Need Me

The Rosabelles, Book 2

Shelli Stevens

Chapter 1

Take me. Now, Lieutenant!”

Brendon slammed his hand against the palm recognition box while deftly undoing the fastenings on the front of his commanding officer’s uniform.

The door to the storage unit slid open and he pushed her inside, pulling her breasts free from the uniform just before the door shut behind them.

“Gods,” she breathed, reaching down to free him from his trousers. “I’ve wanted this all day.”

He gave a soft laugh and thumbed her nipple, smiling when she cried out. “I’ll bet you have, you saucy bitch.”

She pumped his cock with her hand. “I could have your ass for talking to me like that, Lieutenant.”

Brendon turned her around, slamming her against the shelf as he jerked her pants down to her ankles.

“Actually, ma’am, I do believe I’m going to have your ass.” He slapped one round cheek. “And you’ll like it.”

She groaned, pressing back hard against him. “Please, make me come.”

He gave a soft laugh and plunged two fingers inside her. Her body clenched around him and she screamed.

“You like that, ma’am? Who’s in control now? Who’s giving the orders?”

“You are.” She groaned. “You are!” Her body clenched around him as she climaxed suddenly.

Brendon spun her around and pushed her to her knees.

The woman’s mouth found him, moving hungrily over his cock. He closed his eyes, sliding his fingers through her short hair.

He looked down, watched her in the semidarkness lift her mouth from his cock and the trail of saliva she left.

“Fuck me, Lieutenant.” She stood up and turned around, lifting her bottom toward him. “Hurry, before someone realizes we’re gone.”

He fingered her again, gathering her cream to smear over her asshole.

When he entered her a second later she didn’t even make a faint noise of pain. This woman was obviously used to being fucked in the ass. She gripped the shelf, smashing her body back to meet each of his hard thrusts.

“Yes. Yes!” She screamed, rubbing her own pussy as she brought herself to another climax.

Brendon felt his balls tighten, then gripped her shoulders and let loose. He came hard and fast, emptying himself inside her.

He was still catching his breath when a series of beeps signaled that someone had just put their hand against the palm recognition box to open the door.

“Oh, gods.” He pulled out of her, fumbling to put his cock away.

The door slid open and light blinded them both. His Colonel spun around, making a pathetic attempt to cover herself with her hands.

Brendon blinked a few times, before his eyes grew accustomed to the light and the two men standing outside.

His stomach dropped and his balls shriveled.

Well, shit.

The five-star general stared at them both and gave a weary sigh. “Lieutenant Marshall. Why am I not surprised? And Colonel Rodgers, I wish I could say the same. I’ll need to see you both in my office. Immediately.” He cleared his throat. “Or, er, after you have once again attired yourselves.”

* * * *

Brendon tipped back the last of his aliaberry wine and sighed, thrusting a hand through the spiky strands of his short brown hair. “Fucking demoted. I still can’t quite believe it.”

Ryder, a fellow soldier and friend, glanced over at him and raised an eyebrow.

“Is that so? Might I remind you that you were caught with your pants down, having just screwed your commanding officer in a closet while on duty?”

“No, thank you, my friend. I actually do not need reminding.” Brendon stood up and walked to the window of the sky lounge they resided in.

Pods whizzed by in the air, while down below the streets bustled with activity. And to think that just over two years ago, the future of this planet had been threatened.

He’d fought that day during the surprise assault from the seemingly ally planet Zortou. Had lost more than one friend during the bloody battle. Fortunately, Belton had been victorious and the well-being of the planet prevailed.

He turned from the window to look back at Ryder, another soldier who’d fought in the battle. They’d both survived that day, coming out as stronger soldiers because of it. Going in, they’d already been the best of the best.

Which was why it was a real bitch that he’d been demoted over a simple moment of friskiness.

Brendon returned to his chair and sat down, his mouth curled down in a sulk. “The worst part is that it was a rather bad fuck.”

Ryder let out a muffled laugh, choking on his wine. “Gods help you if Colonel Rodgers heard you say that.”

Brendon winced. “Not that she could. She’s been reassigned to another unit. Demoted as well.”

“Pity.”

“Perhaps.” He scowled and turned around to face Ryder. “But how undignified is my fate? Who on this planet would want the position of guarding semen? Semen!”

“Actually, ‘specimen samples’ is the correct term, my friend.”

“Call it what you will, it’s still the spunk from some soldier’s prick.”

“What did I miss?”

Brendon kept scowling and watched as Emmett, another of their friends, sat down at the table and poured himself a glass of wine from the pitcher.

“You started without me?” Emmett asked and drank a hefty sip. “Any particular reason?”

Ryder stood and set coins down on the table. “Brendon is a bit upset after being caught screwing his commanding officer and has since been demoted to guarding semen.”

Specimen samples!” Brendon corrected and pounded his fist on the table.

“My.” Emmett blinked and shook his head. “Apparently, I missed a lot today.”

“Indeed.” Ryder’s lips twitched, his expression softening. “I should not stay any longer. My lovely wife is at home in her fifth month of pregnancy and I’m an ass for having neglected her this long.”

“Hmm. She encourages you to get out more. But you do dote on her.” Brendon took another sip of wine. “Say hello to the lovely Talia for us.”

“Of course.” Ryder gave them a casual salute and disappeared from the lounge.

Brendon watched his friend leave with a pang of jealousy. Not that he’d ever acknowledge the emotion. To be jealous of a man who’d resigned his life to be spent with one woman? The very idea nearly made him break out in a rash. Still, there was no denying that Ryder was more content now than anyone could remember him being.

“You know,” Emmett began, “perhaps if you tamed your wicked ways, you would not keep finding yourself in trouble.”

Brendon turned back to his friend and arched a brow. “Wicked ways?”

“Must I spell it out for you?” Emmett leaned forward and guffawed. “Your weakness for pussy.”

Instead of being affronted, Brendon’s mouth curved into a slight smile and he shrugged. “I will hardly deny that I have a fondness for the fairer sex, my friend. Nor that they seem to have an equal affection for me.”

“Yes. Perhaps it’s because you’re so damn tall and likely hung like a beast.”

Brendon laughed, but didn’t rebuke the suggestion.

“Though I am surprised—” Emmett’s expression was bemused. “—why your commanding officer would risk everything for a quick tumble.”

“Yes, well. I’m not quite sure about her reasoning. Though I was hardly about to protest her advances. The woman has a mouth that could—”

“Please.” Emmett raised a hand and winced. “I have no need for the particulars.”

“Hmm.” Brendon refilled his glass of wine and gave his friend a considering look. “Tell me, have you found yourself a nice little woman to warm your bed?”

“I have not and I don’t need one. My focus is on the advancement of my career.”

Brendon chuckled and resisted the urge to call his friend’s bluff. Not that he doubted Emmett wanted to rise among the ranks, but the fact that his friend denied needing a woman was complete crap. Every man needed a woman, if even just for a few minutes.

He could not resist murmuring, “Of course. Give your right hand my apologies.”

Emmett about spit out his wine as he lifted his amused glance to meet Brendon’s. “You are trouble, my friend.”

“Yes. So I’ve been told many times.” Brendon sighed and shook his head.

