Barely able to contain the joy bubbling up within her, Lorelle San Carlos hurried across the darkened bedroom toward her lover, her mate, her… master? She was still struggling with the last concept, but she didn’t let the detail darken her mood.
Mal Ton sprawled on his stomach, his tall body spanning the rumpled mattress. Space was a precious commodity beneath the climate domes of Stilox. Living quarters were carefully arranged to maximize every centimeter. Even high-ranking officers, like Mal Ton, accepted the limitation and made the most of whatever area they were allowed. Survivors. Indomitable and strong. Stilox warriors were all that and more.
She slipped out of her bathrobe and fluffed her damp hair, feeling energized yet relaxed after her long, hot shower. In her wildest dreams, she’d never imagined life with a man like Mal Ton. He was fiercely protective and amazingly caring. Even as he overwhelmed her with passion, he never lost sight of her needs.
The sheet was tangled around his lean hips, leaving his tapered back bare to her appreciative gaze. One arm extended as if he’d been searching for her in his sleep. The possibility made her smile and tingle. Had he missed her as much as she missed him?
How had he become so important in such a short time? She might have been taken from Earth against her will, but life before Mal Ton hardly seemed real anymore. Mal Ton was her present and future. The past was a distant memory. Except for Brianna. Her sister was the one element of her past that had carried over into the present.
She’d been told Brianna was still missing, much to her chagrin. Helplessness didn’t sit well with Lorelle. She was far more comfortable with action, with struggle, even combat. It wasn’t in her nature to sit back and let others fight her battles for her. But she was still recovering and learning, so much of this conflict was unfamiliar to her.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, she ran her fingertips from his wrist to his shoulder. His skin was hot and smooth, the flesh beneath it battle-hardened. “Hey there, lazybones,” she said softly, not wanting to startle him from sleep. “Are you going to sleep all day?” With the strength and agility that defined his movements, he sat and swept her into his arms. She settled on his lap and gazed into his eyes as she rested one arm across his broad shoulders.
“Do your doctors know you’re here?” His voice sounded raspy, yet his expression was intense as his gaze assessed her from head to foot. “I will not allow anything to interfere with your recovery.”
Pleased by the insistency in his reaction, she traced a line from his temple to his chin. “They wanted to monitor me for twenty-four hours after they injected me with the reprogrammed nanites. The observation period was over about two hours ago.” She kissed the tip of his nose. “You were sleeping so soundly, I went and took a shower.”
“I was exhausted,” he admitted.
“Do you feel stronger now?”
His gaze bore into hers for a long, communicative moment. Then he shifted one of her legs to the other side of his body and drew her forward, rubbing her against his rapidly hardening cock. “You tell me. How does this feel?”
Her core warmed and melted, obediently preparing itself for his entry. From the first moment he’d touched her it had been like this with Mal Ton, instantaneous and combustible. “Not bad, but I know you can do better.”
He laughed, his teeth starkly white against his gold-toned skin. Desire blazed within his eyes, making the teal appear more green than blue. “Is that a challenge?”
“Would I be foolish enough to challenge you?” She gently rocked her hips, enjoying the teasing slide of the cool sheet against her sensitive folds, yet needing his heat even more. It wasn’t that their separation had been lengthy, only that every moment without him seemed like an eternity.
“Apparently you would.” He wrapped his arms around her and claimed her mouth in a deep, demanding kiss. God, how I missed your taste. His hands swept up and down her back, pressing and sliding, molding her curves against the unyielding wall of his chest.
Like flames licking at her soul, Mal Ton’s being blazed into her mind. She moaned at the blissful heat and pressed closer to his strong body. Thank God we’re still linked. I was so afraid the treatment would make me completely human again.
Let’s talk after. Even in her mind his voice sounded breathless and urgent. Just let me touch and taste you.
She angled her head and curled her tongue around his as she guided one of his hands to her breast. He pinched her nipple and his cock twitched against her mound. Mutual hunger rolled across their link, scalding them and urging them onward.
