Evan: The Whitfield Rancher Release Day

Dylan Hutchinson lived and breathed Army, and she’d been under cover so long she’d forgot what it felt like to be a civilian. But the last mission took a turn for the worse and not only was she hurt, but she’s been informed that she could no longer do her job. It’s either a desk job as a recruiter, or she’s out. 

Evan Whitfield didn’t have to work, but he loved his job as a surgeon. And when as his tiger he found an old man wandering in the woods with Alzheimer’s and confused, he wanted to help the family. The family had a daughter in the hospital too, and they were struggling. Evan thought the daughter might be not as sick or hurt as she claimed to be, so he took it upon himself to check her out. Evan was surprised to find that she was not only hurt worse than they claimed, she was also his mate.

For a doctor, Dylan thought Evan was dense. What part of go away didn’t he understand? She wasn’t the mate or marrying kind. Her life was over, not beginning. He needed to just go away….


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Chapter 1
The hay bailer was working the last two rows when Evan saw his dad riding his big bay horse toward him. Blake and Adrian, two of his brothers, had already been cut loose, and he was fixing to do the same to Joshua and David, his other brothers. He and Adam could handle this last bit, so he told them to head on back to the house before Dad got there. “He looks like he’s got something on his mind. I’m betting it has something to do with that trip he made today. It’s not like him to go to town unless one of us is with him.” Nodding at Adam, Evan watched as Dad dismounted and made his way toward them. “Are you staying for supper tonight, or heading back to town?” “Town. I have to work in the morning.” Dad asked him if they were about done. “Yes, sir. Adam and I are going to see to this before we put the tractor in the barn. Adrian said he’d clean it for me after supper.” “You not staying?” He told him the same thing he’d told Adam. “I don’t know why you don’t just quit that job. I know that you’re good at it and all, but I’d sure like to see you more than once a week, and that has you rushing off again. Come home, son. For good.” There was a bite to his voice, as if he was really pissed at him. Evan let out a long breath, picking up the next bale that had come from the baler. Whatever was bothering his dad, he was sure it had nothing to do with his job. “Dad, I’m thirty minutes away. Less if I need to hurry. And me working was what I went to college for. And I love what I do. It’s rewarding to see how my work is making a difference. You know as well as I do that you have more than enough hands around if you need them.” His dad nodded but didn’t say anything else. “Everything all right?” “Yes. Why wouldn’t it be?” Evan only shrugged. His dad was in a mood, and while it wouldn’t last long, he could be a bear until it was over. “Your grandpa is coming for a visit. I guess he went and talked to your mom and they set it up. I was in town earlier picking him up. He’s staying.” “You don’t want him here?” His dad glared at him. “Maybe this would go better and a good deal faster if you were to tell me what burr you have up your butt. I’m not being disrespectful, but you’re like a bear with his foot in a trap.” “I’m sorry, son. I love my dad. But he’s a hog.” Evan asked him what that was supposed to mean. “He wants to be in the middle of every little thing. He’ll want to plan a big dinner and all the foods for it. Have you boys at his beck and call. I can’t even get you to stay for supper.” “You didn’t ask.” His dad asked him then. He didn’t sound so sour about it, but there was a tone that Evan decided to ignore. “I’d love to. But if I do, then you’re going to tell me the real reason that you’re ticked off. I know that you’re not all that upset about Grandpa coming around. You love him as much as I do you.”
“He wants to go over his will.” Well, that was something. No one liked to be made to realize that they were as mortal as the next. “I’m not ready for that. I just…. We just buried my mom, and I don’t want to talk about him leaving too. It’s too much. But when I said that to your mother, she got all huffy with me.” “She got huffy or you got huffy?” His dad said he might have started it. “Mom loved Grandma too. I’m betting she no more wants to do this than you do. But I can also understand why Grandpa wants to do this. It was a mess when Grandma died, and she had everything all written out for the funeral director and all.” “No will was properly made out. I know that, I surely do, but it’s just too soon. What am I gonna do if something happens to him too?” Evan hugged his dad and told him he had them. “Yes, but he’s my dad. And…well, I don’t know what I’m going to do. You know? He’s always been there, him and Mom. And to think that he’s making these plans…well, it just breaks my heart. Upsets me so that I get angry about it. I’m sorry, I am, but he’s my dad.” “Maybe if you just let him do this, then he’ll start to get better. You know as well as I that he’s been in a bad way. Not that I blame him. I know that I would be as well. But if he feels like things are settled, then perhaps he’ll start to come out of this depression a little more.” His dad said nothing. “Dad, I don’t know what else to do. He’s going to do it, no matter what we try to say.” “What if he’s doing this because he has plans to join Mom? I mean, like right now, instead of waiting until his time comes along? I’m afraid, Evan, that is just what he’s planning to do. This might be his way of getting things settled, as you called it, before he does something really stupid.” Evan had actually thought of that but didn’t want to mention it to his dad. “I can’t lose another parent. Even as old as I am and knowing that he’s getting up there, I just can’t lose him.” “Neither can we. Neither can any of us.” He hugged his dad, just held him while he got himself under control. Evan didn’t know what he’d do if he lost any more of his family. They were the world to him. Adam had moved away and was sitting in the truck, dealing with his own kind of grief. Losing Grandma had hit them all hard. She’d been the rock of the family. And she was going to be sorely missed. There were still a few rows to go, so Evan asked his dad if he’d help. “Once we get this done, we won’t have to worry about the rain until next season. And I, for one, would love to have this part of the end of season finished up.” “All right.” They worked side by side, putting the bales of straw up on the truck bed as it slid out of the baler. It was hard work, but it felt good to be out in the sunshine. His dad, even as old as he was, did as good a job as Evan was doing keeping up with the baler as it made short work of the hay. And when they hit the last row, both climbed up on the bales and rode home that way. “I think I needed this too. Just to be able to think about nothing else for a time.” “It’s one of the reasons I come home. To get away from the city, run a bit with my brothers, and to see you guys. It clears the mind.” His dad nodded. “We’ll talk to
Grandpa, Dad. Maybe if we show him how much we need him around, he’ll rethink whatever it is he’s got going on in his head.” “I’d like that too. I know you have to go back to work tomorrow, but I wish you’d reconsider coming home for good. It’s not like you need to work, Evan. I really miss you. And I know that your brothers and mom do as well.” Evan didn’t say anything. There was nothing for him to say. He had to work or he’d go nuts. “You think on it. Maybe you can take some vacation time out and see what you’re missing here.” “I know what I’m missing. I think about it every day.” They got off the hay and helped the hands put it in the barn. In a few weeks they’d have to go to the other field to do the same thing there, but for now they had enough to keep the few cows they had and the horses fed in the colder months. And to sell to the other ranchers around them when they ran short. Evan loved his family. He enjoyed being with them, talking to his brothers about nothing much at all. And the open fields that he could roam alone or with them. But he needed to be away too. Needed his own space, his own things. If he did quit his job and came home, his mom and dad would expect him to live at home again, as most of his brothers were. Not that it wasn’t nice being all together, but he needed quiet sometimes. Grandpa was at the house when they came out of the barn. He was still looking lost, not that Evan didn’t blame him. Evan saw a lot of death in his job. Being a surgeon was not meeting people in the best of circumstances. His family might drive him nuts at times, but they were his and he loved them.  Hugging Grandpa, he followed him to the mud room to clean up. Grandpa didn’t say anything, but Evan knew he had something on his mind. “You still being a doctor out there in the city?” He said that he was. “I was wondering if you’d do me a favor when you go back. I need something notarized, and I’d like for you to drop me at the bank when you leave here. If you don’t mind.” “Sure, but I know a couple of people that can do that. So can Mom. I think she still has her license up to date.” He said he wanted the banker to do it. “I can take you. But if you don’t mind, what is it?” “I want to turn over my house to your daddy.” Evan was drying his hands when he asked him what he wanted to do that for. “I just don’t think I can live there anymore. It’s got all them memories, and it hurts me.” “Where are you going to live if not there?” He looked away. “Grandpa, if you don’t tell me I’m going to start guessing, and I don’t think I like that any better than you not telling me the truth.” “I can’t go on. I just don’t have it in me anymore to want to. I miss her that much.” It hurt Evan to hear him say that. “I loved her for over sixty years, and now she’s gone. What’s a man supposed to do if he can’t have the one love of his life standing beside him?” Evan hugged him to him again. “Oh, Evan, she was my entire world, she was. And the best thing that ever happened to me.” “Dad thinks you’re going to end your life. Is that the plan? Because I have to tell you, I’m not going to let you. None of us will.” Grandpa told him that he didn’t have
anything to live for. “You have us. Dad and Mom too. We’d have no one if you were to do this.” “I hurt.” Evan told him he didn’t know the pain he was feeling, but understood. “She kept me in line. Helped me through the day just by loving me. And I tell you right now that she made me feel like I was the king of the world with just her smile. I miss her so very much.” He sobbed then, holding onto Evan as he did so. Evan felt his own eyes fill with tears, and when they fell over his cheeks, he held his grandpa all the tighter. Grandma had been there for all of them. She’d been the one that he could go to, for anything. And now she was gone and Grandpa wanted to join her. Dinner was a somber affair. No one, it seemed, was in their usual jolly mood. Even Blake, who could liven up any seating, was quiet. Evan helped his mom clear the dishes, and the rest of them cleaned up the kitchen. Grandpa joined them just as they were putting the last clean pot on the hanger. “Buy it from me. One of you boys, you should buy my house from me.” They didn’t move, not even to look at one another. “I will make you a good deal. I can’t…. I was thinking of moving in with Oliver here, and I would love for one of you yahoos to have the house.” “You move in with Dad and Mom, and I’ll buy it.” Evan had no idea why he said that. He didn’t need a house any more than he needed to work. “You promise us that you’ll move in here and behave yourself, then I’ll buy your house.” “I don’t want to behave myself. I want to…I want to run in the woods. Have some…. You six should make me a great grandpa. I’d surely have something to do if you were to do that.” Each of them groaned and Grandpa laughed. “You promise me that you’ll be on the outlook for yourself a mate, and I’ll try and keep myself in a better frame of mind.” “Deal.” All of them put out their hands after making the promise. If that was all it took, a promise, then Evan would do it. As for the house? He didn’t have a clue what he was going to do with it, but he’d figure out something. Maybe he’d let his brothers use it for a while. ~~~ Norris put the phone in the cradle and looked at his dad. “She’s coming home. They’ve made arrangements to pick her up and take her to the hospital in New York so that they can evaluate her before she can come here. It’ll be about three more days or so before they release her to the one here in town. We’ll have her close enough that we can go and visit her when we want to.” “Who?” Norris told him that Dylan was coming home. “Your momma is already here, Norris. You go on talking like she isn’t, I’m going to have to ground you. I told you that before.” “Yes, Dad.” Norris sat there, not mentioning to his dad again that his mom had died several years ago. That he’d been living with them for seven years. Nor did he explain, again, that Dylan was his daughter, his dad’s granddaughter, and that she was
coming home because she’d been hurt badly and had to leave the service. He could tell him, but Dad wouldn’t remember it. “I’d like to have fish for dinner tonight. You go ask your momma if she can whip me some up.” Norris nodded. “Then we should go for ice cream. You got those good grades, so we should celebrate. Didn’t you, boy?” “I’d like that. We’ll go after supper, if you still want.” Dad got up and made his way to his room. In a few minutes, he’d come back out and ask Norris where his bed was, and he’d have to show him. Alzheimer’s sucked. Several years ago his dad had been a little forgetful. Slightly disoriented at times too. Nothing that worried them much. His dad was brilliant, and had always had trouble remembering simple tasks unless he wrote them down. After his wife passed, he became worse…his inability to remember to put on shoes or wear a coat had gotten him put in the hospital with a cold that had turned into pneumonia. Then they started noticing him being forgetful of who they were, and most of the time he would remember things that were well in the past. Then he’d begun to wander off. It was then that Norris had found out that his dad was slowly losing his ability to do a great many things. Like living alone and keeping his own house. Meals were skipped because he couldn’t remember if he’d eaten. Bedtimes were overlooked because he didn’t remember where his bed was. Things like that and more had gotten the doctor to declare him unfit to live on his own. He’d been living with them since then. Not that he didn’t enjoy having his dad around. But lately, just over the last few months, he’d been getting away from them. Running off without telling anyone where he was going. And sometimes the police had to help them find him. His dad was having more and more bad days all the time. It was putting a strain not just on Norris’s health, but his finances as well. When Norris’s wife Stella returned from grocery shopping, he checked on his dad before he went to help bring things in and saw that he was napping. They used to do all kinds of things together before his dad came to stay, now they had to do things in stages. But he was glad that he had his dad and that he could be there for him. He told Stella about the phone call he’d gotten. “Dylan will spend a few weeks in the hospital here, then they’ll let her come home. I don’t think she’s going to be too terribly happy about that.” Stella said that she could bet on that. “I’m so worried about her. We were lucky, they told me again. I’d have been a lot happier if she’d not gone over there at all.” “You couldn’t have stopped her. She has her own mind, and once she gets something in it, she’s not going to stop. Not even when it’s that dangerous.” Norris nodded. “To have her home will be wonderful. I know that she’s going to need a lot of rehabilitation, but I’m so glad that she’s coming home for good.” Dylan, Hutch to her men and friends, had been hurt badly about six months back. She and her men had been on a mission, something that she did a great deal while in the army, and she had gotten hurt. Three of her men had been killed, and another had died right after he’d gotten to the hospital. Dylan had nearly been one of them. Norris
didn’t know where it had happened or how she’d been injured, nor did he know to what extent her injuries were. But he knew that she was lucky to be alive, and that was all that mattered to him. For now, anyway. “When did they say they’d be here with her? You probably told me, but my mind is a little fuzzy. I’m so tired, Norris. I shouldn’t have stayed up so late watching that movie.” He laughed and told his wife that it was supposed to be Friday. “Good. We’ll be there when they land. Then we’ll go to the hospital with her. I miss her so much.” He did as well, and had for a long time. Dylan was their only child, and she’d been a delightful little girl who grew up into a wonderful grown up. At seventeen she’d joined the army, and soon after she made it through boot camp, she’d been picked to be trained for special jobs. He knew that she was covert, but anything else had been kept from them, to keep them, and especially her, safe. Over the next ten years they’d seen very little of their daughter. She was forever rushing off for one thing or another, her job keeping her away for longer periods of time. Then about six months ago, a few days before they’d been notified that there had been an accident, she’d called him. With the call coming in the middle of the night, he knew something was wrong. “Dad?” He said it was him and glanced at the clock. He’d never forget the time. It was one twenty-four in the morning. “Dad, I’m going to be coming home soon, I’ve arranged it. I’ll have a month off. I’d like for you to do something for me.” “Anything. You name it and it’ll be yours.” She laughed and he could hear the tension in it. “What is it, baby? Are you all right?” “No. I’ve been…I don’t think I can do this anymore. So much death and pain here now.” He asked her what it was. “I can’t tell you. But I’m done. I want to come home and make a life. After my R&R, I’m going to muster out. I want a house. A yard of my own. I want things to be normal.” “Normal? Honey, do you even know what that means?” She laughed again, and he could hear the little hiccup of a sob then. “Dylan, what is it? Tell me? I want to help you.” “There’s this house, about two doors down from yours and Mom’s. Buy it for me. I have the money. I’m sending you money that I have here to the account that you set up for me, and that we now use for Grandda.” He heard her tell someone to fuck off and started to ask her what was going on, but she started talking again. “If you can, get it cheaper so I can have it retro fitted for Grandda. I want him to live with me.” “Honey, he’s a lot to take on. Even for the two of us.” It tore at his heart when she told him she wanted to come home, for a normal life. “Dylan, what is going on?” “I can’t tell you. I can’t…I’ll come home for good, then we can talk. All right?” He said that he would look forward to it. “Buy the house. Like I said, the money is in the account that you opened for me when I was a little girl. I want you to use it to buy the house. The rest of it…you do with whatever you need to do to get you and Mom something nice.” He told her he would buy the house and she said she had to go. The line went dead then, and it had been the last time he’d spoken to her. Not even when they’d gone to see
her was she able to speak. Her body was too broken to do much more than just heal. Norris made his way out to the back of the house and sat on the deck. His baby was coming home, and he doubted very much anything was going to be normal for her again. “Norris?” He looked up at his wife when she said his name. “Norris, I can’t find your father. He was resting not ten minutes ago, and now he’s gone.”  His body tensed up and he stood. Dad could have gone anywhere in that little time. The man was like a magician when it came to escaping their notice and getting into trouble. Calling the police to tell them what had happened, he began walking the streets. His dad would only be able to tell someone where he lived if he was having a good day. And his dad’s good days had been few and far between in the last several weeks. Most everyone knew him, but there were a few that didn’t.  “Did you find your dad, Mr. Hutchinson?” He told the officer that he’d not about an hour later when he drove up behind him. “I have all our men out looking for him. You should go and talk to Mr. Whitfield like I suggested. Him and his boys, they’d sure be able to find him a good deal faster.” “I know. I’ve been meaning to, but my daughter…she’s coming home soon.” Officer Petty told him that was wonderful as he stopped the cruiser and got out. “She’s going to be spending a few weeks in the hospital, but she’ll be home soon enough.” “You’ve had a rough few months, Mr. Hutchinson. But having Hutch home, that’ll take some of the burden off you and your family. She was always one to depend on.” He only nodded, knowing that she’d be depending on them a great deal now. He’d not been able to tell anyone anything because, frankly, he didn’t know anything. “I’ve got my men out looking for him, sir, like I said. We’ll find him for you.” He hoped so. While it wasn’t cold out, still summer yet, he did worry about his dad taking a tumble into something and not getting out. Or wandering into someone’s home. He’d done that before as well. Norris walked the streets while calling out his name, hoping to find him soon. Norris was exhausted when they finally found him three streets over and lost. Not just exhausted from looking for his dad, but that was a part of it. He was just tired of all the adulting he’d had to do of late. Smiling, he thought of what Dylan would say to him if he whined to her about it. She’d tell him to buck up and to fucking let it go. She had gotten a mouth on her since she’d gone away. And while it did embarrass him at times, he thought it was funny when she’d get on a roll with it. Like the time she’d come home for Christmas about five years ago. “I have to go into town and pick up your mother’s gift. Want to hang out with your old man?” She nodded and grinned at him. “Please promise me that we’re not going to get arrested. You will behave yourself, won’t you?” “Ah, Pop, why would I do that? I’m here to have fun.” He groaned and she’d laughed at him. “Besides, what sort of trouble can I get into at the mall? I mean, they still have those mall cops running around, don’t they?”
“Yes. And Bennie is still one of them. I swear to you, if you make him wet his pants again, I’ll…I’ll….” She laughed hard at his lack of a threat. “He’s a good kid, Dylan. Why do you dislike him so much?” “He’s not a good kid, Dad. He’s a bully and a fucking prick. But I’ll be good if he does. Now, what did you get Mom?” By the time they’d gotten to the mall, both had been having a good time. When they went into the jeweler’s, she’d offered to pay the difference on the watch he’d gotten for her mom.  “I got it. What did you get her?” She only shook her head and told him not to guess. “You did get her something, didn’t you?” “I got you both something.” Norris had seen her stiffen up and turned to see Bennie behind him. “Hello, Bennie.” “Well, well, well. If it’s not the terror of Washington street. Home for good, this time, Dylan? Or are you headed back to out of country?” Bennie made those quotation signs with his fingers when he asked her about the country. “Me and the boys, we think you’re just in prison. A girl like you, that’s where you belong.” “Dad?” He hadn’t wanted trouble, not then or now, but there really was something simply mean about Bennie today. And after that, he’d noticed it a great deal more. “Dad, I’m doing what you asked, but it’s not easy.” “You shoplifting, Dylan? Is that what you learned in prison? Or, I’m sorry, in the army?” Bennie reached for her, and even standing there beside her, Norris hadn’t seen her move. Before he could tell her to go for it, Bennie was on the floor screaming to be released. “You’ve fucking broke my hand.” She laughed and told him she’d not. “You have. I can feel it.” “No, I didn’t. I only stopped you from touching me. However, I can break it if you want.” Norris told her not to just yet. “All right. But I did try to be good, Dad. He started it.” “He did. I saw it.”  The police were called and she was asked to let the mall cop go. After several witnesses said that she’d not done anything but defend herself, she was released. Norris had heard a few days later that not only had Bennie lost his job, but other women had come forward about his behavior in the mall. Bennie hadn’t faired all that well after that. Norris made his way out to the driveway to get his car. Stella had forgotten to get fish, and since Dad would eat if he had something he requested, they’d accommodate him when they could. Climbing into his car, he vowed that as soon as he was home again he was going to make a call to the Whitfields. Norris knew that they were tigers, but not much more than that. The Whitfields were money and didn’t travel the same circles as he and his family did.


