Mercy and her warrior sisters had been around for several millennia, their time of fighting in wars and conquering kingdoms now a distant memory. Before Queen Dante passed, she’d graced her prized warriors—the falcon, hawk, eagle, phoenix, vulture, and owl—with humanity as well as immortality. A gift that Mercy, to this day, was having difficulty coming to terms with. Living as a human was not what she was born to do, nor what she wanted to do. Being an immortal in a life she didn’t want left Mercy feeling angry at the world and turned her into a workaholic.
As an intervention, Blaze arranged an extended vacation and guilted her into taking it. She made all the arrangements and wouldn’t tell Mercy where she was going, just to be at the airport and do as she was told.
Joel Oliver needed this job. Finances were tight, and Blaze said all he had to do was chauffer a rich woman around town. What he would receive would catch him up on the mound of bills piling up and keep the roof over his—and his thirteen-year-old daughter, Miley’s—head for a few months longer. Miley was in a wheelchair—and as a result, had a lot of medical bills—but he loved her more than his own life. However, Joel was about to bite off more than he could chew.
The woman was gorgeous, and he found her snarky, hateful, attitude amusing until she interfered with how he was raising his daughter. Now, all bets were off.
Mercy would normally laugh in the man’s face for his hurtful remarks, but for some reason, her heart shattered instead. After a night of the most mind-blowing sex she could’ve imagined, he was treating her like it all meant nothing…. She had just realized he was her mate, and he hated her….
The castle was going down, thanks wholly to her birds. Queen Dante sat upon her
horse and watched as stone after stone crumbled to the ground. In a matter of moments,
not only were the walls to the fort destroyed, but the king inside his castle was dead as
well. Turning her mount, she headed back to the encampment to ready herself for the
long ride home. The birds joined her not half an hour later, their large bodies covered in
dust and blood.
“You have done well, my darlings.” They could understand her and she them, but
no one else could. She had made them what they were, and she would be the only one
to control them. “Have you fed well on his dying cattle? How does it serve a man to
have his food dying? His people, they were fed no better, I saw.”
The birds—she had never named them—told her that the people were headed west.
In a few months, maybe less, they would all be dead too. It bothered them when the
people suffered because of the king or queen of the castle. But it was to be. Dante could
not care for any more in her own keep.
No one would attack her keep. If they tried, she knew them to be too stupid or too
drunk on their own mead. She had her birds, all of them bigger than life, made large by
magic that she gave them. Looking at them as they landed around her, forever keeping
her safe, she wondered why she had not thought of it sooner, when her king was still
“I would have set you upon him. You could have eaten him for your dinner.
Though I suspect that it would have given you a great deal of belly pains.” The hawk
told her that she was lucky that he had died the way he had. No one would come for
her if she had killed him. “Yes, that is very true. But I suffered greatly when he was
living. No children with me to give me comfort in my olden age. Though they might
have been just like him, and that would have been too much to bear.”
She would never marry again. Love wasn’t something that she searched for. Not
that she didn’t have someone to warm her bed on occasion, but it was nice to be able to
send them on their way when she was finished with them. Her heart belonged to no
one, and she would not take another man to her bed by force.
All would be well, and no
one would threaten to come and take over her home, she hoped. The birds’ as well.
The hawk used her beak to put delicate things upon the backs of the others. There
was aplenty this time. Barrels and smoked meats. Pottery that they would use like it
wasn’t worth a king’s gold. They raided the castle each time they conquered. Hawk was
the best at getting in and out before they took the places to the ground.
The eagle took off toward home. She would let the people know that the queen was
returning simply by her showing up. They would have a feast this night. The food upon
her back would feed them for many days, and the barrels of spices that had been
hoarded in the lower levels of the king’s castle would go a long way toward trading
what they did not grow.
The phoenix, by far the most deadly of her birds, shed her feathers in anticipation of
getting new ones. After a battle she would become anew, each time getting stronger,
and her feathers, brilliant now, would be brighter still. She could flame a fire so hot that
stone would crumble under a man’s feet. The ground would no longer hold a seed
within its belly to produce food, and she could kill a man with a single breath so that
there would be nothing left of his body.
Dante loaded the last of her things onto the back of the owl. She might be small, she
had always thought, but she could carry more than her own weight. And she would
pick up her horse, used to flying through the sky like a bird himself, and take him back
to the castle. He would be fed and groomed before Dante ever landed on the ground.
The vulture squawked at her, and she turned to look at the two men there. They
looked as if they might have been about to kill her, but the sight of such large birds
threw them off their duty. In no time at all the vulture snapped both of them up and ate
them. A gruesome sight, but one that filled her heart with joy too. She was safe again.
The vulture took off once she was loaded up.
“Well, my falcon, it is just you and I left.” She told her that she was still armed.
“Yes, well, probably not too bad of an idea seeing that they nearly shot us.”
The falcon laid her body to the ground. She was the only one that was fitted with a
seat, one that Dante rode on. Scouring the area, Dante always made sure that she left
the places that she camped as neat and clean as she’d found them. Sometimes in better
shape. As she climbed onto the back of her bird, she held her breath.
“I do hate the height. I should have thought this through when I turned you into
my warriors.” Her laughter, should there have been someone around to hear it, might
have sounded insane. “Homeward, my love, and we shall eat well tonight.”
She took no one with her on her fights, except the birds.
That was why she
believed, her people were so loyal to her—she protected them. Fed them better than
herself and made sure that there was plenty for them to trade and share for things that
she did not provide for them.
The soil was rich and would give forth a bounty like no other gardens. Flowers that
were woven into pretty things and traded. There was a smithy, as well as a doctor who
doubled as a dentist. They had even acquired a gravedigger, who doubled as a man
who made markers.
A single merchant that came by, his wagon filled when he arrived, would leave
with the wagon near empty. He would bring the latest news with him, and any posts
that he had been asked to bring to them. He would also, for a small coin, take outposts
for the next time he was in the keep of a relative or friend.
And today there was such a missive, but it was for her, from someone that she had
hoped never to hear from again. The king of the land—the only man that she answered
to, though it wasn’t with any kind of happiness on her part.
After the others were settled down and the food that had been brought put into
storage, she sat down and wasn’t surprised that the falcon came to see her. The room
that she was in—the throne room, for lack of a better term—had no roof, and six perches for the birds when they wished to see her.
Otherwise, they sat upon the top of
the castle turrets, watching for anything that might befall them.
“I am to wed. The king of the land, he has decided that my castle, Duncan Castle, is
the best there is, and he will marry me himself.” They asked about his castle. “He says
that it will be his son’s, which he has none as yet. His last five wives only gave him
daughters, from what I have heard, and they did not last long afterwards.”
The falcon asked her what she would do. Dante knew what would happen to her
should he come here. He would kill her. Being in her fortieth summer, she was much
too old to bear children now, and he would be better with a younger bride. One that
could birth him the sons that he wanted.
“He will kill me, we all know that. And you six will kill him or be killed. I worry so
much for the people here too.” She thought of several plans and threw them out. It was
in her head that if she should die, then she would do so on her own terms. “I will need a
day to think on this. In the meantime, he says that he will be here in the new year. That
will give us a month to provide for the people and make sure that they are not
To be continued in book two, Hawk
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….
Demi didn’t care for the job she was doing. Not that she hated it, but she didn’t like having to sneak in to keep an eye on her employees. They were an all right bunch, she supposed—for the most part anyway. But the shrink rate here was really high, and that meant someone was walking out the door with a great deal of food nightly. She was going to catch them, fire whoever it was, and have them arrested. She heard the phone ringing in the distance and ignored it. No one knew who she was, neither here nor where she lived. They thought her name was Cassie Jones—best she could come up with—when she was really Demetrius Morgan. No one here called her Demi, however, which she’d gone by for nearly twelve years now. Spraying off the dishes that had come back from the dining room, she noticed that the people seemed to be eating all their food. What was left over wasn’t enough to make a twenty-seven percent shrink rate. Someone whistling had her turning toward the doorway to where she was working. “Your name Demetrius Morgan?” Before she could think to say no, he nodded when she told him it was.
“Okay, didn’t know that, but you have a phone call. Said it’s important.” Going to the very public phone, she tried to think who might have been calling her. No one. No one other than a couple of people knew her real name and knew where she was, and no one had called her by her first name since she’d left home. “Who the fuck is this?” She kept her voice down but let the fury that she had right now show though. The voice on the other end sputtered and stammered. “Who the fuck is calling me here and knows anything about me?” “Ms. Morgan? I’m so sorry to have bothered you there, but you’re very difficult to find. My name is Daxton Peyton.” She asked him what reason he could have for trying to find her. “Your mother, miss. She’s passed away.” “And? You want me to do a jig? I will if necessary. But right now, I want answers. Why are you contacting me?” He repeated that her mother had passed away, three months ago as a matter of fact. “Again, that gave you no right to contact me. It’s not like we were even on the worst of terms. I hated her as much as she did me. And the same for my sister and brother.
Why are you looking for me anyway? I’m sure that she had no more use for me than I did her.” “She was buried three months ago, and I’ve been trying to locate you since. As I said, you’ve proven to be very difficult to find. There is a will. You’re named in it, as are your sister, Ms. Astrid Morgan Chase, and your brother, Mr. Nathan—” “I fucking know who they are. What did you hope to gain by contacting me? And if you tell me again how hard it was to find me, then think on that for a moment. Perhaps that was because I had no desire to be found, you moron.” She looked around the kitchen and realized that they’d stopped working to stare at her. She decided it was time to come clean on a few things. “Look, I’ll contact you in a couple of days, no sooner.
If you pester me, I’ll simply get lost again. Just give me your contact information and I’ll call you when I have a few minutes.” “All right. But your family is getting upset that you can’t be found so the will can be read.” Rolling her eyes, she thought of all the things she could tell this man, but only asked again for his phone number. “Thank you.” “I don’t want your thanks, Mr. Peyton, I want you to leave me the fuck alone.” He said again that he was sorry, but that this was important. “Not as important as my privacy. Goodbye.” She hung up the phone and stood there, leaning her head against the wall the phone was on. Demi wanted to go home, call this man, and give him a piece of her mind. Or sue him. She didn’t know what for, but she wanted him to pay for making her name a public format. Before she could say anything to those around her, she was touched on the arm and then dragged into the offices. The chef, Daniel Westbrook, told her to sit down. She did. Demi was much too exhausted right now to think that she was his boss. “Demetrius Morgan. That’s you.” She said it was. “You sign our checks. I’m assuming that you have a good reason for doing a shit job when you own this place. Probably more than this place.” “I do. On both points. The restaurant is losing money. I think that someone is stealing food. I was seeing if I could find out who was doing it before the police were brought in.”
He nodded and asked if she had ruled him out. “I’ve not ruled anyone out just yet. I think that someone in your kitchen and a waitstaff person is doing it. But I can’t tell how.” “I guess I’ll have to take that as a good sign. But they’re not taking shit while I’m here. And I have noticed someone going out of here with a bag full of stuff. I’m assuming that you’ve not checked your email in a couple of days.” She said she’d been busy. “I bet you have. I was letting you know that a big portion of the meat we had delivered is missing. Steaks, roasts. A lot of meat, and some vegetables.” “Seven hundred pounds of beef, two hundred of pork, and a few hundred chickens. If vegetables are missing, I haven’t found that yet.” He pulled out the inventory that she’d gotten three days ago. “I have this.” “Yes, but I’m been keeping a daily tab on things. Also, I’ve been taking pictures of the locker room when I leave at night and when I come in. I asked you, in the email, if I could install a camera.” She flushed and said she was sorry. There was really no need for the camera, she thought. Demi sort of had an idea who was doing it. “No need to be. You had no way of knowing who you could trust, and I’m glad that you didn’t come in here and start accusing anyone. Or making me responsible for what’s going on.” “I’m not like that.” He handed her the second sheet. This one had daily columns with a total each day. Then he told her the highlighted areas were trucks coming in. “So, whoever they are, they’re hitting us right after the truck comes in.” “Pretty much. And since I have to be here for the truck, the things coming out of it are dead on. Nothing shady with them.” She grinned at him. “Something else I should know?”
“I own them too—at least the shipping company. I had a shake down a few months ago with them about missing inventory. They’re very good now with making sure customers get what they should have.” He laughed. “I might have to go out of town for a few days. I have personal business that I have to deal with.” “I heard. No one else would have—I kept them away. But I’m not human, as I’m sure you know.” She nodded, still going over the inventory. “Ms. Morgan, I’m sorry about your loss.” “Don’t be. We were never close. And since she passed away, I have to be there now.” She looked up at him. “I’m extremely private, Daniel. Any of this gets circulated around, and I will make your life not worth living. I can promise you that.” “I believe you.” She handed him the paperwork and asked him if he’d keep an eye on things until she returned. She told him that she’d call him in a couple of days with a burner phone. “All right. Is there anything I can do in the meantime?” “Stay out of it. You’re not to engage, even if you find out. And I’ll have cameras installed at the back door and the locker room. If something happens that I can catch, you’ll never know—not until a few employees stop showing up.” He asked her why she thought it was more than one person. “It would take a lot of muscle to carry out that much meat. One of the female employees could probably do it, but none of them drive a car big enough to carry it away.
There are four trucks on the lot, yours and mine not included. One of your chop help might be doing it, but he’s too frail to have me believe that he’s doing this alone. At this point, I’m not ruling anyone out but you.” Demi went to her home and packed some things that she might need for the next week. She wasn’t naïve enough to think that this would only take a day or two. Her family never did anything quickly, nor like she wanted them to. She made arrangements to fly out in the morning and called the man who was going to replace her in the restaurant to let him know he needed to show up. “I was going to ask you. I liked being at home all the time at first, but now I’m bored.” Demi told him that she’d gotten the other job, the ploy that she’d used to get him to take a few days off. “Thanks so much for this. My wife sure did enjoy having me home a bit more. But she, too, is ready for me to go back.” After squaring away the rest of the house, she went to her office. Demi pulled up her mother’s name to see if she really was dead. The headline said all she needed to know—Abrielle Morgan had passed away after a bout with the flu. It went on to mention that she had two daughters and one son. No names were mentioned, not even her beloved Astrid and Nathan’s, but she had been buried next to Demi’s father a few days after she’d passed away. Demi tried very hard not to think about her family. They hadn’t ever thought of her, she was sure. When she’d left home, she’d been just shy of her seventeenth birthday—seven days after graduating at the top of her class in high school, and only mere hours away from graduating at the top of her class in college. Not only did she speak several languages, but she also had a degree in business management and a minor in accounting. When she had left home, Demi had set herself up in a house with the money she’d horded, as well as finished her education to become the best that she could be.
Now years later she had a doctorate in business management, and also one in history. Education had always been a priority for her—never to her family. Demi remembered well the argument that she’d had and the physical fight that ensued the day she’d left. “You’re not going.” Her mother didn’t answer her. Her graduation from college, much more important than high school, was coming up and her mother was still in her pajama’s. Abrielle, as she’d been told to call her mother, had only told her that she didn’t feel inclined to go to anything she was doing. “I see. So, if this had been Nate or Astrid, you’d be right there with them.” “Of course. You were never any kind of favorite of mine, and I can’t believe that since you’ve managed to fuck your way to a diploma, you’d think things would change for you. I want you out of this house as soon as I can manage it. You’re what, four years from turning eighteen? I’ll have you out the door so fast when you turn that magic number that you’ll not even touch the grass that is my front yard.” “I’m seventeen now. I’ll be eighteen in two months.” Her mother said that was wonderful news. “You’ve never cared for me, have you, Abrielle? Not one bit.” “Never. Had I found out that I was carrying you sooner, you wouldn’t be anything but a drop in some quack’s bucket. As it was, I couldn’t very well send you to some ass hold that would buy you from me either, since that old bat knew you were around.” Her grandmother; her father’s mother, Milly Morgan. “She’s the only reason that I’ve not had you killed off.” Grandma Morgan had been the one to tell her to leave the house. Demi had lived with her until she was fully recovered. The beating that she’d taken from first Nathan, then Astrid, had hospitalized her for several days, followed by bed rest for several weeks. No one had known she was there, and as far as she understood, they’d never asked about her either. It was just as well, Demi thought.
It was the beginning of the end for her little family, and contact between them. Grandma had died several weeks ago, and Demi had been the only family at the service. Grandma had given her so much over the years—money to help pay for college, money for a car when she needed one, and leaving her a house and her money when she passed away. Grandma Morgan had been the only one that had loved her, and now she too was gone. Getting up the next morning, her head splitting from staying up too late. Demi boarded the plane and put her overnight in the overhead storage bin, taking her laptop to her seat with her. Settling in, Demi was happy that she’d purchased the seat next to her so that she could sit alone. People, she knew, would want to pass the time, and she had enough going on without making small talk with a stranger. The plane took off on time, and she calculated how long it would take her to get to Ohio. She was going to stay in Grandma’s house that she’d left her, and make sure that she had everything up to date in it. The house wasn’t on the market yet—she wasn’t even sure she wanted to sell it—but it would be nice when she decided what to do with it.
Renting a car at the airport, she drove to the house and parked in the massive garage. Grandma’s staff had been informed that she was coming, so the house would be aired out and everything ready for her. The only staff that had stayed on after Grandma passed were her butler and cook. Demi figured that would be all she needed, since a cleaning crew came in once a week to do the dusting and such. Moses met her at the door with a list. After a tight hug, he told her what he’d done for her concerning her mother’s funeral. “I made arrangements with the attorney that contacted you. I’m so sorry, Demi. I had no idea it would take so long. I sent flowers to the funeral home, no name attached, and paid cash for it. I have also made sure that the bills were paid for the funeral. They had not been.” Demi thanked Moses, an old sounding name for a man younger than her. “Additionally, there has been some talk about the children trying to sell off the family furniture. I think they were getting desperate for you to come home.” “Do you have any idea why I was named in the will?” Moses speculated that she was telling her off once and for all. “Could be. I don’t think that she had a pot to piss in other than the insurance money that Dad left her, and the other two spent money like it was their job.” “The taxes haven’t been paid on the estate or any of the credit cards that they managed to get. Which, by my estimation, is about five thousand dollars. Not much, but it is getting them hounded by the creditors. I have been able to purchase the controlling stock for you in the last few days of your grandmother’s company, as you asked me to do.
If you want to go over that, it’s there on your desk.” They were sitting at the kitchen table, a place where she and her grandma had eaten more than in the big dining room. “I’ve contacted your attorney, Mr. Shoe, and he is well aware that you’re going to the reading of the will. He said that he’d be there with you. He believes that you’ll need him.” “I guess I might.” She ate some of the cupcakes that were on a tray before speaking again. “Now that Abrielle is gone, I might stick around here. Astrid and Nathan mean nothing to me, and even if they want something, I’m very good at telling people no. What do you think would happen should I move here?” “I’d be happy, and I know that your grandma would as well. It’s been too long since a Morgan has been living here.” She nodded. “Demi, they’re broke, and…and well, you’re not. They’re going to cause you some trouble wanting money from you.” “As I said, I’m really good at saying no. And I’m not that seventeen-year-old kid anymore. I’ve done a lot of growing up being on my own. Also, I’ve taken enough selfdefense classes that I can hold my own now.” He laughed and said that all she’d need to do was be able to walk fast. “I don’t understand.” “They’ve gotten fat. I don’t mean slightly overweight, but fat. I bet that Nathan weighs as much as four hundred pounds now. Not a good look on his short frame. And Astrid drinks too much and is as lazy as always. She more than likely weighs in at about three fifty.” Demi laughed. “I saw them a few weeks ago, when they were here looking for you. Astrid still dresses like she’s a teeny bopper, and Nathan wears stretchy shorts.
Year round. He blames it on the stress of keeping the family together, but he hasn’t done a day’s work in all his life. Nor has Astrid for that matter.” They talked about this and that, mostly concerning the house, and once in a while they’d come back to her brother and sister. She hadn’t known about them being heavy, but the rest she knew. Astrid had been married six times—divorced that many times too. She would marry up, as Grandma had called it, trying to find a man that would die soon and leave her everything. The only thing she’d been left was bills. No one would marry her without a prenup. That, Demi thought, had a great deal to do with her putting a little information on the table about her dear sister. Nathan had been married twice, and both times the women had left him high and dry. He had a daughter that Demi made sure was safe from her father. Nathan also had more bills than his ass could cover. There were two houses that he was paying on, both left to his wives, as well as a car, credit cards, and a shit load of attorney fees for when he got himself into one kind of trouble after the other. Her appointment had been moved from tomorrow, which she’d been planning on, to this evening. It was only one in the afternoon now, so she drove herself to the cemetery where Grandma was buried. Grandda was there too—his death had occurred before she was born. Putting the flowers on their graves as she sat on the bench she’d had put in, she told them of her trip here. “I’m going to see them tonight. I’m not sure that I’m ready for that. I mean, I’m not stupid—I know that they’re going to try and blame me for their lot in life—but I also know something that they don’t.
I have more money than they’ll ever have.” Demi told them both about her new business venture, as well as the problems she was having at the restaurant. Nothing she couldn’t figure out, she assured them, but it was annoying. She told them too that her mother had passed away. But since they more than likely already knew that, she moved on. Demi looked out over the beautiful cemetery and wondered for a moment if she should visit her mother’s grave. “I won’t, just so you know. There was nothing between us in life, and there is less now that she’s dead. “I’ve been watching the stock market, as you taught me to do, Grandma. I have bought and sold more businesses than I think you and I did when you were around. I miss you, by the way. Bouncing ideas off of you while we talked was something that I looked forward to every time, and I miss that now.” Kneeling down, she pulled a small weed out of the otherwise pristine flower garden that had been planted by her.
“I have to see the attorney tonight. I’m not sure how he found me, but I intend to find out. I don’t know what Abrielle wanted of me or why she would mention me in her will, but I’m guessing this is her way of letting Astrid and Nathan try and beat the crap out of me one more time.” It wouldn’t work this time. Not only had she learned to defend herself, but she also had learned to carry and shoot a gun. There would be no more taking her to the floor and beating her to shit. No more stitches from them using their boots on her body. She was her own woman, and she would defend herself no matter what.
When it was time for her to leave, she kissed both headstones and told them she’d see them later. As she was leaving the cemetery, she wondered about the car parked just down from hers. But since no one had bothered her, she never paid it much mind. Demi hated to be late and disliked it when other people were late too. She always made it so that she was early, so that she didn’t have to worry about something befalling her to make her behind. And when she got to the offices of the attorney, she was told that Ms. Chase was running late and picking up Mr. Morgan. But Mr. Peyton popped his head out of an office and smiled at her. “If you’d like to come on in, Demi, I’m sure you have questions.” She nodded and stood up. “Your attorney called me today, just to make sure that you were represented should you need it. I assured him that you’d not need him this evening, as this was just a meeting, but that tomorrow he should be here.” “I want to know, first of all, how did you find me?” She was asked to have a seat. “Mr. Peyton, I don’t want my name out there in the public. I’m sure that, if you’ve had any dealings with my family, you can understand why.” “I do. And they haven’t any idea of anything about you other than that I found you. They’ve asked, I will admit to that, but I never told them anything. Not one thing.” She nodded. “I put a search out to find you from some of my trusted friends in this business. It was difficult, I will say that for you. Even when I heard from Mr. Shoe, he wasn’t easily willing to give me any contact information. He only gave me that number when the timing of the will was getting close.” “What does that mean?” He said that part would be explained tomorrow. “No, tonight, or I walk.”
“I’d rather you didn’t force my hand, Demi. And I know that I should ask to use such an informal name, but to think of you being associated with Astrid and Nathan makes my skin crawl.” Mr. Peyton shivered. “How on earth are you from the same family? I shouldn’t say that, but goodness, they are a pair, aren’t they?” “Yes, well, Abrielle wasn’t any better.” The noise out in the hall made her aware that the pair in question had shown up, and with them all the noise, cursing, and even bodies being pounded against the walls. They walked in—waddled in was more like it—and she stood up. It was a defense thing—sitting down around these two would always get her hurt. But when Nathan smiled at her and Astrid sucked in her cheeks in an effort to make herself look thinner, she supposed, Demi knew that they had no idea who she was. Good, this might be more fun than she’d thought. “Well, hello there, gorgeous. Had I known you were going to be here, I would have arrived on time.” He winked at her as he turned to look at Peyton. “You didn’t tell me that you hired someone to work for you, Dax. She sure is a looker.” “Sit down, you idiot. She’s your sister. Demetrius arrived on time. Now we can get started. Your mother left each of you an envelope. You’re not to open it until tomorrow when you come back here at one. She was very serious about this. If you bring the envelope back to me opened or tampered with, you forfeit some of the estate.” He handed them all an envelope, and Demi put hers in her bag with all the other paperwork that she had to take care of in the morning.
