an excerpt

Chapter One

Being alone with Braylen, in the quarters he shared with two other officers, wasn't safe. Not that I cared. It wasn't my fault his cottage topped a long list of places my father had forbidden me to enter. I'd joined the United Army of the Moral Sector to escape the outrageous demands of my sire. I wasn't about to play the part of the submissive little daughter. Not after all I'd gone through to gain some modicum of freedom. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a hellion. My mother raised me to be obedient. On my planet being a well-behaved daughter had nothing to do with being good and everything to do with being subservient. When you're forbidden to show emotion, make your own decisions, or display an intelligent thought it's hard to find enough backbone to stand up for yourself. Somehow I managed to do just that.

While trying to circumvent the Unified Laws of my people I found a loophole in the Ruling Council's stringent regulations. Though the loophole didn't make me free, as long as I maintained my virtue, I could stay on the peacekeeping planet I'd come to think of as home. Though several Quinlight men served in the army, only two females had ever been allowed to cousin and me.

Not that any of that mattered now. Rules didn't matter. My virtue didn't matter. When alone with Braylen, I didn't want to behave.

"," I muttered as I took in the cinnamon, cedar smell of Braylen's musk.

"What did you say, Cyn?" Braylen asked before bending his head and nibbling my ear.

"Nothing," I said as I rubbed my cheek against his mouth and giggled.

I couldn't concentrate on anything other than the hot, moist feel of Braylen's breath as it trickled across the tiny, pink hairs on the back of my neck. Knowing if I didn't get my libido under control I'd end up with a price on my head, I tried to push my would-be lover away. It didn't work. Trying to move Braylen, when he didn't want to be moved, was like trying to push a stationary planet out of the solar system. If I didn't get our make-out session under control, I'd find myself back home on Quinlight where the only thing I'd have to look forward to would be a slow, painful death. And that's if my father took mercy on me. It was hard to think about punishment and torture when Braylen's hand rested under the cusp of my left breast. Every time he flicked his thumb across my nipple, all I could think about was being bad. Very, very bad.

"Please, Cyn. I know you want me," Braylen said as he flipped me over and laid his hard muscled body on top of my soft curves.

His voice was pure alpha male. The tone was a deep, rough, sensual tenor. The subtle snarl that could be heard in it caused me to feel submissive and tingly. Tingly I could deal with. The powerless, submissive feelings Braylen caused to course through me, pissed me off. Subservience had been programmed into my DNA. Women on my planet were bred to be docile and compliant. Because of this, it had taken me years to overcome the genetics of my people. That's why I promised myself, I wouldn't yield my virginity to just any man. No matter how handsome, brawny and flat out doable he seemed.

Braylen wouldn't want me to submit to him. We were partners, equals. In my own way, I was as much of an alpha as he was. Pushing away the angry, bitter feelings dancing around inside my head, I turned my attention to the man I loved. I wanted to lose myself in his kisses, but I couldn't. My overactive brain had switched gears on me. I'd gone from thinking about what Braylen would look like naked to focusing on the edicts my people were forced to live under. The laws set by the Ruling Council of my planet were inflexible and cruel. Anyone found breaking them was judged harshly and punished severely.

When my passion for Braylen burned hot, I found it difficult to focus on consequences and retribution. It didn't help that proof of how much he wanted me lay sandwiched between us; long, hard, and eager for my attention.

"What I want doesn't matter. Unsanctioned unions are forbidden."

"Unions don't have to be sanctioned here. Not as long as the relationship is consensual. Besides, no one will know. Not unless you say something, Cyn." "Urgh, you're driving me crazy," I said with a sigh.

Braylen knew all about the rules my people were forced to live under. For some reason, he liked to feign innocence when things between us got spicy.

"I'm tired of having to explain this to you, but I Pay attention! Since I'm a member of the ruling family, the second my virtue is pierced my familial light will fade, and my hair will change color. Which means, everyone will know I sacrificed my virginity to you." "We'll get you a wig."

"It wouldn't help. The second my light flickers and dies one of the temple priests will run and tell my father. When my sire finds out my flame went out...on its own, he'll teleport here then force me to accompany him back to Quinlight where I'll be killed...or worse."

"I'd never let that happen. If your father comes for you--if he tries to take you away or hurt you--I'll find a way to stop him."

"Really? And how would you do that? He's one of the most powerful rulers in our universe."

"Marry me. If you're legally mine, he can't touch you." "I can't, you know that. I have to marry someone from my planet. Someone my father deems worthy of me, whether I like it or not. Not only will my future husband have a title, but he'll belong to one of the ruling houses. Members of the government and the royal family aren't allowed to marry outside their caste, let alone outside their species."

