Yahola seeks inner peace. The storm brings him Alika, instead. When her brave spirit inflames his savage desires, their lives will never be the same.
Because passion is a force of nature...
Publisher's Note: Previously available in the Storm Warnings anthology.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Savage Storm by Vonna Harper
Die! Just let it happen.
The desperate plea screamed inside the mind of the light skinned slave who answered to the name Maddie. Her world had become froth and fury, waves that attacked with the ferocity of Master's whip. Her lungs burned and threatened to burst, forcing what strength remained to her arms and legs. Driven by a will beyond her comprehension, the young woman fought the sea.
Die! It's what you wanted.
Pressure built in her brain. Panic bit deep and sent more wild strength to her limbs. She knew nothing except this all-consuming need for air. Air!
Weight heavier than any chains, dragged at her muscles; she was drowning! The hurricane-owned sea would become her grave. She'd never see sunlight again, never hear Kaluwa's sad hymns or the children's laugher.
Let go. Don't fight.
What remained of her brain pleaded for death's release, but something even stronger caused her to stretch her arms upward in a last attempt to free herself from her storm-grave. Her eyes felt as if they would burst from their sockets. She couldn't think how to make her legs work with any kind of rhythm. It was happening. Drowning. Death. What she'd walked into the surf to find.
By bits and pieces, she realized she was no longer deep under the surface but riding high and nearly free on a monster wave's back. Her lungs sucked in rain-drenched, life-giving air. Drawing on the strength that had taken her far beyond Master's hands and cock this morning, she settled into the wave-bed and blinked saltwater out of her eyes.
Land! Beyond reach, maybe beyond hope, but land!
Hot fear accompanied the awful thought that maybe she'd lost her bearings in the devil's hurricane and had been swimming back toward the hated plantation where a child's foolish dreams had died under Master's demanding body. But instead of the sweep of cultivated fields where slaves sweated and sometimes died, this barely visible place was covered by trees and other vegetation; they danced to the wind's fierce command.
Pain like a hot brand shot up her leg. Gasping, she tried to draw it upward. As she did, the sea stopped supporting her. She felt herself going down, back into that place of dark and energy and hideous creatures. Panic again closed around her; she swore she heard something laugh, the sound nearly as all-consuming as the great wind that drove the storm.
Die! It's the only way you'll ever be free.
"No!" she screamed, the cry hammering inside her. Feeding on the desperation that had forced her to try to take her own life earlier, she fought the great body of water. This time its hold wasn't as powerful, as if it had grown weary of proving its mastery over her. Although she shook with exhaustion, she managed to reach the surface again.
Like a bird floating on an untrustworthy wind, she sagged in the water's embrace and tried to rest. This morning--had it been such a short time ago--One Eye Jim had rubbed his swollen knees and announced that the approaching storm would release enough water to drown a body, and the accompanying wind would uproot trees and maybe even rip the roof off the plantation. At One Eye Jim's pronouncement, everyone except her had laughed.
While the other slaves had joked about Master's helpless fury in the face of a hurricane, she'd known her time had come. Occupied with protecting his plantation, Master wouldn't order her to submit to being fucked. The endless delight of raping her would be replaced by cursing and his ever-present whip biting into helpless flesh.
She wanted to see fear in Master's face, to watch the wind fling him into the sky before dashing him to his death against a massive gumbo-limbo tree. But nothing stopped the all-powerful Master. Her only escape lay in death.
An island. Small enough so she could see its contours, it shuddered and moaned in the storm's grip; she herself shuddered at the thought of the deadly creatures that surely lived in the wild place. But if she didn't swim toward it, she'd drown and be eaten by sharks; maybe they wouldn't wait for her to die. Reaching the island--if she had enough strength--was her only hope for life. Could she survive there? Alone. Her body hers.
Her eyes burned, but she gave scant thought to whether she was crying. Besides, the torrential downpour that blurred the line between surface and sea immediately erased what might be tears. The tumbling water pushed and punished her naked skin, she felt as if she'd been rubbed raw. Fighting off thoughts of sharks and whatever had stung her a few moments ago, she half-swam, was half-thrown toward the island. It looked so far away.
Between fighting to keep water from filling her lungs and finding the strength to keep going, she thought of nothing, became an animal ruled by the instinct for survival. The devil wasn't the sharp-tailed man-figure preachers ranted about or even this storm but the fat-bellied man who'd whipped the life out of several slaves and had threatened to do the same to her.
She swam away from him, swam and fought to live after all.
By the time she made out a massive moss-hung cypress near the shoreline, she felt more dead than alive. The thought of crawling out of the water and onto the crushed shells, clay, and muddy ooze that fed the vegetation horrified her, but she had no choice--if she could survive until she reached land. Although she was still far from the island, she comforted herself with the thought of finally having her feet under her.
The storm had stirred the seabed, and sand thickened the water. If it wasn't for the downpour, her hair, face, and shoulders would be covered with grit. As it was, her legs and arms felt weighted. She struggled to go on swimming, but her muscles had died. They had no strength, none.
Alika. Alika. The name old Kaluwa had given her echoed in what remained of her mind. She would die as Alika the beautiful one, not Maddie who had been bought and paid for.
Her own laughter penetrated her fogged brain. Wave after wave threw her about, sometimes flinging her closer to shore, sometimes back out into the water-beast. Despite her utter exhaustion, she laughed with the hurricane. It had won. Killed her.
She started to go under but couldn't lift her head. As water entered her nostrils, something grabbed her nearly numb wrists. She felt herself being pulled forward. Not really caring, she stared at whatever had captured her. She recognized huge dark eyes, long black hair that streamed around a man's solid neck and shoulders. When he drew her close, her legs tangled with his, touched and caressed, explored. Her breasts brushed his chest and then his arm. The sea had been warm but nothing like him. In her mind, he became everything. Her world.
He spoke, but she couldn't hear him. Kaluwa--not Old Pansy as Master called the gentle elderly slave--knew of spirits and devils and said those creatures lived in the wilderness. Maybe a devil man had found her.
She didn't care. She was dead. Dead in an embrace that made her feel alive.