Note: Shane has undergone significant revision since this excerpt was posted. Lea Ann Schafer, my developmental editor, and the editors at Loose Id, including Kierstin Cherry, have done a phenomenal job of pointing out more problems than I like to admit. I’ll leave it here for those that would like to compare it to the published book when it is released. Writing a novel is a journey that involves a great deal of rewriting.
Here it is, Chapter One of Shane from the new Tallavan Marshals series. Let me know what you think on my blog or on my Facebook page. I’ll also be needing beta readers to help with inconsistencies, rough patches, and scenes that lose your interest. If you’d like to help, contact Cailin.
Adrianna sat spine straight, hands folded neatly in her lap, knees clasped together, feet flat on the floor, the picture of training excellence. The slight whiff of citrus and leather overlaid with a hint of something metallic made her wonder whether the woman at the desk across from her used it as her personal fragrance or it was just a scent memory. It definitely triggered a reaction. The tiny drop of sweat trickling down her back was the only outward expression of her inward struggle to remain calm, poised, confidant, hoping even that wasn’t apparent to Frau Heinrich who was conducting her exit interview. Adrianna managed to breathe calmly, willing the intimidating neatly coifed blonde to make this last item on her checklist brief before leaving Opio Institute to meet her new employer.
Glancing through her transcript, Frau Heinrich fixed her ice blue gaze on Adrianna. Right on cue, ice crystals formed in her veins. “I see you have received excellent scores from the Masters in your physical and sexual training, as well as a top score in Composure.”
Heinrich had been her Composure mistress, so she new perfectly well how well Adrianna had mastered the particulars of remaining outwardly serene through hours of sadistic abuse, mental and physical, designed to break even a masochist’s will, and she was no masochist. Determined, yes. Masochist, no. Composure training was a requirement she would have avoided if she could have. She did not intend to sign a contract with a sadist, who could take her to the level of or beyond the extreme pain required by Composure training. She had done well because she could slide into sub space easily, but that same ability put her at risk with the wrong client.
Mistress Heinrich returned her gaze to the information with a mincing smile. “You doubtless understand that the premium paid for your special service will not apply to future contracts. Therefore, it would be to your advantage to learn as much as you can from your new employer and return to test with the Masters for additional sexual certification.”
Adrianna nodded, “Yes, Mistress.”
“Since you are a true submissive with only mild masochistic tendencies, you are fortunate a Tallavan marshal holds your contract. We are always pleased to place our students with a marshal from Tallav. They take excellent care of all those under their control. You can expect him to be forcefully dominant while continually mindful of your well-being. A marshal’s calling is to serve and protect; he specifically states he is not a sadist.”
Adrianna suppressed a shudder of relief. Master Trey had helped her sort through her contract offers. There hadn’t been many that they had even considered, especially not the offer to use her special service, her virginity, as the prize for the winner of a Federation Fighter Free-for-all. Both the Free-for-all and the claiming of the prize would be broadcast throughout Federation space as well as staged live in front of 200,000 Federation citizens. No, thank you!
Frau Heinrich paused and smirked, “He will expect you to function as his assistant and companion.”
Refusing to contemplate the underlying meaning of that smirk, Adrianna responded, “Yes, Mistress. I completed additional studies in ship administration and supply, as well as basic maintenance and housekeeping for small space vehicles. Before coming to Beta Tau, I was already a certified low orbit shuttle pilot and emergency med tech.”
“Yes, I’m sure all these extra abilities helped secure you the position. Nevertheless, you understand that you will be meeting his sexual needs also, and do not doubt that if you fail in that arena, you can expect to be released from your contract and dropped at the closest station. This brings me to the most important point of this interview. At the Opio Institute, we know that not all contracts turn out to be advantageous for our graduates. When you received the Institute upgrade to your EBC at the beginning of your studies with us, you were asked to give us a unique phrase that you would easily remember but that would not obviously connect to you. Do you remember that phrase?”
“Excellent. Access your EBC entering the phrase into the search. You will be granted access to a hidden file that includes instructions for contacting the Opio Network. In the event you find yourself in inextricable trouble, you may communicate with the Network. Assistance will be sent as quickly as possible. You are now a part of that Network and will be expected to render assistance when asked. Do you understand?”
“Do you have any questions?”
“Good. Your shuttle for the station departs in two s-hours. I see you have your carry on. Do you have additional luggage?”
“Well then, this is goodbye. Please remember that you may always return for additional study and certification. We also offer contract negotiation services for all our graduates. Safe travels.”
As Frau Heinrich stood efficiently and reached across her desk to offer a handshake, Adrianna rose slightly nonplussed at the action, realizing she was truly no longer a student. Gripping Heinrich’s hand firmly, she smiled slightly, then reached to pick up her satchel and turned exiting the office with a self-assurance she planned to keep, her fingertips tingled nonetheless.
