Monday, May 30, 2016

Burke Bentley Book Four Release Blitz 5/30/16

Burke Bentley's decision to quit the hospital and go into practice with his brother was the best decision he'd ever made. With the daily pressures gone, he could do what he loved to do most --be a doctor.

Piper Cordale, Pip to her friends, just wanted to bust her friend out and go. She didn't handle people well and needed to be on her way, but fate had other things in store for her. Her friend's gorgeous doctor, Burke, insisted that he was her mate. Pip didn't have a mate, nor did she want one. The chore of breathing in and out was hard enough.

But when she saw Burke's nephew, Shane, sitting all alone, she reached out to him, and they formed an instant bond. She was fae and told the boy if he ever needed her, all he needed to do was call out and she'd be there.

When the unthinkable happens, and Shane and his brother Walter are targeted by a madman, can Pip reach his side fast enough? Is she strong enough to save them both?

The Bentleys must band together like never before to protect their young and pray that it's enough....

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                                                    Kathi  S Barton 


Chapter 1
Burke stretched his neck and heard it pop twice before he leaned back in his chair. The ding of his computer, telling him he had an email, didn’t even faze him. He was beyond exhausted, but as happy as he’d ever been in his life. He looked up when he felt someone in the room with him. Nolan smiled as he sat down across from him.
“What did he weigh?” Burke just slid the file over to him without moving much. “Wow, you were almost dead on. Nine pounds, ten and a half ounces. Christ, you might have hit the all-time record with this one.”
“He was a bear to get free.” Burke smiled again. “His daddy is about to bust his shirt, he is so proud. But I have a feeling that Momma is going to be saying no a lot more now that they have a son. Seven little girls and now a boy. I don’t envy that little guy.”
Burke had been worried for a bit when the baby had been breach. But the mom, a tiger, had told him to fix it. Burke did and then twelve minutes later, little Cartwright James had come into the world screaming his head off.
“You’re settling in okay, right? I know it was hard for you at first.” Burke nodded at Nolan and told him he thought he was. “When you came out of your office that first visit, I thought you were having a heart attack.”
“I did too, to be honest. I wasn’t used to people being so frank about why they were there. And then when he showed me his arm and told me that he’d cut it doing something so mundane as chopping wood on his farm, it was all I could do not to call the cops, thinking of foul play.” Burke sat up in his chair when his computer dinged again. “I’ve been getting emails since Monday from the hospital. I’ve only read the first couple of them, but it looks like they’re wanting me to come back at any cost. What do you suppose is going on?”
“I heard from Mom that there was a shake up about some of the surgeons. Something about a rotation schedule. To be honest, didn’t really listen. What are they wanting you to do? Come back part time?” He told him what the one email said. “They want you to come back as chief of the hospital’s emergency room? Wow, there really must be some shit going down. What are you going to tell them?”
“Nothing. I mean, as I said, I’ve not read more than a few of them, but even after the first one, I knew that I’d never go back. I love this job. I like what I’m doing. And I know that I’ve only been doing it for about a month, but I feel like I’ve found my dream job.” Burke heard the computer again and turned off his speakers. “Mom told me that next week we’re going over to her house for a little pre-Thanksgiving test tasting. I have no idea what that even means.”
“It means that she’s going to try and cook up something strange and she wants us to approve it. I hate pre-whatever meals.” Nolan stood up. “I have two more patients tonight, then I’m done. What about you?”
“I’m done. I have a few notes to make, but I have nothing to rush home for just now, and I thought I’d hang a few more things up. I finally got my things out of storage yesterday.” Nolan nodded and told him not to be late tonight. “Nolan? Will you do me a
favor? I’d like to find me a house. Nothing on the scale that you guys have, but something sedate and sort of smallish. Do you happen to know of a realtor, or someone selling?”
“We don’t do smallish and sedate in this family. Haven’t you learned that by now?” Burke was afraid he’d say that. “But it would be my pleasure. Do you have any ideas? Other than I’m assuming close to home?”
“Yes, close to home. I don’t want to build. I have no desire to pick out carpets and wall shit. Just a house I can go to when I want to unwind, as well as a nice yard. Shane gave me a list, but I think the kid has it in his head that all of us Bentleys need giant homes. The two that he showed me were as big as your house.”
Nolan laughed as he made his way out the door. But when he stopped and looked at him, Burke felt his cat run along his skin. “Are you happy, Burke? I don’t mean with coming to work with me, but in general terms, are you happy?”
“I think so. I’m lonely most of the time. Not so much anymore because I can see the family more because I have a better schedule. Did you know that Walter has been popping over a lot? Well, he and Shane sometimes, too. And I’m telling you right now, that car you helped him buy has that kid thinking he’s king of the world. And I guess he comes home from college a little more too since he got it.” He knew he’d not answered his brother’s question, not really, and changed the subject before he could ask him anything else. “I’ll see you at Mom’s at six for dinner. Then maybe we can go on a run if you and Rylee aren’t too busy.” Nolan told him it was a date.
When he was alone, Burke pulled out the boxes that he’d brought in on Monday. Then he got himself a bottle of water and his tool box. He smiled when he looked at the name that was engraved on the top. It had been his dad’s, one that Burke had gotten for him when he’d been about ten. Running his fingers over the crooked letters that spelled out Dad, he thought of his father again.
Burke and his father had been close. Not as close as he and Micah had been, but almost. His dad, Grandda, and he would meet up once a week to go fishing, even if his dad had to miss a little overtime to do it. It had become their time. Then one day, it had only been him and his grandda.
“He loved you.” Burke told Grandda that he knew that. Burke’s father had been killed a couple of years before, right around Thanksgiving. This time of year as a matter of fact. “Didn’t think I’d outlive him, never dreamed of it. And here I am, sitting with my grandson, feeling both our grief overwhelming us.”
“Grandda, I think he knew that he was going to die.” His grandda had nodded but said nothing as they both sat there with their poles forgotten in the water. “He told me that if I did nothing else in life, that I should be happy. No matter if I wanted to be a homeless man. Just so long as I did something that made me feel good and happy.”
“He sure did love what he did.” Burke knew that as well. “My boy Micah told me once that being a cop like I had been was one of his greatest pleasures in life, besides marrying your momma and having you boys. I wish all the time that he’d not been killed and that he was right here with us. I worry about your momma too.”
“She’s really sad. And I hear her crying all the time too.” Grandda had nodded and blew his nose in his handkerchief. “I don’t think she wants to live anymore. Her heart is just too broken.”
“No, but she will. Now she will.”
Burke had heard them talking. Mom was telling his grandma and grandda that she wasn’t fit to be their momma anymore. She didn’t have it in her to want to go on. Grandma had sobbed hard, and Grandda got mad at her. Burke wasn’t sure what had happened after that. He’d been called away by one of his brothers.
And she had gotten better after that. Flourished even more since the grandchildren had come along, as well as the three wives of his brothers. Burke took out the first framed picture and smiled. It was the one they’d taken at the charity event last month, all of them standing in their finest and happy. There were others of them as a family…the babies, as well as Shane, were in them. But this one, the one taken of them sitting at the table all together and smiling when someone asked them to turn to them…Burke thought it was his favorite.
Burke was just putting the nail in the wall for the last framed picture when there was a knock at the door. Telling his assistant, Margaret, to come in, he turned to her when she didn’t speak. The man at the door with a knife to Margaret’s throat had him reaching for not just Micah, but all of his family to tell them what was going on.
You know him? He told Garth that he did not. We’re coming. I’m with Tony, and Micah and Reggie are close too.
The man started talking to him, using Margaret as his shield. “You go over there.” Burke did what he was told and moved with his hands up. “Where is she? I want you to bring her right on out here now.”
“Her who?” When he hit Margaret with the knife butt, Burke felt his cat run along his skin. “I’m trying to be helpful here, but I don’t know who you might be talking about. And that being said, I can’t bring her without that information.”
“Captain McClure. I want her now.” It took him several seconds to remember who he was talking about. Rylee, Nolan’s wife. “You tell her that she needs to come and see what she’s done to me.”
“All right. I’ll do that for you if you let Margaret go. She’s done nothing to you.” He told Nolan what was going on and he asked for the man’s name. “You just tell me who you are and I’ll call her right now. No funny business.”
“You fucking damn well right there won’t be no funny business. I want her here, and if you think I’m giving over this woman, then you’re stupider than them bastards at the hospital.” He told Nolan what he’d said. “My name is Franklin. They won’t treat me no more.”
“What is it you need treating for, Mr. Franklin?” He told him that his first name was Franklin. “All right then, Franklin, what is it that you need treatment for?”
“I got me a wound.” Burke nodded as he made his way to his desk. There was nothing there that he could use against a knife, but he was going to be calm and cool about this. “They said that it’s not nothing they did, so they ain’t gonna help me out.”
“Can I look at it? I’m not sure what you thought that McClure could help you with, but I’m a doctor.” He nodded and held the knife tighter to Margaret throat. “You hurt her and I won’t have anyone to help me treat you. And I won’t, either, if you don’t let her go.”
“She said that we could get fixed up. But that guy down there said no. He said that it wasn’t related to the army.” Burke asked him what place he’d gone. “Down to the new place that has been helping us out. You know, the Micah Bentley place.”
“Yes, I know the place. I work there, as well as one of my brothers. He’s the one that started it.” Franklin looked as if he didn’t believe him. “Nolan, he’s my brother and a good doctor too. He did that for you. And if someone turned you away, I’ll find out why for you.”
