“This book was one of those that is difficult to put down…. The pace is perfect, not too slow to feel like it is dragging out, nor did I ever feel like the author was rushing me through the story. I found that the climax of the story was very fitting.” Ramona Plant– Amazon review
“A gorgeous medley of dystopian-fantasy female empowerment with fierce survival skills. Holm captures action-packed scenes that lead the narrative to its astounding ending…” Lisa Kaela– Amazon Review
Amanda Cross always considered herself a strong woman, but the many trials she faced on the hostile planet of Lavina almost break her. After her rescue, she turns down the chance to return to Earth when a handsome wolf shapeshifter named Tallyn catches her eye. Amanda decides to stay with Tallyn on his world and see where the relationship takes them. Not everything goes according to plan, especially when Tallyn’s father rejects their union and tries to have Amanda killed.
Calem has waited centuries to right a wrong done to his mate and daughter. Their deaths nearly destroyed him, but he sees a chance for redemption through Amanda. Tallyn was right to ask for Calem’s help in preparing his mate to face his father’s deadly tests. Only he can guide the petite human female toward her destiny. Only Calem knows who she really is to their people. He is determined to keep Amanda from facing the same fate as his mate and daughter, even if it ends up costing him his own life.
“I think I’m okay now,” Amanda said, pushing gently against Tallyn’s chest. She took a quick look around, finding nothing here familiar. Okay, so they definitely weren’t in Raiza anymore. She didn’t remember much of anything beyond the growing claustrophobia as they stepped inside the narrow transporter room.
And a song, the haunting melody beautiful.
It was the first time she’d heard Ayani sing. They didn’t have anything like television or radios in Ayani’s apartment, nothing but silence coming through the walls. How strange. Back on Earth she could hear every word from the neighbors on both sides of their apartment.
Amanda stumbled and Tallyn caught her arm. “Are you certain you’re ready to walk?” he asked, his mouth pressed against the top of her head. “I don’t mind carrying you.”
Instant lust chased away any lingering doubts Amanda might have carried about taking her place by Tallyn’s side. She stared into her wild man’s beautiful golden eyes and licked her lips before she answered.
“Thanks, I’m good.” Her face burned, embarrassed by her breathy voice.
Tallyn smiled. “Are you sure?”
Amanda chuckled. “No, but I’ll give it a try.”
He raised an eyebrow in question.
Get a grip, she told herself. You’re acting like a twitter-pated idiot! Amanda glared when Ayani laughed, her cheeks growing warm. “What’s so funny?”
“No, Princess, you misunderstand.” A warm smile turned up the corners of Ayani’s wide lips, her fangs peeking out. “Most of us would give almost anything to experience what you are feeling right now.”
“What?” Amanda asked, surprised. “Uh, maybe you need to explain.” She gasped when sadness flooded her mind, a hint of jealousy mixed with it. She stared at Ayani, eyes open wide, and finally understood why her friend had pressed her so hard to come to Tallyn. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, “You’re right, I didn’t understand.” And just like that the sadness disappeared and Ayani looked the same as always, her beautiful face empty of emotion.
How did she live with it, Amanda wondered, so little hope for an end to her terrible loneliness? Ayani was nearly a thousand years old, but Neyvarre, her brother, had been twice that old before he found Kimi. Maybe humans didn’t have it so bad with their much shorter life spans.
“You are so young, child,” Ayani said. “Life, no matter what the span, is empty without someone to love at your side. I’m happy for you and Tallyn. He’s spent nearly five hundred years alone, almost every second of it searching for you. Imagine his joy, the relief, at finally finding you.” She smiled and gently cupped Amanda’s cheek. “Though I can see the same joy in your face when you look at him. Don’t be embarrassed because you want to claim him. Most here would be more surprised if you didn’t.” She leaned closer, speaking softly against Amanda’s ear. “I know you try to deny your Lycaeonian nature, but instinct demands you cover his body with your scent, mark him as yours and yours alone. Trust me, his instinct to claim you demands the
Amanda worked hard to keep her face blank, still sure they were wrong about her carrying a beast inside her petite body. She didn’t look anything like other female shapeshifters, all of them tall and slender. But it didn’t mean she didn’t want to get Tallyn alone and have her way with him. He’d refused to touch her in dreamwalks, or at least touch her in any meaningful way. “I’m not a werewolf, Ayani. Maybe it would be easier if I was, but I’m not.” They both needed to accept it, or she and Tallyn would have no hope of making a go of this thing.
