Jackson has always been the brother in the background, but when his mate is threatened, he rises to the occasion.
When a phone call sends Jackson to Las Vegas to check on his brother, he's not overly surprised to find Max gone. Jackson's big surprise is waking up with a gorgeous naked Vegas showgirl on top of him.
Dani can't believe the hot, hung stud in bed with her isn't her soon-to-be-ex fianc�, Max. But soon the truth appears. They might look alike but Jackson's quiet strength is polar opposite to his playboy brother. It appears she's been sleeping with the wrong brother all this time...
When Reign, a Cat Shapeshifter, shows up needing Dani's help to trap a killer, Jackson's protective instincts kick in. The Cat community is dangerous to outsiders. To guard Dani, Jackson must become Reign's lover. Though he's never been with another man, Jackson will do whatever it takes to protect his mate.
Publisher Note: Sequel to Maxwell's Fall. Though it is not necessary to read that book first, a richer reading experience will be found by reading both volumes together. And do you really want to miss out on Max's story?
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Jackson's Rise by Tielle St. Clare
"Ballroom full of people--designers, models, me and a few other photographers and of course, the press."
Jackson kicked his feet onto the end of his couch and relaxed. Holding the phone to his ear, he listened to his brother Max set the stage for his latest adventure.
"I'd been dodging her all night. Did not want to deal with her. She finally catches me."
Jackson made a noise, just to let Max know he was listening.
"You know me. I don't want to cause a scene."
The sentiment clogged Jackson's throat and he coughed. If Max heard it, he ignored the sound.
"I'm trying to be polite, trying to get her to just move on but damn, whatever I said, it was the wrong thing. She just snapped."
Jackson laughed, the sound almost a sob, anticipating the punch line but knowing this wasn't going to be good. "What happened?"
"She grabs the front of her very expensive designer dress and yanks. Rips the thing in half. Glitter's flying everywhere. She pulls back the edges and screams 'are my tits too small? Is that why you won't fuck me'?"
"You're kidding." How did Max manage to get into these situations?
"What did you do?"
"I looked at her tits. What else was I going to do?"
"And..." he prompted--because there was more to the story. There always was with Max.
"She's right. They're a bit on the small side."
Jackson covered his eyes with his forearm. "Tell me you didn't say that."
"No. I said, 'Lady, it's not your tits that are too small, it's your IQ.'"
He didn't know whether to laugh or cry. For all Max was the charming twin, his mouth got him in trouble.
"Max, you didn't."
"Yeah, it just kind of slipped out. But she only got in one good punch before I escaped."
"She hit you?" Jackson sat up. Every defensive instinct he had tore through his muscles. Logically he knew Max was more than capable of protecting himself against one practically anorexic model. But that didn't silence the wolf. The creature snarled inside his head, ready to face any threat to its pack mate.
"Don't worry." Max paused. Made him wait for it. "She hits like a girl."
He chuckled and shook his head. "Don't let our sisters hear you say that." Bridget and Kiki were small but damn, they were fierce.
"God no," Max said.
The image of Max standing in a crowded room with a naked woman taking a swing at him wouldn't leave Jackson's head.
"So uh, what happened to her, standing there, you know, topless?"
"Ah, it's Vegas, baby. Topless women aren't that unusual."
And how his brother had ended up in Vegas while Jackson exiled himself to Alaska was still a mystery to the family. Everyone assumed--including Jackson--that he and Max would end up at least in the same state if not living next door to each other. He missed his family--Max in particular--like hell.
"Only you, Max. This kind of shit only happens to you," he said, taking a sip of his gin and tonic, the bite of alcohol a comforting burn in his throat.
"I don't know why. It wasn't like I egged this girl on."
In his mind, Jackson could see the confusion on his twin's face, lines crinkled around his blue eyes, the little grimace, shoulders shrugged.
"Mom always said you just fall into trouble."
"And you rise above it."
Their matching laughs combined in the phone lines and Jackson resettled on the couch.
"So what's going on with you?" Max asked. The tone of Max's question came across too casual, alerting Jackson he hadn't done as good a job as he'd hoped in hiding his stress.
He sighed. If anyone was going to notice, it would be Max.
"Jax." With one word his brother managed to communicate the perfect warning--he wasn't going to let this go.
But Jackson couldn't reveal what he didn't know. Yes, he was vaguely discontented, some kind of lingering ache that wouldn't leave but he couldn't pinpoint the source. Whining about it wasn't going to help.
"Max, I'm fine. Just helping out a friend on a project." It was a little more than that but he wasn't quite ready to share with the family. "It's nothing big." Just a game of cops and robbers--with real bad guys.
He hoped that would put his brother off but knew better. Once Max had his teeth into something, he didn't let go. He was more pit-bull than wolf. Unless Jackson could redirect him.
"How's Dani?" Jackson asked, hoping the topic of Max's gorgeous, showgirl fianc�e would be a distraction. At least Jackson assumed she was gorgeous. He'd never seen her but Max didn't date plain women.
He waited, expecting his brother to launch into their latest plans, like maybe picking a date. They'd only been engaged a few weeks but already their mother was asking if he knew when the wedding would be.
The response echoed hollow across the phone.
"Doesn't sound fine."
"No, she's good. Really." False energy infused his words making Jackson's teeth ache. Something was going on. That was the problem with the phone. He couldn't look at his brother. Couldn't read his eyes. He needed to see Max. The wolf inside him rumbled its agreement.
He thought about the next time he would see Max face to face. Their brother's wedding a month away.
"When are you heading to Mik's wedding?" Max asked as if he'd heard Jackson's thoughts. "Dad called tonight and asked when we were arriving."
Jackson groaned. He loved his family--he really did--but spending concentrated time with them and at a wedding no less--he wasn't looking forward to it. His father would start in on him about moving back. Mom would turn her attention to him now that Mikhel was getting married and Max was engaged. "The Thursday before," Jax said. The wedding was on Saturday. He could leave on Sunday and be back at the office on Monday.
"Cool, that's when I'll arrive as well. You bringing a date?"
"Right." Jackson laughed. The only woman he could even think to bring was Mandy and that had disaster written all over it. "None of the women I know would exactly blend with our family. You bringing Dani?"
He wanted to meet this woman. Wanted to see if she was good enough for his brother. "Probably not. She's got a new show starting. Bad time for her to be gone. Listen, I'd better go."
Hmm, Max really didn't want to talk about Dani.
"Yeah. Have a good night," he said, letting his brother escape.
"You too, brother."
He hung up the phone and sighed. Max didn't sound right. Didn't sound happy. But there was no way to pry it out of him on the phone.
He looked around his living room, his eyes not really seeing tidy bookshelves or light brown carpet. He mentally flipped through his calendar. Nothing much coming up. He could take a few days. Not letting his natural common sense interfere, he walked upstairs to the room he used for his office and flipped on his computer. A few key strokes and he had a flight to Vegas.