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Song of Howls

Sisters of Song 2

by M.D. Grimm

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Song of Howls - M.D. Grimm - Sisters of Song
Part of the Sisters of Song series:
Editions:Kindle - First Edition: $ 4.99ePub - First Edition: $ 4.99Paperback - First Edition
Pages: 345

As Alaiya reclaims her life, she never intended to capture the heart of a she-wolf.

Alaiya trained by her parents to be the perfect wife. Due to her beauty, they knew they could entice a wealthy man to wed her and raise their status. She was a trophy, a prize, brought out to entertain like an obedient dog. Their efforts were rewarded when Lord Salazem claimed her to become his next wife, intent on adding her to his harem. But when two mighty dragons and her sister save her, Alaiya is given a new chance at life.

Determined to stand on her own and discover who she truly is, Alaiya has little interest in relationships. Even when she meets the silver-haired Talla, Alaiya pushes down her desire, unwilling to be caged again.

Talla is the alpha of her large wolf pack in the Firestar Mountains and knows Alaiya is her mate. She is entranced by Alaiya’s strength, courage, and loyalty, and is determined to prove herself as a worthy mate. But first she must overcome Alaiya’s barriers, which might prove to be her greatest challenge.

As Alaiya and her sister adjust to their new lives, they must secure their home from those who would take it from them. Including their parents. As Alaiya struggles to stand on her own, she learns that true strength lies in letting others stand beside her.

Published:
Publisher: Independently Published
Editors:
Genres:
Tags:
Tropes: Fated Mates, Found Family, Interspecies Romance
Word Count: 65,000
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Tropes: Fated Mates, Found Family, Interspecies Romance
Word Count: 65,000
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
Excerpt:

“Hey, uh, hate to interrupt,” Alaiya said. “But we have a really big wolf staring at us.” 

Venya urged her dragons to set her down. “Abyss, Ray, Alaiya, this is Talla. Talla, these are my mates and my sister.” 

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The black and gray wolf was sleek, and its head was as tall as Alaiya’s shoulder. The face was narrow, pointed, the eyes large and bright, while its paws were almost dainty, and the tail was long, fluffy, and standing tall. The beautiful she-wolf flicked her gaze from one to the other before focusing on her and sniffing the air. Even as Alaiya remembered Abyss’s words about shape-changers, cracks and pops filled the air.  

Alaiya flinched at the horrendous sounds and watched, fascinated, as the she-wolf vanished. In her place was a striking, mature woman with a cascade of silver hair partially covering her naked form. 

Pale blue eyes shone out of a strong, unlined face, her skin a gorgeous light bronze. Her eyes arrested Alaiya—they reminded her of chips of ice, and the wisdom shining out spoke to her years. Her silver hair pooled upon the ground and covered her tall, rangy body like a cloak. Although, while it hid her breasts, it did nothing for the mound between her thighs. 

Alaiya blushed a deep crimson, hoping her dark skin would hide it. She lowered her gaze and shuffled behind Venya. 

Talla’s eyes followed her. 

Venya cleared her throat. “Talla, I wonder if my mates could rest on your mountain? They are tired.” 

At first the dragons protested but when Venya shot them a look, they surrendered. Although Abyss continued to glare with indignation while Ray pouted. 

Alaiya barely noticed the dragons’ antics. She couldn’t keep her eyes off the she-wolf. 

“I would be honored to host our noble guardians.” Talla’s voice was deep and husky, the roughness proving she must not use it very often. She inclined her head to the dragons before refocusing on Alaiya. “I wonder if your sister would be more comfortable in the valley? It is cold and windy up here.” 

“She’s right.” Venya glanced at Alaiya. “She can also feed you. She roasts a juicy steak. And the water will revive you.” 

Alaiya’s heart slammed against her ribs as she glared at Venya. 

Venya blinked at her before lowering her voice. “It would be rude to snub our host.” 

Low blow—triggering her etiquette training, all the mannerisms their parents had drilled into her from childhood. Nervous and angry, Alaiya stepped out from behind her sister. Her face was still hot but she moved forward with all the dignity she could muster. 

“I would be delighted to accompany you. Thank you.” 

Talla shifted her stance, appearing more at ease. Her eyes warmed, becoming like a sunny day, and her lips curved into a cautious smile. “It is a long and rough trail. Please do me the honor of riding on my back.” 

