Naughty Nights (Box Set)
by Kate Hill
eBook ISBN: 07173-02311
[ SciFi Romance ]
On the planet Shandra, a traditional marriage includes one woman and two men. Three Earth women find lust and love with their sexy alien mates.
Publisher’s Note: This Box Set includes the previously published novellas Enslaved, Commanded and Devoured.
Changeling Press ‖ ARe ‖ CTR ‖ Kindle ‖ Kobo ‖ Nook
Darkrock tried not to grit his teeth as he descended the ramp from his shuttle. His leg injury from the battle with Strongsea that morning hurt like hell, but he refused to appear vulnerable for this meeting. Tri-Ruler Ridgeback had ordered a conference between him and Strongsea to put an end to the rivalry between their sectors.
It was about time. After the report he’d forwarded, Ridgeback must have finally seen Strongsea for the underhanded, power-seeking swine he was. Darkrock was prepared to assume leadership of both sectors. Eventually he would select a male and female partner. The male would be his second-in-command and the female would bear his children.
The Shand people who dwelled on the neighboring planets of Shandra, Shandri and Shandral traditionally had a marriage of three. To them, three was a sacred number, occurring in architecture, legends, government and symbolically in their major religions.
Almost all Shand marriages included two males and a female. It was long past time Darkrock chose his partners. He wasn’t old, but was certainly no longer a young man. The problem was, he’d been so dedicated to training and leadership that he’d neglected his personal life.
Hell, he didn’t even know what it meant to have a personal life. Since his sexual preference leaned toward females, he sated his lust with willing women, when his duties allowed, but never took a permanent lover.
After the battle this morning, he planned to have some female companionship today, namely a shapely masseuse who serviced him regularly.
It felt strange being on the surface of a planet by day, but the Tri-Ruler lived on Shandral, where the weather was milder than on Shandra. At home, due to the intense heat, most people slept by day in their underground dwellings and were active by night when the temperature cooled.
A smile flirted with his lips, but he refused to let it take over. One thing he’d learned was never take anything for granted. Only when he heard from the Tri-Ruler’s lips that Strongsea would be removed from power and punished would Darkrock allow himself to relax the slightest bit.
The leadership battle had taken place by morning, in the heat, to increase the difficulty of the fight. Just thinking about the battle and Strongsea infuriated him. Strongsea was everything a Shandra leader shouldn’t be — tradition meant little to him. He allowed the people in his sector freedom. Even the women had voting privileges. How could one run a sector with females involved in politics and security? The people of Strongsea’s sector were in for a rude awakening when Darkrock took over.
The Tri-Ruler’s residency loomed ahead — a vast gray structure with three towers. Darkrock had never noticed how long a distance it was down the smooth, black walkway to the entrance. Of course he’d never traveled it with a healing leg before.
Halfway down the walk, he paused. Though the worst damage to his leg had been repaired directly after the battle, the newly mended flesh and muscle would still hurt for a day or two.
His chief advisor and security guard also stopped walking and turned to him. “Is something wrong, sir?”
“No.” Finally they reached the tall double doors. They opened automatically and the men stepped into the coolness of the foyer, where two heavily armed, gray-garbed soldiers stood guard. After a security check, Darkrock, his advisor and guard were allowed to pass.
Inside, a servant guided them to the Tri-Ruler’s meeting room where Ridgeback awaited them. He sat at the head of a long black table. Four of the Tri-Ruler’s guards were stationed at each corner of the room. Strongsea and his chief advisor sat to Ridgeback’s right. A guard from their sector stood behind them. The conversation between Ridgeback and Strongsea ended as Darkrock approached. The slight smile on Strongsea’s face faded. Good. Darkrock hated the man’s sickeningly passive smile that only masked his true nature.
Darkrock had thought Strongsea would never accept, let alone suggest, a traditional one-on-one challenge. He’d guessed Strongsea would rather send thousands to war rather than risk his own skin in a leadership battle. Darkrock had been wrong about that and had also underestimated the man’s prowess as a warrior.
The soft-spoken liberal had a will of iron. Under different circumstances, Darkrock might have respected him, but he also knew Strongsea was cunning. He smiled to his rival’s face, feigning the desire for peace talks, while behind his back he planned to assassinate and conquer.
