Monday, March 03, 2008

SHIFTER HITS BOOKSTORES!



Dear gang --

For those of you who are anxious for an Angela Knight fix, my new anthology, SHIFTER, featuring "Mad Dog Love" will hit shelves Tuesday. SHIFTER also features work by Lora Leigh, Alyssa Day, and Virginia Kantra, all wonderful authors who have penned steamy, delicious stories for the anthology.

I've written 20 novellas since my first was published in Secrets 2 back in 1996. I've got to admit, "Mad Dog Love" is my favorite of the lot. I just loved the idea-- a futuristic werewolf finds himself a slave, and is not happy about it.

Rance Conlan is from a world three hundred years from now --a planet so dangerous, people had to genetically engineer a race of werewolf protectors just to survive there. But Rance isn't just fuzzy. He's also an interstellar trader who is helping a group of revolutionaries fight a neighboring interstellar empire. Rance hates the empire because slavery is legal there, and its slavers frequently capture and collar citizens of the Freeworlds.

When our story opens, Rance has been betrayed and captured himself. To his fury, he finds himself sold to a beautiful mystery woman who is on the run from assassins. Here=s an excerpt:

Market Station,

The Lorezo Interstellar Empire,

The year 2450

Rance Conlan prowled his cell like the caged wolf he was, anger boiling through him with every long pace. There was nothing to divert his rage, since the cell held only a cot built into the floor and a toilet unit that thrust from the wall. Both were stark, white, and rounded, without so much as a sharp corner he could put to bloody use.

Not that it mattered. All he had to do was Shift, and he'd have fangs, claws and two meters of werewolf muscle at his disposal. Trouble was, the slave collar wouldn't let him Shift.

One of the new slaves sobbed in her cell on the other side of the bulkhead, her voice thick with despair and aching grief. Her tears scraped at Rance's Freeworld-bred instinct to protect and comfort. Adding to his frustration, the doorway of his cell lacked either bars or barrier field, creating the illusion that escape was possible.

Unfortunately, Rance knew better. If he so much as stepped over the threshold, agony would cripple him.

Bloody collar.

He glared at the empty doorway in brooding fury. All his life, his Nanobot system had provided him with absolute control over his body. The molecule-sized robots traveling through his bloodstream gave him the ability to heal any illness, tap superhuman reserves of strength, communicate over vast distances, access any fact he needed to know. Even Change into something not quite human.

On the savage world he called home, a man had to be more than a man to survive.

Rance's Nanos had given him that kind of power -- until slavers had captured him three months ago. The collar they'd locked around his neck had reprogrammed his Nanosystem and turned it into the instrument of his enslavement. If he attempted rebellion now, the 'bots would plunge him into a screaming red hell.

But that wasn't going to stop him. Nanos or no Nanos, he'd find a way to escape. The traitor who'd handed him over to the slavers was damn well going to pay.

"Mad Dog!" The voice rang down the corridor, arrogantly nasal. The sobbing from the cell next door cut off as if a switch had flipped.

Smart girl.

"Mad Dog, I've found a potential buyer." The slaver strutted through the cell doorway with two hulking cyborg bodyguards at his heels. "An Aristo courier looking for a werewolf bodyguard. And you'd better not space the deal, or you'll curse your mother for birthing you into hell."

Ortio Casus had a taste for melodramatic threats. Trouble was, he also liked carrying them out.

Rance ignored the little bastard, all his feral attention focused on the two 'borgs. They were as powerfully muscled as their boss was thin, dressed in steel gray Nanotium body armor and black-visored helmets that concealed their faces. And they were entirely too alert, apparently well-aware of just what Rance was capable of.

Bloody hell. All he needed was a moment's inattention. Even a little boredom would do. Too bad they were so well-trained. Probably ex-Imperial Marines. Especially the leader of the two, Captain Aaren, who'd first hacked into Rance's Nanosystem...

“Did you hear me? I said I’ve found a potential buyer." Casus glowered, jerking his weak, bearded chin upward in irritation. As usual, he was dressed like the Aristo fop he longed to be: gaudy velvet and too much lace. But what interested Rance was the glittering array of rings he wore on every finger. One for each slave in the cells.

Rance suspected the big ruby on Casus's right hand controlled his particular collar. It’d be interesting to bite the ring off that spidery finger and find out. A quick Shift to wolf form, a snap of razor fangs, and....

The pain slammed into his groin so fast and brutally, his knees buckled. Rance crashed to the floor, his body jerking into a helpless fetal ball. He gagged, struggling to breathe despite the sensation of a big fist slowly twisting his dick with sadistic strength.

Fucking Nanobots.

He must have met Casus's gaze again. The little prick hated it when he did that. Probably because he could see the patient death waiting in Rance’s eyes.

The pain abruptly ended, leaving him to collapse in sweating nausea.

“If you ruin this deal for me, I’ll see you dead!” Casus snarled, red-faced and quivering. “You’ll scream for days, Mad Dog. Days, do you understand me?” He raised the riding crop. “Do you?”

