The Flesh Cartel #5: Wins and Losses
In episode five of The Flesh Cartel, Nikolai is well on his way to undermining the bond between Mat and Dougie, but there’s still a long road ahead. Training slaves is a process full of setbacks, and with these two, the situation is more complex and precarious than usual.
Walking the line with Mat is especially challenging. Too severe a hand leaves him fearful, even broken, but too light a touch leaves him disobedient and full of fury. Dougie, on the other hand, wants desperately to end his suffering and loneliness and fear. But his unwillingness to disappoint his brother means he can’t bring himself to submit.
Controlling Mat with pain alone is futile, so Nikolai must take a defter route by decoding Mat’s deeper desires: why does he fight, and why does he want so badly to win? By contrast, Dougie may need a firmer touch than the pleasure and affection Nikolai has so far shown him. To convince Dougie of how much he stands to gain by giving all of himself to Nikolai, he must first teach him how much more he has left to lose.
Caution: The following details may be considered spoilerish.
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I said I’d teach you the true value of my kindness.
“Sir!” Dougie screamed, absolutely hoarse. “Sir, please!” He pounded the closed door with both fists. “Sir! Sir, you can’t leave me like this!”
No answer. Nikolai wasn’t coming back. Dougie fell to his knees.
The plug inside him moved, not just shifting position, but vibrating, fucking shaking, and that horrible wicked curve hit what he now knew was his prostate and sent shudders of humiliation and unwanted pleasure through every inch of him. His moan turned into another raging scream. More pounding on the door. Every time he moved, the plug twitched inside him or drove upward or glanced down, every single motion a new torture.
Inside the so-called chastity cage, his cock swelled up, trying to rise, but was painfully strangled. He’d have been okay in it without the plug, maybe even with a plug that didn’t vibrate, like the one he’d worn at Madame’s. But with this plug constantly stroking him from the inside, buzzing relentlessly against his prostate, there was no stopping it. It couldn’t have been more than ten minutes since Nikolai had plugged and caged him and he already felt like he was going crazy.
I said I’d teach you the true value of my kindness.
If Nikolai really was trying to teach Dougie some kind of lesson with this latest torture, well, Dougie wasn’t learning shit.
For the hundredth time, he yanked at the belt around his waist, fingers following the line of the straps that looped between his legs, trying to wrench the plug out. But there was no give. And the attempt completely backfired, because the motion of trying to pull the plug free just made everything worse.
Besides, what would Nikolai do to him if he did manage to get it out? Consequences, consequences . . . Nikolai hadn’t hurt him yet, not really—at least not in the more traditional sense—but he had no doubt the man was capable of it.
He pounded the door one more time, then threw himself on the bed and buried his face in his pillow, trying to ignore his screaming nerves. Intellectually, he knew his reactions to the plug were probably normal—he was healthy, male, twenty-three. What else did guys his age think about but sex? But God, how it shamed him to take pleasure from what’d been done to him. To have come twice—once at his rapist’s hand and once, oh God, at his own.
But worst of all? He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if he weren’t in this fucking cock cage, he’d touch himself again. Relieve the pressure, the itch, the unbearable want. And surely he must want it on some level, or his body wouldn’t be behaving like this, right? How would he ever look Mat in the eye again? How would he ever look himself in the eye again?
Nikolai was right. He was a coward. Mat probably did hate him. No way Mat came like this, felt these urges, gave in so fucking completely. He probably didn’t even get hard.
Oh God, what would he do if he really was alone now? If Mat wouldn’t speak to him anymore? If the only person alive who’d so much as give him the time of day was Nikolai?
Best not to think about that. Best not to think at all, in fact. O, that way madness lies. Let me shun that.
# # #
Mat started awake to the sound of a . . . power tool? He lurched up in bed and spun toward the noise, saw two men installing a heavy punching bag at the same time he realized his bedroom door was wide open.
The thought had barely formed before the doorway was filled with two more men carrying a treadmill, and Nikolai, bringing up the rear, one hand stuffed casually in his pants pocket.
“Good morning, Mathias,” Nikolai said, grinning expansively, as if it really was a good morning.
Mat realized he was on his feet, though he couldn’t remember getting there, and that he was naked in front of a room full of very attractive men in their forties—the kinds of guys you’d see modeling suits in a Macy’s catalog—and that nobody but him seemed to think this was odd in the slightest. He forced himself not to cup his cock as one of the—servants? slaves? seriously discreet delivery guys?—turned eyes on him.
