From the outside, it looks as if Janos, the king of Laltana, has everything—looks, wealth, power, and the love of his people. But, few realize his on-going battle with his inner demons. Captured, imprisoned, and abused by the Tygerians, he loathes his enemies and vows revenge.
When the king’s brother gifts him with a young Tygerian slave, the perfect opportunity for vengeance is within his grasp, but he finds he can’t take it. Bastion is young, defiant, and brave—and reminds Janos too much of himself at that age.
Bastion, becomes a soldier for the king instead, but Janos knows very well Bastion is not his real name. This is Prince Larz of Tygeria, and his family is scouring the galaxies for him. Both Janos and Larz struggle with a growing attraction to each other that they just can’t deny as the years pass, though Janos keeps his distance.
When war breaks out with a neighboring country, King Janos leads his soldiers into battle and soon finds the scared boy of long ago is now a deadly warrior who looks just like his brother, the Bloody Prince Mikos--Janos’s most hated enemy.
Torn between loathing for the Tygerians, and a growing respect and attraction for Larz, Janos must face not only his demons but the wrath of Larz’s family. If the two of them can weather the coming storm, they might just get everything their hearts desire.
With his arms lashed behind his back and the chain attached to his collar drawn up short and tight, Larz had no choice but to keep his head still and wait for whatever was coming. On either side of him stood a guard, with the man beside him, holding tight to his chain. They were waiting on something or someone and Larz had enough time to wonder who or what it was when there was a sudden flurry of activity as voices and footsteps approached from behind the doors. The large double doors flew open and the noise level increased tenfold as a large crowd of people came in. The man beside Larz jerked Larz’s head abruptly down as he bowed. Larz couldn’t hold back the growl that escaped his lips.
Someone walked closer to stand right in front of him, stopping only inches away. His shoes were black and shiny, and his legs were covered by rich-looking cloth. He was wearing some kind of tight trousers that clung to his shapely thighs. Larz slowly lifted up his gaze.
A king was standing in front of him. That fact was evident in every line of his body and every inch of his bearing as well as the crown on his head. He looked regal and untouchable. He was about the same height as his omak, but leaner, with an almost fragile quality about him. He was wearing a thin circlet studded with blue stones around his forehead. His long dark hair spilled down to his shoulders in the elaborate braids that seemed to be the fashion on this planet. His eyes were dark, almost navy blue, and he looked down at Larz with an expression of distaste, his nostrils flared slightly like he might smell something bad. He had fair skin and features that were patrician and delicate looking, except for his firm jaw. Larz thought he was one of the most beautiful men he’d ever seen.
But then the king opened his mouth to speak.
“I wondered what that disagreeable odor was in here. I thought at first it was dead vermin. I should have recognized it was a Tygerian, but it’s been so long since I was confronted with that odor.” It took Larz a moment to realize he was speaking Tygerian. The relief of hearing his own language was so great after so long without it that Larz raised his head as high as he could to look into those dark blue eyes staring back down at him with stormy contempt.
Larz wouldn’t have had to understand the language, however, to know this man hated him on sight. It was clearly written on his handsome, haughty face. The people who had come in with him, all standing behind him and dressed in clothing that was far too elaborate with lace and ruffles, laughed and tittered to each other behind their hands in excitement.
As Larz gazed up at the king in wonder, a blond, exquisite-looking creature called out and came forward from a side corridor. This one was much frailer looking, but he gestured down at Larz, smiling.
“Janos,” he called out and the king turned to look at the newcomer.
Was that his name then? King Janos? It wasn’t a name Larz had ever heard before, but then Larz had never paid much attention to politics. Learning more about government and politics had been something he’d wanted to change about himself during his training. The training that now would never happen.
The newcomer had the look of one who had just performed some hilarious prank or other and was quite pleased with himself about it. With a smile curling the corners of his mouth, he kept glancing back at the assembly behind the king as if to measure their hilarity at his joke.
Larz couldn’t understand the language spoken by the newcomer, who was still gesturing expansively toward him. The two men were back to speaking the unintelligible words to each other, and it seemed as though they might have been arguing this time from their expressions and tone.
