The Demon Contagion Strikes

“Look at her eyes…” Talitha whispered. Jessica’s irises were becoming pallid. The blue color was slowly fading to a sickly pale white.

“There are no shortcuts,” Shannon exhaled through clenched teeth, wincing at the sudden strength of the gauntleted hand on her arm. Jessica’s fingers were growing thinner and sharper. She keened. It was a rasping howl-like sound. The hide bit only distorted it.

“This is a demon contagion. Death with a purpose,” Shannon finished.

“But, Reina’s powers are all based on–”

“Healing the living!” Shannon shouted. “You can’t take the powers of life and use them to nourish death!” The Huntress returned to gathering the small quantity of herbs in front of her. “Reina’s powers would dissolve half of Jessica’s blood, and we’d be forced to fight the soulless thing left behind.”

“We can’t fight one of our own!” Ranko exclaimed, horrified at the mere suggestion.

“Oh yes we can,” Shannon replied. “There’s no way I’m going to allow this blight one foot closer to Escator and all those people. Those children.”

“Shannon, we can’t just–” Talitha’s soothing voice was overwhelmed by the Huntress’ icy, piercing glare.

“I will not abide another savage loose under this moon. So help me, if she turns–” Shannon choked on her next breath. She blinked back tears and opened her mouth, holding her duty back as long as she could. Her face reddened and her eyelids swelled. She inhaled deeply and used all of her breath to utter the words.

“I’ll kill her.”

“Are you nuts?!” Ranko almost yelled.

“I’m sure we can find another way!” Talitha pleaded.

“And take the risk of her infecting both of you? I’m not going to allow it. You have no idea how insidious these creatures are. Left to their own, they will destroy every last living thing they touch. This pestilence feeds on itself. As it festers it grows stronger, capable of turning creatures not so easily defeated or as mindless as simple borcine livestock. Would either of you care to face a hornwing surrounded by a cloud of death against which there is no defense?”

Jessica rolled back and forth. Her breathing was shallow and frantic. Shannon gathered the black and gray ash-like powder into her hands.

“If she turns she won’t be Jessica any more than those three monsters we just fought.”

“What about you?” Ranko asked. “If you try something, she’s going to infect you too!”

Shannon began to smudge the sooty powder all over Jessica’s face. Jessica wheezed and coughed through the cershay hide as the particles got into her nose and mouth.

“What is that?” Ranko asked, watching as Shannon covered Jessica’s face and the edges of her hair with black streaks.

“Wolfsbane. Get back.”

Talitha backed away. Ranko moved towards her War-Hammer.

“You’re going to catch whatever she has!” Ranko warned.

“I’ve fought them before, and I’m not so easily infected,” Shannon replied through her teeth. Her eyes were slits.

“What are you going to do?” Ranko with increasing concern. The Night Warrior pulled an arrow from her hunting quiver.

“Hey! HEY!” Ranko challenged.

Shannon stopped, holding the arrow in one hand, it’s razor edge close to Jessica’s side. She looked up at the Crimson Champion with a nonplussed expression. The Warrior of the Storms had used the extra few moments to retrieve Thundercaller.

The Warrior of the Forest heeded Shannon’s advice and backed away. Right to the edge of a surprisingly elaborate network of thin, spindly roots only a few inches underground. Growing at the corner of the Barley Road as it turned south was a big, looming, black-leaved viperbark tree.

To anyone else, it would have reminded them of graveyards and unhappy times. But the Storyteller was delighted. She resisted the urge to give the morbid-looking plant a warm hug.

Viperbark toxin was a perfect way to defuse any conflict, and obligatory peace conferences were one of the Storyteller’s specialties. The roots passed directly under both the Huntress and Jessica.

“What’s the deal with the arrow, Shannon?” Ranko asked in a deadpan voice with a slightly threatening tone.

“I’m doing my duty,” Shannon replied with a steely glare.

“That’s my friend on the ground there. Now I don’t know all about your magic and your duty to some pack of wild animals or whatever, but I’m going to tell you a little something about my duty. You put that arrowhead anywhere near her and there’s going to be a bolt of pain coming your way. Right from this Hammer. And I don’t care how fast you think you are. You ain’t as fast as me.”

The Storyteller worked quickly, considerately and silently persuading the sour-natured tree to assist her in the name of its brothers. Gently and ever so quietly, Talitha began to coax its roots to the surface.

