All the flight simulation exercises in the world could not have prepared Lottie for the thrill of piloting her own spacecraft for the first time. As she maneuvered the single seat fighter through the narrow mountain passes on the uninhabited planet of Celeron, she’d never felt more alive. She relished the chance to spread her wings, if only for a little while. Life on Earth wasn’t easy for a woman like her, one who wasn’t willing to conform to the rigid standards dictated by the ruling High Council. Things had become increasingly difficult for her since the arrest of her friend, Caroline Chatterton. They’d both been involved in an illicit group, the Hyde Ladies’ Circle and the authorities were trying to track down its members, intending to try them for crimes against the state. Getting together with like-minded women to talk about subjects they were forbidden to discuss was the least of Lottie’s transgressions. As part of her father’s rebel organization that aimed to bring down the government, she’d been involved in training men and women for combat. If the secret police got their hands on her, it could lead to danger for hundreds of other people. So, Lottie had jumped at the chance to get away.
The invitation to travel far from New Cambridge had come from an unexpected source. While conducting business with her father, Jax Brant, a Bylanthian warrior, had taken a shine to Lottie. Apparently, he’d watched her sparring with one of her father’s men and the way she’d laid him flat on his ass had impressed the alien. He’d offered to get her out of New Cambridge until the heat died down a bit.
Lottie hadn’t been sure about accepting at first. She’d heard terrible stories about the alien races her people were in contact with. Their nearest neighbors were the Taar-Breckians, whose men were said to utterly dominate the women. They had a bad reputation, but the whispers about the Bylanthians, whose planet lay a little further afield, were even worse. It was said they kept their females as mindless sex slaves, unable even to speak without express permission. Lottie had been afraid to put her trust in them but, eventually, Jax had persuaded her he was no threat and she’d joined him on board his command ship.
Lottie knew, though, that his motivation to help her had, in part, been sexual. She might not have much—any—experience with men, but she could tell when someone desired her. Every time he looked at her, Jax’s eyes were clouded with a lust she felt for him in return. Unfortunately, his brothers also seemed to desire her, and she had no idea how to deal with the fact she wanted them all.
Her thoughts came rushing back to the here and now as a large rock formation suddenly loomed up in front of her. Forced to swerve sharply to avoid hitting it, she almost lost control of the ship as it lurched violently to the side. That was too close. She needed to concentrate if she was going to land this thing safely. She slowed down considerably and eased the ship through the open hatch of the command vessel to touch down in the docking bay.
When she climbed out of the cockpit, she found Ren, one of Jax’s brothers waiting for her. His arms were folded like he was about to tell her off, but there was a mischievous glint in his eye.
“Jax wants to see you,” he said in a singsong voice. “Someone’s going to get spanked.”
“Spanked?” Lottie scoffed. As if that was going to happen! “What for?”
“Daydreaming whilst in control of a very expensive class 2 fighter.”
“What do you mean, daydreaming?” Lottie wondered how the hell they knew she hadn’t been paying attention the whole time.
“It was pretty obvious you failed to notice that massive rock sticking up from the ground. If it had been on a bend, I’d understand it, but it was on a straight run.”
She had to admit he had a point. If she’d not been reflecting on how she’d gotten here, she’d have seen it.
“So Jax is mad at me?”
“Steaming out of his ears. I can’t wait to see him redden your bottom for you.”
Lottie shook her head. Ren was the joker of the pack but sometimes she didn’t get his sense of humor. The grin on his face told her he wasn’t serious about Jax spanking her—was he? She followed him up to the third floor and into the living quarters he shared with his brothers. All three of them were there waiting, and they didn’t look happy.
“A moment’s lapse in concentration can be fatal, Charlotte,” Jax said without preamble.
“Told you,” Ren whispered in her ear as he moved to join his brothers.
Lottie glared at him and then turned to Jax. The man did not tolerate the slightest misstep and, on this occasion, he was right, so Lottie nodded.
“Your kind is not equipped to operate such a sophisticated machine,” Marc added, his lip curled into a snarl. If Lottie hadn’t already figured out his bark was worse than his bite, she might be intimidated by him.
“Now, wait a minute, just because I’m a woman, it doesn’t mean…”
“I was referring to humans,” he cut her off.
“Oh, so it’s humans who’re inferior, not just women?” Lottie narrowed her eyes at Marc, refusing to be cowed by the anger radiating from him. She was starting to wonder how he and the easygoing Ren could possibly be twins. “Is that what you’re saying?”