On some planets such tactics were acceptable, even admirable, but not on Shandra. Despite their technological progress, Shand people were rooted in the old ways and prized traits such as honor and courage.
Strongsea was a relatively new leader, having undergone the trials two years ago when the old leader of his sector died. Darkrock, as well as the leaders of some of the smaller sectors, had hoped one of the other candidates would win the trials. Even before he assumed power, Strongsea’s personal and political viewpoints had caused concern throughout the planet. Some had even believed that Tri-Ruler Ridgeback would deny him leadership despite winning the trials. However, the Tri-Ruler had given him a chance and Strongsea had failed. Now he would learn that following tradition wasn’t optional.
“Darkrock come. Sit,” Ridgeback said in his rumbling voice while gesturing toward the empty seat to his left.
Darkrock did as ordered. His advisor sat near him and the guard stood behind. Darkrock bowed his head respectfully to the Tri-Ruler, then his gaze locked with Strongsea’s. The man was annoyingly handsome. Almost too handsome for a Shand leader. His wheat-colored beard was neatly trimmed, accentuating his chiseled bone-structure. Only his strong nose and the predatory look that sometimes gleamed in his thickly-lashed blue eyes kept him from being too pretty. He wore his pale hair ultra-short, almost shaved to his scalp, probably because dark-haired men were considered far more masculine on Shandra. Tall and lithe, he gave a deceptively elegant appearance, but as Darkrock had discovered during their battle, Strongsea was tough and supple. Grappling with him had been like tangling with warm metal — powerful and almost impossible to break. Just thinking about it made Darkrock’s belly tighten and his cock tingle to life. Of course he wasn’t turned on by Strongsea. He hated the man, but at times anger and arousal provoked the same response. If and when he chose his mate it wouldn’t be a man like this.
Rugged good looks, similar to Darkrock’s, were preferred in their culture.
During their earlier battle, Darkrock had tried his best to destroy his rival’s gorgeous face. He nearly curled his lip in disgust, noting that even the swollen lower lip, blackened right eye and four painful-looking scratches down his left cheek couldn’t disguise Strongsea’s beauty. Maybe exile or sentence to a hard labor prison camp would.
Ridgeback said, “I was saying, and Strongsea agreed, that as leaders of the two most powerful sectors on Shandra, your recent behavior has set a poor example.”
“He’s agreed?” Darkrock said, not bothering to keep the sneer from his lips. “Strange, considering he’s the cause of the problem, as you must have seen if you read my report.”
“In your report you accuse Strongsea of planning an assassination and takeover of your sector. Of course such allegations warrant a full investigation, which would take much longer than a single day,” Ridgeback said and Darkrock didn’t miss his note of sarcasm. “However, a quicker method is to question Strongsea.”
“As if he’d tell the truth,” Darkrock scoffed, his gaze shifting from the Tri-Ruler to his hated rival.
“He accepted questioning by the Spike of Integrity,” Ridgeback stated.
This surprised Darkrock. The Spike of Integrity was an old and powerful tool that never failed to bring forth the truth from its victims. Sector leaders were rarely subjected to it. A long, ultra-thin needle was inserted into the back of the neck, supplying a controlled stream of serum that forced the suspect to tell the truth.
“The results have cleared Strongsea of your accusations. He submitted to a full questioning regarding this matter as well as some others that have caused concern. I must admit that I had some reservations about him when he first took leadership, but they have been eradicated. He is a most worthy and respectable man.”
Darkrock drew a deep breath. His fingers gripped the chair arms so hard that his nails sank into the wood, yet he tried to appear calm and collected. This was completely unexpected and most unsettling.
“I suggest you question your intelligence staff closely, particularly those who provided you with the false information about Strongsea. I fear if there is an assassination being planned, it won’t be coming from another sector, but will be internal,” Ridgeback said.
Darkrock nodded, his jaw tight. “It seems you may be right.”
“My praise of Strongsea doesn’t mean that I find him to be a perfect leader,” Ridgeback continued. “Nor do my reprimands toward you mean that I am not pleased with your performance. On the contrary, I have always found you to be one of the strongest and most honorable leaders on Shandra.”
