Dakota Hastings boarded the bus and sat near the back. She hated riding the bus, but it was the only form of long-distance transportation she could afford to get back her parents’ house. She knew she would be given the ‘I told you so’ lecture from her parents, but it didn’t matter. They said she could come back and that was all that cared about her now.
Dakota called her parents with a heavy heart and told them the whole story. They told her she was welcome home anytime, but they weren’t able to send her any money. They claimed it was due to her father’s bad heart, but the truth was, they didn’t fully believe her. They feared she’d use the money for drugs. Dakota sold everything she could and was able to buy a one-way ticket back home.
Now, she was alone on the bus, sitting near the back, and ashamed of her foolish mistakes and bad judgment. She watched other people board, mostly college students, young couples, and one family. The bus wasn’t full, but there was a decent number of people. She looked out the window as it pulled out. There were dark clouds forming in the sky. A storm was lurking and they were headed right for it.
The bus made its first stop at a tourist trap with fast food joints and shops. Dakota spent all her money on the ticket and had no money for food, though her stomach was growling. She used the bathroom, as the one on the bus smelled funny and she didn’t like the lack of privacy. She washed herself as best as she could, getting the dirt off her face, and trying to tame her frizzy, blonde hair. A few of the passengers who were on the bus met friends and she knew they weren’t going to continue the journey with her.
Dakota smiled at a couple of girls who were eating hamburgers. Their food looked good, and she was hungry. “Take a picture, it lasts longer,” snapped one of the girls.
Dakota walked away embarrassed. She was ashamed of herself for even having the thought of begging for a bite of food, but it had been days since she had last eaten. She spotted a family as they threw away their trash. Neither of the children had finished their burgers and the mom had just tossed them into a bag before putting it in the trash. Dakota thought about grabbing the bag when the custodian came by and collected the trash. He looked up at her and scowled. She dashed into the bathroom and cried with shame over her actions.
She washed up and after drinking some water at a fountain, she boarded the bus. She was the last to board and was sure everyone knew that she almost ate some food out that was in the trash can. She quickly took her seat and wished the bus would hurry up and get her to her parents’ house. The bus lurched forward and was off. Dakota stared out the window, watching the highway pass, and the rain hit the windows. The sun was blocked out, the sky was dark, and it seemed to echo the emptiness within her. How could she let her life get like this? Why didn’t she just listen to her parents? She shut her eyes, and tried to forget the pain in her stomach.
The sky was black when Dakota woke up. She had drifted off into a deep sleep and missed the last rest stop. She really didn’t mind as it meant she’d arrive that much sooner. The storm raged outside. The wind shook the bus, lightning would shoot across the sky, and thunder echoed within the bus.
Then came the sound of the horn. It was quickly followed by a strange squealing sound as the bus turned sideways. The passengers started to scream. The sound of metal bending and glass breaking filled Dakota’s ears. The bus tilted over onto its side and slid several hundred feet before stopping. Dakota was bruised and had a gash on her left arm, but was otherwise unharmed. She slowly stood up on the window and looked around. Other passengers were standing as well. Some were more injured than others, but no one was seriously hurt.
The driver came to the back and opened the emergency exit door asking if everyone was all right. Once out of the bus the passengers saw the jackknifed truck and two other cars involved in the accident. The rain thundered down and people began to check on the wounded.
“Does someone have a cell phone?” someone asked.
“No signal. It must be the storm,” said someone else.
“What about the CB in the rig?” said a third voice.
“Busted in the crash,” said the driver, blood trickling down his face.
“Your hurt,” said Dakota.
“It’s nothing hon,” he said. “What about the bus?”
“Same problem,” said the bus driver. “When the bus tipped over, I knocked it out when I fell.”
Everyone grumbled when yet another car came flying into the scene. It barely missed the crash but didn’t stop. “Asshole!” someone yelled.
Everyone was getting soaked. Finally, a few of the men said they would hike up the road to find help. The women and children re-boarded the bus. Dakota sat near the door and shivered. She had no dry clothes, no family or friends, and could feel the wind blowing through the broken glass. She wondered if her life could get any worse.
The sound of a horn preempted the sound of more metal bending, glass breaking, and screams. A pickup truck driving too fast hit the back end of the bus and Dakota was thrown from the bus. She flew several feet in the air, then rolled down the hillside and stopped in a large mud puddle. Luckily she landed on her back. Sitting up slowly, she discovered that she now had new bruises, new cuts, her left arm was possibly broken, and she was a muddy mess.
