Diplomatic marriages between two members of different planets certainly aren’t unheard of—but for Prince Mikos of Tygeria and Col. Ryan Donnelly of Earth, it might just be a fate worse than death. The union is meant to end a devastating war that has lasted for over a hundred and fifty years, but when the female bride intended for the fierce, sexy prince runs away, her handsome brother is substituted instead. Men are for mating as far as the Tygerian prince is concerned, but the colonel also happens to be Mikos’s sworn enemy, not to mention being completely irritating.
Ryan is horrified to learn that the Tygerians not only expect him to take the place of his sister, marry the Bloody Prince of Tygeria, and go to live with him on his mysterious planet, but they also expect him to undergo physical alteration to have the man’s baby! And nobody is taking hell no for an answer. Ryan’s being asked to turn his whole life upside down and the handsome Tygerian gets under his skin like nobody else. But with the fate of the universe at stake, how can he say no? Can the two enemies put aside their differences and focus on making love and not war—not to mention a baby? As a powerful love struggles to take root, can they learn to trust each other and stand together against the forces that are trying to tear them apart?
The human, called Royal Consort Blake, was wearing long, luxurious robes of some blue, silky fabric that rustled every time he moved. He was a blond, handsome man who had to be around forty, but looked younger. He was pacing angrily in front of the Consul’s desk. Meanwhile one of the Tygerian princes, Prince Mikos, the intended groom, lounged negligently in a chair, looking supremely, outrageously bored. The king had six sons, and this one was one of them. Ryan never could keep all their names straight.
It irritated him to admit the alien was gorgeous. Like all the Tygerians he was big. Maybe six feet six inches tall, but not in the least gangly or awkward with the height as some young men could be, and he was muscular, but not overly so. His hair was a golden shade of red, and his skin was like all the Tygerians’—a pale golden-brown color with black stripes running faintly just under the skin. Exotic, and strangely beautiful. His green eyes, when he glanced over at Ryan as he came into the room, had something cold and savage peeking out of them.
He was wearing an Axis uniform, dark blue with golden epaulets festooned over his broad shoulders. His chest was covered in medals that Ryan was sure must be merely decorative. No way had this spoiled-looking royal scion earned all those medals. Did this pampered prince even realize how many men’s lives were at stake here? Truly, each and every one of them weighed heavily on Ryan’s soul.
A colonel in the Alliance forces, Ryan had lost most of his company in a recent battle on Lycanus 3. They had been overrun, and only a handful of his men had survived and escaped, along with Ryan and one newly commissioned lieutenant. His men had pulled Ryan’s unconscious body from the field, and it was a miracle that any of them had survived. He was here on this space station orbiting VR-3 now because he was recovering from the wounds he’d suffered in that battle, and of course, because of Allison’s wedding.
Lycanus 3, the smallest, but most strategically significant of the Lycan planets because of its exports, was now occupied by Axis troops, and the noble Balenescu family were all under house arrest. It was one more nail in the Alliance’s coffin, though the Balenescus’ close ties to some wealthy and powerful Tygerian nationals had helped to bring this politically negotiated marriage about. Two of the Balenescu family members had actually married Tygerian males and were living on Tygeria as their nobyos.
Ryan was mostly healed now and anxious to rejoin his unit, but his father had asked him to accompany him to the space station to witness his sister’s wedding and help him try to establish the peace agreement. These talks and treaties, not to mention this farce of a state marriage between his sister and the prince had been hard won—a diplomatic coup. The peace negotiators had worked night and day for it. An alliance like this one would have gone a long way toward shoring up any kind of peace treaty that could be arranged before the summit coming up in the next quarter-cycle. If Allison could have gone through with the marriage, a lasting peace might have been successfully negotiated. Now Allison had ruined everything by running away. She had condemned them all with her actions, and his poor father had been left holding the bag.
The king’s consort banged his fist on his father’s desk and raised his voice, startling Ryan and drawing his attention back to the little drama unfolding behind him. “No! Absolutely not!” he replied to something his father had said in a wheedling, conciliatory tone that Ryan hated. “Your daughter has dishonored us by rejecting our generous offer of marriage to the king’s son. She’s humiliated us by running away. The enormous diamond reserves we were willing to give you access to as a bride price are completely off the table. Finished!”
“But Consort Blake, please…those diamond reserves will fuel entire planets for centuries to come. Without them, their inhabitants could be cast back into the Stone Age. Please. I beg you to reconsider.”
“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you offered us your worthless offspring as a bride for my son. My son is a high prince. Can you even fathom the honor he paid her by agreeing to make her his spouse?” The consort slammed his fist down again, knocking a sheaf of documents to the floor. “We should simply walk away now and leave this wretched place. Once the king learns of this calculated insult, he’ll no doubt withdraw his agreement to meet in summit talks. Forget the peace treaties. We have no need of them! Obviously the Alliance can’t be trusted to honor its obligations.”
Consul Donnelly leaped to his feet. “Please Consort Blake, there must be something we can do—some way to make this up to you. Please tell me what we can do! I’ll do anything. Anything!”