Darkrock wasn’t moved by pandering — not that he felt the Tri-Ruler was being untruthful. Sugar coating anything wasn’t Ridgeback’s style and that was a quality Darkrock respected.
“The problems between your sectors have always been a source of concern on Shandra. Now that it again has you on the brink of war — and has driven you into a leadership battle — I am compelled to step in. I sanctioned this morning’s battle only because I hoped it would put an end to your rivalry and bring peace to Shandra. When the battle ended in a draw, I realized you are equally matched in many ways, but also complement each other. The best decision for Shandra won’t be to choose one of you over the other, but to merge your sectors.”
“Merge?” Darkrock said, his control close to snapping.
“As in they become a single sector?” Strongsea demanded, his peaceful expression fading, replaced by the same tension Darkrock had seen during the leadership battle.
“Exactly,” Ridgeback said. “You can learn much from each other and will balance each other well. Strongsea, you are a modern man of new ideas and fresh insights. Darkrock, you are rooted in tradition. Together you can improve Shandra as surely as you would destroy it fighting each other.”
“Which of us will be the leader?” Darkrock asked, almost afraid of what the answer would be.
“Neither. You will have equal control.”
“And if we don’t agree to this?” Darkrock said.
“Then you relinquish your position and a new representative of your former sector will be chosen to share leadership.”
“I’ll have to rule with him?” Strongsea said, his wide-set blue eyes narrowing almost to slits as he glared at Darkrock.
“More than that,” Ridgeback said. “You and Darkrock will be joined in matrimony. You will select a wife to be shared between you, and your heirs will be of the new sector.”
Darkrock couldn’t quite retain any of the Tri-Ruler’s words past “joined in matrimony.” Somehow he managed to notice that Strongsea’s golden-skinned face went quite pale and his pearly teeth clenched visibly. Even when furious the bastard was fucking handsome.
Strongsea said, “With all due respect, sir, I submitted to the Spike of Integrity, so you’d know I was not part of the conspiracy Darkrock alleged I had planned. But how am I to know that he didn’t fabricate the entire story to discredit me? He accused me of being dishonorable, but he might be guilty of a similar crime. I cannot subject my people to his joint leadership until his integrity is proven.”
“I’ve ruled my sector for over fifteen years,” Darkrock growled. “I was proving my honor when you were still sucking on your mother’s breast.”
Strongsea’s chiseled lips drew back in a sneer. “Despite your appearance, there are not so many years between us, Darkrock.”
“You retort like a woman.”
“Enough!” roared Ridgeback, glaring from one man to the other. “If this continues I’ll seriously consider dethroning both of you. Strongsea’s request isn’t unreasonable. Darkrock, will you submit to the Spike of Integrity?”
The very idea of his Tri-Ruler’s request infuriated Darkrock. After so many years of loyal service, he could scarcely believe he was being treated like this. Still, in the back of his mind he admitted that if he were in Strongsea’s position, he would demand that his rival be interrogated.
“Darkrock?” the Tri-Ruler pressed.
“Yes. I submit,” he said, unable to keep the bitter edge from his voice.
“So be it.” Ridgeback used a communicator built into the table to summon a medic to the interrogation room, then glanced at Darkrock and said, “Follow me.”
The Tri-Ruler stood, as did the others at the table. When Ridgeback and Darkrock headed out of the meeting room, Strongsea followed.
Pausing, Darkrock turned and Strongsea nearly crashed into him. The men stood almost chest-to-chest, their blazing eyes locked.
“I wasn’t present for your questioning. I demand the same privacy,” Darkrock said.
Strongsea started to reply, but Ridgeback interrupted, “That’s fair. Everyone wait here. When the interrogation is over, we’ll return.”
“I ask for my chief advisor and guard to accompany me as witnesses,” Darkrock stated.
“Granted,” Ridgeback said.
Darkrock cast one more glare in Strongsea’s direction before he followed the Tri-Ruler out of the room.
They walked down a long corridor, then a winding flight of stairs to a small, cell-like room with only a table, two chairs and a cabinet. Ridgeback took one seat and motioned for Darkrock to take the other. Moments later a small, slightly-built medic dressed in a simple gray suit stepped into the room.