“Fuck!” she cursed.
It took her a moment for her to figure out she was thrown out of the bus and tossed down the hillside. She tried to climb back up, but her left arm wasn’t working and the rain and mud made it nearly impossible. Alone, cold, wet, and scared, Dakota decided to try to find her own way back to the highway.
She wandered along the hillside until a mudslide blocked her path. She tried to walk around it but ended up getting herself lost. Occasionally she’d call out, but the storm blocked out her voice. Refusing to give up, she kept moving forward, turning when necessary. The pathway was difficult and she tripped often. Her arm hurt, her body ached, and she was exhausted.
Dakota was just about to give up when she saw a light. At first, she thought it was a car and thus the highway. She walked as quickly as she could toward it, stumbling several times. She quickly realized it wasn’t a car, it was a house. A house meant a phone and help. A house meant a chance for food and heat. That house was her chance for survival.
As she drew closer, she saw the house was older, large, and a bit scary looking. Dakota figured it was because of the storm, and kept moving closer to it. She knocked on the door but no one answered. In a moment of desperation, she tried the knob and found it unlocked.
“I’m just going to use their phone,” she said to herself. “I won’t take anything. I won’t touch anything.”
She stepped inside. The living room was warm and well-lit with several candles. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, a small sofa, and a telephone sitting on a table. The artwork on the walls was tasteful, Dakota ran up to the phone and picked it up, only to hear nothing. She sat it back down and decided to sit by the fire to get warm and dry. She sat on the marble step by the hearth, reached out, and felt the heat warm her skin. The pain in her left arm radiated throughout her body.
“Well now, look what the storm brought in,” said a voice behind Dakota.
Dakota jumped up. Her clothes and hair still soak from the storm. She saw a man with straight black hair, dark eyes, pale face, wearing a black suit and holding a small candelabra with three lit candles. Her first impression was he was a vampire, but she knew that was silly.
“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “I only came in so I could use your phone and call for help.”
“Then I am the one who should be sorry. Our phone went out shortly after we lost power when the storm started. And you’re hurt. Let me help you.”
The man stepped closer, almost gliding as he walked. “No!” exclaimed Dakota, stepping back. “I’m fine, really.”
“You’re bleeding,” he said as he touched her arm. “And you’re soaked. You must freezing. And when was the last time you ate? I may not have a working phone, but I can feed you, bandage your wounds, and clean you up. Come. I’ll run you a hot bath. I don’t think I have any clothes for a woman, but maybe I have something you can wear for now.”
His gentle manner helped ease Dakota’s fears “I’m fine, really,” she said.
He smiled. “I’m Louis. Come, I promise I won’t harm you in any way. What is your name?”
Louis looked over Dakota’s small frame. He’d always liked petite girls and he knew she was curvy based on the way her clothes clung to her small frame. But she was so covered in mud and muck that he couldn’t make out much more. “Let’s get that bath run. I’ll wash your clothes for you and then we’ll eat. I swear I won’t harm you.”
Dakota hadn’t known many good people and was still suspicious of this man. But the idea of a hot bath and a meal was more than she could pass up, especially after her almost trash diving meal. Louis led her upstairs and down a candle-lit hallway to a small bedroom.
He lit two candles in the room then said, “You can sleep here. If the storm has passed by morning, I can take you to town. What happened to you anyway?”
“Bus accident,” she said, “and what’s with all the candles?”
“Power failure. Makes the house more romantic. Now, about your accident.”
“Oh, right. Well first, the bus hit a big-rig, then a truck hit us. I got thrown out of the bus and landed at the bottom of a hill. I was trying to find my way back to the highway, but found your house instead.”
“Oh, this isn’t my house. It’s my master’s home.”
“Your ... master’s?”
Louis sighed. “He’s not a bad man. I’m not a slave. I’m a submissive. Master has taken care of me for years.”
“Where is he?”
“I’m not sure. I thought he brought you until I realized you were injured. Master would be very angry with me if I didn’t take care of you. He trained me better than that.”
Louis crossed the hallway to the bathroom and started the water for the tub. Dakota stepped out and realized her muddy footprints were all over the floor.
“Oh no! Look at the mess I’ve made!”
