Last Chance for Love [Kegin Series Book 1] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Brenna Lyons
eBook Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Dark Fantasy Dream Realm Award Finalist
eBook Description: Susan Braedan has no idea when she goes to bed one spring night that she will never see her home on Earth again. Susan is not a normal woman. She is not quite Human, not Human enough to reproduce with Human men. Susan is the last desperate attempt to save a dying world, and she has been chosen as Cross-Mate to Prince Jole. Raised by his Cross-Mate mother, Jole knows better than any man on Kegin how an Earth woman should be treated to win her love and respect, but can he accomplish that before his younger brother, Mik, can claim her for his own?
eBook Publisher: Phaze, Published: 2007, 2008
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2008
This eBook is part of the following series:
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289 Reader Ratings:
Jole Hi, prince of the Keen Republic and heir apparent, stared out across the hills surrounding his retreat home. It was the home of his childhood, the home he'd shared with his mother, until his father had taken him by virtue of their contract. Now, it would be the home of his marriage.
The lizors were in full bloom, and the fragrant purple flowers blanketed the landscape. Normally, Jole found that comforting. The flower had been his mother's favorite, and the finest cosmeticists had fashioned a scent for her from it. The scent was haunting, a distant memory of home and family, of the mother he hadn't seen for twenty years.
Today, Jole found the scent of lizors terrifying. It meant that summer was nearly over, his twenty-eighth summer.
The day he had trained for since birth had arrived. His bride would be brought to him soon. It was a day Jole had looked forward to since he was five, and the announcement had been made that she'd been born. It was a day he had dreaded since he was fifteen, and he'd learned how hopeless the match was.
He sighed. She'd hate him for taking her from her home and family, as each cross-mate had hated her husband. She would never share his bed. None of them had ever done so.
It had to be different this time, and not simply because she was to be his cross-mate. Bio-fertilization produced less viable embryos than true mating. The female children, typically thought to be the stronger sex, did not survive the Keen mechanical implantation process. A mate, who could have three or even five children over their years together, was unlikely to carry more than one child. The lack of mate-touch and the stress of their imprisonment made pregnancy a difficult process for them.
The project would fail and their civilization be lost, if he couldn't convince his cross-mate to accept him. Worse, he would have to watch his mate suffer. If he could make her happy, any cost would be worth it.
His mother--"Jenneane," he whispered the Human name forbidden by Kell Ri.
Jenneane had taught him what she felt would help him most. Jole knew the language his mate would speak. He knew her culture and her pride. Knowing her son would face his own test with a cross-mate, Jenneane had educated him in all the ways Kell had failed with her.
Pyter bowed as he entered the study. "She will be here soon, Highness."
Jole nodded, gritting his teeth at the thought that Pyter was assigned to him again. The last thing he needed was one of his father's most loyal supporters underfoot now, but he had no choice in the matter.
"What can you tell me about her, Pyter?" The chief of security would have monopolized gateway time to study the new cross-mate, looking for potential problems in handling.
"She is a small woman." Pyter's tone was snide.
"It makes no difference. Kell's woman was only half his size and presented him with two sons."
"True," he conceded.
"She has hair like golden iri flowers and eyes like mature lizors."
Jole smiled. He had always wanted a cross-mate with eyes that were undeniably not the eyes of a Keen woman. "Perfect. Have you done what I ordered?"
"Yes, Highness. This has never been tried before. The men are not happy. It balks all the traditions."
"I know. Perhaps that is why we have always failed."
Pyter shook his head. "We fail, because they are barbarians. We had no choice but to seed among them, to use their strengths. Perhaps if we took them younger and raised them here--"
"Enough! You will never refer to my cross-mate as a barbarian." Jole relaxed the tension in his jaw.
They weren't barbarians. They had a fine culture, not as old or advanced as that of Kegin, but it was culture. Despite what Pyter had taught him at his father's command, Jole knew they had culture.
Moreover ... "And you know full well that the laws of sanction do not allow for taking children, even children of our seed, before their twentieth year. Be mindful, Pyter. Such talk is treason."
He bowed, his cheeks a vivid red at the reminder. "Many pardons, Highness." A red light blinked on his belt. "It is time."
Jole nodded and followed Pyter to the gateway chamber. The technicians were busy pulling boxes away from the gateway. The crew chief bowed deeply, and Jole waved to him to continue with his work.
