Anya Bast is the author of numerous works of romantic fiction, mostly all paranormal and mostly all scorching hot. She lives in the country with her husband, daughter, eight cats, a dog, and an odd assortment of rescued animals.
She grew up in Minnesota and still favors the colder climates. After high school she moved to the southeast United States where she attended college. While in graduate school she sold her first book and decide to pursue her lifelong dream of writing instead of a career in psychology.
Somewhat reclusive by nature, she can be drawn out with a good bottle of red wine, classic movies, or good music. When sheâ€™s not writing, she can be found trying to grow organic vegetables, shopping in thrift stores for that perfect piece of clothing, or dreaming about travel to some faraway country.
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Release date: February 18, 2013 at Samhain
She owns nothing of herself but her heart.
Sienne is beautiful, intelligent, talentedâ€¦and a slave. Given to the lord of NordanÂ for a season, she has one mission: seduce Marken with a body made for sin andÂ bring back to her Sudhran masters secrets they can use to conquer their northernÂ neighbors. If she fails, the family who took her in as a child will pay the price.
Marken has no desire for a slave. Women come to his bed willingly or not at all.Â Yet when he frees the beautiful temptress, she refuses to leave his side, sating herÂ curiosity with questions about his court and her desire with a depthless abilityÂ to submit to their growing pleasure. But despite every plan to teach her to beÂ free, Marken finds himself becoming increasingly entangledâ€¦and increasinglyÂ possessive.
Time is running short. Sienne has until the last winterâ€™s snow has melted before sheÂ must make a choice that will change the shape of two nations forever.
Warning This book contains a sex slave bound to submit, a master who wantsÂ nothing but to free her heart, and enough espionage, secrets, and power plays toÂ while away the long, cold winters.
This book was previously published, but has been revised and expanded.
The cool gray of the castle walls reached heavenward to meet heavy clouds pregnant with the promise of snow. Sienne shivered in her saddle, seeing the place which would imprison her for the cold season. It was a credit that she could still feel emotion when confronted with a new set of chains. Most slaves lost everything, including all feeling in their souls.
Of course, she considered as Ramdan, a burly Sudhraian soldier, yanked her mount past the yawning, sharp teeth of the portcullis, it might be easier to have no emotion. Her owner, Cyrus, was even now inside the keep, making arrangements for her temporary transference into the hands of the lord who ruled this world of gray.
Once in the courtyard, at the base of the tall stone keep, Ramdan grabbed her around the waist and lifted her from the back of her horse. Around them, the castleâ€™s inhabitants gave them sidelong looks as they went about their business. People of the north werenâ€™t used to seeing travelers from the south. The sound of a blacksmithâ€™s hammer hitting iron clanged through the air and the dry scent of hay from the nearby stable teased her nose.
She watched a young girl of around twelve as she passed with a basket of late autumn apples. The girl cast a shy, blue-eyed glance her way, then bowed her head and scurried away. Jealousy flared through Sienne. That little blue-eyed apple girl would grow up free, free to make her own decisions, free to have final say over what was done to her body.
Cyrus barreled through the double doors of the keep and took her by the upper arm. â€œItâ€™s done. Come with me.â€ He pulled her into the keep and up a steep set of stairs toward a heavy wooden door.
Sienne stumbled as Cyrus pushed the door open and roughly pulled her into the room. A huge see-through fireplace dominated the center of the chamber, driving out the chill so prevalent in large castles like this one. An enormous bed stood across from the fireplace, heaped with soft blankets and pillows. Tapestries depicting spring-tide hunts covered the walls and a table stood to the left of the bed, scattered with papers and books.
â€œLord Marken has accepted you as a gift for the winter months.â€ Cyrusâ€™s voice never failed to grate against her mind. â€œUse all those fancy skills your family taught you to seduce him. The man has brains as well as brawn.â€
Of course, seducing Lord Marken wasnâ€™t her only purpose.
Cyrus yanked her hard toward the four-poster bed and tied her to one of the posts. He slipped his hands to the neckline of her gown and pulled it down, so that the very tops of her breasts showed and the fabric lay right above the nipples. He brushed his thumb over one, causing her to flinch, and then brought his hand to her chin, tipping it up. His brown eyes narrowed and his dirty blond hair fell into his eyes. Quickly she wiped the look of disgust from her face. If he saw it, it would earn her nothing but pain.
â€œGet what I need from him, Sienne. If you donâ€™t, the price will be your life. And in case you donâ€™t care about that, know Iâ€™ll hold your foster family accountable for your ineptitude. Believe me, Iâ€™ll make them hurt before they die.â€
She winced and looked away. Her foster family had been as kind to her as possible under Cyrusâ€™s constant threat. He continually held their well-being over her head. If she didnâ€™t care about anyone, life would be easier.
