Precious Things

Posted on January 1, 2017 in SW Fiction by

The sequel to “Dreams of Distant Spheres.” Warning: for mature readers only.

She awoke to the ominous sound of wolves howling.

There was no way that the long, vaguely-mournful howls could have been made by dogs. Hidden amongst the towering ferns, Paige trembled and listened to the noise. It was difficult to determine how close the animals were, but the fact that she could hear them filled her with cold dread. Her former master was actively hunting her, and she knew that her death would be agonizing and miserable if he found her.

So far, Paige had managed to evade Gideon for two weeks, which was quite an accomplishment, considering that she was only an inch and a half tall. Most of his property was wooded, and although it provided numerous hiding places, there were also many dangers. During the third night, she had seen, rather than heard, an owl flying overhead, its deadly talons outstretched in the darkness. Paige had watched the bird, not daring to move, knowing that it would swoop down and snatch her up if it spotted her. For so long, she had feared only Gideon and his endless sadism; now, she was beginning to fear the threats of the outside world as well.

Still, she preferred the owls and the raccoons and the snakes to that monster. Because that’s what he was, a smiling, awful monster, someone who managed to haunt her dreams even though she had escaped from him. Gideon had murdered her best friend Alicia and so many others with impunity, and just thinking about his bloodthirsty grin nauseated her.

As the wolves howled, Paige gritted her teeth. They sounded closer now, and Gideon was probably with them. He was one of the most powerful Alphas, a man who was used to getting whatever he wanted, and she knew that her escape had infuriated him. In her mind’s eye, she saw him, his cold blue eyes narrowed into slits. He was brooding, obsessing about the woman who had managed to escape his clutches. Nothing would stop him him from finding her and bringing her back to his nightmarish collection.

With that image in her head, Paige took off, sprinting through the dense underbrush. Since Gideon didn’t allow his little playthings to wear clothing, her naked body was striped with scratches from the twigs and briars. But that didn’t matter. The scrapes would heal, but if the Alpha caught her again, she was doomed. So she pushed herself harder, running with a grim desperation. Gideon’s property was vast, but there had to be an end to it. If she could just make it away from him, she would be safe. Even if she had to scrounge for food and hide from predators for the rest of her life, it would be worth it.

She came to a stream and then hesitated, peering into the brownish water. To a normal-sized person like an Alpha, it would have taken a step or two to cross it. But to Paige, who was tiny and who didn’t know how to swim, it was a nearly insurmountable peril. Biting her lower lip, she searched for a way across, aware that Gideon was most likely gaining on her. Soon, he would catch up to her, and then he would snuff her out like some kind of loathsome insect. No, she told herself. No, I won’t let him catch me. Even if she drowned in the stream, that would be preferable to being at his mercy.

Paige finally found some moss-covered stones that formed a path across the stream, and she dashed toward them. Her focus was entirely on the rocks until she heard the bushes up ahead rustle, and then she froze. She knew what the noise was, but even as the gray-furred face emerged from the bushes, she refused to believe it. It was indeed a wolf, or some sort of wolf-hybrid, its eyes an eerie gold. It wasn’t a wild animal, either; to her horror, she saw the braided leather collar around its neck, the tags jangling together. So she had been correct…the wolves belonged to someone, and who else would be insane enough to own such beasts?

Which meant that Gideon wasn’t far behind.

The animal was gigantic in comparison to her, a terrifying behemoth that stalked toward her, its sharp teeth bared. There was no way that she could outrun such an enormous creature, although she certainly tried. She darted toward the stream, forcing her legs to move as fast they would go. Behind her, she heard the wolf snap its teeth once, twice, and hot, rank breath washed over her bare back. Paige was preparing to plunge into the stream when a sharp whistle made the animal stop in its tracks.

Something far worse than the wolf emerged from the trees, and as Paige saw Gideon’s triumphant face, she wished that the animal had ripped her apart. That would have been a more merciful fate than whatever the giant would do to her.

He whistled again, and the wolf’s ears drooped as it turned its head. It seemed that even animals were terrified of Gideon.

“Good girl, Herja,” he said to the wolf. “If only all of my pets were so obedient.”

The Alpha’s gaze settled on Paige, and she wanted to scream and scream until her voice became hoarse. “Isn’t that right, Paige?”

Her pursuer was dressed in some kind of strange outfit consisting of a long scarlet coat and tailored white trousers. It took her a moment to recognize that these were the sort of clothes that someone would wear while on a fox hunt. Except he hadn’t been hunting foxes…no, he had been hunting her, and the way that his eyes sparkled with malicious glee confirmed that he had enjoyed it.

Gideon dropped down to one knee, still looming high above her like a colossus. He was a normal-sized man, an Alpha, not shrunken like herself. Most of humanity had been reduced to the size of insects, the result of a bioterrorism attack decades ago. It was a bitter twist of fate that someone as psychotic as Gideon could have such a tremendous physical advantage over so many others.

“I’ve spent two weeks searching for you,” the giant told her. He was handsome, blond-haired with chiseled features, but that horrid smile and those compassionless eyes made him look monstrous. “Why, I had to postpone my birthday party because of you! How could you be so selfish?”

Paige looked up at him, then at the other wolves approaching in the distance, sleek, vicious beasts who would have gladly killed her. Most of his other female pets would have fallen to the ground, groveled at his feet and begged for mercy. But Paige didn’t say anything, just hurled herself backwards into the stream. The last thing that she saw before she hit the icy water was Gideon’s face. His smile was still there, his teeth bared ferociously.

Water rushed into her lungs, filling them, and she instinctively thrashed her limbs. Better to drown, to let her body be carried away, she decided. Just as the darkness began to swallow her she was lifted up into the air, and something pressed painfully into her abdomen. It was Gideon’s thumb, and she shuddered as she coughed up mouthfuls of water. The giant was no longer smiling, and he peered down at the spasming woman in his hand.

“You need to be careful, Paige. You almost drowned,” he remarked, his voice oozing with malice. “But fortunately, I saved you.”

