Tiber may finally have found the way to win Hawk as her mate,
but will this final seduction win his heart as well?
THE FINAL SEDUCTION
Hawk stared up at the ceiling of his darkened bedroom where tree and leave patterns danced with the full moon’s light and the gentle wind. Outside, the night insects of the planet Marpessa sang softly of spring in the calling of mate to mate, and the promise of offspring in that joining.
“Damn!” He tossed irritably to his side. After three nights of almost no sleep and his sleep filled with fever dreams, he could not stand another night-long inspection of the ceiling or another second of those screaming insects.
When the Searcher had come to Marpessa for repairs, the crew had been given shore leave. Tiber had arranged that he, Ari, Buck, Wilma, and occasionally the Admiral and Goodfellow have use of this beautiful country home of one her many cousins.
When they had first arrived, Hawk had looked favorably on a month to spend on this tranquil world. He and Ari could use the break from the the technology and sterility of the human spaceship. They had both grown up on primitive worlds, and sometimes the claustrophobia of machinery struck them both.
They had enjoyed exploring this planet together for five days, but then the Admiral had commandeered Ari for a week-long fishing trip with him and his teenaged grandson.
Sighing, Hawk rolled over in bed again. Ari was gone, and now so were Buck and Wilma. Both had quickly found shore leave “romances” and had disappeared not wishing to bring their new lovers within the vicinity of each other.
At this moment, Hawk would have settled for a long, dry lecture on lichens from Dr. Goodfellow. Even that would be better than insomnia, but the Doctor was with some local colleagues for the rest of the shore leave.
Hawk had hoped that the sheer pleasure of his day would lead to a good night’s sleep, but it had not. He had dreaded today’s meeting with Tiber’s xeno-anthropologist friend because he did not like to talk about his dead people and their way of life. Memories hurt, but he had a duty to science and his people’s memory so he had gone to Dr Warner’s house.
There, he and Tiber had been welcomed as family members and shared a day with Dr. Warner, his wife, and their three little children. The Warners had been the first young human family he had ever met in this fashion.
He had discovered that families were much alike for avians and humans. The customs differed but not the love of mates for each other or for their children.
His own pain at his loss of such love had been poignant, yet he had basked in that family’s happiness and had not been overwhelmed by what he no longer had. When you hold a smiling infant in your arms, or chase after a toddler, or try to answer the disconcerting questions of a seven-year-old female, it is difficult to think of loss.
Late in the evening, talking companionably of the day and of happy things, he and Tiber had strolled the two miles back to this estate. It had been a day that should have given peaceful dreams, not sleeplessness.
Thrusting away his tousled covers, Hawk sat up in bed. He would walk on the terrace outside his bedroom for a bit. Perhaps he could sleep then. Now, he felt ready to jump out of his skin.
With only pajama bottoms he might be chilled in the brisk night air so he wrapped his cloak around his shoulders, stepped out of his glass door onto the white marble terrace, and strode to the marble balustrade.
Below was the magnificent wild flower garden. The moon’s image shimmered on its small pond where most of the noisy insects congregated.
He fought his urge to yell at them to shut up. It must be around two or three in the morning, and he did not wish to wake Tiber.
Trying to soak the night’s peacefulness into his taunt body, he sauntered silently down the length of the terrace.
As he turned at the side of the house, he stopped in midstep. Gazing down into the garden, Tiber stood on the terrace just beyond him. Her cap of chestnut hair was like burnished copper, and she wore a long, white nightgown. In the bright moonlight, the gown was little more than an aurora around her perfect woman’s body. The spring wind taunted him with her perfume.
His breathe caught in his throat at her beauty, and he hastily averted his eyes and started to retreat.
“You’re not disturbing me,” Tiber said softly, not turning. “Come on over.”
The primitive within Hawk warned him of the impending consequences if he joined Tiber, but at the same time it forced him forward. He kept his eyes on her face until he reached her then stared down into the garden. “You could not sleep?”