“You can’t know for sure,” Tallyn interrupted, his words carrying a hint of desperation. “Calem told me you were Lycaeonian during your rescue off Lavina. He is much older than me, more powerful. He said he sensed a beast inside you, a strong one. We need to find a way to release her.”
Yeah, kinda doubtful. If she was so strong, then how could she be trapped? Amanda scowled, but didn’t argue further, knowing it would be useless. Calem had been Gabriel’s werewolf tracker. From what she learned later, he’d been the one to figure out which planet the rogue had taken them to. Amanda had disliked the werewolf tracker from the start, finding him arrogant and cold. Plus, he’d almost gotten Kimi killed by asking her to ride a freaking dragon in a race.
He’d been right though. Kimi had been strong enough to handle it. Amanda chewed at her inner lip, not certain what to think anymore. Maybe the asshole would be right about her too.
Amanda sighed as she turned her thoughts inward, trying to feel for some sign of a beast. Frustrated, she shook her head and said, “I’ve tried a thousand times to sense one, to sense anything, and there’s simply nothing there.” She blew through her lips, meeting Tallyn’s questioning gaze. “Maybe it won’t matter. I know what I feel for you is real. I guess the real question is whether you can accept me if I’m only human.” She forced herself to hold eye contact when she added, “It’s possible Calem is right and there is a beast, but what if I can never free her, Tallyn? Will you still want me? You know your dad is gonna pitch a fit, and probably your people too.” She couldn’t read Isabeau, his mother, quite as well.
A spark of anger flashed through his golden eyes, but Ayani reached for his arm, interrupting. “No, Tallyn, she doesn’t understand yet.” When he relaxed, Ayani turned to Amanda. “Princess, Tallyn wants no other but you. For now, his only worry is to keep you safe. Trust me, your place at his side is secure. Whether you learn to shift forms or not, his feelings toward you will never change.”
It didn’t get past Amanda that Ayani had said ‘Whether you learn to shift’ not ‘When you learn. “All right,” she said softly. “I’m sorry, it’s only been two months since I learned werewolves and vampires were even real. I’m still trying to get my mind around it, let alone the thought that I might be one. You know, I’ve never seen Tallyn change yet. My only reference is old movies, which I’m sure they got wrong, but….” She fisted her hands in the soft leather of her pants. “Calem changed once on Lavina, but he did it behind a closed door.” The energy from it had prickled like an electrical current over her exposed skin, not exactly reassuring. “Maybe I won’t be so nervous once I see Tallyn do it.” And maybe it would be worse. She closed her eyes, imagining skin bubbling and bones popping as a human shifted into a wolf.
“Whenever you’re ready,” Tallyn said, tugging playfully at her sleeve. “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how easy the change comes to us.”
Amanda’s face grew warm, sensing he’d read her thoughts. “I’m sorry . . . about the bubbly skin and popping bones. Maybe you need to stay out of my head.” He tugged harder and she let him pull her up against him, cocking her chin enough to stare at Tallyn’s face. “I can’t help but see your thoughts when you project so hard,” Tallyn said. “We’ll need to work at creating shields so everyone else isn’t reading them too.” Tallyn leaned down then and covered her lips with his, his tongue teasing at her mouth.
Oh, God, you taste so good. Amanda shivered, wrapping her arms around his neck when he lifted, her legs slipping around his hips. “You better put me down,” she thought at him, struggling not to groan. “I’m going to start projecting again.” They made an odd pair, Tallyn over a foot taller than her. Amanda didn’t care, though the people watching probably found it amusing. She was used to being the shortest person around. It didn’t make her weak. Plus, everything tended to line up just fine in bed . . . if she could just get him in one. From the feel of that growing bulge between his legs, Tallyn’s mind was in the same place.
He smiled against her lips before breaking the kiss. When he leaned back, she saw real warmth entering his typically cold face. Warmth meant only for her. Over the past month, she’d learned most men on Laizahlia presented a cold, detached outwardly appearance. A mask of sorts to protect them from prying minds. Women too, for that matter. Tallyn had taught her quite a lot about his people during their many dreamwalks, though now it was time to gain firsthand experience. At the top would be learning to protect her thoughts from prying minds.
“It feels so good to finally get to touch you.” Amanda brushed back the long reddish-black hair from his angular face and then pressed her cheek to his, feeling safe in his arms. “I’m glad Ayani got me through the damned transporter.”
