Hawkins McCullough didn’t like his life. Army was his life, he lived and breathed it, but he wasn’t “regular” army. His life was filled with one covert mission after another and he was tired of it. He had done so many awful things in the name of “justice” that he felt he didn’t deserve to be happy. He felt broken and unredeemable.
Jamie had always loved children, and this small infant crying out to her broke her heart. These children were on their way to a baby farm and she was determined to stop this from happening. There was no way she would allow these babies to grow up the way she did, as a lab rat, not as long as she had breath left in her.
“I have to go. No, I’m going to go now. I only stuck around here to find the babies.” Lauren stepped in front of her. “Do you have a death wish? I would have thought someone with your obvious training would know not to stand in front of a dangerous bullet.”
“Is that what you are? Dangerous? I’m not so afraid of you. More that I’m afraid of what they did to you.” Jamie put up her hand and morphed it into a gun. Then a sword. And again, she turned her hand into a monster, long claws and all. “Nope, not going to work. You’re his mate, and that means something to this family.”
“Well, it means shit to me.”
Hawk never thought in a million years that he’d be happy to find his mate, nor would he have believed that she’d be more powerful than he was. Jamie was just more….
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Colin McCullough gets the phone call that all military families dread―his brother Hawkins has been shot. Colin only wants to thank Hawkins’s commanding officer for saving his brother’s life, but he can never seem to get past the guards in the hospital’s hallway to personally thank the man.
Major Lauren Burcher is all Army and head of a special task team usually sent in to clean things up. This time, her team is ambushed by friendlies, and Lauren and her best man Hawkins McCullough barely make it out alive―they were set up. Someone wants them both dead.
Another attempt on Lauren’s life in the hospital fails miserably, and when Colin scoops her up in his arms to place her back in the hospital bed, he finds a gun pointed at his forehead at point blank range. In that moment he realizes this bad-assed scary woman is his mate.
Lauren wants no part of this mate business. Relationships get messy and this jerk is bossy as hell. And Lauren doesn’t take orders…she gives them. But it will take all of them, his family and hers, to keep her and Hawkins alive…
Who rescued who was still a little vague, but they escaped just the same. The lab called him SA-8, and they had made him into a very powerful weapon. But to Reese he was just Josh, a boy that could do amazing things, but a boy none the less—not a lab rat. That was two years ago—the lab had been relentless and lethal in their pursuit. With her big rig running on fumes, and their last dime spent, they wound up on a small town in Ohio….
Parker McCullough found an abandoned big rig parked on his land. It had been there a few days, and he wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Calling the authorities seemed like the logical thing to do, but when he tried to do so, his cell phone went flying from his hand and a teenage boy appeared from nowhere. Parker thought the boy was an Elite Shifter, and after hearing a little of the boy’s story he wanted to help.
Reese didn’t know who all these people were, but if she and Josh didn’t get away from them, the “others” would find them and they’d all be dead, just like all the other people who had tried to help them along the way…. And now the gorgeous shifter, Parker, had her trapped in the kitchen claiming to be her mate…. She didn’t have time for herself, and she didn’t want to see them all die because they’d helped her and Josh—Reese was out of options
Mackenzie’s shift at the hospital had just begun when they told her that a patient friend of hers was back in the ER and asking for her. When she entered the curtained room, the last thing she expected was for a McCullough to be sitting next to her patient. It wasn’t Hawk, thank god, but the man looked enough like him he could have been his twin. Hawkins McCullough was on her shit list, and if this man was related to him, she didn’t want anything to do with him.
It didn’t take long for Dustin McCullough to figure out that this feisty doctor was his mate. And when he found out that his brother had hurt her, it took a great deal of strength to keep his cat from killing him.
Mackenzie was at her wits end. Random attacks to her person and bullets flying had the entire McCullough family in an uproar. And just when they thought they had everything about under control, Hawkins drops a bombshell that had them all stunned.
