Dreams of Distant Spheres

Posted on December 30, 2016 in SW Fiction by

A shrunken woman tries to escape from a psychopathic owner. Warning: for mature readers only.

Out of the corner of her eye, Paige watched Alicia as she slowly slipped on the black shift dress. The garment, which was better suited for a heavier woman, was far too large for her slender friend and Alicia kept trying to pull the dress up, adjusting it self-consciously.

As much as Paige wanted to help her, she didn’t dare to move from her spot. Madame Nadine was in a particularly bad mood today and Paige was one of her favorite targets, especially since she wouldn’t cower before the older woman. More times than she could count, Paige had felt Nadine’s switch across her thighs, along her buttocks, on her lower back. The worst part was that she knew that Nadine enjoyed it, that it gave her a terrible satisfaction as the switch struck vulnerable flesh.

“You think that I’m bad, Paige?” Nadine had spat after one of these punishment sessions. “Wait until you are Selected. I’m nothing compared to what’s out there, girl.”

Paige had been always terrified of being Selected; all of the young women were. Just the mere thought of being taken from her home and given to a stranger was dreadful. And now those fears were becoming a reality. When Nadine had announced that both she and Alicia had been Selected, all that Paige could do was nod, feeling completely numb inside.

Poor Alicia. She had sobbed so pitifully that night, her face buried in her hands. Paige had tried her best to console her; after all, at least they would be together. But her friend had been desolate and even now, she could see how red and puffy Alicia’s eyes were, swollen from her constant crying.

Paige snuck another glance, then quickly averted her eyes as someone walked past her. At first, she thought it was Nadine, until she saw that the person was dressed in a plain gray robe, his shoulders hunched. It was one of the Nulls, she realized, discreetly watching him. She had always pitied them, the men born with the same genetic mutation as she had. As bad as the lives of women were, the Nulls had it a million times worse. Unlike their normal-sized brothers, they were castrated and silenced at a young age, their testicles and tongues removed. Nadine reminded all of the women that the Nulls were never be acknowledged. They were servants, beneath the notice of everyone.

But as the Null crept past her, she met his eyes, holding his gaze for a second. His eyes were large and soulful, a richer and darker brown than her own. There was a sad, suppressed intelligence lurking within them and Paige wished that she could talk to him. But he was mute and if Nadine caught one of her charges speaking to a Null, she would whip her until she bled. So she lowered her gaze back down to the floor, staring at her ugly yet practical black shoes.

Paige heard Nadine before she saw her. She always wore overly-elaborate dresses made of bright silks and brocades and velvets that were a stark contrast to the simple shifts that the other women wore. The rustling of cloth gave her away even before she opened her mouth to bark out commands. The Alpha was supposed to be arriving at any moment and it was evident that Nadine wanted everything to be in perfect order. After all, it was only by pleasing the giants that she could keep her own freedom. She marched past the line of black-clad women like a drill sergeant, pointing out non-existent flaws as she did.

Paige held her breath as Nadine paused in front of her.

“I can’t say that I’ll miss you, girl,” the older woman growled. “You’ve given me nothing but trouble. But I’ll give you this piece of advice: the world is a terrible place and it’s best to remember that. Keep your mouth shut and you may end up a free woman like me someday.”

Her words were met with silence. Paige lifted her head and glared at Nadine, her expression one of defiance. The other woman’s mouth twisted and she was obviously about to say more when the door swung open with a tremendous burst of noise. It was a normal-sized door, which meant that it was the size of a small skyscraper to them. All of the women looked up, their heads swinging around almost simultaneously. Except for Nadine, none of them had ever seen an Alpha before, not even their own fathers.

Paige was the most brazen, watching with intense interest as the man strode through the doorway. To an inch and a half tall woman, he was immense, colossal, more like a mountain that could move than a human being. It was difficult for her to imagine that at one time, women and Nulls and Alphas had all been the same size, before some crazy terrorist had decided to unleash a biologically-engineered super virus. Now most of the world’s population was tiny, except for the few Alphas. Like this one, towering high above them, his massive body blocking out the sunlight coming in through the open door.

Her new master.

All the other women dropped their heads but she continued to study him. He wasn’t bad looking, almost boyish in his appearance, with a scattering of faint freckles and chestnut hair. The body beneath the carefully-tailored gray suit was powerful, with broad shoulders and a tapering waist. But what fascinated her most of all were his eyes, bright hazel eyes that were almost…kind. Most Alphas weren’t exactly known for their compassion. Quite the opposite, actually. Paige had heard horror stories about what some of the giants did to the tiny women in their care, treating them more like animals than people. It was one of those things that haunted her nightmares. Fortunately, this man didn’t seem to be much of a brute, although she kept her reservations.

A hard, sudden blow to the back of her head made her cry out. Her vision tunneled and for a second, she was afraid that she would pass out. As she realized that Nadine had just struck her, a voice hissed furiously into her ear, “Stop staring, you idiot!”

There was nothing more that Paige wanted to do more than to push the bitch away. But she held back, the throbbing in her head eventually fading away. Soon enough, Nadine left her alone, scurrying over to where the Alpha stood. He was frightfully gigantic, his legs like two massive pillars that rose up and up, his freckled face at an impossible distance. His eyes tracked Nadine as she stopped in front of his left foot, his ankle a head’s length above her. Much to Paige’s disgust, the woman transformed into a sycophant almost immediately, practically groveling before the Alpha.

“It’s so good to see you, sir,” Nadine said, an ingratiating smile appearing on her round face. The giant’s head tilted slightly, looking down at her. When he spoke, his deep voice sent vibrations rippling throughout Paige.

“Are they ready?” the Alpha asked and when he shifted slightly, she caught sight of the cage in his enormous hand. It was a beautiful thing, made of polished brass with ornate designs etched across the bottom, but it still made her heart sink.

“Of course, sir. Fifteen of my best girls.”

“Good,” he replied, glancing from Nadine to the group of women. The hazel eyes briefly lingered on Paige, then moved onto Alicia and the others. When he seemed satisfied that there were indeed fifteen women, he bent down, placing the cage in front of him. As he unlocked the cage door and slowly opened it, Paige hoped that her gut instinct about the giant was correct. If not…well, there wasn’t much that she could do at this point.

Nadine made a motion with her hand and the women trudged forward in a single-file line toward the cage. Alicia was three people ahead of Paige and her friend kept glancing over her shoulder, her face a mask of terror.

“It’ll be okay,” Paige mouthed to her friend in an attempt to reassure her. Alicia tried to grin but it was lopsided, the expression just underscoring her fear. What Paige wouldn’t give to rush over and hug her, like she had so many times when they were younger and Alicia had been terrified of something or another. But Nadine was glaring balefully at them, daring them to make a mistake. The Alpha was watching as well, like some titanic and judgmental god.

Once again, Paige allowed herself to stare up at him. In a way, he had won the genetic lottery; had circumstances been different, he may have been born female and tiny like her. Or he may have been a Null, forced to serve everyone in silence. Instead, he was a colossus compared to them, one of the members of the elite who ruled over everyone. It was terrible how Fate liked to play favorites.

The Alpha noticed that she was looking up at him and his lips moved slightly upwards in what may or may not have been a smile. She didn’t have time to make a decision about his expression because it was her turn to step into the cage. As soon as she was inside, she hurried over to Alicia, wrapping her arms around her.

“We’ll be fine,” Paige whispered, brushing aside a few stray strands of blonde hair from her friend’s forehead. Alicia nodded, nearly jumping when the cage door banged shut. The giant’s powerful fingers locked it and then withdrew from sight. All of the women inside were jostled as the Alpha lifted the cage up. The world seemed to drop away and as Paige peeked between the brass bars, she saw Nadine on the floor, a small and insignificant figure dressed in bright aquamarine and coral. As the giant began to walk away, carrying the women with him, she remembered Nadine’s parting words to her.

Keep your mouth shut and you may end up a free woman like me someday, she had said. Paige closed her eyes, feeling the fresh, warm air against her cheeks as they were brought outside. Oh, how very much she wanted to be free.

***

None of the fifteen women had ever been in a car before and this was a particularly impressive vehicle, a gleaming limousine that seemed to stretch on forever. The Alpha climbed inside and set the cage on his lap, giving the women a view of his mammoth abdomen, which slowly expanded and contracted as he breathed. If Paige glanced up at the right angle, she could see the thin strip of blue sky through the window far above. It transfixed her, that cloudless sky, and she would have gawked at it for the entire ride if Alicia hadn’t decided to cling onto her.

Her friend was trembling and she wouldn’t let Paige go, not even when Paige tried to gently pry her off. She ended up letting Alicia remain glued to her, listening to the soft murmurs of the other women and the sound of the giant’s exhalations. The Alpha didn’t say a word to them; in fact, he didn’t even move much, except to raise his right arm occasionally. The third instance that he did it, Paige saw his sleeve slip down and an immense watch gleamed as he checked the time.

She couldn’t help but wonder who he was. When Nadine had informed her that she had been Selected, she didn’t go into details about the Alpha who had chosen her. It wasn’t their place to ask, anyway. But Paige still tried to imagine who he was. A banker, perhaps? Or a lawyer, or a doctor? Someone with money and power, if the limousine was any indication.

When the vehicle finally reached its destination, she realized how wealthy and powerful he truly was.

Once again, the tiny women were bounced around the cage as the Alpha pushed open the car door and lifted them up. Fifteen sets of eyes stared at their new home. The mansion that stood before the circular driveway was a sprawling building, beautifully decorated in a way that reminded Paige of European castles. Tasteful rather than flashy, with an impressive water fountain and beds of multicolored flowers that she longed to explore. Like the others, she had never been outside and flowers were only something that she had read about in books. It was too dangerous to venture outside, Nadine had always told them. There were cats and other animals that could easily kill them. It was better to always stay inside, where it was safe.

Paige practically shoved her face between the bars of the cage, trying to take in everything that she could before they were carried inside. A song bird swooped by, bigger than an elephant to her, and she followed it until it disappeared into a copse of trees.

“Isn’t this amazing?” Paige’s voice quivered with excitement.

“No,” Alicia whimpered, still holding onto her. Sniffling, she buried her face deep into Paige’s dress as they were carried down the walkway and then through the gargantuan doors of the mansion. The hallway that they walked through seemed endless, oil paintings hung on the walls. Most of the paintings were of grave-looking men, either smiling stiffly or not smiling at all. To her surprise, there were a few paintings of women. These were clearly ancient; the women wore clothing that indicated that they were from a time when both sexes were the same size. It was astonishing for Paige to imagine being the size of an Alpha.

She didn’t have much time to dwell on the paintings because the giant had entered into a cavernous room, one filled with plush leather couches and chairs. There was a vast fireplace but the fire wasn’t currently lit. Two high-backed chairs were positioned near the fireplace and another Alpha sat in one, a glass of amber liquid in his hand. He was around the same age as the giant carrying them, his hair sandy blond. He was also dressed in a suit, although this one was black with a scarlet tie, and it made her wonder if the Alphas all wore similar clothing. His face was handsome, made up of sharp angles, but the dark blue eyes sent chills down Paige’s spine.

“There you are, Will. I was wondering what was keeping you,” the blond Alpha said in a rich, melodic voice. The ice cubes in his glass clinked loudly as he moved his hand.

“My apologies, Gideon,” the giant holding their cage replied. Will, that was his name. Paige noted how deferentially he spoke to the other Alpha.

Gideon put down his drink on a side table and leaned forward eagerly in his leather chair. “Don’t just stand there. Bring them over here.”

Will obeyed, placing the cage on the expensive Oriental carpet in front of Gideon. Opening the door, he reached in and began to pluck out women, one after another. When it was Alicia’s turn, she howled in panic, trying to hold onto Paige. But the huge fingers coiled around her and tore her loose with ease, dragging her away. When the hand returned for Paige, she didn’t fight it. Never before had she been picked up and she found the experience unnerving. Like being wrapped in hot, living flesh that smelled like sweat and skin oil and a hundred other odors. Beneath the relatively soft skin, she could feel the hard tendons and powerful muscles, muscles that could squash her if the giant so chose.

