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Chapter 1

Spike ran a hand over his hair, checking that not too much was astray from his tightly-bound braid, and blew out a great lung-full of air. This was his last chance to back out. He hated dealing with the slavers and the scum. The demons and humans here were the lowest of all. Even Angelus scorned them back in the day. But the pay was more than he could turn down.

The Watcher’s council had heard rumor of an untamable slave being brought in by ship this evening. The irony of  slave ships still coming to America from Africa was not lost on Spike. Giles was thinking Slayer. Spike was thinking get in, take a look, get out, report back, collect enough to live on for half a year.

Spike pulled on his “Big Bad” persona and crossed the unmarked barrier between the bad part of the town and the even worse part. He missed the swish of a leather coat and the easy stride he once had, but it was to his benefit when he listened to anyone try to tell that to him. The few that talked to him, that was. Spike was considered dead, and he’d gotten a clean slate. He doubted few would recognize him now. The “final battle” with the legions of hell had left him with a slight permanent limp and a lengthening of the scar that once hid in his eyebrow. He’d stopped bleaching and cutting his hair long ago and its dark brown length now was pulled tight against his skull and down his back in a fighter’s braid.

His new coat had been taken from a lawyer at the Rome branch of W & H. It was a good fit, falling off his shoulders and tailored in to fit his waist when belted, then the fuller skirt of it fell to mid-calf.  He’d paid enough attention to fashion to know this look wouldn’t last long, for most were simply not slim enough to pull it off, but while it was hot, he liked this coat. Pressed black pants with a narrow gray stripe tapered down to well-polished low-heeled boots. He carried a silver-topped ebony cane. Who’s the dandy highway man now?

His air of having every right to be there carried him far. He did his best not to breathe in the stench of the place, inhaling only when he needed to speak. Everywhere was the activity of cages and chains of humans, beasts, and unidentifiable beings moving from one place to another. The set up had the air of a clandestine street fair. He’d seen thousands such illicit events in his long existence and knew how to quickly reach the heart of it.

There, closest to the hold of the ship itself, was the security he was looking for. As expected, he was challenged. Doing his best not to fidget, he went through the courtly dance of  sign/countersign, name drop, name drop, money flash to get into the ship itself. Once the trail of the lies was passed, Spike willingly surrendered his few concealed weapons as well as his cane, exaggerated his limp, then was led up the gang plank and met by one of the top men. Oh, not the top man, Spike didn’t really want that, but this over-dressed thug would do nicely.

In his well-learned German accent, Spike blithely lied his way into seeing all the top stock. He was mostly interested in the girls, him being on the lookout for Slayers and what all, but it didn’t hurt to be thorough. Once he stepped into the area of the hold that had been curtained off, he knew his instincts had been right. 

A line of seven males stood in a row, each one well-muscled, healthy, and very bound. Spike did his best not to stare at the third one from the end. The flash of brown eye would have stopped his heart had he been human. He drew in a deep breath as he considered the first one in line. He looked without seeing at the brown, muscled body before him. Out of the myriad of stinks within the hold the one he sought soared over the others. 

He thought hard at the man in chains and slowly worked his way down the line. He’d never in a million years expected to call a code doughnut, and didn’t want his cover blown. Of course, it could be that his target wouldn’t recognize him. He was so far from the denim-wearing mooch he’d once been. Okay, so still wore jeans when not under cover, but he supported himself now. He absently spoke to the thug as he looked over the stock. He let little tidbits build his well-memorized story. It was easy to dismiss the non-humans as his boss had just bought a new estate in the Keys and wanted a human or two to pretty up the place and maybe provide some… entertainment.

He paused at the bronzed figure that stood tall third from the end. As he had with two others, he folded his arms and paused. The clear brown eye met his steadily.

“This one is pretty,” Spike said, reaching out to finger one of the gems in the slave’s long, thick brown hair. A tiny tightening of the lips was the only response. Perhaps Xander Harris didn’t recognize him. “Even with the eye patch.” Spike boldly ran a hand over a muscled forearm roped with veins and paused at a scar along the wrist, his eyes dating to find other scars on the massive body. “Pity he’s damaged.”

“That one won’t stay pretty. We’d magic him unscarred and he’d just get cut up again. He’s a damn good fighter, but he’s a rebel. Your boss probably won’t want him. Not for a pleasure slave.” Spike saw the brown eye darken marginally and felt a single angry, hard thump of the heart under his fingers.

"You don't know my boss, then," Spike laughed. "the brown eye flickered back to him and Spike saw a spark of curiosity in its depths. "He's a strange one. He sometimes finds flaws add character." Spike dismissed the captive and passed on to the last human in the line, giving him the same once-over he had the others. 

When done there, he tossed his head and rubbed his hands together. "Now, my favorite part. Let me have a look at the ladies."

He did not risk a look back and missed the unbreakable slave lowering his head to look at the place on his wrist the vampire had touched. 

On to Chapter 2

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