Warriors of Hir
Genre: Science Fiction Romance/
Publisher: Here Be Dragons
Date of Publication: August 8, 2014
Number of pages: 218
Word Count: 55,000
Cover Artist: Steven James Catizone
Jenna McNally is tending to the heartrending task of clearing out her grandfather’s cabin when she’s knocked off her feet by the impact of a nearby plane crash. She races into the snowy North Carolina woods to help and discovers that this is no plane that’s crashed.
Ra’kur’s people have been brought to the brink of extinction by war. After years spent searching for a compatible mate to bond with, an enemy attack lands him on a backward, primitive planet and right to the very female he has been seeking. And a Hir warrior’s first task in claiming a mate is to capture her . . .
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The screaming came from overhead, like metal ripping through the sky.
In the next instant Jenna stumbled, falling onto her hands and knees as the cabin itself seemed to be lifted up a bit before being slammed back down in a puff of dust, the books and boxes and Pap’s many doohickeys rattling around her.
She was gasping, her ears still ringing as the cabin settled into quiet again. Shaking, Jenna eased back onto her haunches, her hand going to the little golden bird charm that hung on a chain around her neck.
Quakes were rare in this part of North Carolina, and besides, she’d felt that tremble, that rumbling, beneath her feet a few times out west and this was nothing like that.
Jenna’s glance darted about the room—the half-packed boxes, the groupings she’d made as she sorted her grandfather’s things into piles of stuff to keep or give away or throw out. Through the cabin’s front window, she caught sight of a far-off spray of snow thrown high into the air and now falling rapidly to the ground.
When she’d fallen, she’d dropped the framed photo of her and Pap standing in front of The Sweet Tooth on opening day. Thankfully it hadn’t broken, but the faded oval rag rug had done little to protect her knees from the fall and her palms felt raw and scraped.
Shakily Jenna placed the picture on the coffee table, put a hand on the worn red and black plaid sofa, and, wincing, got to her feet. Her right knee was likely going to sport a nasty bruise tomorrow but the couple steps across the living room to the window assured her that would be the worst of it. She frowned out at the sunny, snow-covered landscape, her breath fogging up the windowpane.
Plane crash, maybe?
There was a tiny airport not far from here. Recently built and meant for small craft—a few of the new, wealthy residents of Brittle Bridge used it when they didn’t want to go to Six Oaks—it was little more than a runway and a couple hangars.
Jenna scanned the woods, looking for smoke, but even the snow had settled now and the mountain seemed peaceful as ever. It took her a moment to realize that the TV that she’d had on to keep her company while she tended to the heartrending task of packing up Pap’s things had gone dark. A quick look at the blinking red light showed the Wi-Fi was out too.
No satellite, no Internet.
“Great,” she muttered, rubbing her forehead with her fingertips. Thinking she could get by fine with just her cell she’d made the mistake of having the landline cut off last week before she realized her fancy—and expensive—new phone didn’t work inside the cabin. Outside, sure. Go twenty feet or sit in the SUV and the damned thing worked perfectly.
Jenna chewed the inside of her cheek. She hadn’t seen anything except the now-resettled spray of snow but if it were a downed plane then someone could be hurt out there. It got dark around five this time of year so there were a few hours of daylight left at least and she knew these woods better than anyone—excepting her grandfather, of course.
She grabbed her cell off the coffee table and in a few moments had her white down jacket zipped, the hood yanked up, and her gloves on. She was already wearing her sheepskin boots; the cabin floor sometimes felt cold to her even in the summer and now in January it was bitterly so.
Jenna drew in the bracing smell of snow and pine as she stepped onto the porch and shut the front door behind her. She was careful going down the cabin’s front steps; she’d slipped often enough on them over the years to remember to hold the handrail in winter. The soft powdery snow crunched under her boots as she walked and, as expected, three steps past her SUV the cell had reception again.
She scrolled through the numbers to the right one and hit “Dial” as she headed in the direction where she’d seen the snow spray.
“Sarah Jane? It’s Jenna McNally.”
“Hey there, Jenna, you okay?” Sarah Jane had once been a model, or so Pap had said. Got her heart broke by a famous artist in New York and fled to Brittle Bridge to escape it all.