Cyrus had placed her here to get as much information as she could from Lord Marken about Nordan politics, military positionsâ€¦and weaknesses. It was amazing what a man would reveal to a woman when comfortable, warm and sated with sex.
When she looked back, Cyrus was striding to the door, his black cloak swirling around him and his boots clicking on the polished stone floor.
Now this Lord Marken would come. She twisted her wrists in the rope that bound her, chafing her skin. The knots were excellent, as usual. It never stopped her from testing them, though.
She glanced around at the books that lined the shelves. Her mind worked, trying to think of all manner of ways to get close to Lord Marken, to get him to confide in her, to believe she was safe. Every man in power needed someone safe. Sheâ€™d learned that long ago.
Footsteps of a different cadence sounded at the door. Lord Marken closed the heavy, gold-inlaid door behind him. Sienne twisted in her bonds, her stomach tightening in sudden fear. Although, something deep and dark within her always thrilled at the prospect of a new man to please with her skills. Even though she was a slave, she had power in some things, and sheâ€™d learned to exploit that small amount.
And this one was far from displeasing to the eye. A long fall of onyx-in-shadow hair framed a face that was close to handsome, but not quite. His chin was strong and his features well-crafted, his body muscular in the way of warriors. This was no weak-limbed nobility. Eyes the color of the river in winter, a cool blue-green, peered from a well-sculpted face. His best feature by far was his lips. Full and sensual, they looked perfect for tracing with the tip of her tongue. Maybe she could get what she needed from this man if she proceeded carefully.
Marken crossed the floor slowly, taking in her appearance. She knew how she looked, her hair free over her shoulders, her gown clinging to her curves, her nipples, tight from the cold, showing through the sheer, flesh-colored fabric. Cyrus had done his job well.
He stopped in the center of the room, his gaze intent. His leather jerkin was open halfway down his chest, showing an expanse of smooth, sculpted muscle. His leggings fit tight over powerful-looking thighs. She shivered in fear spiced with the slightest pinch of desire and looked away.
â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€
Her eyes widened. â€œMy lord wishes to know my name?â€ she asked in Nordanese. That was not something most men were concerned with, especially not at first.
â€œYou do have one, do you not?â€
She averted her eyes. â€œYes, my lord, my parents gifted me with the name Sienne.â€
â€œSienne.â€ He rolled her name around in his mouth like it was a choice sugared raisin. â€œLook at me, Sienne.â€
Her gaze snapped to his. â€œYes, my lord.â€
â€œYou are not here of your own free will, are you?â€
She let out a derisive laugh. â€œMy lord sees me secured this way and asks such a question?â€ She bit her tongue on the last word. Perhaps sheâ€™d finally lost her mind. She waited for him to hit her, but only got a bemused smile.
â€œAh, so there is some fire left in you after all. They havenâ€™t beaten it all out of you yet.â€
â€œForgive me, my lord. I shall endeavor to be more submissive.â€
â€œOh, now what fun would that be?â€
He walked near her, so close she could smell the heady mix of sandalwood and citrus, the soap he must bathe with. He drew his dagger and raised it. She closed her eyes and tensed, waiting for the bite of the blade into her flesh. Only the sound of rope slicing met her ears. Her arms went laxâ€”suddenly freed.
â€œI do not abide slavery, Sienne. I know it is a practice in Sudhra, but not here in Nordan. I have no wish for a sex slave. I didnâ€™t tell Lord Cyrus this because I didnâ€™t want to offend him and because it gave me an opportunity to set you free.â€
She looked up at him with what she knew was an expression of shock on her face. â€œMyâ€¦my lord?â€
He picked up a pouch from a drawer near his bed. He threw it at her and she caught it. It clinked heavily with what she suspected were gold coins. He turned and motioned toward the door. â€œGo. You are free. If you hurry, youâ€™ll beat the first snowfall. If you like, Iâ€™ll send men to accompany you to the nearest town.â€
She stood, stunnedâ€¦and free. For the first time since she was five years old, she was free.
The pouch lay heavily in her palm. She looked toward the door and realized she didnâ€™t have the slightest clue what to do. It didnâ€™t matterâ€”her heart sung with joy. Her chest fluttered with a feeling of lightness, like birds set free in her ribcage. Hope. She barely remembered the name of this feeling.
In the next thought, the birds were gone, replaced by the heavy cold stones to which sheâ€™d become so accustomed.
Cyrus would track her down and punish her. Heâ€™d kill her and her foster family for not fulfilling her duty. Cyrusâ€™s reach extended to the ends of Aran. There was nowhere for her to go, no one she could trust.
She closed her eyes for a moment, knowing what she had to do.
