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Ever since Ian’s death, money, which had never been much of an issue in Alex’s life before, became just that—an issue.
MI6 seized and closed Ian Rider’s accounts, as was standard protocol in the case of an agent’s demise, to be bestowed to his family or persons indicated in his will. Unfortunately, Alex was still four years shy of the age of majority, and therefore unable to be legally granted custody of his uncle’s accounts. Jack, while being of appropriate age, wasn’t a member of the family, so the money was just as off-limits to her as it was to Alex. And the life insurance policy was really nothing more than a bad joke. Ian Rider obviously hadn’t planned on dying this early, but he had, and Jack and Alex soon found themselves in turbulent financial waters.
Without an employer and therefore no paycheck, it was only a matter of time before house payments, utilities, groceries, and the myriad other commodities depleted Jack’s personal bank account. Alex worried that they would lose the house (when he wasn’t worried about losing his life, of course, kisses and hugs to MI6), but Jack found a day job working for a law office in the West End and a night job working the bar at Blonde, a semi-reputable club in Soho. They were going to make it.
Naturally, Alex felt guilty about his inability to contribute to their financial situation, even though Jack’s jobs afforded them a modest life in the home that they both loved. She routinely assured him not to worry about money, told him that he was too young to carry these burdens, that she enjoyed the work, etcetera. Alex, in turn, did his best to help out around the house, becoming quite skilled with the vacuum cleaner. He even surprised Jack with a homemade chicken dinner one night, and even though the meat was like wood and the potatoes were lumpy and wet, Jack showered him with compliments and praise. Then she introduced him to the frozen food section at the grocery store.
After completing his third mission for MI6, Alex found himself considering ways in which he might be able to become financially (and personally) independent. But he was only fourteen, too young to earn a self-sustaining income, and he had school to think about. There was no way he would be able to take a job even if he managed to find one, and nights were simply out of the question; he had enough make-up work to keep him busy eighteen hours a day.
He considered panhandling, hocking his personal belongings, cutting lawns, and opening a lemonade stand. Each idea found its way into the proverbial dust bin. Alex racked his brains. Surely there had to be way for a teenage boy to make a little money in this world.
And there was.
He had been digging through some of his old belongings, looking for items that might possibly be of value, when he came across the old Canon 35mm camera he’d gotten for Christmas in 1998. It was a little scuffed and dusty, but the lens was still in top condition. Maybe, instead of selling it, he could use it to his advantage—after all, why sell a fishing rod when you could sell a hundred fish? People paid good money for a photo of a flower or a beat-up chair, thought Alex. All he needed was some fancy black-and-white film, a dilapidated warehouse with broken windows, and he’d be set.
So Alex went out and bought a few rolls of film, then spent a Saturday afternoon riding the London tubes, scouting for appropriate scenes and subjects. He found a few things of interest, like daisies growing out of a bit of rusty metal in a junk yard, a wall sprayed with graffiti and plastered with concert posters, a double-decker bus in Piccadilly Circus, things like that. Then he found the building he’d been searching for.
It was perfect—crumbling bricks and cracked windows and afternoon sunlight painting bright rectangles on the grungy walls . . . It had everything. Alex found it on the edge of Stockwell, left to rot quietly to death in an old weed-choked train yard. He crawled in through one of the windows and discovered a photographer’s dream come true, a veritable paradise of visual delights. Though he was by no means an artist, Alex knew potential when he saw it. The only drawback was that he couldn’t take a hundred and twenty photos of shadows on the wall and expect to sell them at five pounds apiece. He needed a subject.
Well, thought Alex logically, why not me?
He scrounged up an old paint ladder and configured the timer on the camera. He chose a room with nice stained bricks and light streaming in from the window, lots of contrast. He wished he’d worn a better outfit, though—it would seem silly, a teenager in a Nike shirt and sneakers taking pictures of himself. Well, he was alone . . . and models took off their clothes all the time, right?
Alex toed off his shoes and socks and pulled his shirt over his head, leaving on just his jeans. Maybe he could look like an orphan or something. Smudge some dirt on his face, write something profound and moving on his chest—yes, like “lost” or something—or find a rock and scratch out a message on the bricks behind him. Hell, this was going to be easy.
Later, Alex would admit that he got a little bit carried away. He was so glad to have found such a fantastic location that he got swept up in the heat of the moment. The shutter snapped incessantly. He pouted. He brooded. He spread himself against the wall and mussed up his hair. He looked directly into the lens and turned his back on it. He unbuttoned his fly and stretched in the sunlight, long and lean and tan, skin glowing in the summer rays, with the shadows of his eyelashes falling on his smooth cheeks. He knew he was totally objectifying himself, but he didn’t mind—it was actually kind of fun. He was just goofing around. Not as if these dumb photos were actually going to sell.
