The plane landed with a loud bump and a subdued squeal of tires underneath us, and we rolled out to a stop. New York City. Bucket list item -- check. I had been looking at the Statue of Liberty as we flew around for the offshore approach, Antonio promised me I'd get a lot closer look tomorrow.
OK, I mentally braced myself. Girlfriend. Look loving. Make it good. Starting now.
His family was there to meet us. His dad, Rafael, "Rafe" as he liked to be called, was sorta like Antonio but a bit broader at the shoulder and way more broader around the middle. But he had an hugely sharp air around himself, befitting the founder and owner of Meraz Holdings. I had done my research, of course, I was interviewing! It was a huge but very quiet shipping and manufacturing concern, and the entire Meraz business, split between Rafe and his brothers, was worth more than the GNP of several smaller countries. I hoped I looked good in my best silk dress and heels, and I smiled a lot and held on to Antonio as much as possible, and he to me. Mama Gina was a little quieter, but Antonio was playing it good too, as if he was really happy with me, and seeing that Mama Gina was perfectly cordial to me.
It was Friday morning. I had three hours before the interview, and then a family dinner. Saturday was a day with Antonio on the town, Sunday was the birthday party, then a redeye back to school late Sunday night.
The interview went very well. Lido seemed almost unsure of what to do with me, it felt so good to be treated as a woman and a lady, but one with a brain and plans. I knew where Meraz Holdings was going, and as near as I can tell impressed the heck out of them. I felt good coming out of the interview. It was a pity I was wasting their time, with my decision in concrete to go back home to Cali and my own family, but I had agreed to this and it was good to see I still had it.
Dinner was good, an event for only close family, which to the Meraz clan meant about thirty. It was ravioli with a wonderful mixture of cheeses, and it was very, very delicious. I got to meet Jeanelle. She was beautiful, very friendly, smart, even a bit funny, and going to college herself here in town, logistics and planning. When we got alone for a few minutes thanked me. She would never think of Antonio romantically, he'd been a big brother to her since they were in diapers. And besides, Antonio did actually want me. I smiled and blushed and played the part, but it was like a dagger to my heart. No, he didn't.
Nobody wanted me like that. With what my life had been the last six months, it'd be half a decade before I could get far enough away from what went on at the parties to even dream about someone wanting me like that. And like anyone else currently breathing, I did want to be wanted like that. I was, and it killed me to admit it even to myself… damaged goods. Nobody would want me. Useful for fucking and sucking, but not much more. Very smart, breathtaking like she is now in a tight sexy silk LBD and heels (and nothing else), but I had fallen into the trash. If they ever found out about what went on in my real life, and that Antonio knew and brought me here anyway, it'd break their hearts.
I thanked her and walked away alone for a few minutes out to the balcony and looked at the city below. It was early evening and the lights were gorgeous. If I hadn't screwed up that night in the basement, I might have actually been able to travel in circles like this. Might have even had a chance for this sort of thing. This might have been my life, instead of me pretending it as a favor for a friend. But life like this was not for stupid little girls who couldn’t read instructions. I was spiraling in; I let myself go for a moment and dreamed about me and him.
Antonio was nice, maybe too nice. A girl wanted a *little* danger, some safe danger, but he seemed to be all gentleman. Back at school he'd been MVP over half a dozen times, only took me roughly that one time, and then apologized all over himself. He knew what I was into; you'd think if he really was interested he'd play to that. Um, that could be quite… dangerous, yeah. For me. Then again, ‘gentleman’ could grow on a girl. He *was* rich, his family was, boy he had that aspect sewn up with a zipper. But I'd never been that much of a material girl, enough so we could do a little was enough for me.
He didn't have a neon sign above his head proclaiming that he was "the one", but I had to admit, especially after today, that the one who was, hopefully was a lot like him. Any woman with a brain appreciated a gentleman, and he was the full monty of that. And he was treating me like a princess here. It was wonderful: I'd been treated well before, but never quite this good. Yeah, I thought, turning frozen inside, for this weekend and intermittently for the next two months, and then he'll find a real lady, having long since dismissed you. Even if I could stay with him, and *I* could, he'd never stay with… the trash.
