She could feel the metal floor of her cage rough against her side as she moved her to push herself up. Opening her eyes, she blinked as the lights turned on and rubbed her sleepy face. She stretched as much as she was able to in the small space, gaining a little room by stretching her hands up through the bars above her head. She heard heavy footsteps and Keeper Michael’s face suddenly appeared above her cage, “Get into position!” She scrambled into position as quickly and quietly as she could: she pulled her knees under her and sat on her heels, hands palms-down on her thighs, her back straight and tall but her head turned down. The keeper would have been a relatively attractive man, if not for the joy he found in inflicting pain upon her. The last way she wanted to start her night was by displeasing Keeper Michael.
Despite her efforts, she quickly discovered Keeper Michael was already in a mood. He flung open the top of her cage, grabbed a handful of her long, tangled platinum blond hair and pulled her up by it. She gritted her teeth to keep from crying out; it would only encourage him. He thrust his face into hers, “You’re lucky Master Victor has a special guest tonight, otherwise your ass would be mine.” He pinched her nipple cruelly, twisting it just to see her face in pain, “You better hope you please this guest, because I will love to dish out your punishment if you don’t satisfy.”
He pulled her out of her cage and set her on her feet. She fell in with the other girls—each now free from their cages—headed to the dressing room. In the dressing room, she quickly grabbed a brush to get started on her hair. Since it was long all the way down her back, it took forever to comb all the way through. While she brushed, she walked up and down the long rack of dresses. Keeper Michael had actually done her favor by at least revealing that she needed to impress tonight. She picked a floor length fitted silver gown with a halter top and a slit that came obscenely high up the right side. She wished she had more time to do her hair, but a good combing was all she would be able to do.
She grabbed a simple silver necklace and quickly put on her make up. She dashed over to the opposite door in the dressing room, among the first several girls to finish. It always paid off to get to the door quickly, because the steward was chatty and always willing to help out the girls by giving them the scoop on their nightly plans. He saw her dash up and grabbed her hand to pull her closer, “I’m glad you finished quickly tonight! I’m supposed to actually take you out early. Master Victor’s guest is meeting alone with him before the main gathering—some business deal—and he wants to personally hand you off. You ready?”
She nodded and let him pull her by the hand out into the hallway. “Good choice with the dress tonight,” he pulled her close and put her hand on his elbow like she was his escort, “I don’t know who this guy is, but everyone’s been buzzing about him all day. He’s got to be someone big. You look sexy, but classy.” He smiled at her, “You’ll do fine.”
Wishing the steward’s words were enough to soothe her nerves, she took a deep breath as they reached the double doors to Master Victor’s office. She tipped her head down to look at the floor and squeezed the steward’s hand to let him know she was ready to go in. He opened one door and led her inside.
“Ah, my steward has arrived,” she heard Master Victor say, and the steward led her into the spacious room. “I wanted you to have access to your own girl tonight. She is one of my prettiest girls, and she is yours for the evening. You may do anything you like with her. She will please you, and please let me know if she does not.” As he said the last sentence, she felt him turn toward her. She could hear the threat in his voice.
The steward squeezed her hand and then stepped back from her leaving her by herself in the middle of the open office. She saw an unfamiliar pair of shoes step into her field of view; they were black and probably the shiniest pair of shoes she’d ever seen. She locked her knees to keep them from trembling.
“I’m Master Tristan.” His voice came from above her head, and it was deep and rich. She found herself wishing he would say something else just so she could hear it again. She saw a hand reach out to her, and she prepared herself for his touch between her legs or on her breast. However, his hand continued up to her face. Before she realized what he was doing, he gently gripped her chin and lifted her head.
As he was standing directly over her, he had to tip her head back to see her face, and his face was all she could see. She almost felt more nervous now that she was actually looking at him. His thick black hair was very carefully styled and had a slight shine to it. He had heavy black brows to match his hair, but they were perfectly trim. His dark brown eyes examined her, but they gave nothing away. His face was stern and stoic. She began to fear he was already displeased with her, but his hand stayed gentle on her chin. After a moment that felt much longer he spoke again, “Please don’t keep your face downward this evening. I like to see my girls enjoy themselves.” Master Victor huffed in disapproval from behind Master Tristan, but he said nothing.