The week after he had the photos developed, they sold for £77.23 on eBay. Counting the copies he made from the negatives, the total came to £217 (and still climbing). His ratings skyrocketed, his feedback was through the roof, and Alex suddenly had fans from all over the world raving about what a “nice, good-looking young man” he was and begging for autographs and new photos.
That was how it began. An innocent gesture of charity and generosity, a little extra money in the bank. But Alex had no idea just how lucrative this business would turn out to be.
Two and a half years later.
Friday nights, when Jack worked late at Blonde, were Five-Free Nights. Five free minutes of Alex Rider in front of the webcam, doing whatever was written on the slip of paper he pulled from the Suggestion Box. He went through them all beforehand of course, weeding out the extreme , dangerous, and downright disgusting ones. If he didn’t have a prop or costume available, he’d improvise. No complaints yet. Most of the suggestions were either funny or flirty, like seeing if he could stick out his tongue and touch his nose or eat a popsicle in five minutes without biting it. He was surprised at how many viewers were intrigued just to watch him do normal things, like dry off after a shower or talk about his day at school. Other suggestions were not so tame. He did them anyway and watched his hit-counter spin into the millions.
But Five-Free-Fridays came at a cost. Five pounds a show or a £10 one-month subscription. A six-month subscription was a deal at £50. Of course, that was only for the five minutes on Friday; a full subscription to www.hello-alex.org with access to all 200 gigabytes of video, audio, and photos was £20 a month, but that included Live Fridays, and subscribers could upgrade to an exclusive VIP membership for only five pounds additional per month with “backstage access” to goofs, bloopers, and rare performances of Alex at age fourteen. The No-Restrictions Package was very popular.
Almost overnight, Alex became the sweetheart of the online amateur porn industry. He raked in an obscene amount of money, and that didn’t even include the merch. (The calendar was a best-seller, as was the mini-poster, and the photos he had taken in the warehouse in Stockwell were collectors’ items by now.) He contracted out a lot of the work. He had people maintaining his website, other people handling his printed media. All private entities, of course, very professional, totally legit.
He’d gotten offers from a few small-time agencies—modeling, movies, competing websites—but they were shady and catered to more hardcore material, so Alex had said no. Besides, he didn’t want to do this forever. Same could be said of his feelings concerning MI6. He didn’t quite know what he did want to do with his life just yet, but it sure wasn’t going to be playing spy with terrorists or jerking himself off every week for the perverts on the internet. And there were a lot of perverts on the internet.
Aside from the people he personally paid, nobody knew anything about Alex other than his face or his first name. Outside of the world of online pornography, he was just another kid going to school with other kids, playing football and doing homework and keeping the world out of the hands of madmen. He actively guarded his personal life, which was something he was becoming used to in his dealings with MI6. He had a dedicated server and a dynamic IP with maximum security-style privacy filters. The less people knew about him, the better. Most of his subscribers knew him only as Alex, an ‘eighteen’-year-old boy with a webcam and plenty of self-confidence. That was how Alex wanted to keep it, his online life separate from his real life. And he did keep them separate.
For a while.
Alex signed on at ten o’clock, turning on the streaming web broadcast with a smile. “Hello, people of Earth,” he said, his usual greeting. “I’m Alex, and this is Five-Free Friday at Hello-Alex dot org. Thank you all for coming.” He threw in a demure wink.
The webchat exploded with line after line of hellos and all-caps exclamations of love, lust, and unwavering loyalty to “Alexander the Bait”.
Alex chuckled and bit his lip bashfully. (That was a real crowd-pleaser, and he knew he looked sexy when he did it.)
“Okay,” he said, slipping into his role. “First I’m going to begin by answering a few emails on the air. That’s always a treat.” He picked up a sheet of paper from his desk. “J-Bear from San Francisco writes: ‘Dear Alex, I was watching your show last Friday and you mentioned you were a soccer fan. Who is your favorite team?’ Well, J-Bear, that’s easy—the team with the sexiest players.”
It was a terrible joke, but LOLs and LMAOs filled the chat window. Putty in my hands, thought Alex smugly. The hornier they were, the easier they were to please.
“Next email.” He picked up another paper. “From Lorenz77 in Paris. ‘Dear Alex, I love your site! I just can’t get enough of your tight little ass.’ Wow, merci beaucoup, Lorenz! ‘Would you ever consider making a full-length movie with other stars? I think you’d look really cute getting fucked in those rainbow socks of yours.’”
Alex smirked, his blush coming naturally. “Well, Lorenz, I’m not quite sure where I’ll end up after this, but on the next Wicked Wednesday Show, I’ll wear my rainbow socks just for you.” He kissed his finger and pointed toward the cam, and at that moment several Alex fans around the world prematurely got their money’s worth.
