Jazzie Scott had been having a bad run on her luck ever since she had gotten mixed up with Ryan Scott. The only thing good to come out of that short marriage was her son Joey. Ryan died right after Joey was born which left her nearly broke and working a thankless job just to survive. Now someone was out to get her. They blew up her house and sent another bomb to the school where she worked. The police were now trying to pin the bombings on her, and she had had about all she could stand when her Uncle Lloyd stepped in to help.
Tyler Winchester had properties all over the world and had recently hired a staff of people to handle them for him. He had to fly to France to take care of a problem when he received a call from one of his employees, Lloyd, that Lloyd’s niece was in trouble. Lloyd was a good worker and Tyler offered to help.
Tyler arrived home, in the wee hours of the morning. He had a bad case of jetlag and all he wanted to do was sleep. When he entered his bedroom, the sounds of a baby fussing immediately drew his attention, and when he picked the little guy up, he knew immediately that the babe’s mom was his mate. Her scent had his head spinning.
Jazzie wasn’t too keen on having another man in her life. The last one was enough to make her swear off men for the rest of her life.
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Caleb Winchester didn’t care for his boss, in fact he despised him. He hadn’t meant to quit that day—the words ‘I quit’ spilled from his mouth without thinking—but once said he had no regrets. He was a good ad executive, he could find another job.
Quinn Dorsey and her father, Alexander, had seen Caleb’s work and that was the artist they needed for their dog food labels. When the agency couldn’t deliver the ad campaign they ordered, and then lied about Caleb working on the project, they went looking for the man himself.
Caleb hadn’t expected his customers to seek him out, but when Alexander shows up at Caleb’s house with his daughter, Quinn, Caleb is floored—she’s his mate and she’s been marked by another alpha.
Caleb’s not going to let an alpha beat him out of his mate. This lunatic has been marking females left and right, but if Caleb claims her, he risks not only his life, but the life of his mate and family as well…
Gabriel Winchester was finally opening his own practice. After finishing the final details, and meeting his first patient, he sat back in his unfinished office and closed his eyes, just to rest them, he told himself. When he opened them, a burly stranger was there, and he wasn’t that friendly. The man was looking for a Rayne McFarland and “I don’t know who she is” wasn’t an acceptable answer, so Gabriel called his brothers through their link for help.
Rayne was on the run from her father, and knew when he caught up with her she’d be dead. Rayne could speak to the deceased and they warned her every time her father’s henchmen were near. What she didn’t count on was falling in the woods and injuring herself.
When his brother, Owen, brought the unconscious woman into his office, Gabriel’s wolf knew immediately who she was to them. Ready or not, Gabriel had a mate, and while he knew he could handle the threat to her, he wasn’t sure he could live with her ability to talk to the dead.
Clare Macintosh didn’t know what was going on. Her brother, Conrad, had been called in for a meeting and they’d already been waiting over an hour. They were leaving, they had waited long enough.
Owen Winchester had called for the meeting with Conrad. He had no idea the young man was handicapped, but what he had to show him would make his life easier, or at least he hoped so. The trunks Owen had found in the barn of his new home belonged to him. Conrad was the only living relative he could find of the previous owner. Owen was a bit surprised to find Conrad had a sister and she was his mate to boot.
All Clare wanted to do was take her brother and hide. Her parents, Con and Ava Macintosh, weren’t nice people, and neither were the people they stole from. Even though Clare had distanced herself from them, it wouldn’t stop their associates from seeking revenge. She didn’t need the handsome stranger pushing his way into her life.
Addie’s mission had been sabotaged and she’d been shot multiple times. She wouldn’t die from her wounds because she was an immortal, but she did hurt, and she needed time to heal. The Winchesters had taken her into their home while she was passed out from her injuries. Now that she was awake, she needed to leave. She was being hunted and they would all be in danger if she stayed.
Xander Winchester had just received the best news. The publisher loved his book so much that they were not only publishing his book, they were offering a movie deal to boot. He couldn’t wait to tell his family at dinner tonight.
The scent from the woman hit Xander hard. Her beauty was something that he’d never seen before. Even as he took a step toward her, his mind was telling him to tread carefully, while his body and wolf were telling him to go forth and conquer. He had a feeling that listening to that part of him would get him killed quicker than stepping in front of a bus. Or an entire line of them.
Xander should have known better. Should have taken to heart what his mind was telling him….
