Illicit, p.1

Illicit, page 1

 

Illicit
 


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Illicit


  ILLICIT

  By Madeline Pryce

  Copyright © 2015 by Madeline Pryce

  Coverart by MB Designs

  All rights reserved.

  This e-book is a work of fiction. While references may be made to actual places or events, the Names, characters, incidents, and locations within are from the author’s imagination and are not a resemblance to actual living or dead persons, businesses, or events. Any similarity is coincidental.

  This book is licensed to the original purchase only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of International Copyright Law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines and/or imprisonment. No part of this e-book can be transferred by any means, shared, or reproduced without the express written permission of the Copyright holder.

  Table of Contents

  About This Book

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Other Madeline Pryce Books

  About This Book

  Illicit is a 60k, stand-alone novel with a HEA.

  An angel trapped in darkness, a sinner imprisoned, and a lust borne of destiny.

  Eva has no explanation for the tattoo wings shimmering on her back or her ability to heal.

  Peter Marx, a reluctant alpha leopard shifter who is more rebel than he is hero doesn't want to rule, and he sure as hell doesn't want to fall in love.

  A night of unforgettable passion leads Peter and Eva down a dangerous path. The killer's trap grows ever tighter, forcing the two lovers to fight with everything they have.

  Warning: This paranormal romance includes explicit sexual scenes, dirty talk, light bondage, anal sex and dubious consent.

  Disclaimer: This title was previously published under a different penname and has been revised/expanded for republication

  Chapter One

  Peter Marx paced the darkened lot of his uncle’s weather-worn bar and cursed the leopard clawing him from the inside out.

  “Bullshit instincts,” he growled.

  For twenty years, he’d managed to fight the urge to return home and claim his place as Alpha. Now here he was. Against his will. Snow gusted, ripping at his stinging cheeks. He ducked his chin and fought the shiver coursing through him.

  He could still turn around, leave before anyone knew he’d come.

  Coward, the beast taunted.

  Fuck the cat. The damn thing might as well have twisted his balls. Peter ripped open the door with clenched teeth and stepped inside Lost Isle, a place he’d never thought he’d see again. He’d expected the blast of heat, but not the sorrow. Grief socked him in the stomach. Conversation fell silent as, one by one, the stricken townsfolk raised their heads to glare at the interloper who’d dared invade their territory.

  Oh, how things had changed. He’d belonged to this community once upon a time. He’d been the one to cast a judgmental eye toward the outsider. Now, he was the stranger, the nobody.

  The leopard raged. They’re nobody. You’re Alpha. They serve you.

  Alpha. Peter gave one sharp shake of his head. It had never been about leading. If given even half a choice, he would have gone anywhere but here. He’d tried to ignore the blind, half-crazed instinct to return to his birthplace, with no success. The death of one Alpha called to the other. Three days ago he’d climbed into his truck and headed north, leaving his Montana ranch behind.

  He’d driven night and day through rain, sleet, and snow with nothing except a duffel bag. He’d brought one suit and an aching hole in his chest to attend a funeral he hadn’t been invited to. By the time he’d regained control, it was too late to turn around. Mother Nature, the little bitch, threw one vicious snowstorm after another. Now, he was stuck in the middle of the Alaskan forest with nowhere to go. He shook off the snow clinging to the short strands of his hair, the ice on his black sweater. Stomping his boots, he left a pool of water at the door and held his head high.

  There was a gleam of challenge in his gaze and a silent fuck-you attitude in every step he took while he stalked a path through the handcrafted tables in the rustic bar. Twenty years ago, the wood had still been smooth and unblemished. Now, the tables he passed were dull, scuffed, and stained.

  No one approached him. No one uttered a single word in his wake. The gazes he met and held quickly found something else to look at. Had he really changed so much that no one recognized him? Topping in at six-foot-three and two hundred-plus pounds of muscle, he was no longer the scrawny boy they’d last seen.

  Peter slid onto a creaking, rusted stool that reminded him of the sign out front. He traced the surface of the worn, once intricately etched border on the bar with his finger. He remembered carving the designs with his father. He also remembered the knock-down-drag-out fight that had ensued. Hard to forget three fractured ribs.

  “Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. I guess I should say I’m surprised to see you here, but we’d both know that'd be crap,” a deep voice boomed from a shadowed corner behind the bar.

  Stepping into the dim light, his uncle’s tall, broad form came into view. Middle age had come and gone for James Marx in the years since Peter’s banishment. His short hair, now partially gray, held only hints of the long-ago blond. The craggy lines bracketing his mouth and eyes told of many harsh winters in the Alaska wilderness. Those same grooves telegraphed an undercurrent of anger.

  “No need to get your panties in a bunch,” Peter said. “I’m not sticking around. Figured since my old man died, I’d come and…” He trailed off, not sure how to finish his statement. He hadn’t driven two thousand miles to pay his respects, that was for damn sure.

  His father was dead. So fucking what? If only he believed that. Closure. He needed closure. Needed to know the old man was really dead. He hadn’t seen or spoken to him since the day his father told him to get the fuck out. Peter had been fifteen at the time.