“No. I was too restless.” Tiber laughed deep in her chest. “A bad case of spring fever.”
“I must have this spring fever too. I have slept little for these three nights. Is it a virus?”
“No, it’s not an illness. Spring fever is just a human poetic term for the unease that spring brings. It’s spring on Throm now too.”
“It is?” Hawk said, disconcerted by her change in subject. “I did not know that the two planets followed the same seasonal pattern. On Throm spring is a time of excitement. The younger adults choose mates, and the mates conceive children. It is a time of new beginning. It was a time of new beginnings.”
“Beginning implies end. Before something can begin, something else usually ends. Beginning is change as well as renewal.”
“The non-avian natives of Throm have such a belief. They say that in each birth there is the seed of death, and in each death there is the seed of a new life.”
“When my husband Keogh and our baby died in the same moment of violence, I thought my life had ended. I stayed alive only to avenge them and save Key’s people from the invaders. When the last of my enemies lay dead at my feet, I knew that I was dead too, dead inside.
“But I stayed alive outside to help rebuild what I’d helped destroy in the carnage and war. Then I fled to Arden and terraformed it by myself for many years, and I wandered about the universe as Tiber Roland, itinerant healer.
“Then one day I pulled some fool birdman away from a nova and through a miracle of God saved him. He opened his beautiful hazel eyes and my mind touched his, and I knew that I wasn’t dead anymore. The seed inside my dead soul was beginning to grow at last. It would not produce the old happiness of Key and our baby, but it would be infinitely precious and unique. Renewal and change.”
Embarrassed by her confession, Hawk turned toward her. Except for moments of possible death, she had never spoken of her love for him since he had totally refused it two years before. “Tiber--”
“Do you know why avians have telepathic abilities?”
Confused, Hawk cocked his head. She had again changed the subject, but he did not want to speak of the love he did not have for her anyway. “I read in my father’s notes that he believed it was tied to the breeding cycle. Mates have always been paired for life. In the earliest days of our people, the pairs would have flown apart searching for food. When the female’s breeding time began, the female and the male needed to find each other so the telepathic link gradually evolved.”
“Our people too had such a beginning. Our telepathic gifts became more general as time passed. Yours did not.”
“Except for Ari.”
“Ari is an exception because of his mother’s ancestry and One’s telepathic presence when he was a child.”
“He is pleased that his mother had the blood of your people as well as the humans, and you are distant cousins. Only one thing would please him more.”
“He has decided that he wants you as a sister, and he wants to be an uncle. I foolishly told him that you could bear me avian children.”
“Hawk on the outside, the best of my people on the inside,” she corrected.
“I would not be selfish enough to want totally avian children when your genes could give them long life spans and superior metabolisms.” Hawk caught himself. “But we will not have children. Ari cannot have everything he wants.”
“Who can?” Tiber laughed bitterly.
Hawk brushed a tear from her cheek with his thumb. “I am sorry.”
“I know you are. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just my rotten luck to love a man who can’t love me.”
Waiting for her to regain control, he studied the moon. A cold, brisk wind began to ruffle his cloak.
When he turned back to her, she was shivering. Normally, in a situation like this, he would take off his cloak and wrap in around her, then carry her to her bedroom door. He would put her on her feet, kiss her cheek, and beat a hasty retreat with a hearty “Sleep well, my friend.”
Instead, he said, “You are cold.” Taking her right hand, he led her to a sheltered alcove which had a wide bench. Lifting his left arm like a great wing, he covered her with his cloak then picked her up and sat down on the bench with her in his lap.
She rested her cheek tentatively against the plumage near his heart, and when he did not repulse her, her arms encircled his waist. With a happy sigh, she rubbed her face against his chest like a cat.
After she was nestled comfortably against him, Hawk readjusted his cloak over them both then brushed the top of her head with his lips. She trembled still, but it was no longer from the cold.
