Life was never the same again after The Fall, especially for those born with certain gifts that set them apart from others. Gifts that doomed those like Wren to a life of slavery with no hope of escape or turned a man like Jere into an unwilling master. When a fiery tragedy brings Jere into Wren’s life it becomes clear that this new master is like nobody else Wren has ever known. How does a slave protect himself from someone unpredictable? Can love really exist between master and slave, or will it destroy them both? (M/M)
He returned his gaze to the others and repeated dumbly, “A slave?”
“Yes, you inherit him along with Dr. Burghe’s other possessions. However, there is something you should be aware of,” Ms. Young said hesitantly. “The slave is in pretty bad condition and would require medical attention rather quickly if you want to maintain usefulness. I doubt Mr. Burghe had him insured for very much, you know how young slaves are, and the rates and all.”
“No. I don’t.”
Ms. Young laughed nervously. “Oh, no, I suppose you wouldn’t, then, would you?”
“Well, anyway, the lad was pretty badly burned in the fire that killed my client,” Mr. Montgomery continued, all business. “Sad thing, really. The fire chief says that it looks like he was trying to drag his master out when the fire caught him, too. It would be a shame to let a loyal slave like that expire.”
“Expire?” Jere nearly needed his own hand to keep his jaw from dropping. “Right, right. Is he at a hospital, or…?”
Montgomery laughed, obviously unconcerned. “A hospital? Mr. Peters, you are coming here to be our doctor! Of course, if a resident had been seriously injured we could have placed them on a speed train to a city hospital, but even the closest veterinary would be too expensive to ship a slave, especially when it’s so badly injured! And, with no master to sign for the treatment, well, who’d pay? No, we just hoped you’d be here in time to salvage what you could out of him.”
Medical property emergency. That wasn’t a bad translation, after all. What else would you call it when your property needed medical treatment?
“We’ve been checking in on him, as a courtesy to you. We managed to get him to keep some water down, but he’s been pretty unresponsive most of today. You can look him over, he’s just down the hall.”
Jere looked at his watch. They had been discussing this “property arrangement” for forty-five minutes now. All the while, a human being had been excruciatingly burned and lying “just down the hall?” He took a breath to steady himself before he attempted to speak.
“I’ll need to see to him immediately,” he said stiffly, standing up.
“Now wait, wait, there’s some legal business that needs finishing up before you can start that, I mean, technically, he’s still a ward of the state until you accept—”
“Then let me sign what I need to sign and let me do my damn job!” Jere was very close to exploding at the casual indifference.
“Well, all right, all right, I can see you’re eager—I’m assuming you’re accepting the position, then? Can’t be bad to have an eager doctor!”
Jere drew in a breath, reminding himself to be cautious in this new place. He could be patient and tactful when he needed to. “Yes, Mr. Montgomery, I would be thrilled to accept the position, and the house, and the slave. However, as I am not well-endowed, financially, I am quite eager to keep all of my property in good working order, and wish to see it attended to as quickly as possible.”
The legal team of three smiled brightly as if he had just won the lottery, or as if there weren’t someone dying in the next room, and the whirlwind of paper-signing began. Somewhere along the way it was explained to him that, in the event of his death or departure, he would need to select an incumbent, as he had been selected, and there was something about fees, and some sort of stipend from the state as an agreement to cover uninsured or financially distressed patients, and a partial healthcare reimbursement. Overall, the process seemed more laborious than necessary, all while someone lay dying in the next room.