I forced myself to stop. If I cried my makeup would run and then I'd have to explain that. So I shoved the blue gunkies back into their box, put the game face back on, beautiful, successful, about to graduate with a 3.8 GPA, semi-madly in love with a wonderful man in Antonio. The sort of thing I had wanted and imagined for myself most of my life. Well, maybe in five years I could start daring to dream again. I felt the tears start coming back. Stop that!
I glued myself to Antonio's side, dived in, hid by acting the part. OK, if the legal world didn't pan out, maybe Hollywood. The bright, kind of shy, kind of awed young lady devoted to Antonio. Playing at "trying to make a good impression with people who might someday be in-laws". Talking intelligently with them about world issues. It did seem to go great. Hearing about their plans for the future and where they were going with the business. Accepted. Yeah, I could make it here. I hated myself.
Anna pulled me aside a little later, and I got the casual friendly conversation that was clearly a five-star grilling. Who was I, and why did I think I deserved her brother? I played it back well, I was going places in the world, and he was a very good man, and danced around that we were able to keep each other very happy in bed, and while it was up to him, I was open to the possibility. Anna told me their father was very impressed with me. After the business, rugby was his life, he kept up on it all over the world and had himself been a star player when he was in college in Novara. Antonio, his only son, had mostly been on the rugby team at school only to please his father, but when Daddy had found Antonio had gotten much more serious about playing the game, he had inquired why. Antonio had told him that when he did well at the game, especially when he got MVP, I was happier with him (with an oblique reference to "wanted him more"), and he got to spend more time with me. And a girl who could and did motivate Antonio to play rugby to his potential was gold in the eyes of his father. Smart and beautiful was just overkill.
Meraz had visitor’s quarters above where the rest of the family stayed, above one of their offices, several rooms almost like a private luxury hotel. Antonio had never seen this, it had happened while he was at school. He and I had two adjoining rooms of the four on one of the floors, but no one else was going to be up on that floor all weekend (wink wink again). The rooms were as good as any I'd ever seen or stayed in, and I really liked the railed four-poster king-sized beds in each room. And the not-so-mini mini-bar. And the walk-in hot tubs. The open showers so big they could fit 43. The really super plush carpet. And the multiple-thousand-thread-count towels. And… well, you get the point.
We each looked at our rooms, there was a door between the two similar to what might be found in other accommodations, and after a few minutes I unlocked and shyly pulled open the door (it was unlocked on his side), peered in to find him under the blankets, TV going quietly but instantly shut off, and a finger crooking at me to inform me to come much, much closer. Which I did, quite happily. Until morning.
We remembered to each exit out our own doors, just in case.
New York City was everything I always heard it was, and so much more. Everyone dressed in black. The cabs, all ten million of them. The people who honked if you didn't start moving two milliseconds after the light changed to green. Times Square. The bridge where they shot "Spider-Man". The pizza at Lombardi's for lunch. Central Park. The Statue of Liberty and the trip to Ellis Island. The big building that was supposedly the entrance to the HQ for the "Men In Black". The aircraft carrier. Times Square again after dark, all those lights! It was such a whirlwind, a delightful, dazzling, dizzying, amazing whirlwind. And Antonio was so right at home, my anchor in the middle of the storm.
Dinner at a hugely swank restaurant on top of a skyscraper bordering Central Park, with the other skyscrapers and all those beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent lights and the Atlantic dark in the distance from a few narrow slots between the buildings. Fine wine, really good, and shrimp so sweet it almost collapsed to sugar in your mouth.
Back to the VQs. Antonio had gotten a text message earlier and needed to check with his father on something, it'd be a few minutes. He offered to take me along or drop me off at the rooms, my choice, but I decided to head back to the rooms on my own. He ducked out and was gone, down two floors to speak with his father, leaving me alone on the entire floor of a building in the middle of New York City. I could hardly breathe.
I did recover in record time, in enough time to dig into my bag. I pulled out a black lace-up-the-front bustier, matching panties that tied at the sides, and some other toys not for family disclosure. Into his room I went, his bed was perfect for this. On the lingerie went, specially chosen in that it could be unlaced and untied and taken off me if I were tied hand and foot, which I planned to be momentarily. Cinching everything down I ran straps for my ankles and was starting to tie them to the foot of the bed, and I suddenly stopped cold.