“All right. That’s all for this evening. I will see you all tomorrow at one. Do not be late.” Mr. Peyton showed them out. Neither of her siblings spoke to her in the hall or the elevator ride down. It wasn’t until they were in the lobby that Nathan drew back his fist and slammed her in the face. It had been too fast for her to do anything more than fall to the floor. That was the last thing she remembered except for the face of a man standing over her.
Noah Farley had been living in the States for a long time, and he was homesick. When Devon invited him to come home for a visit, he packed up everything he had and wasn’t planning on returning to his home in the city anytime soon, if ever. His dragon needed room to roam, and the city left his options too limited.
Bea Frost had made the buy of a lifetime, a castle in the country, and she made plans with her granddaughter Bryce, and daughter-in-law Laura, to move into it. Both Bea and Bryce were witches, and moving away from their current location, away from the Witches Council, would be like a breath of fresh air.
Noah’s family had lost the castle to back taxes before they had died. Its loss didn’t leave him much to go home to, but he was curious as to who had purchased the property. When he met Bryce, he was both surprised and pleased to find out that she was his mate. Bryce, however, didn’t care for dragons and wasn’t shy about letting him know that either.
The Witches Council consisted of three warlocks, Black, White, and Gray. When appointed, the mix was supposed to balance them out, but instead the men had become evil and corrupt. Bryce had become too powerful, more powerful than the council combined, and the WC considered her a threat. Killing her human mother or new mate would be just the ticket to bring her to heal…
Kelly Dalton, was packed and ready to go on the trip of a lifetime. She was excited to spend a month in Europe sightseeing. Her budget would be tight, and she’d have to make the trip alone because her sister drained her checking account, but despite the lack of funds, Kelly was ready for the new adventure—anything to get away from her family.
Devon Wakefield was the tenth Marquess to the house of Wilkshire and a dragon shifter. Since the death of his father, he had been lord of the castle since he was ten. His life lacked only one thing—a mate—but he was in no hurry to find one.
Kelly was sorry to see her vacation end. One more stroll around the beautiful countryside then she’d have to go back home—to what she didn’t know. Her sister, Rachel, was so angry that Kelly didn’t pay for her trip that she set fire to Kelly’s apartment. There was nothing really to go back to, but she’d deal with that when she returned. In the meantime, she would enjoy her last couple of days in England. However, Kelly was unprepared for the sudden rain shower, and in the rushing water she lost her footing. Everything went black…
Distraught because Kelly was missing, the innkeeper called Devon to find her. When Devon found the injured young woman, he realized that he’d found his mate, and in an effort to ease her recovery he wanted to do something nice for her—he brought her family to England….
Noah Farley stood as still as he could. Bringing attention to himself right now would get a great many people in trouble, especially him. Not that they wouldn’t be anyway. Having him on site was just as bad to the police as having a taro reader, or even a magician, there with them when a crime needed to be solved. Not many believed in him. Nor did they believe he wasn’t the person they were after nine times out of ten. But Noah got results, and that was important to a lot of people who did believe in him. The man in charge of this investigation was someone that Noah not only didn’t respect, but someone that he thought of as a lazy fuck. He thought that of a great many people, but this guy, Detective Peter Boseman, was the dictionary definition of the phrase—at least the word lazy, anyway.
And the men that hung out with him—Noah called them his crew—were one step away from long prison terms or death by the state. Either way, he’d be glad to be rid of them. Boseman looked up at him. “I’m supposing you can see something that we can’t? You look like you just know it all, and think that you’re the best of the best, don’t you? What is it, Farley? You seeing the ghosts of these here dead? What are they telling you about how they were killed?” Noah said nothing, again not moving. “Well, what I find here is this. The man murdered the woman, then killed himself. Over money. She was spending it—just look at them nails and shoes—and he wasn’t having it. He’s wearing old shoes that have been patched up and a dirty coat. Murder/suicide, end of case. Tell me, Farley, am I dead on?” “No, not even close.”
He waited for someone, this man in front of him, to give him permission to speak again. He didn’t need it. Just last week he’d been asked to become a part of the police force as a full-time consultant to the department. And he would have higher ranking than any man there, including Agent Boseman. But he’d not taken the job—wasn’t even sure that he wanted it. He might take it just to put this man out to pasture…. No, he’d more than likely turn it down. He did this for the department because it gave him something to do. If it were a job, he knew he’d begin to hate it, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone, especially the dead that needed justice—at least their families did. No, so long as he could come and go as he pleased, that was better for everyone—including Boseman again. He would be a dead detective if Noah had to work with him full-time. “Not even close, am I now? Well, why don’t you enlighten us about your powers of observation?” He snickered, and the men with him did the same.
Noah thought that there was some sort of button that Boseman pushed to get reactions from the morons that were with him. “Go on. Tell me what you see that a thirty-year veteran of homicide can’t see. And so’s you know, I don’t care what you see or observe, I know which one of us the captain is going to believe. And it ain’t you.” “I’d not count on that if I were you. First of all, they didn’t know each other to care enough about what kind of money either of them had. The man is someone that I’ve seen over on Welsher from time to time. I believe that he’s homeless and pushes that
cart that’s right over there.
You can see it—it has all his worldly goods in it. The woman is an office worker. The badge that is hanging from her purse there says that she works in finance. She had money to burn because she has no one else in her life. The reason I can see that is, there is no wedding band and her watch is worth more than you make in a year’s time. The shoes are about four hundred, dress and coat another grand. I’d say she was a woman with good taste and liked to look nice. Her name is Shelby Kiddom, by the way. Again, it’s on her name badge.” The faerie that had been with him for decades, William, was in human form and recording the conversation for him for later use. Noah bent down to look at the things around the bodies. He spotted the police department issued gloves used at a crime scene, covered in blood, just under her left breast, and knew that only a cop would have those. Looking up, he knew who the killer was right away. The smirk gave him away. “I’m assuming that some big shot guy like yourself would know all about women’s fashion and such. You wear it, Farley, when you’re not wasting the taxpayers’ money? Or do you have a personal knowledge with this man? You know…?” Boseman did the international sign, one Noah had seen used a million times, for fucking. “Are you a homo, Farley?”
Ignoring his crude comments, Noah continued. “The male, I would say in his mid to late sixties, came upon the woman to offer aid. She was already dead by then, and the man that had killed her, not a husband, was just waiting for a flow of traffic of people so he could blend in. There is no blood splatter on this man, and there would be if he’d been the one to cut her throat. The male just happened upon him as Shelby was bleeding out. She had her throat slit from behind, but the killer would have had blood all over him. The homeless man has a single gunshot to the head—from behind as well.” “And you got all that from looking at two dead bodies? I won’t believe it. Nobody will.” He looked around at his crew, the only thing that Noah would call the cops with him. “He must be one of them there clara-boinks. You know, the ones that can see the dead?” The button must have been pushed again, because they all laughed like they had before. Short and loud. One of them even sounded like a jackass braying. All in a day’s work for Noah, he thought, putting up with idiots. Stretching his neck as he stood up, he smiled at Boseman. “It’s clairvoyant, and that’s not primarily what I am. I’m a profiler, for lack of a better term.” Boseman laughed harder. “Yes, well, if you ever get off your fat fucking ass and look into this, you’ll find that the man who killed them both is standing with you right now. It’s a cop.”
Noah and William walked away. When he heard the shots being fired, he didn’t turn back, but did pull out his cell phone. Telling dispatch that there was an officer down and giving them the address, he kept walking to his car. William, a faerie, changed into his other self and landed on his shoulder. “We can only hope that the man killed Boseman too.” William said that he’d not. “Figures. I need to get away for a while. I know that I was only just asked to take a full
time position at the station, but I can’t do this right now. I need time to grieve. I know that my family has been gone for some time, but I still ache from their passing. I understand why they did it, but my heart still hurts from it.” “As I have said to you many times, your lordship.” William was the only person who knew that not only was Noah a dragon and someone who could solve a crime quickly, but he was also—he had also been—the king of a castle. “If you remember, sir, his lordship Devon invited you to his home for the summer months. He has taken a wife, and she is breeding his child now.”
“Yes, I remember.” As they got into the car, William sitting on his own perch on the next seat, Noah continued. “I hate this city. Well, not the city so much as the people here. And I think they get more violent and more stupid with each passing year. I just need to get away from this. I need to be with friends who care not what I can do or what I am.” “The city and the people it consists of are the same thing, as I have pointed out to you before.” Noah nodded and laughed. “You do need a vacation, if you don’t mind me saying so. But you also need to be your dragon for longer periods than a few minutes when the rain is coming down. Sir, he needs to be himself as badly as, if not more than, you.” He thought about the vacation for the rest of the drive to his home. He was going to do it, but the amount of work that he had to do and to delegate before leaving was going to be a great deal. But still, he thought that everyone would enjoy it, getting away for a time. Noah pulled into the driveway and looked at the home that he shared with about fifty other beings. The house looked like one of the hundreds of other houses in the city and was a cookie cutter of the ones on his street. At least on the outside. Once you were inside, that was where you really saw the difference. It was about ten times larger than the other houses and filled with things that he’d collected over the years. Magic and the beings that lived with him, all faeries, had given him that and more. Companionship for the most part, and that he treasured more than anything else. There were three floors to the home, but it only showed that there was one from the outside. The kitchen was big enough for several of the finest chefs to make a meal and never touch one another. A dining room that was wasted on him could easily feed over a hundred guests. Even his bedroom—about twice the size of the entire house next to his, which was a couple of acres away—was something that his magic had done for them when he and William took up residence. The others, faeries that had been at his castle home, had come to live with him when he lost it due to taxes not being paid on time. When he’d purchased the home, there had been nothing around the area but fields of tobacco and corn. Then as the houses started to pop up, so did the fence that he had around his property. And now it was electrified too. He knew that people thought him to be something of a recluse, which he supposed he was. Noah preferred his own company over anyone else’s, save William.
His staff, the faeries, were there waiting for him as soon as he entered. “There is a call from a Lady Wakefield. She said that she is the marchioness to the House of Wilkshire.” He paused in going up the staircase when Rose cleared her throat. “She giggled, sir. Giggled and said that I was just to call her Kelly, not the mouthful that is her title from being married to Lord Devon. I don’t understand.” He turned to look at his staff and realized that they were just as curious. He thought about what he’d heard about Kelly, as Lady Susanna had called her, and knew that she was just as delightful as she’d told him. Noah sat down on the stairs and laughed. “I’ve been thinking that we’d all go for a visit to the Marquess Devon and his new family. Please, I would like for you all to close up the house. Donate all the foodstuff to the shelter, and pack us whatever we might need to travel to England.” He looked at William as he continued. “I want you to gather up the seeds and other things that you’ve been hoarding, and we’ll take them someplace where they can thrive. We will all leave as soon as arrangements can be made.” “Sir, what about your job?” He didn’t care and told William that. Noah didn’t need the money, not really, and he had to get away. “Shall I tell them that there has been an emergency and that you must travel today?” “Yes, that would be splendid. Also, do me a favor and find me Devon’s number.”
Rose handed him the small sheet of paper with not only the phone number, but also how many times Kelly had called. “It seems, my dear family, that we’re headed home. I only hope that we’ll receive a better welcome than we have before.” The cheer went up and Noah stood up. He never said this, not anymore, but he wondered if things could get any worse. They could and would, he knew, but for now, he’d take it as it came. By nightfall he’d gotten a call from his boss at the station. Noah had told him everything that he’d told Boseman, and that the man in his little posse was the murderer. Noah told him that Boseman had been an ass. Also, he wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but he thought that Boseman had known about it. “Yes, well, that’s the way he operates. Or I should say, the way that he did. I was hoping that with you in charge of him, he’d either quit or he’d have to be fired. I got the recording of the events, and I’m going to ask him, quite firmly, to retire before I have to fire him. I have three men dead because of his stupidity, as well as two more injured. And all because he wouldn’t listen to you when you spoke to him last week. This couple, the ones that were killed needlessly, they’re going to be added to that list. And Roberts, the murderer, he’s dead. You didn’t ask, but I wanted you to know that Roberts been taken off the streets.” Noah had told Boseman, as well as Detective Captain Lin Ming, that there were two dirty cops on the force. Boseman told him he was wrong, Captain Ming told him to look into it. “I’ll talk to you when you return. If there is anything you need, just let me know, Noah. I don’t want to lose a good man like you.” By mid-morning the next day, not only were they on their way, but he’d been able to bring everyone on his staff, all faeries, on his body. It was something else that he’d been given, the ability to bring with him and use as many faeries as he could put upon
his body. They not only were able to travel with him without anyone seeing them, but they lent him a great deal of power, power that was much different than that of his parents. Noah smiled when he thought of when he’d called Devon.
“I’m so glad that you’re coming. Grandmother will be back by the time you arrive, if not at the same time.” He looked over at the marchioness, who had hitched a ride with him on his plane—the last of his inheritance from the castle. “Also, we have been making some improvements here. Some that I’m betting that you will be pleased with. We’re going to be working very hard here to make sure that you never leave us again.” It wouldn’t take much, not with the way he was feeling. It all depended on the welcome he received when he arrived. Would they greet him with open arms, or would they simply turn their backs on him as they had done before? Not Devon, but the town in general. “How is that lovely wife or yours, Devon? She must be sick of you by now. Perhaps I can persuade her to come back with me, and we’ll have a bunch of little dragons.” He was only joking, and he knew that Devon knew it. “I talked to your grandmother while she was visiting my area. She is quite taken with the little slip of a woman.” “She has my mom’s dragon, Noah. Had I not been standing there when it happened, I think I would never have believed it. And, I think that we’re all in a better place too. Knowing that my mom was killed by my father gave us some peace that I didn’t think I’d have after he was dead. It gave me some closure that I didn’t have before.” He knew that from talking to his plane mate. It had given Lady Susanna closure as well. “When you arrive, I’ll have someone meet you at the airport. I’m having one put in for us here, now that I have a wife, so that it will be much easier for us to travel without the world knowing.” Noah knew what he meant—so that someone wouldn’t be able to take Kelly. It had happened before. Someone had gotten it in their head to take one of Devon’s stepmothers. That had ended badly when Devon’s father had refused to pay the ransom, saying that she was unfit as a wife to a marquess anyway. They had taken their anger out on the young woman, and she’d suffered brutally from the beating and the resulting wounds. “I should be there in a couple of days. These days the only thing that I have left is the plane, and that will be gone soon too. Also, I have a great many faeries with me, and they’d like to see if they can work with yours. I have also had William gather some of his seeds from the homestead that you can plant there. If you don’t mind.”
He told him that was fine, and that they’d been looking at places for him to stay when he decided to stay for good. “You and that little wife of yours, you’re plotting? My goodness, Devon, you surely have become a changed man. I think I might stay, for a time anyway. As for homes, I’m not sure about that right now. I’m a little short on funds that I can readily put my hands on at the moment, as you well know.” “I do. And I understand. Whatever you want to do, my home is always open to you.” And he knew that as well. For as many times as people had said that to him over the decades, Noah knew that Devon meant it. “Once you get here, you will never want
to leave again. I am so positive about it that I’m going to throw a dinner party to welcome you. I’ve missed you, Noah. I’m so glad that you’re finally coming for a visit.” “I’ve missed you as well, my friend. I’ll see you soon.” As they flew to their destination, Noah and Susanna talked about the new Devon. Yes, he thought to himself, this was going to be a very good visit. And who knew, perhaps he’d end up staying, as Devon wanted.
~*~ Laura watched her daughter struggle with her temper. The fact that she was trying to hold onto it said that she was trying to change, and not just go from zero to overboard when people made her pissy. However, if Laura had been talking to the man, she would have murdered him by now. The man was as dense as a cinderblock. He’d come to the front door about twenty minutes ago, screaming and accusing almost as soon as the door opened an inch. And when he’d been told that the police were going to be called, he yelled louder, making sure, Laura thought, that the world knew he was upset. She listened to Bryce as she tried in vain to convince the man she didn’t have his daughter. “I said, six times now, that I can’t help you find your daughter. If she told you that she was coming here, then you can bet that I’d tell you if she was. Emma and I are not friendly enough to be going to one another’s homes.” He asked why not. “Because I don’t like her. Not one bit. And you can bank on that too. If she was hoping I’d cover for her, then she’s just as shit out of luck as you are.” “I have it written down right here on this note she left for me two days ago. I want you to read it.” Bryce snatched it from Emma’s father and read the note as one might to a child. “You are a nasty, rude person.” “Precisely. Now, call the police, call the national guard. They’ll have better luck finding her than you will here at my home.”
Bryce started to close the door in Mr. Sharp’s face. He put his foot in the way so that Bryce couldn’t close it. “Look. I’ve tried very hard, several times, not to punch you in the face. But if you don’t remove your foot from the doorway, I’m going to pull out a knife and cut the part off that is preventing me from closing my door and close it. I’m tired and out of sorts, and you’re not helping one bit.” He jerked his foot back and Bryce slammed the door. As she leaned her back against it, Mr. Sharp started pounding on the door’s other side. The man had a death wish, that was all Laura could think about him. “Do you know where she is?” Bryce nodded and walked away from the door into the kitchen. Laura followed her. Her mother-in-law, Bea, was sitting at the table, a cup of tea stirring in front of her. “Bea, I thought that as long as there was the possibility of someone seeing you, you’d not use your magic in this house.” “Yes. But he wasn’t going to get in. We both know that. Bryce would have cut him to ribbons. Or if he got this far, I would have changed him into a toad. Nasty man that.” Bea picked up her cup of tea and the spoon disappeared. “You know where she is, Bryce, honey?”
“Dead.” No one said anything. If Bryce said she was dead, then she was dead. “I was wondering if we could have chicken and dumplings for dinner. We could use the roasted chicken from last night, since we’d be getting a late start.” Laura looked at Bea, who simply shook her head. Sometimes she was jealous of the two of them, the things that they could share. But on this, Laura was glad for the fact that she wasn’t anymore a witch than the dog was next door. Her daughter was very powerful, and her mother-in-law was a close second. They talked about dinner for a little while more, none of them very hungry, it seemed. As they plotted and planned for tomorrow, Bryce ate some grapes, a bowl of them on the table that hadn’t been there before. Tomorrow Bryce was going into the police station to turn down the job that they’d asked her to take. “I can’t be working around people all the time and not have one of them notice that I’m off my noddle.” Bea smacked Bryce’s hand. “Well, I don’t think that, but you know that they will once I use my magic. And I will. Even if I only have to turn one of them into something that is silent.” “I don’t blame you there. While our kind isn’t burned at the stake anymore, I do think that they’d put you away and never find the key if they knew just how powerful you are. Not that a cell would hold you, but then they’d try something else. Oh, by the way, that man next door thinks that his doggy is dead. I’ve taken care that his little doggy is safe. Poor thing. He was hurting it again and letting it stand in the snow all night.”
Laura asked Bea where he was. “Under the table, now that you’re aware of him. He’s a good dog. I might train him to be my animal. I’ve been sort of lonely without Pet around.” It was a startling revelation that witches had familiars. It was even more surprising that they didn’t necessarily have to be a cat—any animal would do. Case in point, Bryce had a bird. It was a pretty cockatoo that spoke four languages and could curse better than a sailor on leave. His name was Fred. Pet, Bea’s animal, had died. He’d been a pretty little lizard that would chase Laura around the kitchen when he was being playful. It could do more than snap out his tongue at her when she spoke to him, as he too was as powerful as his mistress. They were sure that he’d been poisoned by someone, but who had done it was a mystery. She thought it was a neighbor, but she didn’t ask anymore what they’d do to him if it had been him. Some things were better left unknown, Laura had figured out. Few knew that they were a house of witches. Laura could do some magic, gifted to her by Bea first, then Bryce had given her more. Laura couldn’t do spells, nor could she cast, gathering ingredients like she would for a cake and putting them together for some use. Laura could help with spells, but she wasn’t able to cast them on someone or something. That was fine by her as well. “I was thinking about that trip. The one where we headed back to your old country.” Laura got up and started throwing together a salad. That was something that she knew would be eaten, even if it wasn’t right now. She wouldn’t be going on the trip—that was something that Bea and Bryce did twice a year. “I’ve heard about some
herbs that we can gather and bring back with us. It would be nice to have a fully functioning garden.”
“It would at that. I have that castle too. The one that was up on the market for nonpayment of taxes. We could all stay there.” Laura wanted to see the castle in person—it was supposed to be grand. But she’d stay here, hold down the fort, so to speak, and they’d bring her back all manner of things as gifts. Laura tuned them out. There was nothing she could have added to the conversation other than to find out when they were leaving and when they’d return. As she was putting the bowl filled with the best greens she could find in the fridge, Bryce asked her if she was paying attention. “I was. You two will be leaving and I’ll make sure that the animals are safe here. I’ll need to have someone help me with the mail. I can’t travel all that far without having my hip hurt me a great deal.” She’d fallen two years ago, and her hip hadn’t been the same since. And the doctors told her that it wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. Quacks. “I know you won’t have to pack anything, so tell me what you need for me to do.” “Pack for yourself.” Laura started shaking her head. “Yes, you’re going with us this time. No excuses. I told you the last time you were going with us the next time. So, you pack you what you think you might want to take, and I’ll close up the house. Grandma said she’d take care of everything else. This will be an adventure for all of us, I think.” “Bryce, I’m too much trouble.” Her daughter crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot.
“You are not using my way of getting you to mind me. You just go with Bea and I’ll be here when you return. I’m too hurt to want to sit on a plane for hours.” “We’re not. Returning, I mean.” She asked her what she meant. “Grandma said that it’s time that we move on. People are beginning to notice that she’s not aging. Neither am I. And you look like we could be sisters and not mother and daughter. It’s time, Mom. We’ve done it before, and we need to do it again. And even if we weren’t, you’re still going.” The hand on her shoulder buzzed like electric through a cord all the way through her body. Laura stood there for several seconds, the warm feeling of good health still making her slightly light headed. She knew that when she moved around, she’d be not only as good as new, but also not in any more pain. Sitting in the chair that was still warm from when Bea had been sitting in it, she looked at Bryce. “I told you not to ever do that. I’ll not have you wasting your talents on an old woman like me. I do feel better, but you shouldn’t have done that. Honey, I knew that you’d have to move on soon. I just thought that you’d just make me old and leave me behind. I mean, that’s what I’d do.” “You would not. If you don’t pack, I will, and you know that I’ll accidently leave something behind. You can’t think that I’d leave you here, do you?” She shook her head. “Good. Pack only what you can’t replace. Then when we get to this castle, we’ll buy what you need. And if you pack up a box of things too big for your suitcase, tell me and I’ll send it along too.”
“What about Emma’s body? You have to give that man some closure. Not that he deserves it, but you should at least let someone find her.” Bryce said that she couldn’t and got up from the table. Laura sat there for several more minutes. Bryce couldn’t help the ones that had killed themselves. It was a vow that she’d taken when she’d taken her first lesson at the school for witchcraft. Everyone had to give up something, some kind of thing, that they couldn’t help humans with, and she’d said that she’d never help the suicide victims’ bodies to be found. It was something that she didn’t run into often, but this time she knew that it hurt her little girl. It was the only thing that Bryce could think of to give up that wouldn’t be her. Those were the only choices that she’d been given—give up her mother or the victims of suicide. Getting up, Laura started a mental list of things that she was going to take. Most of it was pictures, but there were a few things that she had been given by her late husband. Austin had been a good man, but he was also one that didn’t hide his magic. It was what had gotten him killed by the witch council.