Speaking of Ayani, Amanda leaned back and took a quick look around. Distracted by Tallyn, she’d almost forgotten about her new friend. Ayani stood a short distance away, her attention focused on the loading area for cargo ships. Ships that appeared even larger on the ground than they did in the air. When the vampire felt her attention, Amanda said, “Thank you for getting me here, and for taking my….” She didn’t know whether to say pain or terror. Maybe both.
Ayani placed her right hand over her heart and lowered her eyes. “It was an honor to be of service to you, Princess. If you ever need my help in the future, you need only call.”
“Thank you,” Amanda said. “I mean it, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.” Though she still hoped to never have to face the transporter again. She grinned at Tallyn. “We should be okay, right? We walk from here.”
“Yes, Lycaeonian seldom travel by transporter, at least not while here on Laizahlia.” He smiled. “Though we usually travel on four feet, not two. Four legs tend to be faster.”
Amanda frowned, wiggling until he set her down. “Yeah, well, I guess dogs are definitely faster than people, but it’s not an option for me.” She grinned to show she only teased.
“A wolf, not a dog,” he said, one eyebrow raised as he crossed his arms over his muscular chest.
Ayani stepped forward. “Most Lycaeonian find running free in the mountains exhilarating. They enjoy the hunt, given a freedom most of us can never hope to understand.” She tipped her head as if deep in thought. “I believe you and your human family were enthusiastic hunters, right?”
“Um, yeah, I guess so. But there’s a big difference between us and Tallyn’s people. We don’t kill deer and elk with our teeth.” She grew antsy as an unwanted memory tried to surface, changing the subject before Ayani or Tallyn picked up on it. “What do we have planned, guys? You still haven’t told me why the big panic to get here tonight.”
“What would you like to do?” Tallyn asked, ignoring the last half of her question. “Tonight is for your pleasure, Princess.”
“For my pleasure, huh? Okay, then first off I want you to both call me Mandy. Princess sounds like the name of someone’s pet.” She didn’t much care for child, little one, or young one either, but it was still better than princess. Amanda stared up into Tallyn’s face, awed by the power hidden behind those bright golden eyes, and humbled by the love reflected back at her. His body was also gorgeous, not muscle-bound, which pleased her, but lean and powerful. Perfect hardness against her soft curves.
“Very well,” he said, “Mandy is a beautiful name. What would you like to do first?”
That one was easy. She wanted to get him somewhere they could be alone, preferably naked. Her nostrils flared as the breeze shifted, brushing his masculine scent across her nose. A hard shift took place in her mind and she actually stumbled back, eyes wide as he reached out for her. “You’re mine,” she whispered, totally serious.
Tallyn relaxed and lifted her up, squeezing tight as he swung her around. “Yes, Princess, I’m yours and yours only. And you are mine.”
“Mandy,” she reminded him.
A hint of a smile developed. “Forgive me. Yes, Mandy, I’m so pleased you decided to stay on Laizahlia. You belong to me now.” “Very good,” Ayani said, laughing. “I see it’s past time for me to leave. Besides, there’s business I need to take care before I return to Raiza. Tallyn, you know the code to my apartment. You’re welcome to use it for as long as you wish. I’ll need to drop by for a few minutes later tonight before I leave.” Ayani reached out to lightly cup Amanda’s flushed cheek, relief in her bright green eyes. “I’m very happy for you, Mandy. You and Tallyn make a beautiful couple. Enjoy yourselves. Your mate will take good care of you.”
“Thank you for everything.” Amanda smiled as the vampire bowed again and then she was gone, fading into the crowd around them. “Well,” she said, staring into Tallyn’s eyes, “what shall we do?” She grinned at the feel of his erection pressed against the warmth of her core and wiggled, curious to see what he would do. She’d grown frustrated by his continued denials during their dreamwalks.
“You know very well what I want, but there are tasks we need to take care of first. There won’t be time after tonight.”
“Oh, like what?”
“We need to have new clothes made for you.” He let her slide down his body and motioned toward the many booths set out. “It shouldn’t take long. Everything we need is available right here.”
Amanda took her first good look around. I should freaking guess so, she thought, staring at the many booths set up in the outdoor market. But shopping? Now? Was he serious? Amanda glanced down at the obvious bulge behind his leather pants. “You sure?” she said, biting at the corner of her lower lip. “You look a tad uncomfortable to me. I could help you take care of that, you know?”
“Unfortunately, yes, we need to take care of your needs first.”
“Okay then, my wild man, it’s your loss. Lead away.”