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A princess like no other, Shahrazad has skin the color of richest honey and black hair that flows like a river under the midnight moon. Prince Tahir is bewitched by her strange beauty--and beset by hot, animal lust. Risking his life to make her his, defying the Sultan to sweep ...
A princess like no other, Shahrazad has skin the color of richest honey and black hair that flows like a river under the midnight moon. Prince Tahir is bewitched by her strange beauty--and beset by hot, animal lust. Risking his life to make her his, defying the Sultan to sweep her away, Tahir and Shahrazad vanish into a dream world of their own, on the verge of sexual pleasure so intense as to shatter their souls--and change them forever. . .
Praise for the erotic novels of Lucinda Betts. . .
"Moon Shadow is one of the best fantasy erotic books this year." --Road to Romance, Reviewers Choice Award
"Betts once again brings to life her incredible imagination. Fans of the fantasy/erotic genre will be very pleased." --Romantic Times on The Supplicant, four-star review
WARNING! THIS IS A REALLY HOT BOOK. (Sexually Explicit)
Lucinda Betts loves to dig the ancient Mayan ruins in Belize and explore sunken Spanish galleons under the Caribbean Sea.
Shahrazad stifled a shiver. Haniyyah should have been wedding the Raj, but instead her head stared at her from the Pike Wall, her cousin's once lustrous skin now waxy and pale. Talking to the soldier had been enough to negate the engagement, but touching him ... What had possessed Haniyyah to touch a man? Shahrazad would never do such a thing.
"Please, begin," the Sultan commanded the klerin from the opposite dune. "The sun awaits your salutation."
The klerin nodded, closed his hands together over his heart, then turned toward the sunrise. As the klerin's salutation flowed from one asana to another, he took the warrior's stance, the same one he had used to behead her foolish cousin. God hold her in his eyes, she would miss her.
The hot sand burned through the soles of her slippers, but Shahrazad didn't move. She didn't lift her eyes. She had never spoken to an unrelated man. And by God's eyes, she never would touch one. Ever.
"Princess Shahrazad?" a man's voice asked from several steps behind her. She jumped, and the tiny golden bells on her wedding veil jangled in the desert's morning heat. The klerin glared at her interruption.
"Hush," her mother-in-law-to-be whispered to her. "Do not embarrass my son."
"I heard a man-" she started to whisper, but her nurse, Duha, caught her eye and gently shook her head.
"There is no man in the women's tent," the old woman said, her lips barely moving. Her kohl-rimmed eyes didn't leave the klerin as she added, "How could there be?"
Despite the sun beating down on the silk canopy, the words chilled her-she had heard a man's voice.
"Princess, come to me," the intruder whispered again, his words sliding over her like a snake.
Who was he? Her husband-to-be stood below, his broad face impassive, his blond hair tucked neatly into his gold turban. She caught another glimpse of her cousin's head, Haniyyah's black hair floating around her lifeless face. Shahrazad felt faint, and the desert seemed to swim and ooze around her. Was she hallucinating?
"You will come to me," the stranger said, his words more insistent. Wasn't that his robe brushing the backs of her calves? She couldn't be imagining that. Why didn't her mother-in-law-to-be stop him? Why didn't her nurse?
"You'll not belong to the Raj ir Adham," the stranger said in her ear. Now she could feel the heat of his body through her silk oraz, smell his oddly feminine scent of gardenia blossoms. If he leaned forward ...
If he leaned forward and touched her, her world would crash. If he touched her, she was ruined.
"You'll belong to me."
Something in her snapped. She jerked her chin hard, making her bells ring again, loudly this time.
The noise made the klerin stop in the middle of his sun salutation, and he glared into the women's tent. "Obey the rules," her mother-in-law-to-be said as Duha looked at her, worry etched in her ancient face.
"Look behind me," Shahrazad whispered. "Who is it?"
Ignoring the glowering klerin, her mother-in-law-to-be looked quickly where directed. With a tight expression, she shook her head. "There is no one," she hissed. "How could there be? What in God's eyes is wrong with you?"
The woman hardened her features and pointedly looked away, and the klerin continued his chant.
She heard a shifting of robes behind her. "You'll be mine," the stranger said. "And you'll enjoy every heartbeat of it."
