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A NineStar Press Publication

Published by NineStar Press

P.O. Box 91792,

Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87199 USA.

Fighting for you

Copyright © 2018 by Megan Derr

Cover Art by Natasha Snow Copyright © 2018

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact NineStar Press at the physical or web addresses above or at

Printed in the USA

First Edition

April, 2018

eBook ISBN: 978-1-948608-47-3

Warning: This book contains sexually explicit content, which may only be suitable for mature readers.

Fighting for You

Lifesworn, Book Two

Megan Derr

Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven


About the Author


Sixteen years ago


Penli huffed and fired one more arrow anyway—and yowled when the instructor cuffed him, leaving his ears ringing.

“What did I say?” Kure demanded.

“Enough,” Penli grumbled.

“Unstring your bow and clean up. We’re done for the day.”

Several paces away, Tishasanti the Bastard opened his mouth to argue, but a look from their archery instructor had him snapping it shut.

Penli bit back his own complaints, even though it wasn’t fair that he was making them quit practice before one of them had one. He’d almost had Tishi-Wishi. One more round and he’d have won!

Grumbling to himself, Penli unstrung his longbow and set it aside before he went to retrieve all his arrows, shoving them irritably into the quiver at his hip. When he was done, he retrieved his bow and headed off across campus to the dormitories on the far side. The air was chilly, heralding the coming winter, but not yet so cold that he needed more than the long sleeves and cowl he was wearing. Practice was usually active enough to keep him warm well into winter. Unlike Tishi-Wishi, he could handle cold weather.

Thinking of Tishasanti and cold weather reminded him of the time Tishasanti had lost his footing and slid all the way down a hill and into a cluster of shrubs the previous winter. Penli snickered at the memory.

“What’s so funny, Penlington? Other than your terrible aim.”

Penli stopped and turned and sneered at Tishasanti. From their first day of school, he’d hated Tishasanti. He was loud-mouthed, bossy, and thought himself better than everyone else. He also liked to solve problems with his fists and, when that didn’t work, tattled to his daddy.

After Penli had gotten revenge on him for a sucker punch by breaking Tishasanti’s nose, they’d been mortal enemies. Well, they’d already been well on the way to that, because Tishasanti thought he was the best at everything—including archery, which was Penli’s specialty. No way was Tishi-Wishi better than him. He didn’t care if they did draw even almost every single time. That was dumb luck for Tishasanti.

“Go away, Tishi-Wishi.”

Face going red at the hated nickname, Tishasanti spat, “If that bastard Kure hadn’t stopped us, I would have had you, and we both know it.”

Penli sneered. “Please. You’ll never have me in any manner of speaking. And you only beat me at anything when luck is on your side.”

“Oh, I see. Still mad about the way I trounced you in the ring this morning?”

Curling his hands into his fists at his side, Penli hissed, “You cheated!”

“All’s fair in war, Penlington. If you hadn’t been so busy fretting about your stupid hair, maybe you’d have seen that move coming. Who needs luck to beat you when all they have to do is get mud all over your hair or clothes? You fuss more than a girl on her wedding day.”

“At least whoever I marry won’t want to kill themselves rather than go through with the marriage,” Penli retorted—and didn’t move in time as Tishasanti bellowed and slammed a fist into his jaw.

Penli stumbled back several steps and wiped blood from his mouth. “Were you hoping I’d go down like you, Tishi? Sorry, you’re the only one here with a glass jaw.” That time, he was ready for the swing, and countered with a dodge promptly followed by a foot to Tishasanti’s stomach.

After that, the fighting got ugly, and stopped only when some professors showed up and dragged them apart.


“Be quiet,” Kure snapped, and Penli withered. Of all the professors on campus, his archery instructor was by far his favorite—even if he could be infuriatingly stubborn and unreasonable about some things. Like putting up with Tishasanti.

He remained quiet as they were dragged into the headmaster’s office. Next to him, Tishasanti was equally silent, which was odd. Usually by now he was screaming about what his father would have to say about this.

