Azra Nomani stood beside his bed with his hands clasped behind his back, not trusting himself not to touch the female lying there. Her name was Erin Dorati and she was easily the most attractive female he’d ever seen. With long, vivid red hair and alabaster skin, she called to him, stirred his most savage hunger until he could think of nothing but her night and day. Though closed at the moment, her eyes were the same deep blue as the skies over Tavor. Her full lips, dainty nose, and high cheekbones gave her a classic beauty. At least by human standards. Most Tavorians—who had grayish blue hair, very dark eyes, and skin the color of smoke—would consider her odd, even ugly. But Azra was not like most Tavorians. He had traveled extensively and interacted with races from all over the inhabited galaxies. Each had their own appeal, and Erin was no exception.
His gaze swept downward from her face. She was covered by bedding. Only her shoulders and arms were visible. But he’d been tending her since her rescue, so he was well acquainted with her lovely form. Her body was lean, yet sweetly curved, perfectly proportioned and graceful. And he desperately wanted to touch her.
He scoffed at the ridiculous understatement. He didn’t just want to touch her, he wanted to penetrate and possess her, to overwhelm her senses and infiltrate her mind. In a word, he wanted to master her. Unable to resist the dark urges any longer, he unclasped his hands and slowly reached toward her.
“Don’t even think about it!”
Azra lowered his arm and took a deep breath before turning around. Urrya, the more assertive of Azra’s two podmates, stood in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest. Iridescent color streaked through his dark eyes like multicolor bolts of lightning. Dark hair just brushed his shoulders and the grim press of his black lips warned of his displeasure.
“She’s unconscious,” Urrya stressed. “Not even Tavorians are craven enough to accost unconscious females.”
Azra snorted scornfully. “Most Tavorians like them wide awake and screaming as they’re defiled in ways you can’t imagine. If their family is there to watch, so much the better.”
A wry smile quirked one corner of Urrya’s mouth. “Oh, it’s going to be an I-hate-all-things-Tavorian sort of day? Thanks for the warning.”
Ignoring the jibe, Azra turned back toward the bed, a bold four-poster luxuriously draped in black and gold. This room, his private sanctuary, was in the oldest part of the sprawling house. Both his podmates chose to occupy the newer section where everything was sleek and comfortable, with all the conveniences technology could provide. Here the walls were stone, the roof supported by exposed timbers, and a massive fireplace provided the only heat. Though filled with antique treasures many considered priceless, it was the primitive esthetic that appealed to Azra.
“She’s doing much better today,” Azra admitted.
“Good. Then release the healing thrall,” Urrya countered without pause.
“Soon.” He wasn’t quite ready to begin the arduous process of taming their skittish mate. Everything would unfold much smoother if he laid some groundwork first.
Urrya sighed. “You’ve been saying that for three days now.”
Azra didn’t bother with a response. He’d release her when he was damn good and ready and not before. Twelve days ago he’d been studying an ancient text when Urrya’s terrified call startled him out of his contemplation. Summoning an interdimensional portal, Azra responded immediately. He’d expected to find Urrya in some sort of peril. Only the strongest emotions activated their psychic link. Instead he found his podmate kneeling beside a frail-looking human female.
“Save her, please,” Urrya had pleaded, looking more desperate than Azra had ever seen him. Urrya was a fierce Ventori Defender, a member of the elite Brokvata, an honor very few attained. Nothing frightened or upset him. So why was he shaken by this scrap of a girl? Urrya’s next words answered Azra’s unspoken question. “She’s our mate.”
‘Our’ meant Urrya’s and Oseth’s, of course. Tavorians didn’t have soulmates. Many believed Tavorians didn’t have souls. Inhabitants of Tavor were feared and mistrusted all over the inhabited galaxies. Generally for good reason.
Azra looked at the female more closely. At first glance, she’d appeared unimpressive, but something about her affected him, stirring desires and impulses he didn’t understand. He shifted his gaze back to his podmate. “If I save her, I own her. It’s Tavorian law.”
“I don’t care. Do it.”
Urrya didn’t care that another male would own his mate? Now that was interesting. Urrya’s Ventori side was honor bound to protect females, his mate most of all. But his Celestian side could be unpredictable, and much more dangerous. Which side was in control right now? “You will not interfere regardless of what I need to do to save her?”
Urrya tensed, hands tightly fisted. “Yes, damn you. Yes!” He ground out the words between clenched teeth, clearly resenting the concession.
