Authors: Claire Thompson
“You got close? How so?”
“I’ve found a trail of evidence leading to what I believe is an international trafficking ring that specializes in foreign women, especially English, French and American, but works the local population as well. It’s rumored they provide a steady supply of girls to an Arab millionaire who lives somewhere on the Thai coast. I managed to talk to a Thai girl who was brought briefly to the compound, but she was rejected for whatever reason. Last I heard she was working in a local strip club.”
“You’ve talked to a woman who was taken to the compound? Why didn’t she go to the police? Why is this allowed to go on?” Even as he asked this, Devin knew how naïve he sounded. As long as there had been so-called civilization, there had been slavery, sexual and otherwise, and not just in the Far East. A little thing like the law didn’t deter criminals intent on trafficking in human life.
George was shaking his head and rubbing his finger and thumb together. “Money, my friend. It all comes down to money. Too many palms are getting too much grease to stop what is a very lucrative operation for a lot of people.”
Still focused on the man’s earlier comments, Devin pressed, “Where is this compound? Have you been there?”
George shook his head. “Never found the place, though I have some hunches. It’s all there in my notes.” Finally he lifted his hands from the files and pushed them slowly across the cluttered desk toward Devin.
“Good luck. You’ll need it.”
Leah came slowly, unwillingly, back to earth. She had literally left the premises, at least her spirit had, during that brief but lovely interlude when she’d been completely submerged within her own submissive headspace.
Now she became aware of the stiff leather cuffs that were cutting uncomfortably into her wrists. Her head was still back, eyes still closed, but she felt the presence of someone standing just in front of her.
“Impressive,” the steward hissed softly, recalling her completely back to the present. “Forgive me, Leah. I had underestimated you.”
The use of her name caused Leah to snap her head upright, and her eyes flew open. The steward was regarding her with a grave smile. “You have proved yourself more worthy than I dared dream. You accepted the whipping with a grace I have rarely seen. I had no idea you were adept at the submissive arts.”
As the endorphins from the experience began to ebb away, Leah was becoming aware of the fiery lines of stinging pain that crisscrossed her flesh from shoulder to thigh, both front and back. Her mouth was dry and she longed for a drink of water. Sweat was trickling down her sides and if she hadn't been held up by her wrists, she would have collapsed. She wanted nothing more than to be let down from the chains. She longed to curl into a ball somewhere safe and far, far away from this nightmare place.
The steward clapped his hands and the ubiquitous guards appeared. “Let her down and take her to the bath, and then put her in a waiting cell. She will be presented to the Master this evening. Make sure she is properly prepared.”
The two men released her cuffs and half-led, half-carried the stumbling girl from the room. She was led back to the huge, opulent bathroom and permitted to use the toilet again while the bath was drawn.
Gratefully she sank down into the fragrant, soft warmth of the welcoming water, not even minding the sting as it made contact with her tender, welted skin.
Again Alex was summoned, and again she was bathed, her hair washed as before. When she was placed before the mirror, Alex used a soft cloth and an emollient cream to wipe away the remaining makeup. He left her hair wet, pulling it back from her face with a dark blue ribbon. She was given a matching blue robe and led from the room.
She realized she was being taken to the waiting cell the steward had referenced. She fully expected to be thrust into a cage, with perhaps a canvas cot or a pallet of straw for a bed. No matter how mean the accommodations, at least she hoped she would be left in peace for a little while before being
to the Master.
She was led down the hallway to another set of stairs, much narrower than those leading from the first to the second floor. Instead of a prison, the room she was led to, though small, was actually quite comfortable. There wasn’t space for much more than a single bed, but it had clean, white sheets and two plump pillows. The walls were painted a soothing, pale blue and there was a thickly piled royal blue throw rug on the floor beside the bed. The room had no windows, but a lamp beside the bed cast a peaceful glow.
The guards left her alone there, shutting and locking the door behind them. Leah stood in the center of the tiny room, wondering if there was anything here she could use as a weapon. The mattress was placed in an iron bed frame. She could tear the sheet into strips and use them to strangle the guards when they came in. Or she could use the brass lamp to smash their heads in.