“What a surprise to see you two again,” Headmaster Worth replied, leaning back in his seat, making it creak with the weight of muscle and fat wedged into it. In his tournament days, before they’d faded out of popularity, Worth had been called “The Wall” and he hadn’t turned into a ruin with age. “Two violent peas in a pod.”

Penli and Tishasanti bristled. “I am nothing—”

“We have nothing—”

They both cut off as Kure cuffed them.

Worth stared implacably for several long, miserable minutes. “You’re both too intelligent to simply throw you out for the vagaries of youth. However, these violent outbursts cannot continue. You are peers of your respective realms and you must learn to act like it.” When Tishasanti started to speak, Worth cut him off with a sharp gesture. “Spare me mentions of your father; I’ve conversed with him at length and he has left the matter of your discipline wholly in my hands. The question is: what sort of discipline will finally get through those stubborn heads of yours?”

Penli started to reply that removing Tishasanti’s head would fix everything, looked at Worth’s face, and thought better of it. Even if he was right that Tishasanti was the problem. Why did they insist on acting like he was just as responsible? Tishasanti was the one who always started it.

The look on Worth’s face then said he had read every last one of Penli’s thoughts and was vastly disappointed by them. How the bastard did that, Penli didn’t know.

Worth lifted his eyes to exchange some silent conversation with Kure.

“With me,” Kure snapped, and dragged Penli out of the room. The heavy door closed on the sound of Worth giving Tishasanti a dressing down unlike any they’d received before.

Penli snickered.

“And what, you think you’re not in trouble?” Kure demanded, dragging him down the hall and all but throwing him into an empty study room. After slamming the door shut, he folded his arms across his chest.

Penli scowled at the tear in a seam of his shirt—a beautiful, fitted thing meant especially for archery, dark violet lawn and embroidered all over with white and gold flowers. “You didn’t have to ruin my shirt.”

“The blood covering half of it already took care of that,” Kure replied, voice going even colder. “I think you have more important things to worry about than your clothes, Penlington.”

“He started it!” Penli snapped. “I was minding my own business, and he showed up—”

“Just because he taunts you doesn’t mean you have to give in.” Kure held up a hand. “But let’s start with before that. Why do you think I halted practice early?”

Penli shrugged and looked at the floor, fighting an urge to cross his arms. Kure looked intimidating when he did it; Penli would only look weak. “I figured you were annoyed.”

“Yes. About what?”

“I don’t know. I was hitting all the marks. I was one point ahead—”

“That. That right there. The points are not a contest. They aren’t there so you and Tishasanti can feud. Neither are the duels, or the tests, or anything else. Those are meant to test your personal acumen. Do you understand what it is you’re learning to do when you hit those marks?”

Penli looked at him with all the growing irritation overtaking him. “Hitting marks?”

Kure boxed his ears and, ignoring Penli's yowling, said, “You are learning to kill. Every mark is, if you’re lucky, a dead animal brought down to feed your fellow soldiers. If you’re not lucky, your arrow will land in someone’s eye, or chest, or somewhere that will slow them long enough you can then take a killing shot. And instead of appreciating that, you and Tishasanti are so busy proving who is better that you’re not learning what you should be. What, pray tell, are you trying to be better than him at?”


“Funny, he’s probably giving that same answer to the headmaster as we speak. Why do you want to be better than him?”

“Because I am! Because he picks on people for no reason, he hurts them and laughs as he walks off like none of them matter. And then he gets away with it because of teachers like you, who don’t care what he does!”

Kure sighed and motioned for him to sit, then took a nearby seat. “Penlington—”

“It’s Penli,” Penli muttered.

“Penli, then,” Kure said. “I know you hate him, and perhaps you have good reason. But you need to get through that stubborn head of yours that the biggest reason the two of you clash is that you’re a lot alike.”

“We are—”

“Be quiet,” Kure cut in calmly. “You don’t talk until I say you may. Now, then. You are both exceptionally smart. You are both highly capable in all manner of martial skills. You both tend to be aggressive when you are riled, which is not something to be proud of. If you had grown up just a little bit different, Penli, you would behave exactly like him. It’s by the grace of the gods and your parents that you don’t. But you do seem to have appointed yourself judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to Tishasanti, and that’s just as bad. You see one small portion of Tishasanti’s life and what goes on it. Perhaps he deserves to be punished, but who are you to decide and act on that? What do you think people think of you, always seeing the two of you fight?”

