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The Hunter’s Pet by Loki Renard – Sample

The Hunter's Pet by Loki RenardChapter One

“Cut the attitude.”

The gruff order was snapped at a woman with purple eyes, green hair, and an expression of smirking resistance that was fast becoming familiar to her handler. She had been his for less than an hour, but already her personality was shining through. Brash, rude, and brave. Standing in the sheer-walled decontamination chamber, she scorned her bonds and William himself with defiant looks and words. It didn’t change the reality of the situation. She was his, and he was already very proud of her.

A rare gene mutation made her quite singular in appearance, not just her hair and eyes, but her figure too. Though athletic, the wildling was curvaceous with ample breasts and generous rump. Her breasts pushed the rough tunic dress she wore out and up so high it barely covered her shapely bottom. It was obvious from the tone of her skin and the amount of dirt built up across the same that she’d been running wild for quite some time. She was a woman without a city, closer to beast than person in some ways.

“I’m not going to be yours,” she said, her voice incongruously lilting and soft. “Ever.”

“You speak well for a wildling,” William observed. “You must have been raised in civilization, which means you know that you don’t have any choice. Once you go feral you lose the rights citizens enjoy. You can be caught. You can be bought. You can be owned.”

Her gorgeous eyes narrowed to cat-like slits. “And you can go to hell.”

Clever. There weren’t many wildlings capable of snappy wordplay. William could already tell that this one had a story, but he wasn’t as interested in her story as he was in getting her contained properly for transport into the city. Binding her arms and legs and carrying her had worked up to the wall, but now that they were past the outer gate, things would be different. They were about to enter Albion, a city that considered itself a bastion of law and order—a citadel of technology and clean living.

While arguing with his new pet, William caught sight of himself in one of the polished surfaces of the decontamination chamber. He was an imposing man, taller than most with a square-cut jaw and dark brown eyes set beneath a prominent brow. The cleft chin was inherited from his father. The curve of his lips, sensual and much more well-shaped than most, were from his mother. He had been handsome once, before a brush with a wild boar had left a thick scar tracing from the middle of his left cheek all the way up to just below his eye. His thick dark hair was long enough to hide it and in his younger days he’d worn it down a lot. Now he preferred it tied back behind his head, scars be damned.

She should have been scared of him. He was more than twice her size and many times her strength and yet she stood there barefoot and defiant. If she had been male, he would have likely beaten her for insubordination. But she was female. And she was pretty. He was not in the habit of unleashing beatings on women. Spankings were not out of the question though, and she was heading for one of those at breakneck speed.

“You’re boring me,” she announced. “I’m leaving now.”

Her statement was laughable. There was no leaving the decontamination chamber. Security was tight and multi-layered, from the gene-coded ID badges everyone wore, to biometric scanners and automated systems, which had probably already picked up stray skin sheddings from his new pet and analyzed them right down to the proteins. She’d only been within its outer walls for a few minutes, but the city already knew his pet better than he did.

“You were captured,” he said. “And be glad you were. You would have likely been killed if you had been permitted to roam the wilds much longer.”

“I could live in the wilds longer than you will live here in this tin can.” Her tone was derisive and arrogant. She tossed her long emerald locks, locking eyes with him defiantly. “I’m here because you need me. I’m here because your genetics are inferior. You cannot sense the radiation as I can, you cannot track the paths of prey, you do not see the world as it really is.”

In a sense, she was right. Wildlings with her mutation were capable of seeing the radiation that bathed much of the countryside surrounding the city. The radiation was one of the reasons the cities had first been built; it was the background noise of a war long past, a poisoned history that could still kill if one were not careful.

Cities were capable of growing their own food, but there was not enough room for the raising of livestock. Animal protein sold for a premium, and it was how William made his living. His new pet would help in that endeavor. Once trained, she would not only sense prey more quickly than he could, but she could lead him around areas of high radiation as well, limiting his exposure. She would be very useful one day. For the moment, she just had to be taught her place.