What if there were cameras in here? I was about to tie myself up very kinkily and leave myself for Antonio. And the doubts from last night came rushing back at me like a football tackle. But after a second or two, I threw them aside. You only live once, and this chance was really never, ever, ever going to come again for me. I wanted to, it was undoubtable for me. And if there was a camera, so what. It might even be handy, the family discovers the young lady Antonio brought home was kinky and perverted, and it might even provide a reason if he had to "dump" me as he would have to very soon after the masquerade ended. Besides, he'd looked really good all day. I had an incredible time. I know I looked very delicious all day. He deserved a reward, and I'd enjoy being it.
So the legs were tied spread wide apart. The handcuff key was left conveniently on the end table beside the bed, within easy reach for him, might as well be a million miles away from me once I was in place. Ball-gag in my mouth. Handcuffs on my wrists and then to convenient spots on the headboard. And I settled in to wait to be discovered. And hopefully well-ravished immediately thereafter.
It was real quiet. The floor was so quiet I could faintly hear the complaints of car horns on the street below. I heard the door open to the stairwell, and I started getting squishy and warm at the thought of Antonio coming in and getting down to business. But instead of a key, I heard a knock at the door. Then another knock. Then a voice. Female. Jeanelle. Calling Antonio's name.
At first my blood ran dead cold. I didn't dare make a sound, and silly me, yes, I was firmly and securely tied to the bed. Nope, not going anywhere. I didn't dare do anything to let Jeanelle know I was here, what if she had a key and came in and found me like this?
She wanted to talk to Antonio privately. I wondered if it was all a double and triple game, if they did in fact love each other and I was being played. If this were so I couldn't understand why they'd bother, but she was outside the door trying to get to Antonio privately. I wondered if Antonio was playing her and using me to do it. If that was so, I had hugely misjudged Antonio. If that were so, I really, really worried about what she'd do if she found me gagged, nearly naked, and tied up helplessly in her lover's bed. And I really started hoping she didn't have a key.
And the little voice came back, reminding me that I was trash and garbage, and Antonio did actually deserve and need someone like Jeanelle and with all that was going on in my life back at school right now the thought of me holding a candle to her was laughable. Downright hilarious. A little part of me started hoping she did have a key; at least it'd be over. No, nothing like him for the little slut bitch who can't read directions properly. Men like Antonio went to real women.
I heard the stairwell doorway open again. Jeanelle withdrew from the door.
"Jeanelle." Antonio's voice. "Why are you up here?"
"I just wanted to talk to you a moment. Where is Lara?"
"In her room, probably already asleep. We ran all over the city today, I think I wore her out. Hopefully not all the way. I'll go wake her up once I get settled in and have taken a shower."
"She's good for you Antonio. I've never seen you this happy." Yep, he has a future in Hollywood too.
"Yes. She's a good woman, smart, and… well,"
"Yes." She granted him the need not to finish that line. "I see how she looks at you, too. When you're not looking."
"Anna likes her. And your other little sister" (referring to herself) "approves, too. Everyone does. Even Mama Gina said a few nice things."
"Thank you. I just hope I can convince her to stay."
"You're a wonderful catch. She's a hugely lucky girl." The sound of a chaste kiss, I imagined on his forehead. "Goodnight, Fratello mio!"
"Goodnight, Jeanella bella!"
After a few seconds, the stairwell door could be heard opening and closing. A few seconds after that, the sound of a key at the door. I was in far too much emotional roller coaster turmoil to do anything but to pretend to be asleep. What the hell was going on, really? The only thing I knew for sure is that I didn't know. The door opened, the light came on, a gasp was heard from the entryway. I decided to pretend to be a deep sleeper.
Antonio came over, sat beside me, so I decided it was safe to "wake up." He pulled the ball gag out. "Oh, my." I said. "A strong, handsome man! And me in so little clothing and so helpless. Whatever will I do?"
He rolled his eyes. "I need to take a shower. You need to decide whether to take one with me."
That of course, stopped the theater in mid-performance. "OK. Let me go."
