Authors: Jennifer Leeland
Tags: #BDSM Futuristic Fantasy
“On the contrary, Princess. You’re the leader of a band of people scattered all over the galaxy. You give them hope.”
She snorted. “I give them gossip.” That’s all she was good for. Her mother had told her that before she died. “
What good are you, Sera? You’re giving us a bad name
“Princess?” Leo’s concerned expression only made her feel worse. Sympathy was the last thing she needed.
“I think you’re way off.” She rubbed her forehead and avoided his gaze. “The Brotherhood is all about political figures. I was a fluke.”
“The Teran Five minister was forced to resign, and no other heads of state have been slated for assassination. Only you.” Leo gripped her arm. “They’ve tried to kill you two times on Sethos Five. Why does the Brotherhood want you dead so badly?”
“I don’t know,” she said and ran a hand through her hair. “They’ve been inept but persistent. You tell me.”
“Princess, there has to be a reason.”
Her nails dug into her palms. “Don’t you think I’d tell you if I knew? The council is terrified I’ll be killed. The fact that they’re still willing to stand by me—” She stepped closer, nose to nose with the man, and ignored the way her heart pounded at his nearness. “I. Don’t. Know.”
“Think. You have unusual powers. Could it be that?”
“Don’t be an idiot. That power isn’t me. It’s the artifacts. The planet. They have the power.” But she suddenly felt cold. She shivered. It was true she had no power; it was also a fact that only she had the key to unlock the power contained in those mystical items from her planet. Could that be it? Was it the prophecy?
No. That was stupid. The prophecy had to be wrong. The planet’s power was deadly. Everyone knew that. Hadn’t her mother’s death proven it? She shook her head. “This is ridiculous. The Brotherhood is determined to kill me. That would render my power useless. I still think you’re on the wrong track.”
He stared at her for a long, silent moment. She refused to fidget or reveal her anxiety. It was bad enough that she’d revealed how susceptible to him she could be. Some semblance of control was required to keep her tattered pride intact. Finally the grip on her arm loosened, and she thought she was free. But when she started to move away from him, he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her closer. “I don’t think I’m wrong.”
His mouth claimed hers. She melted. His arms wrapped around her, surrounded her. Her legs shook, and her core hot and needy. Warmth seeped into her bones, and she sagged against him. Solid and unyielding, he deepened the kiss, as if seeking to capture her very soul. She moaned, a sound of surrender, of capitulation. This was what she’d waited for, longed for.
It was over too soon. He tore his mouth away from hers and dropped his hands to his sides. “I know I’m right. I’m not going anywhere.” Then he strode onto the bridge.
She gazed at his back and trembled, her fingers pressed against her lips. The man was more of a threat than any fucking assassin. She wasn’t sure which one would kill her first.
Leo’s jaw ached from clenching it. What the hell was he thinking? He’d treated her like a submissive he planned to claim. That was never going to happen. His fingers drifted to the faded mark just inside his hip. Heat emanated from it. It wasn’t possible. His people could only mate once. That was a fact. He’d marked a woman, and she was dead. His chance was over. He could fuck, even have a relationship, but it would be a dim reflection of the mate-mark connection.
But the princess brought out something…dangerous…in him. The desire to claim.
What had possessed him to touch her? The way she’d dropped into submission, into that beautiful place of receptiveness, drove him insane. How was he going to keep his damn hands off her when all he wanted was to force her to her knees and dominate her? Well, he had to, and that was all there was to it.
Right now she was pissed off. She slid into the captain’s chair and made the engines scream. He refrained from clutching the armrests. Again. She was good, but why did she have to fly like she wanted to get them
killed? They reached the gate quicker than he had anticipated.
When she hit the gate at a sound-breaking pace, his stomach jumped to his throat and his pulse skittered.
She adjusted the throttle and activated the gate. When they hit the hole, his skin sizzled, and he closed his eyes. The woman was fucking crazy. She even spun inside the goddamned gate. On either side of them, the tunnel left enough room to maneuver, but not much. And one miscalculation and they’d be tossed out into black space, those long stretches of emptiness light-years from anything.
“Fuck.” The word came out of her mouth so softly he almost didn’t hear it.
