I felt numb. Despite knowing what the letter would contain, the words hit me hard and I stared at the black shapes on the page until they no longer made sense as words.
“Kor? You in here?” I did not know how long I had been standing beside my desk when Ansen’s deep voice tugged at me, bringing me back to myself. He always did centre me.
“Come in.” I blinked, and looked over as the drapes were pushed aside and my friend entered. “You know you can just come in, I don’t mind. I thought you must have someone else with you to ask for entry like that.”
“I didn’t know if you were still getting changed.” His dark brown eyes twinkled at me and flashed with humour, and something else, for a moment, but it was an amusement I could not share this time.
“Oh.” I thought about what was behind my friend’s words, and a tremor ran through me. It was forbidden for anyone but the royal body-slaves, and my future consort, to see me unclothed—it was a crime punishable by death. Even my father and my sire had not seen me naked since I was a small child. It was why I rinsed off the sand in my tent rather than at the washing pool in the oasis with the other men. But then I wasn’t like the other men, was I? None of them would have to do what was expected of me. I tried to swallow the painful lump in my throat.
“What’s that?” Ansen was looking at the letter still clutched in my hand.
“My…my father…I…” I thrust the letter at Ansen, for him to read it himself, and stood back when he took it, waiting for my friend’s look of pity. It didn’t come. Ansen’s darkly handsome features tightened with anger and something I could swear was pain. I watched in puzzlement while Ansen took a few deep breaths, his shoulders rigid, and fists and jaw both tightly clenched. The letter fluttered to the floor.
“What are you going to do?”
“What else can I do?” I asked helplessly. “I am going to pack my things up and we will all have to return.”
“You are going to go home.”
“That place was never home, Ansen, you know that.” Did he not understand how I felt about the palace? I had thought he did.
“But you’re going back there anyway.” There was a bitter note in Ansen’s voice and he would not look me in the eye.
“I don’t have any other choice.” I all but shouted, suddenly snapping. I flung my arms out wide to either side of me. “You think I want this? You think I want to go back there and pick some random stranger. Then have them…” Words failed me and I shuddered, my arms falling again. I turned away, choking back a sob. “What else can I do?” I repeated, my voice reduced to a whisper. I wished so badly that he could give me an answer to my question.
There was a movement behind me and Ansen came up close and grasped me by the shoulders. “I’m sorry.”
Despite the heat of the day, I had turned unaccountably cold on reading my father’s words, but warmth seeped back into me from the closeness of Ansen’s larger frame and heat radiated through the thin material of my top where his hands held me. I leaned back, unconsciously seeking his comfort and warmth. His hands were gentle and his thumbs rubbed slow circles on the back of both shoulders. It felt good. Strangely, my cock began to fill as Ansen’s familiar scent washed over me and my breath quickened. What the hell? Why was I getting hard? I stayed where I was for a brief moment, confused, but then I realised how closely we were standing and I jerked away from Ansen in shock.
“Kor…” Ansen’s voice was husky, low, and sounded pleading as I spun to face him again. He never looked at me like that before. What does he want from me?
I did not understand what was going on. My body felt loose-limbed and heavy, but I was awkward and clumsy in it, my usual grace having deserted me. Ansen took a single step toward me, but I was still confused. I backed away, scared, and he stopped. He looked as though he had lost something important and turned away, moving toward the drapes at the entrance to my tent.
“I will bring your meal when it is ready.” He sounded hurt.
What had just happened? I wanted to ask him, but before I could find the words he had already left.
As usual, he beat me. I smirked at him and removed my top before replacing the pieces back in their troughs and setting up for another game.
He was distracted this time and I beat him.
“I win!” I shouted in glee. I could be a graceful looser, but I was a rather smug winner and I grinned at him. “Take your top off.”
“Because I won.”
“We are playing for pieces of clothing?” One of his eyebrows quirked at me.
“Yup. Take it off!” I wanted to see his chest.