Sterling: Calhoun Men Release Day & Giveaway

Marty liked her life just fine. She was alone in the world, and waiting on tables would get her by until she finished college, but the girl she was training wasn’t working out. And the girl got her fired–now what was she supposed to do? She needed that job to survive.

Sterling Calhoun’s encounter with the she-devil was over, but the nightmares still lingered. The only thing that helped him deal with the nightmarish pain were his paintings. And through is Grandda he met Marty, his mate, but Sterling hadn’t been himself for a very long time…. 

Marty knew a few shifters, so she knew what it meant when Sterling told her she was his mate. Oh, hell no, this guy had to be nuts, the “mates” she knew were a strange lot, and she didn’t want any part of it….
I BOOKS  Coming Soon 
Johanna, better known as Joe, had been a day walker for her only friend, Noah, for centuries. An immortal with eight hundred years under her belt, she had become proficient in several languages and occupations. When her friend Noah talked about meeting the sun, she had every intention of following in his path. 

Joe had only gone to the Calhoun’s office to catch a ride to the estate. When she entered, it took her breath away to see the younger man on the floor and no one doing a damn thing to help him. 

Trent Calhoun had forgotten how to have fun. Diving into his work was what kept him happy. At 33 he had no life, so when he had a heart attack, his doctor said to change his ways or else.

When the gorgeous woman stumbled into his hospital room, Trent thought his dad was up to his old tricks again―that was until he caught her scent…. Now, because of his wolf, he’s face to face with an angry vampire….
Noelle was in somewhat of a pickle. She had researched the Calhoun firm―Elijah Calhoun in particular―before she made the appointment, but she was having second and third thoughts about hiring the firm after she got there. All her research indicated she could trust them, but big men scared the hell out of her, and the place was full of them.

Elijah had been running a tad late for work, so his brother Trent took his first appointment. Elijah never dreamed that the woman he had an appointment with was his future mate…and she needed his protection.

Noelle’s stepfather wasn’t their only problem. Elijah’s brother Sterling’s nightmares had gotten worse and somehow the creature that had marked him was controlling his actions as well…no one was safe….
Chloe Davis was giving up. She thought for sure the owners of the computer shop she worked for were responsible for her father’s death, but in all the time she’d worked there she’d not been able to find enough evidence to prove it, so as far as she was concerned she was out of there. Her boss, George, on the other hand had other ideas. As far as he was concerned she wasn’t going anywhere…by force if necessary.

Scott Calhoun was just trying to help his grandfather get the young woman to safety, the last thing he expected was for her to be his mate. And he wasn’t happy about it either. Scott was a Dom, and he liked his sex hard and rough and his women submissive…this woman was a spitfire, and he was pretty sure he’d scare her off with his demands…. As far as he was concerned he was a deviant, not mate material. 

