The Afterglow Series: His Toy (Chapters 1-2)

CHAPTER 1
Heather

     A group of people disappeared behind the unmarked entrance. I hid in the shadows of the building, searching, waiting. For her. Hazel was in there. Or, at least, it was her last known location. This was my first time in Las Vegas, but instead of being in the bright lights, I was chasing after my sister.
     Find me in the afterglow.
     My sister has a knack for theatrics, even in an e-mail as short as that. But I had to take care of my sister. We had grown up being dumped into different family friend’s laps like garbage straight into the can. I had learned I couldn’t trust anyone to take care of us. Not really. Not our parents. Not Great Uncle Walter. Not even Hazel. And in our twenties, nothing had really changed.
     Three people in black pea coats shuffled along, disappearing into the building too. I craned my neck around the corner at the entrance. No markings, no windows. This place reeked of suspicion.
     A lone woman, her hair tucked into a tight bun at the nape of her neck, strode swiftly towards the entrance doors. She nodded at me before passing. A thick bouncer met her at the door. He tilted his chin.
     “We came for the glow,” she said, her voice loud, carrying around the corner to me. He stepped aside, letting her in.
     We came for the glow? What glow? Was that a reference to the lights of Las Vegas?
     The building, despite the lack of signage, was called Club Hades, but the hosts of the party—group? organization? affiliation?—called themselves the Afterglow. There was very little I could find about them, except that they held these parties.
     Another large group came towards the entrance, and I followed behind, keeping my head bowed. After greeting him, the bouncer waved them through, then stood in front of me.
He was six feet tall, wider than a body-builder, but solid. In the dim light, his skin looked blue. The beard on his chin was stark white.
     “Good evening,” he said. He flexed his shoulders. “What can I do for you.”
     It wasn’t a question, though. More like an accusation.
     “I’m here for the party,” I said. What else would I be there for?
     “There’s no party,” he barked.
     “The Afterglow? I’m here for whatever the hell it is. A masquerade? A ball? Did they say it was a play party? I don’t know—” I stammered. I shuffled through my backpack, finding my phone. I flipped to the gallery. “My sister was here a few weeks ago. Hazel. Maybe you know her?” I found the first picture I had of her: her bleached hair in waves, her skin luminous, that white smile.
     “You know Hazel,” he said.
     “She’s my sister.”
     “I don’t know what Hazel told you, but there ain’t no party here.”
     “I’m looking for my sister. She hasn’t responded to any of my messages, or anyone’s, since coming here.”
     The bouncer nodded slowly. “My condolences,” he said. “But there ain’t no party.”
     “What seems to be the problem?” a woman’s voice cut through. The woman with the tight bun, now donning a silky black dress hugging her curves, put a hand on her hip.
     “Says she’s here for the party. There ain’t no party,” the bouncer said.
     “Well, of course not, but there is a gathering, now, isn’t there?”
     And then I remembered what they all said. A password.
     “Wecamefortheglow,” I said it so quickly my words slurred together. Both of them looked at me with shock on their faces. I curtsied. “We came for the glow. We came. We saw. We need the glow. That’s the code, right? The password? Please?”
     The woman raised an eyebrow, then turned to the bouncer. “See? She’s with me.”
     The woman grabbed me by the shoulder and yanked me into the building. The first room was a lobby; each wall was covered in black lockers. Several people shoved their belongings into bags, then crammed them into the metal cubbies. A man in the back corner stripped down to absolutely nothing quicker than a blink. I turned away.
     “Are you from around here?” the woman asked.
     “I… I just moved here.” It never got any easier to say that. It always separated you from the others. An outsider. And here, where you needed a password, it wasn’t any better. I held out a hand. “I’m Heather. I’m looking for Hazel.”
     “Hazel?” She tilted her head, staring at my outstretched hand. For being kind enough to grant me entrance, it was strange that she refused to shake hands. “Hazel hasn’t been around these parts in quite some time.”
