by Saloni Quinby
eBook BIN: 06055-01943
A man-tiger stalks the forest near a village living in fear. To destroy the beast, they send the warrior Han, who wields the tiger fork, a weapon from ancient Earth.
He finds Bo, a gorgeous beast out to protect his species from extinction. When their intended battle to the death ends in sex instead, they risk their lives to bring peace to their two warring worlds. Will they succeed, or will the lovers be forced to destroy each other?
Note: Prologue omitted.
Han’s lungs ached and his entire body hurt. His life was in danger, but he was almost too tired to care, yet he couldn’t fail. His village depended on him. If he didn’t kill the predator who had been terrorizing his people, Comet Field would be destroyed.
It had been ages since the beasts had attacked humans. Long ago, after many bloody battles, they had withdrawn into the mountains, far from human civilization. Occasionally a hunter would report seeing a man-tiger, but only in the shadows. Usually the creatures disappeared before anyone could approach.
Han’s village was newly established and deeper in the forest than other settlements, yet it wasn’t on the wrong side of the great river — the accepted boundary between the man-tiger realm and the human world.
The trouble had started a month ago when a hunting party had been attacked by an enormous man-tiger. Up close, no one could confuse one of them with a normal wildcat. They stood on two legs, but also moved on four. Their faces were a terrifying combination of human and beast. Savage claws tipped their fingers and toes. When they roared, the forest went still, all creatures silenced and hiding in fear.
At first the village leader sent his fiercest warriors to kill the beast, for it was reported by a hunter who had lived briefly after the attack that the man-tiger was alone.
Those powerful hunters had been slaughtered as well — at least those whose bodies were recovered.
Han’s parents and younger brother lived in the village. He had stayed with them for a short time before moving to the temple where he had trained with the warrior priests since childhood. He had never been sure if he wanted to become a priest, or if he would travel to the emperor’s palace to offer his services as a guard. Lately the former had become more appealing. The emperor’s guards were expected to bond with specially chosen slave women to produce future warriors. Han felt no burning desire to mate with a woman and coming from a poor family, he didn’t mind the simple life of a priest.
He’d discussed his choices with the high priest who counseled him to think carefully about his decision. Han was among the most skilled warriors ever trained at the temple. He had lived a disciplined life and hadn’t fully tasted the world.
Now it seemed he might never get the chance.
The man-tiger’s labored breathing and growls echoed behind him. The beast was getting closer.
They’d fought twice already tonight. Han had bandaged his forearm where the creature’s claws had swiped him. He’d lost enough blood to weaken him, but not as much as the man-tiger had lost. Known for his talent with a weapon used in ancient times, when humans and man-tigers fought frequently, Han had wielded the tiger fork — three iron prongs on the end of a staff — with deadly skill tonight. Surprisingly, the man-tiger had evaded a fatal blow.
The armed man and savage beast were almost a perfect match. They had driven themselves to their limits and soon — very soon — their battle would end.
It must end.
Han stopped abruptly and the man-tiger, his black and gold coat matted with dirt and blood, pounced into the clearing and landed in a squat. His powerful muscles rippled and he roared, exposing his gleaming white fangs.
Tightening his grip on his tiger fork, Han faced his enemy.
The man-tiger’s eyes were startlingly human — slanted and glistening green in the moonlight that shone into the clearing. In these final moments before the end of their battle, Han realized how magnificent this creature was. Unfortunately he was more beast than man. He was wild, existing on raw power and pure instinct. Han almost wished there was another way to settle their differences, but he had no choice. For the sake of his people and for his own survival, he must kill the man-tiger.
The beast attacked first and Han maneuvered his weapon, jabbing and feinting, manipulating the man-tiger into his desired position. Then he drove the creature back and with a roar of surprise and rage it dropped into the deadly trap Han had prepared days ago.