Her next question quavered in her throat before she could force it into the open air. â€œBut what will you tell Cyrus, my lord, when he comes for me in the spring?â€
Marken shrugged. â€œLord Cyrus is a greedy man. I will give him gold enough in recompense so that he will not think of you again.â€
She walked to a chair and sat down, turning her head so he could not see the sudden tears that pricked her eyes. She held the pouch loosely in her hands. He was actually willing to pay gold for her freedom. Her life meant something to him. She took a deep breath, held it, and then let it out slowly.
It only made what she had to do that much more difficult. She had to fulfill her obligation to Cyrus or her foster family would suffer for it, but she could not reveal that information to Lord Marken.
She turned toward him. â€œDoes my lord know I have been trained these three years since my eighteenth birthday in all the ways to please a man?â€
â€œThe women who come to my bed come of their own free will, and I have plenty of partners. I donâ€™t need another.â€ His eyes flicked down her body and her nipples hardened in response.
Sienne wondered at her reaction. Perhaps kindness was an aphrodisiac, or maybe she was simply cold.
â€œNo matter how beautiful she might be,â€ he finished.
She lowered her eyes and looked up through her lashes. She knew well the different paths to seduction. Lord Marken was a protector. That was more than apparent. She could easily play the role of one needing protection. It wasnâ€™t a guise, after all. â€œMy training goes beyond that of the ordinary women who warm your bed, my lord.â€
â€œAre you trying to convince me to keep you? I just gave you enough money to begin a new life and set you free.â€
â€œIf it pleases my lord, I shall leave, but I have nowhere to go.â€ She didnâ€™t hide the genuine quaver of fear in her voice.
â€œDonâ€™t you have family somewhere?â€
She shook her head and dropped her eyes. â€œTheyâ€™ve all been killed by Cyrus and his thanes.â€ She looked up. â€œI am good at what I do, my lord. I can please you, make your body never wish to give me up.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure you could. That is not in questionâ€”â€
â€œIâ€™ve known nothing but servitude since I was five years old, my lord,â€ she said quickly. â€œI donâ€™t know what I would do out there alone.â€ She let tears shine in her eyes.
Marken turned and paced the room, then whirled with anger drawing harsh lines on his face. â€œHow can you not wish for freedom, Sienne?â€
Ah, but she did. This was killing her.
Her lower lip trembled. She fell to her knees in front of him, making sure the gown dipped low enough that Marken had a view of her bare breasts, and averted her eyes in respect, looking at him sidelong. â€œPlease, my lord. I would perish. Let me stay.â€
Marken pushed a hand through his thick black hair. â€œThe chains are no longer around your wrists, but in your mind. Itâ€™s more difficult to unlock those.â€
He dropped his gaze to her breasts and hips. â€œKnow that if you stay, you stay of your own free will. You can leave whenever you choose it.â€
She left the pouch on the floor, scrambled to her feet and instantly dropped low into a curtsy. â€œThank you, my lord.â€
â€œFirst thing, Sienne. Raise your eyes when you speak to me.â€ His voice dropped a notch and infused with heat. â€œYouâ€™ve lovely eyes. I would like to see them.â€
Hope sprung within her so fast and so hard it hurt. Maybe he did want her. It would make the task set before her so much easier if he did. She raised her eyes and took several steps in his direction. She wanted to prove her worth quickly, so he would not send her away. It was a bold move and she half-expected to be rebuffed, but he didnâ€™t budge as she walked toward him.
Another step and he still hadnâ€™t moved. Her heart sang with optimism. If she could seduce his body, his secrets would follow. One more step and Lord Marken moved away from her. She stilled in the center of the room, her spirits sinking. Yet she couldnâ€™t give up. Too many people depended on her.
Lifting her gaze and boldly meeting his, she stepped toward him once more. His expression darkened, but so did his eyes. Pupil dilation was a sign of arousal in a man. Maybe she had a chance after all.
After closing the distance between them, she placed her hands on his powerful chest and slid them down, feeling her fingers glide over his nipples to the ties on his trews and beneath, his braies. With deft fingers, she undid them.
She freed his already hard shaft and stroked the foreskin down. He had a beautiful phallus. Like everything about him, it was largeâ€”long and thick. It was one of the largest sheâ€™d ever seen, and sheâ€™d seen many in the last three years. The head was shaped like a plum and the length slightly bowed toward his stomach, promising delight to any woman who took him because heâ€™d easily reach the pleasure point deep within.
She went to her knees and licked around the head of his shaft, then took him into her mouth and sucked, letting the head of his cock slip past her tonsils and down her throat. Marken let free a groan and his hands tightened on her shoulders.
Lips and tongue working, she feverishly tried to please him, to let him know how skillful she was and that it would be a mistake to let her go.
She cupped and massaged his scrotum with one hand while using the other to work the base of his shaft as she brought him in and out of her mouth with increasing speed, letting the head of his cock slide down her tight throat.
