The Desire Series #5

Hesitant Desire

by Barbara Donlon Bradley

Hesitant Desire by Barbara Donlon Bradley Heather swore she’d never go back to Aruka after a mission gone bad. The planet had an archaic view of women and Heather fought against those views, angering one man to the point of madness. Now Earth has requested she rescue a missing girl on that planet. She wants to say no, but Storm has already accepted for her as long as he accompanies her.

It should have been a quick in and out assignment, not a planet wide search. To complicate matters, the man she fought years ago learns she’s back on the planet and wants revenge. Now Heather has to complete her mission while evading the man whose only goal is to make Heather pay for her crimes.

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Release Date: October 28, 2023
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance

~ A Red Satin Romance ~


Chapter One

Heather had a few minutes before she needed to get to council chambers for the afternoon and was taking advantage to play with her children.

“There is a communiqué from Admiral Barrister.”

“Thank you, Cim.” After picking up her daughter and putting her in the play area that Storm had created for the twins, she went for her son. Once she had them settled, she returned to the living room. “Go ahead and put Bear on the main screen.”

“Good morning, Commander.”

“How are you, Admiral?” He was awfully formal. Why did he call her commander?

“We need your help.”

“You don’t mess around, do you, sir.” Great, another assignment. She had tried to leave security several times, but Earth wouldn’t take her resignation. She sat on the couch.

“Time is of the essence.” He looked off-screen for a moment and nodded before he focused back on her. “The daughter of the ambassador from Basuya has been kidnapped and only your expertise will work.”

“You know Vespian protocol, sir. You have to ask the ambassador before you can even approach me.”

“I know that, and he has given his permission as long as he gets to accompany you.”

She smiled. Her mate always sought to protect her. “What do you need?”

“The ambassador and his family were learning about Aruka.”

“Oh, no thank you.” She didn’t want to hear anything else. The last time she had been on that planet she came close to spending the rest of her life as a slave and swore she would never go back.

“You are an officer of Earth’s military. You don’t get to refuse.”

“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” From his tone, she knew better than to say anything else.

Bear steepled his fingers as he chose his next words. “Heather, you know the native language, have more personal knowledge of their society’s dos and don’ts, and firsthand knowledge of the land. I don’t have anyone else I can send, and we must get her back as quickly as we can.”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”


“Let me guess.” Heather pinched her nose. Anger filled her as she realized she couldn’t say no. “You’re trying to sign a treaty with them and getting the daughter back will make sure that happens.”

“When can you leave?” He didn’t answer her question, so she had to be right.

“How come I seem to be the one you turn to when you need to make sure treaties are getting signed all of the sudden?” She muttered the words to herself but knew Bear heard her. Heather sighed as the data stream on the young woman she was to find filled the screen. “What do you know?”

“Not a lot right now. I have included your old file as well as everything you need for this mission. Storm has the same file.”

“Oh, great.” Now her mate would learn about one of her not so great missions. The only good thing about it was he could say no after he read what happened to her.

“I have explained to Storm that I need you to leave as soon as possible. She has been missing three days.”

“Three days?” Her eyes widened. A couple of hours were all a kidnapper needed on that planet. Three days would leave them with a very cold trail to follow. She stood, knowing every minute she wasted could mean failure in finding the girl. “I’ll send a message when we’re on our way.”

She ended the communiqué and walked into the playroom to look at the twins. Their naming ceremony was just a few days away. Would the council allow them to postpone it? “You know I love you two very much.”

“Yes, mama.” Her son toddled over and hugged her leg.

“I need to go help someone’s little girl make it back home.” She leaned down to pick him up. “Goodness, you’re getting heavy.”

“I help.”

“And you will. You need to take care of your sister and listen to your uncle and aunt. No more grabbing his nose.” She touched his with gentle fingers.

Her son’s bottom lips poked out.

“He wants to protect your sister as much as you do. That is why he goes to her first. You need to let him know you want to be picked up first and he’ll realize he’s favoring your sister without knowing it.” Heather stooped to pick up her daughter as well when the doors opened.

