Category Archives: cougars

Dustin: McCullough’s Jamboree Release Day & Giveaway

Mackenzie’s shift at the hospital had just begun when they told her that a patient friend of hers was back in the ER and asking for her. When she entered the curtained room, the last thing she expected was for a McCullough to be sitting next to her patient. It wasn’t Hawk, thank god, but the man looked enough like him he could have been his twin. Hawkins McCullough was on her shit list, and if this man was related to him, she didn’t want anything to do with him.

It didn’t take long for Dustin McCullough to figure out that this feisty doctor was his mate. And when he found out that his brother had hurt her, it took a great deal of strength to keep his cat from killing him.

Mackenzie was at her wits end. Random attacks to her person and bullets flying had the entire McCullough family in an uproar. And just when they thought they had everything about under control, Hawkins drops a bombshell that had them all stunned. 

Can Mackenzie find it in her heart to forgive Hawk before it’s too late? 
Colin McCullough gets the phone call that all military families dread―his brother Hawkins has been shot. Colin only wants to thank Hawkins’s commanding officer for saving his brother’s life, but he can never seem to get past the guards in the hospital’s hallway to personally thank the man.

Major Lauren Burcher is all Army and head of a special task team usually sent in to clean things up. This time, her team is ambushed by friendlies, and Lauren and her best man Hawkins McCullough barely make it out alive―they were set up. Someone wants them both dead.

Another attempt on Lauren’s life in the hospital fails miserably, and when Colin scoops her up in his arms to place her back in the hospital bed, he finds a gun pointed at his forehead at point blank range. In that moment he realizes this bad-assed scary woman is his mate. 

Lauren wants no part of this mate business. Relationships get messy and this jerk is bossy as hell. And Lauren doesn’t take orders…she gives them. But it will take all of them, his family and hers, to keep her and Hawkins alive….



Who rescued who was still a little vague, but they escaped just the same. The lab called him SA-8, and they had made him into a very powerful weapon. But to Reese he was just Josh, a boy that could do amazing things, but a boy none the less—not a lab rat. That was two years ago—the lab had been relentless and lethal in their pursuit. With her big rig running on fumes, and their last dime spent, they wound up on a small town in Ohio….

Parker McCullough found an abandoned big rig parked on his land. It had been there a few days, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Calling the authorities seemed like the logical thing to do, but when he tried to do so, his cell phone went flying from his hand and a teenage boy appeared from nowhere. Parker thought the boy was an Elite Shifter, and after hearing a little of the boy’s story he wanted to help.

Reese didn’t know who all these people were, but if she and Josh didn’t get away from them, the “others” would find them and they’d all be dead, just like all the other people who had tried to help them along the way…. And now the gorgeous shifter, Parker, had her trapped in the kitchen claiming to be her mate…. She didn’t have time for herself, and she didn’t want to see them all die because they’d helped her and Josh—Reese was out of options.

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Coming Soon
Sunny, or Sunshine Davis, is a well-known investigative reporter. After her recent article shuts down a drug lab, she just disappears. People everywhere are looking for her. Truth is she’s been shot and left for dead. Tanner, a vampire, has other plans for the feisty reporter. He needs her help, so he saves her. His old friend, Ollie Whitfield, owes him a favor, so he sends her there to lay low for a while.

David Whitfield is on a deadline with his publisher. When he’s writing, he’s in a world of his own. When his grandda, Ollie, asks him to hide out a friend, he’s all for it. He’d do anything for his grandda. What David doesn’t expect is for the woman he’s supposed to be hiding out to be his mate. A very hurt mate that has his tiger in a possessive uproar.

Because Sunny technically died before Tanner could revive her, she has a little difficulty remembering the events just prior to her death, but when she does the revelation rocks her to her core. And her baggage can put all the Whitfields in danger.


The Whitfield Rancher 
 Erotic Tiger Shapeshifter Romance
#PREORDER #COMINGSOON #SEPT4TH2016



Pacing the long hallway didn’t make things go any faster, but he had to do something or he was going to hit someone. Dustin wasn’t much of an idle person…none of his brothers were. But this waiting stuff, it was for the birds. As he started to move down the other hallway for different scenery, he paused when he saw the man. There wasn’t anything strange about him, not if you discounted the fact that he was poorly dressed and that his shirt was full of holes. He seemed to be clean…he didn’t smell dirty or have sweat on him. But when another man came out of one of the curtained off rooms—an orderly, Dustin supposed—he moved closer to hear what was being said. The elderly man didn’t strike him as being someone that he should be wary of, but Dustin was bored and interested in different things, he told himself. Besides, Dustin’s new employee was back there, and he didn’t want him hurt if this went badly. “Mac here? I got me some pains, and I was told to come on back here if it didn’t get better.” The orderly nodded and said that Mac had come in about an hour ago. “Do you think that I can have a few minutes? I’ve got me a powerful pain in my foot, and I was told to come in if it didn’t get any better.” “Yes, but you’ll need to sign in.” The man nodded but he didn’t move. “I can call Mac, but you have to sign in before I will. There are rules, Rubin, and you know that. I’ll page her, but you have to sign in for us.” “Yes, I know that, but I don’t know how to read. I told you that the last time I was here. Can you find me someone to help an old man out?” The man that had been talking to Rubin moved back behind the curtained area, leaving Rubin all alone. “Damn it, boy, I told you I was hurting. Nobody wants to come and help an old man out anymore. What’s this here world coming to when you can’t even—?” “Can I help you?” Rubin turned to look at him and Dustin smiled at him. “I can assist you with the paperwork if that’ll help you. My employee is getting his hand stitched up and should be a little while longer. I don’t mind helping you out if you need it.” “They are mean to me here. I don’t mean that they should put out a red carpet or nothing, but they could at least let a man have some dignity. Why do I have to sign in when they all know who I am and why I’m here?” Dustin said that he was sorry about that. “Your friend, he have insurance? They treat you differently when you don’t have any. Sort of stick you in a room for hours on end and forget about you.” “I don’t think that’s true, but who knows? Yes, he has some through my company.” Rubin nodded, but looked back at the man who had disappeared. “I don’t mind helping you, sir. If you just tell me what has to be done we’ll get you signed in so you can go see the doctor.” “I have to fill out one of them papers that tells them my name and such. I can write my name good, but not read a lick of words. Letters were never my strong suit.” Dustin
followed him, pushing his wheel chair to the desk for him, where a nice nurse gave him what Rubin needed. Sitting down, Dustin started asking him the questions that were on the form. “Rubin Davis.”  His age surprised him. Dustin would have thought him much younger than his seventy-four years. “Address and phone number?” “I live on the streets. I have a post office box number that they say won’t work, but that’s all I got. Mac set that up for me.” Dustin nodded and put his own address on the line that asked for a street address. “What’s you writing there?” “My address and phone number. I’m going to see about getting you a cell phone, all right?” Rubin asked him why he’d do something like that. “I don’t know. I’m sort of bored and I need to do something. Helping you will get me in good with my mom. She’s a little upset with me right now.” “You only get yourself one mom, and you’d better take care not to upset her. She mean to you or just stern?” He told him that she was never mean, but she could peel rubber off a tire when she was upset. “Yeah, my mom was like that too. Loved her to pieces, but I was terrified of her too. Schooling wasn’t helping much, and I was getting on her last frayed nerve. Then one day, I got myself in a fix that even she couldn’t help me with. Judge told me, ‘Join up or jail.’ That’s why I joined up in the service when I did. Momma could use the money, so that’s what I did.” “I’m afraid of my mom too. All of us boys are.” Rubin asked him how many there were of them. “I have five brothers and two sisters-in-law. I’m afraid of them too. And in awe. They’re very strong women. One of them was in the army as well.” “All women are strong, but they don’t usually know it. Some of them have to have a good man bring it out of them. You got yourself a woman?” He told him just his mom. “Well, that won’t keep you warm at night, but that’s a good answer.” After finishing up the paperwork, Dustin turned it in and waited with him. The nurse that had taken Randy back told him that he’d be a bit longer. They were making sure that there wasn’t anything in the cut before they stitched it up. The kid had already cost him a lot of time, and now he was going to have to wait longer. Not that he didn’t enjoy sitting with Rubin, but Randy had been a pain in their sides since his first day. He was the most stubborn, pig headed person that he’d ever hired. And now he was going to have to let him go. He’d told him five times not to use the drill so close to his hand. It was like the kid had a death wish when it came to electrical equipment. The first day he’d been on the job, three days ago, he’d cut his hand on the electric tile cutter, and it hadn’t been on or even plugged in. The second day, yesterday, he’d cut his foot on the table saw. Dustin was still trying to figure out how the hell he’d done that. Fucking around was all he could think of. Now today he’d rammed the drill through the middle of his palm and tore it up badly. “You don’t have to wait here with me.” He told Rubin that he wanted to. “Well, I thank you, son. Not many people would want to be around an old man like me. I been talking to Mac, my doctor, since I moved here about five months ago. Not into
practicing medicine much anymore. She got hurt one night working ER and never been the same. Hell of a surgeon, though. Been watching over me and my diabetes. I’ve got it bad, and the meds I take, they ain’t cheap for me. But I got me this card that helps me out a lot.” “My brother is a doctor. Boyd McCullough. He has a nice practice not far from here, but he was busy today and so I had to bring Randy here.” They talked about this and that, and after about an hour more, a man came out to talk to Rubin. Not the one that had been rude to him earlier. “Mr. Davis, I’ve heard from Mac. I was told to set you up in one of the rooms down here, and that as soon as possible, you’ll be seen. All right?” Rubin said that was just fine. “Also, I’m to ask you if you’ve been taking your medications.” “Yes. I was told if I didn’t, I’d get my ass handed to me.” The nurse said that was good and stood up. Rubin turned to Dustin. “You gonna come with me? I’d surely like the company if you don’t mind.” “No, I don’t mind. Let me check on Randy and I’ll be right with you.” Rubin said he’d be right down the hall. Dustin made his way to the cubical that Randy was in.  “You can go on home, Dustin. My wife is coming to get me. And she’s none too happy with me.” Dustin wanted to point out that he wasn’t either but only nodded. “I should have listened to you about that drill. I’m very sorry about all this.” “Just take some time off and get healed. But I can’t have you doing things your own way when you think you know it all.” Randy nodded. “I’ll talk to my dad, and we’ll see what we can do about this in the future.” “I understand.” Dustin wasn’t sure that he did, and when he told him he’d see him next week, he knew it. “I can’t lose my job, Dustin. I need it.” “We’ll talk.” As he made his way back to see Rubin, he reached out to his dad to tell him what was going on. I’m not going to be coming back just yet. I’m sitting with an elderly gentleman who asked me to stay with him. I’ll be there soon. Take your time. We’re doing much better since that kid is gone. My goodness gracious, Dustin, the kid was lucky that he only messed up his hand and didn’t take his fool head off. Dustin agreed with him and told his dad that they’d have to fire him. Yes, we’ll do that. Shame too. But it’s dangerous when you don’t listen to someone that knows better. He found Rubin easily enough, and sat in the little room’s only chair. He’d been in the ER for over three hours now, and figured that since his day was shot, he might as well sit with this man Besides, he really enjoyed his company. As they talked about nothing again, just talking about what Dustin did for a living, Rubin told him what he’d done when he was a younger man. “Trouble mostly when I was a youngster. Then the Army, as I said. All the way. I didn’t know that I had it so good until I was out. Of course, there are people that spend more time in there than they should. Like my Mac. Never seen a person that could go between the two worlds, civilian and Army, like that one.” He told Rubin about Lauren. “Lauren Burcher? You know her?” “Yes, she’s my sister-in-law.” Rubin stared at him, then burst out laughing. It made him smile to see someone enjoy a bit of information as much as Rubin seemed to have.
“She and my brother Colin are parents now. They have two sets of twins. Two girls and two boys. I think she was under the impression that she was going to be able to whip them into shape the first day. It’s been a couple of months, and I don’t think her plan is working.” “She’s a hoot, I tell you. I only met her the one time…. It was a few years ago. When she came to tell me about my grandboy.” Dustin knew then that Rubin’s grandson had fought with her. “I just realized something too. You’re Hawk’s brother, aren’t you?” “Yes. Hawkins is one of my brothers.” Dustin looked around the room then back at Rubin before he spoke again. “Something wrong with that.” “No. But I’m thinking you don’t have any idea who Mac is, do you?” He said that he didn’t know him. “Mac ain’t no male, son. She’s a she. And her and Hawk, they don’t get on very well.” He started to ask him what that meant, but the curtain opened and he was sure he was staring at the infamous Mac. She came in, sat on the side of the bed, and ignored him over Rubin. Dustin reached out to Lauren, never sure where Hawkins was, and asked about a doctor or surgeon named Mac. Mackenzie Gibson? She’s there at the hospital with you? He told her what was going on. Holy Christ, Dustin. You’re in for a shit storm if she figures out who you are.  I think she knows. I filled out the paperwork for my friend here. She told him to leave, now. What’s going on? I’ll tell you about it, what I can, when you get here. Leave now, before she shows you what a nice little temper she has. He stood up and Mac told him to sit. He told Lauren. I’ll remember you well, was all she said before she started laughing and closed the connection.  Dustin wasn’t sure what to do, and sat there with his mouth shut. Fuck this shit; he didn’t need it, and when he stood again she did as well. Dustin swallowed three times before he could speak. Christ, she was gorgeous. Sitting down again, she did as well. But he was sure that they sat for different reasons. He did because she made him weak in the knees. ~~~ Ignoring the man, she sat back down. Looking at Rubin, she asked him what was going on with him that brought him in today. She was his friend first and his doctor secondly. Right now, she had to wear the latter hat to try and stem the fear she had of the man by the bed. “Got me some toe issues. You said that I had to keep it clean and all, but I’m not sure I did such a good job this time.” Mac stood up and started unlacing Rubin’s boot. “But I’ve been taking my medications like you told me, and I’ve been eating like I should. Well, when I could get me a meal, that is. No reason for my foot to be a bothering me like it is.” Mac could smell it even as she slipped his boot off. It was infected. And there was blood on his sock. She knew even before she saw the foot that he was going to lose it. Gangrene had set in. Glancing at the man who was holding onto Rubin’s hand, she tried to decide how to tell him.
“You’re gonna take it off, ain’t you?” She nodded at Rubin. “I been really careful and all, I promise you. I don’t want to be losing my foot, Doc. I know that I got me another one, but this one here, it comes in handy when I’m walking around and dancing a jig or two with a pretty woman like yourself. If you can fix me up, I’m sure that I can make it work out for me.” “I’m sorry, Rubin, I truly am. Sometimes no matter what you do, this is the way it goes, and I hate to do it as much as you hate it. But if I leave it, you’ll die. I told you when I saw you last time that this might happen.” Mac wanted to go home, be anywhere but there. The man with her friend was a McCullough, and there was no denying it even if she’d not read his name on the chart. There couldn’t have been two men that looked more alike than these two. And having to deliver bad news on top of that was almost too much to bear. “When was the last time you ate anything?” In her mind, she was trying to calculate the times. Surgery on his foot would be hard on the elderly man…her too if she was honest. And the man, Dustin McCullough, was too distracting. She wondered what his connection to Rubin was, but wasn’t going to ask. She wasn’t even sure why she’d told him to sit down. Mac should have let him go home or whatever. Going to the front desk, she started making plans for the surgery. Rubin had nothing—less than nothing—so she also signed off on the paperwork to have his bills sent to her home. Not that there would be that much after this, but she didn’t want him burdened.  Just as she was hanging up the phone, Lauren Burcher came into the emergency room like she owned the place. Mac had been so impressed with the other woman when she’d worked with her all those years ago. That was before she had turned her temper and her connections on her. It had taken Mac less time to get out of the service than it had for her to get in. Thanks, in part, to Lauren Burcher. When she came up to her, smiling that smile that never boded well for anyone, Mac waited. “Mac.” Mac nodded but didn’t speak. She was more concerned with where Hawkins was. “He’s out of country if it’s Hawk that you’re looking for. He still goes out and brings the injured or dying home. What are you doing here?” “I work here off and on. Not that I have to justify myself to you.” Lauren smiled. “What the fuck are you doing here? Are you going to get me fired again? Or perhaps you’d like to have my license revoked. At this point, I don’t care if you do either. But know this is my turf, and I have a bit more pull than you do.” At least she hoped she did. With Lauren, it was difficult to tell where she had loyal friends. “Fired? No, I never did that to you. I’ve come to rescue Dustin. Have you chewed him up and spit him out like you did Hawkins when he asked you for a favor?” She wanted to slap the other woman, but was afraid she’d kill her. There was never an inbetween with Lauren. It was always all go or she’d ignore the situation. And she’d never done the latter with Mac. “Have you told him?” “Told him what?” Lauren snorted. “Look, I have work to do. If you have nothing productive to say to me, then I’d like for you to take Dustin home and leave me to my work.”
“That’s too fucking bad. He’s here on his own accord, with a friend. Do you have any of those? And I’m talking about the fact that you ignored a request, a very nice one, from his brother. That you left a woman to suffer in the worst sort of way.” It was right there, on the tip of her tongue, to tell Lauren to fuck off, she’d not done a damned thing, but there were things going on back then, and now, that she had no control over. “I’m assuming that you’re denying that still.” “I have work to do, Lauren. If there is nothing more, I’m going to leave you here.” She turned away, then looked back. “For all this hotshot shit kicker that everyone thinks you are, you’re about the laziest woman I’ve ever met when it comes to getting all your facts in a row, aren’t you? Perhaps, just maybe, you should have done your research a little better before assuming the worst about me and what I was doing. I would have before I did what you did to me.” She left her standing there. Mac had an operating room to prep and forms to fill out, and standing around debating what sort of person she was to a pig-headed woman wasn’t going to get them done. However, just as she got off the elevator on the surgical floor, she turned left instead of right to go into her office. Closing and locking the door behind her, she stood against the door and let the tears fall. It hadn’t been that long ago, but to her it seemed a lifetime of horror. Every time she closed her eyes it would haunt her. Every time she had to go into the emergency room, she’d think of the man that had lain there, his gut hanging out, his arm barely hanging onto his hand by a bit of skin and muscle. And Hawk standing there, his rifle pointed at her, his face covered in blood that she was sure wasn’t just from the patient that he’d brought to her. He told her to fix him. “He’s dead.” Hawk had shaken his head and told her to make him whole. “I can’t do that, Sergeant. The man isn’t breathing. He’s gone, I’m sorry.” “You’ll make him whole then.”  She had no idea what he was talking about. There were others in the tent that she could be saving, should have been saving, but he held the gun to her while she still worked to try and understand him. Then his meaning hit her, and she was both appalled and pissed about it. “You mean you want me to put him back together? For what reason would you have me waste my time in putting a dead man back into one piece? He’s dead. Do you see this room? The many others, living men, who need my help? And you want me to work on a man who no longer can help anyone?” The gun touched her head; it was all Mac could do not to beg him to do it, to just end her life. “I can’t save him, but there are others I can.” He hit her then, took the butt of the rifle and hit her in the face with it. She was sure that he hadn’t meant to kill her, but this was his way of fighting back. When she went down, she pulled out her own gun and pointed it to his knee, and watched him as he stood over her. “Do it.” She shook her head and told him to back off. “Just blow my knee out of my leg and we’ll both be happier about it. I can go home, you’ll go to prison, and the world will go on without us. Do it.”
Instead, she got up and went to find the military police. Mac had him arrested and put in irons in minutes. The entire time, he never said a word to her or them. But it was the look, the one that told her that this wasn’t finished, that terrified her. As he was being pulled away, she continued to watch his face, watched him stare at her like she was on his list of next to kill off. Four days later he was out. It was then that he came to her tent. She’d not taken any notice as to who it was until it was too late. People were always going in and out of her tent, mostly nurses that needed something, like a day off. But seeing him there, with his gun pointed at her head again, Mac had begged him to kill her. “Did you think that I’d just forget about what you did? You have no idea all the trouble you caused me. You had me arrested. I had things to do, and you nearly kept me from them.” She said he’d left her no choice. “There is always a choice, and you chose the wrong one.” “Because of you and your stupidity, three men died that day. All because you wanted me to sew together a dead man by holding me hostage, while others that were injured went unattended and passed away. Why?” He stood there, the gun to her head, and waited. “What did it matter to anyone if he was whole or not? I’m here to save the living, don’t you understand that?” “His mom cared.” He backed from her then, pulling the gun back a bit away from her head. “So she saw him like you left him. Blown to shit and looking like a man that had seen war. How would you have liked that?” “We are at war, you moron. And the military would have taken care that she didn’t see that. They have special duties that take care so that it doesn’t happen.” He nodded and then, once again, it occurred to her what he meant. She hoped more than anything that she was wrong. “His mother works in a special detail, doesn’t she? She’ll be the one that dresses him.” Dressing was such an odd term for what the detail did for the dead. Not only were they cleaned up but, as best they could, care was taken so they would not look so wounded. Then, if they were going home, they were dressed in their uniform, pins and hat in place. Plastic or some other material was laid over their exposed body to keep the casket clean, if they were put in one. It wasn’t dressing as in a clothing sense, but literally getting them ready for home. “And because you were too fucking busy to do it, she saw him.” Mac said she was sorry. “Not as sorry as you will be. I hope this haunts you for the rest of your life.”  He tossed a picture at her, and she didn’t pick it up until he was gone. It was of a woman, dressed in a surgical gown as she was most of the time, laying across a large box that bodies were shipped in and crying. Even though it was only a picture, she could almost touch her anguish, feel her pain. And Hawk had been right. It had haunted her for the rest of her days. Forty minutes after giving herself a good talking to, she was standing over Rubin. His body was hot from the infection, his fluids down as well. Trying her best to take care of the man, giving him whatever he needed to live, she nearly sobbed when one of her nurses asked her if she was all right.
No, she wanted to scream at her, she wasn’t all right. Working to remove the foot from the ankle down, she was careful of what she said to anyone. Always careful to keep her mouth shut even when she wanted to scream at everyone to leave her the fuck alone. No one would know about the hauntings that bothered her nightly. “He’ll need to have physical therapy and a nurse when he leaves here. Wait, he lives on the street. Set him up at the local nursing home, please.” Her nurse said she’d take care of it as she stapled the wound closed. “Make sure that he has extra fluids as well. And see if you can find him a chess set. And a nurse or two that knows how to play.” “I’ll put it on his chart.” Nodding, she wrapped his wound up when she’d done all she could, knowing in her heart that it was all she could have done for him but second guessing herself all the time. “Doctor? Are you all right?” “Yes. He’s a friend and I hurt for him. He’s a good man that’s been dealt a crappy blow today.” She hurt for them all, and knew that she had to stop this. That being a surgeon, or even a doctor, wasn’t in the cards for her any longer. “I’m going to be in my office if you need me. Make sure that he has everything he needs. I’ll check on him as well.” When she came out of the operating room, Dustin was there. She’d had no idea that anyone had been out there waiting for Rubin, so she paused in her escape to talk to him. He looked…. Well, it was hard to tell what he looked like, angry or just concerned. Since she didn’t know him or his facial expressions, she assumed anger. They all felt that way when they found out about her. And Mac was sure that Lauren had told her brother what she’d done. “Is he going to be all right?” She nodded as she pulled off her cap. “I talked to Lauren. She said that the two of you know each other.” “Yes. I know Hawk too; did she tell you?” He nodded. “I did the best I could for Rubin. You don’t have to worry about that. As for the other man, I had no idea. No one told me. Not that I could have done much to help him. We were at war and there were others that needed me. I couldn’t leave them to suffer like they were.” “I know that. I might not know you, but I know that.”  She didn’t say anything, but started to walk away when he didn’t seem inclined to speak either. As soon as she moved to go to her office and type up her letter of resignation, he grabbed her hand. Why he’d done that, she had no idea. It was hot, his hand was, and she nearly moaned at the feel of it. The pain in her wrist, not from his touch but something else, made her drop to her knees. It wasn’t until she was on the floor that she realized something had happened. “Christ.” The connection between them snapped as he stood there holding her. Mac didn’t know what it meant, but she did know that she had to get away from him. The linking or whatever it had been made her think that this wasn’t going to end well. Not for either of them. But he spoke to her, his voice as strained as hers might have been had she spoken first. “You’re my mate. You’re my other half. Do you have any idea what that means? For the two of us?”
“No, you can’t be. We can’t be. I do know what that means, but no thanks. I’ve got enough shit on my plate without having another McCullough in my life full time.” He nodded, then smiled at her. “You don’t understand, you can’t be anything to me, Dustin. We’re at war. Hawk and Lauren, they hate me. They’ll…I’m sure you know what I did.” “I don’t care.”  He didn’t know it all, but he would soon he promised her. Instead of telling him to forget her, she stood up and turned to go to her office, lock the door, and hide for a bit. But she hit a wall, a chest like wall, which had her looking up. Hawk smiled at her, and Mac knew her life was done. Just as he opened his mouth, she let go of all her emotions and let the blackness swallow her.





