Sacrifice (Tribute, #1)
Awaiting execution on a foreign planet, Anna Lee has nothing left to lose—until Commander Rehz Akran offers her a chance to escape her fate. Anything is better than death, but when her training for Akran’s mysterious mission begins, the brutality is hard to take . . . especially since Anna has no idea what the workouts, beatings, and endless sexual demands are preparing her for.
Rehz Akran doesn’t deal with failure. He’s determined that his last trainee will survive her immersion in an unimaginably alien world and return alive—even if it means she’ll hate him forever. He needs to stay detached, but his new recruit makes that impossible. Soon he’s willing to defy his own training for a chance to forge a true connection with Anna.
It’s Rehz’s job to teach Anna to survive as a Tribute. And if she does, it’s his task to help her overcome the trauma of the experience. But this time he isn’t doing it to save his planet. This time he’s doing it for love.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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Sixteen weeks until Tribute Day.
“That one.” Rehz Akran leaned over the shoulder of the security guard and pointed at the screen.
“The blonde or the brunette?” The guard froze the screen image.
“The one who’s beating the shit out of the guard.” Rehz narrowed his gaze. “Can you isolate her and give me her stats?”
“Are you certain that’s the one you want, Commander?”
Rehz glanced over at Kai, a fellow trainer who’d come to observe the inmates of the high-security prison with him. “Yeah, why?”
“She looks rallshit crazy to me.”
“She’s got the worst disciplinary record in the prison, and this isn’t a place for weaklings.” The security guard cleared his throat. “Here you go, sir.”
Rehz studied the data scrolling up on the screen. “Name: Lee, Anna. Approximate age: twenty-five. Genetic origin: unknown. Unknown?” He frowned. “What’s up with that?”
“She claims to come from a planet called Earth, and sees herself as a political prisoner who isn’t bound by Mitan society’s rules.”
Rehz looked back over his shoulder at the governor of the high-security prison, who’d appeared in the doorway.
“And what do you make of that?”
“She’s here and she’s subject to our rules. Everything else is irrelevant because she’s already been sentenced to death.”
“What did she do?”
“To get here?” The governor shrugged. “She was attacked by three other inmates at her previous penitentiary and she killed one of them.”
Rehz studied the frozen snarl of the blonde female. She obviously had great survival skills. If three thugs had cornered him, he would’ve killed too. She was his last chance to win.
His last hope.
“I’d like to speak to her.”
The governor’s smile was sardonic. “Be my guest.”
“Lee, get up.”
Anna kept her eyes firmly closed as the door to her solitary confinement cell crashed open. She wasn’t surprised when two guards hauled her to her feet anyway. One of them jabbed her weapon in Anna’s throat.
Her hands were locked together behind her, and her ankles were shackled so she could only take small, shuffling steps. Maybe today was the day they’d finally carry out her sentence and execute her. She almost welcomed it. She was tired of protesting her innocence and of fighting to survive in an alien environment. She kept her gaze on the floor and behaved herself as they led her through several locked gates and into a quieter area of the prison, where the internal trials were held. She’d been there a lot for disciplinary issues.
She was turned to face a door and ushered inside a small room with a table and two chairs in it. Her least favorite guard pushed her down onto one of the chairs and chained her to it.
Anna stared down at the white plastic of the tabletop. The mirror in front of her was a two-way one, and there was a camera in the corner of the room, recording her every breath. Maybe her last breath.
She didn’t bother to look up when the door opened and someone wearing a black uniform came in and sat opposite her. He placed his linked hands on the table, so she studied them instead. Big, competent hands, scarred hands with long fingers capable of choking the life out of her.
“I’m Commander Rehz Akran.”
She didn’t react. Did she need to know her executioner’s name? Was she supposed to pardon him or something?
“I have a bargain to offer you.”
She let out a slow breath and raised her head. Damn, he had a hard face, with eyes the color of space junk and a harsh mouth made even worse by the coiled scars that marred his jawline and throat.
“If you come with me and succeed in the task I set for you, your death sentence will be dismissed.”
“What kind of task?”
“An impossible one.” He shrugged his powerful shoulders. “To be honest, you’re unlikely to survive, but at least you can go down fighting instead of being strapped in a chair and injected with lethal poison.”
