She closed her eyes when she went over the edge and waited
for the impact. It was not what she expected! She hit against a warm solid
something that knocked the breath out of her. Two bands of steel clamped around
her and held her still. She opened her eyes cautiously and found herself nose to
nose with a very handsome man. Two dark blue eyes gazed intently into hers.
Laughter crinkled the corners of his eyes. Locks of black hair fell across his
“What did you catch,
Val?” an amused male voice behind them asked the question.
Val was taking a heated inventory of the woman he held in
his arms. He focused on the disarray of her hair, the fullness of her breasts,
the narrowness of her waist, and then the soft pink lips so close to his own.
He pulled her close against him, amused and intrigued. “I merely asked the gods
for their favor on our hunt, and they dropped a goddess right into my arms.” He
tightened his hold about her waist and leaned in for a closer look. Desire
slammed into him like a battle-ax. He liked what he saw. This angel that
dropped from the sky was beautiful with her long ebony hair, green eyes, and
pert little nose. Bewitching. He stared at her mouth so close to his and
wondered if she tasted as good as she looked. He wanted this enchanting girl.
Anastasia could not move. He studied her through half-closed
eyes, like a predator studies its prey. She drowned in the heat of his eyes and
all around her was his scent. He smelled of the woods, sunshine, and danger. Her
lips parted and her breathing quickened. A tingling sensation began somewhere
in the region of her stomach and spread through her whole body. White-hot heat
pumped through her veins. Her body hummed with excitement and danger. His gaze
moved from her lips, to her heaving chest, and then back to her mouth. He
leaned closer still. Every nerve she had screamed with sensory overload. She
felt as though she were a tender piece of meat being offered to a hungry wolf.
She waited for his touch, her breath coming quickly. His full mouth hovered
above her own. If either of them moved the smallest bit…
“Will you put my sister down?”
Anastasia jumped at
Beatrice stood right behind her now, her voice indignant.
The man lifted his head slowly and turned to face Beatrice.
“I caught her; now she is mine to keep,” he teased.
Beatrice did not look amused at the situation. “Put her down
at once,” she commanded. “You cannot hold my sister like that, sir, it is not
proper. People are beginning to stare.” “The lady is right, Val. We are about
to be the talk of the village,” the other voice said. Val glanced around with a
frown of annoyance and set Anastasia on her feet.
Anastasia dragged in
a hard breath. She was dizzy. When her feet touched the ground, her legs wobbled
like a young colt.
He stared down into her eyes again, hypnotizing her with his
heat. Anastasia blinked up at him, trying to reason beyond the spell he wove
around her. She grabbed hold of him to keep her knees from buckling. His arms were
thick with muscle, and the fire he radiated almost burned her fingers. He was
so tall that his shoulders blocked out the sun. The top of her head did not
reach his chin.
Anastasia boldly let her eyes wander over his massive chest
and the bulge of muscle visible beneath the coarse tunic he wore. Lord, this
man was fit and large. She shivered. Heat pooled into her stomach, as she stood
on liquid legs. Was he a soldier of some kind? Surely, nobody could be this
well-defined unless he trained regularly. Anastasia tried to speak but her
mouth was dry, and her tongue way too big. She licked her lips.
Val’s gaze flickered
to her mouth. Val leaned toward her.
Anastasia began to
quiver against him with some nameless desire.
“Anastasia, will you let go of that man and come with me?
Have you taken leave of your senses? What will Mama say when I tell her of your
lack of decorum today?’
Anastasia jumped again at the sound of Beatrice’s voice. She
looked down in bemusement. Lord, she had hold of his tunic with both hands. She
blushed and made her hands let go of him.
“What is your name?”
“My name is
Anastasia,” she answered. She felt the heat in her cheeks. “Thank you for
catching me,” she managed to whisper.
“My pleasure,” he drawled. “Anytime you need catching, I
will be there, Anastasia.” His voice held a velvet promise, and Anastasia felt
her stomach clench. She did not know what to say. In truth, her mind seemed to
have deserted her altogether.
Val winked at her, a
slow provocative gesture, then turned to his companion. “Come, Vroknar, there
is other game to be caught.”
Only as the beautiful man walked away did Anastasia’s
breathing return to normal. Then she became aware that he had not one companion
“What is wrong with
you today?” Beatrice chided. “Have you taken complete leave of your senses?”
she asked for the second time.
Confused, Anastasia looked at her. “What senses?”
“I am beginning to wonder the same myself,” Beatrice
muttered as she grabbed Anastasia’s arm and dragged her back to their stall.
“How could you let a stranger hold you like that? It is not proper for him to
be so forward with you. And he is so big. What if he had evil intentions toward
Anastasia had no idea what an intention was, so she asked.
Beatrice rolled her eyes. “Did he try to kiss you?” Beatrice sounded more
interested now than outraged. But then she bounced back to the outrage. “Why
were you not trying to get away? Mama is going to be disappointed in you.”
It was worth it. Anastasia closed her eyes and thought of
the strong warm arms that held her, and the beautiful eyes that sucked her soul
right out of her body. The heat and the danger made her breathing erratic.
Besides, she was getting used to disappointing her mother.