Xavier saved me, purchasing me off the auction block and making me feel human again. Although I knew he wanted me, could see it in the way he watched me, he never touched me.
But I wanted him to.
I wanted to feel what it would be like to have his big body over mine, his strong hands running over my bare flesh. I shouldn’t want a man like him: rich, dangerous … one of the elite.
But I did.
Maybe it was time to break free from my shell and give myself something I deserved … him.
I had money and power, and I used those to my advantage, to purchase women from the auction under the guise that they were for me. But they weren’t. I purchased them to set them free. I’d been doing it for years without romantic attachment to any of them … until Claire came into my life.
And once I saw her, I knew she’d be the one I couldn’t let go. She’d be my downfall, but I was more than ready to fall to my knees and worship the ground she walked on.
Warning: Set in the same world as Mine To Keep, but a total standalone, this story is a safe read with a happily ever after. It might be short, but it promises to make you blush and reach for a fan. There is no OW/OM drama, just one alpha hero who knows what he wants … the heroine.
I shivered, the thin gown I was wearing barely keeping the chill off my body. I couldn’t see much aside from the bright lights that illuminated the stage. There were several other women behind me, some of them crying, others so emotionless I wondered if they were already broken.
All of us were property.
This was the world I lived in, where being a fertile female made me someone else’s property.
I knew out there, in the crowd hidden behind shadows, were wealthy men of all ages. They’d purchase us, do whatever they wanted with us. We’d be nothing but chattel to them, a shiny new toy for them to use … to abuse. The society I lived in was barbaric, where humans could be taken against their will and sold off to someone who had the right amount of coin.
That thought had fear freezing my body.
How I wished I lived in a time where this was only read about in fiction, where it wasn’t a reality. How I wished I could go to the past, where society wasn’t fucked-up and people weren’t starving.
Would the person who purchased me use me as a sex slave, strictly to get them off? Or maybe they’d use me as a breeder, a vessel to carry their heir and pass on their lineage. Either way, all I wanted to do was run off the stage and escape, but I knew I wouldn’t make it. I knew I would be captured before I even got to the front doors.
I felt my hands shaking, and soon my entire body followed suit. It was a silent auction, one where I wouldn’t know who purchased me until it was far too late.
It was already too late.
And so I closed my eyes, focusing on something else, somewhere else. I thought about the small camp of “runaways” I’d been staying with, men and women who were against how the world was, how the government could sell humans as if they were nothing more than a new toy.
I stood there, my eyes closed, my thoughts on being free, on being alone in the woods where I could pretend that where I was, wasn’t the end of the line for me. I didn’t know how long I stood there, not focused on anything but myself, but I finally felt someone take hold of my arm and cart me offstage.
I was led into the back hallways, pushed into a room where I was changed into a thicker gown, my feet shoved into flats, my hair haphazardly put into a messy bun. I had a bracelet snapped around my wrist, a number etched all around it … my new owner’s purchase number.
And so it is. I am a piece of property.
Once I was dressed and ready for my hell-on-earth future, I was again led toward the back. There I saw two double doors wide open, the breeze washing over me and almost making me cry. I could see the woods just behind, so close yet so far away. I wanted to run, but I didn’t want to make this harder on myself. I didn’t want to make my life even more miserable than I knew it already would be.
It can’t get any worse. Death would be far more humane.
And then, once I was outside, I tugged on the two men leading me. They tightened their holds until the pain lanced up my arms. There, waiting no more than a few feet from me, was a dark car, shiny, reeking of money. The back door was opened by what I could only assume was a servant of the man awaiting me inside. God, would he be old? Would he be gentle or cruel and violent to me?
Nothing was said, no words spoken. I was, after all, nothing more than chattel to them.
Once in the car, my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I could see his big body across from me, the shadows partially hiding his face. My heart was beating so fast, and I felt sweat start to cover my body in fearful beads of emotion.
The vehicle started moving, and I curled my hands into tight fists, afraid to breathe, let alone say anything. And then he leaned forward, the light finally making a swatch across his face. He was brutally handsome, with dark hair and even darker eyes. I saw the tattoos that covered his body, not something that was practiced much anymore, but seeming to make my heart beat harder, painfully fast.
He was older, maybe in his thirties, still much older than my mere twenty years. But he appeared wiser, as if he’d seen more than he should have, experienced more than he’d wanted to.
And then he leaned forward, grabbed my hand in his much bigger one, and I swear I felt fire kick across my skin. The cuff of his jacket rode up slightly, and I saw the tattoos painting his wrist and creeping up his forearm.
