She was third in line … third. It was preposterous, and it bothered her, even though it shouldn’t have. But it was like not being good enough to be first, or not being grand enough to be last. Last was the be all spot … the finale. The moment after the performer has gone off stage and the lights haven’t come back on yet, but the crowd waits with hushed breaths and the whisper of ‘more’ on their lips.
Across from Payton sat a young girl. She was easily the youngest in the room and she sat on the only stool they had. She couldn’t have been over the age of twenty, perhaps not even a day over the age of sixteen, Payton thought. And rather than feel sorry for her, she found herself envying her, being annoyed at her. She had ache marks across her cheeks and eyes that sunk into her face. She might have been attractive once, but now she was used up. She wore only a small pink thong and even that seemed like it was filthy. Her ribs stuck out too much and the skin over them sunk into the gaps between each bone. Her tits were so small that even as she sat with her arms pushing them together to give them more of a life, they didn’t cover the chain that hung from her collar and rested between them.
She was last … how was she last? Was that the rage now? Was that the thing? Half=starved, already drained waif who would likely be dead in the next year?
She had pink nipples that looked like they had been placed. They were like the little puffy balls found in children’s craft boxes. As soon as the thought entered Payton’s head, she imagined those little stick on eyes, and it made her giggle.
“You think this is funny?” an older woman said. There were six of them in the room. There had been eight, but number two had already gone. “You think it is funny to laugh at us in here? I bet you’re one of those rich daddy’s girls. The kind that flashes daddy’s friends her cunt, so they treat her to cocktails and parties. Do you think daddy is going to save you? That he will come here with his cheque book and everything will be fine?”
Payton said nothing to the woman. What could she say? She was half right … right about the daddy’s girl part. At least she had thought she was. She was under no disillusion he was going to save her, though. Maybe a year or two ago she might have believed that. But no.
The older woman wore a red thong, and she did have breasts big enough to accommodate the chain. They were full and perky and looked like they would feel like rocks under her hand. She wore red lipstick too … a blood kiss in the middle of her pale face.
The lock in the cast iron gate clunked with an echo that went around the room and seemed to bounce of every wall. The man at the gate was big, burly. He had broad shoulders and a head that seemed to rest in the middle with no neck. His left arm bore a faded tattoo, and on both of his hands, he had the words ‘love’ and ‘hate.’
“You’re up,” he said to her. “Move it.”
She picked up her own chain. It was big and heavy and a good three metres longer than it needed to be. She held it awkwardly as she tried to avoid it touching her skin, but it swung between her breasts. She had worn it so long, there was a mark on the left one, a bruise. Like the others, she wore a thing, but hers was ice blue, like the colour of a frozen lake on a sunny winters morning.
“Drop your chain into the bowl,” he man said to her when she stepped onto the stage in the centre of the room. There were over ten men in that place. Three of them had women with them, and one had a young man. They could all see her. The stage rotated slowly, turning her like cattle at a market, but then she supposed that was what this was. The Skin Trade auctions.
“Twenty-three years old,” the man said as he began to read her particulars from his tablet. “Offered today by Crevan Dubois.”
She snorted at the mention of her previous master’s name, but no one seemed to notice. They were already immersed in reading about her like a shopping list of things they could check off and see if she hit their dietary requirements.
One man sat forward in his seat, and he had his elbow resting on his knee. He leant his chin onto his thumb and curled his finger just under his mouth as he watched her. His mouth was slightly open too and the tips of his fangs poked out.
“What is the starting price?” he asked.
The man swiped through pages. “Bidding starts at one hundred thousand.”
The man nodded. “Start at two million.” He didn’t look at her the same way the others did. They had their eyes on her breasts, her hips, the secret passage between her thighs, but not him. No. He stared at her, intent eyes locked on hers … on her face, her eyes, her soul.
But she refused to look away. She would not be intimated by him. No matter who he was.
“2.8,” someone else said from behind her.
“Three,” he added.
He got up and she thought he was going to stop, perhaps leave, but he moved to the edge of the stage, jaw set, eyes fixated on her … all of her. Her skin heated under his gaze. “Ten million,” he said. “In cash.”
The only sound in the room was that of Payton’s heart racing. She thought perhaps it stopped and maybe she was dead. There were worse places she could die. Worse places she could be.
“Done,” the man behind her said, and the other vampires in the room lost interest.