  Silence drifted between him and his uncle, and it gave Peter time to concentrate on his surroundings. Playing in the background, a slow, depressing blues song hummed. The melody grabbed his piss-poor mood by the balls and then took a shit on it. He should have stayed in his cabin. Before he could rise to leave, a glass scraped across the bar.

  “If you aren’t staying, then this one is on the house,” his uncle said.

  Peter closed his hand around the tumbler and drew it close. He looked into the golden-amber liquid, inhaled. The rich, familiar scents of the whiskey stung his nose and watered his mouth. He lifted the cup to his lips, muttered a quick “Thanks,” against the rim before he sipped.

  Fire raced down the back of his throat, temporarily subduing the raging beast within. Lately, nothing shut the bastard up. Cupping the glass between his palms, he rolled the smooth cup back and forth while he brooded over his mixed bag of emotional crap.

  “You know,” James said, cocking his hip against the bar and throwing a dishtowel over his red and brown plaid-covered shoulder, “you look just like Greg did when he was your age. What are you now, thirty-five?”

  Peter snorted, ran a hand through his thick, black hair. He and Greg looked nothing alike. With Peter’s dark hair and green eyes, he favored his mother. But hadn’t that been part of the problem? Greg took one look at the son and instead saw his dead wife.

  As if reading Peter's mind, James shook his head before lifting his own glass to chapped lips.
It ain’t the physical appearance. In that respect, you’re the spitting image of Jenny. Nah, I see my brother in the set of your shoulders, the fuck-you in your gaze, and the brooding lines around your eyes. Watchin’ you roll that glass in your hands is like seeing a fuckin' ghost. He’d never admit it, but he regretted sending you away.”

  “Bullshit.” Peter slammed his glass to the counter.

  At the surge of emotion, the animal within crashed against his self-control, threatening to break free. Where silken fur craved release, skin itched. Where razor-sharp canines would grow, gums ached. When the tips of his fingernails burned, he wrestled the beast into submission. His internal struggle was silent, and one he fought almost every hour of the day.

  “Something had to give or you two would have killed each other,” James continued. “Thanks to your mother, you and your father both held the Alpha gene at the same time, and neither was willing to concede to the other. Marx men are stubborn bastards.”

  That was one way to put it. They drank the rest of their whiskey in an uneasy silence, the only noise from the suicide tone drifting from the jukebox and the slow rebuild of conversation from the people behind him. Peter and James stared at one another, sized each other up. When Peter was a teen, his uncle had seemed larger, bulkier. Peter knew if he were to stand, he’d top the other feline-shifter by at least four inches.

  Force him to submit, the leopard demanded.

  Just as Peter knew he would, his uncle shifted his gaze to the side and cracked first. “The funeral was today.”

  “I know,” Peter replied.

  Even if he hadn’t already known, one look at the somber patrons would have told him. It didn’t take a genius to link the sweet, fragrant stench of death clinging to thick plaid dress shirts with a funeral. From behind him, he heard the clinking toasts, the murmured chattering of truth and lies the living whispered about the dead.

  “Gregory Marx was a damn good man.”

  Lie. Gregory Marx was an emotionally stinted asshole.

  “He built this town from the ground up.”

  No one mentioned that Peter, his son, had helped.

  “He had such a kind, giving soul.” Wrong. His father was a selfish bastard.

  The humans in this town had no idea what kind of a man—animal—Gregory Marx really was. If they’d known the truth about his father, and the other members of the Pard living secretly beside them, they all would have been extinguished long ago.

  More than a dozen residents of Bellows Falls, Alaska, harbored a dangerous secret, one Greg had protected with his life. One that, by all rights, was now Peter’s unwanted responsibility.

  He didn’t need to turn and search the crowded tables for the ones who didn’t belong with the “normal” citizens. Energy pumped off their skin in electric waves of heat. The sharp scent of their leopards pressed hot against the back of his neck.

  The feline preened. We protect now.

  “Give me another,” Peter said, sliding his glass across the bar for a refill.

  As he sat there, the rumors spread throughout the bar and his agitation ratcheted up a notch or five.

  “Shot in the head.”

  “Poor Eva found him naked, frozen in her truck outside of the clinic. He fell at her feet when she opened the door.”

  “They say it was suicide.”

  Peter drank, tried to erase memories from his past and fill the gaping holes with liquor. A grating creak of rusted hinges sounded from the entrance. Peter didn’t bother looking to the sound, finding out who else had just come to drown the sorrows of the day. Night, rather, since it was perpetually pitch black outside in the winter. His nose twitched, senses alert despite the alcohol.

  The newcomer brought a fresh meaning to the word grief. Heartrending, to be accurate. The scent was a mixture of pain, guilt and the stinging salt of freshly fallen tears. Under the perfume of death, the pure, honey-sweet fragrance he remembered wafted, mixed with the slight undertone of sunshine.

  She’d been five the first and last time he’d seen her, but he hadn’t forgotten her scent.

  The murmur of conversation dropped once more, leaving only the heavy strokes of a bass guitar. He set his glass on the bar, turned toward the woman without conscious thought.