“P-p-put…” Paige tried to say, but she was still expelling water from her lungs and she couldn’t form the words.

“What’s that? You need to speak up, I can’t hear you.”

“P-put me d-down, y-you asshole!” She half-shrieked, half-coughed. Gideon watched, clearly amused, as she pummeled his thumb, which was driving deeper and deeper into her torso. But her blows were ineffective, and she couldn’t even move his finger. Exhausted and defeated, she stopped punching at his hand.

“You always were a feisty one,” Gideon said as he lowered her down into the warm, oppressive darkness of his coat pocket. “But never fear, I’ll break you of that.”

***

When Gideon was a child, his father had raised horses, possibly the most beautiful stallions and mares in the world. But he had never really been interested in the animals; no, it was his father’s collection of women that had fascinated him. They were such delicate, breathtaking little creatures, and he constantly pleaded with his father to let him have one.

“When you’re eighteen,” his father had said, and then he had purposely redirected his son’s attention. “Now look at the coat on this Arabian. Isn’t she lovely?”

“Yes, Father,” Gideon had answered dutifully. Now that his father was dead, the huge barn where he had kept his prized horses was empty except for the wolf crates. He turned on the lights, illuminating the abandoned stalls, and then whistled for his pets. They were excellent trackers, which came in handy whenever one of his smaller, two-legged pets escaped. Not that the women escaped often, and when they did, he usually caught them right away. They were such fearful things, terrified and overwhelmed by the outside world, and they seemed relieved when he found them.

But Paige had been different. She had been gone for far longer than the others, and for a brief time, Gideon was worried that she might evade him forever. He thought about her often, the one who had gotten away. She hadn’t been particularly beautiful; if anything, she was plain, with her mousy brown hair and slightly plump body. But it was her boldness that excited him, and he began to imagine about all of the things that he would do to her, savoring each fantasy as if it were a rare delicacy. Hunting Paige became a game. And each night, when he came up empty-handed, he would recline on his bed and languidly caress his cock, his mind focused on his tiny target.

He was almost disappointed when he had finally captured her.

Gideon sat down on one of the wooden stools, aware of the faint wiggling in his pocket. To his amusement, he felt Paige’s arms and legs flailing as she fought him. With a soft “tsk, tsk,” he pinched the little lump in his pocket, squeezing her between his fingers until she yelped in pain and stopped squirming. He probably would have pinched her again, just to hear her shriek and sob, but the approach of several tiny women distracted him.

These ones had been Breeders, women whose main purpose was to produce offspring. They had since outlived that function; their bodies were far too old, and the physicians at the local Breeding Center were going to dispose of them when Gideon had intervened.

“I’ll take them off of your hands,” he had said, his smile charming. “Oh, and how is your funding, by the way? I’m sure that I could put in a good word for your budget next year.”

“Thank you, Senator,” one of the physicians had replied, and he had handed over the old Breeders without any further questions. And so they lived here, out in the barn. Other than braided leather collars, similar to the ones that the wolves wore, the women were nude. They slunk timidly toward him, carrying rags in their hands. Gideon didn’t need to snap his fingers or utter a single command; the small creatures already knew what to do. They hoisted themselves up onto his boots, scrubbing off the splotches of dried mud and fragments of leaves. Their silent determination pleased him, and he watched them work for awhile.

Most other Alphas would have gotten rid of the old Breeders; they no longer had a purpose, after all, and they lacked the youthful beauty of the other women. But Gideon wasn’t interested in their physical appearance. No, he was more interested in the knowledge that he owned them, that he could do anything that he wanted to them and no one would even care. This was the thrill for him, and as he continued to observe them, one of them cautiously glanced up. Her tiny face was nearly hidden behind thick, silvery tresses, and he wondered what had made her look up. It could have been curiosity, or fear, but whatever it was, she had singled herself out.

The woman seemed to realize her mistake, because she quickly looked down again. But by then, he had already found his next source of amusement. Gideon leaned forward, the stool creaking beneath him, and said, “You missed a spot.”

There was a flutter of confused movement as the women tried to find the area that they had missed, and he had to stop himself from grinning.

“No, not you,” he told the group. Pointing at the silver-haired woman, he said, “You.”

Slowly she gazed up again, her long hair parting so that he could finally see her panicked expression. Most other women would have protested, or cried, but this one was as quiet as a Null. Only her eyes moved as he lifted her boot over her, bits of dirt and vegetation and other filth raining down upon her hunched shoulders and back.

“Here.” Gideon pointed to the sole raised above her. Shaking violently, the woman reached up and began wiping away the muck. He crossed his arms, staring down at her, and she trembled even harder when she saw that he was scrutinizing her work. The other women watched as well, some of them nervously wringing the rags in their hands.

Gideon eventually became bored, which he knew was bound to happen. As the woman finished cleaning near the heel of his boot, he brought it down onto her roach-sized body. He experienced a jolt of renewed excitement as she bucked wildly, trapped between his foot and the barn floor. In that moment, he savored every squirm, every feeble breath, every choked cry as she tried to avoid her fate.

And then he stepped down, grinding her delicate body into paste. A spurt of bright blood and something glistening and pinkish splattered out from beneath his heel, and he looked at it briefly before sitting back up.

Sanngriðr, one of the larger wolves, shoved her way forward and began to eagerly lap the bloody remains from the floor. He heard the repulsive licking sounds, but his mind was on Paige, who had started to writhe once again in his pocket. Another quick squeeze ended that.

***

Paige drifted in and out of consciousness, her body aching, her mind trying to retreat from the world. She didn’t want to think about where she was, imprisoned by the man that she despised, but it was difficult. Every step that Gideon took sent her bouncing around inside of his pocket, and even when he wasn’t moving, she found herself pressed up against the warm, hard wall of his lower abdomen. She couldn’t escape from him, not even mentally.

For what seemed like hours, he kept her in his pocket. Paige had learned not to claw at the fabric or thrash around too much. Every time that she did, she felt his massive fingers close around her, pressing her body until her bones threatened to break. So she just laid there, curled up as tightly as she could manage.

