Noah Farley had been living in the States for a long time, and he was homesick. When Devon invited him to come home for a visit, he packed up everything he had and wasn’t planning on returning to his home in the city anytime soon, if ever. His dragon needed room to roam, and the city left his options too limited.
Bea Frost had made the buy of a lifetime, a castle in the country, and she made plans with her granddaughter Bryce, and daughter-in-law Laura, to move into it. Both Bea and Bryce were witches, and moving away from their current location, away from the Witches Council, would be like a breath of fresh air.
Noah’s family had lost the castle to back taxes before they had died. Its loss didn’t leave him much to go home to, but he was curious as to who had purchased the property. When he met Bryce, he was both surprised and pleased to find out that she was his mate. Bryce, however, didn’t care for dragons and wasn’t shy about letting him know that either.
The Witches Council consisted of three warlocks, Black, White, and Gray. When appointed, the mix was supposed to balance them out, but instead, the men had become evil and corrupt. Bryce had become too powerful, more powerful than the council combined, and the WC considered her a threat. Killing her human mother or new mate would be just the ticket to bring her to heal…
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Kelly Dalton was packed and ready to go on the trip of a lifetime. She was excited to spend a month in Europe sightseeing. Her budget would be tight, and she’d have to make the trip alone because her sister drained her checking account, but despite the lack of funds, Kelly was ready for the new adventure—anything to get away from her family.
Devon Wakefield was the tenth Marquess to the house of Wilkshire and a dragon shifter. Since the death of his father, he had been lord of the castle since he was ten. His life lacked only one thing—a mate—but he was in no hurry to find one.
Kelly was sorry to see her vacation end. One more stroll around the beautiful countryside then she’d have to go back home—to what she didn’t know. Her sister, Rachel, was so angry that Kelly didn’t pay for her trip that she set fire to Kelly’s apartment. There was nothing really to go back to, but she’d deal with that when she returned. In the meantime, she would enjoy her last couple of days in England. However, Kelly was unprepared for the sudden rain shower, and in the rushing water, she lost her footing. Everything went black…
Distraught because Kelly was missing, the innkeeper called Devon to find her. When Devon found the injured young woman, he realized that he’d found his mate, and in an effort to ease her recovery he wanted to do something nice for her—he brought her family to England….
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Noah Farley stood as still as he could. Bringing attention to himself right now would get a great many people in trouble, especially him. Not that they wouldn’t be anyway. Having him on site was just as bad to the police as having a tarot reader, or even a magician, there with them when a crime needed to be solved. Not many believed in him. Nor did they believe he wasn’t the person they were after nine times out of ten. But Noah got results, and that was important to a lot of people who did believe in him. The man in charge of this investigation was someone that Noah not only didn’t respect but someone that he thought of as a lazy fuck. He thought that of a great many people, but this guy, Detective Peter Boseman, was the dictionary definition of the phrase—at least the word lazy, anyway.
And the men that hung out with him—Noah called them his crew—were one step away from long prison terms or death by the state. Either way, he’d be glad to be rid of them. Boseman looked up at him. “I’m supposing you can see something that we can’t? You look like you just know it all, and think that you’re the best of the best, don’t you? What is it, Farley? You seeing the ghosts of these here dead? What are they telling you about how they were killed?” Noah said nothing, again not moving. “Well, what I find here is this. The man murdered the woman, then killed himself. Over money. She was spending it—just look at them nails and shoes—and he wasn’t having it. He’s wearing old shoes that have been patched up and a dirty coat. Murder/suicide, end of the case. Tell me, Farley, am I dead on?” “No, not even close.”
He waited for someone, this man in front of him, to give him permission to speak again. He didn’t need it. Just last week he’d been asked to become a part of the police force as a full-time consultant to the department. And he would have a higher ranking than any man there, including Agent Boseman. But he’d not taken the job—wasn’t even sure that he wanted it. He might take it just to put this man out to pasture…. No, he’d more than likely turn it down. He did this for the department because it gave him something to do. If it were a job, he knew he’d begin to hate it, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone, especially the dead that needed justice—at least their families did. No, so long as he could come and go as he pleased, that was better for everyone—including Boseman again. He would be a dead detective if Noah had to work with him full-time. “Not even close, am I now? Well, why don’t you enlighten us about your powers of observation?” He snickered, and the men with him did the same.
