Read an Excerpt
By VONNA HARPER
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2007 Vonna Harper
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMoist heat from the wide-eyed creature's flared nostrils brushed Nari's throat and slid across the top of her breasts. Sensing the wilding was on the brink of panic, she ran her fingers over the short, rough hair covering its broad chest. Standing twice her height, it could easily kill her. Fortunately, wildings were timid grass-eaters, and she understood their unstable nervous systems.
"Listen to me, trembling one," she muttered in the melodic tone that had gentled more wildings than she could count. "You're here because you heard my song. You don't know it yet, but in your heart you want to serve me and the rest of the Baasta."
Perhaps confused by the word Baasta, the wilding pawed the ground.
"My breed," she explained. "My kinsmen, much as your herd, give you a sense of belonging. There are nearly two hundred of us now, living safely in timber houses we placed against the side of a mountain." Confident that the wilding wasn't about to rear, she rested her hand against the chest so she could feel the strong, quick heartbeat.
"Do you hear your own song? This constant pulsing means you're alive. And soon our hearts will beat together. No longer will you have to forage for food throughout Hevassen while meat-eaters try to feed off your flesh. Do you understand?Once you accept my people as your lords, you'll live safely." Leaning closer, she expelled her breath near the wilding's nostrils.
"No longer will you be allowed to run free because we've found many uses for your kind, but we'll protect you. You'll grow fat and give birth to many babies." Obviously not convinced, the wilding backed away, but Nari kept pace, her bare feet whispering over the late summer grass. "Look at this land we share. The ground and sky blesses Hevassan. Everything we plant flourishes. There's abundant rain, and yet it hasn't flooded since we came here. Except for the savages who are more animal than human, we have no enemies." No longer, praise be. "This rich gift from the Divine Eternal is home to both human and animal, an area of peace, different from so much of Punta."
At the word peace, she slid her fingers into the long, thick hair growing between the wilding's small ears. As the animal relaxed, Nari took in her surroundings. Wise in the ways of wildings, she'd spent yesterday riding her own beast to the nearby low country lake. Because she'd been there numerous times, she knew it was a popular watering place. Punta's twin suns had been rising when she spotted two wildings down on their front knees, necks stretched toward the water. Although she could have sung her hypnotic mind-song to both creatures, she'd chosen this young female because it was pregnant. She'd tethered her own wilding a distance away because she wanted the pregnant female to concentrate on her.
Life was indeed good, peaceful except for the savages who, according to the scouts, were currently in their caves in the northern part of Havassan. With nothing to concern herself with, she could spend the day teaching the wilding the meaning of the word trust. And when she returned home, she'd take her pick of the twenty-some single men, all of whom were eager to quiet the humming between her legs. At the moment she couldn't think who she might choose to fuck, let alone agree to spend the rest of her life with but-
Snorting, the wilding threw up her head. Nari shielded her eyes from the two blood-red suns and studied her surroundings. What was that faint roar? Torn between keeping her latest acquisition with her and concentrating on the sound, she tried to determine the direction it was coming from.
"Stay!" she ordered. "Take my command into you."
Although the wilding shivered, the female stood her ground. After giving her a comforting pat, Nari hurried up a nearby rise. As she did, her sleeveless hide dress rode nearly to her buttocks, increasing her awareness of her deeply tanned legs. A number of bright blue birds flew from a nearby tree, their wings and cries drowning out everything else. For a moment she was swept back to the time of the Baasta's enslavement, but they'd been free for many seasons. Free! Able to run or stand and fight as they chose. Free to make Hevassan their home.
Because to do otherwise was foolish, she carried a knife made from a night beast's thigh bone. Drawing it out of its holding bag at her waist, she gripped it in her long fingers. Because of her unique skill with wildings, she seldom hunted and had only once been involved in a battle with the savages, but she knew how to defend herself.
No, not savages!
Looking like angry insects boiling out of their home, something she'd never before seen came into view. Although she couldn't say how many there were of the sturdy, two-wheeled objects, their speed was alarming. And their direction.
Free hand at her throat, she spun toward the trembling wilding. "Hear me! No matter what happens, you must stay with me. Let me onto your back. When I command, you will run as you have never run."
Whirling back around, she ordered herself not to give in to panic. Who or whatever the newcomers were, she had to learn all she could about them. Gripping the knife with white knuckles, she again shielded her eyes. The newcomers were now close enough that she could see they were human and astride the screaming things. Taller and narrower than wagons, they had seats resembling saddles upon which the riders sat. The riders gripped chest-high horizontal bars that they turned one way or another to change direction. As for what made it possible for the things to move so quickly-
The furious insectlike roaring intensified. Her heart felt as if it had lodged in her throat. Biting down on a scream, she sprinted for the pregnant wilding, sheathing her knife so she'd have use of both hands. When she tried to pull the wilding's head down in preparation for jumping onto her back, the wilding reared. A hoof struck her calf, and she nearly fell.
