Rey turns the fob over and over in her hand, as though the repetition can ease the nervousness gnawing in her gut. Instead all the blasted thing does is stick to her palm as she stares at Kylo, waiting for him to speak.
Yesterday he was like the pendulum of a longcase clock, ticking back and forth between grave, dark Master Kylo and a tender, practically vulnerable man who seemed as alien to himself as he was to her. The way he cared for her body despite her soft protests… a quiver runs through her gut to think of the way he’d caressed her punished arse, never once trespassing deeper, even as she wished that he would.
She’d expected him to bring her to the kitchen for dinner, but her bedroom door only parted to admit the gonk cart, which scurried on its way just as quickly once she’d finished her meal. Her heart heaved when Kylo appeared in the doorway a while later, but he only lingered long enough to tend to her bruises, vanishing with a chaste kiss on the forehead and a murmured, “Goodnight.”
This morning brought more of the same. From the stern way he eyed her as he tended to her again — and how the exuberant robotic cart brought her breakfast shortly thereafter, cementing her isolation — she knew what he wanted.
The awareness that Kylo was waiting for her had sent flights of butterflies through Rey’s belly all morning. Being bent over a cart of books taking a bare-assed spanking is one thing. Baring her mind to the serious-eyed man before her is far more intimate.
And now he’s going to see everything.
Kylo Ren, the president of KoR Technology — a man others surely have to badger and flatter and beg to see — has drawn this from her.
Her most private, perfect hope.
His graceful forefinger sweeps across the face of his tablet. The presentation she cobbled together is splashed across the screen behind her, too; the projector’s blinding, unblinking stare watches her from the back of the plush amphitheatre, its soft hum stirring the silence like ripples in a still pond. Yet still he scans through her wretched slides on his own device, perusing them with all the seriousness of an actual proposal. One that has proper photos, at least, not just hurried screenshots and images ripped from equally quick web searches.
When he finally speaks, his voice is reserved, betraying nothing. “So it’s a scouting unit.”
“Y-Yes.” He’s jumping ahead — and Rey nearly drops the fob in her haste to click through to the matching slide. “By installing the BBY program into an autonomous shell, it’ll be able to cover and map terrain unaccompanied, and relay that information to a parent system in real time.”
She’s babbling, offering any multisyllabic word she can think of to try to hide her nervousness. He can probably feel her terror, scent it in the perfectly-conditioned air, because all he does is lift his chin.
His gaze is as cool as his voice. “What sort of applications do you foresee for this project?”
“Um…” Irritation nips at her as she skips ahead again to show him the answer, blowing past the slide she’s seeking in her haste. Did he mean for her to actually give a proper presentation, or just stand here as he pelts her with questions he must’ve already seen the answers to? “Cave-ins and mine collapses would probably be the best applications — landslides and avalanches as well, situations where the existing terrain has either rapidly changed or is inherently too challenging for humans to naviga—”
“Humanitarian work.” Kylo’s full lips tighten.
The nervousness swirling in Rey’s belly all too readily curdles to resentment. Only he could make those words sound dirty, sitting here sneering them out in his private theater, his bespoke black suit screaming of opulence.
Suddenly Rey feels stupid in her own matching outfit — a black polo dress (as Threepio enthusiastically informed her the style was called) that would almost be appropriate for these circumstances, if not for the heart cutout below the collar that bares a generous expanse of her cleavage.
If Kylo’s taking any pleasure from seeing her wearing the stupid thing, it’s writ nowhere in his marble-mask expression. He glances between his tablet and Rey, his dark brow knitting. “How do you expect to monetize this?”
She can feel herself starting to scowl, too, but he’s being completely unfair. After all her work to pull this damn presentation together, all he seems to want to do is rip it apart. “Um … Mars exploration, maybe? I hadn’t really thought that far ahead.”
“And then what? Turn it into a plushie?” Her cheeks burn as he lets his tablet drop onto his crossed legs, his baleful gaze settling on hers again. “Make it available wherever quality children’s toys are sold?”
“It’s not a toy , it’s adaptive programming,” Rey sputters, her face spiking with heat. “The power is in the code —”
“Which is utterly wasted in this application.”
Rey clamps her lips together, teeth digging in painfully as she huffs through her nose. Her fingernails bite into the palm of one hand; the fob feels like a stone in the other, but she can’t move, not even to loosen her fingers.
“The concept isn’t terrible ,” Kylo allows, like he’s doing her some kind of favor. His gaze drifts down to his lap, and he lazily flicks through her slides again, unreasonably nonchalant given that he’s literally holding her dream in his hands.
Fury steals through her body. The twin collars — one of fabric, one of metal — slither about her neck like constricting coils, choking her into a resentful silence.
Finally his gaze meets hers again, a tiny crease darkening the hinterland between his brows. “You look unhappy. Do you think I’m being hard on you?”
She only raises her eyebrows and shrugs.
The furrow between Kylo’s eyebrows deepens as he stares at her like he’s trying to crack her wide open. “Every aspect of KoR Technology has to be self-sustaining. It’s one of our operating principles.”
Our . As though he isn’t the only one sitting at the wheel of this corporate juggernaut.
“You don’t do any pure research?” Rey blurts out, the words tasting charred from the anger blazing in her chest. From basement swimming pool to rooftop observatory, this whole skyscraper isn’t just a testament to his company’s wealth, it’s a goddamn aria to luxury. “That doesn’t make any sense!”
He shrugs easily. “Everything needs to be viable.”
“Surely every company you acquire isn’t already that streamlined.”
Kylo doesn’t smile, but his eyes tighten, narrowing to angular obsidian in the low light. “Most companies aren’t run by someone as ruthless as I am.”
She’s staring down a wolf — but instead of exploding, the way she used to do when she was living under Unkar’s roof, or even with Finn, for the first time in her life her anger cools to a searing frost.
