Monday, April 5, 2010

Ain’t Nothin' Like Succubus Lovin' by Sapphire Phelan

Getting back into the dating groove nowadays was harder than Jordan Hudson expected. A forty-something, newly divorced male—nothing special, just an ordinary man—he’d trolled the singles bars and even the supermarket. After a year of it, he just finally gave up. Women today—at least the ones he met—either wanted to get married or preferred the bad boy types. Nice guys finished last, and he never even got sex as a consolation prize for all his efforts. He’d become tired of using his hand, the only kind of sex he had for the past two years.

He decided instead to be shallow just like those bad boys, and have a good time, with plenty of sex in the bargain. So he decided to take the easy way out and summoned up a demon—to be more precise, a succubus. After all, what better demon to call up than an expert in sex, especially when the man doing the summoning hadn’t had it for two years?

After borrowing A Dummy’s Guide to Demon Summoning from his friend Micah, he bought what was required. He also hoped to succeed where Micah failed.

That night he went over everything.

Chapter One: How to Summon a Succubus.
Ingredients: four black candles….

“Check.”

Incense.

“Check.”

Chalk.

Jordan dug through the large Wal-Mart bag beside him and, after a few seconds of searching, found the chalk.

“Double-check.”

Blood of a live chicken.

Jordan shot a dubious look at a very bloody package of refrigerated cut-up chicken parts he’d bought from the supermarket just up the street from his apartment. All he needed was the blood. Besides, he could use the chicken for one of his dinners later in the week. Waste not, want not, as his grandmother used to say, and Jordan didn’t believe in wasting anything. Another facet of his personality that had driven his ex crazy.

Everything done, he made sure that the chalked circle was perfect. Even one minuscule break in it would allow the demon to sneak out. He lit the four candles and placed each one outside of the circle: north, south, west and east. A cloud of minty menthol wafted from a wooden bowl nearby, drifting over Jordan and smoking up the living room. He shrugged. If nothing else resulted from this little experiment, at least his congestion would be alleviated.

Satisfied, he slipped off his jeans and T-shirt, flinging them on the couch nearby.

Ripping open the package of chicken parts, he poured the blood into a cup and shoved the chicken into the freezer. He chanted off-key, sprinkling the chicken blood over the circle while doing a little half-skip, half-stomp all around it. When he stopped chanting, he sat Indian-style and waited. His cock hardened in anticipation of the succubus’ appearance. Hopefully, otherwise, he’d stained his carpet for nothing.

A minute passed, then another, then six. Except for Jordan’s breathing, silence filled the room.

Damn Micah’s scatterbrained ideas!

He flung the book. It smacked the nearby wall and fell face up onto the carpet. His hard-on wilted in disappointment.

The room’s temperature dropped suddenly. Goosebumps bubbled all over his naked body.

Damn heat must be broke again. Might as well get dressed.

A thundering boom, followed by a flash of brilliant light, filled the living room. A tall, lithe, and very inhuman form now stood within the confines of the circle. Jordan scuttled backwards across the rug in fright. His gaze flitted between the chalk circle and the demon. Would a simple line of calcite really keep this thing caged? Slowly, he climbed to his feet, not wanting to startle the succubus into doing anything…painful.

That demon had skin the color of green grass, blood-red eyes with no pupils, and obsidian horns that curved out of long black hair that flowed down from her head and streamed past the shoulders to the small of her back. She also had breasts. Boy, did she have breasts! Her full, soft breasts had him panting to cup them with his hands. Their green color and black as sin nipples were a bit of a turn-off, but he could overcome that. His cock perked up.

His gaze left the breasts and traveled all the way down to the nest of pubic curls at the apex between her thighs. Like a blackbird’s feathers, they looked soft to the touch, too.

Thank goodness he hadn’t fucked up and summoned an incubus. Though some men might not mind, he preferred women. Though what stood before him might not be classified as a woman—well, a human one anyway.

Losers can’t be choosers, Jordan Hudson. It came to your call, so you got to get up the gumption or…

The demon turned her gaze on him and, narrowing her eyes, slowly looked him up and down. By the odd expression in her face, she found him wanting, too.

