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Hunger Untamed

Hunger Untamed, March 2011
Feral Warriors #5
by Pamela Palmer

Avon
Featuring: Ariana; Kougar
384 pages
ISBN: 0061794716
EAN: 9780061794711
Kindle: B00486UF4S
Mass Market Paperback / e-Book
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"A thousand years is not long enough to hide from a warrior."

Fresh Fiction Review

Hunger Untamed
Pamela Palmer

Reviewed by Mandy Burns
Posted June 21, 2011

Romance Paranormal

The Feral Warriors are in trouble, two of their own are trapped and dying, and the only solution is to find the Queen of the Ilinas to cast a spell of magic to save them. Kougar has grudgingly taken on the task since Ariana, Queen of the Ilinas is none other than his lover and his mate who Kougar has not seen for over a thousand years. Kougar thought Ariana was lost to him, her betrayal leaving him harsh and determined for revenge. Kougar has no choice but to put aside his animosity because the Feral Warriors need Ariana's help before it is too late.

A thousand years ago, Ariana did what she had to to save her people from suffering a certain death by taking in the darkness and evil herself that was threatening to kill them all. In the process, Ariana was forced to give up her mate and Feral Warrior, Kougar. After all these years, Kougar has come looking for her wanting answers that Ariana is unable to give in order to help save Kougar's fellow Warriors. Unfortunately, as a side effect of saving her people, Ariana has lost memories that Kougar may need but Kougar refuses to leave her side until they figure out how to not only get back the lost memories but find peace for them all.

HUNGER UNTAMED is the 5th book in this incredible series. Action-packed with a continuing story line, a thousand year old love full of passion, and steamy scenes make a perfect read.

Learn more about Hunger Untamed

SUMMARY

For a thousand years she has haunted him—Ariana, queen of the Ilinas, a beauty of mist and light. His love, his life mate... Kougar believed her lost to him forever until the truth of her stunning betrayal left him bitter and hungry for revenge. Now she alone holds the power to save two trapped and desperate Feral Warriors.

Ariana, caught in a deadly battle of her own, is neither the soulless creature Kougar believes her to be, nor the savior he seeks. And when darkness threatens to annihilate both races, the greatest danger of all becomes the glorious love Kougar and Ariana once shared. A love that must never rise again. A love that has never died.

Excerpt

Kougar prowled on four paws through the streets of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, sliding in and out of the night shadows of the nineteenth-century buildings that rose against the moonlit sky on steps as silent as the pre- civil war human dead that filled the cemetery on the hill. He’d wandered this town alone since the battle four days ago -- a battle between the Ferals and Mage and three wraith Daemons the Mage had managed to release.

The Ferals had won, of course, but the victory had been devastatingly hollow. Two Ferals, Hawke and Tighe, had disappeared into the Mages’ spinning vortex, a spirit trap that would separate men from animals, killing both in a matter of days. Seven, now. That’s all they had left unless the Ferals saved them.

And there was only one way to do that.

One person alone had ever been able to breach a Daemon spirit trap and come out alive. A woman who could turn to mist at will. The Queen of the Ilinas.

Kougar growled low in his cat’s throat, hatred burning through his mind.

Only one woman could save his Feral brothers and their animals.

Ariana, his soulless bitch of a mate.

He’d thought she was dead. For a thousand years, he’d grieved for her until twenty-one years ago when he’d learned the truth -- that Ariana and her race had faked their extinction after being infected by dark spirit. The knowledge had slain him until he’d remembered that the woman he’d once loved was long gone, lost to the dark spirit that had consumed her soul.

His beloved Ariana would never have betrayed him like that.

When he’d learned she was still alive, he’d refused to seek her out. The last thing he’d wished to see were soulless eyes peering out of his beloved’s face. But four days ago, everything changed with Hawke and Tighe’s capture. He had to find her, to force her to breach the spirit trap and free them.

The problem was, he couldn’t reach her.

On cat’s feet, he darted between two narrow brick buildings and ran up the night hill, frustration beating a harsh rhythm in his blood. The sound of the two rivers that flanked Harpers Ferry carried on the air, broken by the rumble of a train approaching in the distance. The sounds began to escalate suddenly until even the chirping of the insects turned to screeching in his ears.