After only a few moments, he tore his mouth away and shook his head, panting harshly. “I take it back. We have to slow this down or it’s going to be over before it’s begun.”
Thrilled that his need was as demanding as hers, Lorelle folded her legs beneath her and balanced on her knees. “If we can’t make it last this time, we’ll go slowly next time.” She reached between them and pushed down the sheet, searching for his cock.
He grabbed her wrist with a playful growl. “I said no.”
A different sort of heat, darker and even more compelling, slowly rolled through her body. She loved it when he became all harsh and commanding. Knowing it would anger him, she tugged against his hold. “But I need you inside me.”
“And I say you need to remember who’s in charge here.” With gasp-worthy speed and strength, he swept her legs out from under her and urged her down across his lap on her stomach. He wanted her prostrate and helpless.
His large, warm hand smacked against her bare bottom, first one side and then the other. Her senses hummed as heat spread through her cheeks.
“To whom do you belong?”
“You.” She gasped as his hand fell again and again. Heat burst with each firm spank and her core clenched in needful envy. “And only you.”
“Spread your legs.”
She didn’t hesitate and he pushed his hand between her thighs, teasing her damp folds. “Who owns this pussy?”
Barely able to breathe as she waited for the sudden thrust of his fingers or more titillating spanks, she held perfectly still and whispered, “You, Mal Ton. My pussy belongs to you.”
He didn’t fill her. Instead, he spanked her some more, each swat harder than the last. She cried out and wiggled, reveling in the painful pleasure throbbing through her ass.
The spanking ended just as suddenly as it had begun. He pulled her up and maneuvered her back into the position she’d been in before the discipline began. He even took her hand and guided it to his massive erection. “Now you’re ready for my cock.”
She smiled into his eyes and wrapped her fingers around his thick shaft. “Wow. You really did miss me.”
His fingers tangled in the back of her hair as his mouth captured hers for another breath-stealing kiss. He was on the verge of losing control. He needed her surrender, her submission. The longer he was without her, the more demanding his need became. The more aggressive.
She released his shaft and moved her hands lower, lightly grasping her ankles as a reminder not to touch him, to remain passive unless he gave her a directive.
His lips slowed and gentled, his tongue stroked over hers as one of his hands caressed her breasts. The fingers in her hair remained firm, holding without hurting. He gently sucked her lower lip then whispered, “Give me your tongue.”
She pushed her tongue past his lips and he sucked it into his mouth, the action possessive and carnal. Then his lips moved up and down along her tongue, firm and steady, much as hers were when she sucked his cock. The parallel made her shiver and moan.
He growled and nipped her chin. “I suspect my cock is a lot more sensitive than your tongue,” he whispered against her kiss-dampened lips.
“Good point.” Apparently her thoughts were broadcasting. Mal Ton seldom heard her thoughts unless she intentionally sent them. Still, it didn’t matter. She had no secrets from Mal Ton.
“I think it feels more like when I suck on your clit. Would you like me to remind you how that feels?”
Her pussy already ached so badly she could hardly stand it. “I seldom say no to that particular pleasure, but I really need you inside me. We’ve already waited too long, if you ask me.”
“Lean back on your elbows.”
Anticipation washed from her head to her toes, leaving her entire body pulsing and weak. She knew that dark, predatory look, loved the uninhibited pleasure that followed in its wake. Releasing her ankles, she arched her back and placed her elbows against the bed. The position spread her legs, parted her inner folds, and displayed the silken passage waiting for him, only for him.
His eyes turned dark and stormy as he gazed upon her. Tension accented each sculpted angle of his features, making him look savage and… ravenous. He trailed feather-light touches along her inner thighs then traced her slit with his middle finger.
“So soft,” he whispered, his voice hushed and passion-thickened.
