The Marketplace: Chapter 1


“May I serve you tea, ma’am?” The girl’s body was bent slightly forward in a subtle, exquisite, inquisitive posture. Her small white hands held the china teapot firmly, waiting for an answer. That was excellent, too. An untrained girl might have started pouring as soon as she asked the question.

“Yes, of course,” the mistress of the house replied. Her eyes followed the movements of the girl as the liquid poured into the cup. The tea made a distinct sound while it ran into the cup, another perfection. When the cup was three quarters full, the pot was replaced, and the ritual continued.

“Would you like sugar, ma’am?” Then lemon, then cream. Each refusal was met with a slight bowing of the girl’s pretty head. When the options were finished, she backed away from the table, her steps small and carefully placed, barely disturbing the slender golden chain that wound between her white, high-heeled shoes.

She was pretty, small and delicately shaped. She was well suited to the serving ensemble she wore, the tight-corseted bodice and the lightly ruffled apron. Her curly, light brown hair cascaded down her back, the pert lace cap pinning it back. Her deep green eyes were always lowered in humility, long lashes charmingly fluttering. The wisps of hair which seemed to carelessly escape from the cap to frame her heart-shaped face were in fact cunningly arranged to suggest disarray.

Cute, Alexandra Selador thought, as she drank some tea. Far too cute for her own good.

“That will be all, Claudia,” Mistress Madeleine said, her voice strong and tightly controlled. Alexandra nodded and her majordomo came forward to leash the girl and remove her from the room. The two women waited until the servants had gone to relax back into their chairs. They laughed together at the conceit.

“It’s good to see you, Alex.”

“And you, Madeleine. It’s been far too long. You should come out and visit us more often. And Claudia is simply enchanting. It’s rare you see such grace in that form of service these days. At least here in the States.”

That comment was answered with a simple but elegant shrug. “You should come and visit us,” Madeleine insisted. She smiled, her face transforming in a way few of her slaves had ever witnessed. “Did you know that we finished the pool and the deck? It’s beautiful, especially at night. We light torches—it’s very romantic.”

“Hm, I bet it is,” Alexandra murmured. “And you bring in some extra property? To serve at poolside?”

“We invite people to bring their own, but of course we try to have someone for everyone. You should have come to the last party we threw! We had some friends in from the Netherlands. They had just bought a pair of twins, big, blonde beauties. We had them dressed in nothing but slender, black chains, wound all around their bodies.”

Alexandra tried to imagine that, and the image of them standing next to the tall, dark Mistress. She nodded. “That must have been nice. Boys?”

“Boy and girl. Barely spoke English, actually, but very well trained.”

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