“You really do like trying to get yourself into trouble. You know they are too big for you to pick them up like that anymore, yet I catch you continuing to try.” He took their son out of her arms so she could pick up her daughter. He then offered her his hand so she could stand without too much of a problem. “Old habits die hard, don’t they?”

“Read the file already I see.” She brushed a few hairs out of her face, waiting for him to chastise her.

“You’re still my heart.”

“Yeah.” She never wanted to think about that assignment again, yet here it was, rearing its ugly head. “I knew you’d be happy to see how bad that got before I was able to turn it around.”

“I now see why Bear feels you are the best.” He headed toward the doors and waited outside for her to join him. “Anyone else would have ended up dead. Including me. You did what you had to do to get the job done.”

“I lost control.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I was a woman. When I first arrived the people who pretended to buy me wanted to brand me which I fought. Then I broke the number one rule and fought with a man.” Did he read the whole file? She had made mistake after mistake on that planet and had never forgotten about it. Heather moved down the hall, holding her daughter close. “Have you spoken to the council?”

“Informally. I spoke to my mother who contacted the rest of the council, and they understand. The decision is ours.”

“Great.” She had hoped someone would say no, but so far nothing was going to stop her from reliving something she’d rather leave in the past. “You know I don’t want to do this.”

“But you won’t leave that girl to be trapped on that world.”

He knew her too well. The thought of what the girl would go through if she didn’t try to bring her home drove her to face her demons. She walked into the medlab with Storm on her heels. “Kuarto.”

“Heather? They’re not sick. I just saw them, so why are you here?” His voice held an annoyed tone. He had complained before that she worried too much about the health of the twins.

“I know, and I promise I didn’t bring them here for another check-up. I need a favor. Can you and Toki babysit for a few days?” She placed her daughter in the crib he had set up for the twins. “Earth’s government has asked us to go on a mission and we need to leave immediately.”

“What about the naming ceremony?” His frown showed his confusion.

“Storm has spoken to his mother, and she understands. The one thing we need to do is formally approach the council and ask permission, but we already know they’re going to say yes. Can you ask Toki if she could postpone it for a few days? We’d really appreciate it.” She touched her daughter on the head, not wanting to leave her or their son, but she knew she had to do this.

“Then Storm is going with you.” Kuarto looked at Storm for answers before he reached for their son.

“Yes.” Storm patted his son on the head as he settled in his mate’s brother’s arms. “So we’re relying on you and Toki to care for these two until we get back.”

“That won’t be a problem. You know that.” He kissed their son on the head before he set him down next to his sister. “Can I help you with anything?”

“We’re going to need some physical alterations to fit into Arukan society,” said Heather. She fought hard to keep her anger and frustration inside. She knew she was focusing on the task at hand instead of her brother’s curiosity, but if she wasn’t careful, she just might lose the tight hold she had on her emotions.

“Arukan? Have you been there?” He grabbed his scanner plus his pad and walked to the computer to pull up a three-dimensional image of Heather and Storm.

“I have.” She kept her features under tight control, trying not to show how the memory of the place made her feel.

“So you know how women are treated there.”

All she could do was nod.

“Anyone else going with you two?” Kuarto looked at Heather for a moment before he started to alter their images to get the desired look for the race there. He never missed a thing, and she wondered what he suspected. He didn’t ask her anything else as he used his pad, the screen, and their images to get what he wanted.

“Fridon will be coming as well.” Heather couldn’t keep the flatness out of her voice.

Kuarto nodded and loaded his image as well. “You realize you’re all a little tall for this race.”

“Yes.” Heather hated this. The last time she was on this planet her height had been one of the reasons she was so coveted. That and her hair. No one on the planet has such light hair. Then there was the length. The shortness of it made them think she had been punished by her master and then sent away because whatever she had done had been so bad, he never wanted to see her again. It made her a target for many reasons and now she had to go back and face that reality again. “We’ll have to work around that.”

“And women are second-class citizens with no power?” He watched her face as he brought up the subject again.

