Torian stood behind his desk with his arms folded across his powerful chest, eyeing her with a stern, somewhat scornful gaze. A long silence stretched between them before he spoke. “Did you forget my final instruction before you were escorted to your quarters?” he finally asked.
She blinked away the last of the sleep from her eyes, rubbed her head, then shook it. “I don’t… I can’t…” she stammered.
Torian dropped his arms and walked slowly to where she was standing. He put his hands on the lapels of her robe and pulled the sides apart.
Her eyes fell to her chest and her mind filled with the memory of what he’d said. He’d ordered her to appear exactly as she’d left. She barely had time to wake up and hadn’t changed out of the top and pants that had been left for her on the bed. She’d thrown the robe on for added warmth and not given it another thought. “I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “I was half asleep when…”
“This time your apology is welcome,” Torian interrupted. “But I am afraid there are consequences for disobedience.”
She gave her head another shake. “I wasn’t being disobedient, I just didn’t…”
“Silence, please,” Torian said, holding up a hand. “I am not interested in excuses here. I am interested in results. And while this oversight of yours may very well be innocent, it is not something I can simply ignore,” he explained.
Quaia rolled her eyes at him. “It was a mistake,” she shot back. “Which you would know if you didn’t keep interrup—”
“Whether it was accidental or intentional is irrelevant,” he said, his tone even and steely.
She let out an exasperated sigh. “That’s ridiculous,” she muttered.
He took a step closer, his face now just a few inches from hers. “Quaia Sangsen,” he said, his voice low. “The religious origins of this ritual are unknown to me. But the Imperator, your current emperor I might add, made one thing abundantly clear. This ritual submission is made not to your High Mother or her clucking entourage. It is not even made to the emperor himself. By following my orders exactly, you are demonstrating your allegiance to the Federation. You are proving that, if called to its service, you will answer that call to the highest standards and the best of your ability. In turn, the Federation grants you access to its commercial opportunities as well as the protection of the empire, should you need it. In this room,” he said, waving a pointed finger in a circle. “In this room, I am the Federation. I am the empire. You will do as I say, or you will endure the consequences of your failures.”
The explanation took her aback. From the moment she’d first learned about the Ripening, she’d only ever considered it a perverted orgy of overindulgence and decadence. That was the only way High Mother or any of the others had celebrated it, too. To hear it described in such… political terms was startling. And surprisingly enlightening, given Torian’s eloquence. “Okay…” she murmured, confused. “I… I guess I never thought about it that way,” she said quietly.
He straightened, his large torso looming over her. But he seemed somewhat appeased by her response to his lecture. “In that case, I am glad I could be of some use in your education,” he said. “But the matter remains that you failed to heed my instruction.” He stepped around her and lifted her robe.
She gasped and jumped when he yanked her pants halfway down her legs. Her cheeks flushed hot as he inspected her rear. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him turn and look at her.
“Two counts of disobedience,” he said.
He stepped behind her and pulled the robe off her shoulders. A confusing medley of sensations: he did it with authority, but his fingers brushed over her collarbone, tracing the shape of it gingerly.
“Again, your apology is welcome, accepted, and a good first step. You show signs of remorse and contrition. I will take those into account as I deliver your punishment.” He folded the robe and dropped it on the table before walking to his desk and pulling out his rod. He pointed it at the table. “Assume the position,” he said.
Her ambivalent feelings returned: she was naturally inclined to defy authority, and normally she would have indulged her defiance in some small way. But the memory of how he’d handled her previously filled her with a cool, slithering desire instead. Her fingers acted on their own, working under the elastic of her pants to pull them up again.
“Leave those as they are,” he said.
She blushed, heating up inside, and stood up straight. Each step vibrating with the queer combination of humiliation and arousal, she walked over to the table and pressed her palms against it. She lowered her torso and did her best to spread her legs as wide as she could.
“Three counts, I see,” Torian said. “You are missing your footwear.”
She looked down at her bare feet as the phantom pain of her previous discipline spread warmth over her buttocks. She nodded solemnly, her chest filling with excitement, even as her eyes began to water from the promised sting of her punishment. Three. Her mind turned the number over and over again as her legs trembled.
