This excerpt is part of our New Release Excerpt series where authors send us the first chapter of their new release so you- fans of paranormal romance fiction- can sample before you (hopefully) buy!
Release Date: March 26, 2017
A short, steamy, standalone shifter romance starring a huge, dominant warrior and the female he claims for his own.
I’m a Berserker warrior, one of the best in the pack. So when the Alphas send me on a mission, nothing will stop me from tracking our enemies down and bringing them to justice.
Then Hazel runs across my path…
A flower in the wilderness, she is young, and fragile, and afraid. She’s on the run from an evil mage who wants her power for his own.
She’s mine. She just doesn’t know it yet.
“I do not like this place.” Leif stood at my side, axe raised, ready to strike an unseen enemy.
I grunted in agreement and frowned at the wilderness, a tangle of overgrown brush and briars. The forest had given way to sandy soil and the few trees were twisted and malformed, their showing roots bleached white.
“There is something wrong with the air,” the redheaded warrior continued. “I do not wish to linger.”
“Nor do I,” I told him. “But we press on until we find the traitors.” We’d been tracking three wolves who’d stolen from the pack. The thieves had led us on a merry chase for the past few days and nights and we were tired, travel worn, with fraying tempers.
The wind rattled the trees, a sound like clinking bones.
“What is that scent on the breeze?” Leif raised his head and sniffed. I did the same and we both nearly gagged.
“Something died.” I coughed.
“Corpses,” Leif agreed. “Rotting meat. No wonder the thieves hid here. No one would go near this place, if they could help it.”
“Let’s push on.” I motioned to the rest of the warriors—a band of twenty men, all heavily armed.
“Listen…” Brokk, a brown-haired brute of a warrior, raised a finger, “do you hear that?”
After a pause, we all heard it as well as he.
“Silence,” Leif said. “No birds.”
“Rolf has news,” Brokk nodded to a large, grey wolf trotting towards us. It leapt onto a boulder to address us.
I’ve scouted ahead, the wolf reported, speaking via the pack bonds into our minds. There is a rocky clearing near the foot of a hill where many draugr are milling about.
“Draugr?” Leif frowned. “I have not heard that word since we left the Northlands.”
Rolf shared an image of the draugr with us—thin men with greyish skin and expressionless faces.
They stink. The wolf sneezed. There are many of them and they seem to be guarding a cave. I sense powerful, tainted magic.
“Whatever witch or warlock created these beings, it must make its home inside the cave,” Leif guessed.
“Such an evil should be obliterated,” another warrior murmured and a few others agreed.
“What do we do, Knut?” Leif asked. “The Alphas expect us to find the thieves.”
I weighed my answer. In the Alpha’s absence, it was my decision. A part of me screamed to rush into battle, but I would not. I valued the lives of these men and counted them my friends, though I was careful not to let my guard down around them.
The traitors are close, Rolf said. I caught their scent in the woods before I came upon the stinking creatures around the cave.
“We continue our quest,” I said. “If our path crosses these creatures, we will fight. Until then, we stay on the trail of the three traitors.”
We can stay in the forest and go around the cave, avoiding these draugr.
Motioning to the wolf, I let Rolf lead the way. The rest of the pack followed hard on my heels. We stalked with the stealth of wolves, fanning out in the forest, using our mind link to keep going in the right direction. Our path took us close to the sandy clearing Rolf had seen. Beyond a thin screen of trees were hundreds of sallow faced men, bodies shrunken to almost skin and bone. Whatever mage animated these beings, it did not keep its servants healthy. The men looked like walking corpses. Perhaps they were.
That explains the stink. Leif came to my side, his eyes glowing with an unnatural light. A signal that his beast was close to the surface, ready to break free.
I touched the redhead’s arm and motioned for him to follow me back into the thick woods where there was no chance of the walking corpses sensing us watching them.
We could kill them all, Leif observed. It might take days, but we could do it.
We do not know this threat. It is not wise to provoke a fight.
Is the great warrior Knut running from a battle?
I glared at him and he stared back, meeting my gaze for a long second before dropping it in admission to my authority as the stronger wolf.
I am not a coward, Leif. Challenge me again, and I’ll prove my dominance. But first let us find the thieves and return them to the Alphas for punishment.
Leif jerked his head in agreement. I let his insolence slide. Tensions were high and the enemy was close. Situations like these tested the hierarchy of the pack. If we returned home alive and he still wanted to fight, I’d indulge him.
We picked up our pace to catch up with rest of the warriors.
I lost the trail, Rolf whined. The wolf ran along with his nose close to the ground, stopping to sneeze at intervals. Damned stinking draugr.
