Damn, he always looks so big when he’s bellowing. Arms roped with muscle crossed over his huge chest, seriously huge, like the man has to have dress shirts custom made huge. His powerful legs slightly apart. Sheesh, you absolutely have no trouble picturing this man in a kilt tossin’ tree trunks around for the hell of it.

I meet his blazing stare and go for indignant with a dose of butt out of my business, “Me? What the hell are you doing here?”

“Annwyn Mckenna don’t even try it.” He’s not buying it. It was a long shot, “What are you four doing in the middle of an op between Homeland the Feds and ATF?”

“It wasn’t intentional.” Oh, hell, I sound sulky. Damn Gavin and his….Gavin-ness.

“Never is with you four, is it?”  The bellow dwindles down to a rolling rumble. Gavin’s eyes narrow on me and I realize I’m rubbing my temple, “Dammit Mckenna,” The rough whisper is above my head and I’m surrounded. His arms go around me, his large hands gently pushing into my hair, easing the dull throbbing. As without a bit of pain, he removes the band from the the messy pony-tail I’d half way thrown together at the beginning of this nekked nightmare of a night. Gavin’s been doing this since I was nine. He never so much as breaks a single hair.

My head drops onto his chest, “We were saving the girl.” I mutter, still sulky. I get a grunt. His strong fingers slide to the base of my skull,  massaging my the tight muscles. And…well..oh…that… just feels really…very…good.

Sublime relaxation slinks down my body, pushing the tension out through my feet. I work up the energy for one more sulky fact, “And this has been the worst Saturday night in my life.”

“That so?”

“Oh, it is so very so.” I roll my forehead on his shoulder, “So no more yelling.” I feel his chest jostle with his low chuckle. I love it when he does that. I fist my hands at my sides to keep them off him, “There were dangling naked parts.”

“You don’t say?”

“Yes, and hairy, sweaty, flopping…” I raise one hand and sling it around, “Stuff.”


“And a Giant Totem Pole Penis.”

A what?” He pulls back slightly with that one. My head goes with him, causing me to lean and stumble. His large hands move from my head to my hips, steadying me.

“Please don’t make me say it again.” Another rumbling chuckle and oh, to hell with it. It’s late, I’m tired and I just survived three kinds of naked. I take that final step wrap my arms around him and hold on tight, so I can feel that chuckle everywhere.

He goes still for a split-second and then one giant hand is at my back. The other slides up to work the muscles at the base of my neck, “So a bad night all around?”

I nod.

“You girls alright?” He asks over my head.

I hear a husky “Fine.” And a dry, “Good as I can be considering what I’ve seen.” And then, a soft cooing, “Oh you poor thing. You’re just skin and bones.” Then I hear a muttered “oh shit, what now” and a “Christy, honey maybe you shouldn’t…then a male voice, “What do you think you’re doing? That thing could have rabies.”

I don’t bother to look up, “What is it?”

“I’m not sure,” Then over my head again, “What you got there Shrimp?”

“It’s a kitten.” Christy answers.

Relief rolls through me, “Oh, well that’s not so….”

“Oh…wait it’s a whole litter…..”

“Oh hell’s nine…” I beat my head on Gavin’s chest.

“And the mama cat…..”

“Bells.” I give up beating my head and go back to rolling it back and forth, “How the hell does she do it?” Christy’s been dragging home strays since she was old enough to walk.

“You got me.” I get another rumbling laugh, “I just chalk it up to your crazy genetics.”

“Gavin, did you bring the plane?” Christy asks. She’s full into rescue mode and she has an emergency triage on that plane.

“Sorry Shrimp, it’s in Fredericksburg.”

All the voices blend over my head as the kitten drama unfolds. May Rose says something about taking them to her place. Rand puts the kibosh on that with a curt, “No, it’s not safe.” May starts to argue, but Lena stops her with a mercilessly blunt, “He’s right. You go back there you’re good as dead.” Jack cusses about disease and throws around words like rabies and mange. Gerald solves everything when he offers of call his son – the vet.  And oh happy day and maybe this means he can find them a good home other than ours.

“Goddess bless that man.” I mumble into Gavin’s chest, “I’m going to buy him another Camellia bush for his mama.”

Gavin’s chuckling over my head, but then goes abruptly still, “Shit.”

Oh no that can’t be good, “What is it?”



I look up from his shoulder to see two black SUV’s pull up. Oh good the gang’s all here. Dear Goddess, I just want to go home.

As soon as the vehicles stop the door flies open and Travis Scott, the redwood  leaps out.

“Goddammit, I ought to fucking arrest all four of you crazy bitches….”

I’m left alone so suddenly I stumble again, before I can right myself Gavin’s fist slams into Travis Scott’s face. The man’s substantial body flies back, his feet fly up and damn, he’s airborne. For a nano-second, it looks like one of those floating mid-air magic tricks then gravity takes over and slams him down to earth.


“Shit!” Lena, suddenly at my side, finishes for me.

The parking lot that was full of life and noise is now nothing but stunned silence. The only sounds are the tiny mewls of hungry kittens, car doors opening and shutting, and the whooshing of Gavin’s lungs gulping air.