Passion-thickened. The thought drew her gaze to his cock, arching toward her, flushed and ready to conquer. All he had to do was… He guided himself to her opening and pressed against her, letting her feel the power and the heat. Her folds surrounded him, clinging, caressing, while her core clenched and ached with the need to be filled.
“Please.” She bit her lower lip, desperate now, far beyond pride or subtlety. He slid up and rubbed the velvety head around her clit. She trembled, unable to hide the way her legs shook and her abdomen quivered. “Oh, God, Mal Ton, please, fill me. Fuck me!”
He positioned himself at her opening and grasped her hips. Then with slow, steady pressure, he pulled her toward him and impaled her on his cock. Her inner muscles spread around him, taking on his shape as he drove into her. Lorelle held her breath, overcome by the savage beauty of his face and the carnal power of his body.
Mal Ton, her love. Her master.
He held her, moving her entire body with the strength of his hands.
When her groin pressed snugly against his, he shifted her legs to circle his waist. Their gazes locked. His expression was every bit as possessive as his penetration. Slowly, allowing her to feel every centimeter of his flesh sliding inside her snug passage, he began to move again.
Mine. The claim was written on his expression and echoed in his posture. She raised her arms above her head and arched her back, offering herself willingly, submissively.
His hips rocked, thrusting his length into her again and again. Emotions flowed between them, intense and elemental.
He moved faster, arching over her and entwining their fingers. His chest grazed her nipples and she drew her legs up along his sides as the urgency escalated around them and within them. Without missing a beat with his hips, he sealed his mouth over hers and his tongue swept past her parted lips.
Covered by his strong body, filled with his demanding cock, and infused with the rich intensity of his love, Lorelle let go and surrendered to the wonder of their joining. She soared beyond self, beyond conflict and strife as an orgasm tore through her body. Mal Ton was right there with her, part of her, soaring at her side.
She shivered and moaned as reality gradually returned, intruding on their momentary euphoria. “Wow. What did they put in that shot?”
Mal Ton laughed, his cock bucking deep inside her. “I just gave you the best orgasm of your life and you give the credit to Roark?” Wrapping her snugly in his arms, he rolled them to their sides and drew her leg to his waist, allowing him to remain inside her.
“It’s always amazing with you, but that felt…” She couldn’t put her feelings into words. They were too raw, too overwhelming. They didn’t just have sex. They flowed through each other, melding body, mind, and spirit.
“I missed you too.” He slipped one arm beneath her neck as he brushed her hair back from her damp face. “Is the treatment working? Do you feel any different, or is it still too soon to tell?”
“I feel strong and energetic and happier than I’ve ever been in my life. I can still sense your emotions and send my thoughts, and…” Her smile turned wistful and she glanced away. “If I knew Brianna was safe everything would be perfect.”
“No one has forgotten about Brianna. We just need to take things one step at a time. The injection was meant to stabilize your condition. It wasn’t meant to undo the changes my nanites made to your body or to keep them from making any more changes.”
“Works for me. I have no problem with any of the changes they’ve made.” She stroked his chest and canted her hips, keeping their lower bodies tightly aligned. “So run everything down for me. What did I miss while I was in stasis?”
Mal Ton sighed. “Where do I begin? Max was taken back to the Underground.”
“Max is the rebel mutant who was trying to overthrow Fane?” She was relatively certain that was correct, but he seemed surprised by the question.
“Our relationship feels so rich, so mature it’s easy to forget you’re new to these conflicts. Chancellor Howyn was originally responsible for bringing you and the other humans to this star system. Max shot down your ship and intercepted you before Howyn could get his hands on you.”
“All of us were rescued by either you or Fane, except for Karris and Brianna.”
“There were a few double crosses along the way, but that about sums it up. Karris is here, by the way. Did Roark tell you that much?”
“I haven’t seen Roark since they brought me out of stasis. Andrea admitted that Brianna hadn’t been rescued, but that’s about all she would say. She insisted I rest and told me you would tell me what you thought I was ready to hear.”