     “But you know her?” I perked up. “My sister?”
     “She’s been around before,” she said, her eyes narrowing. “You don’t look like Hazel.”
     While Hazel had shoulder-length platinum blond hair, I had coffee-colored hair that covered my chest. My shoulders were bronzed, like Hazel’s, but I had tan lines from long hikes in the parks. Hazel’s skin was flawless, evenly colored. But we had the same turquoise eyes.
     “We share blood,” I said. As if I needed proof.
     The woman shrugged and motioned towards a door. “Listen. You’ll hear her name. But I’d be careful about what you say. Our group is wary of outsiders.” You don’t say? I thought. Her eyes trailed me up and down. “You have anything else to wear?”
     A woman was being zipped into head-to-toe latex behind us. It was hard not to stare. I looked down at my clothes. Jeans and a hoodie weren’t exactly what this crowd was going for. I shook my head.
     She opened a locker and pulled out a sheer black dress. “Here,” she said. “Keep it.” I blinked. This was mesh, completely see-through. You’d be able to see everything. Did she think I could wear that?
The woman slinked towards the door, and I stared. She was perfect. She would look like a gothic angel in the mesh dress. Not me. I guess it was flattering that she assumed I could pull it off.
     I checked my phone again, trying to glean it for clues.
     Find me in the afterglow. The second message: This isn’t what you think it is. Then: nothing.
     I hadn’t thought anything of the first message—Hazel was just like that, always making a scene, a way to rebel against our lack of home—but the second message, sent a few days later, had made me pause. I can’t explain why, but it made me think about our parents. That maybe Hazel found the truth. We had both been searching for answers for so long, about what had happened to us, and to them. Maybe it meant that she had found what really happened to them, or had found something better, a home.
     Whatever it was, she was right. The truth was never what you thought it was. But it was always better to know that truth.
     I emailed her back, but as usual, she didn’t respond. Then she disappeared from social media completely. No digital footprint. No trail of crumbs. Her last check-in had been in Las Vegas. She had attended an event by the Afterglow.
     A hand landed on my shoulder. “No phones,” the bouncer barked.
     I stowed it quickly in my backpack. “Sorry,” I mumbled.
     He gestured at the lockers. “Use ‘em,” he said. “But no phones.”
I put my backpack in the locker, then clutched the dress. Even if I was facing the wall, I could feel the people around me dressing down and up again, with such ease. From large coats to outfits I had only seen in pictures. Shiny latex. Rubber. Leather. Corsets sinched up the back. And here I was, a black sheep in street clothes. The see-through mesh ensemble draped over my fingers, thinner than a piece of paper.
     I opened my hoodie and pulled the shirt away from my body. I was wearing a black bra and panties. At least that counted for something.
     “You owe me one,” I muttered to myself, as if Hazel could hear me.
     Once I was incognito, I entered the same door the woman had taken, into a warehouse—with beams and fixtures and ropes hanging from the ceiling, wound around men and women, others in cages, and others still roaming the maze of equipment. A man in a leather chair smoked a cigar, his feet resting on the back of a woman as if she were his ottoman. In another corner, the woman in head-to-toe latex was whipping an enormous, hulk of a man wearing nothing but a tutu.
     I was in a dungeon. A damn s&m dungeon.
     How had Hazel ended up here? Better yet, what had taken Hazel away from here?
     A pair of tiny, gentle hands moved me forward. I turned to apologize and found the owner of the hands—a young woman in cat ears—wandering off. The noise of the room was vibrant,  a cascading echo of moans, whimpers, cries, and…normal conversation? I looked around, trying to find those voices. To the far left, there was a lounge, with tufted chairs, long-necked bartenders behind a counter, and elegant men and women perched on the seats. They were just talking. As if this was a day at the country club.
     How was it that a discussion between adults was the most surprising thing in the middle of a dungeon?
