She's the bodyguard, but who will save her from the warrior prince?
Melika Gendressa's job should be simple. Protect an alien from the assassin robots sent to kill him. Only Vorgyn Mar'Don is a Jardan prince...a muscular, dominant, sword-wielding warrior. It's hard to keep focused on the mission when she's constantly distracted by his sexy, intimidating presence and her own searing desire. Worse, Prince Vorgyn rejects her help, believing he's more than capable of defending himself, thank you. The only hope she has to stay close to him is to become his courtezhana—become his mate. She'll do whatever she has to...only she soon learns being mated to an alien prince has quite a few perks of its own...
Prince Vorgyn wants nothing more than to crush the cowards who keep sending robots to kill him. So the last thing he needs is this tiny, tempting human female getting in his way, distracting him. And she is distracting. Her eyes. Her body. Her...everything. Protocol be damned, he wants her as a mate. To make her his in every way possible. But when his enemies turn their sights on Melika, nothing will save them from his wrath, and nothing will stop him from protecting his mate.
CHAPTER ONEMelika GendressaGuardian of the Ron-ZishuThis was the day I started my new life.I knelt beside Qyna Jaona, the woman who had trained me since I was a young girl, as she presented me to the Jardan prince before the entire Jardan court. Qyna was my tsora kai, my teacher in the secret arts of the Ron-Zishu. She knelt on one knee but kept her head raised to look Prince Vorgyn Mar’Don in the eyes as he sat upon his throne of mercury-thread ore, the tube veins of the bright metal spreading across the glossy black surface in complex patterns. The Jardan were a huge species of alien, their warriors even more so. They averaged well over two meters tall, were heavily muscled, and had a tinge of blue to their skin. Although he was seated, I estimated Vorgyn was even bigger than that. He was impressive, even intimidating.As a newly promoted guardian, I stayed on both knees before him, keeping my head respectfully lowered. Mindful of my place.I was being sold. I was a weapon, a Ron-Zishu guardian expertly trained to defend the life of my lord—whoever that might be. It was all I did. All I was.And I was good at it.With the excitement of being presented at court, the hum of the crowd of onlookers raising the energy in the Jardan prince’s great throne room, my heart began to race and my blood began to move quickly through my veins. I’d trained my whole life for this moment. I looked forward to beginning my new life as the Ron-Zishu to this fierce, battle-scarred warrior.“No,” he growled.A buzz of curious, excited voices arose from the crowd behind me. My heart skipped a beat for a moment, then froze in my chest while his meaning sank in. No? He didn’t want me?Qyna’s breath caught. “With respect,” she began, and I could tell she was choosing her words carefully. Her tone remained deferential, but I could tell my training master was offended by his abrupt rejection. “May I ask why you find her unacceptable, Your Royal Highness?”“She is human,” the prince said. “Worse, she is female. Pretty enough, I will admit. If I kept a harem, she might have a use. But as my bodyguard? She is not worthy. She does not even carry a blade.”My cheeks began to burn. My skin felt red hot. I relied on my training to keep my head lowered and keep the shock and humiliation off my face. Those feelings had no purpose here. I was trained to serve as a weapon, and weapons had no feelings.But that didn’t stop me from silently wanting to bounce one of the teramine crystal sculptures that lined the throne room off his ridiculous, thick, blue head.I also had excellent aim.Vorgyn was a prince of the Mar’Don dynasty, the third son of King Treskon Mar’Don. He ruled the planet of Avoloxa in the Jardan Empire, leader of all the clans. Rich. Powerful. Said to be fierce and relentless in all he pursued. But he was also rumored to be fair and just, loyal to those who served him. I hoped this last part was true.So far, all I knew was he didn’t seem to like females—or at least human ones.It didn’t help that my pussy had betrayed me and had grown wet at the first sight of him. As soon as he’d entered the throne room, a wave of lust had immediately hit me. My body, which was often at odds with my mind, reacted to the impressive sight of a warrior in his prime. My core tightened, my nipples peaked, and my mouth went dry as the ache deep inside me intensified. It didn’t help that I’d been celibate from even self-pleasure for seventeen standard solar days. Training for the io sodon ritual. The one bit of Ron-Zishu training I hated the most.My body’s unexpectedly strong reaction to the prince had frustrated me. I had to be under complete control at all times. And the more I tried to slow and calm my breathing, the harder my heart seemed to pound, driving me to breathe harder to take in enough air so I wouldn’t faint like a maiden at his feet.