After centuries of isolation, Saint has returned to reclaim what is his…
Saint, a Thresl of unimaginable power, has spent centuries trapped beneath rubble. Now free, he is determined to claim both his throne and his mate. Anyone who stands in his way will be annihilated.
Marsley Jacks is unsure if he wants to be the mate of a ruthless Thresl. After spending most of his life protecting the shifters, he’s unsure if allowing a power-hungry Thresl take over is the best thing for the species.
Two men with opposing views—will they come together in time to save their people?
Mars’s jaw dropped open as he examined the man sprawled across his bed. He thought he’d seen just about everything during his space travels, but the male perfection lying on his covers hit all his hot points. Of course if this were Saint, he’d been created just for him. Mars’s chest ached, and he struggled to gather more breath in his lungs before speaking. Had the engineer turned the oxygen off?
“Who are you?” He knew this must be Saint, the Thresl everyone had warned him about, but that didn’t stop him from hoping he’d been mistaken. Maybe this sexy intruder was a stowaway passenger, planning to seduce Mars in order to stay aboard. It had happened once or twice in the past.
“You can call me Saint or mate,” Saint drawled as he slid off the bed. “Or yours.”
Saint’s predatory gait sent shivers of need down Mars’s spine. His cock hardened at the sight of all that exposed flesh while his mind flashed images of all the things he could do with this gorgeous man. Some ideas required a flexibility Mars wasn’t sure he’d ever possessed, but he’d damn sure like to try. The visual overload almost distracted him enough to miss the words.
The Thresl stepped closer, and the scent of musky need and wildflowers swamped Mars’s senses. When had wildflowers become sexy? Mars didn’t know, but damn if he wouldn’t have pounced right then if Saint hadn’t used the “m” word. Mars couldn’t be anyone’s mate. The responsibility of dragging another person into his world wasn’t one he’d place on anyone. Mars didn’t have relationships; he had encounters with men he’d never see again.
Still, every inch of his body yearned for Saint. His mouth watered at the thought of sucking the thick erection bobbing toward him as if offering him a taste. If he had a drop more Thresl blood, Mars knew his canines would’ve descended with the urge to bite and claim the man before him. Fortunately at only a quarter Thresl, he didn’t have the physical markings. The only sign of Thresl blood he had were his golden eyes, easily hidden when he went to extract kidnapped Thresls.
The sheer size of Saint surprised him. Mars almost always chose lovers smaller than him. If Saint epitomized Mars’s perfect man, then he’d been picking the wrong type for years. The man strutting toward him surpassed Mars in both breadth and height.
“Listen, it’s been a long day. All I want is my bed.” He purposely blocked out the ideas that immediately came to mind about what he could do in that bed with the stunning creature before him.
Saint grinned. His gold eyes flared with lust. “What a coincidence, that’s what I want too.”
“Somehow I don’t think you mean to sleep.” Mars took a step backward. He needed to escape the pheromones pouring off Saint before he gave in and jumped a stranger. His muscles trembled from the effort of resisting the urge to step forward.
“Why waste a perfectly good bed for sleeping?” Saint’s voice dipped to a low purr. The sound rolled through Mars like a phantom caress. Damn, he wouldn’t be able to fight this temptation for long. Mars tended to take what pleasure he could find when he found it. Not accepting such a blatant offering went against his nature. However, if Mars gave in to Saint’s appeal just once, he would be biologically bonded with the Thresl forever.
Determined to avoid that fate, Mars kept stepping back until he stood outside his suite. He didn’t take another breath until the door closed between them. The second the latch clicked shut, Mars sucked oxygen into his deprived lungs, relieved to breathe air free of Saint’s siren-like hormones.
Mars checked both ways down the hall, but the space remained deserted. Most of his crew were either working or had gone to their own beds. He needed to find a place to crash that didn’t include a sexy man sharing his space.
“That’s something I never thought I would want.” Mars shook his head at the strangeness of his life.
What had he gotten himself into now? With his life’s mission set to destroying the ring of Thresl smugglers and making the universe safer for Thresl-kind, Mars didn’t have time to deal with a romantic life.
Randomly he chose to go left. He quickly headed down the corridor before Saint decided to follow him. He’d find somewhere else to sleep for the night. After a long day, he didn’t have the energy to deal with anyone claiming to be his mate.
Mars froze in his tracks. Damn. Why couldn’t he have just one minute alone? Being the captain never gave him enough time for a proper panic attack.
Mars’s newest crew member, Daniel Garin, ran down the hall to meet him.
“Hello, Daniel, what can I do for you?” He tried to keep the impatience out of his voice, but when Daniel looked everywhere but directly at him, he figured he must’ve failed.
“Um, Captain. I just wanted to thank you for taking me on. I mean after…” Daniel trailed off.
“After you foolishly wandered off from your work group and got the shit beat out of you? No problem. At least you’re healing up nicely.” The brutal bruises that had covered Daniel’s face when Mars first rescued him were almost gone. Only faint traces of the violence remained.