“Are you the one who summoned me?” She had an accent, maybe Norwegian or Swedish, he couldn’t be sure.

Jordan tried to smile and failed. “Yeah, I’m the one who summoned you.” He bent over and scooped up the book that lay next to the wall. “Though to tell you the truth, I never really thought that you would, ah…make an appearance. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if it wasn’t some kind of malarkey. The friend I borrowed this book from has a history of that.”

The demon took a couple steps forward. Jordan jumped back to maintain a comfortable distance between them. She screamed as the tips of her clawed feet touched the chalked circle. Stinking black smoke rose along with a sound like sizzling bacon.

She leapt back and struck a macabre pose, hands on hips, one leg canted forward like a super model on the catwalk.

“Well, command me, you stupid idiot. I want this over with so I can get back to the threesome I was involved in before you got it into your head to call up a demon that you weren’t even sure would appear.”

Her hand slid down to fondle one of her breasts. She moaned, rolling the nipple between a clawed thumb and finger. Jordan’s cock hardened even further. Maybe he could get past the green skin, claws, and red eyes. Like Micah said, with the lights off, all cats looked the same in the dark.

Of course, Micah hadn’t scored in a year.

The demon worked her breast, pinching it hard. Her moans grew louder, more guttural. Her breathing labored, and Jordan swore he saw flames crackling in her eyes. She screamed and shuddered. She dipped her clawed fingers between her legs. They came back wet. The pungent aroma of sex filled the air. She looked at Jordan as she slowly brought her digits to her mouth and licked them clean.

She smiled at him. “Mmmmm. Now that I got myself some momentary relief, let’s get down to business. I’m assuming you called me up for something sexual—unless you’re gay. I am a succubus, as you humans call us.” Her gaze zoomed in on his arousal, and her smile widened. “No, I don’t think you’re gay at all.”

The Master's Lover by Brenna Lyons

Mey 12th, 3055
Galon glanced around the barroom, his heart pounding in anticipation. It was always like this when he sought out a sexual partner, and it had been far too long since he’d had the opportunity to do so. Though he knew of no other mages in the area, and King’s law allowed a mage male lovers, he’d taken blows more than once—by mage and farmer alike—for his inclinations.

He’d never dared report the abuse; his attackers knew he wouldn’t. Though King’s law allowed Galon his sexual choices and forbid such abuses, Mages’ law was against him. Complaining would only invite more of the same.

A rough farmer caught his eye. The man was the type he most often succeeded with. Whether they honestly preferred men on their sheets or simply wanted to experiment wasn’t Galon’s concern. Even if they wanted the thrill of topping a mage and nothing more, they were both getting what they wanted from the liaison.

He looked around at the thinning crowd of night sleepers, thankful that the seat he’d chosen afforded none but the farmer an unobstructed view of him. It was time to take a chance.

Galon met the farmer’s eyes and crossed one leg over the other, fitting the upper knee onto the curve of the lower. It was a well-known sign among men, less so among women, who also chose to sit this way at times. Any man observing the move would know his mind and meaning by it.

The farmer hesitated, then smiled, his gaze ranging the length of Galon’s body, from the top of his midman-green hood to his scuffed boots, the same boots he’d worn on the day of his escape, more than a year earlier.

He forced the memories of the frightened nineteen-year-old he’d been from his mind. Galon had learned a lot about staying alive in the past year, more than he’d thought he still needed to learn when he’d left home.

But now was not the time for those thoughts. He waited for the farmer’s determination, hardly daring to breathe.

A nod of his blond head, a single terse movement, had Galon releasing a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. The farmer tossed a few coins on the bar and rose, striding through the door and into the street.

Galon knew what to expect next. The ritual of a mage finding a male partner was always roughly the same.

Unless, it is a trap.

He pushed that thought away, tossed a silver coin on the table to pay for his half-finished ale, and strolled out as if he had nowhere to be in particular. Behind his robes and trousers, his cock was already half-erect and aching, his heart racing. He forced his breathing to a slow, steady stream. Mother, but it had been far too long since he’d touched another.

