Erryn reviews ‘Auctioned’ by Cara Dee. This book was released by the author on June 28, 2018, 207 pages. A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book: I was intrigued.
Gray Nolan’s biggest problem in life was the torch he carried for his closeted coach. He was just another happy-go-lucky dude, a college student and hockey player, when his ordinary existence was interrupted, and he became a human trafficking statistic.
He and seven other young men were taken aboard a luxurious yacht where they were to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Gray was beaten, shattered, and almost defeated by the time his buyer stepped out of the shadows in a swirl of his own cigarette smoke.
He was Gray’s new owner.
Darius Quinn had vowed never again to find himself in a situation like this. His days as a private military contractor were over. No more missions, no more risks, no more personal attachments. Yet, here he was, after weeks of searching, face-to-face with his broken prize.
It was time to get the knucklehead back to his family.
Quick and easy was Darius’s plan.
Then everything went sideways.
They were saving Gray for last.
With each guy they hauled out of the room, he grew more despondent and withdrawn. He’d managed to get on his feet again, but he could barely move without an explosion of hurt unfurling inside him. So he stood silent, face impassive and smeared with blood, eyes unseeing, as another guy was up.
The worst part was when they screamed wherever they were. Gray guessed a deck or two above him.
Were they getting raped yet?
He knew it was coming.
He stiffened as the door opened once more, and this time, it was Cole’s turn. His features were set; he’d braced himself for whatever was to come. Or so Gray hoped. He couldn’t imagine any of them had a clue what they were in for.
Least of all Gray. Were they gonna kill him? He’d watched enough movies to know what “make an example of someone” usually meant.
Milo was next, and he looked pleadingly at Gray. “Please do something,” he whimpered. “I’ve never—I can’t—please, Gray. P-please!”
Gray clenched his jaw and said nothing, because what the fuck could he do? The door was shut, leaving him alone. He listened. He couldn’t not listen. Compelled and beating himself up, he strained his ears to hear every torturous plea.
It was quiet for some time, and then…then the screaming began. It mingled with muffled sobs and sharp, choking sounds. And low rumbles of laughter. There was even applause. Gray’s stomach revolted and tightened. Nausea crept higher and higher. Milo was being abused, and low-life perverts found that funny.
The world became a dark place for Gray. Hope had dwindled enough that he couldn’t see it anymore. He lost faith in humanity and sent a glance skyward as his eyes welled up. Mom, I love you. Gage, Gideon, Gabriel, Aiden, Isla, the little niece or nephew I never got to meet…I love you, and I’m sorry.
When the door was opened a final time, Gray was resigned. Benny stood there with sinister glee in his eyes, and of course, the brute wanted his fun, too. Gray accepted two fists to his face before he fell back against the wall, pain spreading like wildfire. Memories from better times that had been rolling past slowly gained speed as if he somehow knew time was running out.
Two men had to support Gray’s weight on the way out of the cabin. His head hung, flickers of memories battling against fatigue and hurt. He couldn’t see where they were going, and when they encountered a set of stairs, he stumbled and lurched. He focused on the faces of his family. Mostly, Mom and his three brothers. The recent additions were his stepdad—Aiden—his daughter Isla, and Isla’s fiancé, Jack. Gray loved the expansion of their family. The day he’d learned Isla was pregnant, he’d been so fucking thrilled. Now he’d never get to spoil his niece or nephew.
Something warm trickled down his face. He didn’t know if it was blood or tears. Maybe a combination of both.
Gray was shoved into a large room, and the first glance with blurry vision made it look empty. Then he blinked and noticed there were booths along the far wall. The lighting was poor and focused on the middle, shadows cast everywhere. And he didn’t care anymore. He gave up registering things.
“Your toy, sir,” Benny said gruffly.