Mal Ton chuckled and kissed her brow. “She obviously doesn’t know you as well as I do if she thinks you’ll put up with evasions for long.”
“She treated me and Brianna back on Earth, but we’re really more acquaintances than friends. So, back to Max. Did Fane take him out? He certainly deserved it.”
“Fane was a little preoccupied at the time.”
“That’s right. Fane was babysitting Cassandra. What’s the history there? They obviously knew each other before he snatched her back from Max. How did the leader of the Mutant Underground cross paths with Howyn’s daughter?”
“Long, involved story.”
She slapped him on the shoulder. “What a copout! We will come back to that later. Howyn obviously didn’t keep up his end of the bargain or Brianna would be free. What went wrong?”
“Another long, involved story.”
“Well, I suggest you summarize.” She narrowed her gaze and tried to look fierce.
With a wicked chuckle, Mal Ton swept her beneath him and stretched her arms out over her head. He stared into her eyes, his mouth hovering just above hers. Feel what you do to me. Even relaxed and sated his cock created a pleasant fullness in her core, but the pressure began to build as his shaft hardened and lengthened inside her.
She wrapped her legs around his hips and locked her ankles. “Finish the briefing, Commander, or we’re both going to get mighty frustrated.”
Challenge flashed in his eyes then tenderness gentled his expression. “If I don’t, you’ll be so distracted you’ll ruin this for both of us.”
He could easily overcome her distraction, and they both knew it, but she was pleased that he took the out.
“Howyn made some modifications to Karris. We’re relatively certain he was waiting until the procedures were perfected before he utilized the techniques on Brianna.” He used a calm, informative tone, yet his gaze shone with regret and compassion. “Sean has been half a step behind Howyn’s team, so he has a pretty good idea of what they’ve been up to.”
“Then Brianna hasn’t been mod-dified?” She stumbled over the word, icy guilt rushing though her system. Brianna was her baby sister. In the absence of their mother, it had become Lorelle’s responsibility to protect and care for her.
“This isn’t your fault.”
“I talked her into applying for Andrea’s program. I harassed Andrea until she agreed to accept Brianna. My sister followed me every step of the way. Look where it led her.”
He rocked back on his knees, taking the majority of his weight, changing the tenor of their embrace from aggression to tenderness. “Howyn is in custody. His second-in-command turned on him. Brianna is out of danger. All we have to do is find her.”
Lorelle pushed against his chest, feeling smothered by his size and her own helplessness. “Find her? What does that mean? If Howyn is in custody, where the fuck is Brianna?”
Responding to her anxiety, Mal Ton rolled with her. One moment he was pressing her down into the bed, the next she was straddling his hips, anchored on his considerable erection. He stroked her thighs and squeezed her hips, his gaze caressing her face. His strength never ceased to thrill her, yet overlaying the raw power was unflagging control, carefully measured, disciplined.
“We set up a sort of sting,” he explained, willing to postpone fulfillment of his obvious need until her spirit was more at ease. “That’s when we recovered Karris and caught Howyn with his pants down. Figuratively, thank the gods.”
“Was General Bryson the one who turned on Howyn?” Bryson was the only one she could think of in a position to know enough to bring the chancellor down. Lorelle only knew many of the players by name, but at least the names were becoming familiar. This was her life now, her people. It was right that she understand the forces driving them.
“The very same. Howyn tried to pretend ignorance and blame it all on Bryson. Bryson is nobody’s fool. He’d expected he might be thrown to the wolves at some point, so he’d been recording conversations and compiling documentation for years.”
“Then it’s over? Howyn’s scheme to create the perfect weapon, or whatever it was he was trying to do, failed?”
Mal Ton hesitated, his hands settling on her waist. “Is life ever that easy?”
“Not on Stilox.” Having him spread out beneath her, hard and waiting inside her, was more than a little distracting. “What went wrong?”
