Hello! My name is Cheryl Brooks, and I’m here at LASR for the 9 Lives Book Blogger Hop celebrating the release of Wildcat, book nine of the Cat Star Chronicles. Each post highlights a different book in the series. Today the focus is on book eight, Stud.
Together with a band of outcasts, Lucy and Tarq have been making their way through the Eradic Mountains on Talus Five, a place of such fierce storms and dangerous creatures that any attempts at settling the region have long since been abandoned. They’ve taken shelter in a shallow cave for the night, but are about to discover that even a cave won’t protect them from every threat.
To shield Lucy from the sexual advances of other men in the group, Lucy and Tarq have been pretending to be mates. This scene is one of my favorites because it demonstrates not only their unspoken love for one another, but also their courage.
Tarq woke Lucy with a hand on her shoulder. “Vrelnots,” he whispered. “Get your bow.”
Lucy sat up. She had no idea what time of night it was; for all she knew, Tarq could’ve been asleep by her side for hours. Moonlight streamed in through gaps in the leaves to reveal the others; all awake and silently preparing for attack. Even Rufus kept still, which seemed strange until she remembered that Vertigan had probably given him telepathic instructions. She picked up her bow and quiver and took her place in the line of archers.
Peering out from behind the thin shield of brush they’d used to supplement the hanging vines, Lucy could see them in the moonlight; four huge vrelnots circling above the mountainside. She could hear movement below and saw that the herd of qualskins had returned and were grazing near their shelter, apparently unaware that other creatures were sleeping there. Lucy decided they must’ve been really stupid because they didn’t seem to notice the vrelnots, either.
Until one of the huge birds swooped down and plucked a young qualskin right out of the herd. Then they scattered. Unfortunately, several of the wooly goats headed straight for their campsite; apparently accustomed to taking refuge there themselves.
Tarq shot the first one that came close and the others went galloping off in different directions. A second vrelnot flew in behind the first, not seeming to mind that someone had saved it the trouble of making the kill. However, instead of flying off with its prey, this one landed just outside the little cave. Lucy slowly backed away from the curtain of leaves and watched as the beast began to feed, hoping it would be satisfied with one qualskin and not go looking for anything else. Then she remembered what Tarq had said about the vrelnot he’d killed leaving a dranik to come after him and felt like throwing up—a feeling that probably had nothing to do with her pregnancy.
She glanced over her shoulder at Tarq. He’d moved further back and traded his bow for the atlatl, holding the dart at the ready. She knew the atlatl was a highly effective weapon—she’d once seen him launch a dart with enough force that it passed right through the body of a dranik and came out the other side—but its use required an overhand throwing motion. Even crouched down as he was, the low overhang didn’t allow much room for that.
Everyone was frozen in place, bows drawn while they waited for the vrelnot to finish its meal and leave. It was nearly finished when Lucy’s own dinner of fresh qualskin finally got the best of her. She tried to stifle her belch, but only succeeded in turning it into a hiccup.
The vrelnot cocked its ugly head, peering directly at her. Then it began to advance. Slowly. Menacingly.
Lucy was too petrified to move as arrows sang out from bows all around her. The vrelnot screeched in agony as a few of them found their mark. None were fatal, but instead of fleeing, the beast seemed determined to destroy its attacker and came straight for her—the source of the only sound it had heard—its beak open wide, hissing its rage as it tossed aside the boughs that separated them.
Certain death was less than a meter away when Lucy finally regained control of her muscles. Drawing her bow, she aimed for the eye and fired point blank, just as Tarq’s dart flew over her head and drove straight down the vrelnot’s throat. She’d barely registered the hit when Tarq yanked her back out of the way. Snatching up a rock, he leaped forward; hammering in her arrow as far as it would go. The writhing vrelnot fell dead, the tip of its beak a hairsbreadth from where Lucy had been crouched mere moments before.
Nobody moved, and for a long moment, the silence was so complete, Lucy could hear her own blood rushing through her ears. In the next instant, she was in Tarq’s arms, his hot kisses raining down on her face.
Lucy was stunned. He was kissing her as though her death would’ve destroyed him. She was about to return those kisses with equal ardor when she realized that he was only doing what a supposed mate would do in such a situation. It didn’t mean what she thought it meant. For one split second she hesitated, but emotion overcame her and she threw her arms around his neck, returning his kisses with passionate fervor, spearing her fingers through his hair.
