Teken’s hands teased my back as we relaxed in the steaming hot spring. His strong fingers dug into my hips ever so slightly, surrounded by tall whispering trees and wild flowers. The air was thick with the smell of moss, and I could hear the faint humming of the energy fence.
I sighed and leaned back into his touch, my muscles relaxing. “That’s nice,” I murmured. It had been strange adjusting to life as Teken’s mate, and now, we were going to formally acknowledge our union in a mating ceremony—the alien equivalent of a wedding—before his pack.
I remembered the horror of my abduction, but I was now in the embrace of a being who loved me fiercely—and I loved him too.
The Gladiators had to convince their rulers not to kidnap and enslave women from other worlds. I was determined to make the council members realize that they could find mates among earthlings, and I was willing to show them Teken and me together to prove it. They needed to understand that buying earthlings was wrong and inhumane.
It had been one week since I had pledged to mate Teken; his Gladiator brothers eagerly awaited the ceremony.
He gently cleaned me while his hard cock pressed against my back. Though I wanted to ride him hard and fast, we had a ritual to take part in.
I whirled around and clasped my arms around his neck, my legs entwined around his body as I stared into his eyes.
“No more teasing me,” I said with a smile. “We need to get ready for the ceremony.”
“Yes, we do,” he murmured against my cheek, and I felt a shiver of pleasure run through me.
Thanks to the translators, I could finally understand his native language. His words were poetic and beautiful, and I could have listened to him talk all day. But I still preferred his touch.
“Do you know anything else about the ceremony that I should know before we get going?” I bent and kissed the tip of his nose and felt his body tense with desire.
“Besides the fact that we can’t mate beforehand?” His voice was strained with longing, and I laughed; I was just as desperate for it as he was. The ceremony used to come before the “first-mating frenzy,” which usually occupied the couple for days. To mimic that, we had to abstain from any physical contact for the three longest days of my life.
His eyes sparkled as he caressed my hips with his hands, sending electricity through me. Fingertips grazed my breasts, and my nipples tightened. I craved him, but I respected his people’s ways.
“Yeah, besides that.” My voice was breathless and shaky, and he chuckled deep in his chest.
“Try to avoid rushing through things,” he rumbled thoughtfully after a moment. “Remember that this is my uncle’s first time officiating a mating ceremony in many moons.”
“How long will the ceremony go on?” I asked, waggling my eyebrows at him.
“Shorter than some of the other Elder ceremonies,” he said, still chuckling. “Now, let’s get started. We need to anoint ourselves and get ready.”
He offered a steadying hand as I stumbled to my feet. We climbed the steep slope, the soft green moss seeming to swallow my feet.
“I think you should go first,” I suggested as he took me to the towel-covered grass. On top of it were two bowls filled with glinting golden oil, the scent of spices reaching my nose. “It might take five times as long for me, and I know I’ll be worn out when you’re done.”
He chuckled, towering over me. “I don’t know if you’re tall enough for that.”
“I’ll just have you kneel down so I can access all of you,” I replied. My gaze traveled to his impressive, ridged cock, and I watched as his stomach tensed. “How much teasing I do first depends on how slow you are.”
He blinked at me in surprise. “The ceremony will take a while. Are you planning on torturing me?”
My smile was lopsided. “Only if you don’t behave. That’s your choice.”
His member twitched and his breath hitched, but he flashed a smirk and slowly lowered. “As my mate wishes.”
He knelt before me, his eyes wide and breath short. My heart raced as I remembered what to do. I rubbed warm oil over his body; he shivered and gasped at the sensation. I mapped every inch of him, from his hairline down to his feet, eliciting faint groans of pleasure. Everywhere glimmered like mica.
He sparkled with oil after I was done, and he rose slowly, reaching for me. “Your turn,” he said, his voice full of desire.
His hands glided oil over my body, making my legs tremble. “What does the oil do?” I asked, attempting to focus on anything but the thought of his manhood inside me.
“Raiana vine oil is a sacrament of the mating ceremony,” he whispered. “It’s said to boost the fertility of women who use it during sex.”
I laughed drowsily and gasped as his upper hands moved over my breasts. “But you already put a youngling inside me.” I used the alien word for baby. I had been astounded when Teken had caught my pregnancy before I even knew myself.
“Yes, and our youngling will be strong and beautiful,” he declared, his gaze intense as he stroked his oil-soaked hands across my chest, paying special attention to my middle. He then ran his hands down my back and drew me closer, his sharp teeth slightly exposed. “You, my sheleki, are my world, and it is my honor to love and protect you, and our youngling, for the rest of my life.”
