Fair Trade 2.3 Twelve Hours: Partytime

While they were cleaning up, Jewel paused, startled by a low chime, loud enough to be audible but not so loud it was intrusive. It seemed to come from everywhere at once.

“That means someone just stepped through to the outer lounge,” Flair said. “It's all right, we don't have to rush. The doors are open and they know where the salon is and they're early. But we can go see if they want a drink. Probably it's Nik anyway.”

When they reached the salon, they found only a single person present.

Jewel blinked, shocked halfway out of the state of acceptance she'd managed to fall into.

Definitely a person, but equally definitely not a human.

From about the waist up, that was a fairly tall, very handsome man who looked like a Greek statue of the idealized young male body come to life. The small curved horns peeking out of the dense curly black hair somehow failed to detract from that.

At around waist level, that olive skin blended into thick brown woolly fur, very dark on the outer surfaces and around the lowest part, but much paler on his inner thighs and around his bare erect penis. She pulled her gaze away, blushing, trying to focus on the fact that his legs were animal-shaped, with shortened thighs and a hock, all ending in split hooves of shiny black. She couldn't keep her gaze from going back to his penis, though. She had no idea what a... was he part goat, maybe? No idea what a goat's anatomy looked like, and no interest in it, although probably it stayed inside when not in use like most animals. This goat-man's, though, was oddly fascinating. It wasn't extraordinarily large, maybe around the upper edge of human normal in length and the girth of the shaft, but the shape was different. Most obviously, the head flared more and the very tip was more pointed. And it was quite an appealing pink against that creamy background...

“Nikandros!” Flair actually squealed, as she bounded forward. He wrapped both arms around her, nuzzling at the side of her neck, and Jewel realized in embarrassment that he was rubbing his groin against hers—and that Flair parted her legs to make that easier, while hugging him back.

“Hi, cutie. Being good?”

Flair giggled and rocked her hips forward. “I'm always good.”

“Ain't that the truth.” He slid a hand around the back of her head to hold her for a long fierce kiss, and Jewel saw no sign of Flair resisting; if anything, she pressed closer, squirming, and made a happy sound when his other hand moved down to her bottom to keep her against him. Jewel laced her hands together behind her, trying to keep her breathing at a reasonable speed while her thoughts and feelings started tumbling chaotically all over again, completely overriding the precarious calm. No one could be built like that, but that was definitely not a costume. What was this party going to involve, especially if the first of the guests was a very obviously randy goat-man who felt free to manhandle his hostess' pet? And oh dear god, why did she keep finding her gaze going back to that pink head that she could see between Flair's thighs, and finding her mind speculating about just what it would feel like inside, shaped like that? Why did she want so badly for him to notice her, even greet her the same was as Flair?

Nikandros released Flair, who absently tugged her skirt straight while she stepped back.

“Introduce me to your charming new friend.” He fixed on Jewel with eyes that were weirdly yellow, head tilted a little to one side thoughtfully. Jewel had the unsettling feeling, not that he was undressing her mentally, but that he was evaluating possibilities regardless of state of dress.

“This is Jewel. Jewel, this is Nikandros.”

Nikandros offered a hand; Jewel hesitated, but Flair gave her a nudge. Nervously, Jewel took a few steps forward and laid her hand over his.

Strong fingers closed around hers, but not hard enough to hurt, only enough to draw her into reach. She shivered, closing her eyes, as he trailed the backs of the fingers of his other hand from her cheek slowly down her throat, past the collar to her bare chest, flirting lightly over her breast, and down the front of her abdomen. Suddenly, the corset seemed entirely too tight and it was hard to catch her breath. He skipped down to her outer thigh, and moved inward as he went higher under her skirt. She couldn't seem to stop herself from moving her legs apart, every muscle quivering with hope that he would just keep touching her, that he'd find her acceptable and would let her drop to her knees and take his penis into her mouth, that her reward for worshipping it would be for him to bend her over and shove it inside her and fuck her relentlessly...

