Hi, dear reader,
I'm so happy to announce that Her Orc Protector is coming on April 7!
My people have accused me of being a witch…
If they weren’t so afraid of me, I’d be dead already, drowned in the icy river flowing from the orc lands. Terrified I’d turn them all to toads, they tied me to a tree in the deep, frozen forest and left me for the wolves.
But the forest is home to larger beasts than wolves. Brutal orcs prowl these mountains, and when one finds me here, alone, I accept my life is over.
Only I’m wrong. The strong, cautious male doesn’t slit my throat on sight. Instead, he rescues me, and for a moment, I think I’m saved.
Until he tells me that I’m his. We’re fated mates, and he’s intent on keeping me. Forever.
Her Orc Protector is an orc fantasy romance set in the world of the Black Bear Hill. You’ll love this story if you enjoy books with forced proximity, size difference issues, and a reluctant heroine who can’t resist her large, devoted hero for long. This is the fourth book in a series of standalones - each story can be read on its own and features a happy ending for the main couple.
This is Korr and Ivy’s story!
I really love the cover, this minty color is so pretty! And yes, it's another green man chest cover, but we love them, don't we? :)
You can read Chapter One below. Enjoy the sneak peek!
The rope tied around my wrists chafes my skin raw. I stumble in the ankle-deep snow and barely catch myself from falling on my face. My captors curse at me, urging me onward through the dusk.
“Watch where you’re going, witch,” Sal Olfen snaps at me.
I lift my head, bleary with exhaustion and fear. “I can’t feel my feet.”
His face pinches with something like worry, but he glances at the man walking beside us, then faces resolutely forward.
“Barney,” I plead with the older man who has lived down the road from my house all my life. “Come on, you don’t have to do this. Just let me go, I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
“Shut up, Ivy,” he mutters, refusing to even look at me.
I force down the panic rising in my throat. I have a few minutes at most to convince them to grant me my life. We left the village behind an hour ago—or maybe more, it’s hard to say with the falling snow and every step so agonizing. Of course, my feet stopped hurting some time ago, which is bad, really bad.
But frostbite will be the least of my worries when they chop off my head.
I fall to my knees, half by design and half from fatigue. “Please, you two aren’t killers. I know you drew the short straw, Sal. You don’t want to kill me, do you?”
“I lost all my hair because of you.” He juts out his chin. “After you gave me that potion.”
He yanks at the rope tied around my waist, and I cry out, feeling every bruise on my ribs.
I force myself to stand again, though it costs me everything. “You lost your hair because you got the mange, you idiot. If you actually washed yourself with that potion and burned all your bedding, you’d be fine by now.”
I realize the moment the words leave my mouth that it’s the wrong thing to say.
Sal tugs the rope, and I go flying. I barely catch myself on my bound hands before I sprawl on the ground, the powdery snow puffing up around me. My wrists scream in pain, and I can’t even rub them to chase away the ache.
“We’ve come far enough,” Barney growls. “This will do.”
“Please,” I beg, trying to stumble to my feet. “I won’t ever return to the village. You can tell everyone you did your job. No one will come looking for me.”
The men don’t listen. As one, they grab me by my arms and haul me through the snow. In my panic, I kick out and flail, and they’re forced to drop me again.
My height has never before been an advantage, but now, I’m savagely glad I’m not some small slip of a girl they could toss around easily. And for the first time, I wish I did have enough power in me to boil their blood in their veins, to make their eyeballs shrivel and their teeth fall out.
Let them suffer for this if they mean to kill me.
“This won’t work,” Sal forces through his teeth. His face is red, and he’s sweating under his winter furs, the sour stink coming off him intensifying. “Let’s just do it here.”
I glance ahead to see that they’ve been dragging me toward a still-uncovered tree stump sheltered by the long branches of a fir tree. They meant to use it as an executioner’s block, judging by the way Barney is thumbing the wood ax at his waist.
But now Sal unsheathes a hunting knife and grips it tight in his fist so his reddened knuckles whiten from the strain. “I’ll slit her throat, be done with it.”
“No, the elders said we have to take her head off,” Barney protests. “Else she could come back and reclaim her body.”
Oh, for gods’ sake.
“I won’t come back to my body,” I promise. “Just let me go, and you’ll never have to see me again.”
All I want is to go home to my house and be left alone, that’s all I’ve ever wanted, but the villagers wouldn’t allow it.
“Shut your fuckin’—” Sal says.
A wolf howl echoes in the distance, and another answers it a moment later, long and eerie.
The men freeze, turning their heads toward the sound.
“We have to go,” Barney urges. “Do it now.”
Sal glances down at the knife, then back at me. I know he’s not a killer. A butcher, yes, as used to killing animals as any farmer in the village. But there’s a difference between slitting a pig’s throat for the purpose of feeding your family and sticking a knife into a woman.
