Monday, August 4, 2008

Fates Magic by Brenna Lyons

Ondrea O’Ken stared at the invitation, her heart skipping with excitement. She’d been invited to a choosing event.

A magic user wasn’t invited until the matchmaking elders saw the need, and most weren’t invited until they’d reached their thirtieth years. At twenty-four, Ondrea would be one of the youngest admitted.

Her head spun with plans.

What should she wear? Since Ondrea would be meeting her destined mate, the urge to impress him beat at her. Only her finest would do.

But, he was her destined mate. He would love her for herself. Ondrea shouldn’t seek to put on airs.

How would she know him? There would be dozens of magic users invited.

Ondrea shook that thought free. The elders would see to that, with their fate magic and choosing tools. She’d lay wagers it would be impossible to latch onto the wrong man at such a function.

At least...she hoped that was true.

* * * *

Kieran Medici staggered from the Fates Room, pressing a hand to the wall to steady himself. He’d heard of the power of the room, but he hadn’t believed it.

“You’ve found her, then?” one of the red elders—one of the most revered and strongest of her kind—asked, her weathered face pulled up in a smile.

“Is the room always right?” he replied. Spirits and spells, but he hoped it was...and he hoped it wasn’t.

“Always,” she confirmed.

“Then I’ve always known,” he breathed. Ondrea O’Ken.

She chuckled, then laughed outright. “A blessing in itself.”

Or a curse. He’d been so rude to her.

I was a child. But that didn’t excuse him. The spirits only knew if Ondrea would forgive past offenses.

The Fates Room says she will.

But not outright and immediately, he cautioned himself. Knowing one’s destiny didn’t preclude working for it.

The elder’s voice shook him from his internal argument. “The welcoming ceremony is about to begin. You should hurry.” She turned to go as her sister elders had no doubt done while he was in the Fates Room.

“Wait,” he called out.

She turned and nodded permission to question her.

“Why was I granted this? Why before the event began?”

“Anything worth having is worth fighting for,” she answered cryptically.

And winning Ondrea will be an uphill battle. He winced at the term. Who knew, after all the horrid things he’d said to her, that the fighting would fall to himself?

Kieran bowed to the elder. “My thanks.”

She walked one direction, at a speed surprising for one of her advanced age. Kieran set off in the other, smoothing his clothing and finger-combing his hair.

He slipped into the back of the ceremony room, joining the ranks of men waiting to be blessed by the elders. Kieran paid little heed to their descriptions of the many tools for finding a match. Instead, he sought out Ondrea in the crowd of women.

She’d developed since he’d seen her last, of course, her waist slimmer over her woman’s hips and her breasts fuller and matured. Her light oak-colored hair shimmered in the candlelight, falling in loose curls to her waist, and her dark eyes reflected points of the same luminous flickers.

Ondrea’s eyes strayed from the elders to the invited men often, and she fairly vibrated in anticipation.

She’s been sanctioned so many times for fidgeting.

Kieran’s attention snapped back to the elders as the invited moved forward for the blessings. They filed up, and the elders alternated...first a man then a woman...

His turn came and passed in a blur. If Fate blessed him with Ondrea, it was more than he’d dared hope for.

His gaze locked on Ondrea, Kieran barely noted the rest of the blessings...save one thing. They ended on a man. Beginning on a man and ending on a man meant there was one more male than female present.

That fact set his mind working. Only those invited would be admitted. Surely no one had refused the invitation. The healer in him hoped it wasn’t some accident in transit.

Kieran smiled at the truth that such a thing wouldn’t be fatal...or even likely serious, just a delay in arrival time. After all, were the woman in question fated to die, the elders would have seen no need to invite her mate.

His mind at ease, he headed for the meeting room to mend past hurts.

* * * *

Ondrea forced her feet to the floor, reminding herself that a lady didn’t fidget. Still, her nerves jumped and her mind rioted. She had no clue how to proceed.

She replayed the tools for confirming a mate she could recall, but they required both man and woman touching them at the same time...or at least one partner with the other firmly in mind. True, simple palmistry and crystals would give a picture, but they were wildly inaccurate, and Ondrea wanted an effective tool.

“Ondrea,” a deep voice greeted her.

Her smile of greeting dipped somewhat at the sight of him. That simply, her fidgeting fled, and she stiffened. A hundred unkind words paraded through her mind, all from those deceptively-lush lips.

“Kieran.” She offered a slight tip of her head, just enough to be considered polite, not enough to invite his company.

As if invited, he raised her hand and pressed his lips to the back. Her heart skittered at the contact. Kieran didn’t release her; he held her hand, stroking soothing paths over the lines in her palm.