At one point, she must have drifted off asleep (she didn’t like to think that she was hallucinating or otherwise losing her mind). In her dream, Paige saw her friend Alicia again, her slender body sitting upright in a chair that was built to their scale. To her horror, Paige saw that her friend’s head was gone, and sewn in its place was a doll’s head, the dead eyes blinking every so often. Paige gaped at Alicia, and then she saw the vast blackness of her murderer’s shadow. Gideon crouched over them, grinning.

“What do you know about love, Paige?” He asked, his voice distorted by the dream.

“More than you ever will,” she answered angrily, and he just laughed and shook his head. Beside her, Alicia blinked again, her plastic eyelids clicking together, and then she nodded in agreement.

That was when the real Gideon touched her, his fingers brushing against her legs and hips and shoulders. She awoke from the dream, confused, and she didn’t dare to struggle as his hand engulfed her.

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the light after being trapped in darkness for so long, and when Paige could see again, she noticed that they were in his bedroom. She shuddered, glancing around. Like the rest of his mansion, it was lavishly decorated with the finest things that money could buy. Even the cages were beautiful works of art, some made from silver and gold, other ingeniously carved from soft alabaster. All of those cages were filled with Gideon’s favorite playthings, and they cowered behind the bars. There were other cages in other rooms, she knew, and it turned her stomach to think about how many victims he had enslaved.

Gideon prodded at her in his palm, inspecting her. His huge fingers ran all over her body, and she sucked in her breath as his index finger lingered over her back. There was a horrible tattoo there, a big, black “G” that marked her as his. Back when she was in the woods, she sometimes considered how difficult it would be to remove the damned thing. She could find a sharp rock, flay the flesh from her back. Of course, she would have fainted from shock or bled to death, but at least his mark would have been gone.

“If you keep running away like this, I’m going to have to cut your legs off,” Gideon said as he examined her. If it had been anyone else, Paige would have assumed that it was an empty threat. But she didn’t doubt that he’d dismember her, and he’d probably laugh while he was doing it.

His blue eyes were boring into her, and so she answered, “Yes, Gideon.”

“You should refer to me as Master, remember?”

“Yes, Master.”

She winced when his fingers yanked at her hair, nearly tearing clumps of it from her scalp. “You’re filthy, Paige.”

Of course she was…she had been running around the forest for two weeks, and bathing had been the least of her concerns. But she didn’t tell him that. Gideon would pounce on any opportunity to punish and hurt her, and so she nodded.

He continued to twist her hair between his fingertips, frowning at her. Don’t cry, don’t beg, Paige commanded herself. Don’t give him what he wants.

“I can’t stand your stink. Let’s get you cleaned up, shall we?” Gideon brought her into the nearby bathroom and began to fill up the sink with water. For awhile, the only sound was the water roaring into the basin. And then he turned off the faucet and there was an unnerving silence.

Paige expected him to dump her into the water, but instead, he lowered her down onto the tiled floor. She panicked; she couldn’t help it. Looming before her were his feet, and the colossal pillars of his legs, and she figured that he would stomp her flat. But Gideon stood there, his face glaring down at her from a great distance. Did he expect her to flee? She was smart enough to know that he was much faster, and he’d run her down within a few seconds.

The giant’s right hand moved, and he unbuttoned his trousers. A mischievous smile appeared on his lips as he took out his penis, and Paige backed away slowly. She understood what he was going to do just as it happened. The stream of urine hit her chest, still warm from his body and reeking of ammonia. It pushed her to the floor, and she tried to ward it off, gagging on the foul liquid. Gideon began to whistle, which somehow made it worse. On all fours, she crawled away, but he continued to aim the stream at her. Like a dog marking his property, she realized in disgust.

She was thankful when he was finally finished, although she found herself in a puddle of gradually cooling piss. The floor quaked as he took a step forward and picked her up again, holding her dripping body with disdain.

“Now you stink even more,” Gideon sneered, and without another word, he deposited her next to the sink. The water was only lukewarm, but it she was eager to wash away the giant’s urine from her skin and hair. He tossed a minuscule sliver of soap to her, and Paige reluctantly accepted the gift.

As she cleaned herself, Gideon began to take off his hunting clothes, carefully avoiding the yellowish puddle on the floor. The Nulls would probably clean it up, she assumed. She hadn’t seen any of the shrunken men around, although she was keeping her eyes open. It had been one of the Nulls who had freed her, and she hoped that Gideon hadn’t found out. If he had, the tiny man had most likely been tossed into the garbage disposal.

“I’ve decided to reschedule my birthday party,” Gideon informed her as he pulled off his shirt, exposing the powerful musculature of his torso. Paige didn’t feel any sort of attraction to him, only a persistent, seething hatred. He must have seen the anger glinting in her eyes, because he laughed.

“Don’t be so sullen,” he said, and she found herself quivering. “It’ll be fantastic, I promise you.”

***

Gideon found Will in the hallway, peering down at something on the floor. He was a tall Alpha, the freckles scattered over his nose giving him a youthful appearance. From what Gideon knew, he came from a poor family and spent his early life living in one of the slowly decaying cities. There had been several other candidates who had applied for the job of his personal assistant, all of them charismatic and self-assured Alphas. But Will had fascinated him. There had been something timid and yet hungry about the man who had stood before his desk, yanking at his worn tie as he answered Gideon’s interview questions. He had understood Will after only a few minutes. Here was a man who was pliable yet ambitious, who would serve Gideon with a sort of desperate faithfulness.

True, Will had had his issues; his little fling with Paige, for example. Gideon also wondered if he had been the one who had set her free, although he couldn’t be certain of that. And then there had been certain rumors, whispers amongst some of the Alphas that he had a twin. A female twin, which had simultaneously disgusted and intrigued Gideon. It hadn’t taken much to verify that the rumors were true; a few quick calls was all it took. The information was supposed to be private, but Gideon’s wealth and position in society allowed him to circumvent silly things like rules and regulations. He had a plan in mind, a devious one, but for the time being, he filed that tidbit of information away.