“Does it have to be my top?”
“Any piece of clothing.” I still thought he would remove his top. I was wrong. He stood and shimmied out of his trousers, working them off over his boots. That’s just not fair. His cock was half-hard and hung heavily between his thighs. I was not going to be able to concentrate on the next game at all.
He sat back down and then cleared his throat. I jerked my eyes away, a blush staining my cheeks when I realised I was staring. He was the one smirking at me now. Not fair.
By the time this game was halfway over, he was fully hard, and I could not tear my eyes away. I was also rock hard, but covered by my tenting trousers. I was only sparing the game enough attention to be aware that he was soundly beating me. We sat cross-legged, across the board from each other. He leaned forward, resting the weight of his upper body on his forearms on his knees. After his next move, his hands dangled down into his lap and partially obstructed my view.
“Hmmm? Oh, right.” Looking at the board, I had no clue what my strategy was supposed to be, and frankly, I didn’t care anymore. Bending over, as if to look closer and decide on my move, I reached out a hand and, now looking at him, slowly pushed the board from where it sat between us in the opposite direction from the fire. His gaze followed the board, watching as the pieces slid around on the surface and a couple fell off, before sweeping back to me as I crawled toward him.
My man. I was feeling very territorial right now. He was gorgeous, and he was all mine. I had to suppress an urge to growl. I paused, in front of him, and put one hand on his chest so I could push him backward to lie flat on the cushions.
“Mmmm…Mine.” So I failed at the whole suppressing the urge to growl thing, because I had growled right after I said that. He stared up at me with those big, dark eyes which I loved so much, twinkling.
“All yours. What are you going to do with me?”
“First, I’m going to get rid of this.” I pushed his top up, exposing his ridged stomach, his muscled chest, and the flat discs of his dusky brown nipples. He arched his back up and away from the floor, pulling the top off over his head. It mussed his hair, leaving it looking tufty and cute, like he just got out of bed rather than before he had even got there.
I ran my tongue up the dip which separated the ridges of his stomach muscles. I think he liked it. I could taste his sweat, salty, and all Ansen. I suckled at a spot over his rib cage which I knew was particularly sensitive and he inhaled sharply.
“Kor!” I felt a sharp stab of desire low in my belly and my cock flexed in my trousers at the way he said my name. As much as I loved the way it felt to be inside him—and we would most definitely be doing that again—I needed to have him inside me this time. Moving farther up his body, I lowered mine bit by bit as I went until we were face-to-face and there was no space between our bodies. He reached up and his hands sank into my hair, pulling it back from both sides of my face.
He must have been able to read something in my expression because he asked, “What do you need, baby?”
“Make love to me?”
Ansen smiled and pulled my head down to meet his. He kissed me softly and slowly, drugging my senses with his taste and the feel of his lips and tongue sliding against mine. He rolled us over, coming to rest on top of me. I loved the weight of him, the solid, heavy feel of his muscular body pressing me down into the cushions and…something sharp digging into my back. Ow. I removed one hand from Ansen’s shoulder and arched up away from whatever was digging into me so I could find it with my hand. There it was. I peered at it out of the corner of one eye. Ah. A playing piece from the kang game. I tossed it aside, already forgotten, my hands both back on Ansen’s strong body.
The rub of our hard shafts against each other, through the trousers I still wore, was exquisite, but I wanted to feel skin on skin. My legs curled around his hips and I humped up against him in frustration. Ansen must have felt the same way, because he pulled away from me, leaving me gasping for air. He unwrapped my legs from his body and quickly yanked the material down them and off. Then he was back, and gods, that was good! My arms and legs were wrapped around him as we rutted against each other, but he filled my world.
Ansen ran a hand down my side—it tickled a bit, but not enough to make me flinch away—and down to my hip. He tried to pull me closer, harder, against him, but I could not be any closer until he was inside me. I wanted that so badly.