“I like to fight.”
“So I’ve heard. But if you want to survive, you’ll have to obey me.”
She attempted a shrug. “‘Obey’ is a difficult concept for me.”
“It’s your choice.”
“It’s hardly a choice. I have no idea what you expect of me.”
“That’s the risk you’re going to have to take. Stay here and die, or come with me and risk everything for a chance of survival.”
She met his gaze and saw nothing in it to reassure her.
“Sure. I’m in.”
Things happened fast after that. She wasn’t taken back to her security wing, but was led out through the complex defense systems and loaded onto a land shuttle and into a smaller cell that made her feel like she was in a coffin after all. A dull roar announced the shuttle was taking off, and she braced herself awkwardly against the wall.
She turned her mind off and pretended she was in Arizona, riding across the desert with her sister and brother, the wind in her hair and a stupid smile on her face. It was a horrible joke how she’d ended up stowing away on a ship bound for a planet that liked to pretend it was all alone in the universe. And now she was stuck here, with no hope of ever getting home.
It didn’t seem to take long to get to wherever they were going. She was woken from her trance by a new guard in the same black uniform that the other man had worn, and was marched outside.
The complex reminded her of the prison, but was set in the Mitan equivalent of the high desert. Nothing grew around the base, and clouds of red dust blew in an endless rolling stream over the stark landscape. In the distance there was a huge, black, flat-topped mountain. If she’d been hoping to escape, there wasn’t anywhere to go, but she was sure they already knew that.
She waited at the security checkpoint as she was scanned and finally let through, a guard on each side of her. There was no sign of Commander Rehz Akran either. The smell of antiseptic wafted across her nose, and they turned into what was obviously the facility’s medical lab.
A woman in a white coat came toward her and nodded at the guards. “Put her in containment unit one, please.” She looked appraisingly at Anna. “When you are secure, please strip so that I can carry out my assessment.”
“Yes. If you don’t want to do it yourself, the guards will help you.”
Anna sighed and stepped into the white plastic space. She quickly took off the hated prison garb, and it was sucked away, leaving her with nothing but a cool breeze tightening her nipples.
The guards were sent out and it was just her, the doctor, and five thousand tests. She was given at least ten shots, including one against Mitan flu and an update on her fertility control, leaving her right arm throbbing from the puncture wounds. Eventually they were through, and Anna waited to see what would happen next.
To her surprise Commander Akran appeared and, after a quick glance at her, had a long conversation with the doctor, who was obviously rehashing Anna’s test results. With a resigned sigh, she slid down the wall, hugged her knees to her chest, and leaned her chin on them.
The doctor left and the commander opened the security door.
Anna glanced around, but there didn’t appear to be any guards. She eyed him cautiously.
“Not necessary.” He came closer and she tensed. “Move.”
She stood up, raised her chin, and sauntered toward him. His gaze swept over her breasts and hips and stayed there. She refused to cover herself and went to brush past him.
His hand closed on her upper arm with considerable strength, and she stopped moving. He produced a leather collar and fastened it around her throat.
“This will have to do until we get you something more permanent.”
“I am not a fucking dog.”
“Then don’t snarl like one.” He took a leash from his pocket and snapped it onto the collar. “Let’s go.”
He opened a door, and the bright lights of the medical center faded away. The floor under her bare feet was hard rock, as were the walls and ceiling. The lights were set low, at floor level.
“What is this place?”
He didn’t answer her question, just tugged slightly on the leash—which made her want to growl—and continued to walk down the main passageway, which was wide enough to fit twenty people across.
“You’ll be stationed in basic training while we review whether you can move on to the main program.”
Anna stopped walking. “You said I had one chance, not that you might decide to kick me out before I even get the opportunity to prove myself.”
“You’ll have plenty of chances.”
He pushed open a door, and stood aside letting her precede him. Anna’s steps slowed. There was a row of cages and each one contained a person. None of them showed any interest in her or Commander Akran.
She backed up so fast she collided with his chest. “You’re putting me in a cage?”
“As I said, basic training.” He edged her toward the last in the row and followed her inside, keeping his back to the door. There was nothing in the space except a blanket, a bowl, and a toilet. He unclipped the leash and swung it back and forth in his hand as he watched her prowl the area.