"No! No!" She forced a calm tone. "Don't be afraid, gentle one. Your legs are swift, your back strong, your heart healthy. Take courage from those gifts. Feel my love for you and know you're safe."
Whether the wilding believed her didn't matter. What did was distracting her long enough to spring onto her broad back. As she did, pain from her injured calf made her gasp, but she hauled herself upright.
Then, although her entire being screamed at her to flee, she stared, not at the mysterious things, but at the newcomers astride them. She couldn't tell how many there were, perhaps thirty. All were male and wearing dark cock-cloths. Some had covered their chests with the same material, but the majority were naked from the waist up. All wore bulky belts that no doubt held their weapons.
The man in the lead was larger than most Baasta, not heavy but densely muscled. Young. Shoulders so broad and arms so thick they alone could serve as weapons. He carried himself with the pride and self-confidence of a male night beast. His ebony eyes seared into hers.
Then she noted his flowing hair. Silver!
Terror wrapped around her, and she dug her heels into the wilding's sides. "Run! For everything that's sacred, run!"
Squealing, the wilding tucked her head against her chest and leaped. When the wilding landed, Nari's head snapped back. "Run! Run for your life!" And mine.
Instinct took over, compelling her to urge the untamed animal toward a grove of nut-bearing trees. She managed to keep her mount going straight by pressing her hands against both sides of the solid neck, then stole another look at her pursuers.
Yes, silver hair! Centrois hair!
Even worse, the leader had already closed perhaps half the distance between them. A cry clogged her throat, but she didn't waste time or energy giving it freedom.
Swinging back around, she frantically scanned the rapidly approaching trees. Yes, a narrow opening among the heavy branches! After correcting the wilding's charge, she again glanced at the man she hated and feared with everything in her.
So close! So dangerous!
If he was angry, he hid the emotion. Instead, he appeared sure of victory. Of course! He fully believed he was only moments from capturing or killing her. Drawn deep into his gaze, she found determination-and something else.
No! She wasn't his possession.
Although her silent cry fed her determination to escape, reality settled over her. The Centrois were conquerors. They believed that anyone who wasn't one of them had been placed on this planet of many contrasts to serve them. The lot of a young woman like herself was simple.
If he got his hands on her, he'd make her into his lust-chattel.
Unless she killed herself, or him.
He responded by baring his teeth. Yes, his body language insisted. Yes, I will have you.
Grinding her heels into the wilding's sides, she repeatedly slapped its neck. "Run! Run as you never have."
The tall, close-bunched trees surrounded her. Trusting her mount to find its way through the maze, she again regarded her pursuer. The contraption he rode hadn't been designed for quick twists and turns. Not only did he have to nearly stop in order to change direction, but he also didn't know his way.
Praying to the Divine Eternal, she waited until she spotted an opening to her right. At the last instant, she turned the wilding into it.
The Centrois leader roared past. Cursing, he stopped, jerked his thing around, and started after her. Fortunately, there'd been a heavy rain two days ago, and his wheels sank into the mud. If he hadn't been so strong, he might have been thrown to the ground. As it was, he leapt off just as the thing fell onto its side. He reached into something at his waist and pointed what resembled a short, thick, shiny stick at her.
"Free!" she yelled at him.
For now, she heard as clearly as if they'd been standing side by side. You do not yet belong to me.
Chapter Two"I was wrong to think this place had only four-legged animals in it. I nearly came just watching that woman."
Intent on pulling his sun-powered moto out of the mud, the Centrois warlord Tarek barely glanced at his fellow explorer. J'ron was three years younger and full of a young man's boastfulness and hot blood. Even so, it bothered Tarek that J'ron's thinking went no further than fucking.
And yet hadn't he just had the same thought?
"Did you see her hair?" He addressed not just J'ron but the rest of the warriors who'd caught up to him.
"Red. Like Punta's suns."
Tarek nodded to acknowledge his brother's somber response and waited for Saka to continue.
"Baasta hair," Saka said, loud enough for everyone to hear. As the gasps died away, he continued. "Yes! We've found those who thought they'd escape their destiny. After all these seasons ..."
Leaving his moto, Tarek faced his brother. "After all these seasons, we have found our father's killers."