He looked at the boxes in amazement. The most prized possessions of his cross-mate were being hastily passed through the gateway.
It had never been done this way before. Cross-mates were typically presented to their husbands with no possessions but the clothes on their bodies. Thus, they'd failed, again and again.
The women faced exile. Exile with nothing of their former lives was cruel. Even if Kell Ri was right and she was a barbarian, the possessions were her own.
A yellow light blinked on over the gateway, and several boxes came through in the hands of soldiers. Jole prayed they hadn't missed any of her most prized possessions. What was left now could not be retrieved later.
A woman's scream echoed through the gateway.
Pyter restrained him, as Jole surged toward his mate. They had orders. They were not to harm her. Jole hadn't wanted her to be traumatized this way. Pyter tightened his hold at her second scream.
"No! Let me go, you bastard." Her voice warbled through the gateway, taking on a musical quality, despite her anger.
Jole ached to take away her pain and fear. No wonder they hated their husbands.
"Still, Highness," Pyter breathed. "She'll be in your arms in a moment."
Jole nodded, his eyes riveted to the gateway.
A soldier stepped through with one final box. His cheek was an angry red, where he had been struck with formidable force.
Jole stilled in amazement. My cross-mate did that?
The moments ticked away. A third scream ripped through the room ... then silence.
The captain stepped through, just as the light turned green. He marched to Jole with the woman cradled in his arms and offered her to her husband. The captain didn't look at her. She wasn't his to gaze upon. It was an honor for him to be allowed to touch her at all.
Jole stroked at her cheek with shaking fingers. This was his cross-mate, the woman he had waited twenty-three years for.
He furrowed his brow. She was still and silent in the captain's arms. "What have you done to her?" Jole demanded.
The captain blanched, sweat breaking out on his upper lip. "She fought the band like a jaglin, Highness. It was necessary to render her unconscious. It was the only way to--"
Jole silenced him with a glare, fighting the urge to strike him. If he did, the captain might drop his mate. Instead, he took her from the man's arms. "If she has been harmed, in any way, it means your life."
The captain bowed and moved away.
Jole carried her to her room, while Pyter gave commands to relocate the gateway.
That would be Pyter's greatest fear, that she would try to escape with no knowledge of how the gateway worked or its limitations. It would mean her death, a very painful way to die, at that.
He laid her on the bed he'd had prepared for her. Jole pulled the quilt over her bare legs to her hips then touched her cheek again.
Her lizor eyes were closed to him, but he stroked her iri gold hair, a cap of curls the length of his own. She was soft. Her skin and hair were like silin, like the sheets and dresses prepared for her.
Jole switched to his long-disused English, a language he'd ordered Pyter to practice with him in preparation for this day. He'd muttered to himself for more than a year, making translations of everything he thought and uttered in Keen, even checking the electronic scans of Earth media when his vid-like memory of his mother's voice and language failed him.
His mate deserved at least a few people who could understand her; she deserved the answers his mother hadn't been given. He'd made a decision to speak only her language in her presence, unless he had a reason to speak Keen ... and then he would explain it to her. It was better that way; it was the best he could do for her.
"I am sorry, love. It was not supposed to be this way. I wanted to explain to you. I wanted to be there for you, when you came through the gateway. I will do my best to make you happy. You have my vow."
Pyter cleared his throat. "Highness, the men are ready to arrange her possessions."
Jole furrowed his brow, matching Pyter's Keen with his English, knowing the guard had learned it sometime before Jole's eighth birthday. "What is my mate's name, Pyter?"
"Highness, it is not usually--"
"Her name," he demanded.
"She is called Susan Braeden, Highness."
He smiled sadly. "Welcome to Kegin, Susan Braeden."
August 24th, 2002
Susan rubbed her cheek on the silken material under her. She must have fallen asleep with her robe thrown over the bed. She tried to grab it and toss it away, but it seemed to be stuck on something.
Grumbling a curse, she opened her eyes to the sight of a man sitting cross-legged on the bed next to her. Susan scrambled away from him, pushing herself into the white wood of the headboard.
White? She scanned her eyes over her surroundings fearfully. Susan could pick out shelves of her books, pictures, belongings ... but this wasn't her apartment.