Can Mackenzie find it in her heart to forgive Hawk before it’s too late?
Virginia is a bestselling paranormal romance author. She does much better with her stories than with people. When she’s in her “writing zone,” she won’t even eat unless her mother hands her a plate and reminds her to do so. She wouldn’t be making the trip to the McCullough’s if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Go, see the child, make sure he has a good home. That is the plan. Simple…not.
Larson is having his own issues. Being blamed for the murder of one of his clients, which he didn’t do, has him closing up shop and laying low for a few days. His mom insists that he show up for dinner to meet their visiting guests. Larson would rather stay home, but she’d have his hide if he did.
Larson sees the beauty from across the room and makes his way to her. Before he even reaches her, he catches her scent. She is his mate. Now what is he supposed to do? He has his life just the way he wants it and a mate wasn’t figured into that equation. On the other hand, the way she flushes when she returns his stare has him thinking anything but pure thoughts. Maybe having a mate wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Boyd lost his mate before he’d really found her. He found her in college, but his studies were important too. He figured he’d have plenty of time to meet her, after his exams. But a tragic car accident robbed him of his future before it had begun…. At least that is what he had always believed.
Reilly was just trying to make ends meet. She wanted to get through the day with her slimy boss keeping his hands to himself. But when she got the call from the hospital that her dad had been in an accident, she had to go. Her boss had other ideas.
The pileup on the freeway had Boyd working overtime. All the injured had been coming into the hospital in droves. He had treated so many patients that he was just exhausted. When he stepped out for a breather, he saw her. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen, and when he approached her, her scent had his senses in a whirl and his cat reacted. The word mate flashed through is mind. But that couldn’t be right, it had to be lack of sleep making him think that.
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Jamie figured that she’d give someone ten more minutes, then she was leaving. She’d been at the hospital longer than she thought was necessary for fainting. Well, she’d really just passed out from shock, but she’d never done that before. Tossing off the cover that had been on her when she woke, she heard the baby crying so close that she ventured out of the room she’d been in and followed the sound. Her heart broke for how pitiful the tiny person’s voice sounded. There were ten babies in varying ages in the bassinets, all of them under six months old, she’d bet, and all of them asleep but the child that had her finding them. Lifting the little girl from the bassinet, she sat in the nearby rocking chair and started rocking her. “I have been looking for you for so long, I thought that I’d been mistaken about it.” Rocking a little more, the baby quieted down and stared up at her with the most beautiful green eyes that she’d ever seen.
“There is this guy here—you’ll know him as soon as you see him—who is a bully. And he’s a big hulking sort of person. Not like he’s stupid or anything—at least he didn’t sound that way. But he’s big, like that green guy that used to be on television. I know you wouldn’t know who that is, but I’m just making a reference.” The baby’s tiny hand wrapped around her finger and she smiled. Jamie loved babies—all kids really, but babies had a special place in her heart reserved just for them. When the baby’s eyes started to close a little at a time, Jamie decided to talk to her more. “When I was a little girl, I was dropped off at one of those safe places. I’m not sure why anyone would think that it was safe. I spent the next five years there, and let me tell you, it was not a place I’d go back to even on a threat of death. Then I ended up where no one should ever be allowed to stay. It was horrific, and the things they did to me were twice that bad.” Jamie heard the door near where she was sitting open and then close. “Anyway, the place. It wasn’t a baby mill like you were in, at least I don’t think so.
But a real place that unwanted children went. I say unwanted because we were told that every day—that we were there because no one wanted us for one reason or another. But the lab did. They needed me for a lot of things that I didn’t want to do. So that’s where I grew up. I think the place has shut down now. The house was a showstopper, really beautiful if a little out of date, and I loved it. Just not the people there.” She looked up when the curtain was thrown back. There stood her nemesis with a gun pointed at her again. Jamie started to stand and give him a big part of her mind when he slipped the gun back in wherever he’d gotten it from and sat down on the floor in front of her. “I thought I’d just sit here in the event you wanted to hit me again. This way I’m closer to the floor already.” She wanted to stick her tongue out at him, but knew that he’d laugh at her. “You said that your name is James. Why would anyone mistake you for a male? I’m Hawk, or Hawkins if you prefer.”
