Eight Arms To Hold You is now available in print from MLR Press. Yay! I'm excited about this :) And I love love LOVE the new print cover! Totally lickable!
Click here to read the prologue and purchase the book. Read on for an excerpt :)
© Copyright 2009 Ally Blue
Finding your heart's desire comes with a price. Luke Cordova, the last of an ancient race, and Austin Bell, a diver who's down on his luck, are both looking for a new start. They're fated to be together--if they survive the dangerously stormy seas and a deadly shared enemy.
Luke’s head hit the edge of his father’s desk with a resounding crack. He fell to the floor, agony flaring through his skull as his head bounced against the carpet. Blood splattered across the gray sisal. Luke stared at the bright red spots, wondering if he’d be punished for the stains.
“Stupid boy,” Carson growled, pacing back and forth about a foot from Luke’s nose. “You know Dr. Allen forgets himself at times. How dare you arouse his concern? In front of a new employee, no less. What if Dr. Allen had spoken of your ... affliction, and that boy had heard him? Everything I’ve worked for could have been destroyed. Do you understand that? Everything!”
That last was punctuated by a kick to Luke’s stomach. He curled into a ball, coughing more blood onto the carpet. His ears rang, his vision fading in and out. The bright, flaring pain in his head told him his skull was fractured.
His father’s Italian loafers stopped pacing and planted themselves in front of Luke’s face. “Go to the ocean. Shift and heal yourself, then go directly to your cabin. You will take your meals in your quarters from now on. During the day, you will busy yourself with your research into the idol. You will dive as an octopus at night, and you will find my treasure or die trying. Do you understand?”
Pushing himself onto hands and knees, Luke nodded. “Yes. Sir.”
“Good.” Carson yanked Luke to his feet, dragged him to the door and shoved him into the hallway. “Get out of my sight.”
Stepping back into his office, Carson slammed the door shut. Luke leaned against the wall, fighting to stay conscious. Keeping one hand on the wall, he took a tentative step in the direction of the ladder to the main deck. The floor tilted, the hallway swinging in front of his eyes, and he fell to his knees.
“Fuck,” he whispered, tears of frustration blurring his vision. Have to get up. Have to get to the deck. Need to shift. God, please ...
Footsteps sounded in the passageway, coming toward him. Panic surged through him. Unable to stand, he started crawling away, toward the nearest empty room.
A gasp and the sound of running feet told him he’d been caught. With no way to avoid whoever it was, he sat down, resting his back against the wall.
“Christ, kid! What happened?”
Smith. His father’s foreman. He knew exactly what had happened. Everyone on board knew. Carson hadn’t bothered to hide it for years.
Luke laughed, sending fresh waves of pain through his insides. “I fell.”
“Shouldn’t fall so much, kid. Gonna get killed one day.”
Surprised, Luke blinked up at Smith with the eye that wasn’t swollen shut. Smith’s stony face betrayed nothing, but Luke’s instincts told him to trust the man. After all, Smith was one of the few non-scientists on board who knew Luke was a shifter.
“Help me get to the deck,” Luke pleaded, his voice weak and breathy. “Please? Have to get into the water.”
Smith’s jaws clenched, but he nodded. “Sure. Here, hang on to me.”
With Smith’s muscular arm around his waist, Luke struggled to his feet. Vertigo whirled in his head. Swallowing against a violent wave of nausea, Luke clung to Smith and concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.
It took them nearly ten minutes to make it the few yards to the nearest stair and down to the main deck. Outside, Luke curled his fingers around the metal rail and breathed deeply of the salty night air. The damp cold felt soothing against his battered skin.
“Thanks, Smith.” Luke managed a smile. “I’m okay now.”
Smith nodded, turned and left without another word. Luke watched him go. He was a good sort, when it came right down to it. Not much to say, of course, but that wasn’t always a bad thing.
Lowering himself carefully to the deck, Luke sat down and started pulling off his clothes. Normally he would’ve gone to the dive platform, but he didn’t think he could make it that far. He’d just have to take the chance that the rest of the crew would stay below.
Stashing his clothes under a nearby tarp, Luke slipped under the railing and plunged naked into the ocean below. As soon as the icy water closed over him, he shifted. Instantly, the pain faded from his head and belly as the damaged tissues knit together. He glided into the inky blackness, reveling in the strength and energy of his octopus form.
I could stay like this forever. He often fantasized about that while swooping with effortless grace through the water. He’d always gone back to his human form in the end, knowing he didn’t have the skills to survive as a full-time sea creature and unsure whether he’d be able to maintain that form indefinitely in any case. Now, he had a whole new reason to go back.
The second he thought of Austin, the need to be with him tugged at Luke’s insides. He obeyed that silent call without question, jetting back to El Cazador with a few pumps of his mantle.
Hanging underneath the ladder to the dive platform, Luke scanned the visible deck as best he could from underwater. No one was in sight. He shifted and shimmied up the ladder. Grabbing a thick towel from the hamper, he dried off as quickly as he could. He tolerated the cold much better than most people, but the wind was still chilly on his bare skin and dripping hair.
Wrapping the towel around his waist, he ran silently along the deck. It remained empty. Luke was almost to the spot where he’d left his clothes, and was starting to think he might make it all the way back to his room without seeing anyone, when a dark shape detached itself from the shadows and stepped in front of him.
“Shit!” Luke skidded to a halt mere inches from the person. “Sorry, I’m sorry, I was just going for a swim, I…”
The soft voice stopped Luke’s babbling cold. “Austin? What ... What are you doing out here? It’s cold.”
Austin laughed. “The wet naked guy is telling me it’s cold.”
Luke couldn’t help smiling. “Yes, well. I have a high tolerance for the cold.”
They stared at each other. Luke watched the questions in Austin’s eyes melt into a white-hot lust, and was grateful. He wasn’t ready to tell Austin about his shifter abilities. Not yet. When Austin took that final step forward and folded Luke into his arms, Luke went gladly.
“Luke,” Austin breathed, his lips just brushing Luke’s cheek. “Christ, I need you so damn bad.”
Threading a hand through Austin’s hair, Luke kissed him hard, darting his tongue into Austin’s mouth. “Come to my cabin with me.”
Austin groaned, arching his neck so Luke could nibble it. “What if someone sees us going to your cabin? I don’t want you to get in trouble. He’ll hurt you.”
Austin’s protectiveness warmed Luke right to his toes. Smiling, he kissed Austin’s jaw. “Father doesn’t put a guard on my cabin when we’re on board the ship. His cabin’s on the upper deck, and we shouldn’t run into anyone on the way. Most of the crew are sleeping. Only the night bridge crew is on duty right now.”
Slipping his knee between Austin’s legs, Luke rubbed his bare thigh against Austin’s crotch. The sweet little whimper Austin let out made Luke want to throw him to the deck and have him right there. “Please, Austin. I need you.” Luke bit Austin’s neck, tongue flicking over the skin between his teeth. “Make love to me. Please. Please.”
In answer, Austin captured Luke’s mouth in a fierce kiss, one hand cupping the back of his head and the other firmly around his waist. “You don’t have to beg me. Let’s go.”