Born in space. Raised as a pet. I’ve never allowed myself to even dream of love.
I’ve never worn clothes, held a fork, or made a decision. When my old master dies, I’m put up for auction and sold to the highest bidder. I expected my life to continue as it had always been—kneeling at my master’s feet. Instead, I’m told I’m now free.
I should feel grateful, but I’m terrified of being alone. Maybe if I’m good enough, my new master will decide to keep me.
When I dig deep and discover the well of my own power, I have a burning desire for something more than freedom–I want Vartan. I’m going to do whatever it takes to seize my new dream.
My quest in life is liberating slaves. When I see a human female up for auction, I purchase her in order to set her free. Imagine my surprise when she doesn’t want freedom but requests to stay with me instead.
Through my ignorance, I damage things between us. To make amends, I vow to help her discover herself and unlock her deepest desires.
I ache for this female. How can I let her go when it’s our destiny to share our heart connection?
This standalone in the Galaxy Gladiators series has everything you’ve come to expect from bestselling author Alana Khan—action, fighting, and sensual love scenes.
If you like hot heroic alien males and strong human females who find their purpose, you’ll love Vartan. This book has no cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after. Warning: It contains graphic sex and violence.
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About the Book
by Alana Khan
Galaxy Gladiators Alien Abduction Romance
Temptation of the Horizontal Publishing, LLC
July 25, 2021
Purchase Your Copy Today!
A Galaxy Gladiators Alien Abduction Romance Novel
© 2021 Alana Khan
On Planet Hyperion
Oh my gods, she did it. I didn’t think she would.
She must have drugged me. I couldn’t have slept through all this noise otherwise. I’m lying on the cold, hard floor of a cell. Aliens of all types in the cells on both sides of me are shouting, begging to be released. Someone is crying. When Mistress threatened me with this, I knew it would be bad, but I never dreamed anything could be as horrific as this.
I share this small, barred cell with four other females of different species. I’ve seen some of these species on the vids I watch with Master and Mistress. Well, I watched them before Master died. Nothing’s been the same since then.
I never realized how good my life was until a lunar ago when Master died unexpectedly. He was so loving toward me I thought my life was complete. I lazed the day away at his feet when he worked at his desk, or on his lap when he watched vids. He would reach down to pet me whenever he was bored at work, or all evening long as he distracted himself with vids.
Mistress never bonded with me like Master did. I assumed she liked her miniature Whelpie, Torin, better than me. Master and Mistress used to joke that I belonged to him and Torin was hers.
I never dreamed she’d sell me at auction within a lunar of Master’s death, but here I am. Mistress didn’t even have the decency to bring me here and say goodbye. She must have drugged my food or water bowl and had one of her servants transport me here.
My vision is still blurry from the drugs, but I can see well enough to be afraid. The people here are angry, some are aggressively screaming or struggling against the bars. I’m the only pet here; everyone else is wearing clothes. It’s one of the few ways to tell pets from slaves.
I have no defense mechanisms, no way to protect myself. My heart drums against my chest in fear until I breathe deeply and pray my new owner will be kind. I’m a good female, surely someone will want a lap pet.
The sounds of an auction drift down the hallway toward my cell. I’ve watched enough vids to know what I’m hearing. I wish for many things at once. I hope they’ll sell me soon because the suspense is horrifying, but I also hope they’ll forget I’m here and never put me up for auction. I wish Master hadn’t died. I’d love to be curled in his lap with his hand reassuring me as he strokes my back.
“Your master brought you here without clothes?” an amphibious female asks through the noisy bubbler that allows her to breathe the air on this planet.
“My mistress.” I nod.
“You must have really angered her to deserve that kind of treatment.”
“I’m a pet. Pets don’t wear clothes.”
“This planet allows sentient pets? Even planet Primitiff isn’t that backward,” she scoffs.
I have no response. I thought it was normal for masters and mistresses to keep pets. When I was much younger, I asked why there were never any pets on the vids we watched. Master said we weren’t interesting enough to be mentioned.
“Other planets don’t allow pets?” I ask. “It’s illegal?”
“Well, slavery is legal, and the law allows making a slave into a pet, but it’s frowned upon. Some consider it too degrading.”
I stare at her, inspecting her face to discover if she’s making fun of me. What I’ve done for my entire life is degrading?
