She stood on the crest of the hill, staring down at him. The filmy white folds of an almost transparent gown whipped around her body, caressing breasts and hips like a reverent lover. A veil covered the lower half of her face, but the deep pools of dark eyes seemed to see across the distance that separated them and peer directly into his soul.
Forget about the wind, he told himself. If his brain could conjure up this exotic beauty, he would quite willingly remain in bed and let this dream play out.
Zeth’s voice broke into his stunned fascination. “The damn comp is down again,” he shouted from inside the rover. “I could swear it was working when we bunked down last night.”
Zeth’s voice grew louder as he approached the mouth of the ramp.
“I want to check the weather report before I head out for the day. The port at Citadel City issued a caution last night, something about a heavy atmospheric pattern moving into the area. I need to see if it’s been lifted. Nealan? Nealan! What the hell are you staring at?”
Ignoring the steps, Zeth jumped to the ground and jogged to his bond-brother’s side. He followed Nealan’s stare.
“Holy Mother of us all.”
Nealan looked at him. “You can see her?”
“Of course I can see her. You fall on your head getting out of your bunk this morning?”
“For a while there, I thought I had. Look, she’s coming down.”
They watched as the woman began to negotiate the rocks and scrub brush, coming toward them at a pace that wasn’t a run, but quickly covered the uneven ground nonetheless. The flimsy white robe conformed to her body as drapes of the fabric fluttered behind her to create an erotic portrait of desire in the desert.
The closer she came, the more clearly Nealan could see her lithe body through the wispy fabric. Her face, too, lost its anonymity behind the veil. Beautiful wasn’t the right word, because she had none of the plastic, bought-and-paid-for features that were too often the norm. Exotic was closer to the mark. Sensuous. Captivating.
And now he sounded even to himself like an infatuated schoolboy.
“Hot damn, let this be my fantasy come true,” Zeth said beside him. “I could really go for a damsel in distress right now, eager to show her appreciation to her handsome, virile rescuers.”
“Damsel in distress? What makes you say that? Apart from swinish stereotyping, that is.”
“Look at her gown,” Zeth said, nodding with his chin. Nealan heard the concern under his bond-brother’s flip words. “It’s all torn, dirty. And the headscarf is tied on her head, rather than draped. And for all that she moves like nothing short of an attacking whraken will slow her down, she’s limping.”
Nealan felt a sting of shame. He’d been so focused on the woman’s body he hadn’t noticed the state of her clothes or the hitch in her stride.
“We’ve got to help her. She must be in some kind of trouble.”
Zeth sighed deeply, obviously letting go of his grateful-female fantasy. “Yeah. I know.”
She’d almost reached them.
“I’ll get the medikit.” Nealan started to turn toward the rover, but stopped when he noticed the grungy utility belt strapped to her waist, a jarring note of practicality against the impractical feminine robe. Saw, too, what the belt held, aside from a provisions pouch of some kind—a wicked-looking blaster, which seemed to leap from its holster to her hand. She trained it on them without a flicker of hesitation. Her other hand held a short-bladed knife like she knew how to use it.
“What are you doing out here? Can’t you see the storm?” she demanded, her husky voice just loud enough to be heard over the wind, which had picked up significantly in the last few moments. She gestured at the sky, the bruised clouds now shot through with odd red streaks of trapped lightning. “It’s a screamer. You should be under cover.”
“We’ll be fine inside the rover,” Nealan answered, eyeing the blaster. “We’ve weathered a few sandstorms in it already and been just fine. Cramped, but fine. You’re welcome to join us if you need shelter, ma’am. No need for the weapons.”
She muttered something that sounded like, idiot offworlders. Gesturing sharply with her gun, she snapped, “I haven’t got time to be polite. Get in.”
“You’ve been polite up till now?” Zeth drawled.
Ignoring his comment, she said, “Anyone else in your party here? Tell me,” she barked when they exchanged a glance.
“Just us,” Nealan said.
“Thank the Mother for small favors. They say she looks out for idiots and small children.” She started forward, shoving the knife into a sheath on the belt. She didn’t put up the blaster. “Why are you still standing here? Get in the rover. If we’re lucky, we might have just enough time to find shelter before the screamer hits.”
Aware of the unwavering muzzle of the blaster pointed at him, Nealan asked, “And if we don’t?”
She didn’t answer.
The earthy musk of masculine sweat and sex made her nostrils flare. She nudged her leg over Neal’s. Her nerves tingled in reaction as his body hair tickled her inner thigh. His fingers twitched in her grasp and Zeth’s arm tightened around her waist.