     First, I would explore, then I would ask questions. I let my eyes lead the way, taking me deeper into the labyrinth. It was almost like seeing so much that you could see nothing at all. More metal and leather and human flesh than anyone could imagine from the ambiguous exterior.
     But then I stopped, transfixed. A couple in a nearly private alcove. The man sitting in a deep chair, one hand holding the end of a long metal chain. The links led to a woman’s neck, her body bare, her ass spattered pink. She kneeled beside him. He stroked her cheek, a delicate finger moving along her skin, like she was his precious doll. A toy used for pleasure, for pain. He pulled the chain, bringing her closer to him. She rested her head on his knee, her eyes lowered in serenity. You could tell she felt safe. Protected. Loved. Home.
     Then the two of them looked at me. I hadn’t realized I was staring. I turned away.
Hazel. I was here for Hazel.
     Most of the people in the dungeon area were busy, not exactly up for discussion about a missing person. I refused to believe my sister was, in fact, missing. This was just a game, a trick, like it always was. I hadn’t bothered to fill out a report this time.
     But I figured the people in the lounge area might be willing to talk. I found my way over there and ordered a glass of wine. Two long couches sat on either side of a low table, covered in the drinks. There sat a group of people: A man in a top hat, a cane resting on his knee. A woman next to him, her legs beneath her like a lioness, with a broad collar covering her shoulders. A person in a leather vest. A slender man in plain black boxer briefs, a dog collar around his neck. A woman in a simple black dress. An empty seat between them.
     I swallowed a dry breath. Okay, I thought. I can do this.
     I took the seat and hid behind my glass. The group silenced, and I drank as much as I could in one chug without getting sick. These were normal people. They were just like me. It didn’t matter if they were dressed like they had walked out of a fantasy, or that they were casually talking as the most depraved things occurred only a few feet away. Things I felt drawn to, like a magnet, a record stuck on repeat. Even if all of these people were tranquil, when I felt drunk with anticipation, this was normal.
     “Hi,” the woman in the broad collar said.
     “Hi,” I said.
     “You new around here?” the man in the top hat asked.
     “Here, like Club Hades, or like, Las Vegas?”
     “Whichever,” she answered. A smile drew across her face, spreading like a Cheshire cat.
     “I just moved here,” I said. It was the truth. “First time both ways, I guess.”
     “And do you go both ways?” she asked, tilting her head.
     “Oh, leave the poor girl alone,” the top hat man said. The leather vested person cleared their throat. “How did you find us?”
     “I’m looking for someone, actually,” I said. “She checked in on social media. Maybe you know her.” I went to reach for my phone and remembered it was stored in the locker. I pat my side.
     “We generally discourage ‘checking in,’” the top hat man said.
     “It was hell finding this place,” I muttered. A few of them chuckled. “Her name is Hazel.”
     “Hazel,” the woman in the black dress said. She looked at the other woman and nodded. “Sure, we know her. You say you know Hazel?”
     “She’s my sister,” I said. The look of shock waved through each of their faces as they exchanged looks.
     “The last we heard, she was with Eric,” the man in boxer briefs said.
     “Eric?” I asked.
     The woman in the broad collar nodded. “Eric and his kind aren’t welcome here anymore.”
     “What’s wrong with Eric?” I asked. “Does he have a last name?”
     “Eric… He’s…”
     “A sociopath,” the leather vested person said.
     “More like a psychopath,” the black dress woman said.
     “He had his membership revoked years ago.”
     “But what’s more interesting is you,” the top hat man said. He inched closer to me, leaning an arm on my shoulder, pressing into me. I shrunk in my seat. “Why someone like you is looking for someone as demented as Hazel.”
     “I told you,” I said. “She’s my sister.”
     “Hazel never mentioned a sister,” the broad collared woman said. Their questions were circling me like prey. “You know, come to think of it, Hazel never mentioned any family.”
     “Just like she didn’t mention her loyalty to Eric,” the top hat man said.