Noah thought that there was some sort of button that Boseman pushed to get reactions from the morons that were with him. “Go on. Tell me what you see that a thirty-year veteran of homicide can’t see. And so’s you know, I don’t care what you see or observe, I know which one of us the captain is going to believe. And it ain’t you.” “I’d not count on that if I were you. First of all, they didn’t know each other to care enough about what kind of money either of them had. The man is someone that I’ve seen over on Welsher from time to time. I believe that he’s homeless and pushes that
cart that’s right over there.
You can see it—it has all his worldly goods in it. The woman is an office worker. The badge that is hanging from her purse there says that she works in finance. She had money to burn because she has no one else in her life. The reason I can see that is, there is no wedding band and her watch is worth more than you make in a year’s time. The shoes are about four hundred, dress and coat another grand. I’d say she was a woman with good taste and liked to look nice. Her name is Shelby Kiddom, by the way. Again, it’s on her name badge.” The faerie that had been with him for decades, William, was in human form and recording the conversation for him for later use. Noah bent down to look at the things around the bodies. He spotted the police department issued gloves used at a crime scene, covered in blood, just under her left breast, and knew that only a cop would have those. Looking up, he knew who the killer was right away. The smirk gave him away. “I’m assuming that some big shot guy like yourself would know all about women’s fashion and such. You wear it, Farley, when you’re not wasting the taxpayers’ money? Or do you have a personal knowledge with this man? You know…?” Boseman did the international sign, one Noah had seen used a million times, for fucking. “Are you a homo, Farley?”
Ignoring his crude comments, Noah continued. “The male, I would say in his mid to late sixties, came upon the woman to offer aid. She was already dead by then, and the man that had killed her, not a husband, was just waiting for a flow of traffic of people so he could blend in. There is no blood splatter on this man, and there would be if he’d been the one to cut her throat. The male just happened upon him as Shelby was bleeding out. She had her throat slit from behind, but the killer would have had blood all over him. The homeless man has a single gunshot to the head—from behind as well.” “And you got all that from looking at two dead bodies? I won’t believe it. Nobody will.” He looked around at his crew, the only thing that Noah would call the cops with him. “He must be one of them there clara-boinks. You know, the ones that can see the dead?” The button must have been pushed again because they all laughed like they had before. Short and loud. One of them even sounded like a jackass braying. All in a day’s work for Noah, he thought, putting up with idiots. Stretching his neck as he stood up, he smiled at Boseman. “It’s clairvoyant, and that’s not primarily what I am. I’m a profiler, for lack of a better term.” Boseman laughed harder. “Yes, well, if you ever get off your fat fucking ass and look into this, you’ll find that the man who killed them both is standing with you right now. It’s a cop.”
Noah and William walked away. When he heard the shots being fired, he didn’t turn back but did pull out his cell phone. Telling dispatch that there was an officer down and giving them the address, he kept walking to his car. William, a faerie, changed into his other self and landed on his shoulder. “We can only hope that the man killed Boseman too,” William said that he’d not. “Figures. I need to get away for a while. I know that I was only just asked to take a full-time position at the station, but I can’t do this right now. I need time to grieve. I know that my family has been gone for some time, but I still ache from their passing. I understand why they did it, but my heart still hurts from it.” “As I have said to you many times, your lordship.” William was the only person who knew that not only was Noah a dragon and someone who could solve a crime quickly, but he was also—he had also been—the king of a castle. “If you remember, sir, his lordship Devon invited you to his home for the summer months. He has taken a wife, and she is breeding his child now.”