He didn’t crush her, although his hand moved too quickly and her stomach roiled in protest. Even after he put her down on the thick carpet, her head still swam with vertigo. Especially when she glanced up and up at the giant seated in front of her, his smiling face cocked slightly to one side. His sheer size made her dizzy.

“Are these all of them?” Gideon addressed Will, rather than the women at the foot of his chair. When the other Alpha nodded, he rubbed his chin and studied them. His intense gaze made her feel incredibly exposed, like being on the slide of a microscope, and it gradually began to occur to her that Will wasn’t her new owner at all. Gideon’s next words confirmed this.

“My name is Gideon Clarke and I’ll be your new master,” he told them, and Paige swallowed hard. Perhaps she was coming to conclusions too quickly. There was no reason to mistrust him, yet she felt a terrible dread when she gazed up at the face looming high above her.

He continued on in a matter-of-fact tone, “There is something that you should all know.”

Paige’s heart thundered painfully in her chest.

“I won’t permit disobedience. Ever. And if any of you ever try to run away, well…” Gideon paused, all fifteen women staring up at him in abject fear. He reached down into the pocket of his trousers and withdrew something. When his fingers uncurled, Paige saw that it was a tiny woman, naked except for a ruby necklace around her graceful neck. She was breathing rapidly, her little breasts bobbing up and down in time with her heaving chest. Gideon smiled down at the woman in his outstretched palm like some benevolent deity, but his eyes were predatory.

“Stacy, tell these fine women what happens to those who try to run away,” he said almost gently.

The woman in his hand made a desperate noise and began to plead frantically with him. “P-please, Master! I’m sorry! I won’t run away again!”

“Stacy, I gave you a command.” Gideon’s thumb was rubbing at her breasts, hard enough to make her squeal in pain. “I told you to tell them what happens to those who try to run away. I suppose I’ll just have to show them.”

“No, Master! Please, don’t!” Stacy begged but he was already lowering her to the floor between his feet. Wailing, she tried to hold onto his fingers but he tipped his hand, her body rolling off. The other women watched, aghast, as she sat up, her arms stretched out in a gesture of supplication.

“Go. Run,” Gideon ordered.

“B-b-but Master…”

“Now, now, Stacy. Do I have to break your arm?” The giant questioned with a smirk. She uttered a low, dismal cry and then obeyed, dashing across the carpet as fast as she could. The Alphas and the other women watched her sprint toward the doorway, nimbly avoiding obstacles in her path. Just when Paige was beginning to think that she would escape, that she would actually make it through the doorway, Gideon rose from his chair. The cluster of women looked up as he stepped over them, his foot landing so dangerously close that they felt the floorboards tremble and quake.

Stacy froze, her entire body stiffening, as she glanced over her shoulder at the approaching giant. He wasn’t running; instead, he casually strolled toward her, each of his strides equal to dozens and dozens of her own. When he was only a few feet away, she tried to dart toward the doorway. But Gideon grabbed the doorknob with astonishing speed and slammed the door shut, sealing off the exit.

“Oh, you were so close, too,” he teased. “It’s a pity that you were too slow.”

As he towered above her, his mouth stretched in a cruel grin, Stacy dropped down to her hands and knees and crawled toward him. Her curly auburn hair hung down in front of her face, obscuring it as she alternated between hysterical pleas and frightened sobs.

“I-I promise that I won’t do it again,” she choked out. “I-I’ll m-make you so happy, just give me a—,”

Stacy’s sentence was cut short when he raised his dress boot over her, giving her an ominous view of the immense sole. The shriek that followed was inhumanly shrill, a keening cry that made Paige grit her teeth. Beside her, Alicia cringed and covered her eyes. But Paige didn’t look away, witnessing the hellish drama as it unfolded before her.

With excruciating slowness, Gideon began to lower his foot, allowing Stacy a chance to try to scramble away. She seized the opportunity with desperate determination, her breath coming out in panting bursts. As the massive shadow descended over her, she wiggled faster, her eyes bulging with primal fear. Ever so slightly, the sole brushed up against her back and shoulders and she began to scream anew. Then she simply disappeared as Gideon’s boot came down on her. There was a sickening crunch and blood squirted out across the floor.

Paige didn’t fully accept that he had just murdered someone until the giant nonchalantly ground what was left of Stacy into the floorboards, her remains squelching wetly. After he was satisfied that she was thoroughly mashed, he headed back in their direction, once again stomping perilously close to the group of petrified women. He sat back down on the chair and retrieved his glass from the side table. Paige was thankful that Alicia still had her hands over her eyes when he crossed one leg over the other, revealing Stacy’s flattened corpse on the bottom of his shoe. She didn’t even look like a person anymore, more like a gruesome mockery of one. Her limbs were spread wide, a glistening pinkish-red tangle of organs rupturing from her abdomen.

Gideon’s eyes were on them, shining almost feverishly. He had enjoyed killing the tiny woman, that much was certain. Never in her worst dreams had she imagined ending up with an Alpha like this one. Fear and hatred filled her, but all that she could do was ball her hands up into tight fists. Gideon finally looked away, taking a sip of his drink.

“Now you know what happens to those who disobey,” he said, Stacy’s blood slowly dribbling from the sole of his boot onto the carpet below.

***

For his eighteenth birthday, Gideon’s father had purchased him his first pet, a voluptuous woman with olive skin and large, doe-like eyes. He had been so excited to get away from the party and bring her up to his bedroom, where he had eagerly torn off her silk dress. The woman had been well-trained, not skittish at all as he admired her soft skin, turning her over in his palm. Even when he had pinched one of her minuscule breasts, the flesh purpling between his fingers, she hadn’t protested. In the back of his mind, it had fascinated him to know that someone as small as this woman had given him life, that his own beginning had been so…insignificant. Of course, he would never know his female parent. To him, she was just another Breeder, one of the women whose only job was to produce offspring until her body failed her.

He had continued to prod at his new toy until his interest had waned. Gideon had been considering going to bed when, by accident, he had pulled too hard at one of his pet’s arms and she had screeched in response. The sound had been high and awful and had given him a raging erection instantly. His fingers had constricted around the tiny woman, tighter and tighter until she hadn’t been able to draw a breath. Slowly, so to savor it, he had raised her up to his eyes, examining her darkening face. To his amusement, her minute tongue had slipped from her mouth as she had suffocated. Just before she had passed out, he had squeezed hard. The soft little body in his hand had simply imploded, her fragile bones shattering loudly.

The subsequent orgasm had been shockingly intense. As the feeling of euphoria had gradually passed, he had glanced down at the broken body in his hand, her head thrown back, her dark red intestines forced from her anus. That was when he had realized what he wanted: this unfettered power, to take life whenever he chose. It was more exhilarating than any drug.

So here he was, years later, sipping scotch and inspecting his newest acquisitions. Gideon reached down and picked them up one at a time, peeling off the black shift dresses and scrutinizing their tiny naked bodies while the others waited on the floor. One of them, a skinny blonde, had her hands over her eyes and her friend was hugging her tightly, gazing up at him boldly. He pretended not to notice the brunette, but he watched her as he stroked the woman in his hand. That one’s boldness excited him. It would make their relationship so much more interesting. Especially when he broke her spirit along with her body.

“Was that really necessary, Gideon?” Will asked, interrupting his thoughts. He looked over at his personal assistant, who was standing by the fireplace.

“Of course it was necessary. I don’t want them getting out of line, do I?” In his hand, the small woman shivered and Gideon experienced that familiar jolt of pleasure. “You’re just jealous that you can’t afford any yourself, Will.”

The other Alpha just nodded politely, although Gideon noted the way that the muscles around his mouth tightened into taut cords. Oh, that comment had to have hurt. In a way, he felt sorry for Will, who was fortunate enough to be normal-sized but who was still at the bottom of the Alpha social hierarchy. Well, at least he could find some solace in the fact that he wasn’t a Null. What utterly repulsive creatures they were.

Gideon refocused his attention, putting down the woman in his hand and selecting the frightened blonde. The second that she felt his fingers around her, she shuddered and removed her hands from her face, panic written all over her delicate features. This one was absolutely terrified of him. Good. He loved the blind, animalistic fear that he inspired in these tiny creatures.

On the floor, the blonde’s friend was staring up at him boldly, almost defiantly. Aware that she was watching, he roughly tugged off the blonde’s clothes, making her yelp when he pulled too hard. As he plucked off her ugly little shoes, she continued to whimper and cry. Gideon lightly flicked her on the side of her face with just enough force to whip her head back but not enough to snap her spine.

“Enough,” he ordered and with a loud gasp, she managed to control herself. Which was disappointing, because he was mildly aroused from stomping on Stacy and he would have pounced upon an excuse to punish another pet. He inspected her with the same detachment of a farmer examining newly-purchased livestock. When he was satisfied that she wasn’t diseased, he dumped her back on the ground and snatched up her friend.

To his surprise, she started to strip herself, pulling down her dress. Gideon frowned at this small act of independence. He briefly considered giving her a good flick as well, then decided against it. No, he would bide his time. Give her a chance to screw up badly and then punish her for her behavior. Inside his pants, his cock stirred and hardened.

He looked her over, like he had with the others, but he didn’t set her back down on the floor. Instead, he forced apart her legs, his pinkie bumping up against his minuscule vagina. Horrified, the woman tried to squirm away, her body twisting and turning, but he kept his finger firmly placed against her sex. The action’s meaning was clear: You belong to me.

Her brow furrowed and her mouth became a straight gash across the length of her lower face, rage and fright apparent. Gideon lifted her up to his lips, enjoying her discomfort as she saw how close she was to his mouth.

“Remember what happens to those who disobey me,” he reminded her in a whisper.

The woman nodded, although her dark eyes remained fiercely defiant. He’d definitely enjoy breaking this one.

Gideon finally put her down and finished examining his new playthings. As soon as he had put down the last woman, he snapped his fingers and pointed to the cage. They filed back in, most of them drooping their heads. Except for her. He’d ask Will for a list of their names later; for now, she was simply Her. The one who was strong-willed, but not for long.

He slammed the cage door shut after the last woman had stepped inside and then lifted it up, noting how light the cage was. Then again, each of the women weighed close to nothing. Even fifteen of them was hardly noticeable.

“I need you to reschedule my two o’clock appointment,” Gideon told Will as he headed toward the door. He wanted this whole afternoon open to play with his latest acquisitions. Will said something, although he had already opened the door and strode into the hallway.

“Oh, and have the Nulls clean up that spot on the floor. I don’t want her blood damaging my carpet,” he called back. Whistling, he carried the women down the hall, already planning out what he wanted to do to them in minute detail.

The mansion was gigantic, with dozens of rooms, so it took him awhile to reach the east wing. After his father had died, he had lived here alone. Well, alone except for the women and the Nulls, although he didn’t really consider to be people. Only Alphas were people.

The east wing was where he kept his collection of women. Four whole rooms were dedicated to his collection, cages placed from floor to ceiling. Not just any cages, either. Gideon adored beautiful things and so he chose the most exquisitely-crafted cages, ones with gold and silver bars and velvet lining. One time, another Alpha had commented on the extravagance of these cages, saying that he must truly care for his pets. That wasn’t the reason, though. The cages were there to please him.

And how they did! Just seeing the hundreds of women in their cages brought a wide smile to his lips. The smile broadened as the women spotted him and ran to the opposite side of their cages, cowering. They were too familiar with their Master’s monstrous appetites and just the sight of him sent them into a wild panic.

But fortunately for them, his attention was on his new acquisitions. Gideon began placing them into the cages mounted on the wall, still whistling cheerfully. When he grabbed Her, the defiant one, he held her in his hand longer than the others. She was silent but still glared at him stubbornly, her eyes betraying far too much. With a wink, he tossed her into the cage, delighted when she struck the opposite bars and ricocheted off.

Gideon didn’t even bother to see if she was hurt. He had already turned away, whistling cheerfully.

