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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Flesh Cartel, #7: Homecoming
Copyright © 2013 by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau
Cover Art by Imaliea, http://imaliea.deviantart.com
Editor: Sarah Frantz
Layout: L.C. Chase, www.lcchase.com/design.htm
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With a wedge at last driven between Mat and Dougie Carmichael, courtesy of Nikolai Petrovic’s expert manipulations, the brothers must each accept their new path forward: Dougie, a perfect slave, sweet and obedient and loving. Mat, a tightly reined dog, snarling and snapping but never allowed to bite.
Unfortunately, no transformation, however well planned, is without its growing pains. Mat’s leash is so tight it’s choking him. Dougie is tormented by a little voice inside his head—a fragment of his former self—that he cannot silence.
And Nikolai’s most difficult tests for the brothers are still to come.
The critical question isn’t whether they can pass those tests, but whether they even want to. Without each other to lean on and live for, a bleak future has become bleaker still. But Nikolai’s too good to let his slaves slip through his fingers — by death or by despair.
This title is part of the The Flesh Cartel serial story. New to Riptide Publishing’s serial fiction? To learn all about it, please visit bit.ly/FCSerial .
Mat had few regrets in life, but the ones he held on to, those were big . Being too afraid to leave home at eighteen when Coach Darryl had first offered to take him on. Begging his parents to make the long drive to Bristol to watch some stupid fight, then pushing them away from the after-party ( I’m nineteen now, Mom, I don’t need a babysitter! ), and waking up at 3 a.m. to news of the accident that’d killed them on the way home. Losing Dougie to foster parents for five long years after that.
But none of that— none of that—compared to the regret he felt now at what he’d let happen in that room with Nikolai’s sick-fuck pedo client. At what he’d let Dougie think. The heartbreak, the betrayal on Dougie’s face, was the single most painful thing Mat had ever laid eyes on. How had he let Nikolai convince him that was right ? How could he have abandoned—no , shoved away the most important person in the world to him? The one person in the world to whom he, in turn, was also most important?
God, he was a monster.
He rolled onto his back, then curled up on his other side, away from the family photo and younger-Dougie’s innocent, beaming grin, hugging his blanket tight around his shoulders. Moving hurt. Existing hurt. But whatever. That was fine. No less than he deserved.
He lay there awhile. He didn’t know how long. No sense of time in the endless