Publisher: Ai Press
Genre: Menage a four, M/M/F/M; Futuristic/Sci-Fi
Release Date: TBA
Sixteen years ago, Rania’s father took her and her mother away from the Wolf and Deer clans, refusing to allow his daughter to be betrothed to three men. He rejects the old ways of their clan and sees his daughter’s destiny as servitude. But Hawk, Shin and Ken, do not forget their bride. No suffering in the following years will keep them from finding her, not the near-destruction of their people, not years in labor camps or starvation will keep them from their quest to consummate their marriage to her.
Which they do, on an Earth outpost sixteen years later. Rania now has a career, a fiance, a life completely apart from the destiny she’d had as a girl. Her three future husbands are willing to compromise: one night with them in an attempt to save their people.
But after such ecstasy, will one night be enough? Will they all want forever, and even if they do, what about the forces that would keep them apart – forces willing to murder in order to do so?
Terran B, sixteen years later…
That was her.
Hawk’s blood heated as he stared at the woman’s image on the screen. At age twenty-eight, she looked the same. Long straight black hair, high cheekbones, huge brown eyes with thick lashes. The DNA lock never lied. “It’s her,” he said. He’d never forgotten the mere brush of her fingertips on his wrist when she slid the betrothal bracelet containing a lock of her hair onto his wrist.
Neither had Ken and Shin.
Men never forgot their destined mate.
Ken leaned in closer, also staring at the screen. Hawk sensed his friend’s tension, a simmering in the air which told him the shorter man’s body was also remembering their long-lost bride. “Yes, that’s Rania.”
On Hawk’s other side, Shin fingers flew over the keyboard in the process of doing his research. As kids, Shin and Ken had been amazing game hunters. As Intergalactic Space Patrol agents, they’d proven just as adept at hunting down lost people.
Shin pressed a button and another screen in front of them lit up with information. “Says here, Rania Crowe, age twenty-eight, professor of ancient Earth cultures, Terran University. Resides in Garden City, a neighborhood in Terran City. She serves as a consultant to the Intergalactic Unity League.” Shin sighed. “Do you think she possibly knows what happened to us?”
“Or cares?” Ken added.
Hawk stared at her face on the screen. His heart pounded, sending heated blood throughout his body, especially his groin. As if that part of him knew Rania as well, his cock rose, tightening hungrily. “It doesn’t matter,” he muttered. “She’s our mate and we need to get her back.” He’d long ago given up his mental arguments of right and wrong about this issue. Whether Rania knew about the sufferings of the Wolf and Deer Clans, their near destruction, the imprisonments and scattering of their people, didn’t matter. That she had a life and a career on a different planet was of no consequence either. The four of them had been shouldered with the burden of their people’s survival and it was going to happen. Or he’d die making it happen.
He felt Shin’s hand on his shoulder. Though his friend said nothing, Hawk knew the man was agreeing with him and silently supporting him. Though both Shin and Ken had argued the point with him in the past, all through their escape into the mountains, the work camps, near-starvation, murder of many of their clanspeople, and then through their training at the ISP Academy and into their search for Rania, the three of them were firmly unified on this one thing—the Seeing Stone had entrusted them with a great honor and they wouldn’t betray it. Or their people.
“Set a course for Terran A,” Hawk said, still staring at Rania’s image on the screen. “We’ll leave the pod at ISP headquarters and with any luck, we’ll be in Garden City, at her door within two hours.”
“You got it, Boss,” Ken said, humor in his voice.
Hawk sighed. He’d struggled to survive, not only for the sake of his people and his two steadfast companions, but for this moment, the taking of their bride, the ultimate fulfillment of his soul-felt duty. Staring down at the screen, he continued to study Rania’s face. Sixteen years was a long time, more than half their lives. Hawk couldn’t imagine Rania would willingly give herself to three strangers showing up on her doorstep with a lifetime ago claim of betrothal. His stomach tightened at the next thought. At the age of twenty-eight, there was the great chance she was already married, perhaps even with one or more children. What the hell would they do then? He certainly couldn’t kidnap a woman and steal her from her children. In all his struggles for survival, he’d never allowed himself to become a monster. He wouldn’t begin now.
But somehow, no matter what, at the very least, he and Shin and Ken would need to consummate the betrothal, even if they didn’t stay with her.
That decided, Hawk switched the screen to the space traffic channel. During the last part of this journey, the three of them at least needed to act as if they were doing their job of protecting intergalactic airspace from rogue bounty hunters and illegally trafficking space cowboys.
* * * *
“So,” Rania began, preparing to end her lecture on that day’s assignment, “before the Religious Wars on Earth which continued on and off for two centuries, we had many separate distinct cultures who were then forced to mix with their fellow imperiled cultures and blend, adopting new customs while adapting their old customs to the new framework.” She smiled. “Of course, that’s what this entire semester’s course has been about and I have the nerve to summarize in one puny sentence.”
