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Corrupted: Chapter 22


Fingertips to the windowsill, Brenya explored the red-stained wood. There were pock marks from age, telltale signs of who had lived in such a strange room before. Notches where there had been frustration or force or even accidental brushes with something that indented the wood forever. New marks she could account for.

“You are to escort me to Beta Sector today, Brenya. I would like a tour and full accounting of Palo Corps.”

Nodding, her eyes still on the view, Brenya replied, “Yes, Commodore.”

As if he had not been tripping her up with weeks’ worth of difficult scenarios, Jules Havel called from where he worked. “There is an update on the state of Annette. She has transitioned out of quarantine with her son and taken a residence. She has been tasked with educating the population on the culture of Bernard Dome.”

“An Ambassador?” They were giving her friend an important position? Strange warmth moved through Brenya’s chest at the idea of Annette hosting tea to new people. “She will be an excellent Ambassador.”

Jules added further information. “George is still suffering withdrawal. There is no further update on his status.”

There was no jealousy in his voice when it came to the name George. No ripple in the emptiness inside the Beta.

Brenya had no idea what to make of this new Commodore. Found herself frustrated more with his distance than his demands.

Turning to look at the man who chose to work from bed most mornings, using her hair as a shield as if he would not notice her attention, she found the sight growing familiar. Pillows at his back, an unusual COMscreen propped on his lap, he lounged, focused on his work.

Very little that he did made sense.

From that first night in this bed.

The clinical way he had observed and tended her naked flesh. The questions, the strange manipulations down her spine. That he had ordered her to bed, and when she had obeyed, a man who had promised her that Bernard Dome would know no mercy pulled the covers up under her chin and told her in a softer voice to sleep.

After slipping off his coat, he had joined her—trousers on, shirt on—and made no move to touch her as she stared at the carved wooden canopy above.

The cool sheets felt so different from the soppy mess she had left when Lucia had yanked her from her bed. They were smooth, even stiff. A bit musty even.

Red Consumption in Bernard Dome. A Red Room to sleep in. Ancil’s red blood still on the floor.

The man shifted, turning to his side to stare at her as the sun began to rise, yet still, in no places did their bodies touch.

Adrenalin fading, she shivered, even her teeth began to chatter.

Annette, her baby, and George were in the air on their way to a new home. Ancil was dead. The very Beta she had wronged and tried to save only hours ago was lying next to her naked body, staring….

All her focus had been spent on one task, and it had been achieved. It felt like her sorry grip was beginning to slip, and Brenya was about to fall down the side of the Dome again.

The hiccup came first, surprised her so much her hand flew up to cover her mouth. And then another, and another, until she was heaving from the effort of holding back.

The ugliest of cries broke free, one that had been growing inside her from the day Jacques Bernard had torn her in half. Brenya didn’t even understand when she had sat up to brace her elbows on bent knees, to hold her skull in place as the mess inside came out.

“Are you familiar with the concept of shock?”

Yes, she was. It was a common response to physical trauma. Yet even when she had fallen from the Dome, it had not manifested with so much noise.

The man moved a pillow, tucking it to her side. Then another, all the while saying, “I was given a report on your behaviors, yet thought it would be best to observe them for myself before concurring with an outside perspective and a dossier I had less than ten minutes to read. It is obvious that you have not been guided on how to be an Omega. Your dynamic was manipulated instead by a boy who lacks control and experience.”

Another pillow, the very one he had been sleeping on, was added to the pile that grew around her and between them.

“You do not understand the difference between a nest and a bed, nor were proper nesting materials made available to you.” The blanket was doubled over, Jules left with none, once it was folded over the circle of pillows. “It never occurred to you to ask me for them tonight.”

Slipping back against the softness, teeth chattering and unable to breathe through her nose, Brenya sank into the strange cocoon as if it might actually keep the Beta male away from her.

It didn’t even matter that the pressure against her stitches was uncomfortable and that everything smelled musty and unused.

The mattress shifted in such a way she knew, even buried under the bedding and unable to see, that he had moved away.

The offer was as stony as every other word she had ever heard the man speak. “Considering that I am your husband, it is appropriate for me to offer a purr.”

“No.” Purrs were unsettling in their ability to make mental switches short. Enough synapses were firing in her brain.

“Sleep. We can talk more after you have had a chance to rest and collect yourself.”

He didn’t seem like the sort of man who talked, but so long as he continued not to touch her, she would agree.

Sleep did come. It seemed like it never would, but it did.

Groggy and stiff, she woke to a bladder near bursting—still contained in the pillow construction.