She slipped him out of her mouth and ran her tongue under the head of his cock, licking and sucking at the special place directly below it where she knew men were most sensitive. Then she drew him back into her mouth and down far into her throat once more.
Markenâ€™s body tensed, his fingers tangling in the hair at the back of her head. His hips moved forward as he thrust his cock into her mouth. Finally he released himself with a deep groan.
She swallowed every last bit of his seed and fell back on her heels, looking up at him with trepidation in her eyes. â€œWas that satisfactory, my lord?â€
He remained silent, merely redoing his braies and trews. She waited, breathless. â€œVery. But did you enjoy that, Sienne?â€
â€œYouâ€™re very good at it, but do you enjoy it?â€
Such a question had never been put to her. Maybe it was a trick? No man ever cared if she enjoyed it. â€œMy lord, I live only to serve any carnal desire. I am trained in all mannerâ€”â€ He swept her off the floor and into his arms. She let out a surprised hiss of breath.
He sat down and settled her onto his lap. â€œI desire a willing woman. If you are to stay here under my protection, and you insist on serving me in this capacity, we are going to have to retrain you.â€
She blinked. â€œMy lord?â€
He slipped a hand under the edge of her skirt, drawing it up to the apex of her legs. She obediently parted her legs for him, but tensed every muscle in her body. Working his way around her undergarment, he slowly slipped a huge finger into her. He worked it in and out of her, and she felt her pelvic muscles clamp down, pushing him out. It was an automatic response she could not stop.
Marken withdrew his hand. â€There should be more moisture here. You are not the least bit excited, are you?â€
Marken shook his head. â€œDonâ€™t lie. Your body betrays you.â€
Sienne flinched at the unhappy tone of his voice. A tone like that was usually followed by punishment. â€œPlease forgive me, my lord. I will try to do better.â€
He cupped her chin between his fingers, guiding her gaze back to his. â€œI will never beat you.â€ He trailed a finger down her throat to her heaving chest and lazily circled a nipple with an index finger. â€œI will only touch you with the greatest of care.â€ His voice was silken rasp. Sienne could tell he wanted her.
His words had a curious effect on her. She imagined him sliding his long, thick shaft into her womanâ€™s passage and stroking in and out of her. She imagined how heâ€™d fill her up and touch that place deep within where sometimes it almost felt good.
Marken circled her nipple around and around relentlessly and gently pinched. Her nipple hardened in response.
His voice lowered and he brought his face close to hers. â€œI intend to bring you to a place where youâ€™re begging me to enter your passage, Sienne. Not out of a sense of servitude, but because you want me moving in and out of you, pleasuring you, bringing you to climax over and over.â€
â€œClimax, my lord?â€ she asked, disconcerted by the tightening of her loins that was caused by his touch.
The motion of his finger stopped for a moment, then resumed. â€œBy the Goddessâ€™s eyes, you really donâ€™t know, do you?â€
She shook her head and he massaged her entire breast with his hand before returning to her nipple. â€œIâ€™ll show you soon, Sienne.â€
He worked her nipple, running his finger over it, caressing every ridge, every valley of its distended tip. Her breath caught. â€œAs you wish, my lord,â€ she rasped. What was wrong with her? She felt hot, flushed and achy. Was she falling ill?
â€œYouâ€™ve been trained to please a type of man who never cared about your pleasure. But you must understand, the pleasures of my partner feeds mine and makes love play sweeter. I know a way we might pass the long winter. Iâ€™ll use it to train you to feel pleasure in the act of love.â€
Anything! Anything so long as she could stay here and fulfill her duty to Cyrus, ensuring her safety and that of her foster family. â€œYes, my lord.â€
â€œHere is the most simple of lessons.â€ His hand twined around the back of her neck and drew her face to wed with his. His lips were soft on hers. He kissed her upper lip, then her lower. The tip of his tongue traced her lower lip slowly. It made things deep in her body pulse and come to life. A shiver ran up her spine.
Then he kissed her harder, more demanding. He parted her lips with his tongue and slipped within. It was nothing like the crude invasions sheâ€™d suffered before. His tongue met hers and asked to dance. Their lengths rubbed and teased as his tongue explored the recesses of her mouth. Sometimes heâ€™d withdraw and fall back to kissing her lips individually before sliding his tongue back between her lips.
He kissed her leisurely and at length, as though his mouth made love to hers. His free hand continued to concentrate on her breast, rubbing it with the flat of his hand, teasing the tip with his fingers. She moaned deep in her throat. Moisture flooded her core.
He broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to hers. â€œI believe Iâ€™m going to enjoy your training very much. It will be harder on me than you, I think. I already want to take you hard and fast. But you are not ready. We will begin our training in private on the morrow.â€