“Holy shit,” she breathed when she looked at the four women standing in front of her. Courtney wasn’t kidding when she’d said Philip collected lookalikes. All of them looked like Amara. Not identical, but enough that a person who didn’t know her could confuse them or think they were sisters. They all had dark, straight hair that reached their elbows, a couple had layers like hers, and the others were cut the same length. Their bodies were all thin like Amara, although with slight variation in the hip area.
“You must be Amara,” one of them said, speaking up.
“I am,” she said, uneasily. “Isn’t it against code to use real names?”
The girl laughed. “What am I supposed to call you? Jasmine?”
“Yes,” she responded slowly.
“Okay, Jasmine, I’m Jasmine.”
Amara’s brows furrowed. “For real?”
“All of our Méchant names are Jasmine for the night.”
The girl shrugged. “That’s what they told us. We’re all wearing the same thing; we’re all standing the same way, and using the same make-up.”
“But how will… Okay,” Amara said, blinking rapidly. She reminded herself she had this one last thing to do before she was free.
They all dressed in threads of fabric, artfully shredded, tiny black shirts that left little to the imagination and similar skirts, barely covering the panties beneath. Before long, Vivienne appeared at the door, much to Amara’s surprise.
“It’s been a long time,” Vivienne said with a smile when she spotted Amara.
Amara nodded in response, still gaping at her. She noticed pairs of handcuffs that Vivienne held in her hands.
“Okay, girls, stand in a single line so I can put these on you. Don’t look so scared, Ava, they come off after the auction,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m also going to put masks on you,” she added. “Just a final touch so you can look more…alike.”
As Vivienne fastened the handcuffs on each girl, she put a key on the side of their panties and gave them a level stare. “For after.” She continued to give her unwanted comments as she stood in front of each girl. Sometimes, “where did they find you?” others “your hips are too big.” Nobody responded to her ”they just let her talk, cuff and slip the black, demure masks over their faces.
“Ready,” she chimed before walking out of the room. “Follow me!” she called over her shoulder.
The women followed Vivienne to a stage where they lined up in a row beside one another, their shaky arms rubbing against the other’s as they looked into the crowd. A few scattered women accompanied some of the men. They watched with equal attention and excitement. The look on their faces sickened Amara.
“This is crazy,” she heard Ava whisper beside her.
“It’ll be over soon,” Amara whispered back.
Her eyes scanned the crowd again. The lighting in the room was dim, like everywhere else, and it gave everyone in the crowd a rosy glow. Amara wondered where the man was—the one looking for her—and that’s when she spotted Colin sitting off to the left side, by himself with a drink in his hand. Shit. Amara cursed repeatedly. She tried to see if she could spot Sam or Philip, but couldn’t. She needed to tell somebody about him. If he decided to bid on her, if he could even bid on the right her, it would throw everything off.
Before she could do anything else, the auction started. Ava was pushed up first. She stood in front of the line with her head tucked into her chest, just waiting, as Vivienne introduced her as “Number One.” So they would do it by numbers. Nothing more was said about Ava, before a woman stood up and placed her bid of five thousand dollars, only to be countered by the woman at her same table with a bid of twelve thousand. They both laughed, as if it was such a hilarious thing to be bidding on this poor girl’s body. They gave each other a knowing look, which made Amara’s stomach turn. Ava knew what she was in for, though. The girls in Méchant were prepared to give their bodies away without hesitation.
Three more numbers went by before it was Amara’s turn: Number Five. She stood, with head held down as the others had, until she heard Colin’s opening bid of fourteen thousand dollars. Her eyes snapped up to meet his. She wanted to warn him to stop. A man standing off to the other side of the room countered him. Twenty thousand. Colin raised it to thirty. Her hands sweated, shaking so hard she was forced to clamp them together in front of her body as her eyes searched the room for Philip, Vivienne…anybody who could help. The man raised his bid to forty and Colin countered with fifty. Amara waited on bated breath and sighed in relief when the man didn’t counter the offer. She should have been nervous knowing Philip would be furious if that was the guy they’d been waiting for, but a part of her was relieved. Vivienne said that standard procedure was for them to check who the winning bidders were before they left with the girls—that’s how they would know if the man was there. Maybe if he bid on one of the others and was caught, Amara wouldn’t have to do much more.
The longer she counted the numerous ways this could go, the more tied up she felt. The cuffs around her hands began to be weighty, and the mask on her face felt like it was suffocating her. Amara had to squash an overpowering need to get out, to run and never look back.
Auction over, each girl stepped off the stage and stood beside their winner, eyes still downcast, Amara included, until Colin squeezed her chin and tilted her face toward him. He glared at her, but she was defeated. She met his gaze openly, brokenly, until he finally dropped his hand.