Monday, December 28, 2015

Mitch Justice Series By Kathi S Barton Release Day & Winner Announced 12/28/15

Mitch Riley was a haunted man, and being a necromancer didn't have much to do with what haunted him. A troubled childhood left him withdrawn and short tempered, so when he received a summons that he was being sued by the foster parents who had abused him, he didn't take it well at all. And their attorney? None other than a vamp. There was nothing much worse than a vamp in Mitch's opinion.

Victoria Graham, or Vinnie her mother had nicknamed her, wasn't expecting the man her clients were suing to be her mate, and a necromancer. She would have refused the case had she known she'd be walking into a den of necromancers. She had grown up on horror stories that necromancers were the one thing that could kill her kind, and it was clear the man hated her very existence.... But when he touched her, she'd lost control of her magic...and her mind too apparently.

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Kathi S Barton 

Vinnie watched his face. She could see that he was pissed off. About what, she had a good idea at the moment, but the way he had come into the room like he owned it made her think it was less about the lawsuit and more about her—a vampire. She’d heard from Gilda, her secretary, that Mr. Riley did not play well with others, and not at all with vampires. Vinnie hoped that that part might have been wrong. Apparently not. “You’re very beautiful.” Both of them flushed, and he looked away from her. “But be that as it may, Miss Graham, I will not need your services now or in the future.” “They’re not going to go away. And neither will I. There are more than just you in this suit, Mr. Riley. They’ve named nineteen people in this stupidity. And if only one of you lose to them, they will go after more stupid claims.” He turned and looked at her, and Vinnie could see that he was getting madder by the second. “I can go away, leave you to whatever it is you do, but they’re going to come at you. And if they can’t get it from you, they’ll sue Mr. Bennett here.” “They’re working on that now.” Vinnie glanced at Steele when he spoke, but she watched Mitch. “They contacted my firm this morning, saying that I’m harboring you and they want their money. I’m not entirely sure what they think that means, but I’m sure that their lawyer will explain. I have a meeting with them next week.” “You can’t be serious. Why are they going after you?” Vinnie started to tell Mitch why, but he answered his own question. “I see. You’re the rich and powerful Steele Bennett, right? Will they go after Addie next? Or her grandmother?” “I’m sure that they have.” Mitch looked at her again. “This isn’t going to go away. Newspapers have picked it up. A television crew was at their home just last week, and was showing how much they’ve suffered because of the way you and the others as children have done them wrong.” “We did them wrong? Do you have any idea what we had to suffer living there? The things that we had to do for a single meal a day?” She said nothing, and Mitch started pacing. The man could say more in one step than most people said in a whole conversation. “I ran away. I was only there for less than a year. And in that time…in that time I was treated with atrocities that would…it was not a safe place for a child, much less a bunch of us.” When Gilda stood up, Vinnie shook her head at her. She knew things too. Things that had happened to this young man that should never have happened to an adult, much less a child. When Gilda sat down, Vinnie looked at Hugo. He nodded once and picked up her briefcase, as well as her coat. If Mitch wouldn’t help her, then there was nothing much more she could do to make him. As they made their way to the door, Hugo stepped in front of her when someone or something moved beside her. “She wants to know if you’re related to Mr. Horatio Graham.” Vinnie grabbed the back of the chair she was standing next to and nodded at Mitch. “She said that she’s glad that you’re no longer with him, but she wants to know if you killed him or did he get caught at something?” 

“He was staked. About ten years ago.” Vinnie looked around and saw no one, but she could feel it. A presence that she’d felt before since coming into this house. “Who’s there?” “She said that it’s not important right now. And you should know that you brought her here with you.” Mitch sat in the chair across from her and stared at something to her immediate left. “The woman is older, about sixtyish, I’d say. Dark hair and wearing a dress from about the turn of the century. I’d say she’s been gone for about fifty years.” Vinnie moved around the chair then and sat down. She could feel Hugo there. He would never leave her, but Gilda was standing back. If this was who she thought it was, then Gilda would be in danger. All of them would be. “Her name…ask her if she’s Millicent. I don’t know if I ever knew her last name.” Mitch nodded. “I see. And you can speak to her? See her even?” “I can. You can’t, I take it.” Vinnie said she couldn’t see the dead. “I can. Did you know that before coming here?” Vinnie stood up. She was slightly dizzy and terrified, but she stood straight now. “I’m sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Riley. I’m sure that without your help, the Bruces will win a suit or two, and that might satisfy them for a while.” “I asked you a question, Miss Graham. Did you know that we were a house of necromancers when you came here?”  She hadn’t, and she doubted that she would have come had she known. But as she made her way to the door, nearly running now, she could only think to get away, get her little family away. But Mitch stepped in front of her just as she reached for the door. Backing away from him, she didn’t even look at him as she answered. “I didn’t, as a matter of fact. I wish I had known, but I’m guessing that there really isn’t any way that you could advertise such a thing and expect people to believe you. I’d very much like to go.” “She’s not here right now. Steele sent her away. For now.” The relief was profound. And before she realized what was happening, she felt herself being lifted up. Hugo had her. But when she looked into his face, it wasn’t that of her bodyguard, but of Mitch Riley. “Let me down.” He held her still, taking her to what she thought was the kitchen. “There is nothing in here that I can use to make me feel better. I’d very much like to be left to go please.” “Hush.” Vinnie started to snap at him, but she was sat down on a table and a wet cloth was slapped in her hand. “What does she have over you? It must be big for a badassed vamp like you to get yourself all worked up about.” Vinnie laid the dishtowel on the table and stood up. She was stronger now, more than likely due to being so angry. But when she started to leave the room, Mitch grabbed her by the arm. Vinnie felt her temper snap, and she let her power go. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Nolan Bentley Legacy Book Three By Kathi S Barton Release Day & Winner Announced 12/14/15

Nolan finally had a practice of his own, and soon his brother Burke would be leaving the hospital and joining him. Now, if the rest of the family would mind their own business, Nolan would be much happier...or not. He was sulking over his dilemma when his nurse told him he had a patient, a hurt kid who wasn't doing much talking.

Rylee nearly collapsed with worry when she found out her nephew had been hurt. She wasn't sure if she was cut out to be a parent. She loved her nephew, Shane, dearly and had taken on his care when her sister died, but how she'd missed the warning signs was beyond her. He was being bullied at school daily and she knew nothing about it until he'd been cut with a knife.

"I didn't know." Her entire body sagged at her confession. "He said he had it handled. And I thought he did. It's my fault he's beaten up like this. I should have...I'm not any good at this parenting thing."

Nolan reached for her just as Shane moved on the bed. He wasn't sure what the kid could do, banged up the way that he was, but as soon as Nolan touched her, he knew what she was to him. Her body, warm and strong, leaned into his even as he buried his nose into her neck. Christ, his body screamed at him, she was his. Licking her throat, tasting her, he could hear her moan, but when his head was jerked up by his hair, all he could do was stare at her.

