Captive Prince:Book One of the Captive Prince Trilogy(3)

By: C. S. Pacat

A slave entered a few moments later. Hand-picked, she matched all that was known of Damen’s tastes. Her skin was as white as the marble of the baths, and her yellow hair was simply pinned, exposing the elegant column of her throat. Her breasts were full and swelled beneath the gauze; her pink nipples were faintly visible.

Damen watched her approach with the same wariness with which he would follow the movements of an opponent on the field, though he was no stranger to being serviced by slaves.

Her hand rose to the clasp at her shoulder. She exposed the curve of a breast, a slender waist, the gauze sliding down to her hips, and lower. Her garments dropped to the floor. Then she picked up a water scoop.

Naked, she bathed his body, soaping and rinsing, heedless of the way the water spilled against her own skin and splashed her round breasts. Finally she wet and soaped his hair, washing it thoroughly, finishing by rising up on her toes and tipping one of the smaller tubs of warm water over the back of his head.

Like a dog, he shook it off. He looked around for Adrastus, but the Keeper of the Slaves seemed to have disappeared.

The slave took up one of the coloured vials and poured some of its oil into her palm. Coating her hands, she began to work the stuff into his skin with methodical strokes, applying it everywhere. Her eyes remained downcast, even when her strokes deliberately slowed and she moved against him. Damen’s fingers bit into his chains.

“That’s enough,” said Jokaste, and the slave jerked back from Damen, prostrating herself on the wet marble floor instantly.

Damen, manifestly aroused, weathered Jokaste’s calmly appraising gaze.

“I want to see my brother,” said Damen.

“You have no brother,” said Jokaste. “You have no family. You have no name, rank or position. By now, you should know that much at least.”

“Do you expect me to submit to this? To be mastered by—who—Adrastus? I’ll tear his throat out.”

“Yes. You would. But you won’t be serving in the palace.”

“Where?” Flatly.

She gazed at him.

Damen said, “What have you done?”

“Nothing,” she said, “but choose between brothers.”

They had last spoken in her rooms in the palace; her hand had pressed to his arm.

She looked like a painting. Her blonde curls were coiled and perfect, and her high smooth brow and classical features were composed. Where Adrastus had held back, her delicate sandals picked their way with calm and sure steps across the wet marble towards him.

He said, “Why keep me alive? What—need—does this satisfy? It’s neat enough, except for that. Is it—” He bit down on it; she deliberately misunderstood his words.

“A brother’s love? You don’t know him at all, do you. What’s a death but easy, quick. It’s supposed to haunt you forever that the one time he beat you was the one time that mattered.”

Damen felt his face changing shape. “—What?”

She touched his jaw, unafraid. Her fingers were slender, white and faultlessly elegant.

“I see why you prefer pale skin,” she said. “Yours hides the bruising.”

After they locked him into the gold collar and wrist-cuffs, they painted his face.

There was no taboo in Akielos regarding male nudity, but the paint was the mark of a slave, and it was mortifying. He thought there was no greater humiliation than when he was thrown to the ground in front of Adrastus. Then he saw Adrastus’s face, and saw the esurient expression.

“You look . . .” Adrastus gazed at him.

Damen’s arms were bound behind his back, and further restraints had restricted his movements to little more than a hobble. Now he was sprawled on the ground at Adrastus’s feet. He drew himself up onto his knees, but was prevented from rising further by the restraining grip of his two guards.

“If you did it for a position,” said Damen, flat hatred in his voice, “you’re a fool. You’ll never advance. He can’t trust you. You’ve already betrayed for gain once.”

The blow snapped his head to one side. Damen ran his tongue over the inside of his lip and tasted blood.

“I did not give you permission to speak,” said Adrastus.

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