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Christian The Stanton Pack Release Day & Giveaway

Being a country lawyer was something Christian Stanton had always wanted to do. Taking a client he really didn’t want to represent was not what he had in mind.


Allie had been hired to teach the Stanton men hand to hand self-defense. She loved her job and was quite good at it. She knew about shifters, but had never really worked with them before. And when the big cat shifted into a very naked man proclaiming to be her mate, Allie wanted nothing to do with him.

When it came to Allie, Christian was in big trouble. She was no pushover and the sooner he figured that out the better off he’d be….


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?

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Coming  Aug 14th 2017
Pre Order
Two hot new Paranormal Romances in one steamy novel. Forever Wolf includes Chance Encounters, a fast-paced paranormal erotica by bestselling & award-winning author, Kathi S. Barton, and Dark Wolf: Hunted, a paranormal erotica by award winning author, Karen Fuller.


Chance Encounters

Andrea Marshall doesn’t need anyone in her life, least of all a man. But there is something about that handsome stranger sitting next to her on the plane that has her thinking anything but pure thoughts.

It is fate that had Trevor Dean on that plane in the first place. He had thought to sue the idiot who damaged his plane, but now he thinks he’ll send him a gift instead. He can tell by her scent that the beauty next to him is his mate.

He is going to tell her too just as soon as she sits back down, but the unthinkable is coming to pass…the plane has lost an engine…

Dark Wolf: Hunted

A tragic beginning…

Nikki Rogers and her brother Seth are on the hunt. A pack of werewolves slaughtered their parents and their coven. Hot for revenge, they join a vigilantes group.

An unexpected love…

Following a trail of vicious werewolf attacks, Nikki and Seth encounter the hot and sexy Aaron Wolf, a full-blooded Navajo Indian, who harbors a deep dark secret.

A dark secret that must be kept at all costs…

Aaron only has eyes for Nikki and vows to stop her foolishness before it gets her killed, or worse, she discovers his darkest secret…