All the while Larz knelt on the cold marble tiles of the hall and waited. He wondered if his fate was being decided, and then wondered if it even mattered. Many of the crew of the ship that had been taking him to the training camp, all brave warriors and good men, had been slaughtered right in front of him when they fought back. All except two of the younger ones, who had been taken along with the trainees. The other boys, almost all younger than he, except for the crewmen, had been taken for slaves, and he had just traveled for days on end in a ship taking him farther and farther away from his family, his friends, from everything and everyone he had ever known. Death might be preferable to what awaited him here.
That bald man had just told him he was on an alien world he’d never heard of, and he might never see his home again. Unfortunately, that was no news to him. Larz didn’t expect to see any of them ever again, and the most he could hope for might be a quick and honorable death. He wondered if he was about to get his wish.
He realized that the two men in front of him had stopped talking and were gazing down at him again. The one Larz was calling the king spoke to him in perfect Tygerian. “What’s your name, boy?”
Many things flew through his head at the words, but the one thing that stood out was the tone the king had used. Contemptuous and full of antipathy, the words practically dripping with malice. He shook his head and lowered his gaze. Fuck this king and the rest of these people. He would tell them nothing. Let them do their worst.
“Are you deaf? Don’t you understand your own language? Or are you simply displaying the infuriating obstinacy the Tygerians are so well known for?” the king asked with a sneer.
Another flurry of words from the two men in front of him and then the king shouted something at the other one and flung down a hand, as if to say, that was an end to the discussion. The other man stepped back with his cheeks stained red and his lips pursed. He glanced over at Larz once and then sent a significant look to the dark-haired man at Larz’s side before sweeping from the hall. The dark-haired man watched him go, gave the leash in his hand to one of the guards, then bowed deeply to the king and took off after him.
The king leaned over Larz again, speaking in his perfect, careful Tygerian. “My brother bought you for my bed slave, but I told him I’d sooner lie with a filthy animal than with a Tygerian, though really, there would be little difference," he said his voice ringing with disdain as he looked Larz up and down.
Larz’s head shot up at the words. Bed slave? Had they brought him here for fucking? Not that he was all that sure what fucking entailed. Not exactly. Though the last time his brother Vannos had visited, he’d taken both Larz and Nicarr aside and told them things that Larz had found pretty hard to believe. He’d told them not to tell Omak what he’d said, but that he didn’t want them to be as ignorant of what went on between two men as he had been on his own wedding night, and that their omak had some crazy ideas about keeping his boys “innocent” so they wouldn’t grow up so fast and about letting their husbands teach them what they needed to know. He had planned to confirm the things Vannos had told him with the other trainees at school. Another thing he’d never get to do now.
His omak’s words about husbands hadn’t set well with Larz, though, because if there was teaching to be done, he wanted to be the one to do it and not the other way around. He was a man, after all. His omak had some strange ideas, but then, he was human, so… As his father said, allowances had to be made.
And though much of Blake’s human DNA had been suppressed by the Tygerian doctors’ injections and “potions” as Blake called them, Larz, and his younger brother Nicarr had still managed to inherit his temper. The one thing he’d always admired most about Blake was his fiery, savage temper. Even Davos was wary of it. Perhaps Larz had a little of that in him too, because as King Janos made an impatient noise, drawing Larz’s attention back to him, and as he lifted his arm to send him away or even worse, Larz lifted his head, opened his mouth, and started channeling Blake.
“This is what I think of your opinion of Tygeria!” he said, spitting down at the king’s feet. A loud gasp went up from the onlookers.
“And for all your big talk about us, the Tygerians defeated you in every battle we ever engaged you in, didn’t we? We could have annihilated your piss-ant planet, but my father chose not to, out of the goodness of his heart! Tygerians are superior to you in every way! So what’s your plan here anyway? To capture us Tygerians one by one and talk us to death while we’re safely chained up and we can’t hurt you?”
The king looked down at him in disbelief, yet the corners of his mouth definitely twitched. “Piss-ant planet? I’d ask you what that was, but I’m afraid you’d find too much pleasure in telling me.” He tilted his head to take a better look at the boy and then nodded as if he’d made up his mind about something.
“As for my ‘plan,’ I think it just changed. I think I should make you very sorry for your insolence, slave boy.” Then in that other language he shouted something to the guards who began to drag Larz away, as the king arrogantly turned his back on him and swept from the hall.