The world has become a harsh, bleak place. Men seek work where it's needed. The only safety working in the outer reaches is if one has the protection of a crew. Curt doesn't; he's solo.
When he inadvertently catches the gaze of a man he's desired from the first moment he saw him, he knows he risks abuse or even death. That's the best he can hope for, surely? But Curt's human -- he needs sex. Being tied up makes for some very curt courting, but to Curt's surprise, it might well end in love.
Sharon Maria Bidwell
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2012 Sharon Maria Bidwell
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I made the mistake of looking up. Even worse, I then held the other man's stare for a split second too long before jerking my gaze away. The outer reaches weren't the place to be noticed. I knew the drill: head down, meet no one's wandering glance, do the job, keep my mouth shut, don't bother with any but the most basic possessions. Property would only get stolen anyway; worse, I might be killed for my belongings. Only if I were very lucky or careful would I live long enough to complete the contract, collect my pay at the end of the duration, and move on. That was the way things worked if you were solo.
What I needed was the protection of a crew, just like the one led by the man whose gaze I'd inadvertently captured. I shovelled food in my mouth, pretending ignorance. I didn't look up again, even though I could feel his stare boring into me. I knew -- just knew -- that where I had looked away, he hadn't. The reasons he continued to gaze at me could be numerous, but all those I envisioned encompassed nothing I would enjoy.
Well, that wasn't exactly true. I could imagine many things he could do to me that I would enjoy, but I doubted he'd be happy if he knew I used them to ease my sore body and troubled soul to sleep come nightfall.
The mere thought of him almost drew my gaze that way, but I stopped my reaction in time. If any man here could get me hard in an instant, it was he, but I wasn't about to let him know that. If I pissed him off, I might get my throat cut, but if he thought I felt any kind of attraction, I imagined he'd cut elsewhere and have me bleed out another, longer lasting and torturous way. Why did that seem worse by the sheer fact of my wanting him?
I sat, hoping he'd mistake my glance for an accident -- which it was; take it for innocent -- which it wasn't. Even now, I was dying to look again, to drown in the sight of him. I wanted him close; prayed he stayed away.
In my worry over his reaction, I forgot the threats from elsewhere. I managed not to flinch when someone took my bread roll in passing. It was my own fault for being distracted and not keeping my arms around both sides of the tray. I was lucky the thief didn't spit in the grey stuff they called potato. I just ate and kept my gaze averted, except for the low-level darts of my eyes taking in peripheral movement.
Of course, the one thing I couldn't protect entirely was my back. I'd learned to place the metal cup of water at an angle to reflect the room. I'd wondered why everyone kept their cups so polished, but I'd learned a few jobs ago. The trick was to keep the surface gleaming so that it acted like a mirror. I'd seen a man save himself from a stab in the back that way.
I needed friends. The chances of finding them here was more difficult than the work.
Who would have thought the world would come to this? Too many, most likely. No one -- namely our governments -- had listened to the warnings. Not enough water meant not enough crops. Not enough plants also affected the quality of our oxygen. Disease became rife, even in our so-called civilised societies, and then... in-fighting, everyone just trying to survive, to provide for their own kith and kin. When the population died off sufficiently for nature to recover and provide for us again, we had society to rebuild, and that meant finding work. Jobs had been scarce before; they were plentiful now, but that meant hard graft, and so many hadn't really known the meaning of manual labour.
We were all learning now. We -- humankind -- were still our own worst enemies.
The misery of longing crept up on me, engulfing. I was human; I needed company. My misery needed company. What family I'd had were gone. My parents hadn't been able to survive the rationing. My sister was I knew not where. Dead. Lost. I searched for her the only way most of us could -- in the "system." If a computer matched us, we'd both be informed. Of course, she had to be on the database for that to happen, and there could be any number of reasons why she wasn't.
I didn't want to think of that. I didn't want to think of danger. I wanted, needed, something good and pleasant. Unfortunately, the only good thing I could think of was likely never to happen. I was human; I needed sex. Good sex. Consensual.
Which brought me full circle back to thinking of Schuyler...