“All right, one more email before the show. This one comes from Kenji in Osaka, who writes: ‘Dear Alex, A guy like you needs some playmates who aren’t made of rubber. Maybe you should invite some of your school friends over for a slumber party?’” Alex chuckled. “Hm, slumber parties? They sound all right, but there’s way too much sleeping involved. I’d much rather stay up all night with my gadgets—at least they never get soft on me!”
L’s and O’s erupted onscreen, and more than a few users volunteered their services for when the gadgets broke. Alex grinned and glowed and played cute for the camera. The viewers wolfed it down like candy and asked for seconds.
“Well, that’s it for the mail. Thank you for your letters, everyone,” he said, coyly tucking a tuft of blond hair behind his ear. “Keep sending them and just maybe they’ll end up on the show!”
And with that, the teaser was over. Time to get down to business.
Alex cleared a space in front of the keyboard and set a shoebox on the desk. It had been painted red and had “Suggestion Box” written in glitter glue on the side. “And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Drum roll, please.”
The chat window buzzed like a hive. Alex reached through the hole in the top of the shoebox, dug around for a few seconds with a devilish grin on his face, then pulled out a single strip of paper. He read it with wide eyes and then started laughing.
“Oh no, I just recovered from last Friday!” He held it up in front of the webcam so that viewers could read it.
The chat window poured line after line of garbled capital letters and exclamations. The Purple Dildo (also known as PD, or Petey) was a veiny, eight-inch, jelly-rubber legend at Hello-Alex.org, and probably the most requested toy in the toy box. The viewers loved it, and screen captures of Alex using it never seemed to get old.
“Alright, Petey plus money shot it is then,” he sighed, rolling his eyes as he rose from his chair and turned on the video camera. A larger, zoomed-in picture appeared over the webcam’s grainy feed, focused on the area beside Alex’s bed.
“I’ll have to prep the scene a bit,” Alex said to the camcorder, peeling off his shirt and tossing it aside. “You don’t mind if I do it in front of the camera, do you?”
Nearly every expression for the word ‘no’ in human language clogged the chat screen. Alex smiled and worked his way out of his clothes until the moment came when he slid his boxers down his lean, muscular thighs and kicked them away. He stood naked in front of the camera, confident and comfortable, grinning and mischievous.
“What do you think?” He did a slow 360-turn, showing off his firm, round ass and broadening shoulders. He was developing very nicely, thanks largely to hapkido training and being captain of the Brookland football team this year; already that typical teenage ranginess was beginning to disappear as he filled out into his new adult body. (Not that his pubescent body hadn’t been beautiful—it had been. And he had the numbers to prove it.)
If the chat were capable of broadcasting audio, it probably would have sounded like the final match of the World Cup.
Alex giggled and lowered himself to his knees. “All right, give me a second to find the beast.” He leaned over and began to rummage around under his bed, showing off some of his more intimate parts in the process. Hundreds of creeps across the globe were going to need new keyboards and monitors after tonight.
“Got it!” Alex emerged with the purple phallus in his hand. To say it looked colossal would be an understatement.
He grimaced melodramatically. “Gosh, I hope it’ll fit. I haven’t used it in a while,” he narrated, settling down onto the carpet and grabbing a tube of personal lubricant from the drawer of his nightstand.
“I keep forgetting how big this thing is,” he continued, squeezing out a blob of jelly and spreading it up and down the thick, sinewy length. “I mean, it’s huge. Does anyone remember the first time I used it? I think it made me cry . . . but it was a good hurt.” He winked.
The deviants in the peanut gallery were likely gurgling and drooling by now.
Satisfied that the dildo was sufficiently greased, Alex rose up on his knees and looked at the digital clock on his nightstand. “Alright, it’s eleven past the hour. At twelve past I’m going to start. Hm, I should’ve named this segment ‘Five Minutes to Fuck Myself’.”
He chuckled, but he was trying hard to focus. It would be a challenge to get off in five minutes, especially since he had to take it slow. He closed his eyes and tried to think sexy thoughts as he positioned the long rubber shaft underneath himself.
The clock blinked to 10:12, and Alex called it. The bulbous, slippery head popped through his clenching hole, stretching him with a dull ache.
“Ah,” he groaned softly, wincing. It didn’t really hurt that bad (he did this sort of thing regularly), but it looked good on camera. He bit his lip and impaled himself, sliding down onto the long, gleaming dildo, inch by massive inch.
“Fuck, I’m so tight,” he muttered. “It’s so big . . .” His penis twitched as it began to fill with blood.
He rose up a little, the muscles in his thighs outlined in his flesh, then went down again. Another inch. And another.
“God . . . fuck.”
Alex continued to swell, his foreskin tightening over the head of his cock as his body responded to the sensation of being penetrated. He repositioned himself, trying to find his sweet spot. If he could do that within the next minute, the rest would be a snap.