The dragon king, Anthony, entrusted Brynhilde with a quest. He had foreseen his demise and needed a reason for Bryn to find his and Jacob’s sons. A glimpse in the future had shown him that Bryn would be mated to his son Akassa, and Jacob’s son, Simeon, so he entrusted her with an ancient book. Her mission was to seek out the new dragon king when the old castle was nearly complete.
Bryn was a protector of dragons and a fierce faerie warrior. She had one weakness. If she was claimed, she had to follow the orders of whoever claimed her—even if it went against what she knew to be right and just. Over the centuries, she had been owned by many warriors and kings. But as time passed, few knew of these ancient laws and Bryn had managed to reman unclaimed—until now. Bryn had been ordered to kill the dragons.
The Dragon Slayers had all but given up on their quest to slay the dragons and the new dragon king, but when Hudson sought them out, he breathed new life into the ancient organization. Their thirst to spill blood was great.
Asher knew what Bryn had been ordered to do, and that she was mated to his brother Simeon and Akassa. The question was if Bryn could follow her heart and ignore her sworn duty. Would they all perish by the sword of this powerful faerie? Find out in the final episode of The Dragon Savior Series—Simeon.
# SPECIAL NOTE CURRENTLY FROM STOKING THE FLAME 2 BOXSET
Asher and Kiaran were joined at birth by the dying decree of the Dragon King―literally. Asher had his own bit of magic as a 3,000 year old immortal, and Kiaran was his dragon shifter. Out in society Kiaran was a part of Asher―absorbed into Asher’s body―only being able to separate in dragon form. At their birth home, the two men could exist apart from each other as men. They protected each other, and would until their dying breath if it ever came to that. They shared everything…that is until Essie came along….
Essie was doing her best to hide from a mother that didn’t even recognize her own daughter. The witch had poisoned her with a scratch and if Essie wasn’t healed soon she’d die…. Sick or not she didn’t want anything to do with that handsome, overbearing barbarian, Asher, nor that rude dragon that protected him. She was doing just fine on her own.
But Asher had other things on his mind and after a while brings Essie around to his way of thinking and makes her his wife, but Kiaran brought up a valid point―Essie was his mate too….
Could Essie find it in her heart to love both men equally? To share the bed of both―together?
Asher’s five brothers and their dragons watched the scenario unfold with bated breaths. The subject had never been broached, and all their futures hung on the outcome…
Lindsey Decker is hiding in the woods when the dragon shifter, Casdon, finds her on their property. She’s tired, hungry, in a lot of pain, and absolutely determined not to ask for any help. She just needs to stay hidden before that idiot Cox finds her and probably kills her this time. The cave she found will provide some protection if she doesn’t freeze to death first.
Jedidiah Benson and his dragon shifter Zak are at odds. When Casdon tells the family of the injured woman hiding in the caves, Zak knows immediately upon finding her that the girl is his and Jedidiah’s mate, but Jedidiah refuses to even look at the girl proclaiming he wouldn’t know what to do with a mate. Zak has no reservations and knows if they don’t do something fast she’ll die.
Lindsey wakes between two gorgeous men and isn’t sure if she’s dreaming or still in a fevered state. The things she wants to do with these men, both of them, should feel wrong, but instead feels it’s her destiny.
Lindsey is destined for more than two mates. Lindsey is a beacon for the lost dragons. It’s time for their return, but it’s still dangerous for them to do so. They’re being hunted, and no one is safe…
Ariannona has but one simple task to complete and the long journey she began 3000 years ago will be ended. Her reward? She was promised that she would see the king and queen again.
Elam’s not sure what to think about the beautiful woman coming back to the house with his counterpart Casdon. She has a message for Casdon alone, and the message itself makes no sense to Casdon. One thing is clear though, she is Elam and Casdon’s mate.
Ariannona expects to die once her message is delivered, and isn’t happy to learn that the former king and queen tricked her to get her there.
A dragon hunter is still loose on nearby lands and none of the dragons are safe, especially Casdon. He’s taking shots at anything he sees moving.
Lelani Wayne trusted no one but her familiar, Roger. And even he, at times, got on her last nerve. She didn’t like being around people. People made her nervous, and when a witch as powerful as she was got nervous, it could be disastrous for anyone in the vicinity.
A powerful witch, Erin Wayne, knew she was going to die, and reached out to the closest being she could find to take her powers and memories. She connected with Kiaran, Asher’s dragon counterpart. The jolt of the transfer took all the Benson’s to their knees.
The Benson’s were on a mission to finish the reconstruction of the castle. Shane, and his dragon counterpart, Keion, were doing their share to make it happen. But when Shane saw his very pregnant sister-in-law, Essie, bringing lunch, and a stranger approaching her fast, he couldn’t get to Essie fast enough. The baby was coming—now.
Lelani was looking for Kiaran to get her sister’s memories and warn him that the Herald, a group of witch hunting zealots, might have traced the memories and be after Kiaran as well. What she didn’t expect to find was Shane and Keion, two very big, handsome, virile men, invading her personal space claiming to be her mate. That made her nervous….
Gracie couldn’t believe it, she’d been attacked by a griffin. The pain was so horrible that she’d have to get better to die. Maybe it was better this way. Maybe death would end the tremendous grief in her heart. At least in death she wouldn’t have to listen to her sister Cora’s constant harping.
Gideon and his dragon counterpart Ominia weren’t sure how to handle Gracie. She was their mate and they were happy to have found her, but her intense grief over the loss of her family had them stumped on how to proceed.
The encounter with the griffin had more effect on Gracie than she knew. His magic now flowed within her. Gracie could now see and speak with the dead, and the former king, Anthony had a message for the new King of Dragons, Asher.
Now thrust in a world of dragons and magic, Gracie’s head was spinning. And how was she to handle two very handsome and amorous mates? Things like that just didn’t happen to her.
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Anthony rubbed his head. If this kept up, he was going to need a powder for his pain. He looked at Eve when she sighed heavily. They were getting nowhere fast in this conversation, and he wasn’t sure what to do about it. Looking at the woman before him, he tried once more to get her to stand up and come closer. Sometimes being king made things unbearably difficult. “Brynhilde, I would wish to talk to you secretly. If you stay there, plastered to the floor for the entire time, I’m not going to be able to speak to you properly. Come. Let us speak.” She didn’t move, not even to look up at him. “Damn it, woman. I’m needing something from you.” “You wish to claim me.” He didn’t want to. It hadn’t been in their plans to do anything like that. To claim her, to make her his servant, would be wrong on so many levels.
“My lord, you know what I am and what I do. I cannot, without going against my laws, the ones that you put into place, speak to you where my head is higher than your own. I am but a warrior, not an equal to you or anyone.” “Show yourself.” Anthony looked at Eve when she spoke. It was unlike her to be so hard, her voice full of command. “Stand and show yourself, all of yourself, to us. Now, Brynhilde. That way we can judge your worth to us.
” The woman stood, and Anthony realized how young she looked. He knew her to be old and powerful, but the appearance of her youth startled him speechless. Not so his lovely mate. She was rarely speechless, not when it mattered the most. And this did, more than anything they’d done thus far. “You will show us your warrior. Then we’ll talk about claiming. If need be we will, but for now, I wish to see what you have to offer.” The woman raised her brow but said nothing. Brynhilde wasn’t one to fuck with, he knew this. She was as powerful as she was hateful. He was glad that he’d not have to be mated to her.
“Where is this supposed warrior that we have heard so much about?” Her arms stretched above her head. He knew it was for show…or perhaps she had been taught to bring her magic that way and it had stuck with her. But he could see the magic gather around her and stepped back. This was going to be epic, and he was excited for it, but also, if he was honest with himself, a little frightened. Light danced along her body…sparkled, he supposed. Her hair, dark before, turned a bright red, fiery he thought. And as it lengthened, tangling with her body, wrapping her up, her armor began to show itself. Anthony knew now this was for them, a show of power and force. As her armor strengthened and wrapped around her, wings appeared behind her, as brilliant a green as her eyes, of which nothing of her body showed but that. She would and could fight an army now, and come out on the other side as the victor. The woman oozed strength, confidence, and magic. He would only want to be on her side. To be on the other would mean that all was lost. Brynhilde was epic.
When her show of force was complete, she flittered above the floor before raising her sword and sticking it deep into the stone floor as she came down in her stance. He would never go by that spot without thinking of her, however little time he had left. Her chest plate was silver, a hue so bright that it was nearly blinding. There was no crest upon it, and there wouldn’t be until she was claimed by another force. As she stood there, her wings spread wide and high, her hair, the massive amount that hadn’t become her armor, ever flowing behind her head, Anthony was struck by her beauty. And the scar that went from her left eye to her chin did nothing to take away from that. He stepped forward enough to touch her, but stopped when she raised her sword.
“Do ye claim me as your own?” Anthony had a moment where he was slightly afraid, not of her personally, but of what she’d do to his son once she went to him. His son, and that of Jacob, would know a real kind of devotion should she fall in love with the boys. Or she would slaughter them. “Brynhilde, where is your family?” He saw the pain there, the flicker of it as it passed over her face. He wanted to tell his Eve to stop, but before he could, she spoke again. “You have no one claiming you…you could have a family. Where are your parents? Sisters and brothers?” “Dead, my lady.
” Anthony felt compelled to hold her, to wrap her up in his arms so that the pain would be his as well. To lessen it for her. “They were killed when I was at war. My master then…my master did not care for me and my rules, so he had them all murdered. I have found all but one of them, the ones that killed my family, and when I find him, he’ll suffer like no other for his orders to murder them. He committed a cowardly act by not being there himself, and now he will pay as well.” “I am sorry.” Brynhilde looked at him when he spoke softly. “I am truly sorry for all that you have lost.
It would hurt me beyond words to have lost all that I love.” He would, and soon, if things were to go as they were foretold to them. As he moved to his seat beside Eve, he took her hand into his. It was well past time they asked of her the favor that would put her with their son and Jacob’s. “There is a book that needs to go to the future king.” The wings flittered again, not enough to lift her up this time, but they moved all the same. Anthony continued just as Tinsel, Brynhilde’s brownie and companion, came into the room. “There will be a great war, one where you will be hidden away so that you will not have to pledge allegiance against this kingdom. I do this for you so that you can avenge your family when all is done. And it will be over someday, just not in our lifetime.” “You are an immortal, same as me.” She dropped her head, asking for forgiveness for pointing out what he already knew. Anthony walked to her then and lifted her face up to his. She was tall, and he could see the fear there in her eyes. “You cannot die, my lord king. I will fight with you.”
“‘Tis too late for that, I fear.” She watched his face, seeing what no other, save his mate, could see there…the future, and what would happen to them. “I need for you to take him this book. His name is Asher, called that from the ash of this castle when it has fallen. Someday the castle will be repaired…the magic that we leave behind will help
him rebuild, to make things right again for all who would dwell here. The book and all that it represents will be in your hands.” “And this son…what will he demand from me in return for this favor?” Anthony told her nothing, but that he was going to be as good a king, if not better than him. “I do not believe that, my lord. You are a good and kind man. Your wife too. How can this be?” “He is part of me. Of us. And his mate is as strong as he will be.” Anthony had her attention now, and thought he had to do it now or it would be all for nothing.
“This thing I ask of you, it is the final key, the last stone that will be placed in the castle. If you do not wish to help me without me claiming you, then I will understand. I will be disappointed, child, but I will understand.” Eve moved to stand behind the warrior. Her armor was as strong as his own scales, her blood as cold as his. But she could use more, would need more in the coming years, and he did not want her harmed in any way. While he touched her, Eve did the same from behind. The sharing of their magic only took a second or two, but the transformation to the warrior was profound. She stood there before him, and he knew that she was in a great deal of pain. But as he watched her, nothing moved on her; her eyes did not blink to show that she hurt.
“You have given me too much.” He shook his head. Her voice was rough, like even that was in pain. “You have. I can feel it through my body, like blood rushing from an open wound. Why would you do such a thing to me?” “You will need it, this I promise you. Once you have given the book to Asher, when the castle he rebuilds is nearly complete, you will never have to be claimed again by a man that wishes only for your sword.” She nodded and then staggered slightly. “Careful now. You are going to need to hibernate for a while at least.” Touching her armor now, the chest plate that protected her heart, he put his mark upon it. Not that she’d see it, not yet, but it would be there for Simeon and his own child, her mates, to see.
To know that she came to them with his blessings. The other women, some of them already on their path, others not yet born, would come to the men that would be family to him. They’d make them stronger still, love them beyond words, and give them a part of their magic and love that would sustain them forever. But this one, this warrior of the fairies, had been the hardest one to convince. Her heart would be hardened by the time they came together, his children and her, and sadly, she would hurt more than the others when she came to them. Not with her sword, but it would cut just as deeply and painfully. Stepping back when she seemed to be able to stand on her own two feet, he watched her stretch again, this time trying out her newfound power. After she left them, the book in her hand—to rest, she told him— he sat in his chair and thought of this woman. “She will be furious in her fighting.
And so loving when that is called for too. Of all the women that will come to our yet born children, I think she will be the best of them all.” Anthony nodded but said nothing yet to his queen. “You worry overly much.
What’s done is done for them. There is nothing else we can do but to ready things here for them. We have done more than we should have, love, but they’ll be safe now.” “I so wish I could see them.” Eve said that she did as well. “There will be children of them. Grandchildren of ours that we will not spoil or touch. It is the saddest thing next to losing you, I think. Not being able to see them grow and become men. Having their own young and playing with them.” “Someday, we’ll look down on them and smile. Our children will live. That is all we’ve ever wanted for them.
” He agreed; it was all they had thought of since seeing visions of their own deaths. “Anthony, what will become of her? You know, do you not?” “I do. I am saddened by the things she must do and will do to survive. But she will. And while she’ll be stronger for it, it will harden her heart too.” He looked at his one true love. “Let us talk of more pleasant things. Take a lunch to the lake and make love there. The babes will be safe for an hour or two.” “Yes, I’d like that very much.” He nodded, standing up. “You have talked to Tinsel? He will know what is going on and help her?” “I will when we return. He will do this, I know, but it will hurt them both that we need him to do this one more thing for us.” Eve nodded as they made their way to the kitchen to get some food. “We have gained so much from this, but are losing so much more.” “Yes, but the safety of our children and those of Sally and Jacob will be more than we could have hoped for during this time, don’t you think?” He did and told her that. “I love you, my love. More than I could ever be able to tell you. You are my heart, my soul.”
~~~ Tinsel came back just as she was burrowing into the ground. Bryn watched him fly around making things right for her before she told him to sit down and be quiet. He did so, but he pouted about it. She asked him where he’d gone. “I will be here until you have awakened. I wished to gather me some things up. They’re in my pocket.” He had a magical pocket. He could carry a man in it should it be necessary. Or her, which he had once before. “Do you wish for me to sing to you?” “No.” Clearing her throat, fearful that he would sing anyway, she tried again. “I’m ready to rest now. And your singing might keep me awake. I think the king gave me a bit of something to pull me under faster.” He nodded and looked around them. She wanted him to rest as well, but he would not. And he’d more than likely sing too, once she was asleep. Bryn felt sorry for the creatures around them, ones that could not get away from his noise. Tinsel could not sing.
Words he didn’t know he made up, sometimes making the song he sang seem more silly than heartfelt. And he had no tone. Nor could he carry a tune. The man was as deaf to the music he sang as she wished she was when he did it. Closing her eyes, she smiled.
“My lady, when you wake, what is our plan then? Did you have an idea to stay here?” Yawning, she told him that she thought she’d be better off here than anywhere else. “Mayhap. But should you like to travel a bit, that would be good too. We could keep ahead of the men who would want you to fight for them.” “You could be right. I’ll speak of it with you when I rise.” Yawning again, she adjusted the rocks that covered her, disturbing the small creatures that had bedded down before her. “Tinsel, you are my one and only friend…you know that, do you not? I have no need for others in my life, save you.”
“I thank you for that, my lady. But you have no one else in your life because you have a sword at the ready when anyone gets close. Think of the friends we might have should you not be in competition all the time.” She laughed, as did he. “We are good for each other, neither of us needing much. We have all that we can carry because I was gifted a pocket, and when we are fighting, we are stronger than the others and can live for another day.” Living another day did not have as much appeal to her as it did him. When she’d had her family around, a place she could go and be loved, it had been her greatest joy. Now…well, now there wasn’t much for her to be happy about. She did her job, and did it well, then rested until someone else found her. There would never be death for her.
Bryn could weaken to the point where she would need to hibernate, but not die. It was what made her so sought after. Wounds that she received in the line of duty—for one king or another—had been so horrendous that she would be down for several months…once a whole year. But death, as had claimed her family, her sisters, and brother, hadn’t been her right. “Is the king aware of what you did to your last master?” Bryn told Tinsel that he more than likely knew. “Yes, you could be right on that. Your…. My lady, if you don’t mind me saying so, you were very violent toward him and his men. Not that I blame you…I loved your family as well. But if he had seen only a bit of what I did in the end, he might not have you coming around to…. He might not have wanted your help.”
“Nay. Like everyone, he only wants me for my sword, so I will do this. He thinks that I will not; it was there, in his head, that I’d not do this for him. So, I will, just because of that. But a book? How does he think it will be needed to rebuild a castle? I think he only jests me.” Sleep was getting harder to fight, so she stopped. “Tinsel, when I wake, we’ll go on a grand adventure, you and me. We’ll go and see the world.” “Yes, I should like that.” His voice sounded so sad that she wanted to ask him what the matter was. But sleep took her, as profoundly as the magic had from the king and queen. When she woke, Bryn lay very still. She didn’t know where she was, what time of the day it was, or what she’d find when she moved out of her hiding place. There were voices…she could hear them, but didn’t understand what they were saying. It wasn’t until Tinsel spoke that she calmed a little. “You have been asleep, my lady, for more than a few days.” She asked him how long in the same whispered voice that he had used. “A decade. No more than that, I think.”
“A decade? You are sure?” He said that he was, very much so. “I don’t understand. How was I to rest for that long of time? I was not wounded.” “I know not, my lady warrior, but I was beginning to worry some.” He appeared in front of her, his voice still very low. “There are others above us. They fight even now. Should you rise up, there is a chance that one of them will claim you. I think you should not join them. Both of them will want you, and nothing will be solved as they fight for your sword.” “I shall stay here then.” He thought that was a good idea. “Tinsel, I have been here for a decade. Yet I feel as if I have only rested but a moment. What did the king do to me?” “As I have said, I know not. But I have some sad news, my lady. He is dead. As is his lady wife.” Her heart broke for the couple. While she didn’t understand them, she had liked them a little. “The castle is in ruin. The townspeople still fight over the lands left unattended. There is much fighting between neighbors, and even families. It is not a time that we should be in. After all this time, there is no one to rule, and I fear for all.”
“The child of the king, has someone saved it?” He said that he hadn’t heard of anyone that claimed the child, or any word if it had lived through the fire. “This might be all for naught, Tinsel. Their child might not have lived for me to give this book to. Whatever will happen to him should he be out there?” “He will come, this I know. The king said that he could see into the future, and he would have seen that his child lived.” She nodded and asked about the ability to move out of her place. “Let me check for you. I am glad to have you awake now. I have seen so much. I have even worked on my singing for you. I know a great many tunes now to lull you to rest.” When she was finally free from her sleeping place, she knew that she’d been not just hibernating, but she had been becoming more. She was stronger than ever. Her armor was thicker on her body, and she could hide it with just a thought. Changing her appearance had been easy for her before, but now she only had to think of something and it was changed. There wasn’t even a drain on her magic to hold herself in another form.
Looking at Tinsel, she asked him what she needed to know. Anything that would keep them from being claimed right away. “Everything, my lady. The castle is indeed fallen. There was much fighting and deaths. I have seen so much while you lay in your slumber.” She told him she was sorry. “No need for that. You have become more than before, haven’t you? And I think that good, for not just you, but for all mankind, should they survive this. It is terrible. But you are well?” “Yes. The magic of the king and queen together has made me able to rest less, I think. Even my sword is stronger. I can feel my blood rushing over me, making me stronger still. But they are dead. I thought…well, I assumed that when they were killed my magic would go with them.” He flew up to her shoulder and sat down. “We should leave this place, Tinsel. I do not want to be caught up in a battle that I know nothing about.”
As they made their way through the woods and beyond, all she could think about was the child that had not lived. Just as she was moving toward a home of some worth, she saw the children in the yard and watched them for a bit. They were big boys, all three of them, and she wondered who they belonged to. Turning away to make her way to the next town over, she was seen by another of the boys, this one smaller than the others. He didn’t speak to her, just stared. Realizing that he could only see what she wanted him to—a woman, not the warrior that she was—Bryn moved away from him and the house to find a safer place. But his face, the one that looked up at her with such innocence, made her heart twist up in pain. Her brother had such a look when he’d been alive. Paul had been her friend and her brother. She’d loved her sisters as well, but they were such little girls, all of them worried for their hair or some such thing. But Paul had been someone that she could talk to, come to when she needed a hug. One that didn’t care if she mussed him up with mud or more. Bryn thought that she’d miss him the most. He was the best little boy she’d ever known. It took them four days to travel to the next village over. There was great strife all over, people wanting to come to the lands and take them over. No one could…there was magic all around the place. But she knew that someday, someone would come and break it down, and she wanted nothing to do with it but handing him the book. If he still lived. “My lady, how about here?”
They were far away from the ruined castle, yet could still see smoke curling from the smaller fires that had been homes of the villagers. Even after all this time, the fires that burnt there had not stopped burning. “I can get us some dinner and we can see about a home for us. Temporary, of course, but it will be nice to rest for a bit. And to have a roof over our heads. It will be better than the stone you laid upon, don’t you think?” Bryn had forgotten that he’d been awake when she wasn’t, watching over her so that no one would bother her. He could have awoken her, she knew this, but he hadn’t so that she could be ready. Ready for what, she didn’t know, but Bryn knew that something or someone would come soon. “This is fine.” He nodded and set to work finding dinner. While he was gone she thought of a little house, just big enough for the two of them, and was surprised when it started to build for them. The ground moved, the trees felled themselves for the walls. Furniture was built for them, as well as a bed and a table. And when Tinsel returned, she told him what she’d done.
“The magic of the king and queen. It was said that they could work the elements when they needed. They must have passed some along to you. This is good. We’ll be safe here for a while.” He took the berries into the home and came out smiling. “You might have thought of your empty belly too. There is much in the way of foodstuffs. You have done well, my lady. And I, for one, will enjoy the fresh flowers that are set upon the table for me.”
Bryn helped him with the house, moving things around to the way they wanted. She put magic around the place too, to keep others from finding them. She thought she could live here forever when they settled in the bed that night, but knew that she’d not be able to. Bryn needed to keep moving or else she would be captured. And as much as she wanted to use her new powers, her new sword too, she wasn’t ready to shed any more blood just yet. There had been enough of it for years to come, she thought. The next morning, she was in the kitchen having some tea when her little friend came by to see her. He was commenting on the lovely home when she remembered something. Turning to him, she asked. “Tinsel, you have the book still.
He patted his pocket. “Good. We’ll set up a plan, a pack to grab when we need to move, and we’ll keep atop it too, so that we never lose it. Should we do that, I don’t know what will happen to the world ahead. I think we should load your pocket too. With foodstuff that cannot spoil. A few wraps for bandages as well. Not too heavy for you, but enough to get us started if we have to go quickly.” “I will hold it all, my lady. And keep it safe. This is a good plan. I shall work on some meat to dry, as well as some herbs for our sup should we run.” He sounded so sure that she wanted to ask him why he was. Tinsel wasn’t ever sure about anything. Even if rain was falling upon his head while he stood there, he would doubt his own mind. “Shall I make us a meal?” As before, she let it go. Bryn might well talk to him later about it, but for now her belly was growling at its emptiness, and she wanted to look around. With so much going on, there was a quiet that made her nervous. She did wonder, too, when the castle would be rebuilt. She wanted to get this over with for the king. They talked for a long while, him telling her what he’d seen, how he’d kept her safe. She was sure that some of it was less than what he said, but she didn’t mind. Bryn doubted greatly that he’d slayed an army of men in her absence, as well as caught large fish with his bare hands. But she loved this little man, and he had kept her safe. She just hoped that she could keep him equally as safe in the coming years.
