Some more train wreck for you patient souls. To read the part 2.4 click here, or start from the beginning. Again, thanks to Luz for sending me a copy of this lost tome.
When I roused myself from my nap it was dusk and my stomach was growling. I hopped in the shower to loosen my sore muscles and sluice off the dried sweat. After pulling on a shirt and jeans I wandered downstairs to hear Fen talking with the woman I had heard the night before, the one who had suggested they treat me gently. I wondered if she knew what had happened in the park. Or what we had been doing afterward. I could smell something delicious cooking, so I wandered towards the kitchen.
It was a tad awkward when I shuffled into the room and found Fen and a matronly figure there, interrupting their conversation. Fen was leaning against the counter with his arms crossed, and when he saw me he got a languid, smug look on his face that made me want to hit him, especially when the hum in my head turned sybaritic. I wondered how he could communicate facial expression without moving his mouth. I was going to have to learn that trick. The Nitkani woman, who looked older than my mother but spry nonetheless, stared at me with her mouth open.
"Er, hello, ma'am," I offered in Nitkan, shoving my hands in my pockets. I felt five years old under her scrutiny.
"Tamlin Shay!" the woman squealed, startling me. "Oh my goodness, I have the real Tamlin Shay in my kitchen. And you're so cute! In my opinion you are one of the greatest players in space hockey history."
I blushed, even if the woman did overestimate my talents by a lot. "You like space hockey?"
"Like it?" the woman exclaimed. "I live for it! I have season tickets to the city's team; have you heard of Gray Terror? But the Lomagnian teams really are spectacular." She whirled to Fen. "I can't believe you forgot to mention you had Tamlin Shay under your roof!"
I didn't know how to deal with this kind of recognition. It was a little different having fans when they had a legal right to buy your life. Fen looked surprised (which meant he raised his eyebrows a fraction), which made me sure he was not a follower of the glorious game.
He confirmed that thought when he responded, "I had no idea he played hockey, Gloria. I would have told you, had I knew."
"Space hockey," she corrected. She turned to me and threw her hands up. "Gracious, I just realized we haven't been properly introduced, and here I am mooning over you like a teenager." She held out her hand. "I'm Mrs. Gloria Cupps, with two P's. I think you've already met my husband, the chauffeur. I run this household."
I shook her hand. "Oh, you are keep of house?" I smiled tentatively. She was overwhelming, and technically as a Nitkani she was the enemy of everything I held dear, but there was something very likeable about her.
"Oh, listen to you!" she cried, lightly hitting my arm like a debutante. "You're absolutely precious! Yes, I am the housekeeper."
"Housekeeper," I repeated, trying to fit my mouth around the word. "And like space hockey. I think you are very nicest person I meet here yet."
This time it was Gloria Cupps who blushed, and she wrapped her arms around my waist from the side and hugged me. "I can see why you keep him around," she told Fen. "I'm half in love with him already."
I smiled. The woman was a flirt, though she probably had grown children running around. My stomach took that opportunity to announce its empty state, and Mrs. Cupps decided that I needed to eat a three-course meal. She ordered the two men out of the kitchen with bowls of soup in our hands.
"Sky hockey, eh?" Fen said as we seated ourselves. "I didn't know I picked up a celebrity." He was still speaking Nitkan, probably for the benefit of Mrs. Cupps.
I paused in cooling my soup. "You not no much but my name when you buy me?" I shook my head. "I could have sickness, or be bad in the mind. Not smart shopping."
"Hmph. I knew you would be trouble, at the very least. They test captives for diseases and the like when they pick them up." He looked up from his soup and added, "You wouldn't be alive if you weren't healthy."
I couldn't help shuddering at that. Mrs. Cupps bustled out with a plate of hot something—Nitkani dishes aren't popular anywhere but in Nitkistan—and sat down with us to eat.
"Do you want me to make appetizers for your party this weekend?" she asked Fen, spooning a second helping of the delicious hot something on my plate before I'd finished the first. There was a party?
Fen shook his head. "I'll cater. You should have a genuine weekend off, not worrying if drunken idiots are breaking your dishes."
Mrs. Cupps beamed at him. "Oh, Fenton White, you do spoil me. I'll have time to finish making those jerseys for my grandsons, then." She turned to me. "I know this is a little forward, but would you mind showing my grandkids a few space hockey tips? Their team is really awful, and it breaks my heart to see them get thrashed all the time."
I wanted to ask how many other kidnapped sky hockey players got forced to coach Nitki ankle-biters. What came out of my mouth was, "No, I would not mind."