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Chapter 1 Nolan looked around his new office. He’d never had one of his own before. The other practice that he’d been working for had a community one they’d all shared…several doctors using the same computer in the same small ten-by-ten room. This was his and his alone. Burke, too, would have his own office when his notice was up at the hospital. For now he was working just a couple of hours a week to help Nolan out. And his office was going to wait, he told Nolan, until he could really devote his time to it. The walls were decorated with just Nolan’s things. It was a small thing to be happy about, he supposed. His diplomas were there, along with his awards…and there were plenty of those, as he’d always been a hard worker. Plus, he’d been able to bring in pictures of his family…his mom and grandparents. The photo of his father in his uniform about a month before he’d been killed had a prominent place on his wall, along with some of the things that he treasured above all else, such as smaller pictures of just him and his father. And his brothers too, the ones that were currently pissed at him. He supposed if he was honest with himself, he was the one that was pissed. He’d needed their help, yes, and their support on the project that he’d been trying to get up off the ground for months now. Nolan knew that he’d of gotten it there, but the fact was he was too broke to go on and would have lost it all if they hadn’t sat him down and told him they were going to help him, in any way they could. “But I can do this.” Even Garth, the money maker in the family, shook his head. “You just don’t understand. This is something that I want to do, and I don’t want you taking over.” His mom, the best mom in the entire world, had given him the most disappointed look he’d ever seen. His heart broke then, and that had made his temper lash out at the entire family. But his pride had won out on making things up to his mom. “Fine. Go ahead and take over. Like you do everything else. It wouldn’t be the Bentley clan thing if you guys didn’t have your two cents in it too, now would it? And that’s what bothered you so much.” He started to get up and leave them to their “intervention,” but his mother stood up and ordered him to sit. “I’m not ten. You can’t treat me this way.” “You are my son and I will treat you how you act. Sit down.” He sat, but he’d been a little more than pissed. Holding his temper had always served him well, but right now he wasn’t trying all that hard. “How much money have you spent on this amazing project?” “Everything.” There was no point in lying to them. They all knew, he was sure. “But it was worth every penny, and I’m going to put more into it when I have it.” “Good.” Her answer surprised him. “You think that I’m not proud of what you’ve done? Do you think…well you do, don’t you? You’ve proven that, haven’t you? Do you think that any of us would want you to not be able to make this dream of yours work? That we’d just let you fail at something that you’ve worked so hard at?” “I don’t want your help. I can do this on my own.” His mother only sat down and pushed an envelope at him. “I’m not taking your money, Mom. It’s what we all worked for so that you’d be set for the rest of your life.” “I am set. I have my sons here. And their families. And this isn’t only from me. We all put money in here.” The envelope was pushed at him until it was right at his fingertips. “Take it or not. It’s entirely up to you. But if you fail at this—and you will, because you’re not letting us help you when you need it—then I do not want to hear a single word from you. And your father’s name on this place will be a terrible legacy to him should you not let your family support you as he did us.” She’d gotten up and moved to the door, her last sentence stinging him the hardest. When they’d all left him, even his two nieces, he sat there for ten more minutes before he got up and snatched the envelope up before going to his car. He’d not been back home since. “Doctor Nolan?” Nolan looked up at Loraine Bean, the nurse that had worked for him at his old practice and had begged to come and work for him here. “There’s a patient here that needs some attention. He didn’t have an appointment, and I can’t get anything from him. I think he’s been hurt pretty badly.” Nolan stood up and told her to take him to the examining room, that he’d be right there. She nodded but didn’t move. “I don’t think…he’s just a kid, not much bigger than my own son. About thirteen or so. He won’t even tell me his name.” Nolan paused in pulling on his lab coat to ask her what the boy had said to her. “Nothing other than to show me his arm, and I came to get you.” “Show him in and I’ll be there in a moment.” She nodded again and left. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but he would help the child. Going down the hall, he tried to think what would have happened, and realized he was probably making it a great deal worse than it was. Entering the room, he looked at his patient. The kid turned to him, and two things struck Nolan at once. The kid was afraid of him, and he was human. The scent of blood, strong and fresh, made Nolan’s cat make himself known. Nolan decided to go slowly. “My name is Nolan Bentley. I’m the doctor who is going to look at you.” The kid nodded, and Nolan sat on the stool while the kid sat on the big exam table. “What is it you’re here to see me about?” The kid peeled the dishtowel from his forearm. Nolan could see that it had been bleeding a great deal. The towel, like his sleeve, was soaked through, and he was wincing as the skin was exposed. Someone had cut him, badly and deeply. “Can you tell me what happened?” The boy said nothing, but stared at him. “I can’t help you unless you help me. If you were cut by a fence or something like that, you’d need to have a tetanus shot first. Then I’d have to make sure there was no rust or anything in the cut. If it was a knife, I’d have to know what sort of knife. Were you cutting chicken and the blade slipped? Maybe you got hit by a piece of falling glass. Or you—” “Knife. A switchblade.” Nolan nodded and pulled on some gloves. “I’m…he tried to take my money. Not that I have much, but I worked for it. He’s bigger, so it’s not like I didn’t try to protect myself, but…he’s bigger.” “I don’t blame you.” Nolan rolled a table with all the things he’d need to stitch him up toward them and had the kid put his arm over it so he could look at it better. “It’s going to need about twenty-five or so stitches. But it will need to be cleaned out first. What does the other kid look like? The one that hurt you. Other than big, I mean. Did you get some good licks in yourself?” “He just left me there. I don’t think he’s hurting though. He’s a known bully and has a gang that hangs with him. I might have hit him a few times, but it was just luck, not anything more.” Nolan told him what he was going to do, and the kid just watched. Opening the wound up, he could see that while it was very deep, it had cut no major veins or tendons. But it was going to be sore for a while. “Do you have a parent or guardian you can have my nurse call?” When the boy didn’t answer him, Nolan stopped looking at the wound and looked at him. “I have to make a call to her or the police. If she’s the one that did this to you, then I can get you some—” “No. She’d never do that…it’s not her. It’s the man that thinks he can boss her around a lot that I worry about.” Nolan frowned, wondering what sort of life this kid had. “He’s a real douche canoe. And no matter how many times she tells him to back off, he’s right up in our face. And she’s not my mom, but my aunt.” “All right. We’ll still have to call her. This guy, does he live with you two?” The kid shook his head hard. “Then I don’t understand how it’s going to be an issue with her being called.” “They took the car last week because money is so short. We knew they were going to. It’s been hard on us since my mom passed away a few months ago.” Nolan felt his heart break for the kid. “Aunt Rylee has been working hard, but not having a car, she won’t be able to get here now. Plus, the buses don’t run that late on her second job. Walking home at night is dangerous, but she is trying really hard.” “And what is your name? For the records. And if you give me her address, I can have someone go and pick her up and bring her here.” The kid was shaking his head. “No one will hurt her or you now that you’re here. I swear that to you.” “I know that. But she’s…she’s not very…she’s been under a lot of stress. And she freaks out really easy. Not badly, but…last night she cried for two hours because she didn’t have the money for me to go on this class thing. I told her it was okay, but she is…she’s weird about that sort of stuff. She’s this really…she was in the army when Mom called her, and she was so…Mom said it was army life, but she was so hard. But now she’s sort of…I guess squishy. Cries about stuff that’s okay, and then gets all blown up when things are an injustice, as she calls them. I really love her, but she’s weird, like I said.” “I see. Let me get her address and I’ll have my mom go and get her. She’s understanding about this sort of thing.” The kid still didn’t seem convinced, and Nolan had to admire him for protecting his family. “She’s going to have to find out sooner or later, I’m afraid. You can’t just hide something like this from her. She’ll be more hurt if you do, I bet. My mom would be.” “All right, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you. Her name is really Rylee McClure.” He also gave him the address. “My name is Shane. Shane Cole.” The phone in the examining room was there for him to use, but for the life of him he had no idea how to contact his mother on it. She had a cell phone, he supposed, but whenever he needed her he would just reach out to contact her through their link. He did that now. I need your cell number. She laughed and gave it to him. Okay. I need to call you. Will you be able to answer me? Yes. I’m assuming this is for someone else’s benefit? He told her it was and why. I see. Go ahead and call me then. I’m with Reggie and Chris. The three of us were going to go to the grocery, but this will be fun too. He called her and explained again what he needed. Giving her both their names and the address, he could hear his sister-in-law in the background laughing. Reggie was talking to one of the babies, he knew from the sound of her voice, and was telling them how Uncle Nolan was a doctor woctor. Whatever the hell that meant. Hanging up a few minutes later, he sat back down on the chair and started cleaning the wound out while talking with young Shane. ~~~ The doorbell nearly scared ten years off her life. Rylee had had her head in the dryer, trying to find the last sock that had been there when she’d put it in the stupid thing, but now was missing. She not only bumped her head, but was pretty sure that the sock was eaten, again by the stupid machine. She was still rubbing her head when she went to the door and peeked out the side glass. It wasn’t Mike, thank goodness. But whatever the two women were selling, she had no money for, nor did she have time for their spiel. Opening the door, she could see Mike coming out of his townhouse next door and staring at them like he wasn’t going anywhere until he had all the information she did. The nosey prick was driving her nuts. Just as the elder woman opened her mouth to speak, Mike cut her off. “You said you weren’t going to be home tonight. You never told me about no company.” She ignored him for the two women. “I don’t think you should be letting them in. They look shifty to me. And if you got no plans, then you can go with me to the movies like I told you we could. That boy of yours, he can stay home. I don’t like him either.” Her temper nearly got the better of her. Rylee hated Mike Packer and wanted to murder him daily, but lately, since her sister had died, he’d been making a total ass of himself, bugging her and telling her what she should and shouldn’t be doing. And when her car had gotten repossessed, he’d been all over that like white on rice. He insisted that he be the one to drive her all over town, going so far as to send cabs that she’d call for away when they arrived at her house. The younger woman spoke before she could. “Fuck off, buddy. We’re not here to see you, so go the fuck back in your house.” Well, that took religious zealots off the list of who they might be, Rylee thought with a grin. The older woman tisked at the younger one, who did not look the least bit repentant when she said she was sorry. Mike made his way