You can find and follow me here
Allie lifted her chin up to the bar seven more times. Dane Stanton had had it put in for her several days ago. Allie was almost finished with her set when she heard the door open behind her. It was going to be another Stanton, she knew it. They’d been in here every day since she’d been brought here. The hospital staff didn’t tell her a thing if one of them was in the room with her. It was as if she didn’t exist when they were here, and they told everything to whoever was there. Dropping to the floor, she limped over to the chair but didn’t sit. She was determined to ignore the person until she was ready. When laughter rang around the room, she looked over at Dane and smiled. Now here was a person she could like. “How’s the leg today?” She told her it was fine, lying through her teeth about it. “Yeah, dumb fuck is doing all right too. His dad finally let him shift this morning, and he’s not in the best of humor.” “He’s a brute.” Dane told her that she was right. “Who the hell talks to someone like that? ‘You’ll do as you’re ordered.’ Like I’m ten or something.” “I think he’s regretting it.” Allie snorted. “Yes, that’s what I thought you’d say. I have something to tell you. Just so you know, I’m only the messenger in this, not the bad guy.” “If it’s about the Stantons, I couldn’t care less. And for the love of everything holy, please tell Mr. and Mrs. Stanton to stop telling me that they’re sorry.” Dane told her that they felt bad, and said they’d not raised him to be that way. “Well, I don’t know where he got his archaic beliefs, but they’re not going to work on me.” “I think he’s gotten that.” Allie didn’t want to sit down. She knew that if she did, she wasn’t getting back up easily. “So, if we’re through talking about the family and tossing about bullshit, how the fuck is your leg?” Instead of answering her, she lifted the pants to the scrubs she’d been wearing around the hospital for the last couple of days. She had no idea who had made it so she had a clean pair every morning, but she was glad for them. They covered the worst of the wound on her leg. “I’m getting better about getting around now. It still hurts like a mother fucker, but the doc told me that had I not been in such good shape in the first place, it could have been a lot worse.” Dane touched her fingers along the worst of the stitches. “I’m not going to be able to run for a while.” “That’s what I heard too.” Allie paced the room. “I have something to tell you. And you’re not going to like it. When you leave here, in the morning I heard, you’re going to the Stanton house. Your brother said that he couldn’t take care of you, what with going out of town again. Perry is going to go on a trip for me, and I said I’d keep an eye on you. But I was called out yesterday too.”
“I’m going home.” She shook her head. “I’m a grown woman, Dane. I can take care of myself. I have been for some time now, believe it or not. I can call a cab when I need to…. Why are you shaking your head? I’ll be fine.” “Maybe, and I’ve no doubt that you can care for yourself, but the Stantons, as you know, feel that this is their fault. Or at least some of it. They want to make sure that you’re well cared for.” Allie said again she was going home. “Brayden is here to take you home tonight instead.” “I’m not going.” Brayden came in the room just then, and she told him the same thing she’d told Dane. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I have a very nice rental that I’m going to stay in until my lease is up, then I’m going home.” “The lease has been forfeited.” Allie looked at Dane then Brayden. “Christian owns that building and several more downtown. He usually has nothing to do with it, but apparently, he pulled a few strings and got you out of it.” “I don’t want to be out of it. I want to live there.” She watched as Brayden started collecting her things. When he asked if she wanted to take the water bottle-cup like thing with her, she screamed. “Are you even listening to me?” “Yes. Great pair of lungs you have on you. But that didn’t answer my question.” Dane cleared her throat and he winked at her. “I’m trying to be a good deal nicer about this than Christian was going to be.” “He’s a dick.” Brayden wisely said nothing, but he did continue packing her things for her. Then a nurse came in with a cart for the flowers. “What the hell is going on here? I don’t want to fucking go with you.” “You’ve said that. Several times.” She growled at Brayden. “Yeah, since I know you’re aware of what we are, you’re going to have to do a lot better than that. It comes from the belly. Try it. Just growl like you mean it.” “I don’t like you.” He was laughing when he took her bag of clothing and other personal items out of the room. Allie looked at Dane. “You can’t expect me to live in that house where he is. I can’t stand the man.” “He doesn’t live there. I mean, he does when he is around, but for the most part, he has an apartment in the city. I’m supposed to find out what you want in a house, but I’m not going to ask you. I like my teeth in my head.” She stood up. “Are you ready?” “Why tonight?” She told her that Christian was out of town. “For how long? Forever? That would suit me just fine if he was.” “He’s gone to Cleveland to represent a man on trial for murder.” She sat down when Allie did. “So you know, he thinks the guy is guilty, but he wasn’t, at the time he said he’d do it, in any position to not go to court for him. He must do three more trials for this guy’s father before he can cut ties with him. His father, Landon Hartman, was someone that Christian worked for a long time ago, just out of college, and his contract is very specific as to how many cases he must take. I don’t think it’s much of a hardship doing things for Landon, but this isn’t his usual thing with the man. Repping the stepson, I mean.” “Why are you telling me this?” Dane said nothing, but Allie was sure that she was waiting for her to understand something. “I don’t know this man, nor his son.”
“Stepson. And yes, you do.” Allie stared at her, going over the names of clients that she’d had, friends and other relatives. But none of them rang…. She stared at Dane in horror. “Yes, it’s him.” “No.” Nodding, Dane said that it was him, the one and only. “He was supposed to be in prison. I don’t understand how…does Christian know? Is that why he took his case? To get back at me?” “I think he knows now, but he didn’t when he left here this morning. Christian wouldn’t do that, anyway. He might be a dick right now, but that’s not his normal way of doing anything. I’m not saying it’s you, but something about having you in his life has set him off.” Allie said no shit. “Anyway, he’s going to try and get out of representing him, based on the fact that you and he are mates.” “No one is going to care. Especially not Park. Mother fuck. Park Davis is…who did he kill? I’m sure that whoever it was, he did it because he had no choice. At least that’s what he’s going to claim.” Dane said that was what he was saying. “Of course he is. Just like he told everyone what he did to me was not his fault. Like I would want someone to rape me. How did you find out?” “About the rape?” Allie nodded. “I have some friends that found out what he’d been doing time for. I did a couple of searches and found one of his roomies in prison. They were very…. Well, not at first, but they became helpful when I pressured them. He used to brag about it. And as you know, you’re not the only co-ed he did that to.” “I know, there were nine of us. And that’s only the few that came forward. I still have nightmares about it.” Dane said that she would as well. “You’re taking me to the Stanton home because of this? You’re afraid he’ll find out that I’m with Christian, even though I’m not, and come here to get me.”  “Something like that. Park’s mom will try her best to hold Christian to his contract. She has this unhealthy thing going for her son. Whatever. Christian doesn’t think Landon will after he finds out, but I don’t have as much trust in people as he does. You may not believe this, but Christian’s a good lawyer and rarely loses his cases. But Landon’s wife, Joy, the mother of the murderer, doesn’t want her little boy in prison again. I get the feeling Landon thinks he belongs there, but his hands are tied. Or so he told Christian.” Allie stood but had to hold onto things until her leg started to work for her. “With you being injured, there is a good possibility that he might be able to hurt you more than he did before. I know that you’re strong, Allie, and smart, but Park is desperate. Especially if Christian bails on him.” “I just don’t know why he’d think that Christian would care if he killed me or not.” Dane said nothing. Allie turned to her. “I know about shifters, Dane. I might not have a lot to do with them, but I know that they don’t normally treat their other halves the way he did me, nor say the things he did to me. Christian isn’t going to tame me or make me heel to his law.” “No, he won’t, and I told him that. We all have. But I’d like for you to talk to him. At least give him another chance before you take off.” Allie looked at her. “I know you well enough to know that you could be out in plain sight without anyone finding you.
Please? As my friend, will you at least give him another chance? It could save both your lives.” “All right. But if he tries that shit again, I’m going to injure him in a way that shifting will not repair. I won’t be treated that way.” Allie limped around the room, knowing that later she was going to be sore enough that she’d need the drugs again. The bullet might be gone, but the pain of it was still there. “One chance.” ~~~ Christian was waiting outside the courtroom when his phone rang. He pulled it out, saw that it was Dane, and nearly put it away. But he remembered what he’d been told, quite painfully, about what would happen to him if he didn’t make this work with Allie. Dane, like the rest of his family, had come down hard on him, and he knew that he deserved it. Answering the phone, he waited for her to tell him that Allie had told him to fuck off. “She said you would have one chance, but I’m not sure that you can handle her. She’s a lot meaner than I am.” Christian said he’d behave. “You’d better. She’s a good friend of mine, and I won’t have you fucking that up. All right?” “You know, I didn’t shoot her. The gun went off and that’s what did it.” He could see her there, lying with her skin sliced open on her leg. All exposed from the bullet that had been, he thought, intended for him. It had entered her thigh deep and gone the length of her leg to her knee before coming out, barely missing her foot. The mark there was small, just like a tear to her instep. From there, it had gone into the ground. She was lucky his dad had been there and he’d not panicked. He had. “I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault, but had she not had the gun out and pointed right at me, then she’d be all right now.” “You’re not helping.” He said he was sorry. “Anyway, she knows what you’re doing there and why she’s at your parents’ house. As you can imagine, she’s not all that happy about it, but knows that should he come for her, she isn’t in any position to save herself.”  “I need to talk to her about what went on. I know what the reports say and I’ve read over the transcript of the trial, but what I don’t understand is, how did he only serve four years of a fifty-year sentence? There wasn’t any good behavior on his part. He was just as nasty inside as he’d been out, and Landon swears that he didn’t pay to have him released. I believe him.” Dane said she was looking into a few things herself. “Just be careful. This is the third time that I’ve been here with him, and it’s getting worse with each one. I don’t want to have to do this at all, and I’m hoping the judge will see it that way.” “I don’t know how any of that works, but I do know that you can claim that you’re related to one of his victims and perhaps that will help.” He hoped so as well, but the way that his luck was going, it wouldn’t matter. He looked around when she laughed. “I have to tell you, Christian, you’re not going to be getting off any easier with Allie than you will me. She might make you go through some major hoops to get back on her good side.”
“I was a fool. More than that, I was a fucking idiot. I don’t know what came over me.” He did, but didn’t want to bring it up again. “All I could think was that someone other than me was touching her. And I haven’t any idea why that bothered me to the point where I wanted to kill my own brother.”  Levi had forgiven him, of course, but he’d yet to forgive himself. He’d never hurt his brother, nor would he have spoken to a woman the way that he had her. Allie had warned him, several times, to back off, and he and his cat, mostly the cat, hadn’t cared for that either. When she’d been shot, and hurt him in the process, he’d gone a little wild and hurt Levi again. It took his brother, Brayden, commanding him to stand down before he could get ahold of himself and his beast. Now, not that he blamed her, she was pissed off at him, and he wasn’t sure that he could fix this. His name was called and he told Dane he’d get back to her. As soon as he entered the courtroom, he saw Landon and his wife. Joy wasn’t a nice person, and Christian didn’t like her at all. He was sure that Landon knew it too. After shaking hands with the elderly man, he took his seat at the table. Park would be brought out soon, and he wanted to talk to the judge before that happened. Asking to approach the bench, he let out a long breath before he spoke. “I would like to recuse myself from this hearing.” The judge asked him why and Christian told him what was going on in his life. “My future wife is Allie LaRue. She is currently staying at my parents’ home and injured. I cannot, with her being my mate, give Mr. Davis a fair trial. Not with what happened between him and my mate.” “When did you meet her?” He answered all the questions put before him. Even telling the judge that he’d tried calling his office all week but no one would put him through. “I got that you had called, but they’d not tell me what you wanted. I can see now why you wished to speak to me personally.”  The judge leaned back in his seat and looked like he was thinking hard on something. The other lawyer, a public defender for the state, asked him if he was serious. That the trial was about to begin.  “I’m well aware of that. I only just found her a few days ago.” Stanley was saying how ridiculous this was, that things were too far along for him to do this to him. “I suppose you’d like this to go to trial, and if I win, you’d call foul play and call for a mistrial. I’m trying my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.” “Your Honor, you can’t—” Judge Piketon told him to shut up. “But sir, this is a murder trial, not a case of rape. I don’t understand where the problem lies.” “You wouldn’t.” Piketon looked at him. “You can prove this? That she’s your mate if it comes up? I don’t want you in trouble with the law any more than I do for you to have to face your mate if you tell her you got him off.” “I can, sir. As you can imagine, things are a little tense right now. She’s been hurt and I’m here. Not a good way to start a relationship, but my dad and mom are caring for her, and you know them, what sort of people they are.” He said that he did. “I just don’t think this is a good idea.” “Neither do I. Have a seat gentlemen, I have something to say to the room.” Going back to his seat, Christian avoided looking at Landon or his wife. As soon as he was
seated, Piketon hit his gavel down on his desk and told them what was going on. “So, as you can see, there will have to be a delay in the trial until such time—” “No. No, this isn’t right.” Joy Hartman stood up and turned to him. “No, you have to do this. My husband owns you. You’ll take care of this right now.” “Mrs. Hartman, he can’t represent your son. There isn’t any way for Park to get a— ” Joy cut him off, slamming her hands on the seat in front of her. Piketon took exception to that as well. “Now you see here, young lady. I will—” “You’ll make him do this. Tell them, Landon. Tell him that he is going to do this or you’ll sue him. He’s the best there is, and you said that you never hired anyone that wasn’t the best. I want him to make sure my baby doesn’t go to prison again.” She was told to sit down. “I won’t. My husband pays you good money and you’ll do as he said. I won’t have my baby boy going back to prison for something that he didn’t do. Not again. You will make sure of that.” “Mrs. Hartman, I’m going to have to ask you to have a seat. Believe it or not, I’m the one in charge here, and you’ll do as I’m telling you or I’ll have you tossed out of here.” She glared at the judge. “Lady, I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for nearly sixty years. That look of yours, it doesn’t mean a damned thing to me. Sit down and shut up or I’ll have you in the cell next to that baby boy of yours. Now, as I was saying, the hearing is postponed until such time as the Hartmans can find themselves another lawyer or they take on a public defender.” He left them there, not saying another word but leaving them to head to his chambers. Christian started packing up his things, relieved that this part of it was over. When someone touched him on the shoulder, he turned in time to have Joy slug him in the face. He fell back on the table, hitting his head, and just zapped out. When he woke, he was in the hospital. He knew this because he could smell blood, death, and disease. Then there was the added comfort of having a bed as hard as nails under him, as well as a curtain that kept others out. When he started to sit up, he was pushed back down by a nurse who made his cat curl up around him. Lying down, he asked what had happened. “I don’t know more than you were brought in here a couple of hours ago with a head injury. I was told to stay with you until your wife and family made it here. Which I’m thinking will be soon. I was told that would be about a two-and-a-half-hour trip.” He nodded, then held his head. “Yeah, you got yourself a banger there. Just lie still and try not to make me hold you down again. You sure are strong.”  “I am. Wait, did you say my wife and family?” She nodded and asked him if he remembered them. “Yes, I do. I just wasn’t aware that I had…. I was just making sure you said she was coming. My wife, she’s been hurt recently.” “Well, aren’t you two a pair?” The nurse asked him if he wanted anything for pain. “You have something on the charts if you want it. It seems like a lot of drugs if you ask me, but the doc, he said you would need more than the average man.” “Yes, I have a high immunity to drugs.” Christian wondered what the doctor was if he knew that he wasn’t human. “Will the doctor be back? Soon, I mean?”
“When your family gets here, I’m to give him a call. You want anything to drink? You can have that as well.” He said he was fine and laid back on the bed. “All right then. If you promise me that you’ll be quiet, I’m going to run to the little girl’s room. Don’t be getting up, Mr. Stanton, I don’t want to have to rope you like a side of beef.” “I’ll stay right here.” His head was pounding, but he didn’t want to take anything for it. If his wife was coming, he wanted to be clear headed when he spoke to her. Also, he wondered what had happened after he’d been hit. Other than being here.  The curtain flew back on the rod about twenty minutes later. He knew it was his dad…he’d been yelling his name since he came through the doors. Christian might have called back to him, but the thought of trying to do that with his head pounding like it was didn’t appeal to him. So, he waited and now he was here. “You scared us.” Christian said he was sorry as the rest of them crowded in the little area with him. “And so you know, I’m not going to be happy with you if you make that little girl cry. She’s hurting pretty badly about now.” “Why did you bring her?” He said that they couldn’t leave her at home. “But Dad, I’m all right. She must hurt with her leg injured like it is.” He saw her then, being wheeled back to his area by Judge Piketon. They were talking quietly, laughing at one point too. Christian had to calm his beast when he saw him put his hand out and Allie took it into hers. He had no idea what was wrong with his cat when it came to people touching her, but he had to keep his cool. It was that or go to prison himself for murdering every man that he saw within a foot of her.

Zachery: The Pride of the Double Deuce Release Blitz

 

 

Tisha Porter didn’t think she was going to make it. Convinced she would die from her injuries, she left a blow by blow account of what happened to her and who was responsible. The why of it was still a mystery.

Thanks to Detective Harlan James, Tisha was on the mend, but she was ready to get out of her father’s house and back into a house of her own. She was anxious to see that recently renovated old Victorian home and buy if she liked it. She wasn’t counting on the stress being too much for her still too weak body.

Zachery Douglas was hosting the open house in the old Victorian. They’d had more than two hundred people tour the house so far which was far more than he expected. And when Tisha walked through the door, he knew what she was to him, and he’d do anything he had to do to make her his.

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

The building and surrounding area looked like a crater. The swing set, which may have held eight on it, was a twisted mess that hung from one of the blackened trees about a mile away. The slide was still sitting in its original place, yet barely resembled its former self. The only reason Harlan knew what it was is because he’d seen his own kids on it. He looked over when someone said his name. “Four dead. We think. It’s going to be a little while before we can sort this mess out. If there were cars in the lot, I’m not sure how long it will take before we can figure out not just the owners, but if they might have been here last night. Christ, this is a mess.” Harlan asked him if they’d been able to get a list of teachers yet. “We’re still working on that. I have been able to canvas the damage surrounding this land. There has been one death that is apparently related to this explosion, but we won’t know for sure until all reports are in. Had this been in the city, Harlan, you know this would have been a hell of a lot worse.” “Yes. There are reports of windows blasted out eight miles from here. And I heard that one of the deaths was a man who had been on the street in front at the impact time and was killed by the blast. Is that the one that you’re talking about?” Richard nodded. “As you know, had this happened only about ten hours later, there would have been children here, and a lot more bodies.” “We have narrowed down the center, we’re pretty sure. The city planner brought by the blueprints like you asked for, and he’s looking things over and thinks he knows where the epicenter is. Second grade room, as near we can tell.” Harlan wasn’t able to go to the area just yet; the fire department was going over some of the wreckage to make sure that the fires were out. The bomb squad had left about half an hour ago. “The three bodies that we’ve recovered here so far are two men from the janitorial service and a woman. No ID yet on the latter. We think it might have been the principal, but we’re not sure where the person was at when the bomb went off, in or out of the building. But again, we’re working on that too.” “Next of kin been notified on the others?” Richard told him not as yet, they were waiting on the cleaning service to get back to them on how many people were here. “Let me know.” When Richard excused himself just as his phone rang, Harlan moved as close to the site as he could get. Whoever had done this, and he had little doubt that a single sick individual was responsible, they’d wanted a high kill rate. And this wasn’t a gas explosion like the police were hoping either. A bomb, a huge one, had gone off here. Eight hours after he had arrived, they found what they thought was the kill switch, and that other bombs had been set up around the building. According to the experts, there was one central location that once detonated, would fire off the other twelve smaller but no less powerful bombs around the large structure. Harlan was also informed that the person who had set this up was good, maybe even an expert. Or they had an understanding of internet jargon better than most.