William leaned down, his hands on his knees as he put his face so close to hers their noses were almost touching. “You’re here,” he growled in soft, deliberate tones, “because I own you.”

“I don’t think so,” she growled right back, sharp white teeth flashing with every word. “You only own what you can control, and you will never control me.”

“You’re my property,” he said in turn. “And I’m not going to argue with my property. Get in the crate, or I’ll put you in.”

He pointed toward a large plastic-covered metal box big enough to contain a human if they were to crouch on their hands and knees. It was an undignified form of confinement, but regulations stated that untrained pets had to be restrained in the city confines. Wildlings had an uncanny knack for detecting energy ducts and breaking them too—along with everything else in their path. Pets could be trained, a few were even assimilated into society, but most, especially those captured later in life, remained under the care of their owners for their entire lives. This one glaring at him was at least twenty-five years old, far past the window where she would be compliant for training.

“I’m not going in a box.”

“In the box or on a leash. Your choice.”

“My choice is to leave.” She took a step back and crouched for a split second before leaping up, using his thigh as a stepping stone and bounding for the wall. She’d probably mistaken the ducts at the top of it for an escape route. There was no getting out that way, but William didn’t have time to crawl around inside them in the hunt for a lost pet either. Damn, but she was fast. He admired her agility even as he jumped after her, catching her by the back of the tunic.

“Let me go!”

Wrangling her with one hand, he used the other to snap a collar around her neck. She squirmed and thrashed about like a fish out of water, fighting for her dignity as much as her freedom. He was secretly sorry he had to deprive her of both, but she was so defiant and resistant to good sense there was no other way of handling her. As she wriggled, he snapped a leash to the collar, getting her under effective control.

“Let. Me. Go!” She grasped the collar with both hands and tried to wrench it off her neck. It was a futile struggle, one that brought her to her knees. William did nothing but hold the leash as she thrashed around before inevitably tiring herself out in a fit of rebellion.

Finally she sat on the ground, panting angrily and staring up at him with an expression of pure venom. He could not help but smile. She was adorable, all the more so for the fact she didn’t mean to be. He admired her spirit. She would be a fine hunter’s pet once her training was complete. He could have taken her to the market and sold her for a thousand credits then and there. In six months, she’d be worth ten times that amount.

“We’re going to my home,” he told her. “It’s a secure compound on the west side of town. You’ll be well taken care of there. Unless you want to be dragged through the streets on this leash, I recommend you step inside the crate.”

“No,” she snarled.

He was really going to have to work on her obedience.

“Won’t go into the crate and won’t walk on the leash? That means I’m left with one option.”

“Beat me until I bleed, I will not do as you say.”

He leaned down. “I’m not planning on beating you just yet,” he said, hauling her up to her feet.

She bit him. Hard. A ring of teeth blossomed on his hand, followed by seeping blood from where her canines had made contact. Fortunately William had gotten all his shots before leaving on his hunting trip, including one that would protect him from the virulent flora in her mouth.

“We do not bite,” he said mildly, sitting on the crate. It was made of solid material and was strong enough to take both his weight and the weight of the spitting wild thing he pulled over his thighs. She was not wearing much in the way of clothing, which made his job easier. Her simple tunic looked like a very old t-shirt. Perhaps it had been colored once, now it was gray and mottled with dirt and grime. There was not much in the way of soap in the wilds. The tunic did not cover much of her body, and it covered even less when she was bent over in a prone position. The bare cheeks of her buttocks were vulnerable to his gaze and his palm as he began spanking her with a steady, measured pace designed to make a statement.

She yowled under his palm, but he was not sure whether that was from pain, anger, or frustration. He strongly suspected it was the latter two. He was not striking her with a hard enough force to genuinely produce the cacophony of noise that escaped her lips. Some of the sounds were not quite human, some were trills and growls, emulations of the natural world.

“If you act out, you’ll be punished. If you are violent, you can expect to have a very sore bottom.” He emphasized the point with a harder slap that made both her cheeks jiggle as his hand caught them in its sweeping path. She had a very nice body, toned and shaped from running wild, but with ample curves. Two of those curves were the unwilling recipients of some much needed discipline, turning pink with the continued application of his palm.

