flighty_dreams: (bashful)
[personal profile] flighty_dreams
TITLE: A Scotch for the Road - Part 17
AUTHOR: [livejournal.com profile] flighty_dreams
WARNINGS: Slavefic. NC-17.  F/m.
WORD COUNT: 4,390 (this chapter)/ story so far (over 50K)
SUMMARY: A slave enduring a party encounters more than he bargained for.
NOTES: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] aurila for her assistance.
FEEDBACK: Always welcome, even if it's just to say that you read it.

Jenna slumped over her desk.

Since that confrontation with her parents, part of each workday had been devoted to researching Marcus Donovan. Despite her and her father's efforts years earlier, he’d regained much of his financial footing, due in large part to the support of the Cassidy Family. Apparently they had ignored the rumors, most likely because the Cassidys were a relatively new Family themselves, with little regard for esteeming the Founding Families, as most Cartayans did. Also, from what Jenna had gleaned, Donovan’s thwarting of her efforts to buy Brett had endeared him all the more to them, so much so that they had been willing to overlook his economic difficulties and help him make a comeback.

Yeah, the Cassidys really hated her Family. They were new money and flash, while the Vanlean-Warrens were a recent merger of centuries old Founding Families of Cartay. Her country had been created by nearly one hundred such Families to start with, but the passage of time had almost halved that number, and other younger dynasties such as the Cassidys had risen to fill the power vacuum.

Not that Jenna really cared about the political imbroglios over who had the rights to Cartayan seats of power. It was more of the same blindness and prejudice that let so many look at slaves and not see people. In some ways, it was even more ridiculous, like when her Aunt Penelope disparaged one of the ‘new money’ Families, saying they didn’t know their place. Penelope, like Jenna’s mother, had been born a Taylor, a bloodline that not only wasn’t a Founding Family, but also had been considered ‘new money upstarts’ just a century earlier. How quickly people forgot, especially when it suited them.

She would never forget what Donovan had done to Brett. Knowing your enemy was the first step to taking him down.

“Jenna? Are you busy?”

Her assistant’s voice jolted her out of her dark thoughts. “I have some time, Rita. What is it?”

“Your father wants to see you in his office.”

Jenna frowned. A summons from her father wasn’t that rare, but neither was it a regular thing. One hadn’t happened since he found out Brett was back. This better be business related, and not personal.

As she rode the lift up to his office though, she found it doubtful. He’d been pissed about Brett, and surely her mother had told him she’d brought him to the shower. There was little chance of her mom omitting that detail. But why wait three days before bringing it up?

Because he’s subtle, that’s why, she reminded herself. Her mother took a bulldozer-style approach to things, whenever she believed she could get away with it. She only exercised tact when she deemed it necessary, not as a matter of course.

Samantha, her father’s assistant, was at her desk when she came in. She was about Jenna’s age, but her formal demeanor—no doubt why her father had hired her—made her seem older. Rising stiffly to her feet, Samantha said, “Thank you for coming, Ms. Vanlean-Warren. They are waiting for you.”

They? Jenna didn’t bother asking who else was with her father, confident she could handle whoever it was. After a brief acknowledgment she walked on through the door Samantha opened for her. Victor Sr. was seated behind his desk in his intimidating high-backed chair—he had a similar one at home, and she could recall her petrified siblings facing him in it as children, their knees wobbling. Her father knew little of expressing affection, but intimidation was an art form for him.

Charlie Watterson was with him, rising from one of the guest chairs as she entered. An attractive man midway in age between her father and herself with dark hair and blue eyes, he smiled and said, “Jenna, a pleasure to see you.”

The added warmth to the rote words had her tensing inwardly. While already her father’s right hand man, Charlie’s interest in her was no secret. What better way to fortify his success than marry into the Family? For all the charm Charlie could turn on when he wished, she wasn’t fooled. His solicitude wouldn’t last much past the wedding, and he’d expect his wife to stay at home where she ‘belonged,’ not compete with him at work. Having obtained her father’s respect and confidence—nearly an impossible accomplishment in itself—her father would be pleased by such a marriage.

Marriage, Jenna scoffed silently, more like another business merger. But she had more immediate concerns at the moment. Taking a seat, she said, “Hi Dad, Charlie.”