Rey lifts her chin, returning Kylo’s glower with mirrored force. “What are you going to do with Veradun?”
That hits a nerve, she can tell by his sudden stillness. For a few moments her heart hammers at her ribs, but his answer is swathed in that same dispassionate tone. “Break it up, take what I want, sell the rest.”
“That’s horrible,” she murmurs.
He sniffs with quiet laughter. “Are you questioning how I make my money?”
She’s in so deep, there’s nowhere to go but deeper — even as her pulse quickens to lightheaded fear. “Maybe.”
Kylo snaps his tablet shut, tucking it into his suit pocket as he rises to his feet. Rey knows he’s on the verge of dismissing her as he peers down at her across the gulf of several rows of seats. “Good thing that it isn’t your place to judge me, then.”
“It’s my place if it’s my project,” she snarls as Kylo moves to brush past her. “Don’t walk away from me!”
The lingering way he freezes and turns back to her almost makes her regret saying anything. “It’s not your place when it’s my way of life that’s providing for you.”
“I didn’t want this,” Rey grits out as he does that wraithlike looming thing, moving closer to exaggerate his considerable height as she simply fights to hold her ground. “I didn’t ask for it.”
“You may not have asked for it, but you wanted it,” he counters silkily.
As though he knows the necklace is weighing on her, he lifts his hand to her throat. Her master, the man who fastened this silver collar around her and claimed her for his own.
Rey arches her back but he’s faster, flicking the point of the fabric heart up to bare her the Byzantine chain like he’s swiping through another slide.
“You walked into my home fully prepared to sell me your body in order to secure your friend’s freedom,” Kylo says softly. “You knew what I was. What I am.” She doesn’t dare look away from his endless gaze as he stares down into her, the heat of his fingertip sparking electricity along her skin like a Tesla coil. He even has the audacity to smirk, his full lips twisting and tightening. “How is dear Finn, by the way?”
Kylo’s aiming to hurt with that gentle twist of the knife. He must know that she hasn’t been able to reach Finn yet. He certainly seems to know everything else that happens beneath his roof.
And worst of all, it does hurt, even though the feelings that kick up at the thought of her best friend are … complicated.
“Are you going to send me back to my room now?” she seethes.
There’s a moment’s respite from the anchor in the hollow of her throat as Kylo lifts the crimson gem from the hollow of her throat — and that tenderness steals over his face as he thumbs it.
Yet when his gaze flicks back up to hers, the raw openness is gone. His voice is soft but laced with peril, gauze over daggers. “Would you prefer to go back to the library? I’m sure I have more books just aching to be reshelved.”
“Why are you like this?” The question bursts out of Rey in a solar flare of frustration. Only just in time does she remember to add: “...Master?”
The pendant is warm as he settles it back against her skin — and she gasps as he catches her about the throat, his slim, powerful fingers cradling her from her jaw to the base of her skull.
“It’s not your place to question what I am, Rey,” Kylo rumbles, snaking one muscle-corded arm about her waist to hold her body still as he forces her head back. “Your place is to be obedient.”
“Yes, Master Kylo,” Rey mutters, hating the way her lips burn in the hopes that he’ll kiss her.
Only he doesn’t. He simply nods and releases her, straightening the wrinkles from his jacket before buttoning it.
“Then I trust you can find your way back to your room.”
Her heart plummets even before the ringing in her ear stops. She’s dialed back enough times to know it’s going to kick her to voicemail without even needing to count the number of trills — and sure enough, the line pauses exactly on cue.
“You have reached the voicemail box of—”
Rey disconnects, irritably swiping the call away. Between talking to Rose and the slew of messages she’s already left Finn, even if this number is displaying on his phone as the dreaded Unknown , he knows who’s behind the barrage of calls. He must.
He’s ducking her.
After the breathless morning scrambling to finish up her slideshow, returning to her quarters is anticlimactic. The door hasn’t completely sighed shut behind her before she’s regretting not taking Kylo up on his admittedly threatening alternative of going to the library.
“What did he even want from me?” Rey mutters sullenly as she throws herself down on her bed.
“I’m ever so sorry, Mistress Rey,” Threepio puts in. “Master Kylo is at times a —er— complicated administrator to anticipate.”
She chipmunks her cheeks, blowing stray tendrils of hair out of her face with a single, savage pfft . “I don’t suppose you have any idea why he torpedoed my BBY project?”
“As I stated, Master Kylo is a most, ehm—”
“—complicated man. I know, Threepio. Believe me.”
Rey unfolds her tablet and settles it across her lap, calling up her private directory. It’s either this or surf the web — and she’s too irritated to sit here like a lump. Mentally, anyway.
The sight of the subsystem for her porgram is another twist of the blade that’s been lodged in her chest since Finn’s name crossed Kylo’s plush lips. Just another reminder of a loose end she can’t tie up.
If her master won’t agree to let her work on her BBY project — an idea with proper potential, proper utility — then there’s no hope for the strange, silly creatures she started compiling on a lark.
Suddenly the comfortable room feels altogether too gloomy, and Rey grimaces at the ceiling. “Threepio, could you make it so it looks like outside in here?”
“Certainly!” the house interface burbles, and the angled ceiling gives way to Seattle’s skyline — but it’s a dreary, drizzly day, hardly an improvement.
Rey grunts. “Never mind.”
“Would you like me to make it sunnier for you?”
She perks up. “You can do that?”
“But of course !” Threepio sings, and Rey can feel her spirits lifting as the sky brightens to a beautiful azure vault. “Would you like me to turn on dynamic lighting for you?”
“Please allow me to play you a quick sample.”
A dappled array of clouds fade into the sky, but they’re counterbalanced by a light and warmth that seem to radiate from the digital sun.
She squints against the incredibly realistic glare, turning her arms over and marveling as beams of light trace their way over her body, marching their merry way and off the sides of the bed. More rise up to replace them; the overall effect is one of sitting at the bottom of a brilliant aquarium, soaking in a soporific heat.
