Beast, page 1
Table of Contents
Holly S. Roberts
Holly S. Roberts
Copyright © Holly S. Roberts 2019
Cover by Fantasia Frog Designs
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be multiplied, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by whatever means. Electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without express written permission of the writer. This eBook is licensed for your use only.
This is a work of fiction. ALL characters are derived from the author’s imagination.
No person, brand, or corporation mentioned in this Book should be taken to have endorsed this Book nor should the events surrounding them be considered in any way factual.
I ignore the tangy smell of blood that trails down my face while continuing my mad dash through the dark, dense jungle. Teeth of a sharp, prickly branch slice my other cheek. I wince internally when my salty sweat hits the bloody scrapes that now cover most of my face. Sweat also trails between the rough, inch-long hairs covering my body, leaving a distinct scent trail to follow. Right now, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve done a fairly good job at keeping my breathing even so my sensitive ears pick up the slightest noise and alert me to danger. While running, I’m planning. Upon seeing the perfect place to hunker down and wait, my course of action is suddenly clear.
Danger. Close. Ms. Beast whispers inside my head.
Too close, I snarl back, darn her.
Kill. Her whisper sends shivers through my entire body.
I change direction slightly to avoid a small open area, slow my pace, and head for a thicker crop of trees and brush. Sniffing the air with my elongated snout, I pick up nothing out of the ordinary. Of course I’m not being pursued by someone ordinary, and there’s no way I’ll let down my guard.
Plenty of smells but not the ones I’m trying to differentiate, I tell Ms. Beast.
Of course there’s danger, that’s why I’m here. I melt into the brush and slow my breathing even further until it’s indiscernible from the sounds of the night—a razor-sharp knife held in my wicked claws at the ready. Or at least I feel ready.
The wait seems interminable, and I’m growing restless when the attack comes silently from my right. The force of the large body hitting me throws me into the air, and I end up on my back. Hard. I’m up and in my defensive stance with no air in my lungs—the will to live greater than my immediate need for oxygen.
He’s fast. I’ll give him that. As soon as my body met earth, he was on the move and ready to end my relatively young life. His kick catches my wrist, and the knife flies. Darn claws, I’m still having trouble compensating and holding the correct grip no matter how many hours I train at it. Not good and my error won’t help me now. I change position, and my next kick strikes him in the upper thigh, hard enough to crack bone. Doesn’t stop him. His fist slams into my head above my left ear, and stars float in front of my eyes. I barely manage to block the next jab of his fist. This time, I drive my claws into his side, hoping to hit a vital organ. They slice through flesh and muscle, bringing a strong grunt from deep in his throat.
Hurt, didn’t it?
The solid, ham-fisted blow to my shoulder reminds me that celebrating early isn’t in my best interest. I shift my stance, then turn and go for both his legs, sweeping them from under him. His grunt is louder this time, and he loses his ability to breathe at the same instant a blessed rush of air fills my lungs.
What I don’t expect is the attack from behind. Why wouldn’t I expect this you might ask? I only thought I was being hunted by one person, and this is the punishment for my error in judgment.
The new attacker’s first blow is a wicked kidney punch that bends me double. Even though I’m trying to catch my breath, I spin away from the monster on the ground to face the new threat. He comes at me with the force of a raging bull—almost five hundred pounds of packed muscle, claws, and wickedly sharp teeth. The only defense is to go with the momentum of our bodies as they crash. I’m the unfortunate one who lands on the bottom. Arms and legs wrap around mine securing me in place, but I’m not finished. I evade the snapping jaws and bring my powerful legs up while lifting my hips and capturing him around the shoulders. I thrust my entire body into a side roll. It doesn’t break his hold until I thrust my claws deeply into his arm muscle.
I’m free. The slight crunch of crisp leaves has me spinning with a roundhouse kick at my first assailant’s head. It catches him in the jaw, making him shake his humongous snout.
A punishing kick to my hip has me spinning again. I somehow locate the knife I dropped earlier and with all the force I have, I drive it into the second assailant’s thigh, sending him back to the ground. Then I freeze at the cold steel against my throat.
“Move, I dare you,” the monster whispers in my ear.
“You sent Beck to even your odds, that’s cheating,” I whine.
The steel at my throat doesn’t stop its hard press against my flesh. “You are getting too full of yourself and continue making stupid mistakes.”
“Give her a break, King,” Beck groans from five feet away.
A stream of blood trails down my neck caused by King’s knife. Without a sound or giving away the intention of my next move, my hand comes up shockingly fast, and I push my fingers between the blade and my throat. Sacrificing those digits, I roll again while pushing the blade away and strike with the knife still held in my good hand. A sharp cry from King, the big baby, is music to my ears. Using my foot, I kick away his knife after he drops it because my fingers and claws are hanging by a thread from my hand. I back up to keep both men in my sights.
