Read Morgan's Mercenaries: Heart Of The Warrior Online
Authors: Lindsay McKenna
Tags: #Romance: Modern, #Contemporary, #General, #Romance, #Romance - Contemporary, #Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Man-woman relationships, #Love stories, #Romance - General, #Mercenary troops
Roan smiled at the spark of challenge in her eyes. “What do you mean? Do I make you feel bad? Uncomfortable?”
being close to you.”
He saw her eyes fill with confusion for a moment over her admission. He knew Inca was a virgin and, more than ever, he realized just how innocent she was.
“You make me feel safe in my world,” she continued. “And in my world there is no safety. How can that be?”
Roan’s heart soared. She trusted him. He needed—wanted—that trust. Just as much as he wanted her….
A homeopathic educator,
teaches at the Desert Institute of Classical Homeopathy in Phoenix, Arizona. When she isn’t teaching alternative medicine, she is writing books about love. She feels love is the single greatest healer in the world and hopes that her books touch her readers on those levels. Coming from an Eastern Cherokee medicine family, Lindsay has taught ceremony and healing ways from the time she was nine years old. She creates flower and gem essences in accordance with nature and remains closely in touch with her Native American roots and upbringing.
To Karen David, a real, live warrioress and
healer. And a good role model for the rest of us!
Roan Storm Walker’s cry reverberated around the small, dark log cabin. Outside, the rain dripped monotonously off the steep, rusty tin roof. Breathing harshly, Roan pressed his hands to his face, dug his fingers frantically into his skull as he felt his heart pounding relentlessly in his chest. His flesh was beaded with sweat. Lips tightly compressed to halt another scream, another cry of grief and loss, he groaned instead, like a wounded cougar.
Lifting his head, Roan turned the dampened pillow over and dropped back down onto the small, creaking bed. He had to sleep.
Great Spirit, let me sleep.
Shutting his eyes tightly, his black lashes thick and spiky against his copper-colored skin, he released a ragged sigh.
Sarah…how he missed her. Brave, confident, foolhardy Sarah. It had been two years and he still missed her. How badly he wanted to touch her firm, warm shoulder or to
smell that jasmine scent that always lingered tantalizingly in the strands of her short red hair. Gone…everything was gone. Swept from his life like litter before some invisible broom. Sarah, his wife, was dead, and his heart had died, too, on that fateful day. Even now, as he lay listening to the rain splattering against the roof of his cabin high in the Montana Rockies, he felt the force of his aching grief. The waves of agony moved through him like waves crashing in from the ocean and spilling their foamy, bubbling essence on the hard, golden sand.
Unconsciously, he rubbed his fingers across the blue stone hanging around his neck—his medicine piece. He’d worn the amulet continually since his mother, a Lakota medicine woman, gave it to him—before her death many years ago. Composed of two cougar claws representing the cougar spirit that was his protector, and two small golden eagle feathers, it hung from a thick, black, sweat-stained leather thong around his neck. The center of the medicine piece was an opalescent blue stone, roughly fashioned in a trapezoid shape. The bezel around the stone was of beaten brass that had long ago turned dark with age. No one knew what the stone was, or where it came from. He’d never seen another one like it in all his travels. His mother had told him it came from their ancestors, passed on to the medicine person in each succeeding generation of the family. He always touched this piece when he was feeling bad. In a way, it was like sending a prayer to his mother and her line of ancestors for help with the heavy emotions he wrestled with. Roan never took off his medicine piece; it was as much a part of him as his heart beating in his chest.
He closed his eyes once more. He was good at forcing
himself to go back to sleep. His mother, a Lakota Yuwipi medicine woman, had taught him how to lucid dream. He could walk out of one harsh reality into the more amorphous world beyond the veil of normal human reach. More than likely he was able to do this because he had the genes of that long line of medicine people coursing richly through his bloodstream. His father was an Anglo, a white man—a physics teacher. Between both parents, Roan found it easy to surrender over to a power higher than himself, give himself back to the night owl’s wings of sleep, which almost instantly embraced him again.
As he moved from the pain of the past, which continued to dog his heels like a relentless hound on the scent of the cougar spirit that protected him, his grief began to recede. In lucid dream and sleep, he could escape the sadness that was etched in his heart. This time, as he slipped into sleep, Walker heard the distant growl of thunder. Yes, a Wakan Wakinyan, a mighty thunder being who created the storms that roved across the Rockies, was now stalking his humble cabin hidden deep in the thick Douglas firs on a Montana slope.