He smiled, reached over for the key. And put it on the bed beside my waist. And ran his fingertips across my bare upper chest, through the spaces in the lacing between my breasts, scratched between my open legs a spot that I found was in fact horrifically itching. I gasped, which seemed to please him, but he didn't continue. He did press the key into my hand and stood up and headed for the bathroom. I had the key in the first lock before he was through the doorway.
I climbed into the shower with him. It was plenty large enough, warm, steaming slightly, not too hot. He welcomed me in, met me with two soapy hands grabbing my chest. I laughed, soaped up, and did the same. My hands didn't stay that high for too long.
After a few minutes, he grabbed the cloth belt off his robe which was hanging right by the shower and brought it in with us.
He looked at me. A smoldering look that lit fires. I padded obediently over to him.
"What are you going to do with that?" I asked coyly.
"You seem to want something. I am in a mood to make you wait. You can't seem to keep your hands off me. So I'm going to tie them to the shower head."
Oh. My. Yes!
"Ok, but on one condition."
That very much took him by surprise. "And that would be?"
"That when you do that, you french kiss me. A lot."
He looked at me, still smoldering. It was something Jimmy would do to me, when we were teens and together and new to our sexuality. He'd tie me up so I was helpless, if I wasn't naked I wasn't far from it and nothing I ever did have on got in the way. He'd just play with me. For hours. At the end he'd use me to give himself an orgasm one way or another, but lots of being played with first. Hours. And lots and lots of french kissing the helpless but ecstatic girl beneath him when he wasn't kissing me elsewhere. Warm, warm memories. Maybe…
I held my wrists out to him. He wrapped the belt around them, cinched it between my wrists (OMG. Technique! My knees started to feel weak.) And then he backed me up to the wall and held my hands above me to the shower head pipe and tied the belt to it. And pressed his naked, masculine body (and naked, very prominent erection) against my quivering, almost failing-muscles body. He pressed his mouth against mine and forced his tongue into my open and willing mouth.
Good thing my hands were tied firmly above my head, or else I surely would have collapsed. Knees weren't much good at all at that point.
Well, I'm tied and helpless and naked and wet (and wet) and he's hard and wants to kiss me. Hard. Repeatedly.
Oh My My.
The next game back, just as I was finishing setting up, I got a text message from Liz as I sometimes did. Jamie was MVP, and wanted me upstairs. I dutifully finished my duties downstairs, took the gear up to my room, set things up, then lay back, naked the whole time, waiting until I heard car doors slamming outside.
It came soon enough. Ball gag into my mouth, ankles into their cuffs, wrists in and fastened, key as it was always on the side table out of my reach. I only had a few minutes to wonder how many people were coming up to see me, one or two, when Jamie and Angie walked in and closed the door behind them. Both were buzzed already, Angie quite fully.
Jamie looked real happy to see me, Angie even more so in a tank top and hot pants that probably would have been more comfortable if they *were* actually painted on. They looked me over, looked at each other, then off came their clothes in a second.
Angie pulled out the ball gag, feeling up and squeezing my large breasts. "Mia, here's how it's going to happen. Jamie here is going to get busy in the usual place. You are going to lick me, and we are going to see who comes first." She smiled as she climbed over me and straddled my head. She leaned back enough to still be able to fondle and squeeze my breasts. She was starting to get not-so-gentle about it. "If he wins, I'm going to put the gag back in and work over these marvelous tits of yours" (an especially hard squeeze) "with a belt until I'm not upset any more, got it?" I nodded. "And if he wins, I'm going to be very, very upset." She gave me an evil smile from there above me, then settled the appropriate part of her right over my mouth. She looked down at me with a huge smirk as Jamie climbed on the bottom of the bed. "Ready… set… go."
I don't think I'd ever willingly do a girl, but I certainly had gotten some practice in the last six months and being female myself understood the concepts. Away I went, and a few seconds later I felt Jamie find the right spot and start in on me. He had to lean a bit off to the side to miss Angie, but he seemed to be managing just fine. With a little mental shrug I went to work.