And, unfortunately, it had caught up with him. He took another sip of wine and scowled.

Guarding a damn semen lab.

* * * *

Nika’s foot slammed into the collapsible mannequin and it crumpled under the contact. Her heart fluttered against her chest and she spun, ready to take out her next target.

“You are ready.”

Nika stilled, the blood pounding through her veins no longer just the result of adrenaline.

She rose from the crouched position she’d fallen into. Turning, she used the back of her hand to wipe the sheen of sweat from her brow.

“Truly?” she asked, hating herself for the tremor in her voice.

The instructor nodded, her gaze unreadable as it swept over Nika from head to toe.

“Rachel will be pleased.” The instructor folded her arms across her small chest and nodded. “I have informed her that you will be on your way shortly to meet with her. After you have showered, of course.”

Excitement bubbled through her, but Nika gave a slight nod to not let her true reaction show. “Of course.”

“I doubt we will meet again, Donika.” The instructor dropped her arms and strode past her, lifting one eyebrow. “You’ve done well. Perhaps one of my best students. Goddess be with you, for you will need her guidance in your upcoming mission.”

The door to the gym slid closed with a hiss, and once again Nika found herself alone. The only break in the silence was her labored breathing from her workout.

I am ready.

The realization swelled her chest with pride as she walked toward the bathing chamber. For two years, she had trained for this position. Had fought to prove herself on a planet of women who doubted her.

Standing in front of the mirror in the bathing chamber, she pulled the loose top from her body and pushed down the pants.

Wincing, she began to unbind her chest. Her breasts tingled as blood rushed through them, the nipples hardening in the cool climate-controlled room.

Lifting her hands, she cupped them, massaging herself and squeezing feeling back into the soft mounds.

Her breasts were part of the reason they had doubted her for this mission. Her chest was too large and would be hard to disguise during her assignment. All previous envoys had been tall and lean, with little curve in their hips and breasts so small they needed no binding.

Though Nika was tall and lean, the hips and breasts posed a problem. One she had insisted she could overcome by binding her breasts so tightly that she could pass for a man. And by wearing clothes that would almost disguise her hips.

As always, she was the outsider that everyone was skeptical of. The strange woman who’d arrived on this planet seeking refuge.

Nika sighed and pinched the darkened nipples to the point where it almost hurt, watching the pink flush deepen in the tips. Her lips twisted with disdain even as pleasure shot straight to her pussy.

And here was just another way she would be considered an outsider. The hint of pain could bring her pleasure. Though, fortunately, the women of the planet knew nothing about her sexual enjoyments since she had never taken a lover here.

Releasing her breasts, Nika pulled her hair down from the severe topknot and shook the blond waves around her shoulders.

She’d never actually taken a lover willingly in her entire life. Her only sexual experience lay in her erotic servitude as a Rosabelle back on Zortou.

Her stomach clenched and for a moment the memory of those awful years threatened to send her into an emotional tailspin.

Being forced to serve the two brothers day after day, to clean their living quarters and service them in the bedroom. Or out of it. She’d simply had to service them anytime they got a whim to take her.

In the mirror she watched her blue-green eyes cloud with revulsion.

In reality she’d been the same as any droid moving about, robotic in her actions and completely emotionless.

She’d been quick to learn that feeling anything could be nothing but detrimental if she meant to survive. But then there were days she’d questioned whether surviving was even worth it.

Drawing in a slow breath, she closed her eyes. You are not in that life anymore. You are no longer that woman. She repeated the mantra until her pulse slowed again.

Opening her eyes she met her gaze in the mirror and saw a confident woman completely in control of her emotions.

She turned and went to turn on the showering unit, preparing to meet with her sponsor.

* * * *

Nika walked into her sponsor’s chambers, pushing aside the familiar burst of nerves. This was nothing new; each time she entered Rachel’s office she grew edgy. There was something about the woman that made her uncomfortable. Today was no different.

The doors hissed shut behind her as she entered the room. She lifted her head and strode in with a self-assurance she’d once feigned but now commanded.

Her steps faltered as she spotted her sponsor reclining naked on the couch, one of her many lovers lying between her thighs.

Rachel ran a hand through the younger woman’s platinum hair, lifting her hips as the woman’s mouth moved over her pussy.

“I apologize,” Nika began, thankful her voice was neutral since inside she felt all too uneasy. “I thought you were to be informed of my arrival.”

“I was, darling.” Rachel gave a lazy smile and lowered her heated gaze to the woman who licked her pussy. “I simply saw no reason not to mix business with pleasure.”

Heat spread to Nika’s cheeks, but she murmured a calm, “Of course.”

Rachel lifted a brow. “Unless you’d like to join us?”

The younger woman lifted her head from between Rachel’s legs and licked her lips, looking Nika over with interest.

“Thank you, but no.”

The woman laughed softly, and still holding Nika’s gaze, lowered her head to flick her tongue over Rachel’s clit.

This dance was not unfamiliar to her. Rachel had always left open the door to her sensual world, and invited Nika to partake in the pleasures that could be explored on the all-female planet.

Nika wasn’t the least bit tempted, although that fact often made her feel a bit guilty for residing on Tresden. The lack of men on the planet was also the very thing that kept her here. It offered her a sense of safety. Of peace.

“Vivecca called me with the news,” Rachel murmured. “Congratulations.”

Nika drew in a deep breath, and her discomfort eased a bit as satisfaction moved through her. “Thank you, ma’am.”

“You’re welcome. I must say that I’m pleased. Though I agreed to sponsor you, at times I feared you might not be suitable for this mission.” Rachel’s gaze moved to Nika’s breasts. “But it appears your instructor finds you able.”

“Indeed.” Nika crossed the room and sat down on a nearby chair, crossing one leg over another. “When will I be sent to Belton?”

Rachel gave a soft laugh and started to answer, then lifted her hand in a gesture to hold on for a moment. Her gaze drifted down to the woman between her thighs and her mouth tightened with displeasure.

“Lick me faster, Fiona,” she commanded quietly. “If you want to become one of my favorites, you must listen to my instructions.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The woman resumed her task, her nimble tongue flicking faster over Rachel’s clit.

“Now. Where were we?” Rachel paused. “Right. Your mission to Belton. You will want to arrive with enough time to learn the area. Gain the trust of those who know and guard the lab.”

“Of course. And I have already been given the necessary material to don my space tourist alias.”

“It seems you are well prepared.” Rachel’s eyes fluttered shut. “One moment…”

She gripped the younger woman’s hair tighter, rocking her sex against her mouth. Rachel let out a long groan and her heels dug into the couch.

A moment later her body went slack, and her eyes opened again. She licked her lips and smiled.

“Very well done, Fiona. Please. Come sit beside me now.”

Nika averted her gaze as the woman moved up on the couch and settled next to Rachel. Nika was never comfortable watching Rachel and her women. In a sense, it reminded her of the life she used to live.

Only this time she had a choice, and she had no desire to sexually entertain another person. Be it a woman or man.

Any needs she had she took into her own hands. Literally. Which was actually quite liberating as she’d been denied the right to pleasure herself as a Rosabelle on Zortou.

“Donika?”

