Nikolai nodded impatiently, wanting to go to Jagger and take him in his arms. “Believe me, I’m familiar with all of this. I told you, he belongs to me now.”
“Yes,” she replied. “But Jagger also belongs to himself. If you break his spirit, you will lose something quite precious.”
“I love him. I have no intention of breaking his spirit,” he replied solemnly, and the queen got the feeling he was making her a vow. “But he has to learn to let himself be guided by me at times. He must allow me to teach him pack discipline. I’m a Voyager and he’s my family now. He’ll travel with me all over the galaxy and there’ll be times he will have to obey my commands without question. His safety depends on that, and I won’t allow him to endanger himself, no matter what.”
The queen smiled gently. “Gods, you’re an alpha, aren’t you?” She laughed softly. “Poor Jagger.” She shook her head. “Poor alpha.” She turned him loose and glanced back at her son. “Go to him then, Alpha, and teach him well. But also love him well, or you will answer to me.”
Nikolai glanced down at the tiny form whose head came to a point just above his waist, and she saw that he didn’t doubt that she meant every word. “Yes, ma’am,” he replied, and turned to go to his mate.
* * * * As Nikolai walked toward Jagger, he forced his wolf down, trying hard to change back into his human form. Only a few steps away from where Jagger lay on his side, he stopped and took several deep, calming breaths, reassuring his wolf that his mate was safe now and he would take care of him. Finally, satisfied, his wolf subsided and Nikolai came back to his human form. He knelt beside Jagger and put his hand on his shoulder. Jagger looked up in surprise and sat up quickly, but not before Nikolai noticed him wince. Nikolai pushed him on his back, and he hugged his stomach protectively, “Take your hands away, Princeling.”
“No, it’s okay,” he said quickly, still trying to sit up. “No it’s not. Why didn’t you tell me you were in pain, Jagger? From now on, you keep nothing from me, is that understood?”
Biting his lip, Jagger turned his head away, but gently, Nikolai turned it back. “Say yes, Niki, I understand.”
Sullenly, his eyes never once meeting Nikolai’s, the prince murmured, “Yes, Niki.”
“Good. Those two words are all you need to know.” He pulled up Jagger’s tunic, exposing his slim, sculpted abdominal muscles, and began to rub his hands gently over the skin. “Does that feel better, Princeling? I’m not angry with you anymore. I don’t want you to be in pain.”
Jagger stuck his lips out into a pout. “I don’t care if you’re angry with me or not.” Immediately, he drew his legs up to his chest in distress, and Nikolai couldn’t resist twisting him around so he could give his ass a whack.
“Stop it. You’re only making it worse. If you think I’m mad at you, your stomach will hurt—it happens all the time at home with our pets.”
“With your pets? Is that what I’ll be to you?” He looked horror stricken. “Like-like a lapdog?”
“Absolutely,” Nikolai said solemnly, enjoying the chance to tease him. “My pet lapdog. And if you’re very good, I’ll let you lick my hand. Or other places. You can sleep on the foot of the bed, and I’ll brush your hair for you every night. Maybe scratch your little belly.”
“I’d rather die! I’ll kill myself! No, I’ll kill you.”
“No, you won’t, baby. I won’t let you. Now settle down like a good pup.”
Jagger swung at him, but Nikolai caught his fist in his hand and kissed it, then pulled him up into his lap, and up to his chest. Bending his head, he took his mouth, sweeping his tongue over his lips, licking at the seam until they fell open to him. His tongue stroked the inside of Jagger’s mouth, their breath mingling as one. Nikolai moved his tongue over Jagger’s, teasing, coaxing until he felt a tentative response. Making an encouraging hum deep in his throat, Nikolai moved his hands down Jagger’s arms, and then up under his tunic to caress his nipples. Putting his thumb over each one in its turn, he massaged and pulled at them to make them stand up. He moved his lips to kiss Jagger’s cheeks, his chin, his eyes, his throat. Jagger made a whimpering sound and let his head fall back, turning his head and exposing his throat in unconscious surrender.
One of Nikolai’s hands moved to Jagger’s cock, rubbing its hardness through his tight leggings.
“Oh,” Jagger cried softly, and Nikolai slipped his hand inside the leggings to cup his balls and gently knead them, while he kissed his lips again, whispering Lycan love words against his mouth.
A sudden voice beside him made Nikolai jump and clutch his prince close to his chest. “When you get through there, Nikolai, maybe you can take your mate to the truck. We’re about ready to load up.” Nikolai stood up abruptly, picking Jagger up in his arms as he rose, taking him with him. Embarrassed, Jagger hid his face against Nikolai’s chest. Nikolai turned furiously to face a grinning Kyle.
“Sorry, brother, but Lucas said to make you come and get on the truck. He said to tell you’ll have time for your mate later on.”
