Carter The Lanning's Leap series Release Day 5/29/15
Dane Murphy, Murph to her friends, had always been special. Not only smart, she had…abilities. Abilities that would make her a target.
While attending college at fifteen, she’d formed a deep friendship with Rider Lanning. He was the brother she never had and one of the few people she knew she could trust…. They hadn’t spoken in years. How did he know to contact her now? The gunshot wound was bad…she wouldn’t last much longer…. She wanted to tell him that she’d left him everything…the money…the houses…. She was too weak, she lost the connection before she could tell him about the most important thing…take care of her son.
Carter Lanning had withdrawn from his family. The rescue mission where they had to recover a busload of children from a mudslide had taken a toll on him emotionally. He hadn’t expected the little girl he pulled out of the mud to be alive only to die in his arms. She haunted his dreams…she’d called him Daddy and died.
Carter knew that Rider’s friend was in critical condition in their Leap’s medical facility. They had taken her there to keep her hidden from whoever shot her. What surprised him was that the boy Rider had in the cafeteria carried the scent of his mate.
Carter had a mate…and a son. He couldn’t be happier. They would be his forever. They would do as he says and he would protect them always….
“My family are leopards, and not without the means to keep you safe. You’ve met Linyah and the rest of my family. We can help you, but you’re going to have to listen to every word I say from now on.”
Saying nothing, she turned from him. He was an ass and full of himself. If he thought that she’d been just sitting around waiting for him to come along and rescue her and Max, he was dumber than the people who thought she’d give up without a fight.
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Murph sat as still as her wounds would allow her to. She hurt. Not just from the bullet that was still lodged in her belly, but from the other wounds she’d gotten when she tried to get away. Where the hell were the police when you needed them? Then she smiled. She was the fucking police. But as the man who’d shot her in the first place moved by her again, she held her breath and waited for him to turn and see her.
“Listen, Murphy. If you just come on out in the open, things will go a good deal better for you.” He laughed. “I mean, I might be persuaded to just kill you now, instead of later when I’m done with you. I’d love to fuck you so hard you won’t think of how badly I’ve shot you to hell and back.”
Dane Murphy wanted to let him end her, but she knew that was the coward’s way out. She’d been on that end of her life and wasn’t too keen on going back to being a doormat. Not for the last five years and not ever again. Besides, she had someone who needed her, and she wasn’t going to give up that easily.
Taking her hand away from her belly, she looked at her blood as it not just spilled out on the ground but seemed to be running in a steady stream as she sat there. When Conrad Snyder, her would-be killer, moved away again, Murph knew she was close to dying. There simply wasn’t anything left in her. When someone touched her mind, she nearly begged him to come and get her, but he spoke before she could.
Hey, remember a long, long time ago when we were in…what the hell is wrong? Where are you? Mother fuck, is that bastard there with you now? Tell me, Murph. So help me, I’m going to kill him this time. Leave it to Rider to demand rather than to be calm.
Nah. Dad is dead. But it’s not him this time, sad but true. I’m dying, Rider. So nice of you to be with me when I do. I so didn’t want to die all by myself. He cursed again. You’re pretty good at that. I never realized that until now.
Shut up and tell me where you are. She said nothing to him, smiling for the first time in a good long time. All right. Tell me where you are so I can come and get you.
I’m somewhere in Ohio. Right now it eludes me as to the name of the streets I was running down when the man with the gun was shooting at me. She felt the blood pour from her more and moaned. There’s no time to come here. Just…I’m glad that you called or whatever this is called.
I’m coming to get you. A friend of mine is helping me. And Thomas. You remember Thomas, don’t you? She said that she’d not had the pleasure of meeting him. He’s got some scary shit going on.
Rider, just stay back out of this. I know that’s the same as telling you to fucking do it, but really, this guy is out to kill me…well, he wants to see me dead, and I’d sooner not have to worry about you joining me in the afterlife. I do have someone I need for you to go and take care of—
The shadow over her made her move away, but Rider said her name and she tried to focus on his face. When he lifted her up in his arms, her body just seemed to let go and she screamed out her pain. He was talking to her when she calmed a little.
“Where is he?” She told the other man, who she assumed was Thomas, she had no idea. “Do you have anything with his scent on it? Like did you touch him?”
“I’m well aware what having his scent means. And in the event that you haven’t noticed, he shot me, not hung around for a tea and crumpet party.” The pain of being moved took her breath away, and she tried to breathe through the pain. “I think if I throw up right now, I’m going to die. I will anyway, but I was wondering if you could take me somewhere that they could lessen the pain.”
Thomas laughed, and Rider glared at him. Closing her eyes, she tried not to laugh at the sight of them being pissy with each other. She opened her eyes when someone said her name, and looked blurrily at the man in front of her.