"Oh, you're such a dear," Mrs. Cupps said happily. "I'm putting extra topping on your dessert." She swept back into the kitchen, gathering plates on her way."
Fen put his elbows on the table. He seemed to be in a good mood, probably because his little slave boy had been such a willing participant earlier in the day. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt that stretched across his chest and biceps, and his hair was pulled back and his glasses on, which made him look younger. I wondered again how he got such mismatched coloring—white hair, jet lashes, and blond hair everywhere else.
He gave me a funny look. "What are you staring so hard at?" he asked, his voice a rumble down my spine.
I dropped my eyes. I suddenly thought of Tobergus's threat, and wondered what kind of party Fen was throwing. "Do I have to come?" I asked.
"Hm?" Apparently that was not what he was expecting from me. "Oh, the party. Yes, I expect you to be there. You don't have to mingle, just make an appearance."
"So I have to play the little pet," I mumbled under my breath in Lomagnian.
Fen, it seemed, had excellent hearing. "In the eyes of Nitkistan you are a pet. A plaything. A trained animal that happens to be good in bed," he responded sharply. "I've been lenient, I think you know that. But I had this event planned before you were ever in the picture, and I have to keep up appearances, if only for a little bit."
I flushed. "And if I refuse?"
Fen looked over his glasses at me. "You ask because you know you won't. I bought you, but I don't have to keep you."
"Why, you bast—" I shut my mouth when Mrs. Cupps walked back in the room with dessert. She seemed oblivious to the change in mood, and actually chattered on about how much fun the party would be for everyone.
"Oh, Tam," she gushed, "I know there'll be some sky hockey fans at the party. You might end up stealing the whole show! I mean, Mr. White keeps a low profile, all the people I know think he's a complete mystery, but after you were seen in public today there could be no doubt that you live here. Everyone will want to see the new member of the White household! Especially space hockey fans."
I pasted a smile on my face and ate the dessert, but I was too irritated to enjoy it. The buzz in my neck was in a similar mood. What had Fen expected? That just because my better judgment had failed me earlier in the day, I would hop at the opportunity to play lap dog? Then again, after seeing what I had in the park, Fen wasn't lying when he claimed leniency. Damn my insecurities; would he really sell me? Juniper had a way of raising her eyebrows and saying "Yikes!" like a cartoon character. It would have been apt at that moment.
"Oh, Tam, dear," Mrs. Cupps leaned over to me, "I know you don't have any fancy clothes yet, and it might be a bad idea to have you running around in the city after today—" Fen raised a cynical brow "—so I'm going to have a seamstress come in tomorrow and take your measurements for a nice suit."
I sighed. "Okay." I assumed that a "nice suit" did not include any leather or metal adornments, which was somewhat comforting.
"And she's very good and very busy, so I had to get an early morning appointment," Mrs. Cupps continued. She turned to Fen and pointed her spoon at him. "That means no keeping him up late, you realize."
Was it my imagination, or did Fenton White's ears grow a little pink? He muttered something in response and took his dishes into the kitchen. Mrs. Cupps smirked a little.
She whispered conspiratorially, "He likes to pretend he's seen everything and is jaded to the world, but I know his buttons."
I didn't really have a response for that. The only buttons I knew about were related to man sex, and I wasn't sure she wanted to hear about those. I excused myself from the table and went to rinse my dishes. Fen was on his way out another door, but paused when I came in.
"Stop by the study later," he said. "We have some things to discuss."
"Yikes," I replied, not meeting his eyes. Fen left. I ignored the fact that my nipples had tightened at the memory of to what our last meeting in the study had led.
I went upstairs and grabbed my running shoes and some athletic shorts. The night was a little cool but was moving into summer weather, so I went without a shirt. I ran for about an hour around the perimeter of the grounds then did what strength-training exercises I could without further injuring my bruised muscles. I met up with Hal and Dill and their hounds and tried to find out as much as I could about the security of the estate without seeming too obvious (which isn't hard when one doesn't have the vocabulary to ask about infrared heat-detecting motion sensors). I wandered through the conservatory, gaped at an elaborate fishpond I hadn't noticed the previous evening, and finally shuffled to the study. I couldn't decide whether I was being submissive or satisfying my curiosity.
I knocked on the door and entered. Fen was again on the computer and indicated a chair on the other side of the desk. I sat down and put my feet up on the desk, hoping to irritate him. He ignored me for a minute more, typing as if it were super-important that he look busy. I sighed and rolled my head on my shoulders.
"Almost done?" I asked, yawning.