It took ten minutes, but I lost the race. But by that time Angie was so close she couldn't have cared less. Jamie seized up and spurted into me, then after a few minutes I was aware of him climbing off me and apparently starting to suck on Angie's breasts. Just a moment of that was enough to push her over the edge. She gave a little groan and clenched my head a little too tight with her thighs then shuddered for about three minutes, eyes closed. When her eyes finally opened she gave a warm little groan and climbed off me. I was still tied spread to my bed, her leaked juices slowly drying all over my lower face and upper chest. Jamie started to hand me the key, but Angie stopped him. "No, I want to remember all night how she's still stuck laying here with my juices drying all over her." Jamie shrugged and put the key back. "Take me back to my room and fuck me hard!"
Angie leaned down and gave me a long sensuous french kiss, then buckled the ball gag back in. "Thank you, Laracita! You're still wonderful. Enjoy what I'm leaving you." as she flaked a little of her dried juices off my chest. Jamie and Angie dressed in a few minutes with the naked woman tied to the bed in the room seemingly forgotten, then arm in arm left.
The third-to-the last party things went very, very wrong. It was the last night I was the entertainment because of how wrong it went. It started off like a normal party, with me tied up standing. Mitch was the MVP, which scared me, but the only requirement he gave me was that when I sucked the guys off, I was to spit it out into a cup. I thought, somewhat grossed out, that I'd be forced to drink it at the end of the night. If only it had been that easy.
The team had done well, but not well enough for postseason, so when those two games were over the season was over for the team. My nightmare was coming to a close.
I had to admit, my fantasy life had suffered over the last seven months. Not for a lack of trying, but because I had all the ammunition for that sort of thing just from remembering things that had actually happened to me (ok, sometimes embellishing just a little), my fantasy life was kind of drab compared to that. But my sex life would be my own again, My job at Caughman and Treat still looked good, from what I was hearing the offer letter was on the way, and no one from the Rugby team that I knew of was going anywhere near San Diego. It had sorta been fun, being the party treat and all the wild things that had happened to me that I never would have come a million miles close to otherwise, but it had. You couldn't do it forever, I certainly couldn't, and I was glad in some obvious ways to see it coming to an end. I could spend a year or two in La Jolla with my head down and let all this pass into history, then go see what the men of the world were like again afresh with all this forgotten.
A couple of people came around and used me, about average for a night. One or two of them thanked me, told me what an awesome sport I had been, promised me it was over next Thursday after the last game, and wished me well in my future. Sorta touching, sorta funny. I just nodded, ball-gagged, standing there naked. I could do little else.
By around 2, pretty much everyone had left. Liz and Bill had gone upstairs an hour ago, and when Gary finally left for the night, it was just me and Mitch. Which scared me even more. Well, I figured it was cum-drinking time. I wondered why he waited until he didn't have an audience any more. Dammit, Liz had promised, after he had gone after me with that whip, and again when he'd waylaid me in class, that he'd never be alone with me again. Well, someone screwed up, but there was no one to do anything about it now. He stripped out of all his clothes, then came by and patted my ass.
He pulled a large turkey baster out of his backpack, and as I watched poured all the semen I'd been collecting into it. I was a little drunk, so I wondered what was going on with that. He moved over to me and unfastened me, but instead of taking me to the table he handcuffed my hands behind me, then hooked my ankles up where my wrists usually went. So I was upside down, in a very wide "Y". I was getting quite uncomfortable about this, but had my ball gag in and was drunk enough that I wasn't quite as concerned about it as I probably should have been.
He knelt down in front of me and had me suck him off again. I wasn't happy about being upside-down for this. I had done him a few hours ago, so not much came of it but the little that did also went into the turkey baster and the bulb was put back on top.
He put the ball-gag back in, then spent a few minutes running his hands over my body. Then he went and grabbed the turkey baster. "Time for an injection, Lara. Hope you're on the pill. If not, god only knows who the father will be." He reached inside of me and pulled out my IUD. I started to struggle now, thrashing and grunting, but tied up and hanging upside down, nothing came of it. I felt the turkey baster go deep inside of me, then felt the contents start to fill me up. The bastard squeezed it all into me then pulled out the baster with a wet plop.
He stuck a finger inside of me, felt like he was stirring things in there. Then he stopped, and with a voice of pure evil, told me he had a better way to get things thoroughly mixed in there. He walked back to his bag and to my horrified eyes pulled out his bullwhip.