“Would you like me to leave it on?”
For the first time all day, Rey feels her lips quirking upward instead of down — and she grabs a pillow, stuffing it under her stomach as she flops forward onto the sprawling bed. Kylo might be doing everything in his power to disconcert her, but if the apartment complex’s AI interface has other intentions, she’d be a poor guest to interfere.
“Yes, thank you very much, Threepio, that’d be just perfect.”
Kylo Ren has secrets.
Rey knew as much long before she set foot over his threshold, but the longer she stays here the keener her awareness of it becomes. That there’s a puzzle moving around her, a game of three-dimensional chess with abstract, invisible walls.
It’s not just about Finn, though he’s certainly a vital piece of the labyrinth. Her mind keeps circling back to her best friend, wondering, wondering…
How long had Kylo been watching him, and their apartment in general? Since before Hux installed the tap on the ’net hardline; her guarded captor must’ve already known — or at least suspected — that there would be traffic worth tapping. And then he’d let Finn blunder into the compound in search of whatever he’d come for.
A decryption key, Kylo had said. Yes, that was it.
Why does Kylo still act so disdainful of the way Rey came here to exchange herself for Finn that night? Isn’t that precisely what he wanted — some masochistic hostage so the Organa-Solos will stay away from him and whatever he’s up to?
It doesn’t feel right.
Maybe it’s Poe that he’s truly after. That would make sense; Rey’s never felt completely at ease with the smooth-talking man, though Finn always argued that she was simply being jealous.
And true, envy might’ve been a fair charge. Finn’s clever, earnest, and kind, enough so that she finally summoned some inner courage when he stretched out his hand in friendship.
Being seen by him is like having a spotlight turned on you, flooded with welcoming warmth, the kind of camaraderie she’d never known before. Hell, it was Finn’s admiration of her skills with engines and computers that let her escape Unkar’s junkyard and the desert and being the grubby girl all the other parents told their kids to stay away from, the one who was still shunned as an adult. It was Finn who first taught her to believe in herself.
So it made sense that Finn would have that same magnetic connection with Rose, his friend from back in Phoenix — she’d flown in to join him here in Seattle, after all. And Poe was another person like Finn, one of those bright, luminous beings Rey could never hope to become.
Rey calls up an ancient streetview of the apartment on her tablet, gnawing her lower lip to ignore the bittersweet ache at seeing its familiar lines. So many nights she’d hidden away in her room, beyond the window just there , rather than hovering in the living room stuck in that awful void between being overtly welcome and overtly unwelcome.
The two men and Rose made sense; their collective love for the Organa-Solo Foundation and its charitable works bonds them. But Rey hadn’t worked for Snoke Industries in Arizona or anywhere else — and she has memories that they don’t. Dusty yet razor-keen remembrances from the group home before Unkar’s, recollections of smartly-dressed women dragging her into pictures for their newsletters, only to discard her once the camera fixed its stare on another poor unfortunate.
Rey can’t put her finger on why, but Leia Organa has that same look about her. Even in vids the woman has that poised, perfect smile that makes Rey think of sharks. Streamlined and elegant on the outside, not a single coiffed hair out of place. The kind of woman who probably has teeth like the Xenomorph Queen when she opens her jaws more than a crack.
The thrill of dread crawling along Rey’s neck becomes insistent as she stumbles across a rare picture of Leia with him . A solemn-faced adolescent with dark hair threatening to cascade over his forehead in an unruly tumble, ears sticking out cutely. The suit hanging on his gangly frame, as though he’d just been through a growth spurt.
Thirteen-year-old Rey would’ve been smitten.
But there’s a yawning gap in spacetime, a schism between that boy and the fiery-eyed young man who reemerged years later under the name Kylo Ren.
She’s seen the footage of the only time it happened. Anyone who watches the news probably has; the main feeds dredge it up every so often with increasingly dispirited vigor. The anchor’s lips forming the word Skywalker , the stern-faced young tycoon not even flinching. Merely standing with the mechanical precision of his robots, buttoning his suit coat as he walks away, flicking away the lapel mic and the interviewer’s frantically lobbed questions in one crisp gesture.
A synthetic sunbeam strikes her ruby cuff like sparks, and Rey wrinkles her nose, wincing. The reflection’s far too bright, even for a gemstone prism — and as one of the golden filaments glitters within, a gilt vein, she remembers.
Nothing is ever as it seems with Kylo. Maybe not even those moments where she feels like she’s breaking through to something underneath.
Her heart throbs strangely as the metal collar twists about her throat. Between the faceted crimson stone and the metal ring, the pendant’s so heavy that of course gravity’s bound to make it shift every so often.
But it makes her wonder.
Rey scoots off the bed and pads to the bathroom, but of course the mirror’s set too far back for her to see anything properly. She’s hiking one leg up onto the chill countertop, on the verge of climbing up onto it on her knees when she realizes how foolish she’s being, and trots back to the bedroom proper.
Her tablet’s front-facing camera isn’t perfect, but it certainly affords her a closer view of her own neck than the bathroom mirror would’ve — and sure enough, a few nearly-invisible lines glitter inside the crystalline matrix.
No matter how much she zooms in, there’s only so much she can tell from awkwardly-angled selfies. Curious, eldritch lines … and Kylo’s too precise for those to be imperfections. Perhaps it’s how he acted about the sweater with the hole in it, but her gut says those striae are meant to be there.
“Is something the matter, Mistress Rey? Your pulse is abnormally elevated,” Threepio dithers abruptly, the all-seeing eye beside the control panel abruptly winking goldenrod.
“I’m fine, th-thank you,” she answers after she finishes gasping from the AI’s jarring intrusion.
“Oh dear, I seem to have made matters worse—”
“It’s alright, Threepio. I promise. Maybe just a bit of warning next time? A tone or something?”
