Danny steeled himself; this was where Marque would ask why a kid his age wasn’t living at home where he belonged. He’d already made the decision that if he was asked, he was going to tell the truth about his circumstances, regardless of how difficult it would be for him.
To his surprise, Marque let the matter go. Leaning back in his chair, he fixed Danny with another of those weighing gazes. “You do realize what we do here?”
“Yes.” That was very firm. “I’m not a child, Mr. Marque. I’ve had sex before, dozens of times, with a lot of different men. I get a lot of offers.”
Marque smiled slightly at that. “No doubt.”
The heat in Danny’s face deepened, but he plowed ahead relentlessly. “I’ve never sold myself like this before—not that I’m against the idea,” he amended hastily. “I mean, it’s different on the street, you know? It can be dangerous.”
“Very.” Marque nodded seriously. “A lot of people choose to do it anyway.”
“I’m not that desperate.” Yet, he amended silently. A bite of despair rose in him at the thought; he hoped Marque wouldn’t be able to see it. Curling his hands into fists on his knees, he leaned forward, holding Marque’s gaze. “But this place is different. Kadin tells me there are protections in place here, security, and that each of the guests is thoroughly investigated before they’re ever allowed inside. It’s safe here.”
“Is that what you’re looking for, Danny? Safety?” Marque seemed sincerely interested in his answer.
“Partially.” He’d promised himself he was going to be honest. “I think I mostly just want a place where I can feel welcome, where I can work and earn my keep and be around other people who are like me. A... a home, I guess you could say.” He smiled dryly. “It’s been a while since I’ve had one.”
He couldn’t read the expression in Marque’s eyes at all, or begin to guess whether it boded well or ill for him. It surprised him when Marque stood up abruptly and held out one hand toward him. Danny pushed himself to his feet hastily and took hold of the offered hand, feeling Marque’s fingers curl around his. Marque’s palm was dry and cool against his own.
“Danny,” Marque said, looking down into his eyes with a serious expression. “I’d like to take you into the other room now and determine just how suited you are to working in this House.”
Danny swallowed hard, his chest tightening. He didn’t have to be a mind reader to understand what that meant.
“Yes.” He was proud that his voice didn’t wobble at all when he said it. He tightened his fingers around Marque’s hand, trying to show that he wasn’t afraid. “I’d like that.”