Blades of Arris: Ranse
Blades of Arris: Ranse
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On an alien world, the Prince of Blades will do anything to possess me.
I can make him an emperor.
He better treat me like a queen....
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ What a fun story; I recommend it to anyone looking for a distraction because this is an intense and complicated story line. I am thankful that the horrors are kept at bay, enough information to understand what was done without the lingering details that bring nightmares. This is highly imaginative and suspenseful. The word play is fun. Thank you for the hard work.
- Alien Shifter Prince
- Forbidden Love
- Mating Mark/Bite
- Black Heroine
- Trigger Warnings
- Heat Level: 4 out of 5
I am a lesser? From a servant world? A nobody?
What a joke.
The man who discounts me is the one who loses.
Because me? I know royalty when I see it.
They call me the Kingmaker.
And I am never wrong.
Even on an alien world, he will do anything to possess me.
The Prince of Blades.
His world is in shambles.
His conquerors have turned against him.
All because of a few pesky lessers like me.
I can make him into an emperor.
I can fix his fractured world and bring his generals into line.
But he might not like who he has to become to win.
Us lessers aren't exactly who they thought we were, ha ha.
Well, I have a few secrets of my own.
And I'll only reveal those to a true king.
Devour the next book in the enthralling, highly-acclaimed Blades of Arris universe. One woman from Earth takes on the king of the conquerors and the universe is never the same!
Intro Into Chapter One
Intro Into Chapter One
It’s five o’clock in the morning, and I’ve been working on these handcuffs for over an hour.
White-hot fury blinds me.
I crank on the hairpin I’m trying to use as a shiv.
When I get out of here, I’m going to murder the man who did this. I’m going to sleep with him—again—and then I’m going to murder him.
I stop cranking on the hairpin. The fury recedes as I listen.
That’s my local network phone.
Unfortunately, my phone is still in my purse, halfway across the bedroom. By stretching out to the tips of my toes, I snag the purse strap with the little bows decorating my red heels. I contort the bag up my body and upend it on the bed.
The phone stops buzzing. Missed call.
Waves of rage fill my body. I grit my jaw so hard, my teeth squeak.
But there’s the paper clip I used to secure my quarterly reports. I breathe out with a gust and grab it. The hairpin refuses to come out of the tiny hole of the cuff on my wrist. I’ll have to try this paper clip in the other cuff.
The cuff attached to the iron bed frame.
It’s funny that our planet was conquered by brutal alien rulers and yet we still use bent metal clips to secure papers. It’s weird that even though Yellowstone blew, the Great Lakes drained, and the prairie lands buckled into mountains, paper clips survived.
But so did iron bed frames, and so did handcuffs. Maybe it isn’t that weird.
My phone buzzes again.
I prop the phone against my knee, angling the camera away from the handcuffs, the bullet holes in the wall, and the bloodstains on the ceiling.
The viewscreen reflects me, disheveled and sweaty, with smeared lipstick. So, I look normal as I answer. “Who’s dead?”
“Allie! I just wanted to make sure you’re ready for the shuttle.” My older sister looks both put together and frazzled. Her short, kinky black hair is perfectly waved against her head, and her glasses make her look studious and important, but the anxiety in her large brown eyes ruins the impression. “I know you didn’t want a big send-off—you skipped your own farewell party last night—but I’m afraid I’ll get called in to the hospital before you pick up your bags, and I don’t want to miss my chance to say goodbye.”
“Got it.” I twist hard, mangling the paper clip. “I’m going to be late.”
“Oh, Allie, please tell me you’re not changing your mind.”
“No, no. I just got a little caught up in something…”
“The Vanadisans study other races, and they picked your mystery disorder to cure. You shouldn’t have to be furious all the time. You shouldn’t feel compelled to sleep with men you don’t even like, and you shouldn’t have constant insomnia or that feeling of burning in your brain.”
The ache I’ve been suppressing now takes hold of my body.
Sensual need sparks in my center. Molten honey bubbles into my brain, clasping hold, and all I need right now is to wrap myself around a powerful man’s contemptuous body and have him use me until I can’t think straight.
This, by the way, is how I ended up in handcuffs. “Maybe this is my normal.”