Kill, whispers Ms. Beast.
Oh, shut up, I snap back silently.
Beck grumbles loudly, “I don’t know about you, King, but I’m tapping out. I’ll leave you two lovebirds to your courting frenzy and get some gentle mothering from my woman.”
“Tap, tap,” grumbles King.
I lower the knife and smile—my jaws inch up and out at the corners, displaying sharp teeth in a wicked grin that would send most people running for safety.
“I’m improving,” I say with pride.
Beck laughs, which is something he’s done a lot lately. “Yes, you can kick all our asses and teach us a thing or two. The stab to my thigh came close to guaranteeing I never father children or have a way to keep Missy satisfied.”
King finally stands while holding the slice I laid open on his hip together as best he can. He turns to Beck. “If there were ten of you, that woman would never be satisfied. Add the Hellspawn and you have monsters worse than hellhounds.”
I give full attention to my mate compressing my forehead in annoyance. “Don’t c
King wraps his bloody arm around my shoulders and pulls me in close. “If Axel won’t, I’ll fillet him, and we’ll have a midnight snack.”
I rub my jaws against his and sink into the warmth of his body. “You always know exactly what to say to a girl.” King’s claws delicately scrape across the leather straps at my chest, sending a distinct tremble to my lady parts.
“I’m out of here,” Beck says and disappears into the night.
“How bad are those fingers?” King asks huskily.
“Figures,” he whispers.
“I’ll be as good as new in a few hours.” I flick mud off my face. “And cleaner too.”
“How did Ms. Beast do with the double attack?” He pulls me closer and stares into my eyes, searching for my Warrior side.
I slowly blink and allow King a peek. “She still insists I kill you, though this time she wanted Beck’s blood too.”
He laughs because he argues with his beast side all the time and truly understands the duality of what I’m going through. Beast is our animal side and when stressed, our beasts think the solution to fighting is death to our opponent. My beast complicates things when the death she wants is my mate’s. I don’t actually think Ms. Beast would kill him, but she does love the chase regardless of whose side she’s on.
“What about the mating frenzy and Beck attacking me?” I ask because the men are usually very careful to never get near enough that we’d actually touch. The last thing they want is King tearing them limb from limb.
His jaws turn down in a frown. “I’ll avoid Beck for the rest of the day so I don’t end up killing him.”
“You do that.”
He takes my injured hand within his meaty paw and examines it closely. “You’ll heal but stitches will help it go faster so we can do this again tomorrow night.”
I inhale his scent, filling my lungs with the man who holds my heart. “You love the hunt.”
He tips my head back and peers into my eyes. “I love hunting you.”
“Would you have it any other way?” he asks with a smile in his words.
“A little gentleness goes a long way,” I grind out between very human teeth. I shifted from my Warrior form as soon as we entered the citadel. I hate the tile floor when I walk across it with three-inch nails jutting from my feet. King laughs at me whenever I grumble about it. Of course he’s had more time to grow accustomed to a Beast form that’s more than two feet taller than our human one. Also the whole jaw thing which reminds me of an alligator. Add in the stiff bristles of inch-long hair covering my body, and I’m not exactly pretty in Beast form.
King wraps the cloth around another time and tapes it securely. His head is tilted down, but he glances up when he’s finished, and my breath catches. His incredible crystal-blue eyes heat me from the inside out, and I forget that my fingers are attached more by sutures than flesh.
“You never complained while I worked on my needlepoint,” he teases softly.
I put my forehead against his, breathing the air he expels, absorbing the incredible essence that makes him uniquely mine. My voice is little more than a whisper. “Because that hurt like crazy, and I was trying to breathe.”
He pulls away slightly, his eyes poignantly searching mine, then leans in and takes my lips. I fall into the kiss like its water and I’m dying of heatstroke. His taste travels through my body, settling into that unsatisfied place between my thighs. We’ve been busy lately, and all we can manage are short, stolen moments like this.
A slight squeak of the door that we didn’t shut all the way warns us we aren’t alone. It’s Labyrinth, one of King’s guard. His eyes make you look twice—one blue, one green. He’s also a huge goliath of a man and when you add in beautiful eyes, it’s an odd combination. His square jaw, full lips, and lethal persona are common among the Shadow Warriors. Labyrinth, as one of King’s guards, is deadly. Though, right now, he just looks sheepish.
His voice steals our quiet moment. “Danger Will Robinson. We can’t find the Hellspawn and Che’s missing too.” He looks at me, grimaces, and mumbles Ruth’s name because everyone knows I dislike when they call her Hellspawn. The problem is, the name fits so well because somehow, someway, the devil or one of his demons fathered that child even if her mother denies it.
