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Lilacs and Leather (Pack Saint Claire #1) PDF

404 Pages·2021·0.37 MB·english
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Lilacs and Leather Pack Saint Clair Book One Thora Woods Copyright © 2021 Thora Woods All rights reserved The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher. ISBN-13: 9798486844614 To my husband for teaching me what love without conditions can do Contents Title Page Copyright Dedication Content Warning One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve Thirteen Fourteen Fifteen Sixteen Seventeen Eighteen Nineteen Twenty Twenty-One Twenty-Two Twenty-Three Twenty-Four Twenty-Five Twenty-Six Twenty-Seven Twenty-Eight Twenty-Nine Thirty Thirty-One Thirty-Two Thirty-Three Thirty-Four Thirty-Five Thirty-Six Thirty-Seven Thirty-Eight Thirty-Nine Forty Forty-One Want more? Acknowledgement About The Author Content Warning This book contains material that is not suitable for all audiences. This is an adult romance, with graphic descriptions of sex and fetish activities. This story also contains, but is not limited to, descriptions of: physical, emotional, mental, and sexual abuse; themes of polyamory, BDSM, and D/s relationships; religious trauma, homophobia, anxiety and panic disorders. Reader discretion is advised. One Lydia Nothing gets me out of bed in the morning quite like my wedding day alarm. A chorus of church bells and cheering crowd noise fills my apartment, pulling me from sleep. I already feel the smile tugging at the corners of my mouth as I untangle myself from the blankets and pillows I’d burrowed into during the night. I shut off my alarm and climb to my feet, full of energy and ready to get to the shop and get to work. I walk the few paces across my studio and turn on the shower, leaving it to warm up. I cross to the kitchenette to start the coffeemaker and toss some frozen waffles in the toaster. Once those are cooking, I check the shower water—still cold—before going back to the toaster to wait for my breakfast to finish. The window above my sink reveals a sky of dark blue touched with hints of pink and orange. My entire apartment is maybe ten paces from one wall to the other, the long way, but the small space is comforting. There are only two doors, one to the bathroom and one to the hall, and three narrow windows overlooking the alley that runs behind my building. It’s private, three floors up, and easy to keep clean, even when I get lazy. My queen size bed takes up most of the space, and my nest, a mass of soft blankets and fluffy pillows, covers most of the bed. This apartment may be small, but for an omega like me, it’s cozy and just enough. The building where I’m renting this homey sardine can caters exclusively to betas and omegas, mostly for our safety. In a world full of alphas hungry for mates, having a place where I know I can live without fear is a welcome relief. As betas make up most of the population, well over half, they can exist among the other designations without needing to worry about things like heat cycles or ruts. Omegas aren’t particularly rare, about as common as people with naturally red hair, but we are scarce enough that alphas tend to trip over each other when they catch one unaware. Biology makes people do crazy things, and I’ve seen enough in my quarter century of life to appreciate the luxury of a building free of alphas, even if the apartments leave a lot to be desired. The toaster pops, interrupting my thoughts, and I munch on the waffles as I go back to the shower. Still cold. Fuck. This is the fourth time this month that the hot water has gone out. I check my phone for the time. Double Fuck. I could skip the shower, but with the wedding… no, I’d rather not. Cursing my cheap landlord with every breath, I strip down and jump under the frigid stream. I scrub with the scent-masking body wash as fast as I can, hopping in and out of the water. I spend longer than I’d like debating washing my hair. But my teeth chatter, and I decide against it. I will probably regret this later, but I’ll make do with deodorant. I throw my hair up in a tight bun so I can apply a heavy layer of the scent-masking cream on my neck and wrists. An unbonded omega’s scent is powerful, with one whiff enough to set some alphas into a rutting frenzy. I do my best to keep mine dampened with sprays, creams, and whatever other goo I can get my hands on. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of not having to deal with entitled alpha-holes. I spray my entire body with a mist of deodorant before getting dressed, and then spray again over my clothes. Today I’m dressed in my venue uniform: black pants, comfortable black shoes, and a white button down. The shirt is a size too big, but it was either baggy sleeves or gaping buttons. The joys of being the proud owner of a generous bosom. I tuck my shirt in my pants to make it just a little flattering but abandon the cause when the coffee maker beeps. I check the time again, and I’m starting to run late. Pouring the coffee, along with a generous heap of sugar, into a travel mug, I grab my bag, spray deodorant one last time, and head out the door. Locking it behind me, I rush down the stairs to the parking garage next to my building. I wave at Gerald, the middle-aged beta booth attendant, before I get in my car. My out-of-date silver sedan was only a couple years off current model year when I got it… my senior year of high school. Eight years and 200,000 miles later, she’s a little haggard but still chugging along just fine. The commute to work is blessedly quick and traffic free, as it’s still pre-dawn, and I pull into the historical district with little fuss. I’m finishing the last of my coffee as I park behind Grandmother Wila’s Flower Shoppe. Grandmother Wila’s is located in the fashionable Old Town neighborhood, which has been undergoing renovations ever since I moved to Everton, Georgia four years ago. The eight-block stretch of State Street houses all manner of high-end designer boutiques, furniture stores, and restaurants. The St. Clair Foundation, run by one of the wealthiest families in the country, has been restoring all the customer-facing storefronts to their former glory, along with plenty of other old buildings in the city. Most of the retail spaces had been empty before the renovations