Betrayal, passion, adventure, primal sex, and a fight to the death.
Mating a 26th century Oracan Bounty Hunter with a 18th century pirate has its little glitches.
Bounty hunter Talos bows to pressure to bring his mate home for the completion of his strict warrior culture’s bonding ritual. Aidan, displaced 18th century Earth pirate— light-fingered, sly, charming and understandably naive about the new world he’s been thrust into— can’t wait. Even if it turns out someone wants him dead.
The 26th century looks different, but it turns out to be a lot like his old life!
The candles had stuttered out leaving the room draped in pale gray shadow. It was a comfortable darkness, one Talos found restful, a spectrum of low light in which his keen eyesight functioned well. Being able to see in the dark, and underwater, was a definite advantage for stalking prey. Talos was monetarily sated and fully rested after a few hours of sleep. The genetic mandate to claim his new mate at an increasingly awkward rate hadn't affected his hunter's sense of alertness and physical stamina. His body was created for the claiming ritual of his race, unlike his unprepared human lover. They would have to bring this need to an end soon if Aidan was to survive it.
Aidan had passed out immediately after his last climax. Talos had waited until he was sure his spent fluids had been absorbed by Aidan's system, then he had gently lifted the slight human off his body and deposited the limp pirate on the bed beside him.
The sight of his lover flushed with the lingering heat of their coupling, limbs akimbo, Aidan's beautiful face looking even younger with sleep, stirred his need to take the man one more time. But the instinct to provide and protect his new fragile mate was even more overwhelming than his nearly constant urge to mate.
He started to reached for the thin sheet lying in a tangled heap at the foot of the bed to cover Aidan and thus lessen temptation. Instead, he rose up and walked out of the room. Aidan preferred to sleep uncovered, just as he did. Less encumbrances to a quick awakening and a fast draw of a waiting weapon. A warrior's way, one of the many ways the two of them were alike. Despite the centuries and culture differences between them, they were made from a similar mold.
A soft, insistent chime drew him to the side console in the main living area. Ignoring his unclothed state, Talos acknowledged the signal and opened the outside communication channel. The regal image of his elder brother Zeban appeared, but the robes of High Principle he usually wore were absent. A personal call. Talos instantly became cautious.
Fist over his left abdomen, Talos moved his hand up and over his heart in the traditional greeting of their people. “Honor and compassion, Zeban.”
Zeban returned the greeting. Talos caught the glint of amusement in his brother's expression as the elder Oracan glanced at Talos's full naked image. “Am I interrupting something, my brother?”
“Nothing of interest to a High Principle.”
“Ah, but I'm not speaking as a Council member right now, little brother. I'm asking as a concerned family member.”
“Concerned about what?”
“Aidan's health. How is your little human?”
“He's jake. Don't get in a twist over him.”
“I assume in your beloved ancient Earth gangster slang that means you think he's fine. It would be pleasurable to see him again. He is...entertaining.”
“He's getting used to the space station. Let him catch up on seven hundred years of his own culture before he tackles a new world, Zeban.”
“He seemed highly adaptable to me. It's not everyone who can take on an entire troop of thugs, save the fair Dr. Rice from death, defeat a fellow like Barlow in hand to hand combat and still manage to blow up an island in the process of winning the battle.”
“It was only half an island and that was an accident. And he got the drop on Barlow in a sword fight. What idiot in his right mind challenges a pirate who grew up with a blade in his hand to a sword fight and expects to win?”
“It is fortunate we erased those events in his future, is it not?”
“You don't sound...sure.”
“I'm sure.” He sounded sure, but the tiny squint at the corner of his brother’s one eye didn't fit. Zeban had always been able to read his mood since they were children. His older brother had the people skills, while he was given the physical talents. “Only Oracans can time sense, you know that.” Talos straightened his spine, donning the mantle of strength and confidence a hunter was renowned for possessing.
