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Biton Savakis hungered. Not for food in the normal understanding of the word. His body craved a different sustenance, a different feeding. Three months ago, his pet, his adored and much loved slave, died. Biton couldn't save him, nothing could. The cancer came on Erik quickly and, in spite of Biton's wealth and influence, the prognosis was hopeless.
To the end, Erik remained a faithful slave; never once giving in to Biton's attempts to adjust their relationship for the sake of his health. Nothing made Erik happier than serving him, and finally Biton quit trying. Whatever made Erik happy, he would give him for whatever time he had left.
Once Erik was gone, Biton's desire to rule someone went with him. Until tonight.
Biton entered the establishment with more than a little trepidation. His discomfort didn't show--it couldn't. As an experienced Dom, he would never allow his feelings to show, but the idea of being with someone other than Erik was more daunting than he expected. A hush fell over the few people there as they turned to look at him. A glance around the darkened room revealed a couple of familiar faces.
Nodding in his direction, the other patrons turned back to their own business.
So early in the evening there wouldn't be many here which is why Biton decided to come in now. Too many questions, too many sorrowful looks--he couldn't handle the pity.
The club hadn't changed. The dark paneling and bad lighting made it difficult to see more than the pitted dark wood of the bar. Smoke stung his eyes as he walked through the room.
Biton nodded to the bartender. "Scotch, straightup."
"Biton, my friend, how are you?"
Turning toward the familiar voice, he found Antonio Casala leading his slave, Lia, over.
A strong hand gripped his shoulder but Biton shrugged it off. "I've been better. It's been rough." Biton took a sip of the scotch to ease his tightening throat. The sympathetic gesture made it too easy to give in to what he could only do in the privacy of his own home. He appreciated Antonio's kindness and he knew the man understood his loss.
The silent long legged woman standing nearby had been with Antonio longer than the ten years Erik was with Biton. She was in remission from breast cancer. If anyone could understand, it would be Antonio.
"Maybe this was a bad idea." Biton threw back the rest of his scotch. The sound of the empty glass on the bar seemed loud.
"You need to get out. It's been months."
"I know but..." Once again, Biton's throat tightened. His eyes closed against the sting of tears. "Not here."
"Okay, how about my place. Friday night. I'm having a party. There'll be several unattached people there."
Biton nodded sharply. He knew what kind of party Antonio meant. Maybe he could shed the tension threatening to tear him apart.
"Friday." Biton should say more but he couldn't. Walking quickly to the door, he beat a hasty exit.
Antonio watched his friend flee from his memories. Too bad it wasn't that easy. Biton needed to move on. As a Dom, Antonio understood the need to control his life. Erik's death was the one thing Biton hadn't counted on.
"Plan a play party for Friday. And make sure your little friend is there."
A slight change in her tone made him look at her. The luscious rosy lips curved slightly at the corner.
"You wish to say something?" Antonio couldn't control the grin threatening his own mouth.
"No, Master." She bit her lips to hold back her smile.
"Witch." A sharp swat to her round ass sounded loud in the quiet bar. He tugged at her collar and headed back to his table. It had been Lia's idea to introduce Cavan to Biton.
The king size bed swallowed Biton without the warmth of Erik beside him. It took him nearly a month to sleep in it after his lover's death. Tonight, the couch and falling asleep to the blare of the television seemed more appealing, but he stayed where he was. He needed his life back even if the hole in his soul would never be filled.
"Erik, I miss you so much," Biton whispered into the darkness as he stared toward the ceiling. "I shouldn't have gone there tonight. It wasn't right without you." Tears rolled down the sides of his face. "Antonio was there--with Lia. She looks good. Her hair's grown back out."
Erik and Lia had been closer friends than Biton and Antonio. Erik went with her for her chemo treatments when her Master couldn't be with her. Biton's beloved mourned the loss of Lia's long dark hair. Barely a year later, Lia returned the favor.
"It's almost as long as before..." The words choked him. The memory of Erik's thick dark hair, falling out by the handful, made Biton gasp in pain.
Shaving his head was added to Erik's daily grooming, along with shaving his genitals.
Pulling a pillow against his face to stifle the sobs, he mumbled, "I still love you. I just need ... need to go on. I hope you understand."
Biton rolled to his side, clutching to his chest the pillow that no longer smelled of Erik. The soft cotton pillowcase muffled his sobs until he finally fell into an exhausted sleep.
Friday arrived too quickly for Biton. Staring at his reflection in the mirror, he looked older than his forty-two years. His coal black hair, courtesy of his Greek heritage, was starting to go salt and pepper. Even his thick chest hair showed grays spattered through it. The dark rings under his eyes attested to his inability to sleep. His muscle tone was still good. Exercise helped keep his demons at bay. He'd lost weight. Sometimes eating was too much of an effort. Besides, the kitchen had been Erik's domain. Biton felt as if he were trespassing when he cooked for himself.
