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Taken For His Own by Tara Fox Hall

Taken For His Own

Promise Me, Book 4
by Tara Fox Hall

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: B00CZ4IGC8
Print ISBN: 9781612356228

After learning Theo is alive, Sar immediately embarks on a mission to find him. Reunited, the lovers return to New York; Danial, Terian and Theo uneasily combining forces to protect Sar from Al’s assassins still seeking her. But when Sar is taken prisoner in an all-out attack, only one man can save her: her old adversary, Devlin.

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Taken in the Night by Tara Fox Hall

Taken in the Night

Promise Me, Book 3
by Tara Fox Hall

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61235-544-3
Print ISBN: 978-1-61235-543-6

When Theo disappears, Sar is left bereft, the uncertain guardian of Theo’s newly born werecougar daughter, Elle. As months pass, clues emerge about Theo’s disappearance, yet the twisting trail ends repeatedly without answer. In her grief, Sar turns to Danial and hesitantly begins to build a life with him and Elle.

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Broken Promise by Tara Fox Hall

Broken Promise
Promise Me, Book 2
by Tara Fox Hall

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61235-473-6
Print ISBN: 978-1-61235-472-9

Shocked at Danial’s betrayal, Sarelle returns to her old home to consider her options. Yet even as Sar plans a reconciliation with Danial, Terian arrives, confessing his desire. When Theo witnesses Terian and Sar kiss, he angrily confronts Sar, leading to startling consequences. Will Sar’s heart choose Danial, Terian,…or Theo?

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Promise Me by Tara Fox Hall

Promise Me
Promise Me, Book 1
by Tara Fox Hall

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 9781612354170
Print ISBN: 978-1-61235-418-7

When young widow Sarelle McGarran finds the vampire Danial Racklan unconscious and hurt in her woods, intuitive concern quickly becomes passionate love. Together Danial and Sar work to overcome their own past heartbreaks, their vastly different lifestyles, and Danial’s relentless enemies. Yet Danial needs more; an Oath of forever. But can Sar give Danial his greatest desire?

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The Proposal
Praxton, Book 3
by N.S. Howard

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 9781612350806

Jennifer’s life is in freefall. She hates her job, doesn’t understand men and wonders about her girlfriend’s attempt to seduce her. Then an old boyfriend wants to see her. Melvin had moved to another planet and offers her an outrageous proposition, an offer she would have laughed at a week ago. But now…

