Desire 2: Slave Of Desire
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Delilah’s novel DESIRE 2: SLAVE OF DESIRE is also available as single title for immediate download.
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Format: Trade Paperback
On Sale: July 31, 2004
After a fellow convict is murdered while she’s guarding the maximum-security cellblock, ex-con Calandra Jones escapes the ship of the pirates who liberated the convicts, determined to make it on her own. Just as she’s attempting to arrange passage on another ship headed for a mining colony, she’s abducted by a handsome slave trader bent on offering her for sale at a potentate’s auction.
Drago Chavez doesn’t understand Calandra’s opposition to his plan. As a concubine or wife to a powerful man, she would be pampered and influential. No woman he’s ever placed has complained about being sold into the arms of a caring owner. Besides, his acquisition of the rebellious beauty is his entrée into a lucrative and exclusive market.
Calandra considers Drago’s goal nothing short of sexual slavery and vows to seduce the trader into changing his mind about offering her for sale. A sensual storm erupts during their desert odyssey that culminates when Calandra is sold, and Drago must decide whether he trusts their love enough to rescue his Slave of Desire.
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
Despite the meager light offered by the single crude fixture above the bar, Drago Chavez knew the creature in the dark, hooded cloak was a woman.
He first spied her when she elbowed her way through the crowd. She wore a long mantle, no doubt to disguise her figure. Instead, the flowing cloth clung to the enticing curve of her hips as she settled onto a barstool.
His curiosity aroused by her bold action, Drago withdrew to a murky corner where the sweet smoke from hatta pipes shrouded the occupants. The better to watch, while he remained unobserved.
He’d heard a ship full of escaped convicts, women from the Dominion prison, the New Attica, had arrived in Arturia’s port city of Aghora. The women could be seen walking on the starship’s dock, closely guarded by the pirate crew of the Intrepid. He had heard of none venturing beyond the end of the dock. And the fearsome reputation of the Intrepid’s captain, Adamarik Zingh, kept Aghora’s curious from approaching them.
Drago suspected he was staring at one of the escaped cons now. Only a woman tasting forbidden freedom would be so foolish as to wander into this tavern alone. The Pirate’s Cove was a magnet for pirates and petty criminals who made their connections and targeted their next victims within its walls.
The woman was lucky she’d made it this far down the docks. Procurers for the brothels had circled like sharks around the Intrepid for days, waiting for a foolish woman to step beyond the boundary of Captain Zingh’s protection. Drago hadn’t been one of them, but seeing as the woman courted disaster anyway, he hunkered down in the shadows to see whether an opportunity would arise.
This woman was either fearless or incredibly naïve-and as far as he could tell, broad-shouldered with wide-hips. The sturdy sort of woman Arturian men prized as breeders. If she possessed any beauty whatsoever, she’d earn a trader a pretty dinar at Aghora’s monthly auction the next day.
She ordered ale. Although pitched low, her voice drew the attention of several men standing nearby. While there were whores aplenty inside the bar, every one of them blended with the décor-shabby, tawdry, over-used. This one’s voice was youthful, hesitant, but at the same time, sultry.
Drago recognized several men closing around the woman who appeared oblivious to the interest she stirred. They were a dangerous lot-belligerent and stupid. Leaning toward Kaspar, he whispered, “Find Gilbert and have him bring the hovercar around. And make sure he’s armed.”
His assistant nodded and left the bar.
Drago decided to make his interest known to the crowd surrounding the woman and approached the bar. He clamped a hand to the shoulder of the man sitting next to her and slipped a dagger between their bodies.
The man’s eyes widened when his flesh was pricked, and he gave up his seat immediately. “Didn’t know this was yer seat, Chavez.”
With a warning glare to the others, Drago slid onto the stool. Angry muttering sounded behind him, but he knew the men were leaderless at the moment. Not one of them would have the balls to take him on.
From the corner of his eye, he watched the woman raise her glass. When her head tilted back, light penetrated the folds of the hood, illuminating her features. He heard gasps from the men around him, and knew they’d been struck as he was by the beauty revealed.
Her hair was the color of Arturia’s desert dunes, golden and rippling, and it complimented skin as pale and lustrous as an Earth pearl.
To hell with the local sale. If the rest of her was as enticing, she’d bring a fortune at the Hazar’s auction-and he’d finally have his foot in the door of the more lucrative market-an opportunity that had eluded him since arriving in Arturia.
