The Untamed One: The Wild Wulfs of Londonby Ronda Thompson
Running from angry villagers and the man who ravaged her, the witch Lucinda flees into the forest to have her child. But Lord Jackson Wulf hunts her down, believing her death will break the family curse that transforms him into a monster. Instead of killing the witch, Jackson is moved by her beauty and desperate plight. And Lucinda seizes the chance to find safety
Running from angry villagers and the man who ravaged her, the witch Lucinda flees into the forest to have her child. But Lord Jackson Wulf hunts her down, believing her death will break the family curse that transforms him into a monster. Instead of killing the witch, Jackson is moved by her beauty and desperate plight. And Lucinda seizes the chance to find safety for herself and her babe when a bargain is struck between this outcast woman and this doomed man—and sealed by their marriage in name only…
In return for his protection, Lucinda has promised that her magick can free Jackson from his torment. But this pretty witch soon finds herself in danger of being seduced by Jackson's charms and pursued by the man who would see both her and her child dead. Can she trust a Wulf with her safety and the safety of her child? Can she trust her heart to Jackson? To surrender to a Wulf is a terrible risk, for love will either unleash the beast within the man...or finally set him free.
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The Untamed One
Book Two in the Wild Wulfs of London Series
By Ronda Thompson
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2006 Ronda Thompson
All rights reserved.
The woods of Whit Hurch, England, 1821
The musket ball had passed through his shoulder. Blood seeped from the wound, warm and sticky against Jackson Wulf's skin. The peasants of Whit Hurch were superstitious lunatics, the lot of them. They chased him now, voices raised in anger, eyes filled with bloodlust to kill him. The village folk believed that he was some kind of beast — a man during the daylight hours, a wolf when the moon sat round and plump in the night sky.
Damn the idiots ... they were right.
"There he is!"
A musket cracked. The ball splintered a tree not an inch from Jackson's face. His fair looks were the one gift he'd been given in his cursed life. "Not the face, you bloody bastards!" he shouted. "Anything but the face!"
Another ball whizzed past, down lower. Not that, either! Jackson thought, and took off again. A woman's high-pitched plea sounded behind him.
"Papa, do not kill him! I love him!"
Sweet Hollis, the barmaid at the tavern he'd frequented these past five nights. Her father owned the tavern and the few rooms upstairs, one of which Jackson had occupied this past week. The daughter had slipped Jackson a free tankard or two behind her father's back. She'd also let it be known that she wouldn't mind Jackson slipping her a little something in return. Jackson had been tempted, as women were one of his many weaknesses, but he'd stayed focused upon his quest.
Women were the crux of his troubles and always had been. A year prior when he'd traveled abroad, Jackson had foolishly given his heart to a young society miss. Lady Anne Baldwin had embodied all that a proper gentleman desired in a wife. Beauty, grace, kindness. He'd become smitten with her, and her ready friendship with a man most of society shunned. In the end, the young woman had never known that she had stolen his heart or that she'd brought his family curse down upon his head.
Centuries past, all Wulf males had been cursed by a witch. Cursed by a witch, and perhaps released from the same curse by a witch's death, Jackson was thinking. Rumors had led him to the village of Whit Hurch, where it was said a witch lived among the villagers. Through careful questions, Jackson had learned that the woman had disappeared some months ago but was thought to be hiding in the woods surrounding the village.
Jackson hadn't found her yet, but he had vowed that he would. His future and the future of his brothers might be tied to killing her. A riddle written within a poem left by the first cursed Wulf instructed that future Wulf males seek out their worst enemy, be brave, and do not flee. If Jackson could find the witch he'd heard once lived in the village, killing her might end the curse for him and his brothers. That was if he managed to stay alive long enough.
Shots sounded behind him. Jackson ran until his brow was beaded with sweat. His shoulder stung and the loss of blood made him light-headed. Glancing up, he noted that the night was still a ways off. Normally, he would not wish the full moon upon himself, but now, in order to survive, he needed the wolf that would rise up inside of him.
