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Theirs to Correct by Ivy Barrett – Sample

Chapter One

A large hand clamped over Emily Delacroix’s mouth, stifling her scream. All of her senses jarred to full alert but fear paralyzed her for one pulse-pounding moment. Someone pinned her to the bed while someone else snapped metal restraints around her wrists and ankles. The hotel room was dark, the shabby furniture barely visible. Her abductors were little more than silhouettes, but their size told her all she needed to know. Kobar hunters!

How had the aliens found her so quickly? She had done everything her security team told her to do. Daniel and his men knew every trick in the book when it came to eluding the enemy. It just hadn’t been enough.

And the Kobar were the enemy. Every human on planet Earth knew it, but few had the courage or resources to do anything about it. The militant aliens had arrived three years ago, claiming that Earth was a Kobar colony and demanding that a continent of their choice be evacuated so that they could establish a new home for themselves and their descendants. Human leaders didn’t appreciate their arrogance and the Eleven-Day War had ensued.

The hand over Emily’s mouth lifted as a wad of cloth was shoved inside. She frantically tried to spit it out, but a strip of material was wrapped around her head securing the gag. The captor who had kept her silent picked her up and slung her over his shoulder. She wiggled and twisted, tossing her head from side to side. Where were José and Kyle? Daniel and Ryan should be sleeping. The team guarded her in shifts.

The Kobar who wasn’t holding her opened the door and moonlight streamed inside. Emily’s gaze landed on a body near the door and a shrill scream erupted from inside her. The gag muffled the cry, but she twisted and kicked so violently that the hunter nearly dropped her. The hunter smacked her butt hard twice as his hold on her legs tightened. They’d killed Kyle, stabbed him and left him there in a pool of blood.

Horrified and furious, she hit at her captor with her bound hands, continuing to struggle. Where was José? Had they killed him too? She pushed against the Kobar’s back so she could look around. José sat on the sidewalk to one side of the door. His head slumped forward, chin on his chest, but there was no blood in sight. Please, God, let him be alive! He had a wife and children.

A sleek shuttle waited on the far side of the parking lot, hatch open, stairs extended. The hunter jogged across the lot, then maneuvered her through the opening and deposited her none too gently on her feet beside one of the center-facing seats. With dark hair, bold features, copper-tinted skin, and leering light brown eyes, her captor radiated hostility and lust. He ran his hands down her arms, then lingered over her breasts and rubbed lewdly between her legs as he checked her for weapons. She glared, but couldn’t do much to prevent his actions or voice her objections with the gag still in place.

“Watch your hands,” the other captor snapped in Kobar. “She belongs to Command Cadre Four.”

The news was even more upsetting than the unwanted touches. Earth had been divided into territories and the territories subdivided into sectors. Each sector had its own command cadre, which consisted of the sector leader and his two closest advisors. All of the sector leaders were drunk on power, but Sector Leader Four was rumored to be the worst. He was ruthless, ambitious, and the supreme commander indulged him because they were close friends.

The rude hunter pushed her down on the seat then said, “Secure passenger three.”

Streams of charcoal gray liquid flowed over her shoulders and across her chest. The same liquid ran around her waist half a second later and then all the shimmering bands solidified. There was a hint of give in the straps, but she couldn’t begin to stand up. Her mother had been issued a Kobar shuttle, but it didn’t have this bizarre feature.

Emily rested her head against the fuselage and closed her eyes. This couldn’t be happening. Where had Daniel and his men gone wrong? They had been so damn careful, paid for everything with cash, avoided technology like the plague. And still the hunters found them.

Emily shivered. Never in her life had she expected to be prey. Her mother was one of the most powerful women on Earth. Things like this weren’t supposed to happen to people like Emily. But it had happened.

She’d been texting a friend two days ago when Daniel had barged into her bedroom.

“What the hell?” She’d shot to her feet, indignant. Thank God she hadn’t undressed yet. “You know better than—”

“Grab some clothes,” he’d ordered, his expression fierce and insistent. “Your number was chosen in tonight’s lottery. We have to get you out of here.” He’d snatched her phone out of her hand and tossed it across the room. “No tech of any kind.”

She’d gasped. Was he drunk? “I’m exempt from the lottery. There has to be a mistake.”

“There’s no mistake.” He’d opened her closet and found a backpack. “You’re not the only one who was chosen. The Kobar are targeting powerful families. Now move!”

She’d crammed random clothing into the backpack and followed him from the White House. It had been surreal, so unbelievable that it took days for reality to set in. She was the target of Kobar hunters and the fate awaiting her if she was caught was unthinkable.

Well, the unthinkable began right now.

Fingers brushed against her cheek, pulling the gag down. She gasped and opened her eyes. The other hunter stood in front of her, the one who’d told the jerk to keep his hands to himself. He pulled the wad of cloth out of her mouth and she tried to lick her lips.

“You didn’t have to kill my guard. He was just doing his job.”

“So are we,” he said in English as he handed her a bottle of water. He waited until she took a drink then retrieved the bottle. “Your guard was still breathing when I checked a moment ago and I requested an ambulance. If the human medics do their job, he should survive. It’s about twenty minutes to our destination.”

