The Power of Persuasion [The Triad Series #2]

Chapter 12

Willow felt rather than heard Ian Mac wake up behind him.

“Coffee, Ian Mac? I have more water for you, too.”

“That would be great.”

Willow waited as Ian Mac struggled to sit up against his pack and threw off the blanket placed over him. His black hair was damp with sweat and his clothes stuck to his body.

“God, it’s hot.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Not really.”

“You should still eat.” Willow came over and gave Ian Mac the mug of coffee and an energy bar.

“Not dried kivin?”

Willow chuckled. “We don’t have to do everything the old way. This is a far better way to get nutrients into you fast.”

“And it tastes about the same.” He ate the bar and sipped the scalding hot coffee.

Around them the jungle slumbered in the simmering heat. When he’d finished Willow handed Ian Mac his water bottle.

“Drink this. When you’re done, we’ll walk down to the river and replenish our supply.”

He rose to his feet, locked his hands and raised them over his head stretching out his limbs. Ian Mac’s gaze followed the motions of his body, but when Willow tried to catch his eye, he looked away as if he was embarrassed to be caught staring. It was hard to understand the other male sometimes.

“How long was I out?”

“Not very long. We still have plenty of time to reach camp before it gets dark.”

“Good.” Ian Mac sighed. “I’m used to being the super soldier, not the one lagging behind.”

“There is nothing to be ashamed of. You will soon become accustomed to our world.” Willow held out his hand to pull Ian Mac to his feet. “Let’s go down to the river.”

Ian Mac still wore a black T-shirt that now stuck to his skin, green camouflage pants and thick military boots. He was taller than Willow by half a head but not as wide shouldered. His eyes were a dark blue color that reminded Willow of the Pavlovan night sky.

“Come.”

Willow picked up the half-dozen empty water bottles and slung them over his shoulder. He’d already abandoned his coat, his shirt and his footwear. If it stayed this hot, he was contemplating taking off his pants and reverting to his native dress of nothing but a few strategic leather straps for the remainder of the journey. He wondered what Ian Mac would make of that.

They reached the riverbank and Willow set the bottles down and started to unlace his pants.

“What are you doing?”

He glanced back at Ian Mac and hid a smile. “I’m going to wash off in the river after I fill these bottles.” He allowed his gaze to sweep over his companion. “If you’re hot, you should join me.”

An image from Ian Mac’s head escaped and Willow saw himself and Bran messing around in the river the previous day. Bran’s hand was on Willow’s cock.

Interesting that Ian Mac had noticed that… Willow continued to strip, his keen hearing picking up the whisper of laces being untied and the soft hiss of a zipper being lowered. He stepped into the water and waded out into the center of the stream enjoying the coolness against his skin. Keeping his back to the bank, he went deeper until he was able to duck his head under completely.

When he surfaced, Ian Mac was also in the river. His skin was pale and his chest was dusted with black hair that arrowed downward below the surface line. With a groan he sank into the water and disappeared.

“Does that feel better, Ian Mac?”

“Damn right it does.”

Willow rolled onto his back and floated on the water, closing his eyes against the insistent glare of the sun. He was aware of Ian Mac floating beside him, but content to enjoy the moment.

“Kaiden isn’t my mate.”

Willow kept his eyes closed and his body relaxed. “So he said.”

“I wouldn’t wish for you to get the wrong impression.”

“About what?”

“About what I might have inadvertently shared with you when I was too tired to shield earlier.”

“That you and Kaiden share a bed?”

“There are very few telepaths on Earth. Neeve needed two males to see her through her mating cycle. Kaiden and I were volunteered.”

“But you do not consider him your mate even though you fuck him?”

“I haven’t fucked him, I’ve—”

The image Willow received from Ian Mac’s mind this time made his cock jerk to attention. He swallowed hard.

“Did you like doing that to him?”

For a long moment Ian Mac didn’t communicate and then he sighed. “Yeah, I did.”

“But you told me you don’t kiss males. So you didn’t kiss him while you did that? You didn’t kiss his cock as well?”

“No. I don’t…do that.”

“Or let a man do it to you.” Willow flipped over onto his stomach and swam away from Ian Mac. It didn’t make any difference. He could swim to the other side of the Pavlovan Ocean and he’d still be aware of this male. “In my society, it is permissible for anyone to touch anyone who welcomes such contact.”

“So I noticed.”

“You saw Bran touch me?”

“Yes.”

Willow stopped swimming and started to tread water. “You were offended by that.”

“I…don’t know. You have to understand that on Earth, we tend to bond with one other person, that’s it. I’m not used to the Pavlovian idea of threesomes or the Hakron idea of casual sex.”

“Yet you allowed Neeve, your mate, to sleep with Kaiden.”

“That was different. The choice was hers. She needed another male, and Kaiden was available.”

