Chapter 1

I leaned against the pillar behind me as I scanned the room, filled with women in elegant dresses and men in black tie. I grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing attendant and raised it to my lips while searching for my mark. Couples danced to the intricate music, the floor awash with a fanciful hologram of star bursts and twinkling lights.

The gala was alive with chatter. Bright walls glittered under the giant golden chandeliers adorned in diamonds. Ladies laughed as they gossiped amongst friends, and men, eyeing women as they sauntered by, licked their lips hungrily.

It was all a drawn-out mating ritual dressed up in expensive gowns and custom-tailored suits.

A man strode toward me. Dark hair. Brown eyes. Freckled skin and a slightly wrinkled tuxedo jacket. A beta. He bowed low and offered me his hand.

“Can I have this dance?” His voice trembled as he eyed me nervously, waiting for a reaction.

I smiled as sweetly as I could and declined with a swift shake of my head. The beta’s smile dimmed and he bowed politely as he took his leave.

I twirled the champagne flute between my fingers as I mingled in the crowd.

“Are you sure you ought to be drinking?” Latham’s cold voice could freeze the comm device in my ear. “What if the contents were poisoned?”

“First rule in the field: blend in. I’m blending in, Control. Second, I’m blending in so well that not even you realized that I haven’t been actually drinking, but merely pretending to.”

The grunt in my ear was the only sign of approval that I would get from Latham Newhelm. “Enough playing. Find your mark, Nova.” He demanded the best from his operatives; as I was his favorite, that meant he demanded even more from me.

I upended my flute and poured the liquid out into a convenient planter.

Obedience was immediate, or it wasn’t obedience.

I slowly walked around the dance floor, eyeing the alpha males who raked me over with their gazes. I was undressed and eye-fucked a hundred different ways in the length of time it took me to stroll across the grand hall. It would be so easy to take any of them, but I had a specific target—Areph Rivans. Pretty boy business man whose enterprising fingers were in lots of dirty deals. It would only be my pleasure to take him out.

“Have you found his location?”

I tucked a stray dark lock behind my ear to tap the comm hidden there. I didn’t want to call in a negative. That would count against me, and I didn’t want to fall from the favored spot.

There, in one of the atriums, I saw a tall figure cutting through the ballroom as if he owned everything and everyone in it.

“Hold on. I have a lock.” My mark was in the middle of a conversation with an elderly man and what I assumed to be his very young wife.

Areph’s dossier didn’t do him justice. He was powerfully built, as was expected of all alphas, but he had that extra bit of charm that wasn’t quite evident in his file. He managed to entertain the couple in equal measure without dimming that smile.

The conversation couldn’t have been too engaging. As soon as he caught sight of me, he bowed to the couple and excused himself. I licked my lips as I watched him stride across the room toward me, his eyes dilating as he drew closer.

A random observer would dismiss me as a beta, as I was taller than the average omega, though not by much. But there was no hiding an omega’s scent, especially from an alpha.

Alphas could scent an omega almost anywhere. It was simple biology. And this alpha, despite the rich wrappings, was as simple in his base urges as the rest.

Areph bowed his head at me in greeting. “What is a rare beauty like you doing all by yourself?” His rich, cultured tones were well-practiced, especially for one born and raised in the slums.

I angled my head, exposing the long column of my neck in a picture of innocent offering. Alphas usually took this gesture as an invitation for more, and Areph was no different. He inhaled sharply, his tongue darting over his lips as if anticipating a favorite meal.

He took the bait. Time to reel him in.

I smiled up at Areph, trailing my hand down his powerful arm to rest against the crook of his elbow. I picked out several weapons concealed under his clothing in that swipe alone. Though the man had his own personal guard, he still had the habits of a gangland survivor. I could respect that. I carried an arsenal myself, but unlike him, my weapons were a lot less obvious.

I leaned closer, and he let me, allowing me into the circle of his arms until I was barely a breath apart from him. “But I’m not by myself anymore, am I?”

“You need at least a team of bodyguards around you at all times.” His hands slid against my chin, turning my gaze back to him. “You better be careful. A big bad wolf could gobble you up.”

I shivered under his touch, a delicate move that made him draw me closer. “Oh really?” My hand touched his chest. He watched me, mesmerized as I felt his massive muscles underneath his button-down shirt. “Maybe that’s what I want.”

Areph’s nostrils flared. His hand snaked around my waist, pulling me flush against his side, nearly carrying me as he strode through the crowds. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he hauled me over his shoulder and ran. I forced my smile, nodding at the stares cast in my direction as Areph led me past the pillars and the guards.

