Category Archives: Dark Fantasy

Dalton: The McCade Dragon Release Day

Dr. Gabriela Nola, Gabe to everyone, hadn’t been in town long. Kenton McCade was looking for a partner in his practice, and she was hoping to fill the spot. A nice small town beat the last hospital job she’d just recently quit–90 hours a week with a shorthanded staff. She just wanted normal, and the voice in her head to stop already about opening the box and wearing the item inside. 

Dalton McCade knew when he heard the dragon’s voice that he was next on the list, and ready or not his mate was coming. According to the dragon, she was already here and had refused to put the combs in her hair.

But as always, danger followed the jewelry, and Gabe was no exception. The mysterious stranger would have all the pieces for his own collection, and didn’t care who he had to kill to get them.
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Emma Gentry felt like she was losing her mind. From the time she had picked up the pretty ring to examine it, she’d been hearing a voice in her head. When she ran from the demolished building, she’d slipped the ring on her finger so that she wouldn’t drop it, now she couldn’t get it off. She was in dire need of medical attention, but the voice wouldn’t let her stop to get help. There were others looking for the ring and would kill her for it. Emma was on the run.

Kenton McCade was the doctor in the family. When found Emma in his office treating a badly infected wound on her leg, he had to help her. The infection had spread and she was near death.

Kenton and his brothers were dragon shifters born without the ability to shift into their other half. The magic, it seemed, lay dormant in a sleeping dragon that was tied to six pieces of jewelry. When the ring found its way to Emma, her touch had woken the sleeping beast. When Emma touched Kenton’s sigil on his chest, he shifted to his beast for the first time. But the beast from the ring would not be complete until all the jewelry found its way to their rightful dragons…. 

Emma was still on the run…they need her to survive…but Emma trusted no one… 

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Jasmine Tyler was wishing she had never found those earrings in that box of junk she bought at auction. They were so pretty, and the dragons had so much detail, that she simply had to try them on. That was the biggest mistake she’d ever made. Once they were on they weren’t coming off. And those men in the black SUVs meant business. She’d hand the earrings over or they’d kill her. They’d more than likely kill her anyway even if she could get the damn things off. Now she was on the run with her young son, Gavin, and her ailing granny. A voice in her head that started when she put the earrings on was directing her to find the McCades.

The dragon had told Kenton and Jorden McCade that another piece of jewelry had been activated, and the boy that had just come into Jorden’s studio was her son. The dragon didn’t know which brother she was mated to, but she had sent the boy and her granny ahead to keep them safe. Now, another attempt had been made on her life and she was in a hospital an hour away.

The cop at the scene had been in on it, and Jasmine found herself in a pickle. She’d been drugged and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it. Her body hit the floor by her hospital bed and she was looking into the lifeless eyes of her nurse.

As soon as Jorden scooped Jasmine up off the floor and her earring touched his skin, he knew that this woman was his. The earring left a brand, marking them both. He couldn’t be happier about finding her, now to convince her to stay was going to be the problem….


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Harper Bailey was in way over her head, and the trouble just seemed to keep coming. Her brother-in-law had frozen her personal accounts, and now she was on the run because she wouldn’t do as she was “told.” She had been told to abort the baby. Harper hadn’t wanted the baby she had been forced to carry in the first place, but now that she’d felt life, she would protect the child with hers. 

Grady McCade knew that his mate had been found when she touched the piece of jewelry. The dragon had told him that if he didn’t hurry to her side, she would be found by the dragon slayers and her life could be ended as well as the life of the babe that she carried. 

With Grady and Harper together, the dragon grows stronger, and the slayers pick up the pace in their quest for all the pieces of jewelry. Can the McCades stop them before they strike again? Are any of them safe? Find out in The McCade Dragon—Grady