I started making lots of noise, which wasn't much, and thrashing hard, which also wasn't much. He took the whip and ran the length of it between my legs, which knowing what he had promised was just terrifying. He ran it over my breasts, around my back, all over my naked and exposed body, trying to scare me and succeeding wonderfully. Where was Liz? She'd promised to never leave me alone, especially with Mitch. But it was just the two of us down here.
While he ran the whip all over my body he reminded me that I had been warned that this would happen if I had told anyone about the blow job that day in Antiquities class. And oh, he had mixed some Zip into Liz's beer earlier tonight, so she wasn't coming to rescue me. I realized he was right. Liz normally slipped upstairs to get some alone time with Bill, which she had done about two hours ago. Zip would lower her inhibitions then put her to sleep for about six hours. She probably banged Bill heartily and was now fast asleep two stories above me. And the basement was well sound-isolated, I had insisted before they found me that fateful night so that I didn't have to hear any of their stupid parties from upstairs, before I made myself the center of entertainment for them. And the sound of Mitch and his whip wouldn't be heard outside the room. I was so screwed.
"Ok yeah, I forgot." He said. He leaned down in front of me and attached the nipple cord to my piercings, then to a spot on the floor in front of me. He examined his work, my breasts weren't stretched too badly and he wasn't satisfied with that, so he pulled me forward by my ball-gag and tightened the cord. When he let me go with a sharp pain I found I was held about an inch or two away from straight up and down by my tightly stretched breasts. Then he went and picked the bullwhip back up.
"You know, I love a naked, helpless woman." He told me. "With big tits." He continued. "Who I am about to whip the hell out of." I was beyond panic now, almost frozen into stillness. I couldn't move, my ankles hurt, my breasts were starting to hurt, I was suspended naked and upside down, and the bastard had a bullwhip in his hands again.
He took up a position behind me, stood there doing something I couldn't tell for a few minutes. Probably jerking off. Then the sound of the whistling whip started behind me, and I started to whimper and shake, but couldn't get away. Then came the line of fire and the sound of the crack.
It was on my left butt cheek. I screamed through my gag and jerked around for about five minutes. My already-stretched breasts felt like they were ripping off. I never heard a sound from Mitch. Then he quietly said: "Good, but I think we need to mix it around some more." And the whistling sound from behind me started again.
He had landed about six blows on me; he wasn't being gentle this time. I was sure I was bleeding from where he hit me on my back, my butt, and my upper legs. Each time he'd strike me I'd scream and thrash about for a few minutes, which he'd let me. When I had calmed down he'd move to a different position around me and start playing with the whip for a while, even cracking it near me to scare me, which wasn't hard, before marking me again with strips of molten-hot pain.
He walked up to me in my haze of pain. "You know," he told me, "You're going to San Diego. Stratham's nearest office is in North Hollywood." Even through the pain my blood ran cold. "I've changed things so that my job will be there. I know we're almost graduated, but I'm having too much fun with you to let you go. I can come down and visit you in San Diego any time I want, probably about twice a month. We're not done by a long shot." Then he went back to whipping me.
It wasn't fun, it wasn't sex, it was just pure pain. Nobody in the room except him and me. Nobody to hear me scream into the ball gag each time he laid another stripe on me, then he waited until I stopped thrashing to do it again. Nobody to hear my whimpering fear, my scream each time I heard the whip coming for me again, my crying afterward, then my last strangled sound fading off into terrified silence as it started again. He was going to whip me, it was going to hurt like fire each time, and nothing was going to stop it. After a while I even stopped thrashing, just took each strike without a response. It didn't matter, it wasn't going to change anything. It was meaningless. I even stopped crying. At that point I really wasn't there.
Until that last time. He took a long time playing with the whip, whistling it around. But when it landed, it was dead straight on the crack of my ass, rolling up my slit across the front of me. The tip actually hit in my pubic hair, but just before that the braid landed square on my clit. With a scream and a blast of pain that both went on forever, like an explosion, like nothing I had ever felt before, like a limb being torn off, I passed out.
I came back to, still naked, on my stomach, in my own bed. All the stripes on my back and legs and butt were still there, but felt better, a sore line of pain, but not lines of fire as they were to me what was a few seconds ago. I tensed up, but Liz was the only one there. I wasn't tied or restrained in any way. Liz saw me moving and was at my side in an instant.
