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Book three in the Bounty series
No man in the galaxy inspires more fear than Korbin, the Admiral of the Black. His life as leader of the biggest pirate band in space leaves little room for trust, so when Korbin’s second-in-command disappears without a trace, he suspects the worst.
Zain Strand has left his life as a sex slave behind and risen within the pirate ranks. But he abandons it all to rescue an old friend from recapture by the slavers—even if that means a suicidal confrontation with his old master. He doesn’t expect Korbin’s arrival, doesn’t want Korbin’s help . . . but Korbin gives Zain no choice.
Posing as master and slave to infiltrate a slave auction, Korbin and Zain embark on a journey of lust that rapidly reveals their deeper feelings. When Zain’s old master discovers their ruse, Korbin must do everything in his power to save both their lives and their newfound love.
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The underground corridor was thick with the stench of decay and mold. Zain Strand, second in command to the most powerful pirate in the sector, had never been more alone. Pressed against the wall, he tightened his hold on his blaster and waited for the moment when he would finally get his revenge on the man who’d destroyed his life.
The informant on the planet’s surface had identified this cesspool as the place where Clayson would be conducting a slave trade. Perfect spot for that fucking lowlife. The idea of Clayson appearing in person was almost incomprehensible. The trader had lived securely behind the impenetrable walls of his compound since before Zain had fallen into his grasp. This was the first time in years Zain had known Clayson to conduct his business where Zain could gain access.
Snorting in the dark, Zain took a calming breath before he continued down the corridor. He carefully picked his way around a broken-down land skidder, automatically cataloging its details in case it would prove useful later. Creeping quietly toward the alcove on his scanner, he ducked into the shadows to prepare for his attack.
It had been far too long since he’d been on planet—any planet. Spending the past five years in space had done strange things to his body. His legs felt heavy from the gravity and his nerves misfired. He had the sensation of being watched. Impossible, since the scanner showed no other heat signatures behind him. The readings ahead were hopefully of Clayson and his men. He’d deal with them soon enough.
You’re fine. Do the job and get on with your life. If you can get out alive.
Zain ignored the voice in his head screaming that he shouldn’t be doing this alone. What was the point of being a pirate, working with a crew who enjoyed killing and destroying with the least amount of provocation, if he didn’t take advantage? He should have told Korbin what he was planning, got backup and finished this properly.
Korbin—The Admiral of the Black. Zain’s savior, boss and sometimes friend.
He would have helped Zain if he’d known what was going on. Most likely with guns blazing and the entire crew of their ship, the Wyvern, in tow. No, Zain didn’t need the help of the Admiral of the Black, no matter how much easier it might have made things.
This was his fight. While the others didn’t know the details of how he’d been captured, forced to be a sex slave and service the whims of his master, many had heard the stories of his arrival on the Wyvern. Gods, the last thing Zain wanted was the details of that time of his life to become common knowledge.
No, this was something he had to do alone.
Laughter up ahead echoed to him in the bleak corridor, followed by the sound of approaching footsteps. Shit! Zain stepped over a fallen support beam and pressed his back against the slimy wall of the alcove.
He was able to make out at least three distinct voices and the muffled sobs of a slave. Zain rubbed at his wrists, remembering the pinch of the binders and the chaffing they caused. The five years since his escape-come-rescue from Clayson weren’t long enough to wipe away ten years of torture.
Focus. You need to keep focused!
Closing his eyes, Zain made out the sound of another set of footsteps. There was a shuffling, followed by a thud. The sobbing increased in volume for a moment before the unmistakable sound of a slap silenced it. Only his years of learned self-control prevented Zain from yanking his blaster free and rushing to the aid of the slave.
“It’s about time you got here, Prem.”
“Clayson, I thought you said you were coming alone?”
He actually came, the bastard.
While Zain didn’t recognize the voice of the speaker, he knew Clayson’s. Turning as quietly as he could, he pressed his chest to the wall so he could risk a look. While the scanner would mask Zain’s bio signal from detection if he was still, the second he started moving, he’d be visible.