Kyle wasn’t dead. It was small consolation, but she’d take it. Her security team was brave and loyal. They didn’t deserve to die so that she could avoid the sexual demands of Kobar warriors. Emily sighed. It was more complicated than that and she knew it. If sex was all the Kobar wanted, she never would have run. Either way, she was really glad Kyle was still alive.

The hunters strapped into the forward-facing seats and the nicer one set the shuttle in motion. A Kobar shuttle could travel about five hundred miles in twenty minutes. Unless they slipped into hyperspace, then they could go nearly anywhere on Earth. The nice hunter said she belonged to Command Cadre Four, which meant Sector Four was more than likely where they were bound. She shook away the speculation. Trying to figure out her destination was pointless. In less than twenty minutes, she’d find out.

Freedom would fade from her reality and life as a lottery girl would begin.

Lottery girl was the semi-derogatory title for the human females chosen for civil service. Giving Kobar warriors access to willing females had been part of Earth’s surrender after the Eleven-Day War. The Kobar didn’t care how the females were chosen as long as they were willing.

So Earth’s governments developed the civil service program. Appealing to everyone’s patriotism and sense of duty, they explained why those in their twenties must participate in the lottery. Males who were chosen served four years in the Planetary Defense Force. Females were required to meet the sexual needs of whoever bought her contract but for one year rather than four. In exchange for these services, Earth gained access to Kobar knowledge and technology. This meant the end of hunger, eradication of most diseases, and rapid development of renewable energy.

According to the worldwide marketing blitz, the civil service program was a fair and completely objective way of sharing the responsibility so that the entire planet could benefit. In truth, the children of the rich and powerful, people like Emily, had been secretly exempted from the lottery. Until two days ago.

Emily had never been comfortable with the exemption. It saddened her to think that her mother had been on the committee that established the rules. Of course, Emily hadn’t been bothered badly enough to reject the protection. She had lived securely for the past three years knowing her number would never be chosen.

None of that mattered now. Her number had been chosen and she was about to be treated the same as any other lottery girl. Her mother might be president of the United Americas, but that meant nothing when compared to the power and authority of a sector leader.

Emily had helped her mother memorize the locations of all the sectors and the names of the command cadres so Emily searched her memory for everything she’d learned about Sector Four. It encompassed Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. Of course, those names belonged to the past. Earth was now New Kobar and locations had alphanumeric designation. The headquarters for Sector Four was City four-four-seven. Or Colorado Springs, Emily added rebelliously.

Sector Leader Four’s name was Brydon Slone. His ‘second’ was Nayez Slone, and Lahval Slone was his ‘third.’ Emily wasn’t sure if they were related by blood or if the common last name was simply tradition when Kobar warriors formed a cadre. Truth be told, her interaction with the Kobar had been minimal. She had worked hard to keep it that way.

The shuttle dipped suddenly, banking sharply to one side. Was something wrong, or had it been twenty minutes already?

She took a deep breath and fought back her panic. It was just sex, nothing she hadn’t done before. She’d heard that the Kobar enjoyed humiliating and punishing their lottery girls as much as they did fucking them. Well, they couldn’t punish her if she did nothing wrong and they could only humiliate her if she allowed herself to be embarrassed by their orders. Despite the stubborn thought, tension wound through her belly as the shuttle set down and one of the hunters triggered the hatch.

The nicer of the two hunters retracted the safety straps with a verbal command. He freed her wrists, then knelt in front of her and triggered the release on her ankle restraints. Finally helping her to her feet, he advised, “Do what they tell you. Sector Leader Four will not tolerate insubordination from anyone.”

She nodded, having come to the same conclusion on her own. Do as she was told and pretend she was somewhere else. Once the novelty wore off, they would lose interest. At least she hoped to God they would.

The hunter exited first then helped her down the steep steps leading to the ground. Emily paused to look around and inhale the crisp evening air. She was standing on a circle drive in front of a rustic mansion. The shuttle straddled the two sides of the circle drive, resting on an area that looked as if it had been recently leveled. Tall pine trees surrounded the house, making it feel secluded even though she could see similar homes in the distance to either side.

“Is this Colorado Springs?”

“We are on the outskirts of City four-four-seven,” he confirmed, then motioned toward the house.

She followed him toward the front entrance, her steps lagging more the closer they came.

He rang the doorbell once then looked at her one last time. “Don’t argue and only ask questions if you absolutely must know the answer. Obey them and things will go much easier for you.” Footfalls sounded on the other side of the door and the hunter immediately moved back several steps. “Good luck, Ms. Delacroix.”

The door was pulled open by a young male with golden blond hair and lightly tanned skin. Most of the Kobar had dark hair and reddish brown skin. This male’s coloring was much lighter, but the exotic shape of his amber eyes and his slashing cheekbones confirmed that he was Kobar.

One corner of his mouth lifted as he swept his arm toward the interior of the house. “Welcome,” he said in English.

“Thank you.” She felt the irrational need to curtsy as she moved into the house she would occupy for the next year. Or until she could figure a way out of this mess. That was a much better attitude to have. It wasn’t quite so hopeless.

