Read Let Us Prey: BBW Military Paranormal Romance (Wild Operatives, #2) Online

Authors: Vivienne Savage

Tags: #bbw, #paranormal romance, #military romance, #curvy, #shapeshifters, #shifter, #eagle shifter, #interracial

Let Us Prey: BBW Military Paranormal Romance (Wild Operatives, #2) (4 page)

BOOK: Let Us Prey: BBW Military Paranormal Romance (Wild Operatives, #2)
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The differences between the north and south sides of Quickdraw were vast; our main toad bisected the town into two distinct areas. Betty MacArthur lived on the south side and only a brisk walk from the town police department, which shared a building with the fire department and city hall. On my side, there weren’t as many pretty gardens and the homes were smaller.

“Do you want a ride in the morning?” The streetlamp outside my house flickered as he pulled up. Further down the road, a group of teens collected near another street corner with their hands in their pockets. They watched us like hawks.

“No, I like the walk. Really,” I assured him. “It wakes me up and helps get me going.”

“All right. It’ll make me feel better if you wait for me in the evening though. The news is probably spreading through town right this moment, but there was a shooting only a couple blocks over sometime last night. Heard about it on my way out to work this morning.”

“A shooting in my neighborhood?” The chilling news didn’t surprise me.

“Yep. Looked like a drug deal gone bad or something. No one died, but the cops took both of them into custody.”

“Thanks, Ian. Anyway, Betty is amazing, and I’m glad you trust me with her care. I loved hearing her stories.”

“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow on my way in from work. Take care.” He paused, the moment stretching for eternity between us. “I’m proud of you, Leigh. You’re doing great.”

“Thanks,” I whispered. “Bye, Ian.” Stunned, I stepped from the car and barely shut the door with shaky fingers. Proud of me? He barely knew me.

He lingered until I was safely inside and the door was shut. After locking up, I ran my fingers over the green bills in my hand and wept myself to exhaustion. My life was finally turning around, and I had my own personal guardian angel to thank for it.

~Ian~

Leigh haunted my memories long after I returned home, a persistent force invading my thoughts until I stripped out of my clothes and walked onto the rear patio. I hit the pause button on the security camera first — I didn’t need a digital record of what I planned to do.

I let the eagle overtake me, inflicting a sharp crack of pain to both of my arms, snapping my bones and reshaping me into a compact, feathered body. Whenever I left the ground behind and took to the air, the world around me gained a new level of clarity.

Flying past Russ and Dani’s house gave me a glimpse of her with their new horse, Daisy. Russ was building a barn while his girlfriend of two years hosed the mare down after a ride. I envied him when we realized Dani was his fated mate, their binding obscured by the lingering traces of his grief for the one he’d already lost.

Dani peered up and shielded her eyes against the setting sun. She waved to me and I called back to her in return. I left them behind and soared toward the town.

Quickdraw wasn’t the same place of my childhood. Sickness had infested its soul. The wind carried me over to the south side where Gram lived. I wish she’d stay with me, but she wanted to have neighbors in walking distance. She wanted to see children playing ball in their yards and walking dogs down the street.

I wanted Leigh’s baby to become the great-grandchild Gram deserved. As my flight path brought me toward the north side, I scanned the ground below me and took in the sight. Wealth and comfort bled away to barren, sandy yards and unpaved streets. Circling around gave me the chance to scout the area near Leigh’s home and descend to a light post at the street corner.

Criminal activity bustled at her neighbor’s home. A car pulled up and stalled in front of it, waiting until a little boy ran down with a baggie of weed. The kid, no more than seven or eight, took the money back up to his father.

A scrawny, malnourished dog trotted down the road with swinging teats close to dragging the dusty road. Leigh’s door opened to frame her in shorts and an oversized tee. She held a small bowl in her hand piled with rice. When she approached the road, the dog paused and met her halfway. The animal snapped up the offering.

“I wish I had more for you,” she said.

“Hey, Leigh! Why do you bother feedin’ that ugly thing? Why don’t you let me shoot it and put it out of its misery?” one of the men called from her neighbor’s porch.

Leigh shook her head. “Actually, I’m thinking of keeping her. She comes this way every couple of days, and I don’t think anyone owns her.”

“Bitch, you don’t even got a job. How you gonna take care of a dog?”