“Absolutely, Mistress! I’ll draft a selection for you straightaway.”
The golden light clicks off, but Rey doesn’t feel any less watched — or any less shaken. She can’t look at her collar gem any closer, not now, especially when Threepio could pop back in on her at any moment … but even after she’s scrubbed the photographs from her tablet, she still can’t quite convince her heart to settle.
Kylo’s secrets flit through her mind as the light streaming from the lie of a sun sinks lower. What are the hairsbreadth golden lines running through the gems in her cuff and pendant? Why is Kylo actually keeping her here with him?
And what the hell happened to Ben Solo?
The hiss of the bedroom door rouses her from the doze she’s fallen into, but she doesn’t sit up. It’s probably just the gonk cart bringing dinner — but instead of the cart’s familiar clamor there’s only silence.
It stretches out into nothingness, not even broken by the door hushing shut.
Rey turns her head, blinking stickily. The doorway’s mawing open, and she’s so ready to see the dark wall that it takes a few blinks to pick out his silhouette. In his black suit he blends right in.
It must be time for more arnica — and Rey groans, rolling onto her stomach.
It’s the cool, expectant way he says her name that makes her pick up her head and scrub the exhaustion from her face.
He’s standing on the threshold, hands in his pockets, waiting. “Come with me.”
She reaches for her trifold tablet, but a twitch of his head stops her, and relief courses through her in an answering draught. At least he can’t be expecting to discuss that stupid bloody presentation anymore. He tore her BBY project down so much that there’s nothing left but tatters.
Monetizing . It’s such an ugly word, yet she knows Kylo’s right about how ruthlessly he’s used it to his advantage. It’s the thing that’s built this place, from the perfectly-warmed wooden floor beneath her feet to the maze of deceptive wallscreens hemming her in.
Even his metamaterial gloves are a reminder of his wealth. He’s wearing them now, and they shine like leather in the early twilight as he proffers one hand.
For a moment she can believe the two of them are standing in a curious rooftop bedroom, half-exposed to the day’s dying light — but there’s no breeze to complete the illusion. It’s a shallow facade, Bradbury’s veldt without the lions. A glittering cage.
The idea that she has any kind of choice is as deceptive as the view.
As his broad chest rises, no doubt drawing breath to summon her more sternly, Rey moves to meet him, letting him claim her fingers and lead her from the understatedly ostentatious cell.
Kylo’s taking her to the dungeon. Not the one hidden beneath the library, with its glowing crimson maze and the rose-tipped flogger on the wall, but the one he uses for company. For the Circle of the First Order — and Finn.
Or so Rey thinks at first. Then one unfamiliar turn follows another, and in the space of a moment she’s completely disoriented. The twisted corridors look all the same, with their black walls and identical sconces. All she has to rely on is him.
Which — Rey reflects as her heart raps out a quickening beat — is no doubt the idea.
The door he stops before is old-school, nothing like the fissured metal apertures that gird the rooms upstairs. The circular knob is set in the center like an ornate brass navel, but still the dull rectangle of a digital reader is inset on the wall beside it, watching over it like a chaperone.
The air smells different here, a metallic tang biting at her. Muscles Rey didn’t even realize were tensed unknot, soothed by the scent.
Kylo nods to the digital reader. “Open it.”
She mutely swipes her ruby cuff over the air before the reader, half-expecting nothing to happen, but the door offers a velvet click.
The dark man twists the knob and pushes the door wide.
Inside isn’t the deviant torture chamber she’s bracing herself for, but a squarish workshop. A desklike shelf runs around the perimeter of the room, propped up every few feet by slender supports — but it’s as though someone’s drawn an invisible line down the center of the space. The area to the left is well-worn, the surfaces scattered with tools and parts in various stages of assembly. A computer terminal rumbles sleepily in the middle of the workspace, but at the far end of the room, the organized clutter abruptly stops.
Everything on the right side of the room is tidy, screwdrivers and wrenches hanging in perfect rows as though the pegboard and all its contents were yanked straight out of a home improvement store. The countertop is so freshly cleaned that she can see each perfect, circular swipe, and the scent of orange cleanser mingles with the homey tangs of oil and grease.
There’s no computer on the right side of the room, either — and it’s the utter absence of clutter, of lived-in mess, that makes Rey’s stomach tighten. Between the multiple empty rolling chairs there certainly aren’t a lack of places to sit, but the way it looks like the workstation’s been scrubbed clean gives her the crawling sense of lacking , as though someone’s simply been packed up and shoved out.
She thought she’d been casual enough checking out the strange filaments in her cuff and collar gemstones — not asking Threepio a single question, pretending she was taking selfies, as if she’s ever been that sort of person — but somehow he must’ve known.
Has someone else paid the price for her furtive observations?
“What is all this?” she murmurs as Kylo lets the door click shut behind them.
“A different approach.” He releases her and suddenly she’s adrift in the unfamiliar space, turning around aimlessly in search of whatever’s waiting down here.
But there’s only the computer’s dull snoring from the cluttered side of the workshop — and Kylo, still standing there between her and the door as she completes her confused circuit, gazing at her with laserlike intensity.
His hands flex at his sides like he wants to reach for something only to think better of the impulse, clenching his fingers into fists instead.
“If you were preoccupied with things like project monetization you’d be me … and I don’t want you to be me.” Kylo’s voice is petal-soft, grave. “I want you to be my submissive. I want you to be you .”
It’s not fair how he can make her chest ache with those words.
“But if I’m going to make a compromise, I expect something in return.”
“Master, I don’t understand,” Rey mutters, lost. “What is this place?”
Kylo jerks his chin to indicate the empty space. “This half of the workshop belongs to the newly-formed KoR Technology Pure Research Division.”
Her nose wrinkles painfully as she scowls up at him. “Huh?”
