Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
The story of Shanar. The Savage. Hotter, more intense, an adventure of danger, passion, and a promise unlike any other.
Of a man who has waited a thousand years for the one woman who can melt his soul and soothe the fires that burn inside him. Shane has longed for Ariel’s return. Through countless, lonely years with nothing to help him survive but dreams, tormenting fantasies and vivid memories of their brief time together. That is about to end. Ariel is alive once more and she will be his.
But the Ariel who returns to him is a stranger, has forgotten the deep love that sustained him. Crushed by childhood betrayal by a vicious father, trusting neither her sanity nor those who seek only to protect her, the last thing she is ready for is a savage warrior and a love she’s never believed in. But the forces she controls and the memories are just waiting to remind her. As is the Viking who has decided enough is enough. She’s his woman, and now he intends to show her exactly what that means.
Ariel is about to find out what the “power of love” truly means…
The winds howled. They screamed in fury, bending trees, stripping the supple branches of leaves and laying young saplings to the ground. Nature in all her glory was ripping through the land, screaming out its rage.
Clouds boiled into a tempest overhead, swirling in myriad shades of black and gray as the forces of nature converged to spill their anger upon the forest below. Lightning flared in brilliant arcs, rain slashed at the ground below, joining the wrathful violence as it pounded the land.
Like demons swirling from hell the screaming winds and spearing lightning joined with the clash of thunder to rock the mountain with a force that only nature could produce.
Beneath the violently swaying trees, amid the flying bramble and leaves, Ariel St. James moved desperately through the storm. She screamed out in furious fear as a thick limb crashed to the ground behind her, and cursed roughly as she stumbled through the gathering winds, feeling it push at her back, forcing her deeper into the surrounding forests.
She was careful to stay close to the trees, within the shadows, as lightning whipped in the sky overhead. She knew she was being hunted. They had been at the house when she returned that evening, more of them than she could have fought, waiting to catch her unaware.
But she had smelled them. On the softest breeze she had smelled the stench of death and evil. She would have gotten back in the car. Would have sped back the way she had come, but the wind and the warmth of the crystal her grandmother had bequeathed her had urged her along a different path.
This time, unlike when she had been kidnapped, she heeded the strange crystal at her breast and moved quickly into the forest that surrounded her home. She wouldn’t be caught as she had been before, undefended, unaware.
She shivered beneath the onslaught of the rain. Water saturated her short hair, plastered her linen shirt and jeans to her body and ran in rivulets down her face. But between her breasts, heat radiated through her, dispelling the chill of the storm and the fear as she made her way carefully through the forest.
All she had to defend herself was the sword she had been carrying into the house, and the matching dagger now tucked into her jeans at the small of her back. Weapons she had taken from the safe at her shop before leaving, filled with an unexplained need to take the priceless artifacts home with her.
She had never used the weapon she held vigilantly in front of her, yet it felt comfortable in her hands, the hilt fitting into her palm as though it had been created for her alone. It was heavy, but there was no strain to carry it, no hardship to keep it raised in front of her as she ducked beneath slashing limbs and continued the dangerous trek through the foothills.
They were behind her; she could smell them. The wind itself carried the scent of diseased minds and blood soaked hands. She could feel the death that surrounded her trackers, feel their hatred and their intentions to see her dead.
She would not die. She hadn’t died when Jonar had kidnapped her months before and she would be damned if she would let them kill her now. He might be the big bad-ass alien terrorist as Alyx Dragon had mockingly called him, but she wasn’t going to let him kill her without a fight.
The chilling nightmares she had of the brutal beatings she had endured while locked in his Middle Eastern fortress were enough to assure her that he was dangerous. That he was determined. But so was she, determined to live if nothing else.
Breathing roughly, she paused beside a thick tree trunk, drawing in a calming breath and watching the shadows that twisted around her. She was heading deeper into the forested hills, further away from any added protection that civilization would have afforded.
Overhead, thunder clashed with such force it shook the land below and dragged a choked whimper from her terror-closed throat. The storm raged with the same desperation as the blood pounding through her veins. It rocked the land as her heartbeat rocked her body, filling her with the warning of violence.
“Move.” A voice, not her own, male and filled with fury, echoed in her head. Her father was right, she thought for one incredulous moment. She was insane.
“God dammit Ariel, run! They are too close!” The demand echoed around her, whipped by a wind she knew wasn’t natural.
She could feel the demand run through her system though, as lightning above her flashed low to the ground, lighting a slender path through the brush and bramble that littered the ground.
The crystal burned beneath her shirt, a surface heat that would have blistered had it been anything else. She moved carefully, though as quickly as possible, along the path laid out for her, ducking to avoid the flying debris, her heart in her throat as she pushed her sodden hair back from her face and fought her way ahead.
She didn’t bother to stem the terrified tears that fell down her face or the sobs that tore from her chest. The storm covered any sound she would make, and she was so scared she couldn’t control it anyway.
She remembered the horrifying pain, the nightmares and terror that had gripped her since Jonar had held her captive in that damned dungeon. The beatings had been the worst, merciless, striking at every weakness until she had been certain she would die in her own filth. Cruel, taunting laughter had followed each blow, and haunted her now with the viciousness of the attacks.
