Family Pride (Blood of the Pride)

BOOK: Family Pride (Blood of the Pride)
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Family Pride
By Sheryl Nantus

Book three of Blood of the
Pride

Every family has secrets
,
but some are more dangerous than others
...

Rebecca Desjardin isn’t exactly looking forward to meeting
Brandon’s parents. The wealthy Hanovers won’t approve of Rebecca’s blue-collar
P.I. lifestyle—and they certainly wouldn’t approve if they knew she was a cat
shifter.

Rebecca’s Felis senses go on high alert when Michael,
Brandon’s father, strong-arms her into taking a quick job for one of his
employees. If she doesn’t agree, Michael will dig into Rebecca’s past to prove
she’s not fit for his son.

When Rebecca discovers a dead body, she knows Brandon’s
father is hiding something. And she must decide if the truth is worth risking
Brandon’s love.

Begin the adventure with
Blood of
the Pride
and
Claws Bared.

70,000 words

Dear Reader,

I’m writing this just after having returned from Disney World. It wasn’t my first trip to Disney and it won’t be my last. Even though I’m not fond of big crowds, I get sick if I even look at a twisty ride (though I still like to ride a few) and by the end of our visit we’re all invariably cranky, I still love it there. Disney truly has created something magical.

Luckily, for those of you who don’t have a trip to Disney in your future, they’re not the only ones who can create something magical. Every month, Carina Press authors deliver us books that transport us to new times, new places and new adventures. This month is no different!

I’m pleased to introduce
New York Times
bestselling author Stephanie Tyler’s new series, launching this month. This romance, set in post-apocalypse America, centers around the survival of the fittest: the motorcycle gangs of the future. Dark, edgy and steamy,
Defiance
is the first in this can’t-miss new series.

Another
New York Times
bestselling author, Marie Force, is back with the next installment in her bestselling romantic suspense series. An error on the baseball field leads to murder in
Fatal Mistake.

And I’m happy to welcome Victoria Davies to Carina Press with her newest paranormal romance,
Seducing the Demon Huntress.

Joining these three is a lineup of fantastic authors returning to Carina Press. Don’t miss the latest installment of
Love Letters Volume 3:
Wicked Whispers.
Verbal foreplay goes a long way in these four steamy stories. From author Christine d’Abo comes
Sexcapades.
Sparks fly between two rival internet bloggers in this erotic contemporary romance.

Our last erotic offering for the month of June is the long-awaited sequel to Dana Marie Bell’s
Blood of the Maple
. In
Throne of Oak
, dark forces are converging on Maggie’s Grove, and a horde of hunters stalk supernaturals from the shadows.

If you’re looking for more paranormal romances, Sheryl Nantus, PJ Schnyder, and Eleri Stone all have releases this month. Check out the new installments from Sheryl and Eleri respectively,
Family Pride
and
Witch Bound.
Meanwhile, join PJ on a new adventure as she kicks off her London Undead series with
Bite Me
. Zombies have taken over London and a werewolf finds himself protecting a woman who seems determined to put herself in harm’s way.

Still in the “other world” genres, we have two releases: Fae Sutherland’s
Sky Runners
, a delicious male/male space opera; and the conclusion to Vivi Anna’s steampunk romance trilogy.
The League of Illusion:
Destiny
wraps up with sorcerer Sebastian Davenport’s story.

If you’re a fan of
Downton Abbey
, you’ll want to make sure you’re not missing out on Julie Rowe’s War Girls books. World War I generated many heroes—only some of them were men. Check out
Enticing the Spymaster
, her newest release, and go back and catch up with
Saving the Rifleman
, the first in this series. And while you’re in the past, why not stay there? Wendy Soliman’s
Beguiling the Barrister
also transports readers to a past time in this regency romance.

Last but not least, two powerhouse authors have new releases to center you in the here and now. HelenKay Dimon explores love and lust in her return to Holloway with contemporary romance
Just What He Wanted.
Sexy Travis is the story we’ve all been waiting for!

Adrienne Giordano rounds out our month of magical releases with
Opposing Forces.
In this romantic suspense, when a pharmaceutical distribution manager uncovers secret drug shipments at work, she and a savvy executive with political ties must risk everything—including their hearts—to stop the criminals and stay alive.