“You will be a semi-autonomous subdivision of the Research and Development department.” Kylo clasps his hands behind his back, squaring his shoulders, thoroughly the brusque control freak again. “As with all KoR Tech employees, you will go through our standard onboarding and orientation protocols — however, whatever information you choose to include in your reports is up to you. You are, after all pure research.” He takes a few paces forward, languorously closing the short distance between their bodies. “Your budget will be approved on a discretionary basis, and KoR Tech’s typical expectations regarding efficiency and progress will be…” He grimaces as he stops beside her, as though the word tastes bitter: “...suspended.”
Rey’s mind spins dizzily. She can’t possibly be hearing him correctly. “So I can work on my BBY project, not tell anyone about it, retain full ownership and control of whatever I do … and you’re gonna pay for it?”
“Isn’t that what you’re asking me for?” he asks quietly — but a tendon jumps in the hollow of his temple, betraying his unease.
“I suppose I am.”
He arches an eyebrow. “You suppose? ”
“Yes.” Rey looks him squarely in the eye, resisting the urge to flinch as his raven gaze stirs her the one place she wishes it wouldn’t. “I mean, I am, Master Kylo.”
The silence as he stares back is one of the longest of Rey’s life.
“Fine,” the dark man eventually rumbles. “But every single moment that you’re in this workroom, you’re going to think about what you had to do to earn this autonomy. Because believe me, I will get my money’s worth out of you, Rey.”
Kylo steps back, and it’s as she sways forward that she realizes she’s been leaning into him.
His gaze flashes down. “Pose of Supplication. Keep your eyes down as you undress.”
Rey’s stomach flips, but her hands are already rising to the collar of her dress at his command. It doesn’t even matter that her fingertips stumble on the tiny buttons. Her body is more than willing to undress itself for Kylo’s benefit.
It feels different to strip down here, though. A desecration of sorts, like he’s Apollo, forcing her to defile his own sacred temple — and she shivers as she tugs the black dress over her head, the cutwork heart snagging on her chin.
Maybe it’s his workspace on the other side of the room, maybe it’s someone else’s. It’s hard to imagine which is worse.
Rey tries to keep her eyes downcast, but they dart to the cluttered workspace despite her best efforts. She forces her gaze back to her feet, but of course he catches the turning of her head, even as his footsteps trace a semicircle behind her. “You look afraid.”
“Whose workstation is that?”
Fabric creaks as he lifts something heavy, scraping against itself like nylon. “Are you afraid they’re coming back?”
“Yes, Master Kylo,” she blurts out as she shivers out of her bra and drags her panties down to her ankles. It’s humiliating enough being naked in this place; the idea that some perfect stranger is going to meet her while she’s like this makes her guts squirm.
Yet still she drops to the floor the way he taught her, the way he wants — bending both legs at once, her knees thumping against the hardwood, cunt throbbing with shameful need as she thinks of his cock.
He chuckles coldly. “You don’t have to worry about that. You should be worried about something more … imminent.”
Rey’s only just settled her palms against the floor as the black bag lands in front of her, shuddering with weight. She starts, but it’s nothing special, just a smallish athletic thing that looks like an oversized brick covered in zippered pouches.
A strange scent wafts up out of the bag, though — earthy, like the farmlands she and Finn rolled through on their way to Seattle, or maybe henna.
She barely has time to process the aroma before Kylo kneels in front of her, his huge hands cradling the bag with marked reverence. He draws the top zipper open, but she can’t see what’s within as he reaches inside the unsealed flap.
Rey’s heart stutters as Kylo pulls out a long, bent pair of scissors.
She knows she’s supposed to be staring down, but she can’t help looking up at him in terror as her pulse races. “What are those for?”
“Safety.” His eyes are shadowy, serious — but not angry. “Because the rest of what's in here is really, truly dangerous.”
Kylo places the bent scissors on the floor between her hands, like he wants her to see it. The blades aren’t silver but black like the handle, matte texture gleaming in the workshop’s warm light.
“It may look simple, but simple things can be the most dangerous.”
He reaches into the bag again, and this time he draws forth a black parcel of cloth shorter than his forearm. He sets the dark bundle on the floor between them, and Rey’s heart surges as she picks out the individual wrapped strands.
Not cloth. Not exactly, anyway.
He draws another bundle out of the bag, and another, laying the three alongside each other.
“Rope is like fire,” Kylo says softly. “The moment you take it for granted, it'll try to destroy you.”
He shoves the athletic bag aside and scoops up the bundles, his shadow pooling about her as he stands.
Rey drops her gaze to the scissors again. Even closed and untouched they make a ghostly chill run along her spine, as though they’re waiting to bite her.
“Stand up.” She obeys, eyes still on the angled scissors as they form a triangle with her bare feet. “Come here.”
Rey moves around the black scissors like they’re a coiled viper, following his voice. She’s so preoccupied with staring back at them that she doesn’t see her master reach out. There’s only the sudden heat of his hands hooking under her arms before the ground’s gone from beneath her — and she yips as he lifts her, seating her on the barren countertop before she can protest.
The surface is chill beneath the bare swell of her arse, and Kylo scoots her backward until only her lower legs and feet dangle over the edge. The bundles of rope are waiting right beside her, and he leans away long enough to grab the scissors from the floor, snagging the larger loop with his forefinger.
Rey flinches as he straightens and holds the shears out to her. “Don’t be afraid of these. See this?” He runs a fingertip along the crooked blade, stopping at the protruding metal nub at its terminus. “Wide, so it’ll cut the rope but not skin. If there’s an emergency, or if you panic, I can get you out of the ropes quickly. That’s all these are here for.”
He sets the shears beside her, on the opposite side of her body from the coiled ropes. Rey almost relaxes — but then he picks up one of the rope bundles.
“These are what you should really be afraid of.” Kylo thumbs one of the loops so lovingly that it makes envy surge through her veins, cold and ugly. “ These are my very best friends.”
