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Chapter One


Ariel kept her eyes down. She’d learned to not look up. Her left cheek still hurt from the bruises she was sure marred her face. She knew help would never come. She was still in deep shock and it was hard to function as the hours passed. Her life was over, changed forever, and death would probably greet her really damn soon. This couldn’t be happening. How many times had that thought crossed her mind in the days since she’d been taken?

Her gaze drifted around the cave floor. Someone had painstakingly swept up the dirt and debris until it was almost clean. There were lights along the ceiling so the room was well lit.

She heard shoes striking the stones, and fear gripped her. What now? The thought barely surfaced before she heard one of the men who’d grabbed her enter the room.

“Useless,” he said softly.

She lifted her gaze. The man wasn’t human. The shock of someone not being human hadn’t started to dim yet. Days ago if she had been told other races existed she would have laughed and asked them what movie they had watched too much. It wasn’t funny anymore. Her gaze swept the man’s bluish pale skin and then dropped. His eyes were yellow. They were serpent-like and his voice was wispy in a creepy way that sent bad chills down her spine.

“Did you hear me, Earthling? You’re useless.”

She nodded. She didn’t speak. She knew if she looked at him too long or if she spoke, it would warrant another blow to her face. They were Anzons. That’s what she’d been told when they had grabbed her from the woods by her home. The days she’d been captive felt like forever to her.

5

 

Laurann Dohner

Another set of footsteps. She glanced up. The females of their species had the same eerie yellow eyes and bluish skin tone. They had breasts and seemed to grow hair only in a strip from the top of their heads to the lower part of their neck but their body structure wasn’t that different. They were all lean and long.

“It has been confirmed,” the woman hissed. “She’s not capable of breeding with our men. Humans aren’t the answer we seek.”

“We could give the males some relief with her. She’s not hideous to look at and her form is similar enough to ours.”

The woman hissed loudly. “The physical exam I gave her when she was unconscious says otherwise. She’d die.”

“She’s useless anyway.”

The woman frowned. “Where is your compassion, Yoz? It would be excruciating for her. The hard shell at the tip of your staff would tear her apart inside. She would bleed out and the pain would be—” The woman shivered. “I wouldn’t wish it upon even an enemy. We’re not at war with her world.”

“She’ll die anyway and I am curious.”

“Yoz,” the woman hissed. “I will not allow it. I have another purpose for her.”

“We need a worker?”

“No. I thought we could award her to one of the miners. They probably aren’t breeding compatible but sexually it wouldn’t be harmful to hand her over to one of them.”

Yoz hissed. “Vhal, that’s disgusting. That’s cruelty. They are so hideous.”

“But they wouldn’t kill her. And they have hair like she has.” The man snorted. Ariel sensed his eyes on her. “She has little body hair. They have more hair. They are also much bigger. Their skin texture looks the same though.”

“I’ve already discussed this with Mon. He agreed. It is done. Take her to the mines now. Mon awaits her.”

6

 

Ral’s Woman

Fear struck Ariel deeply. She jerked her head up and locked her eyes on the woman. “What is going on? Please tell me something. Please.” The man hissed angrily at Ariel. The woman—Vhal—gripped his arm and shook her head. Compassion filled her face as she released the man. Vhal walked forward, blinked at Ariel a few times, and ran a lizard-like tongue across her thin blue lips. She stared down at Ariel.

“You were taken from your planet as we passed because our males outnumber our females eighteen to one. We’re facing eventual extinction if we don’t find a race of females to breed with our men. Our female bodies only support one or two egg cycles in our lifetimes. We lay our eggs and hatch our young. We only have three to six children per egg cycle. We tested you and you are not breeding compatible with our species.”

Ariel was stunned. “May I please go home?”

“I’m sorry but no. We are on a large…” She frowned. “You would call it an asteroid. We send ships out to habitable planets. We are very careful with our fuel. Our mission is important and we must complete it before we are allowed to return to our home planet. If we do not find breeding compatible females we will eventually die of old age still searching for them. It is imperative that we save our race. There are other stations like this one out there searching for females. If we do find breeders we will need all of our fuel to take them to our planet.” Hot tears filled Ariel’s pale blue eyes. “So I’ll never see my home again?”

“I’m sorry.” The woman’s hissing voice sounded sad. “We have miners. They mine this asteroid. It gives us fuel and then more living spaces. You will be awarded to one of them for his hard work. They are Zorn. It is another race of people we own.” Own? She hadn’t missed that term. Dread filled Ariel. “What will happen to me?” The woman blinked. “They treat the few females they have well. They do not share their females so you will be awarded to just one of them. The language implant in your ear will allow you to communicate with the male you end up with. Our commander 7

 

Laurann Dohner

takes pleasure in sports so the winner will get you. He offers them rewards. You are the prize.”

She stared up at the woman. “Please…no.”

The woman nodded slowly. “It is better than what Yoz had in store for you. One sexual mating with one of my kind would kill you very painfully.” The woman turned.

“Take her, Yoz.”

Ariel wanted to fight but she knew it would be useless. The man was six feet tall and damn strong, though he was thin. He gripped the chain attached to her wrist. It had to be some kind of alien touch-release shackle because it unlocked from the wall when he gripped it. He walked away, not waiting to see if Ariel would follow or not. She got to her feet to walk quickly after him so she wasn’t dragged. The man had long legs.

 
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