A slight, one-cornered smile curved Roan’s mouth as he felt his mood lightening, like a feather caught in a breeze and being wafted gently into the invisible realm of the Great Spirit. Yes, in dreaming there was safety. In dreaming there was relief from the pain of living in human form. Roan expected to see Sarah again, as he always did whenever this shift in his consciousness occurred. The Lakota called the state dreaming “beneath the wings of the owl,” referring to the bird they considered the eagle of the night. Within the wings of this night protector, the world of dreams unfolded to those who knew how to ac
cess this realm. Reaching this altered state had been taught to Roan at a very young age and he had found it an incredible gift, a means of healing himself, really, over the last twenty-eight years of his life.
Sarah? He looked for his red-haired Sarah, those flashing Celtic blue eyes of hers, and that twisted Irish grin across her full, soft lips. Where was she? Always, she would meet him while in the embrace of the owl. Full of anticipation, he spied a glowing light coming out of the darkness toward him. Yes, it had to be Sarah. As he waited impatiently within the darkness, the golden, sunny light grew ever closer, larger, pulsating with brilliant life of its own.
His cougar spirit’s senses told him this wasn’t Sarah. Then who? Even as he felt his disappointment, something strange happened. His cougar, a female spirit guardian with huge, sun-gold eyes, appeared out of the darkness to stand in front of him. He could see that her attention was focused fully on the throbbing, vital orb of light drawing closer. Walker felt no fear, simply curiosity, despite the fact that it was unlike Anna, his cougar spirit guide, to appear like this unless there was danger to him. Yet he felt no danger.
The mists surrounding the oblong light reminded him of thickly moving mist on a foggy morning at the lake below his cabin, where he often fished for a breakfast trout. Anna gave a low growl. Roan’s heart rate picked up. The golden oval of light halted no more than six feet away from him. Slowly, it began to congeal into a body, two very long legs, slender arms, a head and…
Walker felt his heart thundering in his chest. His cougar guardian was on full alert now, her tail stiff, the hackles
on her neck ruffled and the fur raised all the way down her lean, supple spine. Roan was mesmerized as he watched the person—a woman?—appear. What the hell? He wasn’t sure what or who he was looking at.
Huge, willow-green eyes with large black pupils stared fiercely back at him.
Swallowing hard, Walker felt every cell in his body respond to this unknown woman who now stood before him. Although the golden light had faded to a degree, so he could see her clearly, it still shone around her form like rays of brilliant sunlight. She warily watched him as the tension built and silence strung tautly between them.
This was no ordinary human being. Walker sensed her incredible power. Few humans he’d ever known had an aura of energy like hers. It was so brilliant that he felt like squinting or raising his hand to shield his eyes from the glow. Her eyes drew him. They were magnetic, commanding, fierce, vulnerable and magical all at the same time.
He tried to shift his consciousness; it was impossible. She held him fully within her powerful presence. She was tall, at least six feet. Her skin was a golden color. What she wore confounded him. She was dressed in army camouflage fatigues and black, shiny military jump boots. On her proud torso she wore an olive-green, sleeveless T-shirt crisscrossed with two bandoliers containing bullets. Slung across her left shoulder was a rifle. Around her slender waist was a web belt with a black leather holster and pistol, several grenades and a wicked looking K-bar knife. Down her back, resting between her shoulder blades, hung a huge leather sheath, knicked and scarred, that held a
machete with a pearl handle. She was obviously a warrior. An Amazon. A soldier used to fighting.
Roan could see and sense all these things about her. Despite her dynamic presence, the threat she presented in the armament she wore, the way her hand curled around the thick leather strap that bit into her shoulder as it held the rifle in place, she was beautiful. Roan could not tear his gaze from her full, square face, those high, proud cheekbones. From her narrowing, willow-green eyes, that fine thin nose that flared like the nostrils of a wary wild horse, or those compressed, full lips.
Her hair was thick and black and hung in one long braid over her right shoulder and down between her breasts, which were hidden by the bandoliers of ammunition. There was such pride and absolute confidence in her stance, in the way her shoulders were thrown back. As she lifted her chin imperiously, Roan wanted to simply absorb the sight of her and the feeling of that incredible energy swirling around her. He wondered if she was a figment of his imagination, a hybrid between Sarah and some kind of superhuman woman.
The instant he thought that, her eyes snapped with rage and utter indignation.
