In the uncivilized out-country known as Aridzone, Arness is the best at what she does. The wildlings she captures and domesticates worship her. In return she always matches her pets with doting, wealthy mistresses who reward hard work.
Arness loves her job… until the uncontrollable Adan enters her life. He insists he is a man, not a pet. Will Adan fall under her spell, or will Arness learn that submission can work both ways?
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“Come along, my wildlings.” Since the words alone wouldn’t be enough for all of them, Arness whistled. Those who hesitated before, now moved forward at the sound. Even the newest captures had learned the meaning of her whistle.
“Not a bad lot.” Arness turned to Primary with a smile on her face. “A good thing, too, since they’ll be my year’s earnings, more or less. Would you like a nice new collar when we go into town?”
Primary touched the rather worn leather collar at his neck.
“Whatever you wish, Mistress.” Primary shot a sideways glance at her. “I’m partial to a deeper shade of blue.”
Before she could answer, he ran forward to yank at the chain of one of the faster wildlings.
“Slow there!” He snapped the command in his deepest voice. He spoke harshly, with none of the deference he paid to his mistress. “Keep in line.”
Arness mentally shook her head. She always had to remember the latent violence that existed in all these creatures — even in her wise Primary.
“Gentle! You’re yanking the chain too hard. The beast won’t be able to breathe!” Arness called. “Remember, he doesn’t understand all the word commands yet.”
“He’ll learn fast enough,” Primary growled, then lowered his gaze. “I know he’s capable of following orders. You’re too soft with them. They’ll take advantage.”
Arness actually shook her head this time. Primary had been trained to speak quite fluently, but sometimes he forgot not all wildlings had his abilities. Arness thought his conversation was quite a testament to her training, as well as his own intelligence. She might be partial, but she was also sure he was much further advanced than most pets. “Don’t remind me of who takes advantage of my generosity.” Arness kept her tone cold. “I gave you an order.”
Primary was perhaps a foot or more above her in height, but he looked stricken as he bowed his head. “Mistress.”
Arness wanted to sigh. Not even Primary agreed with her methods of dealing with wildlings. But how could she help it? All her wildlings were such beautiful, sleek creatures. They were a delight to look at, a pleasure to train. Perhaps Primary was right that she was over-gentle with them. But when you were camping in the out-country for months on end with nothing but half-wild beasts for company, you forgot they were chattel to be sold for a profit… unless you kept a few for your own entertainment.
Speaking of which –”Sec! Secondary!” Arness called.
Primary was hulking. Over the years his brown hair had developed a few strands of gray at the temples. She kept him for his endless strength, vast experience, and complete loyalty.
Secondary was just the opposite. He bounded to her side, all but wiggling with excitement. Arness laughed, just looking at his hopeful air. He was all youthful eagerness and expectation. She kept Secondary to amuse her.
“I suppose you are expecting a treat whenever I call, eh, my little pleasure glutton?” She hooked her little finger into the nipple ring he’d insisted upon during their last town visit and twisted slightly. “Have you been watching your half of my wildlings?”
Sec’s eyes half shut with delight at her touch. “Yesss,” he breathed out.
She swatted him on his rear. “Then keep watching,” she advised. “I don’t want to see you off seeking your own pleasure instead of doing your duty.”
Sec grinned at her before ducking his head obediently. “Of course, Mistress.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Treva Harte has always been an overachiever. She also collects things. First it was degrees. First a B.A. in English, then she decided to go back for a Master’s degree. Not content with that, she added a J.D. Since then she’s added a husband, also an attorney, and two children to her collection. She’s continuing her ways as an overachiever, writing her wonderfully offbeat tales of passion and possibilities — in her spare time.
Visit her website at www.trevaharte.com.