Authors: Vivian Wood
Tags: #Contemporary, #Romance, #Fiction, #Paranormal, #BBW, #Shifter, #Adult, #Erotic, #Sultry, #Alpha, #Werebear, #Bear, #Sexy, #Mates, #Alpha Guardian, #New Orleans, #Warriors, #Bayou, #Urban Fantasy, #Tragedy, #Past, #Protect, #Enslavement, #Temptation, #Faith, #Mortal Danger, #Carnal, #Crumble, #Forget
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Copyright Vivian Veritas Publishing 2015
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his lips touched Cassie’s, Gabriel knew he was lost. She seemed so small and fragile as he crowded her with his big body, advancing until his hips and chest pinned hers to the wall. Gabriel cradled her jaw with one hand, using his thumb to raise her chin, giving him greater access to her sweet mouth.
Cassie’s lips parted under Gabriel’s tongue and teeth, her tongue meeting his in timid strokes. She came alive at his touch, twining her arms around his neck and sinking her fingers into his thick chin-length hair, Gabriel’s bear growled with satisfaction.
His bear, usually a silent partner in their shared existence, was notably vocal about his appreciation for Cassie. His bear loved her scent, vanilla and spice layered over the musk of her arousal. His bear loved her body, curvy and strong, and the flashy clothes she dressed those curves in. Most of all, his bear loved her fiery locks. Gabriel and his bear shared an intense desire to find out what it would look like spread out over Gabriel’s pillow while he made her scream with ecstasy.
He devoured her with his teeth and lips, his free hand sliding up from her waist to weigh one of her supple breasts. His fingers found her nipple through the scant material of her golden dress, pulling a gasp of surprise from Cassie’s lips when he pinched the pebbled tip.
He watched her face intently, trying to gauge what she liked and how much she could handle. His cock hardened at the flare of desire in her eyes at his playfully rough touch. If she liked that, they would indeed be well suited.
Pushing aside the thoughts of mating and suitability, Gabriel decided to see just how far Cassie would let him take things. If she liked a little spice, Gabriel would do his utmost to thrill her.
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As a New Orleans resident, I am always inspired by the rich history, vibrant culture, and haunting beauty of my city. I have certainly drawn on many of the stories and famous figures from the interwoven tapestry of New Orleans myths, legends, and history. I would like to make a point of saying that I have taken bits and pieces of all of these things, mixed them all together, and come up with a work of fiction.
None of the names, places, or persons in this story are meant to be taken literally — that’s part of the fun of a story like this. Everything in this story is a work of fiction, a figment of my imagination, and is meant to be interpreted as such.
Please enjoy this story, with my compliments.
An Entry From
Withiel’s Encyclopedia Of Magics, Volume IV
The Gates of Guinee
of Guinee are the entrance to the spiritual way station between this world and the next. Forever shrouded in mystery, the only common knowledge of the Gates is that they lie in New Orleans, Louisiana, likely in some of the city’s hauntingly beautiful cemeteries. The Gates of Guinee are said to be presided over by Vodou Loa Baron Samedi, whose map for accessing the Gates is forever immortalized in an age-old nursery rhyme:
t is said that
, for the truly devoted follower, the key to traveling between the realm of flesh and spirit is only a matter of finding the right order and timing.
assandra Chase stood
in front of the full-sized mirror in her lavish walk-in closet, turning this way and that as she admired the stunning Rosie Assoulin skirt that had just arrived for her. The skirt was the most vivid shade of sapphire imaginable, sitting high on Cassie’s waist and falling in a smooth curtain to her feet. She’d paired it with a sleek, sleeveless white satin blouse, then pulled back her flame-colored hair, finishing the look with a pair of diamond ear bobs. A touch of blush on her high cheekbones brought out the finely wrought lines of her heart-shaped face, a little mascara emphasized her thick lashes, and a reddish orange lip stain accentuated her dramatic, full lips.
