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Brody

Forbidden Book 4

By Kathi S. Barton


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © Kathi S. Barton 2019

Smashwords Edition

Paperback ISBN: 9781949812671

eBook ISBN: 9781949812688

First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC, February 4, 2019

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Smashwords Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.

Cover: Karen Fuller

Editor: Maxine Bringenberg


Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13


Chapter 1


Brody was ready for his own bed. Well, one where a five-year-old wasn’t sleeping with him. Jordan, he’d come to realize, was a bed hog. Looking over at him, Brody fell deeper in love with the little boy. He was going to be his.

On the third day of their vacation, he’d realized that Jordan had never asked about his mom. Not once did he wake in the middle of the night calling for her. And he’d never, when buying gifts for Grandma and Howie, as his butler liked to be called now, did he even suggest that he get anything for his mom. That, to Brody, was just sad. Jordan would answer questions about her when asked, mostly by strangers, but nothing about her otherwise. This was their last day, and he needed to talk to his son. Jordan, as usual, beat him to the draw. Like he knew.

“Dad, are we going home today? I sure miss my bed. And you not sleeping in it.” They both laughed. “I can’t wait to give my gifts to Grandma and Howie. But...Dad, will Mom be there?”

His question was quiet, like he was almost afraid to ask it. Or, Brody thought, it could have just been him thinking that’s what Jordan was doing. Sitting down at the small table they had in their room, he handed Jordan his glass of orange juice.

“No. She won’t be there. But I told you, we’re not going home.” He nodded. “Jordan, would you be upset if she didn’t come with us to the new house?”

“No.” He looked at his dad, then back at his now empty glass. “She’s not nice. And she yells at me all the time. She says awful things about you and Grandma. And when she has her friends over, I have to stay in the kitchen with Howie all the time.”

More and more things were coming out about his wife. Rachel had made Jordan take swimming lessons, the beginner classes, so she could be in the pool with the younger mothers. Jordan was an advanced swimmer, and had hated the way his mom acted. He never got to go out to eat with her—it was drive through or nothing. And then he wasn’t allowed to eat in the car. Little things, yes, but they’d mounted up heavily on the little boy.

“I’m sorry about that. I’m glad that you’ve told me all these things, but I’m very sorry that she treated you this way, Jordan. You believe me, don’t you?” He nodded and Brody took a deep breath before speaking again. “We’re getting a divorce, your mom and I. We’re not going to be living together anymore.”

The hopeful look in Jordan’s eyes was there and gone so quickly, Brody was sure that he had mistaken it again. When Jordan started playing with his bowl of cereal, Brody decided it was time to tell him the truth about everything. But Jordan spoke before he could.

“Dad, will I have to go and live with her? I don’t want to. I don’t even like her.” Brody didn’t know what to say, so said nothing. “I know you’re not my daddy. I wish you were all the time. But if you keep me and not give me to Mom, I will be the best boy in the entire world.”

“Oh, Jordan.” He held him tightly, tears filling his eyes even as Jordan sobbed on his chest. But what broke Brody’s heart more was how Jordan kept begging him not to make him go back to his mom. Never. “You won’t. I promise. And Jordan, you are a good boy. So good that I’m jealous I wasn’t that good when I was small. Grandma is going to be living with us in our new place, as well as Howie.”

“You promise I won’t have to go to her?” He said that he did, on his life. Brody only hoped that Jake was a good enough attorney to make it happen. “I love you, Dad. Forever.”

The rest of the morning was spent packing up their things. They didn’t have to leave until later today, but they could take their luggage to the airport and then not have to mess with it later. They had taken two bags each, and now had four bags each. Most of it was things that Jordan wanted for his new room.

The walk around the city was nice. Brody knew that as soon as he was with Jake and the rest of his group that he’d have to settle down and get busy on this divorce. Talking to his mom nightly had helped—both he and Jordan, as a matter of fact. So he was up-to-date on things that were going on at home.

Brody knew that Rachel hadn’t shown up for her court date. And he knew why. She’d been in a jail cell—for not paying her bill to the hotel—since the morning she was to appear. He had to laugh every time he thought about her being taken out in handcuffs while trying her very best to sell off some of the things in the room.

Rachel’s mother, Becky Sharp, had cooperated with the police. What with her husband David being in jail too, Becky had no choice except to get out of the house nicely. And when searched, she’d not taken anything. So Brody, even though he didn’t care for her husband or her daughter, paid for two weeks in a hotel for her, with food and room service included—as long as she didn’t try and steal anything or harbor her daughter.

“You should have seen it, Brody. I tell you, Howie and I laughed for nearly two hours watching Rachel being pulled from the hotel. And there she was, screaming that she was going to get you. I don’t know how she figured that was going to happen, but she was. Then I think she saw the television crew.” He asked his mom why they were there. “Not for her, though I think they did film her. That boy we hired, Jake, and his partner Forrest, they’re making a name for themselves. I think you got the best of the best. But they were there for the unveiling of the plans for the new library addition. It’s going to be nice. I think your boys had something to do with that too.”

He hoped they were doing a good job. He would hate like hell to have to turn his son over to that monster. Brody hadn’t realized how much he’d had riding on this. There was his practice, his homes, money. Of course, she’d signed a prenup, but he knew that she was slick and would do just about anything for some money. But today was for Jordan.

