Halcyon Romance, Book 1
by Rachael Slate
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9947648-9-8
Print ISBN: 1517308585
[ Shifter Romance, MF ]
For Arsenius, his mission was simple—capture the Amazon warrior, Kyme, in exchange for his sister’s location. But possessing Kyme as his slave isn’t enough. Arsenius wants more. When the gods intervene, they’ll risk more than their duty to the past to be together…Yet never has surrender been so sweet.
Amazon warrior summer camp
Year 578 of the reign of Queen Hippolyta III
Or the human year, 1689
Kyme cursed as the kiss of cold steel caressed her throat and a deep chuckle of masculine triumph brushed her ear. Her hand shot for the blade under her pillow, only the male was too quick. He flipped her and bound her wrists before she could grasp the handle.
Damn. No one caught her off-guard. No one. This male would pay.
“Easy there, female.” His voice was gentle despite the roughness of his actions. He picked her up, hauled her over his shoulder, and carried her out of the dark cave. Though she couldn’t glimpse his face, power emanated from his body. She swallowed her war cry and dug her nails into her palms to stop from fighting back.
More than a hundred years under the tutelage of her godmother had taught her to trust her instincts. Her best strategy was to wait. Any minute now, her sisters would sense the attack. Let him think I’ll come easily. Foolish male.
As they breached the cave’s entrance, one of the young screamed. He wasn’t alone. Her sisters were in danger. Her previous strategy discarded, Kyme rasped a few words, a prayer to the goddess Artemis, and radiance emerged from her hands. The rope around her wrists disintegrated.
Sucking in a deep breath, she thrust the toe of her boot into his groin.
The male snarled, tossing her to the ground before she was able to connect with her other boot.
She rolled to a crouch. The sweet scent of dew filled her nostrils and her fingers dug into the still-damp earth. Blinking, she adjusted to the dawn’s light.
Doubled over and clutching himself, now the male was the one cursing. “Bloody hell, Amazone,” he spat out.
Unimaginative, yet effective. She smirked. “Now you shall pay,” she hissed as she grasped for the bone handle of her ceremonial dagger tucked into her boot. Empty. Bastard. He’d disarmed her. She hadn’t even felt it. Kyme crawled backward until her foot made contact with a tree trunk. There was nowhere to run, but it didn’t matter. She was an Amazon. She never retreated from any fight.
Another scream shattered the air. She dared a glance in the direction of the cry. Three of the younger girls, not yet through their initiation, were bound. Two burly human males stuffed gags into their mouths. Her eyes narrowed and her temper flared. How dare they. Who were these men, to attack their protected meadow and wage war? And how? The sanctuary where the Amazons lived had never been invaded. Not in thousands of years, not since Herakles had killed their beloved Queen Hippolyta.
Somehow, these men had managed to slip past the centuries-old wards and the Amazons’ protector, the river Thermodon. They had struck at dawn. Clever invaders. Dawn was the perfect time to attack those who worshiped the Moon and the goddess Artemis. Last night Kyme had led some of the younger initiates on a hunt for a local pack of wolves. Those who had not yet fallen asleep were busy cleaning their kills and weapons. Kyme too was exhausted and had closed her eyes but for a minute before the male had attacked her.
The invader grunted and rose to face her. She fought down the jolt of terror he sent through her. No, it can’t be. Yet only one born of Ares or Artemis had permission to enter their meadow. Her heart sank into the depths of her stomach.
His resemblance to Ares confirmed the male standing before her was the god’s son. She and her fierce warrior sisters feared little, but the wrath of the war god Ares was at the top of that short list. This male was a half-breed, yet so long as the god’s blood coursed in his veins, she was powerless against him. She couldn’t kill him. Not here at least, not on sacred ground.
Lowering her lashes, she studied him. Like his divine father, this male’s bronzed skin and raven hair added to his fierce and volatile aura. Clad in only a pair of leather breeches, the male’s dark blue markings spanned most of his right arm and bare, upper right chest. Thick flames lapped up his throat, along his jaw, and circled his right eye. If his presence alone was not menacing enough, those inkings confirmed his feral nature.
Squinting, she discerned the small spears, vultures, and other symbols of Ares. But the lightning bolts? Those didn’t make sense. Her perusal drifted to his eyes. Gods, she had never witnessed anything like them. They glowed like the banked embers of a fire.
Despite this, he was beautiful. The meandering rivers of his veins roped his tall, well-defined body in a futile attempt to contain all of that heavily corded muscle. His jaw cut a strong, square line, emphasizing the pleasing hardness of his masculine features. Enough. Focus. You care not about handsome sons of war gods, remember? In exchange for her chastity, the goddess had granted Kyme a multitude of gifts, including her trick with her glowing hands and near-immortality.
As she observed his clothing and those of his men, Kyme’s pulse raced. The ring on his left hand marked him as a slaver. Not ordinary pyrates or privateers, these men specialized in the procurement of descendants and divine creatures, and then sold them to the highest bidder.
She frowned. No one captured Amazons. Ever. She surveyed the girls and focused on the youngest, Marpe. Hold strong, youngling.
Indignation rose within Kyme. These virgins would be sold and bred, for their offspring would also fetch a high price. No. She would not surrender. After all, she had plenty of practice resisting males in her one hundred and forty-three years.
Nothing had prepared her for those eyes of charcoal. That haughty curved smile. Those broad shoulders which appeared as though they could carry the weight of the world, and often did.
“Come,” the slaver commanded, his arms folded across his expansive chest. She tensed as the deep timbre of his voice sent shivers cascading through her body.