“Hello, my dear. My name is Danny Hudson. I’m a doctor to the leap. They brought you here instead of the hospital. They seem to think that whoever did this might want to finish the job they started.” She nodded. Talking was too much effort, but he seemed to understand her just fine. “I’m going to give you something for the pain, and then we’re going to operate on you, all right?”
“Too late for that. Just tell me…where is Rider? He’s my only friend.” Murph must have faded out a bit because the next time she opened her eyes, Rider was there with a surgeon. And he didn’t look old enough to vote despite the scrubs and mask. “Money. I gave it to you. It’s all in a will. The only person I know.”
“You’re going to be fine. Just let them do their work.” When he started to move away, she said his name again. “Murph, you’re going to be just fine. These doctors will fix you up better than new. I promise.”
“Dad isn’t dead. I lied to you.” He nodded, telling her he knew that. “You have to take the money from me and use it for evil. Promise me. You said you would.”
“I promise.” She faded again and opened her eyes as he was talking to someone behind her. “Murph, stop fighting the drugs and let them work on you.”
She was too weak to fight any more and let them take her away. She didn’t even dream and she knew she was gone, and let death take her. That was it, or she’d just been given the best drugs on the street. Nothing had worked this well when she’d been hurt before. But she’d forgotten to tell Rider what she needed from him more than anything in the world. And now it was too late. Hopefully her attorney would do his job.
Rider tried not to pace again. It was pissing off the rest of the family, yet he found that he just couldn’t sit still. Damn it, what the fuck was taking so long? He looked at his mom when she told him to sit down. He sat, but not for long. He had to move. Do something.
“How long have you known her?” Rider tried to wrap his mind around his mom’s question. There was never a time that he didn’t know Murph, it seemed. “I’m assuming that you two are not mates.”
“No. She’s…we were in college together. But she’s a lot younger than me. Eleven years, to be exact. She was taking some pretty hefty classes and I was skimming along on the least I could do.” Rider grinned, remembering when she’d taken him on. “I was
in class, snoring, when someone nudged me. I never knew who it was until this little bitty thing met me out on the lawn after class. Man, she was pissed off. Tore into me like I’d done something to her by napping.”
“You should have been paying attention. Good for her pointing that out to you.” Rider nodded. “But she did more than that, didn’t she? What on earth did she do that has that smile on your face?”
“She hit me. Not girly-like either, but square in the nose with her fist. Then she tossed me over her shoulder and onto the ground so quickly that I never saw it coming.” His mom laughed. “Yeah, at the time I didn’t think it was so funny. But she’d taken me on and told me in no uncertain terms how I was going to conduct myself in class from now on. That some people—she, she said—had paid a good deal of money to learn something, and I wasn’t fucking it up for her.”
“Your second year.” Rider asked his mom what she meant. “When she hit you, you were in your second year. Before Christmas. She straightened you out for me and your grades improved.”
“That’s right.” He sat back on the couch and smiled at the memory. “She’s brilliant—I mean off the charts brilliant—and her education was really important to her. I tried to be mad at her for what she’d done to me, but all I could think of was that she’d taken me on. At the time, I thought of myself as a big deal. She put me in my place.”
“Good for her.” Rider nodded. “And she can contact you? How? Were you and her…were you and she…? Rider, how did you know she was hurt?”
“I didn’t. Not at all. She’s good at that too, and no, I didn’t sleep with her. She was…it was too weird. But we did hang out together until she left college. We were close in other ways, but not sexually.” His mom nodded. “As for her talking to me, I don’t know. She’d been able to do it forever, she told me, to other beings. Humans, too, she told me, and that’s when I figured out it was because she was using a great deal more of her brain than most people did their mouths. Like I said, she’s smart.”
Rider watched the nurses coming and going and his brothers, the single ones, flirting with them. Misha wasn’t there but home with his wife, and Thomas was coming back soon. He was being prepared for his crowning and he’d not been able to leave again.
“I was asking her to be my date to the crowning. I’d not thought of her in years, but when I was unpacking one of the boxes that Thomas gave me, I found an old picture of her and I together at something.” He remembered the night well and smiled at it. “She and I had a pact back then. If we were in a desperate way, we could call on the other to use as a shield. A date, I guess. I was asking her to go to Thomas’s thing.”
“Do you know who shot her?” He told her that he didn’t. “But she was close to dying. That’s why you had her brought here. Do you even know what she does for a living? For all you know, she could be a drug dealer and it went down badly.”
Rider stared at his mom. “You and Hannah need to stop watching so many of those drama things. You’re sounding as bad as she is. And I’m pretty sure that she’s become the cop she wanted to be even back then. She would be the best at it, too. Nothing but black and white for her.”
Danny coming down the hall made him stand up. He looked worried but not stressed, an expression that the man wore daily. When Danny asked them to sit down, he looked like he might fall over instead of simply sitting with them.