“When the specter team arrived at the lab where they expected to find Brianna and the nanotechnology used to modify Karris, they found a ransacked building and little else.”
“Someone beat them to the finish line?”
“The timing was too convenient. It had to be someone very close to Howyn or Bryson.”
“You obviously have an idea. Just spit it out.”
Lorelle stiffened, instinctively drawing away from Mal Ton. His hands tightened on her waist, preventing her retreat. She’d only met Nehalem Bryson once, but once had been enough. Nehalem was the first lesser wife of General Bryson. More important, she was an auburn-haired beauty who ruthlessly used every asset at her disposal to get what she wanted. Lorelle had disliked her on sight. The fact that Mal Ton’s path had briefly crossed with Nehalem’s had nothing to do with her passionate antipathy, at least none Lorelle was willing to admit.
“So the red-haired slut double-crossed her husband while he was busy double-crossing Howyn?”
“That’s our best guess. Nehalem was one of several suspects until yesterday morning. Then she shot to the top of the list.”
“What happened yesterday?”
“We found Max’s body. Someone drained him of mutant energy and then slit his throat. The only person we know of who has an ability anything like that is Nehalem. It’s a bit of a stretch for her, but if she used the nanites on herself, there’s no telling what she’s capable of doing now.”
Lorelle tossed her hair over her shoulders and closed her eyes, using the momentary darkness to lock in each piece of information. “I can see why Nehalem would raid the lab. She was always drawn to power and mutant abilities, but why would she need Brianna?” She opened her eyes and searched Mal Ton’s expression. When she found no answers there, she accessed their link. The meld was still new and at times intimidating. They blended naturally when their emotions ran high, but at times like this, his being was so much more intense than hers it was almost painful. She sighed and eased out of the link. “What aren’t you telling me? Who has Brianna? What else is going on?”
He sat, pulling her close as he wrapped his arms around her. “Sean found her and sneaked her out of the house where she was being held, but at the last moment they tripped an alarm. They were being pursued by Howyn’s men. Sean turned long enough to take out the guards, and when he turned back around, Brianna was gone.”
“Gone. What do you mean gone? Where would she go? She’s on an alien world. She can’t even speak the language, for God’s sake! Someone must have snatched her while Sean’s back was turned.”
“We haven’t discounted that possibility, but everyone involved in the original project is in custody.”
“You said it yourself. Nehalem has no reason to want Brianna.” He took her face between his hands and captured her gaze. “She was terrified. She didn’t know if Sean was rescuing her or kidnapping her for someone worse than Howyn. We suspect that instinct took over and she just ran.”
“Ran where? Where was this house? Where did Sean lose her?” Mal Ton’s expression fell and his mental shields snapped into place. Shit! This was bad. “Tell me.”
“They were on the border of Silver Hills and Pine Vista, deep in the black zones.”
Fear slammed into Lorelle with physical force. The Protarian government had quarantined the outlying ‘black zones’ and shut them off from all municipal services centuries before. They had since reverted to lawless, brutal anarchies with primitive ‘only the strong survive’ mentalities. Brianna wasn’t strong. Brianna was beautiful and kind and tenderhearted. She didn’t stand a chance in a place like that.
“We have to find her,” Lorelle sobbed.
“Sean knows the black zones. He knows the people and the rules. And he’s a specter. We’d just slow him down.” Mal Ton sounded convincing, but she saw a flicker of uncertainty in his eyes. “We’ll do whatever we can to help him, but going in ourselves will just create additional targets. Sean’s the best man for the job. We have to let him work.”
“You don’t know Brianna. She’s not a soldier like me. She’s been protected and sheltered all her life. She’s soft and feminine and… She won’t survive. My God, how will she survive?”
Lorelle dissolved into tears, knowing there was nothing she could do to prepare Brianna for what awaited her in the black zones. She clung to Mal Ton’s neck and prayed for protection and mercy, hoping God could hear her from the war-scarred isolation of Stilox.