The ambulance pulled away at two, just as the glazier arrived. Chris could see them both through the window as he waited on hold. Thunder crashed; it was technically too early for a Nor’easter, but water spouts had been spotted off the north shore, and out of a sunny afternoon a deepening gray sky had grown and harsh winds shook the pin oaks on the front lawns. In retrospect, he thought, perhaps this wasn’t the best day for a party…
So begins another day at the Long Island mansion where elite slaves are trained to serve the masters and mistresses of the world with impeccable grace. Grendel and Alexandra are hosting a dinner party and their latest trainees–as well as the patience and resourcefulness of their majordomo Chris Parker–will be put to the test.
About the Author: Laura Antoniou is the author of The Marketplace series and a wildly popular speaker at alternative lifestyle conventions. You can follow her every move athttp://lantoniou.com
And now, an excerpt…:
Excerpt from FOR WANT OF A NAIL
by Laura Antoniou
The ambulance pulled away at two, just as the glazier arrived.
Chris could see them both through the window as he waited on hold.
Thunder crashed; it was technically too early for a Nor’easter, but
water spouts had been spotted off the north shore, and out of a sunny afternoon a deepening gray sky had grown and harsh winds shook the pin oaks on the front lawns. In retrospect, he thought, perhaps this wasn’t the best day for a party.
“We’d like to give a dinner party; semi-formal, six guests,
five courses, I think, with local wine pairings, for Friday next.”
“Very good, Ma’am.” Chris took the sheet of paper Alexandra
passed him and scanned the guest list quickly. “Do you have any
other requirements or desires for this?”
“Of course,” Grendel interjected from his stance by the
fireplace. “I was thinking this would be a good chance to see how
well Brian has improved. He needs a test before we send him to
auction. So, I want you to be as hands-off as possible about this;
let him do as much as he can in the majordomo position of authority.
I want Enid and Ramesh as waiters, of course, but they should also do some kitchen tasks.”
Chris nodded and made his own notes. “Full livery, Sir?”
“Oh, God, yes, let’s keep everyone clothed. Oh, and speaking
of the kitchen, you’ll have to work with Muira on this; she’s got
that night off.”
Chris raised an eyebrow, pen poised. “Would you prefer I hire a
chef for the dinner, then?”
“No, I’d prefer you figure out what she can do before she
leaves and have the trainees do some prep work. You can finish up in
the kitchen yourself.” Grendel looked positively gleeful at the
prospect, watching Chris ponder even as the shorter man was nodding in acceptance of the command. “I mean, no sense in letting all that Kaleigh training go to waste. You can manage to finish the meal and do some plating, I hope? Especially since we won’t need you in livery yourself.”
“Of course, Sir. It will be my pleasure.”
“I’m sure it will. Now let’s go see the trainees and beat
some sense into them.” And with that, Chris slipped the invitee
list into his clipboard, tucked the board under one arm, and
unclipped the strap from his belt. That, too, was a pleasure, albeit
of a different sort.
“What about lamb? I could easily finish up a nice roast.”
“That would be if we had a nice roast; remember that terrible
piece of flesh that was supposed to be a Sunday joint? That wee
Claudia had to give the butchers a piece of her mind over it. No, no,
I don’t like the lamb we’ve seen lately at all.” Muira
McLanahan was most often addressed as Cook, especially when there were clients in the house, and she was proud of that appellation. “A chef’s nothing but a man in a puffy hat doing the same job women have done for centuries. I cook; who the bloody hell chefs?” she had demanded, years ago, when Alexandra first hired her. Completely unfazed by the presence of naked slave trainees, she enjoyed the variety of her duties and was more than capable of whipping up a splendid gourmet feast from time to time. Chris sat with her over the kitchen table, his butler book and her recipe files at hand.
“Pork then?” Chris scanned the guest list notes and sighed.
“No, wait, Nancy and Lawrence are coming; they were at the April
dinner and we did a pork roast then.”
Cook allowed a slight sound of scorn to escape. “Sure and they’d
perish if they had one again?”
“Definitely,” Chris teased. “How about… ”
“Duck!” She started writing across her notepad with a finality
Chris knew from experience.
“Duck?” he repeated. “Remember, I have to finish it. What
were you thinking of, cassoulet?
“Not this early, no, although I was going to put up some legs
for confit… but last time I was at the farm, they had some lovely
ducks.” Muira enjoyed visiting one of the local farms for baskets
of fresh produce and eggs. “I can make a cherry and port sauce with
the last of those glorious cherries, too.” She was continuing to
write and Chris attempted to read her handwriting upside down.