She froze absolutely, like a mouse hypnotized by a cobra's gaze.
And then he touched her. He actually ran his fingertips over the small of her back. He stroked her flesh. "I can grant your heart's desire," the stranger whispered in her ear, his breath heating her skin.
Before she could move, before she could draw in one more breath, shame enveloped her. She was spoilt-and she'd ruined her family's chance to survive the shitani invasion.
She could not bear this.
"Leave me alone!" she said, turning toward her assailant, her bells jangling even after her voice died. Below her the klerin stopped speaking, but more chilling, Shahrazad saw no man, only an empty spot where the man should be standing.
"I will take you from here," her mother-in-law-to-be hissed. "My son will wed a more stable woman."
Was she insane? Shahrazad's eyes fell on the Pike Wall and her cousin's dead eye seemed to wink at her. You'll join me here, she seemed to say. But Shahrazad couldn't let that happen. The shitani would lick up her land with their demonic tongues, tear it up with their demonic claws.
"I am sorry, mother-in-law-to-be," she said, keeping her eyes down. "I don't know what's come over me."
"I'll come all over you," the man breathed in her ear.
Channeling her rage, Shahrazad realized she needed to do something drastic. She was not crazy.
The heat of the man's body told her exactly where he stood, even if her eyes hadn't seen him. She knew where to strike. Lifting her foot so gracefully that not one of her bells rang, she kicked back with all her might, aiming for his groin.
Her face hit the woman standing in front of her, bruising her lip. Her mother-in-law-to-be fell into her neighbor as Shahrazad's elbow slammed into her chest. A masculine yelp started to come from the throat of her assailant, and then-silence.
She stumbled again as the body behind her unexpectedly vanished.
Duha sent her a worried glance, the wattles on her old neck shaking as she clutched Shahrazad's arm and refused to release it. Her aunts and cousins stared too, but her mother-in-law-to-be tightly shook her head, refusing to dignify the fiasco.
The invisible stranger hadn't doubled over in pain as she'd expected-he'd simply vanished.
And Shahrazad thought she might faint. The touch from this disappearing man could mean only one thing: a magician had cursed her, cursed her marriage.
And no one defeated a magician.
* * *
His sister, the co-ruler of House Kulwanti, had vanished-and Prince Tahir took full responsibility. He'd run her off.
"The other Houses are beginning to suspect," Queen Kulwanti said. "Queen Kalila must be found-now."
"Who suspects what?" he asked, hating the guilt. He'd never meant for Kalila to flee. He'd just suggested she refuse the Impregnation.
"Queen Balqis expressed overly enthusiastic admiration for my ability to rule without my co-ruler ... and then she asked how you were faring. She hadn't seen you hawking lately, she said."
"By the Sun Goddess's eye," Tahir said, anger tightening his muscles. "How can I hawk when I'm fulfilling Kalila's duties?"
"I believe that was her point."
"Perhaps if we Impregnated her daughter instead of one from House Casmiri-"
Imperious as ever, his mother held her hand to silence him. "Political machinations won't save us now. We have a bigger problem looming on our horizon."
"And what is that?"
Queen Kulwanti relaxed her gnarled fingers on the table. All vestiges of bitchy mightiness dropped away. "The augury was here this morning."
"What did she say?"
"If Kalila isn't found in a month and a day, shitani will invade our land-and conquer it."
He let out his breath, wishing he'd never urged Kalila to stand up for herself. Was his land going to fall because of this? "That's a prediction directly from the nine hells," he said.
"Yes." His mother ran her fingers around the edge of the table. "Not only did the augury's knucklebones make this claim, but she also saw snaketrack sign and some bizarre celestial portent pointing to the ascension of the shitani."
So many signs, he thought. If he'd only kept his advice to himself. "That seems definitive."
"There's more." His mother looked older than she ever had. "A woman-someone with eyes the color of honey-she is supposed to help restore Kalila. This woman is from the Land of the Moon."
He thought about this prediction for a moment, confused. "How could any of those women help?" he asked finally. "They're nothing but chattel." As he was himself.
"Be that as it may, the augury declared it as truth. The old sorceress is seldom wrong."
"I'll go." To save his land, he'd rectify this problem or die trying. "I'll find her."