“I’ve heard you’re a healer,” she managed. He knew calming touches from his training. It was nothing more.

His smile made her stomach do a little flip, and the stroking moved to her wrist. He must be a very good healer to affect her so with a touch.

“A small practice with my father and grandfather,” he confirmed. “And you?”

Ondrea bristled at the fact that he hadn’t cared to follow it. He’s always assumed I’m like my father. “Life studies,” she informed him. “I’m a plant healer.”

“There aren’t enough. You’ll be in high demand.” Kieran hesitated only a moment, moving from her left hand to her right. “Perhaps you’d see fit to examine my healing herbs...at the usual healer’s fee, of course.”

“But, I’ve yet to qualify.” Surely he knew that. She’d been two years behind him in school, after all.

Kieran raised her hand and laid another kiss. “You have always been an adept student,” he complimented her.

Ondrea fought for clarity. That wasn’t what he’d said ten years ago. He’d claimed her difficulty in mastering a defensive spell was due to the fact that finesse was beyond an O’Ken butcher. Even now, it stung.

She pushed away the memory, then forced her gaze from his. “If only I knew where to begin unraveling this problem.”

Blood Slave by Michelle Houston

Brandon was used to interviews, and knew how to calm his racing thoughts. This interview, however, was beyond his experience. Being naked while his interviewer was fully dressed was unnerving, to say the least.

Then there was the fact that all his dreams rested on the outcome. Despite his case of nerves, he worked to control his breathing and stay calm. He had made it this far and now after months of tests and a string of interviews, he was at the last stage. One more to go, just one more.

“Brandon, you’ve passed all of the physical requirements. No diseases, that’s good. You’re physically healthy, young, and strong. As for the mental tests, you’ve passed them all as well. You’re stable, sane, and capable, while demonstrating an ability to remain calm under pressure. You also show a strong submissive streak, which fits our profile perfectly. Now, you just have to pass one final test and then you can meet your new master.”

Brandon nodded that he understood and shifted slightly in his chair. The leather was slick with his sweat, and his bare skin caused him to slide forward with every few breaths. It didn’t help matters any that Nicholas, his interviewer, was a distinguished, older man, going slightly gray at the temples. He had always had a thing for middle-aged men, even as a college student. If anything, the fact that Nicholas was his ideal wet dream caused him to sweat more as Brandon tried to keep his racing libido in check.

“While you’re out with your master, you’d be expected to wear a harness similar to this one.” Nicholas held up the dark leather contraption. It formed an X in the front where it would cross his chest, with loops for his arms and a ‘T’ in back where a silver ring was anchored. A simple leash could be attached, as could any number of other devices. Brandon couldn’t stop a slight shiver at the images that flooded his mind.

While it was perfectly crafted to function as a crude and obvious leash, it could also be used in private. He had some experience with the public aspects, having seen some vampire masters and their ‘eyes’ out in public before. Many walked, but a few would move on all fours, their legs covered in special pads to protect them. But no one talked about what went on behind closed doors; the whippings, the blood drinking, the intense sexual pleasure.

“In public, you will be clothed, but most of the time in private, you will be naked.” Brandon trembled at the idea. He often walked around his home without clothing, but that was by his own choice. Few of his masters had had the money required to allow him to be nude all the time.

“Your master will expect complete and total obedience. Your eyes would be his, your body, his.” He swallowed heavily as a whisper of a fantasy pushed at his consciousness. A tall, muscular man holding him pinned down, while he shoved his cock into his ass. He would repeat only one word as he furiously fucked him; Mine.

“Everything you are, everything you are capable of, would be his to control, his to command.”

Brandon opened his mouth as a question formed, but remembering his place, he closed it again.

“You’d be well cared for, your cravings for total submission indulged. As such, you’d be expected to submit to a daily feeding of your blood and service your master.” Nicholas paused as if to let the rules sink into Brandon’s mind.

For a moment, Brandon wondered if he was to respond that he understood and complied, but he didn’t want to risk over-stepping his boundaries.

Nicholas continued, “Even when gagged, your mental link with your master will allow you to convey any unease you feel. He will probably know better than you your limits. So there is no fear he will push you past them. He stands to lose a lot more if he does, since the organization that screens possible blood slaves also monitors their situation.” He paused for a moment, looking down at the papers in his hands, then continued. “You must understand that despite this assurance, this is not a commitment to be taken lightly. The virus that causes the vampire condition can be caught by slaves after prolonged exposure to a vampire’s saliva.”

Leaning back in his chair, his interviewer cocked an eyebrow. “Is there anything you want to ask, Brandon? This is the time for questions. Once your interview with your potential master begins, you won’t be allowed to speak unless requested.”