  His chest tightened at the sight of her. Not so much from lust, although he was man enough to admit her smooth, pale skin, innocent brown eyes and golden halo of loose corkscrew curls made Eva a looker. Despite her looks, a surge of resentment wrenched through him and simmered in his gut.

  The orphaned brat his father had taken in, had chosen to love instead of him, walked through the throngs of aged tables, much as he had. Only, unlike him, the humans gave her awkward condolences, gentle pats on the arm. The leopards bowed their heads in respect, as if she was one of them. She’d grown up and taken Peter's place by his fathers side. Several men stood, took turns wrapping burly arms around her tiny shoulders. They probably just wanted a cheap feel.

  Not one single person, his uncle included, had felt the need to give him their sympathies. There was no “I’m sorry you lost your dad, Peter.” He didn’t hear a single “Tough break, not being able to say goodbye, to make amends with the old man.”

  As it had been since the day his mother was murdered, Peter had hardly existed. Physically his father had been there, but emotionally his old man had checked out. Peter tightened his fingers around the glass in his hand. His back molars clenched, ground, sent an ache through the bones in his cheeks.

  Eva stepped under a low-hanging light. A string of familiar pearls gleamed around her throat. His mother’s pearls, black as the feline that had resided inside her. The necklace was the first thing his father had ever bought her. The sight gave him pause. Had little Eva grown up to replace more than a son? Sickness swelled. No. Greg might have been an asshole, but he wasn’t a pervert. What kind of a man took in a child, raised her, and then married her?

  Glass to his lips, he took in the way Eva’s nimble fingers worked down the line of buttons on her snow-covered coat. She wore no wedding ring. As if her single status gave him permission, he had an unwanted, unexpected vision of those same fingers working the buttons on his jeans.

  Three eager men dressed in thick, wrinkle-free flannels of blues and browns fought each other to take her jacket. Her full lower lip trembled, one half of her mouth curling up in a watery, pathetic excuse for a smile. Through the makeup she wore, crescent shadows darkened her liquid brown eyes.

  The coat fell away, revealing a black dress. The A-line style was elegant, understated, and modest. Silk clung to her waist, outlined the curves of her hips. She walked forward, and the motion fluttered the hem of the skirt against her bared knees. Mesmerized, he couldn’t look away.

  For a scrap of material so simple, the dress was God damned sexy. The only skin she showed were her long, bare arms and a flash of leg where black fur-lined boots ended below the knee and the skirt began.

  Why in the hell was he suddenly so turned on? He must be drunk. Perhaps the problem was he wasn’t inebriated enough.

  Blindly reaching for his drink, he belatedly realized he already held it. He took a swig, never removed his gaze from the one person who, in one day and with one blink of her large brown eyes, cracked his father’s scarred heart wide open. Peter sipped his whiskey, welcomed the fire moving down his throat.

  “Our Eva must have been just a girl the last time you saw her,” James said.

  Peter forced himself to turn from Eva and spear his elder with a glare. At the weight in Peter’s gaze, James took a step back and cast his eyes submissively toward the ground. It didn’t matter his uncle was twenty-five years his senior. Peter was dominant, Alpha, always had been, always would be.

  Age meant shit. The Alpha in any group of animals dominated. Period. When an Alpha met your gaze, you looked down or you bared your throat. In their screwed-up circle of leopards, there had been two top cats: Peter and his father. The little fuck-up from nature, a side effect of crossi
ng a leopard with a panther, had been the second problem between him and his dad. Two dominant males in one house was…explosive.

  Something ugly simmered inside him. “Our?” Peter sneered, brought the glass to his lips but didn’t sip. He had more to say.

  While he was cast out like forgotten trash, both the town and the Pard accepted Eva in his place with wide-open arms. The anger boiled, and the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. “She isn’t one of us. Did Greg at least wait until she was eighteen until he started fucking her?”

  He knew his words were cruel, but he wouldn’t take them back. Not when anger and jealousy left him vulnerable. The black hole of emotion tightening his chest spread to his gut.

  The bone-deep sorrow in James’ eyes vanished. Fury and resentment turned his uncle’s gunmetal gray eyes arctic blue. Well, well. That got a reaction, didn’t it? Jesus, Greg hadn’t really mated with her, had he? Did James hold some sort of claim? After all, Eva wasn’t blood related to the Marx men and thus could be considered fair game.

  A new flurry of unwanted emotions took hold, killed his buzz quicker than a cold shower. A different type of jealousy filled him.

  Ours, the leopard growled, and it was the first time the cat had ever laid claim on a woman.

  The urge to knock his uncle’s teeth into the back of his head warred with a possessive instinct to drag Eva close, bend her over the table and take. No. He didn’t want her. He only wanted what she had. His signals were crossing, mixing things up in his brain.

  “Eva is family, boy,” James snapped, lifted his head to hold Peter’s gaze boldly. “If I were you, I’d mind yourself and watch the way you speak about her. It’s time for you to leave.”

  Peter swallowed the last of his firewater. Ever so slowly, he set his empty glass down on the bar. Under the counter, his hand curled into a fist. One by one, claws pressed from beneath his fingernails, bit into skin. “That sounded an awful lot like an order. Are you challenging me, old man?”

 
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