For Women Only

Overview

He is a master of pleasure with a tortured soul. She wants to redeem the man her people destroyed. Will he destroy her for trying?

When Kin Ambassador Mehfawni Ruh visits the capitol planet of the Tarthian Empire, she meets the human Khyff Antonello, a master of pleasure who satisfies her every craving for illicit and taboo sex. She expected a fling, but found love.

Upon discovering her own people devastated his family, she longs to restore all...

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Overview

He is a master of pleasure with a tortured soul. She wants to redeem the man her people destroyed. Will he destroy her for trying?

When Kin Ambassador Mehfawni Ruh visits the capitol planet of the Tarthian Empire, she meets the human Khyff Antonello, a master of pleasure who satisfies her every craving for illicit and taboo sex. She expected a fling, but found love.

Upon discovering her own people devastated his family, she longs to restore all they destroyed, but some tragedies can never be reversed. Her family demands she cast out the human, for if she keeps Khyff, she must deny her heritage and abdicate her future as ruler of her world. Mehfawni searches for an alternative, and stumbles upon Khyff's darkest secret. Now, she must determine whether his fragile trust is the response of love and a healing heart or a ruse for revenge.

Publisher's Note: This book is a substantially re-edited, revised version of story previously released by another publisher, and contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Violence.

Previous book: At the Mercy of Her Pleasure, also available in print.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611183566
  • Publisher: Loose Id
  • Publication date: 12/10/2010
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Tarthian Empire, Tarth, Tarth City

Royal District, Destine Pietan Royal Stadium

Birit 44, 4664 Tradestandard date

Lights flickered in the concert stadium. Sixty thousand four hundred and twenty-seven people screamed in unison.

A keening wind whistled across the arena. The crowd stilled and voices hushed. Overhead, the canopy went coal black.

Screams rose anew.

Holographic clouds coalesced out of the void. Like a vast ripple flowing across the crowd, every head went back. White wisps darkened into thunderheads heavy with the threat of rain.

A slow peal of thunder rolled through the lamenting wind.

Gusts of wind howled and shrieked into the sound of a gale. The clouds dispersed, streaming away like ghosts into the darkness.

A flash of blue-white light.

A crack of thunder, then the bass deepened, vibrating the chests of the crowd with its resonance. It slowed. Beat like a heart.

Boom! Boom! Boom-boom!

A slow chant rose.

"Wind--and--Thun-der!"

"Ten seconds." Khyffen Antonello paced the security nook backstage, watching the wall of monitors, fingertips pressed against an earpiece.

The crowd surged toward the stage.

Khyff clenched his jaw. Damn it, I hate these theatrics!

The drums thundered, rampant, wild. Cymbals crashed.

Darkness fell, and with it, complete silence.

Barrel-shaped riot-droids ringed the stage and secured all access to the platform.

Eight seconds until the Kin rock group Wind and Thunder commanded the footlights.

The whistle of a mounting windstorm rose eerily in the blackness. Feline Kin howls mixed withhuman screams. Tyran hooves beat the floor in a staccato rhythm.

"Wind--and--Thun-der! Wind--and--Thun-der!"

"Seven seconds."

All across the stadium, the crowd held aloft lightning bolt-shaped flashers that blinked with the rhythm of the ponderous drums. They waved them back and forth.

Khyff faced the digital clock. Six seconds.

"Wind--and--Thun-der!"

"All stations report."

Five.

"Northwest station all clear."

"Wind--and--Thun-der!"

Four.

"Southwest station all clear."

Three.

"South central..."

"Alert!" a voice broke in. "North central station. Alert. Suspicious package, backstage entrance. Repeat, alert, North central station..."

Khyff started running before the speaker finished saying the first word. "Look for decoys!"

A hundred guards in stark black uniforms with the letters FWO centered in white on their chests and backs had already spread out in response.

The five members of the Kin rock group would be tightening the final straps on their hoverstages and rising above the ground right now.

Khyff slid down the short banister to the floor of the backstage arena.

Riot-droids had already closed ranks around the package and merged into a single, impervious unit.

Simultaneous reports fed into Khyff's earpiece in a muddle of voices. "Stop." He touched his ear. "Alerts only. Report."