My sister snorts. “You went from waiting at our town’s one stoplight, alone and in the rain, so you didn’t break the law, to working for the largest criminal organization in America.”
“Fight fire with fire.” I strain against the off-screen handcuff. The pre-invasion movies make it look so easy to escape these things. Maybe our metal was weaker before the Arrisans conquered us. “Fight petty land thieves with real criminals.”
“You saved our family farm, okay? You saved us, and we all want to save you.”
“Okay. I need you to hold the shuttle.”
“Hold the shuttle!” She chokes. “An intergalactic medical shuttle flying to another planet? How?”
“You’re a surgeon. You know what to say.”
“Ergh. Ever since your inner switch flipped, you have this idea that everybody can do more than they actually can…” But she’s already typing, trying her hardest to help me, and she hangs up to make the space port call.
“Everyone does have more power than they think. They just have to command it.” I crank on the paper clip with all my might.
The handcuff slides open.
My numb hand flops onto my lap. The rest of the handcuffs land beside me with a metallic clink. I try to squeeze my wrist out of the jammed cuff—nope—and massage my cold fingers while the boiling fury decreases to a more tolerable simmer. Then I scoop my belongings into my purse, shoulder it, and go out the fire escape.
Ward is around here somewhere.
“You can’t leave me, Allie,” he crooned as he handcuffed me to the bed frame, our half-dressed bodies still damp from the last bout of hate-sex. “It’s all working out for us. My father can’t keep us apart now that he’s dead, and you don’t have to sleep with other men to make me jealous. Admit it. You love me.”
My heels stick in the thick grating. It’s cool this morning, but I don’t really notice discomforts when I’m hunting.
All I have to do is find a guard, steal his gun, and murder his boss.
I’ve never fired a gun, but the old movies make it look easy. I’m sure all I have to do is…
A door opens, and a guard ambles into the alley.
Need thumps in my belly.
I step up and fist his dress shirt. “You want me.”
He blinks. “Huh?”
I back him into the hall—by the kitchens—and throw my wrist over his shoulder. The cuff dangles down his back. I reach for his fly.
He eagerly embraces me.
The craving for sex, never fully dormant, pulses through my body. I don’t feel satisfaction. I never do. But in the quiet aftermath, homicidal mania gives way to temporary sanity.
Perhaps murdering Ward in the hall of the building he owns isn’t my greatest plan. I’m about a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter, and anyway, I’m not the murdering kind. First of all, it’s too much work. And second, I don’t kill anything if I can help it. Not even spiders.
A distant siren wails.
Someone must have realized I escaped.
“Ah, gotta run.” The guard smears a kiss on my cheek, buckles up, and jogs down the hall.
It’s not satisfaction, but it’s something.
I stroll into the grimy back alley to the main street.
A sleek hover car pulls up in front of the office. Ward hustles out the back, leaving the door hanging open.
Anger crackles in me.
But, thanks to the sex, I pause in the alleyway instead of running at him screaming.
He disappears into the building.
I cross the sidewalk and climb into the very same door he’s left open. “Space port.”
The driver presses the button to close my door. “Which port? Local or the biggie over in the next town?”
She whistles. “Across the country, huh?”
“And I want to get there in five hours.”
In the building’s atrium, Ward screams at his enforcer, who’s still holding the front door open. It’s not very secure. Ward’s unguarded back makes an attractive target.
See, it would have been perfect for that gun. Probably.
My driver turns her worker’s cap around backward and knuckles the steering wheel. We zoom off, leaving Ward and his criminal enterprise far behind.
I could have helped him run his business.
Instead, he got obsessed with earning my love. Like I was a trophy to win, a statuette to display outside his building.
I don’t even think I can love anyone. I never felt an all-consuming passion. I was barely interested in others before my switch flipped, as my sister says, and I definitely haven’t had more than shallow desires since.
I remember loving my family. I never wanted to leave our grandparents’ sunny orchards and brown acres and frog ponds, but when my brother was romanced into signing our family farm away, I looked at the blind happiness shining in his eyes and I swallowed my own doubts. I wanted to support his happiness because I loved him so much.
Love makes people blind, crazy, and stupid, including me.
The day the honeymoon ended, when his new wife handed divorce papers to my brother and our farm to scarred thugs, was the day I changed.