LadyStar No Savage Under This Moon is a standalone adventure starring the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled!

Available now at the Official LadyStar Bookstore!

The Vicereine Arrives

“Unhand her at once or you’ll answer for it!”

Enken’s voice rang in the small room. The guffaws and jeers subsided quickly. The looks on the faces of the patrons were part confusion and part surprise at being challenged. The crowd parted between the two.

Enken knew it was a risk, but he was fairly certain if he didn’t do something quickly Jessica was going to panic, and given the weapon she was carrying, that might lead to something well and truly impossible to explain.

The burly man who had first accosted Jessica handed her to one of his accomplices, who held her roughly by the neck and arm.

“And what kind of scrawny champion do you fancy yourself?”

Unlike Jessica, Enken was schooled in swordsmanship and single combat. He went to his sword but refrained from drawing it. “I am a member of the Thesian Mission and personal aide to her Excellency the Vicereine. Do as I say!”

“And I am prince of the seven lands with a hornwing to ride along the riverbank.” The man drew a dull rusted knife. “Let’s see which of us bleeds more.”

The men cheered. Wagers were shouted. Music played louder. Jessica twisted and almost pulled free until a second man arrived to restrain her further. Teko looked as if he were about to bite one of their hands off. Enken and his opponent circled.

Even the Innkeeper was shouting responses into the growing din. Right after he shouted “I’ll take that bet but only if I get the second dance with the fair maiden!” there was a sudden cry of surprise. The sound of the musician’s squeezebox deflating preceded total silence.

The lamps inside the room actually dimmed. The table of patrons nearest the door had emptied. Its former occupants wended their way through the crowd to the farthest corners, carrying their flagons and looking back over their shoulders as they scurried away.

“I’ll be a–” the Innkeeper muttered, just before his face almost literally exploded into a forced smile. “Excellency! How good of you to join us! Have a little of our apple wine. It takes the chill off a dusky winter’s–” He sounded like a man desperately trying to distract an executioner from the stroke of midnight.

The Vicereine of Kulnas herself stood in the doorway.

LadyStar Storyteller is the second book in the Seven Rings of Ajanel Series, the origin story of the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled!

Available now at the Official LadyStar Bookstore!

What are Gold Monarchs?

Official LadyStar Bookstore Gold Monarchs are a bookstore-only currency you get free with every purchase! They can be redeemed for discounts, free books, special offers and exclusive bookstore-member-only goodies! You accumulate them in your Official LadyStar Bookstore account and you can redeem them in your shopping cart any time you like for nearly every purchase.

Be sure to check each book for its Gold Monarchs Reward (red font) listed just beneath the “Product Code,” and also check each book for its price in Gold Monarchs listed just under the price (in a small gray font). If you purchase the book (or download it free) you get the Gold Monarchs Reward automatically. If you want to use them to buy a book, you will need enough to pay the price in Gold Monarchs.

Also don’t forget that any book that is listed as Teko’s Daily Treasure earns you double the Gold Monarchs Reward if you purchase it on that day! Daily Treasures also often have a special price!

You will receive an e-mail notification each time you are awarded new Gold Monarchs, and you can keep track of how many you have earned on your bookstore member page. Be sure to watch for your awards, as they will tell you when you have earned enough to get a special reward!

See you at the bookstore!

Jessica Halloran’s First Battle!

“Hearken to me!” he shouted.

Talitha heard Jessica gasp. He was only yards away. She hoped none of the men would see them. After all, they didn’t know any of these people and so far, the only evidence they had this boy wasn’t one of the wicked people they had been warned about was Jessica’s story about how dreamy he was. Talitha knew Jessica would give just about anyone the benefit of the doubt if they were “cute.” If they were “super-cute” all bets were off.

A small group of men gathered around him. “This is our time, my countrymen! This is our moment! Remember what you fight for! I have seen her in the light of morning! Fight bravely and with Thesian valor, and her favor will be upon you!”

“You’ve led us to our deaths, Enken! There can be no victory here!” Some of the other men murmured in agreement. Talitha noticed the troubled look on her friend’s face.

“Enken…” Jessica whispered.

“She will not forsake us!” Enken shouted back, trying to encourage the others.

“She is a delusion! Your stories of angels coming to save us are just that! Stories! Let us retreat at once and live to fight when we at least have a chance of victory!”

