On Midros, men rule, and women are owned.
Parin Denos promised her mother she’d never to go to Midros, but the lure of a promotion was too much. Arrested for escaping with her parents as a baby, she’s put up for auction, and her first owner displays a cruelty beyond understanding. Her future seems bleak—until his handsome son saves her life.
Mercer Pennis is heir to a vast fortune, yet he’s never wanted to own anyone until he meets his father’s newest purchase. When he unexpectedly becomes her master, he has little patience for the untrained woman kneeling at his feet. Her only role is to serve his needs, and he demands complete obedience. Each time he punishes her, though, her submission deepens, and he begins to see her brave strength. And as deceptions are revealed all around them, he begins to question the very foundations of the society he’s always believed in.
Can Parin find love with the man who possesses her body and soul? Can Mercer become the Master that Parin needs?
This third and final book in the Midrosian Chronicles is a thrilling and sensual sci-fi romance.
Publisher’s Note: Tears of Surrender contains elements of unequal power exchange, discipline, and explicit scenes. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase this book.
Three years before Books 1 and 2
* * *
“Parin, promise me you’ll never, ever, go to Midros.”
“I promise, Mommy.”
* * *
“Gentlemen, the Midrosian government would like to thank you for coming.” The bureaucrat looked around the table at the six men, pointedly ignoring the one woman sitting directly in front of him. “Though your trip here takes a fraction of the time it used to take, thanks to our paeolate”—he beamed at them as though he’d mined the mineral and painted it on the side of the ship himself—”we know that it’s taking valuable time away from your business.”
The head of the R&D team of Unitronics nodded, acknowledging the formalities.
“Let me get right to the point. You say your company can manufacture retrieval tags, for marking property in the event it is stolen, and that these tags will allow the items to be traced up to a light year away. That is a remarkable improvement in distance on anything currently available. Our government would like to know if these tags can be inserted into a human, allowing us to locate her as far away?”
Jerome, the team leader, looked confused. “Well,” he finally said, “they’re waterproof, so we would assume so. But we haven’t done any testing on living beings.”
“We would be willing to provide subjects for whatever testing you need. But the other question is—you claim these tags also disable the device until it is recovered. Again, does this apply to people it might be inserted into?”
The entire team stared at him for a moment. Finally, Leo, another member of the team, responded. “What exactly are you thinking of?”
The official cleared his throat. “Gentlemen, I’ll be plain. The Midrosian Treaty of 2274 says that even if a woman escapes from Midros, no other planet will recognize her as free. We want to insert these chips into all our slaves, to be able to locate and retrieve runaways throughout the galaxy. And ideally, we’d like to be able to disable them in some way so that they can’t escape our retrieval teams.”
There was silence. Parin Denos, the lone woman in the group, was the first to react. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
He ignored her. “This offer could be an extremely lucrative contract with Midros. Your company stands to make an enormous amount of money. Other companies have found that their business interests can align with ours, even when there’s a difference in philosophies.”
“Difference in philosophies?” Parin had heard enough. “You invite us to come here to listen to a business proposal, and it turns out you want us to help you hunt runaway slaves across the galaxy?” Tom laid a hand on her arm but she shrugged him off and looked around the room. “You guys wouldn’t seriously consider taking this contract, would you?” She pinned Jerome with her gaze. He was the team leader. It would be his decision. She was only the accountant, not even one of the development team.
“Gentlemen, having a woman in here complicates negotiations. Perhaps if she left, it would make the decision easier.” The Midrosian official was almost sneering.
This time it was Jerome who laid his hand on Parin’s arm as she fought back the rising anger that threatened to burst into flames. “It wouldn’t matter if she was here or not. The answer is no. We will never participate in furthering this type of system. I’m sorry you spent so much time and money to bring us here. We’ll be leaving now, and leaving Midros on the next available ship.” He stood up. He didn’t offer a handshake.
“This will bring a lot of money to a company.”
“But not ours. Good bye.”
