Staked: Chapter Nineteen

I slowly woke up, expecting to be in shooting pain, but other than not knowing where I was and the sore spot in my neck, I felt relatively normal. I sat against something soft, with a warm, heavy weight on my shoulder and halfway across my chest.

I actually felt pretty relaxed, until I realized what I was smelling. Musty sourness. Drayton.

I jumped and tried to jerk out of the way, but the harness caught me and the hand on my shoulder tightened enough to bruise, yanking me back into the seat. I was half-lying in front of the man Kieran and I had met at the party, the one who had kidnapped me once before.

I caught a glimpse of the room around me––not a room, the back of a cockpit of a shuttle. I saw no other bound prisoners until he took a fistful of my hair in one hand and dragged my head backwards. Through an open hatch, I could see Pietra’s legs.

I could only assume the rest of our little band were prisoners. Other men moved back and forth between the two cabins –Drayton’s henchmen. No help there, and no use starting a fight I couldn’t win. I’d have to outwait them. I stared up at him, upside-down, while he smirked at me.

“Nice to see the tables turned again,” he said. “Right back where I can use you, aren’t you, girlie?”

I glared at him, but said nothing. I wasn’t sure I could talk anyway at that angle, but it didn’t matter; I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

“You really have been involved in this from the beginning, haven’t you?” Drayton asked, twirling his fingers lazily and making the pressure on my scalp tighter with every twist. “Jahal insisted you were, but I thought she was delusional.”

He chuckled.

“She was stupid enough to fit the part. I told her that she had to be patient, but no, she had to go get herself killed over a petty vendetta.” He shrugged. “Oh, well. With a new business like this, it wasn’t too surprising that we’d pick up a few agents nosing around. Jahal had no sense of subtlety; she made the perfect bait. Never even realized what was happening.”

I choked a bit on that.

He knew Imperial agents were around? And everything with Jahal had been a trap to flush them out?

“I wasn’t anticipating your little band of Lady-fighters,” he said, and there was a bit of a growl in his voice now. “Right on our front porch, where we least expected you…it’s just like those bitches to pull something like that off. What a pleasant little gift for you to show up outmanned and outgunned. You’re going to be a lovely bumper crop of test subjects, instead.”

His hand untangled itself slightly, and started stroking my hair; I struggled to keep my face blank, disgust churning my stomach. “We’ve been wanting to discover how Blue influences people’s loyalties. Don’t you think you’d be the perfect subjects? Because I do. Oh, some of you are a bit too old or ugly to be of much use for us, but even they will still make good data points.”

I could hear laughter around me now, coming from a couple of different locations around the room, but all I could see at this angle was the ceiling, a hint of red light from outside the shuttle windows, and the top half of my captor’s head. I glared at the latter hard enough that my vision started to sparkle around the edges. He just chuckled to himself as he stared down at me.

Suddenly, there was a series of horrible crashing noises, ending in one long screech that sent chills up my spine. The entire shuttle shuddered, and I heard a series of banging noises start up, faint but clear.

“What was that?” the man snapped. He loosened his grip on me slightly as he turned around, looking ineffectually for the source of the noise. Then he started pointing. “You two, investigate and report. You, you, and you, guard duty on our supplies. And you two, guard this room. I don’t want anyone unexpected getting inside. Got it?”

The men weren’t soldiers, but they still did as they were asked. When all of them had departed, I held my breath, listening. I couldn’t hear much going on in the rest of the shuttle, but the stillness in this room meant that I might be alone with my captor.

“Did they bring their own ship in here?” he said, amused. “Ah, that sounds like this young Matthias character, indeed. Shame he got in at all, really, but I can turn that to my advantage.”

Soon enough, I heard the banging sounds start to get closer; they resolved themselves into the sounds of gunshots and ricochets, and of feet and fists and bodies colliding with shuttle walls and each other. It sounded odd from only a room or two away.

To my disgust, he loosened the harness and pulled me up into his lap, running a proprietary hand over my shoulder. “Keep a hostage close, I always say,” he said. His breath wafted over my cheek, even fouler-smelling than the rest of him. I fought the urge to bite and stayed still, sitting up as straight and indifferent as I could under the circumstances.

When the door finally opened, it was a surprisingly quiet and anticlimactic entrance: Kieran came in, flanked by two of the crew members I’d seen on his ship. As soon as the door began sliding open my captor’s demeanor changed. In an instant, he stood and yanked me back against him, and suddenly there was an arm vise-tight around my throat and a gun barrel pointed at my temple.