Penli shook his head, a knot forming in his stomach.

“They think you’re pretty, and nice at times, but mostly scary, because you’re always fighting. Because sometimes from where they’re standing, and the limited knowledge they possess, you look like the one in the wrong. Remember that Penli: you don’t always know the whole story, and who is the hero and who the villain is entirely relative. Leave the judging to those who have seen the whole picture.”

“Yes, Professor,” Penli said. Did people really think he was scary?

“Penli,” Kure said more gently, and when he finally looked up continued, “If you really want to be a better person than Tishasanti, then remember that only cowards resort to violence first. Only the cruel-hearted find humor in another’s pain. And the most dangerous person in the room is the one who thinks they know everything. Ignore Tishasanti as best you’re able. Focus on your lessons, and ‘besting’ him fairly. No more fights in the halls, or one day you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to use violence to put people in the place you think they belong. Violence should always be a last resort. Arrogance should never make your decisions.”

“Yes, Professor,” Penli repeated. “I-I’m not really scary, am I? Just because I fight with Tishasanti?”

“You’re intimidating to many because, in addition to fighting with him, you are fiercely competitive, lose your temper quite easily, and there are rumors you’re going to be snatched up by the army because of your archery skills.”

Penli had been preening about that all month: that he was good enough to become a royal archer, go on secret missions to defend the people, and save the kingdom. But with Kure’s words still filling his head, all he felt was sick and scared. He wanted to be a hero, not an evil bastard like Tishasanti. “I-I’m sorry. I really do just hate the way he treats people.”

“I know,” Kure said gruffly. “But trust that people with more experience will deal with him as best we’re able, and there are bits of the story you will likely never learn. I know it’s hard, and often feels unfair, but all you can do is keep moving forward doing your best. Stop giving in to your worst. All right?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Good.” He stood and Penli did the same. “Now let’s get you back to your room so you can dress for dinner, and we’ll discuss your punishment along the way.”

Penli groaned, but fell into step alongside him as they headed across campus.

Chapter One

Penli wanted very badly to get drunk. If he had to go one. More. Wretched hour of this tiresome dinner without the cushion of liquor, he might very well do something drastic, like burn his favorite sash. Which would be a travesty, since it was made of the finest silk and dyed the loveliest purple ombre with pink flowers.

Maybe he would simply use it to throttle Lord Tishasanti. Done properly, he could kill the odious bastard and still have the sash to wear to the homecoming fete everyone talked about ceaselessly. He hoped the poor bastard returning home to marry Tishasanti knew what he was in for and was up to the task.

He shared a surreptitious look with Shanna and then cast his attention back on his food, which was sumptuous and easily his favorite part of living in Morentia. Well, second favorite. His favorite part was the lack of family pressuring him to do what they wanted without ever once considering what he needed.

His gaze slipped briefly to Shanna again, who laughed at something Kallaar said and then smiled at him like he was the reason the sun rose every morning. Her gaze drifted briefly to the man against the wall, Kallaar’s bodyguard—now their bodyguard, and also their lover.

Threesomes were not something Penli had ever considered. He’d participated in one years ago, but the situation had been decidedly tepid and so he’d never bothered again. The happy trio at the far end of the table made him wonder if perhaps more experimentation was in order. Then again, he’d never managed to keep one lover for more than a matter of weeks, so he sincerely doubted he could manage to find two who wanted to build a life with him. Whatever his wishful thinking, life had made it clear he would always be alone in that respect. At least he had Shanna.

He poured more wine from the pitcher in front of him—a pale, dry and crisp wine he muchly admired. The few things he did miss from home were more than made up for in the food, drink, and clothes that Morentia provided. He had not been there since he was a young boy, fostered out for a few years to learn the language and customs. Though his parents had ever ignored his wishes, Penli had always tried to fulfill theirs.