But when Chloe and Scott come together, they both find more than they expected…Scott has finally met his match. Now, if everyone would stop trying to kill them, they might live long enough to enjoy each other.
CALHOUN MEN SERIES –
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Alta set a plate full of food in front of him, and Sterling stared at it before looking up at her. She’d been with him for nearly four months now, and he was sure that he was about as fattened up as he was going to get. She smiled at him and told him to eat. “I’m thinking you’re either fattening me up for a huge dinner, or you think I’m still skinny. First, I’m not Santa, and second…. Well, second, I’m not that hungry anymore.” She patted him on the cheek and walked away as he started putting butter on his pancakes. “Did I tell you that I’m supposed to host Christmas this year? I haven’t any idea why I got volunteered. I guess I should pay more attention when they’re all talking.” “They do love to talk, your family.” He nodded as she handed him a platter of bacon and sausage. “Randal is coming. I think he should be here any second.” The back door opened and there stood his brother covered in snow. He was brushing it off his head as he was telling Alta that he could eat again. When he sat across from him, stealing one of his pieces of bacon, Alta gave him pancakes as well. “Mom sent me over. And Grandma wants to know if you have enough decorations for Christmas.” He said he had some. “I’m also supposed to tell you that once you’re ready to start with the decorations, you’re to call Mom. She said don’t forget. Wanna go shopping with me?” “No. I have work to do, and Noelle has a list of things she needs me to pick up as well. I guess she’s been making some pretty good deals with a few vampires that Noah knows.” Randal finished his breakfast before he did, which didn’t surprise Sterl. He didn’t have live-in help and no one cooked for him. “Why did Mom send you here?” “Mostly to make sure that you’re eating well and that you’re not lazing around the house. I haven’t any idea why she thinks that, but she told me to see about you. And I think she’s still pissed at Grandda. He should have known better than to be late for dinner on Friday.” They both laughed. “Did I tell you that I’m interviewing for help at the house?” “I’ve got someone coming to your house this afternoon, Mr. Randal. You can hire him or not, but you should know that he’s a better cook than I am.” Sterl didn’t ask, but was glad that Randal did about what the person was. “Witch, and Myra said for you to call her when you have a moment. She wants to talk to you about something.” “I can do that.” While they discussed how to get in touch with the witch, Sterl zoned out. He really did have a list of things to do today, and most of it had nothing to do with the things he had to pick up for Noelle. They were business partners. Mostly he worked upstairs in her antique shop, but when she wanted someone to come along with her on buying trips, or to lift heavy things, he went to take care that she didn’t lift much. Noelle was having twins in the early spring and everyone watched over her.  The thing on his list that he had tried to avoid for several weeks now was the meeting with his grandma. She told him if he bailed on her today that she’d tell everyone his 
secret. He was sure that most of them knew that he painted, but the rest of his secret was something he was afraid of them finding out.  He was afraid that Joe knew already, and that she was in on this whole thing with him having a gallery opening. Sterl wasn’t ready for that. He had been working a great deal, painting whatever popped into his head, but he’d not shown anyone his work except his grandma. And only then because she’d barged in and simply pulled out his canvases and looked for herself. “You need this as much as I do.” He told Grandma that he didn’t need it. “Yes, you do. You need for people to sit up and take notice of you. You’re very talented, and I for one cannot wait to see what others say about you.” “They’re not going to care. And if they do, I can’t imagine that their words would be kind.” She smacked him on the back of his head. “Grandma, you know that I’m telling you the truth. I’ve had no formal training other than a few classes at the YMCA when I was a kid. I like painting because it’s relaxing to me. I don’t want someone to tell me it’s crap.” “No one had better tell you it’s crap.” He laughed at her tone. “All right, I did walk right into that one, but they’re going to love you as much as I do. And if you find yourself a mate, I’m sure she’ll love it as well.” And now, today as a matter of fact, he was going with Grandma to talk to a person who owned a gallery willing to show his work. This man, Sullivan, was a friend of the family, she’d told him, so he was sure this was happening because of that and not his talent. Or the lack of it. Sterl wasn’t looking forward to this any more than he was decorating his house for Christmas. His heart, he thought, just wasn’t into it. After Randal left, he went up to change. He was wearing a suit for this meeting, but bringing some jeans to wear afterwards when he went to pick up some furniture. He was going out the door when Myra was suddenly standing in front of him. “It’s today.” He nodded, then realized that he had no idea what she was talking about. “Remember when I told you that someone was coming, a male?”  “Yes. You said they were going to come to mean a great deal to me. I’ve been thinking about what you said, and I’m not sure about this.” She asked him why not. “I have no idea, but I’m still a little skittish around people, and I’m not sure that I could handle someone else in my life right now when I don’t even have my own set.” “Sometimes life gives you little bumps to keep you on your toes.” He told her that he wasn’t ready for bumps, little or large. “You’ll be fine. Also, I wanted to tell you about the gallery opening that you’re going to have. It’s going to be epic, and the Bentleys want to go to it when you’re all set up.” He started to ask her how she’d found out, but decided that he didn’t want to know. Instead, he grabbed his coat and made his way to his car. Sterl was slightly afraid of Myra and the Bentleys, but didn’t say anything. When Myra was seated in his car when he started it up, he looked over at her. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with the gallery.” She said that she did. “Well, don’t tell me. I’m not sure I want any disappointment right now.” 
“Why do you believe you’ll be disappointed? Never mind. I can see it in your heart. You’re very talented, young man. And as your grandmother says, it’s time you let the world know it.” He backed out of the garage and pulled into the busy street in front of his house. “Will you at least promise me that when you have it set up you’ll let me know?” “Since I’m sure that you know the answer to that, I’m not going to say. I’m supposed to meet my grandma in an hour. Are you going as well?” She told him that she was too busy today, but would sometime soon. “Good. And if you have a few minutes, my house could use some decorations for Christmas.” He regretted it the moment it left his mouth, but she disappeared with a grin. He was sure his house would be as outlandish as Myra was. She was the brightest and most colorful woman he knew. And she even changed the color of her hair and shoes to match whatever she had on her body. He was going to come home to a house in plaid, he knew it. His grandma was waiting for him at the diner, and as he made his way there, he thought about what he was about to do, which was be publicly humiliated. His grandma would tell him that he was being silly—or worse, selfish—if he wasn’t willing to give it a shot, but Sterl had taken a good hard look at his work and knew people were going to be disturbed by it. He’d been hurt. Badly. Not just from the accident that had killed some of his friends, but the she-devil that had done it to them all. This thing, a true she-devil, had decided that, for whatever reason, he was going to father the monsters she was going to use to take over the world. She had invaded his dreams, his mind, as well as his health to get what she wanted. It had taken his family all working together with a pair of witches, Chris Bentley and Myra, as well as a demon, to set him free of her and get her out of his life. And painting had helped him do that. He joined his grandma at the table and she laughed at him. Sterl loved his grandma, all of his family really, but this woman could make him feel like he was king of the world with just a smile. But today, he wasn’t sure that he had it in him.  “I’m not really thrilled about this. First of all, they’re going to laugh at us, and secondly, I’m not sure this is going to get me anywhere but in a loony bin.” She told him he was going to be fine. “You keep saying that, and I’m not any closer to believing you than I was before you got this idea in your head.” “Darling, have I ever steered you wrong before?” He shook his head. “Then you just have to believe me that this is going to be good for you. You might even have to give me credit with your family over this. Especially your grandda. He’s been an old poop lately.” “I’ll give you credit either way. And Grandda is always a poop when he wants to be. He’s never going to believe that he’s wrong about anything.” She slapped her hand gently on his. “When do we have to meet this person?” “In two hours. I thought we’d leave now and then have plenty of time. You have your work in the car?” He assured her that he’d wrapped up what she’d told him to bring. “Good. You’ll see, Sterling, this will be just perfect. Why, I’d bet by the end of this meeting, he’ll be begging for more of your work. And I’d not be surprised if he wants to 
set things up right away. His family has been in this business for a very long time, and they know quality work when they see it.” He was driving them there slowly, even though the snow had stopped now, it was still slick. He hated to drive in this type of weather, or any for that matter, but they were going to get this over with. Then there was the fact that several times along the way he thought about pulling over and throwing up. This was a bad idea, and he wasn’t sure that anyone would think his work was anything but crap. But he gripped his steering wheel and drove to what he was considering the last stand.  ~~~ Isaac was excited to have his meeting. He knew that he was supposed to be doing a favor for a very nice person. Jasmine Calhoun had been a friend of his mother and grandmother for a very long time. And was now becoming one of his. He looked at his watch again and saw that the meeting was just over an hour away, and decided to go and find his brother.  Robert, even as his twin, was as different from him as they could get. While Isaac was tall and thin, Rob was five or so inches shorter and heavier. Not fat, not yet anyway, but not slim either. Laziness attributed to most of his weight gain, and drugs the rest of it. Isaac thought his divorce was making him drink more. Their mother had always thought it was Isaac’s fault because he’d been successful and Rob hadn’t. The logic of his mom had been out there, but he’d hired Rob to help when pressed by his parents just before they both were killed a few months ago in an accident. Robert had been born second. And his birth, according to his parents, had just about ended his mom’s life. Not true. Isaac had done some investigating and found that neither delivery had been that bad, and that their mom had sailed through both like a trooper. The only thing that had happened was their father, Robert also, had passed out when told there was a second child. Robert, his brother, was sleeping on the floor behind his desk, naked, when Isaac went into his office. He’d been there when Isaac had left last night and covered him up with a blanket from his office. Shaking his head, he woke his brother with a kick to his feet. It was nearing one o’clock, and it looked as if he’d not moved since he left him on the floor last night at six. “What the fuck, Isaac? Can’t a person take a little breather without you waking them up? Go away and leave me alone. I have a pounding headache and you’re not helping.” He told him no, that when at work he expected him to do just that, work. “Well, I’ve gotten a lot done if you want to know the truth. I’ve been really busy until about ten minutes ago.” “Oh yeah? Well, then you’re better than most. You’ve been there on the floor since last night. Might have been longer, but I went home and you were there. What the hell have you been doing if not sleeping?” Robert only glared at him as he sat up. There were two empty bottles under him, large ones of some sort of liquor. “Robert, I told you no drinking while here. You can do whatever you want at home, but no alcohol here at work. Damn it, this is a job, not a playroom for you to enjoy yourself in.” 
“You have no idea what I’m suffering with, Isaac. You should cut me some slack. Mary left me and took my children.” He told him to get up and clean himself up. “I will. Christ, you’re a hard ass. Why I ever thought working for you would be a piece of cake I have no idea.” Isaac didn’t say what was right on the tip of his tongue. He could have pointed out that if he’d been less of a drunk, or perhaps gotten a paying job instead of stealing, she might have stayed. Or that his children never saw him because he was either too drunk to move or at a bar. The fact that he was unhappy at not seeing them now was senseless. Then there was the added fact that the divorce had been finalized almost a year and a half ago, not recently as Robert tended to let people think. “I have a meeting at two, so you need to get cleaned up and sober before they arrive. I want you to be in it with me so that you can see how it works.” Robert said he didn’t think he wanted to. “Rob, I gave you a job against my better judgement. And so far, you’ve done nothing toward making me think I’ve made even a reasonable investment. Either start working or I will fire you.” “Yeah? And what do you think Mom would say to that? You hired me because she told you to. You won’t be able to fire me for the same reason. You owe me. I’ve not had as easy a life as you have. And my family left me. Mom is gone now, but you know as well as I that a death promise is the worst kind to break.” He laid back down as he continued. “I’m going to take a nap then go to lunch. I don’t even know if I’ll return.”  Isaac Sullivan wasn’t a violent man. He rarely lost his temper even a little, but right now he thought he could have easily beaten the living shit out of Robert and not felt a single bit of regret. As he stood up, he snatched the blanket off his brother and smiled when he started cursing at him. Going to his own office, he sat at his desk and pulled up the camera that he had installed in Rob’s office right before hiring him. At the advice of his attorney, he’d done what he’d been told to keep his brother in line. It hadn’t worked so far, and for whatever reason, Isaac was sure that it never would. The camera, Blake had told him, would go a long way in making sure that when he did end up firing Robert, not if but when, that he’d have enough evidence on him to make it stick. Just as he was ready to turn it off, he saw the rewind button and went back to noon yesterday. More than twenty-four hours before. Rob was at his desk, but he wasn’t alone. He had two women in the room with him, one of them naked on his desk, the other down on her knees in front of him. It was sickening to see Robert naked, but he watched as not only did the sex get violent, but one of the women had been hurt when Rob hit her hard enough to have her lying still nearly an hour later. Isaac thought he had to watch it then, if for no other reason than to make sure that Robert hadn’t dragged the dead woman off somewhere and left her to rot. He didn’t watch his brother, but the woman. She wasn’t moving, and it wasn’t until Robert had finished that the other woman had gone to help her up. Both women staggered out of the room and into the elevator. He wondered why no one had commented on it, and was surprised to watch the guards turn their backs on the two as they left the building.  
It took him nearly ten minutes to figure out what was going on. It wasn’t that they were covering for Rob, but more than likely figured since he was his brother there would be nothing done about it. Isaac decided that he was going to have a little talk with his security team and end this shit once and for all. Going down in the elevator, he also decided to fire his brother today. To hell with his mom and the death promises she’d made him agree to. If Robert wasn’t such an ass, he might have glossed over everything. But Robert was, and was going to cause them a great deal of trouble at the rate he was going.  After five minutes of talking with his team, Isaac knew that what he had guessed was correct. Nor was it the first time that his brother had done this. He’d been bringing in not just women, but all sorts of people during and after hours at his own pleasure. After assuring the security team that they’d not lose their jobs, he asked if they had all the records of when he’d brought women in. It had occurred a total of seven times in the five weeks that Robert had been employed there. And that wasn’t counting the night shift, which was supposed to do the same thing. Fuck. “All right. This is what I want you to do. He’s in his office. I’d like for you to go up there and help him leave.” Bill, his top guard, just quirked a brow at him. “I don’t care if you have to drag him out by his feet, I want him out of here now. And I’ll call my attorney to tell him what I’ve done. Oh, you should take precautions when touching him. He’s naked. Christ, why did I ever do this? Anyway, get him out of here now.” “He’s not going to be happy. From what I’ve observed, he’s pretty much made this place his play house.” Isaac nodded and told him he was sorry. “No need for you to be sorry, sir. It’s us that should be. He told us when he started here that you’d given him the keys to the place, and that if he didn’t get his way, we’d be fired. We all have families, and this is a good job despite having to deal with him. I’m just sorry that we believed him.” “I didn’t know. I want you to know that, I didn’t know.” Bill told him again that he should have told him from the start. “It’s fine. We’ll get him out of here and moved on. I don’t think it’ll be as easy as that, but I want him gone.” After talking to his attorney, he decided that he was going to be all right. That nothing could come back and bite him in the ass. However, the moment that the elevators opened, Isaac could hear his brother cursing, and the men helping him laughing.  “Isaac, I certainly hope you have a good reason for this. This is no way to treat your brother and your partner. Tell them to let me go.” He said that he did have a good reason, and that they were not partners in anything. “Well, I can’t imagine what it would be. And I told you that we should sign off on us being fifty-fifty in this place. Now I’m not so sure that I want to. Tell these men to unhand me and I’ll not call my attorney. You know as well as I do that this isn’t going to look good in the papers. You’re supposed to have this great reputation, right? How do you think this is going to look?” “I do have one. But you do not. And I don’t care for the way you’ve mistreated me and this gallery, so I think, in that regard, I can finally do something about it. You’re fired, Rob. And it’s no less than you deserve after all the things that you’ve done, not to mention 
not done since you’ve been here.” Robert asked him if he was talking about the missing cash. “No. I was talking about the hookers that you brought in. What missing money?” “What did you expect me to do? Live off what you were paying me? Fuck that shit. I sold a few of the paintings that were here, as well as got into the safe. It wasn’t like you would miss anything. And I was right, you didn’t.” Robert laughed and jerked from the guard. “I’m willing to forget this whole thing if you just give me a little more each week, say about another grand, and I’ll think about not calling the police or my attorney. You know I will, Isaac. I’m not kidding around this time. This is just stupid.” “I don’t care. And you don’t have an attorney, Robert. The one that I have, I pay. What will you do for money if you do find one to sue me? They require you to shell out some cash when you’re asking them to do something for you.” He looked at the men standing with Robert. “Take him out, please, and don’t forget to get his badge as well as any company keys he has on him. Bill, will you please inform the parking garage that Robert no longer works here, and not to allow him to park on the premises? Thank you. And good luck, Robert. I have a feeling that you’re going to need it.”  He was handed the badge as well as Rob’s parking permit and a key ring that had more keys on it than he’d given him. Such as one to the front door, as well as the conference rooms. When asked, Rob said he’d stolen his keys and made copies of them. Isaac asked him where he’d gotten them. “I’m your brother. Surely you didn’t think I should be begging to be let in and out of this place. For Christ’s sake, Isaac, you should treat me better than you do.” He asked him why. “I’m telling you right now, Isaac, if you do this, you’re going to regret it for a very long time. I’m not one to fuck with. I have friends in very high places, you know.” “You’re fired, Robert. And I’m not frightened of you. I’m also going to inform you that you’ll have to find yourself transportation, as the limo service will no longer be there for you. Also, any and all paintings that you’ve taken from here and sold will have to be paid for, by you.” Robert said he wasn’t paying. “We’ll see about that.” As he was taken out the door, three men dragging him across the floor, Isaac leaned back against the wall and tried to think why his brother was like this. He knew that it was his mom for the most part, but Dad hadn’t helped either. When Bill told him it was done, he thanked him again. “No need for that. But if you think this is done, then you’d be mistaken.” Isaac said he was aware of that and wanted him to take precautions. “I can do that. I’ll have some extra guards at the parking garage as well as in the lobby. Also, if you don’t mind, I’ll have the locks changed out. I have no doubt that he would have made more than one copy.” “You’re more than likely right. Also, I’d like for you to detain anyone that comes here looking for Robert. I have a feeling that we’ve not heard the last of them either.” Bill asked him if his brother really told on him like he was five. “Yes. And has done it our entire life, even when it wasn’t possible for me to have done whatever misdeed he blamed on me. But promising my mom that I’d make sure that Robert had a job when I knew that I shouldn’t was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.”  
Looking at his watch, he realized that his appointment was in twenty minutes. Isaac wasn’t nearly as excited as he had been, but also, he was relieved that his brother wasn’t going to be there to fuck things up. He’d known it was a mistake taking Robert on, but he thought that at thirty-seven, he might have grown up a bit.  The Calhouns arrived right on time. He liked Mrs. Calhoun anyway, and found that he truly enjoyed the company of the younger man. As he showed them around the gallery, he had only one thought in his head. This man was going to be famous if his work was half as good as his grandmother had told Isaac. He pointed out places where he thought his work would be best displayed. Isaac also mentioned the preopening that he wanted to have, as well as the fliers to be printed, and who was catering the event. Sterling said nothing, but he could see the gleam of excitement in his eyes. The man was as shy about his work as Jasmine had told him. “Now, you’ve seen the place. I’d very much like to see some of your work. When can we arrange it?” Sterling, Sterl he said to call him, told him that he had a few of his pieces in his car. Sending out the security team to bring them in, Isaac was impressed. “I have seen a few pictures of your work. Your grandmother was most accommodating. And if it’s half as good as I think it’ll be, you’re going to have a wonderful gallery presence.” “Grandma told me that there was no point in waiting, that I should just show you from the start. And while I’m happy for the opportunity to do this, please don’t feel obligated in taking it because you’re friends with her.” Isaac assured him that he wouldn’t do that. “You most likely won’t care for them. I started painting again at a low point in my life, and I think that my work shows it. It’s very dark. A lot of it is nightmarish in the way I’ve painted it, and a great many people might be upset by it.” As soon as the first painting was uncovered, Isaac could see the pain. Almost feel it in his own heart. The paintings were dark, haunting, and revealed a great deal about the artist. He hadn’t had an easy time in his life, and he was good. Very good.  Isaac walked around the six paintings four times. Each time he looked at each of them, he saw a little more. Felt a little harder the pain of the man. There was a great deal of feeling in them, none of it good. But the work on them, the art, was outstanding. More than that, it was perfection. As he stood in front of the last one again, he asked Sterl if he had any more. “Yes. Ten more. All with the same darkness. I’m not there any longer, but I still feel the need to put it to canvas. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel a need to paint landscapes.” Isaac told him that he hoped he never painted those. “You don’t care for them, do you? It’s all right. I understand that—” “Sterl, I think you’re amazing. I’d like to run a gallery opening with all your work.” Sterl was shaking his head. “I’m serious. These are…words fail me on how good these are. And the darkness of them will appeal to a great many people on all kinds of levels. Yes, we’re going to do well, you and I.” 

Jake Forbidden Release Day & Giveaway

Forbidden: M/M LBGT Erotica Paranormal Romance


Jake Winslow’s marriage to the money grubbing shrew is over. Cutting off her funds, and the simple use of the word “no” sends her packing. When he comes home from work and finds his house empty of everything, including food, he feels–liberated. 

Jake’s grandmother, Jenna, calls her friend and attorney, Forrest Stout, to handle Jake’s messy divorce. She can’t stand Jake’s soon-to-be ex-wife and is leaving nothing to chance. Only the best for her grandson, and the best is Forrest.

Forrest is a Were Tiger, and he knows “who” he is. He is an oddity in his paranormal world because he is gay. His kind mate for life, and after a recent disastrous attempt to find companionship, he has given up hope of ever finding his life mate.

From the moment Forrest meets Jake for the first time, he knows that Jake is his life mate, and he wants to run in the opposite direction because Jake isn’t gay. To claim and lose a mate would spell disaster for him. How can he ask a straight man–that he wants with every fiber of his being–to conform to his way of life? He can’t….

Ex-lovers, and ex-wives can be a dangerous combination. Especially when neither are right in the head….



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#comingsoon #march2016
His wife had left him. Jake wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but she was gone, that was a sure thing. And she’d taken everything; not just her things, but every stick of furniture in the house. He definitely wasn’t unhappy about that. Jake thought his wife had horrific taste in all manners of style. Jake figured that he should have seen it coming; he’d been seeing little signs that she wasn’t happy with him. Hell, he wasn’t happy with himself. But he had been trying his best to make her happy. Okay, maybe not happy, but at least make her life with him tolerable. Carol wasn’t really the nicest person in the world, nor did she tolerate fools easily. Well, not at all, and he thought she had it in her head that he was the biggest fool of them all. Jake Winslow had married his high school…Jake wasn’t sure she was his girlfriend or his sweetheart, but he did marry her when he’d been fresh out of high school. She’d told him, several times during his senior year, that if he didn’t marry her by the time he left for college, she’d not be around when he returned. Jake was never sure why he did it—he certainly didn’t love her—but she was the only woman he’d had sex with. He supposed he’d been led by his dick, as most men were. His parents had made him marry her. Jake wasn’t sure why that thought had entered his head after all these years, but he knew as surely as he was standing in his empty house that they’d made him. He hadn’t wanted to, not at all. If she’d not been there when he returned, then she’d just be gone. Pressure from his father and whining from his mother had made him do it. He was sure of that. So, fresh from his graduation he asked her to marry him, and of course she’d said yes. And the week before he left for college, they were married…right there on her parents’ front lawn. His parents had decided not to come to the quick wedding…something about contracts and money to be made. Money; he knew this was a huge factor in his father’s life. Jake had wished so many times over the last ten years that he’d just gone off to college and never returned. He might have but for the one person in his life that he loved more than he did himself—his grandma, Jenna Beck Winslow. As he made his way around the house, empty of even any foodstuffs, he thought of the things he’d have to do now. File for divorce, he supposed. Since she’d left him, he figured he’d be safe in betting that she’d gotten all she wanted from him. There really wasn’t much left for her to take anyway. He’d taken care of most of his property and stocks when she refused to sign a pre-nup as his grandma had suggested. The rest; well, he’d hidden that away as well. This house was in his grandma’s name. As were the deeds to the two buildings that he had downtown, other holdings in deals, as well as a few other things that Grandma and he held together. He’d done most of the hiding of assets several years ago, right after Carol had nearly gotten them in trouble with the IRS for not filing their taxes as she said she’d been doing. It had taken him nearly four months of working a lot of overtime and taking cases he didn’t like to pay back his grandma the money she’d generously lent him. 
  
