This is an excerpt from the opening scene inBlowing Embers(Pearlsong Press, summer 2011):
Some say Death glides in on angel-black wings while others say that it kisses away one’s last breath like a gentle grandmother. Kiera’s reaper, however, hurtled down the frosted field on four razor-clawed feet.
Narrowed eyes sharpened the terrifying vision of more than two thousand pounds of raging bear, leaping as he ran, and larger with every heartbeat.
So much larger.
Again she set her feet and leaned forward, hands up. Her throat squeezed when she swallowed.
“Hold it fast,” Lady Agni yelled from the sideline, spurring a snake of annoyance to wind through Kiera’s chest.
Adrenalin shook her hands, numbed her lips. Further crisped the details of the horror coming for her: ruddy fur, erect on rippling shoulders. The needle white of bared teeth. The grunt of forced breath each time those massive front feet crushed circles into the snow.
And then he was there.
What must have been fifty thousand pounds of force slammed into her shield, shoved her back three yards and to her knees.
The shield held, and fire sung in her veins. “Ahh!” she screamed joyously. Defiantly. Her feet pushed her back up as she leaned forward and fed more air into the space between them, forcing him back.
Undaunted, the bear continued his drive. Twisting like a cornered wolverine, he clawed furiously, used knife blade teeth to tear the unseen barrier between them, but as her air continued to flow, the space grew larger, wider, and she knew he was losing. All at once he drew back, away from the shield’s edge, and in that split second Kiera wondered if he would accede defeat. A smile began as he threw himself like a supplicant to the ground at her feet, but instead of begging her mercy, open jaws roared his furor. Giant claws blurred, ripped bloody gashes into the black earth dividing them.
Too late Kiera understood, and before she could send a sheet of air deep into the winter’s dead soil between them, the knife’s-blade claws broke through to her side of the shield. Without pausing, he leapt up and back, lifted the shield, and Kiera, off the ground. A vision of trees, mountains, fog, and sky flashed across her eyes, and her breath, and the elemental air that she held, oomphed out when her back slammed into the snow.
An enormous naked man landed on top of her, a rare grin lighting his face. For a moment, she stared into deep brown eyes set in a god’s rugged mien, skin as dark and warm as umber, as the wind blew a tendril of black hair across his jaw.
“Damn it,” she wheezed.
Instead of answering, he kissed her mouth.
She pressed her own smile away and shoved him back. “Get your clothes on, you barbarian.”