“I hurt.” Burke nodded and moved a little closer. Franklin was looking weaker now, his face pale. Burke could feel something wrong with him but not what. It wasn’t until he felt Chris touch his mind that he knew.
He has something on his spine, a cut along with a few other injuries. He had to escape. But to be honest, I don’t know what that means. His mind is all jumbled up. They won’t treat him because he’s got other issues. Mostly that his mind is hurting. They thought him too depressed to help. But the doctor there is being dealt with as we speak. Your mom is there at the clinic now. Burke could almost feel sorry for whoever it had been. Your brothers are nearly there, but I’ve told everyone to wait. You have this under control, don’t you, Burke?
He told her he hoped so, but to send in Rylee if that was okay with Nolan. The man was a human, and he might not know that he was a panther. Instead of pretending to use the phone, he told him that he’d contacted his brother.
“I want McClure here. She told me I’d be all right.” He told him how he was related to her. “Oh. Then she’s coming here?”
“Yes, but I won’t let her come in here until you let Margaret go. You’re scaring her, and I really like her. I need her to work with me.” Franklin said he was right sorry. “I know you are. Just let her go and I’ll have a look at your back. Then when Rylee gets here, you can talk to her.”
He staggered back from Margaret, who turned and slapped Franklin. When he just stood there, his face looking sort of sad, Burke asked her to set up a room for them. She nodded once and started out of the room.
“You do something like that to me again, Franklin, and you will think that Rylee is sweet on you when I’m finished with your old body.” Franklin looked at him when Margaret left the room. “Rylee is on her way.”
“I think that nurse is mad at me.” Burke nodded. “I want you to know that I only came here on account’a I knew the Captain was here sometimes. I heard tell that she hangs out here. Guess nobody knew that she had herself a husband that worked here too.”
“She’s married to my brother, Nolan.” He knew he was repeating himself, but Burke was trying to get his thoughts together. When Margaret came back to say that Rylee was here, Burke put out his hand. “I want the knife. And any other weapon you have on you. I’ll not have you trying to hurt her when’s she’s done us both a favor.”
“I like her.” Burke said he did as well. And when he put the knife in his hand, he asked him if there was more. “They took it from me when I went to the hospital once. Said I was unfit to carry any more. I was fit to carry when I had a bullet in me and they was needing me overseas, but now that I need to get some help, I’m unfit.”
“You come on along then and we’ll work in this.” He saw Rylee just as he was guiding Franklin into the room. He asked for one minute and she nodded. Burke went in and saw that Margaret had gotten his shirt off already. Burke wasn’t prepared for what he saw on the man.
Pip searched up and down the long building, trying her best not to cry. Franklin had been missing for four days now, and she was sure that he’d been arrested again or murdered. When the young man who had been trying to keep up with her finally did, she asked him again if he’d heard that he was here.
“His name isn’t on the list, miss. You said he could write, and he’s just not there.” She’d been confused by that when he’d asked her if he could write his name. He explained that there were plenty of men there that could not. “Mrs. Bentley is with the doctors now or I’d ask them if they—miss, you can’t go in there.”
She’d seen the room earlier where a bunch of people were closed off in a room. Pip knew they were mostly doctors and other staff. Why they were having a meeting now was sort of mind boggling to her since there were people everywhere that needed help. But she was missing the only man she’d ever loved, and one of them had to know where he was.
The door opened easily. She’d been sure it would have been locked. And when she walked in, she almost had the feeling that they were expecting her. Which wasn’t possible, as she’d only just gotten into town. A woman sitting at the head of the table was laughing, but the older woman who looked to be in charge just stared.
“I’m trying to find out if my uncle has been here. I heard from someone at the VA that he’d been...well, he escaped. They’re not very good at keeping him safe, and I’ve tried my best to get them to understand that he hates to be tied down, but they don’t listen. I’ve had to take on two jobs as well as move here to try and get him to be signed over to me.” She looked around the room. “I’ve shared too much. But I need to find him.”
“What’s his name?” She told the older woman. “Ah. We were just talking about him. Come on in, dear, and have a seat. And so you know, we know just where he is and he’s in good hands.”
“I want to go to him. Now if you don’t mind.” The woman nodded but didn’t move. “Perhaps you didn’t get it. I want to go get him and take care of him. Wherever he is, it can’t be safer than when he’s with me.”
“He’s with my son, Burke, who is taking care of him. He broke into Burke’s offices and demanded to see a woman by the name of Captain McClure. That would be my daughter-in-law, Rylee.” She asked what this man was doing for him. “He’s a doctor. Burke said that he’s doing some minor surgery on him now, and that he’d have him brought here in about thirty minutes.”
Before she could think that she was light headed, she was sitting in a chair with her head between her knees. The shoes in front of her were expensive and looked comfortable. For a moment she wondered what it would cost to have something like that, and heard someone laugh. Pushing against the hand that held her, she looked at the face of the younger woman that had been seated.
“You all right now?” Pip nodded. “Here, you drink this juice and I’ll tell you what I know. Franklin Bradshaw was here earlier today. And yesterday, from what we’ve been able to piece together. He was turned away both times.” Pip emptied the tall glass of orange juice and realized it was fresh with pulp, the best kind.
“Why? I mean, you have your doors open for anyone, correct? Not that he should have been out and about on his own, but I thought this place was for people like him, vets.” The woman nodded. “I’m Piper Cordale, everyone just calls me Pip.”
“Chris Bentley.” Pip looked around then back at the woman. “Yes, my family owns and runs this place. That’s why we’re taking care that your uncle gets the best care now and that the people who turned him away are dealt with. Not everyone is cut out for helping the lost.”
“I’ve been trying to help him, but he’s a lot to handle. I suppose he’d say the same thing about me.” Chris nodded. “And you should know that I’m not his niece but his friend. For some reason it’s easier to get someone to listen to me when I say that I’m related to him. Franklin hasn’t anyone left, and I’ve been trying to make things easier for him.”
“At what cost to you?” Pip said nothing but played with the condensation on the now full glass. “Does he know what you are?”
“No. I don’t think so. I mean, he might have at one time, but his mind is a little fuzzy at time on details.” Chris said nothing. “That other woman, she said that her son was working on him. Can you tell me what happened to him?”
“He was injured when he tried to get away from the hospital. Burke said that in addition to the wound at his back, he also had bruising around his wrists and ankles. He said it looked to him like they tied him down.” She said they had to at times to keep him from hurting himself. “No, that’s not why they do it and you know it. It’s why you’re trying to get him to come live with you. Please don’t lie to me, Pip. We won’t have a good relationship if you do.”
Pip looked at her. “I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I really don’t think we’re going to be best of buds, do you? I mean, you know as well as I do that I’m broke.” Chris cocked a brow at her. “Yes, I know what you are and who you are. And I’m also pretty sure you can read my mind. Not that I have much in the way of secrets. But if you want to know something then don’t rape my mind. Ask me.”
“All right. And the only thing that I got from your head was about my shoes. By the way, they’re very comfortable. When I touched you, all your emotions came to me and I can’t stop those. Also, I wanted to make sure that you were all right as well.” Pip nodded. “You’re not, are you? All right, I mean.”
“No. I have issues as well. Chronic Major Depression, or CMD as my file says on it. It’s what brought the two of us together all those years ago.” Chris asked her how. “I was
ready to jump. I had no idea he was there as well, on the building I mean. And when I lifted my hands off the railing that I’d been holding onto, he grabbed me from behind. No matter how much I fought him to be let go, he hung onto me like it was his business. I wasn’t able to shake him for another year and a half.”
“But that didn’t stop you, did it?” Pip pulled her sleeves down over her wrists and said nothing. “Franklin told Nolan that you were his niece just now. He asked me to have you be there when they come in.”
“Is he going to be all right?” Chris said that he was now. “I need him in my life as much as he does me, I guess. If anything were to happen to him.... I just don’t want anything to happen to him, that’s all.”
“Is it what you are that has you so depressed?” Pip just shrugged as she emptied the glass of juice again, only to have it full when she sat it on the table. “If you want something different, I can get it for you.”
“Cranberry.” The glass, which had been full of orange juice, was now filled with a dark red, blood like juice. Picking it up, Pip moaned as the flavor and the richness rolled over her tongue. Almost as soon as she set the glass down, it was full again. “Thank you.”
“You could have done it on your own.” Pip just shook her head. The depression, coming in waves more and more lately, nearly had her falling to the floor. But a touch from Chris and she could feel it dissipate. Not leave her; there was only one way for that to happen, but it did lessen a little. “How long have you been off your meds?”
“Five years, six months, and twenty-nine days. Since I lost my insurance, along with my job, when I couldn’t function at work when they fucked with my dosage. It happens at times. The place where I got my medicines wasn’t the best of places, and I don’t think they got the dosages just right when I picked them up. It had happened before.” Pip smiled at Chris. “I guess it’s what you are that makes it so I can’t lie to you.”
“No, you don’t want to lie to me.” Chris stood, and so did Pip. “They’re here. Nolan, my brother-in-law, is with Burke and would like for you to hang back a little until they get Franklin in a room. He’s afraid that if you show, he’ll get upset again.” Pip nodded. “Rylee is with Franklin as well. He knows her from the service.”
“His boss, I guess.” Pip sat down again when Chris told her she’d be back. The glass filled when she’d emptied it again. She was going to be buzzing soon if she didn’t stop. But as a faerie that hadn’t had any for a while, she was getting it while the getting was good. And she had a feeling that despite what Chris had hinted at earlier, she’d not be seeing the grand witch again.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Landon Justice Series book Four Release Day 5/16/16


