Authors: Ali Parker
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Copyright © 2015 by Ali Parker
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
The novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and plot are all either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons – living or dead – is purely coincidental.
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The meeting with Victor Parence shouldn't have left Marcus on edge, but it did. The man had moved into New Orleans without respect or fear for the competing forces in the city. His mark had been made in blood. His demands changing the projection of Marcus's future.
"Not only mine, but Kate's and Jon's too," Marcus muttered to himself as he got out of his sleek, black mustang. Slamming the door, he walked toward the large red brick mansion. The house was located in one of the high-dollar parts of town. Marcus glanced back at the gate and the guards that stood watching him closely.
It was a life Marcus wanted for himself.
He walked languidly to the front door, pausing for only a moment. Nervousness rose in his stomach, Victor's words reminding him that for this meeting - their first meeting - Marcus had failed to follow instructions. Kate was supposed to be with him, but he knew without a doubt that things would go south quickly if she had come along. She was being forced to move into his former boss, Seth's, spot as one of the drug lords in the heart of New Orleans.
It was Marcus's spot, but he understood clearly what Victor was doing. He wasn't trying to give Kate freedom, but to squish her subtly so that she never recognized what was happening until it was too late. Marcus couldn't allow that to happen. He cared too much for her.
The door opened before he could knock. A pretty blond in a tight skirt and her boobs hanging out the top of her tank top stood in front of him. Marcus glanced past her to see if Victor might be in the distance. Everything was a test. Everything was an interview. There was no rest to be had in his line of work.
"Victor's expecting you." She opened the door wider and smiled, her lipstick much too dark for her fair complexion.
"Good. Take me to him." Marcus moved in behind her and closed the door as she pranced down a long hallway. She wasn't at all the type of girl that he would spend more than a few minutes with, and that was only if she was buying his product.
Too thin. Drug addict.
Marcus could hear Victor's voice as the guy seemed to be warning someone to keep their shit straight or he would be sure to do it for them. Glancing around, Marcus took in as much as he could. He needed to memorize the layout of the house should they ever decide that their time being Victor's puppets was up and his appointed date for death had arrived.
The girl turned and said something, but Marcus didn't catch it as he reached out to stop himself from plowing into the small thing. He simply nodded and waited outside the door as she disappeared. Large paintings of the ocean and the mountains covered the walls throughout the hall, each one more beautiful than the last.
"Marcus. Come in, please." Victor's call to him brought him back from his yearning to have beautiful things in a big house that he owned as well. This wasn't the time to dream, nor the place. This guy was a monster and yet had everything in the world that Marcus wanted - power being king.
Does that make me a monster too? Do I really give a shit?
Walking into the room, Marcus quickly scanned the large office. It was decorated in dark crimson and black, the color of sin and passion making him feel a bit smaller than he was. Marcus straightened his shoulders and walked toward the desk, reaching out to shake Victor's hand as he extended it.
The drug lord was probably in his late forties if not a little younger. People who lived a hard lifestyle always showed signs of it physically, but Victor looked well-kept. Perhaps his empire was built in his younger years and now he was simply bathing in the beauty of all that was his.
"You can leave, Sara." Victor glanced toward the girl and nodded to the door. "Close the door on your way out."
"Do you want me to have Jude come stand guard?" she asked, her voice much softer than it had been at the door a few minutes ago.
"Did I ask for Jude?" Victor narrowed his gaze on the girl before turning toward Marcus. "Take a seat."
Marcus sat and crossed his hands over his stomach, glad for his choice of attire being a little more business-like than he usually would have chosen. After calling Kate that morning to talk through everything, she had warned him to wear something nice. It set the tone for power. Or so she said. He stifled a smile at the thought. She was made for a life of crime and power, she just didn't want to accept it. Victor was going to push it on her and Marcus wasn't sure if he was too terribly upset about that part of the deal. Him wanting to share her was another conversation altogether, one Marcus was going to bring up and force in a different direction if he got a chance at all.
The door closed behind him as Victor's eyes narrowed slightly. His demeanor darkened due to the expression change.