     “Yeah. Like when she didn’t mention that she gave my best friend that bad snow,” the boxer brief man said.
     What the fuck had my sister done this time? “What happened to your best friend?” I asked.
     “The same thing that’ll happen to you,” the boxer brief man whispered hoarsely.
     “Hazel disappeared,” I said, trying to regain my standing in the situation. “I’ve got to find her—”
     “And we’d love to find her too,” the top hat man said. “Where is she?”
     “You’re one of his, aren’t you?” the black-dressed woman asked.
     “Who?” I asked.
     “We know one of Eric’s pets when we see one.”
     “Pathetic little things.”
     They leaned in closer. The longer the conversation went on, the more suffocating it became. Every accusation they made, every question, drowning me deeper into the nightmare of not knowing where Hazel was.
     “I swear I don’t know—”
     “Heather,” a strong, male voice called, the word, my name, deep and gravely on his tongue. All of us turned towards that voice.
     A man with dark, almost black hair, long enough to run my fingers through it, and dark brown eyes, a strong nose, a thin white scar running across one side of his face. He was in a full suit, pressed, tailored to his built frame. I had never seen him before. But he knew my name.
     I would remember a man like that.
     “You know Zaid?” the broad collar woman asked. Her jaw was slack.
     He gestured for me to follow him, and when I didn’t move, he rushed towards me, and dug his fingers into my shoulder. He pulled me into a corner of the lounge, down a hallway I hadn’t noticed before. Soon, we were alone in a shadowed room, with nothing but a set of shackles chained to the wall.



CHAPTER 2
Zaid

     With her arms crossed over her chest, Heather was timid, hiding herself. Lily’s dress fit her well, but she was uncomfortable in it. She fidgeted. Tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. The cuffs dangling on the wall were a reminder that she wasn’t home. She wasn’t safe. I was at ease in a place like this, but Heather, she knew nothing of our kind. We were a few feet apart. The scent of her fear, a musky, vagrant smell, lingered between us. I sucked in a breath, masking it as a groan of annoyance.
But hell, that scent was intoxicating. And the way she molded to my hands, letting me take her in here.
     The silence ate at her. She bit her lip. Afraid to speak. I could give her the grace of being first.
     “Talking like that will get you in trouble,” I said. Getting herself killed was more accurate. But my gut told me to spare her that violence for now. She needed a break, even if only a small one. “What are you doing here?”
     “I’m looking for someone,” she said. Her voice stammered, but then her eyes darted forward, meeting mine, an oceanic brightness that beamed curiosity. “Hazel. My sister.” There was no doubt about that. But there was something different about Heather. I needed to figure it out. “Those people said something about Eric. Do you know anything about him?”
     Everyone in Club Hades knew Eric. Lines had been drawn in the sand. Very few crossed that line. Even fewer returned. I made sure of that.
     “Are you Eric?”
     I scoffed, then shook my head. “I go by Zaid,” I said.
     “How did you know my name?”
     It was part of my job to know the ins and outs of anyone who attended an Afterglow event. Even the people who hovered nearby, daydreaming about what might be inside. Like Heather Maben. I had swiped her wallet as soon as she entered the warehouse.
     “Tell the others you want Eric dead,” I said. “They’ll talk.”
     “I don’t wish anyone dead.”
     “Lie then.”
     “I don’t lie, sir.”
     I blinked slowly. The word on her tongue made me twitch. Sir. She meant nothing by it. A polite mannerism. A habit she had learned. And yet that instinct made me want to shackle her to the wall right there, to make her surrender to my every demand.
     But this wasn’t about that. She had other intentions, as did I.
     “What do you want with Eric?” I asked.
     “Maybe he knows what happened to my sister. I haven’t heard from her in months.” She relaxed her arms by her side. I held the key she was looking for, quite literally. “They said they’re together now, or something like that. I don’t care about him; I just need to find her.”
     “Why?”
