From Out of the Shadows by Linda Mooney
Buy eBook from Whiskey Creek Press Torrid
Erotic Paranormal/Fantasy Romance
Croat was a Lupan, one of the half-man, half-beast creatures long thought to be extinct or fabricated from fairy tales. Lupan were folklore, nothing more than a myth.
Tora was a Sensitive. Her kind really existed, and normal people feared Sensitives because it was common knowledge that all Sensitives were evil and practiced the dark magicks.
Captured and thrown together inside Baron Agrino’s dungeon, they discovered a connection between them that defied all reason, and a love that transcended all boundaries.
But is their love strong enough to stop the baron from what he’ll do with every Lupan he plans to capture? Or, worse, what he’ll do with Tora once he learns what she is?
Warning! Contains torture, imprisonment, severe beatings, nasty bad guys, public nudity, molten wax, old wives' tales, forest folk, bad horsemanship, and lots of pissed off townspeople.
Some time during the night a commotion outside her door dragged her out of her restless sleep. Tora listened intently to the obvious sounds of a struggle, holding her breath as the noise grew louder and closer.
There were shouts and cursing, audible although muffled. She could make out a howling or growling, much like a dog fighting its master. Her first thought was that the new prisoner was giving his captors difficulty. It had to be a man, rather than a woman or child. Perhaps more than one man. It definitely sounded as though several jailors had their hands full with their recalcitrant victim. Silently she wished the new prisoner luck at fighting the baron’s men. If he was being brought here, it meant that the baron wanted him alive. Otherwise the soldiers would have already killed him.
The struggle came nearer until it stopped at her door. Suddenly, there was a key in the lock, and the door flew open so hard, it slammed into the wall. Before it could bounce back, at least a dozen men began to pour into the tiny cell, struggling to keep the prisoner from escaping. In their midst was a net made of heavy rope, wherein their captive fought to escape. One man carried a lantern, but the pale light did little to illuminate things enough for her to see clearly.
The cursing and screaming was deafening. Tora squeezed herself against the wall as tightly as she could, never taking her eyes off of the dark form being beaten into submission. They used whatever they had to punish the man: chains, rifle butts, boots. The baron’s men eventually dropped their victim, but instead of backing away, they continued to pummel the man.
She knew it would be useless to beg the soldiers to leave the man be. Still, she had to tightly press her lips together to keep from yelling at them. For what seemed like hours, the guards savagely attacked the poor soul. Someone came in with a whip. The sound of it hitting raw flesh was sickening. They cursed at their target, spat on it, and some laughed. Tora flinched at the brutality inflicted. Tears fell when she heard the crunch of bones being broken, and the wet squelch of bleeding wounds. A thin trail of blood trickled across the stone floor, between the soldier’s feet, and nearly reached her. In the singular light of the lantern, the wetness was as black as the night sky.
She was on the verge of covering her ears with her hands when the beatings finally stopped. The soldiers stepped back, ripping the net away from their victim. For several long minutes they silently eyed the still form, until one of their number spoke up.
"Is he dead?"
"Naw. But when he comes to, he’ll wish he was," another answered.
They turned and began filing out of the cell. One man glanced over at where Tora was huddled against the wall. She couldn’t see his face, but she knew he was smiling. The soldiers always smiled after inflicting any sort of cruelty on another helpless human being.
The last armed man gave the still figure a final kick before he left, locking the door behind him. With the only source of light gone, the cell once again grew pitch black. Her quiet world shifted back into place—only now she was sharing it with another person. A person who had been beaten nearly to death. From where she sat, Tora could hear the poor man’s labored breathing. Every few seconds he would groan in pain. Her heart went out to him.
Slowly, carefully, she got onto her knees and inched her way over to the unconscious figure. Holding out a hand, she sought the man’s pulse, hoping she would find it strong. Many years ago she had discovered she could survive almost anything. But if this man died and was allowed to rot in this place, Tora wondered if she could live through that experience.
Could she survive through another long and agonizing death?
"Sir...Sir, let me help you." She lowered her hand, expecting to encounter chilled, if not bloodied flesh. Instead, her fingers felt hair. Long, thick hair.
Not believing what she was feeling, she extended her arm as far as it would reach to find his shoulder. An arm. And more thick, fur-like hair. Her immediate reaction was to jerk back in sudden terror.
Oh, please. God, no! It couldn’t be, she argued with herself. It was a man lying on the blisteringly cold stone floor. It was a man who had been the target of those soldiers’ venom. It had to be. There was no way it could be...
Even the thought of the possibility that she could be trapped in here with a half-man, half-wolf creature sent terror pulsing through her body. Solid reasoning reminded her that there were no such beings as Lupans anymore. Lupans hadn’t existed for centuries. In fact, they were considered extinct, if they had ever lived at all. Creatures now of myth and legend. Monsters only kept alive in stories, to be told to children in order to make them behave.
Tora squeezed her eyes shut, counted to ten, and opened them, hoping to see more of the being lying nearby. Unfortunately there was no moon tonight, and no other outside light could penetrate the darkness. Still, she could barely make out the man’s...beast’s?...shape. Cautiously, she reached out again to find a thick pelt, now sticky and warm.
Blood. Its sickly smell filled the room.
The man gave a shuddering breath and moaned. The sound was heartbreaking. Worse, it sounded human. Terrifying creature of myth or not, he was in excruciating pain. Gathering her courage, Tora spread her fingers over his back, letting the dense hairs tickle her palm. Then, little by little, she opened herself up to his agony.
It was like absorbing fire.
Tora hissed as the burning pain seeped through her skin, surged into her blood vessels, and penetrated her muscles. With the pain came the additional torment of broken and shattered bones. She mentally located them—two ribs, the lower left arm, and his left collarbone. As she continued to examine him, reaching where she could, she discovered several areas where his flesh was raw and pulpy. Yet everywhere she touch, she met fur. And the more she investigated, the less evidence she found that felt human.
As her fingers traveled over a large, bleeding tear near the damaged arm, the man-beast shrank slightly from her touch, and a deep growl softly warned her to be careful. This time Tora immediately retreated back to her side of the room.
"I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you," she told him in a gentle voice, and hoped he wouldn’t notice it was also quaking. "I know where you’re hurt, and I wish I could help, but I can’t when it’s dark like this." She could feel the blood cooling and congealing on her hand. She wiped as much of it as she could on her skirt. "Come daylight, I’ll see what I can do, but I’m afraid it won’t be enough. You’ve been badly injured, and you’ve lost a lot of blood. You also have some broken ribs, plus a broken bone in your arm and collarbone." Sighing loudly, Tora added, "I don’t have anything to clean your wounds or bind them. I’m sorry. It looks like it’s going to be a long night for both of us, I’m afraid."
She waited, listening intently for the creature to respond. After a while it was clear it either wasn’t going to say anything. Maybe it wasn’t capable of complete human speech.
Curling up as tightly as she could, Tora tried to find a comfortable position in which to get some sleep. The attempt would prove futile, as the cold made it nearly impossible to rest. Add the fact that a huge creature she had believed no longer existed lay unchained less than six feet away, compounded her fear and distress.
The worst was yet to come, and the thought of what she had still to face filled her with dread. In the morning, she would see for the first time what her hands had described. And if the legends and tales proved true, it could very well be her last morning of life.
Because everyone knew how much Lupans craved human flesh.
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