back into his house, but his door, forever opening and closing like a damned revolving door lately, stood open just a little. “Are you Rylee McClure?” Rylee told her she was, a finger of fear going down her back. “I’m sorry, my dear, do you think we could go inside? Your neighbor seems to think this has something to do with him.” Mike’s door slammed shut and the older woman smiled at her. For reasons she could not understand, she liked them both. And when she invited them in, she knew that she’d be as safe with them as she would with her gun pointed to whoever might be coming for her. A strange thought, but lately a lot of things had been strange. “Do you have a child...nephew…by the name of Shane…I don’t remember what Nolan told us his last name was, do you, Chris?” She told her. “Yes, that’s right. Shane Cole. Do you know him?” Her vision began to blur and her heart…she actually looked down at her chest to see if it had fallen out of her chest. She could not lose him too. He was all she had in the world now that…when the room began to tilt, she heard the younger women cursing and thought perhaps she’d like to learn a few of those words soon. Before she knew it, she was on the floor with her head between her upright knees. “Just breathe, young lady. It’s not that bad. Or so he said.” Rylee asked her who. “My son. He’s a doctor. A very good one. And your nephew came to his office a little while ago and had to be looked at. I don’t know a great many of the details, but I do know that if anyone can keep him safe, it will be my son.” Rylee wondered if she thought this was helping, because it wasn’t. “Gracie, you’re not helping her. She’s scared to death that he’s hurt really badly.” Gracie, the older woman, Rylee assumed, asked her to talk to Nolan and find out. “I have a better idea. Why don’t we just take her to him? Like he wanted us to. She might feel better to see him even if we were to tell her he’s just fine.” “Oh. Yes. That’s a good idea. I think the man next door…did you smell him?” Chris must have answered because Gracie continued as if she had. “And what was he wearing? No man should be out looking like…well, he just rolled out of the barn after mucking it all day.” Rylee laughed. As she pushed gently against the hand holding her down, she was freed. Looking up from her position on the floor, she smiled at the two of them. Then the door opened again and a woman holding two babies came in too. One of them was screaming her head off. “Here.” A baby was handed to Chris, and then the screaming one was shoved in her arms. “Where is your bathroom? I have to go now. I thought you said you’d only be…where?” Rylee told her down the hall, but kept her eyes on the little girl in her arms. Christ, she was beautiful, and the way her little lips puckered up like she was going to let go of another healthy scream made Rylee’s heart melt. “Hey there, little one. Don’t cry. Mommy will be back in a second.” The little girl just stared at her. Her cheeks looked so downy soft that Rylee had to touch them. Adjusting her in her hands, she ran her finger down her cheek and marveled at not just the softness of it, but also how warm she was. “Her name is Alexis. And this is Anna. They’re my granddaughters.” Rylee looked at the baby that was now in Gracie’s hands and could see that they were twins. “She likes you.” “I never held a baby this tiny before. When Shane was born, I was away and…. Oh my God, Shane. Can you take me to him?” The baby started to cry again but hushed once Rylee started talking to the adults again in a calm and quiet voice. “I don’t have a car anymore. And if I call a cab, I think that Mike will intercept it again and I’ll end up in his car. I’ll give you some gas money. I don’t…well, not a lot of gas money, but I managed to find ten dollars in the dryer today. I was going to take Shane out for a treat, but….” She closed her mouth when she realized she was babbling. Not a habit she’d developed until recently. Gracie just smiled at her and stood up. “We were actually sent to get you.” Handing the baby back to her mom when she returned, Rylee asked for a minute to get something on. She ran to her bedroom and changed in record time, and put on her jacket as she made her way to the living room again. When Gracie asked her if she was set, they left with Rylee making sure the doors were locked three times before she walked down the sidewalk. “You need a safer place to stay.” She looked over at Chris, who was sitting in the front with Gracie as she drove. “That man next door, he’s going to hurt you if you don’t.” “I don’t think he’ll hurt me now. A couple of weeks ago he tried that crap on me and I put him in his place. He had been backing off until today. I think he might need another show of force.” Gracie laughed, but Chris didn’t look convinced. “He’s harmless for the most part. And when he gets out of line, I put him back in his place. I have…I can carry and I do now. I don’t care for it, but I have to protect us.” She asked what they knew about Shane. Chris answered her, but Rylee had a feeling that she was still worried about the neighbor. He really wasn’t that bad, but she knew how to handle him when he was. “Nolan said that he’s been cut on his arm with a knife. I don’t know the extent of the wound other than without someone there that can authorize him to work on it, he has to wait. Shane told him that you no longer had a car.” She waited for someone to tell her she should work harder to keep her things, but none of them said a word about that as Chris continued. “He isn’t much of a talker, is he?” “No.” Rylee wanted to tell them that was her fault too. He’d been so depressed since his mom had died, but she was having so much trouble shaking her own depression about Shelby dying that it was hard for her to talk to him about his own. She also knew that there had been some trouble at school, but again, he’d not shared much in the way of information, only to tell her that he had it handled. Obviously not. As they drove her to the nicer part of town, she realized that they knew her name, but other than first names, she had no idea who they were. She started to ask them when the car turned into a nice office building parking lot and the engine was turned off. They all turned to her. “I’m a little scared.” Gracie told her that was understandable. “I’m not…it’s been hard on us. For the last few months, it’s been really hard on us. We can’t seem to get a break. To be telling you this…sharing…I’m not sure why I feel I can, but I’ve not had a great deal of friends over, and those that do come over are more interested in why we’re so broke. I really hate people.” “Not all people are like your so-called friends. And so you know, we trust you as well. But you need help. We can help you.” Rylee shook her head at Chris as she nodded. “We can and we will. You will need us as much as we do you. Go inside and we’ll be in soon. Nolan is on the phone right now with his brother about something, and Shane is with the nurse. Nolan will help you too…he’ll need to. His nurse is waiting on you to fill out the paperwork.” The sharp intake of breath from Gracie had Rylee looking at her. But she was staring at Chris, smiling. There was something there, something that she felt like she needed to know but wasn’t sure she actually wanted to know it. Before they could tell her that something else had happened, she got out of the car and made her way to the front door alone. The nurse was standing at the door like she’d been waiting on her and let her in. “Hello, I’m Nurse Loraine Bean. Your nephew is in the office right now. I’ve given him something to settle his stomach…nothing more than a little soda. Nolan Bentley, the doctor, is on the phone.” Rylee nodded. “Can you please fill out this paperwork? All it’s staying is that you give him permission to put stitches in his arm.” “Can I see him first? I’d feel so much better if you’d let me just make sure that it’s him. I know it is, but I have to see him.” The nurse smiled and nodded. “Thank you.” “No problem. He’s a good boy once he starts to talk to you. It took Nolan a little bit to get him to open up. I think they’ve been talking manly things, because when I come into the room, they quiet up again.” The room where she was taking her had the door closed. “As I said, Nolan had to step out for a moment. But you should just go on in and talk to Shane to help him relax. Then we can get the paperwork finished up. Nolan can work on him when he gets back.” Nodding and taking a deep breath, Rylee opened the door and moved into the room. Shane was sitting there with his head leaning against the wall and his arm wrapped up in a gauze-like material. There was a kit nearby him. She was sure it was the sterile dressing and equipment used to work on him, so she was careful not to touch it. He started sobbing as soon as he saw her. “I’m so sorry they had to come and get you like that.” She told him it was fine. “I thought I could take care of it on my own, but I messed up. He had a knife and I didn’t. Not that I’d use one, but Nolan said I’d need to learn how or I’d just cut myself more. And he cut me up before I could even think that was what he was going to do…the boy did, not Nolan. I’m really sorry, Aunt Rylee.” “Oh, honey, it’s all right. I’m just glad that you’re all right. But who did this? This kid that’s been giving you problems, he took a knife to school?” He nodded, still crying. “You should have told me, Shane. We’ll work this out. The doctor, is he taking care of you all right? He’s not hurt you?” “No. He’s really cool. He never told me I was stupid for taking him on when I did. Said that I should have told you so you could have done something smarter. I like him.” Rylee nodded and hugged him again. “Aunt Rylee, I know we don’t have the money for this and I told him that. He said that I was his practice patient.” “Practice? How long as he been a doctor? Surely he’s not just out of med school?” The door opened just as she asked, and she turned to see a very tall, extremely handsome man in a lab coat come in the room. “You’re the doctor?” “Yes, but not Nolan. He had to leave. I’m his brother, Burke. I’m a doctor too, as a matter of fact. And we’ve both been at it for some time, I assure you.” She felt her face heat up, but she sat on the edge of the bed near Shane when he asked her to. “Nolan said that you’ve been cut with a switchblade?” “Yes. This older boy at the school, he said that he wanted my money, and since I don’t have a lot, he got a lot of blood on him for nothing. And I think I might have hurt him a little too.” She was surprised to hear the man say good, but before she could say anything to him, Shane continued. “Nolan said that I should have told my aunt the truth from the start and it might not have gotten this far.” “More than likely not. When my brothers and I fight, we are usually pretty rough about it. One time when my brother Micah and I had this huge fight, my mom hosed us down with the kitchen sink thing. It sure made us pay attention when she told us to take it outside next time.” Shane laughed, and Rylee could see the woman she’d met doing something like that. “Okay, young man. How about we get you put back together? Ms. Cole, you can stay or not, but the nurse is going to give him something to relax him a bit.” As soon as she nodded to Shane that it was okay, the nurse wiped a swab over his arm and stuck him. In minutes, he was closing his eyes and was asleep in no time. She looked at the doctor, worried, when he stood up. She stood as well. “Nolan seems to think there is more to this than a cut arm. He asked me to have a look when you got here so that…he didn’t want you to think that we had done this to him when he came in this way. I assure you, we’d never harm him. May I?” Nodding again, she moved back out of his way when he stood over her nephew and watched the doctor lift Shane’s shirt up. “Just as he said it might be. I’m afraid he’s going to need more than some stitches, Ms. Cole. He’s going to need the hospital.” She could only stare at the bruising on his ribs and the blood from several other cuts that seemed to stretch up to his throat and shoulders. When Burke pulled up Shane’s pant legs too, she could see where he’d been kicked, his legs scraped and bruised a great deal. Sitting down again, she had started to cry when someone was suddenly holding her. Sobbing into the shoulder of Mrs. Bentley was the best thing that had happened to her in months. Being held like this made her cry harder.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Gerard By Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Winner Announced 11/30/15