Daniel blushed. “Yeah, that. I can’t say I miss building substandard housing for asshole miners. I should never have believed those recruiting work posters. That was a hellhole for sure. I really appreciate you rescuing me from both situations.”
“Like I said, no problem. Besides, Grub said you’re doing an amazing job.” Mars patted Daniel on the back. Truthfully, the head mechanic had grunted and said Daniel hadn’t set anything on fire, but for Grub, that was high praise.
Daniel ran a hand through his thick black hair and blinked up at Mars through his long lashes. “I-I just wanted you to know if there was anything, anything at all I could do for you to just let me know.”
Mars froze. He’d known the kid found him attractive, but he hadn’t thought Daniel had the guts to proposition him. His father would’ve said the stars were aligned, but Mars figured the galaxy was just fucking with him. Why else would two guys, who he couldn’t have, hit on him in one evening? Mars never messed around with a crew member; that was bad karma waiting to kick him in the ass.
With all the stress of the day, a small pain began to stab in the back of Mars’s neck. The slight warning of an impending migraine making itself known and alerting Mars he needed to find a dark room and lie down.
“I appreciate the offer, Daniel, but right now, I just need a good mechanic’s assistant.” If he weren’t a member of Mars’s crew, he would have been all over Daniel. The young man had a slim build and the kind of mouth any healthy gay male would dream about. Right then, Mars just wanted a pillow and a horizontal spot to sleep, preferably without a predatory Thresl hunting him down.
Daniel slid one finger down Mars’s chest. “I was thinking something more personal. A man like you needs someone to help you take the edge off of your stress. I’ve seen how hard you work around here.”
A roar echoed down the hall. Mars’s blood chilled at the sound. Before he could yell at Daniel to run, an enormous black Thresl cat slammed into Daniel, knocking him three feet down the corridor.
“Saint!” Mars shouted.
He had no question about the identity of the large beast. Saint’s front feet were planted in the middle of Daniel’s chest, his paws so large they covered a good portion of Daniel’s breastbone. Low growling rolled out of the Thresl as if he couldn’t decide whether to bite or rip Daniel apart with his claws.
“Mine!” Saint snarled. His angry tone echoed in Mars’s head, pushing his tentative headache into stomach-churning, light piercing migraine reality. Mars blinked, trying to clear the moisture pooling in his eyes from the intense bright bulbs overhead. The world sparkled around the edges of his vision.
“I was turning him down. Let the kid go!” Mars’s voice lacked any force as he tried to keep his dinner from spewing across the tile. He knew he should’ve rested before this. Planetary weather changes and stress were the perfect formula for one of his migraines.
“Return to your room and I’ll release him.” Saint didn’t move a paw off of Daniel as he waited to see if Mars would follow his orders.
“Fine, I’ll go back to my room.” Mars turned, then stumbled as the world spun around him. He reached out his right hand to steady himself, relieved when his fingers found the wall. He splayed his fingers wide, hoping to stop his inevitable visit to the hard floor.
“What’s wrong?” Saint wrapped a strong arm around Mars and pulled him close. Heat from the naked man sank into Mars’s body. He hated to give the pushy Thresl any credit, but Saint’s hold soothed him.
“Migraine,” Mars whispered. Anything louder and his head would explode. No doubt bits of his brain decorating the hall would demoralize the crew. “I need to lie down.”
“I should’ve known. You’ve always gotten those.” Saint continued to walk them in slow steady steps down the corridor.
Mars would’ve pursued Saint’s strange words, but stringing a long chain of syllables together challenged his current level of clarity.
“Almost there.” Mars wondered when the predatory beast had morphed into a fairly competent mother hen.
The soft sound of his door opening was bliss to his ears. He ignored the fact he’d been seeking another place to rest. He needed a soft surface. He needed it now.
“Lights down,” Saint ordered before Mars could utter a word.
He would’ve argued about the Thresl taking control, but he didn’t have the energy to fight. He allowed Saint to remove Mars’s shirt and pants without complaint. Like a doll, Mars let Saint manhandled him until he was tucked under the covers and his head nestled against his favorite pillow.
Saint stroked Mars’s hair in a comforting touch. “No problem.”
He almost jolted when Saint slid in beside him, completely naked. In his foggy pain, he’d forgotten about Saint’s determination to claim Mars as his mate.
He muttered a soft sound of protest, but he didn’t put much force into it. After all, real arguing took energy and verve he didn’t have.
“Shh, you can fight with me later.”
“Promise?” His eyelids were already dropping down to touch his cheeks. The magical promise of sleep whispered its sweet spell over him.
“Absolutely. Get some rest now. I’ll still be here tomorrow.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of. I don’t have time for a mate.” He didn’t have the time or the energy or the bravery to offer his heart to someone. He’d only given his heart once, and when it had shattered, the pieces never quite went back together correctly.
“You don’t need to worry about me,” Saint whispered in his ear. “I can take care of the time management for both of us.”
