I am thrilled to be a part of this box set due to release Tuesday, November 17th! My contribution is a sensuous fantasy romance entitled Tall, Tall Trees.
If fighting the animosity between their two tribes isn't enough, Oron and Pellera must battle monstrous creatures and the deadly growler to save their lives and their love. But when an old medicine woman warns them of a looming apocalyptic disaster, the couple realize the only way they'll survive is to make the hazardous climb to the tops of the tall, tall trees.
Pellera brushed a sweat-soaked lock of hair over Oron’s ear. He took the hint and rolled to his side, keeping an arm over her waist as they waited for their bodies to cool down. She could feel herself sinking into sleep when lips kissed her shoulder.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank the gods for letting me find you.”
She smiled and opened her eyes. Turning her head to look at him, she could barely make out his features in the subdued moonlight. “I think you were always meant to save me from one danger or another. Like the first time we met. And like today.”
“Trust me, Pell. You’re far from being the helpless female. I bet you’d be a formidable ally if you were trained to use a spear or knife like I have been.”
“Hey, I’m already pretty good with a knife,” she protested with a hint of humor.
“Against a flutterer, sure. But what about a croaker? Or a chitterer?”
Pellera snorted and rolled onto her side. Reaching over, she ran a finger down the bridge of his nose. Oron grasped her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckles.
“I had another reason to seek you out tonight,” he confessed.
“What is it?”
“Father and Mother know about us. I’ve told them about your life. About your father. Father supports my idea of taking you away from the caves.”
Stark fear lanced through her. Bolting up into a sitting position, Pellera stared down at him. “Oron, I can’t!”
He sat up and grasped her elbow. “Yes, you can. You must! Pell, if you don’t, I’m afraid he’s going to forget himself one day and strike you. Perhaps kill you!”
She could hear him choke on the confession. Taking his hand that held her arm, she squeezed it. “Oron, if I left with you, where would we go?” She made a sweeping motion with her hand to encompass the forest around them. “Father would convince the council to send troops to try and retrieve me and take me back to the caves. Men could die. Oh gods, Oron, you could die! I could never forgive myself if you…” Her voice gave out as the thought of her father killing the man she loved pierced her like a knife to the heart. Her chest hitched and tears burned her eyes.
Oron pulled her into his embrace and tried to calm her fears. “No, no. I didn’t expect to bring you back to the village. No, I wouldn’t dare bring that danger to my people.”
“To the north caves.”
She paused, unable at first to comprehend what he was telling her. Oron smiled and nodded. “Only until the first winter snows. By then, Father and I believe it will be safe for us to move into the village.”
Closing her eyes, she rested against him. “It’s a beautiful dream, Oron, but—”
“No. No buts, Pell. In two days, right after moonrise, I’ll return for you. Be ready to leave.”
She faced him again. “But what if Father becomes suspicious?”
“Don’t give him any reason to be. Gather up a few items of clothing like you’re going to do laundry and set them aside to bring with you. Don’t pack anything, or else he might question your motives. Pellera,” he gave her a little shake. “You must do this. For us. It’s the only way we’ll ever be able to be together.”
He was right. If they wanted to have a future together, she would have to leave the eastern cliff. She would have to leave the only home she’d ever known.
But it also meant leaving the man who made her life a living hell.
She took a deep breath. “All right. Two days?”
“Right after moonrise,” he repeated.
She sniffed again. She was unaware she’d frowned until Oron mentioned it.
“Is it me? Or do you smell…”
Oron released her and inhaled. “What was it?”
“I don’t know. At first I thought it was…”
She got no further when an immense shadow obliterated all light above them. A rapid series of clicks sent cold chills through them.
Oron grabbed his spear and jumped to his feet. At the same time, he yelled at Pellera.
“Run, Pell! Run!”Before she could move, the chitterer released more of its noxious vapor and launched itself at the young man.