To Han’s dismay, the man-tiger caught hold of several twisted vines attached to a nearby tree. He clung to them, trying to pull himself out of the hole in the ground before he fell onto the dozens of spikes below. Han had concealed the trap well, covering it with branches and leaves. Just as he’d hoped, in the heat of battle, the man-tiger hadn’t noticed it. It should have ensured his death — a grotesque and painful one for such a majestic rival, but Han’s demise would have been no less horrible if the man-tiger had won the fight.
Now all Han had to do was finish it.
Still clinging to his tiger fork, he walked toward the beast who struggled, weakened by his wounds and loss of blood. The vines started to snap beneath his weight and he sank a little deeper into the hole. He paused, panting, and lifted his gaze toward Han.
They stared at each other for several heartbeats. Then the man-tiger did something unexpected. His face and form shifted and changed until, within seconds, Han faced a man who looked every bit as human as Han himself.
Stunned, Han almost dropped his weapon. He had no idea the man-tiger had the power to change. His heart pounding, he stared at the man.
Damp tendrils of long blond hair clung to his thick neck and shoulders. Muscles strained in his big arms as he struggled to pull himself out of the hole. If he had been at full strength, Han knew the beast would have already escaped and probably killed him.
Why did Han hesitate to destroy him? He thought of the slain hunters — human hunters — and tried to muster the courage to stab the beast with his tiger fork and send him to a well-deserved death.
Yet it was no longer a beast he faced, but a man — one who was obviously desperate to survive, but his expression didn’t beg. He regarded Han with the quiet dignity of a worthy foe who now accepted defeat.
At that moment, Han realized he couldn’t let the fight end like this. The man-tiger was no longer just a beast to him, but an equal.
With a final tremendous effort, the man-tiger pulled himself upward until, just as the last vine snapped, he sank his fingers into the ground.
On impulse, Han curled his hands around the man-tiger’s thick wrists and pulled with his remaining strength.
Together they managed to haul him out of the pit.
The man-tiger glanced at Han with a questioning look before he pushed himself to his hands and knees, crawled a few feet, then collapsed, unconscious.
Han lay on his back for a moment, trying to gather the strength to move. Finally he stood, tiger fork in hand, and loomed above his unconscious foe. It would be so easy to finish the battle. He had won. Why had he bothered to save this creature only to kill him now? Part of this beast was a man. Because of that, was it possible Han could reason with him? He wasn’t even sure the man-tiger could speak. There was only one way to find out.
* * *
Bo awoke to the scent of smoke and the aroma of the human warrior. His musk wasn’t unpleasant, nor was it as strong as that of a Roar’dyn.
Glancing at his surroundings through half-closed eyes, Bo noted he was in a corner of a mid-sized cave. His wounds had been cleaned and dressed. Chains bound his wrists and ankles.
If not for the cloak resting on the floor across from the small fire, he might have thought his enemy had abandoned him.
The human’s behavior puzzled him. Why hadn’t he killed Bo when he had the chance? Surely the human hadn’t pulled him out of the pit because he’d changed his mind about killing him. Perhaps he thought he could force information from Bo, such as the location of his village.
Humans were inferior trackers. Even in the past they had rarely found their way to man-tiger settlements, whereas man-tigers easily sniffed out the locations of human villages.
Maybe the human simply wanted to take him home as a prize. Humans enjoyed killing and mounting the heads of other species, or worse, keeping them in cages to be gawked at and tormented.
Bo’s questions about the human’s intentions were about to be answered.
The human approached from the cave mouth. Even in the darkness, Bo saw him clearly, for man-tigers saw equally well both by day and night.
Slim and muscular beneath his loose-fitting black pants and shirt, the human had black hair cut just below his ears. His eyes gleamed like blue jewels in his angular face shadowed by dark stubble. The human was attractive in his strange way, though not as powerful and rugged as a man-tiger.
Bo’s stomach clenched and his heartbeat quickened. He told himself it was survival instinct, prompted by the arrival of his enemy. Why, then, did his cock twitch?
“You’re awake,” said the human. He stopped near the fire, close enough for Bo to hear his heartbeat, but far enough that Bo couldn’t reach him while in chains — or so the human believed. He studied Bo warily. His tiger fork rested against the cave wall, within easy reach.