My heart raced. This alien was my world, and I knew that taking him as my mate was the right decision. But my lack of knowledge of this world and culture I was now entering made me anxious.
“Is something wrong, my sheleki?” He cocked his head to the side as he looked at me.
I gave him a weak smile. “Just a bit nervous. I suppose that’s normal.”
“It will be all right,” he said, stroking my cheek. “I promise.”
I nodded because I knew that it would. My life had changed drastically since arriving on the alien world, and I knew it would take time to adjust.
After massaging oil over each other, we walked back up to his chambers. An archway slid shut behind us, and his cozy, cave-like chambers were always dim and cool.
He donned formfitting gray armor and his amulet, with a velvety black sash and jeweled pins—medals. All of him was ripped: broad chest, double pectorals, massive shoulders, clipped waist, and powerful thighs.
I wore armor skin and a purple tunic with gold piping, paired with silky trousers. Like Teken’s, my feet were bare.
We looked each other over, and he reached out to adjust the knot on my hip lacing. “You look good enough to eat,” he said huskily.
“You too, my love.” I took his hand. “Let’s go.”
We entered the Elders’ chamber, my breath catching at its eerie atmosphere. Tall stone chairs and skulls gave it a sense of foreboding, while light from a single skylight illuminated the floor.
The Arena was packed with onlookers, their whispers carrying the excitement of our union. Teken’s uncle, the Elder of Peace, smoothed his robes and smiled as we approached them.
“Gladiators,” Teken’s uncle started. “Teken and Ella come before us today to join together, body and soul, in the hope of a new beginning—not only for them, but for us. Let us rejoice that their joining presents a bright future for saving our species from extinction.”
A hundred pairs of eyes stared as I stepped closer to Teken. The memories of my abduction and slaver cage lingered in my thoughts, but the Gladiators were allies. Teken’s presence was the only thing keeping my anxiety at bay.
“We stand today before our ancestors to hear their exchange of vows,” Elder of Peace said. “Once they retire to their mating-bed, we shall celebrate and give honors to our ancestors in the hope that they will bless their union with love and lots of younglings.”
The Gladiators erupted in loud cheers as they watched. Elder of Peace turned to Teken and me, spreading all four of his hands. “Teken, you have brought your sheleki before us. Do you swear to love and protect her, to seek her happiness as much as your own, and to do the same for the younglings of your loins?”
Teken squared his shoulders as he turned to me. “I do swear, with every drop of blood and fiber of my soul, to do so. And will, in turn, learn the ways of her people, so I may better safeguard her and our younglings’ happiness and future.”
“Ella.” Elder of Peace’s gaze, like faint light through the thickness of a glacier, fixed on me, and I swallowed. “Do you swear to protect the younglings of your union, and safeguard their happiness and the happiness of your mate as well as your own?”
“I do swear, with every part of me,” I said. “And I will, in turn, learn the ways of the Gladiators, so I may better embrace my mate and our future.”
A smile broke across the Elder’s face in spite of himself. He harrumphed into one fist and, after a moment, continued. “Then we will give you each our blessings, and the gifts that we hope will bring good fortune and happiness to your union.” He glanced over at Teken and said, “Your mate is marked already.”
The Elder raised his hands. “Good. Now unite with your mate, so we can get to this most anticipated celebration!”
We both laughed, and then Teken leaned in, touching his lips to mine. His kiss was passionate, and when it ended, we were surrounded by fellow Gladiators, each pressing their palm to mine in a solemn greeting. I felt their eyes on me, and some of them had never seen a human before. In the center of the crowd, a cart had appeared for my gifts to be loaded into.
Teken took me into his arms, and our bodies moved in tune with the drums, with other Gladiators around us joining in the dance. The air was filled with laughter, the sound of glasses clinking, and the smell of wine.
“It truly is hope for our future that the two of you carry,” my new uncle said brightly as he descended upon us. “Gladiators with our pack and outside are hopeful that they, too, will find their mates.”
I looked at him thoughtfully. “That is the hope, but there is much work to do with saving more earthlings from the slavers.”
He nodded solemnly. “I agree. Our future depends on this.”
“Yes, it does,” Teken said firmly, wrapping two of his arms around me possessively. “But we will strategize on the best approach later.” He glanced over at me. “Our part in the mating ceremony is not yet done.”
The Elder of Peace chuckled. “Of course, of course.” He waved us on. “Go on. Much happiness to both of you.”
