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Cathian (The Vorge Crew Book 1) by Laurann Dohner (1)

 

Cathian – The Vorge Crew – Book One

By Laurann Dohner

 

Chapter One

 

Nara gripped the cage bars and glared at Derrick. “It’s your fault.”

The man inside the cage across from hers sported a black eye. “I said I’m sorry.”

The words didn’t dispel her anger. She wanted to punch her mechanic again. “You were supposed to buy a burner thruster valve. What did you do with the credits instead?”

He glanced away, guilt clearly displayed across his features. “I… Hell, Nara. I hadn’t had a woman in months! Have you seen the pleasure workers on the Divian station? I thought the valve would last until after this run, and I’d buy the part with my share of earnings to replace what I’d spent.”

Nara’s temper increased. “Isn’t that ironic. You wasted the money needed to keep our shuttle flying to buy sex, but now we’re the hookers.”

Her navigator, Belinda, sighed from behind her. “Being sold into the pleasure market for a year beats spending five years at Alto Prison. Let’s focus on being happy we were given a choice.”

Nara spun to glare at her. “You might not have a problem spreading your legs for any alien who buys you, but I do. I have standards.”

Belinda laughed. “And what would those be? I’ve been on your ship for over a year and you haven’t gotten laid in all that time.”

“How about having a choice? To be able to say no?”

“Maybe this’ll be good for you. We could be sold to a Yovolian. They’re great in bed, have two dicks, and are fond of humans.”

“Or we could get sold to some pimp and be forced to sleep with hundreds of aliens. I should have picked prison over this. Why did I listen to you both?” Nara glanced at both of her crew members.

Derrick sighed. “Alto Prison would have been a death sentence. It’s a dead moon where they send the worst criminals. They’d eat us alive—and I do mean that. Alto is known for starving prisoners when the food supply ships are delayed for weeks, until they turn into cannibals. It’s how they manage population control. At least now we stand a chance of surviving. The bidders in these auctions just want to have sex with us instead of devouring body parts. And bonus, only the rich can afford to lease slaves for a year. They won’t spend that much money unless they plan to get use out of us. That means keeping us breathing and healthy.”

Nara fought the urge to scream. She was a trader by profession, owned a nice vessel by shuttle standards, and the money was decent. Various types of trade had been prohibited in some solar systems, but the higher pay for those jobs had been too irresistible.

It was supposed to have been an easy run, delivering medical supplies. Her shuttle was fast and hard to detect with the expensive shielding she’d bought. They never would have been caught if the thruster drive hadn’t given out, leaving them stranded in space.

“I am sorry, Nara.” Derrick sounded sincere. “I know we wouldn’t be here if I’d just fixed the shuttle. The authorities take confiscated shuttles to an auction yard on Frodder Planet. They’re backed up for a good six months. We’ll have plenty of time to escape and meet up there. I’ll bring the part, we’ll fly right out…it’ll be simple. You’ll get your ship back.”

Belinda chuckled. “Look on the bright side. You’ll finally break your dry spell and get laid. Maybe you’ll enjoy it. I hear the Borters are pretty good in the sack, and they love humans as much as the Yovolians.”

“Shut up or I’ll hit you too,” Nara threatened softly. “You’re getting on my last nerve. There is nothing good about this.”

Belinda smirked. “Just flirt with someone attractive when the bidders arrive. I hear that’s the ticket to not ending up with some ugly-ass alien. You left Earth for an adventure, and here it is.”

“I left Earth because there were no jobs and I didn’t want to stay there anymore. I could do without the adventure part, and I don’t want to be sold to some alien who wants to nail a human just for the novelty of it.”

“Human?”

Nara turned at the quiet voice to study a strange-looking alien female standing just feet from her. The woman reminded her of a mouse, with her whiskers and black eyes.

“Yes?” Nara stared at her.

“I heard you talking. Is it true you haven’t had sex in a year?”

Nara hesitated. “That’s kind of personal to ask a stranger.”