Out of the corner of my eye, Kieran froze.

“Easy there, Agent,” he snapped. “I know you’d hate for anything to happen to your lady friend here.”

“You’ve got it wrong,” Kieran said, hands outstretched, stepping slowly forward. “I’m no agent. I’ve just got some friends in high places, same as you.”

He swore. “Don’t lie to me, boy. Won’t do you any good––or her either.” His arm tightened further on my throat, and I couldn’t stop myself from squeaking in pain.

I caught a glimpse of agonizing doubt in Kieran’s eyes before they hardened and went flat again. “Freedom fighters have gotta be worth almost as much to the Empire as me and mine. What if I handed the prisoners over to you and cut you into the Blue trade into the bargain? You’d be richer than those penny-pinching weaklings will ever make you, no matter how much you grovel for their attention.”

“Thanks, but no thanks,” Kieran said. “A group like the Lady could thrive even under the Empire, under the right conditions. I’m afraid I can’t say quite the same for you, though, so this is really just a matter of watching my own back. You understand.”

“Oh, I understand very well,” he said, and hefted me high enough that my feet no longer touched the ground. Black dots swam across my vision. “Always slows people down when I hold their special someone like this, so they can see how easy I can just snap their necks if I want,” he said matter-of-factly. “But I’m fine with slowly killing her, too. So your choice, friend––fast, slow, or you call off your dogs and we all live to argue another day?”

Kieran took a small step back. “Whoa, there,” he said. “Nice and easy. You make a point, sir. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot here, yeah?”

Was it my imagination, or had he put a certain emphasis on that word? It was hard to focus with a foul-smelling arm latched around my neck almost as tight as it could go, but I thought I could see Kieran trying subtly to catch my eye.

Foot, I thought blearily.


A crappy hand… And then I realized what he was asking for. He wanted me to gamble––not my pride, or my body for a day, but my life.

Well, Drayton had spelled out the options, hadn’t he?

At this point, the only alternative was a slow death.

I couldn’t see Kieran giving up now, and I wouldn’t want him to even if I thought it was a possibility. I did my best to meet Kieran’s eye and wink, despite the awkward angle.

The cartel leader grunted thoughtfully, looking Kieran over. I felt his grip on me relax, ever so slightly. “Maybe you’re smarter than I––”

I smashed elbow up into my captor’s face mid-sentence, a shot rang out, and pain exploded in my neck, all at roughly the same time.

The next thing I knew, I was on the ground, writhing and clutching at my neck, and I could hear footsteps echoing everywhere, people shouting, what sounded like screams and sobs in the distance. It was like the entire shuttle had gone mad, maybe the entire station, and even though the arm was gone from around my neck, it was still difficult to breathe.

I blacked out for a second, and then the next thing I knew, there was a pair of lips moving over me. I tried blearily to focus on them and realized it was Kieran, shaking me slightly, eyes intent.

I tried to speak, but couldn’t force any sound out of my abused throat.

My throat’s swollen, I realized dimly. Maybe from the bruising. I made a half-hearted gesture at him, and he smiled.

“Its okay, Ani. You’re gonna be fine. Everything’s going to be okay. Just hold on for a minute, okay? Keep breathing for me.”

I wasn’t sure I could do that, but I tried anyway, consciously focusing on pulling air into my lungs and pushing it out again, willing myself to stay awake.

But sound kept dimming out around me, and even focusing on breathing felt like too much of an effort.

Kieran’s face disappeared for a moment, and then I thought I caught a glimpse of Pietra’s beside his. I tried to smile at them, but everything was going dark, and I knew I was slipping away again. 


When I awoke, I was in a bed, lying on my back with the covers carefully tucked up to my chin. I reached a hand up to my neck, but nothing felt wrong and it no longer hurt.

I looked around, this was no hospital or medi-bay, but Kieran’s room. I flushed, thinking of the last time I’d been in this bed.

The heat spreading through my body at the memories served as well as any doctor’s report. I was obviously healed from the ordeal on Drayton’s shuttle.

 The house itself was quiet. I found Kieran sitting behind a desk in a room that looked like an office of some kind, looking over his commtab and smiling absently.

“Hey,” I said, hovering in the doorway.

“Look who’s awake,” he said, grinning up at me and setting the commtab aside. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” I said. “What happened?”

