The Flesh Cartel #8: Loyalties
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.
Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes:dubious consent, non-consent
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish. Click on a label to reveal its content.
After Dougie’s revelation in Nikolai’s bed, after Nikolai had shushed him and held him until long after his tears had stopped, he led Dougie back down to the basement bedroom Dougie had been calling home for the last however long. Dougie wasn’t sure how he felt about that. Part of him desperately wanted to be wrapped back up in Nikolai’s arms, in Nikolai’s private inner sanctum, borrowing Nikolai’s strength and conviction and basking in his love. But another part of him knew he needed this alone time to think, to process, to deal on his own. He wasn’t helpless. He needed not to feel helpless. Had to know he could cope, at least a little, on his own.
Nikolai sat him on the bed with a lingering kiss to the crown of his head and a whispered good-night. He closed the door behind him, but he didn’t lock it.
A show of good faith, no doubt. Of trust. Dougie wasn’t sure if Nikolai wanted him to take advantage of his freedom or not, but he suspected there was no wrong answer here. Felt confident enough in that, at least, not to add fresh fuel to the banked fire of his panic. Besides, he was certain as certain could be that all the doors leading up to the ground floor were locked—Nikolai knew better than to trust him that far—and there wasn’t a single thing in the basement he wanted to see.
Mat. Mat’s down here somewhere.
Not a single thing.
His new clothes were folded in a neat pile atop the dresser on the far wall, his sneakers beside them, cleaned of the dirt and leaves he’d tracked through this afternoon. Someone had done that for him and he didn’t even know who. He thought briefly of putting them on. Thought equally briefly of throwing them away. All they meant, all they represented . . . it was too much to trust him with right now. Left him feeling too much like his old self. Maybe he should tell Nikolai that. Ask for his help—ask him to take them away so he wouldn’t have to think about it again before he was ready.
He stared at them for a long time. Until his eyes felt dry and he realized he’d forgotten to blink, even long after he’d stopped thinking of anything his conscious mind could access. Overload. Maybe even shock. Too much to wrap his head around. Too much to wrap his heart around. Best, then, just to put this whole day behind him. Sleep on it. Maybe he’d wake up with answers tomorrow.
# # #
He didn’t, though. Woke, instead, to a tentative knock at his door, and blinked into the darkness, wondering who that could possibly be. Nikolai never knocked, didn’t need to knock; this was his room and his pet inside it. Couldn’t be Mat—Dougie disgusted him, and Nikolai wouldn’t let him wander free besides. Nobody else ever came to see him here.
Another knock, just as soft as the last one. Dougie sat up in bed, groped for the light switch. Blinked against the too-bright flood of full-spectrum bulbs and mumbled, “Come in?”
The door cracked, and a face peeked around its edge. Handsome. Open. Familiar. What was his name . . .?
“Roger?” Dougie rubbed sore eyes, pulled the covers a little higher up his lap. It’d been forever since he’d thought to be shy, but it was hitting him now, powerful enough to heat his cheeks.
Roger nodded, smiling a bit sheepishly. “Mind if I come in?”
“Um.” Dougie made himself let go of the blankets, gestured a little awkwardly. Strange how quickly he’d forgotten how to talk to people. How to behave around them. “Sure?”
Roger let himself in, closed the door behind him. He was dressed more casually than Dougie remembered him being the first time they’d met—a lot like how Nikolai had dressed Dougie yesterday, actually: washed-out jeans and a soft forest-green sweater with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. He was balancing a tray in one hand. “Brought you breakfast.”
Word Count: 18,600
Page Count: 71
Cover By: Imaliea
Release Date: 06/29/2013