“She’s a stubborn little thing, isn’t she?” Rider said she was. “I have her sedated for now, but I have to tell you, had that surgeon from your brother’s place not been there, she’d be dead and not recuperating right now. He did most of the work, and frankly, I was glad to give her over to him. She’s…like I said, stubborn.”
“What happened?” Carter was standing next to his chair when he asked. “I mean, if you had her under, what could she have done to upset you so much?”
“She was under, then not. Then under again. I’ve never seen anyone who could fight off drugs like she can. It must burn through her system like it does us.” Rider nodded, and Danny looked at Carter as he continued. “I’m thinking that whoever shot her wanted her to suffer. The angle of the bullet we took out of her was from close, too close for him to have only hurt her and not killed her right off. You know what I mean?”
Carter nodded but said nothing more. His mom talked softly to Danny, mostly asking about his family as Rider tried to reach out to Murph again. When Carter stood up he did as well, and followed him down the hall and out of the building.
“I have to go away for a few days.” Rider nodded. “I’m sort of…I need some time on my own. I’ll meet you at the castle.”
Carter left him standing there as he walked away. He’d been doing that a lot lately. Just disappearing for days on end, only to return when they needed him. Today he’d wanted to talk to him about it, but this thing with Murph had put him off. He reached for Misha to let him know of his concerns.
I’ve noticed it too. I mean, he’s been acting all weird since we came back from the mission with the children all those months ago. What do you suppose it is? Rider remembered that search. The bus load of children that had been overloaded and had fallen into a ravine. You think he might need to get his head together?
I think we all need that, but there is just too much going on right now. Rider had seen an increase in crimes over the past several months that had made him start carrying a gun. He said that he needed time on his own. Isn’t his apartment in some building that is nearly empty of other people right now because it’s brand new?
He bought the building. I didn’t know that until a few weeks ago. And he said he’s in no hurry to have it filled. Rider was more worried now than he’d been before. He’s never been one to have a lot of friends. Not to say he doesn’t have them, but he’s always been a loner.
Yeah, I know, but even you think this is different. Misha agreed and asked about Murph. She’s doing well now. I don’t think she might have made it had we taken her to the hospital. She was as close to death as I’ve ever seen anyone. Danny said someone shot her from close range, like he wanted her to hurt.
I’m going to have some things looked into about her. Not the public kind of looking, but just general. Anything I should know about the two of you that I might find out? Rider told him what he knew. Good, that’ll help. Also, I’m having the building and this house upgraded with security. I don’t want anyone coming in and catching us off guard. And Hannah has been looking into some retinal scanning for us. You’ll have to get with her to set it up so you can get in. I think it’s a great idea.
He told him he thought so as well. Then he went back into the hospital to wait. It wasn’t any better now than it had been before talking to Misha. Murph had been a great memory in his life, more than he’d thought of until right this minute.
Rider thought of all the things they’d done together. None of it bad, but not much he’d like his family to find out about either. Mostly it was just goofing off, but then they’d both been a good deal younger and Murph had…he thought she’d needed him. But he now knew that he was the one that had needed her. Then he remembered Murph’s dad and contacted Misha again.
She’s got a dad. His name is Daniel Murphy. Not as bad as Hannah’s mom, but right up there. And you do remember that Murph’s name is Dane Murphy, right? She said she had money when we were younger, but I never saw it in her. And she was at one time a cop, I think, or something like that. He smiled. Oh, and you might want to check out a man by the name of Winston James the ninth. He hung with us too. Murph was the only one that could call him Whinny and get away with it.
Why him? Rider had no idea but told him it was a feeling. All right then. And did you say her dad’s name is Daniel and hers is Dane?
Yeah. When you meet him, if you ever do, you’ll understand.
Misha said he’d get on it and closed the connection. Rider went back into the hospital to wait until he could see his friend. He thought about the first time the two of them had sat down and had a serious talk.
She’d been in his apartment and reading one of her countless books. She had suddenly looked up at him and smiled. Rider smiled back but sat down hard when she had started talking.
“You’re a leopard, aren’t you? I mean, you try really hard to fit in, but that’s what you are.” He nodded. “Yeah, I thought so. I’m just a regular human, but I bet you knew that.”
“Yes. You’re very smart and you can manipulate things with your mind, but I think only human.” She asked him why he only thought she was. “Unless I taste your blood, I can’t be sure about anything about you.”
She had put out her wrist to him and he stared at it. “Taste it. I know that we’ll have this better connection and all. Hell, Rider, you know that I can read people’s minds now, so you having the ability to read mine if I let you won’t be so bad.”
“I’ll not just be able to read your mind, Murph, but I’ll be able to find you even if you don’t want me to.” She shook her head. “I will. Your blood will call to me.”