Despite these problems, Gideon kept the other Alpha around. Will amused him, just like Paige did. The man was merely another thing that he could use as he saw fit.

“I found Paige,” he announced, and Will looked at him, although he only held his stare for a split second. That was long enough for Gideon to spot the pain in the tall man’s eyes, though. Well, that was interesting. Poor thing still had feelings for the woman, it seemed.

“That’s excellent news,” Will mumbled, fidgeting with his tie.

“I knew you’d think so.” Gideon saw what the other Alpha had been focused on. There was a Null curled up on the plush carpet. The tiny creature was breathing rapidly, and it turned its pale face toward the two Alphas.

“What’s wrong with it?” Gideon demanded, and Will shrugged helplessly.

“It’s hurt, maybe. Or sick.”

Revulsion prickled his skin, and he grimaced at the sight of the dying creature. Nulls were such awful little beasts. They were technically male, although they were castrated and permanently silenced shortly after their birth. Once, at a fundraising event, someone had referred to them as men, and Gideon had just given the other Alpha a long, cold stare. No, these weren’t men. These were vermin who were allowed to live only as long as the Alphas tolerated them.

And Gideon certainly didn’t tolerate this Null, who was dying on his expensive carpet. He didn’t want to touch it with his hands, so he reached into his pocket and pulled out a silk handkerchief. The Null’s eyes widened and he tried to speak, but with his tongue missing, it sounded like incomprehensible garble. Gideon scooped up the creature with the handkerchief and dropped it into Will’s hands.

“Here, get rid of it,” he ordered, and Will looked down at the Null wheezing between his fingers.

“Gideon, I—,”

“What part of ‘get rid of it’ do you not understand?”

Will practically sprinted away, and Gideon watched him go. Most likely, Will would release the Null outside; he was odd like that. Shaking his head in disbelief, Gideon headed toward his office to make arrangements for his party.

***

Paige heaved herself at the bars of the cage, pounding at them, pulling at them, and nearly weeping when she saw that her efforts were useless. She stood there, looking out dismally at the other cages in Gideon’s bedroom, and then she gripped the golden bars one more time, giving them a firm shake. Nothing.

Choking back a sob, she collapsed to the cage floor. What made it worse was that she was alone. The nearest cage was halfway across the room, and she could barely see the women in it. There were only her thoughts to keep her company, and those thoughts alternated between revenge fantasies and panicked horror.

The bedroom door opened, and Paige’s heart galloped uncontrollably as Gideon entered. He was wearing a black suit and scarlet tie, and his diamond cufflinks flashed as he opened one of the cage doors. As much as she didn’t want to, she found herself watching. Gideon didn’t say a word, and his broad back was turned away, blocking her view. But she heard the frightened cries, followed by dull, wet crunches. The giant turned around, and she saw the vermillion smears on his fingers and palm. He fastidiously wiped the blood onto a handkerchief as he strode toward her cage.

“And how is my little escapee doing?” He asked, staring at her through the bars. When Paige didn’t respond, he grabbed the cage and rattled it with such violence that she went flying. Once she had regained her composure, she muttered, “I’m doing fine, Master.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” Gideon said, although she knew that he didn’t care at all. He unlocked the cage and plucked her up as if she were a baby hamster, placing her into the middle of his hand.

“Kneel,” he commanded, and so she did, falling to her knees. What else could she do?

“You’re very sorry that you ran away, aren’t you?” His tone sounded calm at first, but Paige heard the threat in it.

“Yes, Master. I’m very sorry.”

He stroked her shoulders and neck with one finger, and she had to resist the urge to shudder. His hand lifted up, and she felt his warm breath against her bare skin. Gideon’s mouth was within reach, and when he snapped his teeth at her, she jerked away in fright. With a low rumble of laugher, his tongue slipped out, slithering over her breasts first and then forcing itself between her legs. Paige screeched at this violation, the mass of flesh hot and slimy as it wormed its way up into her vagina. Pain spread up through her lower belly, and she tried to shove the tongue away, but it was far too strong. Gideon chuckled at her agony and humiliation, and she ground her teeth together, cutting off her scream. Each time that the tongue tip thrust into her, she tried to think of something else: the forest at sunrise, snow falling against window panes, Alicia.

Finally, he withdrew, leaving her soaked and throbbing. Humming, Gideon brought her over to one of the bureaus and rummaged through a wooden box with his free hand. He pulled out a minuscule collar which sparkled with multicolored gems, sapphires and rubies and emeralds.

“You’re not going to break this one like you did the last one, right?” Gideon held the tiny collar on the pad of his forefinger, the minute jewels glittering.

“No, Master,” she answered, and she remained still as he put the collar around her throat. The way that he leered at her was appalling, and Paige tried to turn her head away so that she wouldn’t have to look at him. But he seized her head between his fingers, forcing her to stare into his enormous eyes.

“That’s a good girl. You’ll look wonderful for the party in a few days,” Gideon said, and she couldn’t hold the tears back anymore. They began to flow freely, streaming down over her burning cheeks. Worst of all, she couldn’t even move her head to hide them. The giant watched her cry, and his smile gradually widened.

***

The tiny women reminded Gideon of three lifelike statues as they knelt on the table, their hands in their laps. He had instructed them to stay still, and so far, they had obeyed. Only their eyes moved, following him constantly. When he sliced into his steak, cutting off a small piece, they watched him. When he took a sip of water, they watched him. Their fear was palpable, especially whenever he stared back at them.

Gideon pushed aside his plate, clasped his hands together. The gazes of the women remained fixed on him. They were very different physically — one was heavyset, her eyes a startling blue, like tiny chips of ice. Another was almost vulpine in her appearance, with a narrow face and strawberry blonde hair. And the third was young, no more than eighteen or nineteen, her body thin and boyish. But they all shared the same distrust and frightened obedience.