I suddenly couldn’t fit inside my own skin, and a fire raged in my brain. To stop the developers, I had to leave behind the version of me who poured herself into others’ glasses, who settled nicely into others’ molds. I shattered that glass and honed it into a shiv to protect the ones I loved, even as the sensation of actually loving them faded into a faint memory.
Now, it’s like looking through a window at the person I used to be, or watching an old movie that hasn’t yet been dubbed into Arrisan Standard and having no idea what any of the characters are saying. But I still remember the plot. I know what I’m supposed to do and why, so I can stick with it.
For the most part.
After the first twenty minutes of the drive, my sanity wears off and my homicidal rage returns.
I was a great accountant, an absolutely stellar employee, and then the old boss gets stabbed in the back—literally—and the new boss locks me to a bed frame. The injustice of it all!
I get out my data tablet. Nobody’s taken my passwords out of the system yet. They ignored all my advice.
Rage crackles up in me again, and that fury pours out my fingertips, smashing into all the weak points of the business I helped to build. I’m not just going to watch it burn. I’m going to light the match.
A few quick keystrokes and my annual reports are the property of the American government. Not just the employees Ward paid off. The ones who have a stake in dismantling his criminal enterprise.
I’m not satisfied.
Not even a little bit.
That’s the worst. Like my cravings for sex, sometimes ignored but never absent, my anger is an unquenchable flame searing my veins.
I gaze out the window on the biggest injustice of them all.
Outside, the landscape of America flashes past. The huge monolith fields of the supervolcano, flowing lava like a river across formerly flat states, and the irradiated graveyards of broken cities.
The interstellar space port is perched atop a mountain of obsidian. It’s one of the places the Arrisans’ lasers touched when they pushed us sideways in orbit—after they defeated us! They beat us so easily, and the moment we capitulated, they unleashed lasers and bored through to the mantle—I think—that cooled into this hard yet fragile crust of black glass. Continents cracked into pieces and oceans vaporized. Beyond the veil of clouds, you can see the barren flatlands that were once great lakes.
The Arrisans destroyed so much arable land after they won, and then they designated us a food-producing planet? Someday, as God is my witness, I’m going to meet the Arrisan emperor, and I’m going to tell him to his face that he’s an idiot.
I tip well and grab a porter who is perfectly happy to top up my cravings and carry my bags to the restricted gangplank. He’s not allowed too near the ship, so I drag the bags the last few meters to the bulbous alien vessel.
Escape pods are bolted haphazardly to the bottom. One looks like it’s about to fall off. If we have to get into those on the months-long voyage to planet Vanadis, we’re in real trouble.
A warning slams into me. The same one I’ve felt ever since my sister told me about this chance to get cured.
You’re going to die out there.
Yeah, it’s pretty likely, but the alternative is letting myself get chained to bedroom furniture. If Ward doesn’t, another man will, until someday I’ll snap and forget how I feel about murder.
Up the gangplank I go.
Inside, the cruise ship is cramped and plastic feeling, like a casino. The rug’s been worn down and dirt’s pushed into the corners. I know our planet is in the butt end of the empire, but considering how much this voyage costs, couldn’t they have sprung for rug cleaning?
The captain is a tall Nigerian who’s probably connected to royalty, and yet she moves like a fighter, watchful and hard. Her skin is a lot lighter than mine, a cool medium brown. In comparison, my Maasai grandfather gifted my family with warm midnight tones.
Captain Zeerah forces a reassuring smile for the hugging, sobbing female relatives and patients. “Yes, yes. We are helpless lessers flying through a remote, lawless region of the empire, but your daughters will be in the best possible care from now until we reach Vanadis.”
When her eyes light on me, the smile hardens into that of a woman measuring her equal. “Your employer’s demanding you come out.”
“Are you going to turn me over to him?”
“Depends on what you have to say.”
Great. I dump my bags in my room. My loose handcuff catches on one of the handles, snapping me into place. I wrench on the jammed shiv, then lift my hand. “Can you can cut this off?”
Her brows lift. A scar cuts through her left eyebrow. “You brought trouble here?”
I cock a hip at her, my rage rising. “What? You can’t handle a little trouble? What are you going to do when we’re in space?”
She flattens her lips, then shears off my handcuffs with laser pliers.
