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She didn't move when he reached out and rested his hand on her shoulder.
Her naked shoulder.
"Mine." Although a near whisper, his voice carried power and belief. "You are mine."
Centrois Warlord Tarek and his warriors have been searching for the Baasta since their human property escaped. From the moment he spots the fleeing young woman, Tarek vows he will tame her and have her as his lust-chattel. He will own her and make her beg for him. Tarek's ultimate intention is to force Nari to reveal the Baasta's hiding place so he will have his revenge for his father's death, but the more time he spends with his brave captive, the greater her impact on him.
The arrival of the Warlord and his warriors can only bring suffering and slavery to her people. But her captor challenges Nari in ways she never imagined possible. Under his masterful control, she has no choice but to surrender her body - and her heart.
Moist heat from the wide-eyed creature’s flared nostrils brushed Nari’s throat and slid across the top of her breasts.� Sensing the wilding was on the brink of panic, she ran her fingers over the short, rough hair covering its broad chest.� Standing half again her height, it could easily kill her.� Fortunately, wildings were timid grass-eaters, and she understood their unstable nervous systems.
“Listen to me, trembling one,” she muttered in the melodic tone that had gentled more wildings than she could count.� “You’re here because you heard my song.� You don’t know it yet, but in your heart you want to serve me and the rest of the Baasta.”
Perhaps confused by the word Baasta, the wilding pawed the ground.�
“My clan,” she explained.� “My kinsmen, much as your herd gives you a sense of belonging.� There are nearly two hundred of us now, living in houses we placed against the side of a mountain.”� Confident that the wilding wasn’t about to rear, she rested her hand against the chest so she could feel the strong, quick heartbeat.�
“Do you hear your own song?� This constant pulsing means you’re alive.� And soon our hearts will beat together.� No longer will you have to forage for food throughout Hevassen while meat-eaters try to feed off your flesh.� Do you understand?� Once you accept my people as your owners, you’ll live safe.”� Leaning closer, she expelled her breath near the wilding’s nostrils.� “No longer will you be allowed to run free because we’ve found many uses for your kind, but we’ll protect you.� You’ll grow fat and give birth to many babies.”
Obviously not convinced, the wilding backed away, but Nari kept pace, her bare feet whispering over the late summer grass.� “Look at this land we share.� The ground and sky blesses Hevassan.� Everything we plant flourishes.� There’s abundant rain, and yet it hasn’t flooded since we came here.� Except for the savages who are more animal than human, we have no enemies.” No longer, praise be.� “This rich gift from the Divine Eternal is home to both human and animal, an area of peace, different from so much of Punta.”
At the word peace, she slid her fingers into the long, thick hair growing between the wilding’s small ears.� As the animal relaxed, Nari took in her surroundings.� Wise in the ways of wildings, she’d spent yesterday riding her own beast to the nearby low country lake.� Because she’d been here numerous times, she knew it was a popular watering place.� The sun had been rising when she spotted two wildings down on their front knees, necks stretched toward the water. Although she could have sung her hypnotic mind-song to both creatures, she’d chosen this young female because it was pregnant.� She’d tethered her own wilding a distance away because she wanted the pregnant female to concentrate on her.
Life was indeed good. It was peaceful except for the savages who, according to the scouts, were currently in their caves at the northern part of Havassan. With nothing to concern herself with, she could spend the day teaching the wilding the meaning of the word trust.� And when she returned home, she’d take her pick of the twenty-some single men, all of who were eager to quiet the humming between her legs.� At the moment she couldn’t think who she might choose to fuck with, let alone agree to spend the rest of her life with but�
Snorting, the wilding threw up her head. Nari shielded her eyes from the sun and studied her surroundings.� What was that faint roar?� Torn between keeping her latest acquisition with her and concentrating on the sound, she tried to determine the direction it was coming from.
“Stay!” she ordered.� “Take my command into you.”
Although the wilding shivered, the female stood her ground.� After giving her a comforting pat, Nari hurried up a nearby rise.� As she did, her sleeveless hide dress rode nearly to her buttocks, increasing her awareness of her deeply tanned legs.� A number of bright blue birds flew from a nearby tree, their wings and cries drowning out everything else.� For a moment she was swept back to the time of enslavement for the Baasta, but they’d been free for many seasons.� Free!� Able to run or stand and fight as they chose.� Free to make Hevassan their home.
She carried a knife made from a nightbeast’s thigh.� Drawing it out of its holding bag at her waist, she gripped it in her long fingers. �Because of her unique skill with wildings, she seldom hunted and had only once been involved in a battle with the savages, but she knew how to defend herself.�
No, not savages!