“And you shared him, too.”

“I did not, I—”

“I saw what you did, Ian Mac.” Willow resurfaced right next to the other man and placed his palm flat on his chest. “And what about me? What if I offered myself to you as Kaiden did? Would you touch me? Would you make me come for you?”

He slid his hand lower, down over Ian Mac’s tight stomach and wrapped his fist around the swell of his thick cock.

“Well?”

Ian Mac groaned and surged forward in Willow’s tight grip. “God…”

Willow drew a slow breath and allowed his mind to envelop Ian Mac’s. It was like stroking down the raised spines of an Arkarda. He didn’t do anything except hold his companion’s throbbing cock and wait for the frantic beat of his heart to slow down under his palm. The first touch of Ian Mac’s mind against his was like the hesitant lick of a man tasting another male for the first time and just as potent.

Willow continued to breathe and simply experience the sense of Ian Mac allowing him inside. A skilled hunter knew that patience was the most important quality needed to lure his prey and he’d waited a long time for this moment.

A very long time.

He could wait awhile longer. Keeping his mind locked with Ian Mac’s, he slowly released the other man’s cock and pushed gently away from his side.

“Don’t…”

Willow shoved his wet hair out of his eyes and smiled. “When you’re ready, Ian Mac you know where I am. Now let us continue our journey. If we don’t move on soon it will be too dark to travel.”

The sun was setting below the canopy of the jungle-like forest and all the light was being sucked out of the sky. Mac glanced over at his silent companion who walked easily, his pack and Mac’s on his shoulder. The unbelievable, unwanted connection he’d formed with Willow in the stream continued to stretch between them like a spider’s web glistening with possibilities and fraught with danger.

“We’ll be there soon.”

As if he’d noticed Mac’s sudden attention, Willow finally spoke.

“Good.” Mac replied.

They walked on, his boots crunching loudly through the dead leaves while Willow’s bare feet made no sound. Mac stopped walking.

“I want to make something clear to you.”

“Go ahead, Ian Mac.”

“I’m not used to this—being pursued, being hunted.”

“And who do you think is hunting you?”

Mac made an exasperated sound. “You know what I mean. I’m already fucking messed up about all this, and you’re…”

“I’m not pursuing you, Ian Mac. If I gave you that impression, I can only apologize.” Willow held his gaze. There was nothing in his face or his telepathic stream that was in any way hostile or angry or anything.

“You’re playing games with my head.”

“Not at all.”

“You touched my fucking cock.”

“If I offended you, I apologize again. It is natural for me to touch others. You should know that.”

“You touch all the men you know like that?”

Willow angled his head on one side and studied Mac. “Why are you so angry? Does the thought of me touching another man offend you, or are you simply jealous?” He turned back to the path and started walking. “I see the lights of the camp. We will be there in a few moments.”

Mac stayed where he was and tried to gather the shreds of his temper and his dignity together. What the hell was wrong with him? The Pavlovan nation was doing a fine job of messing with his head. He was a super soldier. A superior being, an athlete, a goddammned killing machine and here he was agonizing over another man like a teenager with his first crush.

His hand clenched into a fist. He was flat-out exhausted that was the problem. A good night of rest should set his biometrics to rights and he’d begin to regain his sense of what was right and what was wrong. That was all it was—a temporary, unnecessary physical glitch.

“What’s wrong, Mac?”

“Neeve.” He allowed his thoughts to flow out toward her, grateful for the sense of rightness that they were on the same team and that they were meant to be together. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too. My mother is driving me nuts. I’ve tried to keep out of your head, but how’s the trip?”

“It’s fascinating. I’m learning a lot about your history.”

“It’s a great experience. My mother made us all take the same route when we were kids.”

“Did you have Hakron bodyguards, too?”

“Yes. They are amazingly good in that terrain.” She hesitated. “Are you feeling okay? I noticed you needed a boost to communicate with Kaiden earlier?”

“It’s taking a bit of time for my body to adjust to these new conditions, but Kaiden says I should be fine in the next two days.”

“Good, because when you come back I’m going to need you.”

“I’ll be ready for anything by then. I promise you.” He found himself smiling as he registered the desire in her voice. Only a few months ago that might have scared him, but now he was raring to go and desperate to get back and claim her again.

“Then I’ll be as patient as I can.” She paused. “My Mother says to give her love to Willow, whoever that might be.”

Mac hoped his jerk of surprise didn’t register. “He’s one of my bodyguards. I’ll pass the message on.”

“Thanks, and I’ll let you go.”