Chapter One

Melvin Taylor crossed the living room and into the kitchen, yawning. He still needed to finish dressing, wearing only a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but needed a coffee before he did much more to get ready for the day.
Helena looked at him as he grunted, “Good morning,” and quickly moved to pour him a cup of coffee.
“Good morning, Master Melvin. How are you today?” She gazed at him with a small smile.
Unlike him, she was wide-awake and fully dressed in her black dress uniform. While her uniform wasn’t as revealing as most Praxton dresses, it was still short. In keeping with Praxton customs she was also braless and wore high heels. Although she was employed as a housekeeper, her collar indicated she had Melvin as a guardian. Helena looked thirty by using therapy drugs, but she was almost twice that age and had decided she would rather do housekeeping duties than be a Master’s female.
“Tired…” He realized the smile may be due to his lack of underwear and the partially open fly of Praxton style pants. He took the cup of coffee from her and looked at the kitchen table and chairs. He heard her give the slightest clearing of her throat and walked out to the dining room with his coffee to sit. Melvin was still learning how to act on Praxton and Helena gave him the hint he needed that the Master did not normally sit in the kitchen. When he became a Praxton citizen, he selected two females to live with him, believing they could take care of his home while he was away and provide companionship when he was home. He quickly learned it was more complicated than that. He followed the advice of his friends and hired a housekeeper who had taught him what he should and should not be doing as a Master.
A minute later Helena brought him toast.
“The females should be getting up soon, Master Melvin. Would you like me to set out some clothes for you to wear before they come downstairs?”
Melvin gave a grin. “In other words, I better be suitably dressed before they see me.”
“It is the Praxton way.”
He nodded. “Thanks for your help.” He recalled some of her other advice that she had quietly given him over the past few months, and some of the more direct advice she had told him.
“The females need discipline, Master Melvin. They must have boundaries and know there are consequences of not behaving.” Later she insisted he set up a discipline room, and though it was rarely used, it had stopped much of their poor behaviour. Helena had asked permission to administer discipline as she saw fit. After he granted her that additional responsibility, he saw a marked improvement in the household.
He finished his toast, and after Helena refilled his coffee, headed upstairs to his room to get dressed, passing the glass walled shower room for the females. He looked in and saw Celestia. The tall blonde was slowly massaging soap over her body. Melvin watched as she slowly turned to face him. She gave him a smile as the soap dripped off her medium sized breasts.
Melvin raised his eyebrows and continued on to his room. He sighed and wondered if leaving today was such a good idea after all. He opened the door to the master bedroom and saw Aatun sitting up in his bed, the bed covers concealing only her knees. The brunette was shorter than Celestia, but still had a curvy body with slightly larger breasts.
“Hi, Aatun.”
“Good morning, Master Melvin.”
“I guess I better let you get up.” He reached the foot of the bed and unlatched the chain to her ankle cuff holding her captive to the bed.
“Thank you. I want to look good before you leave.” She gave him a kiss and walked slowly out of the room, her hips gently swaying.
He looked at the door several seconds after she had left and began to get ready. Melvin was born on Earth; was average in height but muscular, partly due to his work as a geologist. His friends nicknamed him Hairy Hercules. He walked to his washroom and stood in front of the viewscreen, dragging a comb through his black hair. “Last shave for a few days.”
He picked up the electric razor, mentally listing the things he had to do today, knowing he wouldn’t have a second chance to do things out in the Keswick region of Praxton. After he finished dressing he headed downstairs, satisfied he hadn’t forgotten anything.
* * * *
Melvin relaxed in the living room, checking the latest weather reports on his handheld when first Aatun, and then Celestia came to him after walking downstairs.
Aatun was wearing a skirt and an open cloth vest. A chain dangled in the opening that Melvin surmised was attached to a pair of nipple jewellery. Celestia was wearing a dress made of a soft white material that made it obvious she was not wearing anything else. Both women wore a collar that matched their ankle and wrist cuffs, although Aatun left her black metal restraints unattached. Celestia wore blue faux-leather restraints, plus a waist chain where five gold chains went to each cuff and the collar.
“Hello, Celestia, Aatun.”
“Hello, Master Melvin,” they replied in unison. They approached him slowly and knelt in front of him.
Melvin looked at them and then at Helena and raised his eyebrows. “I’m going to miss you two.”
* * * *
The transport arrived in front of his home at the appointed time. The driver, a small, older man helped him haul his belongings to the back of the bus size vehicle. He tightened the straps holding the cartons in place and looked at Melvin.
“Is that all there is?”
“Nope, one more item.” He walked to side of the house where a tool shed was attached. A minute later, he drove a six wheel ATV to the transport. “I think this will use up most of the remaining space.”
The driver nodded. “Looks like you’re planning to head out of civilization. Nice little machine you have there.”
“It has served me well so far.”
The transport lifted off silently, but Melvin felt a vibration through his chair. He sat next to the driver in the cockpit with the eight other seats behind him empty. “Melvin’s my name.” He stuck out his hand.
“Steve.” He shook the offered hand. “I was wondering about one passenger wanting a one ton lift transport. You do this often?”
“No, maybe two or three times a year. You can plan as much as you want in an office, read charts, do analysis and get test results from surveys, but sooner or later you have to get your hands dirty.”
“Gives you a chance for fresh air anyway. You need to make a stop at the Praxton Government Resources and Licensing Building next. It says on the documentation.”
“Yeah, one more item to pick up.”
“Okay, I can land on the roof.”
Melvin took the elevator down to the main floor. A female clerk, wearing the collar of her guardian, greeted him at a reception desk. He signed in and she directed him to the correct office. He took the elevator back up to the thirty-third floor and entered the Office of Licensed Weapons.
“Mr. Taylor, I see you have the necessary documents in order.” The older man with a small beard slid across a long rectangular black case. “Please be advised that you may not open this case until you arrive at your destination. There are two magazine clips inside the case and the memory chip inside the gun will record when each one is inserted. In addition, each round that is fired is recorded as to the exact time, and the orientation of the gun, as well as its location, is also preserved. Each bullet that is fired must be recorded as to the reason in a report. If you were to kill or injure any animal, you must also report why you chose to do so.”
“I understand. It is to be used for protection only.”
“Good. I would rather avoid the reports when guns are fired. In fact, the reports are less complicated if you were to die rather than shoot.”
Melvin chuckled. “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
He carried the gun case to the waiting transport. “Okay Steve, next stop is the Keswick region.”
“No problem. Can you tell me what’s with all the supplies? Seems like a lot of stuff for a camping trip.”
Melvin laughed. “It wouldn’t be a lot of fun camping out there. I’m a rock hound and doing some exploratory work.”
“Okay, but that’s something I know nothing about, other than rocks are hard when you’re crawling over them.”
“You used to be in the armed forces?”
“Yeah, I retired after the big battle with the Alliance forces.”
“You guys did a hell of a job standing up to them.”
Steve looked over at Melvin. “Well, I have to admit I was old school when it came to military battles. I always thought you hit the enemy as soon as they made an appearance and killed as many as you could. As a soldier, I thought we also had to protect our cities and civilians. But I was wrong.”
“How so?”
“The new commander told us not to engage the enemy in the skies, but wait for them to land first. So we ambushed them when they were on the ground, but we didn’t try to kill them. Commander Jacobs told us to injure them, not to kill them because it took two more soldiers to help carry out the injured. He also told us Alliance forces would only enter the cities if we were there and so we stayed out. Apparently, the Alliance forces were not allowed to attack civilian areas without due cause, so we didn’t give them that. Those buggers sure hated fighting in the desert.” He laughed. “We knew we couldn’t beat them, but if we slowed them down long enough they’d get frustrated, and eventually their leaders would make a compromise.”
“But you left the armed forces afterwards?”
Yeah, got a pension and the new army wasn’t for me. They got females in the army now, and it was time for this old soldier to go away.”
Melvin looked out the front windows at the rolling hills with of clumps of trees and vegetation. “Looks rather peaceful down there.”
“It is, though there are few cuttus to watch out for, as well as, the lupus which travel in packs. But I understand its pretty safe out there if you take a few precautions.” He looked at a monitor. “Odd, another air vehicle in the area. What are the odds of two transports being in this remote area?”
Melvin looked over at the monitor but saw only a small white dot in the blue sky. Numbers next to the dot identified it as privately owned, its present speed and course. “Odds are it’s not a coincidence.”
The transport landed with a jolt in a clearing near a small river. Melvin climbed out and stretched his limbs. “Good to be out in the open again.”
“Yeah, but they’re no females out here.” Steve grinned. “Want some help unloading the supplies?”
Melvin was impressed with the stamina of the older man and decided his armed forces training had made him used to hard work. After they unloaded, they stood watching as an air pump began to lift up the shelter that would serve as a home for Melvin.
“Want a drink?” Melvin offered him a canister of water.
“No thanks, you may need it later. I’ll take off as soon as you declare the shelter is okay and test your radio. Better to make sure you’re safe now than to have a panic later on.”
Melvin carried the last of the supplies through the open door of the shelter. The dome shaped shelter consisted of hard plastic plates that interlocked as the air tubes filled to form a frame. He flicked the main power switch on and checked to see that lights and power were available. He finally tested the emergency radio, in case the normal communications did not work.
“Looks like everything is working…”
“Good. I’ll be off then. If you like, you can ask for me, Steve McKee, to pick you up. I’d like to hear how you made out.”
“Sure. Do me a favour though. If you find anything out about that other flyer, let me know.”
* * * *
Melvin pounded in the stake that held last leg of the tripod in place. He wiped the sweat off his brow with the sleeve of his shirt and then attached the connectors to the laser mounted at the top of the five-foot high tripod. He turned on the power from the controller and set the rest of the controls to “Auto”. Within a few minutes, smoke and steam emerged from the hole in the ground. Sensors detected the different components of the smoke and sent the information to a hand held device attached to his belt.
He took a long drink of water and waited for the laser and the sensors to do their work. He had done his, using a powered auger to dig past the soil until he had reached a solid rock base. Now he needed the laser to go into that rock and find out exactly what was underneath.
The process was slow, hard work. It would also be entirely fruitless if homework and planning weren’t done before to determine where to dig. It was the fourth hole he had dug and he hoped that he had guessed correctly. Despite all the computations he had done, it would still take luck to hit pay dirt. Now he waited under the blazing sun for the laser to slowly push deep into the rock.
An hour later, he looked at the sensors readings and grinned. “Well, how about that? Just what I needed to see.”
He tore apart the tripod, stored it in the bed of his ATV and returned with a small canister. Carefully, he set the timer on it and dropped it in the hole. He hopped into the ATV and drove a short distance away. The concussion device served two purposes. The first was, when it went off, it destroyed the hole, preventing others from having an easy time of taking readings, and second, it sent off vibrations that reflected off the deeper layers in the ground to other sensors he had planted in various locations.
The sensors sent the information to his hand held device and a minute later, it had calculated a result from inputs he had given it. “This just keeps getting better and better.”
He inspected the ground before he left to make sure he left nothing behind and the landscape looked natural. Then he headed back to his camp, guiding the ATV carefully around the rocks and the trees. Once he got to an open area he accelerated, the whine of the six motors increasing as clouds of dirt rose behind him.
His camp looked the same and didn’t show any physical signs of disturbance, but when he checked the perimeter detector it showed that several objects had invaded the security area. That was not unexpected as he was near the river where creatures were likely to migrate to, but he decided he would check the visual later and see who his guests were.
Melvin did his routine check of the equipment and decided he wasn’t hungry yet for dinner. After a long drink of water, he headed to the river with his gun, in case of unexpected wildlife showing up. He stripped off his clothes and plunged into the river. For a few minutes, he dived under the water and swam the width. The water was slow moving and he wasn’t worried about losing his location where he entered from the river bank.
Dripping wet he gathered up his clothes and walked back to his shelter. Melvin sat naked in front of computer eating a bowl of stew as he studied the graphs and then the computer analysis of the results.
The perimeter alarm beeped. He touched the keyboard and saw a ghostly grey image of a creature lurking near the shelter. It was the height of a bear, but looked like a wolf with a long snout. He hesitated a moment and then grabbed his gun and stepped outside.
“Hey!” he shouted at the beast as he levelled his gun.
The creature took one look at him and bounded off.
Melvin lowered his gun and went back inside. “Damn cuttus. At least I might have scared him off from returning.” He put down his gun and pulled on a pair of jeans and then a T-shirt.
The next morning he headed east to do another series of tests. The work was slow partially due to the environment and partly because he didn’t want to make a mistake and have to do it over.
He did finish sooner than he expected and headed back to the camp, pleased he had only one more site to do. As was becoming his custom, he up loaded the data and checked the perimeter alarm, which showed only the usual small creatures had come through the area, except one. The video showed that, as well as the four-legged creatures, a human on an ATV had come within range of the sensors. The ATV, like his own unit, had a roof that supported a solar collection plate for the batteries. The image didn’t show much detail and the head was cut off by the roof, but showed the intruder was on the smaller size wearing nondescript coveralls. He decided it was likely another exploration team that happened across his campsite, but had not invaded his area when it was clear he was not around. He supposed that, since he had figured this was a good area to investigate, maybe someone else had come to same conclusion. Still, it was an odd coincidence that bothered him.
He pushed it from his mind and stripped down for a swim in the river, again taking his gun with him. The cool water felt good and he decided to linger a bit longer in the water. He floated on his back and let the minutes seep away from him.
“Are you going to stay in there all evening?”
Melvin dropped under water and came back out sputtering as he trod water. He looked at the shore and saw a woman with long dark hair smiling at him. She was wearing coveralls with a crest on the upper left pocket.
“Where the hell did you come from?” He looked at the slim woman. She had an oval face with mischievous blue eyes.
She pointed behind her. “Somewhere from over there. I was wondering if we can talk.”
“Sure.” He began to swim his way to the shore and stopped when his feet found the sandy bottom of the river. He stood up in the river with the water up to his waist.
“What did you want to talk about?”
“I think it’s better if we talk inside your shelter rather than shouting back and forth.”
He shrugged. “Sure. How about if you go away for a bit so I can get out of the water, and put some clothes on?”
She crossed her arms and pursed her lips as if in thought. “No, I don’t think so. I spied on you last evening so you’re not going to show me anything new. All the same I want to wait here.” She grinned.
Melvin sighed and then muttered to himself “You’re obviously not a Praxton female, absolutely no obedience.” He began to walk out of the water and hesitated as the water reached his groin.
“Don’t be shy. I know what being in the water does to the male ego.” “Funny.” He walked out of the water and looked closer at her. She looked amused as he picked up his rifle.
“Can I say: my, what a big gun you have?”
“No, you can say nothing.” He walked away.
“Is that a Praxton male order?” She laughed as she followed him.
Feeling annoyed Melvin quickly put on a pair of pants and a shirt in the shelter, noting she followed him inside without asking.
“Okay, now tell me what you want.” He looked at her again. She was wearing a collar, but he knew that was probably because it was difficult for a woman to travel around Praxton without one. She was without cuffs or the usual chains that most women on Praxton wore as fashion accessories, which confirmed to him she was not from Praxton nor had even been on the planet long.
“What I want to do, Mr. Taylor, is to make you a very generous offer for the mineral rights you hold in this area.” She gave him a friendly smile.
“Really now?” He looked at the crest on her pocket. “Now what would Provost Minerals and Resources consider a very generous offer?”
“You have the rights to almost five hundred square kilometres. We would be willing to pay you eight hundred Alliance standard dollars per square kilometre.”
“What is your name?”
“Donna Straus, I’m the executive director of resource acquirements.”
“Well Donna, and since you got to see me naked, I feel we can be a bit more personal here, your definition of a very generous offer is not the same as mine.”
“Melvin, I would be open to a counter offer of course. I have the power to negotiate a fair value for the rights. Please make me an offer and let’s see if we can conclude the transaction right now.”
“Twenty million dollars.”
She opened her mouth in surprise. “You can’t be serious.”
“As serious as you were with your low ball offer. Now why don’t you run along and talk it over with your boss?”
Her jaw clenched. “You’re acting this way because I’m a woman.”
“No, I’m acting this way because you’re acting like an arrogate jerk. You thought by catching me nude I’d be at a disadvantage and more receptive to accept your offer. You enter my campsite without an invitation and now you think I’m this way because you’re a female? No, I treat all assholes this way. Gender doesn’t matter.”
She stood several seconds without replying. “I apologize if I upset you then. Perhaps I acted too aggressively. I understand that Praxton males prefer the females to be a little more reserved and I’m sorry I didn’t follow the customs here.” She smiled. “But you’re a good looking man and I couldn’t resist meeting you this way.”
“Okay, apology accepted. But your offer isn’t. I suggest, strongly suggest, that you come up with an offer that I can seriously look at. I don’t like my time being wasted by a conglomerate that believes it can get something for nothing from some poor sap.”
“Very well, you have made your point. I will be in touch later.”
He watched her leave and drive off on an ATV. A second person, also wearing coveralls sat next to her. That passenger was much bigger than she was and Melvin assumed he was there for her protection in case the Praxton male got too aggressive. Melvin shook his head and went back inside the shelter.
The next day he completed his survey and tests. Once again, he came back to his camp feeling dirty. He thought it was likely they were observing him, but decided he was not going to change his ways because of their intrusion. He stripped drown and had his usual end of the day swim. Then he returned to his shelter and requested a pickup for the following morning, specifically to be piloted by Steve.
* * * *
The transport arrived on schedule, and with Steve’s help, Melvin was able to quickly load up everything. He was careful not to leave any traces behind in case an environment official checked afterwards for any disturbance to the local fauna.
“So was your work successful?”
“Yup, found what I hoped to see, even had a visitor from Provost Minerals.”
“Yeah, that reminds me. I did some checks and found that flyer was owned by the Seaview Group. They’re also into minerals.”
“Interesting… Well, it’s good to be going home. I’ve had enough of reheated packages for food and swimming in the river to bathe.”
Steve chuckled. “Yeah, but in a few months you’ll probably be longing to go camping again.”
Melvin laughed. “You know, you’ve got a good point there.”
* * * *
When Melvin entered the front door, Celestia and Aatun hurried from the living room to greet him, showering him with hugs and kisses. Helena stood behind them smiling, but with her hands on her hips.
Melvin noticed both were wearing dresses and a full compliment of cuffs and collars on with various light chains. Celestia was wearing a thick belt around her waist where the various chains were attached, while Aatun had the chains joining her cuffs together.
“You both look beautiful. I hope you didn’t cause Helena any trouble?” Helena answered for them. “Only the first evening, after that they didn’t dare misbehave.”
“Good. I’m hungry for some real food. Let me wash up and we can talk over dinner.”
Later, at the dining room table, Melvin told his tale. “So, I look up from the river and there is this off world woman staring at me from the shore.”
Aatun listened to Melvin relate the events and then put down her fork with a clatter. “What a rude, rude female. Doesn’t she have any manners? She isn’t supposed to look at you naked unless she’s wearing your collar. She was wearing a collar wasn’t she?”
“Yeah, but I suspect it was only so she could do business on Praxton.” “She might as well be a freelancer then.”
Celestia agreed. “These off world females don’t understand what is to be civilized. They should all take lessons on how to properly act.”
Helena cleared her throat. “I’m glad you two now recognize that.” She stood up. “Dessert everyone…?”
Melvin grinned. “Man it’s good to be back home.”
Celestia smiled. “It’s good to have you back. Helena really punished us for past indiscretions. I could hardly sit the next day, and poor Aatun was put in the cage overnight.”
“Maybe you needed that.”
Celestia pouted for a moment and then grinned. “I know we did. Helena told us we had taken advantage of your kindness and that was to stop.”
Aatun agreed. “We’ll be better behaved, though it would be nice if you would take the time to discipline us a bit now and then anyway. We like to have your attention.”
Helena brought in a tray holding four bowls of a brown and yellow mixture. She placed a bowl for Melvin first and then the others.
Celestia looked at Melvin. “Master Melvin, may I ask how your exploration trip went?”
“Of course, it went very well. The readings confirm there are considerable deposits underneath.”
“So what do you do now?”
“Probably sell the rights to some big exploration company.”
“Can I ask why exploration companies didn’t do what you did and find the deposits themselves? That way they wouldn’t have to pay you.”
“Couple of reasons… One, they didn’t look or do enough work to find out which parcel of land to buy the rights for. It’s expensive to buy the rights to a piece of land, and the requirement is to actively survey the land. That adds even more expense. So, the result is exploration is done conservatively. Two, once I obtain the rights to a parcel of land, they can’t use invasive methods to find out where and what the deposits are, such as drilling or setting off explosives. So they can’t find out how big the deposit is and if it extends into neighbouring parcels of land. The Ministry of Environment and Resource Management is unlikely to grant permits on the surrounding the area. They don’t want to cause excessive disturbance of the natural environment, especially since the Alliance Worlds are carefully monitoring what we do.”
“So they’re handcuffed what they can do.”
“Yup, I’m holding all the cards as far as what’s down there.”
Aatun took a final bite of her desert. “But why that parcel of land? It sounds like they were following you.”
“They were.” He frowned. “I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but the fact is I have a reputation for finding areas worth digging for. When they got wind that I bought the rights to it, they decided to follow me. They think it will be cheaper to buy the rights from me than to have their own crews do a hit and miss.”
“So are you going to sell to them?”
“I will sell, but maybe not to them. They’ve got to ante up the offer a whole bunch first.”
Celestia stood and reached for his hand. “May I ask you to sit with us in the entertainment room? One of our favourite programs is on.”
“Sure. What show is it?”
“Fashion Time and Places…”
He groaned. “I’m here only a few hours and you’ve already tricked me.” Aatun giggled. “Oh come on. There’s lots of nudity in the show. I’m sure you can survive that.”
“Nudity? Now that’s a fashion statement I like.