As he wrapped his arms around her, every molecule of his body knew the truth. “You have sought to tell me something with all these different changes in subject.”
Tiber murmured a soft affirmative.
“It is your breeding time.”
“Yes. Every five years for about a week, I get like this.”
The heat of her blush warmed his bare skin. “That is a long cycle," he said as matter-of-factly as he could to ease her embarrassment. “My people have a yearly cycle.”
“We live 2000 years. Five years isn’t that long in 2000 years.”
He chuckled. “I guess not. My insomnia?”
“We’re telepathically close. You have to be very aware of me. You’re lucky that you’ve only had your sleep ruined. You could have been frothing at the mouth and howling from sexual hunger.
“I’ve been going crazy, too, trying to keep my hands off you. I haven’t slept, and I have to force myself to eat.
“It’s hard being a dignified doctor and friend when I want to ravish your gorgeous body.”
Relieved that Tiber had regained her humor, Hawk chuckled. “Thank you for your restraint. I did not notice your problem.”
“Your body knew even if your consciousness didn’t. You’re young and healthy and have been without a mate for almost five years. It’s natural to want children. Being one of the last two of your kind, you must desire children to the point of obsession.”
“I know I am the last pure avian. I see our ending, but the cost of renewal is too high.”
Tiber’s gray eyes shimmered with humor and moonlight as she gazed up at him. “Am I so hideous?”
Hawk laughed. “No. I have always been moved by your beauty. You know that. It is difficult to stay away from you, especially tonight. You offer everything a lonely male could wish for -- a home, love, and children.”
“You don’t have to stay away. I love you and want you as my husband. I’ll take you with your love or without.”
“You are my dear friend. I honor and respect you, and I will not shame you by making you nothing but my brood mare. You deserve more from your mate.”
“You listen to me, Hawk. I want children too. Don’t you think I felt the same emptiness you felt this afternoon holding the Warners’ baby in my arms? I lost my baby before it was born. Torn out of my womb by--”
“Do not think of that,” Hawk said huskily and fought his tears for her as he remembered the description Tiber’s brother had given him of what Keogh and Tiber had looked like when he’d found them after the assassination attempt -- the blood and the knife wounds in her belly. The dead baby and the dead husband who had shielded her with his body.
Hawk embraced her fiercely. “Do not think of that.”
Tiber seemed to return from that place of inner horror, and her tensed body relaxed against him. “I want other children. Share my bed tonight, and I may carry your child tomorrow.”
Determined to protect her from his own selfish needs, he struggled against his sexual desire for her and the children she offered him. She was his friend, and he owed her for Ari and Buck’s lives many times over. A woman of exquisite beauty and sensibility, she should, above all else, have a man who adored her.
He was not that man. His heart had died with Koori, and he would never love like that again. “You are young. You are not tied to me.”
“But I am tied to you.” Tiber straightened. “I guess it’s time I told you the complete truth. That night on Arden two years ago when you nearly died?”
“I was out of my head and almost killed myself. You saved me.”
“There was a price for keeping you alive. You were about dead when I reached you. It took a total bonding link as well as an immortality tamper to keep you with me. Neither of whom I’ve ever regretted.”
His heart tightened. “I am your mate?”
“Telepathically, yes. We’re not physically bound though. Still, I can never take another man to my bed. You, however, aren’t bonded. If I have children, they can only be yours.”
He winced. Tiber was shackled to him for the rest of their lives, yet did not share his bed, his life, his children, or his future. She had chosen a travesty of bonding to save his life. He could leave her now and take another woman for his was not the responsibility, but he would not. Now that he knew, he was trapped too. “I did not want that bonding.”
“I know, but I had no choice. I couldn’t let you die.”
“A tamper? You said you used an immortality tamper.”
“You’ve almost stopped aging. You’ll live another 700 years.”
