“PETER’S definitely not here, Sir,” murmured David. Steven straightened.
“You’re sure? You’ve looked everywhere?” He heard every word, in spite of the music booming through the speakers. Everyone was talking, laughing, dancing….
David dipped his head once. “And I also overheard Christian talking. I might have misunderstood, but I’m sure he said something about Peter being in a cage tonight.”
Steven went still. “You’re sure he said ‘cage’?”
David nodded, his eyes wide. “He didn’t really mean Peter is in a cage… did he? I mean, he shouldn’t be in the cage if his master isn’t present.” Steven’s heart swelled. David remembered everything he was taught. Not for the first time, Steven thought how proud he was to have David as his submissive.
“Listen to me, boy.” He cupped David’s chin, lifting it so the sub was forced to look at him directly. “Curtis Rogers is not a Dom, all right? He has no right to call himself Peter’s master. And we are going to get Peter away from him so he can learn what it means to be a submissive, if that’s what he wants.”
David’s gaze never wavered. He nodded slowly, swallowing.
“Then I need your help.”
David composed himself quickly. “What do you need me to do, Sir?”
Steven gave him a quick grin and kissed his cheek. “Good boy.” David’s blush was delightful. “I need you to keep a lookout for me. I’m going to find Curtis’s car keys, because hopefully there will also be a set of house keys attached.” His grin widened as David inhaled sharply. “Come on, then. Let’s go to the parking bay.”
Dom and sub made their way through the throng of partygoers toward the back of the club, where the boys who did the valet parking were sprawled on chairs, drinking Cokes. The back door was open, despite the chill winter’s air: the boys were smoking. Steven turned to look at the wall behind him and saw a board with many hooks laden with keys, all neatly labeled.
“Right,” he whispered to David, “you go strike up a conversation. Keep them talking for about five minutes, then meet me outside the club. Okay?” David nodded and headed for the three boys. Steven hurried to the board and searched rapidly through the myriad bunches of keys until at last he spied Curtis’s name. With a triumphant smirk he grabbed the set of keys and cast a darting glance toward his sub. David was chatting animatedly with the boys, who were laughing and joking with him. Good boy. Steven glanced at his watch. Ten thirty. Plenty of time to get to Curtis’s house, grab Peter, take him to Thomas, and then get back here to replace the keys. At least he knew Curtis would be staying put until midnight. The sub auction wasn’t due to happen until just before twelve.
Abruptly, Steven’s heart began to race. Okay, so maybe what he was about to do was slightly illegal. Hell, who was he kidding? It was damned illegal, but he kept telling himself the end justified the means. Peter couldn’t stay with that brute a second longer. He needed rescuing.
THE house was virtually in darkness.
“Shouldn’t we be worried about an alarm, Sir?” David peered out anxiously through the car window.
Steven shook his head. “He’s not likely to have set the alarm if Peter is inside, is he?” Well, Steven fervently hoped the alarm wasn’t set. “Come on, let’s have a look around.”
As silently as possible, the two men got out of the car and walked up to the house. The only light visible came from a lamp softly glowing in the large front window and the wall light next to the front door. Steven peered at the window. No sign of Peter. Then he reasoned: As if Curtis would leave Peter where he could be seen. He motioned to David to follow him, and they took the path that led along the side of the house until they arrived at the huge expanse of a garden. Steven glanced at the windows again. A faint light shone from deeper within the house. He took out his phone and activated its flashlight function to examine the lock on the back door. After glancing down at the keys in his hand, he let out a quiet whoop of triumph.
“We’re going in.”
Stealthily, they crept inside. They found themselves in a large kitchen filled with shiny appliances and black marble work surfaces. “Head for the light,” he whispered and went toward the open kitchen door. The light came from a room off the small hallway.
“Master? Christian? Is that you? Who’s there?”
Steven stiffened at the sound of Peter’s voice, which quavered. He edged his way carefully into the room… and stopped.
