ThunderClaw (Alien Warrior #2)(12)

By: Penelope Fletcher

Fingers twitched over my ribcage. ‘I comfort you.’

‘Assault me; you’ll find.’

He huffed, but the heavy hand remained stationary.

‘I’m getting down now.’ I twisted my head to judge the best way to go about it. I studied the curlicued patterns on the faded carpet. In the dim room, it was easy to see the floor was far away. I changed my previous statement to, ‘You’ll be putting me down then.’

‘But I like where you are.’

Flushing, and my spine stiffening, I faced the unknown, featureless figure. My mouth opened wide, words to blister his ears bubbling from my gut, but then the light overhead switched on.

Tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, I stared, granted an up-close, unobstructed view of the creature.

His head brushed the ceiling. A charcoal mane plunged from the crown of his head to his waist, wild and dense, interspersed with looping braids and painted beads, not unlike the primitive decorations used by heathen barbarians. Locks of the stuff tickled my arms and neck. Rich and smoky, a drugging fragrance drifted from the blanketing mess as if rinsed in anise. He also had a full beard. It fell to his collarbone, braided in two. Only a duo of smooth patches on the underside of his bottom lip was free of its glossy thickness.

Moving as if underwater, I reached to touch the things protruding from behind his temple.

They curled from the nest of his hair, a diadem with capped, dagger-like points facing the front of his head. The engraved silver cuffs had been scratched and dented, lending him a rugged air. Spiralled bones were ridged to such a degree, I imagined I might remember their painstaking growth. My next breath hitched, lungs locking as I clasped the horn I fingered, full palm, fingers curling over its sleek warmth.

‘Oh, God, am I really touching this?’ I tugged. He grunted. As I stroked the curve, my expression grew pinched, my limbs leaden and tingled.

I tightened my grasp to do it again. And again. By the forth squeeze, I knew they were real, but my toes had curled, my nipples had peaked, and for the life of me, I couldn’t stop touching it.

He shuddered on my last pass, the violent spasm detaching my grip.

A guttural moan rolled from his corded throat. ‘Enough, female.’ He crushed me close, kneading my behind.

The need for the movement was so frantic, I drew my hand away, banishing it to the barren between my thighs.

Though contorted from my invasive touch, his features lay arranged in a familiar mammalian way. Their shape was a blend of human and beast, predatory in composition.

Our gazes met and a frisson of belonging swept over me.

For all their dramatic appearance, there was a stillness at the heart of his eyes akin to a mountain loch, bottomless and as shockingly brisk. Wide and deep-set, they had stygian sclera and star-shaped pupils, irises a fractured prism. They were almost too large for his squared face, broader than it was long. Their surface depths lit with a curiosity I felt naive to return. Entranced by his gaze, I gleaned impressions of a ponderous brow narrowed into a broad, flat nose bridge, its look akin to that of a muzzle. Browned skin free of fine, henna fur had a bruised-yellow undertone that would appear sickly if not for its healthy sheen.

Alien, yes, and bestial, very. I was spellbound because of it.

‘I’m a simple woman, but I’m no simple-minded.’ My gaze skittered over his blunt nose, short and thin philtrum. My voice lowered to a hush as if sharing a secret. ‘You’re no of Earth.’

His eyes were brightly dark.

I trembled then was still.

This fiend who had broken into my home and put his clawed hands on me was unlike anything my feeble mind had encountered, yet I felt as if being physically harmed wasn’t a problem. I’d threatened him with a blade, and he’d yet to retaliate. Since he’d picked me up, I’d felt safe. ‘Are you going to hurt me?’ It was barely a whisper.

‘You know the answer to that.’

‘Is my daughter safe?’ I glanced at his face. His eyes had narrowed and his mouth downturned into a grimace. He was offended. Crazy as it seemed I felt an urge to apologise. I fiddled with the silver pendant lying in the hollow of my throat. ‘Tell us who you are then.’

Ruddy lips curved. One of his smaller incisors sat crooked in his gums, their near whiteness making his fangs seem massive rather than just large. ‘Beowyn Hassabard Gengorye ThunderClaw.’ His bearded chin lifted, words booming. ‘King of Vayhalun, Great Alpha of the Verak.’