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There were no words that he could say that would make this any different. Dalton watched as the casket, a beautiful bright wood, was lowered into the cold earth. His friend, mentor, and sounding board had died eight days ago. Howard Short simply went to sleep one night and didn’t wake. And it broke Dalton’s heart. “Dalton?” He looked at Melinda, Howard’s wife, when she said his name. “Will you say a few words, please? My brother-in-law just can’t. He’s devastated, as we all are.” “Yes, of course.” He stood up and made his way to the podium. So many people were here today, paying tribute to a wonderful man. Dalton thought of his friend and what he could say about him. Smiling, he thought of something that Howard would have gotten a kick out of. “Howard could be a jackass when he wanted.” Everyone laughed, just as he’d hoped, even Melinda. He continued speaking about Howard as if he’d just stepped out for a cold beer.  “When we were on a stakeout or even out fishing, he’d tell me of the time he was in the academy. Of course, I didn’t believe half the crap he told me. But this one story, I think, sums him up better than anything I could say about him.” Dalton looked at the casket, then at the people there. “He’d been in the dorm for about two weeks, he’d told me. It wasn’t going as well as he’d hoped. I think he said that of the three classes he was in, he was flunking out of three of them.” Another round of laughter. “Back then, if you weren’t cutting it, Howard told me that they’d come to see you, help you pack up your things, and send you on your way. He wasn’t ready to give up, he told me, and he didn’t think that they should be just yet either. “As he was debating on whether or not to open the door when his time came, he had an idea. Howard told me it wasn’t a good idea, but he’d been down and was sure under other circumstances, he might not have done what he did next. He opened the door and told the men standing there that Howard Short had left.  “Left, they asked him, and Howard said he told him that the old Howard had decided that he wasn’t smart enough for this shit and that he wanted him, the new Howard, to try his hand at it. They asked him if he was new or old. Howard assured him that he was the new one.” Dalton thought of the man that he’d become that day. “The new Howard was given a chance. He was either going to straighten up his act, they told him, or new or not, he was going home. Howard assured them that he’d be a better man and the best cop they’d ever had graduate out of that place.” Dalton nodded as he continued the story told to him so many times, he felt as if he had been there with the man. “He not only became the best cop they’d ever had come from that place, but he continued to be the best person who ever lived. Howard ran a tight but friendly ship, he took care of his men when they needed a helping hand, and he was there for them, even when they didn’t want him to be, when things were going to shit. Howard was, and will forever be, the best friend I’ve ever had.”
After he was finished, he stood still as the guns were drawn for the salute and fired. Dalton cried then, his pain of loss too much for him to hold in any longer. And when the service was over, he made his way to Melinda again and hugged her. She too had become a very important part of his life over the years. “You’ll come to visit me, won’t you?” He told her he would. She was leaving today, to live with her son in another state. “He loved you so much, Dalton. Like his own son.” “I loved him as well. He’ll be sorely missed.”  She nodded and left him there. Dalton could have gone to stand with his family, but decided that he was fine where he was. He watched as the dirt was filled into the hole much like the one in his heart. But his would never be filled. Going to the after reception at the newly remodeled homeless shelter, he didn’t speak to many people. There was food, he supposed, that he could have eaten, but like his heart, his belly wasn’t ready for anything right at the moment. Instead he just found a dark corner and sat in it until he felt it was a good time for him to go home. My lord. He wanted to sob. Dalton didn’t want to answer who he thought was talking to him. It could only mean one thing, and he didn’t want it. Not today, perhaps not ever. My lord, your mate is coming. “Tell her that I’ve got a lot going on at the moment and I’d prefer that she didn’t.” Caelin said nothing. “Where is she and what does she have?” The hair combs, my lord. And I don’t think it’s possible for her not to come. She is on her way now. But I must tell you that she hasn’t put the jewelry to her flesh. I’m not at all sure why just yet, but she is aware of me and is coming this way. He asked what the combs did for the wearer. She will have blood that will heal all that she touches, her heart will be stronger still than it was before. Her name is— “No, don’t tell me. I mean, I know that I’ll have to know sooner or later, but for now I’d like to just not know.” Caelin told him he could do that for him. “Has she been hurt in any way? Are there beings even now trying to kill her?” Nay, she is well. Healthy, if not a bit over worked. I think she will be more inclined to not believe the story as to why she needs to come here than even Emma was. And she is not a pushover. He asked him how he knew that. Whilst I was speaking with her, to see if she was injured or harmed in any way, I felt her anger. Before I could comment on it, or even ask her what happened, she had an argument with her boss that…I think she said it curled his toes back. Dalton laughed. “She’s a hellion, then. Good, she’ll need to be to fit in with this group. I don’t suppose you know just when she’ll arrive, do you? I mean, I have a lot of things going on at the moment.” She has arrived. This morning, as a matter of fact. But as I have said, she is not wearing the jewels. You will need to have her put them to her in order for me to help her should she need me. Dalton figured it would be something like that. She has asked to join your brother Kenton in his practice. She is not yet aware that she is with the very people that are to help her. I don’t believe he has given her an answer as yet. “She’s a nurse then?” Caelin told him she was a doctor. “A doctor? Well that’s great, don’t you think? Once I’m out of work, she can support me.”
You are without a job, sir? He told him that he might well be. I don’t understand. I thought you enjoyed being a good cop. Whatever has…? Is it the death of your captain?  “He was my sergeant, but yes, because of him passing away, I don’t think my heart will be in this anymore. I might…never mind. If she can support me, I think I might just make furniture in my garage until I turn up dead one morning. Or I’ll run off and never return.”  Dalton realized then that she was out of work too. They were starting off great, he thought. Two unemployed people with a huge house, no car, and nothing to show for their hard work. When Vance sat down beside him, he asked him when he’d gotten in. “Two days ago. I’ve been working on some things.” Dalton nodded. “Rumor has it you’re the next big cheese around here. You gonna be sheriff now, Dalt?” Vance had been the only person who called him that. It mattered little to him that Dalton had asked him not to call him Dalt…he had continued over the years.  Dalton asked him where he’d heard that rumor. “Because that’s all it is, is a rumor. I’m not going to take the job. In fact, I was seriously thinking of quitting altogether.” Vance told him that he’d not enjoy retirement any more than he would. “Caelin just told me that my mate is here in town.” “Really? I’m assuming that it’s the pretty little doctor at the B&B then?” Dalton didn’t want to ask about her, but he found that he wanted to know. “Yes, she is pretty. Tall…not quite as tall as you, but close. Blonde hair that I assume is long. Dark eyes. I’ve not seen them as yet close up, but I’d say they were blue, like midnight blue.” “You know a great deal about my mate, Vance. What have you been doing, spying on her?” He nodded. “Whatever for? You think she’s some sort of murderer or something? It wouldn’t surprise me. Not at this point.” “No, but she has baggage.” Dalton just stared at him. “Her job, where she worked before, they really have a hard-on for her to come back to work for them. I don’t believe they have it in their head to kidnap her or such, but they have been trying to find her.”  “What did she do? I mean, she didn’t just leave them high and dry, did she?” He said that she’d given her notice, but that they’d not looked for a replacement thinking they could change her mind. “I see. Well, not really. Was she that good or did they take advantage of her?” “Both, I think. She is highly regarded as a physician. Much like Kenton is in his profession. She does have some surgical abilities, and from what I’ve heard, she can also put in stitches better than anyone around. These are things that patients have said about her.” Dalton asked him again why he was asking. “To be honest with you, had you not told me she was your mate, I was going to try and set her up with Lewis. He’s been…distracted lately.” That was an understatement. He was working hard at getting a restaurant opened or something. He was very secretive about it, but that’s what Dalton thought he was doing. Not that he didn’t have the funds to do it, but he had been getting deliveries out the ass for the last few days. Emma had offered to lend him what he needed in the way of funds—so had he and Kenton—but Lewis was determined to do this on his own,