Susan assessed the man on the bed. It was impossible to accurately guess his height while he was seated, but she guessed he was over six feet tall. He looked strong, muscular, like he would be a dangerous man in a fight. His eyes were a vibrant green, and his hair was a mass of black waves that brushed the middle of his neck in back. He made no move to touch her or even to speak to her.
"Where am I?" she ventured.
He sighed. "You are on Kegin. This is your new home, Susan Braeden." His voice was lyrical and lightly accented, as if he wasn't accustomed to speaking English.
"On? You mean in." Obviously not accustomed to English. "Where is Kegin?"
He lowered his eyes. "On," he corrected her. "Kegin is a world several galaxies from your Earth."
Susan stifled a laugh. The man was crazy.
She eased off the bed and backed toward the door, trying to make sense of what had happened to her through the pounding in her skull.
The man stood but made no effort to follow her, watching her progress with sad eyes. He wasn't trying to stop her. Something about that move was frightening. Did he think she had nowhere to go?
Her heart racing, Susan turned the handle and pulled the door open to run. She whirled around, ready to bolt, but two men in black uniforms blocked her way.
A memory of two men in similar uniforms attacking her in her bed flashed through her mind. A thunder roll of pain accompanied it, and Susan screamed in a mixture of fear and agony.
Strong arms encircled her, and cool fingers ran through her hair. "Shhh. I am sorry, love. I know you are hurt and confused. If you allow me, I will ease your pain."
Susan pushed him away, shaking and backing toward the armoire against the far wall. He didn't try to hold her when she pulled away, but he closed the door and followed her slowly, his hands up in a calming gesture.
She reached behind her for the rough walking stick she'd seen placed on top of the armoire. Her father's stick was heavy and formed of hard wood. Her hand closed around it, and she swung it in an arc aimed at his head.
The man could have stopped her. He didn't. Susan faltered in confusion, her swing losing its force as she met his eyes. She felt a momentary qualm. He could stop her. Why wasn't he stopping her? He should stop her.
A hand darted over her shoulder, and the weapon was ripped from her grip, a slight little twist forcing her fingers open.
Susan swung around to face the new arrival. He'd come from nowhere, a full head taller than the first man, with piercing black eyes, narrowed in fury. He stood over her with the walking stick in his hand, hefting it as if considering using it against her.
"Stei ack! Jole Hi! Ni har, Braek!"
Susan stumbled back. She had no idea what he'd said, but it wasn't friendly.
She startled, as the first man's hands closed on her shoulders, steadying her. His hands kneaded at her muscles, and Susan felt the strength in him. He was an important man, not a man to be crossed. The black-eyed man had crossed him.
"You will address Susan Braeden with respect and in her own language, Pyter. I only forgive your outburst, because she did not understand your insult."
"She would have killed you," Pyter protested in a thick accent.
"No. She would not. She pulled back. I would have had little more damage than the soldier she struck." He reached out and plucked the walking stick from Pyter's hands.
He guided Susan back to the bed. Once she was seated, he squatted to her eye level. He took her hand gently and placed the walking stick in it, closing her fist around the wood. "If this will make you feel at ease, take it."
Susan met his green eyes. He waited patiently for her answer. She looked at the stick in confusion. She'd tried to take his head off with it, and he handed it back. He was more concerned with her comfort than his safety?
She held the stick to her chest. "Thank you. It means..."
He nodded. "Anything that will put you at ease." He stared at her, waiting for something more but not pressuring her in any way.
"Who--" She shook her head, the lump in her throat and the pounding in her skull making it difficult to discuss anything with him.
The man nodded. "I am called Jole Hi."
She knew her pronunciation wasn't perfect, but Jole looked pleased.
Pyter's eyes widened, and he moved his mouth as if to speak but didn't.
"You pronounce it like my mother did," Jole explained. "Thank you."
Susan nodded uncertainly.
"Jole will be fine. Only my people call me Hi."
He cocked his head at her in what she'd lay bets was confusion.
"Only people who don't know me call me Braeden. It's--tedious."
Jole laughed lightly. "Susan. You must be hungry. Will you come to morning meal?"
She blushed and smoothed her nightshirt over her thighs. "I need to dress."
Susan glanced at Jole. His eyes were darkened and intense. She sucked in her breath. Something about that look frightened her.
Jole nodded. He rose slowly and pushed open a door near the bed, most likely the door Pyter had come through. "You can wash here. If you like, I can have servants attend to you."
She shook her head. "I prefer to do it myself."
