Read More from Calle J. Brookes

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  Jude shook as the gunshots sounded. Just like Hughes had told her they would. 

She tried to tell herself he had planned this. Him and those boys of his. 

His son stood at her side, tall and strong. A man of God. He had seen it done legal. But that didn’t matter to her. 

She just wanted her Barratt man back inside where she knew he was safe. “Is this ever going to end?” 

Ally wrapped her arms around dher, over where Jude held her youngest in her arms. “It will, Aunt Jude, it just has to.” 

“Come away from the windows,” Mick ordered. He might have been a man of God, but that was a real pistol in his hands.  

He stood between them and the monsters who threatened them all. 

Jude’s eyes filled. 

All of this, because those damned Wharton men couldn’t take no for an answer. 

How different they were from the Barratt men—though she had been darned near convinced they were all of the same ilk. 

Maybe Hughes and his boys shouldn’t have taken the girls the way they had—and she was adamant about that—but she knew in her heart they would never hurt the girls again. 

Or her. 

She said another prayer. One asking God to keep her man safe. To bring him back to her. 

To all of them. 

And she prayed for her nieces’ husbands, every last one of them out there. Fighting against evil. 

And that was what it was. 

A battle of good versus that which wasn’t. 

As Jude stepped away from the window, the one next to it shattered. 

One of the girls cried out. Jude jerked around, putting her baby in Ally’s arms quickly. 

It was Becky. Her sweet niece Becky. She had blood on her shoulder, staining the dress her sister Janie had handed down to her years ago when she’d gotten too tall for it.

Wharton’s son stood at the back door, watching. Guarding. He stepped toward Becky immediately, calling her name. His fear for her was there on his face. 

He loved her. 

“Stick to your post before someone else is hit.” Mick ordered. “Janie, Jamie, see to your sister.” 

The girls were already on it. Jamie looked around quickly. “Is anyone else hurt?” 

“No. How badly is she hurt?” Jude asked. She looked at the younger girls. “Ally, take all of the children to the cellar, now. Keep them there until we tell you differently.” 

“Yes, ma’am.” Ally looked at her husband. Her fear was in her beautiful face. 

It was on all of their faces, in all of their hearts. 

No more of this. “Go. I’ll send your husband for you when this is over.” 

She looked at the girls she knew could shoot. Knew wouldn’t lose control of themselves, wouldn’t panic, if it came down to it. “Jamie, go with Ally. Tend the kids. If we have any wounded, we’ll send them to you. You’re…in charge, understand?” 

“Yes, ma’am.” Jamie hugged Jessi quickly. “Stay safe. All of you.” 

“Becky, head on downstairs,” Jude ordered. The girl’s arm had been struck, but it was just a graze. As far as anyone could tell. She’d live. “Get on down there. Izzy, take your sister down stairs, now.” 

As soon as the girls had done as they were told, she looked at those around her. Jessi, Emmy, and Janie stared back at her.  

They were her strong ones. Her tough ones. The ones who would do what they had to do to protect the rest of them. Without breaking until the work was done.

Just as Jude would. Her children were in this house. Her brother’s, too. 

There was nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her family. 

She turned to Mick and Jack. What do we have to do? We can all shoot. Jacob made sure of it.” 

“Stay away from the windows. Dad has guns in the gun cabinet in the study,” Mick said, quietly. “If someone gets into this house, I want you to all stay behind me and Jack; we’ll protect you. I can promise you that.” 

Jude nodded, but the truth was… “That’s all fine and well, but there comes a time when a woman needs to protect herself.” 

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