His eyes flew open. A blip on her screen caught his attention. They had company. The Brotherhood. “Slow down, damn it.”
“And let them catch up? No fucking way, Dom Boy.” She jerked on the handle, and the shuttle lurched to the side. Laser fire burned by them. She began to zigzag, her hands full with a fast shuttle and an enemy on her tail.
“Fuck.” His lips tightened. Leo jumped out of his seat and pulled down the weapons array. The shuttle had rear laser guns, thank God. He adjusted the radar and tracked the follower. “Teran Five D-class fighter. One. When the fucking thing explodes, we have to be ready to get out of here.”
“Wait until I get to my gate.”
“No,” he snapped. “No time. Take the next gate.”
“Listen, Dom Boy—”
“Princess, if you want to live to argue with me, do what I tell you.” He tracked the fighter and waited for the princess to respond.
“Fucking asshole,” she muttered. “Next gate, ten seconds. You’d better not miss.”
“I never miss, sweetheart.”
She jammed the engines into gate speed and counted down. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”
The fighter gained speed, and he locked on. The princess kept counting, her voice steady. He had to admire that. “Six, five, four, three, two,
!” The shuttle lurched, and he fired the guns.
His shot blasted into the fighter’s engine. The explosion propelled them through the gate. What he hadn’t anticipated was the debris that would follow them.
“Shit!” The princess kept her hands on the controls, alarms blaring.
Leo was flung back against the console, and his arm caught the princess in the back of the head, sending her face-first into the controls. “Goddamn it!” He hit the floor of the cockpit hard enough to make his bones rattle.
He picked his ass up off the floor, but she was dealing with the emergency, blood streaming from her nose. Leo cursed, then immediately began to try to steady the spiraling shuttle. “Nearest planet,” he snapped at her.
“You took us to Placido?”
“No, you fuckhead,
Placido. Abandoned, except by the occasional archeologist.
Fuck, fuck, fuck
. He focused on keeping the shuttle aloft. Finally they stopped spinning, and the princess got the star chart online. “We’ll have to fly manually,” she told him. “Debris from the fighter took out the autopilot.”
He nodded. It would take both of them. “I’ll take the rear.”
“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” she quipped.
He grinned. “I don’t know that much would surprise you, Princess.”
“A sense of humor? From a Nyral dom? That surprises me.” She handled the ship like a pro, turbulence and all.
“We find time for all kinds of interests.” He switched power from the shields to the rear thrusters. She matched him, transferring power from other systems to help him.
“I’m shocked,” she said sarcastically. “I would think keeping your women in line would take all your time.”
“Once a woman experiences a Nyral dom, Princess, she is easy to control.” Not true, but he wanted to needle the woman.
He succeeded. She whipped her head around and glared at him. “You’re delusional, Dom Boy. Women are just smarter at letting you
you’re in control.”
God, she was beautiful when she allowed the anger to show. Her red hair had fallen from the severe hairstyle she usually wore. Her face was filled with color, and the muscles of her neck were corded. Stunning. He grinned. “Power is a transitory thing. But the give-and-take can be very…arousing.”
“Listen, you rat bastard—”
“Watch out, Princess. We’ve got company.” He glanced at the radar. How had they found her so fucking fast? “We need to ditch this shuttle. It’s bugged.”
She didn’t argue, but she made a feral noise in her throat that warned him
turned him on. It was a pleasure to see the veneer peeled away, her raw self exposed. Underneath that icy exterior, she had a temper. She just needed someone to master her.
Oh, he knew her reputation. She played at being a sexual submissive. She liked the games, the toys, the titillation of it all. But she’d yet to be dominated.
Until he’d kissed her.
What was he thinking? He wasn’t here to fuck some goddamned princess. He was here to get information, a line on the assholes running the Brotherhood. She was his connection. The only one he had. And now they were going to be stranded on Placido with a shuttle the enemy knew well.
“Is your com working?” he demanded.
“Yes.” She still struggled with the controls.
He yanked out the keyboard to her com and started typing a message. They needed help, and they needed it now. There was only one other man he’d trust.
The princess glared at him. “Who are you contacting?”
“Someone who can save our asses,” he snapped.
