Series: Recalcitrant Pet #1
Master Liam has never met a pet he couldn’t train, but beautiful pet Niko challenges more than his mastery. Can he train Niko to be obedient without losing his own heart? A new erotic series set in the Recalcitrant Pony Boy universe, a fantasy world of toys, pet play, and a master/slave dynamic.
Also in this series: Recalcitrant Pet 2: The Master
In my years as a pet trainer, I’ve found that more often than not, a pet’s behavior has more to do with the master, not the pet. Sometimes an owner’s bad habits have simply transferred to their pet. Sometimes an owner knowingly or unknowingly instigates the bad behavior. And sometimes it’s because the master is fickle, undisciplined, and boorish, all three of which described Cristoff perfectly.
“I can’t do a thing with him,” Cristoff was saying, his smug mouth and arrogant eyes reflecting a self-absorption that was unfortunately all too common among owners his age. He waved his hand in irritation at the raven-haired pet kneeling—in full earshot—by the window. “He used to be so sweet, and now he’s insolent, disobedient, and has offended everyone I’ve brought in to look him over. I paid a fortune for him—you wouldn’t believe how much I paid.” He emphasized the words as if this should be of paramount interest. “And now that I have Taryn,” he pulled a petite collared pet with jeweled cat ears nestled in his red hair to his side, “I simply can’t afford to keep two pets. But I can’t sell, him, either, without taking an unacceptable loss from his purchase price.”
I listened patiently—most of my job is listening and weighing—though it was clear to me that the pet, Niko, I believed his name was, was simply acting out at the arrival of this new rival competing for his master’s affections. “Did Niko know you were bringing home a new pet?”
Cristoff looked surprised by the question. “How would I know? I don’t discuss my business with my pets, though I suppose he could have heard about it from someone else in the household. But that’s no excuse for his behavior.”
He was right about that—it was no excuse, though it was understandable. “Can I talk to him?”
“Of course,” Cristoff said, irritated now that I’d dared to question his own behavior. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? But I’ll need to know soon if you’re going to take him on, because otherwise I’ll have to put him up for auction and take the loss.”
My polite nod was window dressing to acknowledge I was listening, and not any agreement with his words. In fact, my household was rather full at the moment, so I’d hoped to be able to resolve Niko’s issues in a few sessions here. But now that I’d met Cristoff for myself, I was already half-resolved to take him home.
I went to the window where the pet knelt patiently, and crouched down so we were on the same level. His head remained properly bowed, so he’d had some training, at least. I reached out to tilt his chin up with two fingers. He raised his eyes to me, a startling blue-grey, and blinked at me through dark lashes.
I was used to prized pets and beautiful men in my line of work, but this one was lovely enough to rival any of them. Raven hair, long enough to sweep across his forehead, the aforementioned stormy eyes, and creamy skin paired exquisitely with full lips and a well-formed face. I knew from checking his papers that he was two years into his pet service, and that Cristoff was his third master. Too young to have picked up the habits Cristoff had described.
But Cristoff hadn’t been exaggerating, I saw, as defiance flashed in those stormy eyes. The pet tore his chin from my gentle hold, shoulders shaking with some unknown rage.
I rose to my feet with a sigh. As full as my own household was, I’d have to take him with me; I wouldn’t be able to work with him here, with Cristoff’s toxic presence permeating the house. “I’ll take him for my usual three-week training period and arrange purchase for him after that, minus the fees we discussed.”
“As long as I get back what I paid for him, at least,” Cristoff said sourly.
I fixed him with a look I reserved for disobedient pets. “If you had any doubts about my abilities, why contact me at all?”
“Of course I have no doubts, Liam.” Cristoff said hurriedly. “Your reputation precedes you.”
“Then we’ll be off. Niko?” I turned to the pet and beckoned.
I wasn’t surprised when he balked. “I don’t want to go,” he said sullenly.
Cristoff strode across the room and backhanded him across the face so quickly I didn’t have time to react. A red rose bloomed on Niko’s cheek. His eyes flashed a mix of anger and misery. “You’ll go where you’re told,” Cristoff said, nudging Niko’s thigh with the toe of his boot. “Up, or I’ll send you the stables instead, and you can pull my cart like a pony. Would you prefer that?”
“No, Master,” Niko whispered miserably. He stood and padded reluctantly to my side. I put my hand to the back of his collar, hoping it would reassure him, but his shoulders just stiffened at my touch. At least attending to him gave me a moment to get my own anger with Cristoff under check.
Who only looked relieved, now that this problem was out of his hands. “Very good. My agent will be in touch. Taryn?” He gestured to the red-haired pet, who trotted swiftly to his side.
I couldn’t be out of there fast enough. “Come, Niko. My car is waiting outside."