Tholan had made a grave mistake. He had thought his charge dead and had taken her before it was her time, causing a rift in her family’s timeline. He knew he deserved to die for his mistake but was given instead a thousand years of solitude to reflect on his mistake.
Parker Brooks loved her da, and when he was arrested for robbery and murder, a crime he wasn’t even physically able to commit, she confessed to it to keep him out of jail. Parker spent ten years in prison for a crime neither of them had committed. Her da died while she was behind bars.
Fresh out of prison, Parker was introduced to the Mystics. They were a loud and boisterous bunch, and a bit much for her to take. Seeking solitude, Parker met Tholan, a Mystic she could relate to and let her guard down. When she fell asleep, Tholan could see the demon of her nightmares and knew that she was in major trouble.
Her stepmother had sold Parker’s soul to a demon, and he was there to collect. But Parker wasn’t going to take this laying down. With Tholan at her side, Parker would conquer Hell to fix this.
Riss has been around since the beginning of time and watching his charges be born, grow up, and die has taken a toll on him. Until lately, being a Protector has always been enough… The Archangel Michael, Riss’s mentor and superior, decides with the help of their “Boss” to change things up a bit―like the rest, he doesn’t want to lose one of his best Protectors. Riss is assigned to guide and protect Kala. Riss is not happy about the changes and hopes this is his last assignment as a Protector before he can quit and live his last year on Earth and die.
She has nothing left to lose―except her life…
Kala has lost everything: her family as a child, her job, and now her apartment. She is also having weird dreams that she can’t quite remember…dreams revolving around a single white feather. Kala’s sexual fascination with the feather brings forth the most gorgeous man she’s ever seen―Riss. He came for his feather―he can feel everything she does with it throughout his body.
Sex with a human is forbidden and Riss has never even considered it―until now.
A madman, suffering from a delusional fantasy, has set his sights on Kala. He has already killed and will kill again. She will be his or suffer the consequences…
And Riss has been forbidden to interfere…
“She is not going to be my wife. In any way, Riss.” Riss nodded as Agon started pacing again. “I want to touch her. Feel her body close to mine and kiss her. I have a need to taste her mouth to see if it tastes as good as I think it might. Then there is my body. I cannot control it around her. I run so hot and hard that I feel as if the world knows that I need her in ways that are not right.”
“She will taste better than you can ever dream of, and her body will give you pleasure in ways you cannot imagine.” Agon stared at him for several seconds. “But you cannot touch her. She is your charge. If you do not wish to have her as your wife, then you must not touch her in any way. If you do…if you do, my friend, then there will be no turning back. For the touch of the woman you are to spend your days with will haunt you in ways that will make you want to end your life in order to be with her. Trust me on this. I am well aware of how your body will crave her, and you will stop at nothing to have her again and again.”
“I do not want her.” Riss nodded and could see that Agon was lying to him as much as he was himself. “She is beautiful and stubborn, but I do not want her. But I fear that it might be too late for me.”
Galin knows it’s his turn and he isn’t having any part of it. He makes no bones about making it clear to Boss either that he both knows what he is up to and isn’t going to cooperate. He doesn’t now or ever want a wife.
“This boy you are going to protect is somewhat of a problem child. He has had a great deal thrown at him, but—”
“Boy?” Boss nodded and frowned. “No, I’m sorry, but it should be a woman, not a boy. I’m not…you’re going to assign me my wife to care for. I don’t want one, but I know it should be female. What is this about?” He pushed the file back at Michael.
“You want a wife? It was my understanding that you have no wish to be wed. Am I correct on that?” Galin nodded and looked at the file with the picture of a young boy on it. He appeared to be in his early teens maybe, but he wasn’t much older than that. “Galin? Do you wish for me to reassign you? Do you have no desire to help this young man?”
“I thought I was going into the rotation to find me a wife. The way that you did for Riss and Agon.” He looked up at Boss and Michael, who had summoned him today. “I had thought that the Mystic’s were a way for you to get rid of us all, and marrying us off was better than having us die. I’m…I’m not sure what’s going on now.”
Dusty McGee has just lost her sister to horrific accident and finds herself saddled with a very angry young nephew to raise. Now, some self-proclaimed protector, Galin, tells her that although he doesn’t want to marry her he would very much like to take her to his bed. She’s had about all that she can stand.
Markum has set his sights on taking the boy to his realm, convinced this is the alleged boy the demons have been searching for, and Dusty is an added bonus…
Reyna Sharp, Renie to her friends, just wanted to work out the time she had left alone, with no one bothering her. When she was a baby her mother had given her away in a Faustian deal with a demon. She had until her twenty-fifth birthday then she was supposed to spend eternity in Hell.
Arryn was next on the list of Mystics to take a mate. He had just lost another charge, and wasn’t up for anymore heartache. He didn’t think his heart could take being attached to a mate only to lose her in a few short months…
The war between good and evil had gone on since the beginning of time. But even the underworld has rules…rules that aren’t meant to be broken…
Once he’s kissed her, there’s no turning back… No matter how hard he tries, Arryn can’t stay away, and the more Renie pushes him away, the more he fights to keep her. Can love really conquer all?
Jennifer Hale had been in the hospital handcuffed to the bed for five days. The winged man standing guard had not left her side since she’d been brought in, and the fact that no one else could see him gave her the willies.
The man robbing the diner where Jenny worked had shot her in the leg, and then she had killed him with his own gun. It was kill or be killed, but the local authorities hadn’t seen it that way—until now. They were releasing her and as of now she had no job, and no home to return to.
Valyn the Slayer was just tired. He had just one desire, to be put to sleep for an eternity. Ever since he’d lost his small charge, the simple act of living seemed too much for him. He had only looked away for a moment, now she was gone, and he blamed himself. And now “Boss” was telling him his mate was here….
“She’s a lovely girl. Broken too, if you want to know the truth of it. Perhaps you’ve heard her mentioned. She’s the woman that saved that diner full of patrons about a week ago.” He’d heard of it but didn’t know her name. “The bill collectors are hounding her hourly. However, they are not putting the calls through to her room at the hospital for fear of upsetting her. She’s made some very good friends while staying there.”
“What happened to her?” Boss told him what she’d done and how she’d been shot. “And the bill collectors? Why are they hounding her? I’m assuming that she has debt, but it’s more than that, isn’t it?”
“Yes, she’s now homeless and jobless. Also, with this other business of the credit card, there is no way that she can make anything work out right for her. Not without a great deal of help.” Valyn sat down on the wire wheel that had been left behind when the house had been rewired. “Valyn, you told me that you were broken and why you thought so. But this woman, she can help you in ways that I cannot.”
“You could if you would just put me to sleep.” Boss shook his head. “What if I don’t go and see her? Don’t take her as my mate? Because I don’t think my life could be any better to have her with me. I’m not good around people anymore. I don’t want to have someone depending on me for their wellbeing. It’s too much.”
Tholan watched his charge as she acted and danced on the stage. He knew better than to try and keep up with her—she was beautifully fast skimming over the stage. But she was stunning, and she knew the steps to the music like she did her own name. When the play she was acting in came to an end, he knew that she’d have to go to the back room and change quickly so that no one, not one of the other actors, knew that she was a female, not a male just as they were. Women did not act on the stage, nor did they sing and dance as if they were born to do so.
The men of this time thought it to be dangerous to have a woman act—which to Tholan was just silly. Some of them could and did play better and act better than their male counterparts. But Elizabeth was determined to be out there, showing her skills and having fun. And her father loved that she enjoyed acting as much as he did watching her perform. When they had taken their final bow, he watched the others around her, making sure that none of them harmed her, and did not guess what secret she was hiding from them. As they walked home, he encouraged her more, telling her that she was brilliant.
Her face showed so much happiness for what she had done. The streets were dirty. Even though there were piles of refuse and spoiled food along her way, she never turned up her nose at those that were digging through it. Some of the patrons of the stage had given her and the other actors hunks of bread and cheese. Even though her father and she could have used a bit of it too, she always shared her wealth with those that she knew needed it more than her. Her way of thinking was, she had someone to love her and a roof over her head.
Tholan wouldn’t rest his protection of her until they were at her home. Her father was a good man, even though he would get into his cups a little too much. But he loved his daughter and the coin that she would bring to him nightly. They were a good pair, the two of them. While he’d never say a word to anyone, Tholan did think that he was in love with the beautiful Bethy, as her father called her. Supper was the hard, crusty bread that she’d saved a hunk of from today, with tomatoes sliced thick and salted heavily. There was broth too, with just a little of the potato that they’d had last evening, and a bit of fish, left over from the supper the night before that. It smelled good, he supposed, but it wasn’t something that he’d eat. Poor didn’t describe the way these two lived.
They did have food once or maybe twice a day. There was always tea, though there were times when she’d use the leaves over too many times. And wine for her father. It helped, her father told her, with the pains in his legs. Tholan knew from her father’s protector that he wasn’t long for this world. His legs, both of them in sad condition, were rotting off at the knee. And as there was no coin for the doctor, they lived their life as well as they could. Taking her father out on the stoop, a chore for one as small as herself, Bethy sat with her father, telling him of all the things that had been in the play. They were the
same stories, her changing them up a little for freshness, and she told him that no one, not a single person, knew who she was. “I’d hate to think what they’d do to someone as delicate as my little flower.” Her father touched his old and callused hand to her cheek. “I’ve heard tell that they stone a woman who would dare breach their rules. You be careful, my Bethy. I should just die without you by my side.” “I am as safe as you are locked away all day whilst I am gone. And if they find out, I think—nay, I know—that they’d do nothing more to me than to push me aside and have a man take over my role.
” She laughed—it sounded like tinkling bells to Tholan. “Though I doubt anyone could do a good job of it. They all sing like men, and the voice that I have is much lighter on the ears.” At bedtime she tucked her father into his cot. Then she did what she did every night to keep them safe—Bethy put a large stone in front of the door and stoked up the fires. Sleep would come easily for her, Tholan knew.
It was exhausting to her to keep up with acting, as well as helping her father around. The next morning, Tholan was there when she rose up. He whispered to her that it was going to be a grand day. That she would be happy though it was raining hard. Going with her to her father’s bed, Tholan saw her shake him hard, and when he didn’t move, Tholan looked at Michael, who appeared in the room with them. “He has passed. I’ve come to take him home, as his protector has been assigned to someone else.” Michael came to get all those ready to pass. It was a difficult job—he was forever busy in his role—but Tholan was more concerned with his own charge. She was taking the death of her father very hard. When the undertaker came to take her father’s body away, Bethy cried harder as he was put in a wagon with the other dead. Tholan’s heart hurt for her. He knew that her own had to be broken badly—her father was all that she’d had in the world. It was a hard time for so many now, food being in such short supply.
The diseases ran through the people quickly and without care to age, or how the ones left behind were to deal with it. There wasn’t any money for a proper burial for most, and Bethy’s father was no different. As she walked behind the wagon, she kept telling her father how much he had meant to her, how she was going to miss him so much. Tholan was beside her with each step, telling her that she’d be all right, that time would heal this wound for her. He could not touch her, could not do what he wanted to do more than anything. And that was to take her into his arms, under his wings, and hold her until the world, her world, was a much better place.
That evening he tried to tell her not to go to the theater—a grand name for such a hovel—and that they would not miss her for one night. But he also feared that if she did not go, she would sit in the house and not eat or drink. The things that she did there, on the small stage, made her happy, and for that, he supposed, it would be a good thing for her to do. Her face was swollen, and Tholan told her to say that she’d had a cold. No one would question her about her father—they all thought her to live alone. That like them, she had no one. When she dressed herself in her garb, Tholan told her how lovely she
looked, whispered that there were none prettier than her, and their voices were not nearly as nice. The play went on.
Mistakes were made—they happened every night. But when it was over, instead of going to the pub with them, to celebrate another night of merriment, Bethy gathered her things, all of them, and made her way home. The roads were slightly cleaner than they had been on the way in. The rain, hard and driving at times, had washed the worst of the dirt and trash away. But it was slippery, the stones and mud making her step very cautiously as she walked along. The wagon for the dead was making its way along the streets again. She moved to walk to the other side of the road to avoid it. But as she was making her way across the wet stones, she lost her footing and tumbled down. Tholan was reaching for her—to do what, he had no idea—when she sat up. “I have fallen.” The people roaming the streets just stared at her while she laughed, and when Bethy stood up, still holding onto the wagon that was near her, she started crying. “I wish it to be me in this cart this night.” Her hand came from the cart to her head. That was when Tholan noticed that her hand was covered in blood.
Standing close to her, trying to see if she’d been hurt badly enough to need help, she looked at him. Tholan stood very still when he thought her eyes were staring directly at him. “Hello.” He nodded. “I’ve fallen down. I think that I’ve rattled my head. Do you suppose you could help me along? I don’t wish to be alone tonight. I might join my father, and I do not wish to die alone.” Before he could tell her that he had her, someone moved through him. A man, tall and big, grabbed her hand and tossed her to the road. The blood that poured from her head this time was pooling beneath it. Scooping her up so that her soul could be taken now, Tholan made his way to the other realm. He didn’t want her to hurt, but it was much too late for that. As soon as he summoned Michael, he knew that something more had happened. “What have you done, Tholan?” He explained to Michael that he’d brought her himself.
“But she wasn’t to die. Not yet, at least. She has many years to go. Children to birth. Generations to bring to the world. You have taken her too soon.” Boss came to see him as he stood there, her lifeless soul in his arms. He took her from him, his anger so strong that Tholan flinched back from him. The woman had not died, that was all that his mind could center on. “You have taken her too soon. Do you know the repercussions that you have caused this day? The things that have to be changed, children that will not be born? What will happen now, Tholan? What of the generations and generations of children that were to come from this woman and her husband?” He asked if she could be taken back. “Nay, it is much too late for that.
The man that you took her from, she was meeting him today. He would care for her in her need, and they would love like none other. You have done her and the world a misdeed that will be felt forever. You must explain to her what you have done.”
“I cannot.” Boss woke the soul in his arms. The woman looked at them all but didn’t say anything. “You must be able to take her back. You are all powerful.” “In this, I cannot. You have— Words fail me on this. You must tell her what you have done to her.” Tholan backed away. His own heart was broken too. “Michael, take care of him. I shall have to see what I can do to rectify this for her. But the timeline for her, it is forever broken.” When he disappeared with Bethy, Tholan lay on the ground, his wings spread out over him. It was his death that awaited him. Michael would surely kill him now. And when nothing happened, he looked up and saw that not only had Michael drawn his sword, but he looked ready to use it on him. “You must die as well.” Tholan nodded, his heart, his mind no longer able to function. “You have killed a human. One that was set to be the mother to a great many special people.
Do you have any idea what must be done to fix this? If there is even a fix?” “No, my lord, I do not. I thought her dead. There was so much blood under her. The man, he threw her to the road and he—” “His fingers slipped. He was helping her to rise. Her mate—that was her mate for all time, and you have done them all a misjustice, Tholan. All generations, not just theirs, will feel this forever. You deserve to die.” “I do.” He waited for the blow, the one that would remove his head. It was no less than he deserved. Tholan thought of the woman. Bethy was no longer. He had no idea how Boss was going to make it so that she could go back, but it would never be the same for her, or for the man who had only wanted to help her. Michael ordered him to stand and Tholan, confused, did so. “You will go to your cell and stay there. No contact with anyone, not on Earth or in this realm, for a period of one thousand years.
And when you return, if I allow it, you will not be a protector as you have been until such time that our Lord feels you have paid the price for what you have done. Go. Get yourself out of my sight. You have nothing to say that I wish to hear.” Michael, his friend, turned his back on him. It hurt him more, Tholan thought, than if Michael had removed his head. Willing himself to his cell, he laid upon his cot. His life, his life as a protector, was finished. ~*~ Thousands of years later PJ and her da loved watching old movies—the older the better. And when there was a marathon with their favorite actors, they would binge on them until they were cross-eyed exhausted. But they had each other, and they were happy. And PJ loved her da more than she did anyone in the world. “Angela said that she was going to go and get her hair done. That was two days ago. I wonder what sort of fluff and cut they do on dogs such as herself.” They both laughed. Da had married Angela six years ago, when PJ had been a teenager.
just tolerated her, both of them. “I will have to do something about her soon, I think. She has made things difficult for me at the board.” “Like what?” PJ knew that she was to take over the company when her da retired— if he ever retired. “I was in there yesterday and got caught up on the paperwork, by the way. And you should know that I’ve also invested in the school that we talked about.” He nodded. Da, Parker Daniel Brooks, was a hell of a businessman. And in turn, she had learned from the best. The business that he’d purchased for a song before she’d been born had turned into a multibillion-dollar industry, leaving them both room to make more investments and even more money for them—not that they needed it. But they were very generous with it, and that was why they continued to make more. “I guess she told Milton, and you know how he can be, that when I passed away, she’d be taking over and he’d be gone. He told me that he didn’t think she’d do a good job, not as good as you would.” PJ was already shaking her head. “You have to take it, PJ. You want her to spend all our hard-earned money on getting her nails done and other men?” “No, but I also have enough on my plate for now. And besides, Da, you’re going to be around for a very long time.” They both laughed. When the doorbell rang, neither of them moved.
“You and I, we have plenty of time for us to make any kind of decisions on what is going to happen. You won’t leave me anytime soon, will you?” “I hope not.” PJ stood up when someone cleared their throat. It was the police, and they looked like they meant business. “Can we help you, officers?” “Mr. Brooks, we’re here to arrest you for armed robbery and murder.” PJ looked at her father, a man confined to a wheelchair since she’d been born. “You have the right to remain—” “Hang on there, young man. I don’t know what’s happening here, but as you can tell, I’ve no way of robbing anyone, much less holding a gun. I don’t own one, and wouldn’t know how to use it if I did.” But they took him in, with her following the cruiser closely. Angela had come in just as they were leaving, and was pissed as well. Booking him for a crime that he’d not done, nor could possibly have committed, took nearly three hours. By then they’d shuffled her da from one end of the station to the next. Each place they’d gone, someone had asked him about the chair, and every time they told them that he’d been in it for years. The next morning, they told her that he was going to go to trial. It seemed to her that things were being rushed through, and Da’s attorney was trying his best to get them to understand that her da didn’t do this. All the while, PJ stayed by his side until they took him to his cell.
“They’re ramming this through, PJ, and I haven’t any idea what I’m supposed to do. And if they’re doing this to him now, I can’t imagine what they’re going to do to him during the trial. I cannot get anyone to tell me where this thing occurred or how it happened. I’m worried for his safety.” Joseph March, her father’s attorney, looked as if
he’d aged several years over the last twenty-four hours. “It’s as if they’re trying to blame this on him for some reason that I can’t fathom.” “Will he go to prison?” Joseph told her that it was looking more and more like that all the time.
“You mean before the trial. They’ll get him to prison and what? Forget about him? This is all Angela, isn’t it? She’s doing this so that she’ll somehow end up with Da’s money.” “I didn’t want to say that before, honey. But to me this has the markings of someone desperate.” He looked around and then leaned into her. “I don’t know what is going on with her, but your father told me that he thinks she’s put out a hit on him. If this is her way of getting him alone, then she couldn’t have worked it out better for herself. And if he’s convicted, she can perhaps get out of the pre-nup that she had to sign. She’ll be able to say that he lied to her or some such nonsense, and that will be the end of Brooks.” Her father had worked hard on making his way in the world. She knew as well as anyone how much he’d given up, how much he’d scrimped and saved to make this work for the family. And now this. Looking around the jail, she asked Joseph how many years he thought her father would get—if he were to make it to the trial. “The max he could get for murder and armed robbery is twenty years, I think. I don’t know how they think to make this stick, but then, this entire thing has me baffled. The least amount? I don’t know. Four to ten?” She nodded and thought of what she had done already and what she’d have to give up. “What are you thinking? You thinking that he’ll make it?” “I did it.
” Joseph asked her what she’d done. “This thing. The thing that they have on Da. If I confess, then he can’t be charged. If I confess, then he’s free to find out what happened and see if Angela is a part of it.” “No. You can’t do that, PJ. If your father got wind of what you’re thinking, he’d bust your bottom. No. That’s a terrible idea. Don’t even think that again.” PJ nodded and told Joseph to listen to her. “I’m younger than him and able to get away should someone come after me in this place. And Da has a good attorney in you. The two of you can work together and set things right.” Joseph told her again that this was a bad idea. “Then if you have a better one, I’m all for it. This will have to work, Mr. March. If not, then I’m going to lose more than just my da’s business; more importantly, I’ll lose him. And I just can’t do that.” “Let me talk to him first. See what he thinks.” PJ told him no, that if he did, he’d talk him out of it. “PJ, this is not a good idea. You’re only twenty-three years old. You have a good head on your shoulders and have become a good attorney in this short amount of time. If you go to prison, you’ll lose that as well.” “I’m going to save my dad. The details in this, they won’t matter because Da doesn’t have what it takes to live the life of a prisoner. I’ll just confess and let the chips fall where they might. You and my dad, you can get me out. If not, then he’ll be all right and I’ll come home to him when it’s all said and done. That’s what has to be done, Mr. March. We both know that there isn’t any way that he can survive this. He’s too frail.
And being in a wheelchair, they’ll hurt him with that as well. Please. You have to help me with this.” It took less time than she had thought it would for her to be jailed. Her father was released and barred from seeing her until the trial. Everyone, including her stepmother, was pissed that she’d confessed. And confessing in front of a news camera had spoiled a great many plans, she thought. The trial was just as she’d been told it would be—quick, no evidence. The witnesses that the police presented kept saying that they had seen a large man running away from the scene after the place was robbed. No one had a name for the man that she’d allegedly killed, and there wasn’t a body. Things like this, whatever they were doing, were going to be something for the books one day. Four days after she confessed, not only had she been found guilty of the crimes, but she’d been shipped to prison. Her da cried during the entire trial. PJ knew as soon as the trial began that there wasn’t going to be any saving her. She was going to go away for a long time.
Ten years. Ten years for a murder there wasn’t a body for.
Ten years for a robbery that she didn’t do, as well as ten years of life without her da. PJ had been fucked.
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 round house slap with her foot to his head. He went to the floor in a thud, breaking the end table behind him.
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 had been sitting in a cramped car for five days. It really wasn’t restrictive— her dad had always liked the bigger cars. And when he found one that suited him, he would drive it until there was nothing but rust, spit, and tape holding it together. This particular rust bucket was newer—well, at least it wasn’t too bad…yet. As soon as he pulled into the hotel parking lot, she nearly leaped from the car to stretch.
“You sure do creak a lot.” She turned and looked at her dad, ready to blast him for saying such a thing. That was when she realized that he was talking to the car and not her. “But you got us here all right, so I guess that’s fine too.” She would never, for as long as she lived, understand men and their relationships with cars. Or for that matter, sports. Misty loved football. It was like the only thing she could watch that would relax her.
And that was only because she could scream and throw things at the television and no one got hurt. She took her football seriously. And her team was Ohio State. Misty went into the office of the hotel and signed her and her dad into a room by using a false identity. Going to different hotels for the past few days, using fake names, was the only way she knew to be assured of their safety. And that of her brother too. She’d also been using cash since they’d left their home, as well as random names. Dad had had a bit of money at the house, and she had gone by her own on the way here and taken out all the cash she had in the bank, as well as any she had stashed around the house. That was one of the many things that she’d learned from Sean.
“Always have a backup. Not just a backup plan, but things that will make the backup work. I mean in everything you do. Money stashed where you can easily get to it. Get a couple of burner phones. A set of your car keys someplace other than your home, as well as water. You cannot be on the run without that.” She laughed and asked him if he thought she was going to be in trouble. “I’d like to say yes because you are trouble, but that’s not what I mean right now. I’m being serious. Someday you might be, you might have to run, and those things will get you closer to being safe.” Misty had done what he’d told her.
