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Chapter 2

Under Contract: Chapter Two

Alex's stomach is in knots; he's never been this nervous before. Four o'clock in the afternoon. They couldn't have made it an eight o'clock meeting? Ten o'clock, even noon. The waiting is going to kill me.

It's a test, of course. Of his patience, his ability to occupy himself even when something huge is on the horizon. He understands that. Still, he's got six hours to kill, and the room they've got him in doesn't exactly have a lot of amenities–there's a media screen and an datapad with a link to the house library, a tiny balcony, and if he wants to leave the room, he's got free access to the cafeteria, the gardens, and the gym. He's not sure he does want to leave, though, not in his current frame of mind. He'd probably try to drop to his knees for the first person he runs into, and that's not the kind of impression he wants to make here.

Desperate–they probably know that already. Desperate, with no sense of discrimination or self-control? They'll have me out on my ass in a matter of minutes.

So he spends a few hours reading, takes lunch in his room, wanders out to the balcony and looks at the inner courtyard. There are two courtyards, Alex was told–one for slave use only, and one for visiting owners and the slaves they're working with that day. Alex's room, like most slaves' rooms, looks out onto the slaves-only courtyard, which is beautifully landscaped. There are people taking walks around the grounds, people reading, talking, enjoying the summer weather. Most of them look happy.

He goes back inside and turns on the media screen, flipping through channels and movie options. He picks a mind-numbing action movie at random, and he stretches out on the bed to watch it. Three more hours. He can make it another three hours.
The movie's pretty much useless; all Alex can think about is what's coming, who his trainer might be, what he'll end up doing today. He climbs out of the bed and runs through the basic positions they taught him at his interview, things they said his trainer would expect him to know: present position, kneeling with palms up; hands and knee, face pointed at the ground; parade rest, hands behind his back; flat on his stomach, face on the floor, hands laced behind his neck. It doesn't calm him down at all; if anything, it does the opposite, because he starts imagining what it's going to be like doing this for a trainer. He takes a long, cold shower at a quarter past three, teeth chattering when he gets out of it.

At 3:45, there's a knock on the door, and Alex runs his fingers through his hair before taking a deep breath and answering it. The woman standing there is the same one who interviewed him; she smiles. "Hello, Alex. Are you ready?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Follow me, please."

They head through the slave wing and into the main lobby; at the elevator bank, there are no buttons, just prox-card readers, and she waves a card across one of them. The elevator's already there, and they step inside, where she waves the card again and then presses the button for the fourth floor. It's all Alex can do not to bounce.

She glances at him out of the corner of her eye. "Excited?" she asks.

It seems kind enough; she's not obviously making fun of him. "Yes, ma'am."

"I hope you'll find what you're looking for, Alex, but what we do here isn't a vacation or a fantasy. It's work, and it's not glamorous."

He shakes his head. "No–no, I understand that."

"Good." The elevator comes to a stop, and she leads Alex out and down the hallway. The hall's all wood and glass, with unusual offices–but then, what's usual in a place like this? The offices are full of couches and coffee tables, no desks in sight. They tend to have a fair amount of open space, too, away from the seating area. Some of them have the shades drawn, and Alex notices someone reading a newspaper with a girl kneeling at his side. She's wearing the basic slave's uniform, with drawstring pants and a tank top instead of the t-shirt Alex picked out; she looks about twenty. She has long brown hair and perfectly manicured nails, and she catches Alex's eye as he walks past. She winks.

He turns his attention back to his escort, wondering if he's blushing again. Am I ever going to learn to stop that? Can they train that out of you?

They stop at the fourth office on the right. Alex doesn't see anyone in the room, but there's an inner door on the left wall, and Alex's escort leads him into the room, gesturing to the couches. "Anywhere you like," she says. "It'll just be a moment."

He nods and takes a seat on one of the couches–they're all different colors, all of them facing a central coffee table. The table has a file with Alex's name on it, and Alex stares for a moment, wondering what it says about him. He changes his mind and takes a seat on the couch facing away from the hallway; the fewer distractions he has right now, the better.

His escort's over at the inner door, and she knocks lightly on it before opening it up. "Gavin? Your assignment's here."

A moment later, she turns around, and a man–Alex's trainer–follows her back into the office. Alex starts to stand up, then wonders if he should do anything without orders. He ends up sitting back down as his trainer walks over to him. His trainer's gorgeous–dark brown hair, blue eyes, cheekbones that could cut glass. He's a little over six feet, Alex estimates. Jeans, black t-shirt, black motorcycle boots–ones that are well-worn and broken-in. Alex is glad he didn't stand up; these uniforms hide nothing.

His relief doesn't last long. Gavin nods at Alex, inclining his head as if to say get up. Alex isn't sure how someone can get that message across with just a slight motion of his head, but he stands up anyway, trying not to think about how hard he is, how obvious that is in these pants.

"I'm Gavin," he says. "I'll be working with you for the next month."

