Brand is excited to enter The Service and even more excited to meet his new Master. He is assigned to Zane Wooding, an action-adventure movie star and a real man’s man. Zane is famous for his body more than his acting, but the paparazzi and his legions of fans don’t seem to care. Brand has to dodge the pitfalls of being with someone so famous and even begins to fall for his Master, but he also becomes a target for those that are jealous of Zane’s interest in him. While his Master protects him from outsiders, the evil is much closer to home.
I got the call as I came home from class on a Monday afternoon. It was spring of my last semester in Chapel Hill. I had a lot on my mind as I traversed the quad heading to my dorm. All of those thoughts immediately rushed out of my head in an instant when I answered the phone.
“This is The Service calling,” said an automated voice. “You have been selected.”
My heart stopped, as did my legs, causing the person behind me on the sidewalk to almost run into me. This was the most startling, life-changing phone call I had ever received and now it was flying by so fast that I didn’t have time to even register what was happening.
The automated voice droned on, “You must be ready by this Friday at four o’clock. Please make all of your arrangements as soon as possible. Your handler will be Ricky Jacobson. If you have questions, you may call him at this number...” and a phone number was recited slowly enough for me to write it down.
Oh, I have a handler. I wasn’t sure what that meant. What the fuck was I going to do now? I had so much to do and almost no time to do it. I immediately felt inadequate. All the other Servants had gone to school to learn what to do, but not me.
My mind wandered, but the voice continued. “You will be receiving a package by courier in one hour. Please be home to receive it.”
No problem. I’m almost to my dorm.
“Thank you for your enlistment in The Service. Your next two years will change your life in more ways than you can imagine. Your service is appreciated and good luck.”
And with a sharp click, the call was over and my life was set on a course that both excited and terrified me. I unlocked the front door of Mangum dorm and walked up the flight of stairs to my second floor room. I had a lot to do, so I sat down and made some notes.
I needed to call Dad and my brothers, who were going to freak out from not knowing how I was to be treated. I would need to talk to the University about finishing my degree elsewhere. I was so close to being done, I didn’t want it all to go to waste, and I would need a job in two years. This would involve informing the registrar about my enrollment change. I didn’t want my dad charged for the rest of the semester, and I knew that they had a policy for circumstances like this.
Telling my friends would be sad, but the marked guys would understand, of course. I could probably give them most of my possessions, since I wouldn’t be allowed to bring anything with me into Service. I could sell the rest.
But more than anything else, I needed to work out. I wanted to make a good first impression. Realizing that this was last minute, I knew it wouldn’t help, but I was going to go in the best shape possible.
I found myself looking in the mirror at my mark. From my left ear down my jawline was a pale blue mark that resembled tattooed flames. The mark was the reason that I was being given this fantastic chance. It was also the thing that made me different from most of the other guys on campus.
Marked guys were rare. Some people said they were one in one hundred, but it seemed to me that it was lower than that. I once counted all of the people I met and I thought it was more like one in six hundred. Non-marked guys or NOMARS, as we called them were a dime a dozen, and I had been fighting them off me for years, or at least since junior high school.
I couldn’t believe this was happening now. After high school, I had deferred my Service for the first two years of college. Twenty was usually the upper limit for Service and I let my deferment lapse after my sophomore year. Now at twenty-two and a senior, I had just assumed the call was not going to happen and I had missed my opportunity.
But here it was, and I had to report on Friday! I let myself imagine what it would be like for a few seconds. My groin twitched and I couldn’t stop smiling as I thought about it.
My daydream ended with a knock on the dorm door. I had left my window above the outside door open so I could hear the knock. I looked out the window and saw a guy in a black suit, definitely not a college kid, so I yelled down that I was coming out.
I flew down the stairs and opened the door. He was at least thirty, tall, and thick, with close-cut salt-n-pepper hair. His suit looked expensive and I hesitated, not being sure of what to do or say.
I finally blurted out, “Come in.”
“Are you Brand?”
“Yes.” I saw his mark right away.
“Can we go to your room?”
“Sure, this way.” I took off up the stairs and onto my hall. He followed me and I held my dorm room door open for him as he entered.
“I’m Ricky...your handler.” He held a big hand out for me to shake. “You nervous?”
“Yeah, and excited.”
“You should be. You wouldn’t be normal if you weren’t.”
“I just didn’t think it was going to happen,” I admitted.
“You are one of the older guys I have ever been assigned to handle their entrance into The Service. I bet you have a lot of questions. The young ones usually don’t, because they don’t know any better.”