When Prince Jethain’s girl goes missing, the prince assumes she’s run, just like every other slave he’s ever freed. High Priest S’Rak thinks it’s strange that so many have run, so he goes to the City’s Hall of Records to perform some basic research. Little does he know that what he’ll find there is tied to the nightmare of his own past. Captain Jisten is once more confronted with his own fears.
Nothing has been resolved when the king and his court ride to hunt, and S’Rak and Jisten have little choice but to join the party, for they both know this to be a prime opportunity for an attack on the prince. Will Jisten be able to overcome his fears? Will S’Rak successfully foil a plot to slay not only the prince, but also the king?
Warning: this book contains a brief, non-graphic heterosexual scene.
Rak’s wings swept open in a single, swift motion.
A plethora of brilliantly colored mastigi came tumbling out of the folds, filling the air with the whirr of their wings, their rapid clicks and trilling cries. There were so many of them that both men were surrounded in a swirling swarm.
“Wings,” breathed Jisten, trying to look everywhere at once. “Lots and lots of wings.” He held his arms out and dozens of the lizards landed, clinging to his arms. More landed on his tunic, his pants, his head…anything they could grip.
A green mastigi alit on Jisten’s nose, peered into his right eye and clicked excitedly.
He laughed, and the movement made it fall off. It spread its little wings and flew up.
“How marvelous!” Jisten said. He brought his left forearm up to his face, to better inspect the tiny wings on all the occupants. The wing membranes were so thin, Jisten could see through them, and they brushed repeatedly against his face, soft as wisps of silk.
Rak laughed, covered with his own assortment. “There were less than two dozen with me when I arrived here. Now, there are over one hundred of them. I think they followed me. Mastigi can survive translation, you see.”
“The Valers would love them for pets,” Jisten said. “They would keep down the bug populations in their houses and gardens.”
“Suggest it to them. Make it sound like I am overwhelmed with the little pests and not that I am trying to be charitable.” Rak winked.
Jisten smiled again. “Ah, already you have beaten your head against the wall of my people’s pride?”
“I dared to suggest that I pay for ingredients,” said Rak.
“Oh, that went well, I’m sure,” Jisten said. He held his other arm full of mastigi to his other cheek.
They obligingly waved their wings.
Rak laughed. “If being glared at by four women is a victory, then, ai, it went well.” He sat on the larger couch and poured a vial of very light oil into a small bowl. He dipped a finger into the oil and then spread it on the nearest mastigi wing.
Jisten sat next to Rak and dipped his own finger in as well.
“Mastigi are always found in vranyxia packs,” said Rak absently as he oiled wing after wing.
“Why is that?” Jisten asked, absorbed in oiling tiny wings himself.
“They keep the vranyxia free of parasites. In exchange, the vranyxia protect them and let them ride on their spikes. We think that is why they can survive translation. They are just as willing to coexist with avtappi, of course.”
“Interesting, but it makes sense.” Jisten ran an oily finger down the edge of Rak’s wing. His grey eyes sparkled with mischief.
* * * *
Rak shivered with pleasure, his head turning to look at Jisten as the man ran the finger right back up the edge. Rak’s wings spread invitingly.
Jisten made swirls of oil on Rak’s near wing, causing the colors to reflect in different intensities.
Rak felt his interest stirring as Jisten’s hand swirled on his wing at different pressures.
Jisten individually outlined the violet edges of the diamonds sprayed across the scarlet sails.
Rak squirmed, stubbornly refusing to admit how erotic it was to him. He concentrated on oiling little wings. But even the mastigi seemed to be winking at him knowingly.
Jisten got up, only to sit on Rak’s other side. He first swirled the oil across the wing in mirror of the other then outlined the diamonds the same way.
Rak’s squirming became more pronounced. He started peeking at Jisten from the corner of his eye.
Jisten sat back and admired Rak’s wings with a goofy smile on his face.
Rak managed to cool off a little when Jisten stopped touching his wings. But he still cast a glance over his shoulder.
“What do you think, S’Rak? Do you like it?”
“Like what?” asked Rak stupidly.
“Like the oil pattern painting? It’s a decorative treatment. Swirls on the sails and the diamonds highlighted.”
Rak craned his neck and tilted a wing to see the back of it. “They look very nice,” he said, resisting the urge to add, now finish me before I scream with frustration.
“Just nice?” Jisten looked crestfallen.
“Jisten, my dear...I can barely see them. It is not easy to see the backs of my own wings without a mirror.”
Jisten leaned forward and breathed in Rak’s ear. “Love, how did it feel?”
“Intensely erotic,” admitted Rak at last.
Jisten gently tugged on Rak’s earlobe. “For me as well. Shall we?”
“I thought you would never ask,” said Rak, leaning back into Jisten.
“What do I finish first? You or your wings?” Jisten teased.
“Me,” said Rak. “Then the wings and then me again.”
Jisten’s baritone chuckle rumbled pleasantly through Rak. “Dismiss the mastigi and we’ll have at it.”
Rak concentrated on the mastigi, thinking about all the bugs that were to be found in the palace kennels. The mastigi lifted off in a swarm and streamed out the open window. He stood and offered Jisten his hand. “The bedroom,” he suggested. “After I see the backs of my wings in the mirror in the bathroom.”