“That’s a lot of… red items…” he offered.
“It’s called a theme, you heathen. Long Island, in scarlet.”
Chris thought of the snowy-white shirts and gloves for the serving
staff and sighed. But there was no denying Muira at this point. She
was an artist in the midst of creation, all protests to her common
roots aside. He could change the shirts to black, or even red to
match her theme, and skip the gloves. And really, nothing looked too
hard to finish and plate, even upside down.
“In… in charge? But… am I ready? I don’t know if I’m
ready!” Brian Cohen, senior trainee in the house and almost ready
for his auction, looked likely to faint or vomit, or perhaps both.
“You’d better be,” Chris warned. “Not only are you being
relied upon to conduct yourself with confidence and expertise, but
you must manage Ramesh and Enid as well. They will be looking to you for guidance and correction.”
“Where will you be?” Brian could hardly believe how terrified
he was at the mere thought of Chris not being there, being in charge.
Was it really just a few weeks ago he had seen this man as an enemy?
Or at least an encumbrance, a barrier to getting what he thought he
really wanted. Now, Chris seemed more like a lifeline, full of
information, encouragement, coaching and support, plus one hell of a hand on a well-worn leather strap. That hadn’t changed. Brian’s
attitude toward such correction had changed instead.
“I will be in the kitchen, finishing the meal. When duties
permit, and you will make sure they do, you will all have some time
helping me with one task or another. But I will be strictly back of
the house staff for all intents and purposes, and the kiddies will be
forbidden to come to me for help—they must go to you and you must
be able to supervise them.”
The kiddies—his fellow trainees. Chris’s nickname for them was
wildly inappropriate, as they were both older than Brian. But they
were, as he had been, novices at slavery, just barely a month into
their training and struggling with things he remembered keenly. There were times when he despaired of them ever learning how to do things he took for granted, like knowing when to kneel and when to bow and when to just nod. But at the same time, when he caught them studying his form or heard what sounded like actual respect in their voices when they asked him for advice, he felt like an impostor. Didn’t they realize what he had to go through to get here?
“Here are the parameters for the dinner,” Chris said, passing
Brian a folder. “Guest list, menu, the china and crystal Ms.
Selador has selected, and my own notes. I want to see entries in your
butler book tonight. Tomorrow morning, you and I will select some
wines for approval, tomorrow afternoon you will meet with me and Cook to discuss what will need to be done to order, store, and prepare the menu items. Over the weekend, you will drill your staff in table service. Is this all understood?
Brian stiffened at the instructions. “Yes, Chris.”
“Then get your ass out of here and let the kiddies know you’ll
be their boss for a while. Speaking of which, are you still lusting
Brian barely suppressed a grin. The trainee in question was almost
forty-six, and in a leather bar Brian probably wouldn’t have
noticed him except for the novelty of seeing an Indian man there. But here, in a sexually charged yet sexually frustrating world, the
quiet, older man with his toffee-colored skin and deep, brown eyes
and silvering hair was quite the sexpot. More to Brian’s taste, at
least, than their other roommate, Enid. Also, after getting a chance
to know him, Brian found him sensitive, thoughtful, a true
intellectual; his accent gave him an edge of cosmopolitan elegance
and he carried himself with dignity even in terribly undignified
circumstances. To Brian’s surprise, Ramesh seemed more and more
like his type of man—a daddy type, wise and patient and sexy.
“He still looks good to me,” he answered honestly.
“Good. If your dinner is passable, then you may have him for the
remainder of your stay, once a day, for whatever activity you prefer
inside of thirty minutes.” Chris waved Brian off and Brian knew
enough not to stand there gaping and asking stupid questions.
Instead, he bounced on out, gleeful. The glee lasted until he opened
the folder and realized the scope of the task ahead of him.
Typically, he responded as he usually did when faced with difficult
tasks and decisions; he did not tell his fellow trainees what was in
store for them all until the following day, after Chris kicked his
ass well and good for not following orders.
At the Long Island mansion where elite slaves of The Marketplace are trained to serve the masters and mistresses of the world with impeccable grace, Grendel and Alexandra are hosting a dinner party. Their latest trainees--as well as the patience and resourcefulness of their majordomo Chris Parker--will be put to the test. Originally published as a "bonus story" in the Luster Editions ebook of The Marketplace.
To read the rest, download the ebook today!