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Domingo’s Angel
by Jenny Twist

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 9781612352022
Print ISBN: 978-1-61235-202-2

When Angela turns up in a remote Spanish mountain village, she is so tall and so thin and so pale that everyone thinks she is a ghost or a fairy or the dreadful mantequero that comes in the night and sucks the fat from your bones.

But Domingo knows better. “Soy Angela,” she said to him when they met – “I am an angel.” Only later did he realise that she was telling him her name and by then it was too late and everyone knew her as Domingo’s Angel.

Chapter One

When Domingo walked into the square, all the world was there. The tables and chairs from the Plaza Bar were all occupied and the people living round about had brought their own tables and chairs outside. Even so, there were people sitting on the church steps and on the rim of the troughs for the washhouse.
“What is happening?” asked Domingo, but nobody took any notice.
He walked into the bar.
“What is happening?” he asked.
Limping Pepe looked up and grinned with delight at Domingo. Abandoning the customers at the other end of the bar, he came over and said, “The strange woman came into the village today. The foreigner who has bought the smallest casita of Guillermo the mayor for 200 thousand pesetas. She is as tall as a house and her skin is so white she looks like a dead person, and her hair is the colour of oranges, AND…” here he paused for effect, happily ignoring the customers at the other end of the bar, who were becoming a little restless, “she cannot speak like a proper human being, but barks like a dog!”
Domingo blinked, but did not comment.
“She went into the shop of Rosalba and began to bark at her. Rosalba did not know what to do.”
Briefly, Domingo struggled with the concept of Rosalba not knowing what to do, then dismissed the thought for later consideration.
“And then, you cannot guess what she did next”. Giving Domingo no opportunity to guess, he went on. “She got out a book of spells and began to enchant Rosalba, and Rosalba threw her apron over her head and ran out into the street!”
He stood back and folded his arms with a self-satisfied smirk. “What do you think of that?”
Doming did not know what to think. “I will have a vino del terreno,” he said.
Outside in the square Rosalba was clearly telling her story for the umpteenth time, miming throwing her apron over her head and assuming an expression of absolute terror. She was surrounded by admiring villagers wearing satisfyingly horrified expressions. At the next table were Pepe the water, Salva the baker and Rafa the fish.
“I tell you she has to be a dead person”, said Rafa. “No living person could have skin so white. She is either a ghost, or a corpse, or a mantequero who will come in the night and suck all the fat from our bodies.”
“Perhaps she is a fairy”, remarked Salva. “They cannot speak the language of mortal men. If she is a dead person why can’t she speak like a Christian?”
Rafa gave him a withering look. “I don’t know where you get all this rubbish from. Whoever said fairies can’t speak?”
Salva subsided for a moment whilst he desperately tried to remember where he had heard it.
“More likely,” said Pepe the water, “she is a witch. Otherwise how do you account for the book of spells?”
Domingo sat on the corner of the horse trough only half-listening. He was thinking of the 200 thousand pesetas. He himself owned three very fine casitas, each one larger and more beautiful than the smallest casita of Guillermo the mayor. He was thinking of what he could buy with 200 thousand pesetas.
****
The next day he took his goats to the top of the ridge near the pass and looked down on the smallest casita of Guillermo the mayor. There was a mule tethered outside and a string of washing had been hung between two almond trees. Otherwise there was no sign of life. Halfway down the slope was a large algarrobo tree. He decided it would be an ideal place for lunch.
But although he sat and watched the little house all the time as he ate his bread and cheese and olives and drank his wine, nobody came out and nothing happened. Only the mule moved along the side of the house to keep in the shade as the sun moved round. So he went to sleep.
When he woke up, someone was calling him. “Hola, goatherd!”
He squinted up into the sun and there, standing before him was an angel. It was very tall and thin and there was a fiery halo round its head. “Hello,” it said, “Soy Ángela – I am angel. I am delighted to meet you! Who are you?”
In absolute panic, Domingo shot up into a sitting position and shuffled backwards into the algarrobo tree. His head hit the hard trunk with a resounding crack and he subsided, and slumped back down, feeling a little stunned.
The angel came forward into the shadow of the algarrobo tree and he realised that the halo was, in fact, hair – very long hair – falling in waves down beyond her shoulders and almost to her waist. It was exactly the colour of oranges that have dried on the tree. Her skin was so white it was almost blue and her eyes were so pale they had no colour at all. “How could they think she was a dead person?” he thought in a confused fashion. “She is obviously an angel.”
****
Later that evening he went into the shop of Rosalba.
“I have met the foreign woman.” He announced. “She is not a dead person or a witch. She does not bark like a dog, but is trying to speak like a human being. She is, in fact, an angel.”
Rosalba glared at him from behind the counter. “You are a very stupid boy,” she said, “and you do not know what you are talking about.”
However, that Sunday after mass, Rosalba was seen to be scrutinising very closely the statue of the angel at the right hand side of the altar. It was very tall and thin, had long, waving hair streaming out behind it and it was carrying an open book.
“Hmmph!” said Rosalba, pretending not to be impressed, and stalked out of the church. As she passed Domingo, she asked, loud enough for the whole world to hear, “If she is an angel, why does she not go to mass like a proper Christian?”
Domingo hung his head in shame and confusion. He had been asking himself the same question.
****
All week he wondered about the angel. He wondered whether she was one of those angels who had turned against God and been thrown down from heaven. He did not want this to be the case. He felt that she was his own special angel and he did not want her to be inferior in any way. He kept thinking about her orange hair and her white skin and her strange, colourless eyes. He could, in fact, think of nothing else.
When the next Sunday she did not come to mass again, he endured the triumphant gaze of Rosalba and vowed that he would look for his angel and ask her.
****
When he came down the ridge, she was standing behind the little house, digging with a mattock. She didn’t seem to be making much impression. It was July and the ground was like iron.
Nervously, he cleared his throat. “Hola, Angel!” he cried.
The angel looked up and waved. He carried on down the slope to the casita.
“I have brought some wine,” he said, and pulled a full wineskin out of his pouch.
“How nice,” said the angel. “I would like to thank you, but, although you know my name, I do not know yours. Last time we met you left without introducing yourself.”
Domingo looked down at his feet and felt his skin go hot. “I am sorry,” he said. “But now I have brought you wine and we will drink together, no?” He thrust the wineskin at the angel and she laughed and said. “I would love to, but come round to the front and we will drink from glasses.”
He followed her docilely round the side of the house, carrying his wineskin. When she laughed, she did not sound like a dog barking, but like a little silver bell. Her teeth were tiny and very white, like pearls, and her eyes, he noticed, were not colourless at all but were the colour of the sea moving in sunlight, blue and green and grey, with little flecks of sunshine on the surface.
They sat down and she brought glasses, and when the wine had been poured, she laughed again, raised her glass and said, “Good health to you, stranger.”
He looked round, wondering who she was talking to, and then realised she meant him.
“But you are the stranger,” he began to say, before he realised what she meant and began to laugh himself.
“My name is Domingo García Guerrero,” he said, “but I am known as Domingo goatherd because there are three other Domingos in the village.”
“Really?” she was fascinated, “and what do they call the other three?”
“Domingo mule driver, Domingo two fingers and Domingo of the valley,” he said.
She laughed again. “That is wonderful, Domingo goatherd,” she said. I am very pleased to meet you. Would you like to stay to lunch?”
****
They ate bread and cheese and olives and the angel brought out sausage and tomatoes and onions from the house, and all the time they ate they talked. Domingo told her about the people of the village, about Rosalba, who ran the shop and who was really in charge of everything else, whatever the mayor might think. About Limping Pepe, who was lame in his left leg because his wife caught him in bed with the wife of the blacksmith one day and thrashed them both with a pitchfork handle. The blacksmith’s wife had run screaming from the village and was never seen again.
At one point the angel went into the house and brought out a book. Domingo shrank back in terror and she put out a hand to restrain him.
“What is the matter, Domingo? Why are you afraid?”
Domingo covered his eyes with both hands and cried, “Please, Angel, do not cast a spell on me!”
The angel gave him an incredulous look and then repeated what he said very slowly and carefully – “Hechizo?”
She opened her book and muttered to herself, “It doesn’t begin with E, it must be H. Ah, yes, here it is. Spell! A spell! Domingo, you think this is a book of spells?”
Domingo nodded dumbly.
The angel explained. “This book has all the words in Angelish and Spanish. When I do not know the word in Spanish, I look in the book and it tells me. Do you see? Look!”
She held the book towards him and he gave it a quick, nervous peek. Inside were white sheets with tiny black shapes on them, like insects. It did not seem to talk at all.
“Yes,” he said, “I see. “
****
Eventually, when they were both a little sleepy with the wine and the food, he asked her.
“Angel,” he said, “are you the kind of angel that has fallen down from heaven and come to live among mortal men?”
She turned to him, and a soft pink blush rose from her neck and spread across her cheeks. “Why, Domingo, what a lovely thing to say!”
He was so confused by this peculiar answer that he relapsed into silence. And he found that he was looking into her eyes, those strange watery eyes, swirling greens and blues and greys, and he felt that he was drowning in them. She leaned toward him and he could smell her hair. It smelt of citrus blossom. “Oranges,” he thought, “It smells of oranges.” But he did not speak, and afterwards he could not remember whether she came to him or he to her, only that he realised that she might be a witch or a fairy, but she was certainly not a dead person. And he suspected he might be wrong about the angel as well.

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Take One At Bedtime
by Jenny Twist

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: None Given
Print ISBN: 978-1-61235-064-6

Nobody ever goes upstairs in Margaret’s house. So what is making the strange thumping noises up there? And why is there a toy rabbit under the kitchen table? Margaret’s Ghost is just one of a collection of short stories including the romance tales A Castle in Spain and Jess’s Girl.

