Read an Excerpt
By SHELLI STEVENS
APHRODISIA BOOKSCopyright © 2009 Michelle Stevens
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBy the gods, she was late. Talia stepped off the walkatron, ignoring the electronic voice that blared a reminder that she was tardy for her next scheduled meeting with the Council. Dragging a towel across her forehead, she headed toward the bathing room.
The physical wellness hour was the one time during her day that she absolutely savored, that she considered her hour. Complete isolation and privacy, taking out her frustrations and wants in the only way she was allowed. Forty-five minutes of running on the walkatron, until her legs were sore and her mind rid of all the dreams that could never be.
She could simply be Talia, a twenty-two-year-old woman blessed-or cursed-to be one of the few dozen women alive and well living on the planet. She was no longer Natalia, the well-pampered and well-used commodity of the Council. A highly educated, groomed plaything for the most powerful men on the planet. In here she could escape the reality of her life as a Rosabelle.
Her mouth tightened and she shook her head.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Every woman blessed to be alive on this planet bears the same reality as you. Only most do not have your luxuries.
She was envied by the other Rosabelles, as well she should be. Though every woman alive wasgroomed and sold to the highest bidder, she was the only woman who now kneeled at the feet of the Governing Council.
Pausing to look in the mirror, she toyed with a strand of red hair that had escaped the severe knot on top of her head. Her lips twisted downward. Such freedom that strand of hair had. A freedom that was never to be. She pulled the hair taut and tucked it back into the expected knot on her head.
"Mistress Natalia, you must begin your bathing ritual." The male voice rang out through the bathroom.
Her stomach dropped as she met the bored obsidian gaze of her male servant who waited in the corner. And now the return to reality. She turned around and approached the large basin, already filled with near-scalding water.
"Did you enjoy your run?" Dane asked, taking her arms and urging them above her head.
"It was quite lovely as always, thank you." She waited as he unfastened, then unwound the strip of fabric that bound her breasts.
"You always seem to look forward to that hour." He grimaced. "I don't tolerate exercise, or sweating. The physical wellness hour would be my least favorite time of the day." He dropped to his knees in front of her and untied the fastenings at each side of her hip, plucking the fabric away and leaving her completely naked. "Then again, I see nothing wrong with being surrounded by the most powerful men on the planet who want only for me to please them."
"Yes, now why doesn't that surprise me?" Talia rolled her eyes as he cupped the mound of her sex and ran a thumb down her slit.
He nodded in approval. "Still smooth. The treatments last summer appear to have killed the hair follicles in this region." Standing again he gestured toward the bath. "Let us begin."
Talia climbed into the basin, wincing as the water stung her legs. Protesting the temperature would only gain her disapproval from her owners. As with every Rosabelle, she was to be cleansed with the hottest of water that would not damage her skin, but would leave it pink and clean.
She sank all the way under, rinsing all the sweat off her body and wetting every square inch of flesh. When she sat back up, Dane held a sponge drizzled with honey and a creamy, moisturizing soap.
"Hands in the air, please," he ordered.
Raising her hands above her head, she laced her fingers and closed her eyes. The first stroke of the sponge moved over her breasts and her nipples tightened. She went through the bathing ritual daily, with a man who would never be aroused by her, yet her body continued to respond to the silky touch of the sponge on her flesh.
"Jeez, Talia, you're so damn responsive. The Council members must love you."
She bit back a sigh. Yes. The Council members did indeed love her. Although, love was probably a poor choice of words. They loved her body and her skills as a Rosabelle. Never had she, nor would she likely, feel the warmth of another's love.
Her gut clenched and the familiar sense of despair and feeling trapped washed over her. The recurring this can't be my life moment that threatened to rip apart her soul.
Dane moved the sponge between her legs and heat speared through her body.
"No, love, don't get yourself aroused. That's the Council's job. It will only anger them if you arrive already prepared."
A spark of irritation ran through her. Of course it would. Gods help her if she were to be aroused when she wasn't in the Council's presence.
Every moment of her life revolved around pleasing men, but only the select three men who owned her. Anyone outside the Council and Dane was forbidden from ever touching or even gazing upon her naked flesh.
And never was she allowed to touch herself. A Rosabelle caught touching herself was to be punished in the most severe manner, where she would only begin to wish for death. Though never would she actually be killed, for to do so would mean one less woman on a planet where there were already so few.
Her expression turned bitter. Life on the endangered species list could be a real pain in the ass.
"Close your eyes while I wash your hair."
She obediently closed her eyes and enjoyed the moment where her hair was let free down her back. So rarely was that allowed; only if one of the Council members requested it. Otherwise, she was to wear it in a knot atop her head.