“I am all too aware of my status there.” She refused to rise to the bait as she watched him make the changes. Her fair skin turned golden with the sparkle the people from the planet had. They all looked like they had glitter on them from the way their skin sparkled in all types of light. “Can you make that stick?”

“Let me guess, the last time you went there you went just as you are.”

“Earth doctors couldn’t change my skin tone and hair color. My chip didn’t allow it.”

“Well, we have the ancient computer who knows your DNA so we should be able to make the proper changes.” Kuarto circled her image, bobbing her ears so they came to a point like the people from the planet. Then he changed her hair color. “One down, two to go.” Now that he had made the changes to her image all he had to do was press a button for Storm’s and Fridon’s images to switch. In an instant they all looked like the natives.

“I’m going down to the main compound to work on our outfits.” Heather headed out the door. Kuarto had what he needed to get them physically ready, now it was her turn to make sure their clothing fit as well.


* * *


“She seems very upset about this,” Kuarto commented as he continued to work on their images, perfecting their looks. “Can I assume the last time she was there it didn’t go well for her?”

“Not the way she wanted, but she still had a successful mission.” Storm pointed to the images. “How long before you’re done?”

“I should have a chip to implant in about fifteen minutes.”

“Good. I’m going to see what I can do to calm my mate.” Storm strode out of the medlab and headed to the ancient complex. Using his implant, he contacted Fridon and made him aware of the mission and let him know he had to visit the medlab to get the changes necessary for the mission to be a success. When he entered the lab, he saw another three-dimensional image of the three of them all lined up as Heather worked on the outfits. His and Fridon’s outfits were pretty nondescript. Tunics and flowing pants. Typical for an arid planet like the one they were going to. “My heart?”

She turned to look at him. “I hate this, Storm. Women have no power. They aren’t allowed to speak to men unless spoken to. They can’t own any property. Most women are the slaves of the family. There for breeding and doing all the work.”

“The men don’t do any of the work?”

“None of the labor. That is left to the women.” She pressed a button and worked on the intricate details of the garments. “The admiral has set up our identities already. You are a man of wealth and power. I am your most prized possession.”

“That much is true.” He stepped up to her and touched her cheek. “You will not be alone on this mission.”

“I know, but it’s the memories that get the best of me.” She pressed her face into his hand.

“Do you wish to talk about it?” He could feel her distress over this mission, but nothing else. She had locked everything else deep inside.

“No.” She gave him a smile, but he could see the sadness in her eyes. “Maybe when this mission is over I will, but right now I’m not ready. It’s something I had tried to forget. I need to come to terms before I can tell you anything.”

“What are you doing now?” He turned back toward the images, knowing it was time to change the subject.

“Making sure our garments are ready. Men of power have a brand or mark that adorns their clothing. It is also on all their possessions.” She tapped her pad. “What would you like as a brand?”

“How about this?” He lifted her hair and gently brushed her mark. “No one can deny that you are mine if it is on my clothes.”

Her smile was more genuine. “It also might keep them from branding me with your mark if I already have one.” She put the pattern on his and Fridon’s garment. Once she was happy with the image, she made several other outfits so they would have the proper garments to change to when they had to.

Storm watched as she brought up her image. Her Vespian gown disappeared and was replaced with an outfit he swore was appropriate only for the bedroom. “That is what you must wear?”

She nodded.

“My heart, my eyes will be glowing the whole time we’re on that planet.” The two-piece dress left a lot of skin exposed. The bejeweled top had demicups that he was sure wouldn’t contain Heather’s breasts for long and the skirt sat so low on her hips he wondered how it stayed up.

She gave him a fleeting smile then worked on the image, putting the mark on her outfit as well. There was a band at the top of the skirt about six inches wide made out of the same thin material as his and Fridon’s clothes, then a border of it on the bottom. Everything in between was a thin transparent material. There was also a thin strip of cloth that held his mark halfway down her upper arm, but he didn’t see any other straps that would keep her top on.

