Read an Excerpt
Legends: Hunters and Heroes
By Shiloh Walker
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Shiloh Walker
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFear had dried the spit in her mouth.
"A way to become like them."
A way to become like them ...
The words echoed over and over in her head.
He was mad. He had gone mad. Rachel stood staring at Matthew, her arms wrapped around her middle as she listened to him speak.
"You cannot be serious," Nicholas whispered, tears making his young eyes bright.
"Matthew, they are cursed." Jude turned away, refusing to look at Matthew. Others wouldn't even speak to him.
Ezekiel murmured, "It must be possible to become as strong as they are without becoming the monster. You stand before me as proof, Matthew."
Rachel watched as Matthew nodded curtly.
Ezekiel closed his eyes and sighed. When the old man opened them, he lifted his eyes heavenward and whispered, "I prayed for an answer-I prayed for help. I did not expect it to come in this form."
Matthew laughed bitterly and Rachel felt tears sting her eyes. They had all prayed for help. None of them had realized the cost, though.
"I'll do it."
"You cannot, Zeke."
Ezekiel's eyes narrowed and he rose slowly, glaring angrily at Matthew as he demanded, "And I'd like to know why not, boy."
"You are old, Ezekiel. Your time in this world is nearing its end ... I can feel it somehow."
Even though nothing changed on Matthew's face as he spoke, Rachel felt the pain in his words as he spoke to Zeke. The old man was the closest thing that Matthew had to a father. Tears burned her eyes and she moved forward, wrapping an arm around Zeke.
Ezekiel just continued to glare stubbornly at Matthew. "Even if you can feel it, what does that have to do with anything?"
Matthew smiled. "If your body was still as strong as it was ten years ago, it wouldn't matter at all. And if your body was as strong as your soul, it wouldn't matter. But your body is getting weak. The body has to be strong or it won't survive the Change."
Ezekiel's shoulders slumped and for once, he looked weary. Rachel hugged him and he smiled at her. "All is well, Rachel. Our prayers have been answered, after all. We have a way to fight them, finally. Something besides huddling in the dark."
With that, he turned to face the men and women who were, arms wrapped around each other in the dark corners of the room. "Who is willing?" he asked of the men. "We have strong men here. We have all lost people to these monsters. Wives, children, mothers, fathers."
Husbands, Rachel thought starkly as nobody answered.
As the silence continued, Ezekiel started to walk through the room. "We have a chance here. We must have strength to fight them. Our prayers have been answered. God sent back our warrior-Matthew is stronger now than he ever was, and just as true. And yet you all stand there as cowards."
"Zeke," Matthew said quietly, shaking his head. "They are right to be frightened."
Rachel said flatly, "We've all been frightened. Ever since they came here. We've lived in fear. The men and women your age ... you were born in fear. The children we have now live in fear. How can we expect that to stop unless we are willing to do something?"
Samuel whispered harshly, "We are doing something. But becoming monsters ourselves?"
Rachel spun to face him, her hands fisted at her sides. "My husband is not a monster. He is the same man he was when I married him. On the inside-I see that man when I look in his eyes. The monsters are the things out there that make me afraid to walk outside in my garden at night. That make you afraid to fish before the sun rises. Those are the monsters and Matthew offers us a way to take back our lives and none of you will dare say yes."
Her heart pounded in her chest. Her head felt strange. God, do I dare? she wondered. The tears that had threatened to fall most of the night finally broke free.
The life she had once known was over. It had ended the night Matthew hadn't returned all those weeks ago.
Quietly, she asked, "What would they have to do?"
For the longest time, he wouldn't tell them. And when he did, the men and women looked even more terror-stricken. The pounding in her head increased and her heart raced so hard, she could hardly breathe. She wiped her damp palms on the long cloth of her robes as she paced, listening to him speak.
It sounded horrifying.
Could a person possibly survive it, she wondered.
Moving off to the side, Rachel watched surreptitiously from the shadows as he spoke-she hoped that Matthew had no idea just how closely she was listening. He wouldn't allow her to do it.
Women had survived what the monsters had done. She'd seen them.
As Matthew had finished talking, Ezekiel turned and faced the men once more. "Who among you has the courage?" he asked quietly.
One man did bow his head and start to stand, but his wife clung to his arm. Rachel moved forward. "Jude, no. Ruth has need of you. She's lost too much already."
Matthew turned, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Rachel, but she wondered if maybe he saw something in her eyes. He studied her thoughtfully and then looked back at Jude and murmured agreement. "Indeed, Jude. A man should be able to spend both day and night with his wife."
When no other man made move to rise, Ezekiel said, "So we have not one soul brave enough?"
Rachel swallowed. "I am."
And before Matthew could say a word, she took a knife. Lifting her eyes, she forced a smile at him. "You'd never agree, love."
Chapter TwoHours later, he was swearing bitterly as he made his way through the darkened forest. The torch on the cart did a damn poor job of lighting the way. Although he knew these paths as well as he knew the back of his hand, traveling them in the dark, hauling a heavy load of wine was enough to have his anger returning in waves.