“I was a great deal younger back then, you idiot. Don’t you have someone else you can harass?
I mean, I was having a nice conversation with this little girl, and you—” “Her name is Lily, Lily Anderson. Her parents are on their way to see her. All the children have names now.” She just looked down at Lily, and her heart hurt to know that someone loved her. “Why do you think that no one loves you?” “You’re reading my mind. Why the hell would you think that isn’t rude?” He just shrugged and leaned back on his elbow, smiling at her. “What are you in here for, besides pulling yet another gun on me?” “I only pulled one out on you. The first time, it wasn’t meant for you but the guy holding you.” She rolled her eyes at him and started rocking again, anything to get the man to leave her alone. “You aren’t afraid of me; that’s a first. Usually people who see me for the first time never hit me in the face. Then you hit me in my balls too.” “Perhaps it’s because you’re nicer to others than you have been me.” Kicking his foot away from the front of the rocker, she glared at him. “I swear to Christ, you have to go away. I don’t like you one bit, and you’re taking up all my air while you’re here.”
“You’re not human.” Jamie felt every part of her body tense up. Then she looked for a way to escape. “I’m not sure what you are, but you’re not going anywhere now.” “Why is that? And let me remind you that I’ve hurt you twice now. If I want to leave, then I will. You won’t be able to stop me.” He looked at the exit door and she did as well. There were men standing in front of it, and she could tell they were armed. “You’re holding me prisoner? What the fuck for?” “They’re here for the children. And for me.” She asked him if he was going to be arrested. “You’re very defensive; anyone ever tell you that before? No, they’re not here to arrest me. They work for me. I’m considered a big deal by some people.” “Whatever.” She stood up, and he was suddenly standing too. Like he’d just willed it or something. “You’re a cat. Jaguar, I’m guessing. I could have told you that before you were shooting at me, but I was distracted. By you telling Ben to shoot me.” “That was before I knew you.” She pointed out that he didn’t know her now. “True. But I’m hoping that we can remedy that soon.” She was missing something in what he was saying, but she was too stressed to figure it out. Putting Lily back in her crib, she moved to leave the same way that she’d come in, by the back door. When she opened it up, there were three men standing there with the woman from the house. Miss Laughs a Lot. The two in uniform aimed their guns at her and she backed up a couple of steps. And right into the arms of Hawk. She struggled to get away from him, thinking that she’d be safer with the guns pointed at her, when Miss Laughs a Lot told them to stand down. No one moved. “Did you hear me, soldiers? I said to stand down.” Neither man moved, but they were looking at the man behind her. “Hawk, you’re going to lose these two idiots if you don’t make them behave around me. My word is my bond.” “Stand down.”
Both put their guns to their sides when Hawk said for them to do it with a great deal of authority in his voice. The other man laughed. Miss Laughs a Lot
didn’t seem to find it funny. Getting out of Hawk’s embrace was a good deal easier now. “They work for me and only me. This was a good test for them. Thanks, Burcher.” “It wasn’t a trial for anything, you fucking bastard. I don’t care for being ignored. Perhaps they don’t know me.” She turned to both men and they were nodding like their heads had somehow come loose from their necks. “So, you do know me. That doesn’t explain to me why when I give you an order, you don’t obey.” “They’re not dogs. Christ, you got your panties in a twist because they didn’t listen to the great Burcher, or whatever the fuck your name is? You on some power trip, or are you always a fucking cunt?” Every one of the men backed up from her and Burcher.