Brandon shifted again, crossing his legs in a feeble attempt to hide his cock’s rising. Sitting in a room, naked, with a fully clothed, attractive man was arousing enough, but having a vague idea of what the rest of the day held in store for him was intoxicating. He wanted to hurry and get to it, but he needed to know a few things first. “Why are all the vampires blind?”

Nicholas laughed softly, his eyes without any real mirth. “That is a very long and complicated story.”

Although he suspected that all the possible blood slaves asked that question, Brandon persisted. He had to hear it for himself. “I remember stories as a child of the powerful blood drinkers, how they could mind blend and enjoyed sadistic sexual perversions. Never once was it mentioned that they were all blind.” Brandon looked away from Nicholas and said, “I’ve seen them about town, with their eyes on leashes, but I never knew why. I thought it was part of their craving for total dominance, but I came to know later that they weren’t just dominating their submissives, they were using them to see.”

Nicholas smiled and nodded. “Dominance does play a role, but as you now know, it goes much deeper than that."

Brandon waited patiently while the older man seemed to collect his words, before he started to speak. “A thousand years ago, vampires were considered myths. Several hundred years afterwards, they were discovered to be a reality and people ran scared. Most viewed them as the undead, when in reality they’re infected with a virus, which requires them to ingest human blood to survive. Other than their heightened senses and some mental abilities through a blood bond, they are as normal as you and I, except for living much longer lives. They are not invulnerable.”

Nicholas looked away, but before he did, Brandon watched his eyes cloud over with a haze of sadness. “Some felt threatened by what they didn’t understand and took it upon themselves to destroy every vampire. After years of trial and error, some scientist discovered a mutated disease that could infect vampires. That is, if a “victim” was infected and carried the disease which did them no harm, the vampires themselves would become infected as well, although obviously, the virus would affect them much differently.”

Trying to process the information flooding him, he almost missed what Nicholas said next. “Unfortunately, with their mental abilities, the victims couldn’t know they were transmitting a disease, so they were told they were being given a new flu vaccination. It was the easiest way to spread the virus to a large group of the population in a short period of time. The vampires had no chance.”

Brandon felt a cold shiver race down his back. He’d never heard that story before and felt a tug of sorrow, for the victims as well as the vampires. His pulse raced at the implications; something like that would have taken the cooperation of many different organizations, including some of the world health agencies. There had been several outbreaks in recent history that would have allowed for mass vaccinations. It astonished him that countries at war with one another, organizations that stood for opposite ideals, would have worked together to accomplish what was required to blind the vampires.

“Just as planned, the new disease decimated the infected vampire within days, but only to the extent that it took their sight. Vampires were systematically hunted and infected. This allowed many to be found and slaughtered. Now all vampires, those that survived and new alike, are blind.” Looking up at Nicholas, Brandon saw a longing in his eyes that wasn’t there before as he stared out the window.

“The virus that turns a mortal into a vampire has been mutated, and the damage cannot be undone.”

Turning to face Brandon, Nicholas said, “When the protection order was created, vampires became a protected race, and laws were put into place to give back what had been taken away. That’s how this organization came to be. By then their numbers had dwindled, but they hadn’t completely died out as had been hoped. They are even beginning to slowly increase their population again.”

Nicholas smiled without any real humor. There was instead a sadness there that Brandon couldn’t figure out. “Now, my young possible, are you ready for the next step?”

The Werewolf Whisperer by Ericka Scott

The animals had been restless all day. The chickens weren’t scratching around in the dirt looking for seeds and bugs. They just sat in a tight huddle, shivering. The old Labrador retriever, Tucker, stormed back and forth in the yard. When he wasn’t pacing, he was pawing at the door to be let in. Then, as soon as he was inside, he’d look out the window and whine to be let back outside. Since morning, Mike O’Toole had been plagued with an uneasy feeling that just wouldn’t go away.

Could a storm be brewing? The dry desert heat had given way to a cool evening. A frigid wind whipped the tumbleweeds across the land and high into the air.

Mike chopped vegetables for soup, whistling Hotel California off-key to the radio when he heard something mewling.

Is that a dog’s whimper? Tucker sat upright and alert, staring out the window. Mike glanced out into the yard but saw nothing. Then he heard it again. He turned down the radio and listened. It was a dog, he was sure of it.

He retrieved his shotgun from the gun rack and loaded it with ammunition he kept stored in the hall closet. He wasn’t afraid of dogs. On the contrary, he loved them. But wild dogs were another story. Roaming the desert in marauding packs, wild dogs were fearless and fearsome. They’d been known to kill house pets and attack anyone who crossed their paths. A wounded wild dog, separated from its pack, could be vicious and unpredictable.

No, he’d shoot first and ask questions later.