As he expected, the farmer was just turning the corner into an alleyway, the one between the granary and a storehouse. He was leading the way for Galon. If the farmer had tarried and waited for Galon to rise first, it would be a sign that Galon would choose the place for their play. But the farmer had risen first; the choice of where was his and not Galon’s.

He gave the farmer a lead of a few moments, playing the game though he practically salivated to get to the end of said protective misdirections as quickly as possible. Galon walked faster than he should, that thought driving him on.

In fact, Galon was so intent on his goal, the knife was at his throat before he realized the farmer wasn’t at the far end of the alleyway, waiting for a sound to turn another corner.

“Your money, young mage,” his captor growled.

Galon bit back a groan at that. He’d been beaten several times; it was a sad risk he took. But no one had robbed him as part of the punishment before.

He reached into his robes, sick at the thought of losing what he’d amassed. With only half the season left to work and his savings gone, his winter would be very lean indeed.

Mayhap, even leaner than my first.

The farmer grasped the pouch in his free hand, chuckling darkly. “It never fails that your type do what I order.”

Galon ground his teeth at that. It was galling to know himself for one of the most powerful beings on the planet yet, by a twist of the Mother’s humor, find himself powerless before his lesser.

“You will move on to your amusements without a word. Will you not, Mage?”

“Of—of course,” he stammered. With a knife at his throat, what else would Galon say to such a command?

There was a jingle of coins cut short, no doubt the farmer stuffing them into a pocket. Then the hand that had held his pouch moments before crossed Galon’s body and cupped his cock.

He thanked the Mother that it was flaccid. Better the chance he will leave without doing me physical harm.

It wasn’t that Galon feared a beating. Between his father and those he’d met on his travels, he’d learned to take a beating well. One always healed, unless he were killed in the attack, and then his troubles were over.

But bruises on a Star Mage were not easily explained away. There were only so many times one could claim a fall or other accident without people whispering things he didn’t want whispered to other mages.

The knife left his throat, and the hand at his cock started stroking. Galon closed his eyes, trying to stifle his natural reaction to such a masterful and knowing touch.

That was impossible. The farmer had obviously played at men before, and it had been far too long since anyone had played at Galon. He hardened, his face burning at the reaction even as he prayed the farmer was going to follow it out. It would almost be worth the loss of coin to find relief from this maddening arousal.

“You are a responsive little whore,” the farmer grumbled.

So, that is the game he likes to play. Galon had played it and many others. Long ago, he’d resigned himself to the fact that there was seldom pleasure without pain, seldom satisfaction without some cost to his self-respect in bargain.

The farmer’s hand delved through the split in Galon’s robes, wrenching the lower fasteners open, returning to play at his body. Galon bit his lip, swallowing a groan of pleasure. Mother, but he wanted this.

No, not this, but this will do.

He’d had worse, men who were curious but wanted to pretend they weren’t, men who were fast and hard, beating him harshly when they had spent...or when he had. At least, this farmer had played in a man’s body before.

Even if the farmer liked a rough fuck, chances were that Galon could get some satisfaction out of it. The fact that he was bothering to work Galon up was proof enough of that.

“Beg me for it. Beg me to take your ass.”

The words stuck in Galon’s throat, and his jaw tightened involuntarily, holding back what the farmer had ordered. Even if he wished to speak the words—and I don’t—they wouldn’t emerge. It was the one thing he’d vowed he’d never do again.

With a sinking sensation in his gut, Galon forced his mouth and lungs to form his answer. “No.” He winced at the note of decision in his voice, knowing the retaliation would be swift and painful.

The hand left his cock and the farmer backed off a step. Galon’s dash for freedom lasted only a step. The hand closed around the back of his neck, and the farmer turned and propelled him into the stone granary wall with a considerable amount of force.

Light danced before his eyes, and the metallic taste of blood flooded his mouth. Galon pushed weakly at the stone, disoriented, cursing the fact that they were in town. Illegal or not, he would have used his powers against the farmer were they in a place to do so...a forest or even a field of crops. His attacker had planned this well.

