To read part 3.4 click here, or start from the beginning. Again, thanks to Luz for sending me a copy of this lost tome."Here I am," I said casually. Yikes! I thought.
Samarra hoisted herself up on the countertop. "Did you think about what I told you?" she asked.
I opted for honesty. "I did, and frankly I think it's full of holes."
She was clearly taken aback, and an ugly scowl clouded her lush features.
"Seriously," I continued, "I supposed you have a way to get yourself to safety, but there's no way I could leave this country alive if I murdered Fenton White, especially after this party."
Samarra pursed her lips. "And if you didn't kill him?"
"How the hell am I supposed to survive more than a couple of hours in a hovercar trunk? If you're going to get out of here you have a much better chance of doing so without me."
"True," Samarra conceded in a patronizing tone, "but I figured you would want to get out of here, too. Or do you not mind being enslaved?" Her derision had its desired effect.
"There is absolutely nothing keeping me here," I informed her curtly. "However, I'm not going to make any mad dashes for freedom unless I deem my odds favorable. Killing Mr. White, hiding in a trunk in hopes that you can get rid of Alfevi and a chauffeur and get to the coast in time to meet a ship that may or may not actually show up—those are not favorable odds."
Samarra harrumphed. "You're lying through your pretty white teeth," she said, running her fingers through her hair.
"What about that was a lie?" I asked, exasperated already. Why did she make me so edgy?
Samarra slid of the countertop and walked toward the door. "What would your little wifey think if she knew you liked it here? That you actually wanted to stay with the man who bought you for sex rather than get back to her? You like being someone's bitch?" Her manner reminded me of a miffed housecat, the kind that got thrown outside on a regular basis.
I took a huge breath and reminded myself that real men did not hit women. "I'm not much use to her if I'm dead." I was tempted to add some colorful four-letter words, but my mother had beaten into me what gentlemen do and do not say to ladies.
Samarra spread her hands. "Whatever you say, tiger." She sashayed out the door.
I headed in the opposite direction with a glower fixed on my face. I saw Almus Tobergus notice me, and he began weaving his way through the crowd toward me. I glanced at a clock. I still had forty-five minutes to kill until I made my escape, and I was itching for a fight after what had transpired with Samarra, so I stayed put. He stopped right in front of me.
"Good evening, sir," I said politely.
Almus poked a finger in my chest. "You little [new Nitkan insult I didn't understand], I can't believe Fenton doesn't have a collar on you."
I nodded vapidly, "Oh yes, Mr. White is most gracious, sir." I gave him a bright, stupid smile.
"Don't play dumb with me, shatin," he hissed. "I've done my research, you can't fool me."
Whatever that meant. "I am very sorry, sir, but I do not understand," I apologized. I glanced around hopefully. "Have you seen Mr. White? I would like to find him." Let the little fucker think Fen had me wrapped around his finger. It would only serve to irritate him.
Perhaps irritate was an understatement. Tobergus turned a dull shade of red and pushed me backward, probably intending to shove me into the unoccupied kitchen. He wasn't strong enough to make me stumble, but I pretended to fall into a nearby corner.
"Sir!" I exclaimed.
Tobergus knotted his fist in the lapel of my jacket, and would probably have hit me had not another guest appeared at his side.
The elderly woman placed her hand on his arm and smiled at him. "Almus, darling, is this Fenton's boy?"
I nodded and bared my teeth for her inspection. Almus looked disappointed, but he let go of my jacket.
"Who would have thought he'd pick up a Lomangian?" she laughed. "Then again, it's hardly a bold move for a man who doesn't play by rules to begin with."
Almus wrapped a friendly arm around the woman's waist and smiled at her. When apes bared their teeth it was not a sign of amity, and I was pretty sure he was imitating his hairy brethren. "Oh, this is no ordinary Lome, Ingrid. Tam is a star sky hockey player," he informed her. "You jest, surely," Ingrid protested, giving him a flirtatious slap on the arm. "Hadn't you commissioned one of your own? Some midfielder from the northern area?"
A chill slithered down my spine, and I was hard pressed to keep a brainless smile fixed on my face. I was from the north of Lomagnia, and had played midfield for the past three years.
Almus nodded slowly. "I had my eye on a man there, yes." He laughed, "I'm surprised you remember me telling you this, my dear."
Ingrid tried to give a cute shrug that was completely inappropriate for a woman her age (or anyone over the age of four). "You were drunk, silly, and quite excited about a new addition to your personal collection." She turned her attention to me and explained patronizingly, "Almus is one of the most influential men in our whole city."
"Really!" I exclaimed encouragingly.
"Oh, indeed," she enlightened me. "When I decided to get a boy for my eldest daughter's birthday, I simply told Almus what I wanted and he found one for me." She leaned in and whispered, "He had the boy snatched during an army raid. Cost me a fortune, but it was completely worth it." She winked conspiratorially, and I nodded in kind. I was going to be sick.
"Fascinating," I declared. "I had no idea that you could place orders with the army."
"Oh, it's not just anyone," Ingrid said. "Well, perhaps your master could if someone owed him a favor, but Almus has good friends all throughout the government and in the army."