“Can you understand me?” asked the human.
Bo wondered if he looked as disgusted as he felt. Why did humans think Roar’dyn incapable of communication when they were actually far more adept at it than their inferior species? His kind could talk through speech as well as through growls and signals inaudible and unobservable to humans. Bo’s ancestors had picked up the humans’ language from ancient times and passed on the knowledge to future generations. Even in olden times, they had kept most of their skills secret from humans, however. Revealing their similarities wouldn’t make humans any less apt to hunt Roar’dyn.
The human sighed and shook his head. “I wish there was some way for us to reconcile our differences without violence.”
“But it seems we have no choice.”
Of course. Humans never had any choice but to kill.
“On the edge of that pit, when you looked at me, I thought there was some kind of understanding.”
Yes. I understood you were about to win our battle and probably bring an end to my dynasty.
“Was I wrong to spare you? I can’t release you and if I bring you back to the village –”
“I prefer death,” Bo said, then scowled. Why had he spoken?
The human’s eyes widened and he drew a sharp breath. “You can speak.”
“Of course I can speak.” Why stop now? “Why would you think otherwise?”
“Your kind have never spoken to us. And until now, none of us knew you could change into a human –”
“I am not human.” Bo’s voice dripped with revulsion.
“It’s not an insult.”
Bo curled his lip. “Of course you wouldn’t think so.”
“Why haven’t you approached us in this form or tried to speak to us? So much bloodshed could have been avoided.”
Was it possible that human history was written differently than the history of the Roar’dyn? Had they actually forgotten their lies and their crimes?
“In ancient times, when your kind invaded our world, our kind spoke to the first head of your dynasty. We were betrayed and hunted.”
“That can’t be true.” The human shook his head. “Nowhere in our history does it say Captain Stan communicated with man-tigers.”
“Obviously he thought it better not to disclose that information. Kill me now, human. Better to be dead than caged, poked and prodded, then have my head mounted on your wall.”
The human’s brow furrowed. “That won’t happen.”
“No? You’re either lying or a fool.”
“There must be a way to call a truce and live in peace.”
“I’m surprised humans know that word.”
“Why blame us? You’re the one who’s been slaughtering my people.”
“As your kind have done for centuries, not just to my kind, but to others as well. Humans don’t kill to survive. You kill for sport. You drive species to extinction. My people dwindle while yours grow in number. Long ago we retreated to the mountains with the understanding that your kind would stay away. Now you’re coming for our land. You want to wipe us from the world so you can own it.”
The human lowered his gaze and sighed deeply. “Maybe I was wrong to let you live. If the rest of your kind are like you, then a truce might not be possible after all.”
Bo couldn’t argue with that.
They fell silent for a while, staring at the flames. Then the human removed food from his travel pack.
“Are you hungry?” he asked. “Catch.”
He tossed Bo a portion of his meal, wrapped in a cloth. Bo caught it.
He’d never eaten human food before. He sniffed it, then placed it aside. No matter how hungry he was, he would never eat with an enemy.
“It’s fine. See.” The human took a bite of his meal. At Bo’s cold look, he shook his head. “Can’t you see I’m trying to find a peaceful solution to our problem?”
“Why? What will you get out of it?”
“For one I won’t have to run around this forest, risking my life against a man-tiger.”
“We’re not man-tigers. We’re Roar’dyn.”
The human stared at him for a moment, then blinked his jewel-like eyes and said, “Oh. We didn’t know that.”
“Why would you? Humans see a creature with a pelt and they don’t ask questions, but kill us. As for you risking your life, you’re in our territory. The hunters I killed were on our land.”
“They were found on our side of the river.”
“Because I brought them there. As a warning.”
The human closed his eyes momentarily and sighed. “I have a duty to my people.”
“So do I.”
Han held his gaze. “Then you’d rather kill than talk?”