Goddess, his senses were screwed up. Ariana’s severing of that supposedly permanent mating bond had damaged him, leaving him half-alive, his emotions frozen, his senses all but dead for a millennium. Until five days ago when, trapped by Daemon and Mage, he’d come close to dying. In the darkness, Melisande had appeared with her usual scowl and, for a reason he couldn’t fathom, reconnected the mating bond between himself and Ariana. Apparently, his wife still needed him alive.

With the bond reconnected, sensation had returned in a manic, freak-show kind of way, color blazing a hundred times too bright, then throbbing and pulsing like it was about to explode, before flickering back to gray. Fortunately, the kaleidoscope had died down, most of his senses finally returning to what had once been normal. Except for his hearing.

And his emotions.

He passed through the old Harper Cemetery and headed for the Jefferson Rock where he always ended up at some point during the night, frustration and anger burning a hole in his gut. He was starting to feel...too much. The wind in his face. The rocks beneath his paws. And a fury hot enough to rip someone…anyone…limb from limb. No, not anyone. Her. Ariana. Or at least the soulless bitch who wore Ariana’s face.

Their newly-reconnected mating bond was jury-rigged at best, a dull, mangled reflection of the crystalline cord that had once bound them. But it was there. And it gave him his one chance of finding Ariana and saving his friends. As her mate, he’d only ever been able to sense her presence if she was nearby...or in the Crystal Realm, where the Ilinas had been living their extinction. Only a mate of an Ilina could travel to the Crystal Realm without an Ilina escort. And then, only if his mate was already there.

For four days, he’d waited for her to return home to that castle in the clouds so he could catch her.

For four days, he’d waited in vain while Hawke and Tighe’s lives slowly slipped away.

Kougar leaped onto the Jefferson Rock -- a small tourist landmark upon which the human, Thomas Jefferson, had supposedly proclaimed the sight worthy of a trip across the Atlantic. Kougar couldn’t fault the sentiment as he stretched out atop the bit of shale in his cat’s body. The breeze slid through his whiskers as he perused the dramatic, moonlit convergence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers far below.

Four days ago, at the end of the battle, he’d told Lyon, his chief, that he’d return in ten days. Only that. Not where he was going, not who he intended to find. No one could know the Ilinas were still alive. Melisande had taken it upon herself to kill anyone who threatened their secret, who knew of their existence. Except, apparently, for him.

Not that the Ferals were likely to be bested by mist warriors, but they were already dealing with more than enough -- the death of Foxx, the loss of Hawke and Tighe, the theft of the Daemon Blade, and the Mages’ newly acquired dark power and goal to destroy the Ferals and release the Daemon plague back into the world.

The last thing the Ferals needed were ambushing mist warriors added to that list. No, he’d return to Feral House only after Ariana had freed Hawke and Tighe. And she would, dammit. He’d see to it.

Failure was not an option.

If only she’d return to the Crystal Realm!

Something fluttered briefly in his chest at the site of the decrepit mating bond, and he stilled, his cat’s pulse lifting, then kicking up to mach five.

Got her. Finally, Ariana had returned to the Crystal Realm.

Kougar sent his newly-keen senses into the woods in every direction, then certain he was alone, leaped off the rock and shifted into his human form. Through the battle- damaged shirt he still wore from four days before, he reached for the gold cougar-head armband that circled his biceps.

As his fingers closed around the cool metal, he stilled, slammed by the realization he was about to see Ariana for the first time in a thousand years.

Goddess.

Taking a deep, unsteady breath, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the mating bond, whispering the ancient words of connection. As the words left his lips, he felt a familiar spin of dizziness, a momentary sensation of weightlessness, then solid flooring beneath his feet.

Smooth flooring, not ground.

While his vision cleared, the scent of pine hit his nose, slamming him with a rush of memories. He blinked, gooseflesh rising on his arms as he found himself standing in the archway of the Grand Corridor of Ariana’s palace in the Crystal Realm. The wide expanse of emerald floor stretched out before him, framed by walls of crystal twenty feet high, rising to a ceiling painted with murals of women indulging in a multitude of delights, carnal and otherwise. Along the walls torches flickered, setting the crystal aflame with an inner fire.

He’d once thought this hall the most beautiful in existence. It was a sight he hadn’t seen in a thousand years and standing here had his heart thrumming in his chest.

How many times in those first few days after he thought Ariana dead had he tried to get here, to reach her while he’d prayed over and over that she was somehow, miraculously, still alive? How many times had he visited this place in his dreams, dreams in which Ariana still lived? Dreams in which he’d stood beside her, in which he’d saved her.

