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Ian McCray Bruin Release Blitz &Giveaway

 

 

Things hadn’t been going very well for Lucy and her two sisters. When their parents died, their uncle had moved in and took over. The girls, apparently, were too much trouble to worry about, so he’d dumped them onto the streets to fend for themselves.

It was just luck that Ian McCray and his family had found Lucy that day. Both Lucy and her sister, Jilly, were in bad need of medical attention. Ian was just thrilled to have found his mate alive. In their situation, it could have been much worse.

Lucy was thankful for the help, but she was just going from one man to another lording over her and dictating what she could and couldn’t do. It was marry Ian or lose her sisters for good. Ian was a nice man, but she was tired of everyone telling her what to do.

 

 

AMAZON USA https://amzn.to/33Iw7gk
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GOOGLE PLAY https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kathi_S_Barton_Ian?id=Oz_1DwAAQBAJ
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SMASHWORDS https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1036789
ITUNES https://books.apple.com/us/book/ian/id1526477250
KOBO https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/ian-12

 

Demi Morgan was good at keeping her identity hidden, so when an attorney found her at a restaurant she owned, she was more than a little angry. Very few people knew how to find her, and she took her privacy seriously. His news that her mother had passed, several months ago, did nothing for her. Her family had never wanted her, and in turn, she didn’t want them either. He knew her family, and he understood her feelings, but the will had to be read.

Reluctantly, Demi made her arrangements to travel back to her hometown in Ohio. Her intentions were to either decide to stay, or to sell the home her grandmother had left her. Living in the same town as her brother and sister didn’t appeal to her at all. When her brother, Nathan, cold-cocked her in the elevator, an unlikely savior came to her rescue, Madden McCray.

Demi wanted to hire Madden to be her bodyguard while she was in town. Madden said as much as he could use the money, he told her he already had a job, but his brother, Lucian could use the work.

Lucian wanted to meet Demi before he accepted the job, and when her scent hit him between the eyes, his bear rolled over him—she was his mate. But reality hit him like a freight train. She had money—a lot of money—and he and his family had always been dirt poor. He wanted his mate too—more than anything, but he’d have to get past his pride first….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meadow Springs had been locked away in a hospital for several years. At sixteen she was a victim and sole survivor of the mass murder of her family. The ordeal had left her semi-comatose for a long time. Since she was the only survivor and couldn’t talk, the police tried to pin the murders on her, but it didn’t stick.

Josiah McCray was there the day that Meadow was brought to their home to go into hiding. The beautiful blonde in the wheelchair was a shadow of the woman she should be. All Josiah saw was his mate, and he loved her no matter what.

The killer was still out there, and Meadow had his identity locked inside her mind and the killer knew it. Everyone previously in charge of her care was now dead. There was no way that was a coincidence.

Meadow was a loose end, the one that got away. There was no way the killer could let her live….

Melody Austin was afraid of nearly everything, but like it or not, she was a survivor. When she was seventeen, she had survived a harrowing attack that left her mentally and physically scarred. Now, ten years later, her brother, Daniel, repeatedly asked her to talk about the disturbing events, to tell him what happened so that he could understand, but she remained silent.  She knew he meant well, but telling him a bear was behind the attack at the school would get her locked up in a mental institution. No one would believe that story, and she couldn’t blame them.

Daniel had taken a job working for the McCrays. He made Mel promise that she’d join him in just a few days, but instead, Daniel received a call that his house was on fire, and Mel had been burned in the process. Daniel took Gannon with him to check on his sister.

Daniel had told Gannon that Mel was a bit skittish before they arrived on the scene. But the moment Gannon caught her scent; he knew she was his mate. He meant to reassure her by telling her that she was his mate and that everything would be all right, but the instant she heard that he was a bear shifter, she went wild, running back into the fire to get away from him.

When Gannon discovered that a bear was the cause of all her fears, he didn’t know how he could get past this. He couldn’t change what he was…. Was this doomed from the start?

 

Lucian https://amzn.to/2V5qhib

Josiah  https://amzn.to/2SyOLzG
Gannon  https://amzn.to/2WsiyxT
IAN https://amzn.to/33Iw7gk

 

 

 

 

Angel Young  is the winner, Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

Please make sure you put all the  Info in  for a chance at winning A   Signed Mystery Paperback Or Signed Cup

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Maria Dalmau
Katherine Humphreys
Sarah Black
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Niki Driscoll
Cheryl Lopez
Teri Bellville
Joyce Mirabello
William Cheney
Elizabeth Cranage
Kaylee Rankins
Hena Rahman
Angel Young

 

 

If you have not gotten your prize please contact my PA Denise at denisek0319@gmail.com  

Happy Reading,

 

 

Ian waited in the lobby for Lucy to be brought back to the ER department. She’d been gone for about an hour when his dad had brought her sisters in, just to have them looked over too, he told him. Jilly sat across from him while Cybill glared at him from several seats away. It was his nature to laugh at someone disliking him. He thought, however, if he did that now, even the hospital wouldn’t be able to save him. They’d kill him that quickly. “What are you?” Ian asked Jilly what she meant. “You’re not human. I don’t think you are. So, tell me if I’m wrong or what you are. I don’t want to be waking up some time with you looming over me like some sort of monster. Not that we’re going to be staying with you or anyone else.” “First of all, take it down a notch. I’ve given you no reason whatsoever to be nasty to me. Also, I’m not going to loom over any of you. I’m a black bear. My entire family is.” She glared at him harder. “Look, why don’t you just say what you’re thinking and we’ll go on from there? We’ve done everything we said we would without once trying to loom or any of the other things going on in your mind.” “What’s going to happen to my sister and I when you force Lucy to come and be your slave?” Ian stood up and walked away from her. He wasn’t going to lose his temper with a kid. Not today. “Where the hell are you going? I’m speaking to you.” “No, you’re not. Speaking to me would mean you’re having a conversation with me. All you’ve done since you were brought here was snip and snap at me like I was the one that left you at the side of the road. I’d never do that.

Not even with the way you’re treating me right now.” His mom and dad came back from the cafeteria with a bag of things. When Mom gave the girls an apple apiece, he declined to have one. Mom asked him what was going on. “This one, Cybill, hasn’t spoken to me since she got here. But I think Jilly here is making up for it by being nasty and accusatory at me. Like I’d hurt any of them. Oh, and she’s accused me of planning to dump her someplace when I take their older sister as my slave.” “What a thing to say to my son.” Mom sat down by Jilly and asked Cybill to come closer. Of course, she just sat there. “When I tell you to come to me, you’ll do it. I’m going to be your grandma, and I do expect you to respect me as an elder. You don’t have to like me, but I’d like you to. Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself at the wrong end of my heart. Now, come here so I can tell you what is going on with your sister. And what I would like to see happen to the two of you.” Cybill came to sit next to his mom, and Dad sat with him across from them. Mom told them that Lucy had a bad sprain on her wrist, and they were going to set it with a cast. Cybill told Mom they didn’t have the money for that. Ian spoke up. “I spoke to the bursar’s office before you got here. All the bills are going to be sent to me. There won’t be many of them, since as a family we’ve donated a great deal of money to this hospital in order to have the best of the best here. Lucy is in good hands.” Jilly asked him where he lived. “About a twenty-minute drive from here.

Not too far. I’m thinking they more than likely will keep her overnight simply because she’ll need more in the way of pain medication than they can send her home with. I’d very much like it if you two were checked out. I know you said you didn’t want to be but think of this. If you have a cold or some other sort of illness, you might make your sister weaker. They’ll keep her longer if that happens. I’m not blackmailing you into anything, but I’m not too keen on either of you being sick either.” Cybill stood up, and so did Ian. She was so stiff it worried him. Was she hurt? Did something happen to the three of them to make them like this, other than being abandoned like they were? Ian wondered how soon his sisters would be able to track down the uncle. “I’d like to make sure we don’t have anything that would make Lucy sicker. She’s all we have.” Ian didn’t point out that they had him too. He was working hard at making them believe in him before he tried to convince them he was going to be there for them. “But I’m not going to allow you in the room with me.” “Of course, I won’t go into the room with you. Christ, kid, I’m not sure where your mind is all the time, but if you give me half a chance, you’re going to see that I’m nothing like whoever shit in your oatmeal.” Mom told him to behave. “Tell her that. I’ve done nothing to either of them, but try my best to show them I’m not the bad guy in this.” “Be that as it may, son. They’re terrified and untrusting. We have to work on one thing at a time here.” He nodded and went to the desk. Jilly came with him. Instead of asking her what she wanted, he asked the nurse if there was someone who could look the girls over to make sure nothing was hurting them. Ian turned to Jilly.

“I’d very much like for my mom to go back with the two of you. She can keep in contact with me through our link. Just in case the nurses or doctors ask you for something that you might not understand.” Jilly looked at her sister, then nodded to him. “Thank you for that. I know how hard it is for you to trust us. But I swear to you, we only have your best interests at heart.” “I don’t trust you,” Ian told her that was fine. Hopefully, she would someday. “What are your plans for us? Sending us away won’t get you in good with my sister.” “I don’t have any plans for you and your sister, other than wanting you safe and healthy. I want to take care that your uncle, wherever he is, knows he’s messed up badly by treating you the way he has. Also, and this is true for my entire family, I’d very much like for you not to jump to the wrong conclusions about everything we say to you.” Jilly’s cheeks brightened up a little, and she turned away from him. “Is there anything wrong with you, Jilly? I mean, are you hurt in any way that the doctors are going to find? I’d really like to know.” She turned to him then. While she looked at him with such intensity, he let her. Whatever she was thinking, he was sure it wouldn’t bode well for him to try and read her mind. He was determined to allow her to make this call on her own. “Three weeks ago, we were sleeping in a van. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the one we’ve been in lately, but that’s not saying much. It was all we could find at the time.”
He nodded. “There were no bathrooms, of course, so we had to go outside and do our business. Someone hit me from behind. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I did get hit hard enough to draw blood. I still have trouble seeing things clearly, and I seem to have a headache all the time.”

“Did you tell your sisters?” She shook her head gently. “All right. I’m going to go back with you to tell them what you’ve just told me. Also, I’d like to get my sisters-in-law involved. One of them is freaky scary magically powerful. However, she’d never harm either of you. She can find someone just by touching something. I don’t know if she can with a head wound or not, but it’s worth a try. Okay?” “Why are you really doing this? Lucy won’t care how much you say you’re going to keep us safe. The first time something happens, you’ll not find us.” He told her he would now. “Because of you being a bear? I don’t believe you.” “Believe me or not, Jilly, I’m a man of my word. If I tell you something I’ll do or have done for you, I’ll do it. I can find you because I have your scent. It won’t be as easy as it would be if I had a taste of your blood, but you don’t trust me enough for that. Not yet.” She said she doubted she ever would. “I’m sorry for that. I truly am.” The nurse came to get the two girls, and he went back with them to wait for the doctor to come in the little room they were in. He’d asked the doctor, a woman he’d known for a while, Hallie Jamison if the girls could be in the same area, as they’re still frightened of him. He knew her from helping set up some of the computers they now had. Hallie laughed. “You go on with you, Ian. I’ve got them here. They’ll not be bothered.” Ian told her what had happened to Jilly and how he was worried about her. “Head wound, huh? Well, you let me have a look-see at it, honey, and I’ll see what I can get going for you right away.” Hallie had a gentle touch, but he could tell it was still painful for Jilly.

Taking her hand into his, Ian held it tightly as Jilly tried her best not to cry. Cybill held her other hand. When Hallie stepped back, she looked at him. He could tell the news wasn’t going to be good. “She’s got herself a piece of something under the skin. I don’t know what it is right now. Not unless she can tell me what it was that hit her.” Jilly told them she didn’t know. There hadn’t been anyone around. “I’m thinking you did lose consciousness for a little bit, honey. Not long, but long enough for whoever hit you to hit you a second time there. I found two places where the skin was broken. Whoever it was, they left you to die.” “But she’ll be all right, won’t she? Whatever it takes for her to be better, you do it, Hallie. I don’t want anything to hurt them again.” Jilly looked at him when he spoke to the doctor. “Just tell me what you’re going to need to do to remove whatever is in her head.” “Nothing, Ian. You did good just getting this sort of information from her. She’ll be right as rain.” Hallie looked at Jilly. “I’m going to have them X-ray your head, honey. After we have a look at the films that come back, we’ll be in a better position to figure
out where we’ll go from here. In the meantime, I’m going to give you a little something to make you relax a little. Being tense is not helping your head, I’m betting.” As soon as she left to get whatever was going to be needed for Jilly, Ian asked Cybill the same thing he’d asked Jilly. She told him she was always being babied by the other two, and she was never alone. Ian thought while she resented it a little, Cybill was glad not to be hurting like her sister.

“I’m going to check on Lucy while you’re getting X-rays, all right?” Cybill said she didn’t want to leave her sister. “I don’t think they’ll allow you in the room when they do that. However, they’re going to bring her back to this area, and you and I will be here waiting for her. My mom will be, as well.” “I don’t want either of them hurting,” Ian told her he didn’t either. “What will happen to me if they have to stay here? I can’t go home with you. Not without my sisters.” “I know that. I never thought to make you leave them. I’ll make a few calls, and we’ll make sure if we can, that all three of you are in the same room. If not, then you can move back and forth between their rooms to make sure they’re all right. Would that be all right?” Cybill nodded, her big blue eyes dark with fear. “Good. Now, I’m going to reach out to my family with my link to them. You won’t know I’m talking to them, but I promise you I’ll tell you everything I find out, even about your uncle. I won’t keep things from you guys. Ever, if I can help it.” Ian reached out to Demi first, telling her what he knew about the girls. She told him she was looking into the uncle for them and was looking for someone that might have a copy of the original will. I don’t for a minute think anyone would have left their children in his care if what they’re saying is true. We have to assume this could be just a case of the girls not wanting to be around him. I’m not going to jump to conclusions. He told her that was a good idea. Meadow is here with me. She’s doing her thing too to find out what she can about the accident that killed their parents.

Also, you should be aware that Melody is clothing shopping. They’re going to need more than what they currently have even if they take off again. I don’t think they will, but with kids, you never know. Thank you for that. I would like for Meadow to figure out what happened to Jilly that gave her the wound she has. Demi said she’d have her look. Another thing—is there any way you can have someone go to my house and fill up the cabinets and fridge? I wasn’t expecting anyone, and now I have three mouths to feed. I’m thrilled to death about it, but I also don’t want them to think I’m planning to starve them. Closing the connection when Demi said she’d take care of it, he watched as a young aide took the bed out of the room to take Jilly to X-ray. Mom and Dad both joined them in the room while they waited. “Do you think she’ll die?” Mom told Cybill she didn’t think either of her sisters would die. “I don’t want them to. They’re all I have left as my family.” “You have all of us now, Cybill. I want you to know that right off.” Dad took the child’s hand into his much larger one. “Yes, ma’am, you’ve got all of us now, and we’re
not going to let anyone hurt you again. Nor will you ever have to sleep in some old van. Unless it’s a camping trip—then that’ll be fine. You ever camp?” Dad and Cybill spoke quietly while Mom peppered Ian with questions. Nothing he could answer for her, but it didn’t stop her from asking. Mom went with Cybill to get her checkup while he and his dad waited. They didn’t speak much. Ian was worried for his new family, and Dad seemed to be content with watching whatever was on the television while they waited. When Lucy was finished with her arm being set, he went to see her in the room right next door. Telling her everything that was going on, he could see she was in a great deal of pain. When the nurse came in to give her something more for it, Ian stayed with her.

She was asleep in a matter of minutes. ~*~ “I’ve removed the bullet without any trouble, but I still want to keep her for a couple more days just to make sure there is nothing more with the wounds. It’s a small wonder she was having trouble seeing and a massive headache.” Lucy didn’t have any idea who would have shot her sister. Fearful of whoever it was coming for her again had her reaching out and grabbing the closest thing to her. It just happened to be Ian’s warm hand. The doctor continued. “She’s quite the trooper, I have to say. Not only was she fantastic at following instructions on what I needed her to do while I removed the bullet, she asked me questions about the procedure while it was happening to her.” “You mean she was awake?” Her voice squeaked, but she didn’t care. They’d made her suffer through this without putting her out? “Isn’t that sort of cruel?” “Oh, no, Ms. Jackson. She didn’t feel anything until I was ready for her to. When working with the brain or the skull, we want patients to be able to tell us if there is a change in their vision or speech. This way, if something were to have changed for her, Jilly was still in the operating room, and we could fix it immediately. She didn’t have any trouble at all.

Jilly even told me while we were working that she could see a little better.” “I don’t understand.” Ian turned to her, asking her what it was she needed clarification on. “Who would have shot her? Why? We weren’t hurting anyone where we were. Why didn’t she tell me she’d been hurt? I’m supposed to be taking care of them.” When the doctor left them, Ian sat in the chair next to her bed. Lucy wasn’t sure what he was doing there, but it did occur to her that having him close was making her feel safer than she had at any time in the last year. “I’m having my sister-in-law look into the shooting. The police have allowed her to touch the bullet. I did tell you she has some kind of thing going on with her mind, didn’t I?” Lucy said he’d not explained that either. “All right. Do you remember the Spring murders? When the entire family was murdered except for one daughter?” “Yes. They thought for a long time that it was her that killed them all. Even the dog, I believe.” Ian told her that was it. “Are you telling me Meadow is that woman?” “I am. When she was cut up like she was, her body sort of woke up some kind of mental ability. She can do all sorts of things we’re still learning about. She was hoping that with her touching the bullet, she could backtrace the reason for it being shot at your sister and who might have done it.

” Lucy’s head was spinning, and Ian seemed to understand she was overwhelmed. “When she has information, she said she’d tell me or come by, and I’ll tell you without holding anything back. I’m going to be as honest and as straight up with you as I can. All right?” “Yes. Do you know why she told you she’d been shot and not me?” He nodded. “I don’t know why, but I have a feeling I’m not going to like the answer, am I?” “I don’t know if you will or not. But I do understand her motive for it. She thought you had enough on your plate, she told my dad, and she thought having a headache all the time was minor compared to what was going on in your lives. She would have told you, Jilly said, when you were safe, but it never seemed to be a good time to speak about it. Also, she had no idea she’d been shot. Jilly thought she’d been hit in the head with something.” “What about my other sister? What has Cybill been holding back from me?” Lucy hated the way she sounded as soon as she spoke. Ian had been nothing but nice to her, and here she was snipping and snapping at him. “I’m sorry. I’m trying to deal with this. I don’t know you or what you are going to want from me. What you’re going to do with my sisters, either. It’s too much, but I know I have to deal with it. Deal with you.” “Dealing with me is going to be easy. I don’t want anything from you or your sisters that you’re not willing to give. I’m going to care for the three of you. As for what I’m going to do with them? I don’t have any plans to do anything with them. I’ve provided them with rooms at our house. They have clothing now that my sisters-in-law got for them.

As soon as you’re up and around, we’ll take them to get more. It’s only fall now, so we’ll have to look for winter things too, I guess. I don’t know a great deal about teenage girls, to be honest with you. But I’m so very proud of you for keeping them safe and together.” “The doctor said we are all undernourished. I thought he was going to take them from me when he said that. But all he said was that with the cook you have at your house now, we’ll be fattened up soon enough. I don’t even know what that means.” Ian laughed, and she felt a smile pull at her mouth. “You have money, don’t you?” “I do. I also have a home, a great job, and insurance that you and the girls have been added to as of this afternoon. I don’t know a great deal about any of you, but I’m assuming you drive.” She nodded and told him she had a license, but it had been taken from her at her uncle’s. “They’ve found him, by the way. Demi isn’t going to contact him until she figures out a few things about him. I’m not sure what those are, but she said she’d have you some information soon.” “They’re very resourceful, aren’t they?” Ian laughed and told her that was an understatement. “What will they do with my uncle now that they know where he is? I mean, it’s not like my sisters and I have any recourse. I’ve been so worried he was going to come after us and ditch me in order to keep them around. I suppose he could. I’m an adult, and they’re not.” “I did mention that to the others. Mr. Shoe is an attorney for the family right now. Mostly Demi, but he’s looking into what can and can’t be done. You told me you didna know where the will was.

If you can tell me where your parents died, then we can go there and find their death certificates and work backward from there.” She told him everything she knew, which, after saying it aloud, she thought was a pitiful amount of information. “Once they know where to look, finding it will be easy. I mean, they would have filed it in order for it to be legal and binding.” “I have some questions for you. I know you’re telling me I’m your mate, but how do I know you’re not trying to scam me into your home and bed? For all I know, you could be a murderer or a rapist. I don’t want to go from the pot to the fire without knowing what I’m getting into.” He told her that was fair, then to ask him whatever she wanted. “I don’t know what to ask you. I don’t know you at all.” “Nor do I know you, Lucy. But I’m a college graduate of the local college. I have a computer science degree that is helping me while I learn what Demi and Meadow have me do. I can, and do most of the time, build computers for the elite. All the family is now the owner of a great many properties all over the world, and I keep the computers working so Demi’s cameraman, my brother, can install cameras and keep them as well as anything else in the homes up and running.” She asked him about his house. “Ah, there is a funny story to that. Demi and Meadow purchased the houses for all of us a while back. All I’ve done to it since moving in was throw a mattress on the floor and look for things to fill it a little at a time. It has nine bedrooms. Also, I’ve managed to find a couple of ponies I’m working with so they’re not afraid of me.