***

The pain was terrible, her nude chest covered with purplish-black bruises from when she had smashed into the bars, but the burning hatred was much worse. Paige loathed Gideon with every fiber of her being and his smirking face was all that she could think about as she sat there with the others. A monster with a human face, that’s what he was. The way that he had crushed that woman Stacy had been brutally inhuman. She could only imagine what he would eventually do to them.

But there was nothing that she could do about it at the moment. She was imprisoned here, listening to the distant murmur of voices in other cages. If she could get out…but that was impossible, considering that the cage was locked. Besides, where would she go? Certainly not outside, with all of its dangers.

Paige closed her eyes and tried to rest, unable to get into a comfortable position. She was attempting to count backwards, a technique that sometimes worked, when she heard a sharp intake of breath and someone hissed, “He’s back!”

So he was, standing there with his hands on his hips in an arrogant stance. Gideon’s size was still frightening, as was the complete lack of compassion in his eyes as he surveyed his possessions. To her disappointment, he strolled toward her cage, becoming larger and larger until he filled her entire vision.

“Hello, my little darlings,” he said, tapping one enormous finger against the bars.

“Please don’t hurt us!” Alicia squealed.

“Well, I can’t promise that, can I?” Gideon swung the cage door open, placing his hand inside palm side-up. “Four of you get on. Now.”

No one moved until they recalled the edict about disobedience. Then two of the women climbed up onto the palm, followed by a third. Paige glanced over at Alicia, who was too paralyzed with fright to do much besides stare at the immense hand. She decided that she would go and spare her friend. Reluctantly, she clambered up between the giant’s fingers, kneeling with the rest of the women.

Paige gave Alicia one last glance before Gideon removed his hand from the cage. He wasn’t careful at all and they were nearly thrown to their deaths. Somehow, they all managed to hold on, clutching the huge fingers with desperation. This seemed to amuse the Alpha and he chuckled, tilting his hand this way and that as they struggled to hold on. At one point, Paige was convinced that she would lose her grip and splatter against the floor, which, at her height, seemed to be hundreds of feet away.

The giant seemed to become bored of the game and he carried them out of the room, everything rushing by an insane rate. Paige had no clue where they were going and her mind fabricated a thousand gruesome fates. When they reached a small room, almost empty except for a plain wooden chair and a table, she had imagined almost every possibility of what he planned to do with them.

Except for this one. There was several objects on the table, including bottles with the labels missing, a pair of gloves, cotton balls and what looked like a small, strange power drill. The presence of that weird drill, with its wickedly-sharp bit, made her shiver. Whatever could he want with that machine? She hesitantly looked up at Gideon but at this angle, she couldn’t see his face, let alone his expression. Besides, he was putting them on the table, pulling them off of his fingers.

The Alpha sat down on the chair and slipped his hands into the black gloves. He arranged the other objects before him, like a surgeon prepping for an operation.

“I like to mark my slaves,” Gideon informed them, removing the cap from one of the bottles. The strong odor of rubbing alcohol assaulted her nose, making her wince. As she was pondering his words, his gloved hand shot out and seized the person closest to her, a petite woman named Christina.

The giant laid her down on her stomach, soaking a cotton ball with the rubbing alcohol and swiping the cotton along her bare back. His instructions were issued in a clinical, detached sort of manner: “Now, don’t move. I would be lying if I said that this won’t hurt, but if you move, I guarantee that you’ll regret it.”

When he turned on the drill-like instrument, a high, horrible noise issued from it and as he positioned it over the tiny woman, Paige saw the gleam of a needle. A tattoo needle, that’s what it was. Not a drill at all. She blinked, horrified, as the giant lowered the needle down onto the Christina’s exposed flesh. To a normal-sized human, there may have been some slight pain; to a person of her size, it was probably excruciating agony. The shrill hum of the tattoo almost drowned out the poor woman’s howls.

It seemed to take an eternity for Gideon to finish tattooing the woman, his handsome face hanging high above her as he worked. Finally, he was satisfied with his work and he picked her up by her legs, revealing the huge black “G” on her back, the skin surrounding it bloody and swollen. He eyed her, allowing her to dangle between his massive fingers, and then put her down so that he could select another.

This time it was Nicole, who, like Alicia, had always tended to be high-strung. To her credit, she tried to cooperate, lying still as the tattoo needle came down for her. But as soon as the needle touched her, she screeched and tried to wiggle away. Either Gideon lost control of the instrument or he purposely bore down, but the needle punctured deep into her flesh. Nicole convulsed spasmodically, blood squirting up and onto the table. Before Paige’s eyes, the red blood darkened until it was a terrible black, the color of the ink.

Gideon turned off the machine and withdrew the needle, but the damage was already done. A ragged, gaping wound was torn into Nicole’s back, blood and ink flowing down over her buttocks and legs. The giant made a “tsk” sound and poked at her.

“You really should have listened to me,” he said. “Now you’re damaged.”

Casually, Gideon swept her off the table with the back of his hand, her little body catapulted into the air. Paige didn’t have to peer over the side of the table to know that she was probably killed when she landed.

Her turn was next and her skin crawled as the hand plucked her up, the leather of the glove astoundingly soft. She gazed up into the monster’s face, his lips parted slightly to reveal his perfect white teeth. I hate you, she thought as she hung there in his grip. And I won’t give you the satisfaction of hearing me scream.

But when he laid her upon the table, the bruises on her chest hurting once more, she couldn’t help but shake violently. And when the needle sank into her flesh, she screamed until her throat was raw.

***

The pain from the tattoo was a constant and throbbing presence as Paige sat in the cage, brooding. At one point, several Nulls had appeared, nimbly climbing up the wall-to-ceiling ladders and visiting each cage. When one of the Nulls had arrived at their cage, she had noticed that he was older, his hair peppered with gray. For a Null to be that age was astonishing; most of them died early on, either killed by accident or on purpose.

His hands had passed through the golden bars, depositing food in a neat little pyramid. No one had moved toward the bread and cheese and vegetables except for Paige. She hadn’t been particularly hungry but she wasn’t scooping up handfuls of food for herself. No, it had been for Alicia, who had been huddled in the corner, reliving the tattooing over and over in her head. Except for a slight movement of her eyes, Alicia hadn’t responded much. There hadn’t been much that Paige could do except leave the pile of food there, hoping that her friend would eventually eat it.

So far, she hadn’t touched it. Paige was contemplating how she could coax Alicia into eating when there was commotion in the cages. The floorboards creaked ominously as Gideon approached. He had changed out of the clothing from earlier; now he wore a black and scarlet robe, the sort of garment that a man would use at night. Paige shook as he peered into their cage. The bars and the prisoners were reflected in his dark blue eyes, each as large as her body and fringed with thick blond eyelashes.

“Stand up and come here, all of you,” the giant commanded, opening the cage door. Paige obeyed, her back still burning. When Alicia didn’t stir, she hurried over and yanked her up by one arm, practically dragging her toward the door. They stood there, uncomfortably nude before the immense eyes. The Alpha hadn’t given them any clothes since he had removed their dresses and Paige gritted her teeth as her studied her, his eyes sliding possessively all over her exposed body.

She was almost thankful when he reached into the cage and his hand enveloped them. At least she didn’t have to see those eyes anymore. Nonchalantly, he dumped them into the pocket of the robe, a jumbled mass of women who clawed at one another as they tried to pull themselves upright. He didn’t seem overly concerned about their writhing as he started to walk. It was dark in the pocket, the only light filtering in through the opening high overhead, but Paige could make out the frightened faces around her.

Someone kneed her in the back, right where that awful tattoo was located. The searing pain that slammed into her a moment later was enough to make her fold up in half. By the time that the agony faded away, Gideon had stopped walking and reached into the pocket once more, pulling them up in handfuls. She was one of the last to be snatched up and then placed down on a cold, hard surface, gleaming white walls rising up all around her. The other women shivered together in a group, looking around fearfully.

They were in a bathtub, Paige realized. If she squinted, she could see gigantic light fixtures in the distance. Then Gideon crouched down next to the bathtub, glancing down at them. He had some sort of expression on his face, mischievous or sadistic or perhaps both. Without a word, the Alpha reached over them, his mammoth arm passing by and casting a dark shadow on the tub floor. His hand closed around the faucet handle and turned, a deluge of water roaring out from the faucet a second later. Gideon snickered as the women all ran from the flood of water, only to find that they couldn’t escape it. They ended up wading through the warm water at first, then paddling as it steadily rose, filling the tub.

None of them could swim well; pools and ponds and oceans were usually things that only Alphas experienced. The giant watched them struggle to stay above the water, their arms and legs thrashing desperately. After the tub was almost full, he turned off the water and dipped his arm into the water, stirring it slowly and creating small waves that heaved the women around. Paige swam away from the gargantuan arm, toward one side of the tub. At first, the distance didn’t seem so bad; then her limbs became heavy, the exertion of paddling around quickly taking its toll. She paused, treading water; then she mustered up all of her remaining strength and swam the rest of the way to the wall.

The wall soared high above her, unscalable. Even trying to hold onto it was difficult, the gleaming white porcelain too slick to gain much purchase. Slowly, it began to occur her that if Gideon didn’t lift them out of the water, they would all drown. But he wouldn’t let that happen…would he? Paige gazed over at the giant, who had withdrawn his arm and who was observing the women as they floundered in the water. The complete lack of mercy in his eyes answered that question.

Her arms transformed into lead weights and when she stopped moving them, her head plunged beneath the water. She flailed, raising her face back up and coughing fitfully. No matter how much she tried to cling onto the porcelain wall, she couldn’t, her hands slipping. What a horrible way to die, to drown from exhaustion in a bathtub. Paige inhaled more water, sputtered again. Just as the weariness threatened to overcome her, Gideon stood up and removed his silk robe. He wasn’t wearing anything underneath, his massive body sculpted in a way that suggested that he spent considerable time exercising it. There was no doubt that he was handsome, towering there above the bathtub, but Paige was too focused on not drowning to admire him.

The giant swung one seemingly-endless leg into the tub, the movement causing enormous waves that pummeled the tiny swimmers. High above, the huge, heavy globes of his balls and penis swung ponderously, and far past that, his eyes glittered with terrible anticipation. Then another wave struck Paige and she was pulled underwater, her body flopping around helplessly. All that she could see was churning water and then darkness as her vision began to fail, her lungs aching for breath.

She was only barely aware when she washed up onto a hard, warm mass. Everything hurt — her back and her lungs and her limbs — and she was too weak to do anything but just lay there, panting, as her eyesight returned. The ground beneath her was soft and clearly alive; gigantic hairs grew like tall, bent reeds and she could detect the rhythmic pulse of a heartbeat. Paige glanced up and saw Gideon’s titanic torso and head propped up against the end of the tub. He was sprawled out, the tiny women trying to climb onto him like survivors from a shipwreck. Several others crawled up onto his thigh near Paige, water dribbling from their hair and shuddering bodies. The Alpha merely watched them drag themselves up onto his legs and abdomen, neither helping nor hindering their efforts.

Paige was relieved to see that Alicia had made it to safety, curled up near the giant’s navel. Her eyes moved from friend to Gideon’s face again. Just a sick game, that’s all that had been. And unfortunately, it wasn’t over. The Alpha reached over, sending a few women plummeting back into the cooling water, and picked up a large bottle of body wash. To Paige and the others, the bottle was the size of a grain silo yet he lifted it up effortlessly, squirting some of the soap into his palm. Dabbing some of the soap here and there on his body, he pointed to the women.

“Get to it,” the giant ordered in his deep, thunderous voice and Paige rose, her weary legs wobbling and threatening to collapse. She headed to one of the blobs of fragrant soap and began to lather it along the huge expanse of flesh that stretched out all around her. All over the Alpha’s body, the other women were doing the same, some working with desperation, others with a sort of awed fascination. Well, except for Alicia. She remained where she was, a small, shivering ball who was too exhausted or too petrified to do anything.

But Gideon didn’t seem to notice Alicia, for which Paige was thankful. He was too busy watching the minuscule women as they slithered around his broad chest, his abs, his legs. His face was inscrutable, his mouth set in a neutral expression that gave away nothing, although he groaned slightly when some of the women began to gently rub the soap over his balls and cock. Draping his arms over the sides of the tub, he tilted his head back and closed his eyes, his immense body visibly relaxing.