“Whoever this person was, they wanted this building gone, and didn’t care who was inside of it. It had a switch on location, meaning that it was set off by a simple movement or a lid being removed, so it mattered little to them when this thing went off. I would say that it more than likely was triggered by opening whatever it came here in, which I’m thinking cardboard at this point. The others all depended on the main larger bomb, causing enough power to set them off as well. They were on a tumbler-like set off. Once they were moved, hard, they would blow.” Harlan asked him how long something like this would take to set up. “Hours. Maybe a few days. The person would have had to have access to the building, and no one to question what they were doing here. A good sense of the size, layout, as well as how much explosive material to use to get this sort of devastation.” “So whoever it was, they were known to those that work here, you’re thinking. I mean, the staff here, they didn’t have any issues with this person being in and out of here, so they could have pretty much done this without anyone having any clue.” Richard nodded. “This is some sick shit, you know that, right? In another few hours, there would have been over four hundred people in this building, mostly kids. And then nearly seventy teachers and other staff.” “Don’t forget buses of kids that were being held to drop off at the higher grades, parents here dropping off little Jimmy for his first day, and any of the other hundreds of people that might have been passing by when this went off.” Harlan moved through the debris and other mangled things while they talked. “I heard that you’re having trouble locating two of the teachers. You think they might have been here too?” “I hope to Christ not. Also, we did hear from the cleaning service. There were not three here, but six, to get the building ready for the first day. So far we’ve had no luck at all trying to figure out if they showed up for work or not. The teachers have all been accounted for, except the two you know about. One of them is the one that had that classroom. Tisha Porter.” Richard asked him if it was old man Randall’s daughter. “I have no idea. Randall Porter a name I should know?” “Yes. Well, sort of. He’s been putting his name around town for a few years now. Probably because his little girl teaches here. If this is her, I can have someone check on it. If it’s her that’s missing, he’ll have a better chance of finding her than you will.” Harlan asked him why. “Because he has a supposed endless supply of money, and she’s his only child.” At about nine that night, nearly twenty-four hours after the explosion happened, Harlan found himself in Tisha’s neighborhood, which made him feel like he was underdressed. Tisha hadn’t contacted her father since last evening, nor was she answering her phone. Harlan just knew that he was going to find out that she’d done this and skipped town. According to friends, she was a nice girl and didn’t bother others, and that was what gave him the feeling that she was in this deeper than anyone. Harlan hated to have to tell her daddy if he was right. That man was very forceful and concerned at the same time. There was no car in the drive but he could see one in the garage. The lower level of the building was as big as his entire house. Going to the door, he drew his gun when he

saw that the glass nearest the handle had been broken inward. Calling in backup, he was told to wait. It was then that he saw the blood. “I can’t wait. I can see that someone is hurt. Going in.” Instead of letting the dispatcher tell him to wait again, he muted his phone. He could be fired for it if this turned out to be nothing, but right now, he just didn’t care. As he made his way into the house, he noted in an abstract sort of way that it was neat. Not in a cleaned up sort of way— though it was that too—but more like this person did not care for clutter or fluff. Straight lines and hard surfaces were on everything, including the cushions on the chairs in the kitchen. It was also expensive, like this person spent all their money on their things, as they had no children or pets to muss it. Making his way to the living room, he could see the difference immediately. This was a room that was used; comfort nearly screamed at him. The noise to his left gave him pause. He wasn’t in a good place in the house…the hallway he was in was not only open at both ends with rooms coming out from each side, but there were two doors that were opened in front of him, one on the right, the other on the left. But when he heard it again, he moved forward. “This is the Nevada Police. I’m armed and have backup.” He heard the sirens getting closer and peeked quickly into the room to his right. Nothing. “Ms. Porter? Can you hear me?” “Yes.” He thought he heard her answer him but wasn’t sure. “I’m dying. I’m alone.” Relief was short lived when she cried out. “She hurt me.” Entering the room at the end, the doorway that spilled into the hall, he nearly backed away. The woman lying in a pool of blood looked as if she was indeed dying. Her body was not only covered in a great many of what looked like knife wounds, but she was beaten up as well. Moving closer, keeping his gun out, Harlan called for an ambulance. “I’m Harlan James. Are you Tisha Porter?” She nodded, then passed out. He could see that she’d been making notes, and it sickened him that she’d been forced to do this. The papers to her left were covered in bloodied letters that not only spelled out who had hurt her, but also who to call when they found her. Taking her pulse, Harlan thought she was dead for a few seconds until he felt her very faint heartbeat. Then she looked at him again. “Ms. Porter? Can you tell me when this happened?” “Late. I thought it was the neighbor’s cat at the door.” He nodded, taking out his phone and setting it to record. “Before I could…. The door, it exploded inward. I was hurt then. Knife. My knife. She used it. Hammer too.” “Can you tell me who?” Before she could say anything, she was out again. And as much as he wanted to shake her awake to answer him, he knew that any movement might well kill her. Harlan looked at the papers. The name of the other missing teacher was what she had written down as who harmed her. There was a timeline too. At eleven forty-five, the sound at the door. Eleven forty-nine, Alexandra Grace rushed her. Eleven fifty, Alex hit her first with a hammer, then knives. It also said that she’d beaten her. The times were messed up then, the spelling off, but he read this woman’s account like she’d been writing up a police report. At six

thirty this morning, Alex had left. The facts in-between those times, he knew, would haunt him for years to come. By the time the ambulance arrived, he’d called in a report on what he’d found. Then he told his boss what she’d written down about the other teacher, as well as having someone sent to her house to find the woman. Alexandra Grace was going to have a lot of explaining to do. ~~~ Randall moved through the hospital trying to figure out where he was to go. The nurse at the front desk had told him twice how to get to the operating area, but he was hurting in his heart so badly he only half remembered. When he saw two police officers, he made his way to them. “I’m looking for my daughter, Tisha Porter.” The officer nodded at him and then took him to a man dressed in a dark suit. “My daughter, someone said that she was hurt. Tisha Porter is her name. She’s a teacher. Second grade. They all just love her.” “I’m Harlan James, Mr. Porter. I came in with her.” Randall felt his knees simply give out on him. If Harlan hadn’t been there to catch him, he was sure he would have fallen. “Come on over here, Mr. Porter. We’ll talk while we wait.” “She loves teaching those children. I saw in the news that the entire building was blown up. I never got much from the man who called me.” Harlan said it had been him. “Was she in the building?” “No. We found her at her home. That’s where we’re thinking she was hurt. Someone broke in.” Randall tried to think of why someone would harm his little girl. “She was beaten, and cut up pretty badly. The doctors here are doing all that they can to save her. You have a very smart and brave daughter, Mr. Porter. She’s helped us a great deal in this.” “That’s my baby. Always knew she was the best. I spoke to her just last night…I think it was the night before. It’s hard to think so much time has…. I had just called her to tell her to have fun with her first day. I teased her about her room being….” He paused, trying to remember something about a box. “She had this mysterious box, she said. Even asked me if I’d sent it to her. I didn’t of course, but I told her it was more than likely from one of the other teachers. Perhaps they’d left it there.” He asked him the same thing as he had his daughter. “No, no name she told me. Only hers on a Post-It note on the top. I never thought to ask her about the handwriting. I mean, it was just a box, right?” “The blast came from the general area of where her room would have been. We only know things as they get found. But it is speculated that it was a cardboard box, and like I said, in the area where her room might have been.” Randall wanted to ask if they thought his baby had done it. Or if she had been the target of this monstrosity. The officer seemed to understand. “She had left notes on what she knew and what had happened to her. They were with her when I found her in her home. Tisha, she made sure we had enough information to get started on trying to find this…. We’re currently looking for someone that might have a connection to what has happened to your daughter. But as of now, we don’t believe Tisha had a thing to do with this. We’ll know more as our investigation continues.”

“She’s all I have in the world. Since her mother died, Tisha has become my whole world. I just saw her last weekend, and she was telling me how she’d gotten all these nice learning tools from a shop online. And now this.” Harlan told him they were doing their best. “If you need anything, a kick in the ass to the mayor, you let me know. I’ll pull some strings and get you more manpower if you need it. You just let me know. I’ll get it for you.” “I think we have it for now, but I’ll keep that in mind. We’re working round the clock now, so I hope to have answers in a few days, if not sooner.” Randall nodded and Harlan stood up. “I’m going to have someone at her room until we find this other person. And if you’d be so kind, I’d like for you to have a guard as well. Right now we don’t know the reason that any of this happened. So to be on the safe side, I’d like to protect you as well.” “I have my own bodyguards.” Randall nodded to the hall where they were and the three men standing there. “Nothing will get past these men unless I tell them or they’re dead. If it will free up some of your men, I can assign them to her room as well. To be honest, sir, they’ll be there anyway. If you’ll agree to it, then nobody will get their underwear all tightened up by them being there too.” “I’ll let you know.” Randall nodded then was left alone. Making his way down the hall, he told Burt, his right hand man, what was going on as he sat in one of the most uncomfortable chairs he’d ever been in. He also told Burt to set up some people on the inside for her safety. “You have it, sir. And may I suggest that we bring in that buddy of yours? The retired agent? He could be a little more help even from the sidelines.” Randall nodded. “Very good, sir. Have they told you how she’s doing? I mean, more than you were told on the phone?” “No. I’d very much like it if you can run a check on any doctors and nurses she has contact with. And there is a person of interest that the police are looking for. Another teacher. Find out who this person is and anything you can find about them.” Burt said he would put his best on it. “One more thing, I want you to find out about her home. That cop said someone broke into it. Maybe they don’t know about the cameras in the house.” “More than likely not. I’ll take one of them there with me to check.” Randall told him to take Harlan James and to give anything they found to him. He’d know what to do with it. “Very good. Anything else?” “I don’t think so right now, but I might. He wants a guard put on her room and me. You’ll see that things are taken care of here for her. We won’t take over, but there isn’t any way that I’m leaving this to chance. Someone hurt my little girl.” Burt looked pained, and said that he would. Tisha was loved by all that knew her. “We’ll help them when we can, Burt, but I won’t sit idly by.” “No, sir. That’s not your style. Nor that of your daughter. We’ll help them, or if nothing is moving we’ll get them going.” Randall leaned back in the chair, trying to find a position that didn’t hurt. At least too much. “Sir, I’m going to find you a hotel, someone to bring you something to eat, as well as a doctor here that knows your condition.” After telling Burt to do what he needed, Randall closed his eyes. He was exhausted, and that didn’t play well with his heart. Breathing in and out slowly, like he’d been taught

to help himself, he tried to calm his nerves and heart. All he could think about was his daughter. Tisha had been born later in his life, he’d been nearing forty and his wife just shy of that. Had anyone asked, he would have said they were happy being childless. They had money, a great deal of it, and traveled, and pretty much did anything that they wanted. Then Rachel had gotten pregnant and Tisha had come along. Randall was pretty sure until that moment he’d not lived at all. Hadn’t taken a good breath of air, nor had his heart beat so well until he looked into the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he’d ever seen. His baby girl, Tisha Randall Porter. She’d been the best baby, and an even better child. No temper tantrums were ever thrown, nor did she give them a hard time about things. Of course, he’d made sure that she had everything that she wanted…even if she only gave something a passing glance, he’d get it for her. Until the day she turned seven. “I want to get a job.” He only nodded at her, indulging her even though he knew she’d never have to work a day in her life, if he could help it. “My friend, Emma, has a job. And her grandma pays her for doing the dishes too. Not the pots and pans, but her pretty dishes she serves tea on.” “Tisha, I can give you money if that’s what you want. I have no problem with it.” She told him no, she wanted to earn her keep. “Honey, you don’t have to earn anything. We’re very wealthy.” “So are Emma’s mommy and daddy. And she has her own pocket money that she can do whatever she wants with and not have to ask. Why last month, she took me to get an ice cream soda, and no one knew about it but just the two of us.” Randall wondered just how much this other little girl was teaching his daughter. “I want to do this, Dad. You want me to be smart like you? And know the value of money?” “I do. And I’m pretty sure that you have a good handle on the value of money.” Then she gave him that look. It wasn’t a pouty one, like most little girls did, but the kind that told him he was being too much of a dad. He also knew that he’d give her the world should she want it. “All right, child, whatever you want. But I’d like you to keep an accounting of your money and your spending. If you’re going to earn your own money, then you’re going to be accountable for it as well. Then at the end of one month, we’ll see how you did.” He’d thought that after a few weeks she’d tire of what he’d viewed as games. But at the end of a month, she’d come to him with not only her books, as she called them, but receipts on everything she’d spent too. Which wasn’t much. “I’ve been taking out the trash in the kitchen, and Molly pays me one dollar for doing it. She said that her husband could do it, but he’s too busy in the house so I could.” Randall had made a mental note to pay back his cook and thank her for what she’d done. “And the gardener gave me five dollars for helping him pick up the twigs in the yard after the storm last week. He said that my back was younger and I was closer to the ground, and that I saved him some pain. I think he needs to have more help, Dad. The man’s list is never finished.”

Another note to his list of things she’d found out for him. As they went over her books, he was astonished not only at much she had learned by talking to the staff, but how much she’d managed to save up as well. One hundred dollars just by doing odd jobs for those that worked for them. “All right, let’s see how you spent your cash, shall we?” Randall had already had it in his head to get her a real ledger, as well as some colored pencils. It was the way that he’d been keeping track of his earnings for years. Not only did he love seeing the numbers all lined up in neat rows, but when he had gotten a computer and it did the adding for him, he still found himself using his old tried and true method. “I’ve put a computer on layaway. I had to have Molly help me with that. They’d not sell me one at my age. I think it’s ridiculous that there has to be an age limit on learning, but now that it’s there, I pay on it every week and she takes it to the store for me.” Randall told her he’d purchase it for her. “No, Dad. I’m doing this on my own.” After an hour of going over everything, he’d needed to find a quiet place to think. She had not just opened his eyes to his staff, but to the fact that she was not a baby any more. Randall would only admit this to himself, but he’d had a good cry over that fact, and still got teary when he thought of it. “Mr. Porter?” Dragging himself from his thoughts, he stared at the man in front of him for several seconds before he could think where he was. “Mr. Porter? I’m Doctor Fitzpatrick. I’ve spoken to the police just now, and they told me that I could bring you up to date on your daughter’s surgery.” Randall sat up straighter in the chair and waited for the news. “She’s in grave condition, I’m afraid, but I have hope that she’ll pull out of this. Tisha is young and in very good health. While she’s lost a great amount of blood and has had some pretty extensive wounds to her body, I think she stands a good chance of coming out of this with only a few adjustments on her part. Had she not been brought in when she had…? Well, I think that given what happened to her, she’s very lucky that someone went to check on her.” “What happened to her?” Burt had come to stand beside him, and the doctor looked up at him. “I’m going to tell him whatever you tell me, so it will save me time if you just pretend that he’s her father too. Burt is…well, he’s her friend as well as honorary uncle. And doctor, we’d like it straight up like I like my bourbon, if you don’t mind.” “All right then. She had been stabbed forty-three times in the chest and arms. Her legs have been cut as well, but I’m not sure with what just yet. The police have pictures of each wound and are looking for the weapons now. She’s been shot twice, once in the back and once in her upper left thigh that broke bones, but luckily didn’t hit any major arteries. I don’t know the timeline of these wounds as I was working to save her life, but I can tell you that she was tortured over a few hours’ time.” Randal nodded, his heart needing just a moment to catch up until Burt put his hand on his shoulder. It was both reassuring and comforting to have this man so close to him. “There was blunt force trauma to her head, arms, and the bottom of her feet. I would say that whoever did this to her took their time, wanting her to suffer for some reason. Her left hand is broken pretty badly, and we may have to wire it back together later. Right now, I’m solely focused on getting her past the point of being critical. I’m not sure if we’ll need to go back

in later and replace bone with metal in her hand, but for now, we have her in a hard cast to prevent her from doing more damage.” “Any internal injuries?” The doctor nodded, then looked at him when Burt asked. “Was there brain damage? What?” “There is no way to soften the way I tell you this. Her abdomen was crushed, pelvis broken, and the fallopian tube on the right side was destroyed. Her womb was injured as well, to the point where it had to be removed or risk infection. As for her brain, we don’t yet know what sort of damage is there. After she wakes, if she does, we’ll be able to better determine where to go after that.” Randall felt his body just go limp. The words ‘if she does’ were too much. His mind simply said this is too much, and he embraced the darkness where his little girl was safe in his dreams.