“Rule number one. When I enter this cage, you kneel down and keep your eyes on the floor.”
She kept her back to him and stared at the wall, which was covered in scratched lettering she couldn’t understand.
“Rule two. You don’t speak until I give you permission.” He paused. “Have you got that?”
She slowly turned to face him. “Fuck you.”
He nodded. “I’ll be back tomorrow.” He bent down, picked up the bowl and blanket, and left.
She went over every inch of the space, but there was nothing she could break off to use as a weapon, either to shove in his face or to end her own life. There also wasn’t any water.
She sank down in the corner, her back to the wall, and licked her dry lips. “Damn.”
Rehz hesitated outside Anna Lee’s door. It had been two days now, and she hadn’t obeyed a single rule. He gripped the chilled bottle of water in his hand and went in. She was sitting in the corner, her knees up to her chin and her long, fair hair covering her face.
She tensed, and he knew that she was looking at him through her hair. He slowly unscrewed the cap of the bottled water and took a swig.
“I’m sure you are thirsty.”
She didn’t curse at him, which was an improvement on the last two days. He suspected it was more to do with her weakness than her willingness to follow his rules.
“You agreed to this. I told you I would need your obedience, and you’re failing at the first step? Is such a thing as showing respect for your trainer too much to ask?”
She finally raised her head, and her gaze fixed on the bottle of water. Her eyes were a clear blue that he’d never seen before on Mitan.
“Lee, you’re already down there, so what’s the big deal? Get over here. Kneel in front of me, and I’ll give you this bottle of water.”
Her throat worked as he deliberately poured a thin trickle of water through his fingers and flicked it at her.
“Come on, Lee.”
If she refused, he’d have to consider terminating her, and then the search for a new recruit would begin all over again. He wanted her to succeed so that he could get out of the program as well. He didn’t think he could stand another year of training and sacrifice.
“What’s worth more, your pride or your life?”
He stopped talking as she went on all fours and came toward him, her gaze lowered, and then knelt up. Her body was lean and well muscled. The thought of training her was exciting even for his jaded appetite.
He bent down to give her the bottle of water. She snatched it out of his hand and started to drink. When he thought she’d had enough, he reclaimed the bottle. He didn’t trust her enough to let her keep it and risk her fashioning it into some kind of weapon.
“And as you didn’t speak either, I’ll make sure you get your evening meal. I’ll be back tomorrow, and we’ll start your training properly.”
Anna wanted to scream, but there wasn’t any point. She’d given in. Her will to survive kept interfering with her desire to get the better of that bastard, Akran. But she couldn’t kill him if she was weak and he didn’t let her out of her cage. She was just regaining her strength and then she’d let him see how docile she really was . . .
Dinner wasn’t anything to shout about, but she devoured it as if it were a gourmet meal and immediately felt stronger. She’d get him soon enough. Thanks to the Mitan prison system, she was an expert in biding her time and choosing her moment. Let him think he had her cowed and manageable, and she’d have him right where she wanted him.
He appeared at the cage door early the next morning. He’d changed out of his formal uniform into black workout gear that clung to his muscular frame. She’d been given water and a high-protein breakfast and was more than willing to keep her mouth shut and bow down to him if it meant she got out the door. She didn’t want to appear too willing though, so she stayed in the corner as he advanced into the cell, the leash in his hand. Her heart almost stopped. He’d left the door open a crack.
“Good morning, Lee.”
She forced herself to look down and cover the space between them on her knees. She stiffened as he slid a hand into her hair and drew her head up.
“That’s better. Now undo my pants and suck my cock.”
She went for him with her teeth and nails, aiming straight at his groin. He grabbed hold of her with insulting ease and brought her down to the floor, his hard body covering hers. She attempted to heave him off, but it was impossible.
“What’s the problem, Lee?”
She sank her teeth into his wrist, and he didn’t even flinch as he shook her off.
“This is part of your training.”
“You lying fuck!” She struggled again, but it was useless. “This is just some kind of brothel for the military, isn’t it?”
“I don’t believe you.”
He flipped her onto her back and straddled her, his hands holding her wrists at her sides. “In order to attempt the task to gain your freedom, you must be physically and sexually fit. I’m going to make sure you are both.”
“This is a fucking joke!”
