Will Franny choose to live or just to survive?
Hardship, pain, and strife describes life on Utopia, a mining colony far from Earth. Women are a rare commodity. When an alien trade ship arrives with a cargo containing a human woman, every man on Utopia shows up to bid. Three friends pool their funds in the hope they'll have a human woman in their beds to keep them warm on the long nights of the coming harsh winter.
Francesca Dehart suffered the terror of aliens abducting her from a country road. The horror of being kidnapped and then sold as a sex slave is beyond anything Franny has ever imagined. With no hope of being rescued she finds herself with a new definition of hell—Utopia.
Can Cade, Nebraska, and Dawson show Franny her new life is more than a prison? They need her, but will she stay with them or run at the first opportunity? Can they hold onto the woman they've grown to love and protect her from the others who will stop at nothing to have her?
Content Warning: graphic sexual content and multiple partners
"Captivated hooked me right away" - The Snarkology
"...it was a fun quick read" - Mary's Menage Reviews
"This book is well written and was surprisingly emotional. The struggles that the three men went through in having to share the woman they all loved was very realistic. The inhumane treatment of the inhabitants of the planet was heartwrenching. And the happy ending was enough to bring a smile to my face. The author did a great job of instilling a sense of complete hopelessness, then bringing sudden joy with…oh, wait. I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll just say that I enjoyed this story very much." - You Gotta Read Reviews
The reality of the danger put Franny's relationship with these men in an entirely different light. She needed them to want to keep her, to fall in love with her. Her protection demanded she seduce them, all of them. Franny felt sick. She wasn't into mind games, but she didn't want them tossing her out into the fray when they tired of her. Love was the only thing that could keep her from that fate.
If she resisted, eventually they'd decide to recoup the investment. It was common sense. Playing mind reader was dangerous, but these men weren't under the same social and moral constraints as the men of Earth. She saw the lust, and it was time to make a decision.
Franny put her hand on top of Dawson's and watched his eyes widen just a little before he glanced at the door and glared more fiercely. She could almost feel the barbaric change in him. He was going to keep the inquirers from becoming rapists with all of his might. Somewhere in her brain, in the primal part she thought she was too good for, she liked knowing he'd protect her.
Cade put his hand on the doorknob. "I'm goin' to count to three before I shoot. One…you still out there? Two."
"Fine, Cade. We're going, but if you change your mind, the offer stands. When you get sick of her, we'll pay good money for a turn."
"Do I have to say three?" Cade asked. There was no mistaking the anger in his tone.
There was a long pause. Cade gave Dawson a look, and then he opened the door a crack, sticking the riffle barrel outside. He looked out before he shut the massive slab and replaced the heavy bar again. Cade visibly sagged with relief. "They're gone," he said.
Franny relaxed, but she wasn't sure how long her security would last.
When there was another knock at the door, Cade's posture said he was ready to fight. "Who's there?"
"I'm back," Nebraska said.
Cade opened the door and Nebraska came inside. Cade went over to the stove. He stirred something that she assumed was the stew. She'd never seen a real woodstove in action before, and watched him with fascination. He grabbed a pan and added a little water. Nebraska went over to a small cupboard and took out bowls and wooden spoons. He looked fresh. His hair was damp, and he was wearing clean clothes.
Watching the males in this domestic setting, she could almost forget they'd bought her as if she wasn't a person. The room grew overly warm. She suspected they'd normally have had the shutters open, if not the door too. After the visitation, she understood why they didn't open everything up, but that didn't make it any cooler.
Cade took the antique basin from where he'd put it on the floor and poured the water in. He came over to her, holding the large, ornate porcelain bowl and a dingy rag. She flinched as he started wiping at her face, but then forced herself to hold still. She'd forgotten her head hurt until he disturbed the wound. His large hands awkwardly cleansed her face. His mouth was set and his eyes gazed at her with an intensity and focus that seemed to define this man.
He wasn't like any of the men back on Earth. He looked at her in a way that made her feel raw. His eyes bore into her soul. She bit her lip to keep from asking him why he was looking at her as he did. When he finished with her face, he started to wipe at the dried blood on her shoulder.
His touch was gentle. She didn't turn away from him, instead she let him touch her and found herself enjoying it. That fleeting desire burst into flame inside of her, and for the second time since her ordeal began, she found herself liking what he was doing.
"I…Thank you," she whispered softly.
His gaze met hers and a smile slowly curved his lips. "You're welcome, darlin'."
The endearment made her stomach feel funny. She hated that she liked the deep cadence of his voice. She detested how right his use of the generic sweet talk sounded. She should be trying to escape, not sitting there wanting him to act on his claim of ownership.