As the others muttered acknowledgment, Saka shook his head. Although Saka had been a small boy when the accursed Baasta had run away, the image of their mortally wounded father had been burned into his memory. It was even worse for Tarek. Just eight years old at the time, he'd broken free from his frantic mother and risked his life running through the fighting Centrois and Baasta to reach his father's side. One look at the deep knife slashes had told him everything-his father was going to die. Choking on tears that even then he knew a warrior couldn't shed, he'd looked around.
His father's killer had stood nearby, a young and handsome creature who wore a chattel's brand on his right shoulder. Even after all this time, Tarek remembered the look on the Baasta's face-not triumph and hatred, but resignation.
"I'm sorry," the Baasta had whispered. Then he'd clamped his hand to his side in an attempt to staunch his own blood flow.
Wounded. Even dying, his father had managed to slash the slave. The single cut was so deep that it had exposed a rib bone. "Die!" he had screamed in grief. "Die!"
"Brother?" Saka asked, pulling him back to the present. "What are we going to do?"
Tarek set his features so no emotions showed. How many times had he relived the horrific day that had set him on his path to become warlord? Although the answer crowded his mind, he shoved it away and drew on an image of the flame-haired female who'd just escaped. Because she wore a bare minimum of clothing, he'd easily seen that she was in her prime. His penis strained against his cock-cloth as he looked ahead to when he'd cut the hide dress off her, wrap her body in his ropes, and teach her to serve him.
There was no embarrassment in being aroused, and he wouldn't be surprised to see the same condition among his fellow warriors. They hadn't brought any lust-chattel with them, and after spending much of the summer exploring where no Centrois had ever been, they were all horny.
She had a chattel's blood and was not a laboring creature useful for construction or field work; she was destined to sexually service her master. Even with the need to keep his attention on where he'd been going-or rather had been trying to go-he'd memorized her form. Her dress was short and made for freedom of movement, which meant her lean legs had been bare. He'd clearly seen her muscled calves and thighs as she clung to the amazing creature under her. How could someone so slender ride such a large and powerful beast?
If she'd been afraid of her mount, he'd seen no sign. Instead, the way she'd leaned against it made him wonder if their hearts beat as one. Her sun-heated hair had trailed behind her as if riding on wind currents, and her every move spoke of freedom's joy.
No longer! Her days of denying her destiny were coming to an end-hers and every other Baasta. Those who resisted would die.
Even as his fingers ached with the need to bury his knife in hated Baasta flesh, he knew he wouldn't kill her. No matter how fiercely she fought, in the end she'd kneel before him, naked and broken, his.
"We will follow her," he ordered. "The mud will make it easy to track her."
J'ron snorted. "Has she crawled under your skin, Tarek? One look at her and you must have her?"
"I want every living Baasta, and so should you. It's our destiny, spoken by the Divine Eternal when he created Punta."
"But mostly her. Look at you." J'ron pointed. "Your cock speaks the truth."
Even as Tarek ignored the hot-blooded young warrior, he wondered if J'ron was right. As warlord, he'd claimed several lust-chattel for himself and could have more if he wanted. A man who has his choice of females shouldn't care about acquiring yet another, but this creature intrigued him.
It wasn't just the way she'd outraced him, or even her healthy body. Or even because she was a Baasta and he'd been looking for them since he'd become old enough to shoulder the weight of revenge. The female was a wild animal needing to be tamed.
Maybe someone who would die rather than submit?
He indicated the motos. "These have changed our lives. Because we've tamed the suns and taken their energy for ourselves, we are exploring places that have always been beyond our comprehension." He wanted to thank the Divine Eternal and say something about the elders who'd learned how to use the suns' heat to power equipment and other inventions such as the motos, but his men already knew that.
He spread his arms to take in their surroundings. "This land will belong to us. Those who killed and escaped will no longer be free. We will have our revenge!"
Shouts echoed around him. These thirty Centrois were like the night beasts who ruled with fangs and claws. None of them would be satisfied until the Baasta had been brought to their knees-or dead.
With all her heart, Nari wished she was anywhere but where she now stood-and that she didn't have to speak. But she had no choice.
Studying her family, friends, and the rest of those who made up the Baasta, she extended her arm, indicating she was ready to speak. Voices faded away as everyone looked up to where she stood on the platform reserved for public speaking or important announcements. Behind her were the many sturdy structures made with hardwood logs and placed on stone foundations where the Baasta all lived. Because the population continued to grow, new houses were always being built, and each spring the gardens expanded. Lately people had been talking about the need to develop a new village a short distance away.
Excerpted from ROPED HEAT by VONNA HARPER Copyright © 2007 by Vonna Harper. 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.