Joe was bound to the bed, naked, as far as he could tell, except for too-many-piercings, and there was an elf woman on top of him. As far as slavery went, this was not what had been in the brochure.
Not that there’d been a brochure, unless you counted I Was A Slave In California documentaries, and Joe had watched more than a few of those, usually while very drunk or very hung-over.
Very hung-over was not dissimilar to the way he was feeling right now. It was like his face had been wrapped in blankets and now he was beginning to see the light – except that right now, the light was either a pillow or a lot of hair.
Hair. She’d said something about braiding. Joe forced himself to pay attention to the situation at hand. “I… I can hold still.” He shook his left wrist, making the chain jangle. “There’s not much option anyway, is there?” He turned his head to look at the elf-woman, but succeeded only in getting a mouthful of hair.
She chuckled throatily at him. “There is always an option. You’re lovely, did I mention?”
Joe coughed. “That’s not what I’m used to people saying.”
“Oh, well, Americans.” She gathered handfuls of his hair in her hands and began finger-combing it. The sensation was strangely pleasant. “They like big, bulging sorts, don’t they? Football players?”
“Mmm. Manly men.” He sounded bitter, and felt a little guilty about it. His country was better than this, than slavery, wasn’t it? Except nobody had told him slavery was about naked women braiding his hair.
“Manly men.” The woman chuckled. “My name is Carienne, by the way. Baroness Carienne ni Scholta O Rhinne, but when we’re alone like this, you can call me Cari.”
Joe tried it out. “Cari.” It sounded like a teenager, not like – “So. I think I remember you buying me?” Wow, that was awkward.
She began finger-combing his hair, pushing a bunch of it to one side of him, a bunch to the other. “I bought you,” she agrees. “You were very well drugged. I was curious to see what you’d be like when you surfaced.”
“Other than tied to the bed?” He jangled one cuff for emphasis. Her hands felt good on his scalp. Nobody had said anything about slavery felt good.
Well, that wasn’t right. But it wasn’t supposed to feel good.
“Other than tied to the bed, yes.” She chuckled. “So, do you think the drugs are gone yet?”
“Well…” Joe thought about it for a moment. “I’m starting to freak out. Because you took me somewhere – and then I had hair. Like, lots of hair. That wasn’t a dream, was it?”
A tug on his head answered the question. He turned as much as he could, and saw the mass of black-and-brown in Cari’s hands. “No. Not a dream.”
“But it’s impossible. I mean, I don’t think that was just a weave…”
She gave another tug, a firmer one this time. Joe swallowed a gasp. “No. not a weave.”
“So…” One things the documentaries had hinted at but never said outright. Joe put his face down on the pillow and let it muffle his answer. “So magic is real?”
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