Authors: Marie Harte
A Total-E-Bound Publication
ISBN # 978-1-907010-47-7
©Copyright Marie Harte 2009
Cover Art by April Martinez ©Copyright July 2009
Edited by Jess Bimberg
This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form, whether by printing, photocopying, scanning or otherwise without the written permission of the publisher, Total-E-Bound Publishing.
Applications should be addressed in the first instance, in writing, to Total-E-Bound Publishing. Unauthorised or restricted acts in relation to this publication may result in civil proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
The author and illustrator have asserted their respective rights under the Copyright Designs and Patents Acts 1988 (as amended) to be identified as the author of this book and illustrator of the artwork.
Published in 2009 by Total-E-Bound Publishing 1 The Corner,
This book contains sexually explicit content which is only suitable for mature readers. This story has been rated
Life in the Vrail
Captain Mara Seni swore as the ship encountered another round of hostile fire from the Melan rebels.
“Damned ex-patriots.” She seethed as she fought to keep her ship in one piece. Not only had the rebels come out of nowhere in the middle of an asteroid storm, but they’d interrupted her crew’s attempts to subdue her thrashing and less-than-willing captive.
She narrowly guided the ship out of a speeding asteroid’s path and smiled grimly as she watched it destroy one of the three Melan ships tracking her.
“Damn it, release me, you heathen fethra.” A deep voice echoed through the hallway. “When I get free, I’m going to make you all pay for this,” he roared.
Swearing under her breath, Mara jockeyed her ship out of the storm and quickly thrust into hyperdrive. The minute her ship leapt out of the Melans’ sight, she exhaled with relief and left the controls to see to her prisoner.
She encountered him with the three members of her crew and stared in shock at his strength. Lurin Vez struggled under the two hulking Fas brothers and the quick-as-a-whip Catam of Mardu. The Fas brothers hailed from Ragga, a planet that bore the strongest men in the System. That Vez continued to struggle against them worried her, as did the knowledge that he’d committed a heinous crime. A man who could resist Raggas and a Mardu wouldn’t stop at simple murder if allowed to escape. More trouble she didn’t need.
“Ah, so the amber-eyed woman was not a mere figment of my imagination after all,” he rasped and stared at her with insolence. His light blue eyes fairly sizzled as they traced her from head to foot.
“That’s our captain,” Catam said quietly and knocked the captive back with a hard punch to his midsection. “Show some respect.”
Vez absorbed the blow without making a sound. Again Mara studied him curiously, wondering how a man who looked like this could have turned into a murdering rapist.
He had dark blue-black hair and sun-kissed skin. He towered over her, and Mara considered herself a tall woman. His muscular forearms led to thick biceps and a broad chest, visible through the sleeveless and ripped tunic he wore. Skin-tight,
-hide leggings suggested similar strength in his powerful thighs.
But his face. Stars, Mara thought, irritated for having noticed. With a face like that and a body to match, this man should never have to resort to rape. High cheekbones and feline-shaped eyes gave him an exotic look, made even more stunning by his thickly lashed electric-blue eyes and full, sensuous lips. She’d bet her last bek he was Nebite, a man for whom pleasure was a way of life.
Mara watched those lips curve in sardonic amusement as she studied him.
“Like what you see?” His smooth voice beckoned her closer. For a startled moment, she almost stepped forward. Then she mentally shook herself and glared at her prisoner.
“You are Lurin Vez, are you not?” She coughed to clear the huskiness from her voice, suddenly conscious of her own sensuality.
His eyes lit but he said nothing, his gaze firmly on her mouth.
“He is,” Nu, the elder Fas brother, answered.
“We searched his belongings earlier and found this,” his brother, Set, added. He held out a System tag that clearly showed her prisoner’s likeness against the name Lurin Vez.
Mara smiled, and the prisoner blinked, his gaze leaving her lips to peruse the rest of her face. “Nobless Cari Elaran has a bounty on your head.” She watched but could detect no recognition at the name in his shuttered gaze. “We’ll have you at her estate in less than a week’s time, captive Vez.”
“Why are you doing this?” Lurin struggled against the Fas brothers again, straining to regain freedom from the shackles at his wrists and ankles.