The dark eyes staring back at him from the mirror were haunted and lost. Did other people see it when they looked at him?
His work as an attorney didn't hold any real interest anymore. As a senior partner in one of the largest law firms in New York, he could afford to delegate most of his cases to others. Retiring early crossed his mind more and more these days. Money wasn't a problem. His savings and investments would keep him comfortable for years. But what would he do? Curl up in the darkness and die, most likely. Work was the only thing anchoring him to his life.
The sad dark man in the mirror shook his head and left the bathroom.
Biton parked on the narrow street near Antonio's brownstone. Sitting in the car, he watched several people climb the stairs to the door. He hoped there weren't many people here tonight. His hand moved to put the key back in the ignition then hesitated. Control--he needed to regain control of his life. Going to work every day and coming home to mourn Erik was not living.
Resolved to make the most of tonight, Biton climbed out of the car and took the stairs two at a time. This was a play party, he reminded himself. Maybe, just maybe, he could find someone to interest him, even if only for one night.
Antonio watched as Lia peeked through the blinds. Her job as the host's slave was to greet the guests and make them comfortable. Although the brownstone could accommodate more, he planned a small gathering, less than ten people. Antonio didn't want to overwhelm Biton. His gaze darted around the room until it fell on the object of his search.
Cavan had found a corner and made himself almost disappear. The slim redhead, dressed in faded jeans and an open button down shirt, looked out of place clutching the last piece of his former life. Unless a Master offered it, wearing the wide leather collar wasn't allowed. However, Cavan wouldn't leave it in his room. It had become his security blanket.
Antonio shook his head. How had he managed to end up taking in such a wounded soul?
He glanced back to the door as Lia opened it for Biton. His beautiful slave greeted their guest with the deference due a friend of her Master. Sometimes Antonio wondered just who the slave really was in their relationship. He may have control over her body but she owned his heart. She wanted to help the poor redheaded waif who sat looking lost in the corner of Antonio's living room.
Now to get Biton to notice him.
Biton glanced around the room to see many familiar faces. A small sigh of relief escaped his control when he noted the number. Too many people and he was afraid he would bolt.
A lump stuck in his throat with the memory of his last visit with Erik so close behind him he could smell his scent. His slave always smelled of coffee. A smile twitched at his lips. Erik had a caffeine addiction so great that, had Biton needed to punish him, denying him coffee was true torture.
"Biton! Welcome!" Antonio walked toward him, hand out.
"Thanks," Biton replied, his hand firmly clasped in Antonio's. "Small party."
"Yeah, wasn't in the mood for anything too elaborate. You should know most of the people here."
As they released hands, Biton glanced around the room again. Only a couple of people he didn't know. Possibly the unattached ones Antonio mentioned the other night.
A dark haired, dark eyed man of about thirty moved toward him. Stopping a few feet away, he maintained a respectful silence. Evidently already trained, the man kept his gaze down, his body still.
"Hi," Biton said quietly.
"Hello, may I get you a drink?"
"Scotch, straight up."
The submissive moved away quickly to fetch his drink.
Biton glanced back at Antonio. "Who is he?"
"Mark Davenport. He's new to the New York scene. Moved here from California when his firm relocated. His old Master released him from his contract. He can't be 24/7, but he has excellent references."
Biton had to smile. The SandM scene seemed so organized sometimes. Of course, it needed to be. Although many people thought SandM was wrong and the kinkiest form of sexual gratification, there were rules. Most people abided by them and organization helped keep those who didn't from causing too much trouble. Safe, sane and consensual was their motto. But there were those who didn't follow the rules. And those were the ones the newspapers always heard about.
Biton merely nodded as the sub appeared with his drink. The man was probably mid-thirtyish, close to Erik's age. A tight t-shirt revealed taut muscles and a well-built physique. Interesting, but Mark was too close in build and body type to Erik. Biton didn't want a substitute for his slave. Something new, something different would be better. It would take his mind away from missing Erik.
"Thank you, Mark," Biton smiled at the man and turned back to Antonio. Mark's soft steps moved away.
"Well, I think you broke his heart already." Antonio's smile was teasing. "The boy's pretty desperate for a new Master. He's been here about three months. But, fortunately, he's taking the safe route and only meeting tops the Society recommends."
The Society was an unofficial official group of BDSM clubs in the area. A hierarchy existed within it and Antonio was one of its leaders. Biton had always been active in it as well until Erik became ill. BDSM could be dangerous with the wrong people. Inexperienced tops could do serious damage to their subs. Having a group to moderate play was only wise.
Biton realized another man was standing nearby. Glancing over his shoulder, he found a blond man, thin and smooth skinned, eyes lowered, standing a few feet away. Too young for his tastes, the sub couldn't be more than twenty.