He opened the cabinet, snapped on lightweight gloves, and removed a long slender case and a can of antiseptic, pain-relieving spray from one of the shelves. After placing the case on the table, he opened it, revealing a long, ultra-thin needle and a tiny vial of serum.
Darkrock had faced worse situations in his time. He’d fought many battles and had even been taken prisoner twice in his youth, yet his heartbeat quickened and he felt a jolt of anxiety.
“There will be some discomfort at first,” the medic said as he applied pressure to the back of Darkrock’s head, then sprayed his neck. He took the needle and vial from the pouch.
Seconds later, Darkrock felt a burning sensation in the back of his neck. He closed his eyes and tried not to groan as the heat engulfed his head, then faded to a tolerable level. He was aware of being questioned, but couldn’t recall what was being said, or how he replied. He must have done well, for the next thing he clearly recalled was Ridgeback staring at him with a faint smile.
The Tri-Ruler nodded, “You are as honorable a man as I have always believed. Now, if you feel strong enough, we will return to the meeting room.”
Darkrock nodded and rose to his feet, but swayed a bit. The medic as well as his chief advisor grasped his arms, but he jerked away from them.
“I’m fine,” he stated.
“Don’t move too quickly for the next few moments,” the medic told him. “The serum is still wearing off.”
By the time they arrived back at the meeting room, the side effects had almost faded completely. Strongsea rose to his feet as they approached.
“You have no need to worry, Strongsea,” the Tri-Ruler stated. “Darkrock was misled by the false reports. You will find him a worthy partner.”
“Regardless of the results of the interrogation, it is unreasonable to force us into this partnership,” Strongsea stated.
“I agree,” Darkrock said, once again glaring at his rival, who returned his look with equal venom.
“Ah. So it is possible,” Ridgeback said, a cunning smile on his lips.
“What’s possible?” Strongsea demanded.
“For you both to agree.” The Tri-Ruler gestured with his hand. “You have heard my decision. I will give you twenty-four hours to think it over. During that time you will remain here. My servants will show you to your rooms. Eat. Rest. I suggest you talk to each other rather than brood over your decisions alone. Tomorrow at this time we will meet here again and I will expect your replies.”
The Tri-Ruler clapped his hands twice and servants appeared to guide them to their rooms.
Strongsea rose from his seat, his eyes blazing. “Sir, if you –”
“This meeting is over,” Ridgeback stated. “Go.”
Darkrock also rose and his gaze locked with Strongsea’s. If looks could kill, the men would have incinerated each other with the hatred in their eyes. In silence, they and their parties followed the servants out of the meeting room.
* * *
The Tri-Ruler’s servant left Strongsea and his party alone in his chamber. While his guard made a thorough check of the room, Strongsea paced under the discerning eye of his chief advisor.
Strongsea considered himself a reasonable man, not given to temper fits, but at the moment it was all he could do to keep from slamming his fist through a wall. It wasn’t propriety that deterred him, but the fact that the walls were made of marble.
“This is a highly irregular situation,” said the chief advisor.
“Thanks for the newsflash,” Strongsea muttered. “I don’t know how Ridgeback can do this. Forced marriages went out generations ago.”
“That’s true from a cultural point of view. However, by law the Tri-Ruler can order marriage or divorce. It’s been over two centuries since a Tri-Ruler has used this power, though, and he has given you a choice, sir.”
Strongsea raised an eyebrow. “You call that a choice? Either marry my worst enemy or relinquish my leadership? I suppose you think we should count ourselves lucky that he didn’t assign us a female as well?”
The chief advisor held up his hands in defense. “I understand why you’re angry, sir. I agree that it’s an upsetting situation –”
“I want to be alone to think this over.”
The chief advisor must have known by Strongsea’s look that arguing would be a mistake. He bowed his head and left the chamber.
The guard approached Strongsea and stood at attention. “Inspection complete, sir. No issues.”
“Thank you. Dismissed.”
The guard turned on his heel and marched out of the room, closing the door behind him and leaving Strongsea alone with his uneasy thoughts.
He continued pacing, his long strides swallowing the carpeted floor. His fists clenched and unclenched at his sides and his mind reeled. Sharing leadership with an archaic, self-righteous swine like Darkrock was bad enough, but the idea of marrying him was unbearable.