She’d seen images of Sector Leader Four. He had dark hair, a coppery skin tone, and yellowish green eyes, so she knew this wasn’t Brydon. “Are you Nayez or Lahval?”

He thanked the hunters then shut the door before he faced her again. “I am Lahval, but it is customary to call me Sir. You will also call Nayez Sir, but Sector Leader Four is your master and should be addressed as such.”

She found the condescending formality ridiculous, but all she said was, “I understand, Sir. Thank you for the explanation.”

Lahval was younger than Brydon by at least five years, if the Kobar aged similarly to humans. There was a youthful openness to Lahval’s features, but melancholy shadowed his gaze. That wasn’t surprising. All of the Kobar had known loss. Their planet had been devastated by a series of natural disasters. Billions died. Emily would have been much more compassionate toward the survivors if their solution to looming extinction hadn’t been forcibly converting Earth into New Kobar.

“The briefing is winding down, so Brydon and Nayez will join us shortly. Would you like something to drink?”

He led her through a large narrow room that ran all the way to the back of the house where floor-to-ceiling windows presented an expansive view of treetops, the city in the valley beyond, and pale blue sky. With massive exposed tresses and stone walls, the house reminded Emily of a ski lodge or mountain conference center.

“Something warm would be nice,” she decided, though her trembling had more to do with nerves than the chilly air.

“Coffee, tea, hot chocolate?” He offered the last with a charming smile.

She wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but this smiling host wasn’t it. “Actually, hot chocolate would be amazing. This place makes me think of fresh powder on ski slopes and warming up by a raging fire.”

“I can’t help you with the ski slopes, but you don’t have far to go to find a fire in this place.”

She quickly realized what he meant as they moved from room to room. The main living spaces were connected by large stone archways and each room had its own fireplace. The front room gave way to a formal dining room, which opened onto a cozy family room and the gourmet kitchen with its breakfast nook. Along the entire back of the house were more floor-to-ceiling windows and a railed balcony. She moved closer to the windows, mesmerized by the view. Beyond the tree-covered hills spread City four-four-seven. Colorado Springs, she corrected silently, refusing to give in to their customs.

She was glad all she could see of the city was the distant shape of streets and buildings. The once thriving community had been ruthlessly converted into a sprawling military base. The human population had been relocated at gunpoint to make room for Kobar troops and equipment. Consolidating and repurposing human cities was one of the Kobar’s favorite activities. They claimed human societies were wasteful and inefficient. Emily suspected it had more to do with control than the effective allocation of resources. Either way, their decisions were unavoidable.

She dragged her gaze away from the windows. “Is it just the three of you living here? This place is massive.”

“And now you,” he pointed out.

“No live-in staff? Who keeps it clean and prepares your meals?” Staff would likely be human. Maybe she would luck out and find a rebel sympathizer who could pass messages or—

Lahval snuffed out the spark of hope with his next words. “Brydon doesn’t trust anyone, so he opted for technology over staff. The house has been retrofitted with all of the modern amenities found in Kobar homes, cleaning and maintenance bots, food and beverage dispensers, utility printers and recycling units. There is no need for staff when there is so much less to do.”

She just nodded. The strategy had been implemented all over the world, resulting in mass unemployment. Hunger and poverty had been exchanged for hopelessness and futility. Without a reason to get out of bed in the morning, many didn’t bother. Suicide rates soared, as did substance abuse and violent outbursts.

Emily sighed. They were concepts much too complex for a getting-to-know-you conversation, so she asked, “Was this always a private residence?” Her current address was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and she’d grown up in a posh suburb of Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It took a lot to impress her, but this place more than succeeded.

He shrugged as he walked into the kitchen. “It was like this when we moved in.”

She strolled back across the living room and slipped onto one of the upholstered barstools arranged along the outside of the multilevel island. “And when was that?”

“Shortly after we arrived. Brydon was given Sector Four because we were already living here.” He moved to the sustenance replication kiosk or SRK that had been inset into the wall like all the other appliances so it looked as if it had always been here. He ordered hot chocolate with a Kobar voice command then brought the steaming mug over to her. “Have you seen an SRK before?”

“They installed one in the White House last year. I thought it was wonderful until I realized they had cut the kitchen staff down to three people. Now I’m not a fan.”

“Why would that bother you if those people were freed to indulge in more rewarding pursuits? Automation generally replaces tedious, thankless jobs.”

“I’m not sure that applies to the culinary arts when one is cooking for world leaders.”

“Peeling potatoes is more rewarding when the potato will be eaten by a world leader?” He chuckled. “I’m not sure the peeler would agree. What about cleaning? Is a toilet easier to scrub if a world leader sat upon it?”

“Point taken.” She had never done a tedious or thankless job. She had always focused on the stories of those who were devastated by the changes, yet there were just as many, or more, who adapted to the new world order and praised the benefits of Kobar technology. Emily had no idea if more ‘average’ people saw automation as a benefit or a threat. Nothing about her life had been average. She wrapped her hands around the warm mug and took a careful sip. The chocolate was smooth and sweet, a very convincing facsimile.

A chime sounded and a disembodied voice said in Kobar, “Sorry to interrupt, Lahval. There is a comm for you.”

