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) (2 page)

BOOK: Let Us Prey: BBW Military Paranormal Romance (Wild Operatives, #2)
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“Why?” I asked.

“The baby was born with neonatal withdrawal syndrome related to opiate use. Codeine is Leigh’s drug of choice. Her boyfriend has a twenty-five year stretch at Ferguson Unit for dealing a whole plethora of narcotics.”

Hunt’s news hit me like a bucket of cold water. Lapsing into silence, I let the news wash over me and took a few moments to digest it all. When I saw Leigh, I didn’t see a woman out for her next fix — I saw
and felt
a wounded soul crying for help. “What else?”

“She’s got a juvie record for shoplifting, too. Stole a couple televisions from Wal-Mart. Got busted with a flat screen.”

“How the hell do you steal a television from Wal-Mart?”

“Back when the Quickdraw Wal-Mart was new a couple years back, they didn’t run as tight a ship as they do now. She went into the store, bought a television, and took it out to her friends in the parking lot. Then she returned to the store, fetched the second television, and cruised through the other exit doors with her receipt. She would have probably gotten away with it if she didn’t try to hit the store up again after the shift change. Someone had reported strange behavior to loss prevention, and they were watching for any more suspicious acts.”

Even as I took in all of the damning evidence against Leigh’s character, something told me there was more to the story. I stroked my chin and gazed out the police department window. “What about her family?”

“Only child of deceased parents. Her mother, Louise Denton, was killed in a car wreck when she was five. Gregory Denton died a couple years back of laryngeal cancer. She lives in his old place on the North side.”

“Tell me about the boyfriend.” I used my phone to take notes.

“He was this good-for-nothing punk named Dennis James. When we busted him, he had enough prescription narcotics to stock his own pharmacy, Ian.”

“Dealing for someone big or working his own business?”

“Who knows? One minute he was telling us all this shit about how he’d be out in a day; a few hours later, he’s got his mouth shut tighter than a Baptist preacher’s asshole.”

I chuckled at the imagery. “What did the investigation turn up?”

“Turns out him and his boys were robbing elderly people while they were asleep or out of the home and selling them on the market. He even stole from his own parents, and they’re good, respectable people.”

I thought back to the girl I caught pinching my grandmother’s lorazepam one pill at a time. “Was Ms. Denton involved in the theft or distribution?”

“No, nothing we found or could prove. She seemed genuinely shocked when she heard the charges against him,” Jacob said.

His words cleared the rest of my reservations. “Okay. So she wasn’t shooting meth, she wasn’t dealing, and as far as you know, she hasn’t stolen anything since she was a kid.”

“Why are you asking about this anyway?”

I had to think fast, searching for any excuse that would suffice and save me from admitting we were soul mates and sounding like I was out of my mind. “Gram needs a new home health aide and I thought about hiring Leigh. That’s all.”

Jacob gave me an uncertain look. “I’d keep a daily count of Mrs. MacArthur’s medication then.”

“I plan to after the last one we told you about, but I’m also a firm believer in giving people a chance.”

“Let’s hope your generosity doesn’t bite you in the ass this time.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. How’s your boy doing anyway?” I swapped the subject to Hunt’s seventeen-year-old son and his plans to enlist.

“Good, good. Danny took those practice placement tests, and they said he’d be a good fit for some of those technical jobs they have in the armed forces. Of course, he wants to take the language test and try his hand at linguistics.”

“I was certain he was going to go with the Air Force. They take linguists, too, you know.”

“Heh. Well, you know how boys are. Once his buddies going into the Army all called it the Chairforce, there wasn’t much hope of getting him to go. I thought he’d at least enroll in college first,” Jacob said.

I scowled at him. “There’s less sitting involved than they’d have him believe. Either way, he’ll get some good experience out of it and money for college. Maybe he’ll come back to Quickdraw one day and work alongside you.”

Jacob and I hung around his desk for a while longer before a call pulled him from the station to settle a fender bender dispute at the gas station. I went home to my personal office where I sat behind the computer and phoned a friend.

“Argus? Hope I caught you at a good time.”

“Always have time for you, Ian. What can I do for you today?” he asked in his easygoing voice.

