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     At Any Price

       part  #1 of  Gaming the System Series  by  Brenna Aubrey / Young Adult / Romance & Love
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At Any Price

I will shock most of you, I think, by stating that at the nearly unthinkable age of twenty-two, my hymen remains intact. No, I won’t answer any questions about why this is. Yes, I am heterosexual. No, I won’t go out on a date with you.

Throughout history there has been a global truth established that a woman has higher personal value if she has kept herself “pure” until she reaches the married state. It is ubiquitous across all cultures.

In certain countries, that value is more than moral or philosophical; it’s monetary. In India, for example, a husband expects to pay a bride-wealth to his bride’s family in exchange for her purity.

In old Europe, a bride’s family put up the money, called a dowry, that helped her make a favorable match. Money and property changed hands between the patriarchs of powerful families. And for all this, a woman was de-virginized on her wedding night, whether she loved her new husband or not—usually not.

Sex with a virgin was so valued in Japan that a wealthy man could “sponsor” a young apprentice geisha, called a maiko. All of her upbringing and training with a mentor geisha was paid for, her living expenses and many luxuries provided by his hand. And in return for this enormous expenditure? The man gained the right of mizuage, the ritual in which he was given the privilege of taking her virginity. It was expected, that he would never see her again. So this expense was for that one night only.

Virgins weren’t just bartered to powerful and wealthy men, however, but were of value to the gods of the ancients across all cultures as well. Virgin sacrifices to the gods represented the ultimate offering in exchange for something needed, most usually by men. In legendary ancient Greece, the offended goddess Artemis demanded a virgin sacrifice in payment for the insult rendered against her by Agamemnon. The Greeks desperately needed the wind to sail for Troy in order to wage war, but the goddess had prevented it. Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia, and her mother, Clytemnestra, were tricked into appearing at the altar of sacrifice by talk of her impending wedding to the hero Achilles. Instead, Iphigenia was slain and the winds promptly blew. Off the previously becalmed heroes sailed, hardly fazed.

The ultimate prize in all of these examples was the woman’s virginity and in most cases the woman in question hardly profited from keeping herself pure.

So I ask, in our day and age, can a woman change this pattern and profit from her own purity? I find myself in the unusual position of being able to find out.

I’ve decided to decry the crimes and impositions put upon my sisters since the beginning of time until now. And I offer, therefore, a new paradigm. One where a woman can sell her purity and enjoy the fruits thereof.

The right to my virginity will be ceded to the highest bidder.

Chapter One

I’d refreshed the web page at least twenty times during that last hour, endless minutes slipping in between each click of the button. The Manifesto was reality now, and it was about to affect my future in a very big way.

In the end, I sat back in disbelief, the wind knocked from me. It was final. A complete stranger had just pledged to pay three quarters of a million dollars in exchange for my virginity.

I blinked a few times, looking at the figure, with all the zeros following, barely able to breathe. My mouth was as parched as the Mojave but I doubted I had the strength in my legs to get up and grab a glass of ice water.

As I leaned back in my chair staring up at the ceiling, my phone rang. Without even looking at the caller ID, I knew who it was.

“Hey Heath,” I breathed.

“Welp, your crackball auction is now closed and it looks like someone wants to pay a freaking fortune to get in your pants. Are you ready to give up this redonkulous scheme yet?”

I took a deep breath and expelled it slowly, wishing my heart wasn’t thumping like I’d just run a three-minute mile. “Of course not. ”

He sighed. “Yeah, I figured. But I’m not going to stop trying, Mia, you know that. ”

I grimaced. “And you almost never change my mind on anything, you know that. ”

He cursed under his breath. “This has been the longest and most expensive game of chicken that I’ve ever played,” he said.

“I told you, I’m not backing out. My heels are dug in nice and deep. ”

He laughed. “That’s not the only thing that’s going in deep. ”

I gasped, sitting up. “Shut up. You promised you weren’t going to taunt me about this. ”

“Fine. But we do this on my terms or we don’t do it at all, just like we agreed. I’m not shitting you—I’ll pull my support. ”
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