“Who is it?” he asked.

“Dr. Parsett. He has the lab results you requested.”

“Connect it in the study.”

“Of course, sir.”

Lahval looked at Emily and switched back to English. “I have been waiting for this comm. I’ll be just a moment. Stay here.” He walked off without waiting for her reaction.

Emily wasn’t insulted. A few minutes alone was just what she needed right now. She was here to have sex with the cadre. There was no avoiding that. What concerned her were the stories she’d heard about Kobar warriors dominating and disciplining their lottery girls. Emily had been raised by an assertive mother who taught her to stand up for her rights and speak her mind. That attitude might have served her well three years ago. Today it would earn her a spanking or worse.

Staring into the murky depths of her mug, Emily scrambled for a workable strategy. The wiser course was to yield, to bend to their will and obey. Despite their civilized veneer, the Kobar were savage, ruthless. She might be able to bite her tongue and fight back her temper for a week or two. But becoming a mindless sex slave until her contract expired? There was no way she could pretend to be subservient for an entire year.

Unfortunately, with a sector leader in the equation, she wasn’t sure escape was an option either. Because of Brydon’s position and pride, anything Emily did reflected on his authority. He would never stop chasing her, nor would he hesitate to use others to control her. That’s how this nightmare began. The Kobar saw Emily as a way of controlling her mother. It was a solid strategy. Everyone knew Angela Delacroix loved her three daughters deeply and would do anything to protect them. But Emily was so much more than a ‘first daughter.’

Five years ago Emily had established the Emery Delacroix Foundation in her father’s memory. Having a purpose and seeing all the people who benefited from the outreaches helped her process her grief. Around the same time, her mother was elected to the U.S. Senate, so Emily learned how to secure donors by watching her mother fundraise. Angela Delacroix’s ultimate goal had always been the White House, and she had just been elected president when the Kobar arrived.

The Eleven-Day War reshaped Emily’s foundation, creating two entwined yet largely separate entities. The first met the needs of thousands of children who had been orphaned by the war. The second supported the resistance. Emily ordered, warehoused, and distributed supplies for the rebels while remaining removed from the actual fighting. The rebels never contacted her directly and all of the supplies simply disappeared out of the foundation warehouses while Emily turned a blind eye.

Emily’s mother was unaware of her involvement, but Charlotte, Emily’s younger sister, was a true believer in the rebel cause. She used her considerable computer skills to help the rebel leaders send coded messages and monitored classified correspondence so she could keep the rebels informed. Charlotte was the one who’d recruited Emily, though Emily offered her support out of loyalty to the people involved much more so than a deep belief in what they were trying to accomplish.

With a frustrated sigh, Emily shook away her troubled thoughts and refocused on the present. No one at the White House knew that the president’s daughters were both rebels, which was why Emily had allowed Daniel to spirit her away. Any other reaction would have seemed suspicious.

“I’m sorry about the interruption,” Lahval said as he returned to the kitchen. “How are you doing on the hot chocolate? Are you ready for more?”

“No, I’m good,” she assured. In truth, her stomach was so knotted she’d hardly touched the first mug. “How long have you been part of Command Cadre Four?”

“Brydon asked me to join his cadre six years ago. Our familial cadre became a command cadre when Brydon became a sector leader.”

“Then cadres existed before the calamity? I wasn’t sure about that.”

“They have always been part of our military.”

A door opened in another part of the house and Emily heard the rumble of deep voices. Her stomach flipped over and her pulse kicked up a notch. Would the other two be as friendly as Lahval? Somehow she doubted it.

The center archways served as a hall, she realized as a group of warriors filed out of one of the rooms. Most were dressed in the black and gray uniforms, but some wore jeans and bulky sweaters. Or maybe it was just their bodies that made the sweaters seem bulky. She had yet to see a Kobar that didn’t look like he lived in a gym.

An untidy group of males walked toward the front door, leaving two in the corridor near the room where the meeting had taken place. She immediately recognized one of the two as Brydon. She’d always thought he was handsome, in that no-nonsense way that career military personnel frequently acquired, but his images hadn’t captured his dangerous air. All she could see of the other male was his back, so she shifted her attention toward the front door.

All of the guests had departed except the tallest of the group. His light brown hair had a tendency to curl and his features were model perfect. He turned from the door and strode toward the kitchen, his gaze boring into hers. As he neared, the color of his eyes became more apparent. They were vivid emerald green.

She swallowed past the lump in her throat as heat curled from her chest to her core. He wasn’t just handsome, he was gorgeous. Instinctively, she slipped off the barstool and lowered her gaze. “Sir.”

His huge hand cupped her chin and brought her gaze back to his. “If I do not want to be looked at, I will tell you to lower your gaze. The choice is mine. It would be a shame to see only the top of your head when your face is so appealing.”

His fingers felt warm against her skin and the strangest tingling current seemed to arc between them. “Yes, Sir.” Her heart was beating so fast it made her feel giddy. What the hell was wrong with her? She’d seen handsome males before and they had never affected her like this. “Your face could make you a fortune, if you chose to cash in on it.”

He just chuckled and lowered his arm. “I’m Nayez, as you’ve likely surmised, but continue to call me Sir.”