Now it was a competition between Enken’s rival and the boy himself. The men he was exhorting to bravery all seemed to be much older than he was. Talitha wondered what had earned him the ear of so many older soldiers. Several looked at least old enough to be his father.

“You cannot be afraid! You–”

A shout and a cry of pain interrupted the boy’s words. A fiery arrow plunged into the arm of one of the men and he spun away with a ragged growl, reaching for the wound. They had waited too long.

Enemy fighters bore down on them from the opposite side of the camp. There were at least a dozen of them. They would have been evenly matched had Enken’s men not been gathered in a small group. Archers took out half of the gathering before they had a chance to react.

Once again Talitha was overcome by the feeling of dread. She noticed Jessica was barely able to control herself. She knew her friend was trying to decide if she should run to Enken’s defense, or remain hidden and hopefully avoid a battle neither of the girls were prepared for.

Enken only had moments to prepare. Then he did something that dissolved every rational thought in Jessica’s mind in a scarce instant. He produced the pink ribbon from Jessica’s dream and held it to his lips. He closed his eyes as if gathering strength. Thunder and fire raged all around him.

Jessica held her hand over her mouth. Tears streamed.

Enken drew his sword and charged into the teeth of an overwhemling force of enemy soliders, roaring his defiance. Talitha had never been much of a military tactician, but she knew there was no chance he could survive.

LadyStar With This Ring is the first book in the Seven Rings of Ajanel Series, the origin story of the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled!

Available now at the Official LadyStar Bookstore!

The Warrior of Fire and Light Joins the Adventure!

with-this-ring-600The first of the brand new adventures of Jessica Halloran and the Greatest Fighting Team of Teenage Girls Ever Assembled is here, and during the Seven Rings Book Sale, it is absolutely free!

Not only can you get W. Scott’s LadyStar: With This Ring free, today it is Teko’s Daily Treasure, which means you also get seven free Gold Monarchs as a reward! You can start your LadyStar treasure hunt with a hornwing-sized discovery!

In the first volume of the Seven Rings of Ajanel saga, Jessica Halloran and Talitha Casey journey through the Lockvern portal into a strange land in search of a boy from Jessica’s dreams. Once there, Jessica discovers her ring Dawnsong has unusual powers. It isn’t until she finds herself up against an army of monstrous attackers that she realizes just how intense her new powers are.

She also discovers deep feelings for the boy who beckoned her into his world to help him fight evil.

Start your adventure today!

The Ajan Warriors Are Coming Home February 6th

600-0042a-w

Many of you may have noticed LadyStar has been fairly quiet recently, and that’s because we’ve been very busy.

I rebooted the entire franchise. I decided to retire all of the previous materials. This includes art, games and books plus audiocasts, animated episodes, web sites and even mobile apps going all the way back to 2000. In one week, a new series of books called Seven Rings of Ajanel will be launched in our own bookstore, and we’ll be telling a brand new story. This series will also establish an all new canon for LadyStar. We’re building on the past world, but we’re expanding it at the same time.

Jessica and her sister warriors are older and a little stronger now. (Jessica and Talitha are both 16 in the new series). The new books will have more romance, more action and will take place in a greatly expanded world, which I’ve been working on for the better part of a year. All of the girls look different, but will retain their basic personalities from previous stories. Jessica is still a goofball. Ranko is still a tough girl and Shannon is still a perfectionist.

However, all the old anime influences are gone. These characters are now literary heroines, and because authors like me have unlimited special effects budgets, they will get to participate in adventures that no studio can afford to film. Except maybe Peter Jackson, but I think he’s probably looking forward to some time off.

Each of the new books is going to be written more like a television episode than a novel. I’m going to try to keep word counts in the 15k to 25k range, which will make these new books quicker and lighter reads. We’ve had a lot of success with this format in other genres and I’m eager to see if serializing the story with this format will make romantic fantasy adventure more exciting and more entertaining. This new format will also give me the ability to include a lot of bonus material in each book, which I plan to take full advantage of. LadyStar takes place in a big, big world. It will take a lot of pages to tell you about it.

The first book is called LadyStar: With This Ring. It is the first “episode” in the origin story of the Ajan Warriors. Instead of different jewelry types like bracelets and necklaces, now all seven girls wear rings. Jessica and Talitha both get their rings in the first book. You’ll find that these episodic books are a little slower paced and focus much more closely on one or two heroes at a time instead of starting with the entire team on the same adventure. I have a really fun set of stories starring Jessica and Talitha as they set off to find the lost pets of the Empress of Fire that may follow the first three new books.

