Marie stared numbly out the plane’s window. The wet tarmac reflected her gloomy mood. Leaving Ernehaven had left her feeling adrift, detached, but losing Dana was worse. She had an actual pain in her heart.
Dana ... she could still taste her salty skin, still feel her smooth skin and exciting curves, still remember the way she shuddered during climax, and how she curled her body against hers after... STOP! Thinking about her only makes it hurt more.
She wasn’t used to being alone. The Lairds had paired them from the beginning. They did everything together--ate, slept, bathed; they even ran together in harness; they were even punished for the other’s offenses. Of course, they had become lovers. Dana had been her lifeline, her connection to reality.
A tear ran down her face and she quickly wiped it away. The Lairds punished them for tears, she remembered. They demanded obedience and acceptance; tears said they had regrets. She had never fully understood that axiom; sometimes tears just said it hurt. Like now, it hurt.
She made the right decision with Ernehaven and with ... Dominus. She had no hesitation, no doubt about this; she had found her place in the world. They demanded a lot and only promised her ... a master, but that was enough. Being dominated, being owned was her role in life. She had denied that truth for too long; she had fought the idea too hard and nearly been destroyed by it.
Why was it so important for her to have a master, she wondered idly? Was she really so deeply submissive that she needed someone dominating her to feel good about herself? Yes. Yes, a thousand times, yes. Her life had been a mess before Ernehaven; she would never return to that. Even if she was only substituting one insanity for another, she would never again deny who she was.
She took a deep breath and tried to shake off the sadness, to disperse the ennui that hung over her head like a dark cloud. Why was she feeling so badly? Life was a book full of chapters--they taught her that; they taught her to obey, yet here she was resenting their decisions. She belonged to something now--something powerful and mysterious, something that could give her what she desperately needed to survive. Don’t fuck it up just because you’re feeling sad.
She focused on the reflection of her face in the Plexiglas.
It was incredible that she missed Ernehaven, she thought. The bondage and discipline the Lairds used to train them had been horrible. She and Dana had cried in each other’s arms all the time from the pain. Even now, it hurt to remember ... perhaps that was the point--they wanted her to remember the pain. Whatever, they had turned her from a mentally unstable waif into a beautiful and desirable slave. At least that’s the way they saw it. Was that what she wanted ... was that what she needed?
This was ridiculous! Why was she feeling so unsure of things now? There was never any ambiguity at Ernehaven, no self-doubt, no role confusion, no hidden urges or unmet needs. The Lairds were the masters and the novitiates were their slaves. Disobedience or disrespect were always answered with suffering; compliance was always eventually rewarded with ecstasy--with orgasms of such indescribable intensity they literally caused addiction.
She touched her nipple through her thin shirt remembering how they had hardened, how they had pulsated with blood whenever...
She looked back over her shoulder. People were filing into their seats, but no one had noticed her touching. This was the real world, the normal world. People didn’t touch themselves in public; they didn’t get off on their erotic thoughts.
She turned back to the window.
Now what, she wondered? Now that Ernehaven was over, what plan did they have for her? They said she was one of them; that they would protect her, guide her. Exactly how was that going to happen? Her driver had handed her a plane ticket and an overnight bag when he dropped her at Heathrow. That was it--no orders, no instructions, nothing--just a plane ticket and a change of clothes. What was she supposed to think, what was she supposed to do?
Heathrow was certainly a dour place in the rain, a melancholy place. For all its frantic activity, it seemed inhuman, purposeless, as if everyone was going through the motions of life without any passion for it. She watched a baggage handler carelessly toss bags onto the conveyor. For some reason his bulging muscles reminded her of Dana.
Dana... She just couldn’t get her out of her mind.
The last time she had seen Dana she was part of a coffle, chained and naked, incredibly luscious, awaiting her turn on the block. The Lairds had bound her arms tightly behind her back and put a detestable hood over her head. The hood prevented them from saying goodbye, from even a last glance, a last look at her amazingly sensuous face.
She had not been thinking about separation at that moment. The only thing she could think about was the pain of the auctioneer’s strap on her bare ass. She shuddered, remembering the agony of his leather on her bare skin, the helplessness--they had lifted her bound arms behind in a strappado and anchored her legs to floor cleats. There was no escape no way to avoid the strap’s terrible burning heat. She had screamed into the room’s darkness, pleaded with someone in the invisible audience to help her, knowing that would never happen at Ernehaven. The entire purpose of Ernehaven was to push the limits of female submission, why would someone help her.
She trembled with the memory of that night. She knew what she looked like on the block. There was no way any man in that audience was going to help her. She had smelled their lust; she had felt the air vibrating with their need; she had imagined their rapacious stares. At that moment, she was raw meat hung up in front of a pack of starving wolves.
