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Chapter 1

Sam bent over the bathroom counter and stared at the readout with disbelief. She'd been so sure this time. She was three days late, and she was never late. With a huff of frustration, she threw the device onto the counter, cracking its plastic housing in the process. Dammit! It didn't make any sense. After all, she was still young, in top physical shape -- just like all Golds -- and had been tested repeatedly. Everything was normal. Yet they'd been trying for four years now, and she still wasn't pregnant.

Jonas was going to be furious.

No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than the man himself spoke behind her, his tone clipped. "I assume that's not good news?"

She nearly jumped out of her skin. He was home a full week earlier than expected, and she'd had no idea he was there. Taking a deep breath, she tried to calm her racing heart and wondered when exactly her husband had started making her so nervous. Of course, she already knew the answer: when it became clear that his goal of fathering a dozen sons with her wasn't going as planned.

Jonas Hanson currently controlled all major metals and plastics plants in the Americas and Asia, making him one of the most powerful men on Earth. Over the past several years, he had also become exceedingly wealthy, mostly by demanding exorbitant prices on manufactured goods from the dependent Luna and Mars colonies, as well as the less fortunate areas of Earth.

He'd inherited the business from his father three years ago when he and his eldest son Mikal, Jonas' older brother, had died in a fiery plant explosion. Since then, the rumors surrounding the cause of the accident and Jonas' rise to power had swirled. At first, Sam had refused to believe that her husband had anything to do with his family's demise, but as the years passed and he grew increasingly cruel and unpredictable, she couldn't help but think there might be some truth to the stories.

Sam's own estranged father, who owned a small mining facility on Luna, had been more than happy to arrange her marriage into Jonas' more influential family. Though she sometimes blamed her father for her current troubles, she doubted four years ago he fully understood what kind of man Jonas was. She wondered if he knew now. Probably not, since she hadn't spoken to him since the wedding. And frankly, in the beginning, even she was fooled.

During the first several months of their marriage, she found her new husband rather charming. Even when it became apparent that she wasn't going to conceive as quickly as he hoped, he was kind, assuring her that these things just took time. But once he took over the family business, the need to produce strong heirs who could defend their position as one of the preeminent families of Earth had become urgent. And now, in their fourth year of marriage, his patience was clearly running thin.

With an irritated huff, he suddenly shifted behind her, and she realized that she had not yet answered his question. Keeping her voice even and trying not to display the emotions he'd come to loathe, she said simply, "It's negative."

"I see," he responded coldly. Sam reluctantly turned to face her husband. The vein on his temple was throbbing, and she knew that he was barely containing his anger. He didn't like things he couldn't control, and her inability to conceive was at the top of that list. "When will you be ready?"

She bristled. Ready to try again, he meant. It was always the same. Each month, he forced her to monitor her hormone levels and keep detailed notes on her cycle so that they could schedule their relations for the optimal chance at conception. As though she were some kind of brood mare.

"Two weeks."

He frowned and turned to leave. "Let's hope I'm here then," he said, as he walked out of the bathroom without sparing her a second glance.

She let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding and silently hoped he wasn't. If she didn't so desperately want to get pregnant, she'd be happy to stop sleeping with him altogether. Sex with Jonas had never been enjoyable and was increasingly unpleasant.

Although she was young and inexperienced when they first married, she'd been eager to learn from new husband. But even in the early days, he would often leave her unsatisfied, entering her before she was ready and finishing far too quickly. Once when they were together, she had instinctively put her fingers on her own body, only to have him slap her hand away furiously, explaining that sort of thing was beneath her, that it would make her no better than a filthy Pink. His attitude was more than a little ironic; she knew for a fact he didn't have any trouble sharing his bed with plenty of that color, especially these days. But at the time, she'd been mortified. The memory still made the blush rise on her cheeks. Needless to say, she'd never tried that again.

With one move she swept the remnants of the broken pregnancy test into the trash, checked her appearance in the mirror, and left the bathroom in search of her husband. Though normally she'd try to avoid him after the type of exchange they'd just had, his unexpected return meant that her plans for traveling to the University that day were ruined. As such trips were the highlight of her days at the moment, she needed to know when he was leaving again so she could reschedule as soon as possible.