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Jazzie could not wait for the last bus to pull away from the building. She looked at the array of gifts on her desk and wanted to sob. They hated her. And if she had only thought that was true before, this sort of set it in stone. Picking up one of the gifts, she looked at the mug. “For the worst teacher of the year.” Jazzie wanted to toss it across the room, see it smash against the concrete wall, and hear the pottery shatter. The rest of the gifts from her class were no different. There was a word of the day calendar that she knew one of the parents had picked up for the kid. It gave a word a day to describe hate. Not just the word, but also a little blurb about how the word could be used about her.
Jazzie also had a pen that when you clicked the button at the side, it would change a line to describe what they’d like to see happen to her. There were other things too, all in the same genre and directed right at her. A total of twenty-three gifts in all. She had to have been given the most gifts of all the teachers. Gathering them up and putting them in a box, she decided that she was going to find a job over the break, quit this stupid job that got her nothing for her work, and move away. She should have known better than to think she could make a difference after the first day of classes, when one of the students had given her a note from their parents. “Don’t even think about giving my son a failing grade. You do, and you’ll regret it for the rest of your short ugly life.” Jazzie still had it. She had framed it, thinking back then that it had been a joke. No, she’d come to find out. Not only wasn’t it a joke, but more of the parents had threatened her the same way. When she was putting the mug in the box, she knocked over the calendar. Its word today was piss-off.
Jazzie had no doubt that these were from the parents, but— She looked at the calendar as it lay open on the floor. Even from where she was sitting, she could see that there was some sort of device in it. Sitting down, trying to think what this might mean, she counted to ten. Then again, and again, trying to make her heartrate slow enough that she wasn’t dizzy. Taking out her cell phone, she put it away. Somewhere she thought she had read that cell phones could be used to make a bomb go off. While Jazzie wasn’t sure that’s what this was, she didn’t want to hurt anyone that might still be here in the building with her. Joey, her son, was safe with the sitter today if something should happen to her. Leaving the calendar where it was, she stepped into the hall and hoped that she was far away from the thing to make a call. She dialed her sister, knowing that she was going to regret it almost as soon as she pressed the button. And of course, it went right to voice mail. Jazzie tried to think who her sister worked for—somebody that had more money than brains, she thought. And then it occurred to her to call her Uncle Lloyd—Jazzie
was sure that he’d know what to do. At this point, she wasn’t even sure that the police would come and help her. And if it wasn’t a bomb, then she’d be laughed out of the town faster than she was planning to leave anyway. When he answered the phone, she sobbed. “Honey? Jazzie? What it is, love? Are you hurt? Joey? Is he okay?” Crying harder, she slid to the floor and asked him to hold on. It took her five minutes to spill out the story and tell him what she’d found. “Have you touched it? The calendar or the device?” “No. I mean, the calendar, it was a gift from one of my students, but I think it’s more from their parents.
They’re all so hateful, Uncle Lloyd. I have never been so hurt by something as I am this. I guess if the sucker is a bomb, then I’d be hurt more. Will you take care of Joey for me? He’s all I have in the world. Ash and Mom, they told me that they were tired of me—” He said her name hard and she shut up. “I’m to ask you who else is in the building with you.” She said that she didn’t know. The buses were all gone. “Good, the kids are gone then. All right. I want you to find a fire alarm and pull it. Then get out. As fast as you can.” “What if it’s not a bomb? Uncle Lloyd, you have no idea what I’ve been putting up with here.” He said her name again, but this time softer, gentler. “I can’t do this anymore. I just want to let it take me away.” “Now you listen here, young lady. You do what I tell you or I will paddle your bottom. You know that I will, too. That sister of yours, Ash, she should have had hers beaten a bit more, but she was too far gone by the time I came around.” He laughed. “However, I think she would have beaten my bottom worse. Now, do as I tell you.