“Of course, Sir.” She didn’t bother introducing herself. They all knew her name.

“Well, that’s just fucking wonderful,” Brydon snapped in Kobar, drawing Emily’s attention back toward the other end of the house. “Reward his bad behavior by making me look like an incompetent fool.”

Emily hadn’t made it to the processing center, so they would likely presume she couldn’t speak their language. If they asked her directly she’d tell them the truth, but there was no reason to voluntarily surrender a potential advantage. This was Sector Four headquarters. Who knew what she could find out just by being here?

The other male laughed and turned as Brydon stomped off down the hallway. Emily gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.

Supreme Commander Jesorax Byrne rushed after Brydon. “Don’t take this personally.”

Brydon stopped and spun back around. “It is personal! Asking your brother to do something you already assigned to me tells everyone you don’t expect me to succeed.”

“You are searching for the rebel base and their network of supporters. Xoktal will focus only on Vixen.”

Emily tensed and her heart began to pound. If these two ever found out how much she knew about the resistance, and even more damning how much her sister knew, they would both be in serious trouble. None of the Kobar knew Vixen’s identity. Tori worked very hard to keep it that way. And Emily wasn’t about to betray her childhood friend.

“It’s the same damn thing and you know it.” Brydon wasn’t shouting anymore, but he still sounded pissed.

“You and Xoktal have never gotten along,” SC Byrne said. “If it were anyone else, you wouldn’t have reacted this way.”

“You’re the godsdamn supreme commander. It’s your prerogative to assign tasks.”

“It’s also my prerogative to assign females,” he pointed out with a wicked smile. “I suggest you bury yourself balls deep in that one as quickly as possible. A good, hard fuck always does wonders for my disposition.”

“She must be disciplined for running away from me first.” Brydon tossed the response over his shoulder as he continued his trek toward the kitchen.

Dread washed over Emily with each step he took.

“Enjoy both to the fullest,” SC Byrne advised, still smiling. “Comm me tomorrow and let me know how it went. Comm me late tomorrow.” His gaze landed on Emily as he slowly disappeared from view. Her mother’s shuttle had molecular transportation technology so she wasn’t impressed by the phenomenon.

SC Byrne was treated like a celebrity. The media followed him around covering every move he made like it was the most important event on the planet. Emily could never get past the ruthless gleam in his eyes. She pitied the poor female he selected to warm his bed each night. According to rumor, groupies lined up all over the world begging for the ‘privilege’ of being fucked by the most powerful male on the planet. Emily thought it was disgusting.

Nayez moved aside as Brydon approached. Up close, Brydon appeared downright menacing. Even if Emily hadn’t known who he was, she would have concluded that he was dangerous.

“What was that about?” Nayez asked in Kobar. “You did not sound pleased.”

Brydon looked at Emily. “Do you understand me?”

He still spoke in Kobar, so she wasn’t sure if he was talking to her. But why would he ask that of Nayez?

“She was never processed,” Nayez reminded. “She can’t understand us. Why did the supreme commander decide to involve Xoktal in our search?”

Brydon turned back to his second, so Emily remained silent.

“Jesorax told his useless brother to locate Vixen. We are to continue searching for the rebel base. But we both know why Jesorax did it.”

“We’re taking too long?” Nayez said with a sigh.

Brydon nodded. “Jesorax has many admirable qualities. Patience is just not one of them.”

“I still say we should be looking for small encampments rather than one large military outpost,” Lahval said hesitantly, his gaze darting to Emily then back.

That was odd. Lahval hadn’t been nearly this tentative when he spoke with her earlier. Was he intimidated by Sector Leader Four or was something distracting him?

“Let’s finish this later. We’re being rude to our guest.” Brydon turned toward her and switched to English. “Are contracts binding on this planet?” His stern expression and flashing yellowish green eyes demanded an immediate answer.

He was clearly in a foul mood. She needed to tread lightly. “They are, Sir, or should I say Master.” She hated that word. Sir was a show of respect. Master indicated subjugation. Regardless of her feelings, Lahval had already warned her that she better get used to having a master.

“It is Master,” Brydon stressed. “Now, tell me what happens to a human who disregards the conditions of a contract into which they entered willingly?”

She knew what he was getting at, but wasn’t ready to accept responsibility for her actions. “The other party would likely take them to court so a judge could determine appropriate compensation. Most human contracts revolve around finances, so the compensation would probably be monetary.”

“And what is an appropriate compensation when the contract revolves around a physical relationship?”

Uncomfortable with his penetrating stare, she lowered her gaze. Power radiated off him in waves. She’d met dictators and billionaires. None were this intimidating. “I’m sorry that I ran. I was afraid and confused because I had been told that I was exempt from the lottery.”

“I appreciate your contrition, but I want physical compensation.”

His inflexible tone sent a chill down her spine. All of the sector leaders had immense power at their disposal. She knew he would be arrogant, but she hadn’t expected him to be so cold. “In what form?”

“Take off your clothes and bend over the barstool.”

Was he going to spank or fuck her? Likely both, she realized with a helpless shudder. Her life as a lottery girl had just begun in earnest. There was no avoiding this, so she might as well minimize the pain as much as possible. “Yes, M-master.” Her mouth was so dry that she barely got the words out.