“I need you to draft up some legal paperwork for me about a job.”

Chapter Two

~Leigh~

J
ust before Daddy died, he signed his old Ford F-150 over into my name. Letting go of it for a few grand was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make, but the money helped to make ends meet until I found a job.

With less than seven hundred dollars of it left to my name and few worldly possessions, I threw myself into finding gainful employment before I lost everything. Time at the library consumed most of the week, allowing me to fill out online applications at every business within fifty miles.

Days without Sophia passed into weeks and became months. The ache in my heart was a hollow, barren field where my baby belonged. Two days a week wasn’t enough time, but I needed firm footing beneath me before the court returned her to my care. I failed her and
myself
when I didn’t seek professional help during pregnancy.

Back then, I thought they’d judge me and take my baby away if I asked for help. In the end, they did it anyway by citing child endangerment. After CPS took her away, I spent the first weeks cursing the medical staff who reported me and laying blame everywhere but the place it belonged. Myself.

The driver of the carpool to Ferguson Unit honked from the side of the road. I ran out and joined two other women in the backseat after passing ten dollars to the driver. An hour later, an intimidating prison loomed ahead of us, a massive brick facility with two layers of perimeter fencing and harsh razor wire. Impassive guards armed with AR-15s watched us from towers in passing.

I shivered and scurried along with the rest of the flock, feeling like a sheep herded to pasture. The other ladies wore makeup, but my face was bland and intentionally unappealing. They wore dresses and tight-fitting tops. I wore jeans and a light cardigan over a V-neck, which I fastened before entering the facility.

The humiliating shakedown procedures were just part of the sacrifice I made to see Dennis. I turned my pockets inside out, set my shoes in the bin for the x-ray machine, and walked through the metal detector with my hands raised. A female officer ran her fingers down my body, sliding her palms down my spine then the backs of her hands down my ass. Her smaller build placed her at an inconvenience and forced her to stand on tiptoe and lean uncomfortably close to reach around my thicker frame. Once she was satisfied I didn’t have drugs and cigarettes stuffed into my meager bra, she shooed me to get out of her line.

I was shuffled into a visitation room for an impersonal meeting behind glass walls. I sat nervously on my chair with my hands folded over my lap. I’d never gone into a prison before in all of my life, but the dismal, gray-painted cinder blocks and dirty floor depressed me.

I tensed the moment Dennis entered the room and sat opposite me with a thick pane of glass between us.

He looked as good as I remembered, with full lips, chiseled features, and a strong jaw. I’d always loved his cocoa brown skin and the contrast between our complexions. At a glance, I could tell he’d picked up some weight and broadened his shoulders with muscle. Figures in the penitentiary he’d have nothing better to do than work out, but the plain white uniform didn’t do his athletic body the justice it deserved.

“What took you so long to finally come here and visit me? You don’t write and you didn’t register to accept calls from me.”

“I don’t have a vehicle anymore, Dennis. I had to sell Daddy’s truck a couple months ago to make ends meet.”

The honest truth didn’t seem to satisfy him. “Yeah, all right. That don’t explain why you didn’t register. I could have been calling you by now, baby.”

The last affection I had for Dennis died on the day he’d gotten himself locked away for a quarter of a century on an unnecessary crime. I hated knowing Sophia would grow up without a father for the mistakes he made. We should have been raising her together.

“I’ve been too busy trying to find a job to sit at home on the phone, Dennis. Besides, I don’t know how to register,” I lied.

“Damn. Fair enough.” His brown eyes drifted to the inmate beside him. The guy’s family had purchased him a pile of chips and four icy Cokes from the overpriced vending machine.

“I came to talk to you about Sophia,” I spoke up to direct the conversation.

“Buy me a Coke first, Leigh.”

I shook my head. “Don’t have it on me.”

“What? You can’t even buy me a soda while you’re here?”

“I don’t have the money,” I repeated, voice low. “No one told me I could bring quarters for the machines.”

“It’s a fucking buck, Leigh. You mean to tell me you don’t have a goddamn dollar to spare for me?”

