Shifter's Coven: Healer
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by Marteeka Karland
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Science Fiction
Description: Vivian has spent her whole life under her mother's thumb. Even to the point of attempted murder of pack Alpha, Wade. When she was young, however, her father handpicked a man to protect her. To watch out for her. He formed a bond between them that set them on a path they're now traveling. Julian has been a shadow in Vivian's mind. He's been biding his time until he was strong enough to break her mother's hold. Now that he's a power shifter in his own right, he isn't sure Vivian still needs him. She was, after all, promised to another man. Once Julian realizes Vivian is no longer tying her life to Wade's, he hunts her down and offers to take her away. He knows danger still follows and that Vivian's mother will stop at nothing to control her daughter in her own quest for power. But Vivian isn't quite what she seems. Even she doesn't know her full potential. When Julian's life is on the line, only she can save him. As Healer, it is her destiny.
eBook Publisher: Changeling Press LLC, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: September 2010
18 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [90 KB]
Reading time: 56-78 min.
"The way I see it, you have three choices. You can go back to your mother, who will likely kill you. You can stay with this pack and hope they don't decide to do the same. Or you can come with me and possibly face the same fate..." He grinned wickedly at her, letting the last word trail off. "...but have a hell of a lot better time before the end. What do you say, precious?"
Damn. Leave it to Julian to state the obvious in such a naughty way. The man simply didn't take anything seriously. He never had. Why he was here was totally beyond Vivian's imagination. She hadn't seen or heard from him in over two years. Why here? Why now? And to make matters worse, he was completely naked. He must have come to her in his lion form. Shifting had a way of wreaking havoc on clothing.
She sighed. Julian had always seemed to avoid her, though Vivian had been able to mentally find him at will. He never communicated with her, though. For the most part, he simply seemed to ignore her, or so she thought. Until tonight.
"Some choice." She crossed her arms over her breasts, hoping like hell he didn't see the way her nipples puckered through the thin cotton of her shirt. Given the fact that he probably would never have realized she existed had it not been for her father's magical bond tying their lives together, she didn't want to embarrass herself by letting him know how he affected her. Had always affected her. "Do you have a plan?"
"You're not a prisoner here," Julian shrugged. "I see no reason we can't just walk out."
"If I leave, they'll most certainly follow. I think I'm kind of on probation here." Vivian had a dull roar in her head and an ache behind her right eye. The effort of blocking her mother from seeing into her mind was becoming too much for her. The old woman was a very strong telepath, and Vivian had been fighting her in earnest for weeks now. "Look, Julian. Maybe I should just stay. They've not harmed me, though I know they hate me. I honestly deserve whatever punishment they see fit to deliver."
In the blink of an eye, Julian's whole attitude changed. He went from the teasing, fun-loving, easygoing guy she'd grown up with to a man so intense, she actually took a couple of steps away from him.
"Over my dead body." He snatched her hand and yanked her to him, pulling her after him out of the door to the den she'd been assigned. "We're leaving. Now."
"Julian, I don't think this is a good idea."
"Why?" Julian hissed. "Because of some overactive sense of sacrifice? You did what you had to do to stay alive and protect innocents in the wake of your mother's wrath. You shouldn't be punished for it."
He led her through the door and into the woods. He only stopped before leaving the relative safety of the trees and brush surrounding her den to cross the clearing just outside the community. Looking around thoroughly, and, Vivian knew, using every enhanced sense he had, he kept her hand and tugged her into a crouch before proceeding down the darkened path leading outside the magical walls of the pack.
"Julian, stop. Please." Despite her reluctance to leave, Vivian still crouched and followed his lead, speaking in hushed whispers. "If we do this, they'll never trust me again. I'll be an outcast."
Julian whirled around on her, backing her up until her back was against a nearby tree. When he spoke, it was with more ferocity than Vivian had previously thought him capable of. "You'll never be a part of that pack, Vivian. You're a witch. The coven was your home. Not this place."
Vivian had never seen Julian so passionate or serious about anything. He was always the one joking and laughing. Now, his eyes drilled a hole straight through her soul. He was deadly serious.
"And what about you, Julian?" Her voice was barely above a whisper. "You're both warlock and shifter. Where do you belong?"
They stared at each other for a long time then. Vivian was struck, not for the first time, by just how ruggedly handsome Julian was.
And he was. Very. Though in a wild, untamed kind of way. Thick, shaggy hair fanned out over his head and shoulders like a lion's mane, making him look just like what he was. His golden eyes sparkled with passion she'd never seen before, and she found herself near to drowning in them. If she weren't careful, she knew she'd lose her heart.
Vivian shivered. His thickly muscled body would be perfect to surround her. Protect her. He was everything she'd longed for in a man but never dared to claim as her own.