“You might get a lot more done if you ask politely when you want something to go your way. Like, and this is just an example, ‘Would you mind putting your guns down? I don’t want any more bloodshed—’” Jamie was lifted from the floor by Burcher. She was holding her there like she didn’t weigh a thing. Hawkins reached out to touch Lauren when the third man got right up and in his face. Jamie did the only thing she could think of before she passed out from lack of air. She shifted. Her beast roared when she told her to calm the fuck down. The people were afraid of her, that she could see, but she really didn’t care. Right now, she needed to get out of there before they spoke to someone about her. The presence of another being felt calming. Even the beast inside of her seemed to know that someone less than but like her was coming. Before the door opened, she as her beast, a great black bear—bigger than any normal—moved away from it. Whatever was coming, it wasn’t angry, but it was concerned. As soon as he walked through the door, she knew him for what he was. Not a name, but she and him had been created at the lab. When he came toward her, talking softly the whole time, Jamie whimpered. He wasn’t close to as powerful as she was, but she knew he had a great deal more than she did in knowledge of what he could do. She’d love to learn from him, but that would be dangerous. Nor could she hurt him. “Hello. I thought that all the others were found. I had no idea that you were there.” She let the bear go and stood before him. He was taller than her by a few inches, but nothing near what Hawkins was. “May I take your hand in mine?” “No. Don’t touch me.” He nodded and put his hands behind his back.
“I saw you there. In the room when I’d look around at night.” “Jon?” He looked at Hawk when he said his name. Then Jon looked at the others with a smile. The service men were guarding the door again, and didn’t look as if they gave a shit about what was going on around them. “Is she like you? Someone from the lab?” “No. She’s very different than I am. Just as dangerous, but no less hurt by the men there.” She watched Hawk when he moved to come closer to her. “I wouldn’t, Hawk. Not yet at any rate.” “She’s my mate, Jon.” No one said a word, but seemed to focus all their eyes on her. She lifted her chin and decided it was well past time for her to get the fuck out of there. “What do you mean, she’s very different than—?”
“And she’s standing right the fuck here. You are the rudest man I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. I’m leaving here.” Jon asked her to wait. “For what? For them to call someone and tell them where I am? Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve been down that road more times than I’d like to think about. “Tell them what you are.” She looked at Jon then at Hawk. Jamie knew what a mate was, but there was no way that anyone would want her after what she’d been through. “You’d be very surprised at what these people can do for you.” “I was dropped off at the home for wayward kids when I was an infant. During my first five years, I was a troubled child.” Hawk snorted. “Fuck you. What would you have done if you became a monster that didn’t have any idea where she was? I was a bear shifter and didn’t have any idea how to control her.” She looked at the floor, anywhere but at Hawk.
“I wasn’t one of the lab rats like you were. I wasn’t a human when I was taken there at the age of five—I was a shifter, so I guess that qualified for me to be discarded when they were done with me. Taken from the home I had been in since birth. After a while they got tired of me not doing what they wanted, and I was put away to be destroyed. When I slipped out of the cage they had me in, I wandered around the building to keep up with what they were doing.” “They messed with you with drugs too, then.” She nodded at the man near Lauren. “I’m Colin McCullough. Lauren is my wife. And Hawkins is my brother. He’s Army.” “Yeah, I got that part.” Jamie ignored Hawk. She looked at Jon and spoke only to him. “They did the first experiments on me, before you were given anything. The trouble was, no one took into consideration that I hadn’t been human, so they would affect me differently than you. Second, I was a way for them to figure out if whatever they were set to give you would maybe kill you. And if it didn’t me, then they’d give it to you.” “You were five when they did this to you?” She told Jon how they’d find her every month or so then use her again. “They knew where you were at all times, I’m thinking. The men there only gave you the illusion that you were free to roam.” ~*~ Hawkins watched her. He knew as surely as he was standing there she was going to bolt. And he’d bet any kind of money that he’d not be able to find her unless she allowed it. Marking her wouldn’t do him much good either. She was just as strong, if not stronger than Jon, Hawkins would bet. “I have to go. No, I’m going to go now. I only stuck around here to find the babies.” Lauren stepped in front of her. “Do you have a death wish? I would have thought someone with your obvious training would know not to stand in front of a dangerous bullet.” “Is that what you are? Dangerous? I’m not so afraid of you. More that I’m afraid of what they did to you.” Jamie put up her hand and morphed it into a gun. Then a sword. And again she turned her hand into a monster, long claws and all. “Nope, not going to work. You’re his mate, and that means something to this family.”
