The Dragon's Slave/C3 Chapter 3
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The Dragon's Slave/C3 Chapter 3
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C3 Chapter 3

Gayriel reeled from Fothmar’s easy capitulation. Everything she had work for, destroyed in one moment. She didn’t dare raise her eyes when she stepped from the choosing house. Emotions rioted through her.

She won’t be needing them, he'd said.

She swallowed. Ever? Because it sounded like that was what he had implied. And she did not find that interesting, not at all.

She attempted to refocus. Here she was, betrayed by her parents to the choosing house. Now, three years later, betrayed by the choosing house to this stranger. Even her body betrayed her. She cursed herself to the underworld. Blinking back tears, she peered up. She needed to gather information to make her next move. She stepped forward...and stumbled over her silk slippers.

The transport was a black carriage, smooth and gleaming in the sunlight. Sturdy beams attached it to a team of creatures that left her mouth hanging open.

A firm hand steadied her.

The only thing she thought for one elongated moment was that the heat from his fingers would scorch her. How had he even moved so fast? She had been behind him, three steps as her training dictated.

She swallowed hard and stared at the six giant wolves before her. A mixture of grays and browns and even black pelts, all with human-like, alert eyes. They sniffed at the air as she stood there. The intelligence glinting in their assessing gazes frightened her.

“They are subordinate, they will not hurt you,” Firestriker muttered. His breath stirred the locks at her ear, raising bumps along the skin of her neck.

Right. Big fluffy puppies...with long swords for teeth.

She didn’t move, not yet. How did wolves even grow that large? They towered in their harnesses, as tall as the horses that pulled regular carriages. Big horses. Gayriel would struggle to reach the back of the smallest wolf. Not that she intended on nearing within arms-length to find out.

“Come Gayriel.” Firestriker hadn’t moved and his heat seemed to seep through the silks along her entire side, anywhere he stood close.

Pressure on her back propelled her forward, and she moved toward the carriage.

The inside appeared as opulent as the exterior. Smooth gleaming redwood formed the benches. It gleamed along arm rests and twisted in a band of decorative knots near the ceiling. Soft cushions in various shades of amber stuffed the sitting area. Gauze curtains pulled back from the window, held with a black hook shaped like a dragon in flight.

She stood on the top step, uncertain. Protocol dictated she would sit on the floor, at the feet of her master. Yet the benches and pillows took up so much space there was not room. Where should she go?

“Sit Gayriel,” Firestriker grunted.

She frowned. He sounded irritated. Maybe he no longer wanted to command her to complete his instructions.

In extreme discomfort, she sat herself on one of the soft benches, and waited, warily, as he climbed in behind her, taking the opposite seat.

Without a word to the...well, actually, she hadn’t seen a driver. How then did the carriage surge forward? How did it know where to go?

She pictured the great beasts attached to it. Trained perhaps? Were they trained for other tasks as well? Such as hunting down slaves who escaped?

She shuddered and forced the thought away. If she did not get a hold of her imagination she would resign herself to this fate. That was not acceptable.

She peered out the door.

Fothmar stood at the top of the stone stairs. He did not seem surprised by the transport’s appearance. Instead, he frowned, his arms folded in front of him, brows puckered.

He looked worried.

Firestriker leaned forward and pulled the door shut, cutting off her last view of the house, and she was left alone with her new master.

A sunbeam cut through the dimmed space like a sharp blade. Dust motes danced within its influence. Every few moments, one changed direction. It swirled away from its counterparts, against the tide.

That was her. All her careful plans continued on their path, but she was that dust mote, turning in circles and floating in the wrong direction.

She kept her eyes lowered, submissive, but she couldn’t resist peering through her lashes. Who was this Firestriker? What kind of master would he be? Her gaze traveled up his stubbled, square jaw and cheekbones, straight to his...

She choked on her next breath. Six Gods help her, his eyes glowed. Or at least they appeared to. They were most definitely brighter than they should be back in the shadows where he sat. Just what was he? Not a man, anyway. Or not just a man...or something.

A muscle twitched against his jaw. She was staring. Hardly submissive, and, as she had been instructed, displeasing to most lords. She lowered her gaze.

This was not going at all as she had planned. The longer she floated on this path, against the tide, the farther from her goal she would get. Would it be best to attempt an escape before they reached...wherever it was they were going? She stared at the carriage floor. Less than a full step to the door, but so was Firestriker. He was stronger than her for certain, and likely just as fast, or faster.

