“You’re worried, Sasha.”

Sasha Devar blinked down at the woman under his hands. She had her chin on her arms and her eyes closed; until that moment, there’d been little indication that she was paying him much mind beyond the massage he was giving her. Which he did not permit himself to interrupt for more than an instant; hands still at work, he responded with a noncommittal, “Pardon, ma’am?” He was being paid, and paid well, to make her comfortable. Among other things which would come later, of course – the lapis lazuli twinkling on the rim of his right ear, in its silver setting, was not an idle decoration – but in any event, his worries weren’t on the agenda, and he thought he’d been keeping them at bay…

Adriana laughed, lifting her head slightly to peer back at him. “Oh, you’re good, Sasha. If I hadn’t been seeing you as often as I have…” which was monthly, without fail, for three years, “…I doubt I’d have noticed it. But you’ve been ever so slightly… different. Tense. As good a worker as ever, but I can see the cues.”

“It’s nothing I should be troubling you with, ma’am. I’m sorry.” Hands sweeping along her sides, he leaned down to nuzzle at an ear.

It flicked lightly against his snout. “Let me guess, Sasha. You’re concerned about this thing the doctors are all pushing.”

Sasha very carefully kept a grimace from his face. If Adriana wanted to talk about such matters, that was her prerogative, and having a chance to get a few things off his chest might not be unwelcome; but he didn’t want to infect her with a poor mood. “I’m sure it’s been on all our minds,” he admitted. “A few minutes to see a doctor with a syringe, instead of an hour or more to find a man for hire? I’m sure there are women who’d find that an appealing alternative.”

“And when you’re three years into a ten-year indenture, you don’t want to be made redundant.”

Again Sasha blinked. He’d never discussed his contract terms with any of his clients…

“I practise law,” Adriana reminded him. “I’ve seen enough of those contracts to know what’s typical.”

“I would think it’s a sound concern,” he said slowly, reaching over for a scented cloth and running it lightly along her fur.

“It is. And perhaps this treatment will spread, and perhaps fewer men like you will be hired. But I don’t think any of you currently serving need worry about running out of business entirely.”

“I’ll take that as quite reassuring, ma’am,” he said with a smile, giving the cloth a few more swipes. “But if I may ask, why…?”

She cut him off with a raised finger, and turned over.

Like many of his clients, Adriana preferred that he be unclad while he worked; as being in contact with a woman on heat tended to leave him quite aroused, and as that would be uncomfortable to keep stuffed in his trousers, he was glad to comply. It was that arousal that she wrapped her hand around now, giving it a firm squeeze.

“This,” she purred, “is much more pleasant than a needle.”

He grinned down at her – an honest, eager grin – and moved to put it to use.