“What’s degrading about being a pet?” I ask, my head cocked at an angle my master used to enjoy. “I was given food and taken in the hover to go on trips to the store. They gave me shots and brought me to the vet when needed. They fed me out of pretty, shiny bowls for my food and water. On holidays they gave me table scraps.”
“Look at you. You’re naked for one. Did they make you eat off the floor?”
I shake my head fast and hard. The way she asked that question made it clear I don’t want to admit the truth about that.
“Lot five! You’re next,” a booming male’s voice comes over the speaker in the hallway.
“That’s us,” a pretty blue Whelpie says as she stands.
We all have tags around our necks with writing on it.
“You read?” I ask. The squiggles on the tag are incomprehensible to me.
“You’re asking if I read numbers? You can’t do that? They teach even the lowliest slaves to read at least a little so they’re more valuable to their owner. Thank the gods I wasn’t a pet. I would hate that,” she says as uniformed males approach our cell.
“Line up! Look lively,” one of the huge, green-scaled guards says. He lowers his voice like he’s telling a secret as he says, “The best-behaved slaves bring the most money. The bidders with the most money tend to treat their slaves better. That’s not always true, but if it were me, I’d follow every direction when on that stage.”
I get in line behind the Whelpie and stand taller as I finger-comb my hair. My Master used to brush my hair as I laid on his lap in front of the vid screen. He told Mistress he liked the way it shone. Maybe my new owner will appreciate the way my long brown hair hangs below my waist.
I trail after the Whelpie as she follows the guard. I wish I could reach out and hold her hand, but she’s scowling and probably preoccupied with the auction. I run, trying to keep up.
I’m partially blinded when we walk onto the stage. The lights are so hot and bright even though I put my hand up to shade my eyes, it still takes a moment to see into the audience. My guts squeeze so hard in fear I let out a little yelp.
It’s a shadowed sea of faces in a large dark auditorium. If I thought there were a lot of different species in the cellblock, there are many more here in the auction area. Luckily, there are a lot of males. I always got along better with Master than Mistress. I’m certain one of these males will bid on me and take me home and brush my hair and pet my back. Well, at least I hope so.
“I’m sorry to inform you we’ve had to cancel the lot of gladiators scheduled for later in the day,” says the announcer.
“We should go back to our hotel rooms,” I tell my friend Maximus. “Without the lot of gladiators, we have no reason to stay.”
I’m on Planet Hyperion for a gladiatorial match which is scheduled in four days’ time. My ship, the Devil’s Playground, had a mission in the Sten sector. They weren’t able to make their distribution run and get me to this planet in time for the match, so they dropped off Max and I yesterday so I can compete.
I was a gladiator-slave for thirteen annums. Half an annum ago a ship full of escaped gladiators freed me.
Their original ship is called the Fool’s Errand, the second ship they appropriated is my ship, the Devil’s Playground. We transport goods, act as hired muscle, or participate in fighting matches to earn credits. Sometimes the two ships travel together, sometimes separately.
While roaming the galaxy we work hard to avoid the MarZan cartel. Those evil drackers believe they still own most of us. When we’re not dodging the syndicate, we try to evade the Feds.
I’ve fought several times since gaining my freedom, enjoying the reward of keeping my own hard-won purses. I give eighty percent to the ship to keep it in fuel and arms, but I’ve stashed away twenty percent for this very purpose. The idea of buying gladiator-slaves and setting them free gives meaning to my life.
Gladiators were scheduled for auction today and we came with the hopes of buying some. It looks like that won’t happen today, though, since no gladiators will be on the auction block this afternoon.
“Lot five!” the announcer says as five females of different species reluctantly step onto the stage. This isn’t the first group I’ve seen who look disoriented when they ascend onto the raised wooden platform. Lights glare on the stage and the audience is bathed in darkness. I doubt they can see a thing.
A tiny pink female catches my attention. First, because she’s naked, then because I think she’s human.
The original group of rebels began with ten gladiators and ten human female slaves. I’ve spent time with these females; I’m well aware of what humans look like.
The other females on stage are dressed, albeit in rags. I wonder why they didn’t allow this one to wear clothing.
