Title: In Distress
Author: Caethes Faron
Release: September 11, 2014
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22398683-in-distress?from_search=true
After the Great Destruction destroyed the world, science is the new god. Geneticists rule, instituting a DNA-based caste system in their effort to restore the human genome.
As a Zed, Will’s a virtual slave who isn’t allowed medical care. A tragic accident has left him crippled, awaiting death. Just before his time is up, Malcolm, an enigmatic Alpha with two differently colored eyes sweeps in and buys him. Will becomes part of a family of freaks—other damaged Zeds who should be dead. Life seems ideal until Malcolm makes a request that could change Will’s life.
Malcolm harbors more secrets than his Zeds could imagine. His attraction to Will unravels his carefully cultivated control, and one secret escapes: he craves pain, not just as a sexual release, but as a way to atone for his past. Will may be the one person who can give him what he needs if Malcolm can only allow him into his heart.
As they struggle to build trust, each secret Malcolm reveals threatens their relationship. In the end, their desire for each other may heal both men if they can unlearn the lessons of the past.
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Will adjusted his back against the metal bars of his cage, welcoming the cool touch of steel against his hot skin. It would have been nice if the cage had at least one solid wall to lean against. Instead, it was fashioned like a giant bird cage, and the metal bars were a bitch on sore muscles. Of course, they weren’t really meant for long-term use. Their sole purpose was to display Zeds to shopping Alphas like zoo animals. If all went well, a Zed would spend a few days, maybe a week, in one of these cages before being carted off home with an Alpha. That was how it was supposed to work, but in the back room of Emporium, it wasn’t so simple.
A flash of pain shot up Will’s left leg, and he winced as he shifted position. He could barely look at the twisted mess of a limb. His leg was the reason he waited in the back room instead of out front. He looked around the room at the other cages. The most undesirable of the undesirables stared back at him with no hope in their faces. It was easy in this stuffy room to see why the Alphas and Betas viewed Zeds as less than human. Everyone in the back room had some deformity, something that made their resale value plummet—something that made it all right in the eyes of the law for them to be quietly disposed of if they weren’t sold within a month.
The air chilled, and goose bumps rose on Will’s flesh where sweat had been a moment before. He scrambled to his feet along with the others in their cages. If the climate control was being activated, it could only mean one thing: an Alpha was approaching to do some shopping. As he stood, the goose bumps spread without the huddled warmth of his body. He wore a pair of tight gray shorts that barely covered him, displaying his scrawny frame and mangled leg. He hadn’t been attractive before the accident, and he certainly wasn’t now. In a few more days, one of the handlers would pull him from his cell, and he’d finally learn how Zeds were disposed of. Was it a nice, quiet injection? Will scoffed. He knew better than to hope for such mercy at the hands of the Alphas or even the Betas who operated Emporium. More likely, he’d be tortured, and then when he happened to die, it’d be a nice little “oops” that no one would have to account for. Yeah, that was more in line with how New Cali worked.
Will was so lost in his dark thoughts that he almost missed the shadow of a man who strolled into the back room like a regular visitor. Not only was he silent as a shadow, he resembled one. Thick, straight black hair curled slightly at the ends. A smartly tailored black suit complete with black dress shirt clung to his tall, perfect frame. Not too bulky, but not skinny either. He sported the build of a man whose muscles were strictly for show. Like most Alphas, he probably hardly had to work to maintain that physique.
The man made his way from cage to cage, examining each inhabitant with a silent, cool gaze. Will steeled himself when the Alpha reached him. He stared straight back into the man’s eyes, trying his damnedest to show that he wouldn’t be judged by his deformity. The man didn’t even seem to notice. Gazing into the Alpha’s eyes, Will had to keep himself from jerking in surprise. Staring back at him were two differently colored irises: one ice blue and the other amber. He never thought he’d find such an apparent flaw in an Alpha, and Will took a little satisfaction in seeing it before he died.
The man finished his inspection and went to a Zed who must already belong to him. She appeared to be in her late thirties—old for a Zed in personal service—and was well-attired in a modest, bright blue dress that appeared to be made out of real cotton instead of synthetic fabric. She was the exact opposite of her Alpha. From a distance, she could have passed for a Beta if it weren’t for the metal collar encircling her neck. She must hold some sentimental value to her owner for him to keep her so long.
Will leaned against the bars of his cage. He would have sat back down, but there was no way for him to do so with dignity, and he wasn’t about to show an Alpha even a smidge of weakness. Will wished the man would just pick who he wanted and leave so he could get back to his morbid thoughts. He knew this man was just one more prick he didn’t have to worry about belonging to. The Alpha hadn’t looked at Will any longer than the others, and Will wasn’t the only one to meet his eyes. There was nothing to distinguish him from the other offerings.