Nika pulled her gaze back to Rachel. The older woman watched her with amusement as she cuddled with her newest lover, one hand idly toying with the woman’s breast.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You are free to go and pack your things. I have arranged for you to be on the next pod destined to leave the planet by nightfall.” Rachel smiled gently. “Though by no means do I expect you to succeed in your mission right away, I will expect you to check in with me.”

“Of course.”

Nika’s heart pounded with excitement, and she swiped her tongue over lips. Finally. She had a purpose and a mission. A way to prove that she was so much more than a woman groomed to give pleasure.

And Rachel had believed in her, had picked her for this mission. Though the older woman had always made it clear she desired Nika in her bed, she’d never forced the issue. She always left the choice up to Nika as she trained for her mission.

Nika’s voice trembled as she murmured, “Thank you, ma’am.”

“You’re quite welcome, Donika.” Rachel’s smile faltered. “You will be missed.”

Nika frowned, concerned by the heavy finality in Rachel’s last words. “I will return.”

“Yes. Of course you shall.”

Nika stared at her a moment, her heart thudding. She wasn’t sure Rachel believed the words she’d just uttered. Did she truly fear Nika would never return? Not succeed in this mission?

“Be well, Donika,” was the way Rachel dismissed her, her attention already turning to the younger woman’s body that she now played with.

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Still puzzled by Rachel’s response, but seeing no point in dwelling upon what it could mean, Nika gave a curt nod and turned. She strode out of the room and toward her future.

Chapter 2

Nika stepped outside the Planetary Customs building and sighed. What a relief it was to have her paperwork approved and be done with the mandatory detox chamber.

She stretched her legs, her gaze sweeping over the foreign planet she now stood upon.

The area outside the landing zone bustled with people. Men and women strode around what looked to be the market during mid-day.

What caught her attention the most were the men. There were so many of them.

Wariness slid through her, and ice seemed to seep into her veins. She tried to ignore the unease, which was easier said than done since it had been over two years since she’d last seen a man.

“Welcome to the planet Belton, ma’am. May I take your bags for you?”

She stiffened, turning to face the deep voice that had come from behind her.

A man, almost a boy really, grinned at her as he reached for her luggage. Obviously he was an attendant of some sort.

“Could I summon you a sky taxi? Where is your destination?”

If she was to fit in on this planet, then she’d very well better learn to feign at least indifference to the opposite sex.

Forcing a brief smile, she nodded. “Thank you, that would be lovely. I’m seeking accommodations in a local lodge.” She paused. “Someplace near the Broughlin military complex as I’m visiting a cousin stationed there.”

“Easy enough.” He grinned, showing two oversized front teeth, and waved down an approaching sky taxi. “I know of a great place over on Union Boulevard.”

Some of the tension left her body. It was hard to feel afraid of a male when he seemed so…endearing. Certainly not a threat or violent like most of the men had been on Zortou.

She closed that emotional door before it could fully open again.

“Here you are, ma’am.”

She watched as the sky taxi came to a halt next to the platform, hovering in the air. The door to the pod slid open and the young man leaned in and gave instructions to the computer.

He pulled back out and nodded. “There, all set. The pod will take you directly to the lodge. Enjoy your stay on Belton.”

“Thank you.” She pressed a coin into his hand and gave him a brief smile before climbing into the taxi.

The door slid shut, and the pod lifted into the air, zipping forward and away from the platform.

Her stomach fluttered with a sudden burst of nerves. She was here on Belton. After several hours of intergalactic travel, the length of the day had caught up with her. Her eyes fluttered closed, the thought of a warm bed making her muscles grow lax.

She didn’t realize she’d fallen asleep until the taxi came to an abrupt stop and announced their location. Blinking her eyes open, she grabbed her bags and climbed from the pod.

The building in front of her seemed decent enough. A couple of stories high and built of steel and wood. There were few businesses around the structure, but it appeared to linger on the edge of a forest. And if her memory served her correctly, the military complex would not be far around the perimeter of the woods.

Adjusting her grip on the bags, she strode into the lodge to see about getting a room.

The woman behind the desk glanced up and smiled. She tossed her blond hair over her shoulder while blue eyes lit up with curiosity. “Hello. Do you seek a room?”

“I do. Thank you.” Nika set her bag down. “I plan to stay for a while, seeing as I am visiting a cousin stationed at Broughlin.”

The woman’s smile widened. “Well, we can certainly accommodate you. It being winter, we’re in the offseason and have plenty of rooms to rent. I’m Molly, the owner of The Crow’s Nest.”

Owner? Nika managed to hide her surprise that a woman close to the same age as herself owned such a business on a planet full of men.

“Lovely to meet you. I’m Rebecca.” The lie about her name came all too easily. And the ID she gave when filling out the paperwork backed up her alias.

“Well, I’m glad to have you here, Rebecca.” Molly handed her back the ID and sighed. “It can be quiet this time of year in the lodging department. The restaurant, however, is a different story.” She shook her head and rolled her eyes. “Being so close to the compound, we bring in quite a bit of business. Our food is wonderful, and the wine is top class.”

“I’ll be sure to try it out.”

“And please, do not hesitate to come say hello or seek me out if you need anything.” Molly shrugged and gave a light laugh. “Truly, it would give me something to do.”

Nika nodded. “Thank you, Molly. I will definitely do so.”

As she headed to her room, she vowed the opposite. Though the owner of the lodge seemed quite nice, establishing a friendship would not be wise. The fewer impressions she left of herself on this planet the better.

Two hours later she’d napped and then bathed, removing the travel grime.

Nika stretched before sitting back down on the bed. Her luggage was now unpacked. Well, most of it. The bag that contained anything pertaining to her mission had been stored beneath the bed, locked tight with the keycode.

For a moment she allowed herself to dwell on the reason why she was here. Her mission. How important it was.

Every five years the planet of Tresden sent a “chosen one, a specially trained soldier to infiltrate the highly guarded specimen lab on Belton.

A smile curved her lips and she fiddled with the edge of the comforter. Though many would find the mission almost a joke, all on her planet knew better. Yes, they were taking semen specimen samples, but they were no ordinary samples.

The samples were highly guarded and rightfully so. They were the specimens of the most powerful warriors on the planet of Belton. A world of genetic possibilities lay dormant in each specimen.

And her home planet had been making use of the taken samples after each mission. When the chosen ones returned home, the sperm would be genetically manipulated, and impregnated the women on Tresden.

Creating a race of powerful women to ensure their survival, and to build the planet’s military. All without the need to breed with men.

Looking around the modest room, she pressed a hand against her stomach just before it let out a soft growl. She needed food.

The lodge’s restaurant was on the ground level. She’d passed by it after checking in. It had appeared crowded, filled with soldiers as well as the civilian guests.

The idea of eating amongst such a crowd—mostly seeming to be men—set her stomach rolling. But food was a necessity. And so was getting over her unease with the opposite sex.

Nika took a deep breath and checked her appearance in the mirror. How long had it been since she’d worn a dress? Hmmm. Since Zortou.

Pressing the fabric down her body, she straightened her shoulders and tried to reunite herself with the sensation of wearing a gown.

Truth be told, it was almost a bit liberating compared to the trousers and top she’d been used to wearing.

