Lija is a woman on a mission...to get at least one night of fun in before she has to marry someone she doesn't really want. Gehon and Jackon are Zelion warriors working as space traders, and meeting Lija is a dream come true...sort of. Zelion men can only be fertile with their "true mate", a woman who matches them. They know her when they see her, taste her and touch her, and once committed, will be faithful to her forever.
The good news is that Lija is a true mate. The bad news is that she's the true mate for both of them--and Zelion warriors aren't really into sharing.
The Zelions set up a sexual competition to win her hand, but in the end, it's the lady's choice.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Lady's Choice by Cricket Starr
"It's my turn to buy."
"No, it's mine."
Gehon Avermoe--Zelion warrior, interstellar trader, and half-owner in the space-trader The Traveler--narrowed his eyes at his partner and best friend. "You bought the last round at the bar on Sedion Seven. Don't you remember?"
"No I don't. You know I can't remember past the sixth round," Jackon said.
"That isn't my fault. I do remember and this one is my turn."
Jackon shook his head and held up his fist. "Let's settle this properly."
Eyes mere slits, Gehon's fist went up as well. "If you insist."
The bartender cringed at the impending fight, no doubt wishing the oversized men would take their argument outside. But instead of the pair pounding each other, they pounded their fists on the bar chanting "Ti, To, Te" in unison.
Jackon's index finger went out while Gehon's hand stayed a fist.
"Hammer smashes Sword. I win," the redhead said with a grin. Digging his credit chips out, he paid for their drinks.
The bartender took the money with relief and headed for the other end of the bar, wondering if the warriors would remain on good behavior the entire time they were there.
Both men drank deep. "Good ale," Gehon said. His gaze darted around the interior of the Lost Time Lounge. Not the most reputable bar in port, but they didn't water the ale and the chairs and tables were clean for the most part. The floor...well, you normally didn't want to look too close at a tavern floor anyway.
Jackon set down his beer mug and nudged Gehon in the side. "Check out the babe at the table over there." His jaw dropped in open admiration. "She's perfect!"
Gehon sighed and put his own drink down. As always his best friend had women on the brain. As an unmarried Zelion, that was to be expected, but Jackon was forever finding the perfect babe, the lady of his dreams. Every woman he met he was certain was going to turn out to be his Zelion match.
Of course, not one of those women had been his friend's true mate. While fun in bed, they'd lacked the deeper connection that permitted conception and every time Jackon had been disappointed. After spending a little time loving them, he'd kissed them and said goodbye, and then come back swearing he'd never fall for another pretty face again.
Sometimes just days later he'd find another perfect woman and the whole thing would start again.
Occasionally Gehon thought Jackon was enjoying the search for his mate far too much. It wasn't that he himself didn't enjoy taking a woman to bed, but he didn't do it with any illusion that she'd turn out to be his true. He'd always believed that a Zelion man knew when the woman was right, well before bedding her.
Jackon was convinced every woman was right until bedding her and finding out he was wrong.
Resisting the urge to put sarcastic thoughts into words, Gehon turned to examine his friend's "current future true". "Which table?"
"In the corner. Near the back door." Jackon's voice hushed, deepening into a near purr. He took a deep breath through his nose, his eyes glazing in appreciation. "Gehon, I can SMELL her."
Smell? Gehon straitened and searched the room. If Jackon could catch this woman's scent from this distance, she might very well be his friend's true.
There she was at the corner table, a mug of ale in front of her. She was a medium-sized woman with pale skin that contrasted with her jet-black hair cut close to her shoulders, except for one slender braid that reached to her waist. Even from here, he could see how voluptuous she was, her breasts heavy inside her simple spacewear.
Her features were sharp, angular, her mouth wide with rich red lips. She looked...aristocratic, that was the word. Whoever this woman was, she appeared distinctly out of place in the Lost Time Lounge, in spite of her nondescript spacer fatigues. With that face she should be wearing crystal jewels and sipping wine from a goblet studded with gems, not hoisting a plastic-steel mug of cheap ale. She should be dressed in fine synthsilk...or nothing at all.
