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Painted Hearts Publishing

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 70,093
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Senana Saz Rays has been sentenced to four years of slave labor on prison planet Indiku after assaulting his state appointed psychiatrist. Leaving his lover Rhyan behind on earth, Sena spends his time on the planet Indiku working with the coveted medicinal leeri flowers. Although a slave, he can’t help but find peace in the mundane life he’s lived on the alien planet and the wondrous sightings of the indigenous Zanzi that look so much like mythical earth dragons. Senana is just one year shy of going home and being with Rhyan again when all thoughts of freedom are swiped away as a massive Zanzi takes him from the leeri fields and back to the mountains it calls home.

La’el is a proud Zanzi. His only wish was to find a life mate and experience the bond his parents share. When he finally finds him in the leeri fields he doesn’t hesitate to take Sena— even their vast physical differences won’t dissuade the young Zanzi. La’el will do anything to prove to Sena that they are meant to be together, even if he’s unsure how to convince his human mate.

Both La’el and Sena are about to find out that there is more between them than either of them could ever imagine. Their bond affects more than just their fate, but also reveals a true evil buried in the heart of Indiku, and all the way back to Earth.

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A roar split the valley, more booming than all of the pitki cries doubled. The men screamed in panic, the natives barked in fear. I stopped breathing while my heart galloped against breastbone. There was no fucking way!

The air rushed around me, a gust so strong it threw me to the ground, my head smacking the soft soil with a brutal thud. I palmed the dirt as my eyes cracked open. My head throbbed painfully as I looked up into the sky. My heart stopped and I choked on a raw wheeze.

A zanzi hovered above us, descending to the ground, its wings thrashing wildly as it got closer to the leeri field. The beast let out another cry that split my eardrums, making me groan. My heart had started back up, echoing a painful staccato in my skull. We were so fucked.

“Seth!” I called out, pulling my body up to a sitting position. The zanzi’s large wings stretched out through its descent—the wings’ expanse wide enough to amount to a small air shuttle—foraging larger and larger gusts of wind down on the field, forcing me to the stay close to the ground or be thrown back.

“Stay where you are,” Edik barked out to us all. I took his advice and stilled my attempts to stand, my palms digging into the soft soil for purchase.

After another burst from the large creature, it landed at the edge of the field with an audible thud. The ground shook beneath me, a quake that resonated to my core. Breathing erratically, I watched the creature in the blue light of Niptik—Indiku’s moon. It was blue—not because of the moon’s light—but because its scales were a shade of cerulean that was only ever seen in precious gemstones. Soft hair ran from the top of its angular head and down its neck to the base of its wings in light waves, like an equine’s would. There were no spikes or sharp edges on the creature, only a set of ivory horns on the top of its head identifying it as a dragon. The creature’s appearance was much softer than I had expected and it looked approachable if not for its size. It was beautiful.

Why was it here? As far as I knew, they never came this far south. Edik had told me earlier that they were coming closer, but this, this was right on us. I broke my gaze on the creature to look for Edik and the other natives. They had all gained their footing only to drop to one knee, heads bowed as low as their massive bodies would allow. It was the most submissive position I had ever seen any native take. It bothered me. I saw Seth about a hundred feet from me, laying low to the ground, his eyes wide as he looked up at the zanzi. The other men were scattered across the field, some thrown as far as the tree line sixty yards away; others were belly down in the grass, not brave enough to move. They adhered to Edik’s warning and stayed as still as possible, probably afraid that the large creature would begin a massacre in the open area. It wasn’t like anyone wanted to be eaten by a giant-flying-alien-lizard.

“Se gra du’sua etpeka zanzi,” Edik barked out in his native tongue to the beast, never lifting his head as he spoke.
Was Edik as confused as the rest of us? I peeked up, glimpsing again at the creature in the low blue light of night. It had shimmering scales that looked almost feather-like in some places. A long sculpted face formed into a graceful muzzle, large expressive eyes with a tight brow, making for an all-around appealing look. It was as if so many creatures from Earth mixed together to make the one that towered before us.

Its blue eyes shifted, catching mine before I could lower them. Unwilling to move from my half-crouched position, our gazes locked. Those cerulean irises swirled with light, never blinking during our exchange. My belly started to get warm and my heart beat even faster in my chest. I couldn’t look away. I didn’t want to look away…or get away. I wanted nothing but to get closer and closer. Dazed, I couldn’t remember what was going on. Why was I there? Why was I so far away? I wanted to get closer. I needed to get closer. It was so beautiful. I needed to touch its shimmering scales. I rose to my full height, the flowers being crushed beneath my boots.

“Rays, get down!” Seth’s voice was drowned out as I took a steady step toward the creature. I didn’t react to the loud shouts of protest—although I could hear them—or the hand that gripped my wrist when I passed. I snarled at the man who had grabbed me, his grip releasing me as I pulled my hand back. I continued toward the zanzi, who still watched me with unblinking eyes. Everything fell away as I stopped, only a few feet remaining between us. It ignored everyone, looking down at me from a good ten feet above, blue eyes peering down at me inquisitively. We just stayed like that for a few moments, staring at each other in the blue hue of Indiku’s moons.

“Tao Oliris.” Its deep rumble was lyrical. A shiver passed down my spine as I continued to gape at the creature. Its mouth never moved. I didn’t understand, but I was more surprised than anything. It hadn’t spoken; the words had been a mute suggestion that passed deeper than my physical hearing. Somehow, it was speaking telepathically.

“Senana, move back!” Seth’s warned.

“You can speak,” I said surprised, ignoring everyone else.

“Nopsa otika noepu su petku no eske…” It began the slew of native words, all of them completely lost on me. I enjoyed the caress of the creature’s voice through my mind, its deep baritone soothing. Shaking my head, I stared back blankly.

“I don’t understand.”

Its head cocked as if it didn’t understand me, either.

Without warning, the beast leaned forward, bringing its head down. I huffed but otherwise stood my ground. Light blue eyes stared into mine from only inches away, the pupil a vertical slit that expanded and narrowed with my reflection mirroring back at me. I clenched my hands at my sides, trying to temper the urge to skim my fingertips over its shimmering scales. I wanted to touch the creature. I needed to touch it. I lifted my hand toward its muzzle but stopped short, the heat of its breath tickling my extended palm. Looking into its large luminescent orbs, I tried to find permission to continue. The zanzi chuffed, a large gust of breath escaping its nostrils, before it pushed its nose into my palm.

A jolt seared through my arm all the way to my heart. Gasping, my body seized as electric shocks attacked all of my senses: blood filled my cock, sharp needles pricked down my back and legs, a combination of intense pain and pleasure flooding me in an unbelievable tug of war. My heart raced as the electric sizzle of emotions tore through my body and mind, fear, sorrow, anger, guilt, happiness, jealousy, depression, every spectrum battled for my attention. A groan came from me, and my legs became unsteady as I grasped onto the zanzi’s head for balance. I wanted it to stop, and I wanted it to continue. I couldn’t decide if it was good or bad, but regardless, my hand dug into its scales, refusing to let go.

“What are you doing to him? Rays!” The barks of distress didn’t register through the full body spasm. Only the zanzi’s blue eyes broke through the seizure. They were so bright that my eyes watered as I looked into them. I didn’t want to look away, but I couldn’t find the energy to stay up any longer. Sighing, I fell to the ground in a boneless heap.

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