Find the strongest man there. Give yourself to him in return for protection. It’s the only way you’ll ever survive.
Convicted of a minor crime, Riana is sentenced to a prison planet—a dark primitive hold filled with convicts vying for power. Her only chance of survival is with Cain, a mysterious loner who has won his territory in the prison through intelligence and brute strength. Sex is all she has to offer, so she uses it. She’s under no delusions here. No one is ever released, and no one ever escapes. Survival is all she can hope for—until Cain.
An earlier version of this book was published under the same title and a different penname by Ellora’s Cave. It has since been substantially revised and expanded.
“Are you a whore?” Thorn asked blandly.
“No.” She was so surprised by the question that she managed to speak over the rancid texture in her mouth.
“Good. I don’t do whores, although they’re usually all we get down here. You have a good body, which is the only other thing I require in a woman. Two options.” His eyes—a very dark blue—narrowed as he explained, “Be my woman. Do what I tell you. I’ll keep you safe. Or, if you refuse, I’ll turn you over to the rest of them.”
He gestured back to “the rest of them.” Riana’s mind was in too great a blur to see distinct faces, but the rest of the prisoners seemed to be lurking just in the background, like a hungry pack of wolves.
“They’ll take turns using you until they’re bored. You won’t last the night.”
Riana knew his final words weren’t an exaggeration. It was possible some lesser alpha male might try to take her as his, but he probably wouldn’t be strong enough to keep her safe from the others for long.
“What’s your decision?” Thorn demanded, looking slightly annoyed at her hesitation.
This was the moment. The one that would decide her fate.
Common sense, social pressure, and nearly all the evidence told her to take Thorn up on his offer.
Let him fuck her. Let him keep her alive.
Riana glanced around the prison one more time, and her eyes landed on the barred cell of the loner whose name Davis hadn’t known. In the back of her mind, she’d noticed he’d stepped over to watch when she’d laid out the sleaze a minute ago.
Now he was standing silently, one hand resting loosely on a bar.
Her eyes met his for a few seconds, and she saw something there she hadn’t seen in anyone else’s here.
It wasn’t kindness or pity or mercy or anything soft.
She couldn’t really name what she’d seen, but it reminded her of independence.
She turned back to Thorn.
He was waiting, a smirk of pleased entitlement on his handsome face, as if he never doubted what her answer would be.
That did it. She ignored her reason and followed her instinct.
She turned on her heel and kicked out again, this time landing the blow right on Thorn’s hard, flat stomach.
He grunted and took a step backward, more in surprise than real pain.
It was a good kick, but there was no way she could outmaneuver him physically.
“I don’t want you or them,” Riana said loudly, turning her head to look back at the loner in his cell, giving him a significant gaze she could only hope he’d respond to.
A wash of rage transformed Thorn’s face, intensifying when other prisoners started to snicker a little.
Thorn advanced on her like a stalking animal. “We’ll go with the third alternative,” he gritted out. “I’ll take you first and then throw what’s left back to the rest of them.”
It wasn’t an idle threat. Riana knew he would act on it. She would be beaten and raped and then given to others who would do it to her again and again.
She looked back at the loner and felt a wave of absolute despair when she saw he’d turned his back. On her. On the rest of the prison.
He wasn’t going to respond after all.
Which meant there was absolutely no hope for her.
Claire has been writing romance novels since she was twelve years old. She has a PhD in British literature and, when she's not writing, she teaches English at the university level.
She also writes romance novels under the penname Noelle Adams.