A Belonging 'Verse Novel
Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder-being a slave-makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company that's owned him since childhood, decides to lease him privately on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.
Daniel's not stupid; he knows there's only one reason someone would pay so much for what little free time he has. But dark memories of past sexual service leave him certain he won't survive it again with his sanity intact.
He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him when it comes to ordering Daniel into his bed. Carl can't seem to take what he must want, and Daniel's not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, affection just might flourish over fear and pain. Carl holds the power to be an anchor in Daniel's turbulent life, but if he isn't careful, he'll end up the weight that sinks his slave for good.
Read an Excerpt
By Rachel Haimowitz, Sarah Frantz
Riptide PublishingCopyright © 2014 Rachel Haimowitz
All rights reserved.
"Daniel, you're late," Tim said from the open door of Daniel's office. He threw a warning glance at his watch and added, "News is live, you know."
"Sorry. Coming." Daniel saved the package he'd been editing for tomorrow's broadcast, snatched his jacket and tie, and followed his handler out of his office. No way to tell if Tim would let his tardiness slip or if he'd be paying for it later, but he couldn't afford to worry about that now.
Tim left for the control booth, and Daniel made a dash for the stairs, unwilling to wait for the overworked elevator to take him three floors up to the studio. There wouldn't be time for proper makeup or sound checks then, and he didn't want to get Serena or Mike in trouble.
He trotted into the studio a couple minutes past check-in, breathless and still tying the knot on his tie. Mike handed him his IFB, and the moment he popped the little speaker in his ear, he heard Tim complaining that he looked flushed. Serena must have heard it too, because she came at him with a makeup brush.
"Sound check, Daniel." Tim again, voice sharp through the IFB. Mike was standing patiently behind him, waiting to run the mic wire up the back of his jacket. Daniel flashed an apologetic wince at the camera and stood so Mike could do his thing, winced again when Tim scolded him through the IFB. He liked Tim—liked him a lot, in fact—but Tim had bosses to answer to, and if Daniel screwed up any more tonight, Tim would have to report him.
Stupid, useless cunt.
No. He wasn't that boy anymore. Hadn't been for twenty-five years. Days like this, though, he could still hear her voice so damn clearly, feel her bruising fingers on his chin, her strap on his back.
He shuddered, shook the memory away.
Get it together, Daniel. Right now.
Easier said than done, though. It seemed not even the fear of present-day discipline could turn his thoughts from the issue that'd been gnawing at him all week: his new part-time owner-to-be. Maybe his old owner's voice was so strong today because tonight he'd be calling someone master again for the first time in two and a half decades, and that hadn't exactly been a gleaming highlight of his life. He'd been living in the West Side men's dorm since NewWorld Media had bought him, but tonight ... Tonight, he'd be sleeping in someone else's home. Someone who'd won the right to be his mistress or master in one of those obscenely expensive celebrity-slave auctions. And Daniel wasn't some ignorant child anymore; he knew there was just one reason why a person would bid six mil for a year's worth of evenings and weekends with him. He'd never once been made to serve like that at NewWorld, but things were clearly changing with the company's debts piling up and share prices dropping, and now hundreds of slaves they'd never used like that before were being leased out to—
"... iel! Damn it, Daniel!"
Shit. Tim. Daniel tried not to look guilty as he turned to camera 1, cleared his throat, and checked the prompter against the script an intern had dropped on his desk. "Yeah, Tim. I'm uh, I'm sorry, I was—" He cut himself off before any bullshit excuses could fall from his lips and compound the problem. Maybe a woman won my auction. That wouldn't be so bad, right? "I'm set. Prompter's set."
"Live in thirty," Tim said, a little stern, a little sad, a lot frustrated. Though he didn't say Wait for me in your office after the show, Daniel heard the command anyway.
Great, one more thing to worry about.
Even if he had seen it coming. Even if he did deserve it.
Useless cunt slave.
He wrenched his mind back to the here and now, but still said, "Good evening, my name is Daniel Halstrom, and you're watching Round the Globe with InfoGlobe," a whole four seconds after they went live.