She felt his fingers on her sex, only a single layer of thin satin keeping it from being skin on skin. He traced out the outlines of her labia, lingering on what must be a very wet spot.

When he withdrew his hand, she opened her eyes, intensely disappointed and hoping he had something else in mind.

He raised his fingers to his face, took a very long deep breath, and grinned. “Oh, it's going to be hard remembering that Min said no sex with you.” He licked his fingers thoughtfully, and nodded. “Very hard. Because I know what I want to do, and I know that you want me to. But your mistress gave her word, and I have to abide by that.” He ran his fingertips, damp with her fluids and his saliva, from her collar down over her chest, exploring the upper surface of her breasts, and Jewel whimpered. There was a reason she wasn't supposed to want anyone to touch her like this... wasn't there? He leaned closer, and she caught his scent, a muskiness that was nothing like human male sweat. It smelled wonderful, and she inhaled as deeply as she could.

“You look sexy enough to eat, Jewel,” he told her. “But at the very least, I get to look at you and appreciate the view. And believe me, I will be. Those heels make your legs look so long, and those curves are delicious, I just want to have my hands all over every inch of you, and these are right here asking to be enjoyed,” he ducked his head and ran his tongue upward along her cleavage, and she whimpered again. “And those nice red lips would look so good wrapped around my cock with those lovely eyes closed while you're concentrating...”

“Nik.” That was Mistress' voice, from the doorway behind Jewel. “Stop torturing Jewel. It isn't nice.” Her tone was indulgent, not upset, but quite firm. Nothing in Jewel's head was telling her she'd done anything wrong.

“Aw, but it's so very much fun.” He sounded rather amused. “They're usually so nervous the first time, and if her hormones are doing the thinking for her, it'll keep her distracted. She's about halfway there all on her own, just needs a little nudge. You know I wouldn't break your pledge. No part of me goes inside any part of her for any reason.”

“There is some truth to that,” Mistress conceded. “But ease up, or you'll have her unable to walk. Red wine?”

Nikandros chuckled and let go of Jewel. “Yes, please.”

“Get me my favourite white, please. Jewel, go with Flair. Try to make note of who uses what so you can go on your own later.”

“Yes, Mistress,” Jewel said, struggling to pull her thoughts back onto her duties. She could feel a wet trickle down the inside of one thigh, her clit was throbbing, and her vaginal muscles were clenching and releasing involuntarily; she was sure her nipples were hard, from how acutely they felt every slight motion of the smooth satin that contained them. Her breathing was fast and shallow, more like panting, her heart was thumping at a positively hyperactive rate, and much of her skin felt damp, presumably with sweat. When Flair took her hand and urged her into motion, she went along with it, unresisting.

Mistress was in the doorway, framed by it. Still dizzy and dazed, Jewel registered without reaction the fact that this was no more a human woman than Nikandros was a human man. Her hair was pure gold now, and fell in loose thick waves down to waist-level. A queen's ransom in gold and diamonds gleamed in ears and hair, around throat and wrists, and her lips were a dark metallic green. Her pale arms were bare right up to her shoulders. The black top she had on looked like rubber or latex and it fit like a shiny extra skin, high around her neck but with a broad deep inverted triangle showing her cleavage. But that wasn't a skirt below that... from the waist down were scales, of a green so dark it approached black, shimmering with countless shades of jade and emerald, apple and oak, as the light played along them, so bright and gleaming they gave an impression of having been oiled. And the scales didn't cover legs, they covered an immensely long powerful snake tail, coiled neatly on the floor to support her upper body.

“Come on,” Flair prompted, drawing her past Mistress, whose tail moved aside with a faint whisper of scales on scales, coils shifting to leave room for them to pass.

In the kitchen, Jewel flattened both palms on the counter, head bowed. It probably should not be possible to be this aroused, but then, there was fae magic involved... and she had to confess, at least to herself, that her own experience had been limited to conventional monogamous heterosexual relationships.

“What hit me?”