Louis looked at the floor. “It’s fine. I will clean it while you bathe. Master might be upset at first, but once he learns of your accident and injuries, he will understand. Leaving you in this condition will result in my punishment. Caring for you will grant me his forgiveness for the mess.”
“Are you sure? I can help.”
“Nonsense. I will get bandages for your injuries and find you something clean and dry you can wear. Now, I need your dirty clothes.”
Dakota bit her lip. “Look, you seem nice and all, but I’m not comfortable getting naked in front of you.”
“That’s fine. Set your dirty clothes outside of the bathroom door and I’ll collect them. I’ll be right back. I’ll even leave you my candelabra.”
Louis set the candelabra on the counter and walked away as Dakota stepped into the bathroom. She tested the water with her hand, feeling its warmth. She took off her shoes, socks, and jacket first. It was now she saw her reflection. There was so much mud, muck and filth on her she almost didn’t recognize herself. She also saw the cut on her forehead she didn’t know was there. A soft knock came from the door.
“I found something for you to wear, Dakota,” called out Louis.
Dakota opened the door. Louis handed her a long, cotton gown. “A nightgown?”
“It’s all I could find. Now, take a bath. Push this button when you are done and I will bandage your arm, head and anywhere else you are hurt.” Louis pointed to a black button near the light switch. “Then we will eat. I had made stew for Master and me. He was to bring a lady for us to share tonight so I made extra.”
“What do you mean by ‘a lady for us to share tonight’?”
Louis sighed. “Master wanted a threesome with a woman. He only takes someone who wants to fuck us both willingly.”
“Don’t worry Dakota. Master won’t harm you either. He’s not that way. Now, out of those clothes. Set them outside the door and I’ll collect them. Bathe. Relax. You’re safe.”
Louis stepped out and cleaned the carpet while he waited for her clothes. Soon he heard the door open and saw the dirty arm set out the clothes. He listened to her step into the hot water and squeal, then moan. Louis smiled as he gathered her clothes up and quickly carried them downstairs to the washer where he tossed them into the machine, only to remember the power failure. He moved them to the sink, then cleaned her shoes, shocked at how worn out they were. She didn’t strike him as a homeless girl, yet her shoes and worn clothes said otherwise.
Louis cleaned the carpets quickly, added another log to the fire, and waited for the buzzer. Then he heard, “Louis!”
Master was back and he wasn’t at the door to greet him. Louis quickly ran to the living room and found Master and a leggy brunette standing in the living room, damp, but not soaked. Master was tall, with long black hair and blue eyes. His pale completion mirrored Louis’s, and his black suit accented his features.
“Forgive me, Master,” said Louis, his head hanging down.
“Where were you, Louis?”
Before Louis could answer, the buzzer sounded. “I can explain.”
“Is there someone here?” growled Master.
“Please, Master. Don’t be angry. She had been in an accident.”
Master paused. “Wait. What accident?”
“She said it was a bus crash.”
“Is she hurt?”
“Yes. I saw a cut on her arm and on her head. I had her bathe so I could dress her wounds. She was a muddy mess. I loaned her the cotton nightgown. Her clothes are in the sink because the power is out.”
Master stepped up to Louis and put his hand gently on his shoulder. “You did well. I just wish you could have warned me sooner.”
“The phone is dead. It’s why she came here, to call for help.”
“Help found the bus crash already. Seven people died. Six women and one child. I wonder if our guest is one of the presumed dead?”
The buzzer rang again. “That’s her. I told her to buzz when she was finished.”
“Go to her Louis. We will meet her upon your return.”
Louis ran upstairs and knocked on the bathroom door. Dakota opened it. Her blonde hair, now clean and wet, hung loosely around her face. She wore a towel around her body because there were bruises, cuts and scratches all over her back, legs, and arms. Louis found her attractive with big blue eyes, pale skin, and curvy figure. He also noticed how her left arm hung by her side.
“I guess I was more injured than I realized,” she said blushing.
“Sit on the toilet. I’ve got antiseptic wipes and bandages.”
Dakota sat down. Louis started with her arm where the deepest cut was. He knew he would need more help when he realized it was so deep so he put a quick bandage on it, and cleaned the rest of her wounds. Dakota hissed and squirmed slightly as Louis cleaned her wounds. Other than the one on her head, most of her wounds were minor.
