"She's here." Jared's words came out in a whoosh of anticipation. They watched the black SUV with tinted windows as it pulled up to the front of the building. They stood in front of the grand capital tense, quiet—waiting.
A uniformed solider opened the front passenger side door and stood, surveying the crowd. He opened the back door. Max sucked in a deep breath and the sound broke the spell the other five men seemed to be under.
The crowd suddenly began shouting and the rabble of voices grew chaotic. The six men turned to watch a tall, grubby-looking man sprinting across the green grass of the capital lawn, running toward the SUV and their woman. A police officer tackled the man and the two rolled onto the ground. More officers swarmed the desperate man.
"I just want to touch her!" the wild-eyed man wailed as they cuffed him.
* * * *
Krista stepped out, and the screaming men frightened her. She saw a police officer tackle a man only a few yards away. She started to get back into the SUV, but one of the soldiers grabbed her arm gently.
"It's time, miss."
"We'll protect you. It'll be all right. It's always like this on Giving Day. Don't worry. We will see you safely until you are under the guard of your private security."
This was everything she'd feared, only worse. She hadn't expected the protesters. Someone shouted the word "whore"; she knew the man's hateful word meant her. How any of them could think she'd asked for this was beyond her imagination.
Six young, well-dressed men stood in front of the steps of the large, white, domed building. They were looking at her with…possessiveness. The moment she saw them she knew that these men were her six, or more accurately, she was theirs.
Everything had been sort of slow motion, but then as the crowd grew more agitated, the soldiers quickly ushered her up the sidewalk. The governor didn't come out for the official ceremonial signing of The Giving right, too many threats to his life and ugly behavior had changed this day. As men who couldn't qualify grew angrier with the government, The Giving ceremony became less pomp and more circumstance; and the circumstance was, until they had the woman away from the crowd, they were all in danger. A secretary rushed out and handed the men the last of the paperwork to sign.
There wasn't a single introduction as the security, soldiers, and six young men surrounded Krista and rushed her around the corner and into a waiting limousine. They all hurried to get inside as the soldiers held back the men running toward them. Even inside the car, Krista could hear the angry shouting. The trunk slammed shut. Krista saw the driver slide into the front seat and the engine roared to life.
They left her alone. She sat down on the bed and air whooshed from her lungs. She shook a little due to nervous anticipation. Oh God, who should I pick? Choosing felt so very wrong to her. She may belong to these men for a long time, and the idea of alienating any of them, or getting off on a bad start, twisted her stomach in knots of nervous anxiety. She stood up and unpacked her few belongings. The closet looked so empty after she'd put her scant possessions into it. She began walking down the stairs and she heard their voices. Krista paused to listen, feeling a bit evil for eavesdropping.
"It's only right that she pick."
"We've all waited so long, shouldn't we draw straws or something?"
"For God's sake, she's a human being, not a new toy. Let the girl have her pick. We'll all have a chance."
"What if we all share her tonight? Then it's fair to all of us."
"It wouldn't be fair to Krista. If she was your new bride, would you want to pass her around to five other guys?"
"There's no more marriage, so the question isn't valid. The world isn't nice and romantic. The fact is, she'll have to sleep with all of us."
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