Jessica and Talitha are very powerful together. They are the original “sword and shield” duo, and they are also the perfect combination of energy and contemplation. Once they learn what the world of Aventar is like, they will form the core of a much more believable warrior team. Jessica discovers she carries all of the rings through her treasure Dawnsong, which is now not only her Sword in disguise, but also the armory that protects the other Ajan Rings.

Enken gets a much more substantial role in these books, mainly because he and Jessica realize very quickly if they don’t figure out a way protect each other, the fight for Aventar is doomed. They end up in each other’s arms early in the series, which will lead to all kinds of complications later as Jessica’s enemies realize they can get to her by threatening him.

The second book is LadyStar: Storyteller, which is primarily about Talitha’s new powers. The Warrior of the Forest was often overlooked in the previous versions of LadyStar, but here she is key to meeting the challenges presented by monsters and villains. Talitha is a healer, and once she and Jessica learn to work together you are going to see them grow in power and capability very rapidly. Talitha also gets an exotic magical pet which some might argue is even cooler than Teko, Kishi or Hikousen.

Reina makes her first appearance in Storyteller. For those of you who enjoyed her rather dark approach to heroism in the first series of books, you’ll be happy to know she gets a ton of new lore in this series, including two new weapons, a huge expansion of the Thesian First House and her very own ongoing subplot while she tries to manage and control her fast-moving and rambunctious team of girl fighters. Reina definitely has her own way of doing things, and she has no patience for nonsense. However, even she recognizes the energy and force her young team of go-getters brings to the battle against evil. When she begins to teach them more powerful battle magic, look out.

Next up is LadyStar: By Her Sword, which is the first chance for the fledgling Ajan Warriors to venture beyond the safe walls of their hideout and start to push back against the bad guys. Both Jessica and Talitha learn that just because you have a powerful weapon doesn’t mean you have an automatic advantage. They also begin encountering some of the more exciting new denizens of Aventar, and will certainly find their way to some very strange and scary places before they have their first chance to save the day.

These first three books combined will end up representing as much material as half of Dreamspeaker, which I found quite surprising. We’ll be bundling them together as the Jessica Fight! Collection and you’ll be happy to know all four titles will soon be made available as DRM-free audiobooks.

Because we are concentrating on the book series now, you will find few drawings, animations, art, comics or anything similar. This will give us a chance to really establish this world. It will also give us a chance to provide you with a lot more material than we could before. One of the problems with the previous version of this franchise was we tried to do too much at once. It is just a book series now, and that’s going to make it twice as good.

I can write a 25k word LadyStar book very rapidly. While I’m doing that I can also update this site, the bookstore and our social media sites with sneak peeks, new story previews and all kinds of lore and legends. You’re going to get to see a lot more of this world we’ve built because we aren’t trying to draw it, animate it and turn it into a video game all at the same time.

Over there on the left sidebar you will find a list of permanent links and features. Among them will be character pages and background stories on many of the main characters, villains, landmarks, treasures and monsters of Aventar. You will also find links to other places on the web where LadyStar is being updated.

So be sure to visit the Official LadyStar Bookstore in a week for the big release of the first three Seven Rings of Ajanel stories! Once Jessica and Talitha start the adventure, it won’t be long before the other warriors join them.

As Reina would say, let us prepare well.

Jessica is Infected with Bloodlune

The following is an excerpt from LadyStar: No Savage Under This Moon

illustration-2Shannon arrived at Jessica’s side only a moment before Talitha did. Neither had to say a word. Jessica’s left leg told the story. An eight-inch dessicated gash traveled lengthwise from her ankle up the side of her calf. The blood was already turning white.

The Huntress pulled the latch at the center of her harness. Her quiver, pack and bow fell to the ground. Shannon could hear and smell the foul burning decay of lycanthropic ichor. The essence of the unliving. The bane of all wilderness.

It was the Bloodlune.

They had moments, if that. The Huntress better than any other knew the terrible dilemma that awaited her if there was but a single failure among her next urgent actions.

If Jessica turned, and became a creature like that which had attacked and infected her, the Warrior of the Night would have no choice.

“Shannon…”

The Night Warrior closed her eyes and caught her breath. She tried to ignore the voice of her best friend, and the panic welling inside her throat. Jessica put her hand on Shannon’s arm.