“Not much to tell. You heard us storm the shuttle––you remember that, right?––and we managed to take it over. You were right in the middle of the worst of it, so by the time we got you free there wasn’t much left to do.”

“Glad to hear it,” I said. “Is everyone else all right? Why am I the only one here?”

“There were a few injuries, but everyone else is on my ship, or else being treated by the Lady of Swords. No fatalities on our side, though––they had to tone down their firepower once they were in the spindle, and we had it lucky before then. Oh, and we got the prisoners out, too, safe and sound as could be expected. The Empire’s taking Drayton and the Blue, hopefully to either destroy it or get it into the hands of someone very responsible.”

I sighed, relieved. “I’m glad. How about Agent Browles? Is your job…over, now?”

“Browles is pleased the mission went as planned. There should still be work to do cleaning up the rest of the cartels, but we knocked out several of the major players today. He’s taking me off the active rotation for the moment, on the off-chance I might gain a reputation, so I get a vacation for once.”

He paused. “I’m thinking I’ll stay here, for the moment,” he added, firmly. “It’ll feel like a vacation, after being away for so long.”

“And, uh…how did I end up here?”

“You were already near the top of the spindle by the time we’d commandeered the shuttle. My place was closest and I had a doctor, so Pietra let me take you with me.” He stood, stretching languorously, and I watched the play of muscles under his shirt.

 The liquid heat in my core flared again. I was definitely healed, and his side didn’t seem to be causing him any trouble anymore.

He met my eyes, and stalked towards me. “Don’t you think that’s enough talking?”

The corner of my lip curled. “Never did know you to do things for a simple reason.”

He bracketed me between his arms, and leaned down to nuzzle my neck. “I had several reasons,” he murmured. “This is just the one that keeps me up nights.”

I ran my hands over his shirt front and fought to keep my voice level. “Works for me. I’d hate to feel like I hadn’t kept my end of the bargain, after all.”

He backed away, searching my eyes. “Are you sure you’re up for it?”

My knees threatened to buckle at the gravel of his voice. I swallowed, throat suddenly dry. “Just…one more question first?”


“Why the bet?” I asked. “The ownership of the Star, everything. You could’ve used a different strategy to get me out of the Star for a few hours. Why that one?”

“Because I wanted to,” he said, clearly surprised. “Why else?”

I sighed, and he continued before I could voice my annoyance.

“Okay, okay,” he admitted, eyes softening. “It was about control. It’s a big deal for me to be in control, okay? As a kid, I didn’t have any control over anything, and I knew it. That was the best part of getting away––earning my place, getting to the point where I had the power to make a difference. And if I couldn’t show you that, then I felt like I didn’t deserve to see you in the first place.”

“You could’ve asked,” I said gently.

He gave me a skeptical look. “And would you have stuck around long enough to figure out what was going on?”

“Maybe.” Deep down, I admitted to myself that I might not have. “But maybe the bet was the best way of going about it, this time.”

His smirk reappeared, then turned into a grin. “Oh look, you admitting I’m right,” he teased. “That’s rare.”

I’d let that alone––this time, anyway. “Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good bet.”

“Maybe you are.” A playful snarl made its way onto his face, and I felt my stomach crawl with something that felt altogether too good to be called dread. “Let’s see if you know how to play off a loss gracefully, shall we?”

“All right,” I said, but before the words were even all the way out of my mouth, Kieran pushed me firmly up against the wall. He pulled my arms above my head, holding my wrists with one hand, and stared straight into my eyes.

“I won’t bother with games and toys this time,” he said. “I think I’ve been kept waiting long enough, don’t you?”

His tone made anticipation curl in the pit of my stomach. “

Yes, Kieran.”

“Good,” he purred, and crushed me to the wall, kissing me. “Then I expect you to behave,” he murmured against my lips. “No more hiding, no more smart talk––I want you to stop thinking for once and be mine already.”

I licked my lower lip, feeling the tip of my tongue graze against his. “Yes,” I said.

A hand tangled itself in my hair, gentle but insistent. “Yes, what?”

“Yes, Kieran.”

He closed in and kissed me until I couldn’t remember what breathing felt like, until I’d forgotten my knees even existed, much less how to keep myself upright. His hands kneaded and teased and plucked at me, causing incredible, unpredictable crests of pleasure, and I moaned my appreciation into his mouth. I burned for him.