“I wouldn’t even be here if I didn’t carpool with a group. I gave them ten dollars to get here.” I had an electric bill to pay and groceries to buy. While he received three hot meals and a cot courtesy of Texas, I was left to fend for myself.

“Then what the hell are you doing here, girl? It’s not like you even tried to pretty yourself up,” he fussed at me. I swear he said those things just to be an asshole and hurt me.

“Pretty myself up for a prison visit? Like I said, I came to talk about Sophia and getting her back. Or at least seeing her more often.” Had he even been listening to me? “Can’t you talk to them? They’re your parents, Dennis.”

“You know how Ma and Dad are. I can’t tell them nothin’ from in here.”

“Tell them to let me see her more.”

“Hell, Leigh, you see her more than I do. You think they bring her up here for me to see her?”

“Yeah, well whose damn fault is that?” I snapped back.

A couple of prison guards in stiff gray suits glanced our way. When the male officer moved as if he intended to come over, I dropped my voice again.

“Listen, Dennis. Sophia is my baby. Ours. She doesn’t belong with her grandparents. She needs a mom, and them keeping her from me when I’ve been clean isn’t for her benefit. They’re doing it because they’re pissed at us.”

“Bitch, are you even clean for real this time? How many days did you tell me you were done and not to get you any more pills, but the moment I offered a bottle, you were ready to take them?” he mocked me.

“I
am
clean,” I hissed. Counting backward from ten in my head helped me calm down. “I haven’t touched so much as an aspirin since they discharged me from the hospital.” I must have looked hostile, because the officer was on his way back again. I stood up from my seat and beat him to the punch. “Our visit is over. I’m leaving. Don’t expect to see me back again.”

I spent the rest of the two hours outside on the curb, the occasional passing car the only witness to my silent tears. Eventually, the shudders ended and I was able to embrace a future without Dennis in my life. In our lives, if I could pull it together and meet the requirements set by the court.

I had to have a job, and I needed it yesterday.

***

“T
hanks again for the ride,” I said to Kelly. The blonde woman in the driver’s seat smiled at me.

“No problem, sweetheart. You email me next time you need a ride up there.”

Positive I’d never go back, I smiled and nodded. “Sure.” I waved and let myself inside, kicked off my shoes, and locked the door behind me.

My dad’s home had seen better days, and with him gone, I couldn’t replace the leaking roof. But it was a house, and it was better than some people had. Once I secured a job, I’d be able to change things and do him proud. I’d get the windows replaced and a new roof over my head. I’d have a new bedroom door to replace the one the cops knocked down when they arrested Dennis. I’d need the floors covered in something eventually, so Sophia wouldn’t have to crawl on hard cement.

A quick shower let me wash the stink of the prison from my skin and hair. I could still smell it, the stench of a few thousand men and sweaty guards in a cement box without any air circulation. I shivered, remembering the way some of the inmates had stared at me with lust in their eyes despite my perceived plain appearance.

Someone beat on the door just as I toweled off in the tiny closet of a bathroom. I squeezed into panties, shorts, and an off- the- shoulder t-shirt then stepped barefoot into the narrow hall. I twisted my hair into a bun on the way to answer it. My tee revealed my lack of a bra, but without much on top to warrant wearing one all of the time, I thought I was safe from any lookie-loos wanting to steal a peek. My pear-shaped body meant I carried all of my junk in the trunk.

Caution made me pause before opening the door, and a quick glance through the parted window shades revealed an unfamiliar black SUV parked alongside the road. I frowned and angled my body for a peek at the stoop.

Ian MacArthur stood on the porch, his hands folded behind his back. The sexy military vet wore a black leather jacket and dark shades over his unusual, strangely colored eyes. The t-shirt on his body stretched taut over every muscular ridge, a second skin in navy blue.

“What the hell is he doing here?” I whispered. The next sharp rap on the door made me jerk back; then a surge of courage prompted me to crack it open and peek out at him. “Hello?”

“Good evening, Leigh. This a good time for a talk?”

“I just got out the shower.”

“I can wait for you to get dressed,” he said pleasantly.

“I am dressed.” I paused and looked down at my chunky thighs. My current state of dress was inappropriate for meeting with the grandson of our town’s founder. “What do you want, Mr. MacArthur?”

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