Once, long ago, dragons lived among the jagged mountains of the desert planet of Serpentia. When the peaks rang with fierce cries, and swift shadows skimmed across the valleys, Serpentians knew the dragons were hunting.
Unlike the huge dragons of myth and legend, Serpentian dragons were compact, the size of a small horse. Those who looked them in the eye and lived never forgot the light of intelligence in their fiery eyes. These dragons hunted not to lay waste, but to eat. They took sparingly from each area, ranging far and wide to feed themselves and their young.
The people of the valleys used great caution when traveling through the mountains. Those who lived close enough to lose livestock were grateful they paid only a tithe to the winged ones and could carry on their livelihood of herding their shaggy hummels.
Descended from explorers who had set out centuries ago from a crowded, polluted Earth I to find new homes, Serpentians had evolved into a people with unique adaptations to their hot, desert planet. They now shared some characteristics with the reptiles that shared their planet—eyes and skin that were impervious to the searing sun, and the deadly quickness of a striking serpent.
They learned to coexist with the planet’s native inhabitants and treat them with the caution they deserved, for nowhere else in the known galaxy were there so many species of reptiles—including the dragons that lived in lonely splendor, high in the rugged Serpentian mountains.
But legend says that a young woman, a daughter of the valleys, traveled into the mountains with her father. No one knows why they were so foolhardy. Some say he was in search of dragon hoard treasure and she went along to care for him.
Others say she was a creature of great sensuality who had tired of mere men and longed to be taken by a dragon. While her father slept, she slipped from their shelter, or was taken.
Either way, she found herself high in the mountains, in the prince’s lair of all the dragons, a red-gold male magnificent in his fiery glory. When he found her there, she slept on a pile of furs before his hearth, her lovely body nude, her tumbled curls spilling across the furs.
The dragon king had fed well that night. When he returned to his home and caught her woman’s scent, it aroused in him a different hunger. His nostrils flared, sending streamers of smoke swirling through the cave, and his eyes glowed with jeweled heat.
He prowled silently around the sleeping woman, admiring her full curves, the lush boldness of her lips. He sang to her a sibilant song of seduction and stroked her skin with his wings.
Instead of screaming in terror, she opened her eyes and smiled at him.
“You have entered my lair,” he crooned to her, dark dragon magic in his smoky voice. “Present yourself for me, lovely one.”
She was afraid, but aroused to the point of madness by his seduction. Rising onto her hands and knees, she presented herself so that all her feminine secrets were visible to him. He began to make her ready for him, bending his fierce head to inhale the rich scent of her arousal. She trembled and whimpered her pleasure as his hot, leathery tongue trailed up her swollen labia, tormenting and teasing her.
“Taste more of me,” she pleaded.
He laughed richly. “Fear not, O Eager One. I will taste all of you—have all of you.”
As she arched her back, displaying herself wantonly for his eyes and his touch, he rewarded her with a deeper caress of his tongue, thrusting it into her heat. She cried out to him, pleading for more. When he had driven her nearly mad with his tender whip, he withdrew it.
“And will you have me, woman?” he asked. “Will you be mine?”
“Yes!” she cried, writhing as she hovered on the precipice of joy. “Oh, yes, anything, if only you will go on.”
With a laugh of triumph, he caressed her again until she came, pleasure imploding through her, the sound of her soft cries echoing in the vastness of the cave.
“Very pretty,” he approved. “You sing your song of surrender most fetchingly. And your pretty sex weeps for joy. You are nearly ready to receive me.”
“I am ready now.”
He stalked around her, so close that his great, heated body brushed hers and his wings trailed over her, caressing her skin and her face. Rearing up before her, he tipped her face up to his.
“Look at me, woman,” he commanded. “Will you receive me as I am?”
Still quivering with her pleasure, she looked up with awe into his molten, jeweled eyes. Her gaze wandered down over his sculpted snout with her cream still on his lips, over his mighty, armor-plated body, to the phallus that thrust out between his loins. It was huge, suffused with blood, quivering with arousal. He was beautiful, savage, the most exciting thing she had ever seen, the stuff of wicked, forbidden dreams.
“Yes,” she breathed. “Oh, yes.”
“You are certain?” He stroked her face with one jeweled claw, his fiery gaze demanding that she speak her desire.
“Yes, I want your mighty cock in me,” she said, blushing at her own boldness. “Please, my lord.”
“Ah, you ask so prettily,” he approved. “And so you shall have it, long and hard.”
He covered her as a stallion covers a mare, planting his claws beside her hands, folding his great wings over her and thrusting himself into her softness.
He took exquisite care with her, working his way little by little into her sleek channel, all the while crooning to her, enfolding her with his wings and stroking his face against hers, gentling her as he took her.