“Come now, captive Vez.” Mara shook her head in disappointment, making a mental note to continue to address him as ‘captive’. He didn’t like it one bit. “You raped the Nobless’s virgin daughter and murdered her future mate. Surely you didn’t think that action would go unpunished?”
He stared at her in surprise, as if unaware of the heinous crimes he’d committed. Mara waited patiently for him to refute the accusations; she could read the denial on his face.
“Is that what they told you?” he asked softly, his eyes intent on her face.
“Please, no more games.” Mara felt an odd sense of disappointment. Most of her bounties clung to feigned innocence until confronted with their guilt. For some reason, she’d thought Vez would be different. He possessed a core of strength that unfortunately went no further than the physical. “Nu, Set, take him to his new quarters. And, Catam, make sure all is clear for our journey to planet Jaron.”
Vez gave her an odd look but didn’t protest her crew’s handling. Perhaps now that his crimes had been brought into the open, he realised he had nothing with which to bargain.
Mara didn’t believe in bargaining with men regardless. She lived a simple life, a solitary existence devoted to her career as a bounty hunter. She had no use for pleasures of the flesh or emotional attachments. And though not overly satisfied with her lot in life, she did feel content.
Her job brought bursts of excitement, but Mara preferred it when the job went smoothly. Relieved that the crisis with Vez had been averted, she headed to the galley for some sustenance. Since the capture of her prisoner, she’d been awake and running on fumes for more than two days.
Mara grabbed a tray of food before she sat. Staring at the unappetising fare, she thought about Vez and the circumstances surrounding the mysterious criminal.
From one of her many sources, Mara had received word that her latest quarry had been hiding out on one of the Melan moons, a smart move considering the Melans’ dislike for anything Jaronan—which included Nobless Cari Elaran, his accuser.
Disguised as a pleasurer, Mara had visited bar after bar on Sheias, Melan’s central moon where all information funnelled. Soon armed with his whereabouts, she’d easily infiltrated the rebel club where Vez had been drinking by himself in a corner. For the right price, a serving girl agreed to tamper with his order.
The drug had worked surprisingly well, and the Fas brothers escorted him unhindered to her ship. They’d been sitting cloaked in space, waiting out the Melan rebel force’s movements, when her captive had revived.
She frowned and forced herself to eat. Vez had proven himself amazingly strong, almost defeating both Fas brothers until Catam had entered the scene. For Vez to have almost defeated not one, but two Raggas meant that he was no ordinary human. His unusual good looks could be attributed to any number of planetary inhabitants, but his strength made her wonder. Then there was the matter of his intoxicating voice. Something in his tenor hinted at a simmering power. A telepath, maybe? His overt sensuality spoke of something more. If she hadn’t known better, she might have thought him Thesha.
Even as she thought it, she scoffed at her overworked imagination.
The Thesha had been a legend for as long as she could remember. No matter that the nobles in the System still searched and raged about the sensually gifted race, Mara didn’t believe they existed anymore, if they even had in the first place.
Imagine a race of men able to pleasure a female without cease. Obviously a tale created by depraved women.
“Captain?” Catam stepped quietly into the galley and waited for her to acknowledge him.
“We’re set for Jaron. I enabled the communicator should you wish to inform Nobless Cari that we’re on our way.” His sensual, golden eyes brightened with intensity as he stared at her, and Mara had the uneasy suspicion that she would need to make at least one stop before reaching Jaron.
From the beginning of her captaincy, Mara hadn’t wanted to use a crew of men only, but her need for strength and solidarity of warlike mindsets had made the decision to exclude females an easy one.
An unusual maiden, Mara had been trained in the art of war since she was old enough to stand. Softness and sexuality were not a part of her. When she felt such uncomfortable stirrings, she returned to her training. Unlike the men she worked with, she felt free of the lusts they often suffered.
She’d made sure to take on men she could trust, and though they never discussed such matters, Mara always made sure to stop at a pleasure point somewhere in space, where her crew could see to their base needs. She worried that to leave their hungers untended might turn them in her direction for attention.
“Good work, Catam.” She nodded at him. He watched her carefully while maintaining a respectful distance. Mara knew, should she give him the slightest hint, Catam would take her to bed without question.