“Master is home. He’ll need to see your arm as it’s more injured than what I can do for treatment.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“No. He knows about your accident. He said seven people have died.”
Dakota knew there were about seven or eight women were on the bus, including herself, and two kids. “Were any of the victims children?”
“Come. Master will want to see your arm.”
“Shouldn’t I dress first?”
“Oh, right. Sorry Dakota. Dress quickly. Please. Master must see your arm soon.”
“I can’t,” said Dakota looking up at Louis. “I can barely move my arm.”
Louis grabbed the gown, slid it over her injured arm first, then put the gown over her head and dropped it over her body. “Now drop the towel.”
The towel pooled around Dakota’s feet. Louis picked it up and hung it back on the bar. He grabbed the second candelabra and led her from the bathroom and downstairs. Master and his guest were sitting on the sofa when Louis called out, “Master ... her arm ... I can’t fix it.”
“Excuse me pet, Louis sometimes blows things out of proportion.”
“Of course,” she said.
Master rose and walked to Dakota. He saw the growing red stain from the bandage under her arm that hung by her side. “Get my bag Louis,” he said. Then he looked at Dakota. “You, follow me.”
Master led Dakota into the kitchen. The smell of Louis’s stew filled the air and caused Dakota’s stomach to growl. Louis came running in carrying a large, black doctor’s bag.
“Here it is Master.”
“What the hell is that?” cried Dakota. “And who the hell are you?”
Louis looked up and said, “He is Master.”
“Enough Louis. She’s scared. Time for us to be ourselves.”
“Doctor?” questioned Dakota.
“Yes. I’m a doctor. I got my degree thanks to the army, then left to go into private practice. My name is Lincoln Massimo. Doctor Lincoln Massimo. I can have Louis get you my license if you wish.”
“You’re a real doctor?” asked Dakota.
“I am. Now, maybe you can tell me your name?” Lincoln asked as he unwrapped her arm.
He examined the gash on her arm. “Louis said you were in the bus crash.”
“Why were you on the bus?”
Dakota sighed. “I was going to my parents’ house.”
Lincoln examined her arm, then said, “I’m going to have to stitch this up and then we’ll put it in a sling just in case. I don’t think it’s broken but without an x-ray, I can’t be certain. Now, I need you to lie down.”
“What?” exclaimed Dakota.
“I can’t do it with you sitting up. Louis, clear the table. Now!”
Louis quickly removed the dishes from the small table, then placed a clean tablecloth over it. “It’s ready doctor.”
“I need you to lie down Dakota.”
The woman from the living room stepped in and said, “Is everything all ... Oh my god! What happened to her?”
“I need you to distract our patient here while Louis and I fix her arm,” Lincoln said. His voice had a clear authority tone to it
“Lie down Dakota,” said Louis softly. “Dr. Massimo is really very good. He will help you.”
As Dakota climbed onto the table, the woman stepped around and said, “It will be okay dear. We’re here to help you.”
“Who are you?” Dakota asked.
“I’m Harper. Now do as Dr. Massimo has asked, hon.”
Louis and Harper helped Dakota get into the position, then Harper sat in front of Dakota’s face, held her head, and kissed her cheek. “Are you scared?”
“Yes,” said Dakota.
Dr. Massimo put his hand on her head, then said, “I’m going to give you a local anesthetic, then stitch your arm and set it. You’re going to feel a pinch when the needle goes in. You’ve got to lie still. Understand?”
“Yeah,” said Dakota.
Dr. Massimo stepped away and walked to the sink. “Louis, get my suture kit ready. You know the drill.”
Louis’s tone wasn’t the mousy one he had earlier. Dakota could hear water running and other strange sounds, including her stomach growl.
“You hungry dear?” asked Harper.
“Yeah, a little,” said Dakota.”
Harper stroked her hair. “It will be fine. I’ve known Dr. Massimo and Louis for years. Once he’s done, I’m sure you’ll be able to eat.”
“Dakota,” said Lincoln. “I need you to relax.”
“I’m trying,” she said.
“Look at me dear,” said Harper. “Tell me what happened. Why were you on the bus?”
“I left home and went to Los Angeles with my boyfriend. Turned out he was a drug dealer. I got arrested when the cops raided our home. I had to sell everything I owned to buy a bus ticket to get back to my parents.”
“Why didn’t your parents send you the money?” asked Harper.
Dakota felt the pinch in her arm. “Ouch!”