And they think I'm going to have second thoughts. "Yes, sir," Alex says. "Pleased to meet you."

Gavin grins. "And your name is…?"

"Oh! I'm sorry, sir, I assumed you knew. I'm Alex Truman."

Gavin nods to Alex's escort. "I think I can handle it from here."

"Of course." She nods at Alex. "Welcome to Cascade, Alex."

"Thank you, ma'am."

Gavin smiles at Alex as she lets herself out of the office. Once he's gone, Gavin catches Alex's eye again. "Come over here, please, Alex."

He leads Alex over to the open area and snaps his fingers, pointing to a spot in the dead center of the open area. "Parade rest."

With no instructions about which way to face, Alex turns so he's facing Gavin. Alex puts his feet shoulder-width apart and gets his hands behind his back, each hand cupping the opposite elbow. Gavin nods and starts walking around him; Alex stays facing straight ahead.

"Knees," Gavin says. Alex folds himself down to a kneel, but he doesn't move his arms. Gavin ends up at his other side; Alex doesn't look up at him. He can see Gavin's boots out of the corner of his eye, though. "Present."

Alex puts his hands on his knees, palms up, and spreads his knees apart a little wider. Gavin comes around to stand in front of him. Alex looks up. Gavin isn't smiling; he looks very serious, and it makes Alex sit up straighter, trying to get his posture just right.

"Lace your fingers behind your head."

Alex does it, still looking up at Gavin. Gavin looks him over, then circles him again. "Tell me why you're here, Alex."

"I'd like to find an owner, sir."

"Your file says you're not here out of financial need."

"No, sir."

"If the training works out for you, you'll be contracted to someone for six months, and there's no way out of it. Do you understand what that means?"

"I think so, sir," Alex says quietly.

"How did you find your way to Cascade?"

"I built some furniture for a man with a slave. The slave referred me here."

"Did this man fuck you?" Gavin's behind Alex now, and he stops there.

"Yes, sir," Alex murmurs.

"Did his slave fuck you?"

Alex looks down at the ground. There's no way he can take these questions without blushing, without that curling sense of shame mixed with need twisting through his gut. "Yes," he whispers.

"And you liked what they did with you."

"Yes, sir."

"Enough to spend a month training to do it for someone else. Someone you don't know. Someone you can't choose, who you won't be able to leave just because you're not attracted to them or they're not fucking you the way you like to be fucked."

"I–" Alex licks his lips and swallows. He's thinking about Brian again, about Rhys. He can't help it. Brian telling Rhys Any way you want, boy; he'll like whatever you give him, and Rhys proving Brian right. "I'm here, sir."

"I could spend a month not fucking you. Not even touching you. Sometimes an owner will buy slaves just to know he can take them at any time, but he doesn't get around to using them. You could spend a month crawling the walls with boredom."

"That part's not new, sir."

Gavin laughs at that, and Alex feels some of the tension come out of his shoulders. "How good is your job, Alex?" he asks. "You're making enough money to stay above water; you're not living in government-controlled property. You obviously don't go hungry. What's going to happen if you're out of work for seven months?"

"My contract with Cascade says I'll be compensated–"

"You will, but are you going to have work waiting for you after seven months?"

"Yes, sir."

"You're sure about that?"

"My work is word-of-mouth, sir, and I'll still have references waiting for me when I'm done here."

Alex can't see him, but he can feel it when Gavin kneels down behind him. Gavin slides up close, his chest pressed to Alex's back, his thighs to either side of Alex's, and he slides one hand onto Alex's thigh while the other one goes to Alex's stomach, fingers splayed out. Alex closes his eyes.

"Everyone has limits, Alex," Gavin murmurs. "This month it's my job to find yours. You're not going to like everything I do to you." The hand on Alex's thigh moves over and cups Alex's cock; Alex groans. "That probably seems hard to believe right now…" He dips his head down and licks the side of Alex's neck, then sinks his teeth in, gentle at first and then harder. Alex hisses, but he doesn't move. Gavin squeezes his cock, and Alex pushes his hips forward. Gavin lets the bite go, lets Alex's cock go, and Alex's left panting and hurting and wanting.

He can feel Gavin's cock, hard and pressed against his ass. Gavin wants him, too. The realization's enough to make Alex shiver. "Please," he whispers. "Anything."

Gavin puts both hands on Alex's thighs and rests his forehead against Alex's arm for a moment. It's so quiet in here Alex can almost hear his own heart thudding in his chest, can hear Gavin breathing softly behind him.

When Gavin lifts his head again, Alex is expecting an order, but instead there's a long pause, and Gavin takes a slow, deep breath. "It's too early for 'anything'."

Alex wants to argue with that, wants to tell Gavin that he was willing to give them anything as soon as he walked through the front door. He stays quiet, though, and after a while, he nods.

It's enough for Gavin, who slowly comes to his feet. "Come on," he murmurs. "We're going to get you fitted for some gear."