     “Because she’s my sister,” she said, her tone icy. The lines on her face, the resolute answer: she was telling the truth. “Don’t you have a family?”
     It was a simple assumption. But I hadn’t had a family in a long time.
     “Why haven’t you gone to the police?” I asked.
     “They’re never helpful.”
     What was her true intention? Her motive? Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the underground of Las Vegas knew that Eric was an enemy. Someone not to be trusted. A man who had no problem taking a life, if he felt like it. Hazel was part of that. Was Heather a spy sent to gain information about the Afterglow? Eric was the type of person to abuse a family like that, using sisters as bait for each other. He had been an enemy of the Afterglow for a long time.
     Studying her face, there was no ulterior motive. She simply wanted her sister. Still, she was better off without her.
     “If you’re not willing to lie, then go,” I said. I gestured at the door. “You’re in over your head. Go home. You’re not safe here.”
     “I don’t have a home,” she said. “I moved here. For this.”
     All to find her sister, someone who, to her knowledge, had ghosted her. A stupid, foolish move.
     But a loyal one.
     “What don’t you understand?” I said. “You’re not safe.” I squeezed her arm, taking her to the door. She ran to keep up with me, shaking her head vigorously the entire time.
     “I can’t give up on her.”
     I swiftly turned towards her. Those blue-green eyes peered up at me, unwavering. Strong. Without question. Heather needed to save her sister, but it was more than that. It was about feeling needed.
Her sister may have been miserable, hating life, despising it. But she had sustenance. Shelter. And fear that would swallow her whole, if she let it.
     “You may not like what you find,” I said.
     “It wouldn’t be the first time,” she said, trying to smile.
     I tightened my grip on her shoulder and took her through the doors. We weaved in and out of the equipment, darting around single tails and suspension rigs. I jerked her harder, daring her to stop and stare at anyone around us, but she followed closely behind me. We found Lily near the spanking bench. Lily had a weakness for protecting others, and had been useful when I had first started Veil Security Services.
     Lily straightened when she saw me. “Zaid,” she said. The neat bun she had worn earlier was distressed now, after a scene. She finished putting a black flogger into her partner’s duffel bag. “I see you met my new friend.”
     “Thanks for the dress,” Heather said.
     “Escort her out,” I said. Lily waited for an explanation, the reasoning behind the banishment. Had Heather done something to deserve this treatment?
     No. But she was not safe here.
     “Do I need to repeat myself?” I asked. Lily shook her head.
     I went to the staircase, leading up to the voyeurist balcony that surrounded the edges of the dungeon. Though it was not off-limits to guests, few attendees found their way onto the wrap-around walkway. I could observe and enforce, without interfering.
     Lily, an arm linked with Heather, led her to the exit. Good.
     I watched the play below with a passive interest. I knew the faces, most of the names. We had all been attending these events for years, but I hadn’t participated in any public play in some time. My desire to dominate a strong, eager woman, yearned inside of me. But I buried myself in visions of revenge, images of taking Eric’s final breath clouded my desire. But tonight was different. Someone had changed that.
     A new face. Two eyes that glowed like blue stars on a cold night. Heather.
     Watching Heather from the surveillance cameras earlier, gathering the courage to go inside, I knew she wasn’t any tourist or fresh player. She was here for a different reason. When I sent Lily to fetch her, I watched as the two of them interacted. Heather was accommodating, but she needed answers. Was willing to do what it took.
     I had the urge to dangle those answers in front of her. Beckoning her with honey.
If the others found out who she was, it wouldn’t be long before she was hurt by them, or me. I would only be too willing to make her tremble under my grasp.
     I rested my hands on the rails. My boots creaked on the metal walkway. I watched a couple, a man and a woman, the man kneeling before her, the heel of her stiletto resting on the man’s cheek, piercing it. I imagined Heather, on her knees before me, those blue, almost green eyes, staring back at me. Waiting.
     I shook my head. I was close. Retribution was at my fingertips. Which was why it was important for Heather to leave.