Mars didn’t bother to correct Saint. He’d learn soon enough that Mars had too many things taking up his energy. Thoughts and worries evaporated as Mars let sleep pull him from his troubles and into comforting darkness.Mars sat up straight, his heart racing. It took several minutes for him to catch his breath and the nightmare lost its horrifying grip on his waking mind. He couldn’t remember the details, but emotions still chased him into wakefulness. A couple more minutes passed before he realized someone was rubbing his back. He turned his head and met the golden gaze of his Thresl visitor.
“Good Morning, Saint.” The words were soft, but he got them out. Migraines always left him with a dry throat and foggy senses like the night after a bender.
“How can you tell it’s morning?” Saint’s generous mouth tilted up on one side.
“What do you mean?” Maybe it was the aftereffects of the headache, but Saint wasn’t making any sense.
“You’re in space. Why does it matter if it’s day or night? It’s like when I was trapped in the castle. Time has no meaning when you know you can exist forever.”
The soft despair in Saint’s voice had Mars sympathizing with him a little more. Maybe it wasn’t that Mars was Saint’s mate, maybe the man was just lonely. A person couldn’t be blamed for wanting a bit of companionship after years of isolation.
“What are you going to do now that you’re free?” Mars knew if he’d just escaped being buried alive, he’d want to explore the galaxy for a few centuries before picking out a new home.
He’d heard the story of Saint’s escape from Vohne before Mars had left Nillre. He’d pumped them for information when they’d claimed Saint was hunting him. The king didn’t have a lot of details about the powerful Thresl except that he was Vohne’s uncle and had been betrayed by Vohne’s father. Mars suspected the old king had been a monumental asshole, but Vohne didn’t say anything about his father except to state the facts.
Power rolled off of Saint, and a faint hum of electricity danced across the Thresl’s skin and tickled across Mars’s body.
“What are you doing?” Mars frowned at the odd snapping crackle across his chest.
“You asked what I wanted to do?” A mischievous expression crossed Saint’s face.
“You want to zap me like a bug?”
Saint laughed. “No. I want to share my power with you.”
“Thanks.” Maybe if he scooted slowly out of bed and made a run for it, Saint would give up and leave.
“No.” Saint placed a firm hand on Mars’s shoulder.
“No what?” He tried for innocent. From Saint’s expression, it worked as well as usual, which meant not at all.
“You can’t escape me. You’re mine. You were mine before, and you were meant to be mine again. “
“What are you talking about?”
Maybe that castle stay had damaged Saint’s brain. The royals had admitted they questioned Saint’s mental fitness. He had asked, but apparently neither Kres nor Vohne planned to interfere with Saint’s pursuit of Mars. They said it was a matter between mates. Apparently, one mate possibly being insane didn’t warrant intervention. Mars would be certain to send them a thank-you message if he got out of here unscathed.
“Vohne wasn’t the first and only king to have his mate reincarnate. I was the original true king, but my brother killed my mate, buried me, and cut me out of the loop. The fates had to fill the void my absence caused. That’s why Vohne is king now. If I had been able to take my true place as king, Vohne would never have come into that power.”
Mars frowned. This could go bad real fast. Mars had grown fond of Vohne and his way of ruling. The Thresl king took the responsibility of his people to heart. As far as Mars was concerned, no one worked harder for the good of his people than Vohne. Whether Saint would do the same, he had no idea.
“What do you plan to do? Vohne didn’t say anything about handing over his reign.”
“He doesn’t know I was to be the previous ruler before his father stole my position.” Saint’s neutral tone didn’t reassure Mars.
“Are you going to tell him?” Mars cautiously felt his way around the conversation. He needed to warn Vohne if Saint planned a coup. Saint might claim to be Mars’s mate, but that didn’t make him a good guy.
Saint shrugged. “Why? He does a competent job. It isn’t his fault that Thresls are being smuggled. I’ve been pleased with his rule so far.”
“Do you plan to take the throne?” What would he do if Saint said yes? Mars had worked long hours and wasted thousands of dollars to support the Thresl and get them back where they needed to go, recently with King Vohne’s help. If Saint ruined all Mars’s work, he’d kill him.
“I’m not going to ruin anything.” Saint frowned at Mars.
Wait. He hadn’t said that out loud. “Stop reading my mind!”
Saint grinned. “But it’s so interesting in there. How else would I know that you think I’m unhinged?”
“You’ll just have to guess what I’m thinking like everyone else. I like to be alone in my head.” The gods knew it was the only place he got any peace. Not to mention the thought of someone slipping in and out of his mind unnerved him.
“Too bad. I have a feeling if I waited for you to tell me what you’re thinking, I’d be in my third reincarnation before you decided to share.”
“Did you ever go through a first?” If Saint had been trapped all these years without contact, Mars wondered if he’d ever had a chance to reincarnate.
“No. Since I never died, I’ve remained the same.”
“Then how do you know you’re the true king?” Mars leaned back. He hadn’t been aware of how close he’d scooted to Saint.