whatever that might be. He did wonder if he could go work for him for a bit, just to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. “I guess I should just wait for her then. I mean, I don’t want to seem like that odd stalker guy.” Vance said he had no idea, but thought that was a smart move. He knew less about women than Dalton did, apparently. “Whatever you do, I’m sure that it’ll be either wrong or not enough. I know nothing at all about women.” Dalton looked at his brother. He was clean but his pants were army issue, his shirt a dark tee, and his boots—ass kickers, he called them—had seen better days. Vance kept his hair military short and neat, and he seldom had a beard. Dalton asked him why he didn’t wear…well, regular people clothing. “I wear what I want, when I want.” Dalton laughed. “Look, whether you go and see her or not, you should know that she’s polite, generous with her time, and like you, she wears what she does right out there for everyone to see.” He asked him what that meant. “You are a cop, Dalt. Even a blind man could tell that. And they’d not even have to see the badge. Same with her. She’s a doctor, a good one, and people know that when they first see her.” Dalton sat there long after Vance left, trying to figure out what to do. He could have, he supposed, just walked over to meet her, but he had a feeling that would have been a mistake. He was sure that he could talk to Kenton too, but decided that he’d get enough grief from him without adding to it. Instead, he went to his truck and drove home. Dalton was going to enjoy the next few days he had off, and not worry about mates, dragons, or men looking for jewelry. ~~~ Gabe walked to the diner. She’d come to love the little place, what with the strange way they served their meals and the nice people who worked in and frequented the place. As she made her way inside, she knew which seat to sit in, which to avoid. When she sat in the booth with the unforgiving spring, she moved to the window, just so she’d not be sore when the sucker pinched her. Milly came to take her order. “Breakfast?” Nodding, she held the cup as the hot water was poured into it, knowing that the little basket of tea bags would follow soon. “Got us some specials today. Cook is feeling a little good. He’s got himself a little boy now, and just don’t know what to do with himself.” “Anything that I might wish to try?” Milly asked her how brave she was feeling. “Not too bad. Do I need to be?” “Nah, you can handle it. He’s got some sausage patty sammiches, and he made up some kind of casserole with last night’s taters. Got some cheese and stuff in it too. I liked it with a little gravy on it.” Gabe wondered how much this woman considered a little. She had a heavy hand when it came to about anything. And the funny part of that was, she was as thin as a rail and looked to be fairly healthy, too. “I’ll bring you a plate. I thought about calling it the blue plate, but we don’t have any so that won’t work.” Milly left her a second time after dropping off the basket with an assortment of teas in it. Gabe enjoyed her tea as she waited on her food, and thought about what her line up was for the rest of the day. Today she had an interview with Kenton McCade, and
hopefully the house that she’d been looking at was ready to be rented. Things were going quite nicely for a change, and she was as rested and as happy as she’d ever been. “Oh lordy.” Gabe looked up when she heard the shout from the kitchen, then Milly saying “Oh lordy” over and over. Getting up, she ticked off all the things that could go wrong in a kitchen, and was afraid that Milly had been hurt badly. As soon as she entered, she put her fingers in her mouth and let go of a shrill but effective whistle to shut the few people in the room up. A dishwasher was wearing the nastiest apron she’d ever seen and dark gloves on his hands. Milly was standing there wringing her hands. A man, who she assumed was the cook, was lying on the floor with a large knife sticking out of his belly, his hands covered in his own blood and his eyes wide with terror. Gabe let her mind take over on what to do. “Milly, call the police and have them send an ambulance.” She’d learned the first day that there was no one manning the nine-one-one service just yet. “Then I want you to get everyone out of here while I fix this.” “The knife, it just slipped up.” Gabe nodded and told her she had it. “He’s surely gonna bleed to death, and Kenton, he won’t make it in time.” “I’m a doctor as well. I’ve got this. Just do what I told you.” She made her way to Cook. If he had a name, she’d never heard it. “I’m Gabe. If you’ll allow me, I’ll see if I can help you.” “I think I’m a goner. The knife, it’s stainless steel but it’s in me.” She told him as long as she was there, he wasn’t a goner. “I wasn’t paying no attention is what I was doing. Thinking of my boy and what we was gonna do when he was a mite bigger. Now I won’t see him.” He was getting weaker; the arm that was holding him up slipped out from under him and he fell back to the floor. Gabe got her first look at the wound. He’d cut his belly to his intestine, the knife still inside of him.  Turning to the person who’d come in behind her when she’d entered, she told him to get some towels. When he didn’t move, just stared at Cook with his mouth open, she tossed the pan at him that had been on the floor. That got him looking at her. “Towels. Get me as many as you can carry. And water.” He moved, and it was then that she realized he was just a kid. When he returned, a gallon of water in one hand and several towels in the other, she told him to go to the dining area.  “I can help.” Gabe wasn’t sure, the kid was green now. “My name is Gavin, and I can help you. Just tell me what to do, I’m okay now.” “We have to close this. Otherwise he’s going to bleed out. But I have to make sure that he didn’t open his bowel. Can you handle that?” He said that he’d try. “Good. When I tell you something, I want you to do it. And remember what I tell you. It will save his life.” They worked for ten minutes on checking Cook’s belly. He’d nicked his lower bowel, she thought, but wasn’t sure that removing the knife wouldn’t do more damage. She told Gavin that.
“Uncle Kenton is on his way. He said for you to do what you needed to do and he’d assist when he gets here.” She wasn’t sure how that conversation had happened but said nothing to the young man. “I told him what I could.” “You can…. You’re not human.” He told her he was but Kenton wasn’t. “I see. Right now I have more important things to do than to figure out what he might be. This is what we need to do. Christ, there is never a vampire around when you need one.”  The laughter made her smile. It was one thing to scare the kid to death over something like this, but making him see humor wouldn’t give him nightmares too. As she moved the towels around the blade, all she could think about was that he might be right…Cook might die. When Kenton showed up, his black bag in hand, he asked her what she needed. It both surprised and impressed her that he didn’t just come in and take over. For the next twenty minutes, he handed her what she wanted and helped her when necessary. The impromptu surgery room wasn’t the best, but it was going to be good enough to save this man’s life. The medics, a couple of young men who she assumed were friends of Kenton, stayed back until they were ready to transport him. It wasn’t long after Kenton showed up that they were able to say that they’d done the best that they could for the man. The rest was going to be up to the surgeon.  Gabe rode in the ambulance, Kenton beside her. The medic rode in front with the driver, so in the event that they needed to, they’d have room to work. As they worked together, she and Kenton, Cook came around once to tell Kenton to watch over his son for him. “You’re going to make it, Gerald.” She nearly asked who that was when the cook nodded. “The good doctor here, she got you all put back together, and once we get you to the hospital, she’s going to remove that knife you got stuck in you and you’ll be as good as new. But you have to believe us, Gerald. You know as well as I do that if you give up on her, Sandra is going to kick my ass. You hear me?” “Yes, she’s a mite mean when she wants to be.” Gerald moved in and out of consciousness and talked to them both when he was awake. “Had I been able to, I’d of just shifted, but not with a knife in my gullet.” It had never occurred to her that the man wasn’t human. Not that it mattered, but she might have removed the knife and let him shift. Kenton spoke to her in low tones as Gerald was out again. “Had you removed the blade from him in the kitchen, he would have been too weak to shift and he would have died. You did right by waiting.” She told him what she’d been thinking. “I could see that on your face. Don’t second guess yourself when you work for me. If you do, then you’ll fuck up.” “Am I? Going to work for you, I mean?” He just grinned. It made him look more handsome, and she was pretty sure that he used that a lot to his advantage. “I’m having troubles from the hospital where I came from. They won’t release my records.” “I don’t need them. As far as I’m concerned, you proved yourself to be a worthy partner.” She nodded and looked down at Gerald. “You said that he could have died had I removed the knife. I don’t understand a great deal about shifters.”
“You’ll learn. Gerald is a wolf. There is a lot of pack around the area. Nearly seven hundred now. The people who own the B&B where you’re staying, they’re bears. Milly is human, but she’s married to a cat.” She asked him what his family was. “My brother is a cop. He’ll be meeting us at the hospital. He has to fill out a report for insurance purposes. Milly owns the place, and while she’d never tell anyone this, she’s fallen on some hard times of late and can’t afford this hit to her bank account.” “She needs to fix up the place. Expand a little, and for the love of all that is holy, get some better seating.” Gabe didn’t point out that he’d not answered her as to what he was. She figured that he either didn’t want her to know, or it was so bad that he didn’t want to share. “I’m looking for a house. One that is ready to move into. I don’t want to have to fix something up.” “We have a few. We’re here.” Just as he said that, the ambulance made a hard stop. Had she not been holding on, she would have fallen out of the door when it opened. The man standing there in a police officer’s shirt and jeans did not look happy. “Dalton, this is my new partner, Gabriela Nola. Gabe, this is Dalton McCade. We’re dragons.” She was halfway out of the back of the ambulance when Kenton spoke. Gabe felt her breath swoosh out of her and her heart simply stop beating. She knew they were speaking, arguing really, but nothing was getting through. Not air, not sound, not even blood was running in her body. Then the pain, like someone had slapped her, registered a split second before the world around her just disappeared.