The announcer calls the first one to the front of the stage and has her turn in circles as he extols her virtues. “This Whelpie can read and write, is trained in the art of both sport and sensual massage, and can assist in kitchen chores as well as farm management. She can lift one-hundred dextans and hasn’t earned a beating for over an annum. She’s being sold due to what her current owner describes as ‘hard times’.”
My stomach turns as the lively bidding grows higher. I only came today to free as many gladiators as I could afford. I hate slavery and despise the very fact I’m sitting in an auction house.
“Sold to the Branteen to my right,” the male announces over the speaker system. “Next is a rare find. I know they’ve gone out of fashion, but if the price is right, who wouldn’t enjoy a human born and raised to be a pet?
“She is nineteen annums old. She has had only one owner and I was told she is VERY well behaved. Look at that hair, females and males. It’s extraordinary to see such a good head of hair on this species. Sit!” he commands suddenly.
She looks around, surprised, unable to see the male who is talking about her as if she’s livestock. “Sit!” he barks more firmly.
She immediately sits on her heels.
“Good female,” he praises then, “stand!” She shoots upright at his command.
“Females and males, just imagine this little pet jumping to do your bidding as she’s doing mine. Don’t let the possible disapproval of your neighbors prohibit you from bidding on this fine piece of flesh. Anyone would be proud to own such a compliant little thing. I’ll start the bidding at one hundred credits.”
The female looks terrified as she scans the audience, yet no one makes the first bid. Her eyes are large, the whites showing all around the irises as her top teeth bite her bottom lip.
“Ninety credits. Certainly you won’t let this little lovely go lower than that,” the announcer cajoles.
When the audience remains silent, he says, “We all know why female pets have fallen out of fashion. Mates don’t like the idea of a female on their husband’s lap all evening. This graceful flower doesn’t have to be called a pet. We all know our mates would welcome a reprieve from our masculine attentions from time to time.” He looks around the audience, nodding his head to garner agreement.
“This female doesn’t need to sit with us every night in our living rooms to help us scratch the occasional itch. You can keep her wherever you like; train the little thing to do other household chores. Come!” he commands. Although she’s terrified and disoriented, she looks around for the male calling her to heel like a canine.
“So compliant,” he announces as he steps into the spotlight. “And look at her. She’s tiny. Once you’ve made your initial investment, she can live on scraps alone.”
Bile rises to the back of my throat as I imagine all the abuses he’s suggesting be heaped upon the poor female.
“She’s being sold because her Master died. Look at her. All she needs is the firm hand of a good owner to ensure she knows how to please you.”
I stand to my feet and bid, “Ninety,” before I’m aware I’ve even decided to do so.
“One hundred,” shouts a male to my right.
“One hundred ten,” I say even as I scold myself, knowing the credits would be put to better use to buy gladiators, to save them from dying in the arena.
One glance at the little female on stage, looking like a frightened verren from the forests of my home planet, makes me redouble my efforts when the bidding goes up to one hundred twenty.
“Are you crazy?” Maximus asks, his eyebrows rising toward his hairline. “We didn’t come here for this.”
“She’s naked. On display. The object of every male in the room’s lust. It’s obscene. Think of all the human females from the two ships. Some of them have become our friends. I must rescue this human from a lifetime of slavery.”
“Don’t be a fool. You can’t rescue them all,” Max says scornfully.
“One hundred thirty,” I shout, then tell Max, “We’ve lived among human females for six lunars. Aerie, Elyse, Grace, and Star are my friends. I can’t let some dracker purchase this defenseless human as a bed-slave.”
The process continues, but I win the bid at one hundred seventy.
As soon as the auctioneer says, “Sold,” I sag into my seat as I whisper, “What have I done?”
“Did you give one thought to what you’re going to do with her now?” Maximus’s voice is dripping with disapproval.
“Come collect your little pet,” the auctioneer says, then announces the next female.
“I’ll meet you back at the hotel,” I tell him.
“I won’t come knocking. I assume you bought her for—”
“Max, you’re a dracker. For one minima could you remember what it was like to be decent? Can you recall back to a time when you weren’t an opportunist?”
“Old habits are hard to stop, my friend. I haven’t been decent for a long time.”
“I’ll see you at the hotel,” I say.
“As I said, I won’t come knocking.”
I’m still shaking my head as I make my way through the throng to collect the female. I consider walking the other way and hurrying out the front of the auditorium. What was I thinking? I don’t know the first thing about how to care for a human.