And now for Wildcat. Here’s a brief synopsis to bring you up to speed:
Jerden Morokovitz has been marketing his sexual prowess in a brothel on Rhylos. When his employee is killed by an insane woman who wants her job, Jerden is no longer able to function in his chosen profession. Wanting nothing more to do with women, he returns to Terra Minor and lives in a remote region with a black leopard as his only companion.
Horse breeder Sara Shield has a similar attitude toward men, but when her prized stallion winds up on Jerden’s land, their paths cross and the healing process begins. Unfortunately, there are others involved who are determined to keep them apart—at any cost.
In this excerpt, Jerden and Sara have already met, but all she wants from him is the return of her missing stallion. Unfortunately, Jerden doesn’t want to give him up…
The sky was still dark when a loud neigh woke Jerden from his nightmare. The horse had been doing that more and more, almost as though he sensed Jerden’s disturbing dream and refused to allow it to continue. Jerden had fallen asleep in his chair. Again. He had a perfectly good bed, but without Audrey’s soft, warm body to share it with him, it wasn’t a haven of respite or slumber, but a place to be reminded of what he’d done and what he’d lost.
Rising from his chair, he went out on the porch, Cria’s soft tread following close behind. The horse stood near the steps, his ebony coat gleaming in the moonlight. “I was having another bad dream.” He ran a hand down the animal’s elegant, yet powerful neck. “But you knew that, didn’t you?”
The horse snorted, nudging Jerden’s chest with his nose.
“You should’ve gone with her. You belong to her, and she needs you—for different reasons than mine, perhaps—but she does need you.”
The stallion tossed his head, seeming to disagree. With a soft nicker, he turned sideways, inviting Jerden to mount, just as he always did.
One last ride.
Grasping the thick, flowing mane, he swung onto the stallion’s back. The horse pivoted on his hindquarters and launched into a gentle, rocking canter—a gait that lengthened into a thundering gallop as they left the house and its stand of pines behind. Jerden’s night vision was excellent, but he trusted the horse to find a clear path and let him run, knowing that the rush of wind in his hair would dispel the dregs of sleep as well as the lingering shadows of the dream.
The dream was always the same; one moment Audrey was walking beside him, the next, she lay crumpled and lifeless in the middle of the street while a crowd gathered. The murderer was quickly apprehended, her blue Davordian eyes wild with insane excitement. She didn’t seem to understand that committing murder was a crime that made her ineligible for Audrey’s job or any other. In her twisted mind, she had only to eliminate Audrey and the job was hers.
But as the powerful horse carried him onward and the moonlit landscape rushed past, those visions were thrust aside. His mind focused only on what his body needed to do to remain astride the stallion. The rest was pure sensory input—the scent of the horse’s sweat, the echo of his pounding hooves, the flow of the night air over his bare skin, the surge of speed when the terrain allowed it. A quick, downward glance revealed Cria keeping pace alongside, never slacking, running effortlessly through the night.
Before moving to Terra Minor, Jerden had never been alone like this, with only the land and the animals surrounding him. On board the refugee ship, he had been crowded together with other boys, and later, when he worked with Onca and Tarq, he seldom spent nights alone; only sleeping when his work was done.
If it could be called work. Later, when they’d hired Audrey, she’d often shared his bed, eventually sleeping with him exclusively. Jerden hadn’t realized what was happening then. It was simply the progression of events that occurred over time.
And now, he couldn’t have carried on with his work even if he’d wanted to. No, this seclusion was best. Nature might heal him eventually, but until then, solitude was the cure—no matter what others might think. He’d been urged to turn his land into a working ranch—to raise livestock, hire hands to help with the chores, build quarters for them, hire a cook—but Jerden wasn’t ready for that. For now, he enjoyed the peace that came with not having to discuss anything with anyone, often going for days without hearing another voice or having to answer a question.
He’d been rude to Sara Shield, but he’d only been able to see her as an intruder who would take from him his greatest source of solace. He harbored no illusions that she might not return. She would be back with whatever and whomever she needed to capture the horse and take him home. Jerden knew he should have offered to deliver him to her ranch—and in his other life, he would have done that and more; anything to make her smile. After all, pleasing women was what he did—what he’d always done—and he’d done it very well. But not anymore.
