Welcome to Day 23!

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Chapter One

Bleine bit his lip to hold back a shout as cum splattered across his bedsheets and dripped down his fist in long sticky strands. The stench of sex filled the room without the happy afterglow of a partner to cuddle with afterward.

Gulping air in fast desperate breaths, Bleine blinked to clear his vision. It took a few minutes for his eyes to adjust. When they finally did, he grabbed the box of tissues he kept on his bedside table. His nightly releases had ruined more than one washcloth so he’d moved on to disposables. Tendrils of dream memories wafted through his mind. Bleine licked his lips. The sweet flavor of honey still coated his tongue. Tasting like his mate Sarler after eating a sticky bun. His heart, empty and aching, beat sluggishly in his chest as the hollow feeling expanded to wrap him completely in despair. Without his bonded mate, he almost ceased to exist. Instead of finding pleasure in each day, he wandered as an aimless shadow without focus or meaning.

A peek at the wall clock revealed it was still several hours before morning. Was Sarler sleeping well? He turned back to thoughts of his mate, focusing on him like a flower seeking the sun.

Mate bonding went easier when going from Thresl cat to human form. Since Bleine had been human when he’d met Sarler, the process of joining souls took longer. It might take forever if he couldn’t coax his mate to stay the night. Three days had passed since they’d bonded and already he could feel his mind beginning to unravel. Without the grounding of his mate’s touch, Bleine would soon fall into madness. No one knew how close he skated to losing his identity. He wouldn’t pressure Sarler into a deeper bond or mention his troubles to his brother, King Vohne.

Vohne had enough issues of his own, trying to arrange a bonding ceremony with his fractious mate. They’d already pushed back the wedding a month in order to get everything together and allow time for guests outside the galaxy. A coveted invitation to the Thresl king’s wedding could make a political career. Invitees had to be chosen with care and those not chosen picked with even greater caution. They didn’t need extra enemies because of one missed invitation.

During his waking hours, Bleine spent his time focused on finding the group of people plotting against the king. Only when sleeping did images of Sarler haunt him. Beautiful Sarler. With his pale hair and sweet gray eyes. He reminded Bleine of the picture of a wood sprite he had once seen in a childhood storybook. His mother used to read to him of forest dwellers who bonded with the wildlife and lived in peace. He’d been enchanted with the idea as a boy and often searched for sprites when he went camping.

He’d never found one, but Sarler came damn close. Unfortunately he was having as much luck capturing his mate as he did finding a forest sprite.

“Fuck!” He slammed his palms onto the mattress. Discontent radiated through him. He wanted to wake up beside Bleine, not all alone with no one for company but his hand.

Damn Kreslan.

Bleine sighed. As much as he wanted to blame his future brother-in-law, he couldn’t. If Kreslan hadn’t interfered, he’d be dead. Kres had saved Bleine’s life by finding him a bondmate as soon as Bleine broke free of the cryopod. The scheming bitch who’d shattered his tube hadn’t counted on Kres’s quick action to find Bleine a replacement.

Fortunately, unlike his brother, Bleine could re-bond. If Kres died, Vohne would quickly follow. A cryo-chamber couldn’t save the king if his one and only mate lost his life. As hundreds of years before, Kres and Vohne would reincarnate together.

One advantage to not being the true king, Bleine’s mates didn’t reincarnate. Sadly, without fate’s assistance, his romantic heart often led him to choose the wrong people. His first bonded had died in the Great Purge, killed by a fanatic while Bleine had been out fighting, his second bonded tried to kill his brother, and his third didn’t want him. So far, his record hasn’t been stellar.

Sarler, his current bonded, was actively avoiding Bleine.

He didn’t know what to do to get his bondmate’s attention. Even with his patience failing, becoming a stalker wasn’t on his to-do list.

The fact that his newly bonded had never had sex with a male added to their complications. Part of their issues had to do with Sarler’s nerves. Although Bleine had always bonded with females, the Thresl as a species didn’t discriminate between men and women partners. They chose the person, not their sex. Did Sarler have the same outlook? Bleine still didn’t know. Humans sometimes weren’t as flexible with their sexuality. If Sarler fixated on Bleine being a man rather than his mate, they might never become closer.

He had hoped that Sarler’s empathic powers might make it harder for him to resist the bond, to resist Bleine. So far, that hadn’t proved to be the case.

The compulsion to touch, cuddle, and keep Sarler from all harm rode Bleine like a driving force, until he wished to go to the counseling center and snatch his mate from the presence of others. Sarler worked as an empath for those coming into the cryogenic center, to help them transition either to or from the chambers and monitor their condition once frozen. After the Great Purge, hundreds of Thresl had to be put in cryo-chambers to retain their sanity after the slaughter of their mates.