Over the past several months, the man had put him through hell, first with his threats of war, then with his accusations about assassination plans. Before soldiers on both sides lost their lives because of Darkrock’s greed and paranoid fantasies, Strongsea had demanded they meet in a leadership challenge.
He’d known the fight would be difficult. Darkrock was an experienced leader and had endured more battles than Strongsea. Yet until he stepped into the arena with the man, Strongsea hadn’t understood the magnitude of his power or the full extent of his cunning. The man was a few years older than Strongsea, but powerful as an angry yak. The match had ended in a draw with Darkrock rendering Strongsea unconscious with a chokehold. While still strangling his rival, Darkrock had passed out.
Apparently he’d fainted due to blood loss from a leg injury sustained earlier in the fight when Strongsea had rammed him into a broken section of the steel fence surrounding the arena. His rival fainting was probably the only thing that had saved Strongsea’s life, otherwise he had no doubt Darkrock would have killed him. In such a battle, it was perfectly legal, even expected, to kill one’s enemy. However, by law, the winner had to be standing at the end of the fight. Since neither man remained conscious, it was ruled as a draw, leaving the ultimate decision to the Tri-Ruler.
Now Strongsea must face one of the worst decisions of his life — surrender his sector to his worst enemy or bind himself to the man for life.
The door chime rang and Strongsea called, “Yes?”
“Leader Darkrock is here to see you, sir,” said the guard.
Strongsea’s brow furrowed. He hadn’t expected Darkrock to come to him, no matter what the Tri-Ruler had suggested. Strongsea’s heart raced and his stomach tightened. He told himself it was a natural reaction to meeting with his enemy. What he couldn’t quite explain was the way his cock twitched in his trousers.
Not only did Strongsea prefer females, but if he were to choose a male, he wouldn’t be anything like Darkrock. The man was just short of primitive. Wild black hair, a heavy beard and features that looked like they’d been sculpted from granite made him the image of an ancient Shand warrior.
“Send him in,” Strongsea said. He stood, his legs braced apart and his entire body tense as he stared toward the door, waiting for his rival to enter.
The automatic door slid open and Darkrock swept past the guard. His own guard followed behind him, but Darkrock growled, “Wait outside.”
Strongsea motioned for his guard to close the door and leave them in privacy.
Rather than speak, Strongsea remained silent, waiting for Darkrock to begin.
“I refuse to surrender my leadership,” Darkrock stated, his voice almost a growl.
“So do I.”
Darkrock’s teeth clenched visibly. He stepped closer to Strongsea, who remained exactly where he stood, not moving an inch even as they stood chest-to-chest. Though more thickly built, Darkrock was a few inches shorter than Strongsea and had to tilt his gaze upward. This nearly made Strongsea smile. He enjoyed the height advantage.
“Then you agree to the arrangement?” Darkrock asked, his voice rough.
“If we’re intelligent about it, the arrangement might work.”
Darkrock’s sapphire eyes gleamed. “Yes. If one of us dies, then the other would automatically inherit total leadership.”
Rage and disgust shot through Strongsea. “And you accused me of planning an assassination? You’re admitting that if we agree to this you’ll try to kill me.”
“I should have killed you in the arena.”
“I’m sure you would have if you didn’t faint.”
“I didn’t faint and besides, how would you know? You were out cold.”
“I watched the replay of the match.”
“You enjoy seeing yourself beaten?”
“No I like the advantage of studying my enemy’s strengths and weaknesses. I thought someone with your experience would know about that, but it seems you’re just a step up from a caveman after all.”
“This is getting us nowhere,” Darkrock said. His eyes still bore into Strongsea’s. They were dark as the ocean at sunset, the black lashes quite thick and the brows arched dramatically. Wild eyes, but with underlying intelligence. Despite Strongsea’s insult, he knew Darkrock was not a caveman, but a strong leader and an intelligent tactician.
“Don’t concern yourself,” Darkrock said. “I won’t kill you unless you give me a good reason.”
“Well, now I can sleep at night.”
Darkrock snarled. “Do you want to finish what we started this morning?”
“It would be better than this forced partnership.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Darkrock punched Strongsea. Strongsea grunted and tasted blood from the reopened wound on his lip, but he responded almost simultaneously, his fist connecting with Darkrock’s face. The men traded only a few blows before the fight went to the ground. Their bodies locked and strained against each other as each struggled to overpower the other.