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.

 

LIAM HARRISON AMBUSH Release Day & Giveaway

Emma Hudson wanted to get this over with. Her father had left her in a jam, and the sooner she dropped off his duplicate trucker log books to the Harrisons, the sooner she could get back to work and try to clear her name. Trucking was all she knew, and she was tired of it.

Liam Harrison watched the pretty little thing climb into her truck to get the books, but when she slipped and fell back into his arms with a life-threatening cut on her arm, he knew two things: she was his mate, and she would die if he didn’t convert her right now.

And when a string of rest stop murders brings an old vampire friend back into the family’s fold, he informs them Emma was next. It was time to park the truck.

They all knew that Emma’s father would come sniffing around to try to swindle her out of more money, it was just a matter of time. But how far would he go to get what he wanted?

Amazon UK amzn.to/2rfPuHD
Riordan Harrison can’t believe it. Everyone is pissed at him and he doesn’t see what the fuss is all about. All he did was tell the woman that she was his mate. He couldn’t help it that his tiger caused him to pin the woman to the counter and she proceeded to throw him to the ground and cover him with sticky pastries. Now, no one will talk to him, including his secretary. He hasn’t claimed the woman yet, and it is all seeming like it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Storm Browning, Stormy to her friends, is a wounded war hero. She’s done her duty and just wants to live a quiet life―run her little bakery without any hitches. The majority of the men she commanded in the war had been shifters so she wasn’t surprised when the big oaf sniffed her out claiming that she was his mate. But that doesn’t mean she has to agree with it. What else could she do? He had to go. He’d hightail it and run anyway when he saw her scars―they all did. She couldn’t emotionally handle that, not again at any rate.

But if Riordan is going to get back on everyone’s good side, he’ll have to make peace with the woman. Even though he thinks he’s innocent, he’ll go for a visit and maybe apologize, but after he gets there things go from bad to worse. Stormy is targeted for assassination and he’s in the line of fire….
Cormac Harrison, Mac to his family and friends, has a good thing going. He has a brand new home, a successful business, and is truly happy with the direction his life is heading. Andi Collins can’t seem to catch a break. The last time she’d encountered her father, she’d ended up in the hospital. Now, Stormy Harrison, is giving her a break and helping her get back on her feet. So when this big handsome man tells her that she’s his mate she’s scared to death. Mate. She’d heard the term before. And what it meant. She would belong to him. Not just him, but whoever he wanted to sell her to. Andi reached for the door handle, thinking that rolling from a moving car would be better than being passed around like a napkin at a banquet hall. “Don’t do that.” He reached for her hand just as she touched the handle. “Please, just listen to me and I’ll explain.” “I don’t need you to explain. I know what mate means. My friends at school, they told me what happens when you become a mate to men. And what they didn’t tell me, my father and aunt explained the rest. Mates use you, and then when they’ve had enough, they pass you around to all the other men they know. I won’t have it.” The car suddenly stopped. Her seatbelt cut into her neck, and she nearly hit her head on the dash it stopped so abruptly.
Nikki Neal was damn good at her job. As an undercover cop, she had just about enough information to put the local crime boss away, but she needed more to make it stick. But when someone blew her cover, Nikki found herself on the wrong end of several guns.

Aedan Harrison was on the fast track to winning the Governor’s seat for the state of Ohio. He had his whole life, or at least his immediate future, planned out. What he didn’t need was a mate he hadn’t made plans for throwing a monkey wrench into the mix. 

The last thing Nikki needed was an overbearing jackass ordering her about, and telling her how much he didn’t need her in his life right now. Well, she didn’t need him either. She had work to do and needed to get herself and her grandda to safety.

It didn’t take long for Aedan’s family to convince him in the error of his ways, and when he saw what he’d done he felt like an ass. All he wanted to do was make it right, but could he grovel enough for her to accept him?
Brooke Rickson had been working the pottery wheel and pulling clay with her great-grandfather almost as long as she could remember. Her work was famous even though no one really knew who she was. She preferred it that way and had become a recluse since her great-grandfather died. He had left her everything.

Mac Harrison loved rare pottery, and when he landed two tickets to the big art show he was thrilled. He could get his prized Rickson pottery piece appraised and get to see new work at the same time. He brought his brother, Darcy, along for the ride.

When Darcy caught Brooke’s scent, he knew he’d found his mate. Unfortunately, the beautiful recluse made no bones about telling him that she was alone and liked it that way, and that no man was barging in and taking over her orderly life. She was living her life just the way she wanted it and that didn’t include taking orders from a man—any man. He could get that thought right out of his head….