“Nikandros is a satyr,” Flair said matter-of-factly, picking up two wine glasses and setting them on the counter near Jewel. “Satyrs are usually pretty good-natured and friendly and they like humans. They like humans best of all when the human in question is offering a hole of one sort or another—satyrs aren't that fussy about details like which hole or the sex of the body it's part of. And humans tend to have a very hard time turning them down, no matter what they'd otherwise do. There's more to them than sex, but that's a big part of their essential nature.” She giggled. “And they are very good at it, and it feels very good. Nikandros' villa generally has up to about four or five humans, he keeps them around for a while to play with and keep them safe and let them learn, then lets them go, except one who's with him permanently. If Mistress has to be away more than a couple of days and can't take me with her, she sends me to stay with him so I'm not all by myself.”

“Is that going to happen every time I get near him?”

“Well, there are things that make it less strong, but mostly that's familiarity and experience, and you won't get that tonight. Even then, it only helps when he isn't trying. For now, as long as he isn't deliberately doing anything, you can expect to be horny when you're near him but not as bad as just now. But he would never ever violate a promise Mistress made or let anyone else do it. The reason is complicated, but that's absolute. No matter what, he won't let anything break her rules, not even if you lose control.”

“Oh boy. Just... wow. And Mistress?”

“Right, you wouldn't have had a chance to see her real form before. She's a melusine. A really powerful fae from around what's now France. You could sort of think of them as fae aristocrats, I suppose, but the parallel isn't perfect. When she's being human, her legs aren't very strong, that's real, that's why she needs the chair. It's actually pretty common for melusines and for mermaids.”

She wanted out of these clothes, out of this place that couldn't exist, away from these insane people. She wanted her safe and normal reality back, she wanted to be Jillian not Jewel. She wanted to know nothing more about Min than that she was a good friend that she got together with to chat. Her clothes felt like the inner layer of a cage, wrapped tightly around her, trapping and hobbling her. She wanted these boots off, and the corset...

But Nikandros wanted her to keep wearing them. He'd admired how she looked. How could she even think of changing any detail that he liked? He said it was sexy and he'd be enjoying watching her. Knowing that he'd found her sexy was keeping her dripping wet and flushed with what she could only call lust. If he said she was sexy, then clearly she was, and she should feel it and act like it. Above all else, she shouldn't do anything that would make her less sexy.

“Damn it! Are they all going to get inside my head and screw with my thoughts?” She seriously doubted that she'd be able to force herself to take off or change anything she wore, even if she was offered the opportunity.

Another thing to hope desperately would end after the twelve hours.

Sheer frustration and fear and that feeling of being out of her depth made her want to curl up and cry. She settled for burying her face in her arms, hiding the impossible world from her even if she couldn't hide herself from it. Somewhat hysterically, she remembered that she wasn't even at any risk of damaging her makeup because it wouldn't come off.

Flair paused in pouring white wine from a bottle into one glass. “What? Oh. Try not to worry about it.”

“I am worried about it! My thoughts should be my own, at least!”

“There really is no 'should' with fae,” Flair said patiently. “Somehow you aren't quite getting that. They do whatever they want, humans can't stop them, and there's no point to expecting them to see things the way we do. There's no point being stressed over it, either, because there's nothing you can do. Mistress doesn't have much interest in mindgames and won't tolerate it much, but even she won't see anything wrong with her friends being playful if they don't hurt us. And they won't.” She shrugged. “About the best free humans can hope for with fae around is that none of them are malicious, and the best pet humans can hope for is an owner who's protective and keeps limits on what others can do.”

“And when I get home? How much of this stuff stays?”

“It shouldn't, or at least not much, and any that does should fade pretty fast if it's not getting any reinforcement.”

“What about you?” Jewel asked wearily, straightening up. “How long have they been messing with your mind?”

“You can stop thinking that right now.”

“Thinking what?”

