Leander felt a sudden surge of panic and a twist in his gut. Fuck, he thought this had been going –
well, ridiculously too well. He wasn’t the sort of guy you bought for this, let’s be honest. He wasn’t the sort of guy you bought for anything but being a thug, unless you were a particular sort of sadist.
His owner or his… handler? being a sadist was still on the table, he reminded himself.
She frowned. “Shit. Sorry. Uh. I think we ought to talk to my dad, because I don’t know what orders you have and I don’t want to step on them. Because you’re jumpy and you don’t really want to tell me why – that’s fine, I won’t even mention that part to him – but it’s going to get in the way of you being able to uh, do your job. Much less just relax and be a person. You know?” She tilted her head at him. “I mean, I would point out the fact that you’re panicking because I said we should talk to my dad, but a), that’s not the first time that’s happened to me, and b), well. I think you’d rather I’d not notice you were panicking. And thus.” She cleared her throat. “You haven’t done anything wrong. My dad, on the other hand, I mean utterly aside from buying someone, this is the modern era, what was he thinking… I don’t think he’s given you anything except, what, stay forty feet or less from me at all times?”
Leander cleared his throat. I think you’d rather I not notice you were panicking. That was pretty accurate. “Getting in the way of me doing my job,” he repeated slowly. “I – it’s not. Not that. I can do what I have to through a lot worse than being a little unsure.”
And besides, unsure meant less orders. Less orders, in his experience, was usually a good thing.
Her lips twisted up. It was almost, but not quite, a smile. “Look. You might Belong to my father, but you’re… well. My bodyguard. I’ll stand up to him for you. I will. I’m not gonna let him jerk you around. But you have to talk to him.”
“You can’t… technically… give me orders,” he pointed out, although he had no idea why he would say something so stupid.
“Of course not. He doesn’t want me countermanding his orders or sending you away so I can do something stupid. Although why he thinks I would do something that would – well anyway.” She held out a hand to him. “Let’s go yell at my dad. Well, I’ll yell. You can pretend you’re not there, if you want. But considering that’s the direction I’m going…”
“You don’t have to yell,” he protested weakly. Hand. She was holding out a hand to him. He took the hand carefully. He didn’t want to – what, he didn’t want to hurt her? He was pretty sure he wasn’t going to squeeze her hand and break it.
This place was already getting to him and it hadn’t even been a day. If this lasted longer than a week, he was going to be ruined for working moving rocks, for any sort of real slavery again.
And that, that would be the real sadism, he had to admit. That woudl be brilliant. Get him to relax, to give in, and then he would have to be broken all over again when he went back to an owner who remembered that he was a slave.
He squeezed Sylvanie’s hand, a little jerk of a motion he really hadn’t meant to make. It made it all the weirder when she squeezed back. “It’ll be fine,” she assured him.
What did she think he was?
Oh, he’d been trying to make her think he was a little weak, hadn’t he? That it was awful – which it had been – and that he was a little broken by it. It was easier than her thinking he might snap at any minute and break her bones, which was closer to the truth.
Shit, he wasn’t going to be able to say that to her father with her there.
“Come on,” she urged. “He’s going to be in his study. I don’t know what he studies there. Maybe some strange cabalistic figures, that would make sense. I just know that’s where he spends a lot of his time when he’s at home.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he muttered. “You know, it’s really okay. I’m fine. I’m going to be fine. I can guard your body just fine-”
“You’ve said fine three times in the last sentence, you know.”
“-I’m going to be fine,” he repeated. She was dragging him anyway. He wasn’t going to win this one. Why was he even trying?
“Look. This isn’t ‘cause you’re in trouble or any nonsense like this. This is, honestly, completely, one hundred percent, cross-my-heart, because I think that you could do better if my father just talked to you instead of just dumping you on my lap – metaphorically – this could go a lot better. That’s it. I think you’ll be happier. Less twitchy. Less worried.”
“I’m not worried… I’m not twitchy!”
“You are so lucky that you don’t have an order against lying,” she observed. That left Leander sputtering and at a loss enough that she managed to drag him all the way to the study, whatever a study was.
“Father.” She pushed Leander in ahead of her. “This man. This man Belongs to you. You should probably talk to him.”
That, Leander considered, was not nearly as helpful as he’d secretly been hoping she might be.