Vanya approached from the sidelines with a playful little smile, and the meatheads dropped Gray in the middle of the floor. He swallowed hard, his bleary gaze getting stuck on spots of red on the gray carpet. Once he saw a couple splatters, he noticed more. They were all over the center of the floor. Blood, then blotches of darker gray—maybe tears, sweat. Semen. The room reeked of it. A long silk robe came into view, the red fabric dancing around Vanya’s feet. He squatted next to Gray and patted his head.
“There, there.” Vanya’s voice was still angelic and impossibly sweet. “Maybe we’ll get to play more in another life. Mother said you’re a bit of a moron.”
Jesus, he was deranged.
Red sauntered closer, her thin metal cane ready to be used if needed. She didn’t treat Gray as gently. Fisting his hair, she yanked him up on his knees, to which he hissed through clenched teeth.
They faced the darkened booths.
“Dear guests,” Red purred, “I value my customers more than anything, and I would never lie to you.” She slid the cane under Gray’s chin, lifting it slightly. “This young man is more trouble than he’s worth. Should you make a bid, you need to know you’ll be getting a mouthy, rebellious hellion.” With a sharp rap of the cane against his stomach, she ordered Gray to stand up.
He did so on wobbly legs. He’d reached his limit for torture for the moment and didn’t want another bruise to his name.
“If there are no buyers on this animal,” Red continued, “I’ll offer him up as a treat for anyone and everyone—provided that you don’t take him to your staterooms. He’ll be available here in the central den throughout our journey.” She paused. “Now. Let’s see if there are any takers first. Starting at two hundred thousand, this wild boy could be yours. He’s got gorgeous skin that scars nicely, doesn’t he?” She shifted the cane along Gray’s torso, and he swallowed against the vomit that rose. “As you can see on the menu, he is twenty-one years old and built for hot, sadistic grapples. He’s six feet tall, weighs in at one hundred and eighty-nine pounds, and has the temper of an Irishman. If you keep him chained, he could bring you immense pleasure for years.”
Gray steadied his breathing. Aside from a few barely there sounds of rustling and a throat clearing here and there, he wouldn’t know there were people sitting in the booths.
“Lovely abs…” The whisper came from Vanya. Gray had almost forgotten him. Then the psycho kid from hell was tracing the muscles on his lower stomach. “My last toy called them come gutters.” He giggled in delight.
Someone coughed. “Two hundred.” That someone was British and had a meek voice.
“Ah, we have a bidder.” Red sounded both surprised and pleased. “Two hundred—”
Gray swung his tired gaze to the corner, the first booth there, and tried to see who it was. That man’s voice was like low thunder doused in whiskey.
“Two hundred and seventy-five,” the Brit said impatiently.
“Well, well,” Red purred. “Three hundred for the handsome Mr. B.”
The British man got irritated. “Three hundred and twenty.”
Red ordered Gray to kneel again, and he merely dropped.
There was an insufferable huff coming from the booth where Gray believed the British man sat, but nothing else.
Gray didn’t know what to think. This was his life. His freedom. Yet, two men were bidding on it. It was incomprehensible.
“Going once,” Red said in a teasing tone. After a pause, it was made clear. “Mr. B, the heathen is yours. We hope to enjoy your show.”
Oh fuck. Gray connected the dots. The auction was through, and once his life was no longer his own… It’d happened to the other guys. Eventually, he’d heard most of them scream in terror and agony.
A large man stepped out of the shadows in a swirl of his own cigarette smoke. Gray’s eyes flicked between his briefcase, bespoke suit, and cut jaw. The rest was hazy. He couldn’t focus. A headache was beginning to pull him under, and it was gonna be a big one. Mr. B didn’t speak. Under the low light, his brown hair took on a lighter shade.
A stool appeared, delivered by a goon who quickly backed off. The man who now supposedly owned Gray set his briefcase on the stool and flicked open the lid.
Red and Vanya backed away, too.
Gray had lost all his strength. He remained kneeling on the floor and averted his gaze. This was it.
Mr. B approached and stood before a defeated Gray. There was a grip on his jaw, and Gray was forced to look up. His double vision prevented him from registering anything other than a set of hazel eyes brimming with severity and determination. He swallowed weakly as the man dipped and leaned in close. There was a whisper in Gray’s ear.
