Anya huddled in the back of her cage, using her gray smock to cover her thighs and legs to battle the cold as well as discourage the buyers from staring at her. That beast, the zyanthan they called Azokk, had taken Lucy three days ago. Blasted his way into the cage in the middle of a crowded market without caring who saw him. Though with all the explosions going off throughout the slave market, no one had noticed. Except Anya.
Azokk had stared at her earlier that day, those molten silver eyes sending a shiver through her entire body. A type of shiver that had confused her at first, given where it struck. Her core, her nipples, every part of her had come to life, and that scared her. She couldn’t be attracted to a vile beast, no matter how gorgeous he was. Forget the dark blue skin, silver eyes, and horns that held a majesty all of their own, pointing forward and challenging any who would dare defy him. The beast’s reputation told of a male who cared only about lining his pockets. About power and position. And he used female slaves to accomplish his goals.
He’d shot open Lucy’s cage, tossed her over his shoulder like a sack of dirty laundry, and disappeared into the panicked crowd of buyers. Before disappearing completely, Azokk had turned, those eyes locking onto Anya for a brief moment like he could see straight through to her soul.
There’d been nothing she could do to save Lucy. Despite all the advice she’d given her fellow captive on fighting back, on making herself as unappealing as possible to the slavers, none of it had saved Lucy in the end.
One of the guards, a dark red keenta, stepped in front of Anya’s cage and roared, startling her. He laughed, then started masturbating in front of her. Anya tucked her head against her knees and turned her back to the male. In her head, she hummed Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to drown out the sounds of his grunts.
Scaring off potential buyers by causing trouble at every turn wasn’t going to keep her safe forever. Sooner or later, someone would ignore her wild and erratic behavior and buy her. She needed to figure out her next move, and soon. Not that living out her life in a cage in a slave market was a good plan. But now that the commotion from the explosions three days ago had died down and the og’dal who ran this slave market had repaired the outer fence, they had reopened for business.
Customers had begun streaming back in this morning. One by one, the price panels on the other cages changed from white to blue and green, indicating heavier discounts than usual as the auctioneer’s way of pacifying his clients for the unexpected shut-down.
The panel at the top of her cage remained red, the deepest discount. Damn, that’s not good, she thought. Eventually, someone would buy her, especially at such a low price. Anya started to worry about what type of male would buy a slave known to bite, spit, and behave as wild as an animal.
“I want the human,” a huge banth said in Common outside her cage. She hadn’t even noticed him and Baash, the head slaver, approach.
“Are you sure? This one has been difficult.”
The banth smiled, showing off too many teeth to count, and all of them sharper than she’d ever seen on a banth. Never mind his transparent skin creeping her out, or the scales on his back, this guy had sharpened his teeth.
“I enjoy difficult females. They are fun to discipline.”
“There are no returns if you break her,” that asshole keenta Baash said. “These humans are fragile. And hard to procure. I only get a few in each season. My other one, the meek one I told you about, was stolen three days ago.”
“Meek is not preferable. The more difficult ones are better. I need at least five. My crew enjoys the challenge of breaking females. But those that don’t submit tend to wear out so quickly, so I will buy extra this time.”
“If you place an order in advance, I can request ones that are as difficult as this one.”
The banth handed Baash his datapad to transfer the funds. “We have a deal then, Baash..”
Anya rose as Baash placed his hand against the security panel.
“Now or never,” Anya mumbled under her breath as she prepared herself.
As soon as the door to the cage opened, Anya shot out. She knocked Baash over; he hadn’t expected her to try anything, not with him and the buyer both standing there. To her surprise, she made it past him. Only to be grabbed by her hair and yanked off her feet.
The banth crushed her against his chest. “You are mine, human,” he said, flashing those sharp teeth. She swore she could see bits of raw meat between them. Aside from the thought of what or who he’d last eaten, his foul breath nearly made her wretch.
She forced the meager contents of her stomach down and stopped flailing. “Yes, my lord.” If he wanted difficult, she’d give him sickeningly sweet and compliant until she found the chance to escape.
“Don’t let her fool you, Yazzi, this female is difficult.”
“I look forward to it,” the banth said as he set her down on her feet, but kept his hand clamped around the back of her neck, squeezing hard enough to tell Anya she was in deep trouble.
* * *
Jaizon scaled the wall surrounding the slave market on Rhannith for the second time this week. The stupid og’dals and keentas who ran this slave market thought they could keep him out by adding barbs to the top of their fence. They knew nothing about zyanthan warriors or the determination of a Kaitel.
Even with his jacket folded over the barbs, the metal dug through his arm and thigh as he hoisted himself over the wall. He should have brought more charges from his cache on Trinoth. Rather short-sighted of him. Then again, he didn’t expect to be breaking back into the slave market a second time. It wasn’t like him to fail at a goal, any goal. Though technically giving up the human female Lucy to his cousin Torin’s engineer wasn’t a failure, but rather a change in plans.
Torin, Makov, and Quinnov. . . all still alive. He’d had three days to get used to the news and still, it seemed more like fantasy than fact. The Kaitel family was far from dead, despite the heavy loss of his parents, younger brothers, and uncle’s family. Perhaps he could go back to Zyan after this mission after all. Though from what Torin had said, Makov had settled with his mate on Affinia, and Quinnov continued bouncing around the stars scouting for Zyan’s Defense Command.
“You, there,” a keenta guard shouted to a nearby banth. The guard slammed the butt of his blaster against the gate of the pen of a half-dozen slaves, sending the cowering beings toward the back. “Get your purchase out of here. She’s unsettling the rest of our stock.”
