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Authors: Dara Joy

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Cat Scratched!

BOOK: Cat Scratched!
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Other House of Sages titles by Dara Joy:

DEATH BY PLOOT PLOOT
THAT FAMILIAR TOUCH
WILDCAT ARROWS
IN KIRKPATRICK’S WOODS
MY ONE
KNIGHT OF A TRILLION STARS
TONIGHT OR NEVER
REJAR
MINE TO TAKE
TASTE OF THE DEVIL

____________________

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

© 2009 Dara Joy

First Edition

ISBN: 0-9753549-8-1

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address House of Sages at
[email protected]
Visit Dara Joy on the World Wide Web at:

After dark, all cats are leopards.

--Native American Proverb 7

 

He is my brilliant hunter.

 

He anticipates my every move.

 

He knows what I will do, how I will react before I, myself, know.

 

He is a master predator.

 

And I am his prey.

 

I am being watched. No, not watched–

 

Tracked!

A
night claw
takes flight as she slips behind a thick tree. Her heart pounds as she tries to catch her breath without making a sound.

The old forest both helps and hinders her flight. Whatever aid it lends her–it also affords
him
. He is too wise in the ways of nature not to use every advantage as he tracks her down.

She remembers these trees from her youth: great big shadowy hulks. They reside deep in her memory. There is something beautiful yet ominous about them. They shield, and they hide. They also cloak and deceive. They will take no sides.

Whatever they afford her, they will afford him. Her shelter is his blind. Her camouflage, his discernment. Moon rays flitter through the dense foliage. Beams of bright, almost powdery light, penetrate the gloom like an attack of light spears from above.

How long has he been chasing her?

Forever
.

She wipes the dampness off her brow with the back of her arm. She must not linger too long. The full moon illuminates a meandering path through the woods. Perhaps it leads to a clearing, or even to a nearby village? He plays with her now–coming up fast behind, and falling back just as quickly. He is careful to never get too close. To never physically touch her.

Terrified–yet strangely exhilarated–she runs even faster. He continues his strange dance of coming to the verge of conquering, then abruptly retreating. The blood rushes to her ears, pounding a thunderous rhythm as his shadow briefly looms over hers on the path.

Unbidden, an ancient ritual twists inside her thoughts. Strange words, whose source she does not know.
I will place my shadow on you. .
.

N'taga
, she whispers brokenly. Shadow dance. But, how does she know this? What does it mean? A low, pleased sound ripples through her, making her nerve-endings tingle. A faint rustling behind her–!

A simple forest dweller. . .
Or him?
He is the kind that can be upon you before you blink. She must move now!

Taking a deep breath, she dashes along the path, zigzagging through the undergrowth and fallen limbs, jumping over tree stumps.

Never breaking her stride.

With her renewed flight, she hears him coming up on her.
Faster
. He makes his silent passage through the forest have sound. Just to let her know that he is there. As far or as close as he alone desires.

She hears the light padding of his footsteps behind her and her heart rushes to her throat.
Too close!
He is too close. A slight incline appears suddenly before her, and she has but a moment to tuck her legs up under her and roll with the fall that is unavoidable.

It could be worse. Her descent is cushioned by dead leaves and the soft ground. She continues to roll with the momentum. Without stopping in her headlong flight, she springs out of the coil directly into full run. The sudden descent did not slow her pursuer down. He is closer than before. She takes a chance and glances over her shoulder. . .

But, he hides himself well, dashing behind an outcropping. Suddenly, thick clouds block off the moonlight. She is in complete darkness! She wills herself not to panic, but her traitorous breaths are coming in gasps.

She knows he can hear her.

She is forced to slow down lest she slam into a tree.
Something wooshes by
. It is all she can do not to scream.
Am I lost already?

Just as suddenly the clouds are gone. But, the clear night will take no prisoners.

Thinking quickly she dives beneath a
meeyori
bush. He is too near.
Too near.
Slowly, she peeks through the branches. A fat moon ray lights an angular swath, intersecting a wide trunk near the edge of the tree line.

The edge of the tree line!

I am almost home, free.

If only she could make it to the edge of the forest. . . The moon is rising above the field that lies just beyond the woods.
If only–
A bare, muscular arm is silhouetted in front of the silvery moon, along with a sculptured, masculine hand that has long, tapered fingers.
The raised tips of claws glint against the backdrop of that full moon as he stretches those fingers like weapons–then curls them into a symbolic fist.
His message is clear.

He will not let her reach the fields. He intends to capture her.

Moaning softly, she makes one last mad dash for freedom.

With his final message delivered, he chases her down in earnest and she immediately realizes that he had merely been toying with her before. His fast footfalls strike hard and true.
And sure.