“Can I see you in that?” If she had that on all the time, he wasn’t sure he could keep his hands to himself.

“Storm.” She didn’t want to have that awful outfit on before she had to.

“My heart, if just this image is making my desire for you skyrocket, then I need to see what the real thing is going to do. I need to be able to control myself.”

That got a laugh out of her. “You have never tried before.”

“I can’t help that your luscious body calls to me, begging for my touch.” He grinned as he pulled her into his embrace.

“I know your one-track mind and there is a lot to do. I need to show you how to use my chain.”

“You’ll have my undivided attention in that.” He looked at the image once again. “I know you see the outfit as degrading. What better way to wipe that feeling from you then to have me worship your body while wearing it.”

“So you think it will empower me?”

“Has in the past.” His need for her was getting stronger by the second. “One wonderful memory to burn away the others.”

She closed her eyes for a moment, probably talking to the ancient computer. Her dress disappeared to be replaced with the outfit she hated so much.

She took his breath away. His hands had to touch her. They gently followed the edge of the small top, causing goosebumps to rise where his fingers had been. Sliding along the edge of the skirt, his touch caused her to take a sharp intake of breath. It was one of her more sensitive spots. He noticed a small gold chain around her waist. A long length of it fell to the floor.

“What is this?” He picked it up. The lightweight material didn’t look like it would take much abuse.

“My chain.”

“Excuse me?” He heard the flatness of her voice. It angered her. Another thing she resented. His libido needed to wait so he could find out why.

“Like a pet, I have a leach that you control.”

He was starting to understand why she hated this so much. To treat women in such a way went against his beliefs as well. “And you must wear it?”

“And you need to know how to use it to control me.”

“I have never been able to do that,” he joked as he continued to slide his hands over her soft skin. Time to defuse the strong anger she felt.

“Storm.” She stopped him then placed the end of the chain in his hands. “It’s all in the flick of the wrist.” She made a few movements to show him what she was talking about. “My place is behind you as we walk. If you wish to stop, you drop your hand to signal me.” She showed him what she meant. She went through several other movements.

“And what if I wish to show you affection?”

“I don’t know.” She looked sad. “I never saw any of the men show affection to their women. But I do know some of the commands for different sexual poses.”

“Perhaps I need to make a few of my own commands.” He started drawing the chain to him, so she had to step closer. “Like when I want to kiss you, I’ll just drag you to my side.” He lowered his mouth to hers, drawing her tongue out to dance with his. Tension flowed out of her.

He knew he needed to tread lightly with her. She needed to be in control the whole time. With a thought he produced their favorite chair. Another thought removed his clothes. Breaking the kiss, he stepped back and waited.

She stared at him.

“You tell me what you want.”

Heather hesitated for a moment then shook her head as if she was shaking the last of the bad memories away. “Climb on the chair.”

He didn’t waste any time.

“And put it in our favorite position.”

“We have several of those, my heart. Any particular one?”

“Hmmm.” She placed her hands on her hips and gave him a sultry smile. “I’ll let you pick that.”

One click of a button and he had the chair in a position she recognized. He watched as she sashayed toward him, the sway of her hips hypnotizing him. “You are so beautiful.”

“You are biased.” She climbed up on the chair and placed her feet on the railings on each side.

“I am.” He smiled up at her. This was one of the few times when she was taller than him. Her long skirt brushed against his thighs as she looked down at him. “But it doesn’t make my statement any less true.”

“You are so good for me.” She got down on her knees. “I’m going to need a little help. My skirt is too big so I can’t help guide you.”

He helped center her and closed his eyes as her tight sheath slid down his length. The heat of her body as it surrounded him fired his desire. His hands had a mind of their own as they skimmed across her hips and stomach, moving up to her breasts. They felt their way around the bra top, trying to find the closure. “How does this come off?”

“There are releases on each side, but I want to warn you…”

The weight of the top smacked him in the stomach, drawing a woof out of him. He held out the heavy thing. “How does this thing stay up?”

