Chapter 1 - Emma
In my world, pain is a commodity.
A commodity I sell.
Emma sat quietly on a park bench waiting for her new client. The park was usually vacant at this time of day, on a Monday, that’s why she chose it. A secluded space made the ‘new at this’ clients more comfortable, while a public space made Emma feel safer. Though today’s client didn’t really raise any concern. His parents had been clients for years and now that he was of age, he was going to be a client as well.
A cool breeze curled around Emma as she checked her phone, sending a trail of goosebumps up her pale arm and ruffling her deep brown hair. I hope he doesn’t cancel again, he’s late.
It was a bit chilly as it was early in the day and spring had only crept into Vancouver a few weeks prior. However, the sun was warm which helped take the chill from the air, but the wind still held winter’s bite. Looking down at her fitted jeans and black T-shirt. I should have worn my jacket. Emma considered retrieving it as she heard an approaching car engine.
In the distance, a black car came into view as it entered the parking lot and parked next to the only other car in the lot, hers. The driver got out and opened the rear door. Timidly, a tall and thin young man, around 16, stepped from the car. He stood awkwardly, running his fingers through his sandy blond hair like a nervous tick, avoiding Emma with his gaze.
Emma sighed. Guess I got some work cut out for me. She rose and approached him with a practiced friendly smile.
He was nice looking; he had a handsome face like his father but with his mother’s fair complexion. However, he looked absolutely exhausted, like he hadn’t slept in weeks. He had already postponed twice, which she had hoped was because he was busy. Now that she saw the state of him, she realized he was just avoiding this.
“Hi, Mr. Kearney. I’m Emma.”
“You can call me, Mason,” he replied looking at his feet.
He gave Emma an uncomfortable grin and ran his fingers through his hair again, still refusing to look at her
“I know this can be awkward but I’m going to help you feel better, okay? We can do this however is most comfortable for you. We can stay here, sit in the car, or there’s a nice secluded spot over by the trail.”
“The trail sounds nice.” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. Pulling his fingers through his hair he leaned closer, throwing glances at the two men behind him, “Can we go alone?”
Emma nodded. “Both of you can stay here,” she told the driver and her bodyguard, “We’re just going to the trail.”
The driver nodded and walked toward the bench unbothered by the request. Her bodyguard, Jeremy, on the other hand, gave her a unsure look and tapped his watch before nodding. She had 30 minutes before he came looking. She gave Jeremy a reassuring smile before offering her hand to Mason and walking toward the trail.
At the head of the trail, there was a wooden sign with trail information and an extremely weathered bench. Emma gestured toward the bench and Mason sat down, wringing his hands. Emma lowered herself next to him but Mason shifted away from her.
How is he going to do what he needs if he can’t even sit next to me? Emma thought to herself annoyed. I’m not a miracle worker. They told me he was ‘a bit resistant,’ this is definitely beyond that.
Mason’s parents, and Mason, were Issants, or what humans called nonhuman beings. Specifically, they were a type of Algea, or pain-eaters, known as Lupes. Before puberty, all Algea were able to absorb all types of pain but after puberty hit, the type of pain they could consume slowly becomes specific to their type; Ania emotional and Achus and Lupe physical.
Lupes had the hardest time adjusting because they needed to consume the pain they inflicted; not all were willing to do so. It was worse the later the change occurred as children become less malleable with age. However, it was Lupe tradition to not introduce causing pain until the change because Lupes taught before it was necessary tended to be maladjusted and overzealous. Mason was late to the game and he was clearly fighting it. Emma had to convince him or he would die.
Emma reached out and quietly took Mason’s hand into her own. “Mason, I know you’re struggling with this but I’m here to help.”
Mason squeezed her hand but kept his eyes on his lap. Emma reached into her bag and pulled out a leather case. Opening it, she grabbed a silver scalpel with a plastic cover before replacing the case in her bag.
“This is the easiest tool for beginners. You can hold it until your comfortable.” She handed the scalpel to him but he shook his head and pushed himself further away.
Emma forced an irritated sigh away. Great! I really don’t know what to do. I haven’t had a newbie Lupe in almost a year and this one had to be a refuser. So either I force his hand or he dies. Fuck! I don’t need this on my conscience. I don’t have the skills for this. Well, you gotta say something...
“Umm, okay. Would you like to sit and talk first?”
