In Enemy Territory - Shannon West

Chapter One

The Royal Consort Blake on the planet Tygeria…

Blake put Rakkur down for his nap, kissing his forehead, and then straightened back up with a sigh. The baby was so beautiful. So far there was no sign of the exotic striping under the skin that the other children all had. Rakkur’s hair was still blond, and his eyes were a clear blue like the sky on Earth. The only real difference that Blake could see from a full-blooded human baby was in Rakkur’s size. He already weighed twenty-one pounds and was nearly twenty-eight inches long, which would have been unusually large for a seven-month-old human—more like a twelve-month-old child. Then again, when Mikos and the other boys had been the same age, they’d been at least ten pounds heavier and five or six inches longer, so he was still considered small for a Tygerian.

His looks were one of many things that interfered with King Davos’s ability to sleep at night—that and the fact that he still worried he’d have to keep an armed guard on Rakkur when he got older and even that might not be enough to keep him safe. “A half-human child who’s as beautiful as this one? It won’t be possible to let him out of our sight for long,” he’d complained when the baby was born, and Blake still caught that haunted look in his eyes from time to time when Davos held the baby in his arms or cuddled with him. He did that far more often than he’d done with the other boys, too, and when Blake pointed that out to him, he said it was because he’d been so busy running the war back then. But it seemed to Blake that Rakkur already had his father firmly wrapped around his little finger.

A soft knock on the door broke Blake from his reverie. “Come in,” he said and turned toward the door, which opened to reveal Mikos. It was unusual for his eldest son to track Blake down to find him in his bedroom these days, but Blake was always glad to see him. He’d sent for him the day before, and Mikos had put him off, claiming to be too busy to get away from his office. Blake knew Mikos suspected another lecture on how Blake wanted him to make up this ridiculous feud with Larz, and so he’d been avoiding him. His oldest son was so like his father at times it was ridiculous.

“Good morning, omak. You wished to see me?” Though his voice was cool and aloof, he looked irritable, no doubt dreading the coming interview, but unable to keep stalling without it becoming too obvious.

“I warn you,” he said, “I may not be able to stay long, because I have an important meeting I still need to prepare for.”

“You’re always so busy, Miki. I never seem to get a chance to talk to you anymore. Surely you can spare me a few minutes of your time.”

Mikos frowned, and Blake could see that the bad mood plaguing him since their return from Laltana was still very much in evidence. “Sit down here, baby, and rest a while. I won’t keep you long.”

Mikos’s sulky expression only deepened, but he inclined his head and sat down on the edge of a chair that Blake considered hideously uncomfortable, but that Davos loved. It was just across from Blake’s old cushioned rocking chair that Davos had arranged to have shipped in years ago from Earth at Blake’s request, just before Mikos was born. In years past, Blake used to rock Mikos in that same chair. As a baby, Mikos had been allergic to the milk the Tygerians gave their babies, so he’d been colicky and fretful. Rocking had been one of the only things that soothed him, so the two of them had logged many hours in that chair.

Mikos settled himself restlessly, sighing and drumming his fingers impatiently. “Of course, omak. I’m completely at your service…as always,” he said in a tight voice. He didn’t add the words, “despite how busy I am,” but they were clearly implied.

Since they’d returned from Laltana, nearly five months ago, Mikos had been “in a mood,” as his consort Ryan put it. Blake knew he was still upset with his brother Larz, and to Blake, at least, it seemed to prey heavily upon Mikos’s mind. Blake thought he had been so used to thinking of Larz as his little brother, in need of his guidance and protection, that it had