Gehon startled at that last thought, sucking air deep through his nostrils. A scent like honey and citrus filled his nose and inside his trousers his cock hardened for immediate action.
He gasped. Space above and beyond. The woman was his true mate, he knew it!
"Stars below, Gehon. My cock's so hard I could cut arcrystals. She's got to be the one." Jackon jumped to his feet. "I'm going to talk to her."
Wait a zesecond. Gehon glared as his friend rushed across the room to the woman's table. She was his true, not Jackon's, and he'd been looking for her just as long as his friend had. There was only one true mate for any Zelion man--and this woman was his! Grabbing their mugs, he followed.
Lija stared up at the two men flanking her table, twirled the end of her maiden's braid, and tossed it over her shoulder. She should have cut it off long ago, but what Daddy didn't know wouldn't hurt him. So she'd experimented a little...okay, more than a little, but that was a good thing. Experimentation could keep a girl from making mistakes. Suppose she had wrapped her braid around the wrists of the first guy who'd talked her into sex? Daddy wouldn't have been happy about having a lowly mechanic as a son-in-law, even if the guy had had the most beautiful muscles she'd ever seen.
Not that either of the two men in front of her were slouches in the muscle department--or the height, face, and hair departments, either! Either one of the pair appeared capable of bench-pressing her microshuttle, and looking real good while doing it.
The first one to arrive was blond, with eyes like blue light crystals. He was taller than his buddy by maybe three centimeters, even though both men had to be well over two meters tall. His face was lean, with a sexy smile that took her breath away.
The shorter man had hair nearly the red of a summer sunset, and his eyes were the deep brown of fertile earth, set in a round ruddy face. His shoulders were broader than his friend's, but his waist narrowed into slender hips. Without seeing it, she'd bet his rear was round like his face, and that he had plump ass-cheeks just perfect for wrapping a girl's legs around.
Funny, she'd never really been interested in two men at the same time, but both these guys made her mouth water. More than her mouth, actually. The crotch of her spacer suit dampened with her arousal and she crossed her legs, hoping they wouldn't notice.
Both men's gaze riveted below her belt and they sniffed the air, their eyes glazing for a moment. Her eyes widened at their reaction. Oh, yeah, they'd noticed. They must have superb senses of smell.
The front of both men's trousers tightened into a pair of impressive packages. In the back of her mind, Lija took in their sizes and did the math. Yep, either of them would do nicely for her last fling of freedom before buckling under to her fate.
Too bad she only needed one. Choosing was going to be tough.
She waved her hand at the chairs next to her at the round table. "Would you gentlemen like to sit down?"
The pair exchanged nearly angry looks as they took their positions, one on each side of her. The redheaded man carrying the mugs slammed them down on the table hard enough to spill some of the contents.
His companion glared at him. "I don't need your help."
"I'm not offering help. You forgot your drink."
"I didn't need a drink, either."
Lija put up her hands. "Gentlemen, please. Here I was feeling lonely and now I have two lovely men to keep me company." She waved to the bartender. "Please, a pitcher for my new friends."
Both men had their credit chips out. "You won't be paying," the blond one told her.
"I'll buy," the redhead said at the same time.
Blue eyes narrowed into slits. "No, I'll buy."
"Not on your life."
"Don't tempt me."
The pair glared at each other then both men's right fists came up.
"Now just a zeminute..." she said, wishing to stop the fight, but to her surprise they chanted in unison, pounding their fists on the table.
"Ti, To, Te."
Red's fist had one finger sticking out, Blondie's had turned into an open palm.
"Sword slices Ax. I win," the red-haired man said smugly.
Blondie glared and folded his arms, but allowed his buddy to pass over the credit chips for the pitcher.