In the corner sat a cage about four feet high and three feet wide. Peter raised his head from his curled-up position on the floor of the cage. His wrist and leg restraints were connected by chains to a thick loop of steel suspended from the roof of the cage, allowing him little movement. A bottle of water sat beside him. He wore a thin pair of sweatpants and an equally thin T-shirt. His feet were bare.
Peter’s eyes grew round as he saw the two men approach the cage.
“I-I remember you,” he whispered, his gaze alighting on Steven. He glanced at David, who smiled kindly at him. Instantly, Peter froze. “You have to leave! He could be back any second!”
Steven gave the small room a cursory glance. A set of keys hung from a nail on the wall… ones just about the right size to be the keys for Peter’s restraints. He grabbed them and opened the cage door. It wasn’t locked: no need—Peter wasn’t going anywhere. Clumsily, Steven fumbled with the restraints, his hands shaking.
“You’re coming with us,” he said firmly. Peter shook his head, aghast.
“I can’t! I can’t leave my master!”
“Boy, I don’t have time to wait. We need to get you out of here now.”
Peter trembled violently. “You don’t understand,” he whispered. “I can’t leave him—he won’t let me. He’s my master. He would beat me if I tried to leave.”
“Then we’re going to get out of here before he comes back.” Steven stared at Peter. “Will you come with me?” Stubbornly, Peter shook his head. “Then I will just have to carry you out.” Peter howled in protest as Steven pulled him gently from the cage and then hefted him up over his shoulder. At five feet eleven and with well-defined musculature, thanks to his hours spent in the local gym, Steven had no problem carrying the slight sub. All the fight promptly went out of Peter, and he sagged against Steven, a deadweight.
David led the way out of the house and locked the door behind them.
“Sir, if you want to go in the back with Peter, I can drive, as long as you give me directions.”
Steven gave his sub a fond look. “That’s okay, David. I’ll strap Peter into the front seat, and then I’ll drop you outside the club. Can you get the keys back to the parking board?” David nodded. “We’ll wait outside for you. Then we’ll take Peter here to Master Thomas’s house. Once Peter is safe, you and I can go home. You did really well, David. As a reward, you’re sleeping in my bed tonight… when we eventually get to sleep, that is.”
David beamed with pride, and his sharp intake of breath and happy grin spoke volumes.
Steven chuckled. He’d always planned on fucking the boy tonight—nothing like letting the New Year in with a bang—but he wanted to go to sleep with his submissive in his arms. And judging by the contented expression on David’s face, his sub wanted that too.
First things first, however. While David was returning the keys to their rightful position, Steven would ring Thomas. Better warn the man they were on their way—with a houseguest for him.
THOMAS WILLIAMS was pacing his lounge floor. He couldn’t help it. Ever since Steven’s phone call, he’d been restless. The call had arrived a short time before midnight. He couldn’t believe Steven had actually gone through with it. He glanced continually at the clock above the fireplace. When he knew Steven was finally on his way, via St. Andrew’s club, Thomas had slipped out of Collars & Cuffs after leaving a brief note for Leo. Despite his present anxiety, the thought of his business partner caused Thomas to smile. When he’d last seen Leo, he’d had his arms around Alex, the two men lost in their own world as they kissed lovingly. No way was Thomas about to interrupt.
He rubbed the back of his neck and tried to ignore the churning in his belly. Catching sight of himself in the gold-framed mirror above the fire, he grimaced.
“You’re getting too old for this shit.” He shook his head. What was he thinking? He was fifty-five, nearly fifty-six, far too old to be taking on the responsibility of a new submissive. Training subs was a game for a younger man, he reasoned. Then he caught himself. He wasn’t training Peter, for God’s sake. He was simply giving the boy breathing space, helping him along the road to recovery. That much, he could do. What Peter did after that would be entirely up to him.
Thomas examined his reflection. His hair was totally gray, but, thank God, it was still full and thick. The club lawyer, Peter Willoughby, was bald, and it somehow seemed right for him. Thomas shuddered. The thought of going bald filled him with horror. Because once that happened, it really would feel as though he was getting old. He leaned closer, peering at the mirror.