“I’m Midgel, and I’d like to make a deal with you.”

Belinda inched closer. “What kind of a deal?”

The alien shot Belinda a look. “I’m talking to her.” She fixed her strange gaze on Nara again. “I’m here to scout a woman for my captain. I believe you are right for him. If you go to my captain’s bed willingly for six days, you will be released immediately afterward.”

Belinda moved closer. “Why only six days?”

Midgel bared sharp little teeth at Belinda but then seemed to calm down. “He thought he wasn’t due to go into heat for another month, but his calculations were wrong. His people are sending females, but they are six days away.” She licked her lips, her tongue black and small. “He needs female hormones, and as a human, you’re compatible with him. If you haven’t had sex with another male in some time, you will scent right to him.”

“He’s in heat?” That shocked Nara. “What is he?”

Midgel sighed. “You wouldn’t know his species. He is rare to this system. He needs your female hormones, and you won’t be harmed. But it must be your choice. My captain insists.”

She wasn’t sure she wanted anyone “taking” her hormones. “No thanks.”

“Now hang on,” Belinda interjected. “You make it sound as though he’s going to take bites out of her, or like she’ll be a test subject for some freak with a needle fetish who’ll suck stuff from her body. What exactly is involved?”

Midgel frowned. “He won’t bite her, and there are no needles.” Her gaze fixed on Nara again. “He will arouse you with his mouth on your sex and coax your release from you. That is how he takes your female hormones. Females from his planet consider it extremely pleasurable, and many of them are on their way. His heat hasn’t reached the stage where his body is able to,” she paused, her features scrunching as she appeared to be thinking, “fuck. He is unable to do so until his hormone ingestion reaches peak levels. He’s starving right now.”

Belinda shouldered Nara aside. “You’re saying he wants to go down on her for six days, can’t get his dick up for that long, and just wants to get her off over and over to collect what he needs?”

“Yes.” Midgel nodded, pleading with Nara with her gaze. “He needs you. I found no others here compatible. My shipmates will come to buy the female who agrees. It will be six days of your time, you will be perfectly safe. The other female on my captain’s ship would kill to be offered what you are, but she isn’t compatible.”

“I’ll do it.” Belinda offered. “I’m human too. I’d be honored.”

Midgel sniffed. “No. You aren’t full human.”

A slight blush crept into Belinda’s cheeks. “My mom hooked up with a half-Barcalon, but I’m mostly human.”

“You aren’t compatible. The information I memorized said full human.” Midgel addressed Nara. “Please agree. He wishes for a willing female. You will be freed before he is able to enter you, and our captain won’t hurt you.”

“No thanks.” Nara backed away. “I don’t want someone feeding on me.”

“You’d rather serve a year?” Midgel scowled. “Then you are too stupid for my captain.”

“They come,” whispered a prisoner locked inside a neighboring cage, also waiting to be sold at the sex-slave auction.

More aliens were arriving to bid on the available stock.

Nara’s stomach knotted again as she faced the bars.

Belinda stepped to her side, fear on her face, and it only made her worry more. Belinda’s tough talk seemed to have been a bluff. “Flirt with the blue guys,” she whispered. “They’re Avials, a nonviolent race, and their planet is beautiful. Don’t look at the red guy. That’s a Dolten. They’re mean, with a reputation for abusing women.”

Nara had spent her life on Earth until buying her shuttle. She’d lived in the human-only section. She’d hired Belinda to be the navigator, but she was also the one who dealt with the clients Nara traded with. Belinda’s alien knowledge was vast, and Nara decided she’d flirt with the blue guys if they were the best of the lot.

All the aliens appeared scary, but one resembled a dead ringer for Earth’s version of the devil, with his red skin, clawed hands, and bull-thick body, complete with a set of massive, sharp horns on his head. He stopped at a cage down the line and grinned, sharp, bright red teeth peeking from his parted red lips.

Nara shivered with dread, terrified she’d be sold to him.