Looking like angry insects boiling out of their home, something she’d never seen came into view.� Although she couldn’t say how many there were of the sturdy, two-wheeled objects, even more alarming was their speed.� And direction.
Free hand at her throat, she spun toward the trembling wilding.� “Hear me!� No matter what happens, you must stay with me.� Let me onto your back.� When I command, you will run as you have never run.”
Whirling back around, she ordered herself not to give into panic.� Who or whatever the newcomers were, she had to learn all she could about them.� Gripping the knife with white knuckles, she again shielded her eyes.� The newcomers were now close enough that she could see they were humans and astride the screaming things.� Taller and narrower than wagons, there were places resembling saddles for the riders to sit on.� The riders gripped chest-high horizontal bars which they turned one way or another to change direction. As for what made it possible for the things to move so quickly�
The furious insect-like roaring intensified.� Her heart felt as if it had lodged in her throat.� Biting down on a scream, she sprinted for the pregnant wilding, sheathing her knife so she’d have use of both hands.� When she tried to pull the wilding’s head down in preparation for jumping onto her back, the wilding reared.� A hoof struck her calf, and she nearly fell.
“No!� No!”� She forced a calm tone. “Don’t be afraid, gentle one.� Your legs are swift, your back strong, your heart healthy.� Take courage from those gifts.� Feel my love for you and know you’re safe.”
Whether the wilding believed her didn’t matter, she needed to distract her long enough to spring onto the broad back.� As she did, pain from her injured calf made her gasp, but she hauled herself upright.
Then, although her entire being screamed at her to flee, she stared, not at the mysterious things, but the newcomers astride them.� She couldn’t tell how many there were, perhaps thirty.� All were male and wearing dark cock-cloths.� Some had covered their chests with the same material, but the majority were naked from the waist up.� All wore bulky belts she had no doubt held their weapons.
The man in the lead was larger than most Baasta, not heavy but densely muscled.� Young.� Shoulders so broad and arms so thick they alone could serve as weapons.� He carried himself with the pride and self-confidence of a male nightbeast.� His ebony eyes seared into hers.
Then she noted his flowing hair.� Silver!
Terror wrapped around her, she dug her heels into the wilding’s sides.� “Run!� For everything that’s sacred, run!”
Squealing, the wilding tucked her head against her chest and leaped.� When the wilding landed, Nari’s head snapped back.� “Run!� Run for your life!”� And mine, she thought.
Instinct took over, compelling her to urge the untamed animal toward a grove of nut bearing trees.� She managed to keep her mount going straight by pressing her hands against both sides of the solid neck, and then stole another look at her pursuers.
Yes, silver hair!� Centrois hair!
Even worse, the leader had already closed perhaps half of the distance between them.� A cry clogged her throat, but she didn’t waste time or energy giving it freedom.�
Swinging back around, she frantically scanned the rapidly approaching trees.� Yes, there was a narrow opening among the heavy branches!� After correcting the wilding’s charge, she again glanced at the man she hated and feared with everything in her.
So close!� So dangerous!
If he was angry, he hid the emotion.� Instead, he appeared sure of victory.� Of course!� He fully believed he was only moments from capturing or killing her.� Drawn deep into his gaze, she found determination�and something else.
No!� She wasn’t his possession.�
Although her silent cry fed her determination to escape, reality settled over her.� The Centrois were conquerors.� They believed that anyone who wasn’t one of them had been placed here to serve them.� The lot of a young woman like herself was simple: if he got his hands on her, he’d make her into his lust-chattel. Unless she killed herself, or him.
He responded by baring his teeth. Yes, his body language insisted.� Yes, I will have you.
Grinding her heels into the wilding’s sides, she repeatedly slapped its neck.� “Run!� Run as you never have.”
The tall, close-bunched trees surrounded her.� Trusting her mount to find its way through the maze, she again regarded her pursuer.� The contraption he was on hadn’t been designed for quick twists and turns.� Not only did he have to nearly stop in order to change direction, but he didn’t know his way.�
Praying to the Divine Eternal, she waited until she spotted an opening to her right.� At the last instant, she turned the wilding into it.
The Centrois leader roared past.� Cursing, he stopped, jerked his thing around and started after her.� Fortunately, there’d been a rain two days ago, and his wheels sank into the mud.� If he hadn’t been so strong, he might have been thrown to the ground.� As it was, he leapt off just as the thing fell onto its side.� He reached into something at his waist and pointed a short, thick, shiny stick at her.
Not waiting to see what the thing was capable of, she fled.