The loud clanging of a bell jerked DG awake. Cain sighed and tightened his hold when she spasmed against him. They had turned in the night; Cain lay on his back and her front pressed against his side. She propped her chin on his chest. How could anyone look so resolute while asleep?
How did this good man see anything worthy in her? And he saw it before the possibility of a baby occurred to either of them. She sure the hell wasn't good enough for him or his child. She sent a prayer for the baby to take after Wyatt Cain because she wasn't impressed with any qualities from her family. The kid could have art or magic, but that was it.
He didn't want a one-time fling, which tore her. Part of her craved how he made her feel; part feared he would remember she wasn't Adora and turn away. She needed him more than he needed her--great sex aside. And she ruined his life again.
The bell clanged again and Cain opened his eyes. "I guess they really want us up."
"I guess so." She sat up so he could.
Cain appraised her as they resettled to stare at the bars. "You okay?"
"Doesn't look like you're enjoying it much."
She smiled slightly at his half-smirk. She couldn't be honest about her fears about them together if they were together, so she brought up her other fears. "What's going to happen now?"
He wrapped his arm around her. "Don't fight them. Odds are against us."
"Stick close to you?"
"And run when I say run." His arm tightened when they heard footsteps up the metal stairs.
Two guards stopped at their cell as the others continued down the walkway. "I hate dealing with new merchandise." The speaker gestured with an electric prod like the witch's alchemists had used. "Strip."
"What?" Cain's jaw clenched.
"The buyers have to inspect the merchandise." He gestured again. "You can get dressed after the auction is over."
Cain held up his hands. "Don't get jumpy on the trigger." He pushed DG to stand up. "Come on, sweetheart."
DG's face flamed as she turned away from the guards. Her fingers fumbled with her shirt buttons. Cain made a pile of his clothes on the bunk. She wasn't ashamed of her body, but she had never wanted to join a nudist colony. She folded her shirt half-heartedly before putting it down. Just repeating the human figure class, that's all. She pulled off her pants, then her socks, before dropping her panties on the pile of clothes. Nude models did this everyday. It would be fine.
"You first, big guy." Cain moved from her side at the guard's command. DG took a few deep breaths before turning around.
None of her nude models had Wyatt Cain's ass. Her mouth dried as she watched the silent guard restrain Cain's wrists behind his back. The wrist cuffs chain attached to an eyebolt on the wooden stage outside the door of their cell. Cuffs went around his ankles next keeping his legs hip distance apart as they were attached to eyebolts too.
DG's mouth was so dry, she wasn't sure if she could ever talk again. There was no possibility of running or even protecting yourself. But she could use her magic out there. To do what she hadn't decided yet, when the silent guard entered the cell and grabbed her arm.
He whirled her and had the cuffs fastened around her wrists before she reacted. A rock on a cord slipped over her head. The queasy feeling she had since entering the cell didn't end when he shoved her onto the wood. They left after her stance was chained open. She stared through the metal grating. That way she didn't see any of the other human flesh for sale. The rock between her breasts glowed. "Damn charm."
"Thea?" Cain asked softly.
"The necklace blocks my magic." DG squeezed her eyes shut. No breaking down, not in this place.
"It'll be alright."
She glanced up. He watched the guards move down the walkway. The last time she had seen Cain naked, he had been covered in grime from the iron suit and practically comatose2. His broad shoulder curved into a bicep that was pure muscle. Pulling his arms back put his chest on display with its dusting of blond chest hair. And his abs were just as defined as his pecs. The hair trailing down his stomach and curling on his groin matched the shade of his eyebrows.
This undeniable hunk wanted to have a baby with her. And had turned his head and was watching her. DG blushed and jerked her face away, but not before seeing his raised eyebrow and smirk. "Like what you see?"
"It's a good thing you weren't a model for any of my art classes." DG stared at the metal grating. Cain hummed interrogatively. "You would've gotten mobbed."
"Did you model?"
"Nothing worth drawing about my figure." She still felt his gaze, which did nothing to make her blush fade.