She’s looking around the room expectantly, evidently still blinded by the bright stage lights. She’s not going to be happy when she sees me.
I arrive at the table near the front of the room to collect my purchase. One of the staff pulls her by the rope on her neck to where I’m paying. When he tosses her at my feet, she bows her head and says, “Master.”
I have buyer’s regret as I stand here wishing I had left before they brought the females to the stage. I have no idea what to do with her between now and my upcoming match. And Max will certainly be no help.
I’ve never prayed this hard in my life. Dear Gods, please, please, please don’t let him see my tears. I promise I’ll be a good pet to him. Just give me a moment to get used to his appearance.
He doesn’t look at all like my Hyperion Master and Mistress who were a calming mottled blue. His skin is violent shades of red slashed with gold and he’s big and mean-looking. Please don’t let him be mean, I amend my prayer.
I breathe deep and kiss his sandaled foot, just so I can have another moment to pull myself together. My owners trained me better than this. I need to love my new Master. It’s what pets do. How many times did Master tell me my job was to be loving and compliant? I can do this.
“I’m Vartan,” he says as he pulls his stretchy black shirt off his back and offers it to me.
I don’t reach for the shirt since he didn’t specifically tell me to take it. I say nothing. My Master certainly trained me better than to speak unless asked a direct question. Masters prefer to imagine their pets don’t talk at all. They trained me to be a good pet from birth.
“Put this on.”
I reach for it; inspecting it is a good distraction from his face. The material is soft and warm. It carries his scent which reminds me of the time Master took me to the ocean and allowed me to squish my toes in the sand and watch the gulls.
Pulling it over my head is a new experience. I’ve never worn clothing before. I feel his patient hands help my arms through the armholes. A pang of fear slices through me for performing this forbidden act.
“Come,” he sounds angry. I pray again, wishing he won’t be harsh with me. Mistress hit me often, always threatening to hurt me more if I told Master what she’d done. I don’t like to be struck.
I hurry after him as he pushes his way through the crowd and out the doors into the sunlight. I try to stay a step behind and to his left, as instructed by old Master, but new Master puts his hand on the small of my back and makes me keep pace with him. Before I know it, we’re in a hover, speeding through the streets of a city I’ve never visited before.
I have so many questions, but pets aren’t to speak unless spoken to, so I just watch out the windows for the briefest moment, then take my place on my knees at his feet, just as Master used to like.
“Get in your seat. Belt in.”
I’m baffled by this request. I’m supposed to be on the floor, but I can’t ask questions or argue, so I sit next to him, my hip rubbing his. Master always liked me close. My new Master nudges me away from him and says, “Belt in,” more firmly.
I look at him in question, hoping the lost expression on my face communicates I don’t know how.
“You’ve never been in a hover before?” he sounds irritated. I know this tone, Mistress used it all the time. But when he reaches over to buckle me in, his hands aren’t angry; they don’t pinch or pull like Mistress’s used to do.
I try to force myself to keep my attention on him. I should be constantly attentive in case he needs something from me, but my gaze keeps sliding out the windows as I try to get my bearings. This city is bigger than anything I’ve seen before, with tall buildings made of metal and glass. There are throngs of people crowding the sidewalks; some are blue Hyperions, others are aliens of every sort. I wish I were back home. This place is scary.
My gaze flies to my new Master’s face, then back out the front window. Speaking of scary, Vartan’s face is terrifying. Don’t call him Vartan, I scold myself, and don’t think of him that way. I just keep praying he’ll be nice.
“Driver, the female will need clothes and sundries. Take us to a store.”
I should tell him pets don’t need clothes, but certainly he knows that. He should know how to care for a pet if he bought me, right?
Vartan’s body is big and strong. When he escorted me through the throng of people at the auction, I felt small next to him. I don’t even reach his armpit. He appears even taller because of the horns that rise from above his temples, then curve up and arch toward his back.
His skin is a pattern of red on gold and there’s a prominent scar on his cheek. Perhaps it’s his red eyes that scare me, or maybe it’s the male as a whole. The way he holds himself, his facial expression that signals he could kill you as easily as say hello—all of that terrifies me.
