The immortal Finnarians mate for life and once they find their mate, nothing on earth can make them leave them. But what about when that mate is not Finnarian at all, but a stubborn, fiery, extremely irritable Draconian? What if that Draconian wants nothing at all to do with his Finnarian mate? It seems the Finnarian prince, Sadan, is going to have his work cut out for him. Fortunately, he is just as stubborn and far more persistent than said Draconian has ever had to deal with.
Graitaan is the last remaining Draconian and he has attracted the eye of a Finnarian prince, who claims that he is his bloodmate. Sadan may want to be mated, but Graitaan has developed a passionate hatred for his Finnarian commander, prince or not. Too bad Finnarians are persistent as the hells. Especially this one.
* * * * *
My temper only worsened as the day wore on. The battle had been short, too short for me to work off my energies, and the pent-up aggression seethed within, needing release. We had driven the enemy back more easily this time, and there had only been a few injuries. As for my own wounds, I had waded into the thick of things again, and it had been a surprise when five enemy warriors had turned from their flight and banded together to attack me. That surprise had almost cost me my life. If Sadan had not... I growled at the thought and thrust it away with some haste. The fact that I had been blatantly foolish in my actions did not sit well with me. For Sadan to get me out of it only compounded my irritation and somewhat shamed annoyance.
I had no wish to go to the healers, so I tended my wounds myself. The spear wound on my thigh throbbed, and I flushed it out with what simple medicines I possessed, moaning with the pain, my wings spreading out in reaction.
Fucking gods, that hurt! Both the thigh and the wing. The spear wound throbbed in time with my heartbeat, but the tear in my right wing was the worst, stinging like a bitch and out of my reach even when I tried to fold it properly.
Swearing bitterly under my breath, I licked the thigh wound, grimacing at the taste of the medication.
Draconian saliva held healing and antiseptic properties, and usually I would have a sword brother to tend me, to help with those wounds I could not reach. But my last companion had died some twenty years before, and I was alone in this army, the last Draconian present.
We had started off over fifty strong, an impressive gift from our emperor to the Masarian king. Our duty had then been completely with this foreign ruler, and we were forever exiled from our world. It would have been on pain of death had we ever dared to return. One by one, over the years, we had fallen, until only I remained, a curiosity to the human troops, those who were of the generation who had never known us in our numbers, in our true strength. I was hardly enough to represent my kind.
I could scarcely remember my own world, so long had I been here. Perhaps I had blocked it from my mind so that I might endure the isolation, the loneliness. Here there had been no one of my strength since my last companion. Here I was an oddity. Something to be stared at and commented on but never approached. Humans were so damned fragile, and I had never dared take one as a lover.
I would surely kill them.
Therefore my only solace was my own hand and a vivid imagination.
And people wondered why my temper was somewhat uncertain. Let them try going without for that long. They would be a little growly too.
I sighed, my anger flagging with my own exhaustion. I tended to a wound on my arm, of less importance and smaller than the thigh wound, licking it slowly, my wings drooping with pain and the need to rest.
I was hungry as the hells too, but I did not have the strength or the will to rise and leave the sanctity of my tent. Here I did not have to pretend, did not have to be strong. Here I could just be myself.
Before I could sink into my usual despair, the flap of my pavilion was swept back and Sadan entered unannounced, a tray of food balanced in one hand, medical supplies in the other, that familiar faint smile tilting his lips.
I froze. I was not wearing any clothing, only a towel over my privates, and I had always been very certain to stay covered around others. I was already a hot topic of conversation, and I had no desire to add more fuel to the fire by showing my body at all.
The embarrassment made my fury rise.
“Shut up, Graitaan,” Sadan said calmly. “I don’t want to hear it. I saw that wound on your wing, and you cannot reach it yourself. I knew you would be too stubborn to go to the healers, so I am offering my services. Not to mention you never eat after a battle, so...here you go. Say thank you, Sadan.”
