The Queen’s Consorts. Just laying eyes on one is a death sentence. So when Sari, who spent most of her life on the streets, ends up entangled in a steamy relationship with the two most forbidden men on the planet, she knows it can’t end well.
After a brutal attack, Sari’s taken to the Sacred City, exposing her to the secret lives of the Rayians who rule in the long lost queen’s absence. It’s in this darkly sexual world where she first meets the legendary consorts.
Too handsome and talented for their own good, Calder and Taryen have learned to trust only each other in order to survive. Bred to be feared warriors and exclusive companions to a queen, instead they’re slaves to other Rayians desires for them.
Their brutal lives make the two consorts hesitant to care for Sari when she’s unexpectedly dumped in their laps, but they soon discover she’s different from the cruel women they’re used to serving. Drawn to Sari on a soul deep level, Calder and Taryen can’t seem to stop themselves from going back for one more taste of the beautiful outsider...even when it puts the fate of the entire world in jeopardy.
Calder walked back into the room, three female attendants following him. “Come here.”
Sari gasped when he pulled her gently away from Taryen and swept her into his arms as if she weighed nothing to him.
“What’re you doing?” she choked out, the pain still making her vision foggy. “I’m naked.”
Calder rolled his eyes, careless of her being uncomfortable as he walked out of the room he shared with Taryen and down a long, richly decorated hallway. Sari should be more concerned with her nudity in such a public domain, but the pain was making her forget everything. As was Calder’s scent. Like Taryen, he smelled divine.
“You smell good,” she mumbled, not knowing what it was about these two males that left her feeling safe to the point that she trusted them even while naked. She turned her face toward his chest, inhaling deeply. “Different from your lifemate. His scent is more exotic. Yours is a clean, crisp scent—both are nice.”
“We wear different scents,” Calder explained, taking long, fast strides toward his destination, not even sounding winded from her weight. “The attendants try to use oils they feel suit us.”
“They do a good job,” Sari whispered as she focused on the way he smelled, his strong arms holding her, his smooth, tanned skin that felt so good against hers. Calder was an effective distraction from the pain. “I think I’m attracted to you.”
“Very likely,” Calder agreed matter-of-factly. “Most Rayian females are.”
“You sound unhappy about that.” Sari found him unique as well as handsome. “Females are rare. Most males would consider themselves lucky to have such attention.”
“If you say so.” Calder turned around, looking to the attendants and Taryen behind them. “She’ll need something to dull the pain.”
“We brought it, my lord.”
Sari frowned. “I thought the waters—”
“Trust me on this.” Calder winced. “You want something to dull the pain.”
Sari opened her mouth to argue but was hushed by Calder as the attendants opened the doors. He carried her into a room that looked like a large, communal bath. Beautiful pillars and decorative lounge chairs surrounded a massive pool with sloping sides that would be nice to rest against in the water.
One of the attendants leaned over Sari as she rested comfortably in Calder’s arms. “For you, my lady.”
Sari blinked up at the young woman, fighting to keep her face in focus. The scent in the bathing area was aromatic and full of burning leaves like Taryen and Calder’s room. It was a strangely lulling scent, and her eyes felt heavy. Despite the fog to her thinking, Sari refused to open her mouth to the small cup of unknown liquid the pretty attendant was offering.
“It’ll help your pain. You’re gravely injured,” the attendant coaxed when Sari shook her head, refusing the offering.
“I don’t drink strange substances. It could cloud the mind.”
“It does cloud the mind,” Taryen assured her as he brushed her hair tenderly off her forehead. “The waters’ healing is painful when the injuries are grave. Be thankful you can take it.”
Sari stared at Taryen with his dark, soulful eyes that shone with empathy. “Will you protect me while my mind is clouded?” she asked, feeling seduced by his beauty and kind nature. “Will you keep the predators at bay until I can do it myself?”
“There are no predators here, my lady.” Taryen’s voice was entrancing. “But if there were, Calder and I would protect you. We’re well trained to protect the females we serve.”
Sari surprised herself by believing him. She leaned up in Calder’s arms, stifling a scream and choking down the horrid-tasting liquid the attendant held to her lips. “It’s awful.”
“Is it?” Taryen asked curiously, his large hand stroking her hair in a way that was calming.