The phone was ringing as soon as they entered the hotel room. Jake was on the line, and he sounded like a man who was either really pissed off or holding back on something. When he finally burst out laughing, Brody couldn’t help but smile.

“Your soon to be ex-wife is on the line. Not with us at the moment, but as soon as I tell you a couple of things.” Jake laughed again. “My God, Brody, I think she’s more of a bitch than my ex-wife was. Does she by chance have any decorating skill?”

He had heard about Jake’s wife. “I was afraid to give her the chance. The house decorating was off limits to her at all times. What does she want, do you know?”

“Smart man. She said that she wasn’t going to tell me, so I hung up on her. The second time she called, an officer was on the line. He asked me, politely, to let her talk to you so they could have some peace and quiet. I guess she’s putting up a great big hullaballoo. I love that word. I might have to use it more often.” Brody hadn’t heard that word in a while either, and laughed. “Yeah, my grandma would say that a great deal. Anyway, I’ll be on the line with the two of you. And since she’s calling you from the police station, there will be someone listening in on that end and recording it. So, keep your cool and don’t tell her anything that you’d not normally tell her if she didn’t ask you. For instance, you can tell her about the tests, but only if she asks.”

When the line opened up, the police officer said what Jake had told him. Apparently, Rachel was listening as well, but her end was muted. They told him they were recording the conversation, and that Brody’s attorney was on the line as well.

“This is bullshit.” The phone was muted when Rachel spoke; the small humming sound was all the notice that they got to clue them in on that. Then when she came back on the line, she wasn’t any happier about having to behave, Brody would bet. “Brody, honey, I want you to get your rectum down here and bail me out. Give me a key to the house and stop this nonsense with our son. You know as well as I do that you’re not going to go through with this. You need me.”

“No.” She asked him what that meant. “No, I’m not going to go and bail you out. No, I’m not going to give you a key to my home, and I’m certainly not going to stop with the proceedings. I’m divorcing you, Rachel.”

“And you think that just because you have all the money, you can do as you please? I’m your wife, you fucking dick shit—” The line went dead again, and Brody laughed. He wondered if Jake was laughing too when Rachel came back on the line. “I’m supposed to stop cursing. But I want you to know, Brody, that I’m calling you every name in the book in my head. Where is my son? I want you to make sure that when you go to court, or whatever the he...heck you think you’re doing, you know that you’re not going to raise him. He’s our son, and as his mother, I’m the one that should raise him. Everyone knows that the mother wins in this sort of thing. I’m thinking now about how much me having our son in my possession is going to cost you.”

“He is your son. You have that right, Rachel. And you know as well as I do that he’s not my biological child. In fact, I found the list that you wrote on who could be his father.” Brody looked at Jordan as he continued. “But I could care less who he was fathered by. He’s my son, and I love him with all my heart. And as for you raising him, that’s not going to happen either. You’re neither a good role model nor mother.”

“You have never had a heart, and you’re abysmal in bed. Why is it you think I found other men to screw me? Because you might have a nice dick, but you hadn’t a clue how to use it.” Brody started to say that it might have been her, but he wasn’t lowering himself to her level. “Don’t you have anything to say? I have plenty, but I have to be nice. You have no idea what you’re stepping into here by treating me this way. And tossing my parents out on their butts with nothing at all to fall back on.”

“Perhaps you should have read the prenup better, Rachel. It stated that so long as we were married, I would provide your parents with a home to live in, as well as a car. The money allowance that I helped them out with was because, believe it or not, I’m a nice person.” She snorted. “Regardless. I’ve had enough. And since you’ve been stepping out on me since the day we married, I’m going to take back control of my life.”

“Have you any idea how many men have fucked me in that big house of yours? Hundreds. Some days I’d take on two or three at the same time. It was so much fun, having men right under your nose.” Again, he could have said more, but he didn’t. “And with you all alone sleeping down the hall in your lonely little bed. Did you cry yourself to sleep, Brody? You pussy.”

The line went dead, and Brody closed his phone when he heard a dial tone. It took everything that he had just to sit here and not hunt her down and strangle her. Then Jordan came to him and put his small arms around his neck.

“Dad, she’s not worth it.” Brody told him he knew that. “She’s a mean person. And you are my dad. Can I tell you something?”

“Yes, Jordan, anything.”

Jordan walked to the little cabinet that held snacks. He’d never taken anything out, but he knew that Jordan had a small sweet tooth. When he took out a candy bar, Brody smiled at him as he ate it.

“I found my birth certificate in Mom’s purse when she took me to register for school a long time ago. I read it on the back too.” Brody asked him if he knew what it meant. “I didn’t. But I asked Clare, the girl next door. Dad, she has boobs and stuff. Anyway, she told me that my mom had been sleeping with other men, and you weren’t on the list. I had to ask Grandma what sleeping around meant. She told me. I don’t know why Mom would do that, do you? I just want you to know that I love you very much, Dad. And we’re going to be all right.”

“I agree. Any reason you didn’t come to me with the question?” Jordan’s face turned red. “Are you afraid to talk to me about sex?”

“Gosh no. I know you know about sex. Geeze, Dad.” They both laughed. “I wanted to ask someone that would tell me how it is. And boy oh boy, does Clare tell me like it is. But she said that I should ask you about it. I put my birth certificate in my baby book the day that we left the house. I wanted you to find it. I don’t know who those guys are, but Mom wrote their names on the back of it.”