“I do now,” she called back. She ran her fingers over the dog’s floppy ears and straightened from her crouch. Her eyes raised to me then became large as saucers. “Holy shit, it’s a bald eagle!”

“I’ll be damned. It is,” one of the neighbors said.

I came down closer to her and glided to the low chain-link fence around her house. Leigh gasped and didn’t move while I preened my flight feathers. A handful of yards distanced us, but my eagle craved contact. I wanted to feel her fingers over my wings and to touch my beak against her soft cheek.

“I wish I had a camera... it’s beautiful,” Leigh murmured.

“Better get your mutt inside before the bird takes a bite out of it,” one of the guys called.

“Eagles don’t eat dogs,” Leigh argued.

“Bet if the fucker was a rat dog, it would’ve taken off with it by now.” The guys howled with laughter while Leigh backed away with the canine.

The reservation in her eyes told me she didn’t want to go inside. She wanted to watch me as much as I wanted to watch her.

“I’m telling you. There ain’t no reason a big bird like that’s sitting around except to find its next meal, Leigh.”

Gray eyes watched me the entire time she led the hungry dog up her porch steps. After the mongrel was safely indoors, Leigh returned with a disposable camera.

“I can’t believe he’s still here. Two shots left...”

The neighbors moved on to another conversation. A woman brought them fresh beer and another drug-seeking customer arrived. Leigh glanced at them with morose eyes and sighed.

Desperate to take her sadness away, I glided to the dusty walking stone in front of her porch. She shrieked and stumbled back against the door, banging her hip in the process.

“Leigh, you okay?” the concerned neighbor woman called.

“Shit. I thought the thing was attacking her,” one of the guys commented.

“Maybe I should shoot it,” one of the guys threatened.

“No!” Leigh screamed at them. “It’s not doing anything.”

A couple men chuckled. “You ain’t no Disney princess, lil mama. Let us chase it off before it hurts you.”

“Fuck you,” she seethed at him, revealing a stubborn streak. The young woman approached despite their warnings. With my beak closed and tilted down, I watched her hesitate until I closed the gap and touched my feathered head against her bare knee.

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God,” she whispered under her breath.

“Maybe it’s sick,” one of them speculated. When I didn’t fly into a vicious rage or attack, they lost interest in watching. Our moment became truly ours, and then her fingers were against the nape of my feathered neck.

“You’re so big,” she breathed out loud. My mind traveled to other places, wondering if she’d say the same thing in bed once I was above her and our naked limbs were twined. The dangerous line of thought tempted my beast, so I pulled away before I lost all control. Leigh startled back as I snapped out my wings. A powerful flap lifted me into the air, where I circled twice before riding an air current away from her home.

My survey of north Quickdraw yielded similar results of criminal behavior and sketchy individuals. Why weren’t the police doing anything?

I returned to my house before absolute darkness fell and showered once I was inside. The memory of her touch didn’t fade.

Leigh. She was mine, and soon, I’d be hers too.

Chapter Four

One Month Later

~Leigh~

B
etty and I passed out candy alone for Halloween until Ian arrived in a Captain America costume. Petunia lay on the porch beside us, large and near the end of her pregnancy. We’d have puppies soon.

I eyeballed Ian from top to bottom as he kissed his grandmother’s cheek. The fitted costume suited his physique, sexy as all get out and too authentic to be cheap.

“I think I’ll be going inside now,” Betty said. “This cold is too much for my arthritis, you know.”

“It’s barely a breeze,” I protested.

She ignored me and continued inside. “I’ll see you Tuesday, Leigh. Good luck. Goodnight, Ian.”

Without thinking anything else of it, I turned back to Ian. His costume deserved my attention. “I wish I knew you were going to dress up. I would have done the same,” I teased, nudging his ribs with my elbow. “Why
are
you dressed up?”

“I visit Texas Children’s Hospital each year on Halloween,” he explained. “It’s sort of a tradition between me and some of the other guys in my squad. We go on down to Houston and tell stories to the kids.”

“How long have you been doing this sort of thing?”

“This is the fourth year for me,” he admitted. Petunia lumbered over and set her face on his knee until he scratched behind her ears. My dog loved him.

“Isn’t Cap another branch and rank?” I asked innocently. I unwrapped a Hershey’s kiss and held it in my mouth until it melted.

“Well, yeah, technically...”

