AUTHORS' NOTE: Did you think we'd really let Parisa off the hook? We think not! LOL! Read on for more about what happens to the little hoochie now!

Chapter One

Parisa shivered in the confines of the cargo hold, cursing himself for not thinking to find clothing when he shifted back from cat to humanoid form. The small towel he'd found in one of the crates wasn't doing much to protect him from the elements. He'd seen the ships about to set course to leave Zerca and he'd decided to just hop on, fearing what would happen to him were Turean or Sariphan to encounter him again, without their pitiful and weak little mates to temper them. Turean, in particular, would rip Parisa's throat from his body and watch the life bleed from him for what he'd almost done to that damned Damien. Curse him for his timing! Parisa would have had done with the puny earthling before he returned. He knew he would have! And that traitor servant boy! Oh, how Parisa would have loved to get rid of him, too! That lazy little snoop! Of course, it was probably very foolish of Parisa to have threatened the Shodan's mate. Now there was where the real danger could be found.

He lifted a hand to touch the wound, still stinging and fairly fresh. It hadn't been a full day yet, but Parisa was sure the gash would leave every inch the scar Turean assured him it would. The once-beautiful Zercan's looks were finished. He would be naught more than a commoner now. Really, Parisa had no choice but to leave his home planet after what had happened. Even if the two other Zercans weren't a danger to him, where would he go now? The city wasn't an option, seeing as he no longer had anything to offer a keeper. To the Reyl tribes? Who would want to live among such heathens? They danced around fires and … worked, of all things! No. He couldn't stay there. Perhaps the freighter would take him to a planet filled with plain-looking people, who would revere him despite his scarred cheek. As he felt the telltale bump of the docking mechanisms, he knew he would soon find out.

Parisa waited anxiously as he heard the crew of the vessel call out to each other while they secured the bulky ship. He knew he was lucky he hadn't been discovered while the journey was still underway, as there was no telling for sure how the working class would treat him. He was no fool, and heard the stories Turean's crew told of the one or two stowaways they'd encountered. Not that they'd killed anyone, but they hadn't exactly welcomed the freeloaders with open arms. Now, as the bay door started to creak open, Parisa felt the anxiety he'd been trying to avoid through the long hours he'd spent in the hold. He shut his eyes tightly and cringed as he waited.

"Help me with this thing, Kronar!" boomed a deep voice. "The boss man's on his way and you know how he hates to be kept waiting!"

"He's not so bad, you know!" a thinner, whiny voice replied. "Long as you do your job and keep your nose out of everyone's business, he leaves you alone."

The door opened with a bang and light flooded the darkened hold. Parisa's eyes were still tightly shut and he whimpered at the loud noise.

"Who's there?" the deep-throated one shouted, and nearing footsteps accompanied the demand.

Parisa squeaked as rough, large hands hauled him up from his spot behind a crate and dragged him further out into the light.

"Seems we have a stowaway," Kronar observed.

Parisa cracked open a pinkish eye and looked at them curiously. Both were as plain as he'd been hoping for, dressed in common workers' clothes, they looked like they'd never seen a relaxing day in their lives, and they seemed to be enthralled with his appearance – not to mention lack of clothing. Perhaps he'd be okay after all. This type of reaction he was quite used to.

"What's taking you two so long?" a smooth voice asked in a coldly bored tone.

"It's the boss!" Whiny muttered to the one who still held Parisa's sholders.

Lighter, more confident footsteps drew the Zercan's attention from the two cornering him and he looked over at the newcomer … and held in a gasp. He was … very much not as plain as the first two. Dressed in expensive looking merchant attire with a carefully styled head of long and thick, wavy brown hair, the man ran a cursory glance over him and returned his silver and gold eyes to his employees.

"A … a stowaway, Nolkeir," the deep-throated one replied uneasily.

The cold-looking but beautiful man slid another unreadable glance over Parisa's now-shaking body before nodding.

"You can leave him to me and start unloading the shipment."

"Yes, sir," the two workers said in unison before immediately skulking away.

"Now then," the man they'd called Nolkeir murmured thoughtfully, raking Parisa's shivering body up and down again with his eyes, "what am I to do with … you?"