Her attention returned to the four blue aliens who appeared nearly humanoid body-wise, except for their skin color and braided black hair. They were semi-attractive. She locked gazes with one of them, forcing a smile.

Nara wasn’t good with flirting, but she kept eye contact with the blue alien. He paused in front of her. His eyes were black and kind of eerie looking, but he had a nice face when he smiled back. That was encouraging. He stood six feet tall with a slim body. His clothes had to be a uniform, since they were all dressed in the same black outfit.

He turned his head to the auctioneer. “I’ll buy her.”

The man approached with an electronic device. “All right.”

“Wait!” The voice was harsh and frightening.

Nara glanced away from the blue alien—and stared in horror at the devil alien as he stomped closer on hoofed feet, shoving a few bidders out of his way. Panic erupted inside her when she realized he was glaring at her with his evil gaze, and she backed away from the bars.

“I want her,” the devil snarled. “I like humans—and she smells fresh.”

Fresh? Does he think I’m food? Her gaze frantically jerked to the blue alien, praying he’d offer more money, but he refused to glance at her while he retreated in obvious fear.

“I hear they bleed red,” the devil snarled, licking his lips.

It sounded as if he were going to eat her. She didn’t want to die.

In a pure panic, Nara caught Midgel’s expectant expression.  The woman arched her eyebrow in question.

“Deal,” Nara whispered. “Have your captain buy me—please.”

Midgel nodded and stared at someone in the far corner, where Nara couldn’t see—until a few aliens moved.

What came forward wasn’t exactly an alien, but more of a three-foot-high egg-shaped body on short legs, with a rounded, bald head. Tiny hands waved from a plump chest covered in orange stretchy material. His pasty-white skin also reminded her of an egg. Nara met its round green eyes with dismay.

No way. If that’s their captain, I’m not allowing him to touch me. I’ll kill him first.

“Twice payment,” the egg squealed. “I want the short one with the long yellow hair. Twice payment,” it repeated.

Nara’s gaze fixed on the blue alien. “Please buy me,” she begged. “Pretty please? I’ll rock your alien world.”

The blue alien peered over Nara’s head. “I’ll buy the one behind her.”

The auctioneer addressed the egg. “Do you want to bid on both of the humans?”

“I just want the shorter one with the yellow hair and curvy body. Twice payment.”

I want that human,” the devil snarled. He glared at the egg, but the rounded alien didn’t budge as he stared up at the male who was ten times bigger.

“Three times payment,” the egg squealed.

“Sold!” The auctioneer touched the pad, also nodding to the blue man. “Sold.”

A hand gripped Nara’s shoulder. She turned her head to see pity on Belinda’s features.

“What is that thing that bought me?”

Belinda shrugged. “I’ve never seen one before. I don’t even know if it’s a male, but I guess it would be. I’m so sorry.” Her voice lowered. “At least it looks easy to escape. Hell, just kick it. It’ll roll away.”

Derrick laughed from the next cell. Nara turned her head, noting the other bidders had wandered off, including Midgel, and met her mechanic’s amused stare.

She’d been sold to Humpty Dumpty.

Derrick laughed again. “That puts a whole new spin on balling, huh?”

Nara grabbed the cage bars. “I’m going to strangle you when I escape.”

He sobered. “Sorry. It’s the stress. I’m afraid that red guy has a horny sister.” He lowered his voice. “You’ll get to the shuttle first. I’ll be there with parts as soon as I can escape once someone buys me.”

“Both of you had better wait there for me,” Belinda whispered.

Nara glanced at them both. “Rogerville as a backup meeting place, if we have to move the shuttle before it’s sold. With our luck, they’ll hire someone new or something and clear their backlog. I’m not losing my shuttle.”

Both of her crewmates nodded. The station was one they knew well and had visited many times. At least they had a solid plan.

Dread hit Nara when a door across the room opened. Large guards approached to take away the sex slaves who had already been sold. She didn’t bother to fight. The guards were hulks of muscles who seemed mean enough to enjoy beating prisoners. Belinda walked behind her for a short while, but then the guard with her turned left.