“Make sure Teko–” A convulsion wracked Jessica’s body, and her shoulders and back arched off the ground. She turned to one side, revealing the sheets of foaming discharge covering the wound to her leg. Her skin was beginning to darken, and pustules were forming around the ragged edges of torn skin and muscle.

“How far is the river?” Shannon hissed.

Talitha was desperately trying to take inventory of her healing powers. Ranko arrived a moment later, casting her Hammer to one side. Despite her destructive might, Ranko felt powerless in the face of what she did not understand.

“How far?!”

Talitha shrank back, startled by the Huntress’ sharp voice.

“A-about a mile.”

“Not enough time,” Shannon growled.

Jessica inhaled and her head bent back. She wailed at the top of her lungs until her voice broke at the lack of breath. She rolled to one side and Shannon pulled her back so her shoulders were flat. She slid a wide chunk of rolled cershay hide between Jessica’s teeth and pushed her chin up until she bit it.

“Can’t we heal her?” Ranko asked, grasping at any possibility.

Shannon shook her head as Talitha’s formidable imagination cast itself into the blackness of the impossible looking for any scrap of hope.

“This isn’t a natural toxin,” Talitha said almost inaudibly. “I can’t neutralize undeath.”

Shannon pounded a small pile of black roots with her fist. Her motions were heedless and rash. Ranko could see the gathering tears in the Night Warrior’s eyes.

“Reina,” Ranko offered, now concerned for Shannon as well.

“Look at her eyes…” Talitha whispered. Jessica’s irises were becoming pallid. The blue color was slowly fading to a sickly pale white.

“There are no shortcuts,” Shannon exhaled through clenched teeth, wincing at the sudden strength of the gauntleted hand on her arm. Jessica’s fingers were growing thinner and sharper.

Jessica keened a rasping howl-like sound through the hide bit.

“This is a demon contagion. Death with a purpose,” Shannon finished.

“But, Reina’s powers are all based on–”

“Healing the living!” Shannon shouted. “You can’t take the powers of life and use them to nourish death!” The Huntress returned to gathering the small quantity of herbs in front of her. “Reina’s healing power would dissolve half of Jessica’s blood, and we’d be forced to fight the soulless thing left behind.”

“We can’t fight one of our own!” Ranko exclaimed, horrified at the mere suggestion.

“Oh yes we can,” Shannon replied. “There’s no way I’m going to allow this blight one foot closer to Escator and all those people. Those children.”

“Shannon, we can’t just–” Talitha’s soothing voice was overwhelmed by the Huntress’ icy, piercing glare.

“I will not abide another savage loose under this moon. So help me, if she turns–” Shannon choked on her next breath. She blinked back tears and opened her mouth, holding her duty back as long as she could. Her face reddened and her eyelids swelled. She inhaled deeply and used all of her breath to utter the words.

“I’ll kill her.”

Talitha Finds Her Way Home

The following is an excerpt from LadyStar: Storyteller, Book Two in W. Scott’s Seven Rings of Ajanel Series.

illustration-4Cerys had said he would return, but by now Talitha was pretty sure he had fled with tales to tell that nobody would believe. In fact, Talitha had been there and she wasn’t entirely sure she believed them either.

She and her little glimmerkin companion had discovered a well concealed copse of leafy mint sprouts and she was gently feeding him one tiny green morsel at a time. The tiny dragon devoured each one and eagerly waited while Talitha picked another. She sat with her legs crossed and her new pet perched on her shoe. The light he gave off was enough for both of them to see as far as they needed.

It wasn’t until some time later that Talitha noticed it was well and truly dark overhead. She could still sense everything around her, with or without the light. The growth of the tiny roots and flowers around her wrist had all combined together into a beautiful ring of white flowers that was even better than the world’s greatest corsage. Talitha felt as if she could coax pretty much any kind of leafy plant or bloom from her ring to wear around her wrist. The possibilities were pleasantly exciting. Talitha knew she could come up with some rather pretty combinations.

Her glimmerkin fluttered back to her shoulder as she stood and began to wonder what to do next. The feeling she was struggling with was both comforting and unfamiliar to her. It was a sensation she didn’t understand. On the one hand, she was alone in a completely unfamiliar place in the middle of the night with no food and no shelter. On the other hand, she felt as if the entire forest were gathered around her like a queen’s castle. She could feel the power in every leaf and every branch. The combined energy of all the life around her threatened to overwhelm her, but the care she sensed in them also made her feel completely safe.