Alaiya stammered. “I—” 

Talla returned to her wolf form after more horrendous cracks and snaps, and eyed Alaiya over her shoulder. Alaiya glanced at Venya, silently pleading with her to intervene. 

Venya grinned. “You’ll want to take her up on that offer. It is a rough trail.” 

Betrayal struck deep as she turned her back on her sister and marched forward. She mounted the she-wolf cautiously and feared she might pluck a few hairs if she gripped too tightly. Once she settled, Talla worked her way down the trail. 

The steep, narrow pass had Alaiya grateful she’d taken the offered ride. Talla was like a pony, and Alaiya leaned back so she didn’t topple over her head. As they descended carefully, Alaiya’s mind raced with recent events and new, unknown terrors. 

She’d managed to kill a deer, had been used as bait again, and then had been assaulted by a brute Ray had set aflame. She’d led the dragons to the army camp to retrieve her sister, but they hadn’t managed to save her because of Corlis’s enchantments. The magic prevented the dragons from seeing or smelling the camp, though it hadn’t blocked their sound. But not wanting to use their fire blindly, they’d coaxed the soldiers out of the camp, trusting Venya to use the distraction to her benefit. 

She had. 

Then she’d fallen into the river and had been lost to them again. 

But now Venya was safe with her dragons, and Alaiya was on a freaking wolf, being led into a gorgeous valley. She gasped. It was an oasis, a pristine, protected dell filled with trees, a waterfall, creeks, and soft grass. The air was fresh and tinged with the scent of moss and wet rock. The day was darkening, throwing shadows from the mountains encircling the basin. But instead of giving the place an ominous feel, it granted it a different sort of beauty. 

For a moment, Alaiya forgot her own troubles and lived in the moment. She’d seen many such beautiful places in the Firestar Mountains but this one beat them all. 

Wolves watched them descend, and Alaiya tried not to cower under their piercing stares. The valley was filled with adults, adolescents, and pups. No one approached them, and she had a feeling something significant was happening. Though she couldn’t determine what it was. 

The mask she’d learned to wear as a child, that of societal pleasantries, slipped on as they stepped off the trail. Alaiya slid off Talla’s back and inclined her head to those nearby. 

“Good evening. I am Alaiya. Thank you for watching over my sister, and for welcoming us into your home. We are in your debt.” 

A few of the pups ran up as several adults approached. Tails were tucked, heads were down. Talla stayed beside her, watching them but also glancing at her. If Alaiya allowed herself to indulge in fantasy, she would have sworn she saw pride in Talla’s bright gaze. 

Of course she stroked the puppies and offered the adults her hands to sniff. Feeling welcomed and trying not to be overwhelmed, Alaiya resisted reliving the recent dangers again. This was an extraordinary moment that shouldn’t be tarnished by the past. If spending her entire life under the thumb of her parents had taught her anything, it was to savor the good and beautiful for as long as possible. 

When Alaiya’s stomach grumbled, Talla nudged the others away and jerked her head, wanting her to follow. Clearly, she was the alpha. Or one of the alphas. Didn’t wolf packs usually have a male and a female leader? 

Alaiya tried to decipher if any of the others gave off the alpha vibe but she didn’t sense anything. Talla took her to a pile of fruit that appeared to have been recently picked and washed. There were apples, oranges, and grapes. When she hesitated, Talla nudged her forward lightly. She took a grape, and Talla’s mouth dropped open in a lupine grin. 

Alaiya couldn’t resist smiling a little. “Thank you.” 

Talla huffed and trotted off. Alaiya sat next to the fruit and munched. She curled into herself, feeling a bit chilled. Her clothes had seen better days, they were dirty and torn. She mourned the state of them. They were ones she’d found in the palace, and she liked the style. She was grateful for the variety of clothing for ladies in the palace, and since she was handy with needle and thread, it was a simple thing to make modifications as needed to fit her, and her sister’s, shapes better. Her parents had insisted she be adept at all manner of womanly tasks and pursuits, including how to sew her own clothing. She’d needed to be a prize catch after all. 

She scowled at the memories. 

The adult wolves left her alone, though a few pups crept closer, curious. She coaxed them nearer and ended up with four pups draped over her lap and cuddled at her sides. Their fluffy, warm bodies and playful squeaks calmed her. But despite her best efforts, recent events wouldn’t let her settle. 

