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by Marteeka Karland
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Science Fiction
Description: In the brutal future frozen Earth, humans are no longer dominant, but merely tolerated. One of them has caught the attention of a Lionsblood and he will stop at nothing to claim her as his own. Dykstra can't move past the feisty little human. She's fragile, yet stronger than anyone he's ever known. When he sees the scar that marks her a Lionsmate, he knows the fates have brought him to her. Driven by an attraction bordering on insanity, he takes her from a human slave farm to his own colony deep beneath the Earth's surface. Talia is fascinated with Dykstra, but even the mighty Lionsblood can't quell her spirit. He tantalizes her senses and gives her a taste of the most carnal of pleasures, but never more than a taste. Unable to understand why Dykstra won't claim her, though she wants nothing more than to be claimed, Talia does her best to make a new home for herself in the Lionsmates' domain. But Dykstra might have waited too long, when the attentions of another man and the deadly demands of Dykstra's duties to his colony threaten to separate him from Talia forever.
eBook Publisher: Changeling Press LLC, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009
196 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [112 KB]
Reading time: 67-94 min.
"Marteeka Karland knows how to make a shapeshifter sexy. Fans and newcomers to Ms. Karland's novels will enjoy this new series." 4.5 Nymphs!--Scandalous Minx, Literary Nymphs "Ms. Karland has done well with Lionsmate. She grabs your attention and keeps it throughout the whole story. She tantalizes you with glimpses of sex play... A masterpiece just waiting to be found." 4.5 Blue Ribbons--ladybirdrobi, Romance Junkies "An original idea of mankind's future can be found in the exciting and romantic adventure Lionsmate."--Lisa, Joyfully Reviewed
Cold. It was always cold, no matter where on--or in--Earth one was. Talia stood in a claiming line just outside the inner door to the human farm where she lived, naked save a thin blanket, and concentrated on not shivering. The space between the inner living area and the barren, frozen earth outside offered little protection from the bitter cold, but it did shield them from the wind to a certain extent. Sometimes, there was no manmade structure that could keep out the howling storms.
It was ludicrous, really, to make them stand exposed to the elements with nothing of consequence to protect them, but the point was to show they were obedient, even if it meant their own lives. Though she knew better than to protest or look at anyone or anything while she stood there, she stared defiantly at her farm's owner. She'd undoubtedly pay for it later, but anger helped keep her warm. She followed instructions docilely enough but with as much an air of contempt as she could manage without actually becoming aggressive.
She knew it would mean being the last allowed back inside, but if the vile Wolfsblood halfbreed who was their keeper kept his attention on her, the younglings in the camp would be left alone. It meant that no one would buy her, but it was a small price to pay to make the lives of the young a little more comfortable in an otherwise miserable existence.
"These humans are best kept as servants. They're too young to make decent breeders, but if you see one you might like in a few years, we can hold him or her for you." Dragar was pitching them to his newest customer. Probably some wealthy scabat looking for a domestic servant. Or a fuck toy.
Talia sneered and kept her eyes on Dragar. Human farms were a way of life for anyone not of the Lionsblood or Wolfsblood clan. Vampires were in the mix, too, but they were a law unto themselves. Either way, humans were at the bottom of a very long food chain. Some farms kept claimed or otherwise free humans safe from Earth's extreme temperatures. Hers kept slaves.
When Dragar halted his progress down the line, she couldn't help but look to see what he was up to, and her gaze collided with that of the buyer's. Her heart raced. Lionsblood! She could actually feel his penetrating gaze. She felt more exposed than she could ever remember feeling, as if all her secrets were laid bare before him. She narrowed her eyes. She would not let the filthy cat get the upper hand on her.
At first, she thought about simply lowering her gaze before the Lionsblood could take any more interest in her, but when Dragar started trying to point out the wonderfully submissive qualities of one of the younger girls, she snapped.
"What's the matter, big boy? Afraid I'm too much for you to handle?" Where the outburst had come from, she didn't know. She only knew her blood had boiled when the Lionsblood had moved on to another woman in line.
He turned to her, his features unreadable except for the one raised eyebrow. It was hard to say whether it was raised in annoyance or amusement. "Perhaps," he replied quietly. "Or perhaps I simply prefer a woman who knows how to keep her mouth shut--unless it's around my cock--and her opinions to herself."
Dragar, the great fool, bellowed a booming, mocking laugh. "I've tried for years to tame that waspish tongue of hers. Perhaps now is as good a time as any to cut it out." His evil sneer said he would enjoy this newest torture. Talia didn't care. She'd always known she wouldn't last long in this place. Her only regret was there would be no one to protect the young ones when she was gone.