Master Tristan took her hand and like the steward tucked it around his elbow. He said to Master Victor, “Shall we join the gathering? We can finished discussing the details of our agreement after.”
“A very good idea, Master Tristan. I, for one, could certainly use a drink.”
* * *
They entered the great room where Master Victor had all his gatherings. It was a large, grand room littered with chairs, couches and small tables to hold drinks. The bar sat in the far corner of the room, doling out drinks to guests. The room was filled with men: men in suits and tuxes, they stood and sat in groups around the room laughing, talking business or simply enjoying their drinks or cigars. The scene was familiar to her, but it felt very odd to be the only girl in the room.
Master Tristan kept her on his arm, but she couldn’t tell if it was for her protection or his comfort. He seemed to know everyone there. They moved as a couple from group to group, Master Tristan easily joining each group for a short amount of time and moving on to the next. She noticed that he was not a boisterous man; his stoic face was just part of a stern personality, but he was not unkind and even his low laugh seemed genuine.
After a bit, Master Victor stood up to make his usual announcement. She realized she had never seen him make the announcement, only heard it from the other side of the door. “Gentlemen! It is that time in the evening we have all been waiting for: let the girls enter!” He gestured grandly to the wide double doors behind him at the head of the grand room. At his gesture, both doors opened and a crowd of girls with their heads bowed stood behind them and began to enter the room.
As they entered the room, men began to pick girls from the crowd and escort them to chairs around the room or through thin doors that lined the long walls of the grand room. The doors blended into the pillars and art along the walls, so that you had to know what you were looking for to find them. She knew that behind each door lay a small bedroom. The rooms were designed for slipping out of the gathering to conduct a different kind of business and slipping back in without much notice.
Master Tristan turned to her, “I realized we do not have drinks yet. Would you like one?” She nodded, happy that he asked. More often than not the men were too preoccupied with having their own needs met by the girls that they rarely thought to offer them drinks. He guided her to the bar and ordered a scotch for himself and a mimosa for her.
As they sipped their drinks and visited with a few more groups, she realized that for possibly the first time she was having fun at a gathering. She found herself smiling at jokes, listening to conversations, and she completely forgot to dread entering one of the thin doors that lined the room. A few girls had regulars that looked for them, but most girls—like herself—had to just cross their fingers that they were scooped up by one of the good ones, or at least just not by one of the really bad ones. Most of the men seemed to want to have their way with a girl and get back to the gathering; but some seemed to be there just to pick a girl to torment for the evening. Master Victor prided himself on being one of the few Masters who imposed very few rules over the use of his girls. As long as it didn’t leave any permanent marks, just about anything was allowed.
This was why when Master Tristan disengaged himself from a group and leaned down to her to say, “Let’s go take a break,” her heart fell into her stomach and she had to tighten her grip on his arm to keep her hands from shaking. She had no idea what to expect from this enigmatic man. Now that they were headed toward one of the thin doors, she was noticing for the first time how large his hands were and how muscular his arms seemed beneath his tuxedo jacket under her hands. This man could very much hurt her if he chose to.
They slipped through a thin door near the back of the room, and she stepped onto thick white carpet. The room was not very large, but there was plenty of room to move around a king sized bed covered with white sheets and white pillows in the middle of the room. A small dressing table and chair sat in the near corner with a short rack for hanging clothes.
Out of sheer habit, she moved to the middle of the room and bowed her head. She could hear Master Tristan move around behind her, and she felt his hand on the side of her face again lifting it to his. He searched her faced for another long moment. He let his hand fall and took a step back from her, “You are quite beautiful, and I can’t believe Master Victor only counts you as ‘one of his prettiest.’ Let me see you. Turn around.”
