Authors: Yamila Abraham
Lenora donned her shirt and spoke through clenched teeth.
“I can place you in a situation where you would never have to fear being shocked by the collar again.”
Elentinus closed his eyes.
“I’d like to have you married to one of our Dak-Hiliah noblemen.”
“That’s a violation of the surrender agreement!”
He shushed her.
The surrender agreement currently prohibits us from taking brides from the slave colony.
If a woman volunteers to be a bride, it’s not considered taking her.”
He paused and looked away from her.
“I would like for you to volunteer.”
“Don’t be rash.”
“That’s not saving me from the shock collar.
You bastards are constantly shocking your wives.
If it’s not you doing it then it’s your psychotic servants.
I’m also not interested in getting raped on a daily basis, or being one of the brood queens to help you monsters repopulate.”
Elentinus remained calm.
“That’s how you think it will be?”
“I know that’s how it will be.
You’ve been dumping the divorced brides in the colony, remember?
They told me all about marriage to a Dak-Hiliah.”
He tipped back his head with enlightenment.
“Ah, I see.
That’s why you kept trying to escape.”
She turned away from him derisively.
“I knew you guys were going to do a collection soon.
I’m not going.
I won’t be a victim again.”
His brow rose.
Lenora clamped her lips shut.
None of your fucking business.
Fresh horror started building in her stomach.
Is that why he brought her onto the ship?
To bring her to some evil Dak-Hiliah man?
“The information you got from those women is out of date.
There were different circumstances and conduct rules when they were first married.
Things have changed.
You won’t be mistreated.”
She kept her voice low.
You don’t have to believe me.
You can learn for yourself.”
Lenora darted her eyes back at him.
She hated how emotional he made her.
“I said I’m not going to do it!
There are plenty of girls in the colony dumb enough to want Dak-Hiliah husbands.
Get Tara Schnider or Julie Xian—“
“Those women aren’t causing problems in the colony.
She felt herself begin to hyperventilate.
“It’s in your best interest to be married.
You’re incapable of seeing to your own self-preservation.
This is partly due to the extreme thinking you garnered from your military programming and partly due to the misinformation these ex-wives are giving you.
The greatest problem you pose is that you’re enticing others to run with you.”
“I…I never enticed Vivian.
I did everything I could to convince her to stay.”
“Punishment has no effect on you.
As soon as you recover you escape again.
You should fear dying in the cold woods or being shocked to death.
Instead you’re scared of masters who have very little reason to be cruel.”
“Most of the other slaves are thriving and happy.
Your distorted mind has left you incapable of contentment.
A cancer like you must be excised for the health of the colony.
And yet, you’re too valuable to be frivolously destroyed.”
Lenora felt as though the tumult in her breast was about to boil over.
“Getting married to one of you…that was exactly what I was trying to escape.”
Elentinus examined her several moments.
“My wife is human.
We’re deeply in love and I’ve never been cruel to her.
She’s found happiness as a member of our empire.
You would be lucky to know this same fate.”
“Your wife…is Earth’s greatest traitor.”
It made her stomach twist to say it.
She just couldn’t hold back.
The monster’s wife exposed an escape route dozens of human women had used.
She was a hero to the Dak-Hiliah, so of course she had a good life with them.
Elentinus turned away from her.
Lenora had a fresh shiver of fear, but there were more words fighting to get out of her.
“You…you people swear up and down that you never violate your surrender agreements.
You tell every planet in the universe that you’re noble conquerors.
That they can surrender without any fear because you’ll always abide by your covenants.”
All that’s a lie?”
He was unmoved.
“You can’t stay in the colony.
Marriage is your only option.”
“No it’s not.
You can let me free.”
“Freedom for you means death in the woods.”
“Marriage…to one of you…is a fate worse than death.”
Elentinus leaned back and drew a long breath.
You’ve steered me toward the third option.
I wished to do this simply, but you’re too self-destructive to accept what’s best for you.
There are several in the High Council who enjoy forcing defiant slaves to willingly submit.
This is not my preference.”
He looked downward.
“You’re going to planet Dornovonia to participate in the Bride Games.”
“You’ll be presented with several challenges.
If you succeed in them you’ll be granted your freedom.
If you fail you’ll agree to become a consenting bride of a Dak-Hiliah nobleman.”