I’m not a rancher by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m having fun just hanging around the place when I’m not working.” “Nine bedrooms is a huge house.” He told her about the kitchen and how it was supposed to be a cook’s dream. “You don’t cook.” “No. I mean, I know how, but I don’t unless I’m too hungry to wait until I can hang out at my mom’s house for a meal.” He grinned at her. “When I first figured out the three of you would need a place to stay, I had my mom and sisters go and fill the place up with food. While I don’t have any idea what they purchased, I’m sure it’s going to be a good mixture of good for you things as well as fun food. My mom is a wonderful cook. I’m to understand that you love to bake.” “I do. I’m good at it too. Not tooting my own horn, but I used to have people come from everywhere to have some of the bread and cakes I make.” Ian had the most generous smile. When he smiled, it was like he was telling her he was as happy as he could be. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with you.” “With me? I don’t know either. As I said, I’m not going to rush you. I’ll take whatever you wish to give me. However, I plan to pamper you so much, you’ll wish to bash my head in.” This time she laughed. Laying her head back on the pillow, she watched as he explained to her what sort of pampering he was planning to do. When the door to her room opened, she was so happy to see Cybill that she had her climb into the bed with her, simply so she could make sure she was all right. Ian didn’t make fun of her, nor did he scold her sister for climbing over her and causing her pain. Lucy thought he would have for some reason.

“I’m going to go and check on Jilly if you two will be all right.” Lucy thanked him. “You can have anything you want to eat. Would you like me to pick you two up something and bring it to you? The sky’s the limit.” “I would love a hamburger. With everything.” Ian told Cybill he could get her that, then asked her about fries. “No, I don’t care for potatoes. But if they have onion rings, I’d really enjoy that. Are you sure you don’t mind getting it for me?” “I’m positive. I’m hoping we can be a family. But I’ll settle for good terms for now.” Lucy told him she’d like the same, but she liked fries. None of them liked soda, so he was going to bring them back bottled waters. “I’ll be back. If there is anything I find out about Jilly, I’ll let you know that too.” When he was gone, Cybill told her she liked the McCray family. “You’ve been getting to know them, I guess,” Cybill said mostly she’d been with Grandpa McCray, but Grandma was nice too. “You’re already calling them your grandparents? Cybill, do you think that’s a good idea? We shouldn’t get too attached to them right now. Don’t you think?” “I don’t think that at all. We’re warm and getting taken care of, Lucy. I’ve been checked out and given a vitamin D shot so I could be better. You’ve had your arm looked at and fixed. Jilly is getting taken care of, and tonight, when I go to bed, I’ll have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, and a bathroom all my own.” She asked her where she was staying. “I’ve been taken by the grandparents to Ian’s house. You’re going to love it, Lucy. It’s so beautiful, and I can’t wait to live there for the rest of my life.” Lucy was worried that something was going to happen to take all these plans away from them. A roof over their head was a good thing, but at what cost? When she thought of all the things that Ian or the rest of them could demand of them, Lucy had a feeling they’d not want anything in return. They were, she hoped, just what they looked like—a good family with no ulterior motive of any kind.

North By Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Giveaway

Amy Hamilton never had much of a home life growing up. Her sister Phoenix and her mother demanded all the attention, so much so that she and her father didn’t have a relationship at all. Now that her father was filing for a divorce, he felt guilty for not being a part of her life and wanted to make up for it, but Amy wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

North Wilkerson had a similar upbringing. Although his mother was dead now, before her death, she was an awful person and an even worse mother. After having sworn off family ties to his parents, he was just now allowing his father back into his life.

Amy and Booker Wilkerson were close friends in college. Amy was only supposed to be in town for a few days, and when Booker called inviting her to dinner, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up on old times. When Booker’s cousin North and his uncle joined them for dinner, they all had a blast.

But when North just showed up at her father’s house and took over, Amy wasn’t sure what to think of him. What did he think he was doing? She barely knew him. Amy needed to nip this in the bud before it went much further. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She didn’t need a man now, or would she ever need a man, any man….

 

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When Marsden Wilkerson received the phone call that his mother had been in a car accident, he wasn’t letting anything get in his way to get to her. Not a pushy boss, and especially not his Aunt Eita. Then his world crumbled when the doctors told him that his mother, Holly, didn’t make it.

Gabriella Farley, Abby, could hold her own, and she wasn’t about to take any flack from a rich bitch like Penelope Wilkerson. All the Wilkerson women, with the exception of Holly, could fit that description. Abby stood up for Mars at the funeral home even though she really didn’t know him. What she did know was his mother, Holly, was a fine woman, and the family had given them both the shaft Mars’s entire life.

Mars wanted to apologize for his Aunt’s actions, but there was something about Abby that sparked a flame in his heart. From the first kiss, they knew they had something special, but going against the Wilkerson family could be very dangerous. Will this new love be doomed from the start?

 

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North was ready to call it quits. Moving around the house he hadn’t liked even before he walked through the front door, he decided he’d just live in the condo for his entire lifetime. It was better than trying to decide what sort of house he was going to buy. “Sir, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re going about this all wrong.” He cocked a brow at Libby, the woman showing him the home. “Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to sell you the biggest house on the market around here. But you’re not thinking of this as a house to warm up to a home. You’re looking for your home.” “There’s a difference?” Libby smiled and told him there was a huge difference. “All right. I’m game for it. Tell me what it is I need to do to get myself done for the day.” Her laughter made him smile. He was glad that Abby had told him about this particular realtor. She was much like Abby, though older, and seemed to have taken him under her wing in an odd sort of way. Smiling again, he did as she asked and went out to the front porch with her. “Close your eyes and think of this doorway you’ve just gone out of. Tell me what you remember.” He looked at her. “Trust me. It’s going to help you out with this. Tell me what you thought about when you first came up the steps to enter here.” “The door looks like it’s from some kind of institution. The windows on either side of it are not right for a house this large. They look cheap and out of step somehow for the wooden doors.” He looked at her. “I hate it. The door. It was the first thing I looked at, and it’s soured the rest of the house for me. I guess you’d say the first impression was off.” “All right. That’s good. Remember that the door and the windows can be changed by you. Now, what about the house? First impressions on it, and what you saw when you walked inside. You have to remember; the front of the house can be changed if you want to live here.”

He was liking this. North had no idea why, but it was helping him to see what his feelings were for the house rather than just hating it and not moving beyond that. They re-entered the house to the front entrance hall. “Now, the door is fixed. The glass on the side has been updated. What would you like to see in here that you didn’t before?” He didn’t close his eyes this time, but looked around, changing things as he went, such as the wallpaper in the room next to where he was. Then he changed the flooring. His mind skittered over the staircase twice before he came back to it. That was the issue. “The stairs are off-center. What I mean is, it looks like they’ve been put in as an afterthought. I suppose I could change them too, but then the room would look off balance because of the way everything is centered squarely around the staircase.” She told him they’d move on to the next house. “This really is helping me. Thank you so much.”

The next house was just as bad for him. As an attorney, he wanted balance in his home. North had never considered himself to be obsessive compulsive, but he did like things in straight lines where they were needed, and curves that would be well blended in the flow. Things just where they were supposed to be. He was ready to call it a day, perhaps a week when they pulled up in front of the next house. Christ, it called to him. North got out of the car and stood staring at the way the house looked with the backdrop of the sky behind it. “I saved this one for last because when you told me what you were looking for, that there should not be a long pretentious drive, I didn’t think it would be something you’d like.” Nodding at her, barely paying attention to what she was saying, he made his way to the front door. “This house had eleven bedrooms. Each of the bedrooms on this floor has a half bath inside. There is a shower/bathtub between each set of two bedrooms that would be shared. The master bedroom not only has its own bathroom, but it also has its own deck that has a two-person hot tub on it. Also, there is a place to bring firewood up to be used in this room.” “Are the turrets from the original build?” Libby told him that according to the paperwork, not only were the turrets built with the home, but there was extra shaped glass stored away in the basement of the utility building out back. “Several years ago, the entire house was sandblasted to remove all the paint from it. I have no idea why someone would have painted it, but it’s better now.” There was a turret at each corner of the massive building, both front and back. He loved the way each of the three floors had a window looking out over the lands. How the very top of each of them had ivy growing from the top down.

The way the house spread out from each of the sides showed him that someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to use a great many of the stones around the area. The walls between each window on the main floor were tall, stone, load-bearing walls. Going into the house, he decided that the front of the place just screamed at him to live here. Libby laughed when he handed her back what he thought was the specs on the house. “I’m sorry. Did I miss something? I’ve fallen in love with this house. I’m sure you know that without me telling you.” Libby told him she could see that he had. “I’m not very good at poker either. Tell me this place isn’t going to cost me more than the purchase price to have it brought up to this decade.” “The kitchen was redone just last year. The roofing gets a good power wash every other year. It’s made wholly of slate with a tin seal under it. There is a new furnace and air conditioner on each floor. The house, only about ten years old, is about as modern as one could be, I’ve been told. There are no carpets in the home. I believe the homeowners didn’t care for the way carpet had to be replaced every several years and opted to have area rugs put into the rooms. That way, they could change them out when the room needed to be redecorated.” He asked her why the house was being sold. “The previous owner designed the house himself. You’ll find large pieces of furniture in some of the rooms that cannot be removed without tearing out walls. As soon as the house was finished and set to be moved into, the man died.

Not here, I assure you, but when he was visiting his parents in another country. That’s all I know about that.” Nodding, she unlocked the door for him. Stepping in first, he turned to Libby and told her he wanted to buy it. The house seemed to wrap around him and make him feel like he’d just found the perfect house. Nodding, she handed him the paperwork. “I know you want it, but I’d like you to go through the house once. That way, if you get up on the third floor, you can change your mind.” He asked her if there was something wrong with the third floor. “Not that I’ve been made aware of. But the house has been sitting for eight years now, the first two in probate, without a single person wanting to go through it after seeing the front of it. Also, the drive to the house. The driveway is longer than some people want to travel, I guess.” North had started to leave Libby in the largest dining room he’d ever been in when he asked her if he could bring in someone to be objective. Nodding, Libby told him to do whatever he needed to make sure he was making a good choice. North decided if he ever needed any kind of land, he was going to ask for Libby. He was even going to recommend her to his cousins. Calling Mars to ask him if he could come by hooked him up with Abby. She said her mom was out shopping and she was bored. Asking him if she’d be good as a standin for Mars, he readily agreed.

Abby had become the go-to person, since Holly had been murdered, for just about everything they did. He couldn’t have been more happy than to have her in his corner, as well as the rest of his cousins. When she got there, he was in the kitchen. While he knew how to cook, due to Holly, Mars’s mom, taking the time to show all of them how to make a few dishes to survive on, Abby had been expanding his skills. “Holy shit, North. This is a fucking wonderful kitchen. You have to buy this for that alone.” Libby was laughing when she showed him the other features of the kitchen. Such as a large pantry for extra storage, a huge freezer, as well as a restaurant size refrigerator that would be good to hold food for parties. The three of them walked the rest of the house. There were rooms that had large furniture in them, but he found that he loved them as well. The master suite had a bed in it that was larger than a queen in both length and width. It was the gas fireplace in the room that made him as happy as he’d ever been about a home. “There are some things I am required by law to tell you. Nothing bad, but it does need to be disclosed. The bank has been trying to sell this home for several years now. Just recently, a company was set to purchase it, but there was a death in the family, and the deal was closed. In the back acreage of the lot is a family cemetery that—”“What was the name of the company that was set to buy this house?”

North wondered why Abby would care when Libby said she’d check. “Just wait a second, and I’ll tell you why I care. It’s important for all sorts of reasons.” “Abode Well.” It took North a few seconds to catch up with Abby when she started to dance around the room. “Did I miss something?” “Holly was going to buy it. If for no other reason than that, North, you must purchase this home.” Abby looked around, then back at him. He was going to buy it,
but knowing that Holly had approved in some way made it all the more special for him. “If you don’t buy it, I certainly will.” He turned to Libby and told her he’d buy the house. “Also, you mentioned when we pulled in that there was an empty lot next to this one. I’ll take that as well.” Libby said there was a rental on that property that was currently being rented. “Who are they?” “Mr. Oliver lives there. He used to teach here at the local school. He’s retired now, and his wife passed on a few years ago. Lately, he’s been late on his rent. That’s something else I was going to tell you that you might have to deal with him sometime soon.” North told her he’d deal with it later if that was all right. “It is. Once you purchase the house, all of that will no longer be a concern to anyone at the bank, nor my offices.” It took him nearly two hours to get to sign his name on the deed. With the help of Mars and his dad, he was able to get a very low-interest rate, as well as some extra from the equity from the house to fix the barn out back. It needed a new roof. North took out a loan, even though he had enough money to pay cash for the house. His dad told him that the loan would help him establish a line of credit, as well as help the town. Always, he’d been told by Dad, help the town more than he had ever done.

North, with his new outlook on life, told his dad he would do that. Anything to help the town, after all, it had muscled through when his mom and aunts had gone on a rampage recently that ended not just in the death of his mother, but in all the other women being in jail. The five of them had done enough harm to the town and the people living here, North was still surprised the townspeople were nice to him and his cousins. ~*~ Amy had been summoned home from college a couple of times since she’d made a hasty exit. This time, however, had been different. She not only had her own place, but she was also making her own money. Not sure where to enter the house, she opted for where she knew she’d be welcome. The timing couldn’t have been better, she thought. While in town, she was supposed to look at some paintings for a person by the name of Wilkerson to evaluate them. Then she’d be in charge of cleaning them, bringing them back to their natural state. It was a hobby she did when she wasn’t on a job taking pictures of animals. Going to the back door of the house had been her way to escape all the drama in the front rooms. As soon as she walked into the big warm kitchen, Amy felt the stress of the last few days roll over her. The big hug from Lulu and her husband Hank was just what she needed. Sitting down when they asked her to, a large plate of not just her favorite fruits were given to her, but scones warm from the oven as well. A cup of tea, her preferred flavor, was also there. Just like when she’d been living here, they never discussed the household, neither the people living in it nor her family. It was just the three of them enjoying a nice little break from whatever else was going on.

“I’ve been working out of the country since January. It’s been fun having a new job waiting for me every time I finish one. Did you get the pictures I sent you?” Lulu told her how she’d been putting them in a big album. “I’m going to have the ones that weren’t picked by the company I work for put into an album someday. They paid me for fifty pictures and ended up buying an additional fifty. I have no idea what they’re going to do with that many shots. I’ve made it so they have to get approval from me for whatever they want to use them in. That way, they’re not all over the Internet used as book covers. Not that I’d mind that, but I have to have some say over them.” “The one you took of the elephants playing in the water is my favorite of them all. And the monkeys throwing around leaves. They’re all wonderful.” She hugged Hank when he blushed brightly. “When are you leaving again? I’m sure someone is good as you isn’t going to be idle for very long.” “No. I have two more shots this year for the same magazine, then I’m taking a month off. I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with so much free time, but I think I’ll manage it.” Lulu asked her if she enjoyed taking the water photos. “I did, as a matter of fact. The ones I was able to take of the polar bears was heartbreaking. They’re having a rough time of it.” She turned when her dad walked into the room. He glanced at her, then looked at Lulu. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you had company.” Then he looked at her again. “Amy? Is that you? My goodness, you’re beautiful.” “Thanks, Dad.” Unsure if she was supposed to hug him, she waited for him to make the first move. When he just kissed her on the cheek, she didn’t let the disappointment hurt her too badly. “I had some extra time before I was to meet with you, then later the job I have. So I came to see what Lulu and Hank were up to.” “I can see that. Things have been very quiet around here.” She figured with Phoenix gone on her honeymoon, things would be considerably quieter. Amy didn’t ask about her or her mother but laughed when Dad asked for the same thing she was having— and was denied.

“Just this one time, Lulu. You know how I’ve been keeping close to my diet.” He was eventually given two cookies and half a scone. Again, Amy didn’t ask him what was going on. She’d learned the hard way that she wasn’t a true part of this family. Phoenix and Mom had been louder and stronger than her since she figured out she wasn’t welcome here. Amy was never sure what she’d done other than to be born that had pissed them off. But since she didn’t care much about parties and socially mandated appearances, she kept to herself and entertained herself when necessary. “I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you for some time now. I wasn’t even sure how to do that until I asked Hank. I’m glad you had them here for you, or I might not have been able to call you home.” She nodded at her dad, wondering what she was going to be forced to do for a “family function” again. “If you don’t mind, we can just talk in here.

I’ve been confiding in these two much more than I think they wanted.” “No, sir. I’m just glad you finally got that big head of yours out of your ass and saw what was going on right under your nose.” Amy laughed at Hank. He’d always been one to say what he thought. It had helped her be what she was too.

“Now, you go on and tell this little thing why you called her here. She’s a right to know.” “Have you always been this pushy? If so, why am I only just now noticing it?” Hank told him he had that ass thing going on. Dad laughed, then looked at her. “I’ve filed for divorce from your mom. It’ll be final in a few weeks. Phoenix isn’t married either.” Amy wished she’d not been taking a sip of tea when he said that. It burned her lip and her nose as it spewed from her mouth. As she coughed her way to breathing again, she watched the rest of them try and mop up the mess she’d made while pumping her on the back to help her breathe. When she was finally able to inhale again, she looked at her dad.

“Phoenix isn’t married? So Doug Schmidt is dead? I mean, that’s the only reason I can think of that would make it so Phoenix didn’t get her way. It would be death or— Oh no. She was caught with her panties down. Wasn’t she?” Dad just nodded with a huge smile on his face. “Did Doug leave her at the altar? I do hope someone took pictures of it. That will do me— I’m sorry, Dad. I truly am. After spending all that money on her day, it was all for nothing. I’m really sorry.” “Only you would think of me in this. Thank you for that. But if I’m honest with you, and I plan to be from now on, I’d tell you it was well worth it. But Doug and his dad, they’re thrilled so much that they paid me back in full for the wedding, as well as the tickets for the honeymoon. I’m not planning on telling your mother or sister. I’d like to let them think that I’m still out the money. It’ll be good for them, I think. I guess the Schmidts were more thrilled that the wedding of the century didn’t go on after finding out that not only was Phoenix a piece of trash, but she was an expensive piece too.” Dad laughed, but even to her, it sounded bitter. “Fran, your mom, she was in the pictures I had taken of them with several of the groomsmen.” “You knew what was going on.” Dad looked at Hank and Lulu. She did too. “You told him what was going on. Thank you for that. I don’t care for Phoenix or Mom, but it must have been hard on you to have gone to Dad with this information.” “I hired a man to take the pictures. It was easy. The only issue I ran into was finding a night to pick from. Since the invitations went out, there had been an orgy of sorts going on here nightly.” Hank handed her another scone, which she declined. “I didn’t want another family hurt by them. What it came down to was them or us. We’re too old to be cleaning up a room four times a day after the two of them had their friends over. Here, you’ve lost some weight you can ill afford, young lady. Eat.”

“I have lost some weight, but I’m not worried about putting it back on, thanks. At least while I’m here.” She winked at Lulu when she huffed at her. “I’m headed out again soon, so getting the weight on right now isn’t a priority. I need to be able to get in and out of places, and being the size of one of the elephants I’m working with won’t be a good thing.” “What do you do?” She looked at her dad. “I know so very little about you that I’m ashamed of myself. I don’t even remember the last time you and I had a conversation.

It’s totally my fault, I’m aware of that. But I just realized there is no relationship between the two of us.” “It is your fault, but it’s all water under the bridge now. I mean, it’s much too late for us to have you come to my art exhibits, or any of the other million and one things I was in while living here, with Phoenix and Mom always taking up your time.” Amy knew she’d hurt him, but it wasn’t in her to be lovey-dovey with him anymore. “I’m a photographer. I’ve been one since I graduated from college a few years ago. In the event you tell me you don’t remember paying for it, you didn’t. I paid my way—” “That’s enough, Amy. You’ve proven your point quite well, I think.” She looked at Hank when he spoke to her. “I know you’re hurt, but there is no reason whatsoever for your father to be made a target. You know it isn’t entirely his fault that you stayed away.” “What do you mean?” She just looked at the plate in front of her without answering her dad. “Amy? What’s Hank talking about? Tell me, please, why you stayed away for so long. I’m begging you.” “The missus and your other daughter made her life a living hell while here.” Lulu took her hand into hers as she continued. “If she wasn’t being ambushed and beaten by one or both of them while living here, it became a nightmare for Amy to even be in the same room with them. Several times I had to care for Amy when they poisoned her food. Food that I cooked, mind you. There were credit cards taken out in her name that she had to go to court over. Clothing of Amy’s was torn to shreds, shoes filled with unspeakable things.