My jaw dropped open with my outrage. “I will not fucking thank you! You are out of your Finnarian mind, even more so than the rest of your crazy race. Get the hells out of my tent!”
“No.” Just that calmly. No, like he was not facing an angry Draconian warrior, wounded, hungry, and ready to kill...at least kill a certain Finnarian, if no one else.
I was speechless. The sheer gall of Sadan always had me sputtering, and it drove me to the edge of sanity. No one else could do this to me. They all avoided me like the plague, especially when I was wounded. I was liable to take their hand off if they even tried.
Did Sadan have a secret death wish I had never known about?
It certainly seemed so.
Before I could form more thoughts, Sadan snarled back at me, only in his refined supercilious way that made every scale on my body stand on end. “I don’t care about your damned sensibilities, Graitaan. Shut up and let me tend you. I need you back in my troops, and that wing is never going to heal properly like that.”
A low growl escaped from behind my bared teeth, but in the end, I could not argue. Duty was everything to a Draconian, and the miserable Finnarian knew that. Trust Sadan to use it against me.
Every other member of the army knew to leave me alone, especially when I was injured, so I was rather baffled by Sadan’s actions. Again the thought flitted by that the Finnarian had a death wish or was at least flirting with the possibility, because he was always in my face, disrespecting me in every way and completely disregarding my formidable reputation.
It drove me to the edge of sheer violence, but always the knowledge that Sadan was one of the king’s favorites and now had technically become my fucking commander, restrained the actions I longed to inflict upon the bastard and his smirk.
How could the king have done this to me? Had I not served him and his father and his father before that faithfully and well? Had not I --and my companions before their deaths -- proven the worth of a Draconian individually and together time and again? The king knew full well that Draconians and Finnarians were ill suited to each other’s company. I had made that perfectly clear on numerous occasions when speaking to His Majesty.
So why would said Majesty suddenly assign me under Sadan’s command, a lone Draconian in a sea of Finnarians?
All right, so maybe there were only twelve of the bastards, but with Finnarians that was a sea, damn it!
Twelve of them proved more annoying than a hundred humans, maybe even two hundred, come to think of it. Sadan could count for a hundred all on his own.
So they were beautiful...beyond beautiful. So what? Tall, very tall, with angular faces and slanted eyes of brown or green. Well muscled but slim with it, power leashed in grace. Their hair always long, tantalizingly long and, in this group at least, various shades of blond, right down to Sadan’s striking silver. Humans revered them, almost idolized them and their talents: blood drinkers, mages, warriors of renown. Fools. The blood drinking was a little off-putting, I had to admit, but they were discreet about it, not flaunting their differences but not hiding who they were either. I had heard rumors of the sexual ecstasy a Finnarian bite produced, and my imagination had gone off course at that thought. They went through cycles of rut and bloodlust apparently, though I had never seen them during these times as they often went into seclusion, with their brethren protecting their privacy. All I knew was that energy sustained them -- both sexual and blood, though they ate regular food as well, I had noticed. They seemed mysterious and powerful to me, and they made me uneasy in a way I had never encountered before. Especially their damned leader.
I actually hissed as Sadan approached me. Hissed! I had not made such a sound since adolescence, when I was learning control. What about Sadan seemed to drive me to the edge with so little effort on his part?
It was aggravating and humiliating. I had never encountered this before. Humans were terrified of my size, strength, and temper.
Now Finnarians were my equal in any and all of those things, but they were not Draconian. They were not my people, not my companions, and never could be.
What the king thought he was doing was beyond me. Perhaps the human military units were too afraid of a Draconian to want me in their ranks?
My temper subsided somewhat at that gratifying thought. Humans should be afraid of a Draconian. It was proper and respectful.
Perhaps the king had not meant insult but had tried to place me with as close to my peers as could be found in this misbegotten world.
My growls slowly died away.
