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The Business Centaur’s Virgin Temp, Chapter Five

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The alarms went off at 10:30.

Marcaeus turned away from his standing desk and strode to his office door just as Hobb pushed through it.

“Have the laboratories locked down?” Marcaeus’s jaw tightened as he and Hobb moved fast through the corridors.

“Everything has locked down,” Hobb assured him. “All floors.”

“Do we know what it is?” There had only been two security breaches in the company’s history. One had been a false alarm. The other…

“Security says they found traces of demonic residue in the lobby and the elevator buttons. And on the seventh floor.” Hobb let that settle in a moment. “You know who it is.”

“I do,” Marcaeus acquiesced grimly. There was no way he could allow her to continue her employment now, no way to make her an asset.

Not an asset. A weapon, to be used against her own family. Have you truly allowed humanity to rob you of your morals?

He’d hoped she’d been sincere in her intentions. There had been no reason to put his trust into the notion, nothing but the way her presence in his thoughts pestered him whenever his mind wasn’t occupied with other things. Though that was something she may have accomplished through demonic magic, he could not lay the blame on her; he’d tricked himself.

“Take me to her.”

The bioluminescence lab roiled with confusion and panic. No one seemed to know where to go or what to do; the trees had closed up in response to the pheromones released as a security protocol, leaving some workers trapped at their desks and others roaming the aisles, perplexed and muttering.

The selkie, Ealusaid, approached, armed with an ancient harpoon. “We’re searching the lab now. What shall we do with the intruder?”

Marcaeus reached out warily and tilted the spear into a less ready position. “Let’s begin by not piercing them.”

Hobb frowned down at his holopad. “She’s this way.”

“Who are you looking for?” Ealusaid asked.

“Flicka Star.” What a ridiculous name. He should have seen through it immediately.

The selkie shook her head. “Impossible. Marcaeus, she’s one of our best employees.”

“She may also be a security risk.” He started off down the path into the forest of productivity that had ground to a chaotic halt, the click-clack of Hobb’s hooves close behind him.

Each of the trees had tightened their vines snuggly, their shiny leaves stuck together with sap that cascaded down their leathery surface. Now and then, one of them would shudder and heave; one loudly complained: “Allergies! Bah!”

Hobb grimaced in disgust and wiped a blob of the mucus from his shoulder. “There has to be a less messy way to do this.”

“Here.” Marcaeus stopped before Fiona Trasket’s tree and rapped on the slick pod that encased her. He shook his hand once, hard, slime flicking from his knuckles to land in a shivery glob on the path. “Open, plant. I’m your boss.”

“Oh no, the big scary donkey man might fire me. What would I do if had to live out my days in a park or a real forest? That would be just dreadful.”

“You can live out your days in a wood chipper, for all we care,” Hobb warned.

The tree rustled like a dog shaking off after a swim, splattering both of them gelatinous sap.

Inside the pod, the bioluminescent bulb above the desk glowed at half brightness. Fiona Trasket leaned over her holopad, tapping away. With her huge headphones on, there was no chance she’d heard the commotion around her. Perhaps not even the security alarms. She glanced up at Marcaeus and Hobb, her eyes growing wide.

Marcaeus summoned as commanding a presence as he could muster while dripping with goo. “Ms. Trasket. Come with me.”

* * * * 

The room Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hobb had marched Fiona to had ink-black walls, floor, and a ceiling of stone, all polished to a mirror finish; her image reflected around her, colorless and gray. Already a wraith.

They won’t kill you, she tried to console herself. You may go to jail, but they can’t execute you right here in the building.

Perhaps they weren’t in the building, anymore. The room—the cell—had no door. They’d entered through a swirling portal of silver light that had disappeared once Johnson and Hobb left. She could be in a prison on the astral plane. She had no idea how long she’d been waiting in the lightless, but oddly bright void.

Worse, she had no idea what she’d done to be found out.

A pop! sizzle startled her. The silver portal appeared once more, a spiral of smoke that opened from the center to admit Mr. Johnson. Alone.

He’d changed from his human form, standing before her in a dark blue jacket and crisp white shirt covering his torso. His equine body shone with a coat of deep ebony, almost as dark as the room around them. He flicked his tail and she averted her eyes.

“Isn’t it company policy that you have to have an HR representative present to discipline employees?” She lifted her chin in defiance. “And you’re definitely supposed to have pants on.”

“You must excuse me. Someone’s cubicle sneezed on me.” The clipped tone suggested he somehow held her personally responsible for that. “But congratulations. You’re the second spy in the history of our company to make it past our security protocols.”

“I was in the gifted program at school.” She paused, running over the day in her mind. Sloppy? She’d done exactly what she’d been doing the entire time she’d worked there. Unless… “It was the tree, wasn’t it? It ratted me out.”

