Draconian -Finnarian -a match of war.
The immortal Finnarians mate for life, and once they find their mate, nothing on earth can make them leave. But what about when that mate is not Finnarian at all, but a stubborn, fiery, extremely irritable Draconian? What if that Draconian wants nothing at all to do with his Finnarian mate? It seems the Finnarian prince, Sadan, is going to have his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he is just as stubborn and far more persistent than said Draconian has ever had to deal with.
Graitaan is the last remaining Draconian and he has attracted the eye of a Finnarian prince, who claims that he is his bloodmate. Sadan may want to be mated, but Graitaan has developed a passionate hatred for his Finnarian commander, prince or not. Too bad Finnarians are persistent as the hells. Especially this one.
The son of a bitch saved my life! How fucking stupid was he?
The moment I could gain my feet, I punched him in the face, hard.
Sadan stood there like the idiot he was, flexing his jaw, perhaps seeing if it still worked, one eyebrow raised at me in that calm, supercilious manner of his that drove me up the wall.
"What in the hells was that for?" he dared to ask, like he did not know.
"That was for putting your life in danger. The king would have my hide if your precious self came to any harm. I hardly see the point, but he seems to think you are worth something." A growl rumbled in my chest, and my tail lashed with agitation, a sign of my temper that usually had people fleeing.
Not Sadan. He was too full of himself to see the danger, fool that he was. Instead he had the nerve to smile at me. Smile!
I whirled on my heel, stalking off the battlefield as well as I could with three wounds hindering me, wings clamped tight against my back in a clear sign of my displeasure. Fucking Finnarians. Damn bloodsuckers. They were almost worse than humans. What the king saw in them, I had no idea. I tried to avoid them at all costs because their behaviors grated on me, but this one--Sadan--was somehow worse than all of them. Darling of the army, loved by all, wanted by all, the bastard had taken it into his head to shadow me of all people.
Anyone could have told him that it was not wise in any regard, but Sadan was rash enough to see me as a challenge, no doubt, and thought he could use his charm to bring me to the same state as the rest of the troops.
Fat chance. I snarled under my breath, wishing only for the sanctity of my tent and a chance to lick my wounds.
Finnarians be damned.
My temper only worsened as the day wore on. The battle had been short, too short for me to work off my energies, and the pent-up aggression seethed within me, needing release. We had driven the enemy back more easily this time, and there had only been a few injuries. As for my own wounds, I had waded into the thick of things again, and it had been a surprise when five enemy warriors had turned from their flight and banded together to attack me. That surprise had almost cost me my life. If Sadan had not... I growled at the thought and thrust it away with some haste. The fact that I had been blatantly foolish in my actions did not sit well with me. For Sadan to get me out of it only compounded my irritation and somewhat shamed annoyance.
I had no wish to go to the healers, so I tended my wounds myself. The spear wound on my thigh throbbed, and I flushed it out with what simple medicines I possessed, moaning with the pain, my wings spreading out in reaction.
Fucking gods, it hurt, both the thigh and the wing! The spear wound throbbed in time with my heartbeat, but the tear in my right wing was the worst, stinging like a bitch and out of my reach even when I tried to fold it properly.
Swearing bitterly under my breath, I licked the thigh wound, grimacing at the taste of the medication.
Draconian saliva held healing and antiseptic properties, and usually I would have a sword brother to tend me and to help with those wounds I could not reach, but my last companion had died some twenty years before, and I was alone in the army, the last Draconian present.
We had started off over fifty strong, an impressive gift from our emperor to the Masarian king. Our duty had then been completely with the foreign ruler, and we were forever exiled from our world. It would have been on pain of death had we ever dared to return. One by one over the years, we had fallen, until only I remained, a curiosity to the human troops, the ones who were of the generation who had never known us in our numbers, in our true strength. I was hardly enough to represent my kind.
I could scarcely remember my own world, so long had I been here. Perhaps I had blocked it from my mind, so that I might endure the isolation, the loneliness. There had been no one of my strength since my last companion. I was an oddity, something to be stared at and commented on but never approached. Humans were so damned fragile, and I had never dared take one as a lover.
I would surely kill them.
Therefore my only solace was my own hand and a vivid imagination.
And people wondered why my temper was somewhat uncertain, let them try going without sex for that long. They would be a little growly too.
I sighed, my anger flagging with my own exhaustion. I tended to a wound on my arm of less importance and smaller than the thigh wound, licking it slowly, my wings drooping with pain and the need to rest.
I was as hungry as the hells too, but I did not have the strength or the will to rise and leave the sanctuary of my tent. Here I did not have to pretend, did not have to be strong. Here I could just be myself.
Before I could sink into my usual despair, the flap of my pavilion swept backward, and Sadan entered unannounced, a tray of food balanced in one hand, medical supplies in the other, that familiar faint smile tilting his lips.