It was such a transformation, witnessed by one of the village folk last eve when he thought he was alone in the woods, that had brought him to his current predicament. Jackson couldn't control it. Perhaps he might have learned to live with it if he could, but like his fondness for liquor and women, in the end he always surrendered to a force stronger than his will. No more, he had decided.
Jackson's oldest brother, Armond, had married. A marriage of convenience, or so Armond claimed, but Jackson knew better. If Armond wasn't fully in love with his young bride already, it was only a matter of time. Jackson had decided to save them all.
It was important to him to end the curse that robbed him and his brothers of a normal life. The curse that had robbed them of their parents and of their social standing among London society. Jackson had been given nothing of importance to do in his life ... nothing but this, and he would succeed. He would find the witch and he would kill her if it meant breaking the curse. But the woods were vast, and even his superior tracking skills had yet to lead him to the woman he sought.
Exhausted, Jackson paused, leaning against the trunk of a tree to catch his breath. He wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his fine coat. The breeze picked up, and turning, he closed his eyes and allowed the cooler air to revive him. A scent suddenly drifted to him on the wind. It was a woman's scent. Even slightly befuddled from blood loss, Jackson knew the scent of a woman when he smelled it. His hearing was much more attuned to sound than that of a normal man. He listened.
He heard a soft moan, a slight feminine grunt, and then the sound of ragged breathing. Noises a woman might make while entertaining a lover. Was it the witch? Jackson had trouble believing so, for in his mind the woman he sought was old and ugly. With her scraggly hair and wart-ridden face, the only way such a woman could get a man into bed with her would be to cast a spell over him.
Still, her scent drew Jackson. The smell of woman, of sunshine, of earth and rain, and the subtle scent of honeysuckle and, oddly enough, blood. The sounds of heavy footfalls crushing through the brush, of voices raised in excitement for the hunt, drifted away from him, and all he heard was her. All he smelled was her. She filled him with her presence, lulled him with the soft sounds she made, and he went to her willingly, almost as if fate commanded it.
Weaving in and out of the trees, Jackson fought the pain of his injury, ignored the clotted feel of blood beneath his shirt, and pressed onward. The cottage he stumbled upon a while later was little more than a shack, overgrown with vines so that it was almost invisible against the thick forest wall.
He neither smelled a cooking fire nor saw the tattletale rise of smoke from the cottage's crumbling chimney. He heard no sounds of life, not even among the forest animals. Hackles rose on the back of his neck. The silence was eerie.
The woman was inside; he did sense that much. Jackson reached for the knife he kept strapped to his belt. It was not there. No knife, no weapon. Some killer he was. The village folk had surprised him. He'd barely been able to dress and escape his lodgings over the tavern when they had come for him.
If he must, he'd kill her with his bare hands, Jackson decided. If the woman was in fact the witch he sought and her death meant a normal life for him and his brothers, he could do it. His resolve strengthened, Jackson crept to the cottage door and eased it open.
The lighting inside was dim, but his eyesight was superior to that of a normal man. A woman tossed upon a straw mattress thrown down against the dirt floor. Her knees were bent and spread wide, her legs bare. The large mound of her belly moved beneath a soiled frock bunched around the top of her thighs. No lover did she tryst with, but with the burden of labor.
Jackson's gaze traveled up her swollen body, past the tangled mass of red curls hanging over her shoulders, to her face. Their eyes met, held, and it was as if neither could catch a breath.
"So, you've come for me at last," she whispered. "Kill me, but do not harm the babe. He is innocent."
Hackles rose on the back of Jackson's neck again. If she knew why he'd come, this was the woman he sought. The witch. His greatest enemy. But she did not look as he had pictured her in his mind. She was not old and stooped, with warts and facial hair. She was beautiful. Even covered in perspiration, her hair tangled, and her clothing worn and soiled, her beauty could not be disguised.
Her eyes were the deepest shade of green, like the forest that protected her. The tangled curls that hung past her shoulders were as fiery red as a summer sunset. Although her body was now swollen with child, her bones were small and delicate. Jackson could crush her easily.
"Not yet," she said, as if reading his thoughts. "Let me deliver my child. I beg of you, do not harm him. After you've killed me, take him to a village family. Do not tell them where you got him, only that he is alone and in need of someone to watch after him."