But ignoring him when he was arrested by King Mercen under false charges—after Mercen ordered his arm broken—was a bit too much. He was not remotely sorry he had thrown everything away to side with Shanna. She had accepted him and loved him when everyone else was embarrassed by and for him. He would do anything for her, and she for him.

Still, it stung that the family he had always worked so hard for had abandoned him the one time he truly needed them. By now they must know where he was, for it was impossible to keep his presence in Morentia a secret, and still they said nothing. He could pretend it was because Mercen thwarted them, but the unfortunate truth was that he wouldn’t have to; Penli’s family had always been happy to be Mercen’s lapdogs. Now that he was no longer there to marry off to a prince that would prove useful to his family and Mercen, he may as well be dead to them.

Which was fine. Except for the fact that, save for those hours he got to spend with Shanna, he felt more alone than ever. He might have been laughed at and mocked back home, but he’d had power and skill enough where it mattered that no one dared snub him.

Here, despite his close friendship with Shanna, they either snubbed him for being a strange foreigner, or avoided him because of the mutual hatred between him and Tishasanti. A combination of pride and pure stubbornness kept him from doing or saying anything that would change the court’s mind. Let them think what they wanted. He would get through the banquets and the fetes and the outings and otherwise keep his skills sharp and bide his time. One day they would wind up with cream on their faces and then they’d see who laughed longest and loudest.

So he drank his wine and ate his food and conversed with the people around him, pushing and pushing until they stopped being stuffy and started chatting. Honestly, they were not going to burst into flame or otherwise suffer simply because Tishasanti hated his guts. Tishasanti didn’t care enough about any of them to make a fuss over who they talked to—unless it affected his income or reputation. And as to the few who didn’t know how to handle his florid manner or beautiful clothes: that was their problem, not his. He looked magnificent, and it was their loss if they couldn’t appreciate that.

By the time the banquet ended and he was allowed to make his escape, he was mildly drunk and extremely restless. Exchanging his court clothes for plainer, but no less beautiful, attire to wear into the city, he went in search of a suitable distraction from dull palace life and the constant, underlying anxiety of being a man in exile, whose only chance of returning home was war. He was so damned tired of war. Why was fighting and killing the only way people seemed to want to resolve problems?

At least he was retired from that nonsense, and though he would do anything Shanna asked of him, he was hoping to stay out of the main part of her reclamation of the throne.

He shoved all those depressing thoughts away and focused instead on what kind of entertainment he wanted for the evening. Dancing? Perhaps a play? But no, the more he thought upon it, the more he wanted the kind of distraction that came with a soft bed and a naked body pressed against his. Some lovely, buxom woman, or a pretty man, perhaps some beautiful delight that was both or neither. Penli wasn’t particular on the details, only that they be eager and skilled. Yes, that sounded like exactly the cure he needed for all his pent-up energy.

Unfortunately, he didn’t make it further than the grand pavilion before he was waylaid by Tishasanti and a couple of his friends—or lackeys, more likely. Tishasanti had never been very good at making friends; that required he care about someone other than himself.

Well, himself and winning. Penli had lost count over the years of the number of competitions between them. Which of them won or lost always came down to some trivial bit of luck or chance, because skill for skill they drew even every time. Even in the classroom, their grades rarely differed from one another, and never by more than a point or two.

People had called them twins and had done it more when they realized how much the two of them hated each other. One of their teachers, of a particularly religious bent, had once commented that in every life, Penli and Tishasanti were either the closest of friends or the greatest of enemies, but never anything in between.

Penli had eventually lost count of the number of times they’d had to be dragged apart, the hours of punishment he’d endured, the countless lectures.

Each year at the archery tournaments, they always ended up facing each other point for point. Sometimes Penli won, sometimes Tishasanti, and it always came down to a surprise burst of wind or some minute flaw in an arrow.

“Where are you going, snowflake?”

Penli didn’t roll his eyes, but it was a near thing. Did they think he was going to be so easily ruffled? He’d been called a flower and a delicate snowflake all his life, and far uglier terms—many of them by Tishasanti.