* * *
"Look, buddy," Tim said after the show, with entirely more compassion than Daniel knew what to do with. Daniel stripped off and discarded his suit coat, tie, and dress shirt in short, furious little jerks that would have left his first mistress fainting with horror. "I know you're freaked about tonight, but that's no excuse for what happened in that studio."
"I know." He sighed, stuffing his cuff links in the pocket of his pants before yanking them down.
Tim watched his angry strip show impassively, Daniel's jeans waiting in his outstretched hand.
When Daniel finally managed to work his pants past his shoes, he snatched the jeans with a short, prickly, "Thanks."
"But ...?" Tim asked, holding out Daniel's T-shirt now.
"But what? But nothing. You may be unusually fine with the whole ..." he waved a hand between them both "... casual thing, but I know better than to make excuses." Daniel grabbed his shirt, turning away from Tim and staying that way as he popped his arms through the sleeves. His hands were trembling; he didn't want Tim to see. "I know you have to tell them. I understand. I'll go downstairs first thing tomorrow, okay? They won't even have to restrain me; I'll be good. Ten hours should be plenty of time to recov—"
Tim touched his shoulder, and Daniel flinched, muscles tense.
"Hey," Tim said softly. "Hey. This is really bothering you, isn't it?"
He didn't dare turn around, lest he look a freeman in the face as he challenged him. "Which part? The imminent torture thing, or the whole being-leased-to-a-stranger-after-twenty-five-years-of-faithful-service thing?" When Tim didn't dignify that with an answer, he tried, "Wouldn't it bother you?"
"That's different. I'm not a slave."
In other words: I feel things like a real boy, Pinocchio. I have a soul.
Daniel resisted the very strong urge to roll his eyes. He felt plenty, thank you very much, and he'd seen enough in his well-traveled, deeply investigative lifetime to have figured out that this God thing was bullshit anyway. Not that he could ever say that to anyone—even liberal left-wing Ivy League Tim went to church every Sunday like clockwork, and not just because he had to be seen there to keep his social standing.
So instead Daniel said, as calmly as he could, "Think about it, Tim. Being leased off to some total stranger who wants God knows what from you—no, worse, God knows exactly what. Like I don't do enough for the company already? They've got to strip me of the few moments of peace I ever have? The few moments of free time I'm allowed? They really—"
—expect me to pretend to want this person?
Tim squeezed Daniel's shoulder, but said nothing. The man was rarely speechless, and he respected Daniel enough—slave or no—that maybe he really was listening to what Daniel had to say.
"You're luckier than most, you know," Tim finally said, but it sounded pretty flat to Daniel.
"I know." Daniel nodded. He really was lucky, even without that comforting, smothering blanket of faith all the rest of his kind seemed to have. "I just ... What if they—?"
"New World screened the potential lessors very carefully. Especially those who expressed interest in their most valuable property, of which you most assuredly are. They wouldn't send you to someone who'd mistreat you."
Tim's hand was still on Daniel's shoulder; Daniel shrugged it off and turned to face him. "You mean they wouldn't send me to someone who would mark me in a way that would show on camera," he said, slowly and purposefully blunt. Not everyone was like his old mistress, maybe not even most people, but it wasn't exactly unheard of, and the kind of person who would and could shell out six mil for a lease was either obsessed, dangerous, jealous, or all three. He knew damn well that slaves like him—the ones cursed with good looks, the successful ones who'd accomplished more than most freemen—were magnets for mean crazies like that.
Not to mention that he couldn't fathom why anyone looking for something normal would feel inclined to spend six million dollars to get it, even from a famous slave. With that kind of cash, you could outright buy a custom-trained Nevada Arts companion. Two, even, and lily-white both. You didn't need a guy like him.
Daniel bit his lip, but Tim was making that face at him, that open, understanding, tell me what's bothering you face, and there was no way Daniel could hold the question back: "Why won't you tell me who it is?"
