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Life was hard. Anyone who said otherwise was a goddamned liar. Still, Celestine knew there had to be a better way than this. Born to a drug-addicted hooker, her life had been bad enough. But when her mother sold her to the aliens as a "chosen," she'd known everything had been about to change, and not necessarily for the better.
Now, she stood before the biggest man she'd ever seen. A man who looked like he could break her in half with little effort. What had she done to deserve this?
"I -- I have a message." She stumbled on the simple sentence in her nervousness.
The man took the micro SD card from her trembling fingers, holding her gaze as he did so. Funny she should notice his eyes were the color of rich brandy -- a dark amber with flecks of yellow and green that seemed to make them glow. She hastily looked away, not liking the intensity of that gaze.
"Do you know what the message says?" His voice was rich. Deep. If she were in any other situation, she might find the sound pleasing. As it was, he only intimidated her more when he spoke.
Unable to force herself to speak again, she simply shook her head. She didn't know, but she had a good idea. Over the past couple of months, she'd picked up enough of her captors' language to understand they were offering this man some kind of bargain. A trade. Celestine had the horrible suspicion she was the trade. They'd lined her up with several women, inspected them all like a farmer might inspect a horse he intended to buy, then, after much discussion and several more inspections, they'd finally chosen Celestine. The only upside? They'd left her untouched. Celestine had heard the screams of the other women in the nights following her selection and knew she was glad she'd been spared.
How would this end for her now?
"Well..." The man indicated she should precede him into the room where he had his computer console set up. An office? "Let's see what Jorak has to say, shall we?"
The audio file was in that same strange language, but Celestine knew enough to know she'd been right. Jorak was offering her as a token of peace. In exchange for her, Jorak wanted this man gone from his station and the Lunar Colony. When the clip ended, the man sat in front of the computer screen, one finger curled over his chin in concentration.
Celestine had heard him called Drac of Cluath, mostly in contexts that indicated he wasn't somebody she wanted to fuck with. She didn't know what his job was, but she knew she'd think twice before trying to escape him, and then only if she knew there was a more than reasonable chance she'd succeed.
"Well," he said without looking at her. "It seems you'll be in my care for a time."
This surprised her. "You're leaving the Lunar colony, then?"
He turned his head slowly, fixing that sharp, penetrating gaze on her. "No. But I have to make Jorak think I've accepted his... gift."
A sense of dread and fear washed over Celestine and she started trembling, suddenly cold. "Are you going to hurt me?" She asked the question quietly, accepting she had no power in this situation but needing to know what he planned to do with her.
"Not unless you give me a reason to." His answer sent another wave of shivers through her. This man truly meant what he said. Celestine could see it in his eyes. He had no plans to harm her, but wouldn't hesitate to if the situation called for it. "I would have your name, girl."
"Celestine," she said, knowing denying him would only put her in a worse position than she was already in. Best to choose her battles carefully.
With an impatient growl, he scrubbed a hand hard over his face. "Well, Celestine, this is the last thing I need," he muttered. After a brief moment, he looked at her again. "You will call me Drac," he said, making it a decree. "Are you hungry?"
She shook her head. Food was the last thing she was thinking about. Unfortunately, her stomach chose that moment to protest her denial. Loudly.
"I see," he said with a snort. "Not hungry at all." Drac rose and punched a few buttons on a console. Seconds later, he had a steaming plate of some heavenly-smelling substance. Celestine's eyes widened at the quantity. She'd never seen that much food in her life, unless it was in a trash receptacle. "Eat. I can't have you starving in my care."
At least he was being kind. If she could keep him happy, maybe he'd continue to treat her well. Though what would he expect for his kindness? Would she become the same kind of whore as her mother? Celestine stiffened at the thought. Would she be the kind of woman who'd sell her own daughter for the next fix?
Celestine wanted to be defiant, to let this man know he couldn't bend her to his will, but the smell of the food, the emptiness in her stomach, proved too much. One bite led to another. And another. She didn't even know what she was eating, but it tasted so very good! Before she realized it, she was shoveling the succulent meal into her mouth as fast as she could.
Drac didn't say anything. In fact, he was so silent she briefly forgot about him until he set a cold glass of milk next to her plate. Celestine's gaze shot to his, her lips parting as she realized how she must look. Mortified, she immediately put down her fork and wiped her mouth with the back of her arm.
For several long moments, she sat there, head down, refusing to admit she needed more. Why did she have to be so proud? Her mother certainly wasn't. Celestine hadn't been raised to be proud. One took what one could get and didn't ask too many questions.
"If you won't finish on your own, I'll have to feed you."
That deep, rumbling voice vibrated inside her. Celestine couldn't decide if it was pleasing or not. She supposed it depended on his mood. At present, the sound was almost soothing, though she had the feeling he was having to work at it. "If I have to feed you, I'll expect... compensation for my trouble."
Celestine winced, hating that he was bullying her into what he wanted, yet not willing to find out what he'd demand in payment. Finally, she picked up her fork and started eating again, albeit more slowly this time.
They sat in silence for quite some time, Drac refilling her plate once and her glass twice before he seemed satisfied. Celestine had never been so full in her life. Again, he looked her up and down as if inspecting an animal he intended to buy.
"You could use a bath," he observed. "And clean clothes." He crossed massive arms over a massive chest. "The first I can help with readily. The second might be a bit of a problem."
"I can manage," she said, standing, smoothing her tunic over her body, very aware of his gaze on her.
"I'm sure you can. But I prefer to make sure it's done right."