The Lionsblood turned slightly and stepped closer to her until they were almost nose to nose. At least, they were once he bent down toward her. The man towered over her and everyone else there, including Dragar. He sniffed at her. Smelled her face, then her neck. The slow sniffing continued all the way down her body, and by the time he finished Talia barely noticed the cold. He seemed to take in her very essence, her unique scent. It seemed a very personal, intimate gesture, and she closed her eyes tightly and tried not to focus on the sensations stirring inside her.
By the time he raised his head, his eyes gleaming faintly, Talia's lower body throbbed and tingled with an unexpected, unexplained lust. No man had ever had this effect on her. She wasn't sure it was a welcome feeling.
Squinting her eyes in what she hoped was angry defiance, she turned her back on him and took several steps away. A soft, deadly growl followed her, but she only turned to face him again when she was ready. To do otherwise would be to acknowledge his displeasure, and she didn't want to show weakness of any kind with this Lionsblood. Instinctively, she knew better.
"Never mind the wench," Dragar tried to soothe him. "I'll deal with her. Look at these girls. Surely they'll be much better suited to your many needs. Every one of them is as submissive as one could ask for. I've seen to their training personally."
"I have no need of a trained submissive. Any woman I buy will be --" He paused, making the next word sound sarcastic and mocking. "-- trained by me and me alone."
"You mean you'd beat them into submission, just like Dragar does." Talia's voice rang out in the exposed yard far louder than she expected, but she didn't care. "It takes a real man to beat an unarmed young woman, doesn't it, Lionsblood?" Her hands balled into fists, and her pitiful excuse for a blanket fell from her shoulders. "Why don't you try that with me?"
The sale yard grew deathly quiet. Talia wasn't sure why she'd opened her big mouth. It definitely wasn't the smartest thing she'd ever done, but something about the stranger's presence made her bold. She was annoyed with him for stripping her guard away so effortlessly and for making her want him in a way she'd never wanted any man. Besides, the thought that he'd take someone other than her made her furious beyond reason.
He raised an eyebrow. "You have a sharp tongue, wench. You should take care how you use it."
"Afraid of what I'd do with my mouth around your cock?" She couldn't help sneering and curling her lip.
They stared at each other a long time. The only sound in the yard was the wind as it blew snow and ice around them in stinging little shards. Dykstra was intrigued by her defiance. No one in this farm dared look at him, yet this woman mocked him. Fascinating.
"Forgive me, M'lord. She's a vile woman who should not have been brought to you. I'll have her killed immediately, if you so wish."
She stood before him naked and proud. Her nipples puckered tightly in the cold, but she seemed impervious to it. Long, dirty blonde hair whipped around her body in the chaotic wind, giving her the look of a snow goddess. Only the thin, neglected look of a slave belied that impression. This woman truly had the heart of a Lionsmate. He wasn't looking for one, but it looked as if she had found him, however unwittingly.
"I think I'll take her with me, trader."
Dragar started, but recovered smoothly. "Very well, sir. I'll have her transferred to the holding farm until she's been conditioned..."
"No. I want her now." He didn't take his eyes from her. She was beginning to succumb to the bitter cold around them now. She shivered despite obvious great effort not to, and her shoulders hunched against the wind. A brave woman, this one, but she'd reached the end of human endurance.
"She hasn't been fitted with an internal restraining device and she's far more trouble than she's worth. Are you sure this is the one you want?"
Dykstra worked to make his voice cold and unyielding. Merciless. He gave Dragar his deadliest look. "She goes with me now. I can control her, if need be, without the aid of anyone or anything. As to being more trouble than she's worth, I'll make that determination for myself." He watched as the self-important trader cringed. "Dress her."
Dragar threw her clothes at her, and the girl quickly slipped into them, though truly, the filthy, ragged pants and shirt weren't much better than the blanket alone. Still, she donned them with the regal bearing of a Lioness. Dykstra's cock stirred at the thought. This was truly a woman to take notice of.
"Is that it? This is all she has?"
"Humans aren't allowed much, my lord. We take care of them as best --"
"Silence." The word was hissed. Deadly quiet.
She looked up when she'd finished dressing, her hands clutching the blanket in a white-knuckled grip. "I'll have your name, woman."
For a moment he wasn't sure she'd speak, but then she lowered her eyes and breathed, "Talia."
Talia wanted to look up at him, to read his expression, but she hesitated. He was as cold as the environment around her and she wasn't sure how much more she dared defy him. Lionsblood. He grunted approval of his granted request. "I'm Dykstra. You will address me as such."
A mane as tawny and wild as that of his line's namesake fluttered in the bitterly cold breeze. Fangs showed beneath his cat-like upper lip and slits of his pupils glittered. And he was tall. Very tall. He towered over everyone at the farm. Straight and tall he stood, seemingly unaffected by the icy wind. He was truly as fierce as the Lion.
