And there’s nothing remotely friendly about them.

“I suggest you walk. The other way isn’t so pleasant.”

I also know there’s no benefit to doing as they say. No leniency for obedience. And so I try again to run because I can’t not.

This time, I make it out onto the porch and it’s when I’m setting foot on the front lawn that he catches me. Armchair Man. And his grip, it’s different than the other man’s. Harder.

“Please,” I plead, tugging to free myself. To somehow pry his fingers from me.

“For a minute there, I thought you’d be smarter,” he says, beginning to lead me down the cracked pavement to the waiting sedan, my struggles seemingly inconsequential.

When we get to the car, I set my hand against the hood, brace myself.

“Really?” he asks like I’m too stupid for words.

I meet his eyes and I try once more to free myself. He releases me abruptly, then boxes me in and cocks his head to the side. The look in his eyes is so steely, so cold, it sends ice along my spine.

“Get in the goddamned car,” he orders, his voice harder.

He doesn’t give me a chance to obey.

Instead, he wraps one arm around my middle and a moment later, I’m in the car and he’s beside me, and when we pull away, I hear the locks click into place and that sound, it’s like a foretelling of my future.

1

Hawk

I sip whiskey from my place at the back booth of the auction floor. It’s the quarterly draw, a party I throw for my associates, for lack of a better word. We’ve had a good quarter, and this is their reward.

Every man who’s walked into this room is captured by the many cameras. Every name noted. Every bid recorded in the ledger.

Piano music sets the backdrop, the collection of voices loud over it even though most speak in whispers during the breaks in entertainment. These, too, are recorded, and they’ll be dissected later.

Pretty women serve drinks and anything else required of them as the stage is readied, the next girl taking her place on the raised dais.

This one, her name is Calla or Cara or something. She looks young, but I’m assured she’s legal. They like young, the men gathered here.

She’s on offer for one night only, and from the look of her, she’ll bring a high bid.

I study her face on my screen from the cameras installed behind the curtain. She’s hesitant, to say the least, but Marcus handles it. Marcus’ loan comes due tonight—and I’ve been more than patient—so he’s got some incentive to make sure she gets her sweet little ass on that stage.

Besides, she’ll be paid handsomely for her time. For the use of her body.

I watch as she’s situated on the dais that’s set at the very center of the stage. The auctioneer, an old English man, takes his place behind the podium. The gong sounds as the curtains are raised and a hush falls over the room.

The spotlight shines on the girl and she squints into the bright light, momentarily blinded. Two women peel the cream-colored cloak from her and let it drape at her feet. There’s a swell of approving sounds from the men who are probably all sporting hard-ons for the pretty, young blonde.

I admit, she is magnificent. Not my type, but magnificent.

The auctioneer takes in the response and starts the bidding high.

Good.

Flesh comes at a cost. One these bastards can afford to pay.

The elevator doors slide open, drawing my attention. Axel steps out and turns his gaze only momentarily to the stage. He’s about as interested as I am in that girl. These women, it’s too fucking easy with them.

Calla, or whatever the fuck her name is, is probably creaming herself as she’s turned, bent over, and the numbers being shouted out grow higher and higher.

I’m more interested in the woman who’s following Axel.

Well, following isn’t quite the word.

She’s got a man on either side of her and, for as small as she is, she’s struggling to free herself of them.

She turns her head this way and that as she takes in the scene. I think she gasps when her gaze falls on the exposed woman on the stage about whom the auctioneer is embellishing the virtues of a virgin ass.

He’s good.

He’s very good.

Because her price just doubled.

The word virgin never disappoints. I get it. There’s something about being the first man to sink your cock into virgin territory.

Marcus catches my eye from the side of the stage. He raises his glass to me.

I raise mine back because this puts me in a good mood. It means I’ll get my money tonight and I won’t have to get my hands dirty for it.

Contrary to my reputation, I don’t like getting my hands dirty. I will when I need to, but this is easier. Cleaner.


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