Landon Logan is a man haunted by a tragedy that he blames himself for but didn't do. No one can convince him otherwise--especially his well-meaning Grandda who happens to be dead. Landon is a necromancer.

Dillon Malone has a few abilities of her own. She can "find" things by touching the owner or touching something the owner has touched. This makes her a wanted woman.

Landon is so angry at his good-for-nothing parents that he storms out of their house with their maid in tow. Dillon is happy to leave with this brooding young man and soon discovers that the handsome hunk is her other half.

Dillon's happiness is short lived when her past reaches out to bite her, and she and Landon become pawns in her father's evil scheme. When Dillon's father has Steele's new baby kidnapped, all bets are off.

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Chapter One 

Landon could see the people below him walking around the quad like nothing was going on. There was a lot going on so far as he could see, and it made him nuts to think that no one else in the world could see and hear what he could. He glanced over at the letter he’d gotten from his parents’ attorney this morning and then back out the window. Happy birthday to me, he thought.
It occurred to him then, and not for the first time, that he should just jump. End his life. It wasn’t much of one…even at nine he knew that. And now...he figured that everyone might be a little better off if he did. He knew now that his parents thought so. They seldom, if ever, had anything to do with him other than to tell him what a disappointment he was to them, and that they wished they’d given him away as soon as he took his first breath. They certainly knew how to make him feel good. Picking up the letter again, he read it aloud.
“I’m to inform you, Landon Michael Logan the Sixth, that your parents have taken steps to not allow you back into the family home. Should you try, you will be arrested on sight. If you attempt to contact my clients, you will be arrested and charged with trespassing. They have, in their words, written you out of their lives.
“Provisions have been made for your care. You will be allowed to finish your school years there at the academy, and so long as your grades are not below par, you will continue to have money in your account should you need it, but this is limited to what they feel is necessary, not you. Tuition, as well as your books, will be paid for out of that fund as well.
“At this time you have not been taken out of their will. They feel that doing so will make it so that, should they pass away too soon, you will not be cared for in a manner in which they have said. In addition, they feel it would be an embarrassment to their good name should they cut you out without anything and people were to find out about it. But there are rules that apply to you for the rest of your youth that you must abide by, or there will be nothing. You will not, however, inherit anything from their estate.”
Landon knew that his name, or that of his parents, would have opened any doors for him should he want it to. But for him, it had only been a name. Nothing much to brag on, and certainly nothing prideful about it as with other families he’d seen at school since he’d been here. As long as he didn’t ask for or expect any comfort or love from the two people in the world who were supposed to provide it for him, Landon had hoped that they’d forget about him. Apparently, they had not. His father was abusive, both physically as well as verbally, and his mother a tyrant, only out to get what she could from others and never give a dime back, even when it was expected of her. His parents were the perfect couple for each other as far as Landon was concerned. Picking up where he left off, he read the rest of the letter.
“At that time you turn eighteen you will be given a lump sum of cash. This money will be all that you will receive from the estate. You will not under any circumstances tell anyone of this settlement, nor will you ask for more. There simply is nothing for you.
Then when you are twenty-five you will receive the rest of your money as has been willed to you by your grandfather. In the event that your parents should die at any time before the dates mentioned in this letter, this accounting will be carried out by their attorney and there will be no more funding after such time. At this time, you are their child in name only. A full accounting of the rules will come to you when it is time.”
If they died? He was pretty sure that they would if any of the things around him were any indication. There were dead walking around all the time. Landon looked over at the man who was standing there staring at him. His grandfather, he’d told him the first time he’d come to him, was the only man in the world that Landon had ever trusted.
“They disown you?” Landon nodded. “Selfish shits. What do they think you’re going to do as a kid? Find you a job or something? Not likely. I didn’t leave them that money...I didn’t leave it so they could be cold and heartless to you.”
“I’m pretty sure they think they have enough reasons. You know what kind of person I’ve been.” His grandda, a Landon too, only shook his head. Landon looked out the window again and continued. “I’m thinking of joining you. I just don’t know what I have to live for anymore. I think Mother and Father would be much—”
“You’ll do no such thing. Why do you want to go and do something stupid like that? You think they’re going to mourn you? They will not. They’d have to have a heart to do that, don’t you think?” Landon said he was tired of it all. “Yeah, I know that feeling. Got me a terrible case of the tiredness until I realized that you could see and have a nice conversation with me. What am I to do if you’re not around? Now that I got you here and I’m not ready to stop talking to you as yet.”
Landon watched a boy he knew running across the quad, with a bunch of the older boys chasing him. Two weeks ago that had been him. Since then he’d been hiding out in his room, only leaving when he absolutely had to.
“They’re not nice here. I mean, I’m not either, I guess, but they’re cruel to each other and even to themselves. I’m betting that not one person would care. I even doubt anyone here would notice me for days after I was gone. It wouldn’t be me that brings them looking, but the smell of it.”
“That’s enough there, Landon. I don’t want you feeling sorry for yourself. You should just get your ass to class and forget all that other crap. You know I got me a powerful need to see what lies that history teacher is telling you kids. If I was alive, I’d tear him a new ass, let me tell you.” Landon smiled and thought that a smile shouldn’t be painful like this one was. “Landon, son, don’t do it.”
He pulled the gun out of his pocket and held it in his hands. He heard the sharp intake of breath and wondered what his grandda would do if he were just to look him in the eye and use it. Landon had bought it several days ago, and had been surprised at how easy it had been to do so. His grandda came to stand beside him and Landon put it out to him, knowing that he couldn’t touch it, wanting him to see how serious he was about ending his life.
“They don’t like me. They never have. I know that I’ve not been the best of kids, but I only wanted them to see me. See that I’m a person too. But they never did, not when I was good nor when I was bad. I can’t take this anymore, Grandda.” His grandda told
him that he could see him. “It’s not the same. I wanted them to say they love me. That they want me in their lives. But what do they do? They send me a letter from their attorney and have him tell me that I’m not to ever come home again.”
The longer he stood there saying nothing, the more appeal it had to just put the gun in his mouth and pull the trigger. He knew that he could do it. He’d even read up on how his head would look when he was done. Not that it mattered really, but he did want to just end his life. Looking up at his grandda when he said his name, Landon knew that it was time.
“Goodbye, Grandda. I’m so glad that I had you in my life.” Putting the small gun to his head, he closed his eyes. Pulling the trigger was as easy as opening the door, and he knew that he’d be dead long before he hit the floor. But nothing happened. Pulling the trigger again and again, he opened his eyes to see his grandda looking at him.