Paying Grandma back had been the one argument he’d won with Carol. After that, he changed a lot of things. As he stood in the kitchen, he thought of the last fight that they’d had in this room not three nights ago. He’d been working late, again, and had come in this room to fix something to tide him over until breakfast. Carol had come in and started on him about money. “The checking account is empty.” He didn’t even bother looking at her. He knew it was. He’d emptied it when he’d noticed her spending had gotten out of hand. “I need you to put something in the account so that I can go to the mall tomorrow. Borrow it from that old woman again if you have to, but there has to be money in the account when I need to buy something. I’ve been invited to go to the mall with some of the girls from the country club. You know how important it is to me to keep up appearances, and besides, some of my favorite stores are running a sale. That requires money in the bank, because, in case you didn’t notice, the credit cards aren’t working either.” “I’m not borrowing money from my grandma again. She’s been kind enough to us. And the credit cards aren’t working because I canceled them. All of them.” She asked him why he’d do that. “Because, as I have told you several times over the last six months, there isn’t that kind of money coming in to cover even the minimum payment the way you spend money. You have to stop using them for every little thing you want. I’ve told you that. And since you can’t even do that, then I’ve taken control of them out of your hands.” He didn’t say for now, because Jake knew that she’d only continue to spend the money as if there were no limits. Charging things like ugly furniture that no one sat on. Dresses that would still have the tags on them when she donated them to some cause that the other sheep were into. And she’d go to restaurants and pay for everyone’s meals even though she didn’t like them any better than she did him. No, Jake had thought, she wasn’t getting any more ways to spend money.  She had growled at him, something he’d only just noticed that he thought was juvenile. “I don’t know why you’re doing this to me, but I want you to know that I do not care for it. You make enough money for me to spend a few bucks now and again, Jake. Fix this.” He told her he had. Just not the way she wanted. “I don’t care what you do, but I’m going to the mall in the morning and I’m going to use those cards. I would suggest that if you don’t want me going to jail, because I will throw the fit of all fits, then you’d better make this right.” He’d finished making his sandwich and sat down at the table. Even before he could pick up his dinner of cold roast beef on a hotdog bun, all he could find, she swiped it from the table and onto the floor. He hadn’t wanted to get into it with her, but she had left him no choice. Jake knew that shouting at her would get him nothing but a headache. Carol was ten times more stubborn than any other person he knew. He’d looked at her as she stood before him with a self-satisfied smirk on her face. “Why are you like this? Why do you treat me as if I’m nothing more than a way for you to have the things you want?” She said nothing but stared at him, tapping her foot as she’d done so many times in the past. Well, he wasn’t going to give in this time, no 
  
matter what she said or did. “I’m not going to put money in the bank so you can spend it on foolish things. Nor am I going to reinstate the credit cards so that you can run the limit to the max again. I got them paid off now, and there is no reason for you to—” “If you paid them off, then there no reason whatsoever that I can’t have them back, Jake. There are plenty of things I can buy now. The entire house could use a once over. Things are stale here. Give the cards to me and I will buy you something nice for that nasty office you work in.” He just stared at her after telling her to leave his office alone. “Jake, I’m not kidding you. If you don’t give me those cards, I’m going to leave you. Then what will you do? I should have the things I want. I did marry you.” “I married you as well, Carol. And you’re going to put us in the poor house with your total disregard to money and how it’s made. I purchased you this overpriced house that I didn’t want and the car that you seldom drive. You promised me then that you’d curb your spending. I can’t keep working like this so that you can toss our money away like you have no respect for how hard I work for it.” She simply put out her hand as if he was just going to turn them over. “I’m done. I’m not going to do this with you again.” When she left him there, he stood to clean up his mess. He wasn’t surprised when he heard the door to the bedroom slam, nor did he react when he heard her screaming. It was her way, he supposed, to make sure that everyone, including the neighbors, knew when she was displeased. They were probably used to it by now; he certainly was. Jake, as he had done for a while now, had gone to one of the spare bedrooms to sleep. He even went so far as to lock the door, and then put the dresser in front of it. He didn’t think that she’d harm him, but he didn’t want to take the chance that she’d come in and try to take whatever she found in his wallet. The cards, like a great many things he didn’t want her to have, were in the safe at his grandma’s home. And now here he was in his home with no wife, no tables and chairs, and probably not a single thing he could sleep on. Moving to the living room now he saw that she’d left him a nice note. The walls of this room were smeared with what he could only surmise was her last calling card. The note was written in spray paint all over the walls and over the fireplace. He, in a sort of disjointed way, thought about the amount of effort she’d taken to do this when he couldn’t even get her to clean up after herself in the bath. Dear deadbeat, I have found that I can no longer live under the rules that you’ve put me under. Good riddance.  Jake grinned and wished this other man, if there was another one, all the luck in the world. He was going to need it, and a fat bank account. Jake was sure that even if the man had an endless supply of money it would never be enough for Carol. He pulled out his cell phone and called the only woman he’d ever loved. His mom hadn’t ever meant as much to him as his grandma did, and he doubted if she ever would. “Carol left me.” She told him good. “Yeah, I figured you’d say that. She took everything too. I’m pretty sure if there was a mouse in the house, he’d be starved by morning. I don’t have a pot to even piss in now, and oddly enough, I don’t really care. And when I was in my bedroom a little while ago, I noticed that she fixed my suits for me too. They’re cut to shreds.” 
  
“She was a dreadful child, and she didn’t improve when she became an adult. I blame that on her parents, because they’re not much better. Frightful people.” He laughed as he sat on the stairs. “Why don’t you come here tonight? You and I will get drunk, eat some dinner, and have a good laugh over her. I don’t suppose she left you for another man, did she? That poor bastard.” “I don’t know. I think if there were a man out there that could keep up with her spending, he’d be sorry before now. Carol was mad about the credit cards.” He looked at the wall and repeated what Carol had written there. “And on a good note, I no longer have to cover up the couch when I want to sit on it…if I had a couch. I have never in all my life known a woman who had a negative sense of style like Carol has. And if there is another man, I’m betting he’ll have no idea what he’s getting himself into until it’s too late.” “Oh well, not your problem any longer, I’m thrilled to say. The girl needed to have left you a long time ago.” He agreed with his grandma. “Come over here and we’ll celebrate. I’ll have Bonny freshen your room up and we’ll have some fun. Lord knows you deserve it after ten years of hell.” “I’m exhausted, Grandma, and don’t think I have the energy to drive.” She asked him what he was going to sleep on, the floor? “I have no idea, but I’m just too tired to go out tonight. I’ll come over tomorrow and we’ll plot. I know I have to file for divorce now; I’m done with her. And hire someone good to take the case. I think her parents will want me to give her everything despite how much she already took.” “I’ll talk to my attorney. He never cared for Carol anyway after all the stories I’ve told him. He’d more than likely do it for free.” Jake laughed. “Come over, darling. I want to see you.” “I really can’t. I’m not sure I have the energy to even drive there. I’ll just find some blankets—I think there are a couple in my car—and spread them out on the floor. I’m too tired to care if I have a lot of comforts or not.” He walked to the door to go to his car even as he continued. “Tomorrow is Saturday. I’ll come over in the morning and have breakfast with you. One thing that’s good about this is that I don’t have to work myself to death to pay for her shit.” Jake looked around and shuddered. The couch in this room had been a bright green paisley. The chair a solid green that was almost blue green in color. The pillows had been plaid. He had avoided looking at the drapes, a deep blood red color that was a combination of squares and some sort of squidgy design that had made him seasick. Every room in the house was like that, brightly overdone and full of so many patterns that he never could figure out what she’d been going for. “I’m so glad that you’re looking at this as a positive thing. She was a mess and we both knew it. All right, go to sleep and I’ll see you first thing in the morning. I’ll have Cook make your favorites. Even bacon.” He laughed when she did. His grandma loved bacon more than he did. “I love you, Jake. Take care tonight.” “I will.”  As he spread out the blanket he’d unearthed from the trunk of his car, he thought of what order things had to go in now that he was alone. The house would have to go. But 
  
even as he lay down on the floor with the fireplace roaring out at him, he knew that he’d keep it. It was his after all, and Carol would be jealous that he had it.  As he lay there, thinking of his life thus far, all he could feel was relieved. He was free. For the first time in his adult life, Jake was free. Rolling to his back, he could see his life as it had played out before him. From the first moment he’d seen Carol, he knew that she wasn’t for him. There was just something so…. While he didn’t think she was evil, he’d never felt particularly safe around her. Then after Jake had done a little investigating, he knew better than to piss her off. Carol had set her sights on him for a reason that he just couldn’t understand. His family had money, that was true, but he didn’t have anything that he could claim as his own. At least not back then. He’d not even gotten a new car for graduation as she had. The car he drove was a beater that his grandma had helped him get for running around campus, and he used a four-year-old computer. Plus, he had received a scholarship to one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. Jake had worked really hard for that. After he and Carol had been married for about a month, she started coming to him about money. She needed this or that. As a student paying rent for a house while he was in college, there wasn’t enough money in the account for him to buy books and her things. She’d never let him live down the fact that he’d made her suffer by not having any money all the time. But when he’d been taken in by a very good firm, Jake thought he’d more than made up for her suffering. Jake didn’t understand most of the things that she purchased, either. Who needed ten pair of shoes when you could only wear one at a time? And why did she need a new coat for every season? What was wrong with the one that she had in her closet? Most of the time he went without one just so she’d be happy. But she was never happy, nor was she ever satisfied, he’d just realized. No matter what he did or sacrificed for her, it was never enough.  After he’d gotten out of school there were plenty of offers for him to look over. He’d been looking for stability, a good income, and a place he could like going to work for daily. A good firm that he could be proud to work for, and one that, someday, he’d be able to be a partner with. Carol had had a different outlook on his job prospects. She wanted location. An address that said she had money, or at least the appearance of it. There were questions that she had about where they’d live. How they’d live was questioned too, things such as servants, lawn service, and even limo rides. Where the closest mall was. Was there a country club membership involved? Would she be a part of the firm’s family as well, such as receiving invites to the partners’ homes? And she expected parties and shopping sprees. “I don’t think we should care about that so much just yet.” Carol had asked him what she should be caring about then. “Well, schools for our children. Where we might find the safest neighborhoods. And how quickly I can climb the corporate ladder. Mostly I think we should pay off some of our debt that we got while I was in college, and then save for a smaller house at first.” “No, I don’t want that at all. The bills? Those are your problem, not mine. You could have worked while going to college, and if you had, you’d not owe so much. Jake, if I’m 
  
going to be a lawyer’s wife, then I can expect things to go my way for a change. I catered to your needs enough while you were off studying.” She made it sound as if he’d not been working hard at his classes and had fucked around. Jake wondered even then if she realized how much things went her way now. “We’ll find us a house that I want, then you can work from there if you’d like. But I deserve a nice home, bigger than my daddy’s.” He was never sure how she was going to make that work. Nine firms wanted him to come and work for them, two of them in another state. But Carol had not only found her a house she could tolerate—her words to him when they moved in—but she also got a house much larger than they needed. She called it their starter house, whatever the hell that meant. Lucky for them, or at least him, it wasn’t far from his grandma’s, and he could go see her whenever he wished. Jake realized that he wasn’t going to get any sleep with his mind so busy, so he pulled out the laptop from his briefcase and turned it on. As he searched for things to fill his home, he found himself looking on sites for furniture that his wife might have wanted. So, with a huge smile, he put in searches for things that he might like. By the time the sun was coming up, not only had Jake filled two rooms of the house, but he’d found that he was having fun. By the time he made his way to his grandma’s house, he was actually giddy with contentment. ~~~ Carol smiled when she thought of her husband. In a few days she’d call him, find out how much he was suffering, and then tell him that she’d take him back. But under her terms. There would be no more of his cutting off her spending. It was her right to spend as much money as she wished, and he should have realized that before now. Sitting on the large bed that had come with the hotel she’d set up for herself, Carol knew it was just a matter of time before he’d come to his senses. Jake was a nice man, but nice men finished last. Carol was going to have to teach him that lesson sooner or later. “Carol, do you think this is the smartest move you can make right now with Jake? I mean, he is due for his annual bonus, you told me. Had you waited for that, you could have set yourself up nicely instead of borrowing from me to finance this idea you have.” Carol told her mother that it was in the bag. “If you say so. I think he might like you being gone. Your father and I certainly are glad to have you gone from our house.” “What a thing to say to me, Mother. You have always been so mean to me. Why is that? I think you’re just jealous, aren’t you? But about Jake, I’m betting he’s already missing me. I can just see him now, wandering around the house sobbing for me. Wondering what it is he’s going to have to do to get me back. Well, it’s going to be different, that’s for sure.” She wasn’t sure about the sobbing part, but she knew that he’d take her back in a heartbeat. The man wouldn’t be where he was right now without her. “Jake will do just what I tell him to do. I know that he’s had some rough times of late what with all those charge card bills that he had to pay off, but I’m sure by now that he’s thinking what a mistake he made in cutting me off. I have him wrapped around my little finger.” 
  
Her mother huffed at her. Carol wondered why she’d come to see her when all she had to do was give Carol some money and her credit card. But she hadn’t. Her mother was very untrusting too. Carol glared at her mother, wondering how on earth she’d had such a horrible person in her life all these years. Carol thought they’d all be better off if she would just die. Or be killed. That would be a better pay off in the insurance for her daddy. “In the meantime, I’m paying for this room and the storage units you had to have to store all that crap in. Why on earth you had to take everything is beyond me. Or for that matter, why you’d want to. It’s the ugliest shit I’ve ever seen. If I were Jake, I’d be pissed about you buying it in the first place. Were you trying to prove some point by going out and finding things that no human would possibly want in their garage, much less their home?” Carol waved her mom off. There was no accounting for some people’s tastes, she thought. “Carol, he might not care a fig that you’ve left, have you thought of that? You said yourself that he’s been cutting you off more and more all the time. Perhaps he’s finally gotten sick of you spending all that money. You nearly ruined him once; perhaps he’ll be thrilled to death that you’ve finally left and taken those things with you.” “Mother, you just don’t understand our relationship. Once he sees the error of his ways, he’ll be running back to me. You’ll see. I’ll call him on Monday and then you’ll see that I’m right. He might even be calling me before then. Jake isn’t all that smart, and he won’t be able to fend for himself in that big empty house without me there to guide him.” Actually, Carol was surprised that he’d not called her last night or this morning. Surely he’d seen what she’d done to him. At the very least, he would’ve seen the note she’d taken the time to leave him. “I had to take a stand in this. It’s the only way that he’s going to learn anything.” “He’s not stupid, Carol. Jake is a smart man, and I think you’re overestimating this hold you think you might have over him. As I said, he’s more than likely dancing a jig around the room and buying things that he likes and not you.” She asked her mother what she was talking about. “You think that you have him by the balls. I’m pretty sure, since he’s cut you off so nicely, that he has taken them back and will use them. I don’t think you realize what a bitch you’ve been to him.” “Mother, if you can’t be nice to me in my time of need, then perhaps you should just go home. I’m settled now. But the next time I want you to bring me money and a credit card, just have one of the servants do it. Or Daddy.” Her mom huffed again. “Why are you always treating me like I’m the bad guy? Jake just needs to learn that I’m the best thing that has ever happened to him. Once he does, then things will start to go back to the way I want them. No more cutting me off just because he said. I’m a grown woman, and have needs that he doesn’t understand.”  “Carol, I think he understands you more than even you do. As I’ve said time and time again, the man could have done much better than you.” Her mother had always been so jealous of her, of her beauty, her husband. Even the way she decorated. “I’m going home. But as I told you when you called, I can only pay for you to stay here for two nights. I don’t know why you have to have the best of everything. Had you gone cheaper, you could have had—” 
  
“I do not do cheap. I’m an attorney’s wife. I should have better.” Her mom said something as she was moving out the door but Carol decided to ignore her. “If I need to stay more than you paid for, I’ll let you know. I still don’t know why you’ve put a limit on my trying to get my marriage to work.” Two nights away from her would be just what Jake needed to get his head on straight. The nerve of the man thinking he could just cut her off after everything she’d done for him. And the sooner he figured out that he needed her around, the better he’d be. Laying back on the bed, she thought of the things she was going to do once she was back to the house.  “I’m going to sell off every stick of furniture that was in there and start over. The house needs a fresh look anyway.” She’d thought about just setting it on the side of the road when she’d left him, but was afraid that he’d just lug it back in after she was gone. He’d do that too, embarrass her like that. “Then I’m going to have the pool enlarged, and we’re going to have a staff too.” She didn’t swim, didn’t even know how, but her parents didn’t have a pool so she wanted one. And the staff would make her day so much better. Just being able to say that to someone… “I have to talk to the staff,” or “The staff has been so much trouble lately.” It excited her to no end to think of someone asking her about how many she had.  They’d had staff at first…well, someone to cook for them. There had been cleaning personnel as well. A woman and her daughter had come in twice a week to dust and run the vacuum. But after the first large purchase that she’d made to redo the living room, he’d cut even that off.  The cook; Carol couldn’t even remember why they’d left, but Jake had gone on for over an hour about how she was to treat people that worked for them. Carol thought that staff, no matter what they did for her, needed to cater to her needs more than she did theirs. Thoughtless people. They needed to learn their place, and they would when she was back in charge. The phone ringing startled her. As she picked it up, thinking it was her mother, she snapped at her to leave her alone. The silence at the other end made her pause. When she asked who was there, she was greeted with male laughter. “I’m Forrest Stout. You must be Carol Lane Winslow.” She said that she was just Carol Winslow. “For now. I’m calling on behalf of Jake Winslow. He would like to set up a meeting with you in the near future.” “You tell him when he cuts me off, I cut him off. And what do you mean, for now?” The man laughed again and she positively abhorred him. “Who are you anyway? One of his buddies from work? Never mind. You tell Jake that I will come home when he has his priorities right. If you’d like to take him my demands, I can read them off to you. There won’t be any more cutting me off. I demand that—” “No, I won’t be taking him anything of the kind. But as for being his friend, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jake, but I think, just because he left you, I could be his best friend. I have, however, spoken to his grandmother. Jenna and I go way back.” Carol didn’t care. She didn’t care for the elderly Winslow any more than she did Jake’s parents. 
  