No matter where your reading tastes take you, whether it’s the past, the future, or an alternate world, we’ve got an extensive catalog to help give you a magical experience without ever leaving the comfort of your own house (or needing to stand in line!).

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
[email protected]
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

For my husband, who never let me give up
on
myself, AD for never letting me do anything less than my best and for Jazz—still missed and loved dearly.

Chapter One

“My parents want to meet you.”

I dropped the thick ceramic mug in the sink. It bounced once before landing in the inch-deep soapy water. The clanging sound bounced around my skull, settling behind my left eye and throbbing.

“Your parents are dead.” I turned and leaned against the counter. “Are we attending a séance?”

Bran bit his lower lip. He hadn’t bothered to put a shirt on, choosing to pad around my house barefoot in a pair of jeans that fit perfectly in all the right places. We’d finally dragged ourselves out of bed for lunch, ordering in pizza because we had run out of groceries.

His dark eyes met mine, apologetic and pleading.

“They’re not, ah, dead. They’re sort of alive.”

I picked up the mug and contemplated how much strength it would take to smash it. “Your parents are zombies?”

“My parents are alive and well and very much human.”

I weighed the mug in my palm, letting him watch my fingers curl around the cool clay. “You lied to me. Four months ago you lied to my face.”

“Maybe.” Bran put out his hand, pointing at the mug. “Please put that down.”

I glared at him.

“Okay, I lied. A bit.” His hand didn’t move, still outstretched toward the mug. “I told you my parents were dead but that was right after we’d met and we were on opposite sides of the case.” Bran smiled. “And I didn’t know how good we could be together.”

I didn’t blink.

“Cut me a break, Reb. You’ve got your own family secrets.” He shifted to one side with a grin, showing off his newest scratches on one shoulder. “And I can make you purr.”

Damned redhead had a point. We’d both kept things from each other back then. I hadn’t exactly been forthcoming about the fact that I wasn’t human, but when Bran had come face-to-face with my Felis heritage I hadn’t lied and denied.

I still didn’t have to like it. “Who are they and why did you lie?”

He didn’t move. My gaze traveled over his bare chest, resting on the fresh scars across his midsection courtesy of our latest work trip to Penscotta, Pennsylvania. He’d fought another Felis for his life and, in his own way, for me.

The least I could do was hear him out before throwing the mother of all temper tantrums.

“My father is Michael Hanover.” Bran paused. “Of Hanover Investments.”

I nearly dropped the mug.

“Hanover Investments. As in, they make more money in ten minutes than I’ll ever see in my lifetime?” I croaked. I’d flipped through a few business articles over the past few years when I was supposed to be reading a paper and instead using it for surveillance. The business section guarantees you won’t be distracted by the articles.

“Yeah. Them.” He sounded almost apologetic. “It’s a family business. Three generations.”

“You’re related to
those
Hanovers?”

“Michael and Bernadette Hanover are my parents.” He reached out and took the mug from my numb fingers. “The reason I lied was because it’d become an instinctive reaction to explain away my wealth. Easier to say trust fund than explain my dysfunctional relationship with my parents.” He shook his head, a sad smile on his lips. “You’d be surprised how many gold diggers are out there looking to snag a rich man. Or his son.”

I tried to get my breathing under control. “Those Hanovers.”

“We’d just met,” Bran repeated. He placed the mug out of my reach and returned to stand in front of me, both hands up. “And I used the same line I use with everyone to explain my wealth. It was automatic.”

I closed my eyes and drew what I hoped was a deep calming breath. “And when were you planning to divulge this little bit of information?”

It came out as a hiss between clenched teeth.

“I was waiting for the right time. I know it sounds silly but it’s not exactly a topic to drop into casual conversation,” Bran answered. He shuffled forward and put his hands on my shoulders, his heated skin scorching through the thin T-shirt I wore. “I’m sorry.”

“This—” I shook my head, “—this is a major thing. I could understand lying about your university marks or former lovers or something like that—but lying about your parents being alive?” I wasn’t going to let him off so easily despite the heat surging down my spine at his touch. “What else have you forgotten to tell me?”

“Nothing else, Reb. I swear, nothing else.” His right hand moved to rub over the still-healing scars on his stomach. “I’d never want to hurt you on purpose.”

