The Flesh Cartel #3: Choices
The Flesh Cartel returns for a compelling second season with "Choices." Brothers Mat and Dougie Carmichael thought nothing could be worse than being snatched from their home and brutally dehumanized in preparation for sale as sex slaves. But they learn their suffering has only just begun when they’re shipped to their new master’s home.
Professional trainer Nikolai Petrovic is a master of his trade. His ultra-rich clientele pay him to create perfectly tailored playthings, and Mat and Dougie are the latest in a long line of men who have walked into his remote mountain home as terrified victims and left it permanently altered: subdued and obedient, ready and even eager for a life of service.
To achieve this, Nikolai must take a drastically different tack with each brother. Dougie, manipulated with affection and denial. Mat, controlled by pain and fear. The one thread in common for both men is choice. Nikolai prides himself on never forcing, but will Mat and Dougie submit willingly to his vision, or will they first need to learn the price of disobedience?
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Together. Madame had kept her promise, they’d been sold together. Every horrible thing Dougie had endured and done on that stage had been worth it for that.
Dougie held onto that thought tighter than he’d held onto anything in his life, because otherwise the guilt and self-hatred from what he’d just done to Mat would consume him like a fire. Destroy him.
He’d always said he’d do anything for Mat. Die. Sell his soul.
Now he really had.
Men surrounded Mat’s hanging form, blocking him from view as Madame snatched up Dougie’s leash and led him offstage.
She handed him off to someone in a headset, saying, “Have it prepared for shipment. The buyer has specified how it is to be treated from here on out; instructions are filed. You know what to do.”
“Of course, Madame,” said the man who took Dougie’s leash. And then Madame was walking away from him. She was walking away from him and Mat wasn’t here and there was no way she could possibly mean to—
“Madame!” Dougie called. It was easier than finishing that awful thought. “Where’s my brother? You promised! Didn’t I do what you asked? Wasn’t I good enough? Madame! My brother!”
He hooked four fingers around the front of his collar in preparation for the inevitable choking tug he was about to receive. Madame didn’t answer him, didn’t even acknowledge him. Neither did the man who dragged him away from her.
And from everyone else, too. The guard conferred briefly with a stagehand over a glowing tablet screen, too quietly for Dougie to hear, then led him down a hallway he’d never seen before. To what looked like another cell block, and really, how big was this place? They paused before a door that turned out to be a supply cupboard, from which the guard pulled a ball gag that he shoved into Dougie’s mouth—nothing he couldn’t breathe through, but it would make his jaw sore, and if he wasn’t careful it’d trip his gag reflex—and buckled and locked it on. No more talking.
A cell next, much like the one he’d been living in the past however long. Just as small. Just as cold. But this one had two doors, an inner and an outer like an airlock. And a toilet in the far corner. The padding lining the walls and floor and ceiling was thicker, and when the heavy inner door clanged shut, he realized it had no window.
At least the guard had taken off the leash and collar before shoving him inside.
Not much consolation, though. The room was pitch-black. Not even a sliver of light leaking in around the edges. Silent, too, the rasping of his breath through his nose the only thing he could hear.
No sign of Mat anywhere.
No sign of anything.
But he had been bought, hadn’t he? They both had. Together—he was certain of it. Surely they weren’t going to leave him here in the cold silent dark forever? Surely his new owner would come to get him soon, and Mat would be there too, and no matter what else happened, at least they’d have each other . . . right?
He held on to that thought as tightly as he could as he felt his way to a corner and packed himself into it, huddled down small to conserve warmth. The quiet was as oppressive as the dark, the gag in his mouth a miserable, constant reminder of his stolen senses. He tried to stay alert, to listen for Mat, for guards, for anything—whatever was going to happen, he wanted to be ready. But nerves exhausted him as surely as pain, and eventually, he couldn’t help it—he slept.
For a very long time, too, he was pretty sure. Hard to judge the passage of time in the constant darkness, but he woke up feeling more rested than he had since before this whole nightmare had begun. And feeling surprisingly sane for all that he was locked in a dark silent icebox of a closet. His jaw was killing him, and the second he thought about that, he realized how thirsty he was—so thirsty, thirstier than he’d ever been—which led to him realizing how badly he had to piss. Thankfully there was a toilet in here somewhere, and his hands were free. He just had to find it . . .
Ah, there. His hand bumped chilly porcelain, and he crawled forward another inch or two on the padded floor, feeling out the contours of the toilet in the dark. He leaned over the bowl and sniffed cautiously. Nothing—not shit, not bleach, just water. He didn’t even hesitate to thrust his cupped hands in it and bring them to his mouth.