“What time can you meet with us, Carol? I’d like to get this over with for him so that he can move on with his life.” “I’m not going to meet with him at all until I get some reassurance that what I want is taken care of. You tell him that.” He said that he would. “Aren’t you even going to ask me what I want? And I don’t appreciate you cutting me off. I don’t know who you think you’re talking to but—” “No, I’m reasonably sure neither of us want to know what you might want. And I’m also sure I’ve got you figured out. Oh, and while I have you on the phone, you should know that the locks have been changed on the house and the garage that you shared with Jake. Also, the things that you have in storage, they’re being removed even as we speak and moved to the address that you put on the receipt. I’m sure your parents are going to just be thrilled. You have a nice day.” She was still standing there holding the dead receiver when she thought of what he’d said to her. Why would Jake change the locks? Was he afraid of someone robbing them? There wasn’t shit in the house. That, to her, was locking the barn door after the horse got out. Or something like that. Her dad said that all the time, and she was happy to think that she knew that one. Also, what did he want a meeting for? Why not just have her come back to the house? She put the receiver in the cradle of the phone and sat on the bed. She wondered too what he’d said about the storage and how that would make her parents happy. Her mother wasn’t getting her things. “What are you up to, Jake?” She thought about calling him, asking him straight up what he was doing, but that would interfere with her plans. He was going to beg her to come home, and her calling him wasn’t on her list. “You aren’t playing by my rules, Jake, and that will only make this harder on you.” She went to the lovely desk that hadn’t been in the room when she’d gotten there. A few well-placed calls, everyone understanding that she was a lawyer’s wife, had not only gotten her the desk, but also free usage of the mini-bar.  The Jake list, as she’d begun to call it, was pretty good if she did say so herself. There were some things marked off on it already. And things were going along just the way she wanted them, also in the order that she wanted them. Carol was looking at number six that was as yet still unmarked. He should have called her by now. Again, he wasn’t doing things the way she wanted them. Number one had been having the house emptied. It had been difficult for her to find a mover that would do it all in one day. But her daddy had come through for her on that. He’d hired two firms to come in and take over. Of course she’d lied to Daddy, telling him that there were bugs in the house and that her lovely things were going to be ruined if they didn’t get them out of the house, and he’d done it.  Her mother had shown up at her door while she was working on number two. Leave Jake a note. “What are you up to, Carol? You can’t have Jake’s permission to do this to his home.” She turned to her mom and glared. “You’re going to regret this.” “No I’m not, I have a plan. And since this is my house, I don’t need his permission, nor do I care if he has an opinion concerning my actions. This is all his fault anyway.” 
  
She’d been thrilled to death to show her mother her list, and all she did was tell her she was ill-advised if she thought this was going to work. “Of course it’ll work. I always get what I want.” “You’ve never gone this far before. I’m pretty sure that he’s not going to do what you want this time, no matter how many lists you have and whatever order you put them in. It’s bad enough that you’ve treated this man so poorly all these years, but to do this, to destroy his home…. Carol, I never thought I’d say this to my own child, but you’re not right in the head.” Number three had been harder to get than she thought it would. Her mom didn’t like to part with money any more than Jake did. But in the end Mother had put her up in a hotel. It was her plan to go live with her parents for a few days, but her mother had said no and had more than likely convinced Daddy that it was not a good idea. She was going to have a long talk with him once she was back in her home and with Jake. Mother was starting to get on her nerves, and she was sure her daddy would fix it.  Number four had been put in motion the moment she was set up in the hotel. Make sure that her friends knew where she was and why. Well, her version of why she was out of her home. She’d told them that she and Jake had had a terrible fight and she’d left him until he could cool down. That hadn’t gone as well as she’d planned either, now that she thought about it.  Not a single one of her friends had been sympathetic to her. She’d expected them to rally around her, bad mouth Jake and his treatment of her, but not one of them had. Two had said they were too busy to talk and had hung up. Mercedes, the one that she’d thought the most of, who also had the most money of all her friends, had told her she’d be lucky if Jake didn’t divorce her on the spot. And that she’d not blame him one single bit. The others hadn’t taken any of her calls. Carol thought that since it was late in the year a lot of them had gone out of town. That had to be the reason. Then there was number five. Five had been a spur of the moment add-on to her list. And possibly the worst thing she might have done. At least to the standpoint that it had gotten her the most grief. People weren’t as receptive to her story as she’d hoped they’d be. Going to the newspaper to tell them that Jake had hit her had been a huge undertaking. It had required her to pinch her mouth until it was puffy, and to wear dark glasses when it wasn’t too terribly bright outside. Twice she’d walked into a wall, and once had tripped over the curb.  And for all that, she’d been humiliated once she’d entered the big building. Three of the people that had agreed to talk to her told her she was full of shit, and one of them had even told her she was lucky that he’d not hurt her worse. Carol tried to tell them that they didn’t know Jake as she did, and was left in tears after they made fun of her.  Now here she was on number six, and she’d hit a wall. There had been no calls from Jake so that she could execute that part of her plan. She was going to tell him, no matter what he said, that she wasn’t going to live like he’d wanted her to. She was going to tell him that she needed money to make her life better. That there had to be changes, too, in how they lived. Not only would there be a staff for her to order around, but she wanted 
  
a gardener as well as a limo driver. Each of her bullet points were left unchecked because her husband hadn’t called.  “Damn it, Jake, what are you up to? And what is taking you so long to do what I need for you to do?” As she paced the room, she tried to think of reasons that he’d not called. His phone was dead? Not likely. He was the only person she knew that could go days on a single charge. He just never used his phone like normal people did. Did he forget her daddy’s number? No, she’d made sure that it was programed into his phone the moment he’d gotten it. There wasn’t any reason she could think of that he’d not have been able to call. That man that had called, Stout, he alleged he’d talked to Jake. She knew that had to mean that his phone was still working and it was charged. They didn’t own a house phone, again because Jake said it would be a waste of money, so that couldn’t be it. Then she wondered if he was working late again.  Jake did work on Saturdays a great deal. She thought it had been because he was going to ask for an increase on the limits on his cards, but then he’d gone and canceled them all. But even working on Saturday didn’t negate the fact that he should have called her. Nothing was as important as him calling and begging her to come home. His calling was the thing that was going to get her what she’d wanted. Carol decided that she was going to make him suffer more for this, and smiled as she added that to her list.   

Brayden The Stanton Pack Release Day & Giveaway

Dane had no idea who she was. She’d been shot and couldn’t even remember who she was hiding from. All she did know was she needed help, and when Julian Stanton found her, he took her to his family.

Brayden Stanton was just tired of everything. It was time to leave Africa and go home to family. He called his dad to tell him that he was fed up with the job and he was on his way home, and he was bringing a fiancée with him. She wasn’t his mate, but he was going to make it work. He realized his mistake the moment he proposed.

Danger comes at every turn. The women in Brayden’s life are surrounded with it. Both are lethal, but one has Brayden’s heart from the beginning. The question is, can the family survive it?

Amazon UK  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brayden-Stanton-Pack-Erotic-Paranormal-Shifter-ebook/dp/B06W9M3ZLH/ref=sr_1_3_twi_kin_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488742876&sr=8-3&keywords=Kathi+s+barton

Kobo  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/brayden

IBooks https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/brayden/id1211547964?mt=11

SmashWords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/707777

PaperBack  https://www.amazon.com/Brayden-Stanton-Pack-Erotic-Paranormal-Shifter/dp/1629896438/ref=sr_1_2_twi_pap_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488753624&sr=8-2&keywords=Brayden+by+kathi+s+barton

