Mia and Cameron were trained slaves from the Lotus House, purchased for George and Margaret as gifts for their impending nuptials by both bride and groom’s respective families. Smithers had dated the sale in each file. Lotus House had a good reputation the rural areas, where as Ingénue and the Red Dragon were more popular in the capital. It explained the dynamic that Hadley had witnessed. Cameron and Mia had unstated positions of authority in the slave hierarchy among the Barkley’s hall.
Lisbeth and Cade were purchased from the open traveling markets, where parents off loaded legally of age children to settle debts. Barely more than cattle pens, Hadley thought with barely contained disgust. There was no training, just coin for virgin flesh to be sold to the highest bidders. Lisbeth had been with Barkley household for eighteen months. Cade had taken up residence less than six weeks ago. His bill of sale hastily shoved in an unmarked file. Obviously purchased after Smithers’ tenure.
Hadley sipped his lukewarm tea, stirring the slice of lemon about the unremarkable earthenware cup that the formidable Cook had included with the luncheon trays. Not for his charges, caffeine was forbidden, and while Hadley doubted she understood much more, the Cook got that one rule quite correct.
Opening the final file, Hadley crossed his feet at the ankle. Everything was still subdued in the hall among his charges. Four sets of eyes had watched him help Cameron back into his own cot, positioned on his stomach. For comfort and a blatant warning.
Daniel was more of an enigma, not helped by Smithers loose, nearing retirement bookkeeping. His addition to the household came from the stakes in a bet the Lord Barkley had won from a Lord Orland. No other details provided. Stacking each file, Mia and Cameron’s were the most extensive; hefty in size, while the other three were merely slips of disorganized collected notes.
Scratching his chin, he added his own notes, annotating Cameron’s afternoon punishment, its implement and its reaction, in precise detail.
Brookings cleared his throat. It galled Hadley that he had been in such deep thought that he had not heard the rattle of keys or the door swinging on its hinges.
“The Lord and Lady Barkley wishes your company for tea.” Brookings all but sneered at Hadley’s discard cup.
What did you whisper to the lord, you old toad, did you gloat? Hadley thought with little grace, meticulously clearing his teacup and saucer and carrying his files with him. Surely his new employers would want some type of report from his first day on the job.
Turned out, Hadley had been only partly correct.
“Gertie and Millesende go on and on about how titillating a good punishment can be.” Lady Barkley gushed to her husband. Titillating indeed at the way she pushed her breasts against Lord Barkley’s arm, Hadley mused.
Lord Barkley grinned at Hadley, “Whatever did Cam do wrong? Smithers never had to raise a hand to him. I feared he had become all but useless.”
Time for caution, Hadley barely kept from blanching. His role as a handler groomed at the palace so entrenched it was like breathing. “My Lord, it was a simple matter of discipline designed to recalibrate a slave’s behavior.”
Lady Barkley’s laughter pealed like a bell. “I have heard that term used before as well, recalibration. Smithers was never so bold and it is about time our property has a good, firm hand, George.” She turned her heavily made up eyes to Hadley, “The next occasion of ‘recalibration,’” She licked her lips, her voice deepening with undisguised arousal, “George and I will want a demonstration.”
Hadley smoothed his hands over the knees of his trousers, fingertips digging only fleetingly, “As you wish, Lady Barkley.”
“Gentleman,” She stood, her hand at her throat, Lord Barkley and Hadley standing as well. “I will take my leave.”
But no before, ringing a bell that brought Brookings’ gaunt form into the parlor, Hadley observed, and the Lady of the house demanding not one but both of her slaves to attend her in her private chamber.
“Well, old cock,” Barkley, laughed once more deeper than earlier, before coughing and clearing his throat, “You definitely made an impression on her.”
Wordlessly, Hadley nodded. He sat back, keeping his back rigidly straight against the cushion of his chair, nicely padded, the arms and legs ornate curves of cherry. The small parlor had a definite femininity. Lace curtains, lavender and cream nicely balanced against the deep red tone of dark wood. Fresh flowers in a crystal vase sat on a low table with a book carelessly left beside it. Worn rugs covered the hardwood planked flooring.
Did his charges kneel here with company present? He mused. Did the owners remember to have their knees on the carpet rather than hard wood cramping circulation? Lord Barkley’s voice brought him back to attention rather abruptly.
“I would like to see Cam.” Barkley was saying almost off handedly, his hand on his chin, fingers scratching at barely there stubble beginning to form. Hadley kept very still thinking that the lord would lift the bell to summon Brookings once more. “Bring him to my chamber.”
Barkley’s head tipped back with the ever-ready laughter, “That’s right, you would not know, would you?” Hadley shook his head in owlish negation. “Up the stairs, last door at the end of the hall on the left. You won’t have to knock. The door will be open.”
If Cameron was surprised by his summons, his face did not show it, belying the training that Hadley had ascertained. He was very stoic as he stiffly dressed in a plain white tunic. There were questions on the parts of both Cade and Daniel. Cade’s expressive face was in taut lines of concern where as Daniel’s vibrant green eyes held a depth of understanding that Hadley itched to take a part, the slave’s past a puzzle.
Hadley never could resist a good puzzle.
