Book Two in Demoted Series
Sascha’s world changed when Cashiel Michaud bought him, rescuing him from a brothel and a life of torture. They developed a sexual relationship, but can their relationship amount to more than that? Deceit, lies, and political scandal color not only their world, but their relationship, and dark figures from both men’s pasts threaten to intrude on the few moments of peace they have. A slave is never safe from harm, nor is an outcast family member. In the end, are Sascha and Cash strong enough to face the challenges, or will they be torn apart forever? (M/M)
Sascha looks up at me, eyes wide.
“She’s your mother?” he asks, shocked. “Kristine Miller is your mother? That woman who came over here… she is the head of the Miller System?”
“Yes,” I reply. “I was supposed to follow in the family business. I knew it inside and out, all the methods, all the rationale, all the shortcomings.”
“This is your big secret, then,” he says slowly, putting everything together. “I asked about her when you told me about your research. Well, when you told me about half of your research.”
I nod. It is my secret. The one I refused to tell him about, time and again. The one I beat him for. Admitting what I’ve done shouldn’t be this difficult, but as Sascha puts together how often I’ve lied to him, the hurt is evident on his face.
“Your research more than suggests that harsh treatment results in subpar slaves,” he reminds me. “So why did you treat me like that? Sometimes, you’d just ignore me, but other times… it was like being back there. In one of the re-education centers.”
“In my family, slaves were business products, not pets, and they knew their place. A slave like you would have been broken, but I’ve never wanted to break you. I chose to ignore you instead, and perhaps that was crueler. The charges of intellectual property theft and treason taught me that speaking up too soon can be a liability. I thought I was keeping you safe.”
“Safe from what?” Sascha demands. “Obviously not you or your mother.”
I accept his accusations. They are true, even though they are not the biggest concerns we have as we move forward. “It’s bigger than that. Even my initial results could have torn down not only my family’s business, but most re-education center empires in the world. It’s a multi-trillion-dollar enterprise. The everyday functioning of society depends on it, and it depends on keeping it the same.”
“If you found something better, why wouldn’t your mother have wanted to use it?” Sascha asks.
Sascha is bright, but he is young, like I was when I first started researching the topic. He still things can be fixed cooperatively. “My mother saw exactly one way to get results—her way. She knew exactly how to cause the most intense and terrible pain while still keeping a slave conscious. She knew exactly how many days one could starve before suffering physical ailments. And she made certain that every one of her trainers and guards knew as well and followed her protocols. Her re-education centers rose to prominence due to her bloodthirstiness and exacting standards; once she expanded, her methods caught on here and in dozens of other countries. Her system worked. Adopting a new one would mean admitting that she was wrong, admitting that she had steered entire nations in the wrong direction.”
Sascha’s eyes go wide. I can see him begin to understand the implications of all this.
“I didn’t just attack her system; I attacked the entire way of thinking,” I explain. “And I never took into account the big players—money, finance, legal influence. I was naïve enough to think I was doing a good thing.”
“Since the first people were Demoted a few hundred years ago, the re-education centers have always focused on control,” Sascha recalls, thinking aloud. “The Miller System made some improvements; it got rid of most of the physically disabling technologies, but made discipline and systematic terror even more important. You aren’t just going to destroy your mother’s system, you’re trying to turn everything upside down. All the laws, all the policies, all the recommendations—every part of our society that deals with the Demoted would have to be reconsidered. And in the mean time, everyone would realize they had failed for so long… someone would have to be held responsible.”
He’s starting to see it, now. The cold, hard truth that I discovered from the inside of a locked cell. “My results could have changed the state of the world, but I never considered how much I would be hated for revealing them. The second I let word slip at the company holiday party, I found myself arrested and locked away and accused of being a threat to national security, of all goddamn things.”
Sascha looks stunned.
“Didn’t you know?” I reply, a bitter smile on my face. “Trying to overthrow the Demoted system is a matter of national security. And my family has considerable sway with law enforcement. Donations, partnerships—law enforcement and re-education center developers are in bed together. A lot of medical research, too, but I didn’t find that out until later.”