We are very pleased and excited to be bringing back Laura Antoniou’s enchanting series of books about an underground secret society of owners, masters, mistresses, and their property: submissives, maids, butlers, and pleasure slaves. In the first volume, follow the trials and tribulations of four aspiring slaves as they undergo training hoping to be accepted into The Marketplace. Under the firm hand of Grendel, the sharp eye of Alexandra, and the painful leather strap in the hands of Chris, these men and women will find some of their hardest challenges come from within themselves.
The Marketplace is available as an ebook OR in a print-on-demand paperback edition. The ebook contains an all-new bonus story, “For the Want of a Nail,” in which Grendel and Alexandra decide to host a dinner party, and also includes the text of the bonus story from the Mystic Rose edition of The Marketplace, “A Leash Has Two Ends.” (The paperback has only the text of the novel.)
Fans of Circlet Press may notice one element of these incredible books, though, makes them somewhat different from most Circlet publications: they are not science fiction or fantasy. Thus we are launching a new imprint, Luster Editions, to publish books of alternative sexuality that do not have the sf/f genre element. These books still fit Circlet’s motto perfectly well: Celebrating the erotic imagination.
Keep reading for a hot excerpt, more information, and purchase links:
About the Author: Laura Antoniou is the author of the well known Marketplace series of erotic novels. She has also edited the groundbreaking “Leatherwomen” anthologies, and several other collections of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been translated into Spanish, German, Hebrew, Japanese and Korean. Many examples of her short fiction, articles, essays and rants can be found in the collection titled The Catalyst and Other Tales.
She is personally featured in Writing Below the Belt: Conversations with Erotic Authors by Michael Rowe and The Burning Pen: Sex Writers on Sex Writing, by M.Christian. Laura was also a columnist for Girlfriends magazine from 1995-1997, the submissions editor for Badboy and Bi-Curious magazines from 1995-96, and a regular contributor toThe SandMUtopia Guardian from 1993-2000.
Ebook versions also available from:
- Amazon Kindle Store
- Fictionwise (all formats)
- All Romance eBooks (epub, prc, pdf, HTML)
- Smashwords (mobi, LRF, epub, pdf, HTML)
- Scribd (PDF, epaper, read online)
- Rainbow eBooks (GLBT specialists!)
Part One: Chapter One, Excerpt from THE MARKETPLACE by Laura Antoniou
“May I serve you tea, ma’am?” The girl’s body was bent slightly forward in a subtle, exquisite, inquisitive posture. Her small white hands held the china teapot firmly, waiting for an answer. That was excellent, too. An untrained girl might have started pouring as soon as she asked the question.
“Yes, of course,” the mistress of the house replied. Her eyes followed the movements of the girl as the liquid poured into the cup. The tea made a distinct sound while it ran into the cup, another perfection. When the cup was three quarters full, the pot was replaced, and the ritual continued.
“Would you like sugar, ma’am?” Then lemon, then cream. Each refusal was met with a slight bowing of the girl’s pretty head. When the options were finished, she backed away from the table, her steps small and carefully placed, barely disturbing the slender golden chain that wound between her white, high-heeled shoes.
She was pretty, small and delicately shaped. She was well suited to the serving ensemble she wore, the tight-corseted bodice and the lightly ruffled apron. Her curly, light brown hair cascaded down her back, the pert lace cap pinning it back. Her deep green eyes were always lowered in humility, long lashes charmingly fluttering. The wisps of hair which seemed to carelessly escape from the cap to frame her heart-shaped face were in fact cunningly arranged to suggest disarray.
Cute, Alexandra Selador thought, as she drank some tea. Far too cute for her own good.
“That will be all, Claudia,” Mistress Madeleine said, her voice strong and tightly controlled. Alexandra nodded and her majordomo came forward to leash the girl and remove her from the room. The two women waited until the servants had gone to relax back into their chairs. They laughed together at the conceit.
“It’s good to see you, Alex.”