“Bite again and I’ll gag you,” he informed her. “And you won’t like that, will you?”

The response was a vicious snarling sound that had no communication value other than to make it clear that she was angry.

A tone sounded in the room indicating that the decontamination procedure was about to start. Time to get her into the crate before she panicked and hurt herself. Wrapping his right arm around her midsection, he stood up. She struggled, beating her toes against his shins and her fists against his kidneys. It was with no small amount of effort that he upended her crate and dumped her in it bottom first, slamming the door latch shut before she could burst free.

Yowling and cursing emitted through the vents. He ignored it as he tipped the crate back onto its wheeled base and waited for the decontamination to begin. Everyone coming from the wilds was subjected to ten minutes of ionized spray calibrated to kill bacteria, denature viruses, and eliminate fungus, as well as an additional treatment to counter radiation. Nothing from the outside got into the city. Even small amounts of contamination could prove fatal to the young and the old, and certainly nobody wished the ills of the outside world to be visited upon those who took refuge behind the city’s great curved walls.

* * *

Miserable and trapped, Sarah raged at her own stupidity. The hunter had been tracking her for just three sunrises. She had tracked vegetables longer than that. If she hadn’t been feeling poorly, she would surely have escaped his trap. It was not particularly clever or well hidden, a simple rope snare much like ones she’d made herself in the past. She’d stumbled into it like a fool and now her liberty was gone, stolen by a great beast of a man whose gleaming eyes told her that he enjoyed the hunt more than most animals.

“Call me William,” he’d said as he bound her on the ground. He spoke and carried himself with a casual arrogance, safe behind the camouflaged and padded armor that protected him from the radiation currents. The people of the cities were always hiding behind this and that. They were weak creatures, only able to survive inside their constructions. Remove the walls, tear off the armor, and they would crumble.

She had tried to fight, but it was useless. He was far stronger than she in terms of sheer brute strength and she was at a disadvantage as she was caught in one set of ropes already. Carried from her home with no regard, Sarah’s fury had only grown with every passing step.

Born a mutant, her family had taken her from the city when she was still very young. Mutants had never been treated well by citizens. They were experimented upon, used for dangerous and unpleasant labor, locked away for much of their lives because they were regarded as being brutal. It was not the life her parents had wanted for their only daughter, so they had escaped into the forests that had reclaimed the old lands where humans used to live before the age of cities.

Her mother and father were long since passed, succumbed to fevers both. With their passing Sarah was left on her own. She didn’t mind that. She could have joined one of the wild tribes who lived further north, but she’d decided to stay where her family had settled, where every tree was a friend and every rock as permanent a marker as the city that glowed in the distance. Very few hunters came out as far as she lived. Those who did were easily avoided and even more easily scared off. City folk were wary of the wilds—as they should be. The forest was no place for people who lived separated from earth and sea and sky.

A grinding sound followed by a loud banging interrupted her train of thought. The cloth separating her cage from the world was drawn back and dark, scarred eyes became visible through the grating.

“Sorry,” William said. “Won’t be too much of that, I promise.”

“Die!”

He smirked and dropped the cloth back over the exterior, leaving her in darkness.

She should have killed him as soon as she knew he was stalking her. She should have run a spear through his body and left him for the wild cats. But killing was not in her nature. She rarely killed forest animals, only when she truly craved protein. On those rare occasions, she was sure to give thanks to the animal and to use every part of it. Waste not, want not, her mother used to say. It was a pre-city term, from the days when people lived wherever they pleased without the protection of the domes. Back in those days, there were little towns and small cities and none of them were walled off from nature. Everybody breathed unfiltered air. Everybody drank water from reservoirs open to the elements. Sarah very much enjoyed it when her mother had told her stories of the olden days. They sounded so quaint, so free.

