Rykaur emerged from his tent, wearing fatigues and boots, his hair pulled back into a ponytail.
Keeping the sides of his hair trimmed close to his head helped him to blend in. Somewhat. He was after all, a Bracadyte. Which meant his slightly pointed ears, enormous size, and emerald-green eyes would always set him apart from his human counterparts. No matter how he wore his hair or the number of tattoos he sported.
Not that Rykaur felt any shame in being different; rather he simply enjoyed spending time with the land walkers and participating in their human customs.
“You look deep in thought,” Ted pointed out, exiting the tent next to Rykaur’s.
Rykaur nodded in Ted’s direction. “I was thinking about the many land walker traditions that I have yet to be exposed to.”
“Foods, clothing, music, movies.” Rykaur shrugged a massive shoulder. “I could go on, but I must leave soon.”
Ted grinned. “I noticed you didn’t mention our women. Where are you off to this morning?”
“I have no interest in your human females,” Rykaur murmured. “And King Klause wishes to see me. I suspect it is because my third birthday is on the morrow.”
Ted’s eyebrows shot up. “Wait…hold on a minute. Did you just say you’re not interested in women?”
Rykaur chuckled at the look of shock on Ted’s face. “I said that I am not interested in human females. I prefer a female with some substance to her. The land walker women are far too thin for my taste.”
Rykaur’s mind immediately conjured up a vision of Allie, the human prostitute with the red hair. Though she wasn’t stick thin like most of the land walker females he’d seen, she wasn’t to be trusted. Of that, he was certain.
“What’s the deal with your birthday?” Ted continued to watch Rykaur with open curiosity. “Surely to God, you’re not telling me that you are three years old?”
Another chuckle emerged from Rykaur. “I am turning thirty summers tomorrow. The Bracadytes celebrate their births every ten years.”
Ted appeared relieved. “Thank God for that. I would have shit in my boots if you’d admitted to being a toddler.”
Shaking his head in humor, Rykaur moved to reenter his tent to grab his bag, when movement at the corner of a nearby house caught his eye.
He stopped in his tracks, his gaze meeting the fiery-haired prostitute’s.
“I warned you about her,” Ted cautioned in a low tone. “She’s bad news, man. She ripped off Terry not five minutes after going inside his tent with him. Not to mention she’s probably infected with something that would give the Incola virus a run for its money.”
Rykaur knew Ted spoke the truth, yet he couldn’t bring himself to look away from her penetrating stare. He wondered what color her eyes would be. “I have no interest in her. A Bracadyte female would never use her body for deception.”
“Maybe I need a Bracadyte female. I damn sure haven’t had any luck with the human ones.” Ted winked and turned to go.
Averting his attention, Rykaur stepped inside his tent, grabbed his bag, and dropped it onto his cot. He began placing his neatly folded clothes into the bag’s interior when the rustling of his tent flap caught his attention. “Did you forget something, Ted?”
When no answer came, he glanced over his shoulder to find Allie standing just inside his tent.
Rykaur’s heart skipped a beat. “What are you doing in my dwelling?”
Her pale gray eyes stood out in stark contrast against the dark red hair billowing over her shoulders. Her skin appeared flawless, save for a light sprinkling of freckles across her nose.
His gaze lowered to her full lips, touched on her chest, and then settled on her rounded hips.
She took a step forward, coming to stop directly in front of him. “I thought you might like some company.”
“Company?” Rykaur’s gaze shot back to hers. He couldn’t seem to make his feet obey the command to move. He stood there, still as a statue, unable to look away from her incredible eyes.
Her hand came up to rest against his chest. “Surely, you must know why I’m here. A man of your impressive size and looks couldn’t have skated through life without the occasional company of a woman.”
Rykaur swallowed hard. “I am not a man, Allie. I am a Bracadyte. And I do not share my bed with human females. They cannot be trusted.”
Her hand coasted down his stomach. “What does trust have to do with pleasure?”
What indeed? Rykaur thought, his stomach muscles tightening beneath her warm palm.
Hardening his mind to her advances, Rykaur turned his back on her and resumed his packing. “I am not interested in—”
A slight sting to his back cut off the rest of his words.
He quickly spun to face her once again. “You think to injure me?”
She only stood there, staring at him with a look of sadness in her pale gray eyes.
The air around him became thick, making breathing difficult. His vision darkened to the point where he could no longer see her in front of him. “What did you do to me?”
“What I had to do,” she whispered as his world faded to black.