Laughter rippled through the lecture hall.
“But that is precisely what I’m going to ask each one of you to do for you final project. You’re going to take an aspect of culture which interests you the most and compile a detailed analysis of one of the groupings we’ve looked at this semester.” She paced in front of the airboard from which points of light shone, highlighting the day’s lecture. Holding out her pen, she pointed the laser at the corner. “And why am I having you do this? Intergalactic Unity League. The words glowed under her laser pen. “You are to imagine yourselves representative of this organization. In the interest of the advancement of humanity and the prevention of future crimes against one culture or the other, you’re going to present an argument of how the aspect of culture you’ve chosen ,must be preserved and why. Any questions?”
Rania scanned the students’ faces. They all sat, watching her quietly, some faces blank, others seemingly interested by the assignment. Many of them came from some of the very cultures they’d studied. Some of the students had known the horror of deportation, discrimination and coming under siege. While others had never even stood on Earth’s soil with their own feet, children of Terran A, born on an Earth outpost. A few male faces watched her with puppy-love saturated expressions. Very sweet.
Before she could say more, the door opened at the back of the lecture hall. Rania’s heart jumped. Derek stepped inside the door, grinning at her with his clean-cut blond, blue-eyed looks. He held his briefcase in front of him and leaned against the wall, signaling he’d wait for her.
She turned back to her students. “Well, if no one has any questions about the assignment, then you’re dismissed. See you next class.”
In the wake of departing students, Derek pushed away from the wall and went against the tide of bodies moving the opposite direction down the center aisle that separated the two sides of the lecture hall.
Heart beating, Rania pretended to be completely absorbed in the task of gathering her lecture notes and slipping them methodically into her briefcase. “Hey there, beautiful woman,” she heard behind her just as she clicked the buckles shut. Her stomach fluttered. In six months of dating, she always experienced a wave of uneasiness upon first seeing Derek. Strange, considering they’d been friends and colleagues for five years now.
She turned, smiling, her briefcase in one hand. “Hey there.” Derek certainly was handsome. All his students loved him. Her parents loved him. His teeth practically sparkled in the light they were so clean. Derek was perfect in every way and she’d long dismissed her nervousness as a virgin’s inexperience. How she’d managed to stay that way all this time she even wondered, but that was about to end. Hopefully tonight. She’d waited too damn long to take the plunge.
Derek stepped in front of her. Before she could respond, he leaned in and kissed her lips, lingering there, coaxing her to part her lips with his tongue. She did so, feeling that mixture of anxiety and arousal whisper through her body. When he pulled back, she felt her cheeks burn. “I’m sorry,” she murmured.
Derek grinned. He was ever confident, it seemed. “No problem, sweetheart. I know you’re kind of new to all of this.”
Hopefully by the end of the night, she wouldn’t be quite as new, but she didn’t tell Derek her intention. She just planned to answer the doorbell tonight in the sheer negligee she’d bought for the purpose.
Derek linked his arm through hers and began to lead her toward the exit. I’ll walk you to the door at least,” he said.
“So, what time should I pick you up tonight?”
Derek frowned. “Eight-thirty? Isn’t that kind of late?”
“I suppose. But I have a pile of exams to grade and I’d rather get them out of the way.”
He looked at her sidelong in a way that conveyed a bit of suspicion. “If you say so.”
She smiled at him though her heart sped up significantly. As always, she felt a niggling doubt about sleeping with him, even though he’d begun discussing the prospect of tying the knot. “Don’t worry, Derek. I’ll make it up to you.”
“Will you now?” His cavalier humor returned. “Well, I look forward to that.”
At the glass doors to the building, Derek turned to her. Outside, Terran City was busy. Space buses and cars crowded the street beyond the curb and crowds of passersby filled the sidewalk. The opposite side of the street thronged with cafés., bookstores, clothing stores and galleries. Humankind had almost replicated life on Earth. Except for the darkish purple hue of the sky. Never quite brilliant and bright like Earth, something Rania missed at times.
“I have office hours now, as you know,” Derek said, “but I will see you tonight, eight-thirty.”
“I’ll be ready.”
He stepped in to her and kissed her lips again. This time Rania closed her eyes and attempted to savor the tiny thrill the kiss gave her. If only she felt free to open completely to the promise of pleasure. She really should have spoken with her girlfriends more about this stuff. When they pulled away, she swore she saw a hint of darkness in Derek’s blue eyes.
Just as quickly though, it vanished, replaced by his usual self-confident glint. “Until tonight.”