“Yes, I remember.” As they got into the car, William sitting on his own perch on the next seat, Noah continued. “I hate this city. Well, not the city so much as the people here. And I think they get more violent and more stupid with each passing year. I just need to get away from this. I need to be with friends who care not what I can do or what I am.” “The city and the people it consists of are the same things, as I have pointed out to you before.” Noah nodded and laughed. “You do need a vacation if you don’t mind me saying so. But you also need to be your dragon for longer periods than a few minutes when the rain is coming down. Sir, he needs to be himself as badly as, if not more than, you.” He thought about the vacation for the rest of the drive to his home. He was going to do it, but the amount of work that he had to do and to delegate before leaving was going to be a great deal. But still, he thought that everyone would enjoy it, getting away for a time. Noah pulled into the driveway and looked at the home that he shared with about fifty other beings. The house looked like one of the hundreds of other houses in the city and was a cookie cutter of the ones on his street. At least on the outside. Once you were inside, that was where you really saw the difference. It was about ten times larger than the other houses and filled with things that he’d collected over the years. Magic and the beings that lived with him, all faeries, had given him that and more. Companionship for the most part, and that he treasured more than anything else. There were three floors to the home, but it only showed that there was one from the outside. The kitchen was big enough for several of the finest chefs to make a meal and never touch one another. A dining room that was wasted on him could easily feed over a hundred guests. Even his bedroom—about twice the size of the entire house next to his, which was a couple of acres away—was something that his magic had done for them when he and William took up residence. The others, faeries that had been at his castle home, had come to live with him when he lost it due to taxes not being paid on time. When he’d purchased the home, there had been nothing around the area but fields of tobacco and corn. Then as the houses started to pop up, so did the fence that he had around his property. And now it was electrified too. He knew that people thought him to be something of a recluse, which he supposed he was. Noah preferred his own company over anyone else’s, save William.
His staff, the faeries, were there waiting for him as soon as he entered. “There is a call from a Lady Wakefield. She said that she is the marchioness to the House of Wilkshire.” He paused in going up the staircase when Rose cleared her throat. “She giggled, sir. Giggled and said that I was just to call her Kelly, not the mouthful that is her title from being married to Lord Devon. I don’t understand.” He turned to look at his staff and realized that they were just as curious. He thought about what he’d heard about Kelly, as Lady Susanna had called her, and knew that she was just as delightful as she’d told him. Noah sat down on the stairs and laughed. “I’ve been thinking that we’d all go for a visit to the Marquess Devon and his new family. Please, I would like for you all to close up the house. Donate all the foodstuff to the shelter, and pack us whatever we might need to travel to England.” He looked at William as he continued. “I want you to gather up the seeds and other things that you’ve been hoarding, and we’ll take them someplace where they can thrive. We will all leave as soon as arrangements can be made.” “Sir, what about your job?” He didn’t care and told William that. Noah didn’t need the money, not really, and he had to get away. “Shall I tell them that there has been an emergency and that you must travel today?” “Yes, that would be splendid. Also, do me a favor and find me Devon’s number.”
Rose handed him the small sheet of paper with not only the phone number, but also how many times Kelly had called. “It seems, my dear family, that we’re headed home. I only hope that we’ll receive a better welcome than we have before.” The cheer went up and Noah stood up. He never said this, not anymore, but he wondered if things could get any worse. They could and would, he knew, but for now, he’d take it as it came. By nightfall he’d gotten a call from his boss at the station. Noah had told him everything that he’d told Boseman, and that the man in his little posse was the murderer. Noah told him that Boseman had been an ass. Also, he wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but he thought that Boseman had known about it. “Yes, well, that’s the way he operates. Or I should say, the way that he did. I was hoping that with you in charge of him, he’d either quit or he’d have to be fired. I got the recording of the events, and I’m going to ask him, quite firmly, to retire before I have to fire him. I have three men dead because of his stupidity, as well as two more injured. And all because he wouldn’t listen to you when you spoke to him last week. This couple, the ones that were killed needlessly, they’re going to be added to that list. And Roberts, the murderer, he’s dead. You didn’t ask, but I wanted you to know that Roberts been taken off the streets.” Noah had told Boseman, as well as Detective Captain Lin Ming, that there were two dirty cops on the force. Boseman told him he was wrong, Captain Ming told him to look into it. “I’ll talk to you when you return. If there is anything you need, just let me know, Noah. I don’t want to lose a good man like you.” By mid-morning the next day, not only were they on their way, but he’d been able to bring everyone on his staff, all faeries, on his body. It was something else that he’d been given, the ability to bring with him and use as many faeries as he could put upon
his body. They not only were able to travel with him without anyone seeing them, but they lent him a great deal of power, power that was much different than that of his parents. Noah smiled when he thought of when he’d called Devon.
