Joss gripped the strap of his green canvas and leather messenger bag with both hands where it crossed over his chest, damp fists tightly clenched around the fabric. He chewed the corner of his lower lip nervously as he rode the escalator down to the baggage claim, waiting for the crowd to disperse before stepping forward to claim the small navy blue carryall that was his only piece of luggage. It contained the bulk of his worldly possessions, a few sets of clothes, a few books and a few odds and ends. The remainder of his belongings, a sketchbook, assorted drawing utensils, a cheap laptop and cell, his identification papers and his wallet were all secure in his messenger bag. Sighing, he slung the strap of the carryall over his shoulder, taking the escalator back to the main floor. The brunette, brown eyed twenty year old looked around the vast hallway full of people, his chest twinging as he noticed other passengers reuniting joyfully with their loved ones. He'd never known love like that, his father had been a negligent alcoholic, taking off to never be seen again when Joss was fifteen, and he'd never had the misfortune to meet his junkie mother.
His gaze finally caught on a small square of white card-stock, the name 'Josiah Walker' professionally printed on it in an elegant script. It was held by a tall, muscular black man in his mid-thirties, wearing a dark designer suit and tie. Joss swallowed hard and approached the man, keeping his gaze on the floor. “D-do you work for Mr. Bennington?”
“Are you Josiah Walker?”
Joss nodded, watching the stranger as he tucked the card with his name on it under his arm. The man cleared his throat. “Unfortunately, Mr. Bennington had an urgent matter to attend to and sent me in his place. I am one of his assistants, Jeff Collins.”
“If you'll come with me please.”
“R-right.” Joss followed obediently as Collins led the way through the chaos of the airport to the front entrance. Waiting for them outside was a giant black Benz, another man in a suit, slightly older, stood by the rear door, opening it when they approached. Collins gestured for Joss to climb in first as the driver took his carryall.
Joss climbed in, taking the seat farthest from the door and drawing his messenger bag into his lap before clicking the seat belt into place beneath it. Collins climbed in next to him, closing the door and pulling his seat belt over his shoulder. Joss stared down at his lap as the driver loaded his bag into the back of the Benz and climbed into the drivers seat, pulling away from the airport. He looked out the window, watching as the sky scrapers gradually shrank to suburban homes that thinned before they disappeared all together in the mass of trees that grew thicker the further they drove from the city.
Miles of forest flew by, just over two hours passing before he saw a wide iron gate looming before them. The driver pulled the Benz up to a small security building, showing an ID card to the guard that approached the vehicle. The gate swung open on it's hinges as the guard waved them on and returned to his post. Another twenty minutes passed before Joss finally caught a glimpse of the massive manor as the trees thinned to reveal a large yard. It was all dark gray stone and iron, a few crimson accents giving the building dimension. Before he was quite ready, the driver was opening the door to let them out, and he scrambled out of the vehicle. Collins retrieved his carryall and slung it over his own shoulder. “I'll show you to your suite and let you settle in.”
Joss followed the bodyguard, though he wasn't sure how much 'settling' he'd be doing, since all of his belongings fit into two bags. Chewing his lower lip, he followed Collins up the grand staircase and into the manor. A large foyer with two hallways extending from it revealed another elegant staircase that led to the second floor, and Joss followed Collins up them, noting the dark crimson walls and black furniture. On the second floor, which was painted a pale shade of sunset orange, Collins opened a door revealing a small room, devoid of furniture but for a solitary black table standing against the wall with a few seemingly random objects arranged on it. A staircase on the opposite side of the room led to the third floor, the main color of which was a pale creamy yellow. The body guard led the way down a long hall that ended at a door, which Collins opened, ushering Joss inside. “This is your suite, arrangements can be made to have it re-painted and furnished to your preference. I must return to my post, but if you need anything, there is a call button located on the panel next to the door that will connect you to the housekeeper, Mrs. Wong.”
The body guard set Joss's bag on a pristine white couch that sat on a plush white rug in the center of the room and turned to leave. “Mr. Bennington should be finished with his work within an hour or two, until then please make yourself comfortable.”
Joss sighed, leaving his bag on the couch while he explored his designated rooms. The suite was probably three times the size of the crummy apartment he'd shared with his last benefactor. There was the den that he'd been let into, one wall lined with empty built in shelves that had been painted white, though the main color of the room was a light sky blue. Of the remaining three walls, one was home to the suite's entrance and a large flat-screen and an entertainment center outfitted with the most recent systems. The final two walls were mostly comprised of two sets of white french doors, one leading to a balcony that overlooked a large expanse of lawn, the other set standing open, inviting him into the bedroom.
The bedroom was a slightly darker shade of blue, white trim separating the walls and ceiling. A queen size bed, made up with light gray and blue bedding, stood in the center of the far wall on a white wooden frame, while a matching dresser and chest of drawers took up residence against the wall to the left. The right wall housed two white doors, one leading to a walk-in closet with two silk robes hanging in it – one dark purple, the other a frosted silver. The other door revealed a private bathroom lined with white marble and already supplied with plush navy blue towels. At the far end of the room, two marble steps led up the side of a massive bathtub. A sink, seemingly carved straight from a block of marble, jutted from the wall to his left, and on his right was a shower, framed by three glass panels.
