Excerpt for The Highest Bidder
Excerpt for The Highest Bidder
Shenya stared at the man’s scars when he pushed back the hood of his cloak. Half his face had been marred by jagged lines. He stood out in the crowd. His eyes were a shade of amber fire that sent chills rippling down her spine. Jet black hair framed his sharp face in thick waves she thought she might want to touch if they were anywhere but here and she were someone else—not a sworn initiate of the temple. He didn’t smile or reveal any sort of emotion, much unlike the other men bidding for her. She knew she ought to feign illness or weakness. The men in Corbit Square wanted a servant girl or a ward to work the fields of jindi that grew beyond the sprawling city. Some might want her for other pursuits—but above all they desired a servant in good health. She raised her chin higher and squared her shoulders, defiant despite her circumstances. The man in the crowd she stared at returned his hands to the folds of his cloak. He could be anything in this lawless town, a traveler, a farmer, an assassin, but she imagined he was someone different—the one man who might deliver her from forced servitude. Help me, she silently pled. Set me free.
The auctioneer gave her a shove from behind. She stumbled forward and nearly fell from the edge of the wooden platform. He rattled off the starting price. Men stepped forward from the crowd to inspect her by touching her body. Her fingers were tugged. One grasped her breast before he shot her a yellow-toothed leer. Another padded down her limbs and torso to test for any broken bones. She didn’t belong here. Shenya had been a servant for the Assantra of Bien, but her mistress had been brutally assassinated the night before. As part of Haen’s pirated estate, Shenya was being sold to the highest bidder on a warm spring day in the middle of Bisura by the very people who had murdered her mistress.
With a curt nod from the auctioneer, the inspecting men stepped back to place bids. Shenya searched the crowd for anyone else who might save her, but her attention returned to the man with the amber eyes. She swallowed her fear and forced out a weak smile, hoping to gain his aid. He leaned to one side. His cloak came open to reveal a belt full of daggers. Assassin’s blades, she thought. He’s another one of them.
The auction began for her body. Numbers danced in the air so fast and furious she could hardly keep track. Hands rose. Interested men nodded or made a sign at the auctioneer. When the bidding slowed, the cloaked assassin took a step forward and shouted out, “Four hundred.”
The auctioneer choked before he regained his composure. The crowd gasped in unison, and all eyes turned to see who had made such an exorbitant offer. A small wave of fear and excitement rippled through Shenya. Goose bumps prickled her skin when the scarred man smiled back at her. He had a dangerous grin with striking white teeth. His eyes twinkled with mischief.
“The offer is four hundred!” the auctioneer shouted in an attempt to draw another bidder. “Do I hear four-fifty?”
Feet shuffled. No one raised a hand or nodded.
The auctioneer stomped one boot on the wooden platform, startling Shenya. “Sold to Brenin Drake for four hundred. Claim your property at the tower.”
Brenin, her savior, stalked away without a sideways glance in her direction. She watched him go, his gait strong, his broad shoulders hardly swaying as he moved. Shenya had seen magic in her short time with the Assasntra; she knew what those who had magic looked like. Brenin had a darkness in him, a magic she wasn’t sure she could trust. It was not the same as the Assantra’s or the high priestesses of the Othian Temple, for Othia was a god of light. She shivered when a burly attendant grabbed her wrist to escort her away from the platform. The gruff man half dragged her to a squared, dark tower where he shackled her to a hitching post like an animal. His rough fingers left marks on her skin. She stood there rubbing away the pain when her new master appeared with the key to her bonds.
He stopped before her, his face grim. “I won’t hurt you, little one,” were the first words he uttered. “I’m lonely for my kind, and I suppose in Bisura, you are the nearest to my kind I will find.” He raised a large hand to her face and cupped her cheek. His palm was warm and comforting. His thumb touched to her lips in a swift caress that ended too soon for her liking. Shenya’s body responded. Her nipples hardened and her middle quivered inside with ticklish butterflies.
Brenin’s hand left her skin.
Shenya wanted to take his fingers and put them back in place. It would be difficult to serve him and keep her mind steady. He unlocked her shackles and left the metal to hang for the next ward. With a firm hold, he took her small hand in his large one and led her away from Corbit Square. She had to walk twice as fast to keep up with his long legs and swift pace. Behind a tavern, they paused so he could untie a black warhorse.
“Ladies first,” he whispered against her ear. His warm breath tickled. His lips heated her skin in the scant moment they had made contact with her earlobe.
She set her foot in the stirrup and heaved herself into the wide saddle. Brenin climbed up behind her and shifted his weight from side to side, testing his position. Shenya leaned back just a little to feel his sturdy chest at her shoulders. His crotch touched her backside. A strong arm curled around her waist to hold her in place. She breathed out. His face touched the top of her head. He breathed in.
She held her breath.
“Shenya Aubery of Othia.”
“No one worships Othia here.” His other hand ran along her upper arm, down past her wrist, across her middle and then rested below her navel. Heat spread in her pussy, warm and wet. The idea that he might push his fingers into her skirt and touch her there made her quiver. “Are you marked?”
“Y-yes,” she answered. All property of the Othian Temple bore a mark. Its wards were tattooed in the exact place his hand rested. The marks indicated status and were a message to anyone and everyone that the Othian’s property must be returned or the god would curse any who kept it.
“Mm. I don’t fear Othia.” His scarred cheek aligned with her smooth face before his lips dragged over her ear in a slow, tortuous way. “Othia and I are partly of the same ilk.”
His hand left her belly to grasp the reins. Brenin whistled at the horse, signaling the animal to depart. As they broke into a gallop, Shenya knew her life had taken a strange turn indeed. Each bounce of his body against her backside made her more aware of the thick, hard definition of his cock in his breeches. Each brush of his chest against her shoulders caused her to think of his strength and the force with which he could control her if he so chose. Each exhale of his breath into her hair or beside her face made her want to turn and taste his mouth.