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DANE: THE LORDS OF SATYR
By ELIZABETH AMBER
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Elizabeth Amber
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRome, Italy Earth World, 1880
"Dieux! Where the devil is it?"
The sound of the woman's voice drifted to him through a grove thick with olive trees. The early October breeze rattled silvery green leaves on gnarled branches, alternately revealing and concealing the meddling female from view. As she moved past in a direction parallel to him, he angled his jaw so his eyes could follow her.
Perfect. Now he wouldn't have to go hunting tonight.
But he was still in transition, not yet fully in control, and so for now only filed the information of her arrival away to be considered later. Breathing deep of the cool twilight, Dante continued to slowly ease his way into a mind that belonged to another-Dane, his reluctant host.
It's for your own good, Dante soothed. For your protection. I'll be gone again come morning. Relax now. Sleep.
But Dane ignored this and fought on with an inner strength that was as admirable as it was futile. Subjugation could not be pleasant for one so strong willed. This changeover was always a strange time and an uncomfortable one, dredging up memories they would both prefer to forget. So Dante treaded carefully, confident he would ultimately prevail. Just as he had on the night of the full moon last month, and during all the Moonfuls that had come before over the latter half of Dane's life.
In a matter of moments, he'd assumed full possession. He was Dante now. Not a person in his own right, but rather an alternate personality that lay dormant inside Dane and came forth only when required. On occasions such as this one.
Slowly, he uncoiled from his crouch on the forest floor. He shrugged broad shoulders, adjusting himself to the fit of this familiar set of bones and flesh he'd donned. The mind and, therefore, the body were his for the present. He would be master of them only until dawn.
The tailored linen shirt he wore hung unbuttoned and open in front, gleaming white against the shadowed flesh of his sculpted chest. He flexed his hands and found them sore. He noted the ax on the ground a yard away and the felled limbs, the piles of encroaching vines, which had been freshly cut away from twisted trunks nearby.
Ah, yes, he remembered now. When he'd first come into consciousness, they'd been working.
He and Dane.
Two facets of the same mind. Possessors of a single body.
And it was a body women admired, sought, swooned over. Six and a half feet of solid brawn, wide of shoulder, narrow of hip. A strong column of throat, topped by a square-jawed masculine face with a prominent blade of a nose, and crowned with tousled sable hair. A face bearing a distinct resemblance to those of his brothers. It would have been too handsome save for one feature. From below straight brows, eyes of icy silver reflected the world, making him appear otherworldly and strange. Which he was.
Through the fabric of his trousers, he found the feature that perhaps rendered him most aberrant. One he reveled in on these nights. Fondly, he stroked its considerable length with the pad of his thumb as if sharpening a precisely made weapon meant only to give and take pleasure. Already it stood thick and lofty and barely confined within his trousers.
This cock of theirs symbolized the entirety of Dante's role in things. He was the fornicator-only one aspect of the whole that was Lord Dane Satyr. Brought forth whenever this body's lecherous need arose. He relished his role. And Dane envied him for it. Craved it for himself.
A thrashing sound reached his ears. The woman. He'd known she was there all along, of course, had been tracking her with a small corner of his mind. Now his eyes found her again.
She moved heedlessly through the grove, thinking herself alone. Now and then, she paused to tug at a branch, plucking an unripe olive or two from it. Holding these small bits of plunder to her nose, she then pocketed them as if gathering samples. The olives would not be ready for picking for another month, so he briefly wondered at her actions. But curiosity was not a failing of his. Dane, however, suffered from a wealth of it. And look where that had gotten them.
Beyond her, the sun had just met the horizon, a huge ball of juicy orange jailed by black cypress spears that marched along the hilltop opposite this one. It turned her pale skin to gold, the shadows of her face to lovely bruises, her dark hair to coal. She was dressed fashionably and well in a prim gray dress that blended with the trees here. Perhaps twenty years of age or a little older. And shapely.
He smiled. They'd only been here a few weeks, but already he liked this new world. A Sickness had killed many of the female species in Else World that usually served as mates for his kind and rendered others unable to bear satyr offspring. Only the members of the Council had the luxury of keeping their own women. Yet here, women delivered themselves right to one's doorstep.
His prey disappeared into a clearing and he moved after her, keeping her in view. Her head was bent to study something she held. A small book. A page flipped under her lace-gloved hand, a frown creasing the creamy smooth skin between her dark brows as she strained to make out its text in the failing light. Whatever she read on its pages caused her to sigh in frustration.