"Cyn, just because we're from different planets doesn't mean we're not compatible. We've discussed all this before."

"We've talked about all of this before," I snapped. "Sorry. I understand what you're saying, Braylen. You'll never be able to convince my father that we belong together. Especially since...well..."


"You know I don't like saying it."

"But it's fun watching you squirm when you do," Braylen said as he hovered above me.

The look on his face was all male, all condescending overly full of himself male. Reaching up, I punched him on his massive shoulder, and discovered that when lying underneath your intended victim, it's hard to put much strength into a blow.

"What's the matter, princess? Oops, did I just say that awful word?"

"I hate when you call me that."

"Maybe your father will give you to Danford. After all, he's from the right...class?" Braylen hissed as he wiggled his eyebrows and rolled off me.

"Ugh, I know he's your friend but...ugh. It's bad enough that when I was a kid, my mother told me as soon as I was old enough to breed I'd be given to Danford. Thank goodness my father had a change of heart. If not, I would never have found the strength to escape his command. I never would have found my way here. And its caste, not class, you dope."

Braylen knew the difference between the two words, he was just trying to get my goat. For someone trying hard to get in my pants, he was acting like a total imbecile. Still, I could dish it out as well as he could.

"Even if my father gave us his blessing, you like sleeping around too much. That doesn't make you good marriage material" I bit my lower lip to keep from laughing at the look on Braylen's face. "You don't have to say anything. I know promiscuity's embedded in the DNA of your people. That's why so many of your kind live with the Immorals. Your species is one of the few divided like that." "Are you saying I'm immoral, Cyn? Is that how you think of me?"

"No, Braylen. You're not immoral. You're just horny. I better get home. I'm about out of patience with you. If I don't leave, well I just might feel the need to hurt you."

"Like you could take me," Braylen said with a laugh.

The sound he made was rich and deep. It made things low in my tummy dance. Not wanting Braylen to see how much I wanted him, I stuck my tongue out and shrugged my shoulders. I was a strong, skilled fighter. Hours of training, better than average knife skills and raw talent aside; I knew I'd never be able to best the man lying next to me.

"One of these days I'm going to have my way with you, Cyn. I'm going to bury myself so deep inside you that when I come my soul will lose itself in your wet heat," Braylen said before standing and offering me his hand.

Rising to my feet, I smiled at the man who owned my heart and said, "Not without a binding ceremony. And my father will never allow that."

Taking me in his arms, Braylen kissed the top of my head and said, "Cyn."

When Braylen said my name, he made it sound like the human word sin. No matter how many times I told him, it was pronounced like the first three letters of the word kind with a hard C and long I.

Pulling away from me, Braylen looked into my eyes and in a serious voice said, "If I have to go through a binding ceremony before I can claim you, I will."

With that, I lost it. Trying to control my laughter, I collapsed against the tree trunk of a human standing in front of me. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I pushed up on my toes, grabbed a handful of his hair then forced his mouth down to mine. I wanted Braylen, and he knew it. If I wasn't a member of the Quinlight royal family, I would have risked it.

The thought of my light going out terrified me, yet I found it hard to believe the priests of my planet were capable of watching over the virtue light of every unmated member of my species. Since members of the labor caste were scattered all over the universe that would have been an impossible task. I knew the priests kept vigil over the flames belonging to the ruling caste. I'd seen those small fires. I also knew what happened when one of those lights went out on its own.

"Why are you shaking?" Braylen asked.

"Just remembering why it's important for me to keep my virtue light burning." Braylen didn't say anything he just groaned deep in his chest and hugged me. We stood like that, for a second. With a wry smile he grabbed my hand and brought it to his mouth.

After placing a kiss on my palm he said, "I better get you back to your cottage."

It didn't take long to get from his quarters to mine. When we arrived at my little house, I offered Braylen a smile then let go of his hand so I could turn and go inside.

"Pick you up for breakfast?" Braylen asked as I started up the stairs.

"Of course," I answered before turning and placing a chaste kiss on his cheek.

"If I stayed the night, I'd already be here in the morning."

Instead of responding to his offer, I shook my head and closed the door in his face.


"Braylen trying to get in your pants again?" A soft voice asked from behind me. I turned my head and grinned at my roommate. Matlin wasn't just a fellow officer, she was my cousin and self-appointed morality coach. I tried not to laugh at the look on her face. No one glared quite the way she did.