“Got me ways of making sure you’re safe.” He asked him what he meant. “Took me a person and had him come in and take the bullets out for you when I saw that you had it. Can’t lose you, boy, you know that. You’re all I have in this here entire world, dead or alive. I can’t let you do this because of them. I had him take them out and put the gun back where you had it. Throwing them bullets away was the best thing I’ve done for anyone in a very long time. I can’t be letting you do this to yourself, Landon. You’re my grandson and I have a need for you to be around for a bit longer.”
Landon threw the gun at the ghost. He, of course, didn’t move, but Landon’s anger spiraled out of control. As he began tearing things up, curtains from the windows, his sheets from his bed, he began screaming how his life was his own and no one else’s. Then he saw the candle. Grabbing it up, he looked for matches as his grandda begged him to stop.
He wasn’t sure what happened then. Landon woke up with his head spinning and the room he was in filled with smoke. The curtains were burning, as were his sheets and his books, and the letter from his parents’ attorney was there as well. As he started for it, to...he had no idea, he heard the first screams and knew that the fire had spread. He’d caused the building to fill with smoke and now people were going to die. Because of him.
Landon had no idea how he’d gotten into the hallway. He was sick with the pain in his head, and his arm was hurting as well. Tumbling a few times as he tried to make his way down the smoke filled hall, he started pounding on doors to see if someone needed help out. The third door he came to was hot, but he opened it anyway. Pushing hard on the door nearly had him passing out, but he finally managed to get it open enough to see the boy lying in front of it.
Dragging the boy out by his legs wasn’t easy. He was heavy for one thing, and Landon was sick now. Throwing up twice as he moved down the hall, he noticed that there was blood in his puke, and that scared him. Not that he wasn’t ready to die, but that the boy with him would as well. Getting him to the stairs, he sat down, trying to get his bearings. Two boys came up the stairs toward him, their hands full of something that looked like trash bags. He pleaded with them to help him.
“Help me get him out of here.” They said they had things to do. “But he’ll die. I can’t let him die like this. Just help me get him out of here.”
“Sucks to be you, I guess.” They were laughing as they made their way around him and to the next flight of stairs. Landon had no idea who they were or why they were in this part of the building, but he could see that they’d escaped being burned by the fire and soot had gotten them. Their bodies were dark with it.
“Follow me.” He looked at his grandda as he stood over him, his body floating just about a foot from the stairs that he was on. “Going down with your burden is going to be easier than going up. Just make sure that you pull him by his arms and not his legs. You don’t want to hurt his head any more than it already is. Come on, son, you can do this. I’ll get you out.”
“I hurt him.” His grandda asked him how he figured that. “I set the fire. He wouldn’t have been hurt if I had just jumped like I wanted to.”
“You didn’t do this, Landon. Not you. Them others, they did this, not you.” Landon nodded and said that he had the candle and it had caused it. “No, you didn’t. You might have been in the blast when it...why do you think you had a thing to do with this fire?”
“I set it. It’s what I was going to do when you hit me.” He told him he’d never touched him, that he’d been knocked out of the room before Landon had found the matches, that the explosion or whatever it had been had done it. “I must have found them then. I set fire to my room.”
“You didn’t, I tell you. You didn’t do anything.” Landon picked up the boy’s legs and started down the stairs again, knowing that he was going to go to prison for this. And wouldn’t that just make his parents thrilled. “You didn’t do this, boy, I swear to you.”
The next explosion rocked him. Hitting his head again, Landon knew a new kind of fear. The staircase was filled with flames now, and he was going to be burned alive, he just knew it.
Landon sat up in the bed. The dream of that fateful day as a child coming back to haunt him every night was taking its toll on him. His body was covered in sweat, and he could hear the echo of his screams in his head. Whether or not he had vocalized them, he wasn’t sure. But it was bad enough that they were in his head. Again. Sitting on his bed, the shaking began and he pulled a blanket from the floor, soaked now with his sweat.
Wrapping the blanket around him to keep the chills at bay some, Landon made his way to the bathroom to warm up. He nearly fell twice on his way, and had to go to his knees once when the tremors nearly had him throwing up. His body was frozen now, his head pounding so hard that he had trouble thinking beyond getting warm. Once he was in the bathroom, he turned the water to its hottest setting, and with his back to where the mirror usually hung, he leaned against the tile wall.
“I’m here, boy.” He nodded, knowing that his grandda would never leave him no matter what he’d done now or back then. “You gotta talk to somebody, Landon. You can’t keep this up. You’re killing yourself.”
“I’m fine.” Grandda snorted. It was no less than he expected of him. “You never did tell me how you like the house. Did you find your way around all right?”
“I like it right fine, and don’t change the subject. Get yourself cleaned up and come on out here, and we’ll have ourselves a pow-wow, you and me.”
There was no point in arguing with him. His grandda had been telling him what to do since he’d been about three and no one else was talking to him. Or listening to him. When he realized that not everyone could see what he could, Landon had lashed out, hurting those that might have helped him but letting his anger at being alone most of his young life keep everyone away. He’d figured that would keep his heart safer. Not that it had.
Stepping into the hot water, he was warmed immediately. From experience he knew that he’d be doing the same thing again tomorrow, so he turned the water to a relatively cooler temperature so that in the morning his skin wouldn’t be tender from his abuse today. Scrubbing his body several times, Landon leaned against the wall and thought about his life.
He was nearly twenty-nine years old, next week as a matter of fact. And it had been almost twenty years to the day since he’d blown up the building he’d been staying in, as well as two kids that he talked to daily, ones that haunted him still. And in all that time, since he’d been released from the hospital a month later, he’d not spoken a word to his mom and dad. That was until recently, when their attorney had reached out. They wanted to speak to him.
Getting out after washing his body again, he dried off, still not looking in the mirror. He would have had it removed as he had in every other place he’d been in, but he’d not figured out how to do it. Someone had adhered it to the wall, and other than busting it to get it down, he had yet to get it out of this room. Landon figured that he didn’t need any more bad luck.
Looking at his body was a constant reminder of that day. The scars, old and faded, seemed as fresh and raw as they had then. No pain was there any longer, but he did feel it all the same. Steele had been the only one to see them, and he’d told him that they were barely noticeable. But Landon knew they were there. And always would be.
Going to his bedroom again, he opened the huge closet and had to grin at what was there. Or in this case, what wasn’t there. The thing was as big as most bedrooms, holding not just things on hangers, but drawers for shoes and cufflinks, as well as watches and under things such as tee shirts and his boxers. Right now it had three tee-shirts hanging there, two pair of jeans that had seen better days, as well as a black suit in a bag that he’d not opened in more years than he could remember. Pulling out the worst looking of the shirts, he pulled it over his head after he’d put on his boxers and a pair of jeans. This was his attire on his day off. He headed to the kitchen, where he knew his grandda was waiting.
Logan, what most people called him, watched his only grandson move around the kitchen ignoring him. He was fine with that…for now. As Landon pulled out a big box of those flakes of corn he liked to eat, Logan suggested gently that he get him a banana to go with it.
