Tigers have been part of Louisiana’s culture since the Civil War, but it never made much sense to me why they were so important to the state. In order to learn more about why they were an important part of our culture, history and tourist industry, I took a road trip down the interstate toward the Atchafalaya Basin to meet Tony the Tiger then on to Baton Rouge to meet the infamous LSU mascot, Mike the Tiger. Both these majestic creatures helped me understand the fascination and helped add a richness to my Primitive Series that didn’t exist before.
Tony the Tiger is a resident of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. He has been the subject of several animal activist campaigns lately as many people are trying to “set him free” from the truck stop environment. Actor Ian Sommerhalder, a Louisiana native, is one of the more outspoken voices against keeping Tony in captivity. When I visited Tony, it was cold and rainy, and he was in his house, snuggled up and watching the tourists. I’m not sure if he knew why I was there to see him or not, but we shared a moment, he and I, and I feel like I understand him better now.
Mike the Tiger is the LSU mascot on campus at LSU Baton Rouge. He has a team of veterinary experts on staff at all times to take care of whatever he needs. His enclosure is a tiger’s dream with a pool, plenty of grass and lots of room to run. The day I visited him was sunny and mild, and he was sleeping next to the glass at the front of his home. Mike receives thousands of visitors each year and is a must-see for anyone who stops at LSU.
So why the road trip? In order to understand the layout of the Atchafalya Basin and the world I was presenting in the first two books in my Primitive series, Primitive Fix and Primitive Need. In Primitive Fix, readers will meet the tigers of Louisiana, the Maddux brothers, Kenyon and Nik, and will come to understand what happens when a shape shifter gets caught in animal farm and sold to a roadside attraction. When Nik is captured and sold as a rare white tiger, his brother Kenyon will do whatever it takes to get him back, even if it means calling on the one woman who makes him crazy. Sage’s family owes a debt to Kenyon’s and it is her job to bail him out of whatever situation he ends up getting himself into. However, Sage is tired of always running to the rescue and being “needed” by him. She wants something more.
Excerpt from Primitive Fix: Kenyon
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 had 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 his. 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 that 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 had 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 that 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. She had watched him the entire week she had 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, was 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, but what she wanted was a thousand times more complicated.
Being away from Kenyon had solidified that notion, the one thing he had 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 that had nothing at all to do with traditions and tattoos and 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 go 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. Freedom. But it felt like a dagger in her heart.
The breath that 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 had 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.
Sage helps Kenyon break his brother out of his cage, but Nik is lost in the scuffle, injured and afraid. He finds help in a cabin in the swamps and in the arms of Juliette, a woman who is human but whose powers to heal are something very supernatural. In Nik’s story, we learn why he left the Maddux compound. As the chosen leader, the first born, it is his duty to lead his people, but Nik doesn’t want to lead. He just wants to be free. There’s nothing like the freedom he finds in Juliette’s arms. But Juliette has a secret that can destroy them both.
Excerpt from Primitive Fix: Nik
She leaned into his hand when he reached out and touched it to her cheek. In that moment, he realized he would die for this woman even though he didn’t even know her name. She spoke to something in him that was so primal, so much a part of him that he couldn’t explain or deny it. When she turned those soft eyes at him and he saw the sadness in there, the pain she held, he knew he had to protect her. Whoever had hurt her would pay, and he would make sure it was a painful ordeal.
“Let me inside,” he whispered, leaning forward, cornering her on the sofa so that she couldn’t move. Putting one hand on each side of her body, he trapped her there and didn’t stop leaning into her until their breathing aligned and her breath was washing over his face. “Tell me,” he coaxed, the words floating out to caress her cheek.
“If I tell you, you have to promise me you won’t go after them. I’m safe now. Bringing back the past will only stir up trouble.”
He couldn’t make that promise. There was no way he could make that promise when the only thing he wanted to do was kill whoever had hurt her. “I can’t promise you that if you don’t tell me what’s going on. Tell me and then I may give you my word.”
“You may but you can’t promise for sure.”
“You saved my life. When you pulled me out of the swamps the other day, you saved my life. And I owe you for that. I owe you for bringing me back to life.”
Her tongue darted out over her bottom lip and it took every ounce of strength he had not to lean in and run his tongue along the same trail. When she raised her eyes back to his, they seemed to look straight into his soul. The shiver that ran through his body went straight to his cock. He wanted to sink it into her body and bring them both to the edges of pleasure, to replace all the pain that had been in both their lives.
“Fine. I’ll tell you. But you have to give me some space.”
He didn’t want to give her space. The last thing he wanted was to move away from her but he found himself pulling away, giving her what she wanted. Dragging a hand through his hair, he settled against the back of the sofa, his leg touching hers. “This is all the space I can give you. Now, please. Tell me.”
She swallowed hard and let out a long, low sigh. “I don’t know where to start.”
“Start wherever you feel comfortable.”
In book 2 of the Primitive Series, Primitive Need, readers will meet Logan, Juliette’s brother. Ten years ago, Logan Quinn’s life was on a high. As one of the top Black Hawk pilots in the military, he flew in and out of dangerous situations, transporting soldiers away from the battlefields. One day, during a routine mission under clear skies, a storm came from out of nowhere, taking down his helicopter. Unwilling to give up on one of their best pilots, the military doctors seized the opportunity to use new technology to rebuild his arm as a robotic extension of his body, complete with nerves and cyber skin. Soon after, the surgery was deemed a failure, and Logan’s career was over.
When the mayor of Bon Teche, Louisiana lost his wife in a freak plane accident, he was determined not to lose his daughter, so he hired Logan to watch over Hadley, much to her chagrin. She didn’t need a watch dog, and was determined to give Logan hell. But that was a long time ago, and now the man who is sheriff of Bon Teche is the only one who can set her on fire, even if Hadley knows she needs to stay away from him.
When Hadley is taken by Les Damnes, Logan is determined to get her back, but what he doesn’t realize is that the experience has changed her, and even as she pulls him to her, she pushes him away, keeping something hidden. Hadley learns what was done to her when she was taken, and she knows she is the only one who can get back what was stolen from her. But Logan can’t let her go, and he will move heaven and earth to save the woman who has awakened a Primitive Need inside him.
Primitive Fix is available from Beau Coup Publishing in ebook and in paperback. Primitive Need is coming soon!