Sarah was free, but her primitive life was not like the one those people had led. If she were to fall ill, or hurt herself, that would be the end of her. That was her weakness, her downfall. It was that which the hunter had exploited. A touch of the fever had distracted her and she’d wandered into his trap just as neatly as any wood pigeon.

The crate began to sway and roll. In the darkness she felt herself being drawn out of the world she’d come to love and into a realm of the unknown.

* * *

“What’ve you got there, William?” A neatly uniformed clerk was waiting at the final gate. He knew William by name, for William was one of the very few citizens who regularly went from Albion to the wilds and back. The post at the gate was a lonely one at times, and the clerk often liked to make conversation. Usually William was happy to oblige him, but this day he did not have time for it.

“My newest project.” William patted the crate proudly. The soft sound caused a fresh burst of angry shouting from inside. “She’s a little temperamental.”

“Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.” The clerk stamped his card, updated the database, and waved him through.

Albion rose in glorious white marble trammeled with diamond blue veins, conduits that carried power to the city in an organic grid. William hailed a transporter, a simple platform that would ride electromagnetic fields. He pushed the crate onto it, set the destination, then sat atop the metal box as they were whisked into the air and thence across the city. The skies were full of dancing platforms, narrow ovals sliding with smooth precision up, down around one another.

The journey took exactly 9.9 minutes from the central terminal to the crested villa that William called home. It was on the upper steppes of the city, a three-story abode commanding a view of the wild lands from its upper balconies.

He pushed the crate under the ornate arch that marked the gate of his private compound, and thence into the vestibule of his home. It took a moment or two to activate the force field that would keep his unwilling guest in and any curious neighbors out. A purple haze delineated the areas of control, making it easy to stay away from if one wanted to avoid an unpleasant shock.

“I’m going to let you out,” he said, addressing the crate. “Stay away from the purple parts, they’ll give you a nasty shock if you try to breach them. If you’re thinking of being destructive, think again. Break anything and you’ll be back in the crate before you know it. I’m going to open the door now. Come out nice and slow.”

He waited for a response. There was none. Worried that she might be somehow harmed, he opened the crate. She flew out, fingers clawed, face contorted with primal rage. He caught her before she could scratch his eyes out, but he was off balance and her momentum took them both over backwards. She tumbled over his head and hit the force field. There was a sound like a cross between a gun shot and the sound of an electric bug catcher and she emitted a loud yelp, scampering away from the purple wall at full speed.

“I told you,” he said, rising to his feet. “You’ll only hurt yourself if you misbehave.”

“Let me go!” She shrieked the words, clasping at her arm with her hand. The arm must have been exposed to the field for a second or more. It probably hurt like hell, might even have been burned.

“I need to attend to that arm,” he said. “Come on. I have something that will soothe the pain.”

He strode into his home, past the expensive furniture and unique works of art, through to the bathing chamber. He did not look over his shoulder to see if she followed, he simply acted as though she would. There could be no hesitation in dealing with a wildling. They were instinctive people; they sensed weakness, insecurity, and doubt within seconds and immediately took advantage.

Entering the bathing chamber, William retrieved a solar cream from the cabinet and turned, expecting to find his pet there. She was, glaring at him balefully.

“Sit down,” he said. “This takes a few minutes to work. It smells bad too and you’ll feel some tingling, but it will heal that burn in five minutes.”

“I hate you.”

“Give me your arm.”

He ignored her hate, her anger, her fear. None of those impulses would be rewarded with attention. When she failed to extend the limb, he took her by the hand and began slathering the cream over her skin. The effect was fairly instantaneous. He felt her relax as the pain abated. She was still angry and afraid; those emotions could not be soothed with salve, or any other topical treatment. Only time would make those abate.

It had not escaped his attention that she was slightly under the weather. There was a flush to her skin that could not entirely be attributed to anger, but it would be difficult to take her temperature given that she’d probably bite the thermometer. He could try the other end of her body, he supposed, but she would not much like that either.

“How long have you been sick?”

“I’m not sick.”

“You’re sick or scared. Probably both.”

