When one was a solitary, with only one mate in all the world, the wordrelief took on a newmeaning.To judge by the ensuing, breathless conversation, Cor and Buttercup were mates after all—and joyous ones. Though Pahndir had wanted a future like this for his friend, knowing she had it hurtall the same.He remembered being that much in love, remembered needing so deeply to connect that it wasagony. Thallah had been more than his genetic match; she’d been the perfect playmate for hiserotic adventuring, a lover and confidante. He’d thought he’d known her better than any livingcreature until she killed herself.That had been a breach of trust he still didn’t understand.His body woke at the memories, but even more at Buttercup’s extremely aroused nearness. Heknew she was part-human; that bit of news had reached him. He supposed this was why her chiwas so intoxicating, why it had made him feel he could almost come when she stroked him. Herenergy teased him now. His heat was days away, but—as had happened so many times at thepillow school—he felt her presence spur it on early.He lifted within his clothing, thickening, stretching, growing heavy with blood and lust. Imagesclawed unbidden through his mind: tearing Prince Corum off his beloved, taking his placebetween her legs, plunging into Buttercup so hard she screamed.In the end, the desperate pounding of his cock was too much to bear. He’d been deprived of truerelease for too long—through every heat since Thallah died, through every class of students whotried to devise new ways to “get a rise” from him. No matter that the drive for sex wasn’t thatdifferent from the drive for life; some dark and bestial corner of his soul was perfectly ready tobetray his one great love. His soul was exhausted with just surviving. It wanted to mate again.He shoved his hand into his trousers and gripped himself. Up and down he rubbed his achingerection, his fist so tight the pressure burned his skin. He didn’t care. The moans outside theboxes increased in volume, the eager slapping of flesh to flesh. If he couldn’t join them, byInfinity, he could lose himself in their lust. At the least, he knew his orgasm would be good. Allliving beings radiated extra etheric force at climax, and from what he’d tasted of it already,Buttercup’s was sure to be sweet.He timed his strokes to match their excitement—faster, tighter, and then their mutual peak wasthere. The prince and Buttercup cried out hoarsely, the energy of their orgasm rolling over himlike a hot, moist wind—a palpable shock wave of ecstasy.He was not prepared for the intensity of the effect. His sensations peaked beyond any he couldrecall, his balls contracting as if a large, strong hand had slapped them to his root.He tensed, throttling back a scream. This couldn’t be happening. This was too much. Too good.