Try as she might, Vivian simply could not fully read the look in his eyes. She could have sworn she saw some kind of grim determination hidden in their mysterious depths, but she couldn't be sure.
"I make my own way. You need to listen to me. It's why your father bound me to you." He backed off a little physically, but was no less intense in his scrutiny of her.
"So I could obey your every command without question?"
"So you could benefit from my experience, and right now I'm telling you we need to get the fuck out of here."
A rustle in the trees a few yards away put Julian on alert. He put his back to her, but grabbed her hand behind his back in a firm, solid grip. He hissed softly and moved them backwards, deeper into the woods.
Julian kept his nose in the air, sniffing the breeze. Vivian knew he was trying to see if anyone approached them, whether it was merely a forest animal or a greater threat. Finally, he dropped back softly. Pulling her down next to him, he kept her close, but slightly behind him.
"Someone comes. A hunting party." His words were so soft, Vivian could barely hear him. "Stay low and don't make a sound."
Julian cut her off with a hand across her mouth, gently but firmly. "Shhh."
"I can smell the cat." A masculine voice came some way off in the distance. "If he wanted to join the pack, he should have petitioned the Alpha."
"I still say let him be. He could be just passing through."
"The witch, Vivian, is gone, Grandel. This can't be a coincidence."
"Julian, just let me go." Vivian knew if Grandel had joined the hunt, there would be no escape. The wolf might be an elder, but he was just as strong and twice as cunning as any hunter in the pack.
"Did you hear that?" The first hunter again. He sounded eager. Like he anticipated battle and enjoyed the thought of it. "They're near."
Vivian didn't know what she expected, but when Julian shifted to his cat form and sprang at the lead hunter, all Vivian could do was gape.
The hunter party was small -- Grandel and three others. All of them but Grandel shifted, but not before Julian had the lead hunter on his back, teeth at his throat. The downed wolf fought to get a hold on Julian, but this time the cat bested the wolf.
"Stop!" Grandel's voice boomed over the small area.
Unerringly, his gaze found Vivian's. She had rushed to Julian's side before she realized what she'd done and put herself in a very vulnerable position. Grandel motioned her away. She obeyed, but only to fall back directly behind Julian. It put her out of reach of the wolves, but in a position to be able support Julian with magic should he need it. Grandel raised an eyebrow, and Vivian could have sworn she saw the play of a smile on his lips.
"If you attack him, the lion will only rip your brother's throat out. You may well kill him in the end, but the damage will be done. And I have little doubt he will kill more than one before he is taken."
"Since when do cats attack wolves? We're all on the same side." One hunter shifted back to his human form and backed away to Grandel's side.
Julian didn't release his hold on the wolf. For the first time in more years than Vivian could remember, she was able to fully penetrate Julian's mind. What she found there was terrifying. Raw, unadulterated fury. He would bring Vivian home from this place, no matter the cost to himself.
Vivian gasped and staggered back a couple of steps. Every wolf turned his attention to her, and Julian growled. He tightened his jaws on the wolf, and Vivian actually saw blood trickle down the hunter's neck.
"Please, Elder Grandel," Vivian pleaded. Julian was going to kill them all. She could feel it. "I've been the cause of enough bloodshed to last three lifetimes. Call them back, for the love of God. Please, call them back!"
Grandel didn't hesitate, but did as she asked, leaving the lead hunter at Julian's mercy. The elder spread his arms. "We won't threaten you or yours again, cat. Vivian is not a prisoner here."
Carefully, with deliberate slowness, Julian released the wolf from his clutches and backed away, shifting and licking the blood from his lips as he went.
Vivian knew she blushed a deep scarlet. When he resumed his human form, Julian stood before them all gloriously naked -- all of them were. But he looked different than the others. For one thing, he looked no less dangerous now than he had as the cat with fangs and claws flying. Every muscle bulged with the tension in his body. His fingers curved into claws, ready to strike if necessary. His whole demeanor screamed menace. This was so at odds with the Julian she knew, she didn't know what to make of it.
"She is under my protection. See to it we are not followed, or someone will die."
"You dare threaten us?" One hunter, who'd kept silent until now, stepped forward and bared his teeth.
Vivian knew Julian was going to shift. She could see it happening in his mind and the violence he intended to wreak on the poor hunter was beyond even that of her mother. And Vivian had no doubt he could inflict the damage he was envisioning on all of the wolves.
She moved around Julian and whirled to face him just as Grandel physically pulled the two closest hunters behind him and shoved the lead hunter to the side. Vivian glanced back at him to make sure he didn't advance on Julian. He stood proud and tall, willing to face the lion in all his fury.
"No, Julian. Elder Grandel said we could leave, so we leave. I won't let you do this." She placed her hands on his chest and felt some of the tension leave his body.
"I came here to take you home, Vivian."