The treadmill guys left. The guys who’d been hanging the heavy bag moved on to mounting a speed bag beside it. Beside that, a chin-up bar was already screwed into the wall—how had he slept through that?—with a series of resistance band attachments for strength training. No free weights, though—obviously Nikolai didn’t trust him not to bludgeon someone.
“What is this?” he asked, trying very hard not to sound as suspicious as he felt. He added belatedly, “Sir?”
The treadmill guys came back carrying hand wraps, gloves, weighted gloves, sports tape, Power Punch cables, a medicine ball, a padded folding gym mat, an assortment of jump ropes, and—ohgodthankyou—workout shorts, socks, and sneakers. Was Nikolai planning to make him fight in an underground cage? Was that why he’d really bought him? Not for sex at all?
“A gift,” Nikolai said, grinning that same expansive grin. It fell a little when Mat did nothing, said nothing, just stood there no doubt looking as suspicious as he felt. “For you,” Nikolai added pointedly.
Mat nodded, forced himself to say “Thank you” and not sound too grudging about it, though all he really wanted to do was tell Nikolai to go fuck himself and fuck his gifts and let them go home. But Nikolai wouldn’t let them go home, and if Mat gave him lip about it now, Nikolai might just take his “gifts” away again, and Mat’s hands were already itching to be wrapped, his feet itching to run. He pictured drawing Nikolai’s face on the speed bag, hitting it so hard it burst.
Let me at it.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because I need you fighting fit. I broke you a little. Now do what you do best—make yourself strong again. Put yourself back together.”
Mat was halfway across the room before he realized he’d moved. The four Macy’s guys formed a wall in front of Nikolai, faces hard, and Mat froze. They didn’t seem like hired muscle—not big enough, not holding themselves like fighters. If they had been, maybe he would have had the brass fucking balls to take them all on, if not to escape then just on principle, but he didn’t want to fight these guys regardless of the odds. Something about them triggered sympathy inside him, and he didn’t want to send them all to the hospital with rearranged faces.
“You didn’t break me,” he growled to Nikolai, who was gently pushing two of the men aside to clear the path between himself and Mat. Mat stood his ground, squared his shoulders, lifted his chin. “Do I look broken to y—”
Nikolai thrust his hand out, auto-injector clutched in his palm, ready to strike. Every last drop of moisture fled Mat’s mouth and migrated north to his eyes. “Please,” he whispered. He was trembling. No more squared shoulders, no more proud chin. “I’m sorry.”
Nikolai put the auto-injector back in his pocket with another grin—less expansive, more I told you so.
“As I was saying,” Nikolai said, “you need to take care of yourself. Because nobody else will, not anymore. I’ll help you when I can, but it wouldn’t be fair to you to pamper you now. You’d only suffer for it later in your new master’s hands.”
There didn’t seem to be any call to respond to that, so Mat just swallowed, nodded. His gaze seemed stuck on Nikolai’s pocket, on what he knew was inside there. It felt like a reprieve of the highest order—like he’d barely avoided a terrible car crash or a firing squad—to see that needle put away. But his heart was still thrashing; he could still taste the adrenaline in the back of his throat.
“Please,” Nikolai said, gesturing him toward the little round table with its two chairs. “Sit. Let us talk.”
Oh God, not again. But he did as he was told. Of course. It fucking disgusted him to think that, but clearly, Nikolai was right—he had broken him.
“You told me once, not so very long ago, that I could never take your pride. In a way, I believed you. It’s why I bought you, you see. And yet, in another way—a way of long, personal experience—I know that all slaves, even ones as willful as you, must at the very least learn to put aside their pride, even if they never give in completely. I know you think your pride makes you a free man, but in this place, it makes you a dead man.”
After a couple rounds with that serum, Mat had no doubt that Nikolai’s threats—even ones as melodramatic as death—were not to be taken lightly. And if Mat did die, where would Dougie be, then?
Nikolai must have caught Mat’s train of thought, that silent affirmation—Yes, to save Dougie, I’d do anything, give up anything, put aside anything, even my pride, the one thing here I have left, the one thing that makes me human—because he frowned.