“Yes ... master,” Rance gritted, because to do anything else would bring more punishment and accomplish nothing. Slavery had taught him he couldn't afford empty gestures, no matter how satisfying it might be to spit in the bastard's face.

He had to pretend to submit, regardless of the humiliation. With any luck, a new master would be less wary than Casus. Rance would only need an instant’s inattention to do his killing and make his escape.

Mollified by Rance's pretended submission, Casus drew himself to his full height -- such as it was -- and straightened his lace cuffs with a fussy jerk. “Good. My guards will prepare you now. But if you dare meet her gaze with those yellow mad dog eyes, you’re a dead man. One way or another, I want you out of my stable. Either she buys you, or...”

Rance concealed a frown. She?

***

Zarifa Lorezo pushed the heavy gold drapes aside and stared out the porthole beyond. An Imperial Courier maneuvered to dock at one of Market Station's other arms, its thrust nodes glowing blue as it edged into its assigned slip.

Was her vicious fiancé aboard? Gerik often used courier ships on his secret missions for the Regent.

Zarifa sent up a silent prayer that he wasn't on that ship. She'd tried so hard to lose him. The course she'd flown had been almost ridiculously intricate -- making orbit at one world only to immediately blast into Superspace headed for another. Her trip here to Market Station had taken more than a week longer than it would have by direct flight.

Still, she was only delaying the inevitable. Gerik Natalo would catch up to her sooner or later. They didn't call him the Regent's Fist for nothing. He served his father's whims with fanatical devotion, and Umar Natalo wanted her back.

Zarifa’s right hand tightened on the hilt of the sword that hung at her hip. As she shifted her booted feet restlessly, a thin knife of agony stabbed her ribs. She stifled a hiss. The wound was almost healed, but the pain remained, a silent reminder of Gerik's last attempt to bring her in.

Her new system had been worth every Imperial she'd paid for it. Less than a week had passed since the bastard had driven his sword into her side. She’d have bled to death if not for the Nanos that had accelerated her body's healing. Yet she had no illusions: if her fiancĂ© hadn't been intent on taking her alive, she'd be a dead woman now. The Regent's Fist was simply too powerful, too skilled. Too deadly.

She had to make sure she had a protector before he caught up to her again.

“Lady Selan?”

Zarifa whirled, damn near drawing on Casus before she managed to stay her hand. She slid the sword the inch back into its sheath and wiped the feral determination off her face. “Yes?”

The slaver gave her an oily smile, gaudy in his yellow silk waistcoat and green velvet jacket. A tradesman with pretensions, her father's ghost whispered. His eyes flicked nervously to the white-knuckled grip she had on her sword hilt. She wondered how quickly he’d sell her out if he knew who she really was. He’d call the Palace before I was halfway out the door.

Luckily, the image her Nanos projected would keep him from recognizing her. Between that and her cover identity of slightly shady Aristo courier, she should be relatively safe.

Unless Gerik showed up with a warrant for her arrest....

Casus sketched an elaborate bow. “The slave is ready for your consideration, milady.”

“Good. Show him in, please.” Zarifa squared her shoulders and braced her booted feet apart as the slaver turned to gesture at one of his men.

The thought of buying a slave set her teeth on edge. If she'd had her way, she'd have outlawed slavery years ago. If it was illegal to enslave Imperial citizens, it should be just as unconstitutional to kidnap and collar Freeworlders. Unfortunately, the Regent had ignored all her arguments. She suspected he was probably involved in the slave trade himself.

Umar did love his money.

And wouldn't it be ironic if one of those slaves turned out to be her salvation? Too bad she couldn't afford more of them. She'd be happier with a whole phalanx of werewolves to escort her on her mission. Unfortunately, buying the ship had left her funds so drained, one Shifter was all she could afford.

Frowning, Zarifa used her thumb to twist the diamond ring that rode her right hand, a nervous habit formed in the last stressful month. The intricately engraved band felt cold on her finger, heavy with old debts and lost honor.

The door whispered open. Zarifa looked around just as one of the guards led the slave in on the end of a silver chain.

And she forgot everything else.

The Shifter prowled between the overstuffed pseudo-Victorian furnishings, naked except for a gleaming black collar around his neck. One sweeping glance branded him on her senses -- the hard, angular features, the broad, powerful curve of his chest, the ripple of brawny arms and legs. The swing of his heavy sex between his thighs....

She looked away, feeling her cheeks burn. Right into Casus’s amused, faintly contemptuous gaze.

Alarm jolted through her. I'm blowing my own cover. The jaded Aristo she was pretending to be was not the kind of woman who'd blush at the sight of a big cock.

But my lover was nothing like that, a tiny voice protested.

Zarifa ignored it. She had a role to play.

She started toward the Shifter with as much swagger as she could manage. He didn’t meet her stare even when she stopped bare centimeters away.

Her eyes were on the level with his small, dark nipples. She looked down, along the rippled plane of his hard belly, deliberately forcing her gaze to his sex. Sweet Lady, how big would it be fully erect?