“No thanks.” They both eyed the fruit that had been in the bowl turning darker and darker since Addie had brought it to him a few days ago. “I have to go into town today. Are you going to be joining me?”
“I don’t think so.” Logan was sort of afraid of the town. There wasn’t really anything there that would hurt him, but he didn’t like all the people. It was why he’d never met any of the others that Landon worked with. Logan just did not like the living. He’d barely tolerated them when he was one of them and avoided them even now. But he didn’t want the same for his grandson.
After he ate, Logan watched Landon put his things away and clean up the counter. He’d been alone too long, Logan thought. The boy was a better housekeeper than most women he knew. And when he finished drying his one bowl and spoon, Logan looked at the sad state of affairs that was his cabinets.
“You gonna get you some dishes today? Maybe a pot or two. I heard you telling that other man, Mitch, that you wanted him to come on by and have some dinner with you. What you planning to do, share the one plate you have and that bowl?” Landon said nothing, but Logan was used to that. That was another thing he didn’t care for, his grandson being so lonely. “You call that attorney back?”
That got a reaction. Not the one he wanted, but enough that Logan could see that he was thinking about it. He needed to get this resolved if for no other reason than to show his mom and dad that he wasn’t nearly as bad as they’d always thought. Or worse yet, as bad as they always told him he was. Landon was a good man; a great one as far as he was concerned.
“I didn’t plan on it. In fact, I’d forgotten all about it.” Sure he had, thought Logan, and I can pull a rabbit out of my ass. “I’ll call them tomorrow.”
“You’ll do it now. You might have won one of them clearing house things, and they might give it away should you don’t call and claim it.” They both knew it was his parents, and Logan had a feeling he might know what they were gonna say. He’d been visiting them too. “Landon, call the man and get it done.”
“I don’t want to.” He sounded five, and before Logan could point that out to him, Landon continued. “They want to see me. And then they want to sit me in a chair and point out all the things I’ve done since I saw them last. Twenty years is going to be a long list, don’t you think? I’m not ready for that. I don’t know that I ever will be.”
“You’re a damned grown man. What do you think you would do if they try to sit you in the corner like a child? You answer me that.” Landon said he had no answer. “Didn’t think so. You don’t like the way they’re treating you, then you can leave. But you’ve no way of knowing shit unless you go there and talk to them. For all you know, they could be wanting to welcome you back with open arms.”
“You know that’s not ever going to happen.” Logan knew that too. But a man could hope, couldn’t he? His son and that wife of his had done them both wrong. “And what do I do, Grandda, when they ask me what I’ve been doing with my life? Do I tell them I start each day with you harping on me? Do I say that I work with a bunch of men just like me that talk to the dead? I’m sure that’ll go over just fine.”
“I don’t know why not. You’ve made a living at it. And from where I’m sitting you’ve done a fine job at that too. Not the living part, but the money part. Why, you never have touched that money they paid you. Building yourself up from nothing, now look at you.” Landon snorted. “You don’t no more live than them ghosts you help. Hell son, when was the last time you were laid? I’m thinking it’s been a long while.”
“I’m not talking about my sex life with you. Especially not you. Christ.” He got up and put a load of wash in the washer as he continued. “In the event you didn’t notice, I just purchased this house and it’s taking up a great deal of my time.”
It was two more pairs of those ratty jeans he wore and five work shirts. He’d hang them on the bar when they were washed up and pull them down when he needed them. Work shirts never made it to the upper levels all that often.
“Yeah, I can see that. Laundry and dishes. Yesterday you run that vacuum cleaner until I plum thought you were going to wear a hole in the carpets. Then you dusted. If you ever want to change jobs in the future, you can make a right fine domestic.” Landon said nothing, but the shirt in his hand wasn’t going to survive the anger he was holding in much longer. So of course, Logan decided to push him a little harder. “You should get you one of them blow up dolls to screw. That way you can shove it in the closet when you’re satisfied and not have to think about it anymore. Much like you do most of your friends.”
The shirt ripped and hung limply in his hands. Logan wanted to get up and hug the boy. Hold him like he was sure no one had done in more years than was right. Logan watched his grandson struggle with his temper and his hurt.
“If I go and do this, you’ll go with me? See what they really are so that I can move on with my life?” He said that he would. There was no point in telling him that this might not turn out the way he thought, because they both knew better. But Logan was forever hopeful. “All right, but you’ll meet the others too. It’s a fair trade for what you’ve been doing to me all these years.”
“I can do that. But what about them boys? You gonna do something about them too?” Logan wanted to tell him to vanish them, but knew that he’d not do it. Landon had been tormented by the Bobbsey Twins, as Logan called them, since the fire.
“I don’t know. You know that they come and go as they please.” He did at that. Never here more than it took for them to upset Landon. Then they’d move on to some other trouble. And it mattered little to any of them that Logan knew just what had happened that day, and it had not been the way that Landon thought. And those damned boys knew it too.
The phone call from that pansy lawyer had upset Landon. Logan wanted to go through the device and choke the living shit out of the person on the other end. But he just sat there knowing that someday, not only would Landon listen to him about that day, but his son and daughter-in-law would as well. He’d been there. Logan had seen what had gone on that day and what had happened to cause it all. And it was not Landon. It had never been the boy. He also knew why he wasn’t there for his only grandchild, and he was gonna enjoy seeing their reactions to that coming out too.
Landon called to set up the talk. That’s what he knew it was gonna be too, a talk. He hoped that Landon would get in a few words of his own. Maybe a fuck you or a fuck off would be nice as well. Landon sat down when he closed his phone.
“I have to go there at one. They have an appointment open for me and I’m to meet him at the parents’ house. I have an appointment to go to my parents’ house.” Logan stood up to leave with him, not that it mattered. He could pretty much go where he wanted when he wanted to. “You really don’t have to go, Grandda. I was only...I was pissed off, and I didn’t mean you’d have to go. There isn’t any point in both of us having to suffer.”
“I want to. I need to.” Landon looked like he was going to say more. But Logan had a feeling he didn’t want to know what it might be. “I can see how well that son of mine aged. I’m thinking not so well. What do you think?”
“I think I’d rather you just pull my nails out with a pair of plyers than to go and see them both. And if you want to know the truth, I’m sort of sick about going there.” Logan knew that as well. “When this is done and you see what you need to see from them, you don’t bring them up to me again. Promise.”
“I promise, but on the condition that you have an open mind and don’t be going in there with your head up your ass.” Landon said he wasn’t make any kind of promises. “Then I guess I can’t either.”
As they made their way out of the house and to his truck, Logan had a shiver of dread. What if, his mind kept saying, and the list was too long for him to try and work out. What if Landon’s parents were as cruel as they’d always been? What if they were only bringing him there to hurt him again? The closer he got to the house, waiting on Landon, the more dread he felt. This was a mistake, he knew it. He just hoped the letter that he’d sent out would help his grandson more than he could.