“I'm me. I'm not some sort of robot that's been programmed to obey or a victim who's been brainwashed into being happy that way. You don't know my history and I'm not allowed to discuss it because Mistress worries about me, but you have no right to jump to conclusions like that. Yes, Mistress and others have controlled my mind before, sometimes in fun ways and sometimes not so fun, and okay, it's probably left a few little things here and there, but that is not why I'm happy belonging to Mistress. Probably it's had less total effect than a whole media culture telling you to look like this and eat this and want this and buy this and wear this and if you don't something's wrong with you. This is the wine Mistress likes, remember, and that's the one Nikandros likes. I wrote this stuff down on the list on the fridge door in case you need a reminder. Are you going to be okay if you're sent to get refills alone?”

Right. They had a job to do. And on the far side of it was freedom. An hour to get themselves ready, three on preparations... she was a third of the way through it. She could endure the rest. Right?

Jewel licked dry lips and nodded. “I can remember. And I'm sorry. I didn't mean to think... I mean, there's obviously a lot I don't know.”

“I know you're confused and you're scared. I'm not mad at you. But assumptions are a really bad idea.”

Halfway back to the salon, Jewel heard that mellow chime again.

“Wonder who now,” Flair mused, and, as they came through the doors, “It's Dagrun. She won't do anything in your head, that's not her thing. Here, take this to Mistress, I'll take Nik's, and then I'll introduce you to Dagrun.”

The newcomer was impossible to miss: she had to be at least ten feet tall, and her build was fit and sturdy. Her hair, streaks of blonde and copper and crimson, lay forward over one shoulder in a long and very thick braid, and her skin was pale as old ivory. She was wearing blood-red leather pants, with leather boots to match that had heavy high wedge heels, and a red leather halter-top over breasts that must each be larger than Jewel's head, and short red fingerless gloves. As Jewel watched, she settled herself casually into one of the largest chairs, which seemed to be sized for her, though she towered over everyone else.

Mistress had coiled herself in apparent comfort on one of the cushioned stone platforms, leaning against the raised side. Nikandros was in a more normal-sized chair with a shallow seat that accommodated his leg proportions; the short furry tail of a goat protruded through the opening at the back, and she saw it flutter back and forth excitedly as Flair approached with his wine.

Mistress accepted her glass with a nod. “Thank you, dear. Now go see if Dagrun would like something.”

She couldn't let on how miserable she was currently feeling. That would upset Mistress, and that was bad. And it would probably disappoint Nikandros, and that was bad too.

Struggling to swallow helpless despair, she waited for Flair to finish with Nikandros—who had pulled her onto his lap, where she was giggling and arching into his hand with no sign of apprehension or reluctance at all.

“I have to say hi to Dagrun,” Flair said, when his hand wandered down between her legs.

He sighed. “I suppose so. But if I can't have any of me in any opening of Jewel's, I'll just have to make use of as many of yours as possible instead.”

“Any time. Just let me make sure Jewel can handle drinks and things when I'm busy.”

“Fair enough. Off you go.” He moved his arms to the sides, his glass in one hand, so she could hop off his lap and join Jewel.

“Not a word,” Flair murmured. “I'm allowed to say no. But I don't know why I'd want to.” She raised her voice. “Hi, Dagrun!”

The huge woman crossed her forearms on her knees and leaned down, like an adult responding to a small child. “Hello, Flair. You're well today?” Her voice was deep, each word deliberate, but it was nonetheless pleasant and definitely feminine, and Jewel doubted the mind behind it was at all slow, not given the way those scintillating ruby eyes were looking at her, alert and attentive. Possibly she was moderating the volume deliberately, since it wasn't nearly as loud as Jewel halfway expected.

“I'm wonderful today, I have company. Dagrun, Jewel.”

The giant inclined her head. “Hello, Jewel. You're very pretty, little one.”

“Um. Thank you,” Jewel said, and cast around for something more to say. “Could I get you something to drink?”

Dagrun smiled. “I'd like that.”

“Mead?” Flair asked.

“Please.”

“Coming right up!”

“The big cups?” Jewel asked quietly, as they turned away.

Flair nodded. “And the mead is labelled. Can you do it alone?”

“I've got it.” Maybe if she could keep busy, the frightening feeling of everything being not only beyond her control but beyond her comprehension would go away. Or at least maybe she could ignore it.

