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A Lady's Challenge
by C.A. Salo

Category: Erotica/Erotic Science Fiction
Description: Welcome to Neris, mercenary planet light years from our own Milky Way Galaxy. Lieutenant Trea Padame, is not only the second in command of the mercenary warship Catalysts' security division, she's also hiding the truth that she's a Lady. She is to take her father's seat as head of her family's house in the Eastern Lowlands unless she can find a warrior to take as her life mate. First Commander Daniel Hedden of the Catalyst is a man who's used to men following his every command on duty and Trea following them in bed. Can the warrior in him find the way to free his heart of past memories, forgive Trea hiding her identity from him and let an ancient revelation come true? Or will he disregard all and face losing Trea forever to an enemy who's set to take Trea and her village for his own?
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: June 2010

eBookeBook

27 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [99 KB]
Words: 20823
Reading time: 59-83 min.


Chapter 1

"Damn it, Hedden, you're an ass," Trea growled as she grabbed her clothing. Tears threatened to spill, burning the back of her eyes as she pulled her Cerian pants up. She'd be damned if she cried in front of him, the jerk. Whipping around when his hand touched her back, she smacked it away. "Don't."

"Trea, come on." Daniel smiled, reaching for her again, only to have her move away from him. "Let's have some fun, it's not like you haven't fantasized about making this happen."

"Fantasy is just that, Daniel. Just because I've mentioned the possibility during bed play, doesn't mean I want to act it out."

"There's nothing wrong with making it a reality. Just think of it as taking our relationship to the next level."

"What relationship?" Her breasts jiggled as she pulled on her bustier, turning to him with boots in hand. "Do you honestly think what we have has been any kind of relationship?"

Daniel frowned slightly. "Of course, baby. Isn't this what you want?"

"Why in the Fravillian Fires would I want to bring a whore into our bed? Aren't you satisfied dominating only me?"

"Yes, Trea, I..."

"You what, Daniel? If you're that happy with me then why bring another woman in?"

"Because I thought that's what you wanted?"

"Have you come to know me so little in the time we've been together that you truly have no clue or are you just playing stupid to get what you want?" Trea growled when a slight smile lifted half his mouth. She knew he was thinking of her with another woman and while the fantasy was there, the reality of his game to get what he wanted pissed her off. "I've waited a year for you to get your head out of your ass, Daniel, to admit, or show me you truly want a relationship with me. The only thing you care about is sex and good times. Grow the fuck up. You're supposed to be an Arius Warrior." Knowing that would hit his gut like a punch, she turned, storming from his chambers. Damn men, damn First Commander Daniel Hedden. She needed to stop messing around with him and find a warrior who wanted to settle down. Sighing heavily, her foot falls sounded like thundering booms to her ears. She didn't want to settle down with anyone but that ass. By the gods what was she to do? Striding outside the Warriors Hall, her eyes lifted to the bright glow of the moon.

A year, she'd put up with his shit for a year, thinking that maybe, just maybe he'd see how much she cared for him. But he hadn't and tonight was the last straw. The ass wanted her to let him invite another woman in, one of the concubines from the House of Arrian, selected for the warriors' pleasures. A frustrated breath left her as men's laughter rang through the air, heading toward the baths. Trea gasped when her arm was grabbed, her body turned hard to come face-to-face with a pissed off Daniel. "Let go," she snarled through clenched teeth, yanking on her arm to no avail. She may have zymotic implants, but she was still a Neris woman, confronting a Neris born man, and no matter how much strength the zymots gave her, she wasn't as strong as a man.

Daniel's lips curled showing his teeth as he snarled, "Don't you ever question my status as a warrior."

His low tone was filled with warning, but Trea didn't care as her anger took over. "Then start acting like one." When his jaw tensed, she could tell he was grinding his teeth together. "You're second-in-command to a warship, yet you carry on as though you're a damn ensign on your first mission."

"Which is my right!"

"It's also your right to act like the commander you are!"

"Do you wish for an ich-vlah?" he breathed hotly.