Torian rounded the table and stepped behind her.
His heavy hand on the small of her back sent a delicious shiver racing up to the base of her neck. She heard the rod extend. A moment later she heard its soft whistle through the air. The sting shot across her flesh, sharp and hot, before throbbing away in attenuating waves.
“I take no pleasure in cruelty,” he said. The rod lifted, whistled, and snapped against her soft skin. “Three strikes of blatant disobedience.” Lift, whistle, snap. “I think this will be a suitable penance.”
The sting of the third correction took the breath out of her lungs and made her eyes overflow. The full, warm tears splashed onto her cheeks, and she bit into her lower lip. The cool feeling that she now recognized as humiliation twisted in her chest, before snaking to her lower abdomen, and curling up as an ache between her legs.
She breathed a sigh of relief, starting to enjoy the afterglow of her punishment. Whereas it had been new to her before, it was becoming familiar: heat and stinging pulsed where the rod had smacked her skin. Each pulse brought her humiliation to a boil before ebbing away into a craving. As if they had rehearsed this thousands of times, her body began to expect what had happened before: now would come the tender play, bringing her to beg for him to give her the sweet release she’d felt before.
He surprised her, though, by speaking instead of walking toward her to touch her stinging skin. “As for taking the plug out…” The rod sliced through the air and landed with surgical precision on the softest part of her bottom cheek, the tender crease, where the hot sting merged with the sensitive ticklishness and made pleasure roll down her thigh muscles and crawl into her sex.
She sucked in a sharp breath. Her fingers curled on the table, nails digging into the soft surface.
“I have a different idea for how to deal with that infraction,” Torian said. He set the rod down on the table with a gentle clack. As he walked to where Quaia could see him, she pushed against the table to stand. “Stay,” he ordered. He gazed at her as he rolled one of his sleeves up his arm.
Her eyes moved between him and the table, unable to hold his stare for long. Her skin was burning hot. The space between her legs had become sodden. While puzzled by the reaction, she could not find its source. Something about Torian disciplining her made her hot. She wanted him to touch her again, to spell her forgiveness out for her by strumming her tenderest flesh to another volcanic eruption.
It made no sense, and it defied everything she had thought about her own nature, but she still craved it.
“You are aroused again,” he mused, rolling up the other sleeve. “Your scent fills the space.”
She hung her head lower. So much for avoiding humiliation. Hot shame made her cheeks flush. She forced herself to think about the last time she’d seen him. How he’d sent her away like he was dismissing a pupil or a prisoner. She tried to remember the sting of that rejection. Being in his presence again made it all but impossible.
“Now. Do you think that punishment will serve as a sufficient reminder to do as I say?” he asked.
She nodded, still staring at the table in front of her. She drew in a sharp breath when he put a finger on her chin and turned her head to look at him.
“Say it,” he demanded.
“I—it will,” she stammered.
“Good. As for removing the stretching device from your back hole…” He trailed off and furrowed his brow, pensive. Brought a finger to his mouth and tapped his lips three times. After a long silence that began to turn uncomfortable, he straightened and stood up tall again. “Close your legs and turn to face me,” he ordered.
She did what he asked. Pushing back off the table, she turned toward him, fingers fumbling with the elastic of her pants in the hopes he’d finally let her pull them up and cover herself.
“No,” he said, pointing at her hands. “Leave those as they are.”
She let go of the material, shaken by an internal excitement that gripped her.
He moved toward her and reached for the bottom of her shirt with both hands, lifting it over her head. Her breasts came tumbling out as he raised it past them. His hands moved down her body, fingers sliding over her back and her ribs, sparking a ticklish response that would have made her laugh if not for the seriousness of the situation. Instead, she trembled in his hands and goosebumps traveled over her skin.
His hands moved lower, and then over the fresh welts on her bottom, as he lowered his own body in a crouch. She became absorbed in his caress, her eyes falling closed as he slid the pants down, past her knees. His breath was hot and filtered into the thatch of her pubic hair, and she believed for a moment that his lips would touch her there. Instead, she heard the soft thump of her pants falling to her ankles, and then his hands were withdrawn from her skin, making her eyes flutter open.