Brody thought of the things that his son was figuring out. Sex. Stepping out. He was going to have to talk to him about other things, he knew—and soon. But what he really wanted to do was let him know that he could come to him about anything. Even if it might embarrass them both.

“Thank you.” Jordan threw the rest of the candy in the trash. Looking at his phone again when it rang, Brody realized that they had to get to the airport. It was Jake. “We’re headed to the airport now, Jake. Do you think we can talk when I get there? I’m beat after that. And Jordan is as well.”

“Yes, that’s a wonderful idea, Brody. I’m so sorry about all this. I know just what you’re going through.” He thanked him. “All right. I’ll see you, I guess, around seven tonight. Enjoy your flight, and remember, there will be a car at the airport for you when you arrive.”

~*~

Emmi watched the planes land and take off. Damn it, she wanted to go home and curl up on the couch, take some pain pills, and forget the world. Why Aaron had to come home right now was driving her nuts. But then, everything drove her nuts lately.

Aaron had a good job, one that would take him all over the world one week then he’d be off for a while. And when he was off, if he could, he’d stay with her. Usually it wasn’t any trouble. But she knew as soon as he saw her body—because she knew that she wasn’t going to be able to hide her pain from him—he’d have a major shit fit, and then she’d have to explain things that she didn’t know.

She saw that her brother’s plane was on time and would be landing in twenty minutes. Emmi sat back down in the chair, extremely careful of how she sat, and then leaned back. Then she began to think and wait again. Closing her eyes, she tried not to think of anything, to make the pain go away. Drawing—or painting, it mattered little to her. But she enjoyed it so much that sometimes she could forget about the world and the way that it had been shitting on her lately. Emmi remembered to check the flight times again and the gate where he’d be coming in. When she opened her eyes, however, a small boy was standing nearby.

“Can you help me?”

She was leery of the kid. Not just him, but all kids. This was some sort of scam, she knew it. Looking around, she asked him where his parents were.

“My mom is in jail and my dad and I are coming here to live.”

Too real to be a lie, Emmi thought. But that didn’t mean she wholly trusted him yet.

“Okay. And why are you not with him? I mean, you don’t look old enough to drive or anything yet. What gives?” He cocked his head and stared at her. “Kid, I don’t know what your deal is, but I don’t want to have to be dragged off to some sort of chamber and have someone kill me. Tell me what’s going on. And no lies. Okay? I’ve had a shitty day—well, month—and really, I just want to go home.”

“My dad said that the car was going to be here to get us, but I had to go to the bathroom. Dad said that he did too, so we went inside.” He pointed to the men’s room right behind them. “Then when I was all done, I washed up my hands and came out to stand by the door. But he never came out. I think that my mom escaped and she’s killed him.”

“Kid, you have a great imagination.” He told her his name. “All right, Jordan Downs. Let’s go see what we can find out. To be honest, I got trapped in that bathroom crap too. It opens up on both ends. I came out on the wrong side and was lost for a bit. Come on, we’ll get this figured out.”

He took her hand into his and she froze up. Emmi didn’t care to be touched, especially when she was hurting as badly as she was at the moment. People terrified her, especially men. She supposed it was because of her husband when he found her. But knowing why she didn’t care for it didn’t make her any less unhappy about being touched.

Emmi was married—or so she’d been led to believe. She didn’t remember the wedding, the man, or for that matter, what he looked like. But she was getting these summons—bills—that were apparently made by her husband that she had to pay. Not to mention, someone had changed her name on not just her mail box, but also her monthly bills, like rent and her utilities. No matter how much Emmi searched for some clue, she—

“Are you all right, lady?” She told him she was fine and her name. “That’s a pretty name. I’m betting it’s short for something pretty too. Dad said he didn’t want me to have a nickname. He thought them to be confusing to little kids. People think sometimes I’m a girl. I’m not.”

“Yes, I can see that. There are all kinds of names that are gender neutral. You said that your dad had a car waiting on you? Do you know if it was a rental or a bigger car?” He told her. “I see. So, the person coming to get him might be at the gates with a sign for this limo. And if your dad is there, problem solved. If not, we’ll try out plan B, where we have to involve the airport security. And just between the two of us, I don’t think we’ll get too much help from them either.”

She was hurting; trying to find the little boy’s dad was pulling on stitches and bruises that she had all over her body. The airport wasn’t that long, but there were a lot of people walking into them. Pay attention to your surroundings, she wanted to scream at people. But she—

“You sure do walk fast.” Emmi slowed down. She had very long legs, and she’d forgotten for a few minutes that she was with a kid. “Thanks. Look over there. See those big signs?”

“I do.”

She was nearly to them when she was thrown to the floor and someone had her arms too far up her back. Airport security was screaming at her to get away from the boy.

Emmi hadn’t a clue how that was to happen, as she had an elephant of a guard on her aching back. It was all she could do not to pass out. Not to puke where she lay. Then man on her, because there was no doubt to her that it was a brute of a man, was telling her to not move, not to say a word.