She ordered her Nanosystem to cool her cheeks before they could heat again.

Zarifa looked up into the Shifter's face. His eyes still refused to meet hers, but she saw now they were the color of ancient coins, a bright gold that was not entirely human. His hair was a rich, deep sable that gleamed like fur, cut ruthlessly short, yet still showing a hint of curl. She could almost feel the smooth silk of it against her fingers.

God, she craved the touch of another human. Entombed in her fortress of fear, she hadn't dared let anyone close. Especially a man.

Especially a man like this.

True, he wasn't the most handsome male she’d ever seen. The aristocracy habitually sent its most beautiful sons to her court in hopes of attracting her eye. Despite the breathtaking power of his body, the Shifter's features were too rough for that kind of perfection. His nose was a bit too flared across the nostrils, his deep-set eyes too feral, his cheekbones not quite knife-edged enough, his chin a little too stubborn.

But it was his mouth that fascinated. His lower lip was full with the promise of lush eroticism, yet his upper lip was thin, with a faint twist that suggested pain and bitterness.

Gold coin eyes darted up to meet hers. For an instant, they blazed hot with male interest as those beautiful lips curved into a knowing smile. Then he looked away, leaving her heart pounding in desperate lunges as she remembered everything they said about Shifters.

She could have him. Have him as she’d not dared to have a man since the Regent had ordered her lover’s murder. Six years, she’d lived like a Lady’s Nun, not daring to allow so much as a stolen kiss from the beautiful men who surrounded her. Fearing what the Regent would do to protect his power and keep the way clear for his son's claim. Only Gerik had touched her, and his hands had not exactly been welcome.

But she could have this wolf. Buy him. Own him. Take him to her bed.

You’re letting him distract you, her father’s ghost whispered. You’re not buying him for sex. He's a means to regain our lost honor. That's all.

Zarifa forced herself to step back. Forced her eyes not to drop to his lengthening cock. “I need a protector. Can you fight?”

White teeth flashed in a hard, reckless smile with just a hint of viciousness. “Yes.”

She flicked a glance at the guards in their gray Nanotium armor. “Show me.”

“Now, Lady Selan...” Casus began nervously.

But the Shifter was already moving, spinning, one bare heel lashing out to slam into the nearest guard’s armored belly. It must have hurt, but he didn’t even break step, pivoting to ram a fist into the man’s faceplate, following up with a series of furious hammer blows to the 'borg's head and body. Blood flew in a crimson arc, but it was from the Shifter’s own splitting knuckles.

Yet he didn’t seem to feel the pain, his face twisted in an animal snarl as the guard stumbled back from the fury of his attack.

The second cyborg dove at him with a roar. The Shifter ducked the charge and danced back, throwing another brutal punch. And then another, and another. More blood flew from his hands.

Zarifa caught her breath. The rage in him, the fury boiling to the surface to spill from his pounding hands and savage kicks --- it was as if the Lady herself had given Zarifa's own frenzied, angry frustration human form.

But human as he was, he couldn’t hurt his guards, could only break himself against their armored bodies.

“Shift!” she snapped, feeling wild and reckless. “Shift now!”

Gold eyes flicked to hers. He bared his teeth.

“No!” the slaver gasped.

But sable fur was already spreading over the Shifter’s bare skin, his body bulking even larger, his face lengthening into an elegant muzzle. His ears rose into lupine points as his big hands and feet grew deadly curved claws. He turned his feral golden eyes on the guards....

Down!” Casus roared.

The Shifter roared in agony and dropped to the ground as if he’d been shot. The fur melted away as his body returned to human form, writhing and kicking in anguish.

Zarifa knew exactly how that felt. The pain. The helpless, searing rage. The black shame of being a puppet to callous men.

Her gaze shot to the slaver, who wore a smile of grim satisfaction now. “I told you what would happen, Mad Dog,” Casus spat. “I warned you.”

The next thing Zarifa knew, her sword was in her hand and pressed hard to the slaver’s throat. A tide of red washed over her vision. It seemed she could almost see the slaver's blood streaming under her blade. Casus's thin lips pulled into an O of terror.

She bared her teeth. "Let. Him. Go."

6 comments:

Kayelle Allen said...

Can't wait to get my hands on the rest of this story! You're on my auto-buy list, so fortunately, it won't be long. Thanks for posting this. Yum, yum...

Shai PeriHawk said...

Oh, my. Yes. Definitely going to pinch some pennies for that. You've QUITE caught my attention and I want MORE.

Connie Northrop said...

This is my next trip to the bookstore!

This is great!
Connie

Tambra said...

I love this. You're an auto-buy author for me. If it has your name on it, I know I'll love the story.

Hugs,
Tambra
www.tambrakendall.com

Angela Knight said...

Thanks, ladies! I hope you enjoy it.

AK

Sabrina Luna said...

Awesome, AK! ;)

Big Hugs,
Sabrina )O(