Author’s Note: Below is one full story from this collection.
Jess’s Girl

“Good God, it’s Jess’s girl.”
Robyn looked up. The man approaching her across the hotel lobby was wearing a morning suit and a button-hole, so he must be one of the wedding guests, but she didn’t recall ever having seen him before. Of course, she didn’t know all of Brenda’s friends.
She stood up, feeling perplexed, and the man put out his hand.
“Sorry, sorry, you don’t know me. Colin Williams, Jess’s friend. You must think I’m barking mad. It’s just I’ve always wanted to meet you. You won’t believe this, but I’ve been carrying your picture around with me for the last two years.”
He fumbled in his pocket and brought out a rather shabby leather wallet, flipped it open, extracted a snapshot and handed it to Robyn.
She breathed in sharply and abruptly sat down again.
****
It was Jess. Jess and her at the party. She in a schoolgirl’s outfit, he in flowing Arab robes. They were both laughing.
A great wave of longing swept over her as she looked at his face in the photograph. It was as powerful as if she had only seen him yesterday.
“I don’t suppose you remember,” Colin said and was shocked at the wounded look that came into her eyes.
Of course she remembered. She had been remembering for fifteen years. The night of the fancy dress party….
****
She hadn’t even wanted to go. It was Brenda who had wanted to go, the same Brenda who had got married this afternoon. At that time she had been in pursuit of some chap – Todd? Toby? Robyn couldn’t remember. Nothing came of it anyway.
But Brenda had persuaded her to devote her precious once-a-week night out with the girls to some stupid student party in some revolting student flat with mis-matched, rickety furniture and vile wallpaper.
And now Brenda had disappeared into the smoky interstices of the flat, leaving her alone amongst a crowd of people she didn’t know and didn’t want to know.
It was a typical student party. Far too many people crowded in a small space, smoking and clutching cans of beer. There was even the mandatory group of medics, two of them dressed in surgical gowns and masks, eagerly reciting the “Dead Parrot” sketch.
She felt too old for this. She was, in fact, the same age as most of these students, but marriage and motherhood had set her apart, made her more mature.
If she hadn’t met Neil in her last year at school and fatefully got pregnant, she would have been one of these carefree students, having intense discussions about obscure topics.
She didn’t regret missing it. It all seemed a bit puerile now. And she loved Neil and the baby of course…
She looked up and her eye fell upon a man dressed as an Arab. His outfit didn’t have the hastily–assembled look of most of the others. In fact, if not for his fair hair and blue eyes, he could have been mistaken for a genuine Arab.
He looked up and their eyes met, and something passed between them – some connection. His eyes widened in surprise and he began walking towards her, still holding her gaze. She found herself unable to look away and was gripped by a mild panic.
But all that happened was he said, in a perfectly pleasant and ordinary voice, “Is there room for another on that sofa?”
She gave the sofa a dubious look. “There’s room,” she said, surprised at how normal her voice sounded, “but whether it can support the extra weight is another matter.”
He laughed and sat down. The sofa creaked alarmingly and lurched slightly, but remained intact.
“That looks genuine. Is it?” she said, indicating his robe.
The man looked down. “Oh, the Djellaba?” he said. “Yeah, I lived in Morocco for a while.”
“It would be entirely convincing if your beard was darker,” she said, thinking she was being clever.
He met her eyes and again that strange communication passed between them, almost like an electric current.
“Oh, but there are Arabs with fair colouring,” he said. “The Berbers.”
****
He went on to tell her about his travels in Spain and Africa. He was a good teller of tales. Amusing and erudite. She listened, fascinated.
And he seemed equally fascinated by her life, her marriage to Neil, her frustrated hopes for university, the baby. He asked questions and watched her face as she spoke. He made her feel as if she were the only person in the world.
They discussed politics and religion, told anecdotes about people they knew. They were as intense as the others around them. And they laughed a lot.
They found their respective names hilarious – Jess and Robyn – he with a girl’s name, she with a boy’s. “We wouldn’t half confuse people if we were a couple,” Jess said, and Robyn shivered with secret pleasure at the idea.
When she told him she was married she thought he winced slightly, but the expression was gone before she could be sure, and she wondered if she had imagined it.
“Do you love him?” he asked.
“Of course I love him,” she replied hotly. “I wouldn’t have married him otherwise.”
Jess smiled. “Well, people do,” he said gently.
And she wondered to herself at how hard it had been to say that to Jess. To tell him that she loved her husband. As if she were justifying herself. As if she didn’t love him. But she did. Of course she did.
And all the time they were talking she was aware of that connection between them. They were sitting side by side, not touching and she felt an overwhelming need to touch him, just brush her hand against his, perhaps. But she also felt that it was dangerous. That they both knew that if they touched something irrevocable would happen. That they would lose control. But neither of them acknowledged it.
And as they talked she ached with longing and did nothing.
****
Later he said, “You’re going to have to do it, you know.”
“Do what?” she had asked, somewhat alarmed.
“Go to university.”
She started to shake her head, but he carried on. “If you don’t, you will come to resent them, your nice husband and your lovely child. Because they stopped you from finding out what you are capable of. You have to do it for them as well as you.”
He leant forward, as if he was going to take her hand and she drew in her breath sharply. But he pulled his hand back as if from a flame.
“I must go,” he said abruptly, stood up and walked out of the room. He didn’t look back. He just left.
And she watched him go in an agony of indecision. She wanted to run after him. Call to him to come back. Tell him she was wrong. She didn’t love her husband. She loved him, Jess. Just like in all the best Mills & Boon novels. Love at first sight. Love that throws all caution to the wind.
But she did none of those things. She sat and waited for Brenda to come back. And she said nothing. Because her voice was full of tears.
****
And Jess had haunted her ever since.
When she went on holiday to Spain with Neil, she had thought how much better it would have been with Jess. Jess would have known stuff. He would have been able to speak to the natives. He would have known interesting things to see. They wouldn’t have spent the entire fortnight on the beach. They’d have gone exploring.
When she went to university she thought how much she would have loved to share it with Jess. Jess would have understood why she had to do it and encouraged her. Jess would have had interesting insights.
And at night she thought of Jess, wondering how it would have been with him, this man she had never even touched.
And when, at last, Neil left her for another woman, despite her outrage and distress, her first thought was, “I could have had Jess. I stayed with you when I could have had Jess.”
But, of course, she didn’t know that. She would never know whether he had felt the same. Because nothing had happened.
****
“Nothing happened,” she said, looking at Colin through tears. “Nothing happened.”
As if it mattered. As if anyone cared in this day and age about the sanctity of marriage and sense of duty. Why should she care what he thought anyway?
“I know,” he said. “I know all about the nothing that happened. Jess and I were really close. He came back to my place after the party and he said, ‘Tonight I met the woman I want to marry, and she’s married to someone else.’ And he wept.”
Robyn felt a mad surge of joy. She wanted to kiss this kind man, this stranger who had told her what she had always wanted to know.
“I told him to go back and find you,” Colin said. “I told him to try and persuade you. That he might never meet another woman who would measure up. That he had to at least try.” He paused. “But he refused. He said you loved your husband and he had no right to interfere. He was, you know, honourable – an honourable man. And later,” he went on, “when I had the pictures developed, I found this one of you together and he kept it. It’s been all over the world, that picture.”
A dreadful thought suddenly crossed Robyn’s mind. “So why have you got it now?” she asked. “He’s not…”
Colin smiled. “It’s OK. Nothing’s happened to him. He gave it back to me when he got engaged. He said it wasn’t fair to his wife to keep it and he couldn’t bear to destroy it.”
The pain was so great she couldn’t breathe. It was huge, overwhelming. “He’s married?” she whispered.
Colin said something, but she didn’t hear. Because she felt something. She knew before she looked up. He was here, coming through the doorway with a small child on his shoulder and a women walking beside him.
He was incongruously dressed in a formal suit and his hair and beard were shorter, with just a touch of grey. But otherwise he looked exactly the same.
He saw her and stopped in mid-stride so suddenly that he almost dislodged the child. His hand went up automatically to steady him, then he gently lifted the child down, put him on his feet and began striding towards her.
“You!” he said, his voice low and fierce, sounding almost like a threat.
She put her hands up as if to ward him off.
Then she turned away in agony and met the eyes of the woman who had come in with Jess.
She smiled. “You must be Jess’s girl. The one in the photograph. You haven’t changed much. I’m Wendy, Colin’s wife.”
Colin’s wife? I thought…” Robyn stopped in confusion.
The little boy had climbed on Colin’s knee and was saying, “Look what Uncle Jess bought me, Dad.”
Robyn managed to smile. “I’m sorry, I assumed you were Jess’s wife.”
Wendy looked confused.
Colin said, “He didn’t go through with it, Robyn. That’s what I was trying to tell you. He said it wasn’t fair on her. She could only ever be second best.”
Jess was still standing over her, his face a mask of despair.
“I’m divorced, Jess,” she said. Her voice came out in a rusty whisper and she was afraid he hadn’t heard her. She started to clear her throat to try again.
But he bent over and swept her up into his arms in one easy movement. And it happened, just as she had always imagined it would, a rush of pleasure as her whole body rejoiced in holding him. Jess gave a low moan and tightened his grip.
“I love you,” he said. “I have always loved you, from the moment I first saw you in that ridiculous schoolgirl’s outfit with your hair in bunches.”
Robyn was looking up at him, laughing and crying at the same time. “Me too,” she said.
Unnoticed, a small piece of paper fluttered to the ground and Colin bent to pick it up.
“I don’t suppose he´ll be needing this now,” he said, tucking the photograph back in his wallet.

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Banish The Dragon
by D.L. Robinson

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61235-008-0

Forced to choose an English bride, Simon Radcliffe marries the beautiful Katherine Maguire but it’s his cousin Jonathan who saves Katherine, time and again, from ravishment. Months later, the marriage annulled, Katherine travels from Seven Oaks plantation to Carlyle, New York, where she finds love and Jonathan Radcliffe, slayer of dragons.

