Brevin's left arm flew up, the long, slim dagger in reverse grip along his forearm to deflect Lanthan's blade. As Lanthan began to twist away, Brevin brought up a fist, aiming for his gut. Lanthan was better than that, having spun into Brevin, catching him off guard enough so that when the smaller man's ass rammed into his hips, he stumbled enough for Lanthan to grip his left arm and flip him head over heels. He ended flat on his back in the sand, stunned for those few precious seconds it took for Lanthan to drop to his knees and straddle Brevin's chest, his blade at Brevin's throat.
Lanthan's grin was barely sane underneath the long fall of fringe that spilled over the wide band tied about his skull. "Got ya."
Brevin snarled, fingers digging into the sand. But Lanthan's knees pinned Brevin's arms to the ground.
"Only because it's left-handed."
"No excuse," said a deep voice overhead. "A skilled warrior fights equally well with both hands."
Brevin closed his eyes. Lanthan's father, Krael, was a cruel taskmaster, even in training. Especially in training. He wouldn't accept any less than Brevin's or Lanthan's best even if they had just come back from battle. He wouldn't let them have fun and just blow off steam as Brevin had hoped to do. Can't he pay attention to the others? There were plenty of other trainees in the practice grounds for Krael to torture.
Lanthan laughed, easing up on Brevin's throat. "Try again?"
Brevin had wondered if it was a good idea to spar so soon after their return, but after they'd left Tykir with the healers, he and Lanthan had been much too keyed up to stay in the dining hall or go to the pools. Tykir would be all right, but neither of them had truly believed it until the healer had said it himself.
"Yes." Brevin snatched his right arm up from under Lanthan's left knee and swung it in a roundhouse toward his friend's head. As he'd fully expected, Lanthan shied right and back so the punch missed. Weapons dropped in the sand, they tussled, the two of them grappling until Brevin's greater bulk won out and he had Lanthan pinned underneath him. Lanthan could barely catch his breath for laughing, his cheek pressed to the sand with one arm trapped underneath him and the other held between them by Brevin. Glistening black skin stretched over the taut muscles as Lanthan struggled underneath his weight. Brevin breathed over the closely shorn hair on his friend's neck.
Then Lanthan stopped laughing. His ice blue eyes hooded. Clearly, he felt Brevin's cock in the crack of his ass, rock hard. Only the dual layers of their clothing kept Brevin from pushing in immediately. Lanthan smelled divine. No. That wasn't right. Lanthan didn't smell like that, a scent of earth and sweet and sex. Not even fighting with his friend could get Brevin that instantly hard.
But there was one person who smelled like that, and one person who could get him instantly hard.
Lanthan blinked, his eyes shifting so he could look up at Brevin. The same thought occurred to him. And not just them. All around the practice arena, sounds of fighting stopped.
Barely rising from Lanthan, Brevin tilted his head and swiveled toward the entrance. There she was, alone and achingly stunning in one of those long, teasing shifts she preferred. Teasing because, although it was ankle-length, it was completely open at each side, held to her body only by the silk rope tied at her waist. When she walked, hungry eyes could catch tantalizing glimpses of the spare panties she wore to guard her sex. Eyrhaen. Her thigh-length hair was loose, much of it draping her slim shoulders as she calmly surveyed the cavern full of men. The men, young and older, barely moved, watching her, as aware of her heightened arousal as though she had announced it.
Then she found them, Brevin and Lanthan, and she smiled. Brevin couldn't contain a shiver as she stepped onto the sand and began walking toward them.
Just before he shifted his weight off his friend, he glanced down at Lanthan. Ice blue eyes were closed, and white fringe almost hid his resigned look. Brevin could feel the sexual heat shimmering off him and knew that his own need was building to match it.
She had that effect on them. She had that effect on all of them.
He'd just gained his knees when two other youths raced toward Eyrhaen from behind. Brevin would have shot up to her defense, but Lanthan's quick grip on his arm intercepted instinct and kept him on his knees. With one brief, curt nod, he showed Lanthan he was in control again, and they both remained where they were to watch.