“Well, it means shit to me.” Jamie looked at him before speaking again. “I’m nothing you want to fuck with or fuck. I am dangerous, and I’m not as stupid as some people may think I am. I will hurt you if you try again to detain me.” “I’m asking you to please not leave me.” She shook her head and looked at the doors again. He knew her plan to leave was rapidly coming to fruition. “I’m asking you to take a chance here. No one will be able to touch you again. I will swear this on my life.” “And you? Will you claim me? I’m guessing that’s what you think is going to happen. And you might be immortal, but removing your head will be easy enough for me.” He nodded and told her that he knew that she was stronger than him. “Hell, I’m stronger than even Jon is. Don’t you get it? I’m nothing more than a taste tester from long ago. If I lived, then they would inject the shit into him. Sometimes more than once.” “I don’t care about any of that. I was bemoaning the fact that someday my mate would come to me. Basically because of what I do. I’m not such a cup of tea either.”
He moved closer all the time, hoping that if he could touch her once, his cat would feel much better. “You know what I am. A jaguar first and foremost. My cat is pissy with me, because he too knows who you are to us.” “Again, I don’t care.” She looked at the exit then back at him just before he was able to touch her. Hawk felt himself being tossed back. Hitting the wall behind him, he braced himself for whatever came next. He was sure, too, that there would be more put upon him. Hawkins watched her while she calmed herself. She’d not lost total control, he knew that, but had punched him with magic just enough to keep him away from her. Sitting up, he sat there while the rest of them left. Even his men walked out the door. “You did that? Made them leave us?” She nodded. “And can you make me leave too? Or is it the mate thing that prevents you from making me do anything I don’t want? By the way, you’re not supposed to be able to hurt me. I guess we can chalk that up to being a falsehood.” “I can’t make you leave. Had I been able to, then you’d be gone. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with you thinking I’m your mate.” She looked down at her arm where he’d touched her, and he could see the marks on her arm. Standing up and going to her, he asked her if she was all right. Then he pulled her arm over to have a better look at what had happened. She was burned. Like his fingers brushing over her, and that had been all it was, had caused her to be blistered and in pain. “Why did you touch me? I told you, several times, not to touch.” He let her arm go but didn’t back away this time. “I don’t want to be here.” “No, I got that.” He laughed a little, and saw a tease of a smile on her mouth. Then she became hard again. “Why did you burn when I touched you? And why not the second time that I held up your arm?” “You were intending to detain me. For lack of a better word, my programming knew that and lashed out at you. The second time you weren’t as aggressive.
need to harm you again.”
Hawkins nodded and touched his fingers to her cheek. “That doesn’t mean that I won’t fucking hurt you. Go away. And then I will. You’ll be much happier without me around, trust me. I know this for a fact.” “There have been others that you hurt?” Instead of answering him, she walked to the window and looked out. “I can help you. You can tell, I’m assuming, that I’m a bit more than a cat. I’m in no way as powerful as the two of you, you and Jon, but I can hold my own.” “They won’t care what you are. If you have loved ones or even if you’re an immortal. They’ll take you apart right there along with me once they figure it out.” He shivered, thinking of all the shit she’d had done to her. “I’m trying my best to save you, and you’re too dense to understand that forgetting about me will be the best thing that happens to you.” “Doubtful. I mean, I was afraid of when I found my mate. Not afraid, but concerned that I’d been too long in the military and might not be good for a woman. Hell, I’m barely good to my family on a daily basis. I can see you have no trouble putting me in my place and making sure that I understand when you’re pissed off.” She didn’t laugh like he had hoped she would. “I’m not a gentle man. I don’t know how to be romantic. I haven’t the first clue how dating works anymore. When I was seventeen I signed on to become something more. What I hadn’t counted on was Burcher finding me and recruiting me for her team.” “I’m assuming that was her last name before becoming McCullough. I’d toss her into a deep hole or cage and lock the door, but that’s just me.” He told her what her name was before. “Colonel Lauren Burcher? I knew that she was something more than just a woman. She’s a bitch.”
