The Flesh Cartel #9: Trials and Errors
With a wedge at last driven between Mat and Dougie Carmichael, courtesy of Nikolai Petrovic’s expert manipulations, the brothers must each accept their new path forward: Dougie, a perfect slave, sweet and obedient and loving. Mat, a tightly reined dog, snarling and snapping but never allowed to bite.
Unfortunately, no transformation, however well planned, is without its growing pains. Mat’s leash is so tight it’s choking him. Dougie is tormented by a little voice inside his head—a fragment of his former self—that he cannot silence.
And Nikolai’s most difficult tests for the brothers are still to come.
The critical question isn’t whether they can pass those tests, but whether they even want to. Without each other to lean on and live for, a bleak future has become bleaker still. But Nikolai’s too good to let his slaves slip through his fingers—by death or by despair.
A noose, a nighttime sky, a shared lover, an unexpected friend. A foreboding forest cabin. A lavish party with all the debauchery Nikolai’s clientele could want. It’s all coming in season 3 of the Flesh Cartel.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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“I’m ready to do what you want. I’m ready to be who you want.”
Nikolai peered down at Mathias—the source of so much frustration these last weeks, the source of Roger’s recent pain—and read the sincerity in his face. In his body, too, weakened and thinner than before, naked, a near perfect picture of submission. Not capitulation, not by any means. But obedience, at least. No attitude he could detect. No anger, either—they’d have to work on getting that back, but how hard could that be? The man looked almost casual, but for the glint of determination hardening his eyes and jaw. He suspected Mathias was trying to hide that, though, trying to appear unfazed. It was a farce Nikolai was willing to let him cling to, at least for the moment.
“If you’re sincere,” Nikolai said, “then your first step is to return to my good graces. I think you know what that means.”
Mathias’s tongue darted out to lick at cracked lips, and his eyes went to Nikolai’s crotch. Then he blanked his face—it’s all good, look how cool I am with this—and nodded. “But just so you know,” he said, and the absence of the “sir” at the end of that statement was more pointed than the words he’d spoken, “I’m not doing this for me or you. I’m doing this, all of this, for the people it protects. Roger”—Yeah, I know you beat him, fucker, that gaze said—“and Dougie. So I’ll do it, I’ll be the good little slave, I’ll fight when you want me to fight and I’ll stop when you tell me to stop, and I’ll suck your cock and take the beating I know you plan to dish out afterward, and I’ll even fucking thank you for correcting me if that’ll get your rocks off. But the instant—the instant you take Dougie away from me, I’m done. I’m outta here.” He leveled his gaze at Nikolai, no forced ease now, just naked truth and angles sharp enough to flay someone on. “So you’ll let me see him, you understand? And when we leave this place, we leave together. Or you can tell me no, and we’ll find out just how bad for business it is when your client’s new multimillion-dollar prize offs himself before the fucker even gets to have any fun.”
Well, that was . . . not unexpected, Nikolai supposed. In fact, he couldn’t help but be impressed by the fact that his fighter had such a wily little brain behind the brawn. Still, the reality of it rankled—he knew damn well he couldn’t call Mathias’s bluff, at least not now, because it wasn’t one. He couldn’t play the trump card of Mathias’s affection for Roger again, either, not without Mathias wising up to their little game. And time had made it clear that nothing short of breaking Mathias for good would knock the unrelenting stubbornness out of the man. Oh, Nikolai could break him, could break anyone, but the client’s requirements wouldn’t permit that. Not this time.
Which meant Nikolai would simply have to outsmart him. Wear him down piece by piece and stay three steps ahead.
Fortunately, he had an idea.
“All right,” he said. “But do be careful what you wish for.”
Mathias thought that was bluster—Nikolai could read that clear as day on the man’s face—but he’d learn the truth soon enough.
“And watch your tone in the future. You’ve had your say. If you ever speak to me like that again, I won’t react so kindly the next time. You’d do well to call me sir, too. Or master.” His hand drifted to his pocket, where an auto-injector was tucked away. He wasn’t afraid to use it, not this time. “Honestly, Mathias, will you really make me start at the beginning again?”
The tiniest flash of fear in Mathias’s eyes proved that no, Nikolai wouldn’t have to start quite at the beginning. “No, sir,” Mathias said. “Have it your way. Sir.”
Nikolai curled his fingers around the hard plastic. “I’ve half a mind to use this anyway, given what a spoiled little brat you’ve been the last ten days. But you owe me more than that. You’ll be active in what’s coming to you. You’ll stand still for it, and yes, you will thank me for correcting you.”
“Get on with it, then. Sir.” Mathias glared at him, stony-faced and unafraid. Which was just what his client desired, although Nikolai certainly didn’t see the appeal.
“You get on with it. Go to the dresser. Third drawer down, there’s a black case. Bring it to me. Remember to offer it to me properly.”
Mat went to rise to his feet, and Nikolai barked, “No. You crawl before your master.”
Mathias’s sigh was downright theatrical, but he dropped to his hands and knees. Minute tremors ran through his arms as he shuffled toward the dresser. He’d eaten a dozen tiny meals in the last twenty-four hours, but clear juices and soft bland foods only went so far after the way he’d abused himself. He was still hungry. Still weak. Nikolai would feed him up again, have Roger oversee his exercise routine. Make him strong like before.
But first he’d have to earn it.
# # #
Crawling was way harder than it should’ve been. Not mentally—he barely even felt the humiliation after all the other, bigger humiliations that’d come before—but physically. He wasn’t used to being weak this way, and he didn’t like it one bit. Couldn’t wait to get back on his feet—literally as well as figuratively. Now that he’d decided not to die, he’d need his strength. Now that Nikolai had given in and promised to let him see Dougie.
Dougie, God. Maybe, somehow, he could convince Dougie how sorry he was, get Dougie to forgive him. He’d figure out a way. He had to. He could scarcely believe that Nikolai had given in so easily to his demand, but since he had, there was no way in hell Mat was going to waste the opportunity.
He reached the dresser, panting a little, and lifted tired arms to open the third drawer. Saw the black case right away. It was disconcertingly large and heavy. What the fuck was Nikolai hiding in there? What would he end up having to endure to convince Nikolai he was sincere? To see Dougie again? To fix the biggest fucking mistake he’d ever made?
“Oh, and fetch the lube, as well—the bottle next to the case. You’ll be needing it.”
Sick fuck. Mat bit his tongue to keep from saying it aloud. There was no doubt in his mind that Nikolai would want him to keep up the argumentativeness in the long run, but not today. Today he had to prove he could be a good little slave.
So he grabbed the lube.
Crawling back with the lube in one hand and the case in the other proved something of a challenge. The floor was hard beneath too-bony knees, he felt tired enough to sleep for a week, and he didn’t want to do this, whatever it was. Fear was an insidious thing, and if he were stronger he’d shove it away like he always did, but shuffling back toward Nikolai now, toward the man who was no doubt about to rape and beat him half-unconscious and make him say thank you for it . . . well, he figured nobody would blame him for slowing down a little bit.
Nikolai said nothing, just watched him, expression empty of all but a vague expectation, a ghost of haughty triumph, and a shade of doubt—not in himself, no, but in Mat. In Mat’s willingness and ability to keep playing along.
Well, he’d fucking see. Mat would do it all, no matter how painful, no matter how depraved. To protect people weaker than himself, like Roger. To protect the only person he loved: Dougie.