Blurb:

For disgraced nobleman and accused murderer, Ramsey DeKieran, a pardon is an unobtainable fantasy. When the High Lord of Verdantia offers the prize, Ram knows there’ll be a catch. He accepts the impossible mission – the off-world rescue of a Verdantian noblewoman, one of the last of her kind. The one bright spot: Elite mercenary, Steffania Rickard, is ordered undercover to help DeKieran – posing as his sexual submissive.

For Steffania, assisting the dominating Ramsey on this insane mission will be challenge enough. The damn rogue trips all her triggers – good and bad. But infinitely worse, on the planet, Vxloncia, she must submit as Ram’s sex slave, and there’s no faking it. Bent at his knee, serving his every command, Steffania doubts her carefully hidden desires will remain concealed.

Their mission takes on new urgency when they unmask a heinous program of enslavement, long cloaked in secrecy. Together they must find a way to overcome their initial animosity and recover a woman vital to the future of their race.

In the maelstrom of sex, savagery, domination and submission, they will need all their wits and strength to survive.

 
 

Excerpt One

The royal chambers for the Second Tetriarch. So this is how the nobility lives. Ram ran his eyes along the heavily carved, spice-wood paneling and then to the marble floor covered with a thick rug of tribal design in vibrant hues of red, cobalt blue and gold. He contrasted it with the rough timber walls plugged with rags and paper that enclosed his room at the whorehouse. The wafer-thin, shit-brown rug on the plank floor of his room had long ago lost its original color to noxious stains and ground-in dirt. 

His mind mentally tallied the worth of the gold picture frames holding miniature scenes  covering an antique occasional table and the unusual vase made of a precious-stone geode. A ten thousand credit vase holding common wild flowersPft. Someone has no regard for the rarity of that item. I wonder if it would be missed? He considered liberating the vase after he heard what Ari DeTano wanted. That one item would pay for his food and lodging, and that of his men, for the next five years. 

Ram was a stranger to this part of Verdantia’s capital. He knew only the underbelly of Sylvan Mintoth – the places where the filth of their planet collected – human and otherwise. He’d never imagined a time when he’d sit in Queen Constante’s opulent antechamber – the evident wealth an unwelcome reminder of a life that should have been his. It is what it is. Deal with it. He idly worried a toothpick, flipping it from one side to the other in his mouth. Two members of the ruling Tetriarch, High Lord DeTano and his lover, that blond devil of an assassin, Doral DeLorion, appraised Ram in silence. Ramsey returned their focused examination with cool self-possession. If they thought to make him nervous, they could think again. Only those with something to lose got nervous. 

Ram grinned at the feminine mercenary, Captain Steffania Rickard – a stunning, savagely competent soldier with breasts that begged fondling and lush lips that… Yeah, he knew where he’d like that mouth. Her unusual eyes of honey-gold glared back at him. Redheaded spitfire. He’d love to have her to himself for several days. The thought of taming the proud beauty speared heat through his groin. His dominance had aroused her. Ram knew it. He had an unerring instinct for detecting women who enjoyed what he delivered.  

With a long-suffering sigh to indicate he didn’t have all day – well, he did, but those three didn’t need to know – Ram addressed DeTano. “Rickard said you wanted to talk to me. I’m here.” He crossed his legs with a casual indolence and rested an ankle on his knee. “What can a dispossessed nobleman and accused murderer do for High Lord DeTano?” 

DeTano nodded at his blond lover and second in the ruling trio. Other business occupied their beloved queen, or Fleur Constante would have been present, too. “We have an issue. Segundo DeLorion suggested your name as a solution. The Senzienza, in her obscure, mystical way, has indicated Lady Alessa DeAlbero is critical to the future of our world.”

“So? You don’t need me to find a lost noble woman with invaluable genes. You command the resources of the Second Tetriarch. I’m just one man.”

DeLorion crossed his arms, and his rich voice fell softly into the room. “We’ve tried for almost a year to recover her. We sent others – many others. They turned up dead – or not at all.”

After a moment of silence, High Lord DeTano continued. “The Haarb sold Lady DeAlbero to Veacon Narr. We located her but before we could move, Narr hid her.”

Ramsey grunted. “What makes you think the most notorious slaver in the Hyperion Galaxy is going to let me waltz in to extricate the woman if all your efforts have failed?”

Again, DeLorion’s voice fell quietly in the room. “We just need you to find her and get her to a rendezvous point. We’ll get her off-planet. I have approached the League of Federated Planets for assistance. But it is as I suspected. Our galactic peacekeepers won’t act unless I can document serious violations of galactic law. They won’t act for the recovery of just one person.”

Ram shook his head. “Still, why send me where others have failed?”

The smile DeLorion bestowed on Ram would have shriveled lesser men. “I would prefer you dead. My sister seems to think you deserve a second chance.” Doral lifted a shoulder in a shrug and shook his head as if to say his sister’s desires were incomprehensible. “Why you? You demonstrate a remarkable penchant for self-preservation coupled with a reputation for accomplishing the impossible – all while eluding capture. Besides, I am tired of consoling the families of good men. You are more...expendable. No one will mourn your death.” 

Ramsey chuckled and returned his smile, in kind. “I did allow your sister to escape.”

“You kidnapped her in the first place.”

Ram shrugged. “I was paid to do a job. I did it.”

Doral held Ram in an icy stare. “And yet you still live.”

DeTano interrupted their innuendo-laden exchange and tossed a rolled parchment into Ram’s lap. “Read it. It absolves you of all crimes recorded against you, past or present. Find Lady Alessa DeAlbero, and we will sign it.”