He nodded slightly.
Okay, small talk. What the fuck do people talk about? I really need to work on my social skills.
“Uhhh, let’s get to know each other a bit.” Emma froze a second thinking of something to say. “My favorite color is blue. What’s yours?”
“I like blue, too.”
“See, we already have something in common.”
Seriously favorite colors? Are we five? You sound ridiculous.
Mason smiled and finally looked up at Emma. His soft gray eyes were full of the sweetness of childhood. This is working and I hate myself. Emma, destroyer of innocence. Ugh. I fucking hate first times.
Plastering on a smile, Emma continued, “What about you’re favorite dessert?”
Wow, I really suck at this.
“Anything chocolate,” he responded with a big grin.
Emma laughed. “Me too.” She reached in her bag and pulled out two fun size chocolate bars and handed one to Mason.
“Thanks.” Mason said as he opened the candy and popped it into his mouth.
Okay, I guess I’m not that bad at this. Thank you, sweet tooth.
Emma slowly unwrapped hers, taking small bites while thinking what else to say.
“You want to go for a walk?” Emma asked as she gestured to the trail sigh. “This section of trail has a 1.6 kilometer loop, as long as we don’t accidentally wander into another trailhead, we’ll loop back here.”
Mason nodded. Emma took his arm gingerly and led them down the forest trail. She remained quiet for a time and let the peacefulness of the trees rustling in the wind and the chirping birds wash over them. Emma could feel Mason slowly relax.
I should say something?
Emma broke the silence, softly asking,”So you recently turned 16, right?”
“What did you do to celebrate?”
“I had a few friends over. We just hung out. You know, played games and did the normal birthday stuff, but it was fun.” He paused for a moment then opened his mouth as if to say something before closing it again with a shake of the head.
“What were you going to say?” Emma questioned.
“It’s nothing.” He paused, shifting uncomfortably. “I -uhh- I was just -uhhh- wondering how old you are,” quickly he added, “You don’t have to answer, that.”
“I’m 17.” Emma responded.
“Really?” Mason stopped in his tracks and turned toward her, looking at her incredulously. “But my dad said he’s been a client for years? How if your only 17?”
“That’s a long story. Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day, if you want.”
Mason nodded and turned back toward the trail.
“Ok, how about a different topic. Umm. What do you like to do in your free time?” Emma asked.
“I play video games.”
“I play occasionally. What’s your favorite?”
“I like Grand Theft Auto. I like playing online with my friends.”
“I’ve played that but never online. I don’t have a lot of friends,” Emma replied, matter-of-factly.
“Oh, maybe we can play online some time and I can show you the ropes,” Mason replied, glancing quickly at Emma with a small smile.
In the distance Emma could see the edge of the weathered bench come into view.
“That sounds great,” Emma smiled back. “I would love to play with you but, first we need to get you healthy. We can’t play together if your dead, Mason.”
Mason’s smile dropped.
Emma, what in the actual fuck is wrong with you?
Emma winced, “Sorry, That was...”
Mason cut her off, “No. Don’t apologize. It’s true. This is just not something I have ever wanted to do. We’re all told about it before puberty but it hadn’t happened to me and I had hoped it never would. Why couldn’t I have been an Achus or something?” He trailed off, brushing his fingers through his hair.
Emma gave Mason’s hand a squeeze as they approached the bench and took a seat.
“I know this is hard, Mason. I know being a Lupe can be challenging but other Issents have crappy issues to deal with, too.” Emma offered the scalpel once more. “But you’ll feel better if you just do it. The first step is the hardest.”
A tear fell down Mason’s face and he turned from her. “I just don’t think I can do this. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
With a heavy sigh, Emma removed the plastic cap protecting the scalpel blade. I guess I’m going to have to force your hand. Ugh, I’m a fucking asshole.
Emma slid the blade shallowly into her forearm. Mason glanced at her, startled. He opened his lips to say something but she didn’t wait for his opposition. Sucking air in sharply through gritted teeth, she pulled the blade up her arm. Mason shuttered, head rolling back as he moaned pleasurably. Emma’s arm stung horribly as she watched Mason’s face flush for a second as her pain reinvigorated him before paling and looking utterly exhausted once more. Pulling the blade away, blood trickled down her arm, pooling stickily into her palm.