I was alone. That fact was brought home to me on a daily basis, but never so much as when I was wounded. Therefore I was duty bound to accept help from another person in my new unit to ensure I became battle ready as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately it seemed that person would have to be Sadan, as my commander.
Damn it to the hells.
Shrugging as though to brush off the thoughts like troublesome flies, I flinched at the resulting pain. I drew a deep breath and turned my back on him -- a sign only given to a sword brother -- and held out my injured wing in silence.
As if in answer, he plunked the food tray in front of me.
“Eat while I tend your wing.”
I wonder if he has any idea how beautiful he is?
I did not think so, for there was nothing of vanity in Graitaan. He was modest and surprisingly reclusive, and I knew not whether this was typical of his kind or part of his self-imposed isolation, part of his own personality.
I was Finnarian and used to great masculine beauty around me. It was a trait of my people, but the moment I set eyes upon Graitaan when we were first sent to join the king’s services eight years ago, I was stunned to speechlessness by his exotic allure.
Discovering anything about the Draconian was almost impossible, except for the facts that he was alone, his last Draconian companion having died twelve years before I arrived, and that he shunned company of any sort. It was hard to divine his sexuality because no one had ever seen him with a lover. Perhaps Draconians were not sexual at all?
I found that hard to believe when I watched Graitaan move. He practically oozed sexual heat, at least to me, who could see it, and I could not believe no one had pursued him.
Of course there was his temper, but to a Finnarian, that was a small thing. Our women had fearsome tempers, and their right to choose a mate for breeding made us cautious of them. Breeding took place; then the female withdrew to be with other females, and only when the resulting child was old enough and male would he be sent to foster with his father.
Certainly Graitaan’s temper was no worse than that, and having dealt with such things all my life, I found it rather endearing to find it in a male. And such a beautiful male...
How blind and weak were humans that they had not sought to break the barriers around such a treasure long before this?
I would not make the same mistake.
For eight years I had been maneuvering and planning, and now, with the king’s blessing, I was finally beginning to make headway, even if only because I was now Graitaan’s commander. A position of great respect in Draconian culture apparently, and it went against his nature for Graitaan to openly disrespect me, though at times he could not help himself.
So tonight it led to this, the first time I would be able to actually touch him more than a hand up or a brush of shoulders.
I almost shuddered with anticipation.
It was even harder to resist at this time, since I was in the middle of my rut cycle, where I needed sexual energy, something every Finnarian went through once a month along with a bloodlust cycle, where I would need the energy that could only be had from blood. I had tried to remain apart from Graitaan at these times, fearing my need would overcome my sense.
I drank in his appearance, my first true look at his body, even if some of the most important parts were covered by that damned towel. He was not quite as tall as I was, which I liked, his body lithe and hard with lean muscle, his shoulders broad, dipping down to a narrow waist. His head was dragonlike, with small scales covering it, his beautiful eyes large and golden with vertical pupils. Small horns crowned his head, curving backward and spiraling slightly. His hands were finer than one would expect, more humanlike, with long, black fingers, scales along the backs only, and small, strong, retractable claws of a pale golden hue. Powerful legs bent backward, totally unlike humans or Finnarians, leading down to long clawed feet, one of the reasons he was so swift a runner. His scales were the most beautiful and elegant black, shading into blue green. The scales were larger across his shoulders and back, smaller across his chest, gradually leading down to black skin that looked soft across his belly and waist. His wings were enormous, but jointed so that they folded neatly across his back, able to be tucked out of harm’s way. I had never actually seen him fly, did not even know if he could. All I knew was that those wings looked so soft to the touch...and I wanted to touch them desperately.
I knew he was tired and sore. I had seen his posture when I entered the pavilion. Those wings were a true indicator of his moods, and they had been drooping sadly when I entered.