"Who needs a virtue light with you around?" I quipped as I walked past her and threw myself on the sofa. Taking a step toward me, Matlin stood over the back of the couch and frowned. Standing a foot and a half taller than me, she looked down on me in more ways than one. As I smiled at my cousin, I found myself marveling at her beauty. Matlin's face was all sculptured, hard edged bone. The severe lines were softened by large, round, hazel eyes and wispy lashes. She was stunning. Once, while visiting the Pre-Catastrophe museum, I found a picture in an ancient Earth magazine that reminded me of her. The model in the advertisement was breathtaking. If Matlin had lived on Earth, all those centuries ago, she could've been a model. Her lanky body, sharp cheek bones, and over all pose would have ensured a successful career. I, well I wouldn't have been a model that's for sure. Not only am I short, but I'm cursed with a round, baby face. My almond shaped eyes are so blue; they look as if they've been carved from ice. If that wasn't appalling enough, fate had gifted me with pointy, little ears. As for my figure well I have what Braylen liked to call more than a handful sized breasts, and a waist so tiny a man could wrap his hands around it and still have room to spare. Braylen once told me, I looked like a pixie. A fierce, little pixie with long pink curls. When I asked him what kind of creature a pixie was, he laughed and told me to look it up. I tried. No such beast was listed in any of my books. I couldn't find any information on them in our war manuals, which told me whatever they were, Pixies weren't fighters. They weren't listed in the Guide to Interplanetary species, or even the banned Book of Ancient Mythological Beasts that I somehow managed to get my hands on. Unlike Matlin, I was too muscular, too much a warrior to be considered pretty. Don't get me wrong, I'm hard where a woman should be hard and soft in all the right places, at least according to Braylen. Unfortunately, the only time I exhibit grace and pose is when I'm welding a light spear. That's why it's my weapon of choice. However, I manage to look pretty vicious with a piercing ray too.

Though opposite in looks and disposition Matlin and I are close. That's why we enlisted in the United Army together. My cousin may have been a hard-ass, but she loved me. She knew how much I cared for Braylen. She also knew his reputation and believed I was nothing more than a challenge for him.

There are only a handful of Quinlight warriors in the army. Unlike the humans, who are divided between the Morals and the Immorals, the Quinlights are all members of the Moral Sector. All that's required, to swear allegiance to the United Army, is proof that you know right from wrong. You also have to possess the drive to better yourself, your people, and the universe in general.

The Immorals have their own fighting unit. It's made up of braggarts and mercenaries who would just as soon kill you as look at you. The Immorals uphold a, me first--do what feels good philosophy. Their core belief system runs counter to everything the Moral Sector holds dear. Every member of the Immoral Sector, that I've ever met, seemed to have a personal agenda. Their kind never did anything for the betterment of others. They're too self-serving to bother wasting time on altruistic deeds. That's why Braylen was a member of the Moral Sect. He may have been a self-proclaimed horn dog, but he was a righteous man.

I'd heard the Immorals had reduced sex to nothing more than a common, primitive urge. That they'd somehow found a way to take all emotion out of the act. I believed that sexual choices are a private matter and should be left up to the individual. As long as a person's preference doesn't involve force and all parties are of age, then there's nothing immoral about sex. Only three species still required sanctioned mate bonds. Only two doled out punishments to those who engaged in intercourse before marriage. Of the three groups still upholding such archaic laws, my people were the only ones who never bent the rules at least in regards to those with royal blood in their veins.

I loved Braylen. I more than wanted him. Problem was, when I was done playing warrior as my father called it, I'd be forced to settle down and pledge myself in servitude to a male of my species. One from my caste. One chosen by my father and the Ruling Council. I'd joined the army in order to avoid such a fate. Before I was old enough to marry, my father decided not to mate me with Danford. Instead, he tried to give me to an old friend of his. Not only was the mate he picked for me three times my age, but he was a vile man who by all accounts was ugly in body and soul.

The thought of that man touching me with his wart covered hands made my stomach lurch. Even after all this time, just thinking about my would-be mate caused bile to rise in my throat. Running away and joining the army, had bought me time. I used it to find the loophole that allowed me to stay in. I vowed to remain on active duty status until my father agreed to let me choose my mate. I knew my choice would be limited to males my sire and the council approved of. But at least I'd have some say in who my future husband would be. No woman had ever laid down such a challenge before. My father still held a grudge. He refused to cooperate, which was okay with me. I liked the army. I liked being a warrior. I was good at it.