Nara sent her a worried look, and her crew member winked, as if saying she’d be fine.

Nara was led to a large ship docked to the station. She couldn’t get over being sold to a talking egg. She didn’t know if she should feel disgusted, insulted, or just horrified. She voted for all three.

More of the egg-looking aliens awaited when the doors slid open to reveal the interior of the ship.

Nara stared at the three identical, blinking white beings—then started to struggle, convinced they’d bought her to be a ship-wide pleasure worker. She hadn’t signed up for that.

The two hulks with her gripped her arms tighter, yanking her off her feet. The one on her left addressed the short aliens.

“Can you handle her, sirs? She’s a fighter, and bigger than you.”

Something moved to the right of the ship’s entryway, and then a big animal on two legs, wearing a black outfit, suddenly came into sight.

Nara whimpered. He reminded her of a scary werewolf from old classic movies she’d seen. He had the body shape of a man, tall and buff, but his exposed hands and face were dog-like. The furry hands had claws, and his hairy head featured a short snout, black eyes, and pointed ears.

“He’ll handle her if she resists.” The egg who’d spoken glared at Nara. “You were bought for our humanoid captain; he should be more pleasing to your tastes. You will find him attractive. There is no need for your fear or your…” He paused. “Insulting thoughts.”

Surprise tore through her. They read minds?

The egg sighed. “Yes. And we are Pods. I am offended by your term for us. We three are males, and all from the same litter. What you would consider triplets.”

“Sorry.” Nara remained stunned. She’d never met an alien race who could read thoughts before. It unnerved her just a bit.

The Pod turned his attention to the guards. “She will come with us easier now. Put her down.”

The two hulks dropped her none too gently onto her feet and made Nara stumble. The scary wolfman moved forward to grip her arm. She stared at him with fear. Can he read my mind too?

“No,” the Pod answered in a high-pitched voice. “Only the three of us can do so, but we try to avoid it. We have turned on our abilities to find the right woman for our captain. He needs your immediate attention.”

Nara scanned the large vessel as they led her through, taking note it was a first-class ship. She couldn’t read the strange language on any of the marked walls, nor did she see anyone as they traveled to another deck on a lift. She half-expected the Pods to roll down the wide corridor, but they walked.

All three of them glared at her when she thought that.

“Sorry. Don’t read my mind then.” She frowned. “You have to admit, with your shape, it’s weird that you’re walking.” She shot a dirty look at the wolfman. “You can let me go. I won’t run.”

He growled but didn’t release her arm.

She swallowed. Maybe he can’t talk. Maybe he can only—

“He speaks,” one of the Pods stated. “He is mad. He thinks we made the wrong decision, purchasing you for our captain, and we should haul ass to reach the ship carrying Tryleskian women. That’s our captain’s race. We have already explained to Dovis that our captain needs a woman now. He’s suffering too greatly to survive much longer without being fed.”

“It is insulting to offer this weakling to our captain,” the wolf snarled. “She is too little and ugly.”

Nara’s mouth dropped opened. “You think I’m ugly? Me? You—”

“Don’t!” one of the Pods squealed. “He wouldn’t find humor in being compared to the Earth version of what you think he resembles. He has a temper. And he’ll bite.”

Nara sealed her lips together as the lift opened and they led her down a narrower corridor. They stopped in front of a door. The wolfman growled and gave her a rough shove forward. Nara turned to frown at the Pods. One of them moved closer to peer at her.

“Are you familiar with the Tryleskian race? No. You are not. Yes, we are aware it is rude to ask and then answer before we allow you to speak, but our captain is in bad shape. The Tryleskian males go into heat every three years. Our captain miscalculated his cycle. He will go insane without female hormones. We will help you lure him into feeding.”

“Thank you,” she grit out. “I like to speak for myself,” she added, after mentally demanded the guy allow her to carry on a regular conversation. “Lure him? What does that mean?”

