Authors: Amber Kell
Tags: #Fantasy, #m/m romance
himself to turn the man away. This close the man was even
more appealing. Tor's scent made Naron's head spin with
the combination of male heat and leather.
"Here. I had it prepared like I do mine, but you
might like a little sugar."
Naron tried to still the rapid pounding of his heart as
he accepted the cup. He felt like a schoolboy with his first
crush. Discreetly he wiped his suddenly moist palms on his
pants before accepting the offering.
Suppressing a groan at Tor's nearness, Naron took
the cup, careful not to touch those elegant fingers. He was
certain that contact with the duke would end with a very
public display on the dining room table.
"Take a drink," Tor encouraged. Unable to resist the
duke's soft urging, Naron took a tentative sip of the black
liquid. Flavor exploded across his tongue, bitter and
Oh. So wonderful.
He turned back to see the duke's wide smile.
"Good, isn't it?"
"Yes. What is it called?"
"Coffee." There was that beautiful smile again
before Tor said with a smug tone, "I might be persuaded to
part with some during our negotiations."
"Splendid." However, now was probably not the
time to tell Torrance that the only non-negotiable thing was
his leaving the planet. Ever.
For the first time in his life, Naron felt his dragon
shifting inside him. Excitement shot through his system.
The word whispered through his mind. He could
barely hold back the joy. Finding the duke had activated his
dragon genetics and awakened the beast sleeping inside
him since birth.
Naron was the first royal to have no active dragon, a
great shame in a royal family. Although it happened
occasionally, it was a recessive trait that people talked
about in whispers behind closed doors. Naron couldn't shift
and rarely felt the enhanced sense of smell, strength and
speed associated with dragonkin. It had been a great source
of disappointment to Naron's father before the man died.
The presence of the duke and his bond with the space
dragon had brought out a dragon side Naron hadn't thought
he'd ever feel. It didn't take a genius to figure out the man
was most probably his mate. Unfortunately, Naron had
already announced the Mate Test, and it was too late to
back out now. The contest to prove mate-worthy of a king
would go on as planned. Naron just had to make sure the
beautiful duke won.
* * * *
"Enjoy your coffee," Torrance said, standing to go
back to his seat.
Naron resisted the urge to stop the younger man. He
needed to exhibit no favoritism until at least a few trials
were passed. It wouldn't be proper to show the others that
he had already chosen. Besides, according to the high king,
the duke thought he was only there for a mining contract.
Naron hadn't agreed with the king's approach, but from
what he'd seen of the duke, Tor did need someone to snap
him out of his mourning, and who better than his mate.
Despite the deep yearning to bask in the presence of
Tor, Naron let him go even though every sip of the bitter,
smooth coffee had him yearning a bit more. While
watching Tor, Naron nodded and pretended to pay attention
to the companion beside him. However, his gaze constantly
returned to the young golden-haired man.
One of the courtiers leaned a little too close to the
duke for Naron's comfort.
A low growl rolled out of his chest.
"Calm, my king." Maelin, his master guard,
whispered behind him.
"Find a new spot for Lord Mell."
"Yes, Your Highness."
* * * *
Tor was in the garden playing the violin when he
"The king's guard is here, Your Grace," Pietro said.
Even though Tor stopped playing, the lullaby still
resonated in his head. Yes, Alexandra would like this one.
His daughter was quite the lullaby connoisseur.
"Did the king want to see me?"
He could feel the shift in the air as the guard's
stance relaxed. "The announcement for the consort
petitioners is coming. The king wants everyone to be
Consort announcement? He hoped he hid the
disquiet that announcement gave him. He'd felt an
attraction to the king when they'd talked. It was
disappointing to hear the man was getting married soon.
"All right I'll be there." Tor tucked the violin into its
case and gave it over to Sally, who he knew was seated to
his right. She always sat there through his performances.
"Take this to your room?" she finished for him, her
voice soft and teasing. "Of course, Your Grace."
Her skirt softly whispered as she dipped into a deep
"She's a beautiful woman," the king's guard said in
a nice baritone.
"Yes," Tor said with a smile. Sally had a sweet soul,
and to Tor, she was stunning. He'd heard from others that
she was pretty on the outside too. He heard the guard shift
uncomfortably in his stance.
"You're very polite," the guard said in a musing
tone, making Tor wonder if he was more used to rudeness
from royals or perhaps from guests.
Tor tilted his head towards the guard's voice. "I
hope so. My mother would turn in her grave if I was rude to
people." The guard laughed, a deep, rich sound that caused
Tor's stomach to warm. Mmmm. Nice.
"What's your name?"
The man cleared his throat. "Maelin, Your Grace."
"You're the king's guard?"
"His Master Guard, sir."
"Forgive my curiosity, Maelin, but why did the king
send his Master Guard to fetch me? That seems a job better
suited to a page."
"He wanted to make sure you came."