But then again, he’d made up stories about everyone with Jenna—the mayor was in the witness protection program, her teacher was a secret agent. She’d been labeled a “sensitive child” by the social worker who had handled the transfer of custody to him. Of course to Pap “sensitive” meant “creative” so he’d gone all out in encouraging her in all of it—the arts and music, crafting, baking—anything she wanted to try, and he was proud as punch to let her.
But if Sarah Jane had been a model, it was thirty-five years ago or more now and twenty since she joined the sheriff’s department. “You up at Pap’s still?”
Her grandfather’s name was William James McNally. But it had probably been since before Sarah Jane’s supposed model-artist affair days that he had been called anything other than “Pap” in the vicinity of Brittle Bridge—at least never in the twenty-six years Jenna had known him.
Well, excepting that social worker.
“Yeah, I’ll be here for a couple more days,” Jenna said, already past the clearing around the house and into the forest. “Listen, I think a plane crashed up here on our”—she swallowed hard—“my land.”
“A plane?” Sarah Jane’s voice went from neighborly to official. “Where did it come down?”
“Not sure.” Jenna ducked under a branch as she headed deeper into the woods. “I heard something real loud and then it was like ‘bam,’ something hitting the ground hard. Shook the whole place.”
“Can you see smoke from where you are now?”
“No,” Jenna admitted, trotting along as fast as the snow would allow her. Some of the drifts were deep and she had to mind where she stepped. She wouldn’t be doing anyone any good if she broke her ankle. “I’m heading out to take a look now.”
“But you saw the plane go down?”
“Uh, no.” Sarah Jane’s too-patient tone was starting to make her feel a little embarrassed for calling when she hadn’t actually seen anything. Maybe it was something else: a really big tree falling or a damn meteorite or something.
“Huh,” Sarah Jane said. “Lemme call around and see if anybody’s gone missing. But you call me straight off if you find anything, ’kay?”
“Sure thing.” Jenna ended the call and slipped the phone into her jacket pocket. Whatever crashed couldn’t be far from where she’d seen the snow spray up.
Forced by the lack of schools and friends for his young granddaughter, Pap had kept the house in Asheville, but they’d come to Brittle Bridge at every opportunity. Pap’s heart was here and she’d happily spent the summer days running barefooted in these woods clad in overalls, her chestnut hair in pigtails at first, then tied back in a ponytail as she got older.
Her stride faltered and she steadied herself against a pine, the rough trunk pulling on her knitted glove. Pap’s beloved woods were quiet and bright around her but Jenna suddenly had a strong urge to run back to the cabin.
She set her jaw and pressed on. Pap hadn’t raised her to be a coward and this was her land now. He’d left her five hundred acres and anyone on it without her say-so was trespassing, even if it was about to go up for sale.
Still, she wished she’d thought to grab Pap’s revolver or rifle or even his hunting knife before she’d come racing down here.
I’ll go as far as the creek and if I don’t find anything I’ll head on back.
But all was quiet at the creek too, the crystal clear water moving placidly between the banks—
Jenna stopped short. There was tang to the air, a burned smell that wrinkled her nose. It reminded her a little bit of the inside of a mechanic’s garage, out of place in such pristine woods.
It smelled wrong. Not only that…
There’s no snow here.
There was snow all around, covering the ground, hanging heavy in the tree limbs above, but here there was just a long patch of mud and broken sticks.
The sudden sick feeling of being watched raised the tiny hairs on the back of her neck. With a shock of awareness she realized just how very vulnerable she was out here, alone and unarmed.
Pap hadn’t raised her to be an idiot either. With trembling fingers she pulled her phone out and hit redial to the Sheriff’s office.
In horrified disbelief she watched the screen flash “Connection failed.”
She took a step back and searched the silent, still forest.
All I have to do is make it back up to the house. I can get the gun, get my car keys, call for help, get the hell out of here!
Her quickened breath was visible as she headed uphill back toward the cabin, the drifts and her fear slowing her down. She couldn’t remember if the ammunition was still in the kitchen cabinet or if she’d moved it to—
Something off to her right gave a soft, deep growl . . .
Warriors of Hir
Genre: Science Fiction Romance /
Publisher: Here Be Dragons
Date of Publication: February 1, 2015
Number of pages: 271
Word Count: 69,000
Cover Artist: Steven James Catizone
Hope MacGowan is a city girl but reeling from a break-up on top of a layoff has her determined to have a weekend away in the North Carolina mountains—even if all her friends have bailed at the last minute. Hope’s life is one big train-wreck and getting kidnapped by a tall, blond alien—even a gorgeous one—sure isn’t helping.