” She went into the room, after getting his permission to get her purse, and then went into the hall to pull the alarm. When it sounded, several of the teachers came into the hall and asked her what the hell she was doing. After telling them that there was a bomb in the building, they simply closed the doors and went back into their rooms. Screaming, she went to the first door that had opened and pounded on it. Before Mrs. Hale could say anything, Jazzie slapped her, then asked her if that hurt. “I’m going to report you to the board. There is no cause for you to go around hitting people. I wish you’d just leave.” “Are you willing to just stay in your room and let a bomb, which was given to me by one of the students, go off and blow you to shit?” Mrs. Hale looked down at Jazzie’s door, then at Jazzie again. “If you think that slap hurt, how to you think it’s going to feel when the fucking building comes down on your head? Did you think of that? Now get your old skinny ass out of here before I have to knock you out and drag you by the hair.” She had no idea where all this violence was coming from, but it got Mrs. Hale moving. And she, in turn, got the rest of them moving as well. By the time the police and fire trucks pulled up, the teachers were standing as far back from the building as they could and still be in the parking lot. She almost forgot that she was still talking to her uncle.
“Remind me to never upset you. Where did that come from?” She smiled; it was the first real one she’d had since coming here. “Now, I want you to have a seat on the ground and let the people that know what they’re doing take care of this.” “What if it’s not a bomb?” She sat on the cold ground and waited for him to finish talking to someone with him. “Uncle Lloyd, I’m so sorry. I forgot you might be working.” “It’s all right, love. And it was a bomb. A friend of mine, he sent someone there and to your home. You were going to die if you’d not knocked over that gift.” If he continued talking, she had no idea what he was saying. Her mind kept looping around and around. “You were going to die. You were going to die.” When she woke up, she was in the back of an ambulance and a man was sitting next to her. Sitting up a little, she looked at him when he asked her to please stay still, someone was coming to get her. Not sure who that would be, she just assumed it was her uncle. “How long have I been here? And why does my head hurt so badly?”
She put her hand to her forehead and came away with blood when she felt it was wet. “Did one of the parents hit me?” “Ms. Scott, my name is Danny. And I’d like to advise you to not say another word.” She asked him why. “Your phone was ringing and I answered it. Lloyd said for me to tell you when you woke that he was coming and that you were to keep your mouth shut. He’s a very intense person, isn’t he?” “Yes. When there is someone hurt that he— There was a device in my office. Was it a bomb?” He helped her to sit up a little, but she had to wait until her head stopped spinning until she could look in the direction that he’d pointed. “Oh no. Oh my goodness. My son? Oh, my son?” “Your uncle, he told me that he was going to get him.” She asked him why he trusted him with the message. “I guess the guy that he works for, Tyler Winchester, told him that his brother knew me.
Dom and I went to school together. Now there is a nice man.” “I’ve had enough of nice men.” She didn’t know why she said that, and looked at what was left of the building. “I should have asked this before, but was anyone hurt?” “No, thanks to you. Mrs. Hale said that you got a little violent on her to get her out. She is telling everyone that you saved all their lives.” Jazzie told him that no one liked her. “Ah, I find that hard to believe. I mean, you seem like a nice person to me.” “I got the bomb from one of my students. Also, I had a lot of other things in my office.” He nodded and told her to lay back and close her eyes. Almost as soon as she did that, she heard a voice she didn’t know. “She awake yet?” Danny told the man that she had hit her head pretty hard. “Yes, well, I need for her to explain a few things to me. Like, why is it that her room was targeted? How did the bomb get into the school? Don’t tell her that her own home is gone. I’d like to see her reaction when I tell her. There is something fishy going on here.”
“Yes, I think so too.” Danny’s voice had turned hard then, and the cop, or so she thought it was, asked him what was up his ass. “Nothing. But from what I’ve heard, she saved a lot of teachers by getting them out of the building. And I know for a fact that the teachers here were taught what to look for in devices, as well as what to do. All the teachers in the district had to take it or they couldn’t teach this term.” “Yeah, well, she could have made it, brought it in on her own, then had second thoughts. Tell me when she wakes up. I have a lot of questions for her.” Danny told her he was gone but she didn’t move. “My house is gone too.” He said that he was sorry that she had to find out like that. “I have nothing left. Nothing for my son, nothing to put on him.
My savings is gone because I had to bury my husband, the lying cheating fucking prick.” When her uncle arrived, he sat with her while the police finally got around to asking her questions. Before she could utter the first word, even if she knew how to answer the one where he asked her if she had done it, an attorney came into the room and demanded that she be allowed to go to the hospital. Wendall Forthright not only had her on her way to the hospital in a few minutes, but he met her there too, bringing her uncle along. Joey was there as well, and as soon as she saw her little man, Jazzie felt better.
