Chapter 15: Custos
“Anita!” Alpha Kaine yells as he pounds on the door to my adjoining room. My eyes open slowly, looking around the room curiously. The map is still clutched in my hands. At some point in the middle of the night I must have folded it shortly before falling asleep.
"Anita," he continues. “I am coming in,” he says before his hand grips the door handle. The shadow under the door moves closer as his hand turns. I roll over towards the wall, shoving the map under my body so he won’t see it.
“Did you sleep good last night?” I question when he walks in. He stays still for a moment, his hand still on the door handle no doubt. The question implies everything I mean for it to, and I know he understands by the way he sputters and coughs to hide the embarrassment my innuendo brings to him.
“Fine,” is all he says. I turn my head, peaking over my shoulder at the man. His hair is ruffled but his clothes that I can only assume are his working clothes are on. In front of him he has a small laundry basket that is overflowing with clothes. He bounces on the balls of his feet before he drops the basket on the ground.
“What is that?” I ask, safely tucking the map away under the pillow before I turn to sit up. He gives me a strange look, a small frown crossing his face for a moment.
“What do you mean? It’s laundry," he tells me. I nod awkwardly, trying to erase the tension.
“I know what it is,” I say. “What do you want me to do with it?” He looks at me again, a bit more angry than he is confused by my question.
“Wash it? What else would you do with it?” I don’t mention the various list of things one could do with a simple item of clothing. At this point my life rests on the shoulders of the Alpha and my chore doing abilities. I would have to be stupid to piss him off.
“Okay.” He nods once before he leaves. I sigh, brushing my hair out of my face with my index finger. The strand falls back into my visual field and I blow on it with irritation before I push myself off the bed to grab the basket.
There is no point in changing my clothes just to do dirty laundry. There’s no point in even looking presentable at this point. I am only a worker here. I have no other purpose to serve besides making sure the Alpha has everything he could ever want. No one is going to care if my hair is brushed or not.
I balance the basket on my hip as I walk through the door. I leave my door open and watch Alpha Kaine as he straightens the collar of his shirt in front of the mirror. He watches me in the reflection as I pass, momentarily stopping his work to stare at me. He says nothing to me. Not even a nod of acknowledgement. Absolutely nothing.
I round the corner with the basket, leaving the door to his room wide open. The floor outside is cool on my feet. The shoes one of the guards had brought back with him from my lousy excuse of an apartment were too small leaving me to walk around with only a pair of fluffy socks as footwear. Alpha Kaine had frowned at me when he saw me put them on as soon as they were presented to me but he cared too little to say anything about getting me new shoes.
The look of disgust on his face was enough to make the cold toes worth it.
“Excuse me, where is the laundry room?” I ask a woman in a brown dress. She turns and places a hand over her heart, closing her eyes to help calm her beating heart. Her hand comes down on my shoulder, resting there for a moment before she points down the hall.
“It’s around the corner. It’s got a label on the door,” she tells me. “Are you the girl who survived the test?” She studies my face, looking at all of the different shades of purple that mar my face. I nod and brush past her. I keep my head down as I walk through the rest of the hallway, I don’t want to draw any attention to myself around here. If enough people noticed I was here there would be more people who could easily recount what I looked like when identifying me retreating from the Sector late at night.
There are only a few women washing clothes in the room when I get there. They don’t look up at me when I come in. They continue their folding and pressing, humming along to the same song. One of them looks at the basket of clothes I set down on top of an unused washing machine but she does not let her gaze wander to meet my eyes.
“Is that the Alpha’s laundry, miss?” she asks me when I open the lid of another machine and start throwing things in haphazardly. I nod without stopping, continuing the fluid motion of grabbing clothes and hurling them in to the machine.
Another grabs my arm as I reach for another article of clothing to throw in. She shakes her head at me slowly when I look up at her. “If you are doing the Alpha’s laundry you might want to put a bit more care in to it. If you mess up anything that belongs to the Alpha everyone gets ten lashings.” My eyes widen at her candor before I pull my arm back from her, rubbing the spot she had grabbed.
“That seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it?” I ask as I continue tossing clothing into the machine. “Surely he has the money to replace any of the items that are damaged. No one would dare mess with his things on purpose I’m sure.” One of them shrugs at this, bringing a tee shirt to her chest as she completes the final fold on it before adding it to her pile.