Perhaps she should do something with her hair?

Go downstairs and dine. Stop stalling.

Grabbing her metallic clutch off the bed she headed out of her room and toward the restaurant.

* * * *

“Feel free to head out, Lieutenant.”

Brendon stumbled against the wall, blinking away the last of the drowsiness as he looked up from the door he guarded.

Gods, had he almost fallen asleep on duty?

Clearing his throat he nodded at the soldier who’d come to relieve him.

“Slow day?” The other soldier’s mouth twitched as he lowered his weapon to lean against the wall.

“Is there ever a day where it’s not?”

“Not since I’ve been here.” The man hesitated. “Though, they’ve been warning us things could change any day now.”

Brendon bit back a snort and shouldered his weapon. The most activity at the lab had been the scientists going in and out during their lunch break.

He gave a slight smile. “I guess we shall see. Have a good night.”

Stepping outside the heavily secured lab, he found that nightfall was descending upon the city.

But it was too early to return to his bedding chamber. Perhaps Emmett would meet him for a drink or supper. Pulling out his communications mobile he dialed his friend’s number.

A few minutes later he headed to the Crow’s Nest where Emmett and a few other soldiers were supping.

The doors to the hotel slid open on a hiss and he strode inside, winking at the woman behind the desk.

The pretty, white-haired girl blushed and looked at him through her lashes, fidgeting with a pen she held in her hand.

Smile widening, Brendon increased his pace and turned toward the restaurant. The roar of voices guided him into the crowded room.

The place was packed with soldiers—men and women, though mostly men. The majority of women in the restaurant appeared to be civilians. But that wasn’t such a surprise. The Crow’s Nest was notorious for being the local hangout for soldiers, which in turn could really bring in the ladies who loved a man in uniform.

He caught sight of Emmett waving to him from a table by the window. Brendon gave a half wave back and took a step toward them.

“Brendon Marshall. You little devil!” A voice squealed at him from the right.

He turned just in time to catch the chesty redhead who hurled herself into his arms. Her lips smacked against his in a solid kiss before she pulled back and smiled.

“It has been all too long since I’ve laid eyes on you, soldier,” she said coyly. “I do believe the last time I, er, saw you was during that night we spent together after the Harvest festival.”

His lips curved into a smile as he tilted his head and gave her a teasing look. “Did we spend time together at the Harvest Festival?”

The woman—Wendy, was it? Wanda?—gave him a playful slap and giggled. “You know quite well we did.” She leaned in close. “And I must admit I wouldn’t mind seeing you again soon. Say even later tonight?”

Hmm. The possibility of a quick tumble had merit. “I may be open to the idea. Do you still have my number, sweetheart?”

“On my express-dial.” She winked and ran a hand down his chest, licking her lips. “I’ll give you a call later.”

“Looking forward to it.” He flashed her a quick grin and turned away, resuming his course toward the table where Emmett sat.

A glimpse of blue from the corner of his eye made him pause. He turned his head slightly to investigate.

She watched him from the corner of the restaurant, eyes narrowed and an expression of irritation and disgust on her face.

Mmm. Who was this woman?

He slowed his steps, taking a moment to run his gaze over her. Pale blond hair shone soft in the light of the restaurant, falling around an oval face and past her shoulders. Her eye color was indistinguishable, for she sat in shadow.

The blue dress she wore seemed fairly conservative, covering more skin than it showed. But still, it could not hide the soft swell of her breasts. He lowered his gaze farther, but the rest of her body was hidden beneath the table. To his disappointment.

She must have noticed his attention, for her cheeks suddenly grew pink, and her attention shifted back to the plate of food in front of her.

With a soft laugh of genuine amusement, he pulled his gaze from her reluctantly and continued his course to the table where his friends sat.

“You never cease to amaze me,” Emmett quipped the moment he sat down. “Within seconds of walking in that door, you had women practically mauling each other to get to you.”

“You jest.” Brendon signaled a waiter for a glass of wine. “I had but one woman maul me.”

“Yes, the rest backed off once Wanda staked her claim.”

Wanda! Ah, he’d have to remember that for later.

When his gaze lifted to glance around the room, it wasn’t to seek out Wanda, but the intriguing blonde in the corner. Pleasure slipped through him when he again caught her watching him.

Once more, she jerked her head down and this time he watched her lips move in what was likely a quiet curse.

“So, Marshall. It semens to me that you’re enjoying your new job?”

The table erupted into loud bursts of laughter.

Brendon turned back to his friends and scowled, accepting the wine the waiter had brought him.

“Yes, laugh all you’d like.” He took a sip and shook his head, trying to keep a straight face. “It is by far the noblest of duties, and I imagine you’re all quite jealous.”

The men laughed harder and Emmett slapped Brendon on the back. “Quite noble, my friend.”

“All right, enough.” Brendon joined their laughter. “Have you eaten? I’m hungry. I worked up a massive appetite guarding the fruit of your loins.”

“Well, at least you are in good spirits about it,” another man called out and lifted his wine in toast. “And a demotion over the repute of being a ladies’ man is hardly something worth sulking over.”

Brendon’s smile widened. “I’ll drink to that.”

*

The spiced meat that had tasted so amazing, so succulent upon her tongue a moment ago now tasted like dirt.

Nika forced herself to chew the bite of meat in her mouth. She finally swallowed, reaching with unsteady hands to sip her water.

He still watched her. She could feel his eyes on her even now. The man across the room. Tension coiled through her body with awareness. Even without looking up his features were engraved in her mind.

Tall. Quite tall, actually. Lean and muscled. His short—almost shaved—brown hair made her think he must be military, though if so, he wore no uniform.

And his eyes. Such a dark penetrating brown. Though they’d only turned on her for a moment, she’d felt trapped, unable to look away. Time had stopped, and the noise around them had diminished until she only heard the rush of blood through her veins.

And then she’d forced herself to look away, turning her attention back to her supper as her face had heated with embarrassment.

She’d known it had been a bad idea to come down and eat alone. Yet what other choice did she have? Possibly she could have convinced the lodge to send food up to her room, though it was not standard.

And truthfully, she’d been fine until he had come into the restaurant. There was something about him. Something so blatantly sexual. Primal and dominating. And she would have noticed it even if women had not been melting at his feet like they were ice on a summer’s day.

A high-pitched laugh had her head jerking up again, and her attention was once more drawn to the man’s table.

And yet another woman had appeared to flirt with him. What a complete scoundrel.

Grinding her teeth, having had her fill of more than just food, Nika pushed back her chair and stood.

She set coin upon the table and proceeded from the restaurant. Pausing by the stairs, she hesitated. The idea of returning to her room seemed somewhat stifling.

Her gaze darted to the door and the grounds outside. She had not yet explored beyond the lodge. Though it had grown dark, perhaps the nightfall would provide a good cover for her to learn more about the area.

Without further hesitation, she headed out the door. The brisk air stroked her body, and she shivered. Perhaps she ought to go back inside and grab a jacket?

Looking over her shoulder, she thought she saw the man from the restaurant walk past the reception desk.

With a groan, she ducked farther away from the building. Fortunately, it was dark outside and likely he wouldn’t have seen her. But surely he hadn’t been seeking her out, had he?

