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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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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.

THE CHASE (Doms of Her Life: Heavenly Rising) by Shayla Black, Jenna Jacob and Isabella LaPearl

One temptress. Two alphas. Hot pursuit.

The night Heavenly Young gave her innocence to Dr. Kenneth Beckman and Seth Cooper, her world was ripped apart by betrayal and tragedy. She leaves behind everything and everyone to fulfill a deathbed promise and start her life over. But her solitary quest forces her to face her past and question where her future truly lies—alone or in the arms of the two unforgettable men she loves?

After putting his heart on the line—something Seth swore he’d never do again—he’s devastated when Heavenly walks away from him and Beck. Hell-bent on reclaiming her, they chase her down and help her complete her solemn duty. But Heavenly is caught between independence and love, forcing him and Beck to make her a deal. She’ll give them total commitment for eight weeks. If she still wants her freedom after that, they’ll let her go—for good.

After Beck’s reckless mistake implodes the fragile bond he and Seth share with Heavenly, he’s determined to prove they can give her both the adventure she seeks and the devotion she craves. So the men devise a game to break down her barriers and bind her in bliss. But when their dreams are within reach, a demon from Beck’s long-forgotten past returns, bent on revenge that might cost him his life.

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About Authors

Shayla Black


Shayla Black is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than sixty novels. For nearly twenty years, she’s written contemporary, erotic, paranormal, and historical romances via traditional, independent, foreign, and audio publishers. Her books have sold millions of copies and been published in a dozen languages.

Raised an only child, Shayla occupied herself with lots of daydreaming, much to the chagrin of her teachers. In college, she found her love for reading and realized that she could have a career publishing the stories spinning in her imagination. Though she graduated with a degree in Marketing/Advertising and embarked on a stint in corporate America to pay the bills, her heart has always been with her characters. She’s thrilled that she’s been living her dream as a full-time author for the past eight years.

Shayla currently lives in North Texas with her wonderfully supportive husband, her daughter, and two spoiled tabbies. In her “free” time, she enjoys reality TV, reading, and listening to an eclectic blend of music.

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Jenna Jacob


USA Today
Bestselling author Jenna Jacob paints a canvas of passion, romance, and humor as her alpha men and the feisty women who love them unravel their souls, heal their scars, and find a happy-ever-after kind of love. Heart-tugging, captivating, and steamy, Jenna’s books will surely leave you breathless and craving more.

A mom of four grown children, Jenna and her alpha-hunk husband live in Kansas. She loves reading, getting away from the city on the back of a Harley, music, camping, and cooking.

Meet her wild and wicked fictional family in Jenna’s sultry series: The Doms of Genesis. Become spellbound by searing triple love connections in her continuing saga: The Doms of Her Life (co-written with the amazing Shayla Black and Isabella LaPearl). Journey with couples struggling to resolve their pasts and heal their scars to discover unbridled love and devotion in her contemporary series: Passionate Hearts. Or laugh along as Jenna lets her zany sense of humor and lack of filter run free in the romantic comedy series: Hotties of Haven.

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Isabella LaPearl


Isabella LaPearl is a USA Today bestselling author known for her collaboration with Shayla Black & Jenna Jacob for the Doms of Her Life Series. She enjoys writing sexy, erotic romance. A wife, mother, writer, reader and a love for riding motorcycles.

To say it’s been an extraordinary journey thus far would be an understatement… what a rush! What a thrill to realize dreams and see them go from a seed to fruition. So for all you aspiring Authors, who like me, have a fire inside that burns brightly and demands to be sated by writing… Never give up.

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