How did a nice Irish girl end up naked—or nearly so—in the court of an Indian rajah?
Leandre is the latest gift to the powerful and handsome Sukumar, and she knows the smart thing to do would be to seduce the rajah and become his favorite. But pride and temper, her weaknesses since childhood, conspire to destroy her plans. Instead of ending up in the Rajah's bed, she finds herself about to become a sacrificial meal for his palace pets—man-eating Bengal tigers.
All his life Bhavesh has dreamed of Prahleandra, the tiger goddess who, in the form of a beautiful woman with skin like milk and hair the color of honey, took a human husband. Just when his dream has finally become flesh, it seems he will lose her to Sukumar's tigers.
The tigers, however, have ideas of their own.
An Excerpt From: BEASTMISTRESS
Copyright © VIRGINIA REEDE, 2006
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Milk and honey. Bhavesh tried to concentrate on what the old man was saying. He focused on a conveniently placed mole just above the bridge of the man’s nose, in order to prevent his eyes from straying back to the white and gold woman on the platform. Staring at his host’s newest possession would not be a good political move. Particularly since she seemed to be staring back. Who is she? He felt his face color and wondered if she noticed.
“Of course it is the tigers he cares most about,” the old man was saying, and Bhavesh realized he had lost the thread of the conversation.
“The tigers?” Had he missed something important? Bhavesh’s family had sent him to Sukumar’s court to improve his political skills and gain the rajah’s favor. So far he hadn’t made much progress—he despised the court and the constant posturing of its many inhabitants. His quarters were opulent but confining, and he longed for the freedom of his home to the south. And he had yet to have a personal conversation with Sukumar, who was perpetually surrounded by toadying nobles and tittering women.
“Oh yes! Sukumar’s family did not always live in the city.” The old man—what was his name?—lowered his voice confidentially. “He may not like to remind people his family is from the Sundarban, but they are.”
Bhavesh nodded—Sukumar’s history was well known to him. But the tigers…
“Surely Sukumar does not worship them—they are merely palace pets.” Bhavesh’s village was in the Sundarban, but even in that region the worship of tigers had become very rare and was only practiced openly in the most remote sections of the swampy forest.
“Perhaps, perhaps.” The old man’s eyes twinkled. “But few pets live so luxuriously, would you not agree?”
Leandre could not take her eyes off the tall man who had stared at her. He was not dressed as richly as most others, nor bejeweled so ostentatiously, but this did not have the effect of making him appear poorer or subordinate to the others—quite the opposite. Even though Leandre’s understanding of dress came from a different world, she could sense that his garments were understated rather than simple, and of fine quality.
He listened politely to the elderly man who clutched his arm and tilted his head in the mock-confidential pose of the perpetual gossip. Yet, Leandre could feel his awareness of her gaze. His eyes flickered toward her again and she felt her lips curve in a tiny smile. Had he seen it before he turned away? She hoped so, although it was probably a dangerous thing to be flirting in her already precarious situation.
Or maybe not. If Sukumar did not choose to make her part of his zuddhanta, she would be available to his guests. Perhaps she would have some choice in the matter of her…clients? Visitors? Probably not. Thinking of the disgusting man who had shown her his swelling erection, she shuddered.
Yet she wanted to feel a man’s touch again, needed to. Duncan had given her the gift of a healthy woman’s lust that first night, and she had never again been without it.