Biton turned his gaze back to Antonio. "This was a set up, wasn't it?" He let his smile soften the accusation.
Antonio shrugged. "Caught." He reached out his hand and rested it on Biton's shoulder. "Since you were at the club I knew you were beginning to look again. I just wanted to make it easier."
"So was that my selection?"
Antonio laughed, his hand squeezing Biton's shoulder before he released it. "No, there's one more. Couldn't offer you a blond and a brunette without throwing in a redhead! Cavan's a little shy though."
Biton turned to follow his friend's line of sight. A rather forlorn looking redhead sat with his legs curled up under him in a corner of the room.
As he walked toward the young man, Biton could see the muscle tone through the open shirt. His eyes down, Cavan obviously didn't notice Biton's approach until he was looming over him.
"I'm sorry, Ma--," the young man's voice cut of sharply as he rose from the small sofa. "May I serve you?" He was taller than he appeared while seated. Maybe it was the way he made himself smaller, curled in a tight ball.
"Relax, Cavan. I just want to talk." Biton sat down and motioned Cavan to do the same.
The young man complied, but Biton could see the reluctance in his bearing. Tense and uncomfortable, Cavan sat on the edge of the sofa, his posture stiff. His knuckles were white as he held onto the leather collar.
"Is that your collar?"
Once again, Cavan bit back the word. It wasn't proper to call someone Master without permission. Usually the privilege wasn't granted until an understanding was reached. But maybe he would relax a little...
"If it makes you comfortable, Cavan, you may call me Master or Sir, but it is not a contract."
"Thank you, Master." Pale green eyes darted up and the tension hardened muscles in his back softened a little. "Contract, Master?"
"A contract ... Between a Master and a slave. Didn't your old Master have a contract with you?"
"An agreement, then. One about your responsibilities and his."
"My responsibility was to obey my Master in all things."
The words sounded rote.
"What about his responsibility to care for you, see to your needs?"
"My only need was to serve my Master."
"Do you have a job?"
Cavan's eyes flicked between Biton and the wide leather collar, still held in a white knuckled grip. "I do now. I serve--I work in M--Mr. Casala's house. I'm a house servant."
Biton heard the difficulty Cavan had saying Antonio's name without adding the title of Master. "But you didn't before? With your old Master?"
"No, Sir. My job was to serve him." A shudder swept down his back.
Biton glanced up to see Antonio edging closer to where he and Cavan were seated. Some questions needing asking, but getting answers out of Cavan was like pulling teeth.
"Cavan, I need another drink. Scotch, straight up."
The young man sprang like a tightly wound coil released. "Yes, Master." Relief flooded the two words as if he were desperate to serve in any capacity.
As the young man fled on his errand, Biton crooked a finger at the hovering Antonio.
"What's his story?" Biton asked as Antonio took Cavan's seat.
"His last, and only, Master was Maxwell Wainwright."
"Wainwright ... the name's familiar."
"You probably got the emails about the incident from the Society, but it was only a week or so after Erik's death. I'm sure you weren't paying attention. Cavan showed up at the emergency room badly beaten. His back was a bloody mess, broken arm, two fractured ribs and rectal lacerations from some kind of foreign object. He refused to press charges against his attacker. Lia called me because she recognized the name of the man paying the bills."
He nodded as he remembered Lia was an emergency room nurse.
"Well, the Society warned Wainwright, threatened to exclude him and issue warnings to potential subs. A week later, right after he was released from the hospital, Cavan returned to the emergency room with a broken jaw and bloody nose. Wainwright had tossed him in the street with nothing but a pair of jeans, his collar and his new injuries. Lia stepped in and asked permission to bring him home."
Biton's teeth clenched in anger. No one had the right to abuse a slave. The scene was not about pain for pain's sake. The redhead couldn't have been more than twenty-five or twenty-six. "How long was he with Wainwright?"
"Since he was eighteen, nine years."
So he was twenty-seven. "Was it all like that? The abuse?" Biton watched as the young man hurried toward them, drink in hand.
"I think so. Getting him to talk is difficult. I would guess Wainwright threatened him. And he's so well trained I doubt he'd ever break his confidence." Antonio rose as Cavan drew near. "I'll talk to you later." Antonio nodded to Cavan as he walked past to mingle with his other guests.
Cavan knelt to present the drink to Biton as if he were carrying something precious and rare.
Biton took the drink with one hand and patted the cushion beside him with the other. "Thank you. Sit here. You don't have to kneel."
"Yes, Master." The young man moved with grace to comply, but his fingers once again clutched his collar.
Biton sipped his drink silently. Cavan interested him, but he was so wounded, so lost. On the other hand, maybe that's why the young man caught his interest. Biton felt the same way without Erik.