The sudden scenario struck Lenora with how reasonable it sounded.
But then, Dak-Hiliah never played fair.
Several Dak-Hiliah ex-wives at the colony told her about a game where their husbands made them pick between five drinks.
If the drink was sweet they won the game and weren’t required to have sex that night.
If the drink was sour they had to pick again.
If there was no taste they lost, because they would have consumed a drug that made them so high they’d submit to sex without a problem.
Of course, each of them had only played the game once.
Every drink had the drug in it.
They only way to win a Dak-Hiliah game was not to play.
“What if I don’t—“
“I’m not giving you a choice.
Let me make this clear.
You’re too dangerous to return to the colony and too valuable to waste.
If you refuse to participate I’m putting you and Vivian Thurski in a permanent coma.
Your ovulation will be sped up and your eggs will be harvested until you’re infertile.
Then you’ll be destroyed.”
Lenora’s lips parted.
“Why…why are you dragging Vivian into this?”
Elentinus eyes turned their cruelest.
“Because you care about her.”
Lenora placed her hand on her throat.
She couldn’t get her breathing to steady.
“Do you volunteer for the games and accept the stakes?”
She forced herself to nod.
He went to the door.
“I’m so pleased you’ve decided to cooperate.”
The white door slid closed behind him.
Lysanter clicked on the tablet with her image once again.
He chided himself inwardly for being so enraptured.
He’d scarcely gotten any work done, and there was plenty to do with the three-day interruption looming.
Right now the girl was just a picture and a scant history.
His mind was eagerly filling in the blanks.
He daydreamed of idyllic scenarios where she would accept him, and he could hold her and protect her and show her that the Dak-Hiliah were not the terrible beings she imagined.
He groaned and looked away.
His heart was getting too invested when he didn’t even know the girl.
He was setting himself up for a sickening disappointment.
Wasn’t that why he’d avoided taking a wife in the first place?
The humans were fragile.
They incited every protective instinct within him, but in truth his own race was what they needed protection from.
The misogynistic druid who was in the highest seat when they first conquered Earth demanded that women should be repressed and violently forced to breed.
How many of those marriages had ended in ruin?
How many of them were currently strained with two miserable partners?
Thankfully the child Pakpo was now in the highest seat and the god who possessed him was, in fact, a goddess.
The rules had changed.
He could treat this girl as something closer to an equal, which seemed to be what many of the human females were accustomed to.
There would never be true equality, however.
She had to breed.
If he allowed her to think she had control over every aspect of her life then he’d be misleading her.
This was a pity.
Their decimated population tied his hands.
He still wanted to think this could work.
He’d allowed the idea of a mate into his heart and his mind became entranced with the idea.
How could he win her?
How could he break through her fear and hatred?
Hester had come in through the servant door behind his desk.
He set down a tray of tea infused with a gentle stimulant.
“Why don’t you look up her history?
If she’s ex-military they must have a great deal of documentation.”
Lysanter’s brow rose.
Thank you, Hester.”
He tapped on the tablet to access the wider universal net.
Hester lingered behind him.
“I’m surprised you’re not scolding me for ignoring my work.”
“Some things are more important than work, master.”
Lysanter eyed him.
The Dornovonian’s black eyes took up most of his face somewhat like an insect’s.
Though immobile, Lysanter had found them capable of glistening to express emotion.
His slave’s eyes gave gentle hues of red that indicated the adoration he felt toward his master.
“I want this girl to make you happy.
To show you there is more to life than your work and station.”
Lysanter screwed his lips.
“I mustn’t get my hopes up.”
Born in the south of Earth’s
, where the
delegates were based.
Aged two when the war started.
Father and brother drafted by Earth’s military.
Both killed in action.
Lenora volunteered for Earth’s military at age 17.
So the girl had never known peace.
Her world was always a place of desperate chaos.
He scanned the detailed records of Lenora’s military career.
She was a weapons engineer, twice decorated.
Her only battle was during a surprise attack on an island base where the women could not be evacuated.
Seventy men were killed.
Eight women were kidnapped.
Lenora avoided kidnapping by hiding inside a canon.
He thumbed past several work reports.
A document with red text caught his eye.
Lenora accused her commanding officer, Sergeant Everett Hastings, of sexual harassment.