Azra fought back a smile. This should be fun. He walked forward as Urrya moved out of the way. They were in the vast wasteland surrounding Protectorate Headquarters. Repeated Skarilian attacks had devastated this area of the sector humans called Texas. What was this female doing out here all alone? Bending to one knee, he splayed his fingers over her upper chest and quickly scanned. “Her life force is barely discernable. I’m not even sure I can save this one.”
“But you’ll try?” Urrya’s strange, changeable eyes bore into his, pleading. “You said you’d try.”
Knowing time was of the essence, Azra scooped up the woman and stepped back through the portal, leaving it open long enough for Urrya to follow.
Azra spent the next twelve days pouring energy into the female. It was exhausting and dangerous work, but he stubbornly persevered. She was weak and slow to respond, forcing him to use a deep, healing thrall to keep her alive long enough for him to meticulously rebuild her strength. Once she stabilized and Azra had been sure she’d live, he touched her mind, concerned that there was a psychological component to her condition. Her physical issues had been resolved days ago, yet he sensed no resistance to the thrall, no desire to return to wakefulness. It was highly unusual. And he’d been right, horribly right. Erin was so depressed because of the devastation and loss left behind by the Skarilian attacks, and so terrified of being claimed by a Ventori pod that she was literally willing herself into an early grave.
He couldn’t really blame her. She’d endured a brutal one-two punch. First, the Skarilians, a vile group of conquerors who ravaged one world after another, had set their sights on Earth. In a matter of days, two-thirds of the planet lay in ruins and hundreds of millions were dead. No one was quite sure what the Skarilians wanted. Their attacks seemed to have no pattern, no strategy. And their tactics, if one could call slaughter and blanket bombing a tactic, appeared arbitrary and pointless.
He shook away the speculation. Erin’s second shock had been even worse. At least to her. After being kidnapped by evil humans, she’d ended up in the hands of the Ventori Protectorate. Ventor, like so many other planets, had been decimated by the Skarilians, so the Protectorate was formed and now traveled from star system to star system defending lesser developed planets against their mutual enemy. Unfortunately for Erin, one of the Ventori doctors determined which protein in human blood was making them incompatible with Ventori males. So human females without this protein—they were known as Rh-negative females—would be able to bear Ventori young. Erin was one such female. So she went from rescued victim to potential mate and her treatment ever since had been rather selfish on the part of the Ventori. The high council insisted that she allow at least three of her matched pods to ‘court’ her before they would let her go. Of course, the Ventori concept of courtship was more like ruthless seduction than candlelight dinners and long drives along the coast. And to top everything else off, Erin was a virgin.
“You said she’s your mate,” Azra reminded. “How badly do you want this female?” He knew the answer of course. The Ventori would do anything to ensure the safety and happiness of their mates. They had no choice. The Skarilians had slaughtered all the Ventori females as punishment for their stubborn resistance. Without a massive influx of hybrid offspring, the Ventori would go extinct as the current generation died off. Endangered predators always became ruthless and hyper-focused on survival.
“Not badly enough to let you fuck with her mind,” Urrya sneered, surprising Azra.
Fine. He’d get right to the point. “You promised not to interfere with her recovery. At the moment your mate is so despondent, she has lost the will to live. I would like to guide her through a series of dreams that—”
“I wasn’t asking permission,” Azra snapped, no longer amused by their banter. He faced Urrya again, wanting him to see the determination in Azra’s eyes. “She’s mine to do with as I will. Provoke me too far and I won’t share her with you or Oseth.”
Urrya just glared at him. It was mostly an empty threat and his podmate knew it. Tavorian law gave Azra ownership of the female, but Azra seldom paid attention to Tavorian law. They were a hybrid pod, brought together by similar persecution. And pods shared everything.
“I understand how important she is to you and Oseth. Without these dreams it could take years to draw her from her melancholy.”
“I told you to stay out of her mind. How the fuck do you know she’s ‘melancholy’?” Urrya had just gone from annoyed to angry.
Well, Azra was angry too. He’d risked his life several times over to save Erin. He would not let that effort be in vain because his podmate felt squeamish about psychic interventions. But what did he expect. Urrya was Ventori and the Ventori might have advanced technology, but at heart they were still brutal savages. They mistrusted anything they didn’t understand. “Get Oseth. We’ll take a vote.”
“No! You are not screwing with her mind and that’s final. She must willingly accept our claim or it’s not valid.”
