Lucy sat with her arms folded across her chest and her bottom lip poking out as she stared out the passenger-side window. Despite her sour mood, Horse Mountain’s rustic scenery enchanted her—beautiful cabins, both big and small, grassy pastures, and lush evergreens abounded for as far as the eye could see. This would be a nice place for a vacation if I wasn’t practically being kidnapped. She shook her head as she tried to fathom how she’d been uprooted from her comfortable life by no fault of her own. Mama might as well be carting me off to prison. She licked her bottom lip as she pressed her forehead against the cool glass.
“Oh, come on now. It’s not as bad as all that?” Dory Crane continued driving.
“As all what?” She kept her attention on the greenery. If she saw her mother’s face, her anger might transform into sadness and she didn’t want to cry.
Her mom huffed. “You with the silent treatment up here and the refusal to so much as meet my gaze.”
Lucy’s nostrils flared. “You’re lucky I’m too old for an Amber Alert. How am I supposed to react when you’re sending me off to the middle of nowhere to stay with some strange old woman I’ve never even met?”
“She’s a family friend. Her daughter and I attended finishing school together.”
Lucy snorted. “I still can’t believe you went.”
“In my day, all of the girls of our clan were expected to go. It was a very big deal amongst the equine shifters.”
“And look how much it taught you. Did you even graduate?” She practically spat her words.
“Your mama knows how to behave like a lady when she needs to.”
“So this woman isn’t even kin?”
“No, but she is an equine shifter. One of her sons was good friends with your birth father.”
She gasped, finally turning to look at her mom. Her mother’s husband had raised her, and most of the time, Lucy claimed him as her daddy, but she longed to know more about her biological father. Trouble was her mama was always tight-lipped when it came to the subject. “My dad? Does he live around here? Can I meet him?”
Dory shrugged. “Can we not talk about him? Nothing you learn will make you happy.”
She locked her index fingers together while pulling her hands close to her chest. “I wonder if he looked for me.”
“He might have if he’d known about you, but I was only three months along and not showing yet. Telling him would have just complicated our separation and eventual divorce.”
Lucy’s jaw dropped and she fought not to shed the tears welling up in her eyes. She pursed her lips and stared straight ahead, taking a deep breath. “I don’t know how you could do such a horrible thing.”
Dory frowned, knitting her eyebrows. “So self-righteous! One of these days you’ll realize when it comes to our kind, the head can’t always control the heart. Getting involved before finding your one true mate is dangerous.”
Lucy opened her mouth as if she were gagging and made a retching sound while pointing her finger toward the back of her throat. “Please stop talking.”
“Excuse me? At least I’m not pushing you into an arranged marriage the way my father did to me.”
“Sorry, but I don’t want to hear your selfish reasons for running off with a gambling-addicted coyote shifter.”
“Hush your flapping lips. You know Craw didn’t start playing the slots until after we left Mississippi.”
Lucy huffed. “You mean after we got run out of Biloxi because of your low-rent fortune teller con jobs?” Her mom shot her a nasty look but didn’t deny the accusation. Lucy held her left wrist with her right hand while shaking her head. “Either way, I’m being forced to pay for someone else’s mistake. To think your husband used to actually be a pretty good dad. Now, not so much.”
Her mama’s head jerked to the side as she threw a furious look Lucy’s way, complete with narrowed eyes. “Stop testing my patience, Lucy Abigail Tate.”
I hit a nerve. Lucy tried not to smirk. Her mama couldn’t tolerate any bad-mouthing of the love of her life, regardless of how true the words rang. Crawford “Craw” Crane continually proved himself to be a turd in the punch bowl, but her mama always defended him and probably would continue to until her dying breath. “Why’d you give me his name instead of Craw’s?”
Her mother pressed her lips together. “Legally, I was still married to him when you were born so Tate was my last name, but can we please drop the subject? Your daddy, Craw, the man who looked after you like his own blood from the minute you were born—He loves you. He thinks he’s doing right by you.” She shook her finger at Lucy. “I just don’t agree. A girl needs to wait for the one.”
“The one,” Lucy mimicked while rolling her eyes. “I still think this is crazy. It’s not like I couldn’t just flat out refuse Grayson.”
“Hmm, I wonder if you’d be able to stand strong if the patriarch got involved. Would you tell him no?” Without waiting for Lucy to answer, Dory reached toward her. She flinched but relaxed as her mother fingered a strand of her hair. “I like the color.”
She gritted her teeth, fresh anger filling her gut as she recalled her mom forcing a bleach job on her in a crappy hotel room about midway through the trip. “I miss my red.” She jerked her head away from her mother’s touch.
“If Craw or any of the Vegas-clan tries to find you, they’ll be looking for a ginger, not a towhead.”
Vegas-clan…Lucy let the words scratch at her brain. When she was younger, she hadn’t realized a bunch of different types of weres joining a clan under a “Boss” patriarch was weird. Now she understood most clans were matriarchal, and Mr. Black’s operation was similar to organized crime groups with their Godfathers. Her mom pulled up in the driveway of a lovely one-story cabin surrounded by tall trees before turning off the engine. “Now you mind Ms. Banks. Do whatever chores you’re assigned.”
“I’m not afraid of hard work though I guess my real job will be filled by the time I return home…that is if I don’t die out here in Hickville, USA.”
“You shouldn’t say such things, sweetie. Mama’s going to get everything fixed up.” Her mother patted her arm, but Lucy yanked away from her. “I’ll get your daddy straight and find another way to settle his debt, but you better not go talking any trash about him.” All the tenderness of her touch seemed to have faded as she wagged her finger again. “I can’t have any of my old clan, particularly my kin or some of the nosey strumpets I graduated high school with, getting any word of Craw’s misstep. Stick to the story. You hear me?”
Lucy’s blood boiled. “So it’s alright for a bunch of people you haven’t said a single word to in years to think your daughter’s some kind of out-of-control hoodlum as long as they don’t find out the truth about your crappy husband?”
Dory pointed her boney finger at her again, shaking it about an inch from Lucy’s face. “I asked if you heard me, girl.”
“I got it.” The corners of Lucy’s mouth turned down and her shoulders drooped as she huffed.
“With any luck, I’ll get the money from my daddy, and you’ll be home in no time.”
Lucy’s eyes widened and she nearly snapped her neck while jerking her head around to look at her mother’s face. “My granddaddy? Can I meet him?”
Her mom’s eyes rounded and she smirked. “Depends on if he’ll give me the money.”
She tightened her closed lips, squinting slightly. “So you’ll ransom a visit from me?”
Her mom smiled. “Whatever it takes.”
More about Sierra Brave:
Sierra Brave is a multi-published author of smoking hot romance. She writes across genres, dabbling in a little bit of everything, including ménage and BDSM. Her love of erotic fiction started in her last year of high school when she first read the sensual classic, Fanny Hill. She felt so naughty yet liberated with her copy tucked away in her book bag and hopes her work will have the same delicious effect on her readers.
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