A heartbeat later, Gray took a hard blow to the temple that shot his head sideways and knocked him out.
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This is a disturbing book.
Read the synopsis. Read the excerpt. Read my review and other reviews.
Everyone reacts to words differently. Words are just words, but in certain combinations, they can wound. They can inflict pain. They can even heal.
Stories can be fanciful and funny. They can be serious and somber. And they can be brutal and vicious. Sometimes they hold a mirror up and force us to look deep inside ourselves. This book should make you do this. Yes, this is a work of fiction. Unfortunately, it also addresses a very real situation that is happening in the world today. To be clear, slavery has always existed in some form or another throughout history. That is just as true today. Pedophilia has always existed, although there were certain time periods when it was more acceptable. Today, we understand the psychological damage that is inflicted on children, so it is against the law in virtually every country, although ages vary.
And human trafficking? I believe there are even examples in the Bible. Given the state of law enforcement in the 21st century, one would hope this horrible crime would have been eliminated, or at least reduced. On the contrary, the Internet and technology have enabled traffickers to move more children, women, and even men, all over the world. Global wealth means there are plenty of people willing to pay good money for whatever they desire. A young woman to clean your house or watch your children? There is one who can be bought and paid pittance wages – or no wages at all. A worker for your dangerous factory? You can buy one. A young man to run drugs? No problem. A child or teenager you can use and abuse to satisfy all your perverse and sexual desires? There is someone out there who can find you the perfect sexual slave. Yep, a sexual slave.
We want to believe these incidents only happen in third world countries. South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam. Even Russia. The truth is far more brutal than that. Conservative estimates have over 12 million people trafficked each year with over 150 billion dollars made in the trafficking of all humans. 80% of the victims are girls, but that leaves lots of room for young boys. And most of these children are being exploited sexually, whether by forced marriage, prostitution, or simply being sold for private reasons.
Why am I giving you all these statistics? Because I hope it provides you a context for this book. This book is, of course, a work of fiction. This book also tackles one of the most pervasive horrors in modern society, as well as the inability by much of law enforcement to tackle this problem.
This brings us to Gray. I read Cara’s ‘Power Play’ and fell in love with Abel. His quirky personality with OCD and occasional bipolar depression wrapped up in an NHL hockey player was just the perfect character. I was so happy when Mad acknowledged it was okay to love the young man he had once considered a nephew. ‘Power Play’ is a Daddy/middle book and upon rereading my review of that story to prepare for this one, I specifically pointed out what a pivotal role Gray played and how I was looking forward to his book. And although Abel isn’t in this book, I felt his presence acutely at times. As the series progresses, I am sure we will see him reappear to be by Gray’s side.
If Gray ever gets out of the mess he’s in.
He’d been kidnapped and ‘for months, Gray and the others had been treated like cattle. This was the slaughterhouse, and rather than being turned into steaks and burgers, they were being violated, abused, and degraded’.
Over and over in this book, my heart was ripped out of my chest and stomped on. Every time I thought the lowest level of depravity had been reached, there was more.
…and as the blood began seeping freely, Gray let go. A low sob broke free, then another, and another. His hands were tied, so he hid his face against this shoulder, and he cried like a fucking baby.
Months of panic, anguish, hunger, nausea, thirst, deprivation, pain, and fear rolled off him in heavy waves.
After being purchased at the auction, Gray believes the worst is behind him. Now he has only one sadist to contend with. And as he prepares to cope with the new round of physical and emotional torture, he discovers there is another low. He’s been bought by Mr. B, who tells his fellow ‘passengers’,
“Physical sadism never impressed me much. A mentally challenged toddler can inflict pain.” He chewed slowly and wiped his mouth with a linen napkin. In the meantime, the others around him looked a little offended. “Violence is necessary sometimes, of course.” Darius was cleaning up his speech, Gray noticed. “But there’s a reason Mr. S here needs a choker made of barbed wire for his boy and I don’t.” Everyone’s attention shifted to Gray, who went rigid and looked down.