Liar, his mind shouted at him. He wouldn’t retaliate, because he couldn’t risk being judged for his sexual tastes, and they both knew it was true.

The crush of the farmer’s body was abruptly gone, and Galon’s knees buckled. The stone scraped at his face, and the force of his landing on the dirt track drove the air from his lungs.

He fought his way up from the brink of unconsciousness, his blood running cold at the sight of a Master Mage crouching over him. The red piping of a Great House stood out in stark contrast to the black robes in the light spilling from the street.

“What crimes?” the master barked.

“Stealing,” Galon replied weakly, uncertain of how much the master saw of their interaction. With any luck, he hasn’t seen more than the farmer’s attack on his person. “And assault.”

The master’s gaze slid from Galon’s face to the open front to his robes. His fingertips feathered over Galon’s aching cock, sending a wave of delight through his body.

It was gone nearly as quickly as it settled on him, about as quickly as it took the master’s jaw to tighten and his eyes to narrow in anger that seemed to shift the energy around their bodies.

“Master Anzel?” another man called out.

“Take him to the magistrate.”

Galon’s heart pounded in terror, and his head and stomach danced in sick apprehension.

“I will bring the young midman along.”

He closed his eyes, knowing well that he’d face a judgment of his own under Mages’ law once the farmer was dealt with. This was a momentary reprieve, not a pardon of his crimes. No doubt the master was about to make that all too clear to him.

But did he see it? Or is he guessing? Not that it made a difference. If the master was of a mind to punish him, lack of first-hand knowledge of the facts wouldn’t stay his hand.

Master Anzel dragged him to his feet, and Galon half-expected a good shaking to follow, but it didn’t. Surprisingly, the master steadied Galon when he stumbled, standing straight and sure despite the burden of half-supporting another man’s weight, staring down at Galon as if searching for something.

“Are you even old enough to travel alone, Midman?” he demanded.

Galon’s face darkened. “Yes, Master. I reached twenty a season ago.” He wouldn’t offer the information that he’d been roaming for more than three seasons longer than that, though he’d answer the question truthfully if it was the next one asked.

“What is your name?”

“Galon of Outsten, Master.” It wasn’t strictly true. Since he’d been disowned by his family, he could claim no family affiliation, but that fact would raise more questions than he cared to answer this night.

He nodded, turning Galon toward the street. “Be mindful that you tell the magistrate the same lies you told myself and my guard, Midman Galon. You would be wise to.”

A sob nearly knotted his throat. Galon swallowed it down painfully, unwilling to vent such a shameful emotion before his judge, certain now that Master Anzel had seen much more than Galon had hoped he had. “Yes, Master. As you say.”

A Question of Trust by Barbara Donlon Bradley

Chapter One


Sana stood in front of Tye’s desk, feeling her heart sink in her chest. His request was preposterous.

“No!” Well, that came out a little too forcefully, but Tye needed to know she was serious. There was no way she would do as he asked. Star told her to hold her ground, and that was what she planned on doing.

“Come on, Doctor.” Tye stood behind his sleek metal desk. Resting his palms against the shiny surface, he leaned forward and looked at her. “Marlick escaped months ago, and this is the first lead we’ve had on him. His shape-shifting abilities keep him well hidden. Only you know how to tell my race from everyone else. Only you know what to look for.”

“I understand that, Tye, but not with Karni.” She had already gone on one trip with the man and it still amazed her they made it back alive. They came very close to killing each other.

“Why not?” He crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a lopsided smile.

“Because he’s stubborn and rude,” Sana blurted out the words. Not what she wanted to say, but Tye didn’t need to think Karni could get under her skin. She didn’t want to think about how her heart raced just being near Karni. She wasn’t sure if it was fear, and she refused to take the chance it could be anything else. “Send me with anyone else.”

Tye shook his head. He stepped around his desk and leaned his hip against it. “He’s my second and the best man for the job. Sorry, Doctor. I need both of you to make this trip.”

“So you’re going to make me go, even though I don’t want to?” She thought about stomping her feet but thought better of it. Temper tantrums wouldn’t help her cause.

“Yes. I’ll make it an order if I have to.”

