Overcoming their differences and discovering new sides of each other, Ethan and Ryder are trying their hands at this new thing called a relationship. Ethan’s insecurities and his focus on putting Ryder’s business first are contradicting Ryder’s need to shout his love from the rooftops.
But that’s the personal side of things. The business is in trouble, too, since Ethan’s keen eye caught flaws in Black Ryder’s books and exposed the previous accountant stealing from the storage. The piles of messy ledgers are keeping Ethan busy while Ryder’s business is being invaded by pimps. To top off the new couple’s problems, a rentboy named Hayden dances his way to the front of Black Ryder’s stage with enough trouble in his wake to claim all of Ryder’s attention.
The flat landscape and purple sky seemed endless—at least for the time it took the shuttle to reach the next Hub. Then it was all stone and grass. Hayden loved riding the shuttles, but not his reason. Sitting curled up in a seat was his downtime, and he’d been on every shuttle going around and through the bigger inner hubs. He’d studied every change to the surface that the mining caused, and he’d followed some of the equipment as it moved across the barren planet.
He’d have to get off soon and find a client. Didn’t really matter—he had no way of reaching quota riding shuttles. He had to try, though, so when the light changed again, he got up to leave. Once on the platform, he pulled off his jacket and hung it over his shoulder so his belt—or rather a menu—could be seen. He’d wait here for one or two shuttles to run past him before moving on to the next Hub.
He’d done that for the entire time he’d been on Ore 5. How long had it been? A month? It felt like a year. All his dreams and hopes of better conditions and possibilities had been crushed. And he wasn’t the only one. He was painfully reminded of that when the next shuttle arrived, and another young man with a belt much like his own was about to get off. At the sight of Hayden, the guy stayed on the shuttle, offering up a tense smile.
A colleague, if you could call a fellow shuttle-whore that. No one stepped onto another’s turf, and the turf was marked by standing there. It didn’t matter if there were others in the Hub, as long as they didn’t stand on the platform.
Seven men stepped off the shuttle while the other shuttle-whore stayed on. One stopped and glanced at Hayden while looking at the shuttle plan. He was apparently the shy kind biding his time until the other men left.
One was less shy about it, though, and went directly to Hayden. “You’re cute. Let’s see the belt.”
Hayden put on a friendly smile and turned for the man to see, getting a hard smack on his ass as he did. The other guy sighed and left.
“Not into too much of that,” Hayden said.
“It was a pat, come on.” The guy walked off but stopped to turn. “You coming?”
“You haven’t told me what you want,” Hayden said.
The guy looked around and smiled before he stepped into Hayden’s personal space. “Call me Daddy,” he whispered.
“Well, Daddy, do you like nice or naughty boys?”
A sly smile spread on the man’s face. “You look like a naughty boy who can get away with anything, don’t you?”
Hayden winked at the guy and smiled, hiding the bile rising in the back of his throat. He hated Daddy-games, but he was so far behind on the day’s quota that he couldn’t be picky.
Two hours later, Hayden was back on the shuttle going around the outer ring of the Culture. His day was over, the Daddy-client his last of the day. His ass hurt enough to not sit down, and he fought tears of anger and humiliation. Even though he didn’t have the deep red color on his belt, the guy had spanked him anyway. A lot harder than the pink color—which was on his belt—would indicate allowed. Thank God he had picked a color lighter than what he’d actually thought could be okay with the right kind of client.
He hadn’t used color coding like that on Earth. They’d talked with the customers and agreed upon the terms. But not on Ore 5—not this ring of pimps. They were new on Ore 5. Hayden knew that because the belts had to be something new, since a lot of the potential johns didn’t know what the colors stood for yet.
Hayden exited the shuttle in North-Hub and made his way back to his handler. The front room was occupied by three other young men, and Hayden leaned against a wall, not wanting to sit on his sore ass even though there were still three vacant chairs.
The handler, Tom, was an asshole, but he wasn’t the worst. Or so Hayden had heard. He didn’t expect freebies from his boys, and he didn’t hit them when they came back short. But he had to punish them if they came back too short several times in a week. Hayden was close to that. Close to missing meals again. He’d done that enough times to have lost a considerable amount of weight the past month. He’d gone from lean to scrawny. No wonder he got the Daddy-games, looking like a gangly teenager.
Half an hour later, it was his turn to go in. Tom sat with the ledger on screen as usual and only glanced up to see what whore he was looking up.
“You’re short again, Hayden.”
“Of course I am. How many shuttle-whores make enough to cover theirs?”
“You agreed on these terms. You were asked how much you thought you could cover, so don’t give me that bullshit.” Tom pointed at him angrily.
“That was under different conditions, not shuttles!”
“Don’t raise your voice at me!”
Hayden sighed. “Sorry.”
“I’d rather stand.”
“I. Said. Sit. We aren’t done here.” Tom pulled a file with Hayden’s name on it. Hayden groaned and eased himself into the chair, getting a look from Tom. “What’s that about?”
“Some colorblind Worm, thinking pink was a darker red,” Hayden said, squirming some more to find a spot that didn’t irritate his stinging ass cheeks.
Tom just shook his head, looking through the file.
“Look, I can make the quotas I set, just not in the shuttles. Give me a spot here in North-Hub, and you’ll see. A month, and I’ll have a steady clientele.”