“Oh!” When the toy was almost buried to the hilt, Alex felt a familiar burst of pleasure rush through his groin. There it was.
He glanced over at the clock. Three minutes to orgasm. No time to dilly-dally—he had a schedule to keep. He began to work up and down, up and down, pleasuring himself as quickly as he could. The tip of his cock, flushed dark pink, began to glisten with pre-come. He shut his eyes and thought about sex, fucking, getting fucked, all of the filthy things that had come to live in his mind ever since the day he realized his body had a price tag.
He sighed and let out a soft moan. What a life. Fucking himself for the faceless perverts on the web three times a week. Grinding onto a rubber lover, putting on a show, actively destroying his virtue for pay. He was a whore, and he enjoyed it. He enjoyed the attention, the praise, the feeling of greedy eyes on his body, loving him, wanting him. Like standing outside the cage of a hungry lion, so much flesh and blood, ripe and young and tender, kept safe by those iron bars.
Sometimes Alex felt as if he were the one inside the cage.
He took the phallus down to its base and grasped his straining cock. He squirmed, forcing the dildo to rub up against his prostate. All it took was three strokes and then he came, panting and thrusting as a thick stream of come poured into his hand. He jerked, spasm after spasm wracking his body until their power finally ebbed, leaving him feeling wonderfully exploited and £1048 richer than he was that morning.
He looked over at the clock and smiled. “Made it,” he uttered, still trying to catch his breath. He rose to his knees and gingerly removed the toy with a wet squelch, sighing with relief.
“I’m going to be feeling that tomorrow,” he joked, standing to his feet and sauntering over to the camera. “Thanks for keeping me company tonight. I hope you’ll come see me again next Friday.” He kissed his fingers and wiggled them goodbye. “This is Alex, signing off.”
Then he killed the feed and shut down everything but the chat.
Finally, thought Alex, wiping his sticky hand on his thigh. All that smiling was beginning to hurt his face. Oh well. It was a living.
He went to his closet and pulled on a terry-cloth robe, tying the belt loosely. He yawned and stretched, ignoring the dull, empty ache inside him, and entertained thoughts of a hot shower. That always felt good after a hard show.
He went about gathering his pajamas, glancing at the computer screen as he passed. A few members were still online, chatting with each other about the show and critiquing it like pornographic connoisseurs. One of them was talking about how would love to introduce Alex to his own Purple Petey. Gross.
Alex was just about to turn away when the chat window froze, blinked, and cleared. Only one user was left in the forum, screen name “Anonymous”. Alex would have ignored it and gone on to take his shower if his attention hadn’t been hooked by a single line of text:
Anonymous: I enjoyed your show, Alex.
Great. Probably another hacker using a sweep bot. It had happened a couple times before, usually by the more dedicated perverts determined to score a one-on-one chat with the teen star. Alex almost never responded. He’d already earned his pay for the night—this was his time now.
He leaned over the keyboard and prepared to close the chat. But then another line appeared.
Anonymous: It was a good act. You do it very well.
Oh boy. A critic. Alex rolled his eyes and sat down at his desk, logging on with his usual handle.
A moment or two. Then:
Anonymous : Your orgasm was strong, but your face was full of shame.
Anonymous : Why do you do this to yourself, Alex?
Alex felt himself bristle defensively. Who was this puritanical prick to judge his morality? He’d watched the show—he was the one with problems.
Alex: becos i like it
Anonymous: Really? What would your uncle think if he could see you now?
Alex felt a cold shiver run down his spine. His heart began to thud with panic.
Alex: do i know you?
Alex: who are you?
Anonymous: I don’t think Ian would be proud of what you have become.
Fear and horror blazed through Alex’s body. Fucking hell, who was this psycho? Some kind of stalker? Someone who knew him, obviously. Maybe someone playing a trick. A friend at school? Someone at MI6? Oh Jesus Fucking Christ—
Scenario after scenario assailed his mind, each one worst than the last. Mrs Jones—or Blunt, Crawley, somebody—had seen Alex assault himself with a giant purple cock on the internet. Oh God oh God this couldn’t be happening.
Alex: WHO ARE YOU??
He waited, his eyes wide and his heart drumming in his chest.
Anonymous: I am here.
Alex sprang back from his desk and almost overturned his chair. This had to be a joke. It was simply too awful to be real. It was nightmarish. It was horrific. It had to be a madman, somebody trying to scare him. Maybe a religious nut. Maybe a family friend. Hell, maybe it was Jack. Maybe she’d finally found him out. Fuck, he should have never responded. He should have just closed the chat and then none of this—
Alex nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a tap at his window. For one crazed, hysterical moment he had an excerpt from Poe’s The Raven sizzle through his memory. Suddenly there came a tapping/As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door . . .
