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ETA: Why must LiveJournal always, always destroy my formatting??


    After Lord Fulke departed, Luca staggered back to the bed and threw himself belly-down. Oh, lovely. Lovely soft bed. He snuggled into a pillow, not caring that it stank of Sir Percy’s sweat and Captain Sprottle’s cum. He’d never been allowed to rest in a bed like this. Beds were for getting fucked in. Even when Lord Frederick had kept Luca in his room for the night Luca had lain in his arms wide-eyed and sleepless, afraid that any moment his master would wake and demand service.

     Luca’s eyelids grew heavy. A yawn escaped. What dreams nobles must have, sleeping like this all the time…

    Luca was jolted awake by the sound of someone clattering through the door. His eyes flew open and he leaped to his feet, ready to babble apologies and beg forgiveness from whatever forgotten patron had just barged in. When he saw who it was, he sagged with relief.

    You’re not supposed to use the front door,” he told Asher, trying to sound severe.

    “Official business,” Asher said, tucking his thumbs into his belt and puffing out his chest. “Master wants you in his office.”

    Luca stifled a groan. No time to read before the show tonight, then. And he had so wanted to read, just for a little while...

    “Is it about the lord from last night?” Asher asked. “Did you send him running and screaming again?”

    Luca dealt Asher a halfhearted swat as he passed through the door. Asher dodged it easily.

    “He wasn't screaming, Asher. Don’t tell tales.”

    “Why did the lord want to see you?” Asher trotted to catch up. “Varo took him breakfast, and he said the lord smelled. Did he smell? Bet he smelled. Did he hit you? You don’t look hit. Did he fuck you?”

    “There’s half on oatcake by the washbasin,” Luca said. “Go eat it quick before the mice do. And leave Ganymene’s part!” he called after Asher’s back.

    Master Boq's office was full of sherry fumes and the tinny whine of the phonograph. Master Boq himself was at his desk, absentmindedly tapping his ring against his glass in time to the aria. Bagoas stood at his side, head bowed so that the master could murmur something into his ear. Sark leaned against the wall, not smoking but looking as though he dearly wished to.

    Luca sank to his knees, thighs apart, hands folded behind his back. Master Boq looked up and beamed.

    “Ah, Luca!” Master Boq waved his hand in welcome. “My dear little bird! Here, look at me.”

    Luca raised his face but kept his eyes cast down.

    “There, Bagoas,” said Master Boq, “is the countenance upon which our fortunate shall be made. His fair features are like a fortuneteller's looking-glass. Look upon him! Do you see the future?” He slapped the desk with an open hand and raised his glass to toast. “To the future, Bagoas!”

    Oh dear, Luca thought. Master was drunk again.

    “The future, master.” Bagoas smiled tightly. “It is bright indeed.”

    Master Boq took a deep draught of sherry. When he put down his glass it was empty.

    “Now, boy,” he said, wiping his mouth. “Tell me everything. Every whisper, every caress. I want to hear in your words exactly how you seduced the heir to House d'Argent.”

    Sark moved, a slight, snakelike jerk of his head. Bagoas's gaze flicked from Sark to Luca and back, mouth thinning into a line of displeasure.

    “My lord likes to kiss,” said Luca carefully. “And to touch. My face, my chest. His hands – he has very gentle hands.”

    Master Boq nodded, encouraging. “And how did he use you? Over the bed?”

    Luca bit his lip. “Yes, master.”

    “I imagine he reached his pleasure quickly,” Master Boq mused. “Eager as he was for your company.”

    “Yes, master.”

    “And afterwards, I suppose he stroked your hair and purred honeyed words in your ear?”

    “Yes, master,” Luca whispered. His lip had split again; he tasted blood. “Yes, he did.”

    Master Boq leaned back in his chair, abrim with satisfaction. “Excellent! My dear, good boy.” He lifted his glass, not noticing it was empty. “And those words, little bird. What did the lord tell you?”

    Luca forced himself to answer. “My lord said he was at College.” Safe enough. “My lord studies law and philosophy. He lives in an upper-form garret on the grounds with his friends.” Why did the words feel as though they were being dragged from him on hooks?

    Master Boq waved his hand impatiently. “Yes, yes. Did he say anything of his grandfather?”

    “My lord will inherit his grandfather's seat on the High Council,” Luca said, hating himself.

    “And politics? Did he speak of politics? Of Court?”

    “He doesn't like Court,” Luca whispered. His eyes were stinging.

    Master Boq sighed. “Did he say anything important, boy? Or did you merely lay there like a dead fish while he prattled on about the weather?”

    Luca twisted his hands behind his back, wringing his fingers bloodless. No. No more. Master Boq could beat him, he'd been beaten before, gods, more times than he could count – it didn't hurt as much as this, as selling Robert to his master piece by piece. Luca had given Master Boq information about important patrons before, of course, reporting any interesting bits of gossip or remarks dropped as thoughtlessly as the man's breeches. But Robert was different. Even the lies were agony, Master Boq imagining Robert undressed, Robert bending Luca over...