Nothing.

The lights flooding the stage streaked through the curtains and lit up the area around Khyff. The roar of the crowd welcomed Wind and Thunder. The opening drum solo began.

The human-looking chief security droid snapped to attention in front of Khyff.

"Status?"

"All clear, sir. Scans indicate package consists of wrappings for newly purchased percussion instruments and related material."

"Percuss..." Khyff tore off his interactive earpiece and held it in his fist behind him. He leaned forward. "You're telling me we had a full alert over a shopping bag dropped by the drummer?"

The android quirked a brow made of the finest human-like hair. "Affirmative, sir. It wasn't there until Wind and Thunder took the stage."

Khyff grunted. He returned the earpiece to his ear.

"Cancel alert. Repeat, cancel alert. Good job, everyone. Stay sharp. Only one more show tonight and this entire tour is history." He nodded to the chief droid. "Good job. My compliments to the droid crew."

"Thank you, sir."

Khyff pivoted on one foot and headed for the wings.

On the main ground stage, lead singer Gelina Fasra crooned to the throng and prowled the half-darkened platform like the cat she resembled. Safe behind the linked arms of the riot-droids, she enticed, danced and strutted to the snarling, throbbing music.

When lights swept the area, Khyff moved back so the white FWO on his black shirt wouldn't show. Nothing must detract from the performance.

Invisibility. For Women Only's best selling point. Offering the highest possible security to celebrity female clientele without disrupting or interfering with their lives. Stars, politicians, high profile criminals ... it didn't matter. If you were female and a celebrity, For Women Only took care of you. For a price.

FWO made its presence known to outsiders, warned them off, muscled in between the public and the celebrity, protected them from bomb threats, stalkers, weirdoes and fanatics. Physical and virtual. To outsiders, visible. Extremely so. To the celebrity, FWO was invisible.

The band never needed to know he'd saved them from a shopping bag.

One of his assistants caught his attention and clenched both fists, his face a grimace of exasperation. Khyff crossed his eyes. They both laughed.

Gelina's voice climbed octaves above human perception. Too long on that note and glass would break. On the planet Whinbrice, a window on the control panel had shattered. Khyff had shut down the show and sent FWO staff on a wild and fruitless hunt for snipers. That hadn't impressed anyone.

Humans in the audience watched in awe, able to hear only the music, not the lyrics. Kin whistled, hooted and howled. Tyrans bleated like goats.

Khyff wished fervently for thicker earplugs.

The Claw Rock Tour. Seven planets in fifteen days. Sixty-thousand plus people in and out for two shows daily. Sold out across the empire. The empress herself didn't suffer half the logistics of security. Tonight was the last night.

Thank God.

No one would mistake the Kin group members for humans except in overall shape and stance. Ears perched on top of their heads, tufted to pick up the faintest sound. Few sneaked up on a Kin, but even the proudest of their warriors could not withstand a mob like the one here tonight. Kin had clawed toes. Claws hid beneath human fingernails, ready to slice and scratch without warning. Fangs dominated their mouths, with sharper pointed teeth in front, and tongues that scraped meat from bones, rough like cats.

Wind and Thunder even smelled like cats. Especially in the rain.

What would those ears feel like to a human tongue? Khyff shuddered. Furry. Hairs. Yuck.

Miliyana Jhareen manipulated a synth-board, riding high on her hoverstage, above the crowd and beyond the reach of the stalking fans who'd made her life a living hell until they'd hired For Women Only. On the big holoscreens, her feline features showed in profile. When she turned and faced the holocam, only her slitted pupils made her seem catlike. Until she opened her mouth and showed fangs and tongue in a feral hiss.

Veleid and Senafria Lexius danced on a hoverstage big enough for all five members, their joined voices lost in the echoes of the arena wings. The colored lights above them changed with each motion, altering the music to match their gestures and moves. Identical twins, Veleid and Senafria shared everything, including the drummer, the group's only male member and the single exception to For Women Only's ironclad rule about who they protected.

Tovar Fasra, Gelina's younger brother and the drummer, twirled fat electronic sticks in each hand. He rode the highest hoverstage, well to the back. Mobbed by human women and Kin females every time he appeared in public, he'd become a recluse until FWO took over their security contract.

