Authors: A. A. Dark,Alaska Angelini
I couldn’t stop pacing. I couldn’t stop running my fingers through my hair. To say I was a nervous wreck was an understatement. There was so much riding on this auction—on making Everleigh mine.
“Drink,” Bram snapped. “You act like you’re getting married. She’s just a damn slave.”
I took the glass he offered and downed it in one drink. “It’s bigger than marriage. There’s no divorce, and this purchase cost money. Lots of money. I don’t know how I’m ever going to repay you.”
Bram glanced over, but went back to staring mindlessly at the floor.
“You’ll give me what you can, when you have it.”
“You said Master Yahn offered you twelve million.
I offered you three. I have it, sitting in my bank, with still enough for me to feel comfortable with after I pay you. But do you know how long it’s going to take me to clear this debt? Never. Because I know come tonight, that twelve is going to be a fucking speck of dirt in the actual cost. It’ll soar, and I don’t have that kind of money. Everyone knows it. I’ll bid higher and higher, and they’ll know the truth.”
Bram’s eyes rose and he nodded. “That’s why I’m going to have to give you cap. If it goes over twenty, you stop. I will not match anything over that price. I can’t afford the kind of trouble that would stir.”
“So I’ll lose her?”
My stomach dropped and the nervousness rose. Had I thought I had this in the bag? That Everleigh was mine? She wasn’t. Not yet, and maybe never.
“You’ll lose her,” Bram confirmed. “I’m sorry.”
He turned, refilling his glass. All I could do was gaze at him while my mind blurred. I had to have her. I had to! I had changed everything around in my life so I could finally have something Bram never would. Now this …
“She doesn’t deserve to go to any of them. She deserves to be with me. To be happy.”
My voice was low, but Bram heard every word. He looked over, sighing. “If this place wasn’t my responsibility, I’d give you every cent I owned so the two of you could be happy.”
“Of course I would. West,” he paused and his brow creased. “West, there’s something I need to tell you. A lot actually. You and I, we’re in need of a serious talk.”
Knocking had his gaze going between me and the door. The pained expression only lasted for a moment before he shot forward to swing the barrier open.
“Master, everything’s ready. You can take your place.”
He nodded, turning back to me.
“What were you going to say?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing. Look at me, I can’t think because of you,” he laughed. “I’m sure you’re worried for no reason at all. I can’t see her going over fifteen million. You should be fine at a twenty cap. You can tell them you got an inheritance. It’ll all work out fine. You’ll have twenty-four-six-ninety, she’ll have you, and I’m sure the match will work out flawlessly.”
He grabbed his suit jacket from the back of the chair, sliding it over his broad shoulders. I finished the rest of my drink, grabbing my own. I felt sick. Everything rode on this auction. Everything. It had to go my way.
I glanced at my watch, buttoning the jacket before following him out. My mind raced and I knew what I had to do.
“I’ll see you down there. I need to go back to my quarters. I forgot something.”
Bram looked over his shoulder and I didn’t miss the way his eyes narrowed suspiciously and he leaned over whispering to his high leader. Instead of worrying over it, I focused on what I knew. He didn’t want me to have her. He did, but he wanted her for himself. He loved her. He’d want her too. If it wasn’t for his responsibility and the rules here, he’d be the one bidding. Luckily, the law prevented that from happening. That only left one person in my way.
I grabbed my phone, staying true to my word and heading toward my apartment. Eli answered on the first ring.
“Main Master would have my ass if he knew I had my phone on me while I was on duty.”
“Good thing you don’t give a shit. Listen, I need a favor.”
I pushed through my door, closing my eyes at the anger. “Master Yahn. I want him dead.”
A laugh echoed through. “How am I supposed to manage that? I’m stuck on guard outside of The Cradle. I can’t leave. If I do, he’ll see on the tapes and I’m dead. I don’t mind dying, but I ain’t doing it because of stupidity.”
He has to die.
He’s the only one who will outbid me. I can’t let that happen.”
There was a pause on the other end and the breathing was the only thing that let me know Eli was still there.
“Listen, there might be another way. You can’t go to our barracks because that would be suspicious, but maybe I could run there real quick.”
“Poison. I confiscated some awhile back from a slave. Her master kept getting sick and he had his suspicions. I kept it after he murdered her. You don’t have to kill Master Yahn, but you
make him miss the auction.”
A smile stretched across my face. “Of course. Perfect. Where will you put it?”