“And you, Madeleine. It’s been far too long. You should come out and visit us more often. And Claudia is simply enchanting. It’s rare you see such grace in that form of service these days. At least here in the States.”
That comment was answered with a simple but elegant shrug. “You should come and visit us,” Madeleine insisted. She smiled, her face transforming in a way few of her slaves had ever witnessed. “Did you know that we finished the pool and the deck? It’s beautiful, especially at night. We light torches—it’s very romantic.”
“Hm, I bet it is,” Alexandra murmured. “And you bring in some extra property? To serve at poolside?”
“We invite people to bring their own, but of course we try to have someone for everyone. You should have come to the last party we threw! We had some friends in from the Netherlands. They had just bought a pair of twins, big, blonde beauties. We had them dressed in nothing but slender, black chains, wound all around their bodies.”
Alexandra tried to imagine that, and the image of them standing next to the tall, dark Mistress. She nodded. “That must have been nice. Boys?”
“Boy and girl. Barely spoke English, actually, but very well trained.”
Alexandra whistled slightly. “Very nice indeed. Twin brother/sister combinations are very, very hot right now, especially if there’s a strong resemblance.” She waited politely for Madeleine to begin the business discussion. Over such an elegantly served tea, it didn’t feel right to just ask what the woman wanted. Was she interested in a set of twins herself? Alexandra did a quick mental inventory. There was one pair she knew about that might be ready for training, but they were in San Francisco, a continent away, and there was no telling what kind of contracts they wanted.
“Well, there was a strong resemblance here, honey.” Madeleine flashed that brilliant smile again. “Both of them had long hair, shaggy almost. They looked primitive, very… raw. I told David to have their noses pierced. That would have completed the image. But even without that, they were a great success. Wherever they walked, people admired them. David even got a few offers.”
She sighed, and finally put her cup down. “Shall we get on to business?”
“At your service, ma’am.” Alexandra reached for her notepad. “What can we do for you this time?”
“I want you to take Claudia.”
Alexandra’s eyebrow shot up in surprise.
Madeleine nodded, her smile gone. “I want her trained.”
Alexandra considered for a moment. “I have to be honest with you. I don’t think we’re the ones you want, Madeleine. We’re entry level, undergraduate. Claudia, if I might say so, is already past the level of many of our graduates.” She smiled ruefully. “But I can put you in contact with one of the master trainers, if you’d like. I think Anderson is accepting new applicants next month.”
“No, I want you to do it,” came the confident reply. “Anderson is wonderful, her slaves are always perfection, but that’s the problem.”
Alexandra waited for the explanation. It was not every day when a client protested that they didn’t want perfection. Her eyes scanned the table. There wasn’t a drop of moisture on a serving utensil nor on the tablecloth. In fact, the teapot, creamer, sugar bowel and everything else seemed to be pleasingly arrayed, something she hadn’t noticed before.
Madeleine stood up, looking toward the door as though she could see her property through the walls. “Claudia was meant for perfection,” she began, walking away from the table. “From the first time I saw her, I could tell. It wasn’t just her attitude, you can see she’s a slave to her soul, but the way she devoted herself to being attentive to the slightest details. Adequate was never acceptable to her. Every once in a while, I would find her practicing… how to move, how to curtsy, how to speak. She would watch herself in the mirror and do something over and over again until it satisfied her.”
She turned to look at Alexandra. “It was intoxicating for a while. Of all my slaves, even the Marketplace ones, she had the most desperate drive to be perfect for me. It was worth the challenge to find fault with her. A fray on an inch of lace, a scuff on her shoe, a grain of sugar on the table, it didn’t matter. I punished her heavily for every imperfection.
“And the punishments! What else could I do to such a creature but have her bent tightly over a bench and caned until she cried? And she would cry, just like the little girl she is. Every time, early on, but with grace. I taught her to stand for the cane and kiss it prettily when I was done… they were wonderful sessions.