"No." Queen Kulwanti wrapped her crooked hand around his, her hard silver ring winking in the afternoon sunlight. "I couldn't bear the thought of losing both my children."
For a moment Tahir couldn't speak. His mother had treated him like property for so long he couldn't believe she thought of him as blood, as something she treasured. "Mother," he said, "Are you well?"
She brushed his hand away. "My heart is sick," she said. "The shitani have been quiet for so long I thought we'd have time to build an unassailable land. Instead, I hear they're coming, my co-ruler is missing and inadequate, and the rival Houses are nipping at my heels. You-" She jabbed him with the nail of her index finger then stopped speaking.
"Me, what?" he asked.
"You could have ruled by my side-if the matriarchy had been open-minded enough." She paused, her eyes focused unseeingly on the window. "I should have pushed them harder."
Tahir was too shocked to respond.
"I need to unite these Houses," she said into the awkward silence. "And I cannot do it without Kalila-who'd rather be anywhere but here."
"Kalila won't let the shitani invade her home," he said with more assurance than he felt. "I'll bring her back."
"The Warqueen Abbesses will bring her," she corrected. "I'll select the best ones this evening."
"You'll send the Warqueens to the Land of the Moon?" He didn't keep the doubt from his voice. "The Sultan won't thank you."
"Don't dictate policy to me, boy," she said, standing with royal haughtiness. Her brief show of vulnerability was gone. "I want you to Impregnate House Casmiri directly after you leave these chambers. They've earned the right."
"House Nouf would be better-"
Again she held up her hand. "You will Impregnate House Casmiri now."
As Tahir left her chambers for the Impregnation chamber of House Casmiri, he stifled his frustration. The queen gave with one hand and took with another-said he would rule well but then forbade him to speak about policy.
It wasn't that he'd loathe impregnating whatever woman House Casmiri deemed worthy. Fucking was enjoyable, almost regardless of his partner. But the Land of the Sun was in jeopardy, and it was his responsibility to fix it.
And he could not meet that responsibility while obeying his queen.
Chapter Two "Read your bones for me," Shahrazad said. "What does my future hold?" No magicians, she silently pleaded. No Pike Walls. Only marriage to the Raj. Only the safety of her land.
Duha shook her head, folds of skin obscuring her expression. "Seeing the future is not a good thing, my darling."
But Shahrazad needed hope. "It's important." She couldn't shake the feeling something big lurked on the horizon-something big and terrible. "If you read them and they refuse to work, we've lost nothing."
The old woman sighed again. "Very well. I'll do it." Duha wiped the last of the oil on Shahrazad's braids, then dug the knuckles from her pocket. She closed her fingers around them, and Shahrazad wondered if she'd changed her mind. Finally the old nurse poured the things into Shahrazad's palm.
"Think about your future but only in the most general terms. Don't ask a question or focus on something like your wedding-just think about tomorrow and the next day. Think about your family and the mornings and nights."
Shahrazad closed her eyes, holding the bones. Letting images of the rising sun fill her mind, she imagined sumptuous meals eaten with her mother-in-law-to-be and new moons rising above the dunes. She imagined her father's paddocks filled with new foals. She tried to imagine her husband-to-be, the Raj ir Adham, but his face wouldn't focus.
Instead a rangy man with hawklike features came to mind. His hair, black as a well's bottom, grew long, past his shoulders. He had broad shoulders, and he was smiling, his gaze locked on hers. His eyes were a delicious brown, as delicious as his skin, and his expression reminded her of-
"Give those bones back, my darling," Duha said, holding out her white hand.
But Shahrazad couldn't obey. Her hand wouldn't move, and the vision of the man wouldn't dissipate. Now, his dark hair was tied back in a neat club, and he was wielding a bow, his long fingers pulling the string and arrow. His silk shirt had melted away, and muscles rippled through his powerful arm. The planes of his chest called to her fingertips, her tongue. She longed to feel the texture of his skin and the hard play of his muscles beneath her palm.
"Shahrazad?" His voice was deep, melodic even. She could imagine him humming to a belly dancer's drums.
Through the vision, he looked at her and started, like he hadn't expected to see her standing there. Then he smiled, a luxurious expression that matched his voice. He set his bow aside and embraced her, flaunting the rules of her land.
