How about another look back? From Loose Id Press.. here is Absolute Perfection, a shifter tale like no other… cause its a Naga and a Seahorse making whoopee, not babies… if the Seahorse has anything to say about it! LOL I may have to revisit this universe! *g*
“Mate! Oh mate?” Taza’s huge eyes teared up pitifully as he searched the small house for any signs of his tall, thin male. “Mate?”
He stomped his feet in a fit of pique, not ready to admit defeat yet.
In one hand he held a power cuff, one capable of allowing him to know the whereabouts of his mate at any given time.
In the other he held a bottle of lube, hoping for the chance to explain some things about sea-horse mating rituals.
Maybe leaving out those hastily hand-drawn sketches had not been a good plan for introducing him to the world of sea-horse sex.
But what was done was done, and it was time to move ahead with matters…before his family managed to find a loophole in this arrangement. Being married off to that sea hag and popping out a dozen of her brats for the sake of posterity—no. Nothing was worse than that fate—even death! And he had flirted with the idea of taking on his humanoid form and slashing his legs before swimming with the sharks quite a few times.
But this solution seemed so much better.
Actually things could not have gone better if he had planned them.
He had only wanted to escape into the human world for a while—maybe ten years or so—just until they forgot about him. That overgrown human who had netted him while screaming about eternal life if he consumed mermaid flesh had not been in his plans.
In fact, the whole “being tied down and covered with garlic and cracked pepper” idea had not been in the plans. But when the crazy human had pulled out a fillet knife, Taza knew it was time to depart in the most expedient way possible.
Chewing through the netting wasn’t the most glamorous thing he had ever done, but it had gotten him out unnoticed. And when the butcher had left to get oil for his deep metal bowl he called a fryer, Taza knew he had to make his move.
He was still picking hemp out of his rear fangs from chewing through the netting, but he was doing it as a free and uneaten being.
The bar was the only open sanctuary he had seen during his freedom flight—besides, he felt drawn to the place—and he’d raced to get there. Hiding behind the tallest being seemed to be the best idea he’d had in a long time, especially since the human had discovered his escape moments after he had climbed out of the ground-floor window of the crazy human’s wood-and-metal shack.
Watching that fool get knocked on his butt was the best thing ever. And the vampire—he and his family were pretty cool too. But the best…ah, the best was Astika.
The male managed to give new meaning to the words “tall drink of water,” which was a human expression he had learned in Fells Point while trying to gather enough intel and language to fit in with the indigenous population.
“Gathering intel” was human military speak for finding out what was going on in a new place before he made a fool of himself.
He didn’t want anyone thinking he was crazy or odd or anything like that. He wanted to be known as a nice, bright, human military commander. He had seen some of those around on the docks.
Apparently all one needed to do to rule the people was drink a lot and yell at men and women who wore strange garb called uniforms. All too easy! So he had been prepared to yell and scream “semper fi” a few times to make his story believable during his first real excursion onto dry human land.
The hair might be cause for some concern with some of the uniformed humans, but he could just tell them that he was deep undercover.
They had to have blue hair in the Middle of the East, or whatever that place they were sending their men to. It would be odd if all of humanity was stuck with just the black, blond, brown, and red hair that he had seen. Some interesting people had shown up at the docks from time to time with their hair the color of sunsets, vibrant pinks and yellows. Surely a military command officer would have the longest, brightest hair of them all!
Astika had the most amazing dark blue-black hair. And he was so tall too! Rarely had Taza ever seen such a tall specimen—one that wasn’t bent on eating him, that is.
And he hissed when he talked. That was exciting, almost as exciting as his split tongue.
It had been clear from the beginning that his mate was not human. One had to be a real plankton-head to miss that with this tough skin and his slitted eyes.
And unlike the undead one, his mate was warm to the touch and smelled like exotic spices. His skin was so soft and yet so tough that his claws barely made a scratch, yet it felt so firm and luscious…
Just what was his mate, anyway?
Whatever he was, Taza knew that his mate possessed some power.
He really hadn’t meant to eavesdrop on his conversation, but when his mate’s voice rose, so filled with agitation and despair, he’d had to see what was going on.