How many times?

But she’d lost the battle before he’d known there was a battle to fight and he hadn’t been here when she’d needed him. Maybe if he had been, he could have helped her vanquish the darkness and return to him before it consumed her soul. Now it was far, far too late. Given enough time, dark spirit always consumed the soul.

Slowly, he started down the corridor, memories attacking him from every direction. Making love to Ariana in her chamber. Making love to her in the garden. Making love to her beneath the waterfall. Goddess, he’d never been able to get enough of her, nor her of him. Even though the Ilinas had disapproved of his marriage to their queen, his Ariana had loved him. For two short years, they’d been blissfully happy.

He stilled as a familiar warmth bloomed within the misshapen excuse for a mating bond.

Ariana.

At the feel of her nearness, his heart began to beat a hard, erratic rhythm. At the certainty he was about to see her again. And the certainty that it was going to hurt like hell.

Hatred for the woman she’d become, for the evil thing who’d destroyed his mate, crouched, snarling inside him as he strode toward her chambers. The cool, crystalline air parted before him as if seeking to escape the menace that radiated from his pores.

“Ariana!” He shouted her name, his voice deep as a roar. There was no sense in stealth, not with the mating bond reconnected. Just as he felt her, he knew Ariana had known the moment he’d arrived.

Melisande drifted out of the nearest passage, mist-like, her blond braid hanging over one shoulder, her sword drawn. With an expression hard as flint she blocked his path. “You’re not welcome here.”

Kougar lifted a brow at the petite mist-warrior. “You reconnected the mating bond. Had you forgotten that meant you couldn’t keep me out?”

“No, but I’d hoped you had.”

He was about to barrel through her when a woman stepped into the passage behind her, flesh and blood, a woman as familiar to him as the beat of his own heart. His feet stopped without his awareness. His heart seized for the space of three beats, then took off like a flock of birds in a wild flight.

Ariana.

In so many ways, she looked as she always had, her skin luminous, her rich brown hair falling in soft waves to her shoulders, framing a face of delicate beauty and indomitable strength. She stood in that achingly familiar way, with her back straight, her chin raised almost in challenge, her arms loose at her sides as if ready for battle.

“The queen will not see you, Kougar,” Melisande snapped.

“She already has.” Emotions careened inside him — the passionate, tender love. The searing pain of losing her.

His heart contracted, squeezed by an agony he could barely endure. Deep inside him, his cat gave a joyous yowl. His soul sang at this proof that Ariana lived, at this miracle that the woman he’d loved more than life, that he’d mourned for a thousand years, once more stood before him.

But she wasn’t his Ariana, was she? The woman before him was a stranger. For a moment, just a moment, he thought he glimpsed emotion in her once-beloved face. A mix of joy and agony that mirrored his own. But he blinked and it was gone, and he knew he’d been mistaken.

Now that he looked at her clearly, he saw that her lush mouth was pursed and hard. Her brows dipped in the middle over cold eyes the brown of a wild cherry tree instead of the blazingly-bright Ilina blue they’d once been.

Her gaze locked on him now with a piercing sharpness she’d always possessed. Both queen and warrior, she’d been fire and sword, able to slay any opposition with a single look. But those sharp eyes had once softened for him, melting with love and heat. Not any more. Now she stared at him with a stranger’s cold reserve.

His mind reeled at the sight of her, his heart an erratic thrum in his chest. He longed for that lack of feeling he’d lived with for a millennium, that insulating numbness he’d felt for so long. Instead, his heart split asunder all over again.

She wasn’t dressed as Melisande, in the ancient mist- warrior garb of tunic and pants. Nor was she garbed in one of the jewel-toned gowns she’d often preferred. Instead, she wore blue scrubs that fit her slender form, and white shoes, as if she played at being a doctor or nurse. At being human.

For a moment, her dress confounded him until the reason clicked sickly into place in the pit of his stomach.

Darkness always fed on pain and fear. Where better to find pain in this day and age than in a human hospital? She was nothing but a parasite feeding off the misery of others. Was that why she hid the unnatural brightness of her eyes behind brown contacts? Because she spent so much time trolling the human world?

Despite the plain clothing, despite the dark circles beneath her eyes and the contacts hiding their true color, she was still achingly beautiful. Even if that beauty was truly only skin deep.

“Leave us, Melisande,” Ariana ordered quietly.

