Bayou Heat 01 Raphael, 02 Parish

By: Alexandra Ivy & Laura Wright

Raphael by Alexandra Ivy

Parish by Laura Wright





RAPHAEL


BY ALEXANDRA IVY





Legend of the Pantera





To most people the Pantera, a mystical race of puma shifters who live in the depths of the Louisiana swamps, have become little more than a legend.

It was rumored that in the ancient past twin sisters, born of magic, had created a sacred land and claimed it as their own. From that land came creatures who were neither human or animal, but a mixture of the two.

They became faster and stronger than normal humans. Their senses were hyper-acute. And when surrounded by the magic of the Wildlands they were capable of shifting into pumas.

It was also whispered that they possessed other gifts. Telepathy, witchcraft, immortality and the ability to produce a musk that could enthrall mere mortals.

Mothers warned young girls never to roam alone near the swamps, convinced that they would be snatched by the Pantera, while young men were trained to avoid hunting anywhere near the protected Wildlands.

Not that the warnings were always successful.

What girl didn’t dream of being seduced by a gorgeous, mysterious stranger? And what young man didn’t want to try his skill against the most lethal predators?

As the years passed, however, the sightings of the Pantera became so rare that the rumors faded to myths.

Most believed the species had become extinct.

Sadly, they weren’t entirely mistaken…





CHAPTER 1





SLUT. Whore.

Worthless piece of white trash.

The words were still ringing in Ashe Pascal’s ears as the door to the trailer slammed behind her.

She grimaced as she gathered her clothes that littered the front porch and headed for her piece-of-shit clunker that was parked near the curb.

For once the drunken insults flung by her mother managed to hit a nerve.

Not that she was a whore. It wasn’t like she’d gotten paid for spreading her legs, was it?

Hell no, she’d spread them for free.

Or at least she assumed she had.

How else could she be pregnant? Immaculate conceptions might happen in the good book, but in the bayous of southern Louisiana women got knocked-up the good old-fashioned way.

A damned shame she couldn’t remember what happened.

If she had to pay the piper she should at least have enjoyed the dance.

With a shake of her head, she yanked open the door of her car and tossed her clothes on the cracked leather seat before climbing behind the driver’s wheel.

Shoving her key into the ignition, she breathed out a sigh of relief as the engine rattled to weary life. The way her pissy luck was running she’d expected the battery to be dead. Again.

She supposed there was an irony in the fact that she’d promised herself that she would start looking for a new car just as soon as she’d paid off her mother’s latest bar tab. She’d even driven to the bar to tell the owner that she was done being her mother’s personal banker.

And that’s when the trouble had started.

Barely aware that she’d shoved her car in gear, Ashe absently drove through the small town that hovered on the edge of the bayou, pulling to a halt across the street from the only bar in town.

The two story wooden building with a tin roof had at one time been painted a cheery yellow, but over the years it’d faded to a miserable mustard, with heavy green shutters that could offer protection during hurricane season. The entire structure was built on heavy stilts to keep the main floor off the ground. A necessary precaution in this area. The danger of flooding was a hundred percent, which no doubt explained why less than a few hundred people lived in the town.

She gave a humorless laugh at the neon sign that blinked in the thickening gloom.

‘The Cougar’s Den’

It sounded like a hang-out for the local football team, or maybe a taxidermist’s shop.

Instead it was filled with a motley crew who she assumed came in from the oil fields, the shrimp boats and the dark shadows of the swamps. And of course, locals like her mother who were so desperate for a drink they were willing to ignore the thick air of aggression that filled the entire building.

The rest of the town avoided the place like the plague.

Including the pack of stray dogs that terrorized the rest of the town.

The Cougar’s Den was a cesspit of danger.

Her grim thoughts were abruptly interrupted as the humid spring breeze swept through her open window, tugging at her long, black curls and caressing her skin that remained a pale ivory no matter how much sun she got. Her eyes, as dark as a midnight sky, narrowed.

There was something in the breeze.

Something beyond the hint of azaleas, and newly bloomed roses from Old Lady La Vaux’s garden, and even the more distant smell of rotting vegetation that wafted from the swamps.

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