Home > Force of Temptation (The Mercury Pack #2)

Force of Temptation (The Mercury Pack #2)
Author: Suzanne Wright

CHAPTER ONE

Harley Vincent! Harley Vincent!”

For God’s sake. The majority of the population seemed to live and learn, but apparently this woman just lived. Either that or her ski lift didn’t go to the top of the hill. Not that Harley had much room to judge others, considering her family tree was more like a tumbleweed.

Clutching her bag of groceries tighter, Harley picked up her pace as she headed to the cute little hotel where she was currently staying. She’d been in California for the past four months, where she’d been working in a club. Harley was somewhat of a drifter, but she liked the place and she didn’t feel the urge to go roaming again. Yet.

Hearing the click-clack of heels, Harley ground her teeth. The bitch had caught up with her. Shit, she should have taken the car. Her inner cat snarled, not at all fond of the fox shifter.

Digital recorder in hand, Gabrielle Rowan said sweetly, “Harley, how are you this morning?” Like they were lifelong friends.

Without slowing her pace, Harley sighed at the reporter. “You know, I’ve flushed and flushed and flushed, but I don’t seem able to get rid of you. Why is that?”

“If you want me gone, all you have to do is give me some information on your father.”

“Clive Vincent is old news, Gabby.”

“He was until people began to speculate that he’s the shifter who founded The Movement.”

People were always “speculating,” always naming certain shifters as the possible leader. Why anyone would think it was Clive, she wasn’t sure. Harley snorted. “Founded The Movement? He was sent to prison before the group even started. How do you expect him to do anything from there?”

“Come on, Harley, you have to know the truth. He formed the group to fight the extremists, didn’t he?”

Harley’s cat snarled at the mention of the extremists. Anti-shifter humans had always existed, but nowadays many of them were part of radical, destructive, and violent organized groups that were the bane of every shifter’s existence. They believed that shifters should be electronically chipped, confined to their territory, forbidden from mating with humans, restricted to having one child per couple, and placed on a register like sex offenders. They’d also attacked and bombed several packs worldwide, “culling” the population.

If the humans had thought there would be no repercussions to the violence, they couldn’t have been more wrong. A group of shifters known as The Movement hunted extremists and retaliated against their attacks, fighting violence with violence. What else would predators do in such a situation?

“I did a lot of research on you, Harley.”

Oh, did she now?

“For the first sixteen years of your life, you were part of a traveling pride of margay wild cats that—let’s face it—was more like a band of reckless free-spirited criminals that had no use for the word ‘sober.’”

Correct.

“Few other prides liked or respected yours. They had no useful alliances or resources.”

Also correct.

“It made your pride mates easy targets for prejudiced humans.”

Damn right it did.

“And that was exactly what your brother became, wasn’t it?”

At the mention of Michael, a wave of sadness washed over Harley. But she schooled her expression, refusing to give the bitch anything to work with. Rounding a corner, Harley saw the hotel up ahead. Almost there.

“His death was horrific. Most fathers would want to hunt down each of the humans responsible and then kill them, one by one. The difference is that your father actually did it. Coldly and without mercy. He didn’t even deny it when he was caught and convicted. He was proud of what he’d done. Saw no wrong in it. One psychologist called him a psychopath.”

Said psychologist probably wasn’t far from the truth.

“If I were you, I’d be infuriated with your father. By going to prison, he left you. Left you with your human mother, who was so devastated by having limited contact with her mate that she fell apart and couldn’t take care of you. He left you with a pride that was never sober enough to protect you—they just wanted to party hard and live large. That was when your aunt came for you, wasn’t it?”

It was. Her mother’s family, who was wealthy and had a high standing in society, hadn’t approved of Lily mating with Clive and joining his pride. As such, they had disowned her when she’d refused to reject him. But Lily’s sister, Tess, had occasionally visited. That was how she’d discovered that Harley was having trouble.

Hell, “trouble” was a mild word. Harley had befriended a wolf from the pack that neighbored the land her pride was squatting on back then. Mia was just fifteen years old and already on her way to being a junkie. Mia’s parents hadn’t wanted to face it, so they’d claimed it was Harley’s “influence” that had sent Mia down that path.

In truth, Harley had tried to steer Mia away from drugs, not wanting her to end up like Kara, Harley’s aunt from her pride. Hell, she’d even dragged Mia into her aunt’s messy motor home—where Kara had predictably been lying in a pool of her own vomit—and made her see what future awaited her if she didn’t get her shit together. It had actually made a difference. For all of three days.

Harley knew well that you could only help an addict if they wanted help. Mia simply hadn’t wanted it. But Mia’s pack had blamed Harley, using her as a scapegoat for Mia’s addiction. They’d cornered and ridiculed her, they’d smashed the windows of her motor home, and they’d even tried to physically assault her on a few occasions. Only one wolf hadn’t blamed her: Mia’s brother, Jesse . . . a wolf Harley had had the world’s worst crush on. Although he’d believed her and looked out for her as best he could, he’d been unable to stop the harassment since, as a juvenile, he’d had no power or real say in the matter.

An emotional wreck, Lily had been in no position to defend or protect Harley, so Tess had taken her away. Harley’s grandparents had eventually accepted her, though they treated her as human and expected her to behave like one. But that had been okay, because she had the fabulous Tess. Her aunt didn’t look at Harley and see someone who was half shifter or half human; she just looked at her and saw her niece.

“You’ve lived in the human world ever since,” continued Gabrielle. “You are half human, half shifter. You’ve spent large portions of your life in both the human world and the shifter world. That puts you in a very unique position. It gives you two different perspectives. What’s your take on things, Harley? Are the extremists justified in their prejudice? Does The Movement take things too far? What species is in the right in this war—humans or shifters?”

“I’d answer you, I really would . . . but talking to you is about as appealing as sandpapering a wild cat’s ass while having my nipples chewed off by rabid dogs. You are well known for twisting the facts. I’ll bet that if I had a dollar for every truth you printed, I’d be in debt.”

“You have a way with sarcasm.”

Harley smiled brightly. “Just a little service I provide. It’s even free. Now as much as I enjoy our conversations, I have somewhere to be.”

“I’m going to write that article with or without your help, Harley. Give me something.”

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