We pull up to a big building that seems to be made only of windows that reflect the blue of the sky. Master unbuckles me, takes my hand, and pulls me out of the hover after him. It’s raining, and the sidewalk is wet and warm as I follow him through the doorway and into the store. I’ve seen these on vids, of course, but I’ve never been anywhere but my house, the hover, the vet, and that one time at the seaside.
Master walks fast and I try to keep up. He helps by pressing his palm on the small of my back. I just want to follow directions and avoid making him mad.
He finds a spindly female with neon blue hair, and she helps him pick out pants and shirts that will fit me. They both keep asking me if I like the clothes, but I’m not allowed to have an opinion, so I keep shrugging my shoulders.
We get to the underwear department and the female takes me into a tiny room to help me find the right sizes. I’ve seen these garments on vids, Mistress wore them too, but pets shouldn’t wear these things.
“Does your Master mistreat you? Has he harmed you?” Her brow lowers in disapproval. “I could talk to him, urge him to be kinder,” the female says, her eyes darting toward the door. We both know there’s nothing a slave can do about a harsh master, and I’m not supposed to talk, so I shake my head and put my attention on how the bra clasps so I can do this later on my own.
When I emerge, I see Master has found another shirt, and his chest is covered again. He’s not as scary with clothes on, so that’s good.
After buying me shoes, we leave, find another hover, and Master asks me if I’m hungry. I shrug.
“You were at an auction house. I’ll assume they didn’t feed you all day. What type of food do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t have favorites?”
I shake my head. How could I have a favorite if I’ve only eaten a few table scraps and the hard little nuggets Mistress pours in my bowl every morning?
The driver goes into the restaurant and comes out with a bag of food that smells like some things Master and Mistress ate at the table when I sat underneath it at Master’s feet.
My new Master hands me something warm and wrapped in paper. I don’t eat it until I watch him for a moment. He unwraps part of it, then bites into it. After he says, “Eat,” I do exactly as he did. The texture hits me first with a combination of soft outside and crunchy inside, then the taste bursts on my tongue.
I release a little moan of delight, then my gaze darts to him, afraid he’ll slap me as Mistress would. He gives me a smile.
Most people’s faces soften when they smile, but Master’s face seems more fierce when his lips pull back. A bolt of fear darts through me, so I focus on the food as if it’s the most interesting thing in the galaxy.
“It’s a sandwich. Good?”
I nod and eat as slowly as I can manage as I control my urge to inhale it. It’s so delicious! No wonder Master and Mistress enjoyed their meals so much more than I enjoyed my nuggets.
The hover sped along while we ate, and just as I swallow my last bite, we arrive at what I know from vids is a hotel. As my new Master checks in, I try to act like my old Master instructed. I crouch at his feet, my body plastered to his left leg, just as I was taught.
As we rise in the elevator, it’s obvious he’s mad. His nostrils are flared, and his jaw is clenched. Just before the elevator quits moving, when my stomach feels all fluttery from the motion, I could swear he mutters, “What was I thinking?”
That isn’t good, right? But his palm is warm on my back, and he’s had plenty of opportunities to pinch me, yet he hasn’t.
The room he takes me into is as big as Master’s bedroom, and it has a separate refresher off to one side. One glance out the windows and I see how high up we are; it’s as if I can see the entire city from here.
There are tall buildings, some even taller than the one we’re in, and there are hundreds of hovers zooming along pathways both wide and narrow. For a moment I wonder about the thoughts in everyone’s heads—so many people, so many thoughts.
“We’ll talk in a moment,” Master Vartan says. Even though his voice is calm, my body stiffens in fear. I have no idea what he means by that. “One of the best moments of my life was my first shower as a free male. The dirt I washed off was the last remnant of my slavery. Enjoy it.”
I follow him into the refresher feeling dazed. No one has ever before told me to enjoy anything. Those words make me feel dreamy and confused. I enter the shower and have soaped and rinsed twice before I shake my head to get the crazy thoughts out of my head. He couldn’t have meant I’m free, could he? He was just talking about his own life, right?
I’m lucky all the same. If my new Master was once a slave, perhaps he’ll treat me nicely. Maybe his scary face doesn’t reflect his personality.
I dry off and finger-comb my hair. He must like long hair, that’s probably why he bought me. When I enter the bedroom, he’s sitting at the table in the corner, staring at an empty wall. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to be a pet owner. Maybe he’ll ask me a direct question and I can answer him.
