Valiant Heart, page 1
When the choice is love or loyalty, no matter what she chooses the heart will bleed.
The Order of the Wolf, Book 6
Slay the beasts. Save the day. Such is Ariana’s role in her first mission for the Queen. She has no reason to think the rest will be any different…until, in the heat of battle, she uses her powers to heal an injured Order Huntress.
Her gift doesn’t go unnoticed. Lance, her very own Hunter, zeroes in, and a different battle is on. Lance is hot and very attentive, but this Amazon is determined to stay independent.
Lance has prepared his whole life to battle alongside his mate. Now that he’s found her, nothing and no one else matters. He’s not letting her go.
For the Queen’s second mission—bring the Oracle into the tribe—Ariana risks taking Lance’s bond to get more power. She never expected her body to crave more pleasure, her heart to lower its defenses.
As the battle rages on between Huntresses and beasts, there’s a foul plan in play that will force Ariana to decide where her loyalty lies. The cost of her choice could be a life.
Warning: Contains a squirm-worthy love triangle, plus some scenes of debatable consent between a take-no-crap Huntress and a super-hot playboy with a come-hither smile and a come-multiple-times tongue.
This story came hard and fast right up until I hit a plot problem in the form of a sword. Weeks of hair pulling, weeping, chocolate-eating frustration followed.
I turned to Anne Michaud for counsel many nights when the words just wouldn’t come and she talked me off the ledge again and again. I turned to Michelle von Enckevort who listened to me ramble until I finally cracked the plot and got the words flowing again. So thank you, ladies, for being there when I needed it the most.
Holly Atkinson, my amazing editor, continues to support my vision and totally “gets me”. She challenges me in a way I respect and need, and she’s just a wonderful, funny, amazing lady.
Thanks to Dianne Waye who beta read Valiant Heart quickly, thoroughly and without pulling punches.
Thank you to my husband and children who left me alone when I needed it so that I could get this book done.
And finally, to all you readers who love Lance, I hope I’ve given you a reason to love him more. Thanks for the support!
“What do you see, Ariana?”
“Wolves, beasts, Hunters.” My heart was pounding, my fingers clenching the leather wrapped handle of my sickle, palms sweating. I was so ready for this. “Huntresses in trouble.” I took a step forward.
Greer stopped me with a firm touch to my arm. “Look closer.” Greer extended her hand, elegant fingers tipped with sharpened nails pointing toward the melee.
I narrowed my eyes, zoned in on the fighting. The mansion stood off in the distance, Wolves’ Bane it was called, and Order of the Wolf headquarters. Massive, beautifully ornate, decadent, and in total contrast to the chaos that unfolded outside of it. Bricks now painted by blood.
The beasts were coming out of the strange catatonic state they’d been in, rising up against the one who’d enthralled them. The two Huntresses who’d been entrapped by the same magic shook off the bonds that had held them frozen and jumped into the fray once again, fighting alongside the Hunters, cutting down beasts with each stroke of their weapons. Blood was flying. Beasts were falling.
“The Huntresses are still outnumbered.” And I itched to join them.
Greer turned to me and smiled, her red painted lips looking as wicked as her sparkling green eyes. “Not for long.” She motioned in front of us again. “Cut the beasts down and save the Huntresses, even the corrupted one.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the small army of women behind me. Huntresses all, we’d come prepared to fight, to slay the beasts as was decreed by our Amazon foremother, Alkaia the Great.
“And the Hunters, Greer? What should we do with them?” I asked, a smile creeping, knowing what her answer would be.
She cackled. “Keep them alive too.” She winked. “Never do know what will come of tonight.”
And so we ran into the fray, our twenty, all well-trained Huntresses, battle ready and bloodthirsty. The beasts didn’t stand a chance.
