Prince Vannos is sick and tired of being sheltered and treated like a child. He’s a warrior and in his opinion, it’s high time he was treated like one. When he’s invited to a party by one of his older friends, he decides to slip away from his guards, even though his father, Blake, has forbidden it. The next thing he knows, he’s been drugged and kidnapped and is on his way to the planet of Moravia, an insular world, whose people are suspicious and hate outsiders. When Vannos learns why he’s going and what awaits him there, panic sets in, but it’s already far too late.
Soon he arrives on the mysterious planet, surrounded by strangers who don’t know his real identity, but if he tells the truth about who he really is, harm will come to his family at home. Forced into a charade, Vannos has to marry the king of Moravia, a handsome warrior king named Stefan. He must also pretend to be a man who is far more worldly in every way. When the truth is inevitably revealed, the king is angered by the idea that the Tygerians tried to force a political alliance on him and refuses to give Vannos a divorce or allow any member of the royal family to visit him. Redmond is dispatched to act as a go-between and he finds much more waiting for him than just an lovestruck and unhappy prince in this distant world. The two young men must fight their way to happiness through a confusing maze of romance, murder and intrigue, and Vannos and his king learn that you have to be very careful what you wish for in life, because you just might get more than you ever bargained for.
Vannos’s first inkling that something might be wrong was when they pulled up to the entrance of Nilz’s house, and Vannos didn’t see any other vehicles or hear the sounds of a party going on. Puzzled, he stood on the doorstep and pushed the button that announced visitors. The door was swung open almost immediately by a handsome young human, who was wearing nothing but some very short pants. The man smiled at Vannos and motioned him inside. Vannos knew he was blushing—he could feel the heat in his cheeks. This must be Nilz’s love slave. He’d heard of him, naturally, but had never actually seen him, or any love slave, for that matter, up close, or at least not one dressed like this. His father’s generals and ministers sometimes brought theirs to state dinners, but they were always demure and appropriately dressed.
Nilz, who had a full glass of an amber liquid in his hand, came into the hallway and motioned Vannos inside. He turned to him with a big smile and Vannos knew Nilz could tell he was embarrassed. “Vannos, I’m so glad you decided to come! Let me make you a drink.”
“Thank you,” He bowed to the young man who had answered the door with his cheeks feeling warm and he tried to smile. “This must be Brenna. So nice to meet you.”
Nilz and the little human looked at each other and both burst out laughing. Vannos glanced back and forth between them. He didn’t like being laughed at.
Nilz finally straightened up and clapped him on the back. “He’s my servant, Vannos. Not my lover. And you don’t have to bow to him.”
Vannos glanced at the boy, really embarrassed now. “No matter who he is, he’s a person, Nilz. Don’t be rude.”
Nilz pulled the young man close and then, shockingly, he put his hand down to cup his groin. “This is Nalley, and he doesn’t mind, do you, boy?”
Nalley smiled and walked away. As he did, Vannos’s eyes widened at seeing his tempting backside clearly through the skintight pants. Vannos felt his cock stir but willed it back down so he wouldn’t embarrass himself. His thin robes would display his excitement, and once again, he cursed the fact that he’d been kept so sheltered that the mere sight of a servant in short pants could make him aroused.
“Come on in, Vannos,” Nilz said, clapping him on the back. “Brenna’s around here someplace. Still in his room, probably, making himself beautiful. But I’m glad you’re here—I was afraid your crazy omak might have decided to lock you up in your room or something.” He laughed at his own joke and took another big gulp of the amber liquid in his glass as Vannos narrowed his eyes at him. It was one thing for him and his brothers to complain about his omak, but he wouldn’t stand for it from anyone else. His hand clenched into a fist and he glared at Nilz.
“My omak isn’t crazy, and he doesn’t ‘lock me up’. I don’t like you talking about him like that.”
Nilz laughed and slapped him on the back. “Oh, don’t be like that, Vannos. I’m only joking. Come on inside and have a drink. Loosen up some. This is supposed to be a party.”
Vannos stepped inside but peered around behind Nilz. “Where is everyone anyway? Am I early?”