Strangely, she didn’t hate them. They were men acting like men, acting the way nature had made them. So was she for that matter. She had felt her insides churning with raw desire. There was no outrage, no humiliation--Ernehaven had wrung those feelings out of her long before the auction. She only felt raw fear, piercing pain, and unending lust. She was one of them at that moment; she was part of nature’s plan and it felt ... right.
She stared at the rippling arm muscles of the careless baggage handler.
It was weird, but the more she suffered at Ernehaven, the more the Lairds humiliated her, the more she felt like she had found her place in the world. Part of this was the attention of course. No one in her family, no one in her isolated Swiss village had ever paid much attention to her. She was a widower’s oldest child; people simply expected her to be loyal, dutiful.
People were shocked when she had her “breakdown,” shocked and outraged. It was hard to think about that time, how she had foolishly confessed her feelings to her fiancé, how he had betrayed her to her father, how together they had exiled her. Their actions had pushed her over the edge, Marie, her sister, had tried to intercede, but her father’s anger was unquenchable. She was not yet 21 and therefore a minor under Swiss law. Her father had the right to have her committed.
She took another deep breath and sighed heavily. It wasn’t easy to remember these things.
The Lairds at Ernehaven had saved her, set her on a path that had eventually calmed her mind. Perhaps she should be grateful to her father and her fiancé, she thought bitterly; without their treachery towards her, she would surely have gone insane.
A man slipped into the seat at her side and she turned in surprise. He was young, perhaps mid 30s, with a boyish face and a slim, athletic body. He smiled pleasantly; she smiled back uneasily then returned to staring out the window. The Lairds would not want their ward engaging with a stranger.
The word felt strange in her mind. She had been a novitiate during her time at Ernehaven; now she was a ward ... of Dominus. What did this mean exactly? She had looked up the word on the driver’s smart phone. It referred to someone who was under the protection of or in the custody of another. Who was that, she wondered? Who was her protector now, her custodian?
The flight attendant was holding a tray of glasses.
“We have Champaign, mimosas, or straight orange juice if you prefer.”
Marie stared at her, confused. The woman pursed her lips as if to say, “Decide bitch, I’m busy.” She had never tasted alcohol; only the men in the village drank alcohol. She had no idea what a mimosa was. Would she look childish taking an orange juice?
“Try the mimosa,” the stranger beside her suggested. “They are delicious.”
She looked at him, her waif-like eyes wide open, and took the proffered glass. He took one as well then raised his glass in a silent toast and drank; she followed suit. The liquid tickled her throat. He was right it was delicious.
“Do you live in New York?” he asked, the ice broken.
It was obvious he was just making light, polite conversation.
Marie turned away again, confused. Was he hitting on her? Did the masters want her talking to strangers? Was she supposed to ignore him? No one had given her a list of do’s and don’ts when she left. The only guidance she had were the rules she had lived by for the last year, rules seared into her mind by the Lairds’ punishment. She suddenly remembered the pain--ignoring a man’s direct question always resulted in pain.
“I, ah, I don’t know.”
She instantly realized the stupidity of her answer and quickly added a feasible explanation.
“Someone is meeting me in New York,” she blurted. “They, ah, we will figure out where we’re living when I arrive. It’s all a bit up in the air.”
She bit her lower lip then smiled, embarrassed at her idiotic answer. She had started with the truth--she didn’t know if she was to live in New York--but ended with a feeble lie. She wasn’t used to lying--the Lairds always demanded the truth, the full truth. Still, it would have been worse to ignore him.
He smiled back. She suddenly felt sure he would have smiled at whatever she said. Was he really hitting on her, she wondered? Men never flirted with the girls at Ernehaven; they just took what they wanted. It was interesting and a little frightening to have someone court her.
“Are you a model, an actress? You have the look of one.”
She shook her head shyly unused to complements. She knew she was pretty, perhaps even beautiful, but no one had ever told her that during her childhood. They believed such complements encouraged vanity. Her village was composed of ultra-conservative Lutherans who studiously ignored physical beauty. Even at Ernehaven, her looks were irrelevant. All the girls at Ernehaven were beautiful; she was just another one of them, nothing special.
She took a long drink from the mimosa glass clearly intent on avoiding the question. He seemed to get the hint.
“I’m Angus,” he said, holding out his hand.
His name surprised her. It reminded her of her interrogator at Ernehaven.
“My name is three ... no, ah, it’s ah, Marie, Marie-Pierre Saint-Yves.”
