Authors: Alicia Sparks
Primitive Series Book 1
For J, the man who saved my life and rescued my soul. I love you. -A
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Pending Alicia Sparks
All rights reserved.
Do NOT Copy or Distribute this book in any way or form without the
Permission of the copyright owner.
Published by Beau Coup LLC
Cover and Technical Advising by Barb Caruso
Kenyon lay sprawled out on a cot in the holding cell, his mind racing with ways to free his brother. Nik had been locked up for six months, and with every passing day his humanity was slipping further and further away. Tigers weren’t meant to be caged, and his brother was no different from their brethren who roamed the wilds. The only difference was Nik and every member of his family—Kenyon included—could shift from tiger to human at will, but Nik hadn’t been able to shift since the night the poachers had captured him in the swamps near Lafayette. Instead of killing him that night, realizing they had a prize in a rare white tiger, they took him down the interstate close to Baton Rouge to become a feature attraction at the Bon Teche Truck Stop.
Louisiana was obsessed with tigers. The concept went back to the Civil War and permeated every aspect of Southern Louisiana life from the football teams to the truck stops. This one in particular had been known for keeping tigers in captivity for the past twenty years, but the recent acquisition of a male white tiger was one that brought in even more tourists. Most white tigers couldn’t legally be bought or sold, especially in Louisiana, so Kenyon knew the paperwork was forged. Of course, there was the small fact that the tiger in question was not a tiger, but a man whose tiger form had taken over. Nik knew better than to run in the swamps at night, but as leader of the Maddux Clan and first born, he felt as if he were above the law. Now he was at the mercy of the tourist industry, and Kenyon had to find a way to free him.
Just the thought of seeing his brother locked away, pacing back and forth in that cage was enough to turn his stomach. There was only one option—he had to break him out. Of course, the emancipation attempt from three nights ago had put him in a similar situation, but now he knew the ins and outs of Nik’s predicament. It had taken him this long to find his brother as he painstakingly retraced Nik’s steps, following every possible lead. All it had taken was one look into the beast’s eyes and he’d known that Nik was the tiger in the cage, and the desperation in his brother’s eyes told Kenyon he was searching for a way out. Kenyon just wasn’t sure who would be escaping from that cage. If one of his kind remained in his tiger form for too long, his humanity would begin to seep away and the beast would completely take over. Even if Kenyon could free Nik, he might never get his brother back.
The jingling of keys brought Kenyon back to his current circumstances. Maybe his lawyer had finally showed up to post bail. Kenyon’s mother, Himani, was not very quick to aid her second born, and Kenyon hated that he’d been forced to call her in the first place, but he knew the clan wouldn’t act without her permission. It would be just like her to let him sit in here and dry out for a few days while her beloved first born was growing farther away from them every day. A three night stay in the local lock up was enough, and Kenyon needed a shower, a hot meal, and a warm body to sink himself into.
Hell, he wasn’t sure where that last thought came from. It had been a while since he’d thought of a woman as anything other than a complication. Then the scent hit him and he understood. Even before she rounded the corner, he knew it was her—the woman who was both his salvation and his curse, the only body he’d ever sank into. He wouldn’t make this easy for her, make her think he had been waiting, let her have the upper hand in being the one to spring him.
Settling back onto the cot, he put his hands behind his head, going for nonchalant. He fixed his eyes to the spot where she’d be standing soon, where he could take in the long expanse of her legs, and her trim waist, let his gaze travel north to settle on the mounds he had once proclaimed to be heaven.
The move had been a wise one, as her short business skirt and sexy high heels afforded him a fantasy that—although brief—hit him right in the gut. A briefcase settled against one thigh and the knuckles wrapped around it were stark white. Her other hand held a cell phone, and he knew she was feigning an important text. Everything about her body language told him she was off her game. He’d thrown her off with his mere presence. Good. She deserved that for the way she’d left him high and dry the last time they had been together. Such was their history. Her always leaving. Him always waiting for her return.
“You’ve been sprung,” the sheriff’s thick Southern accent bellowed above the jangling keys.
Kenyon didn’t move, didn’t want to seem so eager in front of the woman who was his by birth.
“You hear me, boy? Your lawyer posted bail. You’re free to go once we handle some paperwork.” The door to the cell swung open.