Spinning away, Nika set out at a brisk stride. Though the air was cold, it also was refreshing. After having spent most her life forced to remain indoors on Zortou, she would never tire of the liberty of being allowed outside.

She moved along the path and followed the perimeter of the lodge. When the path split and one direction led to the bright lights of the military compound, she made a quick decision to take it.

The wind lifted her hair, sending strands across her face and into her eyes. She thrust them aside and increased her pace. Her flesh broke out in goosebumps, and her teeth began to chatter.

Gods, she was a fool for not grabbing that jacket. Maybe she was unfamiliar with this planet, but winter was upon them and she should’ve known better.

The trail grew darker the farther away she went from the lodge, but the lights of the compound continued to guide her.

Nika looked around the trail at the trees that surrounded her. Listened to the sounds of the animals that lingered in the night. What sort of animals roamed this planet?

Unease slid down her spine as something rattled a nearby branch.

It’s nothing, Nika. Likely some little animal seeking food. Harmless and—

“You know, it’s cold out here.”

Nika gasped, raising her fist instinctively to deliver a blow. She caught herself as she recognized the scoundrel from the restaurant. Drawing in a breath, she tried to calm herself.

It certainly wouldn’t be good for her cover if she were discovered assaulting a local soldier.

“What are you doing out here?” she asked tersely.

“I could ask you the same thing, ma’am.” His voice was deep and smooth. Tinged with amusement. “You do realize you’re approaching a restricted military compound.”

“No, I did not realize, sir,” she lied. “I was simply out walking.”

“Call me Brendon.” He stepped closer and his gaze slid over her, lingering on her nipples, which had tightened from the chill. “Can I offer you my coat?”

“Thank you. But, no. I’m not cold.”

White teeth flashed in the moon’s light as he gave a soft laugh. “Of course you’re not. Then might I escort you back to the lodge?”

Really, there was no hope for exploring the compound. Not with him determined to remain with her. Pushing aside her annoyance, she gave a brusque nod.

He took her arm and a shocking spark of pleasure slid through her blood. She inhaled sharply, her muscles tightening as she cast him a sidelong look.

What sort of magic did he possess? That the female population would swoon at his feet, and even just the smallest touch against her skin could spread tingles of energy?

“Your skin is chilled,” he murmured, his fingers tracing circles against her bare elbow. “Are you certain you’re not cold?”

A shiver ran through her, but it was not from the cold this time.

“Perhaps you’re simply overheated from all the women throwing themselves at you,” she taunted lightly, arching a brow.

He laughed again, a low husky sound that quickened her pulse and spread heat low in her belly.

Nika blinked furiously, trying to dispel whatever insanity was threatening. What was the matter with her? Where was the repulsion or anger toward this man? It was a feeling she’d come to experience when a male grew too close.

“You have yet to tell me your name, ma’am.”

“Nika.” Her eyes widened and she snapped her teeth together.

Now, why in the world had she just given him her true name? Stupid! So stupid, Nika!

He laughed softly and alarmed her further by lifting her wrist and pressing a soft kiss to the inside. Her steps faltered as her knees weakened.

Though her breath caught, she forced herself to show no outward reaction.

“You intrigue me, Nika. I have been watching you.”

“Yes, you have.”

He tilted his head back and laughed louder, exposing the solid column of his neck. Her gaze followed the length of it down to his chest beneath his shirt. So hard and wide. Very much male, but not at all unappealing.

Her heart tripped. This was madness. Truly it had to be. How was it possible she was attracted to a man? And why now, while on her first mission?

Her gaze moved to his lips. So perfectly formed and sensual. And though she’d never craved the touch or caress of another being, she couldn’t help but wonder… what his mouth would feel like upon hers?

His laughter faded and the thick silence made her jerk her gaze away from his mouth.

She found him watching her once more and she stilled, unable to look away from the intensity of his stare. Hunger flickered in his gaze and the air between them nearly crackled with something so hot and tempting.

“You still feel rather chilled, love,” he said softly and reached up to touch her cheek. “Let me warm you. If not with my jacket, then in other ways.”

His head descended, blocking out the moon’s light. Before she could protest, his mouth covered hers.

She stiffened, waiting for the fear to sink in, for the flashbacks of the men who’d owned her back on Zortou.

It didn’t come.

Instead, each soft brush of his mouth across hers sent bubbly heat throughout her body. How amazing!

Nika leaned into him, curling her fingers around his shoulders as a slow ache began between her legs.

Brendon slanted his mouth across hers and then his tongue probed the seam of her lips.

Only wanting to follow this thread of pleasure, she slid her arms around his neck and then parted her lips.

Brendon’s tongue slid inside, immediately seeking hers to stroke and tease. Her mind spun, and each slick caress upped the fire in her blood.

His hand, which rested on her waist, moved slowly upward and her breath caught as she realized his intent. She should stop him. Now. And yet the idea of ending this sensual moment made everything inside her cringe with disappointment.

She turned her body just enough, so that a moment later she felt his palm close over her breast. The world tilted and a moan of pleasure gurgled in her throat.

Brendon lifted his head just slightly from her mouth. “Nice little handful you have, love.”

She knew she ought to stop this, but it was rather difficult. Never had she felt sexual pleasure from another person. The only pleasure she’d gained had been from her own ministrations.

And now, having tasted the possibility of pleasure—from a strange man nonetheless!—the temptation was all too great to follow the rainbow and see if the possibility of rapture lay at the other end.

And why shouldn’t she explore it? She had the control now. The moment she wanted to stop, she’d stop. She had the control. The idea in itself was a novelty.

He pinched her nipple lightly, rolling it between his fingers.

“Let me pleasure you, Nika,” he murmured against her ear, maybe sensing her inner turmoil. “Tell me, do you have a room in the lodge?”

Chapter 3

Brendon waited for her response, his cock throbbing within his trousers. Gods, he wanted to toss the little minx down in the bushes and lift her dress. Plunge into the hot wet center he knew awaited him.

And yet something within him warned him to proceed with caution with her. That she might be a bit skittish.

“I do have a room,” she admitted huskily.

“Good.” His blood rushed faster and he smiled, slipping his hand down her waist to cup one taut ass cheek. She was soft there, but not entirely. This was a toned woman, someone who apparently enjoyed being athletic.

A thrill of anticipation raced through him.

“Would you like my mouth on you, love? Everywhere?” He whispered the endearment before catching her earlobe between his teeth and tugging. Maybe a little too hard, he realized with regret.

She gasped, and his brows lifted when he felt her nipple grow hard.

Hmmm. Perhaps she liked things a bit harder? Brendon tightened his fingers around the tip of her breast. Carefully monitoring her reaction, he squeezed harder, twisting slightly until she let out a strangled moan and looped her arms around his neck, burying her face against his shoulder.

Indeed. This one liked her pleasure with a bit of an edge. He slid the hand on her ass over to her hip, and then inward.

He splayed his fingers low across her belly and was rewarded when she arched into him. He caught her earlobe with his teeth again, biting lightly as his tongue flicked over the plump flesh.

Time to check for certain how much the little minx was aroused. He slipped his hand lower to cup the swell of her mound through the gown she wore.