“A blade is a fine weapon,” Qyna admitted, acknowledging the prince’s complaint. “But there are many useful weapons that can be—”“Not for the Jardan,” the prince said, cutting her off.I wanted to look up at him again but stopped myself. I wasn’t sure what I had expected the prince to look like, but it hadn’t been the strikingly attractive Jardan whose laser-like green eyes seemed to burn right into my core. Prince Vorgyn wore no shirt, as was the Jardan warrior way in battle, symbolic of showing his fierce heart to his enemies. It was a challenge and an intimidation to any enemy they faced. The Prince’s chest certainly was…distracting. After my initial look, I was glad I didn’t have to stare at anything but the elaborate designs on the throne room floor. Each of Vorgyn’s abdominal muscles was clearly defined, a hard ridge in his slightly blue-tinged skin. His chest was stunningly broad. Those pectorals looked hard as stone. My fingers ached to touch them and find out if they truly were as solid as they appeared. Dangling between those two amazing pecs was a necklace with the triangular crest of House Mar’Don made of zerophyte, one of the most precious minerals in the galaxy.Like I said, distracting. I resented him even more because his presence forced me to rely on my training to quell the surge of lust in my body. Lust that had flared at the mere sight of him.And still throbbed in my pussy and sent a rush of moisture flooding my undergarments even after he’d rejected me.By Vorgyn’s right hand, a huge sword leaned against the side of his throne. Known as an Iteran blade, the impressive weapon was almost as tall as I was, the biggest I’d ever seen. The Jardan revered their swords. Even though they fought with blasters when necessary, they considered sword fighting the height of a warrior’s achievement. I did not carry a sword. The weapons of the Ron-Zishu were very different.“Prince Vorgyn Mar’Don,” Qyna said smoothly. “I beg you to give the Ron-Zishu a chance. Melika Gendressa is one of the best I’ve ever raised. Her training is absolute. She will defend you with her life against all threats.”Prince Vorgyn’s gaze turned back to me. I could feel it searing along my skin as he judged me. I wore my fighting garb—the specially designed kenvo suit fitted with armor, which enhanced my speed and agility. Only the Ron-Zishu wore such suits, and although my weapons had been left with Vorgyn’s elite bodyguard unit before we’d been allowed to enter, I was still formidable without them. Prince Vorgyn didn’t seem impressed.“I’m sure she would make an excellent bodyguard…for another human. I am Prince Vorgyn Mar’Don. My blade has already tasted the blood of my enemies. I have won glorious battles.” His voice was calm, detached, and the dismissive tone nearly crushed me. This was not how I expected how my service would begin. The prince waved a hand at the imposing Jardan bodyguards posted along the sides of the throne room. “Besides, I already have defenders who bother me enough with their obsessive mothering. She is like a runt pup—too small, too young, and not worth the feed to keep her alive until the bigger dogs rip her to shreds.”Qyna’s voice didn’t waver as she aimed for the heart. “We were told there was an attempt on your life. One that almost succeeded. Perhaps a runt pup would be an unexpected distraction to those who think they know your defenses.”Vorgyn grunted. “The attempt on my life failed.” He stood from his throne and pointed across the huge room to an opposite wall. On the wall were mounted two hunks of smashed metal and neurohardware. Severed assassin bot heads.One of the designs I was very familiar with. An Endsek model, human manufacture; the wide, armored head was riddled with lots of sensor eyes. The other was alien tech, a Q2X kill bot built by the Idnixacon. Very smart, very tough. Its strangely formed head was full of triangle-shaped metal plates jutting every which way. It also had a mouth full of diamond-tipped teeth.