The Alpha leaned down and whispered into the woman’s ear. She snapped her head around to look at him with what appeared to be disapproval and pursed her lips before nodding. He swept out of the room as quickly and quietly as he had entered.
“That one.” The woman’s voice seemed loud in the silent room.
Will startled to see her finger pointed directly at him. His stomach sank, and he tried to keep the shock from his face. Who knew what she’d report back to her Alpha about his reaction. Their Alpha. Will hadn’t ever expected to be owned again. I was so close to it all ending. If only he’d had the courage to take care of it himself before he’d been brought to Emporium. He should have done it the day that damn horse broke his leg.
The tall, unpleasant Beta who was on shift in the back room unlocked Will’s cage. Will ignored the Beta’s helpful hand as he stepped out. There was no way he would appear weak in front of the Zed woman.
She sighed. “What’s your name, boy?”
She flinched slightly at his name, and her eyes narrowed for a moment. “How old are you, Will?”
She tsked, as if his answer didn’t please her at all, then turned to the Beta. “If you’ll send the invoice to my tablet, I’ll transfer the credits.”
“Payments must be authorized by the purchasing Alpha.” The Beta sneered.
“I have the authorization code. Let me worry about doing my job. Or if you like, I can go get my Alpha to come back in here. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to explain to a Beta how to do his job. We’ll see how long you keep that job and how long Emporium will keep my Alpha’s business if this is the kind of hassle he has to put up with here.”
Will could’ve sworn the temperature dipped a few degrees. He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from smiling. Under different circumstances, Will might have even liked her. The Beta murmured under his breath, something about barren Zeds getting above their caste. Nonetheless, he went to the data screen in the corner of the room as the woman withdrew a glass square the size of her palm from her pocket. She swiped her thumb across it, and the glass unfolded into a rectangular tablet. It was common for Zeds to have tablets in order to assist their Alphas, but Will had never seen a Zed with a Glass Tab before.
“There. Did you get that confirmation? Or do I have to come show you how to find it?”
“I have it here. I don’t need an arid bitch mouthing off at me. You’re free to go.”
Will bristled. It was a low blow to insult a Zed for being sterile, as if they had any choice.
“Come along, Will.”
Will followed her to a side door. It was no surprise Emporium didn’t want him exiting through the front, soiling the appearance of all the young, attractive Zeds on display. As they passed the Beta, whose name Will had never heard, he couldn’t help throwing him a dirty look, not only for his insult to the woman, but for his complicity in Will’s imprisonment.
Outside the side door, a sleek black and chrome bullet car waited. The woman opened the door and gestured for Will to get in. He scooted all the way over, and the woman followed. As soon as the door closed, the car took off without a word or glance from the Alpha behind the wheel.
Will’s nerves crawled up his stomach. The others had told him not to stare down Alphas, that some of them liked that, and the ones who did relished the challenge of breaking Zeds to their wills. Will wouldn’t let that happen. Before this man could do too much damage, he’d provoke him to kill him, or he’d off himself somehow. There was no way he’d die in misery as an Alpha’s plaything.
No use thinking about it. In moments of honesty, Will doubted he had the nerve to follow through. It was nice to imagine he had that kind of control over his life. However, it was best to not make too many assumptions. After all, the man clearly had a soft spot for the woman beside Will. She was pretty in her own way. Her long brown hair was thick and straight. Dark blue eyes kept casting worried glances at the driver.
The silence in the car felt taut, but the man to whom Will had been sold didn’t seem to notice. He kept his eyes on the road, veering in and out of traffic with the kind of clipped movements that made it seem like he only just kept his anger in check. Will wondered why he didn’t fly or use the autopilot if the traffic bothered him so much. Only Alphas had clearance to disable autopilot and drive manually or fly if they wanted. Maybe it was a good sign that he was keeping to the streets. If he wasn’t showy with his vehicle, there was a chance he wouldn’t be showy with his Zeds. Reserved. That was the word for it. This Alpha seemed entirely too reserved. With any luck, that was a good thing.
Will lost track of time as they sped out of the city. He tried to relax and enjoy the relative safety of the drive. The green of the suburbs faded, and the barren wastes spread out before them. Eventually, they ended up outside a large concrete wall. Will craned his neck, but the wall extended out of sight in both directions and rose over twenty meters tall. The blue light of the security net crackled and flickered in the air. So the wall wasn’t exclusively to keep Betas and Zeds in or out; it was also to protect against other Alphas. Interesting. Will had never seen a compound anywhere near as massive as this one.
Giant steel gates opened to allow the car to pass. Inside, the drab scenery instantly transformed into manicured lawns, neat walkways, and well-kept flower beds, like an idyllic park, with houses interspersed throughout. The car approached a hill on which perched a mansion that looked like something from before the Great Destruction instead of the modern homes of most Alphas. Underneath the house, wooden garage doors opened to admit them. The bullet car pulled in next to six other cars, all flashier than the one they were driving.