The cold grip on my heart shifted and melted. “Damn it, Bran...”

“I’m sorry.” He moved in and laid down a line of kisses from the edge of my mouth to my earlobe. “So sorry. So damned sorry.”

“Okay, they’re alive. And they want to meet me. They’re not going to like me,” I murmured, fighting to stay afloat on the emotional waves battering my defenses. “I’m not a purebred.” I couldn’t help grinning. “Sort of a nasty bitch when I think about it.”

Bran replied with a light tug on my earlobe with his teeth, enough to urge a gasp out of me. “They’re going to be fine. I’m a grown man, and I can make my own decisions about who to date.” Another soft kiss. “Mate.”

This time I couldn’t hold off the shivers running over my skin. In the month since we’d gotten back from Pennsylvania we’d taken another step forward in our relationship and it had been interesting, to say the least.

The definition of interesting included scratches, bruises, one sprained wrist (his) and one wrenched shoulder (mine).

We’d started off a few months ago, drawn together to find a killer, and moved into a relationship with little problem. The breaking point came three months later when I’d been forced to face my inner Felis and deal with my feelings about dating a human. We were a ferociously devoted species when it came to our mates and I didn’t know if Bran could handle the emotional and physical commitment. Felis didn’t do casual long-term relationships, and even though I had been cast out of the family as a teenager, neither did I. We mated for life, something I knew from working as a private investigator that a lot of humans couldn’t handle.

Judging from the past few weeks we were doing fine.

“They’re flying in today from London on the private jet. I told them we’d meet them for dinner.” The heated whisper in my ear didn’t do anything to dampen my flash of anger.

“London, England? Flew? Private what?” I tried to break away from his grip and failed miserably. “When? Where? Do I need to dress for this? I don’t want to wear makeup. I don’t have anything to wear. Why are you doing this to me?”

Bran chuckled. “Seven tonight. A small restaurant in Yorkville. If you have a dress it’d be nice—anything but jeans will meet the dress code. And I love you.” He dropped a kiss on the tip of my nose. “Chill, Rebecca. Chill.”

I glanced around the kitchen. It was small, like the rest of the house. I’d bought it a decade ago and managed to finance thanks to one enthusiastic client demanding proof on a dozen possible suitors for his daughter. It served as home and office, saving me the expense of running a different place for my investigation business. The ground floor had my office/living room and kitchen with the upper floor holding my bedroom and a washroom. It wasn’t fancy but it was mine.

But it was nothing compared to the top-level condominium Bran owned over at Yonge and King, a short drive out of Parkdale and a million dollars away. I couldn’t imagine how his parents would react seeing their son with a woman who literally counted pennies.

I automatically checked the canning jar atop the fridge. Another few pennies and I’d be ready to roll them up and drop them at the bank before the damned coin got retired.

I somehow doubted the Hanovers counted pocket change.

Or if they did it was in solid gold doubloons.

The doorbell rang.

“I’m not expecting anyone today.” I grabbed a dishtowel from the counter. “I haven’t had a case since that car insurance scam and I sent out the paperwork yesterday. Be sweet if they’re dropping off a check now.”

Brandon stepped back. “Probably the paperboy. I’ll take care of it.” He walked out of the kitchen. I watched him leave, appreciating the view. He’d been naturally blessed with a tight, sweet butt that begged for biting or grabbing.

Good thing he enjoyed both.

Jazz hopped on the counter and lay down, a white carpet of relaxed catness.

I wagged a finger at her. “No. Get down.”

She yawned, showing off one chipped fang, and curled up into a ball before falling asleep right next to the sugar bowl. One paw edged out to grip the corner of the counter, anchoring her in place.

“Hey, I tried,” I told the linoleum before heading for the living room. “Bran, tell whoever’s there to bugger off ’cause I don’t have time...”

Two people stood by the secondhand couch I’d gotten from a store on Queen Street, talking to Bran. His hand brushed over a ripped corner I’d slapped duct tape on—the damage not from Jazz’s claws but my own ineptness in getting it through the front door. I glanced around the room, assessing the rest of the furniture.

Nearby an oval dark wood stool held a stack of magazines, the concave shape of one leg showing Jazz’s enthusiastic work in using it as a scratching post. A short hop from there sat my business desk, cluttered with old and new files as I put off buying another filing cabinet for as long as possible.