But something, someone had saved her. She remembered the heat that filled her, the strength that flowed through her, but nothing else. She knew that it was then that the crystal had come to life once again, warming her, keeping her alive until her rescue. She knew it, because until those fractured memories of strength and warmth, of being held, comforted, the crystal hadn’t warmed against her since her childhood.
“Find the bitch, she’s here. I can feel her…”
She whimpered at the rough sound of the vicious male voice behind her. Deep, filled with wrath and the intent to kill. This wasn’t the same voice that echoed around her moments before. More wisps of air than true sound, this one was evil itself.
“Oh God…Oh God…” The prayer was litany on her lips as she fought to move faster through the storm, and prayed for a miracle. It would definitely take a miracle to save her.
“Where are you?”
She stopped, flattening herself to another tree as the words seemed to echo through her mind. She shook her head, looking around frantically, certain that she couldn’t have heard that demanding male voice as she knew she had.
“Ariel, talk to me. Let me help you!” She stared around the darkness in shock. The voice wasn’t in her head, it was in the very wind whipping around her like an elemental cape. Strong, graveled, filled with…desperation?
She bit her lip, fighting back the hysteria rising in her chest. The voice was there, yet it wasn’t. It swirled and fractured around her, almost a whisper at her ear rather than the shout it should have been.
She wouldn’t answer. She wasn’t crazy. There was talking to herself and then there was crazy. This was crazy. Voices didn’t echo in the wind just for her ears. She closed her eyes tight for a second, sending up a quick prayer that she wasn’t losing her sanity. It would be a really bad time for a nervous breakdown. And she didn’t relish allowing her father to win the battle for her sanity.
She ignored the tears that mixed with the rain, and throttled the choked sob that would have escaped her throat. Gathering her strength, she bent low and raced through the storm once again. The fetid stench of the horror following her was growing thicker, closer. She didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself or to sift through the differences between fantasy and reality, sound and imagination.
“Woman, such stubbornness does not become you.” The harsh male voice held a punch of frustration, making her shudder with the latent anger she could feel within it.
She wouldn’t answer the whispers, the insistent sound on the wind that shouldn’t be there. The middle of a clash of nature with only God knew how many terrorists on her ass was not the place for this.
But she knew that wasn’t entirely true. She had heard them before, at least this particular one. As a child, locked in the terrifying darkness of a closet, alone and frightened, she had screamed out her pleas for help until her voice was hoarse. Then, lying on the cold floor, wrapped in misery and certain she would die from the darkness alone, the voice had come to her.
Panic bloomed in her chest now as the stench of evil suddenly wrapped around her, stealing her from the painful memories of the past, gagging her, taking her breath for precious moments as she stumbled, nearly falling, to the rain-slick ground beneath her.
“You die tonight, Mistress of the Wind.”
The voice had her freezing in terror a second before she turned, her sword raising to meet the enemies’ steel even as the urge to protest the title he gave her vibrated through her mind.
With a quick turn and an overhead clash of swords, she swerved from the sharp blade before jumping back far enough to avoid another blow. Her wrist twirled sharply, bringing the blade defensively in front of her as she faced death itself.
His eyes glowed red. He was taller than she, broad and thickly muscled, his smile feral. Did she mention his eyes were red? For God’s sake, people didn’t have red eyes; only demons’ eyes could glow with such savage intensity. And demons didn’t exist, she reminded herself harshly.
“No enchanted sword can save you, bitch,” he called through the clash of thunder and lightning overhead. “I’ll cut you in two, no matter the power you wield.”
He came at her again, missing her by less then an inch as she parried the slicing stroke and danced to the side. How did she do that? How had she known to do that?
“Dammit, haven’t you heard of guns?” she screamed as sparks flew from the clashing steel. She deflected the blow, braced her knees as she gripped the hilt with both hands and faced the sneering enemy.
Guns were nice, quick and clean, she thought perversely. What the hell was she doing fighting with a weapon she had never handled in her life? Better yet, how the hell was she doing it?
He didn’t answer her furious question. His sword descended as she met it, fighting the hysterical laughter that wanted to build in her chest as she used a weapon she had done no more than clean over the years. Maybe her father was right. Maybe she was crazy, she thought with brittle calm as she instinctively swung the weapon to strike out at her attacker or parried another of his thrusts. Only crazy people did stuff like this.
Where had the knowledge come from? How did she know to twist her upper body and parry the thrusts of the stronger foe facing her? To use her smaller frame to throw him off balance, and rather than meeting each blow, dancing away from it as she struck at his undefended body parts?
Blood stained the terrorist’s chest, his arms, but he kept coming, growling in rage as lightning struck around them and her own screams of anger blended in with clash of nature around her.
She pivoted as a killing blow was aimed at her midsection, her knees bending as she swung around, sword held low as she thrust it quick and hard into the lower chest of the man preparing to take her head from her shoulders.
Her scream echoed around her as she felt the blade sink past flesh and bone. She pulled back quickly, staring in shock as he went to his knees, his eyes staring back at her in horrified knowledge. He sank to the ground, a hand to the gaping wound that seemed to grow larger and larger before her astounded gaze. A second later, lightning flared, built, converged in brilliant arcs to a single, horrifying streak that sliced through her would be assassin.
“Run, damn you! NOW!” The voice was screaming as though the furious male stood by her side, closer, more demanding than ever before as she heard a war cry echo through the forest, savage and ruthless, spurring her to do just that.