“Lot 1530. Irish-Anglo. Six feet two inches. Non-breeder. Twenty-eight. Previously owned—sold for back taxes. I’m opening the bidding at fifteen hundred credits.” The voice of the auctioneer echoed over the tinny speakers of the small arena.
All around Dan Stoltz, the crowd murmured. Thick gray vapor from hundreds of electronic cigarettes and cigars, along with the smell of sweat, hung in the stale air of the circular room. The uncomfortable metal bleacher he sat in chilled his ass. He loved it.
Murphy nudged him. “This is the one. Get your head out of the fight pages for once, and pay attention.” Murphy was the only man Stoltz let talk to him that way, but the older man had earned it through years of mentorship and friendship.
Stoltz sighed. “I think the Chinese looks better. He’s a breeder.” He pointed to the grainy black-and-white picture in the booklet. “I’ll get a fighter and
be able to sire him out.”
“Forget him. Take a look.” Murphy jerked his chin toward the center pen of the auction house.
The gate opened. Buyers, both men and women—some alone and some in pairs, seated surrounding the arena—leaned forward, hungry to catch the first glimpse of the next item for auction.
Stoltz lowered the slick brochure to his lap and reclined, his arm over the back of Murphy’s chair. Down in the ring, two handlers led a big, dark-red-haired werewolf in. Naked except for the heavy chains hanging from the metal collar around his neck and the matching cuffs binding his hands in front of him, he stepped up onto the platform for display.
Stoltz glanced at the man, then to his booklet to check if the black circular WWFL tattoo over the left side of the werewolf’s chest matched the number in the booklet. It did.
The man was large, but Stoltz had seen larger. He looked underweight, and Stoltz could see he’d be well muscled once he got into condition. Fair skinned. Not too many scars from the electric stunners. That meant he wasn’t a problem that had to be corrected constantly.
He wasn’t as beautiful as some werewolves were, but still…
“Okay, he’s not bad,” Stoltz admitted. Maybe Murphy was right. Wouldn’t be the first time. And he had
asked the older trainer to come along to help him pick out his first sparring werewolf. There was no finer judge of wereflesh, and he needed the man’s advice with the amount of money he planned on dropping.
Just then, the werewolf raised his head and looked up, straight into Stoltz’s eyes.
A shock rocked through Stoltz, and he grabbed the back of the chair in front of him as he stifled a gasp. A soft green gaze held his, then danced away, around the crowd.
“Turn him around!” someone shouted.
The men walked, jerking the werewolf, and he moved around in a slow circle, muscles flexing, letting everyone have a look at his exposed body.
Stoltz couldn’t help but drop his gaze to the dark red thatch of hair surrounding a long, flaccid cock. Even at rest, it was impressive. Full balls. As a non-breeder, he’d been clipped. Functioning, just couldn’t breed. On the backside, a firm, round ass, and strong thighs leading down to well-developed calves.
Stoltz’s dick jumped, and he coughed, then shifted in his seat, dropping his booklet onto his lap to cover his arousal.
“I’m not sure.” Definitely not. He didn’t need a werewolf who turned him on. He was not, and would never be, one of those owners who fucked their slaves. Rape was more like it. He’d never force himself on someone with no power.
And he had plenty of fuck buddies, if he wanted one.
Murphy slapped him on the back. “He’s prime. And you’ll never get a chance at one so cheap. With him, you can get your training business started. Earn some money, then buy a few more, and you’ll have an entire string of sparring partners.” The man grinned at Stoltz.
“Yeah, I know, but…” Stoltz did not want to say but what. Hell, no.
Murphy knew him, knew he preferred men, but Murphy had been the one to teach him about the special trust that built between master and slave and how easily masters could destroy it by forcing their slaves, male or female, to have sex against their will.
“A slave has absolutely no control over anything,” Murphy had lectured him. “The least we can do is let them fuck who they want. If you want a whore, go rent one, but don’t ever use your slave.”
“No.” Stoltz shook his head. “I want the Chinese. I can make money right away.”
“If he’s got a good pedigree. If not, you’ll be hawking cum from here to the end of time.” Murphy looked over the brochure again, pointing at the Chinese’s genealogy. “He’s not bad, but this one is better, I tell you. He’s by Liam, and he was a champion in his day.”
“Liam, huh?” Stoltz twisted his lips. One of the best Irish lines. Big, brave, and with a lot of heart. Many of Liam’s offspring had gone on to championships in the arena.
“Fifteen hundred!” a bidder shouted out.
Murphy stared at Stoltz. “Don’t waste time.”
The werewolf came full circle, looking up and out, refusing to lower his head. Impressive as hell, and Stoltz knew it. Murphy was right. He’d never get a werewolf so cheap, with such a good bloodline, or with so much potential.
