Gage sighed, his reflection staring back at him from the land cruiser window. He thought he was safe from adhering to the privileges and demands of being a lord. He was the third son damn it, this never should have happened. All he ever wanted was to fly among the stars doing missions and fight for a great house, which he'd accomplished, twice. Not a lot of warriors on Neris could say that, or that they had the privilege of warring for the largest house in the northern hemisphere. He'd earned his rank as chief security officer on the Catalyst, the largest warship for the House of Arrian. He arrived with nothing to his name but the clothes on his back and the title of third son to a small villa in the Western Hills of their planet. Serving Arrian House had gifted him with many insights and good friends, Daniel Hedden among his very best. Daniel started out as he had; a nobody. Men on Neris proved their worth and that came in the way of being warriors. Knowing if you weren't the first son of a ruling house, you would be a warrior for them, if that was your chosen path. If you weren't a mercenary then you had no right calling yourself an Arius Warrior. Lord Niko Arrian was the only one among them who had been born and bred to lead his house when his father stepped down. Daniel had come to his lordship by marrying Trea Padame Kadan, who unbeknownst to them all had been a lady from the Eastern Lowlands. When Daniel had come to his lordship, Lord Niko lost another crew member as he transferred houses to serve as his best friend's first in command on the battleship Dreadnaught.
Now Gage's worst possible nightmare had come to pass, he was on his way home to take command of his own house. His mother was the only immediate family he had left. His father had died while he was still a young warrior, leaving his eldest brother Ambrus to take lead, and he had. Ambrus had raised their little villa to a well-known force to be reckoned with in the Western Hills. They now had a small fighting battalion which included two star cruisers. Nothing that could compete with Arrian House missions, but definitely on the rise to something great. Ambrus had been killed in a skirmish two years ago, leaving his second brother, Oisin, as lord.
"What?" There was a moment of silence before Gage's new commander of the villa spoke again. Of course he wasn't new to Gage, for Kricus had served his father.
"Sir, I understand your hesitancy on becoming lord, but your house and its people need you more than anything at this time, especially Lady Runa."
"I know this, Kricus, and I'd do anything for Mother and our people, but the lordship is something I've never wanted."
"And that reason is why you will be a good lord and do your House justice."
When the hair rose on the back of his neck, Gage turned meeting Kricus' gaze. "What haven't you told me?"
"A few of us believe Ambrus' death and Oisin's accident were anything but."
Gage's heart raced as his body went on alert, his hand automatically going to the hilt of his blaster. "Speak now."
"The only reason I'm talking here is because the land cruiser was safely debugged at Hedden House. The only people you can trust are those in this land cruiser, your mother, her lady-in-waiting and Timos. Things have been happening at DaHee house that do not bode well with many of us, but finding those truly loyal has proven to be difficult lately."
"Then who do you say my people have become loyal to?"
"Your people are scared more than loyal. All loyal warriors have been dismissed. Your cousin, DeMire, has been scheming for a long time, but was unnoticed until recently with Oisin's accident."
"Then why has he been allowed to stay at the villa and near my mother?" His blood boiled. His nostrils flared at the thought of his mother being put in danger.
"Lady Runa ordered us not to make noise, to quietly gather information until your arrival; keeping the enemy close so to say."
"And who's guarding her if you're here!"
"Her lady-in-waiting, Mieken."
Mieken was Gage's best friend's sister. And from what he'd heard had become an excellent warrior. "Where's Timos?"
"Being held for an Ich-Vlah."
"What?" Gage shouted.
"DeMire went too far one day and Timos called him out."
"Then what is the wait? Why is he being held?" Gage knew that Timos could smash DeMire in the challenge, therefore leaving DeMire as a servant to Timos for the course of a year.
"Because DeMire knows he'll lose."
"So no laws apply to the Western Hills villas or DeMire anymore? No warrior has insisted on the Ich-Vlah to take place and called the holding wrong?"
"Like I said, my Lord, there are many still loyal to DaHee House. When Ambrus died, DeMire started moving his warriors in, saying it was best for the House. Your mother and Oisin allowed this in their grieving."
"Then where are our warriors?"
"They had been scattered by DeMire and told never to come back or else face death."
Gage turned, his gaze going out the window as his hand lifted, fingers brushing through his hair. It was then he noticed where they were. Whipping around he faced Kricus.
"But" Kricus smiled. "After Oisin's accident your mother ordered us to find and bring back all the loyal warriors so when you arrive, you will have a force behind you."