“I have break soon. While I’m eating dinner, you can come see me. After all, it’s auction night. You’ll want to pass some time talking with a friend to drown out the nervousness.”
“You’re a fucking genius.”
“I know. Give me fifteen minutes and then head my way. I’ll see you soon.”
The auction room was packed, seating the richest around the top of the circular room. Their luxury booths were doused with red velvet and gold chairs. Matching curtains hung from the top to close them off if they wished not to be seen. Waiters delivered drinks of their choice and the trays the slaves held were filled with the finest delicacies. The room was a buzz of voices. Everyone wore their expensive suits and the slaves attending with their masters looked more suited for the red carpet than an auction of human boys and girls.
I nodded to Bram who was a few feet away. He was speaking with a few of the masters in the center of the room and although he appeared invested in the conversation, I knew he didn’t want to be there.
A girl in deep burgundy chiffon, the required color for attendants, swept by with her tray and I waved her away. Food wasn’t what I wanted. I gestured over to a boy, grabbing a glass of champagne as I let my stare rise to the upper level. Master Yahn was already in his lavish booth. The slaves weren’t present yet, but it wouldn’t be long before they started
. The process would begin in maybe half an hour, but I was in no rush. The poison was already in the right hands, ready for Master Yahn’s cup when the time came.
The loud voice had me turning. I smiled and held out my free hand to one of the main masters—Bram’s second.
“Master Kunken. Pleasure to see you here, tonight. In the market for a new slave already?”
He let out a laugh and his large belly shook as our hands embraced. The need to draw back from touching him was automatic. Lord only knew the last time he’d been elbows deep in blood—in body parts as he prepared his newest meal. “I’m on the fence. We’ll see if there’s one that catches my eye.”
“There’s a few you might be interested in. There’s quite the selection this time.”
“What about you. Any grab your attention?”
My head tilted and I shrugged. “You can say that.”
“Well, now. I knew we’d win you before it was over with. I better take my seat. My detail tells me the march will start soon.”
“Yes. It won’t be long now. Happy bidding.”
I turned, heading for Bram as a few of the masters walked away.
“How you doing?”
He threw me a look, adjusting his tie as he glanced around. “I could be better. It’s not looking good for you, West.”
“What do you mean?”
“Word has gotten around about twenty-four-six-ninety. I know what they’re after.”
I paused in surprise. “What’s that?”
Bram’s hand placed in the middle of my back as he led me closer to the small stage in the middle of the large room. “Apparently her master left her everything. She’s filthy rich. Men are willing to pay a hell of a lot of money to get her inheritance. And it’s all under the table, so to speak. Master Vicolette made sure of that. What I want to know is why I haven’t been contacted yet. I’m sure it’s coming.”
,” I growled out. “What did you tell them?”
“I pretended to know something. It would have been stupid not to. I said I was aware of everything concerning slave twenty-four-six-ninety, and that the details were disclosed. I wouldn’t admit, nor deny it. Dammit. I didn’t expect this.” Bram wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued to take in the people crowding in. “Money makes animals of us all. Although it may not sway some, others see her as an investment. They’ll be willing to spend a fortune if they think they’re getting a return.”
“So you think Master Yahn knew this?”
“Definitely. Supposedly, he and her old master share the same lawyer. Of course, it’s outside of our firm or else I would have been prepared. Now I’m left this mess.” Bram paused. “He’s not the only one who knows. Word is out, but there’s one person who may have Yahn beat. The master wants her badly enough. He told me, himself, not minutes ago.”
Bram glanced to the right and I followed his stare. “Master O’Farrell?”
“Great. Just what I need.” Once again my stomach twisted. Had I thought I had this under control? “He’s a fucking actor. He’s too high profile. How does he plan to get access to her funds?”
“From what I was told, he’ll be able to with the way it was set up. Master Vicolette wanted her taken care of. He said enough to me when he was asking over legal advice a while back. The only thing in our favor is that so far this is a rumor. They may not want to risk the money without knowing the truth.” He paused, watching as a guard signaled. “Go to your booth, West. It’s time. Let this night start so it can be over with already.”
… it was only beginning. The news on Everleigh should have made me fear losing her even more, but it didn’t. I’d have her
her money, even if I had to kill everyone in my path to eventually make it so.
Who was the woman before me? The one who’s dark hair was twisted back elegantly? The one who’s face was done in the most amazing shades of make-up? She looked like a version of me, but I didn’t know her. She was beyond beautiful. She was to die for. Or maybe it was the drugs pumping through my system that had me ready to fuck my own self.