She blushed at his compliment incredulously, but obeyed by turning her back to him. He caught her shoulder stopping her in the motion. She could feel his hand pick up her hair and slowly run his fingers through. He swept her hair around her shoulder to lay on her chest, and he ran his fingers back up along her neck. The gesture was simple, but it sent shivers up and down her spine. She longed for him to touch her again like that, and she was surprised by her own desire.
He put his hands on her shoulders again and turned her back around to face him. She knew she could be making a horrible mistake by acting without a command first, but she just couldn’t stop herself from reaching inside his tuxedo jacket to lay her hands on his chest. His chest felt as muscular solid as his arms had. She looked up into his dark eyes. She couldn’t see any anger in his eyes, and he said nothing, so she took it as an invitation to continue. She moved her hands inside his jacket up to his shoulders slipping the jacket down and off him. He grabbed the jacket as it fell and threw it onto the bed behind him. He untied his bowtie and slipped it into his pants pocket.
She tentatively stepped closer to him, and Master Tristan put his hands on her waist holding her close. She reached up and began unbuttoning his shirt, pulling it off him when she was done. He untucked his undershirt and quickly had his over his head. She put her hands on his chest like before, but this time pushed her fingers through his chest hair letting her finger tips trail along his skin. He grabbed her hands with his almost roughly, but she quickly realized it wasn’t anger but desire as he pulled her against his body.
“What price wouldn’t I pay to have you right now.” His words confused her, since she thought that was the purpose of coming into this room. He looked her in the eyes and wondered, “What bird would you become?” Her absolute confusion must have shown obviously on her face, because he smiled a slight smile and chuckled to himself. “I’m sorry our time isn’t going as I lead you to believe. I must admit I was testing you a bit, but mostly I wanted you alone to myself even if only for a few minutes.”
He donned his shirts, quickly tying his bowtie, and threw his jacket back on. “Come, the gathering is almost over, and we have a business deal to conclude.”
* * *
They sat at the small conference table in Master Victor’s office. Master Tristan had kept her on his arm all the way to the office, and now she sat beside him as if she were a part of the business deal about to proceed. The look that Master Victor was giving her made bow her head. She wished Master Tristan had dismissed her with the rest of the girls.
“Master Tristan, are we able to conclude this deal with your partner absent?”
“Yes, Master Sean regrets that he couldn’t join us tonight, but I have full power to agree upon a deal on his behalf.”
“Now, let me review your proposal,” Master Victor continued. “You’re offering the previously disclosed sum of money in exchange for sixty percent of my shares in Synergies Corp, making you the largest shareholder. You would assume the president position on the board, and become the acting CEO.” Master Tristan nodded as he ticked off each proposed item.
“I am in agreement on everything but the percentage of my shares you would assume,” Master Victor countered. “Come now, Tristan, if I may be so casual with you. Surely you don’t need the full sixty percent of my shares in order to be the majority shareholder. Fifty-one percent would achieve that.”
“Victor, I don’t need to explain to you of all people why having some wiggle room is wise.”
“But surely you’re flexible on this. Why not I sell you fifty-four percent, I retain forty-six, and you have your wiggle room. I could even throw in one of my yachts for you, just to sweeten the deal!” Master Victor laughed loudly at his own joke.
Master Tristan smiled tightly at Master Victor, but he leaned back in his chair considering the counter proposal. He glanced at the girl sitting beside him with her head still bowed. “Ok, we can be flexible. I will receive fifty-five percent of your shares, you retain forty-five, and I will keep the girl.” At this last piece of the agreement, he gestured to her beside him. Her head shot up in shock, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She looked from Master Tristan to Master Victor, then immediately regretted it. She quickly bowed her eyes to the table top in front of her wishing she could crawl unseen from the room. And yet, something inside her thrilled at the idea of going home with Master Tristan. She knew nothing of him, but her evening with him was so different from every other evening that she couldn’t help but hope that being his girl meant she would have more evenings like.