The brunette returned to the den, retrieving his bag and setting it on top of the dresser. It only took him a few minutes to unpack his clothes into the drawers and line up his few books on the shelves. Grabbing a roll of scotch tape, he pulled the dresser away from the wall, careful not to scratch the wood floor, and retrieved his birth certificate and social security card from his messenger bag. He quickly taped both documents to the dresser's back panel and shoved it back into place. His previous benefactor had tried to sell them in one of his schemes, and he wasn't about to let that happen again. He grabbed the now empty carryall and stashed it on a high shelf in the closet before grabbing his sketchbook and charcoal pencil and returning to the den.
Perching on the edge of the pristine white couch, he opened his sketchbook, balancing it on his knees, spinning his pencil in his fingers. Exasperated with his lack of inspiration, he flipped the book closed and leaned back against the couch, letting his eyes drift closed as he mused about his new benefactor. He knew the man, Abrahm Bennington was thirty years old and owned a large company with departments in everything from advertising to home security. The picture's he'd found online showed a tall, well built individual, with lush, classically tapered black hair and steel blue eyes.
All in all, he was quite a difference from Joss's previous benefactor, who he'd met through the club he'd started working at when his dad disappeared. The club's manager made an arrangement with Jerry so he could have exclusive privileges, and Joss had moved in with him. The man had been a lazy, short, fat, balding weasel of a man, making him work three jobs to pay the bills while he stayed at home gambling and pawning things he'd 'found'. Joss had run away from him more than once, only to get caught and punished every time. He'd finally managed to hide enough spare change to buy a bus ticket to a town in another state, and to rent a room in a hotel for a few months until being set up with Mr. Bennington via a contact, Cecelia, who he'd met while looking for a job at another club.
Joss yawned and stretched, flopping onto his side on the couch. He was exhausted, probably from the early flight and long drive. Gradually, the brunette fell asleep, jet lag finally catching up with him.
Abrahm snapped his laptop closed, tucking it away in his satchel and leaving his desk to stand at the one-way glass panel that made up one of the walls of his office, surveying his empire. His father had left him and his older sister the company at his passing twelve years ago when he'd been barely eighteen. He'd bought his sister out, and she'd invested in the company and was currently living the extravagant lifestyle of an heiress with her husband and young daughter. Since that time, he'd invested in other companies, expanding what had once been a small advertisement firm into a much larger conglomerate.
The millionaire inspected his reflection in the glass. Stern, observant blue eyes that were evenly spaced under well shaped brows and framed by wisps of his dark well groomed hair. A coy smile parted his lips, revealing perfectly straight white teeth. His one flaw was that his nose was slightly crooked, having broken it in a baseball match in his teenage years.
He smiled as the door behind him clicked open and shut, signaling Collins arrival. The young tycoon smiled, “How is he?”
“A natural submissive, though he's a bit timid.”
“New pets usually are.”
Joss struggled against Jerry's iron grip on his arm as the man dragged him back to their apartment, shoving him through the door. He was beet red with anger, slamming the door shut with enough force to rattle the windows. Joss scrambled away the moment he was released. “Please, I'm sorry, I won't run away again-”
“Damn right you won't!” Jerry yanked open a drawer in the side table next to the collapsing couch, pulling out a leather dog collar and a padlock. Joss's eyes widened and he backed away from his benefactor. “Please, don't, what about work-”
“I'll take it off when I take you to your jobs, but it goes right back on when you're done. And don't think you'll be able to skip out while your working, I'm not taking my eyes off you for a second.” The squat balding man backed him into a corner, forcing him onto the floor as he tightened the collar around Joss's neck, slipping the padlock through the buckle and tucking the key in his pants pocket.
Joss panted, slipping his fingers beneath the leather. “Please... it's too tight... I can't breathe...”
“Of course it's tight, that's part of your punishment from running away. As for the rest...” Jerry reached for his belt, unfastening the buckle and yanking it loose. Joss raised his arm over his face, cowering as the man whipped him. He stopped suddenly, dropping the belt on the floor to grab Joss's wrist. The brunette yelped as he was thrown onto the pile of blankets that served as his bed, freezing when Jerry started stripping him of his clothes. He kept his eyes closed, biting back any whimpers that tried to escape. It was over quickly. It always was.
Joss jolted upright with a gasp, looking around wildly before remembering where he was. He scrubbed a hand over his face, brushing away the few tears that had welled in his panic. The sound of someone clearing their throat startled him and he clambered off the couch, whirling around to face the familiar stranger who leaned against the shelves behind him. He wore a smirk coy enough to make the devil jealous, his frosty blue eyes piercing through Joss. The brunette trembled under his gaze, looking down at the floor. Abrahm Bennington crossed the room in a few short steps, sliding his index finger under Joss's chin, forcing him to meet his gaze. “It's good to see you in person, Josiah.”
“Joss.” He cringed as Bennington's eyes narrowed, he hadn't meant to sound so short, but he hated when people called him by his full name. “I-I'm sorry, I d-didn't mean to snap Mr. Ben-.”
“It's fine. And call me Abrahm. After all, we'll be getting to know each other quite intimately.”