He wasn’t smiling. “It’s my job, Lee, and I’m the best there is at it. You’re going to learn to suck cock until you can keep going for hours and do it in your sleep.”
“I am fucking not!”
“You’re giving up?” His expression hardened. “Then I’ll sign the papers to have you exterminated.”
She stared up at him. He was completely serious. “You’re going to kill me because I won’t give you a blowjob?”
“You need to learn to suck cock.”
“I already know how to do that.”
“Not to the standards I require.” He shifted against her, and she felt the hard ridge of his erection nudge her naked belly.
“Get off me, and I’ll show you.”
He slowly rolled off her, watching her all the time, and stood up. With one hand he undid the snaps of his pants.
“If you bite me, I won’t be happy, and you’ll be punished. Are you clear on that?”
Anna studied the thick swell of his cock, which was already pushing its way out of the top of his regulation military boxers. She couldn’t think of a better way to bring a man to his knees than by sucking him off. And when Akran went down, she’d be all over him, and it would be all over for him.
She leaned closer, inhaling his scent, and nudged him with her nose. He shoved down his pants and underwear to reveal the broad column of his cock and the curve of his balls beneath. He didn’t need to know that she’d always loved sucking a man off, that she’d missed it. He was big too, and she’d always loved a challenge.
He bent over her and brought her wrists into the small of her back, clicking the two cuffs together.
“No hands. I want all of it in your mouth.”
She made a humming sound as she slowly sucked him between her lips, and he shuddered. She took more, swallowing him deeper, helped by the slick of his pre-come running down her throat. Breathing through her nose, she started a regular rhythm of pulling him in and then letting him almost slide out. He groaned and she wanted to smile.
He thought he had all the power, but in this position, she controlled him. Very few men were willing to risk having their most precious possession damaged. And she was willing to bite his dick clean off if it meant she could get away. She focused on making him come, but he seemed way too relaxed for that to happen. Deciding to change tactics, she pulled away and went lower to lick and suck his balls, her agile tongue reaching back along his taint.
“Nice, Lee,” he murmured in his deep voice. “But get back to my cock.”
She didn’t obey him until he slid his hand in her hair and yanked on it. “My cock, Lee.”
With a small growl she took him down in one swallow and sucked as hard as she could. He made no effort to take control or fuck her mouth, and it was beginning to infuriate her. If she had her hands free, she could shove a finger up his ass and he’d be coming within seconds. She couldn’t keep this pace up for much longer; her mouth was getting tired.
She stiffened as his hands moved to cup her breasts, his thumbs working her nipples into tight buds. He kept doing it until each pinch was like a stab of pain, of too much. She tried to jerk away, but he caught her tender flesh between finger and thumb and yanked her back. Ripples of unexpected pleasure ran straight from her breasts to her core, making her feel edgy and uncomfortable. She had to end this soon, had to bring him down.
With a moan she rose on one knee, her mouth biting and nibbling at his shaft. One of his hands left her breasts, and she knew he was about to push her back down. With all her courage she jerked her head back, and bit him hard on the tender head of his crown. He instinctively tried to move back, and she drove her head into his groin, overbalancing him for that one precious second. As he started to fall, she clambered over him like he was a rock wall and made for the door.
Half-expecting alarms to go off, she ran past the other occupants of the cages and headed out along the main passageway, her breathing ragged, her bare feet making no sound. One moment he wasn’t there, and the next she was hit from behind with the force of a truck and brought to the ground wrapped in his arms. She smelled blood, but whether it was hers or his she had no idea.
“That was an extremely stupid thing to do.”
He spoke in her ear. He wasn’t even breathing hard and goddamn it he was still erect, his cock poking her in the lower back. She winced as he forced his knee between her thighs.
“Everything all right, Rehz?”
There were two sets of feet to her left. One in military boots, the other bare.
“Everything’s fine, Kai.” Her captor’s low voice held the promise of retribution. “New recruit.”
“And she got away from you? Damn.”
The man moved on with his companion, and Anna held her breath.
“As I was saying, that was a pointless waste of both of our time.”
“I don’t know. I quite enjoyed it.”
He cupped her mound, and her mouth went dry. The tip of his finger probed her sex and then he worked it deep.
“You’re tight. Not much cock in jail, is there?”