“With stripes across her bottom, she was even more perfect.” Madeleine paused. “Do you understand?”
“I understand that you made a perfect slave,” Alexandra said cautiously.
“Yes, and no. I took a perfect slave and made her more perfect. And now…”
“Now she bores you.”
Madeleine nodded, a blush faintly discernible under her dark cheeks.
It was a rare but classic dilemma. Alexandra began to jot down some notes. She had heard of this happening, but had never seen the results. What did happen, owners would ask between themselves, if a slave actually achieved the perfection they were supposed to be searching for? Would master be happy? Or would the slave have surpassed the master in one of those unquantifiable ways that makes people unworthy of each other?
“So what do you envision for her?” Alexandra asked when she finished writing. “Do you want her changed into something more challenging?”
Ah, Alexandra thought, making another note. “So you’ve already tried.”
“Well of course. As soon as I realized what was wrong, I tried to see if there were some other areas I could explore with her. But she… resisted me.” Madeleine frowned slightly at the memory. “Not directly, of course, that might have been interesting in itself. But somehow, anything outside of her role would just make her sad, or confused. I love her dearly, but she’s so limited!”
“Yes, of course,” Alexandra murmured sympathetically. “You’ll want her back then?”
Madeleine turned back to look at Alexandra, her face composed. “If she cannot be taken beyond the role she is in now, I will want her sold.”
“Does she know that?”
“No. I want her to change because she wants to please me, not because she is afraid of the possible results. Besides,” Madeleine waved one hand toward the hallway, “a new owner may be what she needs. After all, I can’t pretend that I had nothing to do with the state she is in. Although she came to me as a novice little maid, I was the one to enhance her training to the level she has achieved. I was the one who decided to seek perfection in this role. Perhaps with someone new, she can break out of it. Be more complete, more useful.”
Alexandra underlined ‘useful.’ “We’ll want her for one week of evaluation. After that, we’ll send you a report and you can decide whether to take our recommendations. If you decide to go through the whole program, we suggest four to five more weeks, depending on how intense you want the experience to be.”
Madeleine nodded, came back to sit down. She reached into her bag to draw out her calendar, and began marking down dates.
“And you know the rules here,” Alexandra continued. “You will not be able to call or visit her. And of course, Claudia will have to agree to go to the block. If she undergoes the training and decides not to enter the Marketplace, you lose all the training fees. We’re happy to do this for you, Madeleine, and in the way you like, but you know the risks.”
“That’s perfectly acceptable. Here is her file.” The folder was filled with sheets of heavy, cream colored paper and photographs. “I can’t tell you how much she means to me, Alex. If you can do what I ask and get her back to my house a new girl, I’ll be in your debt.”
“You certainly will,” Alexandra said with a smile.” You’ll get the invoice for the evaluation tomorrow, and an estimate for the training will come with the report. As you know, it’s a business doing pleasure with you.” The two women laughed and finished their tea.
* * * *
Grendel read through the file before him, scanning relevant parts and occasionally glancing at the two photos on the desk. One showed a young, dark-haired man in black leather, looking in what he must have imagined to be a defiant way at the camera. It came off more petulant than angry or proud. The second was a nude shot, the same man standing in a stiff position, his arms at his side. The file wasn’t very long.
“Well, you were right about one thing,” he said lightly, closing the file. “This is a classic example of raw goods.”
The man on the other side of the desk shrugged. “I told him he wasn’t ready.” Paul Sheridan was wearing his own black leather. But in sharp contrast to the picture on the desk, Paul looked as though he lived in his leathers. They were old, well crafted, well formed to his hard body. His only concession to the summer heat was that his shirt had short sleeves. “But when he decides he wants something, he just keeps asking and asking.”
Paul shrugged again. “Oh, he can be submissive when the situation is right. But he’s really just a greedy bottom most of the time. A real ‘stand and model’ type. In fact, that’s where I first saw him. It was at one of those events, you know, Mr. Leather something-or-other.”