She was sick with the pain, and Jordan was screaming at them to let her go, that she was helping him. Before she could beg anyone for help, any kind of help, she was let go and yanked up to her feet. Emmi had to lean over until she not only caught her breath, but the pain was gone—which by her estimations, would be never. No longer able to hold onto the bile in her empty belly, she turned her head and dry heaved for a few minutes. The shoes in her view were expensive and polished. There was only one person that she knew who had shoes that shiny.

“Hello, Aaron. Don’t touch me yet.” Laughter had her peeking up at her brother. “I was only trying to help the kid. Now I have to go home. You’re on your own to get there. In fact, you should maybe go back to where you were for about ten years.”

“I heard the kid. Christ, I think the entire place heard him telling them that you hadn’t done anything wrong. However, I did not know that you were in so much pain that you should have told your big brother.” She wanted to wipe at her nose and tears, but she hurt too much. “I’m going to find out what happened—you know that, don’t you? In the meantime, do you need something for the pain, Emmi?”

“I’ll be all right. Just give me a minute. Could you help Jordan find his dad? He said he was getting a car.” Emmi couldn’t move, but she had to sit down. Trying to lower herself to a better position was making her sicker. “Aaron, I’m not going to be able to move without help. Can you sit me on the ground? There is a better place for me to die, I think.”

“No dying, Emmi. I mean it. And so you know.... Well, that’s for later. Where can I touch you?” Aaron’s voice was so strong that she wanted to lean into it, much like she had as a child when she’d be taken to task about something made up by her parents that she’d done. But Aaron’s shoes didn’t move when she felt someone at her waist. “Don’t touch her until she tells us where we can.”

“She’s bleeding.” She heard Aaron cursing and the man behind her breathing hard. “Emmi, is it? I’m going to help you down to the floor. But you have to tell me where I can touch you. I think your brother is pissed.”

“He’s always pissed.” Sobbing now, the pain was getting the better of her. “Find a gun. Shoot me between the eyes and I’ll feel much better.” She heard Jordan tell them no. “I was kidding, Jordan. I just hurt too much right now to think of anything other than not being in pain. Just leave me here. I’ll move when I’m able.”

There was a pinch at her arm. Before she could turn, if she could have, to see what had happened, the man behind her came into focus. He was rubbing a place where she was sure that he’d drugged her. Then, amazingly, she started to float away.

Emmi was never one to be able to just take a pain pill or shot and be able to be pain free. She was a redhead and all that came with it—freckles, pale and sensitive skin. If she was out on a beach for ten minutes, she’d be burnt to a crisp. Like she’d ever been to a beach, she thought with a smile. Then she heard Aaron tell whoever had shot her up that she was indeed a redhead, and she felt another pinch to her skin, then absolutely nothing.

There were glitches in the things that she saw when she woke. A giant cat—a tiger, she realized. Then there was a man, telling her she was all right. Over and over Emmi thought that she’d died only to wake a little to more pain. When she was finally able to focus on her surroundings, there was a man in the room with her doing a crossword puzzle. As she watched him, he cursed at the clues.

“What the hell is a steam engine scoop? You’d think a man my age would have heard it all. Stupid puzzle.” Clearing her throat twice, she told him the answer. “Bucket, huh? Let me look. Yes, that’s it. Thank you. I would have given up had I not been assigned to watch over you. Though I must tell you, it’s not a bit of hardship on my part.”

“You’re babbling, and I hurt. Where am I?” The man stood and stretched. Her mouth went dry as the shirt he had on pulled up from his pants. Looking away, Emmi saw that she had an IV, as well as that her body was layered in gauze. She was in the hospital someplace. “Where is Aaron? I’d like to go home now.”

“If you mean your brother—who is very scary by the way, even for me—he and a couple of other guys went to the cafeteria for something to eat. Do you need for me to get you something for pain?” Shaking her head, she closed her eyes. “Yes, well, you might want to talk to the doctor before you start moving around too much. Brody said you were a bitch to put back together. Who did this to you?”

His voice had gone hard, and she turned to look at him again. There was something about him, something that made her think she knew him, but her head hurt too much to be able to remember.

“You never said where I was. And who the hell is Brody?” He sat down, picking up the puzzle that he’d been working on. “Okay. Be a shit. I’m getting out of here.”

When she sat up, costing her everything that she had in her, he growled low. It took her a moment to realize that he was growling at her. But for some reason, she wasn’t afraid of him—more like pissed off. So Emmi did what she wished she’d done to her dad every time he’d drawn back to hit her. She doubled up her fist and socked him right in the nose.


Chapter 2


Brody laughed every time he saw Quincey. Emmi Wright had blackened both his eyes and broken his nose. And because she was his mate, he couldn’t heal until she forgave him, which didn’t look as if it was going to happen anytime too soon. They were alike, the two of them, he’d come to surmise—stubborn, loud, and didn’t care who was around when they voiced their anger. Brody was having a good time.

“I don’t think this is funny. You do know that I could kill you in a way that would make you suffer endlessly?” Brody laughed again, just a short burst of it, and nodded. “Have you found out anything about the man that is going to be dead soon? Whoever injured her, he is going to pay for this. Firstly because she’s my mate, and secondly, no one should hurt anyone like he did her, especially a woman. It looked to me as if he beat her with a cat-o-nine tails. Do you know the strength it would take to live through what she suffered?”