A long sigh left me as I continued to stare into the mirror. Fingers tracing down my neck had me slowly looking up. I met Julie’s eyes and she lowered next to my face to stare back at my reflection.
“I think this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I feel so good. Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.”
I didn’t return her smile or enthusiasm. Even drugs couldn’t numb out the reality of what I knew would happen once we started our march.
“I keep thinking about what you said. There will be famous people here.
I wonder who it will be? Do you think I’ve heard of them?”
“I don’t know. Have you heard of Rob Blaze? He’s a master here.”
Julie’s eyes went wide and I could tell the expression was delayed. Her drugs were starting to kick in, too. “Rob Blaze? No way.”
“You don’t want him as a master.”
“Fuck if I don’t. Rob Blaze?! He can do whatever he wants to me. I don’t care. I want him to pick me. I
My head shook at her naivety. Why were looks or fame so important to people? And Julie wasn’t the only one. They all were. Everyone was so ready to bleed for love. They wouldn’t be staring up at their masters with adoration when he began peeling back their skin.
My pulse jumped, hitting with the force of a cannon. It faded out as everything began to blur back together. Julie was calming, too. We were turning into zombies with each second that past and I was happy for it. I knew what was coming. I knew how we were about to be paraded before everyone and sampled like a fucking buffet. Well, the virgins wouldn’t have it as bad as me and Julie, but none of us escaped the greedy grip of the sadistic rich.
Julie’s hand came back and I took it as we headed through the door. Instinct had me jerking to a stop at the sight. Virgins stood in line for as far as I could see. The truth was sickening. In a sea of white silk chiffon, I was the beacon that screamed to the monsters for notice. I was the cheap—the impure—the expendable.
She was going to have it so much worse than I was. For some odd reason masters wanted me, but her …
“Julie,” I said louder, pulling her to face me.
“Slave,” a male voice yelled. “Get in formation.”
“Julie please, listen to me. Keep your head down. Don’t …” I trailed off as I tried to put thoughts together. I was fading into haziness … and my fear was disappearing.
The line began to move and I knew I had to keep saying something, but the more worked up I became, the stronger the drug pulled me under. My head swayed and I blinked rapidly through the vertigo. A hand of one of the guards clamped on my shoulder and stayed there as we headed toward the large opening ahead.
Voices grew louder and clapping became deafening as one-by-one we poured into the brightly lit center. The opened space before the stage slowly began to fill up as each slave stood, making a long row. When it reached the end, another row began to form. Being the last slave, I stood at the opening, watching in a fog as men began to come down the aisles.
“Come, slave. Try to be steady.”
I reached for Julie as her fingers broke away and she began walking. Back and forth I went from her to the man who was holding to me. Whatever I meant to tell her escaped my mind as I stayed focused on eyes that stared at me as if they held every secret of the world. “You’re kinder than the others.” I looked up at the familiar guard. “I know … you.”
He laughed under his breath. “You do. I’m the high leader, Lyle.”
“Yes,” I barely managed to get out. “I remember. I’m … not well.”
“I know. Mr. Whitlock made sure you’d be taken care of tonight. Your oil is special. Stronger than the others.”
Blinking began to feel like a chore. Lyle pulled me along and I couldn’t comprehend how I was walking. We neared the stage and I looked up, catching Bram’s worried expression. He was studying my every move, but I could barely lean my head back to look at him.
“I’m going to leave you for a little bit, slave. Stand here and be as still as possible. Whatever anyone does, ignore it.”
I tried to speak, but nothing left my mouth. He stepped back and it was as if I’d only blinked before men were suddenly all around me. In me. My head did a hard jerked and I looked down to see a younger man’s hand between my legs. Instinct screamed for me to run, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t even sure how I was managing to stand.
“Fuck, she’s tight. Mmm. Let’s see what’s under her dress.”
My shoulder drew back while more than one pair of hands removed my scarf and the straps of my dress. I could feel myself breathing faster—so fast that I was sure I was going to pass out. Screams echoed around the room and I tried to turn, to do something, but the hands wouldn’t let me. They were pulling at my nipples and forcing themselves inside of me.
