Authors: Selena Illyria
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #Werewolves & Shifters, #Erotica
Published By Purple Sword Publications, LLC
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any
similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, is
purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
DRAVEN’S CROSSING 4:
Copyright © 2013 SELENA ILLYRIA
Cover Art Designed By Anastasia
Happy Veil Cemetery
Zelda fingered her rosary and stared at the hole in the ground. People milled about her, murmuring words of sorrow. Nothing made an impact on her pain. They didn’t know “sorry”; they didn’t know the pain she felt. Why the Jagged Pass Pack alpha bitch, Poppy, felt that Joey had to die was beyond her. Joey didn’t know about the
operation. Poppy claimed she’d wanted to cover their bases. He’d overheard something, or so she’d claimed, to doubt Poppy would be dangerous. Poppy had connections, knew people who could hurt Zelda and her children; she’d already lost one person in this crazy scheme. There would be no more deaths in her family.
Joey hadn’t been an easy man to love, and heaven knew her kids were better off without him. He’d always had to put pressure on them to succeed the way he had, from the ground up, with no help from his family and all on his own. Despite his hurtful words and actions, he’d been a good man underneath all that gruffness. He was a simple man who took things at face value and took people at their word. It was how his father had been. If she’d told him dealing with Poppy was for work, he would’ve believed her. He hadn’t known anything; that’s what she had to keep telling herself.
The other half of the coin was that now she was free to live her life, to stop pinching pennies, to actually go on a vacation out of state, out of the country. The
Pack would be no more once she left. With Joey gone and her stepping down as alpha bitch, she had no responsibilities anymore. There would be a new pack alpha and he’d want someone younger, someone who didn’t already have children. Poppy couldn’t make them keep her on, not with her pull. Besides that, she didn’t want to be alpha bitch anymore; she hadn’t wanted to be one in the first place. Too many political games and drama, not enough support, not like how it used to be that pack meant family. Not anymore.
Someone laid a hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze, drawing her out of her thoughts.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Zelda. Joey was a good husband and a wonderful alpha. He was a great leader. It’s going to be hard to replace him.” Miriam Bolt, pack busybody and social climber, gave Zelda’s shoulder another squeeze, this time one that hurt.
A silent message that she was now fresh meat for all the women in the pack who had hated her over the years.
Zelda didn’t wince. She kept her body relaxed and resisted the urge to frown. Miriam didn’t give a damn about her husband’s death or her loss. All she cared about was that her son would be named Joey’s successor. That meant more power, money, and prestige, all the things Miriam coveted.
She nodded. “Thank you, Miriam. Your words are appreciated.”
Zelda shrugged out of Miriam’s hold. “I have to get home now. The kids will need me, and I have to clean up after the police.” It was a lie; the kids had gone directly back to college after the funeral. They hadn’t wanted to interact with the rest of the pack and listen to their ineffectual words of apology.
Miriam’s cold, blue eyes flared with excitement before her face became an emotionless mask. “Oh, of course, the police must be harassing you about all the poisons Joey took. Why he was an oleander eater, one never knows.
Silly, really, thinking you can build up a tolerance to something so dangerous.
And such a shame about the account.
How could you have known about that?
Wives, always the last to know.”
She couldn’t hide the small smile on her face. “All right, Zelda, we’ll see you at the
gardening meeting, yes?”
I doubt it
, she thought, but Zelda smiled anyway.
She turned on her heel and headed out of the cemetery. Her stomach cramped, and her face flared with heat.
Was she implying that I knew something? Had Miriam heard something from her godson, the cop on the case?
Zelda gritted her teeth and slipped her phone from her purse. Poppy had to be told. She hit speed dial and opened the door.
Poppy answered on the first ring. “
, how are you?”
“That bitch Miriam held me back. I think she may know something or her godson, Mark, may have told her something about the case. I don’t know. Look, I need my cut now. I can’t handle the pressure, the questions, and the suspicions. I won’t have the kids dragged through this too. The police won’t go away. They keep coming over asking me questions. Are you sure Kendall won’t talk?” Zelda demanded. Sweat dotted her brow as her heartbeat picked up the pace. The thought of someone saying something was enough to scare her. Her nerves were already raw enough from everything she’d been through. A court trial wouldn’t help. Her daughter,
, had already suggested Zelda seek a therapist.
“Kendall is a good girl, and besides, she’s on a cruise around the Bahamas for the next three months. A lovely birthday trip from yours truly. I can get you your cut. No problem. Are you sure you want out now? The Werewolf Summit is coming up.
Lots of new customers.”
Polly actually sounded sad that Zelda wouldn’t be there.
“No, the kids’ college funds are all paid up, and the mortgage will be paid up after the insurance company cuts the check. Then I can sell the house. I’m not going to stay where I’m not wanted. The pack certainly won’t be sorry to see me leave once Miriam’s son takes over.” She shoved down the bile that rose in her throat. “I didn’t know he had a million-dollar policy, but now that they’ve ruled his death accidental, they are paying me out by Monday. I can go, live in that house in California I’ve always wanted. I can’t do this anymore, not with all the police hovering around.” Zelda had rehearsed this speech many times in the past few days, but she doubted Poppy would let her off so easy. Zelda refused to be pushed around by the police or by Poppy.
“But we do need you,” Poppy whined. “Those cookies of yours are always a big winner, and we can make so much money in
Zelda refused to allow Poppy to try to dissuade her with talk of money. She wasn’t greedy. “No. No. No. I can’t, not with
and the Council hovering about. Plus, there’s that spook brother of
. He’s still in town. No. I’m out.”
