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The last thing Korene needs in her life is a former Master who abandoned her ten years ago. But when her employees are taken hostage on Mars, she’s forced to work with Roland whether she likes it or not. Sparks fly the moment the perfectly chiseled man saunters into her conference room; a sign their incredible chemistry is still just as potent.
Roland has a job to do, but he struggles with his unrelenting desire for the only woman he ever loved. Seeing the strong-willed Korene on her knees again is enough to shatter Roland’s willpower. And give him a raging hard-on. But closely guarded secrets threaten to unravel Roland’s carefully laid out plans and expose the truth that could cost Roland the trust of the submissive he desires and the love of the woman he needs.
Warning: Fire up your thrusters to embark on a secret mission with a snarky submissive who knows the meaning of courtesy and her smoking hot former Marine Dom who isn’t afraid to wait one more day. The sexual chemistry between these two is so sinfully hot, it’ll melt the plastishield of your spacesuit helmet. Houston, we have a problem.
*This title was previously published by another publisher in May 2013 as Her Master’s Collar, and has been lightly revised.
4 Stars “Ten years after [Roland] left her [Korene] now has to figure out if the void that he left can be filled, by him. They have to find their center again and there is a touching love story in that journey.”
~ Vanessa, The Jeep Diva
4 Stars “Korene’s strong feelings for Roland sizzle off the pages of this book.”
~ Candy, Sensual Reads
4.5 Stars & Top Pick “…a truly wonderful example of erotic sci-fi done right.”
~ Emma, Night Owl Reviews
4.5 Stars “The chemistry between the two characters had me turning the pages in rapt attention, wanting to know what was going to happen next.”
~ Erzabet’s Echantments
I Am Only One ~ We Are the Fallen
Numb ~ Linkin Park
Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom) ~ Shinedown
Bulletproof ~ Family Force 51
Ice Box ~ There For Tomorrow
Blow Me Away ~ Breaking Benjamin
Burn ~ We Are the Fallen & Bethanie
Copyright © SARA BROOKES, 2013
All Rights Reserved,
Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
“An entire crew was wiped out two weeks ago by this immoral bastard. Despite this, she still sent another crew to Mars. Now two members of the team have come back in little pieces. From what we know, two more have been taken hostage and one is missing—possibly dead.”
Roland pushed out of the antigravity chair, crossing his arms as he started to pace. He hated pacing almost as much as he hated this asshole rehashing the facts to him. “Parkin, I’m aware of the body count and I believe that is why you hired me.” If he had his way about it—and if this petulant little man didn’t stop whining and arguing with him—Parkin would find himself on the business end of Roland’s fist soon. Or his foot, since Parkin bore a strong resemblance to a beady-eyed rat.
Roland Asher always had patience when it came to stressful matters.
At least he liked to think so.
In his line of work, he had to have a high level of tolerance. But right now, this man—this imbecile—pushed the limits of his patience to near parchment thinness. It wasn’t just limited to this man either. The entire crowd surrounding the holotable had pushed his tolerance levels since he’d walked in. Dealing with a bunch of hotheads who couldn’t see the big picture had proven to be insanely frustrating. Obviously no one at the table understood the gravity of the situation. This was why he hated the corporate world so damn much.
“Despite the fact you don’t like my plan, are you going to let me do the job you hired me for or not?”
Parkin’s mouth formed a thin line as he examined Roland over his thick silver-rimmed spectacles. “I’m still not convinced about your credentials.” His thin fingers tapped through the holographic image hanging in the air between them. “Nothing here indicates you’re capable of handling a mission of this level, despite Ms. Braddock’s assurances otherwise.”
The spot Parkin indicated on the far side of the planet was a remote area where the company had sent their team. While a large settlement had been built miles away, this part of Mars was barren, unsettled and volatile because of the volcanic activity in the area. While search and rescues weren’t his company’s specialty, he excelled at organizing complicated missions most people avoided completely. They didn’t need to know he suspected the man heading up this hostage situation was a fugitive he’d been trying to bring in for the past three years.
Roland shook his head in disgust at their ignorance, his blood pressure rising from his frustration. “If you don’t send me, you’ll lose everyone. The team, whoever you decide to send in for some half-assed rescue and all of your equipment—which I imagine is extremely expensive—will be lost. I’m tired of hearing you think I can’t handle this job. If you’re going to continue to fight me, this conversation ends now and I’ll consider our partnership terminated. I don’t have time for this.”