In the half-light of the porch, he couldn’t see a thing. He flicked the light switch on, and jumped when the bulb blew out with a snap. The wind whistled and moaned around the eves. Was that what he’d heard? No, there it was again.

It was sounding less and less like a wounded dog. He shivered as cold tendrils of fear crept down his spine. Why in the world was he so afraid? He was the one with the gun. Gun up, ready to shoot, he crept along the side of the house. There it was again. This time it sounded like it was over near the barn. Perhaps it was after the chickens. He held his breath as he listened. Although the chickens were now clucking with vigor, they weren’t panicked like they would be if a coyote or dog had gotten into the pen. He was going to feel pretty stupid if there wasn’t anything there. Perhaps it was just the wind howling through the eves. However, when he heard it again, the whimpering sounded louder and desperate.

He swung the gun around the corner first, then stuck his neck out to look. Still nothing. Wait, no, there was something lying against the house. He crab-stepped over and looked down.

What the hell? It wasn’t the wounded dog he’d expected to see. It was a woman. Her breathing was coming in tiny gasps in between whimpers. He knelt and turned her over.

Well, he’d had one fact right. Dogs. The woman’s clothing hung in tatters and she was covered in blood. She’d probably been savaged by dogs, very large dogs by the looks of it.

Damn. His cell phone was in the house, sitting on the kitchen counter.

“I’m going to leave you here for a minute so I can call an ambulance.”

“No.” The woman’s voice was strong and vibrant, not at all like he expected for a woman in pain. “Please, no. I don’t want a doctor. I just need some food and water, maybe a little sleep.”

“Lady,” Mike said, shaking his head. “You’re all torn up. You need stitches and a rabies shot, at the very least.”

“No. Please, you can take care of me. I’ll be fine.” The woman grabbed his arm and clung to him as if her very life depended on it. Mike was surprised at her strength. She must not be hurt as seriously as he first thought.

The sun was setting and the temperature was expected to plunge below freezing. He had to get her inside and fast. “Okay, I’ll do what I can.”

Leaning the shotgun against the side of the house, he bent to lift the woman. She weighed more than he’d expected for someone so small. He carried her into the house. Tucker greeted him at the door with a low growl.

“Tucker, quiet!” Mike commanded. Tucker backed away, baring his teeth. His dog never acted like this, even with strangers. Mike was puzzled but too busy to think about it.

Laying the woman on his bed, he pulled his scattered thoughts together and took stock of what he needed to do. First off, he’d have to clean her wounds and perhaps he could stitch up the worst of the tears in her flesh. But if she’d been attacked by a rabid dog…

Refusing to think about that possibility, he rummaged through cupboards and his medicine cabinet, gathering up gauze, iodine, rubbing alcohol, a needle and thread, and some leftover pain medication from when he’d hurt his knee. Then he gathered up his nerves for what he was about to do. All the while, he was calling himself an idiot. He should just call an ambulance.

He walked back into his bedroom and stood stock still. When he’d left, the woman had been curled up in a ball moaning with pain. Now? Yet, as he took in the sight that greeted him, his heart began to hammer and he felt an uncomfortable tightening of his jeans. She was on her back, one arm tucked under her head, a smile and a come hither look in her eyes.

Chills danced down Mike’s spine. Had Tucker had been right to be leery of bringing her into the house? But then he made eye contact with her and his fear faded away. Hell, she was just a tiny woman and almost naked. She was only wearing a pair of black lace panties so it was obvious she had no weapons. She didn’t look like she was a threat.

Mike held up the items in his hands. “I’m just going to clean you off a bit and take a look at your wounds. You look like you’re feeling better.” Now, that was an understatement.

Mike perched on the side of the bed and tried to make idle conversation as he wet a pad of gauze with rubbing alcohol. The woman just stared at him, making gooseflesh crawl up his arms and back. He wished he hadn’t left his gun leaning against the outside of the house.

Her neck and left shoulder looked as if they had sustained the most damage as they were thickly coated with blood. He dabbed at her shoulder. “Let me know if this hurts.” To his surprise, the blood came off and left smooth white skin in its wake.

A sudden thought assailed him. Perhaps this woman isn’t the injured one; perhaps the blood is from her victim. Just when he was about to ask her if it was her blood, she spoke.

“It is my blood.” The woman’s voice was a soft, seductive caress.

“I don’t understand,” Mike murmured, more to himself than to her. He swiped at a bloody spot on the woman’s thigh. The blood came off, again revealing no injury. “With this much blood, you have to be cut somewhere.”

“I was, but now I’m not.”

“Why are you here?” Mike put down the gauze. His interest in the woman waned momentarily.

“You care for sick animals. I knew I’d be safe here.”