"All five hundred warriors have been recalled. Not only that, my Lord, but with them comes the support of three Houses in the Western Hills and two in the Southern. When the lords found out why we were recalling the warriors, they pledged allegiance to you, knowing if needed, you would have the backing of Arrian and Hedden house."
A numbing sensation coursed through him making the hair on his arms stand up. Houses were pledging their allegiance to him from the ties and friends he had made as a warrior. This was something he'd never expected, the emotions unknown to him as his chest swelled with a large indrawn breath. "I--ah, I'm friggin' speechless."
"As I thought you would be."
Gage's senses were very acute as Kricus put his hand on his shoulder.
"You are worried about the politics of your lordship. You are a warrior, Gage, and that is what your people need now. They need you to come in as though you were going on a mission with Arrian House. They need that man, that warrior to save them from all that has happened. Worry about the politics later."
"Are you telling me to have no mercy on other Neris warriors?"
"If these so-called warriors and members of your family were loyal to you, I would say have mercy. However they are not. Mercy is given where mercy has been granted. Have no mercy on those who murdered one brother and wounded the other so bad he will not wake up."
His adrenaline was up, his senses were heightened and every muscle in his body was ready for a fight as he stepped off the land cruiser with Kricus and twenty of his best warriors, the others hidden close by. His gaze immediately found DeMire and the surprise he showed by the slight widening of his eyes, before carefully masking his emotions. He's weak and he's out of practice being a real warrior.
"Cousin, I surely wasn't expecting this with your arrival," DeMire stated as he stepped forward.
"I'm sure. Where's my mother?"
"She's--ah, Lady Runa is--ah, lying down."
The corner of Gage's mouth lifted without mirth, the stumbling idiot had no idea what he was in for. "You're telling me that my mother chose to lie down upon her youngest son's arrival home to take the lordship instead of greeting me?"
"That's my understanding."
When Gage went to go past him, DeMire sidestepped him. His lips curled as a growl emitted from his throat.
"I have a party planned for your homecoming, cousin."
"It will wait." When DeMire stepped in front of him again, Gage's nostrils flared and fists tightened. "Get the fuck out of my way, DeMire." His face hardened and his teeth gritted when his aunt Ola stepped between them.
"Gage, come and enjoy your party; check on Runa later."
"Move!" he shouted, enjoying the way she jumped with fright, quickly moving out of his way.
When DeMire stepped in front of him again, Gage roared. His fist flew, connecting with DeMire's jaw, the feel of flesh and bone under his knuckles exhilarating as he sent his cousin flying backwards. "Do not get in my way again!"
Gage and his men stormed by them to his mother's rooms. Anger coursed through him at their games to keep him away. "Kricus, have four men go to the kitchen and toss all prepared foods and drink out, nothing is to be kept if it has been opened. Replace everyone in there with the women of our warriors who came back with us."
"Yes, my Lord."
His eyes narrowed with the sight of two guards stepping out of his mother's chambers. "You're relieved of duty. Remove yourself from this villa now."
"I don't think so. I take my orders from Lord DeMire and you're not him."
Trained to never show emotion, Gage held his surprise in check as the warrior took a step toward him, eyeing Kricus to his side. "DeMire is no lord, nor will he ever be. No matter what his wishes are to take over my villa."
"Step aside, fool, this is Lord DaHee," Kricus stated.
"I don't take orders from you, my Lord."
Gage's fingers itched to wrap around this man's throat, flexing them he stared the other man down. "Let me make myself certain as to what you say, warrior. You are refusing a direct order from me, Gage DaHee, Lord of this villa?"
The warrior's smile was short-lived as Gage's arm swung up, his Oklanian Saber slicing cleanly and quickly across the man's throat. Gage's gaze followed the severed head to the floor. Gage's lips lifted with a snarl when his mother cried his name. His foot forward, Gage thrust his sword cleanly through the other warrior's stomach. The look of surprise on the man's face held as he yanked his sword out, grabbed him by the hair and swung, dropping the head when his mother cried out for him again. Stepping over the body, Gage knew Kricus was internally comming his warriors. The plan had been worked out when they had stopped at the encampment that his men were hiding at the edge of the woods. Quietly, the ones who had not come with them were now moving into position surrounding the villa as they stayed out of sight until they were called in.
His hands landed heavily on the wooden doors, thrusting them open. His gaze quickly found his mother who ran into his arms. "Mother." The familiar scent of his mother calmed him. "You're well?"
"Yes, Gage. It's Mieken. They hurt her when she defended me."
Gage followed as his mother ran from the sitting room to the bedchamber. There he found a female warrior lying unmoving on the floor. "Mieken," he said as he knelt next to her prone body, his mother already by the woman's side. "What did they do?"