“I do not believe that’s any of your business, plum pudding,” he said, tossing his long braids over his shoulder.

Tishasanti sneered. “Off to earn money then?”

Penli laughed. “Why, did you gamble away your monthly allowance again and need advice on where to make some cash quickly? I don’t think you’d draw clients, apple crumb, and anyway, I doubt we like the same things.”

Tishasanti sneered. “Yes, I can imagine—”

“I have no doubt you imagine me plenty,” Penli cut in, “but to be honest, I prefer you keep your fantasies to yourself.”

“I would have thought being a royal murderer would have curbed that tongue of yours, Penlington.”

Tishasanti’s friends and a few others who’d decided to watch the altercation snickered and jeered.

Tishasanti’s mean little laugh filled the pavilion. “No more clever words?”

“Oh, I think we both know that’s not true, but if you need a reminder I can break your nose again.”

“Please, you only broke my nose because you cheated.”

“If that’s what you want to believe, rum cake. Makes no nevermind to me; it’s long in the past for most of us.” He swept Tishasanti a mocking bow and strode off quickly, ignoring the lingering looks and laughter that chased him.

Beyond the enormous moat of the royal palace, filled with jagged rocks and long, wickedly sharp stakes rather than water, was the city. Noisy, crowded, and busy even after the sunset, and such a hub of activity given its vital location that nobody cared if he was too loud, too colorful, too flouncy.

Penli wandered the streets somewhat aimlessly at first, not quite settled on what he wanted. Away had been most of it, and distraction was the rest, but that left the question of what kind. Eventually, he left behind the larger, brightly lit, and well-populated streets in favor of the less-populated parts of the city. He finally came to a halt in front of a house tucked in the back of a plain, barren courtyard. It would have been easy to mistake the whole building as deserted, save for the single candles that burned in two windows, covered by diamond-patterned red glass that signalled the purpose of the house.

He rapped on the door, displayed his token when it opened, and stepped inside. The scent of incense, expensive perfume, sweat, and sex washed over him. A beautiful woman wearing only a wrap around her hips and jewels at her throat took his coat, and kissed his cheek in greeting. He lightly squeezed her hip, smiled, and pushed on further into the house.

His favorite part about this particular brothel, simply called The House, was that visitors were welcome to come and unwind if that was all they desired. Brothels back home were all about business, and business was expensive. The brothels here were nearly as costly, but far more relaxed. The vague undercurrent of shame that coated the ones back home was lacking here. Another of his favorite parts of Morentia.

Settling into his usual chair, Penli requested a brandy and skimmed over the room, nodding or smiling at a few familiar faces, but though he’d come here for the distraction and venting that sex so easily offered, there was no one he was compelled to invite closer.

An hour or so later, the curtains dividing the entrance from the lounging area parted and someone stepped inside—no, two someones, and they walked in that way Kallaar and Ahmla had about them. Two people used to being in each other’s space nearly every hour of every day. But these two were nothing like the playful Prince Kallaar and the solemn Master Ahmla.

No, the man who seemed to be a lord was of average height and thick, stocky build. The kind of frame that would get him called ‘somewhat fat’ in unkind tones in the palace, though back in Remnien that figure would be highly prized. There, it was the lanky ones like Penli who were sneered at. The man was pretty, with light-brown skin, floppy brown curls and dark, kissable lips, lashes Penli envied, and deep-set eyes that he wished he could see the color of.

Beside him was a slightly shorter man with red-toned, dark-brown skin, and a head shaved smooth. There were white lines tattooed across the top, as well as along his cheeks, chin, and nose. Penli had seen such before, but beyond being told it was a practice of the southeastern region and marked family and the like, he didn’t really know anything about the marks. He was handsome, eyes alert as he skimmed the room, hands at his sides in a way that said he was trying to relax but would be happier to have his weapons back.

The first man’s gaze collided with Penli’s, surprise and then curiosity filling his face. He turned to speak with his companion, whose eyes sought out Penli and regarded him pensively.