He pressed me against the wall and lifted my legs, and I wrapped them around his waist, almost biting in my haste to get closer to him. I could feel his length through his clothes and pressed up against it, already desperate to have him inside me.

He took advantage of the motion to lift me off the wall and carry me down the hall, running his hands up and down my back. I set to his neck, kissing it and pulling myself as tight against him as I could go, until he tossed me into bed––the same bed I’d been in before––and followed, a second later.

He undressed me inch by torturous inch, caressing and rubbing and pinching my newly bared, sensitive skin. He took one of my nipples in his mouth and rolled the other between his fingers, and by the time the sparks had cleared from my vision, he’d stripped me completely naked and was tossing his own clothes in a corner.

I tried to pull myself upward to wrap around him, but he crashed down over me, pinning my arms underneath me and ravishing my breasts with his mouth.

“Kieran, please,” I moaned.

He lifted his head from my breast. “Please what, Ani?”

My cheeks flushed as the words stumbled on my tongue.

He lowered his head back to my inflamed nipple and nipped it.

“Please take me,” I screamed.

He worked his way back up the side of my neck, licked the outer rim of my ear. All I could do was shudder under him.

“I want to hear you say it. ‘Kieran, please fuck me until I come,’” he breathed into my ear.

I didn’t care anymore about what I’d never done, never said. The pressure building between my legs had driven everything else from my mind.

He turned my head towards his, so I could only stare into his eyes.

“Kieran, please…” He ground against me and I lost track of the words I meant to say in the spiraling pleasure.

“Beg me to fuck you,” he growled, the words making me even wetter under him.

“Kieran, fuck me,” I whispered.

His eyes pulled me in, there was no escaping him, his need—my own.

He pushed my legs apart with his knees, spreading my legs wider. His free hand left my breast, dancing over my mound.

I arched my back, trying to press into him.

He grinned. “You’re mine, Ani. All mine.” His fingers grazed my slit, his touch electric. Then his fingers curled inside me, his palm pressing against my clit.

“Say you’re mine.”

I reeled my mind back, searching for words. “I’m yours.”

His fingers stroked slowly, curling and unfurling. “Again.”

“I’m yours.” I rocked into his hand, into the unbearable heat.

His hand left me, and I sobbed with frustration. He shifted his weight, and I felt the bulge of his cock sliding up and down at my entrance.

I whimpered.

His eyes burned into me. “Say it.”

“I’m yours.”

He pushed into me, but only part way before he stopped. “Ani.” Now he was the one with ragged breathing. “Oh god, Ani.”

He pulled back then picked up a rhythm of shallow thrusts. I could feel my core stretching with the weight of him, sensations racking over me in waves.

I wanted him in me, to feel him in my core. And I knew what to say.

“Kieran, please,” I whispered and his eyes snapped to mine. I ran the tip of my tongue over my lips, watched him track every movement.

“Kieran, please fuck me.”

I could see it in his face when his control broke. He slammed into me, the thrusts so long and hard the base of his cock hit my clit. I ground against him, rocking in time.

Both arms held my wrists now, my torso pinned beneath him. And all I could see were his eyes, fixed on mine.

He wasn’t talking anymore, just murmuring, almost a chant. One word with each thrust that penetrated me to the core. “Mine. Mine. Mine.”

The sensations built, magnified by my inability to move. I struggled against his grip, but his hands only tightened at my wrists. The rate at which he pounded against me blurred into one long thrust, and I felt myself floating, wrapped in the sheer intensity of pleasure. Control of my body fled and I bucked under his driving cock.

“Mine. Mine. Mine.”



Kieran took his time with me after that, and the rest of the day was a haze of pleasure. There was plenty that I’d tried imagining, and plenty that I’d never even considered, and by the time it was over I slept like the dead.

When I awoke, Kieran was gone, and my clothes were freshly laundered and waiting beside the bed. I looked around for a moment, bewildered, half-expecting to see Kieran appear from around a corner, but it seemed I was alone.

I looked around, but there was no note, and when I searched the house, I found it deserted. There was an assortment of food left out on the counter, and I helped myself to it for a while, still hoping Kieran would reappear. He didn’t.

I poked around the house again, more thoroughly this time, but all I found were a couple of Kieran’s crew members, who offered to escort me back to the Lowers.

There was nothing else for me to do. I went. After all, the bet was over, our deal complete, and nothing for Kieran to stick around for.

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