She couldn't step away from him. She wanted to feel his strength, have those mighty arms wrapped around her. Inexorably, he drew her to him, and she didn't mind. Not a bit.
"Who are you?" Shahrazad asked him, her nose buried in his shoulder. He smelled masculine, of sandalwood and ... his own musk.
But he had no answer. Instead, he kissed her. Only this was no chaste kiss like those she'd received from uncles and brothers and her father.
First, his lips grazed hers, and she smelled the sweetness of his breath. Then his kiss stole her ability to think, to breathe. As his tongue wrapped around hers, her knees buckled and-
"I need my bones back, darling," Duha said, shaking Shahrazad's shoulder. The touch and the harsh movement evaporated the vision. "You've had them long enough to talk to them."
"But I think they spoke to me," Shahrazad said, still enthralled by the image. The slick heat between her thighs wasn't something she could ignore. What dark beauty that man had possessed. Who was he? Could he be the magician? But there'd been no danger in his eye-only in his lips.
"What did they say?" Duha asked, her voice practically vibrating with some unnamed emotion. Her gaze was locked on hers.
"They didn't use words. I just ... saw something. Someone."
"Something or someone?" Duha tossed the knucklebones on the long table as if they burned her hand. They landed softly, not clattering on the polished wood. "Who was it?"
"I don't know."
"Yes," Shahrazad said. He'd definitely been a man. "But no one I recognized. Not the Raj. Not any of my uncles. Certainly not the Sultan."
"Hmph," the old woman said, and relief filled Shahrazad as Duha tore her attention away from her face and examined the bones scattered over the table. They gleamed in the morning sun.
"What do the bones say?" she asked. "That I'll be happily married, give birth to three fat, happy children, and-"
"They didn't speak," Duha said, cutting her off. "The bones said nothing-just as I predicted."
Shahrazad looked at the knuckles scattered across the table, knobs up and down and every which way. They meant as much to her as snaketracks in the sand. But Shahrazad knew a falsehood when she heard one.
"What do they really say?"
"They say nothing." The old woman turned away so Shahrazad couldn't see her face.
"You should tell me-they read my fate."
"Your fate is your fate, regardless of what the bones say. It is immutable."
From deep within the palace's heart a throaty bell rang the hour, and Duha turned toward her. "Are you ready for the ceremony?" she asked, eying Shahrazad critically.
"You dressed me yourself. You know I'm prepared."
"Well, your mother-in-law-to-be selected that oraz, and I wasn't certain about it." Duha lifted the silken hem with a doubtful expression. "But I have to admit the orange color suits your complexion." She made a wistful sound. "Your skin is so lovely, the color of the darkest honey."
"Duha, stop. I want to know what the bones said." Did they refer to the evil magician who'd touched her?
"Just remember," the old maid breathed in her ear.
"Remember what?" She didn't understand why they were whispering. They were alone in the princess's chambers, as dictated by the rite of the ceremony.
"Remember this: Let no man touch you-not until your wedding night."
Excerpted from Running Wild by LUCINDA BETTS Copyright © 2008 by Lucinda Betts. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted November 12, 2008
Her kingdom is patriarchal with women having no rights except what their spouse or father might grant them; in those cases within the home. Any female who allegedly violates the strict legal code of conduct is beheaded with their head placed on a pike as a warning for other rebellious feminists. Princess Shahrazad was raised in such an environment in which being a royal female means nothing.<BR/><BR/>On the other hand Prince Tahir grew up in the opposite type of kingdom, women rule in the matriarchal in which young boys offer nothing until they are old enough to be bull breeders. A magician turns Shahrazad turns into a winged horse Pegaz during the daylight to fight demons. When they meet Tahir needs Princess Shahrazad to save his sister the monarch and defeat a demon; afterward to find a way to end the spell and make her his.<BR/><BR/>More fantasy than romance, RUNNING WILD is an exciting tale of two kingdoms in which the caste systems radically differ. Thus when the two royals meet, they both are submissives used to the other gender being dominant. Although too much is going on in the story line especially with the Shahrazad flying horse subplot that takes away from the prime theme of two people trained to obey falling in love with each needing the other to lead in their relationship and in their battle against an evil demon. Still fans will enjoy Lucinda Betts heated romantic fantasy.<BR/><BR/>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.