I follow her to the bridge and square off to the viewscreen.
In the background, no-nonsense port staff eye Ward. His enforcer stands behind him, looking bored and mildly embarrassed.
“Get off that ship,” Ward snarls at me. “You can’t run away from our destiny, you worthless whore. I own you.”
“Actually, I own me.” I jam my fists on my hips. “And you’d better run. I sent all your records to the government.”
Ward turns red. “Come back to me so I can kill you.”
“I will come back, but I’m stepping off this cruiser as the queen of the universe, and if you even think about standing in my way, I’m going to crush you.”
He rants incoherently about how this is all a ploy to make him love me. It’s a good thing I’m still within my twenty-minute sanity zone from my interlude with the porter, because otherwise, I would storm right down that gangplank and give him a chance to fight me.
Captain Zeerah eventually cuts off the nonsense and ends the call. “What job did you do again?”
Her tone hardens. “Sure.”
“You want me to review your income and expenses to find where you could have sprung for carpet cleaning?” I hold her gaze. “Some people have to be taught how to treat me. Some people are smart already.”
The captain purses her lips, clearly working out which one she wants to be. “You came without a medical escort.”
“Most of the other patients aren’t as able-bodied.” She clears her throat. “You had one final payment…”
“Here.” I lift my purse. “My last paycheck, fresh from HR. I assume you take cash?”
Her smile broadens. We’ve both turned impossible situations to our advantage, and we are definitely going to become friends.
* * *
She’s right about the others. The first night at dinner, I plop myself down at a random table and join the introductions.
One woman wears a single-cycle helmet. “I’m Esme.” She gives me a wide, sun-kissed, freckled smile and gestures to the biracial Asian woman who carried her tray and sits beside her. “This is Catarine. She’s a scholar. Or she was supposed to be before, you know.”
Catarine stares at me blankly, then frowns at Esme. “Did you want…sauce…”
Esme chews her french fries. “Hm?”
“For your…” Ten minutes later, she’s still trying to get out a complete sentence. “Food sticks. Food…”
“Fries,” I say.
Catarine’s fists unclench, and she nods. “For your fries.”
“Fry sauce? That’s so sweet. My heart is racing. I…” Esme’s eyes roll back in her head and she slams helmet-first into her tray. Her food goes flying.
I continue eating my meal while the others, you know, people with actual empathy, scramble to clean up the mess. “Don’t we have cleaning robots?”
“Oh, you’ve got a stain.” A pale brunette, Lia, dabs at my sleeve with quiet competence. Her spine is finishing-school straight, and her tone is polished. “This is a poly-cotton blend, isn’t it? With a tablespoon of vinegar and some ice water, I can keep it from setting.”
She’s as good as her word, and the stain disappears.
The next time I wear the shirt, several days later at another dinner, she double-checks that the stain is truly gone. “I’ve removed my share of stains. I have more tricks if it comes back. Speaking of which, Esme, I brought my sewing kit to fix your leggings after dinner.”
“That’s so useful,” Esme says earnestly. “You’re like a pro hostess. Your family must miss you.”
Lia rubs her bare ring finger, then hides it away beneath her right hand. “My daughter’s just started college at Second Harvard. She should be too busy to think about me.”
“Oh, Allie knows a professor at Second Harvard.”
Lia turns to me politely. “Oh?”
“An old friend,” I say, because that professor didn’t realize I was a student when he took me home from the bar, and I, as usual, couldn’t have cared less. “We don’t keep in touch.”
“Show Allie the napkins,” Esme says eagerly.
Lia gives Esme a look as if this is an embarrassing request, but she takes the top one off a stack that Esme’s produced for this purpose and, with a few careful folds and smoothing of edges, creates three different silverware holders with elegant lines. We ooh and ah, because they do look nice, and this encourages Lia to fold more exotic arrangements—a bow, a fan, a flower, and a fleur-de-lis—and we exclaim over every one. For a brief moment, a child-like excitement glows in her face. Satisfaction from the small deft movements and skilled turns. She tells us she once folded sixty-five napkins in two hours while simultaneously coordinating the kitchen and entertainment because her support staff got stuck on the wrong side of customs. Her grandmother was hosting the opposition to broker a cease-fire, and their enemies had tried to prevent it from happening. But, thanks to quick efforts, the event went off as planned.