Emma gently touched his shoulder and softly whispered, “Mason, your starving. I can cut myself all day but it won’t be enough. You have to do it yourself now. I know you don’t want to but would you prefer death? Your family and friends don’t want you to die. Do it for them. And you’re not going to cause me any pain I’m not willing to give. You really don’t have to feel bad about this.”
Mason slowly opened his tired eyes, and looked at her defeatedly.
Emma took Mason’s hand. “Together?”
Mason nodded and opened his hand. Emma placed the scalpel in his palm and closed his fingers around it. Holding his hand, she brought the blade to her arm and together they pushed it gently into her flesh.
Emma gritted her teeth as the pain shot up her already aching arm. Her heart raced as her body screamed at her to stop but she ignored it, carefully guiding Mason’s hand.
Next to her Mason jerked suddenly and released the blade as her pain washed over him. He pulled on at the edge of the bench, which creaked loudly in protest, as he moaned and shuddered violently in pleasure. After a few moments, his body slumped breathlessly.
Emma’s glanced at her arm. It was red, sticky, and stung furiously. Pushing her pain aside, she turned her attention to Mason. Mason looked less exhausted now, and his skin took on a slight glow. Finally. Emma sighed in relief. He wasn’t done but at least he made that first step.
Emma reached into her bag and pulled out a small towel and a water bottle. She gently poured the water down her arm, washing most of the blood away before dabbing it gently with the towel. Blood still seeped from the second cut but the first appeared to have stopped.
Mason startled Emma as he jerked upright and covered his lap with his hands, flicking his eyes at her in embarrassment.
Emma smiled reassuringly, “It’s okay. Getting fed just feels good and...”
Mason turned bright red.
“Really, there’s no need to be embarrassed. It happens to pretty much all my clients.”
Mason sighed, mumbling under his breath, “How can this day get any worse?
“Emma!” came Jeremy’s booming voice somewhere through the trees.
Mason sunk lower on the bench murmuring, “I had to ask.”
Emma stifled a giggle as she patted Mason’s thigh reassuringly. “We’re not done yet, Jeremy. It’s fine, go back and wait,” she yelled toward Jeremy’s voice.
“Ok, miss. I’ll come back in twenty.” Jeremy called back to her.
“Sorry,” Emma laughed. “He’s a bit overprotective.”
“Well, with your career choice I don’t blame him.”
Emma nodded in agreement. “You ready to contin...”
“No!” he blurted out before Emma could finish. “Sorry,” he added apologetically, “that was just overwhelming, I’m not ready yet.”
“It gets easier over time, I promise. Soon this will normal and won’t cause anxiety or be quite so overwhelming.”
“Do you get a lot of first-timers?”
“I’ve had a few but it’s been a while. I have quite a large client base so I don’t take new clients often and most are like you, children of current clients.”
“Are all your clients Lupes?”
“No, most are Lupes but I have a few other Issant types.”
“Like?” Mason questioned excitedly.
“I have quite a few vampire clients.”
“Really?” Mason's face lit up. “I always thought vampires are kind of cool. How do they feed? Like I know they drink blood, but how? Can you show me?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Emma replied hesitantly. Mason leaned back looking disappointed. “It’s just that it’s a bit intimate and...”
“Oh,” he blushed.
“No, nothing like that,” Emma shook her head giggling at the suggestion. “It’s just a more intimate position. Because of how they prefer to feed. Showing you wouldn’t be appropriate."
“Where do you usually feed them?”
“Bars, typically, but any public location that allows it.”
“Well if you do it in public, it can’t be that inappropriate.”
Emma sighed. “Fine, I’ll show you but, first, you have to feed yourself, without complaint.”
“Fine,” Mason huffed annoyed but couldn’t hold back a self-congratulatory grin.
Emma rolled her eyes and offered her arm again.
“What? How are these healing already?” Mason asked running his finger down the cuts that were now beginning to scab.
“Oh, I am part Issant, but, I’m mostly human. I had a great something or other that was a Caladrius. I can’t heal others or heal instantly but I do heal much faster than a human. In a couple days these will have disappeared completely.”
“Wow! That’s actually pretty cool,” he said as he gingerly ran his fingers up and down the cuts.
Emma offered him the scalpel and he just stared at it quietly for a moment. Taking it in his hand, Mason gingerly placed the blade against her skin, red oozed out beneath it but Mason shivered then froze.