“I’m not scared of you.” She snarled the words with an intensity that would have been scary if it weren’t coming out of a fever-soaked scrap of a woman. She had gone downhill quickly since being put in the crate, no doubt a result of the stress of being captured. One had to be careful with wildlings; as much as they needed firm handling, they also needed to be kept quiet for the first few weeks of their captivity. Too much stress and they could perhaps perish from the latent ailments that were part and parcel of living wild. Fortunately, fever was not all that dangerous in the city. It was common enough amongst hunter pets, especially when they were first brought in.

William had the necessary medication on hand, of course. The only problem was it tasted awful, and judging by the demeanor of his prize, she was unlikely to take it willingly.

“I’m going to give you something to bring the fever down. It won’t taste good, but you’ll feel better.”

“I would rather die than take anything from you,” she replied predictably.

William retrieved the bottle from the medicine cabinet and poured out a dose into a little clear vessel. “If you do die of this fever, you won’t have the satisfaction of revenge now, will you?”

He held out the dose and was not at all surprised when she slapped it out of his hand. Reddish brown liquid fell to the floor and pooled in the tiles as he patiently poured out a second dose.

“This is your last chance to take it,” he explained. “If I have to do this a third time, I’ll make you drink it.”

He extended the medicine to his captive. This time she slapped it toward him, spattering his clothing with the sticky mess.

“Right,” he said firmly. “I guess we’ll be doing this the hard way.”

William poured a third dose and set it aside. Taking his naughty new pet by the waist, he drew her close to his body, her back against his stomach as he secured his grasp around her midsection, clamping her arms to her chest. The other hand then went to her nose, pinching it so she opened her mouth. The plan worked that far, but he soon realized he was missing a third hand with which to actually dose her. Substituting speed for extra appendages, he let go of her body for a moment, grabbed the liquid, and tossed it down her throat before she could fight away.

The result was less than perfect, but most of the medicine seemed to have been swallowed as she squirmed away from him, cursing up an archaic storm.

“You’ll thank me when you feel better,” he said, ignoring her fury.

“You’ve poisoned me!”

“If I have, I went to an awful lot of trouble to do it,” William said mildly. “Now, bath time.”

She desperately needed a bath. Maybe she’d had a dip in one of the lakes now and then, but there was grime and body grease coating every inch of her skin. It was a natural protection against parasites, and a warning to predators, but it was entirely out of place in good society.

“Baths are for the weak!”

“Baths are for the clean,” William corrected. “You’ll feel better afterward, I promise.”

“Your promises are lies!”

She was really into the rebellious swing of things. He could probably have suggested giving her freedom and she would have resisted simply on principle.

“Do you have a name?”

The question seemed to take her off guard. She put her anger on hold for a moment and looked at him suspiciously.

“What would I need with a name?” she asked bitterly. “I’m just your possession, aren’t I?”

“Even possessions need names,” William replied. “A table by any other name would, well, it would be confusing.”

Her face screwed up in irritation. “Is that supposed to be a joke?”

“Listen,” William said. “Obviously you’re not a normal wildling. You were obviously educated by someone, at least in the ways of language. So you have a name. I presume you’d prefer I call you by your name?”

“I’d prefer you took a long walk off a short pier,” she bit back.

“What’s a pier?”

Her expression told him that she didn’t know either. A great many of her expressions were archaic; she must have been raised by very old-fashioned parents. Most wildlings lacked her linguistic abilities. They could talk, but they did so simply and without regard for the nuances of language. They certainly didn’t make puns or statements simply because they sounded good.

His new pet was quite an enigma, a woman caught between worlds, too wild to be a citizen, too civilized to be truly wild. A fascinating, beautiful creature who seemed to loathe him with every bone in her body.

“I will call you… Gertrude. Or Hortense. How do you feel about Philomena?”

Her eyes narrowed further with every passing suggested moniker until finally she broke. “My name is Sarah.”

“Sarah, that’s a good name. An old name.”