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Liam loved the house. He walked through it once more, just to be sure that he wasn’t feeling something that wasn’t there. Nope, he thought to himself, he loved this place. Trying hard not to show how much he did, he walked around the big empty living room once more to calm himself and his inner cat. There wasn’t any point in giving away his happiness before making an offer. “This room alone is nearly as big as the house that I live in.” The realtor smiled at him. “What do you think, Mr. Harrison…is this a place you can put down roots?” “I’m not sure.” He thought that he sounded like he was bored and had to take a deep breath before continuing. “The kitchen needs to be redone. I mean, from the studs. There are going to be issues with the furnace and with the air conditioning as well before too much longer. Also, I think I saw rat droppings in the garage.” Which he knew wouldn’t be a problem once he moved in. He’d bet by now, there wasn’t one within ten miles of the place. Him being a tiger tended to take care of that sort of thing. He asked her what the selling price was again, knowing full well what it was. “The house hasn’t been lived in for about four months…I believe that’s the time frame. And before that, I do believe that they had the place exterminated. If you’re seeing droppings, I’m not sure where they came from. But the bank is very motivated to sell. They’re asking four hundred, but I think I can get them to go a little lower, but not too much. I do know that the house needs work. Like I said, it’s been empty for a few months while things were settled.” Liam nodded. He knew just exactly why it had been sitting, and that it had been a good deal longer than a few months. “I can go in at a lower price, but I believe they have multiple offers so I’d not expect too much.” “All right then. Thank you for your time.” She took his hand when it was offered and Liam made his way to the door.  “Wait. I don’t understand. Did you want me to make an offer?” He told her no. “No? I thought you were interested in this house.” “I am, but not at four hundred thousand dollars. As I said, it needs a great deal of work. And there are no other offers on the table, I know that as well as you do. I also did my research on this place, and I know the real reason that it’s sat here for the last seventeen years. The previous owner had paid up the taxes for the last fifteen years and there wasn’t anything you could do about it until recently. Four hundred thousand is well over fair market, and double what the house was selling for last year when your firm took over for the bank in trying to sell it.” He moved toward the door again and turned as he opened the door. “I’ll just wait and get it from the bank next month when it goes up for auction. Thanks anyway.” Liam was out the door before she could find her tongue. But that didn’t stop her from following him and yelling out a lower price. He thought that three hundred was too much as well, and got into his truck and left. He wanted the house, but he wanted it on his terms.
Are you done with the house? He told Storm that he was. Good. I think you should stop by our house. There is a large vehicle, and that’s an understatement, in the drive, and the person in it is asking for you. Not nicely, I might add. Hudson is her name. Why is she…? You know what, I don’t care. She’s the woman that I was telling you about on the deal with Whites. She said she had some information on her father maybe picking up the loads that they’re missing. Any luck finding Mr. Hudson, by the way? Storm told him she was still looking. He really fucked her over. Not the only one either, from what I’ve been able to find out. But he did royally fuck her over with her job. She had a good rep, as you said, and he’s really taken her for a ride. Lost her house, car, as well as her savings trying to keep herself out of jail. I’d like to find this fucker myself. Liam said that he would as well. She’s currently at her truck, walking around it. I don’t know why, but I kind of think that she’s had enough of the open road for a while. She looks beaten. Liam made a left to go to his brother’s home, and smiled when he thought of the temper of the woman, Hudson. When he’d spoken to her last night—well, earlier that morning—he’d been sleep confused, but hearing her voice and what she had to say had him getting up and going back to his computer. He was going to find her father if he had to do it on his own. The rig was parked in the long drive to his brother’s house. The woman was circling the back end, the place where the big trailer was attached. He watched her for several minutes as she moved around it like a little monkey, checking the lines and lights as she went. When she jumped down, she stared at him as he did her. Christ, she was beautiful. “Liam?” He nodded at her question. “I was close enough to bring them to you, and I’m not so trusting of the postal service on something like this. I need them back, so you know. I might need them should Daddy dearest come back for some more of my ass.” “He won’t.” Liam had no idea why he said that. He didn’t know either of them. But as she made her way to the front of her truck and climbed in, he made his way there, with Riordan and Storm coming with him. “She’s got his log books. But she needs them back.” “She should put them in a safe. If he knows she has them, he’ll come for them.” Liam wasn’t sure he’d not already tried and told Riordan that. “Watch her.” Hudson came tumbling back and he leapt to catch her. He had no idea what had taken her down, but as he caught her in his arms, two things occurred to him. One, she was bleeding, and the second thing was that she was his mate. “Christ, that fucking hurt.” He held her for as long as she allowed him to, then sat her down on her feet. “I’ve been meaning to have that fixed. Fuck, that hurt.” “Let me see. I’ve called Ennis, he’s on his way.” Liam wasn’t a doctor, but he knew this wound looked bad. Not just bad, but there was a lot of blood streaming from it. Liam wanted to lick it, to taste her, but he was afraid to. She looked like she could take him on and come out on top. “It’s going to need some stitches, as well as cleaned up. When was your last tetanus shot?” “Last year. I cut myself on the same fucking place on my other hand. Stupid of me for not getting it fixed then.” He looked at her wrist and saw the long scar. It went from her elbow to her palm. This one wasn’t quite that long, but it was deep. “I don’t feel so well.”
“You’re cut deep. I have to heal you.” He heard Riordan caution him, but he was losing her and had to do something. As soon as she fainted, he shifted. The roaring in his head was making him sick. They were losing their mate and neither of them were happy about it. His cat whimpered but knew what to do. As soon as he licked the wound closed, tasting her blood as he did so, he seemed to realize at the same moment that she was too weak, that they’d waited too long. Growling at the couple that were too close to them, his cat bit deeply into her belly, tearing it open as he did so.  “Hurry, Liam. You’re going to lose her if you don’t.” He knew that and snarled at Storm, and she laughed. “Just trying to help. I’m assuming that she’s your mate.” Yes. And I don’t want to hear you making fun of me just yet. He was pissy and wasn’t sure why, but he bit into her leg. Holding his mouth deep in the wound, he looked up at his brother. Riordan was afraid for him, and Liam didn’t feel any better about this. I have a feeling she’s not going to be thrilled when she wakes and finds out what I’ve done. “More than likely not. But it was that or she was dead. I can hear her heart picking up, can you?” He told him that he could. “Just a few more minutes now and you should be able to release her. I’ll take her inside and put her in the bedroom that you use when here.” Thank you. Riordan nodded and called to someone on the porch to bring out some blankets. Riordan, she’s got some pretty horrific memories in here. Mostly about her father. He took her for everything. And left her with living in this truck. “I know. I read the report Stormy found. When you release her, go in the house and shower and change. Once you are settled, I’ll bring you what we’ve been able to find out. Also, Marcy Cochran called about the house. She wants you to make a reasonable offer.” Liam let the young woman go, but he wasn’t ready to leave her yet. Her heartrate had picked up and he could see the wound at her wrist was nearly healed, as were the ones he’d given her. It had been a big chance, doing this with her blood flowing so quickly, but he couldn’t let her die no matter what kind of mood she was going to be in when she found out.  Riordan picked her up and carried her into the house, and he followed. When she was on the bed, her skin warmer now that she was a cat, he left her to Stormy, who said she’d clean her up for him.  Going into the bathroom, he looked in the mirror after becoming a man again and stared at the person there. He had a mate. And there was a very good chance that she was going to kill him when she found out. Smiling, Liam reached into the stall and turned the water on. Christ, he was way too happy, he thought, for someone that had just converted a person without their knowledge.  By the time he was dressed and sitting in the chair by her, he’d figured out a few things. She wasn’t happy with what she did as a driver, mostly because she had no relief from it. Also, her father had hurt more than her finances when he ran off. She hadn’t trusted him, not entirely, but the fact that he’d taken advantage of her so profoundly had nearly taken her under.  He looked up when Stormy came in the room with a file.