"They shot her with two kaon charges when they couldn't get past her physically and then shot her again as she lay unconscious."
"A med tech's coming, my Lady," Kricus stated.
Gently rolling Mieken over, Gage let his gaze roam over her face and figure quickly. He gently placed his fingers against her throat. Her pulse was strong. His lungs expanded with the indrawn breath he hadn't realized he'd held as his fingers caressed down the side of her bruised neck to her bare shoulder. The tightening of his loins and twitching cock had him jumping up. "Why did they lock you in, Mother?"
"DeMire wanted to get to you first; he thought you'd be alone. I think they had something devious planned for you, Gage. Mieken heard them talking the night before about a surprise for you at the party DeMire and Ola had set up. They must have my rooms under surveillance for as soon as she told me, DeMire had us locked within. The two out there tried to make us move from the room so we wouldn't be here when you arrived, but Mieken stopped them. Your arrival saved her from more abuse."
The muscle twitched along his lower jaw, hands tightening into fists. "Kricus, has Timos been released?"
"Yes, my Lord."
"Then let's join him in the main hall." Turning on his heel, they meet the med techs at the door. He lifted his hand barring their entrance. "Treat Mieken as though she were me and make sure someone cleans the bodies from the doorway." With the nod of the man's head, Gage strode into the hallway heading toward the Lord's Hall with purpose.
"Ah, cousin, finally you join us, please take your seat," DeMire stated as he held out the chair at the head of the long plank table.
"Go ahead, DeMire, seeing as how you've been scheming to take it from me." His hand motioned to the seat, the expression of utter surprise and horror on DeMire's face priceless.
"I-I don't know what you say, cousin. You've been gone a long time; I've done naught but assist where needed."
"Assisting in locking the lady of this House in her rooms." His eyebrow arched as DeMire's face reddened and Ola started screaming at the men tossing the food away. "Your guards are dead and you, cousin, have overstepped yourself within this House. It ends now."
When DeMire came at him, Gage's muscles tensed for the fight. Lifting his hand, his nostrils flared and his closed fist connected with DeMire's nose, the hard cartilage cracking under his strength. Jolts of the percussion ricocheted through his knuckles. Grabbing his shirt, Gage tossed him onto the lord's chair, jerking back when manacles came up to wrap around DeMire's wrists. Gage laughed, his eyes mirthless as he rounded on DeMire. "You stupid piece of Miska shit! Have the entire villa swept!"
"What are you going to do?" Ola cried as she ran between them.
"I am doing nothing with him yet, however I can't say the same for my friend." The horror on his aunt's face was amusing as Timos stepped beside him. "You look like hell."
"That happens when locked in a chamber with no light, little food and barely a corner to piss in," Timos replied.
Gage motioned for his warriors. "Show DeMire the same treatment he bestowed upon a loyal warrior of this House for two days. Ola, I want you out of here now."
"But I have no place to go."
Gage listened to her cry and stepped in front of her when she approached his mother. "My lady mother will not help you in any way. You have engaged in deceit in this House for too long and have worn your welcome out. You will leave this villa or I'll personally remove you." His face was hard and his jaw tense as he stared her down. "Do not play with me, woman; you will lose."
"You always were a bastard."
A cold smile lined his lips. "Thank you."
"That one has the balls of a Fravillian Toasop." Timos laughed.
"How are you, my friend?" Gage grinned as he turned, meeting Timos' eyes.
"Better now that you're home," Timos replied as they grasped arms and shook once. "Have you seen my sister?"
"She's in the med unit, where you're going."
"A few dumb-asses tried getting rough with her and Mother. They tossed three kaon charges at Mieken."
"She's fine, had a strong pulse when I left her to the med techs."
"A favorite saying of Lady Catrin Arrian."
"The Earthling Lord Niko mated to?"
"The one and the same." Gage chuckled as they walked out of the hall. Not losing focus for one moment, he was internally comming Kricus and his warriors to make sure all DeMire's men were being removed and any threat to the villa was checked out and dismissed. Servants were being replaced with the warriors' wives and family who had come back with them, until they could be verified as no threat to the House.
Gage's gaze was drawn to the gentle curves and lines of Mieken's back as he stepped into the med unit. Slowly her head turned and her beautiful violet eyes met his. Lips tightening with the urge to bring his body and mind under control, he approached. "You're well?" Damn, his voice ended up a bit rougher than he'd intended. Her smile stirred his cock.
"Welcome home, Gage."