Leaning close, he said, “You’re attracting attention. This isn’t a safe place for a woman alone.”
Her shoulders stiffened. “I’m exactly where I want to be, and I can take care of myself.” She turned on her stool to face him. Regardless of the deep shadow cast by the hood, Drago was near enough now to discern her full lips pursed in a tight frown. “Besides, you’re the only person who’s bothered me so far.”
“All right. So you have business here. What’s your price?”
Her eyes narrowed to slits. “Beyond your dreams.”
He deliberately swept his gaze down the front of her cloak and then shrugged. “If you’ve nothing to sell, what are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for transport to New Australia. I’m seeking employment in the minefields.” She hesitated, her gaze searched his face. “I’ll work for my passage.”
Drago shook his head. “I wouldn’t say that too loudly around here-you might just get your wish.”
“Did I ask for your opinion?”
“Finish your drink. We’re leaving.”
“Huh!” She snorted. “You and who else are going to make me?”
“Hey,” said one of the men, a tall fellow with yellowed teeth and a scraggly beard. “Sounds like the lady don’t want nothin’ to do with you.”
Drago stood, straightening until he looked the man in the eye.
Yellow Teeth glanced over his shoulder to his buddies, but they all looked the other way. When he faced Drago again, he muttered, “Must be a lover’s quarrel. Sorry ’bout that mate.”
Knowing the crowd would get uglier by the minute, Drago reached for the woman’s arm and yanked her to her feet. When she swung, he grabbed her fist and pulled her close, his face only inches from hers. “Don’t press your luck. If these men get any drunker, you’ll be the evening’s entertainment. So, unless you want to be spread-eagle on the bar, you’d better come with me.”
She blinked, wide-eyed. “Did the captain send you after me?”
Without missing a beat, Drago nodded. “He asked me to keep an eye out for you.”
The woman snorted. “I’m surprised he even noticed I left.”
“How could he not? You’re a beautiful woman.”
“He has eyes only for Evena, now. And she’s not likely to share him with me again. Not after what happened to Aurelia.”
Not knowing who Evena or Aurelia were, Drago murmured, “You feel responsibility for Aurelia?”
Her expression turned grim. “Of course I do.” Her voice grew brittle. “It was my duty to keep an eye on the high security cell block. She died while one of your pirate friends had me up against a wall.”
While Drago digested this bit of information, he kept an eye on the door of the tavern. When Kaspar slipped back inside the doorway, he gave Drago a small nod.
Good. Everything was in place. Now, all he had to do was convince the woman to leave with him.
“I don’t remember seeing you aboard the ship.”
He detected a note of suspicion and wished he could discern more of her darkly shadowed features. “Finish your ale. Our neighbors are becoming more curious about you by the minute. I don’t want to have to fight my way out of here.”
“A bit on the nervous side, are you?” She straightened and fisted her hands. “I can handle myself in a brawl. Perhaps, I should escort you.”
Drago smiled. The woman had a smart mouth and a bravado way out of proportion for her gender. Misplaced, but amusing just the same. “I’ll let you lead the way.”
“Fine.” She reached for the glass, drained it, then slapped it on the counter. “Don’t let me disturb you any further. I don’t need a babysitter. I can make it back on my own.” She turned on her heels and strode out the door.
Nodding to Kaspar to watch their backs, Drago followed her outside.
Drago kept apace with the woman with long strides, passing warehouses and the ramshackle offices lining the street opposite the docks. The acrid aroma of jet fuel masked the less savory smells emanating from the alleys.
“Are you one of Captain Zingh’s women?” Drago said, hoping to divert her attention from her surroundings.
“No.” The single word was clipped.
“You sound bitter.”
“I’m a woman. You’d think I’d know better than to believe that just because a man finds his bliss inside me, his heart will follow.”
“Are you in love with him?”
“No. But I had hoped for some small measure of his esteem. Instead, I’m a pariah.”
Drago wondered where the car was. Had Gilbert ducked into an alley to take a piss? “Perhaps you imagine it.”
“No. I see the way the other women look at me. I failed in my primary duty to protect a fellow inmate.”
“You made a mistake.”
“I let Aurelia slip past the security gate. I wasn’t watching the goddamned monitor. If I had…” She drew in a deep breath, but didn’t continue.