“Welcome home.” Something sounded off about the Zed’s voice, but Will was too distracted by his appearance to puzzle it out. The man was huge, barrel chested with rich, dark brown skin, much darker than the light tan hue of the people of New Cali. Will had never seen a foreign Zed before. He knew some Alphas liked that sort of thing, but importing was a hassle and pretty rare.
Will’s new owner strode past the Zed before Will or the woman could even get out of the car. “Take care of him, Kaleana.” He never broke his stride or glanced back. Within a few steps, he was inside and out of sight.
Kaleana shook her head at the big man, and he got back to work on one of the other cars. “Come on then, Will. Do you need any help?”
Will exited the car. “No, I walk just fine.” His leg was twisted, not missing.
Kaleana simply raised an eyebrow and turned to go inside. Will followed, trying to mask his limp as much as possible. Walking felt like a novelty after three weeks in that cage. Once his leg stopped sending shocks of pain through his body with every step, he paid attention to where they were going.
Will felt his eyes widen. He didn’t know why he continued to be amazed by the wealth the Alphas held. The floor was marble: gray, black, and white swirls polished to a clean shine. Old-fashioned light fixtures hung from the ceiling without an embedded light in sight. The walls above the chair rail were upholstered with white fabric with a black filigree pattern, and below, the colors of the fabric were inverted.
Kaleana disappeared around a corner, and Will hurried to catch her as she ascended a narrow staircase. The steps presented something of a challenge, but he settled into a rhythm. They passed the first floor, and on the second, Kaleana led him to a thick, rich wooden door. The dark wood of the doors was an interesting contrast to the stark walls, and the gold doorknob was carved with the Alpha crest of the New Cali nation-state. It seemed a work of art in itself. Will had no idea where such an elegant door would lead.
Kaleana opened the door, and Will followed her inside. A large mattress with stark white bedding rested on an intricately carved black wooden frame. The furniture was all black and white with a few polished metal accents. It was the cleanest place Will had ever seen.
“This is your room.”
Will shook his head, thinking something must be lodged in his ears. “Excuse me?”
A smile played at the edges of Kaleana’s lips. “You heard right. There’s a bathroom through the door over there.” Kaleana nodded toward the far right corner. “There’re some clothes in the closet. We’ll get you some new ones that fit better.”
Will’s mind raced. A private bathroom? Clothes specially made for him? His new Alpha must have some weird sexual kink that attracted him to deformed Zeds. It was a basic fact that Zeds either did hard labor that was too dangerous for Betas, or they served as sexual or entertainment companions. It was clear which situation Will had landed himself in. He couldn’t decide if it was a good thing.
“Do I share this room with another Zed, ma’am?”
“No, and there’s no need to call me ma’am. It’s just Kaleana. There’s a Glass Tab by the bed that you are free to use. It has limited access at the moment. Now, there are very few rules in this house, which means there’s no excuse not to follow all of them. You’re to keep yourself clean. Your meals will be taken with the rest of the boys.”
“The rest of the boys?” When Kaleana had said he wasn’t sharing the room, he assumed that meant there were no Zeds other than the man in the garage in the house. It didn’t make sense to give each his own room.
“Yes. There are seven, including you.”
“And what are they all here for? What are my duties?”
“To do as you’re told. Now, stop interrupting.” Will got the distinct impression Kaleana would rather be somewhere else. “Breakfast is at eight o’clock every morning. Lunch is at one, and dinner is at six. Keep yourself and your room tidy. There is to be absolutely no fighting with anyone else. As long as you don’t cause trouble, you should fit in well here. This is a nice home. You’re very lucky. Do you have any questions?”
He had hundreds of questions, but Will was smart enough to wait until he found the right time—and the right person—to ask them. Only one matter left him with too much curiosity to ignore. “The Alpha, what’s his name?”
Kaleana fully smiled for the first time, her face softening around the creases next to her eyes. “Malcolm.”
Caethes Faron is a bisexual, genre-queer writer. Her books are equal opportunity, featuring gay, straight, and bisexual characters. Her bittersweet tales of love and loyalty are just as likely to leave readers in tears as smiles, and her love scenes don't fade to black. She enjoys empowering the powerless and exploring the nature of human relationships, especially in differing power dynamics. All of her books feature adults in adult situations. Foul language, diverse sexual situations, aspects of BDSM, and other things that are sure to offend some people make regular appearances in her novels.
Caethes's writing is influenced by her observations of this imperfect world and the flawed characters who inhabit it. She's lived in seven states and is always looking for the next place to call home with her husband and two dogs. She currently resides in Florida.
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