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Chapter 1  
She sat up, then promptly leaned over and threw up twice. The first time she’d woken up, her head had hurt so badly she was sure something was stabbing her there. But one touch to her head had her fainting away again. Lying back down, she lay there trying to make the sick feeling in her head go away. Touching it gingerly, she felt the blood there again and the slice along her head, but there wasn’t any memory of how it had gotten there. Nor—and this frightened her more than the head wound did—who or where she was.  Jane Doe. That’s what she’d been referring to herself as since she’d awoken the second time. It had been dark where she first holed up. Not that the daylight she had now made things any clearer for her. Looking around from her position on the floor, she realized that she might be in some really old building that hadn’t seen a broom or dust rag in a very long time. Slowly she rolled to her back, closing her eyes so she wouldn’t get sick again. “You need help, girl.” She had also started talking to herself, she realized, and wondered if that was new or something she did all the time. Asking herself questions about the things she did know about herself didn’t ring any bells either, but she listed them now. “You’ve been shot and wounded. You’re female, and you’re smart enough to know that hiding out was the best course of action for yourself. And you carry a gun.” She wrapped her fingers around the gun that hadn’t left her side since she woke, and found it tucked tightly against her belly. It didn’t feel foreign to her, but like something that she wore as routinely as she did a shirt or socks. There was a holster for it, but the gun hadn’t been in it like it was now. Leather and steel, it had been strapped to her waist with one full magazine. Searching for any kind of identification hadn’t netted her anything. She had found a wound in her leg that had bothered her for a little bit, but not nearly like her head did. As she lay there, she thought of what could have happened to her and why. What was she that would make someone shoot her? Jane didn’t want to think that someone was out to kill her, not yet at any rate. “Was I a victim of a robbery gone bad? But if someone robbed me, wouldn’t they have taken the gun too?” Her head began to pound again so she left that thought alone for now. “I need to get someone to help me. But who?” Sitting up slowly, she felt her belly lurch again. Whatever had happened to her, it wasn’t going to get any better by just sitting around waiting to have some sort of epiphany. She had a feeling that when she did recall what had gone down, she wasn’t going to be any happier than she was with not remembering.  Standing was harder than sitting up, she soon discovered. Hanging onto the walls for support, her knees were weak and her hands shook. She could only hope that she was on a lower floor in the building, because she was sure that she’d never make stairs work for her. And when she saw them, all four flights, she sobbed like a baby. Nothing, she realized, was going to be easy about this. At least there was a handrail. 
She had no idea how long it took, but she was on the last level when she heard cars. No people as yet…she’d not encountered anyone on her way down. She had to rest, so crawling behind the stairs, she found a nice cubbyhole and closed her eyes. It might be just a few feet from her, but freedom and perhaps answers were going to have to wait. She was simply too weak to walk even the few feet to the door. What if—and this had bothered her with each landing that she’d encountered—what if they were just waiting for her to come out so they could finish the job? Darkness was coming on once again when she woke. She was getting sicker. Her belly was empty of whatever had been in it before, but it didn’t stop her from throwing up. The bile was hot, and she was getting weaker each time she got sick. Help was going to have to come soon or she knew she’d be dead. Standing this time took her to the floor again. On her knees, all she could think about was that she was going to die, right here, and no one would ever know…if there was anyone to mourn her death. Lying down, Jane closed her eyes and rested. It was nearing light again when she finally made her way out of the building. Her sleep had been fitful and unrestful, but she wasn’t as sick this time when she moved. It was either because she was too far gone or she was getting better, which she doubted.  There wasn’t anyone around except for a single truck that was idling nearby. As she staggered to the street, holding onto the walls as she went, she wondered who would be stupid enough to let a nice vehicle like that sit running unattended. Just as she was going to step out of the alley she was in, a slamming door had her turning to look. It was too fast. Her head spun dizzily and she nearly fell again. As she held on to the overturned trash can beside her, she tried breathing in her nose and out of her mouth to slow the pain down, as well as to keep her belly from churning up again. For whatever reason the thought of being caught—at what she had no idea—but being caught or captured terrified her. “Miss? Are you all right?” She wanted to scream at him that she wasn’t fucking all right, but just nodded. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you are. Did you know that you’re bleeding from your head and leg?” “It won’t stop. Every time I wake up, it’s bleeding again.” He might have said something, but she had to puke again and gagged twice before she laid down. “I think I’m dying.” “I’m going to call an ambulance.” She screamed no at him, but must have blacked out for a bit. When she woke this time, she was in a moving vehicle. “You fainted, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get you to someone. But I won’t call the police. I have no idea why I didn’t, but I wanted you to know that.” “I don’t know who I am.” Trust. She didn’t have any clue why she trusted this man, but she did. “I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or how I was hurt. I’m at your mercy, it seems.” “Julian. Julian Stanton.” She asked him who that was. “Sorry. Me. I’m Julian Stanton. I’m taking you to my home…well, to my parents’ home. My father is a doctor. Retired now, but a good surgeon. I let him know what was going on about the wound, as well as that you seemed to be dead set against hospitals. He also knows that you’re carrying.” 
She touched her fingers to the gun still in the holster. Touching it, like that man did, it gave her trust. Again, she had no idea why she did, but she laid her head back to rest. The trip didn’t seem to take all that long, but she might have been out for a lot longer than she’d thought. Three men were standing on the front porch when she arrived at the house with Julian. Before he opened the door or they moved, he pointed out who they were. Two brothers and a father. Then when they moved toward her and the truck, she cringed when they started to reach for her. “Let me give you something for the pain.” The elderly man smiled at her. “It’ll take you under for a bit, but that’ll be fine while I exam you for injuries. You can trust us, young lady. We’ll not harm you.” The pinch of the needle didn’t hurt, but almost as soon as he rubbed the cotton ball over where he’d injected her, Jane felt herself floating away. It was the best she’d felt since she’d awoken. Flashes of light moved over her. Strong voices were there, but no words that she could understand. And on top of it all, a woman. Her kind voice made Jane feel like she’d been bathed in sunshine. Then there was nothing. ~~~ Denny waited for his wife, Lucy, to come and assist him while Julian filled him in on what had happened and why he’d brought her to their home. Denny checked the woman’s head injury, and wasn’t surprised to find it was a bullet wound. After cleaning it as gently as he could, he started to cut away her clothing. The gun perplexed him for a few moments, but Colton, his other son who had helped bring the young lady in, removed it from her and said he’d put it in the safe for her. Next, Denny removed her shoes, socks, and another weapon inside those. Whoever she was, she was well armed. “I just heard from a man by the name of Wexton. I believe he runs the grocery store…or perhaps the library. They’re all running together lately. Anyway, I have no idea why he’d think we have anything to do with this, but he said that someone is camping out in one of the buildings in the market district. I said that Julian checked it out today and it’s nothing.” After Lucy pulled on gloves, she stood over the young woman. “Do we know anything?” “Not as yet. At least not much. GSW to the head, but I think there will be more. There is blood on her pant legs as well as her hands. I was just going to take a look now.” She helped him pulled off the tattered clothing he’d cut away. He noted the wounds they found as they took off her shirt. “Bullet on her shoulder. It looks like it might have been done before the other things, superficial. There is some bruising on her belly; boot print, it looks to be.”  Denny, with the help of Lucy, rolled the young woman to her side. Her back was covered in scars that looked as if she’d been beaten, and repeatedly. There were a few more markings, none that he could recognize right off the top of his head. But as there was nothing life threatening, he moved to her pants. His wife took over there for him so that he could stitch up her head. He was just starting when he felt Lucy’s fear and stepped back from his patient. 
“Denny, what is that?” He looked where she was pointing, careful of his hands. He had to look at it very hard until what it was came to him. He took another step back and tried to think beyond the fear. “Tell me.” “I’ve not see this mark on someone in…. I was a boy and my father had been working with one of the women in the village. He said that she was the devil’s handmaiden. Of course, as a child I believed him. But later, after doing some research, I found out that they’re people marked by another tribe…that they were supposed to be unworthy.” She asked him of what. “I don’t know. That’s all I could find. If she’s been marked like this, Lucy, she might be older than she looks. I mean, as in decades older.” “What is she doing around here?” He said that he didn’t know. “Well, we’ll fix her up, get some answers, and if we don’t like them, we’ll take care of her.” “Take care…what do you mean, take care of her? You’re not suggesting that we murder this poor child, are you?” She just stared at him with that look she reserved for their sons. “Lucy, explain yourself, please.” “Take care of her as in taking care of her. Make sure that she’s safe, well, and fed. Whatever made your mind rush to us killing her off? My goodness, Denny, you need to stop listening to those stories on the television set. Goodness gracious.”  He said he didn’t think it was that but a book he’d been reading, and moved to finish her head. “I knew I shouldn’t have gone to bed straight away after reading that book. I swear to you, Lucy, that author has some chilling thoughts going on in his head.” She told him to not read it at all. “It’s good. I want to finish it, but perhaps I’ll read only in the daylight hours. Not so close to bedtime.” They worked on her for over two hours. Under each article of clothing they removed they found more cuts and bruises. Another gunshot wound in her leg had startled him. Denny wondered why the young woman was still alive the way she’d been treated. As he was wrapping up the wound on her leg and setting it in a temporary cast to make sure it wasn’t bumped, the woman looked at him. “Hello.” She nodded, but he thought her too weak to do much more than stare at him. “You’ve lost a lot of blood so I’m giving you some fluids. The wound on your head is stitched up, but I’m concerned at how deep it is. Julian told us you don’t know who you are.” “No.” She closed her eyes and he thought her asleep again. “I don’t know anything. Where am I?” “Stanton Ranch.” She asked him what state. “Ohio. You’re just outside of Zanesville. My family and I have a nice ranch here. Not that we have much in the way of animals any longer, but we did a long time—” “I had a gun. Where…did you take it?” He told her what one of his sons had done with it. “I’d like it back please. It…I have no idea why, but it comforts me.” “All right. But I’d like to wait until you’re a little stronger. I’ve given you something for the pain, and I’d hate for someone to be hurt when you were out of it.” She nodded, then moaned. “I’ve taken care of the wounds on your body. You have one GSW to the head, another to your shoulder, as well as one in your calf. They’re cleaned up and stitched. I’ve saved the bullets for you.” 
“I don’t know what I do for a living. I might be a bad guy.” He’d thought of that as well, but had a feeling that wasn’t what had gotten her shot. “The man who brought me here, you said he was your son. Will he tell anyone where I am?” “No. He said you were inflexible about not going to the hospital, so he thought it might be safer for all of us not to tell anyone that we’d found you, nor that you were shot.” She nodded again and Denny thought for sure she was out this time.  As he and Julian moved her to the bed he had set up in his offices at home, he asked him about what he thought had happened. He told him what she’d said to him when she woke up. “You think she’s a bad guy? Or anything to do with things that go bump in the night?” Denny told his son that he didn’t. “I don’t either. She could have shot me when I came up to her at the warehouse. Granted she was weak, but I think if she were a corrupt person, she would have done it anyway.” After moving her, he sat down at the little desk that was part of each room. He didn’t use his offices much anymore…just for an occasional bump or two from one of the ranch hands. They only had a couple horses now, having sold them off a while back when he realized that he was just too old for ranching. His sons were off on their own now and Denny was proud of each of them, but he missed them when they weren’t home. He supposed it was a way of life for the elderly. Denny did a search on shootings in the area. A couple had occurred which were, he thought, too far away for the young woman to have traveled from. There was a robbery, but he wrote that off as well, knowing somehow that she might not have been involved in that either.  When Lucy brought him lunch on a tray they ate together, talking quietly about the upcoming picnic they were having, as well as Brayden’s birthday. He was a little old for having parties, but it never stopped them from having them for their boys. However, they no longer hired a clown to entertain them. “Do you suppose that he’ll even be home this year? Last year he was two days late coming home.” Brayden hadn’t been home as much as they liked, not for years now. “I miss him more all the time. I know that he’s working, but I’d so much like to have him home again.” “I’ve spoken to him a few times over the last few weeks. I guess things in Africa aren’t going as well as they had thought, and he might be able to get away for a little longer this time. Something about money troubles, as well as supplies coming up missing.” Lucy said that it would be nice to have him home. “I know, but when I talked to him, he sounded so beaten. Like he’s just tired of it.” “Well, he’s been working at building homes all over the world for others for nearly ten years now. I know as well as you that if you don’t take a break now and again, you can’t just pop back like you did before. He needs to come home and be with his family, and let someone else work for a little while. Perhaps he would do better at making money. Not that we need it, but I want him home occasionally.” Denny agreed, but he wouldn’t tell Brayden that. The boy was too stubborn about people telling him what to do. “When did he say he’d be here? Soon?” 
“In a week. I had to make him narrow it down so that we could pick him up at the airport when he arrives. But of course, then I had to tell him several times that we didn’t mind going out of our way to get him. I swear, Lucy, I think he does that to make me mad.” She laughed and said they were alike in that. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not aggravating.” “If you say so, love. But when you get something in your head, you’re like a dog with a bone. You’ll pick at it to death.” They both looked over at the bed when the woman moaned. “She’s going to make it, isn’t she? I mean, she won’t get weaker from this, correct? Poor thing. I wonder if whoever did this to her even cares.” “No, I don’t think so. I have no idea why, but I think they would be upset to know she’s alive. But we might have some trouble keeping her down until she heals more. And she’s asked for her gun back and said that it’s comforting to her for some reason. She seems stubborn herself, don’t you think?” Lucy pointed out that she’d not spoken to her. “That’s right. I forgot. I’m concerned about the marks on her back. What they might mean to her. Or us.” “I was going to ask you if you looked them up while you were down here, but for some reason I have it in my head for you not to. It might lead someone here.” He nodded, telling her that he’d thought the same thing. “We don’t know anything about her, Denny, but I want to protect her like she’s our own child. Why is that, you suppose?” “I don’t know. But now that you mention it, I feel the same way. And even Julian said that he had this overwhelming need to make sure that she was safe. Not well, but safe. I asked him why and you know what he said? He told me that she needed him, that he felt it.” When she left him again, taking the tray with her, he sat at his computer to play a game. It was silly, he knew, when there were plenty of game systems upstairs, but he loved solitaire and found himself thinking about the game more than what he’d been doing earlier. It was a way to ease his mind…he had been playing games as a way to relieve stress for over a decade. The computer made it so much nicer. When a small ding alerted him that he had an incoming message, he clicked on it to see what his son had to say now. Brayden had better not be changing his mind. He wanted his boy home. When it came up, he read it three times to make sure that he’d not misread it. “I’m coming home, Dad. For good. I’ve had enough.” He started typing a reply when a second message from him came up. “Would you find me a house? Not too big, but nice. With a pool. I find that I want to swim again.” He told him he’d do just that, and smiled as he wrote the rest of his answer. “Are you sure you don’t want to build one? You should be good at it by now.” “I just want to live somewhere that is a nice home without any work on my part.” Denny watched the little icon that said Brayden was still typing paused. When it came up on his end, Denny could only stare at it. “I’m getting married. After I’m home. She’s not my mate, but I need some stability in my life and she can do it, I think. At least I hope so. She’s a little on the…. You’ll understand when you meet her. I’m bringing her home with me so you all can all get to know her too. Don’t tell Mom yet. I want to surprise her.” 