The emotional trauma experienced when coming out of a frozen environment could be overpowering for some, and not everyone survived. Only Kres’s quick action had saved Bleine from going into shock after his abrupt exit from hibernation. Any Thresl who had already converted and lost their mate, could die or go mad from the lack of the bond that kept Thresls in their final form.

It didn’t make it any easier that now, although bonded, Bleine woke up alone. The kiss they’d shared at their initial pairing had seared through Bleine hotter than any of his previous sexual encounters.

He would do just about anything to taste Sarler’s mouth again. To feel his mate’s body against him and their lips sliding together in a combustible combination of want and need.

A knock on the door pulled Bleine away from his thoughts.

Curious about who could be visiting in the middle of the night, he slid on a pair of sleep pants and rushed to answer it. People never came to deliver good news at two in the morning. Yanking the door open, he stopped and stared, unable to think of a single word.

Sarler stood in his doorway, his blond hair sticking out on all sides. He wore red pajama bottoms, a thin white shirt, and no shoes, and he glared at Bleine with red-rimmed eyes as if he’d committed a terrible crime.

“What’s up?” He tried to sound casual while his heartbeat raced and his cock valiantly tried to harden again.

Sarler pushed Bleine aside, stomping past him and into Bleine’s suite.

Confused, he closed the door. He frowned as he leaned against the firm wood surface, needing the extra support for whatever news his mate came to share.

Sarler opened his mouth a few times only to close it again without saying anything.

“Are you okay?” Bleine asked tentatively. He tried to keep his tone neutral. Sarler had a skittish twitch about him, and Bleine didn’t want to scare him off.

However, Sarler’s scowl didn’t reassure him. His mate didn’t appear happy to be in Bleine’s rooms as he ran a hand through his hair and began to pace. Bleine kept still, not wanting to interrupt whatever thoughts were spinning through Sarler’s head until his mate was ready to share them. He’d learned patience in his years as ruler. Moments of importance couldn’t be rushed.

Finally, words burst out of Sarler like heavy rain, frantic and pounding. “I can’t sleep. I can barely eat. I think about you every minute of every day.” Sarler spun around and pointed at Bleine. “You need to stay out of my head. And please, by the Gods, please stop touching yourself! I wake up every morning with this!”

Sarler pointed to his crotch. His large erection stood out in sharp relief against the front of his soft sleep pants. Bleine’s mouth watered. He knew exactly how to help with that particular problem. Hell, he even had some porn he’d be happy to share. The past few days, he’d been a good researcher and done his homework.

“I’d be glad to help you with that,” Bleine offered. Images flashed through his head. Pictures of Sarler’s face as Bleine sucked him off, the beauty of Sarler’s expression when Bleine brought him to completion. Oh, yes he had plenty of ideas.

“Stop it!” Sarler said through gritted teeth. He blushed, his pale skin turning redder than a jungle blood flower. Bleine smiled, entranced by the beautiful color on his mate’s cheeks.

“I–I’ve never been with a man. That isn’t allowed on my planet.” Sarler’s shaky tone revealed he nervousness.

“Then it’s a good thing we aren’t on your planet. Anything is allowed here as long as it is between consenting adults.”

Sarler licked his lips, drawing Bleine’s attention to the wet slick left behind. The urge to taste Sarler’s shiny mouth struck him like a fist to the gut.

He made a soft noise of need, barely vocal.

“That’s what I’m talking about. Stop that.” Sarler’s eyes flashed with temper and heat. His expression did nothing to cool Bleine’s ardor.

Bleine closed his eyes to block out the tempting sight of his gorgeous mate before he did something unwise, like jumping him. “I can’t. You’re my bonded.”

He could hear the desperation in his voice but could do nothing to stop it. If Sarler didn’t even welcome his touch, they were going to have the shortest mating in history. Bleine didn’t look forward to returning to the cryogenic chamber, but he wouldn’t bond an unwilling person to him for life. Whether his brother would agree to let Sarler go was an entirely different matter.

“What are we going to do?” Confusion caused a sharp crease in Sarler’s forehead. “We can’t go on this way. I need rest. I can barely function. Images of you fill my head all the fucking time.”

The curse in Sarler’s gentle voice made Bleine smile. Some people couldn’t swear effectively. It pleased him that his mate appeared to be one of them.

“Come.” Bleine straightened from his spot against the door and held out his hand.

Sarler examined Bleine for a long minute, not moving from his spot. Bleine waited, no point in rushing when he was so close to getting his wish. Eventually, cautiously, Sarler slid his hand into Bleine’s.