 

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

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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.   

Parker McCullough’s Jamboree Release Blitz & GiveAway 10/3/16

Who rescued who was still a little vague, but they escaped just the same. The lab called him SA-8, and they had made him into a very powerful weapon. But to Reese he was just Josh, a boy that could do amazing things, but a boy none the less—not a lab rat. That was two years ago—the lab had been relentless and lethal in their pursuit. With her big rig running on fumes, and their last dime spent, they wound up on a small town in Ohio….

Parker McCullough found an abandoned big rig parked on his land. It had been there a few days, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Calling the authorities seemed like the logical thing to do, but when he tried to do so, his cell phone went flying from his hand and a teenage boy appeared from nowhere. Parker thought the boy was an Elite Shifter, and after hearing a little of the boy’s story he wanted to help.

Reese didn’t know who all these people were, but if she and Josh didn’t get away from them, the “others” would find them and they’d all be dead, just like all the other people who had tried to help them along the way…. And now the gorgeous shifter, Parker, had her trapped in the kitchen claiming to be her mate…. She didn’t have time for herself, and she didn’t want to see them all die because they’d helped her and Josh—Reese was out of options.




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Chapter 1
Parker walked around the big semi three times before he made his way to the driver’s door again. He glanced over at his dad when he came around the back end of the thing, having just jumped down off the hitch. He was glad now that Dad had come with him today.
“Don’t see nothing to indicate that it’s broke down.” Parker said he didn’t either. “Strange thing though, like you said, there ain’t no scent on it. Like it just appeared here without a driver. Mighty weird.”
“No kidding. I saw it two days ago but thought whatever was going on, they’d have come back for it by now. But nothing. And the door is unlocked.” His dad asked him if he’d been inside. “Yes. Just to look but not enter. There isn’t anything in there either. Like you said, it magically appeared.” Parker pulled out his phone.
“You calling the cops?” Before he could tell his dad he was, something came out of nowhere and knocked him on his ass. His dad was backing from him and whatever it was that had attacked. His phone had been tossed away from him, and just as he was reaching for it, a boy appeared. “Christ love a waddling whale.”
Parker glanced at his dad, wondering not for the first time where the hell he got his little sayings. But he also knew that he’d been frightened too. The boy picked up his phone but didn’t hand it to him.
“I’d rather you didn’t bother with the police. They have a tendency to make matters worse for us. And for the moment, she’s happy.” Parker asked him who. “Reese. We’ve been on the run for a long time and she’s having fun and relaxing. She needs it more than I thought she did. It’s been a while since she’s been able to do that, relax I mean. And we need the money, I’m afraid. The rig, it’s very hard on gas and she’s not getting much in the way of work. More than likely due to the men chasing after us.”
“I see.” The boy looked at his Parker’s dad then put out his hand to help Parker up, but Parker ignored it for now. “This woman, she owns this rig? And if so, why is it on my property?”
“It was the only place we could find so that the men trying to find us didn’t see it. We won’t be here much longer, really. The trees will be turning soon, what with autumn coming. It’ll be more visible then and we can’t stay. You understand.” Parker looked at the hand still offered, then at the boy. “My name is Josh Savage. The Josh part is what I picked out, but the last is what I was given at the lab.”
“Lab?” Josh nodded, shaking his hand at him as if to say, take it. “I’m a bit heavier than I look. If you would just back up a bit, I could get up and we can figure out what we’re going to do about these men chasing you.”
“That would be nice, but it’s doubtful that you could help us much. They’re very determined, you see.” When he put his hand closer, Parker took it. The grip was startling, but it was the immediate connection that shocked him more. The kid was an elite shifter. “I’m not what you think. You’re a jaguar, correct?”
“Yes. Parker McCullough. This is my dad, Rich.” The boy shook his hand then turned to do the same to his dad. He knew the moment that his dad felt the connection as well. “These people, can you tell me why they’re chasing after you?”
“Yes. I can.” But when no more was forthcoming, Parker looked at his dad for help. The boy laughed a little. Parker had no idea, but he thought it sounded sort of sad. “I can tell you but alas, I cannot. Reese, she says that I’m too trusting. I suppose in a way that I am. But since I have all the information I need to know about you and that you’re trustworthy, I feel I can. But I need to ask her first. She is not trusting at all.”
“This Reese…is she in trouble too?” Josh nodded. “And these people that are looking for the two of you, do you suppose they’ll kill you when they find you?”
“Not me. Not right away. They need to take me apart, so to speak. To see what I can do if they use their weapons on me. And if I can be made into a weapon. Which, I assure you, I can. But Reese will die. Immediately if they can work it. She is of no use to them other than to get me to do as they wish.” Parker asked him if he would do that if they had Reese. “I would like to, but she has made me promise that I will not fall prey to their demands. She said that they would do as they pleased with her even after they capture me anyway, and that if I can, I am to take them all out.”
Parker wasn’t sure what to do now. If he called the police, which he knew that he should, then he’d have both their deaths on his head. He had no doubt whatsoever that Josh was telling him the truth in this. He looked at his dad when he started to laugh.
“I’m telling you right now that I think this is gonna end badly. Not for you boys, but for those that are chasing that girl and this one.” Parker asked him how he’d come to that conclusion. “I don’t really know, but I have a feeling now that we’re involved—and we were the second that truck there pulled onto your land—that the rest of us is gonna be working on this. I don’t know how, like I said, but there you go.”
Parker turned to Josh. The kid was smiling at his dad but not saying anything. He didn’t know why, but Parker had a feeling the kid didn’t say much of anything unless asked directly. Parker looked at the semi again and thought of someone finding it.
“I have a barn we can have Reese pull this into. It’ll be safer than it is out here. Also, I don’t know where you’re staying, with her or not, but I have plenty of room at my place that’ll be safer than the truck or wherever you are hiding now.” Josh told him. “Then I’m sure of it. Margaret runs a nice place but it’s not terribly secure. If she doesn’t want to stay at my house, I have a married brother that can put the two of you up as well.”
At least he hoped so. And with these guys coming around, it would be a good thing to have them close to Lauren. She was way more bad assed than any person that he’d ever met. Parker looked at his dad when he cleared his throat.
“Might want to go and see this girl. Just to let her know in person what you have in mind.” He nodded. “And Parker, I’d make this a request, not a demand. Things don’t go well when you boys make demands on women.”
“No, I’d never do that. I do think that the semi going into the barn would be better. But if she has other plans that’s fine too.” He looked at Josh then. “You know where she is?”
“Working. She works for May Roy, at Roy’s Place. Reese cooks for the morning group and sometimes, a lot lately, for the lunch one too. They like her.” His dad laughed. “You’ve tasted her food?”
“I believe that I have. Every morning, as a matter of fact. She’s been there about a week and a half now, correct?” Josh nodded and smiled. “Thought so. May is a wonderful woman and the best bartender you might want to come across. And Margaret is about the sweetest, most ornery woman you’d want to meet. But neither of them could cook a meal and have it come out right if their lives depended on it. Yes, sir, Reese is a fine cook.”
They made their way to his dad’s truck. They’d come out here together to have a look at the tomatoes and corn that he’d planted. His dad wanted to open up a little roadside place to get rid of the stuff he didn’t need, and Parker had brought him out to show him just how much there was. As he put a bushel of tomatoes and corn with some potatoes in the back of the truck, he thought of the young boy.
He wasn’t human, that much was certain. And he’d told him that he wasn’t right in thinking he was an elite shifter either. Parker had no idea what that might mean, nor the part about the lab that he talked about. Why a bunch of men would want anything to do with this kid was beyond him; especially enough to kill for him.
As they loaded into the truck, Josh telling him that he’d meet them there, he watched as he flew away as a beautiful red tailed hawk. His dad said his name quietly as he backed out of the field.
“Look.” They both turned to see a black SUV go by them. It was going pretty fast so he doubted that anyone in the thing had seen the truck, but he worried. “I’m thinking we might want to circle our wagons. There is gonna be trouble if we don’t help them.”
“I agree.” As he reached for his family, he was glad when Lauren said she was in town and would go by the diner to look around. He told her about the boy and the woman; also about the semi that was parked on his land.
I’ll see what I can do about that too. Bear is with me, as well as a few others. We’re here looking around for someplace to have a couple of meets and greets. He was almost afraid to ask her what that meant. I’ll keep an eye on things on this end for you. And Bear is gonna move the vehicle now. The barn unlocked?
Yes. He didn’t ask how Bear was going to move the big rig. There had been no keys in the sucker that he’d seen, and he was pretty sure that, without her knowing them, Reese wasn’t going to hand over the keys to them. Just tell him not to damage anything on the truck or the barn. I have stuff in there for the house that I bought cheap, but I don’t want it damaged.
She was still laughing at him when they pulled up in front of the diner alongside three big black vehicles without any sign of license plates. He could see the men in the cars as he walked by them. Parker felt the hair on his neck dance in fear.
~~~
Reese nearly screamed when someone spoke to her from behind. When she turned, holding the spatula like a weapon, the woman simply took it from her and pointed to the walk-in. Reese started to ask her what the hell she was doing when Josh came in the back room with them.
She’s going to help us. Reese wanted to ask him how and why they might need help when he continued. They’re here. And before you think to run, they’re all around this place. Do as she asks, please. I think she can help us.
She was so afraid that she stood there for a few seconds just staring at the woman. When the woman pulled out a gun and then nodded to the walk-in again, Reese went where she was told, grabbing Josh’s hand as she passed him to take him with her. As soon as the door closed behind them, she looked at her friend.
“What the hell is going on?” He smiled at her but she could see the fear. “How did they find us? We…. The truck. They found the truck, didn’t they?”
“Not that I’m aware of. But a man did find it. He said that he’d take care that it was safe.” She asked him how they were going to do that. “He has a barn. I have been over his property. The barn is sufficient to hide it in. Also, he said that we should stay with him rather than the hotel. I think that might be a better plan. When I came here, they were at the hotel too. May, she was calling the police even as they left her office.”
When the door opened, she had to put her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. The elderly man standing there smiled at her and asked her to please come with him. Josh started forward and she grabbed him by the arm.
“I don’t know you and I’m not going anywhere with you. That woman out there, she has a gun. While I think that can be a good thing, as I said, I don’t know you.” He nodded and told her that he knew Josh. “How do you know him? Did you call these guys? Did you tell them that I would give him up? I have news for you, you overgrown fucking bastard, I will not go down easily.”
“Good for you. And my family isn’t going to let a thing happen to either of you now.” She started to ask him why but she wasn’t given the chance. “Lauren is talking to those men now. She would like for you two to come to the house with me. She assures me that they’ll not know you’re there. And I’d believe her if I were you. She’s got a way about her that makes grown men sob when she doesn’t get her way. I love her to death, you see, but she scares the bejeebes out of me too.”
“Sob? What the hell is a bejeebe? Never mind, I don’t want to know.” He nodded and that was when she heard talking. Well, shouting might have been a better term. As she made her way out of the walk-in with Josh, she peeked into the dining room where she knew the woman had gone.
Reese could see her back to her and four men down on their knees in front of Lauren. Two men were standing behind the men, one of them with a gun to the bigger guy’s head and the other man holding a knife to the throat of the last guy. Reese wondered what the hell was going on when the woman spoke.
“You see, I don’t really give a fucking good shit what you think you’re going to have done to me. In the event that you might have missed this, I’m holding all the cards right now.” A man spoke then, telling the woman that she was going to pay for this. “Nah, I don’t think so. You can think that all you want, but the only thing I might have to pay for is the mess in this dining room should I have to kill you all. Margaret gets kinda pissy when I make a bloody mess in here. She might even bar me from coming here again. It was pretty messy the last time.”
Margaret huffed and pushed her ample bosom up when she moved to stand behind the woman. She was a large woman, both the sisters were, but Reese thought that the younger, smaller woman looked meaner by a lot.
“Honey, if you break one table in taking care of these fools, I’ll be happy as lemonade on a warm day. They done went and dicked around with our hotel too. Messed up two of the rooms like they owned them. May and me are not gonna be able to rent them out for a time now, and that’s just not right. You have to kill ’em, then you go on ahead and do it.” The woman asked the men if that was true. But Margaret answered for them. “You darned right it’s true. The guest staying there isn’t gonna be a bit happy to find all her things a mess.”
Her things? Reese wanted to know, but the man behind her touched her arm. When she turned to him, she could see fear and something more. Something in his eyes told her that he was afraid for her. When she shook her head at him, turning back to the scene in front of her, Reese had a feeling that the four men weren’t going to get out of there without some heavy fines.
“We’re not paying for shit.” The man behind him popped him in the back of the head with his gun. “You fucking do that again and I’m going to tear you apart. I’m here on official business. That woman, the one that we were telling you about, she’s kidnapped my boss’s son. And he wants him back. You either hand him over, with the woman, or I’m going to call in the troops.”
“Troops? Would that be the army? Or perhaps you might have been thinking of some other branch of the services?” The man told the woman that he’d call who was necessary to finish this peacefully. “I think that boat has done sank, don’t you? Peaceful went out the door the moment you came into my town and messed with my friends. Perhaps later, if you’re still breathing that is, I can show you the meaning of the word. I think there might be a dictionary around I can use. By the way, you can read, can’t you?”
“Yes, I can fucking read, you cunt. You’re going to regret this.” She nodded and pulled out her phone. When whoever on the other end answered, the woman said her name, Lauren McCullough, and that she had a problem here. “You think this is gonna win you points with the boss? I got news for you, bitch, he’ll take you down with that brat and woman.”
“You think? Here, my boss wants a word with you.” She held the phone to his ear and when the man paled, Reese looked at Josh when he laughed. When the woman turned and winked at them, Reese backed from the scene. Something was going on there, something bigger than her and Josh.
As they made their way out the back of the diner, she tried to tell herself that this was going to work out. That the woman in there, whatever boss she had, was going to give her enough time to get out of town with Josh. She had no idea how that was going to happen, but she was going to do it. Then the older man said her name and she looked at him. He did look sad.
“You have nothing left at the hotel, child. Those men destroyed everything in the room. Parker is there now with the police getting things squared away. Also, we’ve had your truck moved to the barn on his place so nobody will notice it. You have to know
that you can’t keep doing this, running like this. Not now.” She nodded. Reese didn’t even have the strength to cry. “You come on home with me and we’ll have my wife make you up a nice dinner and gather you up something more to wear. Parker will be along in a bit and you can go out to his place to stay. He’s a good boy, my Parker.”
“They’re going to figure out where we are and come there too. You might be better off just dropping me off at my truck. Josh and I need to head out of town now while the getting is good.” The man turned the opposite way of her truck and she just sat there. It wasn’t until Josh took her hand and reminded her that the truck was hidden in Parker’s barn that she started to cry. “We’ve had a good run, haven’t we? I’m sorry. So sorry about this.”
“Now you see here. This isn’t done. It might look like the storm has come in and is raining on your party, but those men, they don’t know what they’ve messed with in coming to the McCullough doorstep.” She nodded at the older man. “Chin up there, child. You’re in good hands now. We’ll get the two of you safe.”