Another Pod answered Nara. “Tryleskians are a large warrior race. Our captain is quite aggressive right now, and he’ll either want to feed from you or kill you. You need to lure him into feeding to avoid being torn apart.” The Pod hesitated. “Yes. I mean that literally. He has been reduced to animal instincts, and being denied a woman for days while in heat only makes him more hostile and dangerous to any woman trying to entice him. You need to strip off your clothes when you go inside. It will allow him to smell your arousal.”

Another Pod sighed. “Yes, we are aware you don’t want to touch him, and that you aren’t a pleasure worker. That is why we selected you. Tryleskian men prefer their women not scenting of other males. You haven’t been with a man since your ex-husband stole your money and slept with your friends. You believe all men are assholes. And we are aware that you aren’t aroused, but we have a solution.” He looked at the wolfman. “Do it.”

Distracted by everything the Pods had read in her thoughts, Nara gasped when something sharp jabbed her arm, only spotting the needle when Wolfman removed it. “What was that?”

“It will help prepare your body for feeding Captain Vellar. You would call it an aphrodisiac. Right now, he is in the bath trying to cool his overheated body. He feels as though he is on fire and is starving for female hormones. His mind is confused, and he’s filled with rage. You must go in there and remove your clothes quickly, before he leaves his bath to attack whoever stepped into his lair. Your naked body will seduce his senses.”

“Put her inside,” one of the Pods ordered the wolfman.

“No!” Nara desperately tried to fight.

The wolfman hit the panel by the door to open it. She screamed when he shoved her forward roughly. Nara landed on her butt on thick carpet in a dimly lit room. They firmly sealed the entrance behind her, the Pods and the wolfman still on the other side of the door.

She turned her head frantically, her gaze darting around, and realized she’d entered a large bedroom.

Something growled viciously—a deep, terrifying sound.

Nara sat frozen as she heard water splash. Movement to her right made her heart pound as she slowly turned her head. She knew she was supposed to strip naked to avoid the captain hurting her, but terror hit hard as something large filled the doorway—and she got her first glimpse of him.

“Holy shit,” she whispered.

She could only gawk at the extremely intimidating male who filled the bathroom entryway. Water dripped from a thick, shoulder-length mane of hair. It looked golden even while wet, softly flowing with hints of reddish waves. His beautiful cat-shaped, exotic eyes captivated her. They were a soft honey color in the dim interior of the room.

His lips parted, which drew her gaze downward.

He had strong, masculine features. His cheekbones were a bit harsh, his nose a little too wide, and his lips were unusually generous. His teeth were mostly smooth but he had sharp-looking fangs on the top. Another growl rumbled from deep in his throat.

She had to admit, he appeared handsome in a wild sort of way. His face definitely held appeal.

Nara’s focus lowered more, noticing how tense his body appeared. He was broad-shouldered, his bulging biceps displayed as his fingers gripped the doorway to the bathroom. There was a lot of golden skin on display too. He had a massive chest, which tapered down to some finely honed abs. She could see every ripple of muscle that led from his lower ribs down to his lean hips.

He was totally naked. And her gaze widened as she took in the sight of one very turned-on alien guy. He looked human in that region, although bigger than her ex-husband had been. She couldn’t look away from the thick flesh protruding between his impressively muscular thighs.

Until he moved, taking a step in her direction.

While the wolfman had reminded her of an upright werewolf, the captain had her wondering if some overgrown, steroid-taking Viking human had bred with a lioness. The alien in front of her could have been their mature son.

Her attention flew upward, staring at his face as he growled again, a chilling sound.

Unable to move, too terrified to do anything but stare at him, she heard her breathing increase as her heart pounded, nearly panting with fear.

He released the doorjamb of the bathroom and took another step closer. He snarled again, baring his sharp fangs.

“Easy, big scary lion man. Please don’t hurt me.” Her voice shook. “Nice Captain.”