“And this was the best they had to offer?” Grendel waved over the file. “Now I know why those things never interested me.”
“Yeah, well it was pretty awful. He wasn’t the best maybe, but he was hot-looking. Also, he had that nice bratty attitude. Made me want to pull him off that stage and spank him ’til he cried.”
The master of the house nodded, familiar with Paul’s tastes. “So what do you want us to do with him?”
“Make something out of him if you can. Break through that bullshit smugness he has, get rid of that ‘I want, I want’ nonsense. If you can bring out his real submission, I know he can fetch a nice price somewhere.” Paul examined his fingernails for a moment. “All I’m interested in is the spotters fee.”
“I bet. You know, we don’t usually work with talent this shallow.” Grendel leaned back, his smile genuine but his voice hardening with business. “I don’t think you’ve got market quality here, frankly. Hot leather boys with selfish needs don’t rate very high in value.”
“He’s not all like that, Gren. There is something real in him. I’ve seen it, I’ve brought it out. Besides, I’m not asking for three months of real training here, just the basic six weeks. Just enough to fetch a nice starting price. Have I brought you any dogs before?”
Grendel grinned. “Only that puppy.”
“Right!” Paul pointed at Grendel, emphasizing his words. “And he went into a two-year contract right out of training, didn’t he? And traded at a 25% increase out of San Diego last year.”
“So he did.” Grendel flipped open the file again. He looked back at Paul from time to time. The man had a point. Paul had yet to bring someone by who didn’t have some real potential in them. But taking a trainee like this was always an iffy proposition. If he didn’t fetch a high enough price at his first sale, Paul only lost a spotters fee. Grendel and the house stood to lose the cost of training, and the loss of face if the training didn’t last longer than the sale.
“You say he’s bisexual,” Grendel said, still thinking.
“Well, he says he is. But his preference is men.”
“Does he know that preferences aren’t allowed here?”
Grendel tapped the folder a few times and then reached for the intercom button. “Chris? Bring him in, please.”
The door opened immediately, and the man from the photos walked in, followed by the majordomo. He strode to Paul’s side and knelt next to his chair, keeping his eyes lowered. He was wearing artfully worn jeans covered with stylishly cut black leather chaps. His chest was bare except for a harness made of silver chain. A matching chain was around his neck, with a silver lock, and small, silver rings adorned his nipples. His hair was shorn boot-camp short, and he wore a black mustache.
No imagination, Grendel thought. “I didn’t tell you that you could kneel,” he said, his voice soft and reasonable.
The man looked up, then toward Paul. Paul groaned and rolled his eyes in frustration. “I warned you not to embarrass me, you scumbag. Get up!”
With a jingle of harness, the man did so, and then stood, his arms behind his back and his head lowered.
“I didn’t tell you that you could avert your eyes, either,” Grendel smiled. “Paul, why don’t you introduce me?”
“Sure. Grendel Elliot, meet my latest boy, Brian Cohen. Brian, this is Mr. Elliot, the master of this place. If you’re lucky, he’ll accept you for training. But thanks to your spectacularly stupid entrance, he probably thinks you’re nothing more than a cheap, thrill-seeking little leather clone, and he’ll kick both of us out in the next ten minutes. After which you’ll be walking the sixty miles back to Manhattan.” Paul compressed his lips into a smile. He’d do it, too.
“Uh. Pleased to meet you, sir.” Brian exposed a mouthful of large white teeth and he extended his hand across the desk. His attitude had gone from stylized subservience to game show host in one second. It took him two more to realize that Grendel had no intention of shaking his hand. Awkwardly, he pulled back. Unsure of how to stand, he put his hands behind his back again.
Grendel studied the man before him. He was not particularly stunning, but handsome in a dark, ethnic way. His skin didn’t show evidence of a lot of time out in the sun or at a tanning salon, and his waist showed a lack of time spent in a gym. Grendel’s face didn’t show the slightest spark of interest as he rose and walked around the desk to study Brian a little closer. He looked as though he was dutifully examining an incomprehensible piece of art at the behest of a loved one.
