Tasha eyed her surroundings as she stood on the open platform near the top of a blue-leafed tree. The foliage was thick due to the late spring growth, shielding the wood-planked deck from any curious eyes that might be around. And yet she felt watched by avid eyes.
She took in the platform itself. It boasted little, but enough for her to know it had recently been used. Cushions as long as her body made from furred animal hides lay scattered about. Depressions in their centers spoke of someone – or something – making use of them at some point.
Tasha inhaled deeply. She smelled the wood of the tree itself, of the deck beneath her bare feet. The leaves had a dusty yet distantly sweet fragrance, much as dried flowers might carry. There was her own light fragrance, a spritz of perfume that wafted from her body. Then there was another scent, something musky and spicy, with a hint of cinnamon...
She backed toward the trunk of the tree, where the improbable rough spiral staircase wound about its thick circumference. She had padded up its circular path less than a minute before, curiosity about what she’d find driving her forward. Now, feeling those unseen eyes upon her, she headed back that way, trying not to think of the dizzying height that she must descend to reach the ground.
Tasha turned as she neared the trunk, reaching toward the flimsy-looking railing that wound in tandem with the steps anchored in the massive tree. Her hand froze in midair as her gaze locked with that of a man standing a couple of steps down.
He was big, his naked torso made of granite muscle. Tasha’s breath caught to see the powerful swells beneath mocha-brown skin. Her gaze skittered down to the tan animal hide tied about his waist, revealing legs as strong as his upper body. His waist-length black hair drifted loose in the breeze, waving like lazy tendrils of fire. His purple, cat-pupiled eyes were narrowed as he looked at her, as if he could drill into her soul with his very gaze. He had sensual lips in defiance of the carved masculinity of his face, and they curled in a knowing smile.
Tasha took a step back from that ruthless leer. Her legs felt weak all of the sudden. The alien man drained strength from her with the power of that unblinking stare.
In response to her retreat, he advanced another step, growing taller. His eyes were now at least three inches higher than hers now. He kept climbing, looming bigger. Then he was on the deck with Tasha, towering over her.
Movement behind him alerted her to the second man on the steps. Tasha took another step back, realizing she didn’t have much room to retreat to. She was going to run out of platform soon.
The first man’s companion mounted the deck and came around to stand at his side. This one was slighter but no less impressive. His dark face was long. The features would have been haughty had it not been for the warmth in his eyes ... and lust curling his lips. His shaggy hair brushed his wide shoulders, tousled locks that shone blue-black in the dappled light. He also wore a skin loincloth knotted low about his hips.
And yet a third man appeared. He held Tasha’s gaze more rapt than the first two. Her mouth went dry to see the heavy, brutal brow and the downward scar that started at one corner of his lips, making him seem to scowl fiercely even though she saw a definite smile on his face.
It was one of many scars which covered his masculine body. He was built just slightly less bulky than the first man who’d gained the platform, and the jagged marks emphasized many of the curves of muscled flesh. Tasha’s gut squeezed tight as she eyed the brute, a savage-looking creature who seemed born to fight and take what he wanted.
“A Matara has entered our territory,” the first man said. He spoke slowly, as if relishing every word. His low, deep voice struck a chord in Tasha’s body. She shivered.
The scarred beast lifted his face, his wide nose flaring as he inhaled. “She is ripe for breeding,” he rumbled.
Tasha’s weakened knees shook even harder. It took all she had to not collapse to the planking.
The slightest member of the group’s eager smile grew wider still. “Then let us take her.”
Release date not set.