By the look of him, the second man was what Shanna had taken to calling a lifesworn, from an old piece of Remnien history. But in Morentian, the term was bloodgiver—someone who spent their entire life serving as protector, adviser, confidante, and friend to another person. Sometimes, though not always, they were also a lover, as was the case with Kallaar and Ahmla. And, if he had to guess, these two beautiful strangers.

The bloodgiver looked back at the lord and they had a discussion that did not seem to end the way the bloodgiver wanted—but did seem to bring them Penli’s way.

Bowing slightly, the lord said, “Good evening, handsome stranger.”

“Good evening, my fine new friend,” Penli replied and gestured. “Won’t you and your bloodgiver join me?”

They both look surprised but took the offered seats. “I see you’re familiar with our traditions. But forgive me, I am Lord Teia ren Hallish. This is Master Sendaar Beshi.”

The name Hallish was familiar, but Penli was too distracted to figure out why. With all the people he’d met since arriving and all the gossip he heard daily, probably any name he heard right then would seem familiar. And he just wasn’t as interested in playing those games here as he’d had to play them back home. “I am Lord William Penlington. Most call me Penli, please.”

“Lord Penli, a true pleasure to meet you. If I am not mistaken, you’re from Remnien.”

“Correct. You look like you’ve been doing some traveling.”

Teia laughed and brushed at his clothes. “Yes, I should have perhaps made an effort to dig out proper clothes before coming here, but I was impatient to enjoy one last night of fun before bowing to my parents’ wishes.”

“I know the feeling,” Penli said and finished his brandy. “I endured much the same for many years, but finally committed a defiance they will not forgive. So here I am.” He smiled sourly.

Teia’s eyes widened, and he looked torn between being horrified and impressed. “That must be quite the defiance.”

“It certainly was not pleasant.” Penli shrugged, set his empty glass aside, and let the low burn that had started up in his gut the moment he’d seen Teia and Sendaar burn hotter. “What sort of fun were you hoping to have tonight, my lord?”

Eyes gleaming, Teia replied, “We were hoping for precisely the type of fun this place offers. Though I’d not anticipated finding it with another guest, I certainly do not mind when my plans change.” He waggled his eyebrows. “I find it’s often more fun when plans have unexpected twists.”

Sendaar cast him a look that almost made Penli snort.

Seeing the look on his face, Teia rounded on Sendaar and jabbed him in the middle of his chest. “Stop making fun of me behind my back.”

“Stop making it easy to do,” Sendaar said in a soft, pretty voice. The kind of voice meant for song; if he was not a skilled singer, Penli would eat his favorite pair of slippers.

Teia jabbed him again, smoothly dodged the hand that reached to snag him, and whipped back around to Penli. “So will you join us, Lord Penli?”

Penli rose, anticipation thrumming through him as he looked between them. Why not? Might be fun for an evening to get a taste of what Shanna so obviously enjoyed with all her heart. “You make a fine offer, honeycomb, but I do not sleep with people unless I like their kisses. So you will have to pass that test if you want me to be your evening’s entertainment.”

“I wish all tests were such fun.” Teia stepped forward eagerly, braced his hands on Penli’s chest, and leaned up to kiss him soft and teasing.

Penli cupped his face and deepened the kiss, tasting a hint of something sweet on Teia’s lips. He met Penli’s kiss full measure but did not seem inclined to dominate the kiss, more than happy to leave control to Penli. That suited Penli just fine.

He drew back with a teasing pull of Teia’s lips between his teeth. “You definitely pass.”

Teia laughed delightedly and stepped back. Penli looked to Sendaar, who regarded him pensively before slowly stepping forward. There was nothing playful or teasing in his manner, just simple forthrightness as he wrapped his arms around Penli’s shoulders and closed the final bit of space between them. Like Teia, he seemed content to let Penli lead, and oh didn’t that just put all sorts of delightfully naughty, filthy images in Penli’s head.

One of the many things his family had disliked about him was that he had no qualms about being in charge. If he wanted to be in charge, he should look and act the part. If he wanted to be a flower, fine, but flowers were meant to be pretty and pliant.