“Now you are truly mine,” he growled when he was seated deep inside her. “You will never be satisfied with a mortal male again.”
Skittish with nerves, her sex stretched taut, she tried to throw him off as a mare tries to dislodge a stallion. He laughed softly and held her easily, crooning to her as he enjoyed the sight of his phallus buried in her and the tight heat of her possession of him.
“Now, pretty one. Now.”
And he began to thrust. As his great phallus worked in her, she screamed, not with pain, but with the greatest pleasure she had ever known. And the dragon king roared his pleasure so loudly it echoed down the mountains.
He was delighted with her. He kept her there with him, clothed her in silk, furs and jewels from his hoard and treasured her so that she forgot anything but his fierce possession, living in perfect contentment. He taught her to accept him anywhere he desired, whether on a craggy mountaintop or before the roaring fire, while his servants worked quietly in the far corners. She learned to glory in his open possession of her and grew more beautiful in her sensuality.
But her father did not give up hunting for her. He came back to the mountains, bringing the man he had chosen to wed her along with a band of warriors. While the dragon king hunted, they stole the woman back. She pleaded and wept, but they thought her bewitched and bore her away with them.
Maddened when he returned to find his mate gone, the dragon king followed the party far into the valley. In his rage, he slew several of the warriors and was about to kill the father and the young man when the father begged for their lives, telling the dragon king that his daughter had relented and wished to go with them.
The dragon lord demanded that they bring her out to him. So they did, but the crafty father had drugged her so she could not even recognize her lover. He knelt before her and humbled himself, pleading with her to return to him. She simply gazed at him as if she had never seen him before, her lovely face like marble.
Brokenhearted, he flew away, and the men congratulated each other and bore her home in triumph. But when she came out of her drugged trance and realized what they had done, the young woman vowed that no matter what, she would not stay in her old home, but return to the mountains.
So she smiled and used pretty manners and, meantime, she planned carefully. One evening she, in turn, seasoned the dinner with the same drug they had given her. As her father and her betrothed lay senseless, she left her home and rode away on the fastest horse in her father’s stables, back to the mountains.
Her mount would carry her only so far, for horses are terrified of dragons and the poor beast could scent them in the peaks above. She dismounted and, letting the horse run home, began to walk.
But when she staggered wearily up the last ledge before the dragon king’s lair, she saw a terrible sight. Her lover lay near death on the stone escarpment. Dragons mate only once, for life. If they lose their mate, they are likely to die as well.
She cradled his head to her bosom and wept over him all the cold, starry night. When the sun first lightened the eastern sky and the stars winked out, he woke. Her tears had revived him. At first he thought her a vision of his delirium, but when he understood she had returned to him, he vowed to her they would never be parted again. And so they were not.
In due course she bore him four sons. They were half man and half dragon, handsome men who were able to shift at will. When they were grown, they each ruled a portion of the mountain kingdom. They dealt well with both man and dragon. They came out of the mountains only to seek their brides, among the bravest and most beautiful Serpentian women.
And so began the race called Dragolins.
The Black Hole was the rowdiest bar in Sunspot City, one of the toughest space-ports in the galaxy.
Tonight, it was full of raucous dock workers, off-duty spaceship crew and space vagrants. A band sent music crashing over the crowd, along with streamers of color and light. The holo-marquee outside featured strippers. Males and females from several planets gyrated in various stages of nudity on tiny stages hovering over the crowd.
The doors were thrown open to catch any breezes that might stray in off the Solarian desert. Despite the huge fans turning overhead, the smell of alcohol, fried food and sweat pervaded the air. It was a hot night on Solaria, with tempers and lusts running even hotter.
The lovely, golden-skinned female who sauntered in from the dark seemed to have no idea of the danger. Clad in a scanty, clinging outfit of red spider-lace, she threaded her way through the tables as if walking through a cocktail party.
The instant he saw her, Slyde Stone froze with a shot of Serpentian fire-whiskey poised at his open mouth. Every cell of his body sprang to full alert. He’d never felt anything like the sheer want that seized his brain—and his cock.
She was Serpentian…the embodiment of everything female. Her auburn hair curled about her head and shoulders, framing a face with slanting emerald eyes, high cheekbones and a full mouth curved in a tiny, mysterious smile. She carried herself like a queen or a courtesan, her hips swaying, breasts moving temptingly in their precarious cradle. Her slender arms were bare, her long legs nearly so, golden skin gleaming in the lights. She held nothing in her hands, wore no adornment. She needed none. She stood out in the motley crowd like a fire-ruby in a pile of space rubble.
The females who frequented the Black Hole were either sturdy space crew as raucous as their male counterparts, or paid sex companions. There were a few others, but they were guarded by mates who looked ready to slash the throats of anyone who came too near. It was that kind of place.