Not only did she have several thousand dollars that she could grab and go, but all the other things that he’d told her as well. Misty had also added jerky to her things. She knew that she couldn’t go far on an empty stomach, and she was forever forgetting to eat. “You want to get a pizza? Or go for a burger?” Her dad was enjoying this trip. Zigzagging across the state to keep ahead of the guys after Alex would be fun, she thought, if it wasn’t for the fact that it wasn’t for the fun of exploring, but a necessity. Dad was terrified, as was she, about her brother, but they were both trying to make the best of it. And knowing that he was safe helped a great deal. “I’m all for a burger, and not to eat it in the car.” “Yeah, me too. I want to check in with Sean. Let him know that we’re close and then we’ll go.” Dad smiled and said that he’d drive. “All right. And Dad, I love you.”
“I love you too, pumpkin. And I also wanted to tell you how proud I am of you.” She was tired, she told herself. That was why his words affected her so deeply. Instead of standing there like a fool sobbing about her daddy’s words, she picked up one of the burner phones and turned it on. You do know that you can speak to me like this, don’t you? Misty smiled. Why are you wasting your phone on calling someone that you only have to reach for? It sort of freaks my dad out. He understands what you are and that I trust you. But the mind talking thing, it makes him feel weird. But he’s in the car, waiting for me, so I can tell you that we’ve stopped at a hotel on Route Forty. It’s called Sweet Dreams. He asked her where she was in the hotel. If you mean, where am I standing, just outside room six. We’ve not gone into our rooms as yet. Why? He was suddenly standing in front of her. Backing up a bit, he was so close, two more people appeared near him, and none of them looked all that happy. Or maybe it was their natural state. The woman started barking orders almost as soon as she appeared. It was then that she noticed there were several more people coming out of the small group of trees behind the place. “You’re in trouble.” She nodded to him.
“We’re here to get rid of anything that can place you here. Someone wants your ass but bad. It’s a nice one, by the way, but just not my type.” “Are you trying to tell me something and you’re buttering me up for the bad news?” He nodded. “Is Alex all right?” “Yes. But you’re not. Nor is your dad. We’re here to erase you from here.” She asked him what was going on. “I honestly don’t know yet, and neither do my sisters-inlaw. The men that are following the two of you, they only have one thing in their head—get you or one of your other family members and take them back to the boss. We don’t know who that is either. And Alex, I’m sorry to say, is going to be their target. He’s the easiest to capture. And they’re sure that you’d do anything to keep him safe.” “I would.” He nodded and looked over her shoulder. Turning, she saw her dad there. Also, there was a lot of work being done, some of it she only just now understood. There were wolves pissing on cars as well as the hotel room they’d not been in yet. She looked at her dad, who looked confused and concerned. “Dad, this is my friend, Sean Crosby.
I’ve told you about him. They’re marking our things with their scent so that we cannot be detected as being here.” “Thank you, daughter. I was a might clueless. And you, young man, I want to tell you that I’m indebted to you. You surely saved my son, and I will be forever working on repaying you for that.” It never occurred to her dad to think that calling Sean a young man was well off the mark. But like her, he was stressed too. “What do we—? That guy is taking our wheels. I do hope that he isn’t stealing it. Is he?” “No, sir. He’s taking it to my brother’s house. He has a large barn that we’re going to store it in. And there are pack on the land that are going to mark that place up as well.” She looked up at Sean. “You’re going to travel with me. And your dad is going to go with my brother, Jason. All right?”
“Yes. You’re better at this cloak and dagger shit than I am. By the way, I had to ditch my real phone. Do you have a landline that I can use to get some work done? Someone I work with has been trying to get in touch with me since we left.” He said that he did. “Good.
I would love for you to meet him. He’s more persnickety. Nothing ever changes with him. It’s fucking annoying.” “He sounds like a real winner. Are you ready?” She nodded and closed her eyes. Misty knew what to expect, and when she got to wherever he was taking her, she’d be sick for a little bit. In no time, they were standing in a very lovely living room. “Steady now. Let me get you to a seat, then you can sit for a moment.” It didn’t take long, his way of travel, but it was hard on a girl. As soon as she had her bearings, her brother came to give her a hug. Standing up so that she could make sure that he wasn’t hurt, she let the tears fall freely from her eyes. Alex was all right—that was all she could focus on right now. Her little brother was all right. Dad hugged him too when he arrived. He had taken to the way vampires travelled better than she had. Misty hugged them both. They were safe. She knew that if anyone or anything came their way, they were in a position to be as safe as they could be. There were several other people in the room with them. Misty had never met Sean’s family, but she could almost guess who they were. Sean had told her all about his family over the years, his brothers anyway, and she was glad to finally meet them. She only wished that it wasn’t an emergency that had brought them all together. “Everyone, this is Able and Misty Quartermain. Able, Misty, this is my family. From left to right, you have Jason and his wife, Jewel, Chase and Emerald next to them. Elliot and Hannah, and that’s Ryan, the youngest.” Misty looked for the fifth brother. Just then he walked into the room eating a thick sandwich of what smelled like roast beef. “And that hog there is my brother Grayson.” The sandwich was still poised halfway to his mouth as he stared at her. The plate in his other hand held another one. He kept watching her like he’d rather be having her for a meal. The amount of hunger in his eyes scared her enough to stand behind Sean.
The low growl coming from Grayson brought her not only out from behind Sean, but right up in Grayson’s face. “You growl at me again, you jackass, and I’ll tear your face off. I’ve had it up to my fucking ass with men that think they can growl at me and I’ll jump.” She poked him in the chest then. “I don’t jump for any man, woman, or child. Do you understand me? I’m not going to keep my desk cleaned off when I’m working, and I most certainly will not go on vacation when you do just so things can be the same as usual. I’m my own person, not a puppet with strings that you’re going to use.” She realized what she’d done before they started clapping. Misty had mixed in her trouble at work with this man, and she was sorry for it. However, Grayson didn’t seem to think it was worth applauding at. He just kept staring at her—no longer with hunger, but with anger. It was so hot coming off him that she took several steps back. Grayson countered her, coming toward her even as she backed up more. Handing his plate and
sandwich to the man next to him, he kept coming. Putting up her hand, she told him to stop. “Who?” She asked him what he meant.
“Who did those things to you? I’m assuming that he’s still alive. Otherwise you’d not be here.” “It doesn’t matter. Why are you crowding me? Stop where you are.” He did, but now she was backed against the wall and her body was drenched in not just fear, but excitement as well. “Can you back up?” He didn’t, of course, and she was tempted to hit him. But he only turned his head just enough to speak to Sean, not taking his eyes off her. Misty didn’t know exactly what was going on—she hoped not, anyway. But she was afraid that she did actually understand, and she was in more trouble than ever. “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 that was behind him. The room erupted in laughter. Misty was not only afraid but embarrassed as well. Leaving the room, dragging Sean behind her, he told her that she had to let him go or he’d be dead. Stopping, she looked at her friend. “Please tell me that I’m wrong about his.” Sean backed away a few feet, then shook his head. “I don’t have time for his shit, Sean. I don’t even want to involve you guys at all, but I didn’t know what else to do.” “I know, honey, and I’m sorry. But Grayson is your mate. You can’t touch any of the males in the house until he touches you first.” She cocked her head at him, put her hands on her hips, and glared. “All you need to do now is tap your foot and you’d look just like you did in college.
” The women came out of the room and stood beside Sean. She hadn’t any idea what she was to do now, so she asked if there was a hotel that she could stay in. They shook their heads, and said it was much too late for that. “Fuck.” Jewel, she thought her name was, told her that was about right. “What the fuck am I supposed to do now? I don’t need this on top of all the shit that I have going on in my life. And I have to protect my brother. My dad too, since he has been drawn into this.” “He’s not the target. You are.” She looked at the woman she thought was Hannah. “I’ve been going over some of your cases—you’re good, by the way—and I found that you have opened up a can of shit that is supposed to have you dead. However, I can’t connect any of the dots to anyone you sent away. Not even parents of any of the deadbeats you won against.” “Why?” Grayson came out of the living room and she only glared at him. He leaned against the wall and didn’t come any closer. “You can’t get into my cases. They’re a part of the firm where I work.”
“I have ways.” She didn’t even bother asking her when Grayson came to stand by her and said that he was sorry. Misty ignored him for now. “Grayson is a good guy, if you can discount that he’s a Neanderthal. All of them are, as a matter of fact. But this thing with you, we’ll sit down after dinner and talk. There is a lot going on with you and your firm.” Misty moved to the front door and stopped when Grayson followed her, but she did notice that he kept his distance. Opening the front door, going out onto the front porch to just rock for a few minutes, Grayson came out too, and leaned against the railing in front of her. ~*~ She was furious. And beautiful. Grayson didn’t try to crowd her again but stood there watching her take angry strides to the chair. He might have pointed out that the rocker was old and rickety, but again, he thought he’d get further if he kept his mouth shut. “I’m your mate.” He nodded. “I know enough about your kind, as well as your family, to know that this is a done deal, no matter what I say or try to do. Isn’t it?” “Yes. If it helps you any, I’m as surprised by this as you are.
” She rocked harder, and the chair was inching its way to him. “May I ask you a favor? And I know you will have no trouble whatsoever telling me no, but I’d like for you to hear me out.” “All right. But I also reserve the right to tell you to fuck off again.” He told her it was a deal and asked if he could sit next to her. “Sure, but no touching yet. I’m still working a few things out in my head, and I do much better when I can think without distractions.” “I do that as well. I’m a loner, most of the time. Anyway, I’d like for you to move into my house with me.” She just stared at him, and Grayson could have gladly laid at her feet and let her abuse him. “Your family is welcome there as well. The house is an old one, and I’ve only just had it brought up to code. The kitchen is a mess, but it’s coming along. As I was saying, it’s a large house, with plenty of rooms so you’d never have to see me if you didn’t want. But I’d feel safer, until we can get this figured out, if you stay there.” “What’s so different that you think your house is better? I know that a hotel is out— too many people coming and going all the time. The hotel we were going to stay at, it looked like a stiff wind could have blown open the doors. Why your place and not, say, one of your brothers’ homes?” “I’d have to kill one of my family members, and I’d rather not.” She just stared off into the drive, and he wondered what she was thinking. He could have looked, but he didn’t want her not to trust him. “You and Sean, you’ve known each other for a while, I guess.” “Yes. He saved my life. Quite literally. I was nearly raped and left for dead one night after leaving work. Sean just happened to be in the right place to kill some men that were hell bent on having fun with me. I didn’t know until a few days later they weren’t human, but vampires like him.” Misty looked at him. “Like you all, I guess.”
“Yes, the men in the family are. We’re lucky enough to have a bit more too, as I’m sure he told you.
But the women, they’re not just human either. We have a faerie prince and princess, a dragon king and queen, as well as ice dragons that we can call to us for help. As well as the pack that roams all of our land.” Her rocking had slowed, and he paced his rocker with hers. “I was a fool earlier with you. I had my feet knocked out from under me, even before you did it.” “I’m sorry about that. Lately men have been giving me shit, and I’ve about had it.” She looked at him and he let her. There was something so profoundly heartwarming to have someone look at him like she was. “I’m an attorney. I’ve worked really hard at it too. The firm that I work for—worked for, I guess—they don’t think that women have any place in that business other than— Well, other than fucking their way to the top of them. I don’t play around.” “No, I know that.” She stared at him, then looked out over the drive. There was pack there, several of them as a matter of fact. “I don’t live far from here. After dinner, would you and your family like to come out and see the house? Like I said, it’s being worked on, extensively as a matter of fact. But the security system is state of the art, and the furniture is some that I’ve collected over the years.” Grayson decided not to bring up her job again, or the men she was working for. He wasn’t sure what she meant by the change in her job status, but he’d have Jewel—or better yet, Emerald—look into it for him. The company was going to pay if they didn’t play ball with whatever she wanted from them. “There are things about me that I’d like to tell you.
” She looked at him and he nodded. “I’m aware that you can tell that I’ve never had sex, but the reason why might make you laugh at me. Especially considering how I was treated at my job. I’m not going back there—I don’t think, anyway. I’ve only just decided that I think I could do better on my own.” “More than likely. Ryan, the one just younger than me, he practices law for us— well, practice is a comical term when you realize that he’s been practicing for centuries.” She nodded and leaned back in the chair, no longer rocking. “You said that you might make me laugh when I hear why you’re still a virgin. And you’re correct, I can smell that about you.” “I was saving myself for one man—you, I guess now. But I wanted it to be perfect when I married. I guess that is shot all to hell.” Grayson asked her why. “You have to survive with me only, correct? I mean, Sean told me a great deal about mates, and the way they go at sex like rabbits in heat.
” Grayson burst out laughing. For such a serious conversation, she was delightfully honest. When she smiled at him, it was as if she’d given him a rare glimpse of her. He’d bet anything that her life over the last several months was taking its toll on her. And now this. “We do like our sex. And yes, when you’re ready, we’ll have lots of it.” She just cocked a brow at him. “I don’t mean to be indelicate, but I’ve fed recently. I can go a bit longer before I want to sink my teeth into you and have a hell of an orgasm.”
Misty’s face brightened in embarrassment. They both turned when the front door to Jason’s home opened. Alex stepped out onto the porch and began signing to his sister. Misty was telling him what they were talking about, he supposed, so that he’d not feel left out. “He said that we’re to come in for dinner, but only if I can refrain from hitting you again.” She looked at him, then back at her brother as she answered him. “That remains to be seen. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it. Also, your father is on his way, and Jason wants to know if he can tell them that we’re a couple.” “If you don’t mind.” She said that she didn’t care either way, but she wasn’t easy. This too she signed to her brother, and his face heated up. “Does your brother read lips?”
“Ask him. And yes, he does, but I have been really hard on my brother. I bullied him into never being handicapped.” Alex laughed, then nodded. “He can read lips, but only if you’re looking at him. And mustaches muddle the words for him. Which is no problem here—none of you are sporting any.” Grayson could talk to Alex and did so, welcoming him to the family. Alex glanced at his sister as she made her way into the house, and then asked to speak to him. Grayson told him that he could, at any time. He sat down next to him. After telling Grayson everything that happened at the police station, Alex asked him why he’d not been arrested, or for that matter, why it hadn’t been put into the paper that he was missing. Grayson had an answer for him, but he wasn’t sure if he could be honest with him as he would with his sister. “Please do. Misty, she made sure that I was never handicapped, as she said, but she’s also made it so that I could become a part of the world. Most in my place have given up, only hang out with others like them—deaf and/or mute people. I have a few friends like me, but most of my friends are speaking and hearing people.” Grayson told him he was extremely lucky to have a sister like Misty. “I am. I don’t know what would have happened to me had she not been who she is. Also, even though I’m just human, if you hurt her in any way, I will grind you to dust. Understand?”
“Yes.” Grayson liked this young man and decided that he’d like for him to stay with them until he met his own mate. He thought he could learn a great deal from the younger man. “The reason that you’ve never been pursued or attached to what happened there is because you were never to have been arrested for that crime. I don’t know all the details yet—my sisters, the other women, they’ll have a better handle on this than me. But, like I told your sister, you were just the person that they were going to use to get to her. And you would have been killed had my family, mostly Sean, not stepped in and helped.” Alex sat there, not saying anything, and Grayson waited. Alex, like his sister, was a thinker. He thought that they might have gotten that from their mom. Their dad, Able, he tossed out ideas and threw them away like he was testing the grounds. They were a good family. And Grayson found himself thinking that he was going to enjoy getting to know all three of them, provided Misty didn’t kill him first.
Laughing, he went into the house with Alex. “I hope you’re hungry.” Alex nodded and rubbed his belly. “Well, don’t sit next to Elliot. He’s a pig and will take food from your plate if you’re not watching him.” Alex told him that he’d figured that out but thanked him. Yes, Grayson thought, he was really enjoying having a mate so far.
Micky had been alone since her fiancé had taken his own life, just days before they were to be married. The note he’d left had put all the blame on her. It was in his handwriting, but she wasn’t so sure that it was a suicide. She had her suspicions that it was staged to look that way, but the police were in a hurry to close the case and that was the end of it. So, Micky had packed up and moved to a small town in Ohio, took employment as a cashier in a grocery store, and kept to herself. She liked it better that way. No one else would die because of her.
Lucas Manning hated hospitals. His dragon hated hospitals even more. Only days after becoming an immortal, during a bank robbery, he took a bullet to the chest. By all rights he should have died. His doctor told him he was under too much stress as well and if he didn’t do something about it, immortal or not, he could be in some serious trouble.
Taking the doctor’s advice to heart, Lucas decided to make some serious changes in his life. Eating healthier was a smart change, so he went shopping.
When the man put his things on the line she was in, Micky told herself that she was going to quit at the end of her shift. There wasn’t any point in working much longer. And the sooner she got moved, the sooner— She realized that the man was staring at her oddly.
“I’m sorry. Did you say something to me?” He shook his head and she started ringing up his things. A health nut came to mind when she rang up salad makings, coconut milk, and vitamins. When she was finished and told him how much it came to, he stared at her as if he’d never seen a woman before. “Are you all right?”
“I am now. What’s your name?” She pointed to her name badge, thinking that he was off his noodle. “My name is Lucas Manning, and you’re my mate.”
Micky could have gone her entire life without those words.
Cooper Manning and his five brothers were true dragons. Centuries ago, when the humans had turned on their kind, their father sacrificed himself to save his sons by casting a powerful spell which allowed them to walk among the humans. Even centuries later, Cooper couldn’t seem to let go of the past and despised most humans.
Carson Langley was exhausted. After being forced to work thirty-six hours straight, she unwittingly complained to the new plant owner, now she knew she was fired. There was nothing left to do but go home and cry about it later.
Cooper was sent by his brother to retrieve the helpful woman and bring her back to the plant, and he wasn’t happy about it either. It didn’t help that when she answered the door she shared his sour mood, and when he touched her hand, the magic that surged between them meant only one thing—she was his other half, and she was human…. Cooper was seeing red.
Winnie wasn’t happy with Cooper at all. She had only done as ordered and had spent five years in prison because of it. Cooper was supposed to protect her, but he didn’t. Now the dragon king wanted her to protect them all from the new slayers in town? How was that fair? The sooner she completed her mission, the sooner she could move on and leave it all behind her.
Hudson had been told that Cooper had hired a man by the name of Wendall. He just wanted to meet him so he could measure his worth, but when the door opened, the woman behind it was writhing in pain. He only meant to help her, but the moment he touched her, her pain became his as well.
Winnie had been appointed by the Dragon Board to be their protector long before last names were given. She had hunted her first, expecting to be paid by coin, but was rewarded instead with magic and a title. She didn’t have time to take a mate, much less a Manning. She had too much work to do.
The word “no” wasn’t in Hudson’s vocabulary. Winnie was his mate and he’d do whatever he had to claim her.
With slayers lurking in the shadows, Winnie has her hands full, and can’t let a new mate distract her. She had to remain on her toes or all would be lost….
Lincoln figured the new artist in town would be one of their mates. He’d heard she was a real ball buster and thought that maybe she would be Tristan’s mate because Tristan said he couldn’t handle that. But when Ginger introduced him to her sister, Grace, he knew from the moment he touched her she was meant for him.
Grace was in shock. Garrett had taken her into his office when the show was still going on and told her that she had all but one of her paintings sold, including the twelve that she’d given him permission to sell. Twice now she’d had to put her head between her knees, which wasn’t easy with the dress she had on, in order to not pass out. Sold all but one? How was that even possible?
Lincoln sat at her feet on the hem of her dress. His attempt to to calm her shaky nerves had her about addled, and when Grace suddenly stood, the dress ripped from shoulder to hip. Standing there trying to get herself covered, she felt her temper snap. Now what was she supposed to do? Grace didn’t know whether to kick him or beg him to help her.
Lucas hated to be in the hospital. Actually, he hated any place where he was inside. He preferred the outdoors, even when it was cold or raining. It was where he felt the most alive. When someone knocked on the door, he gently turned his head to it. Since being shot, Lucas about puked every time he moved too quickly. “How you feeling?” He told Cooper that he was feeling pretty good except for the dizziness.
“Yes, I would imagine that would be something that you’d have. You were shot. Did they tell you that?” “No. No one mentioned me taking a bullet and it took me a while to figure out. I’m guessing the reason that I’m still here is because it was either iron or steel.
Where is my doctor? I think she’s avoiding me.” Lucas frowned at his older brother. “I’m embarrassed at the things I said to her. When she came in here this morning, I realized my mistake. But she did smell great.” “Yes, she had a talk with all of us, asking us if you ever had this sort of issue before.” Lucas asked if she really called it an issue. “Yes. She knows all about us, as you can imagine with her being a doctor and all. But the fact that you claimed she was something else to you sort of set her off into the world of unknowing. Not mad, but she had thought that the bullet might have done more damage to you than she’d first thought.” He could see that. When the door opened again, Lucas started to tell the good doctor that he was sorry once more when she simply lifted her hand up. Cooper laughed and stood up. Lucas asked him to stay and he declined. “I have baby duty later—I still have a lot of things to get done while she’s with her mother.” He turned to the doctor and put out his hand. “Thank you so much for taking such good of my little brother.” “You’re very welcome.” Doctor Carver sat down beside the bed when Cooper left. Her smile, for some reason, was not very reassuring. “I wanted to tell you straight up that you should be dead.
The bullet had pierced your heart. If it hadn’t been for your sister-in-law telling me about you being an immortal, I would never have believed it.” “Lucky for me that was a power given to me just the day before.” She nodded. “I’m truly sorry for saying those things to you. I think, as you asked me once, I hit my head a little harder than I thought. You also told me that the man and the bank manager are both dead.”
“Yes. Someone here was treating him for his mental problems and had been for some time. They adjusted his meds for some reason, and we’re believing that is what had him going to the bank.” Lucas nodded. “The entire county and beyond think that you nearly died. As you’ve more than likely done in the past, we have to play it up for the cameras and the others out there. I would suggest a couple of more days. In fact, I’d like to insist on it. I know that you’re still having trouble with the dizziness, correct?”
“Yes. It makes me ill to move too quickly.” Doctor Carver asked him if he was still sick after he stood up. “Just a little. Not as much as when I move my head. I can walk well, just the quick movements.” “I’ve done an MRI on you and had someone come in and have a look, as you know. I’m thinking that it’s a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve. There is no other explanation that I can find to tell us why that is going on.” He nodded, saying he supposed a neck sprain was possible. “I’ve talked to your family, and they told me that you’d been under a little stress lately.” “Yes. I’m helping the family out with some investments. As well as a few other projects that I have a hand in. It’s very time consuming, but I like it.” He looked around the room slowly and noticed that there were more flowers than had been there yesterday. “I’ve been an attorney a few times in my lives, and it’s served us when it was needed.”
“Your brothers also told me that you’ve bought several buildings downtown, help the kids at their garden plots when you have time, as well as being involved in four more ‘projects.’ You’re not going to get any better if you don’t slow down. Do you have anyone working for you?” He told her his helper was on vacation. “Alan Peck?” “Yes. How did you know?” Doctor Carver told him that Alan had been in to see him, and one of the others told her how Alan had been on vacation. “He didn’t come home for me, did he?” “I wouldn’t know.” She stood up. “Mr. Manning, you have family. I would like to suggest that you start having them or someone help you out. You’re stressed, and you need to calm down. Having immortality would be horrific if you couldn’t enjoy it.
” After she left him, he lay there on the bed thinking. He could have gone home, she told him, but he decided to do what she said and stay on a few more days. Also, he was scheduled to have a cat scan soon, and that might tell them what was going on. Closing his eyes, Lucas tried to relax his body. How about I tell you a bedtime story? I can even modify it so that there is blood and guts in it if you wish. He smiled when he realized that Carson had spoken to him. The doctor just called Cooper and told him what she thinks and wants you to do. If I were you, I’d jump on that so that you tell Cooper what your plans are before he gets to order you to listen to the doctor. It’ll make my day. He did just that and could hear the frustration in his voice when he told Cooper he was going to stay at the hospital for some extra time and would try his best to delegate more when he was working. Lucas was still laughing when he told Carson what he’d done. He’s none too happy with me at the moment. She told him congratulations on upsetting Cooper’s plans to make him do it. You sound a little sad. What’s up? Anything I can help you with? That is the very reason you’re stressed, you know. He told her that loving her wasn’t stressful. Yeah, sure it’s not. No, I don’t have anything going on that you could help me with. Unless, of course, you’re lactating and would come and help me feed my baby.
