"We expected this. I'm glad Reddy's proving he has some spine, but I'm afraid there will be consequences," Hunter said, hands stroking my back. "And Miss Jones? What will you do about her?"
I didn't know if Myra was taking the money from patrons for herself or for the theater. I did know that in spite of the greed, she made happy matches for the girls. I wasn't inclined to forgive her yet, but I didn't want to start a fight today, not after what I'd overheard.
"I don't know," I admitted. "Just don't give her any more of your money. Ask for it back, if you want."
Hunter nodded and shrugged. "I'm not concerned about the loss, but if she wants a donation for the theater, I wish she would simply ask for it, like she did with your costume."
I groaned at that reminder and pressed my face against his throat.
"I...I told you I was a patron of Magdalena Mortimer's former house? Rooksgrave Manor," Hunter said.
"You implied," I said, shifting to face him.
"Mm. The young woman who entertained me there was… I believe the word is mercenary," Hunter said, frowning. "I paid my membership for the house, for my visits to her, but also she required... Presents were to be expected, but she preferred coin." Hunter blushed. "Specifically in exchange for certain requests."
My eyebrows bounced before I could school my expression, and I stroked my hands over his chest to encourage him to continue.
"She wasn't fond of me. She didn't want me or need me as you do, little one," Hunter said, voice purring. "And she led me to believe..."
"That a human woman wouldn't accept your desires?" I supplied, the pieces fitting together at last.
"Or my features," he said, grimacing. "My piercings. My speech."
"Fuck her," I bit out sharply.
The grimace curled up into a smile, Hunter's eyes crinkling at the corners.
"I thought the girls at those houses were meant to be delighted with monsters, or at least accepting," I said. Mr. Douthwaite had offered me a house like that as an option for my future after my father died, but I'd thought the theater would be less confining.
"Most were accepting. Some delighted." Hunter nodded. "Mary had nowhere else to go, and she saw an opportunity in me. I sought to please her and realized too late I could only do so with money. She betrayed the house eventually, and I was relieved to be released from the arrangement."
"And you didn't renew. Good, that madame should've done better for you than some—" My words were cut short by Hunter's kiss, firm and sweet, lingering on my lips as his claws bit gently into my hips. A question slid into my head as Hunter kissed me and burned in my thoughts until I had to pull away to ask. "What kind of requests did you make?"
I reached up and cupped Hunter's cheeks as his gaze flitted away from me. This horrible woman had made Hunter nervous about his own desires, and it was now my mission to undo her work. I ought to have been more sympathetic, but instead I felt like I'd won another woman's reward.
"Hunter, I honestly can't think of anything you might ask of me that I'd refuse. You've seen me on stage," I soothed.
"I have," he growled, his brow furrowing.
"You make me feel like a wild, hungry creature when you touch me," I continued, grinning as I recalled the night before and the many moments of pleasure Hunter had offered so eagerly. "So tell me."
He growled softly as I scratched my nails into his beard and then back into his hair.
"I'd do anything you asked, Hunter," I purred, knowing the moment I was succeeding by the slow close of his eyes and the heavy weight of his head leaning into my hands.
"You would obey me?" he asked.
His eyes opened, their color golden and bright as he gazed back at me. "At home, the best warriors have their pick of pleasure pets—women who come to the mountains to seek strong males' beds."
I grinned as Hunter searched my face. "Do you miss having a pleasure pet?"
"I never took one. They were for men who were settling, their blood cooling and bodies retiring. I moved on from the mountains before I felt ready," he said.
"And what does a pleasure pet do for her master?" I asked, feeling victorious as Hunter's eyes blazed at the word master, claws digging into my hips and ass as he tugged me closer.
"Wait at his feet, for his need," Hunter rasped. "Be fed by his hand. Reveal herself to his gaze. Obey."
Such simple requests, and he'd been shamed? An orc who loved to feast on a needy pussy and gave gentle, thorough massages and was so happily generous? Of course there would be women who objected to being called "pet" or being told to kneel or obey, but in a house meant to serve monsters' pleasure, obedience seemed like the least of a girl's worries.
"Sometimes, the women are harnessed or leashed," Hunter added, wincing at me.
"Now we're getting interesting," I said, making sure to tease gently.
The wince vanished. "You're not disgusted?"
"I meant it when I said I would do anything you asked. And I think I would make a very pretty pleasure pet, don't you?"
Hunter growled and surged up, arms wrapping around my back, one hand cradling my head as he twisted and lowered me to the cushion of the chaise, tongue twining with mine.
I tugged my lips away, turning and offering my throat as I continued. "Do you have a leash for me?"
Hunter shuddered on top of me, and I grinned.
"A harness," he said, the words dragged from his throat in a snarl, his tusks scratching over my throat.
With my head turned toward the doorway, I caught the flash of the curtain opening, Nireas's dark gaze landing immediately on me and Hunter.
"A pretty one, with a strap across the back I can grip as I fuck you, pull you onto my cock," Hunter continued, not noticing or caring about our audience at the door.
Nireas's head tipped, and I arched up into Hunter's body at the vision of his words. Hunter's tongue stroked from my throat up to my ear, taking the lobe between his teeth and sucking on the spot, a warm, echoing pulse in my cunt answering the treatment.
Nireas nodded toward the hall and then stepped away, the curtain fluttering shut. I ignored the faint whisper of disappointment at his departure, intrigued by the idea of being watched with Hunter, and turned to steal a kiss.
"Then I think you should take me home and put me in my pretty harness and train your pet how to please her master," I whispered.
* * *