He took a step back, his eyes raking down her body.
Instead of turning her gaze, she eyed him like a hawk hunting its prey. Her heart fluttered when his gaze paused at her chest, then dropped to her exposed womanhood. She tried to resist it but found herself consumed by the heat it brought between her legs as he inspected her. Against her own advice to herself, she found herself wanting him to approve of what he saw, to reach out to touch her tenderly.
He stepped around her and toward the exit.
She heard the hatch slide open and her face began to burn hotter. What in the Seven Suns was he going to make her do next? Would he invite an audience to share in her shame? Her stomach twisted with a new, cool sensation.
“Follow me, please,” he instructed.
Her stomach sank. Slowly she turned to face him. When two guards walked past the room and turned their heads, she gasped. They stared at her wide-eyed for what felt like an eternity. When they finally noticed Torian they quickly shuffled off down the gangway. “You can’t be serious,” she said in a whisper.
“I do not play games,” he replied. Took three steps toward her. “You will learn to obey my orders precisely. You are experiencing shame now, yes?” he asked.
She clenched her jaw and glared at him, her resistance returning. “That’s none of your business,” she snapped.
“It is exactly my business. I have long studied your race. You have a knack for internalizing a lesson quickly with the right reinforcement. This is my version of reinforcement. We will walk to your quarters, disrobed, so that all can see your inability to obey. I will remount the trainer into you. Then we will return here for the next lesson.” He issued a simmering look at her. “Only obedient girls wear clothing. Disobedient girls must be taught a lesson. You must be brought down to your proper place if you cannot obey the rules.”
She stared at him.
His lips seemed to resist a faint smile as he added, “You can always choose to beg for forgiveness.”
This final sentence traveled through like a destructive wind. The prospect of being marched up and down the gangway naked, for everyone to see, then being marched back with the plug very visible to all, twisted inside her. She didn’t want that, she insisted to herself. The cold feeling in her chest spread out, raising the hairs on her arms and making her squirm.
But the thought of begging Torian not to do this, too, came with a cold, humiliating burn. She considered indulging him, indulging herself. Either option was humiliating, and she wanted to object to both as much as she secretly, shamefully wanted to be subjected to them both as well.
But her resolve to be defiant—that was always her original resolve, wasn’t it?—returned to her, tipping the scales. She tipped her head back, chin held high. “Whatever,” she muttered. She walked toward the exit, taking care to swing her arms as if she didn’t care about it at all.
She passed him and stepped out into the corridor. The lights, which had been a pleasant temperature when she first arrived, now seemed far brighter, the glare making her wince. Had they been turned up or was it her imagination? Was it that she was about to be paraded down the corridor half-naked that had her squinting?
The shift she’d been wearing when she first arrived had been sheer but had at least provided some protection against prying eyes. This time there was no doubt or question that everyone they passed would be able to see everything.
Torian walked out behind her. The hatch slid shut. Instead of breaking into his usual brisk stride, he took a more leisurely pace.
She shuffled along next to him, her unsupported breasts bouncing and swaying as she walked. The hard steel gangway cooled her feet. She heard voices down the corridor. When she saw three females round a corner ahead, she hung her head, shame nearly overwhelming her senses.
They approached the women, who looked to be cooks from the mess. The three quickly stepped out of the way and stood at attention by the wall for Torian. But as she passed them, they stared at her wide-eyed. One of them opened her mouth and shook her head, obviously aghast at what she was seeing.
Quaia maintained her poise, despite her appearance. She reminded herself she’d never see these females again once this ordeal was over. There was no sense in getting upset about them seeing her like this, she told herself.
But for some unknowable, infernal reason, her body reacted by further lubricating the space between her legs. Her nipples stiffened. Arousal coursed through her. As if she were actually enjoying what was being done to her. She found that impossible to comprehend.
Even as many eyes, males and females alike, followed her, seemingly appearing out of nowhere, she couldn’t shake Torian’s words from her head. Only obedient girls wear clothing. Disobedient girls must be taught a lesson. You must be brought down to your proper place if you cannot obey the rules.
