Slack (Rook & Ronin #4)

By: JA Huss

A Day in the Life of Ford Aston

Chapter One

I cross Park Avenue at a full run and head down Stout where it intersects with Broadway. My breathing is not even heavy. It’s difficult to get a decent run in this flat city without the Coors Field steps to challenge me.

My building looms in front of me, contributing to the Denver skyline. This pre-dawn run is the only peace I’ll get today, so I might as well try and enjoy what’s left of it. I pick up my pace and run harder, desperately trying for the endorphin rush, but there’s just not enough distance. Not enough incline. Not enough time.

I slow as I cross the street and then walk up to the doorman. He welcomes me back with small talk and gratitude for the Christmas tip I authorized via my personal accountant. I ignore his thank yous and get in the elevator, then key in the code to the penthouse so the doors will close.

I count the floors as they ding. Too many. But it allows me to feel removed from society so I don’t hold it against the condo. The doors open right into my space, but it’s not the actual condo. It’s a hallway that has a pet mat—which at this moment has a kneeling and naked pet on top of it—a closet, and a poinsettia plant that someone who is not me, put there.

Most likely it was my mother, and most likely it was her subtle way of reminding me that midnight mass is tonight. I have no idea why she bothers. I never go. I haven’t gone to church since I graduated high school. As a Jesuit student I was required to attend mass and take theology, but that was the very first change I made in my adult life. No more church. I’m not a believer. It’s been almost eight years, so the fact that my mother continues to ask me to attend midnight mass with her every Christmas Eve I’m in town, is just annoying.

I shake it off because she does her best, I guess. I’m weird. Her only child is probably a huge disappointment. She probably figures she’ll never get a wedding out of me. She’ll never have grandkids.

It’s gotta sting.

“Stay here, pet. I’ll be back later.”

The girl on the pet mat says nothing, which is mandatory. I do not want to hear them speak. At all. Not one word. Some moaning, some squealing, small whimpering and tears during punishments—all that is fine. But if they talk, they are asked to leave.

I enter the condo and take it in. It never did feel like home because nothing in this condo is mine. The only thing I feel a connection to is the view outside. The furniture is white with black accents, the walls are a light gray that looks a little too pink for my taste, and there’s floor to ceiling windows visible from the front door as you walk in. The penthouse terrace faces west so I have an unobstructed view of the mountains.

I close the door and walk quickly to the shower, wash off, and then pull on a pair of jeans and make my way back to the kitchen. I press the button on the machine and it spits the one-cup instabrew out into a mug. I take it, and a bowl of cut strawberries, over to the dining table and swipe my finger across the tablet so I can read the Wall Street Journal after I finish with the pet.

I walk back over to the door, open it, and then bend down and whisper in the pet’s ear. “Count to ten, come in, shut the door behind you, and then crawl to the table.” I walk back over to the table and take my seat. Her ten seconds are up and she stands, walks through the door, closes it softly behind her, then drops to her knees and crawls across the hard stone tiles.

She never once looks at me.

Another rule.

Her hair is long and blonde. It hangs down and brushes against the floor as she crawls. When she reaches me, I open my legs and pat my thigh. She rests her cheek on my leg and assumes the position.

The position is kneeling, legs open, head straight, hands on her thighs. My pat is a command she knows, so that’s why she rests her head on my leg. She’s been here about two dozen times. I have no idea what her name is, how old she is—other than legal age—where she lives, what she does, what this means to her, or why she does it.

And I could care less about any of that personal stuff. My assistant in LA sets the pets up for me, and much of the time I have no knowledge about the particulars, beyond fucking them, of course. Occasionally I take one out to eat or to a function that requires a date, but not often. I prefer to do almost everything alone.