Mac started walking again, his gaze fixed on the flickering light of the fire ahead, and the shadows of his bodyguards. What did the Oracle want with Willow? Did she already know what had happened in the stream earlier that day? Dammit, of course she did. She was the Oracle. He straightened his shoulders and kept going. A hot meal and a good night’s sleep had better straighten him out, or something was going to give…

Later that night, Mac woke up and realized he was dreaming about Neeve and Willow and that his hand was wrapped around his hard cock. The need to come had forced him out of sleep and into pained, throbbing awareness. Beside him Bran snored away oblivious to Mac’s discomfort, which was just as well, because from what he’d seen of his bodyguards, lending another man a hand with an erection was completely acceptable behavior.

He’d intended to avoid Willow over dinner, but he hadn’t been given the opportunity. The other man had spent most of his time checking through the supplies, fixing his equipment and had then gone out hunting with Ungar and hadn’t returned before Mac had decided to go to bed.

Realizing his chances of getting back to sleep were decreasing with every second, Mac got up and crawled out of the open tent. The two Pavlovan moons were bright silver disks of light in the dark purple sky and illuminated the forest without him needing another light source.

Willow and Ungar sat at the fire, cutting and scraping away at some dead animal. Even as Mac watched they finished whatever they were doing, and Ungar rose to his feet, slapped Willow on the shoulder and disappeared in the direction of the stream with the remains of the creature. Mac tensed as Willow cleaned his knife and put it away.

With a sigh, Willow stood up and stretched. Apart from some leather strapping around his groin, he was completely naked and smeared with the dried blood of his kill. Without a backward glance, he turned toward the rocks that bordered one side of their camp and headed toward them.

Mac watched him go and looked back toward his tent where Bran snored on. After seeing Willow he wouldn’t be sleeping again. Fueled with a mixture of rage and frustration, Mac went after him. As he found his way between the rocks, he began to smell sulphur and steam, but it didn’t deter him. The path narrowed to a passageway hardly wider than his shoulders with sheer rocks on either side that at some points closed over his head. The smell of minerals grew stronger as did the clouds of moisture billowing from the opening of a cave.

He paused before he went inside. Not because he was unsure of where Willow had gone—he knew that in his soul—but because he still wasn’t sure what he was doing, or why he needed to confront a man who had made it very clear that he was interested in Mac in every way possible.

Dammit, he had to sort this out before he went back to Neeve.

With that thought, he went into the cave and almost slipped on the slick uneven surface. He grabbed onto the nearest solid object and stared around the amazing space. Black rocks glinted with a thousand tiny splinters of light mimicking the starry night sky outside and surrounded a series of pools from which rose clouds of steam.

“Hot springs.”

His voice echoed around the closed in space. He remembered Willow had mentioned them earlier. A splash drew his attention deeper into the caves. Taking off his shoes, he moved on past the first two pools filled with turquoise water and headed inward.

Willow sat on the edge of one of the pools splashing water over his muscled torso. He made no sign that he knew Mac was there, but he didn’t need to. Since that moment in the lake, they were fully aware of each other without even trying. With a soft groan, Willow slid into the pool and ducked his head under the water. When he came back up to the surface he was facing Mac, his expression serene.

“Are you coming in? The water is hot.”

Wordlessly, Mac stripped off his T-shirt and pants and got into the pool, hissing at the heat of the water despite Willow’s warning. It felt good against his skin and he sunk to the bottom pushing off with his feet to resurface.

Willow sat on the side of the pool, his arms spread wide, his eyes closed, droplets of water slid down his face and over the pale green skin of his hairless chest.

“Sit. There’s a ledge here.”

Mac swam over and hoisted himself up to sit on the rock. “Listen, Willow—”

The other man turned and put his finger on Mac’s lips, his silver gaze calm. “Not now, Ian Mac. I’m tired and I wish to enjoy this sacred place.”

“But—”

“Please.”

Mac jerked his head away from Willow’s touch and fixed his gaze on the other side of the rock pool. He took several long deep breaths aware of Willow enfolding his mind in a blanket of peacefulness that somehow made him feel even more irritated.

“Ian Mac, relax. Stop fighting me.”

Mac set his jaw and attempted to block Willow from his thoughts.

His companion gave a quiet chuckle. “It’s too late for that.”

“Get out of my head.” Mac clambered out of the pool and stared down at Willow who raised an eyebrow.

“What is it you want, Ian Mac?” Willow got out and came to stand by Mac, water ran down his body in shining rivulets of silver

“You to leave me the fuck alone.”

“You are the one who followed me in here. I did nothing to hunt you down or lure you to me.”

Mac poked Willow in the chest. “Your very existence is a threat.”

“A threat to what?”

Mac shoved Willow hard, but he only rocked on his feet and stayed far too close.

“You don’t really want to fight me, Ian Mac.”

“You’re wrong about that.” He drew back his hand, but Willow caught his wrist. “I’m a super soldier. I can rip you apart with my bare hands.”

