By Brenna Lyons
They were secret lovers, allies separated by borderlines and loyalties. When a threat to Meretta's life forces Culdan to action, the only way to preserve the peace and salvage their relationship is to feign conquest. It's not the Lengar way, but it's the only thing Meretta's Magden Warlord father will respect. Taking her as his bed slave, Culdan has to plant his heir on the run from half of Velt's army. If he manages that before he faces her father, they might just avert a war.
Nelik smiled. "Why would I do that, My Lord?" he taunted.
Culdan scowled at him. At sixteen, half a year Nelik's junior, Culdan loathed reminders that he was officially a lordling and named heir to Denal.
Nelik ducked Culdan's blow, dancing away across the white stone courtyard. He darted to the right, mindful to leave several body-lengths between himself and the closest columns, lest he find himself backed into a corner and at a disadvantage.
They were evenly matched, of course. How could one train and grow with another since the cradle and not be? It was unusual for either to land a blow when pitted in mock battle. To be honest, no other opponent had laid hand or blade on either of them for almost three years, even Denal's finest. Though the lord rarely showered compliments, his pride in his heir was impossible to miss.
A movement in the palaz caught Nelik's eyes. He stared, certain he was hallucinating ... or asleep and dreaming. Yes, dreaming seemed likely. He'd had hundreds of dreams of Ziri in the last two years, perhaps thousands of fantasies in which he sank his cock into her ready body. In those dreams, she screamed his name at completion and used her woman healer's knowledge to pleasure him.
The lady in question was at her window, watching them, as the gods made her and no more. Her arms were crossed under choc-capped breasts that made his mouth water.
He slid to one side to get an unobstructed view of her, wishing he could see her full length and not from her delicate waist up. Ziri smiled, a purely feminine smile that the vixen used to lure the male jaglin to her cave in mating season.
"What is it?" Culdan asked, lowering his fists. "Nelik, what troubles you?"
Troubled? It was the wrong word. Nelik was fast stretching his trousers to their limits, a damned uncomfortable position to be in. Worse, his mind and body seemed largely disconnected from each other.
"Nelik," Culdan shouted, trying to catch Nelik's eye by waving a hand in front of him.
Ziri chuckled, and his tongue unglued from his palate.
"Ziri is at her window," he managed, his heart pounding hard against his ribs as if he'd run a great distance.
Culdan's brow furrowed. "And this is--"
"In the sun's glory robed," he quoted Len's song to Veltina. Nelik considered singing it to her, wooing her with it.
Culdan's eyes widened and he started to turn to her.
Fury coursed through Nelik. This look at Ziri was for himself, not Culdan. She would not be passed between them like the palaz bed slaves were.
Ziri's smile disappeared in a look of horror, confirming his belief that the offer had been for Nelik alone.
And, I opened my mouth and caused this. I cannot allow her unease ... I cannot allow Culdan the thought of claiming her!
He struck without another thought, connecting solidly with Culdan's cheek and sending the lordling sprawling on his face.