“Your grandmother’s in government?” I ask. “America?”
“North Ukraine. She was a senator before the war.” She catches herself. “Before the last war. I often helped her schedule meetings and events. Nothing too important, unfortunately. I am a little more than a glorified hostess.”
“Event planners are in demand right now,” I say. “My last boss paid competitive wages for your line of work.”
The glow is snuffed out like a candle. She looks down and rubs her barren ring finger again like she’s used to toying with something that’s no longer there. “No, that was…It was just something I did in my past. I have no job history.”
She collects the napkins and unfolds them all, smooths the creases, returns them to the pile as if they never had left. Like her politeness, it doesn’t feel cold. It’s like she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. If she does, someone might realize she’s actually made of spun glass.
“You…Lia…” Catarine nods slowly to a beat only she can hear. “You’re an artist?”
“No,” Lia repeats firmly.
“I raised our daughter and supported my husband’s career until the appearance of symptoms made it impossible.”
Catarine blinks. “But you do…work…”
“Not outside the home. I was on my way to the sanitarium when this medical cruise was announced.”
“I was in one,” Esme says cheerfully.
Catarine still looks blank, which comes off as confusion, and Lia says kindly, “I’m sorry that your symptoms cause this brain fog, Catarine. That must be frustrating for a woman who was once a scholar.”
Catarine stares blankly. “You…work…”
“Not for years.”
This is killing me. I burst out, “She was a housewife.”
“She worked in her house. She was a stay-at-home mom who took care of her daughter and her husband.”
“Yes, thank you. I have never been officially employed in any capacity. During my marriage, I was nothing but a housewife.” Lia sniffs and rubs her nose. “Allergies.”
But the others don’t notice her momentary falter, and the familiar term finally seems to penetrate Catarine’s brain fog. Her brows clear, and the neural cat ears on her head relax. “Housewife.”
“Right.” Lia smiles.
Since it seems to help Catarine, we go around making up nicknames. The captain is the captain. The great-granddaughter of a pre-contact movie starlet introduces herself as an ace. Catarine turns to Esme.
“Me?” Esme giggles. “Oh, I don’t know. What do fainting spells and a fetish for older men add up to? I couldn’t…” Her eyes roll back, and her helmet bounces off the table with a loud crack.
“She’s an ingenue,” I say dryly, and the others titter.
“Me?” Catarine says.
“You’re a diplomat.”
Catarine blinks, expressionless, but her cat ears look pleased.
“What are you?” the ace asks me, her skin glowing with a perfectly blended full face. “Fashionista?”
“I’m an accountant.”
The captain chokes on her bitter black stims. “Yeah, like I’m a ‘repairman.’” A red light goes off on the side panel. She swears, tosses back her drink, and jogs to the sparking panel, which the rest of us collectively ignore.
You’re going to die out there.
Yeah, I know.
“Financial literacy is a core skill.” Lia scoots closer to Esme and measures a small patch to fit over the hole in the knee of her leggings. We all just ignore how she’s still passed out, drooling and snoring, on the table. “True numeracy is a superpower. With a little luck, you could rule an empire.”
“I don’t want to rule, I want to bring the current emperor to his knees.” I ball my hand up into a fist, the anger coursing through me like rivulets of lava, hot and sharp. “Make him sob for his mistakes and fix everything. And if he can’t, I’ll kick him right in his chaste, shriveled-up, Arrisan balls.”
“So you don’t want to rule, you want to choose the ruler?” The ace smiles, a luminous beauty that blesses us with stardust. “You’re a kingmaker.”
I like it. We never really know our own power. Give me the right kind of man, and I will make him a king. “Absolutely.”
As the weeks pass, Catarine’s and Esme’s debilitating symptoms worsen. Hopefully, the Vanadisans can figure out how to cure them.
I’m perfectly fine.
You’re going to die out there.
Humana is a tiny, conquered planet in the middle of a vast, harsh alien empire.
And whenever someone is vulnerable and defenseless, some jerk will eventually show up and make their lives hell.
I’m not a scholar like Catarine, but I’m sure it’s a natural law. A Natural Law of Jerkitude.
So we’re several months—or, I should say, kortans in Arrisan Standard time—into the voyage and barely halfway to Vanadis when what I knew would happen in fact happens.