Brian was clearly not used to such dispassionate observation. Within thirty seconds, he began to tense. In another thirty, he began to fidget.
“No discipline,” Grendel snapped from behind him. Brian almost jumped, but managed to remain still.
“He’s just shy,” Paul offered.
“Are you? Shy?”
“Well, it depends, sir. I’ve competed in contests, and I don’t think I could win if I was really shy. I, um, get nervous sometimes, but I try to get over it as best I can…”
“That is not an answer to the question I asked, Mr. Cohen. That is a series of personal observations referring to yourself far too many times in one sentence. Try answering yes or no.” Grendel remained behind Brian, speaking to the back of the man’s neck.
“Uh, no, sir!”
Grendel raised an eyebrow at Paul, who merely grinned and shrugged again.
“This is not very promising, Paul.”
“Well, I’m sorry to waste your time, Gren. Listen, I’ll make it up to you, real soon. I‘ll find you a muscle stud like you wouldn’t believe, a god. Some guy that would eat this twinkie for breakfast.” Paul started to rise, but Grendel waved him back down. Before he could begin to speak, Brian piped up.
“Please, sir, please reconsider me! I’ll do better! I’ll learn. I can be better, much better. I’m just nervous today, I promise you, I’ll be the best slave you ever trained!”
“I wasn’t speaking to you, Mr. Cohen. And if whining and making impossible promises is any indication of how you plan to be the best anything I’ve ever trained, you are badly, badly mistaken.” Grendel put his hand out and grasped the back of Brian’s neck. The man’s first reaction was to stiffen up, but then he relaxed and leaned backward into the hand.
“Hm. First thing you did right.”
Grendel let go and walked back around to his seat. “All right, Mr. Cohen, I’ll give you one more chance. Tell me what you’re good for.”
Brian looked startled at the question. Although Grendel asked it of all new applicants, many of them didn’t know how to answer. They invariably felt intimidated by the question, some of them afraid of boasting, others simply mystified at the implication that they should know their own capabilities.
Brian started to say something, but stopped himself on the first syllable. Some instinct in him told him that “Whatever master wants” wasn’t going to fly here. Not with this man.
“Well, I can take a good beating, sir.” Grendel nodded, and gestured for him to continue. “And… and I can obey orders. I can take care of a man’s leather, polish boots. Um. I can service a man…”
“Don’t be evasive!”
“I can suck cock, sir. And work over a man’s body, I can make love to every part of him, sir.” That came out in a rush. Paul nodded, obviously agreeing.
“Can you? Show me.”
Brian looked startled again, but recovered quickly and looked at Paul. When Paul made no invitation or protest, he glanced at Grendel, and then began to walk around the edge of the desk.
“Not on me, Mr. Cohen. On Chris.”
Brian turned to the majordomo, who had remained standing inside the door until this time. They had not exchanged a single word in the time that Chris had been watching him, but Brian had plenty of time to study him.
Chris was a very small, compact man. He was dressed in a suit with a crisp, high-collared white shirt and a long, dark jacket, which seemed to emphasize his heavy shoulders and hide his waist and hips. His hair was dark, thick and curly, his eyes shadowed by tinted glasses with heavy steel frames. It was Chris who had answered the door and brought them to this office. After announcing Paul in a mellow tenor voice, Chris had stayed with Brian in the antechamber, silent and watchful.
Blow him? That would be easy. Little guys tended to have undersized dicks too. It would look good for Brian to dive in with enthusiasm. As the majordomo moved forward, unfastening the fly of his pants, Brian slid to his knees and moistened his lips.
He put his hands behind his back as he had been taught, and waited for Chris to pull out his cock. The first indication that things were not as they should be was when Chris’s hand had to actually slide into his fly to grasp it. Maybe he’s not that tiny, Brian considered, giving his lips another swipe. No big deal, I can handle it.
