Wanted – Maren Smith

Pony lay on her side in the narrow hospital bed and stared unblinking at the wall. Master Ethen was dead. He’d shot her in the head. The Menagerie he’d wanted so much was disbanded. Even Puppy had abandoned her, and now he was dead. If only she were dead too. For four years, she’d given herself to Master in every way a good slave could. His every whim had been her gospel. She’d dressed in the clothes he’d selected, worked the jobs he’d chosen, driven the car he’d allowed her to buy, cooked and eaten only his most favorite things. She’d given him everything—from every scrap of property she’d owned since before she met him, to her paychecks. She’d thought what he’d wanted her to think. Spoken the opinions he’d wanted her to have. Shared her body with him, whenever, wherever, and however he’d desired it. Not once had she ever said no. Not when he was in a mood to hurt and debase her.


Not even when he was in a mood to watch her with other men. She had been his. Heart, mind, body, and soul. She had never wanted anyone else. Only him. Always him. And he’d shot her in the head. Pony closed her eyes, telling herself that the tears that kept burning her eyes were because her head hurt so badly. It wasn’t. He hadn’t wanted her. She’d been his, the first slave he’d taken in as part of his Menagerie, gifted with the title of lead submissive and tasked with keeping the others in line. She’d tried. Oh, how she’d tried. Even after Piggy and Kitty ran away and he’d been sent to jail, she’d stayed and done her best to keep the rebelling Puppy obedient to his wishes. But it hadn’t mattered.

He’d wanted Puppy, Piggy, Kitty… everyone—anyone. He just hadn’t wanted her. Curling in around herself, Pony made herself as small as the hospital bed would allow. The IV in her arm was pumping fluids into her system. She had bruises from the back of both hands to her elbows where the IV had blown out her veins. If it happened again, they said, they’d have no choice but to try the veins in her feet. She was too malnourished, they said, and she knew she was thin. She could see the proof of it every time she looked in the mirror and in the heavy loss of long blonde strands caught in the drain when she showered. There wasn’t a lot she could do about it, though. When Master Ethen said no food, she didn’t eat. It was just that simple and just that hard, especially since most of her punishments these days were because of Puppy. Disobedient, traitorous Puppy, whose mother had shot Master after he’d shot Pony. In the head. While she’d been running to pack her things so she could at last, now that he’d finally been released from prison, go back home with him. Things were supposed to be back to normal now, but they would never be normal again.

So, what did it matter how thin she was or how many meals she’d missed? In the last year, she’d missed a lot of meals, but not once had she ever cheated on him. Lately, she’d even come to kind of like the hollow-feeling pinch in her stomach. Regardless of what Puppy was doing—running around with that man who wasn’t their Master—at least she was being obedient. She was being good. She was being worth his time and attention. And he’d shot her at just the right distance, with just the right caliber of bullet, that it had skimmed the back of her skull rather than penetrating the bone. She’d felt the impact like a sledgehammer. It hadn’t just knocked her down, it had knocked her out cold. She didn’t remember hitting the floor. She only remembered coming to in the ambulance with her face stiff and sticky with blood and the mother of all headaches pounding at her temples and behind her eyes. “You should buy a lottery ticket,” said the doctor who’d examined her once she reached the hospital. “This is a one-in-a-million outcome for a headshot. I don’t know why it didn’t kill you.” She’d sat there, numb while the doctor stapled the gash in the back of her scalp back together and the detective handling her ‘case’ filled in the massive blank where her memory showed her only blackness instead of what had actually happened. Reassuring her yet again that she was safe now that her attacker was dead, the detective had then asked her questions.

She hadn’t answered them. She’d barely heard them. Her Master was dead. The man she had loved with all the diligence and obedience that her too-thin body possessed had been killed. Murdered. After he’d shot her. In the head. Because he’d wanted to kill her more than he’d wanted to keep her with him. She stared at the wall directly in front of her, not moving, only blinking even when she heard the door to her room open. Unlike the nurses with their squeaky shoes, the footsteps that entered behind her were slow and almost silent as they approached the bed. After a moment, a chair was drawn up to her beside. It creaked under the weight of whoever sat. “Hello, Anna,” said the voice of a man she didn’t recognize. Unmoving, Pony kept her gaze fixed on the wall. She didn’t greet him back.

