Fence 1

By: C. S. Pacat

CHAPTER ONE





Ancel was a virgin the first twelve times he had sex. The thirteenth time, it lacked all plausibility.

He tried something different. ‘I shouldn’t. Lord Arten owns my contract.’

‘Oh fuck. You’re a noble’s pet.’

The voice behind him was more turned on than ever. Ancel could feel the hard cock of the merchant’s son rubbing against him through layers of fabric. Pets were exclusive commodities, and a pet under contract was forbidden.

‘You could buy out my contract.’

‘How much?’

He made up a figure. There was no Lord Arten. Ancel landed his first contract that day: three months of his time, signed over to the merchant’s son. At the end of it, he was gifted a peridot. The colour of his eyes, green as emeralds. But not as expensive.

Yet.



The servant who dressed him told him what he needed to know about clothes, and the etiquette was easy. Watch, copy, or else make his own rules. In the brothels of Sanpelier, he had already learned the most important question: Who is the richest man here?

Ancel turned down the first flurry of offers for his contract. He let the merchant’s son parade him about, show him off, let desire build among the acquaintances they dined with during the day and the young hotheads they drank with at night. The richest man in the province was the trading magnate Louans, and Ancel knew that the merchant’s son and his father were seeking a gift to open business talks with him.

‘Give me as your gift,’ said Ancel, on the sheets, his body still flushed, his red hair sweat-tousled.

‘What?’ said the merchant’s son.

‘Give me to Louans. For the night. I’ll get you your trade deal.’

Since the only jewellery Ancel owned was not impressive, he wore neither ornaments nor paint when he was brought to Louans’s rooms. He wore nothing at all, except for a bolt of green silk, wrapped around his waist, when he arranged himself in a sprawl on the bed.

Louans was a man of forty-six years, more than twice Ancel’s age. Ancel had never been inside a residence as grand as this one. He had thought the merchant’s son was wealthy, when he’d first seen him in the brothel. He had thought: that’s the richest man in the province. Now he knew his own limited experience of the world. The merchant’s entire house was the size of Louans’s entrance hall.

Ancel’s heart beat quickened as Louans entered, a dark shape in the doorway. Louans owned this residence and everything in it: the gold candlesticks, the rich tapestries depicting hunts and gardens, the patterned tile, the green silk on the bed. And what lay under it.

‘You kept me waiting,’ said Ancel.

He felt the dip, as Louans sat beside him on the bed. ‘Your master chose his gift well. I like rare things.’ Louans reached out, with easy ownership, and took a lock of Ancel’s hair between his fingers. ‘Is it red everywhere?’

‘Guess,’ said Ancel. Holding Louans’s gaze, Ancel took the man’s hand and guided it down, under the silk. ‘Can you tell by feel?’

The offer came two days later. A year’s contract, at ten times the rate paid by the merchant’s son.

Ancel smiled. Louans was still only a merchant. But he went to parties with aristocrats, and now Ancel had a sense of scale.



He walked into Lord Rouart’s gathering on Louans’s arm, and every head in the room turned.

Only the richest merchants had pets, copying the manners of the aristocracy. A pet was a symbol of status. It was not only that Ancel’s contract was expensive; so was his clothing, his jewellery, the constant gifts tradition demanded be lavished on him. Owning a pet was a pure display of wealth: Look what I can afford.

No merchant in Louans’s acquaintance could afford Ancel. They all talked about him. I’d pay a fortune to have him. And, You’d need a fortune. That’s Louans’s pet.

Ancel liked the attention and he liked the gifts. He liked the feel of silks, furs and velvets against his skin. He liked to be attended by his own servants. He liked the rarity and expense of the jewels. He was given three emeralds to wear in his ears, a silver chain for his ankles, a pendant to wear around his neck. He kept them all in a jewel box, also a gift. It was inlaid with mother of pearl. He kept his old, single peridot there, too, but at the bottom.

He had affected a better accent, to cover up his provincial lilt, letting the rumour mill go wild. He was a foreign pet, he was a court pet, he was the younger son of an aristocrat playing a pet for fun. His ears were pierced, three sharp pricks. His hair stayed long but was cut in a fashionable style. His body was bathed and steamed and waxed, and on the evenings when he was entertaining Louans privately, it was washed far more intimately, and oiled to allow Louans to slide home.

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