Because of a pact between her Arcadian panther pack and a Katagaria panther pack, Pandora Kouti was taken from her home in the future and brought to the present to mate with the male Katagari and care for their young. The human in her is frightened of the panthers' violent natures, and she manages to escape their pack. Pandora travels to Atlanta in search of Acheron, the famed Dark-Hunter who her sister said might be able to help her return home, but before she can find him, her mating heat attracts the attention of four Katagari panthers. Dante Pontis is one of the Katagari males who smells Pandora's intoxicating scent in the air. He has no intention of mating and tries to ignore it, but his animal instincts force him to track her down. After an afternoon of intense passion, Dante can't help thinking that being mated to Pandora might not be so bad. When the mating mark appears on both of them, it seems they are fated to be together after all, but the pack from which Pandora escaped won't let her go so easily.
Winter Born was another enjoyable story in the Dark-Hunter series. At only 75 pages, it is pretty short and very fast-paced. The whole story took place in just one day's time. As I've said many times before, I'm not usually a fan of instant hook-ups, but in this case it worked OK for me. That's because it all made sense within the context of the heroine being in heat and the way that the were-hunter mating rituals work. At least they did slow down a bit after the mating mark appeared and tried to get to know each other a little before making a lifetime commitment.
I liked Dante and Pandora as the hero and heroine. Dante is a Katagari panther who first appeared in Kiss of the Night as the owner of a nightclub that the hero and heroine of that book visit. He reminded me of Vane, the hero of Night Play, because he has a similar personality and similar views on his race. Dante is proud of his heritage but still disdains their violent mating practices and prefers to remain unmated, taking his pleasure with human females instead. When he catches the scent of a female panther in heat, his body and instincts won't allow him to ignore her. Pandora is an Arcadian panther from the future who was brought to the present against her will. She doesn't really have a pack anymore and was seeking Acheron's help to return home when Dante showed up at her door. Her own mating instincts wouldn't allow her to refuse him, but she's never heard anything good about the Katagaria, just that they are vicious beasts which makes her afraid of him. I loved how tender and gentle Dante was with Pandora which was another thing about him that reminded me of Vane.
The only carry-over Dark-Hunter characters who appear in this novella are Acheron and Simi. They have some amusing scenes as they peruse the Dragon-Con convention where the story is set, and as always, Ash is a scene-stealer. With the story being so brief, there wasn't a lot of time for relationship building, so I didn't feel the connection between Dante and Pandora quite as strongly as I would have liked. Otherwise though, I really enjoyed this novella, and look forward to continuing with the series. Winter Born falls between Night Play and Seize the Night in the ordering of the Dark-Hunter series. It can be found in the anthology Stroke of Midnight. There are currently a total of 19 full-length novels in the Dark-Hunter series and a number of related novellas and graphic novels as well, with more still to come. A complete list of all the books and their recommended reading order can be found on Sherrilyn Kenyon's website.
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