He and she posed such a tired cliché – two broken people who together mended. Who wouldn’t think it took a monster to love a monster?
Ezio takes whatever and whomever he needs, hoping that one day his torment or his life might end. He hates everything and everyone. He’s been abandoned and left for dead. He feels nothing. He feels for no one. While procuring human males for the orange ‘bug’ king, he captures a female by mistake. She’s mouthy. She’s persistent. She’s strong-willed. She’s everything he respects in a combatant, but not in a female. He knows he will never dominate her, but she’s the only one he’s found in over a decade who makes him yearn, more than he breathes, to do just that.
Shandi has been violated and degraded, but she will endure anything to ensure her younger sister’s future – even if it requires she enter into a horrific agreement with the enemy. Taken by a barbarian of a man, forced to complete the tasks she arranged but doubted she ever could, she and Ezio set in motion what may result in the death of many. Finding and having one another becomes more than either of them expected.
This is book three in the Heroes of Neoma series. It can be enjoyed as a standalone, however the experience may be enhanced by reading them in order.
Publisher’s Note: This steamy post-apocalyptic sci-fi romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, action, adventure, and power exchange.
This. This, she didn’t plan for. Not that Shandi really had any plan. Why couldn’t a single thing occur without unforeseen, crippling complications? As if things weren’t an astronomical clusterfuck without a swarm of fluttering, floating bug aliens swooping in just as the mass of survivors, forced off the transport and left on this frozen wasteland, reached the top of a steep ice mountain viewing a settlement with welcoming fires burning. They never mentioned anything about any extraterrestrials.
Snatched up with many others, she kicked and wriggled to free herself from the clutches of the small but strong creature and failed. Carried across miles of ice far away from the sanctuary of warmth and probably a community of humans, it dropped her in a pile with the other captives. Flailing, she flipped to her back and scurried to the side of the mound of bodies.
She stared into the face of a giant of a man, the tallest man she had ever seen. If he didn’t measure in at seven feet tall, he was close to it. Though covered in fur from head to foot, one couldn’t deny that his body mass looked proportionate to his height. He appeared to have a solid, immense torso, and thick biceps. His dark, threatening blue eyes bored into hers. Long, dark blond hair fell out of his fur hood and onto the bridge of a garbled nose obviously broken numerous times.
Paralyzed by his intense gaze, his composure, his entire presence, she lay there on the frigid ground. She should be freezing. Her blanket fell off during the abduction. She felt anything but cold. Her heart raced and her breathing escalated. In her current situation she would be justified in feeling shocked and frightened, but she had been in terrifying conditions before, and she knew her reactions weren’t derived from that alone. Her cheeks flushed and her abdomen tightened. He had to be one of those genetically enhanced soldiers of the New Society. Why was he here? Why was he with the aliens and not the humans?
The awareness in his eyes became too much. How could he know? His penetrating observation made her believe he knew everything about her, that nothing remained secret. But did she want it to? Did she want someone to expose her as a woman? A traitor? A spy? She couldn’t think straight. Every thought she fathomed presented an uncertain set of circumstances she feared enduring. She no longer knew what she wanted. She gave that up long ago. She had one purpose and one purpose only. And if required, she would have continued as nothing more than a vessel for men’s gratification. It would take much more than any army, any degradation, or this sexy warrior’s ogling reminding her she did indeed retain any capability for desire—to deter her mission.
The damn human, aphrodisiacal hulk ripped open her jacket. His right eye narrowed, and his lip curled. His face registered no surprise. It revealed arrogant validation. Poking a blade under the binding above her navel, he slashed the snug gauze upward to under her chin. Her ample breasts bounced out. He watched with obvious delight at their unexpected volume and at their continued jiggling.
His deep, loud voice startled her, pulling her out of a daze. “A woman! Damn fucking hell.” He waved his arm toward the shivering, scrambling group of men she completely forgot about. “Gather them. Leave her.”