Lifting his eyes to the sky, he studied the angle of the moon. His mouth was dry, his belly was an empty knot and he was not looking forward to being forced into another fight.
It was that thought that made him do it.
Abruptly, Mal dropped the handles of the cart and turned, grabbing some of the wine. Jerking the oiled rag from the mouth of the jug, he tossed it onto the cart. Leaving the cart behind, he moved off the path and dropped onto the damp grass.
Tipping the jug back, he let the cool, sweet wine run down his throat. Damn a fight anyway. As late as it was, maybe they had all drunk themselves blind. After a little bit of wine, they'd never know if they were switched from the good stuff to the every day wine anyway, now would they?
For a moment, the image of Heta's face danced behind his lowered lids.
But instead of pushing to his feet and heading on, he took another drink of wine. Then another. And another. He kept drinking until the edge of his mind went blurry and the anger gnawing at his gut finally eased off.
He never noticed when his lids lowered. When the jug fell to the ground with a hollow thunk, he slept on.
The woman came to him like a whisper on the wind, moving on silent feet through the trees. The wind blew long golden strands of air around her narrow shoulders, across her face. She reached up and brushed a strand out of her eyes, staring at the man sleeping under the tree.
She had sad eyes and as she studied him, her expression grew even more despondent. "I am sorry." She moved a little closer, kneeling on the ground beside him. He did not move as she reached out and touched a finger to his cheek. "I have been watching you."
As she sighed, her breasts rose and fell under the gleaming white of her gown. "Part of me hoped that you would never come to me. Each time I called, you turned it aside. Such a strong man."
The deep red of his hair seemed nearly black under the silvery light of the moon. She had watched him, night after night, as he bedded the lady of the house, and her instinctive fear had warred with curiousity. How would that lovely hair feel wrapped around her hands? To feel that powerful body moving over hers? He never once used a cruel hand-she suspected even if he had not been bedding the mistress, he still would have used such care.
This was not a cruel man.
Did he enjoy making his Mistress cry out in pleasure?
And she had also watched him fight. Yes, she had been watching him for months and months. Fear sometimes forced her to leave, but always, she came back here. To watch him.
He was the one.
Chapter ThreePride Mountain ... for as long as any of them could remember, Pride Mountain had been theirs. Not all of them stayed there, but even those who left, they knew Pride Mountain was home.
It wasn't a true mountain, more of a big hill, but for Michigan, it seemed plenty mountainous enough. And it was theirs ... the mountain itself and the land that stretched around for it for miles.
It had been for years, going back nearly two centuries, almost since the first time people settled in the region.
They didn't like change.
Change could be dangerous-that was one thing none of them ever forgot. Change could bring predators into their midst, for the sake of fame and notoriety, for the sake of fortune ... or for the sake of mayhem.
But it hadn't been them that had brought this latest change.
He had scented it first, the powerful sour scent of fear. The moonlight filtered down through the trees as he wove silently through them. Fear, sweat, blood ... somebody was hurt. Scared.
She was running-he could hear branches snapping, her harsh ragged breathing. A soft cry when she fell. Leaves crunched as she pushed herself back up to her feet.
Soft, desperate little sobs. Those cries barely even sounded human. More like an animal weak and terrified, soft little whimpers and mewls that sounded disturbingly like the plaintive cries of a cougar's young. He knew when the others became aware of her.
Suddenly, he wasn't alone as he moved closer to the source of the disturbance.
He glanced over his shoulder at his dad. Although he was nearly as tall as his father, he had yet to fill yet much. At nineteen, he stood nearly six three and was as lanky as a scarecrow. But he was strong. He knew how to hunt, how to fight.
How to protect.
That was his job. It was their job and they took it seriously.
There was somebody else. Somebody chasing her. He stank-reeked of blood, violence and lust.
"She's hurt," he said, his voice barely a whisper. "I smell blood. He's chasing her."
Nausea roiled through him as he scented something else. Lust. It was like a fever boiling in the man's blood.
His father breathed deeply, his eyes darkening as he murmured, "Yes, I know. Go back to the others. We'll handle this."
We ... his father, Ryan Pride , and the three men that served under him. Not a king, exactly, but definitely the leader. And Duncan would one day take his place.
"No." Shaking his head, Duncan turned his eyes back in the direction of the disturbing scents of blood, fear and violence. Blood, he was used to. After all, they had come up Pride Mountain on this moonlit night to hunt. But he couldn't ever recall smelling such fear.
"No, dad." He shook his head a second time. "I found her. I have to help her."
It was long standing custom-the one who caught the scent of the prey led the kill. But it wasn't so much the kill he wanted, not yet. It was the need to protect.
Behind him, he heard his father's quiet sigh, sensed his frustration. He had to do this, though ... she needed him.
Excerpted from Legends: Hunters and Heroes by Shiloh Walker Copyright © 2006 by Shiloh Walker. 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.