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“Does he know where I am? Does he know you were coming to collect me?”

I flinched as he stepped up close to me, his shoulders so rigid I felt hunched.

“I’d have thought you’d have a brain in that pretty little skull of yours, little girl. What do you think?”

My brain rattled. “But… but the broken door… the way you came in…” It didn’t matter. My lip was trembling as I uttered the words.

He really could have sent me here. Brandon could really have sent me here — shipped me away without a care.

I hated his business partner’s smile. I hated the joy he took in my upset.

“Dear little girl,” he mocked. “You really have been caught up with all that nonsense. I heard your three magic words, of course, so enamoured with Mr Grant after a few of his performances.” He shot a glance to the burly guy still in the room. “We all did. So sweet of you, albeit very unfounded. You’ll learn how these sixty days really do work now you’re here, and they won’t be involving Mr Grant, I can assure you.”

He pulled my arms down to my sides. I only resisted him for a moment before giving in to the reality of the situation.

I felt pitiful, but I didn’t care. The only thing I had left to still care about was earning my money and making sure my sister was safe.

That’s if she really was in rehab. That’s if Brandon had done anything with her at all.

But even then, standing there under a stranger’s scrutiny, I couldn’t think like that, my heart wouldn’t let me. I’d felt it. I’d felt what was real. I’d felt him.

I’d damned well felt that he’d put Phoebe in rehab, regardless of what he had planned for me.

“I’ll allow you a night of sleep before we get you started back on the lights camera action,” the man told me, and I managed a nod.

“Yes, please.”

“Aren’t you missing something?” he prompted, and my throat thickened.

“Yes, please, sir,” I finished.

His nod was sharp. “Manners are everything in this arrangement,” he told me. “Our clients demand the very highest levels of service and obedience. You have a full recollection of the contract you signed, yes?”

I struggled to remember the words on the printed document Brandon had made me read through on my first night. The passages were blurry in my memory, non-disclosure, full agreement.

“I think so…” I said. “I remember agreeing to serve the full sixty days, without limits, or safe words.”

“Yes,” he responded. “You’ll do whatever is instructed of you, and you will be delivered back to your original location with no permanent injuries when your time is served.”

I knew I shouldn’t be meeting his eyes, but I couldn’t stop myself. His were light blue and icy, the perfect complement to the silver of his hair. I couldn’t age him, not exactly. He was holding himself very well for an older man, very… attractive for an older man…

I noticed again the badge pins on his blazer, trying to make sense of the crests. They weren’t familiar to me, but I couldn’t help feel like I should know him somehow. That he was a man with some kind of status.

“You are aware that you will be fulfilling your obligations for the full remainder of your contract, yes?” he asked, and I nodded.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good,” he said. “I do insist on respect for the obligations.”

I wondered if this was usual, this split in the girls and location. I wondered if Brandon and this guy — business partner — made a regular deal of sharing the workload. But no. Rebecca Lane hadn’t mentioned anything other than Brandon Grant being her master throughout the process. Always in control. Always overseeing. Always there.

But now he would be nowhere, not if things were turning out as they seemed. He was likely hundreds of miles away, maybe scoping out the next sixty-day signup.

The thought made me feel sick.

Of all the things I should be feeling right now, jealousy wasn’t one of them. But I was jealous. The idea of him with another girl was enough to pain down deep.

“I recommend you rest up well until you’re called for action,” the business partner said, and I nodded.

“Yes, sir.”

He gestured to the burly guy and I didn’t flinch when he approached me and held out an arm this time, just resigned myself to a whole new world of sixty days here. He didn’t lead me upstairs into the grandeur, just took off to the back of the hall. I tried to take in the route through the house as he pulled me through the ground floor, off to the right and down a long corridor past a row of closed doors. He unlocked one at the far end, and we were in another wing of some kind. More doors and a turn to the left and I could hear noises. Cries.


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