“Safe from what?”

The woman didn’t answer his question. Instead, she averted her eyes and looked out the window. “It’s getting dark.”

“Yeah, but it’ll be bright as day out there once the moon rises.”

“Exactly.”

“Well, since you say you aren’t injured…” Mike put down the gauze. He wanted to look everywhere except at her nearly naked body and the luscious mounds of her breasts. His cock had been uncomfortably hard since he’d started cleaning her wounds and he was now starting to have crazy thoughts of how to get his hands on her breasts. Her nipples were large and soft, but as if she could feel his thoughts, the peaks tightened and he had an almost irresistible urge to take one in his mouth, to taste her while he—

Whoa, put the brakes on that thought. He didn’t even know this woman’s name. As much blood as she was wearing, she could be related to the Borgias.

He reigned in his imagination and tried to grin. “I’m new in town, but I assume you live around here. I can run you home. Maybe you should shower and clean up here so you don’t scare your family.”

Without meaning to, his eyes took in the rest of her form. She wore an unusual navel ring, some sort of stone amulet, and his gaze fell lower, down her flat stomach to the thatch of curly dark hair peeking through the sheer lace of her thong. Thinking about exploring her sweet secrets made Mike’s cock twitch.

“Yes, I will shower here.” The woman smiled up at him and Mike shivered, the look in her eye reminded him of a predator sizing up its prey.

A shower had seemed like such an innocent suggestion at the time, but now, thinking of her, naked and wet, took his breath away.

“I’m Michael O’Toole, by the way.”

“Jazmin Carmichael.”

“The Postmistress?” Mike croaked. He had seen her name on the form he’d filled out to request mail service at his house. He’d noticed the name because of its unusual spelling. With her silver blond hair, grey eyes and toned body, he would have pegged her for an aerobics instructor or model. He could not envision someone this beautiful delivering mail or selling stamps behind a counter.

“The one and only,” she replied with a smile and a wink.

Where is the injured, desperate woman from a few minutes ago? However, he no longer seemed to be able to think rationally, all he could think about was touching her, tasting her, fucking her.

“So, where is the shower?” She rolled onto her hands and knees and slowly crawled off the bed. Her hips swayed and her nipples trailed a path on the bedspread. He suppressed a moan, almost feeling the hardened peaks dragging across his chest. What had this woman done to him? She hadn’t drugged him, but he felt like he was in a waking dream. Mike leaned against the wall, his eyes closed, while he envisioned himself kneeling behind her, his hands parting the soft round cheeks of her buttocks while he plunged—with a conscious effort he pulled his thoughts back to the present. He had to stop thinking like that!

Trying to walk normally despite the hard-on pressed against his zipper, he hoped she didn’t notice his erection. He opened the bathroom door with a flourish. “Let me get—”

She slid her arms around his neck, pulled him close, then kissed him. Her lips grazed over his, softly at first, then, she sucked his bottom one into her mouth. She ran her tongue around his lips, letting it slide deeper and deeper into his mouth until he wrapped his arms around her. She might have been a stranger, but he couldn’t say no to the invitation her body was sending him.

Mike stared into her eyes as if hypnotized. He barely noticed she was undressing him with frenzied movements until the chill air hit his skin causing gooseflesh to dance up his arms and back. This can’t be happening, shouldn’t be happening. Her mouth trailed wet kisses down his torso, stopping to suck his nipples erect. Her hands held his arms tight against his sides and she continued her exploration past his stomach to the length of his penis. Her warm wet mouth enveloped him and her tongue explored his shaft. He knew he was oh-so-close to release with his balls pulled up tight against him. A few more wet pulls from her mouth and he would be there.

Jazmin abruptly stood up, her body trembling against him. She let go of his hands and tangled her fingers in his hair. His disappointment faded when her tongue plunged into his mouth and his cock pressed into the heat of her belly.

He slid his hands up to touch her breasts, brushing his fingers over her nipples and wanting to tease the tight buds with his fingers, mouth, and teeth, but she impatiently pushed his hands away. “No, I need you. Now,” she moaned.

She turned in his arms and wiggled her ass against his throbbing cock before kneeling in front of him. She threw a sizzling look over her shoulder and Mike was convinced she’d read his mind. He fell to his knees behind her. He stroked her soft rounded bottom, and as he squeezed and parted her ass cheeks he could feel taut muscles beneath the skin. Finally, he trailed his hand lower to spread her folds. He delved his fingers into her hot wetness, spreading her fluids and savoring the anticipation of what was to come.

“Now,” she growled.