Her eyes ended up on the walkway in front of her, but she didn’t need to look up and see the faces of those she passed to know they were staring at her. Torian’s words continued to wriggle in her thoughts, snaking through her to reverberate between her legs, the same way her own juices trickled down her thighs for all to see.
Finally, they made it to the quarters she’d slept in. Torian opened the hatch and beckoned her inside. The space felt small and seemed to close in around her as he followed her in.
“Bring me the implement,” he demanded, his voice calm and rational, almost curved with tenderness. Firm. She could feel the heat of his body behind her, like radiation, prickling her skin.
She obeyed silently, walking to the bathroom and plucking the trainer from the sink before returning to face him. His gaze was calm and steady, but something simmered in his eyes, so she had to force herself to look at him. She held the object out for him as his stern expression dissolved her.
He wrapped his paw-like hand around it without taking his eyes off hers. He moved her closer to the desk with a hand on her shoulder, the heat of his touch rippling through her body and making her nipples hard. “Turn,” he ordered.
She obeyed, placing her hands on the desk. Already she could feel her body expecting the next stimulation, maybe even craving it. Seven Suns. What was wrong with her? This was all wrong, all so… against her sense of who she was. She must not give in to it, she thought.
“No,” Torian said. “This time you will hold yourself open for me.”
The deep rumble of his powerful voice touched a very sensitive spot inside her. There was something in his tone, something hungry, that made it sound like this was no longer just a clinical exercise. That perhaps he, too, was enjoying this on some level. In turn, it caused hope to flutter in her chest and then burn inside her. Her own reactions were more humiliating than anything.
She fought back against that notion that she’d heard something excited in his voice. She’d made the mistake once already of allowing herself to believe he cared for her in any way. She was determined not to repeat it.
She moved one hand to her bottom, unsure of what he wanted exactly. She wanted to please him, and she hated that she did. When he didn’t respond to this, she awkwardly rested her chest on the table to reach behind her with the other hand. Her own hands warmed her tender skin, and she pulled her cheeks apart hesitantly. Picturing herself only aroused her more, and her pussy clenched and dripped despite her praying that it wouldn’t.
“That’s very good, Quaia,” he said softly, his voice running over the sound of lubricant squirting onto the device.
She gasped and flinched when the cold tip touched her anus. Torian twisted the device, making the lubricant spread around. Her fingers trembled and he touched them, stroking the pads. “Hold yourself open. Display your submission and your obedience.”
She obeyed, the simple act of doing so making her shudder with the perverse, unbelievable pleasure of obeying. The cool tip pressed, and a sharp pain made her mewl before it was inside her and starting to stretch her.
“The pleasure of this device can only be felt when you cease to resist it,” Torian’s low voice purred behind her, as his free hand brushed delicately over her lower back. “Your body must be told to do what is best for it, not what it’s inclined to do. Push out, and you will open up, and then you will be rewarded with pleasure.”
She was getting hot; a cold sweat was forming on her skin. Torian’s bristly fur scraped her wrists and her back, and the plug continued to press in. But his hypnotic voice lulled her into obedience; she pushed out, doubting the advice. And then it slipped inside her and pressed against the sore patches pleasantly. A tear threatened to fall from her right eye, but the pain was gone, and now she only felt a fullness and pleasure.
She fought the warmth that spread through her. He’d just utterly humiliated her by marching her naked through the corridor. He was being studiously clinical in his interactions with her. Obviously he shared none of the same feelings she was fighting against. Why was it so hard to let herself believe that? Why couldn’t she just get this over with without overthinking it?
The flange settled against her rear, delicious in its discomfort. Not that she’d ever admit this to anyone, especially him.
“Excellent,” Torian whispered, and her heart filled with pride, which she tried to tamp down, but failed to.
She felt his breath on her neck, his hands moving up her body as he leaned over her. He lingered for far longer than seemed appropriate or necessary, one hand gently moving the plug inside her, applying pressure in small circles. She tried, but failed, to stifle a mewl.
“What I wish for you to learn from this, Quaia, is that it is far more pleasurable when you submit to me, and far less humiliating when you obey.”