The emergency sirens blare, the lights flash, and the computer voice intones, “Evacuation alert. Hull breach imminent.”
Yeah, we’re all going to die.
Multiple women scream.
“Get to the escape pods!” The captain grabs Esme under the armpits and drags her backward to the hall pods. “Eruvisan pirates are cracking our hull. Go, go, go!”
But nobody moves. They’re frozen in fear.
I stalk to my room, swing my purse over my shoulder, and lift my fingers, snapping. “Listen to the captain, ladies. Get in the pods.”
The women turn en masse and follow me.
I do not want to die alone among the stars. Not when I’ve spent all these kortans plotting out how I will go to Arris Central, swing an audience with the emperor, and tell him that his treatment of Humana is totally wrong. He’s wasting us. We have much more to offer the empire than just producing food.
I don’t know what he wants or how this meeting is going to happen, but the fury burns in my brain, and I one hundred percent believe that I will be able to convince him—just as soon as I reach Vanadis, an ally planet, and get from there to Arris Central, where I will be the first human to ever enter the palace.
The harness clicks me to my seat, and the escape pod door closes, sealing me in.
I really hope I’m not about to die…
An antiseptic scent, like the narco-stasis gas my sister uses for surgery, fades from my nose. My sudden headache increases as if someone’s twisting up the volume on a pain knob, and my stomach heaves.
Light pierces my eyes, cracking them open from a great distance, but when my lashes flutter open, it’s almost dark.
I’m seated inside the same dingy, single-person escape pod. The safety harness holds me to the seat.
Its door hangs wide open. The escape pod is inside a large, luxurious…castle?
The castle hall is massive and dim, with a false fire crackling in a wall viewscreen. A window shows a maroon sun setting on fields of nutrient cube vines, more lush and bounteous than any I’ve ever seen on our planet, even in my grandfather’s old images from beautiful central Africa.
My head pounds.
As the gas fades, in its place seeps the undeniable scent of money. Precious metal inlays, jewels. Some peppery spice hooks into my nose.
Sitting on a wall bench, leaning forward with a black chalice of liqueur between his bent knees, is a man.
Liquid honey pours into my bones. I don’t know how long it’s been since I fed my sickness, but if I made it all the way from Humana to Vanadis, that would have been months and months—and my brain shoots itchy needles through my body. My center throbs with agonizing pins. I need this man more than food or water or air. I will say, do, become anyone to have him.
He’s not human.
In fact, he wears the gray cloak of the conquerors and studies me with a tired, deadly air.
But he also doesn’t look quite right, even in the false firelight. Arrisans have black hair, silver skin, and small black spikes on their ears.
There are small points at his ears. Four of them.
But his skin is pearly silver, iridescent, and his hair is shaggy and bluish-silver.
A chevron pattern tattoos his wrist.
No, wait. It’s not a tattoo.
The Arrisans took over our planet in a day. Blowing us up from space got too boring, so they deployed elite foot soldiers who grew massive swords from their wrists. They sliced missiles in midair and carved up tanks. The chevron pattern is the opening flap for one of those arm-bone sheaths.
He’s an elite Arrisan soldier. A blade.
I should hate him.
At the very least, I should tell him his honored ruler is an idiot.
Instead, desire pulses through my body.
I suck in his scent with every breath.
It’s not enough.
I need to wrap my thighs around him, take his cock deep, beg him to mute my cravings. The Arrisans have cocks, right? Their lust hormones were removed, so they’re celibate monks, but I need him to make an exception. Dampen the fire in my brain. Lose my mind in his arms right now…
I can’t unsnap the safety harness. My wrists are manacled to the armrests.
I wriggle against the thin, flat fabric, then lift my chin to give him my best, most entrancing smile. “Release me.”
“In a moment.” His liquid-silver irises are hypnotizing. “I’m hoping we can help each other.”
“And you are?”
“Call me Ranse.” He passes the chalice to the table and leans against the sculpted gray wall, his total command pressing into me like hundreds of silent kisses promising delicious fulfillment if only he’ll cross the distance and give it to me. “Welcome to Arris Central, Allie. You are the sole witness to the emperor’s death. Tell me everything you remember. Now.”