Nolkeir mentally tallied the number of containers in the ship's hold while he waited for the attractive creature to answer him. Truly, the boy was magnificent! And the businessman had naught but an empty and cold bed waiting for him at home, so he could appreciate beauty when he encountered it. Not that he had the time to acknowledge such, as he was quite a busy man these days, but he could appreciate it nonetheless. Thirty-four filled containers, seven more than he'd been expecting. Such was good news. He had hoped the Zercans would buy his textiles, but he hadn't dared dream they'd purchase them all – as they appeared to have done. These containers held bartered goods, as Zercan money was difficult to exchange off the beguiling planet. He knew he would find some lucrative artwork and crafts made by the talented and elusive cat-people. The race seemed to keep to itself, only allowing those chosen by an on-planeter to be a mate to live amongst them. But their craftsmanship was highly prized and Nolkeir knew he would double, perhaps even triple his investment when he sold the goods to his other customers.

Such would make his family even wealthier, and perhaps quiet his haranguing mother for a bit. He was unlikely to settle into a marriage for quite some time, after all. And he knew his business skill would make a business alliance unnecessary – not that he'd had much time or interest in pursuing such.

"I … I …" the smaller man, likely a Zercan, Nolkeir supposed, stammered out, his pinkish eyes downcast.

"I am waiting," Nolkeir said in a bored tone.

The other's eyes looked up into his own, and took on a decidedly calculating slant to them. Ah, now this I am used to, Nolkeir thought, preparing himself for what would likely be a con game. He had to admit though, this time he wouldn't mind being conned. It had been some time since he'd shared his quarters with a warm body … and this one looked very inviting, to say the least.

"Maybe we can come some agreement here," the attractive and smaller man purred, his lips pouting sexily. "I know no one here and I can't return home …"

"Can you not?" Nolkeir asked, affecting his usual disinterested demeanor. "And what makes you think I am of a mind to afford you shelter?"

"Oh, come now," the other giggled, resting a dainty hand upon Nolkeir's sinewy forearm. "I'm sure I can offer you … something you would find interesting."

"Hmph."

The smaller man took his hand away from Nolkeir's arm and raised it to his face, pushing back a lock of curly black hair. When he went to touch his own cheek though, the fingers brushed against an angry scar that Nolkeir hadn't paid much mind to until just then, and the hand abruptly fell away, the younger man turning away in shame.

"I … I …"

"Back to stammering again, are we?" Nolkeir asked coolly, caring not that his tone apparently caused more shame for the other. "No matter. You have caught me in a good mood this day."

The smaller man turned back to him, gasping upon sobs that seemed to pour from him. His eyes remained on the floor of the cargo hold as Nolkeir spoke.

"I … have?"

"Mmm," the large businessman nodded, not worrying over the fact that the other wasn't looking upon him to see. "What are you called?"

"P-Parisa," the other choked out between his tears.

Tears. Nolkeir had no use of them. But an emotional youth meant a vulnerable one, and the man quickly calculated the situation in his head. Let the boy cry, he thought. It only means he will be more likely to accept my … kindness. He smirked inwardly as he waited a couple of heartbeats before continuing, allowing this Parisa's volatile state take the boy over.

"Wh-what did you mean?" the smaller young man eventually asked. "Before, when you said I caught you … in a good mood."

"Simple, really," Nolkeir shrugged, not allowing his sly smile to show. "You have need of somewhere to … sleep."

Parisa nodded, still not meeting the other's eyes though.

"And I," Nolkeir said slowly, enunciating his words to make his meaning clear. "Wish to have someone to warm my bed."

A keeper?! Parisa could hardly believe his ears. This man … this non-Zercan man expected him to agree to become his mistress? And what status would such lead for him here on this planet? Whatever planet it was, anyway. Upon Zerca, his keeper's status became his own and he was treated with more respect the higher up the social ladder he was associated with. Turean, for example, was considered one of the elite ranks … the best friend of the Shodan. Only being kept by Sariphan himself would have lifted Parisa any higher in the social world. And that was impossible. Sariphan had lived like a recluse when it came to bed partners before those infernal earthlings came into the picture, choosing to occupy himself with keeping his people safe and happy. Parisa had tried to get him before Turean, after all. But he'd settled for the sexy blonde when the Shodan proved impossible to bed.

But what of this new place? Parisa had rarely left Zerca before, and then had only accompanied Turean on a handful of trips. He'd found Turean's ship dull and the men uninteresting. This man before him now seemed colder than Sariphan had ever been to him and even less interested in entertaining him. Yet did Parisa remember the mars upon his once-beautiful face and the reasons why he could not return to Zerca and his old life. And really, this deal seemed akin to the one he'd had with Turean, so could he complain. Sighing he nodded his head.