R’har crossed the galaxy to seek a mate on this newly discovered world and this delicate red-haired female is everything he’s dreamed of—except happy to find herself mated to him. R’har knows in his heart he’s her true mate, even if he’s not human. But taking her doesn’t mean he can keep her and somehow he has to convince Hope to choose him before time runs out . . .
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Coldness snaked through Hope’s belly as Keri’s silence dragged on.
“Did you know?” Hope asked again. Her cell pressed hard to her ear, her heart in her throat as she waited for her friend’s answer, she had a sudden urge to open the car window and hurl the damned thing into the road before Keri could reply. “Did you know about Brian and Megan?”
Through the phone she heard Keri sigh and Hope’s grip tightened on the steering wheel, the center diamond of her engagement ring sparkling in the sunlight.
Parked in front of the diner where she was to pick up the rental’s keys, Hope blinked out at Brittle Bridge, North Carolina’s quaint Main Street. Outside her car, people strolled about on their Friday morning errands, enjoying the May sunshine and the sweet mountain air, chatting and laughing.
Inside the car, Hope’s breath had the quick shallow pant of an animal caught in a trap.
“Look,” Keri began, a little impatiently. “It wasn’t my job to tell you. Megan—Brian really—should have.”
“You’re my friend. You went with me to look at venues, at wedding gowns. You bought a bridesmaid’s dress.” Hope’s throat tightened. “Megan bought a maid of honor dress!”
“I didn’t actually buy the dress,” Keri mumbled. “I called the boutique after we left and asked them to cancel my order.”
But that was back in March!
“How long?” Hope asked, her voice high and tight. “How long has it been going on? How long have you known?”
Keri sighed again. “I went to Gable’s with some people from work back in January and I saw Brian and Megan in a booth in the back and they were—It’s probably been going on longer though.”
“January? But—” Hope began, her tone pleading now as if she could argue this away, as if to point out the faulty logic of it would cast a spell and make everything right again. “But we got engaged on Valentine’s Day! He asked me to marry him on Valentine’s Day. If he and Megan were—” Her eyes stung. “He broke our engagement by text, you know. He sent me a text today to tell me that he and Megan were together and how very, very sorry he was. Megan texted to say she’s sorry too—Oh, and since she’s not coming for the weekend she’s not going to pay her third for the rental.”
“Oh, that is shitty,” Keri said.
Shitty as letting me plan a wedding when you knew all along Megan was fucking my fiancé?
But the great burden of red hair was everyone expected you to have a bad temper and a sharp tongue. Hope had spent most of her twenty-seven years showing the world how even-keeled she was, how she could handle anything with a cool head, not raging or weeping even in the face of heartbreak and grief, not letting anyone know how bad she hurt.
Those walls went up when she was eight and were so thick now that nothing—not the death of her parents, not the humiliation of her fiancé screwing her maid of honor—was going to bring them down.
“Yeah, it is,” Hope said instead. “So when were you going to get around to telling me that you aren’t coming for the weekend either?”
“Look, I just thought if you and Megan were alone—maybe the truth would finally come out. Being with the two of you and pretending I didn’t know sucked.”
“Wow.” Hope nodded even though Keri couldn’t see her. Even a determined redhead had her limits. “That must have been really rough on you.”
Keri went silent again.
Hope put her hand over her eyes, blocking out the cheerful spring sunlight. “I lost my job this morning.”
“What?” Keri sounded startled for the first time during their conversation.
“They made the announcement today. They sold the company to the Hindle Group last week and they had one too many graphic designers so they let me go. They made me drive all the way to Asheville to give me the news. My fiancé ends it in a text but my company had to tell me in person.”
“Jesus . . .”
“They gave me three months’ severance. And they shook my hand too. Apparently someone in the D.C. office did me the favor of clearing out my stuff while I was driving to Asheville yesterday so I’m all packed up. They’ll have everything delivered to my apartment by the end of the day.”
“So you’re driving back to D.C. tonight?”
“What for?” Hope asked bleakly. “Brian and Megan are at his place, making the most of the romantic curtained bed I bought. I don’t have work on Monday. No fiancé, no best friend, no job. My apartment lease is up in ten days and now I won’t be moving in with Brian. Maybe I’ll just move up here to the mountains. Take up wood crafting or something.”