For the love of the Gods, what was it with her that had his dick standing straight up? He'd never had this reaction around her before--well once, but she'd been naked. They'd always been at each other's throats with pranks ever since he pulled the first one when she was seven. "It's Lord Gage now," his head tilted to see the insignias on the side of her collar, although he knew exactly what rank she held, "Lieutenant."
"Then I beg your forgiveness, Lord Gage."
Gage didn't know whether to turn her over on the bed and fuck her from behind with his hard cock, reprimand her for her familiarity or wonder what she was going to pull. "No need to beg, warrior, this day has been trying for all." That's it, keep it neutral, knucklehead. Gage bust out with laughter as Lady Catrin's words popped into his head. "My apologies, Mieken, a friend's words came to mind. The med techs have seen to you?"
"Yes, they're almost finished and then I'll report to duty with Lady Runa."
"Thank you." His gaze lowered to his hand as it mystically appeared on her shoulder, her bare skin heating him through as though on fire. Slowly he moved it away, the soft caress noted by her as he met her gaze. "Your loyalty to my mother is greatly appreciated. Thank you for keeping her safe."
"My loyalty to this house will never waver, Gage."
Her whispered statement had more control over him than he would have liked. His gaze whipped from hers as Timos called his name. "Take care, warrior. I have other matters to see to this day." Stepping away from her his lungs ached from being deprived of oxygen.
"She didn't piss you off, did she?" Timos asked.
"No, now lay still and let them tend you. I need my best by my side as soon as possible." Turning on his heel, he left the med area quickly, not liking the affect Mieken had on him, physically or mentally. He'd known her for years and all of a sudden his cock decided to stand up and take notice. She hadn't changed much from his last visit, had she? "Damn it."
"What are you smirking about?"
"Nothing," Mieken replied as she turned her head toward her brother.
"What did you say to piss him off? By the Gods, Ke, he just arrived home to take the villa back and you're pulling that prank shit?"
"I didn't piss him off and I didn't pull any pranks on him, Timos. When would I have the fucking chance? I've been laid up here from three damn kaon charges." Moving off the bed, she stood, buttoning the side of her Cerian bustier. "Damn it," she growled as her fingers shook.
"Lieutenant, you really shouldn't be up yet," a med tech advised.
"I smiled at him and welcomed our new lord home. Is there a problem with that, brother?" Her eyes narrowed as she met Timos', ignoring the med tech.
"How did you say it?" Timos asked.
Her top lip lifted with the expulsion of breath emerging from her throat. "I said 'welcome home, Gage'. So piss off, Timos, I don't answer to you." Turning on her heel, she exited the med lab quickly, missing his smile as she stormed down the hallway.
"Actually you do," he called out to her retreating back.
Her middle finger his only indication she'd heard his words.
Mieken sighed as she lowered her tired, sore body down into the heated pool. The last several days had been a whirlwind of activity with Gage's warriors taking back the villa. Every trusted warrior had been called to seek, find and remove any one not loyal to this House and she had been no exception. Even though she was Lady Runa's guard, it was her first her duty to protect this House.
"Are you well?"
The deep voice had her pussy muscles clenching as she turned her head. "Yes," she replied softly, meeting Gage's gaze, "and in my pool."
"I see that."
When his eyes drifted down to the tops of her breasts floating on top of the water she curbed the urge to cover them with her hands. "I didn't realize that becoming lord gave you the right to enter private rooms and ogle your warriors as they bathed."
"As a son of this House I have the right to go anywhere, as lord more rights and as a man, well hell, sweet, you've turned into a beautiful woman. You can't fault me for admiring."
A smile lifted the side of her mouth as he lifted his gaze to hers again. "Mayhap not, my Lord, but it is a little discomforting to be stared at so intently."
"I can't be the only man to have admired you, Mieken."
"You're the only one to do so with me naked and the only one who hasn't ended up on his ass by now."
Gage chuckled. "Is that because I'm your lord?"
"It's because you're Gage."
"Hmm, interesting. I heard you were at the head of the skirmish that took place near the market."
"Can't fool you." She smiled, following his movement as he walked around the pool to kneel at her side. "I'm trouble." His laughter had her thighs squeezing together, her pussy aching with want.
"Well said, Mieken, but I must say, you've behaved yourself where I'm concerned."
"You're lord now, Gage. I don't think pranks are appropriate anymore."
He shrugged a shoulder. "Mayhap not, but they kept us on our toes, didn't they?"
"Yeah," she agreed, her smile matching his. "Maybe when things quiet down I'll start up again, so you don't become an old boring piece of bones sitting in the hall on your throne."