Her head was pounding so he kept trying to kiss her boo-boo, and that too made her feel human again. Sixteen stitches and a trip to where her uncle worked later, Jazzie found herself tucked into a nice warm bed, with her son in a crib right next to her. The meds that the doctor had given her for the trip had put her under. Her last thoughts were that it was a really nice hotel that someone put her and her son in. She only hoped that no one expected her to pay for it. She was pretty sure that not only was she out of work, but that she might be going to jail as well. ~*~ Tyler was on his way to France when the call came in about Lloyd’s niece and her son. He told him to bring them both to his home, put them in a room, and not to tell anyone where she was. His family was all right, but not anyone else. He’d gotten called about one of the houses that he owned. He’d sent Lloyd, Ash and her mother, as well as a friend of the family’s—Laveen Richardson’s—mother, Jannie. They went there to find out what had been going on.
And right after Lloyd had returned, thinking things were squared away, the house was vandalized. Tyler had to go there because there was no signed contract between him and Ash yet. So he was off again. The contract had been drawn up to have her sign when she returned from this trip. The other homes, all that she’d taken care of, seemed to be doing very well now. In the few weeks that she’d been there, he’d not gotten a single call from anyone. Again, Tyler wished that he’d hired someone much sooner. His cell was ringing just as he unbuckled and got ready to do some paperwork on the plane. It was his dad. Smiling, he waited for him to finish talking to Mom before he spoke to him.
“I’m telling you right now, if that girl ain’t your mate, I’m going to claim her as my own.” Tyler asked him what was going on. “That little man of hers—that’s what she calls him, her little man—he’s been having the best time with us. Or I should say, we’re having it with him. His poor momma. She’s the one that Lloyd told you about that had to bury her husband last year.” “He said that when the accident occurred, he and his lover were killed.” Dad told him that was the one. “Why are you having so much fun with the little boy? I mean, don’t you have enough grandchildren to play with there?” “I do. But a man like me, he can always have him a few more. You need to get yourself busy on that for us.” Tyler knew the moment that Mom hit Dad in the back of the head. “Durn it, woman, a man can beg, can’t he? I mean, the boy is all set for one. Got him a house right next door to us, and money in the bank.
Heck fire, he could take her all over the world and not have to visit one of them there fancy hotels once. Why not push him a little?” “Because, you old fool, he is not even in the States, and you’re adopting children for him. What is wrong with…are you still talking to him? What about his phone bills? Did you think of that when you were hanging on there like a monkey from the tree?” Tyler waited. He had explained to his parents, several times, that with a cell phone, it didn’t matter. His dad explained that to Mom while he waited for them to remember that someone had called him. “Tell him I love him, but I have to go and fetch some diapers for little Joey.” “That’s his name, in the event you didn’t know it.” He told Dad that he didn’t and thanked him.
“That man of yours, Lloyd, he’s fit to be tied. They’re blaming that bombing on her, I guess. Durn fools. Even her house—everything that she had was in it, and they’re treating her like she’d went and done it. There weren’t a soul hurt either, on account’a she went and made them leave. I tell you what.” Dad had been saying that for years, “I tell you what.” No one knew what he was going to tell you. He never explained, and rather than get into a discussion that would more than likely not give them the answer, they all just let him say it. Even Mom— she’d walk away from him when he’d spouted off that little tidbit.
“I’ll be home in about a week. Just make sure that she has whatever she needs. Lloyd means a great deal to me, and I don’t want him upset.” Dad told him that they were getting together supplies right now. “Good. How is he doing? Is he all right?” “Yes, seems to be. He does fuss a bit more. And that little boy, he sure does love him his uncle. Took me pert near a whole day to figure out that he ain’t really their uncle. He was just a really good friend to her daddy. And when he passed on, Lloyd took over helping them out.” Dad laughed, and he smiled again. “I tell you something, son. That girl has a temper on her too. Just yesterday, right after she got herself up and going, Addie came in and started ordering her around. None too gentle like either. But she didn’t want her up and around, and the girl just took her to task like she wasn’t armed and dangerous like you see them people on television. I tell you, she’d have peeled paper off the wall had they been in the living room.”