Once there was a scorpion put in Amy’s bed. If not for her spending the night in the hospital that night, she would have been killed, I think.” “Why wasn’t I informed of any of this?” He looked at her, and Amy saw the exact moment he understood. “You did come to me, didn’t you? You tried several times to tell me what was going on, and I shoved you away.” Dad stood up, and so did she. When he hugged her, then left the room, she sat back down. Not saying a word to either of the two people that had practically raised her when her mom and dad didn’t, Amy got up and left the same way she’d come in. Once she was in her car, she drove out the front drive and onto the main street. Once there, with nowhere to go, she decided to take a little time for herself. Finding herself a hotel with a pool, Amy opted for two nights and pulled her luggage from the trunk, full of clothing that was going to need to be washed before she could wear any of it. But instead of doing any of those things, she laid out on the bed and cried. Cried until her heart felt like it would never mend. Waking when her phone rang, she didn’t bother picking it up to see who it was. Instead, she staggered to the bathroom and turned on the water to take a bath. It had been literally years since she’d been able to soak in a tub. The phone rang several more times while she lay there in the too-warm water. Amy tried to think of anything other than what was going on with her family for a while. Just as she was thinking there would be nothing to take her pain away, she remembered her good friend Booker Wilkerson. It only then occurred to her that he was more than likely related to whoever had asked for their paintings to be cleaned.

They’d been in a couple of classes together. Hitting it off as well as they did, they would go on shoots together during her assignments or when she was helping him study for this or that. Afterward, they’d go out to someplace fancy, always his treat as she was dead broke all the time, and then hang out at his place. Unable to recall even a short conversation with him, Amy did wonder how welcome a call from her would be. Finding his phone number proved to be a tad more difficult than she thought it should have been. But once she found it, calling him was easy. Getting a busy signal, Amy opted for not leaving a message. It was silly anyway, wanting to get in touch with someone from years ago. Putting her phone back on the nightstand, Amy pulled out her clothes to sort out. When her phone rang again, she saw the face of Booker. Wondering how much the man had changed over the years, she answered the phone with a smile. “Amy Hamilton, how the fuck are you?” Amy laughed and cried as she told him she’d just gotten to town. “I’m going to pick you up, take you to dinner, then we’ll go over all the shit that has happened since I spoke to you last. It’s been far too long if you ask me.” “For me as well. I’m only home for a couple of days. I’m thinking I’m here to assess your family pictures. I’m staying in a hotel.” After giving him the name of the place she was staying, he told her he was leaving now. He also told her that Mars, one of the cousins she never met, was the one with the paintings. “I’m going to talk to him soon, just not today. I spoke to my dad earlier today.

I don’t think I’m any more a family member than I was before. How is your family?” “Too much to tell you over the phone. I’ll be there in about ten minutes. I’ve missed you so much.” Amy said she’d missed him too. Very much so. “All right, dear. You wait for me in the lobby, and I’ll come in and get you. Remember what I’ve always told you, love.” “I remember. You told me that you are the only man in the world I needed. I don’t know how true that is anymore. Do you?” He said he didn’t know, but would be there soon. “I’ll be in the lobby. I can’t wait to see you.” When he came in the front doors of the hotel a few minutes later, Amy went to him, sobbing about how much she’d missed him. As they hugged, talking over one another, she knew she’d made a good decision in calling him. If nothing else, she knew she’d feel better just hanging out with him for a while.

Bancroft Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Dalton’s Kiss Series

  1. Bancroft
  2. Stanley
  3. Donald
  4. Clyde
  5. Ramon
  6. Brian

Kelly Roman was good at her job. As a forensic anthropologist, she could help the dead and help the families find closure. The one thing she hated about her job was her boss, Shamus Van. That man was out to sabotage everything she did. And when he brought in the new chief of police, Bancroft Dalton, to make her look bad, that was the last straw. She’d quit before they had a chance to fire her.

When Bancroft showed up at her front door, he asked to be invited in, and when he told her he couldn’t lie to her, it set off all kinds of bells and whistles in Kelly’s suspicions. It wasn’t the fact that he was a vampire that bothered her, it was the part about him not being able to lie to her. She knew shifters couldn’t lie to their mates. There was no way in hell she was letting a man barge into her life and take over….

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Teri Bellville is the winner, Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

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Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

Maria Dalmau
Katherine Humphreys
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Niki Driscoll
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Teri Bellville

 

 

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Kelly played with the clay in her hand and thought about the work she still needed to do. The bust was coming along nicely, she supposed. But she had a feeling that the information she’d been given two days ago wasn’t correct. The skull, or what was left of it, wasn’t that of an older white woman at all, but that of a young child—a male. And he hadn’t been dead nearly as long as she’d been led to believe, the fifteen years that her boss had told her. She had also found other things that were wrong. “Well, Kelly, you’re not going to finish if you stand around staring at it while having a one-sided conversation. You know what you have to do. It’s start over or stare at this sucker until it fixes itself.” She made sure that she was at least reasonably alone before she tore everything off the partial skull to start over. She’d been talking to herself for years, and the dead didn’t mind it at all, she thought with a giggle. “Now, this is where it will start getting me sacked.” Kelly Roman worked as a forensic anthropologist, as well as working with the police in forensic clues in one of the most deadly cities in the nation. Always, someone that liked to be on top of things in the medical field, Kelly was a medical doctor, a coroner, as well as a registered police officer when she needed to wear that hat. Also, when they needed some specialized work, she would go to work with the FBI. And she hated it. Not what she did—Kelly loved working on the remains of the dead and solving their deaths, putting them together so their families could lay them to rest. It was her boss, Lord Shamus Van, that she disliked with a double side of passion. No one knew if he was a real lord or not. She personally didn’t think so, nor did she really care. She thought perhaps he’d been an overseer for someone when he was younger and the job had gone to his head. Shamus treated everyone like he was used to cracking the whip and people doing what he said. At two-thirty in the morning, just a little over six hours after she’d started over, she knew that she’d been correct. Not only was it a male, but he’d been younger than she’d first thought.

Only having the skull, and only part of that, made guessing harder if the information she’d been given was wrong in the first place. Instead of being ten to twelve, she was sure that his age was closer to five or six. Thinking of the other things that she’d been told, Kelly decided it was time that she stood up to stretch and look over those notes for a moment. She’d forget to do that at times and would stiffen up terribly if she sat for too long. “What are you doing here, Miss Roman?” Nearly screaming when his lordship spoke behind her, she dropped her glass of water and it went everywhere. “You were told there would be no overtime paid to you if you worked past midnight again. What are you doing here at this hour anyway? I want you out of here right this moment. And you’ll be here on time in the morning as well. Don’t think you can slack off on my—the work you’ve been assigned.”

Something about the way he kept looking around seemed like he was either thinking that they weren’t alone, or that she wasn’t. Or he was expecting someone and didn’t want her to know about the meeting—or whatever they were doing here. Instead of answering him, she asked him what he was doing there. “I mean, as far as I understand it, the overtime rule didn’t just apply to me. It applied to you as well. But now that I think about it, you rarely work forty hours a week as it is.” She glared at him. “That didn’t answer my question, by the way. What are you doing here?” “I come and go as I please, young lady. And I certainly do not answer to a second rate pathologist like you.” She watched as he looked at the clock that was behind him for the second time in as many minutes. “I want you to leave here this moment. I will not say it again.” “Good. I thought it was boring the first time you said it.” Kelly turned her back on him, shocked that she’d said that to him. “I’m working on that skull you had me working on this morning. Or I guess, yesterday morning. Nothing you told me was correct, by the way. What’s up with that mess?” Leaving him there, she decided that it felt pretty good to be able to say what she wanted. Not that she wanted to make a habit of talking back to someone. Kelly was exhausted yet happy, and that was what she was going to say if someone brought her to task about it. “I said for you to— What have you done? Why have you changed the specs on what you were given? Damn it. You’re going to ruin everything.” When he reached for the skull, she stepped in front of the table to block him from touching it. “You will tear up that monstrosity right now and do what you were told. This minute. You are going to regret this.

I’m telling you right now that—” “Is there something going on here? Something that I need to be aware of? Shamus, you asked me to come here at this ungodly hour. What did you want?” She didn’t know the voice, nor the man when she peeked at him around Shamus. “Shamus, leave that young woman alone and answer me.” “Well, I was hoping to do this without her here, but since she has broken the rules—again, I might add—then this will be as good a time as ever. This is Miss Kelly Roman, the bane of my existence. I wanted you to see the work she’s been doing.” Shamus put his hands on her shoulders as if to move her. “Just let me show you what she’s been doing. Oh my, Kelly, what are you doing with my bust?” “What? Your bust? I’ve been working on this all evening. We just had a conversation about it not ten seconds ago. Did you hit your head again when you fell? You’re forever falling on the floor in those ridiculous shoes you wear.” He didn’t have to move her—she turned herself to see what he’d been talking about. “This is my head. You’ve only just arrived here, as I said.” “No. No, you don’t have that right at all. I’ve been here all night. You just came and told me that you were taking my work.” Shamus looked at the stranger. “I was working on this head when she came in here yelling at me to give her the head. I was bent over it working to make sure that we had the correct head. I wanted you to see the notes that she has. They’re nothing like the ones we were given at the meeting, sir.”

Kelly knew she was going to be in deep trouble here. What bothered her most was the way that the stranger was watching her, like she was something he’d caught in a trap. Turning back to Shamus, she tried to salvage her job. “What meeting? I didn’t write those notes. You handed them to me at nine o’clock this morning and told me that what the chief of police was saying the skull was supposed to be was written there. It’s not right, as I’m sure anyone above second rate can see.” Kelly looked at the man again and dawning became clear. “You’re the new chief of police, I’m assuming. You’re here to look at…I’m assuming he told you that I wasn’t playing ball with the new department head, and brought you in here to see the original skull that I’d been working on. The one that wasn’t right from the start.” “Mr. Van was at the meeting this morning when I called everyone in to tell them about the case that was sitting on my desk for six months before I was hired.” He looked her up and down before continuing. “Mr. Van told me that you were out the night before with your boyfriend, and refused to get up and come into a mandatory meeting. Is that correct?” She looked at Shamus, then at her bust. As much as she hated to admit it, she was finished. Not because he told her that she was fired, but because she didn’t have it in her to try and salvage her job every day she had to work here. Not only that, but she just couldn’t bring herself to defend herself to a stranger who was looking at her like he was. Shamus was forever putting her on the spot about this or that.

Whatever was said by her now would only make her look worse than the picture that Shamus had painted of her. It was a clear case of the boss said this and his employee didn’t say what he wanted to hear. Nodding once, she picked up her bust and crushed it against the table. It was her work, and she wasn’t going to leave it behind to be used by either of these pricks. Going out the door, making sure that she knocked against the table enough that the bust fell to the floor, she left the room. There was cursing and laughter, but she didn’t turn to see who was doing what. Kelly was just too pissed off to care anymore. Gathering up her things, she emptied her locker—there wasn’t much in it anyway—then grabbed her jacket and went to the timeclock. It was hard to see through her tears, but she refused to let them fall where anyone here could see them. Clocking out, no one tried to stop her. When she was checked for anything she shouldn’t be taking with her at the front door, she handed her badge to Joe, the security officer on duty. “Kelly? What’s going on?” Shaking her head, she told Joe, the nicest security guard she’d worked within the eight years she’d been here, that she’d had enough. “This have anything to do with his lordship?” “I have to go now. All right? I’ll come over later, when I can, and tell you about what happened.” He nodded at her this time and she left. Kelly was nearly to her car when her cell phone started ringing. Taking it out of her pocket, she turned it off and took it back to Joe, as it was a company phone. He handed her a receipt not only for the phone but also the lock that she’d turned in and her badge.

It would be just like his lordship to sue her for not turning her crap in. Both of them, she and Joe, knew it. She was halfway home when her personal cell phone rang. Turning it off—she was too distraught to talk to anyone at the moment—Kelly made her way home. Pulling into the drive to the apartment complex she was living in, she had a moment of fear. Two cruisers with their lights on were near her front door. Then she realized they were there for the couple that lived next door to her in the apartment she rented. Domestic call, one of the officers told her when she asked if she could go into her home. Giving her permission, he asked her to look in her front room for any kind of bullet holes, as the couple had been trying to kill one another. After checking and finding nothing, she told him and then locked herself into her place. The tears were coming almost as soon as the lock engaged. Kelly was good at what she did. She’d been doing sculpting for the police force for several years before she started working with the bureau. She wasn’t employed by the Feds, but she did do work for them when they had bones that they couldn’t identify. The extra money was good, and she had banked every penny of it for her first house. Shamus had hated that she did theirs over the work that he wanted her to do. Actually, Shamus hated everything that she did. Tonight had been the last straw. It was him or her, and she knew enough to know that she’d never be able to work with someone like him again. Changing into her soft jammies, she sat on the couch and turned on the television. If there had been a murder going on in front of her, she wouldn’t have noticed. Her mind kept going back to the skull she’d been working on, as well as Shamus trying to take credit for her work.

When someone knocked on her door, she thought about ignoring it but got up when the pounding became harder. Pulling the door open, she glared at the person standing there. “What the heck do you want? I think I’ve had enough crapola happen to me for one day, how about you?” The man, the chief of police, asked if he could come in. She moved back from the door. Kelly waved her hand to show him he could enter, but he just stared at her. “You have to invite me in, Kelly.” It took her a full minute to figure out what he was saying to her. “Yes, I’m a vampire. And if you’d allow me to come in, I’ll explain things to you. I also want to talk to you about Shamus Van. I have some questions about his work ethic, as well as some of the things that he—” “No.” He cocked a brow at her. “No, that’s what I said. No. I’m not inviting you in so that you can do whatever you want in here. I’d like to think that I’m strong enough to fight you off, but we both know that since you’re more than likely older than my parents, you have shit going on that I can’t even understand right now. What do you want?” “I came to see you about the remains that had been found. I swear to you, that’s all I need for the moment.” She just stood there, tapping her foot. “All right—that’s the truth. I can’t lie to you anyway, but I did go there to see what you’d come up with on it. I had no idea that Shamus had sabotaged your working there. But in the three weeks, I’ve been working as chief, I’ve heard more about your bad work habits than I have about all the other men that are working for me.

He’s a little bastard if you ask me.” “I didn’t. But that’s not a bad description of him. Why did you allow him to go on telling you that he’d done my work? Or for that matter, why did you have to go there with him? He hates me, you know.” The chief, she thought his name was Bancroft Dalton, told her that Shamus did hate her. “Well, that was harsh. Couldn’t you have just said you didn’t know? Not that it matters. I’m not going to work for him or you anymore. I have had enough of being treated as a— What did you just say to me?” “Which time?” She glared at him. “Well, we have had quite an extensive conversation while I’m standing out here where people can see me. Perhaps you could narrow it down just a little.” “You said that you can’t lie to me.” He said that he couldn’t. “I don’t know that many vampires—just two of them—but I do know a great many shifters. When they say crapola like that it means that they’re mated or something. Please tell me that isn’t what it means to you as a vamp.” “I’m afraid it does.” She slammed the door in his face, and she heard him laughing. That ticked her off enough that she opened the door again to yell at him. Mrs. Miller, the woman across the hall from her, was speaking to Bancroft. “Yes, ma’am. We’ve had a little spat, and I’m trying my best to make it up to her. She’s very stubborn.” “A woman needs to be stubborn nowadays. If they’re not, then men will think they’re nothing more than the rug under their stinky feet. You should have come on your knees with flowers, young man. It never hurts to be bringing her pretties, even when you’ve not screwed up enough to have you on the other side of the door.” Mrs. Miller looked at her. “You’re home late, honey.

You might want to let this man in to keep you safe. There are all kinds of monsters out there that can hurt you.” “I would never hurt her.” Mrs. Miller told him to see that he didn’t. “Yes, ma’am. I wouldn’t hurt her for any reason. I just want to speak to her for a little while here. She’s stubborn, as I said.” “Get in here, you fool.” He stepped over the threshold, and Kelly had the wind knocked out of her when his magic or whatever hit her. “You did something. What did you do? I’m telling you right now, I’m not going to be putting up with any shenanigans. I have enough crapola going on in my life without you interfering.” “Shenanigans? Crapola? How old are you?” He laughed, then sat down where she’d been on the couch. “Since I’m assuming you don’t want to talk about us, then I’m going to talk to you about the skull you were working on. You were told that it wasn’t a small child, I’m assuming.” “He said that it was that of a small adult female. When I started on it, having that in mind, it wouldn’t work at all. And there is never going to be an us, you idiot. I don’t want anyone in my life that is going to be there at the end of the day to tell me what a lousy job I’m doing.” He asked her who had done that to her. “No one that you’d know. I’m not going to work for Shamus anyway. The Feds have offered me a full-time position, and I’m going to take it. I’ll have my own office.

I’ll work only on cases for them, and I’ll not have to put up with Shamus.” “I don’t want to burst your bubble or anything, Kelly, but there are Shamuses everywhere you look.” She knew that but didn’t bother answering him. “I would like for you to come back and work for the city in this case. If at the end of the case, you still don’t want to work for us, then I will give you a glowing recommendation and help you move to whatever station they put you in. However, you have to keep in mind that as of the moment we met, where you go, I go. I won’t keep you from your work, but I can’t live without you now that I’ve found you.” Kelly sat down on the chair and thought about what he was saying. She needed a job. While she had been offered the job at the federal level, she wasn’t sure she wanted to take that either. It would mean a move, one that she would have to make if she wanted the job. There were just too many things that were depending on her being local. The most important thing was the little house she’d been dreaming of since she’d been about ten. “I’ll work on the remains, but if Shamus so much as breathes in my direction, I’ll walk out, and you’ll never find me. I know enough to know that since you’ve not touched me, finding me would be difficult. I’m not saying impossible, but it wouldn’t be easy. And I won’t be. Easy, I mean. I don’t want this at all.” He told her that he understood.

“When I tell you to back the heck off, you’d better do it too.” “I will. I won’t rush you.” He stood up when she did. “I need this done as soon as you can get to it. There are a great many people that need to know if it’s their child or not. I have made sure that you have everything you need, including the correct paperwork. Please, could you come back with me today and work on it? Shamus Van is no longer working for the city.” ~*~ Bancroft looked over the paperwork in front of him without seeing it. She was only a few floors below him, and he wasn’t allowed to go and talk to her. Not even to see if she had everything she needed. Kelly had told him, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t want him breathing on her. Bancroft thought that she was the most beautiful, refreshing woman he’d ever met. “Sir? You asked me to tell you when Dr. Roman needed something. She’s asking for the key. Since I don’t know what that might mean in her department, I thought you might know.” He didn’t but got up to go see what sort of key hadn’t been turned in by Van. “Something about supplies. I know that she’d need them, but as for what it might be, I’m clueless. Did you know that she can carry a gun, but won’t?” “No, I didn’t. Why would—? Did you say that she was Doctor Roman?” He said that it was on her new name badge. Bancroft made a mental note to find her file and look it over. “I had no idea. I need to get to know all the people that work for me a little better. Do you have a good idea about the men and women here?” “Yes, sir. I’ve been the mailman here for nearly twelve years. I know them all.” They were in the elevator when he turned to him. “My name is Roger Dodger. I know what you’re going to ask—did my parents hate me or something?

I believe that they might have. Everyone just calls me Dodge.” “I’d like for you to work with me for a while. Perhaps forever. I need someone that can keep track of me. Do you think you can do that? You’ll be working with me at my home. As I said, I need someone that can keep track of me and my day.” Dodge’s chest looked as if it expanded three times as he started nodding. “Good. I’d like that. I’ll find you an office someplace where I live, and we can work on your duties while we get acquainted. Ask for Jamison when you get there, and he’ll introduce you to the staff. It’s important that you get to know all of them as well. All right?” “An office too? My goodness.” The elevator opened. Bancroft heard the cursing, at least Kelly’s version of it before Dodge did, and while Dodge was afraid, Bancroft thought it funny. Whatever had happened since he left her, she wasn’t the least bit shy about venting about it. “Doc, I asked, and he said he didn’t know. He’s come down to help you.” “He took the key. Not only that, but he must have changed out the frigging lock so that I couldn’t get to the items that I need. I hate that man.” She glared at Bancroft. “I thought I told you to go away. You’re a pain in the bottom.” “I would love to hear where you’ve picked up the colorful way you were cursing before I got here. What’s in there that you need? I’m not saying that you don’t need it, but I have a way of getting into the room when no one else can.” She said she needed calipers, as well as depth markers. “I’m not sure what the second one is, but I can get in there without a key.”