‘Tis some visitor, Alex thought, staring at the drawn curtains while clenching the collar of his robe in his white-knuckled hand. Only this and nothing more oh shit what do I do . . .
The tapping came again, light but insistent.
A bird or something. A chipmunk. A bat. This was the second storey. No one could be standing out there. Not unless it was someone over thirteen feet tall, or maybe holding a long pole—
Tap tap tap.
“Just do it, Alex,” he ordered himself, marching over to the window. “Don’t think, just do it.”
He ripped back the curtains and stared out into the black night beyond the window panes. No raven. No pole. No escapee from the insane asylum. But something was still out there.
Alex undid the latch and threw open the window, letting in the cool evening air. Nothing happened. He knew the Thing was waiting for him to lean out. That was how it happened in the movies. Waited until it saw you and then it struck.
He went to his desk and wrenched open a drawer, grabbed a pair of metal scissors. He held them in his fist like a knife, the silver blades gleaming. All right, now he was ready to lean out for a look. Lean out and stab the first thing that came at him.
Alex crept to the window and stuck his upper body out into the night. It had just rained. The air was damp and sweet. A dog barked in the distance. He looked down, vaguely making out the shadows of the hedgerow and the narrow side yard. Nothing. It was only when he realized—with a gut-wrenching wash of terror—that there might be something above him that something above him actually did come down.
Alex jerked back with a cry and slashed at the shadowy form with the scissors. A gloved hand shot out and seized his wrist, and with one twist the weapon dropped from Alex’s paralyzed hand. Before he could lash out with a counterstrike, he was suddenly looking down the barrel of a 9mm Beretta 92FS. It had a suppressor fitted to the muzzle. Beyond the gun was the upside-down face of a man in a black ski mask. Cold blue eyes pierced through Alex’s soul, and he knew he was fucked before the stranger even spoke.
“Don’t scream,” Yassen Gregorovich muttered. “Don’t run. Do either and I will shoot you. Understand me, Alex?”
Alex nodded. His mind felt broken. A dead man was hanging in his window, threatening to shoot him. A dead man who had just watched Alex sodomize himself on internet video with a giant rubber knob. A dead man who had once known Alex’s dead father. Alex wished he were the fainting type. He didn’t want to be conscious for what would follow—it could only get worse from here.
Yassen released Alex’s wrist and allowed him to take a step back. The assassin disappeared for a moment, then reappeared in an upright position, lowering himself through the window boots-first. He must have been hanging upside-down from the roof or something, Alex realized. Christ. The man was half spider, half Cirque du Soleil. Alex backed up, giving him a wide berth.
The formerly-dead Russian stood in Alex’s bedroom and holstered his gun, removed his ski mask. He hadn’t changed much since the last time Alex had seen him, aside from looking a little less pale and bloody. He was graceful, unreadable, still had the same chiseled lips and long eyelashes and ginger hair. Still a lying, treacherous murderer who’d nearly gotten Alex killed by SCORPIA.
Yassen gently shut the window, drew the curtains, and turned to pin the teenage boy in place with a hard, accusing glare. “What do you think you are doing?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” Alex spat, unable to restrain himself. He felt a little unhinged right now.
Yassen glanced around the room, noting the computer, the webcam, the clothes on the floor . . . the purple abomination lying among them. “So this is your ‘studio’,” he said, words dripping with contempt. “It looks much smaller on my laptop.” He narrowed his eyes at Alex, scanning him from head to toe. “So do you.”
Alex flushed with anger. “I didn’t realize my movies were capable of raising the dead. What do you want, a live demonstration?”
In the blink of an eye, Yassen had Alex by the throat, squeezing hard enough to incapacitate but not hard enough to choke. He looked extremely angry. His face was red, his lips pulled into a thin, tight line.
“You think it’s funny?” he said. “You are a prostitute, Alex. You have sex with strangers. Not physically, but virtually. You sell yourself to them. You degrade yourself, dishonor your mother and father. You should be ashamed.”
He released Alex with a disgusted shake of his head.
Alex massaged his throat and hoped there wouldn’t be a bruise. “Since when do you care about right and wrong?” he demanded feebly. “You kill people. You’re a murderer.”
“I cannot help being what I am, Alex. You, however, can. And you were not meant to be a whore. That I know.”
“Really? How insightful. Since you know so bloody much about me, why don’t you just adopt me and tell me how to live my life?”
Yassen slipped into a quiet, controlled fury. “For two years I have been dead. I was happy. I was free from Scorpia, free from everything. I had a new name, a new life.” His lip curled in a snarl. “And then you decide to do this.”