I spun to the left, the side swipe of a gnarled and clawed paw tickling my flesh, reminding me of the danger even though my heart sang and my body trilled like it was a game. I knocked my elbow into its jaw as I turned, the vibration like a jolt through my body as bone met bone. Bringing my arm up and around, I cycled down to swing my sickle so it hooked into the back of its shoulder. Tearing into its flesh, I forced the beast around to face me, reversing its momentum in a dizzying spin. Wild eyes met mine, spittle flying from its gaping mouth, fangs bared. Rage. It roared furiously, rank breath washing over me, and then it dove, claws out to crush my skull. I swung my sickle up again and smashed the handle into its snout. Warm blood splattered as the beast howled, reeling back from me as if it were going to run.
“Nuh uh, beastie, your days end here.” I spun down, avoiding any more flying claws, and hooked my sickle into the meat of its calf before yanking it with a hard pull, the beast’s backward fall a thunderous rumble as it hit the ground in a furry heap. I quickly pulled my weapon free and brought it down to the beast’s throat in an effortless swipe. Stepping back from the bloody fountain, I wiped my blade clean on my leather pants then turned to find my next foe.
Movement caught in my periphery. A beast running. Coward. I took off after it, my lungs burning, my pounding heart, the stitch forming in my side, all making me want to laugh with exhilaration. God, I loved this. The chase, the game. Winning.
I narrowed my gaze on the beast’s back, so intent on my prize that I didn’t see where it was headed, not until it was too late. The young Huntress didn’t see it coming either, didn’t stand a chance. The beast knocked her sword aside, then raked its claws across her face, tearing her from eye to lips in four devastating gullies. She fell, a Hunter suddenly at her side, torn between tending her wounds and attacking the beast who’d maimed her. The werewolf appeared to have no interest in finishing the job. It kept running, as did I.
I pulled my second sickle from my back sheath—this one not as curved, more like a short sword—and pumped my legs faster, bellowing as I launched myself toward the beast to cut it down. My sickle slipped into its rib cage, wedged between the bones. I didn’t let go as we tumbled to the ground. My weight on its back no match, it threw me off mid roll, and made to leap up as if to run again. I crouched low, then sprang, catching it at the waist, hooking my curved sickle into its gut, using our momentum to cut him across, disemboweling him in the process. The beast fell to its knees, insides spilling to the grass in a gruesome mess, the putrid smell making bile rise in my throat. I pulled my blade from its ribs and sank it into the monster’s heart. Instant death. Beast no more.
I scanned the battle. Beasts were dead or dying, the Huntress poison doing its job slowly. A few small skirmishes here and there but nothing that my sisters couldn’t handle on their own. I turned my attention back to the young Huntress who lay cradled in her Hunter’s arms, her face covered in blood, a tattered mess of flesh.
Damn. I guess I should go fix that.
I resheathed both sickles as I approached, hands raised in truce when the Hunter thrust his sword higher.
“I can help her,” I said as I stretched my fingers, turning my hands slightly. “I can mend her wounds.”
The Hunter nodded once, lowered his weapon and returned his gaze to his mate. She was unconscious, thankfully, her wounds
“What’s her name?” I lowered onto my knees.
“Candy,” the Hunter said, his voice gruff.
I nodded then tentatively touched her marred flesh. Candy moaned and thrashed away from me. “I’m going to need you to help me out here.” With a delicate touch, I brought the torn pieces back together, pinching them closed with one hand. “You’re going to need to hold her still while I work, okay?”
The Hunter nodded, then pulled his mate closer into his embrace, leaving her face free for me to work.
“Hold her tight, this is gonna hurt.”
I closed my eyes and started from the bottom, envisioning the wounds, the muscles, the tendons, veins, tissue all coming together, fusing back as one. Her pain radiated toward me through my fingers until they burned. Her screams pulled her from unconsciousness, her struggles tearing my concentration away. I opened my eyes and locked them with hers before squeezing her wounds tightly and forcing her to spasm with agony. Her one good eye rolled back, her eyelid closing once again, the pain taking her down so I could do my work in peace. The look her mate gave me was scorching. I shrugged then returned to the task at hand.