Melisande glanced over her shoulder. “Ariana…”

“You knew it would come to this, Mel, when you reconnected us. You knew, sooner or later, he’d find me.”

“He’s known you lived for twenty-one years.”

“I said, leave us,” Ariana snapped at her second-in- command.

On a huff of displeasure, Melisande disappeared.

Ariana remained where she was, as if rooted. Staring at him. Again, he thought he saw emotion dart across her eyes and sensed she was struggling for control. As if she were as thrown by this meeting as he was.

Even from here he could smell her, that unique scent that had always reminded him of lilies of the valley. The scent tumbled him back in time to long, glorious nights lost in the pleasures of her body. He clenched his fists against the needs warring inside him. Part of him longed to haul her into his arms and feel her against him one more time. A stronger part wanted to rip her soulless heart out. And the unstable emotions careening inside him made one or the other an all-too-likely possibility.

With a low growl in his throat, he fought for control.

He’d come for one thing and one thing only. To save his friends. But now that he stood within reach of the woman he’d thought dead for a millennium, he found himself wanting more. And needing answers.

“Why, you soulless bitch.” The question came out as a snarl. “Why sever the mating bond? Why make the world think you were gone? Why make me think you were gone?”

A shadow passed over her face, her mouth tightening as if in pain, though he knew that to be a lie. The soulless felt no pain but the physical.

She swallowed visibly, her expression hardening to granite. “I severed the bond because I could. Once I embraced the dark spirit, I had no need of you, Feral. No desire to touch you or be touched by you again. And I still don’t. The Ariana you knew no longer exists. And I have no interest in you."

Even though her words didn’t surprise him, her cold dismissal turned like a blade in his gut, igniting his fury.

His hands fisted until the blood began to throb in his palms. “Why did Melisande reconnect the mating bond?”

She looked away. “A perverse bit of mischief. Go away, Kougar. There’s nothing for you here.”

As her gaze returned to his, brown contacts blocking any glimpse into her thoughts, he struggled to hold onto his thinning control. And felt it slipping through his fingers -- fingers about to erupt in claws.

Ariana flushed hot, then cold, as she stared at Kougar, at her mate, at the man she’d loved for a thousand years.

She’d forgotten how tall he was, how broad his shoulders, how muscular his arms, as he stood before her now in a white collared shirt and black pants, clothes torn and bloodied as if he’d been fighting. She’d forgotten how his presence filled a room, how it filled the entire castle until she could hardly breathe through the need to be in his arms, to feel his body sliding against hers, sliding into hers.

He couldn’t know.

Never had she struggled so hard to control her emotions, to hide what was in her heart and head. Never had doing so caused her so much pain as it did now as Kougar stared at her with eyes as pale as ice filled not with tenderness, but with pain, and a growing fury. Not with love, but hatred. A hatred she must fan.

Her stomach clenched and churned. What she was doing was cruel beyond measure. But she had no choice. Her cruelty just might keep Kougar alive.

Soulless, soulless, soulless.

The chant pounded in her head as she focused on keeping her expression closed and hard even as emotions clawed at her in a wild battle -- longing and fear. A storm of devastating love and aching grief that had lived within her for an eternity.

Inside, her heart trembled, on the edge of an emotional meltdown. She narrowed her eyes, dropping her lids to mere slits, trying to hide the sheen of disastrous tears even as she fought back the emotion, fought for control.

Goddess, she loved him. She’d never stopped loving him, even when she’d hated herself for it, for the destruction that love had wrought. So many dead. So much grief.

But the danger wasn’t past. And Melisande knew it, dammit. In reconnecting the mating bond, she’d intentionally placed Kougar in deadly peril. The only thing saving him was the miserable, mangled state of the bond.

And she must keep it that way.

Kougar took a threatening step toward her. Within the flaying hatred in his eyes she saw flashes of a pain that nearly drove her to her knees.

“Why are you here, Kougar? Why now, if you’ve known I was alive for over twenty years?”

“You’re going to free two of my friends from a Daemon spirit trap.”

Oh, sweet goddess. She couldn’t help him.

Struggling for control, she yanked the icy mask tighter over her features. “No. I’m not. I don’t give a damn about your Ferals.” Which was partly true. Most of his men had been as opposed to their mating as her maidens had been. Only Horse and the Wind had ever been friendly to her. But whoever the two were who were lost, they were Kougar’s men. If she could, she would absolutely save them. For him.