Chapter One

Two men met in a small village, too distant to be swallowed up by the ever-expanding city of London. The day, cold and gloomy, mirrored the mood of the two as together they approached the beckoning warmth of the alehouse. Pushing the heavy wooden door open, the two eyed those already gathered together for their evening pint and a chance to exchange views on the vagaries of life. An inviting fire crackled in the hearth, the flames dancing wildly as a small gust of wind blew across the room at the opening of the portal.
A momentary lull in a myriad of conversations fell over the smoke-filled room as the shorter of the two strangers stepped hesitantly inside, pausing briefly in the doorway. Good-natured glances containing only mild curiosity were directed at the new arrivals, for the villagers were accustomed to travelers halting temporarily in their quiet hamlet. Finding nothing noteworthy about either, the villagers soon returned to the business of enjoying their ale and the camaraderie of their fellow merrymakers.
Lord Talbot, a portly figure of a man, stepped forward into the dimly lit room, brushing fussily at the droplets of rain on his woolen cloak. A ruddy complexion overpowered his thinning ginger-colored hair and wispy moustache. Pale eyes swept the room, seeking a private corner and, upon spying such a nook, haughtily beckoned the daunting figure who waited, unmoving, behind him. He struck out across the room, weaving his way through the closely packed benches and tables until he reached the corner he sought, hoping the whole distasteful business could be conducted without interruption.
Tall and imposing, the second man lingered in the doorway a moment before following his companion. He absently used his hat to brush away the raindrops that still clung to his cloak, revealing a head of blond curls and an arrogant expression on his handsome face, dominated by cold blue eyes. He surveyed his surroundings and, finding nothing untoward, crossed the room, carrying himself with an air of nonchalant grace. Broad shoulders and long legs completed the picture of a man not to be trifled with.
The remoteness of their scarred table discouraged the rowdier patrons from attempting to join their hushed conversation, should any of them have been so inclined, and both men felt safeguarded from anyone imprudent enough to eavesdrop. A nod to the tavern keeper soon had a bottle of wine delivered to their table by a buxom barmaid who, although long past the age of comeliness, still entertained a distant hope of earning a shilling or two from either of the two richly garbed gentlemen. Coins were paid for the bottle and the disappointed barmaid was curtly dismissed as the two fell into earnest conversation, oblivious to the raucous din of the room.
The older of the two peered apprehensively at the younger man, nervously licking his thin, dry lips before speaking.
“Now sir, I have spoken to my wife and she, well, let me just say only that she went into transports of joy when I explained your dilemma.” The blond head nodded slightly but offered no other encouragement. Stuttering nervously, Lord Talbot continued. “I told her only of your urgent need of a wife. I, ah, well, I made no mention of how we came to meet—nor shall I. And I am trusting you, sir, on your word as a gentleman, to return my markers, discretely mind you, once the marriage vows are spoken.”
Having finished speaking, Lord Talbot mopped his damp brow with a wrinkled handkerchief. His face had taken on an even pinker hue than the one he normally exhibited, and through thinning strands of hair, beads of perspiration could be seen, despite the relative coolness of their poorly lit corner. His pudgy fingers toyed nervously with wispy strands of his moustache as he waited on the younger man’s reply.
The blond head, after slight deliberation, wordlessly nodded his agreement. In the dim light, Lord Talbot could barely discern the younger man’s eyes, but as he had already gazed into their icy blue depths in a London gaming room four days prior, he was reluctant to be regarded again in so chilling a manner. Again mopping his brow, he leaned back, satisfied with the precise presentation of his proposal, having rehearsed it repeatedly on the long ride from Marlow Court to the city. He had suffered a sense of panic when at first he couldn’t locate the man but as the day progressed, he had chanced upon the Yankee’s cousin, who had directed him onward, and now here they were and the deal was all but done.
The younger man spoke, quietly but with the assurance that his words would be heeded.
“You do understand my terms, Lord Talbot? The girl must be unencumbered by kin, no matter how distant the connection. I’ll have no long-lost aunt or cousin knocking at my door in either the near or distant future, seeking my financial assistance so they might live out their mundane lives in comfort, with no effort on their part.”
“Yes, yes, my dear sir, I do assure you the girl is an orphan—totally alone in the world.” He cleared his throat nervously, annoyed at the ominous threat the man seemed to exert over him, and continued, “Why, it was only when I returned home these two days past that I learned my Uncle Hector’s widow had died. I arrived just in time to attend the burial and it was lucky I did. My tenants would have held such an affront against me and I need their support if I am to rebuild the fortunes of the estate.” He paused as he gathered his thoughts.
“You see, sir, the property was entailed and as the closest male heir, I am now Lord Granville Talbot of Marlow Court.” He smiled weakly before continuing, sensing that the Yankee was unimpressed with either his title or his holdings. “I felt I had to show deference to the villagers on the loss of their beloved lady and to ensure them that the future of her great-niece, even though the girl, who is no kin of mine, was being looked after.” He paused as he poured the last of the wine into his glass. “It was at that precise moment, sir, standing by her grave, that I recalled your conversation from our previous meeting and knew the sound I was hearing was opportunity knocking.” Again he dabbed at the beads of perspiration that had formed on his brow.
“The girl’s parents apparently died of some pestilence years ago in Ireland, leaving their only child an orphan. At that point in time, she had only one relative in the world, her great aunt, Maude, my Uncle Hector’s wife. The girl’s parents had lived in relative obscurity in their crumbling manor, almost penniless and living hand-to-mouth, and what little was left of their estate went toward paying off debts. The village priest, seizing the chance to rid his parish of unwanted baggage, packed the girl off to England posthaste. Hector and Maude, who were childless by the way, cheerfully took her in, raising her as if she were their own beloved daughter.”
The man rambled on, his companion listening absently. “Uncle Hector did not appear to begrudge the addition to his household. Since the death of their only child, a son, these many years past, the two of them have simply rattled aimlessly around the manor, taking little interest in the land or the village until this piece of Irish baggage arrived. In his correspondence with my father, Uncle Hector claimed the girl was just the breath of fresh air he and Lady Maude needed. Although my inheritance was secure, the doddering old fool lived years longer than he should have before departing this world.
“Now, as to her lack of dowry, sir. My uncle was not the wisest of managers and consequently nothing was put aside in the way of coin for the girl’s future. I might be able to manage a small purse but with all the expenses in recent months, it would be very modest indeed. As I’ve already made clear, the girl is no kin of mine and I feel no responsibility for her. Truth be told, Mr. Radcliffe, she’s been a thorn in my side since our arrival at Marlow Court.” Looking up, he hoped he hadn’t spoken too freely, giving the man cause to have second thoughts. Hoping to entice him further, he carried on, “I must admit, sir, the girl is a rare beauty. I suspect this is the reason my wife is so eager to be rid of her.”
He sighed deeply. “Our union has been blessed with both a son and a daughter, making my wife’s worries two-fold. Firstly that our son, who is obviously smitten by the girl, dreams of claiming her for his wife, a disaster not to be borne according to my Hester.” He took a long drink, wiping his mouth fastidiously with an already stained corner of his sleeve before resuming his narrative. “And secondly, as long as such a comely maid resides in our village, no suitor from the surrounding countryside will come seeking our daughter’s hand, for once a man lays eyes on the Irish lass, no dowry would likely be large enough to attract an offer of marriage for our Fiona.”
Admitting such worries to a stranger made Lord Talbot feel disloyal to his family but, knew he’d see the truth of things soon enough when he claimed his bride.
“Rest easy, Lord Talbot. The lack of a dowry is of no concern to me. And if she causes me trouble, well, I believe I am capable of managing my as yet unmet young bride.”
Lord Talbot leaned back, again pulling at strands of his moustache. He pushed the twinge of conscience he was feeling to the back of his mind, refusing to dwell on what fate he might be sentencing an innocent and defenseless girl. No matter, it was none of his concern he silently argued with himself. The girl would travel to the Yankee’s home, far away from England and his own peaceful hearth; at least it would be peaceful once the chit was gone. And she wouldn’t be in need, judging from the quality of the garments this American wore.
Pushing his chair back, the elder of the two stood, swaying ever so slightly, having drained the contents of the bottle almost singlehandedly. “I must be away, sir, if I hope to reach Marlow Court this night.”
“Lord Talbot?” The Yankee stood, dwarfing the rotund figure, forcing him to look up at him, a necessity Lord Talbot had come to despise. “I have business to attend to in the morning and so will leave London sometime in the afternoon. My cousin, Jonathan Radcliffe, will be accompanying me. I would have the marriage vows spoken the following morning, and the three of us will depart immediately after. I realize it will not be the wedding that a young girl dreams of but to do more would be a travesty, do you not agree, milord?”
The shorter man nodded his head in silent agreement.
The two donned their cloaks and hats, their departure causing as little stir amongst the other patrons as their arrival had. Walking in silence in the misty drizzle toward Lord Talbot’s carriage, the younger man touched the brim of his hat in a curt gesture of farewell before continuing on to the stable where his own horse waited. As the softly falling rain turned into a downpour, Simon Radcliffe huddled at the stable entrance. He allowed his thoughts to wander, not to his as yet unknown bride but to the only woman he would ever love and who even now waited patiently for him to return to her side and a lifetime together with none to say them nay.
* * * *
As Simon lingered in the doorway waiting for the deluge to stop, an unbearable wave of longing swept over him as he recalled the last time he had seen Juliana. She had been magnificent that day, furiously pacing the confines of her bedchamber, putting him in mind of some fierce ancient female warrior as she ranted in angry tirades about the unfairness of life, and cursing the unforgiving nature of his grandfather. Her beautiful breasts had bounced with each step taken, her waist curving alluringly inward, full hips tapering into long, shapely legs, satiny skin tempting him to reach out and touch it. Her face was regally, arrogantly beautiful, eyes darkening dangerously. Her unbound flaxen tresses had tumbled carelessly down her back. Her nature was volatile but Simon counted that as part of her charm, knowing he would never be bored by such a woman.
He had watched her hungrily as she strode the length of the room, lace curtains fluttering each time she passed the windows, unconcerned that she hadn’t a stitch on. And after all, who would dare enter Juliana’s chamber uninvited? No visitor certainly, and there were only a handful of slaves left on what had once been a rich, thriving plantation, yet another reason for her to hate Samuel Langtree. Simon mused that if the old man hadn’t been so vindictive over a trifling slur spoken so long ago, real or imagined, Juliana’s father might still be alive and managing a successful plantation. Instead, his heart had failed and she had inherited a small plot of land on which stood the home she been born in but was now rapidly turning into a house desperately in need of skilful carpentry and a coat of paint.
She had paused in her rage and gazed down at him, his nudity casually covered by a white cotton sheet. “Simon, while you continue to knuckle under to that old man, I’ve been planning our future.” She fell onto the bed, calculatingly nuzzling his neck in a way that drove him to distraction, knowing that she needed him to be not only compliant but a willing participant in the undertaking she was about to propose. And it was a plan not without risk. As he hungrily reached for her, she slapped his hand playfully, bouncing off the bed and crossed the room, out of his reach. Speaking sharply, she commanded him to sit up and listen, for if this gambit failed, there would be no hope for a future together. Recognizing the threat in her words, he wrapped the sheet modestly around himself and moved to a small chair, warily nodding for her to continue.
“Your grandfather threatens that, if you don’t immediately set sail for England in search of a bride, a proper English one, not only will you inherit nothing but he will have succeeded in his desire to thwart our wish to wed, for we would both be penniless, a state neither of us could ever be happy with.” She paused, collecting her thoughts before continuing. “Well, what if you follow his decree but change it slightly to suit you? Strike a bargain with him that you will accede to his demands but if the opportunity ever arises for a second marriage, it will be to one of your own choosing, and it will be with his blessing.”
At his puzzled look, she perched on the bed, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “What if you indeed seek out such a bride but with a stipulation that he would know nothing about? Find an orphan, a nobody, with no family whatsoever, and no chance of anyone seeking her out, ever!” She paused, trying to gauge his reaction before continuing, her arm thrown dramatically across her forehead. “Wed her, have it witnessed that you bedded her, and then, as you’re sailing home, tragedy strikes! She’s swept overboard.” Breathless, she stopped speaking, anxiously awaiting his reaction.
Blue eyes widened in astonishment as he considered her scheme. Stunned, he could only gape at her, slack-jawed.
“Juliana,” he whispered, “What you’re proposing is murder!”
Simon, stunned, sat back and crossed his legs, turning his thoughts deeply inward. He wasn’t a religious man but he feared the threat an omnipotent god posed, sitting in judgment on him when he had breathed his last. And surely murder would send him to hell! But looking across the room at Juliana, Simon knew he would find hell right here on earth if he couldn’t spend his life with her.
She rushed to him, crushing her breasts against his naked chest, smothering his protesting lips with hot, feverish kisses. “No, no, my darling Simon, not murder,” she whispered conspiratorially, “consider that this poor waif, alone in the world, would most likely welcome the opportunity to rejoin her parents, who, having sadly departed this world, are awaiting her in the next.”
He paused, weighing her words. “How am I to bring about this chance wave sweeping her overboard? I don’t relish being a victim of shipboard justice.”
“Hire a sailor to do the actual deed, my love. I’m sure that, once aboard, you’ll soon find at least one such creature, a man willing to do anything for a coin or two.”
With her plan laid out before him, she was suddenly unsure that she could bend him to her will and so she had lured him back to her bed and soon, in the throes of his passion, he had eagerly agreed to all she desired. And now here he was, in England and on his way to fulfilling the first part of Juliana’s plan. Shaking his head in wonder that he ever agreed to be a party to such an undertaking, he mounted his horse, ignoring the rain that continued to fall as he made his way back to his room.
* * * *
The clock had just struck the hour when the carriage door creaked open and Lord Talbot sleepily ascended. The heavy door of the manor swung open as he tiredly mounted the steps and the formidable figure of his wife stepped out, holding a candle to light the way. “Well, Granville, what news?” Her tone was harsh and demanding. “Were you able to find the Yankee? Has an agreement been reached?”
Motioning toward the driver who continued to stand within earshot, he shook his head warningly. “Not now, my dear. Let us retire to our chamber where we will be assured privacy and I promise to recount all details of my journey. And have some food sent up, for I am much famished. Why, if you can believe it, I haven’t eaten since I set out this morning.” This last was spoken with some degree of surprise for Lord Talbot never willingly missed a meal.
A hovering servant was dispatched to fetch whatever was readily available from the kitchen while the couple silently climbed the wide, curving staircase. If Granville Talbot cut a comical figure with his lack of height, balding head atop a portly frame and mottled complexion testifying to his fondness for liquor, his wife was the complete opposite. Hers’ was a figure of epic proportions, taller than her husband by several inches and large framed, her bosom enormous but restrained beneath her gown, hips wide and swaying. Unsightly frizzled brown hair, streaked generously with grey, was pulled back into a tight knot; small close-set dark eyes peered suspiciously out at the world and its inhabitants, her face an unbecoming shade of pink, wearing a perpetually dissatisfied look. Thin lips seemed always to be pursed in an expression of contempt for those beneath her socially and, it was gossiped around the servants’ dining table, that since her arrival at Marlow Court, not one of them had received a kind word or witnessed even the most fleeting of smiles across her countenance, unless such a happening was directed at either of her children.
The two entered their bedchamber with few words exchanged between them. Lord Talbot strode to the fireplace and laid another log on the dying embers, chasing the bone-chilling dampness from the chamber. Lady Talbot crossed the room and drew the heavy draperies across the windows, shutting out the gloomy night. A hesitant knock signaled the arrival of the much-anticipated meal and, with a nod from her mistress, the servant set the laden tray on a small table and hastily departed.
With the closing of the door, the tirade began. Lady Talbot paced the confines of the room as she unrelentingly peppered her husband with questions while he tucked into a chunk of roast beef. Tearing hungrily into the meat, he impatiently motioned to a chair opposite his.
“Hester, do sit down!” he snapped. “You weary me with your ceaseless treading about the room and never-ending questions. I’ll tell you everything but I beg of you, let me eat.”
Taken aback by his sharp tone, she sat down heavily, harrumphing her displeasure but daring to say no more at present. Clasping her hands tightly together lest they reveal the impatience she was suffering, she sipped occasionally from the wine he had poured her as she waited for his appetite to be appeased. Eventually, he pushed his empty plate away and sat back, replete, his wine close to hand. He recited the events of the day as well as he could recall, and the two contemplated the anticipated outcome.
Suddenly Lady Hester shot out of her chair. Shifting impatiently, she fixed her flashing eyes on the drooping lids of her husband’s. “The girl! We must see to the girl now, without delay!”
Stunned, her husband raised his tired eyes questioningly at the virago to whom he was wed. “Why must we do anything? The Yankee said he wasn’t leaving the city until sometime tomorrow afternoon…and the girl knows nothing of our plan.” Folding his arms, he continued to sit contentedly before the fire, unwilling to stir from his cozy nest.
“You fool,” she spat out caustically, “Have you forgotten the uncanny ability of the servants to know exactly what is happening in any great household before an announcement is ever made? How long before one of them learns of our little plan and decides to enlighten her?” Casting a last withering glare at her husband whose eyes were now closed in sleep, she stormed from the room. Calling loudly for her cloak and her trusted manservant Larkin, she clattered thunderously down the stairs. Both were waiting by the time she had gained the bottom of the staircase.
Wrapping her cloak snugly about her bulk to ward off the damp evening, Lady Talbot gestured imperiously for her servant to follow her as she swept through the doorway. Larkin, a barrel-chested man followed swiftly on short, muscular legs, adjusting his stride so he followed rather than led. The wind gusted about them, nearly lifting Larkin’s stained hat from his head of dark, unkempt hair. Heavy eyebrows hovered above his eyes, merging into one continuous hairy line above a crooked nose and thick lips. Dark eyes glared balefully at the figure ahead of him.
The pair cautiously made their way along the wet, slippery path toward a tiny, dilapidated cottage nestled at the edge of the village. What had once been the gatekeeper’s abode in more prosperous times had become a refuge for the former chatelaine of the manor, Lady Maude and her great-niece Katherine, following Lord Hector’s death. The newly arrived Lord Granville and Lady Hester Talbot had straight away established a new order. There had been much whispering in the village concerning the callous treatment of Lady Maude but Granville Talbot, to escape his wife’s constant badgering, had hastily let it be known that anyone not happy with the way of things could leave his land that very day. The grumbling had gradually stopped but there was no warmth in any greeting extended by the villagers to the new residents of the manor. After all, they reasoned, hadn’t Lady Maude been there and taken care of them all these many years, but they were cautious all the same, unwilling to risk the ire of their new lord or his lady.
Upon reaching the doorway, Lady Talbot, panting breathlessly, motioned for Larkin to announce her presence. The burly servant knocked once and, without invitation entered, startling the three women who sat at the rickety wooden table. His deep voice seemed to rattle the very rafters of the cottage as he announced the arrival of his mistress, who swept imperiously into the room. Ignoring the two middle-aged women whom she recognized as wives of her tenant farmers, she fixed her malevolent gaze on the youngest of the cottage’s occupants, who sat gawking in open-mouthed disbelief at this uninvited and most unexpected caller, especially at this late hour.
Rising from her chair, Katherine Maguire glared challengingly at the unwelcome intruder. Under gracefully curving eyebrows and thick dark lashes, her eyes flashed icy emerald fire as she faced Lady Talbot. A rich cloud of auburn hair framed her face, tumbling carelessly down her slender back. Her facial bones were delicately carved, her nose daintily up-turned, with a creamy peach-tinted complexion, blending with the dusky glow of her cheekbones. Lips were full and lush over small white teeth. So exquisite were her features that one observing her for the first time might be forgiven for failing to notice a chin that promised iron determination.
Her figure was willowy slender, and though she was slightly taller than most of the women in the village, she still lacked inches when facing her nemesis, Lady Hester Talbot. Slim arms bent as if ready to do battle with this most evil of dragons, she raised her chin defiantly, desperately assuming all the dignity she could muster.
“Ah, Katherine, do forgive my impromptu visit but it is most imperative that I speak to you at once.” Her voice, almost a purr, had an ominous quality to it. Turning to Katherine’s guests who continued to stare at the intruders, she motioned for them to depart, a suggestion that did not need repeating as they hastily scrambled for the door, throwing apologetic glances at the girl before fleeing into the black night.
Larkin, stepping aside as they fled the cottage, repositioned himself in front of the door as it closed, folding his thick arms across his chest menacingly. Shifting uncomfortably, he watched as his mistress circled the room, feeling a momentary twinge of sympathy for the lass. He had witnessed many of Lady Talbot’s savage attacks on the undefended and helpless over the years but fear of losing his position had always prevented him from interfering.
Katherine, eyes flashing threateningly, stormed up to her unwanted visitor, heedless of the precariousness of her position. “What do you mean, barging into my home, uninvited, and dismissing my guests who were only here to lend what comfort they could on the loss of my beloved aunt?”
Lady Talbot, looking down at the slight girl who faced her so fearlessly, smirked knowingly, causing a shiver of apprehension to course down Katherine’s spine. “Tush, my girl, don’t bother putting on airs with me.” Her tone was chilling. “I come bearing the most welcome tidings to you—an Irish guttersnipe, someone who has no dowry and absolutely no prospects, and this is your way of thanking me.”
Startled, Katherine’s eyes, still sparkling with barely contained anger, gazed warily at the older woman. “What are you going on about, Lady Talbot?”
“Why, I’m referring to your wedding, of course.” A shocked gasp escaped from the girl, making the older woman gloat in satisfaction. The little chit’s reaction was so much better than anything she had imagined. Almost trembling with glee, her arms swept the room. “Gather what belongings you have, girl, you’re moving back to the manor for the remainder of your time here.”

