Luc Saint-Cyr woke to the feel of warm lips against his. His Kin lover stretched out alongside him, one arm across Luc’s chest. In the dim light, Izzorah Ceeow’s green eyes shimmered like a true cat’s, the slitted pupils wide. Luc had his full, masculine attention, and it showed in Rah’s forward-facing, pointed ears. Izzorah might have been an eager cat awaiting a favorite toy to power up. The playful image made Luc smile.
“Good morning, Rah.”
“Not morning yet. Little after midnight.” Izzorah nudged his nose beneath Luc’s chin. “But I woke up wanting you.”
“Did you?” He turned on his side. “Lighting, up. Ambient soft.” In response, the automated controls brightened the room by a few degrees, in a mimic of predawn. He and Rah had strewn blankets and pillows everywhere. They’d made love only hours before and had fallen asleep in each other’s arms. The penthouse bedroom felt warm, cozy, intimate. Waking with Rah beside him felt like coming home after an eon away. Luc ran a fingertip along Izzorah’s nose. “I love you.”
Rah tilted up his head and licked Luc’s finger, tongue cat-scratchy and hot. He clamped his fangs around Luc’s fingertip, and purred.
Luc pushed him onto his back and crawled closer to rise over him. “Damn, you’re hot, kosset.
At the love name, Rah’s catlike ears went sideways and down, a sign of submission. “I like being called your treasure.”
Luc kissed him. “You are my treasure indeed.” Bracing himself on his elbows above Rah, he tucked a dark strand of hair behind one of his lover’s ears. “You’re as impossible to satisfy as I am. You have no idea how much I adore that, my prince.”
Izzorah glanced away. “I love you.”
Luc touched Rah’s chin, bringing back his gaze. As if a lingering sorrow dampened the Kin’s spirits, no happiness showed in his eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“No, it’s not ‘nothing.’” Luc held his gaze. “The moment I called you my prince, you withdrew.” He pulled back and sat up.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Rah scooted backward on the bed, sat up, and leaned against the headboard. The pillow he pulled onto his lap covered his softening cock.
The droop of Izzorah’s ears, his lowered gaze, and the way he picked at his claws revealed the true story. He’s afraid. But of what?
“Rah, I told you the security system in this house is airtight.”
Izzorah tilted his head. “You said your penthouse is stronger than a stone lodge back home. No one can hurt us here.”
“That’s right. You’re safe here. We’re safe here.”
“Of course I am.” Izzorah clasped Luc’s hand and rubbed his thumb across the knuckles. “I’m with you.”
“Thank you, love, but I can tell something still bothers you.”
“No, I’m fine, t’hahr.
Izzorah’s pet name, “my heart,” made Luc smile, but the expression on his lover’s face said he was far from fine. “Rah…”
“Really.” Izzorah squeezed his hand. “It’s okay.”
“No, it’s not. Talk to me. What’s wrong? What’s worrying you?”
Rah drew a deep breath and held it, mouth closed so tightly it made his lips white.
Luc squeezed Rah’s arm. “You’re holding your breath. Let it all out.” He waited while his lover complied. “Good. Very good. Take another deep breath.” Luc did as well, and then forced it out. “Once more, in, in, in…good. Now relax your shoulders. Good. Blow out, out, out…”
Rah seemed far more relaxed, though still avoiding his gaze.
“That’s better, love, but talk to me. No matter what it is, we’ll get through it.”
“Please, Luc.” The Kin took a quick peek at him but turned away again. “It isn’t worthy of you. I’m too ashamed. Don’t ask me.”
“But I am
asking, and you will
tell me.” Luc curled one hand around Rah’s, drew their linked hands up between them, and bent forward, eye to eye. “There is no shame between us as lovers, Izzorah, nor in any part of our love. I won’t keep secrets from you. Don’t keep any from me. I may not always be able to answer you immediately, but when I do, I will always tell you the truth. I want us to share every part of ourselves. I’ve hidden how I felt before. It destroyed a sacred trust.” Luc shook his head. “Never again. I want honesty, truth, and openness.” He softened his words with a kiss on Rah’s cheek. “When we first met, I told you I get what I want. Right now, I want the truth. I want to see you smile without a haze of fear clouding your eyes. I won’t let this pass until you tell me, so you might as well talk.”
Izzorah laid back his ears and said nothing.
“Love, once I know what it is, I can help you deal with the situation. No matter what’s wrong, you are mine, I love you, and nothing will change that.” He cupped his hand beneath Rah’s chin and, with slow, deliberate gentleness, kissed him again. He brushed his lips across Izzorah’s brow. “Whatever the problem is, we’ll fix it together. Tell me what’s wrong. Let me take care of you.”
“Oh, Luc!” His lover’s cheeks darkened to a richer peach. “I’m…I’m not homesick, but I keep thinking of home.”
“Do you?” Luc leaned against the headboard beside Rah. “Come here.” He held out his left arm, and Izzorah snuggled closer, head on Luc’s shoulder, his right arm around Luc from behind. “Better?”
Izzorah nodded, head down, shielding his face from view.
“So, you’re not homesick, and you don’t miss Felidae, but you think about it.”
Rah flicked his ears. “Only a little.”
“I see.” Luc crossed one ankle over the other and settled in to wait. He allowed the quiet for a time before he broke the silence himself. “What do you remember when you think about home?”
“My parents sometimes. My brother. We used to fight a lot, but he was always there.” He heaved a deep sigh. “My grandparents. My mother’s other mates were always nice to me, and being around them made me feel good. My cousins. You know, humans joke about all Kin being cousins, but we’re not. I do have a lot of cousins, though. The Ceeows married into every clan on the planet.”
“So I’ve heard.” Luc listened, amused but still concerned. “What else do you think about?”
“Maybe the smells of my homeworld a little. The forests. There are forests everywhere. Oh, and the rivers! I think about them too.” He lifted his head and took a deep sniff as if smelling them all the way from this planet. “The rivers back home are beautiful. Full of jumping fish and white water. But what I really miss is Purkinje.”
Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
He rubbed a hand along Izzorah’s arm. “Who or what is Purkinje?”
“My horse.” Rah looked up. “Well, he was
my horse. My mother gave him to me.” He lowered his head again.
“What happened to him?”
“I had to sell him to buy the ticket to leave Felidae.”
“You feel bad about that.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Izzorah turned a bit and looked up. “He was a good horse, Luc, and I sold him.”
“I bet that was hard. If you hadn’t sold him, what would have happened?”
Izzorah shoved hair out of his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“You said you sold him so you could buy a ticket off the planet. What if you had stayed?”
“Oh.” Rah shook his head. “I don’t even want to think about it. If the warrior I’d been promised to had found out where I was, she could’ve had me arrested and brought back. She’d have been within her rights to beat me.”
Luc’s stomach tightened at the thought of Rah in anyone else’s hands, especially one who’d harm him. “I’m sorry you had to give up Purkinje, but I’m glad you’re here now. You’re safe with me.”
“Purkinje was a pure Kopperen
. Humans have shire horses, but Kopperens are a lot bigger than those. Purkinje was twenty-one hands high, and he was beautiful. Dark brown with a white star on his forehead, a brown mane and tail, and white feathers.”
“Feathers? Oh, you mean the long hair around the feet.”
“Sort of. Horses don’t have feet. Feathering is around the fetlocks on Kopperens, but that’s close enough. Shire and draft horses have feathers too. My mother raises Kopperens. My brother and I used to clean out the stables and paddocks when we got back from a big show. Sometimes I really miss working with those horses.”
“Okay, now that