She mewled again.
“Do you understand now?”
She moved her head against the table to nod, unable to articulate a single word.
“I’m afraid I need to hear you say it.”
“I understand,” she breathed, her voice hoarse. As Torian promised, to her chagrin, the submission was pleasurable.
“Now,” he began, his face still just a hand length or so from hers. “We will return to the training area.” He rose to standing, trailing his hand down her back. His fingers lingered there. “Where we will find out if your discipline has been sufficient or not. Stand up.”
She took her hands off her bottom and stood up straight by pushing herself from the table.
She turned to face him, and, bravely, the horror of having to walk back through the gangway. The only way was forward, and the best way was just to get it over with. She followed him out of the compartment and stopped at his side.
As they walked, she was grateful for the quick pace, and for Torian’s large frame in front of her. Perhaps she’d earned this much, she thought. But the image of the plug nestled between her cheeks emerged from her memory, and a fresh wave of humiliation washed over her.
He was right about one thing: she had learned her lesson. She had to work very hard not to jump into the training room.
Once inside, Torian turned and folded his arms over his chest. He stared at her for what seemed to be a very long time.
She held his gaze this time, his dominance and her own defiance twisting through her and igniting a hot need in her core.
“Now, Quaia, I must determine if you have learned your lesson from this punishment.”
She so very much wanted to be defiant, but when she said, “How?” it didn’t emerge from her lips with the smirking tone she’d attempted. It was more supplication than anything else. Tell me how, her voice seemed to be saying, and I will do it for you.
A fresh humiliation, she thought, her chest burning with shame.
But the approving look that he gave her flooded her mind, washing away all those thoughts. Frantic, maddening, lovely flutters erupted in her chest, and her pussy throbbed with aching need.
“Typically,” he began, in a clinical voice that faltered somewhat. “You must be able to look me in the eye and ask for forgiveness.”
More cool tingling seemed to pour over her in liquid form. Her skin flared hot; her cheeks, she was sure, were as red as a root vegetable. Her mouth opened, and she looked him in the eye even as it incinerated her with a strange kind of shame. “I ask for your forgiveness,” she said quietly.
It struck her that she genuinely did want it. A small tempest of fury tried to kick up in her brain, but Torian’s pleased expression stomped on it. “You are forgiven.”
When he stepped toward her, she drew in a breath and held it.
“Remarkable,” he said quietly.
“I… beg your pardon?” she asked, eyes still on his.
“I find your resolve remarkable. No tears. No histrionics. Not any female could or would have done what you just did. Most would have chosen to gamble and asked for a different punishment instead. Many would have begged for it. But not you, it seems, Quaia Sangsen.” He sounded as pleased as he looked.
This, too, sent a deep, rumbling pleasure through her. She couldn’t possibly be misunderstanding him in this moment, could she? A whisper of whimsy even fluttered through her. “I’m not like the other girls,” she whispered.
He touched her cheek, and she almost melted at his touch.
“I take it you will not forget to heed my instructions from now on?”
“I will not,” she replied in a whisper, her eyes locked on his. Something inside her felt desperate now, and she wanted to convey it to him through her gaze: she wanted to please him.
“It would only be rational that if bad behavior deserves punishment, then good behavior deserves a reward. Would you not say?” he asked. His voice was still tender, inviting.
Desperate, she thought. She was desperate for his reward, but she didn’t want to show it. Her legs actually trembled, and between them she felt a maddening ache.
She tipped her head forward an inch. “If it pleases you,” she replied.
His eyes darkened and a deep growl rumbled out of him. His chest heaved as he drew in a heavy breath.
It scared her for an instant. For a fleeting moment he seemed to be… not in full control of himself. When she realized she had caused the reaction, her body began to burn with need. Of what, she still wasn’t sure.
“And what would you say might be a suitable reward for your obedience and submission?” he asked.
And now she thought she’d found the rhythm of this dance. The key to unlocking some of Torian’s mysteries and not just baring her own. “That, of course, would be entirely up to you to decide,” she replied.
There was the growl again. Torian moving closer, his gait more aggressive, more intimidating.
