Previously published in HOTTER ON THE EDGE 2
Bound by revenge…
Once, empathic crystals gifted legendary l’auraly lovers with extraordinary sensual prowess. But when dark forces invaded, Icere Galil, the last male l’auralyo, helped destroy the crystals rather than let the source of uninhibited pleasure be corrupted into a mind-controlling drug. Now, his passion forever unfulfilled, Icere channels his fury into revenge. Tracking the raiders to a watery world infamous for its aphrodisiac liqueur, he finds a queen—as adrift and alone as he—forced for years into a fate she never desired.
Bound by destiny…
Saya-Rynn inherited command and control from her cruel grandfather and fought to transform her dangerous planet into a paradise—but the price is a poison in her veins. Though she feels as ancient as the seas, she finds herself awash in the hot male potency of the young Icere. When raiders strike, the reluctant ruler and the deposed prince of passion must defeat the mysterious entity seeking to rule the sheerways and claim a love as bright as the infinite stars.
Excerpt from “Prince of Passion”
Rynn approved the last of the festival plans—everything under crunch deadlines with the early arrival of the spring storm season. She’d had no time to review the cruiseliner manifests, so she asked one of her assistants to run down details on the newly arrived Icere. While she welcomed outworld ideas along with outworld credits, she knew too well that outsiders could also bring trouble.
If pretty Icere was nothing worse than the usual sycophant, making himself comfortable as a suckerfish around another world’s aristocracy, she could let that pass. If he was a threat to those she loved…
Despite its swelled festival populace, the barge had quieted for the night when she left her office. Though her primary residence was on one of the central atolls, she enjoyed the time on the barge. It was large enough to rival some of the islands for square footage and was stable in all but the worst seas, but she sensed the subtle rocking of the waves beneath the plasteel and it soothed her as nothing else could.
Her restless steps took her down one of the guest room corridors: one with the room assigned to the stranger. She should have asked her assistant to stay until Rynn had confirmed that this Icere was harmless. She wouldn’t be able to rest wondering if her son’s latest companion was anything besides what he’d shown the world.
Not that he’d shown much, considering the high-necked tunic and mysterious gloves.
Without another moment’s hesitation, she went to his room and knocked. It was late, she was being rude—even for a reigning monarch—but she didn’t care. She would see what he was when he wasn’t expecting to be attacked.
“Yes?” His voice through the comm sounded sleepy.
She entered the override code and the door slid open.
He took a step back, blinking. “Saya. To what do I owe this…visit?”
A quick glance showed her that the common area was empty. The bedroom and bath were enclosed separately, out of sight, but no other voice called out in curiosity. Still, she asked for confirmation, “You are alone?”
The corner of his mouth kicked up in a lazy smile, showing off that dimple again. “Not now that you are here.” He canted one hip against the door jamb.
“Save it for my son.” She gathered the flowing lengths of her long, sleeveless vest-gown and walked past him.
In the compact kitchen—the festival barge held open feasts at every meal, so there was not much call for in-room options—she prepared two cups of teaweed. Behind her, she heard Icere slide the door closed and pad toward her.
A soft robe of gray covered him from neck to ankles, revealing only his bare feet and a narrow V over his chest starting at the notch of his throat. She wondered if he’d been sleeping in the robe or if he’d pulled it on when she’d knocked. No, he had answered from the door comm, not the bedroom. He hadn’t been abed yet.
Under the weight of her gaze, he eased the slight exposed gap of his robe tighter. The hint of nervousness made her stiffen. What was he trying to hide? He must know he had nothing she hadn’t seen.
She was tempted to tell him to disrobe, if only to see what he would do. But she had not yet reached that age where perverted rudeness could be shellacked as eccentricity, much less wisdom.
Although she had apparently not quite left behind the age where she wondered if that gray robe concealed an outworlder’s hairy chest or one smooth like her own people’s.
She took a sip of her teaweed to cover her inexplicable tension and held the other cup out to him. “Most visitors find this less pungent than some of our more traditional brews. Non-stimulating, so it won’t keep you awake.”
He raised one brow as if questioning the motivation for her gesture. “Thank you, Saya. I want to set myself to island time.” He took the thin-shelled cup but only cradled it in his wide palm.
He was already taller than her son—and Luac was taller than she was—but she suspected this Icere had not quite finished growing into himself. Still, he handled the delicate cup with more assurance even than Kylara who’d spent her girlhood playing with the ridiculously breakable but common shells. Rynn had to admit, he was also more stunning than her lovely daughter, with his lissome body and unlined face. In a few more years, he would be devastating. She realized she was staring too pointedly and dropped her gaze to her beverage. She noted he had big feet too, which were said to indicate largeness in general.
The wayward thought almost made her choke on her drink. And she’d just said teaweed wasn’t stimulating!
She set the cup down with a clunk. Surprisingly, it didn’t shatter, but Icere’s expression turned wary. Most might not have noticed the slight tension at the corners of his mouth, the subtle flare of his nostrils, but most people didn’t spend their days balancing the weight of a world on their shoulders.
Which made her wonder if Icere’s gray robe was padded to give him those broad shoulders. She suspected not.
Her distraction annoyed her. “Why are you here?”
“Ni-Saya-Luac invited me.”
“Give me the courtesy of no stupid answers, and I will assume you are more than a pretty face.”
His jaw tightened, and for an instant, she saw the shape of the man he would become. Devastating indeed.