“No older than William,” she replied. She was right. He had been named after his great to the power of a half-dozen grandfather, a man who had made a name for himself by hunting man-eating tigers in India or Pakistan back in the days before they became great hulking irradiated hell beasts.

“Let’s get you into the bath,” he said, activating the bath and watching as it almost instantly filled with warm clean water that flowed from many dozens of little portals around the rim of the tub. “Best to take your clothes off for this.”

He braced himself for the coming argument, for which he would not have blamed her. Being naked with a strange man was a vulnerable position for any woman, let alone a freshly caught wildling.

“You want my clothes off? You want to see me without my clothes?” She tugged at her tunic, pulling it up over her head. Her breasts were instantly exposed, full and round with pink nipples. Her beauty was quite stunning and for a moment his breath caught in his throat. The toned lines of her torso led down to the sweet spot between her thighs where soft green curls grew. William felt his cock harden in response. He was glad he was still in the camouflage hardened armor that protected every part of his body, including the crotch region. The underside of his cock was thrusting against the codpiece with a vigor that was almost uncomfortable.

“Very nice,” he said, playing down his arousal. “Now, would you like to get in?”

“I would not,” she said, mimicking his intonation. Oh, she was a little smart ass. She stood there quite boldly without a care for her nudity, hands on her hips as she looked up at him defiantly.

“Get in, or I’ll put you in.”

A little shrug was her only response. She was not going to do as she was told, not for anything, but her naked frame was so distracting he didn’t much mind. If she wanted to be difficult, he could deal with that. Wrapping his arms around her naughty naked body, he picked her up and tried to put her in the bath, but she clung to him so tightly he would have had to go in with her.

“It’s just warm water, nothing to be afraid of.” He tried coaxing her off, but she clung to his body armor with the strength of a monkey in a tree. Many years of climbing had strengthened her fingers to a point where they could easily sustain her body weight as long as she had a good hold. She further strengthened her resistance by wrapping her legs around his waist.

“Well, aren’t you affectionate,” he teased.

She responded by snapping at his nose, just barely missing the flesh. The act earned her a warning pat.

“Now you settle down, my girl,” he said. “This isn’t going to hurt you one bit.”

“I don’t care. I’m not going in.”

* * *

Glaring up at her captor, Sarah knew that she did not have anything to fear from a shallow tub of warm water. It was the principle of the thing. She had to retain control over something, and her carefully crafted coating from the world outside the city was the one thing she wanted to keep. Once that was washed away, there would be nothing left.

William slapped her bare bottom, getting her attention. “You’re going in one way or another,” he said, a tingling that was not entirely unpleasant accompanying his words. His little pats and love taps did not cause any pain, but they did cause strange feelings, both emotional and physical, to course through her body and mind.

“I’m not going in,” she said, grasping his collar as if it were the only thing between her and death.

“Are you scared of it? It’s just a little water. It’s warm.”

“I’m not scared of anything,” she replied boldly.

His eyes twinkled. “I think you are scared,” he said. “I think you’re worried that once we wash all that dirt away you’re going to be too pretty to be wild.”

“Stupid,” she said bluntly, hiding the little flash of pleasure she got from hearing him say that she was pretty. He was handsome, of course. He must have known that. Sarah wasn’t sure if she was attractive or not. She had not seen many other women her age. She could have been the plainest thing he had ever set eyes on. His honeyed words could have been nothing more than a manipulation, and yet she still felt happiness at hearing the compliment that was probably not a compliment at all.

Thoroughly unsure of how to handle herself, Sarah allowed William to slowly unwrap her fingers from his attire and to lower her into the waiting water.

Once she accepted its inevitability, the bath was nice. Sarah had faint vestigial memories of the last bath she’d had, decades earlier. The scent of the soap brought back memories of being tended to by her mother, washed and wrapped in a warm towel.

“I can wash myself,” she said as he picked up a bar of soap with clear intent.

“All the same,” he said patiently. “I’m going to stay with you.” Kneeling next to the tub, he lathered the washcloth and ran it over her shoulders. Thick streaks of dirt went cascading down her back and into the water as he worked the cloth over her skin in a slow massage that felt so wonderful, she quite forgot to hate him.