"It's Kate and she wasn't feeling too well this morning. I told her to stay in bed and I would talk to you on our behalf."
"Yes, well, I told her to be here. I'm not a man to make empty requests, Marcus. You both will do well to remember that." Victor rolled his shoulders and leaned forward, his white button down shirt made of expensive looking silk. "I'll visit her later and check on her. I'd hate for my partner in crime to think that I'm uncaring of her disposition."
"Whatever. Kate's not here. I'm here, so whatever you wanted to discuss, it will be done with me."
A smile lifted Victor's mouth slightly. "I'm not sure she would be entirely pleased knowing that you are as vile as I am, and your first love will always be power. Does the pretty girl know that about you?"
"She knows what she needs to know." Marcus shrugged, feeling far too small for his liking all of a sudden. "Kate and I have discussed the arrangement you've offered. We will work together to build up the east-side drug cartel, but we're sticking to the current products we have."
"That's a good answer. I will be involved in helping you build things. I need Kate to focus on utilizing her club as a central location for trade and transactions, and I'll need you to help with a few suppliers in New York and LA."
"I understand. Seth had me doing the same for him."
"Good. We will use those relationships you've already built in the past to continue to drive the future." Victor leaned back, his dark eyes moving across Marcus slowly.
Something about the way the drug lord studied him caused him to want to shiver, but he stifled it. There was no way in hell Marcus would ever let the other man know just how intimidated he was. Where Marcus was big and dangerous, Victor was cunning and deadly in ways that couldn't be traced or circumvented.
"I think you'll be quite pleased with my ability to work with our old suppliers and find us new ones."
"I'm sure I will. I told you and Kate to discuss other items. Have you?"
"And I think we both agree, along with Jon Peterson, that we need more information on what you're suggesting before we agree to anything."
Victor laughed loudly, the sound nefarious. "Oh that's rich. The three of you knew exactly what I proposed. I could see it in your eyes, Marcus. Katelyn is beautiful, deliciously feminine and yet so tough. I haven't wanted for anything in a long time, but I desperately want to hear her moan my name. I want to watch the fear rush across her pretty face when she realizes that I'm the best fuck she's ever had. It's that fear of desperation... of needing something you're not sure you'll ever truly get. You know that look, right? You've seen it on her before, haven't you?"
Marcus glanced down at his hands, knowing that he should never break the gaze held by another man. It was a sign of weakness and he cursed himself internally, but he couldn't help it. He had seen that look on Kate's face. It's what drove him toward her again and again and again. That, and love. He loved her and yet knew she deserved better.
Jon was supposed to be the "better" he was releasing her to, but the fucker seemed to be as lost as the rest of them. Marcus tucked his thoughts away as anger burned deep in the recess of his chest. The thought of Victor doing anything with Kate, much less fucking her, pushed him toward retribution.
"Kate is your business partner. Nothing more." He looked up, setting his resolve and locking his jaw.
"And in the line of business that we are in, you know as well as I do, that trust has to be built." Victor's face softened only slightly, his expression relaxed as if they were discussing the color of the carpet.
"Trust can be built in other ways. She's not a piece of ass we can pass around. She's brilliant and powerful. She's a good woman."
"I have no doubt that she is all of that. She's also violent and unstable. She killed my enforcer without batting an eye."
"The mother fucker chopped down her door with an axe. Would you have done something differently?" Marcus huffed, not sure where to take the conversation. Victor was unreasonable, as most tyrants with power trips were.
"Not at all, but if she's capable of such a feat... what else is she capable of?"
"Serving your purposes well as long as you don't fuck with her."
"Ah, but see, after living a life of crime since I was only a boy, I live for properly fucking with people. It's the only joy I get out of life." Victor tilted his head. "You'd do well to remember that."
"What are you proposing, Victor. Stop pussyfooting around the conversation and lay it all out. What do you want? Kate to sleep with you once so you can get it out of your system?"
Victor laughed again before standing and stretching his arms above his head. "Tell her I'll stop by later this afternoon. I want to explain myself fully to her, seeing that it's her that I'll be working directly with. You're dismissed. Prepare for a trip and bring Katelyn and Jon back here tomorrow night for a meeting. Remember that your only job at this point is to keep doing what you do best - selling drugs."