No. No thanks. I don’t think I’d enjoy that all that much. But seriously, what is it? She didn’t answer him, and he tried again. I might not be able to help you, love, but I know a great many people that would jump at the opportunity to do something for me. Just say the word. I’m bored. I love being a mom, especially when the boys came here. They’re like a breath of fresh air in my day. But I’m not able to be gone for long because I have to feed the little one, and even when Cooper is here, he’s not really. I mean, I love him to death, but he’s not much in the way of conversation when he comes home and shuts himself up in the office. He asked her why she’d not told him that. I don’t know. I guess because I figured that if the door was closed, not to come in. Not bother him. Nah, he’s just closing the door because he’s done that all his life. He might leave it open once in a while, but he’ll eventually get up to shut it. I’m sure that it still stems from being hunted for so long. You have to remember that Cooper was the oldest of us, and saw how the humans treated our kind a lot more than any of us. She said she’d not thought of that. I’m sure that if you asked him, he’d say he didn’t even realize he was doing it. I thought for sure that he was telling me to stay out of his domain. Lucas said that Cooper would never do that to her. I think that you’re right on that. I’ll work on that for myself.
So, you didn’t find your mate. I have to tell you, you were funny right after you were shot. I’ve never seen someone so hell bent on leather as you were to have a mate. I’m just glad that the doctor wasn’t her, by the way. She has three children and a husband that worships her. But she’s out there, Lucas. Don’t give up because of this. I want to see you happy—all my new brothers happy, as a matter of fact. I won’t. I promise. This was just a bump in the road, I guess. He looked around the room. I have a favor to ask of you. There are a lot of flowers in vases in my room. I’m going to be here for a few more days. Do you think you could arrange for them to be picked up and put out for the little creatures before they’re no longer good for them? Carson said she thought that was a wonderful idea. You remember that, so you can tell my actual mate what a guy I am. She was still laughing when the connection was broken
. He, like his brothers, loved Carson—hell, all the women in the family. They had taken his brothers to a level of kindness that he’d never seen before. Not that they’d not been kind before, but now they were more accepting of change and showing their affections. When his supper was brought to him, he was surprised to see the bag it was in was from one of his favorite all time restaurants. Opening it up, he read the note before digging into the food. Hey. Knew you had to be sick of the food there, so I thought of you when I was at Submarines this afternoon. If I can, I’ll have the rest of the guys bring you something better for each meal. Love you, little bro, Hudson. Opening the foil around the first of two subs, he was so happy to find that it was also his favorite—meatball. He could literally eat them for every meal. Biting into the crisp bread with the soft inside, he moaned when he also tasted the sauce and meatballs. If he kept getting food like this to be delivered, he might survive staying in the hospital. Not really, but it would make it slightly more tolerable. Lucas ate both subs and the large bag of cookies that were in the bag. He usually didn’t eat sweets that much—they were something that he really enjoyed but kept
himself from eating.
Now that he knew that he needed to be less stressed, he decided to enjoy food a little more. In moderation, he told himself. There wasn’t any point in over indulging too much—he’d burn out. Lucas lay back. Things were going to be better for him soon. ~*~ Micky ran each item over the scanner as the two women in her line spoke. Well, argued. The woman in line behind the person she was checking out was screaming at the first woman. Something about food cards and eating things like frozen pizza and other convenience foods. Micky didn’t care so long as no one killed anyone. Murdering someone had become the way people dealt with things that they didn’t like. If someone were to argue with someone, or even have a driver cut them off on the highway, the solution was to pull out a gun and kill them. It was one of the reasons that she didn’t drive. Another reason was that she didn’t own a car. Not that she couldn’t afford one, she told herself as the produce was weighed and bagged; she could. But that would mean dipping into her savings account, or any number of places that she had money stashed, and she wasn’t going to do that. Just as she was finishing up the groceries, the second woman totally lost her shit when the total for the first woman came to over two hundred dollars. “Why are you able to spend that much on groceries when I can barely afford to feed myself on what I make?” The woman she was helping didn’t engage but handed Micky the card that would pay for her food. “You have to answer me. I’m the one making it so you can have food on your fucking table, by God. I work my ass off so that you can laze around your house, eating whatever you can microwave or pop in a toaster, as your—” “You think I like being on this card? You think that I’m sucking on the tit of society?
Well I have news for you. If it were to bring my husband back to me, I’d surely give up being able to feed his four children and myself. He died for you and your freedom to have free speech. Well, right now, you can go and fuck yourself and your freedom of speech. I’m a mother of four small children that have no idea why their father isn’t coming home to us. I was suddenly thrust into being the head of a household that I’m barely holding on to, if you fucking care. And since going back to work just after giving birth to his fourth child, his little boy, his sisters and I are needing some help.” She looked at Micky with tears in her eyes and on her cheeks. For the first time since working here, Micky wanted to hug someone.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to help me trim this down. I didn’t realize that I’d gone over.” She’d gone over by twelve dollars. When Micky started to tell her she’d cover it, the man behind the two women spoke up. He told her that he’d get it, that it would be his pleasure. Everyone in the store had heard the exchange, she realized, when a few more people decided to help her out too. After Milly—that was her name—thanked them all, especially the first man, for helping her, she went to her car. But while she was loading up, the man, finally getting his turn to check out, asked Micky to hurry, as he wanted to give his cart load of food to Milly as well. Fourteen men and woman also donated, not just groceries, but cash. One
woman bought her a gift card, telling her that she might have bills that it would take care of. Micky was walking home that night when she thought of the woman. She wondered if it was a scam. She’d heard it had happened before. Not where she worked, but another grocery store. The person would stand in line and wait to be abused. Then when the shit hit the fan, so to speak, they’d have this sob story all thought out, so they could get not just food, but cash as well. Micky smiled. She needed to think of better things than scams. There wasn’t any trust in her either, not for human kind. She was human herself and she knew a great many shifters, but she didn’t trust. Anyone. She hadn’t always been like she was now. Micky had learned the hard way not to even trust family. She had two sisters and a mother that were around, but she never engaged with them, nor did she try and seek them out when she had time to visit. They weren’t people that she trusted either, especially her mom. Mariam Mantle was as shifty as anyone she knew.
So were her sisters; Me-Me—her nickname that she’d given herself— and Bethany. Me-Me’s actual name was Mariam too. Giving herself such a cutesy nickname was something that she had done to differentiate herself from their mom. Bethany hadn’t stood for any nickname. It had always been Bethany, which she supposed was the reason that Micky called her Beth. And Me-Me, she was called Mariam the Second. It was the small things that got her through. Micky’s apartment was small, but she loved it. It wasn’t in the best of neighborhoods, but it wasn’t that bad either. She could come and go as she pleased, and there was a front doorman, the landlord’s son, who wasn’t there more often than he was. Micky was glad for that too, since every time she saw him he bugged her to go out with him. There wasn’t any way that she’d go out with Sam Adams for all the money in the world. He was a jerk. Putting her smock up, she sat her purse on the table. She would have a sandwich and then sit on the couch until it was time for her to go to bed. Yes, she thought, you do have a sorry life lately. Micky thought of her life thus far. She had been engaged once. The man that she had fallen in love with had hung himself rather than spending the rest of his life with her. It had devastated her so badly that she had cut herself off from everyone and everything for a long time. Actually, she sometimes still had trouble with people. Micky turned on the light on to read a bit. At just after seven, someone knocked on her door. If it was someone begging for money for some campaign, or even Sam, she was going to go straight to the landlord and complain. This was just annoying. Opening the door, the man she saw standing there looked confused for several seconds before he spoke. “Mariam Mantle?” She said that she was Micky. And like everyone over the age of ten, he asked about her name.
“Are you really Micky Mantle?”
“So it says on my birth certificate. Mariam is my mother or sister; depends, I guess, on what the birthdate is.” He told her. “My mother then. She doesn’t live here. Never has, as a matter of fact. You have the wrong Mantle.” “I’m to serve her.” Micky told him that she couldn’t help him with that either. “You have no idea where your mother might be?” “Not if I can help it. And if I did know, I’d tell you. Someone needs to put her behind bars.” He asked her if she wanted to know what she was being served for. “Nope. Whatever she’s done, not paid for, or stolen, I had nothing to do with it. The only time I see her is when she’s breezing through town and needs a place to flop. Not that I allow that, but she tries.” “You don’t like her.” She said nothing, but he seemed to understand. “All right, Miss Mantle. I’ll try elsewhere for her. Thanks for your time.” Shutting the door, her phone started to ring. Micky thought that she was about the only person in the entire state with an actual phone. She didn’t have a cell phone, cable, or even a computer. But she had a phone that hung on the wall. Smiling, she answered it. “What do you have to say for yourself?” Mariam the Second, her voice as shrill and nasal as it could have been. “I asked you a question, Micky, and I expect an answer.” “You asked me what I had to say for myself. Since I haven’t any idea what this could be about, just tell me so that I can either tell you to go to hell or to fuck off. It doesn’t matter to me.” She heard Mariam’s sharp intake of breath and knew that she was going to scream at her about something.
“When you call the next time, make sure that you explain yourself better than you did this time.” Hanging up the phone felt good. She knew that it would be short lived, this feeling. It would piss off her sister to the point of her making a real nuisance of herself. So, when it rang again, she took her time answering it, waiting until the machine kicked in to take her message. Instead of answering it, like she’d planned, she let Mariam the Second rant. “You fucking bitch. Wait until I tell Mother what you’ve done this time. You are going to be in so much trouble.” Micky wondered if her sister realized that she was nearly twenty-five and had stopped caring what her mother had to say about her personal life when she’d been a teenager. “You need to bail out Bethany. I don’t know what they’re accusing her of, but she’s always been the nice one. You never have. She’s at county—” Micky was glad that there had been a timer on her machine. That way Mariam the Second had to call back. And she did so, three more times. The entire exchange could have just taken the one message, but Mariam the Second had to pull out all the stops and call her every name in the book. It might have been funny if it wasn’t so pathetic of her sister. When she called back the sixth time, Micky answered the phone.
Mariam was on a roll now and cursed at her again. Hanging up on her without saying a word, she waited until it rang once more before picking it up again. Mariam was much calmer this time.
“I want you to go to county lock up and pay to have Bethany gotten out of jail. This is all your fault anyway.” Micky asked her how that was possible. “You didn’t let her come and stay with you when she left her husband. The jerk was curtailing her spending. Like he didn’t have the money to burn.” “I didn’t even know Beth was married.” Mariam corrected her on the name and said that she’d been married last year. “Last year? Well, I guess by now she’d have it down pat on divorcing husbands. What one is this one? Four? Five?” “Seven. And what do you care for? It’s not like you send out Christmas cards or birthday cards. You’ve never sent one to my children, much less me.” Micky said that she didn’t care for her or her children. “What a horrible thing to say. My children are my life.” “I’m sure that they are. And someday they’re going to get life in prison for the way they act like rules don’t apply to them.” Mariam told her that they were exploring the world and that wasn’t a crime. “No, I don’t suppose you’d think so. But armed robbery and selling drugs, to most people anyway, is a crime. I guess you have your own set of rules, just like Mom and Beth do.” “It’s Bethany. And why shouldn’t we? We pay our taxes. We aren’t on welfare like most people that you more than likely hang with. Why shouldn’t we have a set of our own standards as to how we live?” Micky just laughed. “When can I tell Bethany you’re coming?
She’s been in holding all day, and she wants to go home.” “I’m not sure what you think I’m going to do, but I’m not paying to have her bailed out. You do it.” Mariam told her that her husband had put her on a budget, which didn’t include bailing her sister out. “I always knew that Michael was a smart man.” “I’ve not been married to Michael for nearly ten years. You should be ashamed of yourself for not knowing that. But my new husband, Neil Patterson, is a great deal smarter than I thought he was. I will be filing for divorce from him soon enough. I just have to stash away more money first.” Micky decided to find out who he was and let him know what his wife was doing. “Now that we’ve established that I’m not able to do it, that only leaves you.” “No, it doesn’t. And no, I’m not doing it. You’ll have to figure something else out. What did they arrest her on, anyway?” She told her. “Making a nuisance of herself? Yeah, well that does sound like something that Beth would do. Who did she bother? I’m sure that it was someone she wanted to accuse of something.”
“It’s Bethany, which isn’t that hard of a name to remember, Micky. Say it with me. Bethany. And she had every right to be there at her former home. She hadn’t been able to get her things out of the house before he had the locks changed. What a horrible man to do that to our sister.” “She’s only my sister when she or you want something. Same with you. I’m not going to do it. And don’t call here again. I won’t be answering the phone when you call.” Hanging up this time felt better than it had before. Taking the phone off the hook so that it would ring busy, she went back to her book and decided to just go to bed. Her family always landed on their feet, and this time, Micky knew, would be no different.
Going to bed, Micky knew that she wasn’t going to rest well. Whenever she had to deal with her family it was the same thing. She’d be all stressed out and her belly would rebel. Micky tried to count sheep and then name the presidents and their vice presidents. When neither worked, she got up to go to work. Today was going to be hard, she knew that. One or all of them would be looking for her. Micky decided at the last minute to leave her purse at home with her cards and money in it. All she had on her when she left was her lunch, having left her keys inside as well. There was a hidey key that she could get in with, so she felt like she was safe from them taking what didn’t belong to them. She told her boss about them as she clocked in. He said that he’d be ready for them. She hoped she was too.
Griffith was a very old and powerful dragon and just the opposite of his twin James. The only thing they had in common was their looks, they were identical. James, although first born and immortal, didn’t inherit the dragon gene and had held that over Griff’s head their entire lives. Anything Griff got, James felt it should be his instead.
Griff found his mate, Lilac, by chance. She had just barely escaped James’s evil clutches, and the moment she saw Griff she was terrified that they were one and the same.
Lilac was a water faerie, and daughter to the queen of faeries which made her queen of the water, but that was a secret she would have to keep to herself. That knowledge in the wrong hands could spell disaster, especially if James found out. Lilac was slow to trust, but Griff made it difficult not to love him. And when Griff suddenly disappeared, would he be able to forgive her for holding such a secret? Trust worked both ways and that was one huge secret.
Danburn English is the ninth earl of the English castle. He and his dragon alter ego have been on this earth for a very long time. Danburn is accustom to his orders being followed to the letter, no questions asked, so when this feisty young woman bucks his authority he is beyond angry.
Kendrick Barrera can’t seem to get caught up. Every time she turns around, her sister is in trouble again. Now, because of her sister’s new mess, she’s being evicted and has nowhere to go.
Danburn’s intentions were to defend her honor, but when Kendrick intervenes, she steps in front of a punch intended for her mouthy landlord. Now Danburn has to step back and take a good long look at himself, and he doesn’t much like what he sees.
Kendrick doesn’t care for the overbearing lord of the manor and makes no bones about telling him so either. No one, especially him, is going to tell her what to do or how to act or dress.
There is something about the feisty woman that has touched Danburn’s heart. She has a rare honesty and bravery that has him take notice. A woman like that is hard to find and should be protected and cherished. The chemistry is there, they’ve both felt it, but controlling his mouth just might get in the way of winning Kendrick’s heart….
Cassie had just arrived in Danburn’s territory and she knew as a dragon she had to report to him. Whether she liked it or not, she’d gone from one ruling male, her father, to another. Being a female dragon, and unmated, she felt cursed for her lot.
Everette Welsh, Rett to his friends, was having a hard time making ends meet. He was a good attorney, but it seemed to do him little good. His good friend, Danburn, insisted he quit his job and come work for him. Rett had no intentions of taking Danburn up on his offer, but when his boss called him into his office and was demanding that he apologize for threatening a man who blackmailing him, the words “I quit” spilled from his mouth without thinking. However, once said, he felt better for it.
Rett found himself on the wrong end of a shotgun blast, and Cassie gave a bit of herself to save him. There were only three conditions of taking dragon’s blood that a human would survive, and the other two didn’t apply to him. Rett and Cassie were mates.
Only two things stood in their way: Rett’s obnoxious mother, and Cassie’s father, a lethal combination…
Quinn Langley knew her mother didn’t have long to live. Soon it would just be her and her little sister, Carmine. Nearly recuperated from her own injuries, Quinn knew the first order of business would be to find a job and get out of Danburn and Kendrick’s hair.
Danburn had invited his friends to his home to spend the holidays, and that included his good friend, Hanson McClain. Hanson’s parents had run off and left the estate in a shamble and near financial ruin. It had taken Hanson months to repair the damage, and he was ready for a break.
Quinn had no idea that her cousin, Kendrick, was mated to a dragon, and that she and her sister were the only humans in the house. And now, the handsome stranger, Hanson, also a dragon, had claimed that she was his mate. It was time to leave. The ever practical, Quinn didn’t want solutions just handed to her on a silver platter. She’d make it on her own. But in life things don’t always go as planned. Like it or not, Hanson’s parents were a problem she’d be forced to deal with, and she discovered her sister, Carmine, had abilities Quinn didn’t quite understand.
Thrust head first into a world of immortals, Quinn found she had a whole new set of problems. Now, the first order of business would be to protect her little sister and hopefully not die in the process.
The injured women in the bed, Emerald, had been poisoned with lead. Dana could smell it on her and he wondered why Danburn hadn’t. With Danburn being the king of the dragons he should have been able to smell it right off, or at least Dana thought so anyway. With the woman’s surly temper Dana should have left her there to suffer alone, but he could smell his mate on her. Since Em was an emerald dragon he deduced that his mate must be another gem to compliment his diamond.
Sapphire had been summoned with the rest of her sisters, Ruby and Opal, to Em’s side. The young girl, Carmine had powerful magic that could extract the lead from Em, but she wasn’t strong enough to get it all out on her own. The sisters would have to combine their magic with Carmine’s or Em wouldn’t survive.
Sapphire knew instantly that Dana was her mate and she wasn’t thrilled about it either. She and her sisters had been around for thousands of years, why did a mate have to muddy the waters now?
Dana wanted to take it slow. They had the rest of their lives to get to know each other. He wanted to court her and ease into the relationship. They were both immortal, so time was on their side, right? Melville James had other ideas. If he couldn’t have the emerald dragon he’d just take the sapphire. After all, her mate hadn’t claimed her yet, and by dragon law that made her easy pickings.
Kip moved along the walls and decided that he didn’t care for the smell or anything about this place. Not now, anyway. After it was abandoned, it had become a place to flop for all manner of things. It was dirty, filled with scents that made even his dragon sick. Well, he was going to take care of this place, once and for all. As soon as he was able to shift, to burn the place to the bare walls, Griffith showed up. Like he needed him to be there to witness his shame.
“I just heard. I’m so sorry, my friend.” Kip asked him what he’d heard. “You know what I’ve heard about this place. And before you ask, no, neither Danburn nor the others know. I’ve come to help you. If you’ll allow it.” “They ruined it all.” Griff, what he’d been calling him since they’d met, nodded and told him he was sorry again. “Yes, well, so will they when I find them. Have you seen your brother again?”
“No, not since yesterday. He’d been by the house a couple of times before I brought Em home, apparently—I was out of town. But no, we’ve not spoken since yesterday. James is going to be trouble, I think. That’s not right—he is definitely going to be trouble. I don’t understand him most of the time. I mean, why the fuck hasn’t anyone taken him to task yet?” Kip asked him why he’d not done it either. “I can’t. I made a promise to my mother that I’d not harm him. Then she revised that to I couldn’t kill him after James killed my father. I don’t want to do either, to be honest, but he’s after something that belongs to me. I found her, Kip. Just before my brother would have killed her. He would have, too.” “I’m so glad that you’ve found your mate.
And so you know, I really like her too.” He looked around the castle that had been in his family for several hundred generations. “They have been here too long, I think. I know that you’re aware of my family situation, and I have to tell you, I’m ashamed to be related to them, especially my mother, in all this. Why couldn’t we all have parents like Danburn does? But I guess we don’t get to pick our relatives.
I just want to get rid of all this and then start anew. I was just going to do that when you showed up.” “I’d gladly help you.” Kip didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, but of all the people he knew, Griff would be the most helpful and the kindest of anyone. “I can start on the upper levels and you at the bottom. We can meet in the middle and then start on the lawns around the place.” Kip told him that he was grateful for his help and made his way to the lower level. Kip felt the pull of his dragon and let him consume him. His dragon was much like Danburn in that he was several hundred times larger than his other self, but he wasn’t nearly as strong as the king was. Spraying flames all over the sub flooring of his ancestral home, Kip watched as everything that had been left behind by his family was burned away. Good riddance to it all. He thought about what he’d had to endure by living here as a young dragon. Not just the hatred of his parents, but that of the town here as well. Few knew that he had
spent his life living no more than a few leagues from Danburn, but even fewer knew that the inhabitants of the castle here were his parents and his siblings. And he liked it that way. None of them had been happy that he’d been born and that he’d lived. He had an older brother and a sister that had had their lives pretty perfect, according to them, when he’d come into the world to upset their lives.
Kip had no idea how they’d come to that conclusion, but they had made his life a living hell from the moment he’d been hatched. And had nearly killed him on several occasions. But now they were all gone, and he hoped that they’d stay that way. He’d not heard from them nor seen them in more years than he could count, which by his estimation wasn’t nearly long enough. Not to say that they were dead—Kip knew that it was only a matter of time before they’d return now that he was the sole owner of the family castle. What they didn’t know was that he’d become much more powerful than any of them, even all together, due in part to his being on the good side of a dragon who was very powerful, not to mention the king of them all. He was on the second level of the castle when he could see that the heat of the stone was burning things on this level too.
His work was nearly finished here in cleaning things out. The real work, getting it back to its former glory, would take a great deal longer. But he was up for the task. He only hoped that in a few months, he felt the same way. The walls of the castle would not crumble under the heat of his breath, but they would remain hot for a very long time. Since it had been created for a dragon and by one, it would not burn and fall under the heat of one. It was said that if a dragon were to heat a stone with his breath, it would be a decade or more before it would be cool enough to touch. He hoped in his case that it was true, and that it would be just hot enough to keep his family away. But he knew better. Watching it all burn away with a kind of contentment that he’d not had in a while, he looked at Griff when he came toward him as his dragon. The two of them shifted and became themselves, basking in the heat they’d made as well as what they’d been able to do in such a short amount of time.
Not that Kip couldn’t have done it on his own, but having someone with him made his heartbreak better. They looked to be a matched set of dragons, both of them as green as the grasses that had once been around the keep—but that was about as far as the similarity went. And, he thought, that was what had made them such good friends over the decades— opposites attracting. The two of them were perfect in that saying. Kip was one to jump into a situation that might get him into trouble, and most of the time, that was the point. Griff was more cautious, and someone that never took chances that he didn’t have to. Kip supposed it was because of his family, namely his brother. James had been a troublesome person since he’d been born, and was forever taking chances on things that were better left alone. And having Griff around just made it clearer, to anyone who was around them for very long, just how horrific James was.
They were standing outside the castle walls when they sat down to watch the heat dance off the top of the turrets. It really wasn’t much to see, not out here, but the glow
and ebbing of the castle walls from hot to cooler was a beautiful sight to behold. Neither of them said much as the darkness spread over the lands, with only the lights from the stone in front of them to light the way. Kip asked Griff what he’d found out about James. “He’s been around hurting women again. And he had my mate for a time as well. He’d not raped her, thankfully for him, but she’s been hurt. I have her at the house now, as safe as I can make her. But she doesn’t trust that James and I are two different people yet, so I’ve introduced her to the staff and told her that I’d return. James now looks for her, thinking to take all that she has and make it his own before he kills her. Or before he would have tried to kill her.” Kip had heard from others how sadistic James was. And that he never left a woman—or man, for that matter—in one piece if he had the time to make them suffer in horrific ways.