The threat of detection was worth it to catch a glimpse of his former torturer and owner.
The bastard was every inch as big as Zain remembered. Gone was the mass of black hair, replaced by a mane of white that stretched to his waist. The scar along Clayson’s cheek was still visible, though it had faded from red to pink with the years.
Zain had enjoyed giving the asshole that mark.
This time he’d do more than leave a scar.
“You don’t honestly think I would be so stupid? I don’t trust you a single metra, Prem.”
Prem Qi was the sloppiest of the slave traders in this sector. It made him the easiest to track. Zain had done most of the work from on board the Wyvern, going so far as to set up a false identity as a buyer. If nothing else, he’d hoped to rescue a few poor souls set to be sold to Clayson before he got his hands on them. If luck was on his side, Marissa would be one of them.
But now he had the chance to kill the problem at the root.
Prem’s chuckle held no warmth. “No, I don’t suppose you do. I brought a sample like you wanted. Bitch is from Carinae, but I’ve taken extra care to beat her into shape for you.”
Zain’s stomach threatened to rebel. Another person from his home planet caught.
“Not too much, I hope.” Clayson sounded more amused than angry. “I like to break them in personally.”
The woman’s whimper reached Zain. Gods, I can’t do this. His fingers wrapped around the butt of his pistol without a thought. Two steps and he would have a clear shot of both Prem and Clayson. The guards would kill him shortly after he blasted their heads off, but it would be worth it.
He would die with a light heart.
Zain started to push away when a weight from behind forced him back to the wall. He struggled for a second as a large hand covered his mouth, preventing him from crying out.
Zain froze even as the pressure on his body increased. No, it can’t be.
“What the hell was that noise?” Clayson shouted, sending his guards to investigate. “You better not be trying to fuck me over, Prem. You’ll be dead and I’ll have your entire cargo before you can blink.”
“I wouldn’t. You know that.” Prem laughed, but it failed to mask his obvious nervousness.
The hand around Zain’s mouth tightened at the same time a hand on his hip squeezed. The silent command not to move was received. It was a challenge not to squirm, as massive amounts of adrenaline rushed through his body. Worse, he was reacting to the strong arms wrapped around him, controlling him.
Heat from the chest at his back was in contrast to the cold press of the stone wall. Muscular thighs pinned his lower body, taking his leverage and making it impossible to get away. Not that he had plans to try.
The guards walked past their hiding place. The light in the corridor did little to illuminate the main area, let alone the nooks and crannies. As long as no one looked too carefully, they could be swallowed up by the shadows.
“All clear, sir. Must have been strats in the garbage.”
A puff of hot air against Zain’s ear made him shiver. “Amateurs.”
Zain bit down gently on the hand still covering his mouth. He wasn’t a child who needed to be gagged.
“Not until they go,” came the whispered reply.
“I’ll take the sample, Prem. You’ll receive my communication in five days time once I’ve had an opportunity to…evaluate her. Then we’ll discuss terms.”
“Five days is longer than I want to spend on this shithole of a planet. Three days, no more.”
“Five.” The sound of blasters being powered up ended the negotiations.
“Fine, fine.” Gods, Prem was spineless. “I’ll wait for your communication.”
No, he’s going to get away!
Zain jerked and twisted in an attempt to break free. The hand on his hip snapped to the back of his head, pressing him hard against the stone. “Stay. Still.”
Helplessly pinned, Zain could do nothing but listen to the struggles of the slave as Clayson took her to hell. His captor didn’t relent until the echoes in the corridor were long gone and the only sound that remained was the distant trickle of water and the soft squeaks of the strats.
Zain didn’t move immediately once the heavy weight was removed from his body. There was no point now that Clayson had gotten away. Why the hell was he here? Slowly, Zain twisted around until his back pressed against the cool wall and he could glare unimpeded at his companion.
Korbin. The Admiral of the Black in the flesh.
Christine d'Abo © 2007