“Let’s get some sleep.” There was so much more he’d like to do to his bonded than sleeping together, but building a link between them ranked higher in importance than having sex despite whatever his needy body tried to tell him.

“Okay.” Sarler smiled at Bleine. A small smile but a good sign over all. Without another word in case he frightened off his nervous mate, Bleine led Sarler to the bedroom.

Once they were through the door, Bleine released Sarler’s hand. He crawled onto the bed then slipped between the sheets. He scooted all the way to one side to make room. Sarler hesitated before putting a knee on the bed to climb up.

“Take off your shirt.”

“I don’t…” Sarler gave him a hesitant look as if unsure of what to do about his demand.

“Now! We need contact to soothe the nervous energy between us. As a counselor, you should know skin-to-skin contact is the best.” Bleine needed to feel Sarler’s flesh against his own. To calm the craving for his mate’s touch. If he had to make it an official command, he would. Being a prince had a few benefits.

Sarler yanked off his top, exposing a smooth line of skin and muscle. Frowning his displeasure, he asked, “What about my pants?”

Bleine looked at the pajama bottoms. “You can keep them on if you like.” He wanted to insist Sarler strip completely, but pushing his luck at this point could be more detrimental than what the benefits of having a naked cuddle with his mate could be.

To Bleine’s disappointment, Sarler remained half dressed.

Holding back a sigh, Bleine lifted the covers. Sarler slid all the way to Bleine’s side before turning to face away from him.

Not willing to miss an opportunity to snuggle his mate, Bleine wrapped an arm around Sarler. Strong sinewy muscles moved beneath his palm and a deep purr rolled up his throat. Sarler’s physique didn’t resemble Bleine’s larger body at all. A round mole on his mate’s shoulder caught Bleine’s attention. Unable to resist, he placed a soft kiss on the mark.

“What are you doing?” Sarler asked, stiffening in Bleine’s arms.

“Sorry. Your beauty spot needed kissing,” Bleine replied. There was only so much control one man could be expected to have. He congratulated himself on his restraint.

“Oh.” Sarler relaxed in Bleine’s hold as if calmed by his explanation.

Bleine stayed awake for hours, watching Sarler sleep until eventually his mate’s slow, even breathing soothed him into closing his eyes.

Soft kisses woke Bleine. Lips landed on his cheeks, his chin, and that special spot behind his ear that made him purr. Bleine sighed as a warm wave of contentment washed over him like pools of sunshine. He didn’t want to open his eyes. If he did, Sarler might stop kissing him. He tilted his head up, offering his neck for more kisses.

“I know you’re awake,” Sarler whispered in his ear.

Bleine languidly opened his eyes, hoping to prolong the perfect moment. “I didn’t want to discourage you.”

Waking up to Sarler’s attention—better than any dream. He’d do anything he could to encourage continued touching. His Thresl nature made him want to conform to please his mate. If Sarler had found Bleine in his animal form, he might have become a female instead of male. However, now that he’d already been created, changes could only occur internally. His personality would gradually transform over time to become the one most suited to his bonded, but physically, he would always remain as he was now.

Hopefully, Sarler would come to appreciate the Thresl he got. Bleine needed to do whatever he could to keep Sarler’s attention. He couldn’t risk another bonding. He just couldn’t. The trauma of matching up with a human shouldn’t be done more than once. The fact he’d survived a third connection had palace gossips wagging their tongues and muttering how he must have delved into questionable dealings with fate.

Vohne had put most of those rumors to rest and talk had ceased for the moment, but even the king couldn’t protect Bleine from sly looks and considering stares.

Sarler leaned over him, a smile curving his lips. The sight of his mate, warm and willing, pulled Bleine’s mind from unpleasant thoughts. How could he dwell on anything negative with this beautiful man above him?

“Good morning.” Bleine’s voice had a rough, sleepy edge. He sat up and poured a glass of water from the pitcher by his bed. “Thirsty?”

Tipping his head, he offered Sarler a drink.

“No, thank you,” Sarler replied, more politely than a half-naked man in Bleine’s bed should be.

He tried to keep it casual, but his morning erection brushed against Sarler’s thigh when he turned back around.

Bleine drank greedily, his mind racing to figure out what to say, how to ask if Sarler had changed his mind about wanting him. While Sarler had never come out and denied him, he hadn’t exactly rushed into Bleine’s arms before last night. Bleine didn’t count sharing a bed over lack of sleep as Sarler accepting him as a mate. He didn’t want to read too much into that or the kisses that followed.