Azra crossed his arms over his chest, mirroring Urrya’s pose. “That will never happen unless you let me do this. How long do you and Oseth have to court her? One moon cycle? You won’t convince her to speak to you in so short a time, much less surrender her soft, white body.”
“Did I hear my name?” Oseth shoved Urrya into the bedroom so he could take his place in the doorway. Oseth’s hair was streaked with orange and his eyes were shockingly green; both were gifts from his Partonese mother. His skin was golden, but he’d inherited brown hair and the intricate pattern on his torso and arms known as an orvatta from his Ventori father. He was perpetually cheerful and optimistic, which was fortunate because Urrya and Azra both tended to be dark and brooding. “What’s going on?” His bright gaze shot to the bed and worry creased his brow. “Has Erin had a setback? I thought she was nearly recovered.”
“She is,” Urrya insisted. “Now Azra wants to play mind games with her.”
Oseth took a step closer to Azra as he asked, “What sort of mind games?”
Typical. The other two frequently ganged up on him. They all had Ventori blood, but Azra no longer acknowledged the fact. The Ventori high council had banished him from Protectorate-controlled space, so Azra saw no reason to adhere to their laws and practices. He often felt the same way about laws in general, but that was beside the point.
“Erin was so terrified of being claimed by a Ventori pod that she headed out across the wasteland on a skimmer,” Azra told them. Likely they already knew. He just wanted them to understand that he also knew the reason for her reckless flight into the desert. “Penetrating that fear in conventional ways will take months, perhaps years of intensive therapy. And none of us are equipped to facilitate a psychological recovery in that way.”
Oseth looked at Urrya, appearing almost panicked. “We only have a month. Maybe he’s right.”
“No one can reach her here and he knows it,” Urrya argued. “We have as long as we need. As long as she needs.”
He was right, sort of. Only those with access to an interdimensional portal could easily travel from Earth to Tavor. To Azra’s knowledge, no one in the Protectorate could summon such an opening. Even Urrya and Oseth would be stranded on one side or the other if it weren’t for him. The journey by spaceship would take nearly a standard year, and the Protectorate had yet to pinpoint the exact location of the elusive planet. Still, time was only one factor. Her inherent fear of aliens was much more of an obstacle.
He crossed the room and stood in front of Urrya. Oseth would do whatever Urrya did. Such had always been the case. Oseth idolized the older warrior. So Azra must convince Urrya. “We could hire a therapist, and patiently allow her to recover in the human way. In the meantime you and Oseth would be discharged from the Protectorate, which means you dishonor the Brokvata. Your brother would be humiliated and you would both become completely dependent upon me, at least until you found work with another mercenary band. Does that sound appealing?”
“You’re being melodramatic.” Despite his dismissive words, Urrya’s defiance faltered. Uncertainty was written all over his face.
“Actually, I was being conservative. Melodramatic would have had you both in Protectorate custody and a battle team on their way here to retrieve Erin by force. I presume you don’t intend to give her back at the end of the thirty-day courtship.”
“Chancellor Savator is right. You’re a manipulative bastard.”
Azra chuckled, well used to Savator’s disdain. Bronsen Savator had been the driving force behind Azra’s expulsion from Protectorate-controlled space. He shook away the annoyance and focused on the situation at hand. “The treatment I’m proposing is much more effective and infinitely faster. By guiding her through a series of dreams I can show her what life with us would be like, how hard we would work to make her happy. She would experience the joy and the pleasure of being our mate. She would understand that, even though we are not human, there is nothing to fear.”
“You would insure that she interacts with all three of us, not just you?” Urrya persisted. “She needs to understand that we are a unit. She cannot have one without the others.”
“There are limits to my control, but I will do my best to convey that message.”
Oseth moved a little closer to Urrya. “I agree with Urrya. You can’t use this as an opportunity to bond with her alone. The dream has to include us or all bets are off.”
For a long time they stared at each other, Urrya’s gaze mildly hostile, Azra’s challenging. Azra glanced at Oseth. As he expected, Oseth was looking at Urrya.
Suddenly, Urrya’s chin tilted up and challenge arched his bows. “I’ll allow it on one condition.”
“You’re in no position to make demands. Erin is mine to do with as I—”
“That’s the condition,” Urrya cut in. “You must rescind your ownership on Erin. If we cannot convince her to accept our claim, I want her to go free. That means free of us and free of the Protectorate. I want to set her up with an entirely new life on a world where—”
“Never!” Now his hands were clenched so tightly his nails bit into his palms. “She breathes because I gave her my breath. Her heart beats because I established its rhythm. My energy saturates every molecule of her body. Erin is mine!”