Her words unnerved Jackson. She seemed accepting of his duty. Resigned to her fate but not resigned to the fate of her child. And still, he had trouble believing this was the woman he sought.
"Are you a witch?"
Her gaze narrowed. "You know that I am," she said. "That is why you are here, is it not?"
Pain clouded her eyes before he could answer. She bit down hard on her full lower lip, bringing blood. Her belly bunched and moved and she lifted her hips and pushed but, as his eyes could plainly see, to no avail.
"He's stuck," she finally managed to say as she lay back against the straw, gasping for breath. "The babe needs to be turned. Let me see your hands."
Dazed, by either his own blood loss, her knowledge that he would come for her, or simply having to witness a woman with spread legs in a circumstance far different than he was accustomed to, Jackson lifted his hands for her inspection.
"They will do," she announced. "Your fingers are long and slender, your hands delicate despite your tall frame. You must put them inside of me. You must turn the babe so he will be able to make his journey."
Jackson's fingers had been inside of a woman before, to be certain, but never for the purpose she suggested. Her plea held no appeal to him whatsoever. He frowned down at her and shook his head. "I cannot," he assured her. "I know nothing of these matters."
When pain gripped her again, she grabbed a stick and stuck it between her teeth until the pain passed. "Then do nothing," she panted. "Stand and watch me die, and the child along with me. It will be easier than having to kill us later."
What she said was true enough. Jackson had never raised a violent hand to a woman in his life. That thought had teased him throughout his quest — destruction of the enemy he must face and conquer in order to break the curse. He'd known to emerge victorious he must kill her, but the killing, he'd never allowed himself to dwell upon that ... to question whether he was capable. Had fate played into his hands? But if nature stole her life and he did not, would the curse still be broken?
It suddenly occurred to Jackson that if there was a child, there was a man. Jackson sniffed the air but caught no scent that anyone except the woman had inhabited the cottage.
"Where is the babe's father?" he asked.
Her eyes widened slightly. "You do not know? He did not send you?"
Confused, he shook his head. "No. I've come to kill you for my own reasons. Your foul deeds against my family, or at least the deeds of your kind."
Her labor took whatever response she might have made. Her back arched. Her belly lifted, rippling beneath her gown. A low moan escaped her parted lips. She pushed, pushed, he saw, with all her strength, which wasn't much, and again, nothing happened.
"Have you a weapon?" she panted.
Rather shamefaced, he answered, "No."
The woman frowned. Her pain-filled gaze ran the length of him. "Then it was with your hands you intended to kill me." She struggled up upon her elbows. "Do so now. If you won't put them inside of me, put them around my throat. End this suffering for me. Without your help, the babe and I are doomed anyway."
Mercy killing? To Jackson, it sounded so much better than outright murder. He should end her suffering. Seeing her pain brought him no pleasure, no sense of justice. It sickened him. But to kill her so that her suffering might end ... he could live with that, couldn't he?
He swayed slightly with dizziness as he approached her straw mattress. Jackson kept his gaze averted from her lower half, exposed for his eyes, which might have pleased him immensely under different circumstances. He knelt beside her. She stared up at him, pain evident in her eyes but not fear. God, she had more courage than he did.
"Do it," she urged, then tilted her head back, allowing him access to her slim throat. "I have long suspected that my differences would someday lead me to this end. I accept my fate."
The woman's passiveness angered him. Where were her instincts for survival? Where was her rage that she had been given a life different from everyone else's? Why did she offer him her throat when she should be fighting him to the bitter end? Perhaps she deserved to die. If she valued life so little, why not oblige her?
Her skin was soft, warm beneath his fingers when he wrapped them around her neck. The contact caused a spark, like the air fraught with tension before a storm. She felt it, as well, for her eyes, which she had closed against him, suddenly opened.
"You are different, too," she whispered. "You are not a man. But neither are you a beast. You are both."
There was no call to deny her claims, if Jackson was a little unnerved that she saw him for what he was. His face had served him well in the past — a disguise that hid his darker nature.
"I will be a man again," he assured her. "And nothing but a man when you die by my hand."