He looked at Dodge. “I would appreciate it if you said nothing about what you’re about to see or hear. I’m a very old vampire.” “I knew that already, sir.” When Bancroft only shook his head, he disappeared from the room they were in into the locker room. Kelly wasn’t going to be any happier about the state of the room than she was about being locked out, he was afraid. Turning the lock, he stood in front of the doorway before she could enter. As soon as she looked around him, he could tell that not only was she royally pissed off, but hurt too. He could only stand there and watch her as she dealt with the emotions on her own. Bancroft had promised not to touch her until she was ready. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been gathering these things up so that we’d have a good working station? Years of hitting garage sales and auctions. Now, look at it. It’s all but ruined. Why would he do this?” She started picking things up and putting salvageable things into the boxes that were there. He asked her if he could help. “I need all the glasses put into a box if you don’t mind. I guess it doesn’t matter if the lenses are in them. But I do need the glasses.” As he picked them up, tossing out the lenses on the ones that were shattered, Dodge started separating the depth markers, or landmarks, she’d called them—little dots of dowel that would not just measure the thickness of the skin, but also keep it all evened out. He was a little disconcerted when he noticed that there were hundreds of eyeballs looking at him from all over the room when he finished with the glasses.

It took them nearly two hours to get the place back in shape. There had been a great deal of destruction of the equipment. He made himself a mental note to figure out the cost of each thing and charge Van for it. Bancroft was also going to make sure that Kelly had a cash allowance to spend on things that she picked up where she could. She was more than likely saving the city a great deal of money by picking up things like glasses and wigs that didn’t come from a wholesaler. He had security look for the key to the room, and it wasn’t found, so he called someone in to fix that. Calling a locksmith to have the locks changed seemed to cheer Kelly up. When he walked into the room where he’d first met her, he couldn’t believe the skull work that she’d gotten done already. “It would have been a great deal better had I had all the skull, as well as more bones,” Bancroft said that he had them. “Van told me that the police had only found the partial skull. Why wasn’t—? Never mind. I can answer that one on my own. He didn’t want me to have them. May I have them please?” She was upset again, and he didn’t know what to do to comfort her. His beast wanted to find Van and tear him up. But that would only piss her off more, he thought. Bancroft went to the storage room and picked up the box of bones. He did have a moment of fear that Van had gotten to them as well, but they were still in the evidence bag that had been in his office up until yesterday morning. “I’m going to reconstruct the body, then I can have a better idea of what I’m working with. Did anyone try and do any kind of DNA off the bones?” He pulled out the paperwork that had been with the evidence bags and handed it to her. “Seven months ago?

And you’ve not heard back from them? What the heck, Chief Dalton. Are you slacking on your job as well?” He nearly laughed again, thinking that she was so adorable, but thought better of it. She was in a mood. While he didn’t know all her moods yet, he was sure that laughing at her might get him hurt. “I’ve only been here for three weeks. I did mention that, didn’t I?” She growled at him, and he let go of a burst of laughter. “How about I go and call someone to find out what is going on with the results? That will give you plenty of time to work on that growl you have. You need to have it come from the belly. That way, it doesn’t sound so wimpy.” He left before she built up the nice head of steam that he could see coming. Christ, she was beautiful. The fact that she didn’t hold back in speaking to him made him feel like he could spend the day pissing her off just to be delighted by her reactions. Bancroft had a feeling that mate or not, she’d murder him in his sleep, so he would hold back on that fun for a while. Bancroft had to call three different places before he was able to run down the tests that he wanted. The first company hung up on him, telling him that they’d never work for the city again so long as Shamus Van was there. He didn’t get a chance to tell them that he didn’t work there anymore, but he did make himself a note to email them, as well as pay the overdue balance that the city had with them.

The second testing office that he called had been out of business for a year. If he was going to make this work, he was going to have to update the phone numbers that were in the old fashioned Rolodex that was on his desk. By the time he got the right place, several hours had passed, and he was exhausted. Going to the sublevels again, it occurred to him that he could have called Kelly to let her know, but he was glad that he hadn’t when he found her. She’d fallen asleep at the messiest desk he’d ever seen and was snoring slightly. Turning around when Dodge said his name softly, he was astonished at how much work she’d gotten done while he’d been gone. The bones were laid out to form a body. He could see that she’d even marked a couple of places where bones were missing as to what they were. Walking around the table that she’d used, Bancroft could see things that he’d bet no other human could have. This wasn’t just a case of a missing child, as he’d been told. This was murder.

 

 

Matthew House Of Wilkshire by Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Giveaway

Matthew St. James was the Earl of Green Gables, and Lord of Lilac Castle. A dragon of great title and magic, but little wealth. Only one other knew what his true dragon was, and Devon, King of the Dragons, wasn’t telling anyone.

Aisling was a rare white warrior dragon. She had been in slumber several hundred years, healing from a near-fatal blow in a great war. She felt betrayed when, Dak, her personal faerie, had been sharing information about her with Lord Connor. Now, she had to go talk to him to determine what kind of payment he would extract from her for his protection while she slept. She had no coin. Not knowing what type of payment he would demand from her had her heart twisted in torment.

Aisling didn’t trust anyone. Too many had betrayed her. And when she refused to speak with the king, Devon ordered her to go to his castle. He would make her listen to reason.

Matt arrived at the castle before Devon, but what he wasn’t expecting to find was his mate. And because of his title, he couldn’t get her to rise from groveling on the ground at his feet to even talk to her. When his dragon realized his mate was in front of him, the Earth dragon bypassed the man and bonded with the white dragon. The joining was both painful and spectacular. In pain, Aisling’s dragon, no longer white, took flight.

When Matt finally found her, Aisling was no longer timid. She was mad as hell and out for blood.

 

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B&N https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/matthew-robert-barton/1004898224?ean=9781951642549
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18+ Erotic Shapeshifter Romance, fantasy romance, paranormal fantasy

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….

 

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…

Jackson William hadn’t seen his father in centuries. Now his father was dead, he was now king, and the dragon council wanted to hold him responsible for his father’s crimes? And there had been many. The truth would be his salvation. Nicole needed a job. A job that would put a roof over her head as well. She hadn’t had a decent meal in a week. But the ad didn’t say there were fairies and witches. Where there were faeries, there were dragons and Nicole was petrified of them. And with good reason. The poison from the dragon bites flowing through Nicole’s veins left her weak and in a lot of pain. She was a mere human, and her body’s inability to heal from the bites left her vulnerable to new dragon attacks. Now this dragon, Jackson, was claiming to be her mate? Would this nightmare never end?

 

Connor James was having a blast remodeling the old mansion, but he didn’t care for curtains, and his friends’ mates were giving him hell for it. Connor loved every minute of it.

Since acquiring the mansion, Connor was having a time dealing with the ghosts remaining in the home. He was able to see and speak with spirits and made it so anyone who entered his home could do so as well.

Roxanna Hornsby, also known as Rocky, was alone in the world and living in near poverty. Dealing with the dead was her burden to bear and she wasn’t known for being pleasant about it.

Roxanna knew some of her magical heritage, but most of the memory had been blocked from her to keep her safe. And when her grandmother came to her in her dream, the memories came flooding back. Roxanna was so much more than any of them thought.

 

 

House of Wilkshire Series

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Noah  https://amzn.to/2EnbUAx

Jackson https://amzn.to/2J1jjI7

4.Connor https://amzn.to/2m6a3Iw

 

 

 

 

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Matt walked through the new house three times. He was alone this last time, and he was glad for it. Having someone pointing out all the things that he could see was annoying at best. Stupid too. He could see deeper into anything that was going on here than the dumb woman that had been assigned to show him the place. It had taken him nearly an hour to get her out of the place so that he could feel it for himself. There are several things that I need to let you know about before I leave you to it. He smiled at Kelly as she spoke to him through their connection. This is not what I have to tell you, but I should like to mention how happy I am that you got rid of that woman. Christ, she was getting on my nerves, and I wasn’t around her. Okay, what I need to tell you. I’ve spoken to Bryce, and she said to tell you that the house has been warded. You’re safe there. Second thing, you need to know that your brother is still hanging his ass around. He’s staying at one of the old hotels out on Route Forty. It’s a place with a roof over his head and little else. As you’re aware, I’ve sent a faerie, Beta, to be with him to keep an eye on him. So far, she’s only had to teach him a lesson in being respectful to her once. He got the picture—I think, anyway. It’s doubtful, but you never know. I wanted to let you know that I’ve also spoken to my father. He said that he’d tell Rolland’s mother about his antics. Julia wants nothing to do with him. I guess it’s safe to assume that he burnt those bridges a long time ago. However, I did tell them to be extra careful when they return home. There is no telling what Rolland might have set up for them. She told him that was a great idea. I have them on occasion. About this house— I’d like to keep it. I can fill it out on my own, so there is no need for anything you offered us.

Good to know. Cole is looking his house over now. I made it so that he could do it alone after getting a hint about the woman with you. I don’t mean to be rude, but what kind of dragon are you? Devon told me that I would have to ask you. That it was something he couldn’t share unless he spoke to you. I figured it had to be good or he would have shared. He didn’t want to tell her but told her that if she were face to face with him, he’d show her. That bad, huh? Okay. I’m out and about today, so perhaps tomorrow. What can I bring tonight when we all show up for dinner? You’re all showing up here for dinner? She laughed when he did. I don’t know what we’ll have, so I’ll have to think about it. Just tell everyone that it will be a cookout. That’s about all I can handle here. Also, I have my own faeries with me. I want you to know that so that if you have any extras needing work, I can take them on, but I don’t really need them full time. Okay. I know that Cole only has his own personal faeries, so I can send them on to him. You have a cook too, I’m thinking? He said that he did. All manner of workers. Good. I’m glad to know that. So, tonight is all right with you? Then tomorrow night, we’ll hit up Cole. He’s not as magical as you are if you can fill out your home. It’s doubtful that many are as magically inclined as I am, my dear queen. She whistled, and he had to laugh. All right. I need to flush out my home here before you all arrive and drive me insane. I don’t suppose that you know if my mate is around, do you? I mean, you all seem to have everything down pat all ready for us.

No. Not that I’m aware of. But then, I could have been around her for a month and had no idea that she was your mate. He told her that she’d not been. He would have smelled her on her. That is sort of gross, don’t you think? I mean, what could I have been doing that I would smell like your mate? Nothing, I tell you. But then, I’m new to this dragon mate stuff. It’s kind of scary when you think about anything that could have befallen a mate before the other half found them. Don’t you think? Yes, I do. He actually thought of that more than once a day, whether his mate was out there still. Was she all right? Things that made him think that at some point along the line, she would have been dealt a deadly blow, and was now nothing more than dust in the ground. Such a morbid thought, he told himself. I do have to go, my dear. Thank Bryce for me about the house being safe. I shall now let my faeries roam free. The house was perfect for him. There were plenty of bedrooms should he want to have his family stay over. A kitchen that as his dragon, he could cook in it if he wanted. Not to mention he had plenty enough yard that he could stretch out as his dragon and not be bothered by cars, or even trees. There were plenty of those as well. Trees and the ground were a part of him, and he sorely needed them. Freeing his faeries, he was happy to see that they had all arrived with him safely at Devon’s home and were now free to make this house theirs, as well as his. They had, as most faeries of dragons could do, become a part of him. They were like tats over his body that, once he freed them, would leave him with nary a mark on his body other than the one that covered his back. That one was there until he died, which wouldn’t happen anytime too soon, he figured.

Gathering the thousands around him that had been a part of him, he had them listen to him this one time as a group. It wasn’t often that he had to make rules for them to follow. But until such a time that the others were aware of what he was, he didn’t want his faeries to get into trouble that would cost him anything. Being broke was something that he was used to. If he had to make restitution to Devon over something that they did, then he’d have to sell a part of himself. He’d done it before, sold off a small part of himself—a hair that was along his back, a pint of the liquid that kept him in wings. Being what he was, a dragon of some worth, he could do that and not miss anything. However, he didn’t want to have to do it if he didn’t need to. Matt made sure that his family, the group of faeries that he’d had since birth, understood that. “We have a chance to make ourselves a new start here. I don’t want to have to run out of town to keep any of us safe. All right?” They nodded to him, some of them apologizing for the trouble they thought had made it so that they’d had to leave before. “None of you are responsible for what Rolland has done to us. Not one of you. But know this. He is not welcome here. He is not to come here for any reason. If he tells you differently or that we have made up, then you are not to believe him. He is a liar and will say and do anything to harm me. But mostly you. He will tear your wings off just to be able to say that he has. Understand?” Honey came to stand on his shoulder. She was his faerie to call, and Matt knew that she’d be the one that would find him if anything were to happen. The other faeries

would seek her out faster than they would Matt if there were other problems to be taken care of. Only because of all the faeries that were there, Honey understood more than most of them did. About nearly everything. “I will need a staff of outdoorsmen to keep the grounds in shape.” As Honey made groups of their staff assignments, he thought about the rooms that he’d been in and filled them out. When he had all but two of the rooms finished, Honey said his name. “Master, there are a few that wish to be your cooking staff. I haven’t any idea what that might mean for this household.” “There are other dragons around, including the king and queen of us all. They will show up at a moment’s notice and wish for food. Someone in the kitchen needs to be able to handle that without causing trouble.” Two of the six stepped forward. “Also, and this is very important—someone will need to be able to order foodstuff from the locals and deal with them when it comes to money that they use. We won’t be making things from magic unless funds are too low. I have a home now, so I can give you what I produce in the way of gems, but you know as well as I that it is more difficult than for a regular dragon to sell off for cash what I have in the way of gems.” The one that moved forward again was Honey’s mate, Billows. He would be their cook. Matt welcomed him to the household. And just as he thought he would, Billows asked the other man to be his second. Faeries were a wonderful group—at least his were. They didn’t lord tasks that they were given by the dragons over each other. If they were offered a job, as Billows had been, then they would be sure to give as many of the others that had wanted the job a way to work in the area.

Billows would train his second, Tinsel, on how to deal with the humans around and how to count out money. By the time there was a need for someone else to have a faerie in their kitchen, then Tinsel would be their pick because of his training. Matt made sure that no one was without means to keep themselves busy. Busy faeries were less likely to get themselves into trouble. Matt did another turn around the bedrooms of his home. The master bedroom was large enough for a man his size. He was taller than most of the dragons around, with the exception of Devon, so his dragon was larger too. Also, and no one but his faeries knew this, Matt was able to call forth things that even Devon was unable to do. Now that he had his own home, he was going to make use of that magic for all those around him. “These rooms are well done, my lord. You have chosen colors that are of the earth. Your magic will have many guests happy when they stay for a time that won’t even understand the reason for it.” Matt told Honey that he wanted to keep it that way. “I have set up a time for the lady Kelly to come and speak to you. She has sent her own faerie here to set a time. Are you going to tell her everything?” “I was thinking that I should tell them all. With us living here, it might be better if more people knew what I was rather than being blindsided by someone looking for me. Not that there are many people around anymore that would know what I was, but you never know about humans.”

Honey said that was correct. “Honey, now that you know what I want in the way of the house, would you finish it up for me? I will add the magic to the rooms later. For now, I’d like to have a look around the yard to see if there are any improvements I can do with that.” “Yes, my lord. Also, you should talk to Lord Connor. He is working on a project now that I think you should be aware of. He has not told anyone of it as far as I know, except the faerie Dak that he smells of.” Matt nodded and started toward the door before he was stopped again by Honey. “My lord, your brother, he is going to be causing trouble again if I do not miss my bet. What would you like done with him? It is well past time that he is dealt with by one of my kind.” “I know, Honey. You have no idea how glad I am that you haven’t done anything. I will deal with him soon enough. We are among friends here, and I would prefer that we get their input on him rather than just taking care of him on our own. Killing him would be the best for you, I’m aware of this. However, with us being with the king of our kind, we’ll need to make sure that he’s not only aware of the things that Rolland has done to faeries, but also the harm that he’s caused to our kind. Everyone has been touched by his deeds. It’s only fair that everyone has a say in what he faces from each of them when the time comes. Also, my father and his wife are going to be arriving soon, I would imagine. I would like for them to know if they’re not aware already, what he’s done since they got married.” “Yes. You are correct. You are a wise dragon, my lord. And a kind one.

I do hope that you are correct in your trust in the others about what you are.” He didn’t voice it, but he hoped so as well. “I shall take care that the rest of the house is finished. Also, I will take care that the other faeries—there are a great many of them—are aware that we’re here. I do not wish for them to get jealous of how we are treated over them.” He didn’t tell her that the other faeries were treated as well, if not better than his were. While they weren’t a jealous lot, any of them, they did think that he was the best master that had ever been born. He liked them thinking that, but he knew that it was far from the truth. There had to be one or two others that were better than he was. ~*~ Aisling was waiting on Dak. When he returned, she was going to have to have a long-overdue conversation with him. She needed some answers, and in order to get them, she was going to have to order her friend to tell her. If he’d been honest with her from the start, she wouldn’t have to go to such extremes. But now, as they were near enough to the king to seek him out, she needed to know who it was that he was talking to. As soon as he entered her domain, nothing more than a hovel that she’d transformed into a home for them, she could tell that he had more information than he’d had when he left. “My lady? I had no idea that you’d be awake so soon. I should have been here for you.” She only nodded. “Something is amiss? I shall help you with it. Whatever it is, I’m sure that the two of us can take care of it.” “Who is it that you’re talking to?” He said that he was speaking to her, acting this time instead of being confused for real. “Who else, Dak? Who is the dragon that you go to speak to when you think me sleeping?

Is it the king? Are you telling him things about me that I wish you hadn’t?” “No, my lady. I’d never do that to you. I have the papers that are carrying your reviews. They have them on the front page. You are quite the star now.” She wanted to put aside her questions to see her name in print again, but he needed to give her what she wanted. Again, she asked him who he was seeing. “His name is Lord Connor James, Prince to the Castle Hillcrest, Dragon of Hillcrest Castle. He has been the one that is helping you come to see the king.” “How is it that he knew of us? You have been going behind my back, Dak. I do not care for the way you have deceived me.” He bowed before her, his wings spread out behind him and trembling. “What did you do to make him aware of me?” “He came upon us while you were resting so many decades ago. You had only been healing for a short time when he came into the cave to rest himself.” Aisling told him to stand up and to finish. “Lord Connor knew what you were when he came upon you. I could no more turn him away than I could have you, my lady. He watched over the two of us until you woke. Lord Connor also made sure that I was fed and cared for, and that you were never close to dying again, as you were when we entered the cave you were in.” “Did he heal me?” Dak told her what he’d done. “So he protected me so that no others were to come upon my body while I healed. How much will he demand of me, Dak? He will want more than I can give him, of this I’m sure.” “Nay. He knew that you were an untried female dragon. He knew too that you were white, even though you were covered in darkness to hide you away from others.” She asked what he wanted. “Nothing, he told me. For, he told me, all dragons are special. But for a female such as yourself, there is no greater gift to someone than to have you taken care of so that you were never harmed.

He has been true to his word in all this time. It is his card that you use when we eat.” “I will pay him back.” Dak said nothing. “What else has he done? Has he made it so that my reviews are taken by the newspaper? Did he fix it so that even though they are crap, someone prints them and pays us for them? I shall never do another—” “Nay, my lady. Never that. The king was kind enough to help you with the name. After that, Lord Connor told me that you were on your own. I had to ask him what he meant by that. But you got the job because you were good at what you did. Lord Connor only—how did he put that? Ah. He said that he only opened the door for you so that you could enter the job. You closed the door behind you when you were able to impress with your and my words. He was very good at doing that for you. Was he not?” She didn’t say anything to him. “You should know that I have also been delaying your meeting with the king. Lord Connor didn’t know why, but he said that you must only come to meet the king when the snow was on the ground for good.” “And he had no reason for this? That I was only to arrive in the snow?” Dak told her that was what he said. “So this Lord Connor, he can see my future. What else did he tell you about me coming there?”

“Nothing. He only can see some of your future, but not all. He only knew that it would be best for you to arrive when the snow was on the ground for a while.” Dak smiled at her. “It is time.” “Does the king even have a child?” He said that he did. There were many hatchlings around the kingdom. “I don’t know what to believe of you now, Dak. You have betrayed me to another dragon. What if he has it in his head to make me a part of his household? A dragon of his own?” “I don’t think he’d do that. I have seen his mate. She is a beauty, much like you are, but she is scary protective of her mate. You could never get close enough to either of them with any ill intentions in your mind.” She thought that was at least good. “Not that you have such intentions, but she will not be happy if you were to be a part of the household for any reason.” “You still hurt my heart with what you were doing. I knew that you were seeing someone about what we were doing. But it only just occurred to me what else you might be doing since you seemed to have no problem talking to others behind my back.”