Susie Benjamin had been denied nine jobs in three days. She had served five years for a crime she didn't commit, and it didn't seem to matter to these jerks that she'd been exonerated and wasn't an ex-con at all, just a victim of circumstance. If she didn't find a job soon what little money she had left would be gone.

Susie was a panther shifter and no one had ever told her the rules of her kind. Mason Douglas was quick to bring her to task for her not reporting that she was in town to him, the local Alpha. She'd work her sentence off on the ranch, but then she'd be gone. She wanted to be as far away as she could get before her father could find her again.

Gerard Douglas knew his brother had a new panther on the ranch, but wasn't in any hurry to meet her. Heck, he barely had time to sleep as it was he was so busy. But when he caught sight of her at the river it was all he could do to keep his distance. She wanted him too, he could tell, but he'd never seen anyone so skittish.

Susie knew from his scent they were mates. But he'd be better off without her because if her father found out he'd kill them both....

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Chapter 1  
“I don’t understand this.” Susie looked at the paperwork in front of him, then at the man who was questioning her application. “It says here that you’ve spent some time in jail and that you’ve been…what does this word mean? Exonated?” “Exonerated. It means that the charge of murder had been wrong and I was let out because they figured out that I didn’t do it. I should never have been in jail at all, and that’s what they’re saying now.” He nodded but still looked confused. “The next paper is a copy of my release. It tells you right there that I was—” “Yeah, you said that.” He stacked the papers up, including her application, and then handed them to her. “I don’t think this will work out with us. We have customers coming in all the time and they don’t want to be waited on by an ex-con. You’ll have to go someplace else. Just don’t expect anyone else to be as nice about you and your paperwork as I was.” Standing up, Susie wanted to scream at him that she wasn’t an ex-con but a real person, and more than that, she’d not done a damned thing but be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead, she picked up her bag and coat and moved out of the office. Now what, her mind screamed at her. She had to find something soon or things were going to get really bad for her. This was the ninth job that she’d applied for in the last three days. Her money, what she’d gotten as a compensation for being wrongly accused, was going out faster than she had anything coming in…which was not a single dollar. Even living as cheaply as she was, she’d be broke in another month. Less if she had to move out of the hotel she was staying in, because they had a two-week limit on how long someone could stay there. Every place else was double what she was paying now. Nothing, it seemed, was going her way. Making her way back to the hotel, she bypassed the front office and just unlocked her door and entered. She didn’t owe any money for the room just yet, but the guy at the counter this time of day made her feel dirty, like she’d been bathing in slime for an hour. Putting her things on the bed after locking the door, she sat in the chair and closed her eyes.  Five years she’d been in prison. Not a long time by some standards, and less than she had been sentenced to by a long shot. Her life sentence had been overturned, and she’d been let out a month after someone on the outside had admitted to the murder of the three people in a house she’d never been in, as well as a few others things the man had, up until then, gotten away with. He’d apparently had details that were never made public, and when he’d admitted to it, saying how proud he was to not get caught, she’d been told there had been a mistake. “A fucking big one if you ask me.” Susie Benjamin had never done a thing wrong in her entire life that would have gotten her into trouble. And certainly nothing like what she’d been accused of. She’d always been careful of what she did, what she said, and even what she’d written down. Having parents that were less than stellar had made her 

into a very cautious woman and extremely terrified of the cops. She supposed she might have been a little too cautious at times, but there was little she could do about it now. Her mother had been in and out of jail most of Susie’s young life. Then when Susie had turned ten, her mom, along with three other people, had robbed a convenience store and had killed the young man behind the counter as well as a few other customers. It had been planned, they said, and since they’d brought guns with them that were loaded with extra casings, it was considered premeditated. She’d been found guilty and sentenced to twenty-five to life in prison. Which, when it came down to it, had been a life sentence, because she’d died there. And because Susie had been a minor, the courts had called in her father to care for her. It had been like going from the pan to the oven for her. Ernest Benjamin, Ernie to those few who were stupid enough to call him a friend, had been no better in caring for her than her mother, and he’d been meaner about it. The third time he’d hit her with his belt, she left. It had only taken them a week to find her and bring her back to his loving arms and his leather belt. And it never got any better after that. In fact, she’d say it was a good deal worse. Over the next five years, Susie would run away monthly. Sometimes she’d be gone for a couple of weeks, but mostly she’d be found and taken back for a more severe beating, as well as being locked in her room without food or water. Not that it caused her many problems. Getting out was easy since she was small and strong, but he’d hurt her enough on her sixteenth birthday that someone finally took notice of her situation. He’d broken her arm, beaten her so badly that she’d had hundreds of stitches as well as the concussion that made her sick when she blinked. But being put into foster care wasn’t that much of an improvement. The home she’d been sent to first had been all right. She had to help around the house a lot, but that didn’t bother her much. Then one day the man of the house had been hurt at work, and the wife had no more use for watching kids that would never be hers. She was dumped—no other word for what had happened after that—back into the system and into many homes with mean bastards or drug users for foster parents. Then there was the freaky little thing that she could do that made her a target for bullies. Being a cougar was hard to hide when she got pissed. She had learned to control her, but it wasn’t done overnight. That, unfortunately, wasn’t all that she could do, but no one had found out about that. But her father knew, and that was bad enough. Her ability to read animals and some people had gotten her into some major issues with her father. For some reason, he was under the impression he owned her, which, she supposed, he did as the leader of their leap, and she thought that he should simply go fuck himself and die. Her plan didn’t work out so well. The foster care, or the lack of it, lasted just until she was eighteen and able to move out on her own. And in that time she’d gotten her education—something that she wanted more than anything—and a job. It wasn’t a good job, and the people she rented the house with took most of her checks, but the tips were all hers. Sometimes they 

amounted to more than her checks. Then when she’d turned nineteen, they came to her hovel and arrested her for murder.  The knock at the door, firm but not loud, startled her from her morbid thoughts. “Susan, there’s a call for you.” Susie didn’t move from her position on the chair, but did glance over at the phone that had not rung since she’d been there. It was the only number she’d given out when she applied for jobs. Really, it was the only one she knew. “It’s about the job at that bar down on Seventy-Nine.” Susie still didn’t move. She’d not been anywhere near the state route, nor had she applied at a bar. She didn’t drink and certainly didn’t want to have anything to do with serving up drinks for men who got mean when they were drunk. When the guy at the door pounded on the door again, she moved to the bed to pick up the first thing she’d bought when she’d gotten out. The bat was her only defense now, and she wasn’t afraid to use it.  The pounding got harder then, and she was sure the door was going to break under his fists. “Open the fucking door, Susan. I know that you’re in there. I saw you go in.” The voice sounded familiar, but she didn’t know who it might be, as fear was making her too nervous to think beyond what he’d do when he got inside. As the pounding on the door got harder and louder, she moved to the back of the room and away from the room’s only window, and near the bathroom door should she need to escape there. “You fucking cunt, open this goddamned door and let me in. I know that you have some cash, and I want it.” Then just like that, she knew who it was. Her father, Ernie. Still not going to the door, she reached for the phone just as he moved to the window and started beating it to shit. The service at the front desk answered right away. The window wasn’t going to stand up to his abuse any better than the door had.  “You need to let him in so I don’t have to call the cops. I don’t need nothing like this going on here. This is a good family hotel and we don’t cotton to having domestic fights between families. Get him to shut up.” Nice, was all Susie could think about. And calling the cops would be less than preferable than her being beat to shit? No thanks.  “Call them. He’s not coming in here. At least not unless he breaks down your door to do so. Or…fuck.” The window burst inward, and he tore the curtains down just as she was putting the bat on her shoulder to use. “Come in here and they’ll be taking you away in a body bag, you motherfucker.” “That’s no way to talk to me, bitch. I’m your boss and you’ll fucking do as I say, or so help me, Susan, you’re gonna regret me having to make you.” She wanted to laugh at him but didn’t. Prison hadn’t been good to him either, apparently. He was bruised on his face, nothing that had improved his looks, and his mouth had sores on it, like he’d had a blister and he’d worried it to death. When he started into the room again, screaming at her about what he wanted, she pointed the bat at him and made him pause. “I want what’s coming to me. And I know you got it. That there paper said you were given completion or some shit like that. Ten grand will go a long way to making me a happy daddy.” 