The sun was in the exact same place in the morning sky it had been when she shut her eyes. But the Beta had moved from the bed. Lashes crusted, Brenya rubbed the sand away, blinking to see him making use of one of the many available plush chairs, working. Flipping through whatever data filled his COMscreen.

Without looking up, he acknowledged that he knew she was both awake and in need. “The bathroom is behind the panel to your right.”

Unsure how to slip from the bed without disturbing the circle of pillows, Brenya crept over them, toe pointed to find the floor.

The Beta did not look up.

“Clothing is on the counter. When you return, there is a pitcher of water waiting by the table with flowers. It will help with your headache. You’re not hungry, but you should eat as well.”

Jacques had never talked to her this way, in suggestions that did not linger with threat should she decide to refuse them.

Panel was literal, and not in a maintenance sense. One of the red-stained, shining portions of the wall had parted open like a door. It was a door, on hidden hinges that clicked shut when she tested it. And clicked again with a firmer push.

Swinging open, it displayed a bathing area. There was no sunken tub like the one in Jacques’ rooms. This one was above a tiled floor and had clawed feet like those of a gryphon. The windows were high atop the walls, small, and made from colored glass. The sun cast light like a prison over a large mirror surrounded in golden depictions of the Gods in their cherubic forms. That mirror, in turn, cast the light back to the opposite wall.

Calculating the angle of refraction was quick and comfortable. Marveling at the hidden details all over the room so distracting she almost forgot her body’s needs.

First, the toilet, then a shower… both moments done without any interruption. Not that Brenya did not watch the strange door, waiting for the Beta to intrude.

But he didn’t.

And as he said, there were clothes. Loose-fitting trousers that cinched with a simple string at her belly, and a shirt. Jules’ shirt from the smell of it.

Nothing chafed, though it was breezy and unfamiliar. Most of her was modestly covered aside from where the shirt parted at her throat.

She used his comb.

Brushed her teeth with the second, waiting toothbrush.

When all was done, she studied her cheek in the mirror. The yellow of iodine had faded between sleep and bathing, the skin pink and outlined on one side by a reddened scar and the other by ordinary bruises.

The patch on her neck had been removed before bathing, and Lucia had been right. With the abscess drained, there was finally a normal scab.

And every morning, it looked a little better.

He never touched her, though they shared space many hours of the day. The closest he came was his day-old shirt on her back each morning, and the bed they shared each night.

Though even that had become something that no longer looked like any bed she’d ever seen. It started with little additions he’d placed here or there. More blankets, extra pillows in a variety of colors beyond the red of the room.

Nothing was white.

The man only wore black. No embellishment, no embroidery, a stark opposite of what Brenya had seen in Central. Imagining him standing before Parliament in such pristine starkness, it was easy to see that the other men would look even more foolish beside the Beta who had taken power.

Brenya never left the room.

The first time he had, she had followed procedure upon his return. Arms around his neck after he entered, she’d asked which chair he might find most comfortable. When she had reached for the fastenings of his trousers, though he was obviously hard, he had taken her wrists and pulled her hands away.

He did not look pleased as he demanded, “What are you doing?”

What was she doing? Embarrassed and oddly insulted, she had given no answer. After all, she had clearly asked him that first night not to use her mouth while she had stitches… and he had not.

Throwing off her touch, the Beta walked away. “Go for a walk.”

“I’m sorry. A walk?”

“Leave the room, Brenya. Walk anywhere you want. You have your own guards waiting to escort you.”

“Anywhere I want?” It was a trick. It had to be a trick. The one and only walk she had taken since coming to Central had almost started a riot.

It was like he could read her mind. “Standard protocols have been put in place to move unmasked male populations away from areas Omegas want to stroll from noon until four. As you are my wife, and as I trust you not to abuse your people’s schedules, I expect that you will do your best not to inconvenience those who are working should you wish to leave the grounds at other hours.” Back to her, his voice barked a stiff, “Areas can be suggested for you to tour. No one will touch or bother you.”

She did not want to go.

Life had been somewhat palatable in the Red Room. The food had been simple, the hours had been quiet, and there had been no buzzing pliarator or bruising grip.

“Get out!”

Her skin might have been left behind she ran so fast. Throwing open the door, dressed only in his shirt and another pair of plain drawstring pants, she found the guards—biosuits, armed, reliant on canistered air—waiting.

“Greetings, Mrs. Havel.”

Before she might untie her tongue and form some kind of reply, a shot of pleasure spiked right between her legs. On a gasp, she put her weight against the door at her back and felt an uncorked wave of slick go right down her leg.

