I'm ready to stop teasing you as to who the secret lovers are. Like Hunted, this story came about because of reader requests. A lot of you wanted Tara, Jessica and Lindsey's mother, to find a new love.
Most of you guessed the clandestine couple were Tara and one of the Imperial Fathers. You were correct. But which of the former emperors was she carrying on with? Read on to find out:
The lovers met in secret every day in her quarters. Of course the Royal Guards knew he visited her and how often, but the protective warriors were picked as much for their discretion as their fighting prowess. After so many years, most were loyal to him more than any other member of the Imperial Family.
The man and woman kept their affair secret for reasons of their own. Guilt. Worry they’d hurt those they loved most. In his case, there was also a sense of possessiveness, an unwillingness to share his woman with the other members of his clan. Time and again they’d vowed to end this tryst to save others pain. But passion and loneliness had thwarted their efforts to remain apart, sometimes only moments after the attempt had been made.
And now, as former Nobek Emperor Yuder stepped into her receiving room and swept her into his arms, Tara McInness, Imperial Mother of Empress Jessica, felt all recriminations flee once again. His lips found hers. Her body hummed in delight to feel his muscled frame, still strong despite his 178 years, pressed against her.
He lifted her, one supportive arm beneath her buttocks, the other against her back to press her chest to his. Beneath his robe she felt the heat of him, the unabashed masculinity of this fierce and yet giving Kalquorian. Tara had thought she’d never want another man again, not after over thirty years of devoted marriage to her Aaron, now dead fourteen Earth months. Yet somehow Yuder had broken through the grief that surrounded her, had made her lonely heart his.
He carried her to her sleeping room, his blue-purple eyes never leaving her face as he easily navigated the hall. Had he really visited her so often now that he didn’t need to look where he was going? A twinge of conscience made her stomach flutter nervously.
“I can always tell when Aaron crosses your mind,” Yuder rumbled soothingly. “I have seen that look in my own eyes too many times in the mirror to mistake it.”
Tara caressed his strong jaw. His face was as sharp as a hawk’s, and he was every bit as dangerous as that beautiful bird of prey. But the warrior Kalquorian, his steel-gray hair a result of mutation and not his advanced years, was always tender with her. After many years of danger and turmoil, Yuder made Tara feel safe.
“He would want me happy, as I would have hoped for him had I been the one to die. You make me happy,” she answered.
Yuder smiled at her, an expression he seemed to reserve for Tara alone. She melted to see the defined planes of his face soften.
They reached the bedroom, the bed sized just right for the two of them. Jessica had hired the finest craftsman on Joshada to carve the sleek furnishings from the black wood of one of their native trees. She’d known Tara had no intention of being clanned, so there was no need for the oversized bed mats preferred by Kalquorians.
No, Tara wanted no clan. Only her Nobek lover.
Yuder laid her on the cloud-soft mattress and bent for a quick kiss before rising and flipping his robe off over his head. Tara felt giddy at the sight of him, as if she hadn’t seen his naked body every day for the last six weeks.
Many Kalquorians were simply too bulky for Tara’s tastes. Not Yuder. His body, while defined with the precision of a master sculptor, was longer and sleeker than the norm. He was a lithe cheetah among a pride of muscled lions. Her mouth went dry as she was confronted by his stark beauty yet again.
His smile returned as he watched her look him over. “I like that you appreciate what you see,” he teased.
The first time she’d laid eyes on him, she’d been unable to tear her gaze away. Yuder had beguiled immediately, though at the time Tara had only been amused at her reaction to his physical beauty. It was like being a hormone-crazed teenager, not the mother of grown women and grandmother of two. She’d appreciated Yuder’s masculine beauty only aesthetically for the first few weeks. It was the man’s intelligence, his commitment to justice, and the discovery of the firm but fair persona beneath the surface ferocity that had turned a laughable infatuation into more.
Before landing on Kalquor, had anyone told Tara she’d fall in love with a man other than Aaron, with a Nobek warrior no less, she would have only chuckled at the notion. A devout Buddhist, one who eschewed harming others even at the expense of her own life, Tara couldn’t have imagined herself involved with someone who was almost nonchalant about bloodshed. Yet here they were, embroiled in a passionate affair that would have shocked and probably angered their blended families.