“Call me when you get back,” Keri urged. “I’ll take you out and get you drunk. We’ll find you someone new.”
“No. I’m cursed.” Hope shut her eyes. “No one on the planet has worse luck with men than I do.”
Keri was smart enough not to argue that point. “I really am sorry.”
“Yeah, me too,” Hope said and hung up.
She turned off the car and sat there, the cell cradled in her lap. The invitations hadn’t gone out yet so she didn’t need to work through the guest list; with her parents both dead and no siblings there was no one left to call.
No one at all.
Warriors of Hir
Genre: Science Fiction Romance /
Publisher: Here Be Dragons
Date of Publication: July 28, 2015
Number of pages: 265
Word Count: 68,000
Cover Artist: Steven James Catizone
Kidnapped from Earth by an alien warrior when she visits her uncle, Summer Mills is terrified she will never be able to return home. Her alien captors are using human females as breeding stock and her only chance to return to Earth is Ke’lar, the one Hir warrior willing to stand between her and his own kind.
Returning this human female home won’t be easy and Ke’lar knows by this act of defiance he is throwing his own chances at a lifemate away. Both his family’s enemies and his own clan have pledged to reclaim the woman he has stolen, the only woman he will ever love . . .
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The alien warrior, naked beside her, gave a soft snore, his thickly muscled arm thrown over Summer, keeping her close as he slumbered.
When he had first captured her on Earth, she had only seen beast—his full mouth, his gleaming fangs, his inhuman ridged forehead and heavy brow. Now, lying beside him, his bare tan skin smooth and warm against her own, his eerie glowing amber eyes shut, she knew how very intelligent he was, this wild creature who had brought her to his planet. He, like all the males of his kind—the g’hir—was tall, powerfully built, fast as quicksilver.
Summer wet her lips. She could see the movement of his eyes behind his lids.
She’d never get a better chance.
Escaping a seven-foot-tall alien warrior who’s claimed you as his mate and taken you halfway across the galaxy is impossible.
But when it’s your only chance in hell of ever seeing home again, you just tell “impossible” to fuck off.
Six days after her abduction, her heart hammering so hard she feared the sound of it would wake the warrior at her side, Summer eased out from under his heavily muscled arm and slid from his bed.
He stirred, reaching for her. She froze, crouching beside the bed, praying his vibrant eyes stayed shut, his face slack with slumber. His long, silky, red-brown hair was spread across the white pillow, his swarthy coloring a stark contrast to her own pale complexion.
When she’d first awoken to find herself captive on his ship he’d looked her over with his unnervingly brilliant alien gaze. He’d taken a lock of her pale blond hair between his large fingers, frowned at her skin, and asked if such pallor in a human meant she was sickly. Trembling before the huge warrior, thinking he’d kill her if he thought her ill, not even understanding how she was processing those growls of his as language—Summer swore she was completely healthy. He’d given a satisfied fanged smile; pleased, she knew now, that she’d be able to produce the robust, healthy offspring he wanted.
The warrior—Ar’ar—gave another soft snore and Summer straightened to standing.
Clad only in a whisper-thin nightgown, the polished tiles cold under her feet, she padded silently through his luxurious quarters. Sweet spring air drifted through the open balcony doors, the fine silk curtains fluttering in the breeze as she passed them.
The balcony of Ar’ar’s rooms—the opulent living quarters of a clanfather’s heir—overlooked his family’s vast holdings, and the three moons of his world—Hir—lit her way. The wind stirred her long hair, momentarily blocking her vision, and impatiently Summer tucked the bright strands behind her ears to keep them out of her eyes.
She had one chance at this.
If they caught her she’d be watched constantly no matter what concessions Ar’ar—her new alien “mate”—made to his female’s pleas. He was confident enough, and proud enough, that he had dismissed the honor guards his father, Mirak, tried to attach to her. Ar’ar gave a huffing, indulgent laugh as he’d waved them off at her request. After all, compared to him, Summer, even at five foot nine, was just a slip of thing.
A weak, harmless, helpless human female . . .
Using the building to help her balance, she climbed up to stand on the balcony’s wall.
Eight stories above the ground of an alien world.
Summer swallowed hard. There was a reason she always insisted on having a room on the first floor of a hotel. Just glancing out the glass-wall window of her high-rise office back home left her woozy.