“Erin is ours!” Urrya shouted right back.
“Can I propose a compromise,” Oseth chimed in, familiar with their battle of wills. The other two looked at him. “Azra will agree not to tell her about the ridiculously out of date custom until—”
“It’s not a ‘custom.’ It’s the law,” Azra stressed.
“Same dif.” Oseth waved away the objection. “Don’t tell her until after she has accepted our claim. You probably need to mention it before we actually claim her, but she’ll have enough to accept in the next few weeks. Besides, that gives me and Urrya more time to convince you that a willing mate is much more satisfying than a resentful slave.”
Azra stroked his chin, as he often did when he deliberated. There were two separate issues here. One was the philosophical debate over ownership versus willing submission. Could someone without free will truly surrender control? The topic was convoluted and evocative, so he focused on Oseth’s suggestion. Overcoming Erin’s fear and despondency was a much higher priority, so they’d take this one step at a time.
“That might work,” he said quietly.
Urrya scoffed under his breath. “And if she doesn’t accept our claim, does she then become your slave?”
It was easy to object to sexual slavery when females continually threw themselves at one’s feet. Urrya was esthetically pleasing and highly accomplished. Sexual partners lined up eager to exchange pleasure with him. Azra was Tavorian, a ‘sorcerer,’ a ‘soulless devil,’ an energy leech that could effortlessly drain the life from his helpless victims without even touching them. What female would willingly submit to such a creature?
Forcing away old insecurities, he squared his shoulders and looked into his podmate’s eyes. “I’ll make that decision when, and if, she rejects us,” Azra told him. “Knowing her subjugation could be the consequence of your failure should give you added incentive to succeed.”
“Fuck you,” he snarled in a tight, conflicted tone. He looked longingly at Erin, then back at Azra. “I don’t like it, but I can live with it.” He heaved a deep frustrated sigh, then ambled over to the bed. “However, you will show me every image before you slip it into her mind.”
“It doesn’t work that way. I use thoughts and impulses in her mind to construct the scenarios. As I said, I will guide her through dreams, maybe even manipulate them to an extent, but the visions are hers. Our link would allow you to see the dreams as they happen, but there is no way for you to preview them.”
“I want to watch too.”
Oseth’s excitement made him sound almost childish and Azra couldn’t help but smile. Oseth was far younger than Urrya and him. In fact, Azra had known Urrya since before the destruction of Celestia. Their mothers had been close friends, so they spent much of their formative years causing trouble on one planet or the other. They found Oseth many years later. He’d been orphaned the year before and was thieving in the streets to stay alive. They basically adopted the mouthy adolescent and seven years later Oseth joined the Protectorate.
Azra was still deciding what he wanted to do when Urrya stated another condition. “And don’t forget the same rule applies to her as with us,” Urrya insisted. “You will never feed unless she is aware and willing. That is nonnegotiable.”
It was times like this that tempted Azra to throw everyone out so he could live the rest of his life in peaceful solitude. He hated rules and Urrya knew it, but this female had them all tied in knots.
“Well?” Urrya prompted, his expression still incredibly tense. “Do we have a deal?”
It would have been so much easier to simply surround the room with a powerful psychic ward and get to work. He could have emerged a few weeks later with an eager, well-trained mate.
The arrogant thought made him laugh inwardly. Lying to himself was pointless. He terrified females, even those who had never heard of Tavorians. They sensed his hunger, his predatory need for their energy and ran in the opposite direction. To have any hope of success in this endeavor, he desperately needed the help of his podmates. Urrya was inherently sensual, emotionally compelling, and skilled at pleasuring females. Oseth was friendly, often funny. He put females at ease, frequently becoming their confidant.
“I will not mention the law, or take her energy without permission, but I have conditions of my own.” Before Urrya could object, Azra said, “First, you both must be absolutely silent while I guide her. This process is incredibly hard and requires enormous concentration. I will accept input, ideas for future scenarios, but not while I’m working.”
“Agreed,” they each said in turn.
“Second, none of us can mention the dreams for any reason. If she brings up the subject to you, you must pretend that you know nothing about it.”
Urrya looked at Oseth and frowned. “I have no problem with that, but Oseth is the worst liar I’ve ever met.”
“Come on,” Oseth cried. “I’m not that bad.”
“Yes, you are,” Azra reinforced. “But this is extremely important. Hopefully, that will motivate you to improve your performance.”