Watterson settled back into his chair, exchanging pleasantries she responded to with polite distance, giving him no encouragement. Her short responses brought the conversation quickly to a pause, which she ended with, “So why am I here?”

A faint smile from her father. Without outsiders to impress, he preferred to cut small talk short as well. “You know the Swansfield Ball is to be held soon.”

“Of course.” Occurring in two weeks, it was one of the biggest events of the year, given extensive media coverage. Several of her relatives always attended it, including her parents. Politicians, business executives, celebrities—anyone with great means or power attended, and many deals that would shape their country’s political and economic future in the years to come began at Swansfield or another of the handful of annual Founders' Balls equal to it in prestige.

“I arranged for two extra tickets,” her father told them. “I believe it’s time you both attended.”

Jenna nearly gaped at him. For the past three years her brother had pestered their father for an invitation to any of the Founders' Balls and always been denied. Of course, his desire to go had had nothing to do with their family's business and everything to do with getting close to the celebrity guests—especially the models and actresses.

“An honor, sir. Thank you,” Charlie said, beaming at her father. It was the most sincere she'd ever heard him.

Jenna thanked her dad as well. She might hate class politics and its injustices and snobbery, but an opportunity to learn more about how her country was run was too good to refuse. That didn't mean she believed there were no ulterior motives behind this though. She knew her father too well.

And there was something else too glaring for her to let pass without comment. “Two weeks is a little short notice, Father.”

He frowned. “I'm aware of that, but it couldn't be helped. I just heard back on these passes today.” Jenna wondered if that was because he'd only put in for them after hearing about Brett.

A glint in his eyes, her father added, “But I'm sure your mother would be happy to help you find a gown.”

“I'm sure she would,” Jenna said with a forced smile. She had no intention of hearing the lectures that would accompany the outing.

But she listened to the advice and instructions her father gave for the party—who would be there that was of interest to them, and how best to approach them in this particular setting. That she would have to attend with Charlie was a dark spot she chose to ignore for now.

After her father finished he gave them their passes, and the meeting seemed about to reach its end, she took advantage of Charlie's presence to get an honest answer. “How is our company doing? Overall.”

“Great,” Charlie was quick to answer. “Those two big contracts you won us last year have really brought us nice profits.”

Rolling her eyes was tempting. While her work had certainly helped, talking as if she alone had made the difference to their company was just Charlie blatantly sucking up to her.

After demurring, she fixed her gaze on her father, who met her eyes steadily. “He's correct. We're doing very well. At the moment.”

She ignored his tacked on dig. There'd been plenty of talk around the company that they'd had great profit growth the past couple of years, but she wanted information more concrete than that. For example, would one of its executive employees being caught in a scandal about her slave make a serious enough dent in their profits to make the company's future—and thereby its employees' futures—uncertain?

After some more pushing, she finally got the answers she was looking for. While her father might argue that any loss of profits over an easily avoided scandal was unacceptable, she wouldn't feel any guilt over it. Not after what they had told her: their company was doing better than ever.

Shortly after that, Charlie stood, mentioning he'd another meeting to attend soon. Of course, before he left he snuck in a touch to her arm as he said, “Shall I pick you up at seven then?”

“No,” she said, eyes twinkling, “I'll pick you up.”

His mouth tightened for a moment before he smoothed it out. “Jenna, I must insist.”

She stood her ground. “We'll have a private driver taking us anyway. Neither of us will be driving.”

“She has a point,” her father said, tipping the balance. “Let it go, Charlie.”

“All right,” he said, though his stiff shoulders didn't loosen any. “Thanks again, sir. I must be going.” With a brief goodbye, he left.

Amused that such a small thing had offended Charlie's traditional sensibilities, Jenna turned to her father, studying him. She'd known instantly why he'd backed her up—he'd rather Charlie not encounter Brett at her home.

Her father calmly examined her in return. She suspected he might take advantage of this moment alone to bring up Brett again, but instead he asked, “How is work going?”

As she replied to the small talk, she chided herself. The direct approach wasn't her father's style. His anger the weekend before had been his initial fury at finding out what she'd done. Now that he'd had some time to think, his opinion hadn't changed, but his approach had. Her dad was operating under the assumption that she would 'come to her senses' eventually, but in the meantime he'd pair her with Charlie, a 'real' and respectable man in his eyes, to go to this party with her. A party full of other men 'worthy' of her.