The bundle melts at his touch, a cascade of lines falling away from his hand in a nebulaic rush. A single coil lingers across his palm, and as he strokes the falling ropes the chaos orders itself beneath his touch. Rey watches, mesmerized, as the rope straightens itself into parallel ribbons.
Kylo folds the line that crosses his palm into a loop, and holds it up for Rey’s inspection. “This is the one thing I want you to learn and remember tonight. Because sometimes you have a sharp tongue, sweetheart. If you snap at me, I’m going to bite back … and my bite is scarier than yours.”
He loops his free hand under one of her knees, pulling it up so that her leg is bent up against her torso and her foot rests on the counter’s edge close to her rump. Her skin tingles from his electric touch as he traces a line down the outside of her thigh, drawing lingering circles at the curve of her hip. “Can you hold this position, my innocent apprentice?”
His body is warm against her other leg, pressing against the inside of her thigh like sunbaked stone and holding her open. He’s crowding into her body even as she’s leaning into him — and she gives a shuddering nod as their gazes lock.
“Are you sure?” Kylo’s voice is velvet over steel. “You’ll have to stay like this for a while, so don’t lie because you think it’ll please me.”
Rey glances down at her leg, but it’s folded loosely — and her mouth tightens as she looks back at him, vexation flaring in her again at his arrogance. “After this afternoon I’d’ve thought you know I don’t lie to please you, Master.”
One of his brows flashes higher, as though he’s actually amused . “Good.”
The black rope dances in Kylo’s hands like a living thing, inverting in on itself and circling around Rey’s leg. It’s soft and spiky all at once, hissing against her skin as the dark man snakes it around her body, looping it under and about and between the halves of her folded leg to secure her in three thick, parallel bars.
He anchors the line around her ankle — and as he releases the rope, tucking the loose end out of sight, her leg doesn’t move. She pushes against the bindings but they’re solid, the wound ropes distributed evenly across her trapped limb.
Kylo snatches up a second bundle of rope and snaps it open, the contorted lines rippling open like a mercurial constellation. He bends her other leg up as he did the first, and what seems like moments later it’s equally bound, three thick, flat clusters of rope encircling and imprisoning her leg in against itself.
“Nice and tight, isn’t it?” he croons, running a finger underneath one of her ankle bindings as she strives against her bonds, testing them in vain. A whimper twists out of her as he follows the ropes inward, spiraling tantalizingly close to the crease of her inner thigh.
Fuck , she’s completely exposed to him like this. Try as she might to clamp her legs together, all it takes is the slightest touch against her knees to force her wide open. The spicy aroma of his body mingles perfectly with the sweetgrass scent of the ropes, and the fall of his ink-dark hair tickles her neck as he leans into her, skimming his jaw along the hollow of her neck.
“Fight it all you want, these knots will only lock down tighter,” Kylo laughs, so obnoxiously cool that she growls in instinctive fury as he draws back. “Now give me your wrists, kitten, or I’ll make what I did to your ass yesterday look like a couple of love-taps.”
Heat blooms in Rey’s belly at the awful sobriquet, sliding off his tongue so offhandedly that she writhes with guilt. She surrenders her arms to him with a glower, wriggling to steady herself on her bound and splayed haunches.
“Good girl, Rey,” he murmurs, the corners of his eyes crinkling like fjords.
The praise is so abysmally perfect that she gulps back a moan, tearing her gaze from his to stare down at her wrists.
Kylo moves so fluidly that he might as well be weaving a spell as he loops the rope about her wrists once, twice, pulling it back through the first turn. He draws the twinned lines forward, then around the conjured manacles, hitching the strands around themselves in a perpendicular circle, drawing one end through another thumbed-out loop with a grim flourish.
“You’re mine, Rey,” he breathes as he leans close. He slips one arm about her body, cradling her head as he draws her bound wrists over her head.
The lines leashing her thrum like a plucked violin, but as Kylo draws his arm back, strangely, she doesn’t move with him. Her wrists are still stuck over her head — and she looks up to find the rope tethered to the pegboard.
Her heart swoops with sickening delight.
“How does it feel being tied down and helpless?” Kylo rasps, his lips close enough to make her skin tingle as he hovers along the line of her clavicle, never satisfying her with his touch. “No matter what you do here in this workshop, this is how you’ll always think of it. As the place where I used you like this for the first time.”
Her nipples ache wantonly as he warms them with his breath, and her stomach clenches as he sinks lower still, coasting over her stomach and heating her bared sex before falling away entirely.
Rey’s temples ache, and she forces her eyes open. The sensations he’s stirring in her are so overwhelming that she’s been pressing her eyes shut to hold together — and she peeks out to find her captor standing back, openly leering at her with that icy scorn in his eyes that makes her pussy cramp with longing.
“Go on, try to get free,” he taunts as he unbuttons his jacket.
Rey’s neck burns from holding her head up as she watches him slip the garment from his shoulders. He folds it neatly, tossing it over the arm of one of the office chairs lurking nearby before turning back to her.
“I mean it. Try to get loose.”
His earnestness ignites a curious, strangled panic in her chest. Whatever parts of her that might’ve thought he was playacting are silenced as she tugs against the ropes, grunting as she meets resistance. She rolls to and fro like a turtle on its back, eventually heaving herself over onto her stomach with a painful clunk — but even then she can’t make sense of the knot securing her wrists to the pegboard before Kylo’s hands claim her hips again, the line going taut as he yanks her backward.
“See? There’s no getting out of this without my permission.” He flips her like she weighs nothing, and the flat surface slams into her back, threatening to knock the wind out of her. “I can do whatever I want to you right now.”
His hands sear her inner thighs and before she can even gasp he’s thumbing her open, finding her where it’s warmest and wettest and sinking deeper.
Rey arches her spine at the blinding thrill as he teases her, rubbing along the length of her slit in slow waves, circling her clit every few strokes and chuckling as her mews grow louder.
