Scent of Valor (Chronicles of Eorthe #2)

By: Annie Nicholas

Courage blooms in the meekest of hearts.

Chronicles of Eorthe, Book 2

After spending twenty years trapped in her civil body, Kele can finally shift into feral form. By tooth and claw, she’s determined to climb the Payami pack hierarchy.

Her parents plan to mate her with a hunter from a rival pack, but her heart’s already been stolen by the most unsuitable wolf possible—Peder, an omega male. She’d gladly give him her body except he’s disappeared from her life. Maybe into the thieving arms of another female.

Peder has spent every moment of their forced separation training to be a hunter. When he hears of her arranged marriage, he fears he’s waited too long to trespass back onto Payami lands to fight for her hand—but he damned well isn’t giving up.

On his journey to confront Kele, Peder is attacked and wakes in a cage, helpless as a band of vampires attack Kele’s mating party. Separated by social standing, thrown together by tragedy, they must work together to survive. And find out if their attraction is merely puppy love, or a bond that’s stronger than time.

Chapter One

Most of the marks on Kele’s flesh consisted of fresh scratches and bites, but a few had already begun to scar. Badges of authority, as her parents referred to them, but to her, the wounds meant she’d finally become a true wolf shifter. No more being the little healer who couldn’t change to feral form. Pack life revolved around dominance and Kele’s whole future depended on this challenge.

She faced the most dominant female hunter of the Payami pack and crouched low within the challenge circle. For the last seven months, all she’d done was win challenges, recover, and climb pack hierarchy.

Tegrathe stood three hands taller, which gave her a better reach. As they circled each other, an unfamiliar silence filled their mountain den, as if the whole pack held its breath. Tegrathe favored her left leg—an old knee injury, according to Kele’s mother. Tegrathe might be bigger and more experienced, but Kele was younger and had more to lose.

So much more.

Claws extended, Kele stopped pacing and held her ground. Outside the challenge ring, civil law was enforced by their alpha—her father. Once inside the circle, they changed, and feral laws took over. Only the strong survived, and if either one of them wanted to live, then the loser had to forfeit the fight by leaving the circle, or by dying.

Kele lunged and tore into Tegrathe’s right shoulder with her claws. The muscle below her opponent’s fur parted without resistance. Like it or not, Kele wasn’t leaving this circle unless she won.

She would be alpha female of this pack one day like her foremothers before her. Their rule spanned six generations and nobody would stand in her way.

Back and forth, she and Tegrathe exchanged strikes, revealing each other’s weaknesses until their limbs tangled and canines clashed. Blood trickled over Kele’s claws and muddied the challenge circle floor.

The pack exploded into cheers so loud the only evidence that Kele growled was the vibration in her chest. Tegrathe kept her close so she could use her superior strength to control Kele’s attacks, but like every other opponent Kele had challenged, she had clearly forgotten that Kele’s mother had trained her since birth. She had learned to fight in only her weak civil form against her mother’s stronger feral beast. These painful lessons taught her cunning and to use her small stature to her advantage.

Kele allowed Tegrathe to pull her dangerously close. She even let her sink her claws into Kele’s back, and howled from the sharp pain like a mewling pup. But she never lost sight of Tegrathe’s left knee.

“You should have stayed a healer.” Tegrathe spat out the last word as if it left a bad taste in her mouth. She had always had a cruel streak and it didn’t surprise Kele when Tegrathe’s next bite was aimed at her throat. Tegrathe wasn’t playing. She truly saw Kele as a threat…and there was no greater compliment.

Kele went limp and set Tegrathe off balance so the strike hit the top of her hard head instead of ripping out her windpipe. Sliding from Tegrathe’s grip, she hit the dirt floor and didn’t let that lame leg out of her sight.

Tegrathe stumbled back and caught her balance.

Without a second thought, Kele bent her legs and kicked the side of Tegrathe’s weak knee. A satisfying sharp snap followed her contact. Shifters fought with tooth and claw. Not many bothered to learn combat in civil form that used the power behind the body’s motion. She’d spent the last twenty years trapped in a civil body and that knowledge gave her an advantage.

Kele rose to her feet and waited for Tegrathe to crawl out of the circle. The other hunter’s leg would heal in a few weeks. It would give her time to adjust to the shift of power within the hunters now that Kele had bested her.

Tegrathe panted, glaring in her direction. “Get it over with.”

She blinked. “What?”

“I’m not stepping out of this ring.” Tegrathe crawled toward her, every movement evidently causing her great discomfort.

Stepping back, Kele scanned the surrounding pack for her parents and met her father’s stare.

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