Rumours of the sensual Mardu made her wonder what held her back.
She pushed away her half-eaten food and stood. “I’ll go talk to the nobless. Oh, and Catam? Set a course for Nebe6 on our way to Jaron. You and the others have performed well this week.”
At mention of the pleasure planet, Catam smiled widely. He bowed and, with a mischievous wink, left her to reset course.
Mara shook her head. Males. They were so predictable. She left the galley and, moments later, entered her quarters. She sat at the communicator and activated the vidscreen.
The vidscreen revealed a handsome woman in her midyears. Nobless Cari had a head of dark red hair, brown eyes, and the gloriously smooth skin of a woman many years younger. Wealthy beyond belief, the nobless had survived two past marriages and now had only herself and her daughter, Sara, to care for.
“Yes, Mara,” Nobless Cari answered in a voice used to being obeyed. “I’m glad you called. I trust everything is in order.”
Mara ignored the woman’s imperious tone and focused instead on the twenty thousand beks she’d receive, in addition to the twenty she’d arleady been paid, once she pulled off this bounty. “Everything went like clockwork, my lady. We have Lurin Vez in captivity and should arrive within the next few days.”
Mara thought the woman’s calm satisfaction a trifle odd. If Mara had a daughter who had been raped, the rapist’s capture would stir more than a cool ‘splendid’.
“I’ve got plans for him,” Nobless Cari murmured slyly, her face darkening with an expression akin to…desire?
“Yes, well,” Mara trailed uncomfortably. “I just wanted to let you know we’ve got him.”
“I trust he’s not been overly harmed?”
What does that matter? He raped your daughter
. “He’s not happy, but he’s in good health.”
“Wonderful. We’ll see you soon. And for a job well done, I’m adding another five thousand on top of the twenty awaiting your arrival.”
Mara watched in consternation as the vidscreen blanked. Something about this entire situation felt wrong. Mara had met young Sara. A quiet yet pretty young woman of eighteen, she had been betrothed to a wealthy, older nobleman. Though Sara appeared the proper young miss, Mara had seen something in Sara’s eyes to suggest the girl had more fire under her skin than she allowed to show.
“And none of that matters worth a damn. A bounty’s a bounty.” Shaking her head, Mara forced thoughts of the perplexing nobless and her daughter from her mind to focus on the present. She finished some administrative details she’d been procrastinating and decided to take some much needed rest. After paging Catam to inform him of her status, she made one last trip to ensure the security of her prisoner.
Around the corner from the crew’s berthing, Mara opened a small portal at eyelevel on the secured door of Vez’s cell. He lay on a narrow bed, his massive arms folded behind his head as he contemplated the ceiling. She shifted to get a better look. Apparently sensing her movement by the door, he shot up in bed, and his gaze locked on hers.
The quickness of his action startled her. He had seemed rested, half asleep, when suddenly he moved like one of Catam’s people, the Mardu.
Vez leapt off the bed and approached her. Though a door separated them, she felt as if he stood directly in front of her. She frowned, irritated she had to look up to see his face.
Her captive smiled down at her, the expression not reaching his icy blue eyes.
“Ah, lady, how good to see you again,” he said in a low purr. “Why don’t you come in and visit for a spell?”
His gaze captivated her, and Mara felt an odd compulsion to do as he suggested. In his eyes, she saw herself enfolded in his grasp, his large hands removing every piece of her clothing, his mouth trailing down her neck to her full breasts…
Mara stared in shock at her hand poised above the security console. She angrily moved away from the window and glared up at him.
“You, Vez, are going to receive Nobless Cari’s hospitality in just under a week’s time. And when the nobless takes you behind closed doors, you’ll pray for mercy, something unlike that which you showed poor Sara and her mate.”
“I don’t think so, beauty,” he rasped, his voice all the more threatening for its softness. He lowered his head so that they saw eye to eye through the opened window. “I think you’ve made a grave mistake, one that’s going to cost you.” His gaze raked over her body, and he licked his lips, an action that sent heat spiralling through her sex. “I’ll enjoy making you pay.”
Ignoring her racing heartbeat, Mara raised a brow at him and grinned as if amused, then slapped the portal shut. She congratulated herself when she heard him curse.