Jagger struggled to sit up again, and this time, Nikolai let him. He was frowning and shaking with anger. “I won’t give you up! I won’t! I’ll allow them to see you, but only under heavy guard. If those bastards think they can come in here and take you from me, they have another think coming!” He turned to Nikolai and scowled at him. “You’re not leaving with your family, Niki. You’re my family now. You belong to me, and I won’t give you up. You’re mine, and you and your family will just have to get used to that idea.”

“Calm down, baby,” Nikolai said, stroking and petting his back. “I’m not leaving you.”

“No, you’re not,” Jagger said firmly, his hand gripping Nikolai’s thigh. “If they try to force the issue, I’m prepared to defend myself and my property. Where’s my sword?”

“No,” Nikolai said firmly. “No fighting or trying to show them what a little savage you are. If you pull a sword on them, my brothers would attack you the minute they saw it, and I don’t want to have to hurt any of them to protect you.”

Jagger looked at him in amazement. “Y-you would do that?”

“Of course I would,” he said with a shrug.

“B-but against your own family?”

“If I had to…” He kissed the side of his neck. “You belong to me too, baby, and I don’t have any intention of giving you up either.”

“Oh…well…all right then. Stall them for a few more minutes until we can—until I can dress, please.”

Nikolai strode to the door and opened it, surprising the king’s aide, whose eyes grew wide at the sight of Nikolai’s naked body. “Tell the king we’ll be there in a few minutes.” The aide nodded and scurried out, while Jagger climbed from the bed. He went over to his clothes cabinet and bent over looking through his things, while Nikolai went back over to the bed and began pulling on his clothes that were scattered nearby.


“We have to hurry. Your family is probably giving my father a hard time.”

“No doubt,” Nikolai said with a grin.

Nikolai finished dressing and came closer to him, dropping a kiss on his forehead. “Settle down, baby, nothing bad is going to happen.”

The door flew open and the same aide as before stood wild-eyed in the doorway. “I’m sorry, Your Highness, but the Lycan delegation is becoming quite…uh…restless. They’re demanding to see your concubine, and they said if we don’t produce him immediately—”

“Yes, yes. We’re coming.” Jagger turned to Nikolai. “May I have your arm then, to escort me?”

Nikolai grinned and bowed. “Of course, little Master.” He held out his arm and Jagger placed his hand on top, just barely touching it, and giving him a quelling look. “Don’t call me that,” he snapped and Nikolai grinned as he inclined his head.

* * * * Nikolai was having an interesting night. He had accompanied his little prince down the seemingly endless corridors to the throne room, the breeze blowing through the thin material of his ridiculous wide trousers, his feet bare on the cold marble tile. He hadn’t taken the time to pull on his boots or even the tunic. The tunic was see-through anyway, so he figured, why bother? It was just his brother and cousins, after all.

When they walked into the throne room, he saw his family right away—Lucas, his cousin and his alpha, Kyle, his brother, and Larsson and Konnor, two of the other alpha cousins who made up his closest male relatives. Only his cousin, Blayde, still on his honeymoon, was absent, but Nikolai had no doubt he’d been sent for as well. When he walked in, he saw both relief and outrage on their faces, as they took in what must seem to them his outlandish appearance. Lucas’s mouth dropped open, and he sputtered a few times in outrage. He whirled around to glare at the king.

“What the fuck is he wearing—is that a dress?” His voice became so loud and high-pitched at the last words that an old dog lying beside the throne jumped up and howled in alarm.

Nikolai looked down in confusion. The wide legs of the harem pants must look a lot like a skirt. He grinned and stepped forward to take his cousin’s arm and explain. Instantly, it seemed, Jayronian guards stepped between them with guns drawn. Nikolai stopped, but growled menacingly at them, his red eyes glowing. He tensed his muscles, ready to shift and attack if they moved against his cousin. It was one thing for his little mate to be a pain in the ass, but quite another for the guards.

When Lucas and the others heard his growl, they joined in, until a whole chorus of menacing rumbles filled the hall. Sensing imminent trouble, Nikolai grabbed his prince’s hand and pushed him against the wall. He pointed a finger at him. “Stay right there,” he said, and turned around, holding out a hand to Lucas to try making peace. “No, Lucas, it’s all right. I’m fine, really. I haven’t been harmed at all.”

