In a galactic mating contest where desire can be deadly, the only guys she wants are the three she can never trust.
In a faraway galaxy on the edge of apocalypse, cyber samurai Kaia of Kryll is the daughter of a tyrant who’s worshipped as a god by billions. A prison sentence she’ll kill to escape, since women like Kaia are worshipped in chains. And she’s just become the prize five hundred testosterone-fueled suitors will lie, seduce, and slaughter to possess in a ritual contest for her bed.
In the scramble to slip past her samurai defenses into her cybersuit, the only guys she wants are the three she can never trust. These four have a boatload of shared secrets and a shared passion so combustible it’s practically pyrophoric—breaking every dangerous rule on a world where lovers are crucified for unconventional unions. Their illicit heat will either end the war destroying all their races…
Or get the four of them killed when a god unleashes a death warrant for their heads.
Ignoring the sickening flash of white pain that flared with every breath and the alarming fog that blurred his vision, Dex scooped up the bloody shiv. Gripping it with casual menace, he glared at the howling horde.
To pull it off demanded every particle of his physical presence. But even gasping with pain and bleeding like a butchered steer, he hadn’t lost the knack.
Slowly the screaming chaos dwindled to a sullen mutter.
“Would anyone else care to question my authority?” He infused his voice with every ion of the icy calm he was famous for. A calm he was far from feeling—already wounded and spectacularly ill-equipped to fend off another challenge.
To his profound relief, no challenge emerged. Which merely meant whoever was trying to kill him lacked the confidence to move against him openly.
“May I presume no takers?” Carefully concealing his relief, he thrust the shiv through his belt. “In that case, we’ll recess until the next combat. Prefect, send out the acrobats. And haul this space trash out of here.”
Clenching his jaw over a hiss of agony, Dex managed to stride across the fighting pit without wincing to escape the mutinous mob.
The curtain had barely fallen behind him when Kaia launched herself into his arms.
“Gods of my father, Dex! He hurt you. I felt it.”
He would’ve protested that he was entirely fine. But that protest would undoubtedly have interfered with the novel sensation of Kaia—his fiery rebel—all distressed and demure and clinging in his arms, supple curves sleek with strength and lilac eyes enormous with concern. Desperate, she searched his face for damage.
Heedless of the scuffle as two prefects muscled past and Marcus hovered with a med kit and Nero loomed over him like he was half-tempted to fall into Dex’s arms himself, Dex dragged Kaia’s slender silk-clad hips hard against his and kissed her.
He kissed her the way he’d been burning to kiss her since seeing that bastard Zorin with his hands all over her. He kissed her to claim her and tell the whole damn world to back the hell off. That she was his.
And to hell with the mating contest and to hell with her farking father.
She was his.
That soul-deep admission he’d been fighting like the very devil since the moment they’d met filled his chest to bursting with an overwhelming shout of certainty. And even hurting like blazes and bleeding his guts out on the carpet, the potent knowledge of precisely what that admission would mean fueled a violent surge of lust that shot straight to his cock. Making him more than ready to cement his claim the way he’d done before when he kissed the hell out of her.
Only this time they weren’t stopping.
She was his.
“Gods, Dex,” she sighed into his mouth—a shaky whisper of surrender. A surrender she didn’t even realize she’d given.
And that soft, sexy sound ignited every Mogadon mating instinct he possessed.
He growled into her mouth and deepened the kiss, tasting honey and hunger in the way she gave him access. The way her hands trembled as she clutched his back. The way her mouth melted under his urgent press.
His palms slid over her sleek hips to ease her against his straining shaft. A locomotive of craving slammed through him like a Mogadon mining train. He savored the sweet softness of her lips, the low moan of her submission, the sudden fire of her need. Every flicker of her response and every atom of her essence told him she was his.
Dimly he was aware of Nero claiming the med kit from a chuckling Marcus, herding out the gaping prefects. When Dex finally surfaced for air, they were blessedly alone.
Except for Nero.
Who stood three cubits away watching them kiss with an intensity that sent a jolt of high-voltage lust straight through Dex’s shaft.
Reminding him with searing immediacy just how mind-blowing it had felt kissing his boyhood best friend. The way he’d dreamed about doing for a lifetime.
And just how hard it had been to stop.
“Damn,” Nero said huskily. “Don’t let me stop you. Just let me watch.”
Kaia stifled a breathless laugh and slipped out of Dex’s arms. “Don’t tease. He’s hurt.”
“It’s nothing,” Dex said automatically.
But now that he wasn’t kissing the hell out of Kaia, he couldn’t ignore the hot trickle of blood beneath his trousers.
“Don’t be such a tough guy,” Nero muttered, nimbly sifting through the med kit. “Take off your shirt. Unless you want me to do it for you.”
That growled threat was enough to make him want to take off a lot more than his shirt. Because he knew neither one of them had forgotten just what Nero had promised they’d do if he ever got his hands on Dex’s body.
Even though he’d been promising himself ever since that was never going to happen. Because the next time, he didn’t think he was going to stop at a kiss. Especially if Kaia was involved…
“Here. Let me help you.” Beautifully flustered and diligently avoiding his gaze, Kaia eased him out of his jacket. He peeled out of his ruined shirt, quietly amazed by the novelty of having anyone at all give one flaming shit about his injuries.
Despite himself, he was touched.
The wicked incision slanting over his ribs was a good handspan wide. His ribs had done their job and kept the blade away from his vital organs. But enough blood still oozed from the ugly slice to make Nero curse.
“That prick is flipping lucky you crushed his throat,” Kaia gritted out. “Or I would have done it myself. Only I wouldn’t have been nearly as gentle. Sit.”