Paige stopped soaping up the flesh beneath her and furtively snuck a glance around the bathroom. It was opulent, like everything else in this mansion, but her attention wasn’t on the gold and tan tiles or the glittering chandelier that hung from the vaulted ceiling. No, her eyes were on the window, where she could make out the violet evening sky. How long would she survive out there, past that window? Assuming that she could somehow escape outside, would she be able to outrun the cats and the birds and the various other hazards? In her most secret thoughts, she liked to believe that she could.

The bathwater churned violently around her as Gideon moved, sitting up. Paige looked away from the window and to her horror, she saw that the giant had finally noticed Alicia. There was a cold, almost reptilian, gleam in the Alpha’s eyes and the primitive part of Paige’s brain immediately recognized the danger. Her friend, however, didn’t react, remaining in a fetal position even when Gideon reached down and poked at her. Frowning, he wrapped his titanic fingers around her still form, starting to lift her up until Paige cried out, “No! Don’t!”

Her frantic words startled everyone, including herself. The giant’s hand stopped in its ascent; Alicia’s legs were the only part of her that was visible, dangling out from Gideon’s fist.

“What did you say?” He demanded.

Paige shuddered, partly because she was wet and the air was chilly; partly because she felt even smaller than usual under the Alpha’s intense gaze. She managed to answer, “Please don’t hurt her.”

Gideon’s gaze didn’t move from Paige and as she looked on, a horrible expression began to contort his otherwise handsome face. It was the expression of a sadistic boy who had found an injured animal in his path and unlimited time and freedom to torment it. The hand holding Alicia opened and her friend plunged into the bathwater with a loud splash. Paige backed up until she came to the edge of the giant’s thigh, the water lapping at her bare feet. There was no where to go and just as she considered diving back into the tub, Gideon snatched her up with amazing speed.

She struggled futilely, trying to free herself, until the giant opened his hand. Instinctively she froze at the sight of his cruel smile.

“You’re a bold little thing, aren’t you?” Gideon asked, bringing her uncomfortably close to his immense face. His breath, hot and moist and redolent of his last meal, stirred her damp hair. He didn’t bother waiting for an answer. “I know your type. Strong-willed, indomitable. But I’ve broken so many others like you.”

The giant’s gale-like exhalations were coming in more rapid succession, washing over her skin, as he reminisced. “There’s nothing quite as satisfying as crushing someone’s spirit.”

“I-I’m sorry. I just didn’t want you to hurt her,” Paige apologized, but Gideon didn’t reply. Still holding her in his hand, he stood up from the tub, water cascading from his towering frame. The women who had been scattered all over his body either clung onto him or tumbled into the bathwater. The Alpha paid them no heed as he stepped out of the tub, reaching for a towel. One of his little passengers lost her grip and screamed all the way down to the tiled floor. She landed with a splat, bounced once, then was still, her slender limbs twisted at odd angles. Gideon paused, glancing down disinterestedly; then he slowly and deliberately placed his foot on the tiny woman. A sharp crack and a violent squirt of bright blood later, and her corpse was flattened into the tile.

The giant just left the smashed body on the floor, ignoring the pitiful smear of blood and broken bones that was once a person. He plucked the women off of his body, setting them by the sink, then retrieved those who were still in the tub. As soon as he set Alicia down, Paige tried to reach out for her friend but a massive finger stopped her, ramming into her solar plexus and knocking the breath from her lungs. Wheezing, she looked up into Gideon’s smirking face. Arrogant, murderous asshole. Hatred swelled up in her chest, making it even more difficult to breathe.

Paige balled up her hands into fists as he dried off and slipped the robe back on. He padded out of the bathroom, returned a moment later with a simple wooden box. The sight of that nondescript box filled her with overwhelming dread. But when he opened it, what sparkled inside weren’t implements of torture but a multitude of minute precious stones, sapphires and emeralds and diamonds.

And all of those glittering jewels were set in miniature collars.

Gideon selected one woman at a time, carefully slipping a collar around each. He was rough with Alicia, however, making her squawk in pain when he forced the diamond collar down around her neck. Paige’s cheeks burned like two hot coals as the hatred grew and festered inside of her. Somehow, she held her tongue as he pinched her between his mammoth fingers and put an amethyst collar on her.

Once they were all collared, he gathered them up, as if they were nothing more than pretty little statues, and returned them to the room with the cages. By then, Paige was exhausted, longing for sleep. She eagerly awaited going back into the cage, but although he put the others inside, he kept her imprisoned in the warm darkness of his hand.

Paige knew that she was in trouble when he started to walk away, and his next words only confirmed this:

“It’s time for us to get to know each other better, Paige.”

***

The tiny woman squirmed feebly in his hand as Gideon closed the door to his bedroom. It was a huge room with French doors that opened onto a stone balcony, the solid darkness of night apparent through the glass panes. There were also cages in here, filled with his favorite playthings, and he could sense the watchful gazes of the women in them. He stood there for a second, basking in their unease and their reluctant adoration. Any other night, he’d take out two or three of the tiny women (since one would inevitably die from his rough playing). But tonight he had a new pet to explore.

He set her down on a night stand, pleased to see the state that she was in. Exhausted, there was no doubt about that. Her tiny limbs trembled as she pushed herself up, her torso rotating to reveal the swollen “G” imprinted onto her flesh. Still, she lifted her head to look up at him, her dark eyes shining brightly in the lamplight.

At that moment, there was nothing else in the world that Gideon wanted more than to hurt her.

He purposely leaned over the table, allowing his shadow to swallow her up. The amethyst collar twinkled as she tried to get out from underneath him. But there was no way for the little woman to go. She was trapped on the table, helpless to do anything other than gape up at him. The knowledge that he could do anything to the small, delicate creature was erotic. He could smash her into red jelly beneath his fist, rip her head from her neck, force his pinkie up between her legs and laugh as her fragile pelvis separated.

Blood rushed to his penis as he fantasized about the infinite ways that he could destroy the woman on the table. Paige was level with the his groin and the robe was open enough so that she could see his growing erection. She stared at it, mesmerized; then he playfully thrust forward, his cock bashing into her like a battering ram. Her tiny body was flung backwards and when she struck the table and skidded to a stop, he wondered if he had killed her. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time that he had unwittingly broken one of his toys.

But Paige pulled herself up, looking dazed as she touched the slow stream of blood trickling from her split lip. She seemed shocked to see her crimson-stained fingertips and her eyes gradually drifted back toward Gideon. There was anger etched on her face, but something else as well. Fear. It made him even more aroused and lust reduced his voice to a low growl when he said, “Come here.”

She was smart enough not to disobey, especially after he had given her a glimpse of what would happen to those who defied him. Like Stacy. What a foolish girl…he had led her on, pretending that she was his favorite, and when he had deliberately cast her aside for a new pet, she had threatened to kill herself and her cage mates. And now she was nothing more than a mangled corpse, her blood scrubbed from the carpet by some repulsive little Null.

“Listen carefully. You will make me come or I’ll go and get your little friend,” he told her, grinning as he saw her eyes widen in horror, “And I’ll tear her apart in front of you. Do you understand?”

The tiny woman gazed up at him, blood still running down from her lip, and she muttered a soft, “Yes.”

“Get going.”

“Yessir,” she said quietly, approaching his throbbing erection with trepidation. When her minuscule hands touched his cockhead, he drew in his breath sharply, savoring the sensation. It was an exquisite feeling, especially when her fingers caressed his flesh ever-so-slightly, but even better was her expression, like a frightened mouse forced out into the open. That round-eyed look brought out the predator in him and he rammed his cock forward once more, this time rolling her underneath it. When he withdrew, he saw her twitching and squirming, and so he did it again and again, relishing her feeble struggles and sad mews of pain. Paige probably would have died beneath his rock-hard shaft if he hadn’t orgasmed, the pleasure building up inside of him until it exploded with glorious violence.

Even through the rippling waves of ecstasy, he managed to aim at the bruised and beaten thing on the nightstand, hitting her chest with the full-force of his ejaculation. It shoved her backwards and as she reeled, trying to regain her footing, his next shots hit her in the face. She collapsed, soaked with his semen, and he waited until she wasn’t moving before he touched her with an index finger. To his amusement, she sputtered and moved her arms and legs in an uncoordinated way, floundering in the thick viscosity of his seed.

“You’re a tough little thing,” Gideon commented, finding a handkerchief in one of the bureau drawers. Paige was silent, too tired to even attempt to brush the milky slime from her body. Once he cleaned himself, he wiped her off as well, running the handkerchief over her belly, her breasts, her weary face. It wasn’t concern for her that drove his actions; he just didn’t want to hold some filthy, cum-soaked creature in his hands.

He found the leash next, a thin thread of gold links, no thicker than dental floss but strong enough that the tiny woman couldn’t break it. One end he clipped to her sparkling collar; the other he wound around his middle finger, giving her just enough slack to move around. When he placed her on the bed, the damask duvet barely dimpling beneath her weight, she began to experimentally tug at the leash, and then at the collar.

“If that collar comes off, your friend’s head comes off as well,” Gideon said as he climbed onto the bed beside her.

She saw that he was serious and her arms flopped down to her sides, the gold chain rattling slightly. He laid on his side, his body forming a towering wall above her. Paige watched him warily, her pose tense, ready to run. But despite this, he was still too fast for her, rolling over just enough so that his crotch came down on her, pinning the tiny woman between the mattress and his sex. If he had rolled over more, she would have been crushed into a bloody stain on the duvet. But she was merely trapped for now and he lay there, enjoying her frightened squirming.

Soon her movements weakened as she ran out of energy. Gideon didn’t even bother to turn off the light, drifting into contented sleep.

***

Paige, on the other hand, didn’t sleep for most of the night.

She was on her back, the soft, heavy weight of the giant’s testicles bearing down upon her. Initially, she had fought, punching and kicking at the oppressive flesh. Not that she could hurt him, but maybe she could annoy him enough that he would roll back over. But it was useless. Gideon didn’t move and she became so tired that she laid there motionless, struggling to breathe. It was dark and humid and hot and although he had bathed recently, the air seemed overwhelmingly like him: acrid sweat and the bleach-like odor of semen.

And the sounds that he made — his deep, rhythmic breathing, the thrum of his heartbeat, the faint scratching of the duvet against his skin as he moved — were all that she heard as she lay there in the hellishly hot blackness. It was enough to drive a person mad, but Paige refused to lose her mind. Since she couldn’t free her body, she allowed her imagination to wander, away from this room, this mansion. She imagined being outside and for once, she didn’t feel the mind-numbing fear of being exposed and alone. Instead, she experienced a thrill of pleasure as she envisioned herself walking away from this awful place. It didn’t matter if there were snakes and owls and other predators…they were far less worse than the monster imprisoning her here.

For a moment, it actually felt like she was outside, walking amongst the tall blades of grass that glittered with dew, the fresh air against her face. Then the giant shifted slightly, his gigantic balls threatening to smother her. Paige resumed pounding at the wrinkly flesh, trying to push it off of her body. Tears of rage and humiliation streamed down her face and she tasted one, bitterly salty, as it trickled into her mouth.

She must have nodded off at one point because she was jolted awake when the pressure was abruptly lifted and bright sunlight assaulted her eyes. Moaning, she reached up with a shaking hand, touching her sweaty cheeks. Gideon was awake and observing her, his head resting upon one hand. He was handsome, she had to admit, and he certainly didn’t look like a psychopath at that moment. But that’s what he was and she had to remind herself of that as he pulled on the golden leash, forcing her to come closer to him.

Once she within reach, his fingers closed around her and lifted upwards, carrying her over the rolling landscape of his torso. The hand paused near his face and she gazed up into his right eye, his colossal size making it impossible to stare into both eyes simultaneously. His irises weren’t a solid color but rather a dazzling array of blues and grays. And the pupils, bigger in diameter than her fists, were endless pools of blackness, constricting as they focused on her.

