Home > Desperation in Death (In Death #55)

Desperation in Death (In Death #55)
Author: J. D. Robb




When they made the bargain, they knew they risked death. But living—if you could call existing in the Pleasure Academy living—wasn’t much of a bargain.

Sure, she had three squares a day—like fricking clockwork. A bed at night—Lights Out, ten o’clock! She had clean clothes, and even the ugly uniform ranked higher than whatever she’d scrounged or stolen when freedom hadn’t been just a concept.

School—mostly bullshit—but she secretly liked the French lessons. Auntie (top bitch) claimed speaking a second language helped create a sophisticated, elegant female.

None of that made up for the fact that she hadn’t breathed outdoor air for … She couldn’t say exactly, but they’d scooped her up just before Christmas when the easy pickings on the street were abso gargan.

Which is how she’d gotten scooped up because, yeah, maybe a little careless.

The girl they’d brought in the week before claimed it was May—maybe—but her brain was still addled from Orientation. Plus, the new one was really young—seven or eight maybe—and cried a lot.

It didn’t seem possible she’d spent a whole winter, a whole spring inside. Then sometimes, at night, in the dark, it all got blurry, and felt as if she’d lived her whole life inside the Academy.

Up at seven sharp! Make your bed and make it right, or earn a demerit. Ten demerits earned an hour in the Meditation Box.

Shower, dress, which included hairstyling and makeup appropriate to the tasks of the day. Breakfast at eight sharp. Arrive late, demerit. Poor table manners warranted a quick jab with the shock stick or worse.

She’d had it all, and worse, before she’d learned to pretend.

On uniform days you took classes, like French or Polite Conversation, Deportment, Style, Personal Hygiene, Skin and Hair Care, and Weight Management.

Every week they measured, weighed, evaluated. And after that came Salon Day, whether you wanted one or not.

They’d had to strap her down and tranq her the first couple of times when they blasted some flaws—blemishes, a birthmark on her thigh. When they’d cleaned her teeth and did something to straighten them that ached for days after.

But the day she dreaded most? Intimacy Practice.

Sometimes it was another woman, an Academy graduate, who “taught” the proper way to undress yourself, or undress somebody else.

She’d earned the prod and an entire day in the Meditation Box for punching her instructor when the woman put hands on her.

Sometimes it was a man, and that was somehow worse because you had to touch him, too.

They made you do things—all kinds of things—except actual sex. If they had to tie you down for it, they said that served as another lesson. Some owners enjoyed tying down their consorts.

Sometimes they paired you with another student because some owners were women, or just got off watching two girls together.

And that’s how she connected with Mina.

Naked in the bed, the cameras recording it all for Evaluation, Dorian resisted, turned her face away from Mina’s lips.

Mina just rolled on top of her, pressed those lips to Dorian’s ear. “I hate it, too. I hate it,” she said, then moaned, rubbed her body against Dorian’s. “Pretend you don’t, it’ll be over faster. You have to go somewhere else in your head, you have to pretend it isn’t you. Because it isn’t.”

“Get off me.”

“Then we both end up in the damn box. You’re going to roll over, get on top. Put your hand down there between us—just do it. I’m going to make myself come. That’s what they want.”

She rolled over, and pulled Dorian’s hand down—stronger than she looked. Then she bucked, made crazy sounds, flung her head side to side.

To Dorian’s shock, Mina wrapped her legs around her, ground their centers together. “Fake it,” Mina hissed. “Now, fake it now. And we’re done.”

Humiliating, yes, but better than being tied down, better than the shock stick or the box.

So she cried out as Mina had done, and if a couple of humiliation tears escaped, it didn’t matter.

“Well done.” Auntie rose from her observation chair. “Very well done, both of you.

“Trainee 232, as expected. Trainee 238, much improved. Enough to erase one demerit, and hopefully move you beyond the restrictions of Bondage Only status.”

She waited, eyes keen.

“Thank you, Auntie,” Mina said dutifully, and with a hand between their bodies, pinched Dorian.

“Thank you, Auntie.”

“You’re quite welcome. Now, shower thoroughly. You can have ten minutes in the Relaxation Area before you dress for dinner.”

The showers in the Intimacy Area ran plush—a small benefit. Cameras recorded, of course, as the small benefit never included privacy.

But water ran hot, and steam rose.

Mina spoke in whispers under it as she shampooed.

“I’m Mina. I’ve been here six months and ten days, I think.”

“Dorian. I’m not sure, maybe five months.”

“I’ve seen you in some of the classes. You have to pretend better. If you keep getting tossed in the box, drugged up, or smacked around, you’ll never escape.”

“There’s no way out. I’ve tried. I’ve looked.”

“If there’s a way in, there’s a way out.” She sent Dorian a sidelong look as she carefully worked conditioner through her long red hair. “Maybe I’ve got a plan I’m working on, but I think it needs two.”

Then she smiled, poured liquid wash onto a pink pouf. “You’re doing really well in French class,” she said in normal tones.

Since Dorian didn’t need to get hit with a brick to catch on, she shrugged. “I really like the French class. Polite Conversation is boooring.”

“Oh, it’s not so bad, and it’s nice to have conversation. You know, you could maybe help me in French, and I could help you with the other. Improvement means more time in the Relaxation Area, which is totally iced.”

Which was beyond boring, but Dorian shrugged again. “I guess. Is it allowed?”

“Auntie let me help a trainee with reading, so I guess. I’ll ask.”

“Yeah, you ask. She likes you.”

“I’m likable.” Her pretty, heart-shaped face lit up with a smile that fell short of her eyes. “I like being likable. One day I’ll have a master who’ll like me, and give me beautiful clothes and lots of orgasms. I can’t wait!”

Dorian saw the lie. Mina wanted out, and so did she.

So they formed an alliance.

As Dorian saw it, they had nothing much in common.

She was Black—or mostly—and Mina was as white as white got. Through snippets of conversation, she learned Mina had lived in a nice house in the ’burbs of Philadelphia.

She’d been scooped up walking home after soccer practice from her school. Private school. She had a younger brother, and two parents, four grandparents, and three best friends. She had a sort of boyfriend, too.

Dorian had lived on the streets for months before she got scooped. She’d run away from her hard-handed mother and her mother’s series of idiot boyfriends and a craphole tenement in Freehold.

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