Bemused, Dex found himself firmly seated on an ottoman with Kaia kneeling between his knees, wielding gauze and antiseptic with skill and determination.
“Easy with that,” he complained as she cleaned him up and disinfected with grim purpose. “Stings like the devil.”
“Try to relax. I know what I’m doing. I’m a Prime Class samurai, remember?” She arched a burgundy brow. “This isn’t my first knife fight.”
“I’ll try to bear that in mind,” he murmured. Wondering if she’d still be so beautifully receptive if he kissed her again. And wondering like blazes just how receptive she’d be at all if he weren’t injured.
Perhaps I ought to get injured more often.
“You’re going to need stitches.” The cushion sank as Nero sat behind him, still rummaging in the kit. “This silicon adhesive should hold you together till we get you to sick bay.”
Dex gave a noncommittal mutter.
Nero’s tone darkened. “Promise me you’ll go there.”
Faced with Kaia’s ferocious scowl, Dex laughed and raised his hands in surrender. “All right, all right! I’ll go during the recess.”
With Kaia’s exotic jasmine and ozone fragrance swimming through his synapses and Nero’s lean feral heat licking against his back, Dex found himself positively starting to enjoy the doctoring process. In fact, he couldn’t recall ever enjoying being injured quite so much.
As Kaia and Nero taped his wound shut, Dex slid his hands around her slim waist and eased her close.
“The silk,” he said, by way of excuse. “It looks stunning on you. Just like I knew it would.”
Smoothing silicon over his skin, she glanced up beneath her lashes, a glitter of gold dusting her lids. “I knew it was from you. It’s the only thing anyone sent me that I could bear wearing.”
And if he’d been entertaining any question at all about the thoroughly inappropriate nature of his attachment to his ward, the rush of possessive pleasure that seared through him at her admission would have erased all doubt.
“I want to shower you with silks,” he whispered. “I want every man on this ship to know you’re mine.”
“That could prove a bit awkward,” Nero said dryly, clever fingers smoothing over the silicon. “You know, given the four hundred ninety-nine men swimming in testosterone who just bid a fortune for her bed? What’re you planning to do—jettison them all out the nearest airlock?”
Dex was framing a curt riposte when Nero jabbed an antimicrobial injection into his exposed deltoid.
“Ouch, damn it!” Dex complained. “Warn a man next time.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Nero capped the sharp and tucked it away. “Just be thankful I didn’t insist on injecting you somewhere else. Because I was definitely tempted.”
“Hold up, Dex.” Kaia sat on her heels to study him, an unhappy furrow creasing her brow. “If you feel…the way you say you feel…why have you been avoiding me like a spacepox outbreak?”
Dex hesitated, not having expected to discuss this particular topic in Nero’s presence. Because the man was a sexual rival, wasn’t he? But it wasn’t as if he’d have any luck at all keeping it secret.
“I needed to clear my head.” Frowning, Dex glanced toward the curtain, wondering just how much longer Marcus would be able to keep them all out. “Now I need to talk to you. About that Prime Class bastard Zorin.”
“Then you need to talk to us.” Nero’s breath brushed Dex’s naked shoulder and sent an erotic shiver slipping down his spine. “Especially if you’re contemplating what I think you’re contemplating. Because it’s going to change things pretty radically for all three of us.”
Bristling with sudden hostility, Kaia stiffened in Dex’s arms. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“You know that’s not true.” Nero’s deft hands glided over his bare ribs.
Just finishing the job of patching him up, Dex told himself. But he found himself wondering exactly how much he’d protest if Nero slid his arms around his waist and eased those clever fingers over his cock.
Beneath his hands, a frisson of awareness rippled through Kaia’s kneeling frame. Her lavender eyes lifted and her lush lips parted. It was the easiest thing in the world to lean in and kiss her.
She moaned into his mouth, capable hands gripping his thighs for balance.
Behind him, Nero whispered, “Gods and demons. The two of you are killing me.”
His hands spanned Dex’s ribs a breath before his soft lips grazed Dex’s shoulder. And the double hammer of raw pleasure that seared through him—Kaia’s mouth under his kiss, Nero’s lips on his body—wrenched a groan from Dex’s throat.
He devoured her eager mouth and dragged her close. Aware with a pleasure so sharp it was painful of Nero’s hands sliding down to grip his thighs. Nero nuzzled the side of his neck—the molten slide of a wicked tongue, the graze of teeth sharp enough to menace—and Dex arched into the kiss in a blatant demand for more. His heart pounding so hard it threatened to burst right through his chest.
“Tell me what you want,” Nero breathed against his skin. “Tell me, Dex. After ten flipping years, I need to hear it.”
“You,” he groaned between kisses, loving the way she tasted, the way she yielded. She was his. She was theirs. “Both of you. I want—both of you. Just—this once.”
Behind his zipper, his cock was throbbing, so painfully hard he knew he’d explode in his trousers if someone didn’t—
Panting into his mouth, Kaia’s hands closed over Nero’s and eased him forward. In a single exhilarating instant, Nero’s fingers closed over the straining bulge of Dex’s cock. Dex groaned and rolled his hips into that sizzling contact. He pulled Kaia into him, hands urgent as he gripped the sweet curve of her ass.
Nero’s hands wrapped around his shaft and kneaded his rigid length like he’d been born and bred to service him. Even through his trousers, every exquisite stroke triggered pulses of paralyzing pleasure.
A pleasure he’d been waiting endless years to feel.
“I want you naked on the floor,” Dex rasped, beyond reason or restraint. “Both of you. On your knees. Now. Right now.”
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