It was a truism within Californian society: a titled male should beware taking a woman, slave or no, as his Companion; there would endlessly be questions about who was in charge.
Anthony ap Howard Ó Gwydion didn't need to be told that. He had absolutely no question about who was in charge in his House.
"Will that be all, my Lord?" His Companion stood in his doorway, all business.
"That will be all, Miss Pepper." Pepper ran his House for him; she ran his business for him. If she'd been born to a noble mother and not a slave, she'd be running the country. She looked, more than Tony did,every inch the Californian noble: red hair, grey eyes, fair skin. She looked delicious. "Oh. One more thing."
"Yes, my Lord?" Her lips were quirking. She was trying not to smile at him. That was the game: could he get her to smile while they were still, technically, in public?
"Close the door."
He was going to lose that game today. Pepper had been gone on business for days.
"Behind me or in front of me, my Lord?" Ooh, almost a smile. But it was because she teasing him, points off.
"In front of you, Miss Pepper." He set down the piece he was working on. He didn't want it to get broken, and...
The door shut, and Pepper's eyes blazed green. "Tell me, Tony, have you been good?"
If Tony had wanted to be in charge, he never would have bought a slave sired by the queen's favorite lover. He swallowed as her power washed over him.
One swallow, and then another. He'd try to fight it, of course. "You're terrifying, you know that, right? I mean, not normally. Normally you're a beautiful specimen of womankind. But when you do that... no. No I have not been good, unless you're willing to stretch your definition of "good" quite a bit and maybe take into consideration extenuating circumstances."
"Tony, unless those extenuating circumstances are 'being Tony Ó Gwydion-'"
"Which, you have to admit, is something of a circumstance!"
"-I can't think of anything I'd believe." She strode forward, her heels clicking on the hard floor of his workshop. "Tell me." Her eyes were glowing again, shit, why did she never leave anything to chance? "How were you bad today, Tony?"
"What, you're not even going to consider the extenuating circumstances? I have proof!"
"I will consider them after you answer me, Tony."
"Oh. Well. If you're going to be that way, then Her Ladyship the Countess of San Diego was visiting this afternoon while you were out. With her even lovlier mother the Dowager Countess. And well, I might have been a little bit blissed out of my mind, medicinally, you understand."
"Tony. What. Did. You. Do?" Pepper frowned at him, clearly trying to hide the edges of a smile. It was no less terrifying that she was amused. Tony swallowed, and tried to remind himself that he owned her, not the other way around.
"I may have told her High Bitchiness that she would have the Barony over my dead body."
"Perhaps I should arrange that for her, then."
He owned her. Tony swallowed hard. "You wouldn't want to do that, now? Then you wouldn't be able to have any fun with me. And I know you like having fun with me, don't you, Miss Pepper?"
She stomped one foot. Tony checked the door again - yes, closed and bolted - and the one behind him - also bolted - and his phone - off. "Don't you like to play with me, Mistress Pepper?"
"You know I like to play with my boy. Very well. I won't kill you today." She crossed the room in a slow cadence of clicking heels. "Say thank you, Tony."
"Thank you, Tony. I mean, thank you, Mistress Pepper. I really think my dying would be inconvenient for both of us, all things considered." She was standing directly in front of him, perfect suit, perfect body, perfect smile. He was doomed.
"Tony." And yet again, her eyes glowed green. "Shut up."
Tony shut up. The thoughts babbled on. And you know if you really wanted to kill me, you could just do this out on the front lawn and the Agency would do the job for you and this, Tony, is why you get shut up whenever she does that and what is she doing now?
She was taking his shirt off, is what she was doing, meticulously unbuttoning every button. "Pants."
She didn't need to make that one an order. He peeled off his pants, his mind still babbling. And what is it going to be this time, how badly did I piss her off, shit, shit. His pants and shoes joined his shirt on the floor.
And that answered that question. That, and the thin metal ruler Pepper was holding in her hand. Tony covered himself and shook his head. No, not the ruler.
She didn't like it when he made her use orders. Her eyes glowed again. "Grab your ankles, Anthony."
Tony spread his feet and grabbed his ankles. As the ruler hit, he reminded himself that, if he'd wanted a Companion that didn't boss him around, he shouldn't have picked Pepper.
Of course, both he and she knew that was why he'd brought her home.