“I’m not giving you shit. And it’s compensation, you dumbass, not completion.” He grinned at her, and she felt her skin crawl. His mouth was full of rotted teeth. And if that wasn’t bad enough, his lips were dry and peeling and there were sores, big ones, on his cheeks and forehead she could see now that he was closer to her. “What the fuck is wrong with you now?” “Nothing. But there will be with you when I get in there. You’ve been a disappointment to me since I squirted you in your mother. Where is she anyways?” He put his foot out to step into the room and then was gone. Not in that he fell back, or even into the room, but simply gone. Not trusting him or what he might be up to, she stood there with the bat ready in the event he returned. Then a woman was standing there messing with her hair. Her smile reminded Susie of the grandmother in those dumb card commercials. Like she was as happy as a lark. “You all right?” Nodding slowly, she watched the woman carefully. There wasn’t anything about her that was threatening, but Susie knew better than to trust anyone that she’d not touched at least once. “I won’t hurt you. I was going by and saw him trying to get in, and couldn’t let that happen. My name is Georgie Douglas.” “Yeah, and why should you care if he got in here or not?” The woman only nodded and moved away from the broken window. Then she knocked on the door. “You come in here without being invited and I’m going to knock you into next month. I don’t need your help.” Going back to the broken window, the woman turned to her right before looking back at her. There was something very calming about the woman, as if she was just as nice as she looked. But again, Susie wasn’t trusting her and stood her ground. “My nephew’s wife said that she’s on her way. Normally she doesn’t go out on calls because the mayor doesn’t do that sort of thing, I guess, but she was riding with one of the cops that have been called. Your landlord called in that you were making a disturbance.” Great, the mayor was coming, but Susie only watched her. “You’re not very trusting, are you?” “No shit.” The woman looked pained for a second but said nothing. “What did you do to Ernie? And you should really watch out in case he comes back. Because he will now that he knows where I am. And if you hurt him, which I applaud by the way, you will be in as deep as shit as I am.” “He’s going to be arrested. But he won’t be coming back here. Come out of there and let me see if he hurt you, please. I feel just horrible that he was able to break this window before I could come to your rescue. Not that you need it. Which reminds me, why didn’t you just take care of him yourself? You could have.” Susie wanted to move…felt like it was the only thing in the world she wanted to do, but she shook her head and felt better. “You’re very strong, aren’t you? I mean…well, you shouldn’t have been able to toss off my compulsion like that. You’re a cougar, aren’t you?” “So?” She felt her cat move along her skin but didn’t let her out. She had a great deal of control over her now, not like the little she’d had when she was younger. “So are you. But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to be the best of friends.” 

Georgie only smiled at her, and that was when Susie heard the sirens. Her body tensed up to the point where she wanted to run. It was as ingrained in her as much as breathing. Cops meant trouble, and trouble meant jail. Not necessarily, but it seemed that way to her and her cat. When the cops came to the door, it exploded open with no more than someone pushing against it hard. A man entered, his gun drawn and his face hard, and she knew that he, too, was a shifter, but not a cat. Wolf. When he pointed the gun at her and told her to drop her weapon, she did so without having to be asked twice.  The woman who came in behind him told him to back down. “Did you hear a word I told you on the way here? That the woman in the room was not to be…put that fucking gun down before I hit you.”  The gun was lowered, but he didn’t put it in his holster. Instead, he turned and looked at the woman with a sneer on his face. “You should know that I don’t take direct orders from you.” The woman nodded and then did the most amazing thing. She punched the man in the face, and he fell to his knees. As he was getting up, to no doubt hit the woman, she spoke, her words as soft as a gentle rain. “You do and you’ll be dead before you take your next piss.” He paused, fear only a little evident on his face. “You know who I am, and let me tell you that I’ve already contacted your alpha and told him what you’ve done.” “He’s on his way out too. I’m telling you that you’re just a little speck on my way to the top of the heap.” She asked him if he really believed that. “I do. He’s done nothing but coddle the pack for years now, and it is time for someone with a backbone to bring it around. He’s happier to hang around with you cats than he is to see to our needs. He has to go, and I’m going to be the one to take him out.” “I’ll be sure to tell him your opinion.” Two more cops came into the room with them, and the woman turned to them after taking a step back from the cop on the floor. “I want him arrested. I’ll give you the charges in—” The wolf lunged at the woman, and before Susie could think what a horribly terrible idea it was, she let her cat take her and leapt at the cop. He was dead before she finished shifting, her claws raking across his throat even as she took him to the floor. His head rolled toward the woman as Susie’s cat backed them into a corner. She was in deep shit, she just knew it. ~~~ Mason entered the station as calmly as he could. When Aunt Georgie had reached out to him a little while ago, she’d told him to come to the station but not to make a big deal out of things. He’d felt Emma’s anger and then her fear, then nothing. It wasn’t until Aunt Georgie had told him that she’d bumped her head but was all right now that he could reach out to his wife. Emma had some explaining to do. Don’t make me have to explain why my big bad husband had to come in here and make it all better. If you do, everything I’ve worked for will be for nothing. He asked her calmly, or as calmly as he could, what had happened. I was stupid. I turned my back on someone when I knew better. But I’m fine. 

That does not leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, Emma. I felt your terror and it nearly took me to my knees. Please, I beg of you. What happened? She told him she’d explain it to him when he got there, but not to make a scene.  The first person he saw when he came into the front of the station house was his aunt. Her smiling at him had him thinking that someone needed to be punched. Not her, of course, but someone, and soon. She was entirely too mean to hit and not expect to be hit back. “She’s fine. Shook up a bit but fine. She’s back there talking to the woman who saved her butt. That man…oh my Mason, he was going to kill our little Emma, and if that…if that other woman had not changed and took him, I’m not sure how it would have ended.” This wasn’t helping him or his cat. Mason had been out on the range with ten men when he’d nearly cut his hand off because the knife he’d been using slipped. They’d been putting up a fence that had been knocked over by a fallen tree and he’d been in charge of cutting the old wire off. Had Gerard or Jace not been there, he wasn’t sure what he’d have done. “Can I see her now?” Aunt Georgie told him she was calming the other cat…the one that had saved her. “What other cat? You mean another cougar is here?” “Two actually. Her father and this young woman. I saved her first, so you know. I’m telling you that so you don’t find out later and get upset with me. I was there visiting a friend of mine who has only just moved to this area, and I heard the commotion. She and her family have been wanting to move to this area for some time, and they’ve put a bid on a house close to the ranches. But there was this man, as I was saying. He was going to go and hurt the girl. I just had to act. Good thing too. I think he was going to kill her.”  Mason only stared at his aunt. He was getting more and more confused by the second. Two cougars were here? And who was the woman and man? He started to ask her what the hell she was talking about when she smiled at him.  “You’re confused. I’m sorry. To be honest with you, I’m a little shook up myself. But let me explain. There was this man who was trying to hurt who I found out later was his daughter. She wasn’t having him in her room, so he busted out the front window. Then he—” “Aunt Georgie.” She smiled at him. “I love you very much, but you’re driving me insane with this roundabout story. Either get to some point so my cat will be happy or…you know what? Never mind. Am I going to get to see Emma any time soon?” Then Mason felt her. She was coming through the door just as his aunt started again about her friend. As he moved around his aunt to see his wife, Emma nearly fell into his arms. Mason held her for several minutes before she lifted her chin up to look at him. There was a small stain of blood on her cheek, but he knew that it wasn’t hers. Mason asked her if she was all right. “Yes, I am, thanks to the…I want you to know that this girl is the most stubborn woman I have…I thought you said that I could make people talk to me when they didn’t want to. And especially other cougars.” He said that was true. “Well, not with 