“My name is Marcus Hawke. I’m a friend of Spencer’s. I’ve been asked to help you.” It took her a moment to process who he meant. She only knew one Spencer, and he was the manager of the east coast branch of Black Light, one of the best BDSM-oriented clubs in the States. Master had hated the man, a sentiment Spencer had returned in spades. He’d been nothing but cold toward them for almost as long as they’d been going to Black Light, right up until he’d banned them from coming back. Because he was jealous of him, Master had said. Master was the better Dom and the pathetic club manager couldn’t stop lusting after Master’s menagerie girls. If he were alive, Master would tell her neither Spencer, nor his friends, were worth their time. Her jaw clenched and her stare hardened as she stared fixedly at the wall. “Okay.” The chair creaked as the man, Marcus, got up. Dragging the chair behind him, he rounded the foot of the bed. Out of the periphery of her vision, she noted him via the most abstract details—the snug fit of his worn jeans, the glint of silver off his rodeo belt buckle, the hug of his white polo shirt, and the bulge of his muscular forearms as he came around the end of the bed with a slight limp to his step and set the padded chair down directly in front of her.

Clean shaven, he looked to be in his mid-forties. His skin was tan and weathered from years in the sun. His eyes were stone gray, she noted, fighting not to look at him directly but to keep her glare fixed on the wall. His hair was brown and just long enough to tie back into a ponytail. Giving the crease at the thighs of his jeans a tug, he favored his right leg as he sat back down. Elbows on knees and big hands folded together, he brought himself down to her level, physically blocking her stubborn view so she had no choice but to look at him. Except she did have a choice, and she refused. She glared at his ear instead and did her best not to satisfy his invasion of her privacy with even the smallest reaction. “Like I said,” he continued mildly. “My name is Marcus Hawke, and I was asked to take your case.” She already had a detective. She didn’t need another one. “I know you’ve been through a lot,” he said. “Obviously, you’d rather not talk to me, but I’m here anyway. So, unless you tell me to go fuck myself, then I’ll do the talking and you can do all the listening.

Agreed?” Her jaw clenched, but Pony said nothing. “I’ll take that as consent. Okay, let’s do this.” Tipping his head, Marcus put his face directly into her staring path. Refusing to give him the satisfaction of making her acknowledge him, she glared at him directly now. “Your name is Anna Mitchell.” She could see it in his dark, knowing eyes. He was waiting to see if she would protest his use of it. “Or I could call you Pony, if you prefer.” He waited again, and only after her lengthy silence added, “No? Well, Anna it is, then.” Master Ethen he was not, not even close. “Your life has gone through a hell of an upheaval,” Marcus noted, seeming not the slightest bit bothered by her disrespectful stare. “Unfortunately, if I’m involved, then the upheavals aren’t yet over.” He shifted in his chair far enough to reach into his back jeans pocket and pull out a thin packet of folded papers. He held them up for her to see.

“This,” he said, making himself comfortable again, “is a temporary court order granting me legal guardianship over one Miss Anna Mitchell until such a time as your competency can be proven with relative satisfaction. We’ve an uphill battle ahead of us. The doctors here are advocating for you to be hospitalized. It’s their opinion that you aren’t mentally sound and I’ll tell you, this vaguely hostile silent treatment you’ve got going isn’t helping anyone.” Her chest was so tight she couldn’t feel herself breathing. He couldn’t be serious. She wanted to snatch the papers from his hand, but her muscles were locked up tight and her arms refused to move. “Still nothing to say?” he asked, giving her every opportunity to protest. Stubbornness and fury rising hot and fast to fill up every grieving corner of her being, she shook from the effort it took to hold it silently in. “All right then, let’s continue. You’re five-foot-six and you weigh eighty-seven pounds. You were living in a house with plentiful access to healthy food, so you’re going to need to come up with an explanation for why you’re this malnourished and dehydrated if you don’t want the courts to side with your doctors. Unfortunately, your medical charts now include the diagnosis ‘anorexia nervosa.’ Fortunately, eating disorders, while considered mental illnesses, don’t usually lead to hospitalization. Which takes us right back to your next ‘unfortunately,’ because we both know that’s not what’s going on here, don’t we?” She swallowed hard, locking her jaw.