She bent over and pulled off her boots then tucked her socks down inside them. The floor tiles were icy beneath her bare feet and a violent shudder disrupted her movements. She probably should have left her socks on.

Brydon motioned toward the padded mat by the sink and Lahval moved it in front of Emily. Grateful for the mercy, Emily stepped onto the mat and continued to undress. Her sweater came off next, but she left her bra on while she removed her jeans. Her body was too well rounded to please most fashion designers, but she wasn’t ashamed of her curves. Still, she wasn’t accustomed to stripping in front of complete strangers either. She reached back and unfastened her bra, but couldn’t make herself remove it. She looked around at the brightly lit kitchen. “Do we have to do this here?”

“Yes.” The autocratic snap in the one word told her Brydon wouldn’t bend.

Hands trembling, she took off the rest and stood before them naked. So much for not allowing them to humiliate her. Shame washed over her in scorching waves, staining her cheeks bright red and twisting her belly into knots.

“Your body is lovely, as is your face,” Brydon decided after looking at her from every angle. “Bend over the stool, feet well apart, and spread your ass cheeks. Show us the rest of you.”

Oh, God, was he serious? She stared at him aghast, head shaking.

“I do not repeat directives,” he warned. “You are unaware of my expectations, so this one time, I will explain how this works. I will tell you to do something. If you do not do it, you will be punished or the punishment you already have coming will be increased in duration and intensity. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Master.” She licked her lips, hating where this was leading.

“Then make your choice.”

She turned toward the nearest barstool and grasped the sides with her hands. Slowly, damning the Kobar to hell and back, she bent over and pressed her chest against the padded top.

“Your legs are still together,” he pointed out.

Her fingernails dug into the wooden rim, but she moved her feet far enough apart that he could see between her legs.

“Now your cheeks. Spread them nice and wide.”

Embarrassment gave way to anger as she realized that this wasn’t about curiosity. The only reason he wanted to look at her asshole was because it made her intensely uncomfortable and it showed in no uncertain terms how much power he had over her.

“Are you mustering the courage or is this a refusal?”

She wanted to refuse him, wanted to straighten, look him in the eyes, and tell him to go fuck himself. But any good general knew how important it was to choose her battles. This one wasn’t worth fighting. If she refused to do this, he would simply find another way of putting her in her place. He was in control. There was no point in denying that obvious fact. She reached back and parted her cheeks. If they got off looking at that nasty little hole then let them.

“Good choice.” Brydon ran his fingers down her spine. “Your bottom is nicely rounded. It should tolerate discipline well.”

Oh, goody.

His exploration continued. He traced the valley between her cheeks from her tailbone to her core, then returned to the puckered opening he seemed obsessed with. “Have you ever allowed a cock in here?”

“No,” she said with obvious disdain. “Not interested.”

“You cannot dislike something you’ve never tried,” Nayez objected. “That is foolish.”

She glared without lifting her head. The sooner this was over the better, so she kept her mouth shut.

“You may let go.”

As she’d thought, Brydon lost interest as soon as she stopped being humiliated by the act. She tucked that fact away for later use as she released her cheeks and moved her hands back to the sides of the stool.

“Why am I about to spank you?”

His question didn’t surprise her, so her reply sounded almost bored. “Because I ran away instead of fulfilling the conditions of my contract.”

“Do you intend to fulfill them now?” he persisted.

She’d signed the contract when she thought it didn’t matter. She understood the true situation now. If she said yes, she would be offering him use of her body—willingly—for one hellacious year.

“Are you a woman of your word or not? You signed the contract. Will you honor it?”

Honor and obligation. Other young women made this sacrifice so that the entire planet could benefit from Kobar technology. Why should she be spared? “Yes,” she whispered helplessly. If the benefits were shared by everyone, so too should the cost.

“What does that mean exactly? What does the contract obligate you to do?”

Her parents loved to use this technique on her, make her detail her misbehavior and explain how she intended to change. It had been annoying then and it was even more so now.

She squirmed against the barstool, trying to find a more comfortable position. Apparently, she was going to be here a while. “I am obligated to do whatever you require of me for one year.”

“Whatever I or my cadre require of you,” he clarified. “Their needs are just as important as mine.”

“As long as we are being specific, I am not required to obey any directive that tells me to break a law or harm myself or others,” she added, glancing up at him through her hair.

“Very true, and we agree to abide by all of those stipulations. Now, this is your first infraction. However, your choice to run was inappropriate on a number of levels. It was defiant, it put you in danger, and it broke an agreement between you and us. All of those things are punishable.” He accented the statement with the palm of his hand, smacking one bottom cheek and then the other.

Emily yelped and instinctively clenched her butt cheeks.

“Relax and accept the pain,” Nayez told her. “It hurts worse when you tighten up like that.”

She tried to relax, but Brydon’s next swat came too fast, tearing a cry from her mouth. Nayez was right. The second slap stung more than the first, which only made her clench tighter. But Brydon didn’t stop. He spanked her fast and hard, alternating sides until her entire bottom throbbed with stinging heat. She clenched her teeth and fingers as well as her bottom cheeks, but none of it helped block out the punishing slaps.

