New – Hunted: a Shifters’ World novella by Ruby Fielding

Hunted: a Shifters' World novella by Ruby Fielding (werewolf, shifter, shifter romance, post-apocalypse, werewolves, dystopian, shapeshifter romance, paranormal erotica, shapeshifter, werewolf romance, erotic romance, plague, werewolf erotica, breeding, breeding romance)Should she struggle to survive alone or give in to desire and risk the – perhaps deadly – company of others?

In a world where plague has swept civilization away like leaves in a storm, where viruses that cause people to shift and change have altered what it is, for most, to be human, a few survivors hold out in a desperate attempt to save the human race. Selene lives alone in the forest, protecting herself from human and shifter alike until one day a stranger turns up: a young man called Skinner, out on a quest to hunt down and destroy any shifter he can find. Torn between desire and fear, Selene must confront her true nature and make some impossible choices if she is to survive this harsh, post-apocalyptic future.

Hunted: a Shifters’ World novella – a shapeshifter erotic romance of survival and desire in a deadly future from the co-author of Seduced by Moonlight and The Touch.

(The contents of this book first appeared in different form as four separate stories, Lone Wolf, Wanted by the Pack, Sanctum and Hunt Her Down.)

Extract

Content that there was no immediate danger, she gathered the empty water drum from just inside the ruined wall and set off on the rough trail that led through the scrub and down into the trees. She was lucky to have somewhere like this: a building with a door that closed and walls that were intact until just past the level of her head. It might not look much, but it was a castle to her.

Before long, the track leveled, cutting across the sloping forest floor and then, ahead of her, there was a splash of sunlight where the trees thinned again.

She approached cautiously, a lesson well lodged in her head despite her failing memory. Clean water was a place where animals gathered, and therefore a place of danger.

She came to a place where creepers hung down from the trees forming a natural screen, a vantage point she used every time she came here.

Today, she sensed threat before she saw anything. It was something in the air. Maybe sounds her ears had picked up but her brain was yet to process. A strange scent, perhaps.

As her eyes adjusted to the bright light of the clearing she surveyed the forest fringe, looking to see if anything was lurking in the shadows. There was nothing, and then she looked at the pool itself and saw rings of spreading ripples followed by a sudden swelling of the water as a bulbous object emerged.

A head. A man’s head, dark hair and beard plastered flat by the water. Pale shoulders, a dark smudge of hair to the chest as he bobbed up and then settled again, deeper in the water. He raised a hand to rub water from his eyes, then flicked his hair back, creating a fountain of glimmering droplets flying through the air.

And then, as if water were his natural element, he dipped forward. His head submerged as his back appeared, a sinuous, flowing movement, and then his butt, legs, feet and he was gone once more, lost below the churning surface of the pool.

Briefly transfixed by the sight of the man, which had lasted only a moment, she tore her eyes away and searched the forest perimeter again for signs of any others.

Nothing.

She waited, and then there was another swelling of water and the man’s head and shoulders bobbed up again, followed by the same eyes swipe and head flick.

She didn’t know what to do. If she slipped away, she would never know where he went, only that there was a stranger here in her forest. But what else? She could hardly approach him. That would be too dangerous. He was an unknown, a risk.

She needed water, too, and the spring that fed this pool was the only safe source she knew.

What to do?

She watched him carefully, now picking up all those clues that must have been subliminal before. A grunt as he cleared his throat, an irregular splash of water as he moved, the sound almost lost to the steady gurgle from the stream. A scent in the air, perhaps. When you live a life like this your senses become attuned to all these subtle warning signs.

§

He had been lying back in the water, arms spread, eyes shut, drifting slowly until now he straightened, found his footing on the rocky bottom of the pool – she knew the slimy hardness of those rocks so well! – and stood.

Swaying for balance, the water came up to his ribs now.

His arms were long and lean, his frame wiry and muscular. He had the look of a fighter, a scrapper. A survivor.

That smudge of dark hair thickened across his chest, down over his ribs and over his belly, she saw, as he started to emerge from the water, treading carefully as he headed towards dry land… towards her.

His belly rippled with muscles and looked hard, dark with that hair as it thickened towards…

She swallowed as he paused, the water around his thighs and the long shaft of his manhood hanging down, fat and heavy. Its head just touched the water’s surface, sending its own ripples spreading outwards.