It’s perfectly wretched … and the kind of debasement she’s always secretly hungered for.
Kylo draws one of his thumbs down nearly to the bud of her arse, his digit thumping softly as it meets the table. “I’ve barely touched you and you’re already soaking,” he murmurs, stroking upward again and making her moan with need.
His fingers tighten on her thighs, and she yelps at the pinching pain as he heaves her closer, slamming her splayed folds into the front of his pants.
He’s rock-hard — and Rey whines as he grinds her up along his length, his fingers clenching tighter as he switches direction to drag her down again.
“Messy little slut… Can you see what you’re doing to my pants?” he growls as he pulls her against him again. “Dripping all over me because you’re just aching for it and you can’t control yourself… I should punish you for that.”
Kylo bends and suddenly his lips are against her hollow, kissing and licking and nudging into her with his tongue so that she cries out. He holds her down easily as she writhes on the wide counter, the ropes blinding her legs and wrists doing most of the work for him.
No matter how she strains at her bonds — and him — she can’t get free.
He works the first orgasm from her with leisurely strokes. Tears prick the inner corners of her eyes as the rapturous storm rips through her body, and he sucks at her clit until she screams.
“Please, Master Kylo—” Rey sobs as violent aftershocks pulse through her, one after another. “Please, please stop…”
To her relief he pulls away, thumbs merely teasing her folds again as he stands. A grinding sound rises from the floor, and Rey dimly realizes that he’s been sitting in one of the rolling office chairs scattered about the workshop.
Already she knows he’s accomplished his purpose here. She’ll always wonder which of the chairs he was using to debase her like this.
Rey winces as he drags his fingernails up the outside of her trapped legs, only the ropes sparing her from his rough touch. His lips tease her nipples into stiff peaks, sucking and nipping her as he draws her hips flush with his again.
“You feel that?” He grinds into her already-wrecked quim, and she shudders against him, trying to brace against the lip of the countertop with her heels. “That’s all because of you, Rey. And our relationship is one of give and take. I have something to give you, so you’re going to take what’s waiting like a good little whore, aren’t you?”
It takes her a few moments and another thrust of his trouser-swathed erection against her slickened cunt for her to remember how to speak. “Y-Yes, Master.”
“Beg me for it.”
The slow rocking of his hips stops and his hands slide down her body, slipping down her thighs. Rey opens her eyes again to find him staring down at her, his gaze burning with black fire as he grips the thick bands encircling the tops of her thighs.
“Go on,” he rasps. “Beg for my cum.”
“P-Please, Master Kylo…”
“You call that begging?” he sneers.
He releases the black ropes to thumb his pants open, and she hears the grinding draw of his zipper. He gruntly softly and then his cock thuds against the inside of her thigh, hot and solid, nudging against her skin in the gaps between the ropes.
A twisted unnh buzzes past her lips as he fits himself between her folds and starts to move, flexing against her in a way that’s ominous and promising.
“Master, I’d do anything to help you get off…” she pants as he retakes her thigh ropes. “I-I want to help you—”
“The first night you came to me you wanted my cum, didn’t you?” Kylo leans over her, nudging her thighs into her breasts. One of his hands slips higher and twists into her hair, and with the other one he tweaks her nipples until she cries out. “You wanted me to raw you like I’m going to do again now. Admit it.”
“Y-Yes, Master Kylo,” she whispers, utterly lost as he draws himself along her crease. “I wanted you, I want you so much … please use me…”
“You want me to use you?” he rasps into her ear, teasing her jaw with a series of sharp nips that leave her crying out and pressing herself into him.
“Use my body to get yourself off,” she groans. “Please fuck me until you’re empty, I want to hold you…”
His free hand wraps around her neck. “ I hold you , Rey. But if you think you’re ready to work this load out of me—”
“Please.” Her lips move of their own accord, pressing a timid kiss into his cheek, and then another. “Please, Kylo, Master … let me help you...”
“ Fuck , kitten,” he murmurs and then his mouth is claiming hers, his tongue possessing her and abrading her tongue as she moans into him.
He doesn’t even need to reach down to fit himself against her. His thick cockhead nudges into her, attended by the beautiful sharp pinch as he penetrates her fully, stretching her and thrusting a burning line into her core.
Rey strains at the black ropes, but they hold her fast as Kylo starts to fuck her, straining into her as she mewls with the overwhelming fullness of him.
“This is what you like — being used for your body?” the dark man pants as he breaks away from her, his hand still tight about her throat as he buries himself in her again and again. “Knowing that you’re here to wrap your naked pussy around my cock whenever I want you?”
“Yes, Master Kylo,” Rey whimpers as he bends her out of shape, hurting with the delicious ache she craves as he bottoms out in her. “I w-want to serve you the way you deserve.”
“And I love how you serve me,” he rumbles.
That word again… It’s too much, making her long for him and clench tighter about his thick phallus as he pumps inside her nectar-slick cunt, nearing.
“My perfect little pet, I’ve got such a big load for you…”
He releases her throat, forcing her legs wider to admit him and tracing a line down her body, only lingering on her breast before splaying his palm against her lower belly. She shrieks as his thumb finds its way to her clit, shivering around his relentless onslaught — and his fingers tighten at the nape of her neck.
“Open your eyes,” he demands. “Look at me, Rey, I want to see you when you cum.”
She cautiously does as she’s bid, and her overwrought pussy throbs around his cock with redoubled force as her gaze finds his. Kylo’s dark eyes burn like an inferno, tendons in his jaw standing out in stark relief as he pounds into her.
“I’m going to take you here as often and as much as I want,” he grits out — and it’s another knife-twist in Rey’s heart, because he’s so achingly handsome as he thumbs her clit with growing fervor. “I’m going to fuck you here until you regret you ever asked me for this workspace…”
“ Never ,” Rey seethes, stung from her blissful haze by the very idea of regretting being fucked by him.
