Chapter 1: The Auction
“You think someone will actually buy her?”
Talia Reeds heard the voice before a bright light flashed overhead and woke her up completely. Her eyes struggled to adjust to the blinding glare. She blinked several times, but her eyes were struggling to get used to it.
“Ugh, maybe,” someone else said with disgust in their tone. “Perhaps someone needs a maid for their brothel.”
“As long as we can get rid of her,” came the first voice again, deep and gruff. “We have to make space for the new stock.”
Talia felt something heavy around her wrists. The sound of clanging metal told her that she was chained up. She had no idea what was going on. She was confused and terrified, her heart beating like a drum.
Straining, she sat up. Her vision was starting to return. She didn’t know if she wanted it to.
“And here we have a bargain of a specimen,” someone else said, in a booming tone that sounded like he was selling something. “A bit worse for wear, but nothing that a bit of surgery or make-up couldn’t fix!”
Talia finally managed to look up. She was on a stage, and the man speaking was standing just ahead of her. People sat beyond the stage in rows, but their faces were obscured by the lights.
“A great buy for first-time owners,” continued the auctioneer, stepping around Talia and pointing at her like she was a museum exhibit. “Bidding will begin at one million. Truly value for money!”
This was when Talia realized where she was. This was an auction house, and she was being sold.
A sense of dread washed over her.
She tried to remember how she ended up here, thinking of the last thing in her memories.
It was her eighteenth birthday, and everyone had all but forgotten. Talia was used to that, and at this point, she didn’t really care.
“Happy birthday to me,” she sang as she sat on her bed, kicking her feet out with a sigh. “Happy birthday dear Talia...”
“Are you really singing to yourself?”
The secret door in the corner of her room opened and Emily walked in. She was the only servant in the mansion who ever treated Talia like a real person. The only person, including Talia’s family, who didn’t leave her constantly feeling invisible.
“Nobody else will,” Talia said sadly and looked away, embarrassed that she’d been caught. “Kidding. I mean, they probably just forgot, right?”
“Just like they forget every year?” Emily walked forward sympathetically. She had her arms behind her back, making Talia pretty curious.
“Yeah, uh, what are you holding?” Talia slowly got off the bed and tried to sneak a peek behind Emily’s back. Emily took a step backward to keep her from doing that.
“Hey, it’s a surprise,” Emily smiled. “I know your birthday’s always pretty sucky.”
“That’s one way to describe it,” Talia sighed.
“So I brought you a little something.” Emily revealed a cupcake. “You’re eighteen, after all. You deserve to celebrate.”
She used the matches she carried with her to light it.
“I guess so,” Talia tried to smile, leaning down to blow out the tiny flame. “Thanks.”
With that, Emily handed the cupcake over.
“Why don’t you take a bite?” she asked sweetly. “It’s your favorite.”
Talia hesitated but took up the offer sinking her teeth into the fluffy chocolate. It wasn’t much, but it did make her feel slightly better.
“I wish my family were here to celebrate with me,” she said as she swallowed and looked at Emily.
“What’s wrong?” Emily asked with a grin spreading across her face.
As soon as she said that, Talia started feeling dizzy. She dropped the cupcake and reached for her head.
“I wish I could say I was sorry,” Emily muttered at her, watching as Talia fell to the floor.
It must have been Emily who gave her to these people. Emily had let them take her. Talia couldn’t believe that even the person she had trusted the most had betrayed her.
There was a knot in her throat. Still, her eyes stayed dry. It was difficult to cry.
“Did I mention the best part?” The auctioneer walked over to Talia and lifted her face up by her chin. “This little missy is a virgin!”
The audience gasped and clapped. Talia felt more vulnerable than she ever had before. She was wearing a long, white sack that covered her body, but she felt as if she was naked.
Nobody seemed to care that she was a human being. She wanted to scream at them, but she couldn’t find her voice. She was so scared that she was almost frozen.
“That’s right!” the auctioneer sneered as he stepped away from her. “A blonde, eighteen-year-old virgin. You don’t get those anymore, do you?”
The audience burst into laughter, clapping their hands as if they were watching the greatest show on earth. Talia wanted to crawl away into the darkness in the wings of the stage. She felt completely humiliated, and nobody seemed to care.
However, the chains around her wrists and ankles were so heavy that she could barely move.
“What’s the catch?” someone yelled out from the audience. “There has to be something wrong with her, right?”
“Show us her body!” someone else shouted, making Talia cringe. Surely they weren’t going to undress her in front of all of these people.
She didn’t want any of this to happen. It was harrowing and dehumanizing, and she simply couldn’t deal with it.
She sat back, pulling her knees up to her chest protectively, waiting for the auctioneer to grab her.
Instead, he smiled out at the audience, before he swung his arm toward the back of the stage.
“Of course,” he told them as a huge screen came rolling down from the roof. Talia turned as far as she could, her body almost frozen in anticipation.
With a flash, the screen lit up with a massive image of Talia, naked in her room. Her heart skipped a beat.
This was something far worse than anything in her nightmares could have prepared her for. Her mind screamed at her to hide, but she could not.
“Ooh,” the audience cheered, several men whistling, impressed with how she looked.
The image switched, once, then twice. They were showing her from all angles.
Talia’s eyes were locked onto the screen. She was horrified, but she couldn’t look away.