She nodded once, turned on her heel, and practically dashed out the door. This mission was not what she wanted. She knew she could fight it, but Tye was their leader and no matter what she did, somehow she’d be talked into it anyway.

The corridor had a few people in it, but she didn’t pay any attention as she moved quickly down the hall. Her mind whirled over what spending time with Karni could do to her.

“You don’t look very happy.”

Sana felt her heart skip a beat. She never did like people sneaking up on her. She centered herself before she stopped and turned toward the voice.

“Star.” She gave her a bright smile. “I’m fine.”

“Uh-huh.” Star stared into her eyes for a moment. “You get that look every time Karni walks into the room. Tye has asked you to travel with him again, hasn’t he?”

“You know me too well.” Her shoulders slumped. “He wants me to travel with him to see if we can find Marlick.”

“His escape has bothered Tye,” Star stated. “He felt he should have expected Marlick to shift and when he turned himself into a small bug and escaped. That upset Tye. He’s obsessed. That’s why he needs you to go.”

“I know. But, to have to travel with Karni?” She shivered. “The last mission was enough.”

“So what will you do?” Star never said much, but she always made Sana think.

“As he asks.” Sana dipped her head at the silence. “He is our commander. I will do what he needs me to do.”

“That doesn’t sound like you, unless of course you want to spend time with Karni.” Star started to walk away, leaving Sana standing and staring at her back.

“Of course not,” she said a little too forcefully before she ran a few steps to catch up with Star. “He’s pushy and nosy. He makes me shiver.”

“I know. It’s wondering why he makes you shiver that has me thinking.” Star rested her hand on Sana’s arm. “And I don’t think it’s because of his obnoxious personality. He does something to you, doesn’t he?”

“Of course not.” She walked faster, leaving Star behind. Her mind reeled. No. Star’s comment was way off base. Her feelings for Karni were nothing more than loathing and she refused to see it any other way.



* * * *



Star sat at her desk in the biolab, wondering if she should speak to Tye about the doctor’s dislike of Karni. He didn’t always take people’s feelings into consideration when he wanted something. It wasn’t her place to interfere with Tye’s command, but Sana was her closest friend and Tye would know she’d have her friend’s best interest in her mind.

Her com beeped. Hitting the button on her desk, she saw the face of her true heart.

“You called?”

“No,” she smiled. “But I was just thinking about you.”

“I like it when you think of me so strongly I can feel it.” He gave her a sultry smile. “Did you want something special? I can disappear for a while.”

“You do set the rules,” she laughed. He had only one thing in mind when he saw her, and it gave her such a thrill. “But I wanted to ask you about the doctor. You sure she’s the right choice?”

“I see you spoke to her.” His eyes sparkled as he spoke.

“You laughing at me?” She loved to hear his voice.

“Of course not, but I do know you.” He winked at her. “Very well.”

There went that one track mind again. “She questions the reason why you need her. I thought I’d check to be sure.”

“My heart, it is imperative she goes.” She could hear the confidence in his voice. “Karni is a good man, but he’d go plowing in without asking questions. Sana will stop him and make him think before he acts. I know they argue, but she’s good for him.”

“Are you matchmaking?” She wouldn’t be surprised if he said yes. He had mellowed since they had been together.

“That’s your job.” His honeyed voice filtered through the room. “I’m thinking as a commander.”

She arched a brow but kept quiet. Teasing him didn’t do any good. He’d only tease back. “So, when do they leave?”

“The next rise.”

Star nodded. She didn’t have a lot of time to convince the doctor to go along peacefully. Sana might have said she’d do her duty, but she’d fight every inch of the way. She’d make the mission miserable for her and Karni if she did that. Karni might kill her if she pushed too much.

It didn’t matter. Sana would go along even if she had to sit on her to get her to see it would be better. “Then I’m sure you have plans you need to explain to Karni before they leave.”

“I still have time for you.”

“I know you do.” She hesitated for a moment. No. She needed to talk to Sana. “Maybe later?”

He sighed. “Okay, but you do owe me.”

“I promise to repay my dept to you the next time I see you.”

He arched his brow. “Really? I can’t wait.”