Master Victor had apparently also been surprised by the final counter offer, but he recovered quickly. “Surely your birds are far more attractive than this little one here. Do you really think she would make a good addition to your menagerie?”
Master Tristan just looked at Master Victor, waiting for an agreement or a counter.
“Girl,” Master Victor commanded, and there was no mistaking what he wanted. She got up as fast as she could and scurried over to him. She knelt beside his chair, “Sir.”
“What do you think, girl? Would you want to belong to Master Tristan?”
She panicked. What answer did he want from her? If she said yes, then Master Victor might be furious that she wanted to leave. If she said no, he might be furious that she would dishonor his business deal. Her heart raced as she thought. Finally, she decided to go with the truth, “I would be honored to belong to Master Tristan.”
With her head bowed, she could see Master Victor’s fists clench in his lap under the table, but he finally spoke, “Well, she certainly isn’t worth the five percent of shares you lose,” and laughed forcefully. “Let’s just call this business done: the fifty-five percent and the girl are yours.”
He gestured to the steward who was standing near the door on the far side of the room. He disappeared through the door for a moment and reentered with Master Victor’s and Master Tristan’s lawyers behind him. The lawyers sat down at the table with the men as they all began to talk details about the contract and agreement. Master Victor poured liquor into glasses and passed them around the table.
Throughout all of this, she didn’t dare move, shift or even breathe, and she remained kneeling at the head of the table. That she was in shock at the turn of events only helped her remain completely still and forgotten by all the men in the room. Eventually, the steward was able to sneak unnoticed by the group and attend to her. He helped her to her feet and quickly ushered her from the room.
* * *
“What? He did what?” Keeper Michael yelled irately at the steward. “He sold her?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. She’ll probably be delivered in the morning, but I need to speak with Master Victor about the details. Just get her ready for departure: wash her, find something to dress her in, and get that cage cleaned.” The steward spun on his heel and rushed from the room.
Keeper Michael muttered under his breath and threw whatever was in his hand at the wall. She kept her head bowed, but she could feel his dark glare on her. He stomped over to where she stood, and she flinched as he came to a stop right in front of her. He grabbed her upper arm and squeezed, “So you think you’re getting away from here? That you’re safe? If you’re not leaving until the morning, I still have several hours with you.”
He called some of the other staff over and gave them directions to bathe her. They took her into the prep area which, under normal circumstances, she would have been delighted to get such attention. The staff gave her a manicure and pedicure, they scrubbed her entire body, washed her hair and gave her a conditioning oil treatment until her hair shone.
The last part was a steaming bath with scented water where she should have been allowed to soak in peace for a short time; however, as she was stepping into the bath, Keeper Michael stepped into the room and directed the staff, “Once she’s soaked and dry, please bring her to the Discipline Room.” She began trembling uncontrollably in the bath. One of the staff tried to console her, but her soak didn’t last long.
With just a towel wrapped around her, she was escorted into the Discipline Room. Upon entering, she whimpered and tried to back out of the room. The staff escorting her had to force her into the center of the room and down on her knees on the floor. They took her towel and left her alone in the room. In the silence, she could hear her heart in her ears and realized she was breathing so quickly that she was feeling light headed. She doubted that passing out would prevent what was to come, and either way she knew it was going to be bad.
She heard the door open, but didn’t look up from the floor. She could feel Keeper Michael’s eyes on her, and he circled her as she knelt in the middle of the room. She wanted to cry, to beg him not to do what he wanted to do to her, but she knew it would only give him more satisfaction. As if he could read her thoughts, he grabbed her hair to lift her head up toward him, “You know what’s coming, don’t you? If this is my last night with you, I’m going to make sure it’s a night we’ll both remember. Now stand up.”
She stood, and he brought a chair into the middle of the room where she had been kneeling. He sat and then patted his lap, “Let’s get you warmed up.” She assumed the position she know she was expected to take: she laid over his lap, putting her hands flat against the floor on one side and straightening her legs slightly apart on the other side. “As always, you don’t need to count on your warm up.”