Planet Pavlovan, Trios System
“Second Male?” Esca gaped at the Oracle. “No. That can’t be right.”
Immune to both his shock and his highly inappropriate question, the Oracle stared right through him, her beautiful face disinterested. She was too deep in her trance with the deities of their planet to care what he thought.
“Esca!” A hiss behind him made him turn to see his father gesticulating wildly. “Thank the Oracle, and withdraw!”
He bowed his head, but he couldn’t force himself to say ‘thank you’. He stumbled down the marble steps toward his parents, who hustled him away from the main hall of the temple and into one of the side rooms. His mother was already weeping, his father as pale as the stonework.
“How can I be Second Male? I graduated first in my class from military school! Everyone knows I have a brilliant career ahead of me! How in frek’s name am I supposed to bow down to another male?”
His father took a deep breath. “The Oracle has spoken. We cannot go against the decision of the gods.” He looked past Esca to the priestess who had come into the room behind him. “My lady, do you have news of the male my son is to join with?”
Esca turned his back on his father and glared at the priestess. His graduation day was in ruins. He’d always known he’d be in a relationship with two others; it was the way of his people. But he’d assumed he’d be First Male, preferably to two females, certainly not the inferior position of Second to another man.
The woman bowed, handed Esca a scroll, and departed. He slowly unrolled the parchment and read the single word.
“Ash. Who the frek is that?”
“Ash?” His father’s jaw literally dropped. “He’s the newest member of the Senate. By the gods, if you are allied to him you will be untouchable.”
“Not by him,” Esca snapped. “Who is this man? If he’s on the council, he’s probably ancient.”
“He’s only about seven or eight years older than you are.” His father’s expression was lightening with every second. “He is extraordinary.” He turned to his wife who nodded eagerly, and then looked back at Esca. “We would be proud to have you allied to him.”
“And what about me?” Esca demanded. “I’m the one who has to live with the guy, has to let him—”
“Let’s go home and discuss this further.” His father wasn’t even listening to him anymore.
Esca turned on his heel and started down the stairs. In the entrance hall of the temple, a uniformed man looked up and stepped forward.
“Are you Esca?”
The man bowed. “Ash would like to meet you. I am here to take you to him.” He smiled at Esca’s parents. “I shall return him to you before dusk.”
Esca didn’t bother to talk to the man on the way through the city. What the frek was he supposed to say to this Ash guy? The last thing his father had said before Esca had been escorted to the limo was not to disgrace his family. How was he going to do that when he’d been put in an impossible situation?
They arrived at one of the premier apartment buildings in the city, and Esca was taken in a private elevator that went up so fast he almost puked. The elevator opened onto a narrow white-marble vestibule. His companion knocked on the only door, and then led Esca through into a large room that was almost all windows and offered a stunning view over the capital city.
“One moment, sir. I’ll go and find Senator Ash.”
When his driver disappeared, Esca focused his gaze on the distant lights of the military base where he’d hoped to begin his career. His throat hurt and his gut was tied in knots. But he had to do the right thing—the reputation of his family depended on it.
A slight sound behind him made him turn. His gaze took in the long fair hair and perfect features of the man who studied him with equal interest. And frek, not only was his face good to look at, but his mind…The psychic power emanating from him called to something deep inside Esca, made him want to move closer.
“Esca? I’m Ash.”
Swallowing hard, Esca moved forward and fell to his knees in front of the other man. He formally kissed Ash’s fingers.
“Thank you for observing the traditions. I appreciate it.” Ash withdrew his hand. “Now will you come and sit down? Let me offer you a drink. We have a lot to discuss.”
Esca rose to his feet aware that although he was as tall as Ash, he was already broader and would get even bigger.
“But aren’t you going to—”
“Take you straight to bed and ravish you?” Ash’s smile was sweet. “That isn’t really my style.”
Subsiding into the nearest chair, Esca waited until Ash gave him a drink and took the seat opposite him before saying. “You don’t want me?”
“You’ve just graduated from military school, and you’re due to attend the space academy, correct?”
“That’s what I wanted to do, yes.”
“Then I suggest you go ahead and do it.” He looked up and Esca noticed how blue his eyes were. “The only difference will be that instead of going to your parents when you’re on leave, I’d like you to come here. I’d like you to start thinking of this as your home.”
“I don’t understand.” Esca tried not to scowl. “You could make me live here permanently, and stop me from being anything but your mate.”
Ash raised his eyebrows. “Why would I do that? Don’t you think you deserve to fulfill your dreams?”
Esca let out his breath. “I want to be the best space fighter pilot our military has ever produced.”
“Then do it.” Ash toasted him with his glass. “We have all our lives to get to know each other.”
“I never imagined I’d have to—to—”
“Submit to another male?”
“Yeah.” Esca raised his chin. “I always thought I’d be First Male.”
“I can see why. From what I’ve read, you have extraordinary potential both in the military and as a psychic match for me.” He hesitated. “Do you feel that, at least?”
“That I’m drawn to what’s going on in your head?” Esca nodded. “Yeah, I get that loud and clear. It’s the other stuff I’m not so sure about.” He looked hastily down at his empty glass. “I’ve never been in a physical relationship with a male.”
“I know, which is why I’m not pushing that on you right now.”
Ash smiled. “One day, I hope you’ll come willingly to my bed.” He shrugged. “I can wait.”