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Instead, the man gave a low growl of approval and withdrew his touch from her intimate flesh. "You are indeed a prize, one to be savored, not rushed. I hear your eyes are the color of the sea and the sky. I want to see them, and I want to hear your voice. Sepella warns me, though, that you've not yet learned obedience. So I tell you this: If you act against me, you'll be punished, and the punishment will be severe. Do you believe me?"
Jalil pressed her lips together. She wanted nothing more than to spit in his face the moment he removed the gag. But that wouldn't get her back to the Gypsy. Forcing down her anger, she nodded.
"Good. Act with wisdom and I'll treat you with respect." He sounded amused. "Attempt to revolt and you'll find yourself back on this rack, bound, gagged and blindfolded. And I won't be so gentle a second time."
His fingers plucked at the knot behind her head, and the gag loosened. He pulled it out of her mouth. Breathing hard, she bit back a curse. She hated yielding to him, even in the smallest thing, but she needed to regain some measure of freedom so she could figure out how to escape from this tyrant.
When she'd stayed silent a few moments, he untied her blindfold and it fell away. Jalil blinked and saw the handsome man who had leaned over her in the wreck. He was standing a few feet away from her, regarding her with calm possessiveness.
"You find the idea of revolt by a woman laughable?" She put all the scorn she could muster into her voice. Lifting her head, she swept a haughty glance over his body. Midnight black hair hung to his shoulders in the many braids she'd remembered. They framed a strong face with a long nose andfull, sensual mouth. As before, his eyes reminded her of the dark, velvety depths of space pulsing with the distant sparkle of stars.
He was tall, half a head taller than her, with a broad chest and wide shoulders. He was no weakling, this Lord of Katarsh. Unlike her, he wore clothes, a long thick purple robe belted in scarlet at the waist. It fell to the floor, hiding his legs. His muscled arms were bare, though, and adorned with golden bands.
To her surprise, her pussy tightened and a series of little shivers darted up her spine. This man was smokin' hot. She'd like to tie him down on a bed and have her way with him. The idea that he might do that very thing to her was making her insides go molten.
He took a step back and stood with his hands on his hips, regarding her. "Despite what you may think, Teymour is not a savage world. But I imagine our culture is unique."
Jalil struggled to regain her equilibrium. His nearness was overwhelming. Somehow he managed to dominate the space around him. She was finding it difficult to breathe. She had to fight back. With an effort, she found her voice. "It is, although not in a good way. Where I come from, a man isn't allowed to touch a woman without her consent."
He lifted his brows. "Forgive my ignorance, but we've been cut off from other worlds since the First Civilization fell. Where do you come from?"
"It's called the Federation. It rose from the ashes of the First Civilization."
"But it's just as sexually prudish, it seems."
"If you call simple decency prudish."
Zand laughed. "You think I have sex with women without their consent? Each of the women in my seraglio is chosen--and thrilled to be here."
"Like you chose me? Against my will?"
His expression grew serious. "You would like the alternative less. If I hadn't brought you here, the Lord Imperator would have claimed you. I assure you, he cares nothing for the niceties."
"He's worse than you?"
"Far worse. The sexual rules are different here on Teymour, but I enjoy conducting my sexual games with mutual consent. That is a tradition on our world. In certain hands, though, our games of submission and dominance can turn darker."
He stopped, but shadows moved in the depths of his eyes. Jalil shuddered, imagining what he meant. Was she lucky after all? Frick! The thought shocked her. Her wrists and ankles already ached from the cuffs holding her in place. The man was trying to brainwash her.
She glared at him. "I don't consent!"
He regarded her with something like pity. "Very well. I can try to hide you in the kitchen, mopping the floors, although I doubt--"
She cut him off. "Let me go to my ship. Maybe I can repair it and leave this damned world."
He folded his arms across his muscled chest and favored her with a lengthy, thoughtful look. "Your arrival here has created several problems which might be best solved by your departure. You are unlikely to fit into our society, and already your presence is stirring up reactions in some quarters. But I can't simply repair your ship and send you back. For one thing, I would have to explain your absence to the Lord Imperator. He would be most unhappy. He's made it clear that he wants you for his bedmate if you don't please me."
Jalil's skin crawled at the mention of the Lord Imperator. "Does he have to know you helped me escape?"
Zand let his gaze wander up and down her body. He took a step closer, and the heat coming off him beat against her bare skin. "If I helped you, I would be taking an enormous risk. If he found out, he would be quite angry with me, and he's been looking for some time for an excuse to accuse me of treason. Why should I take such a risk for you?"
Her throat went dry. She knew the answer. She had but one commodity to trade on this planet. Taking a deep breath, she regarded him in her turn. Strangely, this conversation had reassured her. He was no mad despot. Furthermore, she was no shy virgin, and he certainly looked like a magnificent male specimen. She allowed herself to wonder what it would be like to touch him the way he'd touched her. To feel those iron biceps holding her tight, to bury her hands in those thick braids of midnight hair, to stroke that attractive ass.
A part of her still bridled at his unspoken demand, but she was a woman of honor--a businesswoman. It was a fair trade. She lifted her chin. "All right. I consent."