|Inherent Risk by Alicia Cameron|
Months have passed since Jere and Wren first came to peace with their new life together in the slave state of Hojer. Jere’s clinic has succeeded perhaps too well, leaving both men exhausted and stressed. When Jere goes looking for a new slave to help with the business, Wren objects vehemently. He doesn’t want to risk the exposure of their secret relationship, much less the forbidden gift he’s only just learning to control. || Worse yet, the new girl, Isis, is nothing but trouble. Battered, broken, and rebellious, she won’t even let Jere heal the most basic wounds left from years of abuse by her previous masters. When Isis lands them all in legal trouble, Jere can no longer afford to ignore the realities of being in a slave state. The three of them will have to work together to fight back. Can Jere confront his public role as a master and still be the submissive partner Wren loves so dearly?
Wren carried out two bowls of soup and a basket of rolls, relieved to see that they didn’t have company.
He set the food down and began eating without saying a word. He was still angry with Jere, but he didn’t know if it was worth it to bring it up. He was even less certain whether he could handle Jere dismissing his anger again.
Wren tensed. For Jere not to even touch the food before speaking meant he was nervous about something, and anything that could make Jere nervous would undoubtedly trickle down to his slave. Wren glanced up at him, a mouthful of roll serving as a good enough excuse for why he wasn’t saying anything.
“Love, I’m sorry I was short with you earlier,” Jere said, looking every bit as remorseful as he sounded. “I just… I don’t know what to do. I thought I did, but you’re obviously upset with me. I had no idea I would come across a slave like this.”
“Jere, I told you this is what would happen, and now it’s happening. I didn’t want to be part of it before, and I don’t want to be part of it now,” Wren was frustrated. He knew it wasn’t Jere’s fault, exactly, but he had made the decision, and he had made it knowing full well that Wren did not approve. “I don’t mind helping you, but I really don’t want to get overly involved in this.” In Wren’s opinion, it was Jere, the master, who should be the one getting “involved.”
“I know, and I’m sorry for putting you into the middle of this.” Jere smiled at him, tired and apologetic, but still winning. Winning Wren’s heart, all over again. That fucking smile got him every time.
The touching moment was interrupted by the door opening. Isis came out, looking ridiculously small and thin, Jere’s clothes hanging off of her.
She glared at Jere. “Your food smells good. Any synth crap hanging around for us non-humans?”
As much as Wren’s anger at Jere had been sated, his feelings toward Isis remained unchanged. Wren resisted the urge to smack her. Jere had been nothing but kind to her, and all she seemed to want to do was antagonize.
“None of that here,” Jere replied, as if this wasn’t out of the ordinary. “There’s plenty of regular food here for everyone.”
Wren observed Isis taking in the scene, seeing him and Jere seated next to each other, identical bowls of soup, small plates for rolls. The picture of domestic peace and happiness. She didn’t say anything, but sat down, tentatively, at the other end of the table. She glared at them both.
“So are you gonna hit me now or later for sitting here?” she asked. Wren could see through her bold façade. He could also hear her stomach growling.
“It’s fine.” Jere was just as calm. “You’re welcome to sit at the table.”
Jere stood up, causing the girl to jerk backwards in her chair, increasing the distance as much as possible. Wren thought it was quite an overreaction, but couldn’t deny that she looked terrified.
“Relax, I’m getting you something to eat,” Jere muttered.
He went into the kitchen, where Wren could hear him pulling down another bowl. The fact that Jere was getting it instead of asking him to do it meant that he was quite aware of how much he was taxing Wren. Wren couldn’t resist a smug little smile at the thought.
Jere returned, carrying a bowl of soup, which he placed in front of Isis. She cringed back from him, but he didn’t respond. He returned to his seat. “Try to eat. You’ll feel better with food in your stomach.”