“You don’t look too bad for your age, Williams.” Thomas shook himself. Such introspection and vanity wasn’t like him, but he put it down to the present situation, which had him rattled. The uncertainty of it all was what put him out of step. He hadn’t a clue what to expect when Steven eventually walked through his front door. Steven had described Peter’s condition, and Thomas thought the first order would be to let the boy sleep. From the sound of it, Peter was in dire need of some care and attention.
Footsteps outside—his visitors had arrived. Thomas hurried to the front door. Steven and his sub had Peter between them, supporting his arms on their shoulders. Thomas gave a quick glance along the quiet, deserted street. Not a soul to be seen. He held the door wide to allow them entry and then directed them into the warm lounge. Steven eased Peter down onto the sofa and then straightened. Thomas inspected the boy. Peter was tall, maybe five nine, but he was painfully thin. His clothing gave no protection against the cold winter’s night, and he shivered constantly. Longish, straggly brown hair framed a pale face. Peter’s eyes were closed. What was all too evident, however, was the bruising. Thomas scowled and let out what could only be described as a low growl. No one deserved to be treated in this way. There was no excuse.
Peter’s eyes opened wide at the sound, and Thomas cursed himself when he saw the fear in those green eyes, which were almost the same shade of green as his own. They were a lovely shape, framed with dark lashes. They’d be even more beautiful without the shadows that surrounded them. Peter stared up at him with his lips pressed tightly together, as if he didn’t trust himself to speak.
“You’re safe here, Peter.” Thomas spoke quietly, making his voice as soothing as possible. “My name is Thomas Williams. I’m going to be taking care of you for a while.” He waited.
Peter shook his head. “I-I can’t stay here. He’ll come looking for me. And when he finds me….” Peter shuddered and closed his eyes. “He says I can’t leave him—ever.” He sagged back even further into the sofa.
For a moment, Thomas considered this statement. Why would Curtis tell the boy he couldn’t leave? Something here required investigation, but this was not the time. He turned to Steven. David stood slightly behind him, watching Peter. Thomas noted that David had said nothing. Steven was obviously training him well.
“Okay, you’ve done enough for one night.” Thomas gave Steven a wry smile. “Thank you for delivering Peter, but now you two need to get out of here. Do you still have some partying to do?”
Steven said, “No, as far as I’m concerned, the party’s over. But we have some celebrating of our own to do—don’t we, David?” He waggled his eyebrows, and David let out a smothered giggle.
Ah, that kind of celebrating. Thomas couldn’t help smiling. “Off you go, then,” he said, ushering them toward the door. Steven stopped for a moment and grabbed him in a fierce hug. Thomas smiled. He was very fond of Steven. The man was an excellent Dom, but an even better friend. “I’ll be in touch,” he said quietly.
Steven nodded. “You can also expect two applications crossing your desk soon. I’m changing clubs. And I might be bringing another Dom with me.”
Thomas nodded. With everything he’d heard in recent months about St. Andrew’s, it didn’t surprise him to hear Steven might want out of there.
“I look forward to receiving them. But just so you know… you will receive the same rigorous grilling everyone gets who wants entry to my club.”
Steven laughed. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He clasped Thomas’s hand firmly. “Thank you, Thomas. Really.” Thomas merely nodded. Steven glanced at David. “Come on, boy, let’s go home and get you in my bed.”
David’s slight gasp of embarrassment and flushed cheeks were a pleasure to encounter. Thomas watched them as they got into the car and drove off. He closed the door and bolted it securely before returning to the lounge to check on Peter. His heart gave a slight stutter when he caught sight of him. Peter was asleep, clearly exhausted from the evening’s activity. Thomas gazed over his inert form. Okay, time to see what other horrors awaited below the clothing. Time to bathe his houseguest.