He seized Alex’s robe and ripped it open, exposing his nudity. Alex uttered an astonished cry and quickly pulled the robe closed, his face growing hot with embarrassment. God, Yassen Gregorovich had just seen him naked! Real-life naked, not playing-pretend-on-a-video naked. It was a wholly different feeling; painfully intrusive, violating. It made Alex feel dirty. He lowered his eyes, humiliated.
The assassin’s voice softened. “You bare yourself to those who would take advantage of you, hurt you, and use you,” he said. “And yet you hide yourself from those who care about you.”
He reached out and touched Alex’s cheek with his gloved hand. Warmth radiated from the leather, and Alex lifted his head. Yassen’s anger had faded. He looked sympathetic now, worried, almost paternal. Alex felt his shame deepen.
“It, it’s just temporary,” he insisted. “I plan to stop when I turn eighteen. I couldn’t let Jack support us both. It’s not fair. So what if it’s a little degrading. It pays good and every little bit helps.”
The light in Yassen’s eyes shifted. “You sound so much like I did at your age.”
Alex stared wordlessly, bewildered.
Yassen walked past him, his heavy boots leaving imprints in the carpet. He studied the framed photos on the bookshelf: Ian, Jack, and eight-year-old Alex at Christmas; a sweaty, thirteen-year-old Alex in his football uniform, grinning after a game; Ian and Jack standing in front of the house, each with an arm around the other; Ian and Alex in Colorado, bundled in their frosty ski suits.
Then Yassen moved to the computer, gazing at the inactive chat window with his hands clasped behind his back.
“You have no idea what you are getting yourself into,” he murmured. “This is how it starts. Coy little games. Erotic photos. But soon they will want more. And you will give them what they want—you must, or they will find other places to satisfy their needs.”
He leaned over and navigated to the front page of Hello-Alex.org while Alex stood by, helpless to stop him. The garish colors and bold-faced advertising that had been so normal before now seemed glaringly vulgar.
Yassen clicked on a link that took him to the video archive. He opened a clip of Alex, barely a day over fifteen, lying in bed and moaning obscenities in French while he ejaculated onto a teddy bear clamped between his thighs.
Alex covered his eyes and sank down onto the edge of his bed. He felt like dying.
Yassen closed the site and straightened with a solemn look. “This is no way for John Rider’s son to behave.” He paused, waiting to see if Alex had anything to add. There was only silence. Yassen removed his gloves slowly and tucked them into the pockets of his black BDUs.
“Soon you will become addicted to this life, if you are not already,” he said softly. “Then it will be too late for you. You will crave the attention and do anything to receive it. You will subject your body to torture and let yourself be taken by others.”
“Is that so?” asked Alex shakily. “I didn’t know you were in the business of predicting futures. Congratulations on being so fucking enlightened.”
Yassen ignored the jab and stared coolly at the boy.
“Have you ever had a cock shoved down your throat, Alex?” he asked suddenly. “A real one, with a real man attached to it, pulling your hair and forcing you to swallow until you cried?”
Alex’s lips parted, his brown eyes large and terrified.
“Have you ever been penetrated by a drunken man, two drunken men? Or tied to a bed and abused for hours on end? Continue down this path, Alex, and you may. It could be your future.” Yassen turned his head. “It was almost mine.”
Something tore out of Alex’s chest when he heard those words. “Wh . . . wh-what?” he stammered numbly.
Yassen crossed his arms and looked over at the pictures on the shelf. “Life was tough in Soviet Russia,” he said. “A lot tougher than yours, Alex. I did what I had to do to survive, even if it corrupted me. I begged, I stole. I hurt others for my own gain. I was also beaten, assaulted, and sold for sport. Compared to where I came from, this—” He gestured to the room. “—is heaven. Your life does not depend upon your little X-rated shows. You would not starve or freeze to death if you shut down the website tomorrow. You should be grateful for your freedom and stop peddling your own flesh.”
Alex lowered his head, staring at his lap. “I’m sorry you’ve had a hard life, Gregorovich, but you have no right to come in here and tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.”
“No, I suppose I don’t.” Yassen strode over to the bed and knelt down in front of Alex. “But who else, if not me? How can you be rescued if nobody knows you are in danger?”
Yassen’s voice fell to a hush. “I am not a good man, Alex, nor will I ever be, but I would walk through fire if it meant saving you from this fate. So would John.”
Angry tears welled in Alex’s eyes, his face contorting with emotion. “Stop using my father to manipulate me.”
“Why? Because I knew him better than you ever will? Because I can remember how it felt to be loved by him while you cannot?”
Yassen watched the first large, hot tears roll down Alex’s red cheeks. He reached out and brushed his fingers through the boy’s blond hair, gently and affectionately.
“Life can be horribly cruel sometimes, Alex,” he sighed. “It seems we have both suffered too much.”
Alex leaned away from the tender caresses. “Get out,” he mumbled.