this woman. She’s as tight lipped as I’ve ever seen anyone be. And she just shakes off the compulsion like it’s nothing. I think she’s a half breed…is that what you call people who aren’t all cat? But I really don’t know. She could be a mountain goat for all I can get from her.” “I’m sure you’d know if she was a goat or not. Now, who is she?” Emma said she was still trying to work that out, but she did ask him to talk to her. “Talk to her about what? I’m assuming that you’ve arrested her or had her arrested?” “No. She did nothing wrong as far as I’m concerned. She’s free to go, but she just sits there staring at her lap like it’s got all the answers. The most I’ve gotten out of her is that the man that Aunt George knocked out is her father, and that didn’t come from her but from him. And let me tell you, he’s not shut up since he woke up. I have never met two people that are more ill-suited to be related in my life. She just calmly sits there while he spouts off about suing us and having your aunt arrested for poor treatment of him. Bastard. But I can feel her fear, Mason. She’s terrified of something or someone.” He asked her if she thought it was her. “I didn’t do anything to her. And if that were the case, why save me?” “I’ll talk to her, but I don’t know if I’ll have any more luck than you did. If she throws off the compulsion, she might belong to another alpha. Or has pledged to one. Whatever the reason, she should have let us know she was here and how long she was staying. It’s the law of our kind and she should have known that.” He was shown to the room she was in and turned to Emma when she started to go in with him. “This might be better if you let me handle her. I’m not sure what might happen, and if she shifts again she’s going to pull both our cats, and that won’t be good.” “Don’t hurt her.” Mason turned to look at her before he opened the door. “Just…trust me on this when I tell you that she’ll drive you to want to hurt her, but don’t. There is something profoundly sad about her that I don’t think she’s handling as well as she’d like to think she is.” “Even though you don’t know her, you can feel this from her.” Emma nodded. “Are you thinking that this man, her father, should be brought in as well? I mean for me to talk to?” “Oh yeah, that’s a given. But for now, I think you should just go easy on her. And you should know that your aunt is looking into some things. She said that she could smell Calendar on her, the guy at the restaurant that you had words with the other night. I think she might have had a run-in with him too.” He grinned. The man had been making passes at his staff and then taking away some of their checks for no good reason other than they’d not have sex with him. Mason had fun showing him the error of his ways. Zach had even helped him. “This is no time to tell me how proud you are of yourself. You could have hurt that man.” “But I didn’t, and I’m pretty sure that when he finds out who my aunt is related to, he’s going to be falling all over himself to help her.” Emma only sighed heavily. “What is it, Emma? This girl, what is it that has you so worked up?” “I have no idea. For all I know she could be this terrible person who runs over small dogs in her free time. But there is something about her that makes me want to protect 

her.” He moved away from the door and took her into his arms. “Just don’t let her get hurt, Mason. By you or anyone else. For all her stubbornness, I think I like her. And she saved me from having to explain to you why I got hurt.” Kissing her again, he went to the door and let out a long breath. He was sort of nervous if he was honest with himself, but he opened the door and moved into the room.  A man was standing behind her, another cop…a wolf that he knew from the local pack. She didn’t look up when he came into the room, but he could see by the stiffness of her body that she knew just who he was. Either that or she was bracing herself for pain. Either way, he had to take charge right now. “Do you know what I am?” She nodded but didn’t lift her head. “Look at me when I talk to you.” As her head lifted, he could see the blood on her face. He didn’t see a cut, but there was enough blood there to tell him she’d been hurt. Walking to her, he lifted her chin up and saw that her nose had been bleeding recently, and wondered if it was from when Emma had been in here. Fighting compulsions, especially from a leader, was hard on a person. Telling the cop to go and get her a wash cloth, Mason sat down in front of her. “Tell me who you are.” He could see her fighting him. Christ, she was strong, and when she shivered he knew that she’d won this round. “Tell me who you are now. And what that man at the hotel wanted from you.” She lost, but at great cost to herself. The blood at her nose from the pain of what she was doing wasn’t all that happened to her. When she looked at him, he could see the anger too. She’d also bitten her lip through, and the swelling was making his heart pull. “Susan Benjamin.” He didn’t think she was going to answer all of his questions, but she put her hands on the table and glared at him. Instead of pissing him off, Mason found himself liking her. “I’m not an ex-con, and that man, my father, will kill me as soon as I’m set free. If he doesn’t do the deed himself, I will do it for him because I’m not going to do what he wants.” Reaching for Emma, he let her know what she’d said about not being an ex-con and asked her to look into it. He looked at the girl. “What are you doing in this town without telling me who you are and why you are here?” He could see the confusion on her face, so he explained. “I’m the leader of this leap, and by law you have to report to me, or whoever is in charge, of your presence.” “Why?” He really didn’t know for sure why, but he knew it was law. “Not that it matters. I’m going to move on as soon as I’m sure that Ernie is going to be under lock and key for a while.” “Ernie would be your father?” She nodded and wiped the blood off her upper lip. “You’d not hurt if you’d just answer the questions instead of being stubborn. You know that, don’t you?” “Fuck off.” He nearly laughed at her but only just caught himself. “Am I in trouble? Can I leave? Or are you going to keep me here under some trumped-up charges for killing that fuck?” 

“The other cop?” She didn’t even blink in his direction. “I have no control of what happens to you about the wolf you killed. His alpha is coming in here to talk to you as well. If he has any kind of punishment in mind, I can take care of that for—” “No. You stay out of it. That would be between the two of us, nothing to do with you.” He nodded, but knew as surely as he was sitting there with her that he’d intercede on her part. “What happens to Ernie?” “I don’t know. I’m not a cop, nor do I try and interfere with their laws.” The snort coming from Susan had him covering his mouth. She really was about as stubborn a person as he’d ever met. “What were you doing there? I mean, why are you here?” “Didn’t she tell you yet?” He leaned back in his chair and asked her who. “Your wife. The mayor. I’m assuming that as soon as you told her that I’m not an ex-con and what my name is, she got right on that. But let me tell you now. I’m moving on as soon as I find out where Ernie is and how long he’s going to be there.” “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” She glared harder. He had no idea why he’d said that she couldn’t leave just yet, and was afraid she’d ask him. “You broke the law, and even if you weren’t aware of it, you still did it. There will be repercussions for your actions, and as soon as you’re free from here, you’ll report to me.”  Mason stood up, and so did she. She was tall, nearly as tall as him. And he had a feeling that her cat was going to be big as well. He was going to have to ask Emma. When she did nothing more than stare at him, Mason had a sudden thought. She was terrified. “What will you have me do? Be tied to a post while you beat me? I won’t take it again. Or do you plan to put me in a cell, lock me away for another five years? If that’s your plan, then I’d prefer that you fight me and kill me.” Mason was so shocked by her words that he did not do or say anything. “I won’t be treated that way again. Do you hear me? I’m not going to live if you do that.” When she leapt at him, it was all he could do to keep her from hurting him. When he flipped her to her back and held her down with his weight, he thought for sure she was going to shift. He stopped her with a single command. And when she stilled, he watched her.  “You thought that if you attacked me, I’d kill you. Was that your grand plan? To have me kill you so that whatever kind of thoughts are going on in your head wouldn’t happen?” She only stared up at him. “Answer me, damn it. I’ve had a shitty morning so far, and you’re so not helping it.” Nothing. Not a single word passed her lips, and he could see what it was costing her. When he commanded her again, just to see how far he could push her, she passed out, and Mason felt that this was only the beginning of the feud between them. For some reason, he was looking forward to it. Calling to the guard to have her taken to his home, he hoped to Christ he wasn’t making the biggest mistake of his life. Or that of his family if she decided to take some of her anger out on them. But he had a feeling that once tamed, she was going to be a hell of an ally. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Phillip By Kathi S Barton Release Blitz & Winner Announced 11/16/15

Phillip Lanning is beyond tired. The jobs they’ve been doing with their search and rescue company are just draining him. He needs a break and isn’t sure how to tell his brothers that he’s burnt out. When Nic appears in his apartment to tell him of another mission, this one happens to be his mate, and she’s sick to boot, Nic tells him that the only way she’ll live is if he converts her into a leopard. She doesn’t have much time left. Phillip doesn’t know what to think.
Charleston Grant, better known as Charlie, knows her days are numbered. The tumor’s pressing on her optic nerve and the doctors aren’t giving her long. And when she fell into possession of a coded book, she and her mom became a target. Charlie just wants to get her mom to safety before she dies. Nic tells her he can help her with that, to go with the Lannings and everything will work out.
When Charlie wakes, she knows something is off. She was supposed to die, but instead she can see. And the story she gets about shifters and immortality has her head spinning. Not to mention finding out that her mother isn’t really her mother and her life to this point has been one big lie. And the woman she’s been protecting has sold her out…Charlie is at her wits end. Now a surprise visitor, a fate, shows up and says that Charlie and Phillip were never supposed to meet…she had gone to great lengths to make sure of it…now both Charlie and Phillip are pissed. Who does this woman thinks she is?