But she couldn’t help him. And she couldn’t keep up this pretense much longer! She had to get him to leave.

Lifting her chin, she gave him her haughtiest, coldest look. “Go, Kougar, and don’t come back. You’re not welcome here.”

In a flash, his anger ignited. She’d pushed him too far.

A chill of fear skipped down her spine as his eyes turned the pale gold of a cougar’s, as fangs dropped from his mouth. One moment he was standing still, the next he lunged, grabbing her around the throat with a wickedly clawed hand. Fiery pain exploded as his claws pierced the sides of her neck, as warm blood ran down into her scrubs. As he slammed her back against the wall.

Too late, she fought him, her instincts off, her gut-deep belief he’d never really hurt her causing her to move too slowly when it suddenly became obvious he would.

“You bitch.” The words were a growl in his throat, his furious face mere inches from her own as his hot breath wafted over her chilling flesh.

She began to tremble from a combination of shock and the knowledge that without her unique Ilina weapons, she was virtually helpless against his far superior strength. If he chose to rip out her throat, she couldn’t stop him.

That alone wouldn’t kill her. Ilinas, like all immortals, healed almost any wound within minutes. Only if he took her heart would she die. But if she died, so too would her maidens. Her life force would dissipate, spreading to the other Ilinas. And with it, the poison she’d protected them against for a thousand years.

As badly as she wanted to protect him from the truth, her first responsibility must be to her maidens.

“Kougar.” Her voice gurgled with the blood in her ruptured windpipe.

He flinched, his gaze dropping to her neck, to where the blood ran in rivulets, soaking her top. Almost as quickly as he’d attacked, his claws and fangs retracted, but he didn’t pull away. His large hand remained closed around her throat as her pulse beat against his palm.

His gaze locked on hers and held as her wounds healed, as the pain in her throat died a quick death. And still he watched her, those pale eyes probing, digging too deep. She tried to look away and couldn’t, her parched heart drinking in the sight of the man she’d longed for, that she’d missed, and loved, for a thousand years.

In so many ways, he hadn’t changed. His hair was much shorter than he’d worn it in those days, his beard trimmed to encompass only his mouth and chin. But he’d always exuded a powerful pull on her physically, nearly overwhelming in its intensity and that hadn’t changed. For a thousand years she’d blamed herself for giving in to her feelings for him. But standing within the heat of his body, enveloped by his raw, masculine scent, snared by the power of his eyes, she remembered all over again how impossible he’d been to resist.

But she must resist him now. His life absolutely depended on it.

He released her neck, but continued to crowd her, forcing her to meet his glittering diamond-hard gaze. “You’re going into that spirit trap, Ariana. You’re going to get them out.”

She swallowed the words of regret. The soulless regretted nothing and he must believe her soulless. “No. I’m not.”

He growled low in his throat, the sound of an animal, his hand tightening around her throat. “Seventeen Ferals died in one of those traps six hundred years ago.”

Seventeen. Her mind reeled.

“Horse died. You could have saved him. You could have saved all of them.”

Sweet goddess, Horse had been one of his oldest and closest friends. What must it have done to him to have lost so many in a single blow?

“Now the Ferals number only nine, or will once the new fox comes forth. The Mage have acquired dark power and are coming too damn close to freeing the Daemons. We cannot lose two more.”

Her heart ached, her fingers clenching at her sides as she fought to hide the sorrow fisting in her chest and present a callous front.

She swallowed, clearing the blood and emotion from her throat, layering her voice with ice. “I couldn’t have helped them, Kougar, even if I’d known. Even if I’d wanted to. And I can’t help the ones in there now. You’re mistaken if you believe I can breach a spirit trap.”

Only by turning to mist could she possibly get into the trap and out again. And if she did, her maidens would die.

She could see Kougar’s anger mounting. She could feel the pulse of it battering her through the mating bond. “The Ilina queens possess that ability, Ariana. You know it as well as I.”

“Queens of old, perhaps, but not me.” She needed to get away from him. Even if she hadn’t seen him in centuries, she knew this man. No one had ever lived who was more tenacious.

With his friends in trouble, there was no way he’d simply turn his back on her and leave. No way. He’d hound her and threaten her, demanding she help him until he finally broke through her facade and discovered the truth.

That she still loved him. That she’d always loved him.

A truth that would, quite literally, kill him.


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