“We’re going to have to change the water out once or twice, I think. You’re filthy.”

It felt so nice to be washed that for a few minutes she set aside her animosity and let the hunter do his work. His touch was tender and careful and he spared no part of her from the attentions of his cloth. From under her arms to beneath her breasts he touched every part of her. She sensed no lechery in his attentions, but there was an undeniable intimacy to the whole affair. The soft sensation of the cloth moving against her body, rubbing away aches and pains she hadn’t known were there left her almost as soft and mushy as the cloth itself.

The spell was somewhat broken when William pushed a button to let the water drain away, but it was nice when fresh water flowed down the tub walls and covered her all over again. Sarah watched with no small measure of wonder; somewhere in the back of her mind she had always remembered how things were in the city, but it was so long since she’d seen most of them that she’d thought them figments of her imagination. This was real though, crystal clear fresh water clear of any animal droppings or earthy silt and warm to the touch, cascading down around her toes and filling the tub up around her.

William rubbed soap into a fresh washcloth and handed it to her with a simple instruction. “Clean the parts of yourself you’d rather I not touch.”

She smirked. He was scared of what her mother had called her ‘privates.’ But there were no such things as privates in the wild. Privates were public and she would not have minded had he washed her there.

Suddenly, the temptation of holding a sodden wet soapy cloth in her hand was too much. She did not push it down between her thighs, but instead launched it toward his face. The sound it made as it delivered its watery load was very satisfying, as was the way rivulets of soapy liquid trickled down over his neck and body armor, which he had still not taken off.

“Brat,” he said as water ran down over his stubble and dripped onto the floor. He wiped his face off with one hand. The other caught the cloth before it too could fall and returned it to the water. She watched him, waiting for retaliation. But there didn’t seem to be any. After washing it out again, he pushed the wet soapy cloth between her legs and proceeded to clean her vulva with a firm but gentle touch.

The sensation was very pleasant. Instinct made her hips grind forward against the cloth, and when that slipped away, against his fingers.

“This bath is not for your pleasure,” he chided her gently. His words meant little however, for he did not move his hand away. He kept it there between her thighs and rubbed as she wriggled her hips forward. There was no way to obtain real satisfaction there in that slippery surface, but a little reward went a long way toward alleviating the stress she’d been under since her capture.

“Have you taken a mate before?” The question was asked as his fingertips made swirling motions around the entrance of her body.

“No,” she said softly. She was struggling with the impulse to mate with this man. He was strong and he was in control and as much as her rational mind hated what he’d done, her animal instinct was running completely contrary. She grasped at his arm, wanting him deeper, wanting him to push inside her.

“Then I am the first to do this.” He let his fingertip drift inside her, pressing her sensitive inner lips aside as he penetrated her body. The digit slid in an inch, and swirled more. “No hymen,” he murmured. “Is that because you’ve been playing with yourself? Or because no hymen can stand up to the lifestyle of an active wildling for long?”

Sarah shrugged. She had never penetrated herself, she had only rubbed the bud that sat north of her opening. The tingling sensations resulting from a good strumming there had contented her for many years, but with William’s finger tenderly swirling inside her lips, she realized she may have been depriving herself of a much more satisfying kind of pleasure.

“There is so much to teach you,” William said, brushing his thumb against her clit.

Sarah soon realized that arousal dulled her capacity for rebellion, made her soft, perhaps even pliant in his hands. It was dangerous.

Pushing his hand away took all of her willpower, but she did it. He did not offer any resistance, he even smiled as he slid his hand out from between her thighs. William was maddeningly calm and his patience seemed endless. No matter what she did, he took it in stride. Probably because he did not think of her as anything resembling an equal. No doubt being angry at her would be like being angry at one of the many pieces of furniture in his home.

Baring her teeth, she snarled.

He chuckled and ran the cloth down her back and all the way to her bottom, where he wasted no time soaping and cleaning between her cheeks. Her resulting protest was ignored.