“We are not here to discuss what my brother thinks about humans, but to ensure that you do not put yourself at such risk again.” Jax spoke before Marc could reply to her. Lottie breathed a quiet sigh of relief. She really didn’t want to get into an escalating argument with a Bylanthian male who stood at least fifteen inches taller than her and could snap her in two with his bare hands.
“I won’t,” Lottie promised. “I’m sorry if I caused anyone to worry.”
“Good. So you agree you deserve to be punished?”
Lottie’s mouth flapped open, but Jax pressed on before she could respond.
“In that case, pull down your pants and bend over that chair.”
Lottie blinked and stared at Jax as if he’d grown another head.
“We have come to care for you, Charlotte,” Daen, the youngest of the brothers said. “We need to show you we will not accept any threat to your safety, even if that threat comes from you.”
“The four of us,” Jax explained. “We want to make you ours, but first you must demonstrate your willingness to obey our instructions. If you are not willing to accept our discipline, say so now, and we will all walk away.”
It was a lot to process. A million questions popped into her mind about what they might ask her to do, whether they intended this to be more than a one-off. She had no time to ask. Taking the decision out of her hands, Jax grabbed her wrist and pulled her down over his knee as he took a seat on the chair he’d asked her to bend over. Before she knew what was happening, one of the others had removed her pants, exposing her naked flesh to their view.
“Last chance, Charlotte.”
A little voice at the back of her head told her she should get up and walk away before she could suffer further indignities, but curiosity drowned out those thoughts. Her whole body was tingling with anticipation and she wanted to know what it would feel like to be spanked by a man like Jax. Painful was the word that sprang to mind as his palm cracked down on her bottom for the first time. She made a little yipping sound and pushed up on her toes, but he wasted no time in landing another blow. It stung, but not quite as badly as she’d feared. In fact, as Jax settled into a rhythm, drumming a beat across her backside, a delicious warmth spread through her flesh. As she hummed with desire, Jax gave a chuckle and she realized he hadn’t intended to cause her discomfort after all—well, not of the kind she’d expected. He’d said he would punish her, but this didn’t hurt. It was awakening something primal in her.
Lottie moaned and writhed on Jax’s lap. She was all too aware that her pussy had grown wet and as Jax slipped his fingers between her legs, she whined with need for something she’d never experienced before.
“You’re soaking wet, Charlotte.”
“I think that means she likes us,” Ren said as Jax helped her to sit up, so she was perched on his knee.
“You are a virgin, are you not?” Jax asked.
“Then we will take special care not to hurt you.”
Jax lifted her into his arms and carried her to the other room. He laid her down on the large bed with such care she could have wept. She hadn’t thought a man with his commanding presence would be so gentle. As he and his brothers stripped off their clothing, she took a moment to appreciate the masculine beauty of their muscular torsos before experiencing a brief twinge of panic. They were all so big, much larger than human males and the thought of having one of their cocks inside her had been scary enough. She’d never imagined being with an alien.
“You’re impressed, I can tell.”
Ren’s shameless boast made her laugh and helped to allay her fears. As the men watched, Lottie unbuttoned her shirt and threw it to the floor, revealing her perfect, rounded breasts to them. She’d never been particularly shy about her body but, as she lay back on the mattress, a blush rose to her cheeks.
“I don’t know what to do,” she admitted.
“Relax and enjoy what we do to you,” Jax told her. “Tonight we will take things slowly, but in the future we will fuck you as we please.”
There was a sensual promise in his statement that elevated Lottie’s pulse. A wave of excitement rushed through her as Jax climbed onto the bed. She opened her legs and Jax crawled between them. He lowered his head and ran his tongue along her feminine slit. Lightning zapped through Lottie and she lifted her hips from the bed. She’d never felt anything like that before. It was so good she never wanted him to stop.
As Jax licked her pussy, Ren flicked a finger lazily over her nipple until it drew up into a stiff peak. Then he took it into his mouth and sucked lightly. There was something teasing about the way his hand skimmed over her breast, almost tickling her. Where his touch was playful, his twin’s was rough. Marc grabbed her other breast and squeezed. Watching for her reaction, he increased the pressure until she whimpered. The pain wove its way to her feminine core and somehow intensified her pleasure. Then he released his grip and kissed her with almost brutal insistence. It took her breath away, but as hard as his lips pressed on hers, she wanted more.