These ideas, of course, were fantasy. There was no way she could overpower the two thugs, even if she hadn’t been kept terrorized, caged, beaten and nearly starved for the past twenty-four hours or however long it had been.
She lay down on the mattress, which was surprisingly comfortable. The sheets were of the softest cotton, the pillows filled with down. How long had she been held captive? She tried to think. She had been abducted in the afternoon, and had spent a hideous night beneath the stairs. In the morning, she’d been taken to the Master, and then hauled off to the kennels. Based on the food she’d been served by the steward, and the slant of the sun through the window, it had been late afternoon. The whipping session, while it had seemed to go on for hours, had probably been more like thirty minutes. Then the second bath, and now she was here.
The Master would probably call for her after his dinner. Heavens only knew when she would next be offered a meal. At least for now she was clean and, while not exactly full, no longer starving. What she could see of the welts the steward had left with his quirt were already fading. Most importantly, though, she was still alive.
Leah felt her eyes closing as she sank into the soft, inviting comfort of the bed. She knew she needed to be thinking, planning, somehow figuring a way out of this mess. She needed to keep her wits about her if she was going to make good her escape.
But she was tired, so tired. She recalled a line from a book she’d once read:
Sleep is a weapon
. Right now, it was the only weapon she had. Closing her eyes, she slept.
Leah awoke to the sound of a key scraping in the door lock. She reached for her cell phone to check the time, wondering who was bothering her in the middle of the night. Hadn’t she left a
do not disturb
sign on her doorknob?
She came fully awake as the door opened, reality slamming into her like a two-by-four. She stopped reaching for the phantom night table and the nonexistent cell phone and sat up, her breath coming in shallow gasps.
She expected the twin thugs to appear, but instead it was the steward, with Alex just behind him. Alex was carrying what looked like a large makeup bag. The steward was carrying a large porcelain bowl in his hands and a red velvet bag slung over one arm.
The steward set the bowl on the floor at the end of the bed. “Up, up,” he said briskly, sharply clapping his hands. “The Master is ready for you.” Leah stood on rubbery legs. The steward pointed toward the bowl. “Empty your bladder. Then kneel on the rug so Alex can attend to your makeup and hair.”
Leah did have to pee, but the thought of squatting over a bowl in front of these men was not a pleasant one. Aware she had no choice, however, she moved to the end of the bed and positioned herself awkwardly over the makeshift toilet. It was several seconds before her muscles relaxed enough to allow her to pee in front of the men, both of whom were watching her. She felt her face heating as the stream of urine finally splashed into the bowl and she turned her head to the wall, closing her eyes.
When she was done, Alex handed her some tissue, which she used to wipe herself. “Do you need to move your bowels?” the steward asked. Leah shook her head, glad she did not.
The steward moved quickly, striking her left cheek with a hard slap. Gasping in pain and surprise, Leah nearly toppled the porcelain bowl as she jumped back. “You will answer a direct question!” the steward barked. “The Master will not tolerate this kind of insubordination. You’d better learn now, or the price will be much steeper than a mere tap to your cheek, I assure you.”
“Yes, sir!” Leah cried, her heart thumping.
Alex, his face placid and bland, as if nothing unusual was happening, was setting out makeup and brushes on a black lacquer tray he placed beside the throw rug in front of Leah’s bed.
The steward pointed to the rug. “Kneel at attention, hands clasped behind your back.” Leah scrambled to obey, her cheek stinging. Kneeling in front of Leah, first Alex brushed her hair and used barrettes that sparkled with what looked like diamonds and sapphires to pin it back on either side of Leah’s face. Alex applied makeup as he had earlier, including brushing her nipples with rouge. All the while the steward stood by, watching the two of them with hooded eyes.
When Alex was done, he packed the makeup and tray back into his large bag and rose gracefully. Retrieving the porcelain bowl, he bowed to the steward and glided silently from the room.
“Stand up,” the steward ordered, sliding the velvet bag from his arm. From it he took two sets of silver cuffs and a silver slave collar, identical to the ones Alex and the girl in the cage wore. The cuffs were really more like narrow bracelets, though with an added O ring. He placed the cuffs on Leah’s wrists and ankles, clicking them into place.