“Sorry,” said Lincoln. “I should have warned you.”
“It’s fine,” said Dakota. “Oh, my parents? Well, I guess they were afraid I was lying ... again.”
“Ah,” sighed Harper. “Do you do drugs?”
“No!” exclaimed Dakota. “I swear I had no idea what Desmond was doing. That’s the truth.”
“What did you lie to your parents about?”
“My dating Desmond, sneaking out, other stuff like that.”
“Dakota,” interrupted Louis, “Dr. Massimo is ready to start. You might feel some pressure and tugging. It’s all normal.”
“Okay,” said Dakota.
“How old are you Dakota?” asked Harper.
“You’re just a kid!” exclaimed Harper. “Hell child, we’ve all made our share of mistakes.”
Dakota felt the pressure and tugging on her arm. “What’s happening?”
“Dr. Massimo is stitching your arm,” said Louis.
“So you bought the bus ticket, then what?” asked Harper, keeping Dakota’s focus on her.
“The bus wasn’t that full, but I still sat near the back away from everyone. We stopped and I used the bathroom. I almost stole some food from the trash can.”
“Why?” asked Harper.
“I was starving and had no money. The kids hardly ate their food.” Tears rolled down Dakota’s face.
“When was the last time you ate?”
“I don’t know. Maybe Monday or Tuesday.”
Harper looked up at Louis and mouthed, “Five days?”
“Maybe six,” mouthed Harper.
“Done,” said Lincoln. “Louis, bandage her arm and get her off the table. Then we’ll put it in a sling.”
Louis wrapped her arm, then he and Harper helped her off the table. Lincoln handed her a sling and said, “Put this on. You need to rest that arm. I would like to x-ray it, however, that will have to wait until tomorrow assuming the storm has passed. Plus, that swelling has to go down first.”
Lincoln looked at Louis. “Our guests are probably starving Louis.”
Lincoln handed Dakota three pills. “Take these.”
“What are they?”
“Two are antibiotics. The last thing you need is an infection in that arm. One is a pain killer. But wait until you eat something or you’ll just throw them up.”
Harper sat next to Dakota as Lincoln put his bag away and Louis served everyone bowls of hot stew. Then he set a loaf of bread on the table and some butter.
“Eat up Dakota,” Louis said, “Master will be displeased if you aren’t eating.”
Lincoln walked into the kitchen. “Is the food not to your liking Dakota?”
“No. It’s fine.”
“Then what?” asked Lincoln. His “Master” tone was back.
“Why are you doing this? Why are you helping me?”
Lincoln sat next to Dakota, reached over took her uninjured hand in his, and said, “I may a Dom and a doctor, but I’m not a bastard. Louis is my sub and my nurse. We have been lovers for years. But, I miss the company of women, which is why Harper is here. We are not animals. We are humans. Harper is an old friend. None of us will harm you. As to why we are helping you? Simple. You were hurt and needed our help. Now, eat my dear. You need to take your meds.”
Dakota smiled as Lincoln released her hand. She grabbed a spoon and ate a bit of the stew. It was better than she expected. Louis took a slice of bread, spread some butter on it, and handed it to her. Dakota took the bread, dipped it in the stew and ate it. Harper, Lincoln, and Louis both ate and watched Dakota wolf down her food. Her bowl was empty before anyone else was a third of the way through.
“Would you like some more?” ask Lincoln.
Dakota looked around and realized she’d emptied her bowl before everyone else. “Um ... I don’t want to be greedy.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Lincoln. “Louis always makes more than he should. He loves leftovers.”
“They do make for good lunches,” Louis said smiling.
“It was really good,” said Dakota.
“Louis, our guest requires more stew.”
Louis took Dakota’s bowl and quickly refilled it, then handed her another slice of buttered bread. As before, Dakota ate the stew and bread hurried, finishing her second bowl before anyone had finished their first.
“Looks like she’s got her appetite back,” said Harper, smiling.
“More?” asked Lincoln.
“Please?” said Dakota.
Louis didn’t need to be told, he snatched Dakota’s bowl and returned it filled. He handed her a third slice of bread, then asked, “Would you care for something to drink?”
“Please,” said Dakota.
“Give our guest some juice for now,” said Lincoln. “She will need it for her medication and I don’t want alcohol to affect her injuries.”
“Yes, Master,” said Louis.