Papers shuffled across the well-appointed desk, its owner reading over spectacles sliding down a rather bulbous nose. The barrister cleared his throat and set back into the comfortable leather chair.
“This position is a far cry from the kingdom’s palace, Mr. Hadley, and one that you seem to be overly qualified for.”
He took a breath, his fingertips digging into wool stretched over his knees, Alfred Hadley responded blandly not raising his voice to the baited statement of fact, “I have moved to King’s Cross to be closer to family that is ailing, Mr. Gladstone. And there is quite bit of challenge to working with an entire ward rather than being a single handler to one of the King’s many pets.”
“Very well,” Gladstone went back to reading, his wiry gray moustache twitching as he mouthed words silently. “The King is known to be very exact in his expectations and metes out punishment accordingly?”
“I am well versed in many punishment styles that leave marks and those that do not.”
“Lord Barkley and his wife will appreciate that skill.” Gladstone pulled a file and sat it in front of Alfred, just off the blotter. “Everything is in order. Room and board is required, with one day off a week. Care and inspection is required to make sure the stock is fed and in good health. You will only need to provide lists of needed items for their care to Brookings, Lord Barkley’s man. Lady Barkley has individual stock with personal preferences but final decisions are that of her husband, as it should be.” Gladstone took off her spectacles and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Services of the stock are at your discretion as well, as long as it does not interfere with the Lord and his Lady’s desires.
Inside your packet are the current rules of conduct for King’s Cross, much more conservative that kingdom’s seat of power, I would say. You will find your contract as well as your salary and stipends.”
Alfred glanced through the various papers, standard fare for a handler’s position. He dipped the pen into to the inkpot and signed becoming a member of Lord and Lady Barkley’s staff.
Brookings was tall, gaunt, balding, and had a slight limp as he appeared in the doorway of the servants’ entrance. His bushy white brows drew downward over rheumy gray eyes, lips flattening. He knew why Hadley was there and was not too pleased with the arrival.
Hadley was able to follow Brookings with an ear trained on the shuffling step. He took in the surroundings. A large kitchen with a sour faced plump woman in a white cap scouring a large kettle. He gave her a nod and was ignored. Next there was some type of lounge with a faded sofa and empty fireplace. The newspapers were yellowed and out of date.
In the hall, Brookings gave him a ring with three large brass keys. “For the door to the servants, your quarters, and the slave hall.” The gnarled and bony fingers pointed toward the way to the kitchen, the door they were standing in front of and further down the dark passageway that held one last door.
“The cook and I have residence on the other side of the parlor. Will there be anything else?”
Hadley regarded the old man. “My steamer trunks will be arriving this evening at six o’clock.”
Thin lips flattened once more. “They will be attended and left here for you.”
“Then that will be all until I am summoned by the Lord. Will he be making introductions?”
“That would be none of my concern.”
Hadley gave a nod and without anything further Brookings left him to attend to himself, standing in front of a heavy door of his supposed quarters. It took two attempts to select the correct key and the door squeaked loudly on rusted hinges.
The room held a single bed with bedside table and oil lamp. A bureau for his clothes and one set of shelves. He did have his own bath containing tub, toilet, and tarnished mirror. Regarding himself, Hadley smoothed down his red hair and straightened his tie.
This was not the palace and its rigid boring opulence. And he was better for it.
The knock at door caused him to start. He did not expect Brookings back so soon. Keeping his expression bland, he was even more startled at the young man regarding him with amusement.
“Brookings is a right bastard but loyal.” Light blue eyes crinkled with humor. “My wife and I are glad that you are here. It has been dreadful having to deal with all manner of things in the absence of handler.” The blond head tipped back with a loud laugh. “I have gotten ahead of myself. Lord George Barkley.”
Hadley kept quiet. The Lord did not offer his hand in greeting; he kept his own loose at his sides. “A pleasure, my Lord, Alfred Hadley.”
“Right then, best get started.” Barkley led the way to the final door. “This should be a more familiar surroundings, the slave hall.” He waited as Hadley fumbled to select the proper key and push open the door. The lord stepped in front of him casually.
All movement stopped and Hadley felt several pairs of eyes blinking at him owlishly. “My wife and I have five slaves at the moment. Two for her, three for me including my newest acquisition.”
Five bodies lined up slowly and not very smartly, Hadley made note to correct such an unseemly display. There were three male and two females. Barkley called each by name, caressing one, sounding bored with others, and fondled the youngest of the lot.
There was Mia, the big titted blonde, and a mousy looking Lisbeth that belonged to absent Lady Barkley. Cameron was the oldest of the males with calculating dark eyes. Daniel was cocky and seemed to gloat when Barkley returned to him with hand on his bicep. Cade, the youngest still held the mildest of flinches when his master fondled his arms and hips.
Much work to be done, he realized, and much more complicated to be in charge rather than one lazy doted on slave in the palace harem.
“Right then,” Barkley distracted tone brought Hadley back to attention. “I will leave you to it. I require Daniel for now and you will meet my wife after the evening meal. She has her sewing circle today, bunch of gossipy old hens.”
With nothing more, the lord of the manor exited the slave hall with a hand on the curve of Daniel’s ass. Hadley almost breathed a sigh of relief, that particular exit was all too familiar.
