Therian Promise, страница 1часть #2 серии Therian Heat
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2017 Cyndi Friberg
Cover art by Dar Albert
Editor: Mary Moran
Electronic Book Publication, June 2017
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the author, Cyndi Friberg.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Therian Heat, Book Three: Kyle is the youngest feline-shifter ever to sit on the Prime council and he’s determined to prove himself worthy of the honor. A latent female with unbelievable potential has been identified by the wolves, so Kyle sets out to find her before his enemies make her one of them.
Terrified and alone, Ava manages to stay one step ahead of her pursuers until a disturbing vision leaves her weak and confused. She steps out into the cool mountain morning and a gorgeous stranger pulls her into his arms.
From the moment they first touch, passion erupts between the unsuspecting couple. Kyle is attracted to Ava’s quick wit and feisty spirit while his cat wants to touch her, taste her and make her scream with pleasure. Trust doesn’t come easily for Ava. Her past has taught her to be wary, but she senses a soul-deep connection with Kyle. Each secret they unearth reveals a more challenging conflict, yet together they can face any enemy.
Note from Cyndi: Many plot elements in Therian Heat continue on from book to book. Each couple has secured their happy ending by the end of the book, but the series is more fun if you read the books in order. Also, this book was published a few years back under the same title and author name.
Ava Seymour sprang up in bed, heart slamming against her ribs as anxiety jolted her awake. She carefully scanned each corner of the shadowy bedroom, visually searching the dimness, and listening for sounds that didn’t belong. A branch scraped against a window and the furnace cycled on, but nothing was out of place in the calm spring night. So why was she shaking?
Carissa. Ava sensed her sister’s presence as if Carissa had just walked into the room. Closing her eyes, Ava allowed the vision to unfold within her mind. When visions first assailed her months before, she’d been frightened by the disorienting pull. But her efforts to resist the spinning only intensified the vertigo, so she no longer fought their power or doubted their accuracy.
A cheerfully decorated room came into view, like a classroom meant for children. Carissa sat on the edge of a large table, legs enveloped by the full skirt of her dress. A dark-haired man knelt in front of her, more or less between her legs. He spoke in a deep, calming tone, but Ava couldn’t make out his words. Despite the intimate position, they were both fully dressed.
Ava could sense the trust and affection flowing between Carissa and the dark-haired man. This was Carissa’s lover, which made no sense. Her sister didn’t have a lover or she hadn’t six days ago, which was the last time Ava had seen her.
In the distance, a lion’s roar was echoed by other feline growls. Carissa raised her head and smiled, obviously reacting to the unusual sounds. Where the hell was she? There were no lions in Colorado! Unless she was at a zoo or some sort of exhibition hall. The vision offered no other clues to Carissa’s location, so Ava refocused on the images available to her.
This wasn’t the first time Ava had inadvertently spied on her sister’s life, but this vision felt different. The immediacy she’d experienced in other episodes was lacking now. This was an echo, a memory. Had Carissa been with this man the entire time Ava had been running for her life? She ignored the pang of annoyance and concentrated on the image. Who was the man and how had he come in contact with Carissa?
“She’s ready, boys,” a female announced from somewhere beyond the vision’s perspective.
Ready for what? And “boys” indicated more than one male was about to participate in whatever this was. Then Ava felt them, sensed other powerful beings standing slightly back, waiting, ready for their turn…at Carissa? Why wasn’t Carissa frightened? She just sat there, staring at the dark-haired man as if she wanted to devour him.
“Get moving,” the unseen woman advised. “She won’t be manageable for long.”
Manageable? What an odd description. Carissa could be spirited and stubborn. Ava always paused to consider ramifications and judge risk factors while Carissa dove headlong into any adventure. Even so, neither of them were ever unmanageable.
A tall blond man approached, his angular features intense and serious. Bending to one knee beside Carissa, he said, “I willingly offer my life. We have waited so long for your return. I am honored to be part of your definition.”
Definition? What the hell did that mean?
He pushed to his feet and offered Carissa his wrist.
Anxiety twisted through Ava, but she was lost in the vision’s hold, unable to change the events unfolding before her. What was he doing? He sounded so serious, so…
Carissa grabbed his arm with both hands and lowered her mouth toward his wrist. No freaking way! She wasn’t going to… Carissa bit down hard, blood streaming out from under her lips. Hunger, savage and demanding, burned through Ava. Carissa wanted this, needed it with an elemental longing that transcended rational thought or quantification. Ava felt herself being drawn deeper into the vision as desire spread through her soul. She was meant for this. They were born for this. How had they lived without it for so long?
No. This was a vision, which meant the images had been sent for a reason. Shuddering, Ava struggled to distance herself from the images and ignore the lingering ache. Were they vampires? Had Carissa fallen in with a coven of—
Ava shook away the fanciful thought. Vampires didn’t exist, but witches did! Was this some sort of blood magic or… She couldn’t even finish the thought, had no idea what they were doing. Carissa appeared to be participating willingly, but why would she do something so disgusting?