The orange bug beings circled the men, herding them away. The heartless ogre turned his back to her and started trudging over the compact, white terrain. Bolting to her feet, she charged after him. “Leave me! What the fuck? You can’t just leave me out here in the middle of nothing,” she screamed.
Without ceasing his long strides he stated, “I can. I am.”
“Take me back to where you got me. I’ll never make it that far on foot. Have one of your flying bugs return me,” she pleaded.
“Nah. They aren’t meant to be fliers. Kriegor would probably spaz himself into oblivion if he knew I used them that way,” he replied.
“Then I have no choice but to go where you go. I’m not going to allow you to take me away from a chance of survival to abandon me to die,” she argued.
He turned around so fast while she fiddled with trying to button a too small shirt across her huge breasts that she walked right into him. She looked up into his glowering face. “You pathetic little Earth girl… you are in no position to dictate anything. Nothing. Attempting to hide your frailty masquerading as a tiny man was a fatal mistake on your part. We have no use for women. Leave us. At least your death will come sooner rather than later. Take consolation in that.”
She went for his eyes. Rather a pity. They were spectacular. But instinct took over. She didn’t have much else left. The element of surprise allotted an opportunity to claw at his eyes if only short-lived. Due to the stretch required to reach them and her feet slipping on the ice, he needed only to lift his arm and she fell back landing hard on her butt. He kicked her in the stomach. Pulling her legs into her chest, she retched, rolling back and forth trying to draw air into her burning lungs.
Watching them leave her, unable to breathe or move, she panicked. In all the scenarios presented to her before leaving Earth, this never came up. The vivid orange of the aliens became fainter and fainter. They were almost out of sight completely. She had to do something. She didn’t make it this far for it to end this way.
Ezio had to give it to the petite beauty, she exhibited more endurance and vigor than he expected. Several of the men they took already gave out and were on a sled pulled by the aliens. Ezio considered leaving them. They didn’t stand a fighting chance in the arena, but Kriegor demanded humans for the battles, so he shall receive them.
Not one to ever regard anyone acquired on these operations as anything other than supplying a body for a combatant slot and never one to find himself looking and watching out for anyone, he caught and berated himself for doing those things with her. She dressed like a male. She appeared male with her short, unkempt hair, her boldness, and her rather basic appearance. Her lips were narrow. Her nose displayed evidence of a few fractures. But recalling her eyes, large eyes on a small face, rattled him. Men didn’t challenge him from inside their souls as she did. The rich, deep brown confronted him and assuaged him before again opposing him all in mere seconds.
Due to the emotional response triggered in him, he knew underneath those clothes he would find a woman. One with a splendid pair of tits did surprise him. He had a moment of regret exposing her in that manner, and cussed himself for thinking that way. What a mess. One he couldn’t tolerate. One he wouldn’t tolerate.
She hadn’t caught up to the group, but she kept pace. Maybe he needed to go back and just kill her. What other option did he have? He couldn’t take her back. She couldn’t survive out here.
Each step she took she feared might be her last. The pain in her feet, hands, ears, and face subsided, as did the violent shivering. For the first half of the distance covered she walked with unbearable aching. Tears seeped out of her eyes, freezing before they fell. She knew she had to keep moving. If she stopped, she’d die. It terrified her that her body went numb. That couldn’t be good. Would her blood circulation slow to the point she couldn’t continue? Though the distance between her and the group lengthened, she could make out their forms through the thick, veil of blowing ice shrouding the landscape. Though uncomfortable and cold before, once the wind started, it brought with it instantaneous and critical consequences.
She kept stumbling. Each time it got harder and harder to get up. She wanted to sleep. Irene would understand that. She would want that for her. If she stayed down, curled up in a ball, and rested for a few minutes, she could do what she must.
The majority of the weak male prisoners from Earth piled and huddled up together on the sled, he didn’t have anything to watch out for or tend to. Approaching the cave portal, the aliens did their customary bizarre flapping until the snow and ice dispersed revealing the passage that would lead them to their dry, orange habitat. He hated the color orange. More so now. Being stuck living in it for the past year plus some, he welcomed these excursions to the white, frozen sector.