But there was only one way out into the hallway—and ultimately to Earth—that wouldn’t wake the glowing-eyed fanged warrior snoozing back there. She had to get from these quarters over to the unoccupied rooms beside them. That door she could open without fear of waking him, then get the hell out of this monstrously large building they called a clanhall and run for freedom.
It wasn’t even very far over. Twelve feet, maybe.
All she had to do was get to the next balcony.
Never mind that the only way there was a small decorative outcropping on the side of the building barely as wide as her foot . . .
Character Name: Jenna McNally
Character Bio: Human female. Twenty- six. Born and raised in North Carolina, spent summers and holidays in Brittle Bridge, in the Smokey Mountains. B.A. in Business. Once the owner of The Sweet Tooth, a bakery in Asheville, North Carolina, now resides at the Erah enclosure on Hir, fourth planet of the Sarion system.
Describe yourself what is your worst and best quality?
I would say that growing up the way I did, being raised by my grandfather—Pap—made me really self-reliant. He taught me I could do anything I set my mind to and not to be scared to try new things. That’s good cause sometimes life throws you something you weren’t never expecting—like Ra’kur crash landing on my property in the middle of January! It’s also gone pretty far in making me awful stubborn too, in my way.
What is the one thing you wish other people knew about you?
That I don’t usually jump into relationships! I was taught to take things slow and steady but Ra’kur . . . Look, when it’s right, you just know it.
What is your biggest secret something no one knows about?
I can ride horses but what they ride on Hir—multari—scare the hell out of me! Maybe it’s the glowing eyes. I pretend like my hands aren’t shaking like anything when I’m holding the reins.
What are you most afraid of?
That the g’hir’s enemies— the Zerar—will find out about Earth.
What do you want more than anything?
To live on Hir with Ra’kur and take him with me to visit Earth. But somehow I think his whole seven-foot-tall-glowing-eyes-and-fangs thing means that’s not going to happen anytime soon though . . .
What is your relationship status?
Lifemated . . . Oh, I guess I should say ‘married’.
How would you describe your sense of fashion?
Jeans and boots! ’Course that doesn’t really work at a clan enclosure. I wear more dresses in a week on Hir than I probably did in twenty-six years on Earth!
How much of a rebel are you?
I would say I do what I think is right. If that rubs people the wrong way, that’s just the way it’s gonna be.
What do you considered to be your greatest achievement?
That the Sweet Tooth was such a success. I had to close the bakery down when Pap got sick but it was a business I built myself. That gave me a lot of confidence—very helpful when you’re going to be running an enclosure someday.
What is your idea of happiness?
Just being tucked in someplace quiet with Ra’kur. There’s a lot to learning to lead a g’hir clan and I like the times we get to be off on our own.
What is your current state of mind?
Upbeat, pretty confident now. I think I’m really starting to adjust to living on Hir.
What is your most treasured possession?
The little bird necklace that Pap gave me when I went to live with him—I never take it off!
What is your most marked characteristic?
Probably my eyes. They’re brown like Pap’s but of course the g’hir see colors differently so Ra’kur says they look gold and green and russet to him. Wish I could see it. To me they just look plain brown.
Which living person do you most despise?
Right now? Probably Council Member Mirak. That man has a way of making my skin crawl.
What is your greatest regret?
That Pap never met Ra’kur. Pap would’ve really liked him and it would have meant a lot for me to have him at the wedding.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
Glowing eyes? Fangs? (laughs) Sorry, just kidding. I think it’s gotta be someone who is strong enough to stand up for what he believes and isn’t afraid to show you his heart too.
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Honesty. Though when my friend Hope first came to Hir I can’t say I really cared for her—uh—outspokenness. Usually honesty. If it’s not done all rude-like.
Who is your favorite hero in fiction?
Probably Colyne from Another Man’s Bride. I always had a thing for redheads. (laughs) Though Ra’kur’s hair is black and I like that just fine.
Which living person do you most admire?
Living? Ra’kur. But I expect that’s just natural . . .
If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
The freckles on my nose! I hate ‘em! Ra’kur says they’re cute. I think they make me look like I should be wearing pigtails or something—ugh!
What is your motto?
(smiles) Follow your heart and you’ll never get lost.
Willow Danes is the pen name of author Ariel MacArran, creator of the Tellaran Series. She is an Amazon bestselling author, currently at work on book four of the Tellaran Series, The Princess.