Monday, May 2, 2016

EliJah Release Blitz Calhoun Series Book Two & Winner Announce 5/2/16


Noelle was in somewhat of a pickle. She had researched the Calhoun firm―Elijah Calhoun in particular―before she made the appointment, but she was having second and third thoughts about hiring the firm after she got there. All her research indicated she could trust them, but big men scared the hell out of her, and the place was full of them.
Elijah had been running a tad late for work, so his brother Trent took his first appointment. Elijah never dreamed that the woman he had an appointment with was his future mate…and she needed his protection.
Noelle’s stepfather wasn’t their only problem. Elijah’s brother Sterling’s nightmares had gotten worse and somehow the creature that had marked him was controlling his actions as well…no one was safe….

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Chapter 1

Helenia stood in front of the mirror. She liked this new look. The younger people used so much color in their lives that she was sure that they’d had her in mind when they came up with it. The pink of her blouse, the green of her pants…she thought perhaps that she could get used to this style, unlike the other decades when women wore long billowing clothing and wigs that itched. Not to mention shoes that pinched so badly that she would sometimes go barefoot under her clothing so no one would know. Not that she cared, but it still gave her a sense of freedom. And Helenia was going to be free forever.

She was still trying to decide which other outfit she was going to keep when she felt the movement of air around her. Standing as still as she could, pulling shadows from every corner around her to hide herself, she turned and looked around when she knew no one could see her. Not humans at any rate.

“Hello, Helenia. It’s been a very long time.” Dante flicked at her shoulder when they both knew there was nothing on her. When he did so again, she grabbed his hand and held him tightly in her grip until he dropped to his knees. “You always did overreact. Let me go, Helenia. I do not care for being treated this way.”

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you touched me.” She bent his hand back more until she heard the bones break. His screams went unnoticed by her and the patrons of the store. They were invisible to anyone but other supernaturals. “What are you doing here? You know that I do not like you well enough to have you around me even for a moment.”

“They’re hunting you.” She let him go and asked him who was hunting her. “The Board of Vampires, they’re looking for you. They have every vampire looking for any information about you, and there’s a bonus if they have an idea where you might be staying.”

“And you? You thought to collect on it, Dante? I should hope that you’re smarter than that. To know that to try and profit off of my demise, you’ll be dead before the next sunset. I have no more use for them than they do for me. I like it that way.” She looked around and saw that two others were watching them, vampires younger than Dante and not even close to being anywhere near as old as she was, and far less powerful. “Did you come with others? To hope to trap me?”

He stood then, his wrist healed already, and looked to where she was looking. He must have fed before coming to catch her, she thought, but it would do him no good. The two others, both males, started toward them.

“I don’t know them. They more than likely heard about the bounty on your head, and decided to collect too.” She asked him how much it was. “Twenty-five thousand points.”

“So much?” He nodded. “And all for me? What do they think is going to happen when they send babies for me? That I shall sit idly by and let them take me in?”

Vampires for the most part had no use for money. She had a great deal of it; over the centuries she’d managed to steal a great deal of not just cash, but gems and other valuables that humans used. But after a while, usually after a couple of centuries, a vampire would realize that having it for no other reason other than it was easy to come by held no appeal. She had hers to get humans, stupid animals, to do things for her.

So the Board had been giving out points, or credits, to use when they had committed some crime or had not followed a rule in the strictest sense of the word. Helenia had long since stopped trying to gather points. She was so far in the hole now that even if she got a thousand a day, it would not put a dent in her bad deeds.

“Noah is after you as well.” She looked at Dante just as the two babies, the younger vampires, were closing in. “He is the one that called the Board on you, from what I understand.”

“I thought him dead. He is such a pussy, even for as old as he is. Christ, to think that he finally grew some balls and turned me in. Not that it will do any of them any good. I am stronger than he is by far.” Helenia hadn’t had any dealings with Noah, but she knew what he was. A vampire that stayed alone and followed most of the rules.

The babies were nearly to her when she lifted her hand and blasted one of them with her power. He was nothing more than ash on the shoes of the people who continued to walk the sidewalks in the mall as if he’d never been. She supposed, as far as they knew, he had not. The second man, stupider than the first, lunged at her, and she simply snapped his neck. If this was the best that the Board had, she was going to live for another thousand years, easily. His ash dusted the outfit that she had on.

“I swear to you, Dante, there is no hope for nice things anymore. I get me something pretty to wear and these idiots just come along and mess it up.” He said nothing but looked around. She wondered if he was expecting more babies to come for her, and just grabbed three of the outfits she’d been looking at and left the shop. Dante was right behind her.