She squinted at Taryen, who became fuzzy around the edges almost instantly. “You’ve never tasted it?”
“Neither of us have.” Calder pushed past Taryen and walked with Sari toward the pool. “As Taryen said, be thankful you can take it. This is going to be painful. I apologize in advance.”
“Not your fault.” Sari’s tongue felt thick. The drugs were obviously doing their job as her eyes grew heavy. “As long as it doesn’t kill me, I can endure.”
“All right.” Calder waded into the waters with her.
Her feet touched the water first, and she jerked from the searing burn. Her first instinct was to tell him to stop, but she fought the urge to flee, wanting her strength back, even if the healing was agonizing.
“Fast,” she choked, her body stiff not just from the pain but in anticipation of more. “Do it fast. End it now.”
A scream burst out of her when Calder obeyed, dropping down in the water, plunging her into the steaming pool. Her entire body convulsed from the level of pain that seared through her.
“He has to obey you. Your will is his.” Taryen jumped into the waters with them, helping Calder hold on to her as she fought against the torment that was blinding in its intensity. “Breathe, my lady. Long, slow breaths. Listen to my voice and the pain will fade.”
“It’s not fading.” Her attempt at long, slow breaths sounded more like hyperventilating. “I’m dying.”
“No, no, you’re not.” Taryen cupped her face with both hands. He turned her head toward him as she fought to break free of Calder’s strong grip. “You said you trusted me. Hear me when I say you aren’t dying. Just look at me and see the truth of my words.”
Sari panted through the pain, her eyes wide and stunned as it continued to rip through her. She stared at Taryen as instructed, finding that on some level it did help. His eyes were strangely dark, with the irises hard to find even in the brightly lit room. She became entranced, feeling suddenly as if he were some sort of mirage. She stared for several minutes, following his instructions to take concentrated breaths in a long, slow manner.
It worked. The pain started to fade faster than anticipated, though she knew instinctively it was Taryen’s beauty more than his instructions on how to breathe that was distracting her. He was so alluring. Taryen almost radiated with something stronger than good looks. In the distant part of her mind not dazed by drugs and pain, she recognized an oddly healing vitality that seemed to pulse off him. His hands on her cheeks felt warm, as if exuding some sort of restorative life energy.
“The queen is very lucky,” Sari whispered in a heavy voice she didn’t recognize as her own while she studied Taryen. “I’m attracted to you.”
“Thank you.” Taryen’s voice was still soft and hypnotic. “Appealing to you pleases me.”
“It should,” she told him, lifting her eyebrows to emphasize her point. “I’ve never been attracted to a male before. I don’t crave sex—ever.”
“All Rayian females crave sex.” Calder sounded harsh and cynical. “Give yourself time and you’ll catch on.”
“I never crave it. I never even think of it except to avoid it,” Sari explained, feeling too hazy and dazed to argue more than that. “I think it’s you. There’s something strange about both of you.”
“Our life force is bound to the queen,” Taryen explained, his voice making Sari’s eyelids heavier with its lulling pitch. “We naturally release a pheromone designed to entice her. It’s very strong. It appeals to all Rayian females.”
“I don’t understand,” Sari mumbled.
“You don’t have to.” Calder held her tighter, making her feel secure and
protected. “It is us. We apologize if it upsets you. If we could turn it off, we would.”
“It doesn’t upset me.” Sari fell lax in Calder’s arms, and gave up the battle to keep
her eyes open. “It makes me feel sort of nice.”
The water’s healing was no longer painful. It was warm and calming, much like Calder’s arms around her as he waded over to the shallower side of the pool. Then he lay back against one of the sloping sides with her. Taryen’s fingers were still in her hair, stroking it softly away from her face. She hardly noticed the attendants bathing her while she lay in a dazed realm of half sleep, with strong, hard arms shielding her and the smell of burning herbs mixing with the enticing combination of Calder and Taryen.
Feeling comfortable and safe for the first time in her memory, Sari fell into an exhausted, drug-induced sleep nothing could disrupt. Unusual that these two strangers were able to give her that gift when Sari rarely trusted, but Taryen and Calder didn’t feel like strangers. The sleep brought a bizarre clarity that told her on some level her soul knew these males even if they should be completely alien to her.