Walking stiffly to the truck around his aching erection, he hoisted Jagger up and watched as he crawled to the back to sit near his mother, pulling his knees up to hide his own stiff cock. Unable to bear being away from him and needing to touch him, Nikolai crawled up next to him and pulled Jagger close to his side. Jagger gazed at him in surprise, and Nikolai shrugged.
Jagger’s face blazed red, and he turned his face determinedly away, perhaps embarrassed by his excitement. Beside them, Queen Niada smiled gently and patted her son’s knee, before leaning around to give Nikolai a significant look. “I understand the Lycans made a ‘deal’ for my son, Alpha. Is that correct?”
“My name is Nikolai, and that’s correct. Prince Jagger has agreed to leave with us as soon as we take you home to your people. The deal we had was to recover you and get rid of the Nilaniums. In return, he will go with me.”
“The exact words of the message were to the effect that I would ‘surrender myself’ until such time as you grow tired of me.” Jagger said stiffly, still not looking in Nikolai’s direction.
“Your son kidnapped me, madam, and stole my family’s shipment of bauxite. Your husband and your son then held me hostage and enslaved me while trying to extort money from my family.”
“Oh, Jagger,” the queen said gently. “Is this true?”
Jagger nodded shortly, not raising his gaze.
“So you want revenge on my son—is that it, Nikolai?”
“No!” Nikolai said sharply. “I wanted your son for my mate, and he agreed. Then when my family rescued me and took us both to my ship, he claimed he didn’t know what he agreed to and demanded to return home. I sent him home, but…”
“But Lycans mate for life, isn’t that right? Do you really think you’ll tire of my son in a few months or even a few cycles?”
A long silence stretched out, and Nikolai became aware of everyone in the back of the transport listening to them avidly, including Jagger, of course, who had lifted his gaze to stare directly at Nikolai.
“No,” Nikolai admitted tersely. “I don’t expect to ever tire of him, ma’am.”
Jagger took a sharp hiss of breath, clenching his hands still wrapped tightly around his knees, and Nikolai shifted uncomfortably.
Queen Niada leaned back and patted her son’s knee again. “Then we must have a wedding, Nikolai, and stop all this foolishness between you.”
“No buts, Jagger. Did you say yes to Nikolai when he asked you to be his mate?”
“Well, yes, but…”
“No ‘buts,’ darling. You agreed to an honorable offer of marriage, and you must uphold the honor of your family and your position. It’s not as if you’re not in love with the Lycan. Isn’t that right?”
It was Jagger’s turn to squirm. He dropped his gaze to his knees and nodded.
“Speak up, child, so everyone may hear you.”
Jagger glared at his mother. “Yes, Mother. I love him.”
“Wonderful.” She turned to the Lycans, holding up a hand to ward off any protests that might come from them. “And you must allow me to give my only child a proper wedding. Surely you would not deny an old woman this one joy in her final days?”
Nikolai and the other Lycans looked at her and then back at each other. The beautiful little queen didn’t look a day over forty. Lucas grinned and shrugged, before he gave her a really creditable bow, considering he was sitting in the back of a bouncing truck.
“Whatever you wish, madam. If things can be arranged quickly? I have been away from my own people with this unfortunate business for some days now.”
“Of course, of course,” Niada agreed with a wolfish smile of her own. “And you will all be our guests at the palace until things are arranged.” Niada took her son’s hand in her own and leaned her head on his shoulder.
Nikolai looked over at Lucas and shook his head. He was beginning to see more every minute why his little prince was such a beautiful, arrogant, complicated and absolutely infuriating man.
“Stand still, Jagger,” Queen Niada said. “Please stop fidgeting.” The queen was critically observing while servants wrapped Jagger’s torso in a beautiful length of red silk. Beneath it he wore tight black leggings and his black ceremonial boots that came up to his knees. His shoulder length hair was braided and pinned on one side, with the other side hanging free and brushed to a silky, shining curtain. Jagger looked at himself in the mirror and thought he was way overdressed for this hasty ceremony his mother had pulled together.
It was the morning after they’d arrived back at the palace. Almost as soon as they’d arrived back at the palace the evening before, the queen had been fussed over and welcomed by her people. Prince Jagger, his men, and the Lycans had been heaped with praise and hailed as saviors for getting rid of the Nilaniums. Despite the fanfare, Jagger’s mother had almost immediately begun to arrange the ceremony that would take place early the next morning. She had cajoled and bullied the Lycans into staying the night at the palace, even talking Niki into relinquishing his hold on the prince for the night. Despite his growls and dark, sinister looks, she’d managed it, and Jagger had spent the night alone, though he hadn’t slept a wink. Now he was being prepared for the ceremony, and trying desperately not to think about what was going to happen afterward.