“I see you recognize the validity of the premise here, Mathias. Give up some part of yourself, let go of your pride, or die protecting it. But you cannot let Douglas be your only motivation. Maybe before he was your only reason for carrying on in the face of your bleak, rootless existence, but not anymore. What happens when I split you up? What—”
“You wouldn’t.” Half ordering, half begging. Mat added, “Please. Sir. Please,” to tip the scales in the direction Nikolai was more likely to tolerate, but Nikolai kept on as if Mat hadn’t interrupted.
“But I will, Mathias. I intend to. And what would you fight for then? If you didn’t have your brother to stay alive for, what would keep you going? What would motivate you to make the concessions I ask of you then?”
Good question. Mat shrugged. “I don’t know, sir. Nothing, probably.”
“So you’d keep your pride and let it kill you. Or you’d let yourself be broken.”
“I’d die before you broke me.” Fucker. And yet, Mat couldn’t help but feel like that was a lie, all bluster. Enough of that serum and who knew what kind of whimpering animal he’d become. What kind of indignity he’d reduce himself to.
“So let’s assume I accept the premise that you’d die before you let yourself be broken—which I don’t, by the way, because I have never failed to break a man once I’ve set my mind to such, and the only reason you can hope for different is because I don’t intend to break you. But since you don’t believe me, fine. Without Douglas to live for, you die.”
Got it in one.
“And what if, after a period of separation, you somehow have an opportunity to be reunited with Douglas? Wouldn’t you want to stay alive, just in case?”
Oh. Well that shifts the goalposts a bit, doesn’t it, you slippery fucker? Not that he was willing to let Nikolai know that, so he just shrugged and said, “Yeah, I guess.”
“What I’m asking of you is simple, Mathias: accept that you may never see your brother again—”
“But you just said—!”
“All hypothetical, Mathias. Possibilities, not guarantees. So accept that you may never see him again, but don’t let that acceptance destroy your will to live. Find another reason. Living is more of a habit than most give it credit for. If you never see your brother again, if he die—”
“Don’t. Don’t say that.”
Mat realized he’d thrust his finger at Nikolai and forced himself to put his arm down. His hand curled into a fist, but he held himself back. Waited for Nikolai to lose his temper, punish him for interrupting for a second time.
He didn’t. Merely leaned back in his chair, stretched his legs out under the table, folded his arms across his chest. “You must face facts, Mathias. These things happen. You cannot keep living your life for a boy you’ll likely never see again. For a boy who won’t want to see you. I know you don’t believe me,” Nikolai added before Mathias could interrupt again, “but you’ll learn soon enough. You must start living for yourself, and it cannot be pride alone that sustains you because that too may be beyond your grasp someday. So you must find your own joys. Find them and share them with me that I might share them with you.”
Like hell he’d share fucking anything with this fucker.
“Or not”—Nikolai shrugged—“and live in constant misery until you break or die. Or, worse, fail to do either. But of all the things I will ever ask you to do, Mathias, this is one of the easiest.”
Nothing was easy here. This had to be some kind of trap; he just wasn’t smart enough to see it. Dougie would know, if he were here. If Mat hadn’t failed him again, lost him again.
“Anyway.” Nikolai unfolded his arms, leaned forward in his chair, pulled a felt-tip marker and a pad of paper from his inside breast pocket and slid them over to Mat. “Share whatever you’d care to share. Write down your thoughts, your requests. We’ll discuss them all, I promise. And if that seems too much for you right now, then let us begin with your training diet. Tell me exactly what you need, and my chef will see it done. Like I said, Mathias—fighting fit. I’ll never starve you here.”
Mat nodded. He’d get strong again, all right. Stronger than he’d ever been, so that when the opportunity came . . .
Nikolai left him alone with the paper, then, but Mat didn’t write a list. He drew a shoddy picture of Nikolai’s face, stuck it to the heavy bag with some of the tape he’d been given for his hands, and beat the shit out of it until his hands and arms were so tired and sore he couldn’t even move them to take the gloves off.
But he felt better. Better than he had since this whole fucking mess had begun.
# # #
Another cracking installment to this series . . . [Haimowitz and Belleau] just blow me away every time I have these books in my hot little hands!
[The Flesh Cartel] keeps whipping along brilliantly. Again, flawless. And I can't get enough.
Haimowitz and Belleau have created such a rich world, that from the first words, I am completely immersed . . .
[B]oth brothers search for that last bit of hope . . . Another great installment in The Flesh Cartel Series.