Ram picked it up and scanned it casually. DeTano was correct. The unsigned pardon was broad-sweeping. Ram’s eyebrows rose at the minutely detailed list of criminal involvements he’d  thought no one else knew about. “Someone has been very interested in me for a very long time.” He smiled without humor and tapped the scroll on his knee with an assumed air of boredom. “How will you convince our good queen to sign this?”

DeTano looked at him thoughtfully. “Supreme Commander Eric DeStroia uncovered evidence that may cast doubt on your conviction.” Ari shrugged. “The case can be reopened.”

 A resurgence of pain at Desiree’s death and anger at his unjust conviction flooded Ram. Hell’s breath. Thought I had left those emotions behind.His sardonic gaze rose and caught first DeTano then DeLorion. “If I’m successful, you have Lady DeAlbero, if unsuccessful, my dead body, and all it costs you is a piece of paper.”

A feral smile pulled at DeLorion’s face. “Yes. What I call a ‘win-win’ situation – for me.”

Ramsey threw his head back and laughed. When he sobered, he observed, “Vxloncia is a hi-tech planet. I have never been off the surface of our primitive Verdantia. My lack of familiarity with anything technical will handicap me.”

“Yes. We are aware of that. A Blue Dagger will accompany you,” DeTano said. 

Ram considered the elite off-world mercenaries who had remained on Verdantia at the end of the Haarb war. His illicit, paramilitary group assiduously avoided Captain Steffania Rickard and her Blue Daggers. If Doral DeLorion was Ari DeTano’s right hand, then Steffania Rickard was his left. The Daggers had earned their reputation as galactic ‘bad-asses’ in spectacular fashion during the Haarb wars. Ram had fought side-by-side with Steffania and her Daggers during one campaign. As much as he would trust his life to anyone, he’d trust it to the Daggers – particularly their red-haired commander. 

Ram grunted his acceptance. “It is also a world where male domination and female submission is enforced. I think their terms are dominus andslaaf. They hold their women close. Where do you suggest I start?”

“With Narr, himself,” said DeTano. “One of our contacts said Narr was infatuated with Lady Alessa. He knows we look for her. He keeps her well hidden.”

“And just how do I get close to Narr?”

DeLorion uncrossed his arms and tossed another paper into Ramsey’s lap. “The planet holds ‘gladiator games’ as entertainment. Narr, the primary sponsor, is obsessed with the bloodshed and spectacle. He always invites the winner of the games to his compound for an orgy of celebration. That will be your best chance to find Lady DeAlbero.”

Ram sighed and rubbed his face tiredly. “Gladiator games.” Shit.

“We took the liberty of entering your name,” DeTano said. “It’s ‘no holds barred’, but the only weapons allowed are archaic. You will be familiar with all of them.”

“Should be right up your alley, DeKieran. You get to fight dirty.” Captain Rickard’s feminine lilt spat the insult at him. “But this presupposes you’ll win.” 

He’d forgotten her presence. At her challenge to both his honor and his fighting prowess – all right, perhaps he had no honor, but the slur to his skills stung – Ram rose to his feet and turned to look at her. A wickedly satisfying thought formed. He threw a quick glance at DeTano. “A Blue Dagger goes with me, yes?” DeTano nodded. “I’ll take your job, on one condition.” Ram pointed at Steffania. “That Blue Dagger goes – as my sexual submissive.”
 

Excerpt Two

Ramsey gazed at her unmoved. “Since you seem to be fully-recovered, there is still the matter of my punishment for your disobedience.” 

She looked at him warily. “Yes?” 

“Dry yourself and wait for me in the bedroom. Stand, center of the room, feet apart, shoulder width, hands behind your back.”

Steffania stood up from the water and nodded her head. “Dominus.

“Oh, and Steffania, leave your hair up off your neck. One of the things I will do is bind you.”

~ ~ ~

She felt as if she had been standing in the damn bedroom for an eternity. The wait was part of her punishment, she was certain. Her shoulders ached. Temptation whispered to drop her arms to her sides and shake them out. But the way her luck had been running, that’s when Ram would enter the room. A ponytail high on her head held the heavy weight of her hair off her neck. Ram’s final comment that he would bind her fired her imagination into creating endless scenarios, each more erotic than the last. Hot arousal thrummed through her. The longer she stood there, the hotter it burned.  

At that thought, Ram walked into the bedroom, nude, carrying a large black satchel. She gave thanks she hadn’t moved. “At ease, Steffania, but remain where you are.”

“Yes, Dominus.”

He dropped the bag on the bed. The contents clinked softly inside. Opening it, Ram pulled out a number of items and arranged them on the bed. From where Steffania stood, she could only imagine what items that bag might hold and the heat inside her flared higher. He turned to her, holding a black cloth.

“Resume your stance. You may let your arms hang at your sides.”

When she was still, he blindfolded her. “Sometimes, being blindfolded disorients people. If you cannot remain balanced, tell me and I will provide you a support.”

“I’m fine.”

“Good. If that changes, tell me. I require you to control your reactions. Whatever I do to you, I require you to remain silent and unmoving. I will take you sexually for my pleasure. This is punishment, so whether or not you receive satisfaction is entirely up to me. Do you understand me, Steffania?”

“Whatever you do to me, I don’t speak. I don’t move. I am being punished and should expect no pleasure. Sir,” she added as an afterthought. 

“I will wrap parts of your body in téad de ghrásta for my pleasure. I could bind you so that movement was impossible, no matter what I did to you—but that would defeat my purpose. The only restraints you will wear for the next three days will be your desire to please me.” {Your desire to complete this mission.}

 “Yes, Dominus.” 

Ram could not have spoken words that frightened her more. For all her brave promises earlier, Steffania didn’t trust her self-control.

“All you need say to end this is Estrella Racha and we stop immediately.”

“And I go home,” Steffania whispered.

“And you go home,” Ram echoed.