His eyes flare with darkling light — and as he works her with renewed force he nudges her past the brink tightening deep in her core, the one that threatens to steal all sense from her.
“Master, I’m coming—”
“Keep looking at me, baby, I want to see you as you fall apart,” Kylo breathes, tugging her hips further down on the counter to violate her even deeper. “You owe me yourself … time to pay up.”
Rapture steals through her womb as he ravages her with bruising force, the ecstatic thrall as inexorable as gravity. She’s already ragged from the first come, but that pales in comparison to this , a tidal onslaught of strobing pleasure that obliterates every thought.
Kylo doesn’t find his relief for a few more endless moments — but then he’s throbbing and shuddering inside her, his hot cum spurting into her in time with his grunting thrusts.
Only the barest shudder runs through his face; she feels more than sees him coming undone, but then he gasps in a way that makes her tighten around him again, urging more supernovas of heat in the deepest place he touches.
His fingers ease, slipping from her hair to quickly stroke her cheek. Her lips ache with anticipation as he leans forward, but he only looks above her, reaching up to unfasten her wrist ropes from where they’re anchored on the pegboard.
Kylo slips an arm about her waist, and he tilts her upright, unsheathing her from his cock in the same movement. The table is unyielding against her knees, but he simply holds her there, thumbing the rise of her cheekbone again.
“ What? ” she pants, scowling at him as she tries to resurrect both breath and thought. He can’t mean—
“Push, Rey.” Kylo’s determined glare is even colder from being so close. His still-erect cock sways as he drops his hand to her belly, flattening it against the soft valley between her hips. “I want you to see just how much of a messy girl you are.”
He holds her fast about her waist, presses into her lower belly to squeeze her.
The heat slips out of her in bubbling bursts, and she cringes at the horrid noises — but Kylo only laughs, kneading her womb to urge more of his cum from her.
“That’s it,” he breathes as the slick drips from her. “ Push .”
Rey grits her jaw — and to her horror she does as he bids her, bearing down and crying out with shame.
Finally the worst of it is over, and Kylo’s probing touch eases.
“Look down, kitten.”
Rey shakes her head, heat stabbing the inner corners of her eyes again as her gut clenches.
Kylo’s hand skims up the length of her spine, and his fingers knot in her hair with implacable force. “I told you to look down, Rey. Now look down .”
He tilts her head forward — and she whimpers as she finds the puddle of milky slick between her tented thighs. As she watches, another droplet falls to join the plashet, and she shivers with humiliation.
The dark man holding her prisoner only laughs, the sound so frigid it makes her skin crinkle to gooseflesh. The tender way he caresses her hair makes the transgression even worse.
“See that?” he croons as another droplet falls to join the cloudy miasma. “No matter how you choose to use this place, no matter how many times it’s scrubbed clean, you’ll never forget this. How you paid me for it.”
His lips graze her neck in a hungry kiss, holding her still as she stares down at their mess in commingled horror and pride.
“And believe me,” Kylo murmurs into the shell of her ear, making her skin prickle, “this is the first of many installments you owe me for my kindness.”
My kindness .
Hours later that phrase still rings through her mind, distracting her like the reverberations of wind chimes.
He took care of her kindly if stiffly after wrecking her this evening — even smoothing another layer of arnica cream on her bruises despite her protestations that they felt quite fine, thank you.
Yet it was a relief once she'd wolfed down a hearty dinner and gotten a parting kiss on the forehead from Kylo before he disappeared off to wherever. The day's been unusually strange, even accounting for her drastically altered circumstances, and she's so wrung-out that the contents of the waiting email hardly even register at first.
From: KRT Infotech Bot <helpdesk@KoRTech.com>
Subject: Welcome to KoR Tech
Welcome, Rey Jakkusen!
You may access the KoR Tech Employee portal here .
To verify your new account with the administrator, click here .
She frowns at the screen, even as a pleasurable shudder ripples through her belly. On some level Kylo truly is taking this twisted game of her working for him seriously — and it makes his desecration of her new workstation all the more abominable.
At least the other person who shares the workroom hadn’t intruded … and she squints at the sleek corporate graphics.
Maybe instead of trying to infiltrate his company’s systems on her own, she can create a shadow account through the admin bot and poke around from her companion’s terminal. Assuming there aren’t cameras in the workroom, of course, which is a long shot at best. Maybe that’ll shed light on the ever-growing list of Kylo’s secrets — which now includes the identity of her workstation’s previous occupant.
She follows her trail of thoughts into a muddled daze of sleep, starting awake as another message pops through onto her trifold tablet.
From: Kylo Ren
To: Rey Jakkusen
Subject: Fwd: Re: Tea tomorrow
From: Kylo Ren
To: V. Snoke
I will forward your request, and leave it up to my submissive’s discretion.
From: V. Snoke
Subject: Tea tomorrow
I wonder if I might have the pleasure of your submissive’s company over a pot
of tea tomorrow — perhaps in the early afternoon?
Rey’s pulse quickens as though Kylo himself is watching her.
Hell, he probably is.
Snoke wants to have her over for tea — is that code for something? No … the old man had mentioned an invitation when she met him the other night. It seems innocuous enough.
Part of her mind rings with the echoes of Finn’s hatred for his former employer … but Finn isn’t here. In fact, he’s actively avoiding her, leaving her with nothing but unanswered questions about what brought him to Kylo’s apartment and why.
And then there’s her master’s terse response to consider. It betrays nothing.
Rey really is all on her own to make up her mind.
It’s the resentment that settles her mind. If her best friend and the dark man holding her captive aren’t going to give her answers, it’s up to Rey to find them on her own.
From: Rey Jakkusen
To: Kylo Ren
Please tell Mr. Snoke I would be delighted to acquiesce to his request at whatever time it pleases you to spare me.