Kenyon watched her back stiffen as he unfolded himself, his eyes never leaving hers. He noticed today they were blue instead of the dark brown he knew so well. She was a master of disguise, and that talent had saved both their asses more times than he could remember. Sage’s people could not only shift into wolves at will, they could also change their appearance when it suited them. The woman standing before him had long, honey blonde hair and blue eyes, but she was his Sage just the same. He made his way to the cell door, taking in the way her chest rose and fell with each step. “Much obliged.” He bowed, pretending to be the perfect gentleman in spite of his appearance. To anyone other than Sage, he looked like a clear menace to society. But she knew the reason for the thick stripes on his skin and the golden color of his eyes. That, combined with his long dark hair and goatee, made him a formidable presence in any room.
Her throat and chest had turned blood red, looking even more crimson against the proper white button up shirt she wore. He knew that look—knew what it took to cause her body temperature to elevate so drastically.
She tucked her cell phone away and held a hand out to him. “Sharon Westley. Your family sent me.”
Always one with an alter ego. “Remind me to thank them.” His voice rumbled as he took her hand, lightly stroking the back of it with his thumb. He suppressed a grin when she pulled away as if his touch had burned her skin.
It had been too damned long.
* * * * *
Kenyon Maddux was the devil incarnate, and Sage Villalobos was determined not to fall into the trap of his golden eyes again. Twice burned was enough for her, which was why this meeting made her stomach twist into knots. He was obviously amused by his attempt to make her feel uncomfortable...that crooked grin on his face, his left eyebrow permanently arched in challenge.
Damn him. She had a job to do—get in, get out, deliver him to Lafayette and wave good-bye from the rearview mirror. The family had called on her to free him, knowing she couldn’t turn them down. Her family owed a debt to his family that went back at least a hundred years, one she feared would never be repaid. A debt that had put her solidly in Kenyon’s path for every one of her twenty-seven years. Resistance was futile. She knew this would end the same way it always had since the summer she turned sixteen—with her legs wrapped around him, begging him for more.
It didn’t matter that she hadn’t seen him in three years, every cell in her body wanted him and would still want him ‘til to the day she died. But that didn’t mean they weren’t toxic for each other.
He stepped closer to her, invading her space, his white t-shirt giving her a full appreciation for the stripes that covered 95% of his body. Only his face, hands and feet were free from what most people thought were thick, black tattoos. Sage knew the stripe pattern was unique to every member of the Maddux Clan, and she knew how the pattern wrapped around his waist, across his chest, covering the expanse of his back. Her fingers had spent countless hours tracing those stripes, memorizing their pattern, but her breath still caught in her throat every time she saw them and realized how dangerous Kenyon Maddux was.
Taking a step back and trying to preserve her sanity, she noticed how his golden eyes danced wickedly, slicing through her. His hair was longer now, the thick black mass pulled into a ponytail that grazed against his shoulders. It took everything she had not to reach out and swipe away the errant strands falling across his forehead. His dark goatee was longer, too, and a couple days’ stubble covered his square jaw, making his lips stand out as a carnal invitation.
“We doing this?” The sheriff cleared his throat and turned to lead them back down the hallway.
Sage was painfully aware of Kenyon’s shadow looming over her as they made their way out to the main office. A thousand different thoughts raced through her mind, things she wanted to say, explanations she needed to give and hear, but she just stood there waiting as he signed his paperwork and collected the envelope with his belongings. The first thing he did was slide on his family ring, the ancient crest topped with a stone the color of his eyes. More times than she could count, Sage had felt that thick gold band trace its way across her skin, sending shivers of delight through her body. Sweat beaded on her forehead.
He turned and gave her a smile. “You ready, sunshine?” His thick, husky voice sent heat straight to her belly.
“Just bringing you home,” she countered, stepping away from him in an attempt to regain control of the situation.
“After you.” He leaned down so his breath blew across her shoulder.
“What were you doing attempting to break into a truck stop anyway?” She kept her voice muted as they walked toward the door.
“Trying to get my brother out of that damned cage.”
“Well, you failed, clearly.”
“It’s okay. It’s pretty clear I have a lawyer who knows how to get me off.”
Heat spread through her body at his provocative choice of words. It had been a long time since she’d been near Kenyon, but it wasn’t long enough to quench her need for him, a need which raged through her like a Gulf Coast hurricane.
Kenyon settled next to her, his legs cramped in the economy car. Pushing the seat back as far as he could, he stretched a little, but not enough to get comfortable. If she thought he was riding all the way back to Lafayette like this, she was out of her damned mind.
Her scent surrounded him, permeating the leather seats and seeping into his system. His cock twitched immediately and the word that had controlled every interaction he’d ever had with her echoed in his head—
Decreed by birth as the second daughter of her line to mate with the second son of his line, Sage was his in every way that counted, except for the one—the literal one, the one that counted the most.
