In honor of Beltane revels everywhere and the first day of the Romantic Times conference (neither of which I’m attending, alas) here’s a new excerpt.
Standard disclaimer: it may not see the light of day in published form. Non-standard disclaimer: heed the rate warning, please. I’m now at the stage of this book where there is probably not a single page that doesn’t contain something about sex or violence. It’s just that kind of book. But I’ve had a couple of readers gently complain that Val isn’t that much a live wire in Moro’s Price, where he doesn’t seem to match up to his somewhat unhinged reputation. So in ‘Leopard’, I’ve let Bad!Val out to play a little. Also, he’s had too much brandy.
Before Mateo could stammer any kind of answer, Val belched. It was long, loud, crude, and made the veil billow out a couple of inches. The air around him rippled briefly from cloyingly sweet fumes.
“Oh, poor Karl, is that what this fuss is about? You’re jealous? For your information, Mateo DaSilva has never seen me completely nude. That would be illegal,” Val drawled, standing up from the end of the curved booth. His newest erection noticeably tented the brilliant orange material in front of his crotch. Over the veil, his eyes glittered like a predator’s. He raised slender orange-gloved fingers to the uppermost fastening of his long coat. “Karl, you have the oddest ideas about what Camalians look like naked. We look like everybody else. We started off as human.” The second fastening came loose. The coat folded aside, showing Val’s thin silky shirt – also orange.
“You’re all the spawn of demons and your immoral souls are damned to hell,” said Karl, grinning a little too widely.
“We don’t believe in hell,” said Val, undoing the third fastening at his waist. “We don’t believe in souls. We do believe in morals. Do unto others, play nice, all that crap.”
“You stole a planet,” said Karl, visibly sweating now.
Val shrugged out of his coat and dropped it on the table. The thin, vivid cloth of his shirt clung to his well-defined shoulders. “We let our human cousins have a galaxy in return. The Terran League seems to have done fine with it, after all.” His voice betrayed only a slight slurring.
Mateo couldn’t help his snort of disbelief. “This isn’t a history class.”
“No. It’s a bar,” said Val, climbing up on the table. He swiveled his hips slowly. “Shut up, Mateo. I’m just a little drunk, and very lonely, and here’s a gorgeous man who really wants to see more of me, even though his evil, ranting, rich Grand-daddy would disown him in a moment for admitting it.”
“Shut up and get down from there,” said Karl, lunging forward. “There are people with recorders here! Everybody can see you.”
“Let ‘em.” Val dodged gracefully and kicked off one of his black ankle-high boots at Karl. The big blond ducked, and the boot sailed over his shoulders, out of the Fishtank, and into the gathering crowd below.
Mateo heard gasps down on the dance floor. He imagined people putting a safe distance between them and the boot. Even Val’s low socks were the danger-orange color mandated for Camalian wear in public. Mateo began to have a bad premonition. His friend kicked off the second boot and both socks, then slithered out of the shimmering orange shirt.
Val’s exposed skin was the same dark honey-gold as his face, but a trail of pale blond hair started at his navel and led down below the waistband of his tight orange trousers. “Eyes on my face, Karl,” he said. “If you are very, very good, I might let you see my nose.” Wriggling a bit, Val managed to get his pants undone without loosening the bulky black tool-belt he wore nearly every waking moment. Val’s underwear was the skimpiest possible silken thong, its front panel not so much covering his stiff, slender cock as outlining it in bright orange contours. The fabric barely contained his large balls, letting curls of gold hair escape around the stretched edge. When Val turned sideways, Mateo saw the thong back nearly disappear into the crack between Val’s narrow, perfect asscheeks.
Karl stared up, unable to look away.
Val laughed: a crazy, broken, chilling sound that seemed a universe away from the generally harmless prankster Mateo knew. Val’s eyes were blown almost black. “Karl, sit down,” Val snapped, pointing at the booth.
The Camalian’s voice brooked no answer but instant obedience; if Mateo hadn’t already been sitting, he’d have fallen to his knees.
The Vance heir sat on the edge of the booth, gaze moving with equal horror and fascination between Val’s veiled face and barely-covered cock. “Fuck you,” Karl ground out.
“That’s our problem, isn’t it, Sero Vance,” Val almost cooed, his tone still resonating with a dark, sweet intensity. “You can’t, and I can’t, and you have no idea how badly I would wreck you if we could.” He looked down at the wide stairs. “Stay back,” he called to the four or five well-dressed male and female flunkies pausing at the Fishtank entrance. Val touched the bottom edge of his veil and made a throat-clearing noise. Karl’s friends drew back nervously outside the doorway. “I won’t hurt him if he’s a good boy. I won’t hurt any of you. I can control myself. That’s my word as a prince – and a Camalian, even if you don’t believe me.” Val stood like a slim torch over Karl. Gold, bronze, and flame-orange reflected in the black table, the curving crystal walls, and the flickering screens of several hundred recorders below.
Mateo cringed at the thought of Val being on shameless display – then thrilled at it. At the moment, there was nothing remotely housebroken about his little prince.
“Let me go,” Karl muttered.
“I never had you, Karl,” Val said softly, viciously. He looked into Karl’s upturned face. “Nor would I ever want to. You are an excellent antidote to unwanted arousal.”