Then his lips parted, his hurricane breath stirring her hair, and she gasped as she found herself being lowered to his mouth. Paige saw the flash of his teeth, immense and white and deadly, and she shivered with instinctual dread. He said something, the rumble of his voice vibrating up through her body, but she was too fixated on the awful sight of his mouth to process it.

“No, no, no,” Paige protested as a monstrous tongue, glistening with saliva, slipped out. She tried to avoid the huge thing, but she was held firmly in the giant’s grasp. The tongue slithered against her body, unwelcome. It was a horrible feeling. Not only was it warm and slimy, but the tastebuds acted like sandpaper, roughly rubbing at her breasts. Paige opened her own mouth to beg him to stop, but then he swept his tongue upwards, over her face. Her vision darkened briefly and she gagged as she tasted his saliva.

The tongue pulled away and she continued to retch, her empty stomach heaving uselessly. A sudden jolt, and suddenly she was pushed between the Alpha’s lips. Paige clawed at the lips, then at the tongue as it undulated beneath her. She found herself on her back, the ridged red roof of Gideon’s mouth curving above her. Behind her was his throat and she understood that he could very easily send her hurtling down it.

She started to plead with him, although he didn’t seem to hear her or care. His tongue pushed her up, against his hard upper palate, squeezing her against it. He was playing with her, drawing out little cries of pain as the tongue pushed harder and harder, threatening to crush her ribcage.

“P-please,” she managed and without warning, the tongue ceased its relentless battery and rolled her forward, past the enormous teeth and onto the giant’s palm. Now that she was out of his mouth, she saw that Gideon was grinning, his eyes bright with lust. And if that look in his eyes weren’t enough, she saw the monumental erection that throbbed between his legs.

“You know what you have to do,” Gideon said, draping her across his cockhead.

Shivering, she obeyed.

***

An hour later, after he had showered and changed into a new suit, Gideon sat down at his desk. He slowly flipped through pages and pages of reports, finding it difficult to focus. Paige’s movements were distracting and he almost regretted putting her into his boxer-briefs. Almost. The hopeless expression on her face as he had wedged her between his genitals and the gray fabric of his underwear had been priceless. The poor thing was almost broken, he could tell. A few more weeks of this and she would be licking his feet like a dog.

Gideon turned another page and he finally saw something that captured his attention. It was the latest demographic data, which the Senate Committee on Size Affairs had been monitoring closely. And since he was on that committee, this was of particular interest to him. He read carefully, the woman in his pants forgotten.

The numbers were discouraging. For years, the number of Alphas being born had decreased, to the point where many of the great cities like Tokyo and Paris were almost deserted. Gideon had visited the breeding centers on occasion, inspecting the cages and talking to the Alpha scientists. Those in charge had told him what he already knew, that most of the current male newborns were Nulls and the females, well, they remained as small as ever. The implication was bleak: normal-sized humans were steadily becoming extinct.

He put down the report and stared out the window for awhile, watching the sky. What would happen when the last Alpha died? The tiny people would overrun the world, assuming that they weren’t eaten by animals first. Gideon saw all of the cities abandoned, the great works of humankind left to rot. He shuddered, then saw something moving on the floor.

The Null was going about his duties, unaware that the Alpha’s eyes had settled on him. Most of the time, Gideon ignored the horrible little things. But for some reason, the presence of the tiny man filled him with blinding rage. He pushed the chair back and stood up, striding toward the Null. His target didn’t look up until Gideon was directly above him, the Alpha’s mouth contorted into a grimace. The Null looked surprised and frightened, and for some strange reason, Gideon imagined the tiny man with one of his female pets. In his mind’s eye, their arms and legs were intertwined, and they were lost in passion as they explored one another’s bodies, which was ridiculous because Nulls were eunuchs. But the image was so vivid and horrible that he shuddered again, harder this time.

“You fucking little bastard,” Gideon growled and the Null raised both hands in some sort of pathetic gesture. To his disgust, the tiny man garbled something unintelligible, as if he were actually trying to communicate with him. Gideon stomped down quickly and with great violence, the Null’s body exploding in a spray of blood and pulped flesh. It was clear that the creature was dead; his ruptured organs were fanned out around the Alpha’s foot, but Gideon continued to grind down, smearing his remains into the floor.

He eventually regained his composure and settled back down onto his chair, unzipping his pants and retrieving the flushed woman imprisoned in there. She was quite a sight, her dark hair an unruly mess and her eyes bleary with exhaustion and humiliation. And she smelled like him, too, which made sense, considering where she had been. He set her on the desk, pulling up his zipper. She had kept on the collar, he saw. Which meant that she was taking his threats seriously.

“That’s a good girl,” he said, touching her miniature breasts with one finger.

“Yes, Master,” she answered in a flat voice. He continued to feel her breasts, so small that he could probably rip them off with his fingernails. The scream that she would make if he did that would be so delightful.

The door to his study opened, startling both the Alpha and the tiny woman. Will poked his head in, looked briefly at the bloody stain on the floor, all that remained of the Null.

He didn’t comment on it, though. Instead, his voice was artificially cheerful. “You wanted to see me, Gideon?”

“Yes, I did. After you pick up the dry cleaning, call James and tell him that I need another day to finish the annual size demographics summary,” Gideon said, looking at the report again. “It’s depressing, knowing that humanity is steadily becoming extinct.”

“But the Nulls and women aren’t becoming extinct,” Will replied and the look that Gideon gave him was so chilling that his mouth snapped shut involuntarily. An uneasy silence followed and Will’s eyes drifted over to where Paige stood on the desk.

“One of the new pets that you picked up a few days ago,” Gideon told him.

Will continued to look at her. “I know.”

“She’s feisty, I must say. But not for much longer. Right, my dear?”

“Yes, Master,” the woman mumbled.

Will approached the desk. “May I hold her?”

“Be my guest,” Gideon said with a casual wave of his hand.

The other Alpha reached out and gingerly lifted up the tiny woman, simply holding her in his palm and not stroking her silky skin like Gideon would have done in his position. And the way that the corners of his mouth curled upward, the gleam of fascination in his hazel eyes…well, it made Gideon uncomfortable. It was not the expression of an Alpha with a pet.

“Give her to me,” he snapped and Will immediately gave her up, placing her in Gideon’s hand. What was that on Will’s face now? Disappointment? Gideon’s fingers closed possessively around Paige, hiding her from view.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get one of your own someday,” he said. Will merely nodded. In his fist, he felt the small woman shift, probably trying to avoid his constricting fingers.

“Now, don’t you have some dry cleaning to pick up?” Gideon asked, pleased when the other Alpha finally walked away, leaving him alone with his pet.

***

To Paige’s relief, the giant was too preoccupied with his work to pay much attention to her. She laid down amidst the huge binders and pens, her body wracked with pain and exhaustion. As Gideon flipped through pages and pages of reports, she fell asleep. In her dreams, she was outside, running for her life. As she pushed through the grass, something immense pursued her, the ground quaking beneath its staggering weight. Somehow, she knew that it wasn’t an animal but an Alpha, and she was confused as to whether it was Will or Gideon. For some reason, they both had the same face.

Then something heavy landed beside her, jolting her awake. She blinked, realizing how close the binder was that Gideon had dropped next to her. A few more inches and it would have squashed her flat. The giant peered down at her, his mouth a straight line but his eyes shining with that merry cruelty. He lowered his hand down to the desk and without being told to, she climbed into it.

Paige hoped very much that he brought her back to the cage. She hadn’t seen Alicia since yesterday and she worried about her friend. At least Gideon hadn’t been around to torment her. No, Paige had been his target for the last few hours.

Please, please bring me back to the others, Paige prayed. But the giant didn’t head in that direction. He brought her through a set a French doors, out onto a large balcony. Fresh air, fragrant with the scent of lilacs and other flowers from the gardens, caressed her face and for the first time in days, she felt a hesitant sort of happiness. She recalled her recent dream, of running for her life, and she decided that despite the danger, she would do it. Escape. Slowly, the gears turned in her head. Once she figured out what to do with Alicia, she would run far, far away from this hellish place.

She almost got the chance. Gideon put her on the teak patio table and disappeared back inside. Paige watched him leave, wondering where he was going. She didn’t wonder for very long; she sprinted to the edge of the table, trying to figure out how to get down. Jumping was out of the question; she would break every bone in her body when she hit the ground. What about climbing down one of the legs? She studied the leg closest to her, trying to work up the courage. Just as she finally convinced herself that she could make it, the giant reappeared, carrying a covered silver tray.

“You weren’t thinking of trying to get away, were you?” Gideon’s smile told her that he already knew the answer. Paige held her breath, afraid that he would swat her, crush her like an insect. Like Stacy and the others. But he didn’t strike her; instead, he put the tray down and sat across from her.

She watched as he removed the cover from the tray, speaking to her as he did. “Some of my pets have tried to escape. But I always catch them. And do you know what I do to them?”

His eyes burned into hers and Paige’s voice wobbled, “N-no, M-Master. What do you d-do to them?”

Gideon didn’t answer at first. He removed an antique china plate, its edges ringed with gold patterns, and some silverware from the tray. Paige noticed what else was on the tray: a half-dozen women, all tied up, wiggling and writhing in terror. The giant’s hand reached for one, grabbing her around the middle.

“Amongst the Alphas, it’s considered taboo to eat women and Nulls,” Gideon said, inspecting the tiny woman. “Cannibalism and all that. But that’s why I enjoy it so much.”

Hearing these words, the woman began to thrash more wildly and she tried to scream, but because she was gagged, she could only make a low, muffled noise. The giant set her on the plate and she rolled herself over, trying to crawl away. But he seized a fork and nonchalantly drove it into her torso, impaling her on the tines. The muffled sound became higher as Gideon carried the woman toward his mouth, blood seeping from her wounds and pattering onto the plate. As if she was nothing more than an hors-d’oeuvre, he placed the woman in his mouth and withdrew the fork. The rational part of Paige’s mind argued that he wouldn’t do it, that he wouldn’t actually eat a person. But when the giant gazed down purposefully at her, she understood that yes, he would do such an abominable thing.

Gideon’s jaw began to move and Paige cringed as she heard the first sharp crunches, followed by noises of excruciating pain. Each time that he chewed, the cracking and wet, pulping noises seemed to become worse, until she felt faint from watching the ghastly spectacle. And the whole time, his eyes never left her, as if he was relishing her horror as much as the taste of his victim’s flesh.

Paige shook violently as he finished chewing and swallowed whatever remained of the unfortunate woman. Smirking, he pointed the fork at her, the tines painted a gruesome red.

“That’s what I do to those who try to escape,” he said.

“I-I understand.”

“Do you?” Gideon pinched another woman between his fingers and put her on the plate. The serrated steak knife gleamed as he picked it up, positioned it over his next victim.

“Yes! Yes! I do! I do! Please stop!” Paige howled.

The giant continued to smirk, the knife descending upon the woman on the plate. It sliced through her abdomen so quickly that she didn’t have time to react. Blood and long ropes of intestine spilled out messily onto the plate, the woman’s two halves jerking and convulsing. Paige could only stare, horrified, as she realized that the poor thing wasn’t dead yet. Somehow, she survived even as her blood pooled around her. Gideon stabbed her twitching lower half with the fork and raised that to his mouth as well.

Paige glanced away, sickened.

Her stomach somersaulted wildly, the vertigo increasing to the point where her vision started to tunnel. She had no intention of looking back at what the giant was doing until she felt a sharp point dig into her chest. It was one of the fork tines, as long as a spear, and her eyes moved from the enormous utensil to Gideon’s cruel face. The tine continued to press up against her skin, hard enough to draw blood but not hard enough to skewer her. He held the fork there for what seemed like an eon before he laid it down beside his plate.

There were still several women curled up on the tray. Gideon untied one and then put her in his mouth as if she were a peppermint, not even bothering to chew her up like the others. He sucked on the woman, rolling her around his mouth. At one point, her head and arms poked out from between his lips, her black hair plastered to her face from his saliva. Apparently, he became tired with the game because he sucked her back into his mouth and swallowed her in a single powerful gulp.

