Raine, Ly’Tana and the others escape Brutal’s trap, but with dire consequences. Kel’Ratan has been grievously injured, and Rygel must take him to safety to save his life. Yet, they are not out of danger. A monstrous storm called the Wrath of Usa’a’mah has halted their flight from Khalid and they must seek shelter within a remote monastery or die under the storm’s power.
But High King Brutal has allied himself with the deadly assassins, the Shekinah Tongu. The secretive clan has sworn out a Blood Oath against Rygel in retaliation for his leaving their brothers in the forest to die. With their hellish hounds and Brutal’s dark wizard, Ja’Teel, they track Raine and Ly’Tana through the devastation left by the storm. Raine leads them into the west, toward Ly’Tana’s home of Kel’Halla, with Brutal’s menace confronting them at every turn.
As he finds himself falling in love with the exotic Ly’Tana, Raine is plagued by a mysterious voice in his head. Is he going crazy? In Raine, Ly’Tana discovers the one man she cannot live without. However, an evil entity has targeted Ly’Tana, bent on her destruction. How can Raine, Rygel, Kel’Ratan and her griffin bodyguard, Bar, keep her safe from its vast, unseen power?
Hunted by Brutal and his evil allies, Raine, Ly’Tana and their friends discover a new, and very strange, force dogging their trail – a pack of enormous, cunning wolves. Mysterious wolves who call to Raine in the night, and bring alive the secret he’s kept hidden, even from himself. Taunted by nightmarish visions, Raine is forced to confront his own dark demon – the beast within.
Who will catch Raine and Ly’Tana first? Brutal and his pets – or the wolves?
Thus begins the second novel of the Saga of the Black Wolf series.
Fluid, powerful, lethal, she loped back and forth across the courtyard, her red-gold hair swinging in the light breeze she made. Her warriors avoided her sharp tongue and sharper temper, obeying her commands to the letter. Yuri and Yuras she posted to the hills to watch for enemy movement. She set Witraz, Rannon and Alun to watching the north, south and west boundaries of the monastery grounds. Bar obeyed her orders, leaping into the sky to watch for the missing twosome without a disgruntled hiss.
Of them all, only Left and Right stared at her, impassive, silently refusing her commands. Despite her railing at them, swearing, threatening to behead them on the spot for treason, they stood with arms folded and watched her with glittering dark eyes.
“They’ll be here,” I said, for the tenth time. Or was it the eleventh?
She shot me a dark look. “They should have been here yesterday.”
We had ridden our exhausted and bloody mounts into the courtyard the day before, only to find Rygel hadn’t brought Kel’Ratan here to heal him. Dead on our feet, none of us slept much during the night. We bathed the gore from our bodies, ate a little, and worried plenty. My bond with Rygel told me Rygel still lived. I reminded her…for the tenth or the eleventh time.
“That doesn’t mean Kel’Ratan is,” she snapped, swinging to pace east twelve steps, exactly twelve, before turning about and returning twelve steps west. “Maybe Kel’Ratan is dead and Rygel hasn’t the balls to come back.”
That was new. She usually ignored my attempts to reassure.
“Rygel wouldn’t do that,” Arianne said from her spot on the eastern wall, Corwyn standing at her back.
“What do you know?” Ly’Tana scoffed. “You were in his presence, what? An entire hour?”
For answer, Arianne turned away, showing us only the sleek clean fall of midnight hair. After bathing, the tangles brushed from her locks, she looked more the young woman than a starveling orphan. The silver headband Ly’Tana loaned her gave her a royal appearance, while effectively holding her hair from her face. She couldn’t hide in it any longer.
“She loves him,” I said softly.
That halted her mid-pace. Ly’Tana spun about on her heel, glaring at me as though I’d just insulted her. I sat on the western wall, sharpening my sword. A good blade, the fight with Brutal’s soldiers still nicked the tempered steel in places. I slid the whetstone along its renewed edge and returned her icy eyes with a calm I didn’t feel.
“Impossible,” Ly’Tana snorted. “She just met him.”
“Corwyn called it ‘the thunderbolt of the gods’,” I replied mildly.
“’Tis said,” Corwyn said, watching the hills above us, “that if lovers die apart, one grieving with a broken heart for the other, the gods often are moved to great mercy. They’re given a second chance.”
“Oh?” I asked, interested. Ly’Tana didn’t spin this time, a good sign, but turned instead to regard Corwyn with curiosity.
He nodded absently. “In their next incarnation, they find each other again. Their lives are linked across time.”
Ly’Tana eyed me with some humor over her shoulder. “I think I can relate.”
Ah, there she is. The girl I was rapidly falling in love with. I set my whetstone atop the wall beside me and beckoned, but I was a fraction too late. She turned away and put her hands on her hips as she watched Arianne suffer. Silently.
“Poor child,” Ly’Tana murmured. “No wonder she won’t eat.”
Despite her status as a starved waif, Arianne feared her food. Panic over Rygel’s well-being wasn’t the only reason food didn’t pass from her hand to her mouth. I knew only too well how a cruel master inflicted misery on a slave. No doubt Adhas gave Arianne small amounts of nourishment, then beat her for taking it.
On the rare times Arianne bit into a small fruit, or crust of bread, she hunched her shoulders, her face hidden by her swinging hair. Only her eyes moved, restless, waiting for the blows to begin. Yet only proper sustenance would put meat on those skinny ribs of hers.
I hoped time and patience might heal her of her terrors, and permit her to leave the slave behind, forever.
Sheathing my sword, I rose and stepped lightly behind Ly’Tana. She didn’t object as I wrapped her inside my arms and bent my head down to hers. My own thick hair concealed both our faces as I kissed her cheek, nuzzled her throat. “All will be well,” I murmured, my voice husky.
She choked, snorting a half-laugh, half-sob. “Promise?”
Ly’Tana returned my kiss, turning her face enough to discover my lips. She demanded, needed, her mouth devouring, her tongue thrusting past mine to tickle my throat. I cupped her neck, tilting her chin up, angling her lips to better taste her, felt her growing desire. Heat stirred in me. I tasted the salt of her tears, breathed in her scent of lilac and leather, listened to the rapid thudding of her heart. My own pulse raced to match hers, our blood pounding through our veins as one—
Running steps clattered into the courtyard. “Uh,” Tor gasped. “I think Your Graces should see this.”
Broken apart, we sighed in unison.
I nibbled her tender lips. “Hold that thought,” I murmured. “I’ll kill him and be right back.”