He said that he’d never betray her. “But you have. Haven’t you? You have been telling me stories about how you were finding things out when you were going to someone else to get the answers. I suppose that he’s been paying our way since I woke.” “He has.” She stomped her way around the room, madder now than she was before she began this talk with him. “My lady. I never meant to hurt you about this. It was only my intention to make sure that you were safe.” “I don’t feel safe now.” She was hurting him, she knew, but he’d been doing things behind her back and taking the credit for what another person came up with. “I feel as if I shouldn’t have trusted you, Dak. How should that make me feel when you’ve lied to me from the beginning?” “I’ve no answers, my lady.” She stopped pacing and turned to look at him. “I will do whatever you wish to make this right to you. Whatever it is. Even if you were to tell me that you no longer wish for me to serve you. I don’t want that, ever, but I can understand if you were to wish it to be so.” “I only wanted to ask you about this man, and now I’m finding out that not only has he known about me since I woke, but he has been keeping an eye on me since I was hurt in war. You could not have found a time to have told me before? Why did I have to confront you on this now?” He said that Lord Connor wanted to meet her. “So that he might extract payment from me? I have nothing to offer him but myself. I don’t even have my first true job, because you have gone behind my back and had him open doors for me to get it.” “You got it on your own merit.” She snorted at Dak. “I promise you, my lady. Neither of us made him give you the job. You did that on your own with your own hard work.” “I don’t know what to believe.” She didn’t either. This was much worse than she had thought it would be. Aisling had only wanted to know what dragon he was seeing, but now it turned out that he had been caring for her for a while, a long while, and she had no other choice but to throw herself at his mercy and ask him not to take more than she had as payment.

“He will make sure that I am a slave to him forever. You are aware of this, are you not?” “I don’t think he will. My lady, Lord Connor, is a good man. He is happy to help you.” She didn’t say anything else to him. Her heart really did hurt for him not telling her when she’d first woken up. “He has asked to speak to you this night. We are going to try out the restaurant that is just near here. I have arranged it so that he can tell you all that you need to know.” “And what is it that he feels I need to know? That I have been sold to someone of his acquaintance? That I will be butchered into pieces so that witches and others can have some of my magic? I don’t know this man. And to be honest with you, Dak, I feel as if I don’t know you either.” He nodded and sat down on the table that he’d been hovering over. “I don’t know what to do about us. I will have to talk to this dragon and find out what he wishes of me. To me, it feels as if you have sold me to someone else. You will stay with me, please. However, if you have plans to go to meet up with this dragon again, I will quit you. I wish for you to tell me when you are to leave to talk to him about me.” “I will stay with you until you find another that you can trust.” She didn’t tell him that wasn’t what she wanted. But right now, she was hurting too—hurting about all the things he’d kept from her. “You will come to know that I never meant you any harm, my lady. I meant only to keep you safe, as did Lord Connor. You are only that because he has made it so. The job and the things that you are thinking of now are only on you.

He would never sell you off. Lord Connor wouldn’t do anything like that to you or to any other female such as yourself. This, I will stake my life on.” “I just hope that you have not staked my life on what you believe to be true. All I wanted, Dak, was for you to be honest with me. To not lie to me about what was going on. But not only did you know that I was being protected by another dragon, but you also helped him to keep me. To have me indebted to him. You know as well as I that I had only just been able to break the bonds that my mother had put me in. It nearly cost me my life. Now I find out that you have perhaps done the same to me. Put me in a position that I know nothing about, nor can I do anything about it.” “I understand, my lady. And I am deeply sorry for the trouble I might well have caused you. And for the trust you no longer have for me.” He fluttered over the table for a moment before he spoke again. “I shall meet you at the restaurant at six. Lord Connor will join you at half-past six with his mate. I will only join them if you were to call for me. I have, as you have pointed out, harmed you by not telling you all the truth.” “Is there anything else I should know about? Something else that you’re not telling me?” He asked her what she meant. “A mate? Have you and this dragon conspired to give me to a male as his bedmate? It is something that I would like to know now.” “No, my lady. I have never conversed with him about such a thing for you. However, I will say that anyone that takes you as a mate will be able to count himself lucky to have a female such as yourself.” She had nothing to say to him about that. “I shall go to him now to tell him that you are willing to meet him at the place you are working tonight.”

After he left, she sat down in the chair she’d been sitting in while waiting for him to return. Her heart was broken. Not just for the things that he’d done to her, but also the things that had come between them. It had not been her intention to break them apart. But she’d not known of half the things he’d confessed to her. Aisling looked at the things she’d gotten when she’d started running her articles about places to eat. The newspaper people had sent her a lovely letter with her first check, telling her that people were excited about her next place. He was also pleased that she was moving around the country and telling people about places that weren’t chain places—something that she’d had to look up—but little mom and pop places— another term she’d had to research the meaning for—and giving her reviews about their places. Since she’d noticed after the first week that Dak was seeing another dragon, she had been keeping records of what she would owe someone. It was costing her more than she had made on her first check. Much, much more. “Mayhap I shouldn’t have been so hard on him.” She had been very hard on her only friend, and it hurt her that she’d been so. “But he should have allowed me to know of what was going on behind my back. For him to have known so much and not told me scared me more than I could have thought.” Aisling could also feel dangers coming her way. Her mother for one; another was a being that she wasn’t known to. What they were up to, she didn’t know, but the second creature wasn’t going to fare well if he tried anything on her. She could show no compassion for anything right now.

Marsden By Kathi S Barton Release Blitz &Giveaway

 

When Marsden Wilkerson received the phone call that his mother had been in a car accident, he wasn’t letting anything get in his way to get to her. Not a pushy boss, and especially not his Aunt Eita. Then his world crumbled when the doctors told him that his mother, Holly, didn’t make it.
Gabriella Farley, Abby, could hold her own, and she wasn’t about to take any flack from a rich bitch like Penelope Wilkerson.

All the Wilkerson women, with the exception of Holly, could fit that description. Abby stood up for Mars at the funeral home even though she really didn’t know him. What she did know was his mother, Holly, was a fine woman, and the family had given them both the shaft Mars’s entire life.

Mars wanted to apologize for his Aunt’s actions, but there was something about Abby that sparked a flame in his heart. From the first kiss, they knew they had something special, but going against the Wilkerson family could be very dangerous. Will this new love be doomed from the start?

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PAPERBACK https://www.amazon.com/dp/1951642430/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=Marsden+by+kathi+s+barton&qid=1582471239&sr=8-1

 

 

 

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Mars moved along the line and picked up what he needed for his work. Today he was putting together the ingredients for the coloring for the next pieces of acrylic they were sending out. He was the chemical engineer that mixed the chemicals together that created the colors that the customer ordered. He loved his job too. After it was approved, he’d give the specs to the next team, and they’d mix it all up on much larger batches, then use it on the large pieces of acrylic that would be made into huge sheets. He would do that as well, calculate the mass quantities of the ingredients so the plastic-looking sheets—to be made into whatever was needed— would have a uniform color. Like, he always liked to tell people, the holding aquarium tanks that were used in zoos across the country were made of the same acrylic that he colored and helped manufacture. As he was finishing up on the teal color that he needed, he was paged that he had a phone call. Since he couldn’t take his mask and gloves off in the cleanroom, he made his way out into the hall from where he worked and picked up the phone.

“Mr. Wilkerson? This is Officer Jamie Brown. There has been an accident.” He fell against the wall where he was working and asked the officer what had happened. “You mom, sir. She’s been involved in a hit and run, and I’m afraid it’s not good news. You need to get here as soon as possible if you can. They’ve taken her to surgery, and as I said, it doesn’t look good for her. I’m so terribly sorry.” “Where is she?” He told him where his mom was and how long she’d been there. “I’m on my way. It’ll only take me about twenty minutes to get there, providing there is not much…. I’ll be there soon.” He didn’t know why he was explaining things to the officer. Nerves, he guessed. As he was pulling off his coat and gloves, his boss came around the doorway and asked him where he was going in an all-fired hurry. “Hospital. My mom has been in an accident, and she’s in surgery now.” Chris put up his hand to block Mars from moving around him.

“Did you hear me? I said that my mom has been in an accident and I need to go.” “You work for me, right?” Mars nodded and wished that anyone other than Chris Blevins had caught him leaving. Everyone else would have said go, call me when you know something. But not Chris. “Yeah, I thought so. That means that I get to tell you when you can leave. Not you leaving, then someone else telling me where you’ve gone. Go back in there and get the rest of your work finished up, Wilkerson. I don’t have time to explain to you what sort of trouble you can get into for abandoning your job, now do I?” “No, you don’t. But I didn’t plan on leaving without telling someone why I was leaving. You caught up with me before I could.” Chris just nodded at him, as if he didn’t believe him. “I have to go. The officer that I just spoke to told me she’s in surgery and that it looks bad. I need to be with my—” “I need you to be here doing the job that you were hired to do.

And since we pay you, we trump your mommy being in the hospital. Besides, aren’t you a little old to be sucking at your momma’s tit?” Chris laughed, and Mars wanted to slug him. Glancing down, he saw that he’d not yet turned off his camera, always on when he was in the lab and was recording the moron in front of him. “Now that we have that figured out, you get your ass back in there and get to work on your job. As I pointed out earlier, we pay you, which does not include you running off for every little boo-boo that someone has in your family.” Mars reached blindly for the phone that was near him. Fingering the buttons, he found the two that he wanted and called the lead supervisor to where he was. Chris didn’t seem to be impressed with his move, but Mars waited. Oliver Reese entered the hallway just as Chris was screaming at him to get to work. “I’m telling you right now, Mars, if Oliver does come down here to see you, he’s not going to be at all pleased. Just today he was telling me that he’s sick of whiney assed employees thinking that they have any rights at all with anything. You fucking get that ass of yours back in that lab before I have to put you in there. I’m not shitting you. I will have your ass fired if you even think of leaving here because your mommy needs you to hold her fucking hand while she gets a few stitches.” Mars told him that the police said she was in bad shape and that he was leaving.

“You do that, and I’ll make sure that you never work as an engineer for so long as I live. You’re a fucking employee, not a boss. Get in there, like I said to you, or so help me, you’ll regret it.” “That’s quite enough, Chris.” Chris turned to look at Oliver when he spoke. “Your mother has been in an accident, Mars? I’m sorry to hear that. Get going, and give her my best and tell her that I’m thinking of her.” “Thank you, sir.” Nodding, Mars moved around Chris, who tripped him. Getting up, Mars had to count to ten before he could look at Chris again. Then he backed away from him. “You’re not worth the mud on my boots.” Leaving the building, he was running to his car when his phone rang. It was his Aunt Evelyn or Eita for short. Telling her that he was on his way to the hospital, she told him that the police wouldn’t tell her anything. Not even if the accident victim was his mom. “They just called me.” She demanded, which was her way, to know what the hell was going on. “I don’t know. I’m on my way to the hospital now.” “You left work? Marsden, I’m sure your mother will be just fine. Tell me where she’s at, and I’ll go there to take care that she’s okay. You know how she can be.” She laughed that bitter biting laugh that she did when speaking about him or his mom. “You can barely afford to leave your job in the middle of the day, Marsden. Have some responsibility, please. Stay there, and I’ll take care of every—” Hanging up on her felt wonderful. Traffic was tight, but he knew this town like he knew his room. Mars also made sure that he was careful not to speed and to keep his cool. All he needed was for him to be in an accident too, and they’d both be laid up. When his phone rang again, he saw that it was his Uncle Clayton.

. Answering it while pulling into the parking lot, he was too stressed to be nice to anyone right now. “Your aunt said that you hung up on her, Marsden. That is no way to treat your elders. You just let her take care of this for your mother and get back to work. She said that you cursed at her at well.” Mars didn’t say anything. “Listen, young man, I will not tolerate you treating your aunt this way. Now, get back to work. She told me that you left there without telling anyone. You can’t afford to lose your job, Marsden. Especially without either of you having any kind of job.” Hanging up without any comment, not that it would have done any good, he made his way into the hospital. After being directed where to go, he made his way up to the surgical floor. The staff there told him that it would be a little while, but the police would speak to him now that he was there. While he waited, Mars checked his messages. There were several from work. Deciding that he didn’t want to be bothered about that right now, he ignored them. There were two from Uncle Clayton and four from his wife, Aunt Eita. They would gang up on him when they arrived, treating him as if he were a ten-year-old instead of the twenty-something-year-old man that he was. His uncles were his mom’s brothers. She was the baby of the family, and they still treated her that way even now. They also all thought that they were so much better than he and his mom were. Mom having gotten pregnant with him when she’d been just barely sixteen years old, had also meant that they never respected her, especially not his aunts.

Each of his uncles had married women that, to him, seemed to be cut from the same mold. Snobbish women who thought that they were the only people in the world who could get a job done right or whatever “project” they set their minds to. Mostly it was keeping him and Mom in their place, which was several hundred steps below where they thought they were. They were forever in their business and talking to them like they had a learning disability. Neither of them had any such problems. But, unlike them, he and his mom kept out of their business, family, and whatever else they had going on. Mom had worked hard after he was born, and his grandfather had kicked her to the curb. All her brothers were married by then and had never once helped her out. Well, they helped her out with useless advice, but that was about all. His mom had gone to night school to finish her high school education, then on to college to get a nursing degree. He wondered if any of them had any idea the accomplishments that his mom had made. Her same work ethic had been taught to him. You want something, you go after it. And he had. Mars had wanted to be a chemist from the first time he’d had a chemistry set as a kid. He not only pursued a degree in his desired job, but he also had continued to work on his education, with his mom’s support, to receive his doctorate in the same field. He was now Marsden Wilkerson, Doctor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. He and his mom had celebrated for a week when he’d graduated at the top of his class thirteen years ago. Mars had been more proud of his mom when she’d become head nurse at the hospital that he was at right now, as well as department head for nursing at the college where they’d both gone.

When his phone rang again, he let it go to voice mail. It was Chris, his boss again. He wanted nothing to do with him right now. Going to the desk to ask the nurses there if they’d heard anything, he sighed when they shook their heads. Gladys told him that she had only just asked the OR for news. “Your mother is a strong woman, Mars. You know that. She’ll be just fine.” He nodded and told her that he hoped so. “I do, as well. There has never been another person here that works as hard as she does. Not only at being a damned fine nurse, but helping the rest of us when it comes to issues.” “She was telling me last night that you guys were having a party for one of the doctors who is leaving. Mom said it was more of a celebration for the nurses that he was finally retiring than them being happy for him.” Gladys and the other women laughed. “Has my family been calling you a lot? Just tell them that I’m here and that I’ll call them if there is anything they need to know.” “I told that aunt of yours, Christa, that she had better curb her demands at the door before she comes up here or I’ll call security on her. Demanding that I send you home. I don’t know how your mother came from the same family as those brothers of hers. I swear, I don’t.” He didn’t either but said nothing. He was watching the police come toward him. “Mars, you take them in the nurses’ office there. Lock the door. That way, no one will bother you. I’ll send the surgeon in when he’s done too.” They shook his hand, Officer Brown and his partner Officer Dutch. About ten minutes after taking them into the room to talk, the doctor came in to speak to him as well. Mars wondered at the timing but waited for the news.

~*~ Eita saw Marsden sitting in the little room when she got off the elevator. He had his back to her, and for reasons that she couldn’t explain that pissed her off more. Clayton stopped at the desk, and she made her way into the room. It was about time that Marsden started having respect for his elders. She wasn’t going to tolerate anything more from him today. “What do you think you’re doing here? Didn’t I tell you to go back to work? I swear to Christ, Marsden, you’re going to lose that job of yours, and then where will you be while your mom is laid up? I’m not going to bail you out of anything. I did tell you that I had this taken care of, didn’t I? Several times, I believe. What did she do to cause the accident, anyway? Texting and driving, no doubt.” Marsden just looked at her, his eyes cold. “Don’t you dare look at me like that! You know as well as the rest of us do that you’re barely making it on the money you have coming in. You’re both still living in that shabby little place, aren’t you? Well, when your mother comes home, she’s going to stay with us. I’ll make sure that she has proper care and someone getting her up and moving again.

” “Marsden?” He turned his head and looked at Clayton. He had better not baby him, or Eita would tear him a new ass when she got home. “They won’t tell me anything
about your mother. They said that you did that. You go out there right now and tell them that I’m her brother and that I’m—” “So you did remember that she’s your sister, did you?” Clayton looked shocked, but Eita didn’t. Marsden had never had any respect for them. Any of them. That was going to stop now as well. “I’m her son, and I’m the only one that can make decisions on her behalf. Also, you might be her brother, but that doesn’t mean shit to me right now. So you can fuck off.” Eita slapped Marsden. As his face reddened with her handprint there, she felt a satisfaction that she’d not been able to feel since the first time she’d spanked this kid. Of course, he was an adult, but that was absolutely no reason for him to behave like he was from the streets. Though, the way things were going, she didn’t doubt that he’d end up there after a time. She lifted her chin up a few more notches when he stood up.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Marsden? You’ll apologize to your uncle right this minute. As much as I’d like to blame this on your mother’s little accident, you’ve always been a disrespectable little shit. Tell him right now that you’re sorry, or so help me, Marsden, I’ll make you regret it.” Marsden looked at her. While she tapped her foot so that he’d know she meant business, he finally spoke to her. “You ever draw back your hand to hit me again, and I will fucking hit you back. You can demand no more respect of me than you’re willing to return.” He then looked at Clayton. “My mother died on the operating table twenty minutes ago. Her little accident took her life.” Eita looked at Clayton when Marsden left them both standing there. Surely he had that wrong. There was no way that Holly would leave her only son to fend for himself. Sitting next to Clayton when he sat down, she wondered what she was going to have to do now. Christ, they’d have to make arrangements for her funeral, and more than likely pay for it too. “He’d better not be doing anything that my ass has to cover.

” Clayton didn’t say anything. “I’ll have to go down to the funeral home and make the arrangements for this, or he’ll have it so expensive that we’ll have to dip into our savings account. I don’t know who would even come to it either. I wonder if it would be all right if we just made it a graveside service without calling hours. That will suit everyone just fine. Where do you suppose her body is now?” “I don’t know.” She really didn’t think that Clayton would know, but he stood up. “I’ll go and see what sort of things we can do to make this happen. I can’t believe that Holly is gone. You assured me that the police said it was nothing more than a fender bender when you spoke to them.” “I didn’t actually speak to them, Clayton. I told you that.” He said that she had. “No, what I told you was that Marsden wouldn’t allow me to speak to them. But from what I heard on the scanner in my office, it was only two cars. Nothing to think that she’d be killed in it.” “Well, you were wrong. Weren’t you?” Nodding at him, Eita didn’t point out that he was being rude to her. She would allow him to be cranky for a little while longer, then she’d have to shake him out of it. “I’ll have to call and tell the rest of the family.

What did he mean about me remembering that she’s my sister?” “He’s still going on about not inviting her to our Christmas parties. I told them both, several times, that it’s not their type of crowd. People with money, like our friends, do not want to be reminded that there are people out there with less than them. Especially at Christmas.” Clayton told her that he thought it was more than that. “Who knows about those two, Clayton? They were forever with their hands out to someone or another. It wouldn’t surprise me if there isn’t even any insurance to pay for things. And him not working? I just don’t know what to do about that. Do you have any idea what he even does for a living? I’m betting that he’s nothing more than a fast-food restaurant manager, or something lowly like that.” “I don’t know what he does. I don’t even know what Holly did for a living.” She could hear a tone in his voice, but since he didn’t use it on her, she didn’t care. “Don’t you think that’s sad? That I have no idea what my sister has done with her life?” “No, I don’t think that’s sad at all, Clayton. She made her bed, and she had to do things on her own to be taught a lesson. The smartest thing your father ever did was to put her out when she found out she was going to have Marsden. Did I tell you that I looked it up once? The name on the certificate for his father is unknown. She should have made a name up rather than putting unknown. Now everyone will know what sort of person she was by that statement.” He asked her what sort of person she meant. “You know what I mean.

The type that sleeps around so much that she hasn’t any idea who to blame her mistake on. And he was a mistake. She could have been so much a part of this family if she’d taken care not to get herself in that position. I’ve always thought that Marsden’s father was a married man that didn’t want to have anything to do with raising a child from one of his flings. Clayton, I’m telling you right now, I think Holly got just what she deserved in life by getting herself in that position.” “I don’t think that she wanted to die, Eita. No one wants that.” She didn’t answer him. Holly more than likely planned the accident so she could get sympathy from her brothers. Well, had that happened, Eita and the other women of the family would have put an end to that too. Eita and the other wives had been making sure that Holly and her bastard son stayed right where they were since Holly announced that she was going to have a baby. No amount of tears that she shed that day would have made Eita any less hard on the child. As she told Clayton, since Holly screwed up, that was her problem. And she wouldn’t take the rest of them down with her. Pulling out her phone, she pulled up her party line numbers that they all used when they had juicy gossip. This news was going to pop all their buttons when they heard what she had to share. Smiling, she waited for them to answer. When talking to them, she never had to fake her concern or pretend to feel any different than she really did when talking about Holly and Marsden. None of them cared for the sister or her son. “We’ve all heard about Holly. Can you believe that?” Eita, having her news already spread about, asked Tina who she’d heard it from. “Marsden called him a few minutes ago. He told us that she’d been in an accident, which we all knew, and that she’d not made it out of surgery.