"I can't believe you think that." She jerked up to look at Cain's face. "You're beautiful." His expression mixed incredulity with adoration, and he wasn't hiding either. He started to elaborate his admission, but a loud clamoring of people interrupted.
That was the only warning they had before the well-dressed people walked up the stairs to examine them like livestock. DG wished her mind would stop interpreting the sounds into a county fair. It jolted her every time, when someone interrupted her pretending to be anywhere else only to realize all over again they were here to buy her and Cain and not a new cow.
A fat woman with blue eye-shadow slathered over her eyebrows leaned into DG's face. "Just how far along are you?"
"In my first month," DG answered through her dry mouth and clenched stomach.
The woman sniffed and raised her eyebrows, lifting the blue painted skin closer to her hairline, before appraising Cain. "At least, the child will be good-looking." She stroked Cain's penis. His whole body stiffened and he glared above the woman's head. DG had seen her Tin Man give Zero gentler expressions. She longed to kick the woman right over the rail. "Maybe, maybe." The woman strolled down the walkway.
DG opened and closed her mouth without saying anything. Her gaze dropped to the floor. It was her fault he was in this predicament. He probably wished she had let those pigs shoot him. Or that she had never run away in the first place. Tears pricked and she closed her eyes to keep from crying.
Maybe there was an Underground Railroad, and if there wasn't maybe she and Cain could start it. That was a much happier thought to concentrate on.
"Why is something this pretty in the Breeders wing?" She opened her eyes to see a man dressed for a night at the Twister in front of her. He looked like a former jock, someone still muscular who didn't work at keeping it. His hand gripped her jaw and forced her head up. "Answer me!"
"She's pregnant," Cain said in glacial tone before she could.
"That's easily corrected." The buyer glanced at Cain before turning back to her. "Before her figure is ruined."
DG jerked her head out of his hand, drawing his inspection from her torso back to her face. "You're not killing our baby!"
The buyer's brown eyes flashed as his face reddened. The chains next her rattled. "You need to learn your place, slave bitch. But I wouldn't waste my money on just breaking you in." His hand wrapped around the back of her neck, pinning her face to face with him, while two fingers reached down and plunged inside of her. DG gasped and twisted, but couldn't escape the chains or his hands. Tears pooled in her eyes. The buyer smirked as he pressed his fingers further in. "But you appear to have other qualities worth paying for."
"Get your hands off of her." As scared as DG was for herself and the baby, it thrilled her to see the buyer gulp at Cain's tone.
He regained his bravado once he saw the chains holding Cain back. "She's not the only one who needs to learn her place." His hand withdrew only to squeeze her ass. She held in her hiss as the just-healed muscles and skin throbbed. Cain's icy blue eyes glittered as he narrowed them. "She's not yours,' the buyer said. "Nothing is yours once the collar is around your neck." He let go of DG to look fully at Cain before twisting her nipples.
DG cried out and jerked back, but lost her balance. A hand wrapped around her left arm and another one on her back pushed her upright again. She felt the cool tingle of magic. The Sorter stepped round to face the buyer. "Sir, you need to be more careful with the merchandise."
The buyer gulped again. "Right, quite right. Won't happen again." He gestured at DG and Cain. "I'm ready to buy this lot."
"Unfortunately, this lot has just been sold." The Sorter's mouth corners turned up a fraction.
"What? Who? I'll make a better offer."
"That's not our policy, sir. You should continue shopping."
The buyer muttered under his breath as he stomped away, but DG focused on the Sorter. He ignored her scrutiny, turned to one of the guards, and took an opened band of silver from him. The guard pulled DG's braid out of the way and the Sorter closed the band around her throat. The collar was snug but flexible. "Get dressed now." The second guard unlocked the cuffs as the Sorter turned to Cain.
Cain's eyes widened at the sight of the collar. His breathing became quicker and shallower. He had never anything around his neck for as long as DG had known him. "Put it around his arm, please!"