With his middle finger, he pressed against her slit, pushing the fabric and his digit inside her pussy. Damp and warm.

His breath caught and for a moment his own self-control spun dangerously out of bounds. Gods, he wanted this woman. He wanted her with a suddenness and ferocity that left him a bit stunned.

Who was she? She was no local who lingered in the Crow’s Nest trying out her charm. If anything, she appeared to have a disdain for the women and men who’d been flirting so commonly.

And yet here she was, nearly melting in his arms—which should be no surprise, since most women tended to have that reaction to him. But he’d thought she would be different. A challenge, even. And yet here he was so close to conquering her.

A thrill of triumph swept through him and he gathered the fabric of her dress in his fist, jerking it up her body and over her hips.

He slid both hands around to grab her bare ass, digging his fingers into the soft flesh. His mind spun and before he could stop himself, he was seeking her mouth again.

His lips slammed against hers, tongue thrusting deep to control the kiss. She didn’t fight him, but pressed her body harder against his, matching his intensity. Her tongue flicked against his as she rubbed her tits against his chest.

Fuck. He wanted her. Now!

Brendon abandoned one ass cheek to wedge his hand between them, desperate to touch her hot pussy. He pushed aside a piece of her dress that had fallen back down and cupped her smooth mound in his palm.

Heat burned against his hand and the hint of moisture promised as he moved the heel of his palm against her pubic bone.

Nika wrenched her mouth from his, her lips parted. He caught her gaze, saw the wildness in her eyes just before he pushed one finger into her tight little pussy.

The walls of her sheath gripped him and he hissed out a breath, his dick straining against his trousers. So slick and hot. Gods. He would have her. Here on this trail. To hell with the bed.

He added a second finger, fucking her with the two digits. She made the sexiest little panting sounds, her eyes glazed with pleasure as her body rode him. Each time her body jerked on his fingers, her tight nipples grazed against his chest.

Slipping his thumb into the wet folds, he sought her swollen clit. He wanted to watch her come. Wanted to see that tiny thread of control she clung to snap. He found the tiny bud and massaged it, felt it swell under his ministrations.

“Gods.” She gasped, her arms still wrapped around his neck and her breath hot against his arm. “Brendon.”

“Yes, love. I want you to come for me,” he muttered thickly. “I want to feel you come all over my fingers. Come on, Nika. Let go.”

Nika let out a strangled groan and her body clamped around him, her muscles rigid. A second later the hot cream of her release coated him.

“Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods,” she chanted, her fingers tugging at his hair as her body was racked with climax.

He kissed her forehead, his own body so fucking taut with the need for release. He thrust his hips against her, pressing his cock against her belly.

Nika’s body finally went limp against him as she let out a soft moan.

Now. He could wait no longer. Fumbling with his other hand, he freed his cock and gripped the pulsing length. Stroking his thumb over the thick head and the drop of fluid gathered there, he moved his hand to her ass, ready to lift her and plunge deep.

Nika’s hands slammed into his chest, pushing him with enough force he stumbled back a couple of steps.

“If you don’t mind,” she licked her lips and gave him a slight smile. “I’d actually like to stop now.”

Brendon blinked, his jaw clenching as he assured himself he’d heard her words correctly. She wanted to stop?

“You want to stop?” he repeated. The heat moving through his body had less to do with lust now, and more to do with anger.

“Mmm hmm.” She watched him from beneath her lashes and stepped back, pushing her dress back down her legs. “I’ve dallied for far too long tonight. I have things to do.”

Dallied for too long? Was that what she called letting him finger her hot little pussy?

Annoyance and disbelief warred inside him. Finally he ground out, “What game do you play, Nika?”

“I play no game. You asked me if I had a room and I answered the truth.” She gave a light shrug and glanced back toward the lodge. “I certainly did not invite you back to it. Besides, I simply have no desire to continue.”

“Bullshit. You have the desire,” he growled. “I just had my fingers all over that desire.”

She gave a soft laugh. “Yes. You did. And it was quite enjoyable.” With one last smile and a considering look she turned and walked away. “Have a good night, Brendon.”

Of all the nerve… Brendon started to hurry after her and then faltered, curses falling rampant from his tongue.

The little tease! Never since he’d been a young man had a woman done such with him. Bring him so close to release and then play coy. But this went beyond coy! He’d brought her to climax and then the little minx had practically skipped away, leaving him with a rock-hard cock and frustrated enough to put his fist through a wall.

Unfortunately—or fortunately—there were no walls nearby.

Wincing, he tucked his erection gingerly back into his trousers and fastened them again. He scowled and set out to head back to the lodge. And if Nika had any sense, she’d best be well hidden from him.

Arriving back at the warm building, he was disappointed to discover the mysterious blonde was indeed nowhere in sight.

“Back again?”

He spun, his hopes rising only to fall again when he saw Wanda leaning against the counter near the reception desk.

She strolled forward and grabbed the front of his shirt. “Been thinking of me, have you?”

A flush rose to his neck as he watched her eyes drop to his still-hardened cock.

“I can help you with your little problem.” Her tongue swiped across blood red lips.

Wanda offered the possibility of a quick tumble. To have a guaranteed release. He ran his gaze over her. Large tits, tiny hips. An hour ago he would have fucked her on the spot.

And yet now…now, he wanted nothing to do with her. The only pussy he wanted to bury his cock in had run upstairs to hide.

The realization raised his irritation a notch, and he let out a frustrated groan.

Wanda must have interpreted his response to be encouraging, for she gave a soft laugh and pressed herself closer.

“I bet we could get a room—”

“This lodge does not rent rooms by the hour,” Molly’s voice rang out firmly. “You’ll have to do your fornicating elsewhere, Miss Wanda.”

Brendon let out a sharp laugh and stepped back, his amusement rising as Wanda’s face turned red enough to match her hair.

Emmett stepped out of the restaurant just then, eyebrows raised as he took in the scene.

“Thank you, Wanda,” Brendon said quietly. “But I’ll have to pass anyway.”

Wanda’s eyes rounded and her mouth flapped. “Well! Your loss, soldier.” She spun around and faced the owner of the lodge. “And you. Maybe if you loosened up a bit—perhaps made your own attempt at fornicating—you would not be such an uptight bitch.”

Emmett stepped forward, his expression incensed. “Now listen, that was quite uncalled for.”

“Oh, go fuck yourself. Or her, she obviously needs it,” Wanda snarled and strode out the door of the lodge.

Brendon winced and strode over to the owner, clasping her hand. “I apologize, Molly.”

She forced a smile, but he could tell Wanda’s words had hit their mark. Which was sad. The poor girl didn’t deserve such a bitter attack.

“Say, Molly, you didn’t happen to see a lady pass through here a few minutes ago?” he heard himself ask before he could fathom whether it was a good idea. “Blonde, blue dress?”

Molly’s gaze dropped, and she shook her head. “Sorry, Brendon. I have not.”

He sighed and looked away. “Thank you. Perhaps I’ll see if she went into the restaurant.”

Even as he went into the restaurant to check, he knew. She’d gone, and he was shit out of luck unless he went door to door upstairs to find her.