“I don’t know, but it seems to defy gravity.” She braced her hands against his stomach. “The skirt is the same way. It doesn’t move off the hips even though it looks like it could.”

He dropped the top onto the floor so he could focus on her. He gently cupped her breasts, playing with her nipples as she set the pace. She arched into his hands while she slid up and down his shaft. Knowing her body as well as he knew his own, he knew what aroused her, what brought her to the edge and what pushed her over. He rubbed his knuckles against the peaks before his hands continued to caress her velvet skin. The tips of his fingers skirted the edge of the waistband of the skirt, dipping in and brushing the edge of her mound, taking her breath away.

Her muscles tightened against him, and she started riding him harder. Storm moved his hands to her legs, finding their way under the full skirt, feather-like touches working their way up the back of her calf, the inside of her thigh, until his fingers reached their target and slipped into her folds. Time to bring her to the edge. She reacted to his touch. Her head dropped back as her breath came out in little pants.

“My heart.” He watched her face, keeping his hand between them, working her softly, slowly bringing her closer and closer. Gently he wrapped his hand around her neck, drawing her down until he could feel her breasts against his chest, allowing his lips to make contact with her mark. His lips tugged lightly on the soft tissue, and she shattered in his arms.

“That is what you do to me while you wear that outfit.” His voice was a whisper as she floated along through her climax. She was quiet for a few moments, waiting for her body to return from her release. Then her eyes opened, and she gave him a satisfied smile.

“My heart.” She touched his face. “You are so good for my ego.”


* * *


Proper protocol said she needed to go to the council and explain what Earth wanted from her. As a member of the council and the mate of the future leader, anything that took her off planet, or away from the council, had to be cleared. They gave their approval quickly. Storm had gone with her and stayed to clear his joining her on this mission as well.

She went back to the outfits. The fashions hadn’t changed that much since she was there last, but she made sure she made the subtle changes, so they didn’t look dated. Her outfits were the last thing she worked on. The low hip and tiny top exposed so much. The last time she had to wear it brought attention to her in a way she didn’t want, and she had fought it all the way. Yet after her mate’s reaction to the outfit and the tenderness he showed her, she knew he was right. Knowing Storm would be there and how it aroused him gave her the confidence she needed to do this.

Next, she focused on the information Bear sent. There was a lot of data. Hopefully, she’d find what she needed to pick up a trail to follow.


* * *


Heather strode into the medlab, a cloak over her mission outfit. She didn’t want to be gawked at until it was necessary. Storm and Fridon were already there, wearing their costumes, their chips in place. Seeing Storm with pointed ears brought a smile to her face. “Good work, Kuarto. Hope you can work the same magic with me.”

“I’m going to put the first one in your hairline.” He gestured for her to lift her hair off the back of her neck, and he inserted the chip. Pressing a few keys on his pad he worked with her hair color. “Your hair won’t be as dark as the race that you’re imitating but it won’t be the white blonde you normally have either. More like a golden brown.”

Heather turned and looked at the mirror Kuarto had. Her hair was now a light brown with gold highlights. “Wow. I look so different.”

“Now for the skin tone.” He pulled aside the cloak and inserted the next chip against her right pelvic bone. “Depending on how this works I might need to put a second one in.”

“Whatever it takes.” She looked at Storm who seemed to be frowning. “What is the matter?”

“I’m not sure I like that hair color on you.” His eyes widened when her fair skin darkened to a golden honey color. “You look so different, yet exotic.”

“Kuarto, you are amazing. What about my eyes?”

“I’ve tried several times, but I can’t alter their color. I can give you contacts.”

“They don’t work either. My eyes have always been too sensitive for them. At least I’ll fit in a little better this time.” She lifted her feet. “Need to do something about this though.”

“Right.” Kuarto handed her two jewels to decorate her feet. “I’ve been working on that. Attach those to the juncture next to the big toe and press it.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” Storm said.

“I’m not allowed to wear any footwear. The women there are used to it and can walk in the sand and hard rocks, but my feet are too tender for that.” She bent down and placed the jewels on her feet. Pressing each one, she felt something cover everything up to her ankles. Heather looked up at Kuarto and grinned.