    No! No. Master couldn't have Robert. Robert was free.

    “I beg you to forgive the boy's stupidity, master,” Bagoas said quickly. “Perhaps if he had more exact directives for the lord's next visit...”

    “Hmph!” Master Boq slammed his glass down on the desk. “Is the little slut truly so stupid that he cannot even fuck information from a wine-addled noble?”

    “Apparently,” said Sark, baring his teeth in a thoroughly humorless grin.

    “I'm sorry, master.” Luca bowed low, letting his hair fall over his face. “I've failed you. Please punish me.”

    Master Boq exhaled, nostrils flaring eloquently. He stabbed a fat finger at his empty glass. “Fix me another drink.”

    Luca obeyed, keeping his gaze fixed on the floor. He didn't dare water down the sherry this time. He didn't want to think what would happen if Master Boq noticed.

    “It is better, of course, that the boy should hold his tongue and learn nothing of value than pester the lord with importunate questions and drive him away,” Bagoas murmured soothingly.

    “Better still that he should bring me useful information,” Master Boq snapped. “My contacts are not interested in whether Robert d'Argent studies law and lives with his bloody friends or not!”

    Luca held out the glass, trying to keep his hand from shaking. The last thing he needed was to dump sherry all over his master's robes.

    Master Boq snatched the glass, drank, and belched. Points of red appeared on his full cheeks.

    “Come here, little bird,” Master Boq said, suddenly genial. He grabbed Luca's waist and pulled him close. “Sit on my lap.”

    Luca straddled him, thighs open. Master Boq rested his hands comfortably on the small of Luca's back.

    “You know that I am very pleased with you, don't you, Luca?” His breath was treacly and hot.

    “I live to please my master,” Luca said automatically.

    “That's my good boy.” Master Boq smiled, indulgent. “After all, it isn't your fault you haven't a thought in your pretty little head, is it?” He tapped a finger against Luca's temple. “Brainless barbarian.”

    Luca forced himself to smile. “Yes, master. I'm terribly stupid. Thank you for your mercy.”

    “Now, dearest.” Master Boq became businesslike. “Here is what you are to discover when the lord visits you tomorrow. Are you listening?”

    “Yes, master.”

    “Good. First, take note of his lordship's activities. Where does he spend his time when not in class or at Court, and in whose company? Who are his lovers, and how do they rank? My contacts also wish to know more of his lordship's circle within the College. Is he influenced by any of his professors in particular? My contacts are greatly interested in his lordship's professors.” He paused. “Do you understand?”

    “I am to find out how my lord spends his time, and with who, and which of these are his lovers,” Luca recited. “I am to tell my master of his lordship's circle at College, particularly his lordship's professors. I understand, master.”

    “Good boy,” said Master Boq.

    “Good parrot,” muttered Sark.

    Master Boq, taking another long sip of sherry, didn't hear. Bagoas shot Sark a warning look.

    “Now, Luca,” said Master Boq, “I have some jolly news for you. The lord was quite taken with your lovely body. So taken, in fact, that he has paid no small amount to preserve it from harm.”

    It took a moment for Luca to understand. He had to stifle a gasp. The protection fee? Robert had paid it?

    “It seems his lordship likes his boys unbruised.” Master Boq squeezed Luca's arse for emphasis. Luca tried not to flinch. “Of course this means that the Councilor's slave will not be playing the satyr in tonight's performance. He'll be replaced by Tarquin's man from the Rosette.”

    Relief made Luca weak. He wouldn't have to take the Beast tonight. Thank Goddess, he wouldn't have to take the Beast.

    “Thank you, master,” he said, forcing his voice to stay even. “And – master, if I may be so bold as to ask – when will I have the honor of serving his lordship next?”

    Tomorrow. The Baron Delancey's usual time.”

    Noon, then. Luca could survive until noon. If the patrons couldn't use him roughly that meant he'd have time to heal. And when Robert came tomorrow, Luca could thank him properly.

    “The show approaches,” said Bagoas. “The boy must prepare.”

    “Of course.”

    Peremptorily, Master Boq shoved Luca off his lap. Luca landed crouched on his feet. He bowed, hand to his forehead, and backed away. He was almost to the door when Master Boq spoke.

    “Oh, and Luca? Those earrings.”

    Luca hesitated only a moment before unhooking the laurel leaves. They shone softly in the lamplight, like Ganymene's golden smile. The master crooked a finger. Luca crossed the room and placed the earrings in his outstretched palm.

    “Expensive,” said Master Boq appreciatively. “Much too expensive to waste on a slave. Wouldn't you agree?”

    “Yes, master,” Luca whispered.

    Master Boq removed the heavy spangled hoops he wore and replaced them with the laurel leaves.

    “What do you think?” Master Boq turned his head from side to side, chins swaying like a turkey's wattle.

    Luca forced himself to smile. “Very handsome, master.”

    Master Boq dismissed Luca with a wave of his hand. The last thing Luca saw before closing the door was Master Boq examining his reflection in the glass of sherry, gold gleaming against liquid the color of blood.

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