And after she’d given it a Toblerone, the ingrate.

“No. It’s the demonic energy around you.” He paced the room, his hooves setting up a ringing echo all around them. “What do you think of this?”

“I think it needs something to dampen the acoustics.” Her head throbbed already from anxiety.

“It’s obsidian,” he said as if they were discussing a kitchen remodel. “It does dampen some things. Dark powers. Charms. Remote enchantments.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know any magic.”

“But the demons you’re working with do,” he accused her. “And whatever you paid them, it was too much. We picked you up the moment you entered the building. The enchantment left a trail wherever you went.”

“That’s impossible.” She looked down at her hands. She would have known if she’d been enchanted. “There’s a glamour. But that’s all. It’s only a glamour.”

“Consorting with demons is a violation of several treaties. You worked on a liminal floor. You could be prosecuted in the astral,” he warned.

The thought chilled her. Depending on which court oversaw her trial, she could find herself in deep, deep trouble. And lately, the mortal courts had been extraditing humans charged with astral crimes as a matter of policy. Her lower lip trembled as she said, “I don’t know any demons.”

“You lie.”

“I don’t. I swear.” Her eyes filled with tears and her shoulders sagged in defeat. “I’m not working for demons. My brother, he sent me…I didn’t want to come here at all.”

Why was she blathering on? You’re a Trasket. You’re supposed to be powerful and strong. People fear your family name.

People. She was no threat to the centaur in front of her.

And so, she took the cowardly road. “He was going to blackmail my friend. He had proof that she’d fallen off the wagon again.”

Johnson frowned. It was so heavy, she felt the weight of it on her shoulders.

With a roll of her eyes, she explained, “Fallen off the wagon, meaning—”

“I know what it means. That isn’t why I’m confused.” He walked a wide circle around her. “You’re here because—”

“Because if I didn’t spy on you, Blayde would leak the video to the press. And it could ruin someone’s life.”

“Hmm.” That was all Johnson said, still pacing a circle around the room. “You were spying on my business for your brother, not for your own profit but out of the good of your heart?”

“You don’t have to believe me.” And there was no reason that he should. Her stung pride squared her shoulders in indignation, anyway.

He stopped in front of her and came a step too close; in his true form, he towered over her by feet, not inches.

Are centaurs measured in hands? Like horses?

He leaned down, arms folded across his massive chest, and said, “I haven’t believed you since the moment you stepped into my office.”

That took her aback.

He straightened and resumed his damned dramatic pacing. Are there cameras in here or something? Or does he just like his own reflection that much?

“Whoever your brother paid to glamour you did a terrible job. We knew who you were. We just didn’t know why you were here.” He looked her up and down, not in a lecherous way. He just examined her as though he was trying to gauge whether a painting was level.

“So, you gave me a job?” She waved her fingers toward his face and snapped them. “Would you stop looking at me like that?”

“I’m looking at the demon’s mark on you.”

A cold chill rippled in the air, raising the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck.

“Did you agree to that?” Johnson asked, his voice low and gentle in a way that didn’t reassure her at all.

She swallowed hard. “I’ve never even seen a demon in person.”

After a long silence, Johnson asked, “May I place my hands on your head?”

The request was too strange to deny. She nodded, her heart beating fast.

His hands were enormous; his long fingers rested carefully atop her hair while he cupped her cheeks in his palms.

“Close your eyes.”

The moment she did, a fire ripped through her body. Images she’d never seen flashed sharp and clear, but fleeting. She saw her skin, saw razor-sharp talons gouging lines into intricate sigils. Her blood collecting in a golden bowl. Her brother and sister-in-law standing by.

She’d been lost in the hellish vision for an eternity before the floor spun away beneath her feet and she fell, screaming, back into the present.

“Fiona, stop, stop,” a voice urged her and strong hands closed over her wrists to prevent her from clawing away the bloody marks that had vanished without a trace.

She looked up into the concerned, not unkind face of her boss and whispered, “I swear, I didn’t know.”

He nodded slowly. “We need to get that mark off of you.”

“Do you know how?” Or even what it was? What had been done to her? She shuddered in revulsion, every inch of her flesh suddenly coated with shame.

Johnson shook his head slowly. “I don’t. But I know someone who does.”

He waved a hand at one of the walls and a portal appeared, another swirling gateway out of the doorless cell. On the other side, a meadow of iridescent grass and gleaming gold flowers rippled lazily beneath a bright, but sunless, sky.

“You’ll have to come with me. To Elysia.” He gestured over his humanoid shoulder to his equine body. “Jump on.”