Somewhere beyond the haze of anger, Strongsea was aware of the door opening and the guards entering. They tried to break up the fight, but the leaders refused to let go of each other.
“Leave!” Darkrock bellowed to his guard. “Now!”
“Go!” Strongsea commanded, grunting as Darkrock nearly twisted from his grasp.
Both guards looked hesitant, but couldn’t disregard their orders. They left the room, the automatic door sliding shut behind them.
Strongsea and Darkrock momentarily stopped struggling. Their hard bodies were locked tightly together and their gazes fixed on each other. Strongsea was intensely aware of the other man’s heated flesh and panting breath that seemed to match the rhythm of his own ragged breathing.
A strange, unsettling feeling swept over him as he looked into Darkrock’s gleaming blue eyes and for the first time saw him as a man rather than an enemy.
“If we do this, Ridgeback will dethrone us,” Strongsea stated, not because he feared this battle, but because he knew it was true. Even if one killed the other, Ridgeback would never allow the winner to keep his title.
Through gritted teeth, Darkrock said, “I agree. Let go of me.”
Moments passed and neither man loosened his hold on the other. Strongsea’s limbs ached and he had no doubt Darkrock was feeling the strain as well.
“All right, then we’ll talk like this,” Darkrock grunted. “What did you mean about using intelligence to make this plan work?”
Strongsea gritted his teeth and shifted his position as Darkrock nearly pried his way out of the hold. “I mean we agree to share leadership and get married, then continue living alone and ruling our sectors separately.”
A glimmer of hope shone in Darkrock’s eyes. “That might work, except what about the woman?”
“What woman?” Strongsea demanded, his brow furrowing.
“The female mate we’re supposed to share.”
“She can live part of the year with you and part with me.”
“That sounds fair.”
“Good. Then we’re agreed,” Strongsea said.
“We should get up then.”
“Fine. Let go of me.”
Once again pausing in their struggles, the men stared at each other.
It was going to be a long night.
* * *
At the appointed time, Darkrock and Strongsea once again met with Tri-Ruler Ridgeback, who was pleased they had agreed to his terms.
Once he and Strongsea had signed the necessary documents, merging both sectors, Darkrock leaned back in his chair and sighed. He didn’t like Strongsea, but the man had a keen mind. At least he had found a way to appease the Tri-Ruler while at the same time allowing life in their sectors to continue as usual. And the man was a superior grappler. Their earlier struggle in the bedchamber had gone on for ages. They’d actually fallen asleep entangled on the floor. It was odd for Darkrock, waking with his limbs entwined with those of another man, yet it wasn’t entirely unpleasant. Not that it mattered. If everything went according to plan, he and Strongsea would scarcely see each other and that was exactly how Darkrock wanted it.
“We will have the marriage rite before you leave here,” Ridgeback stated.
Darkrock felt a bit taken aback. He hadn’t expected it to happen so quickly.
“I realize it’s sudden,” Ridgeback said, “However, you’re free to plan a proper reception for a later date. Also I have assigned a member of my staff to reside on Shandra during the first year or so of your partnership. He will report back to me to ensure that you fulfill your bargain.”
At this Darkrock straightened in his seat. “Sir?”
“We’re to be watched?” Strongsea demanded.
An easy smile spread across Ridgeback’s lips. “Of course. I want to make sure you’re doing everything in your power to make this merger successful. For that you must live and work together. So the people can get to know you, I suggest you spend part of the year in each other’s capital cities while you decide upon a new capital for your expanded sector.”
Darkrock’s gut tightened and he glared at Strongsea whose blue eyes widened slightly. The handsome blond shrugged as if to say he’s outsmarted us.
Ridgeback used his desk communicator to summon the marriage officer — a businesslike female who performed the ceremony quickly and efficiently. Fortunately, she left out the part about the traditional binding kiss, for that was the last thing Darkrock or Strongsea wanted.
A few hours later, they were on their way back to Shandra.
Married, miserable and manipulated.
Changeling Press ‖ ARe ‖ CTR ‖ Kindle ‖ Kobo ‖ Nook