Lightning struck her spine, a tiny pool growing at her feet as electricity spread from leaking, empty cunt to every extremity.

Seconds away from blinding orgasm, fighting the urge to reach into her pants and ferociously rub her throbbing clitoris, Brenya pointed at a door across the hall. “What is in there?”

“Every room in this quadrant of the Palace is vacant.”

Perfect. She ran the short distance, throwing the door closed and locking it before any of the men might see her fall to her knees. The scream of her climax was trapped, Brenya having bit down on her forearm until she tasted blood.

Dazed when it was over, finding herself sprawled on hands and knees—fully presenting—she rolled to her back and panted at the ceiling.

Projections of this very fresco were available in the museums. The story of the Red Consumption and the lovers torn apart. Cloaked Death pulled naked women from their reaching men. Women from women. Men from men. No love had been spared.

Famous poets summed up this work, long dead yet still remembered.

And it was right here, in a vacant room where all the furnishings were draped to protect from dust and light.

Aftershocks still quivered between her thighs, her confusion blending with relief… and also humiliation. She knew she should not have left that room.

One look at Alpha guards and this is what became of her?

No wonder Jacques thought she enjoyed his attention.

A light knock came to the door. “Madame, the Commodore has suggested you return to your room and rest. He says you will not be disturbed for the remainder of the day.”

Why she laughed, Brenya didn’t know.

Jules was gone by the time she found the energy to peel her body from the soaked floor. Padding barefoot across the hall, she went right back to her home in the Red Room.

Bernard Dome’s new Commodore returned at dark, stern as he asked her to take a seat across from him.


The very look of Jules Havel was so intriguing that she stared right back.

Tension did not exist between them, even though it was neigh an hour before he broke the silence. “Whatever training you received from Jacques Bernard is not a performance I expect from you.”

“What do you expect me to perform?” So far, the only thing he had ordered her to do was walk, and that had not gone well.

“The Queen of Greth Dome has asked my permission to exchange letters with you. She is a kind woman and someone I respect. The first arrived today, along with pictures of a painting she is creating as a gift. I believe it would be appropriate for you to create a gift in return.”

Sweat prickled Brenya’s brow at his tone, Brenya’s thoughts darting to the slick-soaked pants she had stuffed into a crevice in the bathroom.

Without missing a beat, Jules Havel continued, “You have a skill for clockwork, I understand. You dropped a cog in my ship.”

It was she who broke their extended eye contact, glancing to the side while scenarios flipped through her conscious. Make a clock? From random pieces? Not just take one apart and put it back together. “Yes, I would very much like to make the Queen of Greth Dome a clock.”

Very much!

Little tools and gears. Hours focused on the minutia. There would be so many glorious mistakes.

Twitching fingers were already working imaginary bits and bobs. Ships were relatively big. It could be as tall as Jules. No! A small clock would be more difficult to calibrate. More fun!

“Then it is settled. Everything you need to sketch out schematics will be waiting for you in the room across the hall. That will be your workspace. The fabrication department will queue your request behind daily necessities and emergency work.”

“Can I start now?”

“No.” A male who had glared so ferociously the moment before almost smirked. “I find myself at a place in life where I understand the need for balance between work and pleasure.” Jules said that last word as if he didn’t fully understand it.

Pleasure? Clearly, he was ready for her to perform, Brenya already sliding to her knees to pleasure the man as she had been taught.

Shooting to his feet, Jules roared, “Get up and sit back in your chair!”

None of it had been intentional, yet she had ruined her chance to make a clock. Sadness crashed, the wave breaking apart the brittle excitement she’d known.

“Hear me, woman!” Grabbing the glittering vase of flowers that came each day when the breakfast cart was outside the door, Jules Havel threw it to smash into a cascading shower of glittering crystal. The window he had aimed for solid as it had ever been. “You are not permitted to touch me unless you want to!”

Her eyes stung, but she refused to ruin this further by crying… or speaking. Rapid nods were offered instead.

The man actually ran his fingers through his hair, mussing the short ends in a very human gesture. “It’s not your fault.”

“Sometimes, I see things inside you that suggest something I felt constantly from Jacques. You don’t touch me, but you want to. I want to build a clock.”

“Do you want me to touch you?”

He knew the answer was no. The question had been a reminder that she slept deeper and deeper inside her circle of pillows.

From anger to hunger to longing, brief flashes of emotion each differing in their taste, and each fleeting. Vanishing from Jules Havel’s mind as if they had never existed.

