From Out Of The Shadows [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Linda Mooney
eBook Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Fantasy
eBook Description: Croat was a Lupan, one of the half-man, half-beast creatures long thought to be extinct, or fabricated from fairy tales. Lupan were folklore, nothing more than a myth. Tora was a Sensitive. Her kind really existed, and normal people feared Sensitives because it was common knowledge that all Sensitives were evil and practiced the dark magicks. Captured and thrown inside Baron Agrino's dungeon, they discovered a connection between them that defied all reason, and a love that transcended all boundaries. But is their love enough to stop the baron from accomplishing what he plans to do with every Lupan he hopes to capture? Or, worse, what he'll do with Tora once he learns what she is?
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, Published: 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2010
49 Reader Ratings:
The bitter cold awoke her. Opening her eyes, she could barely make out the rough stone wall, the pile of rotting straw lying to her left, and the lengthening shadows caused by the coming sunset.
Tora attempted to roll over, but the abusive handling she had endured at the hands of the baron's men had left her bruised over most of her body. She groaned in pain and ceased her attempts to lie on her back. It was simply too agonizing to move. Gasping a bit for breath, she closed her eyes and chose to wait a while longer before trying again.
There was no need to guess where she was. Stories about the baron's dungeons had circulated among the villagers ever since Agrino's well-armed men had torn into the countryside and overran Baron Fuller's estate nearly twenty years ago. Ever since then, people from all provinces and nearby villages had been disappearing at a regular and alarming rate. Men, women, and children of all ages--it didn't matter who or what their importance may be. All were targeted.
At first the men of the surrounding area had formed a small militia to try and stop the abductions. But their defenses were useless against Baron Agrino's nearly unconquerable troops. In addition, their resistence only resulted in angering the new lord and master of their lands. As a result, their taxes were increased accordingly, not to mention the atrocities.
She had known better than to be out after dark. That was a cardinal rule in the village, because it was after dark when most of the kidnappings occurred. From the moment Tora had left her cottage to venture over to Meesom's place, she'd realized she wouldn't be able to return home while it was still daylight. Yes, Vester Meesom and his wife had offered her a pallet near the hearth on which she could spend the night, but Tora had refused. She needed to get back home to take care of Basil, and spending even a single night away from her mildly retarded older brother might prove disastrous.
What a total fool she had been. Silently Tora cursed herself. At the same time, a warm tear rolled sideways, past her temple. She never should have tried to go home. She never should have attempted such a stupid stunt. The moment she had heard the sounds of hoofbeats coming down the road, she should have laid flat in the field and prayed the men wouldn't see her. Instead she started running for the tree line in the distance like a frightened doe.
The rocky floor was unbelievably frigid. Tora tried to curl herself into a ball to preserve body heat. That's when she heard the rattle of chains before she felt the unresisting tug around her left ankle. Fighting the shivers racing under her skin, she slowly sat up and glanced down at the iron manacle. About four feet of heavy links lay between the cuff and the spike sunk into the rocky ground. Experimentally, she gave her leg a tug. If anything, the manacle was colder than her prison cell.
It took great effort to crawl over to the wall, closer to the spike. Her whole body protested. She ached from muscles too long knotted, trying to preserve body heat. Fortunately, though, she didn't feel violated or compromised. For that, she was grateful. When the baron's men had run her down, they had thrown her across the back of a horse before taking off through the meadow. The hard bouncing up and down behind the saddle had knocked her out. Apparently they had brought her directly to this place and placed her immediately in chains.
Tora ran a hand over her face where she'd bruised her cheek. Talk among the villagers about the abductions had been speculative. No one could guess or imagine why the people were being kidnapped. The men, it was assumed, were needed for the baron's growing army. The children for laboring at the estate. The women, well...Tora's ears had burned at some of the suggestions voiced. It was well known that Agrino had no wife and no descendants to speak of. He was a man of rather bizarre tastes, if any of the stories passed around were true. So knowledge of women disappearing, all of them young and healthy, was not surprising. Whether or not the women already had husbands or children waiting for them at home was inconsequential.
Still, finding herself locked up and chained in a freezing dungeon was not at all what she had been expecting to find when she awoke. In a bedchamber, yes. But not in this cold, dank cave of horrors.
She managed to curl up as best she could and tucked her long skirt around her legs. Her slippers were still wet, and she debated whether to take them off and draw her feet beneath her to keep them warm. The fact that she couldn't feel her toes when she moved them made her decision easy. Tora did her best to rub some warmth back into her limbs.
The shadows slid across the floor in front of her. She could hear no sound coming from outside the narrow wooden door that was her only way out. The only window was too high up and too narrow for her to even consider trying to squeeze out through. But at least it provided her with fresh air and a way to keep track of the passing of time.
She was growing hungry. More than food, however, she needed something to drink. There was nothing in the cell other than piles of rotting, moldy hay. There wasn't even a bucket for her to relieve herself in. Still, if there had, unless it was within her reach, she wouldn't be able to use it.
Tora squinted her eyes at the fading sunlight. Guessing by the position of the sun's rays, the window in her cell must face north. That was not good. Tora wondered if the men who had built the dungeon had designed it that way on purpose, so that the blasts of winter coming from the north would act as another form of torture to any poor soul unlucky enough to be locked inside.
A muffled sound suddenly coming from the other side of the door grabbed her attention. Tora held her breath, afraid to cry out. There was no telling what her guards would do to her if she made a scene. Were they expecting her to still be asleep? The unexpected thought came to her, and Tora glanced over to where she had been lying. There was no way she could get back into her original position without the sound of the chains giving her away. But she could lie in a huddle where she was and feign sleep.
Careful not to jiggle her cuff, she managed to raise her knees up to her chest and rest her forehead against them. She had barely lowered her face when the sound of a key turned in the door lock. But instead of hearing the door open, there was a little squeak, and then the sound of something being scooted across the floor. Another key-turning sound was followed by silence.
Tora slowly counted to ten before lifting her face to look over at the door. A bowl and a plate sat inside the cell with her, well within her reach. Getting onto her knees, Tora crawled over to snag them and bring them back to where she was sitting. Whoever had hammered the spike into the floor had measured well. She could reach the food but not the door.
The warm, thin soup in the bowl helped to relieve her thirst. There was bread and dried meat on the tray, which provided a dull but nourishing fare. After she had eaten, she felt better. Still, she couldn't help but wonder why she had been chosen. Or, for that matter, if she had been chosen at all. Or was she a random target found by happenstance?
How long was she going to remain in this place? What was the purpose of kidnapping her? When were they going to come get her out of here? Where would they take her when they did?
The shadows slid up the wall and disappeared, although daylight remained outside the narrow window. Tora sat and waited for the next thing to happen to her, whatever that may be. Or whenever.
She wondered how her brother was faring. Basil was simple-minded, and he had turned to her for guidance when their mother had died a few years ago. During the day, he worked in the fields with the other farmers, earning his living in food for the table. He could manage well enough on his own, but in so many other ways he was a child. Tora prayed he had found someone to feed him and watch over him during her absence.
As nighttime descended, her cell grew colder. There was no sign of supper. She was forced to tend to her needs by using the furthest corner she could reach, away from where she slept.
Finally, as the darkness removed all light, Tora pulled herself into a tight little knot and tried to sleep.