Dane massaged her scalp and worked the cleanser in her hair into a lather.
"Rinsing now. Keep the eyes closed."
Warm water sluiced over her head, down her face, and over her breasts.
"Very nice, love. All done. You can get out now."
Talia stepped out of the tub and into the fluffy soft towel that Dane held. He wrapped it around her, patting her down. Once she was dry he pulled her hair again into the severe knot atop her head, and then began oiling and lotioning her body.
A half hour later her body was dewy and perfumed. Her lips were topped with shiny pink gloss and her lashes curled and inked. She donned a pale blue silk dress with sleeves to the wrists, an empire waist, and a low bodice.
Dane gave her an appreciative glance. "Look at how nicely you've cleaned up."
"Only with your help, as always." She gave a slight smile; the movement felt awkward as the muscles around her mouth stretched. When was the last time she'd smiled?
"Well, I do try. Now, we should go, because I have a lunch date with a certain warrior in training."
They left the bathing chambers and she cast him a sideways glance. "I take it things are well between you and Thomas?"
"Quite well." The slight flush in his cheeks and brightening of his eyes surprised her. Perhaps Dane was developing an attachment to the younger man?
On a planet with so few women, it was not uncommon for men to take other men as lovers.
They moved into a busy corridor, passing a general.
"Good day, mistress." He bowed slightly, his hungry gaze moving over her.
Talia curtsied and lowered her eyes demurely. The general was just one of the many men who would never be allowed to touch her.
"The Council has already begun meeting for the day." Dane cast a nervous glance her way. "They will not be pleased to find you late."
"I'm sure they will not," she agreed mildly and glanced through the window in the corridor down to the city below. Men roamed the streets, their clothes tattered as they begged for handouts. They would not be outside for long, though; the air outside was not safe to breathe for long periods of time.
She bit back a sigh. Even with the dangerous environment, she wished just once to be able to experience life outside the Council's headquarters. Once, as a child, she'd been taken outside, but the memory was so vague she couldn't tell what was real and what was simply made up in her head from watching the teletron.
But that is not your life, it never will be. She lifted her chin, squelching back the bite of loneliness. Turning her gaze back to the corridor, it locked on a pair of dark brown eyes.
She had no idea who he was, yet he watched her rather intimately. Irritation pricked her. The man leaned against the corridor a few feet ahead of them.
He was quite attractive. Tall, dark hair, broad shoulders, and a predatory stillness in him that sent a frisson of alarm through her. Alarm and ... heat. She felt a warm flush steal into her cheeks. But why? She was no virgin unused to a man's sexual interest.
Dane escorted her closer to him, and the breath in her throat seemed to lock. He did not bow, she realized in shock. With so few women in existence, all Rosabelles were held in the highest regard. It was required that every man bow in the presence of one. Instead his gaze moved over her slow and thorough, to the point where she wondered if he might have the impossible ability to see beneath her dress.
Her pulse, which had already begun to race, throbbed for a different reason now. How dare the man? Had he no respect?
He straightened from the wall as she came abreast of him, but instead of bowing as she assumed he'd do, he gave her a mocking smile and lifted one eyebrow as if to challenge her. She jerked her gaze away from him, her heart thudding like mad.
How foolish he was to stare at her so, to not bow. If she were smart she'd report him. It was no less than he deserved.
Even after she'd passed by him, she could feel his gaze burning into her back. She was accustomed to being stared at, but never had it unsettled her so. Never had something as common as a man's stare created heat that spiraled throughout her body and settled low in her belly.
Her nipples tightened and she groaned in dismay. This was not good. Her arousal was now blatantly apparent, and the Council would note as much the moment she entered the room.
"Come." Dane punched in the code that opened the automatic doors, and they hissed open.
Talia took a deep breath and, unable to resist, glanced back at the man. He continued to watch her, but his eyes were now narrowed and his mouth drawn tight.
He didn't appear pleased with her being led into the Council's chamber. The thought perked her spirits a bit and she raised a mocking eyebrow back at him, before turning to enter the chamber alone.
Ryder watched the doors to the Council's chamber slide shut and clenched his fists. Fuck. She was the target Rosabelle? He shook his head and walked to the window that overlooked the city. Now this was just a complication that he didn't need.
What should have been a simple plan had just become a helluva lot more complicated. The last thing he needed was his dick rock hard when he set the events in motion. As long as you think with the right head you'll be fine.