Their stare began again, only this time, the man seasoned it with words that she would never forget. “When you are ready, you will come to me, and though I promised once to hurt you, you have my word that I will not.”

Again, she was the one who broke their gaze, looking to the mess for something to do besides sit and grow warm.

When she moved to stand, he lifted a hand. “Don’t touch the glass. Your mind and body have enough to heal as it is.”

Three Alphas armed with a vacuum, floor wax, and a tray of simple food came and went in a blink.

Brenya ate gruel, smiling at the taste. The man drank something that stank of rotting tubing. And then they went to the separate ends of their bed.

In the dark, Brenya could have sworn Jacques touched her hair, shrieking as she roused from sleep to scrabble away before he might mount her.

The nest of pillows scattered, Brenya locking herself in the bathroom as if that trick might work.

She’d seen the man rip the door from his own lavatory. That didn’t stop her from bracing against the wood.

Jules’ voice came instead. “When you are ready to come out, there are matters we need to discuss.”

He did not sound angry. Glancing into the emptiness of him, the Beta was the same neutral calm as always. But Jacques, Jacques was scratching for attention just enough to bring gooseflesh on her body.

Minutes passed, and she felt more foolish. Jacques Bernard was not in the room. He hadn’t been any of the times she had jumped at shadows or thought she heard his purr.

Unlatching the door, she found the Beta rebuilding her nest. Shy, she went to help him, altering the placement of a few soft things for optimal structural support.

“When an Omega is parted from the person they share a pair-bond with, mental decline commences. Auditory hallucinations, physical reactions, nightmares.” The perfunctory way in which Jules said these things, it made it seem immaterial, manageable.

It felt no different than a supervisor outlining her duties for the day.

Handing her the last pillow to place wherever she wanted, he met her eye and took the fresh calm of the moment away. “Jacques Bernard has been under a medically induced coma, a feeding tube ensuring he receives optimal nutrition. However, this situation is unsustainable. It is clear to me that it would be in your best interest to have Jacques functioning.”

That was why the Alpha’s psyche had withdrawn like low tide. He was there, but he was quiet, and the idea of him crashing back in left Brenya shaking her head. “No.”

Jules Havel explained further, emotionless and unresponsive to her refusal. “There will be times you will be required to tolerate his presence. How often those moments arrive will depend on your reaction to his absence.”

Shaking her head more firmly, she clutched the last pillow to her chest. “No.”

“He will be assigned to tend Lucia through her pregnancy.”

Brenya didn’t know what that meant, and she didn’t care. “Please don’t give me back to Jacques Bernard!”

It looked like the Beta considered reaching out to touch her, wielding a firm voice instead of a soft touch. “You share a pair-bond with the Alpha. He will be an unavoidable nuisance for the rest of your life. But do not imagine that I would ever let him fuck you. You will never kneel again to take him in your mouth.”

When he gestured for her to climb into her nest, she did, retreating under the covers as if the whole night might go away.

Jules underestimated Jacques’ obsession if he imagined the Alpha would leave her alone.

A warm purr came from the Beta climbing into his side of the bed. An auditory caress that was so different than the purrs she experienced in the past.

Yet it worked the same; her eyes grew heavy, and the knot in her stomach loosened. A strange hum fell from her lips, Brenya floating on the cusp of sleep.

When the phantom touch came again, she didn’t scream.

She slept.

She woke, she dressed, she looked through the information the Queen of Greth Dome had organized for her. The final note was from Jules, informing her where she might find a space set up for her work.

Upon preparing for her day, her heel found a single missed shard of crystal. It burrowed in, cutting her foot as she padded dazed across the floor to the room she had discovered the day before. Tiny droplets of blood were left behind to soak into the wood.

She would not think of Jacques. She would think only of gears and what might be done with them.

Under the fresco, bathed in great light, simple supplies had been prepared for her. A drafting desk, paper, pencils, the tools of the trade for the life she had once lived.

Hours later, Jules pulled the shard from her heel, Brenya ignoring him as her pencil flew over a tilted desk.

Standing over her shoulder, near enough she could feel the heat of him, already saturated in the subtle scent of him, Brenya explained what he had not asked. How this clock would work.

She talked for ages, flipping through the pages she had drafted, her hair wild, her voice alive.

Everything was wonderful, until she felt his lips brush her hair.

The unnamable wave that had followed confused her.

Unsure if she even felt what she thought she had felt, the tickle on her scalp no different than any breeze, Brenya dropped her pencil. The sound it made as it rolled from her tilted desk to the floor was deafening.