“What do you plan to do? Go back to your lair?” She said nothing as she moved in and out of shops picking what she wanted and sending it to her home across town. It was much easier than going around with a large bag in her hands, and it wasn’t as if she needed to keep any receipts. Helenia hadn’t paid for anything in decades. “I was wondering if you need someone to be with. I’m between homes right now.”

“Do you suppose that these shoes will match the dress that I got? No matter.” They disappeared as well. “No, I don’t want you around me. I prefer my own company to that of idiots.”

Two more stores, mostly clothing then a jewelry store, and she had all that she wanted for now. Honestly, Dante had soured it for her by telling her about the Board. She turned to him when he asked her again where she was going now.

“I should have thought that you’d know better than to try and collect on my being jailed, my friend.” He tried to look shocked, but it looked mostly like fear to her. “To think that after all this time, you still think me stupid. When all along, it was you.”

Helenia let her magic go and let her body return to its true self. She felt empowered by it, the shield off her face and her body released. Dante started to step away from her,

but she put her long claws into his chest and felt his beating heart. When he cried out, she pulled his heart from his chest, feeling the power of it like a shock to her system.

“So pretty, don’t you think?” She wanted him to see her eating it, taking the still warm thing to her mouth, but he disappeared, just like the other two had. Frowning, she dusted the ash off her hands from his heart when it, too, was gone. “Did you honestly think that I’d tell you anything, you moron?”

Going to her lair, she put the things that she’d taken in the trash. Like her outing today, they’d been ruined by Dante and his news. She could think of any number of reasons that the Board was after her, but it didn’t really matter. Helenia lived by her own rules. And soon she’d be in charge of everything, including the humans, and it wouldn’t matter at all what they wanted. She looked at her calendar and realized how long it had been in years since that night. He would be ready for her now, her blood rendering him weak enough that she could take his seed.

It seemed longer when she thought of the last time that she’d seen him. An alpha. Watching him all night long with the people he’d traveled with, she knew that he was going to be the one to help her create an army of monsters like her. Helenia smiled. She was under no delusions that she was anything but a monster. She had worked hard in creating herself to be one. And now that she was perfect, she wanted to make more in her image. And the alpha was going to help her.

Everyone knew that wolves carried a gene that was far superior to any other shifter. Vampires had it as well, in great abundance. But a wolf also had the ability to shift and to be stronger still with his other beast. It was this beast, the wolf, that she was counting on. Her creations would be wolf beasts, and she would control them all.

Making her way to the labs that she’d set up years ago, she knew that the man she’d put there, Basil something, would still be sleeping. He’d been asking to go home; his family apparently couldn’t do anything without him there. And if anything had happened to him between then and now, she’d have to start all over. So putting him into a deep sleep had been better for everyone, mostly for her own peace of mind. And his family was no longer around to make demands on him, so that had been a plus for both of them.

As she made her way by one of the big buildings, she saw an ad in the window. Staring at it for a long time, she finally stopped someone to ask them the date. There was no way she’d messed up that badly.

“October tenth.” She told him to tell her the year and when he answered her, she nearly fell backward. It hadn’t been one year as she’d thought, but four. Fuck. There was no telling what her alpha had gotten into since then.


Noelle was intimidated by the big office, mostly because of the guards in the lobby. They were big and armed. Not that she planned on doing anything wrong, but she had a fear of men that were big.

But she was running out of time and this man, the one she was coming to see, had been the one that had come up on her search as the most trustworthy. She hoped so.

When she stood in front of the big desk, she had to clear her throat twice before she could make any sound come out of her mouth. Nerves were making her sick.

“I’d like to see Mr. Calhoun please.” The woman asked her if she had an appointment. “I do. For today at ten.”

It was just shy of nine, but Noelle hated to be late. When the woman asked her to have a seat and that she’d call him, Noelle went to sit on one of the big chairs that looked like a family of five could have used. She watched the people coming and going.

An older man came in and started talking loudly about the weather. She was sure that he talked that way all the time, loud and with a great deal of humor. And everyone here seemed to know him. He stopped by the desk as she had, but he wasn’t asked about appointments but sent up to the elevator with a smile. Noelle wanted someone to like her that way.

Noelle had, for the most part, been alone all her life. She worked and socialized when she had to, but she preferred her own company to that of other people. It more than likely was because of her family and the way that they’d jump out of the smallest places to hurt her.

When her name was called, Noelle made her way to the desk. It was just after nine-thirty by then, and she had to pee. But this had to be done today. Mr. Calhoun’s secretary said that this was his last appointment before December, and that would be too late. Going up in the elevator with the guard, she held tightly onto her plastic bag and hoped she was doing the right thing.

“Hello, Miss Alexander. Mr. Elijah Calhoun isn’t in yet, but his brother Trent is. He wanted to know if he could help you.” She knew that name as well. But he was no longer working here, she’d heard. Noelle asked her about it. “He helps out when necessary. And since Elijah is running slightly behind, he thought he’d help him out.”

Nodding, she was shown into a large office. As soon as she saw them, the older gentleman and the big man behind the desk, she wanted to run. They were too much and too big. Noelle turned to leave and the older man spoke.

“Come on now, sweetie. You’re not gonna deny an old man a chance to sit with a pretty girl, are you? And Trent here, he is just glad to see me today because he won’t have to eat all them delicious biscuits that his lovely wife made him. I’m his daddy, TJ Calhoun, and we’re about as harmless as they come.” She looked at him, then at the steaming plate on the desk. “Come on back and have a seat, and let us see what we can do for you.”

“I won some money.” She didn’t know why she’d blurted it out like that. Noelle had been holding that secret for five and a half months now. “I don’t want anyone to know that I did.”

“All right then. Why don’t you have a seat and we’ll figure this out?” Trent stood up, and she moved closer to the door behind her. When he sat down, she watched him carefully. “I won’t hurt you, Miss Alexander. I promise you that.”

Nodding but still not moving, she wondered why she was even doing this. She’d been making it on her own, without the money in her bag, for years now. This money, all of it that she’d won, would make it better for her, but she was terrified of what it might

bring too. But to have a house of her own with a yard was something that she’d been thinking about for years.

Making her way to the chair, she sat with her bag in her hand and tried to think. “I was sixteen when my stepfather left me at a party. He and my stepmother had other children of their own, and they felt that my check from the welfare office would suit them better if they didn’t have me around needing any of it. Sucking them dry is what they said I was doing to them.” She glanced at the elder Calhoun when he made a noise, and felt her face heat up. He asked her how she was both their stepchild. “My mom died after marrying him. Then he remarried a few months later and she had children of her own. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were his children, both of them. Ron is twenty now, and Daniel is two years older. I’m telling you this so you understand why I’m...I’m afraid, Mr. Calhoun. I don’t want them to come back and try to hurt me again.”

“You think they will?” She was sure of it and said as much. “I see. And this money that you won. I’m assuming that it’s a great deal. That it’s not just a scratch offs.”

“I have those as well. When I would win some money, I would put it back in an envelope until it was close to expiring. I never cashed it all in, just enough to get by on. It was my emergency money, I guess. Every week I would buy one scratch off and one of the bigger lottery money tickets. I haven’t stopped that since I won. The article I read at the library said to go about your business like nothing happened. So I did.” He asked her how much she’d won. “The Powerball. I won the one from five and a half months ago.”

Neither of them said anything for several seconds. Then TJ laughed, and looked at his son when Trent asked him what was going on. His dad was still laughing as he explained to Trent.