Fen swiveled his chair so that he could put up his feet across from mine. "This is the part where I lay down ground rules."
"Sure," I shrugged. "Only speak when spoken too, never meet your eyes, kneel when in your presence, never show you my back, always walk three steps behind and to your left, address you as 'Your Excellence' and compliment your sexual prowess in the presence of women and boys—"
"You're an ass," Fen interrupted. I swear he was almost smiling.
I sniffed haughtily. "Only when provoked. I was only thinking to please you, Your Excellence."
"It would please me if you would shut up for a second."
I bowed my head and spread my hands in a gesture of extreme benevolence.
Fen narrowed his eyes. "I'm beginning to think you're more trouble than you're worth."
"Then let me go," I shot back.
"Can't," Fen shook his head. "It's illegal, and I could face a firing squad for aiding the enemy. You'd be castrated and sold to someone like Tobergus."
"I don't believe you," I lied.
"Right." He ran a hand over his hair absentmindedly. "In other news, you need to keep in mind that you will not leave these grounds without me, for your own safety and because it's illegal for you to be on your own."
"Lovely," I muttered.
"Also, if you harm any of my staff or their families, especially Gloria's grandchildren, I will sell you to a sex dungeon where they don't play around or have safe words."
"Also," Fen held up an edifying finger, "if you harm or threaten the guests at this little elbow-rub coming up, I will be required by Nitkani law to allow them to reciprocate how they see fit, so long as they do no permanent damage. By allowing them into my house I am assuring them that they are in a safe place, and if you jeopardize that it is on my head. So if I don't allow them to punish you for what you've done, I have to provide a substitute. Namely myself."
I shuddered. "I get it."I
n actuality, I didn't care what would happen. I would not be wearing any leather pet-inspired accessories, I would not be making nice with the Nitkis who thought slavery was fun, and I would not pretend that I was under Fenton White's large thumb. True, I had somehow accepted that I was going to be stuck here for a bit. But that in no way made me eager to adopt the customs.
"Finally," Fen added, "you will only speak Nitkan to the guests, and if anyone offers you something to drink, don't take it."
"What, they'll drug me and ravish my unconscious body?" I asked sarcastically.
"Yikes. But how do I get out of taking drinks if I'm supposed to be the good little slave?"
Fen gave me a serpentine smile. "Like I said, you're a smart boy. You'll figure something out."
"You're an ass," I mimicked him. "Ooh, if I can think of any excuse, can I sleep around anyways?"
"Sure, if you really want that disappointment," Fen said smoothly.
I grinned and rubbed my hands together. "Sweet. Nitkani nookie."Fen raised his eyebrows. "My, how far you've come."
"We're getting off the subject," Fen said, taking his feet off the desk.
I gave him a puzzled look. "But you already said 'finally,'" I said, cocking my head. "I thought that meant the end."
"Oh, for the love of all twenty-three gods, Tam," Fen snapped as he rubbed the back of his neck. The buzz zapped me in my neck, and I shut up posthaste. "This will take five seconds. Traditional parties last for a day and a half, so you'll have to sleep in my room. The end."
My eyes bugged. "In your room?" I tried not to squeak. Fen nodded. "In your bed?" Another nod. "With you in it?"
"Grow up," said Fen. He got up and motioned me toward the door. "Out. I have work to do."
"What," I said sarcastically, running my hands down my body as I got up. "Is my perfect muscle tone and stunning physique distracting?"
Faster than I could protest Fen had snaked a hand around the back of my neck and jerked me forward so that our whole front sides were meshed together. His face was very, very close to mine. His pupils were large in the soft light of he study, and I could see the way his lashes brushed his cheeks when he blinked. When he spoke our lips were mere inches from touching.
"Do you really want to find out?" he breathed. The hum in my brain hadn't changed much, but I could feel my body wanting to respond, which I chalked down as a conditioned response. It expected to be stimulated, so it jumped the gun. It wasn't my fault.
With a burst of neuronal activity I pushed him away, and I did not pay attention to the hardness of his chest at all. He slid his hand into my hair and shoved me out the door by my head.
"Pushy bastard," I grumbled. "My door is going to be locked tonight."
Fen smirked at me with his eyes. I rolled mine and went to shower. After my muscles felt sufficiently relaxed I lumbered out and wiggled into a pair of leisure pants (my sweats were probably still on the floor of the master bedroom). I did try to lock the door, but found out that I had no lock on my door, neither inside nor out. I settled for shoving a chair underneath the doorknob. My dreams that night were sinful and restless.