As the first song wound toward its end, Tovar eased back into his solo, tapping the sticks across the skin-thick drum membrane surrounding his hoverstage.

The female part of the crowd sobbed his name hysterically and reached out their arms, crying. Some of the males did, too.

Tovar tapped the new drumsticks together over his head, twirled them through his fingers, then crossed the sticks in front of him and bowed with the group.

Khyff sighed. It's gonna be a long night.

* * * *

Kelthian District

Khyff Antonello's Apartment

Birit 45

Khyff shut his front door, leaned back against it and closed his eyes. Home. He dropped his travel bag.

"Lights. Low level." He rubbed both hands over his face and rolled his shoulders, wincing at the tightness in his muscles after the long commute.

The ambient lighting welcomed him into the living area. He brushed two fingers across the tall wooden table behind the couch and frowned at the dust. The cleaning droids had been skimping again.

"Music."

He jumped at the sudden blare of hard Kin rock. Drums thundered and boomed behind Gelina's wailing feline voice. He clamped both hands over his ears.

"End music!"

How the hell did Wind and Thunder get on my setup? He moved his hands and growled into the silence.

Senth was back. His half-brother loved the group.

"Choose selection 'Khyff welcome home'. Play softly."

A soothing orchestral symphony began. He gave a pained sigh. What was I thinking when I bought that?

"End music. Play 'Khyff study'."

An upbeat tempo with horns and drums began.

"Lower volume." Khyff ran a hand through his hair. "Still lousy, but it sure beats that Kin trash." The tantalizing smell of baking sugar cookies made his stomach growl. "Mmm, yum."

He headed into the kitchen. The foodsynther hadn't worked since he'd moved in. Couldn't be fresh baked. Nothing on the counters.

The magnets on the fridge lit up when he approached, flashing all the local specials from restaurants within their delivery area. He sniffed. None of them smelled like cookies. He'd tossed out the one that emitted the scent of frying fish every time it turned on. Nothing worse than that the morning after a party.

He sniffed the air and followed the scent to his brother's bedroom door.

"Senth?" He knocked and opened the door. "Man, those cookies smell so..."

"Khyff, damn it!" Senth grabbed the bed sheets. Beneath him, his fiancé, NarrAy Jorlan, yelped and covered her bare breasts with both arms.

Khyff shut the door quickly. "Sorry!" He rubbed the back of his neck. Man, that was more of Senth than I ever wanted to see.

He hurried into the kitchen and opened cupboards noisily, busying himself with laying out cups and spoons for tea. The image of NarrAy's breasts burned into his thoughts and refused to go away.

Damn it, Senth.

For eighteen years, he hadn't known his brother was alive. The Ruh clan on Felidae had taken in the human Khyff and his mother when she was pregnant with Senth. When the Tzesar saw Senth was half Kin, she'd ordered the newborn killed and threw Khyff and his mother into the streets. A few days later, his mother paid for an hour of daycare for Khyff at the starport and then disappeared.

Which left Khyff in the merciless hands of the starport police, who promptly handed him over to slavers and neglected to report his mother's death.

Khyff had held out hope she'd return or that he'd find her, until a year ago, when his employer, Luc Saint-Cyr, uncovered evidence of her suicide.

Two years ago, when a mutual friend introduced him and Senth, Khyff's first reaction had been fury. Rage that the cause of his mother's death had escaped her fate. That he still lived, breathed and walked. Then Senth smiled at him with his mother's smile and her face.

He'd forgiven him everything. Anything. Even those things that weren't really his fault.

Dressed only in denim pants, his half-brother emerged from the bedroom and padded toward him stealthily. Since Khyff had seen him last, Senth had put on height and was now the taller one. Though a free man, he wore his straight, dark hair even longer than he had as a slave, because it pleased NarrAy. It fell halfway down his back.

Senth's feline eyes narrowed. Except for his eyes and mouth, he seemed completely human, unless you got him mad.

"Sorry, Sen." Khyff stepped behind the counter, putting space between himself and his HalfKin brother. His stomach fluttered. "I swear, I know her pheromones smell like butter and vanilla. I should have known it was her and not cookies or something, but I guess I was hungry and I didn't think of that. I haven't seen you guys in nine solar months."

