Season Content notes: con noncon*, pain play, sexual contact, trauma reactions, verbal assault, mind control, reference to suicide attempt, coming to terms with kink (badly), avoidance as coping strategy, unintentional emotional harm, NOT a HFN ending, mind fuck
Brit moved as soon as Mattin was out of the door. He grabbed Parlen by the front of her dress and slammed her back into the floor. “If you ever second guess my decisions in front of my trainee again, I’ll beat you within an inch of your life and leave you for the Mare to drag off.”
Jahlene was impressed. She hadn’t seen him lose his temper since Cook entered the manor. If anything, he was faster than she remembered. Tempting as it was, she couldn’t let him kill her secretary. Not yet, anyway. “Let her up, Brit, and take the tea to the kitchen. Now please.”
For a long moment, he didn’t move. Jahlene was about to repeat herself when he released the dress and stood up. Gathering the tea things, he left without acknowledging her. Hopefully, Cook would be able to sort him out. She had other problems to address.
When Jahlene didn’t say anything further, Parlen sat up and straightened her dress and hair. She continued to sit in silence. Once, she opened her mouth, but a glance at Jahlene’s face had it snapping shut again. Jahlene waited long enough Parlen started to fidget and pull at her skirts. Long enough that Jahlene tasted the tension, the fear, building in Parlen.
When she knew Parlen could not take one more moment, Jahlene spoke.
“If you ever try and trap me into doing things your way again, I may let him.” Brit wasn’t the only one who was angry. Jahlene had trusted Parlen. Brought her deeply in Jahlene’s plans and secrets. No one but Brit could do more harm to her entire household and all the people who depended on her.
Which meant that even if she were willing to, she could not sell the woman. Or let her ‘escape’. But she also could not afford for Parlen to be disloyal…
Jahlene pulled her anger back and let her hunger rise. Hunger Parlen had never seen in all the time she’d been Jahlene’s.
Parlen blanched, pale skin gone bone white in an instant. Slowly, her spine curved, her shoulders hunched, until she cowered in fear. Jahlene grinned. Her people rarely stepped out of line this badly. She might as well enjoy it…
She stood up and moved in front of Parlen, towering over the kneeling woman.
“How long have you been mine?”
“Five years, Mistress,” Parlen’s eyes met hers—terrified eyes, like an animal caught in the gaze of a snake. So nice of her to take her mistress seriously.
“Five years. You came as a gift from Lady Erebeth. She runs a strict household.”
The reminder—and the implied threat—spurred Parlen’s terror. It was delicious. A treat Jahlene rarely tasted.
“Did you think because I am gentle, I am soft?” she whispered, knowing the cowering human must strain to hear. “Did you think that because I prefer willing service, I would allow myself to be manipulated?”
She waited. Parlen would—she must—bow to Jahlene’s rule now, or she was lost beyond recall.
For a moment, Parlen continued to meet Jahlene’s gaze, trying to convince herself that she had done nothing of the sort. But she couldn’t. She hung her head and clasped her hands behind her back, “Forgive me, Mistress.”
Relief swamped Jahlene, but she let none of it show. Parlen was still hers. But only barely. She grabbed Parlen’s hair and yanked her head back, “You are a manipulative woman, Parlen. That makes you useful to me.”
Not just fear but guilt and shame now bloomed. It wasn’t enough. As sweet as this feast was, it would pass too quickly. “But when you start manipulating me, you stop being useful. And then, what shall I do with you?” She had to ensure that Parlen remembered this night. That the fear and guilt would last—or, one day, they would be here again.
Besides, it was such a feast. Jahlene could see whites all around Parlen’s eyes. To Jahlene’s delight, sweat beaded on Parlen’s skin. She resisted the temptation to lean forward and lick it. “Did Brit ever tell you of my mother’s ‘special toys’?”
“N-no, Mistress.” And she didn’t want to know. Smart woman, but smarter if she had never pushed Jahlene this far.
“They lived in a cage in a special glamourhame. They came out to feed her pleasures. They had no purpose, no use, except to be tortured. It didn’t matter if they were crippled, or blinded, or broken. Sometimes she kept them alive for years, feeding on their despair and pain.
“I’ve never had a special toy. If you are no longer useful to me, you could be my first.”
Parlen opened her mouth, but no sound came out. Her uncertainty pierced Jahlene. She believed Jahlene might do it. Well, Jahlene could use that. Use Parlen’s doubt to reinforce the fear.
“The first thing I’d do is cut off your perfect hair and make a rope to hang you with. Each time we played, I’d finish by wrapping that golden rope around your neck. Watch your face purple and your feet kick against the air. Just for a minute or two. Until the day you wished, prayed, begged that I put an end to your misery. Because death would be nothing to fear but sweet freedom from a life of horror and agony.”
She let her voice caress each word. Let her hunger savor the possibility. Let the monster she truly was out for the woman to see.
“On that day, I would let you hang until you lost consciousness. Let you taste the blackness and believe I was finally ending it. Then I’d cut you down and drink in your despair when you woke and knew your torment wasn’t anywhere near over. And worse than the despair will be the knowledge that every minute of it, you. Brought. On. Your. Self.”
The thought roused Jahlene’s hunger further—a hunger she had been restraining since before Parlen had been born. Now she bent forward and licked Parlen’s neck, savoring the horror her words, her eager description, woke in the woman.
A single tear trickled down Parlen’s cheek.
Disgusted—with Parlen, with herself—Jahlene stood up and pushed Parlen over onto her back. Turning away, she wrestled with the hunger, choking it back into its cage. A long minute passed before she could speak, her voice a quiet rasp in the stillness of the room.
“Do you know why I bind myself in rules and restrictions when I could easily be as much a monster as Erebeth or that bastard Oeloff?”
“N-no, Mistress.” Parlen believed her. Believed she would do such a thing–but that she would only do it if Parlen didn’t learn to restrain herself. It was a bitter triumph.
“It’s because I scare myself more than I could ever scare that fool man drawing my bath.” She turned and looked Parlen in the eye. “How much do I scare you?”
Parlen scrambled to get off her back and threw herself flat on the floor before Jahlene. Her tear-streaked face pressed to the tiles, hands stretched out, pleading. “Mistress, I b—”
Jahlene cut her off. The words were meaningless. “Good. If you cannot give me willing service, then I will take fear. Now get out.”
She maintained her pose until Parlen took herself from the room. Then collapsed on the couch and wept out her own fear and self-hatred.
When Brit returned several minutes later, he didn’t need to ask what had happened. Just held her until the tears ran dry.