While his brothers explored every inch of her body, Daen stood back, his eyes fixed on Lottie’s as he fisted his cock and began to slowly run his hand up and down its hard length. The intense longing in his eyes spiked Lottie’s desire and she sank her teeth into her bottom lip, to the point of drawing blood. She couldn’t wait to touch these men, to show them even a fraction of the bliss they were giving her.
“You’re ready for me,” Jax said, positioning himself over her as his brothers moved aside. “There’s no way to avoid hurting you completely.”
His words were both apology and warning of what was about to happen. He drove his rigid shaft into her in one hard thrust. Lottie gasped as a spasm of pain seized hold of her.
Jax held still as she accustomed herself to the strangeness of having her untried channel stretched so wide. The initial discomfort faded fast and she rocked her hips experimentally. Taking it as permission to move, Jax slid his cock back and forth. A delicious friction built as his flesh moved against hers. Lottie panted with need as she tried to make sense of all she was feeling. It was all so new. She glanced over Jax’s shoulder to where his brothers stood by the side of the bed. The erotic sight of three perfectly formed males each working their cock to find their own release was enough to bring Lottie close to the edge.
Her face contorted as ecstasy like she’d never known before gripped her. Jax raised himself up onto the palms of his hands and began to pound into her more vigorously. As her body was pummeled into the mattress, Lottie’s breaths became erratic.
“You’re so fucking perfect,” Jax ground out. “Come for me, Charlotte.”
Could a woman really come on command? It seemed she could. His demand made her pussy clench tightly. Jax stilled and slipped one hand between their bodies, to pinch her swollen clitoris. Fluid rushed from her body. Flashes of light burst behind her eyes and she struggled to keep her breathing steady. She felt Jax’s cock swell within her and a strange warmth flooded her channel. In her climactic haze, she only vaguely registered that he’d spilled his seed. He pulled out of her and she winced.
Trying to get her head around what had just happened, she collapsed back against the mattress. As she slowly returned to herself, she reached out for her men and they joined her on the bed.
“You have given us a special gift,” Jax said, “and now you must rest a while.”
Worn out emotionally and physically from the intensity of the encounter, Lottie nodded. She would take a moment’s reprieve where she could get it, because the look in the men’s eyes told her this was just the beginning.
Six weeks later
The instinctive recognition of a threat sent a chill skittering down Lottie’s spine and she shuddered with dread. Scanning the room, she fixed her sights on a man she hadn’t seen before. There was something about him that didn’t seem quite right. From his height and build, she surmised he was not a Bylanthian, but a larger than average human male trying to pass himself off as an alien warrior. She had no idea what reason he would have for being aboard a Bylanthian vessel, but the timing was suspicious, considering the Taar-Breckian ambassador was here to negotiate a peace treaty.
Summoning a guard to her side, Lottie pointed out the man whose presence made her so uncomfortable.
“Detain him,” she instructed, confident that her position as mate to the Bylanthian princes gave her the authority.
“As you wish,” the guard agreed without question. “Do you want to interrogate him immediately?”
Yes, she did, but dinner was about to be served and it was important that she be there. She’d promised to speak with Taryn Duff, the delegate from Taar-Breck as the visit was not going particularly well so far. Since he arrived, there had been a lot of macho posturing between him and her mates. Negotiating for peace was never going to be easy with so many alpha males involved. To make matters trickier, a Taar-Breckian passenger shuttle had recently been attacked and there was evidence that Bylanthians were involved. Jax had vehemently denied his men were responsible, but tension remained between the brothers and their honored guest. Lottie was sure she could cut through all the masculine bullshit to get a sense of whether Taryn believed Jax and find out if his people would support her mates’ claim to the Bylanthian throne. She had to make that her priority for tonight so, reluctantly, she shook her head.
“No, put him in a cell and we’ll deal with him later.”
Trusting the guard to do his duty, Lottie went and took her seat next to Taryn. Diplomacy was not her strong suit. Her manner could be blunt at times and she knew she often rubbed people the wrong way. She would have to call on every ounce of charm she possessed to get this man on their side. Taar-Breck and Bylanthia had been enemies for centuries and certain factions from both planets still sought to make war. Jax and his brothers wanted to put an end to the fighting that flared up every now and then and bring a lasting peace to their part of the universe. A lot of lives depended upon the success of tonight’s meal. Smiling, Lottie waited for Taryn to ask the question she could see churning in his mind.
“Are all three your mates?” He gestured toward Jax, and the twins, Marc and Ren, who sat at the head of the table, trying to feign disinterest in her interactions with their honored guest. Her men were possessive, but there was no need. Handsome as the Taar-Breckian was, she only had eyes for them.
