Sometimes the person you rescue ends up rescuing you. Love is funny that way – shows up right at the moment you think, “It’s never gonna happen for ME.” So it was for Finora in LYCAN TIDES, my Guardians of Light Book 3. After seven years of imprisonment, this single mother rescues a shipwrecked warrior, who turns out to be the one man who might be able to set her free:
Storm approached from the wreckage. He snorted water from his nostrils, but paddled toward shore. The floater drifted behind, with the grizzled grey head of a man shimmering aside it. Stars, he hung on by a thread. Above the tempest, out of sight, shone the full moon. Although she couldn’t see it, she felt it. Apparently, so could the unknown Were, and he fought a losing battle against it.
The black wolf hauled himself to all fours and stared out at the approaching dog. Nay, not at Storm but at the Were behind him. Finora got the impression of silent communication betwixt them, similar to hers and Bree’s. The shimmering subsided, but Finora knew it lurked beneath the surface, like a cauldron just shy of boiling.
Storm lumbered up onto shore and over the rocks, far enough for the Were he’d rescued to claw his own way free of the water. Finora untied the floater rope from Storm’s harness. Storm looked confused. He tried to go back in, but Finora whistled him away from the water. She didn’t need mortals on her beach at the moment. Lighthaven had things under control. The sudden silence of the horns told her that. Storm shook himself and sat down to wait.
The black wolf nuzzled the man sprawled on the rocks. Finora knelt aside him. Rolling him onto his back, she checked the strength of the pulse in his neck and the steady rise and fall of his chest. She brushed aside tangled grey hair, uncovering a long, swirling column of blue tattooing down the left side of his face. Her fingers caught in a small braid. Despite the hair and the grey color of his neatly trimmed beard, Finora didn’t get the impression he was all that old. He had strong features, with the crooked nose that all warriors seemed to sport. She placed her ear against his chest, against the supple armor he wore. Whatever it was, it wasn’t made of metal, but it wasn’t quite leather, either. His heartbeat was strong and steady and she heard no gurgling in his lungs to indicate he’d breathed in any seawater. He wore a coiled-bronze torque around his neck and a unique amulet—a wolf’s head with an eagle’s beak and wings.
She raised her head to find him awake, blue eyes staring at her from but inches away. “It’s all right,” she soothed, laying her palm against his cheek. “You made it to land, to Rhattany. You’re in Lighthaven now.”
“Lighthaven.” He had an unusual rolling accent. Something flashed feral-green in those piercing blue eyes, and she felt his jaw shift against her hand. “’Tis safe?”
“You’re safe here, cousin of the moon. I swear it.” She’d meant the words for reassurance only, realizing too late how he was bound to interpret them. Sure enough, he closed his eyes and shimmered into a very furry silver-grey wolf in battle armor, with a mangled hind leg. A very big, wet, unconscious wolf, at the base of a very tall cliff. “No! Sir, cousin, now is not the time. Wake up!” She shook him. He could have been a pelt, for all the life he showed.
The black wolf glared at her. She tried to lift the grey one. Stars, he was heavy. The lights of the cottage taunted her from a distance that might as well have been the moon. She had to get back to the children and she couldn’t leave an injured man on the rocks, exposed to the elements. She turned to the black one. “’Tis the full moon. I don’t suppose you could shift and carry him?”
He ducked his head and flattened his ears.
She sighed at the negative. For a Were to be trapped in alternate form, against the pull of the full moon—since werewolves did not shed their skins as selkies did—smacked of some sort of clan binding-punishment. Finora sensed a story or two there. “Well, I’ve bad news for you. Seal cows possess but a fraction of the size and strength of their bulls. I can’t do it, either.”
She tugged off the grey wolf’s human clothing, rolling it in his leathery armor to give herself time to think. The answer that came to her was her sire. King Griogair. If he’d even answer her. They’d not spoken since she’d left the waters seven years ago, against his express command not to go near the humans. He’d not even bothered with an “I-told-you-so.” But he was the one bull she knew who might answer her. They’d been close, once.
“Sire? I need your help.” Finora sent out the call, not daring to hope for an answer, and waited. Several minutes passed. The wind tore at her clothing and rain pelted her numb skin. Still she waited. “Sire, please.”
A huge brown shape exploded out of the water and up onto the rocks with a roar. Even in seal form, the bull towered over her. Two others flanked him, shedding their skins to reveal giant, naked, grim-faced men with wicked-looking tridents. Storm rolled over onto his back. The black Were crouched down, curled a lip and backed away. The lead bull shook off his skin and became an equally nude, sable-haired man with proud, aristocratic features. He’d a commanding presence that made her first reaction one of wanting to cower at his feet.