Though she continues to zigzag in the hopes of throwing him off her trail, he does not waver in his steadfast pursuit. She can hear his breaths–measured and even, despite his exertion.

In a last attempt, she finds a renewed burst of speed. His hot breath teases the back of her neck. The tree line is so close. . . !

But not close enough.

With one graceful move, he leaps forward, catching his prey fast.

Powerful arms encircle her waist from behind. A cool, wintry scent bathes her.

They fall forward onto the leaf-cushioned ground. Her heart pounds madly in her chest.

The heavy, masculine weight keeps her immobilized even as she attempts to struggle against it. Then she feels something even heavier and
harder
press against her. She freezes in place.

The same hand that was haloed by the moon sweeps the long strands of hair off the back of her neck, its claws scraping softly along the vulnerable skin. She is not sure why, but she knows that this gesture is most significant. Her defeat is imminent.

"Wait!" she gasps, spent, but still not willing to give in. Moist, warm breath caresses her ear. Then the flick of a hot tongue.

"No, "
he simply says.

The voice is deep and silky smooth. It is the kind of voice that holds its own power.

He presses his nose into the crook of her neck and deeply inhales. A low, menacing
growl
reverberates along the dampened skin of her throat, causing her entire body to shiver. It is a warning.

No.
A claiming.

His arms tighten around her waist, bringing her backside up and into him.

"Captured,
" he whispers softly.

Then sharp teeth clamp fiercely on the back of her neck. Holding her in place.
For him
.

She
throbs
everywhere. Her lungs, her heart, her ears, between her legs. Her breaths come out in ragged spurts; a fever swirls through her loins. Fury, flight, and. . .
longing?
. . . churn within her.

The strange feelings merge, confusing her into an odd lassitude. The way prey becomes immobile right before–
No! He cannot take me so easily!
She cries out and thrashes. Perhaps against her own deepest desires.

And then, he
moves into
her. Pressing, sliding,
commanding
. She is impaled.
Taken
by his sensual wildness. His sultry perfection.

And now she is his. Forever.

***

She shot up in bed, still breathing erratically from the strange nightmare. Her hand covered her heart. The dream was just a dark fantasy, yet the
thump thump thump
against her palm was very real.

It was only a vivid dream
, she realized, trying to relax.
Yet, the cool scent of a wintery forest still seemed to blanket her. . .

Planet Zillian, nonpartisan belt, 5187 m.u.

 

He was a difficult cat.

And in human form, far more dangerous.

The tracker watched the man from a safe distance. In this line of work, one could never be too careful. A silken mane trailed down his broad back.

Wind caressed the long black strands. The tracker noticed they were tipped with lustrous gold by his waist. In the rare desert breeze, the gleaming locks flowed about him with a unique vitality.

 

Breathtaking
!

The tracker had never seen one with hair like that. He would fetch a fortune in the forbidden markets–if he lived to reach them.

The tracker slipped behind a fruit stall in the busy marketplace and continued to carefully observe the target. The silhouette of his face was visible; and the brief glimpse enough to discern the arresting, sensual features of the shapeshifter.

Extraordinary!

The man’s eyes were tilted slightly at the corners. Even at this distance, the tracker could tell that they were two different colors. Clear blue and gold. Each rimmed in thick, dark lashes.

Spellbinding, to be sure.

Were their individual colors significant? The tracker had always wondered about that.
. .

Counter to his exceptional appearance, the man was simply dressed in the rudimentary garb of desert travelers. Woven, sand-colored
tracas
and tunic were partially covered by a cloak made of the same sturdy traveler's material. A braided cloth sash wrapped about his middle, crisscrossing several times. Yet, there were no weapons secured at the trim waistline to call further attention to him. No
visible
weapons that is.

The tracker was well aware that he did not need them. Despite his plain garb, his tall form stood out. No matter how hard a shapeshifter tried to conceal himself, his feline traits were often difficult to hide.

As if aware of this, he moved quickly and effortlessly through the crowded plaza with the lethal grace and dexterity his kind were known for.

In no time at all, the tracker again lost sight of him. She clenched her fists. It had been difficult enough to get this close to him! So, the Familiar had sensed that he was being tracked after all?

This cat was very good.

It was a royal decree.

He had to return to M'yan.

The King of All Familiar, Gian Ren, had ordered his people home.

It was for their own protection
.
War had broken out, and the enemy was everywhere, looking to capture, enslave, or kill his kind.

 

Or to sell them.

He wondered if their ultimate goal were the entire destruction of his species!

BOOK: Cat Scratched!
6.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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