“Sounds like this woman was someplace she had no business being.”
“I had responsibility for the security of that cell block. I failed.” She dropped her chin. “I just never seem to learn.”
“How was it your fault?”
She glanced toward him for the first time. “Look, drop it. You weren’t there.”
The cargo ship Intrepid loomed in the distance. Its large black hull glistened in the late afternoon sun.
A figure darted out from an alley. Drago recognized Kaspar as he raised a blanket to toss over the woman’s head.
She dropped him like a stone, cursing and clutching his genitals, with one well-aimed kick to his groin.
Drago winced in empathy, and reached down to grab the cover.
“Bloody bastard.” She straddled Kaspar’s body and pounded her fists against his face. “Don’t just stand there,” she threw over her shoulder.
Drago sighed, and then stepped behind her and dropped the blanket over her head.
She reared up, fighting to free her arms from entanglement and butted against his chin.
Drago tasted the copper of blood. “Easy, now.” He tightened his arms around her struggling body. “I won’t harm you.”
“Bastard,” she cried, her words muffled by the fabric. “Let me go. Captain Zingh will kill you for this.”
“I thought you said he didn’t have any interest in you. What makes you think he’ll come to your aid?”
“Because I’m a woman, and he’s a bloody gentleman.”
“Well, sweet girl, you’re mine for now. Best get used to it.”
“When hell freezes over.” She wriggled partway free and drove her elbow into his stomach.
“Damned monkey! Be still, you’ll only hurt yourself.”
“You think I should make this easy for you?”
Drago wrapped his arms more firmly around her and squeezed tighter. “Kaspar, get up. Gil’s bringing the hovercar around.”
The woman continued to struggle, kicking at his shins.
“Easy, girl. We aren’t going to harm you.”
“Forget Captain Zingh! I’m going to kill you.”
Drago grinned. She talked tough, but she’d be purring like a kitten once she understood her good fortune. He pressed his arms around her ribs, constricting her tighter until she stopped struggling.
The hovercar turned a corner and drove toward them. When it came to a halt, Gilbert leapt out. He spared a glance at Kaspar. “What the hell happened to him?”
Kaspar sat up and groaned, one hand still covering his crotch. “Watch out for her feet,” he said, his voice strained.
“Kaspar, just get into the car,” Drago said. “Gilbert, get a rope from the trunk.”
While Gilbert tied her feet, Drago wound a rope around the blanket, binding the woman’s arms to her sides. “That’ll keep her out of trouble until we’re out of the city. Let’s get her stowed.”
After dumping the cursing woman into the trunk, the men climbed in and drove away from the docks, through the city to the outskirts of Aghora.
Under the cover of darkness, they parked the hovercar in an abandoned barn. After instructing Gilbert and Kaspar to saddle several llamyx for the trek into the desert, Drago carried the woman into his makeshift office. He sat her down on a chair, then turned on a light. “When I free you, you’ll have to behave,” he warned her. “You’re in my territory now. There’s nowhere to run.”
He knelt beside her and removed his knife from the scabbard on his thigh. When she jerked away from him, he held his hands up. “I told you, I won’t harm you. I’m going to cut the rope away.”
Moving slowly, he sliced through the rope binding her torso and unwound it from her body. Then he pulled away the blanket. “Let’s get a look at you.”
He sat back on his heels and stared. Her hood had fallen to her shoulders, and despite her dishevelment or perhaps because of it, Drago admitted she was the most sensual creature he’d ever seen. Her hair was a soft, golden cloud, her lips full and rosy, her nose was slender, and her eyes were large windows into her sultry soul.
“By the gods, you’re a beauty.”
Chin held high, she glared back, her sky-blue eyes glittering with outrage.
“I’m going to remove the rope around your feet. Then we’re going to talk.” He cut the last rope, and moved back a little, half expecting her to erupt in a blur of swinging fists and deadly-aimed kicks.
She did neither and stared stonily.
He sighed and sat on the edge of the desk behind him. “I wasn’t lying when I told you, I mean you no harm. You’re an escaped convict, aren’t you? And I don’t know what Captain Zingh offered you, but I gather you aren’t happy.”
When she didn’t respond, he continued, “I don’t know if you’re aware, but women such as you are highly prized by Arturian men.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t give a damn what Arturian men want. I’m leaving this planet.”
He continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “Arturian women vie for places in the ha’arems . With your beauty, you’re sure to find a favorable position. Perhaps even in the Hazar’s ha’arem .”
Her brows drew together in a frown. “You’re sending me to a ha’arem ? You’d have me exchange one prison for another?”
“You don’t seem to understand. Life in the ha’arem is desirable. You’ll be pampered and petted. You’ll have everything a woman could want.”
“And I’ll just bet you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart,” she said, sarcasm dripping from her lips.
Heat painted his cheeks. “I’ll earn a commission,” he admitted.
“You’re a slave trader?”
“I trade goods,” he enunciated slowly. “Sometimes, I place people in better circumstances.”
“I’ll lose my freedom. How is that a better circumstance?”
Drago began to take the woman’s measure. She wasn’t just stubborn-she was as obstinate as a mule. He’d have to gentle this one slowly…for her own good. “Think about this, blue-eyes. Do you really believe Zingh will outrun the Dominion fleet? He’ll be captured, and the women returned to the New Attica. But you won’t be among them. Isn’t that a better fate?”
“And if he isn’t caught? How is my situation bettered?”
“You’ll be a concubine, perhaps even a wife to a powerful man. And if you use your assets wisely, you may wield tremendous influence. Your every want will be granted.”
“And if all I want is freedom to leave?”
“You say that now, but someday you’ll thank me. Don’t fight this. I’d rather our time together be pleasant. If you force me, I’ll tie you to a llamyx for the journey.”
For a moment her lips trembled, before she thinned them to a straight line and lifted her chin. “Fuck you.”
Relieved she hadn’t given into tears, which would have annoyed the hell out of him, Drago replied, “Before we leave, I’ll need to see what we’ve got to work with here — if I’m to get you into the catalog in time.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re going to list me in a catalog?”
“You’ll be sold at auction. The auctioneer will want advance notice of your attributes to stir interest and attract the highest bidders.”
“You’re going to sell me in an auction?” Her voice rose. “I’m not an animal.”
“It’s the custom here.”
Her face as black as an angry storm cloud, she rose from her chair. “No. Forget it. I’m not going anywhere with you. I won’t cooperate.”
“Sweetheart, you’ll cooperate. If you don’t, men will assume you’re playacting and that submission is your game. Do you want some S&M freak to purchase you?”
“I’ll tell them I was abducted and have no wish to be sold.”
He laughed. “They won’t believe you. No woman on Arturia would pass up an opportunity to catch the Hazar’s eye.”
She didn’t answer, but her scowl deepened. Reddened cheeks said she wasn’t going to make his life easy.
Drago straightened. “Let’s get started. Take off your clothes.”
She folded her arms over her chest.
“You can take them off yourself, or I’ll assume you prefer I do it.”
“Oh yeah? You and what army?”
“Oh, I’ll get them off, but they’ll be in shreds. And tomorrow, you’ll spend the day on the back of a llamyx buck naked.”
Drago waited while the woman’s thoughts paraded across her face. Stubborn resistance, followed by a desperate desire for escape. And finally resignation. She reached for the neck of her cloak, unfastened it, and let it slide down her body to the ground.
His gaze flickered over her lithe form, defined by the sleek, black reclamation suit that conformed to her curves. His gaze was arrested by her chest. Her breasts were enormous, and while he stared the tips jutted against the fabric. His mouth grew dry, and his loins stirred and tightened.
Her expression set in stony rebellion, the woman lifted a hand to the fastener at the top of the suit, and opened it, peeling it down her body until she stood nude before him.
Drago couldn’t drag his attention from her breasts, noting the unusual peach color of the aureoles that framed rosy-brown nipples.
His breath grew ragged, and he realized the woman should fear his intentions. His erection pressed uncomfortably against the placket of his breeches. Although accustomed to the company of nude beauties, this one stirred him more than the others. Not willing to acknowledge his interest might be for more than a quick ride, he reluctantly forced his gaze to descend past her slightly rounded belly to the triangle of blonde hair.
Reaching into his pocket, he removed the small transmitter, placed the earpiece in his left ear and pointed the microphone toward his mouth. “What’s your name?”
“Calandra. Calandra Jones,” she spat the words at him.
“Gentlemen,” he said into the microphone, “Calandra is a natural blonde.”