Sunday, November 01, 2009

Eyes of the Wolf by Amanda Steiger

Eyes of the Wolf
by Amanda Steiger

Cover art by Sahara Kelly
ISBN: 978-1-60521-310-1
Genre(s): Paranormal
Theme(s): Werewolves, Shapeshifters, Dark Desire
Length: Novella

Kaila is a princess, bound to a life of duty. She would do anything to save her people, even give herself to the barbarian leader of the Wolf Clan -- the fearsome half-demon wolf-shifter, Garou -- in exchange for the promise that he will leave her kingdom in peace. What she doesn't expect is to find passion and tenderness in his embrace, and to discover that inside the beast is a very human man.

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Kaila's heart raced, and her knees trembled as she approached the barbarians' camp. Cook fires flickered amidst the deer hide tents. Men sat around them, roaring with laughter, eating bloody haunches of roast meat and slopping ale from tankards.
The sliver of moon overhead shed only scarce light on the grassy plains. None of the men had spotted her yet. She had the sudden urge to turn and bolt... but she suppressed it and willed her shaking limbs to be steady. She'd made up her mind. She could not allow her people to suffer any longer. If her father would not give Chief Garou what he demanded, then Kaila would take matters into her own hands.
She took another step closer, and a twig popped under her foot.
The men fell silent and turned to look at her. They were huge and muscular, wearing the skins of wolves or bobcats, and most had thick, bushy beards. Hunger glinted in their eyes as they realized what they were seeing. She felt like a rabbit waltzing into a convention of foxes, and in spite of her efforts to stay calm, she quivered beneath her heavy, fur lined cloak.
These men were brutes. For the past few months, they had been attacking the city, carrying off plunder. They lived like scavengers, striking, thieving, and vanishing into the night. "Where is your chief?" she called, with as much authority as she could muster. "I demand that you take me to him at once. I will speak to no one else."
One man wiped grease from his beard with the back of one hand, then stood, grinning. "Bold little thing, aren't you?"
He started forward, but was stopped by a sharp, "Don't touch her!" from the largest tent.
The man froze as the chief pushed the tent flap aside and stepped out. He was tall, and surprisingly young. He was also one of the few men in camp without a beard. Three scars, like claw marks, marred each cheek. He wore a dark wolf hide, the wolf's head perched over his own, and black leather gloves and boots. At his belt was a glittering sword, no doubt stolen, like all their weapons. He drew the blade from its gem encrusted scabbard and pressed the tip to the man's stomach. The man gulped, his eyes widening. "No one is to touch her, save me," said the chief. "If anyone lays a hand on her, I'll cut off his sac and hang it out to dry in the sun."
Kaila stood frozen, heart knocking against her ribs, as the chief approached. He moved like the wolf for which he was named, his strides smooth and graceful. Well defined muscles shifted beneath the bronze skin in his arms and legs. With a gloved hand, he gripped her chin and turned her face from side to side, studying her. She noticed, with a shock, that his eyes were yellow gold, like a wolf's. "Strange, that you come here alone, without a carriage or guards," he remarked. His gloved thumb traced her chin, and then ran lightly over her full lips. "One would think your father would send that much, at least, to see off his beloved daughter. I wonder... did your father send you at all, or did you come of your own free will?"
She swallowed, keeping her eyes downcast. "My father sent me." Garou might not consider it a gift if he knew she'd come on her own. "He is willing to make the sacrifice for his people."
"Very wise of him." He smiled, showing a glint of white teeth. With the tip of his sword, he pulled her cloak open to reveal the soft, pink silk dress beneath. He studied the pearly buttons, then slid his sword tip beneath one and popped it off, so delicately that he didn't even graze the skin beneath. A few of his men hooted, but he paid no attention. His eyes were fixed on her heaving chest. He popped off another button, then another, exposing her white, lacy chemise.
Kaila gritted her teeth, cheeks burning. Would he have her out in the open, in front of all these leering pigs? She straightened her back and schooled her face into a neutral expression. No matter what happened, she was determined to endure it stoically. It was the only honor left to her.
The cold tip of the sword touched her breast, almost gently, and her breath caught in her throat. She watched, stone still, as it circled her nipple, which quickly hardened at the coldness of the steel. He did the same to the other nipple, then returned to the first, until both jutted, achingly hard and tight, straining against the thin silk of her chemise. Then, with the tip of his sword, he lifted her dress. One hand reached beneath it.
Kaila swatted his hand away.

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