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Given to The Grimm Order as an infant, Fawn was raised in a world shaped by the rich and powerful. When she was sold at the age of nine to a Suitor, Fawn believed he would protect her from the “Mainworld”, where those who know nothing about the Order live. Living with the cruel man who bought her freedom, she finds just what the Order is about: money, control, and status for the Owner and humiliation and abuse for those they own.
Unwilling to accept the expectations of being Owned, Fawn goes from golden girl to maid, content to live in the shadows of the Order as long as she isn’t Owned again.
It’s been ten years since she disgraced her former Owner’s name, and now the brooding Frenchman Elliot Lyon wants her. Master Lyon is kind, smart, and unlike any man she’s met. She doesn’t want to admit it to herself, but Fawn is drawn to him despite constantly planning her next escape.
Even the prettiest flowers have thorns, and Master Lyon is hiding secrets that will uproot everything she thinks she knows about him.
I didn’t allow myself dreams. They were unrealistic and unfair. Cruel. There was enough cruelty in my life; I didn’t need to inflict it upon myself. It was difficult at first, telling my brain to shut off so completely that even when I wasn’t in control of it I could rely on the images within to be shrouded in black. They say everyone dreams and they just don’t remember. I don’t think my mind is capable of conjuring up images—nightmares or pleasant dreams. Not anymore. Reality was a nightmare. Dreams didn’t come true. Once you knew that things couldn’t get any better and that things were and will be the scariest you could ever experience, the imagination simply died. So instead of dreaming, I planned.
“Fawn,” he said suddenly, his voice soft but still making me jump in my seat. “Were they out of flower names?” he asked, a smile in his voice.
He let on that he knew about the inner-workings of the actual Compound more than my last Owner. Then again, my last one only cared about one thing. He didn’t play these mind games this guy seemed to like.
Master Lyon sighed, convinced I wouldn’t answer, but for some reason I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.
“I was one of the originals at the California Compound.” I hesitated almost too long before I brought my eyes back to his face. He was staring, waiting for me to say more. “We all had animal names,” I said, trying and failing to hide the disgust in my voice.
“Fawn,” he said. “With those eyes?”
I blinked, wondering what he meant.
“They’re so large and expressive,” he explained. “You’re more of a Doe to me.”
So this would be my new name? Not Dog or Whore, but Doe?
He smiled like I’d said something funny but I wasn’t joking. “Do you not like it?”
I didn’t know why he cared if I did or did not like something. It shouldn’t matter to him. I didn’t like any of this and it was obvious. He was asking to toy with me, get me to talk. I was done talking. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep the words from spilling out.
I felt that I should say something but the only thing that came out was, “I’m sorry I bit you, sir.” I willed myself to look up at him as he continued to rub the cream into my tender flesh, concentrating on the task in front of him.
“No, you aren’t,” he said matter-of-factly. “You’re sorry you were punished—that you had to be corrected.” A grin pulled at his lips. “I think you quite enjoyed biting me, drawing my blood.”
“When we go downstairs, it’s important you obey me.”
“I thought it was always important I obey you, sir,” I countered.
He sighed, ignoring my comment. “That’s enough talking for now.” There was an edge to his voice. “You will not speak until I say otherwise. Do you understand?”
I was about to answer but thought better of it and only nodded.
“And you must obey me—do as I say. Understood?”
I nodded again.
He stared directly into my eyes as he moved closer; I had to force myself to stand my ground and not inch away. “If you do not choose to obey,” he said in a calm, even tone, “the next punishment will prevent you from walking for a week.” He backed away so we were a small distance apart again. “Is that understood?”
Ice clinked in his glass as he took another gulp and then set it back down. “He wasn’t supposed to touch you,” he finally said.
I knew it was impossible, but it sounded almost as if he was apologizing. Angered by his audacity—that he thought I would buy one word he refused to say—I couldn’t bite my tongue. “Why does it matter?”
My tone was ice; I had to wrap my arms around myself again.
I heard him inhale, but he still didn’t face me. “Of course it matters.” The edge to his voice sounded as appalled as I had felt the moment he’d tied my hands behind my back and made me even more helpless than I already was.
Anger flared in me even brighter. “Why should it?” I asked. “I’m only here for what men like that want to do with me. He’s just more honest about his intentions than some.” I wanted to sew my mouth shut. No one ever spoke to their Owner in such a way. I knew better, yet I couldn’t stop the truth from spewing out of my mouth. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the impact of his open palm across my cheek, still damp from the condensation on his glass, but it didn’t come.
He casually took another drink of amber liquid, leaving just enough remaining in case he decided he wanted more. “Dry off.”
When she was sold to Master Elliot Lyon of House Chimera, Fawn could have never imagined he was the same person as Elliot, the man beneath a well placed mask. A victim. Just like her. She would have never thought he was grooming her for the Wolf she’d already escaped once. That he planned to deliver her to the beast’s jaws in exchange for his wife. Master Jäger will stop at nothing to have her—even if that means using others as collateral. With more than just their lives on the line, Fawn must become someone else, and Master Lyon distances himself further from Elliot as her transfer looms.
The roots of the Order run deep within them, but Fawn is beginning to realize another bond has formed between her and her Owner, a man she vowed to destroy along with the rest of their tangled branches.
In a world where trust is just a tool and love isn’t meant for people like them, Fawn is determined to beat the powerful at their own elaborate games of make-believe. Even the man who Owns her.
