Authors: Sherri Hayes
The entire drive back to my office I could not stop thinking about what Daren had told me. How did she get there? And was she really, as he suspected, there against her will? What if he was wrong?
I couldn’t think about that. Daren wouldn’t have come to me unless he was sure.
Pushing all thoughts of this mystery girl aside, I waited for the elevator doors to open. No matter what I decided to do, I would need a clear head.
When I returned to the office, Jamie, my secretary, informed me our CFO was waiting in my office. The previous acting president had hired Karl Walker while I was still in college and before I took over my duties as head of the foundation. Karl was good at what he did, which was why he was still here. That didn’t mean I liked the man.
He was rude. Not to me, of course, but to those he felt were beneath him, like Jamie. Karl was subtle about it, though; it was more sly comments than outright rudeness. Once, he’d told Jamie she was pretty good at her “little” job. The disparaging comment was a vast understatement of Jamie’s duties as an executive secretary. She earned every penny she made.
Jamie had said more than once that she was very glad to be working for me and not him. Her comment was along the lines of “If I had to work for him, I’d quit before the week was out.” Although her words inflated my ego, it didn’t solve my overall problem with him. Or my current problem: why was Karl in my office?
My CFO stood as I entered and waited until I took a seat before retaking his own. “What can I do for you, Karl?”
He handed me a stack of papers. “I wanted to bring you the quarterly numbers as soon as the girls finished compiling them.” The look on his face was full of the arrogance I’d come to associate with Karl. And though I bristled inwardly at his words for the all-female team he’d assembled, I kept my irritation in check. My anger would get me nowhere, so I ignored his choice of words.
“The numbers are good, but not where I would like them to be. I think we may need to ramp up the fall fundraiser to make sure we exceed our financial goal.”
I set the pile down in front of me; there was no need to look at it immediately if there were no glaring issues. Besides, I had enough on my mind right now. “I’ll be happy if we meet our goal, considering the economy.”
“I still think we need to set our sights high,” he said, pushing for more.
I was not going to argue something so stupid with him. “Fine. Meet with Lily and put together a proposal.”
With that he left. Picking up the phone, I dialed Lily’s number to let her know he was coming. She detested Karl Walker and would kill me if I didn’t warn her he was coming. Lily didn’t take crap from anyone.
Lily answered on the third ring. “Stephan. To what do I owe this honor?”
I managed a smile. “Karl Walker’s on his way down to see you.”
She whined. “I have to be nice?”
This time an actual chuckle escaped. “Yes. You have to be nice.”
“Do you know what he wants?” She sighed.
“He wants to discuss some changes to the fundraiser.”
Lily’s tone became defensive. “Changes? What kinds of changes?”
The fall fundraiser was Lily’s baby. She took it personally. “The quarterly projections are lower than what he’d hoped.”
“Ah,” she surmised. “He just wants to impress the boss.”
I wasn’t going to disagree with her. She was probably right.
Ian Pierce had been pleasant enough when I’d talked to him on the phone. Daren had been correct; he was open to “selling” Brianna.
My appointment was for six o’clock, Wednesday evening, and when I pulled my car up to the gated house ten miles outside of the city, my stomach started churning, just as it had every time I thought about what I was going to do.
I am going to buy someone!
The gate opened. My sweaty palms gripped the steering wheel as I drove my car down a long driveway leading to a house that looked like something out of a Gothic horror movie. I could only imagine how eerie it would be once the sun set.
Taking a deep breath, I put my game face on. I’d done a little research on Ian after setting up the appointment. From everything I’d found, Daren had been right about the man. Ian respected those who emanated power and detested those who exhibited weakness. I would have to mind my actions the entire time I was within the walls of his house.
Less than a minute after ringing the doorbell, a tiny woman opened the door, wearing nothing more than a tube top and a short miniskirt. Her hair was long and blond. This was not Brianna.
The woman did not speak and her gaze, after the second it took for her to see who I was, was cast down.
“I’m Stephan Coleman.” My voice was firm but even.
“Yes, Sir. Will you follow me?”
She stepped back and waited for me to enter before closing the door behind me. I assumed this was Alex, Ian’s alpha slave. She led me down a long hallway to a large, solid-wooden door that she knocked on twice, firmly. A stern voice answered, telling us to enter. My escort opened the door for me before following and immediately dropping to her knees.
The room was masculine, full of dark woods. The walls were lined with bookcases filled with books. In the center of the room sat an older man, who I assumed was Ian, behind a large desk. He looked up and appraised me. I’d just come from work and wore a tailored black suit and tie with a white shirt. Classic, but it also said power, which was exactly what I’d intended.
Without looking at the woman on floor he dismissed her, telling her to wait outside until she was wanted. The door closed behind me, and suddenly the room felt small. Ian sat staring at me, watching, looking for something. He stood to walk in front of his desk, stopped, and appraised me some more. Scrutiny was nothing new for me, but for some reason this guy gave me the creeps. I refused to let it show and stood confident under his examination.