“I’m so glad that you’re coming. Grandmother will be back by the time you arrive, if not at the same time.” He looked over at the marchioness, who had hitched a ride with him on his plane—the last of his inheritance from the castle. “Also, we have been making some improvements here. Some that I’m betting that you will be pleased with. We’re going to be working very hard here to make sure that you never leave us again.” It wouldn’t take much, not with the way he was feeling. It all depended on the welcome he received when he arrived. Would they greet him with open arms, or would they simply turn their backs on him as they had done before? Not Devon, but the town in general. “How is that lovely wife or yours, Devon? She must be sick of you by now. Perhaps I can persuade her to come back with me, and we’ll have a bunch of little dragons.” He was only joking, and he knew that Devon knew it. “I talked to your grandmother while she was visiting my area. She is quite taken with the little slip of a woman.” “She has my mom’s dragon, Noah. Had I not been standing there when it happened, I think I would never have believed it. And, I think that we’re all in a better place too. Knowing that my mom was killed by my father gave us some peace that I didn’t think I’d have after he was dead. It gave me some closure that I didn’t have before.” He knew that from talking to his plane mate. It had given Lady Susanna closure as well. “When you arrive, I’ll have someone meet you at the airport. I’m having one put in for us here, now that I have a wife, so that it will be much easier for us to travel without the world knowing.” Noah knew what he meant—so that someone wouldn’t be able to take Kelly. It had happened before. Someone had gotten it in their head to take one of Devon’s stepmothers. That had ended badly when Devon’s father had refused to pay the ransom, saying that she was unfit as a wife to a marquess anyway. They had taken their anger out on the young woman, and she’d suffered brutally from the beating and the resulting wounds. “I should be there in a couple of days. These days the only thing that I have left is the plane, and that will be gone soon too. Also, I have a great many faeries with me, and they’d like to see if they can work with yours. I have also had William gather some of his seeds from the homestead that you can plant there. If you don’t mind.”
He told him that was fine, and that they’d been looking at places for him to stay when he decided to stay for good. “You and that little wife of yours, you’re plotting? My goodness, Devon, you surely have become a changed man. I think I might stay, for a time anyway. As for homes, I’m not sure about that right now. I’m a little short on funds that I can readily put my hands on at the moment, as you well know.” “I do. And I understand. Whatever you want to do, my home is always open to you.” And he knew that as well. For as many times as people had said that to him over the decades, Noah knew that Devon meant it. “Once you get here, you will never want
to leave again. I am so positive about it that I’m going to throw a dinner party to welcome you. I’ve missed you, Noah. I’m so glad that you’re finally coming for a visit.” “I’ve missed you as well, my friend. I’ll see you soon.” As they flew to their destination, Noah and Susanna talked about the new Devon. Yes, he thought to himself, this was going to be a very good visit. And who knew, perhaps he’d end up staying, as Devon wanted.
