Prince Ryuu hates his father, Emperor Midian. When he’s forced to buy a slave, he defiantly chooses Drakon instead of a woman. Because he’s determined to overthrow his father’s empire, he can’t afford to show vulnerability, but Drakon is more compelling than he’d anticipated. For an Arethuza warrior, affection is a weakness that can lead to death.
Drakon isn’t really a slave—he’s a black dragon, considered cursed by everyone. Despite his people’s distrust, he will do anything to keep them safe, even submit to an Arethuza prince. He never expected to find love, and that complication could ruin his plans to sabotage the emperor’s war campaign. Though Ryuu is his fated mate, their fledgling bond is a secret too dangerous for Drakon to reveal.
Will their duty tear them apart? Can honor prevail in a war that might be too violent for even the strongest dragon warrior? Be Warned: m/m sex, bondage
Drakon lay in bed, listening to Ryuu breathing as he slept. He’d tried to relax, but after the prince threatened to kill him, he’d found sleep impossible. He is right. He could kill you whenever he wants, he thought, depressed. Even shifting to dragon form wouldn’t immediately help. He was trapped beneath the surface of a desert, in a citadel made of granite, among corridors filled with Arethuza warriors. He might be able to kill Ryuu, but he would not be able to escape. As a dragon, he was too large to fit in the underground passages. As a man, he was outnumbered hundreds to one. So he lay in bed, wondering how he could possibly still be aroused, in this situation, and right after Ryuu had threatened to end his life.
“I can hear you thinking,” Ryuu said, rolling over.
“I didn’t say I would kill you tonight.” Ryuu poked him in the arm. “Go to sleep. You’re keeping me awake.”
“You may be my master, but even you cannot conquer insomnia,” Drakon said dryly.
Ryuu leaned over and switched on a low light. Drakon glanced at him. His hair was mussed, making him look more human and less princely. Drakon bit back a groan as he felt his cock swell even more. Stop this. You are lucky he didn’t chain you to the floor.
“This is not just insomnia,” Ryuu said, lying back down.
Drakon pressed his lips together. He was not about to confess his need for release to the man who owned him.
“Tell me about your family,” Ryuu said.
My family? Drakon thought, disturbed. “You want me to tell you about the people I will likely never see again in my lifetime?” He paused, thinking about his father, General Ozuru. His father’s last words to him before he’d left had not been kind. He wondered what Ryuu would think if he knew that Drakon was the heritor to the Soutx nation. He sighed softly to himself. What he once was didn’t matter now. He’d vowed to stop the Arethuza’s blood war, and he would do so, even if it meant surrendering his honor to save his people. “Is that a command?”
Ryuu sighed. “Perhaps I spoke hastily.”
Drakon snorted quietly.
“Tell me about your first lover, then. What was she like?” Ryuu asked.
Drakon’s face burned. Of all the things for the prince to hit upon. Should I confess? Put us out of our misery? He considered it, shifting slightly as his cock throbbed even more. What do I have to lose? He swallowed, then licked his lips. “His name was Ikale.”
Ryuu went perfectly still as the meaning of Drakon’s words sank into his mind. “He?”
Drakon stirred. “Yes.”
Ryuu’s hands fisted beneath the silk blanket as the arousal he’d fought so hard to keep from Drakon flared back to life. He thought Drakon would talk about some pretty girl, or some silly fumblings as a young teen, but instead he’d admitted to Ryuu the one thing he desired more than anything else. Well, almost anything. I still wish to be free of my father’s bloodthirsty fascination with war. I still wish to set my people free of him.
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” he asked Drakon.
“What good would it have done to admit my orientation? What good does it do now?” Drakon sounded frustrated. “My people aren’t any more accepting of same-sex unions than yours.”
“We could both get some pleasure out of this necessity,” Ryuu said, trying to mask the desperation he felt.
Drakon shifted again. “You are my owner.” He spat the words as if they were bugs in his mouth. “You can just take what you want from me, any time you please.”
Ryuu closed his eyes, regretting the threats he’d given Drakon earlier. “I am not any more free of you than you are of me. I explained that to you.”
“I should kill you, right now,” Drakon murmured sulkily.
Ryuu laughed. “Even if you could, why would you? Killing me would only hasten your own death. You are surrounded by the enemy.” He smoothed the blankets over his thighs. “No. You have your own reasons for submitting to slavery. Don’t think I am unaware of that.”
Drakon sighed. “Perhaps I’d rather be dead than subject to this.”
Ryuu bit his lip. He would not be the one to initiate this. He would likely have to do far too many distasteful things to Drakon in the days ahead as it was. The least he could do was let his slave make this one choice. “I will not force you, not in the night, when it is just the two of us,” he said quietly.
“You would force me in public?”
Ryuu rubbed his face, exasperated. “I may need to make a show of it, though I will do everything I can to keep that from happening.”
Drakon rolled over. Ryuu jerked when he felt a hand on his arm. He opened his eyes. Drakon loomed over him, dark hair sliding down over his shoulders. “Ikale was a handsome boy, dark of hair and with flashing eyes. I first noticed him when I was thirteen. He’d come with his father to visit. We were thrown together often, during lessons and while practicing our combat skills.”
“How did you become intimate?” Ryuu asked, almost afraid that Drakon would refuse to tell him.
Instead, Drakon smiled. “We went camping in the wilderness together. The first night, we couldn’t get a fire started. We huddled together when the temperature dropped.”
“I’ve heard that the mountains can be very cold,” Ryuu offered.
“As cold as the desert,” Drakon said quietly. He rearranged himself on the bed so that he leaned closer to Ryuu. “When I woke in the middle of the night, I realized that Ikale and I were so entwined, I could not extricate myself without giving away my feelings. So I held perfectly still.” He sighed, his warm breath a puff against Ryuu’s skin. “He woke up. He felt my erection.”
Ryuu’s cock hardened even more as Drakon described his arousal with the other boy. “What happened?”
Drakon leaned closer, going down onto his side. “He touched me. We used our hands on each other.” He looked away. “A week later, he and his father left. Many years later, I heard he’d died fighting in a battle with the Arethuza.”
Ryuu flinched. “I’m sorry.”
“It happened a long time ago.” Drakon reached out and slid his hand down Ryuu’s arm. “Touch me, Ryuu.” He sounded almost frightened, which surprised Ryuu. Thus far, the slave had been by turns defiant and resigned. Why would this unsettle him so?
Ryuu’s breathing quickened. “Are you certain?”
Drakon lifted Ryuu’s hand and dragged it down his chest.
Ryuu savored the feel of Drakon’s hair and soft skin. When Drakon used Ryuu’s fingers to stroke his cock, Ryuu shuddered. The heat of Drakon’s erection seemed to sear his palm.
“What we do tonight means nothing,” Drakon whispered roughly, letting go and sliding his hand between the plackets of Ryuu’s robe. “This is release. Not love. Those are my terms.”