so. I mean, he might have at one time, but his mind is a little fuzzy at time on details.” Chris said nothing. “That other woman, she said that her son was working on him. Can you tell me what happened to him?”
“He was injured when he tried to get away from the hospital. Burke said that in addition to the wound at his back, he also had bruising around his wrists and ankles. He said it looked to him like they tied him down.” She said they had to at times to keep him from hurting himself. “No, that’s not why they do it and you know it. It’s why you’re trying to get him to come live with you. Please don’t lie to me, Pip. We won’t have a good relationship if you do.”
Pip looked at her. “I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I really don’t think we’re going to be best of buds, do you? I mean, you know as well as I do that I’m broke.” Chris cocked a brow at her. “Yes, I know what you are and who you are. And I’m also pretty sure you can read my mind. Not that I have much in the way of secrets. But if you want to know something then don’t rape my mind. Ask me.”
“All right. And the only thing that I got from your head was about my shoes. By the way, they’re very comfortable. When I touched you, all your emotions came to me and I can’t stop those. Also, I wanted to make sure that you were all right as well.” Pip nodded. “You’re not, are you? All right, I mean.”
“No. I have issues as well. Chronic Major Depression, or CMD as my file says on it. It’s what brought the two of us together all those years ago.” Chris asked her how. “I was
ready to jump. I had no idea he was there as well, on the building I mean. And when I lifted my hands off the railing that I’d been holding onto, he grabbed me from behind. No matter how much I fought him to be let go, he hung onto me like it was his business. I wasn’t able to shake him for another year and a half.”
“But that didn’t stop you, did it?” Pip pulled her sleeves down over her wrists and said nothing. “Franklin told Nolan that you were his niece just now. He asked me to have you be there when they come in.”
“Is he going to be all right?” Chris said that he was now. “I need him in my life as much as he does me, I guess. If anything were to happen to him…. I just don’t want anything to happen to him, that’s all.”
“Is it what you are that has you so depressed?” Pip just shrugged as she emptied the glass of juice again, only to have it full when she sat it on the table. “If you want something different, I can get it for you.”
“Cranberry.” The glass, which had been full of orange juice, was now filled with a dark red, blood like juice. Picking it up, Pip moaned as the flavor and the richness rolled over her tongue. Almost as soon as she set the glass down, it was full again. “Thank you.”
“You could have done it on your own.” Pip just shook her head. The depression, coming in waves more and more lately, nearly had her falling to the floor. But a touch from Chris and she could feel it dissipate. Not leave her; there was only one way for that to happen, but it did lessen a little. “How long have you been off your meds?”
“Five years, six months, and twenty-nine days. Since I lost my insurance, along with my job, when I couldn’t function at work when they fucked with my dosage. It happens at times. The place where I got my medicines wasn’t the best of places, and I don’t think they got the dosages just right when I picked them up. It had happened before.” Pip smiled at Chris. “I guess it’s what you are that makes it so I can’t lie to you.”
“No, you don’t want to lie to me.” Chris stood, and so did Pip. “They’re here. Nolan, my brother-in-law, is with Burke and would like for you to hang back a little until they get Franklin in a room. He’s afraid that if you show, he’ll get upset again.” Pip nodded. “Rylee is with Franklin as well. He knows her from the service.”
“His boss, I guess.” Pip sat down again when Chris told her she’d be back. The glass filled when she’d emptied it again. She was going to be buzzing soon if she didn’t stop. But as a faerie that hadn’t had any for a while, she was getting it while the getting was good. And she had a feeling that despite what Chris had hinted at earlier, she’d not be seeing the grand witch again.