~*~ Laura watched her daughter struggle with her temper. The fact that she was trying to hold onto it said that she was trying to change, and not just go from zero to overboard when people made her pissy. However, if Laura had been talking to the man, she would have murdered him by now. The man was as dense as a cinderblock. He’d come to the front door about twenty minutes ago, screaming and accusing almost as soon as the door opened an inch. And when he’d been told that the police were going to be called, he yelled louder, making sure, Laura thought, that the world knew he was upset. She listened to Bryce as she tried in vain to convince the man she didn’t have his daughter. “I said, six times now, that I can’t help you find your daughter. If she told you that she was coming here, then you can bet that I’d tell you if she was. Emma and I are not friendly enough to be going to one another’s homes.” He asked why not. “Because I don’t like her. Not one bit. And you can bank on that too. If she was hoping I’d cover for her, then she’s just as shit out of luck as you are.” “I have it written down right here on this note she left for me two days ago. I want you to read it.” Bryce snatched it from Emma’s father and read the note as one might to a child. “You are a nasty, rude person.” “Precisely. Now, call the police, call the national guard. They’ll have better luck finding her than you will here at my home.”
Bryce started to close the door in Mr. Sharp’s face. He put his foot in the way so that Bryce couldn’t close it. “Look. I’ve tried very hard, several times, not to punch you in the face. But if you don’t remove your foot from the doorway, I’m going to pull out a knife and cut the part off that is preventing me from closing my door and close it. I’m tired and out of sorts, and you’re not helping one bit.” He jerked his foot back and Bryce slammed the door. As she leaned her back against it, Mr. Sharp started pounding on the door’s other side. The man had a death wish, that was all Laura could think about him. “Do you know where she is?” Bryce nodded and walked away from the door into the kitchen. Laura followed her. Her mother-in-law, Bea, was sitting at the table, a cup of tea stirring in front of her. “Bea, I thought that as long as there was the possibility of someone seeing you, you’d not use your magic in this house.” “Yes. But he wasn’t going to get in. We both know that. Bryce would have cut him to ribbons. Or if he got this far, I would have changed him into a toad. Nasty man that.” Bea picked up her cup of tea and the spoon disappeared. “You know where she is, Bryce, honey?”
“Dead.” No one said anything. If Bryce said she was dead, then she was dead. “I was wondering if we could have chicken and dumplings for dinner. We could use the roasted chicken from last night, since we’d be getting a late start.” Laura looked at Bea, who simply shook her head. Sometimes she was jealous of the two of them, the things that they could share. But on this, Laura was glad for the fact that she wasn’t anymore a witch than the dog was next door. Her daughter was very powerful, and her mother-in-law was a close second. They talked about dinner for a little while more, none of them very hungry, it seemed. As they plotted and planned for tomorrow, Bryce ate some grapes, a bowl of them on the table that hadn’t been there before. Tomorrow Bryce was going into the police station to turn down the job that they’d asked her to take. “I can’t be working around people all the time and not have one of them notice that I’m off my noddle.” Bea smacked Bryce’s hand. “Well, I don’t think that, but you know that they will once I use my magic. And I will. Even if I only have to turn one of them into something that is silent.” “I don’t blame you there. While our kind isn’t burned at the stake anymore, I do think that they’d put you away and never find the key if they knew just how powerful you are. Not that a cell would hold you, but then they’d try something else. Oh, by the way, that man next door thinks that his doggy is dead. I’ve taken care that his little doggy is safe. Poor thing. He was hurting it again and letting it stand in the snow all night.”
Laura asked Bea where he was. “Under the table, now that you’re aware of him. He’s a good dog. I might train him to be my animal. I’ve been sort of lonely without Pet around.” It was a startling revelation that witches had familiars. It was even more surprising that they didn’t necessarily have to be a cat—any animal would do. Case in point, Bryce had a bird. It was a pretty cockatoo that spoke four languages and could curse better than a sailor on leave. His name was Fred. Pet, Bea’s animal, had died. He’d been a pretty little lizard that would chase Laura around the kitchen when he was being playful. It could do more than snap out his tongue at her when she spoke to him, as he too was as powerful as his mistress. They were sure that he’d been poisoned by someone, but who had done it was a mystery. She thought it was a neighbor, but she didn’t ask anymore what they’d do to him if it had been him. Some things were better left unknown, Laura had figured out. Few knew that they were a house of witches. Laura could do some magic, gifted to her by Bea first, then Bryce had given her more. Laura couldn’t do spells, nor could she cast, gathering ingredients like she would for a cake and putting them together for some use. Laura could help with spells, but she wasn’t able to cast them on someone or something. That was fine by her as well. “I was thinking about that trip. The one where we headed back to your old country.” Laura got up and started throwing together a salad. That was something that she knew would be eaten, even if it wasn’t right now. She wouldn’t be going on the trip—that was something that Bea and Bryce did twice a year. “I’ve heard about some
herbs that we can gather and bring back with us. It would be nice to have a fully functioning garden.”