Senth seated himself on a stool at the island counter and played with a spoon, watching him with an expectant, angry look. A low growl rumbled. The corner of his mouth twitched, revealing fangs.

Sweat prickled all over Khyff's skin. His stomach lurched. "It was an accident, Sen." He fought to keep his voice calm. His brother had once ripped out a man's throat with those fangs. "Didn't you hear the Wind and Thunder music come on? You left it keyed and when I came in, it..."

Khyff caught a twinkle in his brother's eye. He snorted. "You were gonna sit there and let me ramble on about how sorry I am, weren't you?"

Senth grinned. "Nah, I always knew you were sorry."

"You royal scam-butt!"

Senth laughed and slapped a hand on the counter. "Scammed you good, bro."

"Damn it, Sen!" He ran a hand through his hair. His scalp was soaking wet. "You scared the hell out of me. I thought you were going all Kin."

Senth snarled like a wildcat, fingers hooked and clawing the air playfully. He laughed again.

Khyff swore under his breath. "Real funny."

"Junk me, bro." Senth dropped easily into their old street cant. "Notta boasted you clean. Leave me sly for it." He stood and came toward him, a hand out.

Khyff flinched back.

Senth stopped, tilted his head and frowned. An expression dangerously close to pity crossed his face.

"Nothin' to forgive." Khyff held out the teapot. "Fill that, will you?"

Senth looked down at it a moment before taking it from Khyff's hands. "Sure, bro." He put it under the faucet.

Khyff's hands shook when he picked up the sugar bowl. He set it on the island counter, staying on the other side from Senth. He wiped his brow with the back of a hand.

"And lock the damn door next time, will you?"

The wet teapot hissed on the burner. "When are you going to get that foodsynther fixed? A person could starve to death in this apartment. Not a Kin restaurant anywhere close and you couldn't get a fresh baked cookie in this place if you begged to have it delivered."

Khyff tapped his fingers and thumb together. You talk too much.

"Yeah, right." Senth was smiling, but Khyff stayed out of his reach until his brother sat back down.

"What have you two been doing? Other than what I interrupted."

"No new coins, bro." Same stuff, different day.

Senth's work for the All People's Liberation Army entailed theft and NarrAy's involved interrogation. She was the second-in-command to the leader of the rebellion. Neither talked about it, except to say they were a team. Likely all they could say.

Stuffing loose tea leaves into a ceramic ball, Khyff leaned against the island counter. "Will you be home long?" He eased the tea into the heating water.

"We're pretty much on leave until the wedding. Six weeks." He tapped the bowl of the spoon, flipped it, and caught it in mid-air. "What's up with you?"

"Saint-Cyr keeps me busy." Khyff retrieved the bag he'd dropped near the door. "Had me supervising security for a rock group."

"You? Hanging out with a rock group?" His laugh was the huffing grunt of a Kin. "Can't picture that."

He opened the bag. "Kin rock group, in fact."

"Nah kkkhh." No shit. "You boastin' me, now."

Khyff set a stack of music chips in front of him. "Play the top one and see for yourself. Got these for you straight from the group. New releases not on the market yet." He chewed his lower lip, anxiously awaiting Senth's reaction.

His brother pressed the chip's center. A mini replica of Wind and Thunder appeared on the counter. They all wore traditional leather garb. The females carried gem-encrusted hook knives at their belts. Tovar wore his drumsticks like a weapon.

"Fftt-fftt sha kee!" Senth's pupils flashed green like a cat's in the light, still dilated from exposure to NarrAy's pheromones. "These guys are the best! I love this group, bro."

"Yeah, I know."

Senth pressed his palm against Khyff's and they circled each other's hands before clasping fingers. "Thanks, man!"

Khyff sat on the stool opposite him. "Press it again."

When he did, it changed to dynamic view.

"Hello, Senth," Miliyana said, her voice low and sultry. Tovar spoke from behind the others. "Hey, Senth, dok cho, sah." Each of the five greeted him, their lead singer last. "Sahkeet ta kroh, rokk nahee. Deel. Nah rone dah." Gelina tossed long beaded braids over a shoulder. "Nife dak rohk, Keef." The vid faded.