Also, he said that funeral arrangements would be ready in a couple of days.” “He thinks he’s going to go down there and run up a high bill and that we’ll all pay for it. I have news for him, I’m going to make sure I do it so that there isn’t any way that he’ll put a huge bill out for one of us to pay. I was thinking just a quick graveside. I doubt very much either of them had any friends. Of course, there will be ours, but they won’t go to someone’s funeral that they don’t know. Do you think?” They all agreed with her, just as she liked it. “He’s also not working. I told him that I had this taken care of, and what did he do? He left work to come here like we didn’t already make arrangements to be here. I swear to you, he does stuff like that just to piss me off. He also threatened me. I slapped him when he was nasty to his uncle. I don’t think he has a lick of manners. Holly did him wrong by keeping him when he was born, and now we’re all going to pay for her stupidity.” When she’d told them all she knew, Eita was surprised to see Clayton sitting out in the lobby. He never left her alone without asking her permission to do so. It just wasn’t done in their society. Well, just a little bit longer, she told herself, and he’d be back to his old self again. Going to the elevator, knowing that he’d come to her, she was in it with the doors closed before she could stop the doors from closing on her. “Damn it. Why do I have to suffer?

Damn it, Holly, why did you have to go and ruin all our lives when you decided to get yourself knocked up?” No one was in the elevator with her, she noticed and was saddened by that. There was no one to ask her what had happened. Well, she’d do it later when she had to drag Clayton out of here. Didn’t he remember that they had dinner plans with the Staffords tonight? Getting frustrated with him when she had to wait another twenty minutes on him, Eita decided that she’d just take the car and go home. Let him deal with getting home. She had things to do to get ready for tonight. She wouldn’t have to get all dressed up too much tonight, she realized. Thanks to Holly’s death, everyone would expect her to be sad and a little absentminded. Not that most of their friends knew how she felt about Holly. Eita planned on taking their sympathy to the next level. Something good may come out of this anyway. They would think that she and Clayton were real troopers for coming out on this day of all days. Eita wondered if she had a lovely black dress she could put on. Black wasn’t really her color, but she wanted to look washed out and in mourning. Although she was actually sort of glad to have Holly out of her life now. Out of all their lives. No more embarrassing looks when she was with her friends, and they saw her on the street. She’d not have to answer any more questions as to where the sister was either when she and Clayton had parties. Then there was the added bonus of having a real excuse to play up why they weren’t there. She was just getting ready to start the car and go home when she saw Clayton coming out of the hospital. He didn’t look her way but continued to speak to the man he was with. Whatever they were talking about, she’d find out later. It had to do with Holly and Marsden, she was sure. Eita had forgotten all about the hospital bill until this very moment.
She supposed it would be up to her to make sure that got paid off as well. Would anyone ever appreciate everything she did behind the scenes for them? More than likely not, she thought.

Dean By Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Giveaway

Isabella Booth was tired of all the sexist crap handed to her on a daily basis.  When her father wouldn’t even consider her as an heir to his lawn care business because she wasn’t a man, and left it to her brother Hunter instead, she had done the next logical thing. She opened her own lawn care business, and it thrived.

Dean Marshall was renovating his family home. As far as the landscaping was concerned, he was told to go big or go home. When Shep invited the owner of the landscaping company to his home for dinner, Dean wanted to be there to see about getting some things done for his place. He didn’t mean for his jaguar to knock the woman to the ground.

Bella was thoroughly pissed when the big cat ruined her jeans and favorite shoes, and when he announced that they were mates, Bella was seeing red. No way, no how, was she having another sexist, overbearing man in her life. Not if she could help it….

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Harrison Parker had no family and no ties. She was invisible to be traced. Her job with the government was top secret. So secret that she only reported to two people. Now, she was the target and she had to figure out who wanted her dead. Hurt, and laying low, she reached out to the only man she trusted, an old man she had befriended in the cemetery, Sheppard Marshall.

Sheppard Marshall had been grieving the loss of his Millie for the last fifteen years. He would sit by her grave every day. He was an old man of ninety, and he looked forward to the visits he received from the sassy woman, Harrison Parker. Over time he had grown very fond of her, and when he received the message that she needed his help, Sheppard would help her or die trying.

His grandson, Sheppard or Shep, wasn’t letting the old man go alone. If he got hurt, Shep wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Even though the Marshall men were jaguars, that didn’t mean the old man couldn’t get into a situation that got him hurt or possibly killed.

The bullet had gone clear through, but the poison it had been laced with left Harrison with a high fever and near death. Shep didn’t know what this woman was into, but he knew two things—she was dangerous, and she was his mate. What kind of mess had the old man gotten him into now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dean had most of the bedrooms finished with the exception of furniture. He’d been working on making the rooms a little larger and decided that having three larger bedrooms was much nicer than having six small ones. He wondered at times when working how he and his brother Rodney, like Shep and Oakley, had managed to sleep in the same room and not smother one another. There was barely enough room in the closets for one person’s clothing, much less two of them. Not that Heath or Trenton were any smaller. They just seemed to have been able to work out the room size to suit themselves. Mom had done right by them, though. There might not have been as much room in the bedrooms as they needed, or even wanted, but there was plenty enough food for them to eat, as well as a roof over their heads. Their father hadn’t ever cared about that. At times he’d think about his father.

How he had been in prison for a time then got out, only to screw up again to get himself dead. To have found out that he’d murdered their mom was enough for anyone to turn against him. But for his father to think that it was justified because she’d been mean to him didn’t cut it as far as he was concerned. Just as he was coming down the stairs, he heard his grandda on the front porch. Taking the family home had afforded him plenty of company coming around all the time. All were welcome as far as he was concerned, and he always had fresh tea in the icebox in the event they might show up with a thirst. “Hey, Grandda, how’s it hanging?” He just loved this old man and was surprised to see him blush when he spoke to him like he did. “I’d think that after living with Harris all this time, you’d be used to the dirty comments and bad jokes.” “That girl. I tell you, Dean, I swear she was raised up by heathens. But I love her to pieces, and I can’t find a single thing about her that don’t make me smile. I came over to see if you had a date tonight.” Dean told him that he did, with him. “I know you and your brother Rodney are the babies of the family and all, but you all still need to get out there and date some. How you gonna find Mrs. Right if you’re all holed up in this house working all the time?” “Let me show you what I’ve been up to for a mate, if she ever comes around, to make our home one that can stand on its own.”

He took him to the bedrooms that he’d just left. “I’ve not told anyone, but Harris loaned me the money to get started on the house. She told me that once I got started on it, have a project or two done, then people that sold the equipment that I had would want me to try out their products. She promised me that she’d help me find the right fit for me.” Grandda walked into the bedroom that had been his and Rodney’s. It didn’t look a thing like it had before, because of the interior and exterior project that he had going on here. Grandda turned to him after looking around. “See? That’s the great part of it. It just blends right in with the everyday house. There are several components in this room that will make it more efficient. There aren’t any vents in any of the rooms here because everything is under the flooring. You know
as well as I do that when you get out of bed and put your feet on the cold flooring, it can make you feel about ten times colder than it really is.” Grandda agreed with him. “The water from the floors all goes to the basement to be heated up for the hot water tank. It’s cleaned, too, so that you can drink it.” “Where does this water come from? I mean, eventually, you’re going to run out, right?” Dean told him not if he was smart about it. “Tell me about what you did.” “There is a stream that flows under the house. I had no idea it was there until I had someone come out and show it to me.

It comes from the mountains behind the houses and flows into this stream year-round. Even if there is a drought, there is always plenty of water coming down to the stream.” He showed Grandda the windows next. “These are double-paned windows. Much better than the ones that we had in here before. The seals around them are better than anything I’ve ever worked with before. Even better, Harris told me, than what she has in her home. I did a lot of research on it.” There were other things in the room, too, things that he was happy to show his grandda. And like he had hoped he would, Dean got enough praise from him to make all the depression he’d been fighting lately just vanish. “Shep and Harris’s property. They have enough stuff on it that they don’t have to go beyond for things like meat and vegetables. You getting that done up too?” Dean was glad that he’d gotten his garden in. It had been late, but he’d been amazed at how many late crops he could still grow. “This is really amazing, son. I’m very proud of you.” “Thanks, Grandda. Some of the men that work with the Marshall House have been coming over here when they have time and showing me how to get my orchard in order. I have to admit, I was going to start out slow on that—just get me a few trees to start with. But Joe—he works for Shep—he told me to go big or just go home. So now I have two hundred fruit trees all planted, as well as a watering system that is much like the one in the house that keeps them watered. The garden that I’ve got in, it’ll be much too large for just me this year to harvest. Even with help, I think I’m going to have to learn how to cook so that I can use as much of it as I can.” Grandda asked him about meat. “I’m working on that.

I have to have young animals so they can get used to me, but I’ve already bought them—again, with help from a farmer not far from here. Next spring, I’m going to have fifty head of cattle brought in, and fifty pigs. There will be a hen house too, as well as ducks. I had no idea how helpful ducks were to a farm.” Taking his grandda out to the barn, he told him about the tradeoff he’d had with Marshall House. “So they can store things here in this barn for free if they let you use it when you need to. I like that. Bartering has been around forever, I’m betting. What are those things out there in that field?” He told him they were solar panels that would supply electricity, and thus heat, to the house. “No electric bill? I’m betting that the electric company don’t like that none too much.” “I don’t have to justify anything to them. And the extra that I have, which is a great deal since I live here alone, is being sold to a company that the Marshall House sells theirs to for a profit. It’s not as much as Shep is making, but I’ll get there.”

“You did this all in a month? My goodness boy, what will you have done in a year or two? This is wonderful.” Dean hugged his grandda. “You might be having yourself a grand house before this here thing is done. My goodness.” “Doing most of it by myself has helped me a great deal. If anything goes wrong or I have to extend things, then I’ll know how to do that without having to call in the professionals. I’m having a good time too.” Showing his grandda what else he’d been doing, it wasn’t hard for Dean to admit when he’d made mistakes here and there. There had been plenty of them at first, but he was getting better all the time. “I’m adding onto the back of the house. The kitchen is much too small for this house with all the improvements I’ve made. Plus, I wanted to be able to have an eat-in kitchen like Mom always had. Plus, a dining room to hold a few people if I wanted to have anyone over to watch the game or whatever.” Getting cleaned up to have dinner with his grandda, he thought of all the work he had to do today. But he wasn’t going to let it stress him out. The one thing that he’d learned from his mom—just one of the million and one things he’d learned from her— was to take time for your loved ones. You had no idea if they were going to be there when you woke up the next morning. She’d not been, as it turned out, and he was sorry for that daily. They made their way to the local steak house. It was a nice little drive. The trees were starting to turn colors—he could make them out now, knowing which colors were made by which trees. He’d been thrilled to learn that he had plenty of maple trees on his land, and was planning, again with the help of Joe, to get as much syrup from them as he could come late winter.

He started to tell his grandda that as he drove them in, but decided that if he didn’t have enough to give everyone, he’d just give it to him. Grandda was his hero. “I’ve been working at the grocery store for a while now. I just love seeing all the people around town. And I will admit that I’m a talker. But the things that you hear there, it would curl your tail if you let it. I’ve been thinking on getting some way to get some baskets ready for the holiday coming up. With what I’ve heard around, I’m betting that there is plenty I can do to get a few extra vegetables on a few tables.” Dean told him that he’d help if he wanted. “I might take you up on it. But I’m still in the planning stages right now. I mean, I know I can tell you about something, and you’d not blab it all over town. Some of these people are downright broke. Not even enough coming in for them to see to their bills, much less food on the table.” “Mom used to do stuff like that. Not give people the feeling that she knew they were broke—she’d be slick at it. Like she’d hear something, and one of us and her would gather up some things to share. Not so much they’d be suspicious about her showing up with a lot of stuff, but enough that they’d think she was doing just what she said she was doing—cleaning out the closets or something. Mom would bake up a few pies too. She’d say it was because whatever tree that the pie was made of had been especially fruitful that year.”

Dean smiled when he thought of the conversation he’d had with her once about having a cherry tree. “We didn’t even have most of what she’d bake the pies from. Like she would tell them that we boys had been out in the woods and come across some blackberries. She decided to share our good find with these people.
Then there was the cherry tree that she’d say was so pretty in the spring she just knew she was going to get a lot of pies from it. And there she was with a dozen of them.” “There ain’t no cherry tree on that property, is there?” Dean told him that there was now, but no, not when Mom had been baking there hadn’t been. “My Jill Ann. She was a good-hearted soul, she was. I miss her every day. I’m betting you do too.” “Every time I tear out a wall or put in a new electrical outlet, I think of her. She’d be all over helping me with this project, telling me what my mate someday would think of all this. Every time I pull out a wall and replace something on it, I write her name and the day that she passed on. So that someday someone will know that a great woman lived there.” Grandda told him that was a special thing he was doing. “It’s what any of us would do for her, I think. Our mom, she was something special.”

After they were finished with their meal and Grandda had a nice slice of pie with his, Dean told him of the things that he was working on outside the house. Grandda told him of all the things that he’d been up to, and by the time they parted ways, him dropping Grandda off at Shep’s house, Dean decided that they needed to do that once a week from now on. That way, they could catch each other up on their weeks. He might even suggest it to the others. ~*~ Hunter didn’t want his sister there, but there was little he could do about it. Talking Dad down and telling her that he demanded to see her had her coming, not running off so he had to fill Dad with stuff she’d told him. Well, stuff that he had in his head that she’d told him, none of it very good. He also mentioned to her that Dad had said that she was too old for birthday celebrations. He’d almost forgotten what today was. Of course, of all days, his dad was running behind. The man was never late for anything. Isabella Booth, his sister, was a pretty thing. He supposed she would almost have to be. He was handsome and well built, and their parents were both good looking, even for their age, Hunter thought. There was very little reason to have ever thought that she’d be ugly. Hunter wanted to think that he had something to do with it, but really, he was just her brother, not her parent. It hadn’t ever bothered him what she looked like so long as she wasn’t a boy.

Hunter knew his father well enough to know that he would never have left the family business to his sister. Hunter had made sure that Dad thought that Bella was just a greedy airhead that didn’t know a hoe from a whore. That was the way he’d been able to slant things in his favor. Hunter didn’t care how stupid or smart Bella or Dad was, so long as, now that he’d left the business to him, they stayed the fuck out of his business. While he didn’t know what this meeting was going to entail, he knew that it might be something he didn’t want his sister in on. “I’ve had enough.” When Bella stood up and walked to the door, he actually stared at her with his mouth open. No one ever walked out on Dad when he wanted to talk to them. Especially not his children. “If he comes in, you tell him I said to fuck off. I’m a fucking grown woman, and I’m not taking this shit anymore.”

Like he’d say that to his dad. He would, of course, but he’d be much nastier about it than she’d been. When she walked out of the house, Hunter just sat there, where he’d been when the butler told them that Dad was running behind. As soon as he heard her car startup, Hunter smiled. One more thing to dig the hole that would bury Bella when it came to anything that Dad left them in the will. He’d get it all, which was all he ever wanted in the first place. To be the man on top of everything. Getting up, he’d started for the bar when he heard their dad coming back. “What the hell are you doing, Hunter? It’s only nine in the morning.” Hunter said that he’d been trying to catch Bella. “What do you mean, catch her? I thought she’d stay and talk to me. Doesn’t she know what today is? It’s her birthday. I thought of all days she’d want to talk to me.” “I don’t think she wants to be around us anymore. She said that she was sick of waiting and that she was a grown woman.” Hunter didn’t think he’d ever be able to say a curse word to his dad. His mouth would never form them in front of him. But he had no such trouble lying to him. “She said that you aren’t ever going to demand anything of her again, Dad. She even told me that I shouldn’t be here either.”

“Oh yeah? I wonder why she’d say something like that. I mean, I’m trying to make amends here, for whatever I’ve done to her to make her so upset with me. Do you know what it might have been?” Hunter shook his head. “Well, I’ll try and call her later. But you and I need to talk about the business that you’re running. I’ve been hearing things that I just don’t care for, son. Are you having troubles? Do you need for me to step in and help you out? I can. It would be—” “No. I’m doing just fine, Dad. I swear. It’s running almost like you never left. You said that you’d give me the business to run, and that’s what I’m doing. You’ve not changed your mind, have you?” Dad told him that he’d not. “I don’t think you have to worry about Bella’s business like you did before. She will fail soon enough. You can count on that. A woman like her, growing up in this house, and she goes out and opens her own place. Bella did that so that she could act like she’s smarter than you. I don’t believe that, but she sure does.” “You go and get her and tell her that I’d like to talk to her as soon as she has time. Tell her…I don’t know. Tell her that I’d really like to see her. I miss her. If you weren’t around to tell me what she’s up to, I’d never know except for what little I can read in the papers.” Hunter didn’t think that Bella would come back here ever again with all the things he’d been telling her about Dad. None of it was true, but she didn’t know that, any more than Dad knew what Bella was really saying about him. “Also, you tell her that I’d very much like for her to come and have a few dinners with me every week. Now that your mother has left for her European vacation, it gets a little lonely around here. You tell her that, will you, Hunter?” “I will. And I have to say, Dad, that’s a wonderful idea.” Dad puffed his scrawny chest out like he was king of the world. Hunter was just barely able to catch himself from rolling his eyes when he turned away to leave, wondering where Dad had gotten the idea that their mom was on vacation. Turning back to his dad, he tried to act all humble. “She took my last cash, Dad.

Just demanded that I hand it over before she left. If she has all that money, why did she need mine too?” “I’m not sure of a lot of things of late to be honest with you, Hunter. Sometimes I have these memory spells, and I have to just rest a bit. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you. How are things going down at the lawn care service? I’ve been hearing things around town and such that things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped they would with you in charge. What are you doing?” Hunter told him it was just that, rumors, and that he had a handle on things. He told him not to worry. “It has my name on it, Hunter—of course, I’m going to worry. But you make sure you tell Bella everything I told you, Hunter. I’m not getting any younger here, and I miss her. I just can’t believe some of the things she does according to you. Like robbing her only brother. But then, from some of the things you’ve told me, I guess it’s no less than I could expect. Correct?” As he left the house, Hunter thought that his dad was wrong on that score. Bella was only good for one thing, and that was to be the scapegoat when he needed her to be. But he also knew that his dad had gotten stupider. The fact that he believed every word that came out of Hunter’s mouth just went to show just how dumb his father was. Hunter had been playing his father and sister against one another since he’d been old enough to figure some things out

First and foremost, Bella was very intelligent. Not just that, but she could make money. Easily. When she’d been just a kid, she’d figured out a way to make money by mowing lawns. At thirteen, she’d been able to get her own mower, as well as a weed eater and other yard equipment to carry along with her mower and little trailer. By the time she was fifteen, she’d been able to pay for a nice used truck that she’d never let him drive. She wasn’t even able to drive it until a year later. Stupid to pay for something that she’d not been able to use, Hunter had always thought. Bella had gotten out of school earlier too. At sixteen, she’d graduated an entire year before he’d been able to. It didn’t help that Hunter had had to repeat a few grades and didn’t graduate until he was almost twenty. But there she was, taking college classes on how to run her own business on a computer that she locked up every time she walked away from it. It just occurred to Hunter that Bella had always been selfish about her things. Not that he ever wanted to share with her. But she had nicer things and didn’t allow anyone to mess with them.

The day she turned eighteen, not only did she move out of the house Hunter still called home, but she moved not into a shabby apartment, but a house that she’d been able to purchase with her own money. That, too, was someplace he could never go to. While he had an idea where she lived, the actual address was something that she’d never share with him. He supposed she was smart on that score. He would have fucked that up for her if given the chance. Now, at twenty-three, not only did she have her own car, a home, as well as a fat bank account, Bella also had a multimillion-dollar business. Hunter would see the little signs in all kinds of yards and businesses, stating that Booth Landscaping was caring for this property. The only reason he knew about her bank account was because he would read about her being one of the wealthiest women in the entire state.

More than likely, the article had said, the country. Pulling into the front lot of her business, he was detained. He was forever detained there. Really, what it meant was, they were asking his sister how badly she wanted to make him gone. He’d never been on this lot, and he was reasonably sure he never would be. Bella actually had wild dogs roaming the place after it closed down. He knew that because he’d tried to get in at that time, and had nearly had his ass torn off by them. “She said to tell you that you need to go back and suck up more to your father. She’s busy.” He hated that the entire company seemed to know that Hunter didn’t care for him. “Miss Booth also said to tell you that you’re not getting money or a job, nor are you going to get in to steal from her.” “What a thing to say to her own brother. You tell her that I have a message from our dad.” The man not only went into the booth to talk on the phone to Bella, but he closed the door. Hunter could see him laughing like it was a huge joke on their part to have a good time with him. Being her older brother had counted for nothing to her, and he was frankly sick to death of it. Before he could pound on the door and tell the man he wanted the fuck in, he came out with his hand on his gun. Fucking shit.