"Honestly, Maman! What am I to do with these scribbles? Couldn't you have done any better than this on so important a matter?" Glancing around, she fanned the gilt-edged book back and forth in one hand with obvious impatience.
Gifted with a natural stealth enhanced by a decade of training and field experience as an Else World Tracker, Dante soundlessly moved in her direction, intent on cutting off her exit to the road. Though she had no way of knowing, she'd come at a most opportune time. Night was falling. A very special night to those of Dane's kind. Once the moon rose, all would begin.
He made a cursory, visual survey of the grove. It was protected. Dane had bespelled its perimeter himself that very morning. If any humans wandered too close, they would find themselves repelled by forces they didn't understand. Since she'd managed to trespass, he could only assume she must be of Else World blood.
His eyes swept her again. She was slender but pleasingly curved. Fey perhaps. On this special night, her blood would be stirring as well, though not as high as that of the satyr. Not as high as his own. When one lived only ten hours a month, one was understandably eager.
A light breeze gusted at his back, whooshing past him to ripple over mistletoe, betony, chicory, fennel, rosemary, and saffron that grew low on the forest floor. He watched it make its way toward the woman, carrying with it his scent.
When it ruffled her skirt and pulled at tendrils of her hair, she stilled-a woodland creature made suddenly and acutely aware of danger. Her eyes shifted in his direction, twin flashes of emerald. His own eyes narrowed and he smiled, pleased at what he'd read in her glance. Recognition. Only an Else World creature could detect the scent of another. His blood pumped a little faster at this confirmation of his initial assumption. A female from his own world would make for a far more interesting engagement than a human one might have.
"This is private land." He stepped free of the forest's shadows into the small clearing in which she stood. She whirled to face him then, her skirts sending the leaves eddying around her. His nostrils flared, waiting for her scent to ride the air in his direction. He'd know what sort of creature she was soon enough.
When her fragrance reached him, its delicate, delicious impact enfolded him like a physical caress. His senses analyzed and sorted through its nuances, and a new prickle of awareness swept his skin. His body reached a stunning conclusion regarding her origins a split second before his mind did. He could actually feel his eyes dilate, his heart gasp, his blood halt in his veins.
"Gods, who ... what are you?" he demanded.
Frozen in place, they simply stared at one another with only a dozen yards of sylvan forest and shocked silence between them. Even the air around them seemed to hold its breath.
Then she pivoted on one dainty, booted foot and hared off. She was getting away!
As abruptly as it had stopped, the pump of his blood resumed, burning through him with its ecstatic gush. His hunting instincts in full force, he loped toward her at an angle, slicing through the forest of Dane's ancestors with ease. The tangled underbrush aided him, snatching at her skirts and slowing her.
His hand lashed out and caught the front of her waist, low between her ribs, pulling her back against him and stealing her breath. She was slight compared to him; her spine easily molded to the cavern of his broad chest. Her hips were lush against his hard thighs. Her hair a silken sweep at his throat.
All of nature seemed to still within the forest as he gathered her to him. He bent his head to bury his face in the tangle of her hair, inhaling deeply. The rightness-the perfect fit of her-rocked him to his very core.
"Who are you?" he asked again.
"No one. I'm no one."
Long moments passed and they were alone in the universe, locked together in an intimate cocoon. The birds fell silent, but his blood sang. The gentle music of a nearby stream ceased, but their heartbeats thundered. His massive frame shuddered under a flood of lust. His balls clenched, his cock hardened, his every sense attuned to her.
He felt Dane stirring somewhere inside him, like someone turning over in his sleep. Her pull was so strong that it was affecting even him. Who is she? Dane whispered, but his question, too, went unanswered.
Dante carefully shoved him deeper into their mutual subconscious, where he must remain until this night was done. He'd been protecting him for the past thirteen years and saw no reason to stop now. Not while the danger to them still existed in this world.
Under his palm, he felt the firm stays beneath her gray silk gown. He considered the swiftest way to convince her to allow him to remove them. "Don't fear us. We're like you."
"Us?" She shook her head and tugged at his hands on her waist, resisting the pull he was exerting on her person and her senses. "What are you talking about, monsieur? I only wandered here by mistake, looking for flowers for my table tonight. I didn't know the house was occupied. If you'll let me go-my conveyance is just over there." She gestured toward the road, then as she drew her arm back down again, slammed the point of her elbow into his rib, struggling.
He frowned, startled, unable to comprehend that she might not want him. "Why do you fight?" he murmured into her hair, his voice hot and dark. "Night comes, and with it the Calling."
She gasped, whipping her head around. Her eyes were wary, but in their depths awareness flickered.