He ate the others in a similar way, one by one, until the tray was empty. By that point, Paige had moved past feeling terror and revulsion. She still felt nauseous and her head pounded fiercely, but everything seemed so…distant. Removed. Far away, a chickadee was tweeting and she wished more than anything that she could be that bird. Even being ant ant would be better than this.

A shadow fell over her and she looked up to see Gideon’s palm and outstretched fingers. She accepted her fate with resignation, hoping that he was merciful enough to chew her up at least. But the giant pressed her to his abdomen instead. Beneath the black fabric of his suit, she heard all of the various internal noises of his body, including the rhythmic beating of his heart. There was also the gurgling of his stomach and something else, something that resembled screams. Horrible, choking screams, muffled behind flesh and bone and muscle.

The women that he had eaten were still alive and they were shrieking inside of the giant.

This time, when Paige’s vision tunneled, it didn’t stop until she could see nothing but blackness. Just before she fainted, she heard Gideon say, “I think that you understand now.”

***

Gideon looked down at the tiny woman sprawled out in his palm, unconscious. He ran one finger over her little curves, pausing at the sparkling amethyst collar. Then he dumped her onto the table, noting that she didn’t wake back up. The little thing had had quite a fright.

Good.

The women in his belly had stopped moving as well, which probably meant that they are suffocated. Or succumbed to his stomach acids. Either way, they were dead and he felt a sadistic sort of contentment. The first time that he eaten a woman, he had experienced a heady rush of excitement. Not only was it taboo, but the idea of it, that he was a superior predator, thrilled him. He had eaten Nulls as well, but they couldn’t shriek like women. Mostly they just made that horrible choking sound that substituted for screams.

He glanced over at Paige, lying facedown on the table with her dark hair spread out around her. It was difficult to believe that years ago, she would have been around his height. Oh, he had seen all of the old news footage, read through the newspaper articles and scientific journals and even the op-ed pieces. Gideon had gone through a period in which he was obsessed with the pre-virus era. What surprised him was how many men (they weren’t called Alphas back then, he supposed) had actually defended the rights of women and Nulls.

There had been one article in The New York Times by a man who wrote poignantly about his wife and daughters. It had made Gideon feel uneasy and he couldn’t understand why. The thought of actually caring for a non-Alpha child was particularly puzzling. He had tried the breeding route himself (most Alphas were expected to do so) but when he had shown up at one of the breeding centers to satisfy his curiosity, he had been severely disappointed. He had picked up one of the females, her belly already swollen, and asked the physician what it would be.

When the other Alpha had refused to meet his gaze, he had known instantly. A Null. The thought had been too horrible to bear and he had immediately dismissed the physician, glancing down at the frightened creature in his palm. A quick squeeze, a subtle crunch, and the woman stopped moving in his hand. He had glanced briefly at the ruined red thing and then flicked it in the garbage can on his way out.

Gideon sat there, lost in thought, until Will showed up again.

“I picked up the dry cleaning,” the other Alpha told him, staring at the drying blood on the plate. Was that concern on Will’s face?

“Wonderful. Now go put that one back in her cage.” Gideon pointed at the unconscious woman. She moaned and stirred slightly at the sound of his voice. Will did as he was told, scooping up Paige and carrying her away. As the other Alpha disappeared through the doors, he reached out and touched the maroon splotches of blood on the plate, slowly swirling them beneath his fingertips.

***

Paige was running, her teeth bared in hopeless determination.

Ahead of her was a gigantic open door, tantalizing close. Over the threshold were trees and flowers and a breathtakingly beautiful sky. And her freedom.

But no matter had fast she ran, she couldn’t reached the door. It seemed as if she were trapped in one spot, like being on a treadmill. In the back of her mind, she knew that she had to get away, that Gideon was coming for her and that the last thing that she would see was his vicious smile.

She was still running in place when she awoken by the sound of running water. Warily, she looked around, sitting up. The surface below her was warm and leathery and with a sinking heart, she realized that she was on an immense palm. At first, she expected to see Gideon’s looming face above her, but when she saw that it was Will, she relaxed a bit.

They were in the vast kitchen with its designer appliances and granite countertops. The Alpha was holding her in one hand while he soaked a white facecloth under the faucet. Paige flinched when he began to run the wet cloth over her skin.

“Hold still,” Will said as she quivered. “He did quite a number on you, didn’t he?”

Not as bad as what he done to the others, she thought, gazing up into the giant’s hazel eyes. They were disarmingly gentle and she found herself blurting out, “He’s a monster.”

Will frowned. “He’s a bit extreme at times, I’ll admit that.”

The cloth felt good against her bruised and bloodied skin, as did the antibacterial lotion that he rubbed on with the broad pad of his index finger. She got the impression that Gideon hadn’t asked him to do this, but she didn’t question the small act of kindness.

“Do you ever wish that it was different?” Paige asked.

“What’s that?”

“Everything.”

“Sometimes,” he answered to her surprise. She had been expecting a resolute “No.” Although she wanted to probe further, she didn’t dare. He was an Alpha, after all, and if she angered him, he could kill her just as easily as Gideon. But it turned out that she didn’t need to question him; he began to elaborate on his own.

“I’ve been taught that Alphas are meant to rule the world, that we’re larger and stronger than everyone else. But sometimes I see horrible…things…that disturb me. A lot.” Will was struggling for words. “I know that most Alphas view women and Nulls as less than human.”

Paige didn’t interrupt; she remained quiet as he laboriously followed his thoughts.

“I had a fraternal twin. From what I understand, her name was Kylie,” Will said. “I wasn’t supposed to know and such information isn’t readily available. After all, what Alpha wants to know that his twin is…”

“…like me?” Paige finished for him.

Will nodded, obviously not understanding the implicit insult that he had directed her way. “I don’t think Gideon knows. I don’t think many people outside of the breeding center where I was born know, thankfully. Anyway, I think about her a lot, especially what’s happened to her. Sometimes I even think about trying to find her.”

“Why don’t you?”

“Because there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to see her,” he admitted. “Because I’m afraid that I’ll just pity her. Or feel repulsed.”

“I see,” Paige said quietly.

Will smiled uneasily at her. “I’d better bring you back to your cage now, huh?”

She muttered a reply, wishing that things were indeed different.

***

Alicia was ecstatic to see her, hugging her fiercely. When she asked what had happened, Paige lied. “Not much” was a better answer than the horrific truth. That idea that Gideon could and probably would do the same thing to her friend was terrifying.

They had to get out of this place somehow. Despite the Alpha’s threats, Paige knew that she had no other choice. She also understood that she had to take Alicia with her. If she managed to escape and her friend didn’t, Gideon would take out his anger on Alicia. And it didn’t take much imagination to envision what he’d do to her. She saw the serrated knife again, wet with fresh blood.

Yes, Alicia had to come with her.

But each escape plan that she imagined ended in failure. Trying to pick the lock on the cage door? The lock was on the outside, not the inside. Trying to flee from the giant when he took them out? He would flatten them underfoot before they could make it across the room. The frustration of her situation made her grind her teeth.

As she stared sullenly through the cage bars, a Null appeared. It was the one from before, an older man with salt-and-pepper hair. He began to slide food between the bars, carefully keeping his gaze on the floor of the cage. Paige watched him for a moment, and then she called out, “Thank you.”

The Null looked startled, as if she had zapped him with a jolt of electricity rather than address him. His face was lined with age, she saw, and she guessed that he was middle-aged. Once again, she wondered how he had managed to survive so long when the Alphas detested their smaller brethren.

“Don’t talk to it!” Alicia hissed, clutching her shoulder.

Paige gently but firmly removed her friend’s hand. “Why?”

“Because it’s a Null! It gives me the willies just looking at it. It’s so…gross.”

“I don’t think he’s gross,” Paige asserted. The other women in the cage had obviously overheard the conversation and were now staring at her with shocked expressions. The Null’s expression was neutral and she couldn’t tell if he was offended or not. Most likely, he was used to hearing such comments.

Alicia screwed her face up into a disdainful grimace and for once, Paige felt anger toward her friend. She got the impression that Alicia would have said more, but the Null scurried away, disappearing back down the cage ladder. The women practically pounced upon the food, hands greedily grasping for chunks of bread. Paige was particularly ravenous and she ate until her stomach ached.

She was just finishing eating when she spotted Gideon in the doorway, towering there ominously. Her stomach twisted painfully at the sight of him. Please, please, please leave us alone, she silently begged, her eyes tracking him as he walked past the first few cages.

He went to the cage across from them, unlocking the door and snatching up a fistful of women. They wiggled in his hand but not one of them dared to make a peep. As the Alpha turned back toward the doorway, he glanced back over his broad shoulder, gazing directly at Paige.

And then he winked.

***

The women in Paige’s cage were pacing around, trying to exercise their legs as best as they could. Gideon hadn’t visited them in a week and rumor had spread that he had gone to D.C. for some sort of important meeting. She hoped that his plane or car would crash and that he would die in a fiery wreck, screaming as he burned alive.

If only she could get out the cage. She was running her fingers along the bars, testing them, when Will entered the room. With Gideon gone, he hadn’t bothered to wear his suit jacket, and she could see the powerful lines of his torso beneath his white dress shirt. As she studied him, she remembered the way that he had treated her wounds; for a second, she even felt the facecloth against her skin again. Paige blushed when the giant looked over at her. He was handsome, like Gideon, but unlike the other Alpha, he wasn’t a bloodthirsty monster. So she allowed her eyes to linger on him, even when he approached the cage.

She wondered what he wanted. The Alpha moved with a certain hesitance, almost as if he were afraid that someone was watching him. Well, someone besides all of the tiny women. Someone like Gideon, except the other giant was miles and miles away.

The cage door squeaked noisily as Will pulled it open. To her surprise, he didn’t snatch her up but offered his palm to her. Paige looked up at the youthful, freckled face, trying to determine what he wanted. But his expression gave nothing away. Carefully, she crawled onto his hand, the mammoth fingers curling around her.

The giant locked the cage door again and then brought her outside, to the exact balcony where Gideon had butchered those poor women. Paige stared at the patio table, once again seeing the plate with the splatters of blood. When she blinked, it was gone and all that she saw was the table and the balcony and beyond that, the splendor of the gardens.

Will put her down on the table, rolled up his sleeves. His darkly-tanned arms weren’t overly muscular but they were undeniably masculine, with wide hands. Gideon had the long-fingered hands of a strangler; Will had the hands of a workman. She found herself admiring them in a way that she hadn’t before.

“I’ve been thinking about our last conversation,” Will said, folding his arms across his chest. Paige had just started imagining what it would like to have those enormous fingers run over the length of her body. Not like Gideon’s touch, which had been hostile and possessive, but gentle. She felt herself blush and turned her face a bit so that he wouldn’t see.

“You have?”

“Yes. I mean, the way that Gideon acts. There’s not really much that I can say, since he’s my boss and he could have me blacklisted if I piss him off. And he would, too.” Will looked contemplative. “I’m hoping that someday, I’ll have enough influence where they’ll allow me to keep my own women.”

A long silence ensued; Paige wasn’t certain what to say. The Alpha’s eyes were on her, almost yearningly, and then his hand was stretching toward her. His index finger paused a fraction of a centimeter next to her skin, so close that she could feel his body heat. She saw where he was looking: at the “G” tattooed into her back, the constant reminder of her owner.

“Go ahead. He won’t know,” Paige told him.

Will touched her almost shyly, the raised ridges of his finger tickling her bare skin. This was clearly a man who was accustomed to procuring women but who wasn’t used to touching them in intimate ways. At least he was gentle, feeling her limbs and breasts and the dark tresses that surrounded her face. When the pad of his finger touched the junction of her legs, she experienced an unexpected jolt of pleasure. The pressure and warmth against her clitoris made her gasp and instinctively thrust her hips forward against the gigantic finger.

Encouraged by her cry, Will began to stroke more boldly, spreading her thighs with the tip of his finger. The giant’s caresses were exquisite, like nothing that she had imagined. The pleasure swelled, expanded, until she felt the violent spasms of climax. Paige shuddered against Will’s finger, reflexively digging her own small hands into his skin.