started, with a few old holdovers who refused to be moved. Wila herself likes to brag that she was here “before the St. Clairs decided they wanted to polish this turd.” I hurry up the wooden steps to the back door, hearing the classic rock filtering through the building as I pull it open. I nod along to the beat as I hang up my bag, slipping my phone into my pocket, and tie on my sky blue apron. Heading into the workroom, the song ends and a commercial for a local bakery comes on. “Good morning, Lydia.” Wila’s voice comes from behind a large centerpiece arrangement. “Good morning, Gran. Where’s Gabby?” I ask, finding the event checklist on the table by the door. “Oh, you know. She’s probably dragging her happy ass out of bed. Or at least she better be!” Wila steps around the table, the last part of her sentence directed as a shout toward the ceiling. A muffled thump comes from above, along with a faint “Fine, I’m up. Jesus, keep your shirt on.” I stifle a laugh as I begin working on the finishing touches of another centerpiece. Wilhelmina Fitzgerald and her granddaughter, Gabby, were the first friends I ever made when I moved to town. Wila has a timeless face, with dark, wrinkled skin and wise chocolate brown eyes that could put her anywhere between 50 and 150. She’s a stern, take-no-shit beta, but there isn’t one person she wouldn’t help, regardless of if they asked. She helped me get set up and on my feet, even when I tried to stop her. And Gabby learned persistence at the knee of the master. Her friendship wasn’t something I ever asked for, but I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve needed it over the last few years. Wila and I work in companionable silence for a while. Her scent of freshly turned earth complements the floral perfume of the store, just as much as it hides mine. About an hour after I arrive, I glance at the door as footsteps come from the stairs. Gabby yawns as she shuffles into the room, coiling the collection of tiny braids of her black hair up on top of her head. Even exhausted, Gabby is pretty, not a blemish marring the smooth skin of her dark face. Almost on autopilot, she finds her way to my side, rubbing her nose into the crook of my neck for a moment before pulling away again with a cough. “I fucking hate that scent masking crap, babe,” she mutters, wrinkling her nose. I roll my eyes, focusing on my work. She cuddles up to my back again, leaning heavily. She’s a handful of inches taller than me, with a body that I’m both simultaneously envious of and deeply grateful I don’t have. Perfectly curved in all the right places, but the amount of work I know Gabby puts in to keep her figure exhausts me just thinking about it. As a beta, Gabby is touchy-feely. She’s a hugger, preferring an embrace to a handshake or high five, even with strangers. It was weird at first, but after a few years, it was second nature to let her scent mark me. It didn’t hurt that her caramel- candy-apple scent was strong enough to cover mine for a while, which helped in a pinch. “I don’t pay you to cuddle,” Wila snaps from across the room. “You don’t pay me at all, Gran,” Gabby says, her voice muffled by my neck. “Yes, I do. You just spend it faster than it comes in,” Wila snipes back. “Just give me a few more minutes. Let the coffee kick in,” Gabby whines. “Get to work. Now.” Wila doesn’t have the alpha bark, but her tone still makes my spine straighten. Gabby whines one last time, and then moves off to actually help with the wedding flowers. We did most of the work yesterday, leaving the flowers in the fridges overnight. Today is about details and prepping for transport. It isn’t a long drive to the venue, but Wila takes no chances with her work. Time passes quickly, and before I know it, the truck is loaded and I’m squashed between Wila and Gabby in the cab. The drive over to the venue, Wickland House, is slow and steady. It’s prime commuting time by this point in the morning, and we sing along to the radio as we trudge through gridlock. The trees that line some of the streets are just starting to bud and bloom, bringing color back to the otherwise drab cityscape. March is the perfect time of year in this part of the country: warm enough that the rain doesn’t chill you to the bone but still cool enough for the humidity to not be oppressive. It's a bit of a slow period for retail business, between Valentine’s Day and Easter, but the beginning of the wedding season more than makes up for it. Soon enough, our destination comes into view. It’s another St. Clair Foundation restoration project, and I remember the hazardous ruin that had once stood on the edge of the city when I first moved. Now, the art déco building shines in the morning sun. Calling the hotel a “house” sort of feels like calling Times Square “just an intersection.” Smooth stone, stained glass windows, and wrought- iron railings make up the front facade of the ten-story building, a black stone awning covering the front door and valet station. I don’t get to study any more of the details, as we’re directed behind the building to the loading dock. By some minor miracle, we manage to arrive before the other vendors. We empty the truck with practiced efficiency, setting the flowers just inside the doors, to be moved into place later. By the time we’re done, I’m a sweaty mess and other vendors have arrived to unload their contributions to the event. I’m breathing through my mouth to avoid the growing cacophony of scents that are piling up. My hair, loosened by Gabby’s earlier cuddling, is falling out of my bun, and I feel it sticking to my face and neck. But Wila doesn’t give me enough time to stop to fix it. As we load up a cart with centerpieces to take to the ballroom, I feel eyes on my back. A subtle glance over my shoulder, and I see a man as plain and uninspiring as his stale coffee scent openly gawking at me. My eyes connect with his dull brown ones, and I stiffen. He’s only a beta, but his coworker sees him staring, and looks, too. I’ve let my scent linger for too long, so I turn on my heel before either of them decides to do more than ogle. Carrying a smaller arrangement, I rush after Wila toward the ballroom. The hallways sport cream-colored walls, accenting the mirror-finish dark wood floors and the bright red carpet running

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