Yassen withdrew his hand without a word and rose to his feet. He stared down at Alex for a few silent moments, then turned away and began walking toward the door. As he stepped over the crumpled clothes scattered across the floor, his boot knocked against the big purple dildo, half-hidden by a pair of boxer shorts. He stopped short, gazing down at it, then turned to look at Alex blankly.
“So this is how you cheapen something as precious as love,” he murmured, gesturing to the phallus. “By turning it into an object—no heart, no flesh, no soul.”
Alex said nothing. He’d had all he could take this evening. He sniffed wetly and rubbed his nose on his sleeve, his face blotchy and red. He sat on the edge of the bed, his robe hanging loosely off one smooth, pale shoulder. His knees peeked out between the terry cloth, his feet pigeon-toed on the carpet. He looked suddenly very young, vulnerable, and needy; a boy who’d gotten lost on the path to adulthood, taken the wrong turn somehow, and now wandered through a forest of hungry wolves.
Yassen reached down and unbuttoned his trousers. Alex looked up when he heard the rough sound of a zipper unzipping, and stared in utter disbelief as Yassen Gregorovich reached into his pants and pulled himself out. He was completely calm, his face stern and expressionless.
Alex averted his eyes, his cheeks ablaze and his mind shrieking in shock, but his curiosity quickly brought him back. Yassen stood before him in his black attire, unruffled, his cock—average-sized, uncut, and very real—seated in a tangle of coarse reddish hair, his testicles a warm, rosy pink. Any chances of his being deceased were abruptly dispelled. He was alive, very much so.
“Take a good look, Alex,” he said. “This is reality. If you cannot bear the sight of it, then you should find some other way to destroy yourself.”
To his astonishment, Alex felt a throb of arousal pulse through his groin. Was the sight of this man’s body turning him on? God, maybe he really was sick.
He licked his lips and forcefully dragged his eyes to Yassen’s face. “I . . . I can bear it.”
The Russian’s eyebrows arched slightly.
“Just like you can bear the sight of me fucking myself. Right?” Alex blinked, feeling strangely clear-headed and rational. “Did it make you want me, Yassen? Is that why you’re here?”
“I came here to help you, Alex,” he murmured, “but it seems I am too late.”
Alex stared at the man for a moment before he stood from the bed. He slowly untied the belt of his robe and let it slide down his naked body, crumpling at his feet. In spite of his bold behavior, he was blushing powerfully, blood coloring his face, his chest, his belly . . . his hardening cock.
“Actually, I think you arrived just in the nick of time,” he said, moving toward Yassen until he was close enough to feel the heat of his body.
The former assassin frowned down at the boy mere inches from his face. “I don’t fuck children,” he muttered.
“Don’t worry,” said Alex, placing his hands on Yassen’s hips and sinking to his knees. “I’m ‘eighteen’.”
Yassen started to growl a response but the words died on his lips when he felt Alex’s mouth slide over his cock, which began to rapidly harden in the wet, warm enclosure. He drew in a long, unsteady breath, his eyes fluttering half-closed and his hand sinking into Alex’s golden hair.
“You’re a lost cause, Rider,” he grunted, his fingers curling around blond tendrils until they were trapped in his fist. He pulled, jerking Alex off of his now full erection. The boy stared up at him, mouth open and lips glossy with saliva.
Yassen glowered menacingly. “If you ever do this to another man, Alex, I promise I will kill you both.”
“What makes you think I’d want to do this to any other man?” Alex stuck his tongue out and just barely licked a drop of pre-come oozing from Yassen’s cock. “It’s only you I want.”
Yassen clenched his fist, pulling the teen’s hair even tighter. “I’m old enough to be your father.”
“I’m young enough not to care.” He gazed at Yassen, his brown eyes dark with desire. “Do it. Do it and I’ll quit. I need this from you.”
“Because you’re the only one who knows how . . . how I—”
Yassen fell to his knees and pulled Alex’s head toward him, capturing his mouth in a violent, ravenous kiss. Alex’s hands reached down, fumbling blindly until they found the man’s member; he clasped it firmly in his fist and stroked once, twice. Yassen bucked forward and pushed Alex onto the floor, where he began an oral assault on the boy’s neck, nipping and biting and sucking until the skin turned dark red.
Alex wrapped his arms around Yassen’s broad shoulders, soaking in the incredible heat radiating from his black shirt. He bent his legs and spread them wide on either side of Yassen’s thighs. The trousers felt so rough and hard against Alex’s bare skin; his toes scraped the cold black boots—a living man, strong and heavy and aroused, trapping Alex helplessly, with a mind to have him. Alex bit his lip and moaned, feeling himself strain from the sheer intensity of his desire. He felt as if he could explode, and Yassen hadn’t even—
One of the Russian’s hands had slipped down between Alex’s legs and found his entrance, one middle finger thrusting into the still-lubricated heat.
