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R'kos squinted at the cup of Janovian ale in his hand. He didn't much like the taste, but most everyone in the bar had ordered it, and he needed to blend in.
The hooded robe he wore didn't draw as many stares as he'd expected, and the dim lighting worked to his advantage. He had no wish to display his lavender skin until he had to, and if he tucked his hands inside the voluminous sleeves, he didn't have to. No Ankylos had visited any human planet for recreation, only to execute the terms of the peace treaty. Most humans had never seen one of his people in person, and he'd yet to determine what the general response to him would be. He'd only been on Elora Ki for less than three hours and had no wish to be forced to return home to L'lar because he frightened the natives.
R'kos sat up straight, alert. Underneath the pungent scent of alcohol, he caught a whiff of something almost familiar. During his last trip to Elora Ki, where he'd negotiated with the Galactic Alliance for continued peace between their peoples, he'd scented human male arousal for the first time. It had enticed him, stirring him as no Ankylos ever had. And the only way to experience that feeling again was to mingle with humans.
Twisting in his seat, he tried to pinpoint the source. A skinny man strode out of a back room adjusting his pants. R'kos sniffed again and then recoiled. Beneath the tantalizing scent of sex, the man smelled liked greed and hate. The male's underlying scent had to be alluring, as well, or he wouldn't be worth pursuing. R'kos slumped back in his seat, ale sloshing in his cup.
The Vervain district, the most impoverished section of Elora Ki, stank of strong emotion, the likes of which would incite bloodshed in an Ankylos hive. Despite his envy of humans and their ability to indulge in their emotions, anger, despair and cruelty weren't appealing scents. What if he'd been mistaken? What if he couldn't fit in here, with human males, any better than he had in the hive?
"Everything okay with the drink?" the barkeep asked with a nod at his nearly full glass.
The man made no attempt to peer into the shadows created by his hood. "Fine, sir, thank you. Just enjoying the ambiance."
The burly man quirked an eyebrow upward. "Ambiance? Sure, sure." He moved to the other end of the bar to assist another patron requesting a refill.
The front door of the establishment swung open with a bang, but R'kos was the only one startled enough to bother looking. A man stood in the doorway, but the extreme light differential obscured his features.
His appearance didn't matter.
R'kos breathed deeply and the restless tension eased inside him. Earthen, salty dependability, flavored with a sweet hint of whimsy and tied off with a metallic tang that spoke of time spent with ore...iridium to be precise. And something else. Harsh, unfamiliar.
Years of training and custom kept him from leaping to his feet and grabbing the man. He remained on his barstool, drinking deeply of the unpleasant ale and observing the newcomer.
The man rushed to the barkeep, standing close enough for R'kos to overhear their conversation.
"Bren, man, I need a place to hide."
"Fuck, no, Darien."
Darien. He turned the name over in his mind.
"C'mon. You owe me one."
"And you still owe me for that bar tab. I'm not saving your scrawny ass again."
Scrawny ass was a misnomer. Darien's bottom looked the perfect size to fill his grip.