“No, it won’t. It might for the first few hours, but you won’t be able to after that. Something about me shields things like that. My dad had this vampire bite me once so he could keep tabs on me. The vamp thought I was dead a few hours later and came to the house to tell my dad. Surprise to him was that I was sitting with Dad in the living room being…talked too.”
Rider had found out later that she’d meant that she was being knocked around. Her dad had been a real bastard when he was around his daughter. Murph had never told
him all of it, and Rider had asked her a lot. She’d told him it was because she wasn’t taking his shit, but Rider thought it had been more than that. So he’d tasted her blood.
“You’re not just human, are you?” She’d shaken her head and smiled at him. He had felt stupid, like a small puppy that she’d been proud of. “Well, Miss Know-It-All, what are you then? And why did you have me taste you if you knew that?”
Rider knew that he’d hurt her, and when she started stuffing her books into her bag, he’d watched her. At first he thought she’d just tell him to fuck off, her favorite thing to say when she was upset, but she said nothing as she made her way to the door. He stopped her by shoving her against the door with her body in front of his. He remembered thinking at the time how small she was, how incredibly tiny she was to his grown-man size.
“Please don’t. I’m sorry. You’re…I’m jealous, if you want to know the truth. Of you.” She turned then, and he looked down at her. The urge to kiss her came and left him almost in the same breath. The need to protect her, however, never left him, even though he was pretty sure she could do a better job of it than he could. “I’m so sorry I hurt you.”
“You’re jealous of me?” He nodded. “You have this amazing family. Brothers out the ass that you complain about all the time but love to death. A mom that keeps you in line, and she bakes you cookies to send to you. All you need to do is say you’re having a shitty day and one of them comes all the way here just to cheer you up. And you’re jealous of me?”
“You’re smart, have your shit together, and you have an amazing ability to read people. I’m assuming that’s why you want to be a cop.” She nodded. “You know what you want, where to get it, and you are going for it. If you’d not tackled me that day after class I’d be failing, fucking with my education, and disappointing my mom, who, I would like you to know, is my greatest fan. And yours as well if I graduate with honors, now that you’re helping me.”
“You don’t count your mom as a fan, moron.” He nodded, and he saw the tears fill her eyes. “Rider, I don’t know what I am. Why this shit happens to me. Or why I can do half the shit I can do. And now I know that it’s not because I’m so special, but because I’m not human. I didn’t really know…I had a feeling, that’s all, and now you just confirmed it.”
“You really didn’t know?” She shook her head. “Then you…what did you think you were, Murph? You had to have thought something was odd.”
“I just thought that I was really smart.” When she’d started crying, his heart broke for her. She’d been all of fifteen then. A senior in college at the top of her class. Could do things, amazing things with her mind that people would have killed for, and she was still just a kid well out of her element.
Their friendship had only grown from there. They were inseparable. And he’d learned a great deal about himself and what he was capable of too. Rider found out that he was very smart himself. Then one day she’d found him in the dorm and had told him she was leaving. Her face was bruised and she looked like she’d been crying. Taking her into a room that was empty, she told him what had happened.
“My dad. I know you’ve met him a couple of times here, but he’s not the man he projects in public. He’s a monster.” Rider started seeing things, little things that he’d tried to blow off before. She wasn’t just abused but terrified of her father. “He’s not going to hurt me again. I’m going to leave here and grow up. When I do, he can’t hurt me again. I won’t…there is no way I’m going to help him anymore. It’s just not right, any of it.”
“Go to my house. My mom, she’ll protect you.” He knew that his entire family would. “We’ll make sure that he doesn’t bother you again. I’ll call her now.”
“And tell her what, Rider? ‘Hey, family, this is my really nerdy friend, Murph. She can move objects with her mind and can read you better than a book. Oh and by the way, her dad is coming for her because he wants her to tell him the winner of the next few horse races so that he can add even more money to his accounts. Why he needs more is beyond me’.”
“You can tell who is going to win the horse race?” He’d meant it as a joke, but she only put her head on his chest. “Honey, my family really will help you. I promise you they will.”
“And who will help them when he kills me because I won’t do what he says? I’m a minor, Rider. I know you forget that and all because I’m smarter than you, but he has this unbreakable law over me that will get you and your family into trouble.”
She’d pulled away from him then. And the distance had been profound.
“Call me. Tell me that you’re safe, all right?”
“I can’t do that and you know it. But I will contact you. Not a lot; you’ll have women around you all the time in a couple of years.” Murph had turned her back on him as she continued. I love you, Rider. I think you’re the best big brother a girl like me will ever have.
He’d heard from her a few times over the years. Most of it had been just that she was fine and that she missed him. Never once did she tell him where she was or what she was up to, but it was good knowing that she’d survived. And now this. He wondered had he not tried to contact her, would she have died that night? He was sure of it, and really sort of depressed about it.