“It would at that. I have that castle too. The one that was up on the market for nonpayment of taxes. We could all stay there.” Laura wanted to see the castle in person—it was supposed to be grand. But she’d stay here, hold down the fort, so to speak, and they’d bring her back all manner of things as gifts. Laura tuned them out. There was nothing she could have added to the conversation other than to find out when they were leaving and when they’d return. As she was putting the bowl filled with the best greens she could find in the fridge, Bryce asked her if she was paying attention. “I was. You two will be leaving and I’ll make sure that the animals are safe here. I’ll need to have someone help me with the mail. I can’t travel all that far without having my hip hurt me a great deal.” She’d fallen two years ago, and her hip hadn’t been the same since. And the doctors told her that it wasn’t broken, just badly bruised. Quacks. “I know you won’t have to pack anything, so tell me what you need for me to do.” “Pack for yourself.” Laura started shaking her head. “Yes, you’re going with us this time. No excuses. I told you the last time you were going with us the next time. So, you pack you what you think you might want to take, and I’ll close up the house. Grandma said she’d take care of everything else. This will be an adventure for all of us, I think.” “Bryce, I’m too much trouble.” Her daughter crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot.
“You are not using my way of getting you to mind me. You just go with Bea and I’ll be here when you return. I’m too hurt to want to sit on a plane for hours.” “We’re not. Returning, I mean.” She asked her what she meant. “Grandma said that it’s time that we move on. People are beginning to notice that she’s not aging. Neither am I. And you look like we could be sisters and not mother and daughter. It’s time, Mom. We’ve done it before, and we need to do it again. And even if we weren’t, you’re still going.” The hand on her shoulder buzzed like electric through a cord all the way through her body. Laura stood there for several seconds, the warm feeling of good health still making her slightly light headed. She knew that when she moved around, she’d be not only as good as new, but also not in any more pain. Sitting in the chair that was still warm from when Bea had been sitting in it, she looked at Bryce. “I told you not to ever do that. I’ll not have you wasting your talents on an old woman like me. I do feel better, but you shouldn’t have done that. Honey, I knew that you’d have to move on soon. I just thought that you’d just make me old and leave me behind. I mean, that’s what I’d do.” “You would not. If you don’t pack, I will, and you know that I’ll accidently leave something behind. You can’t think that I’d leave you here, do you?” She shook her head. “Good. Pack only what you can’t replace. Then when we get to this castle, we’ll buy what you need. And if you pack up a box of things too big for your suitcase, tell me and I’ll send it along too.”
“What about Emma’s body? You have to give that man some closure. Not that he deserves it, but you should at least let someone find her.” Bryce said that she couldn’t and got up from the table. Laura sat there for several more minutes. Bryce couldn’t help the ones that had killed themselves. It was a vow that she’d taken when she’d taken her first lesson at the school for witchcraft. Everyone had to give up something, some kind of thing, that they couldn’t help humans with, and she’d said that she’d never help the suicide victims’ bodies to be found. It was something that she didn’t run into often, but this time she knew that it hurt her little girl. It was the only thing that Bryce could think of to give up that wouldn’t be her. Those were the only choices that she’d been given—give up her mother or the victims of suicide. Getting up, Laura started a mental list of things that she was going to take. Most of it was pictures, but there were a few things that she had been given by her late husband. Austin had been a good man, but he was also one that didn’t hide his magic. It was what had gotten him killed by the witch council.