Capri had been the Prize for two years. It was routine now. Every two weeks, she met a new Victor. Most of the time, they were easily pleased. Sometimes they were not. She’d had to use a panic button three times. It could have been worse.
Tonight, she would meet Victor number sixty-eight. She opened the door to her apartment with graceful movements, her posture superb. She wore a flesh-colored bustier dress which could have been an undergarment. She had the feeling her Victor would like it, from the information he’d written on her form, and after this much practice she was beyond pretense.
They came to her for sex, for status, for an illicit love affair made licit. Every two weeks, she performed for them. She made them—and sometimes even herself—believe the desire was mutual.
Ekon never visited her again. Once the forbidden fruit was tasted, he seemed to lose his appetite. That suited Capri just fine. It meant that for thirteen days in a row she would be left alone to walk in the gardens, read, visit the spa, and socialize with the few friends she kept in the palace.
Everyone there knew her role by now, too. All she could do was own it.
Tonight, however, did not belong to her. The Victor stepped inside. He lifted his head and the blond hair fell away, revealing a sinister smile that sometimes seemed charming. Sullivan. Capri’s stomach lurched. The dream. She dropped the glass she was holding and a pool of wine—no, it was blood—formed under her feet. Then she was falling down, down into the pool of red. The liquid closed over her head, filling her mouth, her nose, her eyes. Through the murky red depths came hands, hundreds of hands, pulling at her clothes, caressing her, pinching her, soothing her, hurting her.
She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t breathe.
In the back of her mind, she could still hear the voice, her own voice. The dream. It’s a dream. Wake up!
Capri’s eyes snapped open. The chandelier glinting in the darkness above her reassured her that she really was awake. She remained in her bed for a few moments, gasping for air. She couldn’t show weakness in front of a Victor—in front of anyone—but here, in the dark, she could. She could take a few moments to give into the fear she felt with each round of the King’s Auction.
She couldn’t control them. She couldn’t control their likes or dislikes, their personalities, their eagerness. She could only prepare and react in a way that would please them. Usually, it was enough to ensure their time together wouldn’t be torture for her, but sometimes…it wasn’t.
Capri sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She glanced at the clock face that glowed on her wall. She’d slept for four hours. In two days, the auction would conclude, and she would receive the paperwork on her next Victor. The following night, he or she would collect their winnings. Then the dreams would leave her in peace for a while.