Rena was sold into slavery at the age of fifteen, ripped away from her home and a loving father, and cast into a life of pain and horror. Despite the abuse she’s suffered through years of slavery, she counts herself lucky that no one has ever touched her intimately. When she angers her current owner, and he gives her to a purple alien as a gift, she isn’t sure if this next stage of her life will be a blessing or a curse. After five years as a captive, she’s too beaten to believe she’ll have a happily-ever-after. Who could ever fall in love with a woman as badly damaged as her? Even the purple alien called Ryx doesn’t seem all that interested.
Beren has avoided females at all costs. His scarred body and damaged ear don’t make for a very handsome male. When his commander, Ryx, brings a human female on board their ship, Beren is curious yet cautious. Like him, Rena has wounds on both the outside and inside. For the first time, Beren wonders if maybe there’s a female after all who will look past his exterior to see his warrior heart, and not someone broken and pitiful. Her courage and strength appeal to him, and yet she’s so soft and small that his protective urges rise to the surface. Whether Beren gets to claim her or not, he vows that he will lay down his life for Rena and protect her at all costs. He just never realized that in doing so he would end up with what he wanted most – her.
Beren scowled at Ryx. “You did what?”
“I’ve procured a female slave from Frih,” his commander said. “A human.”
Beren smacked his bad ear, certain he’d misheard. The heat from the weapon that had removed the top half seemed to have damaged his hearing as well. But poor hearing or not, he couldn’t have just heard his commander say he’d purchased a slave. If the council found out, the punishment would be severe. Zelthranites did not keep slaves, especially females. And most definitely not humans! If Earth’s government thought for one moment a Zelthranite had taken a human slave, not only would their agreement be forfeit, but likely a war would start.
Ryx snorted. “You didn’t mishear me. Her name is Rena, and she was given to me by Frih as a gift. It was supposed to be for one night, but I arranged to keep her permanently.”
“So, you bedded her, and now you’re going to claim her?” Beren asked, feeling slightly better about the situation. It was one thing to take a mate, and another to keep a slave. But if the commander were to claim the female…
“I didn’t sleep with her,” Ryx said.
Beren blinked and stared. “You didn’t bed her. But you’re keeping her. As what?”
“I thought she might find a mate on our world, or possibly on this ship. None of us are mated, and she seems pretty enough, despite the damage done to her by her various owners.” The commander grimaced, and his gaze dropped.
Damage? What was that supposed to mean? From the commander’s reaction, Beren wondered how badly the female had been harmed. He thought of his many injuries, the physical and emotional pain he’d been through, and wondered what had happened to the female during her captivity. He knew that some slave owners could be cruel, and he wondered if the male Ryx was here to see was one of them. If the male was dealing in human females, could they honestly do business with him in the future? Even if Frih did manage to get weapons they didn’t have the connections to purchase anywhere else, was it really worth it? They were just providing him with the means to buy more females, and Beren felt sick at the thought. Living beings, of any type, should never be kept like property. If Ryx had known all this time that Frih was purchasing slaves, how could he live with himself?
“I’m bringing her on board as soon as she wakes,” Ryx said. “I just have to decide where I’m placing her. With a full crew, I don’t exactly have extra space on board right now.”
“You have the largest quarters on board,” Beren said. “And the largest bed.”
Ryx growled. “I told you that I’m not claiming her.”
Beren frowned. He wanted to ask if the commander wasn’t claiming the female because of her slave status, because of the damage done to her, or was he just not attracted to her? Females were so precious to their people that receiving one as a gift wasn’t something to take lightly, and yet the commander was giving the female up to another male? She would no longer be a slave, but a mate, respected and cherished. Beren wasn’t certain how he felt about it. As someone who wasn’t wanted, it made him angry on her behalf. Females should be cherished and cared for, not cast aside.
“Fine. Then we can put a cot in your room. She can sleep there until we reach Zelthrane-3. After that, perhaps the council will put her up in the apartments where the potential brides stay. Then she would be around others like her.”
“Not quite what? Not like the others? You said she’s human. And female. What makes her different from the females living in the apartments?”
Ryx nodded. “Yes, she’s a human female, but she doesn’t remember Earth. I think she was taken when she was a small child. For whatever reason, a male on Vaaden raised her as his daughter, until a female from that world sold Rena into slavery.”
Beren ran a hand down his face. “You get yourself into the most complicated issues. So you have a human female, who doesn’t remember Earth, and was likely a slave on Vaaden without her even realizing it? I’ve never heard of those males capturing children to raise as their offspring. When they take human females, it’s for their harems or personal property. You don’t think he was keeping her until she was old enough to…”
Ryx paled and looked like he might be sick. Beren felt much the same way. It was horrific to think such a thing could happen, but with societies who thrived on slavery, anything was possible. He’d heard that human males often claimed they’d get sick if they didn’t have sex, as way to coerce their partners, but in the case of Vaaden males it was true. The need for females was understandable, but Beren hated that they used sex slaves to maintain their health.
“I promised once we were on our way home that I would reach out to Kryon and let him know that Rena is safe,” Ryx said. “But if your speculation is correct, he could cause a problem.”
Beren snorted. “Even if he truly was raising her as his daughter, you don’t think he’ll have an issue with her being taken to our world as a potential mate? What if he already has a male lined up to claim her? You know the Vaadens have a tendency to arrange their mating for business or social standing. With her being human, she could handle a male’s physical needs, unlike the Vaaden females. If she was honestly like a daughter to him, then there is most likely a male who thought she would be his one day.”
“This is…” Ryx sighed.
“To borrow an Earth saying. It’s fucked up, that’s what it is.”
Ryx barked out a laugh. “You’re not wrong.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.