“He's safe and well.” The vision of Aidan, exhausted and spent after another marathon bout of lovemaking flashed through his mind, his lover's tanned skin flushed and slick with sweat while the bonding fever glinted bright in his dark eyes. Guilt rose up like bile and burned Talos's throat. “And if he isn't, I'll take care of him.”
“Do you think he may not be safe? Have there been new enemies stalking him?”
“Not since Barlow. Why?”
“There have been a series of...incidences here.”
“What kind of incidences? Involving who?”
“Menalon. An accident in the marketplace. One that, at closer inspection, seems less accidental than was first thought.”
Old pain and resentment boiled up, but Talos wouldn't deny his deep-seated family bond. “Was our father injured?”
“No.” Zeban was quick to answer, but Talos felt he was holding back. “The event did put a strain on him. He is approaching his edge year.”
The rites of passage to the land beyond was a complex celebration of honor Talos had little time for. “What else happened?”
“Yesterday there was a fire.”
“My personal lodgings. No one was hurt beyond Penna suffering a few minor burns trying to douse the flames. But this morning, an automated short distance freighter exploded as it jumped the time division. A freighter that had just completed a total inspection.”
“Let me guess. The freighter was one belonging to the cashe.”
“Yes, it was Menalon's newest.”
“What's the wire on the attacks?”
“Information? Very little. Whoever it is, they've covering their tracks well, I'm afraid. I was hoping you would agree to return to Oracan and help. You are the trained hunter, Oracan's most celebrated Hunter. Surely, you can set aside old wounds for this? There are others besides Menalon endangered by the attacks.”
Honor and compassion were more than just words of greeting to Talos. He lived them very minute of his existence, had built his life upholding the essence of the code and honoring the details of the hunt. He could distance himself from his father and the family politics by living with humans on Pathos Six, but he couldn't turn his back on his brother.
“Fine. I'll need a little time to make some arrangements.”
“For your pirate?” Zeban's tone changed just enough to make Talos pause. Something was up.
“Bring him. I doubt he wants to be separated from you at this point. The entire cashe is anxious to meet your little human mate.”
“He's not coming.”
“You have to bring him some –.”
“No, I don't.” Aidan wasn't an Oracan. He didn't have to endure the rituals other mating couples did. He had enough to deal with adjusting to his new life. Surely, Zeban understood this. “If it's as dangerous there as you say it is, he'll be safer on Pathos.”
“If I know your pirate, he'll have something to say about that.”
“I'll have Marius put a leash and muzzle on him and stash him under lock and key. Aidan stays here.”
“Rites of –.”
“He stays here.” He gave his brother the look that had been known to stop cold-blooded killers in their footsteps. Silence fell, the air heavy. Talos let the moment go on a few seconds more. “I'll make contact when I leave Pathos.”
The scent in the room changed subtly moments ago and now Talos couldn't hold back his reaction. No other muscle in his body so much as twitched but Talos's cock responded, growing stout and dark with anticipation. Zeban couldn't help but notice and a smile tugged at his face, mirroring the one he wore at the start of their conversation.
“Take the time to dress, little brother. You'll need something more permanent to hang your weapons from. Of course, if you bring your pirate along, it just might work out for you.”
“Funny man.” Foregoing the formal salutation, Talos cut the transmission off before Zeban could wedge another word in. He stared at the blank monitor for moment. His mind raced at the prospect of returning to his planet again so soon, even if it was to in response to a summons for help. It was the last place he wanted to be, especially without Aidan.
Aidan. He inhaled a slow tantalizing breath, savoring the scent of his mate, tasting the sweat of Aidan's skin and the slight bitterness of his cum. The recent memory would have to do for now.
“Leash an' muzzle, luv?” The words had that blurry lilt to them that lack of education and a lifetime of slurring his words for effect had given the pirate's voice. As deceptive and endearing as the deviously sharp man the voice belonged to.
Talos turned to face his lover, disappointed the pirate had dressed before coming to him. But it was probably just as well, considering the hard look in Aidan's eyes.