He didn’t have to be told twice. He drove into her. Wet and ready, her pussy gripped him tighter than he’d expected. As he moved in and out, she struggled against him, trying to keep from slipping across the slick bathroom floor. He grabbed her hips and held her tightly against him while he pounded her with frenzied urgency. She slid forward a few inches and braced herself against the shower stall. The rattle of the glass door sounded like it was about to shake off its track. He reached forward and cradled her breasts in his hands. He tugged on her nipples and she bucked against him, mewling and panting. Her back arched up into him, causing him to let go of her breasts, but he’d gotten what he needed. Her new position allowed her to take him deeper inside her and he spread her thighs so he could watch himself, slick and wet, sliding in and out of her. With a cry, he held her against him while she fought his restraint. Waves of pleasure washed over him.

As his orgasm ebbed and he became aware of his surroundings, he noticed something odd. Her skin didn’t feel smooth anymore. It felt rough, like it was covered with hair. With a growing sense of horror, he opened his eyes.

The bathroom was bathed in moonlight from the one high window above the shower stall. Everything looked normal, gleaming porcelain and stainless steel. Everything, except for the woman. Her skin, if it was indeed skin, had turned to silver gray. And her head was the wrong shape. She no longer looked quite…human.

Repulsed, Mike tried to disengage. Backing desperately, he felt like he was stuck in a vise. What is happening? Then, with a Herculean effort, he pulled free of her and fell over backward. He hoped his penis was still intact, but damn it, he was too afraid to look. Jazmin looked over her shoulder at him, her tongue lolled out of her mouth and he couldn’t tear his gaze away from her long white fangs.

Gasping, he tried to breath. His chest, oh God, his chest hurt. He felt like he was dying. Maybe he was dying. Maybe he was having a heart attack. Maybe he was dead already, the chemicals in his brain causing neurons to misfire and dreams to seem real. For he knew, without a doubt, that women didn’t turn into wolves. It had to be a hallucination. But, hallucination or not, he continued to back away.

With a low growl, the Jazmin-wolf turned to face him. Before she could attack, Mike slid out into the hall and slammed the bathroom door shut behind him. Shit. The lock was on the inside. Could a wolf turn the knob to open the door?

Pulling the door closed with all his weight, he struggled to stay calm and think. He braced himself against the door frame as his feet slipped and he was pulled forward. The door was opening. There had to be a way to get to his gun before the wolf got to him.

At the sound of a low growl behind him, he turned in terror and his instincts took over. He let go of the knob and dodged around the dark shadow in the hall like a quarterback going for the goal and then he ran as if his life depended on it.

The Contract by Zena Wynn

Billy scrutinized his brother as they took the transport down to Sector Seven, seething inwardly, though he had no one to blame but himself. Cecily tried to warn him, but he’d been so sure, so confident that Nardo would never do anything like this that he’d pushed her into signing the contract, sealing both their fates. He was such a fool. Given the opportunity, who wouldn’t want, Cecily?

His fists clenched as he remembered the look of raw lust on Cecily’s face, a look she’d never had with him. Though he knew she found pleasure in their lovemaking, he’d never pushed her sexually, beyond what he felt she could handle. He was always careful to keep his own lust in check, taking the time to build her arousal slowly so as not to upset her delicate sensibilities. In the back of his mind, he was always mindful of her innocence. His Cecily wasn’t used to the coarse ways of men.

The only thing keeping his sanity intact, his only saving grace, was the hope the she had pretended Nardo was him. It was possible. They were similar enough in looks to be twins: both possessed dark brown hair, though Billy wore his a bit longer. They each had brown eyes with flecks of gold in them, and high cheekbones. In fact, the differences between the two were slight. Nardo’s lips were fuller, and he stood a few inches taller. Nardo’s body was also leaner and harder, but only because he’d been working in the mines longer.

He wished Andrica were still alive. The woman had been a major bitch, but as long as she was alive, Cecily belonged to him alone. His whole world changed the night she died. The brother he thought he knew so well turned out to be a stranger, and his wife was no longer exclusively his own.

This job was perfect, for him and his brothers. The money they made mining ore for The Company was good, paying better than anything they’d earned on Earth. They couldn’t afford to mess this up. He shouldn’t allow a little thing like having to share his wife come between him and his brother. Only, it wasn’t a little thing. It was a major thing. Cecily was his. He was her first lover and he’d intended on being her only. When he’d walked in and saw his wife with Nardo, his first instinct had been to rip him off her. Knowing he had to share Cecily’s body and actually seeing it were two different things. The next few months were going to be hell as they all adjusted to the changing dynamics in their relationship.

* * * *

Renardo could feel his brother staring at him. Feel the anger in him. Billy didn’t want him touching Cecily and Nardo couldn’t blame him. She was one of a kind. God forgive him, but he’d wanted her since he first laid eyes on her as she stepped off the transport. It hadn’t mattered that he’d had a wife of his own waiting for him back at the unit.