“What disturbs you?” 

She jerked and looked up. Talla stood there, naked, hair like silver silk draped over her. Alaiya quickly turned away and cleared her throat. She flushed hot when Talla sat beside her. Though she didn’t touch her or draw closer, Alaiya felt her gaze like a touch. It itched. It burned. 

“I… I’ve been through a lot.” 

“I gathered that from what Venya said. Do you wish to speak about it?” 

“No.” 

Talla nodded and when one of the pups nuzzled her hand, she plucked him up and rubbed her face against his. Alaiya softened at the adoration. 

“Is he yours?” 

Talla smiled. “No. All my pups are grown with pups of their own. I have no desire for more.” 

Alaiya frowned. “How old…? Never mind.” 

Rude. Very rude question. All those weeks away from society had made her social skills rusty. She used to be far better at small talk and charming all she met. 

Talla chuckled. The sound danced pleasantly along Alaiya’s skin. Damn. 

“We age differently than humans. Though I can still have children, I have chosen to stop. Let the younger, stronger of my pack produce the next generations. This way, I get to enjoy the pups with little burden.” 

So saying, she rubbed the pup’s tummy, and he wiggled with delight. 

Alaiya grinned.  

“Make sure to drink the water from the falls. It will cleanse you and heal you of any injuries or discomforts.” 

“How?” 

“This place was blessed by the gods long ago. A hint of their divinity remains.” 

Their gazes met and held. Alaiya was struck with the directness of Talla’s stare. She exuded calm and confidence, a steadfastness that encouraged trust and dependency. 

And that was a problem. Alaiya needed to stand on her own. She’d obeyed her parents for most of her life. Then she’d depended on Venya to rescue her. But now she had the freedom to be whoever she wanted to be. And she had no clue who that was. So she needed to find out and having a liaison with anyone—even this sexy she-wolf—was not part of the plan. 

“That’s amazing. I wouldn’t have believed that a month ago. But after meeting the dragons and… This is a good place to live.” 

“Yes. These mountains are sacred and must be protected.” 

Alaiya sighed. “And our presence brings danger. If my parents hadn’t sold me to that no good—” 

“‘Sold’?” Talla’s voice turned low and menacing. 

Alaiya flinched and peeked at her. Talla’s eyes flashed with fury, her expression strained. The pup in her lap whined and curled his tail under his rump, cowering. 

“It… it doesn’t matter. I’m free of them. I’m here.” 

“Your parents sold you?” 

Alaiya sighed. “Yes. They are greedy people with no love for anything but status and wealth. They trained me to be a high prize, and I was cursed with beauty. So Lord Salazem noticed me, and bargained for my hand. I was to be another one of his wives, and my parents would rise in status.” She paused, remembering the terror and revulsion as she was dragged into the lord’s manor. 

“But Venya made a bargain with him. She was to bring a piece of ancient treasure from the dragons’ hoard and trade it for my freedom. But she awoke Abyss and Ray, and they chased after her, exposing their existence. Lord Salazem, being a greedy man himself, sent an army to kill the dragons and claim all of the treasure.” 

 “Your sister explained much of this. But she did not say how it started. That you were sold. Like an object. A thing.” 

The fury was laced with insult, and Alaiya didn’t know how to feel about Talla’s reaction. 

“So I apologize that we’ve brought this danger to your sacred mountains.” 

Talla pierced her with her smoldering gaze and leaned closer. 

Alaiya froze. 

“You did not bring it, Alaiya. Never think that you did anything to deserve the treatment you have endured.” 

Alaiya’s eyes burned but she didn’t let her tears choke her. Talla’s simple, straightforward tone demanded she believe and accept it as truth. And hearing her name on the she-wolf’s lips made her flush again. 

“Thank you,” she whispered. 

Talla nodded once before leaning back. She stroked the pup and he relaxed. 

“Hunters are bringing deer. You will eat your fill and then sleep. You are exhausted. I would recommend a bath but I think humans are sensitive to being unclothed around others.” 

As she said that, she glanced down at herself. 

The embarrassing snort-laugh escaped Alaiya before she could swallow it back. Talla sent her a smile, her eyes twinkling. 