Ryan, who had just about had enough, whirled around to face the men. “Don’t bother, sir. And don’t grovel to him! His mind is obviously made up.” Turning to look at the king’s consort, a man who had once years ago been a highly decorated officer of the Alliance forces before he was captured and turned into some kind of love-slave for the fucking Tygerian king, Ryan made one last appeal to what was left of his humanity.
“Surely, sir, you’re aware of how tirelessly the Consul has worked to bring about peace over the three years since he took office. We’ve made one concession after another to the Axis of Planets and finally, in an act of desperation and selflessness, he offered up his only daughter as a hostage and a pawn in this game. You were human…once.” He paused to let the insult sink in. The consort’s blue eyes glittered at him dangerously, but Ryan rushed on with what he needed to say.
“You should know that our children aren’t slaves—he couldn’t force Allison to marry. He thought he had her convinced, but she took one look at this…this son of yours…”
“Ryan!” Consul Connelly shouted, his voice tinged with shock and despair. “That’s enough!”
Ryan whirled around to face his father. “I’m done begging them, sir! Look at him! He’s an uncivilized brute, and neither of them even cares about the treaty.” He knew he’d gone too far, but no matter what he said, he knew they’d already made up their minds. The Tygerians were only toying with them now.
“Arguing with this man who has renounced his humanity and aligned himself with savages is useless, sir.” Ryan continued, lifting his chin defiantly. He turned to focus his attention on the king’s consort, who was staring at him with his haughty eyebrows raised. He looked completely incredulous and outraged. If he’d been wearing pearls, he’d no doubt have been clutching them. “I respectfully submit that the king’s consort obviously made up his mind and then snapped it shut.”
The consort flushed hotly and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could, the big Tygerian prince surged to his feet and pulled his father or whatever the hell he was behind him. The prince crossed the space between the colonel and himself so quickly, he was only a blur of motion, and he seized Ryan by his jacket front and held him aloft. Ryan gasped as he looked up into his eyes and his blood ran cold. How could Ryan have miscalculated so badly as to think the Tygerian soft and spoiled?
With the tips of his toes dangling inches above the floor, the huge Tygerian’s face loomed close to Ryan’s, and his breath gusted hotly against his skin. His green eyes, so disturbingly cat-like, narrowed fiercely. “How dare you speak to the consort in such a manner, you Alliance scum?”
Ryan pulled frantically at the Tygerian’s hands but couldn’t budge them. He kicked ineffectually at his legs, but the prince simply held him out at arm’s length. When Blake tried to kick him in the balls, he turned so that Ryan’s kicks landed on his hip and he laughed at Ryan tauntingly. The problem was that this new hold twisted Ryan’s uniform jacket so that it bunched up under his chin, choking him. As he gasped for breath, he could see the king’s consort smirking and leaning his hip against the desk, his arms folded over his chest. There would obviously be no help from that quarter.
Ryan forced himself to go limp, half-closing his eyes, as if he’d surrendered. From under his lashes, he saw a smile of satisfaction bloom on the big alien’s face. He relaxed his hold on Ryan, bringing him in closer and allowing him to sag to his feet. He kept his hand wrapped in Ryan’s uniform jacket, though, keeping him close enough that Ryan could smell his warm, musky scent. This was his chance. Using the last of his strength, Ryan brought both hands up and clapped them as hard as he could against the prince’s ears.
The reaction would have been comical under any other circumstances. He looked like a bear stung by bees. The prince yelped, dropped his hands and clutched his ears with both hands. He opened his mouth and howled his rage, as Ryan stepped back, straightening his clothes and smiling evilly at him. He could almost see plumes of steam spiral up from each of the alien’s ears and through his fingers like in a cartoon.
Ryan’s father rushed to his son’s aid, jostling the prince’s arm to pass by him and stand beside his son. Ryan had a feeling that might have been a mistake. One shouldn’t touch a Tygerian royal, and he wondered vaguely if his father would be chastised for that. There was no telling what they would do to Ryan for striking the high prince. Now that the excitement had passed, he was beginning to feel a little weak-kneed, and he looked around for a place to sit down.
“Son, are you all right? Your highness…Consort Blake, please! Put a stop to this now—my son is injured!”
“I’m fine, Father,” Ryan said, embarrassed and trying to gently push him off.
“Your son is injured?” the king’s consort said, his eyebrows lifting in outrage. “What about my son? Your son indeed!”
Then as the words sunk in, Blake suddenly straightened up and tilted his head, one eyebrow quirking upward. “Did you say your son?”
“Yes, of course he is! And your son just attacked him!” the consul said, casting a wounded, outraged look back over his shoulder.
Blake smiled then and rubbed his hands together, as eager as a cat who’d just spied a big bowl of tasty cream. “You mean to tell me this young man… Your unmarried son? Well, why didn’t you say so? Who needs the daughter? This one will do fine. In fact, he’ll do even better!” He stepped forward and laid a hand on Prince Mikos’s arm. “Stop playing with him, Miki. You’ll have plenty of time to do that after the wedding. This young man,” he said, gesturing grandly toward Ryan, “is your new mate and royal consort.” He got a speculative look in his eye. “Maybe even the bearer of your children.”