Authors: Sherri Hayes
My eyes began to lower, and I felt his hand on my chin tighten in warning. Immediately I brought my eyes back up to his. “College, Master.” His brow rose again in question. “I . . . I used to dream of going to college and . . .”
My words drifted off, and he finished them for me. “. . . and you realized that now it may be a possibility. That is understandable, Brianna, but it is still not acceptable for you not to notice what is around you. You must be aware of where you are and who you are with at all times, whether that be inside or outside of this house, is that understood?”
“Yes, Master,” I whispered.
He watched me for a long time and then said, “I will let this incident go without a consequence, but do not let it happen again.”
“I won’t, Master.”
He released my chin and picked the papers back up. When he spoke again, it wasn’t what I’d expected. “Come sit in my lap, Brianna.”
My heart started pounding. This was it. I swallowed down my fear, stood slowly, and did as he requested as gently as possible. The arm not holding the paperwork wrapped around my waist. I kept waiting for it to move up or down, but it didn’t. It just lay innocently on my stomach.
As we went over what I’d filled out, I had to concentrate hard on what he was saying. I didn’t want to get caught again not paying attention, but it was difficult.
Somehow I managed, and we were able to come up with something to fill in that empty space I’d been so unsure of with “personal conflicts.” Master didn’t think they’d want a more specific answer because it was only for record-keeping purposes.
Amazingly, I’d gradually started to relax the longer we sat and talked. The bliss of the moment was cut short as he set the papers down and said, “Kiss me.”
I hesitated and began to see the furrowing of his brow showing his disappointment. I didn’t want that. I’d promised myself that I would do whatever he asked, and now that he was asking something of me, look at my reaction. It was a kiss, just a kiss. So I leaned in, closed my eyes, and tried to stay calm.
He relaxed under me the moment my lips touched his, but he didn’t move other than to kiss me back. It felt odd. I’d never kissed anyone before. I mean, I’d been kissed, but I’d never been the one doing the kissing. Maybe that shouldn’t make a difference but somehow it did.
When I finally pulled my lips from his, I opened my eyes to find his staring back at me. Then the knuckles of his left hand came up and brushed my cheek. “Very nice, Brianna. But next time do not hesitate.”
I was in a deep sleep when I heard an annoying beeping sound by my ear. And as much as I willed it to go away, it wouldn’t stop. Finally, I opened my eyes and located the sound. The alarm.
Reaching out, I hit the snooze button, desperate for it to stop. But as soon as my eyes opened enough to take in my surroundings, I remembered where I was. It had been so long since that had happened.
Lifting my hand to my neck, my fingers grazed the tiny circle of metal there. My collar. Stephan.
Thinking of him set my mind in motion, and I realized that I’d not set my alarm last night. My eyes flashed over to the source of my wakefulness and rested on the folded note taped over the numbers. I had no doubt as to who had left the note or who had set my alarm. Pulling the tape loose, I opened the note and read it.
Dress and meet me in the gym.
Clothes are on the bench at the end of the bed.
I’ll be waiting.
Although I was not a morning person, I’d gotten used to having to wake at a moment’s notice and made myself get out of bed. I did not want to anger him this morning. Last night had been so very nice, and I wanted it again.
I dressed quickly in the tank top and shorts he’d laid out for me and headed up the stairs. Just as he’d said, he was waiting for me.
When I entered the room he was facing away from me, but that soon changed. It seemed as if he could tell I was there because not more than five seconds passed before he turned around. I immediately dropped my eyes.
He walked toward me slowly, deliberately. My body went on alert as he got closer. I had no idea what he was going to do to me here.
My Master stopped directly in front of me. “Good morning, Brianna. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, Master. Thank-you.”
His hand came up to lift my chin. I knew by now that he wanted me to look at him. My eyes found his and waited. He didn’t make me wait long. “I’m glad to hear that. I was going to introduce you to my gym this morning, but it seems you’ve already become acquainted.”
I swallowed. Was he upset that I’d cleaned in here?
Please don’t let him be upset.
All I wanted to do was make him happy with me. Why couldn’t I make him happy?