“You’re naked. Why aren’t you wearing the clothes I bought you? Don’t you like them? And why are you still wearing the auction tag?”
I stop moving, crouch, and cast my gaze to the floor as I say, “I’m sorry, Master. Pets aren’t supposed to wear clothes. Please just tell me what you want and I’ll do what you say.”
When I drop to sit on my heels, he lets out a long sigh. “On this chair,” he says, motioning to the seat across from him.
Is this a trick? Is he baiting me to break rule after rule, so he has an excuse to punish me? I stand, scurry to the chair he’s still pointing at, and ease into it, every muscle in my body on alert in case he changes his mind and orders me to the floor.
He stands, walks to the bag of clothes he bought, rummages in it, and returns with a shirt, stretchy pants, and the underclothes the sales female called panties. He sweeps my hair to one side, reaches into his boot, pulls out a knife, and cuts the number tag from my neck. For a moment I thought he was going to slit my throat. I guess he could. I’m his property.
“Put these on, then sit back down.”
Good. He’s being clear about what he wants. His voice sounds kind. I shouldn’t have worried about the knife. I follow his rules, then sneak a glance at him once I’m sitting again.
“What is your name?”
“Lyra, Master,” I say as I’ve been instructed all my life. I cast my eyes down and fold my hands in my lap. My heart is beating hard and fast because I should be on the floor. The furniture is reserved for owners, not pets.
He sighs again. I lower my lids, afraid to look at him. Afraid, in fact, to do anything that might provoke more anger. I’ve already unwittingly displeased him enough.
“Lyra, I want you to call me Vartan,” his voice is deep and somber. He’s being direct, which is great. I can follow a clear command.
“Yes, Master Vartan.”
He heaves another sigh, louder this time. It’s the same irritated noise Mistress makes when one of my food pellets falls out of my dish and onto the floor when I’m eating.
“Lyra, look at me.” His tone leaves no room for misbehavior. My gaze flies to him and I wait for his next order. “I bought you to free you. You’re a free female. You are never to call me master again. Do you understand?”
No. I don’t understand at all. What is he if he’s not my master? All of a sudden, it’s as if every brick of a hundred-story building fell to the ground in a heap. Every rule, every expectation, every regulation I’ve ever followed has been pulled out from under me. Surely, he can’t mean what he said.
“Free?” is all I find the courage to ask.
“Yes. Free, Lyra. I’m Vartan. You’re Lyra. You’re not a pet, you’re a person. People wear clothes and sit on furniture and have opinions about when they’re hungry and what they want to eat and what they wish to wear.”
My mind feels swirly, then it quits working altogether. I can’t relate to what he just said. My thoughts can’t comprehend the concept of freedom.
I don’t know how long the two of us sit at this table. I don’t risk a glance at him although I know he’s staring at me. I sit motionless and can’t think at all.
Every organ in my body feels like it’s being squeezed by a giant fist. It’s only when a drop of liquid plops onto the metal tabletop I realize I’m crying. I don’t feel sad. I feel nothing at all.
“The auctioneer said you were born in captivity. Have you ever contemplated freedom?”
I think for a while, then shake my head, still avoiding lifting my gaze.
“This, your freedom, is a shock to you?”
After a long silence, he says, “Help me understand the rules you’ve lived by.”
I’m not sure what he wants to know, and he didn’t ask me a direct question, so I wait, my shoulders hunched, knowing I’m failing at Master Vartan’s trick. Surely this must be a trick. I couldn’t really be free, could I? Why would I want that?
“Could you talk freely before?” Ah, finally a question specific enough I can answer.
“Could you sit on the furniture?”
“Could you ask for something you wanted or needed?”
For some reason, this question shocks me more than anything he’s said today. It’s so surprising my gaze flies to his face to see if he’s teasing.
“No, Sir. That would merit a punishment, Sir.”
His eyes snap shut, which is what Mistress did when she was contemplating how to punish me. I stare at the tabletop and wait for Master to backhand me.
“I was telling the truth when I said I wasn’t your Master. You’re truly free. But it’s obvious you’re overwhelmed. How about for the rest of today you follow my rules?”
Calm washes over me and I let out my breath even though I hadn’t been aware I was holding it.
