Here’s an excerpt from Savage:
Siara had never been so cold in her life.
Heavy rain slowed their progress so that now, on the 20th day of their journey, they had finally reached the border of Den. Bundled in a cloak, the muscles of her thighs aching from so many hours in the saddle, Siara sunk into herself, unable to do anything more than focus on the mane of her horse.
When the caravan stopped, Siara looked up, her eyes struggling to focus. Around her the men were a flurry of action. Numb and exhausted, she waited for someone to instruct her. At the beginning of their journey she’d helped set up camp each night and organized the equipment in the morning. By the tenth day she’d been too weary and sore to do more than listlessly eat what was put in front of her. The storm and reports of trouble in the outlying areas they passed through had consumed Anleeh’s time. At night he sat with the lead guard, plotting their route, leaving her alone in her misery.
Now that she was no longer moving, the aches and pains of her body rose up to make themselves known. Siara hunched her shoulders and pitifully wondered what would happen if they all forgot about her. Would she freeze atop her horse?
“Come on, lover, time to get off.”
Siara turned blankly to the speaker. “Hmmm?”
“Damn. Siara, can you see me?”
“Who am I?”
“Sounds like Anleeh, but I have not seen him in so long.”
“This has not gone exactly to plan, has it?”
A single pitiful tear slipped down Siara’s cheek. “I hate it when things don’t go according to plan.”
“I know, lover.” Strong hands lifted each boot out of the stirrup in turn, then moved to her waist and pulled her off the mare. Siara cried out as her numb limbs were forced into new positions.
“Shhh, lover, I know it stings.”
“My legs!” Strong arms swung her up, pulled her tight to his chest. The world swirled dizzily, and, had she eaten anything, it would have come up.
“Hold still, precious.” Siara was laid down on strong thighs. Her ice-encrusted skirts were raised, exposing her leggings, and large warm hands began to massage her legs. Siara whimpered and then cried out as needles pricked up and down her skin.
“I know it hurts. I’m sorry, lover, I didn’t realize what bad shape you were in.”
“Anleeh?” she whimpered. He pulled Siara upright and wrapped one hand around her back, the other still working the muscles in her legs.
“Yes, lover. How are you feeling?”
“Cold. Hurts.” Speaking was too much effort. The world spinning around her, Siara dropped her head onto his shoulder.
“Siara?” Anleeh jiggled her. “Siara, sit up and talk to me.”
“Too cold, tired.”
“What did you have to eat today?”
“Too cold to eat.”
“Siara! You didn’t eat?” Anleeh called out to one of the men to bring warm water and bread. “You should know better.”
“Didn’t know, didn’t understand, so cold.”
“Have you lived your whole life in the warmth of the Great City?”
“Mmhmm.” Siara gave up the fight with consciousness and slipped into the inviting dark.
* * * *
Damned foolish woman.
Suppressing his worry, Anleeh soaked the chunk of bread in warm water and held it to Siara’s lips. “Open up, lover.” He jiggled her shoulder to get her attention and when her lips parted he slipped the chunk of bread between her teeth. He stroked her throat and then sighed in relief when she chewed and swallowed.
“Will she be alright, Lord?”
“She will. Did she eat nothing when we stopped earlier?” During the middle of the day, their outriders had spotted a group of bandits. Anleeh had ridden out to scout their options while the rest of the group stopped to rest and hide.
“I know not, Lord.”
“Very well. Bring me a bit of cheese if we have any.”
“Siara, lover, wake up, you need to eat; your body cannot fight the cold with no food.” Rather than wake, she slid her face into the crook of his neck. On a sigh, Anleeh laid his cheek against her hair, holding her close.
He knew she must be truly ill to behave this way. He imagined that a well Siara would not allow herself to be held and cared for, independent creature that she was.
“There is a bit of cheese left, Lord.” The guard handed him a piece of cloth-wrapped goat cheese.
“Thank you. Have the horses been taken care of?”
“Yes, Lord. A few are hurting from the cold.”
“Are any in danger?”
“No, Lord. We are prepared to leave tomorrow. Are you sure you would not like us to ride with you the rest of the way?”
“You would not be welcome. Concentrate on getting home safely.”
“Yes, Lord. We have Lady Siara’s bedroll. Where would you like it?”
“Bring it to me.”
When the guard returned with the extra bedroll Anleeh had him roll out both. He held Siara as her frigid stillness turned to shivers, and then faded as her body warmed. Anleeh unlaced the bodice of her traveling dress, easing it down and off her shoulders exposing the deerskin shirt that matched her leggings. As she muttered in her sleep about the cold, he stripped off the shapeless brown dress and threw it behind a log. She would not wear it again.
Lifting her, he quickly slipped her beneath the fur lined covers and then stripped off his own outer garments, popping bites of cheese and bread into his mouth as he did. When he was stripped down to leggings and shirt, Anleeh slipped in beside her, wrapping his arms around her.
He’d never slept with a woman in his arms and it took him time to figure the best way of it. Anleeh rolled onto his back and pulled Siara across his chest, protecting her from the frozen ground and heaping the blankets of their doubled bedroll on her to protect her back from the wind. Her legs tangled with his and her head rested on his chest. Wrapping the blankets tightly around them Anleeh willed himself to sleep.
He dreamed of her.