Lija smiled. These hulking he-men played a children's game to settle disputes? This was going to be fun. "So, may I ask my companions for their names?"
Red spoke first. "I'm Gehon Avermoe. This is my friend, Jackon Overton."
She extended her hand. "My name is Lija. And I'm pleased to meet you."
Jackon's hand slashed out first, barely beating Gehon's. His palm covered hers possessively. "Not nearly as pleased as I am to meet you, my lady." Pulling her hand to his lips, he kissed it gently. His lips tingled the back of her hand and between her legs the dampness grew.
Lija gulped. At this rate she'd soon need padded undergarments.
Gehon captured her other hand and pulled it to his lips. "I cannot speak of how wonderful it is to meet you, Lady Lija."
Caught between the two of them nibbling her hands, Lija wondered that she was able to breathe. Hot and cold flushes ran up and down her spine, pooling in her dampened groin.
She seriously needed one of these men to bed her. Trouble was, which one? What a delicious dilemma for one woman to have.
Jackon's blue eyes glared over her hand at his friend. "Her taste is for me, Gehon."
Brown eyes narrowed into a matching glare. "Her taste is mine, Jackon."
They stared at each other, then suddenly both men sat up, eyes widening and jaws dropping in unison. Gehon licked the back of the hand he held, Jackon doing the same with his. Lija shivered under their tongues.
"What do you taste?" the redhead asked.
The blond licked his lips relishing the flavor there. "Sweet. Like honeybeets."
"Sweeter than that. Caramallow."
They both dropped her hands and Lija pulled them back to her side of the table as the men stared at each other, and then at her.
"The same for both of us?" Jackon said, his voice heavy with disbelief.
"So it seems. A cosmic joke," Gehon replied.
Jackon snorted, Gehon snickered, then both men laughed heartily until there were tears in their eyes.
Unsure of what was going on, Lija reached for the pitcher to refill her mug. "One of you want to let me in on the joke?"
Wiping his eyes, Gehon took the pitcher from her and poured for all three of them. "Well, my Lady Lija, it's all about Zelion biology."
Halfway through the second pitcher, she still didn't quite understand the pair's explanation. "So, while you can have lovers before marriage, each Zelion man can only really mate with one woman. This is what you call a 'true mate'."
Both men nodded.
"This woman doesn't have to be a Zelion and in fact often isn't. Somehow this was bred into the race to keep it strong."
Jackon hoisted his mug. "Hybrid vigor."
"No hereditary diseases," Gehon added, sipping in agreement.
Lija drank from her mug, wondering at how heavy it seemed. She'd have to be careful. She was getting a little tipsy. "While a Zelion man can have sex with any number of women, he's only fertile with his true mate."
"A Zelion man searches the universe for his mate, one woman at a time," Jackon said.
"Or, in your case, two or three at a time," Gehon snickered.
"Never three, and only once two. The twins, remember?"
"Ah, yes. They were twins, weren't they."
"Well, I had to test both of them. Why not do them at once?"
"There was an efficiency to your decision, I must admit."
Lija stared at Jackon, piqued at this description of his conquests. "You took two women to bed while looking for your true? How many other women have you been with?"
Her jealousy must have been obvious. The blond man held up his hands. "Not that many and it was all in looking for my one true." He glared over at Gehon, who still snickered. "It's not like you've been a Balamari monk for the past many years. You've had your share of women."
Gehon nodded. "My share was somewhat less than yours. But point taken." He turned to Lija. "Zelion men aren't celibate by nature, but we are each faithful to our true once we find her. With our true we can have children and no Zelion man will give that up."
It was becoming hard to lift her mug. How much had she drunk already? "So you believe that I'm your true."
Both men nodded.
"The same woman for both of you?"
They looked at each other and shrugged.
"We've always been close," one told her. It was becoming hard to tell which was which. They were turning a bit blurry around the edges.