"What was that all about?" NarrAy leaned against the doorjamb. "I didn't get a word she said."

Even with her sun-streaked brown hair mussed and tousled, NarrAy was radiant. She was a Better, designed in the womb, created with features so symmetrical and faultless she might have been a doll come to life. Her simple white cotton sundress showed off her golden skin and perfect build.

Khyff knew he should avert his eyes and not stare at her like some love-struck puppy, but he couldn't look away. He propped his chin on one hand and sighed. Damn Senth's luck, anyway.

Senth held out a hand to her and she went into his arms. He kissed her on the nose. "Khyff supervised security for a Wind and Thunder concert last week. He brought me an autograph."

"Hi, Khyff." His future sister-in-law regarded him from the circle of Senth's arms.

"Sorry," he mouthed.

She mouthed back, "No problem." Standing between Senth's thighs while he sat on the barstool, her head reached his shoulder. "Did you understand any of that, Khyff?"

"Nah, the only Felis I know are the cuss words Senth taught me."

"Ow!" Senth pulled a face when NarrAy elbowed him in the ribs. "What was that for?"

She gave him a playful tap on the nose. "Teaching your brother dirty words."

"You use them." When she poked him again, he laughed and clasped both her hands in his. "Stop that, you terror." He dragged her up against him and kissed her. "It's not like he didn't know any in Etymis. He taught me some of those. I don't see you poking him."

Khyff held up both hands, staying out of it. "For all I know, Gelina was cussing me out for being so strict about rules."

"So what did the boy say?" NarrAy asked Senth. "He's kind of cute, with his tufted little ears."

"Hey!" Senth nuzzled her cheek with his nose. "You don't need to be lusting after some Kin hottie when you've got me."

Khyff snickered, which earned him a glare from Senth. "Sorry." He pressed his lips together, then coughed politely. "I think dok cho means hi."

"And he tacked on sah at the end, which is like the way Khyff and I say 'bro' instead of brother. Sahkeet is brother."

"I thought sahkeet was sister."

"Sister is ilkeet. Sahkeet is brother."

"Did Gelina say something about humans?" Khyff asked. "I thought I heard the word nahee."

"Yeah, except nahee really means 'not us,' so Kin use it for Tyran and Chiasmii, too." He kissed NarrAy on the cheek. "'Sahkeet ta kroh, rokk nahee,' means, 'Your brother is cool, for not being one of us.'"

Khyff groaned at that. "She made a point of calling me nahee the first few days, like that was my name. When I refused to answer to it, she started calling me Keef, because Khyff sounded 'too human' for her mouth. That bugged the hell out of me, 'cause I constantly get asked if Khyff is a Kin name. I was born before Felidae was even discovered, damn it." He nudged his chin toward the music chips. "What else?"

"Deel is a simple word, but its meaning is complicated. 'To the death for honor,' maybe."

"Huh." Khyff rubbed his chin. "I thought she hated me."

"Go on." NarrAy put her arms around Senth's waist, leaning against him.

"'Nah rone dah,' means, well, I'm not sure if that means no one sneaked into the show or no one stalked them, but the last part, 'Nife dak rohk,' is an idiom. Kind of the way we'd say, 'Back at you, man,' or 'Be cool.' She was talking to Khyff. I think she had a thing for you, bro."

Khyff snorted. "Like I'd ever want a mangy Kin."

"Mangy!" Senth's brows lowered. "Did you forget who you're talking to?"

NarrAy looked from one to the other, then moved carefully out from between them and around to the other side of the island.

"We've been over this, Sen." Khyff heard the impatient ring in his voice and tried to curb it, without success. Fatigue clawed at his reserves of energy. "You look almost totally human. Why do you want to be accepted by those animals, anyway?"

"Kin aren't animals, Khyff. We've been over that, too."

"Yes, they are!" He fought the rage threatening to strangle his thoughts. "They tried to kill you the minute you were born. They didn't want you. They hated you on sight."

"You mean you hated me, Khyff. You didn't want me." Senth stood, shoving the stool out of the way. "If it weren't for me being a half-breed, your mother might still be alive."