Her shoulders relaxed. “Oh, he’s okay.”
The princess had been rescued from the Brotherhood by Conner and his marked mate, Rhea, and together they’d rescued him.
Leo shifted in his seat. Princess Sera had saved his life. If it hadn’t been for her, he’d have bled to death.
Not that he hadn’t wanted to die. Without his mate, he was a lost soul with only one goal in mind: find the asshole responsible. The man who ran the Blueshift Brotherhood assassins.
“A little help here.” The princess gritted her teeth and used both hands to keep the shuttle steady.
“Let it go,” he ordered her, an idea forming.
“Let it go and spiral toward Placido. We can bail out. They’ll think we crashed.”
“It wasn’t a request, Princess. Do it.”
Her arms immediately dropped from the control. Interesting. He studied her. Yes, she needed a dominant, all right.
“Get the pack on. We won’t have much time.” He scrambled to the back, the shuttle lurching and flipping.
He helped her get the rescue pack onto her back and then strapped on his own. A small jet thruster, a parachute, and flame-resistant material would hopefully get them to the surface. The shuttle shuddered when it hit the atmosphere. Even with the shields up, the speed of their descent heated the hull surface outside.
“We have to jump now.”
She didn’t balk. She didn’t shake or cry. She nodded and hit the emergency door. Wind slammed into her and blew her right off her feet and into his arms. “Sorry,” she shouted.
He wasn’t. Damn. She had curves and softness and—What the hell was wrong with him?
She dived from the shuttle. He flew out behind her.
He couldn’t see her. The clouds, thick and wet, covered every inch around him. For several seconds, he fell with no idea what was beneath him. Water collected on his clothes, and the cold air made his eyes burn. He tried to breathe deeply, but the atmosphere was thin. Then the clouds dissipated, and blue sky appeared everywhere. He oriented his body and hit the jet thrusters. Where was she?
She flew like a bird, graceful, beautiful. Her red hair streamed behind her, and she lowered her body gently to the ground. When she looked up and saw him, he was captivated by the expression on her face. Radiant, excited, thrilled. She liked adrenaline. That explained a lot about his princess.
What a stupid thought. “His princess” wasn’t his at all, and he’d better keep that in mind. The longer he was around her, the greater his connection to her. And that was more dangerous than this last-minute jump to an unknown planet’s surface.
He hit the ground softly and jerked the restraints off. “Hide, Princess. Now.” He dragged his pack and hers under a huge canopy of trees to their right. He dug through the pack and found a set of oculars. Sure enough, another Teran Five fighter screamed into the sky behind the smoking shuttle still careening toward the surface.
Before the shuttle crashed, the fighter sent two lasbombs into the rear thrusters. The explosion lit up the sky, followed by a huge roar of noise. Leo leaped to cover the princess as fiery debris scattered through the forest. One huge piece of the engine slammed into the tree in front of them, and a blast of heat knocked them down. He landed on top of her. When he rolled off, he grabbed her hand and yanked her closer. He got to his feet and pulled her with him. “Run!”
They sprinted toward a stone wall covered in vegetation. Another piece of debris twisted and set a tree to the right on fire. A wildfire roared behind them as the whole forest became a conflagration. The heat blasted through his body, but he kept moving. He should have grabbed the packs. That was stupid.
Just as the fire licked the trees all around them, they careened through a doorway in the stone wall. The smoke was thick, and he stumbled.
“This way.” The princess dragged on his hand. She led him to a square stone door in the ground. When she yanked it open, he scrambled into the hole and jerked her down with him. The stone door slammed closed, and darkness dropped over them.
Leo couldn’t see, but the princess seemed to know the way. It smelled musty and old; the damp walls made a dripping sound. A low rumble sounded above them.
“They’re firing on the temple,” the princess said. Her voice sounded agonized, sad, in the enveloping murkiness.
He squeezed her hand. “I’m sorry, Princess.”
“So am I.”
She didn’t speak again for quite some time, and she didn’t stop moving through the corridor. Something drove her, but it wasn’t fear. Anger? Possibly. Whatever it was made her sweat. Her scent was potent and filled his senses. Stuck on a planet alone with only the enemy for company wasn’t exactly going to calm his hormones.