“It’s a force field. About the only thing I thought would work since if you left any kind of shoe print behind there would be questions. I made you four. Each coordinating with the color outfit you might wear.”

“Thanks.” She turned to Storm and Fridon. “Ready?”

“Yes.” Storm took her arm and headed to their transport. “Although I’m not sure I like this place we’re going. What else are you not allowed to do?”

“There is a lot.” She let out a sigh. “I’m not allowed to eat with you. In fact, I can’t eat until you and Fridon are done. If there is any food left over then I get to eat. If you attend any meals, you have to abide by this. I can’t sit with you at any of the major functions unless I am to feed you.”

They reached the ship. Heather waited as Storm lowered the gangplank.

“I can’t ride any of the animals either. I must walk everywhere.”

“That is ridiculous.”

“I know, but it’s their law.” She took her seat and helped Storm prepare for liftoff. “I gave you the list. Did you read it?”

“I didn’t get to the walking everywhere.” Once the ship was out of orbit, he programmed the coordinates and set the autopilot on. “But if you are my most prized possession then why can’t I set the rules for you?”

“You can. To a point. An example is like riding the horse. If I’m pleasuring you then I’m allowed, but that is only when we’re alone. Men don’t degrade themselves by letting their lust get to them while they are with other men.”

“And how long must we be there?”

“We find the girl and get out as fast as possible.”


* * *


Storm stepped onto the tarmac first. The heat was the first thing that hit him. He waited for Fridon and Heather to exit before he sealed the ship and sent it back into orbit. The computer would be his eyes and ears to make sure they were under surveillance while on the planet.

Their translators had been adjusted for the language on the planet, but since the people here didn’t use translators there would be a language gap until they could learn to speak it. Heather was the only one who was fluent, and she wasn’t allowed to talk to men. He wasn’t sure how this would work.

Their first stop was the embassy to check in. Heather had donned the hood on her cloak so no one would be able to see what gender was under the garment. She had kept the cloak on since she came into the medlab earlier. He was happy because he knew he’d be aroused the moment he saw her in the outfit. Storm strode in the door with Fridon on his heels. His mate came in last, already in character.

“May I help you?” The young man behind the desk didn’t look up from the task he was doing.

“Yes.” Storm’s deep voice filled the room. “We have an appointment with the admiral.”

“And your name?” He looked up then to find Storm glaring at him. Storm recognized the man. He was Bear’s second. Heather called him an assistant. “Oh, ambass...ador? Um, he’s been waiting for you.” The doors to their right swung open.

Storm walked in the door, not happy with the situation. “Why are you making my…” He stopped his rant when he noticed Bear wasn’t alone.

“Storm?” Bear laughed. The same fake one Heather had been known to use from time to time. He looked at Storm’s ears and grinned. “Like the ears. Thank you for coming. I’d like to introduce you to the parents of the young woman taken.”

He gave them a stiff nod.

“I must say you do look the part. So does Fridon.” He looked at the garbed figure. “Heather? Can I assume you do too?”

“Yes, sir.” She lowered the hood so the admiral could see her face.

“Wow. Then let’s get down to it.” He had been sitting with the girl’s parents. Standing, he walked to his desk and picked up a small remote. “This is the young woman in question. She was in the garden of the home they were using here, off the embassy grounds. She was by herself when they heard her scream. By the time anyone made it outside, there was no sign of her. We did get this from the surveillance equipment.”

An image filled the screen of the young girl, maybe sixteen, being grabbed by men in nondescript clothes.

Heather stared at the screen for a moment. “Can you play that again?”

She watched it several times before she sat next to the parents. “Was your daughter speaking to any of the local boys?”

“One or two,” the father replied. “You can’t be saying that she was taken by one of them.”

“These people don’t think the way most do. Women are like an object you would trade or sell here. Someone could have seen your daughter as a potential present to a son of a wealthy family coming of age. Especially if he showed an interest in her. They could have taken her to gain favor with a wealthy family.” She saw the stricken look on the mother’s face. “I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but it is the truth. I’m very good at my job, but I need all the information I can get to bring her home safely.”