“Like Vohne, I was born with the collective knowledge of my people. Also, when my mate died, he was reincarnated. You were reincarnated.” Saint cupped Mars’s cheeks between his palms. “How lonely you must’ve been all those times you came back and failed to find me.”
Mars scooted out of reach. Luckily, he had a large bed and there were still a few inches to spare.
“How do you know I’m your mate?” Maybe Saint had made a mistake?
Saint shrugged. “Some things I just know. A true king can find his mate across any galaxy.”
“Did Kres go through the same thing?” If Kres went through this possessive shit, then the king-mate was one cool customer.
“He did, but he seems to handle everything as it comes.” The admiration in Saint’s voice twisted something in Mars’s chest. Surely he couldn’t be jealous?
Mars shrugged it off. “I guess that’s why he’s the king-mate instead of me.”
Saint growled. “For now. I might not be currently the ruling king, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a king. I led a world before Vohne was pushed out between his mother’s thighs.”
“There’s an image I didn’t need in my head.” Mars wrinkled his nose.
“Speaking of heads.” Saint tilted Mars’s chin up and examined his eyes. “You look much better.”
“I’m glad you think so.” Mars swallowed the sudden lump of tension in his throat. Saint’s gold eyes gleamed with satisfaction.
“I’m sure there are plenty of other things I could be happy about,” Saint purred at him.
Mars tilted his head. “I’m not sure if I should find that sexy or scratch you behind the ears.”
Saint laughed. “You could do both. I like to be petted. I bet you have enough Thresl blood that you like a good petting too.”
Mars sucked in a breath when Saint cupped his crotch. Only a thin layer of cloth rested between Saint’s hand and Mars’s quickly hardening erection. “Not shy, are you?”
“Tell me to stop and I will. I have no interest in unwilling men—mate or not.”
“Will you go away?” Mars ignored the twinge of anxiety that thought gave him.
“Never. I am here to stay. I might not want anyone unwilling, but I am more than happy to expend energy to change your mind.”
“You think we’re fated mates like Kres and Vohne?”
“I know we are.”
“I’ve never read any history about you.” When Mars began studying the background and culture of the Thresl to learn about the possible players, he read nothing about King Gerin having any siblings.
Saint laughed, a sound with little mirth. “Haven’t you heard the saying that history is written by the victors? In this case, the winner didn’t just downplay my role, he wrote me out altogether. After all, if he didn’t mention me, why would anyone come looking for me? Gerin erased my entire existence.”
The betrayal must’ve caused more pain than anything else. “That’s horrible.”
“Yes, it was.” Saint pressed his body against Mars until they lay completely horizontal. Mars basked in Saint’s body heat for a moment before speaking.
“I’m sorry you were buried alive.” When all was said and done, that was exactly what happened to Saint. His own flesh and blood had buried him in that castle. “Why didn’t he kill you?”
“Because then I would come back and take the throne away. He had to immobilize me so I couldn’t rise again. If he merely killed me, he would have to fight me again. I’m not sure how he knew killing you wouldn’t kill me off. I think he hoped it would drive me insane enough to not be aware of my fate.”
“If you knew you were going to come back, why not kill yourself?” It sounded horrible, but Mars had a practical streak. He would’ve slit his own wrists, then returned the favor to the king when he found him again.
Saint growled. “Because then he would’ve won. He didn’t deserve my sacrifice. I had faith eventually I would be free with all my memories intact. I had thought Gerin would still be around to exact my revenge on, though.”
“I don’t know if I would’ve been so strong.” Some days, Mars barely had enough hope to make it through an entire cycle. He couldn’t even fathom centuries of loneliness.
“I knew I would be reunited with my love. It took me some effort to find you, but you are exactly like I dreamt.”
“Am I like the person I was before?” Mars licked his dry lips. “I mean, do I look like him?” He had to admit some curiosity about his previous life. How many people were able to come back and discuss their other selves?
Saint tilted his head as he examined Mars carefully. “A bit. You were part Thresl then too. Not quite as physically large, but you smell the same. I spent years wrapped around your pillow.”
The image of Saint all alone with only Mars’s scent to keep him company broke some of his resistance. How could he turn away a man determined to be his? If Saint spoke the truth, Mars had been born again just to be with him. He couldn’t ignore his destiny no matter how much he might like to.
Mars gave in to temptation. Threading his fingers through Saint’s hair, he pulled the Thresl closer. “Let’s see if I taste the same.”
Saint allowed Mars to pull him down. If the powerful Thresl didn’t wish to be kissed, Mars knew it wouldn’t happen.
“I’ve waited centuries for you,” Saint whispered against Mars’s lips. “And I would do it all again.”
Mars didn’t get the chance to respond. Saint pressed his mouth hard against Mars’s, and all thoughts vanished like mist on a sunny day.
“Mmm.” Words weren’t possible during the duel of tongues, teeth, and lips. Mars knew ultimately he would lose the war, but the battle would be worth a few bruises.