“Now, which one of you should I eat for dessert?” He asked them, and although their faces visibly paled, they didn’t move at all. Smart girls. A predatory smile pulled his lips upward, exposing his teeth.

“You all look so tasty, I can’t decide.” Gideon leaned toward them, and they somehow fought back the urge to run. “So I’m going to let you decide which one gets eaten.”

They slowly glanced at one another, and then back up at him. None of them had the courage to speak.

“If you can’t make a decision, I’ll eat all three of you,” Gideon said nonchalantly. They peered up at him and when they saw that he was telling the truth, they began to frantically squabble amongst themselves. Eventually, the two older women sided with one another, and they pointed at the young girl.

“No!” She shrieked at them. “No! You can’t! Not me!”

“I’m so sorry. It looks like you’ve been chosen,” he said with feigned sympathy.

Both women gazed away as Gideon grabbed her by one arm, his fingers pinching the delicate little limb. Howling like a thing possessed, she tried to pull free, twisting as hard as she could. It took such a negligible amount of strength to pick her up, to dangle her over his mouth and tease her with his tongue. The young woman kicked, and her bare feet hammered against his tongue over and over again.

Lowering her down into his mouth, Gideon took a moment to relish her frenzied movements. He could taste her, a combination of fragrant shampoo and salty sweat and, he liked to imagine, her tears. The woman scrabbled and scratched at the inside of his mouth, her nails digging into the soft flesh of his gums and inner cheeks. His response was to batter her with his tongue, slamming her around until she became too tired to do anything but whimper.

For a second or two, Gideon opened his mouth wide, allowing the two other women to see their petrified companion. He almost laughed at their reactions; they were horrified, shaking so hard that they practically vibrated. With a click of his teeth, he closed his mouth and swallowed his victim in one gulp.

Once she descended into his stomach, he couldn’t feel her much anymore, although he liked to think that she was still alive and being digested along with his dinner. Gideon snapped his fingers, and the other two women rushed forward, groveling before him on the table. Because he was feeling particularly benevolent, he tossed them a scrap of gristly meat from his plate. They fought over it, but he didn’t pay much attention to them. He was thinking about Paige, which was odd because he had her back in his possession. There was no reason why she should have been on his mind, but she was.

And so, as the women quarreled with each other, he thought about her.

***

She had never been to a birthday party before, and the very concept of it was alien to her. Paige had been born in one of the Breeding Centers and given a serial number, like all of the females and Nulls. Her day of birth was nothing special, just another fact about her, like her blood type and eye color. The idea of celebrating it was baffling.

And Paige could only imagine what this particular party would be like.

She had several days to think about it, and she paced back and forth in her cage, the new collar chafing against her neck. At one point, Paige considered taking it off and smashing it to bits, but she knew that would have given Gideon an excuse to torment her even more. So she put up with the collar, occasionally tugging at it as she peeked out through the bars.

Gideon ignored her for the most part, which she was not expecting. That first night, he had selected a skinny redhead from one of the cages and brought her to his bed. Paige had been close enough that she could see everything: the poor woman’s blanched face, the giant’s cruel, lustful expression as he settled on the bed. It had been like watching a horror movie, and she had been helpless to stop the inevitable ending.

He had made the little redhead bow to him, her forehead pushed down against the sheets. She had mumbled all sorts of things, praising his kindness, his handsomeness, and he had just stared down at the woman between his legs. Then he had pressed his thumb against the base of his impressive penis, and Paige had winced as it slammed down onto the redhead. Clearly she had been hurt; the way that she had staggered up indicated some sort of injury. Gideon had watched her rise, and then pummeled her again, and again. This had gone on for a horribly long time, and when the woman failed to stand up, he finally came, his semen drenching the sheets and the tiny, motionless body.

The giant’s gaze hadn’t been on the dead woman. No, it had been fixed on Paige.

But Gideon hadn’t visited her cage, and she wondered what sort of atrocities he had planned. By the time that the night of his party arrived, she had resigned herself to the fact that he would finally kill her. She tried to be brave as he entered the bedroom, but it was nearly impossible. His eyes burned with almost insane delight as he opened the cage door. He didn’t bother with ordering Paige to climb into his hand; he snatched her up roughly. With the amount of pressure that he was applying, she was afraid that he would snap her spine by accident (or on purpose, which was more likely).

He didn’t tease her, just crammed her into the pocket of his tuxedo. Although it was stuffy and hot in there, at least she didn’t have to worry about his mammoth fingers wrapped around her body. Her world had become claustrophobic darkness as Gideon wandered throughout the mansion.

Paige heard the voices through the fabric of the giant’s pocket, and they were distinctly masculine and deafening. There were other Alphas there, although she wasn’t sure how many until Gideon pulled her our from his pocket. She glanced around, surprised to see so many giants gathered in the sprawling ballroom. And one of them was Will, who had betrayed her for his own personal gain. As much as Paige detested Gideon, she hated his assistant even more.

To her disgust, Will approached them, an untouched glass of wine in his hand. He offered Gideon a tightlipped smile before he noticed the tiny woman clenched in the other Alpha’s fist. The giant’s eyes widened slightly, and then he glanced away. In Gideon’s hand, Paige shook with rage, and she wanted to shout at him, or better yet, slap that huge, cowardly face. But she could barely move, trapped between gargantuan fingers, and the best that she could do was glare up at him.

Gideon noticed the brief, silent exchange between Will and Paige, and it seemed to delight him.

“She looks marvelous, doesn’t she?” He asked, holding Paige out as if she were a designer watch or some other accessory. She tried hard not to squirm too much as Will avoided her furious gaze.

“She looks beautiful, Gideon,” the other Alpha replied, staring into his glass of wine.

“I have such special things in store for her.” Those words chilled her blood, and Will’s mouth dropped open. Just as it looked like he was about to protest, Gideon walked away to mingle with the rest of the guests. Paige found herself either ignored or presented to the Alphas, and most of them only smiled politely. They weren’t interested in her; after all, they probably had their own collection of women at home.