Ian had a fresh shave for his Halloween role, and if he wore his hair long, he would have been a dead ringer for his grandfather. My gentle ribbing brought out a blush, its warm hue complementary to the exotic complexion he’d inherited from his grandmother and grandfather. I had discovered Betty was biracial, too; the daughter of a white man and black woman, but so fair-skinned it wasn’t easily apparent. I eagerly listened to her stories of love existing during a time when society was against them.

“The part in the movie was definitely miscast,” I said. After unwrapping a second chocolate and offering it to him from my fingers, I held my breath when he took it without hesitation, his lips closing around my fingertips. Ian and I had a kind of easygoing flirtation between us.

“You think so, huh?”

“I know so.”

We hung out together for an hour longer as roving bands of children came for treats. My biggest regret was that I couldn’t take Sophia to the yearly Trick or Treat social at the church in an adorable costume.

Ian jingled the keys to his SUV. “Guess you’re off the clock now officially. Thanks for hanging around past your usual hours.”

“Are you kidding? We had a blast. I love decorating for the holidays. Any holiday, really.” We piled into the car and buckled our seatbelts. When we reached my neighborhood, we passed the usual gang of teenagers standing beneath a dimmed street lamp. We both knew what they were doing, but the local police didn’t care about the small fry dealers.

“How do you feel about Monday?” Ian asked to break the silence.

“I always have trouble sleeping the night before a visit with her. Every other weekend isn’t enough. I want to see her every day and let her know I haven’t forgotten her and haven’t abandoned her.”

“It’s because you love her, Leigh.”

“Sometimes I worry I need her more than she needs me.” Until her big gray eyes gazed up at me with something resembling recognition during my last visit. “I miss her so bad, Ian. I just wish they’d let me bring her home for a few hours. Even a night. Why do they think I’d go through all of these hoops just to hurt her? I mean, on Monday the judge is just going to review my case and see I fulfilled all his requirements, right?”

“It takes time to regain trust, sweetheart. But you’re doing the right thing now playing it by their rules. Look at how far it’s gotten you.” He parked in front of my house.

I nodded, feeling foolish for the tears stinging my eyes. Only a few more days, and my nightmare would be over. Sniffling, I wiped my face with the back of my hand, then was taken by surprise when Ian pulled me into his arms. I became hyperaware of too many things at once: the earthy, familiar scent of juniper and woodsy pine I associated with him, his strength, how perfect we fit together when I set my cheek against his shoulder, and how much I wished he saw me as more than a charity case to save.

“Do you have a ride over?” he asked.

Once my emotions were under complete control, I leaned back from Ian and separated. “It’s a ten minute walk. Their house is just up on Amarillo Drive.” Uphill into a nicer area of town.

“What about to the courthouse?”

“Uh...” Shit. I drove Daddy’s truck last time, and without it, I didn’t have a way to reach the courthouse twenty miles away.

“As luck would have it, my schedule is clear Monday.”

Ian probably had some sexy girlfriend waiting for him at home. Most of the town, including me, didn’t know much about his personal life. And any attempts to wheedle information out of Betty resulted in absolute failure. He struck me as a private individual with a big heart, and ever since our evening ritual began, he’d never once hit on me in the car. Never made a pass at me.

Of course not,
I thought, suddenly irritated with myself. Ian was a real gentleman, the kind of guy idealized in time period romances depicting the south. Once I reminded myself his interest in me was purely charitable, I suppressed the urge to do anything more than lean across the truck’s center console for a hug. I threw both arms around Ian, catching him off guard with the ferocity of my embrace.

“Thank you, Ian.
Thank you.

“It was my pleasure, Leigh. I...” He squeezed me a little tighter, imparting a sense of safety I’d missed. Why was the second hug better than the first? “Maybe it’s wrong to ask now, but I wondered if you’d like to join me for dinner Monday somewhere. Alone and without Gram.”

My heart stuttered and missed a beat. “Dinner?”

“Yeah, an evening out.”

I swallowed nervously, fearing I misread a friendly celebration offer. “Like a date?” I whispered.

“Like a date. We could catch a movie after your hearing, unless they let you take Sophia home with you right off. We’ll just swing dinner somewhere kid-friendly then.”

BOOK: Let Us Prey: BBW Military Paranormal Romance (Wild Operatives, #2)
5.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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