We both smiled and nodded before weaving our way through the Gladiators, who wished us joy and happiness as we left our celebration hand in hand.
With great effort, I managed to avert my eyes from Teken’s toned body, and then we both scooped up armloads of gifts, our fingers brushing against the supple, scented leaves that encased the offerings. We set them in the cart, and I helped Teken remove his heavy sash without snagging the metal studs, my heart beating faster as I caught a glimpse of his bare chest. The sound of clanging armor broke the spell, and then I impatiently helped him off with his armor while I struggled with my own.
I was grateful that Teken’s uncle had offered to stay with Brax in the kennels, or else the giant dog might have been able to sneak his way into our chambers and ruin the night. The thought of our furry companion added a sense of security and privacy as I abandoned my clothing on the floor and let Teken take me into his arms.
Teken moved closer and ran his hard hands along the curves of my body. His lips trailed the length of my neck, and he paused to brush a kiss over my mating mark. I gasped as a spike of pleasure shot through me, and my hands trembled, barely able to undo the fastenings of his armor. By the time I had finished, all four of his hands were exploring my body, sliding over my skin and raising goose bumps in their wake. The sensation was almost too much to take, and I clung to him weakly as he swept me off my feet and carried me to the bed.
My heart was pounding in my chest as he discarded his armor, leaving only the amulet hanging around his neck. His eyes had gone half lidded, and his voice was soft, coming in little gasps as he finally pulled away his last piece of clothing, revealing his impressive erection.
He pinned me to the bed, his mouth hot and desperate against mine. He ran his fingers over my body, exploring my curves with a gentle precision that sent a shiver up my spine. He caressed my nipples, teasing them into hard peaks before trailing down to my hips. With careful movements, he pressed his palm against my inner thigh, slowly inching it closer to my center. His callused touch felt like a combination of pleasure and pain, and I moaned, my skin tingling from the sensation. His fingers expertly massaged my delicate skin, and I clung to him, my body trembling with a sweet anticipation. His touch became increasingly urgent, and I felt a heat of desire wash over me as I arched against him.
I had known from the moment I felt his mouth on me that an orgasm was coming. I had tried to fight it, to slow it down, but I could only rock and writhe. I squeezed my thighs together, trapping his head between my legs while my hands pushed into his hair. He raked his teeth against my clit, pushing me harder and harder, building my orgasm.
He held me tightly, fingers digging into my hips. I felt the heat rising, flushed and dizzy. “Fuck me,” I gasped, half demand and half plea.
He lifted me up and gently set me onto him, making me aware of how full my pussy was. His hands held my hips and caressed my breasts until I trembled with pleasure. I shivered uncontrollably while moaning out his name.
He moved against me, urgency and intensity rising. I gasped in pleasure as his powerful thrusts sent shock waves through my core. We locked eyes, our syncopated rhythms increasing.
I felt my muscles tensing and breathing becoming ragged. His desperate groans grew louder against my shoulder, before a flood of pleasure washed over me, and I screamed his name. He trembled in response as pleasure coursed through him.
His climax was searing, and his body tensed against mine. He marked me with his teeth as I thrashed and writhed underneath him. His shifting and contracting filled me up with pleasure, until with one final shudder, we both collapsed in exhaustion.
He held me close, our bodies pressed together. His manhood softened, and he circled my stomach with his hand in gentle caresses.
“Worth the wait,” he purred against the top of my head. I made a small noise of agreement, not able to speak yet. “But I’m not done with you yet,” he growled huskily.
“I need a minute, mate,” I breathed, caressing him slowly. “But yeah…it was.”
“We are mated now. Officially.” He nuzzled my hair. “Does it suit you well, my sheleki?”
“Yes, especially if I’ll be getting more of that every night.”
He kissed my shoulder sweetly before turning me over onto his chest. His hands felt like ice against my warm skin and sent shocks of pleasure through me as my nerve endings felt hypersensitive. “You will receive all that you desire,” he said, looking up at the pillow behind him. “You are my goddess.”
“Hmm, so I am your goddess now, am I?” I asked, my eyes almost shut from the ecstasy I was feeling.
“Yes, for life,” he answered, punctuating his words with a passionate kiss.
My alien warrior was surely a keeper.
After a much-needed rest, I was going to kneel before him and prove how much I adored him by taking his manhood into my mouth.
“I love you, Teken.”
“And I love you, my sheleki.”
The last thing I saw before I fully closed my eyes was his beaming smile.