“The courts went by the books on this. There is no fault according to them. She had to sell her house as well as her car, which wasn’t a new one but all she had, when the trucking dealership wanted all their money. The truck is still missing, it appears.” He asked if her father had it. “I’m thinking not. I don’t know why, but I think he sold it for the money, and someone else is driving it that knows about trackers and such. Might be wrong, but I think that’s it. We have the LoJack information, and since we can’t find it that way, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s been taken out. Also, you know it is against the law.”  If she thought that, then it was more than likely true. “I told Ennis not to worry about rushing now. I told him what happened, but not that she is my mate.” “He knows. So do your parents.” He asked her how that had happened. “Riordan was covered in blood when they showed up, Hudson’s blood, and your mom sort of freaked out. He had to tell them.” “I guess. I’m trying to figure out what to tell her when she wakes up.” The woman on the bed stirred and he watched, sure that she was going to wake a great deal sooner than anyone would have expected. “I have to help her out. Of all of this.” “Liam, can I ask you a personal question?” He just looked at her. “Okay, some of it I know. Like where you have some of your money invested. How much the books say you’re worth. But what is it you do? I mean, I know you work for the family business when they need you, but that can’t be all that you do, is it?” “I’m a businessman.” She snorted at him. “Okay, I’m a very good businessman. I invest low and sell high. For everything. I’m good at bargaining on things as well. Like the house. I’m going to get it, but not at the asking price. Then, if Emma doesn’t care for it, I’ll sell it for a great deal more than I purchased it for.” “Why would me liking your house have anything to do with whether or not you sell it?” He grinned and said hi to her. “It’s Hudson. No one calls me by my first name.” She lifted her arm and looked at it. There wasn’t a wound anymore, and no scars on the rest of her body. He’d not seen her yet, her body, but he’d bet that it was lovely. He started to tell her, just talk to her gently about it, but Stormy laughed before speaking. “You were dying. The cut to your wrist had severed your artery, and you were bleeding out. Had Liam not been here for you, you’d be dead.” Emma asked him what he’d done, but Stormy continued. “He’s a shifter, Bengal tiger as a matter of fact. We all are. He converted you to what we are.” Emma stared at him for several seconds, then looked over at Storm. There was a lot going on in her head right now. None of it very nice, nor all that orderly. She went from terror of her dying to being converted. He was just glad that she knew enough about paranormals to have an idea of what was happening.  “I’m a tiger.” Storm nodded. “And you thought that my being a tiger was a better way to go than to be dead.”  “Yes, I did.” She turned and looked at him. “You’re not freaking out, so I can only assume that you know about our kind.” “I do. I don’t have a lot of contact with them…not because I avoid them, but…. You did this because we’re mates. You saved me because of some kind of DNA thing that
makes you have to save me.” He said that he would have anyway. “No, you wouldn’t have. Don’t lie to me.” “I can’t.” She nodded and sat up, but he could see that she was slightly dizzy. “You lost a great deal of blood, so you might want to take it easy for a few hours. You should try and drink a lot and have a light—” “Don’t order me around.” He leaned back in the chair and looked at her. “I’m not…. I know you really didn’t, but I’m starting to freak a little here. I’m a fucking tiger.” ~~~ Hudson laid on the bed thinking about her life and what had just happened. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” “Me either.” She turned to her back and looked at him. “I’m not going to apologize for converting you. I could, I guess, but you’re alive, and that’s the most important thing right now. I don’t know anything about you other than what I’ve read in the information that Storm got for us when you called me. And you know even less than that about me. What would you like to know? If anything.” “What was your name again?” He told her. “All right, Liam. I’m Emma Hudson, but I rarely go by my first name. I have no idea why, but that’s what they started calling me in middle school and that stuck. I drive cross country. Not as much as I used to, but sometimes I need the money more than I do anything. I had a home, but I had to sell it to pay for the rig that my father stole. Which he did, no matter what the courts say.” “Storm, my sister-in-law—and so you know, you met her when you came here—she doesn’t think he has it anymore.” She nodded, thinking that Storm had some good connections. “Your load you have now, you mentioned that it was a back run. Does that have to go out today?” “Not today, but soon. I have to have it about six hours from here by noon tomorrow.” He leaned back in his chair. “What about me being a cat? I mean, I can sort of feel something inside of me. What does that mean?” “She’s letting you know that she’s there for you. I can sense that you’re nervous, and so can she.” Hudson sat up but laid back down when her head spun. “You’re going to be a little weak for a few more hours, like I said. Ennis, he’s my brother and a doctor, he said that if you were to eat something hearty, you’d feel a lot better. But he wanted you to eat it slowly, in case it doesn’t stay down well.” “I’ve not had a home cooked meal in years.” She laughed. “I’m sorry. That was rude of me. But the thought of something not mass produced or from a microwave sounds amazing.”  “I think we can fix you up.” He stood up and his size made her recoil. “I’d never hurt you. Not on purpose, if I can help it.” “My dad, he’s a big man. Not that he ever hit me, but he was cruel in other ways.” He nodded and put out his hand. Hudson stared at it as she continued. “I know a few shifters, and I’ve heard that their mates are the center of their world. That the sex is amazing and that they can never harm them. They told me that any female, human or otherwise, is to be protected and cherished.”
“Yes. We feel that way as well. I’d very much like it if you were to go with me to the house that I’m thinking of buying. If it doesn’t suit you, then that’s fine as well. I have a place that I live in, it’s an apartment, if you’ll come stay with me for a time.” He cursed and she laughed. “There’s this big deal of a wedding next weekend. My brother Aedan is getting married. They’ve been living together for a little while, but this wedding is going to be epic, I guess.” “Why?” He told her how he was the governor of the state and that he was looking into becoming the president someday. “Wow. Your family, they have big plans.” “They do. We all do.” She nodded. “What is bothering you, Emma? Is it something that I can fix? Or do for you?” “I’m assuming that you all have money.” He nodded but didn’t say how much, which she thought was a good thing. “My father will get wind of this. Not that I’m a cat, but that I’m with someone with money, and he’ll come sniffing around. He’s not stupid, but he can play a person and get what he wants. No matter the cost to them.” “He can do that if he wants. But he won’t get away with it this time. I can promise you that. Nor will he hurt you, mentally, physically, or financially.” Hudson wasn’t sure, but she was almost afraid for her dad. “Will you take my hand? Please?” “What will that mean for us?” He said that it would only be him taking her to the kitchen for food for now. “I feel something for you. I’m not sure what it is, but I trust you. I want to be with you. Is that the cat in me?” “Yes, for now anyway. I hope that later, you as a woman will feel something for me as well. We mate for life, and quickly.” She still wasn’t sure about this, none of it. “I want to take this slowly. I think it would benefit us both if we started out fresh, like we’re dating. I know that we’ve gone beyond that, with me converting you and having this connection, but even my cat is okay with us doing it this way.” “I’m afraid.” He said that he was as well. “What if he comes here? What if my dad comes here and makes demands? He will. I know it.” “How about we don’t borrow trouble for now? We don’t have to think about him until he gets here. And once we know where he is, we can keep an eye on his movements and be ready when it looks as if he’s coming here.” She nodded and put her hand in his. “Thank you. And for now, I think we should go and have ourselves a nice lunch, then get you ready to go on your trip. I’d like to go with you, but I won’t be able to this trip. I have some things that are going on that need my attention.”  “I thought we were going to be inseparable.” They moved to the door, but he kept his arm around her when she was dizzy again. “I feel weird.” “Your cat again, and the loss of blood. Anyway, we usually are, inseparable I mean. But with us trying to work things out, I think that I’ll not want to hunt you down every two minutes and strip you naked.” She looked at him, trying her best to see if he was joking or not. When he laughed too, Hudson still wasn’t sure. But the smells coming from the kitchen had her thinking food rather than jokes. As soon as she sat down with both Storm and Riordan, a platter, not a plate, of food was put in front of her. Hudson thought that she would never eat it all, but once she tasted the first bite, she knew that she’d be lucky if she didn’t eat the platter too.
There was a thick roast beef sandwich on a wonderfully fresh roll with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and onions. A bowl of french fries covered in a tomato sauce that was spicy as well as sweet. A large glass of the best tea that she’d ever drank. She was just finishing off the last fry when June, the cook, asked her if she wanted peach or cherry pie. Hudson nodded. “Well, good for you. I have ice cream too should you want that. I’ve not been to the creamery yet, so it won’t be homemade.” Hudson told her that she loved her. “Thank you, child. I’m so glad to be cooking for the household again. The mister and missus have been away more than at home of late, and I’ve missed it.” “You can cook for me whenever I’m home.” Her face heated up. “I’m sorry. I don’t know where I’m going to be living or what the plan is. But this is the best meal I’ve had in ages. And fresh pie too? Well, I could easily kiss you for it.” After she ate both pieces of pie without the ice cream—she didn’t want to seem too piggish—her and Liam went to her truck. It was locked up, but as soon as she opened the door, she could see that someone had cleaned up after her. She asked Liam about it. “I had a friend of mine come over and fix the bent metal. He also put a new handle on for you. Then his wife—she’s the new alpha bitch for the wolf pack that roams our land—she cleaned up the rest for you. I think she was quite impressed with how much storage you have in there.” She told Liam it was necessary when she was gone. “I don’t imagine that it helped that you lost your house.” “He took me for a great many things. But my house was the most painful.” Climbing into the truck, she watched him walk around to the other side and get in. He commented on how roomy it was. “Yes. My dad complained a great deal about how crowded it was for him. And you’re much bigger. But he would have complained about it even if it had his recliner and a big screen television in front of him.” She showed him around the compartment that she had lived in. The way she had to pull her bed down to use it. There wasn’t a lot of room when he was in it with her. For one, he was taller than her by a foot, and he was just too close. Or, she thought, not close enough. There was something extremely appealing about having this man near enough for her to not only touch, but to know that she could. Hudson thought that she was going insane.