The Sorter's eyes flicked to her before resting on Cain again. "That's not our policy."
"Screw your policy!" DG pulled herself from the guard's hold. The Sorter closed the collar around Cain's neck. Cain jerked against the chains. "Damnit!" He sunk into a crouch, gasping for air. She wrapped her arms around him. "Breathe in, Wyatt. I'm right here. It's okay. Breathe in." Air got past the obstruction in his throat. "Now out."
Cain regained control over his breathing, but DG held onto him longer than necessary. The Sorter cleared his throat. "Back in the cage now, so we can unlock him."
DG glared but since one of the guards twisted an electric prod in his hands, she didn't argue.
"Go," Cain whispered as he stood.
She retreated into the cell without any prompting from the guards, and dressed while watching them undo Cain's restraints. She saved her socks for last, so she wasn't looking at him when he walked inside and the door slammed shut. Her shirt buttons refused to line up. She started on her third try buttoning her shirt when Cain knelt in front of her. He had his pants on, which was good because his unbuttoned shirt was enough of a distraction. "You okay?"
"Shouldn't I be asking you that?" She gave up on the buttons.
His lips twitched. "I'm alright now. But I didn't…." His arms resting on either side of her tensed. He breathed deeply before refocusing on her face. "Did he hurt you?"
"I think he may have bruised my boobs." Cain brushed open her shirt and examined her breasts so intently she felt like she was basking under a heat lamp. "It's not permanent damage." He met her gaze with the darkest eyes she had ever seen on him. "He scared me."
"Do I scare you?"
"The only decent guy I've ever slept with? No. I'm a magnet for the wrong type, which is why I can't figure out why you want anything to do with me."
Cain stopped her babbling by pushing her knees apart and kneeling between them. His lips pressed against her left nipple and then her right. DG swallowed hard as he looked up at her again. "You saved me, made me feel again, and want to be with me. I know who's good for me." He stroked her cheek. "And no woman should be treated like that."
She had to distract him from his lingering rage, though it was nice she could count on him. "Hold me?"
He sat and pulled her into his lap. She pressed her face against him neck. The collar was as warm as his skin, but smooth against her forehead. Her hand brushed his chest hair. He rubbed circles on her back. "Tell me if I do anything to upset you."
"Sweetheart, I'm serious. I won't mean to but…." He fell silent and she was confident his lips twitched like mad as he searched for the right words. "I don't want to scare you."
"Wyatt, you are last on the list of things that scare me." She sat up so he could see how serious she was. "Even if you tied me up to reenact what that creep did, it wouldn't be the same. I… I trust you." He smiled as he leaned his forehead against hers. "But I'm in no hurry to try out bondage."
"Me either," he chuckled. He took the edges of her shirt and matched buttons to buttonholes. "Don't know how long we got in here. Though I hate ruining the view."
"Ditto." She buttoned his shirt, leaving his top three buttons undone, and brushed her fingers against the silver collar. The skin over his jaw spasmed. "You're not going to have another panic attack?"
"I know it's there now." He finished her shirt and pulled the charm off, dropping it on the floor. He laid her head against his shoulder. "Did people on the Other Side understand what you said?"
"Most of the time. I'm sorry about all this."
"This isn't your fault. We'll find some way out."
"I hope who bought us isn't the woman who groped you."
"Me too. Guess we'll find out when they come get us."
She didn't want to bring up her fears, but as soon as he looked at her he would know she was worried. "What kind of person would want to buy a couple having a baby?"
His whole body tensed under her and the hand rubbing her back paused. "I'm guessing two types: ones who are selling people like livestock."
"And the others would be pedophiles who just want the baby." DG pressed harder against him to ease the spike of fear in her gut.
"I don't know what that means." He hugged and rocked her. "But there are people who think raping a child is acceptable."
"That's what it means."
Cain took a deep breath. "We got nine months to prevent that, my darling girl. Take one thing at a time."
She wrapped her arms around his chest. "What else can we do?"
Reference to "Washing of the Water" by Allronix.