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Slave
Stars in Chains, Book 1
by Herbert Grosshans

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61235-021-9

Abducted, Earthman David Stark is sent to the mines on an alien planet. After escaping and a brief time of happiness in the arms of T’Phira, the Golden Goddess and in the City under the Ocean, he is captured again and sent to a planet of hot deserts populated by ferocious predators.

Chapter One

“David Stark…”
The voice sounded sweet, soft, and alluring.
“Come…” whispered the voice again. He tried in vain to see the caller through the gray mist.
It was dark.
Then he saw the eyes.
“No!” he cried out. “Something is wrong. The eyes…they are wrong!”
“Come, David,” called the soft voice.
The eyes! He knew what was wrong with them. They were the eyes of a cat; large and blue, they glowed with a soft fluorescent light, but the face was human and beautiful. And familiar.
“David…”
The mist thickened, took away the image. He floated in a void, frozen in time and space. His limbs wouldn’t obey his commands to move them; they felt sluggish, heavy.
“David…”
The voice seemed far away as he drifted in the black void. A bright light appeared suddenly and he reached for it. His hands grasped at nothing at first, but then he felt substance, clung to it. He heard a loud sound, like an explosion. His eyes opened, stared into the darkness.
Realizing he was awake, he sat up and looked around the room. He was alone; from outside came the sound of traffic. The rumbling of a muffler faded away in the distance. The explosive sound that had awakened him must have been the sound of a car’s motor backfiring. There were still people who insisted on driving old, gas-guzzling clunkers. He closed his eyes for a moment; the afterimage of the strange eyes still burned in his mind.
There it was again. The same dream that kept haunting him every night for the last couple of weeks. He’d had nightmares before, ever since the Union War in South America in 2020. Ten years is a long time to forget, and he had forced those memories out of his mind, but his dreams kept coming back.
He looked at the clock on the night table.
The screen showed 1:00 AM.
He tried to get back to sleep but sleep wouldn’t come. Restlessly he turned and turned until he finally got up. Something seemed to urge him outside. “I need to go for a drive,” he murmured.
He dressed and went into the garage to his car.
The Luxar purred softly as the engine sprang to life. Slowly, he eased the car out of the garage and pulled into the street.
Traffic was light and he leaned back into the soft leather seat and turned down the window.
The cool air felt refreshing on his face.
He remembered the dream and shuddered.
I wonder if I’m finally cracking up. I thought I was over it.
He did not like to think about the months in the South American jungle. He had been part of a Special Assignment to free an American diplomat who had been kidnapped by Union Terrorists. They had run into an ambush.
The terrorists left him for dead. He would have died had it not been for a band of Indios who found him and carried him away, deep into the jungle. He didn’t remember much about it. The loss of blood and the pain, the terrible pain in his stomach where the bullets had hit him, kept him unconscious most of the time.
They took him to some people. There was something strange about them. He couldn’t remember what, but they had been kind and they saved his life.
The trauma of being near death suppressed the memory of the event. The little he remembered was hazy, unclear. But the reoccurring dreams kept reminding him of the things he wanted to forget.
There had been a girl. He remembered a dirty, little boy…
* * * *
“Hey, señor, would you like nice señorita? My sister. She pretty and know how to make señor happy. No expensive.”
He had been drunk, and he followed the boy through dark alleys to a rundown shack. The girl appeared young, thin. She lay naked on a torn blanket. Her small breasts were firm and nicely shaped. He stared at her spread legs, at the inviting pink slit between them. Her swollen mound was covered with thick, black hair. Perhaps she wasn’t as young as she looked.
Her hair was uncombed and hung loose around her narrow face, curled around her thin brown shoulders.
She gave him an empty smile and beckoned as he stood looking down at her. He was horny and drunk. Dropping his pants, he followed her invitation and fell between her open thighs. She spread her legs wide and curled her fingers around his hard mast.
Groaning, he let her guide him into her warm sheath. She was extremely tight and she gave a little whimper when he pushed into her, but then she lifted up and churned her thin body underneath him with wild movements.
He knew the boy was watching, but he didn’t care. He was too drunk to care about anything.
He didn’t last long. Stiffening in her embrace, he called out harshly when he felt his climax approaching. She pushed him off before he exploded inside her and took hold of his spurting penis.
Breathing hard, he lay on top of her for a moment. Then he rose and pulled up his pants. The boy held out a small brown hand and he put some bills into it…
* * * *
No!
He shook his head. That wasn’t it.
There had been another girl. One whose memory he tried to suppress.
His thoughts came to an abrupt halt.
A shape on the side of the road.
A girl…waving her arms.
His tires screeched as he hit the brakes. Before he realized it, he had stopped and backed up toward the girl who came running. He opened the door for her and she slid into the bucket seat.
“Hi,” he said. “What are you doing on the road at this time of night?” Looking outside, he didn’t see any houses anywhere. He had left the city without realizing it.
She smiled shyly, hooding her eyes with one hand. “I ran away,” she said with a soft voice. She had a strange, heavy accent. A strangely familiar accent.
“So you ran away,” he said. Looking at her, he noticed that she was practically nude. She wore a transparent cape that didn’t hide anything. Her large breasts strained against the soft material, and even in the dim light of the dashboard he could see them clearly.
She wore a small red cloth around her hips, like a loincloth, to cover parts of her lower body.
He kept his eyes on the road, but the sight of her shapely legs and nude white hips made his loins pound with desire. He cursed under his breath for getting himself into this situation. Picking up a naked girl-hitchhiker was never a good idea.
“Would you get my cigarettes from the glove compartment, please,” he said, trying hard not to stare at her brown nipples poking through the sheer material.
She reached into the glove compartment and handed him the package.
“Take one for yourself,” he said.
She shook her head. “No, thank you. I don’t smoke.” She brushed her long black hair out of her face and looked at him for the first time.
An icy breath seemed to touch his mind as he looked into her eyes.
They glowed softly in the dark. She had the eyes of a cat.
The strange people in the Brazilian jungle. He remembered their eyes. They had eyes like the ones that looked at him now. The same eyes that haunted him every night in his dreams.
She smiled gently. Her hand reached out and touched his arm. “Hello, David. I finally found you.”
Her soft voice awoke something in his sub consciousness. He remembered a girl.
A girl with strange eyes and an enchanting voice.
She had looked after his needs, feeding him and washing him, as he recovered from his wounds. Sometimes she sat beside his bed and sang for him with that sweet, alluring voice. One night she came to him…
* * * *
…Her warm body slid beside him under the covers and her gentle hands touched him. Her small breasts flattened against his chest and he sensed the fire inside her. He wanted to tell her to go away, but she covered his face with kisses. When her lips closed over his, she pushed her tongue into his mouth, while her hand stroked his penis until he hurt with desire.
He put her onto her back and slid between her opening thighs. His hard organ probed her puffed up mound, found the slit of her vagina. When he tried to push into her, she whispered, “I’m a virgin. Please, be gentle.”
“A virgin?” his breath rasped in his throat. “I shouldn’t,” he groaned, fighting the desire to ram his hard member forcefully into her. “You’re too damn young.”
“I’m older than I look,” she whispered huskily. “I just happen to never have been with a man before.”
He was only twenty-one, with little experience of his own. Even though he tried to be gentle, he forced his aching penis into her tight sheath. She cried out when he took her virginity and clung to him, sobbing softly. He stopped moving and just held her for a while.
“Did I hurt you?” he asked with a hoarse whisper.
“A little, but I’m fine now,” she whispered back. Then she began moving under him.
It was over much too soon and when he pulled out she cried a little. He stroked her soft black hair and wiped the tears from her beautiful face. Her strange, blue eyes looked at him and she smiled sadly.
“Where did you get those eyes?” he asked.
She didn’t respond, just looked at him with her cat’s eyes. Suddenly, she laughed. “I was born with them, like all of my people.” She spoke English with a heavy accent. Stroking his chest, she said, “Do you want to try it again?”
She didn’t need to encourage him. He was young and horny and her sweet voice and lovely face had bewitched him. Her warm body felt inviting in his arms, and when her soft thighs opened, he slid between them.
He looked up when he heard the opening of the door and watched a number of people come into the room. Frozen between the girl’s clutching thighs, he stared at the group of men looking at him with their strange eyes.
The men were old. Old and sad.
He slid off the girl and pulled the covers over his nude body.
She got out of bed and stood there, her eyes downcast. “I failed,” she whispered.
But one of the old men smiled and touched her arm. “Don’t be sad,” he said gently. “You did not fail. You are still immature, not yet fully developed. Your own talents have not reached their full potential.”
His strange eyes fell on Stark. “He is the one. We are sure. The old Seer is sure. It is not the right time.”
Stark didn’t understand what those cryptic words meant, but he didn’t really care. He was angry. Angry at those old men for bursting into his room like this. He was angry at the girl and at himself.
“What kind of weird people are you?” he shouted. “You could have shown a little decency and knocked before you came into my room. I’m grateful to you for saving my life, but that doesn’t give you the right to…and anyway, it was all her fault. She came onto me like…” He groped for the right words. When he saw their sad but somehow understanding faces, he shrugged. “I’m sorry. I’m as guilty as she is. I could have refused.”
They stood there and smiled. Then they turned and left the room.
The girl came back to him and touched his hand. “Don’t be sorry,” she said with her soft, gentle voice. “We did nothing wrong.” Then she left.
He never saw her again. The next day some Indios came and took him to a village, where he boarded a boat that brought him back to civilization.
He forgot about the girl. Or almost forgot about her, because she visited him in his dreams…
* * * *
“Hi, Feleena,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yes, it has.” She nodded. “You remembered, even my name.”
He chuckled. “I’ve tried to forget about you. I nearly succeeded, but my dreams kept reminding me of you.” His eyes lingered on her large, firm breasts. “You’ve changed.” He grinned. “You’ve grown up.”
She knew what he meant and smiled. “I guess I have grown. In more ways than you can imagine.” She gripped his hand. “I never forgot you either, David.” Her grip on his hand tightened. “I came looking for you.” Her eyes were large and suddenly she looked scared. “Now I’m not so sure if I did the right thing. Because of me, you may be in great danger. Oh, if things only would have worked out the way my people planned.”
“What things did your people plan for me?”
“I can’t tell you, because it doesn’t matter now.” A shiver ran through her body. “I’m chilly and I’m tired. Can we go somewhere warm where I can rest for a while?”
He looked at the traffic signs outside, trying to get his bearing. “There is a motel not far from here, if I remember correctly. We can go there.” He took his eyes off the road for a moment and glanced at her. “You said you were looking for me. How did you know that I would be coming this way?”
She smiled mysteriously. “I knew because I called out to you. And here you are.”
Shaking his head, he drove on, toward the motel he knew should be coming up soon.
I called out to you. What did she mean by that? What made him take this route? He remembered getting out of bed, restless, remembered driving away from his home, but he didn’t remember how he ended up on this back road.
When he saw the lights of the motel, he slowed down and drove into the parking lot. The sign said Vacancy. He had hoped it would, but this was not such a well traveled road. The chances of finding the motel filled had been small. Checking his watch he saw that it was nearly three o’clock. The proprietor would not be happy to receive guests, even though the sign on the office door said Open 24 hours.