The best part about being a member of the United Army was I got to live on a planet other than my own. Centuries before, when the enlarging moon started to eclipse all three suns thereby effectively cutting off our energy source, delegates and scientists from all the inhabited planets came together to review their options. Even warring planets put down their weapons long enough to work on finding a solution to our impending doom. Now, decades after what came to be known as the Catastrophe, a certain percentage of all species lived on the large, peace keeping planet I called home. All species, living in our universe, were allowed two representatives in the High Command. The High Command controlled the planet I lived on. They also monitored the actions of the surrounding worlds. Rumor had it the governing body lay in the Moral Sector. No one seemed to know exactly where.

The Moral Sector occupied only half the planet. The citizens residing there believed in upholding morality and strove to better themselves and the universe. The other half of the planet was controlled by the ruler of the Immoral Sector. The United Army held little sway over the Immoral king and his lands. The only thing that kept him in check was the High Command.

The army base bordered the ruling quarter of the immoral people, which meant every now and then a fight would break out. Since the United Army was more disciplined, the fights ended up being little more than practice skirmishes for us. Most of our day-to-day work involved tedious, intergalactic peace keeping missions. Often times, we were body guards, armed escorts if you will. Every now and then we got a chance to use our weapons. From time to time, we were called upon to engage in real combat. Because of this, more than one battle badge marred Braylen's body. Each scar he carried added to his sexiness and enhanced his character. My body was covered in its fair share of scars too. Most of mine were located in places not easily seen. I'd acquired my pinkish-red trinkets before ever joining the army. They were earned in one sided battles my father called punishments.

"You seem lost in thought, little cousin."

"Just thinking about why we're here."

"Unacceptable mates?"

"Yeah," I laughed. "Why do males seem to be the cause of so many of our problems?"

"Because men are stronger, smarter, and better than us. You know that. To them we're toys, little dolls they can mold and play with."

"Men aren't better than us, Matlin. I refuse to believe that."

"It's what we were taught, Cyn. It's the way of our people. Playing alongside the big boys has been fun, but it can't last forever. Soon, we'll have to go home. When we do, we'll be forced to don long, body-hugging dresses and submit to whatever male our respective father's have picked out for us."

"Not all species believe females are lesser beings."

"Ours does."

"I don't! Someday, I'll have to go home, you're right about that. But I plan to rule alongside my mate, not hide behind him."

"Keep dreaming, Cyn. Unless you convince your father to give you to Braylen or some other male from outside our planet, your place will be behind your mate...or under him."

"My father will never allow me to marry someone who isn't from Quinlight, you know that."

"That's my point, little cousin. The sooner you accept the truth, the better."

"I'm done talking, Matlin. Morning will be here soon enough. Braylen and I have been assigned to pick up a group of interplanetary visitors. We're scheduled to leave before the second sun rises."

"Have fun with that," my cousin said as she turned and headed toward her room.

Matlin and I were high enough in rank to rate our own small cottage. Our dwelling wasn't large; just two bedrooms each with their own bathroom, a living room, and a small kitchen that we seldom used. Since neither one of us liked to cook, we ate our meals in the mess hall.

That night, safe in my bed, I dreamt of Braylen and how wonderful it felt when he wrapped his arms around me. I ached for him. He may not have been as tall as some of the other warriors, but he was lean and muscular. His hair hung in messy, golden-blond curls that stopped near the spot where his broad shoulders expanded. Usually, I liked longer hair on men, but Braylen's silky strands worked just fine for me. His eyes were large and green. I loved the way they sparkled when he teased me. I'm small, not just for a woman but for my species. When Braylen lays his arm across my shoulder and pulls me against his side, he can easily tuck my head under his arm. He smells of cedar, cinnamon, and male musk. Whenever he walks into a room, his unique odor causes parts of me to melt. Who was I kidding? All of me melted whenever he was near. It was becoming harder and harder to push him away.

Only, in my fantasies was it safe to allow the man I loved to do more than kiss me. In my dreams, Braylen was free to place small, unchaste kisses all over my body. In my dreams, he could pull one of my nipples into his mouth and suckle it until I screamed for him to take me. In my fantasies, the hard cock I often felt pressing against my stomach when we kissed, would be free to push in and out of my sheath until I screamed Braylen's name in rhythm with my building orgasm. More than once, I woke to find my hand pressed against my mound. Despite the need that throbbed in the swollen, wet flesh of my sex, I'd move my hand away then stand and run to my bathroom. A long, cold shower was the only way to ease my pain. Even the pleasure of self-love was forbidden to my people. Life was unfair. In fact sometimes, it damn well sucked.