"And what of Kate?" Marcus stood, hating like hell how quickly the mother fucker in front of him had put him into his place. He was nothing more than a lackey, but that would be changing soon. There was no way he would spend the next ten years of his life serving the scum of the earth like he had for the last ten.
"Katelyn is going to be deeply connected to all that I do, but don't worry... she's going to experience more pleasure than any one woman should be granted. We're done now. Leave."
"Jon, have a seat." The captain of the police department pointed to the chair in front of him as Jon walked into the room. It had been almost a week since the showdown in the warehouse and Jon had written up and turned in his reports as required to do. They had him under full investigation beside Seth, which was to be expected.
How a cop could have a partner for two years and never suspect him to be the central drug lord in the city looked bad - really bad. Jon would have to work hard to get his reputation back, but perhaps it wasn't worth it anymore. He had joined the force years ago as a way to repent, to give back for his own past.
With Victor's demands on Kate and Marcus, Jon was stuck playing the part of a rat on the force to keep the people he loved safe. It was no way to live. His stomach tightened painfully at the thought of their current dilemma.
"I've read the reports, and I appreciate you taking the time to put so much detail into them," the captain started. "It would seem that Seth had all of us turned around ten ways to Tuesday. Insane how well he pulled this off. I'm so sorry that your brother was a victim of all of it."
"My brother made decisions that led him to death. I hate that he did and I guess some of that was my fault for not fighting harder for him, but it is what it is." Jon shrugged, hating himself for the moment. Adam had been the center of his world when they were younger, but Jon began to separate himself from his brother as Adam turned from wanting a good life, to simply wanting his next high. Having never been involved in drugs, Jon simply couldn't understand the life Adam had chosen. So he didn't try to.
"Well, we all make decisions based off of the pressures around us." The captain waved his hand in the air. "It's neither here nor there. I'm sorry for your loss in both your brother and your partner on the force. We will be assigning you a new partner soon."
"I don't want one."
"You don't have a choice, Peterson. You know that." The captain picked up a piece of paper from his desk, his eyes moving slowly as he read out loud. "It is my conclusion that Kate Jarret had no former information or evidence regarding the murder of Adam Peterson, nor involvement in the narcotics-related incidents which occurred during the time under investigation."
Jon already knew every word in the report he had filed. He had read through it a million times before turning it in. He didn't care if Marcus was implicated. The man had been a thug his whole life and would continue to be one. If he got what he deserved from the situation, so be it, but Kate...
Kate was trying to clean herself up, trying to make a new life, and she had. She had until Marcus hooked up with Adam and left her stuck right in the middle of it. Jon would work to clear her name and help her to push forward into that new life in whatever way possible.
It's never going to happen.
He shuddered at the thought. Kate would never be free simply because of Victor's control over her. Hell, his control over all of them. Jon had very little left to lose in life, but what he did have, he treasured. His relationship with Kate had been shaky at best, simply due to the fact that he wasn't sure how he was going to deal with Victor's demands. Did the man really expect him to share Kate in the bedroom with others?
No fucking way.
Jon would have to let her go before his heart dove in deeper. He would have to decide to run with her or release her. There wasn't another choice available, as sharing her would be the death of him. No decision needed to be made just yet. Marcus was meeting with Victor to get more details on what his intentions for all of them were. After that, just as he had always done, Jon would gather the facts and make a conclusion, or decision rather.
"I wrote it. I know what the fuck it says, Mike." Jon lifted his eyebrow to his captain, the need to get the hell out of there rolling over him in waves.
"Read it again and again over the next few days. You know as well as I do that the review on you is going to get worse before it gets better. Keep your nose clean and if this girl means anything to you - walk away. She's trouble."
"Once a criminal, always a criminal?" Jon chuckled sardonically, his need to defend Kate rising up and threatening to suffocate him.
