At his words, she looked into his eyes. Amazingly, they were filled with something like understanding. It was probably better that she couldn’t speak then, because she would have begged for him to help her. But she didn’t deserve his benediction. She’d failed.
“Here’s what we’re going to do.” He slid his hand around her neck, grasping her firmly from behind. She melted into the firm touch. “You’re going to sleep now. Stay off the floor. Nod for me.”
She nodded vigorously, her eyes downcast in joy.
His fingers still curled behind her neck, he swept his thumb along her cheek, then down over her neck. Back and forth, he caressed her. She stayed still, watching as her breath ruffled the dark hairs on his forearm.
He moved his thumb against her mouth then pushed it inside. She closed her lips around it, eager to suck it. He tasted of salt and earth and hope. This was her chance to touch him, to please him, to show him badly she wanted this.
She swirled her tongue around the tip, worshipping his thumb like she wanted to worship his cock. Like she wanted to lick every part of him, if it meant she could stay. The soft wet sounds filled the room, tangling with the harsh sounds of his breathing.
She begged with the warmth and wetness of her mouth. She implored with the skill of her tongue. Every swipe promised pleasure, if only.
He pulled his hand away.
Her lips were still parted, damp from his ministrations. She stayed perched on the bed in supplication. A bulge rounded his jeans. His nostrils flared with what she recognized as arousal.
He turned and left the room.
She stared at the door for what felt like hours, until her limbs ached and her eyelids grew heavy. No trick. She sank into the clean bed.
She caught the slight sound of crickets outside, serenading her under the window. He had been surprised to learn about her defect, but he had worked around it. Nod for me. Maybe he would keep her after all.
She had been naked before, cold before, but not like this. The chill bit into her skin, penetrated her bones, until she couldn’t imagine ever being warm again. Stripped not just of clothes, but of humanity, of hope.
The dream, she was in it again. Dear God, no. Get out. Wake up!
The shadowy Masters in the dream paid no attention to her silent plea, just as they hadn’t in her memory. The wet cloth covered her face, heavy and stifling. Panicked, she sucked in a breath. No, wrong, stupid, because her mouth filled with water, not air. There was no air, none. Not in her lungs, not in her nose. Only water, never-ending water in her face and all around.
Her whole body bucked with the effort to breathe, but all she earned was a brief respite, just the flash of distraction as the bonds cut into her wrists and ankles and neck. Then she was drowning. This time they had gone too far. No air – she gulped. She sucked the water into her lungs, knowing it was over. Hope faded, everything dimmed.
The rush of air shocked her before the bright lights could register. She drank in the air, free from the torture chamber of simple damp cloth.
Her face was wet, leftover water, but also with her tears, with snot, with drool. And lower too, she had wet herself, but she couldn’t bring herself to embarrassment just yet. She couldn’t control them, not a single one of her reactions, as her body spasmed and shook and grunted out primal sounds of relief and fear.
The master crossed his arms, angry, but his eyes were amused. “Don’t have anything to say now, do you?”
Her body jerked in its restraints, though she couldn’t have said why. Actually, she couldn’t say anything. Her throat was frozen. Her mind pulled it to a halt like some large, clumsy piece of machinery now rutted into the dry ground. Good. She couldn’t remember what she had said, but she thought she must have talked back. She must have mouthed off, and her masters didn’t tolerate that.
“Answer me,” he said.
What was the question? No, she had nothing to say him, not ever again if it meant she did not have to endure that again. Her body jerked and secreted fear in the form of bodily excretions, but it would eventually find equilibrium. But her mind—God. Her mind was numb, waiting, like that moment after seeing your thumb hit with a hammer but before the pain sets in. She would never be the same again. She would never be warm, never be safe again.
He flicked her, right on her forehead. “Cat got your tongue?”
She closed her eyes, opened them. Licked her lips and tried to speak, but nothing came out.
His eyebrow raised. “The correct answer is ‘Yes, Master.’”
When nothing came out, he turned purple, splotchy. “You would disobey me now? That wasn’t enough for you? Answer me, slave. Say it.”
Fear shuddered through her. Her throat worked, fruitless. She formed the words with her mouth, desperate. Yes, Master, Yes, Master, Yesssssmaster.
Her lips kept moving, even as the wet cloth clamped down on them. The water slapped her face, fell into her mouth, and blocked her nose. Only one lungful of air left. She opened her mouth to scream. Use it all up to scream, but it turned into a gargle. She gasped and gasped, breathing in water. Drowning, sinking, falling too deep to ever make her way back up in time.
* * *