Her scars were displayed there for the world to see. Everything that her family had ever done to her was written like a terrible poem across her naked body. Her emotions were overwhelming, to the point where she had become numb.
“Damaged goods!” laughed the man who had asked for the picture. “So that’s the catch, huh?”
“Let’s begin the bids, shall we?” the auctioneer yelled between shouts and cheers. “Do I have one million?”
Someone in the back of the room raised their hand. Talia couldn’t see them, but she shivered at the prospect nonetheless.
One man in the audience was looking at Talia differently than all of the others. His hazel eyes, usually cold and indifferent, were filled now with concern.
“Wouldn’t she look pretty tied up in my basement?”
The man next to him rubbed his hands together as he raised the bidding paddle at two million.
The girl on the stage looked vulnerable, broken. The women before her had flirted with the audience, lifting the sacks they wore to show their legs, blowing kisses. They had almost seemed as if they were enjoying the attention.
Not this one, though. She was clearly terrified and had no idea where she’d landed. She stared out at the audience like a deer trapped in headlights.
If it wasn’t for the terror, he would have thought that she looked exactly like Angela. The blonde hair, the blue eyes, that slight dip from her shoulder to her collarbone.
“Feed her like a dog,” someone else was saying in the row behind him. “She’d look cute in an electric collar.”
“I’d never be able to take her outside,” came another voice. “Wouldn’t it be so embarrassing if anyone saw that? Disgusting.”
He couldn’t take what they were saying about her. She sat on that stage, curled up into a ball while they sold her innocence like candy. It made him angry. He wanted to protect her, to keep her safe from all of these monsters.
“Do I have ten million?” the auctioneer asked. The man in the audience decided that he was going to do something. She couldn’t be sold to any of the other people in this auction house. She’d be dead, or worse, within a few weeks.
He raised his bidding paddle and cringed at the grin that he got from the auctioneer. She was lucky. For this man, money was no object.
“How about fifteen? Ah, over there!” laughed the auctioneer as someone else raised their paddle. It was the man who wanted to chain her up in his basement. “Now things are getting interesting, aren’t they? Do I have twenty?”
Gritting his teeth, the man with the hazel eyes raised his paddle again. It didn’t matter how high the monsters tried to bid, he could go higher.
The bids continued to go up. Twenty-five million, then thirty. Slowly, people began to drop out.
“Bah, she’s not worth that,” said one person in the row behind him. “Ten was already pushing it.”
By forty million, most of the people who had been bidding were out. There were only three left. The guy who wanted her in the basement as a sex slave, the man with the hazel eyes, and an old criminal who said that he needed a young wife.
Talia listened to the bids continuously being raised. She had to wonder what human life was really worth to these people. She didn’t know how she hadn’t broken down yet. It was like her mind was refusing to feel.
“Forty-two million?” The auctioneer asked of the crowd, and they started to whisper. Talia couldn’t hear any of it. All she wanted was to get out of there. The chains were heavy, and she felt so exposed under that naked image of her.
Who had taken that? How did they get into the mansion? Her room?
“I have forty-two! How about forty-four?” The auctioneer was getting more and more excited. It was clear that he hadn’t expected her to be worth this much money.
“Forty-four, forty-four – ah, a gentleman is going for sixty-five!” He clapped his hands together. “Are you out, sir? It looks like we only have two left! Who will win?”
The bidding war became more and more intense. The auctioneer started increasing the price by only half a million.
Whoever was bidding on her kept going, up and up, both clearly intent on walking out with the prize. By fifty million, the crowd was hushed.
The screams and cheers from earlier had disappeared. They were all focused on the two bidders, intensely competing against each other.
Talia wanted them to stop. Her head was swimming and her body was exhausted. She just wanted all of this to be over. It was as if her soul was hovering outside of her body, watching someone else suffer.
“Do I have fifty and a half, gentlemen?” The auctioneer asked. “Come on, boys, this girlie is a virgin! Surely she’s worth the trouble? Ah, yes, sir, that’s the spirit! How about fifty-one?”
The bid reached fifty-two million, then fifty-three, and finally, went right up to fifty-five. At this point, there was a pause.
“Fifty-six?” The auctioneer prompted, but nobody seemed to respond. “It looks like we’re going to have this one sold. Are you sure that you don’t want to bid any higher, sir?”
The atmosphere went completely silent. Talia could almost taste the tension in the air. She tried to see past the blinding lights into the crowd, to see who was going to win, but it was futile.
All she managed to do was to hurt her eyes. She could only hope that she wouldn’t be dragged away into some brothel somewhere, forgotten by the world.
For that kind of money, though, she didn’t think so. Maybe she was being given as a bride to a prince, or a cranky old billionaire who wanted arm candy.
Her life would still be miserable, but it would be better than being a malnourished sex toy for disgusting men.
“One hundred million,” a voice rang out across the room, cold, yet filled with a velvet quality that made Talia shiver.
Gasps ran through the audience, and the whispers began anew.
“One hundred million?” The auctioneer repeated, shocked to hear this number. It broke his showmanship for a second.
Talia couldn’t believe her ears, either. It seemed insane that anyone would pay that much for her. Was that how much her life was really worth?
“Yes,” came that same velvet voice. “I bid one hundred million dollars on this woman.”