“He’s beaten for less before.” I don’t bother asking her what she’d done to deserve any sort of harm from the Alpha or any of his associates. I nod but continue on anyways.
“He knows I’m the one doing his laundry today. He won’t touch you guys if I mess it up,” I promise them. One of the maids shrugs and continues ironing the shirt in front of her but the other sneers in response.
“Are you stupid?” I don’t give her the satisfaction of seeing my surprised face. I hide my face behind the open door of the washing machine. I notice a familiar pair of lace red panties at the bottom of the laundry basket. I instantly remember the way Alpha Kaine had thrown the girl down on his bed and tossed their clothes to the floor moments before the headboard started banging against the wall behind it. I toss those in the same way I tossed everything else in and shut the door.
The panties get caught in the door and a quiet ripping sound shakes me to my core as the door swings shut over the fabric. The maid from before scoffs and tosses the socks she was matching to the table when she hears it. None of the other workers flinch when she storms over to me and grabs me by my hair.
"What is wrong with you girl?" she asks me, shoving me away. I stumble and bump into the table behind me, my lips parting in shock. She pulls open the door and pulls the panties out of the machine. She doesn’t even seem to mind that they were on some other girl mere hours ago as she turns them over, inspecting them for damage.
“Don’t you know the Alpha is going to kill us all for this? His mate probably wore these. It is disrespectful to not only the Alpha’s mate but the Alpha as well if that is the case. You will be lucky if you live to see another day and if you do, I’ll kill you myself.” My eyes widen. The other maids go back to their clothes and continue with their work.
I’m obviously not the first girl that maid has threatened with death over something as trivial as ripped panties.
“I’ll be more careful next time.” I tell her, reaching for the panties to put back in the machine. She steps back, putting the panties on a table.
“There will be no next time, miss. You will not touch any more of the Alpha’s laundry. You are a disgrace!” she exclaims, winding her hand up to slap me across the face. I turn my cheek and close my eyes in anticipation for the direct skin on skin contact and the burning that will no doubt follow the sensation, but nothing comes.
I open my eyes to see an arm gripping her wrist tightly, the knuckles turning white. “Is this how you treat people who are only following orders?” Alpha Kaine asks, his tone offering no room for objections.
“Alpha,” she breathes. Her chest heaves with quickened breaths as her eyes flick from Alpha Kaine’s to mine. Her lips part and I can only imagine how dry her tongue must feel by now. “My apologies, Alpha. I was only trying to do right by you and your mate.”
He lets go of her wrist quickly and wipes his hand on the leg of his pants with a grimace. “Mate?” he questions. The maid nods, reaching for the lace panties on the counter.
“That wench ripped your mate’s undies, sir,” she replies, glaring at me as she presents them to him. “Do not worry, I will personally handle all of your other laundering needs from now on. That girl will not destroy any more of her possessions,” Alpha Kaine takes the red lace from her gently, holding it up for a moment to inspect it.
“The woman who wore these is not my mate. My mate would not be so predictable,” he tells her, tossing the underwear in her face. “No one has been disrespected but the girl you tried to lay your hands on. Throw those away. Don’t bother reporting to this floor any more. I’ll send you somewhere else to work,” he says, grabbing my arm to escort me out of the room.
“Alpha I am so sorry. I had no idea that they would rip or else I would have handled them with more care.” He stops walking as soon as the words pass my lips. He studies me briefly before he continues pulling me along down the hallway. He stops at the room we share and pushes me in, closing the door behind himself.
“I don’t care,” he breathes. “I don’t give a single shit about what happened to those panties. I meant what I said to that woman back there, Anita. They do not belong to my mate. If they did I would feel differently and surely you would get some sort of punishment for destroying her things.” I nod and look down at my feet.
“You are relieved of your work for a few days. Don’t bother leaving your room until I tell you to.” My eyes snap to his, my heart breaking a bit at his words.
“I thought you said I wasn’t in trouble,” I say, my voice breaking a bit at the idea of being imprisoned once again.
“You aren’t,” he agrees. “You are simply relieved. A few personal days might do you good. You’ve been worked too hard around here. You deserve a break.” I squint my eyes, confusion clearly displayed on my face.
“I’ve only been here a few days,” I remind him. Alpha Kaine says nothing, he appears to be almost nervous as he wrenches the door open and slams it behind him. I bite my lip, walking back to my room.
If he wants to give me time off, I’ll take it gladly and use it to help plan my escape.