"Ooh," I said. "Impressive."
Ingrid chucked me under the chin. "You are just too pretty. I would ask Fenton to lend you to me for a weekend, but I don't see how he could let you go."
At the thought of being the sex slave of a woman older than my mother, my face twisted into a disgusted moue before I could stop it. Ingrid and Almus both looked offended, so I shook my head and smiled apologetically. "I am very sorry. I get upset with myself when I do not understand normal conversation."
"Oh, you're a dear," Ingrid giggled. "Don't you wish you had one just like him, Almus?"
"I almost did," he responded smoothly. My facial muscles almost grimaced again, but stopped when Fen's white head appeared in my vision.
"Mr. White! Oh, I found him, you must excuse me," I bowed to Ingrid and Tobergus. Fen was being glad-handed by four or five different people at once, and though his expression betrayed nothing, I could tell he was bored. His eyes lit up when he saw me, seeing his escape, but allowed me to make my way up to him before acknowledging my presence.
"Is this the boy?" one of the guests asked, looking me up and down.
Fen slid his hand up my back and onto my neck. "Yes," he said, and gave me a squeeze to tell me to look enamored of him. I slid a little closer to him and tried to affect body language that indicated I was hot and bothered.
"Let's go to bed," Fen suggested in my ear while taking my hand. His voice was low and intimate, as if no one else was there, though he made sure the people near us heard him. My head knew that he was just using me to get away from the partiers. That didn't stop my heart from pounding or shivers from running down my spine. He didn't bother excusing himself from the people to whom he had been talking. I followed him upstairs and felt the envious eyes of everyone else on my back.
After making it into Fen's bedroom he immediately shut and locked the door. He leaned back against it and shut his eyes. He looked wrung out.
"I hate these things," he sighed.
I sat down on the bed. "Why have them if you don't like them?" I asked.
"Every good Nitkani knows that parties are the best networking opportunities," he said wearily. "I also get to prove just how wonderful my security is, show off my recent purchases, and rub everyone's face in my success."
I crossed my arms. "That is no way to make friends, Fenton," I said in a school-teacher voice.
Fen chuckled, and I was impressed again with how he could do so without cracking a smile. "Every good Nitkani knows that friends are what happens when your enemies have gotten past your defenses. Also, that when one is wealthy it is common courtesy to give everyone else a chance to envy you," he informed me.
"This country sucks," I said.
Fen heaved himself off the door and unbuttoned his jacket. "I've heard that before."
"You'll hear it until I get out of this place," I grumbled.
Fen didn't respond to that. He went into the bathroom and I tried to get out of my suit. Damn zippers. I hopped around, twisted, contorted, flapped my arms against my back, but couldn't get the zipper low enough to get my shoulders out of the suit. I was almost ready to tear it off when I felt hands on my back.
"You could have done this much earlier," I told Fen when he had unzipped me.
He shrugged. "I enjoyed watching you hop around."
Fen ignored that comment. "There's an extra toothbrush in the cabinet, but I don't have any pajamas for you," he said.
I groaned. "You did this on purpose," I accused.
"On the contrary. I forgot, and I don't wear them myself, do I don't have extras. Just for you, though, I'll keep my underwear on."
"Oh, well consider yourself absolved," I said sarcastically.
"Grow up," he said.
I did not look as he removed his suit. I did not stare at the wide expanse of bronze flesh and rippling muscle exposed, nor did I pay him any attention when he was walking around in nothing but his boxer briefs. I reminded myself that I was a married man. I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed.
"Hurry up," Fen called from the bedroom.
My stomach immediately tangled in knots. "Uh, I'm not sleepy, I'll just stay up for a bit," I responded. "You go ahead."
"I won't sleep if you're moving around, Tam," he replied. "At least lie down, or I'll find something we can do together instead of sleep."
I hastened under the sheets, laying as far to the edge of the bed as I could without falling off. "Better?" I groused.
"Good decision," Fen approved, and turned out the light. "Feel free to go to sleep and stop fidgeting."
"What if I can hear the people next door while they monkey fuck?" I griped.
"You can either drown them out with a monkey fuck of your own," Fen yawned as he turned over, "or you can be grateful that the bedrooms are all soundproofed."
"I'll be grateful," I responded quickly.
Fen was a heavy sleeper, and a midnight cuddler to boot. When I fell asleep he had been on the opposite side of the bed, but not an hour later I woke to find his left arm wrapped around my chest and his nose buried in my hair. I wiggled out from his embrace and replaced my body with a pillow, which pacified him for a while. The next time I woke up he was spooning me, and was even mouthing my sore shoulder in his sleep. Fen had thrown a leg over my side, and his palm rested directly over my left nipple. I shoved him off me and he responded by snuffling a little and turning over, never waking. There was something wrong with the man that he was horny even in his sleep. I got revenge by stealing all the covers and cocooning myself, but somehow during my REM cycle the bastard managed to weasel his way into my mummy wrap and entangle his legs with mine. I gave up, and went to sleep with a large warm body radiating onto my right side.