“No. I don’t know anything more about her than you do. She was hurt, and helped my son regardless of the pain she was in. Also, Quincey, I don’t want you upsetting her anymore. Did you know that I had to put in seven more stitches because of you pissing her off?” Quincey said that he was sorry. “I know she’s your mate, but if you upset her anymore, she’ll disappear. Her brother said that she’s very good at hiding from those she doesn’t want to see.”

Brody wondered about the man who had hurt her. Why was he doing this to Emmi? And by the looks of other wounds on her body, he’d been doing it repeatedly for some time now. He’d not told Quincey about it, but he had a feeling that the man already knew it.

“I can find her, no matter what, because I have her scent and a taste of her skin. Had you allowed me to, I would have healed her completely. But I do understand about the police needing to see what had been done to her. Also, I do thank you for allowing Forrest to seal up the worst of the wounds, but she is still in pain and my beast is aching to heal her.”

Brody had gotten a crash course in mates when he arrived. He’d known about shifters and mates, just not the totality of it all. Like, wounds given by a mate, and how they would heal or not. Brody had supposed, because of what he’d been told, that mates didn’t or even couldn’t hurt their other half. But now he knew that when they did, it would be a wound that would stay forever until forgiven for the misdeed. Such as, Quincey scaring Emmi to the point of her hitting out.

He laughed again on his way back to the meeting he’d been in when Quincey told him that Emmi was awake. Jordan was staying with Forrest for the afternoon, while Brody would get the lowdown on his divorce proceedings as well as care for his very first patient here. So far, he was happy with both.

“Is she all right?” He nodded and told them about Quincey. “Yes, well, who knew after all this time that he’d find himself a second mate? And a hellion to boot. I’ve only been around her when she’s out, but from what Aaron told me, she’s nothing short of a marvel on feet.”

Brody had yet to meet the young man. He’d been at the airport when he and Jordan had been, but with his sister being in so much pain at the time, they’d not been introduced nor did they talk, other than for Aaron shouting at Brody for not helping her enough. Then here at the hospital, it had been nonstop busy with getting registered, taking care of Emmi, and setting up a place for him to have an office, as well as a room for Emmi. He supposed that easing into things wasn’t in the books right now.

Brody looked over the paperwork that Jake handed him.

“All the locks have been changed, as you know. And the things from the house that your mom wanted are all on a couple of trucks. It’ll be here in a couple of days.” He thanked him. “No need for that. Forrest did the same for me when I was getting ready to get away from my wife. Anyway, since you’re only moving from a couple of towns over, you can keep the same banks. And they’re aware that she can’t get into your accounts. I know you had that set up before, but now they know that they’ll be responsible for it if she does. Not that she hasn’t been in there trying. I guess it’s her thing to make a ruckus wherever she goes. But she didn’t get anything from them. And of course, if she had any credit cards, they won’t work either.”

“My mom, when she was packing up Rachel’s bedroom, found stashes of money all over the place. Also jewelry and other items that were bagged up to be taken. She thinks that she was hoarding things to make a fresh start when she left me.” Jake said that sounded about right. “And the article that you put in the paper—the one about her being responsible for her own debt. It’s working out too?”

“Yes. Her boyfriend—I think his name is Ralph Comings—he’s been going around town since you left trying to raise the bail for Rachel. He’s not doing such a good job of it, it appears. Apparently, and this might not be a shocker for you, your soon to be ex-wife isn’t well liked.” Jake laughed. It wasn’t the first time since he’d been sitting with this man that he had, and Brody relaxed. “It matters little anyway. She’ll be getting out of the jail tomorrow morning. And she’s going to be none too happy that her father is able to stay in the hotel that you have his wife in, and she can’t. I have to tell you, that was brilliant.”

“As much as I can’t wait to be divorced from Rachel, my main concern is Jordan. Am I going to be his sole parent after this is all said and done?” Jake handed him another file. There were so many of them now, he’d need luggage to take them back to the hotel. “Who took these pictures of Jordan?”

“We got them off of surveillance cameras at the school. And you’ll note the bottom of each picture that they’re on the days that Rachel was to pick Jordan up from school. Also the times. And I checked, the times are accurate. Tuesdays and Thursdays were her days, correct? Your mom, you told me, picked him up the other three days.” Brody nodded as he looked at his son waiting for his mother in the clear pictures. He looked so sad, Brody thought. “Most of the time your mom came to get him when the school called. It was usually about two hours later than he should have been picked up. Rachel was about an hour late coming to get him all the other times. In fact, we couldn’t find a single time when she was on time to get him. The school takes notes about that sort of thing. Also, they have notes on who showed up when he was ill or there was a parent teacher conference. You never missed one. Rachel, however, never attended anything but plays. And usually she was dressed in something highly inappropriate for a class function.”

“I remember those. Once she wore a red sequined dress to one of his Christmas plays, and yelled and whooped it up during the entire play. I believe she was drunk.” Jake only nodded. “I’m sorry about all this. I truly am. I never should have married her. But I have to say, I honestly loved her—until we’d been married about a month and things started to become clear to me. Then it was about six years after I stopped sleeping with her that she told me she was going to have a baby.”

“Don’t worry about it, Brody. My wife killed her mother because she wouldn’t hand over any cash to her, and said to the police that she was doing her father a favor. Her mother was just too out of date when she went out, and it didn’t reflect well on her when she did that.” Brody said nothing. He’d heard a little about Carol Winslow. But he was getting firsthand information now. “We’ll get this taken care of, and then we can talk about the job here. The one, I might say, that you’re doing very well for not having one.”