Gideon moved through the crowd with astounding grace, and he seemed like a completely different man than the monster that she knew. He took his time with one black-haired man whose face seemed to be carved out of granite. Whoever this Alpha was, Paige sensed that he was important. This time, when Gideon showed her off, he had her do tricks, like some trained pet rat. Kneel, curtsey, twirl around — Paige’s cheeks flushed hot with humiliation as she did what she was ordered.

The other Alpha squinted at her. “She is a clever thing, I’ll admit.”

Paige lowered her eyes so that he didn’t see the rage and embarrassment lurking there. But the giant had turned his attention back to Gideon, so it didn’t really matter.

“I’ve read your latest report,” the Alpha told him. “The numbers certainly are disheartening.”

The fingers holding Paige loosened, and then constricted around her tighter, almost unconsciously. “Alpha births have been decreasing steadily for the last ten years. If this trend continues, we’ll be gone in a generation.”

“There must be something that we can do,” the black-haired man said.

“We’ve tried. God knows how much funding we’ve been pouring into research.” Gideon didn’t sound like himself. Doubt and something resembling fear had crept into his voice, and Paige craned her head to try to see his expression. All that she could see was the underside of his jaw and the tip of his nose, however.

“All of the experiments have proven unsuccessful,” he continued, and the other Alpha raised a dark eyebrow.

“Experiments?”

“Oh, we’ve been doing all sorts of genetic engineering on Nulls and women. You’d be surprised at how hardy some of the test subjects prove to be,” Gideon said. “Like Paige here. I’m sure that she’d do very well in the clinical trials.”

Paige wished that she could spit in his face. The anger was building, becoming unbearable, and she took deep breaths as the giant brought her over to one of the tables. Gideon placed her down on the linen tablecloth, amidst the gleaming silver trays and bowls that dwarfed her completely. She wasn’t foolish enough to attempt escape, not with giants everywhere. The jeweled collar around her neck reflected the candlelight as she stood there, hands balled up so tightly that her knuckles turned pinkish-white.

One by one, the Alphas sat, including Will and Gideon, and she could feel numerous sets of eyes watching her, examining her. If only she had on a dress, or something else to cover her nudity and the disgusting tattoo. Even a napkin would have worked, although she knew that her owner would swat her if she tried to grab one.

Gideon stood up and started some sort of speech, his immense shadow falling over her. All of the Alphas were listening raptly, their heads turned toward him. Paige despised them, every last one. The fury finally reached its peak, and almost as if in a dream, she heard herself shouting, “Don’t listen to him! He’s a murderer! A monster!”

Silence descended over the room, and she instantly recognized her mistake. Hesitantly, she glanced up at Gideon, expecting his mammoth fist to come crashing down onto her. But he wasn’t enraged, as she thought that he’d be; if anything, he seemed inordinately cheerful.

“Paige,” he said softly. “You certainly know how to kid around, don’t you?”

“I—,” she tried to protest, but his eyes, cold and devoid of mercy, were on her. All of her anger and courage fled, and she was left pinned beneath the giant’s stare. No one came to rescue, no one spoke up. Gideon knew that he had won; his grin was triumphant as he said, “Now be a good girl and come here.”

Defeated, she trudged toward the giant. He made her stand by his plate while he ate, occasionally giving her small scraps from his meal. Paige’s stomach had turned into a heavy lump, and just the scent of food made her nauseous, but she forced the morsels down.

During the end of the meal, the black-haired man handed Gideon something. It was a velvet-covered box, the sort of thing that was used to store jewelry. There was no surprise on her owner’s face, and it was evident that he already knew exactly what was in the box.

“I’m not sure why you wanted that one, Gideon,” the other Alpha said as the box was opened. “I have much prettier ones that I could have given to you.”

“Nonsense! She’s perfect.” Gideon lifted the tiny woman from the box, cradling her in his hand. Her dress was cream-colored and flowing, and she looked like a delicate moth perched in the middle of the giant’s palm. He pretended to inspect her, and then gazed up. “Why, Will, she looks just like you! What a strange coincidence.”

Paige couldn’t see much of the woman, although she noticed the long, chestnut brown hair, the hazel eyes. The resemblance was there, and Will seemed to notice it as well. The color faded from his face, leaving his freckled skin ashen.

“What’s your name, my dear?” Gideon asked the woman in his hand. She looked up at him, and Paige wondered what she saw. A handsome, kind giant, perhaps. Except he wasn’t kind at all, and this woman would surely find that out soon enough.

“Kylie, sir,” she said, and the name was vaguely familiar. Hadn’t Will mentioned that he had a sister named Kylie? Realization struck Paige, and she understood the game that Gideon was playing. As much as she hated Will, he didn’t deserve to have that sort of torment inflicted upon him. She snuck a glance at the Alpha, who had pushed away from the table, mouth quivering. Oh, Will knew as well, and the horror on his face was apparent.

“What a lovely name,” Gideon purred to her, and Will stood up, nearly bumping into the man beside him. He started to mumble some sort of excuse, sweat beading in shining droplets on his forehead. The other Alphas watched him, confused and concerned.

“Will!” Gideon called out. “Don’t leave just yet. I have something to show you after the party.”

Will hesitated near the ballroom door, his eyes wide and fearful. Paige imagined all of the thoughts racing through his head, and none of them were good. His shoulders visibly drooped, and he walked back over to the table. Gideon didn’t say anything else to him; his attention was now on Kylie, and he treated her like a beloved pet. How long that would last, Paige didn’t know. As much as she hated to admit it, she was relieved that he was no longer teasing her, now that he had found another victim.

At the end of the party, Gideon put his hand down on the table and told Paige to get onto it. She obeyed, her bare feet dimpling the flesh of his palm. Across the huge expanse of his chest, she saw Kylie in his other hand. She had a bewildered expression, the expression of someone who was in a new and overwhelming situation. For a second, her eyes locked with Paige’s, and that bewilderment transformed into terror.

Gideon gestured for Will to follow him, and the other Alpha did so, trailing far behind.

