Read an Excerpt
“But, Gren, you haven’t heard—”
“No.” Gren shook his head. “Not yes, not maybe, but no.” Stretched out on a lounge chair by the side of the pool, the stubborn man sighed and closed his eyes, shutting out the rest of the world.
Sernal of Mardu clenched his jaw. Why had he expected the damned mercenary to hear him out? He glanced around at the tropical paradise surrounding them and grudgingly acknowledged Gren’s refusal. What could Sernal offer to compare with a few weeks in paradise?
The resort overlooked Aflera’s largest ocean, blushing under the noon sun. Not a cloud marred the sky, creating a scene of almost unreal perfection. Large, green leafed palms surrounded the resort, framing the ocean’s beauty. From Sernal’s vantage, he overlooked the lavender pool in front of him. Beyond the pool lay white sand so soft the grains felt like silk under one’s feet, and the pale rose-coloured ocean water teamed with finwhales, mraun fish, and a myriad of delectable marine food available on the resort’s high-priced, gourmet menu.
Sernal sighed. This wasn’t going to be easy. “Can I at least buy you a drink?”
Gren eyed him suspiciously before nodding. They sat in silence before an extremely attractive woman joined them. Gren leant back in the lounger, sighing under the ministrations of his personal thraia, one of the resort’s legendary massage therapists.
As her many hands crept over Gren’s neck, shoulders and arms, Sernal repressed a wave of envy to have those gifted hands over his body. Native to the planet, the thraia had an innate skill for pleasure. With six hands and eight digits on each hand, they made a simple massage orgasmic. And the sex... He stared at the thraia’s sensual eyes half-closed in concentration. The sex was rumoured to be indescribably erotic.
“I’ll take the drink, Sernal, but nothing else.” Gren murmured something unintelligible to the thraia that had her giggling before she left. “Talk about wainu,” he said with a groan as he rolled his shoulders. “I’ve found utter peace without sex. I wouldn’t have believed it possible before now.”
Sernal waved down a server and ordered them two Aflera Ambrosias. As he watched the server leave, he wondered how best to reintroduce his needs to the wary mercenary.
If he hadn’t needed Gren’s particular skills so badly, he would have left the overtaxed man alone. But with so many women gone missing in so little time, he needed the legendary Thesha’s gifts, and the sooner the better. Thought to be mere myth, the Thesha race was in fact quite real. And like the stories of old, they could and did have power over all creatures feminine.
He’d often thought the race, who were in fact a distant cousin to his own kin, blessed. Who in his right mind didn’t want the power to understand and ultimately control the female mind—a mystery in itself?
Staring at Gren’s form clad in swim trousers, he subtly approved Gren’s musculature, earned from years of harsh discipline and training. Sernal’s gaze wandered to Gren’s only imperfection, a jagged scar that ran from his left hand up his forearm. Gren had never offered the story behind the scar, and Sernal knew it best not to pry.
Though friends, he instinctively sensed the danger surrounding the larger man. Gren had earned his reputation as a fierce warrior and tenacious adversary, one who had rarely been beaten.
Gren sighed. “Sernal, you’re steadily becoming a royal pain in my ass. The first time in three years I’m finally able to take a break, and I find you blocking my sun just hours after my arrival. What is it with you Mardu?”
“What can I say? It’s in our blood to be persistent.”
“I think you mean obnoxious.” Gren accepted the drink the server handed him. He took a long swallow and smiled, the action drawing the stares of several nearby women.
Sernal noticed and shook his head. “Can’t you turn it off?”
“You’re persistent, I’m desirable.” Somehow Gren uttered the words without sounding conceited. “What can I say? It’s hereditary.” He guzzled his Ambrosia and set the empty glass by his side.
Sernal stared at the glass, amazed Gren had imbibed the strong liquor so quickly. “I’d say your metabolism is nothing short of amazing too.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t know that. Alcohol doesn’t affect my kind the way it does others. We have a natural tolerance for fermented fruits. Certain drugs, however,” he paused, his expression darkening, “can be lethal.”
Sernal saw a golden opportunity and charged forward. “You know how it feels to be powerless all too well, don’t you?” It might not have been smart, but reminding Gren of his imprisonment years ago would have more of an impact than a simple entreaty for help. “Imagine helpless young women undergoing what you suffered. Except they don’t escape. No one rides in to their rescue.”
“I wasn’t rescued.” Gren clenched his teeth. “I was two seconds from killing that bitch Cari when you entered the scene, running late as usual.” He cursed under his breath. “I’m just not going to be rid of you until you tell me what’s on your mind, am I?”
Sernal drained the rest of his glass, feeling overly warm as he did so. Unlike the Thesha, the Mardu were susceptible to alcohol. “Nope. So you might as well hear me out.”
Gren stared at him for a moment before he stood abruptly, flexing his massive arms as he whipped a towel around his neck. “Fine then. Follow me.”
Sernal trailed him to the most expensive section of the resort. He followed Gren into a suite and whistled. “Being a mercenary must pay pretty well.”
A small water fountain greeted them when they entered. The room’s soothing hues of amber and pale green blended with the tropical environment directly outside. Through two open doors leading to a balcony, Sernal could clearly see a finwhale leaping in the air before it disappeared beneath the water. The wind blew, rustling the silken drapes framing the balcony doors, and the sweet smell of florantes teased the air.
He almost felt bad for what he was about to do to Gren.
“Spill it,” Gren ordered and wandered outside on the balcony.
“We have a total of fifteen missing women, all grabbed within the past month. All are from affluent families, and all from different provinces in Mardu.”
Gren shrugged. “So tap system law. What do you need me for?”
“There’s something about these crimes that smacks of peacemaker corruption.”
Gren turned and narrowed his gaze. “How so?”
Finally, a spark of interest. Sernal prayed to Flor his luck would continue. “The culprits have kidnapped five of the women despite their own security. Eyewitness accounts paint our kidnappers as organised, controlled and possibly military.
“They cover all their bases a little too well. Neither Rafe nor myself has detected a trace of evidence at any of the crime scenes. We need you, Gren.”