“No, I think all the others are just a bit late. They’ll be along, don’t worry. Come in and let’s sit down and listen to some music until they arrive. My friend Auros is supposed to be bringing his new love slave with him too. A gorgeous little Jayronian, and Auros likes to share with his friends. Have you ever made love to a Jayronian, Vannos?”
Vannos shifted his feet nervously. He had no idea what to do with a love slave other than admire how they looked. “No, not recently,” Vannos said, trying to look like he had experienced many other species, just not a Jayronian. Yet.
He didn’t want the others to make fun of his ignorance. He allowed himself to be steered down the hall and took a glass of the amber liquid when it was pressed into his hand. “Wine from my own vineyards,” Nilz said proudly as he handed Vannos the glass. “Sit down and try some while we wait.”
Vannos sipped at the liquid and made a face. It may have been good for all he knew, but he hadn’t yet acquired a taste for wine. To him, it just seemed sour. Nilz laughed at his reaction.
“What’s the matter, don’t you like it? It’s a bit strong, but everyone says it’s delicious. Try a little more. One has to develop a taste for fine wine, you know.”
“So you keep telling me,” Vannos said, but he tried a couple more sips of the stuff. Nilz was certainly right about it being strong. It burned all the way down, like a much stronger liquor, and made him feel a little woozy already after just a few sips.
“Drink it all down and if you still don’t like it, I’ll get you something else.” Nilz moved over to a sideboard that held a variety of glass decanters, accented by diamonds embedded in the cut glass. Though diamonds were a monetary standard for the Alliance, they had always been so plentiful on Tygeria that they had little real value there. Tygerians thought they were pretty stones, but they had never prized them particularly, or at least they hadn’t until the Tygerians realized how much other planets coveted them. These crystal decanters looked like antiques and had probably belonged to Nilz’s parents or grandparents.
Nilz selected one of them and wagged it at Vannos. “How about this? It’s a Nilanium drink called Kilor. Very potent.”
“This is plenty potent enough, I think,” Vannos said, setting his glass down on a table beside him. “It’s made me dizzy.”
“Has it?” Nilz said, coming closer to him. His body seemed to waver a little in the dim light of the room. He came right up to Vannos and peered down into his face. “You really can’t hold your liquor, can you, sweetheart?” He laughed and the sound seemed to echo loudly through Vannos’s head. “You’re really making this all too easy. I expected it to be a little harder than this. You’re not even making it interesting.”
“Wha-wha are you talking ’bout?” Vannos tried to say and only wound up slurring his words. He passed a hand over his eyes and rubbed his face. He was sweating profusely, though the temperature in the room seemed all right. It was embarrassing to get drunk off just a glass of wine, if that’s what this was. The room was spinning around him a little, and he decided he should stand up and maybe get some fresh air. As he tried to rise, Nilz pushed him roughly back down. Vannos glanced over at him in shock.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Nilz’s voice sounded far away, though he was leaning over Vannos threateningly. He picked up Vannos’s glass and held it to his lips. “Here. Have some more.”
Vannos shook his head and tried to push Nilz away, but his arms felt as limp as noodles and he couldn’t even lift them. Nilz tipped back the glass and forced the liquid down his throat. It ran down his chin and onto his neck, but some went down his throat, making him choke and cough.
“Bottoms up! Isn’t that what they say on Earth? Didn’t your human omak teach you any Earthan toasts?” Again, Nilz tipped the glass and held the back of his head so he couldn’t turn away. The strong drink hit the back of his throat and choked him. Vannos coughed and sputtered, gasping for breath, but though some of the wine came back up this time, most of it slid down his throat, burning all the way down to his stomach. He gazed up in confusion and fury at his cousin, but someone had dimmed the lights and he could barely see him. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision, but it didn’t help, and his belly was roiling with the acrid, sour wine he’d been forced to drink. He gagged once and heard Nilz’s voice from a distance. “Oh no, you don’t. You keep that down and relax. Just stop fighting it and you’ll be fine.”
“Wha-wha have you done to me? Did you put something in the wine?” he managed to ask, but even to his own ears, the words sounded slurred. He leaned his head sickly back against the chair to stop the room from spinning. Oh gods! Was the wine drugged? What was happening to him? He tried to get up but his legs wouldn’t work right. The light started to spin in a circle around him before it blinked once and went out.