A pause, a grimace; Tim actually looked upset. "The buyer paid us well not to. I'm sorry, Daniel, even I don't know who it is. Guess the brass figured you couldn't puppy-dog-eyes it out of me if they didn't tell me. But they won't hurt you, Daniel. I promise."
I'm not gonna hurt you, boy. Be a good little cunt now and spread those legs.
Daniel shuddered, half-choking on memories of blood and agony and sobbing so hard he couldn't breathe. So not comforting.
Tim grasped Daniel's bare forearms just above the slave bracelets—thin platinum cables bound with rectangular gold links, slim and stunning and masculine without a single ring for binding—and squeezed gently. Daniel looked down at Tim's hands, at his own, at the bracelets so different from the functional iron bands he'd worn twenty-five years ago. No matter his fears, Tim was right; NewWorld Media had been good to him. They'd rescued him from cruel oblivion and given him everything. They'd even gone back for his mother, once he'd proven himself a good student, put her to work in wardrobe and never made her—or him—touch another man again. If they wanted him to touch one now in return for those twenty-five amazing years, well ... then what kind of ungrateful, spoiled little shit was he to balk? He wasn't a child anymore, and surely he'd faced scarier things before, and Tim ... Tim had never lied to him, not once. He deserved the beating he had coming tomorrow.
"Okay?" Tim asked, hands still on Daniel's arms, studying him closely. "Good?"
Daniel nodded. "Promise you'll pick me up in the morning?"
Tim laughed, grabbed Daniel's coat, and tossed it to him. "Ten on the dot. Don't make the driver come get you."CHAPTER 2
The driver was the same one who'd ferried Daniel for the last four years, a quiet, placid giant of a man named Calvin who Daniel had never once gotten to talk to him in all the time they'd spent together. He could talk—Daniel had heard his occasional "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" or "Ten minutes out, sir" spoken crisply to the dispatcher over the radio. But with Daniel he wouldn't even answer direct questions. Maybe he resented having to serve another slave, especially a white one; sure, they were all part of the same bottom class, but there was no denying his white skin brought privilege even among the low. He could pass for a freeman at first sight; the blacks, the natives, and especially mixes of the two like Calvin couldn't. It certainly wouldn't have been the first time a slave had been jealous of Daniel.
Or maybe those were just Calvin's orders. After all, idle chatter was a sign of idle minds, and a distraction besides, and he'd seen plenty of slaves beaten for less. So he tried not to let it bother him when he asked, "Where to, tonight, Calvin?" and got nothing but silence in return as the car pulled away from the curb.
Daniel stared out the window, too nervous to enjoy this rare glimpse of streets outside his normal route to Hell's Kitchen. They swung up Park Avenue, crossed west on 79th and then turned down Fifth, stopping before a gorgeous prewar townhome overlooking Central Park. No way one person owned this whole place—it had to have been converted to condos, right?
The doorman wore bronze slave bracelets that matched the cuff links on his uniform, and he gave Daniel an abbreviated bow when he opened the door for him. "This way, sir," he said, and didn't that just pull Daniel up short because he was still a slave just like the doorman, no matter the color of his skin or what metal his bands were made of. But Daniel followed him into the lobby—yep, definitely converted; he passed ten mailboxes on the way in, which meant two condos per floor—and the doorman deposited him in the elevator, turned a private key, and pushed the button for the north penthouse. "I'll let him know you're on your way, sir," was the last thing Daniel heard for the next five floors.
Except, of course, for the too-quick thud-thud-thud of his own heart in his ears. Him. Not a woman, then. A man. With a dick he'd no doubt want to shove places Daniel never wanted to think about again. In fifteen, maybe twenty seconds, Daniel would be meeting the man who'd shelled out six million dollars for a year's worth of partial ownership. Over $115,000 a week for what'd likely amount to no more than forty waking hours of company. Christ, most top-end companions didn't earn their masters $3,000 an hour, and he hadn't spent his whole life learning how to pleasure people like they had. He'd never even learned how not to bleed all over a man.
