His planet is his prison…and only she can set him free. After a year, Michael "Overlord" Parker finally knows who's been pilfering his black market goods. Astonishingly, the elusive Bandit of Taiga isn't a man. It's a woman, an infuriating spitfire who's half in love with Michael's overly romanticized reputation. Remarkably Average Mary exudes an intoxicating scent that Michael can't quite puzzle out, even with his unique ability. As long as she remains bound and blindfolded, he has the advantage—and the bonus of tormenting the bane of his existence. Mary's deceptively innocent face has never failed her. Yet somehow she's at the mercy of a man she knows only as "Commander". His demands are simple. Surrender her methods of banditry, or surrender her body. As his essence invades her intuitive ability—and her remaining senses—she becomes increasingly frantic to escape before she yields all that and more to her compelling captor. Their sensual sparring ignites, and Michael finds himself wanting to erase Overlord's myth from her fantasies in favor of the real man. But first he has to foil the slippery little devil's escape attempts. And find out who's been using her to unknowingly help the empire wipe him off the face of his own planet.
Warning: This futuristic medieval contains a planet-owning alpha hero, a feisty heroine who can swear in over thirty languages, a side-kick with a crackleseed addiction, witty repartee, epic space battles, sensual karate, and tight black leather pants.
Blindfolded, gagged, shackled hand and foot, Remarkably Average Mary stood still as she listened to her captor.
His voice edged low, acerbic, mocking. "This bit of fluff forced the bounty hunter to bind, gag and blind?"
Another man answered, conciliatory yet condescending. "He had no choice, Commander."
So far, that's all anyone had called the man she'd been caught stealing from. The title didn't narrow the field of who he might be. Lots of egotistical freaks liked to be called commander.
Sniffing deep, she got a curious whiff of old worn leather, lemon-oiled wood and her own body. Beyond that, the tang of metal and processed air. She heard machines throbbing, cycling, in the background as the two men discussed her.
Using all her honed senses, she counted four men aft; cotton, canvas and well-oiled guns, backed by heavy breathing. Definitely at least four men standing behind her, but she heard more people in the room. A big room, by the way sounds echoed.
She didn't know what to expect, but prospects for her survival dimmed. When she felt fingers fumbling at her gag, she lashed out with her only weapon-teeth.
The probing hand retreated, removing her gag.
"If you attempt to bite me again, I'll have your face shackled too," Commander said. "Understand?"
Tilting her blindfolded head as if she could see him, she took back one of her best weapons-her mouth. "Stop sticking your hand in my face, and I won't try to bite it."
After a pause, he offered, "I could stuff the gag back in."
She didn't want that filthy rag back in her mouth. If she'd kept her trap shut, the bounty hunter wouldn't have shoved the damn thing in her face in the first place.
"I'm going to remove your blindfold. No biting. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she hissed. "I'm bound, not brainless, you jackass."
After another long pause, he said, "Yes, Commander."
She straightened and grinned. "Thanks for the promotion. I always wanted to be a commander."
With a yank, her blindfold came away. She blinked as her eyes adjusted to bright light. She stood in an immense room filled with computers, operational panels, armed guards, and the most handsome man she'd ever seen in her life. Short and rather dull till now. Her life, not him. Commander-it could only be he-towered over her bound body. Red silk. Black leather. Seven solid feet of male.
Breathless, she gasped. "Oh-my-God."
Her captor narrowed sparkling golden-brown eyes. "You will address me as Commander. Comprende?" Long, tall, firm and fit, he reclined against the edge of his mahogany desk, yet still seemed to threaten.
"Sí, señor." She snickered with false bravado.
"Pardon me?" His cold tone reminded her that he could kill her with a snap of his fingers.
"Pardon me, Co-man-duuur." When she bowed, her plastimetal shackles rubbed together with a musical sound.
"Maybe she's too stupid to be afraid," said a man with dusty blond hair and mossy-green eyes. He stood six and a half feet tall and weighed a good two-forty.
"Why should I be afraid of you?" Dismissing him before he could answer, she glared at her captor. "You're obviously afraid of me."
Commander tilted her a slight, sardonic smile filled with perfect teeth. "How do you figure that?"
"I'm the one shackled hand and foot with four guards on me."
Unfurling like a great flag, Commander pushed away from the desk that dominated the middle of the room. Towering, bigger than any tree on Taiga, he smiled condescendingly down into her face. "I see I'm going to have to make it abundantly clear to you who's in charge."
She looked him over from his bare feet to his face. Only an idiot would doubt who stood in charge at the moment. She worked her exhausted body and her sleep-deprived brain into gear.
"What're you going to do? Beat me up while I'm chained?" She inhaled, tasting the tang of his cologne. When she found the maddening scent distracting, she leaned back. "That really won't impress your men. It wouldn't impress me, either, but then again, my opinion of you couldn't get much lower."
A smile hinted about his face. "A bandit with a smart mouth."
"I'm not a bandit." She knew what she did and why. Glory to the cause overshadowed a vulgar truth.
"What would you call someone caught red-handed with a shipment of goods that didn't belong to them?"
She touched her tongue to her lips. "Unlucky?"
One corner of his mouth pulled up in a quirky half grin. "Still makes you a bandit. An unlucky bandit, but a bandit nonetheless." His penetrating gaze made her feel naked.
"I didn't steal. I-liberated." Reduced to arguing semantics, she looked away from him.
"A modern-day Robin Hood. Pray tell, good lady, why did you liberate my goods?"
She shut her mouth tight and scowled at his marble floor.
"I'll make you a deal, Remarkably Average Mary."
Suspicion narrowed her eyes and her scowl deepened. He mocked her, just like everyone else. If he thought she would live up to her nickname, he was fooling himself. And he had her permission to do so. "What deal?"
"My Runner told me he had a difficult time subduing you." Graceful as a cat, he moved to stand close enough for her to touch. Clinging Dardinian silk and smoldering Byzantine leather echoed every part of a dangerous male body. He not only showed himself off with the most expensive fabrics in the Void, but he made it clear she would be an utter ass to challenge him physically. "The bounty hunter said you're well versed in the forbidden arts."
Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu-she knew street fighting too. Hands, feet, teeth, whatever she had. Whatever it took. Just knowing how to fight could get her thrown in jail.
"So? Fighting isn't a crime-oh, wait. Yes, it is. But so is possession of IWOG goods." She sneered. "If you turn me in, you'll have a lot more explaining to do than I will."
"I have no intention of turning you in." A dark challenge filled his gaze. "I'm going to unshackle you."
Her mouth dropped open. He was going to let her go? Hope dried up as fast as it spurted. "Unshackle me and then what?"
"We fight." He moved back to sit on the edge of his desk.
Incredulous, she gaped at him for several moments before her eyes narrowed. "Fight for what?"
"If you win, I set you free. If I win, you tell me why you were stealing my goods."
A shiver of fear ran from the tips of her bound hands to the toes of her bound feet. He had a foot in height and at least a hundred pounds of muscle on her. Not only that, but he had a solid ton of armed guard in the room.
"You really want to fight me?"
Swallowing a lump in her throat, she lifted her chin. "For you, yes. I wouldn't want to embarrass you in front of your men by kicking your ass." Nothing like flaming arrogance to mask trembling fear.