“Yeah, she might say the same about you. But she’d be happy with it instead of pissed off like you are.” She looked like she didn’t understand, and he’d bet she didn’t want to. “I was called Mac in the service. My family is the only people that call me Hawkins. Or sometimes Hawk when I’m not in too much trouble with them.” She didn’t say the obvious next line of “that must happen a lot then.” Hawkins realized that she was going to forever do the unexpected and not care a bit if it offended or even pissed someone off. She was a great deal like Lauren, but Jamie would be meaner when pressed, he guessed. “Why don’t you come home with me?” She turned and looked at him then. “I have a nice house. My brother helped me buy it when I was in the service.” “You still are. In the service, I mean.” He nodded, not saying anything. “I’m not going home with you. I have one that I like well enough. But you’re to stay away from me. I don’t want to get involved with you at all.” “I’m afraid it’s too late for that.” He pulled her body to him, and was surprised that he didn’t hurt her again. Pressing his mouth to hers, hoping that she’d allow him a taste of her, he moaned when she finally did. Her body fit his. When he pulled her closer, letting her feel what she was doing to him, he thought he would happily die right now the way she’d wrapped her arms
Before he could pull her up from the floor, find a hard place to lay her while he feasted on her body, she pulled her mouth away from his. “I’m sorry.” He started to tell her that she had nothing to be sorry about when she disappeared. Hawk was left holding air, and was no closer to finding anything out than he had been before. And Hawk wanted to know everything. Reaching to Burcher, he asked her if she’d do him a favor. If you’re going to ask me if I can find out something about your girl, I’m already on it. Your mate is a piece of work, by the way. She isn’t the least bit impressed with me, nor does she care that I could snap her like a twig. Hawk wisely said nothing. He was reasonably sure that Jamie could not just snap Lauren, but get rid of the body without any trouble.
There isn’t much when I do a regular search, but I’m digging. Where is she, by the way? Gone. She was here, then gone. I need to talk to Jon too. Maybe he can shed some light on things. Lauren said she doubted it. Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking too. I might have to return to Washington, but I’ll be in contact with you while I’m gone. I’m assuming that Mom and Dad know that I’ve found my mate? Yes, but it wasn’t me. I was really pissed about that too. Colin told them before I was able to. She paused for too long, but he knew better than to hurry her along. Hawk, your mate is really in the shit. She’s not just wanted by some very unsavory people, but there is a warrant out for her arrest as well. Murder and robbery. But they know her as an entirely different name. Holly Tree. Even I can tell that’s a fake, and I’m not looking very hard. I’ll need what you can find. I don’t have a clue where she is, or even if she needs a place to stay. But she’s my mate, and for what it’s worth, I’m sorry I ever doubted that I wanted one. She said that she’d have it couriered to him. Thanks. I owe you one. Never, Mac. Never that. I owe you so much, I don’t think being immortal is ever going to be long enough to pay you back for most of it. He said nothing. I’m printing it up now and making arrangements to have it brought to you. Should be there by this evening. Hawk could disappear too. He didn’t care for doing it, because when he reappeared, he had to be careful where he was landing, so to speak. But this time he had no choice. He should have been in Washington yesterday. He only had a few more missions to go before he was done with everything military. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t dreading it.