Saturday, January 03, 2009

Wolf Queen by Sierra Dafoe

The Wolf Queen
by Sierra Dafoe
Cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-080-3
Genre(s): Paranormal, Action/Adventure
Theme(s): Ménage, Werewolves
Series: Call of the Wild
Length: Novella

In the world of the Shumani, there is only one female per pack. She is their umma Shumani, their queen. But with the privilege of being protected by the handsome wolf-shifters who love her comes the responsibility to keep the pack intact -- and when Sarah Hartwell encounters Kar, the dark, savage son of the renegade Hunt, it’s a responsibility she’s not sure she can live up to.
The way he watches her as if he wants to eat her alive sends tingles down her spine. At the same time it frightens her, all the more so because she’s never seen him assume human form. But Sarah is determined to find a way to bring Kar into the loving circle shared by herself, Larak and Kam…

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They were coming up the slope toward him, their laughter strange and muffled in the cold, still air. Although he could hear them, Kar’s vision was obscured by fat, heavy snowflakes falling from the iron-gray clouds, and he could see little but the stony slope directly beneath the ledge.
The narrow track that ran alongside the creek was still empty and the creek itself, chuckling and roaring as it tumbled down from the heights, was the only thing which seemed to move in all that vastness. But soon -- all too soon for the tension roiling in his belly -- Kar saw flickers of motion among the trees below, and caught snatches of comments passed back and forth.
This’d be easier on four legs, you know.
“Well, I haven’t got four legs, have I?”
So that means Kam and I have to suffer too?
The ground was already white with snow. Kar heard one of the two Shumani slipping in it, a deep grunt of exasperation, and again the pealing laughter of the woman.
The human woman.
He’d only seen her the one time, when Hunt had led him to the clearing down by the lake to attack her. Why his father wanted her killed hadn’t been a question Kar had concerned himself with -- the moment he’d seen his brother lying dead at Larak’s feet, everything else had ceased to matter. But the woman had confused him, her scent ripe and heavy in his nostrils even as he’d sought to tear her throat out. She’d fought him, holding him at bay until Larak had come to her rescue.
Rak, Larak’s father, had been killed by Hunt who had seized control of the Shumani. That much, at least, Kar had known -- but what he hadn’t known was that his own brother, Kren, had helped Hunt kill Larak’s den-brother, Dal. The gentle gray wolf had been Kar’s only friend, and in his rage over Dal’s death Kar had stood aside as Larak had battled Hunt, finally throwing the massive black wolf from the very ledge where Kar now lay, forty feet above the forest.
Not for the first time, Kar eyed the empty air below him, considering the plunge. It would be painful, but it would also be quick. And what, truly, remained for him here? He wasn’t one of the pack, not really -- he was the son of an interloper, gotten on a simple wolf bitch Kar could remember only as a cringing shadow who’d nursed him, flinching every time Hunt had come near. He’d always known that, but it hadn’t been until the night Larak had beaten Hunt that he’d discovered how different from him they truly were.
They were Shumani, able to take the shape of humans, while he… he didn’t know what he was.
Late autumn color still blazed in the leaves, peeking from beneath the damp, clinging snow. The lake itself, five miles distant, was no more than a sullen gray flatness beneath the lowering clouds. The snow was tapering off now, fading to an occasional flake here and there, and Kar watched it, trying to get a handle on his growing nervousness and sense of dislocation.
He’d never known the others could change shape. It was like seeing a tree turn into a turtle, or watching a cornered hare sprout wings and suddenly fly away. It made him even more of an outsider than he’d been before -- and turned the pack he’d known all his life into something so foreign he could hardly grasp it.
They came into view at last, scrambling up the last steep stretch of the path to emerge, puffing and panting, onto the broad granite ledge looking east toward the lake. Larak dropped the sack he was carrying and straightened, his broad chest rising and falling as he inhaled deeply, catching his breath.
His hair -- as gold and gleaming as his amber eyes -- tumbled halfway down his back, and Larak pushed it back absently as he gazed out over the rolling vista. Behind him, the woman helped Kam, still limping from the wounds inflicted by a wolf trap, up onto the ledge. Kam, too, was in human form, strong and clean-limbed with a fall of silken hair as black as Kar’s own fur.
Tension knotted tight in Kar’s belly at the sight of them, a wave of tangled emotions hitting him like a slap -- and beneath it, something that felt disturbingly like envy. But the woman bundled in her strange, bulky coverings seemed even more foreign than they, as different a creature from the two naked men as Kar himself.
Unlike him, though, she was completely at ease with the two Shumani. Her movements were smooth and self-assured, her smile warm as she laughed at Kam’s complaints about her assistance. “I don’t care, Kam. If I’d let you go and you fell, I’d just have had to climb back down to get you. The only thing hurt is your pride, so quit bitching.”
Grinning, she turned toward Larak -- and then checked abruptly, her smile fading into uneasiness at the sight of Kar.
Black and silent, Kar held himself motionless, his eyes narrowed to slits as they studied each other.
It’s all right, Sarah. Kar’s not going to make any trouble. Larak took a step toward her, sliding a reassuring arm around her waist -- but even as he did he gave Kar a hard, warning glance. Are you?

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