Bo leaned his head back against the wall and studied the human through half-closed eyes. He was truly pushing Bo past his limits. What did he really want? With his superior senses, Bo could usually tell when a human was lying. This one seemed to be telling the truth, but that was impossible.
“Talk means little,” Bo said.
“It’s a start. Unless you enjoy the killing. Maybe you do. After all, you’re an animal.”
Bo gritted his teeth and lunged forward as far as the chains would allow. The human’s eyes widened a bit, but he didn’t jump. Bo nearly smiled. Not only was he a beautiful man, but he had steady nerves.
“I should take that as a compliment,” Bo said. “At least animals don’t hunt for sport and their only concern is defending what’s theirs, not conquering the world.”
“I can’t argue. Humans can be greedy, but we can also be compassionate. Are you capable of that, Roar’dyn? If our positions had been reversed out there in the forest, would you have spared my life to talk peace?”
Bo curled his lip and shook his head.
“Just what I thought.”
“I don’t understand you, human.”
“That’s all I’m asking — for us to at least try to understand each other. Then we might have a chance of making our people see reason.”
“My people won’t trust yours. If I return to them, suggesting we meet with humans, they’ll banish me and if that happens I might as well be dead.”
“I’m not sure how my people will react either, but I can tell you this. Now that I’ve spoken to you, I won’t find it easy to destroy you.”
“Then let me ease your mind, human, by telling you that you won’t get another chance to kill me.”
“First, my name is Han. Second, you’re not in the position to make threats.”
“Aren’t I?” Bo lunged again, this time easily snapping his bonds.
Han dove for his tiger fork, but just as his hand curled around it, Bo pinned him to the cave floor. He shifted to his beast form and tore the weapon from Han’s grasp.
“Now I guess we know what you’ll do since our positions are reversed,” Han said, his voice steady despite the tremors rolling through him. He strained to look at Bo over his shoulder, but it was difficult from his position. “What’s it going to be, man-tiger? Will you leave my body in the forest for my people to find so we can send more hunters? There’s been talk of the emperor sending his elite guards to destroy the forest searching for you. Then your kind can stalk and slaughter them. The war will go on until there’s nothing left of the forest, and possibly nothing left of your kind or mine.”
Bo growled softly. The human had just spoken the greatest fear of the Roar’dyn — to be wiped from existence by their ancient enemies. Roar’dyn didn’t easily conceive offspring. Even in the days before they were almost destroyed by humans, there were few births. Recently Bo’s sister-in-law had given birth to twins, the first children born to their dynasty in over twenty years.
As a defender of his dynasty, Bo was bound by duty and blood to protect them. Not even an hour ago, he would have snapped this human’s neck and tossed his body into the river. Why did he hesitate now?
He shifted his position and rolled the human onto his back. His clawed hands pinned the man’s wrists to the ground. The sensation of the human’s sinewy body and his delicious, musky aroma aroused Bo in a way he’d never imagined — at least not with a human.
Han’s blue eyes stared into his with impressive strength for a man caught in the gasp of a creature who could easily tear him limb from limb.
“You’re a great fighter,” Bo said, his voice deep and rumbling in his tiger form. “But you’re not a warrior.”
“I’m a student at the temple, and I haven’t yet chosen my path in life.”
Bo dipped his head a bit closer to Han’s. “My path was decided for me. Everyone in the dynasty knows his place.”
“They made you a warrior.”
“A defender of my race.”
“And if you could choose for yourself?”
“I wouldn’t sacrifice my people.”
“But for yourself? What do you want?”
For a moment Bo didn’t know how to respond. What did he want? Right now he knew what his body wanted and what his lust demanded. During mating time, man-tigers meant to breed experienced overpowering lust. As a defender, Bo didn’t have such drives — or so he’d thought. No female of his kind had ever made him feel quite like this.
With his gaze, Han seemed to reach into Bo’s soul. He should resist and destroy this human before things got out of control.
“Right now it’s just us,” Han said. “If we can learn to understand each other, maybe our people have a chance to –”
“You talk too much,” Bo growled, shifted to his human form and covered Han’s lips in a possessive kiss.