She hoped he wouldn’t come chasing after her. She had a job to do and when he got something in his head, he didn’t care what her plans might be. He also wouldn’t understand why she had to convince Sana to do her job. He always believed everyone should do their duty no matter what.

“You going to talk to the doctor?” He knew her too well.

“If that’s okay with you.” She gave him her best smile.

“Of course.” He smiled back. “I might expect perfection from everyone, but I’m not stupid. Go work your magic. I need them to work together.”

That was why she loved him so much. She gave him another bright smile.

“Yes, sir.” After disconnecting with him, she stood and headed to the medlab.

Sana had her head bent over a microscope, jotting down notes. Not wanting to frighten her, Star cleared her throat.

“Star?” Sana didn’t seem to be surprised. She didn’t even look up from her work. “What brings you here? Did the commander ask you to talk me into going along peacefully?”

Star laughed. “Can you blame him? The thought of you going while burning with hatred for Karni sends chills down my back. You wield it far too well. All we can imagine is him dying from the daggers you’d throw at him from your eyes.”

The doctor chuckled. “I’m not that bad.”

“Yes, you are.” Star rested a hip against a desk. A habit she picked up from her mate. “Tye wants you to go because he knows you’ll have the level head and keep Karni in check. You can’t repeat this, but I thought you should know how important you are to the mission.”

“He told me. I don’t buy it.” She moved from the microscope to her computer.

“Then I’m going to beg you as a friend.”

“Why?” She looked at Star.

“Because Marlick is my brother, and I’m afraid Karni would kill him before he brought him back.”



* * * *



Karni stood in front of Tye’s desk, wishing he would stop talking. He spouted on about how important this mission was and what he wanted him to do. Yet he wanted that woman to travel with him. Somehow he had to convince Tye that she’d be a hindrance, if he would ever shut up.

Tye leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. “You have that look on your face.”

“What look?” Damn, he wasn’t masking his expressions.

“The one that says ‘please shut up so I can convince you you’re wrong.’” Tye stood. “The doctor is going with you and if you can’t work with her, I’ll send someone else with her.”

“She’s more important than me?” Karni fought to keep his arms at his side. He wanted to jam his hands on his hips.

“She knows how to look for my people, how to find the DNA.” He walked over to the large window in his office and stared out. “Sana also proved her worth when she traveled with you to the palace to get information from Star’s parents.”

“That woman also kept information from us. We didn’t know she had been one of the palace slaves. I don’t trust her.”

“Doesn’t matter. She’s going with you.” He turned back to look at Karni. “Unless you wish to stay behind.”

“No, sir.” Karni gave the appropriate bow, turned on his heel, and headed out. He fumed. This wasn’t right.

His office doors closed behind him, sealing the rest of the complex out. With a quick jab, he smashed his hand against the wall. It felt good, good enough to do it over and over, bloodying his knuckles.



* * * *



The next rise Karni watched as the doctor, Star, and Tye walked toward him. He wasn’t looking forward to this mission but he could control the doctor, make her see his way, one way or another.

Her face looked a little paler than normal. Good. She wasn’t looking forward to this, either.

“You have everything together?” Tye asked.

“Yes.” His voice was curt.

“Good.” Tye turned to the doctor. “Remember what Star told you.”

Star turned to look at him. Her features showed trepidation. Karni wondered what Star said that caused that look.

Tye winked. “Being the commander has its good points.”

Star hugged the doctor. “I’m going to miss you. Be safe.”

The doctor hugged her back. “I will.”

Karni sighed. Sappy goodbyes worked on his nerves. “Can we go?”

“What? No kiss?” Star gave him a serious look.

Was she kidding? Tye would have his hide if he even thought about it. Instead of responding, he ducked his head.

Tye laughed. “You have my permission to say goodbye to my mate, Karni.”

This was not the same man. Star had changed him in so many ways. He never laughed before Star. He was angrier, more focused on revenge. Now he didn’t seem to care, but Karni knew that wasn’t true. They wouldn’t be going after Marlick. “Yes, sir.”