Cassie turned to the side once more, checking out her figure. She was tall and curvy, her bust and hips wider than they ought to be. Still, Cassie loved nothing more than truly beautiful designer clothes, so she bought the clothes she loved on sight and altered them to fit her sinful frame.
Everyone needed a hobby; women who rarely left the confines of their personal quarters, doubly so.
Satisfied with her primping, Cassie whirled and returned to the living area of her suite. The room held a beautiful gilded Anthropologie dining room set, a stunning West Elm-furnished library and lounge area, and a custom sewing and fabric storage area. Coupled with Cassie’s decadent bedroom and bathroom and the massive walk-in closet, these rooms were her entire world.
Her beautiful, carefully built, and suffocating gilded cage.
Cassie picked up a tablet computer and put on a new album she liked, the singer a fellow redhead named Florence Welch. She spent a few minutes humming along to the music and tidying up her sewing area. Living in such a confined space, Cassie was unable to abide any kind of mess. There was simply no way to escape anything in her rooms, so she kept them as pristine as possible.
It helped that her captors allowed her to buy anything she wished. If Cassie saw it online and thought it might amuse her, she simply had to ask. As long as the item would not help her escape the sprawling mansion in which she lived, held captive with a dozen or more other useful witches, she could have her heart’s desire.
Cassie had lived in the Birdcage, as mansion’s residents called it, for four years now. After the first year, she’d completely abandoned all attempts to escape. Pere Mal might keep her close at hand, and he might demand the use of her powers once a week or so, but otherwise Cassie had gained a kind of freedom. Sometimes Pere Mal even took her out of the Birdcage, brought her to meet important people at fancy Kith clubs in the French Quarter.
Cassie jumped at the sound of a soft knock coming from her bedroom. Biting her lip, she rushed into her bedroom, pulling her heavy wardrobe away from the wall. Behind the wardrobe was a smooth-edged hole in the wall, about three square feet in size.
Crouching in the hole, a wild look in her arresting navy blue eyes, was Alice. Cassie’s only friend and confidante, and a fellow Birdcage captive. Sparrows, they called themselves.
“You have to be quieter,” Cassie admonished Alice.
Alice arched a dark brow and climbed out of the tunnel they’d carved between their bedrooms, patting the two dark herringbone braids that bound her long, wavy raven-colored hair. Alice wore a simple but stunning black dress with white pearl buttons up the front and a white collar, no doubt every penny as expensive as Cassie’s own outfit. Probably a Rag and Bone dress, if Cassie had her designers right.
“We’re not going to get caught,” Alice said with a shrug.
Cassie pursed her lips, eyeing Alice for a moment. At twenty six, Cassie was only two years older than Alice, but Alice often had the maddening, unconcerned quality of a much younger girl. Cassie suspected that Alice’s youthful moments were the product of some touch of insanity, a place where Alice retreated when the world around her was threatening or overbearing.
Or perhaps it was all for show, and Alice kept her true self from Cassie as much as anyone else. In the three months since Alice had first dug a small hole between their rooms and started slipping Cassie notes, Cassie had yet to feel that she totally understood the other woman.
“You can’t know that, Alice,” Cassie said, trying to keep the impatience from her tone.
“Actually, I can,” Alice said, quirking her head to the side. ‘That’s what I came over here to tell you. I’ve finally found a way to send up a distress signal. Like shooting a flare gun, but with psychic energy.”
Alice raised her hand and mimicked the motion of shooting a gun overhead, and Cassie grew curious.
“I thought you couldn’t remove the wards on the Birdcage,” Cassie said.
“I can do anything I set my mind to, Cassandra.” Alice always called everyone by their full name. “You of all people should know that by now.”
She was perfectly right, of course. Alice had dug most of the tunnel between their rooms in a single night, using only a metal spoon she’d purloined off one of the meal trays sent up from the kitchen. Alice was both determined and fearless, a striking and sometimes frightening combination.