Trea shook her head as sadness engulfed her, an ich-vlah was a challenge of status. It was often brutal and violent and occurred when one warrior defamed another's standing. The loser ended up stripped of all rank for a year, servant to the winner in any manner they deemed. The fight left with her anger as a miserable sigh escaped her parted lips. "Is that what you want?" her whispered voice cracked. "Do you want me to challenge you, Daniel, so you can show others that you can best me, dominate me?"

"I'm your commanding officer, Lieutenant, in bed and out. Don't forget it."

The breath exhaled from her lungs with a disappointed sigh, she never thought he'd throw rank at her. "I may let you top me in sex, Commander, but don't ever think that off mission or off duty, you can order me around. I'm not a slave or your damn concubine." Her heart ached from her rash decision, but she'd stick by it for her sanity. She drew in a ragged breath. "As of now, Commander, I'm resigning my position from the Catalyst. Please tell Captain Arrian that a formal resignation will be handed to him by my next shift." Her head sagged as her eyes lowered.

"What?" Daniel exclaimed.

He loosened his grip and let his fingers slid down her arm. Trea stepped back silently.

"Trea, that's stupid, you can't seriously resign over this."

"Yeah, actually, I can."

"Gods, woman, think about what you're saying. It took you two years to get this commission."

Biting her bottom lip as his fists clenched with frustration, she glanced up at him under lowered lashes. "Don't you think I know that? Don't you think I know what I'm giving up?"

"What do you want from me, Trea? Why are you so pissed? What the hell set you off tonight?"

The tears were so close. She was glad that her eyes were lowered so he couldn't see the wet sheen burning them. Her voice was raspy as she turned from his gaze. "You don't get it do you, Daniel? You haven't gotten it at all in the time you've known me, especially this past year as you lay in my bed."

"What I know is you're giving up the opportunity of a lifetime because of female emotions."

"Yeah, it's all me, isn't it, Daniel? When are you going to step up and take responsibility for something in your life? Just because you're pissed at the world because of the way you were raised, isn't my fault. Yet I always seem to be the one you take it out on. When are you going to open your eyes and see what's right in front of you? When are you going to leave the past in the past and start living?" Turning, Trea's shoulders sagged as she stepped away.

"Lieutenant Padame, are you positive you want to rescind your commission?" Lord Niko Arrian, captain of the warship Catalyst asked.

Trea kept her eyes straight ahead, looking at neither Captain Arrian nor Commander Hedden. Arms behind her back, she stood tall and answered clearly, "Yes, sir."

"Then you deprive me of your knowledge and experience aboard my ship. I hate to see you go, Lieutenant, but if this is your wish..."

"It is, sir."

"Fine. Well then, your new assignment is head of security for my wife, Lady Catrin and my son, Lord Reeves."

"Sir?" she asked, her gaze lifting.

Niko smiled. "Catrin found out you wanted to leave the Catalyst and asked for you to act as her head of security. Do you wish to accept or should I find another assignment for you?"

Trea knew that smile. He had something up his sleeve if she denied what he was offering, because they both knew that Lady Catrin was more than capable of protecting herself and Lord Reeves. "Out of curiosity, sir, what would the other assignment be?"

"Security detail for my father."

Oh yeah, asses, they're all working together. Stupid arrogant men. "I believe fulfilling Lady Catrin's wishes would be wise for all, Captain."

"I do believe you're right. I'm sure you know where to find my lovely life mate."

"Yes, sir." Saluting him, she waited until he responded before turning on her heel. Daniel's eyes burned into her back as she exited the chamber. As soon she closed the door she took a deep breath. By the gods she'd almost cracked in there. She should have known Hedden would speak to Captain Arrian privately. They were, after all, good friends.

"I think you just made a damn big mistake, my friend," Niko said.

Pushing himself off the wall, Daniel frowned as he turned to face Niko. "Like what?"

"Like pissing her off so much she left the Catalyst."

With a scowl Daniel stepped forward. "I don't even know what the hell I did, Niko." The smile on Niko's face was hard to miss. "Please tell me Catrin's confided in you about what Trea's talked to her about."

Niko chuckled as he shook his head. "Nope, not a word, but it's not too hard to see."

"See what?" he bellowed with frustration.

"That she's in love with you."

Daniel snorted. "Not likely." When Niko's brows went up, he sighed. "I know she likes me, but love?" He frowned shaking his head. "Come on, Niko, I mean I enjoy our sex more than the next guy would, but that's all it is."