She had not counted on a fit master. Plus, she couldn’t discount the dagger-toothed wolves strapped to the carriage. It seemed they were trained to pull without command or direction. She didn’t want to imagine what they might do if she ran. In common practice, a running slave received only death. Her active imagination had no trouble picturing what that might be like at the mercy of such beasts. She withheld a shudder.

“You are afraid.” Firestriker’s voice was soft, and she caught a hint of disappointment.

She fought the urge to frown. And argue. Slaves didn’t argue, or frown at their masters.

“Do you fear me?” he asked.

“No master,” she answered automatically. The pleasing answer, the right answer.


“No,” she lied.

Firestriker blew out a breath. Amusement? Or irritation? She didn’t dare raise her eyes to his again to find out.

“Come closer,” he commanded.

Her heart slammed against her ribs and her stomach leapt upward. She sensed him shift in his seat, stretch out and lean back. Legs with bulging muscles filled her vision and her nostrils filled with the scent of the air after a storm. His scent.

She had little time to process how it was possible for a man to smell like rain. Another bulge caught her attention...and held it. His black fitted pants did little to hide his straining erection. Her mind filled with years of training. All the things the managers had forced her to learn—but never experience. Except instead of dull, factual positions and techniques she was bombarded with images of carnal actions and possibilities. Images involving a dark-haired man with amber eyes. Her body reacted of its own accord, with a deep pull at her core and a tingling warmth between her legs.

She did not want to consummate, a deeper part of her mind reminded. She struggled to rein in her wayward desire, but her body was having none of it.

Strong fingers gripped her chin, a gentle touch, but one that demanded no nonsense. Firestriker pulled her face up. “Look at me,” he demanded.

She obeyed and shrank back at what she saw. The amusement in his eyes had disappeared, replaced by a hard, challenging look.

His intention clear. He released her chin and indicated a spot next to him on the opposite bench.

She eyed the spot warily; there was hardly enough room for his own bulk, she would be crushed against him.

The lump in her throat, her stomach maybe, forced her to swallow. Everything inside felt upside-down. She did not want to consummate. And she lied, even to herself.

She rose to a half standing position and took a step toward him as commanded. His scent grew stronger, nearly overwhelming in its headiness. A bump in the road shook the carriage, the wheels ground over it with a terrible scraping sound. Gayriel flailed and tipped toward Firestriker. Fortunately, she managed to catch herself before falling, one hand on the seat beside him and one on his chest.

How was he so hot? Her palm burned with a pleasant warmth, just short of painful. She tried to pull it away, but a strong grip held her there, so that she was caught, hovering over him, her face a hand’s-width from his.

Amber eyes scanned hers and somehow she could feel him searching again.

“We will have to work on your lying,” he growled softly.

Ohh, she was in trouble, he was definitely displeased. So much for acting the passive slave. Mentally, she prepared. At the choosing house, nothing short of physical pain was punishment for such a mistake.

“You will need to get much better at it,” he muttered after a breath. “And I will show you how to hide your fear, as well, you reek of it.”

For a moment, she thought nothing, just blinked in confusion, her face so close to his. And then, she was desperately trying to bury the fury that boiled within her. She reeked of it?

A bedroom slave did not hold much dignity, but the indignation, the shame of his words, struck her like a physical force. Not since the day her parents sold her to the training house had she felt so debased.

What did you think it would be like when you were sold? A voice in her head that sounded suspiciously like Fothmar chided.

She stuffed him away. Stuffed everything away and cleared her mind. Meditation had been one of those trainings she disregarded as useless. She would have much rather worked on her endurance, or strength. Those, she reasoned, would be useful one day. Now, she found herself wishing she had paid a little better attention to the methods. She pushed that thought away too, to the place she was stuffing all her other emotions.

Firestriker said nothing more, though he studied her face while she struggled for neutrality. Her arms ached from supporting her own weight.

After a long moment, he nodded and tugged her down to the seat beside him. He kept hold of her left arm though, so her body draped against his side.

She held still and waited for his next motion. He remained in the same position for a good long while, making no move to farther their closeness, nor demands of her services. When it was clear that he would not, she shifted, relieving the pin pricks forming along her leg.

She let out a shaky breath, relieved to be facing the carriage interior once more. The man was far too intense for her liking. What now? She had not planned for this. Firestriker was a long way from the greedy, dim-minded Lord that she had sought. She would need an entirely new strategy to fool him. And for the first time since she formulated her plan of escape, she worried that she couldn’t do it.

“It is a long way to the Amber Guard Aerie,” Firestriker muttered. “Sleep.”

As if joined with his words, her eyelids sunk. The last thing she recalled was the heat of his shoulder against her cheek.

Libre Baskerville
Gentium Book Basic
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