Despite Tim's reassurances, there was just no way ... no way this would be painless. And he had every fucking right to be terrified.
He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirrored panel above the elevator buttons and schooled his face. He couldn't erase the exhaustion, but he was a passable enough actor to clear the fear from his features. He tried on a smile. It didn't fit. Went for neutral instead.
The elevator stopped. Dinged his arrival. He cleared his throat, swallowed hard, threw his shoulders back and forced his hands to unclench at his sides. Forced himself not to fidget. He'd faced down warlords, terrorists, live-fire combat zones, tornadoes, wild dogs ... surely he could face down this.
The door slid open.
Whatever it was he'd thought he might see—old man, young man, old money, new money—it certainly wasn't the talk show host who shared his time slot on InfoGlobe's biggest rival network.
Forgot how to walk. How to breathe. Even forgot to turn his gaze to the floor, to not look a freeman in the eye. Was this some kind of sick fucking joke? Or was fucking him in the ratings not enough for UBC?
Carl Whitman, the charismatic face of UBC's Whitman Live—and what a big face it was in person, atop an equally big body—smiled down at Daniel like he'd been looking forward to this moment of shock for the last ten years. Daniel thought a greeting might come next, or perhaps a scolding for making eye contact, but instead Carl said, "You're sweating." And then, shit-eating smirk firmly in place, "Come on, before you end up back in the lobby. Lord knows I paid enough for every single second of your time."
Daniel had no memory of walking into Carl's—his master's —living room, but there he was, staring obediently at a small patch of ultra-plush off-white carpeting despite the nearly overpowering urge to observe his new surroundings. To observe his master—try to figure out exactly what in God's name this whole messed up situation was. Why he was here. Why NewWorld had ever agreed to such a preposterous arrangement, put him in such a perilous position.
But he said nothing, of course. Carl was a freeman; he could ask all the questions he wanted. Daniel might've been his equal as a talking head—maybe even his better; he didn't ride a desk all day every day, after all, and he did actual journalism rather than, well, whatever it was that talk show hosts did—but right now, in every way that counted, he was nothing but a slave. Just a slave. And more specifically, Carl's slave.
He could feel Carl's gaze raking head to toe, long and appraising, but Carl kept his distance. Yet there was no mistaking the hunger radiating from the man, or the satisfaction—that strange sort of pride only ever seen in freemen, as if they had created rather than simply purchased something impressive.
Finally, after what seemed a long enough stretch to make even the most recalcitrant witness want to spill their guts, Carl spoke. "I saw your show tonight." He sounded far too amused for Daniel's comfort. Was that what this was? Why he'd insisted on the secrecy? Six million dollars to catch his rival by surprise and then humiliate him, and worth every penny?
Carl settled down on a black leather couch with an ease and comfort that Daniel knew he'd never feel anywhere, let alone here. Carl hadn't asked a question or given Daniel permission to speak, so Daniel stayed right where he was, silent and still.
"You looked like a deer caught in headlights all night," Carl said. He chuckled and added, "Still do, actually."
Another pause, where maybe Carl was waiting for him to say something, as if the man didn't know the laws, didn't know how slaves had to behave. Or maybe he just thought of Daniel as different somehow, like the job he did for the men who owned him gave him magical freedoms outside the field or the set.