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11 Comments

  1. Marit
    Marit

    How is this so awesome? I just don’t understand. You’ve taken something so ridiculous and turned it into a story that makes me groan in frustration at having to wait for more. Unbelievable!

    March 24, 2020
    |Reply
  2. Jordan Bell
    Jordan Bell

    So. Good. You’re a wizard at this! I am really enjoying it.

    March 24, 2020
    |Reply
  3. Jodi
    Jodi

    Thank you, Jenny!

    With all the craziness in the world I needed the fun and enjoyment of this crazy billionaire centaur romance. :)]

    March 24, 2020
    |Reply
  4. Eclairmaiden
    Eclairmaiden

    Everything about the trees has been an absolute joy to read!

    I think the story so far has been brilliant, but I gotta say it’s not very faithful to the premise we got in that cover art. Based on the back cover I thought we would get a story about Fiona falling in love with Mr. Johnson and fearing and feeling guilty of not being honest with him, while Mr. Johnson would flirt and then fall in love with Fiona in spite of knowing her to be potentially dangerous. I was expecting a slow burn romance between a human and a centaur who both know better than to fall in love with the other, and that there would be complications with their physical compatibility as well.

    Instead what we have is Fiona being exposed for good by the end of chapter five, before they have even flirted or had more than one scene together, so the type of tension promised in the cover art text can’t happen. Also if the glamours are physical and not just illusions, their eventual sex won’t hold any problems if he can just turn into a human at will. I know you said there won’t be bestial stuff or whatever, and I respect that, but I thought they would at least have to search for a way for them to have sex and pine after one another till they find it, perhaps with some third base action while waiting. And Marcaeus human name’s gotta get more screentime for there to be a joke, otherwise what’s the point of him having a funny name like that.

    There’ll be plenty of time to use Marcaeus’ human name in future chapters, but the other things can’t really happen anymore with what has happened so far. I think this is a great and original fantasy plot so far, it’s just not what it said on the tin. I’m not even disappointed, just somewhat confused.

    That said, I love this story and I’m really excited to see what the rest has to offer.

    March 25, 2020
    |Reply
  5. Kat
    Kat

    I hadn’t checked your page for a few days, and what a treat I find when I do! I’m really enjoying this story so far. Thank you for the new chapter!

    March 28, 2020
    |Reply
  6. Person
    Person

    Shit got real so fast, I love it!!

    March 28, 2020
    |Reply
  7. Fran
    Fran

    Thank you for this pandemic palate cleanser!

    March 29, 2020
    |Reply
  8. Kitt
    Kitt

    Thank you. This was perfect. <3

    March 29, 2020
    |Reply
  9. Amy
    Amy

    What a damn treat this story is 😀

    April 1, 2020
    |Reply
  10. MyDog'sPA
    MyDog'sPA

    Hey, Jen, nice to see the story is coming along. I’ve been curious as to how you’ve allocated internal organs of human/horse to make the combined centaur. For example, I’d imagine that stomach, lower GI, intestines are all horse as they have to be big. I suppose stomach could be in the human torso as it’d be big enough to fit into the place where the old human intestines (lower GI stuff) were for the human. But it’s your call.

    Lungs would be too big to fit in the human torso, so I’d relegate that to the horse-half.

    Heart, dunno, could be either, but the chest cavity may be too small in the human torso, especially if you have the Secretariat 18-pound heart. (His was Huuuuge- it was twice the size of a normal horse’s heart)

    Brain/eyes/nose, mouth, ears, that’s human, so that’s easy.

    Liver could go up to the human torso.

    Obviously you’d need the upper GI tract and trachea with corresponding pipes big enough to feed the horse-sized organs below.

    Your choice on the kidneys, but if they stay in the human torso he’s gonna be more susceptible to kidney stones with the requisite long ureters to the bladder (if the bladder is horse-sized and located in the usual horse-spot). And I’m thinking that bladder is WAY bigger than what could ft in the human torso, so that would most likely be in the standard equine location. Besides, if you leave liver and stomach up above, there’s not much room left.

    Which, of course, leads us to the most sought-after question: Where to put the junk? I’d say it’s full horse size in the standard equine spot, but that’s just my take, as (to me) it would look too funny if it were human junk at the base of the human torso on the chest of the horse body.

    You realize, of course, that this makes Centaurs have six limbs (2 human arms, 4 legs) which, miraculously, is exactly the same number of limbs that a dragon needs, so whatever evolutionary event in your world that made centaurs can also have happened to allow dragons to evolve.

    Just sayin’.

    🙂

    May 18, 2020
    |Reply
  11. Carol
    Carol

    This is such a treat! I’m loving it!

    May 25, 2020
    |Reply

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