The tension was thick in the room as the official walked out.
“Holy fuck!” said Tom. “He really thought our company would help him with this?”
“Lots of other firms do business with Midros. The money is too good, so they overlook the moral issues. I’m sorry, guys. They told me they wanted to discuss using the tags to retrieve stolen property. I never in my wildest dreams imagined it would be women. I guess I’ll go see when the next ship leaves that’s going our way.”
The door to the room opened, and they turned, expecting to see the government employee again. Instead it was a group of soldiers. The one in front zeroed in on Parin. She froze.
“Parin, daughter of Lisil, both owned by Jacksan?”
“Who are you?”
“Is that your identity?”
“Those were my parents’ names, but I don’t understand what you mean.”
The soldiers pushed her colleagues away and moved to encircle her. “Parin, owned by Jacksan, you are under arrest for being an escaped slave.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Her voice was rising in panic. Someone pulled her arms behind her. Cold, rigid metal encircled her wrists. She tugged reflexively, but there was no give.
“Routine screening of all visitors to Midros revealed your identity. You and your mother escaped Midros twenty-four years ago with the help of your owner, but you are legally regarded as a slave of Midros no matter where you’ve been living.” They started to push her towards the door when at least two of her colleagues blocked them. The soldiers pulled their blasters and aimed at the would-be rescuers. The men moved back, their hands up.
“Wait! Stop! Where are you taking me?”
“We’re taking you to a processing center. First, they’ll determine how much you are worth, and then they’ll put you up to be sold at auction.”
Parin’s knees buckled and she went down.
* * *
There was a vehicle and a ride on the floor. Somewhere along the way she lost her shoes. She was hauled up the stairs of a big white building, and hustled down another corridor. She protested at every step and was completely ignored. At length, they arrived at a desk. A sour-faced man looked up.
“Yeah,” said one of the soldiers.
The man behind the desk handed over a pair of scissors, and before Parin realized what was happening, they’d pulled her skirt down and off. The scissors made short work of her blouse, and it was soon on the floor in shreds. Her underwear joined the scraps. All the remains of her clothes were tossed into a pile in the corner. Her protests went unheeded. When they were done, the soldier slapped her face and told her to shut up. She stood stunned at the blow while he replaced the narrow handcuffs with wide metal bands around her wrists and her ankles. With a tap to something strapped to his arm, the ones on her wrists snapped together behind her back.
“I want to see the Primian ambassador!” she pleaded. “He’ll clear this all up!”
“Which cell, Sir?”
The official snorted. “She’s escaped. Take her to the barn.” The guards started to drag her away. “Hang on. I need her collar.”
Every woman, slave or guest, was required to wear a collar on Midros. Women who visited were issued plain black leather collars for their stay, and were required to wear them at all times in public. One soldier unlatched the buckle on the well-worn collar she’d been issued upon her arrival yesterday, and tossed it back onto the desk. They resumed their trek, heading through a series of doors and down a set of stairs, before emerging into the sunshine behind the building. They half-carried-half-dragged her to a large dilapidated structure. Inside was row after row of mesh cages, lit by a line of grimy windows. It was sweltering in the heat of the day. A guard opened one, shoving Parin through. She stumbled, falling to the hard floor. Her ankle cuffs snapped together without warning. The door rattled shut.
She looked up to see that a man in civilian clothes had joined the guards.
“I’m the Minister of the Slavery Oversight Board. I don’t usually concern myself with runaways, but you’re a unique case. Your father, Jacksan Delis, purchased your mother, Lisil, in 2322. You were born a little over a year later. When you were two, your father somehow managed to smuggle your mother and you off the planet. He changed his name to Denos, and lived with your mother and you, pretending to be a legal, free family.” His face wrinkled up at the word ‘free.’ “But your mother and you were never free. Now that you’re back on Midros, you’ll reenter life as a slave.”
He peered down at her while her mind tried to cope with what he was saying.