“My mate, she’s a faerie of some considerable age. But her magic has been depleted by trying her best to stay away from James and heal herself. Right now I have Bud working with her to get her wounds healed.” “Does James know that it was you who bought the family home?” Griff nodded with a large grin. “I wish I could have been there when you told him. I can only imagine what he had to say about that. I’m sure that he wasn’t particularly nice about it.” “No, not even close to it. He wants me to give him money. Or gems. I told him that I wouldn’t, thinking, and rightly so, that he’d only be back for more and more.” Griff looked at the castle while he continued. “He killed our father and mother. I don’t know how it happened with Mother, but Dad had his head removed, and James left him for the buzzards to feast on. Had I not come along, I have no idea what might have happened to his body.” Kip told him what he’d heard about James. It wasn’t as if he’d been spying on him, but Griff had asked him to keep an eye out for him and anything that he might know of women he might have harmed.
And there had been plenty over the ensuing years. James was making quite a name for himself when it came to his murderous ways. “There are four women that I know of for sure that he’s killed. For two of them I’ve compensated their families, and the other two, their entire families were killed as well. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but he’s wanted by the council as well. Why they’ve not found him yet is beyond me. It’s not as if he is keeping himself hidden away.” Griff nodded and told him that he’d pay Kip back for the other families. “No need for that, Griff. You would and have done the same for me. Not for a death, but in helping me get back up on my feet.” “You’re my friend, Kip. Forever and a day will you have a friend in me as well. But with James…. The council has contacted Danburn about him. He only came to me yesterday about it. I’m aware of James’s misdeeds, but not all of it, apparently. He’s been on a murderous streak for the last few months. And I’ve been given permission to take care of him, anyway that I feel necessary.” Kip whistled.
“Yes, you can well imagine the ways to rid myself of him too. Except for the promise I made.” “Your mother, do you think he actually killed her? I mean, she was a very powerful dragon on her own. But she was also one of the founding women of the set of bylaws.” Griff said that there was no other explanation for where she might have gone. Her body
had disappeared. “Yes. There is a rumor that she was so heartbroken that she died just to be with her mate. There is a faerie garden that is hers and his as well. I have seen it.” “As have I. The faeries about, they’ve made sure that it hasn’t been discovered by anyone with ill intentions. And yes, that would include James. Some think that he would rob their graves just to be able to take what doesn’t belong to him.” Kip knew that as well. “Did you know that he has made it his business to find where there are faerie gardens and destroy them? He doesn’t even have to know the person there, he just destroys everything about it. I cannot believe at times that we’re from the same parents. The only thing I can figure that’s going to stop James is someone to kill him.
But it can’t be me.” “I know about blood promises, Griff. I myself had to promise that I’d not harm anyone in my family as well.” But his promises were not made between him and his parents, but him and Danburn. And Kip was sure that if it came down to it, Danburn would allow him to do whatever was necessary to end their reign of terror. Starting on the lawns as the sun was coming up around them, they burned most of it away because of the neglect. Kip thought about all the things he’d have to do to bring the house back to its former glory. First and foremost, he was going to find someone to help him with putting a ward on the place, to not only keep the vermin away, but his family as well. Laughing to himself, he thought they were just as much vermin as any other animals that could breach his home. By the time daylight was fully making itself known to them, he and Griff had burned away all of the fallen trees and pulled what the brownies could use to one side. There wasn’t as much as he’d hoped, but it was there for them to use however they wished. Kip owed a great deal to all the creatures of the lands. ~*~ Em woke up and looked around. The man, her mate, had brought her here several hours ago, and now that she was in a place that she could not only rest but heal, she wondered what he’d want in return. Everyone, to her anyway, wanted something for the smallest of deeds they did for you. This man, related to the horrid James, would be no better. The door opened just as she was getting up, and she stared at the woman standing before her.
Em dropped to the floor when she realized that she’d been rude in her greeting. The laughter that came from the beautiful woman had her peeking up to see what had been so funny. “Please don’t do that. It makes me feel silly, and I’m sure that having your bottom up in the air like that isn’t the least bit comfortable to you either. I do envy you being able to do that, however. Feeling like an overgrown elephant doesn’t give me the agility that I once had.” Em looked at her while sitting on her knees. “Come now—you’ve been hurt, and I don’t stand on ceremony when you’re family. And you are, as Griff’s mate.” “I know his name, but I’m not going to be the mate to a sadistic bastard. If it’s all the same to you, now that I’m better healed, I’ll just leave.” The woman, the queen of dragons, sat down on the chair that was by the bed. When asked to have a seat as well, Em wasn’t sure what to do.
“Please, have a seat and we’ll get to know each other.” She had no choice but to sit on the side of the bed, trying her best to keep her head lower than the queen’s. “Don’t do that. Don’t think that you are less than myself when I’d like nothing more than for us to be friends. What’s your name? I forgot to ask Griff when he told us that you were here.” “I’m Emerald of the Water. My family dates back more years than could be counted by any human. You’re the queen of dragons, mate to the king, Danburn.” The woman laughed and told her that was her. But for her to call her Kendrick. “I cannot do that, my lady. Even with you saying that you wish us to be friends, I’ll not breach protocol and be so familiar with you.” “All right. For now, anyway. I’ve come to talk to you about Griff and his brother James. I wasn’t even aware, to be honest, that he had a brother, much less a twin. I’m to understand that they look like the same person. And other than James being so heavy, there’s no way you can tell them apart. However, from what I’ve been able to find out, that is where the resemblance ends. They’re as different as night and day when it comes to temperament and kindness.” “So you say. I spent two days with James, and I can tell you that there is not another person like him, thankfully.
” Em watched the other woman and knew that she was breeding—the size of her belly made her think that she was close, too. She wondered if she knew that she was having a girl, but didn’t say anything—it wasn’t any of her business. “The other man, he said that his name was Griffith. Is this his home? He told me that he was bringing me here to heal, but that’s all I know.” “Yes. This is his home. And he’s away right now helping Kip. Griff asked me to come by and see if you needed anything. And since he knows what you are, he’s asked that I tell you that the lake nearby is there for you to use. Danburn had the lake made so that his dragon could swim in it without any troubles. It’s very deep, from what I’ve been told. But I do know that it will hold his dragon, so you should have no problems with it.” “I will need to submerge myself to heal completely. What sort of tax will I need to pay to be able to use the king’s lake? I have little money with me, and nothing to show for my life here on this earth.” Kendrick told her that it was there for her to use. “For free? I doubt that you believe that either. Everyone wants something.” “Not here we don’t. And especially not family. You’re going to have to learn to trust us, Em. We have nothing but your goodwill in mind when we offer you something. I’m not sure why you’re so hard on us when you’ve only just met us. However, I’d very much appreciate it if you didn’t lump all of us in the same category as you have James.” Her temper was showing, and Em had a feeling that it wasn’t often that she lost it. “Now, we’re going to get you dressed, unless you can do that on your own.” “I can. I have magic to keep myself safe.” Kendrick nodded and stood up. “I don’t want to be here, my lady. James will find me, and I will not subject myself to his kind of…to him at all.”
“I don’t know him, as I have said. But Danburn does, and his hatred of the man is enough for me to dislike him too. I know that James is around, and that he’s not a dragon. But as far as what he’s done, as I said, I don’t know yet. There wasn’t time for me to do a complete search of him and his trouble. But you can trust me to know that before he comes sniffing around here again, I’ll be better prepared for his ass.” Em didn’t want to like this woman, didn’t trust her either. But she had a feeling that she would get to the bottom of anything she set her mind to. “You should meet the staff here. I know that you’ve talked to Bud, but there are many more here that are excited to meet you.” “I have nothing to offer them.” Kendrick asked her what she thought they’d need from her. “I don’t know. A lady of the house? A person who might know how to have a staff? I’ve been on my own longer than you’ve been around.
Not to say that I’m insulting you, never that. But I don’t know how to be a proper lady to a house like this. Nor to a man such as Griff. I’m just a faerie.” “Just a faerie? I don’t know you well yet, but I have a feeling that you are no more just a faerie than I am just a woman.” Kendrick stood up and Em dressed, then did the same. Taking her cues from the other woman, Em dressed in jeans and a large T-shirt. No shoes, however. Em didn’t care for them. “Now, I’ve heard from Griff. He’s on his way back here from helping Kip. Griff also said that he’s not seen James around, so you might be all right to venture out if you wish, but not too far. I guess he no more trusts James than you do.” “He tried to rape me. James did, I mean. He’s not a person that I’d be around at all if I could help it. You should also take it easy. He’ll harm you and your child if given the chance.” Kendrick turned to look at her as they were going down the stairs.
“It was more than that, a great deal more, but I knew that as soon as he was finished with me, he’d murder me. That day wasn’t one of the days when I’d gladly have that happen.” “You wish to die other days?” Em saw no reason to lie to her, not that she could anyway, so she nodded at her. “I see. And this day, is it a good day or one that I have to watch out for you?” “I don’t appreciate you making fun of me. I don’t want to be around most days. It’s difficult to be what I am and have to deal with the shit that comes along all the time.” Kendrick said nothing. “I need to get out of here. I don’t want to be here any longer than I have to be.” “I’m sorry that you thought I was making fun. I wasn’t. I can understand completely how down you can be. I was for most of my life before meeting Danburn. I had a sister and a mother that were as bad, I think, as James is. My mother shot me in the head and left me for dead, and then couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t help her and Louise when I was put in foster care to heal.” Em felt terrible for being so short with her and said as much.
“It’s all right. How would you have known? But you have to trust me when I tell you that we’re all here for you. All of us.” “To what point? I mean, what will you want from me in exchange? I have nothing, as I have said, but my magic. And while it’s considerable, it’s not much in comparison to what dragons might have. Especially dragons that are the king and queen of their
kind.” Em went down the rest of the stairs and turned to look at the younger woman. “I afraid that whatever Griff might want from me, I won’t submit to him. I’m my own person, and he’ll have to deal with that.” “I have no idea what this conversation is about, but you’ll never have to submit to anything that you don’t wish to. I’m not my brother.” Em turned to look at the man as he stood in the doorway to the other part of the house.
“My name is Griffith Alexander Farley, the fourth Earl of Alexander’s Folly. The Duke of Winebarger and Baron of Windemere Castle. I’m a dragon of good standing, and have always been. I’m not my brother.” “So you say. But how would I know that?” She felt rather than saw Kendrick leave them. But Em was going to make a point and it wasn’t going to be nice. “You have a lot of titles. You seem to be very proud of them. However, you’ll find that I could care less what you have attached to your name. I only care what you think you’re going to be doing to me.” “Do to you? Why, nothing that you don’t want. As I have said to you repeatedly, I’m not James. He’s a sadistic fuck that I have hated most of my life. He killed my parents without regard to what they were to us, simply because he could. He has murdered and taken anything that he wanted since we were children. He thought that as the first born, by only mere minutes before me, that he should have anything and everything that he wanted. And if he didn’t get it in a conventual way, he’d take it, killing whatever got into his way when he did.
” He took several steps toward her, and Em lifted her chin and didn’t move. “I’ve spoken to him about you. Or he has told me that you’re his mate and that you’ve escaped. He has no idea that you’re here, and this household will make sure that he doesn’t.” “You’re the second born? And you’re a dragon? How did that happen? He should have been given your parents’ all. No matter what he is.” Griff told her that he didn’t know, but perhaps the fates knew what sort of person James would turn out to be. “Perhaps. But I still don’t trust you. And more than likely never will. I’m very sorry for that. But I want you to know from the start my feelings on this. I might be your mate and I may have to stay here, but you’ll never own my heart. Nor my body, even if you use it.” He pulled her body to his. His grip was tight, but not painful. It was like he was possessing her in some way. When he said her name, gently, like a caress, she put her hands to his chest to push him away. But touching him, she could feel his heat, his magic, as it blanketed over her like the sun did when she had a chance to be out in it in the early morning. “I have no wish, none at all, to take anything that you aren’t willing to part with. That would include your body.” She struggled and he held her tighter. Em could feel his erection and stopped moving. “My body is reacting to how lovely you are. That you belong to us, my dragon and me. But there isn’t any way that I’d take from you, not with your heart as broken as it is. I promise you this, Em. You’re as safe with me as you would be with your own mother, if she is as kind as you are.”
He let her go and took a step back. Em was slightly unsteady on her feet, but held onto the table that was just behind her. Watching him, she could see the struggle he was having too. Whether it was from wanting to take her, his anger, or something else, she couldn’t tell. But when he turned and made his way back the way he’d come, Em held tighter to the table so that she’d not fall on her face. “Christ.” That about summed it up, she thought. She was mated to a dragon—a very strong and old one. And his brother was out there, trying his best to take her and then kill her. Em sat down on the floor and called out to her own faerie. Sunny came to her immediately. She needed the strength that the small faerie would give her, and closed her eyes when her magic healed all her wounds but the deeper cut on her leg. It was painful, but not nearly as much as her heart was broken right now. She thought about leaving—just disappearing into the outside and hoping no one would find her. But she also knew that once she left there, Griff would find her. And while she didn’t think that he’d hurt her for leaving, she just didn’t know. He was, as she thought, a dragon with considerable strength, and not one to fuck with. Getting up, she made her way in the direction that Griff had taken. It led her right to the kitchen, the heart and soul of any home that a dragon had. Sitting down when she was asked, a large platter of greens and flowers was set in front of her.
Griff was having a sandwich as large as her arm, and a salad as well. Picking up the fork to fortify herself with her meal, she kept a careful eye on her host. Em didn’t smell poisons or any other kind of mixture to make her ill, but she was very cautious as to what she put in her mouth. The salad was good, just the right mixture of different greens with a beautiful array of edible flowers. It wasn’t until she was finished that she realized that he was staring at her. Pushing her plate away, she stared right back. “I’ve some news if you’d like it.” Em asked him what it was about.
“You and James. Mostly him and what he’s saying about you. He is spreading the word that you’re his mate and that the two of you had a tiff—his words, not mine. No one is saying anything. Not that they knew you were here, but Danburn is making sure that everyone knows that James is trouble and they shouldn’t interact with him. Also, he’s asked that everyone go around in pairs or more so as not to be a target before he can be caught. I’m to understand from some of his other victims’ families that it matters little to him whether you’re male or female.” “That’s right. If he’s around, why is no one catching him? It would seem to me that this is an easy catch. Or am I wrong about that?” He said that she wasn’t. “Then why is he still on the streets?” “He’s not a dragon.” She started to ask him what the hell that meant when it occurred to her. “I can see by your face that you get it. There is not one group that wants to take responsibility for his actions. The dragon council knows that he is the son of a dragon, but he’s not one. The paranormal council won’t touch him for the same reasons. Everyone wants him put away, but no one wants to do it. I call that lazy, but then that’s just me.”
“And what happens when he kills again? Will someone step in then?” Griff shrugged. “You don’t care if he kills again, or you don’t care who takes him away? I know that he’s your brother. Is that the reason why he’s still out there terrorizing people?” “I care very much if he kills again. But I cannot, for personal reasons, do anything about it. And I washed my hands of James long ago. Just after our mother was presumed dead by his hand. Would I like to have him killed? Yes, with all my heart.” Em asked him what had happened to his mother. “My mother was fed iron every day for several weeks. He admitted that, in addition to admitting that he killed our father. James removed our father’s head one afternoon when our father refused to turn the family fortune over to him. As you can well imagine, he’s not welcome around here or anywhere that he might put his hat.” Em started to tell him that she’d gladly kill James when Griff suddenly stood up. She did as well and waited for him to tell her what was going on. As he rushed to the door, he told her not to leave the house, that James was nearby. Sitting back down, she had to wonder what James had done now.
Hawkins McCullough didn’t like his life. Army was his life, he lived and breathed it, but he wasn’t “regular” army. His life was filled with one covert mission after another and he was tired of it. He had done so many awful things in the name of “justice” that he felt he didn’t deserve to be happy. He felt broken and unredeemable.
Jamie had always loved children, and this small infant crying out to her broke her heart. These children were on their way to a baby farm and she was determined to stop this from happening. There was no way she would allow these babies to grow up the way she did, as a lab rat, not as long as she had breath left in her.
“I have to go. No, I’m going to go now. I only stuck around here to find the babies.” Lauren stepped in front of her. “Do you have a death wish? I would have thought someone with your obvious training would know not to stand in front of a dangerous bullet.”
“Is that what you are? Dangerous? I’m not so afraid of you. More that I’m afraid of what they did to you.” Jamie put up her hand and morphed it into a gun. Then a sword. And again, she turned her hand into a monster, long claws and all. “Nope, not going to work. You’re his mate, and that means something to this family.”
“Well, it means shit to me.”
Hawk never thought in a million years that he’d be happy to find his mate, nor would he have believed that she’d be more powerful than he was. Jamie was just more….
Colin McCullough gets the phone call that all military families dread―his brother Hawkins has been shot. Colin only wants to thank Hawkins’s commanding officer for saving his brother’s life, but he can never seem to get past the guards in the hospital’s hallway to personally thank the man.
Major Lauren Burcher is all Army and head of a special task team usually sent in to clean things up. This time, her team is ambushed by friendlies, and Lauren and her best man Hawkins McCullough barely make it out alive―they were set up. Someone wants them both dead.
Another attempt on Lauren’s life in the hospital fails miserably, and when Colin scoops her up in his arms to place her back in the hospital bed, he finds a gun pointed at his forehead at point blank range. In that moment he realizes this bad-assed scary woman is his mate.
Lauren wants no part of this mate business. Relationships get messy and this jerk is bossy as hell. And Lauren doesn’t take orders…she gives them. But it will take all of them, his family and hers, to keep her and Hawkins alive…
Who rescued who was still a little vague, but they escaped just the same. The lab called him SA-8, and they had made him into a very powerful weapon. But to Reese he was just Josh, a boy that could do amazing things, but a boy none the less—not a lab rat. That was two years ago—the lab had been relentless and lethal in their pursuit. With her big rig running on fumes, and their last dime spent, they wound up on a small town in Ohio….
Parker McCullough found an abandoned big rig parked on his land. It had been there a few days, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Calling the authorities seemed like the logical thing to do, but when he tried to do so, his cell phone went flying from his hand and a teenage boy appeared from nowhere. Parker thought the boy was an Elite Shifter, and after hearing a little of the boy’s story he wanted to help.
Reese didn’t know who all these people were, but if she and Josh didn’t get away from them, the “others” would find them and they’d all be dead, just like all the other people who had tried to help them along the way…. And now the gorgeous shifter, Parker, had her trapped in the kitchen claiming to be her mate…. She didn’t have time for herself, and she didn’t want to see them all die because they’d helped her and Josh—Reese was out of options
Mackenzie’s shift at the hospital had just begun when they told her that a patient friend of hers was back in the ER and asking for her. When she entered the curtained room, the last thing she expected was for a McCullough to be sitting next to her patient. It wasn’t Hawk, thank god, but the man looked enough like him he could have been his twin. Hawkins McCullough was on her shit list, and if this man was related to him, she didn’t want anything to do with him.
It didn’t take long for Dustin McCullough to figure out that this feisty doctor was his mate. And when he found out that his brother had hurt her, it took a great deal of strength to keep his cat from killing him.
Mackenzie was at her wits end. Random attacks to her person and bullets flying had the entire McCullough family in an uproar. And just when they thought they had everything about under control, Hawkins drops a bombshell that had them all stunned.
Can Mackenzie find it in her heart to forgive Hawk before it’s too late?
Virginia is a bestselling paranormal romance author. She does much better with her stories than with people. When she’s in her “writing zone,” she won’t even eat unless her mother hands her a plate and reminds her to do so. She wouldn’t be making the trip to the McCullough’s if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Go, see the child, make sure he has a good home. That is the plan. Simple…not.
Larson is having his own issues. Being blamed for the murder of one of his clients, which he didn’t do, has him closing up shop and laying low for a few days. His mom insists that he show up for dinner to meet their visiting guests. Larson would rather stay home, but she’d have his hide if he did.
Larson sees the beauty from across the room and makes his way to her. Before he even reaches her, he catches her scent. She is his mate. Now what is he supposed to do? He has his life just the way he wants it and a mate wasn’t figured into that equation. On the other hand, the way she flushes when she returns his stare has him thinking anything but pure thoughts. Maybe having a mate wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Boyd lost his mate before he’d really found her. He found her in college, but his studies were important too. He figured he’d have plenty of time to meet her, after his exams. But a tragic car accident robbed him of his future before it had begun…. At least that is what he had always believed.
Reilly was just trying to make ends meet. She wanted to get through the day with her slimy boss keeping his hands to himself. But when she got the call from the hospital that her dad had been in an accident, she had to go. Her boss had other ideas.
The pileup on the freeway had Boyd working overtime. All the injured had been coming into the hospital in droves. He had treated so many patients that he was just exhausted. When he stepped out for a breather, he saw her. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, and when he approached her, her scent had his senses in a whirl and his cat reacted. The word mate flashed through is mind. But that couldn’t be right, it had to be lack of sleep making him think that.
Jamie figured that she’d give someone ten more minutes, then she was leaving. She’d been at the hospital longer than she thought was necessary for fainting. Well, she’d really just passed out from shock, but she’d never done that before. Tossing off the cover that had been on her when she woke, she heard the baby crying so close that she ventured out of the room she’d been in and followed the sound. Her heart broke for how pitiful the tiny person’s voice sounded. There were ten babies in varying ages in the bassinets, all of them under six months old, she’d bet, and all of them asleep but the child that had her finding them. Lifting the little girl from the bassinet, she sat in the nearby rocking chair and started rocking her. “I have been looking for you for so long, I thought that I’d been mistaken about it.” Rocking a little more, the baby quieted down and stared up at her with the most beautiful green eyes that she’d ever seen.
“There is this guy here—you’ll know him as soon as you see him—who is a bully. And he’s a big hulking sort of person. Not like he’s stupid or anything—at least he didn’t sound that way. But he’s big, like that green guy that used to be on television. I know you wouldn’t know who that is, but I’m just making a reference.” The baby’s tiny hand wrapped around her finger and she smiled. Jamie loved babies—all kids really, but babies had a special place in her heart reserved just for them. When the baby’s eyes started to close a little at a time, Jamie decided to talk to her more. “When I was a little girl, I was dropped off at one of those safe places. I’m not sure why anyone would think that it was safe. I spent the next five years there, and let me tell you, it was not a place I’d go back to even on a threat of death. Then I ended up where no one should ever be allowed to stay. It was horrific, and the things they did to me were twice that bad.” Jamie heard the door near where she was sitting open and then close. “Anyway, the place. It wasn’t a baby mill like you were in, at least I don’t think so.
But a real place that unwanted children went. I say unwanted because we were told that every day—that we were there because no one wanted us for one reason or another. But the lab did. They needed me for a lot of things that I didn’t want to do. So that’s where I grew up. I think the place has shut down now. The house was a showstopper, really beautiful if a little out of date, and I loved it. Just not the people there.” She looked up when the curtain was thrown back. There stood her nemesis with a gun pointed at her again. Jamie started to stand and give him a big part of her mind when he slipped the gun back in wherever he’d gotten it from and sat down on the floor in front of her. “I thought I’d just sit here in the event you wanted to hit me again. This way I’m closer to the floor already.” She wanted to stick her tongue out at him, but knew that he’d laugh at her. “You said that your name is James. Why would anyone mistake you for a male? I’m Hawk, or Hawkins if you prefer.”
“I was a great deal younger back then, you idiot. Don’t you have someone else you can harass?
I mean, I was having a nice conversation with this little girl, and you—” “Her name is Lily, Lily Anderson. Her parents are on their way to see her. All the children have names now.” She just looked down at Lily, and her heart hurt to know that someone loved her. “Why do you think that no one loves you?” “You’re reading my mind. Why the hell would you think that isn’t rude?” He just shrugged and leaned back on his elbow, smiling at her. “What are you in here for, besides pulling yet another gun on me?” “I only pulled one out on you. The first time, it wasn’t meant for you but the guy holding you.” She rolled her eyes at him and started rocking again, anything to get the man to leave her alone. “You aren’t afraid of me; that’s a first. Usually people who see me for the first time never hit me in the face. Then you hit me in my balls too.” “Perhaps it’s because you’re nicer to others than you have been me.” Kicking his foot away from the front of the rocker, she glared at him. “I swear to Christ, you have to go away. I don’t like you one bit, and you’re taking up all my air while you’re here.”