She really should wake them. It must be close to dawn. They had to get moving before the suns rose too high, bringing the temperature up with them.
Releasing Nealan’s hand, she traced her fingers in the whorls of silky hair around his navel. Down the length of his body, she watched as his lovely cock began to harden. Still asleep, Nealan made a soft sound and spread his legs wider.
She recognized the liquid feeling radiating from her belly. It was something she’d become very familiar with over the past few days. She didn’t fight it.
Zeth’s body lost the laxness of sleep and she sensed him wake. He shifted his hips forward, fitting his growing erection against the valley between her buttocks. His hand moved up to cup her breast. Teasing her nipple between thumb and forefinger, he gently bit the nape of her neck. “Awake, shalla?” His voice sounded gravelly.
“Hmmm. Why do you call me that?” She angled her head to bare more of her neck. Obligingly, he feathered his lips over her skin until he found the spot he’d learned she loved to have nibbled and sucked. When he did just that, it felt exquisite. She shivered.
“Because. It’s what you are.”
He laughed softly. His fingers plucked her stiffening nipple.
Nealan stretched and yawned, then rolled to face them. The motion made her leg settle naturally over his hip. A smile lighting his heavy-lidded eyes, he stroked a palm along her thigh. “To Zeth and me you are. Shalla is the essence, the spirit of a thing. That’s what a bondmate is. Everything.”
Bondmate? That sounded serious, both the word and the way Nealan said it. The unease she felt whenever lovers tried to come too close tried to assert itself, but it had little power. That in itself was disturbing. She wondered when the zusha would ease to the point where the feel of their skin on hers wouldn’t weaken her will.
Nealan’s hand touched her waist. His lips moved over her face almost reverently, grazing her forehead, her eyes, her cheeks. His gentleness banished her unease. The tip of his tongue traced the seam of her lips. She cradled his jaw in her palm and opened her mouth. Their kiss was slow, luxurious, without the urgency that had so far ruled the three of them.
She feathered her fingers down his spine to his ass. Assessing his reaction, she scraped one nail in the furrow between his buttocks. He moaned and slanted his mouth over hers in a deeper kiss.
“That feels amazing,” Zeth whispered in her ear.
Denali probed between Neal’s ass cheeks until she found what she was looking for. She rubbed the tiny entrance and nudged the tip of her finger into his anus. Neal’s fingers clutched her waist so hard she felt his short nails prick her skin. His hot erection jerked against her belly in reflexive thrusts.
“Do you know what you’re doing to him?” Breathing raggedly, Zeth added, “To me?”
His teeth sank into her earlobe in a bite with the perfect edge of pain. Denali gasped into Neal’s mouth. He devoured the sound along with her kiss.
As Neal shoved his cock against her, Denali thrust her ass against Zeth. The feel of his moist, ragged breaths against her skin made her tremble.
She wished her other hand were free, instead of trapped under her. If it was, she could grab Zeth’s ass and yank him where she wanted him.
He seemed to understand.
He gripped her knee and shoved her leg higher up Neal’s waist. His fingers brushed past her throbbing clit, making her twitch, and plunged into her cunt. Roughly, he pumped his fingers in and out until she felt slippery wet. With an urgent sound, he rubbed his cock in her juices until it slid as easily against her as his fingers. Using his thumb, he tested her anus. When he set the tip of his cock against it, she sucked hard on Neal’s tongue.
Zeth began the slow push to drive his cock into the snug hole. Too aroused to care about the pain, Denali rubbed her breasts against Neal’s chest and tilted her ass into Zeth’s thrust. He let out a growl that increased in volume the deeper he sank into her. As soon as he was fully seated, he brought his hand back to her clit. Cupping it in his palm, he rubbed and squeezed until she began to rock against him, doing all the work of fucking his cock in her ass.
Denali didn’t mind. Letting Zeth take her in almost the same way she was teasing Neal sent fire racing through her veins. She wondered what kind of toys they’d like. If Neal would like it if she strapped on a dildo and really fucked his ass. She’d love to try.
“Goddess, shalla,” Zeth said on a groan. “You were made for this. For us. You’re perfect.”
She laughed huskily and dragged her open mouth down Neal’s throat. She pulled her finger from him and ran her nails lightly over his thigh. It took some manoeuvring, but she reached between them to finger his balls.
“Yes,” he said on a hissing sigh. “Fuck me, that feels so good, Denali. Please. Don’t stop.”
“No, don’t stop,” Zeth agreed. “I’m going to lose it.”
“No,” she said sharply, stopping the rocking motion along his cock. “Not yet.”