“Yes, you’d rather spend your time elsewhere. Perhaps by visiting the bondage clubs on Vegas Two.” A sexy, feminine voice filled the room.
Roland’s muttered curse earned a few curious glances from the men who sat around the table. He’d hoped to get through this briefing without a confrontation with her. Hope, it seemed, was not on his side.
His jaw already ached from where he’d gritted his teeth whenever Parkin opened his mouth. The last thing he needed was further aggravation. Determined to get through this briefing, he kept his gaze on the disturbing images of the hostages bound and gagged. The quicker he got full cooperation, the faster he could get the hell out of here, get to those men and collar his fugitive.
“Look, I was hired to do a job. A specific job, I might add,” he reminded them again as he chose to ignore the woman. “If you won’t allow me and my team to do the job, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time. You people either need to shut up and listen or I find someone else who requires my services. There are plenty of others who need my expertise more than you do.”
“Parkin, see that Mr. Asher has everything he needs. We should provide Roland and his team every advantage we can. It’s not as if we lack the funds to accommodate his requests. As he’s reminded you—twice—he was hired for this purpose specifically.”
Roland noted the sarcasm had vanished from her voice.
“He’ll have it. A full complement of our best team members at his disposal.”
“I only work with my team,” Roland reminded the assembled group yet again. Stubborn asses. He’d clearly outlined his terms when they had first come for the briefing and even when he’d negotiated his contract. Couldn’t they listen?
Those coal-colored eyes of Parkin’s flicked over Roland’s shoulder. There was a silent exchange before the stubborn man reluctantly nodded. “He’ll have our full cooperation.”
“Good. Dismissed.” The relieved breath Roland had been about to release caught in his throat when he heard the words he’d dreaded since she’d walked into the command center. “Roland, stay so we can discuss further details.”
The annoying worker pulled himself to full attention. As he waited for everyone else to leave, his cheeks grew pink. Obviously he didn’t agree with the order he’d just been handed. Roland could see this going south very, very quickly. Big mistake coming in three, two, one…
“Korene, I insist on being present if strategic details are to be implemented. I must stay abreast of this mission since they’re my workers.”
“You’re dismissed, Parkin.” Annoyance all but dripped from her statement.
“Your concern is duly noted. And unwarranted. We hired Elite for a reason.”
Her heels tapped on the floor as she drew closer. The unsettled man’s gaze fell on Roland, who shrugged in response. What was there to say? When one of the most powerful women on Earth ordered you out of the room, you left—no questions asked. The heavyset man huffed out a defeated breath before he spun on his well-polished Corfam heel and left.
The doors whisked shut, plunging the room into silence.
“Don’t mind him. We were all trying to deal with the implications of this whole situation. Naturally, everyone’s emotions are a little on edge. The fact the World Government is breathing down our necks isn’t helping matters either. But they have a lot on the line, since this is one of their contracts. You look well, Roland.”
He resigned himself to the inevitable. The years he’d spent doing his best to avoid her had finally ended. He pushed out of the chair, turning to the owner of the voice that slid through him as though he was surrounded by the fresh, sweet air on his mountain. The first glimpse of her stole his breath, reminding him of those initial adrenaline filled moments of a spacejump.
Her impeccably pressed navy suit had been tailored to fit her as if it were a second skin. The suit gave her a commanding air, signaling in this room that she was all tough business and headstrong authority. If he didn’t know her better, as intimately as he did, he’d be intimidated despite their eleven year age difference.
Even though ten years had passed, she looked exactly the same. Perhaps even better. Damn. She had no right to look so gorgeous. So youthful and full of vigor.
So absofuckinglutely perfect.
She looked much the same as the last time he’d seen her, only more refined and ethereal. Reddish blonde hair framed her heart-shaped face before falling to her slender waist. Her light brown eyes drew him in, just as they’d always done, and made him yearn for a different time. His gaze fell on the small cleft in her chin he’d once loved to settle his thumb in while he spent hours kissing her. No, not kissing—worshipping. A pang tightened his gut as he remembered he’d once locked their bedroom door for an entire weekend. She’d spent most of those hours restrained in some fashion while he’d done his best to make her beg. Loudly. The sexually charged image of her coming undone against his tongue forced him to shake off the reflection of a past he’d rather forget.
