Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lionsbane by Marteeka Karland

by Marteeka Karland

Cover art by Marteeka Karland
ISBN: 978-1-60521-315-6
Genre(s): Futuristic, Paranormal
Theme(s): Shapeshifters
Series: Frozen Earth
Length: Novella

In a world where humans are one of the last links in the food chain, they depend on other races and breeds to protect them. But what happens when humans are left on their own?

Jayla's entire family was murdered when she was ten. Now, eight years later, she's on the hunt for the Lionsblood she believes is responsible. Avoiding the farms that "protect" most of the planet's five hundred thousand human inhabitants, Jayla has taught herself to hunt and kill as efficiently as any human possibly could. What she lacks in acute senses, she makes up for in cunning, fearlessness, and keen intelligence.

Kane has followed and protected Jayla since the day she lost her parents and siblings. He knows she believes him responsible, and though he arrived too late to help her family, he was the one who fought off the rogue clan before they killed her, too. Not intending ever to reveal himself to her, Kane suddenly finds himself in need of her help.

It's up to her now. Will Jayla save his life, or live up to the name she has given herself? This is her one chance to truly become the Lionsbane.


This e-book file contains sexually explicit scenes and adult language which some may find offensive and which is not appropriate for a young audience. Changeling Press E-Books are for sale to adults, only, as defined by the laws of the country in which you made your purchase. Please store your files wisely, where they cannot be accessed by under-aged readers.

Icy wind sliced through Jayla like a Tybrerian laser blade. It chilled her bones, but she didn't move. She crouched, perfectly still and downwind, watching the pack of Lionsblood feasting on their latest victim. She'd tracked this pack for the better part of eight years, though admittedly she was only now ready to face them.
Her legs were cramped, the frigid air stung her eyes, and she had to clamp her jaws together to keep her teeth from chattering. Her heated respirator was the only thing keeping her lungs from freezing in the cold. Still, she waited in total silence. Not moving. Hardly daring to breathe. She waited for them to finish gorging. They'd be the most vulnerable then. Full and sleepy. Might seem unfair, but there were four of them, one of her, and she was human. She had to have as much of an advantage as she possibly could.
Sure enough, once their meal was done, the pack moved deeper into the cave for the night. Carefully, Jayla moved to the mouth of the cave and waited until she heard their soft snores. One of them would remain on the watch. He was the one she had to eliminate first.
Knife in hand, Jayla spotted her prey and circled behind him. The Lionsblood was in man form, but he was absolutely huge. Luck was with her and he crouched near the cave opening. Jayla lunged high, gripping his hair and pulling his head back. With one vicious swipe, her blade bit deep and cut both trachea and spinal cord. Her prey didn't make a sound, but the others would smell blood, know something was wrong, and attack.
A deafening roar from behind her signaled the others were on her. Jayla whipped a second knife from her belt and flipped it around so the blade pointed back at her as she gripped the handle. In that position, it would act as an extension of her forearm. With her weaker left hand she slashed with the inverted blade while she stabbed with her right. Two quick blossoms of blood spurted from the second Lionsblood's throat, and her stab went through muscle, scraped rib bone, and punctured his heart. Her knife stuck on a rib, but she didn't waste time trying to free it. She moved on to the third Lionsblood.
A look of pure rage dominated his features. Though Jayla needed to concentrate on him, her gaze darted around trying to find the fourth. Lionsblood were lightning quick, and Jayla almost lost her head because of her divided attention. The bastard lunged with a vicious swipe, his claws missing her by mere inches. She thought he had her but instead of the bite of his claws, she felt the wind from his hand.
Fortunately, he thought he had her, too, because he over-rotated his swing. As his back turned to her for a moment, Jayla stabbed him once, neatly between his ribs. Her blade withdrew smoothly, and she sank it in again, this time with more precise results. Just left of his spine. Lumbar region. The abdominal aorta was in the same place in Lionsblood as it was for any other humanoid. When she withdrew her blade, blood pulsed out of the wound, quickly leaving a puddle.
The Lionsblood staggered forward, blood streaming from his back. He was dead -- his body just hadn't figured it out yet.
Jayla looked for the fourth foe but didn't see him immediately. She backed up slightly and scanned the area. In the darkest corner, she saw a shadow crumple to the floor. A second shadow moved toward her into the dim lighting, his hands outstretched. His features were concealed underneath a black cloak, his hood pulled securely over his head so that his face was deep inside. He wore dark gloves to cover his hands, and dark sleeves hugged his forearms. She could see nothing of him. It was almost as if he were some kind of apparition.
"I'm not a threat." His low, raspy voice carried no warmth to it. Just like the whole of the land, he was cold and calculating. Jayla could tell that from the casual way he'd let the fourth Lionsblood drop to the floor. That, and she had a feeling this man was as dangerous as any Lionsblood.
"The hell you're not." She raised her blood-coated weapon and crouched, ready to spring if necessary.
"Not to you." He didn't seem to be a man of wasted words.
"Where did you come from? Were you their captive?" Lionsblood generally killed quickly and didn't play with their food, but it wasn't unheard of for them to take multiple captives if they were pressed for food.
"I followed you."
That surprised her. She hadn't been aware of anyone following her, and she found it difficult to believe any human could completely slip her notice.
"I doubt that. I may not have the instincts and senses of Lionsblood or vampires, but I've been out here for three days tracking these four. I'm sure I would have noticed a shadow."
"You've followed them for three days, but you spent two days before that at Shiffly's Bar, and got into a heated argument with another human at the Mammoths a week before that some fifty klicks to the north."
Jayla blinked. He could have killed her at any time, and she'd never have known he was around until it was too late. "Why?"
"You needed help." His voice was less raspy now. It seemed to gain strength the more he spoke, as if he hadn't used it in a very long time. Still, he didn't offer much information.
"How would you know what I needed? I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"Of that, I have no doubt." He broke in when she would have continued, though her rant had more to do with her being human rather than the more obvious conclusion of her being female. "Not just any human could have taken on four Lionsblood and come out of the encounter alive, let alone been victorious. You are truly an accomplished warrior, human or Lionsblood." He let his hood fall back. "Man or woman."
His dark hair was shaggy and shot through with gray and silver. His eyes were dual emerald and gold, and the longer Jayla looked at him, the more she had trouble deciding if he was human or...
Comprehension and dread filled Jayla. "Lionsblood," she whispered.
She raised her knife and lunged.

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