Before Ava could unravel fact from impression, the scene faded, releasing her from its thrall. She felt queasy and shaken, but worse was the realization that what she’d just seen had actually happened. Sometime in the past six days her sister had bit into a man’s arm and drank his blood.
Ava didn’t understand the ritual’s purpose, but it didn’t matter anyway. Trepidation urged her onward and she intended to obey. She tossed back the covers and swung her legs over the side of the bed. The last time she’d shrugged off one of these feelings two of her father’s thugs had abducted her right out of the safety of her own house. She’d managed to escape them by playing the terrified victim, but now they knew she wasn’t helpless. So they’d be even harder to elude.
Crossing the bedroom in darkness, she rushed across the cool wood floor. The rental cabin was small and rustic, but she’d thought the secluded mountain setting would offer her a reprieve from the people pursuing her. She hurried into the tiny bathroom and closed the door. There were no windows in the room, so she turned on the lights, relatively sure it wouldn’t alert anyone to her location.
Ava’s childhood had been filled with stories of Osric, her abusive father. Her mother, Willona, had been convinced the only way to protect her
Willona had died believing she’d escaped her past and built a new life for her girls. But six days ago Osric resurfaced, yet he hadn’t even cared enough to come himself. Like some arrogant dictator, he’d sent teams of “his men” to collect Ava and Carissa.
Ava wasn’t sure what Osric wanted or why he’d waited so long to reenter their lives. All she knew was Willona’s fears had been justified and her desperate actions no longer seemed rash.
For the first few days Ava had been completely focused on evading her pursuers. She had a general feeling that Carissa was safe, but she hadn’t understood her certainty. Two nights ago, she’d briefly touched her sister’s mind and was again reassured by her composure. The most recent dream was disconcerting, but even during the bizarre ritual, Carissa had seemed unharmed. At least physically.
With a heavy sigh, Ava pushed away the past and focused on the situation at hand. If her father’s men had found her again, there wasn’t much she could do about it. Hopefully, her intuition had given her enough warning that she could make a clean getaway.
She took a deep breath to reinforce her resolve then gathered her toiletries and splashed water on her face. After hastily binding her hair at the nape of her neck, she rushed back into the bedroom.
Each night before she went to sleep, she laid out clean clothes and packed her belongings, so she could be ready to leave in under a minute. The vision had slowed her down, but not for long. She had to put some distance between herself and this madness. She couldn’t help Carissa if she became the next victim.
Focusing on the conclusion, she unlocked the side door in the bedroom and stepped out onto the wraparound porch. Dawn had just arrived, making the treetops glow and casting a crimson haze across the horizon. She acknowledged the beauty without becoming lost in its majesty.
She’d stashed a motorcycle in back of the cabin. The enduro was powerful enough to tackle most mountain trails while not drawing attention to her on legal roadways. There wasn’t a door leading where she wanted to go and the stone path that wound around the other side of the cabin was too visible. She climbed over the porch rail and dropped to the ground a few feet below.
Settling her backpack over her shoulder like an oversized purse, she headed for the motorcycle. She’d avoided the house she shared with Carissa, as well as their sporting goods store in the heart of Breckenridge, suspecting they were being watched. But circumstances left her no choice now. She needed her car and she needed more clothes if she was going to disappear for good.
She ducked around the corner and a large hand covered her mouth. A long, muscular arm wrapped around her waist, pinning her arms to her sides and plastering her back against a tall, hard body. Terror blazed through her mind and she screamed, twisting desperately against the man’s grasp. The backpack slid to her elbow before his forearm stopped its descent.
“I won’t hurt you, Ava.” His voice was deep and insistent. “I am not one of your father’s men.”
The words should have soothed her, but panic blasted through her mind. She was breathing too fast and her skin prickled. Then pressure built deep inside her, rushing up through her torso like a geyser. Pain pushed against the backs of her eyes, blinding her as it set the world in motion. She screamed again, the sound so raw his hand barely muffled the cry.
Heat pulsed through her head and sound roared in her ears. His arms tightened as her legs collapsed, leaving her limp within his embrace. She heard his voice near her ear, but his words were lost in the building cacophony. Clutching his forearms with both hands, she clung to the only solid object in her heaving world.
Then reality shattered and light blasted out of her, propelling her beyond the mountain scene. She screamed and screamed, but the sound only existed in her mind. Both his arms banded her now, holding her snugly against his chest. Why was he still here? Wasn’t death a journey meant to be taken alone?
The earth rushed up to meet them. He twisted violently as if to take the brunt of the collision, but her shoulder slammed into the ground and something even harder punched into her side. Pain exploded through her, driving the breath from her lungs then slicing down her arm.