While she didn’t appreciate Talla’s commanding tone—she’d had enough of orders for a lifetime—she couldn’t deny all of what she said sounded great. “I think good food and sleep will do wonders for me.” 

“Then it shall be done.” 

Alaiya slept like the dead in a puppy pile, with Talla remaining close. She woke first and wriggled out, trying not to wake anyone. Talla lifted her head and sniffed at her. 

“We need to leave. Thank you for your hospitality,” Alaiya whispered. 

Talla morphed into her human form again, and it still sounded horrendous. Although Talla didn’t show any signs of pain or discomfort. 

“When will you return?” 

Alaiya fidgeted. She wanted to stay. She wanted to talk to Talla and cuddle with the pups and swim in that pristine lake under the falls. She didn’t dare do any of that. 

“I don’t know.” 

Talla frowned, searching her face. What was she looking for? 

“You will eat something, and then I will take you to your sister.” 

She almost insisted on going at once, once again not appreciating the commanding tone, but that would be rude to her host. And she was hungry. So she fell back on her default—aloof politeness. “That would be perfect, thank you.” 

Talla nodded. 

The puppies stayed with her as she ate, distracting her from Talla’s presence. Talla had morphed back into her wolf form, and Alaiya didn’t know if she preferred the silence over talking. It left her too much time to think. 

Was she making a mistake? But how could she be? She didn’t know Talla, and her sister needed her. This was not her home. 

Alaiya glanced around the valley again. Could it be? 

Don’t be foolish. 

She kissed and petted the puppies before mounting Talla once more. She’d almost forgotten how steep the incline was and held on tightly, not trusting herself to look down. She stared at the sky instead, relieved it was clear. They wouldn’t be drenched on the flight home. 

With nothing to distract her, she focused on the thickness of Talla’s fur, the strength of her between her legs. She blushed as her body betrayed her, becoming excited by the power she felt in the she-wolf. Talla carried her as if she weighed nothing, her climb unhindered. Were all shape-changers so strong? 

When Talla reached the top, Alaiya stumbled off, flushed and readjusting her clothing. She cleared her throat and forced herself to face Talla. She bowed her head. 

“Thank you for your hospitality. We won’t soon forget it. Take care, Talla.” 

Talla stared at her and something flashed in her eyes. Disappointment? 

Alaiya swallowed her own doubts and forced a smile. “I’m sure you have duties to attend to. I’d rather not wake the dragons before they’re ready. They flew hard yesterday.” 

Talla bobbed her head, woofing softly. Then she nudged Alaiya’s hip, rubbing before turning and disappearing. 

Alaiya blew out a breath and touched her leg. Why did she get the impression that gesture was more than a goodbye? 

Shaking her head, Alaiya sat beside Ray and leaned carefully against him. She watched her sister sleep, curled in Abyss’s hand, his massive claws encircling her. Despite the desire Talla had aroused, Alaiya had no room for someone else in her life. And certainly no intention of ever being caged again. 

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Veronica on Joyfully Jay wrote:

This story brings peace to the Firestar Mountains, but it’s forged in blood once again. I liked the pacing of the romance, in that it’s not up-front, but more sedate. Talla respects Alaiya’s boundaries, even if she doesn’t understand them at first. Alaiya’s never had a loving relationship, except with Venya, and that was hard fought, too. Alaiya’s been traumatized by men for many years, so undoing all that trauma requires a light touch, which Talla intuits through fits and starts into physical intimacy. The shifters of the Firestar Mountains are definitely growing in number and variety, and with this expansion comes conflict, but also increased comfort and security. I liked how Alaiya’s gentleness won the wolves to her side, even as they struggled to understand why she didn’t immediately accept Talla’s claim of mate.

I think for a fated-mate romance, this was a really nice twist, in that it allowed Alaiya time to heal from her traumas and to see that Talla wanted to love her, not use her. They had to develop a rapport before they could build intimacy, and that seemed right to me, knowing how much Alaiya was pushed around her whole life.

I definitely enjoyed this imaginative sequel, and would recommend it to readers who enjoy shifter stories and fantasy/paranormal sapphic romances.

(If you wish to read the full review, please visit their website)


Check out the first book in the series with Alaiya's older sister, Venya, in "Song of Flames."

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About the Author

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier. Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.