“Do not waste precious energy and time on such speculations!” she growled at him. “You were born into a medicine family. You know better!” She jabbed a finger at the amulet he wore around his neck. “You carry the stone of the Jaguar Clan. You are one of us! I am Inca. I am asking for your help, Roan Storm Walker. Well, will you give it? I do not beg. This will be the only time I stand before you. Answer me quickly, for many will die without you here by my side to fight the fight of your
life and mine. I am in a death spiral dance. I invite you into it.”
Walker felt her outrage at the very thought that he might say no to her request.
A mysterious name. The name of a woman from…where? Perhaps from the Inca empire in Peru? Her accent was thick, reminding him of Spanish. He touched the blue stone that lay at the base of his throat. It felt hot, and throbbing sensations moved through his fingertips. The amulet he wore was powerful; his mother had told him so, and Roan had often experienced strange phenomena regarding it. But he’d never before felt the level of energy that was emanating from it now. He glanced down and saw a strange turquoise-white-and-gold light pulsating around it, like a beacon.
“Where do you come from, Inca?” he demanded in an equally fierce voice. He was not afraid of her, but he respected her power. Where he came from, women were equal to any man.
“I come from the south, Storm Walker. The stone you wear around your neck tells me of your heritage. The spirits of your ancestors led me to you. You are needed in my country. Time is short. Many lives are at stake. My guardian says you are the one.” The woman’s green gaze grew demanding. “Are you? the
“I don’t know. How can I help you?”
“You will know that when you see me the second time.”
He searched her shadowed features. She had the face of an Indian, all right—most probably of Incan heritage if she was from the south. Her stance was uncompromising. This woman feared nothing and no one. So why was
she approaching him? He looked around, feeling another, invisible presence near her.
“Your guardian?” he asked.
A sour smile twisted her mouth and she gazed down at his gold cougar, which stood guard. “Watch,” she commanded. “I run out of patience with you.”
In moments the golden light enveloped Inca once more. Roan watched with fascination as the woman disappeared within spiraling bands that moved like a slow-motion tornado around her. But what walked out of the light moments later made him gasp. It was a huge stocky, black-and-gold male jaguar.
Roan vaguely heard Anna growl. In response the male jaguar hissed and showed his long, curved fangs. His golden eyes were huge, with large, shining black pupils. As the animal stalked around them, his tail whipping impatiently from side to side, his thick body strong and sensuous as he moved, Walker watched in awe. Anna remained on alert at his side, but did not attack the slowly circling jaguar.
The coat on the cat was a bright gold color, patterned with black crescent moons. To Roan, the massive jaguar seemed formidable, invulnerable. His mind churned with more questions than answers. A woman who turned into a male jaguar? She was a shape-shifter—a medicine person from South America who had the power to change shape from human to animal, and then back into human form at will. That in itself was a feat that few could manage successfully. He recalled that his mother, who worked with the Yaqui Indians of Mexico, had possessed shape-shifting abilities herself. One never knew, seeing a bird, a reptile or a four-footed, if it was in fact human or not.
Walker had been taught never to kill anything that approached him in such a bold, fearless manner.
As he watched the male jaguar make one complete circle, Roan was wildly aware of the throbbing power around the animal…around this mysterious woman called Inca. As he stared, he felt an intense, searing telepathic message being impressed upon him, body and soul.
I cannot control the tides of the ocean. I cannot change the course of the winds. I cannot control what is free and yearns to roam. I can only bend and surrender to a higher power through my heart, which rules me. I bend to the will of the Great Goddess, and to the Jaguar Clan. I ask you to willingly, with pure heart and single-minded purpose, to work with me. My people need your help. I ask in their name…
To Walker’s surprise, he felt hot, scalding tears stinging his eyes. The impassioned plea made him blink rapidly. Tears! Of all things! He hadn’t cried since…since Sarah had died so unexpectedly and tragically. Trying to halt the tumult of feelings radiating through his chest and around his heart, he watched the jaguar through blurred vision. What the hell was going on? This was no lucid dream. This was some kind of phenomenal, otherworldly meeting of the highest, purest kind. He’d heard his mother speak in hushed tones of those times when the gods and goddesses of her people would come to her in her dreams. She had often described rare meetings just like the one he was having now.
Was Inca really a human being? A shape-shifting medicine woman? A shaman who lived in South America? What was the Jaguar Clan? All questions and no answers. The stone at his throat seemed like it was burning a hole
in his flesh. He felt it with his fingertips; it was scalding hot. This was the first time it had ever activated to this extent. His mother had said that the stone possessed powers beyond anyone’s imagination, and that at the right time, he would be introduced to them. Rubbing his throat region, he understood this was no ordinary meeting. This had something to do with the stone’s origin and purpose.