She heard the chime again while she was in the kitchen, and ran into Flair coming out the doors of the salon as she was on her way in with Dagrun's rather heavy glass, trying not to spill any of the contents. The newcomer was an elegant Middle Eastern woman dressed all in gauzy layers of white and amber and a lot of intricate gold jewellery, already seated in a chair. Right now, though, Jewel figured it was best to keep her attention on the glass she was carrying.

Dagrun took it from her effortlessly, and what had taken two hands for Jewel looked normal-sized in one of Dagrun's. “Thank you,” she said, her smile warm and reassuring. “That is Roshanak. It will make no difference to her whether you greet her. My... the nearest equivalent would be wife... is on her way now. Would you get her a drink as well? The same? I think she will be here when you return with it.”

“Sure. I'll be right back.”

“Take your time.” Dagrun chuckled. “Giants of any sort are seldom in a hurry.”

Jewel couldn't help smiling in return. “Right.”

She heard a chime while she was in the kitchen, and as expected, when she came back to the salon with another extra-large ultra-super-sized cup of mead, there was a second giant there. This one had the build of an Amazon warrior, more muscular than Dagrun, with smaller breasts and narrower hips, but still very much a woman. Pale icy-blue hair was cropped short; her skin, even paler, had a chilly tone, especially compared to the warm golden hue of Dagrun's, but her lips were sapphire blue. She was all in white leather and lush white fur, in the form of pants and a short-sleeved top with a low neck and laced boots with low heavy heels.

But her smile was friendly, as Dagrun took the offered cup and passed it to her while introducing Jewel. The white giantess was Sigrun. Jewel hoped that was a coincidence of names and not that they were related.

“Hello, little one. I hope your debt hasn't been too unpleasant for you so far.”

“Unsettling and sometimes uncomfortable,” Jewel admitted. Flair had warned her never to lie, but she hoped she could get away with downplaying it. “But not unpleasant, exactly.”

Sigrun laughed, and that was louder, the sudden volume startling. “Humans often find interaction with fae to be unsettling and uncomfortable. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, come sit by us and catch your breath.”

“Um. Thank you. I'll remember that.”

Several more chimes sounded in quick succession, and that kept Jewel and Flair busy fetching drinks.

There was a man who looked like he was made of wood, with green living grass for hair and moss for clothes, and a man with large eyes and mottled muddy-coloured skin that looked wet and slippery, who immediately sat down in a shallow oval pool; Jewel saw him idly splashing water on himself.

A woman arrived who had eagle wings on her back, with feathers of mahogany and carrot and apricot, her small breasts bare, and the feet visible below her loose beige trousers were a raptor's talons, and a woman with skin and hair so black that they seemed to absorb all available light, wrapped in a sari that looked like a length of clear night sky, only her eyes and lips as pale and luminous as moonlight.

There was a female centaur with a glossy red bay coat and a tail like midnight silk, matching her hair, and a spindly man about three feet tall and covered in grey-brown hair. There was a woman and a man, each no more than eighteen inches tall, limbs and torso all so attenuated and thin that they looked like they'd started off half that height and been stretched.

All made themselves comfortable, each with an appropriate drink. Jewel did her best to keep her eyes down and just do her job, speaking only when spoken to. The alien nature of the gathering was terrifying: she had no idea what any of these people could do to her body or mind, and Mistress' protection felt like a very fragile wall between her and an unimaginable and possibly horrific fate.

Once they all had drinks, the two humans each picked up a tray from the kitchen and wandered around the room offering the contents.

Nikandros beckoned Jewel over, took a handful of nibbles from the tray, and gave her a wink. “Want to add a bit of extra flavour to these, sexy? I don't have to break Min's rules to get your juices flowing hard and fast, and there is nothing in the world that tastes better than that.”