“You know what happens if you bite,” he said, casually rubbing the cloth across her bottom hole. “I warn you too, a spanking hurts a lot worse on a wet behind.”

“Your punishments mean nothing to me,” Sarah replied, squirming as the soft soapy cloth made gentle circles at her tight bottom hole. The sensation produced was quite unexpected, an arousal that came from being stimulated in a very different way.

“Mm-hmm.” William drew his hand away, leaving her bereft of the stimulation. He let the cloth drift through the water and moved away. “I think you’re clean enough now,” he said, picking up a great soft length of fabric. “Get out and dry yourself off.”

“I don’t want to get out.”

“So contrary,” he chuckled, setting the towel down near the bath. “Get out when you’re ready, then.”

He left her soaking in the bath, giving her the first privacy she’d had since her capture. Her immediate impulse was to try to climb out the small frosted window, but she knew very well that there were many layers of danger beyond that point. She was also intrigued by her surroundings. She had left civilization so long ago that she’d forgotten what most things were. The toilet was for making water and passing motions; she could remember that much because it was the one thing her mother had often lamented not having out in the wilds. There was comfort to be had in the city, comfort and convenience, but it came at a price. Freedom.

Swishing her fingers through the water, Sarah watched the ripples of light reflecting off the pristine white bottom of the bath. There wasn’t anything the city dwellers didn’t harness for their own ends, not heat or water or light. They were masters of the world, but they were cut off from it. She did not know if she could tolerate such an alien existence.

As the water grew cold, Sarah decided to get out. She left the bathroom and began wandering through the house, liking the way the soft floor coverings absorbed the water still running off her naked body.

“Hey!” William exclaimed as she came upon him. “What about drying yourself off?”

“I’ll dry soon,” she said, ignoring him.

“No, you’ll get your naked bottom back to the bathroom and dry off there before you soak the carpet.”

“Soak the what?”

He looped an arm around her wet waist and picked her up, swatting her backside as he carried her back to the bathroom. He had been right. Spankings did sting more on a wet bottom.

“You have to dry off with a towel when you’re wet,” he explained, tossing the length of fabric about her shoulders, then working it over her entire body bit by bit, absorbing each and every last droplet of water as he went. He even went so far as to dab the green curls over her mound.

“Right,” he said. “Now you can go.”

“Where?”

“Good question. Do you want to see your room?”

“My room?”

“A place you can go to sleep, or when you want to be alone.”

She looked at him as if he were insane. “I come from the wilds,” she said, her voice melodic even when filled with derision. “What use do I have for a room when the world is my room? I am not one of you cowards who hides behind shields of fire and walls of rock.”

“In the wild you had your cave,” he reminded her. “A room is simply a different kind of cave.”

Begrudgingly, Sarah inwardly admitted that the city itself was really only a series of caves, a human nest of a kind, like a termite mound. That didn’t mean she liked it. There were too many people, taking up too much space, needing too many things.

“Here,” he said, leading her into a room that seemed no different from any of the others except for what it contained. “This is yours.”

There was a big soft puffy object that Sarah stared at for a long moment before realizing that it must be a bed. In the wild she had usually slept in a tree, away from predators. Her reed hammock had been perfectly comfortable. Aside from the bed, there was not much in the room. A window let in purple-tinged light beyond which the city could be seen in all its strange glory.

“I’ll let you get settled in. Call out if you need anything. If you get hungry, anything.”

He left the room, shutting the door behind him. Sarah looked around. The room was too large. Too unnatural. She didn’t like it at all. She was on the verge of panic when she spotted another door. Opening it, she found a smaller room inside the room, one with a single metal branch running across the top of it. There was a large brown fur tossed over the branch. She pulled that down, along with one of the soft things from the bed, pillows, her mother had called them, and pushed them both into the little corner of the space. It was a comfortable little bed, almost as comfortable as one of her little forest nooks, except this one did not have the sun gently filtering through cracks in the rock, nor did it store the heat from the day and radiate it into the surrounding space.

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