What he’d heard astounded him.
He didn’t know what half the titles were or what language he was speaking, but it was clear that his mate was royal as well, and that he had issues with his parents.
Who didn’t in this day and time? But when he caught the echoes of pain in his mate’s voice… Taza had to do something.
But before he could act, his mate hurled his cell phone-talking device across the room and watched as it shattered into a lot of little metallic and plastic pieces.
He seemed so lost that the only thing he could think of doing was to irritate the male until he sounded normal. Irritated seemed to be the norm for his mate, so he said the first thing that came to mind and went to investigate outside his new abode.
It was beautiful—there were sand gardens and bright vibrant flowers in all the colors, and it all filled him with a sense of peace that he had not felt since he had been in his undersea gardens at home.
He lost himself there, spending way more time than he expected. So when he made his way back to the house, he was a little surprised to find it empty.
The cell phone still lay where it had been, in pieces, but it had been swept up in a neat pile.
To Taza, it looked like his mate would be willing to compromise.
So now it was time to find the mate in question and actually figure out what he was. There were so many new and important things to discover. Not only did he have to learn about his likes and dislikes; he had to find out just exactly what his new mate was.
“Astika,” he called again, moving through the house, checking out all the rooms on the first floor.
There was a foyer, which was well lit and filled with colorful tiles. There was a small living room, a den where his mate had spoken on the phone-listening device, which was filled with bookshelves. There was a small desk and several armless couches strewn with pillows. There was a kitchen that was ideal and spacious, filled with large windows that allowed the sunlight to shine through. And there were two rooms he had yet to vet out.
Approaching one, he found a small room bare of furniture except for what seemed like hundreds of pillows and a huge set of glass doors that overlooked the rear of the house and a beautiful human-created pond.
But no Astika.
He was tempted to explore this room further but decided it would probably be in his best interest to find his mate.
He exited the room, found a small bathroom behind a door that blended seamlessly with the walls, and then came upon the final room.
If his mate was on the first floor, he had to be in this room. But if he was on the second floor, there would be problems.
Sea horses were…well, they were notorious for being afraid of heights. And by heights, anything seven feet or more off dry ground would send them into a paralyzing seizure that only time and a lot of cuddling would cure.
It was one of the reasons that his people so rarely came to mingle with the folks on land who loved their tall structures and walking ways.
So, praying that his mate would have enough common sense to keep his feet firmly planted close to the ground, he turned the knob and pushed the door open.
And there was his mate, all several feet of…
Several feet? More like several miles.
At the inane sound that poured from his throat, the long thing that appeared to be his mate turned in his direction.
It was a snake…kind of.
It was long—several coils filled the large room, almost hiding the body of his mate in a ropy, snakelike, copper-colored body.
It also had his mate’s upper body and head.
Yes, it appeared to be his mate—it smelled like him, and it sounded like his agitated sighs…
“Um, mate?” He took a step toward the hall, just in case it was some kind of serpent that was having trouble digesting Astika and was choking on his lower limbs.
The power cuff, the only real memento of his birthright, was dropped and forgotten.
The voice sounded like Astika’s.
“What…are you doing?”
“I mean…what are you”—he waved his arms at the whole package, taking in his mate’s long blue hair right down to the spaded tip of his tail—“doing?”
Sighing, the snake that was apparently his mate turned fully toward him, affording him a view he never thought that he would see.
It was his mate’s torso, and the dark top half of his skin began to lighten around his waist and hips, where a delicate scale pattern began and the humanoid part ended.
The snake body started as small, dark-hued scales, which gradually lessened in color until the underbelly was nearly white. The scale pattern blended in and out, the copper becoming pale in some areas and then transitioning to bold splashes of color.
His mate’s body looked like the ebbing and flowing waves of the sea.
“I am relaxxxing in my natural sssstate,” he muttered as he adjusted his body in order to fully turn to his mate. “If I sssstay in my human guise for too long, it causes me great pain and disssscomfort.”
“Oh.” Taza nodded as if that made sense, as if his words were completely understandable and coherent.