Her face turned bright red. How incredibly stupid she was! She could not use her Dominus number--347--here. This was the real world where people had actual names not numbers. Her mistake was understandable enough, almost excusable, but why did she then give this stranger her real name, her real full name? Wasn’t she supposed to remain anonymous especially with a stranger?
The word screamed out in her mind out of total frustration. No one had told her to use an alias and her documents had her real name. Weren’t people looking for her ... weren’t the Swiss authorities looking for her? She didn’t know. What was her status--escaped mental patient? Wasn’t she just going to end up back in the institution if they found her? How good was Dominus’ protection if they caught her and sent her back? This was absurd. Why had they left her so exposed?
“‘Marie’ did you say?” he asked, obviously aware that something was wrong. Someone who didn’t know her own name was clearly doing something wrong, clearly suspect...of something.
“Yes, it’s, ah, Marie. My name is Marie,” she added emphatically, highlighting her devious behavior.
She desperately wanted to end this conversation, to turn away and ignore this stranger for the next seven hours. Wouldn’t that call even more attention on her? Why hadn’t someone given her instructions; why hadn’t they briefed her on what they wanted her to say, how they wanted her to act? This was their fault. The plane moved ponderously away from the moveable gangway and began to taxi.
“Please turn your attention to the monitors for the pre-flight passenger briefing...”
Saved, she pointed at the monitor and turned her attention to the front as ordered. Her relief at the distraction was also obvious.
She pretended to sleep during the plane’s ascent. With her bare feet pulled up and tucked under her long legs, it looked plausible that she was asleep. The Lufthansa flight attendant blew up the ruse by insistently shaking her shoulder to ask if she wanted lunch. She should have known they wouldn’t leave her alone; it was not very German to miss lunch.
“Another mimosa before lunch, Miss?” the attendant asked with an infuriatingly nasal tone.
Marie nodded. She didn’t want any more conversation with this bitch than necessary.
“Lufthansa insists their first-class passengers taste their wonderful food,” the man, Angus, said quietly. “They think it’s good for public relations, word-of-mouth advertising...”
Marie smiled at him in the icy-cold way only a beautiful girl can manage. She felt harried, on the defensive; she needed everyone to leave her alone until her Dominus handler made contact. Who knew how many mistakes she would make between now and then by talking? It was sloppy, unforgiveable for Dominus to leave her alone like this. Sloppy, unforgiveable, and ... fucking dangerous--what if the authorities caught her; what if they forced her to tell them about the institution, about Ernehaven, about the auction, and all the terrible things that had gone on in Scotland? What if they wanted...
“Is it your boyfriend...?” Angus asked, forking the appetizer into his mouth.
Marie turned to him confused.
“Is it your boyfriend who is meeting you in New York? Is he the one who’s going to help you figure out where you are going to live?”
She stared at him trying desperately to remember what she had already told him. He must think she was an illegal immigrant or a highjacker. Once again, she cursed the men who had put her in this impossible situation. What would Dana do? She always seemed to have her shit together, to know exactly how to respond to every question.
“Yes, my boyfriend; we need to decide where we are going to live.” She knew she needed to explain further to allay his suspicions. “He’s ... he is a software engineer. He works for a big company ... at their headquarters in Los Angeles. They are negotiating where he will be based. That’s why I don’t know where I live.”
She suddenly felt proud of herself. It was a good story she’d invented ... and on the fly. The story should end his flirtatious curiosity. Most men don’t pursue woman with live-in boyfriends ... two birds with one stone.
“A software engineer... What company?”
She stared at him--a deer caught in a car’s headlights--then shook her head stupidly.
“What company does he work for in California?” he persisted.
“Ah, A ... Apple...”
He smiled again. She was beginning to despise his infuriating smile.
“Apple Computer...? I thought Apple’s headquarters were in Silicon Valley, in Cupertino. That’s near San Francisco not Los Angeles.”
She turned red again, cursing her inadequate preparation. How was she supposed to survive in New York without a cover story? How was she going to...?
He took a sip of his wine and turned to face her.
“There seems to be a lot about your life that you don’t know, Marie,” he said quietly. “Perhaps you would like to start over with the truth? I have always found the truth to be the easiest course of action.”
She froze. His tone of voice had changed. Was he a police officer? She knew air marshals flew on most international flights to the U.S. Was he one of them. It would make sense for an air marshal to fly first-class, to guard the door to the plane’s flight deck.
He continued to stare sternly at her.
“Perhaps you should have asked my full name. It’s Angus Evan MacCarthy.”
Her beautiful eyes widened and she stared intently at his face. She had not really seen Angus Evan MacCarthy’s face in the dark dungeon cell at Ernehaven, but she had heard his voice. This man’s voice wasn’t his. Not only that, her Angus was much older, much more...
