Sapphire alighted from the royal antigrav-craft, her palms damp with anticipation. The home given to her by the King of Sari was, in fact, a small palace. Bright white with multicolored windows, it was set in the golden hills of sand like a sparkling jewel.
As five of her new mästares unloaded her belongings, she approached her front door. The hot breeze that coursed over her skin was a welcome and pleasant sensation. She’d spent the last five years inside the palace, her skin tanned by artificial means, her lungs filled with purified air. On excursions with the king, she had always entered the cooled antigrav-craft through equally cooled landing bays.
Taking her first deep breath of natural air in years, Sapphire smiled at the slightly gritty sensation left in her mouth. She enjoyed the heat of Sari and relished the fine sheen of sweat on her skin that evaporated instantly in the dry desert environment.
Placing her palm on the recognition pad, she waited a split-second as the system recognized her prints. The door slid open and “Welcome, Mistress” rang out in the melodious feminine voice of the house computer.
Sapphire entered her new home and was immediately assaulted with chilled, cleansed air.
“Purify the air, but cool it only in the bedchambers.”
“As you wish.”
Absorbing her new surroundings with wide eyes, she found the balance of her mästares lining either side of her long entrance hallway. The resemblance the men bore to the king was noted with a smile. Tall, blond, and possessing sinewy lines of muscle, they were all remarkably handsome.
Sapphire walked through the gauntlet, then paused at the end with a frown. “There are only thirteen of you.”
The mästare nearest to her dropped to his knees. “Mistress, my name is Dalen.”
Resting her hand on his head, she slipped her fingers through his silky hair. “I’m pleased to meet you, Dalen.”
He stood, and smiled with boyish charm. “The other mästare is still in the healing chamber, Mistress.”
Her frown deepened. The healing chamber took only moments to heal slight injuries. “Still?”
“He was gravely injured when he arrived. He’s been in the chamber for half an hour now. While he should be healed shortly, he’ll need some rest before he can assume his duties. But the rest of us stand ready. We’ll more than make up for his absence.”
“I’ve no doubt you will all please me. But I’m concerned about the injured one. How was he so badly hurt? And why was he sent to me in such a state?”
“I’ll take you to him, Mistress. I have no answers to your questions. You’ll have to ask him when he emerges.”
Offering his arm, Dalen escorted her through her palace. Sapphire took in the size and beauty of her surroundings with astonished pleasure. There could be no greater testament of her worth to the king than this show of largesse.
They crossed the large receiving room with its massive divan and traveled down an arched hallway to the center atrium. The sight of a large bubbling bath surrounded by lush greenery filled her with joy. The rest of her life would begin in this home, and her blood quickened at the thought of the freedom she would enjoy here.
Dalen stopped before a door nestled along the rear wing of the courtyard and waved his hand over the lock pad. The door slid open, and she stepped inside. In the center of the small room stood the cylindrical glass healing chamber. She took one look at the unconscious man inside and her instinctive response to him was so powerful, she ordered Dalen to leave her. When the door slid shut behind the retreating mästare, Sapphire walked closer to the chamber.
The injured man took her breath away. Tall, dark, and devastated with whip marks that were slowly healing before her eyes, he still boasted raw potent masculinity. He was nothing like the king or her mästares. He was nothing like any man she’d ever seen.
Rich, gleaming black hair blew gently around his nape as the swirling air pressure inside kept him upright. His skin was deeply tanned and stretched over powerfully defined muscles. She'd never seen a man with so many ripples of power beneath his skin; not even her warrior father displayed such strength.
His facial features were strong and bold, like the rest of his body. High cheekbones and an aquiline nose gave him an aristocratic cast; the powerful jaw and sensual lips made him dangerous. He was simply magnificent. She wondered what color his eyes were. Brown maybe, like her own? Or perhaps blue, like the king’s?
Sapphire circled the chamber slowly, wincing at the myriad of wounds that striped and gouged his flesh. The man had been tortured most grievously. The length of time he’d already spent in the chamber told her he must have been near death when they brought him to her. Who would have selected such a man for her? He was as different from the other mästares as she was from the queen. Even unconscious, this man radiated mastery. He was no mästare.
Returning to the front of the chamber, she continued her heated perusal, her nipples puckering as desire quickened her blood. His broad and powerful chest was almost healed now. A thin strip of hair led her eyes down the ripples of his abdomen to his cock and testicles below. Her mouth went dry as she noted the carefully trimmed curls at the base of his shaft and his heavy sac that was completely denuded of hair. She stepped closer to the chamber until her hands and breasts were pressed against the warm glass, her eyes riveted to his groin. Even flaccid, his penis was impressive. She wondered how it would look when aroused.
As if it could read her mind, his cock suddenly twitched and began to swell. Rising slowly, it took on commendable size. Becoming aroused by the sight, Sapphire rubbed her breasts against the glass, then stilled as the stunning phallus grew in response to her wantonness. Startled, her gaze flew upward and was arrested by dazzling green eyes. Emerald bright, they raked her body hungrily, able to see her completely through the sheerness of her gown. Her skin tingled and grew warm as the man studied her with breathtaking boldness.
Nakedness imparted no vulnerability to the man’s undeniably arrogant bearing. She was so hot for him she was on fire, this stranger with the battered body and beautiful face. For the first time in her life, Sapphire felt the pull of true desire, heady and overwhelming.
“Who are you?” she whispered, even though she knew he couldn’t hear her through the glass. He reached out a hand, pressing opposite hers against the barrier that separated them. Sweat misted her skin at the thought of touching him. She wanted to curl her fingers and lace his long fingers with hers. She longed to caress his bronzed skin and see if it was as smooth as it looked.
He was almost healed. Soon, he would exit the chamber. Prolonged, intense healing was exhausting. He would most likely collapse at her feet. With a sigh of regret, Sapphire stepped back and was startled when he lunged toward the glass as if to catch her. Don’t go, he mouthed. The stark plea in his eyes made her chest tight.
“Guardian.” Her voice was a hoarse whisper. “Who is this man in the healing chamber?”