Ice filled Poppy’s tone. “I’ll have your money ASAP. Bye, honey, and if I haven’t said it, I’ll say it now, I’m so sorry about your loss.” Poppy signed off.
Zelda pulled into her driveway.
Sure she is
, she thought. Zelda hung up and got out of her car. As soon as she got her money, she was getting the hell out of Dodge. Poppy wasn’t going land her ass in jail. Poppy could find another stooge for her ridiculous plan.
* * * *
Nadia took in a deep breath and blew it out. She was going stir crazy. They’d been holding her for at least a week. The longer this went on, the more vivid her nightmares became. She couldn’t stop the memories of her abusive father or the pain and emotional damage he’d inflicted on her mother and sister, as well as on
. Last night in her dreams, she’d regressed back to her childhood. Emotional scars ripped open at the memory, and now she couldn’t shake the haunting footsteps of her father. He’d put her in a basic room, like the one she was in now. Everywhere she looked, tendrils of fear wrapped around her body. She needed to feel safe again, secure. Nadia kept reminding herself that she was an adult, that she could defend
she’d left home long ago. Her father and his abuse couldn’t touch her now, not ever.
She closed her eyes and reached out with her mind to the last time she’d felt truly in charge of herself. Nadia ordered her mind to go back to a moment when she’d been safe and secure.
A new place emerged from the fog of her mind. Pockmarked, pale peach Italian marble blocks rose up around her. Diaphanous white drapes fluttered in the high, rounded archways, and the sound of a fountain trickled somewhere nearby, adding to the stress-free environment. Candlelight flickered around the room, bathing the space in pale golden light. Nadia’s heart rate slowed as the tension ebbed away to nothing. The light perfume of vanilla and cinnamon floated on a soft breeze. Her father was nowhere to be found. This was Sanctuary.
“Take off your clothes,” a rich, deep baritone ordered.
Arousal spiked in her blood as the pulse of desire started between her legs. Her skin prickled with awareness as her sex flooded with moisture. This memory was from the last time they were in Italy together, months ago. She’d been without him for far too long. Nadia exhaled and relaxed further, sinking into the need he sparked deep in the pit of her stomach. He would keep her safe; he always did. He would also make her forget about her father and her current situation. A shard of yearning sparked in her heart, and a slice of pain filled her chest. Tears formed in her eyes. She shoved it all back and took a breath. Thinking about that small sentiment of wanting to be with him in a relationship wouldn’t do, not now. She had to focus on Urban and the here and now.
She looked toward Urban and felt her ease increase. He stood in a darkened archway, painted in shadows and candlelight. Her gaze ate up his form from his broad shoulders, wide chest, and trim waist to the defined ridges of his abdomen. The skintight, black leather, knee-high boots wrapped around the thick muscles of his thighs. In the dim light, she could see the outline of his thick erection pressing against the front placket of his pants. She swallowed as a yearning to drop to her knees, undo his fly, and take his cock into her mouth hit her square in the gut. She could practically taste and smell the sex, musk, and sweat. A whimper formed in her throat, but she swallowed it away. He hadn’t given her permission for that or ordered her to do it.
Nadia refocused her attention on herself and looked down at her clothing. Gone was the eight-year-old body, so weak and puny, unable to protect her mother or sister. Now she was an adult with full breasts, curves, and a trim body that had been honed to fight, to kill, but also to accept the pleasure that Urban would dole out to her. Her cocoa skin was covered by a loose-fitting dress and golden strappy sandals that tied up to her knees with slim ties. The only jewelry she wore was the pair of chandelier earrings he’d given her after their Paris encounter.
Urban strode into the room. “Didn’t hear me? I said take off your clothes.
Urban moved with
grace. Her breath caught in her throat as she watched him glide forward, smooth and liquid. The soft light of the space illuminated his form until she could see him properly. He wore a black-and-white, checked carnival mask rimmed in gold. His torso was bare, but scars turned his rich golden skin into slices and swathes and a patchwork of healed and not so healed areas. She could see some bruises around his ribs and on his stomach. If he ached, it didn’t show. She didn’t ask him what happened. Nadia never asked. It was their rule. Even if she wanted to know, yearned to ask, had the questions on the tip of her tongue, the words never found their way
If she allowed her curiosity free rein, that could open a door into her own past, and she didn’t want to go there and taint their relationship. He stopped moving and stood out of reach, a few feet away. Her heart flipped in her chest, and anticipation wove around her veins.
“Do I need to say it again?” He crossed his arms over his chest, showing off the sleeping wolf under a full moon tattoo that decorated his upper arm.
No more stalling,
she told herself. Rather than reply verbally, she answered him with actions and stripped off the loose-fitting, Grecian-style
she’d appeared in. Only her shoes and the chandelier earrings remained. Through the eyeholes, she could see his green eyes blaze with passion. For a moment she hated the mask that caressed his face and hid his reactions from her. She wanted to trace the contours of his cheekbones, coated in a layer of golden stubble, see his sensuous lips that she’d kissed and nibbled at and yearned to feel in her loneliest hours. Another whimper formed in her throat. A question formed on her tongue, but again she let it fade away. Instead she focused on her body’s reactions to being so close to him once again. Her skin heated, and prickles of fire danced on her arms and legs. Arousal swirled in the pit of her stomach as her pussy throbbed with need. Her clit pulsed with anticipation. She fisted her hands to keep from touching herself. Urban hadn’t given her permission yet. Nadia wished he would order her to do something, anything. She needed this release, if for only a moment.