“You’re not human.” Jamie felt every part of her body tense up. Then she looked for a way to escape. “I’m not sure what you are, but you’re not going anywhere now.” “Why is that? And let me remind you that I’ve hurt you twice now. If I want to leave, then I will. You won’t be able to stop me.” He looked at the exit door and she did as well. There were men standing in front of it, and she could tell they were armed. “You’re holding me prisoner? What the fuck for?” “They’re here for the children. And for me.” She asked him if he was going to be arrested. “You’re very defensive; anyone ever tell you that before? No, they’re not here to arrest me. They work for me. I’m considered a big deal by some people.” “Whatever.” She stood up, and he was suddenly standing too. Like he’d just willed it or something. “You’re a cat. Jaguar, I’m guessing. I could have told you that before you were shooting at me, but I was distracted. By you telling Ben to shoot me.” “That was before I knew you.” She pointed out that he didn’t know her now. “True. But I’m hoping that we can remedy that soon.” She was missing something in what he was saying, but she was too stressed to figure it out. Putting Lily back in her crib, she moved to leave the same way that she’d come in, by the back door. When she opened it up, there were three men standing there with the woman from the house. Miss Laughs a Lot. The two in uniform aimed their guns at her and she backed up a couple of steps. And right into the arms of Hawk. She struggled to get away from him, thinking that she’d be safer with the guns pointed at her, when Miss Laughs a Lot told them to stand down. No one moved. “Did you hear me, soldiers? I said to stand down.” Neither man moved, but they were looking at the man behind her. “Hawk, you’re going to lose these two idiots if you don’t make them behave around me. My word is my bond.” “Stand down.”
Both put their guns to their sides when Hawk said for them to do it with a great deal of authority in his voice. The other man laughed. Miss Laughs a Lot
didn’t seem to find it funny. Getting out of Hawk’s embrace was a good deal easier now. “They work for me and only me. This was a good test for them. Thanks, Burcher.” “It wasn’t a trial for anything, you fucking bastard. I don’t care for being ignored. Perhaps they don’t know me.” She turned to both men and they were nodding like their heads had somehow come loose from their necks. “So, you do know me. That doesn’t explain to me why when I give you an order, you don’t obey.” “They’re not dogs. Christ, you got your panties in a twist because they didn’t listen to the great Burcher, or whatever the fuck your name is? You on some power trip, or are you always a fucking cunt?” Every one of the men backed up from her and Burcher.
“You might get a lot more done if you ask politely when you want something to go your way. Like, and this is just an example, ‘Would you mind putting your guns down? I don’t want any more bloodshed—’” Jamie was lifted from the floor by Burcher. She was holding her there like she didn’t weigh a thing. Hawkins reached out to touch Lauren when the third man got right up and in his face. Jamie did the only thing she could think of before she passed out from lack of air. She shifted. Her beast roared when she told her to calm the fuck down. The people were afraid of her, that she could see, but she really didn’t care. Right now, she needed to get out of there before they spoke to someone about her. The presence of another being felt calming. Even the beast inside of her seemed to know that someone less than but like her was coming. Before the door opened, she as her beast, a great black bear—bigger than any normal—moved away from it. Whatever was coming, it wasn’t angry, but it was concerned. As soon as he walked through the door, she knew him for what he was. Not a name, but she and him had been created at the lab. When he came toward her, talking softly the whole time, Jamie whimpered. He wasn’t close to as powerful as she was, but she knew he had a great deal more than she did in knowledge of what he could do. She’d love to learn from him, but that would be dangerous. Nor could she hurt him. “Hello. I thought that all the others were found. I had no idea that you were there.” She let the bear go and stood before him. He was taller than her by a few inches, but nothing near what Hawkins was. “May I take your hand in mine?” “No. Don’t touch me.” He nodded and put his hands behind his back.
“I saw you there. In the room when I’d look around at night.” “Jon?” He looked at Hawk when he said his name. Then Jon looked at the others with a smile. The service men were guarding the door again, and didn’t look as if they gave a shit about what was going on around them. “Is she like you? Someone from the lab?” “No. She’s very different than I am. Just as dangerous, but no less hurt by the men there.” She watched Hawk when he moved to come closer to her. “I wouldn’t, Hawk. Not yet at any rate.” “She’s my mate, Jon.” No one said a word, but seemed to focus all their eyes on her. She lifted her chin and decided it was well past time for her to get the fuck out of there. “What do you mean, she’s very different than—?”
“And she’s standing right the fuck here. You are the rudest man I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. I’m leaving here.” Jon asked her to wait. “For what? For them to call someone and tell them where I am? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve been down that road more times than I’d like to think about. “Tell them what you are.” She looked at Jon then at Hawk. Jamie knew what a mate was, but there was no way that anyone would want her after what she’d been through. “You’d be very surprised at what these people can do for you.” “I was dropped off at the home for wayward kids when I was an infant. During my first five years, I was a troubled child.” Hawk snorted. “Fuck you. What would you have done if you became a monster that didn’t have any idea where she was? I was a bear shifter and didn’t have any idea how to control her.” She looked at the floor, anywhere but at Hawk.
“I wasn’t one of the lab rats like you were. I wasn’t a human when I was taken there at the age of five—I was a shifter, so I guess that qualified for me to be discarded when they were done with me. Taken from the home I had been in since birth. After a while they got tired of me not doing what they wanted, and I was put away to be destroyed. When I slipped out of the cage they had me in, I wandered around the building to keep up with what they were doing.” “They messed with you with drugs too, then.” She nodded at the man near Lauren. “I’m Colin McCullough. Lauren is my wife. And Hawkins is my brother. He’s Army.” “Yeah, I got that part.” Jamie ignored Hawk. She looked at Jon and spoke only to him. “They did the first experiments on me, before you were given anything. The trouble was, no one took into consideration that I hadn’t been human, so they would affect me differently than you. Second, I was a way for them to figure out if whatever they were set to give you would maybe kill you. And if it didn’t me, then they’d give it to you.” “You were five when they did this to you?” She told Jon how they’d find her every month or so then use her again. “They knew where you were at all times, I’m thinking. The men there only gave you the illusion that you were free to roam.” ~*~ Hawkins watched her. He knew as surely as he was standing there she was going to bolt. And he’d bet any kind of money that he’d not be able to find her unless she allowed it. Marking her wouldn’t do him much good either. She was just as strong, if not stronger than Jon, Hawkins would bet. “I have to go. No, I’m going to go now. I only stuck around here to find the babies.” Lauren stepped in front of her. “Do you have a death wish? I would have thought someone with your obvious training would know not to stand in front of a dangerous bullet.” “Is that what you are? Dangerous? I’m not so afraid of you. More that I’m afraid of what they did to you.” Jamie put up her hand and morphed it into a gun. Then a sword. And again she turned her hand into a monster, long claws and all. “Nope, not going to work. You’re his mate, and that means something to this family.”
“Well, it means shit to me.” Jamie looked at him before speaking again. “I’m nothing you want to fuck with or fuck. I am dangerous, and I’m not as stupid as some people may think I am. I will hurt you if you try again to detain me.” “I’m asking you to please not leave me.” She shook her head and looked at the doors again. He knew her plan to leave was rapidly coming to fruition. “I’m asking you to take a chance here. No one will be able to touch you again. I will swear this on my life.” “And you? Will you claim me? I’m guessing that’s what you think is going to happen. And you might be immortal, but removing your head will be easy enough for me.” He nodded and told her that he knew that she was stronger than him. “Hell, I’m stronger than even Jon is. Don’t you get it? I’m nothing more than a taste tester from long ago. If I lived, then they would inject the shit into him. Sometimes more than once.” “I don’t care about any of that. I was bemoaning the fact that someday my mate would come to me. Basically because of what I do. I’m not such a cup of tea either.”
He moved closer all the time, hoping that if he could touch her once, his cat would feel much better. “You know what I am. A jaguar first and foremost. My cat is pissy with me, because he too knows who you are to us.” “Again, I don’t care.” She looked at the exit then back at him just before he was able to touch her. Hawk felt himself being tossed back. Hitting the wall behind him, he braced himself for whatever came next. He was sure, too, that there would be more put upon him. Hawkins watched her while she calmed herself. She’d not lost total control, he knew that, but had punched him with magic just enough to keep him away from her. Sitting up, he sat there while the rest of them left. Even his men walked out the door. “You did that? Made them leave us?” She nodded. “And can you make me leave too? Or is it the mate thing that prevents you from making me do anything I don’t want? By the way, you’re not supposed to be able to hurt me. I guess we can chalk that up to being a falsehood.” “I can’t make you leave. Had I been able to, then you’d be gone. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with you thinking I’m your mate.” She looked down at her arm where he’d touched her, and he could see the marks on her arm. Standing up and going to her, he asked her if she was all right. Then he pulled her arm over to have a better look at what had happened. She was burned. Like his fingers brushing over her, and that had been all it was, had caused her to be blistered and in pain. “Why did you touch me? I told you, several times, not to touch.” He let her arm go but didn’t back away this time. “I don’t want to be here.” “No, I got that.” He laughed a little, and saw a tease of a smile on her mouth. Then she became hard again. “Why did you burn when I touched you? And why not the second time that I held up your arm?” “You were intending to detain me. For lack of a better word, my programming knew that and lashed out at you. The second time you weren’t as aggressive.
need to harm you again.”
Hawkins nodded and touched his fingers to her cheek. “That doesn’t mean that I won’t fucking hurt you. Go away. And then I will. You’ll be much happier without me around, trust me. I know this for a fact.” “There have been others that you hurt?” Instead of answering him, she walked to the window and looked out. “I can help you. You can tell, I’m assuming, that I’m a bit more than a cat. I’m in no way as powerful as the two of you, you and Jon, but I can hold my own.” “They won’t care what you are. If you have loved ones or even if you’re an immortal. They’ll take you apart right there along with me once they figure it out.” He shivered, thinking of all the shit she’d had done to her. “I’m trying my best to save you, and you’re too dense to understand that forgetting about me will be the best thing that happens to you.” “Doubtful. I mean, I was afraid of when I found my mate. Not afraid, but concerned that I’d been too long in the military and might not be good for a woman. Hell, I’m barely good to my family on a daily basis. I can see you have no trouble putting me in my place and making sure that I understand when you’re pissed off.” She didn’t laugh like he had hoped she would. “I’m not a gentle man. I don’t know how to be romantic. I haven’t the first clue how dating works anymore. When I was seventeen I signed on to become something more. What I hadn’t counted on was Burcher finding me and recruiting me for her team.” “I’m assuming that was her last name before becoming McCullough. I’d toss her into a deep hole or cage and lock the door, but that’s just me.” He told her what her name was before. “Colonel Lauren Burcher? I knew that she was something more than just a woman. She’s a bitch.”
“Yeah, she might say the same about you. But she’d be happy with it instead of pissed off like you are.” She looked like she didn’t understand, and he’d bet she didn’t want to. “I was called Mac in the service. My family is the only people that call me Hawkins. Or sometimes Hawk when I’m not in too much trouble with them.” She didn’t say the obvious next line of “that must happen a lot then.” Hawkins realized that she was going to forever do the unexpected and not care a bit if it offended or even pissed someone off. She was a great deal like Lauren, but Jamie would be meaner when pressed, he guessed. “Why don’t you come home with me?” She turned and looked at him then. “I have a nice house. My brother helped me buy it when I was in the service.” “You still are. In the service, I mean.” He nodded, not saying anything. “I’m not going home with you. I have one that I like well enough. But you’re to stay away from me. I don’t want to get involved with you at all.” “I’m afraid it’s too late for that.” He pulled her body to him, and was surprised that he didn’t hurt her again. Pressing his mouth to hers, hoping that she’d allow him a taste of her, he moaned when she finally did. Her body fit his. When he pulled her closer, letting her feel what she was doing to him, he thought he would happily die right now the way she’d wrapped her arms
Before he could pull her up from the floor, find a hard place to lay her while he feasted on her body, she pulled her mouth away from his. “I’m sorry.” He started to tell her that she had nothing to be sorry about when she disappeared. Hawk was left holding air, and was no closer to finding anything out than he had been before. And Hawk wanted to know everything. Reaching to Burcher, he asked her if she’d do him a favor. If you’re going to ask me if I can find out something about your girl, I’m already on it. Your mate is a piece of work, by the way. She isn’t the least bit impressed with me, nor does she care that I could snap her like a twig. Hawk wisely said nothing. He was reasonably sure that Jamie could not just snap Lauren, but get rid of the body without any trouble.
There isn’t much when I do a regular search, but I’m digging. Where is she, by the way? Gone. She was here, then gone. I need to talk to Jon too. Maybe he can shed some light on things. Lauren said she doubted it. Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking too. I might have to return to Washington, but I’ll be in contact with you while I’m gone. I’m assuming that Mom and Dad know that I’ve found my mate? Yes, but it wasn’t me. I was really pissed about that too. Colin told them before I was able to. She paused for too long, but he knew better than to hurry her along. Hawk, your mate is really in the shit. She’s not just wanted by some very unsavory people, but there is a warrant out for her arrest as well. Murder and robbery. But they know her as an entirely different name. Holly Tree. Even I can tell that’s a fake, and I’m not looking very hard. I’ll need what you can find. I don’t have a clue where she is, or even if she needs a place to stay. But she’s my mate, and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry I ever doubted that I wanted one. She said that she’d have it couriered to him. Thanks. I owe you one. Never, Mac. Never that. I owe you so much, I don’t think being immortal is ever going to be long enough to pay you back for most of it. He said nothing. I’m printing it up now and making arrangements to have it brought to you. Should be there by this evening. Hawk could disappear too. He didn’t care for doing it, because when he reappeared, he had to be careful where he was landing, so to speak. But this time he had no choice. He should have been in Washington yesterday. He only had a few more missions to go before he was done with everything military. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t dreading it.
Addie’s mission had been sabotaged and she’d been shot multiple times. She wouldn’t die from her wounds because she was an immortal, but she did hurt, and she needed time to heal. The Winchesters had taken her into their home while she was passed out from her injuries. Now that she was awake, she needed to leave. She was being hunted and they would all be in danger if she stayed. Xander Winchester had just received the best news. The publisher loved his book so much that they were not only publishing his book, they were offering a movie deal to boot. He couldn’t wait to tell his family at dinner tonight. The scent from the woman hit Xander hard. Her beauty was something that he’d never seen before. Even as he took a step toward her, his mind was telling him to tread carefully, while his body and wolf were telling him to go forth and conquer. He had a feeling that listening to that part of him would get him killed quicker than stepping in front of a bus. Or an entire line of them. Xander should have known better. Should have taken to heart what his mind was telling him….
Caleb Winchester didn’t care for his boss, in fact he despised him. He hadn’t meant to quit that day—the words ‘I quit’ spilled from his mouth without thinking—but once said he had no regrets. He was a good ad executive, he could find another job.
Quinn Dorsey and her father, Alexander, had seen Caleb’s work and that was the artist they needed for their dog food labels. When the agency couldn’t deliver the ad campaign they ordered, and then lied about Caleb working on the project, they went looking for the man himself.
Caleb hadn’t expected his customers to seek him out, but when Alexander shows up at Caleb’s house with his daughter, Quinn, Caleb is floored—she’s his mate and she’s been marked by another alpha.
Caleb’s not going to let an alpha beat him out of his mate. This lunatic has been marking females left and right, but if Caleb claims her, he risks not only his life, but the life of his mate and family as well….
Gabriel Winchester was finally opening his own practice. After finishing the final details, and meeting his first patient, he sat back in his unfinished office and closed his eyes, just to rest them, he told himself. When he opened them, a burly stranger was there, and he wasn’t that friendly. The man was looking for a Rayne McFarland and “I don’t know who she is” wasn’t an acceptable answer, so Gabriel called his brothers through their link for help.
Rayne was on the run from her father, and knew when he caught up with her she’d be dead. Rayne could speak to the deceased and they warned her every time her father’s henchmen were near. What she didn’t count on was falling in the woods and injuring herself.
When his brother, Owen, brought the unconscious woman into his office, Gabriel’s wolf knew immediately who she was to them. Ready or not, Gabriel had a mate, and while he knew he could handle the threat to her, he wasn’t sure he could live with her ability to talk to the dead.
Clare Macintosh didn’t know what was going on. Her brother, Conrad, had been called in for a meeting and they’d already been waiting over an hour. They were leaving, they had waited long enough.
Owen Winchester had called for the meeting with Conrad. He had no idea the young man was handicapped, but what he had to show him would make his life easier, or at least he hoped so. The trunks Owen had found in the barn of his new home belonged to him. Conrad was the only living relative he could find of the previous owner. Owen was a bit surprised to find Conrad had a sister and she was his mate to boot.
All Clare wanted to do was take her brother and hide. Her parents, Con and Ava Macintosh, weren’t nice people, and neither were the people they stole from. Even though Clare had distanced herself from them, it wouldn’t stop their associates from seeking revenge. She didn’t need the handsome stranger pushing his way into her life.
Tyler saw his big brother coming toward him. Xander hadn’t seen him yet, which was okay with him. Xander would probably just walk away and go someplace else where Tyler wasn’t. Not just with Tyler, but everybody. He’d been like that since Wendy had died. She’d been his mate. “You gonna talk to me?” Xander stopped and said that he didn’t want to talk to anyone. “No, I guess you made that kind of clear. I’m worried about you. Everybody is.” “I’m all right. It’s a big blow to my heart, even though I didn’t know her at all.” She’d been killed when someone raided the store she’d been in with her momma, killing them both as well as several other people there. “When we were at the funeral, Dad had to help me away, do you remember that? I sort of feel like that all the time now. Broken.” “Yes, we all do.
Dad said that she didn’t suffer any. I don’t understand people, Xander. To kill anyone, that’s so sad, but to do it for nothing more than because they didn’t have the right kind of honey for his cereal is just plain stupid.” Xander sat down next to him. “I could smell her, even with all those chemicals. But I knew right then what she was to me.” “I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me. Dad said you wasn’t taking it hard then, but you seem to be now.” Xander nodded. “I guess you had time to think on it, huh?” “Yeah. Mom and Dad, they got it right, you know that? They tell each other all the time that they love each other. I was gonna do that too.” Tyler didn’t know why people would even like a girl, much less love one, but he did agree that his parents were mushy like that. “I’ll never get to have a kid of my own either. Not that I want one right now, but I thought that someday I’d want one. A whole bunch of them that I could play with, like Dad did us.” “I don’t ever want to have any sons, Xander. Boys are all I have right now in brothers.
” Xander ruffled up his hair, like he always did. “Someday I guess I might want sons, but you guys are always being bossy and stuff. I hate that.” “We’re just trying to make sure that you do things right, little brother.” Tyler nodded and thought of all the things that had been going on of late. “You know, Mr. Cartwright, he told me that someday, I was going to think back on him and wonder why he’d been wanting to be a part of our family. I told him that I knew why. My momma baked the best pies in the world.” “She does at that. But I don’t think he does it for that reason. He’s lonely and sad sometimes, have you noticed that? Anyway, I think that he comes over not for the food, but because we’re nice to him. And he’s nice to us.” Xander laid back on the ground. “I’m about done being mopey, as Mom called me. I just had it hit me what all I was going to miss. But, I guess that’s the way the fates wanted it. Come on, let’s go and get
us some dinner. Mom said we’re having the catfish that you and Mr. Cartwright caught yesterday.” Tyler didn’t care all that much for catfish, but he knew better than to turn down meat.
They didn’t have it often—sometimes they’d go a whole week without any. But when they did have it, they ate it like it was gold filled. Being wolves, they needed it. But there was usually plenty of other stuff to go with it, and Mom always had some hot bread to fill up the voids when there were any. There might not be tonight. He’d caught ten catfish yesterday and Mr. Cartwright had caught himself a dozen, then handed them over to Tyler to give to his momma to cook up. Xander walked alongside of him, shortening his steps so that he could keep up. Tyler had all these dreams of somedays. That’s what he called his list, Somedays. Someday he was going to have it all too. Someday he was going to have a nice car. Not new—they weren’t worth the payments, Dad said. Someday he was going to own him a house. Really close to his parents, he decided just then. Someday he was going to be rich too.
Just so he could make it easier on his mom and dad. Someday, he thought lastly, he was going to meet him a nice girl, even though he didn’t like them, and have him a bunch of kids. Someday. Not now, but someday. “Do you suppose that the fates—or whatever it is that sets us up like this—you suppose that they take in account that your mate might have something happen to him or her?” There were times, like at this moment, that Tyler thought his older brother was too young for his brain. “You know what I mean, don’t you?” “Yes, I understand you. But I honestly don’t know, Xander. I mean, they know everybody’s fate. You know, that’s their name, right? I would think that they’d know that from the minute they set you up.” He didn’t think that was nice, so Tyler tried to fix it. “But I’m only a kid and you’re almost a big adult. Well, you are big. Like bigheaded. Big footed. What sized shoe do you wear now?
Or do you just go on out to the field and kick two cows in the bottom and wear them?” Tyler wasn’t stupid nor was he very fast, but they took off running as soon as his brother growled. Laughing too hard to go far, he felt his brother’s big wolf take him down and lick him all over his face. They were having so much fun, he’d forgotten why Xander had come to find him in the first place. It was dinner time. It was always nice having Mr. Cartwright over. He always brought a treat, as he called it. Sometimes it was the stuff to make ice cream. Other times it was just a big cake that had been on sale or something. Tyler thought the man was just being nice. He’d been in the store a lot with his momma and hadn’t ever seen a sale on those sized cakes. But he ate whatever it was because it was always good. “Mr. Cartwright won’t be joining us tonight, sons.” He asked his dad why not. “Well, today was the date that his wife passed on, and he goes and sits with her for a spell.” Tyler glanced at Xander but said nothing. “Why don’t we gather up some of those flowers that are gonna die anyway and take them over to her grave for him?” Caleb always had the best ideas. Tyler wished he
had one or two like he did.
“We don’t have to stay, just show him that we care that he’s hurting.” “Wonderful idea, Caleb.” Tyler wanted to kick his brother under the table, but he’d not do that again. He would make him pay later. Almost as if he knew what he was thinking, Caleb stabbed him with his eyes. Caleb was the oldest, and sometimes when he was being big brother, he’d just beat him to a pulp for the fun of it. Not really. Tyler would sort of make him mad, just to see him running after him. Caleb was the best big brother there was. They took the flowers to Mrs. Cartwright’s grave and were invited to stay by Mr. Cartwright. But Mom said they had supper on and wouldn’t be bothering him. Mr. Cartwright kissed his fingers and laid them on top of the pretty headstone that Dad had helped carve, and said he’d join them. “The time for mourning is done. I have to…. It’ll be easier with you guys around, but I have to stop acting like I’m gonna come out here and she’s going to be waiting on me.” Dad told him that they’d be powerful sorry if he went with her. Tyler had no idea what that meant, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. Grownups were touchy about death, love, and such. That night when he and Dominic were in their room, he asked him what he thought about what Xander had said—about there being someone else out there for him. Then he told him what he’d told his brother. “I think that’s what Mom would call you being insensitive, moron.
” He asked him how. “Because that was the time when a little fib would have made him feel better. You know, like when Mom asks us if she looks tired and she does, but we all tell her that she’s right pretty.” “But that’s not the kind of question that Xander asked me. He wanted to know the truth.” Or he had thought he did. “I did try and tell him that I was only just a kid. And him being an almost adult.” “There. See? You did it twice. You called him almost an adult. He’s not an adult and saying almost only makes it sound like you don’t think he’s going to ever be. I swear, there are some times, Tyler, that I think you were born under a rock or something.” He pointed out to his brother he was being insensitive too. “Yeah? Well, think how that made you feel.” For the rest of the night he did think about how it made him feel. Nothing. They were always calling him a moron, or something like that. Instead of thinking of it as a bad thing, Tyler thought of it as a learning curve. Yeah, he did learn that he was a might on the insensitive side. But his brothers were older than him, except Dominic, and the two of them needed to grow some. Not that he was sure what they were supposed to grow, but he’d heard that at the high school a few weeks back and was glad now that he’d found a way to use it. But, like the rest of them, he’d never say something like that, or curse in front of their mom. She was scary when she was upset about something.