“Lift your hair,” he commanded.
When he placed the collar around her throat, the hasp snicked closed with the finality of a gun being cocked, causing a shudder to move involuntarily through Leah’s body.
Instinctively she reached for the collar, tugging at it as the panic rose in her gut. “No!” she cried softly before she could stop herself. She couldn’t let this happen.
“Hands at your sides,” the steward snapped, using the O ring on her wrist cuff to jerk her hand away. “I would beat you for that outburst but the Master is waiting. You are being honored, foolish girl. The Master only accepts a select few each year into his harem. Most of the girls we are brought are not found worthy. Be glad of your blond hair and flawless skin. Revel in your ability to tolerate pain with grace. I’ve been easy on you, but the Master has very high standards. If you disappoint him by misbehaving in any way, you will have
to answer to.”
The cold threat in his voice chilled Leah to the bone.
“We will practice your entrance,” he continued. “When you enter the room, you are to approach the Master and kneel in slave greeting at his feet. I will instruct you.” He pointed to the ground. “Lower yourself as gracefully as you can. Think of a ballet dancer. Move slowly, always presenting your body with shoulders back and chin lifted.”
Leah tried to obey, his threat still ringing loud in her ears. “No, no! You move like a field laborer. Where is your grace! Get up and try it again.” Leah forced herself up on shaking legs. Finally on the fourth try, the steward was satisfied.
“That is the first part of the slave greeting. Next,” he instructed, “you lean forward slowly, bringing your forehead to the floor, your arms stretched in front of you, fingers spread flat against the ground. You must use this slave greeting every time you come into the Master’s presence and don’t move until he gives you permission.”
Leah tried to obey, feeling ridiculous. This asshole Khalil clearly had some gargantuan delusions of grandeur, which the steward and everyone else he kept around him appeared more than happy to perpetuate.
The steward made her practice the so-called slave greeting over and over until she wanted to scream. Finally he glanced at the gold watch on his wrist. “You are not yet adept, but it will have to do. The Master must not be kept waiting.”
A hand on her shoulder, the steward led her from the room. She was again brought into Khalil’s bedroom. He was sitting in a large chair, his expression as imperious as an emperor’s as he watched them enter.
“Remember your grace. Now go!” the steward hissed into her ear. He gave her shoulder a small push.
Leah approached Khalil unsteadily, keenly aware of her nudity and her rouged nipples, praying she could pull off this kneeling nonsense without collapsing. The steward’s threat was still ringing in her ears.
You will have
to answer to.
She heard the door closing quietly behind her, but didn’t dare turn around to see if the steward had remained in the room.
Khalil was wearing a yellow silk robe and, as far as she could tell, nothing else. His lips were lifted in a small, smug smile. Leah imagined hurling herself at him and knocking him from his chair. She wanted to pummel his handsome face, gouge out his eyes, kick him hard in the nuts and see how much grace
managed while she beat him to a pulp.
When she got to the little rug in front of Khalil, she lowered herself the way the steward had showed her. Leaning forward, she touched the floor with her forehead and stretched out her arms, splaying her fingers as she’d been instructed. She stayed in that position for several long seconds, her heart beating rapidly, hating the arrogant man she imagined was staring down at her.
“You may rise, little one,” Khalil said in his deep, well-modulated voice, as if he were some kind of fucking king.
Leah lifted herself from the floor and stood, trying to keep the rage and fear from her face. She wouldn’t give the bastard the satisfaction. The man was staring at her with a hungry look, his eyes hooded. “I confess my weakness for such golden beauty, a rarity in my country. I have waited a long time for a girl such as you.”
Khalil stood, undoing the sash of his robe and letting it fall from his shoulders. He was naked beneath it, his long, thick cock fully erect. Leah took a step back, wrapping her arms around her torso. Khalil frowned, his thick brows coming together over his beautiful eyes. “
cover yourself in front of me, little one.” He spoke softly, but there was steel in his tone. Frightened, Leah dropped her arms.