I giggled as we stumbled up the steps, his mouth capturing mine in a deep, hungry kiss. He moaned when his tongue twined with mine. My hands pressed against his chest, slowly traveling down the expanse of his body until I was palming his hard length through his suit pants.

“Not here,” I breathed against his mouth. “Room.”

The alpha responded by throwing me over his shoulder and taking the stairs two at a time. I laughed in earnest as he kicked open a door to what I assumed was a guest room and threw me onto the bed. He slammed the door shut while I shifted myself on the bed, leaning back in invitation. I crooked my finger at him in a come here motion.

Areph loosened his bowtie and deftly unbuttoned his shirt as he strode toward me. He looked like a predator stalking his prey. He would want to sink his teeth into me, mark me as his own. I moved to my knees when his legs pressed against the bed’s edge. My hands reached for his pants, undoing his belt quickly.

Areph bit his lip, watching me as I pushed his pants down, exposing the impressive tent he made of his underwear. “You are unbelievably sexy.” His finger traced a hot trail over my cleavage. He cupped my breasts, squeezing them gently before lowering his head and licking the exposed flesh. “I want to bury myself deep inside you.”

I moaned for him, faking desire and passion with artfully timed gestures. A touch here, a stroke there, was all that was needed for this fantasy. I tossed my head back while pressing him against my chest, feigning my need for him. My hands slid through his hair, which was soft against my flesh. My nails dug into his back as he thrust his hips toward me, his cock straining against the flimsy cloth of his underwear.

His hands pulled the straps of my glittery red dress down, exposing my breasts. I gasped as he enveloped one nipple, his velvety tongue sliding against it as he gently sucked. I ground my teeth, heat flooding my core despite my revulsion. My damned biology wanted more of his alpha nature, my body aching to be filled. I needed to get this done and over with soon before my omega instincts to submit and give him everything overruled my mind and distracted me from my mission.

I reached down between us, caressing his hard length. He moaned and thrust against my hand. I let his pulsing flesh slide against me, stroking him languidly before continuing my search for the handle of the blade strapped to my thigh. I pulled it from its sheath, slowly, so as not to disturb him.

Areph lifted his head, his swollen lips parted, searching for mine. Before he could capture them in another deep kiss, I leaned back and swiped the blade between us, slicing a smiling arc across his throat.

His eyes widened in shock. His hands dropped as he looked down, gasping for air while blood poured from his throat and dripped onto his white shirt. He tried to cry out, but I’d severed his vocal cords.

He dropped to the bed, the blood staining the sheets while I stood, replacing the blade back in its sheath and fixing my attire before quickly striding toward the door. With one final twitch, Areph released his last breath, his wide eyes staring up at the ceiling while the blood continued to pool on the bed.

I opened the door slightly, peeking through the small crack and scanning the area for any guards. There was no one, which I’d suspected to be the case since there were so many guards stationed between the pillars at the main hall. No one could get past unless it was Areph himself. 

I glanced once more at his lifeless body on the bed, smiling at how quick and easy it had been to trap him and kill him. His face was turned away from me. His head hung at an odd angle while a hand reached for something that wasn’t there. Moonlight shone through the open window, illuminating his corpse.

I shut the door quietly behind me and strode down the red and gold carpeted hall toward the staircase. Steady and purposeful steps, head held high. I gave the appearance that I belonged here while angling my face away from the security camera. I ran my fingers through my long dark hair while forcing myself to walk slowly down the steps.

I smiled at the guards as I passed the pillars. One raised an eyebrow at my passing, but that was the only thing that broke his otherwise neutral expression.

I pushed through several drunk ladies and lords, keeping my head down while I walked toward the entrance of the main dance floor. It wasn’t until I was outside in the cool air that I finally allowed myself to breathe.

“Control, I’m out,” I murmured.

Latham’s voice was cool in my ear. “Are you sure about that?”

As if on cue, sirens blared behind me. I whirled around, finding several guards running through the main entrance, headed straight toward me. Of course, it wouldn’t have been that easy.

I bolted into a run, dodging blasts of energy as I swerved through the trees bordering the pathway.

“Control, I have a party train after me.”

I scowled as Latham chuckled through the earpiece. “I guess you spoke too soon.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” I gasped, chancing a glance over my shoulder. The guards continued to gain on me.

“There’s a garden maze to your left. You can lose them in there.”

I looked left and found high shrubs leading to a narrow path. I dodged another blast of energy and lunged for the entrance, running through the narrow passages and turning left and then right.

