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I will destroy all threats to the empire with unrelenting force. Even if that threat comes in the form of a weak, fragile lesser with night-black hair and beguiling eyes.

The blades. Elite forces of the empire, nightmare to all servant-world residents just trying to scrape by. Of course I have to flee when my medical ship comes under attack.

But my escape pod is captured by their ruthless leader.

His face is hidden in an assassin’s cowl. Metal sai weapons are fused to his wristbones. He can fly between spaceships like an owl and execute enemies through a hull.

Yet according to him, I’m the dangerous one.

His people’s lust metal has gotten in my blood. They’ll tear each other apart trying to get to me. And then? Because they can’t understand their feelings, they’ll tear me apart, too.

So he’s taking me to the Arsenal, a massive station teeming with his blades, where I’m one papercut away from unleashing hyperviolent zombies.

Well, okay.

I’m lucky he’s the one who captured me. He senses the lust metal inside me, he understands the desires burning us both with unrelenting need, and he’s completely unaffected.

Or, well, mostly…

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I close my eyes and massage my temples.

Tired. So very tired.

I did not take the general master position expecting that it would be easy. I took it because the empire must always be secure. The only ones standing between chaos and order are us. The blades. And me. Their general master.

The lesser lurks in the corner where I ordered her to remain. She curves her spine into an S shape and gazes at me with big eyes.

Her lusteal-tainted blood tickles in my brain. Phantom whispers urge me to stand, trap her, do something about this boiling sensation. Flay off her skin…or flay off her coverings and reveal the soft curves I have never before been attracted to but suddenly can’t get out of my mind.

I can’t stay in here with her for another instant.

She’s a lesser. Infected. And bound for the Arsenal science lab. In pieces, if need be.

I set our course to return to the Arsenal.

The console flashes a green warning. It displays an estimate of the time needed to generate enough charge to return to the Arsenal. Twenty clicks. Fine. There is only one unarmed lesser. I will endure her presence for twenty clicks.


I stand and wobble.

The lesser rises to come to me.

I whip up my blades in warning.

She stops.

I stagger past her to the wall stores and kneel, pick up the overturned bowl, and scoop in the nutrient cubes that fell when I collapsed. I force myself to eat them. They sit in my belly like dry weights.

I’ve been living on stim packs and regen powder, and I knew it was going to take a toll. At least the only one who saw my inevitable collapse was a lesser.

Peppery need curls into my brain with little hooks, like just thinking about her now is dangerous.

She’s such a combination of strange colors, utterly unlike the soothing neutral grays and blacks of Arrisans, except that hair. It’s so pure. And it looks so silky.

Go closer. Touch the black hair. Breathe deep.

I drag myself onto the bench and open a packet of electrolyte water. It tastes bland.

The lesser slinks too close and perches on the wall ledge. It’s not supposed to be a seat. Her eyes travel across my body like hot lasers.

She was in that escape pod too long. She must need nutrition as well.

I hold up a nutrient cube. “Hungry?”

She squints.

Do lessers from Humana eat normal food? Do they drink electrolyte water? I just killed two enemies to keep her, but I suppose it doesn’t matter that I don’t know what she needs. Soon, she will be the property of the Arsenal science officer.

Like some kind of delicate animal, she takes the cube from my fingertips and crunches it, sips the electrolyte water, then downs the whole cup in a long gulp. So, she was thirsty. She breathes out a gusty sigh and wipes her mouth.

I offer her another cube.

She curls her tongue around the light brown nugget, sucks it into her mouth, and licks her fingers, eyes never leaving mine.

It’s an inefficient method to eat.

But also strangely mesmerizing.

I drop cubes into a bowl and pass it to her.

She eats them one by one, languid and purposeful, eying me with her unusual irises the whole time.

Spicy heat lowers into my groin, pooling with readiness. Readiness to go into the arena, unite with the Arrisan women chosen for their superior genetics, grip onto the walls while they climb me and engage in a frenzy of breeding.

My pulse pounds as the images intensify.

Her thick, pink tongue teases her dusty fingertips.

“Fight the lusteal,” I order her. “Fight your urge. Stop.”

She tilts her head. “Stop what?”

“Eat like a normal creature.”

“This is normal.”

“Don’t test me.”

“What’s wrong with how I eat?” She sucks a cube into her mouth, then spits it onto her hand and licks it, then eyes me. “Want me to do this to you?”


“I could make you feel great, you know.”

“I’m not your breeding partner.”

“Mm.” She leans forward. “You could be.”

I lean back. “I have no interest in you.”

She cups my partially hardened jack through the skinsuit. “You have a little interest.”

I angle away, breaking her tantalizing contact. “Because you’ve been infected with Arrisan lusteal. The urges will go away after mating. Do you understand?”

She nods her head yes, smiling warmly as if me interacting with her is some sort of sunlight and she craves it. That, of course, is the lusteal.

Arrisans aren’t like lessers who breed irresponsibly, with abandon. We only breed in the proper time and place, once or twice a decade.

“You’re lucky I’m the one who found you. Any other Arrisan would have attacked you by now, the way you’re behaving. Fight your breeding urge. I do.”

She takes a deep breath, causing her breasts to swell. They are so much larger in Humana lessers. “You do?”

“Because I have no desire to breed with a lesser.”

“You could try it out. Maybe you’ll like it.”

Even though she’s no longer touching me, arousal pulses into my jack, erecting me to full readiness. “Do you understand anything I’ve told you?”

She nods again.

Then she sucks her index finger into her mouth and slides her tongue around the base.

A shudder runs through me.

Why is this arousing?

Maybe I should lock her up. Throw her back in the escape pod and deploy narco-stasis gas to keep her unconscious until we reach the Arsenal.

“Repeat what I said back to me,” I order.

“I’m infested with your lust metal, and the only cure…” She lowers her gaze to my hard region. “Is for us to breed.”

That is true. I hadn’t considered…

Wait, no.

“It’s a sickness.” I stand, and the bench I was sitting on retracts into the wall beside me. “You must fight it.”

She slides off the ledge. “Nah.”

“N-no?” I back up to keep from touching her.

“Mm. Nah.”

Because I feel entirely too capable of picking her up, putting her in her place…and then surging in after her.

This weapon, lusteal mixed with the lesser’s blood, is too potent.

But I am still in control.

She stalks forward.

My back hits the wall.

She presses her soft breasts against my hard chest.

“What are you doing?” My voice is strangely gruff.

She looks me right in the eye. “Curing myself.”

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