“Jordan loves the school that you got him into. At first, I have to say, I was a little nervous about him being around wolves. But he comes home every day less tense and more happy. When my mom gets here, she’s going to be very thrilled that we took precautions to keep him away from Rachel.” Jake told him that he was afraid she’d try to take him for money. “I have no doubt about that now. She’s a sick bitch.”

They were going over some of the things Brody had yet to get done when his cell phone rang. It was his mom. She and Howie were nearly there but were stopping for some lunch, then heading the rest of the way home. He looked at the time and realized how late it was getting, and he’d had plans to go with Jordan to check out a house.

“Emmi wants me to release her. But to be honest with you, I’m afraid that whoever is hurting her will find her. Have you been able to find out anything?” He said that Cattie, Cam’s sister, was looking into it. “I heard that she and Cam were both good. And he’s now in charge of the FBI unit in this area.”

“Yes, that’s why you’ve not met him yet. And if anyone can find out what Cattie can’t, it’ll be him. I have a feeling that it’s a husband or boyfriend that is stalking her. And no matter what she does to hide from him, there he is.” The next time he found her, Brody thought, she’d be dead. He told that to Jake. “Not if Quincey has anything to do about it. The guy is on pins and needles trying to figure out how to talk to her. It’s killing him to see her in pain, and more so that she kicks him out of her room when he tries to come in.”

Quincey was a very old and very powerful vampire. For a while, Brody heard, he and another vampire had been living with Cam’s mom. But now that he’d found Emmi, Quincey had been staying someplace else. The only vampire that Quincey knew that was older than him, Jake told him, was his maker, Howard. They didn’t have last names, the two of them, so took on those that suited them when they were required to have one. Quincey, he told him, was going to be called Quincey Wright, like his mate, Emmi.

Driving home, he talked to Jordan. He was very excited to have his grandma nearly there. Brody was happy that they had such a tight relationship, and wished every day that he’d had the same with his own grandparents. But they had died before he’d been born.

Pulling up in front of the big house that was Jake and Forrest’s, he was envious of how nice the place was. His house at home hadn’t been that large, but it had been big enough for him to have guests over to stay, as well as room to keep away from Rachel. Squashing that thought in favor of his son, who joined him on the porch, Brody thought that this was the highlight of his life—having a son that loved him as much as Jordan did.

Of course the two of them were invited to dinner, and when his mom showed up with Howie, they were invited for dessert, as they were too tired for a whole dinner. Howie looked exhausted, but Mom looked like she could have talked all night. Brody asked Howie if he was all right.

“Yes, sir. Just fine. Ready for my own bed—and a meal that doesn’t have a wrapper around it. Not all the food we ate was like that, but it sort of spoils the good stuff for you.” Brody asked him if he’d feel like going to see the houses tomorrow. “I’d see them now, I’m so ready to put down some roots. Oh, by the way, your mother and I, we bought us new phones. Rachel has been calling the other phone numbers and leaving nasty messages. I’ll give you the new numbers.”

Jake overheard the conversation and asked if he could have the old phones. After Mom dug them out of her purse, she handed them over to him. They also made plans to go and see the two houses that had been purchased by Jake and Forrest in anticipation of Brody’s family coming here to live. Loading up in the car, Mom talked a mile a minute to Jordan about their trip, and Howie—he wondered if he’d get used to that name—was telling him about how the furniture was coming in two days. They were about set, as far as he could see.

The first house Jordan didn’t like. He didn’t have a reason for it, but he didn’t care for it. He said vibes, whatever that meant to a five-year-old. And Mom said that there wasn’t a picture window to show off the tree in. Jake was still laughing as they loaded up again to see the next house.

Brody watched Jordan with Christy. She was so pretty and childlike, but he knew that she was in her thirties. She had the most adorable laugh that he’d ever heard. It just made his heart sing when she giggled. And Jordan was becoming a pro at making her laugh.

The next house came into view, and Mom and Jordan both said that this was it. Christy said that this house was a good one too.

“How do you know? You’ve not even stepped foot into it.” Jordan got out of the car and ran up to the porch. It was a wraparound sucker that was almost deep enough to park a car on. And as soon as he put his hands on the railing leading up to the beautiful porch, Brody knew that it was going to be their home. He could feel it too, the vibes, as Jordan called them. “I have to admit, I can feel it too. Good sensations here.”

His mom agreed even as they walked into the front entrance. It opened up into the large hallway that had a curved staircase that seemed to go on forever. Howie didn’t stay with them—he wanted to check out the kitchen—but the rest of them went from room to room while Jake told them what he knew about the house.

“It did have ten bedrooms, believe it or not. But the previous owner wanted more space in the rooms, plus a couple of bathrooms down the hall. The master suite is bigger than a garage, and has a four-poster bed in it. They couldn’t get anyone to move it. I guess it’s extremely heavy.” They were in the library now, and he could picture his books, which he had a great many of, on the shelves. The tall windows would let in enough light that he could sit there all day and never turn on a light. “At one end of the hall, there is the master, as I said, but the other end boasts one as well. Same layout, but slightly smaller. And they both have large walk-in closets.”