He’d certainly do that, Denny thought. Not his mate, yet he was going to marry her? That made his own cat sort of curl around him in fear. It was a feeling, one that had made him become a great surgeon, that had him thinking that his eldest son was about to make the biggest mistake of his life. “We’ll talk when you get here, son. Tell me when you expect to be at the airport and I’ll be there.” He told him he should be in the United States in two days. To pick him up on Wednesday. “All right. Give me times when you get them and I’ll make sure that you and your lovely bride-to-be have a ride home.” Brayden said that he loved him and then the message box told him that he’d logged off. Denny checked on his patient then went to find his Lucy. There wasn’t any way that he was going to keep this from her, and he found that he didn’t want to. He needed someone to tell him he wasn’t nuts for feeling this way. “She’s not his mate? You’re sure that’s what he said.” Denny assured Lucy that he’d read it three times to be sure. “Why would he do a fool thing like that? Doesn’t he know what sort of trouble that can cause him when she does come along?” “He said he needs some stability in his life. And while I can understand that, I wonder if he knows he’s not going to get it. Do you think he gets what he’s doing?” She just huffed, something that she’d done all their married life when she thought he should know the answer to something. “Lucy, he’s bringing her home to meet us. Oh, you’re not supposed to know. He told me not to tell you.” “Well, I’m glad that you did. And no, I don’t think he understands what he’s doing. I can understand living with a woman if you’re lonely. I don’t care for it, but I guess I can understand. But this is at a whole new level of living with someone for sex.” Denny nodded, thinking that his wife was losing her filter more all the time when it came to talking about things. “Denny, you’re going to have to talk to him as soon as he gets home.” “I will, I promise. But I’d like to say something to you, and I don’t want you to get upset. You’ve been a little…how should I say this? You’ve been a lot more outspoken lately. Is it that club you’ve joined? The Women Over Fifty Group?” She kissed him on the cheek as she walked by him. “Lucy, you didn’t answer me. What is it about you lately?” “I’ve decided that I’m too old to be trying to please everyone.” He said that he could understand that. “And I’m not saying what I want, I just have opinions. A great many of them. But I’ve been too shy to say them. I’ve decided that I’m not going to sit in the back row any longer, but voice my opinion.”  After she left him in the kitchen, he laid his head on the butcher block they used as an island. Oh Lord, she was going to be the death of him, he just knew it. He smiled as he lifted his head. But she sure was fun now. He thought he liked this new Lucy. Going to the basement again, he sat with his patient.  Maybe, he thought, he’d take up this new habit Lucy had adopted. Saying what he wanted might be fun. Yes, sir, he was going to do that from now on instead of what people wanted to hear. He wondered what his sons would think about their new parents.   

Caleb: Winchester Brothers ( New Series ) Release Day & Giveaway

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….


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Prologue
“Dag nabbit boy, what is wrong with you? Do you have sawdust in that noggin of yours?” Caleb said he wasn’t sure. “I’d be thinking you’d better be getting sure if you wanna live through this here thing. Your momma, she’s going to be having herself a kitten if I don’t miss my bet.” He looked over at the truck, or what was left of it. Caleb wanted to tell his dad that it wasn’t his fault, that he’d done nothing wrong, only he was sure that he’d still be in trouble. Caleb had been driving and he had hit the tree. “I’ll pay for the damages.” His dad said he darn tooting was. “And I’ll make sure that the tree is all right. I don’t know how I’ll make that happen, but I will. Mr. Wheedle likes this tree, and I would feel bad if it died.” The tow truck arrived about ten minutes later, and Caleb saw his mom get out of it almost before it was completely stopped. She asked him if he was all right, then she hugged him. Caleb waited for her to make sure he wasn’t bleeding profusely, then stood straighter when she glared. “Where were you going in an all-out hurry?” He told her he wasn’t speeding. She looked at the truck, which was on the dolly now, then at him. “You want to tell me why the truck, the only vehicle that we have, is all mangled up like those towels you left on the floor this morning?” “I wasn’t driving fast, but the wolf that ran out in front of me seemed to be…I think it was hurt.” He looked over at his dad, then at the ground again as he continued. “A wolf came out of nowhere. I wasn’t going to hit it, but it seemed to just jump in front of me. Like it was trying to kill itself. I swerved to miss it and lost control. I’m not blaming the wolf, because I was the one driving, but I didn’t want to hurt the wolf. But like I told Dad, I’ll pay for all the damages and work on the truck until it’s running again.” Neither of his parents said anything and Caleb looked up. They were looking at each other, and he felt his wolf run over his skin. There was something going on and he had no idea why, but he thought they believed him about the wolf. “This wolf, you ever seen it before? I mean, around the house?” He said that he’d not. “Can you tell me if you thought it was a shifter or just a regular old wolf? And I need you to be sure, so if you don’t know, then say it.” “It was bigger than a regular wolf. Of that I’m sure. But as for whether or not it’s a shifter, no, I don’t know.” His mom nodded and looked at his dad again. “May I know what’s going on?” “You know old Mr. Cartwright?” He asked if she meant his old math teacher. “Yes, that’ll be him. His mate died a few days ago. She was poorly for a while now and she just passed on. Mr. Cartwright, he was with her a good long time. Said he didn’t think he could live without her.” “So he was trying to kill himself?” Caleb’s mom said nothing, but he could see the hurt on her face. “Mom, I didn’t hurt him. I missed him by a mile. He…I like that old man. I hurt that he does.”
“I know you do, son. So do I. To lose a mate…you know how that would make me feel should I lose your father.” She hugged him again. “But I need for you to do me a favor. A big one. And before you say something, yes, it is a lie, but it’s a good lie. Don’t tell anyone what happened here today. The pack will frown on him trying this.” “All right.” He looked at the truck, then back at his parents. “I’ll still take care of this. I swear to you that I will. And I’ll make sure that I keep a better lookout for Mr. Cartwright, too.” “You do that, Caleb. You go on ahead and do that for him.” Caleb and his dad made their way to the tow truck. “You know why we don’t want you to say anything? I mean, the real reason?” “No sir.” He watched his dad help Mom into the tow truck. She didn’t need it; Caleb knew that, but he loved watching his parents together. They loved each other the best, he thought. Always thinking of the other one no matter what was going on. “Mr. Cartwright loved his mate. I know that you understand that part of it, but he had nobody but her. They don’t have themselves any children or anybody else to call their own. If he were to die like this, by suicide, the pack wouldn’t bury him in a proper way. They’d just let his body rot in the field where he crawled to and let him just be more alone. On account’a that, he’d not be next to his mate in the cemetery. Understand?” “Yes, sir. He’s a good man who’s suffered a great loss.” His dad said that was it. “I’ll go on over and see him later. I won’t mention what happened, just see if he wants to go fishing or something. Keep him company.” “You’re a good boy, Caleb. All you boys are. I’m right proud of you.” Caleb felt his face heat up with embarrassment. “Now, you go on home. I’ll work something out with the driver here. We’ll muddle through this. I swear it.” Caleb knew that his family ran right on the edge of poverty, like a lot of families around here. But unlike most of them, his family had food on the table nightly and they had power and heat. His dad worked hard every day to make sure of that. And he and his younger brothers, all of them, did everything they could to help too. This wrecking of the truck, however, was going to hurt them for some time.  Instead of going home, he found himself standing in front of the Cartwright home. Mr. Cartwright was sitting on the front porch, rocking in his chair like he was going someplace. And he was crying. Caleb coughed, then cleared his throat to make sure to give the older man a little bit of time to collect himself. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have enough to do around that farm of yours that you should be here bothering me?” Caleb nodded and told him he had plenty to do, but wanted to ask him something. “Whatever it is, you don’t have any business asking me. Go on home.” “Would you like to go fishing with me? I sure could use a nice little break today. And I know you have that nice stream that goes behind your house.” Mr. Cartwright stopped rocking and asked him why he needed a break. “I had myself an accident earlier. My mom, she’s not mad at me. More glad that I’m all right, but I’d like to make it up to her by bringing home some meat for dinner.”
“And that means what to me? Are you telling things that aren’t true, boy? You do that and I’ll come after your entire family.” Caleb asked him what he meant by that. “What did you tell your parents about wrecking the truck?” Caleb looked at the ground again. He’d not said a thing about the truck, or wrecking for that matter. Mr. Cartwright would only know that if he’d been there. His parents were right in what they had thought. “I just needed to take a little break, that’s all. I thought…. Well, I guess you have more important things to do than to spend a lazy hour with a kid.” He nodded at him, his heart hurting for what the man was going through. “I’ll see you around, Mr. Cartwright.” “Now hold on there a minute. I never said I’d not go.” He stood up and Caleb tried not to notice how his face was a little scuffed up and that he was walking slower than usual. “You and me, we’ll go fishing today, but I don’t want you to make a habit of just showing up here. You need to be working on your math more than you need to be fishing with an old man.” Mr. Cartwright got them both some gear and even packed them up a nice basket of food to share. There was sweet tea to go with it, too. As they made their way down to the stream, Mr. Cartwright told him about how he had a good recipe for trout, and that he had some stored apples still from last year.  The two of them caught nine trout and two catfish. As he was helping the man gather up their papers from the food and the gear, Mr. Cartwright asked him if he’d take the entire catch with him to his house. “I already told my mom what I caught. She said that there was so much, you should come join us.” He hadn’t talked to his mom, but knew that if Mr. Cartwright would agree then he would. “She even baked a nice peach cobbler today. I was smelling it this morning. I’m betting there might be some homemade ice cream too.” In the end, Caleb was able to convince Mr. Cartwright to join them, and his dad said he’d dig out the old churn, that ice cream sure did sound good. The cobbler was the only thing he’d not lied to the man about. It was, after all, what he’d asked for as his special dessert for his birthday. Caleb Kelley Winchester was seventeen today. As he walked the man back to his house, they didn’t say much. He was stuffed as he’d ever been, and eating with the man beside him had made for a great gift, one he’d not expected to get. When he was up on his porch, Caleb turned to go home when Mr. Cartwright said his name. Caleb turned back to see him standing there with a sad look on his face. “My wife is gone. I know you know that, but I hurt with it. Worse than I ever dreamed I’d be, and that was a lot.” Caleb said he was sorry. “I’m sure you know it was me that caused you that accident. And…. Well, I’m sorrier than I can tell you that you missed me.” “I’m not. Had you died out there, I would have killed a great man on my birthday. I don’t think that would have settled well for me, do you?” He shook his head. “Mr. Cartwright, if you don’t mind, I’d very much like to hang out with you sometimes. I’m sorry that you hurt so much, and there isn’t anything I can do to fix it, but I really enjoyed today. And the meat was an added bonus. You’re a good man, and I liked today.”
“I did too. It’s the first enjoyment I’ve had in a while.” Caleb nodded. “And if you want to come by here and see me, I’ll not be sorry about that either. You’re a good boy, Caleb. I hope you know that.” “I hope so. My mom will be really disappointed in me if I’m not.” He laughed with Caleb. “I’ll come by tomorrow, sir. And we’ll see about fixing that leaky roof that you were telling me about. All right?” “Yes, I’d like that. I might have a few other chores around here that you can help me with too, if you’ll allow me to pay you for them.” He said that wasn’t necessary, but he’d like the company. “I would as well. I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Caleb returned home with a lighter step. He knew that things were going to be tighter now. His dad had told him that the truck towing alone cost nearly fifty dollars, more than he knew his parents had. He was going to go see Shelton in the morning to see if he could work off a bit of that a week. Caleb was going to hold to his promise of paying for the damage. ~~~ Arnold sat on his rocker and felt better than he had in a while…since his wife had taken her last breath, as a matter of fact. He wiped at the tears that fell, thinking that he just hurt to think about her too much. “I failed you, my darling. Failed to come to you today.” He looked in the direction that the young Caleb had taken. “I should have been a little more selective of who I ran in front of, I guess. An older driver, he wouldn’t have been that quick to swerve to miss me. But I got me a friend out of this mess I put me in. A few of them, I think. And the trout was almost as good as you made me on occasion.” Rocking more, he thought of the Winchester family and how meager their table had been tonight. He wondered what they might have eaten had they not brought the fish to them. But whatever might have been on their table, he was sure that they would have enjoyed it and felt blessed by it. He rocked a little harder. “They got themselves nothing to get around in because of me. I did that to them. I heard that boy telling his daddy that he’d make it right. And I have a feeling that he will too. No matter the cost to his time.” Arnold paused in his rocking to think of what he could do to make it up to them. “That old truck out back, I think they’ll be able to use it, don’t you?” He thought of other things that he had that he no longer had any use for. He’d give it to them, to make up for what they’d lost. But he’d have to be sly about it. Arnold would not take their pride from them. And he knew for as much as they didn’t have, their pride was a thing they valued a great deal. Pulling his phone toward him, he called Shelton Bloom. When he answered his phone on the forth ring, Arnold had to laugh. He was sounding like a man who might need a break himself. “Shelton, it’s Arnold Cartwright here. I wanted to talk to you about the Winchester truck that you brought there today.” Shelton told him it wasn’t worth fixing even if they had the money. Arnold had already figured that was what he’d say. “You got anything there that they can use up? I’ll pay you for it. Not top dollar, but I’ll pay you for it. That
boy, Caleb, he’s going to be running me around, and I need him to have something to use.” “There are two old beaters in the back that run all right. But I don’t know, Mr. Cartwright. You might need something better than that. I’d surely hate to think of the two of you broken down on the side of the road. How about I let him take that car that Masterson never paid for? It’s a beauty and runs like it’s in its second childhood.” Shelton understood what he was doing, even if Arnold was a little nervous about it. “I think it’ll hold you both, and his family, should they need to be on an outing together. What do you think? It won’t cost you a thing either. Mr. Masterson said I could have it for working on it.” By the time he hung up the phone, he’d planned to have the towing paid by him and his old truck looked at to make sure it was running well. There wasn’t any reason why he couldn’t drive himself around, but to have that boy helping him might be worth it. As he settled into his chair again, Arnold spoke to his lovely wife. “I might not be joining you just yet, my love. This family, I have a feeling that they need me as much as I do them. And I have a powerful need to help them out.” He nodded into the darkness, thinking of how much more alive he felt because a boy hadn’t killed him like he’d wanted. “You just hang on tight and I’ll be there soon enough. I need to be helpful to them and in return…. Well, I think they’re going to be more helpful to me than I ever thought.” Over the next few weeks, not only did he get his leaky roof fixed by Caleb, but he also got his lawn mowed, his bushes trimmed, and he even got the steps to his barn repaired. Not only did Caleb help him, but the rest of them, including that mom of his, lent him a hand or two. He had berries in his freezer, and a few little pies he could eat when he wanted. His pants were patched up, and there wasn’t a single button missing off any of his shirts. His wife, Thelma, she’d been sick for a time, and those things had gone by the wayside. It was nice having the house all aired out and the sheets on his bed to be fresh. It was like they’d adopted him, and he was liking it. Caleb was in his yard, mowing the last of the grass, when he realized how much more he could help this boy. College. He needed this boy—hell, all them boys—to go to college. Arnold also knew that the Winchesters would be lucky to send one to college, not to mention six of them. So he set about, in his own little way, making that happen as well.  And he sat down to dinner with them every night too. Sometimes there was meat, most nights not. But Arnold didn’t mind. He was with good people, and that made up for his belly being just a little upset with him for not having a hunk of meat in it. He decided to help them out with that as well. Arnold was having fun. Helping these people was fun. “I need me a person to work for me full time.” Caleb’s father asked him what he needed and that he’d find him someone. “No, I’m talking about you, Kelley. I need you to come work for me full time.” “Mr. Cartwright, you’re a very nice man. And I have to tell you, you couldn’t have helped us out any better than giving us that vehicle to get around in. Mary said it’s a real
treat for her to go shopping and not have to load it all in the back end of that old truck of ours. And don’t think I don’t know that you’ve made a few other things happen for us too. I’m appreciative of it, I swear to you. But you don’t have to go making up work for me. I’m glad to help you out.” Arnold started to speak, but Kelley cut him off before he could. “Caleb is learning a lot from you. How to be a better man, and to know that not everything he does needs to have a payment in the end in the form of money. I thank you for that too. But like I said, you’ve done about enough.” “No, I’ve not, Kelley. Without you—without that boy there—I’d be dead now. We both know it.” Kelley nodded and Arnold nodded before continuing. “That day that I hurt him—and I know that it did—but that day he gave me something I’d not had in a long while, since my wife took ill. He gave me purpose. And this job that I have for you, it’s not a made up one. I do need you. I have…I don’t have anyone else.” “You know that I’ll surely be glad to help you. You’re a good man.” Arnold thanked him. “What is it you need help with? I’m not too smart, but I’ll give it my best shot.” Arnold had no doubt whatsoever that he would too. Yes, sir, he was going to have the time of his life with this family.