She wandered the halls of their home, trying to figure out where Jonas had gone. Not surprisingly it took a while to find him, given the size of the place. Their huge, white marble house had been built over 500 years ago, in the late 1800s, and was situated on several acres of a densely treed estate. Technically, it was registered as a "historical manor" by the Early Earth Society, and Sam absolutely loathed it. It was simply too big, too ornate, and too old for her liking. Though the grounds were beautiful and their staff of Browns catered to her every need, she couldn't help but think of it as a prison of sorts, isolated as it was a good 50 miles outside of the city.

As Sam rounded the corner toward Jonas' large, wood-paneled office, she ran straight into Teal'c, the giant Obsidian who led her husband's security forces. She gasped and immediately tried to back away, but he simply gave her a solemn nod before stepping around her, leaving her alone in the hallway, her heart pounding. She had only met the dark warrior once before, on Jonas' flagship, and he had terrified her then just as he terrified her now. The fact that he was there at their home meant something was definitely wrong.

She had little time to dwell on the meaning of his presence, however, because as soon as she entered Jonas' office she caught Samuels, her husband's chief administrator, looking her up and down with a distinct air of distaste. She considered rebuking him, to put him in his place as the little, little man has was. After all, a Copper had no standing to judge a Gold, even if she was clearly under her husband's thumb. Unfortunately, her husband adored his personal bootlicker, and so she simply narrowed her eyes at him instead, causing him to quickly turn his attention back to the tablet in his hand.

She addressed her husband, who was sitting behind his antique mahogany desk. "You came home early."

"Yes," he replied without looking up from his papers. "We ran into some trouble." She waited a full minute for him to elaborate. He gave an irritated sigh, put down his pen, and looked up at her over steepled fingers. "The uprising on Mars has emboldened some of our own Reds. Our transport was attacked on the way to the Asteroid Belt and we were forced to return to Earth earlier than anticipated."

It took a moment for her to process what he was telling her. She'd heard of the uprising on Mars, of course, but she was under the impression it was an isolated event. If the Reds were in full revolt, then there was no doubt Jonas would be a target. With some surprise, she realized that she wasn't sure how she felt about that. In any event, it certainly explained the presence of his chief Obsidian here.

Jonas continued. "It has become increasingly dangerous to travel, Samantha." She furrowed her brow at the use of her full name, one of his many habits she despised. "Still, I must leave again immediately." He stood then and walked around the desk to place his hands on her shoulders in what he likely assumed was a comforting gesture. She tried her best not to flinch. "I want you to stay here while I'm gone."

Her reaction was immediate, and the words were out of her mouth before the thought was even fully formed. "I won't be a prisoner in my own home, Jonas."

His eyes flashed, and Sam saw his face begin to flush in anger. He wasn't used to this type of defiance. "Don't argue with me, Samantha!" he snapped, before taking a deep breath and visibly trying to calm himself. He gave her a smile with absolutely no humor in it. "It's for your own safety, darling. Besides, there's nothing in the city for a Gold to concern herself with anyway." He waved a dismissive hand in the air. "Let the Browns do the shopping."

"Shall I cancel your transport to the University, then?" Samuels asked, looking decidedly smug, and Sam stifled a gasp as her husband's eyes shot to hers.

The University was the one place she felt completely comfortable, a place where she could do research in real books and spend hours debating the finer points of astrophysics with the professors there. Jonas, however, despised all Yellows and found it personally offensive that she enjoyed spending so much time in their domain. As a result, he'd forbidden her from going to the University, and she now had to plan her visits to coincide with his absences.

As for Samuels, she wasn't sure how he knew about her trip, but she was certain the smarmy bastard knew exactly what he was doing to her marriage.

Jonas cocked his head at her and gave her a half smile, as he picked up a tumbler of scotch from his desk and took a long sip. "You were going to the University, Samantha?" He spoke with a false calm and sickly sweet voice that made the hairs on the back of her neck rise.

She didn't know exactly what came over her, other than the fact that she had grown weary of her husband's arbitrary rules and had no desire to allow Samuels to think he'd gotten the better of her. She ignored the warning bells going off in her head and held her chin up high. "I still am."