The evening meal had been served and returned to the kitchen. Yet another area of concern that Hadley had not gotten a proper understanding of in terms of food, their amounts, the variety, and the meals distributed to the hall.
Instead he was escorting a bruised, placid, unused slave to his master.
Cameron’s steps were evenly measured, three steps and slightly to Hadley’s left. Measured but stiff, no doubt calves and thighs compensating for deeply bruised buttocks from the recent paddling. However, Cameron never faltered as he took the stairs.
At the open portal to the Lord’s requested suite, Hadley turned his head to observe Cameron. What would happen just inside the Lord’s chamber? Would there be a need for further disciplining unruly behavior, the recalibration that Lady Barkley had panted for? Or would there be a need to put haphazard broken pieces back together again in the aftermath of a slave that rightly interpreted the end of his master’s desire and favor?
The Lord’s s suite of rooms smelled heavily of tobacco and faded incense. Not quite Spartan, with ornate paintings and nude statuary guarding the shadowed corners of day turning to dusk. The piano sitting just recessed beneath wide windows caught Hadley off guard.
Barkley appeared from a room deeper in the suite, wearing a satin dressing gown, parted at the chest to show a thick tuft of curl, hinting at the state of undress beneath. Without command, Cameron moved stiffly to stand in the open area, the hardwood floor bare, just before his Master. Stiff because of the pain of a paddling but an echo of graceful limbs trained to be pleasing to the eye.
Barkley regarded him for several quiet moments. So many moments that Hadley began to feel as though he was intruding on a very private moment, not one of simple sexual desire and lust but a rekindling spark between master and slave. He was unsure of how to make a dignified exit, caught like butterfly in amber, helpless to do anything but observe as not to break the heavy spell weaving among shadow and light.
Barkley finally moved, a rustle of satin, circling Cameron, who stood with shoulders straight and head down, eyes on the patch of floor in front of his bare toes. Barkley’s hand went to the nape of his neck, Cameron held very still, barely seeming to breathe. Tan fingers carded the thick dark curls, thumb and fingers curling to lift Cameron to meet his gaze. Barkley licked his lips and leaned in placing them against Cameron’s own. The slave’s mouth opened pliantly, causing Barkley to groan, his arm moving about Cameron’s waist and drawing him in against his chest.
Hadley a silent interloper, without the benign grace of even a shadow to hide within.
Barkley eased back, Cameron’s lower lip caught between straight white teeth.
“Remove your tunic.” The lord’s voice was husky, deep, a fleeting swipe of tongue chasing the taste of slave on his lips.
Cameron’s fingertips slid along the hem of his tunic, raising it slowly, drawing out the exposing thick thighs, his cock nestled against pubes with the dull glare of cock ring. Slower even still, revealing abdomen, chest, and finally slipping free tousling his dark silky curls even further. White cloth fluttered like a fallen cloud to pool at bare feet with careless disregard.
Barkley grunted in quiet surprise. He lifted Cameron’s heavy balls, cupping the sac within his palm, his thumb sliding back and forth over the ring that bound the slave’s cock. “I do like this.” Hand dropping back to his side with obvious reluctance, Barkley began a slow orbit around the slave standing pliantly before him.
From Hadley’s point of view, he could see the bruising inflicted by his own had, polished wood against vulnerable flesh. Evenly distributed, the bruises were already dark, deep purple in color. Barkley stiffened, shoulders tense when he observed them for the first time.
His hands went to Cameron’s bare shoulders tanned skin against that which did not see the sun, fingers gripping and then the tips digging slightly as they traveled downward, nails leaving faint red streaks against pale skin. At Cameron’s hips, he halted hands curling about the spur of hipbones, tightening. The heavy burst of breath loud and possessive in the stark quiet of the room.
The lord turned then seemingly remembering Hadley, frozen in place. Barkley’s ample erection disrupted the elegant fall of satin cloth. His voice hoarse and guttural, eyes hooded, arousal deep and red crawling upward from chest to the tips of ear, “Leave.”
Dismissed, Hadley stalled, watching Barkley crowd against Cameron’s back, hands moving around to the front of the slave, the jerk of elbow, dark curls caressing the curve of Barkley’s neck and shoulder. A slow march of two bodies pressed together moving deeper into the room Barkley had earlier emerged. The last image Hadley observed before turning to retreat was that of a dressing gown falling to the floor and gentle hands cupping Cameron’s bruised ass.
He closed the door with a quiet snick. Laying his overheated forehead against the cool, glossy wood. Surreptitiously, he pressed the heel of his hand against his cock, adjusting his own erection from such a lewd display, even if it were a healthy reaction to such an erotic sight.
At the stairway, Hadley heard a muffled thump from the opposite direction of his exit and very female laughter and then squealing. Arranging his features to bland indifference, Hadley came face to face with Brookings at the foot of the staircase, whose lips were puckered in distaste.
Hadley resolutely ignored him and made his way back to the comfort of surroundings he understood. A slave hall where such goings and comings made much more sense. He was off kilter at his own visceral reaction to dance between master and slave. One that he had observed in many variations within the palace and yet none stirring his arousal in such a way.
His mind shied away from further introspection to focus on foodstuffs and the mundane routine of caring for those who were the property of others.