The beings manning the sled maneuvered it into the tunnel. Looking behind him, Ezio didn’t expect to see her, all of her. The hazardous conditions took their toll on the little lady. Stripped bare, the rest of her as glorious as her tits, she frantically dug at the solid ground. Her judgment, body, senses, all impaired, she didn’t have long before her life surrendered to its impending death. He admired her. She made it that far. Even the men she arrived with couldn’t do it without succumbing to the elements and requiring the aid of a cart.
Without thinking, he went to her. Picking her up, he wrapped her cold, naked body against his torso burying her tiny frame under his furs. He knew he would regret this, and he didn’t know why he did it. Slipping in between the reforming slabs of ice before they closed off the tunnel, he lagged behind the group. He had to come up with some plan of action. One thing he knew with all certainty, he couldn’t risk Kriegor discovering her. If that happened, he just rescued her from a painless death to deliver her to a violent one.
First, he planned to seek Frehin’s help. Though an alien, and a female at that, he knew without a doubt she would see to this human female and like a woman, be happy to do so. She would place her in the healing chamber. Frehin risked a lot for him and Phaedra when they arrived over a year ago. She forged a friendship with Phaedra and supplied her with not only a cure for the illness infecting their community, but the ZF48 healing element. Frehin put a lot more trust in Kriegor than he did. She claimed Kriegor, not any of their kind, could harm her as she held the role of ‘lead mother’. And it must be true for her to take such risks as helping the humans and providing them with the element that Kriegor most certainly wouldn’t give freely. Ezio didn’t doubt for a second that Kriegor learned of what she did, and for her to still be living, proved her assertion. She alone repopulated their species on Neoma when they agreed to leave Nysa. Their entire structure did resemble that of bugs, a beehive, Frehin their queen. Except for the fact males outnumbered the females, and females were ignored and isolated unless breeding season commenced.
As expected, Frehin didn’t hesitate to help. She and the other mothers took her to the chamber and returned her. Frehin stayed behind, watching over her. Her body took longer than he expected to warm up. He checked for a pulse a few times. The little lady would be in awe of him after she experienced the healing chamber. She most likely never felt well a day in her life. With all the radiation, disease, and wars ravaging Earth, her body endured an exorbitant amount of neglect, abuse, and negative exposure.
Laid out underneath furs and by a fire he started in his cave room in the cliffs, he watched and waited for the tiny rebel to waken. It surprised him he remembered how to start a fire. Living in the orange sector where the sun always burned, one never had need for additional heat. He wanted to know more about her, her story. Why did she downplay what he now observed as genuine beauty? Dark eyelashes rested above her pale, smooth, soft cheeks. She hadn’t received the enhancements the New Society made to their women. They altered everything from hair color, eye color, and went as far as imbedding them with specific personality and knowledge traits to meet a wide array of soldier preferences. Unfortunately, the healing chamber couldn’t mend healed fractures, only fresh ones, so her nose still showed proof of previous trauma, and it couldn’t do anything to restore what might have once been a beautiful head of hair. A unique shade of white, not blonde, her hair reached chin level, but now appeared healthy and lustrous.
Warm blood circulated alleviating the blue hue she had when they arrived, and all the raw, red patches on her skin were healed. It gave him satisfaction he provided this for her. That in itself annoyed him. Last thing he wanted or needed was some woman’s illogical indebtedness leading to irrational devotion and unrequited emotions.
It had to be a dream. The smell and sound of a crackling fire teased her senses. Shandi snuggled deeper into the comforting delusion. Her stomach didn’t ache with hunger. Her skin didn’t burn or itch. She felt amazing. Her eyes flew open and she viewed an orange multi-limbed bouncing creature. Scrambling away from it, her back collided with stone. Everywhere she looked she saw orange, except the being’s brilliant, purple eyes. It created a hypnotizing contrast, intensified in conjunction with the steady movement it existed in.
