“What’s your pleasure soldier?” the soft male voice purred, the words wrapping around him.
Thane ap del Kala did his best to ignore the voice and the fingers, which trailed cautiously up his thigh. He’d come in for a drink and sex, if he found the right person. Six months on patrol in space along the borders for the Bissari Confederation had taken its toll. Twenty-four hours left of a two-day leave while the ship underwent minor repairs. He normally didn’t take a quarter of that, spending just enough time away from the ship to find some relief. This time he’d taken the whole thing, needing to rid himself of the stress and tension from the last few months. The bar, a short shuttle ride from the star port, was clean and the boys working were legal and healthy. It was his favorite place to come when they stopped at the star port.
The edges of Thane’s senses tingled. The dormant psychic link programmed only for his soul mate vibrated. Every Karrgi knew the signs. One of the many humanoid races in the universe and the Bissari Confederation, his people had innate abilities gifted to them centuries ago. He knew when his soul mate was nearby. Every Karrgi knew when they were with meters of their soul mates. He’d brushed off earlier signs as the result from being in space and with out sex for too long. Now, within feet of his soul mate, there was no disputing the fact. Growling, he shook his head. Nothing good could come of meeting someone here. A bar on the fringes of a star port was a decent place for sexual release, but not for finding a life mate.
“I can do hard, soft, fast, or slow,” the male said, his fingers dancing lightly over Thane’s neck. “You could even spank me.” The words were soft, whispered against his ear, followed by a flick of a tongue.
Thane finally turned his attention toward the barfly. He knew their type, most were prostitutes looking for money, some wanted a way out of their current situation, but a few were simply after a good time. The practiced movements and voice that went straight to a man’s cock told him which type this one was. Money was a strong motivator. Briefly, Thane wondered what happened to make the boy choose this option.
“Who runs you?” Thane asked. He had no desire to enter into any sort of agreement without knowing exactly with whom he would have to negotiate if he was right. And everything proceeded like it should.
“I run myself.”
“Owner?” Thane asked, unconvinced.
“How long have you been down here?”
“Maybe an hour,” the man purred. “I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Don’t toy with me,” Thane spat grabbing the thin wrist before it could reach his groin.
“Six months. Long enough.” The voice lost its sultry sound but still connected with his cock.
Slowly, Thane let his gaze wander over the would-be seducer standing in front of him. Taking his time, using the full range of his senses and abilities, he looked the barely-legal man up and down. Brown eyes peered out from under unruly sandy hair. A small, lithe body radiated need—not the sexual need that the young man might prefer, but the need to be loved and accepted. The thin, clingy material he wore did little to hide anything, including the image Thane sought. In the center of the younger man’s chest, over his heart was a pacing tiger in bright, shimmering white—the boy’s soul mark. It matched Thane’s slightly bigger version and that any Karrgi would see in green. The soul mark appeared green to everyone, but one’s life mate.
Soul mark. Bond mates. Thane mentally swore. If he didn’t bond with the man soon, there was a strong possibility he never would. Especially if the boy continued to work and live here. The idea instantly set Thane on edge. His man. His mate. Not some common prostitute. Not any more. No one would touch his mate like that, again. Ever.
“How old are you?” he demanded. He knew the owner of the bar; too many military personnel came through here for him to be even slightly careless about age.
“Turned eighteen three months ago. You can check. I know the rules. Sixteen for consent and just about anything else. Seventeen to work anywhere in any system. Eighteen if you want in here,” the younger man recited and removed his necklace. A small pouch hung on the chain, and he pulled out a one-inch metal disc and held it out.
Thane shook his head, took the disc and signaled for a reader. The bartender nodded and smiled, handing over a small square black and gray box with a large screen on the top of it. “Name,” Thane demanded, staring at the rent-boy.
“He’s legal, Commander. I did the verification myself,” the bartender said.
“I go by Wolf,” the younger man bit out.
Thane nodded. Not only had he found his mate in a bar, plying the oldest trade in the universe, but the man wasn’t even Karrgi. He’d known it was possible, however rare, for a Karrgi’s bond mate to be of a different race. The smaller man’s race didn’t matter where the laws and traditions of bond mates were concerned. Age and experience dictated that Thane was responsible for the younger man by Karrgi law. Thane knew that now that he’d found his mate, he should leave military service at the end of his current tour, return to his home world with his mate and settle down. Should. It wasn’t a law, he didn’t have to. Not really.
Sliding the disc in, Thane read the important details that verified the man’s age, identity and his valid work permit before using his security clearance to read more of the other man’s file. Taladari orphan. He blew out a breath. By choice or circumstance, the man was parentless. Thane had dealt with the Taladari before. They were a conservative, family-centered race of humans that passed information and skills from parent to child. Children who were fostered or adopted would learn the skills provided by that family. Orphans would learn whatever the State deemed necessary and were left to fend to on their own. Removing the disc, he handed it back.
“I think I prefer Breyan or Tiger. You’re too young to be a wolf, and I’m not fond of Mykel.”
“Did you get my last name too?” Breyan snapped.
“I did. Mykel Breyan Treadway, son of Moira Treadway. I still prefer Breyan,” Thane replied. “I am Commander Thane ap del Kala from the Karrgi home world of Ragini.” He could easily use his security clearance to find out what happened to lead Breyan to this path, but he wanted more than that with his mate. He wanted there to be trust and communication between them.
“You look good enough to eat Commander,” the man purred.
“I’m in no mood to stay here and flirt. I assume you have a room somewhere.”
Breyan nodded. “Five minute walk from here.”
They walked the three blocks to the large house where Breyan had a room in companionable silence. The place was small, but clean and neat. A large bed dominated the area. A kitchenette was in one corner and a door was in another. There was little to suggest that the occupant wanted to stay here or actually lived here.
“How long have you lived here?”
“Two and a half months. I got it when the guy living here previously met someone and moved in with them.”
Thane nodded. “I want to see all of you.”
“Details first,” Breyan said, suddenly looking nervous. Thane knew the look, had seen it plenty of times on new recruits. It was the one that told him the person just realized they had monumentally screwed up.
“Details, yes. Prices, no.”
“No. I’m not free, and if you’re not paying, I’m not willing.”
Thane smiled and stepped back. The kid wasn’t completely stupid. But, if Thane had been like some men, those words would mean nothing, and he would take what he wanted from Breyan. Depending on the investigator afterward, the claim of rape from a rent boy wouldn’t be worth reporting.
“I’m Karrgi, and an officer in the Bissari Confederation military.”
“And that means what to me?”
Thane blew out a breath and ran a hand through his hair. Stepping forward, he placed a hand on Breyan’s chest.
“The Karrgi know when they’ve met their soul mates. In Ragini and other Karrgi home worlds, it’s easy to meet your mate. For those of us drawn to space, it’s more difficult. Our legends tell us that generations of wandering and centuries of war led to the development of a special psychic connection. We can look at a group of people and know in moments if our soul mate is present.”
“We can see soul marks.”
“Everyone has a soul mark, something that is indicative of the person, of the couple and a matching pair binds two souls together. One mark will call to its mate and change color in the presence of that mate. Your soul mark tells me that you’re my soul mate—that you belong to me and I to you.”
“I don’t have any marks,” Breyan protested. “Do they appear after sex?”
“A soul mark isn’t a physical mark. It’s part of your soul. After sex, we’ll share a bond that usually includes a mental connection and an increase in sexual energy. My eyes, Karrgi eyes, will turn green, the color of life, love and purity. A trait that I’ve never heard another race share. Sexually, we’d be sated only by each other.”