And they would be blindsided if all went well. He rocked back on his heels and envisioned the Rosabelle who'd just passed by. Like all Rosabelles he'd encountered on this planet, she had been beautiful. With lush breasts, a small waist, and slender thighs that he already imagined spread wide for him. But there had been more about that woman. A fire he'd seen within those pale blue eyes, where as in most Rosabelles he had encountered there was simply a flatness, a resignation to their lives.
The blood in his cock stirred and his breathing grew heavier. He would have her. Hot and willing when the time was right, but now ... now he needed to stick to the plan.
Talia entered the Council's chamber, pushing aside the familiar despondency and apprehension. She walked with her head held high and her shoulders back, allowing her breasts to thrust against the fabric. Always present your body's curves in the most provocative manner. She'd learned the manner of walking from the day she was first groomed to become a Rosabelle.
The room was cold with steel walls, circular in structure with each of the Council members' desks spread throughout. In the middle of the room was the couch that could be altered into a bed. Just looking at it brought a cold trickle of sweat down her spine.
"Natalia, my dear. You're late, but have impeccable timing. We were about to begin our first break of the morning." One of the Council members, Victor, arose from his desk and approached her. His gaze moved over her possessively. "You look absolutely stun-"
He broke off and the sudden silence in the air was wrought with tension. Oh gods. He'd sure noticed quickly enough. She'd hoped he'd not see it, be too preoccupied.
"Take notice, gentlemen," he said and closed the distance between them. Reaching out he cupped her breast through the dress, capturing the tight nipple between his fingers. "It appears our Natalia has found something to be aroused by outside our chamber."
"And I apologize, sirs," she murmured uneasily and lowered her gaze. "It was simply the thought of you three that has put me in such a state."
The lie was reasonable enough, but would they believe it?
"Really?" Victor's tone indicated his doubt. "How aroused have you allowed yourself to become? Shall we check, my dear?"
She kept her gaze lowered and gave a submissive nod. Her pulse quickened with trepidation. She heard the scrape of the other chairs across the hardwood floor and knew that Ramirez and Franklin were approaching her.
The warm air tickled her ankles as one of the men lifted her dress. With her gaze still downcast, she recognized the age spots on the hand that held the fabric. It was Ramirez, the eldest of the men, who was somewhere in his mid-fifties.
The dress was raised past her knees, up her thighs, and then over her hips. Her naked pussy was revealed to the men in the room. Men who knew every inch of her body the way a painter knew every detail in his painting.
Ramirez's fingers slipped between her legs and rubbed over the lips of her cunt. She closed her eyes, knowing her body would respond at this point. Heart and emotions out of the equation, her body knew pleasure.
"She is already wet." His disappointment was evident.
And her body also knew pain. She knew what would come next. She bit her lip and a tremble shook her body.
"I see." Victor sighed.
Her dress was once again lowered. She heard the rasp of a zipper and opened her eyes, lifting her gaze to the men. Franklin had his cock out, and was stroking the thick purple erection as he leered at her.
"Remove your dress, Natalia," Victor commanded.
Without hesitation she undid the single button in the back and let the dress slide off her body and onto the floor.
"Now you will assume the position for punishment." Victor glanced over at Ramirez. "You may participate if you wish." The older man nodded and went and sat upon his desk, hastily reaching for the fly of his pants.
Talia took a deep calming breath, walked to the desk, and leaned forward, thrusting her ass out toward Victor. She placed her palms on either side of Ramirez, watching as he freed his erection and lifted it eagerly toward her lips.
"Take him within your mouth," Victor commanded. And then the first stinging slap of his hand rained down on her buttock.
She barely flinched and parted her lips, allowing Victor to press his erection into her mouth. The slaps continued, harder as she suckled upon Ramirez's flesh. She went into her zone, the only way in which she got through these moments. Not thinking, only performing.
His fingers clenched in her hair, holding her mouth to his cock as she brought him to orgasm. He spilled his seed into her mouth and she swallowed automatically, trying not to focus on the hot burning of her buttocks.
Ramirez released her just as an arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her upright.
"You are forgiven, my dear." Victor turned her around, his gaze full of lust.
Ramirez slipped off the desk, which allowed Victor to lay her down upon it. The wood was hard upon her spine, but she offered no protest as he stepped between her thighs.
He ran his hands over her body, squeezing her breasts and then moving down between her legs. He thrust two fingers inside her and wiggled them around.
"Wet indeed. A woman's cunt is like the rarest fine wine. So few can afford it. We are entitled, we are blessed." He fell to his knees and buried his face against her pussy.
His tongue moved over her, rough and eager. He found her clit and lapped at it, at her, devouring her like a man deprived.
Excerpted from TAKE ME by SHELLI STEVENS Copyright © 2009 by Michelle Stevens. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.