“You’ve got marks all over your body,” he continued evenly, his returning stare steady and neutral, despite the accusation in his words. “Old, new, infected and scarring. They’ve chalked it down to self-harm and it’s obvious it’s been going on for a while. I don’t for a second doubt that you have punished yourself, but I think I also know where the order to do it came from. Am I wrong?” “Don’t talk about him,” Pony warned, breaking her silence for the first time and before she could stop herself. “He’s dead,” Marcus said evenly. “Murdered,” she spat. “I’m very sorry for your loss.” She caught her breath, locking herself in position in bed before every wildly reacting nerve in her body threw her upright so she could scream in his face—You are not! Nobody is! I loved him! Something she would continue to do right up until she died, even though he’d shot her in the head. In a hot rush, her anger abandoned her, leaving her bereft in that stupid hospital bed with nothing but the burn of tears filling up the back of her throat until it reached her eyes. She blinked furiously. “You must have loved him very much,” Marcus said softly. None of the sympathy she could hear in his voice reached his eyes. Her breath hitched, catching in her throat as she fought not to cry. “You don’t know anything about me.

” “I know more than you think,” he corrected. “What I don’t, you’ll have plenty of time to tell me on your own. I’ve already talked to the nurses. They’re bringing your clothes and discharge papers. As soon as you’re dressed, we’ll leave here together.” “I’m not going anywhere with you,” she rasped, the sting of tears growing stronger. He held up the packet of papers for her to see the court seal on the front. “Yes, Anna, you are. For the next thirty days, I am your legal guardian and don’t for a second think this is my first rodeo.” Her gaze dropped to his belt buckle before she could stop herself. “Not that kind of rodeo.” A corner of his mouth curled. “I’m retired now. Before that, I spent eighteen years as a bounty hunter. The last thirteen of those, I spent as a bounty hunter who specialized in deprograming what some people would call mind control—cult members, victims of long-term abuse and/or violent hostage or kidnapping situations.

Stockholm Syndrome. That sort of thing.” “I am not a victim,” she spat. “I don’t have Stockholm’s!” He studied her, but didn’t argue. “What makes me uniquely qualified for your case, and the reason Spencer called me is because I have twenty-two years’ experience as a Dom. My taste runs toward extreme service submissives, what some would call slaves. I have trained—or programmed—every submissive I’ve taken. I also have some experience in de-programming submissives who have come from, let’s say, the care of inexperienced or abusive so-called masters.” Her anger flared even hotter. Her voice shook now every bit as much as the rest of her. “Master was not so-called. You didn’t know him! You have no right to talk about him like that! You have no right to talk about him at all! If you think for one second I’m going anywhere with you…” “Over the course of the next thirty days, we are going to talk about a lot of things that are going to make you very uncomfortable.” He waved the packet of papers. “And yes, you are coming with me—” “Never!” “—if I have to carry you out of here over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes,” he concluded. “This is happening, whether you want it to or not.

The only thing you have a choice in is whether you want to cooperate and help me get you the best possible outcome at your competency hearing thirty days from now, or if you want to be difficult, in which case, you are going to find your ability to make your own decisions hampered for quite a long time.” Her jaw dropped. “You can’t.” “Read it.” He handed her the packet of court documents. Snatching them from his hand, she promptly ripped them into pieces and threw them back in his face. “That was a copy,” he said mildly. “I’ve already had it filed with the hospital and my local police department, just in case you decide you want to go that route.” “Get out,” she hissed. “I’m not going anywhere with you. Puppy!” she bellowed toward the door. “Cynthia has her own healing to do. Her Dom took her home, pretty much like I’m about to do with you.” Heart beating hard behind her ribs, she shook her head. “You’re not my Dom.

” Something she couldn’t quite read flittered through his dark eyes, there and gone before she could figure it out. “No, I’m not. I’m nothing like he was, something you should be very grateful for. I’m actually going to treat you with respect. Or at least, I’m going to try to for as long as your behavior allows it.” “And if it doesn’t?” she returned. “What are you going to do then, shoot me in the head?” Been there. Done that. She had the staples in her head to prove it. His eyes narrowed slightly, considering his next move. She didn’t give him the chance. “I’m not going anywhere with you,” she said, rolling over and putting her back to him. “Go away. My head hurts.” She lay down on her right side now, arms tightly folded across her stomach and her legs drawn up.

She closed her eyes against the pinch of pain that accompanied her soft contact with the pillow. The staples beneath the gauzy bandage that covered her wound pulled, bringing on another wave of stinging tears that she was determined not to cry. Because she was Pony—tall, regal, beautiful and aloof. The first in Master’s Menagerie. Foremost in his heart and his home. The one he’d said he would love forever and yet in reality the one he’d preferred the least. The one he didn’t care that he still had if he couldn’t also have the others. The useless one. The worthless one. The one he’d tried to kill. Things would have been so much better for everyone if only he’d succeeded

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Updated: 19 June 2021 — 12:28

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