Everyone knew the Kobar ‘disciplined’ their lovers, but Emily had always imagined the giggling sort of spankings kinky daddies gave their naughty little girls. This hurt like hell. Each time his palm cracked against her ass, sensations pulsed through her lower body. Maybe it was being naked, or maybe it was just stress, but her core echoed the persistent throb of her rear end.

“Stop!” She tossed her head and twisted her hips. No one had intentionally hurt her before, and she wasn’t sure how to deal with it. She could process the actual pain, but her mind failed to register why a technologically advanced culture would encourage this. Or why it was turning her on. “I’m sorry,” she sneered, feeling anything but.

“No, you’re not.” Brydon delivered several more spanks then paused with his hands on her burning cheeks. “You are angry, and you’re aroused.”

“Of course I’m angry, but I am not aroused!”

He slipped one of his hands between her thighs and caressed her pussy. Then he walked around to the other side of the stool. Grasping her hair with his other hand, he showed her his wet fingers. “What is this?”

“I can’t control that, but I am not enjoying this.”

“I didn’t say you were. I said you are sexually aroused by being controlled. Your ass hurts, but your pussy is wet and ready for my cock. Now open your mouth.”

She shook her head and pressed her lips together.

“Nayez, please motivate our slave.” Brydon’s gaze bore into hers, narrowed and gleaming.

She heard someone move, but all she could see was Brydon’s stern features. Suddenly pain exploded in her pussy and she yelled, “He hit me!” Before her mind could process the indignity, Nayez slapped her pussy again. Pain blossomed into something downright dirty. She shivered then moaned as urgent need spiraled through her core.

Brydon shoved his fingers into her mouth before she could lock her jaw again. “Suck them clean. Taste how wet your pussy is for me, how ready to be fucked.”

Not wanting another excruciating swat, she did as she was told. She’d kissed past lovers after they went down on her so she knew what her pussy tasted like. Still, this felt different somehow, more harshly erotic.

He released her hair and withdrew his fingers. “Why are we correcting your behavior?” He returned to his original position and spanked her already sore behind.

She groaned, tired of the head game even more than the pain. “Just get this over with.”

Brydon swatted her pussy even harder than Nayez. “Answer the question.”

Furious at her helplessness and his bullying, she yelled, “You’re pissed off because I didn’t want to be your fuck toy.”

“And yet my ‘fuck toy’ you are.” He shoved two fingers into her throbbing pussy and fucked her with short, fast jabs. “Nothing will change that, so the sooner you accept your situation, the less time you will spend with a sore bottom and an even sorer cunt.” He pulled her up off the stool and led her to the lower section of the island.

Seeing the lust in his gaze, she tugged against his hold. “Wait. I didn’t mean—” He lifted her to the countertop and she gasped. The stone surface was freezing cold against her heated bottom.

He urged her to her back then pulled her hips to the edge and shoved her legs open. “You exist for one purpose only for the next year.”

She covered her face with her hands, knowing what came next. “Please, don’t hurt me.” A sob escaped along with the words. The spanking might have made her wet, but the Kobar were bigger than human males. It only made sense that their cocks would be proportional.

Brydon positioned himself against her opening, but didn’t thrust inside. “Emily, look at me.” He sounded insistent but not angry, so she moved her hands and reluctantly met his gaze. “I will hurt you when your behavior requires correction, but I will never harm you. Do you understand the difference?”

“Yes,” she admitted with another sob. “I don’t want this,” she whispered, but it wasn’t accurate. She didn’t want to be anyone’s mindless fuck toy. Her body, however, ached to be filled, to be possessed and used by these powerful males. She felt restless and needy in a way she couldn’t explain.

“Are you sure about that?” He inched forward, opening her body with the tip of his cock. “Your sopping wet pussy seems to indicate otherwise.” He drove another few inches inside her.

Emily moaned, closing her eyes against the pleasure. Her core stretched around his thick shaft, pulsing wildly as her reluctant body surrendered. Her back passage tightened and released, seeming to echo the throbbing in her core now instead of the other way around.

“Should I pull out?” he mocked. “I don’t fuck unwilling females.”

“No.” She turned her head to the side, horrified by her weakness.

“Look at me, Lottie.”

A spark of anger brought her gaze back to his. “My name is Emily.”

He chuckled as he shifted his hands to her waist. “Lottie is short for lottery girl. I haven’t forgotten your name. Now keep those eyes on me. I want you to know who is fucking you, who owns you, and who will enjoy using you for every moment of this next year.” As if to prove his point, he pulled her toward him, steadily sheathing his entire length in her tight, wet pussy.

Emily hissed out a breath at the overwhelming fullness, but it hadn’t really hurt. Their gazes locked and she was forced to admit that she found his exotic features appealing. He pulled back then thrust in fast, penetrating her completely. She kept her bent legs wide open, offering her body for his pleasure. His hips rocked, quickly finding a moderate tempo that seemed to suit him. She was vaguely aware of Nayez and Lahval. They watched, but neither attempted to participate. Brydon was their commander. It was his right to enjoy her first.