“I don’t like that your pain feels good to me.”
“Mason, the pain doesn’t bother me, I promise. It’s not a great feeling but it’s temporary. Once I start to heal, the pain disappears. I’m perfectly capable of handling the pain, if I wasn’t, I would not be selling it. Okay?” Emma comforted as she gently rubbed his arm. “Just push down slightly and pull.”
Mason timidly pushed the blade in and let out pleasurable sigh. He dragged the blade down her arm creating a small red line besides the other two before pulling away as his body spasmed in ecstasy. His entire being let off a faint glow and his exhaustion appeared to be almost a memory.
Mason slowly opened his eyes, and seeing Emma staring, he blushed and shifted uncomfortably.
“Do you have to watch?”
“Sorry,” this time Emma blushed. “I didn’t realize it bothered you.”
“It’s ok.” He sat quietly before adding timidly, “Can you show me now?”
Why did I agree to this?
“Ok, but I warned you. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
Emma quietly rose and stood before Mason. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she set a knee to one side and slowly straddled his lap. Mason’s face blushed a deep red and Emma could feel his heart racing.
Emma shook her head and started to move away, “This is a bad idea.”
“No, please continue,” Mason begged. “You promised.”
Sighing she lowered herself on him, she could feel his excitement between his legs. Bad fucking idea. Emma leaned into him so her neck was at his lips and whispered into his ear, “This is how you feed a Vampire. They bite and drink, it’s not the fastest process.”
She shifted to stand but, Mason’s arm slipped around her, pulling her against him. She felt his other hand trail the cold metal of the scalpel up her arm. She tried to say something, anything, but words wouldn’t come out. Her heart raced as she felt him push the blade into her shoulder. This was a very bad idea.
Mason panted excitedly and his heart pounded wildly as he dragged the blade slowly down her arm. The pain seared as it tore into her skin and she yelped in response. Almost at her elbow, the blade clattered onto the bench as he once again lost control to the pleasure of her pain.
His body shuddered beneath her. Emma tried to push away but Mason’s arms enveloped her and pulled her into him as he moaned in pleasure. Fingers entangling in her hair pulled her face towards his. Pressing his lips to hers, Emma felt a jolt pass through her, her entire body tingled in delight. Her body involuntary responded; her lips parted as she pulled herself into him, kissing him back.
What the fuck am I doing? Emma pushed away forcefully, standing and backing away from Mason. Her body still tingled. What the fuck was that?
Mason watched her, wide eyed from the bench, gasping for air. His voice panicked, “Sorry,”
Emma shook her head. “No, I’m sorry, it was unprofessional for me to have interacted with you in that manner. I apologize for placing you in that position.”
Emma watched Mason’s face for a moment. He glowed radiantly. Like all well fed Lupes, he looked flawless. Snap out of it, Emma!
Emma’s face burned in embarrassment. “I think we are done for today. You can text me a few times your available next week and I will fit you in my schedule. You can choose where we meet. If you prefer we can also make a standing appointment for the same day and time weekly.”
“Uh huh,” Mason said with a slight nod, staring anywhere but at her.
The silence was deafening. Emma quietly cleaned her arm with the rest of the water and toweled it off the best she could before replacing everything neatly into her bag.
“Wait,” Mason added confused, turning toward Emma. “Next week? Weekly? I thought... My mom and dad said they only feed monthly.”
“Yes, but they’re older so they absorb pain more efficiently so they are able to choose…” Emma paused trying to think of how to explain and settled with, “They prefer quality over quantity.” Mason appeared a bit confused but seemed to accept her answer. “You will need to feed weekly over the next few months before you can safely extend to longer periods and then you can make the choice as to how often we have sessions.”
“I can’t do this weekly,” his voice cracking.
Emma knelt next to him taking his hand, “You can and you will. We can do it at any pace you need and weekly sessions are the best way to get comfortable with this. If you want to do it quickly, we can. If you need to take it slow, we can do that too. After you adjust, we can spread out the sessions.”
Mason nodded and Emma rose, gesturing toward the parking lot. They walked silently side by side.
As they neared the lot, Mason stopped. “Emma?”
Turning toward him, “Yes?”
“Thank you. And I’m really sorry about...”
She smiled, giving his arm an affectionate squeeze, before heading to Jeremy and her car.