He took a deep breath and forced stiff muscles to loosen. He needed to keep a low profile. That reminder helped him focus. Ready to face the stranger head-on, Laird looked up and froze.
None of his thoughts connected to his brain. It was like the bridge was blocked by a handsome face that made all those around him look like sad, wilting weeds. Those strong, chiseled features belonged more on a statue. This stranger was a prime specimen of warrior. Laird’s heart beat faster as his throat became dry. Nerve endings sizzled to life, stirring his cock awake. He swallowed. No one had ever elicited such a response from him.
“How about we go somewhere and talk about your hobby?” Mixed within the words was a promise for something more than a conversation.
Standing on the street and being shocked by the turn of events almost had Laird nodding, then following behind the warrior like some pet shop whore. The confusion wore off and he remembered the reason he was waiting.
“No. I don’t go anywhere with strangers.” This time he forced a glare. Laird just needed to keep reminding both of them that they were nothing more than strangers.
The stranger nodded in approval, which only annoyed him more. Like he needed this man’s approval for anything, but that’s not what bothered him. Laird had liked receiving it. How long had it been since someone complimented him?
“I’m Lieutenant Caleb Crestforth, the Defiant’s first officer.” He held out a hand. “And you are?”
The hand edged closer. He cringed back, acting like the approaching arm was a flaming torch that wanted to set his body on fire.
“Someone not interested in exchanging names with you.” His response met another of Caleb’s nods of approval.
“Good. Not a pushover.” Caleb gave him a half smile.
Now he was even more annoyed, not something he thought possible. “Look here. Others might appreciate your approval, but not me.”
Muscles flexed before Caleb folded both arms over his chest. Laird took a step back and waited for the fist, ready to drop to the ground to avoid it before running away.
“You think I’m going to hit you?”
He rolled his eyes. “I put nothing past you, stranger.” He let the word stranger roll slowly off his tongue. Laird might know this man’s name, but that wasn’t enough to make him anything more than a stranger.
Just before Caleb could reply, heavy footsteps stopped him.
“We found you.”
Laird froze. He recognized the cruelty without having to see the man’s face. He’d been so preoccupied with Caleb that he forgot to watch for the real bad guys. Three men approached from behind, and with Caleb blocking his front, Laird felt trapped.
This was all Caleb’s fault. He shook the blame away. Thinking like that wouldn’t help him. Besides, this stranger was a warrior and most likely Warsarian. Unlike Laird, if it came down to a fight, Caleb could take care of himself. Warsarians had a reputation of cold ruthlessness. They were the deadliest warriors in the universe. That gave him a wicked idea, but his survival always came first. He had two important reasons to get out of this mess alive and, hopefully, unharmed.
“Boss, they found us,” Laird said as he turned to face Caleb. He batted his eyelashes at the Warsarian. The shocked expression on the warrior’s face made him a little more devilish. He gave the warrior a mischievous wink before turning to the men that worked for Taurus.
“Go away before my boss”—not sure if the men were as stupid as all of Taurus’s lackeys, he pointed his thumb at the man behind him—“Caleb Crestforth gets angry. You don’t want to see him angry,” he warned, knowing full well that these men would be drawn in by his words and not chased away by the threat of death. Some people had no survival skills. Caleb was a fierce warrior. His mere physical appearance would’ve sent smart men running away.
The men stared at his “boss.” Their eyes narrowed as they ignored him and surrounded Caleb. Laird took a step back and placed Caleb between him and his would-be attackers. Men this stupid couldn’t see the dangerous warrior ready to rip heads off. Laird slowly backed away. He never wanted to face Caleb’s anger, and right now, he was the only one that Caleb should be angry with. Rather than wait for the warrior to figure that out, Laird continued backing up.
“What are you planning?” Caleb asked.
He gave Caleb a sad smile, but the warrior only had eyes for the threat looming closer. Laird liked the handsome, overfriendly stranger, but Caleb needed to learn not to talk to strangers. The world was full of men that would screw a man over like he’d just done.
“I’ll head back to our ship.” Then he added a larger nail to Caleb’s coffin. “The Defiant has everything onboard. Take your time and play.”
Caleb turned briefly to glare at him, but Laird wasn’t sure what made the warrior angrier. It could’ve been the way Laird tossed him to Taurus’s goons without explaining the situation, or perhaps it was giving away the name of Caleb’s ship.
Since the Warsarians had arrived with the Elvarian king, warships floated in space, orbiting above the atmosphere, and docked on the planet. Taurus’s men would look for the Defiant, but they had to search through a lot of areas to find it. If their attackers managed to escape, they’d go after Caleb’s ship. No matter the outcome, these men would spend more time trying to get the better of each other while Laird focused on fixing his ship and destroying Taurus.
Laird slowly backed up. He met Caleb’s glare and smiled. He mouthed the words thank you. The warrior rolled his eyes and nodded. Caleb wasn’t angry. He seemed to want him far away from the fighting. Now, he wanted to stay. Under normal circumstances, he might have done just that, but his two reasons for getting away were more important than anyone or anything else. As Laird turned the corner, Caleb, strong and magnificent, readied for battle. Taurus’s men didn’t stand a chance.