Lucas hesitated, his outraged gaze going straight to his bare chest, the wide harem pants, and then traveling further down to inspect Nikolai’s bare feet. His eyes blazed again, and Nikolai spoke to him in a calming voice. “Yes, they made me a kind of harem slave, but it’s not exactly how it looks, Lucas. Really, I’m fine.”

The red glow began to fade a bit until Jagger stepped around Nikolai with a princely swagger to stand in front of him with his sword drawn. He literally growled back at the big Lycan. “How dare you come here and threaten my father and our court? Maybe you need reminding that we hold your stepbrother as a hostage, and he’s in my power. This slave belongs to me! You’d do well to remember that fact and show some fucking courtesy. You’ll never get your cruel hands on him again, if I have anything to say about it!”

“Cruel?” Lucas asked incredulously. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Niki has told me how wickedly you all treated him. He told me how hard you made him work and how you made him sleep in the cinders of the fireplace to keep warm. He told me how mean you all were to him because of your jealousy, and because he was just your poor stepbrother. All that is over now, because he has me to protect him! Go back to your ship and count yourself lucky that I let you live to tell the tale.”

Lucas’s eyebrows rose and his mouth fell open. Before Nikolai could intervene, he removed the two guards with a sweep of his hands and picked Jagger up by his tunic, ripping the sword from his hand and holding him up in the air, snarling in his face. He shook him so hard Jagger’s head snapped back. Nikolai reacted instinctively, grabbing Jagger around the waist with one hand and pushing Lucas back from him with the other. Nikolai shifted before he even thought about it and thrust Jagger behind him. “Mine!” he snarled. In a low, bestial voice, he rasped, “Don’t touch him!”

Lucas and the rest of his family gaped at Nikolai in amazement. Kyle and the cousins rushed over to help Lucas to his feet and all four of them stared at Nikolai with both surprise and dawning awareness.

Nikolai struggled to calm himself and shift back to his human form, aware that all around him the Jayronians, including the king, were screaming and crawling all over each other to get away. He glanced back at Jagger and found him pressed against the wall, his eyes round with fear and shock. Lucas came forward quickly and embraced Nikolai, whispering in his ear. “Your mate? This arrogant young pup is your mate?”

Nikolai nodded, still unable to talk plainly with a mouthful of extra teeth.

Lucas grinned at him. “Take him then, and let’s get the hell out of here before they recover. Since these are your mate’s people, we’ll try not to kill any more than is absolutely necessary.” Lucas gave him another feral grin and turned to the rest of the family. “Okay boys, show ’em what you got.”

All of the Lycans shifted, and the few guards who had bravely remained behind to protect their prince scattered like fallen leaves. Nikolai turned and crossed over to the wall where Jagger was still pinned. Jagger looked up at him with abject fear evident in his eyes. Nikolai tried to smile at him to reassure him, but it must have seemed to Jagger as if he were baring his teeth, because his eyes rolled back in his head, and he fainted dead away.

Nikolai caught him, slung his limp form carefully over his shoulder, and followed his family as they left the castle. Encountering no one, except a few servants, who mostly ran screaming from the group, who were still in their bestial forms, they made their way outside to their waiting land transport. The keys were still in the ignition so they drove off at a high rate of speed, with Nikolai holding a still unconscious Jagger carefully in his lap, pulled up close to his chest. The ship was docked at the same landing site as Nikolai remembered, and they all ran inside and secured the hatches, although by this time, they were certain no one was following.

Nikolai carried Jagger to his quarters and laid him gently on the bed. Catching a glimpse of himself in the full-length mirror on the back of the door, he shook his head ruefully, realizing just what his little prince had seen. Looming about seven feet tall in his Lycan wolf form, his upper body was covered in stiff black hair and his head was that of a wolf with glowing red eyes. He was still wearing the flimsy black harem pants Jagger had given him to wear, though they now hung mostly in tatters. He took all the weapons from his mate and pulled the covers over him before grabbing some clothes and boots from the closet and locking the boy inside. Jagger was already stirring, and the next time Nikolai saw him, he needed to be completely back to his human form.

Leaning against one of the interior walls, he took a couple of deep breaths and forced himself to change back to his human form. When he felt like himself again, he pulled on the clothes and boots and made his way to the comm deck where he knew his family would be waiting.

As the door opened, Kyle stood and came over to give him a rough hug. “You scared the shit out of me, little bro! When you sent your emergency signal, I didn’t know whether you were alive or dead out there.”

“Well, hell, Kyle, I couldn’t have sent it if I’d been dead, now could I?’

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