* * * *
“Timely. The recipient has been in failure for s-days and wouldn’t have made it much longer. Crazy to have to depend on antiquated transplant measures, but at least it’s still possible.”
Shane nodded as he handed the sealed med case to the waiting surg tech. “In this case, absolutely vital. The emissary is the key to the peace treaty between the Correggians and the Forplix. At least it was just a transport problem, and we didn’t have to search for a transplant organ. The emissary had his own organ backups grown on his home planet expecting this eventuality. I guess the timing took him by surprise, or he would have brought it with him.”
The tech offered his thanks, turned, and strode off down the hall.
Shane moved through the hospital corridors to the entrance happy to be leaving behind the lemony smell that didn’t quite cover the antiseptic odor that pervaded the building. He hated hospitals. Besides, now that he’d completed this emergency assignment, he could resume his leave. He’d spent one s-week on Tallav with Ceana hoping this last trip would complete his contract with her setting him free from familial duties finally. When she’d not bred the last three attempts, he wasn’t sure he could last. He wasn’t suited to the acquiescent life of a breed father coddling breed mate and children and little else. Breed fathers did not work outside the home, so he knew he would never become one like his best friend Maon. Although Maon had managed to work out an arrangement to continue work with the Marshal Service on a part-time basis, that still wouldn’t be enough for Shane. Many sons of Tallavan landholders chose the marshal service as a way to sow their wild oats before settling into breed father status, but Shane knew the service was his life calling. He’d contracted for one child with Ceana, which he would not be required to raise. Whomever she chose as breed father would raise the child. His mother had demanded he sire at least one child hoping for a girl and heir, and he hadn’t been able to deny her. Please God this had been accomplished. He didn’t like standing at stud while Ceana treated him with ill-disguised disgust as if he was some kind of barbarian.
Shaking away the dismal thoughts, Shane pushed through the exterior doors, walked to the closest tram drop and jumped on the next tram heading out-city towards the spaceport. A quick check of his ECB showed he had just enough time to stop off at his hotel room and change to casual clothes before meeting his new paid companion. Grunting to himself, he hoped that Maon had been right when he suggested a paid companion as the solution to his “romantic” needs, as Maon liked to put it. Damn, the man was a silly sot, but he loved him knowing Maon would always be there to back him up. “Romantic needs!” Ha, what he needed was a woman, one who didn’t cringe in repulsion or fear at his dominant needs, one who responded with an equally insistent need for submission. Finding that on Tallav with its female dominated culture wasn’t easy or even likely. To complicate things, said female must be able to work independently, accept the risk attendant on working with a Tallavan marshal, and be prepared to severe the relationship without a lot of emotional turmoil when he deemed it time. Shane didn’t think he’d find a woman like that in the known universe. Most of the off-Tallav submissives he’d been involved with were either too emotionally needy to suit him, couldn’t handle the demands of his work, or wanted to play games. He didn’t play “make me.” Maon had given him the name and e-address of the Opio Institute’s placement director suggesting he hire a professional submissive companion fresh out of training. So that’s what he’d done. It felt like hiring a glorified long-term prostitute to Shane, but Maon told him to consider that he was paying her to be a personal assistant. He could always romance her some before indulging in any added benefits. Romancing or not, he didn’t pay women for sex. He may push at the constraints of his Tallavan upbringing, but the objectification of a person, especially women, was a Tallavan thou-shalt-not he held to. Besides, if he couldn’t get this woman into his bed, he was in more trouble than he thought.
Jumping from the third of a string of trams that brought him to the front entrance of the spaceport hotel he’d registered at earlier in the day, Shane he established his key code with the desk clerk who assured him the bag he’d dropped off had been taken to his room. Excellent! A quick shower later, Shane pulled black canvas pants over his thickly muscled thighs buckling them low on his hips with a black leather belt. He threw on a bright blue cashmere v-neck sweater. They said it was cashmere, but he doubted it. It felt good anyway. He loved the softness against his skin; it had a deep sensual appeal. Stuffing his socked feet into black leather boots, he finished by pulling his dark brown hair from its tail and combing it out to let it stay loose around his shoulders. A glance into the mirror told him that would do. He’d chosen to wear casual clothes without his marshal’s badge to meet his new “employee” to assure she understood he was hiring her, not the marshal’s service.
* * * *
Humming to herself, Adrianna checked the time with her EBC. She’d switched to using s-time, standard-time, before leaving the Institute. Fortunately, the Beta Tau planetary time wasn’t far off s-time, so she would have no real transition to make, not like the transition from Furzine time to Beta Tau time.