“Being in charge suits you, Korene. It’s good to see you again.” Before she could say anything, he pushed on, determined to keep this meeting all about business. “Our contract requires your company to supply me with anything I need within reason. I don’t consider any of my requests to be extraordinary by any means. If you feel differently, maybe we should reconsider this partnership.”
Her head tilted as a familiar smile bowed those luscious lips she’d painted a neutral shade of pink. “Parkin may be an ass, but he will do as ordered. You’ll have your supplies and any other pertinent information you desire. No need to worry that you won’t have every advantage at your disposal. What time do you plan on leaving?”
Roland knew her well enough not to doubt the promise. They may have had their problems and been unable to agree about certain things years ago, but he remembered how she refused to take anyone’s shit—even his . “You know I work alone. That includes sharing information and exact flight details beyond what we’ve already discussed in this room.”
Her suit shifted as she folded her arms in front of her. The maneuver pushed her breasts together, flashing a cleft of cleavage that nearly caused his tongue to wag. He cursed his cock for jumping to attention as well. Judas. He discretely shifted his hands in front of him to hide the bulge.
“Unfortunately, in order to make certain people feel comfortable about their investment, you’ll have a companion with you during the mission. Surely an extra set of hands and eyes can’t hurt your plans.”
Figures. He’d been waiting to hear she wanted to push her way into his operation. It had just been a matter of time. “What if I refuse?”
Her head tilted as her eyes narrowed, and the corners of her mouth lifted in a sly grin. “You’re a smart man, Roland. I’m sure you can figure it out.”
He sighed, leaning forward to rest his weight against the conference table. Korene had always given him some kind of resistance, no matter the situation. The decision about who slept on which side of the bed when they’d first started dating had nearly turned into a fist fight. The first time she’d gone to her knees to truly submit to him had been a complete shock to them both. He’d never been able to match the rush he’d felt looking down at her waiting for his next command. He’d never expected a woman who possessed such strength and tenacity to want to surrender to him. Talk about an eye-opening experience.
He missed those days. A lot. The moment he’d gotten the call to come to New Washington, he’d known what he would face with her. Maybe it was one of the things he’d found enticing about the situation. That or he was really into self-torture despite his proclivities toward torturing others.
Though he was frustrated, he still knew when to accept defeat. “No use fighting, complaining and just generally bitching about it, is there?”
“No, there’s not.” She moved off to retrieve a glass from the water dispenser.
Despite her words, he heard the laughter in her tone. He didn’t have to guess to know who the companion would be. She wouldn’t trust anyone else to something this important. “They’re actually going to let their precious owner out of their sight?”
She tilted her head forward as she answered. “They will if I tell them to. Beauty of being in charge. I get to tell people what to do. Now I know what you found so alluring about it.”
He knew about being in charge all too well, as he was used to being the one issuing orders. But he’d turned his back on that type of life years ago. “Ah, so it’s a power trip for you then. Careful, you let that get to your head too much and you could lose everything you ever cared for.”
Her stunning features became marred by her frown. She set her glass aside as she crossed her ankles. “Say whatever painful thing will make you feel better about yourself, I’m still going. You can’t deny the fact I probably have just as much training as anyone else on your payroll. Maybe even more so thanks to you. The quicker you accept things, the easier the trip will be.”
“I never said I had a problem accepting this.”
“You haven’t embraced it either.”
“You’re paying me to accept it, remember?” He gave her a wry smile.
“A fact I’m sure you’ll remind me of each and every day we’re gone.”
“Damn straight.” The tension in the room skyrocketed, pressing out so fast and hard he was surprised the safety glass in the windows didn’t crack from the pressure. He moved away from the table, walking to those windows to stare out at the New Washington skyline. “City looks the same. Not that I expected it to change much. 2059 and the politicians are still too busy pumping money into their own bank accounts to worry about the history seeped into the soil of this city. Shame to see the memorials in such disrepair.”
He jumped, startled at the proximity of her voice. He hadn’t heard her approach, which meant he was slipping. Been away from the game too long. Maybe even getting too old to play the same game anymore. “Sorry. Just have a lot on my mind right now.”
“I’m fine. Just getting old and slow.”