“I destroyed those myself,” Prince Vorgyn continued. “So for the last time, what need do I have for this small, human female?”Qyna bowed her head, but her voice rang out loud and clear. “The Queen Mother Amsila Mar’Don has purchased Melika Gendressa’s life contract from the Ron-Zishu. She mentioned you might…not appreciate the gift. She strongly wishes her overture to be accepted by her third son, whom she so loves. Such was her message.”The prince hesitated just a moment. “My mother bought her for me?” His voice was a low growl. I kept my gaze on the floor, deferential and silent. He finally let out a long sigh. When he spoke again, his tone held both amusement and chagrin. “My beloved mother. Still making me the little boy in front of all my court. Very well. Can this Melika Gendressa speak for herself or is her tongue too small and frail to create words?”That was my permission to address him. I raised my head and met his commanding stare. “My tongue is sufficient for any purpose that is required of it, Your Royal Highness.”He glared at me, his green eyes narrowed to slits, heavy brows drawn down over his eyes as if he wished nothing more than to terrify me into begging to be let out of my contract. It nearly worked. Until a spark of something in the back of those eyes spoke of something else. Something dark, mysterious; something powerful. Something that called to me.“Why should I accept your service, human?”Because your mommy said so, I thought, although I would die before ever saying it aloud. Such triumph would be short-lived, as would my life. Which I suppose was one way he could get out of holding my life-contract.I chose to address him simply and respectfully. “I am the strike that can’t be seen. I am the best in my class. I specialize in destroying assassin bots, such as those whose heads hang on your wall. I will guard your back. I will keep your secrets. And I will give my life for you, but it’s doubtful that will ever be necessary.”He gazed at me a few moments longer, as if assessing my argument. “Big words, from such a small human.” He considered me a few moments longer. “You will stand out at my court like a red croyx on snow.”“Respectfully, Your Royal Highness, I never thought the Jardan princes to be overly concerned with the opinions of others.”He just grunted in reply.I bowed my head, wondering at the tone of that grunt. It was odd, almost as if he anticipated something. My heart was beating fast, despite all my training. I didn’t believe the prince could tell the nervousness I tried to hide at having my Ron-Zishu life contract sold to him when he clearly didn’t want me.Prince Vorgyn growled again, a bestial, primal sound that sent an unexpected thrill through me. “If the queen desires this, then it shall be done.” He held my gaze with eyes that would have threatened to make my knees buckle if I weren’t kneeling. I clamped down and pushed away all my body’s unthinking reactions to him until I was steady again.“But here respect and honor are earned, not given.” He turned and drew his blade. The sword made a ringing metallic sound as he pulled it free of its scabbard. “Rise and come here, little human.”I didn’t like his continually calling me little, but compared to these Jardan males, it was certainly accurate. I rose and walked to him with my head as high as I could hold it.“Kneel, human,” he commanded.I immediately obeyed, and a feeling of excitement flooded my body. We’d won. He’d agreed to honor my life-contract. This Jardan was to be my lord and master. My purpose was sealed. I had found my place beside the one whom I would serve, protect, and die for.He touched the flat of his Iteran blade to the top of my head, moving with great care. Then he put the blade to my heart. “You are hereby taken into the House of Mar’Don as Angmoroh.”My heart fell. That was not right. “Angmoroh” was High Jardanian for “ally of the clan,” but it didn’t mean the same as “Banmoroh,” or “blood of the clan.” Angmoroh was like a waiter, a business partner, a tailor. Angmoroh had the right to be on planets and space stations with the clan they were tied to, but they weren’t family, kin, trusted advisors. It was these, the Banmoroh, who could be in the presence of Jardan royalty at all times and places, in their homes, their bedchambers. All trusted bodyguards were Banmoroh.I looked up at him, keeping my expression neutral.He gazed back at me, and I could see the obvious triumph in his eyes before he broke eye contact, effectively shutting the door on me, and looked out at his court.I had to applaud his strategy. He’d found a way to honor both his mother’s wishes and the contract, while shunting me off to some minor duty where I would be out of his way.Prince Vorgyn looked out over the applauding crowd, but I could tell he was watching me closely, as if waiting for me to show the least sign of disobedience or defiance at his decision. I refused to give him the satisfaction. I remained still, silent, and emotionless.He looked back down at me as he pressed the sword delicately against my