Alex gritted his teeth and gripped Yassen’s shirt. “Yassennn,” he hissed raggedly, grinding his hips. “Hurry. Put it in.”
Yassen dragged himself off of Alex and hovered over him on his knees, panting for breath, his face as red and warm as his cock. “I was wrong, Alex. You’re not a whore. You’re a teenage slut.”
“I’m your teenage slut,” Alex said, then gasped as a hand slapped across his face, stinging his cheek with a sharp, bright pain. Before he could recover, Yassen had pinned Alex’s shoulder to the floor with one hand and lifted his leg with the other. In the span of one breath he entered him, driving forward into Alex’s tightness like a swordsman delivering the death blow.
Alex shut his eyes as his world shattered. “God, YES!” he screamed, oblivious to all feeling except Yassen’s hard flesh buried inside his body. At that moment he knew he would never, ever be able to get off on toys ever again. He was ruined, spoiled forever by this terrifying, powerful man who was supposed to be dead, permanently addicted to that which is natural and raw and more beautiful than any effigy of rubber or plastic.
They were right. There was no substitute for the real thing.
As Yassen forgot about restraining him and begin to move in and out of him, Alex wrapped his limbs around the man’s body, clinging to him and riding every bone-shaking thrust. Tears, neither of pain nor sorrow, squeezed out of his eyes and ran down his flushed cheeks.
“I love you,” he croaked, nuzzling his face against Yassen’s hot, sweaty neck. “I love you . . .”
Alex knew there would be no reply; it was foolish to think so innocently. So he laid back and allowed Yassen to fuck him ruthlessly, his head bumping into the floor with every penetration. It hurt a little, but not as much as his heart . . .
Then he felt a clammy hand crawl up the side of his neck and cup the back of his head, silencing the thumps on the floor. Alex opened his eyes and saw Yassen staring down at his face, still hammering into him, his normally cold blue eyes now warm and dark, almost fatherly. Alex’s lips parted, stunned. One corner of Yassen’s mouth curled upward into a faint smile, and a bead of sweat ran down the bridge of his nose, falling onto Alex’s tongue. He grasped the boy’s cock in his free hand at the same time he thrust straight into his prostate.
In that moment, Alex felt the entire range of human emotion coalesce in his groin and detonate like a nuclear bomb. He dug his fingers into Yassen’s shirt and jerked, shuddered, exploded. All over himself. All over Yassen. He was still spasming when he felt the Russian grip him to the point of pain and plow forward a few more times, then freeze with his head craned back and his eyes closed, his seed filling Alex’s body.
He grunted softly and loosened his grip, taking a few deep breaths. Below him, Alex was returning to Earth, a dazed, dreamy look in his eyes, almost as if he’d been shot full of hallucinogens and was just now waking up from a wild trip. He glanced around his room as if puzzled to be there, then looked down at his naked body, which was still united with Yassen’s. He gazed up at the man with wonder, then grinned faintly.
“Did you really mean what you said?” he asked.
“About killing me if I ever got with another man.”
“Yes.” Yassen paused, reconsidering. Drops of sweat stood out on his face, and his coppery hair made him appear even hotter. “No. I would kill the other man, and then I’d lock you away somewhere.”
“Jealous,” Alex smirked.
“Possessive,” corrected Yassen, then pulled out of the teen with a sloppy smack. Semen leaked from Alex’s body onto the carpet. Yassen grabbed a discarded t-shirt and used it to mop up the mess.
Alex sucked on his bottom lip and waited for him to finish. Then he said in a soft, timid voice, “Do you have to go?”
Yassen was already zipping up his pants and straightening his shirt. “I certainly can’t stay here.”
He stood up and extended his hands. Alex took them and was pulled to his feet as if he weighed nothing. Yassen handed him his robe. Alex held it but didn’t put it on. He seemed to be having trouble trying to say something. Yassen put his hand on the back of the boy’s head and pulled him forward, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
“Get rid of that site. Then we’ll talk,” he said, stepping away and starting toward the door. Halfway there he stopped, about-faced, and walked to the window.
“Isn’t the door easier?” Alex asked, watching as Yassen climbed out the window and perched on the sill.
“Yes . . . but I left my laptop on your roof. I kind of want it back.”
Alex hid the lower half of his face behind his robe and tried not to laugh out loud. Yassen sent him a feral grin and disappeared into the night without so much as a scrape of boots.
Alex released a few pent-up chuckles into the terry cloth before shutting the window and drawing the curtains. What a night. Now he really needed a shower.
He shrugged on the robe and tied the belt, then made his way across the room. He paused to look down at the grotesque purple dildo, and nonchalantly kicked the ugly thing back under the bed where it belonged.
He was too old to play with toys anyway.