“What next? Control?” I whispered while looking over my shoulder, trying to calm my breath at the sound of footsteps around me. Any wrong move and I was a goner. I stepped lightly, crouching low and keeping my head down.

“You’re close, Nova.”

I looked around aimlessly, wanting to demand more details, but knowing I wouldn’t be rewarded for asking for help. I moved forward, hearing security’s shouts for backup.

“Yes, keep moving straight.”

I crawled on the grassy path, my feet aching in the black stiletto heels I just had to wear for this lovely event. I stumbled as the point caught on my dress, making me nearly land on my face.

I paused when the alley ended, and I was faced with an either-right-or-left situation. I quickly hid myself behind a shrub when one guard entered the path on my left, thankfully looking in the opposite direction.

“You’re almost there, Nova. You need to go right, but there are several guards lurking around the corner on your left.”

I would need to make a run for it. Kicking off my heels, I tore the skirt away from the gown so I could run unimpeded.

I lunged to the right and bolted into a run. I heard shouts behind me, but didn’t bother turning around. I heard blasts, felt the heat fly by me, singeing my arm as I continued running. I could see the exit, a rectangle of light that Control herded me toward. I was nearly there. I closed my eyes and jumped, feeling my body fly into nothingness.

And then there was silence. It shrouded me in a peaceful darkness. This quiet space was familiar. I steadily became aware of a subtle beep-beep-beep, and when I recognized it, my eyelids flew open.

A sterile white ceiling nearly blinded me. I tried to sit up, but something was holding me down. I looked around, finding my body clothed in a simple white tank and pants. Long, purple hair laid limply over my shoulders. Metal straps were wrapped around my waist and chest as well as my limbs.

It always took several minutes to feel right again after coming out of a simulation. It was like waking up from a bad dream when you’re still half in the dream, half awake. Except with a horrible migraine and vertigo.

The thudding ache in my head dulled and lessened as I focused on my breathing. I gave my mind and body time to adjust from being in an adrenaline racing ordeal to convincing it that I’d been safe and secure this entire time. At least I’d stopped vomiting on myself after each simulation. The early days had been rough.

I licked my chapped lips as a medic, dressed all in white, walked toward me, clipboard in hand. Piers Travers was the head doctor on Latham’s team and his primary consult regarding me. Every bit of my health and diagnostic was under his control. He deftly removed the wires from my head, the sticky residue still clinging to my temples.

“Wonderful,” said Piers, not even bothering to look at me as he wrote something on his tablet. “We’ll have to improve your speed. Possibly your scent. It took him a bit longer to find you. Overall, your marks are impressive. With these results, you’ll be just about ready for your first mission.”

He wasn’t really talking to me. It was more like taking note of my performance like I was one of his that just performed to his specifications.

I nodded and waited for the straps to release me, but they remained fastened around my body. The door slid open and in stepped an alpha clothed in only a white pair of pants. He stared at me with red-rimmed eyes that dilated when he scented me. He licked his lips, the front of his pants tenting in obvious desire. His muscles shook, veins popping from his exposed arms. I held back a whimper while turning my head to Piers.

“I thought you said I did well,” I said, trying to keep the tremble from voice.

Piers stared at me curiously for a moment, his eyes magnified by his glasses. It was as if he had forgotten that I could talk. “Of course you did, my dear. Very well. How many times do I have to explain? This isn’t punishment. This is all part of your training. And his. You’re an omega, now, and your physical needs go beyond food and water.

“You need an alpha to be with you to break your heat so it doesn’t happen in the field. And here I have given you the best. Alpha Four beat out all the other soldiers in his unit to be with you. And now, being with you is his reward.” Piers cocked his head toward the alpha who seethed with impatience now, staring at the doctor as if he would rip him apart with his bare hands.

In my head, I knew that everyone on this vessel were part of our mission to infiltrate the enemy and tear them apart from within. But it was hard not to feel like my handlers were giving me to the enemy every time my heat approached.

“We all have our parts to play if we’re all to survive. Never forget that, my dear.” Piers patted my head as if I were a child, and strode through the door. 

Tears sprang to my eyes once we were alone. I tested my restraints, which remained immovable. I closed my eyes trying to contain my desperate breathing.

The alpha stalked toward me, quiet and fast. When I opened my eyes once more, he was right above me, breathing in my scent. “Do not fear me, omega. I won’t hurt you.” He leaned down and gently licked my cheek where a stray tear had fallen.

An involuntary shiver of pleasure quaked my body at his touch, and the alpha purred in approval...