Everette: The English Dragon Release Day & Giveaway

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…

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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….



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Chapter 1  
Rett needed a break. It was that or he was going to break someone. He stretched his neck muscles, hearing them pop and crack, and smiled when the man across from him seemed to freeze up for several seconds. Leaning onto his desk, he was glad to see the man back away as far as his chair would allow. “I’ve not asked you for a great deal of money, Mr. Welsh. Only enough to see me through this hard time. You’ll pay for the retraction or things will not go as you had hoped they would.” Mr. Ralph—Douglas, he thought his first name was—smiled at him. “It matters very little if it’s true or not. People will have it in the back of their mind for all time. Every time something else is written about you, even if it is true, they’ll think of this. So, you pay me, then I’ll see to it that a retraction is printed, not that it will do you much good. You’re about as done in as they come, I think.” “You are right about that and more. But even had you only asked me for a dime, Dougie, you wouldn’t have gotten it. I don’t do well with people who blackmail me. And in the event you’ve missed reading your own papers of late, I’ll let you know something that the entire world probably knows. I don’t have any money. Not even the dime that you might have asked for.” Dougie said his name was Douglas. “Well, when you come to my office, making demands that piss me off, I need to find some pleasure. And shortening your name gives me that. Now, as I was saying, Dougie, I don’t think you understand the consequences of pissing me off.” “What are you going to do, Everettey?” For some reason his comeback about his own name was funny to him. “What do you think people will say when I tell them that you’ve threatened me? I will too. Do whatever it takes to get you to pay me. Do you think they’ll come running to your aid? I think not. They’ll say you’re the monster that I’ve portrayed you as. Just pay me the money, I’ll put in a retraction, and then things will be good for us both. For a while anyway.” Dougie laughed again. “You just never know what might happen if I find I like getting money from jerks like you. But the article as it stands will run regardless of your opinion of me or what you call me.” Rett’s phone ringing startled him and Dougie. Instead of telling the man to fuck off, which he really wanted to do, he picked up his phone. The laughter at the other end made him smile. There was only one person in the world that laughed like that. It was his good friend Danburn. “I’m wondering if you’d like to come and spend the holidays with us. We’re going all out this year. Mother has even gotten some of the staff to…. What’s happening?” Rett laughed. Even to his ears it sounded bitter and cold. “Tell me what’s going on, or so help me, I’m coming to get you. You’ve had enough crap going on for several lifetimes.” “I have at that. But right now, I have a man in my office that is blackmailing me. And the really strange part of it is, he’s thinking that he’s going to get money from me. Apparently, he thinks that I’m going to just bend over and take it up the ass. Would you like to buy a newspaper and get me out of this shit?” Danburn asked him the name of the paper. “The Centennial. You’ve heard of it. It just ran your marriage announcement. 
Which I hate that I had to miss, but with money being tight and all…. Well, I’m even further down on my luck than before with this jackass here.” “Hang on. Let me do some checking on something.”  The man across from him looked at his nails, then brushed off something only he could see from his pants. He was trying to act as if he had not one care in the world, and Rett had a feeling that he didn’t. The man was used to getting his own way in this sort of thing.  When Danburn came back on the line several minutes later, gone was the laughter and in its place was the man he knew could be as hard as nails.  “Put Mr. Ralph on the phone, please. I’d very much like to speak to him.” The laughter and humor were gone, and in their place was the man that frightened him a little, even through a phone connection. Rett just handed Dougie the phone without a word. He had no idea how Danburn knew who was in his office or who he had talked to while he held the line. But when Dougie whimpered and stood up, Rett got up as well to get himself a bottle of water. It would be like his friend to make someone shit themselves even over the phone. Without a word to him, the phone was laid on the desk and Dougie left. When he picked it back up, not only was Danburn talking, but a woman was speaking as well. It had to be Danburn’s new wife. And she was having a good time with whatever was going on at their end. “Thank you, love. Now we only have to get Rett here and things will be so much—” The woman’s voice again. Rett wasn’t quite sure if she was pissed or laughing, but Danburn growled low. “If you do that, then I will spank you.” “Danburn?” The laughter again, and this time it made him laugh as well. “I’m only assuming that you’re speaking to your lovely wife, and she thinks whatever you did to Dougie was wrong.” “She spoke to him, made him tell her what he was up to. I did not. She’s very good at that, making people tell her the truth when all they want to do is lie to me. What a world we’ve come to, don’t you think? Where the first thing people want to do is lie to you. Sad is what it is, just sad.” Danburn laughed. It was something that he’d now heard his friend do several times in the last several moments. A thing that Rett hadn’t done himself in a very long time before now. “Come here to stay for a few days. A month. Hell, for the rest of your days. I miss you. And I need your help.” “I’ve got to work. Unlike some people who own the world, I need to pay my bills and eat. And my mom’s bills too. Apparently, my dad hadn’t been…never mind. You only need to become your other self and feed yourself by gorging on fresh fish. Which, I will say, is much too fresh for my tastes.” He leaned back in his chair. “I miss you as well. And I’m sorry I couldn’t come for the wedding. I would have loved to have met your wife. But as I said, I can’t right now. I have a lot of things riding on me having a job, even as piss poor as it is.” “She regrets it too. The not meeting you part…she loves being my wife.” Rett would just bet she did. “Like I was saying, I need you for a few things. A good attorney is hard to come by, and you’re the best. But I’m sending a plane for you now. You’ll be on it or 
so help me, Rett, I’m going to become my other self and come there for you. I’m sure that won’t go over any better for you than the now dead article in the paper.” The article. He’d completely forgotten about it in talking with his friend. Dougie said that he was going to have an entire story printed up that told all about his family. Some of it would be true…there had to be a kernel of truth to make people believe the rest. And if he was honest with himself, he would have thought the public had all they wanted on him and his family. But Dougie had pointed out—and he might have been right—that a scandal was what people craved. Even when it was a lie. “Did you buy it? The newspaper? Did you buy it?” He told him he already owned it. “It figures. You own everything, my dear friend. But this thing, I can’t believe he thought that he could get anything out of me. Danburn, they think I’m rich. Everyone does when they hear someone is an attorney. I’m not. Why would someone come here, say that I’m some sort of asshole and killer, then expect me to come up with forty million dollars? I don’t even think there is forty dollars period in my account, much less forty million.” “I’m sorry buddy. I truly am. I’ve been reading up on your dad’s ordeal again, and your mom’s predicament as well. You should know that I wish I could have been there for you from the first, but I had no idea at the time that it was you. But I have good news. I need you to come and work for me, Rett. I’ve asked and asked, but now I need you here.” Rett closed his eyes. He knew Danburn was serious, but he had no idea of the obligations that held him here. “I’m sending the plane and my wife to get you. When she gets there, you’d be best served to do as she says. She’s not a nice person when she doesn’t get her way.” “I bet she would have to be hard being married to you. But I just can’t do it, Danburn. I’ve told you this before, I’m broke. I have vacation left but if I quit, I’ll even lose that. I have no money to take off even if I wanted to. I don’t even have…. Hell, Danburn, I don’t even have a pot to piss in right now.” He told him he knew that. “You would. I can’t swing it without things falling apart here. I’ve told you that. I’m supporting my mom and myself pretty poorly right now.” “I’m going to help you. And so you know, my wife is on her way.” When the line went dead, Rett put the receiver in the cradle.  He wanted to cry. Turning his chair so that he faced his tiny window with the worst view ever, Rett was tempted to jump. He was sure that he’d live. That his broken body would be on life support forever and he’d be broker, if that was even possible, than he was now. All he had was his name, a name that used to mean things. Now it only meant ruin. Rett—Everette Welsh the third, to be exact—had gone to college with Danburn. Not with him, really, but they met there. While he had struggled to study, Danburn had cruised. When things came up, like fees and such, Rett had taken a second job. Danburn had just pulled out his credit cards. The man had it all, and Rett had been in awe of how mature, how smart the man had been. Then he found out the truth. They weren’t friends then, only acquaintances really. Danbur Danburn was in his study group, not that he ever showed up for them. They shared a table together in lab too, and had spoken during class. That had been the extent of their 
conversations and friendship until one night, when he’d been invited to his home for a dinner party for Danburn’s mother, Elissa. Two men who were as different as night and day in the same house.  The dinner was far better than anything he’d had in a long while. The courses were perfectly timed, the wine flowing. As he sat there with Danburn and his mother, they all talked about not just college, but Danburn’s other home, the servants that had come here for the party, and the things they were going to do when they graduated in a few months. He’d known very little about the big man. It wasn’t until about halfway through their first year that he realized that not only was Danburn a truly nice guy, but he wasn’t human. He’d told him—during a bitch session with him—that he could change into a dragon. A big fucking one, he’d told Rett. That night, the night of the dinner, he got to see him in his full glory. It was that part, the man shifting into a large dragon, which had startled him out of the house and into oncoming traffic. Rett had thought, but knew better now, that Danburn had been trying to fob him off, get rid of him with this ridiculous story throughout their college years. But the car that had hit him had nearly killed him, and brought the two men together in such a way that Rett still wondered about. It was then that he met the other people that Danburn had called friends too, each of them dragons in their own right. And Rett had been friends with them all since that fateful night. Not that he thought Danburn had had anything to do with him being hurt. He knew it was his own fault, running away from words that confirmed what he’d been told several times over the years. Danburn had not left his side the entire time Rett was in the hospital. And when he’d been released, his leg and arm in a cast, Danburn had brought him to his home, a larger home than most of the dorms that he’d not been able to afford, and helped him catch up with his classes. That was when he’d learned that not only was Danburn a dragon, but he was older than anything Rett had ever known. And much better off than Rett could have ever in all his life imagined. “I don’t need the education. As I have told you, I’m not human. But I’m not in my twenties either. I’m old enough to remember things that even history books no longer cover. The money that I have, it’s from my family. So far back now that I doubt even my mom knows who started the first savings account that put us where we are now.” Rett had nodded then, not sure if he wanted to know it all. “You have questions?” “Too many to put out right now. You’re a dragon, I know that, but are there more of you? I mean, your mom for sure, but others too?” Danburn nodded and told him he knew two others. Hanson McClain and Kip Newton. “How am I supposed to believe that, Danburn? I mean, I know you showed me, so I know that you’re not lying to me, but I have to admit, it’s a lot to take in. Especially for me, when I’ve never even thought of dragons.” “Would you like for me to show you again?” Rett said no, once was enough. “You’re a good man, Rett. A better friend too. And the reason that you’ve never thought of dragons is because we like to keep it that way. For humans not to ever get it in their heads that they have to be out hunting for us like they used to.”  
“All right, I guess I can understand that. I mean, you hear about…I guess I never thought that part was true either. That there were dragons that flew the sky.” He looked around the room, then at the books that he’d been studying. “Why are you doing this for me? I’m not in your league of…well, anything. Why?” “You’re a good man, as I said. And you’re going to make a great lawyer someday. I think, sometime down the line, I might need you to come and rescue me from myself.” Rett told him about his money worries. About his family and his father. “I’ve taken care of your money issues at the college. There isn’t much I can do about the rest, I’m sorry for that. But the other…well, it’s the very least I could do after what I made you do by running from me. You won’t have to work anymore to go here, either. There is a fund set up for you to use for housing and food.” “I don’t want you to do that.” He told him it was done. “Danburn, you don’t know me. For all you know, I could be this guy who scams people all the time. I need for you to stop this now.” “I trust you more than with my life, but those of my friends and family as well. Besides, it’s done. And someday, I don’t know when, I might need you to come to help me. I’d like for you to think of this as a loan, a loan until you can repay me with help.” He nodded, unsure how that was going to work. “Rett, I swear to you, I will never ask you for anything that you aren’t willing to give.” As the years rolled by, he studied like it was his job. At first, he’d not wanted to take help from the other man, but he needed it to make it work. His name, the Welsh name, hadn’t been much in a long time, but it got worse once he was out of school and trying to make a name for himself. Rett looked up from his musings when someone touched his hand. “Mr. Welsh, Mr. Peashaw would like to speak to you.” What now? he wondered. But instead of asking, he told Mary that he’d go now. “I don’t think he’s very happy.” “Do you know what’s going on?” She shrugged and he smiled. The girl was as shy as he was when it came to making friends. “I might need some empty boxes with the way my luck has been going of late. I don’t know what he might want, but to be called to his office like this, it can’t be good.” “You’ll be all right, I know it. You’re a good attorney.” He nodded. Rett was a good attorney, he just worked for shitty people. “Go on now. See what he wants. Maybe he has a promotion coming up.” Not likely, but he made his way to the tenth floor. If Mr. Peashaw could have managed it, he would have had his offices on the roof, just so he could have the highest level to look down on people. Rett had disliked the man since he interviewed with him all those years ago, but he had taken the job when no other offers were forthcoming. As he knocked on the door, Rett ignored the secretary at the desk. She was as snobbish as Peashaw was, and even if he were to ask her a question, she’d just glare at him. He figured that was her job, to put people in a bad mood before they entered the office. Rett realized how much he really hated his job. The room, when he was allowed entrance, was just as it had been all those years ago when he’d interviewed with the man. The walls were dark, the furniture too, and the 
carpet was a blue so dark that it looked black. Not even a dust moot dared mar the dark surface. The books, all of them as old or older than Rett was at thirty-two, were dark with age and unused. It was like being in a cave. Or a haunted house. He sat down when told to in the most uncomfortable chair he’d ever put his butt in. “Mr. Welsh. What do you have to say for yourself?” He had plenty to say, he supposed, but nothing that Peashaw wanted to hear. Of that he was positive. “I’ve just gotten off the phone with the local rag, the Centennial. They’re saying that you’ve threatened one of their staff.” “I don’t think Mr. Ralph was actually working there. But yes, I did in a way. But not until after he threatened me. He was printing an article about me that wasn’t true.” His boss stared at him. “He put in there that I was a murderer, and I’m not.” “Might do you some good to have a wife. She’d keep you cleaned up if nothing else.” Rett didn’t even bother looking down at his worn and old suit. He had no idea where his comment had come from, but it was a moot point he supposed. It was probably in reference to his own wife and how, rumor had it, she picked out everything the man wore, including his underthings. “But we don’t like to have our people threaten anyone. You’ll apologize this moment and take out an ad in the paper stating that you were wrong.” “I’m not wrong. I think I’d remember if I had murdered someone, don’t you think?” His boss asked him if he was trying to be funny. “No, but I don’t think I should have to tell someone I’m sorry for him lying about me. And, well, if I apologize, it looks like I am someone that would kill for no apparent reason, and I’d never do that. I don’t think I’d ever murder a person for any reason, as a matter of fact.” “I don’t see what one thing has to do with the other. Just man up and do what I said.” He started shuffling the papers around on his desk, dismissing him, Rett knew. “I’ll expect to see it in tomorrow’s edition. That’ll be all.” “I quit.” The words spilled out almost too quickly. Rett looked at Peashaw when he finally looked at him, and could see that he was just as shocked as Rett was. But when the words hung there, just for a moment, Rett realized that’s just what he wanted to do. “I can’t be subject to a firm that won’t back up someone that’s been here for as long as I have. I will turn in my resignation before I leave for the day.” “And what will you do, Welsh? Run your own firm? You don’t have the money to get your rent paid on time since your father killed those two people and left you high and dry. Why, your mother is calling here every week wondering if there is some delay in your pay so that she can get her part of it on time.” Mr. Peashaw shook his head and went back to shuffling papers. “You are no more quitting than I am. Get back to work, and like I said, have that apology in the paper tomorrow.”  “No.” Rett was feeling better with every word. “I’m not going to do that, and I’m not going to work here any longer. I’ve had enough, and I think this is the best thing I could do for myself. My mother will have to…. Well, I’ll survive this. As I have a great many things in the past, I suppose.” Before he could change his mind, he left the office. On his way back to his desk, he thought of all the shit this was going to do to him. How hard it was even now to make 
the threads of his life meet. But he wasn’t going to stay here. Not any longer. And that alone gave him a little more bounce in his steps. It took security ten minutes to make it to his desk. He had already told Mary what he’d done, cleaned out his desk, and had his equally threadbare coat on. It was terrifying to think he was out of work, but it was also the best feeling he’d had in a long time. He was standing on the sidewalk when it hit him. He was no longer employed. Going to his apartment, Rett set his things on his table and sat down. He didn’t have the slightest clue what he was going to do now. There wasn’t much in the way of food in his house, no stash of money to lean on when things got tough. Things were always tough for him, it seemed. And he had no idea what his mother would think. The worst, no doubt.  As he sat down to a bowl of cereal, the last good meal he would have for a while, he thought of nothing but putting the food on the spoon and getting it to his mouth. He was nearly done with it when someone knocked on his door. He could only stare at the beautiful woman standing there. She had a coat in her hand that looked entirely too large for her, and a smile that not only put him at ease but made him smile back at her. “Hi. It’s chilly out, isn’t it? I forgot my coat, and this was on the plane. I think it belongs to Danburn.” The woman standing at his doorstep took his breath away. He knew who she was, Danburn’s wife, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember her name. “Kendrick. Danburn told you I was coming. I’m here to take you back with me.” “I quit my job today.” She grinned at him. “I don’t know why I did that, but I’m in deep shit. But I’m free to come for a visit now, I guess.” “Great. We’ll be glad to have you, for as long as you want to stay. But as far as you being in deep shit, I don’t believe that either. From what I’ve been told about you, you’re a very resourceful man.” Rett told her that Danburn always said that. “And I’m sure he’s right. Well, since you have no ties here now, you can pack up and come with me. The plane is waiting for us. Someone will come here and close up for you too. I’ve already arranged it.” “Why?” She told him that she knew she’d be able to talk him into coming with her, and didn’t want to chance him changing his mind. “No, I mean, why are you wanting me to go home with you? I don’t know what Danburn told you, but I’m not really the type of person he hangs around with.” “I’m not the type of person that one like him marries either, but here we are. And I’ve been where you are right now. Broke, no hope, and nothing to show for all the hard work you’ve put in.” He nodded before he could think that wasn’t something he should share. “Come on now, Rett. Let’s get you going before Danburn comes too.” He wasn’t sure how it happened, but within an hour not only was he going with her, but they were having dinner on a very expensive plane. Rett also found that he really liked Kendrick English. She was a perfect match to his friend the dragon. ~~~ 
Cassie walked the hallway once more, just to make sure there was nothing out of place. She’d been doing that all day, just taking a trip down hallways to make sure that the place was ready to open in a couple of days. She wanted things to be perfect. Three weeks ago, she’d found herself on the doorstep of Danburn English. She knew what he was. His dragon, larger and stronger than hers, had called to hers. As soon as she met him, Cassie wanted to leave the area immediately. When she’d first met him she thought…well, he wasn’t a mean person, just not…kind, she supposed she’d call him. Then she’d met Kendrick. “I need someone to work with me. Not behind me, but right beside me. I know that you’re a dragon, and I could also use some help with that as well.” Cassie had nodded, then shook her head. “You don’t want to work with me? Well that sucks. I thought we could be a good partnership or something.” “I don’t want to work for anyone. What I mean is, I don’t have to work, not really. I have money, a great deal of it, but I can’t get to it. I might not ever be able to, honestly. My father is holding it over my head. I’m only here…well, I’m here because I have no place to go and my dragon needs to submit to Lord English’s while I’m in the area. I know that I’m babbling, and I’m sorry about that, but I’ve been having some trouble lately and…. Well, let’s just say that while I’m here, I’m under Danburn’s rule.” She asked her why her father was doing that. “I suppose because he can. He is not a nice person at all, and has it in his head that women, all of them, are only good for a couple of things. Mostly to cater to his needs. It’s not his money but mine. But because of the laws of our kind, he can pretty much do what he wants. I have no mate that can, I guess, take over his duties of making my life a living hell on earth.” “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” Cassie agreed with her, but said it was the way they’d done things for centuries, and she was just a lowly female in the eyes of the laws of their kind. “I don’t believe that any more than you do. I’m going to have Danburn look into this for you. There is no reason for you to be homeless and without money when you’ve got it.” Four days later, not only did she have her money, but her dad had also given her some of her other things. Like the jewelry that her mom had left her, as well as a few other things, personal things that Cassie thought she’d never see again. Cassie went to Danburn after her things had been delivered by a large van and asked him what he’d done. “I did nothing. My wife did.” She looked over at the small woman, then back at Danburn. “In the event you don’t know this yet, Kendrick isn’t a pushover, nor is she one to order around. I think your dad figured that out pretty quickly when she spoke to him. By the way, there are a few more things coming your way too, things that I only just found out about. He will turn them over to you.” “Thank you very much. I never…he gave me my money. All of it. And my mother’s jewels as well.” Danburn congratulated her. “No, you don’t understand. He told me that he’d sold them off. Took them and sold them to a pawn shop a few years ago.” “Well, I’m sure that he’s regretful for that as well, if that was what he actually did.” Danburn had leaned back in his chair. “So now that that’s settled, would you like to come 
and work for me? Mostly you’d be working for Kendrick. But I’d need your help on occasion too.” “Doing what? I just got out from under one bastard…I’ll not work for another.” He laughed, and she had felt her face heat up. “I’m sorry. I’m not normally so rude. I mean I am, but not to people that have gone out of their way to help me.” “That’s fine. What the job would entail is you working with my wife. Kendrick doesn’t want to be a housewife, and I don’t blame her. It’s very time consuming and we have staff. But what she wants to do is work with the homeless and find them shelter and a good hot meal. The building that we have renovated is done now. It only needs someone to keep things running smoothly. There will be people there to help you, but you would be in charge.” She asked if he normally indulged his wife. “You should ask her that. To hear her tell it, it’s all I do. But I assure you, I can only do so much before she comes down on my head again. She isn’t one to take fools lightly. And I do make a fool of myself where she’s concerned.” “And you want me to come and work for you both. Doing what?” Danburn explained just what it was they needed her to do. “That’s all? Just run the shelter for you and keep it in working condition?” “Pretty much. I mean, I’m sure there will be pitfalls. But we have attorneys for that sort of thing. There will be a staff too, one that will report only to you. Also, I’ve hired a doctor and a dentist, but I don’t know them that well and hope that they’ll work out for us. If not, then we’ll do something else.” So here she was, working for a dragon and his mate. Cassie enjoyed it too. And working for the English’s wasn’t as difficult as she thought it might be. They were good people, very much in love with one another, and they treated her with respect. Two things she’d not had a lot of in her lifetime. But they were far from friends, she thought. He was her boss, as was his mate. Cassie had just entered her office when she turned at the sound of her name. One of the people staying there full time, a helper of sorts, knocked before entering with her and closing the door behind him. “There’s are two men at the door who are asking to speak to you.” Cassie, as everyone there was calling her, asked who it was. “I’m not sure who one of them is, but the other one is Timothy Bond. He claims to be a friend of Lord English.” As she made her way to the front of the building, she tried to remember if she had any appointments today. There was no one that she could think of, but sometimes, not often, she’d forget to write something down. Or, Kendrick would set something up and forget to let her know. Cassie smelled the wolf before she got to the door and turned to Colin, the man who had come to her office, and told him to keep the cameras on the front of the place. She didn’t want any trouble, but if there was, she wanted it recorded. The doorway was open but both men stood outside it. For some reason, she thought that she’d be better off just closing the door in their faces. Cassie didn’t invite anyone into anything if she could help it. Vampires had a nasty way about them, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to tangle with one today.  
“May I help you?” The wolf turned to look at her. His eyes were a startling shade of purple, and full of anger and something more. She wanted to think she was wrong, but she thought he was insane. “We’re not open just yet. And Lord English isn’t around today.” “Danburn said he’d call you.” She didn’t say anything. He hadn’t, and if this man thought she was going to fall for this, then he was dumber than she was. “I think you should check your messages. And if you can’t read them, then find someone that can. I don’t have time to be hanging out here while you try to do your job. Danburn is a very good friend of mine, and don’t think he’s not going to hear about this.” Pulling out her phone, because there had been times when she’d missed a call, she saw that she had not just a voice message, but also two texts. Reading them over before going to the message, she saw that Danburn had indeed let her know these men were coming. But she was to ask for identification.  After checking both men’s credentials, she invited them in. The wolf, Timothy, told her to take him to the clinic with his friend, Walter. Walter, the vampire, was a doctor. Timothy…. Well, she had no idea what he might have done for a living. She thought it might be asshole. And if that was right, he was really good at his job. Before she could welcome them to the shelter, Walter looked her over like she was a bug on the wall. She disliked the man immediately. “The next time we come around, I don’t want to have to wait outside like I’m some sort of criminal. Be better prepared if you’re going to work here.” She didn’t say anything, but he must have thought she needed more bashing from him. “You’re not what I expected in a person running this place. I thought they’d be…I don’t know, smarter. At least have a good deal more respect for those that are not just older, but much more experienced in the ways of the world. Next time, pay attention so we don’t have to do this again.” “You mean like you’re giving me respect? That’s what you’re talking about? Pardon me for saying so, but you’re a dick. First class, but a dick all the same. So, fuck you and your getting respect from me.” He just stared at her. “And for your information, I’m nearly twice your age, so you should have some respect for your elders, prick. Or someone might burn you to a crisp.” As she walked away, she heard him laughing. She had no idea why she’d done that— it wasn’t like her to be so brash—but when she entered her office, Cassie called Danburn to be sure she wasn’t fired after talking like that to one of his friends. He wasn’t any happier with the man than she’d been. “Neither of them are a friend. But Walter was willing to work at the clinic a couple of days a week as a physician until I can find someone else. Timothy is…I’m not entirely sure what his role there will be, but I’ve heard that he will be in charge of getting funding for the clinic and getting others to invest. I don’t know either of them that well. But if you have to kick either of them out on their collective asses, I’ll hold the door for you.” Casandra thought that might just happen, too. She told him what had happened when they’d arrived and how she had handled it. Danburn was both pleased and tickled that she could handle things there for him. As they hung up, she wondered what his wife 
would say, but realized that she’d more than likely agree with her. Kendrick wasn’t going to take their shit either, Cassie thought. 



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