With a loud groan of frustration, I jump from the table and race out the door, muttering the tortures I will lay on Ruth’s head if anything happens to Che. I charge to the courtyard, King stomping heavily behind me. He’s quiet and deadly in the forest but give him some good tile to demolish, and he’s all over it. We’re both just about finished with Ruth and her endless shenanigans. The entire colony of Shadow Warriors is aware she’ll be the death of us. We also know it won’t be a pretty way to go.
The courtyard holds two answers. Ruth’s small motorbike is missing, a gift courtesy of Beck, and Che’s bicycle is in its place. This tells me Che is riding shotgun because there’s no way he would stay behind. With another deep-throated growl, I leave the safe walls of the citadel which is now our home away from home.
When I first arrived in Cuba, King set up the citadel as cover to give me an incomplete view of the Shadow Warrior world. It served its purpose then. Now it’s our training and medical facility. Axel, our one and only physician, is busy teaching a select group the ways of medicine. He helps everyone on the island, but he’s Shadow Warrior, and the warriors alone keep him busy. Add in our human population and he’s overextended. With some good human prospects, he’s actively training them in everything from childbirth to broken bones. He also travels the island attending the people unable to come into the city. It’s turned him into a tired and cranky man.
He needs a mate, and it’s something I plan on pursuing.
His lack of a love life is one of the reasons he exploded the last time I was injured or so I tell myself. A simple dislocated collarbone did not deserve his chilling condemnation, and it was ten times better once he popped it into place. I’m still reeling from his verbal assault, and he’s lucky I didn’t bite off his face. If his mind was on a woman, he wouldn’t be so grouchy.
Or at least that’s what I tell myself. Between our medical situation, fighting hellhounds, and preparing for war with the US Federation, we’re all overextended. King works nonstop to increase my abilities as a Shadow Warrior along with everything he does as leader of the Warriors. The man never stops.
For the first twenty-odd years of my life, I thought I was human—an anxiety-ridden, waste of space—if you want to know the truth. I didn’t adapt to the new world once the hellhounds annihilated most of humanity, and I was smart enough to know it. My father, through his work for the Federation, kept me alive. Today, there’s little left of that scared young woman, at least on the outside. I’m only just learning to control my new Warrior body and the full abilities that go with it. King, my mate, the one stomping and huffing behind me, finds that worrying.
“Where do you think they are?” he asks through clenched jaws that might break if he isn’t careful.
“I’m sure they’re hunting hellhounds no matter how many times we tell them no. Che’s mother will kill me when she finds out.”
“Can’t we just put Ruth in front of her and solve all our problems?”
I’d laugh but it might not be a joke. Che’s mother, Maylin, is assisting Axel as his nurse, and she has baby Boot, a six-month-old child, with her. Che, who just turned six, is in my care while his mother and little brother are gone. “I’ll think of an appropriate punishment for Ruth, and it won’t be turning her into Maylin’s punching bag.” Everyo
For now, King and I have bigger problems, and my worry that both kids could be hurt or dead, drive me on no matter how weary I am. Over the last six months, hellhound sightings have dropped substantially, but they’re still roaming our island, and now two idiotic kids are trying to prove their killing abilities. Sadly, they’ve come by their skills without training. They both lost their fathers to hellhounds, and they’ve been on a mission to kill everyone they can find. Ruth is ten going on fifty, and Che worships her. My hands burn to get ahold of them. They will learn to follow orders, or they will become permanent kitchen staff and not just the week I punished them with the last time they pulled a stupid stunt.
We keep running, and our soft breathing fills the night. King teases me about my clumsy footing even though I’ve improved my non-leaf-crunching ability and can now move almost as quietly as him. Even with my advancing skills, he worries about me. I understand. I’m not fully comfortable with my new form and all that goes with it. For that reason, I’m pushing myself to the point of daily exhaustion. I will never remove the images of the years I lived as a robot doing nothing to help civilization survive. The sad truth is I was too afraid to step outside my cozy little protected box.
Now that I’m a Shadow Warrior, I’m making up for lost time or at least trying to. I still suffer self-doubt at very inopportune moments. With a shake of my head to quash thoughts of the old me, I open my sensitive ears to the sounds around us.
With the island’s reduction in hellhounds, mice and other small rodents are more abundant. The hounds killed everything living they could sink their teeth into, causing a huge reduction in our small animal inhabitants. Now that’s changing again, and the eco system is improving. In our new turbulent world, we have no idea how long this will last, and we’re taking advantage as best we can. Our food production has doubled, and we’re hoping to have a good crop for long-term storage after harvest.
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