Saint swiped his tongue across Mars’s, giving him a taste of the Saint’s decadent flavor. Addictive. He tightened his grip. Saint pulled away.
“What?” Mars stared at Saint, confused. Weren’t they both heading toward the same goal? “What are you playing at?”
Saint grabbed Mars’s wrists and pinned them above his head. “I’ll be in charge.”
Mars wrapped his legs around Saint and rolled them. “What makes you think that?”
He bit Saint’s bottom lip, then tugged at it. Saint’s spicy taste exploded in his mouth, awakening a feral need to possess. This man. This Thresl was his.
A growl rumbled up his throat. Startled by the animalistic sound, Mars jerked back.
“Hey, easy.” Saint rolled them, putting Mars on the bottom again.
“What’s happening?” His skin ached as if his body were too big to contain it.
“Your Thresl blood is calling to me.” Saint grinned as if Mars had just given him the best present ever.
“It hurts.” Even his bones ached as if he had damaged them somehow.
“Give in,” Saint whispered against Mars’s mouth.
“Your inner cat.”
“I don’t have an inner cat. I’m quarter Thresl. My grandfather was Thresl, my mother couldn’t shift, and I barely feel my animal at all.” The idea of Mars having a hidden cat would’ve made him laugh if his entire body didn’t ache.
“You can, though,” Saint argued. “You have more Thresl in you than last time and a stronger will. I have no doubt your cat is only waiting for the right time to emerge.”
Mars wiggled beneath Saint, not trying to get away but unable to fight the need to move. Sounds came out of him, noises he didn’t recognize.
“Shh, it’ll be all right, just surrender,” Saint whispered, his voice filled with dark promises.
“No,” Mars gasped. Sweat beaded on his skin as heat surged across his body until he began shaking from the burning, almost feverish blast. “Let me go.”
He had to run. He curled his fingers over his palms. Tiny sharp needles pricked his flesh. Surprised, he lifted his hands, then shouted. “What’s happening to me?”
“Hey, shh, it will be all right.”
“I have claws!” Nothing could be right about that. “Why do I have claws?”
Panic rattled his usual calm demeanor. He didn’t understand his body anymore. It was as if a parasite he didn’t know he had was trying to claw its way out.
“Because your cat wants to come out and see me.” Saint’s explanation, delivered in a calm, off-handed tone almost soothed Mars out of his burgeoning hysteria.
“Well, it can’t!”
“Why not?” Saint asked in that same infuriatingly reasonable tone.
“Because I don’t have an inner cat!” Why wasn’t logic playing a part in this conversation? Mars began to hyperventilate. His crew would laugh if they saw their leader panicking, but he couldn’t seem to stop.
Saint kissed the corner of Mars’s mouth. “It’ll be fine. I have enough cat for both of us. I will get you through this. Take slow, deep breaths.”
“Okay. Fine.” Mars followed Saint’s lead and took several long intakes of air. The weird prickling in his fingertips faded, and his fingers lost their odd feel. Mars sighed, glad that his hands had turned back to normal. Saint’s hot breath against his neck distracted him again. “You’re good at that.”
“Good. You don’t need to think of anything but me.”
“It’s kind of hard to when you’re crushing me.”
Saint’s kiss sucked the remaining air out of Mars’s lungs. He might have been teasing about the crushing, but he couldn’t resist the beautiful man’s mouth. Saint melted him and made his usual resolve fade away. Giving in to the self-assured Thresl could be the biggest mistake Mars had ever made, but he didn’t have the strength to resist. Touching Saint soothed Mars’s restless spirit as if his soul had been waiting for Saint this entire time.
Moaning his surrender, Mars relaxed beneath Saint. In response to Mars’s submission, Saint’s grip tightened as if he were worried Mars might change his mind and flee at any moment.
The word slid across Mars’s mind. It took a moment to realize it was Saint’s voice since it coincided with Mars’s thoughts exactly.
Mars jerked back. “How can you talk to me telepathically? I thought only bonded Thresls could. Wait, you did that earlier when you attacked Daniel. What happened to Daniel?” With the migraine befuddling his brain, Mars didn’t remember much about what happened to his crew member.
“He’s fine. I let him go. He won’t be hitting on you anymore.”
Mars opened his mouth to follow up on his questioning. Saint must have had other ideas because he didn’t give Mars time to talk. Instead, he slid his tongue inside Mars’s mouth and proceeded to melt his brain. Groaning, Mars clenched Saint’s shoulders. With a strong heave, he flipped them back over until he covered Saint again.
“I prefer you answer my question.”
“Do you know your eyes flare a pretty gold when you’re frustrated? Do they do that when you’re passionate also?”
Mars growled. “Can you focus?”
“Oh I am extremely focused,” Saint protested. “You have all my attention. Yes, most people can only talk telepathically if they are bonded. I, however, have stronger powers than other Thresls and can do many more things. Most people don’t have centuries to do nothing but concentrate on their abilities. Don’t worry about what I can do that others can’t. Worry about what I’m going to do to you.
