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No Accounting for Taste

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In the evenings after dinner, the inmates of the prison were allowed free time to do whatever they wanted. They found ways to amuse themselves, even in a place like this. Vallewida usually spent this time either in the library or reading the books he had borrowed in his cell. Except for the times when his solitude was interrupted by his least favourite visitor.

This evening was no exception. Durer loomed in the doorway like the demon in a pantomime with his trademark leer.

“Reading again?”

Vallewida did not bother to reply to that question. He marked his page with the scrap of paper that served as his bookmark and set his book down. It might be a while before he could get back to it . . . He was surprised at how calm he was, but this was a reoccurring event. Things would . . . happen and he would be staggering back to his cell or to the infirmary if he could still walk.

“Since you do nothing but read in your free time, I have just the task for you,” Durer said. “My eyes are in danger of being destroyed by the dim lighting, so you can read for me.”

Glancing up at his tormentor, Vallewida groaned inwardly at the enormity of that lie. Durer’s eyes gleamed wickedly, most assuredly myopia-free. He wondered what kind of game this was and gave up on second-guessing Durer’s plans. He had to concentrate on trailing after Durer. It was either walk or be dragged. Durer would do it—he had done it before—if Vallewida appeared to be slow in his movements.

As it turned out, Durer did not intend for him to read his paperwork. They arrived at Durer’s quarters, much to Vallewida’s surprise. Durer seldom brought him here—he probably did not like clearing up a mess in his own quarters.

“Here. I expect you to be done with at least one by tonight.” Durer gestured towards a stack of novels bound with plain covers.

Vallewida should not have been surprised by the selection of illegal pornographic novels Durer possessed. Some of them had that slightly sticky, dog-eared look that suggested prior usage. Durer probably confiscated those volumes from the inmates.

“Why don’t you make yourself more comfortable? Take your clothes off,” Durer said, all predatory intent and intrusive hands now that they were in the privacy of his own room.

As with all of Durer’s rhetorical questions, there were no real answers. Cornered with nowhere to run, Vallewida risked Durer’s wrath with every second that he remained clothed. Flushing slightly, he removed his shirt and trousers and prayed that Durer would not get too carried away. To his relief, Durer contented himself with some brief fondling before lounging back on his bed and nudging Vallewida towards the books.

The flagstones were cold against his skin as he settled down to read. There was a noticeable lack of places to sit unless he counted Durer’s lap. Vallewida would rather sit in a midden than consider that. There were worse things than a cold floor, as he would soon discover.

“Annette swooned as her roguish paramour pressed her back into soft hay. His body throbbed with passion and she felt his manhood rise and swell within the confines of his leather britches . . .”

It was more terrible than he had imagined. The authors had probably been paid by the page.

“. . . Etienne moaned as his sweetly rounded buttocks were parted by skilled fingers. In all his sheltered life, he had never known the touch of another man . . .”

Vallewida wondered if a beating was preferable to sitting there in nothing but his skin and reading cheap pornography aloud. Durer was watching him for signs of embarrassment, but Vallewida was not going to give him that much satisfaction. It helped that the writing was laughably bad and Vallewida found himself mentally critiquing the style of the prose.

“Oi, are you reading a damn obituary or something?” Durer demanded after a good ten minutes into the next sex scene and no discernable sign of discomfort on Vallewida’s part. He was obviously irritated by his prey’s lack of response.

Vallewida sighed softly and put down the book. “It’s badly written—there is hardly any plot. All the characters do is wander around aimlessly before the next round of debauchery and the protagonist is practically brainless.” He found bad literature a serious turn-off—something that Durer had obviously not factored into his plans.

A part of Vallewida enjoyed the befuddled look on Durer’s face, short-lived as it was—the rest of him braced for the inevitable blow that came afterwards. At least the reading session would be over soon. There was no accounting for taste, really.

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