“Yes, and their brother, Daen.”
Taryn’s eyes widened, a reaction Lottie often received when she spoke of her four amazing mates. Their relationship was quite normal within Bylanthian society, but elsewhere in the universe, people seemed to find it strange.
“And this works?”
Lottie couldn’t help but smile at Taryn’s incredulity.
“It works great.” She paused to think about it for a moment. “Well, most of the time. Trying to cope with three macho warriors can be challenging.”
“Three? But you mentioned the fourth brother also.”
“Yes, but Daen’s different.” Affection stole into her tone as she spoke about the youngest of her mates. Daen was a sensitive soul, so unlike the other Bylanthians she’d met. They tended to be a brash race, more used to seizing what they wanted than asking for it. Daen was still more aggressive in his demands than the average human, but there was a softness in him also. “He’s tender and caring, much more even-tempered than the other three. He’s the light to their dark and he keeps us all sane.”
Taryn’s brow furrowed as he digested her words.
“You don’t approve?” Lottie guessed. Many people didn’t, and she knew if she ever returned to New Cambridge, they’d probably burn her at the stake for flying in the face of their archaic ideals about marriage.
“It is not for me to approve. It is just…”
“That you expected me to take one look at your pal, Bryn, and fall head over heels in love?”
Taryn’s surprise when she mentioned his colleague was evident. Lottie knew all about her friend Caroline’s plot to marry her and several other women off to Taar-Breckian warriors. She had no doubt Caroline meant well, that she thought she was offering her friends a secure future, but Lottie had no need for someone else to take charge of her life. As it happened, when she’d met Bryn, she was already in a relationship with her men. He hadn’t seemed interested in her anyway.
“Yes, I know him,” Lottie said in reply to Taryn’s bemused expression. “He’s very nice to look at, I’ll give you that, but I was already involved with my boys when I met him and Bryn’s just not my type. God knows why Caro thought I’d be into a stuffed shirt like him.”
“He told you the commander’s wife had matched you with him?” Taryn asked.
“He did, not that he needed to.” Lottie had appreciated Bryn’s candor, even though she’d already worked out what was happening. “It was obvious my friends were being paired off with men who work for Caro’s husband—Kate and Aran, Melissa with Cole, Sarah-Jayne with that big guy with the blond hair and violet eyes.” She almost laughed at herself since she’d just described almost every male on Taar-Breck. “Vicky and Allik,” she continued. “Now Allik, I might have gone for. Those scars are hot, and I love that whole brooding asshole thing he’s got going on. And you and Lucy, of course. How is Lucy? I thought you were going to bring her.”
It would have been nice to see her again. Of all the women who’d gotten together to form the Hyde Ladies’ Circle, Lucy was the one Lottie had felt the most affection for. She liked most of the group, but Lucy had always seemed so young and innocent that Lottie wanted to protect her.
“We have parted,” Taryn said, his voice breaking under the weight of emotion.
Lottie placed her hand over his and squeezed. On seeing his eyes narrowing, she smiled. Such contact with a stranger would seem improper for a Taar-Breckian, so she removed her hand.
“It wasn’t your choice?” she guessed.
“She was unhappy. I do not know why,” Taryn sighed. “At first she seemed to suit being my pet, but after a while, she became sad, distant.”
“You made her your pet?” Lottie could not imagine Lucy being happy with an arrangement like that.
“She came to me and offered.” His tone was defensive. “If she did not want it, why did she ask me to take her?”
“Perhaps you and she have different ideas about what being a pet means.” Lottie shook her head in response to the blank stare her suggestion elicited from Taryn. Under her breath, she cursed the stupidity of men. Why could they not understand that women often had different needs? “I’ll bet you seized the chance to stick a tail in her butt and get her to crawl around after you.”
Taryn shrugged. “That is what she requested from me.”
Was the man a complete idiot? Lottie was beginning to wonder.
“I doubt it. What she requested was for you to take care of her. She probably realized sex would be involved but mainly what she was looking for was love and affection. Lucy needs someone to make sure she’s fed and watered and tucked up safe in bed at night.”
Damnit, she hadn’t intended to make Lucy sound so much like some helpless creature who needed someone else to take care of her basic requirements for survival. Her friend was stronger than that, but she would need love and affection.
“Then why did she not tell me this?”
Lottie raised her eyebrow and waited for the penny to drop.
“Because she did not feel she could,” Taryn said.