Mars frowned. “Are you going to do something weird?”
What had he gotten himself into? He should’ve run harder when he saw the gorgeous man on his bed. One day, he would stop letting his curiosity get the better of him. Dipping down to kiss Saint’s tempting mouth, he knew his tendency to tumble into temptation wouldn’t be ending today.
“Where’s your lube?” Saint asked against Mars’s lips.
“Drawer. Isn’t that where everyone hides it?”
Saint nipped at Mars’s neck. “I don’t want to assume you are like everyone else.”
“Good.” Mars smiled with satisfaction. “Then you should know I’m going to top.”
Saint’s low rolling purr took Mars by surprise. “Excellent. I like to switch as long as you know I’m in charge of our relationship.”
“Really?” Mars raised his eyebrows. He would’ve put money down that Saint would insist on topping.
“I might be a bossy bastard, but I don’t always have to be in control. I enjoy receiving if I have the right partner.”
The idea of Saint ever taking another lover had Mars clenching his fists. He didn’t realize the strength of his own distress until the bits of claw emerged from his fingers again.
“Ahh, I have to stop doing that.” He refused to turn into a freakish cat man. “I’ve never heard of anyone only doing a half transformation, have you?”
He needed reassurance. If he expected it from Saint, it only proved he’d completely lost his fucking mind.
Saint grinned. “You are one of a kind. Maybe because I’ve grown so strong, my powers have spread to you. We won’t know the affect I might have on your Thresl blood until we’ve spent more time together. Until then, we will have to enjoy the wonder of your abilities as they emerge.”
Although he knew Saint meant that as something to look forward to, it failed to reassure Mars.
Saint slapped a bottle against Mars’s palm. He stared at the container for a long moment before twisting off the lid. His mind spun with all the implications mating with Saint involved. Still, he couldn’t deny the man before him. Anyone willing to wait centuries then hunt him across the galaxy deserved a chance.
“Do you want me to prepare you?” His mind couldn’t form enough function to make independent decisions. The idea of Saint not only bottoming but letting Mars take charge had frazzled his brain.
Saint laughed. “You didn’t used to be so easily thrown, my mate.”
“Maybe I’m not the man you think I am.” Mars shoved the lubricant back at Saint and slid off the bed. He only got two steps away before Saint grabbed him from behind and tossed him back down.
“You are the touchiest man I’ve ever met,” Saint grumbled. “That’s it, I’m going to bottom from the top.”
Mars’s mouth dropped open when the big Thresl settled a leg on either side of Mars and pinned him down. “Any complaints, or can I do with you what I will?”
Mars cleared his throat, trying to gather enough moisture to talk. “Feel free.”
“Excellent.” Saint’s animalistic purr paired with the need in his glowing eyes almost had Mars shooting before he even entered Saint.
“Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not ever doing this in my cat form.”
“Eww.” Mars bucked to unseat Saint. “I’d never want you to do that.”
Saint shrugged. “Just checking. You do seem to like it when I purr.”
“I thought we were supposed to be soul mates?” Surely that depended on them being sexually compatible.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t have a freaky side.”
Mars laughed. He couldn’t help it. Just when he thought he had Saint figured out, he changed. If they were truly mates, at least their life would never be dull. It remained to be seen if this was a good thing or not.
Saint slicked up Mars’s cock, then prepped his own ass in a carnal display that almost ended everything before it began. The sexy sight of Saint’s fingers disappearing into his body had Mars biting his lip.
“That is so hot,” he whispered. Unable to resist, he traced Saint’s path with his own fingers, relishing the intimate contact with another person.
Being captain of his own ship had certain responsibilities, and one of those was: Mars never had sex with people who didn’t know the score. Saint’s declaration of mates notwithstanding, most didn’t want to keep Mars either. He had released Zander for his own good, but it had hurt nonetheless.
“It’s been a while.” He didn’t know why he felt the need to share that information, but it made Saint smile—a feral flashing of teeth rather than a sign of joy.
“If we were to compare, I bet I’d win the dry spell,” Saint declared.
“I bet you would.” Saint had been buried for centuries. Hell, even a pity fuck at this point would probably be acceptable. Mars might not be certain of his feelings toward the bossy Thresl, but pity wasn’t one of them.
His ability to think vanished when Saint lined up Mars’s cock with his hole and sank down to the hilt until his ass cheeks met Mars’s groin. Heat engulfed Mars’s erection. He bit his lip and held back a shout, not wanting to deafen his partner.
“Oh fuck,” Mars whispered. Saint was tight, hot, and perfect.
“Yes, fuck me,” Saint agreed. He lifted up a bit, then lowered again on Mars’s cock. After a few, cautious ups and downs, Saint established an eye-crossing rhythm. Mars gripped the sheets until his knuckles whitened. He tried to stay still and let Saint set the pace. He wouldn’t hurt Saint for the world. His hips had other ideas. He involuntarily jerked and pushed deeper inside Saint.