“I might suck at lying, but I’m damn good at changing the subject. I will not screw this up.”
His determination was endearing, and his strategy was sound. Oseth was by far the best conversationalist in the pod. If anyone could find creative ways of avoiding an issue, it was Oseth.
“When will you begin?” Urrya still seemed reluctant, which was to be expected. He’d been adamantly opposed when this conversation began.
“The sooner I begin, the sooner she can be released from the healing thrall.”
Without comment, Urrya walked over to the desk and grabbed the matching chair. He dragged it to the far side of the bed and sat. “You may begin.”
Erin floated in a tranquil haze. The searing pain in her body had faded to a barely discernable ache. She felt drained, physically and emotionally exhausted, but she couldn’t remember where she was or why she’d been so ill. Or had she been injured? There had to be a cause for her suffering. Why were her thoughts so jumbled?
As if to answer her question, an image broke free of the muddle and formed with surprising clarity. She sat in front of a compact corner desk in a tiny room. The setting was vaguely familiar, yet she couldn’t identify the location. It was about the size of her dorm room, but college students didn’t sleep on bunkbeds. She picked up a folded piece of—it was thicker than paper, yet flexible enough to be folded in fourths. As she opened the page and activated the device, the word digi-sheet sounded in her mind.
The strange term triggered other images: massive spaceships, floating vehicles, and semitransparent tubes holding bodies. Were the people injured, or dead?
“Might as well get it over with,” her image muttered under her breath. “There’s no avoiding this now.”
Her image quickly navigated through various menus until she located what she wanted. Clearly she was well acquainted with the strange technology. Was this a glimpse into the future, or simply a figment of her imagination? Her image didn’t look any older than she was now, so she opted for the second conclusion.
A message appeared on the screen. Erin couldn’t see it, but she knew what it said.
Attached are your top five genetically compatible pods. They are prioritized according to their scores on the compatibility matrix. Each image is accompanied by a basic bio. To explore more detailed information, simply select the pod.
Separated from the main message was a small notation.
All five of your pods scored well into the nineties, and less than one percentage point separates all of them. Any of these pods would make strong and honorable mates. The choice is yours.
Even now, Erin could feel her heart pounding as she slowly scrolled through the images. All the males looked similar. Dark hair streaked with red, black lips, and slashing brows that contrasted sharply with their pale gray skin. They weren’t human. This seemed more or less like a dating app, but these males were aliens. Why would she be looking at a dating app for aliens? Trepidation made her feel jittery and anxiety threatened to suck her back into the numbing void, so she focused on the screen. Solid black marbled with red, their irises nearly spanned the entire convex surface, leaving very little white. Ventori eyes. These men were Ventori Defenders, members of the heroic, yet feared Protectorate. They’d rescued Earth from… the thought drifted away as she reached the last pod on the list. She was safe here in this one moment. The past was long gone and the future had yet to be defined.
This pod was different from the rest, even more nonhuman. Each male was unique, yet all three had an exotic appeal. She knew the first male, or at least knew of him. His name was Urrya. He was half-brother to Commander LeAuntiez, the terrifying Celestian who led the Brokvata. And the Brokvata were the best and most ruthless members of the Protectorate. They ensured the safety of the High Command, and completed missions too dangerous for other teams to attempt. The strange titles came readily to Erin’s mind. How did she know these things? Or more important, why were the rest of her thoughts so disjointed?
She refocused on Urrya. Power emanated off his image. How was that even possible? His sleek black hair was pulled straight back and bound at the nape of his neck. The severe style only accented the sculpted beauty of his features. Beauty wasn’t a word she generally attributed to males, but Urrya was somehow both masculine and beautiful. There was no color marbling his eyes. No detectable pupils either, just a velvety field of black. They weren’t visible in the image, but she’d heard his Celestian blood allowed him to manifest wings. The possibility made her shiver. What would it be like to fly without a plane, to soar above the rubble that had once been Earth, free from the grief and devastation?
She couldn’t really imagine, so she moved on. The second male, Oseth Endore, was the most colorful. Rather than the dusky gray of Ventori skin, his was pale gold, similar to, yet more yellow than a human’s. Bright orange strands threaded through his coffee-brown hair, and it flowed well past his shoulders. His features were sharp, angular, the cheekbones jutting, chin nearly pointed. And his eyes were fluorescent green. He must be at least part Ventori, the vast majority of the Protectorate were, but she had no idea what other race, or races, had contributed to his genetics. She’d never seen anyone like Oseth.