Jewel took a deep, shuddering breath, feeling a rush of fiery heat that started in her lower belly but flooded rapidly outward. That breath, unfortunately, brought with it the musky scent of satyr. All of a sudden she remembered that she adored her corset, her heels, her whole current outrageous appearance, because Nikandros found it erotic and had told her so. And if he said she was sexy, then she must be. She certainly felt like it, with that warmth pulsing between her legs.

“M-maybe later,” she stammered, and fled towards Dagrun, who was currently deep in conversation with the centaur.

The fact that she couldn't understand the language of that conversation didn't help with the disorientation, but Dagrun paused in speaking to smile at her and delicately take a couple of the treats from the tray. “Try not to mind Nik, little one. He means no harm. He can no more pass up a chance to tease than Alkippe can choose to eat meat.”

“Just tell him no,” centaur Alkippe said carelessly, helping herself to the offered tray.

That was the whole problem. Being in the satyr's proximity made it increasingly difficult to say no. To even think no. To even think about why she couldn't think no or why she would want to.

But contradicting a fae, one who didn't understand and didn't seem to much care, was probably a bad idea, so she murmured a thank you and moved on to Sigrun. The white giantess had relocated in order to talk to the two tiny thin people, Eluned and Owain, who were perched on a structure that rather resembled a cat climber with broad-seated couches—not that Jewel would have dared say such a thing. Both were wearing clothes of something so fine it looked virtually weightless, although the styles of that and their pale hair could probably have come from the newest fashion industry magazine. Given their impossible thinness, high fashion actually suited them. Neither said a word to Jewel, barely acknowledging that the tray wasn't floating in mid-air alone, though Sigrun thanked her.

It really didn't take all that long before she spotted Flair with Nikandros. She was on his lap again, but this time, there was absolutely no question: he was buried deep inside her, and she was squirming, her expression blissful. The satyr kept a protective arm around her waist, his fingers absently stroking her mound and probably her clit, while he continued his conversation with Mistress and the dark lady Sati. That was one of the most bizarre and jarring things yet: none of the fae seemed to notice or care, and even Nikandros was only intermittently paying attention.

While she was distracted, she failed to notice events in her personal space until she felt a hand stroking her inner thigh above the top of her stockings. She bit down on a yelp and spun around. The small hairy man, whose name had been given simply as Henry, just grinned at her.

“Pretty thing like you, hard to resist wanting to pet you all over, even with limits. Why the fuss?”

“I... I don't like strangers touching me.”

Pointedly, he linked his hands at his back, leaned forward until he could nudge his prominent nose just under the edge of her skirt, and inhaled dramatically. Being only some three feet tall, he could actually do it without losing balance or composure. When he looked up at her, his grin was even wider and showed rather pointed teeth. “You shouldn't lie to fae, pretty thing. We know lies when we hear them, and we don't like them. But you're lying to yourself, not to me, hm? Got news for you.” He reached out again, fingertips wandering up her thigh with an unexpectedly delicate touch, and she gasped, part of her mind wanting to flee, but it felt so good. “Too bad it's not me you're paying a debt to. I'd have you over that silliness by the time you were done, and no rules keeping you from really getting into it. Or us getting really into you.” He chortled. His fingers were teasing her sex now, stroking the satin, and she shivered violently. “Would feel nicer without this stuff in the way. So wet it's probably transparent anyway. Let's look. Turn around and bend forward.”

“Please, I...”

“Turn around and bend forward.” There was a hint of a growl in the repetition.

Mistress had said no sex, but she'd also made it clear that Jewel's job was to keep her guests happy, and disobeying a direct command that technically wasn't harmful was probably not going to go over very well with anyone.

Trembling, certain that she was blushing scarlet with humiliation, she turned around, spread her feet far enough that she could keep her balance, and leaned down. The corset complicated bending at the waist, compressing her diaphragm mercilessly and forcing her breathing to come in quick shallow pants. The heels interfered with her centre of balance and she wasn't at all sure how long she could stay like this without falling over. She braced her hands on her own knees and let her head fall forward, hiding her face. This was in full view of the rest of the room, even, they could all see this.