The hand that had been under my chin came up and brushed the side of my cheek. “Calm, Brianna,” he whispered. “I’m not displeased with you.”
I let out the breath I’d been holding. I hadn’t messed up again.
“Since you have already been around my gym, I will forgo the tour. I do want you to get used to some of the machines you’ll be using with Brad.” I assumed Brad was the personal trainer he’d mentioned, but he didn’t give me time to contemplate that. He took a step back and held out his hand, clearly wanting me to take it. Bringing my arm up, I put my hand in his, and he quickly wrapped his fingers around mine.
I followed him over to a treadmill. “You will walk today for five miles or until you are unable to continue, whichever comes first. However,” he said, his voice taking on that commanding tone, “if you stop before the five miles, and I do not feel you have truly reached your limit, we will be back in here later today to try again. Do you understand this, Brianna?”
He wanted me to walk? For five miles? I didn’t know if I could do that. I’d only been on a treadmill once in my life, and I’d fallen flat on my face, giving myself a bloody nose. But I couldn’t tell him no. I had to at least try. “Yes, Master.”
“Good,” he said. And then he stepped forward again and took my face in his hands. “You will do fine. I will not be far.”
He helped me onto the machine and showed me how to start it, stop it, and where it would show me the miles I’d walked. I nodded and hoped with everything I had that I could do this.
Before I knew it, he was stepping back a few feet to watch me, waiting for me to start. With a deep breath, I hit the button and felt the belt begin to move under me.
I was okay at first. The belt was moving slowly, and I kept a tight grip on the handlebar. But then it started to pick up speed, and my legs just would not do what I wanted them to do. I felt my ankle begin to twist and my knees buckle. My last thought as I closed my eyes was to hope that he wouldn’t be too mad I couldn’t do what he’d wanted.
Surprisingly I didn’t hit the floor or the machine. Instead, I felt two arms circle my waist. I knew who had caught me, and I froze, waiting.
My Master’s breath was hot against my ear as he spoke. “Perhaps something besides the treadmill to start, hmm?”
His hands moved to my waist and stayed there until I was standing on my own two feet again. I wanted to beg for his forgiveness; to tell him I was sorry, but I kept my mouth shut and just lowered my head.
I felt him take a step back before he turned me to face him. “Let’s try the bike instead, shall we?”
He didn’t wait for me to answer before taking my arm and leading me several yards away to a stationary bicycle. “This will expend a little more effort than the walking, so we will reduce it from five miles to three.”
Master adjusted the machine and then stood, waiting for me to climb up. I’d never been on one of these before, but I knew how to ride a bicycle so I wasn’t too worried. It was the three miles I was a little concerned with.
I couldn’t say that, though, so I moved myself into position and started peddling while he watched. The numbers began moving, showing my progress, and after a while Master must have been satisfied I wouldn’t fall off and walked away. He didn’t go far, just on the other side of the room where he picked up some weights and began lifting.
The weights he used weren’t overly large, not like the ones you see the bodybuilders use on television, but they were still enough to show the strain of his muscles through his T-shirt. A shiver ran through me at the strength he must have and what he could do with it. What he could do to me with it if he chose.
I felt the fear start to bubble up inside me again as I watched him shift the weights into a different position. Clinching my eyes shut, I tried to will it away. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered.
Vaguely, I heard the sound of a timer, but I was so lost in my head that I didn’t register what it was. Then I felt his hand on my arm and jumped.
This was not happening to me! He’d caught me not paying attention again after he’d just warned me last night. I knew what was coming. I knew, and yet I still wanted to beg for it not to happen.
“Look at me, Brianna.”
I’d been expecting that tone, but it still had me trembling. It was so hard to look at him. His face was rigid, his jaw clenched. “What did I tell you last night about not paying attention?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “I thought you would have learned the importance of that lesson after our talk, but obviously you haven’t. I told you there would be consequences next time, and so as much as I do not wish it, you’ve made your choice. Go get your books and bring them to me.”
My books? What was he going to do with my books? When he noticed my hesitation, he raised his eyebrow slightly, and I knew if I didn’t get moving quickly, whatever he had planned would get much worse.