He slipped his arms under the sleeping boy and lifted him, cradling him easily. Christ, there was nothing to him. He pulled Peter against his wide chest, feeling him stir in his sleep. A low, troubled moan escaped the boy’s parted lips, and Thomas made soothing noises. Peter’s eyes opened, and for a second he regarded Thomas fearfully.
“Hold on, lad.” Thomas kept his voice low. Peter reached up and around Thomas’s neck, pushing his face into the soft fabric of Thomas’s thick shirt. “That’s it. Good lad.” Carefully, he carried Peter into the hallway and up the wide staircase. The boy was so light, he was no great burden to carry. Thomas reached the upper landing, heading straight for the bathroom. Once there, he placed Peter into a wicker chair and stepped back. Peter slumped with his chin lowered to his chest, bereft of all energy, letting his hands hang limply over the arms of the chair.
Thomas had thought to put the boy in the shower, but seeing him in this state changed his mind. He turned on the faucets, filling the large Victorian-style tub rapidly. Steam soon filled the air. A thought occurred to him, and he reached into the cupboard below the washbasin for a bottle containing lavender bath oil. He sometimes took a bath to wind down after a hard night at the club, and the lavender soothed him, often lulling him into sleep in the tub. He poured a capful into the warm water and then brought his attention back to the fatigued boy.
“Okay, lad, let’s get these clothes off of you.” Peter’s eyes flew open, and it was all too easy to read the panic there. The boy shuddered. Thomas held out his hands, palms up. “Easy, lad. I’m simply going to bathe you. You’re in no state to be left alone right now. And to be honest, you are not the first person I’ve bathed—not even close.”
Peter’s face turned ashen and he hugged himself. His gaze darted to the door behind Thomas before returning to stare at Thomas’s outstretched hands. He gripped the arms of the wicker chair so tightly his knuckles went white. He began to shake uncontrollably.
Thomas gazed at Peter without blinking. “Peter. You have to trust me, all right?”
Peter fixed him with a panicked stare for a few moments longer. His chin trembled. Then, to Thomas’s relief, he nodded once. Thomas gave him a half smile.
“Good lad.” He tugged at the hem of Peter’s T-shirt and pulled it up and off, trying not to stare at the dark smudges that marred Peter’s chest. A thin leather collar lay around his neck. Thomas went to unfasten it, and Peter reached up instinctively to prevent him. Thomas waited, saying nothing, and Peter lowered his hands. Thomas removed the collar and dropped it with the T-shirt onto the floor. After unfastening the cord around the boy’s waist, he slipped the sweatpants past Peter’s slim hips, down to his ankles, and removed them completely. Now nude, Peter immediately covered his genitals. Thomas said nothing but held out a hand to the boy. After a moment’s pause, Peter slipped his hand into Thomas’s and grasped it tightly. Thomas helped him to stand, then supported the lad as he climbed carefully into the tub. It was then Thomas caught sight of Peter’s back, and he had to bite his lip in an effort not to cry out.
What was before him was a crisscrossed map of scars, some old, some clearly new. They spread out across his shoulder blades, reaching down as far as the swell of his arse. It was obvious no one had tended to the boy; some of the newer scars seemed infected. Thomas would need to treat these injuries before he let the boy sleep. He could only guess at how Peter had suffered at the hands of his former master.
Peter sat in the tub, staring vacantly. He brought up his knees and wrapped his arms around them, hugging them. Thomas knew a defeated submissive when he saw one. This lad had no fight left in him. He picked up a soft washcloth and the bottle of bodywash. Peter no longer looked at him. Thomas shook his head. If he ever got his hands on Curtis Rogers….