Henry got so close she could feel his breath on her inner thighs and the cool of it on her panties. Fingers slid under the edge of the thin satin, stroking her hairless outer lips directly, and she whimpered.

“You are soooo wet,” Henry murmured, fingers never still. “And you think you don't like being touched? You don't like me looking and appreciating? You don't like knowing that there are five males in this room who would all just love getting inside you from any direction? And the females could think of uses for you, too, believe me, and would love it. If you don't like it, then why are you so wet it's trickling down your legs? Wish I could slide a finger in there and see how tight and hot. But even if you begged me to, it's not up to you, your owner says not to. But I can get a better look. Tell you what. If you tell me to stop, I won't take them off for you.” She felt those dextrous fingers working their way upwards, starting to tug the panties out from under her corset, then he paused.

Oh god, tell him to stop. Do you want everyone in the room looking in between your legs and seeing absolutely everything? Isn't this embarrassing enough?

But the touch felt so good, and the thought of how much better it would feel with less in the way, and the thought of this odd hairy little man with the extraordinary fingers being free to inspect her most private parts while she stood meekly still for it, all combined to leave her so aroused it was just shy of pain. She wanted... what did she want? It was so tangled together, so many things all screaming at once, and she was so light-headed, that she had no idea.

But she did hope he kept touching her. And that he liked what he saw.

Carefully, he wriggled her panties free, and slid them down over her hips with a lot more contact than necessary. Down to her knees, but he left them there. That only made her blush harder. How could she be standing here showing herself off with her underwear halfway down her legs?

Henry whistled softly. “Holy moon and stars. Now that's just as pretty as the rest of you.” She quivered and dug her artificially-long cherry-red nails into her own legs as his fingers stroked her labia, one digit following right along the crease though carefully not parting them even the width of one of the hairs that were no longer there. “And you want me to believe you don't like to be touched? Even here? How about you tell me the truth now?”

“I...” Jewel stopped to lick dry lips, and faltered. How could she say it?

“What's that?”

“I like it.” It was only a whisper.

“A bit louder, pretty thing. I'm not young, y'know.”

“I... I like it.”

“You like what?”

“Being... being touched.” Like the gentle touch that was currently driving her half mad.

“That all?”

She squeezed her eyes shut, hating herself. “Looking like this. Having to obey.”

“Good girl.” The approval in his voice was unexpectedly strong and felt disturbingly good. “See, not so hard to tell the truth, eh? So let's push for a bit more truth. Why did you move the first time I touched you, and why are you avoiding Nik?”

“Can I straighten up? Please? It's hard to breathe.”

“Not until you give me the truth.”

She whimpered softly. “Scared. I'm scared.”

“Of what? Fae power?”

“Yes.”

“But that isn't all.”

“N-no.”

“What else?”

“I have... I have a boyfriend. Supposed to... only want him.”

That made him laugh. “Pretty thing, even if he was the greatest human lover ever, it wouldn't mean no one else can turn you on. And I doubt he is. Things humans brainwash themselves into are absurd. So why does that scare you?”

“Scared of... of liking it too much. Please?”

“Stand up. I said you could once you told the truth. But it's a shame to lose that view.”

Jewel straightened and took a couple of deep breaths gratefully, aware that she was trembling.

“Here's your choice, pretty thing, and it's a genuinely free one, up to you. You can tell yourself that I'm a bully and you can pull your panties back up and go back to pretending that you aren't dripping wet. Or you can kick them off the rest of the way and see if you can learn something about telling yourself the truth.” He stepped past her and strolled away.

Jewel stayed statue-still for what felt like a long time but probably wasn't.

Why had she said any of that? It couldn't be true, was it? Or maybe it was only true while she had too many external forces at work in her head, pushing her to obey? That seemed the most likely.

This was a battle she just couldn't win. Everything was stacked against her. It was like sinking in quicksand, with her struggles only dragging her down and drawing the attention of nearby predators.

If she couldn't escape, couldn't even control her own responses... what was the best course of action?

Next time... things just keep getting weirder. And more embarrassing. And more arousing. (Well, of course they do!)






 

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