Standing with his arms folded at his back, he said smartly, “As you were.” He needed to see his charges, their habits, and their interactions.
Mia and Lisbeth gave him little regard and made their way to single cots at the opposite end of the hall. Mia had her arm around the other girl, a comforting hand stroking up and down the slender back. Probably pouting about not getting to attend her mistress’s outing. Hadley made a mental note.
Cameron stared at him, not quite belligerent disrespect. There was the calculation in his eyes and a lift to his chin that Hadley needed to get control of in the very beginning. Cade moved from foot to foot, eyeing them both and licking his full lips nervously.
“Cameron was it?” Hadley made sure he sounded bored. Cameron’s eyes narrowed and gave a nod. “You will answer.”
“Yes, sir, my Lord calls me Cameron,” came the reply. Defiance, Hadley thought and almost relished the challenge.
“On your knees, Cameron.” The slave hesitated as if to respond but clamped his mouth shut and knelt with surprising grace at his feet.
“Attend me your skills,” He ordered and glanced at Cade. The boy colored, the blush crawling up his chest, across his cheeks, and reddened his ears. Easy to the youngster’s appeal was Hadley’s passing thought.
Returning his attention to the older slave, he remained passive under gentle stroking hands, hooded eyes, and parted lips. Yes, he replied to the calculation, this is going to be the way of it, slender well-manicured hands eased his half flaccid penis from his trousers.
He relaxed at the attention of a wet mouth and trained throat. His climax was no more exciting than perfunctory attention of his own had. “That will do for now.” Hadley commented with out looking down at the slave kneeling before him.
Cameron’s eyes narrowed as he carefully put away Hadley’s cock and stood with less grace.
Hadley dismissed the two and began his inventory of the hall that was now his to command and control. He noticed that it was Cade, small hand slipping into Cameron’s larger one, that got the older slave to move. They went and sat on cots that were side by side. Cade tried to engage Cameron in a quiet conversation but was mostly ignored. Cameron reclined in his cot with his back against the wall, with his arms crossed over his chest.
Making notes, the slave hall was large enough for ten slaves, five cots on each side with a narrow walkway in between. There was a large and ample shower to care for bodily needs as well as mirrors and vanities to make the face pleasing to the eye.
King’s Cross was much more conservative as the barrister mentioned. The slaves were dressed in simple tunics, no hose and bare feet. Taking inventory of high-end wear, there were sarongs, harem pants, bandeau type stretchy material made for the female breast. There were also drawers of costume jewelry, earrings and body adornments.
The king preferred sheer, revealing cloths and easy accessibility to a slave’s attributes. Make up and various piercings were the current dress of slavery in the capital.
Going further, Hadley found the training room, his tensions easing once more. He was more at home surrounded by canes, floggers, and whips. Opening cabinets, he found more items sexual in nature for training. And breaking, his fingers trailed over gags and chastity devices. His employer’s property had been allowed to run amok. It was his job to bring them to heel.
Two lazy knocks drew his attention and puzzlement. Going to the door of the hall, Daniel stood on the other side obviously sated and pleased. He grinned at Hadley and made his way into the bathroom. After a quick wash, the slave made his way to his own cot. But not without placing a noisy kiss to Cade’s forehead and a much more lush kiss to Cameron’s mouth.
“Slut,” the older slave’s voice carried with humor. Daniel laughed and made a production of wincing at sitting down.
Before Hadley was able to shut the door once more, Brookings appeared. “Lord Barkley wishes you to join him for the evening repast.”
Hadley wondered how the old man sat with the stick shoved up his ass. “And how are they fed?”
“At the same times each day,” Brookings replied, his tone doubting Hadley’s intelligence. “Cook sends a cart after the Lord and Lady have had their meals and the free servants have eaten.”
“I want to know what is included in their diets.”
“Then you will have to address that with Cook.” Brookings’ mouth puckered, “The evening meal is at five o’clock.”
Hadley needed more information; he hoped that his new employer would be more forth coming than the man who served him.
Lord George Barkley ate his meal with gusto and regrettably tried to hold a conversation at the same time. Hadley enjoyed the tender chicken and roasted vegetables at a much more sedate pace.
He had learned that the lord thought his wife was much too soft handed with their slaves and that the last handler had simply retired to the countryside. Smithers, the handler, had been with Barkleys for the course of their marriage and attending to property was out of their scope of experience.
To use Barkley’s own words, “Maggie and I know how they should behave, we just don’t want the unpleasantness of making them do it. We want well-mannered attentive property that would not embarrass them.”
That is why Lisbeth had been left home, Barkley shared, his Maggie thought the girl had become much too presumptuous amongst free people.
“You will take care that, won’t you, old boy.”
As if Hadley was much older than his employer. The most valuable piece of information that was almost off handedly supplied was, “You will be wanting Smither’s records, I guess. I kept them in my office, not sure what to make of them.”
Barkley assured him that he would hand them over after a brandy and cigar when his wife returned. He had received a message that she was joining a lady friend in the city for supper and would be home much later than expected.
Being dismissed, with the taste of a delicate lemon tart still on his tongue, Hadley found his trunks stacked neatly in the hallway.
He would meet the Lady of the house. He would gain the files on his charges. He would set his quarters to rights and get a good night’s rest. He would begin making much needed changes on the morrow.
A very auspicious beginning.