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Chapter 1
 Phillip moved through the apartment without seeing anything. He was exhausted and he hurt. Going up the stairs to his bed seemed like too much effort, so he just stripped down to his boxers and sat on the couch. He felt the man in the room before he closed his eyes. “You should take better care when you are home alone, young Phillip.” Phillip didn’t even bother answering Nic. “I could have killed you and been gone before you even sat down.” “I’m too tired to fuck around right now, Nic. Go away.” The room brightened with light from the fireplace and he glared at the man. “Are you really going to make me pay attention to you? Have you any idea how tired I am right now?” “I do, and yes. You must pay attention to me. It is very important.” Phillip got up and moved to the kitchen, snagging a pair of pants from the laundry basket as he moved by it. He had no idea if the stuff was clean or not, but he didn’t want to talk to Nic half-naked. “Trouble is brewing. And I fear that you are going to be hurt most of anyone.” “What else is new? I’m so tired right now all I want to do is sleep. I’m beginning to hate this job, if you want to know the truth.” He opened his refrigerator and closed it quickly. “I think I forgot to dump stuff before we left this time.” “It is fine now.” Nic sat at Phillip’s table and a glass of something appeared in front of him. Phillip opened his refrigerator again and wasn’t surprised to find it not just fully stocked, but cleaned of all the old stuff as well. He took out the tray of luncheon meats and went to find a loaf of bread. “We have been searching for Grant for you. There is something that you should know. Plenty…but for now, this will be very important to you and your family.” “I’m sure, but right now unless it’s a matter of life or death, just give me the highlights.” Nic nodded and watched him as he put together four thick sandwiches. It was really too much for him, but he knew that Nic would help him out. After getting a large glass of water, he sat down and handed one of the sandwiches to Nic. “Tell me while I eat.” “Charleston Grant is not dead as we have assumed. Hiding, but not dead. There are others still searching for…Mr. Murphy was not the only one that has been looking. Charlie is human, and as far as I can tell, never had any encounters with non-humans.” “What do you mean, as far as you can tell? Have you seen him?” Nic smiled and shook his head. “What does that mean? You don’t smile like that unless you know something very creepy. Not that much of what you do isn’t sort of on the creepy side, but right now I’m too tired to figure it out.” “I do not know what you mean about being this creepy person. As for what I know about Charlie, as she tells people to call her, it is very little. Not by that name anyway.” Phillip nodded and had taken a large bite of his sandwich when what Nic had said occurred to him. Choking on the bread and meat, he had to take several deep breaths before he was able to dislodge it from his throat before he looked at Nic again. “She?” Nic nodded and smiled again. “Charleston Grant is a female? You’re sure about that?” “I do know the difference between a female and male, young Phillip.” Phillip nodded, not sure he wanted to know anything else about this woman. “She will need to come here, and soon. It is…it will be important to all that she is here and safe.” He wasn’t going to ask. Phillip didn’t want to know. Not really. She was someone’s mate, he just knew it. When Nic got up and poured him more water from the sink, Phillip wanted to ask him for something stronger but didn’t. He wanted a clear head. “Daniel let it be known that she had his book. And those men are after her. Her business was quite successful. She has a great deal of money on hand, all of it cash, and she can hide for as long as she wishes. However, she’s not very good at it and someone has let them know where she is. They are closing in on her now and she will be out of options soon. Not just from the men who are hunting her, but other things as well.” Phillip asked him what they had to do with it and regretted the question as soon as it left his mouth. “She cannot die. You need her.” “She’s my mate then.” It wasn’t a question, but Nic confirmed it anyway. “I didn’t think you’d be able to tell me that. I mean, I guess I just thought you’d let me find out on my own. Fumble around a little until we fall into the bed and then in love.” “It will not work that way with you.” Phillip got up to put his dinner on the sink and turned to stare at his friend as he continued. “Charlie will need special care from you. A great deal of it from everyone. She does not see.” “You mean she’s blind.” Nic shook his head no, then yes. “I don’t understand. How can she not see?” “I’m not sure how to explain it. I’ve never run into this kind of problem before.” Phillip didn’t know either, and if Nic didn’t, then it was going to be something he wasn’t sure he was going to understand. “She is ill. Very much so. Not from the running, but an illness. I have helped her a little, but she will need you to convert her so that she might live. Her mother is with her now.” “You think that will save her? And make her see?” Again, he said he didn’t know. “This is not the least bit helpful, you know that, right?” Nic stood up and stretched. “I did not want you not to have the opportunity to fumble around some. But I must go to her now. She is in danger as we speak. You and Misha, you will need to go and get them. Bring them here as soon as possible.” When he disappeared, Phillip cleaned up his kitchen. He was currently house hunting, having decided that after seeing how much fun his brothers were having in their homes. Living in an apartment wasn’t really something that he was enjoying. His neighbors could be heard at all times, and that was driving him nutty. Phillip wondered if he should wait until his mate came to…. “Well, fuck.” Sitting down, he stared off into the living room, which was darkened now that the gas fireplace was off, and thought about what Nic had told him. His mate was the elusive Charleston Grant, and she was sick. He knew nothing more about her other than…well, even that was an unknown to him. How she was ill. His cell phone ringing in the living room had him go to where he’d dropped his pants and answer it on the third ring. Misha didn’t sound all that happy either. “Nic was just here. Motherfucker scared the shit out of me showing up like he did.” Phillip told him he’d been there as well. “Did he tell you about this Charleston person and the mom? That they were in trouble? And that we’re going to have to help them?” Phillip wondered if he’d told his brother about her being his mate and decided to wait and see. “He said that Grant would have to come to the compound to be safe. You suppose that he might be wrong?” He was hoping but knew that Nic was right. “No. He told me that you and I would have to go and get them. That they’re in some deep shit. I don’t mind telling you that I want something to go normal for a change. Normal would be good.” “I agree.” Phillip knew then that Misha didn’t know anything but what the rest of them knew. “When does he think we should go?” “In the morning. He’ll be here at nine to pick us up. I guess that Thomas is going to go too, to help with bringing him here. I guess he’s sick or something. Did he tell you what from?” Phillip told him that he’d not said. “I guess you should stay here then, for a little while anyway. Just to help keep this guy safe.” Phillip didn’t think that once he saw the woman that he’d be able to go anywhere, but said nothing like that to Misha. After a little more conversation about what time he was going to be there, they hung up. Phillip turned on all the lights in his small apartment and looked around. This place was much like his other brothers’ homes. Not the married ones, but the single ones. Andrew prided himself on the fact that he only had a bed in his place, and nothing more than a stool that he ate at the counter with. There was a fridge, but he was pretty sure that he’d never even plugged it in since it had been delivered a few weeks ago. Phillip knew that if he went out on the deck at Andrew’s place, he would see that the only thing that was out there was a big box with his grill inside, and nothing else. He’d not even bothered putting that together. Rider might have had a little more stuff fixed up, as he actually lived in a house and not an apartment. It was being built now and as rooms were finished, Rider was living in them. Phillip thought it was crazy, but then it was Rider. Rider would have hated living in boxes because it was something that he could control by emptying them, but he’d be no more set up in anything other than a bachelor pad than Phillip or Andrew. There would be nothing on the back of the couch, no throw blanket like those that were forever on the backs of Misha’s and the other two married brother’s couches. And he’d bet anything that even though Rider had a house, there wouldn’t have been any kind of decorations left over from Christmas. He would have put that crap away the day after. Much like Phillip had done. Phillip decided to go online while he was already awake and make a better effort toward getting him a house. Or a mate a house. He wondered if he should get one on a single level or…Christ, he didn’t have any idea, but looked anyway. Just as the sun was coming up, he’d marked four of them. Two he really liked, one he was so-so about, but the fourth one was the one he really wanted. It wasn’t too far from his family’s homes, and he thought the acreage was perfect for him and the rest of them should they come over to run. There was even a lovely lake on the property that had a boat house as well as a boat should he want to purchase it. Leaving a note for the realtor, he made his way to the bedroom to shower and change. Wondering what one should wear to meet their mate for the first time, he pulled out a pair of jeans, his usual mode of dress, as well as a Lanning tee-shirt. Going back to his closet, he changed it out for a nice button down and turned on the water in his bathroom. While the water heated up, he looked in the mirror. He’d been beaten around this time, more than the rest, when he’d gone into the water to catch the body that had been floating down the fast moving water. The cuts and burses on his body would heal as his broken rib had already. He was alive, and thanks to a little extra magic from his brother and his wife, Phillip would live for a very long time. But Phillip was, like he was pretty sure Carter was, sick of the depressing assed job all together. The accident up the river had dumped several bodies into it, and there had still been three missing when he pulled the older man out. It was better than the twenty-six that had been missing before they’d gotten there. But Misha had told the people they were done in and had to leave. It wasn’t like them to leave before all were accounted for and Phillip, like the rest, had been surprised by the move. Until they got on the plane. “I talked to Linyah and she said it was done. There would be no finding the bodies simply because they weren’t there. It was a scam.” Rider had asked him what he meant. “Two