The Pawn(7)

By: Skye Warren

“How much?” I ask, the hard knot in my stomach a sign I’ve already lost.

Damon Scott gives a small smile. “We’ll have an auction.”

I’ve been to auctions before—of paintings, antique furniture. The audience with their glasses of wine and numbered signs for bidding. I imagine myself up on the stage. “Who would attend?”

There’s a hungry gleam in Damon Scott’s eyes. “I know a good many men who’d love to teach you the art of pleasure.”

I seriously doubt that I’ll feel any pleasure with a strange man, one who prefers to purchase a woman rather than date her. “How long would I have to—”

“A month,” Gabriel says, his eyes a bright flame.

Scott is silent a moment. “That would bring in more money.”

A month? God, what could a man do to me in a month? Even the thought of being with a stranger for a single night makes my stomach turn over. Bile rises in my throat. Would he want to sleep with me every day? More than that?

“What if—” I swallowed hard. “What if he hurts me?”

Scott shrugged. “It always hurts the first time. So I’ve heard.”

I always imagined that I would have sex with my husband, that he would take care to make it easier for me. A man who paid for the privilege would have no reason to restrain himself. “I mean worse than that. You know…kinky stuff.”

“Kinky stuff,” Gabriel says, the corner of his mouth turned up. “What do you know about kinky stuff?”

My face feels hot. “I’ve seen the movie, okay? I know about things.”

That’s a lie. I squirmed through the movie, lips parted in shock. How did people think of this stuff? Why would any girl like it? And I’m not just a random face in this city. My picture has appeared in the society papers. People know my father. Maybe some of the men were cheated by him, just like Gabriel. Would they want to hurt me in revenge?

“Tell me what you know,” Gabriel says.

The words are mocking, but something sparks inside me. “I know that some men like to hurt women. I know it makes them feel big and strong to hurt someone weaker.”

“And are you weak, little virgin?”

No, I want to say. Except I’ve lost everything in the past two months. My life, my school. My friends. I’m a shadow of my former self. Little virgin makes me fight back, though. Gabriel makes me fight back. “I’m doing what I have to do. Is that weak?”

His gaze flickers over my body, the yellow of his eyes brighter in the lamp’s glow. When he meets my eyes, there’s a begrudging respect. “Scott will screen the men who get invited.”

“Naturally,” Scott says. “I’m not promising these men won’t want kinky shit, but they’ll respect reasonable boundaries.”

That sounds a little vague—what qualifies as reasonable? But I would be stepping into their world, one with thorns and dark shadows. It would be dangerous.

It would be immoral. Daddy taught me to protect myself, but then he failed to protect me. I don’t know what to believe anymore. “I don’t—I don’t know if I can do this.”

Scott waves a hand as if it doesn’t matter to him. Maybe it doesn’t. “Go home, think it over. Come back tomorrow if you want to do it.”

I take a step back, relieved to be dismissed. The thought of making a decision hurts my heart, but at least I have a reprieve.

“Oh, and Avery,” Scott says thoughtfully. “If you do come back, bring some lingerie. We’ll want to get some pictures circulating to generate interest.”

I imagine myself undressed down to my bra, my underwear. More exposed than I am now. And photographs would last forever. That would only be the beginning, because when a man purchased my virginity, he could see every part of me. Touch every inch of my skin. Invade every place in my body. My eyes turn hot with tears. All I can manage is a curt nod, and then I’m practically running from the room.

I’m already in the hallway when I feel a hand on my wrist. Something inside me snaps, and I turn back with a cry of anger, of grief. Of defeat. I strike out with an open palm, trying to hit him, hurt him.

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