heart. “Swear yourself to me on pain of your life.”I stared up into his piercing eyes. His face was imposing, his features hard as the grey, craggy Crios Mountains of my home world. His expression was just as stormy as the weather that froze those mountains. Part of me wanted to scurry back behind the skirts of Qyna. Part of me wanted to show him how strong I really was and smack that condescending look off his face. And a secret part of me was not surprised when my pussy flooded with moisture as I stayed on my knees before him, his cock so temptingly close, so clearly visible within the soft fabric of his trousers.I pulled my eyes away from his breeches and tilted my chin upward, the only defiance I could ever get away with. Then I spoke the traditional words. “I swear to serve you in all things. Your life before mine, always.”He snorted and drew the sword away from my breast. “Good enough. Now, I think we’ve had enough of my mother’s whims for one day.” Prince Vorgyn glanced at another Jardan member of the court who wore elaborate ceremonial robes. The other male’s chest was covered, so he was not a warrior. An administrator or courtier most likely. “Ionas, find her somewhere to stay. Rise, human. You are dismissed from my presence.”He sheathed the sword and rose, turning his back to me. It was an awesome back as well, broad and heavily ridged with muscle. He was far bigger than any man I’d ever known. I was secretly grateful I was serving him and not fighting him.If I’d ever be able to serve him anything but appetizers as Angmoroh.Ionas walked to us and nodded for us to follow. He was far older than Vorgyn, with the piercing eyes of the Jardan that almost seemed to glow, but his were amber. And cold. My intuition said he didn’t like me, or he didn’t like the situation. I wouldn’t hold it against him. I had a lot of proving to do and only a short time to do it.Because if Prince Vorgyn Mar’Don died on my watch, I would shame not only myself but the entire Ron-Zishu. There was nothing I feared more.Ionas didn’t speak as he took us through the halls of the Fortress of Gorlane. The Fortress was on the highest mountain on Avoloxa. Mount Kluarmn towered above Syrelundra, the sprawling capital city that surrounded it on all sides. The fortress was clearly originally designed as a seat for kings and for defense. Blaster battery defenses and missile systems protected its heavily reinforced walls. But over time, it seemed to have been softened and made more palatial. There were fountains and water features everywhere—even one where water fell from the ceiling in a wide, sparkling curtain that only drew aside as we walked through it. There were stunning works of art and even more stunning views through the windows over the city at the base of the mountain. I did my best not to gape, but it was a challenge.We walked for what seemed like a very long time. Ionas finally stopped in an empty corridor deep within the fortress. He opened the door to a small, windowless room with a low bed not much higher than my shin. There was a desk and some storage and shelving space. A small viewscreen was mounted in the surface of one wall with a sleek holo control panel. Beyond the main room was a lavatory with a washtube shower.They certainly weren’t rolling out the luxuries for me. It didn’t matter though. This would do well enough.“These will be your quarters,” Ionas said after he finished uploading my biometrics to the room’s computer that controlled the door lock. “Access the map to find the dining hall and kitchens. You will be summoned when needed.”He bowed and left us alone. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’d expected to be shown around the fortress, to meet with some of the prince’s security forces so I could begin acclimating myself to their routine. Something. I hadn’t expected to simply be dumped in a room so far from the Jardan prince that I’d have to pack a meal if I set out to find him.Qyna touched a finger to her earpiece transmitter. She frowned and turned to me. “The ship is ready to depart.”I could tell she was unhappy with how this had gone. She gave me a wan smile. “This will not be easy, Melika. I know you’re worried.”“I’m not afraid, tsora kai. I will do my duty.”“I know you will. But your duty is also the truth, and you are afraid, despite your words.”I bowed my head, my cheeks heating. Only my tsora kai could so easily make me abashed. I’d always admired her. She was perhaps twenty or so years older than I, but life at the monastery, training, eating healthy food, had kept her beautiful while lending her an aura of gentle wisdom. She was my mentor, but she was also my friend.