Despite his instincts, he knew she didn't need his help.
The boys were younger, maybe one hundred forty or fifty cycles at the most. They'd probably just come into sexual awareness. It was the only excuse for their behavior. Older males had learned their lesson with Eyrhaen. It was time for these to learn theirs.
They fell to their knees in front of her, stopping her progress. Desperate energy radiated from them, vibrating in the dry heat of the arena and spilling off the fresh bare skin of their shoulders and torsos.
"Rhajena," one breathed, reaching for the thigh that was exposed by the nonexistent side of her shift.
The other just whimpered helplessly, hands up toward her, imploring.
She stopped, staring down at them. She could not have looked at a bug with any less interest. When the one touched her leg, she slapped his hand away. "Don't touch me."
He gasped, and Brevin managed not to wince in sympathy. He knew that slap. Knew that she put something extra behind it. Her touch could be bliss or torture or an agonizing combination of the two.
"Please." The other one found his voice. Brevin knew that strangled tone too. He'd used it on a number of occasions, although he liked to think he'd never looked this pathetic in front of her. Few things would make a raedjour warrior beg, and the last few cycles had taught them that Eyrhaen was one.
"Go back to your lessons," she chided, "both of you." Like they were boys and not youths perhaps only thirty cycles younger than she. She stepped around them and resumed her path toward Brevin and Lanthan. At least she smiled as she approached, although he'd come to dread the smile almost as much as the frown. Her arousal beat at him, and he could only wonder what had gotten her to such a state. Her effect was far more pronounced than normal, the pleasure of it caressing him in hidden places she had yet to touch. What does she do when we're not around? No, he'd rather not think about that.
She stopped a pace in front of them, fine sand sifting in between the toes on her pretty feet. She reached out to card her fingers through Brevin's short locks. "I'm glad you're back. I need you."
Brevin closed his eyes. It was that simple. No matter what he was doing, if she spoke those words to him, he would follow her.
He opened his eyes to see her other hand caressing Lanthan's cheek. Excitement buzzed below his heart. Time with Eyrhaen was special, but sharing her with his friend was exquisite.
Without speaking, both he and Lanthan gathered their knives and rose to their feet. By that time, she'd turned and started out of the arena. They followed like cubs after a mother bear. Brevin felt the envious stares, but they didn't bother him. He was one of the lucky ones, or so they thought. He and Lanthan--and Tykir--were lucky enough to be around her age, just enough older that they'd been close friends with her before her sexual needs had started to blossom. Very few of those whom she didn't bless with her attentions understood that the luck had an evil twist.
Krael patted his shoulder as they passed, but said nothing more. He knew. He understood. As a truemated male, he didn't feel her pull as strongly. He wasn't immune, and as Lanthan's father, he knew what they were to her.
She led them down a short corridor to the bathing pools. No surprise. She liked hot water. She liked being wet and clean and preferred it for her lovers. Lovers. That's what she called them. Not for the first time he toyed with the idea of arguing with her about the meaning of that word.
Brevin and Lanthan flanked her as they walked, staring down the stray males who showed interest in delaying them. "We took him to the healers."
She grabbed his arm, distracting him. "Is he all right?"
"He will be," Lanthan answered, carrying the sheathed knives that were usually strapped to his forearms. He'd be taking them off again soon anyway. "They put him under so he could sleep."
"How did he get hurt?"
"Rogues." Both he and Lanthan spoke together, the same note of disdain in their voices.
Eyrhaen said no more on the subject.
There was a hot pool in a relatively secluded corner of the main cavern she preferred. Brevin wondered if anyone else ever used it without her presence anymore. He doubted it. The serving boys kept a fresh pile of drying cloths and vials of her favorite oils and scents on the natural stone bench that had been carved into the rock wall beside the pool.