     The woman kicked, her heel striking the man’s face in a dark streak. He fell back, quickly regaining his position on his knees. The image of Heather, her brown hair layered around her shoulders, touching the ground, as she struggled in my rope, made my cock stir.
     She was the kind of woman that a dominant found hard to resist. Independent. Willing to do anything. The kind of woman Eric would like. As evidenced by her sister.
     Heather could be a decoy. A plant. The appearance of a gift, given by a stranger for a long refusal of an audience. By me.
     I was no stranger, but Eric would find that out.
     But to put Heather, who was a stranger to me, in that position, would make her vulnerable. And while her sister may have been one of his, Heather was not. She was honest. Honest to a fucking fault. She did not deserve the ruin it would bring her.
     It was merciful to make her leave. An offer. The rage inside of me would destroy someone like her. Her dedication to her sister was nothing like I had seen, not even when I still had my mother. The resistance to lies. The absolute resolution to save her sister.
     I imagined bringing Heather to her knees.
     On the far side of the room, the door to the dungeon opened. Lily returned, her hands flinging in the air. A few friends greeted her. Lily was alone.
     Good. Heather would be safe. From the others. And me.
     A man in his mid-thirties motioned towards the group standing in the lounge. As he beckoned each person in different directions, nervous energy stirred the room. Lily clapped her hands, then hurried in the direction the leader pointed. Another woman bit her fingernails. I had once been as eager for the night’s headlining activity as the others. The climax of the evening before the night would near the morning, and the masks would recede. The return to our reality.
     I motioned at my men, a few scattered at the top of the voyeurist balcony, and gave them orders. One to scout the balcony, two to roam freely, and myself to observe the auction. It was overkill to use so many top of the line guards, protectors, at an event like this. But it was the least I could do since the Afterglow accepted me and my past. Or, it was the least I could do to protect the others against Eric.
     I was doing them a service, really.
     No announcement was needed; everyone headed towards the theater. The slaves, property, submissives, and others, willing to be sold for one night’s profit, exited to the left. The bargainers, the owners, the masters greedy to get a taste of another’s property, exited to the right. The left door led to a dressing room behind the stage, and the right to the seats leading down to the stage.
It was all part of the show. But everyone, including me, had been guilty of being sucked into the allure.
     Nearly a hundred men and women of the Las Vegas community took the seats, continuing with quiet conversations as the host, the self-appointed auctioneer, waited on stage. I stood in the back, leaning against the wall.
     “Ladies, gentlemen, and all those under the umbrella and outside of it,” the host’s voice called through the theater. Everyone clapped. He needed no microphone. “Welcome to the annual slave auction.” He held his hands together, a slight breath before the next words. “The following people have given consent, expressly and freely stated under contract, to be sold. Proceeds will go to the North Las Vegas Center for Domestic Abuse Victims under an anonymous donation, but you all know that.” The man winked. Many years ago, it had been my suggestion that the group donate what it could to the Center. The Afterglow needed to help those victims after losing so many of its own members, just like them, to Eric.
     “We have some fresh meat tonight.” The host smiled, his teeth like a beacon aimed at the audience. “And let me tell you, is it fresh.” A few appreciative grunts sounded, and one woman cooed. “And some regular favorites. And it’s all for a good cause, and good fun. I give you, the slave auction!”
     Cheers erupted from the audience, including a few drunken hoots. The first woman, older but with a sweet face, walked across the stage in ballet point boots. A padlock kept the straps of the shoes in place, a matching collar around her neck.
     “Tristanna is the property of Sir Edmond. She considers herself an expert in service, including, but not limited to, household and pleasure affairs.” Tristanna stopped next to the host and curtseyed, her eyes continually bowed. “Do we have fifty?”
     Tristanna was sold for two hundred. It was the price of one night’s play, with the rules of her master. Her master proudly beamed as Tristanna joined her bidder, a direct representation of  how Sir Edmond had trained her. The bond the two of them had was beyond my scope of experience. I had seen the depths, shown a woman what she was capable of, but to have that bond, to believe and trust that the other would not run when you showed your true self, that was something I did not know.