She savored the sensations that rippled throughout her body. But most of all, she enjoyed this small act of defiance, knowing how furious Gideon would be if he found out. She imagined his handsome face, his mouth contorted into a snarl of rage, and it brought a small smile to her lips. Now there was a wonderful thought.

***

Over the next few days, Will visited her cage on a routine basis, becoming bolder and bolder each time. Paige found that she didn’t mind being held by him and sometimes, she would fantasize about having him as an owner. And once in awhile, she would imagine that she was the same size as he was, which was an utterly ludicrous fantasy. Still, she tried to picture what it’d be like to unbutton his suit jacket with her fingers and then kiss the solidness of the chest beneath.

If only things were different.

Much to her disappointment, Gideon didn’t die in a car crash like she had been hoping that he would. When he swaggered into the mansion, back from his trip, Paige felt utter desolation. He inspected each of the cages, his eyes hovering possessively over the tiny captives. When his eyes fell on her, she wisely looked away. Better to appear docile than defiant. She was aware of what happened to those who dared to stand up to the giant.

His cell phone rang, making her jump. Gideon noticed her surprise and smiled fiendishly at her as he answered it. It was impossible to hear the caller, so Paige only overheard parts of the conversation. Something about his (Gideon’s?) birthday party. Apparently, it was in a few days and he was making plans for it. As he talked, he approached her cage. Paige and the other women backed away as he slowly ran one finger over the bars, still chatting and occasionally laughing.

As the finger slid past her, Paige ground her teeth together. I hate you, she thought. Almost as if Gideon heard her thoughts, he stopped talking and flicked the cage, startling her even more. She scrambled to the corner of the cage, her heart throbbing.

“Oh, it’s going to be a great party,” the giant said to the caller, all the while grinning at her.

***

“It’s going to be a terrible party,” Annie told Paige. She was a small, unassuming brunette, her features neither homely nor beautiful. Of all the women, Annie had been there the longest and Paige suspected that it had to do with her ability to blend in. In a place like this, standing out was extremely dangerous.

Annie glanced around cautiously, as if Gideon was eavesdropping on them. The onyx collar twinkled around her neck. “I was here for last year’s party. At first, it wasn’t so bad. Gideon brought us all out to show off to the other Alphas. They stared at us a lot, which was uncomfortable, and some of them picked us up. But that was it. It was after the party that…”

The other woman’s voice trailed off.

“What happened?” Paige gently prodded.

“He took us back to the bedroom.” Annie’s gray eyes were distant. “There were at least a hundred of us. He just…went mad. We were on the floor and he started to stomp on us indiscriminately, one after the other. I remember being near my friend Elisa, trying to run, and then his foot came down on her and-and I felt her blood on me. It was on my face, my hands, everywhere. I felt like I was drowning in it.”

“Oh my God.”

“I managed to hide behind a table leg. Gideon stepped on everyone that he saw, hunting them down like animals. To this day, it was the most awful thing that I’ve ever seen. The carpet was so drenched with blood that it squelched when he walked on it,” Annie said, and her voice was flat and eerily emotionless. “He went to bed after that, and the next morning, he put me and the rest of the survivors back in the cages as if nothing had happened.”

The horrible thing was that Paige completely believed her. Gideon was certainly capable of such atrocities, and she feared that this year’s party would be no different than last year’s. She closed her eyes, once again plotting her escape.

***

The tiny woman remained on her hands and knees, looking up at Gideon with trepidation. He was almost certain that her name was Lisa, although he didn’t bother to confirm it with her. To him, she was Lisa, whether that was actually her name or not.

Gideon had playing with her for half an hour and frankly, she was beginning to bore him. Lisa noticed his growing restlessness and it clearly frightened her. She had redoubled her efforts to amuse him, moaning and using lines that were straight out of some old-fashioned porno.

“Oh, Master, I’m so horny! I want you to pleasure me! Please!” Lisa pled. God, she was a terrible actress. The boredom was starting to get to him, so he reached over and picked up a small black bag. Inside were all kinds of objects that were help make the situation a lot more exciting.

Lisa saw him unzipping the bag and her eyes opened impossibly wide.

“No, wait! Don’t hurt me, please!” This time she wasn’t pretending. The fear was real and he enjoyed it.

“You’ve outlived your usefulness, I’m afraid,” Gideon told her with a smirk.

There was desperation spreading across her face. “I’m useful, I swear! I have useful information!” Lisa saw him take out an X-Acto knife, the blade lethally sharp. “I’ve seen what Will has been doing!”

Gideon put down the knife, raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Do tell.”

Watching him warily, she sat up, trying to be bold. “If you promise to let me live.”

He grabbed her before she had a chance to run away, cupping her in his palm. With his other hand, he withdrew a wooden barbecue skewer from the bag. Lisa spotted it and started to wail, holding out her hands as if she could actually stop him.

“You are in no position to bargain with me,” Gideon sneered. He caressed the tiny nubs of her breasts with the sharp tip of the skewer, excited when her eyes bulged from their sockets.

“Will’s been seeing Paige! I saw him taking her out of the cage! Don’t hurt me!” She cried out.

“Is that so?”

“I swear! I swear!”

Gideon mulled this information over. He should have been irritated. Hell, he should have been furious. But curiously, he was only mildly amused.

“I believe you,” he said to the tiny woman who was shivering and sweating in his hand. Then he gently placed the point of the skewer between her legs, forcing them open. Yowling, she began to writhe, but he ignored the frantic noises that she made. His mind was on Will, and how he was going to make him squirm.

The skewer met a small amount of resistance as he forced it upward, through her vagina and into her uterus. Her legs drummed against his hand, her shrieks unrestrained. Up through her body cavity the skewer went, and she was dead by the time that it erupted out of her gaping mouth.

He dropped the skewer and the minuscule body impaled upon it. It was time to see his personal assistant.

***

Gideon stirred the drink in his hand, looking at the flames as they danced in the fireplace.

Will eventually poked his head in, and perhaps it was the other Alpha’s expression, but he immediately looked uneasy. Flashing him a disarming smile, Gideon gestured toward one of the other chairs.

“Sit down, Will,” he said. Reluctantly, the other man did as he was told, his face blanching. Gideon enjoyed his obvious discomfort, watching as he folded his hands in his lap.

“My goodness, you look nervous,” he observed. “Is anything alright?”

“Everything’s fine,” Will muttered.

“I’m glad to hear that. Care for a drink?”

“I’d rather not.”

Gideon was already standing up, and his words were forceful. “I insist.”

Will looked like a beaten dog as the other Alpha made him a drink and then practically shoved the glass into his hand. The only sounds were the ice tinkling in the glass and the faint crackling of the logs in the fireplace. Gideon didn’t sit back down until Will had taken several reluctant gulps of the gin.

“So your trip went well?” Will asked, trying to break the silence.

“It went very well, especially considering that I had you here to watch over my things.”

The glass shook in Will’s hand as he raised it to his mouth, took another large swallow. “It was my pleasure, of course.”

“Of course. I’m so glad that I can always trust you, Will,” Gideon commented, noting how the other Alpha refused to meet his eyes. Will drained the rest of his glass, looking utterly miserable. He set it down on the table and Gideon promptly snatched it up, refilled it.

“Thank you,” Will murmured, downing that glass as well. Gideon didn’t answer; he just stared until his assistant looked up and met his eyes.

“Gideon, I need to tell you something,” Will said, and a smile slowly crept across Gideon’s face.

***

Paige was sleeping on the floor of the cage, stretched out near Alicia, when footsteps awoke her. she looked up in dread, expecting to see Gideon towering above her. But it was Will, swaying ever so slightly. She could smell the alcohol on him; he was practically sweating the stuff.

“Will?” She whispered.

“Shhhh.” The Alpha opened the cage door with clumsy fingers. Paige would have stepped into his hand, had he offered it. But he seized her roughly, pulling her upwards so quickly that her head spun. In the darkness, she could feel his breath on her, redolent with the faint juniper scent of gin.

“What’s going on?” Paige demanded, although he didn’t answer. His breathing changed, faster and more irregular, and then something warm and wet splashed down onto her upturned face. Another huge droplet landed on her chest, soaking her.

“Are you okay?” She was concerned, although her thoughts were more immediately focused on how tight Will was holding her. The giant’s fingers dug painfully into her stomach and hips, and she tried to wiggle into a less restrictive position.

Will didn’t respond right away, although she saw him wiping repeatedly at his face.

“Gideon knows,” he finally mumbled.

Paige stared up at him, horrified. The implication of his words…well, she couldn’t even think about that without her blood turning to ice. I’m a dead woman, she thought. The coldness in her veins had spread to her limbs and she felt numb as Will brought her out into the hallway.

The Alpha’s eyes were bloodshot, and it wasn’t just from the booze. He sank down in one of the plush chairs lining the hall, his head lolling a bit. “I-I shouldn’t have drank with him. I can’t handle alcohol at all, and he just sat there, staring at me. I never felt so guilty in my life…I had to tell him.”

“Will, how could you—,” Paige started, interrupted when the giant raised her to his mouth. Normally, his kisses were gentle, but now they were desperate and she tried to shove his questing lips away. It was like trying to push away a mountain and she gasped as he threatened to smother her, his gin-fragrant breath hot against her skin.

“Please, no! Mmmph!” Her face was pressed against his lower lip, the soft flesh suffocating her. And although she pounded at the lip, hammering it with both fists, he didn’t pull away until she was convinced that he would kill her by accident. The hand holding her drifted downward, coming to a rest on his belly. As the mammoth fingers gradually relaxed, she saw that his eyes were closed, his mouth slack.

Paige remained where she was until she was convinced that he had passed out. She hesitated for a split second, studying Will’s faraway features. Then she crawled out from underneath his hand, kneeling on the warm expanse of his abdomen. She rose and fell in time with his steady breathing.

This was her chance.

Despite the fact that his body was limp, Paige still had a difficult time crawling down. She clung onto the fabric of his trousers like a spider, slipping and sliding down. More than once, she feared that he would wake up, but he remained in an alcohol-induced slumber. Finally, she made it to the floor, Will high above her like some gigantic seated statue.

As much as she wanted to get outside, she knew that she had to free Alicia first. After one last glance at the sleeping giant, she darted across the hallway, toward the room with the cages. Every second was precious; Gideon knew about her betrayal and would no doubt be coming for her. She imagined him appearing at the opposite end of the hallway, that horrible smile on his face.

Paige sprinted faster.

The Null moved out of the darkness and she gasped, nearly running into him. She recognized the gray and black hair, the neutral expression. For some reason, she expected him to reach out and grab her, or at least, warn the Alphas that she was escaping. But he merely moved out of her way, his eyes following her as she ran for the ladders.

Paige’s hands found the rungs of the ladders and she began to climb, working her way past the stacks of cages. The other women watched her, their eyes shining in the darkness, and she wished very much that she could free all of them. But there were so many cages and so little time.

“Alicia!” She shouted as soon as she reached her friend’s cage. Alicia rushed toward her, gripping the bars and peering through them.

“Paige, what are you doing?”

“Freeing you!” Already she was prying at the lock, working at it with nimble fingers.

“But won’t Gideon know?” Alicia sounded horrified. “Where will we go?”

“Anywhere but here,” Paige replied, trying to concentrate on the lock. It was taking all of her strength to open it, something that the giants could have done effortlessly.

“But there are cats and hawks out there. We’ll get killed!”

With a metallic thunk, the lock finally opened. Paige sighed, relieved. “We’ll get killed if we stay here, and it’ll be much worse than anything that a cat or hawk would do.”

Her friend didn’t argue with this, pushing at the cage door and slipping through. The other captives in the cage didn’t follow her, except with their eyes. There were a mixture of expressions amongst them, hesitance and fear and wishfulness. Paige and Alicia didn’t linger for very long; they clambered down the ladder. Where would they go? The question gnawed at Paige as she groped for each rung with her feet and hands. There weren’t very many houses in the area, so maybe they could survive in the forest. But for how long?

