Walking out from behind the curtain took all of her courage. The tattoo on her wrist was exposed, as was the one between her breasts. She had watched them undress through the crack in the door, they were her match. With communal bathing being common, it was the exposure of her undeniable markings that made her nervous. How will they react?
She slipped into the water with only Azeel focussed on her. His eyes were so intense, she couldn't keep the contact up while she searched for the bench in the water. By the time she finished seating herself, fishing her hair out of the water and draping it over the towel behind her, she was the centre of attention. Looking down, she saw the tattooed wild rose peeking above the water. "You are staring."
Their tattoos were blazing front and centre between their pectorals as they sat up and leaned closer to her.
Raf asked the question on their minds. "You knew?"
"I suspected when Hector told me that you were a clone set that you might be mine." She stood, turned, reached out and grabbed the floating tray behind her, set with watered wine and small cups.
"Yours, are we?" Hector smiled.
"You match me, that is all I referred to." She served four cups and floated the tray first to Raf, then Azeel, finally to Hector.
"You have it right. Raf is the first, I am the second and Hector is the third." Azeel took a sip of his wine and raised his eyebrows.
That confused her. She understood about the layers of mating, but hadn't realized that the men had designations. "I don't understand."
Raf surged toward her in the bath and sat next to her on the bench. "It is simple, Raleigh. As with most sexual relationships, the ultimate goal is to bring on the next generation. In our case, the first is the activator, the one who will trigger your body's ovulation. The second, Azeel, is the one who will plant his seed and he must take you within four hours of me."
"What of Hector?" She knew her eyes were slightly wild.
"Hector is our third. His body will change to replace either Azeel or myself if we fall or are injured. The third was added for safety as we were designed for hostile territories." Raf took her right hand and lifted it out of the water, caressing her tattoo in a slow and sensuous movement.
"Before you start anything, Raf, I want to ask you one question."
He nodded solemnly. "What do you want to know?"
"Once we consummate this joining, will you still bring me to the prince?" Her terror came through in her voice.
Raf sat back and Raleigh's heart sank. "We have to take you to his court, but we will not leave you there. By the laws of Koru that the emperor of Elsinor agreed to, we have a right to our mate if we find her. Now I have a question for you. Why do you fear him so?"
"Because he took my best friend to his palace and her body was returned to her family three months later. He tried to take me, but when my father caught wind of it, he contacted the emperor and the prince left me alone. He would find any excuse to have me pour tea so he could ogle my tattoo, and that is when I started wearing the wrap. It seemed to hypnotize him." She shuddered in remembrance and Hector came to her side and wrapped his arm around her. The warmth and security that enfolded her with his embrace relaxed her.
Raf asked, "How is your head?"
"Throbbing, but the wine is helping with the pain from the bruises." She sighed and leaned against Hector, dazed and warm in his embrace.
He slowly and calmly pulled her onto his lap. She could almost ignore the other two in the bath, but when a third hand stroked her thigh under the water, she found that she didn't want to.
Raf's voice was in her ear, "We won't let him touch you. We promise."
Two voices echoed him. "We promise."
Her skin felt alive where they touched her, hands soothed her back, caressed her breasts, parted her thighs and rubbed her feet. When hands tugged her hair gently, she leaned back and the first kiss of her life was placed on her lips. Raf, she could tell by the sureness of his hands as he avoided her bruised skull. His lips took hers gently and hands raised her body in the water.
Raleigh writhed as mouths touched her, hands caressed her and her body caused a surf in the rhythm of the stroking fingers and tugging lips.
When a touch stroked between her thighs, her lips parted and she cried out as her talent flared out of control, lightning arced out of her hands, striking the partition that flared for a moment with the impact.
The blinding caresses ceased.
"Raleigh, what was that?" Raf's voice was very calm for a man nearly electrocuted.
"The end of a very interesting night if I am not missing my guess."
The hands supporting her lifted her from the water, the three men moving as one. She was wrapped in a drying cloth while they dried off in turn, their marvellous erections not dwindled by her display of energy. That was encouraging.
They picked up the robes, but did not put them on as Hector led them through the house and to the largest bedroom. Wrapped in white linen, Raleigh went along with the crowd.
The men efficiently rolled out the folded bedding. Hector leaving for a moment and returning with another mattress gave her the first inkling that the introduction was now over.
They knew about the electricity and since they were not idiots, they would put her attacker's death at her door. She knew she should have moved the body. Sigh.
Sheets flared and blankets were lined up for a good night's sleep. Raf took her and he gently removed the sheet.
"We decided to get away from the water if you are going to be flinging energy around. We are impervious to that sort of thing, probably a designed feature." He grinned at her, leaning in for another kiss.