Star shook her head. “Protect her, Karni. Bring her home safe. No crazy stunts. Just find out where my brother went and come back.”

“I still can’t believe how he escaped,” commented Sana.

“She knows this, too?” Karni felt anger flood his senses. He was responsible for everyone’s safety yet was kept out of the loop too much.

“How can she not?” asked Tye. “If she didn’t know how he shapeshifted, how would she know how to look for him?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Karni. The man turned into a small bug and flew out. He could be anything. You think you could find him without knowing how to look for a shapeshifter?”

“No, sir.” He shouldered his pack. “Time to go.”

“One more thing. As you are traveling, you’re going to need a cover.” He handed Sana some small machines. “This should help.”



* * * *



Sana gave Star one more hug before grabbing her pack and following Karni. His sparkling personality was going to be the death of her. “You going to slow down any?”

“If you can’t keep up, you could go back.”

“You are far too nice.” She ran a few meters so she could walk at his side. “Being a prodar works for you, doesn’t it?”

He spun on her. “I know you don’t want to be here anymore than I want you here. You can save the cute chatter and just get the job done.” He then set a brisk pace for her to keep.

Oh yeah, she loved the way he talked to her all the time. Like she was some sort of raseri. Not very flattering. It didn’t matter to her anyway. Instead of racing to keep up, she followed at a walk she could tolerate. Make him slow down.

She could see him glance back at her from time to time. Anger and something else etched on his face. What was he thinking?

As they continued, she found herself watching him walk. His strong legs pumped as he pushed himself. She liked the way he moved. Strong, confident. Like a man who knew what he wanted and went after it.

A slight breeze brushed her body, causing her hair to flow across her face. The slight caress sent her mind in the wrong direction. Instead of having the brutish man stomping ahead of her, she saw a man who found her fascinating. The angry glances he kept throwing her changed to sultry ones. The rising rays reflected in his golden hair. A color she hadn’t noticed in the artificial illumination of the compound. His hair always had a darker tone inside, but now it had beautiful highlights glistening in the brightening light. It flowed around his head as he moved. So soft looking. She wanted to run her fingers through it to see just how soft it was.

Sana stopped dead in her tracks. This man was mean to her. He didn’t trust her. How could she even think of him as a possible mate?

“Mate? I am crazier than a juntoc.” She started to walk again, not worrying about catching up. “He’s not for me.”

“Who’s not for you?” his deep voice reverberated through her.

She jumped a foot or two. When did he stop? How much had he heard? Great Monala, this couldn’t be good. “Nothing.”

“Fine.” He started walking again. “You need to keep up. I’m not waiting all day for you to make it to our destination.”

“We have a destination?” She followed him.

“His last known location?” He sounded frustrated with her.

“Which no one has told me.” Her thoughts of him as some sort of lover faded fast. It was replaced with irritation.

“You didn’t need to know.”

“And if we got separated?” She grabbed his arm.

“Then you would head back to the compound.” He shrugged her hand off his arm.

“Where I belong,” Sana added. If only he knew how fast he’d be called back to the compound. “How would you find him without me? Do you know how to read any of my equipment?”

He stopped and glared at her.

“Thought not. That’s why you ended up backtracking here. You can’t complete this mission without me.”

“Doctor, I don’t need you, just your ability. You’re only here because Tye requested it.” He started to walk again. “Just stay out of my way and do your job.”

She stared at his retreating back, thinking of ways to kill him. A quick death would be too good. It had to be slow, painful and humiliating. Following him, she came up with ways to do it. If they were back at the compound, she could give him something in his food or drink to kill him slowly while turning his skin purple. He hated purple. Refused to wear any color close to it.

He turned to study her face. “What are you grinning at?”

“Nothing.” She gave him a brighter smile. Maybe she’d put him in a purple gown once he was too weak to fight and parade him up and down the corridors.

“You’re plotting something.”

She wanted to laugh. She knew he had no special abilities but he sure was a good judge of character. Should she tell him the truth? “Why? You feeling a little guilty?”

“Of course not.” He straightened his spin and marched away.

Sana must have hit a soft spot. She shouldered her pack again as she continued behind him. What a prodar.