He continues on:
“I gave him hope,” Darius murmured. “You have to see his journey here as a tool. Most of you forget that – or neglect it, and it’s a shame. He’d had weeks of being pushed down mentally. When I bought him, he was already defeated.” He paused to polish off the rest of his wine. “Unlike what many believe, you can gain strength from physical pain. You could, unknowingly, be giving your slaves stronger minds by beating them. But me? I want my property desperate and weak. That’s when the real play begins.”
So is Darius a savior or just there to put Gray through more torture? On this yacht, in the middle of nowhere, is there any hope for him and the other boys?
My emotions, like Gray’s, were all over the place. Some of the violence was nauseating and I wasn’t certain I could keep reading, but I knew it was important I do so. And I was glad I did, disturbing as the book was, because it opened a whole new world to me. This might be fiction, as I said, but it is also the reality for hundreds of thousands of children. Out there right now, there are young boys and girls enduring these situations. And that may be too much for some readers to bear, but I don’t like things that are brushed over in order to make the reader (and possibly the writer) feel better, feel less challenged. Cara did not shy away from the nitty gritty. She made this real to me. She made me want to go and rescue Gray and the other boys myself. She made me want to do something about this horrible situation, and at the same time, reminded me how impotent I am. I live a middle class existence in suburbia. Short of stumbling upon something nefarious with my neighbours, I don’t have a hope of helping in person.
“I’m not strong enough, Darius. My mind jumps to random shit. I get distracted, I freak out, and I can’t trust myself.” But… With another breath, he let out the rest. “I think I can obey. I think I can direct all my attention to you and follow you like a dog.”
Darius’s features tightened with a slight frown, and he studied Gray for the longest time.
Gray wasn’t kidding. He was a goddamn dog and not good for any kind of leadership.
“You shit. You’re actually giving up.” Darius shook his head.
I understood why Gray just might give up. Although the promise of returning home has been dangled in front of him, the reality is much grimmer than that. Getting off that boat alive? It felt impossible.
That being said, as the synopsis says, the book does not end in a cliffhanger. The status of the Darius and Gray is clear. Is there a crap load more to come? Uh, you bet. I knew there had to be because Cara is not going to leave Gray to suffer the psychological effects of ‘freedom’ off the page. No, she’s going to take me through every painful step. And it is a comfort to know Darius will be there, but to what extent, I’m not sure. And there is still much about Darius that I don’t know.
But I want to find out. I want answers. Initially, Cara had only planned one sequel, but my understanding is there are going to be several more stories after that and I’m glad. So far, the entire story has been told from Gray’s point of view and I’ll be interested to find out if that changes or if this entire story will be in his mindset. Given what a great job Cara did with Abel’s dysfunctional mind in ‘Power Play’, I know I’m in for one hell of a ride.
I can’t wait. Please get writing, Ms. Dee. I wait with bated breath for ‘Stranded’.
10/10 Points of Gold (100% Recommended) – Compares to 5/5 Stars
I’m often stoically silent or, if the topic interests me, a chronic rambler. In other words, I can discuss writing forever and ever. Fiction, in particular. The love story—while a huge draw and constantly present—is secondary for me, because there’s so much more to writing romance fiction than just making two (or more) people fall in love and have hot sex. There’s a world to build, characters to develop, interests to create, and a topic or two to research thoroughly. Every book is a challenge for me, an opportunity to learn something new, and a puzzle to piece together. I want my characters to come to life, and the only way I know to do that is to give them substance—passions, history, goals, quirks, and strong opinions—and to let them evolve. Additionally, I want my men and women to be relatable. That means allowing room for everyday problems and, for lack of a better word, flaws. My characters will never be perfect.
Wait…this was supposed to be about me, not my writing.
I’m a writey person who loves to write. Always wanderlusting, twitterpating, kinking, and geeking. There’s time for hockey and cupcakes, too. But mostly, I just love to write.