"Smart ass. You're funny, you know that?"
"I try, my Lord."
"Mmmm, somehow I don't think you'll let me become old or boring."
"I'll do my best." Her breath caught when she noticed the hardness of his erection.
"I don't like seeing bruises on you, Mieken, try to stay behind the men."
"Now what fun would that be?" she asked, her gaze lifting to his to see his focus on her breasts bobbing on top of the hot water again.
"None, but it's something I'm asking of you."
"I'm a warrior, Gage, and a good one." After meeting his gaze they stared at each other silently for several moments.
"I know. If you weren't, you wouldn't be in charge of my mother's guard."
Mieken lowered her eyes and her head slightly to show her respect for him and his words. "I appreciate that, Lord Gage."
"Raise your eyes, Mieken. I don't like it when you lower them to me, especially when we're alone."
His voice held a deepness, an emotion she'd never heard from him before and she lifted her eyes slowly. "My Lord?" Her head tilted with his growl as he jumped up, moving to the other side of the pool.
"When the righting of this House calms down I think we need to speak privately."
"About?" she whispered, wanting to make sure she was thinking what he was.
"Us. Are you claimed by another warrior?"
"No." The intense desire in his eyes and wooden nod of his head as he turned had her entire body tingling with excitement.
"Keep it that way until after our talk."
"Then I suggest you speak with Timos. Several warriors have made offers."
"What of your father?"
"DeMire had him killed."
"What?" Gage turned back to face her head on.
"The night Timos challenged DeMire to the Ich-Vlah. It came about when father spoke up protecting Lady Runa and this House. DeMire nodded to his captain and he killed him in front of us all. Timos challenged him then, saying he was not the lord of this House and killing off its loyal warriors with no just cause was against the laws. DeMire had him taken and locked away. Of course it took six of his guards to bring my brother down. Lady Runa held me back knowing I'd be at his side. There were so few of us left who were truly loyal to this House, Gage, it was becoming scary. DeMire was just waiting for us to step out of his lines to get rid of us, one way or another."
"His greed knows no bounds. I'm truly sorry for the loss of your sire, Mieken. Know that DeMire will be held responsible for the wrongs he's done every loyal warrior of this House."
"You mean after Timos beats his ass in the Ich-Vlah?" she asked with a smile.
"Would you prefer his trial to be before or after his sentence to Timos is over with?"
Mieken's eyes widened. He was lord, he did not have to ask her what she preferred. "I, ah, well that's your decision, my Lord."
Gage grinned. "And I'm asking what your preference is."
"Well, I guess it could be before, so he knows he's not getting away with anything. But then again, just to be a mean bitch, we could let him think he'd be free after serving Timos and then arrest and pull him in to ruin his life."
"A mean bitch?"
"Well, he did murder my father in front of us."
Gage's smile slipped. "Yes and he will pay dearly for that, Mieken, don't think otherwise."
"I never did, Gage. I trust you to make the right decision for this House."
"Good then." He smiled. "I'll leave you to soak your sores away and see you on the morn."
"Yes, my Lord."
"Listen to my words, Mieken. Don't jump in if you don't have to."
"Then I wouldn't be a warrior of DaHee House, my Lord," she called out as he turned in the doorway smiling.
"I don't like bruises on you, woman."
"I'm a warrior, my Lord, and a good one. I will not back down, especially to those traitors. They will pay and I will do my duties even if I must bear a hundred bruises."
"Then I can see my hand swatting your bare ass frequently for insubordination."
Her pussy clenched as a mental image of him doing just that flashed through her mind. "I didn't think that was standard punishment, my Lord."
"It is now."
"Somehow I think you'd enjoy doling out such punishment way too much, my Lord."
"As you would in receiving it."
"I, I've never..."
"Trust me. Goodnight, Mieken."
As he disappeared into the darkness of her rooms, Mieken lowered her hand. Her clit throbbed from the excitement of him being near. "Gods." Her lips parted ona satisfied breath as her fingers brushed over her engorged nub. She may be a virgin but she knew what pleasure was and how to obtain it. She just wished Gage would come back and watch. A chuckle escaped as she slowly opened her eyes. She could call him back here privately, but that would most likely lead to a place she wasn't ready to go yet. She needed to know what kind of man he'd become, if he'd commit to her and her alone or if he was still a love 'em and leave 'em warrior. "Oh, Gage, your flirting had better lead somewhere wonderful." Rubbing harder, her gaze lifted to the night sky and she cried out with her release. Her body jerked as soft sounds escaped her lips, not knowing that the man she'd fantasized about stood feet away within the shadows of her room.