“As a slave, you have no rights, no property, no freedom, not even clothing, besides what your new master decides to give you. Your last name has been removed from all records we can influence. From now on, your preferences, your likes and dislikes, are irrelevant. Your comfort is irrelevant. You have no right to say ‘no,’ or stop what is happening. You will breed if he desires you to breed. He may sell you any time he desires, for any reason. He is only expected to meet your basic physical needs so that you remain healthy, and to refrain from permanent, intentional, physical injury.”
She screwed her eyes up tight as though she could block out the words if she couldn’t see him. It didn’t work.
“Tomorrow, you’ll be auctioned to the highest bidder.” She heard him turn and walk away.
* * *
“On your knees! Someone is here to speak to you!”
The building had been utterly silent for hours as Parin lay on her side, trying to comprehend what was happening. She managed to roll to her knees, despite the shackles that made balance precarious. She looked up to see a soldier and a sad-looking man in a nondescript suit standing outside of the cage.
The soldier, dressed in black and sporting a pain stick holstered at his side, slammed a fist into the metal mesh, making the entire structure vibrate. “Back straight! Head up! Eyes down at the floor!” Frightened by his violence, she rolled awkwardly to her knees, acutely aware of how her bare breasts were now thrust forward, nipples crinkled up despite the heat coming through the windows. She focused her eyes on a crack in the dirty floor.
“Parin Denos? I’m Jonah Lesart, the ambassador from Prima.” His voice was soft and kind.
Her eyes flew back up. Heedless of the soldier’s instructions, she struggled to her feet. “Oh, thank the gods! Please, get me out of here. I’m a citizen of Prima, not Midros! There’s been a horrible mistake, and they say I was born here, and that my mother was a slave here, but none of that’s true, I was born on Prima! I don’t know what’s going on here, but please, just get me out of here and let me go home!”
The look of pity in his eyes frightened her.
“Parin,” he spoke softly, almost apologetically, “I’m afraid they’re right. You were born here. I’m so sorry, my dear.”
She backed up, almost falling when she forgot about her shackled feet. “No! My identity card says I was born on Prima!”
“It’s a forgery. I had someone examine it, and it’s a good forgery, but a forgery nonetheless. And just to make sure, I contacted the hospital on Prima where you were supposedly born. They have no record of your birth there. You appeared in data bases for the first time at about two years old, and that’s when we think your father helped your mother escape from here.”
“But I lived on Prima my whole life! That’s my home!”
He shook his head. “The treaty says it doesn’t matter. Only the Midrosian government can grant freedom, and they’ve adamantly declared they will not. I’ve been arguing with them all day, my dear, but it comes back to that treaty.”
“I don’t understand! Slavery is illegal everywhere else!”
“It was a trade-off, and the BIA felt it was worthwhile. The galaxy needs paeolate in huge quantities to coat the outsides of space-going ships. It’s what makes them invulnerable to acceleration and deceleration. Ships no longer have huge heavy hulls, and they can carry many times the amount of cargo. When the BIA tried to bring Midros in line with the other planets and abolish slavery, Midros threatened to cut off supplies and pretty much bring commerce to a standstill throughout the galaxy. So, the Treaty was signed.”
“And all the women who lived here were sacrificed?” She finished the thought for him in a whisper. It was a monstrously evil bargain.
He nodded. “The only concession the BIA got, was that under no circumstances could women be brought to Midros to become enslaved.” He wrinkled his forehead. “Didn’t your parents tell you to stay away from here?”
Parin, promise me you’ll never, ever, go to Midros . Parin had been so young the last time she’d heard that voice that the warning had faded.
“Yes,” she sobbed. “Oh, gods, they did.” She turned to the wall next to her and let her head fall against it, trying to stifle the panic rising in her chest, squeezing until she felt she would explode. “What about my job, my apartment, my belongings?”