Hawk turned his thoughts away from considering what she had given him. Virtual immortality was too much for him to accept right now. He must make important decisions for Tiber’s sake. Another idea intruded and stabbed him with pain. The tamper, too, had its price. “You have lost half your life span to me!”
“What’s a year or one thousand years without the man you love. Now I have seven hundred years in which to seduce you. It might take that long.”
“I think not.”
“You know something I don’t?”
“I do not believe so.” Hawk understood suddenly what his body had recognized when he had first seen Tiber on the terrace earlier. All day she had tempted him with the one thing he could not reject -- a family. He had seen the Warner children and all his noble words of friendship had dissolved in his wanting of little ones like the newborn baby Paul.
Tiber had won before she had told him of her binding, and she had sensed it. She had known of her victory when she saw the hunger in his eyes when he held the baby. All her words of her own entrapment had not been to trap him but to free him of the guilt he felt for not loving her. He had capitulated to her this morning, and she had waited for him this night to accept his final surrender.
“I knew today that I had finally and unintentionally found the perfect seduction. Everything was right for the occasion. I’ve thrown my body, my love, my wisdom, and even what I could offer Ari at you, and you’ve always refused me. You’ve fought your own lust, loneliness, and emotional needs.
“But there was one offer you couldn’t refuse. Children. You could have resisted my body in this nightgown and even have ignored my breeding fecundity, but you couldn’t turn away from the Warner family. I seduced you with a happy couple and three children.”
Hawk gave her one last chance to escape him. “You are certain you want this? I offer you so little.”
“Yes, darling, I want this.”
He nodded solemnly at her words then grinned. “I surrender, Tiber Roland. ‘Take me. I am yours.’”
She laughed. “I love you, you silly bird.”
“I will be a good and gentle mate and father. I swear this.”
“I trust you.” She stood and held her arms out to him.
He rose and wrapped her in his cloaked embrace. Her silken hair and non-avian smooth skin were erotic rather than repellant against his bare skin and feathers. When she caressed his shoulder and neck, he moaned with desire and molded her against him.
Her mind touching his with a mate’s intimacy, she kissed him. Her spirit glowed with sensuality, love, and an innocence odd for someone who had suffered so many losses.
“The past is gone, Hawk,” she said as if hearing his thoughts. “I’m another person now in more than name. I can’t bring the past back, and I no longer want to. I’ve accepted Key’s death.
“He died shielding me. Did you know that? He died to give me life. When I met you, I realized what a precious gift he’d given me. I honor him by loving you and by making that life mean something.”
Hawk was touched by her words but annoyed too. “You talk too much, woman,” he said with mock sterness and kissed her with a mastery that left her limp in his arms.
“I’ll never be a meek and obedient avian wife, but you can shut me up like that any time you want to.” Clinging to him, she kissed him and let him feel her own power over him.
At last, Hawk gasped and pulled his lips away. “What do you want talk about? Say anything.”
Tiber’s deep, sexy laugh rumbled against his chest. “We’re well matched.”
He began to explore the structure of her ear with his lips and tongue.
Her silk gown rustled and shimmered against him like the wind as it fell to the ground. Pressed against his, Tiber’s alien skin was like warm snow. The hunger he had held back for what seemed like forever glowed and flared within him. He fought his urgency. There would only be tenderness between them, never lust. Tiber deserved his tenderness.
He could not find the love to make this a heart’s mating as it had with Koori , but perhaps that was for the best. Tiber had said it was to be a new beginning for them both.
What would grow between them would be vital and beautiful in its own unique fashion.
Whatever the seed sprouting within his soul was, it would be nurtured and cherished as would the children born of both their heritages.
He picked up her up, cradling her.
Her arms around his neck, Tiber nuzzled the sensitive skin beneath his jaw. “I know a cure for insomnia.”
“Tell me in four days,” he said huskily and headed for the house.
The character Hawk and the Buck Rogers series are under exclusive copyright by MCA-Universal Television.