Penli had no patience for such tiresome thinking.

Sendaar kissed firmly and tasted of the same elusive sweet Teia had, so they must have dined recently. He kissed with intent, like a man with a task he eagerly wanted to complete and be rewarded for. Penli was more than happy to encourage such enthusiasm.

Finally drawing back, he said, “One more kiss, I think? And then we can secure a room for the night.”

They both looked confused for a split moment and then Teia laughed, and Sendaar rolled his eyes as he pulled Teia close. My, oh my, wasn’t that the prettiest thing Penli had ever seen. They wrapped around each other with all the easy comfort of a pile of kittens, but all the heat and sexuality of two adults who knew what they wanted—and what they wanted was to be fucking.

Penli summoned one of the staff and arranged a room. When it was ready, he took another kiss from each of them and led the way.

The room was a large one, elegantly decorated in green, brown, and gold. Soft candle flames in colored glass threw pale light and shadows around the room in a way that made it more intimate. Incense drifted faintly on the air. Penli turned to his companions. “Anything I should make certain to do or not do?”

“Nobody gets tied up or hurt,” Sendaar said. “Nothing like that.”

“I would not be so ambitious on a first fuck, sweetness,” Penli said with a wink. He snapped his fingers. “Let’s have done with your clothes, and then you can remove mine.”

Sendaar regarded him again briefly and, seeming satisfied with whatever he saw, deftly stripped. Teia was done long before Sendaar finished and set to gathering all the clothes and piling them mostly neatly on a nearby chair.

Then they prowled toward him, young and beautiful and eager, one something like an excited puppy, the other like a cat who didn’t want to admit he was eager for pettings. Penli dragged Sendaar close and kissed him hard, biting and sucking at his lips, pushing his tongue deep, stopping only when Sendaar whimpered and rubbed against him. Switching to Teia, he took a longer, slower, kiss, running fingers up and down his spine, withdrawing only after Teia trembled and moaned. Licking his lips, faintly surprised at just how much he enjoyed tasting both of them there, Penli said in a husky voice, “Get me undressed, pretty pets, and then we’ll play all you like.”

They obeyed eagerly, but had enough care to treat his clothes better than they’d treated theirs. “Your hair is beautiful,” Sendaar said, reaching out to lightly touch the braids that had tumbled over Penli’s shoulders, so long they nearly covered his cock—or would if it wasn’t already hard and sticking out.

“Thank you,” Penli murmured. “I’ve spent many, many years getting it this long.”

Sendaar kissed him, pressing along his side, making it so easy to slide an arm around his waist and hold him close, feed on that mouth like doing so would solve all his problems.

Teia pressed against his other side, and after a moment Penli switched to kissing him, stroking and caressing both of them, a delicious tangle of limbs, hot, wet cocks rubbing against his skin, hands in his hair and against his chest and back. Mercy of the divine, maybe he should have tried this sort of thing more often.

He tore away with a groan and nudged them toward the bed. “What precisely were you two hoping for this evening?”

They rose up on their knees on either side of the enormous bed, sharing a look before Sendaar shrugged and said, “Someone like you.”

“We just want to have fun, and not have to make all the decisions,” Teia said. “We can, we just…like not to, when that’s an option.”

If Penli could have purred, oh how he would have. “Lovely, lovely darlings, I wonder what I did to earn such a treat.” He climbed onto the bed, sprawled between them, and said, “I feel like being decadent. Let’s see what you can do with mouths and hands. Touch wherever, however, you like.”

Their eyes lit, and they exchanged a look of happy disbelief before setting to work.

Skillfully, deliciously to work. Teia started at his feet, kissing up his legs, occasionally exchanging lips for teeth and tongue. Sendaar started at his mouth, kissing in that thorough, eager to please way of his. Pulling away, he smiled softly before pressing kisses to his jaw, his throat, lingering there and at his collar bone before moving further down. Penli sat propped against pillows and watched, keeping his hands from touching them or himself only through force of will. Gods above, they were a beautiful pair, moving in harmony even when they probably didn’t intend to, clearly loving every moment of what they were doing.