Cooper: The Manning Dragons Release Day & Giveaway

Cooper Manning and his five brothers were true dragons. Centuries ago, when the humans had turned on their kind, their father sacrificed himself to save his sons by casting a powerful spell which allowed them to walk among the humans. Even centuries later, Cooper couldn’t seem to let go of the past and despised most humans.

Carson Langley was exhausted. After being forced to work thirty-six hours straight, she unwittingly complained to the new plant owner, now she knew she was fired. There was nothing left to do but go home and cry about it later.

Cooper was sent by his brother to retrieve the helpful woman and bring her back to the plant, and he wasn’t happy about it either. It didn’t help that when she answered the door she shared his sour mood, and when he touched her hand, the magic that surged between them meant only one thing–she was his other half, and she was human…. Cooper was seeing red.
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One of my fellow dragon sisters has a upcoming release
Coming May 23rd 2017
Domlen the dragon that will have you begging for more! 
*****Can be read as a Standalone!*****
Mature Audience Only! Explicit sex scenes and language.

Domlen Draglen does not follow any rules except his own. He does not want to be like his brothers, but his need to find the lady his mother predicts to be his mate has become his focus. He wants to find her and prove his mother wrong so he can go back to his normal life. The only problem is the mouthy, curvy she-wolf interests him, but she’s not his type or is she?

Tempest Shellin wants to prove that she can be essential to her pack. When the drop dead sexy dragon shows up for her, she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. To save her pack she agrees to his rules, but soon finds out Domlen doesn’t play fair. 

Will this Domineering dragon and mouthy she-wolf find love or will they allow traditions to keep the apart.






