Zetithians are back. And they’re hotter than ever…
Having the Zetithian feline gene gives Larry Tshevnoe awesome beauty, fearsome strength, sensuality and sexual prowess unmatched by any other males in the universe. But it can make the quest for true love…complicated.
Enter childhood friend and fellow Zetithian Althea Banadänsk. Her empathic powers make her the only one who can show Larry what he truly desires, and she’ll do anything to help…even if that means hiding her desperate craving for him.
But when a distress call sends them off course—and into danger—they find more than their hearts are at stake. Now it’s up to them to become the champions of truth and justice throughout the galaxy…or risk losing it all.
Althea Banadänsk glanced up from her botanical sketches to find Larry Tshevnoe staring at her. “That didn’t take long,” she remarked.
“Four years?” He shook his head. “I suppose not. Especially when you consider it took Mom six years to find her sister.”
With a reluctant chuckle, Althea got to her feet. At first glance, she didn’t think Larry had changed much in that time, although he might have filled out a bit. They were still almost exactly the same height with dark hair falling in spiral curls to their waists. Even though his mother was human, he was all Zetithian—from his pointed ears and catlike eyes, right down to his smooth, beardless cheeks. Despite the fact that her eyes were green as opposed to black, they’d often been mistaken for siblings. However, upon closer scrutiny, she could see that something had changed. A different aura, perhaps. “You look more like your father than ever.”
Larry shrugged. “Minus the scars. Never having been a slave has its advantages.”
“I’d imagine both of our fathers would agree to that.” With a flick of her brow, she added, “Although it sure beats being dead.”
His complete lack of expression had her on alert. Too bad he was the one person whose emotions she couldn’t sense. A mystery she’d never quite been able to solve.
“So, Larry…gonna tell me why you’re here?”
“Isn’t making sure you’re alive and well enough?”
She drew in an unsteady breath, glancing at the jungle that surrounded them. “Not really. You of all people should’ve known where I would go and that I’d be safe here.”
“Okay. So I lied.” Cocking a hip, he folded his arms across his broad chest. “I haven’t been looking for you for four years. In fact, I came straight here.” He nodded toward the trail to the coast. “With a little help from Elvis.”
That much she could believe. “You still haven’t told me why.”
“I missed you, Al.” A wicked grin revealed his fangs. “Or should I call you the Lady Althea?”
She flapped a hand. “Whatever.” That look had always unnerved her, and she suspected he knew that.
“I’m going by Larsan these days, myself. Sounds more, I dunno…sexy? Manly?”
That last bit dragged yet another chuckle from her. “As if you needed any help in that department.” Zetithian males hadn’t been dubbed the hottest hunks in the galaxy for nothing, and Larry Tshevnoe was a prime specimen.
“More mature, then,” he conceded. “Mom doesn’t like it much, but you know how she feels about those crazy Zetithian names.”
Althea nodded. Upon learning that the slave she’d bought was named Carkdacund Tshevnoe, Larry’s Terran mother had opted to call him Cat, which was much shorter and more descriptive of a man with feline characteristics. Althea was grateful that her parents had gone with shorter names, and while Althea Banadänsk was still a bit of a mouthful, it had Larry, Moe, and Curly’s full names beat all to hell and back.
“So why here and not Terra Minor?” he asked. “Or do you enjoy the distinction of being the only Zetithian on the planet?”
“Not particularly,” she replied. “And that isn’t the reason I came here.”
“I didn’t think it was.” His unblinking gaze remained riveted to her own. “You still haven’t answered my question.”
She should have been able to explain why some planets disturbed her more than others, but she couldn’t. Not to him. Not someone whose emotions were so unreadable.
Even his facial expressions didn’t always provide the right clues. On the surface, he seemed a perfectly ordinary man, but there was something else about him. Something deeper. Something she’d never quite been able to fathom.
Truth be told, she’d never unburdened herself to anyone. Her own mother didn’t know how her powers worked. She had an affinity with animals, although it wasn’t the sort of two-way telepathic conversations her mother had with them. Her own communication was more subtle, like a suggestion or a request for a specific behavior instead of the mind control techniques the Baradans used. She didn’t have to wave her hands the way they did, either. The exchange was entirely mental.
Her primary element was earth, and sometimes, she was sure it spoke to her. Not in actual words, but with feelings, emotions. One thing she was sure of: land didn’t like being moved or cultivated. For that reason, earthquakes were despised only slightly more than the plow. Barada Seven was different from just about every other planet in the known galaxy in that it had never been farmed. The inhabitants took what they needed from the jungle, living in absolute harmony with their environment. The ground still smarted from the few offworld-type dwellings that had been constructed there.
She lived in the trees like the Baradans, climbing a ladder made of vines up to her bedroom each night. Fruit was easy enough to come by. Some species produced year-round, and though others were more sporadic, there was always something available, although she questioned the edibility of a few of them.
“I like it here,” she finally said. “It suits me.”
“I see.” That’s what he said, but did he really mean it? She honestly couldn’t tell. With other people, she could feel their emotions and compare them to their facial expressions and body language. Larry was an enigma when he should have been comforting. After all, knowing what everyone around her was feeling was exhausting, which was the main reason she’d chosen to live in relative seclusion.
“Think about it, Larry. This is the way my mother lived until my father came along. If it hadn’t been for your parents tempting them with adventure and the chance to see the galaxy, they would probably still be living in a cabin in the woods of Utopia. I had my fair share of thrills growing up on a starship. I felt the need to settle somewhere.”
“Geez, Al, you make it sound like you’re in your nineties instead of your twenties. Sure, I left home and have my own ship now, but I’m not using it to hide.”
“You’re different. You don’t have a thousand years of Mordrial witch ancestry telling you how to live. And I’m not hiding. If I’d been hiding, you wouldn’t have found me.” She couldn’t be sure, but his expression suggested he would have found her anyway.