Ktas has every reason to think of himself as a lucky man. His best friend and bondmate, Teiba, has finally completed his enlistment time in the Waeseran Starservice and come home to the clanstead for good. The s'ruessef family is prospering, with its numerous members in good health and general accord with one another. If life and work on the isolated riverside farm seems a little boring compared to his own lost Starservice career, that is just reality, something to be accepted. At least he survived the accident that cost him his chance to rise through the ranks, earn glory and power, perhaps even command his own ship one day.
The lingering problems from his injuries are minor, at worst restricting him from a few types of tasks. Others can do those as well as he once could, so it causes no hardship to the family. He's alive and mostly healthy; he has an honorable place in his childhood home and a devoted lover. Yearning for something more, something he can't even name, is just foolish.
Philippi had been living an equally boring yet comfortable life on Earth. She worked at an unfulfilling job to pay for her hobby of staying at an inn and stable two days a week to ride and care for the horse she co-owned. Then, one day, what seemed like a small malfunction kicked her out of her humdrum routine. Innocently seeking help, she instead found betrayal.
When Philippi re-awakens from her drug-induced walking coma, she finds herself lightyears from home in the custody of aliens, disoriented and half-starved. The friendly one who knows a little of her language, Ktas, informs her she has been bought as a slave from a man who was selling the use of her body on the streets.
The discovery that her horse handling skills cross over reasonably well to tsaakas, the Waeseran equine-equivalent, means she has a much greater value as a trainer and stablehand than as a common bedworker. Afraid to investigate her abduction, Philippi is easily persuaded to attempt to create a new future for herself instead. It's no lonelier a life than she led before, on Earth. She adjusted then, and she can adjust now.
But even as Philippi begins to earn approval and acceptance from the s'ruessef clan, Ktas is succumbing to his belief that the family secretly sees him as a lesser person now; housed and cared for out of obligation, but no longer an equal. His resentment and depression build, and those who care for him the most feel helpless to stop the inevitable crisis....
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