The party was only days away. There was not much that Hadley could do for Mia and Cameron in terms of preparation. Lady Barkley would not appreciate her slaves already being marked up with healing welts and bruises before the grand event. With Mia and Cameron’s intelligence and his own dexterity with canes and floggers, the sights and sounds would be much worse than the actual damage. They would be able to put on a show and entertain all that observed.
A slight of hand as it were.
The Barkleys would most likely abstain from having blood drawn in front of such refined company. Rather, welted reddened flesh and gasps of pain would be much more appreciated and titillating. Hadley was much more concerned about the aftermath of the demonstration. His eyes traveled over each of his charges. Mia and Cameron no doubt had been subjected to the possibilities, and Daniel, if only to bear witness to such events.
Lisbeth and Cade were too new, innocent as pleasure slaves could be in light of their lot in life.
Hadley had observed what could happen over and over within the palace. Lust and carnality overriding decorum and good sense as the actual power balance was revealed at the pain of the enslaved. Normally well-mannered individuals could become stalking predators for prey that could only accept rather than fight back or flee.
Add to that, the attendance of Lord Orland and the unknown that his mere presence would bring.
He had to prepare them, each of the slaves. Their actions and reactions would reflect on him personally as the handler for Lord and Lady Barkly. Should he be found wanting then it would affect his employment, his reputation. That seemed small in the grander scheme of things. It would also be his job to put the pieces together after being torn up by the capriciousness of free persons.
Straightening the cuffs about his wrists and smoothing down his neatly parted hair, Hadley stiffened his resolve; he ordered a muster of the slaves. They gathered one by one into the training room, with the air of resignation and a little fear.
“Has the Lord and Lady Barkley ever hosted a party such as this?” Hadley felt he knew the answer to his question. He could not find any documentation amongst Smithers files to ascertain the information for himself.
There were shifting of feet, fingers curling into fists before relaxing, and one by one, even Daniel, seemed to turn to Cameron as their spokesperson. Unsurprising in the least, Hadley mused.
“The master and the mistress have hosted dinner gatherings, usually one other family in attendance.” Cameron quirked an eyebrow, “Master has one of us to attend him at a time, to help with dinner service as well being present for coffee, brandy, and desert. It depends on the Mistress’ mood if she requires one or both of the girls.”
Hadley could tell that Lisbeth did not appreciate Cameron’s casual regard for her mistress. Her forehead puckered in a frown and her nostrils flared as if she had caught the scent of particularly ripe garbage.
Mia shifted her weight and casually picked up where Cameron left off, seamlessly, a testament to their time together. “Mistress has never hosted a demonstration, however, she has attended such in the homes of her friends.” Lisbeth lips tightened at that revelation, obvious that the Lady Barkley had yet to include her on such outings.
Daniel cleared his throat, surprising Hadley. “When the Lords gather, it is usually whiskey and cards as entertainment, taking a slave off into the corners to for oral physical relief before rejoining the games.”
Hadley glanced over at Mia, and the depth of knowledge that she possessed. “Then you have witnessed what can happen after a demonstration.”
Her features paled but she replied firmly, “Yes, Sir.”
Hadley jabbed a finger in Cade’s direction as predicted the boy jumped as if stung even though Hadley did not touch him, “You cannot flinch.” He said sharply. For the moment, Hadley resolutely ignored Cameron’s hand moving to Cade’s shoulder, soothing him.
He cupped Lisbeth’s chin and watched as she battled with herself not to hiss and spit at him. “Do you seriously think you will have a choice? Especially when the Lord and Lady can use such a function to gather favor amongst their peers? In the heat of the moment, your mistress can give you to a man as well as woman.”
“Sir,” Hadley cut his eyes back to Mia, his hand still on Lisbeth’s chin. She blanched at speaking out of term but stiffened her spine. “If it please?”
Stepping back from Lisbeth, he crossed his arms across his chest. “Go ahead.”
Mia glanced at Cameron and then resolutely ahead, “Mistress does not agree with sharing us, Lisbeth and I, with men. It is a much different time than when she and the master first married. If she were to decide to, even in the heat of the moment of a demonstration, it would be me that she would share as she has with her husband.” The last had Mia sounding very small. Hadley watched as Lisbeth twined her fingers with her fellow female slave. “Since Lisbeth has been acquired, she has only served the mistress and a few of her female friends.”
Interesting, Smithers had not documented Lady Barkley proclivities in such a manner.
Cameron spoke, the humor in his dark gaze said that he was very aware of not asking for permission. Hadley frowned but let it go for the sake of information, for preparing his difficult lot for what faced them.
“It will be mostly me and Mia to serve, Sir, in this capacity.” His gaze flickered over to Daniel but went unacknowledged, “and maybe Cade.” Just as Mia and Lisbeth, the eldest of the slaves clasped hands with the youngest. Cade’s face was white but for once did not flinch. Or maybe it was because it was Cameron that touched him, providing silent strength in a touch.
“We are slaves, Sir, it’s not like we are unprepared for what could happen to us.”
Impudent git, Hadley’ clenched his jaw. “However,” He supplied for Cameron, “this is the first time you will perform with me as your handler.”