“What are you feeling?” Caleb asked.
When he looked up, the warrior’s eyes had turned from warm honey to the color of blood. “I’m not feeling anything,” Laird said. The lie tasted like lemon juice on his tongue.
Caleb arched an eyebrow. “So if I were to lean in, what would you do?”
Caleb moved closer. Laird found it hard to breathe. He turned his head and Caleb pressed his nose against Laird’s neck.
“Do you like this?”
Caleb’s warm breath tickled his skin. Then lips pressed into the crook of his neck.
“You have a lifemate,” Laird said, trying to remind his brain why this couldn’t go any further. “You’re not free to pursue more.” While Laird wanted to spend his nights getting to know the warrior, his heart would get too attached. The attraction sizzled between him. He needed to sever the bond before it ripped out his heart.
“Yes, I do have a lifemate.” Large hands pushed back his hair. “The color is beautiful. Almost white and so soft.”
The gentleness in Caleb’s tone seemed so alien coming from such a strong man. His heart thumped painfully inside of his chest.
“The moment I saw you on the street, I needed to know more. When I got closer, I knew that you were mine.”
Laird froze. It couldn’t be true? He shook his head, refusing to let the dream grow into something real.
“Ask?” Caleb’s voice lost a little of the gentleness. The commanding tone forced Laird to look into the warrior’s blood red eyes.
“Yes you can.”
“No. If I’m wrong, I don’t want to know.”
“What if you’re right?”
Laird shook his head. “Can’t take that chance.”
“Yes you can. Now ask.”
He was helpless against Caleb’s intensity. “Who is your lifemate?”
Caleb’s hands pressed into the sides of his face holding it still. “You are, Laird. I protect what’s mine. No one will ever hurt you.”
Caleb leaned closer. Their lips touched and he forgot how to breathe. The warmth penetrated him and he felt it down to his toes. Just when Laird thought he would never find his way back, the lips were gone. He groaned out a weak protest, but before he could voice his objection, Caleb was pushing him back toward the bed. Laird went like an eager student ready to learn everything he could about the warrior that walked into his life and gave him hope.
Hands pulled off his loose tunic.
“I want your clothes off.”
Laird nodded in agreement. Skin to skin was what they both needed.
“I want you so bad my cock aches for relief,” Caleb admitted.
“Then there’s no problem. I want you deep inside, opening my ass up, and filling me.” Laird was being brazen considering he wasn’t sure if this was a good idea. Oh, his body wanted to be claimed, but he still had unfinished business on Elvarian. Until Taurus paid, he couldn’t be selfish. But it was only one night. Before he second guessed his decision, Laird’s back landed on the bed. Then Caleb was on top of him.
The warrior’s weight was a comfort that left Laird longing for more. He wrapped his arms around Caleb’s neck and pulled the warrior closer. Warmth nibbled along his ear and Laird was panting. His arms landed at his side on the mattress. Fingers moved down his chest, rubbing at his nipples. He threw back his head and tried to suck in air. Breathing had become nearly impossible.
“That’s it. Show me how much you like to be touched.” Caleb’s voice had Laird arching off the bed. “For days you’ve wanted this. Every morning, I smelled your desire.” Caleb pressed his lips to his neck before moving up to his ear and whispering, “I’m going to ride your ass and drown on your moans.”
He let out a low groan and a whispered, “please.” He needed Caleb like he needed air. He rubbed his fingers over hard muscles and purred in delight. This man was all power, and he belonged to him.
As if sensing his thoughts, Caleb’s teeth bit lightly down on his chest. It hurt a little and brought Laird back down.
“If we do this, you will be mine. Not for one night, but forever.”
A part of him hoped that was true, but the cynical part knew forever didn’t exist. People died, betrayed, and left him. Still, no one had ever made him feel this wanted. Not trusting his voice, he nodded, but that wasn’t good enough. Caleb’s red eyes demanded a verbal response.
“Yes, please.” He felt his skin darken. When Caleb chuckled, Laird relaxed.
Fingers ripped at his pants, he heard the fabric tearing at the seams.
“Now, I’m going to have to walk the corridors flashing my naked ass.”
Caleb growled and he shivered in response. That sound would have frightened him coming from anyone else, but this was Caleb above him. His cock jerked at the possessive tone, as it demanded to be owned. Little bumps danced across his skin as his body readied for more.
“Lifemate means you’re mine. I’m the only one that will see your naked ass.” Caleb’s hands slid beneath him. Fingers grabbed his ass and squeezed before pulling him onto the warrior’s lap. Those fingers continued to knead his rear, turning him on even more. Caleb pulled both cheeks apart. Cool air danced across his opening. Then a finger rubbed against the sensitive entrance.
“I’m going to be in here soon, claiming you.”
That’s what he was hoping for. He nibbled on his bottom lip as Caleb pulled him closer. He lay against his mate’s chest while still straddling Caleb’s muscular thighs. One of them was overdressed and it wasn’t him.