He sat on the bed, cautious of moving too much. He wouldn’t look at me, instead focused on the floor. “I never wanted this.” I almost didn’t hear him, but his strained whisper was even more real in the stillness of the room.
I closed my eyes and gave him a sad, if not sardonic smile. “Me either.”
Though I only peeked the tiniest amount, I could see the smirk I’d come to know.
Silence enveloped us, and this time it seemed impossible to lift. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I said, “Are you staying?”
Fleetingly, I realized I hadn’t addressed him properly and even though I knew he didn’t expect it right now, some small part of me was still afraid that I was mistaken. He did that to me. Made me second guess every move and motive. Before him, I wouldn’t have questioned my instincts, but he’d managed to change them. When I should have run, I remained still. When I was supposed to hate things, I loved them. No one before him had accomplished this. Elliot—Master Lyon—hadn’t trained me. He hadn’t reprogrammed my mind. He hadn’t even necessarily forced me into anything. Yet he’d conquered me, and no matter how much I wanted to argue with myself, the idea didn’t bother me quite as much as it should have.
“You’re…” I found my fingers trailing his blacked out arm and discovered the tattoos’ purpose: There were tiny raised marks there as well and the ink made it so I could only see them if the light hit his skin at just the right angle. “You’re not a bad person.” I choked on the words, not completely sure whether I meant them, only that I had to believe them.
He was silent again, setting the washcloth aside and turning off the jets. Without ceremony, he stood, wrapping a towel around his waist before I could glimpse more than the faint outline of his upper thighs. Then he held out a hand to me and helped me into a towel as well. “Let’s get you to bed.”
At the Compound, they made us watch every romantic notion of love in cartoons and movies. It was instilled in us that once our princes saved us from the Mainworld, our lives would become the Disney version. Everything would be brighter with songs and pretty dresses. These were what equated to love in the Order. What Ownership meant. If this was the definition, Master Lyon most certainly did not love me.
But I had no interest in any of the Compound’s ideals; love could mean something different now, and being with Master Lyon had given me only a small glimpse of it. I wasn’t sure if I should be thankful it was such a short time or grieve its loss.
Master Lyon removed the moisture from my cheek with a knuckle. “How will you ever survive if you forget the rules when there are more players brought in?”
His words were gentle, sad. They made me want to hide.
“Please,” I whispered. “I promise to behave if you just tell me, sir.”
He stroked my hair with his free hand. “I know you’re afraid,” he said. “But as long as you obey me, you’ll be safe. That is all you need to do.”
I shook my head, unwilling to accept his non-answer. “Sir, please,” I barely said. “I-I—”
“Shh,” he soothed, fingers playing with the diamonds of my dress and then circling the scars he could reach. He leaned in close so he could speak directly into my ear. “You’ve come so far,” he said, outlining the higher, larger scars as if to emphasize his point. “If you want them to suffer, tonight is the first step towards that goal.” He tucked hair behind my ear and cupped my cheek. “Even if you cannot see it now, know that we want the same thing.”
It was hard not to laugh at the absurdity; what we wanted couldn’t be more different. I wanted to be free and he wanted me to be caged.
“And what is that, sir?”
“To destroy them,” he almost growled, but the anger wasn’t directed at me.
This time when he moved away and we stared at each other, his eyes burned with sincerity while the rest of his face remained a hard mask. I wanted to deny his convictions, believe he was lying, but it was impossible. This wasn’t an act an Owner was putting on to convince a girl that her sacrifice for him wasn’t selfish. This was Elliot, trying his best to keep everyone he loved safe—whether we were worthy or capable of love or not. I only hoped, whatever his definition of the word, he loved me enough to keep his promises.
Master Lyon looked more than comfortable with her in his arms, fingers digging into her thighs through her dress. When I looked at his face, he still held the same grin. I wanted to wrap my hands around his neck. “Did you like watching, Doe?”
Next to him, his cigarette sat in a crystal ashtray on the arm of the seat, smoking down to nothing but a trail of dust. He hadn’t touched it once since that woman had returned to him. “No, sir,” I whispered, afraid if I used any more force I would scream.
Master Lyon cocked his head to the side and Mia gave me a mock-frown. “No?” he asked.
I stared back at him. “No, sir. I’m sure.” I could have left off the last part, but the small amount of control it made me believe I had was worth it.
His grin only widened as he leaned into Mia’s shoulder so her could coo in her ear, “I’ve trained her to be very loyal to her Owner.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and she closed her eyes and smiled as his fingers lingered on her chin. “But I’m afraid it makes her quite possessive of me.”
Mia stared down at me. It wasn’t until now that I could see the glint of evil all Members had in their eyes. The higher up they were on the food chain, the less human they were. Sooner or later, they all turned into sharks with dead black eyes. Her legs dangled off his thigh as she kissed his cheek. “I don’t blame her.” She didn’t look away from me even as her lips remained on my Owner’s skin. “I can see why she would be protective of you.” She ran her fingers through his hair.
“I’ve told her many times that she’s to be transferred,” he said, “but I think you and I can teach her that I am not the one who belongs to her.”
Nikki Rae is an independent author who lives in New Jersey. She explores human nature through fiction, concentrating on making the imaginary as real as possible. Her genres of choice are mainly dark, scary, romantic tales, but she’ll try anything once. When she is not writing, reading, or thinking, you can find her spending time with animals, drawing in a quiet corner, or studying people. Closely.