Born of Defiance

By: Sherrilyn Kenyon

“I signed.”

Glycie gasped, then hugged Felicia while giggling with excitement. “Oh, congratulations, sweetie! How was he?”

“Respectful and young.”

Eyes wide, Glycie shouted the good news down the hallway for the others to hear. It was something they always did whenever a companion was adopted by a patron.

Fresca tsked as she came into the room with a slow, sauntering walk. While she was every bit as beautiful as Glycie, she was an utter condescending bitch.

To everyone.

Rumors said that it was what kept her from being in the top tier of companion prospects… which only made her all the more bitter and biting. “Please tell me you didn’t contract with the animal that just left here.”

Felicia frowned at her hostility. “Why would you say that about him?”

Rolling her eyes, she stared at Felicia as if she was mentally defective. “Even you can’t be so stupid as to not know whom he is.”

Insulted by her snide tone, Felicia stiffened. “He’s a major in the armada.”

“And he’s been the Open league Zoftiq champ for years now. He’s killed I don’t know how many males in the Ring. Brutally.” Her white eyes turned even darker and angrier. “When they allowed that ruthless bastard to fight in the Vested league, which they should have never done, he left my cousin with a permanent limp, limited use of his arm, and almost killed him. My cousin said he was like a rabid dog, unleashed. All the years he’s fought, he’s never seen a worse animal. There’s no fighter more feared in the Ring than Talyn Batur. And you signed with him? Are you insane?”

“She’s right,” Rynara agreed as she joined them. “I was his first choice for companion, but I wouldn’t even meet with him. Turned him down flat as soon as I saw his name. Last thing I want is to be in a room with someone so violent and cold-blooded. Never mind at his complete and utter mercy. Just the thought of it gives me chills.” She shivered to further illustrate her point.

Fresca nodded in agreement. “I’ve heard he’s so huge in size that he’s split some of his past lovers in half. Left several unable to bear children.”

“I heard he’s been banned from most whorehouses for acts of perverted violence.” Rynara patted Felicia on the arm. “You poor thing. You should have done more research on him before you accepted.”

With sympathetic fear in her eyes, Glycie bit her lip. “Maybe you can get out of it?”

“I already signed.” Felicia’s breathing turned ragged as they went on and on listing Talyn’s flaws.

What have I done?

If one-quarter of what they said was true, she’d be maimed in a week.

Or dead.

Sick to her stomach, she tried to think of some way to end this.

Excusing herself, she went to her broker. He was in his office, at his computer, with a gleeful smirk on his face. “Herun?”

He looked up with an arched brow. “Did you lose the address already?”

“No… um…” Felicia hesitated. “Have you posted the forms already?”

“Of course. I told you I would.”

“Can we rescind them?”

His other eyebrow shot up. “Why would you want to do that?”

“I just learned some things about the major that I didn’t know before.”

Sighing, he shook his head. “It’s done. Honestly, I don’t know how you can complain. No one else would pay so much for you or be so accommodating to your outrageous demands. It’s not like you’re the prettiest companion here. You barely made the second tier of our offerings. For that matter, I was worried we’d ever recoup the money we spent for your training. Instead of complaining, you should be damn grateful he’s delusional about your questionable status, and willing to overlook it.”

Heat stung her cheeks at his needless and cruel reminders.

Herun turned away from her. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have other contracts to draft.”

Mortified and humiliated, she wanted something smart to say back to him. But the truth he spoke cut her to the bone. She couldn’t think of anything other than the fact that Herun was right.

No one else had wanted her.

“You’re too short. Too muscled. And look at this frizzy mop of hair… I don’t know how we’ll make you presentable to anyone.” She could still see the sneer on the image consultant’s face as she reviewed Felicia’s “attributes.” The only reason they hadn’t cut her hair was the fear that it would be even messier with a shorter style.

Completely heartbroken, she headed back to her room and cursed herself with every step. What have I done?

Consigned herself to hell.

She was her mother’s daughter, after all. Taken in by a handsome liar. She’d seen what she wanted in him, and hadn’t done enough research.

Now, she would pay for it. And if the others were to be believed, she’d pay with her life.

Chapter 2

Nervous and afraid, Felicia cringed at the sneer on the doorman’s face as he stood in the elegant, ornate doorway, blocking her from entering the posh building. Maybe she should have worn something other than old shorts and a light, thin shirt…