***

They went to the bedroom, and Gideon told Will to close and lock the door. As the other Alpha moved toward the door, Gideon sat down on the bed, enjoying the feeling of the two women in his hands. They were so soft, their skin like silk, and he had to resist the urge to squeeze them both until their insides exploded out of their mouths. He already had an almost painful erection, and that was just from what he planned to do.

Will closed the door and turned around, his face still whey-white. “Gideon, what did you have to show me?”

He already knew, of course. Gideon made a show of putting the tiny women down onto his lap, close to the hard bulge of his cock. “You’ll be very happy to know that I found your sister.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Will clenched his fists.

Gideon grabbed Kylie roughly, eliciting a squeaky shriek from the woman, and began to peel off the minuscule scrap of fabric that was her dress. He wanted to see the naked, writhing body of his newest acquisition. “Oh? You don’t? Well, here she is.”

Will said nothing, just breathed heavily through his mouth.

“Most Alphas would be ashamed to know that their twin is such a weak little thing. But I must say, she’s an exquisite creature.”

“What do you want, Gideon?” Will demanded, and his entire body trembled with violent jerks.

This was wonderful, the way that he had the other Alpha in such a panicked state. Gideon smirked, caressing Kylie’s head with his thumb. It was so small and fragile that he could have broken it like a robin’s egg.

“I’m very disappointed in you, Will,” he said, each word accompanied by a stroke of Kylie’s fine hair. “Setting Paige free like that…how could you?

“I didn’t let her out!” Will practically screamed, and he immediately addressed Paige, who was huddled on Gideon’s lap. “Tell him!”

Paige started to say something, but Gideon interrupted her. “Will, I’ve had enough lying. Now is the time for making amends.”

This was when Will would show his true colors, and either fight him or yield to his demands. Gideon watched, fascinated, as the other man nodded. “What do I have to do?”

Just like he thought…Will really was a spineless coward. Still smirking, Gideon pointed toward the collection of beautiful and ornate cages. “Bring me a few of those women.”

When Will went over to the cages, Gideon unzipped his pants, startling the tiny woman on his thigh. Before Paige could dash away, he snatched her up and forced her into his boxer briefs, the sensation of her minute breasts and legs against his erection nearly causing him to orgasm. He poked at her with one finger, and she was smart enough to know what to do. An instant later, he felt a tiny tongue licking at his glans.

Will brought several women over to the bed, treating them as if they were made of porcelain. If Gideon had been carrying them, he would have plopped them on the duvet, but the other Alpha set them down, one at a time, like an antiques dealer displaying priceless heirlooms. He would have made a snide comment if Paige wasn’t wiggling so much against his cock, distracting him.

“No, no,” Gideon said as Will tried to place the last woman on the bed. “Put her on the floor.”

“Why do you want me to—,”

“Now.”

The giant set the woman down on the floor, and she looked quickly from Will to Gideon. She was voluptuous, her skin tanned a golden brown. One of his more eager playthings, if he remembered correctly. On all fours, she crawled toward Gideon’s right foot, but he shooed her away.

“I want you to step on her, Will.” As soon as he said this, the woman bleated in panic.

“Absolutely not!” Will shouted.

Gideon frowned, stroking Kylie harder and harder until she shuddered painfully. “That’s your decision, and I can respect that. Now, where should I tattoo you, Kylie? I’m thinking your face…”

“You can’t do that!” Oh, poor Will. He was vacillating between rage and fear, his short hair matted with sweat.

“I can, and I will. She’s my property. There’s nothing that you can do to stop me, Will. Unless…” Gideon tilted his head down toward the woman at his feet, indicating what he wanted Will to do.

If Will had been a stronger man, he would have tackled Gideon, maybe even tried to punch him. But Gideon knew his assistant, and he knew that the man was incapable of such things. The other Alpha was cowardly, weak. And Gideon naturally preyed upon those who were weaker than he was. His erection had become an aching, throbbing rod, shoving Paige up against the fabric of his underwear.

“I’m so sorry,” Will whispered to the woman on the floor. His features contorted into a mask of anguish as he reluctantly raised one foot above her, hovering it there. Screaming, the woman tried to reason with him, and Gideon saw his despair as he lowered his foot down gingerly. One of the tiny thing’s arms flopped out from beneath Will’s shoe, and it scrabbled at the carpet, scratching with a crazed desperation.

“Crush her,” Gideon ordered, and Will made a low, strangled noise as he did. He didn’t do it quickly, either; he did it with the slow reluctance of one who understood that their actions couldn’t be stopped. The woman’s howls became muffled, and then they ceased abruptly. Will removed his foot, his face turned away in disgust and horror. At first glance, the woman appeared to be laying on her side, sleeping. But the puddle of blood and the grayish brain matter leaking from beneath her smashed head proved otherwise.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Gideon asked, and Will shot him a look of pure fury. “Oh, don’t be that way. Now, get on your knees.”

Again, Will obeyed, kneeling down on the carpet in front of Gideon. Something glittered in his hazel eyes; a second later, he blinked away the tears. He started to mumble an apology, or an excuse, but he stopped when Gideon put Kylie down and lifted up a blonde woman, her shapely legs churning through the air. Removing her tiny opal collar, he pinched one of her breasts, which was smaller than a pencil eraser.

“Open your mouth,” Gideon told Will, pleased when the other man hesitantly parted his lips. Moving with astonishing speed, he seized Will’s lower jaw and forced the blonde between his teeth. The other Alpha jerked and heaved, but Gideon held him, grinning madly. They stared at one another, and then Will stopped struggling. He swallowed and Gideon orgasmed, ecstatic pleasure tightening his muscles into steel-like cords. Paige had resumed her frightened flailing against his penis, and he was sure that she was being drenched by his seed.

“Did she taste delicious?” Gideon inquired, still savoring post-climax bliss. Will responded with a choking, sobbing noise. The other women on the bed were absolutely terrified, holding onto one another for support. With a paternal smile, Gideon placed one hand on Will’s left shoulder. His assistant moaned low in his throat, but didn’t pull away.