“There was one boy who kept calling on her,” the mother responded.

Heather smiled. “Tell me everything.”


* * *


“Heather, I was about ready to read you the riot act when you started talking to the parents the way you did, but you got the information we needed,” Bear snapped at her.

“I’m sorry I had to do that, sir, but I knew it was the only way to make them think about anyone she might have talked to. Now we have three leads instead of a very cold trail.” She stood, pulling the cape in front of her to keep her outfit concealed. “As you said, time is of the essence, and I want to make sure that girl comes home.”

“Understood, Commander, but next time you better let me in on what you want to do beforehand, or I’ll court-martial you.”

“Considering my position in Earth’s military is all on paper since they refused to retire me, your threat really doesn’t have that much weight.” She stood in a relaxed military stance. “You need me more than I need you, sir.”

“Storm, I do believe you created a monster here.” He sat back in his chair and laughed. This time, it sounded real. His relaxed state surprised Storm. Was Heather that good?

“You had a hand in her development as well.” Storm wrapped an arm around her waist. “We need to talk seriously. No harm can come to my mate. I will kill the man who looks at her wrong.”

“Which is why you are going with her. You will keep her safe. Too many things went wrong the last time. That can’t happen again.” Bear ran his fingers through his hair. “How much of the language do you know?”

“Heather has been teaching us, but the intricate levels of the language makes it difficult to learn very quickly. I know the most important sentences at all levels.” He grinned. “I know the word ‘mine’, ‘do not touch’ and ‘the woman speaks for me’. My mate also taught me a few swear words just in case I need them.”

“And your translator?”

“The language has been loaded so I’ll know everything spoken. Then the nuances of the language will download every night, and Heather will help us practice what is downloaded when we’re traveling. We should be fluent quickly.”

“I don’t want to put you in this situation again, Heather. But as you told the parents, you are very good at your job. No harm meant, Storm, but if I could have, I would have put Heather and Skye together. They both have a knack at finding the people in jeopardy.”

“Could Skye protect her better than me?” He still didn’t like the man. It didn’t matter if he was his daughter’s mate.

“I didn’t say that.” Bear looked at Heather for a moment before focusing on Storm. “I guess that is still a sore subject for you. I have registered you two in the system. I need to load something to prove Heather is your property.”

“Her mark.” Storm pointed to his clothing. “She bears it as well.”

Heather released the cord holding the cloak against her body and she dropped it so Bear could see her outfit and the proof of her mark on her clothes.

“Damn, Heather, I see working with Vespian security has done some wonderful things for you. You’re no longer that skinny woman I knew. Your muscles never had such definition.”

Her hand splayed across her abdomen. It took Storm’s hands to pull hers away. “She has what you call a hard body, yes?”

“Yes, and that makes her more desirable to the men who will see her. Be warned, Storm. Your mate will turn a lot of heads.” He stood. “The sooner you get started the sooner you’re done.”

Heather nodded. “If we have all the information available, we should get going.”

Bear nodded.

She picked up her cape and handed Storm her leash.

“Wait.” Bear looked at the chain and frowned. “How cherished a piece of property is she to you, Storm?”

“What kind of question is that?”

“The chain is too long.”

“Admiral, I don’t mean any disrespect, but many men like the chain long so they can wrap it around their own waist when in a crowd so their possession doesn’t wander off. It is where they hold the leach that matters, and Storm has learned about that.”

Bear checked his screen before he spoke. “Sorry, I had the wrong data.”

“It’s okay, Bear, but when you live it, you never forget.” She took a deep breath and looked at Storm. “Let’s go.”

Storm nodded. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to allow Heather to be put into danger once again, but they had promised. Making sure he had a good grip on her chain, he headed out the doors of Bear’s office. They walked out of the embassy into the crowded street. The heat hit him first then the noise level. His sensitive ears had found it hard to ignore.