Brevin dropped to one knee beside the small brazier to stir up the banked flame kept there. It wasn't a bright light and didn't provide much warmth, but they didn't really need either. She liked to be warm, though, and she claimed to like the dim firelight. Her wishes were the rule.
Beside him, she had untied her silk belt, and Lanthan was helping her to lift the flimsy shift up and off her head. Brevin's eyes took in the slim, lovely curves of her hips and buttocks. She shifted her stance, turned toward him just right that he could get a glimpse between her firm thighs at the rich, juicy red folds of her sex. A pang of need twisted painfully in his gut at the sight, the scent of it wafting into his nostrils to make him dizzy. He caught himself leaning toward her, mouth watering. Goddess!
When she was free of the shift, she leaned back into Lanthan. He froze, shift still in one fist, his other hand automatically sliding around her slim waist to pull her flush against him. Shorter than Brevin, Lanthan was just a little taller than Eyrhaen, allowing a snug fit when they stood close. Her eyes shut in bliss. The shift slithered out of his grip as she snuggled into the curve of his body. Lanthan bent his head, his short hair tickling the point of her ear. Nibbling at her throat, Lanthan brought his palms up to cup her breasts, squeezing them just the way they knew she liked. She moaned a reward for him.
Brevin shook himself, shifting to sit on his butt so he could pull off his boots. He knew his role in this wasn't just voyeur. Things worked best if he anticipated. Boots off, he shuffled out of his trousers, careful with the painfully tight, hard cock that sprang free to slap his belly. He discarded the idea of tugging it. Wouldn't give him much relief. She wouldn't allow him to come yet anyway.
Once naked, he eased into the burbling heat of the pool. A quick dunk underwater wet his skin and let him slick his unruly hair back from his face. Minerals and natural bubbles caressed him as the water further warmed his blood.
Lights from the more public pools behind them limned Eyrhaen and Lanthan in soft white, the long locks of her hair draped across her breasts and shoulders. She had twisted her neck so she could capture Lanthan's mouth with her own. Their black tongues played between open lips, white teeth flashing in the shadows. One of Lanthan's hands still massaged one breast, pinching the nipple, but his other hand had slid down, fingers now cupping into her sex.
Humming happily, she pulled her lips from Lanthan and glanced down to check on Brevin. Seeing him in the water, she grinned and merrily turned out of Lanthan's embrace. Lanthan's fingers slid from her as she let herself fall backward toward the water.
Brevin caught her, his heartbeat speeding up when he had her delectably naked body in the cradle of his arms. Her long hair trailed like moonlight across the surface of the water as she wound her arms around his neck.
"Kiss me," she demanded, and he obeyed instantly. Her lips opened under his, and a moan oozed from his throat into hers. She tasted of cool silver, earth, and sweet, savory sauce over fresh meat cooked just so it melted in his mouth. He released her legs so his arm was free to wrap around her back, pinning her to him. Arms fastened around his neck, she pulled her legs up to wind them around his hips. His cock throbbed between them, pressing her belly, and he slid both hands down to palm her ass, the better to press her even closer.
Lanthan was there, behind her. His scent mingled with hers, driving Brevin to suck more deeply at Eyrhaen's mouth. His hands slid over Brevin's, encouraging him to spread the cheeks of her ass farther apart. Brevin did and shared what he knew would be a frustration for his friend. Lanthan would want to drive home, slide his cock into either opening exposed by the spread, but he couldn't. If he so much as tried, the magic that was Eyrhaen would shrivel his erection painfully, so much so that he would not be able to get it up again for at least a moon.
Instead, Lanthan braced his hands beside Brevin's and knelt in the water. Brevin raised her higher at Lanthan's nudge, then swallowed her squeal of delight when Lanthan must have started to lick her. It was a good thing she didn't weigh much--to Brevin, at least--because if she did, he wouldn't have been able to hold her. It was hard enough to do when his wicked friend, while laving at Eyrhaen's anus and sex, reached between Brevin's legs to fondle his balls.
Good thing for him when Eyrhaen ripped her mouth from his and declared, "Enough. Put me down."