“Did you sleep well?” Some people couldn’t rest in a bed with others.

“Better than I have in days,” Sarler admitted. He examined Bleine with wary gray eyes as if waiting for Bleine to boot him out of bed. Bleine flashed him a reassuring smile.

Setting down his glass, Bleine searched for the right words. For a prince taught diplomacy at his father’s knee, all his smooth persuasion had deserted him. He’d never done well with voicing his feelings to those closest to him. Give him a dinner with a viper-tongued lord or lady, and he’d be fine. Right now, he’d almost prefer it. The lust and longing glowing in Sarler’s eyes demanded he say something profound or useful or anything at all to ease the growing tension between them.

Words stuck in Bleine’s throat. He wanted to demand more. Insist on more but he had to put his bonded mate’s needs above his own. He couldn’t rush him. “I know you aren’t sure about this bonding thing, but if you want to sleep here every night, it would at least help you function during the day.”

He held his breath as he waited for Sarler’s answer.

After several minutes of heart-pounding silence, Sarler nodded. “I’d like that.”

He traced Bleine’s mouth with the tip of his index finger. Bleine waited for further words, but none were forthcoming. Maybe talking was overrated. The light touching, maddening and compelling, drove him insane. He fought the animalistic urge to roll over and pin Sarler’s slimmer frame beneath him. His muscles ached as he clenched his body to resist throwing himself at his mate. First he needed verbal permission, and then he could pounce.

“I can feel your anxiety, your need,” Sarler explained at Bleine’s questioning look. “It burns through my body like an insatiable itch I can’t reach to scratch. Only you can stop it.”

Bleine could think of all kinds of places he’d like to scratch, but he didn’t want to scare Sarler away. As much as Sarler talked about feeling Bleine’s desire, he didn’t voice any himself. Before he touched Sarler sexually, he needed to know the passion was two-sided. He didn’t want to be accused of rushing into anything.

“Sorry,” Bleine offered. He didn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t stop the nerves swirling like a dust devil through his body or the dragon fire of want scorching his veins. Craving his mate was a natural Thresl response to a bond.

“Don’t be sorry,” Sarler said. “I decided last night to give us a try. We can either curse our connection for the rest of our lives or cherish it. Besides, you’re a beautiful man. If I were going to choose a male, you would be at the top of my list.”

A shy smile crossed Sarler’s face.

“Can you overlook the fact I’m a man? That seemed like a big deal to you.” Bleine barely breathed as he waited for Sarler’s answer.

Sarler sighed. “I know. I’m still concerned about it. On my world, I would be put to death for daring to enter a same-sex contract. But like you said, I don’t live there anymore, and we’re going to be together a long time. Denying our connection only hurts us both. I’m willing to work on our relationship if you are.”

Bleine narrowed his eyes at his mate. Although Sarler appeared sincere, the fast change in perspectives worried him. “Why the quick about-face? Last night, you were almost hysterical from feeling my desire.”

“I was tired.” Sarler brushed it off. “I hadn’t slept since we bonded. I needed some rest before I could think clearly. I’m an empath, Bleine. I could feel you even when we weren’t in the same room. Besides, if you need me that much, I can’t let you suffer. I know what happens to Thresls who don’t bond.”

Bleine stiffened beside Sarler. His stomach swirled like a whirlpool while a tension headache clawed at his brain. This wasn’t what he wanted, for Sarler to sacrifice himself for the good of the Thresl. He’d die before he accepted a mate who pitied him.

Swallowing back his nausea, Bleine set the record straight.

“I held a world together for a hundred years during the Great Purge while waiting for my brother to return. I’ve survived the death of two bondmates and being cryogenically frozen. I might want you, but I don’t need a pity fuck,” Bleine snarled.

He slid out of bed, then headed for the shower. He refused to have a mate out of a sense of duty or mercy or whatever story Sarler told himself to make it all right in his mind to mate with a man.

Bleine had lived a long life, and if he needed to end it now, he’d happily sacrifice himself for his people. They had their king back and didn’t really need him anymore. He’d rather be dead than have a bondmate unable to love him. He’d always suspected Jallryne had bonded with him for the power, but at least, she’d wanted him for something even if she had to die in the end. He didn’t have anything Sarler wanted, and he refused to take pity. A Thresl bonding should be an honor, not a burden.

He hoped by the time he finished his shower Sarler would take the hint and left.

21 thoughts on “Welcome to Day 23!

  1. This is one of the best series and I love it. Read it at least once a year I too wish thewre were more.

  2. I love the Thresls so much. I just wish there were more books in the series or even a spin off from this one. They are so good.

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