A time when all creatures roamed the earth as only their true selves. Where magic was celebrated. And where dragons darkened the skies every day.
“I’m afraid there is no hope for us.” No one made a sound as their leader continued. “Since the humans found out about us and what we can do, we have been doomed. I’m so terribly sorry.” Coop looked around the room. There were so few of them now that he could easily count them. When he’d been younger, thousands of years ago, there wouldn’t have been enough space for all of them to share this room. Now they were down to a quarter of them sharing the space because so many, his own wife included, had been murdered so needlessly. Coop was saddened by it all. Turning to leave the large cave, he was stopped by his brother, Xavier.  “The boys, they are well?” He nodded and smiled. Coop felt it all the way to his heart, a place that had been dead for so long, it seemed. “You have the spell? You are going to use it on them? I so wish I had thought of this before my own family was taken from me, Coop. You are a brave man and a good father.” “Thank you. And I shall use it tonight. It is the only way to save them.” Xavier nodded, his own heart heavy with the losses they’d suffered. “You know that I would have shared should I have had it sooner. I’m so sorry, brother. All of my heart, it’s sorry for you.” “I know that. I do. But they’re all gone now. My other half, my children. Killed for things that are not fair to our kind.” Coop knew that all too well. “Aria was a good woman, Coop. A good woman and mother to your sons. She will be missed forever.” “Aye, in my heart and those of my sons.” Xavier stood there for several seconds and Coop told him he must go. “They’re awaiting word on what is to happen with us all.” “One more thing, if you please. It won’t take but a second. I have left them all that I have. It is where you keep them hidden away, the boys. Deep within the cave, it’s all there.” Coop asked him what he meant. “I cannot go on, brother. I cannot. There is too much grief in my heart for me to live. I have left my things for your children there. They might survive this, with the magic that you’ve given them. And if so, they’ll need more than you have to help them.” “Xavier, please, you mustn’t do this. They’ll miss you as much as I.” Xavier nodded and said that it had begun. “You can come and stay with us. You’ll live with us in the caves.” “Nay. I cannot. I must go. Just tell them that I love them. With all of my heart.” There would be no stopping him once his heart was made up, Coop knew this, but it made his heart no less full for it. “Goodbye, my brother. Take care that you are not caught by the humans.” Coop made his way back to his hidden cave and sat before the fire. The boys, he knew, were resting, their bodies getting stronger daily with their age. Soon they would be as big as him, dragons of worth and size.
When his eldest son came to him, his eyes full of fear, Coop knew that it was well past time that he did what he’d been practicing. The magic that would keep them safe. Gathering his sons, six of them in varying shades of blues and greens, he asked them to have a seat, that he had a story to tell them. It wasn’t a story, not truly, but a tale that would hopefully keep them safe. “A witch told me once of a great magic that only few can do. It takes a loving heart and a strong dragon to make it work. I have asked her and she has told me how to make it so. This magic, it will keep you all safe from the humans.” They nodded, each of them knowing that it was a human blade that had taken the life of their dear mother. “I will perform this upon you, each of you at the same time, and give you some magic that you will use when you need it. This magic, strong and powerful, will let you roam with the humans, and they’ll not know that your true self is just below your flesh.” “You mean we’ll be humans as well?” He nodded, then shook his head at Cooper, his oldest. “I don’t understand, Father. Will you explain?” “Yes. The magic that I will give you will let you change into your true self when you are alone. But when you are out in the world, you will need to be a human. A man.” Cooper looked at his brothers, then back at him as he continued. “With this magic, I will also give you a gift. Something that you will need to keep yourself safe should they find out. A stronger armor than any other dragon before you, as well as the same immortality that you have now, as man or dragon.” Hudson stared at him for long moments. He was the thinker, and if he could think of a reason for this not to work, he would voice it loudly. He was much like his mother in that. She would be the first to say when she did or did not like something. And the first to say that the plan was perfect. He only hoped that she would have approved of this. “I think you are very smart, Father. To try and keep us safe. But I can only think that this will not work on you. Or is that your plan?” The boy was much too smart, Coop thought. “If you change us, who will change you?” “There will be no one to change me, son. I will…. It is my wish to join your mother in this earth.” He watched them, seeing if they understood the love that he’d lost when she’d been murdered. “Giving you this magic, it will be something I can tell her that I’ve done for her sons. You know as well as I that she loved you more than anything on this earth, including herself.” “She died saving us.” Coop nodded at Lincoln. “I’m not happy that you’re going to die, Father, but I understand wanting to be with Mother. I miss her more every day.” “As do I.” He looked at his sons, all of them growing into dragons of worth. “I must have an agreement from you all. If even one of you does not want this, then it will not work. I would say that you should think on this hard. For once I have given this to you, there will be no going back.” “I wish to have it.” He knew that Cooper would be the first. Not that he didn’t love his father, but Cooper would see things in a way that most would not. To not have this done would mean a certain death for them all. Dragons were too valuable dead not to be hunted for all time. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure that you are proud of me as well.”
“I am already, Cooper. Forever.”  The others nodded too. They were ready for this, as much as he was dreading it. Because once he started the process to change his sons into men, then he would begin to die. It would take all that he was to change them. Standing up, spreading his wings out behind him, Coop told them about the things that their uncle had left them. They knew where the family jewels were, the things that their mother had left them as well. Once they were standing, their bodies strong and healthy, he felt his heart swell and break for what he was about to do. “I, Cooper Manning, of the Manning Dragons of the earth, give to my sons, Cooper, Hudson, Lincoln, Lucas, Tristan, and Xavier, all that I am. Each of you will take a part of the earth with you when you are converted. The part of you that is unique in all ways will be strengthened and enhanced. You will be immortal, forever, and those that you take to your heart will be as well.” His sons bowed before him when he told them to. He said the words over them that would change them to men. Coop could feel his body shutting down, his heart beating a little less. But he had one more thing he wished to bless them with, and held himself upright to give it from his own dying heart. “One day, true love will come to you. And you will have more than you’ve ever known. It will fill you in ways that you cannot ever imagine. Love will be yours for all times. For only then will you become a true dragon, a Manning dragon.” ~~~ Cooper sat with his brothers while their father lay dying. Coop’s heart was weak from what he’d done, and it was tearing him apart. Father was weak, yes, but he continued to tell them tales of their mother, of their adventures when they were only small dragons. They were going to be alone soon…their father was so close to joining their mother that it hurt Cooper in ways that he hadn’t expected.  “What shall we do with his body?” Cooper looked at Tristan and asked him what he meant. “He will not be able to lie here. If the humans were to find him, they’ll surely cut him up into pieces. I don’t want that for him. We were never able to bury Mother in the proper way after what they did to her.” “We could burn his body.” Cooper wondered how that would work when Hudson continued. “His scales will be worthless to them should they come upon his body. The magic that he held within him also will be useless to them. He will be nothing more than a carcass that they’ll leave alone.” Burn his body. It was something to think about. But he didn’t want to, not while he was still breathing, his body still alive. When he laid his head upon his father’s chest, hearing his heart beating slower and slower, Cooper wondered what his father would think if he knew that the magic that he’d given them hadn’t worked. That they were all still dragons. “He gave his life to keep us safe. But it did not work.” No one said anything to him as they each watched their father. “Dragons such as we are, we’ll be hunted and killed by the humans. There is nothing we can do but wait for them.”
“We will survive if we stay here.” Cooper told Xavier that they’d have to leave here eventually. “To feed and to fly, yes. But perhaps we could do that only at night. To keep to the skies and not let them see us.” “They know we are about and will have spies out looking for our lairs. We will have to kill any man that comes for us, and still we will not be safe. We are, after all, dragons that have a great deal of magic.”  Coop stopped breathing. Cooper didn’t hear his father’s heart, and knew that it was at an end. He was quiet for a bit longer, waiting, hoping for just one more beat, one more sound that would mean he was still alive. But there was nothing. Their father was dead. Sitting up, he told his brothers that Coop had passed from this world into the next. None of them had ever seen a dragon die before. Their mother had been dead when they found her. Each dragon that they’d come upon when they were out had been dead long before they found them, their bodies stripped of every part of them so that they resembled less of a dragon and more like a pile of bones that had been cut up.  Dragon’s scales were used for roofs for humans’ homes, and for shields. The very meat of them was roasted and stored away so that it could be used for medicines and potions. Their hearts were cut up and dried, then ground into a powder for the humans to use to keep them from sickness, as well as magic to have a grand garden and trees heavy with fruit. The only part that would be left was the bones, and sometimes even those were carried off and used for something. Cooper hated all humans. “We will do as suggested by Hudson. It is the only assured way that we can—”  Before he could finish, he felt the stirring of the earth. It shook so hard that it knocked each of them off their feet. As they lay there, terrified that someone was coming for them, their father appeared before them.  His body was still aground. But instead of dark in death, he was brilliant in light. Faeries, thousands upon thousands of faeries, seemed to be covering him. Before Cooper could tell them to stop, to leave him alone, Father spoke. “I love you, my sons.” Each of them nodded, and their fear was almost something Cooper could touch. “I will now and forever join my true love, your mother. I must warn you, when you find your other half, and you will, you’ll have to be careful of the Slayers. They’ll know what you’ve found by the magic you both will share. My sons, you will leave this place and take your place among men. Becoming someone that I will be proud of.” “Father, the magic didn’t work. We’re still dragons.” Cooper felt shameful to say a thing to his father. To tell him that his sacrifice had not worked. “We will be hunted and killed.” “Nay, you only need to think of being your other half. Becoming a man is that simple. The same when you wish to be your true self.” Cooper wasn’t sure what that meant, but his father continued before he could ask. “Go now, before men come here. The magic to hide me will draw them here. Be safe, my sons, and know that I love you more than I do any other creature on this earth.” Cooper stood then. The faeries were still working, taking the body of his father apart. But as he watched, he could see that they weren’t doing that at all, but preserving his
body. Faerie ropes were all around him…strings of magic wrapped around him like a cocoon that made him invisible to all. As Cooper stood there, his brothers beside him, he knew that, like him, they mourned the loss of yet another parent. “You are the eldest?” He nodded to the faerie when she asked. “We have a gift for you. For all of you, but you will receive the most. Your father was a great man, your mother a queen among her people. We wish to bestow upon you all that your father had.” “My brothers, they will need it as well. I should like to share.” She smiled at him and bowed. “What have you done with his body?” “He is being prepared to be moved. We will make a grand garden upon him. Flowers will be there for all to see, but only few will know that a dragon is there with his other half, his love.” He nodded. It was as it should be. “You will take this gift? You will share, but as I said, you will get more than the others.” “I don’t care. Please, just do what you must so that we can hide.” She nodded again and touched her fingers, small tiny ones, to his forehead. Then she did the same to the others before coming back to him. “It is done? You have shared it with us?” “I have, Lord Cooper. But you must leave here now. There are humans coming. The magic that we used to do this thing has given them cause to come here.” He nodded and looked at the ground where their father had been. “He is safe. Just as your mother is now. Go, before they find you here and murder you as well.” He thanked her for her help and left. The exit from this part of the cave was hidden so well that only they knew about it. As they made their way into the night, he thought of the human inside of him, and the pain of it took his breath away. In seconds he was down on his knees. Whatever was happening, he was surely going to die. “You’re a man.” He looked up at his brothers as they began to change into men themselves. “We’ll be safe now, all of us. We’ll be humans for them until we can find a place where we can be ourselves.” “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again.” Hudson nodded and held his head tightly as he did so. “We will need to train ourselves in their ways. Become what they are. But never monsters.” “No, never that.” They made their way to a building…any would do for now. Hudson, like Cooper, was staggering a little, but they were getting stronger as they moved. He turned to look at Cooper as they were settling in the empty shell of a house. “We will need to buy things, houses and such.” “Yes. But tomorrow. I am too tired to think beyond how much we have lost.” Hudson and the others agreed. “When the humans are gone from our cave, we’ll go and find what Father was telling us about earlier, about the wealth that will keep us safe.” “I only hope there is a great deal of it. I don’t know how to work, nor to become a part of their world, do you?” Cooper told Xavier, the youngest brother, that they’d soon learn. “I hope so. I hope so.” He did as well. It was going to be hard enough for them to learn to eat and dress like them, much less get around. Cooper hoped that this worked. For he was as afraid as he’d ever been in his life.

Evan: The Whitfield Rancher Release Day

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

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

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


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


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.   

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

Caleb Winchester didn’t care for his boss, in fact he despised him. He hadn’t meant to quit that day–the words ‘I quit’ spilled from his mouth without thinking–but once said he had no regrets. He was a good ad executive, he could find another job.

Quinn Dorsey and her father, Alexander, had seen Caleb’s work and that was the artist they needed for their dog food labels. When the agency couldn’t deliver the ad campaign they ordered, and then lied about Caleb working on the project, they went looking for the man himself.

Caleb hadn’t expected his customers to seek him out, but when Alexander shows up at Caleb’s house with his daughter, Quinn, Caleb is floored–she’s his mate and she’s been marked by another alpha.

Caleb’s not going to let an alpha beat him out of his mate. This lunatic has been marking females left and right, but if Caleb claims her, he risks not only his life, but the life of his mate and family as well….


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