The backs of his fingers traced her pale cheek. "You know of what we speak," he accused softly. "Of the Change that will come over us when the sun dies." Each word was bespelled, an enticement meant to lull her senses.
"No." She shook her head as if to shake off his touch, his enchantments, and his intentions toward her. He felt her magic dueling his for supremacy, and it sent a prurient thrill through him. But within seconds, his magic had crept into her consciousness, visibly affecting her. Her body remained half turned away, but she'd relaxed, no longer poised to flee. Her expression softened and a flush of pink stole across her cheeks. Her fingers rose to lightly brush her lips; then they dropped to the neckline of her bodice, restlessly tracing its lace.
"Gods," he whispered. "Everyone believed creatures such as you to be only a myth." He tucked a curl of her hair behind her ear, studying every nuance of her upturned face, wondering about her. Who she was. Why she'd come here.
"I'm fey," she protested weakly.
He chuckled. "Little liar."
Dane with his insatiable need to know would have questions for her when they met with the coming of morning. Let him find answers then. Tonight was for pleasure. His palm warmed on her cheek, casting a Calm over her.
"Stay," he murmured. "Stay with us tonight."
Her will to fight him-to fight her own nature-faltered. Her shoulders softened and her arms went lax. Something hit the toe of his boot. Her little book. Her head lay back on his shoulder and he felt her go boneless against him. When her lips turned into his throat, he knew he'd won her. But it wasn't enough that his magic wiles should woo her anymore. He wanted her with him, desiring him with her body and spirit, and would not be satisfied until she begged him to fill her. He brought her fingers up to the fastenings of her bodice and helped her to work the first of them free.
A strange and sudden numbness came over him then, and his own fingers fumbled, becoming uncoordinated and uncertain. His hold on her slackened. Not because she'd renewed her puny efforts to shake him off but because of ... something else. Something was wrong.
Dante felt himself waver, felt his consciousness ripple like the waves on a pond that had been disturbed. His hands dropped away from her as the shadow of another presence crowded around the edges of his mind. Dane? No, it couldn't be. Yet it was.
But Dane had never resurfaced during a carnal encounter. It wasn't safe. What if they came again and took him back to that awful place? It had driven him into an asylum before. Next time, it might kill him. Dante couldn't let that happen! Protecting Dane was what he lived for.
Don't you remember how things were ... before? Dante warned. Don't you value your sanity? You must hide. Sleep, he crooned.
Get out of my head, damn you! Dane bit out. I don't need you!
Stunned, Dante could only stand there, arms useless at his sides as he faded further still, inexorably losing his grip on ...
Dane sucked in a sharp intake of breath, inhaling his own soul back into his flesh. His mind, his very essence, poured back into his body like wine into a goblet. He was himself again. Alone in his own skin.
He opened his eyes, blinking at the world, seeing it at first as if he were under water. Drowning. He was disoriented, his vision blurred, almost losing his balance for a moment before managing to right himself. His hands found an anchor. A woman.
Her back was against him; her body a warm, pliant, delicious weight in his arms. His palms shaped her ribs, stroking the turn of her waist and hips. Somehow he knew he must hold on to her, as if she were his conduit to consciousness. To salvation.
Things swam back into focus as disconnected flashes. He was in the grove, just as he last remembered himself. He'd been working here on his newly acquired property earlier, hacking away vines to keep them from suffocating the trees.
Then that whoreson phantom Dante had come. Had taken control of him, of his mind, his body. Intending to use it to fuck the night away in his stead. Claiming it was all done for Dane's own good-same as every Moonful. But Dane had interrupted the bastard this time!
How he'd done so was a matter of question. It had something to do with her, this woman who inexplicably stood here with him in the gathering gloom, her head upon his chest, her exquisite body unresisting under his intimate exploration.
Her pale gray bodice was partially unbuttoned, revealing the curves of full, white, perfect breasts. He'd long had a particular affection for this portion of a woman's anatomy. As if in a dream, he watched his hand slip between fabric and flesh, catching on the fine gold chains she wore. Her breast was cool under his fingers, and firm. He found and teased a rosy nipple, dragging the cold metal links over and over it until it drew up tight.
She moaned and touched his wrist, her thighs shifting restlessly against his. His cock surged and he gasped, almost brought to his knees by the sensation. He found its prodigious length with his hand, gripping it through lightweight black wool that could scarcely contain it.
Excerpted from DANE: THE LORDS OF SATYR by ELIZABETH AMBER Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Amber. Excerpted by permission.
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