He didn't want to defend her. He wanted to save her. To offer her hope in the midst of this darkness, but he couldn't. He didn't have a large enough stick to beat Victor back and with the threat that sat heavy on him, he was locked in too.
"Exactly. I know the girl appears to be innocent, and I believe she is, but don't let anything even appear like you have lost your objectivity, or you'll be suspended until further investigations can be done."
"That's fine, but you need to note somewhere that I'm going to stop by the club over the next few days. I need to solidify my understanding of a few bits and pieces I lost of the story through the drama. My brother's case is being closed and my notes are due to complete the process. I'll be quick and keep things completely professional, but note it in the files. I don't want some dumb ass watching me and thinking I have no reason to see Miss Jarret and her lackey. I do."
"Will do." Mike set the papers down and leaned back in his chair. "Now that we have recovered Adam's body, do you have the funeral information? The guys want to come and support you."
"Yeah. It's tomorrow. I'll call Karen later when I get home and give her the info." Jon stood up. "Did you need anything else or what?"
"I think you should take a few weeks off to get healed from all of this, but I assume you're going to tell me to stick it up my ass."
"That I am. I don't want time to think. Not interested in that shit." Jon walked to the door and opened it, glancing over his shoulder and nodding at his boss and old friend. "Call if you need me."
"Will do. Remember what I said, Jon."
The loss of control was sickening - stifling. There was nothing he could do about it and yet it left him with the desire to crawl into the darkness and stay there. There were only two choices in the matter facing him. He could kill Victor and they would all be free to live as they pleased... all of them but him, of course. The only other option was to run and have the bastard follow after them for the rest of their lives.
Kate and Marcus would never go for that, and honestly, Jon couldn't see it happening either. He would sooner die than run from anything. Letting her go and putting his mother in protective custody was the only remaining choice. That would free him to tell Victor to fuck off and maybe he could go back to his life before the incident.
Maybe there would be redemption and healing waiting for him. He needed forgiveness for Adam's death, for missing Seth's denial, for falling in love with a woman who needed far more help than he was able to give. She needed protection and he was defunct all of a sudden.
Jon picked up the large file on his desk and tucked it under his arm as he walked numbly through the police station. He needed a long nap, but it wasn't happening. He needed to know about Kate - truly know about her before making his decision to pull back, or risk it all.
There had never been a woman who felt so good beneath his touch, her moans and whimpers leaving him craving more of her. He let out a slow breath as he pushed the door to the police station open and walked into the early spring afternoon. He could go see her, make love to her and spend the afternoon in her bed, but that would make things harder when he decided to break it off.
It seemed like the only viable option.
Jon tucked the file into an empty backpack he left strapped to his motorcycle and tugged it onto his back. Getting on the bike, he had the urge to just forget everything and go to her. Her presence changed everything and made him want to fight like a mother fucker for her, for Marcus, for all of them.
"I'm becoming bi-polar," he mumbled and started the bike, turning to head toward a small bar at the edge of town. He couldn't very well go to Expulsion to dig into Kate's past. She would be right beside him and he wouldn't be able to keep his hands off of her.
He released his thoughts and drove toward an old dive bar near the edge of the plantation homes he so badly wanted to take her to see. Why couldn't they have a simple life? A life filled with the tension of trying to figure each other out? A life that included making a few bad decisions that would lead to building the relationship up with great make-up sex? They could get married eventually and have a couple of kids together. He would work to make her life everything she had once hoped for.
She had wanted a normal life at one time, right? Jon wasn't sure. They hadn't known each other long enough to really discuss anything of that nature. The last few weeks had been filled with tragedy and horror. The fact that she forgave him for leaving her to deal with Victor's lackey was a miracle. That she didn't get raped and chopped into small pieces was almost too much to consider. She was tough... She was tough for a reason. He needed to know who she was. What made her into the woman she was now.
He could just go through the file, read up on her and hopefully the information would help him make a decision about what to do next. There was no one to help him work through his next steps, and Kate had made it perfectly clear the last time they spoke that she had to go forward with whatever Victor wanted. Something in her almost seemed to snap, as if she wanted to move toward that old lifestyle again.
No. He never wanted to be a monster again.