I can help him, Leif barely looked to me for permission before setting aside his weapons and starting to strip off his clothes.
“Wait,” I said aloud before Leif could complete the Change to wolf. “We do not know if the corpse beings sense magic.”
Leif growled in answer. He didn’t care. He wanted to provoke the beings, wanted to fight.
Normally I’d agree. But not today. Too much was at stake.
“We need to focus,” I said. “The three thieves led us here. Why?”
“They wanted the stench of those beings to throw us off the trail,” another warrior, a broad-shouldered Viking named Thorbjorn, guessed.
“But they have in their keeping the most precious treasure to the pack. They would not risk getting so close to evil.” I shook my head.
Knut’s right, Rolf said. The thieves will not want to stay in this place. Perhaps they came on it by accident and now are trying to avoid us and the evil.
“Why do we stand here talking when we could be killing things?” Leif’s voice was more guttural.
“It’s not like you to be itching for a fight,” I said to Leif. The proximity of the enemy was provoking the redhead’s temper.
“It’s not like you to be running from one,” he spat back.
I snarled at him.
My body itched, ready for the Change. I resisted. If I gave in to my magic now, with a large threat so near, I would not shift into the form of the wolf, but my third form, the beast. The beast was powerful, but dangerous. A weapon of last resort.
Control yourself, my order cracked like a whip through the pack bonds and every warrior straightened.
“The evil magic is affecting us,” I spoke out loud to the pack. “We must leave here, before it provokes Berserker rage.” Leif’s chest rose and fell, but he’d pulled on his boots and reclaimed his weapons.
Apologies, Knut, he spoke to me privately. The glow in his eyes faded as he regained his grip on the beast.
I found the trail, Rolf told us.
“Onward,” I ordered.
We’d gone no further than a few steps, when something crashed in the forest ahead of us. I threw out my hand to stop Leif from barging forward. The whole pack breathed down my neck as they halted.
Something’s coming this way. Leif tensed, his hand over his nose, anticipating the rotting stench.
I sniffed the air and blinked. Instead of the corpse smell, a light, floral scent filled my nose.
Following it, I walked forward, my axe and shield drooping towards the ground.
“Knut,” Leif called to me, “What are you doing? You could be walking into a trap.”
I barely heard him; more than anything I wanted to fling my weapons aside and run to the source of the beautiful smell. My muscles tightened. I needed to run. I needed to hunt. My cock twitched in my pants. I needed to mate.
The sweet smell mingled with the rotten wind and I snorted, coming out of my daze.
“Knut? What is it?” Brokk asked.
“Something’s out there…” I answered. “And not one of the corpses. Something still alive.”
“Want me to scout it out?” Leif offered.
I grunted. We needed to know what danger we were walking into. But I wanted to go alone, to see if I could find and claim the sweet-smelling prize.
“Wait here,” I said and started forward. I’d gone only two steps before a small form crashed through the bushes in front of us and skidded to a stop. The figure was short, smooth-limbed, with a pleasing face and hair of burnished chestnut. The young woman shrieked when she saw us, throwing up her hands—she held some sort of stick—and ran back the way she came.
I raced as fast as my legs would carry me. Behind me the gruesome creatures, servants of the Corpse King, came lurching after me.
I might be able to outrun them, but they had more than speed as a weapon.
My head throbbed, the lingering results of the spell they’d cast on me. Tired. Cold. Can’t get away. The spell worked like an invisible net, slowing me. My legs turned as sluggish as my mind.
Please, I prayed to the goddess. Please. My left hand clutched the piece of witch’s staff to my heart, willing it to aid me.
As I reached the forest edge, I put on a burst of speed, and ran through the brush—straight into the path of a group of warriors.
The men froze, staring at me. I screamed. Grey Men chasing me and warriors blocking my path. The big one in front, a burly blond with a large, wicked axe, stepped forward.
I darted away, branches whipping my calves. My breath sobbed in my throat as I fled, now praying that those men would not follow.
Broken branches swayed in the wake of the woman. The warriors all spoke at once. Who was that? A woman! Was that what you scented? A few wanted to Change into wolves, whining with eagerness to run and hunt.
“Hold,” I shouted. “The enemy lies ahead.”
The pack strained at my command, but as the most dominant wolf, I held them with my power.
My own beast roared to life, fighting for control. The woman had been barefoot, frightened, wearing no more than a thin white garment—a simple shift that she might wear to sleep. She should not be out in the wilderness, anywhere near the disgusting draugr. She needed help.
She needed me.
“She smells of strawberries,” Leif said in awe. Of all the wolves, he was almost strong enough to break my commands. In a daze, he made to move forward and I whirled with a growl.
“No. This prey is mine.”
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