I froze. I was not wearing any clothing, only a towel over my privates, and I had always been very certain to stay covered around others. I was already a hot topic of conversation, and I had no desire to add more fuel to the fire by showing my body at all.
The embarrassment made my fury rise.
"Shut up, Graitaan," Sadan said calmly. "I don't want to hear it. I saw that wound on your wing, and you cannot reach it yourself. I knew you would be too stubborn to go to the healers, so I am offering my services. Not to mention you never eat after a battle, so...here you go. Say thank you, Sadan."
My jaw dropped open with my outrage. "I will not fucking thank you! You are out of your Finnarian mind, even more so than the rest of your crazy race. Get the hells out of my tent!"
"No," just that calmly. No, like he was not facing an angry Draconian warrior, wounded, hungry, and ready to kill...at least kill a certain Finnarian, if no one else.
I was speechless. The sheer gall of Sadan always had me sputtering, and it drove me to the edge of sanity. No one else could do it to me. They all avoided me like the plague, especially when I was wounded. I was liable to take their hand off, if they even tried.
Did Sadan have a secret death wish I had never known about?
It certainly seemed so.
Before I could form more thoughts, Sadan snarled back at me, only in his refined, supercilious way that made every scale on my body stand on end. "I don't care about your damned sensibilities, Graitaan. Shut up, and let me tend you. I need you back in my troops, and that wing is never going to heal properly that way."
A low growl escaped from behind my bared teeth, but in the end, I could not argue. Duty was everything to a Draconian, and the miserable Finnarian knew it. Trust Sadan to use it against me.
Every other member of the army knew to leave me alone, especially when I was injured, so I was rather baffled by Sadan's actions. Again the thought flitted by that the Finnarian had a death wish or was at least flirting with the possibility, because he was always in my face, insulting me in every way and completely disregarding my formidable reputation.
It drove me to the edge of sheer violence, but always the knowledge that Sadan was one of the king's favorites and then had technically become my fucking commander restrained the actions I longed to inflict upon the bastard and his smirk.
How could the king have done this to me? Had I not served him and his father and his father before him faithfully and well? Had not I--and my companions before their deaths--proven the worth of a Draconian individually and together time and again? The king knew full well that Draconians and Finnarians were ill-suited to each other's company. I had made it perfectly clear on numerous occasions when speaking to his majesty.
So why would said majesty suddenly assign me under Sadan's command, a lone Draconian in a sea of Finnarians?
All right, so maybe there were only twelve of the bastards, but with Finnarians that was a sea, damn it!
Twelve of them proved more annoying than a hundred humans, maybe even two hundred, come to think of it. Sadan could count for a hundred all on his own.
So they were beautiful...beyond beautiful. So what? Tall, very tall, with angular faces and slanted eyes of brown or green; well-muscled but slim with it, power leashed in grace; their hair always long, tantalizingly long and, in that group at least, various shades of blond, right down to Sadan's striking silver gold. Humans revered them, almost idolized them and their talents: blood drinkers, mages, warriors of renown. Fools. The blood drinking was a little off-putting, I had to admit, but they were discreet about it, not flaunting their differences but not hiding who they were either. I had heard rumors of the sexual ecstasy a Finnarian bite produced, and my imagination had gone off course at that thought. They went through cycles of rut and bloodlust apparently, though I had never seen them during these times as they often went into seclusion with their brethren protecting their privacy. All I knew was that energy sustained them--both sexual and blood, though they ate regular food as well, I had noticed. They seemed mysterious and powerful to me, and they made me uneasy in a way I had never encountered before, especially their damned leader.
I actually hissed as Sadan approached me. Hissed! I had not made such a sound since adolescence, when I was learning control. What about Sadan seemed to drive me to the edge with so little effort on his part?
It was aggravating and humiliating. I had never encountered it before. Humans were terrified of my size, strength, and temper.
Finnarians were my equal in any and all of those things, but they were not Draconians. They were not my people, not my companions, and never could be.
What the king thought he was doing was beyond me. Perhaps the human military units were too afraid of a Draconian to want me in their ranks?
My temper subsided somewhat at that gratifying thought. Humans should be afraid of a Draconian. It was proper and respectful.
Perhaps the king had not meant insult but had tried to place me with as close to my peers as could be found in this misbegotten world.
My growls slowly died away.
I was alone. That fact was brought home to me on a daily basis but never so much as when I was wounded. Therefore I was duty bound to accept help from another person in my new unit to ensure I became battle ready as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately it seemed that person would have to be Sadan as my commander.
Damn it to the hells.
Shrugging as though to brush off the thoughts like troublesome flies, I flinched at the resulting pain. I drew a deep breath and turned my back on him--a sign only given to a sword brother--and held out my injured wing in silence.
As if in answer, he plunked the food tray in front of me. "Eat, while I tend your wing."