“She stays until I’m ready to leave,” the banth with sharpened teeth said.
Jaizon peered into the pen. Right in the middle of the group of slaves from coalition-controlled worlds stood the human female he had come for.
He’d never seen skin so beautiful before. A rich brown that was so unlike his dark blue. Her hair—tight, curly strands—hung about her shoulders, calling attention to an exquisite face and lower, a curvy body. She lacked horns and claw nodes on her hands, but those differences didn’t detract from her beauty. The female looked as stunning and exotic as he’d remembered upon first seeing her in the cage three days ago.
He smiled at the memory of her swearing a colorful string of curses at the keenta slaver that day when they’d approached her cell. Then she’d turned to Jaizon and sneered, showing off blunt teeth. A threat, though she could not possibly harm him with such blunt teeth.
Her bravado made his cock stir, but it was watching her defiance and determination to drive him off that had convinced him to buy her. He’d wanted to take her then, but not to use in his mission. He wanted her for himself. Then and now.
That very thought scared the drekk out of him. He’d started to think like the vile males of the Coalition who believed they had the right to take a female and do as they pleased. More often, almost daily now, he had to remind himself that he was a zyanthan warrior bound by honor.
Six years of working and living in coalition space had changed him, and not for the better.
After seeing the fight in the female, it became clear that she had not been broken by the Coalition. But Jaizon had begun to think that he had.
The part of her that made him want her was the reason he couldn’t take her. He needed a compliant female for this mission. That’s why he’d chosen the human female with the golden hair. Lucy. The choice had been fortuitous, as it had led him to reunite with Torin and his team, the warriors assigned to destroy the defense shield around Grudan. Until then, Jaizon hadn’t known who’d been tasked with clearing his way to the grud home planet, only that Ossen had assigned that mission to another team.
He had to focus on his mission and disregard the consequences.
That was the name Lucy had called this female when she proposed he rescue her.
Rescue. He hated that word because he wasn’t rescuing this female. He’d be using her, only in a different way from the other buyers in this market.
The keenta guard, a red-skinned male with two very long horns and who was easily a head taller than Jaizon, stormed into the pen where the female was riling up the other slaves, her back to the keenta. The other slaves suddenly backed away. As Anya turned, the keenta lashed out at her. She ducked, avoiding his hand, but she couldn’t escape his horns. One sliced too close to her throat, causing her to rear back and lose her footing. Now off-balance, she couldn’t flee the keenta as he shoved her against a concrete wall and caged her with his hands on either side of her.
Her eyes widened. She looked terrified, but then Jaizon saw a glint of determination in her face as she brought her knee up, slammed into the guard’s balls, and punched him as he doubled over.
A smile curled on Jaizon’s face. He had to have this female. She had too much spirit to leave in the hands of the slavers. Maybe she would work out. He could tell her everything. Get her to cooperate and work with him.
The keenta fell to the side, roaring in pain as he clutched his balls. Anya raced for the open gate and made it through.
“Catch her!” the downed guard yelled.
The female glanced over her shoulder, looking for the guard. A frown filled her face as her eyes trailed to the slaves she’d left behind. They hadn’t followed her out of the pen, despite no one barring their exit. They didn’t have her survival instinct or her intelligence. As she turned to focus on her escape, she slammed into Jaizon.
“You’re mine now, female,” he said as he pricked her arm and dosed her with a drug to make her sleep.
The fear in her eyes as she slumped unconscious against Jaizon ripped through him. He was no longer the warrior who’d left Zyan six years ago. That male never would drug an innocent, plan to use her as part of his mission, or give her any reason to fear him. And now he was doing all three.
Shouts ricocheted through the market and the dull thumping of boots striking the ground spurred Jaizon to hoist the female onto his shoulder. He fired his blaster, sending buyers and slavers fleeing out of his path. Chunks of cement exploded in the wall, but he hadn’t broken through.
Jaikov unleashed a continuous volley of blaster fire until he broke through the wall large enough for him to escape with the female. The two guards dove for cover, trying to avoid the chunks of concrete flying everywhere. Even with the weight of his captive on his shoulder, he easily outran his pursuers and disappeared into the thick jungle.
When he boarded The Nomad, his private cargo ship of the past several years, he retracted the ramp and strapped the female to the bed in his quarters. Blaster fire struck the hull as he lifted off, but it was too little too late. He reached the stratosphere in seconds, and the computer indicated all systems were fully operational. The day was going rather well.
Jaizon quickly set the auto-pilot before returning to his cabin to check on the unconscious female. She lay on her side, her breathing soft, much like the rest of her. He reached out to touch her and stopped. Not coalition, he repeated over and over in his head. Though seeing her on his bed was an image he found quite pleasing. His drekking pleasure cock stirred at the thought of having her in his bed. On her knees. On her side. Riding him…
Krike, he needed to get laid.
The memory of the fear in her eyes from when she’d run into him returned. He needed to ignore that and this inexplicable draw to her. She was here for a reason, and it wasn’t to satisfy him. Jaizon backed away from her before he forgot why he’d stolen her.
His mission took precedent over everything, even the lush female now on his bed. She’d fight him, possibly the entire way to Grudan. And by the time he was done with her, she’d hate him as much, if not more, than the keentas and og’dals who had enslaved her. Jaizon was doing what needed to be done. For Zyan, for his people, for the future of all those whom the Coalition victimized, including the precious female laying in his quarters. Except she would be his sacrifice. . .