She moistened her lips, and he noticed how ripe and pink they were despite the abuse she'd put them through. "But what sort of man will you be?" Her unsettling eyes, slanted, almost feline, studied him. "The sort who can live with himself afterward?" She leaned forward and sniffed at him. "The liquor I smell on your breath tells me the answer to my own question. You will drown in it. In the end, it will make you even less of a man than you are now."
Jackson's grip tightened around her throat. Her words stung him. The truth to them, he supposed. He'd had a nip even this morning when he first rose. He'd told himself only to chase the chill from his bones. He told himself a lot of things since his lust for liquor, and for women, had taken over his life.
Beneath him, the woman gasped in pain. Her hands closed over his. She pressed his fingers against her throat. "Please," she whispered.
Women had begged for his mercy before, but always because they thrashed in pleasure, never in pain. Jackson tried to force his fingers to squeeze. They would not oblige. It was the babe, he told himself. The witch was right. The child she carried was innocent of the mother's sins. Jackson eased his hands away from her throat. Through tear-filled eyes, she stared up at him.
"Whatever you are, it is not as bad as what you become in this moment," she said. "Will you sit idly by then and watch us suffer for whatever sin you think I have committed against you?"
"No," he assured her. Jackson moved down between her legs. It was a place not usually unfamiliar to him but a circumstance nearly beyond his comprehension. "Tell me what to do."CHAPTER 2
Lucinda had wanted to cry when the man removed his hands from around her throat. His refusal to end her suffering quickly did not come as a surprise to her. Men, people in general, seemed to like her to suffer. She was a witch and did not try to disguise the term politely by calling herself a healer, although she did have a certain skill in that area. She had been paid to cast spells, to read fortunes, to deliver children. Her mother had been a witch and her mother before her and on down the line for centuries past.
People shunned Lucinda in the light of day, but then they crept to her cottage in the village under the cover of darkness. They asked for potions to make them more attractive, they fetched her for a birth going badly, for a number of things, but she knew well enough if a crop failed or if the weather turned bitter, she would be the first to be blamed.
Now, when all had been dark and despair, her heart leaped with hope. He would help her ... which made little sense if he also still planned to kill her. Lucinda didn't mind dying so much, but the babe, the innocent taken root by a foul deed done to her while she lay unconscious in the great lord's manor, was not to blame for her sins, or his father's.
She thought that Lord Cantley had sent this man to kill her — to dispose of the child lest he one day pose a threat to the crown — but the stranger had his own reasons to want her dead. She would accept his help now and ask questions later.
"Slide your hands inside of me. Find the babe and turn him. I suspect he is trying to come into the world facing the wrong way."
Excerpted from The Untamed One by Ronda Thompson. Copyright © 2006 Ronda Thompson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Meet the Author
People often ask RONDA THOMPSON what inspires her to write about werewolves. So far, the only answer she has come up with is that she loves dogs and she's been known to howl at the moon. People also wonder how a former rodeo queen and graduate student from the school of hard knocks managed to end up becoming a bestselling romance author. Unlike her wild tequila nights spent in honkey-tonks across Texas, Ronda has wanted to be a writer from the time she could pick up a pencil and write her name.
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Ronda lives in the great state of Texas with her husband and two children, where the stars shine brightly down upon her country abode and she can howl at the moon without the neighbors calling the police. She is currently at work on her next novel in the Wild Wulfs of London series.
Ronda Thompson lives in the great state of Texas. Ronda has been an avid fan of romance for years and is published in several different genres. Paranormal romance is one of her favorite genres to write because anything can happen and usually does! Her books include Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel and The Dark One.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I love the characters! Another good read.
This was pretty much my first romance book I've read and I loved it since the first chapter! I read the whole series, sadly I heard Ms. Thompson passed away july of 07. I recommend this for anyone who wants to escape reality for a while and get a nice and memorable taste of romance.
Enjoyed this book! Didn't think I would like it because it begins with woman giving birth in the woods... I'm glad I picked it up. It was hard to set down. Well written! Entertaining, Funny, too. I'm getting the others by the same author now.