Had she ordered him to shoot her only brother? “Miss Booth said for you—” “I know who the fuck she is. You don’t have to keep saying her name as if I haven’t any idea that my sister is here. What the hell could she say to me that has you ready to blow my head off?” “Miss Booth said that if you don’t leave here now, she’s going to have me drag your dead body into the lot and let the police know that I had to kill you for trespassing.” The man leaned down to the window. “You go on and try to run the gates, Hunter, and I’ll have you dead before you cross your front tires over the electric eye that will lock you down.” Terrified that he’d do just that, he slammed the car into reverse and hit the gas. He got no more than three inches before his entire body was slammed forward, then back. Whatever he’d hit, he was sure that it had killed him. Getting out of his car, he held his head where blood was making it impossible to see what it was that had rammed him from the rear. Looking at the large truck, one of the kind that he was sure could pull a house down the road, Hunter was satisfied that he’d at least done some damage to it. “What the hell? You hit me.” The man, a huge monster of a guy, got out of the car, and Hunter revised his thought about the truck and the house. This man would need this type of truck to pull him around. “Did you even look in your rearview mirror before you backed up like you did?” “You hit me. I was trying to see my sister, who owns this business, and you rammed me.” Hunter loved the way the lies just slipped from his mouth like piss did from his dick.

“What did you think was going to happen to your truck when you came up on me so fast? My sister isn’t going to be happy about this.” “Your sister doesn’t give two shits about you.” The guard again. That mother fucker needed to keep to his own business. “Hello, Mr. Marshall. Miss Booth is expecting you. If you’d like to go on ahead there, the man on the other side will take you to her now. I’ve already called the police, and I’m making a recording of the entire incident as we speak to hand over to them. Obviously, it was this man’s fault for being too afraid to even drive properly.” “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I wasn’t the least bit afraid of you.” Hunter tried to shut his mouth, but again, things were flowing faster than he could stop them. “I was sitting still when he drove his excuse to compensate for his tiny dick into my car.” The man didn’t even pause as he made his way into the gate to the waiting golf buggy, leaving him there as if he was going to be the one that took the blame on this. Hunter looked at the guard that was standing there with his hand still on his gun.

The sirens sounded just as he was trying to figure out how he was going to get home. As soon as the two cruisers pulled up, the cops came out of the cars, hiding behind their car doors with their guns drawn and yelling at him to drop to the ground. Hunter put his hands up but refused to drop like he was some sort of animal. “Are you insane? Do you have any idea how much it cost me to clean this suit? More than I want to spend again.” He put his hands down. “Now listen here, you have no right to arrest me. That other man, he hit me.” “Moron.” The guard walked by him and handed the police something. “He backed into Mr. Marshall’s truck after arguing with me about going inside. It’s all on that recording for you.” Hunter found himself arrested and getting in the back of the cruiser before he could think how to lie himself out of this mess. Just as his neck was being bent so that his head wouldn’t get hurt on the doorframe, he looked at the building and saw his sister standing there. His tongue was so tied up when he saw her that he couldn’t speak—not to yell at her to come to help him or anything else.

Standing there, with the sun behind her and leaning against one of the many trucks, the vision that she was made him realize just how gorgeous Bella had become. He supposed that she was when she’d been at the house earlier. But then she’d been dressed in a pair of sweats and a dirty T-shirt. One that had her name on it. Looking at her now, he could see that she’d not only cleaned up, but she’d dressed up too. The skirt hung just mid-thigh, slick tight and black. The blouse she was wearing was a bright white. The slimness of it made her look curvy and grown up. When the hell had that happened? Hunter never got a chance to ask her that, or any of the other million questions that were going through his head. Almost as soon as the door was shut, he found himself being taken to jail. Unfairly too, he thought.

Ronan By Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Brook Garrett had learned to live by her wits. When she was very young, she lost her father to a car crash. When her mother remarried, her nightmare really began. A few years later, her mother died the same way. She was next.

Ronan Foster was an officer out on medical leave. He was a lion and wasn’t hurt in the least, but the guy responsible for shooting him would go free if he didn’t take the sabbatical. The guy was responsible for much more than shooting him, and justice needed to be served.

Trust was hard for Brook. Her stepparents had seen to that. Now the big lion was telling her that they were mates and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She had been doing just fine without a man in her life….

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Katherine Humphreys

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Prologue
Ten years ago
Brook woke and sat up in her bed. With no time to think about what was wrong, she rushed to the window nearest to her bed and pushed out the screen as she threw up. Her belly tossed up her dinner several more times as she leaned out, not even caring if she fell out the window or not. Christ, she’d never been sick a day in her life, and right now, she thought that her body was making up for it all in one illness. Rolling over so that she could sit on the floor, she was sure there was nothing else inside her. Brook closed the window and leaned her head back on the wall. She was wide awake now, and other than feeling a little weak, she felt better than she had when she’d woken up, that was for sure. Getting up and brushing her teeth at the window again, she spit the bottled water she’d used out the window as well. Dressing in sweatpants and an old hoodie, she made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Brook had grown up in this house. She knew every creaking step, loose board, and any doors that squeaked. She used to take care of those but now found them to be handy when she thought that no one else was in the house with her. There was no way anyone was sneaking up on her again. The house had belonged to her parents. When her dad was killed when she was five, it was just her and her mom living there. Then one day, when she came home from school—she’d been seven then—a man by the name of Allen Quarter had moved in. Two days after that, her mom married him at the courthouse. Again, she’d been at school when it happened. It had been a horrible five years with Allen there. The man had knocked Brook around, as well as her mother. There was never a time when one or both of them wasn’t covered in bruises or cuts. The house became a place of danger and anger for her, and she would spend a lot of her time at the library. They didn’t even get any kind of reprieve from him going to a job. Allen didn’t work but did expect her mom to. He even made Brook take an after school job of babysitting someone’s children. It was a nightmare of being knocked down, locked in closets for hours at a time, and tending to her mother when Allen would hurt her too badly. When Brook turned twelve and a half, an awful thing happened to her. Her mother died in a horrific car accident—her father had died the same way on the same highway. They had just crashed their cars into a light pole, which no one could explain.

Brook was devastated. She had no one left to go to. No family at all except for Allen. Brook vowed that when she was old enough, she was moving out. Soon, she told herself. It would be soon now. Then Brook found out that she was way smarter than her stepfather, which wasn’t hard to be. But she turned out to be extremely smart. She also had the ability to not just remember things, but she could see the word, the dictionary definition of it, as well as how the word could be used.
As she passed through the kitchen, feeling better all the time, she picked up an apple for herself and a handful of nuts for the squirrel that came around. Taking the knife she’d bought out of its hiding place, Brook checked to make sure that her backpack was where she’d left it. Thankfully, it was untouched.

At almost seventeen, Brook had a lot going on in her life. She had a full-time job that her stepparents didn’t know about, money in a safe deposit box, as well as a car that she had stashed someplace they’d never find it, waiting for the day when the two of them either tried to hurt her again and she had to run, or—and this one scared her the most—they would kill her. Just as, Brook thought, they had killed her mother. Cindy Quarter was her stepmother. Not four days after her mother’s funeral, Cindy and her two kids had moved into her family home. Allen married her at the courthouse too. He even stapled their marriage certificate on the wall so that Brook would always understand who was in charge. The two children that Cindy had were Allen’s. Brook had been looking for her mother’s will when she came across their birth certificates. Not only had they been fathered by Allen, but he’d fathered them while he’d been married to her mom. Sadly, Brook had found her mother’s marriage certificate to Allen while looking around. She had hoped that they weren’t married and that he wasn’t her stepfather.

Brook had a lot of her hopes dashed. It was beginning to seem like she’d never had anything good happen to her. Eating the apple, she threw the core to the squirrel too. He was a fat little guy— thanks, she thought, to her feeding him. She hoped that he was sharing his food with a family someplace, and telling them how thankful they should be for her treats. Brook didn’t get many people thanking her or even saying a kind word to her in this house. The car coming down the street startled her. They were at the end of the road they lived on, and once someone passed the neighbor’s house, about a mile away, there was nowhere else to go. So unless they were lost, they were coming to their home. It was one in the morning. Tensing up when the car turned their lights off to pull into their driveway, she looked around to see where the squirrel was. Sometimes Allen would invite his friends over to shoot at the little animals around the house. Brook didn’t want anyone or anything hurt by them. Hearing Allen coming down the stairs like the hounds of hell were after him, she put the knife in her coat pocket in the event that she might need it. Whatever was going on, it could not bode well for her, as Allen had been trying his best to run her off for months now. The lights were off in the house right now, but if the kitchen lights came on, someone would see her, she realized. Moving to the other side of the window, she knew she would be safe, especially dressed in dark clothing the way she was. Unless, of course, someone came out on the porch and turned on the outside light.

When Butch Salmon got out of his car, she could see that his brothers were there with him. The four of them together didn’t have a brain cell between them, not to mention a full set of teeth. Every time she saw them, Brook would have a fear in her heart so deep that nothing but getting away would make her feel better. They were not just bad news but were horrific people. They were drunken assholes that would steal pennies from their own mother’s eyes if she were dead. Butch was the worst of the four of them, and he’d been trying to corner her for the last several months. Even to have him breathe in her direction made her ill with fear. Butch had a streak of evil in him that was wider than he was. Of course, Allen and Cindy loved the man and told her that she was nuts, that no one would want her skinny ass, and to let him kiss her, and he’d be done. No, he would not. She didn’t know how she was so sure of that, but she was so sure that he’d rape her then toss her to his brothers that she’d started carrying a knife around. A switchblade that was longer than her hand. When Butch and Allen were standing on the front porch, Brook turned on her phone to record them. She’d been getting really good at figuring out her phone without looking at it, and tonight was no different. Brook had also begun saving any and all conversations that she happened upon in case she came up missing—or worse yet, dead. “I’m here to get Brook.” Brook felt her body freeze when Butch said that. “You doped her up, right? I don’t want no fighting her for some of that pussy, Allen. You said that we could have our fun so long as we killed her afterward. Then her body could be found for the insurance money you got coming to you.” “I did it.

I’ve only just put the kids to bed now. They’re locked up in their rooms. I even gave them a little of that fentanyl shit that Cindy brought home from the hospital for Brook so that they’d not hear a single thing.” They both laughed, and she wanted to throw up again. “I think I got it right this time. I know the last time you came for her, I’d not given her enough. Christ, even Cindy was surprised that it didn’t knock her on her ass like it should have. She was telling me that a man three times her size would have been out for days. She’s out now, I tell you, Butch. Out like a stone. I went by her room and knocked to see if she’d answer me, and got nothing.” Before? She tried to think when the last time might have been and couldn’t remember. When the other three Salmon brothers got out of the car and went into the house, Brook stood up and thought about how safe she’d be to walk by the window to get her things just as the light in the kitchen came on. She checked her phone to see that it was still recording, and left it by the window as she moved to the door. “I’m going to be so glad to have that bitch out of my life. Who knew that her mother would be leaving this house and the insurance to her daughter? I never would have killed off her husband and her if I thought I’d have to take the brat in too.

You have no idea what it’s been like here with her, Butch. She’s nothing but a pain in my ass the way she just walks around, not speaking to any of us unless we talk to her. She won’t even go out to dinner when we do. Like she’s embarrassed about us. Damned fucking girl. All I want to do every time I see her is stab her in the head. This is going to be working too. That money, double on account of her momma dying the way she did, will set us up for life.
Then there is the policy we took out on her. We’re going to be sitting pretty, I tell you, just as pretty as a picture.” Butch asked if they were going to be living in this house.

“Nah, you and your brothers should move in. It won’t be no sweat off my balls if you do. Tear it up, I don’t care. I hate this fucking house anyway. Well, we should get her out of here before Cindy comes home. She don’t want to be here when she disappears. That way, she has herself an ally-by so that we don’t look like we did it.” Brook thought that Allen would spell it just like he said it too. Ally-by, like that, as the way it was pronounced. Moron. As soon as the light in the kitchen was off, she made her way to the back door to the house. She hadn’t counted on Raymond, one of the Salmon brothers, staying behind, and was startled to see him standing in the kitchen. Reaching blindly for the backpack, never taking her eyes off him as he stared out the window over the sink, Brook had her bag and boots before he saw her. Her heart was pounding so hard she wondered why no one had found her from the sound. As soon as she stepped off the porch into the yard, she heard Allen yelling for her. Butch even shouted out for her like she was going to come running because he told her to.

Turning off her phone, she made her way to the orchard that the neighbors had behind their home. Brook had helped them two summers ago to hang up security cameras as well as lighting when the Quarter family started stealing the fruit and throwing it at passing cars. It would have been different if they were eating it, but they were wasting it, as they did everything they had. After he caught the Quarters stealing from him, they no longer went there. They bitched about it like Mr. Shirley had done them wrong. After the police were called on them and they were told that the next time they did it, they’d be arrested, they just bitched, which she was glad for.

Mr. Shirley and his wife were good people. Trying to decide where to go with the information she had, not to mention someplace they couldn’t hurt her, Brook made her way to the police station. She had been good friends with a lot of the men there. Two of them had helped her get her emancipation paperwork so that she didn’t have to depend on the Quarters for anything. Officer Harland Sheppard was in house this morning, and he was more than glad to see her. Taking her to the chief’s office after she told him what she knew, they listened to the entire conversation while she was given time to calm down. She’d almost been caught twice more when she left the house and would have without the help of a little man named Bert. Butch and his brothers had been out looking for her, using a light like the police did to find missing criminals. Lucky for her, she’d been warned about them coming, and had been able to hide behind another car. “He drugged you up?” She nodded and told Chief Donald Shoe about being sick and how she had thrown up out her window. “All right, honey. You just stay right here, and we’ll run over there. Better yet, I’m going to send you over to the hospital to get you checked out. I’ll send an officer with you.”

He looked at Harland. “We’re going to need to take children’s services to make sure them kids are all right.” In less than two hours, she had tested positive for fentanyl. The nurse who had examined her was really upset about it too. Apparently, even with her getting sick from the drug, she had enough left in her body to have killed her. Not, she told Brook and the officer, that it would take all that much. They put her on an IV drip to run it out of her system and put her in a private ER room to keep her safe. The officer said he’d not leave her door until they had everything taken care of. She had no idea what that meant or how long that would be, but Brook only laid on the bed and thought about what would happen if they didn’t arrest the Quarters. She’d be in deeper shit than she was now. ~*~ Cindy made her way home so excited that she could nearly bust with it. Being let off early had been a real treat. She just hoped that things were finished up by the time she got home. It was difficult for her at times while working because she didn’t want to give away any information about the little bitch Brook. Being a registered nurse was a good job and had helped them out with this thing so much. However, if she lost her job, they’d have nothing until the insurance money was paid.

And for her, that couldn’t come fast enough. Pulling in the driveway had her confused. Several things popped into her head as she sat there in the car. The police were inside her home, and several cruisers were sitting there with their lights still on. The second thing was, she just knew that Allen had killed Brook before the Salmon boys could take her away. If he’d fucked up, then he was on his own with this. Not that it mattered really how Brook was dead, because gone was gone, but for some reason, she didn’t think that was it. Just as she opened the door to her car, a gurney came out of the house with her babies on it. Junior was ten, of course, and Bethy was eight, but they were hers, and she rushed to them to see what had happened. Unable to wake them, she asked the man pushing the gurney what they’d done to them. Instead of answering her, the officer with them told her to get out of the way and shoved them into a waiting ambulance. The police wouldn’t even allow her to go with them. Cindy went to find out what the hell was going on. “Mrs. Quarter. It’s nice of you to join us.” She sat down where Chief Shoe told her. “I was just having a conversation with your husband here about your children. Did you know that all three of them had been drugged?”

“I only have two children. Brook isn’t either of ours. We—I guess you could say inherited her. What do you mean, my babies have been drugged?” She looked at Allen. “What did you do?” “I didn’t do shit, Cindy. I think that Brook did it.” She realized her mistake when Allen glared at her. “They all have something in their bloodstream, and it’s made them be knocked out. The officer here was telling me that someone complained about it. I was just asking him how anyone would complain about shit since the kids are right here.”

“Yes, he was telling me that. But he doesn’t seem to be able to account for Brook Garrett. He said that she was here at nine, but now he doesn’t know where she might be.” She didn’t know either, so kept her mouth shut. “And believe it or not, he’s got no explanation at all as to why there is vomit outside her window with enough fentanyl in it to fell a black bear. Then there are the vials of fentanyl in his sock drawer with not just his, but your fingerprints on them as well. Do you know why there are nine vials of that nasty drug in yours and your husband’s room that are property of the nearby hospital?” “I don’t know, no.” She had to think. Whatever happened next was going to be quite literally life or death for the two of them. “I work there as a registered nurse and have for eleven years. I’ve never had a problem before.” Shoe nodded and pulled something toward him. Cindy could see that it was a report from the hospital about her being written up several times for missing drugs, missing gloves, as well as a plethora of other things that she’d brought home.

If they were to have walked into any room in this house, they’d see a lot of shit with the hospital label on it. “Well, someone better be telling me something, or there will be some repercussions. You don’t want anything coming back on you that will have an effect on the rest of your lives, now would you?” Allen asked why they were responsible for Brook and where she was. “Because she’s sixteen, and even though she’s been caring for herself for some time, you still were responsible for her.” “What do you mean, she’s been taking care of herself? She lives here. Eats the food we bring in here. We pay for her overhead and things that she needs.” Shoe asked if they were sure about that. “Of course, I’m sure. We’ve made sure that she gets to school and that she has a coat to wear in the winter. All the stuff that comes with having a kid in the house.” “When was the last time you saw her eat at the table with you? Or better yet, what grade is Brook in? Do you have any idea when the last time was that you bought her a coat for the winter months?” Cindy said that she’d gotten her one last fall. “Did you now? What about school? Can you tell me where she goes or what her grades are?” She had no idea. It just occurred to her that she didn’t have any idea when the last time was she’d even signed a report card for the bitch. As for the coat, Cindy wasn’t sure that it had been this previous fall that a coat had been bought for her, or anything at all now that she’d thought about it. Cindy didn’t even know when her fucking birthday was. “I don’t remember that much about her like that because she’s older and does for herself.”

Shoe nodded. “What I mean is, she keeps her room clean, and she does her chores when she’s told. As for her grades, I’m assuming that she’s doing well, or they would have let us know by now.” “Would you be surprised to know that Brook is a senior in college?” She couldn’t be that old, Cindy thought. “How about that she graduated from high school with honors two years ago at the age of fourteen? At that time me and a couple of other men at the department took her before the judge and had her declared an adult so she could take college classes that would help her finish up her chosen career when she had that all mapped out.
Which, I might add, she had paid for by the state because of her being an orphan and all.” “No, that can’t be right. She’s as dumb as a post.” She just laughed. “What does this have to do with anything? What is wrong with my children? My children. Where is she? Because I’m sure as I’m sitting here that this is all her fault.” He pulled out a recorder, and before she could protest about him recording this conversation without her say so, he pushed a button, and she heard her husband and Butch Salmon’s voices. While it played, Cindy just stared at Allen. “I’m here to get Brook. You doped her up, right? I don’t want no fighting her for some of that pussy, Allen. You said that we could have our fun so long as we killed her afterward.

Then her body could be found for the insurance money.” “I’ve only just put the kids to bed now. They’re locked up in their rooms. I even gave them a little of that fentanyl shit that Cindy brought home from the hospital for Brook so that they’d not hear a single thing.” As their voices continued to drone on, Cindy tried to think what she was to do now. This crap just got real, and she didn’t want to go to prison for that bitch. Then there were her babies that would be left behind. When Shoe stepped away from the table to answer his phone, Cindy eyed the door. She could make it, she told herself. As she started to rise, one of the officers moved to stand in front of it with his gun out as another one stood next to the table. He was close enough that Cindy could tell what cologne he was wearing. When Shoe came back, the officer near them moved away, but the one at the door stayed where he was. Whatever Shoe had to say, she had a feeling that it was going to be the end of her trying to distance herself from her husband. The moron had told them that she was bringing home the drug to dope up Brook to have her killed. “Well, now. That was the hospital. Your kids were tested for fentanyl, and you’re not going to believe what they found.” Oh, Cindy had a good idea about what they found. But what it was going to mean for them, now that was the real question.

“They found that not only was that drug in their system but that it wasn’t the first time they’d been doped up with it. Seems that it was in their water bottles. Brook had one in her room too. Testing it was how we knew how much could have been in her system. Not a good thing going on here, I have to tell you.” “She did it.” That wasn’t going to fly anymore either, and she wanted to tell Allen that. They had the smoking gun, so to speak. “Brook made it look like she doped herself and then drugged the kids. I want her arrested. No. I want her right here to tell me what the hell she was thinking.” “She’s in the hospital, right along with your children. All three of the children are in my care now.” Shoe stood up. “I’m arresting the two of you under suspicion of three counts of attempted murder. Also under suspicion of the murder of Brook’s parents, Brock and Lynn Garrett. Insurance fraud….” They were cuffed while Shoe went on about what they were being arrested for. Cindy didn’t even question where that information had come from. She had no doubt that Allen had been talking too much, and now they were going to prison.
Then something occurred to her. “What about my babies? What’s going to happen to them?” Shoe said that they’d be put in foster care. “No. You can’t do that to them. They’re just kids. I want you to let me go, and Allen will take the blame for this all. I need to be with my babies.” “Perhaps you should have thought of that when you were plotting to have Brook raped and murdered for the insurance money.” Richard laughed again, and Cindy could have gladly murdered him too. “I’m thinking you two will have a lot of time to think about what you’ve done. Not to mention where your children might be living from now on.”