“Yes, Master,” my voice is full of relief.
“I order you not to call me Master ever again,” his voice is firm.
“See how easy that is?” he asks. It sounds as if there’s a smile in his voice, but I’m too afraid to glance at him.
“I order you to answer my questions to the best of your ability. All my questions. Understand?”
I sneak a peek this time. He doesn’t look mad. Might Master Vartan be a kind master?
“Yes.” I clack my teeth together and successfully hold back the urge to call him Master.
“Good.” He rummages through some computer pads on the table, then thrusts one toward me. “I’d like you to order dinner for us both. Don’t forget, you’re allowed to have preferences.”
I’ve watched Master and Mistress holding pads just like this since I was a youngling. Once I asked if they’d teach me to read. It was one of the only times Master expressed his anger at me. He told me pets were forbidden to read, then hauled me onto his lap and spanked me until my bottom burned.
This is a trick. Master Vartan is tricking me into breaking a rule so he can punish me. I want to run, but he told me to sit. I want to say no, but that would be disobeying, which is forbidden. But grabbing the pad he’s holding out for me is breaking a rule. No matter what I do I’ll be punished. It’s not fair! I’m trying so hard to be good.
“Order dinner, Lyra,” his voice is strong and deep. It’s a command.
I wish to the gods I’d never bought this female. I’m trying so hard to be kind and understanding, but look at her. She’s pressed against the back of her chair as if she would disappear if she could. She’s frozen. If she was a statue, her name would be ‘Terror’.
“Tell me what’s wrong,” I command, but her jaw just keeps working while no words escape her mouth. “I order you to tell me what’s wrong,” I finally say, hoping she’ll explain herself.
“Pets aren’t allowed to read. I can’t order dinner.”
She breaks down into deep sobs. At first, her behavior frustrates me so badly my jaw tightens, then a memory blasts into my mind with the ferocity of a summer storm.
I had yet to reach my twentieth annum when I was stolen off my home planet of Dauphus. They too me directly to a ludus to be trained as a gladiator. My trainer ordered me to carry huge, heavy rocks from one side of the arena to the other. When I completed that task, he told me to carry the entire pile back again.
This exercise went on all day under the blazing sun and blowing wind. At first, it was simply hot and uncomfortable. As the day wore on, I began to feel aches and pains. Later, my salty sweat burned my eyes and my muscles groaned with agony. My hands were blistered and bleeding so badly there was a trail of my blood along the path I carried those rocks in the burning heat.
Finally, I couldn’t take one more step, yet feared sitting down. The trainer had threatened to kill me if I sat. I recall the sheer helplessness of that moment. I couldn’t work, couldn’t walk, and couldn’t sit.
He watched me, that male. He watched with an evil grin on his face, waiting for me to give up so he could kill me. To this day, I have no doubt he would have not only struck me dead, but enjoyed the task.
I don’t know how, but I found the strength to keep moving. I moved that dracking pile of rocks from one end of the arena to the other all afternoon and evening. It was only when the bell rang for bed that he told me I could stop. I didn’t mind that dinner had been over long ago. I had no appetite. I barely had the energy to fall into bed.
Lyra feels like I did that day. She’s paralyzed, not knowing how to please me. How do I get her to understand I mean her no harm?
“I bought you to be free, Lyra. I won’t hurt you. In the coming days, you might feel I’m trying to trick you, but know this—I mean you no harm. I’ll order for you tonight. Tell me what you like to eat.”
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About the Author
I write under a pen name because until recently I was still a practicing psychotherapist and didn’t think my clients would want to be privy to the sexy stories I write for fun. I think my history as a therapist gives me unique insight into people’s thoughts, feelings and motivations and provides my writing the ring of truth and deep emotion.
I’ve specialized in working with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder since the beginning of my career. Maybe this is why most of my characters have some…issues. Don’t we all? Even though many of my characters have been scarred and traumatized, I make them work hard to earn their happily ever after, which is guaranteed in every book––because they deserve it.
I know life is hard and the path to true love is littered with potholes and poor choices. That’s why it’s easy to write books with real themes about real people who encounter real difficulties before the characters find their well-deserved bliss. I guarantee no “too stupid to live” heroines and no ridiculous misunderstandings. My characters’ struggles are real and compelling—just like yours.
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