Grasping her hips, Brydon thrust harder and her breasts jostled almost violently. She pressed her forearms against the shaking mounds.

“Hands over your head. Now!”

She immediately moved her arms away from her breasts. They shook and swayed as their pelvises impacted each other. Her nipples tightened and tingled as his possessive gaze moved over her with obvious appreciation.

“I like to watch them bounce. It makes you look lush and fertile.” His voice was gruff, expression savage as his pace sped up even more. He collared her throat with one hand and explored her body with the other. He squeezed her breasts and pinched her nipples, then rubbed her clit with his thumb. “Come for me, Lottie. I want to feel your cunt squeeze my cock.”

Emily stared into his yellow-green eyes, mesmerized by their possessive intensity. His thumb continued to stroke her clit while his long, thick cock pounded her pussy. She wanted to deny him, to withhold her surrender as long as possible, but her body had already joined the other team. Her core quivered and her clit tingled, and then pleasure unfurled through her abdomen. She cried out helplessly and arched, taking his cock deep as her inner muscles squeezed him tightly over and over.

“That’s right. Come all over your master’s cock.”

The pulses of sensation had just begun to fade when Brydon grasped her hips and finished in a violent flurry of thrusts. His hips rocked fast and hard, balls slapping against her tender behind. His features tensed as his orgasm struck, and she felt hot spurts deep inside her.

His cock was still oozing cum when he pulled out of her pussy and walked around the island. “Lick me clean, Lottie. Taste our pleasure mixed, as it was meant to be.”

Too stunned and pleasure drunk to object, she parted her lips. He pushed his wide tip into her mouth and she sucked away their combined juices. The taste was unfamiliar but not unpleasant. It was sweeter than human cum, and it sent strange aftershocks of pleasure zinging through her body so she licked and sucked his entire length, curious to see if it would make her come again.

“Good girl.” He casually pulled out of her mouth and motioned for Nayez to approach. “Now pleasure my cadre. I have work to do.” Leaving her sprawled on the island, he turned to Nayez and Lahval and switched to Kobar. “Fuck her into submission. I want there to be no question about who controls her by morning.”

It took all of Emily’s stubbornness not to react to his heartless words. What a bastard! She had done everything he asked her to do. How had she failed to submit?

“I think you already accomplished that,” Lahval pointed out quietly. He did not sound pleased by Brydon’s order.

“Don’t kid yourself, Three. She is far from broken.” Brydon glanced at her, his features utterly expressionless, then he looked at Nayez. “Cum better drip from all three of her holes before you let her sleep.”

She gasped and sat up, unable to hide her shock.

“I thought so.” Brydon pulled her off the island. “I asked if you understood Kobar. You dared to lie to me?”

“I didn’t,” she cried. “Nayez didn’t give me a chance to answer.”

Brydon glowered down at her, arms folded over his chest.

“She’s right, sir,” Nayez defended, drawing Brydon’s attention. “She did not lie.”

“Sin of omission then.” Brydon shifted his gaze back to her, but he was no longer scowling. “You should have told us.”

“I would have. I wasn’t trying to hide it. Honestly.”

He unfolded his arms with a faint sigh. “Where did you get your translator and why?”

It was hard to have a casual conversation while naked, thighs smeared with cum. “My mother arranged it. I run a large philanthropic foundation so I interact with Kobar business owners from time to time.” She wasn’t lying. That was the excuse Emily had used with her mother. However, Emily had another, more important reason for wanting to understand Kobar. As today had proved, people often revealed secrets in front of her when they didn’t think she could understand them.

After a tense pause, he accepted the explanation with a nod. “I was provoking you, but I do have work that cannot wait. The rest of the night you will obey my cadre as you would me. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Master.” She started to cover her breasts as Brydon walked off.

“You do not have permission to cover yourself,” Nayez warned, his tone suddenly hard.

Wonderful. One tyrant departed and another emerged. “Yes, Sir.”

“Let’s take her upstairs. It really is cold down here,” Lahval suggested.

“Would you like that, Lottie?” Nayez let his gaze wander the length of her body as he waited for her response.

Get fucked here or upstairs? It wasn’t much of a choice. “Whatever you want, Sir.” Jackass.

Lahval coughed suddenly as if he were concealing a laugh.

Emily tensed. Had her expression given her away or had Lahval read her mind? Many of the Kobar had psychic abilities. She needed to be more careful.

“I want those soft lips wrapped around my cock,” Nayez told her. “The question is, shall we do it right here on the cold, hard floor or upstairs on a much softer bed?”

“On the bed, please. Thank you for giving me the option.” She couldn’t quite keep the sarcasm out of her tone.

He fisted her hair and tilted her head back. “Mock me again and you’ll feel my belt before you suck my cock. Brydon is right. You are far from broken.”

She felt her eyes widen as she thought of what else Brydon had said. “He didn’t mean that last part, did he?”

“Brydon means everything he says, princess. Does the prospect of getting ass-fucked frighten you?”

“Of course it does,” she cried, tears blurring her vision.

“Good, because that’s exactly what will happen if your attitude doesn’t improve quickly.” He slapped her still tender behind. “Now, move.”

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