Joan Hazel's book, The Last Guardian, is on my reading list this summer. I can't wait to read a story about a group of shapeshifters.
But there's more than that - there's Mika, see. Ever since I learned about Joan's book, I've been drooling over her character. He's not just Mika, he's My Mika. Why you ask? I'll show you why:
OK! So now that we understand that whole concept, Joan has been kind enough to allow me to host an excerpt from The Last Guardian. And as a special treat, she has featured a steamy scene with CJ and with My Mika.
|cover for The Last Guardian|
"Do you not know me?" Mika spoke directly to her, yet continued to stare out into the middle of the lake. There was sadness in his voice, and CJ was unsure if the sadness belonged to her or to something else.
Did she know the man at her side? Her heart said yes, but her mind said no. Without shame or guilt, CJ stared at her companion.
He was taller than she by maybe four inches, no more. The earrings he wore were made from real feathers, wrapped with silver wire. The one closest to her swayed gently from the beating of his heart. Her gaze followed the long length of his braids to where they ended slightly above his belt.
The sleeves of the scarlet shirt he wore were rolled up exposing his forearms. Try as she might, CJ could not stop the woman in her from wondering if the skin beneath his shirt was the same deep sun-kissed color as the part she saw.
A laugh, deep and masculine, echoed across the lake. She would have thought it her imagination, had the sound not been followed by the plopping of frogs as they scattered into the water in surprise.
CJ's lifted her gaze to Mika's face. Still he stared ahead, unwavering. "Are you going to answer me?" she asked.
"The answer is yes," he said.
"Yes, my skin is the same color all over."
"I did not mean…How did you…"
"I have been inside your mind since you were a child. It is easy for me to slip in and out of your thoughts without your notice."
|The author, Joan Hazel|
CJ grunted and crossed her arms over her chest in defiance.
"Forgive me. I did not mean to embarrass you," he whispered.
"You didn't. I, uh…" Okay, she thought. I am embarrassed. Dang it! "You still did not answer my original question," she said trying to change the subject.
"Does that mean you have finished taking inventory?" he asked with a hint of male smugness.
CJ blushed, but felt no true remorse. "You asked if I did not know you. I was only checking to see if I recognized you. Which, I am sorry to say I did not."
"Very well," he said, facing her.
Though there was little emotion in his voice, his eyes held a pain and longing CJ did not understand, yet felt compelled to erase.
Mika took her hand in his and placed it over his heart. Her pulse quickened at his touch.
"What…uh…what are you...?" she stammered.
"Do not speak, Charlie Jean," he said. "Only trust."
CJ peered deep into his caramel eyes. Gold flecks twinkled and danced in a way that was mesmerizing. If he asked her to walk on a bed of hot coals at this moment, she would do it for him.
"Close your eyes," he requested as he brought up his other hand to cover her eyelids with his palm.
If any other man had tried to touch her in such a way, CJ would have pulled away, but she ignored her mind's protests and did as he asked. With eyes closed, CJ allowed Mika to guide her wherever he wished.
"I need to know that you trust me, Wicahpi. Truly trust me."
CJ nodded her obedience. "I do," she whispered. "I don't know why, but I do." Even with her eyes closed, she knew her statement had made him smile, and that made her happy.
"This is real CJ. I am real. I need you to open your mind," he instructed her. "Open you mind and your heart. Allow them to guide you to our Mother. She gives us all the answers. It is our job to know how to receive them."
Time held no influence over the events that were taking place. For CJ it seemed to be both an eternity and mere seconds. The heat of Mika's body radiated though his shirt to penetrate into her hand, and the rhythm of his heart pulsed strong and steady through her fingertips and into her body.
"Listen. Can you hear it? Can you hear my heart beat?
"Yes," she whispered.
"As my heart beats, so does that of every living thing upon the Earth. Every creature. Every plant. Even the water. Can you hear those?"
Timidly, CJ opened her heart and her senses to the world about her. She heard the breeze as it whispered through the pines and recognized the songs of the different birds that sang along its branches.
The world around her buzzed and thrummed. Each sound blended with the next to create a symphony that played in time to the beat of Mika's heart.
"You feel it. Don't you?" Mika asked.
"I feel it, but—but what is it?"
"Connection," he explained. "Connection to the Universe and all she has to offer you.”
Oh, let's just have one more look at Mika, shall we?