Finally focusing on the last male, she tensed. His name was Azra Nomani, and the only word for him was dangerous. His hair was long too. Were there no barbers in outer space? The strands were gray, white, and washed-out blue, combining in a smoky color that defied definition. His eyes were very dark, yet piercing and cold. Most would be put off by his lethal impression. Everything about him screamed ‘just walk away.’ The problem was, she’d always been attracted to dangerous men. She flirted and teased, seeming to offer something she had no intention of surrendering. She enjoyed the attention, reveled in the praise and the near desperation with which males often pursued her. But there was no way Azra would allow her games. Ruthlessness was apparent in his gaze and every angle of his handsome face.
And he was one of three she would be required to pleasure. And obey.
In fact, all of the pods had three members. Or had one had four? The other pods were so similar the images blurred together, making it hard to tell one from another.
New images rushed unbidden into her mind. Overtly sexual images, some soft and unfocused like echoes of fantasies, but others sharp and cutting, recollections of actual events. She saw Becky—she had no idea how she knew the woman’s name—bent over a padded table, legs spread wide, bound hands extended out in front of her. She was completely naked and her behind was bright red as if someone… had been spanking her?
Before Erin could unravel that bizarre thought, the image grew darker, more frightening. Ventori males surrounded the table touching Becky boldly, as if they had every right to do anything they wanted with her. One stood directly behind her and pulled her red ass cheeks apart. Dear God, was he going to—he was! He positioned himself at her back entrance and slowly pushed his huge, well-lubed cock deep into her ass. Erin waited for a shrill scream, but Becky moaned and her expression was rapturous.
That conclusion sent Erin’s sluggish mind spinning off in a different direction. She saw herself bound and helpless, arms raised overhead. Some sort of cable was attached to her wrist cuffs, ensuring that her arms remained in position. Her legs were open wide, but her ankles weren’t cuffed. She just stood there with her back slightly arched and all her secret places on display.
Suddenly pain blossomed on her right ass cheek. She gasped then shuddered as a similar slap landed on the other side. Someone was spanking her!
“What happens when you lie to your masters?” The voice was low yet wispy, curling around her like smoke. Immediately the image of the third man from the last pod surged back into her mind. Azra. Even his name sounded menacing. “You know I won’t repeat a question. Provide an answer or I’ll add to your punishment.”
Erin struggled against the dream. This wasn’t her. She didn’t have a lover, much less one bold enough to ‘punish’ her. She was a princess trapped in an ivory tower, untouchable, unattainable. Alone. Though she hated the characterization, it was familiar and therefor comforting. She understood the role, what was expected of her, and how others would behave when she was around. Yet the tantalizing dream was more powerful than her rapidly fading past. It ate away at all things familiar until she stood naked and helpless, completely at the mercy of the strange smoke-like male.
“You’re not my master,” she whispered as a rebellious thrill raced through her. “Three more days and I’m out of here!” If she was that close to escape, why was she provoking him? She knew enough about dominant males to suspect the statement would piss him off.
A flurry of spanks followed, six on one side and then the other. Discomfort built as repeated impacts overlapped creating intensity in the same area. Heat sank deeper, curling through her core, awakening carnal desires. Why would she imagine something so twisted? This was abusive, wrong.
“You can’t get out of this room, much less off this planet. Stop making idle threats.” Azra paused, clearly hoping she’d back down. When she said nothing, he resumed the harsh spanking.
She tried not to tense, but the reflex was impossible to overcome entirely. His large hand nearly spanned her ass cheek and the stinging swats came fast and hard. She quickly lost track of how many times he spanked her or how long the punishment had been going on. A few seconds or half an hour, she honestly couldn’t say. Time seemed to have no meaning here. Sting gradually built to ache and then persistent throb. And despite her upbringing and the examples she’d witnessed in the past, the progression excited her, made her ache for the thick invasion of a long, hard cock. She wiggled and moaned, pressing her thighs together to combat the inescapable desire.
Tears blurred her vision and shame washed over her, gradually easing her arousal. What kind of woman wants to be abused?
Any man who intentionally hurts a woman is a useless coward! Her father’s voice rang loud and clear through the memory. He’d rescued his sister from a violent husband when Erin was twelve. She’d seen firsthand how toxic that sort of relationship could become. And the element of the conflict that made her father angriest was his sister’s continual defense of her abuser. Aunt Lisa made excuses and took the blame, until Erin’s father was ready to strangle her as well as her worthless husband.