And he knew without a doubt Molly would never allow that. No, he was stuck with a raging hard-on, and a temper just as fierce.

From beneath her lashes, Molly watched Brendon disappear into the restaurant and immediately felt guilty for lying.

But Rebecca had asked her to, when she’d hurried in through the doorway, calling out a harried, “Please, if anyone asks, you did not see me!” as she passed.

Interesting that Brendon, one of Molly’s favorite customers, had been the one she’d been fleeing from.

“Molly?”

She glanced up, forgetting she was not alone. Emmett, another one of her regulars, stood near the desk, his expression drawn tight with concern.

“Are you all right?” He stepped forward and shook his head. “She shouldn’t have said what she did. It was downright spiteful.”

“Oh.” Her cheeks heated with color. So he’d heard that bit, had he? For some reason it made her stomach sink with humiliation. Maybe because there had been truth to Wanda’s words. “It’s quite all right. I shouldn’t have said what I did to her.”

“Well, if you ask me, it’s no more than she deserves.” Emmett scowled and reached out to touch her hand.

A spark of heat tingled through her arm, and she licked her lips in surprise. She stared at his dark hand covering hers, and a tremble of awareness ran through her body.

Lifting her head, she met Emmett’s dark-brown gaze. Something hot flickered in his eyes, and her stomach flipped.

He did not remove his hand from hers, and the heat from his touch continued to spread through her body. What was this? She’d never noticed Emmett in such a manner before.

Liar. Of course she had. On the days when he would come in with his friends she’d always find her attention drawn unwillingly to him. To the quiet, dark-skinned man with the sexy, husky laugh.

“How is work?” she asked quickly, the words nothing more than to fill the thickening silence.

Amusement flashed in his gaze now. “Work is well. Quite uneventful.”

“Which is a good thing, is it not?” she quipped and allowed herself a smile. “Would you wish us another battle like the one we had two years ago?”

His expression sobered, and he shook his head. “Never.”

Guilt stabbed, and her smile faltered. “I should not jest about such events. I’m sorry.”

“No harm done.” He hesitated, his gaze searching hers. “I should rejoin the men for dinner.”

A twinge of disappointment twisted inside, but she covered it with a quick nod.

“Yes. I have things that must be done.” She paused and added, “Thank you, Emmett, for your kind words.”

Surprise registered across his face. “You know my name?”

Her cheeks warmed, but she straightened her spine and tried to shrug it off with a light flirt. Winking, she murmured, “I make it my business to know the names of my customers. Especially my regulars.”

She pulled her hand free with regret and gave him another wide smile. “Have a lovely night.”

Walking away, for she intended to check on Rebecca, she felt his gaze following her. Burning a trail over her body.

Turning into the stairwell, a rush of warmth filled her blood, and once she was out of his view she let out a soft sigh. Leaning against the wall, she closed her eyes and shook her head.

Developing a mild crush on one of her customers could not be a good thing. Not since her husband had died three years ago had she felt the stirrings of desire for a man.

Until Emmett.

But there was nothing to be done. There was no indication that he returned her interest. Was there? Well…even if there was, running the lodge alone left her little time for a social life. Let alone one that involved sex.

Sex. Her mind flickered with the image of Emmett on top of her. His muscled body lay between her thighs as his large hands cupped her breasts… Her nipples tightened, and a long-forgotten ache bloomed between her legs.

“You’ve gone mad, Molly. Absolutely mad,” she hissed to herself and hurried up to the second floor to check on her boarder.

Rebecca did not answer the door after her first knock, so she knocked again.

“Rebecca? It’s Molly.”

She heard the locks release and then the door hissed open. Rebecca stared at her curiously before her gaze slipped beyond her, almost with suspicion.

“I am alone,” Molly assured her. “May I come in?”

Rebecca hesitated before giving a short nod, stepping back. “Forgive me, Molly. I thought you were…someone else.”

Molly stepped inside and gave her a sympathetic glance. “Would this someone be a local soldier who towers above most others?”

The other woman’s expression turned wary. “Possibly.”

Molly glanced around the room, happy to see her guest had settled in already.

“I don’t mean to intrude,” Molly said quickly. “And I promise not to stay. I simply had to come assure you that you have nothing to fear with Brendon. He’s a right decent man.”

“Is he, now?” Rebecca looked away and gave a slight nod. “Perhaps a decent man who feels himself entitled to every woman on this planet.”

“He is a bit of a flirt,” Molly conceded, and then her mouth flapped in alarm. Had she misread the situation? “Oh gods, has he done something to you against your will? Are you quite all right?”

Rebecca’s expression flickered between amusement and guilt. “I am fine. Truly. It was nothing but a…misunderstanding.”

Molly studied the other woman closely, watching to see if perhaps she lied and had indeed been subjected to something awful. After a moment she realized the woman spoke the truth. Or something close to it.

No. Whatever had happened outside the lodge may not have been something Rebecca wanted to dwell on, but Brendon had done nothing too awful. Nor could Molly have imagined he would have.

“I know I said as much earlier, but please don’t hesitate to come to me if you need anything.” Molly turned toward the door and hesitated before leaving. “He did ask about you. When he came into the lodge.”

Rebecca blinked and tilted her head. “Did you…”

“I told him I had not seen you.”

The other woman visibly relaxed and she nodded. “Thank you. For everything, Molly.”

“You’re welcome.” She opened the door and slipped out, with a final, “Perhaps we could have lunch tomorrow?”

Rebecca nodded and Molly watched her eyes light up with anticipation before she carefully schooled her expression again.

“Perhaps.”

“Sleep well,” Molly murmured and slipped from the room.

For some reason she was drawn to her guest. She sensed in the woman a vulnerability beneath that hard exterior. Quite hard in fact.

Yes, Rebecca wanted the world to perceive her as confident and tough. But though the woman wouldn’t admit it, Molly could sense the hunger in her for friendship.

Strolling back down the hall, she wondered what—if anything—Rebecca might have to hide.

*

The door shut behind Molly, and Nika bit her lip and jammed a hand through her hair.

Gods, she felt ridiculously guilty for deceiving a woman she barely knew. Every time Molly had called her Rebecca, Nika had felt like even more of a fraud.

Which you are, you fool! She turned on her heel and went into the bathing chamber to wash her face.

She was not on this planet to have sex or make friendships, though she’d come damn close to accomplishing both tonight. And she hated to admit it, but the notion of nurturing this budding friendship with Molly held far too much appeal.

She hardened her resolve. It was too much of a risk. And mistakes such as these could cost her the mission. Could even expose her planet as the sponsor behind the past larcenies.

Nika turned on the faucet, her blood chilling at the thought. Never could she be the one to blow the cover on years of illicit missions. In fact, she knew the result if she were to be captured or her identity was at risk of being discovered. Her life would be taken. One black pill, the size of a melon seed, would ensure it.

She ran her palms under the water and then splashed it across her face. Looking up in the mirror, she watched the droplets run down her chin and fall onto the counter.

The moment out on the trail with Brendon flickered through her head and a tremble ran though her. Guilt pricked lightly inside her, but she stomped it out. Obviously, he’d been all too eager to continue with their little moment. But knowing that she could stop him, that she had the power, had been such a rush.