“Old isn’t a word I would ever use to describe you. Neither is slow.” The sound of her light chuckle arrowed straight to his dick, reminding him of how her mouth felt wrapped about his shaft. The tightening made him grit his teeth again. Now was really not the time to think about oral sex. Let alone oral sex with Korene Braddock, no matter how damn good it had been.
Sexual attraction was something they’d never had a shortage of. Most of the time they hadn’t known how to deal with the abundance of sexual chemistry they shared whenever they had been together. They’d quickly learned about their mutual interest in something a little beyond the norm when it came to sex.
Bondage and discipline. Spanking and submission. If there was a name for it, they’d done it. Hell, they’d probably even done things that didn’t have a name. The kinkier the better, she’d once said. They’d spent time exploring anything and everything, searching for their groove. Once they’d found it, their sexual attraction for one another had intensified, causing him to want her even more.
To want someone so utterly you’d do anything for them was something he’d never thought possible before Korene crossed his path. The way she looked right now didn’t help matters.
Fabric shifted again as she moved away to examine the star chart still projected above the long, narrow display table. She nodded at the red line Roland had drawn to outline his intended flight path to Mars. “It’s a good plan. Solid. It’s what we need to rescue the crew. Everyone who was in this room knows it despite the pushback they gave you.”
She tapped a finger over the line as she leaned closer to the transparent image. The position allowed him a clear view of her ass. The fact he knew exactly what lay under the expensive fabric caused him to let out a frustrated breath. The last thing he needed right now was to remember how those gorgeous legs of hers felt around his hips, her robe sash tied around her wrists and ankles to hold her in place while he thrust into her.
The vivid memory reminded him how much he missed burying his cock in the soft, inviting flesh of her cunt. Her cough erased the erotic image from his mind. “Glad to hear someone is on my side. Parkin certainly didn’t seem to like what I laid out for him.”
“If you have any more problems with Parkin, inform me immediately and I’ll take care of it. He’s bucking for something, I just haven’t figured out what it is yet. What time do you plan in disembarking tomorrow?”
At least she hadn’t mentioned his little hormone slip, which he undoubtedly knew she’d been fully aware of. She was too smart not to know the kind of pull she had on him. “Ten hundred.”
She came to stand beside him, tapping a security code into control panel of the holotable. The display hanging over the table morphed so the plan he’d laid out vanished. The flight path and mission plans were replaced with horrific images that made his stomach churn. He’d seen the horrors of war firsthand enough times to think he was unshakeable. Turned out he was dead wrong.
“We received these pictures three days ago. His name is—was—Joshua Sheldon. A twenty-two year old geologist. He joined the company last month, three days after he graduated top of his class from the University of Arizona. I have to be at his funeral at nine thirty tomorrow to bury those pieces of him you see on the screen. I need—”
“Eleven hundred, then. Will that give you enough time?” He read about the entire incident when he’d been packing for the flight to the eastern side of the country. The gory fragments had been left on the front steps of Braddock Industries, inciting chaos and panic from those who worked here.
Korene probably had enough on her plate without having to worry about soothing the agitated nerves of her employees. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the company, because the protests for continued occupation of Mars had taken such a violent turn. Those clashes weren’t new, as protestors hadn’t wanted the World Government Organization to colonize the planet. Especially after the discovery of several viable water sources far under the planets rust-red surface. But like most political things in this volatile environment, the governments had moved forward without waiting for the public’s blessing.
This also meant small factions of rebels were out to see those working to make the planet hospitable didn’t have an easy job. The company was strong, however, he’d bet his last credit, and they’d recover well enough.
A relieved smile spread on her lips. “Yes. Thank you for adjusting the departure.” She walked slowly to the wide spread of glass showcasing The Mall. Her thoughts were so conflicted, her eyes clouded as she stared off into the distance. She saw without seeing because her mind was so focused on the clusterfuck this situation had become.
She didn’t know the half of it.
But he didn’t intend to tell her anytime soon. The risk was too great and there’d been enough risks in his life to last him more than five lifetimes. He straightened his suit jacket before reaching down to erase the bloody images by keying the same code he’d watched her use. He didn’t need a reminder of the dangers they all faced. “If that’s all you need from me, then I have some preparations to make. I’d like to get started on them if you don’t need anything further.”
“Yes, of course. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He left in a hurry, ready to be far away from the only woman he’d ever loved.