copyright Rowena Cherry
ISBN 0-505-52711-1; LoveSpell 1/31/07
All rights reserved.
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Damn them! Prince Djetthro-Jason eyed the masked males and the unpleasant array of implements they were preparing to use on him.
I haven't told them everything, and I'm not about to. No way am I going to invite anyone to take a laser to my privates. Ahhh, Fewmet!
The "battlefield analgesia" was wearing off. During the duel that he'd begun as Commander Jason and ended--defeated--as Prince Djetthro-Jason, he'd felt almost no pain despite the damage Tarrant-Arragon had inflicted.
Now, his massively bruised thigh throbbed heavily, his neck muscles ached, and his jaw...it hurt even to think about his jaw. Perhaps worse--but less so by the moment--was the damage to his alpha-male machismo as he lay strapped down, stark naked, in his enemy's operating theater, preparing his mind for surgery without anesthetic. Also for "the fate worse than death" which was to come.
If Tarrant-Arragon had observed Great Djinn tradition, the duel they'd fought less than an hour ago ought to have been to the death.
Why hadn't Tarrant-Arragon killed him then and there? To the victor went the Empire, the Ark Imperial, and gods-Right to any female he wanted...and they both wanted the same female.
Damn it! Even if he wanted to stop, I should've fought on after he crippled my leg and shattered my bloody jaw. Why didn't I? What's left for me?
I'll be the Djinn equivalent of a broken thoroughbred stallion put out to stud. It's fairly obvious why Tarrant-Arragon made an excuse not to finish me off.
The Great Djinn were nearly extinct. In twenty years' time, Tarrant-Arragon's and Djinni-vera's children would need true-Djinn mates, all entitled to the silent D-prefix to their royal Djinn names. That's why!
When the "fate worse than death" had been spelled out, it had been sheer bravado to mumble that he wanted to marry Princess Martia-Djulia.
Maybe I do. Maybe I don't.
It hurt how much he still wanted Djinni-vera, who'd been the last Djinn virgin in all the Communicating Worlds, and betrothed to be his, until Tarrant-Arragon abducted her by force and took her virginity.
What consolation would it be to have Tarrant-Arragon's sexy, fashionista bitch of a sister in his power and in his bed instead?
Djetth winced at the savagery of his thoughts about Martia-Djulia. Shards of pain shot along his broken jawline.
"Well, Djetthro-Jason, are you ready to be carved up for your new identity and your new life as my little sister's glorified love slave?"
From somewhere out of Djetth's line of sight, Tarrant-Arragon taunted him, stressing the part of Djetth's real name that he'd used until his cover as "Commander Jason" was blown and he was overpowered and arrested.
Djetth did not turn his head. The pain in his face and head was intolerable enough without moving.
"Ahhh, I do believe that Our Imperial surgeons are ready to do away with that distinctive jagged scar on your cheek," Tarrant-Arragon crooned. "And screw together your jaw."
What else might they do while he was under the laser and the knife? While his face was open, might they carve out a sensory gland or two? Implant a tracking device? Use his broken jaw as an excuse to weld a mask over his head?
Prince Djetthro-Jason would be a latter-day "Man in the Iron Mask" if they realized how closely he resembled Crown Prince Tarrant-Arragon. Which he would, without his scars, his colorful contact lenses and his long, blond-dyed hair.
Djetth glanced at the treacherous, turncoat 'Rhett, who'd been his bloody useless "second" at the duel, and who was still hanging around.
What for? Damn him. 'Rhett was too much the intergalactic statesman for his own--or anyone else's--good.
If the patient lost consciousness, Tarrant-Arragon could decide that the chances for galactic peace would be better is Djetthro-jason were neutered...one way or another. Given the secrets 'Rhett knew, 'Rhett might agree.
"No--" Djetth groaned with the unexpected agony of trying to speak. He wanted to refuse anesthetic again. How he wished there was somebody present who he could trust!
A door swished open.
"Does he have to be in such pain?" The cause of all the trouble spoke from the doorway. She sounded on edge, as if she felt his pain telepathically.
Djinni-vera! No longer his Djinni. By conquest, by the irrevocable exchange of vows,and finally by her own choice, she was Tarrant-Arragon's.
By All the Lechers of Antiquity, how he loved her! At that moment. For coming. Mentally Djetth qualified his thoughts. Djinni-vera might not love him now, but she was honorable to the core. Tarrant-Arragon wouldn't dare do anything dastardly in front of her.
As she glided to his surgical table, Djetth looked at her wildly, helplessly, with mute appeal, hoping that she would read his mind and aid him this one last time.
Djinni-vera's amethyst eyes widened as if she had Heard him and understood. Her gaze averted, she reached out and dropped a gauzy white cloth of some sort over his monstrously inappropriate erection.
To others, her action might have looked like public modesty on her part. Djetth assumed that Djinni had read the part of his mind that was worrying about the striking tattoo that only showed up in the dark or when he was suitably excited.
Thank you, he thought. Please help me. Stay.
She nodded, and took his fettered hand with her undamaged left. "You've been macho about this too long, J-J. Why won't you let them put you to sleep?"
"Careful, my love," Tarrant-Arragon said, moving possessively to her side. "You can never call him J-J again. Nor may you use any of his other damned traitor's aliases. Not J-J, not Commander Jason. Traitors cannot be seen to survive their attempts on my life. Commander Jason is officially dead,and everyone--including Martia-Djulia--must believe it. From this day forward, he's Prince Djetthro-Jason."
"What a mouthful..." Djinni began; then her changing expression told him that she must have read a thought-pun he couldn't resist. "Djetth!"
She frowned sternly.
"I know you Great Djinn males can't help thinking of sex all the time. But it's not helpful, Djetth. As long as you have your satuurnid gland, you're dangerous."