I made the decision right then that I wasn’t about to walk out of here without Brianna, so I pushed my nerves aside and stepped forward. “I’m Stephan Coleman. I’m here to look at the girl.”
“Ah, yes. Brianna. Your friend told me you had an interest in my slave. Why?” His tone was even and cold.
This was a test. My response would determine if I was worthy in his eyes to own his girl. “I don’t believe I need a reason.”
He smiled wickedly at my response. Yep. Test. “True.” He tapped his fingers together just under his chin. “Would you like to see the merchandise?”
“I would.” I kept my voice flat.
“Alex!” he yelled sharply. The door immediately opened and the woman from before stepped through. “Bring Brianna to me,” he ordered.
She left quickly, scurrying out of the room, but returned shortly. The woman at Alex’s side was taller than her, but still petite, and wore the same tube top and miniskirt uniform. I couldn’t see her eyes, but I knew they would be blue just as Daren had said. She was beautiful from what I could see. Beautiful and broken.
Brianna had medium brown hair that fell below her shoulders and curled up at the ends, framing her face and drawing attention to her breasts. Her curves were well defined, but not extravagant. In different clothing, she would have reminded me of the girl next door.
Seeing her, all my reservations vanished. Something inside me screamed that I needed to protect her. I would buy her no matter the cost.
Then Ian’s sharp voice interrupted my thoughts. “Stand in the middle of the room, Brianna.” She did so quickly, obviously fearful of her Master.
I knew what was expected of me now. Walking to her, I circled, giving her a cursory evaluation. “Nice.” And she was. She was young, and she had a subtle beauty to her. Her skin was pale with a light pink hue. There were no blemishes that I could see, which surprised me given how young she looked. I was drawn to her lips. They were a darker shade of pink, but with the expression on her face they look wrong. She was not happy, and I wondered what her lips would look like as she smiled.
Ian’s prideful voice interrupted my thoughts. “Isn’t she, though? She was a bit of a challenge at first, but we’ve taken care of that.”
I nodded and cringed internally because of what I was about to do.
My hand went to her chin and pushed her face up. She kept her gaze downcast as much as she was able, but I could see the fear. Daren was right. This was not her choice. There was no satisfaction in her eyes or her posture in serving her Master.
“Open,” I commanded.
She did as she was told, and I made a point of looking at the health of her teeth. I had no idea what I was looking for, of course; I was no dentist or doctor, for that matter. “How long have you had her?”
His voice was smug as we discussed his property. “A little over ten months. One of the best purchases I ever made. She has been . . .” his voice trailed off as he looked for the right word, “. . . entertaining.” Then he sighed. “But I’m willing to part with her. For the right price, that is.”
Nausea returned as I listened to him, and I was glad I’d forgone dinner.
Pushing her chin up, indicating I wanted her to close her mouth, I ran my hands down her bare neck and shoulders before palming her breasts over the thin material of her tube top. I gave them a light squeeze as if measuring their size and the feel of them in my hands. I noticed a small furrowing of her brow, but otherwise she didn’t move. I tucked that piece of information away for later.
Then I knelt, bringing my hands to her narrow waist. I knew she most likely wasn’t wearing underwear, so that was not what surprised me when I lifted her skirt. It was the deep bruising running up the inside of both her thighs made worse by the evidence of older bruises.
My anger roared inside me, and I had to fight with myself not to let it show. It wouldn’t help my cause. I stood and continued to do what was expected.
Going around behind her, I ran my hands over her once again before stepping away.
“Do you like her? She’s well-proportioned. Her oral skills are quite good as well. You are more than welcome to try them out if you’d like.”
“That won’t be necessary. I do believe she will work.” And then I uttered the words I never wanted to say again. “How much?”
I felt Brianna shift beside me. It was small, but I wasn’t the only one who saw it.
Ian glared at her before walking to her side. “Maybe we should go downstairs first, and I can remind you of your place,” he snapped.
She didn’t answer him. Instead, her head bowed farther, showing him her submission. He seemed pleased with her compliance.
He began again. “My apologies,” he said, all business again. “Now, where were we?”
The negotiation took almost an hour, but in the end I handed over a check for a substantial amount of money. Daren was correct when he mentioned that I had more money than him. He would have been hard pressed to access the sum I now freely handed over to Ian Pierce. I wouldn’t miss it.
Ian removed a painting from the wall behind him and placed the check in a safe before turning to Brianna and removing her black leather collar. He laid it on his desk and asked, “Do you have something for her already?”
“I didn’t bring it with me since I hadn’t looked her over yet.” All I wanted to do was get out of here. This entire charade was making me sick. He just nodded and then took her face in his hand, forcing her to look at him for the first time since I’d been there. I could see his fingers biting into the flesh of her cheeks. “You belong to him now. You will not embarrass me, do you understand?”