The guard led them back to the throne room. Tor
took the twins and Pietro with him so he wouldn't be
jostled, and besides, Pietro might be a cold bastard but he
could get his way on just about anything. His servant's
persuasive skills were unsurpassed. It was Tor's custom to
always have a group that consisted of a combination of
strength and persuasion. You never knew what would be
required in any given situation.
Baroy flashed him an odd moment of sight, giving
Tor a second to see the room. The dragon's power allowed
him to control vision for them both. While sight between
Tor and Baroy was shared due to their bond, the dragon
retained the ability to allow them to see through Tor's eyes.
Baroy did that upon occasion when he thought Tor felt
uncomfortable in a new location. In general, the dragon
only cared about his own environment and kept his gaze
firmly on the stars and meteors spinning around him. There
was less danger of Tor being injured with his people around
him than Baroy being killed by a spaceship or passing
meteor. With his flash of vision, Tor could see a crowd was
forming and the king stood at the bottom of the stairs that
led to an enormous chair, obviously the throne. The chair
dominated the room but next to it sat a smaller seat that
must be for the king's new consort.
Tor felt a pang. At one time he'd looked to marry
Larien. Hopefully the king would have better luck.
The crowd fell silent.
"I have called everyone here for the reading of the
potential consort list. My page will read the names, and
when your name is called, I want you to come forward and
stand to my right.
A new voice spoke. "There are five contenders
vying to be consort of the Royal House of Drakeen. Lord
Salen Mell, Lord…"
Tor became sidetracked when Baroy spoke into his
"I have located the mineral. How much do you
"Do not take it."
"Why? It's not like they really own the planet."
"His Grace Torrance Zelan."
"What?" Tor snapped back into the present.
"Go up on stage, Your Grace," Pietro whispered in
Frustrated with his dragon and more than a little
confused, Tor let Dillon lead him to the other men.
"These five men will compete to be my mate," the
king announced when Tor reached his place beside the
When had he agreed to that? Tor's mind furiously
churned, trying to figure out when he had signed up for
Baroy's voice confirmed his thoughts. His uncle
hadn't sent him just for bargaining. By sacrificing his
nephew, the power hungry man was hoping to secure a
permanent way to access the minerals. Tor felt a flash of
anger, but it quickly passed. He was a practical man, and he
knew the high king would use any edge he had to get
needed resources for his planet. Besides, if the king turned
out to be a complete ass, Tor would leave. No one could
stop him if he really wanted to go. Baroy would eat them
for dinner. Besides, the king might not be his beloved
Larien, but the man was as sexy as anyone Tor had ever
Thoughts of his dead lover sent his spirits spiraling
The king's page was announcing the rules of the
consort contest. "Each contestant will go through a series of
tests to prove he is the perfect consort for the king. The
perfect consort will be able to satisfy the king physically,
match the king mentally, and be able to defeat his
opponents in combat. The first test will be the kiss. If the
king isn't attracted to you, you will be immediately
* * * *
Naron carefully watched Tor's reaction while also
glancing at the others to make sure he didn't look as if he
was singling out any one man. It was difficult to do,
especially when his every cell was crying out for the duke.
What the page didn't mention were the unofficial
tests, the tests that would truly prove the mettle of a man.
Naron hid his frustration when he saw that Tor was
the last contestant. He knew Maelin purposely put them in
that order. He didn't want Naron so lust-blinded from
kissing Tor, that he was unable to judge the other four men
competing for the throne.
The first was Lord Mell, a red-haired man with a
reputation as a master swordsman and for having a short
temper. Only royal connections kept the man from prison.
Surprisingly, Mell's kiss was pleasant enough that
he couldn't eliminate the man. Even though the other man's
mustache bristled against Naron's skin, it didn't detract
from the fresh mint taste of the man's mouth. He briefly
touched lips with the man, checking to ensure that there
was no natural revulsion.
Naron gave Lord Mell a nod before letting Maelin
lead him to the king's left, where the contenders were to
stand to indicate they were still in the competition.
Next was Lord Robert Gallywyn, a pretty brunet
with brilliant blue eyes. If he had never seen Tor, Gallywyn
would have been his choice. Lord Gallywyn had an
appealing cool beauty, but it dimmed against the flames of
passion Naron felt towards Tor. Gallywyn's kiss was cool,
soft and lovely, just like the man.
Naron let him go with a light hug and a smile. There
was a smattering of applause from his subjects.
From Gallywyn's expression, the kiss had a greater
impact on the brunet than it had on Naron.
Lord Liex came next for his turn. The man had dirty
blond hair and hard gray eyes. Not difficult to look at until
you saw he had a permanent sneer.
"Is there a problem?" Naron asked the blond.
"I'm not a lover of men," Liex scoffed.
"Then why are you wasting my time?"
For the first time uncertainty flashed in Liex's eyes.
"I will make a good king-consort, and you could have as
many lovers as you wish. I won't refuse you your
The man really thought Naron would accept this. "I
can have as many lovers as I wish now. You're dismissed."
Liex flinched before turning and quickly leaving the
courtyard. A nod to his house guards had them following
the man to make sure he left. Some people were just born
stupid. He couldn't blame them for it, but he didn't have to