He got out of the car and waited for Feleena to come out on the other side. Looking at her exposed body, he took off his jacket and draped it across her shoulders.
“Thank you,” she said, shivering in the cold air.
He smiled. “I didn’t give it to you because you’re cold.” Then he opened the door to the office.
The old man in the chair behind the counter opened one eye and peered sleepily at the two intruders who dared to disturb his snooze.
“We’d like a room for the night,” Stark said.
“You would, wouldn’t you,” the old man wheezed, getting out of his chair. His rheumatic eyes took in Feleena’s half-naked body. “You and the Misses, I suppose? Will you be staying the whole night?”
“Not the whole night.” Stark smiled, pretending not to notice the sarcasm. “Only what’s left of it.”
“Makes no difference. It’ll still be eighty bucks. Cash.”
Stark shrugged and took his wallet from his back pocket. Taking out four twenties, he put them on the counter.
The old man shoved them into his pocket, shuffled to the back wall and took a key from a hook on the board. Handing it to Stark, he said, “Room seven, the last on the left.”
“Aren’t you going to write my name into your logbook?”
Staring at Stark, the old man pulled his dry lips into a toothless smile. “We are not that formal in this place, Mister. I’ve never seen you before.” He winked. “If you know what I mean.”
Stark took the key and walked with Feleena out of the door. It didn’t really matter what the old man thought.
The room was shabby; not worth the eighty bucks he had paid for it. The covers on the bed looked wrinkled and not too clean. When he tried to lock the door, it wouldn’t lock. Shrugging, he left it unlocked. There was not much danger out here in the country for anyone to break into the room.
Feleena took Stark’s jacket and threw it onto the only chair. Then she removed her skimpy clothing and, naked, she stood by the bed and looked at him, her cat’s eyes large.
He stared at her nude body. She looked so perfect. She had beautifully shaped breasts and round, solid buttocks. A small patch of black, curly hair between her legs covered her well-developed Venus mound, hiding the slit of her pussy.
A sudden desire to take her into his arms made his loins throb and his heart beat faster.
She lifted the covers on the bed and slipped under them. “I’m chilly,” she said softly. “Come to bed and make me warm.”
The image of her nude body floated in his mind. He remembered her undeveloped form, her small breasts, remembered the way she had moved beneath him when he took her innocence. Something had happened between them that night, something than just the loss of her maidenhead to his awkward thrusts.
She had seduced him then, just as she was seducing him at this moment. Her motive had never been clear to him, not then and not now. Even though they had been intimate that night in the Brazilian jungle, it had been a one-time affair. They had not been lovers, and yet…there was a bond between them that could not be explained or put into words.
He felt drawn to her. The time they had spent apart seemed to have vanished in an instant. The ache in his heart and his longing for her was stronger than ever. “I thought you were tired,” he said.
“I’ve rested in the car, but I’m still chilly. I need a warm body to warm me up.”
He undressed with trembling fingers, his sudden desire overpowering and impossible to control.
She giggled when she saw his erection and raised the corner of the bedcovers in invitation.
He took her into his arms, covered her face with kisses, unable to hold back. Her legs opened wide and he slipped between her soft thighs. His hard penis found the opening between them and, with a loud groan, he entered her wet, creamy pussy.
A feeling of happiness and fulfillment rose up inside him the moment the tight walls of her sheath closed around his throbbing piece of flesh.
Moaning, she wrapped her long legs around his hips, resting her heels on his flexing buttocks. “You don’t know how often I’ve dreamed about this moment,” she gasped into his ear.
They didn’t speak for a long time, only their bodies moved in perfect unison, sensing each other’s needs and wants. Thrusting and pushing, yielding and giving, like two lovers who had done this countless times before, they performed an act that was as old as life itself; nothing unusual or special, but unique in the fact that this was only the second time their bodies touched in an intimate embrace.
They were not lovers, only a man and a woman who barely knew each other, fucking their brains out. And yet…Stark somehow knew that there was much more to their chance encounter than appeared at the surface.
He pushed deep into her with every powerful thrust and she writhed underneath him, moaning and whimpering as she responded to his animal lust with fiery passion.
Waves of pleasure vibrated through every fiber of his body, like tiny electrical shocks, building up to a roaring thunderclap as he freed the pent-up energy in one explosive release.
His shouts of pleasure blended with her ecstatic cries as he shot his hot discharge into her pulsating pussy. Her lips felt hot on his skin as she pressed her mouth against his throat, her teeth grazing his pulsating vein. A feeling of power and elation rushed through his entire being when he felt the sting of tiny pinpricks at the peak of their passion. His mind reached for the stars, drawing energy from the fabric of the universe.
It was over too soon.
He lay in her arms, breathing hard and fast, his heart beating in his chest as he came down from the euphoria that had filled his mind and body.
“That was wonderful,” she whispered. “Better than in my dreams and better than the first time.”
He chuckled into the hollow of her breasts. “I was young and inexperienced then, but I’ve had some practice in the meantime. I don’t recall you being this passionate.”
She laughed and stroked his back with gentle fingers. “I’ve also had some practice.”
He didn’t remember falling asleep, but when he opened his eyes and looked around the room he noticed light streaming through filthy, ripped curtains that covered a small window. Suffering a moment of disorientation, he lifted his head; he saw his jacket lying on the seat of an old wooden chair with a broken leg, the rest of his clothing in an untidy heap on the floor.
Shivering, he realized that he was naked. Then he became aware of the woman lying in the crook of his arm and stared down at her, smiling, as he remembered.
“Feleena,” he whispered.
She stirred. Her eyelids fluttered open. A ray of sunshine sneaked through a hole in the curtains and fell across her face, highlighting her blue strange eyes. She smiled lazily and touched his cheek. “I’m not dreaming,” she said, her voice happy and content. “You are really here.”
“Wherever here is.” He chuckled. “That was quite some action,” he said. “I feel drained. You certainly sucked me dry last night.”
She laughed, slid on top of him and pressed her nude body against him. Her hand moved down to his penis and fondled it. “You didn’t exactly struggle,” she said. Then she kissed him.
He felt his penis responding to her touch and didn’t object when she straddled him. Sitting up, she looked down at him with a mischievous smile. “Seems to me someone is looking for a warm place.”
She began rubbing her pussy over his hard penis. Closing her eyes, she moved her pelvis slowly back and forth, grabbing his mast with her soft labia. It didn’t take long before warm liquid doused his pubic hair.
When she lifted up, his stiff penis stood free for a moment, abandoned and alone but not for long. She descended and impaled herself with one smooth motion. Then she began moving up and down, taking him deep into her with every downward plunge.
He watched her breasts jiggling gently on her ribcage as she rode him, slowly at first but with ever increasing speed until her lower body was almost a blur.
Digging his hands into her soft breasts, he closed his eyes and concentrated on the spot that joined them together, his mind aware of nothing else but her fast-moving clutching sheath.
“Now,” she called out. “Please come now!”
His penis jumped inside her clutching pussy as he exploded, shooting his discharge into her.
She cried out, sat quivering and whimpering in his lap, accepting him as he filled her vessel, her vagina walls constricting tightly around his throbbing penis. Sensing her forward movement, he opened his eyes to look at her descending face. Her mouth was slightly open, displaying long needle thin fangs. She nuzzled his neck, her mouth searching. He felt a slight pain, like a dentist’s needle, a momentary stabbing sensation through his mind, then nothing but tremendous joy.
His penis was still rigid in the trembling folds of her hot pussy and incredible pleasure radiated from his pubic region in massive waves, filling his entire being with a feeling of euphoria as his mind expanded to become one with the universe.
Time stood still, nothing existed but joy and happiness. And a feeling of supreme power.
The noise of someone pounding against the door brought him back to reality. It took him a moment to focus on the sound and make him realize where he was.
The hinges of the door creaked as someone opened it.
Feleena crouched above him. Her mouth was open, red liquid colored her lips. Licking them, she hissed and turned her head to look at the intruder who stuck his head into the room. “What do you want?” Her voice sounded husky, demanding.
“Another eighty bucks, unless you vacate this room within the next five minutes.”
Stark recognized the voice of the proprietor. He looked past Feleena to see the old man’s rheumatic eyes gawking at her nude body.
“Second thought, if you let me watch for a while I might let you stay the rest of the day,” the old man chortled.
“If you don’t close the door within the next five seconds you’ll be beyond caring if we stay or not,” Stark said harshly. “I’m not paying you one more dime, you lecherous old man. This room isn’t worth half the money I gave you.”
“All right, all right. I’ll let you finish up. Make sure you’ll leave the room the way you found it, you lucky bastard.” His chuckle sounded gleeful. “Just getting a good look at that lovely naked ass of the broad is payment enough for me.”
After another leering look at Feleena, he closed the door.
Feleena laughed and rolled onto her back. Stretching her lithe body, she yawned and looked at Stark. “Too bad he interrupted us when he did. I have never felt this elated and happy.” She smiled and ran her finger down his chest. “Did I make you happy?”
He sat up and studied her lovely face. Her eyes glittered with blue fire. Her full lips revealed white even teeth, not the teeth of a vampire who would sink them into a victim’s throat.
“Did you drink my blood?” he asked, feeling foolish the moment the words came across his lips.
Her mouth formed a sweet smile. “What makes you imagine that?” she asked.
He laughed, slightly embarrassed. “Forget it. Just my overactive imagination. Comes from reading too many horror stories.” He got up and sat at the edge of the bed. Looking around the room, he said, “What a dump! Not even a place to wash up. I hope they have a community washroom.”
* * * *
“I must have been in a real trance last night. I can’t even remember leaving the city and driving down this forsaken road,” he said, glancing at Feleena. “How did you end up in this back country?”
She hesitated before answering. “It is complicated and not easy to explain without revealing things you may not believe or even understand.”
He didn’t get a chance to answer her. His foot hit the brake petal when from a dark side road a car shot into his lane and blocked his way. “Damnit!” he cursed and swerved onto the shoulder to avoid hitting the other car. With screeching tires he barely managed to stop his car before landing in the ditch.
“What kind of a fucking idiot…” he yelled. Ripping open his car door, he stepped onto the gravel. He stopped briefly when he heard Feleena calling, “David! Don’t go. Run away!” However, he was too angry and ignored the urgency in her voice.
“I’m going to teach that son-of-a-bitch a lesson!” he snarled.
The doors of the other vehicle opened and two men jumped out.
Two big men.
“What the hell is the matter with you guys?” He slowed his advance, watching them with sudden apprehension. “Are you drunk or on drugs?”
The two men didn’t answer. Like two silent shadows they came closer. Stark had enough time to register their sickly white and expressionless faces before he let out a surprised shout when one of them hit him in the stomach with a fist as hard as a sledgehammer.
He doubled over and clutched his belly. “What the fuck!” he moaned, backing away.
His attacker looked at him with cold, glittering eyes and pulled back his fist again. Stark was prepared and moved to one side. He brought up his own fist, but before he could smash it into his opponents face, his companion had moved behind Stark.
He felt the impact when the man hit him hard behind the ears. He thought he heard a woman screaming as he lost consciousness, but he couldn’t be sure.