Scrambling to his knees, he took his weight off her as she instinctively rolled to her back. The simple movement sent a fresh wave of agony washing over her. She gasped and lights flashed before her eyes. She could barely think past the roaring in her ears.
He arched over her, hands on the ground beside her shoulder. “Don’t try to move,” he directed. “We landed really hard. Catch your breath and make sure you’re not hurt badly.” He wasn’t touching her now, but the position still felt menacing.
“Can’t. Breathe.” He reached for her and she shoved his hand away. The small rebellion sent pain ricocheting through her torso, but she couldn’t make a sound.
“I’m going to touch your side. Only your side. You might have punctured a lung or worse.” His voice was calm and firm, leaving her no room for negotiation.
Carefully keeping her arm angled over her breasts, she watched him through a haze of pain. He had the most unusual eyes, rich forest green with distinct flecks of gold. He lifted the hem of her t-shirt and slipped his hand beneath. His warm fingers touched her skin and she shivered.
“Try to hold still. I’m not going to hurt you.”
His warm fingers pushed up along her side until they rested against the bruise. He shifted position several times and gradually increased the pressure. Heat sank into her flesh, tingling then burning. The pressure suddenly released, as if he’d slit the laces of an antique corset, then she drew a cautious breath. Though a faint ache remained, she could breathe again.
“What did you do?” She took a deeper breath, amazed by the change.
“Feel better?” He smiled, drawing her attention back to his handsome face. His nose was straight, if a bit narrow. His cheekbones were high without being hollow and distinct brackets framed his mouth. He shifted position and his leather jacket creaked, the early morning breeze playing through his dark blond hair.
“I thought I’d snapped half my rib cage. I literally could not breathe.” Keeping her arm pressed against her chest, she managed to sit without moving her injured shoulder, and scooted backward until she rested against the trunk of a nearby tree.
“How bad is your arm?” A hint of challenge threaded through his even tone. “Or did you hurt your shoulder?”
“It can wait.” She glanced around. There was no obvious path through the trees, no indication of where they were or how they’d arrived. “What the hell just happened? Where are we?”
“I’m pretty sure we teleported and I have no idea where we are.” He rocked back onto his heels then stood, watching her intently. Sunlight filtered through the trees, revealing golden strands in his dark blond hair.
She stared up at him, her shoulder throbbing unmercifully. Teleportation only existed in the movies. Yeah, so did psychic healers… Her mind refused to accept his conclusion, so she returned to the basics. “Who are you?”
“Kyle Lashton. Our mothers were best friends back before you were born. We heard what Osric was planning and couldn’t allow it. I’ve come to take you home.” The emphasis he put on the word “home” assured her he hadn’t meant her house in Breckenridge.
He pulled a cell phone out of his jacket and turned in a slow circle. Apparently, he couldn’t find a signal because he slipped it back into his pocket and looked at her. “You’re obviously still in pain.” He knelt beside her again, resting his hands on his thighs. “Is it your shoulder or your arm?”
“Explain what you did to my side first.” She wasn’t sure why she didn’t want him to touch her, but he definitely made her feel…not threatened or afraid, just hyperaware. His eyes were too green and his features too appealing. And she wasn’t even going to consider how hard and strong he’d felt wrapped around her.
“You feel better, don’t you? Does it matter how I did it?”
He was right. If he hadn’t touched her side, she’d still be fighting for breath or unconscious. “You’re some sort of ‘healer’?” She couldn’t believe she’d said the word. She was the sensible sister. Carissa was the one who loved sci-fi movies and paranormal fantasies. Ava liked gritty crime dramas and complicated mysteries.
One corner of his mouth quirked, but his eyes remained serious. “Call it what you like. I can take away your pain, but the energy won’t pass through anything inorganic. My skin must touch yours if you want me to heal you. And it will be a whole lot easier if I can see what I’m doing.”
“You want me to take off my shirt?”
His features tensed and impatience narrowed his gaze. “Do you honestly think I planned this entire incident so I could see you in your bra?”
It did sound rather ridiculous when he put it that way. “I’m not sure I can get my shirt off unless you help me.”
He chuckled, honest amusement warming his expression again. “Which was my wicked plan all along.” He moved closer and held the hem as she pulled her uninjured arm free of the clingy t-shirt. After easing it over her head, he gingerly worked the wadded material down her other arm. He gathered her hair to the side and whistled. “That is one hell of a bruise.”
His gaze remained on her injured shoulder, despite the plunging angle of her lace-trimmed bra. She braced her hand against the ground as the world swayed. The throbbing had become a burning ache as soon as she sat up. Her stomach heaved and closing her eyes only made the nausea worse. Please don’t let me throw up on him! She couldn’t imagine anything more humiliating.
Infuriated by her helplessness, she allowed him to shift her body away from the tree. “You gonna be okay like this? You’re not going to pass out on me, are you?”