“She won the big one. The forty-million-dollar jackpot, didn’t you, love?” She nodded and dug the tickets that she wanted to cash in from her bag. “Holy milk balls, Trent, she’s the winner that they’ve all been looking for.”

She looked at Trent when he asked her if that was true. “Yes. I won and I have to turn in my ticket or it’s going to go away.” He took the envelopes that she’d put into the plastic bag she used as a purse most of the time. It was all she had to carry it around in, and felt silly for it being so mundane. “I read about your firm at the library and everyone said that you can be trusted. I don’t want anyone to know who I am.”

“All right, let me look a few things up here. Just...I have to call in our attorney to help me get this right for you.” She shook her head, but he said it would be fine. “It’s my brother, Tanner Calhoun. Did you read about him too?”

“Please don’t make fun of me.” She wanted to snatch her things back from him, but he stood up again and she sat still. “I’ve never hurt anyone. I work and keep to myself and don’t bother any of them. But they come and take whatever I have on me and then beat me for it. I’m not sure what they’d do about this money. More than likely kill me.” She looked at them both before speaking again. “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want the money.”

When he sat in the chair next to her, she whimpered. Men, big ones, scared her. Trent didn’t move, but TJ got up and walked out of the room. She had no idea what he was

going to do, probably call the police now that they had her tickets, but she didn’t care. She wanted to go back to her place.

“You say your family takes your money and they hurt you? Have you ever called the police? Filed a report on them? We can do that now if you want, Noelle. I can do it for you.” His voice was soft, full of something that she’d never heard from anyone when they were talking to her. Compassion. “Tell me so that I can find them and beat the living shit out of them. My wife, Joe? She’ll have to visit me in jail, but I think she’ll think it was worth it to see you safe.” She laughed when he did. “There you go. See, I might be big, but I’m as gentle as a puppy.”

“My stepfather is Howard Merrill. My stepmother wasn’t any better. Her name was Gloria Merrill, but she died a few years back. I think she was in a car accident or something. I can’t afford the newspaper all the time.” She looked at Trent and felt...she wasn’t sure what she felt except no longer afraid, for some reason. “He thinks I made him lose his job. I guess in a way I did. But when he lost his job, he lost everything else too. Like my government money. He didn’t get his pension either, which I suppose is the way it should be with him being fired and all.”

“You think that he’ll try to take your money that you won.” She nodded, then shook her head. “Ah, so you think that he’ll take your life while he’s at it.”

“He will. Like I said, he feels that I owe him for some reason. He’s not been happy with me for a long time.” That was an understatement. “I have a place that I’ve been living in for a while. But I want my own home. A yard. I really want a yard.”

“I understand that more than you can imagine. I’ve talked to...had my dad talk to Tanner, and he’s on his way in. He works for a friend of ours, but he said he’d help us out. I know investments better than I do the letter of the law for this sort of thing. And my wife is coming in as well. She said that she was going to come by today, and she should be here soon. I want to try and get this worked out for you so that you can get you a house as well as be safe.”

“I know what you are.” He said nothing, and she looked at her hands in her lap. “I know that you and your family are wolves. I can’t always tell what a person is, but I can tell when someone isn’t human. I am, but I know that you’re not.”

“No, I’m not. Are that why you’re afraid of me? Is your stepfather a wolf?” She shook her head and told him that her family was human as well. “But one of them hurt you, a wolf or some other shifter.”

“Yes.” He didn’t pry, and she didn’t feel it was necessary to explain. He was going to help her get her money, and that would be the end of their relationship. “There are other tickets too. Not as much as the big one, but I’d like to have that money as well. It’s what I can pay you with.”

“I’m not going to charge you for helping you, Miss Alexander. I think you’ve been hurt enough.” She wanted to cry, to beg him to hold her. There was something so comforting about him that she wanted to let him take care of her. But she knew better than to trust that kind of feeling. “Tanner is here. I don’t want you to be alarmed when he comes in. He has a tendency to not knock, but to come in like he’s been shot from a rocket.”

The door to the office slammed back against the wall. The man who came into the room was talking, as if whatever conversation he’d been having with Trent the last time he’d seen him was still going on. He spoke to Trent about changes in the market and how he was getting his office set up slowly. He looked at her and stopped talking.

“Well, hello there. Aren’t you about the prettiest little thing?” She shook her head and felt her fear double. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. But you are very pretty. I’m Tanner Calhoun. Trent said you need someone to advise you on some lottery winnings.”

When he sat down on the edge of the desk, she had a feeling that Trent had told him to back off. Tanner grinned at her before he asked her about the ticket. She knew then that she might be able to do this. These men wasted no time in getting to the point.

After he was shown the ticket, he asked her a lot of questions about it. The other tickets, mounting to just under ten thousand dollars, were given to the secretary to verify. Tanner said it wasn’t as if they didn’t trust her, but they wanted to make sure they weren’t going to have any problems when they were taken in. The big ticket was put in a safe so that no one could take it from her now that a few people knew about it. A copy of it was made for her to keep, as well as a receipt stating that they had it in their safe for her.

“Does your stepfather have any idea that you’ve got any money? I mean, from your winnings? Did he lend you money for anything? Pay your rent somewhere, or any of your bills? At any time, did anyone help you out with a bill or something?” She told Tanner no, that she didn’t tell anyone. “And your bills? You paid those with your own money, nothing ever coming from him?”

“I’ve made sure that I made my own way. I’ve never been on welfare either…I promised myself that I’d be independent as much as I could. And my stepfather was better at taking than he was at giving. Never the tickets. I never had them on me when they, my stepbrothers or him, found me.” She looked at her hands again. “My stepbrothers weren’t like that when I lived at home with them. They were spoiled, but they never bothered me. I’m still not sure that they do this because they want to.”

“I’m sorry about that. No one should treat anyone badly, especially not a female. But knowing that about him makes it so much easier now. And the fact that you bought it after you left home and were out of his care means he has no claims on it at all. Those are things that I want to keep from happening.”

For the next hour she went over the paperwork. By the time she was finished, not only was she exhausted, but she was also richer. The money from the tickets had been taken all over town and cashed in by different members of the family, so that nothing was ever going to come back on her. She’d never had so much cash on her at any time in her life. And then Joe, Trent’s wife, showed up.

“Hello, Noelle. It’s been a very long time.” Noelle looked at the door, then back at the woman who had been there the day she’d been kicked out of her family. “Don’t. Please don’t run. Noah will be so happy to see you.”

“He won’t.” Joe said that he would. “I hurt him that day. He might...he’ll want to hurt me back.”

“No, he won’t. He looked for you for years after you left. And he’ll be glad to see you, I promise.” She looked at the door again, wondering if it was too late to take it all back. “I know your scent now, Noelle. You won’t be able to hide again. But I promise you, Noah never wanted you hurt by this either. I’m not sure how you think you hurt him, but I’ve spoken to him. He’s glad to know that you’ve come back around.”

Terror like she’d not felt for a very long time skimmed along her skin. Her hands hurt from clenching them. Her head hurt from trying to sort through all the things that were running through her head. She’d hurt Noah because her father had been an important man in his business. Howard had told her that when and if he ever found her that Noah would make her pay for making one of his best employees have to be fired.

The door opened again and she screamed. She had no idea who might have come in or why, but her terror was too much. And when someone grabbed her, Noelle lost whatever hold she had on her fear, and the darkness swallowed her up.