In Smoke cover - a grayscale photo of a shirtless man with a magenta and teal supernova in the background
Part of the Wereplanets series:
Editions:eBook - Second Edition

When Lady Katryn is called back to her home world to join Lord Nadir's harim, she is curious to learn more about her weredragon nature. What she discovers is a scorching eroticism that consumes her all over.

Note: This story was previously published as part of the Carnal Desires anthology.

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Publisher: CJ Books
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So that’s Harena.

Katryn tried to dredge up some excitement. It was her first visit to her home world, after all. Even if she hadn’t been there since she was a small child, she should feel some connection to it, shouldn’t she? But no. She had no desire to be here. Now that her ambassador father was dead, her family intended to marry her off as a member of some man’s harim. Would that make her his third wife or his fifth? She had no idea. She only knew his name was Lord Nadir. The rest was a complete mystery. What she knew about her own kind could fit onto the tip of her smallest finger, with room left to spare. Weredragons weren’t known to give away the secrets of their society, and Katryn hadn’t grown up among them, so she felt the keen lack of knowledge more now than ever before.

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Gods. She’d traveled for six standard months just to get to this sunburnt rock in the back end of space. The thought didn’t please her. As low as her expectations were, the planet below was worse than she’d imagined. No blue of ocean broke the landscape of endless red sand. If it looked this bad from here, she wasn’t certain she wanted to get much closer. As if she had a choice now. She sighed and rested her head against the curved window of the observation lounge.

Katryn wrinkled her nose at her wavy reflection in the glass, noticing the thin layer of purple scaling that reached from the middle of her hands to her biceps. The barest touch against her scales could elicit an intense sexual reaction. Dragons were very proud of their markings, or so her father had once mentioned to her. It was one of the few things he’d ever told her about her race before he’d died. She only knew she was entirely different from the weretigers she’d grown up with on Vesperi.

She was concentrating on the window so hard she didn’t notice her best friend, Mahlia, walk up behind her until she spoke. “Look, Katryn! Isn’t it amazing?”

“Yes, Mahlia, that is exactly what I was thinking.” Katryn made a derisive noise in the back of her throat, but it erupted as a reptilian hiss. She’d spent too many Turns picking up the conversational habits of tigers.

Mahlia raised her eyebrows and lifted her baby, Crown Prince Razak, against her shoulder to pat his back. “Such enthusiasm. This is an important trade relationship to maintain between our planets…and in order to trade, we’re finally getting off this spaceship. Thank the Gods. Besides, it could be fun.”

“Says the happily mated woman with new twin cubs.” She smiled to take the bite out of her words. If anyone deserved the joy they’d found, it was Mahlia and Varad. The two weretiger monarchs had lost their first child to a rare genetic defect, and the agonizing loss had nearly dissolved their mating. Katryn longed for that kind of mating, a bond that could survive anything, no matter how tragic. But being raised among those unlike her, and returning to a planet where she knew nothing of the culture, she was unlikely to find that kind of acceptance, the sense of belonging she had always craved. Always apart. That was her fate. She sighed and leaned against the window.

“Now, now, Katryn, you just can’t judge a tiger by its stripes.” Katryn groaned as Mahlia fluffed her cream-and-bronze-striped hair. “And they are throwing us a welcoming party when we get to the landing site.”

“Yes, so the men can club us and drag us back to their sand pits.” Katryn arched an innocent brow.

“Well, I guess that makes us the cat’s meow.”

“Mah-lia, the cat jokes are so trite.”

“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty,” Mahlia singsonged.

Katryn laughed so hard she had to wrap her arms around her belly. Trust Mahlia to make this easier for her, to make her laugh about it. Her friend knew how upset she was about the arranged mating, about the lack of a single mate. Tigers might have many mates throughout their lives, but only one at a time. That she was now to be just another woman in a dragon’s harim made her stomach churn in disquiet. “Just wait until you see the dragon-skinned boys down there. Then we’ll see how funny it is.”

Mahlia straightened at the reference to ancient Earthans’ practice of gene-splicing humans with sea dragons to make shape-shifting dragons. Unlike the three other shape-shifting races—werebears, weretigers, and merpeople—weredragons were the only ones that had been created from a non-Earthan animal. The desert climate created by the binary suns of Harena called for a wereanimal that could withstand a harsh, drought-prone environment. When, for unknown reasons, gene-splicing with Earthan reptiles had failed to take, scientists had turned to the sea dragons found on the water world of Aquatilis, home planet of the merpeople. Mahlia tilted her head. “I’ve never been with a weredragon, only tigers. Are our hosts really scaled all over?”

“Not all over, but I’ll let you guess exactly which parts are.” Katryn leered, but she didn’t know the true answer. She’d never had sex with a dragon either. The only other weredragon on Vesperi had been her father. She shuddered. No, she’d definitely never been with another dragon.

Mahlia gasped, her eyes rounding with horrified fascination. The slitted cat’s pupils in her crystal-blue snow tiger eyes expanded. “Really? Down there?”

Katryn chortled, flicking imaginary dust specks off her purple scales. “You don’t want to play snake charmer, Amira?”

“It might be interesting to find out what that feels like. You shouldn’t limit yourself, Katryn.”

“Yes, and she’s the only one of you who might find that out.” A low growl sounded from the doorway. Varad padded in with his daughter cradled to his chest. He bent to press a gentle kiss on his mate’s lips. The twins reached for each other, patting their hands together and gurgling. The tiny girl, Princess Varana, had her father’s golden eyes and auburn-and-black-striped hair, whereas Razak had his mother’s paler snow tiger coloring. They were both the most beautiful babies Katryn had ever seen. She sighed, allowing herself a moment of pure, self-indulgent envy. She wished her future looked half as bright as Mahlia’s, but it did not. Her heart twisted. She’d never have love, never know the sweet, hot lust for a mate that she saw so often in her friend’s gaze. No, Katryn’s life would be the same one she’d always known, no matter which planet she lived on. She never belonged anywhere or to anyone.

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