Mom was going on about the closets, but all Brody could think about was that it was going to be a home for Jordan. A place, with the fenced in back yard, where he could go and play. A pool for the summer months, and a nice big deck that was surrounded by trees. This place had it all, and he was in love with it.

Jake came up behind him while he was staring out at the back yard. “You like this one, don’t you?” Brody nodded. “It’s not far from the hospital. The clinic that you can open, if you wish, isn’t that far either. Both within walking distance. There is a library, too, that we’re getting updated, and the pack ground butts up against this yard and ours. The gatehouse that we passed will be manned as soon as you take possession, and there are any number of pack and other shifters on this land, and all the others, all the time. Your neighbors to your left are Cattie and Tyson. They’re trying to have a baby now too.”

He turned to thank him in time to see him and Forrest, who had come along too, holding hands. It didn’t bother him—in fact, Brody felt jealously, something that he’d never felt for another person before. Nor did it bother them at all when they kissed. They were mates, in love, and Brody was as envious of that as he was anything he’d ever thought of before.

“I don’t mean to be rude, and please, if I’m sounding like it, it’s because I’m curious. There are a lot of same gender couples around here. I take it that the town is very accepting of that.” Forrest told him that he wasn’t rude at all, and said that they were. “I’m glad. I’ve seen a lot of people come in through the ER with wounds from people taking exception to what sexual orientation they were. None of them were small ones, either. And the fact that it would be that one thing that bothered a perfectly normal person, enough to drive them to maim and kill, never set well with me.”

“Our parents weren’t at all accepting, neither mine nor Jake’s. But since mine are dead and Jake’s dad is in prison, there isn’t anyone that gives us any trouble. A few weeks ago, we had trouble with our neighbor. We all thought it was because we were gay. But it turned out he was wanting to kill us so that he could cash in on what he thought we were doing here—running a hotel. He’s moving on. Quincey convinced him that he’d live a good deal longer if he did.” Brody had no issues with anyone and what they did behind doors. “What do you say we figure out the paperwork before your mom has the furniture all in place even before the trucks get here?”

It didn’t take them long to sign a rental agreement. It would be better if he didn’t own anything right now, he’d been told. That way it wouldn’t appear on any records where he was, and Rachel couldn’t claim that he’d purchased it for her. That would be something that she’d do, too. After that, they all headed to the hotel to play around in the indoor pool and have some beers. It was a good night for that, and Brody was looking forward to having celebrations in their new home.

“Dad?” Jordan joined him in the living room of the suite they were in when everyone returned to their homes, and hugged him before having a seat. “Mom, she’s not going to come here, is she?”

“I don’t know, Jordan. But you do know that you’re safe where you are during the day, correct?” Jordan nodded and laid his head on his chest. “You just have to do what they tell you to do when they tell you and you will be all right. Besides, you and I, we have a lot of things to look forward to, don’t we?”

“Yes.” Jordan yawned. “I don’t want her to come here, but I know that she will. She was always telling that Ralph person that you owed her. I don’t know what she meant, because you gave her lots of stuff.”

“I gave her too much, I think now.” Jordan said he might have. “Are you going to be like your grandma all the time and tell me like it is, instead of fibbing just a little?”

“Yes. Mr. Henderson said that I could call him Grandda if I wanted. He’s a hoot, huh?” He thought that him and Ann both were—they were grandparents to Cam and Cattie. And for being in their nineties, they were in excellent shape too. “He even told me that he would keep me safe too. We’re going to go for ice cream tomorrow, and he’s going to show me the highlights of the town. He said that there weren’t that many, but he’d be happy to show me.”

“You remember what I told you about being out with him.” He said that Grandda was frail and to not get too jumpy around him. “Yes, well, I didn’t say jumpy, but that covers it too.”

“Dad, what’s an immortal?” He told him to the best of his knowledge. “He’s one. Grandda and Grandma, my new ones, are both immortals. I’m glad that they’ll be around forever. It’ll be good to have someone to go fishing with, I think.”

Jordan went off to bed then and left Brody thinking about what he’d just told him. Immortal? He knew that Quincey and Howard were, being vampires. But the elderly man and woman? Brody wasn’t sure what to think about that. It wasn’t as if he didn’t believe him, he was just unsure where he’d gotten it from.

Turning off the light in his room, he moved his son over to get into the bed. The kid had a perfectly good bed and he was sleeping with him again. Smiling, he got in and was promptly hit in the face. Jordan wasn’t one to understand sides on the bed, apparently.

His phone woke him up at nearly one in the morning. Answering it with his name, he was surprised to hear the panicky voice of Emmi. He told her to calm down and he’d help her.

“There’s a woman here in the hospital. She knows that you’re around here, and she’s looking for you. Everybody is telling her that you’re not here, but I think she’s off her rocker.” He asked if she knew her name, even as he was pulling on his pants. “I don’t know, dumbass. She’s screaming at the top of her lungs about you. We haven’t gotten around to exchanging email addresses and phone numbers. Are you coming here or do I need to call someone else? Christ, she’s getting closer.”

“Go to the bathroom and lock the door. I know you can get around better, but please don’t hurt yourself.” He thought she said something nasty to him, but he chose then to ignore it—something about his ass and shoving something up it. “I’m on my way. And I’m calling the police.”