Her mind started to clear. These creatures took a bunch of the survivors. Why did they? They weren’t allies to the humans. She didn’t think so. She didn’t need to be here. She didn’t have much time. Movement behind the alien grabbed her attention. Him. Crouching in the corner, nude, his cock hung between his spread thighs.
“Where am I? Why are you here?” she screamed. Seeing the long, bloody scratch from his left eye down to his chin, terror seized her. Flailing her arms, they struck the rock encompassing the rudimentary space. He left her. He planned to leave her to die in the cold and ice. Realizing she too had no clothing on, she accused, “What did you do to me? How could you? You have no honor! Disgusting. I assumed you were a soldier of the New Society, and now I see my assumptions were correct. Pigs. Rapists. All of you.”
Grinning, he lunged at her. Gripping her around the throat, he stood, crunching her shoulders into and dragging her up the unforgiving wall. Eye level with him, he derided her. “You aren’t worthy of my attention, especially not sexual, even if I was desperate enough to rape. Anything you think you have… is of no significance to me.”
She kicked. But her feet bounced off of his firm abdomen. Damn huge man with a ridiculous ego. “So, I’m ugly. Hideous even. Well, let me go. I wish to go with the humans.” Thoughts bombarded her. She doubted he would provide any answers. Knowing that humans survived on Neoma and most likely, the individuals the New Society mentioned to her, why wasn’t he with them? “You aren’t a defector, are you? What happened? You fall off the transport?” Alarming fury penetrated his blue eyes. It didn’t stop her. She discovered something that rattled the ominous ogre. His fingers were still clamped around her neck, she gurgled a laugh. “Why didn’t you just go back? Afraid you weren’t significant enough for them to rescue you?” He dropped her. On her knees. It hurt like hell. She held back her cries. Maybe she didn’t. She gasped for breath.
Kicking her off the furs, he bellowed, “Get out of here. Get!”
Stunned by his harsh words and cruel treatment, it took her a few seconds to realize her location. Huddled in an opening peering into a massive, deep, narrow channel of mountains with small paths excavated into different locations up and down the cylindrical formation, Shandi stiffened her arms, pushing back into the cave. “No! You can’t just send me out there. I don’t know anything about these creatures. This area. I ended up here somehow. It had to be you.” The darkness of the small space she woke in eased the strain on her eyes. Opposite of where she arrived with nothing but ice and white, a sun burned hot here, and she detected no other color besides orange.
Perhaps she needed to alter her approach with him. Should she thank him? She didn’t want to. She had an agenda, and it relied on the survivors. No one knew of humans existing on Neoma. The New Society had their suspicions, and they wanted them confirmed. It held the title of the death planet. She needed his assistance and his knowledge to succeed. If only the aliens didn’t take her in the first place. Or he returned her from where he took her, back with the rest of the survivors, back to where she saw fires and obviously others.
Swallowing her pride, she pled, “I’m sorry. You must have saved me. I’m grateful.” Twisting around, she sat on the floor attempting an appreciative, more docile facade.
His right eye narrowed, scrutinizing her. “What do you want?”
He saw right through her. Unfortunately. Did this mean she could have what she wanted? “I wish to be with the rebels. They were going to make it. They have a chance.” He turned away from her, stepping deeper into the cave. Damn him. Dismissing her. “You choose this? Why?”
“I belong to and with no one. I serve myself.”
Watching him stomp to his previous corner, enjoying his impressive backside, she imagined running her hands down his sculpted back and clutching his perfect ass during aggressive sex. Recognizing the direction her mind wandered, and her body’s reaction, she slammed her knees together and scrambled back to the furs. She submerged her nakedness underneath and pulled them up to her chin.
The orange alien Shandi forgot about fluttered beside her causing her to squeal in surprise.
Mr. Mean Giant Man leapt from his crouching spot pinning her with possible concern in his eyes that quickly transformed into annoyance. “Stop it, woman. Frehin would never hurt you. I’m certain your body feels better than it ever has. She did that for you. So shut your damn mouth before your presence here is made known.”