Monday, October 7, 2013
Adopt a Pet
(I’m taking a page from Savanna this week and going science fictiony. I’ll be back in Talbot’s Peak next week. Maybe.)
Lady Jessalina Andalenova de Montelamorna y Danz—Lady Jess to her many intimates—swept into the slave market like she was crashing a society party. She was gorgeous, rich, and descended from a bloodline as old as the planet and infinitely more special. It was important she make an entrance, hence the cloak. A vintage garment but expensive, it was trimmed with real fur from a desert lynx, probably a member of an ancient rival tribe. Her people might once have been savages, but they’d always had exquisite taste.
Beautiful, royal, rich and bored. Of late she’d found the club scene tiresome, her circle of blueblood peers tedious. She needed diversion. Something exotic, something wild. Something handsome and male. Maybe even dangerous, though not as dangerous as she. That wouldn’t be sporting if events should turn boisterous. Therefore, a trip to the market. See what fish the Imperium’s nets had caught that might provide her with a measure of amusement.
No sooner had she reached the cages than one of the market’s many attendants bustled up to her. This one she knew, from previous visits. He knew her as well, enough to stop well short of her personal space and deliver the deep bow due her rank. “Lady Jessalina. You brighten our dreary halls. How may this humble one serve?”
“Mormot,” she cooed. “I’ll get right to the point. I’m here to acquire a playmate.”
“You know you shouldn’t be here in person. Royalty in the slave pens—”
“But I’m not buying slaves. I’m adopting a stray. I’m doing my civic duty on behalf of the lesser breeds.”
“Of course,” Mormot purred, going along with the game. Generous donations placed in the proper hands always won her that response. “Will you be keeping this one, or can we expect him back?”
“You wound me, Mormot. I always take care of my pets.” For as long as they amused her. Then she regifted them to her friends. She always trained her purchases, cared for them, and made sure they had good homes afterwards. Her friends had never complained. “What have you got for me? And nothing from the public pit. Those are always so dirty.” She shuddered.
“We have a fresh shipment just in. All cleaned up and ready for private sale.” He scurried ahead of her, down the well-trod path to the single cages. Lady Jess sauntered in his wake, her senses alert for the special “companion” to provide a few days’ amusement. Or weeks, if both of them were fortunate.
In spite of Mormot’s promises, she found the pickings slim. Pirate ships and low-grade smuggling operations didn’t crew their vessels with the flower of the galaxy. Sweet Araka, was that a Gorph? She clutched her cloak more tightly about herself and hurried past that particular cage. If this was considered the cream of the crop, she dreaded to think what they kept in the common pits.
She herself wasn’t helping matters. Her initial eagerness had hiked her musky scent. The more sensitive among the captives got a whiff of her and cowered as far back as their cages allowed. She wouldn’t have taken one of those anyway. Lady Jess liked her pets willing. Her claws were sharp and she enjoyed using them, but only for pleasure, not combat. It seemed she wasn’t about to get either this trip.
Then she saw him. Scrunched in his cage not out of fear or despair but necessity. Those beautiful legs had been built too long for the cramped dimensions of the cage. Lady Jess favored long legs in a man. So useful in pinning her so she couldn't scratch. The rest of him was pleasing too, from his thick swatch of hair to his bright brown eyes. Those eyes regarded her with open assessment, as if she and not he were the buyer.
Without taking her own slitted eyes from the male, she reached out a hand toward the attendant. “Mormot. What’s this one? I don’t know the breed.”
“Neither do we,” Mormot admitted. “We caught him in a raid down in the Dregs, along with the other one. They’re both new to this part of the planet. If you please, lady, could we move along? I wouldn’t trust the unknown with you. We caught a crew of Seppins. I know they’re barely civilized, but—”
He droned on for his ears alone. Lady Jess forgot him. The other male in the cage beside the long-legged alien had caught her full
She caught her breath. It couldn’t be! The silver fox was the rarest of shifters. She’d seen only one in her lifetime. This male had all the traits, including—she sniffed carefully—yes, the scent. As for any other rumored advantages, those were concealed by the shapeless tunic used to clothe the higher-end merchandise.
He couldn’t possibly be a fullblood. That would be too much to hope for. But even a half or a quarter fox, if all the rumors were true …
Something exotic. Something wild. Something dangerous.
“This one,” she said to Mormot. “I’ll take this one.”
“Him? But he’s a stray. We’re not even sure of his breed. If it pleases you, lady, the Seppins—”
“This one,” she insisted. “He looks healthy.” She shot Mormot a glare. “He hasn’t been gelded, has he?”
“You know we never do that, lady. We leave that choice to the purchaser.”
“Excellent. I’ll take him. And … ” Her gaze shifted reluctantly away from the fox to the big brown-haired unknown with the lovely legs. She so loved a man with strong legs … “They were taken together?”
“Yes, lady. I don’t believe they’re, um … ”
She executed a delicate shrug. That didn’t much matter to her. If it were true, they’d still be fun to watch. “I’ll take them both.” She made a face. “I suppose there’s paperwork.”
“As always.” Mormot shook his head at the cages, but offered no further bewares. In the market, money spoke loudest. “The office, then. This way.”
# # #
The moment the curvy bit in the cloak and that slime of a slaver moved out of earshot, Finn shot to the side of his cage nearest Devon. “Pack your bags, Dev. We’re moving out.”
Devon snorted. “You don’t have to sound so happy about it.”
“Happy? I’m exuberant. Do you know who that was? Do you know what that was? That, my friend, was a snow lynx. Tellian royalty. Rich as shit. And she just bought us both.”
“I thought the plan was to get sold separately, clean out the goodies and meet up later.”
“The plan just changed. Let’s see where she takes us, and what kind of treasures she keeps there. This haul could set us up for the rest of our lives.”
“Or get us killed if we’re found out,” Devon said morosely.
“Quit being such a pooper. There may be other benefits, if I read her scent right. We may have to sleep with her.” The fox licked his grinning lips. “Poor us.”