He also called Jake to let him know. He sounded as if he’d been awake, and told him that Jenna had needed him when he asked if he had awakened him. Jake said that he’d send Forrest and things would work out. He hoped so. He only had one patient right now, and he didn’t want anything to happen to her.

The place was a madhouse when he arrived. The police were there, and it looked like the entire department had shown up. As he made his way to the second floor where Emmi was, it turned out that she had disappeared. Before he could panic again, Quincey appeared before him.

“I have Emmi. She’s safe.” Brody nearly fell over, he was so relieved. “She’s not happy, as you can well guess, but she is not going to be hurt. I will return her, if you wish, but for now, I’m trying to have a conversation with her that doesn’t end up with me having a stake through my heart. It can no longer kill me, but I think she would give it a good try, don’t you?” Quincey was smiling, and in turn, Brody did as well.

“Thank you so much. And I think you might be correct on the murdering part. She’s a tad touchy, isn’t she?” He nodded and disappeared again. The police were coming toward Brody when he realized that he’d not asked Quincey where he’d taken Emmi. “Did you find Rachel?”

“No, sir. We’ve searched the entire hospital and she’s not here. We have patrols out searching the grounds for her now.” Brody thanked him. “Sir, if I were you, I’d find someplace better and safer to live than a hotel. It’s a nice place, but the security isn’t as good as you need.”

“I have a house, just waiting on our things to arrive.” Brody looked around at the damage that had been done to the walls. “I’ll be happy to pay for this. Who do I have to see to make sure that it’s done?”

“I’d wait on that too, if I were you. We need to get someone in here to take videos of it, as well as pictures, and he’s not able to come for a few days. Once we have it done, I’ll talk to the head of the hospital and tell them what you said. I know you’re divorcing her, so I’d keep track of all you spend on cleaning up her mess if I were you.” Brody thanked the man again. “Dr. Downs, she sure has a hard-on in finding you, doesn’t she? If you don’t mind me saying, I think you’re a lucky man to be getting distance between her and yourself.”

“She doesn’t like that I didn’t care for her sleeping with other men in our bed, or that I took her money away. Rachel seems to think what is mine is all hers.” The officer said that he’d met a great many women and men like that in his job. “I bet you have. And I thank you for helping me out with this. I’ll talk to Jake when we’re done here, and see what else we can do to keep the people working here safe.”

“We appreciate that. We do. And if you find that you need to find yourself something else to do—doctoring, I mean—we’re in need of a police physician. You’d go on calls with us, and help us out with cause and time of death. The last man we had retired a few months ago. We have a part time coroner, but he’s getting ready to hang up his hat for a fishing pole too. I didn’t realize how much we needed him until he was gone.” Brody wondered if the man was serious. It was his dream job to work with the police on cases. “You let me know and we’ll get you set up. I’ve heard nothing but good things around here about you.”

Cleaning up what he could of the things that had been destroyed in Emmi’s room, he was able to bag up her things after one of the men took pictures of the things that had been messed with. There was not really that much except clothing and her shoes, but Rachel had done this to get back at him somehow. And now she was close enough that he’d have to worry all the time about his son. Nothing else mattered but Jordan right now.

The sun was coming up by the time he was pulling in the drive. Mom met him in the parking lot—she was headed next door with Jordan and Howie to have a fine breakfast—fattening was what she meant. Brody joined them, and didn’t mention what he’d gone out for other than he had been needed at the hospital.

The cruisers that went by the restaurant were great. He tried to relax and eat, but it was difficult when he kept looking over his shoulder all the time. Finally, when his mom pointed it out to him, Brody shook it off. What could Rachel do in broad daylight?

Mom got a call from the movers just as he was paying the check. Thankfully, their things had arrived a day early, and he was almost too excited to drive.

Calling Jake, as he’d been told to do, by the time they got to the house there were thirty or so men there to help unload the trucks. Not only did they get the trucks unloaded in an amazingly quick time, but they were willing to help them place things in the rooms too. Jordan was having his bed put together when he found him in his room.

“Tomorrow we’ll go and get you a computer, all right? And a few other things that you need.” Jordan was so happy that he wanted to take him out today. “How about we invite everyone over tonight for a lot of pizza and desserts? Howie said that he could hire us a cook in the morning, and we’d be having good meals all the time.”

“You know, that’s good. I’m a little bit tired of eating out all the time. They treat me like I’m a baby.” Brody smiled when he thought of the way Jordan had pouted when they asked him if he wanted a lid on his cup. “Do you think that Howie was serious, Dad, when he said he’d get me some lids for here?”

“No, he wasn’t. But you have to pretend with him for a little while. You know how much he loves to tease you.” Jordan rolled his eyes, a habit that he was sure he’d picked up from Brody’s mom. “All right. I’ll be in my office trying to get it squared away. You come there if you need me.”

“I’ll be okay. Taylor here, he’s going to show me how he fixed up his room at his home. You should see it, Dad. It’s really neat.” He nodded and said that they’d talk about it later.

Brody loved the house. And in less time than he thought it had taken them to pack, it looked like they’d lived there for years instead of just a little while. Mom was directing three men in where to hang the pictures, and he even had a throw over the back of the large sectional that fit perfectly in the room. He talked to Henry, who was helping out too, and asked him about dinner.


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