This is part of a trilogy, but began with 'A Wulf's Curse' in the MIDNIGHT PLEASURES anthology. Here is Jackson Wulf's, middle of the Wulf brothers, story, and darn me to heck if this isn't an amazing piece of work.**Jackson Wulf is a self-professed womanizer and drinker, and he's proud of it... until he decides to end his family's curse of the werewolf by killing a witch. Enter Lucinda, who is indeed a witch, but she's also giving birth. Jackson helps her deliver the baby, he runs off after trying to help her with her situation, and that's that. Or is it? Three months later, Lucinda and Jackson meet again and Lucinda promises to help Jackson end his curse. All the while, they battle their attraction to each other by looking for a way to end the curse and raise a baby that's a threat to the English crown. I know I'm not doing the plot justice with my half-approached summary, but I don't want to spoil it. It's full of poignant images and moving shows of real love that I actually have to set the book down and cry a bit. What I really love about this book is that Lucinda calls herself a witch and she's proud of it, that she loves her baby and doesn't care about Jackson's past, and she's a strong woman all around, while Jackson does indeed grow up throughout the whole story. The scene where they make love for the first time and Lucinda is upset because it should be her first time but he reassures her with 'It is your first time. It's your first time with me, and it's my first time with you' has my heart wringing and glowing that love can be found in the pages of a book. Just awesome! I can't wait for the next novel!
I often see readers whine a story should have been this or that way¿sorry, I think they miss the point. You the readers are listening to a storyteller. Ages ago, when the bard stood before fireside and wove tales for entertainment, no one stopped him and said, ¿I don¿t like part change it or I won¿t listen.¿ Would you have told a bard to change the part where King Arthur finds Gwen and Lance together? So I wonder why readers feel they have that right today? Listen up, the world doesn¿t revolve for you. A writer conceives the story, spends months, a year bringing that story to everyone. It¿s her vision, you are just one of many permitted, gifted, for the price of a ¿ticket¿ along for the ride. And Rhonda Thompson gives us one wild ride in the second book of the Wild Wulfs of London. Don¿t confuse this Thompson with Dawn Thompson (also a Dorchester author with The Waterlord, The Falcon¿s Bride and The Ravencliff Bride). Rhonda Thompson pens a nifty character-driven tale, with the story of the second brother of Lord Jackson Wulf. Not content with the inner beast within him, Jackson is seeking to solve the riddle of the curse he and his brothers must live under. He first seeks out a witch, thinking to kill her, and that might possibly end the curse. Easy to do, he assumes, kill a crone. Instead of a hag, he finds the witch Lucinda is beautiful. He comes upon her in the final stages of giving birth. The birth is going badly, and Lucinda fears both the child and she dying. She bargains with Jackson, help deliver her unborn child and promise to provide for it, and she¿d give him leave to kill her. Jackson agrees, but then cannot go through with taking Lucinda¿s life. Men have been sent to kill Lucinda, but more specifically charged with killing both her and her child. They break in and Jackson helps her escape with her son. Lucinda believes in the struggle Jackson was killed, so she goes to London with the plan of passing herself off as his widow. Things go along smoothly, until Jackson shows up and confronts his ¿widow¿. Still thinking of her child¿s welfare, she strikes a hard bargain, in return for lifting his curse, Jackson must marry her and adopt Sebastian, her son. Once the curse was lifted, she promised to go away, leaving Jackson to live his life. Only trouble ¿ Lucinda is a white witch and cannot work black magick and that is what is needed to counter the curse. While the first book in the series was breathtaking, this is more character-driven, and Jackson and Lucinda captured my heart. I applaud Thompson for stepping outside of formula and permitting REAL flesh and blood characters to come alive and control the story. Jackson is a properly tormented, Alpha male, a complex man. His life had been spent, wasted, in typical ton pursuits, and his meeting Lucinda and her child, pulled him from this, saved him. How could he not capture the readers heart when he falls for the tiny baby. These characters are just vibrant, real instead of two-dimensional Regency paper dolls that you often see in this genre. Very highly recommended for readers with discerning taste, wanting something a bit more than formula.