     “And next, we have Nick, boy of Mistress Jessica.” A thin, sinewy man in boxer briefs pranced across the stage, the opposite of Tristanna’s subdued state. I should take part in an auction like this, use it to my advantage, find a willing submissive to be the final puzzle piece in my design. I could bargain with the slave’s owner, find the right price. But it wouldn’t be right to use someone from the Afterglow. I needed someone disposable.
     Heather’s gleaming eyes forced their way into my mind: the desire as she watched the master and slave, the closer she got to them, her lips opened, widened, as if to drink them in. The cautious movements of her own hand feeling her neck, imagining a collar there. I had watched her, that curiosity, the instinctual pull that drew her near. She wanted to submit, to surrender everything she had, to trust in another person to protect and discipline her. She would have been perfect. A quick negotiation and some indulgence on my end, and she could take the place of her sister. Distract Eric. Be a gift. Nothing more. And if Heather didn’t make it out, no one would miss her. Not even her sister.
     Which was why it was better for Heather to leave. I knew better. And Heather, as foolish as she may have been, as hungry as she was to do anything to find her sister, she deserved more.
     Perhaps I would let her sister go. But not the others.
     In reality, that wasn’t an option. With the final day drawing near, all I needed was the final piece to my design. I zoned out on the display of submissives, each bought and sold for varying prices, each serving their partner’s purpose. None of them fit. And I knew them too well. I would need an outsider, someone I didn’t feel anything for. Better to do it with someone with greed in their hearts, hatred in their very soul, someone who didn’t deserve life itself.
     “And last, but certainly not least, our prize of the evening, our fresh meat, Heather Maben.”
Like a razor, my eyes raced towards the brunette crossing the stage. A hoodie was zipped over Lily’s sheer dress. Heather waved at the audience. A polite clap sounded through the room.
     “She has no owner, no master, and no experience with our kind, but wants to play. Badly.” A few chuckles sounded.
     Idiot. Fucking idiot. She had declined my offer. That stubborn, resilient woman.
     I would relish in teaching her a lesson.
     She had walked into the trap. On her own. Perhaps she did deserve the consequences. But not tonight.
     Then I heard the numbers being called.
     “Do we have fifty?”
     “Fifty,” a voice called.
     Not tonight? Why not tonight?
     “A hundred,” another called.
     “Five hundred,” a loud voice called from the front seats. A hush silenced the room. It was the dominant who always wore a top hat. He had been one of the members harassing Heather. Though our acquaintance was minimal, he was well off—not better than me, but willing to throw money around to prove it.
     Fuck tonight.
     “Six hundred,” I said.
     Everyone turned towards me, shock that someone would outdo such a high offer, even more surprising that I participated for the first time in years. I focused on the stage. Heather’s jaw dropped as she locked eyes with me. Her eyes flickered to my scar.
     “Seven hundred,” the top hat said.
     I growled. This was irritating. I didn’t have time for this.
     I would win this bet and take Heather back. I would show her what it meant to play games in the darkness.
     “Going once,” the host called. Heather bit her lip, her thumbs tucked inside of the sleeves of her hoodie. I would rip that thing off of her at the first chance. “Going twice—”
     “Ten thousand dollars,” I said.
     The audience stared. Even the host had been silenced. The top hat man scowled.
     My reputation was one of watchful silence at Club Hades. But those who knew me, knew that I got what I wanted. Money wasn’t an issue.
     Heather’s eyes pleaded, begging me. She didn’t know what she had been saved from, or the nightmare she was walking into. She wanted answers. I could give them to her.
     For a price. And it wasn’t money that I wanted.
     Heather was mine.



His Toy
a dark bdsm romance 
and the first standalone book in the Afterglow series
coming April 2020!