“What’s the matter, slave? Remember me?” Deep laughter left my head swaying back as I took in Master Pollock’s face. “There we go. Yeah, you remember. You scared?” His teeth snapped at me and a sound escaped my mouth. I managed to sidestep away or maybe I was being pulled? “You’re so terrified of what I can do to you. Wait until you see what I make you do to yourself. You’re going to be begging me to kill you before it’s over with.”
Pressure on my arm jerked me in the opposite direction and heated voices blended in with the rest of buzzing.
“Master?” The word left my mouth without warning and it didn’t stop. My bottom lip was trembling as I searched around me for a familiar face. “Master? Master?”
“Hold her still, dammit.”
Fingers dug into my thighs so roughly that it made my entire body jerk from pain. The action elicited a scream so deep from within that drugged or not, I was suddenly thrashing against them. A man’s face buried in my most intimate area and I screamed even louder for my master as he sucked and pushed his tongue inside of me.
“Enough! This is an auction, not a free-for-all. You are men, not animals, act like it or the next person who gets out of line will have their right to bid revoked!”
An arm was suddenly around my waist, pulling me back from the crowd. I couldn’t stop the sobs that left me as he turned me into his chest. A black chest. A uniform.
“It’s okay. Shh.” The voice whispered. “Did you not hear Mr. Whitlock?! Back! One at a time.” The voice lowered again as he came up next to my ear. “Almost done. Stand tall, slave. Don’t let them see your fear.”
Lyle righted me and I tried to stop the sobs from leaving me, but I couldn’t. I had no control over them or the one word that kept leaving me.
“Master!” Sobs shook me and the room blurred as I looked around lost. “Master? Master!”
“Jesus.” A man shoved through the others, picking up my clothes from the ground before rushing up to me. The anger on his face was evident, but it didn’t scare me.
I knew him. I was safe with him.
“Mr. Harper?” More sobs came as he took his position behind me, next to the guard. Both of their hands settled on each bicep, holding me up, and I swallowed back the need to become ill. A man walked forward and I closed my eyes as his hands ran down my body, caressing and poking into the sides of my stomach. When they forced my thighs apart my body trembled uncontrollably. Fingers stretched me wide and I jerked my head toward West, trying my hardest to bury my face into him so I could disappear from what was happening.
Mr. Harper’s voice boomed from behind me, carrying authority and rage. Each man touched and some even slid their fingers back inside of me. Numbness may have been a veil over my emotions and actions, but the hate and violation I experienced couldn’t be desensitized. With each master, it grew, festering.
I brushed away the strands of hair that had escaped, and sniffled. The tears were long gone. My back stayed straight and I tried my hardest to memorize each face that came forward. Some I knew, other I didn’t. Regardless, I’d remember ... if it was the last thing I did.
“The time has come. Slaves, leave us. High Leader.”
All but the first who had come in began to file out. Lyle’s hold disappeared and I waited as Mr. Harper helped me dress and excused himself. My head turned and I stared back at Bram and the guard talking, projecting the betrayal and rage I felt toward him. He was looking at me and I wasn’t sure what I saw, or what he was telling the guard. The stoic expression revealed nothing with how foggy my mind still was.
Lyle returned, grasping my arm. “Let’s go, slave.”
My legs were like lead as I began walking. My steps staggered, but my limbs were working a little better than before. I broke into the aisle, meeting the eyes of a man who’d ran his hands over my body. He was younger and unbelievably attractive, but that only made me hate him even more.
“Who is that,” I asked, glimpsing up to Lyle.
“That’s Master O’Farrell. He’s a big actor. If I was a betting man, my money would be on him for winning the bid on you.”
My fist clenched and I lifted my head higher as I broke my connection with the master. “Why him?”
“You’re worth a fortune and they all know it. Why do you think they behaved as they did?”
I tripped at his words, stumbling before Lyle’s grip caught me.
“What do you mean? Worth a fortune. How?”
He paused, looking around before leading me a little further down. “Main Master just informed me that your old master left you an inheritance. Your new master will have control over the funds.”
“Will I … have access?” I rushed out.
His head nodded. “Possibly.”
“If I do, will you help me when the time comes? Will you help me escape?”
The surprise on his face only lasted seconds before it hardened. “I’m loyal to my Master. Don’t ever ask me or anyone else that again or you’ll leave me no choice but to report you for bribery. You know the cost for that.” His face lost anger as he paused, leading me further back. “Luckily for you, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about that. Mr. Whitlock wanted me to pass you a message. One, I think you’re going to be thanking him for later. Prepare yourself. He wants you up next. He wants this over with.”