She stood her ground, but inwardly wondered if she’d gone too far as the sound of his growl reverberated in her bones.
His hand shot up, past her head. He grabbed a fistful of her hair, though in a gentler grip than she’d expected. She gasped when he spun her and bent her over the table again. Out of the corner of her eye she saw his eyes narrow and his nostrils flare. He took a deep breath, like he was savoring the scent of her. It sent fear and arousal rippling down her back. Now he seemed even more out of control. Not just hungry, but ravenous. And the thought that it might be she who was turning him into this hungry monster was scintillating.
He let go of her hair and his hand dropped swiftly down her back. He raised it and brought it crashing down on her exposed rear in a powerful swat.
Her flesh shook. But the sting of pain was sweet this time. She dared a glance sideways. Right into his eyes. “I thought I was getting a reward,” she said, unable to keep a sultry slant off her expression. Her insides twisted as she saw the slightest, snarling smile stretch across his lips.
“You seem quite proud of your ability to get under a man’s skin,” he said.
She startled, her eyes widening at hearing him admit it. The sudden ferocious turn in his personality only made her want to probe him further. Test what his limits were, if she could even find them. “Have I done that?” she asked, all sweetness and innocence.
He smiled wider. Raised his hand and brought it down with the same heavy pressure, smacking her other cheek.
She couldn’t be certain why she found this fury she’d incited so intoxicating. Maybe because it made her feel like she’d wrestled some tiny sliver of control from him. Or maybe seeing him lose his shit with her soft bits hanging out was just… hot.
He turned and looked at her ass. Raised his hand and let it fall in another sharp crack. Sideways this time, echoed by another on the other ass cheek. “You hide many things well, Quaia,” he growled. “But one thing you cannot hide is how much you enjoy my hand on your behind. Your body betrays you by its scent. Is it not so? Am I mistaken?” He narrowed his eyes. “Remember, there are consequences for lying to me.”
His transformation seemed complete. He’d become a beast before her very eyes. And now there could be no more lying to herself. She loved seeing it. She loved seeing him lose control and try to assert himself. Acknowledge that she’d affected him the same way he was affecting her right then.
His hand slid down between her legs and cupped her sex.
She gasped. Her body shook and she leaned lower against the table.
“Yes. That will do,” he said, pressing on her back. “Lie down and splay your legs. I know what you want.”
She gave in instantly. Lying flat against the table, head turned, cheek pressed against the hard surface. Her eyes closed when his fingers slipped between her folds. He found the spot. The burning bundle of nerves of her clit that, she now realized, she’d been daydreaming that he might touch. An involuntary whimper escaped her as he began rubbing.
“Were you a Vokl I would have had you in the beginning,” he growled through clenched teeth. “I would have claimed you in front of that entire greeting party. Right in front of the Mouth of Heaven for the entire galaxy to see.”
Suddenly she found herself craving just that. Desperately. She could so vividly imagine the slack jaws and bugging eyes as High Mother and the others watched her being taken by an alien. She mewled at the thought and his firm manipulations.
“I have never met a female like you, Quaia,” he admitted.
By the way he was touching her, she was pretty sure that was a good thing. She gasped and her legs opened wider. As if her body wanted him to know she was his. That she would do anything he ordered. That she would open herself for him in every way he pleased.
“I may just have you yet,” he whispered.
The quiet words cracked over her like a whip. Her body shook and that heavenly spasming began between her legs. Her sex secreting juices over his hand as it spun and twisted her over an intense, immense climax. Her mouth fell open and she moaned. A soaring, raunchy sound, and a complete contradiction to the dignified posture she’d tried to maintain throughout his humiliations. Her mind focused on his strong fingers, still spinning between her legs. Another wave of pleasure crashed over her. Then another. Then the tender feeling came as he cupped her sex, cradling it after her release.
Out of that blossomed, fully, the realization she’d been trying so desperately to resist. She had a… thing. For this thing. This alien male. This… man.
Her eyes fluttered open to find him staring at her intently. An uncontrollable urge to be cute bubbled through her. For the first time ever. “Will that be all?” she whispered.