And power was everything. If there was one thing she’d learned being a damn Rosabelle, that was it. Because she’d had none.

Still, it was a silly thing to do. Letting him touch her out in public and achieving the ultimate pleasure. What had possessed her? It was as if she’d gone mad.

She’d orgasmed. Never had a man brought her to orgasm, seeing as her owners had never tried. And the pitiful moments during their rutting had brought her no pleasure. Thank gods the men had lasted no longer than a couple of minutes each.

Her stomach clenched at the memory and she shook her head to dispel it. Why was she reliving such atrocities? Sadly, it happened more than she wished it would.

It had only been two years since Belton had defeated Zortou’s surprise attack. Two years since she’d been given her freedom.

And now you seek to steal from the very planet that liberated you, a voice mocked in her head. She thrust aside any feelings of shame. There was no time for it. Surely the planet would not miss a few samples of semen. Granted, it was like the gold standard of the stuff, but still. The bottom line was it was still just some men’s spend.

You are a professional. You trained for years for this mission. And you will not blow it. Success is the only option.

All soft thoughts and ideas of lovers and friendships vanished from her mind. What remained was only steely determination to complete this mission. Tomorrow she would make her first attempt to discover the details of the lab, perhaps even risk a first raid.

Stripping off her dress, she climbed into bed and attempted to fall asleep.

Gods, how could she have fallen asleep for so long? If she was late with supper they would kill her. Or make her wish they’d killed her.

Donika rushed around the small housing unit, setting the table just so, before returning to the kitchen to check on the meat.

Any minute now the brothers would return from work and demand their food. Why, there was dust upon the teletron.

Opening the door to the oven unit, she cut into one thick slab of meat. Damn, it still needed at least five more minutes.

There was a loud shrill beep and she winced, glancing sharply over her shoulder to where the door to the unit lay.

The two men entered the unit, speaking quietly to each other as they removed their jackets and closed the unit door again.

Then they turned toward the kitchen, their matching gazes on her.

“Where’s my food?” Mac asked gruffly, pulling out a chair at the table.

“Almost ready,” she said quickly, smoothing her dress down her legs.

“Almost?” Ron repeated, his gaze narrowing as it moved over her. He licked his thick lips and rubbed his belly. “What have you been doing all day?”

Her cheeks filled with color. “I’ve…”

Ron’s hand glanced across her cheek and her head snapped to the side with the blow.

“Never mind,” he muttered and gripped her shoulder. “How long?”

“Five minutes,” she whispered.

“Well, then, for five minutes you can suck my cock.” He pushed her to her knees and pulled his short, fat erection free from his pants.

No choice. She never had a choice. Only to please. Wanting this to be over as soon as possible, she took him in her mouth and zoned out while she brought him to climax.

Ten minutes later she set a plate of food in front of the men and then filled up a plate of food for herself. When she went to sit at the table Mac pushed her away.

“You cannot be rewarded for being late with our supper, Donika.” He gestured to the corner of the small room.

Swallowing against her humiliation, she went to the corner and sank down to the floor, eating quietly by herself while the men devoured their food.

Gods. Was this truly all there was to life? Every day to live and serve these vile men? No matter how much she tried to please, to prove herself, it was never enough. She was never good enough.

Though her throat tightened with emotion, no tears burned her eyes. Crying brought no results.

“Get up.”

She blinked, not realizing Mac had crossed the room to stand in front of her.

Beneath his trousers his erection was obvious. Her stomach sank with dread. Gods, he must have become turned on watching his brother with her moments ago.

And she had not yet finished her meal. Not that it mattered. When they demanded, she gave.

Standing, she set her plate upon the counter and followed Mac into the bedroom. Whereas Ron would take her in any manner and any place in the housing unit, Mac always used a bed.

With a grunt, he pushed her backward and lifted her dress to her hips. And then he was inside her, riding her while she stared at the ceiling of the unit.

It was over a moment later. When he rolled off her he rubbed his belly and sighed.

“Better hurry and clean up the kitchen, girl,” he muttered. “Work was a bit hard and Ron and I would like massages.”

Of course they did. A hysterical laugh bubbled in her throat. It was like the same day. Over and over and over—

“Oh, and I nearly forgot.” Mac paused in the midst of fastening his trousers and leered down at her. “Happy anniversary to us all.”

Nika gasped and jerked upright in bed. Her hair hung in damp strands around her head and she shoved them aside, looking wildly around the room to rid herself of the disorientation.

It had just been a memory. Or a nightmare. They were one and the same.

But that was not her life anymore. Thank the gods, that was not her life. She’d moved on and now she was the one in control. Of everything. And without control, she was nothing.

With a grim smile, she swung her legs out of bed and prepared for the day.

Nika left the lodge early. Once outside the building she found a local washroom to alter her appearance.

She needed to look the part of an attractive female. Even more dressed up than last night. Which was a bit difficult, as she hadn’t done such since she lived on Zortou.

Today, it was essential that her femininity be pronounced, and that there wouldn’t be the slightest reason to connect her appearance with the shapeless disguise she’d wear as a thief.

She wore an amethyst dress that was cut low and had a white tie beneath her breasts. It accented her curves and highlighted her chest.

Her hair she kept down, combed into a long sleek wave that fell past her shoulders.

She had all the needed IDs and excuses to get onto the base, and once inside she was certain to have an escort to show her around. Today would be easy. She’d be learning the layout.

It was when she went back… Tonight. Tomorrow night. Next week. Whenever the time was right to break into the lab. That was when the real challenge would begin.

And when it did, she knew that the likelihood of hand-to-hand combat was high, the possibility that she might even have to kill just as great.

The idea wasn’t something that settled well in her conscience. In fact, it had lingered heavy in her gut since she’d begun her training. But she knew if it came down to it she would do what needed to be done.

An hour later she was at the gates of the compound awaiting an escort.

“Ms. Owens?”

She spun at the sound and smiled at the man who approached her. Her stomach twisted a little at the realization that it was again a man she’d have to spend time with.

“Hello. Colonel Charleson?”

“Indeed.” He closed the distance between them and grasped one of her hands in both of his. “Lovely to meet you, ma’am.”

“Thank you for being so kind as to show me around the compound.”

“Not at all. We’re excited to have an ambassador from the city of Glorus.”

“And I am just as excited to be here.”

His smile widened. “Come. Let us begin the tour.”

An hour later, she’d toured a majority of the compound and encountered many soldiers in the process. The male population had seemed quite intrigued by her presence. Likely because she was a woman on base, made to look pretty, and wore no uniform.

Fortunately, she hadn’t seen Brendon, which had been her fear all morning. If she were to see him, gods knew what she would do.

Her stomach twisted at the very thought.

“You’ve seen the entire compound, ma’am,” the colonel murmured. “Well, save for our specimen lab. But I can’t imagine you’d be interested in such and likely have other things to do.”

Nika licked her lips and hesitated. How to reply? She did not want to seem too eager.

“Colonel, I have no plans for lunch and would love the opportunity to spend more time in your presence,” she preened. “Perhaps we could tour the lab and have lunch after?”

The older man flushed and nodded. “That would be lovely. Just let me place a call ahead to the lab and let them know of our arrival.”