She compressed her lips as he pumped his finger back and forth. Occasionally someone passed by, but no one else remarked on their presence. She had to fight to believe it was really happening to her. She was naked, a man was on top of her, and no one was going to stop him—
“God—” She struggled to breathe as he adjusted his position and pressed the head of his cock where his finger had just been. It took him a long time to push himself into her cunt and she felt every little give of her inner muscles, every pulse of his hot, hard cock as he took her.
“I was going to fuck you against a wall or on a bed, but this works just as well.”
Damn him. He sounded as if he were making casual conversation, when he was balls deep in her and still taking up more space than she had to give. She couldn’t even ease the ache or adjust the angle of her hips because he held her pinned to the ground. And hell, her treacherous body was ready for cock, was responding with its own wet welcome, easing his passage and opening to him with every heavy thrust of his hips. But this wasn’t about her pleasure. This was about him being in control and showing her that he would have her regardless of what she wanted, or what she tried to do to him.
He tightened his grip around her waist, raising her a scant inch or two, and started slamming into her. She set her teeth and just let her body move with his. She’d taken a chance and failed and now she was paying for it. It wasn’t the first time she’d been punished for disobedience, and she suspected it wouldn’t be the last.
He shoved inward one last time and came hard, his body shuddering around hers, completely pinning her to the smooth rock floor. Somewhere in her mind she knew she’d be a mass of bruises if she survived until the next day. She winced as he pulled out and yanked her to her feet. She couldn’t help but sway against him and feel the hot trickle of his come drip down her thigh.
She stumbled a couple of times, but he kept a hand on her upper arm and forced her along at his pace. They didn’t go back the way she’d come, which made her nervous.
He stopped at one of the doors and punched in a code too fast for Anna to read it. She went ahead of him and stopped at the sight before her. There was a naked man spread-eagled over a plastic formed table. His wrists and ankles were encased in the plastic, and he was facedown, his long hair hiding his features. A man in the same black uniform as Akran stood behind him. He looked up as they entered.
“Is this one for me? I heard you had a bit of trouble.”
“I’ll take care of her myself, Prof.”
The man nodded. “Sure. Help yourself.”
Rehz locked his fingers around Lee’s arm and maneuvered her toward the second of the white tables. Greez, he wasn’t up to tackling females anymore. His bones were hurting from protecting her from the impact of the fall, and his dick was throbbing like hell where she’d almost ripped off the head.
Which meant he wasn’t in a good mood, as his latest trainee was about to find out. He picked her up and dropped her facedown onto the soft surface of the plastic, which immediately adapted itself to her shape, wrapping around her ankles to keep her secured. He unlocked the cuffs at her wrists, and her hands scrabbled for purchase before being trapped in the plastic restraints.
“What are you doing to me?”
He liked her voice, damn it. He even admired her courage, but he had to break her and then rebuild her or she’d die. She had to learn to control her impulses.
“I told you not to bite my dick.”
She didn’t say anything. He smoothed his palm over her ass and felt the wetness of his come on her inner thigh. Raising his hand, he smacked her ass cheek, and she jerked.
“Pay attention, Lee. Do not fucking bite me ever again.”
He picked up the controller and studied her prostrate form before punching in a series of commands. Two thick, lubed protrusions emerged from the plastic and pressed into her cunt and ass. She gasped, and he punched in a third command that added another thick cock-like length just past her lips.
“No talking, Lee, remember?”
Her hands tightened into fists as he strolled over to the punishment racks and selected a thin birch rod. A dozen strokes should make her ass sting nicely without cutting too deep. He made sure she could see what he was doing as he tapped the tip of the rod against his palm.
After the first four strokes, she stiffened and started to fight the pain, but he kept on, until she went still and let herself go limp against the plastic. When he’d finished, he returned the cane to its place. Crouching beside her head, he pulled her hair away from her face so that she could see him clearly. It amused him that in spite of everything, she still looked murderous.
“Twelve strokes, Lee. If you as much as scrape my cock with your teeth again without permission, I’ll double it to twenty-four. Do you understand?” She didn’t reply because she couldn’t, and that was fine with him. “I’ll be back to collect you later.”