His embarrassment at his state of undress was endearing. He would not look at me, and his body posture radiated extreme discomfort at my proximity. I found such shyness utterly captivating because it did not exist in my people at all. Why Graitaan would feel such a thing mystified me. I found him utterly appealing in every regard, and I could not understand his propensity for such extreme modesty as he displayed. Still, I was pleased enough that he continued with it, because I did not want any competition. Several of my Finnarians, my Companions, had been eyeing him, and I had to make it quite plain that Graitaan was off limits. He was going to be mine, and no one had better step in the way of that or they would feel my wrath. Finnarians were quite promiscuous until they found their true mate, and then that was it. No other would do.
I did not know if Graitaan was my true mate, but I had never felt anything like this: a difficulty breathing, a force of heat within me that demanded completion, demanded Graitaan alone. None of my many lovers had ever triggered such depths of primal need before, and I wanted to thoroughly explore it. My heart, I think, already knew. I had not explained this to Graitaan, but he would find out soon enough. He was mine, and that was that. If I had to wait centuries for him, then I would, but I had no intention of going to that measure. My little Draconian would discover the pleasures of Finnarian sex long before that.
My fingers fairly trembled with anticipation as I gently took hold of his wing and stretched it out a little so I could clearly see the damage. I could feel the hard yet delicate bones of the wings flex with the movement. Then at last I could touch the black membrane that stretched between.
It felt as soft as I had imagined, and I swallowed hard, imagining these wings wrapped around me, caressing my naked skin.
I had to mentally shake myself to bring my attention to the matter at hand.
The tear was close to a foot long and in a possibly sensitive area close to a joint. It would not be easy to repair, and I would have to immobilize his entire wing until it healed.
Still, I had spoken to the healers about this long ago, wanting to know everything and anything I could about my Draconian, including what he would require in case of injury. Hence, I had the supplies I needed with me. I did not want any healer touching him unless it was dire.
My hands alone would touch him, take away his pain.
He made the faintest sound as I flexed the wing, and by that I knew it was very tender. Graitaan was stoic to the extreme. He would make no sound at all if it was not beyond his control.
I made a comforting sound that had him looking at me in confusion, before I gently rested the half-open wing upon the bed.
“Do not move it,” I told him sternly, and he growled a little but obeyed. A step forward indeed.
I took out the strips of extremely sticky cloth that the healers had given me. They had said it was the best way to pull wing membrane together, since stitches tended to tear through and do more damage than the original wound. Carefully I adhered one end above the wound and began to smooth it down, gently taking the torn piece and adjoining it to where it should be.
Graitaan’s body quivered faintly, and I again gave him a purring growl -- something that soothed Finnarians, whether young or adult.
It seemed to have a similar effect upon Graitaan, for although he looked at me warily, his body seemed to unconsciously relax. That was promising.
Gently yet as swiftly as possible, I repeated the process until I had brought all the edges of the tear into contact with each other. Then I smeared the opposite side of the wing with salve that would kill any infection that could arise, along with keeping the wound a little moist so it would not pull as it healed. I bandaged the underside, keeping the salve in place and protecting the wound.
Cautiously then, with the utmost care, I folded the wing so the pressure was taken off the torn area. I wrapped a length of bandage around the upper part so that Graitaan could not accidentally move it without thought and retear what I had mended.
By the time I finished, he had finished eating and was half nodding off, so I counted that a victory of sorts. He would not allow himself to show weakness in front of one he distrusted, and despite his antagonism, I think he was beginning to become more comfortable in my presence than he would ever admit.
Gently I touched his arm, looking at the wound there, and he jerked, startled, staring at me with those amazing eyes, wide and bright.
I clucked my tongue at him. “Let me see the rest.”
“They are fine now,” he growled, but it was halfhearted at best, and I could feel the exhaustion coming off him in waves.
“Sit still,” I ordered gruffly, hiding what I was feeling with the ease of long practice, and for a wonder, he actually obeyed. It was a measure of his weariness, no doubt, but I would take what I could get with this one. Everything was in tiny increments, but at least he was not outright pushing me away as he had in the past.
I would count this a victory.
Copyright © J.C. Owens