Heather stayed behind him, her distance based on the thin chain he held. Fridon had gone on ahead of them to secure the animals they would need for traveling. Once they were away from the town, he would breathe easier. He also hoped Heather would relax out of the confines of the city and the rules.

“You sell?” some young boy asked him, pointing to Heather.

“No.” Storm wasn’t sure if it was the right dialect, but he didn’t care.

“How much?”

“You sell?”

“I buy.”

Now he had three wanting to know if he’d be willing to part with his mate. Were they crazy? A growl escaped him. “No.”

He took another two steps and there were two more about to ask him about Heather. Storm turned around, grabbed Heather by the waist and threw her over his shoulder. As he walked, he glared at anyone who started to approach him. He could hear his mate’s laughter in his head.

This isn’t funny, my heart. Why would they think I’d be willing to part with you?

I am property to them, and everyone has a price. The fact that you want to keep me close shows them I have value and they will try to see why. You don’t even give them a chance to make an offer. That has their curiosity. What have I done to make you not want to sell me?

He shook his head. Fridon was only a few feet away with their animals. Along with two animals saddled for him and Fridon to ride, they also had several pack animals carrying tents and items they would need if they stopped for the night away from any town. And if this was the way all the men were going to behave around his mate, he didn’t plan on stopping at too many of them.

Storm was stopped once again by someone wanting to buy his mate.

Ask him secudo demaliasent.

Storm repeated the words.

“I will offer thirty million secons and my master’s current favorite.” The young man looked at him with a hopeful smile.

Tell him senmareio efactinga.

What does that mean?

You’ll think about it.


It is only to give them something to think about. Make them believe you might sell for the right price.

How much is thirty million secons?

About the same in old earth dollars. Vespia doesn’t have anything that I can show that would equal. Just be happy that it is a lot of money. They’re not trying to insult you.

He caught up with Fridon, reluctantly set her on her feet and mounted his animal. “What is this?”

“They call them frulas. Like earth’s horse.” Fridon climbed on his mount as well. “They move about fifty clips an hour. If you are ready, we can head out.”

“Who packed the animals?” asked Heather, her voice low. Storm could sense the touch of fear racing through her.

“They were like this when I arrived.”

“Bear must have gotten them ready for us.” Heather’s shoulders relaxed as she walked to the animals and added the packs she had carried from the embassy. “Remember, Fridon, you are in training to learn Storm’s trade. You’re not to do any of the labor.”

“I remember, Heather. As much as I disagree with it, I would never do anything to put you in danger.”

“I’m sorry, Fridon.” She kept her eyes downcast. “The crowd has me worrying about everything. The sooner we’re out of here the happier I’ll be.”

“Then let’s go, but make sure Heather can keep up.” Storm looked at the surrounding crowd. He didn’t like having all these strangers near his mate, knowing how easily they took the girl. “My mate will not be forced to run to keep pace with us. The moment we’re out of sight I want her up on my mount.”

“Yes, sir.”

Fridon set an easy stride for the animals. Once they were out of the view of the town, Storm circled back and offered his hand to Heather.

“Storm, I can’t.”

“You said the rules could be bent as long as it profited me. I want you up here. I don’t care if you have to straddle me and give me pleasure the entire time, I will not allow my mate to walk when I am riding. So you either get up here or I will climb down off this animal and walk beside you.” He reached for her again. “Your choice.”

“I saw that spark enter your eyes when you said I could pleasure you the whole time.” She took his hand and allowed him to pull her into his lap. Once she settled in the saddle with him, she worked herself around until she faced him. “Now we get to see how much torture you can take before your libido gets the best of you.”

“My heart, when it comes to you, I have no control.” He wrapped his arms around her, his hands sliding up and down her back.

“That isn’t true, or we’d never get any work done.” She wrapped her legs around him, pulling her body against his.

“You haven’t read my mind enough, then. It is all I think about.” His lips brushed against her mark. Too bad Fridon was with them, or he would show her just how much just being near her had him constantly wanting her.


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