Golden Eyes - Maya Banks

Maya Banks - Amber Eyes #0.5 - Golden Eyes

Golden Eyes (Amber Eyes 0.5)
Maya Banks

Chapter 1

A long hiss escaped the jowls of the cat as she hunkered down amongst the rocks and thick shrubbery. Low chirps echoed across the fog-laden ground, and even the human inside the beast could not call back the frightened sounds.

She panted, her breath forming puffs in the frigid morning air. The burst of speed she’d needed to escape her pursuers had drained her. She lacked the energy to go much further, but it was imperative that she find safety.

Her gaze focused on a ponderosa pine several yards away. Cheetahs were ill-equipped to climb trees, but there were enough low-lying branches that she could scramble toward the top and hide in the dense foliage.

She sprang from her hiding spot and ran for the tree on stealthy paws. Fatigue burned every muscle, but she couldn’t succumb to the need for rest. Not yet. They were coming for her and they would kill her.

With sagging energy, she jumped to the lowest branch. Her claws dug into the bark as she fought for balance. Her ears twitched and shot upward as a sound in the distance caught her attention. Higher she climbed, desperation bleeding over into her movements.

When she’d gained enough height to not be easily seen from ground level, she stretched over the limb and flattened her lithe body as much as possible.

Even as she swallowed against the involuntary chirps of fear, she felt the change radiating over her body. Pain, welcome pain, locked into her bones, seized her muscles, and shot like fire through her limbs.

She clung to the branch, desperate not to plummet to the ground. Paws became human fingers. The spotted fur rippled away and was replaced by pale, naked skin. The soft tuft of hair at her nape became long strands of honey gold hair.

For the first time in months, she was human again.

She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around the rugged tree branch. Time was something she didn’t have, but she needed the rejuvenation her human form would bring, if only for a few minutes. The cheetah was spent.

Perhaps she slept. She had no clear idea of how much time passed, but she was alerted by a rustling in the distance. Voices. Familiar voices.

They were coming for her.

Fear swelled in her throat, blocking out her breath. Panic raced in her veins and prickled like razors over her skin. They wouldn’t take her prisoner this time. They would kill her.

Pulling every thread of strength within her, she concentrated on becoming the cheetah. She would run once more.

Her human side cried out in protest, but she gave free rein to the beast, allowed it control as her body conformed to the parameters set by her mind.

She blinked to adjust to the difference in visual acuity. The landscape sharpened, and she focused on the most expedient route away from danger.

Slowly she inched further out onto the branch, her intention to leap to the neighboring tree. She slid on her stomach, her claws gripping the wood as she prepared to spring.

A light sound riled her instincts, and she shot forward. Pain seared through her hip, and she was left gripping the air. Seconds later, she hit the ground with a resounding thump.

“Fuck! She jumped the string. I didn’t get a good shot.”

The voice was too close. Agony wracked her body. She lifted her head and glanced down her body to see an arrow protruding from her haunch. She panted heavily, trying to squeeze oxygen back into the lungs that had been severely jarred by her fall.

If she