men are claiming their spouses were on the bridge when it collapsed. They’re hoping to get in on the money that is going to be flowing when the attorneys get started on this.” Phillip had been shocked. Not as much as Murph had been, but then she was new to this kind of search and rescue. And being a former cop, she’d wanted to go and find the men and have them brought to justice. Thomas assured her that it was being taken care of, and Phillip was sure that it was. Phillip was nearly to his brother’s house an hour later when he heard from his realtor on the house that he wanted. He could afford it, no problems. But he would not pay the asking price if he didn’t have to. The realtor agreed with him, pointing out that rarely did anyone ask what they really wanted for a house. “Let me do some talking and I’ll get back to you sometime today. I have some insider information on the house and it’s been on the market for some time. I will tell you that the owners are very motivated to sell, and perhaps we can get a much better price.” He told her to do what she could. Pulling in the drive, he assured her that he’d be available if she needed him. Before he left Misha’s with Nic and Thomas, he asked Hannah to look into the address of the house he was interested in. He wanted some first-hand knowledge on the place, and even some reassurances that the place wasn’t a total mess. She assured him that she would, and Max said that he would as well. The little guy was going to hang out with them today, as Murph and Carter had some things to look into about her dad’s estate. Phillip wasn’t looking forward to this. ~~~ Charlie felt the air around her move gently and tilted her head back to feel the sun on her face. It wasn’t like her to be idle, but she knew that she was being watched right now and let herself relax. Her mom would never do anything to hurt her. Nor would she let anyone hurt her. But they’d been on the run for a while now, and she just knew when they were being observed now. “You should know that men…four of them…are coming toward us.” Sitting up, she tilted her head. “To your left, love. Just beyond us about twenty feet or so. I have my gun out, so you know.” “Don’t shoot them yet, all right?” Her mother would shoot them, too, if they made a false move. “It might be that guy I was telling you about. He’s really tall and his hair is fairly long.” “I think it’s him. He’s with three other men. One of them is big, like strong big. The other two are as well, but younger. Those three are related. They look too much alike not to be.” Charlie knew that the two of them were safe. For now. But in a few days, less more than likely, they’d have to move again. Nic had assured her that they were being cared for and that no one would bother them. She didn’t have any idea why she trusted him, but he’d helped her with a few things and she had it in her head and heart that he was one of the good guys. And he’d promised her that he’d watch over her mom when things were settled in a couple of days too. Charlie had had enough of the pain in her head and wanted it to end now. Charlie knew that she only had weeks to live, more than likely less than that if the way she was feeling was any indication. It had been coming on for a while now and she knew, as did her mom, that it wasn’t going to be long. Mom just had no idea how soon it was going to be. The tumor in her head had gone too long without anyone knowing it was there for much to be done about it. And now it was too late. It had taken over the part of her brain that would eventually shut down all her body, and she’d die. Nic had promised her, after the second time he’d come to see her, that he’d make sure that she did not suffer when the time came. Nor would her mom have to see her in that condition. It was the only reason she was willing to meet with these people today. They were going to take her mom to someplace safe. “Mrs. Grant? We’re here to help your son.” The voice was very cultured, and Charlie waited for her mom to correct the speaker. When she didn’t, Charlie started to speak when the man did again. “We’re here to see Charleston Grant. We’ve been told that he’s in some serious trouble that we can help him with.” “It’s a her, Misha.” The other voice, the other brother she assumed, sounded pissed. She wasn’t sure why, but Charlie thought that she didn’t care for the man. “It’s Charlie Grant, and she’s the younger woman, aren’t you?” “I am.” She’d answered him before she could think that she shouldn’t. “And you would be Mr. Lanning? The one that is going to take care of my mom?” “I’m here to see you, yes, and if this is your mom, then she’s welcome to come with us too.” Charlie stood up and felt the shadow of the man tower over her. She was tall, almost six foot, but he felt bigger than her. “I’m Phillip. This is my brother Misha and my other brother Thomas. And I’m to understand that you know Nic.” Nic touched her shoulder, and she heard a soft growl. Charlie felt the hair on her arm dance at the sound and wondered what the hell that was. Before she could ask, Nic was laughing and letting her go. “Charlie? What do you mean, he’s to take care of me? I do not need taking care of, young lady. I’m very capable of taking care of myself.” Charlie felt her eyes, useless now that the tumor was pressing against her optic nerves, fill with tears. She was going to miss her mom so much when she died. “Charlie?” “They’re going to keep you safe from Mr. Murphy and his goons. They can do it better than I can now.” Her mother touched her, warm and comforting. “Mom, you know that they’re coming. And when they do—” “He’s dead. Daniel Murphy is long gone, but you’re right that more than just him are after you both.” Charlie hadn’t heard that the bastard had died, but was too busy trying to think how to convince her mom she’d be safer with these men to think about it. When the man spoke again, she knew that he was closer to her, and she felt her body wanting to sway to touch him. “I’m going to…we’re going to take you back to our house and keep you safe.” “I’m not going anywhere but back to the apartment and hide out.” She had more plans, but her mom didn’t have to know that. “So if you’ll take her now, she’ll be fine and safe for me. Nic and I have an—” “I can no longer keep you safe.” She turned to the sound of Nic’s voice. “You will need to go with these men now. Both of you. He will…Phillip will need to care for you both now.” The other man—Misha, Charlie thought the man’s name was—laughed. It wasn’t like he was making fun of her or the situation, but that he’d found something incredibly funny. And for some reason she was pissed about that too. “I will not be going anywhere without you, young lady. I have spoken to you this….” The sound, very distant yet sharp, had Charlie turning her head toward it. She knew the sound…a gunfire report, and something that had been hit. “Mom, where are you?” “Here.” Taking her mom’s hand after fumbling for a precious second, she backed away from the men. “Where is he, Charlie? Can you hear him?” Close was all she knew. The sound—a gun being readied to fire again—made her skin crawl up around her ears. Backing up, she hit something solid behind her and cried out. The arms at her elbows had her pausing. The whispered voice at her ear made her shiver. “Where did you hear it from?” She told Phillip to the north. “All right. I’m going to wrap my arms around your waist and we’re going to move. As one. Your mom is with Misha, and Nic and Thomas have gone to see to whatever it is you heard.” “I can’t go with you. Nic said he’d help me.” The arm at her waist was firm, and she put her hand over it. “Don’t let anything happen to her. She is all I have in the world.” “Not anymore.” She had no more idea what that meant than she did a great many things lately. But before she could ask him what he meant, she felt movement, fast and very dizzying. Holding tighter to the man that held her, she closed her eyes. It didn’t make much difference, but she did feel better for it. When the movement stopped, she held onto the man just a little longer simply because it felt good. He moved his mouth near her ear, and she could have sworn he nibbled on her. Then the heat of his body was gone from hers. The smells were different. She knew that the dump that they were hiding in, her mom and her, was in horrible shape. The smells alone made her think of old abandoned buildings, and even if her mom had not described it to her, she would have known it wasn’t in the best of neighborhoods. But this place did not smell anything like that. Pine, like a Christmas tree, was strong in the air. She could smell vanilla and sugar too, and wood burning in a fireplace. Charlie reached out her fingers to move and touched the man again, and had no idea why she knew it was him. When he curled his fingers into hers, it felt as right as anything she’d ever done before. She pulled her hand from his, and he didn’t fight. “Where is my mom?” He laughed a little, and Charlie felt embarrassed. She’d been sharp and harsh and that wasn’t like her. “Can you please tell me where my mom is? And for that matter, where I am?” “You’re in my brother’s home…Misha’s house. Your mom is here, too, but in a different part of the house. I think she’s with my sister-in-law, Hannah. That would be Misha’s wife.” Reaching out again, she took his elbow when he offered it to her. “We’re in the living room. Right in front of you is a sofa. It’s about three inches to your left.” The warmth of the fire had her moving toward it a little, and he told her to be careful, it was huge. As her toes touched the hearth, she knew he was right…the fire blazing from the area was enormous, and she put out her hands to get warm. It seemed that lately she was never warm enough…or for that matter, rested enough. “Why am I here and not with her?” Phillip said that he wanted to talk to her. “About what? I want to go and see her to make sure that she’s all right before I go.” “And where do you think you’ll be able to go? You can’t see to drive, not that I think your blindness would stop you. I bet given enough time, you’d do just about anything. And since I’m pretty sure that you have no idea where you are, you’re not going to be safe out there once you go. How am I doing so far?” She wanted to hit him, and she was pretty sure he knew it. “Also, as I said, I wanted to talk to you. About what you are to me and what sort of things you might know about my kind.” “Your kind? You mean men?” He told her no, he was more than that. “How did I get here without you driving me here? And I want to see my mom.” Charlie felt weak all of a sudden. It was coming on her more and more often of late, and she reached blindly for something to sit on. The man put his arms around her again and she had no choice but to lean heavily on him. Blood—she knew what it was without being told—poured from her nose. He picked her up suddenly. Charlie might have protested, but she knew she wasn’t getting over it this time. That was another thing, it was taking her too long to recover. Letting her body go, having no choice on that either, she felt herself being swallowed up. She heard the man saying her name, shouting it really, but there was little to nothing that she could do about it as darkness took her away.