Excerpted from Anchored by Rachel Haimowitz, Sarah Frantz. Copyright © 2014 Rachel Haimowitz. Excerpted by permission of Riptide Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a difficult book to review. I gave it three stars because it was well executed and I liked that everything was from the main character’s POV. But in any romance book, even one labeled erotic romance, there should be an HFN (happily for now) at the very least, if not an HEA (happily ever after). I don’t think Anchored reached that. The book is about legal slavery in a United States where all non-whites are slaves and many whites as well. Supposedly there is a ‘slave gene’ that makes the individual soulless, thus allowing their owners to treat them like crap. Well let’s face it, in real life that’s exactly the kind of thinking slave owners think – that their slaves have no feelings and no soul. So we have Daniel who has, as far as some slaves are concerned, a pretty posh life. He’s owned by New World Media and is the star anchor on the evening news. That looks good on the outside. But we see how things are for him. From the severe abuse he received as a child, to the horrible punishments New World does if he even leaves a second or two of silence on air. Suddenly, he’s been ‘sold’ for every night and weekend to a man because the company needs money. Instead of escaping to his dorm and having free time, he has to submit himself completely to a new master. The main problem? Daniel is terrified of sex and of making any mistake that would make New World mad at him. A set up for disaster? You bet. Especially when you add in a jerk of a boss who hurts him in every way possible. But there is a light, somewhat dim, at the end of the tunnel, for his nighttime/weekend master, has no intention of letting that happen again. Can he control what New World does to Daniel? With money, yes. I’m hoping there will be a #2 where maybe Carl will buy Daniel, but even then, I don’t see an HEA in the works unless the author wants to have a civil war where the slaves rise up. Because even though Carl loves Daniel, Daniel can’t feel the same way. After all, he’s owned, property, a slave. And that’s where I disagree with this book being called a romance. I don’t feel any hope that Daniel’s relationship or future have much light. He’s trapped. Also, it’s a personal thing, but I don’t get why the author kept referring to Carl as ‘the master’ in the narrative. When Daniel spoke directly to him, it was, “Master” but when the author referred to him outside dialogue it was always ‘the master’. I actually found that annoying. New World was Daniel’s owner, and maybe the first time he referred to Carl as his new master, I could understand the ‘the’ but after that, I wished I could reach into the book and pull out every ‘the’ that existed before the word ‘master’. The book was too depressing, to be honest, though it was executed well, thus the three stars. Reviewed by a-nony-mouse for Crystal’s Many Reviewers *Copy provided for review*
Very disturbing story about "slaves". It was well written, but a rough one to read. J/////
In this engaging book that's the first in a series set in an alternate universe readers are put through the emotional wringer witnessing a society where slavery exists which brings out the worst in humanity. The main character of Daniel has known nothing of life but oppression and abuse, both physical and sexual. He's taught that he's inhuman with no feelings or intelligence, more useless than an animal. He's also handsome which makes his life even more difficult. The heinous acts done to him have led him to distrust everyone, to doubt that there's any kindness in the world. One day his life takes a dramatic turn when he's bought to be a television anchor and though his treatment is improved his being a valuable commodity soon puts him in a precarious position when their station's rival buys his evenings for a whole year. Daniel is constantly on edge waiting to be hurt which causes friction at his job as his bosses want to make sure he earns the money paid for him. I was pulled into Daniel's head throughout the story and ached for all he went through. He truly hated himself at times because that's what he was taught. His pain was my pain and it broke my heart witnessing the depravities people are capable of. The time he spends with Carl opens their eyes to both the reality of the world and the existance of a few decent people and leads to both heartbreak and heartwarming moments for readers. Carl is a freeman whose life has been dramatically different from Daniel's but who is drawn to the young man and learns some harsh realities through his eyes. Carl is a kindhearted man who owns two slaves who he treats like family and seems naive to the realities of slavery. He takes his time getting to know Daniel, starting off as a friend than lover, which keeps Daniel on edge waiting for the pain to come. As Daniel opens up Carl is shocked by the abuse he has suffered and it's a disillusioning and defining moment for him that leads him on a new path. Though I never felt as deeply connected to Carl I appreciated the moments of peace and safety he gave Daniel, the sense of family he brought to assuage Daniel's loneliness. The world depicted in this tale demonstrates quite brutally the haves and the have nots. It's a dark world behind all the glitter teeming with sadness and oppression. The brutality is difficult to read at times but makes the sweet and supportive connection between Carl and Daniel all the richer. This is a thoughtprovoking premise that easily immerses you in it's storytelling through its vivid depictions and engaging characters. Ms Haimowitz pulls no punches as she drags readers along on this compelling journey that has me greatly anticipating the next book in the series.