“Sorry.” Mars clenched his teeth, struggling to hold in the noises aching to burst out. He’d never been a noisy lover. He wouldn’t start babbling with the one man who could mean everything to him.
“I’m not. Do it again,” Saint urged.
Mars released the sheets and wrapped his hands around Saint’s hips instead. “May I take charge?”
Mars rolled them carefully, keeping Saint on his back so he could watch the Thresl’s expressions. If Mars caused any discomfort, he wished to see it on Saint’s face. He knew he would have to be the one to draw limits. Saint had waited too long to find Mars again.
“You’re gorgeous.” Mars punctuated each word with a snap of his hips until finally he abandoned words and concentrated on communicating with his body. Words had never been his strong point anyway. He expressed himself better with action.
“I am yours, as you are mine.” Saint’s words sounded uncomfortably like a vow.
They might be mates, but the idea still spun Mars’s whole world dizzily about. Intent on changing Saint’s focus, he slid his hand down and cupped Saint’s balls, rolling them gently in his hands.
Saint hissed. His head went back, exposing his neck.
Mars’s mouth watered, his canines lengthened. Unable to fight his instincts, he bit deep into Saint’s neck, striking a vein. Blood gushed into his mouth like an iron-rich geyser. Animal instinct took over. He pinned his prey into position, unwilling to allow a single drop to escape.
Saint plunged his hands into Mars’s hair, but instead of pushing him away, he pulled him closer. “That’s it, mate. Claim me as yours. I have always been yours.”
Saint’s purr vibrated Mars’s lips. The human part of Mars watched in horror as he lifted his teeth to lap at his bloody wound. The smaller animal portion he’d always held in control broke free and insisted on claiming his mate. For once, the cat part overtook the human majority. His beast didn’t care about his human qualms over a permanent match.
After Mars licked Saint’s mating mark clean, the feral part of him let out a satisfied growl.
Saint arched beneath Mars and came with a shout. Hot liquid spilled between them. The scent triggered Mars’s orgasm. Groaning, he spilled inside his mate.
The word glowed in his head like a neon sign. Mars pulled out of Saint, horror gripping him in a tight fist. What had he done? He rolled away from Saint, then slid off the mattress. He wiped his chest clean with his crumpled shirt in a haphazard cleaning job, then tossed it on the floor to snatch his pants. Not caring about his dignity, Mars hopped from foot to foot to pull on his uniform bottoms before fleeing the suite without shoes or shirt. He couldn’t deal with this now. He needed to breathe.
What the fuck!
Saint called out to Mars, but Mars ignored him and kept moving. He couldn’t brush off Saint forever, but he needed a moment. He had bound himself to a man he barely knew and wasn’t sure he even liked. Tying himself forever to a potentially power-hungry ruler with a questionable grip on sanity hadn’t been his best move ever.
Nausea swirled through Mars’s stomach. Only by force of will did he keep his insides from decorating the ship’s walls. This was beginning to be a theme with him. Not a good one, but a theme nevertheless.
Mars moved as quickly away from his quarters as his feet would take him without running. If the crew saw him racing down the corridors, it might cause a panic. He didn’t want to have to explain to them how their captain had claimed his mate then ran like a coward. The rush of hysteria didn’t paint him in a flattering picture. For a man known for his cool calculation and cutthroat tactics, he sure wasn’t showing Saint that side of him.
Ever since the large Thresl had entered Mars’s world, his universe had spun off kilter. He needed to find his center again. He doubted he had much time to gather his thoughts. Saint wouldn’t let Mars wander away for long. His time alone was limited.
The concept behind one single word sent tendrils of dread through Mars’s body. How could he keep a mate happy while he had the compulsion to run as if a herd of zombie Frens were after him? That was definitely one planet he’d never return to.
Mars spun around in relief. Right then, he’d talk to anyone who didn’t have plans to discuss being mates.
He almost changed his mind when he saw the speaker was Red Claw, one of the Thresls they used as bait to hunt out other Thresls. He didn’t want to talk to a Thresl at the moment. After focusing his entire life on saving them, he just wanted to get away from the entire species for a while. A challenging wish since he was pretty certain his own dormant Thresl tendencies were awakening. Holding back his personal wishes, he focused on his shipmate.
“Hey, Red Claw. What can I do for you?” He might not want to talk to Red Claw, but he wouldn’t be doing his part as a captain if he didn’t check to see if there wasn’t something the Thresl might need. There were only had a handful of Thresls they could dump into fighting rings before the organizers became suspicious.
Red Claw’s gold eyes sparkled, and his smile sent a chill of foreboding down Mars’s spine. “You found your mate!” Red Claw’s shout echoed down the hall.
Mars winced. “Yes, thank you for the announcement.”
Red Claw tilted his head. “You aren’t happy about it?”
“It’s unexpected, let’s just say.” Panic-inducing, life-changing—so many phrases could be applied, and none of them made him feel any better. Breathe. Yes, he had to remember to breathe.