I’d never thought of my interior decorating skills as being lacking. Everything was functional and affordable, from the mismatched chairs to the generic nature prints on the wall. It wasn’t fancy but it was home, comfortable and relaxed.

The two visitors looked like diamonds shining in a coal mine.

I winced and moved in closer.

The woman looked at me for a second before turning back to Bran. Her upper lip curled a fraction, so fast someone else would have missed it.

I didn’t. Disdain. Contempt. Superiority. All in one expensive package glaring at me.

Blond hair, right out of a bottle, bounced around her shoulders. She wore a bright orange dress and enough bling to blind someone. Her matching purse hung limply from the crook of her elbow.

I turned my attention to the older man.

He had to be in his early sixties with a full head of red hair touched with a delicate gray around the temple. His three piece dark blue suit cost more than what I made in a month. The silk gray and white striped power tie screamed affluence.

I sniffed the air, afraid of what I’d find. The scents bounced back to me with a frightful speed and clarity, confirming what I’d suspected. And feared.

Everyone in this room was related to each other.

Except for me.

I forced a cheerful smile, feeling the jagged edge of panic digging into my belly.

Mom and Dad were early.

Bran looked at me. I could smell the fear radiating out from him as I advanced on them. Not for me—he was afraid of his parents. His shoulders slumped down and if he could have he would have been curled up on the floor in a fetal position—or worse, on his back in full submission mode.

He was scared shitless.

I felt a growl spiral up my throat, seeing the effect they had on him. This wasn’t a healthy relationship. Not that I knew much about happy families, but this couldn’t be what they looked like.

This was not going to go well.

The elder Hanover male smiled at me. “You must be Rebecca Desjardin.” He stuck out his hand, the finely manicured nails stabbing at me. “Michael Hanover. And this is my wife, Bernadette.”

His grip was manlier than I’d expected, a quiet strength underlining the silk. A hunter and killer. This was not a man to be taken lightly.

I’d have expected no less from one of Canada’s premiere wheelers and dealers in the business world. What I knew about investing could fill Jazz’s food dish but I knew Michael Hanover made a lot of money for a lot of important people.

I couldn’t connect the stern businessman in front of me with Bran. The truth about his parents still rankled—but looking at these two made me more sympathetic to his reasoning.

I imagined many a woman wilting under their inspection.

Bran gave me a halfhearted grin. “They caught an early flight. Since I wasn’t at my condo they came here.” His voice trailed off as the obvious question came to mind.

“How did you know to come here?” I let Michael’s fingers slip free.

Bernadette took over. “We looked at the report we have on you. Address was right there on the front page. Took a few minutes to reroute the cab to this—” her nose wrinkled as she struggled to find a less insulting word than slum, “—distinct neighborhood.” She extended her hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

It was like touching cold raw chicken. She pulled back as soon as manners allowed and gave me a big friendly smile.

“So,” she murmured, “this is your home.”

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck shoot straight up. I’d expected some resistance, sure—but this was like facing down a raging elephant with a potato gun. I resisted the urge to scurry around the room tidying up.

On the other hand I’d been busy lately hunting down murderers and renegades. They balanced each other out.

Bran cleared his throat. “Obviously we’re not ready to go out yet. Why don’t you two go home and have a bit of a rest? We’ll meet you at the restaurant?”

“Of course,” Michael replied. “We just wanted to stop on by and say hello.” He stared at me, looking for a weakness.

He didn’t find any.

His mother interrupted our mental duel. “We decided to change the restaurant. There’s a charity event we have to make an appearance at before dinner. Sergio’s instead. At eight o’clock.”

“Of course. Eight. We’ll be there,” Bran answered.

Michael headed for the open door. Bernadette trotted out behind her husband, her high heels clattering along my hardwood floors with machine-gun precision.

I resisted the urge to flip them the bird.

A cool breeze rushed in the front door, smashing into my senses with even more scents. Fresh garbage from the street, dripping oil from a nearby car and...

And one I definitely did not want to find right now.

“Whuf.” Bran shook his head. “That was...” He paused, seeing the expression on my face. “What the—”

BOOK: Family Pride (Blood of the Pride)
12.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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