She took particular notice of the bosk around the mint she had been picking. She knew the plants were sugarblossoms. They smelled like bubblegum and grew twice as rapidly as the most aggressive weeds. Just underneath them was a tangle of helico roots. They were bitter plants with anti-toxic properties. Right next to them was a twisted little slitherweed plant. Talitha knew instinctively it was deadly poisonous, even to touch. She knew it would draw a painful rash from her skin.

Talitha Casey also knew she had never seen, heard of or read about any of these plants before in her life. There was no way she could know what raeflowers, helico roots or slitherweeds were. They didn’t exist anywhere but here in this strange forest.

She stared at her ring. It was the cause of all of this. She was sure of it. She finally concluded it would do her no good to wonder why. Her only concern now was to find a way to wield whatever power she had been granted, and to do it consistently enough so she could find her way back to Jessica and Enken.

But then again, she thought, I already know my way back to Jessica and Enken. They’re in Parsim just beyond that stand of juniper–

She shook her head, as if trying to silence a voice only she could hear. How can I possibly know how to get from here to there? I’ve never been here or there before!

Talitha took the little glimmerkin off her shoulder. It perched happily on the edge of her hand. The sharp little claws on its feet felt like tiny little toothpicks on her skin. It smiled at her again.

“Do you know what’s going on here?”

It cocked its head to one side. Suddenly her face was bathed in soothing green light. She sensed something as the familiar soft orb of brightness appeared around the glimmerkin’s wings. It wasn’t really a word as much as a conscious perception. Everything felt more peaceful. It was as if the tiny dragon’s subtle change caused her to see everything around her through a different lens. There really was nothing to worry about. She would be together with Jessica and Enken soon. And she knew she could call on that huge shield if she needed it to defend herself.

All I have to do is go this way.

She set off across the forest in a new direction. Her little dragon followed, bobbing and circling around her, changing from green to pink. Talitha wasn’t entirely sure how she knew where to go. She was pretty sure the pink light meant “happy,” though

For reasons she could not explain, she was certain when she got there she would find her friends.

Shannon Protects An Injured Animal

The following is an excerpt from LadyStar: The Obsidian Star, Book Four in W. Scott’s Seven Rings of Ajanel Series.

illustration-5The sound that awakened Shannon was sharp, like a firecracker going off. In an instant, she was awake. The combination of adrenalin and the chilly air made her shiver as she leaned back against the tree.

As unwise as it had been to sleep outdoors with absolutely nothing even as meager as a windbreaker to add to her sweatshirt for warmth, Shannon’s mind was focused on something far more concerning.

The men she and the big cat had escaped from were back, and they were getting closer.

As quietly as she could possibly manage, Shannon crept around the tree and into the undergrowth, crawling on her hands and knees. She needed to move about five yards to get to the animal, and she hoped when she got there she would be able to keep it from making too much noise.

The murmur of voices made Shannon duck lower to the ground as she crawled bit by bit to make sure she made no noise at all. Even the slightest sound might draw their attention.

The ghostly flicker of torchlight cast smoldering shadows through the leaves, making the trees appear much larger and more forbidding. The voices got louder, then seemed to drift away, then got louder still.

A few more feet, and she would be there. She could see the great cat’s back paws lying in the leaves next to the largest of the three trees on Shannon’s side of the glen. The animal’s breathing was a strained sound, but it did seem a little stronger than before.

“Stupid hair,” Shannon whispered to herself as she pulled it back over her ear so she could see in both directions. I wish I had brought something to tie it with, she thought.

She crept behind the big cat, hiding behind his immensely powerful shoulders. She wished he could sleep, but the heavy, quick sound of his breathing made it sound as if sleeping would be difficult. She put her hands across his side.

“Shhhhh.. shhhh… don’t let them hear us..”

Then she froze. Torchlight was visible over the bushes only a few yards away. She lowered her head so her eyes were just above the black fur of the big cat’s side. Her heart beat like a trip-hammer and the tension in her arms and legs made her fingers ache.

How dare they hurt him and then chase him down!

Shannon scowled in the darkness, following the light of the torch and the small band of men along the edge of the glen with intense hatred in her eyes. She hoped beyond all hope they wouldn’t hear the big cat breathing, or the rattling in his throat. Shannon wasn’t sure what she might do if they hurt him.

But the heat in her face told her she was prepared to fight.