Suddenly, Jonas threw the crystal glass he was holding across the room, where in broke into a million pieces on the floor, startling her and Samuels both. "I will not have you acting like a common Yellow, Samantha!" He screamed in her face. He took two steps closer, intentionally invading her personal space, and lowered his voice to a threatening timbre. "Now, you will stay here while I am gone, or so help me, I will leave you with nothing, and you can make a living scrubbing toilets for the academics you seem to love so well!"

"At least then I wouldn't have to waste my life away here!" she immediately spat back at him, and she knew as soon as she said it that she'd taken a step too far.

Without warning, he backhanded her, and she stumbled backwards. Despite his rumored proclivity toward violence, it was the first time he'd ever actually struck her, and she was completely stunned. Even Samuels managed to look shocked before he quickly excused himself and scurried from the room.

As she raised a shaking hand to her cheekbone, she felt the tears well up, but she resolutely refused to cry. She turned to leave, but he grabbed her upper arms and spun her around to face him. The fevered look in his eyes unnerved her. He was wild, out of control. He tightened his grip on her arms, and she knew there would be bruises there to match the one rising on her cheek tomorrow.

For a moment, she was certain that he was going to strike her again, but then he seemed to catch himself. Slowly, he eased his hold on her. "I'm only doing this for your own good, Samantha," he said, almost desperately. "I love you. You mean the world to me. All I want is to keep you safe." With a quick kiss to her forehead, he released her and swiftly exited the room.

It was only then that she began to shake uncontrollably. She sank to the floor. Clearly, going to the University that day was out of the question. But she couldn't help but wonder if wasn't riskier to stay there in the house with him.


That night she went to bed early hoping to avoid him, but when she woke up almost eight hours later, she realized that he'd never come back to their bedroom. She suspected that he'd called a Pink to keep him company instead. It wouldn't have been the first time. Though she should have been upset at his infidelity, in truth she was grateful.

Throwing the cover aside, she got out of bed and made her way to the bathroom to freshen up and change her clothes. She checked on the bruise blooming in a magnificent shade of purple on her cheek and tried to cover it with some makeup.

Sure enough when she exited her bedroom, she spotted a scantily-clad Pink leaving one of the spare rooms. With warped interest, she studied the woman as she made her way down the hallway, hips swaying seductively side to side.

She was everything Sam was not. Like all Golds, Sam was tall and blonde and classically beautiful; this woman was dark-haired, exotic, and built to please. She was also clearly Jonas's new favorite. After all, it wasn't the first time Sam had found her in their house. She realized with some surprise that she even knew her name -- Vala -- though she had no idea how she knew that.

The woman looked over her shoulder at Sam, and they briefly made eye contact. Sam couldn't be certain but she thought for a moment that the Pink actually winked at her. Before she had time to process that particular offense, the woman had turned the corner, undoubtedly on her way out of the house to meet the transport that Jonas had arranged.

Shaking her head, Sam made her way to the kitchen in search of coffee, where she unexpectedly ran into Jonas sitting at the breakfast table, reading his tablet. Samuels was there, too, accompanied by a man she'd never seen before. His slightly militaristic bearing made her think he was probably a Gray. For a moment, she wondered if someone had called the police after hearing their argument the day before.

But, no, Jonas was in a fine mood, and he called her over as though nothing had happened. She approached him cautiously, and he smirked at her. "As we discussed yesterday, Samantha, things have become somewhat dangerous. As a result," he motioned toward the new man, "I've had Samuels arrange a bodyguard for you. He's to stay with you at all times, especially when I'm away." Her horror must have shown on her face because he quickly added, in a self-satisfied tone, "Consider it a compromise, darling. You may occasionally leave the estate, but he will accompany you wherever you go."

Furiously, she gave the stranger the once over. He was taller than her husband, slightly older, and admittedly quite handsome, though the cool way he was assessing her immediately put her off. After all, there was only one reason Jonas had hired him, and that was to spy on her. It was an outrage.

While she continued to glare at the man, the tension in the room grew. "My goodness," her husband said with a chuckle, "apparently, we've all forgotten our manners." He gestured toward the stranger again. "Samantha, allow me to introduce Jack O'Neill."