Andrica had been beautiful to look at, with her long, lean body and waist-length, blonde hair. Only, she was cold as ice, in and out of bed. They’d put on a show of marital harmony for the all-seeing eyes of The Company but it was a sham. What they had was a business arrangement. She’d come with him for the money she could earn. Newcomers were teamed with experienced miners, they’d rarely seen each other, coming together only when the need for sex got too strong, which was fine by him.

When he’d gotten his first glimpse of Cecily, the blood rushed to his cock. He’d been embarrassed and hoped his brother hadn’t noticed. She was as short as Andrica was tall and cute with her curly, red hair, round face full of freckles, and her sweetly curved body. All he could think of was holding those curves in his arms while he pounded into her.

It didn’t help that Cecily was as sweet as she looked. She willingly stepped up to the plate and took care of things in the unit, spoiling them all with her care. She’d decorated and turned their sterile environment into a home. She laughingly said she wasn’t contributing anything to the family’s income, so the least she could do was make life as comfortable as possible for those who did.

Although the unit was computerized for convenience, there was a lot it couldn’t do. For instance: it couldn’t clean. While it could replicate any food item you requested, it couldn’t turn that food into an appetizing meal. It could give you meat and bread, but couldn’t make a sandwich. Therefore, the cooking and cleaning—Cecily did it so they didn’t have to. They worked in twelve-hour shifts, and much of their off time spent sleeping. The Company only allowed them one day off per work cycle in order to keep up with the rigid production schedule. With the arrival of Cecily, that day could now be spent resting and relaxing, instead of cleaning and taking care of household chores.

It was wrong of him to want his brother’s wife as much as he did, and he knew it. No matter how much trouble it caused between them, when he’d seen his opportunity to have her for himself, he’d seized it and damned the consequences. He’d worked his way into her body, now he would worm his way into her heart. He wouldn’t settle for anything less. She’d won his heart in the short time that she had been there. It was only fair that he gained hers in return.

* * * *

When Billy walked into the family unit, ten hours later, he headed straight to Cecily and pulled her off the couch. “Come with me.”

“What about dinner?”

“Later.”

He pulled her into the bathing compartment behind him and shut them in. Stripping both of them swiftly, he pulled her into the particle shower and crowded her against the wall.

Placing his hand over her heart, he kissed her breathless. “This belongs to me. Nardo may have access to this,” he moved his hand from her heart and cupped her between her legs, “but your love belongs to me.”

He kissed his way down her body until his mouth was between her legs. Knowing he was rushing her and probably scaring her with his intensity, he continued. He had to remove the image of her sex cradling Nardo from his mind before he went crazy. He licked and suckled her until she was tugging on him and begging him to fill her. Then, he rose to his feet and took her against the wall in a frenzy.

He fucked her until she screamed out his name, then he fucked her some more. He wanted there to be no doubt as to whose cock was filling her pussy. There was a small voice screaming in his head, “You’re being too rough,” but he couldn’t stop. He drove into her until the strength gave out in his legs, and he sank to his knees, pulling her with him and locking their hips together as he pumped out his seed.

Cecily kissed him and stroked his head as he collapsed against her. She was awed. He’d been wild, almost out of control. Something he’d never done before. Billy was a wonderful lover, but he treated her like a fragile substance easily bruised. He always held back, being careful with her right up until the very end when he couldn’t help but let loose. Seeing her with Nardo made him change. She was sure of it. She’d known this was going to be hard on him, on all of them.

She felt his breath as Billy sighed deeply against her neck, before slowly raising his head. He looked more uncertain than she’d ever seen him look before. “Are you okay? I didn’t mean to be so rough. God, if I hurt you…”

“Shhh! I’m fine. You didn’t hurt me. You could never hurt me. What just happened…” she blushed and forced herself to continue, “I thought it was wonderful.”

He cupped her check and searched her eyes. “So, you don’t think I’m a brute?”

“No.” She murmured soft words of love and reassurance to him while they held each other, reaffirming their love for one another. When he indicated that he was ready, she stood and gave him room to get to his feet. Reaching around him, she turned on the shower and stood still for the few seconds that it took it to sanitize them.

When they exited the shower, she went to the reproduction unit in the wall.

“Computer, give me a pair of loose drawstring pants and a camisole top with spaghetti straps.”

“Color?”

“Black pants, white top.”

“Generating.”

When she was dressed, she told Billy, “I’ll go put dinner on the table.”

“Thanks. I’ll be out as soon as I’m done.” She exited the bathing compartment while Billy was dressing and headed for the kitchen, humming a happy tune.