His small eyes narrow as he stares at me.
He doesn’t think of me as a woman anymore. I’m not the neighbor he says hello to every morning but an evil witch who caused all his hair to fall out.
To him, I’m no longer human.
Not that I ever was, not fully, but the tiniest droplet of witch blood running through my veins shouldn’t be reason enough for them to kill me. Yet somehow, it is.
“You know what I think?” he says slowly.
“What?” Barney barks, looking nervously over his shoulder.
Sal slips the knife back into its sheath. “I think we should leave her for the wolves.” He gives me a glare. “They won’t just take her head off, they’ll tear her apart. No coming back to her body after that.”
I gape at him, unable to believe my luck. “That’s…” I almost say his idea is wonderful, then stop myself just in time. Easy, Ivy. Instead, I moan, “Oh, no, don’t do that.”
For a moment, I think the gods have decided to have mercy on me, after all. If they leave me here in the forest, I might have a chance of escaping. I don’t know where I’d go, other than follow them back to the village at a safe distance, because losing myself in the endless forest of Bellhaven would mean certain death in deep winter. But anything is better than having my throat slit right here. Then Sal’s ruddy face creases in a nasty smile, and my hope plummets.
“Come on, help me tie her to a tree.”
He yanks the rope, and Barney, catching on quickly, helps him drag me to the nearest fir tree. I fight them viciously, kicking out, but there’s two of them, and even though I’m taller than Sal, they’re men—stronger than me and used to getting their own way.
They slam me face-first against the rough tree bark, and I know it should hurt, but my body is beyond pain now. I struggle, so they tighten the rope around my waist and chest, looping it around the tree, then tie it on the other side of the trunk where I’ll have no hope of reaching it.
The wolves howl louder now, closing in on their prey. I don’t know if they’ve already smelled our tracks or are hunting some other unfortunate animal, but the sound is enough to chase away the men.
“They’ll smell you soon enough,” Sal crows. “It’ll be a painful way to die, witch.”
I turn my head as much as the ropes will allow and fix him with a death glare. “Every time you close your eyes, Sal Olfen, I’ll be there to haunt you,” I spit.
He stumbles backward, his face paling. My puny gift, if it can be called that, doesn’t extend to working magic of that scale, but they don’t know that. They only heard the rumors going around the village, and those were ridiculously blown up.
“Every bite of food you take will turn to ash in your mouth, Barney Tucks,” I continue, enjoying his fear. If I can’t fight for my own life anymore, I’ll make sure to ruin theirs, too. “Every time you touch your wives, my face will appear before your eyes, and your little dicks will shrivel!”
I’m screaming now, my throat raw from the cold and fury.
“Bitch,” Sal growls, taking one step toward me, palming his knife still again.
And for a moment, I almost relish the thought that he might kill me now after all. At least I’ll be dead when the wolves find me.
Then Barney grabs Sal by the arm and yanks him around. His face is white with terror—whether from my words or the wolves, I can’t tell. “Come on,” he whines. “We have to go. Leave her. She’s as good as dead.”
Sal throws me one last hateful glare, then follows Barney, retracing our footsteps from before. Within moments, they disappear between the trees, their brown-clad figures melting into the forest. Only the sound of my harsh breathing disrupts the silence.
That, and the howls of the wolves.
A sob works its way up my throat. Barney had the right of it for once. I can’t move. With a tug, I test the wet rope, but it barely gives a half inch, not nearly enough for me to untie it with my numb fingers.
I squeeze my eyes shut and lean my forehead on the scratchy bark. Numbly, I register the gray lichen cushioning the contact and think it would be nice to put some on my wounds. But my hands are tied, so I can’t do anything about it. My thoughts are becoming sluggish. If I’m lucky, I’ll freeze to death before the beasts find me. I’d heard that it’s not so bad to die from the cold. You get confused, you stop worrying, and you fall asleep, peaceful as a babe.
Already, I can’t feel my feet or my hands, really. The pain is fading, which would worry me if I was in a different situation, but now, I welcome the absence of sensations. My teeth are chattering, so my body is still fighting to live, but soon, even that will fade.
A twig snaps behind my back.
Horror washes over me. Oh, no. No, no. I was supposed to be dead when the wolves found me. I don’t want to go like this.
I brace myself for the first bite, waiting for sharp teeth to sink into my flesh.
A sniffing sound.
The sense that something big is moving around.
Fresh dread courses through me. I thought that bears were all asleep for the winter, but I’d heard that sometimes, they wake up and wander out of their dens, searching for some food to help them survive the cold months. If one finds me…
Would that be worse than being eaten by wolves?
Then someone clears his throat. “Good day. Do you need some help?”
I wonder who this is! :D