I made it down the stairs as fast as I could, my legs not quite so steady after the three-mile bicycle ride. The books were lying where I’d left them last night on the nightstand. My heart clenched when I thought about what he was going to do with them. As I made my way back up the stairs to the gym where he was waiting, I almost wished he’d do anything but take away my books.
When I entered the room, he was standing right where I’d left him and didn’t move as I approached. Standing before him, the books in my right hand, I watched in dread as his hand came out asking for them.
A small whine left my lips as I placed them in his grasp. He heard it, of course, and made a
sound with his tongue before tucking the books under his arm. “These will remain in my possession for one week. As long as I feel you’ve learned your lesson, you will get them back next Sunday morning. Until then, the library is off limits to you as well.”
He was taking my books. I didn’t know why, but that felt worse than if he’d have hit me. It had been so long since I’d been able to read, to lose myself in a novel, and he was taking them away.
There had been no doubt in my mind that eventually I’d displease him, but I’d never thought he’d choose my books of all things to take away from me.
Stupid. He can take everything away, remember? You are nothing. You have nothing.
His voice brought me back to him again. “I expect you to pay attention to your surroundings at all times, Brianna.” Master’s voice changed slightly before he spoke his next words. “Now, as for your hesitation in complying with my request...” This is it. What will he do to me? “We are finished here for today. You will go shower and dress for dinner with my aunt and uncle. Pick out a skirt and blouse from what Lily got you. If you need help, come find me; I will be in my room getting dressed as well.” Then he took a step toward me and lifted my chin. “I want to make sure you are paying attention today, Brianna. Only cold water for your shower.”
And with that, he walked away.
Two hours later, we were in his car. It had been less than two weeks since I’d started taking warm showers again, but it was enough time to make me forget how much I hated cold ones. Because of the workout, I’d had to wash my hair. By the time I’d stepped out of the shower, I was freezing.
I had to do better. It couldn’t be that hard to stay focused and pay attention. Daydreaming was something I’d always had a habit of doing. When I was younger, my teachers had given me more than one lecture on paying attention.
We drove for almost an hour before he pulled over along the side of the road. There was countryside all around us, but I saw no house nearby so I wasn’t sure why he’d stopped. I kept myself still but focused my complete attention on him.
He shifted in his seat to look at me. There was silence in the car for several minutes as I waited. Finally the words came. “While we’re here, you will keep your head up. If someone asks you a question, it is up to you whether or not you answer it; however, I do expect you to be polite.”
“Yes, Master,” I whispered obediently.
He brushed his fingers against my cheek and then ran them though my hair down to my shoulder. “You will do fine, Brianna. I will not leave you alone. Remember, you are safe.”
I was safe. He kept saying that.
Master’s pulled his hand away, turned back around in his seat, and put the car in drive. Less than a mile later, we turned down a long driveway, and I could see a huge house in the distance.
We were here.
The house was massive, at least from what I could see. It had to be just as big as Ian’s, but where his was creepy and intimidating, this one was elegant and regal.
We walked to the door, his arm at my lower back. I felt calmer knowing he was there, which was strange. I couldn’t explain this weird mixture of fear and trust I had.
The fear I understood. He owned me. It was the trust that boggled my mind. I had no reason to trust him except for the fact that he had yet to lie to me. Even down to the consequences this morning, he’d been truthful. I cringed at the reminder that I had no books to occupy my days or evenings for the next week.
My Master didn’t knock when we reached the door, but instead walked in as if he owned the place. He guided me through a foyer bigger than my room and down a long hallway that opened up into a kitchen. There stood a woman with long, brown hair very similar in color to Stephan’s.
Seeming to have the same sixth sense as Master did, she turned moments after we entered the room. “Stephan!” she screamed, dropping what she’d been holding in her hand and wrapping him in an exuberant hug.
She pulled back and looked at him as if assessing. “You are not allowed to stay away for that long again,” she said, playfully slapping his arm. “Do you hear me?”
He chuckled. “Yes, ma’am.”
Then her eyes fell on me. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your girlfriend?”
She didn’t know what I was. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t a slave to her. I was just a person.