He was dressed for the cold in a long black cloak that reached nearly to the ground. His thick-soled boots left deep imprints in the snow and reminded her of how cold her bare feet were.
As he sized her up, the pale burn scar on her forearm started to itch horribly. It started as a slight tickle, but rapidly grew to maddening proportions. The urge to scratch was almost overwhelming, but she gritted her teeth and steadfastly refused. The extra sensory stimulation stripped away all hopes she could make it the remaining time exposed to the cold as she was, and she started to shiver uncontrollably.
When he wrapped his heavy cloak around her shoulders, she was so startled she gasped and let her mask of anger slip as she looked up at him. A fierce expression met her, and she stumbled backward despite her resolve not to show weakness.
He reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her to him. She lost hold of the cloak and the front came open, exposing her breasts once again when he jerked her forward. She came into full contact with his hot body. She didn't know why she hadn't noticed before, but with his cloak gone, he was bare-chested. Her hands landed on the wide expanse of a lion's tawny mane covering him. His arms were heavily muscled and bare of fur, but his mane was silky soft--just like a cat--and covered the upper part of his chest narrowing to a wide stripe down the center of his belly to the waist of his pants. No wonder Lionsblood were among the hardiest creatures on the planet. This man seemed impervious to the cold even without his cloak. The heat radiating from his bare body was proof enough of that.
She remembered seeing Dragar cringe when the Lionsblood had looked at him with those merciless eyes. A fact that scared her more than freezing to death. If a man as mean and callous as Lord Dragar feared this Lionsblood, shouldn't she?
He pushed her out to arm's length and looked her up and down once more. "See to it my ship is stored with food enough for ten days. Hearty portions, mind you. I want to eat my fill every meal." He narrowed his eyes at Dragar. "You should know, half-breed, among my people, the women and children eat first. If you don't provide enough food for her, I will not eat. In which case I'll come back for you. I promise, you won't like it if I do." The threat was delivered in a growl. It was enough to make Talia take an involuntary step backward, which caused the Lionsblood to turn his head sharply to her, his eyes flashing in annoyance, and promptly pull her back to his side.
"Ten days? I can barely feed the miserable humans I have here. I can't spare that enormous quantity." Dragar sounded angry as hell, but Talia also noted the missing edge his voice normally had to it. He might protest, but the Lionsblood would get what he demanded.
"You'll find ten days of food for both of us, or you'll have a very large, very mean... very hungry Lionsblood hunting you, trader. Send the supplies as soon as you've readied them. Talia and I will go ahead. If we haven't seen you in a couple of hours, I'll be back. "
Dragar swallowed, his eyes widening, then gave the order to one of the many farm guards. Dykstra merely turned his head to look at Talia once more.
"Shall we go, then?" Without giving her a chance to say or do anything, he grabbed her hand and tugged her through the heavy metal door into the wasteland where his ship waited for them. She could barely see through the blowing snow, and her cold, numb feet refused to move. He looked at her in annoyance--no doubt thinking it was an act of defiance--and growled, scooping her up in his arms and heading swiftly to the sleek vessel a few yards away. When they reached the ship, Talia barely registered it being covered in a heavy, dusty layer of snow.
Exposure to the bitter cold had made her flesh sting when she'd first stepped outside the underground shelter, and her prolonged exposure when she was showing off for the Lionsblood had taken its toll. Now, she'd lost feeling in her hands, feet, and much of her face. She'd long ago stopped shivering, and now that she didn't have to force herself to stay standing, her body went blissfully numb, and sleepiness swamped her. Talia vaguely wondered if her new handler would bother with her if she succumbed to the cold. He might decide he didn't want a smart-mouthed human who didn't know when to shut up and leave her here. Dragar wouldn't have her back after having to stock such a vast amount of food for the Lionsblood. He'd probably toss her in the snow once he realized she was freezing to death.
Talia closed her eyes and snuggled her face into the warmth of her new handler's mane. It was funny. It felt right to take comfort from his strong presence. She'd never relied on another person since she'd been old enough to fend for herself. But this felt different. Appropriate somehow.
She shook herself, or tried to. She was too cold to move. She hated admitting she was dependent on this man--no matter how extraordinary--for her life. He was warm on the outside, but his eyes were as cold as the frigid plane of the Earth's surface.
Cold. Bitter cold.
Closing her eyes, she let his warmth seep into her where they touched, but she knew it wouldn't be enough for long. But it felt right. Good.
Sighing, she let blissful darkness close around her, and for the first time in living memory, she didn't have enough energy to fight.