He thrust his tongue into Han’s mouth, and Han kissed him back just as deeply. When it broke, they stared into each other’s eyes.
“What do they call you?” Han asked, his voice a husky whisper.
“Maybe now we can discuss –”
“I told you. Talk means little. Actions speak louder.”
A faint smile tugged at Han’s finely-shaped lips. “Then let’s have some action?”
Bo kissed him again. This time he loosened his hold on Han’s wrists. The human tugged his hands from Bo’s grasp, but instead of trying to pull away, he slid his arms around Bo. He caressed his back and shoulders, then grasped handfuls of Bo’s hair. Their tongues danced and their hard bodies pressed close.
The fire had died down, but they created their own heat.
Bo broke their kiss to nuzzle Han’s neck. He wanted to lick and kiss him all over. He tugged up Han’s shirt and the human sat up to pull it over his head, baring his sleekly-muscled body. He had broad shoulders and a well-developed chest dusted with dark hair.
Pressing him onto his back again, Han licked Bo’s neck and caressed his chest. He trailed his tongue along his collarbone and licked his nipples, then gently nipped them.
Han threaded his fingers through Bo’s hair, then stroked his shoulders. His strong fingers kneaded Bo’s muscles. Strangely, he enjoyed the human’s touch. He liked the way his scent grew stronger with his arousal, and he relished the sound of his low moans.
If Han reacted like this from simply having his neck and chest teased, Bo could scarcely wait to see what he did when he gave his cock the same attention. He lapped Han’s taut stomach and lean sides. Finding a ticklish spot, he took his time flicking it with his tongue.
Han laughed and squirmed, but Bo grasped his hips and held him steady. Chuckling deep in his throat, Bo teased that sensitive place for another moment before he rolled the tip of his tongue over Han’s navel.
Finally he nuzzled the thatch of dark pubic hair. His tongue flicked out to tease the base of Han’s staff. It was long and thick — impressive for a human. Bo stroked it, rubbing the foreskin over the head and teasing it with his tongue.
Groaning, Han tightened his grip on Bo’s shoulders. His hips thrust upward and Bo sucked his cock head deep into his mouth. Stimulating Han turned Bo on so much that his own cock ached and swelled. As a defender, all his passion focused on battle. He’d never lusted after a female. Occasionally, if his body demanded it, he stimulated himself, but he’d never felt anything quite like this.
He wanted Han — wanted his hard, warm body pressed close to his. He wanted to drive his cock into Han’s tight ass, but he also wanted to keep licking and sucking him, bringing him pleasure too.
“Bo, damn, don’t stop. It feels so good,” Han breathed, as if Bo couldn’t tell by his moans and the tremors coursing through him that he was enjoying every moment.
Bo growled and continued sucking and swirling his tongue over Han’s cock head.
Moments later, Han panted, “Fuck me.”
Pausing a moment, Bo tilted his gaze up to Han who stared at him through half-closed eyes. His handsome face was flushed, and he breathed rapidly through parted lips.
“Fuck me,” Han repeated.
Bo didn’t wait to be told again. With another growl, he released Han’s cock and roughly turned him over. Han rose onto his elbows and knees, offering his gorgeous ass to Bo.
Animal instinct — sexual instinct — overtook Bo. Grasping Han’s ass, he ran his tongue along the enticing indentation, then pushed it against his sphincter. He lapped and thrust while Han gasped and moaned.
Kneeling behind Han, Bo grasped his hips and thrust his stiff cock into Han’s ass. Though he wanted to lunge hard, he took his time, not wishing to cause his new lover undue pain.
He thrust into Han, his heart pounding, keeping time with the human’s heart that seemed to beat out of control. Bo’s keen senses heard it and its cadence was the most beautiful music he’d ever heard.
Thrusting faster, he slid his hand around to caress Han’s cock. Within seconds, Han cried out as he came hard. Bo came too, his eyes closed and head thrown back as he roared, his body surging into Han’s in a frantic release.