The horse slowed to a walk as they reached the foothills. The mountain range was public land, but Jerden had never seen anyone there, and he could enjoy his solitude on those rocky slopes as well as in his own home, perhaps even better. There he found freedom, fresh air to breathe, and space to roam—things he hadn’t had since his early childhood on Zetith. With the war already raging all around him, there wasn’t much of that even then.
There had been plenty of freedom on Rhylos, though of a different kind. A man could walk the streets of Damenk wearing nothing but a smile, but Terra Minor was a more family-oriented world. There were no brothels or casinos here. No laws against them; they simply didn’t exist. It was out of character for that world, if a world could be said to have a character. His nudity may have embarrassed Sara Shield, but he’d spent the last several years of his life wearing clothing only on rare occasions. He liked being naked. It was comfortable and natural for him.
Living in his own house on his own land with no outsiders was also comfortable and natural. The walk out onto his porch in the middle of the night to step over sleeping dogs and cats didn’t draw the censure of anyone. Not even the dogs and cats, none of which Jerden had purchased or adopted. They’d simply arrived on his doorstep, seeming to expect very little other than a place to sleep. Jerden had discovered a certain solace in brushing them, and they would take turns lying on the porch while he tended to them, removing parasites and treating them for fleas with herbs that Bonnie had given him. Feeding them wasn’t a problem; in fact, they ate most of the food Lynx supplied. These days, Jerden ate only to sustain himself, sometimes forgetting to eat at all.
Cria reminded him, though. If the horse renewed his spirit, Cria improved his health, growling at him if he didn’t clean his plate and lulling him to sleep with her purring. Like the others in his growing menagerie, the leopard had simply arrived one day. Following a particularly desperate run, he’d returned to the house, his legs cramping with fatigue, and had collapsed in a chair on the porch. Later that evening, he’d awakened to find her head resting on his thigh. She hadn’t left his side since, and he’d named her Cria because of the sound she made when she yawned.
He hadn’t named the horse, though. Perhaps because he’d known their relationship would be short-lived. Still, whether he had a name or not, all Jerden had to do was think about where he wanted to go, and the horse took him there. Having never ridden before, he didn’t know for certain, but suspected that wasn’t always the case. Ultimately, however, it made no difference. Dawn would break and this interlude would end.
Unless he could make a deal with Sara Shield.
I hope you all enjoyed the excerpts! We’re giving away two copies of The Cat Star Chronicles: Stud today. Post a comment for your chance to win!
2/1 Night Owl Reviews: SLAVE
2/4 Star-Crossed Romance: WARRIOR
2/7 My Book Addiction and More: ROGUE
2/12 Romance at Random: OUTCAST
2/13 Fresh Fiction: FUGITIVE
2/19 Author Sound Relations: HERO
2/21 Sizzling Hot Book Reviews: VIRGIN
2/25 Long and Short Reviews: STUD
2/27 Love Romance Passion: WILDCAT
2/28 Cheryl Brooks Erotic Blogspot: Grand Prize Giveaway!
Friendly Warning-Cheryl’s blog is NOT for the faint of heart—she didn’t call it erotic for nothing!
Only One Woman Can Tame Him…
When horse breeder Sara Shield encounters Jerden Morokovitz riding naked and bareback, she’s stunned by the magnificence of both man and stallion. But Sara came to Terra Minor hoping to get away from all the men.
If She Can Give Up Her Fear…
The murder of Jerden’s lover by a deranged woman has left this former star attraction of the Zetithian Palace brothel shattered in mind and body. Jerden is sure that Sara can heal his anguish—but not unless he can find the key to her heart.
“Brooks gives Jerden and Sara over two hundred pages to become real, believable, and important to the reader before their relationship evolves into a highly erotic sexual one.” —Booklist
About the Author: Cheryl Brooks is the award-winning romance writer of the very sexy sci-fi romance series, The Cat Star Chronicles. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and lives with her husband, two sons, five cats, five horses and one dog in Indiana. The tenth book in the Cat Star Chronicles, Rascal, will be in stores in 2014! For more information, please visit http://cherylbrooksonline.com/ or follower her on Twitter: @CherylCatMaster.