Travis shakes the cuckoos out of his head enough to recognize the man over him. His face loses all color. A McIntyre in a rage can have that effect.

“Stay. Down.” Gavin grinds out between clenched teeth. Oh he is pissed.

“Uh hey, McIntyre. Didn’t see you…”

“No shit.” Lena snides down at him.

Gavin moves directly in front of me and turns his attention on the half dozen men who’ve gotten out of those SUV’s.

They all have the sense to stay out of arm’s reach. One of them takes a miniscule step forward, “McIntyre, you know we’re going to have to talk to her.”

They mean me.

“You don’t fucking come near her.”  Gavin’s back to bellowing.

And Yep, he means me, too.

That minuscule step forward turns to two steps back, but the guy is looking over Gavin’s beefy shoulder, the familiar ice blue eyes pleading. Michael Scheaffer, Homeland. I’ve worked with him before, not a bad guy. It’d be a shame if he died tonight, “We need help on this.”

“Fuck you.” Gavin’s deteriorated to guttural snarls. Never a good sign, “You’re not getting a thing from her. Never again.”

“Uh…you know I’m standing right here….”

The look he sends me shuts me right up. He strides up to the half a dozen men. I strain to hear the heated exchange, but all I can make out are growls, grunts, and the occasional fuck off.

The mewls of hungry kittens distracts me from the potentially fatal confrontation, “Man, he’s mad.” Christy’s on my other side holding a large cardboard box. I peek inside and count three squirming fury filthy bodies, “Small litter.”

“There were two more.” Christy said, the words soft with regret. And for a fleeting moment, I see her as a child of six, her marble blue eyes spilling with tears over the loss of Milo, the goldfish. I hear the echo of those sobs every time she fails to save some tiny helpless creature. I wrap my arm around her, “Sorry sis.”

She lays her head on my shoulder, her stub of her pony-tail stabbing my chin, “They didn’t live long.”

“What about the mother?”

“She’s bad off. I need to get her to a vet. I think we can save her, but we’ve got to get her there now.”

“Sweetie, Gerald’s son will meet us the office. It’s minutes from here.” Allie comes up on her other side.

Lena’s already moving to the SUV, “Let’s roll.”

“Gavin!” I call out. He spins around, his assessing gaze sweeping over the four of us and settling on Christy, “What’s wrong?”

“It’s the mama cat.” Chrsity’s voice is soft, but steady, “I think it’s pneumonia and some type of wide spread infection. We have to get her to the vet, now.”

Without another word to the men he’d been telling to fuck off, he’s striding towards us, “Let’s go.”

“Dammit McIntyre, those crazy cousins of yours aren’t going anywhere.” Scott’s back on his feet, “They set the fucking guy on fire. Ruined six months of work. I’ve a good mind to arrest….”

Gavin barely turns and once again his fist shoots out and the man is on the ground again, “Told you to stay down.”  He tosses the careless words back as that same arm that powered Redwood to the ground twice wraps gently around my baby sister, “Where we goin’ shrimp?”

“Gerald’s son is a vet. He’s close.”

“Hey, McIntyre,” Jack meets us from the other side of the parking lot, holding another box. Mama cat. He’s kept his distance from Chrsity since Gavin arrived. No death wish there. “Some night.”

“Yeah, thanks for the heads up.”  Gavin nods in his direction, then leaning down to me, “Did you really set him on fire?”

“Just his hair.”


“I was pressed for time.” Damn, I think I’m sulky again, “We needed a distraction and it was all I could think of.”


“The vodka worked a little better than I thought it would.” I admit, grudgingly.

“Vodka’s flammable.” He informs me.

“Right, yes I witnessed that first hand.”  I upgrade to grumbling. We pile into the SUV. It’s a tight fit. Lena’s behind the wheel. Allie’s shot gun. Christy, Gerald and Jack are in the first seat. I’m between Gavin and Rand. I feel like I’m stuck between two mountains. May’s in Rand’s lap. She looks so small compared to his bulk. We’re not out of the parking lot before her head drops, exhaustion has taking her.

“They’ll try to get her to testify.” The whole operation was a screw up. They’d try to use her for an easier conviction. It would sure as hell get her killed, “Don’t let her.”

“Don’t worry. I’m getting her the hell away from all this.” Rand snorted, “This whole operation smells bad.”

He voices my thoughts aloud. Confirmation not that I needed it. Something was definitely off. Images from the night start flying around in my brain, like puzzle pieces caught in a dust devil. I rub the throbbing behind my eyes, and try to pull them into some order.

“Stop.” The word is a low growl in my ear.

I slide a look up at Gavin, “Huh?”

“Stop thinking. You’re exhausted.” He lifted his arm and wrapped it around me, his other hand covers my head and pushes me to his shoulder, “Get some rest Mckenna.”

“You’re bossy.” I feel his heart thumping under my cheek.

“You’re stubborn.” That rough whisper over my head.

“Pot.” I snuggle into the soft cotton of his t-shirt.

“Kettle.” I feel the smallest chuckle go through him.

“Bull-headed Scott.” I mumble around my yawn.

“Crazy Pagan Witch.” He rumbles back.

“Oh shut it.” I feel myself sinking.

“Go to sleep, Mckenna.” I’m gone while my name is still on is lips.