In book two of the Wild Wulfs of London series, Thompson focuses on the second lycanthropic cursed brother, Lord Jackson as he attempts to solve his forebear¿s riddle in order to break free of the beast within him. ***************The opening pages show Jackson seeking out and finding the witch Lucinda -- fully intending to kill the hag in thinking that with the witches death, he and his brothers would be free of an other witche¿s curse. Instead of what he assumed would be a wart-ridden hag, Jackson found Lucinda. A beautiful young witch, in the throes of what looked to be a potentially fatal breach birth. Rather than kill an unborn innocent child, she begged and bargained for Jackson to help her deliver her son and see that he would be provided for -- then he could kill her. After delivering the child Jackson found he could not kill a defenseless woman. Other men hired to find Lucinda and kill the babe did find them and Jackson helped Lucinda escape. Thinking Jackson had been killed Lucinda found her way to London passed herself off as Jackson¿s widow with infant son and was now living the good life and then Jackson showed up. A new arrangement was negotiated. Jackson would marry Lucinda, raise Sebastian as his own in return after she lifted the curse, she would disappear. Unfortunately, Lucinda as a `white¿ witch who could only heal and protect, didn¿t have a clue as to how to lift a curse. Lucinda felt cursed in knowing that in healing Jackson, she would be leaving the child she adored and the one man she herself had come to love.****************** Thompson¿s second entry to her Regency set werewolf paranormal, while not quite as exhilarating as the first book, still had the ability to grab this readers attention from the very first pages. In a brave move from the more common innocent virginal heroine, you are introduced to a woman giving birth to another man¿s child. The fact that the child was conceived via a twisted man¿s rape upon an unconscious innocent immediately supported my initial regard for Lucinda. Later, her inept attempts at casting spells for a myriad of causes furthered my appreciation and pleasure in her character. ************ Jackson was a complicated hero. After years of attempting to live with the curse by drowning himself in liquor and using his unnatural scent and fabulous good looks to seduce and fornicate across London, discovering a woman who didn¿t succumb to his desires was a `wake-up call¿ to his humanity. From the moment he held the tiny life of Sebastian in his hands he was ready to start on the road to recovery. ***************The struggle both made to overcome their fears as each began to hold one another in high regard was paced well with enough narrative to ease both parties into acceptance of one another on a basic level inculding a sensual aspect which was quite inspiring. With the re-emergence of the twisted villain and the final outcome the author had this reviewer standing up to cheer! Bottom line ¿ I believe fans of this new series will find book two a worthy addition to the Wild Wulfs of London saga and I can¿t wait to see what delights are in store for brother Gabriel. ***************Marilyn Rondeau, RIO ¿ Reviewers International Organization***************
In 1821 Lord Jackson Wulf comes to Whit Hurch, England seeking to kill the witch he heard rumors lived in the vicinity. Jackson knows that the curse that changes him and his brothers into monsters can only be lifted by facing and defeating his greatest enemy, which he assumes since a witch cursed the family, means a witch¿s death. Jackson finds his target deep in the forest, but Lucinda begs him to let her deliver her child before he kills her. Jackson agrees to allow her to give birth before he completes his quest by killing her. He assists her with the birth of her son, born of a rape, but immediately loved and cherished by his mother. However, the villagers are after both of them he for sleeping with one of their daughters her because Lord Cantley, father of her infant, said so. --- Jackson is unable to complete his task. Instead he offers a haven for Lucinda and her son, which she accepts for the sake of her child and in return she promises to find the magic to lift the curse. As they fall in love, Cantley demands he return the outlaw witch to him, but Jackson refuses to hand over his wife. --- THE UNTAMED ONE is a fabulous paranormal historical romance with the otherworldly elements used more as a plot device to bring the lead couple together and to propel the fun story line forward. Jackson is a wonderful protagonist stressed between the devastation of the curse especially because of what it will do to his brothers and his love for the witch he must kill. Lucinda is a courageous soul, somewhat inept as a witch, but perfect as the woman for the Wulf. Ronda Thompson provides a mesmerizing Wild Wulfs tale (see THE DARK ONE). --- Harriet Klausner