“You were saying?”

“This part…” Had she really just called it a part? An integral piece of machinery was so much more than so rudimentary a title.

Male arms braced against the desk as he leaned forward to look. The heat of Jules’ body seeped into her as if they actually touched. “Yes?”

“I read the letter from Greth’s Queen. She sent me pictures of things I’ll need you to explain to me if you want me to understand the context enough to reply.”

She refused to lift her eyes from her draft but could swear the Beta was smiling. “Such as?”

“Jules… I am—” Brenya swallowed, working to keep her breath even. “—not sure this clock will be an equivalent to her painting.”

The man’s right hand lifted from the table, the edge of his fingertips running along her throat until they lightly traced the bite mark on her neck.

It was the growing tightness of her nipples that awakened her to the sound she had made. Snapping her head straight, she stood, her back hitting his chest, so she might circle the desk and move an appropriate distance away.

Her first thoughts were so random, so wrong, that she hated almost telling him to file a request for a mental hygiene visit. That after requisitions approved, she would have the formal paperwork stamped and he could have sex with her just as she had done with George.

Her second thoughts were of embarrassment—because, of course, she had imagined the touch. It had been nothing more than another hallucination.

And her third?

Her third was that she wished it had been real. That she wished he would order her to her knees.


Already growing limber, she leaned closer. “Yes?”

“I cannot join you for dinner tonight.”

“Oh.” She took a step away, unsure why she kept touching her hair. “Um.”

“It’s going to be a spectacular clock. Promise me you won’t stay up too late working on it.”

There was no way she was going to be able to work on it until this strange sensation had passed.

He left her.

Alone, the door barred from her side, her back to the floor and her eyes on the ceiling, Brenya looked upon the beautiful fresco of Red Consumption and let her hands stray where they would.

Left nipple pinched between her fingers, labia glistening as her hand touched a part of her that no longer hurt, she came.

The Gods had seen it all. Even the smile on her face.

On the other side of the door, a man groaned. As if he had been pressed against the wood listening to her touch herself.

As if he had shared her climax.

Gathering herself from the floor, cheeks flushed from more than just release, Brenya reached for the latch, only to shriek when a knock shook the wood before she might open the door.

An Alpha guard spoke through the wood. “Mrs. Havel. There has been an incident regarding Jacques Bernard. We are to return you to the Red Room and follow security procedure level five.”

The Red Room was less than ten meters away, but she had been rushed there as if her workspace across the hall were up in flames. When the door closed, it was barred.

It was an hour before Jules came. So much for their dinner apart. He said nothing as they ate plain fare, watching her.

She still felt strange, like he was waiting for her to acknowledge why it seemed so warm in the room. It wasn’t until a gasp left her lips and legs involuntarily parted under the table that Brenya went from cautious to frightened.

A knot was blooming, dumping wretched filth.

Shooting out from her chair, staring down at her lap, she found there was nothing there.

Just a small pool of slick she had not even realized had grown between her legs.

“Jacques is awake and, at my explicit order, currently knotting Lucia,” Jules began, watching her as she groaned from another unwelcome sensation. “A pregnant Omega who has lost or has been separated from her mate requires tending, or her child will abort. He cannot have you. Lucia has no one. It is the solution that benefits all parties… to a point… and will keep the Alpha distracted until he learns control.”

Jacques was coming again, Brenya catching her weight on the back of her chair, eyes rolling into her skull.

Whining as if the shrill noise might bring her relief, Brenya squeezed her thighs shut, hoping it would stop the waves of sensation and the churning gush of slick.

Jules sounded almost sorry. “He is your mate, Brenya. The pair-bond cannot be undone. For your own wellbeing, there will be times you must spend in his presence. Is it not better if he is sexually exhausted beforehand?”

“This is because of what I did today?” How she had touched her own body for relief.

“He did not respond well to your pleasure. Even partially sedated, he killed two of the medical team assigned with monitoring him before he could be restrained.” Standing from his chair, Jules Havel circled the table and came to her. “But, Brenya, it is your body, and you can do what you want with it. Jacques must learn this and perhaps find a purpose serving an Omega in need.”

A conflicting mess ate her up between climaxes, yet one emotion stood out against all others.


He had touched her over the table. That had been real!

Jules had known Jacques was awake… that all of this would happen as a result.

Those eyes that saw everything, that burned like the heart of the hottest blue flame, held no remorse.

Reaching out a hand, a man who had been very decent with her, became anything but. Voice pure hunger, Jules Havel purred, “It’s time, Brenya. Invite me into your nest.”


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