I was frozen in place, my muscles tensed, not knowing what he was going to do. He stared into my eyes, his so dark, so deep. Who was this man? Why was he making me feel like I was on edge? Why was he making me feel aroused with just a touch? I should be disgusted by him, frightened because I had no idea what he would do to me.
But he said nothing, his big body making me feel so small, so vulnerable. And then, before I could realize what he was doing, he tore the property bracelet from my wrist. I felt my eyes widen as I realized what he’d just done. That simple act was one of rebellion. I was not his property, and he’d made that clear without saying one word.
Without saying anything, he leaned back, swallowed by the shadows of the interior of the car once more.
My heart thundered so hard and fast, worse than when I’d stood on that auction block not knowing what my future held. The car ride seemed endless. But eventually we were slowing and I glanced out the tinted window to see a massive estate coming into view. Although I wasn’t looking at the man, I could feel his gaze on me, like tendrils of fire moving along my skin. It was as if he was reaching out and stroking my arms with his fingertips. But I refused to look at him. He might have taken off the bracelet, but that didn’t mean I knew what was going to happen or if he would let me go. I could’ve laughed at my thoughts.
Let me go? No doubt he paid an exorbitant amount of money for me.
The vehicle came to a stop, and I sat there, my breathing increasing as I thought about all the horrible things that might happen once I stepped inside that house.
“You’re safe,” the man finally said, his voice so deep, so masculine I felt it race up my spine.
I looked at him then. He leaned forward so the light moved along his face once more.
“No one will ever hurt you again. I’ll make sure you’re protected and healed properly; then after that, you’re free to go.”
I felt my eyes widen. “Free to go?” I whispered. Although I wanted to escape, I also knew I didn’t have anywhere safe to run to. The chances of being caught again played through my head like a horror movie.
“Yes. I can set you up in a safe house once I know you’ll be protected and they can’t find you again.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening right now. “I don’t understand.” I could have cried, and in fact I felt a single tear slip out of the corner of my eye.
“We can talk about this more once you’re inside, a change of clothes covering you, and a warm meal in your belly.”
I felt dizzy, like if I stood right now, I might faint. He helped me out of the vehicle and all I could do was lean on him for support, not sure if I was dreaming or if this was reality. I looked up at him, his body so much bigger than mine. Could this be real? Could I actually be … free?
* * *
Those words slammed into my head over and over again, a derailed train about to crash and destroy anything and everything in its path. I couldn’t control it, couldn’t stop the deep rumble that came from me. I could see her eyes widen farther, the blues so startling they made my heart slam harder in my chest. The long fall of her blonde hair had my hands twitching, my fingers tingling. I wanted to touch the locks, wanted to see if they felt as soft as they looked.
Get yourself under fucking control.
I exhaled slowly, reining in my control. I wasn’t about to lose my shit. I couldn’t, not in front of her.
My words had shocked her. It was unbelievable to her, I was sure. I had purchased her just to set her free. But as I stared at her, something in me shifted. I didn’t want to set her free, not because I was a sadistic bastard, but because for the first time in my life I finally felt something come alive in me.
It had taken one look, one sound of her voice, and this possessive side in me came forth like a dangerous beast. I was doing everything in my power to be calm, to keep collected and be stoic. No need to frighten her further. She needed to earn my trust, know that I wouldn’t hurt her.
But despite all of that, I could only think about was how I wanted.
She is mine. She will be mine.
And as those words beat in my head like a war drum, a song before a battle, I knew she was different. She was so very different from any woman I’d ever seen, ever known.
“What’s your name?” My voice was thick, scratchy. I’d kept in the shadows of the car, watching her, seeing her reaction play across her face. She licked her lips, and I lowered my gaze to watch the act.
“Claire,” she said in the sweetest, softest voice I’d ever heard, a song from the very heavens above.
My body became tense, my blood rushing through my veins. I wanted to protect her, to kill anyone who ever hurt her, who dared to even think about doing so. I wanted blood on my hands, bodies at my feet. It would all be in the name of Claire. I’d always been protective of the women I saved, but this was different. Where I felt an almost parental connection to those woman, a part of me wanting to care for them because they’d had such a rough go at life, with Claire I felt something much more personal. I was protective of her, territorial of her, not only because I wanted to make sure she was safe, but because I wanted her as my own.
I watched her, not saying anything for long seconds. When I finally felt in control and knew I could say anything without sounding like a ravished animal, I spoke. “I’m Xavier…”
And you’re mine.