She reached down, fingers trailing across her ribs, her belly, to the waistband of her jeans, that belt of cord and the hardness she had tucked there before venturing out.

Easing it free, she raised the handgun, suddenly very aware of its weight. She didn’t aim it yet, just stood there with it poised. A solid lump of reassurance in her hands.

The man stretched, yawning, and she watched his manhood twitch, and then flop to one side as he took another step out of the water. Its length swung easily as he moved.

“You got a silver bullet in that thing?”

He was staring right at the screen of vegetation, as if he could see through it!

She didn’t move. She wasn’t the only one whose senses were attuned to the environment, it seemed.

“If so, you don’t want to be wasting that silver bullet on me,” the man went on.

How long since she’d heard another voice? She didn’t know. Another memory lost, or buried deep.

“It’s an old wives’ tale anyhow.” The man’s tone was easy, conversational; no indication from his voice that she had a handgun that was now trained on him and he was standing there butt-naked in front of her. “Silver bullet or any old bullet – you hit one of the beasts right in the head or in the heart and it’ll drop just like a man. Useful piece of information that, and I’m giving it you as a gift, you hear me?”

One more step, another, and he was clear of the water.

She studied him, unable to deny the base feelings the sight stirred in her. How long had it been? Since the touch of another human, of bare skin against her own. The intimacy, and the trust.

And damn, but he was growing hard as he stood there! As he’d been talking, that shaft had thickened even more as it filled out, hung longer, then started to push away from his body. Then, like an animal emerging from its lair, the swollen purple head started to break free, the skin rolling back to reveal that most intimate of places.

Now, the man shrugged, and a shy smile broke across his face. “I think I need to apologize, ma’am. It’s been a time and I guess my body’s got a few less manners than the rest of me. If you’d just allow me to…?” He nodded towards a pile of clothes nearby.

She caught herself. She had to pull herself together, stop reacting like this. She was a woman. She was a human. She was in control of herself and her responses. She wouldn’t allow herself to be distracted by…

“No,” she snapped.

How long since she’d spoken aloud? Her voice was dry, little more than a croak. “You wait there where I can see you,” she went on. “Ain’t no reason why I should trust you with your things.” Who knew what he might have concealed there with his clothes?

He shrugged, and spread his hands briefly, as if to acknowledge the sense in her caution, and damn, but that thing of his just cranked itself up a notch or two higher as, finally, she broke free of her hiding place and came to stand before him.

§

Close to, he was younger than she had guessed. No gray to his hair, no craggy lines to his face. A few scars on his body, but that could happen at any age.

Now it was his turn for eyes to roam, and suddenly she was reminded of when she’d checked herself in that shard of mirror earlier on, remembering how exhausted she had looked and – fainter – a time when that kind of thing had mattered a whole lot more than it did now.

“You can shoot me now, if that’s what you want to do,” he said, his tone still conversational. “But I suggest you don’t want to do anything that’s going to make so much noise. Never know what you might draw in, and that’s not meant to be a threat, although it sounded like one. Just common caution born of experience.”

He moved his hands to cover himself, cupping his manhood but barely containing it.

“As an alternative to shooting me you could just let me get my things and I’d beat my retreat. That’d be a sensible thing to do – no point killing off those of us who may just be ordinary good folk like yourself when some day you may come to realize just how rare a commodity we are. But then I’d be the first to acknowledge the inherent risk in that proposition, ma’am. Set me free and how do you know I’ll be as good as my word and won’t just hang around until I can take you off guard and do whatever it is I might be wanting to do?”

As he shrugged, she couldn’t help but notice the movement of his hands, pulled by the raising of his shoulders, and the slight gasp that induced in him. Damn, but her guard was low today! She’d never have thought she would be drawn so much to the physical…

She lowered her aim until it was pointing at his crotch. “Am I to take that as a sign of what you ‘might be wanting to do’?” she asked.

“No ma’am. That’s just what a man’s body does when he puts himself naked before…” he stopped. “Hell,” he then started again. “That’s just a natural response, ma’am. Ain’t much I can do about it, I’m afraid.”

“So what’s it to be?” she asked him. “Shoot you or set you free on the promise there’ll never be a hint of you round these parts again?”

“You asking my advice? Hell, if I were you I’d take the third option, ma’am.”

Hunted: a Shifters’ World novella is available from:

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