Willow released him. “Then go ahead. But I know what’s in your mind. I know the truth and so do you. You just have to allow yourself to believe it.” He reached out and cupped Mac’s chin. “You don’t want to fight me, you want to fuck me and that scares you.”

“I do not—”

Willow went down on his knees and nuzzled the growing swell of Mac’s shaft through the clinging fabric of his wet boxers. With a stifled sound, Mac reached down and grabbed Willow’s long hair to pull him away and then found himself groaning as Willow sucked the head of his shaft, cotton and all into his mouth.

“Let me do this for you, Ian Mac.”

And God help him, now he wasn’t shoving Willow away, he was shoving himself deeper into his mouth, one hand clutched in his hair, the other pushing down his boxers to give the man more access to his throbbing, needy cock. And Willow didn’t disappoint him, swallowing him whole and sucking every inch of him deep.

Mac closed his eyes as a rising tide of lust, need and fear swept over him.

“It’s all right, Ian Mac, I have you safe. Let me do this for you, let me make you come.”

He let himself fall into the complexities of Willow’s mind, the shadows, the need to please him, the exquisite enjoyment his companion took in pleasuring him. As he sucked Mac’s cock, Willow also cupped his balls, his thumb sliding up and down the soft skin of his taint to rub and circle Mac’s puckered hole.

“God—” Mac started to come in endless thick waves his hips jerking forward to cram as much of himself down Willow’s throat as he could. He rocked back on his heels only his grip on Willow’s head stopping him from falling to the ground. With great care he peeled each finger from Willow’s hair and sat down on the nearest flat rock with a thump.

Willow stayed on his knees facing Mac and looked down at his own throbbing cock. He was already wet. With one finger he circled the slit of his crown drawing even more moisture out, and used it to slick his fingers down over his hard shaft. Still maintaining their telepathic link, he started to play with his cock and balls, rubbing and squeezing, sharing each internal shudder of pleasure and hint of his desperate need to come, making Mac shiver in his turn.

Licking his middle finger, Willow eased it lower until he could reach past his taint and circle his hole, easing the tip deeper with every undulation.

“Do you like this, Ian Mac? Seeing my fuck myself? Shall I push my finger all the way in, add another, add more?”

Mac wasn’t aware of moving but the next second he was kneeling in front of Willow, his gaze fixed on the motions of his hands. Every time Willow pushed his finger deep he trembled with the sensation and shared it with Mac whose own cock filled out again in helpless response.

“I…want…”

“What do you want, Ian Mac?”

He licked his lips. “I want my fingers in you.”

Willow shuddered. “Yes.”

Mac crawled around behind him and smoothed one shaking hand over Willow’s arse before running his finger down between his buttocks. Slicking up pre-cum on his fingers, Mac eased one deep inside Willow, enjoying the burst of pleasure that flowered through their locked minds.

With a guttural sound, Willow reached back between his legs and grabbed Mac’s cock and started to rub it in time to Mac’s finger thrusts. Mac reciprocated by wrapping his body around Willow’s and finding his cock.

Pleasure blossomed and then was overtaken by the sheer, driving need to come as Mac forgot caution and focused on giving Willow every ounce of pleasure he could wring out of him. They came together, minds melding into a red-hot flare of passion, which left Mac gasping and coming hard.

With a groan, Willow rolled over, taking himself and Ian Mac back into the hot water pool, their limbs still tangled, their hearts racing. Willow slicked his hair out of his face and smiled at Mac.

“Better than fighting, aye?”

Ian Mac grabbed his shoulder and held him slightly away from him. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Touched me?” Willow shrugged. “I wanted you to.”

“And I still shouldn’t have done it. I’m mated to Neeve.”

“So?”

“That means something to me.”

“As it should, First Male. I don’t understand why you are upset.”

“Because I shouldn’t have touched you while I’m in another relationship.”

Willow frowned. “She will not mind.”

“She might not, but I will. I was fucking disloyal to both of you.” Ian Mac backed away and climbed out of the water. “I’m sorry, Willow. I promise I’ll stop bugging you and keep away for the rest of this trip.”

“But—”

Ian Mac turned away, picked up his clothing and walked out.

Willow stayed where he was and tried to understand what the heeze was going on. Was Ian Mac blind? Did he really think Neeve would object to their joining? She was a Pavlovan and the Oracle’s chosen heir. For a wild moment, he considered chasing after the other male and showing him just how hard it was going to be to walk away.

But that would achieve nothing. Willow let out a long slow breath. His heart ached, and for the first time in many years he questioned the certainties he had lived his life by. Was it possible that his interpretation of the Oracle’s prophecy was wrong?

A wave of sadness flooded over him. He would mediate and pray on the matter as they headed back to the temple. He would also do as he’d been asked, and keep away from Ian Mac.