“I see you are confused...again.”
He leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“‘Angus Evan MacCarthy’ is a code name, Marie. It’s the way you will recognize one of us. Did you really think we would abandon you, 347? You must have more faith in your masters, much more faith.”
She glanced quickly at his hand. There was no D-ring. The interrogator, Angus, had told her to obey any man who wore an iron ring that fit inside hers. He said...
“Only the masters wear the D-ring,” he said, guessing her question. “There are thousands of us who are part of Dominus, but only the masters wear the ring. Rules ... you know about rules, right?”
“Rules...?” she whispered hesitantly.
“Of course, do you think an organization as old and as powerful as the Dominus Society would operate on an ad hoc basis. We have rules and procedures for everything especially when it involves one of our precious wards. Didn’t you see that during your time at Ernehaven?”
She didn’t know what to say. The Lairds had filled her time at Ernehaven with long periods of terror interspersed with moments of sublime pleasure. There had not been much time to think about the “why” of things. How could she possibly understand the Lairds’ purpose? Dana told her to concentrate on whatever it was they wanted her to concentrate on, to avoid the blocks at all cost.
The blocks ... a hideous punishment device used to keep novitiates’ minds from wandering.
“You will need to be smarter in New York, Marie,” he said. “We have big plans for you there, but you will need to keep your wits about you. Perhaps you need more time at Ernehaven...?”
He smiled to show he was joking. Her relief was obvious. As much as she missed the security of Ernehaven, it was time for her to rejoin the world. She relaxed, more comfortable now that someone, a man was in charge.
“Every ward has an advisor; I am yours. My name is Robert Ainsley. You can call me Robert in public and I will call you Marie. Understand?”
“Yes, ah, Robert...”
The tension was flowing out of her body. For the first time since boarding the plane, she began to feel at ease. Dominus had not deserted her. They would never desert her.
“What plans, Robert?” she asked.
His eyes registered surprise for a moment. The Lairds did not permit novitiates to ask questions ... without consequences.
“A question...?” he asked in a stern voice.
She lowered her eyes. She would never have had the nerve to ask a question at Ernehaven. Suddenly, he smiled, pleased that she was already transitioning to normalcy.
“We want you to become a fashion model, 347. You have exactly the right look for it--sexy, sultry, but also innocent. Our experts have seen your photos and they are excited by the possibilities.”
A fashion model ... she knew nothing about fashion, nothing. How was she going to...?
He reached into his pocket and his hand emerged with something shiny.
“Breaking rules still have consequences, however, even in this world, especially in this world. You understand that I need to punish you.”
She looked up at him, her eyes wide in surprise. Ernehaven and its rules seemed a million miles away. Robert smiled patiently and she trembled in anticipation, feeling the familiar contradiction of terror and excitement.
There was no escape for her from their domination. Did she want to escape? Ernehaven had revealed her submissive nature then proved it to her a hundred times. She hated the helplessness of bondage, pain of punishment, but she also needed these things to survive.
“Yes, Robert. I need to be punished.”
A familiar knot had formed in her stomach from the fear. Punishment hurt terribly and like any normal person, she was afraid of it. Unlike some, however, she knew it was also a gateway to something amazing. Her submissiveness defined her as a person. It was a part of her now. There was no way she could...
He opened his hand. Inside were two piranha clips. She suddenly trembled with the memory of their bite. They would send streaks of pain into her brain for an hour before her nipples became too numb to transmit the agony. The Lairds at Ernehaven had used piranha to teach indelible lessons.
“Please,” she whimpered. “Not here...”
She imagined he was going to clamp her nipples under her shirt. She wasn’t sure she could hide that much pain from those in the aisles.
“Of course not here, 347; do you think I’m stupid? You need to go into the lavatory, strip off your clothes, and kneel on the floor. Once you are in this position, you will put these on your nipples, cross your hands behind your back, and wait. I will come to you in ten minutes and you will unlock the door. If you show proper contrition, I will let you return to your seat. If not...”
He left the threat open. She knew this wasn’t about the minor question she had asked. She knew he needed to implant his authority in her mind. This was how they did it, with pain.
“The Lairds told me that your nipples can transmit piranha pain for nearly an hour. Don’t make me find that out for myself.”
He raised his hand and she gingerly took the clamps, holding them as if they were living things. She turned to him once more twisting her sensuous face into a last, piteous plea for mercy. Most men would have relented, but Robert just continued to smile. She stood without a word and stepped into the aisle. She was still barefooted; girls were always barefooted at Ernehaven during punishment. It was a symbol of their submission, their helplessness. Without another word, she walked away slipping unnoticed into one of the luxurious first-class lavatories.