When she sat next to him, her skirt rose up, revealing even more skin. The buttons on her prim, white shirt strained against her breasts. All it would take would be one flick of a finger and the buttons would pop off, revealing lace and flesh. Unable to stop himself, he reached out to touch the long, blonde ponytail. Her hair immediately sprang to life, the deep, dark brown filling with a rainbow of reds and yellows with a few strands of white here and there, the mark of what she was, the reason she belonged to him. She was, to her core, a wolf.
“That’s better.” He didn’t recognize the tone of his voice. When she turned to face him, the blue eyes she’d had as Lawyer Whatever were now Sage’s brown ones, kissed with streaks of gold. The scar that should have been over her left eye reappeared and his Sage sat next to him now. “Much better.”
“Couldn’t exactly walk in there as myself, now could I?” Her wicked grin told him she’d been up to no good, which he’d already surmised.
He had seen her face on several WANTED posters in the little police station, telling him after all this time, she was still chasing demons. “What are you wanted for this time?”
“Arson.” She shrugged as if it were no big deal. “I burned a puppy mill to the ground. Oh, and felony, theft of property valued at over five thousand dollars for the hundred dogs I liberated.” She grinned and slid on dark sunglasses, shielding her eyes from him.
“You should be more careful.” If the local cops got a hold of her, there were members of the mob who would be willing to pay nicely to see her disappear. That was a thought he couldn’t entertain for more than a few seconds without being driven insane with worry.
“I’m not the one who got caught breaking into a tiger sanctuary.” Putting the car into gear, she pulled out onto the street, heading toward the interstate. His body lurched with the motion.
“I don’t know what Himani told you, but I’m not going back to Lafayette. Not without my brother.” It was non-negotiable.
“I was called by the family to take you to the compound.” Their compound was roughly ten thousand acres just north of Lafayette, a place Kenyon dreaded returning to.
“Then I hope you’ve got some rope and tranquilizers, because I’m not leaving without him.” Kenyon knew Himani didn’t place the call and had instead told someone else to contact Sage. The last time he’d heard from his mother, it had been to tell him she was considering declaring Nik to be dead no matter what his circumstances may be. Personally, Kenyon thought if she didn’t care enough about her sons to be in Louisiana instead of Canada, they could do without her proclamations. Not everyone saw things the same way, though. She’d been married to the last Maddux male of the original bloodline and her position as daughter to the Canadian tribe meant she had the final say in the way things went both north of the border and in Louisiana.
“That’s none of my business. I’m here to deliver a parcel.” Sage’s voice was cool and even, but he knew he had to be affecting her. Hell, just having her sit near him was enough to make his body react in ways he didn’t think was possible, in ways it hadn’t for too long.
“I see. You’ll risk life and limb to rescue some furry purebred, but when it comes to one of us…” It infuriated him to think she still kept him at arm’s length no matter what they had been through.
“I’m not one of you. I’m nothing like you.” She was just as stubborn as he was, which was why they constantly butted heads.
“You are everything like us. Like me. The same thing that runs through my veins runs through yours.” She was part of him, part of his family. She belonged with him.
“I’m not having this argument.” The word
hung in the air between them. How many times had he and Sage been down this road? Him trying to pull her to him, her trying to push away.
“So why did you come all the way from California? Just to deliver me to my mother?” He knew she didn’t come because she missed him. Even if she had, she would never admit it.
“I was in Colorado, not California.”
“Not many whaling boats in Colorado. What were you doing, trying to save a snow bunny or something?” He would never understand how Sage thought it was just fine to go out into the world and risk her life to save whatever endangered animal had a cause behind it, especially when the most endangered were right at home and in need of help. That was the way of things with activists like her. She used her sense of right and wrong to guide her away from the people who needed her the most.
“Snow bunnies are rare this time of year,” she said smoothly, not turning to face him. “And I owe a debt to your family that I am obliged to repay. Otherwise, I would still be in colder climates.”
“Sweetheart, there’s nothing as cold as this car is right now.”
She didn’t respond.
“So, I rented a room one exit before the truck stop. Unless you think you can physically stop me, you better head south.”
A moment’s hesitation flickered on her face before she took the south ramp onto the interstate. He didn’t let out the breath he was holding until the exit came into view.
“Turn in here.” Kenyon had noticed how quiet she’d been since guiding the car onto the interstate. That was unusual for Sage and meant only one thing—she was over-thinking the situation. As much as he hoped she was thinking about him, he knew nothing good could come from her prolonged silence.
