To ensure a good placement, she must win a star rating from a haughty visitor, a leading member of her master’s secretive circle. Dazzled by his looks and his title, she’s desperate to please. But will a rash confession ruin her chances?
“She welcomes the whip?” The haughty visitor spoke to Master but kept his gaze on me.
He sat in the ornate chair placed in the best sitting room. It was the grandest seat in the house. This morning, two footmen brought it here specially.
As usual when summoned here, I was on my knees. I was also naked, apart from my collar, my only possession.
While Master blurted out some kind of reply, I reflected on my good fortune.
Our visitor was a titled gentleman—a duke, no less. He was here to rate me, to assess my value.
He was holding a thin, whippy cane. He flexed it gently in his long, fine hands.
The sight of it made me so excited that I could hardly kneel still. But if I so much as flinched during the next hour, I’d lose the best chance a slave ever had: a star rating from one of the highest ranking members of Master’s exclusive circle of gentlemen friends. They were the cream of society, the toast of the ton.
A single star rating from our visitor would add a thousand guineas to my price. That would mean a good return on Master’s original investment and the time he’d spent whipping me into shape, as it were.
Not that he bothered much these days.
His new wife disliked me. The only whippings I got now were spiteful lashings from her. They were better than nothing, but not like his. She whipped the parlor maids too, and they cost barely a fraction of what Master had paid for me.
Thanks to her, I was up for sale.
The house seemed unnaturally quiet. Master had warned the servants to stay away.
Privacy was essential since slavery was unlawful. So was our special lifestyle and most of its pleasures. But where there’s wealth, there’s a way, and for the elite of St James, no pleasure was beyond price.
A star to my name would also get me a good placement. Only a gentleman of means could afford an extra thousand guineas on top of my sale price. In our select circle, fully trained slaves rarely came up for auction. When they did, bidding was brisk. Starred slaves were treated like princesses and fetched vast sums.
The snap of the visitor’s cane on my left nipple jerked me to attention.
“I asked you a question.”
Did he? I stared at him in panic, my mind blank.
His eyes gleamed. “You were daydreaming, slave?”
I answered without thinking. “I hope to do well, your grace. I was thinking how exciting it would be to earn a star—” I broke off at Master’s sharp intake of breath.
Master’s glare made me quake.
“You dare to shame me by making so bold, girl? You little—”
“Let her speak.” With his eyes still on me, the haughty visitor waved Master to silence. “You are ambitious, slave?”
“Yes. I—” Hastily I lowered my eyes. My cheeks grew warm. “No, sir,” I whispered.
“She has a ready tongue, your grace,” Master interrupted, keen to repair the damage.
He was nervous too, I felt sure. He wanted a good price for my sake as much as for his.
“Please forgive her, my lord. She’s young and eager to—”
“Leave us.” With a brisk command, the visitor cut off Master’s desperate bluster mid-flow.
Master looked panic-stricken for a moment, then blundered out of the room.
Now that the visitor and I were alone, I risked a proper look at this grand gentleman.
At first glance, he was stunningly handsome. He was tall and distinguished, dressed in the height of fashion. His top boots were beautifully polished, his coat finely tailored. His snowy cravat was crisp and spotless.
He stared back at me calmly, his expression thoughtful. He seemed in no hurry to begin.
When he’d first arrived, his gleaming coach, his liveried footmen, and his air of command had all proclaimed his rank.
Master’s wife had been bobbing curtseys before the guest was halfway to the door.
His looks dazzled, but so did his keen, intelligent gaze. It reached deeply, exposing all my darkest desires.
It set me on fire.
If he did all this with a look, what would happen at his touch?
“Still calculating your worth?” His low murmur sounded cynical.
I swallowed. “Forgive me, sir. I wish only to please. Not just for myself,” I added quickly. Is this too forward? “I hoped for a good price for Master. He’s been very kind…” My cheeks grew warm.
I quickly lowered my gaze. My willing tongue was always eager, but it was doing me no favors now.
I shuddered as the grand gentleman circled my breast with the tip of his cane, then slid it slowly up my throat. He pressed it under my chin, forcing me to look up.
His gaze softened. “You are afraid of me? No bad thing. But there’s no need. I am no ogre. I understand this is a big day for you.”
He leaned forward, putting his face close to mine.
Startled, I breathed deeply and caught a hint of fragrance from his skin. Bergamot? Spice? It was mingled with something else, something feral. The aroma sent a prickle up my spine.
I saw a gleam in his eyes as he straightened.
“To put your mind at rest, you’ve already won your first star for looks and grace. Your bearing is very pleasing. You want to receive it now?”