“You plan on locking me in the brig or the hold with the rest of the animals?”
There was a glint of color in the pirate's collar length dark hair. The rattle of beads clicked seductively as Aidan titled his head. This was a new addition to the pirate's attire. Dr. Rice had removed all of Aidan's hair...embellishments when she had chopped off his hair to rid him of the lice and other dead creatures in it when Talos took him as bounty. Now the old beads were strung on a new cord and wrapped around a lock of silky, brown hair. “You got your beads back. I like them.”
“Holiday gift from Dr. Jaclyn.” Aidan nodded, making them rattle a bit. “Added one of her own, a magical one. Sticks to me sword if it gets near.” He sounded distracted, talking gifts and beads with his mouth, but his unwavering dark stare spoke of other things to Talos, not all of them good.
“It has magnetic properties. Like in your old compass. It's drawn to some ancient metals like the forging your finer weapons are made from.”
“Which is it? The ship's hold or the brig this time?”
“For the ninth time, this is a space station not a space ship. There is no hold.” A narrowing of eyes was Aidan's only comment. “I was going to ask Marius and the Doc to keep you company.”
Aidan refused to glance at his beckoning cock. That was unusual. Aidan never failed to be lured into sexual play when they were alone. Most often, the pirate was the one who started it. Maybe he was unwell. Talos stepped closer and Aidan moved past him toward the door, taking effort not to touch as they passed each other. “I won't be gone long.”
“Didn't sound simple.” Aidan turned so he was only partially facing Talos, his gaze wandering the room, anywhere but on Talos.
“I can't refuse my brother's request to help.”
“Then why refuse his request to bring me along?”
“That's different. There have been attacks on the family. I don't want to put you in danger.”
“Think I can't look out for me self, luv?”
“You know better than that.”
“Then it's settled. What should I take? Just me sword and a blade or two?”
“No, you're not going.”
“Ah, I see. So it was all pretty words an' speeches, then.”
“It's not changed. Ye can't be showing me off to your brethren. A man instead of a woman for your bunkmate.”
“You're off your rocker. No one on Oracan objects to any choice in life mates.”
“Then it’s because I be pirate.”
“Was a pirate. And no, that's not it.”
“Not much left to object to, luv.”
“Yes, there is. The bonding is affecting you faster than it does Oracans. Faster and harder. I can see it in your eyes, feel your body tremble with need from here. I can smell your sex, taste your cock's fluid in the air even now.” Aidan backed away putting more space between them. Talos didn't follow. “I know you're trying to keep distance between us so you can stay in control, not give into the urges that are burning your insides to ash. I thought it would help if I wasn't here for a while. Let the fever burn out. Give you a chance to rest.”
“'Tis that easy to be rid of me?”
“Then why so eager to leave me behind?”
“The last time you went there and left me here something unnatural happened.”
“It wasn't unnatural.”
“'Tis part of the curse.”
“You aren't cursed. I told you it's a physical change from mating. It's a natural process.”
“For your people, luv. Not the likes of me. For me it be part curse. I be a marked man from the day we first crossed swords. I can feel it! Sometimes it be like a ghost walked right through me. All cold, gray and wet like ocean mist. Turns me guts to knots, it does.” He ground his fist into his stomach as if that could untie the knots lodged deep inside. “Sometimes with bloody fear, sometimes with a raging want so big it barely lets me breath air.”
“Time apart might help –.”
“Belay that scurvy talk.” Aidan made a slashing cut between them with his hand. His voice bounced off the walls and ceiling, pain and anger evident in the harsh tone. “You are me air, you great, dense, gray monster!” Then his voice lowered, sure and defiant, raging with passion and fury. “That's the part 'tis so frightening.”
Without a glance back, Aidan burst out into the corridor, striding away as if Neptune himself was on his heels, nearly knocking over a startlingly pale human loitering in the hallway.
Talos was left to stare at an empty room.