He was endeavoring to remind her of her place in the world, and that Brett didn't belong at her side. Her appearance at the Swansfield Ball with Charlie would also undermine any 'she's too attached to her slave' rumors, whenever they surfaced. Her father was cunning.

She revealed none of her suspicions to him, maintaining an air of moderate excitement and gratitude. After the bit of work talk—sadly there were few other subjects she could discuss easily with her father—she left, letting him think she hadn't seen right through him. While an outsider might find it ridiculous for him to believe she saw nothing behind this sudden invitation when he'd so recently been furious with her, her father was arrogant enough to disregard that minor detail in favor of their overall history.

As she made her way back to her office, she toyed with the idea of derailing his plans by bringing Brett to the Swansfield Ball. While her father hadn't mentioned the presence of slaves—of course—from her brief glimpses of past Founders' Balls via media coverage she knew some people did bring personal slave escorts. She dismissed the option quickly though; the pressures of escorting her to such a prestigious event would bring unnecessary—and easily avoided—stress upon Brett. And it was wrong to use him against her father anyway. He'd been through enough.

However, while her Brett wouldn't be anxious to attend this affair himself, she'd still have to emphasize that what had happened at the bridal shower wasn't behind her decision to leave him at home. He'd been treading carefully around her all week, afraid she was still angry with him. Her attempts to shake him out of it hadn't worked so far.

Reaching her desk at last, she settled back into her chair. Her notes on Donovan stared up at her, a reminder. She glanced from them to the invitation she held in her hand. The Swansfield Ball would be a great place to acquire information.




Brett opened the door with that crazy sixth sense again.

To be fair, at first she'd made a habit of taking extra long fumbling for her keys and unlocking the door, giving him warning that she was back. But lately he'd been too quick for her to even bother delaying, sometimes not even getting her keys out in time. It was like he was waiting by the door for her, ready to open it with a bow at the first sound of her arrival. She'd asked him whether he was waiting there for a while, telling him it wasn't necessary, but he'd claimed he wasn't. She had no idea how he did it then, but she didn't really care. Bemused, she'd just enter and greet him.

Jenna loved seeing him at the door when she arrived. For years she'd returned to an empty home; she never wanted that again.

Heeled foot kicking the door closed, her arms circled his neck as she kissed him. The first one was usually brief; he didn't like leaving her briefcase and purse on the floor where she'd dropped them to reach for him, or not taking her coat if she'd worn one that day—though if she insisted on prolonging it, he didn't object of course.

Today though he did, after a few more kisses, slowly pulling away. Reluctant, she demanded one last kiss before letting him go, wondering if he had something to tell her. He did, but he didn't need words to do so. Brett glanced over his shoulder through the foyer doorway, and she followed his gaze beyond the dining room, to the kitchen doorway where Ty stood frozen.

Seeing her attention on him, he bowed his head and dropped to his knees, his body vibrating apology for intruding.

Right. Brett had asked this morning if Ty could come by in the afternoon. Between her busy day at work and the happy distraction of greeting Brett, she'd forgotten about it.

“Hello, Ty,” she said, as if he hadn't just caught her and Brett in a private moment. She gave Brett's arm a squeeze as she passed him, approaching Ty. A rustle behind her signified that Brett was retrieving the bags from the floor.

Ty huddled guiltily, his forehead pressed to his hands. She didn't like the idea of him watching her and Brett without her knowledge, but she didn't know how long he'd been standing there. Perhaps he was simply trembling out of fear, not guilt; she didn't know him well enough to be sure.

“Didn't mean to interrupt, Ms. Warren. I'll leave.” He swallowed, hastily tacking on, “If you wish.”

Jenna frowned. If Brett believed he was in trouble, he didn't speak without being prompted first. It was a common behavior among slaves—she'd seen the staff in many mansions like her parents' home do the same, aware that the slightest forwardness might bring on further punishment. Better to be as submissive as possible and hope that would mollify their owner or whoever they'd offended. To her dismay, Brett hadn't even moved from the foyer after they'd returned from Teresa's shower, he'd been so afraid of doing anything else to anger her.