Penli finally groaned as they met up at his cock, mouths and hands roaming up and down its length, balls, stealing further back to tease as he spread his legs to accommodate. “You are going to leave me a broken man, pets. That’s enough of that. Decide who is fucking me and who I am fucking.”

They both moaned, eyes sliding shut briefly, hands clasping on his stomach. “I want to fuck you,” Teia said. “Can I really?”

“Sweet boy, if I didn’t want it, I wouldn’t order it.” Penli slid his gaze to Sendaar, who whimpered and nodded, tongue flicking out to touch his tongue. “Splendid. I believe the oil is in the basket over on that table. Fetch it.”

Sendaar obeyed, offering the jar when he returned.

“Prepare yourself while Teia prepares me,” Penli said, liking the way Sendaar’s eyes widened, his throat working as he grabbed his own cock to keep from coming. Penli chuckled, and spreads his legs wider as Teia settled between them.

It was hard to watch both of them, Teia so intent on his task as he fucked Penli open on his fingers, Sendaar riding his own fingers as he watched Teia lovingly, and for a moment turning a much simpler, briefer type of adoration on Penli. Watching them while also enjoying the fingers stretching him, twisting and turning and touching with impressive skill, was difficult but so very worth the effort.

When he could stand no more, Penli said, “Do you want this all together or one at a time?”

“One at a time,” Sendaar said.

“Yes, so we can properly watch,” Teia said as he slicked his cock and lined it up. At Penli’s nod, he braced himself and pushed inside, his groan filling the room. He turned his head and Sendaar leaned in to kiss him, burying a hand in Teia’s messy curls.

It was Penli who groaned then, his cock giving a hard twitch. Oh, to have an endless number of days to enjoy everything the three of them could do together. Would they be amenable to meeting up again some time? But that was a matter for later.

For the present, it was time for Teia to fuck him and he said as much. Drawing away from Sendaar with a last nibble, Teia grinned and finally moved, pulling out and thrusting back in, keeping to a steady pace at first but soon losing track. This time, Penli permitted it, too impatient himself. But he really and truly hoped there might be a next time.

He dragged Teia down as he thrust deep one more time and came, moaning his release into Penli’s mouth.

When they pulled apart, Teia laughed breathily as his cock slid free of Penli’s body, sweat gleaming on his skin, drops running down his face and chest. “I wish all my homecomings were as fine as this.” Anguish and fear flashed briefly across his face, quickly banished by that beautiful smile.

Penli kissed him again, then shifted to put Sendaar in his place. “How do you want it?”

“Like this,” Sendaar said, spreading his thighs and holding his arms out to draw Penli into more kisses, then turning his head to kiss Teia, who had crawled up to sit beside him.

Slicking his cock, Penli pushed easily into Sendaar’s body, groaning at the tight heat. Yes, it had been far too long since he’d done this. If only he could last for as long as he wished, but Sendaar was too magnificent, and Teia too marvelous, for him to last very long at all. Next time, there simply had to be a next time.

He thrust hard and deep one last time and then bent to kiss them both, enjoying how mingled their flavors had become, that at least for one night he’d gotten to enjoy these two beautiful, intriguing men.

Gently pulling out, he then crawled over to sprawl on the bed—and somehow wound up right back in the middle, arms full of sated, pliant beauties. Far be it for him to complain. After a few minutes of savoring the encounter, Penli finally asked, “Are you expected somewhere soon, or shall I arrange an overnight and we can have one last bit of fun in the morning?”

“We’re not expected anywhere until the afternoon.”

“Splendid.” He’d already warned the staff they might stay through the night, and payment could be taken care of in the morning as well. “You have returned home for a good reason, I hope?”

They both tensed, and Teia said, with a failed attempt at levity, “Most consider marriage a good reason.”

Marriage. Realization slapped Penli across the face. “That’s why your name was familiar. You’re Tishasanti’s betrothed.” His lips pulled into a grimace.

Sendaar laughed sourly. “I see you’ve had that pleasure.”

“I had that pleasure years ago when I smashed his face into a wall, and many times since.”

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