Here are my top ten picks for the best of the year. JR Ward - Lover Awakened. Angst at its best. Signet Eclipse. The third installment in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, Awakened sees tormented Zsadist find light after years spent in darkness.
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Hssrdan : Hybrid race, saurian-human. Most authorities believe the Hssrda were created as slave-soldiers by the Firsters, using the magical craft referred to in the ancient texts as "gene-splicing".
See Ballads, Traditional. Excerpt from the Great Encyclopedia, compiled by Miriliel the Burnished. There was a beautiful man below, bathing in the pool. Anje settled herself against the warm rock at her back and stared down into the sheltered valley. Mother be praised, there was nothing wrong with her eyes!
The action lifted his ribcage in an elegant sculpture that flowed from chest to flat belly to slim, strong thigh. With his fists held high over his head, she could even make out the soft patches of auburn hair tufting his armpits. When his head finally broke the water, his red-gold hair was wet copper, plastered to the strong shape of his skull.
Just a little longer, a very private indulgence. She studied the tethered vranee cropping contentedly at the underbrush, their feathered necks gleaming in the afternoon sun.
Two sturdy pack beasts and two stallions, one black, the other that turquoise under smoke color so prized throughout the Ten Nations. The man stroking across the pool was a fool. Despite herself, she shivered. The mage was successful beyond his wildest dreams-or nightmares. As they climbed from the vat, his reptilian creations devoured him with relish, piece by screaming piece. And now, thousands of years later, the Hssrda still feasted on human flesh and misery, so alien, so other, as to be beyond understanding.
It was still, save for the jingle of harness and an occasional splash. Such sheer exuberance was engaging. Three years to be precise. Deklan used to laugh like that when she rode him hard, raking his skin with her nails, loving him, loving the brutal climaxes she wrung from him.
But Deklan was long gone, his throat a fountain of blood in the clawed fist of a Hssrdan. Swallowing hard, she put the hideous memory aside, replacing it with the delicious sight of taut, muscled buttocks, gleaming like ivory as the swimmer turned and dived. He emerged shaking the drops from his hair in a great plume of spray. Anje leaned forward, her mouth watering, and the hard twist of old grief receded, like a scar settling soft and deep in her flesh.
The breath drummed in her chest, ruching her nipples to needy points. Mother, how she longed for home! Her lips twisted. Not long now. She had no time for dalliance, no matter how enticing the object. But for now. When he paused, treading water, and glanced back over his shoulder, her gaze followed his. A second man emerged from the tent. The breath left her in a gusty rush. Mother have mercy!
Where the first man was lithe and compact, this one was a giant, as dark as his companion was fair, with black hair that fell to his shoulders, soft and straight as rain.
He wore black leather trousers that clung to his body like a second skin. Even at this distance, Anje could see the snug way they molded his powerful thighs and the bulge of his groin. His chest was massive, furred with dark curls, his shoulders the width of a temple door.
He stood on the projecting rock and reached down a hand as Red stroked to the edge to meet him. Anje stifled a whimper. But the dark warrior merely steadied Red and said something she was too far away to hear.
He swatted him on the rump and strolled back to the tent. Red stood on his rock, a grin splitting his face. Still enjoying his private joke, he stretched out on his back and closed his eyes, turning his face up to the Sun and its Shadow.
The light glinted gold on the fine hair on his chest. Anje smoothed a hand over her aching breasts and pressed her thighs together. Goddess, he was as lovely as a pleasure slave! Then, oh then. One hand snaked beneath her loose, mud-stained trousers. All of it. Almost as though he felt the weight of her gaze, he rolled his hip toward her so her view was unobstructed.
Red circled his palm over the broad head and it jerked against his belly. He pressed two fingers under the glans and worked the foreskin up and over. His eyes fluttered open and Anje thought his chest rose and fell in a sigh.
The muscles in his throat corded. Languidly, he ran his palm down the full length and back up again. She could see a shiver run over his skin. The sculpted muscles of his chest expanded as he dragged in a breath. Panting, she leaned forward. His head fell back and his eyes slid shut. A flush climbed from the level of his nipples up to his throat and cheeks.
His brows drew together in concentration and his free hand clenched and opened, clenched and opened. Beneath her grubby clothing, Anje smoothed trembling fingers over her belly and furrowed through her pubic hair till she found slick, hot flesh.
She was so wet her thighs were smeared with her own juices. Swallowing a moan, she circled her fingertips over the swollen bead of her clit, pressing hard. Red was gasping now, his hips arching, buttocks hollowed with tension. His hand was a moving blur. Anje bit her lip, concentrating. Almost, almost. What was that? Something had moved on the periphery of her concentration. She froze, listening, extending all her senses.
Yes, there. Anje drifted back into the brush, abandoning her pleasure with no little regret. It was a sad truth that careless scouts led short lives of great excitement.
When the attack came, it was from behind. She barely saw him coming, he moved so fast. A steel band circled her ribs, clamping her arm to her stomach and a hard hand clapped over her mouth.
She was lifted clean her off her feet. The man grunted with satisfaction, his breath warm against her ear, and strode off down the slope as if she weighed less than nothing. The shock of it held her immobile for an instant.
Mother strike her for her stupid lust! More furious with herself than with her captor, she twisted her long, lithe body with the agility of a trained warrior, reaching for the knife strapped to her forearm. But the man merely grunted and jammed a brawny arm across her throat.
Cursing, she dug her elbow into his midriff, but she might as well have assaulted a wall. Red came out of the tent, wearing trews and lacing his shirt, still grinning his damn head off.
She growled, deep in her throat, almost beside herself with rage and self-disgust. Fear ran chilly fingers down her spine, but she set her jaw and ignored it. Panic would profit her nothing. Amusement shone clear in his face and it seemed to her it was an expression he wore often. His features were made for laughter, from the absurd splash of freckles across his nose and cheekbones, to the quirky tilt of his red-gold brows.
Only a knotted scar on the side of his jaw and a seriously carnal lower lip belied the first impression. The rough coil of her hair sagged and came slowly free, unraveling till it fell almost to her waist. She palmed her knife and slashed at the hand on her arm, but the dark warrior shifted his grip to her wrist and the blade clattered to the ground.
She was accounted tall among her peers, but the top of her head reached only to the middle of his massive chest. Mother, he was huge! She caught a whiff of man-sweat.
Gift of the Goddess
Hssrdan : Hybrid race, saurian-human. Most authorities believe the Hssrda were created as slave-soldiers by the Firsters, using the magical craft referred to in the ancient texts as "gene-splicing". See Ballads, Traditional. Excerpt from the Great Encyclopedia, compiled by Miriliel the Burnished. There was a beautiful man below, bathing in the pool. Anje settled herself against the warm rock at her back and stared down into the sheltered valley.