I sucked in another deep breath as I traced a gentle line over the minimal repair I’d already done. It was good work, fine mending, but I’d need to use more power. I dug deep within, searching for the source of my skill, the fire that stoked with my intent to heal. Magic surged across my fingers, like a faint blue flame radiating, static like arcs touching the flesh, eager to mend. I shivered with its intensity, sucked in another breath, heard an echo from above, a gasp of sorts. I looked up to see a blond haired Adonis standing over us, his beautiful body coated in gore, his chest heaving, his eyes blazing.
“You’re mending her flesh.”
I frowned, nodded, suddenly my mouth was parched, my heart thundering, my gaze riveted. The impulse to jump up and hump the man was almost more than I could withstand.
He collapsed to his knees next to me, hands gripping my face, pulling me away from Candy. “My Huntress,” he whispered then pressed his lips to mine and I wanted to eat him alive.
The Huntress pushed Lance back and he fell on his ass, a frown on his face, confusion muddling his brain. “You’re my mate!” And he wanted her, despite the gore, the smells, the bodies all around them, he wanted her pinned beneath his body, her scent in him, on him, bonded, mated, one.
“Yes, yes.” With a stern nod she pointed at the body next to her. “But she needs us.”
Lance gave his head a hard shake, lust muddying his thoughts. “She?” And then he shifted his eyes to really look at the body. It was Candy, her face mangled. “Oh fuck!”
“We have to heal her. I need help mending her wounds,” his Huntress said. “Now.”
Lance scrambled to the side, moving around Jeremy to kneel at Candy’s crown. His mate was already at work, her eyes closed, her power radiating toward him. He followed her lead, assessing the damage from his angle, wincing when he saw the injury to Candy’s eye, knowing that there might be a chance she’d lost it for good. He watched his Huntress work her fingers over the wounds, the weaving a slow process, like tiny threads pulling all the pieces together, crackles of blue electricity arcing from her fingers. A tremendous display of power. He felt a surge of pride. Selfless with her gift, helping Candy without a thought. And he would do the same. With a deep breath, he lowered his fingers to Candy’s eye socket, hovering for a moment before using his own power to gently piece the striped flesh together, and sending a rush of soothing comfort to her so she would feel no pain.
He had no idea how much time had passed, his focus totally on mending Candy’s eye. It wasn’t until his mate’s fingers pressed against his, meeting as their workspace collided that he snapped his eyes open to survey his repair job. His mate met his stare for a brief moment, a smile tugging on her lips as she nodded toward their patient.
“You did it,” Jeremy whispered. “Both of you.”
Lance glanced at Candy’s face, the damage only a faint mark bearing four fine scar lines. Her eye was now intact, although still glassy and unfocused with unconsciousness. He pulled his fingers away and lowered her lid to cover the exposed eyeball.
“Time will tell if that eye still works. You should take her inside to rest, Jer,” Lance said as he shifted to the side, dizziness momentarily knocking at his balance. “You should get the healer to dose her as well.”
With a nod, Jeremy pulled Candy toward his chest, heaved her up into his arms and strode off toward the mansion. The battle had all but ended. The fierce women warriors who’d suddenly appeared helped Kelly dispatch the last of the beasts, leaving none to writhe in the agony of a shallow wound and a slow working Huntress poison. More compassion than the beasts deserved. Lance watched as the women systematically embedded their blades straight into the werewolves’ chests for a killing blow.
“I better go help clean up,” his mate said as she wiped her hands on her leather-covered thighs, doing little to remove the blood from her hands.
He snagged her arm and tugged her toward him. “You’re my mate.” And she was quite the sight, totally not what he’d expected when he’d fantasized about his Huntress.