He nodded again and turned to open the armoire. Jole turned his head to Pyter, and Susan shuddered at the fury in his expression.
"Hir clo? Ma ort?" Jole demanded.
Pyter furrowed his brow. "Diten. Ni tie clo."
Jole looked skyward and sighed. "I am sorry, Susan. My people didn't understand. I wanted them to bring all your most precious possessions. Our--our traditions say that you should come here with nothing but the clothes you wear. I have only the clothing made for you. My people brought none of yours."
Susan rubbed at the ache settling into her forehead. "I--anything is better than nothing, Joel."
He nodded and pulled out a silky purple dress. He laid it on the bed next to her. "We will leave while you dress. I will wait in the corridor to escort you to the meal."
Jole squatted before her again, staring at her as if he expected something. She nodded, blinking back tears. Susan needed answers, but her head ached so badly that she could barely think.
Jole's eyes narrowed. He touched her cheek, and she ducked away. Jole clasped her head between his hands, and his fingers found a lump on the back of her skull. Susan cried out in pain, as he brushed over it, and the throbbing in her head intensified.
"Joel!" She pushed back her fear and tightened her grip on the walking stick. She didn't want to hurt him.
He pulled her closer to him, cradling her face against his shoulder. Jole's voice rumbled out next to her ear. "Let me help you. Please, Susan."
His grip was suddenly gentle, almost non-existent. Jole started to massage her scalp in delicious little circles.
Susan was shocked by her reaction to him. The intimacy of his touch and his voice sent an ache for him curling down her body to her core. She pushed at his chest weakly, more a caress over the hard muscles under her cheek than a serious attempt at escape.
His scent was a sharp, spicy musk that made her dizzy. Being in his arms was far more inviting than she was comfortable with. Susan relaxed against his body, reveling in his warmth surrounding her.
"Yes," she murmured.
She didn't know Jole. Susan didn't know where she was or how long he intended to keep her here. Still, she wanted him to help her. At the very least, she didn't want Jole to stop what he was doing. She gasped, as his hands dropped slightly and he leaned around her, wrapping her further in his larger body.
His lips touched the lump. A shock wave not unlike the splash ice cold water washed over her. His mouth lingered, and his warmth seeped into her ... followed by a wave of pleasure, traveling from the point of contact out to her tips of her fingers and toes.
His fingers massaged her scalp, under her hair and to her temples. Jole eased her head back and planted his lips on her forehead.
Susan groaned at the cold wash seeping through her, knowing that the warmth and pleasure would follow in its wake. When it came, she went weak and pliant in his hands. She brushed her leg against his hip, opening her knees to invite him closer, closing her eyes as he dropped to his knees, his hips settling between her thighs. Her fingers went slack, and the walking stick hit the rug with a dull thud.
His hands moved to the tense muscles of her neck and shoulders, and his lips followed.
Her entire body was pulsing for him. The alternating cold and hot fired her nerves and sent erotic visions of Jole pushing her knees further out and placing his lips on her wet, aching slit through her.
Susan opened her eyes, as Jole pulled back.
His eyes had darkened to a Hunter green ring around dilated pupils. His breathing was ragged, and his hand shook against her cheek. His lips hovered inches above hers. Susan licked her dry upper lip, and he locked on the movement.
The sexual tension between them seemed to thicken into a cloud she could smell and taste. Susan inhaled it, greedy for more.
Jole wanted her. The thought thrilled her far more than she would have liked. She wanted his lips to explore all of her. She wanted to feel the press of his body.
Jole nodded. "Is the pain less?" he asked quietly.
"Yes. Yes, it is. Thank you."
"I would gladly take away all your pain. I will take as much as you let me. Remember that."
She nodded, still trapped in the power of his gaze.
He smiled and pushed away from her, leaving a chill at her chest, where his nearness had been warming her moments before.
"Dress for the meal. We will discuss all of this, once you have eaten." Jole stood and walked to the door with Pyter at his back. As the door closed, he smiled at her.
Susan stared at the closed door in confusion. She took several deep breaths, missing his scent already.
Her mind cleared slowly, and she tried to piece together what had happened to her. Her cheeks flooded with heat at the memory of her reactions.
She would have had sex with him if he'd asked. Given a few more minutes, she would've asked to have sex with him. She still wanted him.
Susan fisted her hands and pressed them against the ache still blooming inside her. What was wrong with her?