Echoes of Cameron’s reaction to him on Hadley’s first days of employ for the Barkleys resurfaced as the slave sneered, “Well, there is that.” He responded glibly. Then Cameron’s features were bland and resolute. “Mistress will keep a firm hand over Lisbeth. Master will do the same for Daniel. Especially with…” Cameron trailed off and Daniel stiffened. The two slaves, their eyes darting around the training room, purposefully did not look at one another.
Cameron licked his lips and continued, “The rest of us are fucked no matter what happens, but that is what we are. We know how to put on the show.” He nodded to Mia with and lifted a negligent shoulder. “It is Cade that will need to be prepared.” His last words were spoken almost apologetically.
The boy stared at his bare feet.
Hadley agreed but did not tip his hand immediately. He watched each of them closely, silently. Mia and Cameron, well-trained pleasure slaves had an air of subdued veracity. Cade, the youngest who could not hide his reactions, trembled and curled his hands into fists. Daniel seemed almost removed from his fellow slaves but thoughtful. Lisbeth was uncertain, seemingly understanding that she was in a better position than Cade in terms of ranking for the upcoming event, but unsure of what her role would be even at her Mistress’ side.
There was little that he could do but teach the boy how to take a fucking, perform and make it look somewhat appealing for an audience. Knowing how innocent Cade had remained soured Hadley’s stomach. He had a job to do. Holding out a hand to Cade, who took it reluctantly, Hadley cleared his throat and commanded, “Let’s begin.”
Later in the evening, the slaves quiet and fed and lost in their own thoughts, Cameron sidled up to Hadley. After such a trying afternoon of training and correcting, Hadley had retreated to his own quarters. He washed away the trying events of the day and what was to come along with the sweat and grime. And yet, he admitted to himself that he still felt unclean.
So much easier to distance himself from the reality of a slave’s life at the harem, Hadley considered. They were interchangeable, easily discarded and replaced. But here, he felt the slippery slope of connection and attachment between himself and Cameron forming despite himself, just as he had always been warned about.
Dark knowing eyes that pulled him in and made him think, rather than compartmentalizing and dehumanizing the fact that Hadley dealt with slaves, men and women who were owned by other men and women.
Cameron, too, was scrubbed clean and dressed in a tunic of blue.
“You need to talk, Sir.” Cameron’s voice was pleasant but rhetorical.
And Hadley bent just a fraction more, sliding downward into the depths. With a sigh of defeat, he said, “Come with me.”
Having Cameron within his own space, without positioning for power was bewildering. The slave made himself comfortable, splayed out across the bed with the grace that was both trained and Cameron’s inherent appeal. Hadley did not join him on the bed as Cameron challenged but rather sat in the wing chair with his feet crossed at the ankle.
“May I speak freely, Sir?”
Hadley smirked and very nearly rolled his eyes at the impertinence. “When has that ever stopped you?”
“Aye but what with a flogging coming I don’t fancy a blistered ass.” Cameron gave a saucy salute before turning serious. “You cannot control the outcome of what is going to happen.” Hadley did roll his eyes at that. “I am serious, Sir. It is just like the brown sheets.”
Hadley stalled on all the replies he had for Cameron. Blinking owlishly, “Pardon me?”
Cameron sighed and sat up. In a posture that reminded Hadley of Cade, he draped his arms about his drawn up knees. “Master said I looked beautiful against his brown sheets.” Looking toward the twilight framed by large windows, “Every time I served my Master, his bed had soft brown sheets. And for two years, there were variations of that color, brown on my master’s bed.
“Oh, but Master was just as enamored with his wife and having Mia as well but when he had me, and just me, it was always on brown sheets. And then it changed, the Master changed. The sheets changed. Nothing seemed to work, the lessons that Smithers put me through, trying to be what the Master wanted when he no longer wanted me. The sheets were cream or variations of green. I could not get those brown sheets back again.”
Hadley listened and thought of Daniel’s vibrant green eyes and dark red hair splayed on sheets that would accent his beauty.
“Anyways,” Cameron smiled but it did not reach his expressive eyes. “I accepted that which I could not change. And you will as well, Sir.” The last bit was tacked on as an after thought, Cameron’s tongue and cheek display of being a respectful slave towards Hadley.
“Why did Lord Barkley keep you?” Hadley asked baldly. Cameron seemed full of answers and Hadley, unsure of where the question came from, needed to know.
Cameron flinched as if struck and rolled off of Hadley’s cot. Standing eye to eye, he replied, “Only the master can answer that one, Sir.”
The door to his room clicked quietly. If Hadley thought that Daniel was the mystery, Cameron was woven into it as well. He shook himself out of maudlin thoughts and realized that the slave had left him within his rooms alone. His heavy iron keys hung from his belt.
Stepping into the hall, the portal to the slave hall was open wide. Cameron sat side by side with Mia, each lost in their own minds, on what was ahead. He watched as Cameron roused himself and spoke to Mia, answered Daniel which caused the red head to laugh, and finally cast a worried gaze on Cade who curled into his side.
All was well for the evening, even if it were uneasy. Hadley met Cameron’s stare head on before he shut the heavy door and locked it for the night.