“You have no idea how long we’ve been running. And what sort of monsters they are. They just don’t care who they hurt to get us. Josh is all I have.” When Josh said he had to go, she simply rolled down the window and watched him fly away. If the man was shocked, he didn’t say anything. Then something occurred to her. “You spoke to Josh. He told you what was going on, didn’t he?”
“No. Well, yes and no. We talked to him. My son, Parker, the one that’s out there getting things squared away with May, he and I were out looking at the truck you left here. Josh sort of just come out of nowhere at us. Told us a little, that you and him were in trouble, but not why or with who.” She said nothing, not sure how much the man really did know. “So when he told us about the diner, we were headed out that way when those cars flew by us. Josh, he went on ahead to see to you and we come in a little later. My daughter-in-law—that’s Lauren that came in with me—she was already in town with her men and headed in first. She’s scary, that one is. Love her to death, but she can be a mite intense when she’s got herself in a pickle.”
“Yeah, I noticed that too. But we’re broke and down on our luck. I was doing okay for a while, then the runs sort of dried up for us.” He nodded but didn’t question the way of her runs. “Josh isn’t really my nephew. He’s my friend.”
“Didn’t figure that after meeting you. I know that you’re human and he…well, he ain’t. I can see that the two of you are close though. Yes, ma’am. He sure does love you.” She told the man that she loved Josh as well. “My name is Rich McCullough. My missus, Bea, she’s rounding you and the boy up a meal right now. It might be a little cramped at the table with us all, but you just leave that to us. We’ll get you in.”
“You don’t have to do this, Mr. McCullough. We’ll be fine once we’re rolling.” He only told her that she was all right. “I don’t want these men coming here and hurting you guys. It’s our fight.”
“It’s mine too, and that of my family. When you parked on the land out there, you sort of give us the okay to take you in. You’re not going to be with a better family than this one.” She didn’t say anything, knowing that talk was cheap and she was going to be
going as soon as she could get Josh to her. “Josh mentioned a lab, said that’s where the men are coming from. You work there?”
“No, I never worked there. I did deliver things to there for a time, but I never worked there. And after talking with Josh, I’m glad that I never did.” She waited for him to ask her about Josh but he only nodded. “Those men aren’t going to give up. They want him back. And as I said, they’ll go to great lengths to get him.”
“Well, I’m not worried and you shouldn’t be either. It’s not going to happen. Not so long as you’re here with us.” Reese said nothing again. “I’m assuming that Reese is your right name. May called you Anna. Anna Reese. You thinking that was gonna hide you some?”
“I wasn’t sure. I’ve never been on the run before.” Mr. McCullough laughed and said he’d not been either. “I think you should just let this go. As I said, these men aren’t going to give up, and they’ll hurt or kill whoever is in their way.”
“You just leave them to us. We’ll take care of them.” She thought of all the things these men, all of them, had done to people who had helped her. Reese knew that she shouldn’t have stopped to work for the little diner, nor stayed in the small but clean hotel, but she’d been tired and broke. She would have to take better care from now on. “What’s the name of this here lab?”
“Barker Benton Institute of Regeneration. It goes by BBIR.” She looked at the man when she told him the name. It hadn’t been her intention to tell him. In fact, she’d not told a single person she had asked for help what the name was. “You made me tell you.”
“No. I’d like to think I had that much power over someone, but I didn’t. And so you know, I’d not do that to you anyway. You’re worn down and that just slipped out. You’ll see, we’re a good group of people to have in your corner. Lauren, she’s going to have a look-see into them and find out what she can. Her and my son, Colin, they’ll have a whole lot of information before dinner is done, I’m betting. And a way to figure this out too. We got us some pretty powerful people in our neck of the woods now, you wait and see.”
“You mean Lauren’s boss?” He looked at her and nodded. “I’m betting that he’s just another man with a lot of money just waiting to get Josh in his hands. Well, I got news for everyone…over my dead body will he ever go back there and be tested on.”
“I believe you. But when Lauren and Colin sit down with you to talk about this, I’d like for you to have an open mind. Her boss might just surprise you.” Reese doubted it. She had become really jaded over the years on the run. “Here we go. Home sweethome.”




Logan Release Blitz & GiveAway 9/5/16

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Logan Douglas was bored. Everyone seemed to have something to do, a purpose, except him, and he didn’t know what to do about it. He needed to get out of town or get a life before he killed somebody. And if Mason made one more snide remark about him being available because he didn’t have anything better to do it was gonna be him.

Charlie Stone knew the meaning of being overworked and underpaid. That was the story of her life. If she hadn’t needed what little pay she got from the nursing home, she’d have quit a long time ago. Now, the police were shutting the place down and she had nowhere to go.

Logan had found his mate, Mary Shafer, when they were still children. They knew what they were to each other, but Mary had been killed by a drunk driver when she was only ten. As far as Logan was concerned he’d lost his only shot at love. One mate in a lifetime, everyone knew that. But what Logan couldn’t understand was his attraction to the feisty beauty, Charlie Stone. She couldn’t be his mate, he’d already lost his shot at that….

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Chapter 1
“I’ve no idea.” And he didn’t as he sat there looking at the paperwork in front of him. Logan wanted to hand it over to his brother again, but Zach had asked him to come over and look at it and he was going to do that. But as far as knowing if it was a good deal or not, he wasn’t sure what to tell his brother.
“To me the interest seems a little high. But then as Landon said, I only have this ground as my backup, and I’ve not made but two payments on it so far. And the first one was late because I forgot to take it to the bank while they were open.” Logan handed the paperwork to purchase the tractor Zach needed back to his brother as Zach continued. “It wasn’t really late, but I wanted to pay it on the day it was due, not the next day.”
“You’re going to hurt yourself overthinking this shit.” Logan got up and pulled them both a bottle of water from the fridge before being seated again. “Okay, here’s the way I see it. You only get the interest charged to you when you drag out the payments for as long as this loan is for. I’d not pay it off too soon…there is the matter of you having no credit. But after a year, I’d pay it off and move on to something bigger. You’ll more than likely need it the way things are going out there anyway.”
“The family is buying the grain I raise the first three years. I can’t sell to anyone else.” Logan said he knew that. “And Jace is paying to have a barn put in, one that will hold all that I can grow, as well as the tractor.”
“I’ve seen the plans. It’ll be large enough to hold three of these suckers.” He took a drink of his water, trying his best not to think of what was going on right under his ass with his own home; and to not be angry about it. He was angry a great deal lately, and wasn’t entirely sure why. “I’m guessing that the work on your home will be finished before Christmas, right?” Zach said that things were moving right along.
When Logan had moved into the family house, given to him by his aunt, he’d had no idea what he was getting into. The furniture was all nearly new; the carpets were worn through in some places but in otherwise usable condition. And he had a roof over his head that didn’t leak, so long as it didn’t rain for more than three or so hours.
When the furnace, nearly as old as he was, broke down, he’d called in someone to fix or replace it. What they found was that not only was the furnace not worth saving, but the house would be, even with the installment of the new furnace, worth less than it would cost him to have the furnace put in. The foundation was shot.
Logan had to find someplace to live. He’d been told that with the age of the house, the way that it was out of date, and now the foundation, he’d be better off building new rather than fixing. He knew that in order to have a safe home he was going to have to start over or find himself an apartment in town and use the land for something else. What that was, he had no idea. He’d not decided on what he wanted to do yet. Moving away—out of the ranching business, the family business, and away from them all—was sounding better and better all the time of late. Not that he didn’t love them, but he was bored out of his ever loving mind.
The man who had come out to talk to him showed him the way the foundation was slipping, and in less than five years, not only would the house fall in on the basement, but the waterlines were in bad shape, as well as all the electrical wiring. He told Logan that the wiring would probably burn it down long before the house fell, but there was little doubt that it would fall.
“How much longer are you going to be staying here? I’m to understand that you’ve been told to move out.” Logan told him he was working on it. “It’s really sad to see it go, don’t you think? There are a great many memories here. And in the yard. I don’t know that I’d be able to have it torn down either.”
“I have someone coming in next week to pack everything up. You got what you wanted out of here, right?” Zach said that he had. “Jace and Mason are coming by later to get the rest of the things they picked out. And there are the pictures that I still have to go through. I’ve taken them to a storage unit in the event something terrible happens here. I never realized how many boxes there were.”
“I don’t envy you at all.” Logan assured him it wasn’t so bad. Zach stood up and stretched, and said, “Okay, I’m going to sign the paperwork and have them deliver the tractor when it gets into town. I think they said five days from the time I get the money to them until I have it. But about the house, Logan…as I said before, you can come and stay with me should you want. That trailer that I’m staying in is pretty nice.”
“I’m all right here. But I’ll keep it in mind.”
Logan sat at the table for another hour before he got up to make himself some dinner. The rest of the family, his other brothers that were mated, had butlers, cooks, and maids. He and Zach were the only two that had to make due for themselves. Logan wasn’t sure, but he thought he might like his way better. Less people underfoot.
As he made his way to the ranch, riding old Sable, his horse, he thought of his days now. He’d been in charge of repairs, a daily thing, since before Jace had married. And since there was nothing old—not even houses, except his own, that were older than a few months old—his job consisted of taking hay out of a trailer that might be on the property and loading it in one of the many barns that held it for the cattle and horses. Or—and this one drove him nuttier than a fruitcake at Christmas—he was set to ride lines. Lines that a hundred other people working the ranch checked every day when they were out and about.
Frankly, he was thinking of taking a job in town, just to have something to occupy his mind rather than all the things he wished he could do. And just lately he’d been thinking of going into one of the barns and breaking a bunch of the new shit so he’d feel useful again. Viable, he thought. Because for all his family saying that they needed him around, Logan certainly didn’t feel it. He felt like a fifth wheel.
“Just the man that I wanted to see.” He looked at the tractor trailer in the yard that he could see was filled with bales of hay, and then back at Mercedes. “I think that can wait a minute or two, don’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He tipped his hat back, wondering what she’d need him for. As far as he knew, she had several of the hands eating right out of her hand. “I do have an appointment at noonish with one of the builders. Do you think it’ll take that long?”
“No. It’s a matter of one of my pieces of equipment. Georgie said you might be able to help with the instructions.” He said he’d give it a try. “I was hoping you’d say that. And so you know, I had no idea you could speak another language.”
“I can when pressed.” He could actually speak ten languages, not including a few that he was picking up from reading books—antique books that were older than Monroe—and he was good at math. Of any kind. She handed him a stapled together stack of papers that looked like photo copies of photo copies of a manual. “And this would go with which of your fancy new machines?”
“The portable ultrasound machine for the animals. Mostly for the horses, but I thought using it for the cows won’t be much different if need be.” He nodded and started reading the instructions while she explained. “I have read the English ones three times and I keep coming up confused. I think it was poorly translated. I’m not sure from which language, but I know it’s not well done.”
When she moved out of the room to speak to someone at the door of her offices, he picked up the oversized laptop looking thing and started comparing the steps to have it work to what he was seeing on the machine. By the time she returned, not even half an hour later, he not only had it turned on, but the display screen was now in English and not the French it had been.
“This is wonderful. Thank you so much. How did you do it?” He explained how whoever had set it up had simply pushed the wrong button. “That’s it? I’ve been playing with this thing for three days and you only had to change the language? Christ, I should have asked you sooner.”
It was more complicated than that. There was also uploading the new software that hadn’t been updated before it was sent to her, and turning on the links she would need to be able to read it in her office and out in the field. But he only shrugged when she thanked him again.
Logan made his way back to the overloaded trailer to start his day. He was pulling the first bale of hay off the trailer when Mason came to find him.
“I’d have thought you’d have more of this done by now.” Logan said nothing but felt his temper rise. “Not that it matters. But I was wondering what your plans are for this evening. I have this meeting I have to attend in town and wondered if you’d go with me.”
“Everyone else too busy?” He knew that he sounded bitter but didn’t bother taking it back. “I don’t have any plans. What sort of dress is required? I don’t own a suit that fits anymore. And my other tux is at the cleaners.”
He was snipping, and the more he said the more his voice took a nasty turn. By the time he talked about his tux and the lack of having one, he was nearly ready to leap at his brother and tear him apart. An overreaction, yes, but he just couldn’t seem to control his temper of late.
“What’s up your ass?” Logan just popped his neck but said nothing. “For the last week you’ve been biting and snipping at anyone that comes close enough to talk to you. Even Bonnie, who I might add you made cry. If you have an issue with one of us, you should tell us before you get hurt.”
“You want to try and hurt me, Mason, then bring it on. I’m about in the mood to kick your ass all over this ranch.” When Mason started to climb up on the hay with him, he looked at the doorway where someone had whistled at them. To them would have been a better description. It was more of a way to get their attention. Landon looked amused as he took his fingers out of his mouth.
“You boys got nothing better to do than beat each other to snot, then I’d like to borrow Logan for a minute or two first. I don’t have time to hear his bellyaching any more than I do yours, Mason.” Logan looked at Mason, who looked ready to commit murder. “Or I could just go on in and tell your aunt that you’re out here making a mess of things when there is work to be done. I’m thinking you boys are still afraid of her even though you’re grown men.”
“What is it you want?” Logan cleared his throat and started again when Landon only cocked a brow at him. “I’m moving hay. Again. And probably will be tomorrow too, if you want to know the truth of it. Whatever you want, you’ll have to ask the master here.”
Mason looked ready to resume the fight that Logan had offered up to him. It was on the tip of his tongue to provoke him more, but Landon laughed. Logan stretched his neck again and got down off the trailer.
“We’re not done here.” Logan just nodded. If he was honest with himself and Mason, he had no idea why but he thought he’d actually love for Mason to hit him; a lot, and hard. He walked to Landon and told him he was free to help him. Mason continued talking as he walked to the older man. “Logan, when you get back, we’re going to talk.”
Saying nothing, Logan followed Landon to his truck and got in. It was walk away or have the shit knocked out of him. Mason wasn’t a mean fighter…neither was he, but Logan wanted blood, and he didn’t care if he had to shed a bit to get it. He was angry all the time he thought, too angry.
“You wanna talk about it?” Logan told Landon that he didn’t. “Well, suit yourself, but you should know you keep it up and there is going to be some tarring and feathering going on. You’ve been making quite the name for yourself around here of late.”
“I’m bored.” Landon said he could see that. “And fighting with someone will make me less tense. I think. I’m thinking that I need to move on. The house, the land, the lack of jobs…it’s taking its toll on me. And my well-being. All I want to do is just sit at home and stay there. Not have any contact with anyone at all. And I’m sick of doing shit jobs, Landon. I haven’t done a damned thing worthwhile in a long time.”
“What if I needed you for something that hasn’t a thing to do with cows and horses? Heck fire, boy, I’m not sure that this’ll be anything that I might like, but I’m bored too.” Logan pointed out that he wasn’t fighting with his family. “No. No, I’m not. Could, I suppose, if I wanted to be in the dog house with my wife, or on the outs with my daughter and son-in-law. I’ve been getting myself in and out of trouble like you have, and I think we need a plan.”