And of course every male present was now watching the beauty. Slyde saw avid stares become leers, watched lips move in what he was certain were lewd suggestions. Primal anger flamed inside him. He quenched it with an effort—he was in a public place and could not afford to indulge his emotions. Besides, he didn’t need to; he was one of the best hand-to-hand combat fighters in the galaxy and bigger than most of the males in this place.
Remembering his drink, he tipped it down his throat with a shudder and slapped the glass back on the bar. He rose from his bar stool to go rescue the lovely fool, just as a huge, rough Argonautian stood up directly in her path, his purple lips spread in what was no doubt supposed to be a smile. On his pocked face, it looked more like an attack of painful gas. He was going to be showing genuine pain in a moment—at the end of Slyde’s fists.
“Hello, pretty one,” the huge Argo roared. “Looking for me?”
A hand caught Slyde’s arm, and he glanced over in irritation. The Serpentian on the next barstool shook his head, his eyes twinkling under his shock of startling green-gold hair.
“Wait,” he yelled over the crashing music. “This will be good.”
Slyde shrugged off his hand in disgust. They’d been acquainted for only a few hours, but he’d thought Izard a man of honor. “You’d let one of our women be molested by that pile of space scum?”
Izard grinned, white teeth flashing against his golden skin. “I’m telling you—just watch.”
Ready to spring across the few yards that separated him from the woman facing the Argo, Slyde hesitated. She certainly did not look frightened—or even worried. She tipped her head to one side, her hair falling across her bare shoulder, and looked the Argo up and down.
Slyde could not hear her voice, but he could clearly see her luscious lips form the word “no”.
With a roar, the Argo reached for her with ham-sized paws. Slyde watched in astonishment as the female literally flashed into action, her body twisting, slender bare limbs a chord of concentrated force. First one leg, then the other in lightning succession connected with the Argonautian’s huge head.
Though the impact was inaudible over the pounding music and the roar of the crowd, his massive body rocked with the force of the blows, arms flailing as he swayed in his tracks, mouth open, eyes glazing over.
Planting her hands on the table behind her, the female braced herself on one heel, pointed her outstretched foot at the middle of his huge chest and shoved. The Argo went over backward like a felled tree, taking a table and its contents with him.
The crowd roared with approval, even those who’d been forced to leap out of the way. Izard smacked Slyde’s arm.
“There. Didn’t I tell you?”
“Who is she?” demanded Slyde. He could not take his eyes off her as she slipped off the table, shook back her hair and smiled at the cheering crowd.
He hadn’t come in here looking for a woman, but he’d found one. And he wanted her with everything he was.
“That’s Sirena. Sirena Blaze—the Orion’s guard commander.”
* * *
Magnificent. Sirena Blaze looked across the crowded bar, panting and laughing a little from her exertions, and locked gazes with the huge Serpentian standing by the bar, obviously poised to come to her aid. His sheer male beauty struck her like a solid blow to the solar plexus. ‘Want that’, was her only coherent thought.
Even the sight of Izard, one of her guard, grinning like a crested shark-lizard over his shoulder, did not deter her from turning and walking straight to him. She had come into the place looking for a lover and she wanted this one. Oh, how she wanted. Excitement quivered deep in her loins, and she felt the spider silk rasp deliciously against her mons and her taut nipples as she sauntered toward him. She knew her scanty outfit did little to conceal these changes, and she gloried in the fact that he would see her arousal and know it was for him.
The crowd parted before her, genial after the entertainment she’d given them. Some of them knew her and called her name. She smiled lazily, acknowledging their praise, but did not turn from her goal.
He just got better as she neared him. Six feet plus of huge, virile male—clearly Serpentian, but larger and more massive than the usual lean, lithe males from her planet. He held himself with an innate arrogance that said more clearly than words he could meet any other male in the place in a fight and win. That he was an alpha, a ruler, and he knew it.
He wore his dark gold hair ruthlessly short, but it only emphasized the sculpted flare of his wide jaw and the beauty of his eyes, deep set under heavy arching brows.
And the look in those golden eyes was the best part of all. He watched her with a hungry intensity and something more she couldn’t quite place, until she was close enough to sense the way his big body tensed at her nearness. The glow in his eyes was more than desire—it was yearning.
It slammed into her like a body blow and swept through her, hot as the wind blowing in off the desert. She didn’t stop until she stood before him, her hand on the broad, hard plain of his chest, a clear invitation. “Hello. I am Sirena.”
Her shock was complete when he covered her hand with his own, bowed over it with exquisite courtesy, and then…let it go.
“Yes, I know,” he said in a deep, smoky voice. “I’m Slyde Stone—your new partner.”