“I am afraid,” I finally admitted. “They didn’t name me blood of the clan. I’m afraid I won’t be close enough to the prince to protect him. I don’t want to fail him…or us.”She pulled me into a tight hug. “We are Ron-Zishu. And we are women. We are strong. We do what we must.” She drew back enough to look me in the eyes again. “You will do whatever it takes to fulfill your duty. Whatever it takes. If the Jardan balk at making you blood of the clan, find some other way to guard your charge.”I closed my eyes and nodded. She was right of course. I had a sacred obligation to the prince now. I had to overcome any and all barriers that would stand in the way of fulfilling my duty. Even if one of them was the prince himself.“Now, on a lighter note,” Qyna said, a mischievous glint in her eye. “I have a special gift for you.” She pulled out a narrow silver box and winked. “I almost kept this for myself. But I have two already.”I bowed to thank her. “Is it a weapon?”She laughed. “Not unless pleasure is a weapon. Open it and see. No woman should be without one…if the real thing isn’t ready to hand.”I opened it carefully. Inside lay a tiny neural enhancer patch and a smooth, polished object very suggestive of a cock. I stared at it, suddenly realizing what this was—and not quite believing my teacher, my tsora kai, had just given me this for my parting gift.“That is an aranza fantasy stimulator. I bought it just for you. It will help take the edge off if your body starts to distract your mind from your duties.” Her smile turned slightly wicked. “Because I have a feeling there will be much distraction here. It’s better than virtual reality. The fantasies it gives can be very telling, if you open your mind to them and release your inhibitions.”A blush heated my cheeks. I had never used an aranza stimulator before, but I knew how they worked. They created daydreams in the mind of the user, fantasies so real they might as well be. They were also very expensive. I swallowed hard. My heart felt like it was thudding in my chest. I wasn’t embarrassed by getting a sex toy, not really, but I wasn’t sure why I was blushing either. There had been only a girl-confiding-in-girl tone to Qyna’s words and no judgment on her face. Maybe it was because I’d immediately thought of the stunning Prince Vorgyn and found myself wondering how this would compare to his “real thing.”I bowed again. “Thank you, tsora kai.” As isolated as I was likely to be here, it was sure to come in handy. Otherwise I would be humping the bedposts to get some relief from all this male Jardan, testosterone-hyped shirtlessness around me.“That is my final gift to you, Melika. For a long time, anyway. You are always so tense. So focused on being the perfect fighting machine. I hope this helps you relax. To enjoy the other side of your body—as a thing of pleasure, not just battle.” She sighed and gave me a knowing smile. “Besides, the way things are for the Jardan, I have a suspicion you won’t be needing it for very long.”I gave her a questioning look, but she only shook her head and changed the subject.“Remember, Melika, what we know of the attempt on the prince’s life. Assassin robots attacked always after sunset, always when the prince was alone in the mountain fortress. You will need to be his shadow. To do that, you will need to prove yourself to him.”“Yes, tsora kai. I have my work cut out for me.”She smiled at me once more. “That you do.”A call from our dropship came over the small communicator set in her ear. Qyna hugged me once more, seeming reluctant to let me go. We would not see each other in person again, possibly for years, maybe never.“You must win him, Melika.” She drew back but kept her hands on my shoulders, staring me in the eyes. “You must win his trust and his heart. Otherwise you will fail, and he will die.”I kept a brave face on, but we both knew it was for show. Someone wanted Prince Vorgyn dead, and the prince wanted me—his best weapon—as far away as he could stow me. I had very little time to convince him to trust me, to prove to him that he needed me.It was an impossible situation.She drew herself up and gave me a bow. “You are ready for this.” Then she spoke the creed of the Ron-Zishu. “Tesoro infinasa.” Faithful forever.“Tesoro infinasa,” I said back, bowing low.Qyna left without a backward glance. I stood alone in my small quarters as the door whooshed shut behind her, wondering how I was ever going to win the trust of the handsome and intimidating Prince Vorgyn Mar’Don. Wondering if I were doomed to be kept out of sight in a windowless room for the rest of my life contract. Shunned from doing the duty I had trained for all my life.I felt like crying, but a weapon did not cry.So neither did I.