Longer than they’d survive here, that was the answer.

Paige’s feet touched the floor at last and she helped Alicia down. Even in the darkness, she felt terribly exposed, standing out in the open. As quietly as they could, they crept toward the open door, pausing when they reached the hallway. Paige peeked around the doorframe, noticing that Will hadn’t woken up yet. The other end of the hall was still empty.

“Let’s go,” she whispered, finding Alicia’s hand and pulling her along. They stepped out into the bright light of the hallway, her friend shielding her eyes. It was safer to stay close to the wall, and so they scurried single file down the length of the hall. What would have taken an Alpha a few dozen steps took them hundreds, and the hallway seemed to be impossibly long.

When they reached the end at last, Paige experienced a brief burst of triumph. But that quickly turned to terror as Will groaned and tried to sit up in the chair. Alicia froze, staring at the giant as he turned his head in their direction.

“Alicia, come on!” Paige yanked on her friend’s shoulders, dragging her through the doorway. Already she was looking for an escape route. As the floor began to vibrate with the approaching giant’s footsteps, she spotted an air vent. To them, it was hundreds of feet away. To an Alpha, it was only a few feet. Paige took a deep breath, then bolted for the vent. Behind her, Alicia was panting and whimpering at the same time.

The vent stood before them, their gateway to freedom. She lowered her head slightly, forced her legs to pump harder. It was so close…

And then Will’s foot stomped down right in front of them, close enough that Paige felt the floorboards tremble beneath the impact. She looked up, saw his grasping hand and beyond that, his red-rimmed eyes. Although she was able to dodge the gargantuan hand, Alicia wasn’t so lucky. Her friend disappeared in his fist.

“Don’t,” she pleaded, trying to stay away from his other hand. But he knocked her over with his immense fingers, trying to grab her. She fought him like a feral cat, twisting on the floor and scratching at the leathery flesh all around her. At one point, she felt the collar around her neck break, amethysts scattering all around her. Of course, she was no match for someone who could have crushed her beneath his thumb, and his fingers closed around her body.

“Will!” She cried, punching at her captor’s hand. “Will, put me down!”

He didn’t respond, so she said as calmly as she could, “You need to let us go. If you bring us back to him, he’ll kill us and you know it.”

The giant raised to her to eye-level, close enough that could have touched his dark eyelashes. “I’m sorry, Paige. But if I let you go, Gideon will know and I’ll lose this job.”

“Jesus, Will! It’s just a job!”

“No, it’s a place in society. If I want to move up, I have to keep it,” the giant explained as if she were an idiot. In his other hand, Alicia wept. Paige felt her mouth quivering with rage and hopelessness.

“You’re as bad as he is,” she hissed, pleased when he glanced away, ashamed. But her victory was small; already, he was carrying toward the study…and Gideon.

***

“So you were going behind my back?” The blond-haired giant was standing by the fireplace, half of his face illuminated. “How disappointing.”

He certainly didn’t sound disappointed, that was for sure. Paige loathed everything about him: his cruel eyes, his smug smile. Every time that she struggled in Will’s hand, he squeezed her hard enough that she had no choice but to stop. Alicia was no longer crying, although she stared at Gideon with abject terror. When he lowered his head down toward them, she flinched. He spent an unnecessarily long time studying her, probably trying to unnerve her even more.

Then his murderous gaze moved to Paige, focusing on her like a spotlight. When she managed not to look away, his eyes crawled from her face to her neck.

“Oh my! It seems like your collar has come off,” Gideon observed. “And we know what that means, hmm?”

His grim warning of what would happen if the collar was removed came rushing back to her. Paige’s voice was shrill, desperate. “No, Gideon! Please! Not her! She didn’t do anything!”

To her surprise, Will spoke up. Or tried to, at any rate. “Gideon, I…”

“Shut up, Will,” the other Alpha snarled.

“Yessir.”

“Give the blonde one to me.”

“But Gideon…”

Without another word, Gideon held out his hand, his dark blue eyes flat and cold and dead. Will didn’t listen to Paige’s high-pitched protests, instead dropping Alicia onto his palm. He looked down at the tiny woman, his eyebrows lifting slightly.

“You can blame your friend for this,” the Alpha told her and she began to screech incoherently.

Alicia’s scream was cut-off as Gideon’s thumb and index finger closed around her head. With one quick motion, he twisted her head and pulled, as if it were the cap on a tube of lotion. Alicia didn’t shriek as he decapitated her, although she had an astonished expression on her pretty face as blood spurted up, flecking her pale skin. The giant pinched her friend’s head, several of the gore-streaked vertebrae still attached, and then pitched it into the crackling fire.

Paige continued to shout threats at him until her throat ached. Not that it mattered. Alicia was dead, and soon, she would be as well. And who would remember her? Will? Maybe. But she hated him as much as Gideon. Even now, he wouldn’t meet her eyes.

Defeated, she slouched down in Will’s fist. Gideon rubbed his bloodstained fingers together, continuing to chat as if he hadn’t just slaughtered her friend. “Tomorrow is my birthday. And oh, do I have some special plans for you.”

She couldn’t even summon up the strength to be terrified.

“See how easy they are to break?” Gideon said to Will, as if Paige wasn’t even there. “I’d suggest that you keep that in mind for when you get your own.”

Will said something in response, but she was no longer listening. Her mind floated far, far away, and there she remained until the giants put her back into the cage.

****

“Alicia, get up! Please!” Paige shook her friend, panicking when the other woman just turned her head slightly. She looked more apathetic than anything else, lying there on the cage floor. What was her problem? This was their chance to get away, and she didn’t move, except to smile sadly.

“Gideon will be back any minute! Don’t you want to be free?” Paige was practically shouting. Alicia shook her head, her melancholy smile broadening. Reaching up, she yanked on her diamond collar, hard enough to break it. Glittering jewels spilled around her body; a second later, her head also hit the cage floor, rolling to a stop near Paige’s feet.

Paige screamed loud enough to wake herself up.

She was alone in the cage, the first rays of dawn filtering in through the window. Of course she was alone. Alicia was gone, her body nothing more than cold ash in the fireplace. And today was her murderer’s birthday. She recalled what Annie had said about his previous birthday, how the carpet had been saturated with blood. Was he going to do the same thing to her? Although she wasn’t sure about the method, she knew that he was going to kill her, probably in an excruciating way.

So this was her last day on Earth. Through the bars of the cage, she could see the window and the outside world, so beautiful that it was almost ethereal. At least she had that sight. Wrapping her arms around her legs, she wept for Alicia, for herself, for everyone in this wretched world.

A head popped up in front of the cage, followed by two hands. It was the older Null, the one that Paige had seen so many times before. Not surprisingly, he didn’t say anything as he finished pulling himself up the ladder. She thought that he was there to deliver food, but she quickly noticed that he didn’t have any supplies with him. Strange. Even stranger, he began to pick at the lock on the cage door. No, he couldn’t be trying to free her.

Could he?

Astonished, Paige watched as he unlocked the door. As the door swung open, she had a hundred questions that she wanted to ask him. At the top of the list was the obvious question: “Why?” But she didn’t inquire. Instead, she merely said, “Thank you.”

The Null’s expression didn’t change, although his hands rose up into the air, moving with a fluid grace. Sign language, she realized, watching the elaborate hand movements. That was probably how the Nulls communicated with one another. She wished very much that she could understand him, although she took some consolation in the fact that he could understand her.

She crept out of the cage, wanting to thank him again for this opportunity. But she knew better than to waste her last chance at escape. With one last glance at the Null, she began to climb down the ladder, moving as quickly as she could manage. Getting outside was her objective, and she concentrated on that. It helped to push away the overwhelming fear that Gideon would suddenly show up and grind her into the floorboards. She ran across the room, then down the hall, each step bringing her closer to freedom.

When Paige arrived at the entranceway, the same area where Will had captured her earlier, she heard earthquake-like footsteps. She didn’t hesitate; she raced toward the air vent, reaching it before the footsteps became louder, more forceful. Although it took some doing, she was able to wiggle between one of the slots in the vent cover, landing with a thump on the other side.

It was dark inside of the vent shaft and Paige felt her way along, her bare feet stirring up fine particles of dust. Something scratched in the blackness, the ominous sounds echoing around her, and she hoped very much that it wasn’t a rat. The noises eventually stopped and she continued to grope along, her fingertips feeling for the smooth metal of the vent wall. Honestly, she had no idea where she was going. But at least she wasn’t in the cage anymore.

Occasionally, she heard voices, rumbling and unintelligible. At first, they sounded calm enough; then, she heard the dangerous anger in them. It seemed like Gideon had noticed that she was missing. For a moment, she thought of the Null, and she prayed that the Alphas hadn’t blamed him for her escape. If they knew that he was responsible for freeing her…well, she could imagine what they’d do to him. If only she could help him as well.

Eventually she spotted dim, yellowish light up ahead. There was another vent cover, and when she glanced through it, she didn’t see anything at first. Paige began to climb through one of the slots, then stopped when she spotted him. Will saw her as well and strode toward the vent, the ground shaking at his approach. She pulled her head and shoulders back through the slot just as the giant stooped down, grabbing for her.

The light vanished as Will’s freckled face appeared in front of the slots. They stared at one another, the Alpha and the tiny woman. Then he said softly, “Come out, Paige.”

She didn’t move.

“You can trust me,” Will coaxed. She wished very much that she could believe him, but she heard the desperation and the slightest hint of anger in his voice.

“Good-bye, Will.” Already, she was backing away from the vent cover. He blinked, once, twice, his lips parting. Paige watched him, creeping away backwards until she was far enough down the vent shaft. His eyes continued to follow her until she rounded the corner.

***

The ventilation system was like a maze, and she followed it blindly until she found it: her escape route.

Through the narrow slots in the vent cover, she could see that someone had left a window cracked open, the wind causing the curtains to flutter gently. Paige crawled out of the vent, her eyes scanning for Gideon or Will. But they were nowhere to be seen. Thank God that this was such a huge house. It made finding her more difficult, although she knew that Gideon would eventually grow weary of chasing her and do something drastic, like throwing bug bombs into the ventilation system.

She dashed to the bottom of one of the curtains, grabbed the edge of it, and started to climb, gripping the thick threads with her fingers. The curtain swayed and rippled from the wind, but she managed to clutch onto the fabric. By the time that she reached the window sill, her arms ached dully and she wanted nothing more than to rest. But she couldn’t, not with the giants pursuing her.

Paige looked out, trying to determine her next move.

There was a neatly-trimmed bush of some kind directly below the window. It was probably no more than a foot away, but to her, it seemed like an incredible distance. She stood there, trying to decide what to do, the cool wind causing her skin to break out in goosebumps. When a door slammed nearby and she heard rapid footsteps, she drew a deep breath.

And jumped.

Her body tumbled through the air, leaves rustling and twigs snapping as she fell through the bush. Just before she struck the ground, she managed to latch onto one of the branches. She hung there, her breaths coming out in ragged gasps. Once she had gathered up enough strength, she pulled herself up onto the branch and slithered along it. Paige transferred to a lower branch, then another and another, until she was close enough to the ground that she could drop down safely.

She had made it.

It was difficult to believe. Slowly, she looked around her, at the lead-colored sky and the gardens and the woods in the distance. Despite the chilly wetness of the air and the dismal gray sky, she still felt a burst of joy. For a moment, she stood there, caught up in the exhilaration of freedom, and then doubt began to creep in. What about wild animals, like raccoons? How should she eat? What if Gideon found her?

It didn’t matter.

She began to run through the towering blades of grass, as fast as her legs would carry her.

***

“She’s gone,” Will informed the other Alpha, cringing like a beaten mongrel.

“Yes, I can see that.”

“Do you think that she made it outside?” Will asked, watching as Gideon pulled on his fox hunting boots, one after the other. He moved with a deliberate precision, his face oddly calm, even serene.

“That’s a possibility,” Gideon answered. Really, he was hoping that she had made it outside. After all, it would make hunting her so much more exciting.