"Very well," the man said softly, holding out his hand. "Let us shake upon it."

Parisa looked at the hand warily, raw reluctance washing over him for the first time. On his planet, such could only be done by one's true born mate, and the act itself created a bond between the two.

"It is the way we do things here on Mentsiquar," Nolkeir added as he kept his hand out and waited. "To seal all business deals."

Mentsiquar? The industrial world? Parisa bristled at first but then sighed to himself, knowing he had no other option but to accept the deal. But the handshake? Must he do it? Well, it wasn't like this man could be mate-material. He was too cold and unemotional to even have a heart. But such was still frowned upon on Zerca. Even Turean had never shaken his hand.

"Handshakes are forbidden by my kind, except with one's intended," he squeaked, looking into the man's eyes.

"You're not with your kind anymore, Parisa," Nolkeir reminded him, stretching his hand closer toward him.

Parisa shook his head in defeat and took the proffered hand, expecting a short shake and naught more. The ensuing jolt of energy took him by surprise and his eyes widened in terror. Nolkeir's eyes, too, widened, though Parisa was sure the other would be unaware of what was transpiring. And it was too late to pull back now anyway. His heart slammed in his chest and aligned itself with the other man's before he was finally able to pull away. Nolkeir's face took on a triumphant gleam before morphing back into bored disinterest.

Parisa snatched his hand back when it was done and turned away in despair. Whether he liked it or not, he was now mated … to the universe's coldest bastard, it seemed. How fitting, he thought.

Parisa followed the man rather sullenly, pissed at himself for his emotions of which he seemed to have lost total control over. He didn't know what the hell was wrong with him, crying and carrying on so. He was a mistress, after all; it was in the job description to keep one's emotions to one's self and be whatever your master wanted you to be. That, of course, seemed to be quite a bit harder to do now that the life he had known and loved was over and this one was forced upon him.

He had never really thought about mating ... well, at least not since he was forced out of such fanciful thoughts and thrust into reality. Parisa was the son of a widowed bearer who did nothing more than lay on his back since he was now dead inside, his son was expected to do the same and just as well. Parisa had done so and had become a better pet than most could ever hope to be. He'd moved up in the world but made the mistake of becoming comfortable. It was odd really, that he could see how wrong he had been in Turean's case now that he was away from Zerca. While he was there, he could think of little more than remaining. The Zercan shook his head at himself now. He should have recognized the signs of attachment as he was taught and remembered the key purpose of a mistress or pet. You were used while you were needed, and then cast out when the master found his mate, or tired of you. At least his last master was going to be so nice as to set him up with a new master. But Parisa had ruined it.

And now he was mated. Unintentionally, unwantedly, but mated all the same. The guy, this Nolkeir ... other than a slight widening of his eyes, he didn't seem to be affected at all. A zercan couple would be inseperable at the first moments of bonding ... but his new mate wasn't a Zercan and he walked a few feet before him, as if he couldn't care less whether his mate followed or not. But then, this guy didn't even know he was now a mated man. Parisa wondered how he would take the news when he found out.

"Come along now. I haven't the time to wait for you. Are you coming or not?"

Parisa's head jerked up abruptly to stare at the jetkar before him. They had such transport vehicles on zerca as well they were rarely used, the Shodan prefering more traditional methods as opposed to such an imported custom. Here, he thought, looking around, it seemed quite the norm to ride such a thing. Nodding he stepped past the man and slid into the soft seat, sighing at the comfortable cushion beneath him. This was what he was used to ... utter comfort, as opposed to the hard floor of the ship. Leaning back against the seat, he closed his eyes and took a moment to relax. Well, until the Mentsiquarian slid in beside him.

"Jetkar. Home." He stated the command for the computerized hover-car and waited until they were well on their way before turning to his passenger. His heart ached as he did so, the beauty of the boy beside him was overwhelming. Even with the scar, he was by far the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. He was everything, looks-wise, Nolkeir had ever wanted in a man and he found that he could hardly wait for a taste of what this young thing had to offer.

Tearing his eyes away from the resting Zercan, he stared down at his hand, the same hand he had held the boy's with. It seemed to tingle, almost as if it were singed with a unique current that had his entire body begging to be closer to the other's. He flexed his fingers a bit, trying to ease the pleasing feel from it much like one would rid a limb from sleep. This did not work as much as Nolkeir had hoped it would and had him wondering just what the hell had happened that he felt this way from just a touch with the other male.