As she turned into the motel parking lot, pulling her little car past the eighteen wheelers that had parked there overnight, she finally spoke. “After this, I’m through.”
“Through?” He knew silence equaled ultimatum. It always had.
“Yes. Done with all of it. You. Your family. My family. This connection we are supposed to have. The way I’m assumed to be at your beck and call. Through.”
She couldn’t mean that. Even though it had been a while since they’d seen each other, he still wanted her the way he always had and always would. If she did mean it, he knew it would kill him. He’d never known a pair of mated second-borns to live without one another.
“You can’t walk away from me.” Pain clenched his gut as the words came out sounding more like a growl than English. The full implication of her words hit him. If she was really through with him, he would live the rest of his life in mourning for her. She was
Meant to be his. Decreed to be his by her birth. There was no way he could let her go. He always knew she would come back to him due to either her family loyalty or tradition, but if she cut the ties with him and walked away…he couldn’t bear to think of it.
“I want out. I don’t want to be called back here every time you get into trouble, every time you need a quick change artist to cover your ass. Find someone else. I want my own life.”
He grabbed her hand, pulling her wrist to his, lining up the tattoos on their skin, tattoos which had been there since they turned sixteen and marked them as belonging to one another. “Your life is here. Your life is bound up in this, with me, with our families.”
“Then my life is a lie. This obligation is a lie. I want more.”
“What do you want, Sage? To go blow up whaling ships and set fire to puppy mills? If you want a fight, there’s one right here in this state. There’s enough legal mumbo jumbo and wildlife causes that need a vigilante to keep you busy forever.”
And there’s me.
The last was right there on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t say it. He wouldn’t beg her to stay, but he had to find a way to convince her nonetheless.
Sage pulled away from him, ignoring the heat from his fingers as they grazed against her skin, ignoring the way her heart hammered in her chest and the way her body wanted nothing more than to lean into him, press against him and forget she’d ever told him what had been on her mind. But she had to get away from him, from this thing between them that would never be more than just obligation. Her tattoo practically burned under his touch, the bastardization of the
Fleur de lis
, a symbol of the land shared by the Maddux and Villalobos families, a land they had vowed to protect. The symbol also marked her as the second born, belonging to Kenyon Maddux, second born of his line, a fact she’d heard ad nauseum since she turned thirteen.
Even so, she would never forget the first time she had gone to Lafayette to meet Kenyon. Her grandfather had brought her to the Maddux compound a few months after she’d turned thirteen, and even then the dark haired boy whose tiger stripes were just now beginning to come into view fascinated her beyond belief. Sh
e had watched him the entire week she’d been there, catching his golden stare on her until they had finally spoken to one another. What followed was her first kiss, a peck on the cheek that ignited a fire inside her she wasn’t old enough to understand.
Even though Kenyon was still the only one for her, she’d had it up to her neck in tradition. She, sick of the word and every implication from it, was tired of this misplaced sense of loyalty that always got her the same thing—a demand from Kenyon, a proclamation of his ownership over her. It wasn’t what she wanted from him. What she wanted was a thousand times more complicated.
Being away from Kenyon had solidified that notion, the one thing he’d never voiced, the one thing she wasn’t sure he could offer. As silly as it sounded, as movie of the week as it was in its madness, she wanted Kenyon to love her the way she loved him—all the way to the pit of her soul in a way which had nothing at all to do with traditions and tattoos, but had everything to do with two people who belonged together.
“Fine.” Kenyon uttered a word she never thought she’d hear—an agreement. Setting his jaw and stretching his long legs as he opened the car door and stood, he looked more than a little dangerous, his golden eyes glowing. “You help me free my brother and you can walk away, but I want you to know one thing, Sage. If you walk away from me, I will not chase you. If you don’t want to be here, I won’t come after you.”
“Fine.” It was her turn to say the word, to set her jaw in sheer determination. Grabbing her bag and flinging it over her shoulder, she closed the car door and steadied herself, straightening her shoulders, not letting him know how deeply his agreement had cut into her.
It was what she wanted.
But it felt like a dagger in her heart.
The breath Sage blew out should have been liberating, should have felt like freedom, but it wasn’t. It was crushing, lodging in her throat, cutting off her airways.
“Fine.” She heard him mutter under his breath as he took off, his long strides leaving her in the parking lot as he headed toward the motel room.
I was wrong!
She fought the urge to take back what she’d just said, realizing how stupid she sounded in her own head. This was what she wanted—Kenyon’s undying love or freedom from the whole situation. She just never thought it would hurt this badly.