A/N: Many many thanks to L.M Avalon and Xeromem for their help with this story as beta readers and general purpose muses. Without their help this story would definitely be a poorer offering. Please take a look at some of their offerings here on fanfic. They a both are very good writers in their own right

Family Obligations

The sun shining through the window of his room woke up Rhade. He was in his bed, but he wasn't alone. Cuddled up beside him, holding his arm possessively, was a naked woman. She was young and attractive—quite young really, possibly still in her teens. He struggled to remember her name. Ginny? Jane? No, neither one of those was correct. Jeri—that was it. He remembered now what she had told him last night. 'Hi. I'm Jeri, with an 'i.''

He disentangled his arm and, in so doing, woke her up. She rolled over and gave him a smile that actually looked genuine. She also had nice breasts. He felt a stirring between his legs and reached for her, only to be stopped by her outstretched hand.

"I can't stay, Rhade," she said apologetically, softening her refusal with the same smile she had given him earlier. Her voice was sincere, grateful even, as she explained, "Mom is taking care of my baby, and I need to buy him some milk. We're out at home. The money you gave me last night should keep us in milk for at least a week." She climbed out of the bed and began to get dressed. After a moment, Rhade got up and helped her with the embroidered shawl that was the common outdoor wear by the women of the area. Once dressed, the girl began to walk toward the room's door but then stopped and turned back to Rhade.

"Will you see me again soon? You treated me better than most of my customers and now that I know what you like, I can make you even happier than I did last night." She kissed him, a brief peck on the mouth, and then left, the tail of her shawl floating behind her in the hot, dry air.

Rhade brought his hand up to his mouth pressing the tips of his fingers against his lips but then brought it down with a curse. He needed a drink. Several of them. Even the prostitutes in this armpit of the universe had more of a family than he and the rest of the crew did.

He found the bottle he had pilfered from Harper's saloon and poured himself a shot. He gulped it down and then poured himself another. He drank this one slowly. It didn't have to be this way, he realized. If they were going to be spending the rest of their lives in this godforsaken place, they didn't have to do it alone. Jillian wouldn't have wanted him to spend the rest of his life alone. It was time for him to take another mate and find mates for the others.