“Fifteen five!” Stoltz shouted, holding up his bidding number.
The werewolf searched for Stoltz’s voice, found him, and locked gazes. Another shiver shot down Stoltz’s back, but he didn’t show it. Another of Murphy’s rules of ownership—never let a slave know how you feel about him or her. Undermines the master’s power.
Deep in the slave’s eyes, Stoltz read anger, pain, hurt, and a seething sexuality. It was a mistake bidding on him, and Stoltz knew it, but damned if he would lose this one. He’d worked so hard to save the money. He’d already paid a huge credit fee to get into the League, even as a trainer.
“Two thousand!” the same man called, waving his number as if the auctioneer were deaf and blind.
“Two thousand five!” Stoltz shot back.
The werewolf licked his lips, his chest expanding as his breathing deepened. Dark pink nipples tightened, and his glutes flexed. Damn if his cock didn’t stiffen, just a bit, and Stoltz’s dick answered back.
This was such
a bad idea.
The auctioneer turned to the other bidder and cocked his head.
Something inside Stoltz ignited, and a fierceness he hadn’t felt since his own fighting days filled him. He refused to lose. He had too much riding on this sale.
He glanced at Murphy, who leaned over to him and said under his breath, “You’re not going to let those two get your
wolf, are you?”
Murphy knew Stoltz too damn well. “Four thousand.” Stoltz had almost reached the cap on his limited funds, but he kept his face immobile, not giving anything away.
He stole a glance at the werewolf. The fighter watched him from under thick lashes. Stoltz kept his body loose, but his insides were about to shatter from the tension.
“To you.” The auctioneer pointed to the man. The entire room held its breath, all gazes dancing between the bidders.
Stoltz crushed the brochure in his hand, counting to five after each breath he took before he exhaled.
The man spoke to a woman next to him, then shook his head, lowering his number and his shoulders.
“Any other bids?”
Stoltz inhaled and held it as the auctioneer looked around the room.
“Sold! Four thousand to bidder twenty-three!” He slammed the gavel down on the podium, and Stoltz exhaled.
The crowd murmured as they led the werewolf out of the pen to the holding area behind the bleachers.
“Let’s go get him!” Murphy smacked Stoltz on the shoulder and stood.
Stoltz had bought his first fighting werewolf. With him, and the trainer’s fee to enter the WereWolf Fight League, Stoltz had just made his lifelong dream come true.
It was official. He was a master now.
* * * *
Ashland squared his shoulders, preparing to meet his new owner. He only hoped this one could provide for him, give him shelter and food, and, most importantly, keep his hands off him.
There’d been few of those in his life so far.
He’d never been a good judge of human men, not that it mattered for a slave. His life was at the mercy of the man or woman who bought him. Look at his last owner. Ash had thought Durio would take good care of him. Use him in the sparring cages. Ash had learned the truth soon enough.
The man had withheld the basic necessities of life, kept him in squalor, and…used him. He closed his eyes, forcing away the memories of late-night visits, demands, of giving in and giving up.
No slave could deny his master. Not without suffering the consequences. Ash had learned his lesson, beaten, chained on his hands and knees, with Durio riding him from behind until Ash had passed out, only to awaken in the morning a bloody mess.
He had no idea how it had happened, but he thanked Luna, goddess of the moon and werewolves, that Durio had eventually failed to pay his taxes and fees to the league and, through a court order, had lost ownership of Ash.
It had been like a holiday, if slaves had holidays.
For the last three months, Ash had been fed and given clean water and shelter with the other slaves in the market cages, marking time until he faced the auction block. He’d gained a little weight and started working out again, and the scabs on his sores had healed, but his body still wasn’t where it had been before Durio.
No one had touched him sexually in all that time. Not that he’d wanted it. Luckily none of the other werewolves had been in any shape to demand anything from him, each of them lost in their own insufferable pasts. At night, they’d curled into corners, backs to walls, apart and alone.
Now he faced the fear and uncertainty of ownership again.
He’d seen the man who’d bought him in the stands. They’d looked into each other’s eyes, and Ash had felt…a connection.
That was what Durio had called him all the time.
He shook his head and rolled his shoulders. He couldn’t trust those feelings. Masters and slaves didn’t make deep connections--well, not that he’d ever experienced. He’d been raised in the cub mills, just one among the young of several mothers, women chosen to breed with the werewolves, adding new blood and genetic traits. For those slave women, it was an honor to be chosen.