She nodded. “See you then,” she said and went through the glass door he held open for her. Feeling his gaze on her back, she merged into the rush hour crowd and headed the seven blocks toward her apartment building.
Once home, she set down her briefcase and headed right for the bathroom. “Bubble bath, hot,” she said to the house computer. Immediately, the faucet opened and the dispensers shot the jasmine-scented oil she loved into the foaming spray. Her default settings for the bubble bath mode set into motion. The lights dimmed and soft classical music played over the speakers. The candles, she lit by hand then proceeded to undress, slinging her discarded skirt, blouse and under things on a chair in her bedroom.
With a sigh, she went back into the bathroom to brush her hair out and pin it up for her bath while the tub filled. Watching her reflection as she ran the brush through her hair, she pondered her mixed feelings about Derek. The thing that disturbed her as much as her inability to relax into his kiss was how she didn’t look forward to living with him. If they married, shouldn’t she be enthusiastic to nest with him and think about having his children? Yet the thoughts made her feel a bit breathless, but not in the romantic way. It was more a feeling of being closed into a small dark room from which there was no escape. Not the most propitious feelings for the beginning of a lifetime commitment. She would rather keep her own apartment, this little oasis in the busy hectic world of Terran A and her career. Though only a few rooms, she felt plenty of space to move around. She could get up or go to bed as she pleased and not worry about disturbing anyone. She kept the place clean without anyone else to track dirt or leave a cup in the sink for her to wash. Not that Derek would do that, but it was the idea of sharing the space she’d worked so hard to carve out for herself.
The faucet of the bath shut off, leaving only the soft violin music in the background. The scent of jasmine and the vanilla of the candles around the white tub soothed her as they always did. Gladly, she wound her hair into a tight knot and stepped into the tub.
Ahhh. She sank down into the scented steaming water and leaned back, closing her eyes. Strange to think that there was a time she was going to live with three other men, not just one. For some reason though, that thought had never made her feel as claustrophobic. Perhaps because it wasn’t ever going to be a reality. One could always fantasize freely about people and situations that could never actually happen.
And yet, when she thought of Hawk and Shin and Ken, as she fairly often did even after all this time, she hadn’t felt a moment’s fear about becoming their wife. Though she’d only known them as adolescents, even at that age, they’d been admirable, brave, clever and skilled boys. As well as handsome. Even the mere brush of their fingers against her skin as they’d put on her betrothal bracelet had held the promise of sweet and abundant sensuality. She’d hated that her father dragged her away.
Unfortunately, as she’d learned when travelling to Earth with Derek as part of a delegation from the Intergalactic Unity Council, there were only a few survivors from the Wolf and Deer clans and they were scattered between Earth and the two Terran outposts. Aside from them, the rest of her people had perished in labor camps on the outskirts of the People’s Empire which dominated most of the Asian continent.
In spite of her effort to relax, her thoughts returned stubbornly to her musings imaginings about Hawk, Shin and Ken. She couldn’t help wondering what those three men would look like now if they were alive. Unbelievably handsome, no doubt, all three of them with their dark, wild looks. Whispers of arousal began in her clit. She felt her opening tighten the way it did when she got excited, as did her nipples. However, she resisted the urge to reach down and rub her swelling clit until she came. If she was going to make love with Derek tonight, she wanted to be as aroused as possible.
Setting her hands on the sides of the tub, she closed her eyes and listened to the music until the water cooled and it was time to get out and dry off. Slipping into a camisole and pair of baggy pants she loved to relax in, she prepared to spend some time cleaning the apartment and getting it ready for Derek’s visit. When eight-thirty drew closer, she’d put on her negligee.
Back out in the living room, she took out the vacuum instead of using her floor robot to clean. Sometimes it was better to do the work herself. However, halfway through, someone rang the buzzer on her door. She switched off the vacuum and went to the door. Strange, who wouldn’t have buzzed from downstairs to be let in? The only person could be Derek, to whom she’d given the entry code. He was very early, but so be it. Though not in her negligee, her nipples poked through the thin pink material of her camisole. Sexy enough, she supposed.
Pressing the security code, she opened the door. And froze.
Not Derek. Three men, all in tandem. First she took in the Intergalactic Security Patrol uniforms-tight white t-shirts and baggy black pants tucked into boots. Then she noticed how the t-shirts hugged their chest muscles. Then she noticed these men looked distinctly familiar.
Her heartbeat rose and galloped. No. They were dead. All three of them. She’d seen the report herself. Had held the paper in her hands. So had Derek. She stared at them.
The taller man, the one impersonating Hawk, spoke first. “Rania Habib?”
“We’re here,” he said. His dark eyes pinned her, simmering and intense. “We lost you sixteen years ago, but we’ve found you and now it’s time to mate.”