Alexander The James Children by Kathi S Barton Free Read

Book Two In Series

Heather is exhausted most of the time. Holding down three jobs, trying to finish high school and caring for her elderly grandfather and son are all she knows how to do.
Alexander doesn’t know if he wants to like the feisty baker. She has a smart mouth, beautiful, and makes his blood stir like no one ever has. But he can’t trust. Not anyone. Not with his heart, not with his money and especially not with his love. He decides that while he wants her, he’d just leave her alone and go about his business.
Already broke and barely hanging on, an apartment fire robs them of everything they own. The little family doesn’t know what they are going to do. Devastated, she throws herself on the mercy of Alexander James and strikes a bargain. She’ll sleep with him if he helps her and her little family get back on their feet. Alex agrees.
Alexander wants the sexy baker in the worst way, and when they come together the attraction can’t be denied. But can they breach the walls that they’ve built around their hearts and learn to trust?

 

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When Jared Stone goes undercover to investigate an employee of his father’s company he expects to find a man abusing his power and ignoring his responsibilities. Willow James in neither a man nor an incompetent site foreman. And soon Jared finds himself going undercover of a different sort. Together they must navigate a world of drugs, murder and intrigue.

 

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Freedom by Author Jim Proctor

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Jazeen is a prisoner—not in a jail or a dungeon, but in her own home. Her parents, guilt-ridden since the death of their oldest daughter, never allow her out of the house except to attend school.A chance encounter with Angus, an eccentric airship captain and retired wizard, is going to change all that, sending Jazeen’s life in an entirely unexpected direction. Thrust into a reality where magic isn’t make-believe and evil witches really do exist, Jazeen faces a hard choice when Angus is taken prisoner by a bounty hunter set on delivering him to the Black Witch.

Jazeen isn’t about to sit by and let her new friend face the Black Witch alone. She knows exactly what the witch wants and is willing to risk her life to offer a trade.

That is, of course, if Jazeen can cross The Great Ocean in Angus’s airship, a week-long trip made even more dangerous with Jazeen’s limited piloting hours. There she must track down and bargain with an evil witch who kills anyone who so much as disappoints her.

Jazeen might be strong enough and clever enough for this endeavor, or a painful death might be her only reward for her efforts.

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Connor By Kathi S Barton Release Day & Giveaway

Connor James was having a blast remodeling the old mansion, but he didn’t care for curtains, and his friends’ mates were giving him hell for it. Connor loved every minute of it.

Since acquiring the mansion, Connor was having a time dealing with the ghosts remaining in the home. He was able to see and speak with spirits and made it so anyone who entered his home could do so as well.

Roxanna Hornsby, also known as Rocky, was alone in the world and living in near poverty. Dealing with the dead was her burden to bear and she wasn’t known for being pleasant about it.

Roxanna knew some of her magical heritage, but most of the memory had been blocked from her to keep her safe. And when her grandmother came to her in her dream, the memories came flooding back. Roxanna was so much more than any of them thought.

 

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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….

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…

Jackson William hadn’t seen his father in centuries. Now his father was dead, he was now king, and the dragon council wanted to hold him responsible for his father’s crimes? And there had been many. The truth would be his salvation.

Nicole needed a job. A job that would put a roof over her head as well. She hadn’t had a decent meal in a week. But the ad didn’t say there were faeries and witches. Where there were faeries, there were dragons and Nicole was petrified of them. And with good reason.

The poison from the dragon bites flowing through Nicole’s veins left her weak and in a lot of pain. She was a mere human, and her body’s inability to heal from the bites left her vulnerable to new dragon attacks. Now this dragon, Jackson, was claiming to be her mate? Would this nightmare never end?

 

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Connor knew that it would take Aisling a few weeks to get there. She was moving slowly across the United States. The pull was there for her to pay homage to the new king, but, like he would more than likely do if he didn’t know Devon was a great king, she was dragging her feet. Which, Connor thought, was a good thing. Things needed to be in place for her before she arrived. As yet he didn’t know what was going to happen when she got there. Nothing about her seemed to be out there for him to touch on, not even whether she was a nice person or bad. But being a dragon, he thought it was his duty to make sure that she was all right on her way there. Nothing terrible was going to happen with the dragon. She was—and this was all he knew about her—a dragon who had been hurt long ago. She’d been in a healing sleep for centuries, much too many for her to just be thrown into the modern world that they had now.

He could almost feel sorry for her. Dak, Aisling’s faerie companion, joined him in the house just as the men that were working on it left for the day. After explaining what was going on, they sat at the farmhouse table and Connor asked him a few questions. Dak, like most faeries, usually got things mixed up in his mind, and it rarely made sense when he was nervous. And Dak was very nervous. “I have done as you asked,” Connor asked him what had put him in a tizzy. “Sir. I am not in a tizzy. But I am nervous that we are going to be caught using a magical credit card that no one is getting paid from.” “Ah. Well, the one I gave you is attached to my account. They’re getting paid, Dak. I promise you.” The little creature looked so relieved that Connor nearly laughed at him.

“Did you get an apartment for the two of you? If she comes here, she’ll be expected to stay. Not having to deal with the selling of a house would be better for everyone all the way around.” “We have one. It’s much too big, I think, but she is happy. I don’t understand this, sir. Why not have her just come here now to protect her? She is a good dragon. I mean, she’s had trouble before, but she was younger then.” Connor said that he knew that about her too. But things were not ready for her. “You keep telling me that. I don’t understand.” “I don’t either, to be honest, Dak. But I know that there are pieces to her life that have to be finished before she can come here. Why? I’m not sure yet. I can only see a little of her future. No more than a few weeks in advance. She must come here when the snow is on the ground to stay.” Dak said that might still be a month away. “I know. And again, I don’t know why. Sometimes I do, most of the time I don’t. But I do what my dreams tell me, and in this, she’s not to come here until the snow is on the ground for a while.” “I’ll slow her down a bit, sire. But she’s worried a bit about the king. What should I tell her about that?” Connor told him to tell Aisling that the king was a new father and was not in the office.

“Aye, I like that one. Yes, I’ll tell her that. She already felt the newborn being brought into the world.” “Yes. He’s the king’s firstborn, so he’ll be too focused on that to worry about her right now. Just tell her that you’ve seen the activity around the place, and know it to be true.” Dak said that he could do that. “Remember, Dak, there are beings out there that would wish to kill her. Keep her safe. And if she is in trouble that she cannot get out of, or if you can’t help her, you call to me and I’ll be there.” “I know that. But she’s very careful, so you know. I don’t think she wants to be caught unawares either.” Connor told him to be careful too. “Oh, I am. I been scouting around the towns that we’re in and eating up a storm, I tell you. I surely hope we don’t take all that you have, sire. I’d surely hate if that happened.” “You don’t worry about me, Dak. I have all I need and more. You just keep her well-fed and do what you’ve been doing about other places to eat. That’s the best way to keep people from recognizing her.” Dak told him how she’d taken a liking to pasta with chicken. “That’s good. I like it very much as well.” “You told me before; she’s not your mate. Are you sure?” Connor told him that he was positive. “There are a lot of dragons around.

Is she by chance one of theirs? That would surely save her. Being a white dragon, she could be claimed by a dragon that isn’t her mate. Are you by chance looking to claim her?” “No. I’m sorry, Dak, but I am not. I have one out there. I just have to wait. As for her being one of the others’ mates, I don’t know that yet. I wish I could tell you that, but I just don’t know.” Dak said that was fine. His face was so disappointed looking that Connor nearly laughed at him once again. “You just keep watching over her, Dak, and we’ll know for sure when the time is right.” After the little man flew away, having found the answers to a few things that were bothering him, Connor went back to work. The house was completed, inside and out, but he loved to tinker around with the garden he was planning for the spring. As well as looking online for the perfect comforter and curtains for a few of the bedrooms. The faeries had done a great job on helping him with the house. They’d put it together the way it would have looked back when the original house was built. But since he wasn’t a huge fan of curtains in the first place, he’d not had any certain look in mind. It had taken Devon’s mate, Kelly, to explain to him that anyone staying in the rooms might not be as free with their nudeness as he was. Connor had a laugh about that every time he thought about it. Being caught one time swimming in the nude as a man when she’d come to visit had gotten him labeled as a man who went around naked all the time. Devon came into his home about an hour after Connor had placed an order. The Internet had been the biggest change in how they did things. It was wonderful to order just about anything you wanted under the sun, and have it delivered to you the very next day. Sometimes it would take more than one day, but it was great to have it quickly.

“Do you know this woman that is staying with us?” Connor said that he only knew her name, nothing more. “She’s a liar. And we’re pretty sure that she killed Davidson, Grandma’s friend.” “What’s his name? Full, if you have it?” Devon looked confused, then smiled. “Yes, I can send someone to look, as you well know.” “I forgot. Honestly, when I came over here it was just to bitch about her. Now that I remember you talk to ghosts, perhaps you can figure this out for me.” After hearing Davidson’s full name, Connor called for Newt. Newt was the oldest of the ghosts. He’d been there since the house was nothing more than a few timbers leaning together to form a wall. He’d been beaten to death one day when his master’s wife had gotten mud on the heel of her boot. It hadn’t been Newt’s fault, but as he’d been the closest to the man and his wife, he’d been the fall guy. Newt had been all of nine years old at the time. “I need for you to go to the ghost world and see if you can find me a man by the name of Richard Marion Davidson. He’s a warlock, and the grand lady at the king’s house is his friend.” Newt asked if he could have a go at the book again. “Yes, we’ll work on that tonight. I want you to read as much as you want to, Newt. Find out what you can about the man. Even if he’s not dead if someone knows anything about him.” Newt simply disappeared, and Connor turned to talk to Devon again. The smile on his face made Connor a little nervous. Then the woman upstairs, April, started wailing again. As Connor stood up, so did Devon. “You can hear her, of course, but you have no idea what it’s like for those of us that live here with her all the time. She is screaming and telling anyone that will listen that she’s been done wrong.

While I’m not certain what her crime was that had her ending up dead, she’s surely pissed off about it.” Devon asked what had happened to her. “Best I can tell? Burnt, then beaten. Duncan, the man that lived here for a while, said that she was caught doing something while watching her master’s children. The missus back then, she burnt April to show him that she’d fallen asleep while caring for the children. Which I don’t think is the entire story. I have yet to be able to get anything from her other than that she’s been done wrong.” “You made it so that anyone that comes here can see the people living here with you, didn’t you?” Connor said he thought that was easier than having to explain to people why he was talking to himself. “Yes, I can see that. Why don’t you let me try? I mean, it couldn’t hurt, could it?” “No. Go right ahead. I’m done dealing with her, and about ready to send her on her way.” Devon was the only one of his friends that knew he could do that. Sending ghosts on their way was something that he’d learned before he realized that he could use them if necessary. Or, like in this case, figure out why they’d not gone on when their time here was up. “Just be careful with her. She’s angry. And angry ghost have the power to shove things when they’re really pissed off.” “All right.” When Devon paused outside the door where she’d been staying, Connor thought that he was bothered by her screams. But all he did was straighten himself up a little more.

Then he yanked the door open so hard it was pulled from the frame. Connor stood back and let him have his way with the young dead woman. “What the hell is wrong with you? You’ll stop that caterwauling right now and answer me.” Caterwauling? Connor had to step back more from the door opening. His laughter would not help the situation one bit. But he was going to tease the big king by asking him who the hell he’d been hanging out with. ~*~ Devon was surprised when the noise simply cut off. Not only did the silence around them sound loud in the otherwise empty room, but the woman came out of the wall like she’d been hiding from him. When she came closer, he could understand why. “You’ve been burnt.” She bowed her head and brought what was left of her hair to cover the entire left side of her face. “Don’t do that. I wasn’t meaning to harm you with my words, but to see the destruction on one so pretty.” “They called me a liar and then burned me.” Devon just glanced at Connor, but didn’t point out that he was there. “I didn’t fall asleep and let the candle burn me. I was awake when the mistress came in to check on me.” “Did she usually check up on you at night?” April told him that she and the master had been out, and April had been surprised by the late visit.

“Tell me what happened that would cause your face to be burnt so badly. And you must know that the man here, the owner of this home, could have helped you in any way had you simply asked him to do so.” “I am ashamed of myself. I might well have asked him, but he is a big man, like you. But so was my master.” Devon asked her what else had kept her hidden away. “My master, his name was Connor as well.” “I see.” Devon could understand that. He lumped all teas, hot or cold, as nasty, simply because he didn’t care for the drink. But Kelly had shown him just recently that not all teas were the same. “Connor, Lord Connor James, Prince to the Castle Hillcrest, Dragon of Hillcrest Castle, would never harm anyone without just cause.” Devon pulled Connor forward and moved around the opening to show her who he was. Not that she would have missed him each time he came up to scream at her to stop what she was doing. Bowing to her, Connor stood up. It was then that Devon noticed her body movements. She was terrified of them both. “Neither of us wants to harm you, April. But you aren’t making things easy on us when you scream and wail about your unjust treatment all the time. I have been up here several dozen times. Had you only spoken to me, perhaps I could have gotten you the answers that you wish.” She told Devon that she wanted her life back. “You know as well as I do that you’re never going to have that. And making yourself a pain in the ass about it will not allow you to live here with the rest of the household. Tell us what happened, and we can figure it out to give you some peace.” “I know what happened.” He didn’t comment on her shouting at them, but she seemed to understand that she was screeching at them. “The lady came in and found me reading a book. I was told that I could do as I wished so long as the child was well taken care of.

He had only just had his nappy changed when she found me with a candle burning, and the book.” “Where did the book come from?” Devon didn’t know what good knowing that would do, but Connor explained it to both him and April. “Perhaps she was upset that you’d taken a book from the master’s library? Or that you’d stolen the book?” “I never stole anything. The book was my grandma’s. She’s the one that taught me to read and write. No, sir. She was mad because I could read. When she snatched the book from me, she told me not to try and be better than I was. It would get me tossed out if I did that. I told her that I could read well and that I could do some numbers too when I had the time to figure them out. No, she didn’t like me being able to read.” Devon was aware that this had happened a great many times over the centuries. His own sire had done the same thing when it came to his darkies, as he called them. Educating them, his sire would say, was the same as giving them a gun to kill you with. Devon had never been that sort of person. April was light-skinned, he knew, but she’d still have trouble from the master if she could read. “What happened that night?” April looked at them both but looked at Connor when he spoke the second time. “We’re not here to harm you, April. But we can certainly fix some parts of what might have happened to you. Not giving you your life back, however.” “I miss my family. I miss my husband and my own children. They didn’t even bury me when the master had the foreman kill me. They wrapped me in an old sheet with more holes in it than not and tossed me to the river. All I ever wanted was to work in the big house and have me some money for my kids. I didn’t even take any of their old things when I was told to toss them out. Never once.” Devon said that he was sorry. “Me too. I couldn’t see them anymore, because once I was killed off, they sent my family packing. I can’t see them anymore.” “I can maybe find them for you.” They both turned to look at Newt. “You just tell me their names, and I can do what I can to find them for you.

And if you ask Master Connor nice, and no more making him mad at you, maybe he’ll let you go to them too.” Hope. He could see it in her eyes and on her face. Hope was such a fragile thing, and this girl, this young woman, was placing all of hers on the word of a little boy who looked like he’d been nothing more than a servant at the house in a different time than April had been. “I’ll do that for you, but you must be more a part of this house than you have been. As Newt said, no more waking the household when you’ve got a mind to be depressed about your lot in life.” She said that she would behave. “Even if he can’t find anyone for you, you’ll have to abide by what he tells you. He’s good at what he does, April. So if you don’t care for his answer and revert to what you’ve been doing to all of us, then I will send you along. With or without him finding your family.” “I promise.” Newt took their names but didn’t leave right away. Devon had almost forgotten that he’d been doing him a favor first. Connor told him that he’d talk to him in the living room. After telling April that she could stay wherever she wished, the three of them went back to the living room.

The fire there was warm after spending time with the ghosts. Their bodies were like ice to be around, and their breath was often chilling too. “Mr. Davidson ain’t anywhere around that I can see him. Ain’t nobody seen him around either. If’n he was dead, someone would have seen the warlock, sir.” Devon asked him if he’d found his house. “I did. Right where you said it was. There was a scuffle there. Lots of broken stuff. Looked like someone was a looking for something too. The books are all over the floor and most of the drawers—the dresser kind, not the pants kind—was all pulled out.” “Thank you, Newt. You have taken a great deal of worry from me.” Newt didn’t leave like he thought he would, but looked at Connor. “Is there something else?” “Yes, sir. There be a bit more. There was a woman of the female kind that was bleeding there. I can tell that. She’s got her some magic too, but not like the man does.

Somebody’s been in the house since then too.” Connor asked Newt if he’d seen the man there. “No, I didn’t, but he’s been there. And just today, if my smeller ain’t broke. But he’s powerful hurt, he is. I can smell that on him too.” “But he’s not in the house. Do you think he’s close?” Newt said that he had a living friend that he could find to see that part. “You do that. And this living friend of yours— you contact him or her, and let me know what they want in exchange for doing this for me.” “I don’t know rightly if she’ll do much of anything, sir. She’s a bit on the stubborn side. And old to boot. My daddy would have called her a mule, but I don’t say such things like that to her. Roxanna, she’s a bit touchy about being called that.” Devon asked him who had started calling her that. “I think she told me once that the dummy wasn’t around to do it again, and that’s all I need to remember. I do. Every time I see her having a fit about something or somebody, I come back at a different time. She’s nasty mean.” Asking him to please ask her was about all that Devon could do. He was holding onto his laughter as hard as he could at the expression on the face of Newt. This elderly woman was someone that he might like to meet. But only on her good day.

After Newt left again to look for the family of April and to talk to his friend, Devon invited Connor to his home for dinner. The guy was too much of a recluse lately. Of course, he was just getting his house set up. “Nah. I think I’ll stay here tonight. The house is quiet for the first time since I moved in, and I think I might enjoy that for a while.” Devon laughed. “How’s Kelly? I meant to ask you that earlier.” “She’s wonderful.” Devon could feel his face warming. Just thinking about his wife made him feel all kinds of silly. Like a schoolboy’s first crush. “She’s taking the entire thing of waiting on the egg to open like she’s done it a million times. Jackson sent over a couple of the babies so she could watch the baby dragons interact. With the one that we kept and the other newborn, she’s learning a great deal. So am I, as a matter of fact.” They talked for a little while longer, mostly about the house and the ghosts that Connor had spoken to since coming back to town. They’d been friends for a great many years. And of all of his friends, he thought that Connor had had the least stable life in growing up.

His mother had lost her mind about the time that he and his sister had been born. Being an immortal and living so long could take its toll on a person. And since Lannie had been one of those proper wives to her dragon husband, she stayed quiet, out of his business, and kept his home perfect. Lannie had no contact with the outside world other than her husband. It had happened a great deal when someone didn’t go with the changes. Lannie hadn’t been able to. Then after the egg opened and Connor and his sister had been born, of the same egg, it had taken her over the edge of sanity quickly. Connor and Connie, Connor’s sister, had to raise themselves. Their father wouldn’t have a thing to do with them until they were old enough to have families of their own. But it had been much too late for making a family after that. Devon had always thought that was why Connor had enjoyed being around ghosts rather than people, even dragons. He’d been alone with them for far too long when he’d been younger. Devon asked about Connie then. “She’s doing well. Happiness seems to surround her all the time. She and her mate have two children now. All of them over the age of being called children, I guess. But I see Connie a few times a year. We keep in touch.

” Devon asked him where she was living now. “Her mate, Barron Spencer, was left a castle from an aunt or something. They’re very happy in England, and I’m very happy for them all.” “Maybe since you have a home now, you could invite them here for Christmas. I would love to see her again. I know Spencer. He’s a good man too. Someone that I might well have chosen for her.” Connor said that he’d ask, but not to expect too much. “They’re settled then.” “Yes. You have no idea. They have about the most picture-perfect life of anyone I have ever met.” Connor laughed. “Whenever I talk to her, she’s forever telling me how lucky she is, and that I need to find myself a mate too. I tease her by telling her that there are no women around that treat me as well as she did.” When Devon was on his way home, he wondered what to do about Sara. She was going to have to be dealt with, and soon. But Bryce wanted him to hold off. To find out what sort of things she was going to have to pay for. Knowing that Davidson was still alive would thrill his grandma.