I hope you enjoy this look at my latest romantic suspense story.
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Before the ice age, warrior Kantu lost his tribe, his mate Sanda, and his life to a vicious band of cannibals led by his most powerful enemy. He awakens in a world beyond his comprehension only to find his mate in the arms of her killer. Misery and strength meld into one goal—to win back his heart and kill his enemy.
With a nudge from her gentle guardian, Sandra Harn travels to Freewill, WY, looking for bargains at the annual rummage sale and, hopefully, answers to her mysterious past. Once there, visions of a time before the town existed make her question her sanity. When an exotic stranger with flowing raven hair and a body she can’t resist tries to kill her companion, logic tells her to run, but her heart and body have other ideas.
A shift in the slight breeze carried a faint hint of animals mixed in a pack. The wrong animals. Tware, sconta, and garrel did not travel together, did not feed or birth their young anywhere close to each other. Kantu jerked his head from side to side and inhaled short bursts of air. The draft rolled and turned as if a child at play in a stream’s mud, and the scent escaped his track. He closed his eyes and slowly faced the four corners of the winds in the hope the beings above and below would give him the wisdom to understand why these plant feeders had gathered without reason. Or had they come together?
At the base of his neck, a ball of heat bore into his body and slithered to his brain where it crumbled and floated through him until lingering once more under the skin on his forehead. With the sensation came the scents. The odd mix of smells dripped like melting icicles into his nose. Kantu quickly layered the traces. Garrel to his left, tware in front, sconta right. A stench remained. Sweat. Man sweat.
Kantu opened his eyes and shifted his gaze to the gray sky rocks where he had left his people…and Sanda...more than a day ago in the caves, in safety while he found a garrel herd’s trail. His tribe weren’t warriors. Man hunters would find the caves and feast on his people, then wear the hides and skins Kantu and his hunters provided the clan. That was the mix of the animals—man hunters clad in their stolen hides and skins. He traced his fingers over the long, bumpy lines from his left shoulder to his right hip. Only he bore the three claw marks of a warrior.
“Sanda!” he screamed to the sky rocks. Kantu gripped his spear sticks and ran.
His father had brought peace between the peoples following the garrel. So much land, so much food. They didn’t need to fight each other. When Kantu became the leader, he hadn’t trained his young in the warrior ways. He taught them to trail the garrel herds, to skin their hides for robes for the cold and white rain, and how to preserve the meat. But his beliefs that tribes needn’t war KevaD 2
wouldn’t protect his people and Sanda, his mate, the one who owned his heart, from man hunters.
Each stride carried him closer. Each blade of knee-high grass placed him one blade nearer. As he ran, his long hair pulled at his scalp. The skins tied to his legs and waist tightened against his body. Night fell across the plain; the moon taunted him with its yellow laugh on the sky rocks still so far beyond. He swallowed his fear, his grief for what he knew lay ahead and ingested the emotions for food to give his muscles the strength to continue. Water coated the grass when the sun rose behind him and warmed the ground. After transferring his spears to one hand, he raked his fingers through the wetness and sucked the liquid from his skin as he continued his trek. Briars appeared at the edge of the plain and tore at his hide leggings. Pain stabbed his body, each breath shredded his chest and throat. Finally, the sky rocks slopes passed under his feet.
He scaled the jagged rocks, gripping the cracks to climb toward the hollow that contained the caves and his people. Staggered, but stark and bitter, wafts of burnt meat passed his nostrils. He sucked in the stench and welcomed it into his head, chest, arms, and legs. The stink wriggled and balled to hate inside him. Pain and exhaustion melded to a need to avenge those killed, butchered, and roasted on spits.
Over a flat of stone, he focused on the overhang of slender trees that marked the twin caves in the hollow below. Traces of burned wood and meat hung like insect clouds in the air. A want to scream his anguish, to release his grief and guilt to the beings of the sky surged through him. But the offer of his life would have to wait until he knew if any below might yet possess breath. He leapt to an outcropping then jumped to a path of dirt that led to the caves.
Three rings of stone contained the shadowy remains of the fires. Blackened strips of flesh clung to charred spits. White and yellow bones rested wherever they had been thrown. Blood painted the rocks his clan members had sat on to share their meals and soaked the small breaks filled with dirt. His hunters and the young, the bodies that hadn’t been cut apart and devoured, lay naked in a pile. But not the females. A flint spark of hope pulled Kantu to the caves. But for the beds of hides, the shelters were empty. The women had been taken. Whether Kantu’s Heart 3
for food or to birth the man hunters’ own young didn’t matter. The women of Kantu’s people, and Sanda, still lived.
Kantu walked the edges of the hollow, staring at the rocks and dirt for signs. The man hunters had eaten here. They had taken their time, maybe even slept on the beds after they shoved their seed into the women. He forced back the hate. Hate could lead his vengeance, but he needed his hunter calm to find this human pack. He would slaughter them as they had his people. Then he could grieve. He kept his eyes from the stack of men he hunted with, laughed with, and the children he had held, fed, and clothed. Their memory would be the power in his arms and legs, the death in his weapons. Until then, Kantu couldn’t afford to allow his mind to be trapped in the past.
A glint of white in a rock’s shadow caught his eye. He jogged to the spot. A fang as long as his middle finger. Only Sanda wore a necklace of fangs. It had been his father’s gift to her the day she and Kantu vowed their lives to each other. The fangs had been passed from father to father, carried from the times of old when stories of cats with teeth the length of a child’s arm were shared around the cook fires.
Sanda had left him a sign, a path to follow.
Kantu gripped his spears and studied the breaks in the distance, the curves of the stone. The man hunters had chosen a smooth path worn by waters that ran after the white rain turned to tears. At the crooked peak, a half day’s journey, the eaters of men would turn their shoulders toward the sunrise and leave the sky rocks for the dirt and grass. Their trail would speak to Kantu. And Sanda would help him by encouraging the clan’s women to slow their pace.