"Our mother," he said, rising, as well. "She cried over you for days when the Kin stole you from her. Nothing I said or did made any difference." He braced both hands on the counter. "I was a child, Sen. I couldn't help her, but I didn't know that. All I knew was that because of you, they threw us out and Mama wouldn't stop crying. She abandoned me because of you!"

NarrAy gasped and covered her mouth, eyes welling with tears. "Oh, Khyff. I'm so sorry you were hurt like that."

He sat abruptly. All the strength drained out of him, taking the anger with it.

He reached across the table and touched the tips of Senth's outstretched fingers. With a male economy of words, their touch expressed enough. Both forgave.

NarrAy came toward Khyff and lifted her arms to him for a hug. He enfolded her in a warm, safe embrace, arms wrapped all the way around her tiny frame. He drew her between his knees and pressed his face against her neck.

Two years before, she'd rescued him after a brutal and savage attack that put him in the hospital for a week. Since then, he'd allowed no one close enough to touch him. Even Senth got nothing more than the rare handshake. Only NarrAy.

He relished the pressure of her gentle arms around him, the rapture of her skin against his. Khyff knew he risked chemical dependence, holding her like this. After continued exposure, the touch of a Better addicted. He had been accidentally addicted to her once already and suffered hell weaning himself. His brother could never leave this woman. Never love another. Senth was hers, completely.

By new laws passed recently, NarrAy must cover her entire body and avoid crowded public places. Khyff shouldn't risk addiction again. Shouldn't let her touch him. Shouldn't ... he hugged her closer.

Her touch soothed, tranquilized. How could anyone expect a woman as lovely and loving as this to hide from the world? NarrAy could not truly be dangerous. Already, the darkness of Khyff's soul was lifting, evaporating. Fading. How could he have forgotten how wonderful she smelled? How sweet she was? How comforting it was to be held?

The teapot whistled.

"I'll get it, Khyff." NarrAy stepped back and crossed to the stove.

The absence of her touch left Khyff bereft. Dropped him back into his darkness.

He turned away. Careful not to let Senth see it, he clutched one hand over his heart and dragged in a deep breath.

Oh, God. What have I done?

NarrAy moved the pot off the heat. "Is it ready to pour?"

Khyff grunted. He turned back, wrapped both hands around the sugar bowl as if it were his lifeline to sanity, and scooted it into the center of the island.

NarrAy climbed onto a stool between him and his brother. While she spoke to Senth, Khyff concentrated on breathing evenly. My God, what would it be like to make love to that woman? Press my body against hers?

His brother eyed him and said something. Khyff had no clue what. He blinked, focusing with effort.

What am I thinking? What kind of man lusts after his brother's woman? A miserable, lying cheat, that's what.

"You okay, bro?"

"Fine." He cleared his throat, willing his heart rate to slow, his breathing to calm. "Sorry. What did you say?"

"What's your next job? Do you know, yet?"

"Saint-Cyr says we're guarding a group of ambassadors visiting a strip club."

"Ffffftt! You get paid to hang out at strip clubs?" Senth grabbed NarrAy's hand before she could poke him. "Not that I'd ever want to do that, of course," he added, glancing at NarrAy, "but, man, bro, what a life."

"Senth..." NarrAy admonished.

At least NarrAy hasn't forgotten the type of slavery I endured before Saint-Cyr helped free me.

Senth looked from one of them to the other and lifted his shoulders, hands out. "What?"

"For Women Only doesn't guard males, Senth." NarrAy glanced at Khyff. "They're female ambassadors and it's a male strip club and bordello."

"Oh, ffffftt." His brother cringed. "Sorry, bro. I forgot."

He shrugged.

NarrAy looked at him hopefully. "You're sure the job will be over before the wedding?"

"Saint-Cyr promised. He'll be there, too. Don't worry, NarrAy. I'll stand up for Senth and make sure he says 'I do' when he's supposed to."

"Good thing," NarrAy said, her eyes on Senth as she reached for her fiancé's hand. "Because there's no way I'm letting your brother back out of marrying me."

"No way I would, sweetie." Senth placed his other hand over hers. "You've got me good and hooked. And don't you love it."

NarrAy giggled. "Yes, I do."

Khyff turned his head and squeezed his eyes shut while they kissed.

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