"Ah yes, the sex. You've been with her for a year now, right?"

Daniel shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah."

"From what I recall, you've never stayed with a woman longer than three months."

Following Niko as he left the chamber, Daniel's eyes narrowed. "That has nothing to do with the time line. When we're both here and not on separate missions aground, we hook up."

Niko busted out with laughter. "Gods, man, open your eyes."

Trea loved him. There was no way in hell that could be true, but then again if Niko was seeing it... Apprehension hit him like a proton blast. His chest hurt with a desperate need for air and he gasped for breath. "You're seeing things." Rushing from the hall, Daniel missed Niko's grin as he headed for the Warriors Hall. A stiff drink and a good fuck would benefit him greatly.

Grunting with frustration, Daniel rolled over in his bed, staring at the wall. His head ached from drinking too much red ale last eve, and every time he closed his eyes while trying to fuck a sweet little concubine named Nella, Trea's face would pop up into his head. His hand came down hard, slapping the mattress. Every time he saw Trea's face his cock sagged at the thought of pounding a pussy not belonging to his sweet little lover. "By the gods, what the hell's going on?" he grumbled, pushing the cover aside as he sat up, hands running over the top of his head. He'd ended up pretending to pass out on the chit to save face, snoring loudly until she left the room. "What?" he called out, wincing as someone pounded on his door.

"Hey, is it true Trea left the Catalyst?"

Daniel scowled when Gage strode in smiling. "What the fuck are you so happy about this morn?"

"Seeing your stupid ass hungover," he replied as Daniel's brows went up. "Listen, we can all see how much Trea likes you, and I know how much you like her, so what's the problem?"

Daniel frowned. "Just because we trained together doesn't mean you know shit."

Gage chuckled. "You know better than that, Hedden, and I have to tell you, the only reason half the warriors in this hall stayed away from Trea is you. They all know she joined the Catalyst to be near you."

Daniel saw Gage hold up his hand when he went to speak and snapped his mouth shut.

"We know that's why she became a crew member. I'm not saying she didn't do her job, because she did, she's a damn good security officer and it's going to be hard as hell trying to replace her. What I am saying however, is that now she's not a crew member anymore, and warriors witnessed her storming out of here the other night. Some of the other men know you two had some tiff and that you brought Nella back last eve, so they're considering Trea open game."

His fists tightened, crumpling the bed sheets as anger ran through him. "They better stay the fuck away from her." The thought of another's hands running over Trea's sweet body pissed him off. "If any one of those bastards tries to paw her, I'll kill them."

"Then you need to make up your mind about what you're going to do. Trea's upset and the men will take advantage of that. If they harass her enough and she accepts one of the warriors' challenges for marriage, you know as well as I, she won't win. As well we both realize that she can have an impatient temper and rush into things if prompted the right way."

"Then she's stupid," he snapped.

"No, she's hurting."

Daniel's gaze narrowed as his friend left, shutting the door behind him. He knew Gage was right, he knew Niko was right, hell he even knew Trea was right. But to admit those feelings for another, especially a woman, was foreign to him. Sighing, Daniel flopped back onto his bed, staring at the ceiling. He had a mother sure, she was an off-worlder from Zunick who hated everything on Neris after his father had died in battle. The village lord wouldn't let her take him to her homeworld to raise. So she took it out on him every damn time she could, and he knew that's why he sabotaged his relationship with Trea the other night. He didn't want another woman joining them. He hadn't had such emotions swirling through him in a long time. Trea, Trea pushed his emotional level to the limit, so he reacted in the only way he knew how--he pushed her away. He knew not all women were like his mother. He'd seen kindness with Lady Helen, Niko's mom, as well as Gage's. It was just him--there was something wrong with him, to where he hid his emotions of caring from the ones he cared for. Maybe it was because his mother had left the moment he was old enough to fend for himself, leaving him in the care of others. Trea was special to him, he knew that throughout his entire being, but love...there wasn't any chance in hell he'd love someone again. Marry her, sure, maybe, but she'd have to know there was never going to be any of that gushy, eye-batting love from him, and somehow he didn't see her accepting that.


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