Publication date: February 24th 2015
Genres: Erotica, Romance, Science Fiction
Find the strongest man there. Give yourself to him in return for protection. It’s the only way you’ll ever survive.
Convicted of a minor crime, Riana is sentenced to a prison planet—a dark primitive hold filled with convicts vying for power. Her only chance of survival is with Cain, a mysterious loner who has won his territory in the prison through intelligence and brute strength. Sex is all she has to offer, so she uses it. She’s under no delusions here. No one is ever released, and no one ever escapes. Survival is all she can hope for—until Cain.
An earlier version of this book was published under the same title and a different penname by Ellora’s Cave. It has since been substantially revised and expanded.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940151741118
“Are you a whore?” Thorn asked blandly.
“No.” She was so surprised by the question that she managed to speak over the rancid texture in her mouth.
“Good. I don’t do whores, although they’re usually all we get down here. You have a good body, which is the only other thing I require in a woman. Two options.” His eyes—a very dark blue—narrowed as he explained, “Be my woman. Do what I tell you. I’ll keep you safe. Or, if you refuse, I’ll turn you over to the rest of them.”
He gestured back to “the rest of them.” Riana’s mind was in too great a blur to see distinct faces, but the rest of the prisoners seemed to be lurking just in the background, like a hungry pack of wolves.
“They’ll take turns using you until they’re bored. You won’t last the night.”
Riana knew his final words weren’t an exaggeration. It was possible some lesser alpha male might try to take her as his, but he probably wouldn’t be strong enough to keep her safe from the others for long.
“What’s your decision?” Thorn demanded, looking slightly annoyed at her hesitation.
This was the moment. The one that would decide her fate.
Common sense, social pressure, and nearly all the evidence told her to take Thorn up on his offer.
Let him fuck her. Let him keep her alive.
Riana glanced around the prison one more time, and her eyes landed on the barred cell of the loner whose name Davis hadn’t known. In the back of her mind, she’d noticed he’d stepped over to watch when she’d laid out the sleaze a minute ago.
Now he was standing silently, one hand resting loosely on a bar.
Her eyes met his for a few seconds, and she saw something there she hadn’t seen in anyone else’s here.
It wasn’t kindness or pity or mercy or anything soft.
She couldn’t really name what she’d seen, but it reminded her of independence.
She turned back to Thorn.
He was waiting, a smirk of pleased entitlement on his handsome face, as if he never doubted what her answer would be.
That did it. She ignored her reason and followed her instinct.
She turned on her heel and kicked out again, this time landing the blow right on Thorn’s hard, flat stomach.
He grunted and took a step backward, more in surprise than real pain.
It was a good kick, but there was no way she could outmaneuver him physically.
“I don’t want you or them,” Riana said loudly, turning her head to look back at the loner in his cell, giving him a significant gaze she could only hope he’d respond to.
A wash of rage transformed Thorn’s face, intensifying when other prisoners started to snicker a little.
Thorn advanced on her like a stalking animal. “We’ll go with the third alternative,” he gritted out. “I’ll take you first and then throw what’s left back to the rest of them.”
It wasn’t an idle threat. Riana knew he would act on it. She would be beaten and raped and then given to others who would do it to her again and again.
She looked back at the loner and felt a wave of absolute despair when she saw he’d turned his back. On her. On the rest of the prison.
He wasn’t going to respond after all.
Which meant there was absolutely no hope for her.
“Is your face okay?” she asked weakly, as she noticed him wiping away the blood.
He sure wasn’t much of a conversationalist.
“I’m Riana.” She had no idea what she was supposed to do. Her knees were shaky, so she sank down to perch on the edge of the bed.
She blinked. He wasn’t even going to tell her his name?
“Thanks,” she began, trying to speak clearly despite her nerves, “For your help. I mean, for…”
He turned around and stared down at her.
The man was pure physicality. His closely shaved dark hair emphasized the sculpted curve of his skull. His olive skin—it must be natural since there was no sun to tan his skin here—was covered with a sheen of perspiration. He was wearing the kind of sleeveless t-shirt her grandmother had called a “wife-beater,” and it showed off his impressive shoulders and the rippling muscles of his arms. His well-worn trousers were slung low on lean hips. His large build was natural too and—although he was obviously in excellent shape—he didn’t look fake or overblown like Asp.
His features were too starkly chiseled, and his expression too impassive to be labeled traditionally handsome. But power and masculinity radiated off him in waves.
“Do you think I helped you out of the goodness of my heart?”
It was the longest sentence she’d heard him utter, and it made her heart leap into her throat. “Uh, no, but I’m still grateful.”
“No gratitude. I’m getting something in return.” His blue eyes seemed to impale her. “Right?”
She gulped. “Right.”
Never for a minute had she hoped he would generously give her a pass. Of course, she was going to have to fuck him.
He took three steps over until he was standing next to the bed, directly in front of where she was sitting. “Take off your shirt.”
Riana gasped and darted her eyes over to the bars of the cell. The other prisoners were still milling outside, some blatantly staring at the two of them inside.
He followed her look. “There’s no privacy here. You’ll get used to it.”
When he didn’t say anything else, she realized she was going to have to deal with the embarrassment. With trembling fingers, she started to undo the buttons on the front of her shirt.
The man watched her. His face didn’t change, but she thought she saw something almost hungry in his gaze when she dared to meet his eyes.