“I’m going to wash you now, Peter.” He spoke quietly, careful to let Peter know what was going to happen so the boy didn’t jump out of his skin. He poured a generous amount of bodywash onto the now-damp washcloth, then gently wiped the lad, moving the soft lather over his body. Peter closed his eyes. His only reaction was to shiver when Thomas reached his back. Thomas winced. “I’ll see to your back once we’re done here.” He gently disengaged one of Peter’s hands from around his knees and handed him the washcloth. “If it makes you feel better, lad, you can wash your cock, balls, and arse.” Peter glanced up at him warily, and Thomas nodded. Drawing in a deep breath, Peter knelt up in the warm water and proceeded to clean himself. Thomas looked away. He wasn’t in the least bit embarrassed, but he figured it would put Peter at ease to know Thomas wasn’t watching him.
“Done, Sir.” The two words took Thomas by surprise. He turned back to the boy. Peter held out the damp cloth with his eyes lowered, and Thomas took it and placed it behind him in the washbasin.
“Okay, lie back and get your hair wet so I can shampoo it.” Peter obeyed in silence, lowering himself carefully into the water, wincing as his back came into contact with the surface. “Easy, lad. This won’t take long.” Peter raised himself up on his elbows, and Thomas opened the shampoo, poured himself a handful, and then gently lathered it into Peter’s hair. Peter closed his eyes again, and Thomas tried to make the movement as soothing as possible. He slipped an arm under Peter’s shoulders and lowered him back down, then swirled the water over his hair to remove all traces of shampoo.
“Up you get, lad.” He helped Peter to stand and reached for a thick bath towel from the radiator. After wrapping it around the lad, he pulled the tub’s drain plug and then held out both hands to help Peter step gingerly from the tub. “Can you sit on the edge of the tub, Peter? I want to look at your back.”
In silence, the boy wrapped the towel around his hips and then perched on the edge, half turning so Thomas could clearly see the extent of the damage. From the bathroom cabinet, Thomas removed a tube of antiseptic cream and some cotton wool. Carefully, so carefully, he patted Peter’s back dry with another warm towel and then wiped the cream into each separate wound, taking his time. Peter didn’t make a sound, sitting there with his back straight, staring off into space. Now and again he stiffened, and Thomas eased off and waited until the boy relaxed once more. He handed the boy a smaller towel and indicated his hair. Peter rubbed at his head until the hair was virtually bone dry while Thomas worked at his task. Once finished, Thomas put the cream to one side, stood, and grabbed a dark-blue toweling robe from the back of the bathroom door. He held it open, and Peter slipped his arms into the sleeves, then wrapped it around himself and tied it tightly. He grabbed his clothes from the floor.
“Follow me, lad.” Thomas led him into the spare bedroom, next door to his own. He’d already made up the bed after Steven had first called. Thomas pulled back the cover and duvet. “In you get.” Peter placed his clothing on the chair and climbed into the bed, and Thomas pulled the duvet to cover him. Peter curled up on his side immediately, facing away. Thomas regarded him for a moment. He couldn’t begin to imagine what thoughts were passing through Peter’s head right now. He only knew there was a long way to go before Peter’s fears gave way to trust. He listened as Peter’s breathing changed and the boy slipped quickly into a deep sleep.
Thomas left the bedside lamp lit and walked as silently as possible from the room, pulling the door to but not closing it completely. He padded quietly downstairs and went into the lounge and closed the door behind him. He glanced at the clock: almost one in the morning. Leo would still be at the club. After poking the logs on the fire, he settled into his large, squashy armchair and reached for his phone. His call went to voice mail.
“Leo, I know it’s late, and the party’s probably still going strong there, but would you and Alex come round here in the morning? There’s something I need to tell you. It’s nothing to worry about, but it is important. Make it after nine, okay? I’m tired out and heading off to bed. I’ll have breakfast ready for you both. How’s that? Thanks, Leo. See you in the morning.”
He hung up the phone and then cast a longing glance at the brandy decanter. Right now a small glass of brandy sounded like a great idea, but not with Peter upstairs. Thomas wanted to keep his wits about him tonight. He didn’t have a clue how Peter would pass the night, but he wanted to be alert for any eventuality. He had a feeling he might be having quite a few alcohol-free days in the not-too-distant future.