When Duke Hellbur is accused of treason against his people, he bonds with medic Balaze to keep his human form and prove his innocence.
When Duke Hellbur is accused of smuggling Thresls and selling them off to interested buyers, he undertakes a trip to prove his innocence. In order to retain his humanity, Hellbur bonds with a medic named Balaze…who didn’t exactly give his assent to the binding of their souls.
Balaze admired the duke whenever he visited the castle, but finding someone attractive and wanting to be theirs for eternity aren’t the same thing. After surviving the death of his first Thresl mate, Balaze isn’t exactly eager to go through that pain again. However, the duke doesn’t take no for answer.
Those who are guilty will have to be uncovered if the two men ever plan on finding peace with each other. When Hellbur and Balaze go off on an interplanetary adventure, can they find common ground or will their enemies tear them apart?
Dr Walter Balaze watched Duke Hellbur sleep. The duke’s stillness worried him more than anything. Thresls were difficult to kill, but not impossible. Hellbur had lost a lot of blood through the gash in his head, but no other symptoms of trauma were evident despite repeated scans. Head wounds tended to bleed more than other wounds, but the lack of movement and the duke’s faint pulse had Balaze more than a little worried.
The duke should’ve healed by now. The fact that it was taking Hellbur’s body so long to close a simple wound indicated a deeper issue not detected by the scanner. If Hellbur died on Balaze’s watch, he’d never forgive himself. It would break Balaze’s heart if he couldn’t save him.
“Find out if the duke has any known illnesses,” Balaze ordered the nurse hovering beside him. Information on the duke should be in the medical database. Balaze had studied most of the files on the royals but didn’t remember anything standing out about Hellbur. No warnings had popped up when they’d punched in his patient information.
The nurse grabbed an electronic research pad and typed in the duke’s name. It took a few minutes before she spoke again.
She shook her head. “No. Nothing.”
He looked over her shoulder at the screen. “Hmm. If he doesn’t bounce back I’ll have to look into a transfusion.”
He didn’t like the duke’s colour—too pale to be healthy.
The nurse exchanged a look with Balaze, acknowledging the strangeness of the situation without saying a word.
King-Mate Kreslan entered the room and dismissed the nurse with a tilt of his head. Balaze admired the speed with which the nurse departed, wishing he could go with her. Kreslan made him nervous. The King-Mate sent out vibes more feral than any wild Thresl he’d ever met.
Kreslan waited until the nurse had left before closing the door behind her.
“What can I help you with, Your Majesty?”
He tried to stay still beneath Kreslan’s intense gaze, but the urge to fidget had his feet moving back and forth in an uneven rhythm as he waited for the King-Mate to speak.
“We suspect the duke might have been taking medication to suppress his Thresl half. Unregistered medication. We’re looking for a sample to bring you, but we haven’t been able to dig any up. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to keep this information to yourself.”
“Why would he do that?” Horror twisted Balaze’s stomach. He couldn’t even imagine how toxic the chemicals had to be to sustain Hellbur’s human form for a prolonged time.
“Because he’s the backbone of the kingdom. Only his contacts and research kept the problems from escalating while Vohne was missing. If he hadn’t helped combat the Purgers, we might still be fighting them.” Kreslan’s swept a cold gaze across the duke. “He might not be my favourite person, but we still need him alive.”
Balaze held back his smirk. Everyone knew Kreslan resented the Duke’s attraction to the king. He wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if the King-Mate had accidentally forgotten to get the duke help. No one stood between Kreslan and his mate.
“How long has he been suppressing?” Balaze checked the duke’s vitals again. Hellbur’s low heart rate concerned Balaze more than anything. Almost as if the duke’s body had decided to shut down without the stimulus of whatever medication he’d been on. Now that he knew Hellbur had been taking suppressors it changed things.
Kres shrugged. “Possibly decades.”
A chill ran down Balaze’s back. With the death of his mate, the duke should’ve either gone into shock or turned back to his cat form. If whatever drug he’d been taking kept him human and on his feet, it had to be pretty strong. The immense shock to the duke’s system probably had his Thresl nature fighting to take control back. Balaze didn’t reveal to the King-Mate that he doubted the duke would make it through the night. Sudden withdrawal from such a long addiction could easily be fatal.
“I’ll do everything I can to take care of him.” Balaze didn’t know what he could do other than keep watch and try to prevent the duke from dying owing to the stress on his system.
“Good. He’s a pain in the ass, but necessary.” With that blunt statement, Kres turned on his heel and walked out of the room.
Balaze pulled up a stool to sit beside the duke. Whoever had been the Hellbur’s old mate had had an eye for beauty. Balaze ran one finger along the duke’s cheek then quickly jerked his hand back when he realised what he was doing. “I hope you pull through this, Your Grace. Kreslan won’t take it well if you don’t recover.”
Hellbur took in a deep breath. Balaze inhaled with him before he realised what he was doing. He let out his breath and waited a moment, but the duke didn’t do anything more.
“I guess it’s too much to hope you’ll wake up all better, isn’t it? I’d best leave the planet if you don’t make it, huh?”
The duke didn’t open his eyes and answer Balaze’s questions. Balaze ruthlessly squelched his disappointment. Until today he’d only caught glimpses of the duke a dozen times or so, but that didn’t stop his heart from beating a little faster whenever he spotted the familiar blond head. In general, Thresls didn’t have a lot to do with medics unless their human mates were injured, so he’d never exchanged any words with the gorgeous duke.
He knew he shouldn’t be drooling over an injured unconscious royal, but the duke pulled at him—a tug of attraction Balaze hadn’t felt since the death of his own mate. Ten years ago he’d bonded with a Thresl and lost Mills after only three years together. Mills had died in a senseless skirmish during a routine guard duty. The attacker had shoved a sword through the soldier’s heart. Even a Thresl couldn’t survive that.
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