She'd assumed all slaves raised in the Shelters received similar training, at least in that among other things, but perhaps not. A laborer like Ty wouldn't be required to rehearse all the social niceties a house slave learned, as he wouldn't be expected to interact directly with a lofty owner. It made sense, now that she thought about it.

But he did have to interact firsthand with his owner, whose business was small. There were many people like his master who owned only one or two laborer slaves, and dealt with them themselves.

Maybe it was simply lack of experience on Ty's part. Some things weren't taught by formal education—like true fear of owner reprisal and capriciousness. Ty, young enough to be only a year or two out of the Shelter, hadn't been abused as much as Brett. The hard lessons hadn't set in yet.

She longed to know what Brett had been like, before the world had spit on him repeatedly. Twenty-five when she met him, he'd been out of his Shelter for several years, the emotional scars already present. Not that those institutions were free of abuse either—slavery corrupted everything it touched—but she imagined the young slaves in them dreamed they'd be bought by a kind owner someday and receive a better life.

That was the difference. They had hope, and still believed life would be fair to them someday. Most born slaves eventually learned that fairness, like freedom, was forever out of their reach.

From what Brett had told her of Ty, he received some fair treatment from his master: set hours, a day off a month, some rewards for his hard work. True fairness would've been acknowledgment that he was a person, not just property, but those were at least something. Even she couldn't provide true fairness to Brett—no matter how she treated him, other people would always look at him and see just a slave.

She crouched down next to Ty. No, he hadn't learned yet that the world would never be fair to him, but she wouldn't be the one to shatter his innocence.

“Ty,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder, “you can stay.” For a while, she mentally added. “Sit up.”

He did so, keeping his gaze lowered. She touched his chin, gently lifting it up before letting her hand drift away. Troubled brown eyes stared back at her.

She gave him her most encouraging smile. “I'm not mad. I was just distracted when I came in.” She felt no shame in saying that; Brett was well worth getting distracted over. “You are welcome here, Ty. Relax.”

The fear in his eyes shifted to confusion, then relief. “Thanks, Ms. Warren.”

Satisfied, she rose to her feet. Brett was only two paces away, and when she turned to him, he knelt. Inwardly admiring the grace with which he did so, when he then prostrated himself in imitation of Ty, she grumbled, “Don't you start too.”

A sparkle in his eyes that was too rare a sight, Brett shifted back to his feet. “I just wanted some comforting too, Mistress.”

That startled a laugh out of her. Teasing from Brett was so scarce; Ty's light-hearted presence—around Brett at least, not her—must have played a role in it today. Sliding her fingers into the pockets of his jeans and pulling him to her, she murmured, “Greedy.” Lips brushing his ear, she said, “Later.”

Her throaty promise had an effect, judging by the growing hardness pressed against her. Tweaking his nipples through his shirt, she drew a low gasp from him before letting go.

Frustration—and anticipation—glimmered in Brett's eyes. Tossing him a wicked smile, she turned to their guest. “How are you doing, Ty?”

He was still kneeling, his eyes shifting between her and Brett. “G-Good, Ms. Warren.”

She sniffed the air. She'd noticed it when she first arrived, but had been too occupied with Brett to comment. “What smells so good?”

“Oh no.” Brett stepped past her, hurrying into the kitchen. Ty rose too, scrambling after him. Amused by their abrupt abandonment, Jenna followed more sedately. Nothing was burning, so she doubted they urgently needed a third pair of hands.

Brett took the lid off a pot on the stove, steam rising from it. Grabbing a large spoon, he stirred the pot, examining the food inside. Ty shifted closer, peering at the contents too.

“Looks okay,” Brett told him. “We caught it before it started sticking to the bottom.”

Jenna leaned against the opposite counter, watching. Unlike her mother, she wasn't completely useless in the kitchen—between university and those eight previous months with Brett, she'd learned enough to manage for herself—but with him back she was pretty superfluous. And much better fed, she admitted readily.

The table in the kitchen was half-set, two place mats and glasses positioned, but no silverware or napkins yet. Smiling to herself, she went to one of the drawers, pulling it open. The clink of the silverware gave her away.

“Mistress.”

Brett stalked over to her, and giving him her best innocent look she let him take the cutlery from her hands. Teasing him about these things never got old.

It was only as he reached the table that he noticed she'd taken out three sets of silverware, not two. Grabbing a third place mat and glass, she added them to the table.

