Dr. Åke Jörgensson is a scientist from Sweden whose invention of almost instant travel to any part of the universe will revolutionize space flight.
Khitain is a N’tari, a panther-like alien serving aboard a human space ship, and Åke’s boyfriend of three months.
On Christmas, they visit Åke’s parents for the first time. As if meeting his in-laws weren’t stressful enough, feelings of inadequacy and fear haunt Khitain. His N’tari descent makes him a killing machine, and one wrong move could wipe out what is dearest to him. Åke, however, has to deal with his family’s ignorance and Khitain’s reluctance to let go of his restraint.
When something terrible happens during their Christmas Morning walk, the situation gets out of hands.
After landing in the pound after being abandoned by yet another family, Ewan is convinced he’s too old to be adopted out again. For a pet like him, the only fate left is to be put down. But when Sir Jiat—of the City Guard, no less—visits the pound, he goes straight to Ewan. Jiat prefers the more mature pets and treats Ewan better than he’s ever been treated by any previous owner. Ewan sleeps at the foot of his master’s bed, not on the floor or outside; he is given toys and other pets to play with and plenty of room to run; and he’s fed on a schedule and eats very well. But Ewan’s love for his master begins to change, to become something else, something more.
Plenty of pets have been killed over the years for acting on the feelings that Sir Jiat inspires, so he dares not express the desire building inside him. And yet, Ewan can’t help but notice that Sir Jiat has begun to act differently as well, more doting, treating Ewan almost as an equal. So even though the thing he wants more than anything is also their society’s greatest taboo, Ewan resolves that if he must die, he will die having felt, just once, the warmth of Sir Jiat’s soft fur pressed against his bare naked skin.