Why the living room? Tyler had no clue, but he didn’t ask. He knew that would be another long and drawn out explanation that would never answer the question. Tyler loved his parents with all his heart, but his dad could make a merry-go-round ill with the way he went around and around to get to the point. Dad told him that he had to go. Now that his momma was gone, he had to teach little Joey how to walk. Tyler asked him what Joey’s momma would say about that, and he just laughed, like asking parents about their kids’ habits was funny to him. Well, Tyler hoped that if his house guest wasn’t happy with it, she’d peel his wall paper off too. By the time he got everything straightened out in France—it only took him about an hour to get the paperwork fixed up—Tyler thought that he’d stay for a few days, just to relax. He also wanted to pick up a few things for Christmas while he was there, as well as bring home a few bottles of wine for gifts. Cartwright Winery was well known all over the world, and he wasn’t going to change the name because of that.
But he thought it’d be fun to have Winchester Winery on the label at some point. Maybe he’d ask Caleb what sort of designs he could come up with, incorporating Cartwright in the name at some place. Tyler thought that was a good idea. The next day when he got up, he was still on home’s timeframe, only a five-hour difference. Tyler made his way to the water just to watch the waves come in. It was too chilly to walk in the water, but that didn’t matter to him—Tyler was happy having the area all to himself. The house had its own beach front, and he loved it there. When he was ready to face the world, even if it was late in the afternoon for him, he decided to go to the local bakery and find something that might tempt him. He’d been eating fast food for a while now, since Mr. Cartwright had passed, and he was hungry for some home cooking. Having a meal at his mom’s once a week wasn’t nearly enough for him and his taste buds. He was just looking over the menu when something occurred to him. Laying the menu down slowly, Tyler tried to think who he should talk to.
When Addie touched his mind, her laughter had him peg her for the culprit right away. Yes, it was me. I heard that you were having a terrible time when you traveled because you didn’t understand the languages. I fixed it for you. He asked her how she’d done that. If I told you, then I’d have to murder you. And while I like you a great deal…. Nah, it wasn’t that hard. I just thought of the barrier that you were dealing with and touched you. In fact, I’ve given it to all the people in this family. Penny loves it, by the way. Yes, I’m sure she does, but she’s twelve. You might have told me. She asked him why she’d do something silly like that. Because, I don’t want to freak out in a foreign country. You are freaking out, Tyler. He took several deep breaths and let them out slowly. While I’m talking to you, there are a few things that I’d like to discuss. The woman in your house—do you know what she’s being accused of? Dad told me that they think she might have done it. Addie said that she hadn’t. I didn’t think so. Dad is a pretty good judge of character, and he didn’t believe it either. Why do you ask?
The police are hounding her. Well, they’re looking for her to hound her. My boss is well aware of where she is, and he’s having me look into it. By the way, she’s not Dom’s mate. That leaves you, I guess. Tyler asked her why she’d think that. Don’t know for sure. But the others, they have this unbelievable need to protect her. Dad, your dad, said that’s a good sign. I think you might like her, even if she’s not. I’m a little deep in shit here to wonder if I have a mate or not. She told him that he was done, but wasting time. Are you always this annoying? I’ll have you know that this is the first time in a while that I feel like I’m on top of things. And while I do think that your gift is great, it was still a surprise to be able to read the menu here.
Also, you’ll be thrilled to know that I’m Christmas shopping. He was the only one that hadn’t bought a single gift. If not for the others arranging to get their parents a family gift, he’d not have had that done either. The list was finished; he knew just what to get each person. It was the execution of the deal that he wasn’t up on. When Addie told him that her target was coming out, Tyler just let her go. He had better things to do, too, that didn’t involve asking his hitman sister-in-law who her target might be. She was a hitman for the CIA and the president. He stayed out of her way when she was working. At dinner time he was back at the house, having made a dent in his list. Owen had asked him to pick up the tea cups that were at the shop that Birdie had ordered long before her death, and he said that he would. While there, he found the perfect gift for his mom. The cup had the most beautiful design on it.
Roses and violets were all around the outside, as well as the inside bottom. But what really sold him was the fact that it had her name on it, in the vines. The owner of the shop had been so happy to have Birdie’s cups picked up that he’d done that for free. Tyler was going to be able to pick it up before he left. Dinner was a variety of dishes that he wanted to try, and he thanked his cook there for thinking of him. After dinner, exhausted after all the walking he’d done and the lack of sleep he’d been having lately, Tyler went to bed almost as soon as the sun was down. Tomorrow he had one more place to shop, then he’d be heading home. To what he had no idea, but he was going to be ready for it.