Wicked Beloved
traumatizing his pet. Of
course, it could get worse, much worse, if she stopped hiding her
face and actually looked at him. She didn’t realize how different
their species’ arousal systems were, and here he was, with his
basest instincts exposed. She’d see him for what he was. Then she’d
never trust him again.
    Mouth dry, he watched her huddling against
his leg like he was her sole protection in the universe. She needed
him. He had to be strong. He had to maintain control. He had sworn
not to hurt her.
    He reached down to his pet and, with a few
quiet words of encouragement, pulled her up onto his lap.
    She came willingly, tucking up her legs and
curling her body like she hoped she could make herself unseen. He
felt the quick, ragged puffs of her warm breath as she hid her face
against his neck. Pleasure spiraled up from his groin and his
abdominal muscles twitched.
    “ Ah, yours is shy!”
someone called out.
    “ She won’t be after
tonight,” another yelled and a wave of giggles snuck through the
room.
    A tremor shuddered through her once, but she
said nothing. No pleas, no crying. She didn’t make a sound. Just
huddled against him like she wished she could press right through
and hide behind his chair.
    Without thinking, he wrapped both his arms
tight around her. She sighed and relaxed into him.
    “ Thank you, Master,” she
whispered. Her breathing evened out.
    The girl had been on the verge of panic
several times tonight, yet she had never given in to hysterics nor
acted out in any way. The other members had no idea how frightened
she truly was. Her deportment was a credit to him, though he did
not deserve it.
    “ Vonn! Your slave’s turn.
Send her over here.”
    Her breath caught in her throat and her
entire body tensed.
    The gathering all looked to him, eagerly
awaiting the next performance. Ballaj was fingering the large
paddle and eyeing her like she was a prime cut of meat. The greedy
bastard.
    Dzer-Jin’s distaste for
the man was irrational. None of the other masters had a problem
with Ballaj punishing their slaves. So why did he want to chop off
Ballaj’s hands and feed them to him for even thinking of touching his
girl?
    They were all still waiting for him to send
her over. He wondered what she’d do if he gave the order. Would she
obey, as the perfect slave, or would she remind him of his duty not
to let her be hurt? They were both valid responses, according to
their agreement. He wondered which would win out, loyalty to him or
self-preservation?
    “ Would you go?” he
whispered to her, curiosity getting the better of him.
    She whimpered against his throat. “Please,
don’t.”
    “ Would you go?” Dzer-Jin
repeated, his voice harder.

CHAPTER
SEVEN
     
    She’d made a promise. He had saved her life
and he hadn’t hurt her, and in return she’d promised to obey him
absolutely. If she broke her word, he could start beating her—or
worse. She could end up at the shelter again. Cast aside once more.
Waiting for death because she was useless. No. She had to prove she
was worth keeping. She had to keep her promise.
    As a storm of frenzied butterflies invaded
her stomach, she straightened her legs. Her limbs didn’t want to
obey. She felt mired in quicksand, her every movement a chore. But
he wanted her to go up there, so go up there she would.
    Her heartbeat thundered in her ears. She
sighed brokenly. “Yes, Master.”
    She hopped off his lap and stepped forward.
Suddenly she found his arm wrapped around her middle, a steel band
halting her. He pulled her back up on his lap and pinned her in
place.
    “ No,” he called across. “I
don’t think so.”
    “ What?” Ballaj’s shock was
clear in his voice.
    “ No one touches her but
me.” Her master’s voice was gruff and the tone final.
    She gripped his arm like the safety bar of a
carnival ride, listening to the company’s complaining groans and
noises of disapproval. He didn’t relent. Relief surged through her
as they reluctantly

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