But he couldn’t handle what came out of those pants. For although the size was indeed respectable, it lacked one important element for any devoted cocksucker. His eyes widened as he gazed at it, and without a single cognizant thought, his head snapped back and his hands loosened from behind his back. He heard his own voice echo in the room. Instantly he gasped, and then compressed his lips in trepidation. He screwed his eyes shut for what he knew was coming.
“You stinking, good-for-nothing fuck-up!” Paul exploded. “You’re going to be lucky if anyone ever takes you home as anything but a cheap trick, you lousy son of a…”
“Paul, Paul, please.” Grendel held up one hand as he jotted one more note down. “No need to raise your voice. Chris, you may put that away.”
Still mute, the majordomo did as told, tucking it back into his pants. Brian remained where he was, a deep blush growing at the back of his neck and a trickle of sweat sliding down his back. I screwed up big time, he thought, grinding his teeth. I don’t believe my big, fucking mouth. Oh, that was rich, Brian buddy, just shout it out like this was the first time you ever tried any of this. What’s the big deal if the guy…?
He glanced up at Chris, who seemed entirely unaffected by the exchange. Brian shuddered involuntarily and then ducked his head down again. Whatever this guy was didn’t matter any more. Brian wouldn’t have to worry about ever seeing Chris or Mr. Elliot ever again. Paul would kill him when they got out of here.
It took me four months to get him to admit that he knew about this place, and I blow it in the first ten minutes, he thought in a flurry of self-condemnation. He lowered his chin until it almost touched his chest and didn’t look up as Chris walked away from him.
But Paul was smiling. Grendel hadn’t stopped taking notes, and that was an excellent sign.
“This is what I’m offering you, Paul,” Grendel finally said. “We’ll evaluate him as usual. If he passes, and we think he can get better, we’ll take him on as a total novice. Your commission will be cut by fifty percent for our trouble. If he fails and proves to be a loss, you owe us his estimated value on your next find.”
Paul laughed. “Cut the commission only ten percent and I’ll guarantee your choice on the next one. If he fails, I’ll cut my fee fifty percent on whatever I bring you.”
“I hate to quibble. Twenty-five, plus our choice on the next one with a ten percent decrease in your fee. No change on the failure, take it or leave it.”
“OK. But only because I know that he’s quality and that you’re the only people in the world who can bring it out. And get a mark-up worth my time.” The two men shook hands over the desk.
Brian was almost in shock as Chris reappeared, bearing a key. The chain around his neck was taken off and returned to Paul. He was so flustered that Paul’s voice had to filter through his confusion gradually, like light coming through a dense fog.
“…and you do as they say, boy. Did you hear me?”
“You’ll see, Gren. He’s got the potential.”
Grendel stood up and closed the file. “We’ll let you know in one week, Paul. Chris? Take Mr. Cohen to the dorm, please.”
Brian turned back as he got up. “Thank you, sir, you won’t be sorry—” and immediately knew that he had made yet another grave error. Paul’s grimace told him so.
“And gag him,” Grendel said softly. The majordomo nodded and pushed Brian out the door. As they were exiting, Grendel turned back to Paul with a devilish glint in his eyes. “Our choice for your next find? How about a pair of twins…”
Meet the rest of the cast, including sexpot “pleasure slave” Sharon, six-foot hunk of man Robert (who needs to be trained out of being a french maid), well-hung stableman Jack, insatiable domestic helper Rachel, and many more by downloading your copy of the ebook, or ordering the print edition, today!
First time in ebook form! A modern classic of BDSM-themed fiction. Follow the trials and tribulations of four aspiring slaves as they undergo training hoping to be accepted into The Marketplace. Under the firm hand of Grendel, the sharp eye of Alexandra, and the painful leather strap in the hands of Chris, these men and women will find some of their hardest challenges are within themselves.
Also available in paperback!