"Let's go," he barks, pointing his very real sword, and my muscles immediately tighten.

Several of the women shrink back. Others start to cry. Camille grabs my arm and pulls me to my feet. "Just do what they say," she whispers, and I can feel her fingers shaking as she tugs me toward the door.

Instinct has me pulling back, and she only tightens her grip.

The soldier snatches up a few of the sniveling ones and shoves them outside.

The bright sun pierces straight into my skull. I hold up my hand and squint at the same time I gulp in fresh ocean air. However, the reprieve is short lived as another soldier grabs me and shoves me to the side where I stumble into line with the other women. Camille again grips my hand and together we straighten our spines.

We're standing in a sandy courtyard in what looks like an old world marketplace. To the left and in front of us sit multi-level stone buildings. To the right is the holding cell we came from.

On the balconies of the buildings stand people. Men and women dressed in long colorful gowns and sashes, like they're in Roman cosplay.

They are laughing, drinking, eating, talking—oblivious to us terrified down here in the courtyard. Though I know she's not up there, I search every face for my sister.

Two soldiers pull a wooden platform over and situate it between us and the people on the balcony.

I glance over my shoulder to see the ocean spreading in an endless black. There is no other land in sight.

One of the soldiers yanks the woman at the end of our line and shoves her toward the wooden platform. Shaking, she stumbles up, looking back at us, eyes dry but so full of fear it twists my gut.

She's tall, easily six feet, and big boned with short dark hair.

"Take your gown off," a man barks and I snap my gaze to him.

He's fat and dressed in a white wrap with a black braided belt. He's got his hair combed forward in a slicked style and holds a whip.

The tall woman doesn't immediately move as she looks around, seemingly waiting for someone to intercede.

"Take your gown off," he barks again and unravels the whip.

My heart leaps into my throat. Just do what he says! I want to yell.

Quickly, she lifts the hip-length dress over her head and clutches it in front of her as she stares down at the fat man.

He sneers. "Turn around."

She does, slowly, her face pale and terrified. She makes eye contact with a few of us before returning to the front. She's wearing a white band across her chest and white underwear. But her breasts are big and the bra barely supports them.

The fat man looks up to the balcony where most of the people aren't even paying attention.

"Ten!" A short skinny man up and to the left yells.

Ten what?

"Fifteen." Another man...


My God, we're being auctioned!

The fat man scans the rest of the balcony, but when no one else yells anything, he motions the tall woman down and over to the left where—I'm just now noticing—a muscular bald man stands.

Fierce describes his strong jaw and stature. A trained fighter. Someone who could defend all of us women standing here in line. Wearing leather armor over a bare chest and baggy black pants cut off at the knee, he's dressed different than everyone else.

The tall woman puts her dress back on and the bald man snaps shackles on her ankles and motions her to sit.

I glance down the line to the next woman. She's got long dark hair and olive skin like me, and is small, too. Probably not more than five-foot-two and one-hundred-and-ten pounds.

She starts screaming and shaking her head and backing away. A soldier yanks her across the sand and shoves her up on the wooden platform. Her uncontrollable sobs fill the air and the fat man cracks his whip across her body.

I gasp.

"Shut up!" he snaps and motions for a soldier to wrangle her out of her tunic.

Sun glints off something and I track my eyes up to the balcony where an immaculate red-haired woman stands. Her bright hair is piled on top of her head in some fancy complicated knot pinned with jewels, and where everyone else wears colorful gowns, she has on the only silver one.

She lifts a golden rod in the air and doesn't shout out a number like the skinny man had.

The fat man doesn't wait for a counter offer and instead nods to a soldier. He pulls the small woman off the platform and tosses her over to the right where she's shackled and shoved down to sit in the dirt.

I want to run. But instead I stare at that small woman and the red welt across her face. I'll be of no use to my sister if I don't stay strong.

One by one it continues. Each of us going up to the wooden platform, the people on the balconies bidding, and we being separated into clumps.

I notice, though, the skinny man is buying most of the bigger girls and the red-haired woman is purchasing the majority of the petite ones. Is that where my sister went? With the red-haired woman?

A soldier approaches the next woman in line, the one standing beside Camille. Before he can yank her away she whispers to me, "He took your sister," and rolls her eyes up to the balcony and the skinny man.

I jerk my gaze up to where he stands. He's laughing and drinking. He has my sister. A bead of sweat slides down my back and I continue watching him. I will be bought by him. I'll figure it out.

Camille releases the hard grip she has on my hand and I snap out of my trance. I flex my fingers and feel them flash hot, then cold as the circulation comes back to them.

Without anybody telling her, Camille walks right up on the auctioning block, strips her tunic, and stands proudly in her white undergarments.

She's not big or small. She's average and muscular. A few people bid and she ends up owned by the skinny man. Exactly where I want to be.

I'm the tiniest of us all and I know deep down in my gut that the red-haired woman is going to make a bid on me.

I do exactly what Camille did. I straighten my shoulders, walk up on my own, strip, and though every muscle fiber in me quivers, I toss my dress aside and stand defiantly for all to look.

The red-haired woman up in the balcony raises her golden rod, and I blurt "No!" before I know fully what I'm going to do.

And pray it doesn't get me killed.

Chapter 2 coming next week!

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