She was so very different in appearance from any other Huntress he’d ever met. Her tri-color hair—white on top, pink framing her face, black underneath—fell in layered waves past her shoulders, her body compact with muscles that suggested hard fighting, endurance training, field experience. Her stature appeared to be tall, long legs curled under her fine ass as she knelt in front of him. She was all curves too, ample in the right areas and on full display in a tight-fitting halter tank top and leather pants. All black. She wore dark makeup around her eyes, making her irises appear almost black as well. Her lips were painted a vibrant red, her skin paler than seemed healthy. He wanted to explore every inch of her. Treat his mouth to everything her flesh had to offer. Not what he was expecting, no, and so not his type, but very much his.
She frowned and pulled her arm back, forcing him to release her as she pushed to her feet. “So it seems.”
Her expression was one of distaste, like she’d just spat out the bitterest words and something else—regret, remorse, hesitation, desire—all clashed and warred within. His female battled the mating pull.
“Why…” His question hung on his lips, distracted as another Huntress approached.
“Ariana.” The other woman addressed his mate as she came toward them, sheathing her weapon at her hip as she did. “Everything okay?”
Lance stood and moved closer to his Huntress, Ariana, his fists clenching as he eyed the newcomer. His skin prickled with dislike, sensing that this woman was a threat for some reason. “Who are you?”
“Greer.” Ariana rolled her eyes and gave a curt nod in his direction. “This is…” She frowned. “What’s your name?”
“Lance,” he said with a grumble edging his voice. “Your mate.”
The one named Greer snickered in a slow, wholly amused way, before assessing him from head to toe. “Oh really? Well, isn’t that a fine thing.”
Ariana scoffed. “What are the odds?” She crossed her arms, her stance suggesting that she was closed while her eyes said something different. She scanned him as she chewed on her bottom lip. What was that? Nervousness? Intrigue? Not disgust as she was so forcefully trying to project.
“Indeed.” Greer snickered again, pulling Lance’s gaze away from his mate. Greer’s smile was wicked as she dabbed her tongue to the top of her painted lip. “I expect it would be a fun ride if
Fun ride? Lance growled. “What the fuck…”
“Huntresses.” Kelly moved into his field of view, coming up next to him with a gentle touch to his arm. “So many of them.”
Greer snapped her attention to Kelly. “We were scouting the area, came upon your battle, thought you might like some help.”
“You saved our asses,” Kelly said, her voice holding a vibration of awe.
Lance wanted to pull her back, keep her from falling too hard for what this woman was selling. Something was off. He didn’t like it. Scouting? For what exactly?
“Who are you? Where did you come from?” His tone was aggressive, almost angry, his instinct screaming at him to get what was his back into the mansion. His mate needed bonding, Kelly needed rest. He felt responsible for both.
Kelly shot him a hard look before turning her attention back to the women. “I’m Kelly, acting co-leader of The Order of the Wolf. And this is Lance, the other half of my lead.”
“My name is Greer, undisputed commander of Amazon North, serving Queen Valentina.” She motioned behind her where two-dozen women now stood. “We came down from Canada to explore, and like I said, scout.”
“Scout for what?” Lance asked, clenching his fists as he scowled at the woman.
“Huntresses.” Greer smiled as she gave him another scathing once over, like he wasn’t fit to speak. “We’re recruiting.”
“I don’t understand.” Kelly shook her head as she surveyed the women once gain. “Are you here alone? No Hunters?” She looked back at their leader, her confusion clear. “Are you all unbonded?”
Greer’s smile turned wicked once again, a look Lance was learning to despise. “We don’t need Hunters, Kelly, none of us do. It’s the mandate of Amazon North to shed any masculine control, take back what was ours to begin with: our strength, our power. We’ve come to collect more Huntresses, to give you back what was stolen in the Burning Times, when the scholars betrayed their own.”
Other author's books:
- Cursed (The Order of the Wolf)Mayhem: The Order of the Wolf, Book 5
Welcome to BookFrom.Net Archieve
The free online library containing 500000+ books
Read books for free from anywhere and from any device
Use search by Author, Title or Series to find more
Listen to books in audio format instead of reading
Quick bookmark is available by clicking on the plus icon (+)
Bookmark loading occurs by clicking on the arrow icon (<-)