When she saw Nardo sitting in the living room waiting, she hesitated then blushed. This was the first time she’d seen him since that morning. “Dinner will be ready shortly.”

He looked at her hungrily before averting his eyes. “Take your time.”

She scuttled into the kitchen while thinking, my brother-in-law saw me naked; touched me intimately. No, he wasn’t her brother-in-law, not any longer. Now he was her husband. He had the right to see her and touch her as he pleased. She had to remember that.

She fixed their plates and set the table. One of the rules she’d established upon her arrival here was that whenever possible, they ate together as a family. It was something she learned at home while growing up. This was the first time she’d ever wished that they hadn’t given into her demands.

They ate in silence. Cecily was extremely uncomfortable, especially when she remembered what Nardo had done to her on this very table. From the expression on Billy’s face, she wasn’t the only one remembering, and he wasn’t happy about it. She glanced at Nardo and found him watching her with heat in his eyes. He was remembering too, and from the looks of things, he was ready for a repeat performance.

Billy lingered at the table until he was just picking at his food, obviously determined not to leave her alone with Nardo. Her man was jealous and she didn’t know what to do about it. They couldn’t continue like this. They had to come to terms with each other.

She got up from the table and placed her dishes in the cleaning unit. Going back to the table, she took Billy’s plate from him, her eyes daring him to voice the complaint she could see forming on his lips. He settled back with a sigh and let her have the rest of his things. When she’d finished with Billy’s, she turned to Nardo. “You done here?”

He lifted his hands out of the way, settling back in his seat with his drink in his hands. “Excellent meal, as always. You take good care of us, Cissy.”

His praise was nothing new. Nardo always voiced his appreciation for the things she did around the house. Before, she’d brushed it aside as nothing, though inwardly, she’d preened at the recognition he gave for her the small contribution to their household. Now, it made her uncomfortable, and for the first time, she wondered if there was more to Nardo’s decision than simple convenience. He was always accusing her of spoiling him and many times, had commented that he wished he’d have found her first. Maybe he hadn’t been joking as she’d always believed. Uncomfortable with the direction of her thoughts, she longed for the simple days when Billy was her only husband and Nardo was her new, loving, older brother.

“Thanks,” she responded awkwardly, aware that she’d been silent too long.

After clearing the table, she turned to her husbands, determinedly. “Let’s watch a holovid. The Company just released two new ones this week that sounded interesting. It‘s a little too early to turn in.” The men had eleven hours before they returned to work.

The brothers got up from the table and went into the common area, each one taking a love seat. She lingered behind to fix a tray with snacks and drinks before following them. Placing the tray on the center console, there was moment of confusion as each man patted the empty seat next to him and motioned for her to come over. No matter which choice she made, someone was going to be upset. Looking around, she chose the least offensive option and seated herself on one of the two empty love seats remaining.

She reached for the remote, flipping channels until she reached the one for holovids. “What are you in the mood for, a comedy or action-adventure?”

When neither one of the men answered, she decided. “Action-adventure it is.”

She made her selection, and a three dimensional holograph came up from the table and displayed the selected feature in the center of the room. Although it was touch and go for a while, the action eventually pulled them men into the movie, and she was finally able to relax.

When the holovid was over, she collected the dishes and put them in the kitchen for cleaning. When she returned to the common room, Billy held his hand out to her, and she joined him to retire to their quarters.

“We need to discuss sleeping arrangements.” Nardo’s words dropped like bombs, exploding in the quiet of the room.

Cecily and Billy froze. This was something neither one of them had considered or expected. They slowly turned around. Nardo was still seated, one leg thrown casually across the arm of the chair, while one arm rested along the back of the seat. The position placed his straining erection on prominent display.

“I’m not going to be relegated to the side. I want equal rights and equal time. She’s my wife, too.”

Cecily placed a warning hand on Billy’s chest. The tension in his body was telling. “What did you have in mind?”

“I want every other night.”

“No,” Billy said.

“Billy, please.” Cecily tried to head off a fight.

“It’s only fair,” Nardo said reasonably.

“No,” Billy repeated.

“It’s not your decision to make. Cecily?” Nardo turned to her expectantly. She could feel Billy watching her, silently urging her to side with him. She desperately wanted to, but in good conscious, couldn’t. Nardo was right; it was only fair.

Looking at Billy apologetically, she announced, “Nardo, you can have Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Billy you take Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Sundays I keep for myself.”

“Excellent planning. Today is Friday. That means you sleep with me tonight.” Nardo stood and held out his hand. Cecily reluctantly left Billy’s side and took it. She whispered a solemn goodnight to Billy and mouthed ‘I love you’ as Nardo led her from the room.