“Stop! I’m sorry. Please, stop.” A sob tore through the last phrase as the past blended with the present. She desperately needed the pain to stop because she was precariously close to coming. And only a deviant—her father’s favorite word—would have an orgasm because they were in pain.
“Address me properly, and I’ll consider it.” His voice was cool and autocratic. She needed to see him, to understand the forces driving his aggression.
Her image closed her eyes as if she were trying to picture him, or maybe hide from the emotional conflict twisting inside her. Most of the time Erin could sense what her other self was feeling, but right now she felt like an observer, or the director of a complicated television show. She was invested in, but not a part of, the drama.
“Please, Sir, stop spanking me.”
“The others might accept ‘Sir,’ but I am your master.” His fingers invaded the deep valley between her bottom cheeks. She tensed, clenching her butt muscles as hard as she could. Easily finding her anus, one of his fingers rubbed against the tightly puckered opening. “Say my name.” He punctuated the demand with a silent warning, applying pressure to her reluctant entrance.
He didn’t want his name. He wanted his title. He wanted her to accept his mastery over her. His finger pushed inward, forcing her reluctant body open, and she thought of Becky. If Erin persisted with her stubbornness, that’s where this led. He would part her still reddened cheeks and shove his cock deep into her ass. “Master.” The word escaped with her harsh sob. “Please, don’t do that, Master.” But even as she begged him not to, her body ached for the harsh fullness, the complete dominance of the brutal act.
“Good girl.” Such tenderness infused the two words that Erin sobbed again. “I’m still waiting for your answer.” He pulled back slowly as if reluctant to stop touching her.
What was the question? This was so confusing. She’d always had detailed dreams and vivid fantasies, but this felt different. She’d never been so aware in a dream before, was never so cognizant of the fact that she was dreaming. Why had she lied to them? That was the question.
“I’m sorry I lied to you, or actually to Urrya about you. It was wrong to cause conflict among my…” She cleared her throat, refusing to speak the word. Instead, she said, “Among you two.”
Her mind tingled, and then the sensation expanded, gradually growing more intense. Something was changing, shifting, yet she couldn’t explain what was happening or even how she knew. Urrya stepped in front of her and curved his long fingers around her chin. It was almost as if mentioning his name had drawn his image into this strange dream.
He tilted her head back until she looked into his endlessly dark eyes. “Say it, kitten. Finish what you started to say.” It was a command, not a suggestion.
Kitten? Commander Urrya didn’t seem like the sort to use silly pet names. Still, excitement coursed through her veins. This was so strange, so far removed from anything she’d experienced in life. How was she imagining the scene with such detail? Fragments of the public punishments she’d been required to watch, and detailed stories the other females had told flickered through her mind. For the past month, she’d been inundated with tantalizing information about submitting to a dominant male. Okay, so that’s how she was constructing this scene. Still, it felt strange, somehow off. As if… she couldn’t even define why it felt odd.
Urrya pinched her nipple and pain zinged from her breast to her clit. She cried out sharply, then yelled, “Mates! I started to say my mates.”
This was the fate the Ventori wanted for her. She’d be helpless and corrupt, a slave to her immoral desires as well as theirs. They wanted a plaything, a receptacle for their lust, a mindless body in which they could plant their seed and watch it grow. Breeder. Just the word made her nauseous.
A slow, sexy smile rolled across his black lips as his face gradually lowered toward hers. She thought he was going to kiss her, and her heart leapt with the oddest combination of joy and dread. This was the one intimate act she’d experienced often. She enjoyed kissing, loved how she felt when a human man held her close and gently slid his tongue into her mouth. Would it be different with an alien? His lips brushed against hers for a millisecond. She held her breath and waited for the demanding thrust of his tongue. Was it black like his lips? She’d never paid attention, tried not to look at the Ventori. Eye contact invited interaction, and she didn’t want to interact with them.
All he did was nip her lower lip and whisper, “Come for me. I love watching you come.”
His hand covered her sex and one of his fingers found her clit. Arousal pulsed through her core with the first circular stroke of his fingertip. She’d done this for herself many times, had even allowed one of her admirers to try to get her off. It hadn’t worked. She’d been too afraid that someone would catch them groping each other in the coat room of the luxurious hotel where the charity ball had been held. Her bodyguards never left her alone for long.
Charity balls and bodyguards were part of her ‘princess’ life. The dream began to fade as images of that life came surging to the surface.