“What are you again?”
He knew that he looked confused, but it was not every day a sea horse realized that he was mated to…to a snake!
“I am a Nāga.”
“N-Nāga?” Taza paled.
“But…but they—I don’t know if you know this, Astika, but Nāgas have been known to eat…well…my kind.”
“As if.” Astika snorted, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms as he glared at his new mate.
“It is a documented fact! Sea serpents…”
“I am not a ssssea sssserpent!” Astika fairly roared, his eyes nearly glowing in his anger. “I am a Nāga! I am the thing that eatssss the ssssea sssserpents!”
“You…” Taza paled further. “Y-you eat sea serpents?”
“Figure of sssspeech,” he said with a groan, rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
“Oh, so you won’t eat me?”
Huge liquid eyes blinked up at him, almost glittering in the sunlight that the large windows let into the room. A small smile tugged at his lips, a smile that was both innocent and questioning.
“So…does this mean you will not eat me in the good way either?”
Astika answered by dropping his forehead into his palm, shaking his head as he muttered quietly. Taza was only able to make out a few words.
“Mate…? Inssssane…inssssane creature… What am I going to do with it? Father…kill…sssslowly…much…pain.”
His words jerked to a halt as Taza moved in closer and grabbed the spade of his tail.
“Warm,” Taza noted, stroking the firm skin of his tail. “Warm and firm, yet soft. I thought scales were supposed to be cold and slimy.”
“They are…if you are a fissssh!”
Astika flexed his muscles and jerked his tail from his mate’s clutches. “And do you mind? My sssspade is very ssssensitive.”
“Spade,” Taza mused, ignoring the fact that his mate was glowering at him. “What else is sensitive?”
Before Astika could answer, Taza entered the room fully and was busy stroking every bit of tail he could get his hands on.
“I kind of like this,” the sea horse mused, grinning madly as he investigated the snakelike body of his mate. “It is odd. You know, eels never feel like this, and we avoid sea serpents.”
“I am a Nāga!”
“Quiet, mate,” Taza grumbled. “It is impolite to interrupt.”
“It issss alsssso impolite to sssstroke anothhher’ssss body without permissssion!”
“But I am not just any other person. I am your mate,” Taza purred, his fingers dancing over the smooth scales. “A mate does not need permission or have to ask. Love the hiss, by the way.”
Grumbling, Astika jerked his tail away again and began to slither out of the room.
“Where are you going?” Taza called out, admiring the flex and press of the tail’s muscles as his mate moved from the room. “I wasn’t done exploring!”
“You are done,” the irate Nāga snipped, sliding past his mate and moving down the hall.
“But…but there is so much I need to know about Nāgas!” Taza called out, fuming as he gave chase.
His Nāga sure could move fast. He wondered if it was a trait of the species or just Astika specificlly.
“What you need to know,” Astika called back, “issss that I am hungry. And ssssuddenly ssssea horsssse issss looking good for my menu.”
“Well, hell,” Taza snapped, pausing in the hall, watching as the spade of his mate’s tail disappeared into the kitchen. “What am I supposed to feed you, anyway? What do Nāgas eat?”
This required some thought.
Humming to himself, Taza turned away from following his mate. He moved toward the den, remembering the bookcases filled with human books, and decided that maybe he would do a little research.
The dolphins had been good enough to teach him to read the squiggles the humans called writing so he could avoid potential trouble spots like underwater bombs and tuna-boat nets, though he still felt that writing was stupid. Why would you write words that would eventually disappear or people could interpret wrong? And why did they have to have so many languages to begin with? It would have made more sense if they established at least one language that they all could understand and trade in…though they traded goods for paper.
Stupid humans. Everyone knew you traded goods for other goods or service.
But the bound writings—books—were here, and instead of dwelling on the general oddness of humans, he would be better off spending his time learning what he could about his mate.
He lived in this dwelling, so there should be information about his kind here.
He should be able to find what he needed for the care and feeding of Nāgas in the books.
After all, that’s what books were created for. The dolphins told him you could always trust what you read in books.