Instead of passively submitting to her defeat, she forced her gaze upward and locked it defiantly onto his. Astonishment flickered across his features, widening his eyes, before he replaced his shock with a firmly clenched jaw.
He shot forward until he stood mere inches from her, his large body dwarfing hers. His hand whipped out and squeezed around her throat. “Why such impudence, Amazone? You know what I am. You cannot stop me. Do not fight your fate.”
Her anger was enflamed, not diluted by his words. His hand nearly cut off her air, but she managed to speak. She replied in the language he’d been using with her, Olympian, the lingua franca of the gods and their descendants. “Yes, a half-breed,” she spat. “I am an Amazon, I belong here. You shall never belong anywhere.”
“Hold your tongue or I’ll cut it out myself,” he growled, adding, “and show you how to respect those more powerful than you.” He drew her body against his, her back to his chest, his steel grasp emphasizing his words.
“How dare you touch me?” She hissed, but squirming against the heat of his large hands was a bad idea. She’d accomplished more than a century of chastity, of never having contact with a man. But actually being touched? By one who was as dangerously attractive as this slaver? Flares ignited her body, and she feared they sparked from lust rather than righteous ire. A slaver, truly? They were scum, worse than the lowly classes of Earth Borne humans. As his hot breath fell across the nape of her neck, she fortified herself, focusing on the vital negotiation she’d have to make.
Her involuntary whimper caught them both by surprise and he released her. “Bloody Amazone,” he snarled. “Let’s go.” He nodded to his men to bring the other girls.
One of the human males bent to tie her wrists. The glint of his blade winked at her from the top of his boot. She snatched the handle, and gripping it in her hand, rose to aim the blade at the slaver.
“No!” Fear clenched her chest, but she would not succumb to it. The frightened girls might go easily, but she was an Amazon warrior. She was their protector, while the others were away, at least. She refused to allow the young ones to perceive her panic. Squaring her shoulders, she tilted her chin a fraction. “You will release them and in return, I shall go with you, willingly.”
He scowled as he eyed the knife. “Why would I trade these pure breeding vessels for one as experienced as you?”
“You will accept my offer, because I am one of the oldest surviving Amazons. My offspring would be far stronger than theirs. And because I am untouched.”
One of his brows lifted. “I do not believe you.”
No, of course he wouldn’t. Because if she spoke the truth, her value on the slave market was priceless. He held her gaze. She was more valuable than a boatful of Amazons, and he wasn’t aware of her gift. Yet to Kyme, her sisters were worth more than anything, even her life. The sacrifice was nothing.
Besides, this slaver would never outwit her, and she didn’t intend to go down without a deadly battle of wits. Her sisters kept silent, though their eyes cried out in protest.
“Prove it,” the slaver commanded, his glower stalking her.
“Why do you think I am here and not with the others, mating with the Gargareans?”
His gaze dropped to her lower belly. “For all I know, you are already breeding.”
“I will swear an oath to Artemis. Cut my hand, so I may bleed upon her stone.” She lowered her knife and extended her right hand, the middle finger bearing the ring of Artemis. The amber stone gleamed in the sunlight. It marked her as a Daughter, and as such, the truth of her words could be judged against a blood oath sworn to the goddess she worshiped.
The slaver didn’t hesitate, snatching the dagger from her and slashing the blade across her palm. She refused to flinch at the sting splitting her flesh. A drop of blood welled on her palm, and she let it fall onto the amber stone. “I swear to my mistress, Artemis, that no male has ever claimed me.” The stone absorbed the blood in satisfaction and glowed golden.
The slaver cleared his throat. “My buyer will be well-pleased with you. We leave now.” He grabbed her by her braid, yanking her backward against his hard body once more. “I’m not going to tie you, Amazone, because you’re not going to run from me. You know what I am. Also know this. I have your scent.” He inhaled deeply against her locks. “I can track you from hundreds of miles away.”
Gritting her teeth, she grasped his wrist with her left hand and dug her nails into his skin. She braced against him as she prepared to thrust her right elbow backward.
“Not this time, Amazone,” he purred in her ear and released her, nudging her aside. Without glancing at her, he tilted his head for his men to follow.
As she scanned the tear-filled eyes of her sisters, Kyme bolstered her courage. She lifted her head and squared her shoulders regally, like a Queen. Like an Amazon.
The river Thermodon glowered. Its cool blue waters churned and foamed like a rabid dog. The river’s demon had been as bound as she, and as helpless. A shiver coursed through her—an indication the river sensed her presence. The mile-wide waters parted and she trekked across, followed by the pyrates. The two subordinates stuck close to her, but the leader—the slaver—kept his distance. Rightly so. She would find the means to kill her captor and escape. Oh yes, kill him she would. He’d made it clear that was the sole way she would liberate herself. She savored the challenge.
As her boots fell on the slick, rounded rocks of the river bottom, a crushing wave of disgrace clenched her chest, succeeded by the bitter tang of vengeance on her tongue. The ancient Potamoi made an offer. The river demon might not be able to harm the son of Ares, but the other two were humans. Easy prey. Easily eliminated. It would be simpler to kill the slaver without his bodyguards.
Before she had a chance to respond, the Potamoi’s water levels rose around the two unsuspecting humans. A pair of eight-foot tall funnels formed around them. An instant later, the water settled and they were gone.
She didn’t blink an eye as she strolled forward. The splashes behind her stopped—evidence the slaver grasped what had happened and accepted the fate of his companions. Good slaver. He’d best get used to the fact that she would never be under his command.
She might be going willingly, but she was no docile captive.
And she’d never be a slave.