“One more,” Gideon said, reaching down to retrieve the prisoner from his underwear. Semen coated Paige’s entire body, her hair shining with the viscous slime. She was as slippery as a tadpole, and he had to pinch hard to keep her from plopping down onto the bed. Through reddened, puffy eyes, Will stared at the tiny woman as Gideon dangled her in front of his face.

She cried out when he issued his order, “Open up again.” To Gideon’s delight, Will’s lips quivered and peeled apart once more.

***

The thick, foul goo smeared all over Paige had begun to harden, and the fact that it had come from Gideon was even more revolting. She hung there, suspended in front of Will’s flushed face, and from her peripheral vision, she spotted the broken little corpse on the carpet, its blood forming strange patterns. You could have fought back, she thought, staring into the giant’s bloodshot eyes. She saw such grief there that she almost pitied him for a moment.

Then his mouth gaped wide, and she found herself thrust into it.

His monolithic teeth scraped against her bare flesh, and she gasped in pain, twisting and turning. The lips sealed and she saw only darkness, the air hot and humid, like being in a pitch-black sauna. Paige was already slippery, and she couldn’t gain an adequate foothold at all. A flurry of thoughts zoomed around her mind: Will was weak, he would do as Gideon commanded and eat her. If only she had run faster in the woods, she could have escaped from this Hell. Maybe this was for the best…

Gideon’s voice rumbled from outside, incomprehensible because of the walls of flesh separating Paige from the rest of the world. The tongue unexpectedly tossed her forward, smacking against the giant’s front teeth. Dazed, she tried to regain her bearings, vaguely aware that she was being spat back out. She slid into Gideon’s waiting hand, warm saliva and the remnants of semen pooling around her.

“Don’t worry, my dear. I wouldn’t have let Will eat you,” Gideon said, and she tried to sit up in his hand, sliding slightly in the fluids. “I’m saving you for myself.”

Paige shuddered.

She tried not to tumble from his hand as he placed Kylie into a cage that glittered with an assortment of jewels. The tiny woman looked as sickened as her brother did, and she immediately hid in one of the cage corners, the shadows covering most of her face.

“I’m sure that you’ve read about the Epidemic, how almost everyone shrank within a span of months,” Gideon said to Will. “It always made me think about how fickle Fate is. What would you have done if you found yourself reduced to something so weak and powerless?”

“I-I’m not sure,” the other giant mumbled.

Gideon gave him an enigmatic little smile. “You’re dismissed, Will.”

Glancing over at Kylie one last time, Will rose unsteadily to his feet and stumbled toward the door. A moment later he was gone, and there were only the women and Gideon remaining. The giant’s fingers curled around Paige, gripping her so hard that she couldn’t breathe. He held her close to his right eye, watching her asphyxiate with a horrible fascination. In that enormous blue eye she could make out her reflection, her face darkening to the color of a bruise. The huge pupil, black and fathomless, dilated in excitement.

The darkness spread, its tendrils creeping into her vision. She was vaguely aware of motion, that the Alpha was striding back toward the bed. His hand opened, dumping her near the mountainous pillows. For awhile she simply lay there, gasping for air. Gideon was slowly undressing — she saw his tuxedo jacket fall to the floor in a crumpled black heap, followed by the white dress shirt. When he was nude, he approached the bed.

The other women stared in horror as he towered over them. Paige raised her head, looked into his dark blue eyes. Any other time, he would have been grinning madly, but his face had taken on a hungry, almost insatiable, look.

The first woman that he grabbed from the bed was unprepared; she screamed and writhed frantically. It was only when he grasped her upper body with his other hand that she stopped shrieking. The giant twisted and pulled, and with a spray of blood, he ripped in her two. Viscera spilled out in maroon clumps onto his hands, and he dropped the twitching body as he reached for another. The women scattered across the bed, and his left hand landed on the duvet, leaving a bloody print on the fabric as he pursued his next victim. Paige had never seen him so silent, and it was terrifying.

One woman stopped running and assumed a position of obedience, her arms outstretched. “Master, please, don’t hurt me!”

Gideon didn’t pay attention to her plea; his gore-streaked hand snatched her up violently. His erection had returned, his cock rising up from his thatch of blond pubic hair. The tiny woman continued to beg even as he pressed her insistently against his lower abdomen, mashing her up against his own flesh until her bones snapped. He dragged her body downwards, her jam-like remains caked across the slabs of his abdominal muscles.

It was like watching a piranha feed, all blood and pain and violence.

Paige closed her eyes, listened to the hellish noises as the giant caught and then ripped apart the others. The gruesome tearing, crunching noises ceased, and all that she could hear was Gideon’s excited breathing. She cracked open her eyelids, and she saw his mammoth knees and thighs filling her vision. The giant was kneeling before her on the bed, his blood-drenched hands resting on his hips.

“I guess you’re going to kill me next, aren’t you?” Paige gazed up past his mountainous abdomen and chest and into his crazed eyes.

“Kill you?” Gideon finally grinned again, reaching down for her. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? Ending your misery?”

His fingers were sticky with blood and clumps of wet hair and scraps of flesh, and they wound around her body from head to toe. Paige wouldn’t answer him. Let this end, she prayed. Let this awful, sick game just end.

“I’m not going to kill you, Paige. I like having you around too much,” the giant told her, and she saw some grotesque mockery of affection in his eyes. Perhaps, in his own deranged way, he did like her. She remembered the dream, the one in which Alicia had the horrid doll head.

“What do you know about love, Paige?” He had asked her in the dream, and apparently, she didn’t know nearly enough. The thought made her queasy, and she tried to push away his unwanted fingers.

“Maybe some day, I’ll get tired of you. But until then, you’ll be my special little plaything,” Gideon said as he easily thwarted her efforts to shove his fingers away. She gasped as he flipped her onto her stomach, exposing her back and that ghastly tattoo, the one that forever marked her as his.

“My precious Paige,” he whispered, and she began to weep as he stroked her with a fingertip.