When she’d unbuttoned her shirt, she slowly pushed it off over her shoulders, left only in her stretchy camisole.
“That one too,” the man directed, his voice even lower and thicker than before.
Might as well get it over with. Riana turned on the bed so she wouldn’t expose her breasts to any passing ogler and pulled her camisole off over her head.
Her bare breasts jiggled slightly from the motion. She didn’t have an extraordinarily voluptuous figure. Her limbs were long and lean, and she’d always been fairly athletic. But her breasts were firm and rounded, so she hoped he wouldn’t be disappointed.
She was almost as terrified of his deciding not to bother with her as she was of having him fuck her.
His weight lowered over her as both of them started to come down. He was heavy and hot, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The texture of his breath was thick and damp next to her ear.
After a minute, he pulled up and rolled over, groaning as he sprawled out on his back.
It was still too dark to see anything.
Riana was burning with lingering pleasure and with absolute embarrassment. She never would have believed she could come—have an actual orgasm, a good one—in a situation like this.
She didn’t know this man. She never would have slept with him if she’d been in any normal situation.
But their blind, groping, half-asleep coupling might have been the best fuck of her life.
She’d thought he’d gone to sleep again, but suddenly his low voice wafted over toward her. “I’m Cain.”
“My name. Cain.”
“Oh.” She swallowed and stared up at the blackness above her. “Hi.”
They lay in silence for a long time. She thought once more he’d fallen asleep, but then he surprised her by a question. “Why me?”
It seemed to come out of the blue, but she knew exactly what he was asking.
There were any number of answers to that question. There was no one better. He was the only one she could tolerate. She’d noticed the signs that revealed he could take what he wanted, even in a place like this.
But there was only one answer that mattered, so she told him the truth in the dark. “You’re the strongest one here.”
He’d leaned forward to cup his hands under the running water when he sucked in a sharp breath and stiffened suddenly.
Something about the way he moved told Riana something she should have known before. “Are you hurt?”
He didn’t answer. Didn’t even acknowledge the question as he leaned down toward the water again.
Instinctively, Riana got up and walked over to him. “Seriously, are you hurt? I should have asked before. Was it from the fight yesterday?”
“I’m not hurt,” he gritted out, reaching for a towel.
While he was distracted by drying his face, Riana pulled up the side of his t-shirt to expose the side he’d seem to favor a moment before.
His entire side was a mass of ugly, purple bruises.
“My God. Cain. My God!”
He jerked away. “They’re bruises. Nothing to whine about.”
“They look horrible,” she said, trying to get his t-shirt pushed up more so she could see the extent of the damage. “Why didn’t you say anything? And you did all those exercises this morning. It must have hurt like hell.”
He gave her an unpleasant look. “Are you through?”
“No,” she said, too upset to even consider whether she was being wise to press her attention on him in this matter. “Can I see how bad it is?”
“I know some first aid. If you broke a rib or something—”
“I didn’t break a rib.”
But he didn’t object when she’d pushed his t-shirt up and then carefully pulled it off over his head. The bruising went from his left shoulder blade all the way down his side and forward toward his lower belly.
Riana brushed her fingers along the damage, wishing she could remember more of her medical training. “This must be why you didn’t want to fight just now.”
He tensed palpably. “I could have taken them easily.”
“I’m sure you could,” she assured him quickly. “I didn’t mean to imply you couldn’t.” She winced as she noticed a particularly dark bruise on his lower side. “But this looks terrible. Thorn did a number on you.”
Her voice had been gentle, but it was clearly the wrong thing to say—yet again. Cain stiffened and pulled away. “I promise he looks worse.”
She blinked up at his closed-off face, and she realized he was still bristling with a wounded masculine ego.
What the fuck was wrong with men anyway? No matter how tough and rugged they were, they still managed to be sensitive about the slightest hint they weren’t invulnerable.
“I’m sure he does,” she said lightly, instead of following her urge to complain about his acting like a baby. “He must look so bad he’s been afraid to show his face all day.”
This apparently was the right thing to say. Cain relaxed and gave a snort of what almost sounded like amusement. “I’m pretty sure I broke his nose.”
“Good.” She smiled and continued inspecting the damage on his body, making instinctive note of the rippling muscles of his back and the scattering of course dark hair on his chest. “I hope it heals crooked.”
He didn’t respond, but she saw the corner of his lips quirk up. This time it was longer than a moment. It wasn’t a full-fledged smile, but it was closer than anything she’d seen.
She ran her fingers down his back—pretending to check for damage but mostly because she found the smooth, strong planes irresistible. “I wish you’d told me about your bruises before,” she murmured. “Last night I mean. When we were… I hope I didn’t hurt you.”
He turned on his heel, so sharply she didn’t expect it. Facing her, he reached out to grab her by the hips. “Nothing about last night hurt,” he said, his voice as thick and rough as gravel. “I’m not that injured.”
Then, as if to prove his point, he slid his big hands back until they were spanning the curve of her ass. He lifted her up to a position where she automatically wrapped her legs around his waist.
“Your bruises,” she gasped, squirming as she tried not to put any pressure on his damaged side.
He started to walk, his grip so strong there was no sense in fighting it. “I told you. I’m not that injured.”
(No author photo)
Claire has been writing romance novels since she was twelve years old. She has a PhD in British literature and, when she's not writing, she teaches English at the university level.
She also writes romance novels under the penname Noelle Adams.