The ball gag had holes in it for breathing, like a Wiffle ball, and the cold water trickling inside was the sweetest he’d ever tasted, so good he didn’t care where it’d come from, so perfect and soothing he could practically feel the shriveled tissue in his mouth and throat expanding again. He drank more. More. It spilled up his nose and down his chin and cheeks and chest and set him to shivering, but he didn’t care. More, until even his toes and fingers seemed to rehydrate, and at last he slumped, sated, against the chilly porcelain, roused himself just enough to use the toilet as it was intended, and then fell back into the blackness of sleep.
# # #
It took a long time for Mat’s conscious mind to emerge from the haze of pain he’d been floating through. When it did, he found himself lying on his front on the doctor’s examination table, arms restrained behind his back, a hand on his neck pinning him down flat.
“. . . no serious internal lacerations,” the doctor said, and Mat vaguely felt gloved fingers slide out of his hole. “So as far as I’m concerned, if the client puts that . . . thing back in, he’d be liable for any damage caused to his own property, not us.”
“Instructions were to debase as we saw fit,” someone said. “I kind of like that thing. Got him so loose I could probably shove my whole forearm up there.”
Jesus fucking Christ, you fucking sicko. Mat’s stomach cramped, and he clenched his ass reflexively.
“Three days until pickup. If you’d like, I can give him a laxative and an enema, flush him out completely. Client wants him fed, but the flush-out will give you time to . . . indulge your kink.” Mat could hear the doctor’s raised eyebrow on that last bit. Struggled, though he didn’t know why he bothered. Couldn’t escape, would never escape, and all it earned him was pain—the hand on his neck tightened, and something heavy and sharp lashed across his ass. Again, and again. Someone’s belt, maybe. His gut cramped again. His ass still hurt beyond all reason, outside now as well as in. He couldn’t believe Dougie had done that to him. That Dougie had had to. Had been able to. Was torn between thinking God, the poor kid and Jesus, I don’t know him at all.
Mostly the first, though. He knew the second wasn’t fair, but anger was rarely rational. Dougie had just done what he’d thought was necessary to keep them together. But God, he wished that when Dougie made those tough, terrible decisions, it wasn’t his body suffering the consequences.
His little pity party got interrupted by the hand on his neck shifting to his biceps. He was hauled upright by his bound arms to sit on the edge of the exam table, pain flaring sharp enough in his wrists for him to notice it over everything else.
“Drink this.” The doctor thrust a pint-sized plastic bottle full of chalky-white liquid to his lips. Mat’s jaw clenched automatically, but then one guard grabbed his head in both hands and another jabbed the pressure points on his jaw to force his mouth open, and another hand pinched his nose closed as the doctor poured the foul liquid down his throat. It was swallow or choke, so he swallowed. And kept swallowing, until the bottle was empty.
“Shackle him above the drain and come back in a few hours. He’ll be ready for you then.”
# # #
Dougie woke up dead. Dark and cold and silent as a tomb. And as alone, too. He’d been in here for . . . God, ever, it seemed like, deaf and blind and mute and alone, and Mat hadn’t come to visit his grave so he was probably dead too.
Except dead people weren’t supposed to be able to cry, and he was pretty sure they shouldn’t be so hungry, either.
Scritch scritch scritch.
Dougie lurched upright, numb everywhere but his throbbing jaw and the patch of skin near his hip where something had—
He scrambled back into a corner, drew his knees to his chest and batted at the floor with both hands. Something skittered across his ankle and he swatted at it—
His shoulder this time. His hair. His scalp. Something skittering in the blackness. He swatted again. Again. Stumbled to his feet and stomped and stomped and there was nothing, nothing, the noise on the edge of his hearing had gone as surely as the phantom brushes across his skin. His pounding heart slowly settled as he eased himself, eyes wide but blind, back into a huddle in a corner.
Jesus Christ help me, I’m going mad.
But hey, maybe madness wasn’t all it was cracked up (ha-ha) to be. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Better, perhaps, to be insane than to be so aware of how alone he was. And how scared.
And how very, very screwed.
# # #
This was an amazing installment. I honestly can’t wait for the next one.
[A]ddicted . . . I want more!
Intense. I highly recommend this series . . .
[The Flesh Cartel] is written perfectly . . . You WILL feel these books . . . I can't begin to put this series down.
Miz Haimowitz and Miz Belleau are master manipulators, maestros of emotions . . . I’m fully invested in both Mat and Dougie.