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PRAXTON: The Battle For Freedom
Praxton Series, Book 2
by N.S. Howard

Melange Books

eBook ISBN: 978-1-61235-079-0
Print ISBN: 978-1-61235-060-8

The planet Praxton refuses to adhere to the Charter of Conduct, prompting the Alliance Worlds to take military action against it and free the female population from what they perceive to be slavery. Praxton is under seize and in danger of losing its independence when Terri Baxtor comes up with a plan to save their way of life.

Note: Prologue omitted.
Chapter One

Terri sat next to Allison on the couch, listening to the newscast on the view screen. Normally, when she was visiting Allison at Master Alex Greggory’s home, she had fun laughing with the other five other females as they drank wine and ate snacks. As the night progressed, some of the females often ended up losing their clothes as well. Terri found Allison had a way of not only getting her to lose her clothes, but also managing to join her cuffs together, leaving Terri at her mercy.
Tonight everyone was in a sombre mood as they heard how Alliance forces had launched spacecraft to shut down all transport to and from Praxton and the rest of the galaxy. The only spacecraft to leave were either carrying tourists, or goods purchased loaded on ships belonging to Alliance worlds. Soon all ships would be denied the right to leave or enter Praxton.
The next stage, according to the reports, would be more negotiations between Praxton and Alliance worlds. Unless Praxton was willing to sign the Charter of Conduct, the Alliance Forces would be landing on Praxton to take control of the government. The news reported that for Praxton to sign the Charter of Conduct would likely mean a change in social behaviour on the planet. It might mean the end of the guardian and female relationship currently used on Praxton. Whips, lockable collar and cuffs might also be banned, along with other unique Praxton devices.
So far, the negotiations were not going well. It appeared the Alliance military was going to be setting a deadline for compliance.
Terri and the others went to bed earlier than normal and, as usual, Terri shared a bed with Allison. Terri made herself comfortable earlier in the evening by removing her top and ended wearing only her skirt. She was used to being undressed in the room with the other females watching the view screen and on more than one occasion ended up nude before going to bed.
Allison, had also on one instance, lightly spanked her in front of the others as she lay naked over her lap, her wrists cuffed behind her back. Terri understood the spanking was a way for Allison to show the others in the room they were intimate with each other. By having Terri cuffed, it showed that Allison was also dominant over her. Praxton females often patted other females on the cheek as a sign of friendship, and a light spanking indicated they were more than friends. It was not necessarily a sign that one was always dominant, though Allison generally tried to get Terri partially undressed and have her wrist cuffs joined together or attached to a short chain when she came over. Terri was usually willing to submit to the younger, smaller but more aggressive female.
Allison was the most junior female under Master Alex, but the others didn’t object to her claim over Terri. Allison usually had the fewest visits from Master Alex and generally had to obey the other females in the household. However, Terri was outside the household and had been befriended by Allison, so the senior female Angela thought it was a good opportunity for Allison to express herself sexually.
Terri undressed first and then slid into bed. She watched Allison fold her clothes as she took them off.
“Would you leave your wrist cuffs on, Allison?”
Allison looked at her and then left them on. She climbed into bed and wrapped her arms around Terri.
Terri gave her a hug as they lay on their sides facing each other.
“I’m worried how this is going to end Allison.”
“Me too. Maybe the stupid Charter of Conduct is going to stop females from sleeping together too.”
Terri kissed her. “No matter what happens we will be friends, close friends. Understand?”
Allison nodded. “I love you Terri.”
“I love you too.” She gave her a long kiss.
Angela, the senior female, walked into the room. “You two okay?”
Terri answered, “Just a little worried, that’s all.”
Angela went to the foot of the bed and attached a locked cuff and chain to each woman’s ankle. She then attached the other end of the chain to the bed. As a senior female, she was responsible for all females under Master Alex, as well as female guests. Traditionally, females were chained to the bed at night, usually with the ankle, but sometimes the wrist or a chain to the collar. Unlike some households, the chains were locked into the place, and Allison and Terri would have to wait for Angela to return in the morning to be released from the bed. For emergencies, a coated key was left within reach. If the emergency key was used, the coating was scraped off as it was inserted into the key hole to show it had been used. Rather than trying to explain why the key was used, most females preferred to call out to the senior female they were in need of assistance.
“Try to get some sleep, tomorrow might be a busy day.”
After Angela left, Terri slid down and placed her mouth over Allison’s nipple, sucking on it as her tongue licked at it. She paused when she heard Allison moan and went to the other breast. She continued to kiss and suck on Allison’s nipples and slowly placed her hand between Allison’s legs.
Allison moaned again and spread her legs.
“Good, I got a reaction there. Roll onto your tummy and put your hands behind your back.”
Allison rolled over and crossed her wrists.
Terri latched the wrists cuffs together. “Now I have you for a change.”
“I guess you do.” She looked over at Terri, slightly surprised at her aggressiveness.
Terri played her fingertips over Allison’s ass and then squeezed her cheeks. “I want to give you a spanking.”
Allison looked over her shoulder at her. “I would like that.”
“I know.” Terri used her palm to strike Allison’s ass, alternating between the cheeks. Each hit was hard and Allison struggled not to cry out.
“Now roll over on your back.”
Allison wiggled around until she was on her back, spreading her legs before she was told to do so.
Terri kissed her on her lips and then moved down, laying a carpet of kisses down her neck and to her breasts, where she worked Allison’s nipples with her tongue. She continued to kiss and lick at her skin, sliding down over her stomach. She dropped her head between Allison’s legs and used her tongue to lick at her pussy.
Allison lifted her hips and cried out as Terri’s mouth covered her pussy. She continued to work on her pussy with her hands squeezing Allison’s breasts, pinching the engorged nipples. Allison finally cried out one final time and shuddered as her hips fell back to the bed.
“Oh, I do believe I got you good that time.”
“You sure did.”
Terri held Allison in her arms and hugged her.
“That was very nice, Terri. Why don’t you undo my cuffs and I’ll do
you too?”
“No, I think I’ll leave those cuffs joined together tonight.”
“Meany…”
“Because I think I’m going to give you another spanking in the morning. I really enjoy paddling you then. There is something to spanking a female when she’s under your control.”
“Okay, I’d rather you spank me than some other female.”
“Slide down a bit.”
Allison moved down and Terri pushed her head between her breasts. She positioned a nipple at Allison’s lips where she opened her mouth and slowly sucked.
“Hmm, that feels nice. I can sleep like this.”
Allison sighed, “Me too.”
Terri said thoughtfully, “I wanted you to know tonight that I’ll take care of you if things between the Alliance Forces and Praxton get out of hand.”
“Thanks.” She kissed Terri’s breasts. “I feel real good and safe right now.”

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