Her strange blue eyes widened as he rose and picked up the controller again. Another code and the three fake dicks started to act like real ones, thickening and moving in and out of her to the irregular tempo he set. It was the best way the facility had come up with to simulate intercourse without using their limited supply of trainers.
Not that Anna Lee needed to know that. All she needed to know at this point was that he was in charge, and that if she wanted to survive, she needed an attitude adjustment. Rehz groaned as he left the room and headed for his quarters. A quick shower would ease his aching body, and then he’d write his daily report on Lee. He had a strange sense that for every step he gained with her, there would be another three backward.
He straightened his shoulders. She didn’t know what she’d taken on and why he was going to make her tough enough to live. He hated that. But it was part of the deal, and he didn’t have the authority to tell her the trut
Anna shuddered and strained against the constraints of the machine, or whatever it was that bastard Akran had strapped her to. Her ass was sore and the subtle rocking of the insertions was bringing her so close to climax that she wanted to cry.
The man tending the naked male who was strapped to another of the infernal plastic machines walked by her occasionally and checked her out. He made no move to touch her or improve her circumstances. But then the bastard had said he’d return . . . She cursed around the rippling plastic rod in her mouth. She was almost too tired to face him again.
As if that cowardly thought had summoned him, she saw his boots on the floor closest to her head. He’d showered, and she could smell some kind of pine scent from his skin.
She flinched as his hands skimmed over her hips and ass and then forced herself to go still as he slid his fingers between her stomach and the plastic bed, which yielded to his touch. His thumbs met over her mound and slipped between her folds until he captured her clit between them.
“I’m going to make you come.”
He started to rub her already aroused clit. She closed her eyes and willed herself not to react, but it was too difficult. She froze into a climax and shuddered through it while he continued to pluck at her clit. The intensity of her reaction to the orgasm both surprised and embarrassed her. She could only hope that he hadn’t noticed.
The table tilted upward and the probe in her ass disappeared and was replaced by his cock. Keeping one thumb pressed hard on her clit, he fucked her with a steady motion. The slap of his groin against her sensitized ass made her writhe and try to get away from him, but there was nowhere to go. She simply had to endure and keep coming for as long as he wanted her to.
God, it was so humiliating. She wanted to beg him to stop, but she knew that’s what he wanted. Her submission, and her acknowledgment that she was totally in his power. And she’d never give him that, even if it were true. There was always another day. Always another opportunity to rise against him and succeed. So she’d take the punishments he meted out to her until she understood what was going on, and then she’d work out how to survive him.
He climaxed and pulled out, and she breathed easier. She heard the sound of running water, and then he appeared at the top of the table and yanked her head up with a fist in her hair. The probe in her mouth retracted.
Her lips didn’t want to comply at first, so he took over, fucking her mouth so deeply that she eventually managed to grip him with her lips to stop him. She tasted pine soap and his come as he worked himself hard again and then withdrew.
He settled one hand over her mound and the other between her breasts, stretching out his long, callused fingers to pluck and play with her nipples and clit. She fought a gasp as he slid his cock in her cunt, and she came again and again until it stopped being pleasurable and simply hurt, but he didn’t stop fucking her. Eventually she couldn’t fight anymore and let him pound away.
He came, and she didn’t even react. Just lay there as the table removed the restraints from her body. He rolled her over onto her back, and she kept her gaze lowered and her mouth shut.
He attached the leash to her collar and pulled on it. She scrambled off the machine, her knees giving way as her feet hit the floor. He held her up with one strong hand under her elbow.
“Don’t make me do this again, Lee. You wasted a whole day when we could’ve been training.”
She concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, sore and aching, doubting she’d be offered an opportunity to alleviate that. He took her back to her cage and made her kneel in front of him while he unclipped the leash.
She crawled over and lay down on her blanket, curling herself up into a tight ball. Whatever happened tomorrow, she’d survived another day. That was something. The thing to do was sort out what kind of environment she was in and learn how to defeat it. The trouble was, she had no idea what was going on. This place and her “trainer” Rehz Akran were like nothing she’d ever experienced before.
But that hadn’t stopped her in the past. She’d dealt with ending up on the wrong planet, being mistaken for an intergalactic criminal, and surviving the Mitan prison system. All she had to do was work out what Akran wanted, make him think she was going to give it to him, and then kill him.