“It’ll be all right. The fates wouldn’t have matched you if you weren’t perfect for each other.”
Mars shook his head at Red Claw. History had shown several instances of Thresl finding the wrong mate and the horrible consequences. “That’s a happy fairy tale we tell children. There have been more than a few examples of poor mating to counter that story.”
“Not when you’re soul mates.” Red Claw smiled as if he was pleased with his sappy conclusion. Of course, Red Claw and his mate were perfect for each other. Billy thought Red Claw not only spun the planets but made the stars glow in his spare time.
“What makes you think my mate and I are soul mates?” Did he have it written on his forehead or something? He must, because how else would Red Claw know he’d mated with Saint?
The amount of time it took Red Claw to answer had Mars shuffling his feet. He itched to keep moving. He had to avoid Saint just a little longer, at least until he’d regained his composure. Surely that wouldn’t take more than a century or two.
“Your eyes glow more gold now. You’re also showing more signs of Thresl. If you weren’t mated properly, you wouldn’t be exhibiting the signs.” Red Claw nodded toward Mars’s hands.
Mars raised his fingers and jerked back in shock. The claws had returned.
“That’s a sign we’re proper mates? I thought there was something wrong with me!”
“I told you so, my love,” Saint purred behind him.
Mars spun around. He’d been so engrossed in Red Claw’s conversation he’d completely missed Saint’s approach.
Saint placed his large hands on Mars’s shoulders, silently but not subtly placing his claim before the other Thresl. At least Saint wasn’t urinating on Mars’s leg to mark him with his scent. It could be worse.
Red Claw raised his hands in supplication. “I already have a mate. I’m not here to poach.”
Mars shook his head at Saint before returning his attention to Red Claw. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
“What?” Red Claw tilted his head as if Mars had presented him with a puzzle.
“You stopped me for some reason earlier other than to listen to me bitch.”
Red Claw paused as if he wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue after seeing Mars’s mood. “I heard rumors there’s a new fighting pit. I think we should go check it out. Billy and I could go undercover.” Red Claw and his mate had done that very thing planet after planet and had successfully saved hundreds of Thresl from unpleasant captivity and possible death. Unscrupulous owners often sold Thresl who didn’t find a match, or refused the ones selected, to the pits. There they were forced to fight other Thresl and often killed each other to survive.
Mars scratched his cheek as he thought it over. “No, better not. I’m worried you two are becoming too well known. We might have to pull you completely from the fighting operation soon. I’m hoping we can find the source of the fighters before then.”
Saving Thresls from the pits was Mars’s main focus. To shut them down entirely was his life goal. Vohne helped that by refusing to allow travel off planet for the time being.
“Me too.” Red Claw and his partner were dedicated to helping the Thresl cause. Red Claw had lost a brother to the pits. “Let me know if there’s anything we can do.”
“I will. Thanks for the information.”
They were getting closer to pinpointing the mastermind behind the Thresl abductions. Mars could feel it in his bones. Someone held the strings to everything, and they were smart enough to set up a complicated system with several layers between them and their buyers.
“Why don’t you let me be the one who goes in?” Saint squeezed Mars’s right arm, then rubbed his cheek across the back of Mars’s head, marking him with his scent. “I’ve only been in a few battles, and you can tell people you found me in one of the pits and decided to keep me as a fighter.”
“That might work, Mars,” Red Claw said. “Your reputation as a Thresl smuggler will help them believe your story.”
“True.” Mars had worked hard to build up his persona. He needed a reason to visit fighting pits without arousing suspicion among the dregs of society who ran them. “Where’s the new pit?”
“This is the part I thought you’d be interested in. It’s on the Nillre moon base. The military is supposedly sanctioning it.”
“Those bastards,” Saint growled. “I knew when Vohne told me about the human-Thresl military unit, they were bad news. Humans have always been greedy.”
“In the past, the military publicly denounced the fighting pits. I wonder what happened?” The abrupt change in policy worried Mars. “It could be a trap to lure smugglers to the moon to steal their Thresl since Vohne cut off other ways of acquiring them.”
“Or a way to shame the king by humiliating his people,” Saint declared. “But if they think Vohne will let them get away with that for long, they are sadly mistaken.”
Mars ran his fingers through his hair, tugging at it in frustration. “I’m more worried about Vohne mounting an attack to save them. He’s not the type to sit idle while his people are injured. If it is a trap to lure the king to the moon base, we don’t want him to fall into it.”
“I’ll call Vohne and let him know,” Saint growled. “He’s the impetuous sort.”
Mars laughed. “That’s not how I would categorize him.”
Saint turned Mars to face him. “He is a lot like you. Stupidly brave and willing to sacrifice himself for his people. Luckily, he has Kres to watch his back and you have me.”
“Are you my Kres?” Mars smiled at the thought.
“If you substitute claws for knives and add three times the attitude, sure, I’m your Kres.”
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