Verifying she was still on the EBC mapped path to the bar where she was meeting her new employer, Adrianna turned a corner and ran smack into a man coming the opposite direction. With a startled sound, she began to apologize only to find herself drawn backwards by the man.
“Please excuse me Miss. Allow me to make certain I haven’t harmed you.” The unctuousness of his tone belied the intensity of his grip.
“I’m fine. Really quite fine,” Adrianna bleated as he steered her towards what looked like a service corridor.
“There’s a bench just down here. Let me take you there so you can rest and recover.”
Looking ahead, Adrianna could see there was no bench, but there was another larger man waiting at the end of the corridor. He looked like he’d spent a lot of time in a heavy gravity gym, and he was looking at her as if she was a piece of bacon and he was a hungry dog. Not good. Going limp, she cried, “Oh, I think you’re right. I am feeling a little overwhelmed.” As she slumped in front of the man, he loosened his grip on her wrist. She quickly took advantage thrusting upwards with her thighs and smashing her other palm up into his chin. As the man staggered from the blow groaning curses, Adrianna wrenched herself completely from his hold.
She turned and ran back down the passageway heading as fast as she could to get to the bar and grill. She could hear the sound of the second man drawing closer as he sprinted to catch her. How can a guy that size run so fast? Six shop lengths had never seemed so long. She barreled into the bar hoping that the marshal was early. None of the faces that turned to her resembled the marshal even a little. Damn. Time to improvise. Grabbing hold of the edge of the bar, she flipped herself up and over frantically looking for something to use as a weapon. Snatching up an ice chipper, she turned just in time to see her pursuer slide into the entrance. The bartender had started charging towards her loudly demanding she get out from behind his bar, but when she snatched up the chipper, he pulled to a stop and raised his hands defensively. With the commotion and everyone staring at her, it didn’t take long for the man chasing her to move in her direction.
Preparing to defend herself, Adrianna hadn’t seen another man enter the bar, but she knew who he was the instant he rumbled, “What is going on in here?”
Every head but Adrianna’s and her pursuer turned to look, while the two continued to stare at each other in a frozen tableau. “Marshal Tiernan?” Adrianna blurted.
Her pursuer’s eyes widened slightly, and then he relaxed his stance and wheedled, “Miss, I think you dropped this and I wanted to return it to you.” He pulled a credit chip from his pocket and held it out to her.
“Thank you. Put it on the bar,” she responded.
He did, and then he turned, gave the marshal a smarmy smile, and, sliding out the door, was gone.
“Here’s your chipper,” Adrianna stretched what she hoped was a believable smile across her face as she handed the implement back to the bartender. “Sorry I knocked it to the floor. Clumsy of me.” She quickly scooted past the bartender who rotated staring at her as she made her way through the swing top entrance at the other end of the bar.
Taking a deep breath Adrianna walked towards the marshal. She couldn’t imagine a worse introduction to her new employer. If only he’d buy the dropped credit chip ice chipper story. Who was she kidding? She wouldn’t buy it. Why should he? She reached him eyes focused down, then lifted her chin to face the music. She found herself staring into the brightest pair of blue eyes she had ever seen. All she managed to do was blink as her thoughts went down for the third time drowning in the blue pools that had expanded to fill her vision entirely.
“I asked, are you all right?” the blue eyes questioned.
“Y-yes. Just a little shaken.” She shook her head to orient herself.
“You must be Adrianna Pacquin.”
“Yes, I am. I’m so happy to meet you.”
“Hmmm. Well, I don’t think we should continue this conversation here,” he glanced meaningfully over her shoulder. The bar patrons were continuing to watch them with interest. “Follow me.”
He turned crisply towards the exit, “don’t forget your credit chip.” Adrianna scurried back to the bar, snatched it up, and then rushed to catch back up.
Damn. Where was her satchel? She must have dropped it when the man grabbed her. She groaned in dismay.
“Is there something else?” he asked with a distracted glance back at her.
“I dropped my satchel. It must be just around the corner. I hope.” As they neared the corner, her anxiety grew. Everything she had taken before she fled home was in that satchel, as well as all her papers.
“Is this it?” he queried pointing to her satchel, which looked as if someone had already rummaged through it.
“Yes, that’s it,” she sighed in relief. Bending down to sort through the items and stuff them back into the bag, she saw that all that was missing was the only thing she had of any value—her mother’s silver locket. That hurt, but her papers were all here. She rose and picked the bag up.
He turned those intensely blue eyes directly on her with a concentration that made her toes curl in her boots. She sensed his irritation. Composure, composure, composure, she chanted to herself and began to play her favorite Bach Invention in her mind. Bach always steadied her. She would wait now until he spoke.