“Your employer has already been informed that you’re not employed there any longer, and the other members of your company’s team have left.” He sighed. “You have loyal friends, that’s for sure. They shoved their way into the Slavery Oversight Board building”—he nodded towards the door Parin had come through earlier—”and three of them were arrested when they punched a couple of soldiers. I was able to get the charges dropped but only if they left right away. Anyhow, your apartment lease has been terminated, your belongings have probably been removed by now, and your bank account has already been confiscated by the Midrosian government to pay for the years of service you and your mother deprived them of. They’re very efficient.”
She struggled to take the next breath. Dizziness swirled about her head, and she leaned against the mesh to stay upright.
“I’m so sorry, my dear. Is there anyone I should notify? Do your parents know where you are?”
“My parents died when I was seven.” Nani, the woman who’d raised her, had passed on several years ago. She had a few casual girlfriends, and her work mates, but she’d been so busy proving herself at her job that she hadn’t stopped to make many friends.
She shook her head. “No, there’s no one.”
The ambassador nodded, and turned to go.
“Wait! Stop! Please! Don’t leave me here! You’re the only one who knows who I am!”
He stopped, but didn’t turn. “You’re Parin,” he said softly, “slave of Midros, and currently the property of the Midrosian government. I’m sorry. I can’t do anything about it.” He resumed walking away, and a moment later he and the guard disappeared through the door, leaving only silence and the stifling heat behind.
* * *
“Are you really from another planet?” A low, rough voice broke through the stupor that had enveloped her since she’d stopped sobbing. Parin pulled her thoughts together and opened her eyes, noticing for the first time that someone else occupied the cage next to hers. She was thin, gaunt, and naked, but what drew Parin’s eyes was the almost complete lack of hair on her head. Only a rough and irregular stubble remained.
The woman touched her head self-consciously and gave her a half-smile. “They shaved it this morning. The worst part is how cold it leaves me.” She cleared her throat and coughed.
“Why?” Parin asked with horror.
“I was an escaped slave. They caught me yesterday. I’d been free for eight months.”
Now Parin took in the thin red stripes that crisscrossed her skin from her breasts to her knees. The tightness returned to her chest, and she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t take it all in. She closed her eyes to escape the visual horror she didn’t know how to understand. She stuck with a safer topic.
“Yes. I’m from Prima.” Visions of her mother and father, holding hands, floated up behind her closed eyelids. Her mother’s laugh. Her father’s hugs. She’d been only seven when the airship they’d all been riding in crashed on their way home from a day at the beach. Parin’s parents were killed, along with five other people.
Thinking about them wasn’t better. She opened her eyes to look at the woman again. “I’m Parin.”
“Tessa. Why were you here?”
“My company was bidding for a contract with the Midrosian government. Coming along was a good opportunity for me to advance. But they arrested me in the middle of a meeting, and now”—she shrugged—”this.”
Tessa stared at her as though she was trying to figure out what Parin had just said. Parin didn’t feel like explaining, so she changed the subject. “So, what happens to you now?”
Tessa shrugged. “Not sure. They don’t tell you much. There are rumors. They whipped me this afternoon. That’s why I’m kind of hoarse. You know, from screaming. I imagine at some point I’ll get my feet caned, so that I can’t walk for a while. I don’t know if they’ll do that before or after I spend a day bent over and locked in the public stocks. Anyone’s allowed to do almost anything to me there. And then if my master still wants me, he takes me home and punishes me more. If he doesn’t want me, I get sold.”
“How can you be so calm about this?”
Tessa sighed. “I’m not. Not really. But if I can say the words casually, then maybe the terror won’t overtake me.”
Parin barely made it to the drain in the corner of the cage before she vomited.
* * *
The lights never dimmed, though the grimy windows were dark. Parin propped herself in a corner and tried to sleep. Each time she woke up, she could see Tessa, sitting against a mesh wall, staring blankly at nothing. A few times the light reflected off the tears sliding down her cheeks.
Light had reappeared in the grimy windows when the door banged open. Two guards came over to Tessa’s cage and opened it, and dragged her out without comment. Parin never saw her again.