As they turned down a driveway, Logan felt himself begin to relax. He rolled the window down, despite the cold of the air, and thought maybe he should get a new truck. Or at least something that he could drive around in style. Not that he could afford something like this vehicle, and he didn’t need anything to get around in but his steady
and sometimes slow horse. But Logan thought he might enjoy having something. When the truck stopped moving, he looked out the front glass, only just realizing that he’d closed his eyes, and looked at the house and barn.
“Is this the Martin farm?” Landon said it was and got out. Logan was almost afraid to join him. He’d heard stories about this place all his life. Most of them he knew were untrue, but to see this place now, he could almost believe them. The area surrounding the big house was unkempt and overgrown.
“You thinking about the ghosts that haunt it here? I been out here three times in the last month. I haven’t seen a single darn one of them.” Logan asked him where the Martins were. “William died about three months ago, poor old soul. He knew it was coming; had me out to talk to him a bit here and there. Then when he passed on, the kids stuffed Dolly into one of the nursing places where she is tied to a bed all day and only let out when it’s feeding time. But she’s getting out soon, I heard. Had a doctor say she was doing all right and able to get out to one of them assisted living places. I don’t imagine that sets too well with them kids of theirs. They’re a lot like my Dirk was. Everything is about them.”
Logan knew that Landon and his wife still hurt about Dirk and what he’d done to them. He also knew that Katie was getting help, too, for her depression. Logan loved these two people like no one he’d ever loved before. His own parents had been gone for so long, he’d begun to think of them as their substitutes a long time ago.
“I’m sorry, Landon. I truly am. But I have to admit, I don’t remember seeing anything about the Martins’ children.” He looked at Landon when he said nothing. “We helped them out last year. He got sick and we came to help him and his men out by picking grapes. I liked Mr. and Mrs. Martin, but like I said, the children weren’t around then.”
“Yeah, I remember that. Right proud of you for doing that too. But he never did recover from what had put him down. Heard tell that when he passed on the kids were so mad at him that they only did what they had to do to get him buried. Then when the will was read, they got rid of their Mom too. I’ve been to see her a couple of times.” Logan said he thought they’d been friends of his parents. “Your parents, they did right by them. Even before you boys were coming along, they’d go over and help them out. Their own kids never did appreciate them.”
“Why are we here then?”
Landon opened the front door to the house. Logan was surprised to see that the man not only had a key, but seemed to know just where the light switches were, as well as glasses in the cabinets. But when he pulled a pitcher of tea from the fridge, Logan asked him what was going on.
“Six months or so before William passed on, he called me over here to have a little talk. And some of his wife’s pie. She couldn’t bake one to save her life, even when she poured the middle of it from a can, so I knew when I got here that I was in trouble. He was dying even then, he told me, and needed my help.” Logan nodded, sipping his drink. “Dirk was alive then. He’d been in trouble with something, like he always was, and I called William back to beg off. But he said that he wasn’t long for this world and it would do him good to see me. So I packed myself up and came over. I found that in the three or four months since I’d seen him last, William had aged a great deal.”
“His kids.” Landon nodded and got up and brought them a box of cookies. Not the kind that was homemade, but ones that had been processed so much they were only cookies because some ad guy said so. “What happened when you got here?”
“He told me that he wasn’t going to be around long, and that he needed to settle some debts up before he passed on. One of them being about his daughter, the one that he’d fathered when he was a younger man.” Logan leaned back in his chair and said nothing. “I can see where your mind is going. You’re thinking that I might should have stayed at home. And I might agree with you but for what I found out. She’s gone; this girl died before he had time to do much for her. He found out about her too late. You knew her too, Logan.”
“No, I don’t think so. I told you, I didn’t know his children.” He watched Landon pull out some pictures from a worn yellowed envelope, and almost wanted to get up and leave when he handed him one of them. Even upside down, he knew the face when he held it. “Landon, whatever you think you know, I’d just as soon you tell me. Those pictures…you know as well as I that she was not a child of Mr. Martin’s.”
“But she was. A child he fathered long ago. An affair, he told me, one that he regretted the moment he did it, but for the child he never knew. Mary Shafer, she was his little girl.” Logan took the picture and held it but didn’t look. He knew what she looked like as well as he knew his own face. “You and her, you were mates.”
“Yes. We were. She was killed by a drunk driver when she was ten. We’d been in school together, hung out when we could. I knew when I saw her what she was to me, even as young as I was. I tried to help her, protect her, but that was out of my hands.” Landon said he knew that too, William had told him. “I had no idea that William was her father. Not that it mattered to us who she was. We were just children.”
“Yes, you were. Now, Dolly, William’s wife, she knew who she was too. Even the mother. Dolly was a better woman, I think, than most would have been, and opened her doors to the child when it was apparent that her mother wasn’t giving her the things that she and William had sacrificed to get her. Clothing, a better home. All the money he sent for her each month went to habits that weren’t beneficial to her child. So when she was killed, little Mary was in his will too.” Logan got up and paced the big spacious kitchen. “Logan, William knew who—”
“No. I don’t want to hear it.” Landon said nothing. “Whatever plan the two of you hatched up, it has nothing at all to do with me. Mary died, and I knew then that things like having a mate and a home life were gone to me. I’ve moved on. I had no choice, but that didn’t stop me from grieving for her like I’d killed her myself.”
“Have you moved on, Logan? On account’a, from where I’m sitting, you’re stuck.” Logan stared at the man who had been the father figure he’d never had. His dad might have been just like Landon McBride, more than likely would have been right there with them in this room. But he’d died. “You’re carrying around some powerful hurt now. Seeing the others get their own mates, them having babies. You’re hurting, aren’t you?”
Logan thought about shutting him up; the anger surged forward like a quick moving storm over his body. When he sat down again, Logan picked up the other pictures and
thought of the little girl who had meant the world to him. He realized then that Landon was right. He was jealous of his brothers, and was letting it color his world.
“She and I were inseparable. We did everything together…skinny dipping in the pond not far from here, sneaking into the barn late at night. I’d bring her food and blankets. One summer she spent the better part of it in that big barn, eating what leftovers I could sneak out to her. I was never sure why she was there or why she wasn’t getting enough to eat wherever she was from, but we had fun. I even brought her things in the house and washed them up when no one was looking.” He knew that his aunt had guessed she was there, or that someone was, and had begun leaving things like extra chicken and bread on the counter for him to take. “Then one day, just like that, she was gone, dead because some bastard ran a stop sign and killed her at a crosswalk.”
“He left it all to you.” Logan asked him what he’d said. “The vinery, the house, barns. Even the wine making business, it’s all yours if you want it. There is more than enough money to keep it running, forever if you wish. He said that he knew of all the men he had met in his lifetime that you’d make it viable and keep it going.”
“I don’t understand.”
Landon pulled out another envelope and handed it to him. There was a copy of the will and a sealed, smaller envelope with his name on it. Landon pointed to the small colorful tabs on the side and told him to read that first. William Martin had named not just him in his will, but also his little girl, the one that had died all those years ago.
“I bequeath all my worldly goods and possessions to Logan Benson Douglas, a man of good standing and intelligence. I wish for him to run my winery, live in the house, and keep it going in the name of a child that we both loved. Mary Shafer, my daughter, would live here too but for my lack of sense.”
“What did he mean by that?” Landon said nothing and Logan was afraid that if he did answer, he wasn’t going to like it. “Landon, why did he leave it to me? You know, don’t you?”
“His little girl was killed by her mother; the drunk driver was none other than her own mother.” Landon leaned back in his seat while Logan tried to wrap that up in his mind. “You want to know more, you’re going to have to read what he wrote you. But you should know that if’n you don’t take the land and what he’s given you, the kids will get it. And as much as it grieves me to say this, they’re no better than my own son was, and this place will have condos on it by the end of next year. And you know as well as I that this is good farm land, and to have them plopping houses on it is gonna do nothing for your family’s ranches.”
“They butt up against each other.”
Landon nodded. If he said any more or showed him anything else, Logan had no idea. When he came back round, the thoughts swirling in his head, he noticed that the sliding door was open to the deck off the kitchen and he could see Landon’s booted feet. Getting up, Logan went to see Landon to let him tell him this was a joke. Not a funny one, but a joke all the same.
“You all right now?” Logan said he wasn’t sure. “Yeah, don’t blame you none there. There’s a lot to take in. If’n you’re ready for the rest of it, then I can give it to you.”
“I’m not sure yet. What do his kids think of all this? By now, I’m sure that they know.” He said that they did and were none too thrilled about things. “Are they going to give me any trouble? I mean, if I take this?”
“You already took it, son. The only thing you’ve not done is moved in. And that could be done lickety split.” Logan told him he knew nothing of grapes and wine making. “I don’t imagine that many do unless they read up on it. And there is the foreman that is taking care of things for you. Production has been going on, grapes were tended to. William has been gone for a bit, not even a year, but someone’s been here all along.”
Logan sat down on one of the deck chairs and realized that they were fairly new. Now that he thought on it, Logan realized that the kitchen seemed to be updated and clean. He wondered what he’d find should he go looking around the rest of the place. He asked Landon about it.
“He had it all taken care of. Most of the renovations, they occurred before he passed, but he wanted things to be prettied up for you. Dolly, she said to me that last time I was out there to visit her that that someone had been hired to come in and take out all the personal things and put them in storage. The house, the lands, they’re all ready for you.” Logan asked him why now. Why had he waited so long? “It was time.”



Darin The Pride Of The Double Deuce Release Blitz & Winner Announced 4/18/16

Mercedes Crosby is a veterinarian and a damn good one. She’s just what Susie Douglas needs on her horse ranch, and Mercedes wants nothing more than to take the job and get out from under the thumb of her ex-husband, Nash Crosby. But trust in people is something Mercedes lost the moment Nash forced her to marry him at gunpoint. If the job sounds too good to be true, it probably is….


Darin Douglas is struggling to make ends meet as he opens his new bed and breakfast, The Douglas House. He has his first booking coming in in a few days and wants everything perfect, so he brings the family in to sample the first menu and to show off his new place. His brothers bring the already reluctant new Vet with them to dinner to meet the rest of the family, Darin and Zack. Darin met the Vet’s young daughter earlier that day and already loved the little girl, but he is surprised but not disappointed when his cat recognizes Mercedes as his mate.


Mercedes, on the other hand, is scared witless. She had found out a few hours before that paranormals really existed and she was living among them. Now, this big handsome brute is telling her that she belongs to him and his cat…ah, hell no.


Nash Crosby isn’t finished with his ex. They aren’t divorced until Mercedes and that brat of hers are dead….

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Chapter 1
“Nope and double nope. I’m not going to do that for you, and I’m even more surprised, or pissed off you might say, that you even asked me to. Where do you get off asking me to…? I do not kill animals because someone is tired of them. Nor do I know anyone that might if I don’t. Christ man, what if that were a child?” Mercedes went to the door and opened it for the man and his dog. “Get out. And if anything happens to that dog, and I do mean anything, I’m going to have you brought up on charges.”
“For a dog? Fuck woman, it’s a dumb animal. Nobody gives a shit if they get hit by a car. And if you think I give one shit about what kind of charges you think you can put on me, then you’re way stupider than I thought you were.” He jerked the dog along behind him as he made his way to the counter. With a short nod, Mercedes knew that her receptionist would take care of the man. And the dog.
Closing the door behind the two of them, Mercedes sat down on her chair and closed her eyes. This had been one hell of a week and it was only Tuesday. When her phone rang, she didn’t even bother moving to answer it. She knew that someone would pick it up. As she sat there, Mercedes thought of her life so far.
She was a nearly thirty divorced mother of a ten-year-old little girl. No house, no car, and she was still paying off her ex-husband’s debt like she’d had a thing to do with it. When she’d gotten her divorce from him he’d put a great many credit cards in her name and maxed them out. Nash hadn’t been too happy that she’d been upset about him beating her to shit all the time. Go figure.
While she had a good job, there was little in the way of income that was free and clear for her, and she doubted even if she lived to be ten thousand that she’d ever see that day. She didn’t have a car, no money for extras like socks or a thick winter coat, and some months she didn’t even have enough food for both her and her daughter to eat.
When a knock at the door startled her to sit up, she nearly begged to be left alone. The bundle that came in the open door made her feel like she was queen of the world. Seeing Bonnie changed her mood just like that.
Bonnie was her life, and the fact that her father had had to give up all parental rights to her was the best thing that had ever happened to either of them. Holding Bonnie in her arms as she told her about her day, Mercedes wondered what the hell had happened to her to land her in such a state?
“You’re not listening to me.” Mercedes told her that she’d had a day and a half. “You work too hard. When do we get to go on that vacation? Soon, right? Can we leave tomorrow instead of Friday? I don’t have any homework to turn in because of it being nearly Thanksgiving and all.”
“It’s not a vacation, but a job interview. I told you that.” Bonnie nodded and handed her the things from her backpack. “This farm that we’re going to, it might not be anything that we want. Or something might go wrong and I’m not good enough for them.”
“Never going to happen. You’re the best.” Mercedes wished she had half the confidence in herself as her daughter did. “I’ve got my things all ready to go. And I even
washed up your jeans for you so you could pack. I just have to put them in the dryer when we get home.”
“Our ride isn’t to arrive until Friday morning. So no, I don’t think we can leave earlier. Besides, we have to close up the apartment before we go, and since I’m working late tonight, we’ll have our work cut out for us tomorrow as it is. You can wait the extra day.”
There was a car coming for them. Mercedes wasn’t really sure what that meant for their travel plans, but Palmer had assured her that they were a very nice family with a great many horses that would need her help. Mercedes wondered how she and Bonnie were going to survive a trip all the way across the United States in a car, but they’d endured a lot together and this would be just one more thing. And Bonnie thought it was going to be an adventure.
Milly, the receptionist, came to the door to tell her she had a phone call. After telling Bonnie to keep it down, she answered the phone. She was both surprised and nervous to hear Palmer on the line.
“Hello, darling. I do hope you’re ready for this trip. I know that everyone here is excited to meet you. I’ve told them so many good things about your work ethic.” She told him that she was. “Good. Good. The car will pick you and Bonnie up at nine on Friday. Then you’ll be taken to my plane and brought here. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do. And we’ve put you two up in the bed and breakfast. You’ll be the only ones in it, and I’m sure you’ll give us some feedback on that as well. It’s new to the area. One of the families that you’re going to be working for owns it.”
“I thought we’d be driving.” He said that would take too long. “I see. And when we get there, what if things don’t work out? I mean, this is just an interview. I want to be able to come back if there is a problem.”
Palmer was quiet for some time, and she wondered if he was going to tell her that there wasn’t an interview any longer, but they were bringing her out anyway. When she said his name, he asked her to hang on a moment, as he had someone in his office.
“Are we going to fly out?” She told Bonnie that it looked like it. “I’ve never been on a plane before. Do you think they’ll have movies and stuff?”