She met Brett's eyes. “Ty, you're staying for dinner, aren't you?”

“Oh, um,” Ty stammered, and she looked over at the poor kid. “Was gonna go home. Didn't wanna be- be in the way, Ms. Warren.”

“It's no trouble,” she replied. For someone who worked in a bakery all day, he was surprisingly thin. She'd no idea what time he had to be home, but he likely would mention it now if he had to go soon.

“There's plenty of food,” Brett told him, smiling. She doubted that was a coincidence. “It's up to you.”

Ty's sidelong, wistful look at the pot before he turned back to her, clearly about to decline, decided it for her. She wouldn't let the brainwashing prevent him from having a proper meal.

“Go sit,” she said, pointing to a chair. “You're eating with us, Ty.”

He blushed, but obeyed her readily enough. “Thank you, Ms. Warren.”

That settled, the food was doled out and soon they were all eating at the table. Unsurprisingly, Ty was uneasy sitting with her, and emulated Brett's actions for fear of doing something wrong, but the food soon provided some distraction. She smiled to herself; no young man could ignore a hearty meal.

As they ate Jenna learned that Ty had helped make dinner, Brett showing him a few things. Maybe Ty could reciprocate with baking sometime. She knew Brett would like that.

The younger slave didn't speak except to answer questions, still uncomfortable in her presence. So it was left to her and Brett to carry the conversation, but from her position at the head of the table she could see Ty's avid following of it.

“What's in there?” she asked, gesturing at a white box on the kitchen counter. It displayed the name of Ty's bakery on the side.

“Dessert. Miniature raspberry cakes,” Brett said.

“From my master,” Ty added, a light blush touching his cheeks.

“That was nice of him,” she said, inwardly analyzing his ulterior motives. It seemed it wouldn't be an issue getting Ty's master to allow him to see Brett regularly, eager as he was to cultivate ties with her Family. No doubt he'd demand a report from Ty on how his gift had been received. It was a reminder to be careful what she said in front of Ty—he'd be obligated to obey, though he likely would have some room to maneuver.

But that issue could wait until after the meal. They chatted over dessert too, Ty still saying little, and afterwards Brett made her tea before cleaning up the kitchen. As she sat at the table with her drink her gaze settled on Ty, who was assisting Brett with the dishes.

“Ty, could you come here a minute?”

His head jerked up. He wiped his hands and then halted near the table, standing awkwardly for a moment before lowering himself to his knees. She'd intended for him to sit across from her, but she bit back the correction. This would suit her purposes better. She looked at him. “After you spent some time here on Saturday, what did you tell your master about us?”

Ty's eyes widened, before he struggled for a neutral expression. She'd debated whether it was too crass to ask, but she'd rather have these things out in the open. Brett paused between plates, turning to watch her. His face was blank, a sure sign that he didn't like what she'd done, but of course he wouldn't undermine her.

“He was c-curious, Ms. Warren,” Ty answered, the defensiveness unmistakable.

“I know,” she said, her tone softening. “I'm not really trying to put you on the spot. I just wanted to show you I understand your position. Of course your master would be curious, and you have to give him answers. But how thorough your answers are depends on you, or how insistent he is for details.”

She leaned forward. “I need to be clear on this. Unless he's threatening you, I don't want you giving him gory details about my relationship with Brett, or about any special treatment that happens under my roof. Those are our private business. Once your master knew, it could be passed on to others, and I don't want Brett or myself the subject of rumors that could have been avoided. Do you understand?”

“Y-Yes, Ms. Warren,” Ty said, looking ready to grovel again.

Jenna sighed. “I'm just telling you my expectations before there's much chance for any trouble, and so you understand what they are. Respect our privacy and you'll be welcome as a guest here. All right?”

Another hesitant acknowledgment, and then her eyes drifted to Brett, whose expression had softened. They exchanged a look, and then he turned back to the sink.

The atmosphere between her and Ty remained awkward after that, but addressing the subject had been necessary. It would take time for Ty to trust that she meant well.

Once she finished her tea she decided to give them some time alone. Before leaving the kitchen she paused beside Brett, whispering, “Talk to him.”

With a faint smile, Brett nodded. He'd take care of it.

Part Eighteen
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