“But she enjoys submitting to me.”
“I’m sure she does, but what you need to understand is that our little Lucy is a hopeless romantic. She might crave dominance, but she needs to be loved.”
Lottie couldn’t believe she was having to spell these things out to him. Taar-Breckian men, it seemed, were as blind to emotion as her own Bylanthian mates were most of the time.
“I do love her.”
Lottie wondered if he’d only just recognized the fact. He had sounded surprised as he spoke the words.
“And you told her this?” she demanded. “Showered her with affection? Made her feel special every minute of every goddamned day and let her know her happiness comes first? You let her into your life?”
“I have not communicated with her properly,” Taryn admitted.
Lottie rolled her eyes and shook her head. She knew she should drop the subject for the sake of diplomacy but his blindness when it came to Lucy’s emotional wellbeing infuriated her. He needed to show her he loved her, to let his guard down a little if he wanted to win the sensitive young woman over.
“Do they dip Taar-Breckian men in starch every morning?”
Confusion showed on Taryn’s face.
“You’re all so fucking rigid!” Lottie explained. “Go back to Lucy and tell her how you feel. You do have feelings, don’t you?” She waited for his nod of confirmation. “Go back and tell her how you feel. Ask her to be your partner in life.” She held up her hand to silence him as he appeared to be about to protest. “Submissive, perhaps, but a partner all the same. Ask her what she wants and tell her what you want. Knowing Lucy, she’ll swoon at your fucking feet.”
“How do you know that will work?”
Lottie took a deep breath. Their conversation had gotten a bit loud and they were now attracting attention from those around them. She lowered her voice as she responded to Taryn’s question.
“I’m good at reading people and Lucy’s not difficult. When we used to get together at Caro’s house, things got pretty raucous sometimes.” That was an understatement. When the Hyde Ladies’ Circle got around to discussing sex, things got wild. “Lucy was always a bit quieter than the rest of us. She used to blush something fierce when we talked about our fantasies, but there was also a spark in her eye. You said she came and asked to be your pet, so she must have had some idea in her head. Like I said, she’s a romantic.”
“How did you come to be friends with Lucy and the others?”
It seemed like he was trying to turn the conversation in a different direction and Lottie was happy to go along with it. She shouldn’t be lecturing Taryn about his love life. Not when she was supposed to be buttering him up to help the Bylanthian cause.
“My father’s one of the leaders of the rebels and he brought me in when I turned eighteen. We heard about Caro’s group and I befriended them to see what our common goals were, how they might help our cause.”
“They had no idea you were with the rebels?” Taryn gave her an accusing stare and she shook her head, blushing with sudden shame. “You were using them?”
“At first, but I came to genuinely regard them as friends. I’d never had much of a female influence around me and they welcomed me like a sister.”
Lottie blinked back tears. Forming friendships with those women had been one of the greatest experiences of her life. No matter how her involvement with them had started out, she had ended up loving each one of them, even Victoria who had irritated the crap out of her.
“And Elizabeth Chatterton? What do you know about her?”
“Lizzie was more rebellious than the others. She wanted to do more than just talk and send out pamphlets. I introduced her to my father and she got involved with William Barron—you know him, right?”
Taryn nodded, and Lottie realized he would, of course, know Earth’s new ambassador to Taar-Breck. She wondered whether he was also aware that William was a secret rebel spy who used his work on the High Council as a cover for his illegal activities. It was best not to bring that up, just in case.
“They were meant to leave New Cambridge together,” Lottie continued, “but William set off for Taar-Breck alone.”
“You have no idea what happened to Elizabeth? Do you think Barron might have hurt her?”
She couldn’t help but laugh at the suggestion. William Barron would sooner saw off his own right hand than raise it to Lizzie.
“Then where is she?” Taryn asked.
“Last I heard of her, she was with William.”
“Have you any idea where she might go?”
There were numerous possibilities. Lottie thought through various routes Elizabeth might have taken to get to safety, assuming she’d got out of New Cambridge unimpeded. She was about to voice her concern that Elizabeth had been captured when she caught a peculiar scent on the air—something chemical. She sniffed harder. Suddenly that strange man’s presence seemed even more sinister. There was an explosive device in the room. Panicked, she leapt to her feet.
“Everybody out!” she yelled.
There was a blinding flash of light and a deafening bang. The whole room shook, and she was flung backwards with considerable force. Pain exploded through her head and she cried out for Jax. It was the last thing she remembered before her world turned black.