“You’re taking your things with you so you can watch what you want anyway.” The line clicked again, and she started to ask Palmer if everything was all right when a woman spoke.
“Yes, everything is perfect. Hi, I’m Susie Douglas. My husband and I own the Douglas Ranch. I think there’s been a mistake.” Mercedes felt her heart break, and she told her that she understood. “Now don’t be getting your panties in a twist. I didn’t mean to say that you’re not going to come out, but I think we forgot to tell you that we’ve already hired you. Palmer said you were the best and, to be honest with you, we sure could use the help. While most of the horses aren’t sick, some of them are breeding and it’s been a little hard on us getting to them in time.”
“How many horses are we talking?” Silence on the other end made her think that there was more than the dozen or so she’d thought were there. “Mrs. Douglas? How many do you need me to come and see to?”
“See to? Not that many, a couple of hundred I guess. Not that many are breeding, but we need to get them a clean bill of health so they can be sold, and that’s been hard on Jimmy, the local vet, to do. He isn’t all that nice to the ponies either, so that doesn’t help. But there are quite a few of them that are sold, and we need someone to come out and say they’re healthy before they leave.” Mercedes asked her daughter to go see Milly as Mrs. Douglas talked about what they needed.
“I don’t think this is going to work out.” Mrs. Douglas asked her why not. “Because I won’t sign off on a health questionnaire knowing that you’re selling less than healthy animals. I might be down on my luck, but I won’t lie to help you make money.”
“Good.” Mercedes frowned at the phone and started to ask her what she meant by that when she spoke again. “I didn’t ask you to sign off on their health records, did I? Nope. What I said was, I needed the paperwork to say they were healthy. Now to you that might sound like the same thing, but I will tell you that I can tell when a horse is sick or not a hell of a lot faster than you’d ever be able to. And as for you being down on your luck, I understand that as well. But I have no intentions of selling off our good name for a few extra bucks.”
“I’m sorry.” The woman at the other end laughed. “I think we might have gotten off on the wrong foot here. I’m not sure what’s going to happen there, but if you’ve changed your mind then I can—”
“You’re coming. Now, if you want. As far as I’m concerned you’re hired, and we’ll put you to work tomorrow if you want to get on that plane tonight and get here. We’re about done in here. And with the number of horses we have, you might want to quit anyway.” Mercedes asked her again how many she had. “At any given time there are as many as four thousand horses here. Double that in cattle, and we’re bringing in a few extra animals to help out with the children as well.”
Ten thousand animals? What the hell were they running out there? A breeding ranch? But Mercedes remembered that Palmer had told her that they were running a racehorse ranch, where men who had more money than brains came to buy stock.
“I have a daughter, you know that, right? She’s all I have in the world and I have to see to her needs first and foremost. We don’t know anything about the area or schools. I have no transportation either. Then there is housing and where we can live. Are there doctors in the area that are trustworthy?” Mercedes was making herself notes. A big dollar sign made her pause enough to ask about her salary. “I have to make enough money to get us settled. We have bills and we’ve been trying to pay them off.”
“Hang on a second.” When she was put on hold again, she thought that the woman was going to tell her that she’d have to make due. But Mercedes had already determined that she needed to make more than she was here or there was no point in leaving to move them across the states. “Okay. My husband and I are coming to you. Tonight. I know that you have to work until around five and that you’re probably getting ready to pack and shit, but we’ll come out there and talk to you. Bring the contract you can have looked over too.”
“I don’t have an attorney, Mrs. Douglas. And I can’t afford to find one to look over this contract. I’m trusting you won’t screw me over, because Palmer said I can trust you.”
She laughed, and Mercedes wanted to tell her again that she didn’t think this was a good idea.
“We’ll be there around four-thirty. Someone is making us reservations at the hotel and we’ll have dinner. Palmer said he’d come, too, just to break the ice.” Mercedes told her fine, but she wasn’t making any promises. “No worries. And my name is Susie. Mrs. Douglas is too formal. We’ll see you in a bit.”
After putting down the phone, she sat there for a few minutes. The woman was like a tornado, and Mercedes wondered what it would be like working for her. More than likely she’d be swept up in whatever she had going on. If she worked for her, Mercedes thought there would never be a dull moment.
~~~
Susie hated to fly. And even more she hated to meet with new people. But this woman, for all her problems, was going to come and work for them. Susie had no idea why it was so important to her, but she needed Mercedes there on the ranch to help out. Looking over at the family that had come with her, Susie wondered if this had been a bad idea. She decided this was the best way to scare the poor woman to death if she wasn’t already afraid of them.
“You should see her little girl. That Bonnie is a sweetheart. And something of a gifted child. That’s another reason that she’s so far behind on things. Putting Bonnie in that private school is costing her big time.” Susie only nodded at Palmer. There was more to it than that, but she was going to wait for Mercedes to tell them. Gerard had had someone look into the woman before she’d agreed to hire her. “She doesn’t like the shortened form of her name, by the way. I’m not sure what that would be, but she won’t answer to anything but Mercedes. I think her ex called her anything but her first name and made it sound like a curse rather than an endearment.”
“He’s not going to be happy with this. I have a feeling that he’s sort of possessive of his ex-wife and tries to rule her regardless of the papers that say he can’t.” Gerard leaned back in the seat they were in as he continued. “The man has to be loving that Mercedes is getting him out of debt. And the fact that he can go by her place once in a while to let her know what a disappointment she was to him. The man is going to have to learn to live without his punching bag sooner or later.”
“He’s going to be no problem as far as we’re concerned. And if he makes a nuisance of himself, we’ll take care of him.” Mason nodded as he handed them a file. “There are some things on our new vet that I want to make you all aware of. First and foremost, she’s good. Damned good, as a matter of fact. Top of her class in college. No problems from any of her clients. And the firm that she works for thinks a great deal of her. But that could be because they run her into the ground for little to no extra help in the financial department. She wants to be partner and they know it, so they fuck her when they can.”
Susie glanced at Gerard and when he nodded, Susie spoke quietly. “I want to also make you aware of the things going on in her personal life. Her ex-husband is hurting them more than just with him coming by her place and knocking her around a little. He’s somehow gotten access to both her place she’s staying and her bank accounts. I think that he has someone watching her for him when she’s at home. And more and more lately, he
dips into her money when he finds that she has more than he thinks she should. He has buddies at the bank. Also, he’s hiding funding from her. He gave up all rights to his daughter, but he’s not paying child support to her because he claims he has no money.” Palmer asked her how she knew this. “I’ve seen her. Once. I traveled out there to have a little talk with her to try and feel her out, and I never got past the first touch of her. Her problems aren’t going to go away soon.”
They were aware of what she and Gerard could do. Not all of it but a great deal. Some of it was just too fucking scary to share. Like the fact that they could touch a person and then know the people that they’d had contact with, the ex-husband being one of people that Mercedes had been touched by that day. The man was going to be an issue whether she moved out where they were or not.
“Do you think he’s going to be a problem then?” Susie nodded, and Mason leaned back on the seat again. “A police problem or a leap problem?”
“Both,” Gerard told them as he continued with the information they’d gotten from her. “He’s not going to be happy when he finds out that she’s moving. He likes her under his thumb. And he does have her there. Mercedes is afraid that he’ll take her daughter from her and that he’ll hurt her. Not legally, but simply to take her because he knows that it’ll hurt Mercedes. He doesn’t want her either, but he likes having control over Mercedes. The only reason she was able to file for divorce was because he was in jail just long enough for her to get a judge to grant her one, and when he got out, he was fucking pissed.”
“And the money that she owes, is it because of the divorce or something more?” Palmer didn’t look like he needed anyone to answer him, and when he spoke again, she was sort of proud of him. “He tried to ruin her. Or has he?”
“Close to it. She lost her house, her car, and can’t get a loan. When she told me that she couldn’t afford an attorney to go over the contract we’re taking her, she wasn’t kidding. They have nothing. Less than nothing. Next month the school that her daughter goes to is going to tell her that they can no longer carry her. She knows this, but can’t stand the thought of losing it for her little girl. It’s not only a good school, but a safe place for her too.”
“We’ll bring her back with us.” Susie nodded at Palmer. “If I have to pack her up myself, I’m bringing her back with me.”
“We all will. But I think we’re going to have to go at this slowly. Think of her like a skittish horse or cow. She’s terrified to trust anyone anymore, and when this ex finds out she’s flown the coop, he’s not going to lay back and just let her go.” Mason asked her what she meant. “He’s a man used to getting his own way. He’s Nash Crosby.”
Palmer didn’t have any idea who that was, but Susie knew that Mason did. And so did Ed. Ed Clarke was the one that had told her and Gerard about him when she’d asked him about the divorce papers that she’d had sent to her. Crosby wasn’t just bad news, but he made her own father look sort of saintly.
“Nash is…how should I say this? He is a man who is used to getting his own way, but it’s more than that. He’s a thug. And the worst kind of one. When he was younger, there was speculation that he might have been involved in the car accident that took both
his parents’ lives and that of his sister. Six months after they were gone, his grandmother died in a house fire.” Ed looked at his notes as he mopped his brow with his handkerchief. “Then about eleven years ago, he married Mercedes Gillespie. Her family had some money, but not a great deal. Mercedes was in her last year of veterinary college and making a name for herself even then. By all accounts, Mercedes didn’t care for the man, had on several occasions gone to the police about him. Then one day there was an article in the paper that they were to be wed. Six months later, Bonnie was born.”
“You think he raped her, got her with child, and then forced her into marrying him? That might have worked some years ago, but not now.” Mason looked at Palmer when he laughed nervously. “Please tell me that I’m wrong about this.”
“You’re not. And she might not have married him had her father not been ill at the time. His death happened a few months after they said their vows. We think he might have been hurting her father, and that might be the reason that he got her to say yes. I guess we won’t know for sure until she tells us.” Susie didn’t even look at them as Mason continued. She knew, but it wasn’t her story to tell.
“So we’re here to bring her to safety, not hire her.” Mason told Palmer that they were going to hire her, had already as far as he was concerned. “Then I don’t understand. Why all this cloak and dagger stuff? I really like this woman, but why do we need to know about her personal life like this?”
“She’s going to be living on one of the ranches and we don’t want anyone hurt. We have to consider what sort of baggage she’ll be bringing with her in the form of that ex of hers.” Gerard continued as Palmer agreed with him. “And if she’s not happy, the horses and the cattle will know it. We can’t have her stressed out when the horses have enough of that on their own.”
As they were landing, she sat next to Gerard again. Susie had only touched the woman once, but it was enough to bring her to tears over what she was going through. Not only was the woman in desperate need of a break, but she was on the verge of losing even her home if her ex had anything to do with it. Nash was going to be a problem for them all.
The hotel was nice, and she wished that Darin had been able to come with them. He’d been hitting all the B&B’s around the country to find out what he wanted in theirs. The construction was nearly finished on the building, and the decorators had already finished up on three of the floors. In about a month, less she thought, they’d have all the rooms ready and Darin would have Douglas House up and running.
The restaurant, too, was nearly complete, and the new chef had been thrilled to death to take over the lower level for his own. Susie was still trying to keep herself from freaking out every time a bill came in, and finally, Gerard had told her not to open them anymore. It was expensive to start from scratch, and he assured her that they would be fine.
The business was going much better than they’d ever hoped it would, too. They were selling horses almost faster than she could train them. Several ranches had made the trip to their ranch to not only buy, but to place an order for other horses as well. Their monthly income was by far more than most people made in a lifetime.
They had expenses too; huge straw and hay bills, vet bills in the five figures weekly. Grain and feed was being delivered daily, and they still had to supplement that with an extra truck once in a while. But she was doing something that she loved, and they were doing well with it.
As soon as they were settled in their room, she called Darin to let him know about the room, even sent him a few pictures. Calling the doctor to ask her where they could meet, Susie was surprised when the little girl answered the phone. After telling her who she was and why she was calling, Bonnie started to cry harder. The noise in the background had her reaching for the others as the little girl sobbed in the phone.
“My daddy is here now, and he said that we weren’t going anywhere. I don’t know how he figured it out, but he’s really mad at us.” Bonnie cried harder when something sounded like it broke behind her. “Can you please come here and get us? Hurry, please? I don’t want him here.”
“They’re coming. Where are you? Can you see them?” She told her that her mommy had told her to hide. “Good girl. You stay on the phone with me, and my family will take care that he goes home. Then you’re going to come here with us and we’re going to go to my house. We have a lot of ponies, and they’re excited about you coming out.”
Susie thought it important to keep the child on the line. She was afraid, and so was Susie. When another crash sounded very close to the phone, Susie brought up the trip again.
“Mommy said that we’re going to fly away if we can.” Susie told her that would be wonderful. “And that I can see the cows and horses that she’s gonna take care of. If you hire her.”
“She’s already hired.” There was a scream and then a man yelling for the little girl. “Don’t go to him, Bonnie. Your mommy won’t like it if he takes you from her.”
Bonnie screamed, and the line went dead. Before she could reach for Gerard and the others, Gerard said they were there, and for her to call the police. She picked up the phone again with shaking hands and dialed the number. They said that they were on their way and that someone had already called them.
“There’s a little girl in the house. She’s ten and terrified. I think someone is trying to hurt her.” The dispatcher told her that they were on the way, and would be there soon. “I hope so.”
Susie was just going to go to them when she heard from Mason. He used the phone to contact her, and that terrified her more than she could have thought. When he spoke, his voice was calm and even, but she knew that he was beyond pissed off.
“I’d like for you to meet us at the hospital. The bastard has…we’re still trying to find the little girl, but the woman is beaten to shit.” Susie said she was leaving now. “Have our things packed up by the staff, and everything taken to the airport. We’re not hanging around to see if he comes back to finish the job.”
“How bad is she?” Mason said that the medics were there now, but she was talking to them. “She’s gonna be worried about the bill. Tell her that she’s insured as of three days ago when we hired her. And have the bills sent to our house.”
“I’ll take care of it.” She thanked Mason and asked to speak to Gerard. “He’s talking with the police, honey. As soon as he’s done…he’s fine, but he got hurt too.”
She felt her legs shake, then she had to sit down. As she slid to the floor, she felt his touch, Gerard’s touch, and his love as it surrounded her. Susie knew that Mason was still speaking to her, but the only person she cared about right now was the one in her heart and head.
I’m fine. It’s a good thing that he hit me. She asked him how. Because he assaulted me, and even if our vet doesn’t press charges, I’m going to. This way he’ll be in jail still by the time we land at home.
So you’re telling me you took one for the team? He didn’t say anything. How badly are you hurt? And so you know, I’m going to do ten times worse when I see you.
Only a black eye and maybe a broken nose. She growled low at him. If you want, I’ll let you beat me a little before I take you hard on the floor. After, of course, I eat you.
I dislike you very much right now. He laughed. Come here to me, Gerard. I need to see you for myself.
I love you as well. When we’re done here. Meet us at the plane. We’re out of here. She felt his anger. Sharp enough that she could almost taste it. We have her. She came out when her mom told her to. The little girl has been hurt too. I’m going to kill this bastard.