Once the pups had been born, after three months with their mothers, they were taken away to be cared for in the slave nurseries. The nurses had never had the time to waste on any one young cub. Safety was in their small litters, nestled on the thin sleeping mats, sharing blankets and wrapped in each other’s arms for warmth and comfort.
Then his training had started in the youth division, where they taught the young men to fight and shift. Even there, the slaves still clung to one another for safety and affection, but all of them knew becoming attached only led to pain and anguish.
Eventually they would go to different owners and never see one another except while sparring or in the arena, fighting to claim a mate or defend one, and friendships had to be broken for self-preservation.
In the arena, winning was everything. It meant survival. A mate, if you were lucky and skilled enough to take one from a defender. Pride too, if you kept your mate. Disgrace and starting over as a challenger if you didn’t.
The door opened, and Ash jerked out of his thoughts. He stiffened his back and faced his future, schooling his face to reflect none of his feelings. Just as he’d been taught.
The man from the stands entered, followed by another man, older but with the look of experience in his eyes. Ash’s new owner met his gaze, then strode around Ash, checking him out.
“He’s just as good close up,” the older man said.
“Yes.” His master’s lips quirked to the side. “You were right. He’s perfect.”
No one had ever called Ash perfect. At least not that he’d heard. Dumb. Strong. Yes, he’d heard those.
Ash lifted his chin.
His new owner stepped closer, placing a hand on Ash’s shoulder. As he moved it down Ash’s flank, the lightness of the touch, the steadiness of the fingers trailing over his skin, set Ash on fire. Durio’s touch had never done that to him—in fact, just the opposite.
Ash’s cock came to life again, as it had when they’d locked gazes in the arena.
Blood filled his shaft, pulsing with each beat of his heart. And still the man stroked him, feeling his way along Ash’s muscles, as if learning them.
The man ignored Ash’s reaction. It meant nothing to him.
Was he teasing him? Seeing how Ash would allow being handled? His stomach sank like a stone as his hopes for a life of safety fled. This man would use him also. Cold dread turned the blood in his veins to ice, and his erection diminished.
“He’s a little underweight.” His owner stepped back and frowned.
“Yeah, he’s been sold for back taxes and fees and been living in the livestock cages. They get the minimum food and water, nothing that would put much weight on them. I’ll bet his previous owner ran into financial troubles. Don’t worry. He’ll bulk up in no time with the right feeding,” the older man said.
Had they bought him together? Would both of them want to use him? Ash’s belly rolled, and he fought the urge to fight, to flee, or to just let them kill him. He just couldn’t take any more misuse. Death would be a blessed relief he’d welcome with open arms.
“I can’t wait to get him in the arena and see what he’s got.” His new master grinned.
Ash perked up. The arena? He’d fight again? His heartbeat quickened, and he fought the joy threatening to break a smile on his face. He fisted his hands.
“Get back!” the old man shouted, dragging the young man away from Ash.
They stood back, staring at him, their gazes sliding down to his hands.
His owner shook off the other man and stepped to Ash. “Relax, Murphy. He’s not going to attack us. Are you?” He addressed Ash for the first time.
Ash shook his head.
“See?” He turned to the man and jerked his head in Ash’s direction, then turned back to Ash. “What’s your name?” He produced a key and unlocked the cuffs binding Ash’s wrists.
“Ashland, Master,” he said as he rubbed his arms to ease where the restraints had become too tight.
“My name is Stoltz. I’m your new owner. This is my friend Murphy.” He grinned. “Now, where are your things?”
The older man looked around. “Here’s a duffle bag. This is probably it.” He tossed it to Ash. “Get dressed.”
Why would I need to get dressed?
Ash opened the bag and stared down into it. Not much there. He pulled out a threadbare half towel that wrapped around the waist and hung to midthigh. “Is this all right?”
Stoltz frowned as he took it from Ash and held it up. “That all you have?” He glanced at his friend. The other man shook his head and shrugged.
Ash swallowed. Somehow he’d disappointed his new owner. “Yes, Master.”
“It’ll have to do. Put it on for the walk to your new quarters.”
Ashland blinked as he took it from Stoltz. He wrapped it around his waist, fastening it closed, covering his maleness. Durio had never let him wear clothing in his presence. Ash had worn his few pieces of clothing only in the privacy of his room.
Could Stoltz be nothing like Durio? He’d thought all owners the same, but maybe he’d been wrong.
Again, a small bud of hope bloomed in his chest.
Maybe this owner would be different. Maybe Ash’s feeling about this man was right.
The man called Murphy pulled out a gun, but Stoltz reached out and stopped him. “We won’t need this. Will we, Ashland?”
Ashland looked into his eyes. “No, Master.” Murphy put the gun away.
“Good.” He gave a quick smile, and this time Ashland smiled back.