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Falcon's Mate 1

By´╝ÜMichelle M. Pillow

CHAPTER ONE


Princess Ari of the planet Falconia disliked the warriors who flew in

the Falcoan Army, but none punctured her thoughts like Commander

Rurik of the Fifth. She hated him and his smug, self-confident attitude.

He’d thought himself so superior when they were children—swooping

down to knock her on her ass so that her new gown would get covered in

muck, or overtaking her in games because of his naturally enhanced

stamina and strength—and all because he was born a falcon shifter. His

kind was rare and given the utmost consideration, as they were destined

to lead the armies that guarded her home planet from outsiders. All other

warriors turned after birth, their powers enhanced by choice, not fate.

Rurik was a falcon by destiny and it made him impossibly arrogant to

deal with. He’d grown up training at her home in the palace and

constantly around to torment her.

And now he was coming back.

Well, she had news for him. She was no longer the awkward, gangly

girl he’d known. She’d gone through puberty late, very late, but her

powers had come to her, as they did all non-shifting Falconians. She’d

been sixteen seasons, nearly twenty-four years old according to the

calendar they observed from the Old Way, and her father had begun to

worry that she’d never bloom. Too bad Rurik had been deployed to his

post merely days before it happened. She would’ve loved to prove him

wrong about her.

It didn’t matter. Now she was a powerful, envied princess, and soon

she’d be queen. With her mother gone, she was the sole female of power

6



Talons: Seize the Hunter

on their planet. She controlled the armies. She controlled Rurik. And,

with the evening’s coronation ceremony well upon her, she’d control the

entire planet. Her father would step aside, for men did not rule as well as

women. Falconian males’ blood ran too hot.

That is why Rurik was coming back. All commanders were to be in

attendance, for tonight was the shifting of power. But first, there was

another ceremony—one that took place this very afternoon. Today she

would drink from the sacred Chalice and awake next to the man who was

to be their future king, her husband, her mate, her eternal lover. And it

couldn’t come too soon, as far as she was concerned.

Whereas normal women of their society could take as many lovers as

they pleased, she was held to a higher standard. Until she married, she

was allowed three semi-lovers with whom all pleasures of the flesh were

allowed but one—the final claiming of her heart. If things got too close,

she was obligated to end it. In a life that kept her in front of the eyes of

all, she longed for someone to hold her in the night, to look at her with

eyes not judging but seeing. She wanted the comfort and safety of a man

who would not leave her.

Her first lover, a traveler and diplomat who visited them soon after

her powers had come to her all those years ago, had been to spite Rurik.

He’d been an enfem, a slender, pale man who spoke and acted as far

from a hot-blooded warrior as possible without being an actual woman.

She still cursed that wasted pick. Whereas he did hold her, he also cried

most of the night speaking of his feelings. Falconian women were

stronger than he was. The second man she thought she could someday

love, until she realized that lust and love were two different things. The

third was a practical choice, if not her best one. He’d been an older man,

a trainer who instructed more than participated.



 7

Michelle M Pillow

Ari looked at her reflection in the still water that made up one wall of

her bedroom. She could touch the wetness, but magic kept it from caving

in on her and soaking her. It was a good thing too. Her hair had taken

three skilled hairdressers four hours to do. The waist-length red locks

were twisted around strands of wire to keep it in place and then bent

around her head to fashion an intricately beautiful crown. It towered

above her, five hand spans high in the front and tapered down to a half

span in the back.

Her gown was of the finest weave, held into place with a thick metal

band that wrapped around her chest and back, leaving her tanned

shoulders bare. The band was bent to fit her body perfectly, molding

along the top of each breast to keep the flowing material that hung from

it from falling down. The royal dark-red material moved with her, clinging

and releasing her curves with each step as if it were air.

Holding her arms to the side, she waited as her attendants slipped

silver coils onto her arms. They wound around from shoulder to wrist,

decorated with the shiny black stones found only in the dark depths of

Falconia’s lucid waters. A matching stone hung from the chain that

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