“True enough. You think you can really get us rescued?” Cassie asked.
“I’m sure enough that I’m telling you to pack up your favorite things. If I send up a flare, Pere Mal will be forced to clear out the Birdcage, move us all somewhere else. Once we get outside, we’ll stash our bags and then I’ll create a diversion. From there…” Alice raised her brows. “Clean getaway.”
Cassie thought it over for a second.
“Where would we go?” she asked, ashamed of herself. The idea of so much freedom all at once scared her. Other than Alice, Cassie had no one, unless you counted the junkie parents she’d run away from at sixteen. Her shitty home life had been the first of several factors and poor bits of luck, all of which had snowballed until Cassie had ended up in the Birdcage.
At least you’re not at one of the blood brothels in the Gray Market
, she always reminded herself.
Without your powers, that’s exactly where you would be right now
“Anywhere,” Alice said, nibbling on her lower lip thoughtfully. “We could do anything we want.”
“And when are you sending up this signal?” Cassie asked.
“Oh…” Alice gave Cassie a wide-eyed glance. “Ten minutes ago, give or take.”
“Alice!” Cassie said, grabbing her petite friend by the shoulders and propelling her back toward the wall. “Get back to your room. If they see the tunnel, they’ll know you were the one who sent up the flare.”
Alice gave a sigh.
“Cassandra, you sweet thing. They probably already know. That’s why we have to escape.”
Shooting her friend a glare, Cassie pushed her into the tunnel.
“I’ll meet you on the side of the house, near that mermaid fountain,” Cassie whispered. “When they come to tell you to pack up, try not to let on that you expected them, okay?”
Alice retreated without another word, and Cassie pushed the wardrobe back against the wall with a groan. For a few long seconds she leaned against the wardrobe, feeling paralyzed, staring at her lovingly-selected bedroom furniture. Her gilded cage it might be, but it was also lined with soft, pretty things that Cassie loved.
Pushing herself upright, Cassie ran to her walk-in closet and began pulling down the things she couldn’t bear to leave behind. The pile towered in a few short minutes, and she was forced to pare it down again and again.
By the time one of the guards thumped on Cassie’s door, she’d made her selections.
“Come in!” she called, walking out into the living area.
“You’re taking a trip,” a grumpy, dark-suited guard told her, thrusting a pair of rolling suitcases into the room. “Be ready in ten minutes.”
Cassie only nodded, her heart thundering in her chest. The guard slammed the door shut behind him, the sound made Cassie shiver. She looked around the room for a moment, wishing she had some personal mementos to take along with her. Her fingers instinctively sought her necklace, a silver locket with a chain long enough to tuck the pendant under anything she wore. It was the only thing she’d kept from her family, the last gift from the beloved grandmother who passed away when Cassie was twelve.
Dragging her suitcases to the closet, she spent a few minutes packing. After packing her clothes, Cassie dug into the very bottom shelf of her closet and produced several thick stacks of cash, carefully cultivated over several years by pretending to exchange items she’d requested, then selling them instead.
After she split the stacks up and rolled them in t-shirts, she placed some money in each of her bags lest she lose one. Then she rolled the suitcases back to the front door and waited. Tugging on a long pair of lightweight, arm-length Burburry kid leather gloves, Cassie blew out a long breath and tried to calm her nerves. Her mind was in chaos, her hands shaking, her tongue dry as sand.
The idea of escaping the Birdcage was so thrilling, and yet…
The door swung open again before Cassie had time to complete her thought.
“Let’s go,” said the guard, waving her out the door.
Taking a deep breath and straightening her spine, Cassie grabbed her suitcases and walked out her bedroom door without so much as a backward glance, not wanting to give away her trepidation.
With every step she took, Cassie knew she was moving toward a whole new life. Perhaps a new beginning would be exactly what it took to set Cassandra Chase’s gold-caged heart free.