“Stay with me.” The sudden sharpness in Urrya’s tone drew her back into the moment, back into the dream. “Think only of me, and how good this feels.” He stroked across the entrance to her body, pushing against her hymen, making her aware that the barrier would soon be gone. Her inner muscles rippled, more than ready to squeeze his thick shaft as he thrust in and out of her neglected core. He slid his fingers back up to her clit and continued their smooth, rhythmic orbit of the sensitive nerve cluster. Each rotation built the tension inside her, made her need more demanding.
Unable to just stand there any longer, she rocked her hips, rubbing her pussy against his fingers. If she stood there and took the abuse, she was a victim. This made her a participant. She wanted this, needed his touch and the pleasure he would give her.
You need this almost as badly as you needed the spanking, her conscience mocked.
“No,” she cried out. She would not become that sad, pathetic thing her aunt had been by the time she finally broke free of her husband’s influence.
“Yes,” Urrya countered and caught one of her nipples between his lips. He sucked gently, lulling her with the soft pull, then caught the peak between his teeth, carefully applying pressure until she cried out again. A sharp sensation, half pleasure, half pain streaked from her breast to her pussy. His teeth released long enough for him to say, “Come,” and then he bit her again.
The coil released with such force Erin’s entire body shook. She cried out as flashes of light burst before her eyes. Her inner muscles clenched in on nothing, and she sobbed helplessly. Blinded by the intensity, she squeezed her eyes shut. This felt amazing, and yet it made her desperate for something else, something more. She wanted him, deep inside her, filling her, stretching her, making all her fantasies brutally real.
Warm hands pressed against her flushed face and she reluctantly opened her eyes. Oseth, the third male stood in front of her now, neon green eyes filled with compassion. “You’re so beautiful when you come.” Like the emotions in his gaze, his voice was soft, caressing her ravaged senses. His lips pressed against hers and he inhaled deeply. “And that smell.” He inhaled again and groaned. “Nothing smells like our aroused kitten.”
There was that pet name again. She licked her lips and whispered, “Don’t call me that. I’m not a child.”
“We’re well aware of that happy fact.” He cupped one of her breasts and smiled. “Who do you want to fuck you first? You’ve waited a very long time to feel a cock deep inside you. We’re willing to let you choose.”
She shook her head, hair swishing against her shoulders. “I don’t want any of this.” But she did. She wanted it all, couldn’t wait for him to stop talking and make it happen. “Just let me go.”
“Go where, sweetheart?” He kissed her again, the merest brushing of his mouth over hers before he pulled away. “Tell me where you want to be and I’ll take you there.”
But Oseth didn’t give her time to answer. His mouth settled over hers, warm and insistent. He caressed her mouth with his, gently tracing her lips with the tip of his tongue. A moan escaped her and he took it as assent, easing just past her lips. His taste was strange, spicy and unique. Intrigued, she touched his tongue with hers. He pushed in farther, answering her tentative invitation.
He was patient, yet unyielding, advancing slowly as she accepted each new level of intimacy. She opened her mouth for him, breathing in his scent and filling her mouth with his exotic taste. His arms wrapped around her, pressing her soft body against his much harder one. He was the smallest of the three and yet he made her feel tiny, fragile, and intensely feminine. His hands slid up and down her back, coming closer to her ass with each pass.
She rubbed against him, returning the kiss with accelerating hunger. The ache was back, or maybe it never left. The orgasm had just masked it for a short while. Suddenly his mouth left hers and she mumbled a complaint, but he only bent and caught the backs of her thighs. He picked her up and urged her legs around his waist, carefully avoiding her still sore behind.
Then he was kissing her again and she was rubbing her pussy against his hardened cock. They were separated by his uniform pants, but it didn’t seem to matter. The friction, and the knowledge that he was so close to where he belonged, soon had her gasping and grinding as she searched for the elusive spark that would set her world on fire.
Fire. Massive pits of churning flames, marching along like an arrow pointing toward hell. The stench of burning flesh, and gusts of wind filled with ash. The flash of memory shattered the dream. Like shards of glass, the past cut through her mind, slicing away the protective haze. Grief and horror tore through her composure as event after event rolled through her mind, the deafening boom of sonic blasts, endless devastation, screams and smoke, so much smoke. Then the putrid stench of burning bodies. Literal mountains of dead waiting for the fire pits.
It was gone. The life she’d once known, her family and most of her friends, obliterated by an enemy that wanted nothing but destruction.
The pain was too much to bear, so she eagerly sank into the darkness until she felt nothing at all.