"Oh, God, Lara, I'm so, so, so, so sorry. I screwed up and I never will again." She was crying. "But you're safe now, I promise." And I fell back asleep.
I woke up, believe it or not, after a whole day asleep, Sunday, the second day after the party. I felt sore everywhere. The spots where I was striped would be hidden under a full shirt and pants, but the best I could do right then was sweats. I dressed and went downstairs. Liz and Steve were there.
I made it clear to them that it was over, I was not showing up for the last two games. Neither of them argued. They had, everyone had pretty much come to the same conclusion. They mentioned to me that several people had requested I come down just for a second, so they could see me and see how I was doing. Everyone understood the sex games were done. Steve showed me a picture of Mitch's car he had taken earlier that morning. Every piece of glass and a lot of the metal on the car was smashed.
I just nodded, grabbed an OJ and an apple from the fridge, and returned to my room.
The next game was Monday night, the night after. I took two sleeping pills about three hours before the game ended and didn't even budge until the next morning. No one had disturbed me. Liz told me that Mitch had been warned that if he even thought about going to the party he would be leaving in an ambulance, so he was nowhere to be found at the game or the party. Several of the guys there, Liz volunteered, would be quite willing to make Mitch look like his car if I'd only ask.
I'd made it through my finals. I had decided to put in a brief appearance downstairs that last party. Most of them had been more or less good to me. I knew deep down inside that if I had *really* wanted to stop this, I could have done it anytime.
But early in the afternoon of that last game and party, after everyone else had left for the game, I got a very worried phone call from my father. Real bad news, he told me, sit down. Caughman and Treat on Tuesday was bought out in a very unexpected takeover, an offer they couldn't refuse, by a company named Broman and Edinger. Fantastic deal for everyone at C&T, the principals were making a pretty hefty profit, the staff that wasn't going to Edinger had a great severance package and six months of support and assistance to find new jobs. But they were being closed down. They, as a company, were just gone.
Which meant my job with them was just as gone. Dad was almost crying, telling me about how shitty this was just before I graduated but he assured me repeatedly that he and Dean were already shaking trees and expected to have at least three or four interviews set up when we got home after graduation next week. I was stunned into silence but screaming on the inside, and being my Dad he didn't have to be in the room to know that. He told me he'd apologize in person when he got here next Tuesday, and of course I was still coming home with them after graduating, and that everything would work out ok.
I was really going to go downstairs now, and stay longer than I had originally planned. They had alcohol down there.
Liz blew down into the basement like she had every other time, along with about six other people. She came to a dead stop when she saw me, sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs, with 5 long-necks empty on the table beside me, number 6 in my hand. I was gratefully long past the point where I cared. "Hi Liz!" I slurred. "I'm Lara. I understand you may not recognize me, since I've never been seen down here before actually wearing clothes…"
I felt like hell, and the beer was only partially working. I had to find a job, and once I was in Cali and away from all of these people, Mitch had promised to continue all this with me, and he was a vengeful bastard, and I had no doubt I'd earned more of that than I could imagine with all this. I wasn't suicidal, but I had spent a little bit of time as I got drunker and drunker thinking of how I could, if I could, get away with murder. Delightful ways of dismembering bodies and similar things. Well, no, that was just fantasy, pleasant though it was. I was settling down and sinking into the realization that if Mitch carried out his threat. I'd have to go somewhere else, way far away. Maybe Australia. The land around those Lord of the Rings movies sure looked beautiful.
At least Antonio was going to be here tonight. Maybe I could anoint him honorary MVP, so he could take me upstairs and screw what little consciousness was left out of me. He was the best by a pretty firm margin of all the people on the team that had done me.
Liz managed to get the story out of me, at least the lost job part. The other folks who weren't there to hear it found out fast enough, too. Antonio, strangely enough, showed up a few minutes late like he always did but once he found out, with a quick look at me dashed back out.
That was enough. Straws, the last straw. I finished off the bottle in one huge swallow and another one after it. I very faintly remember slipping far enough gone so that Liz and Steve set me off to the side. They were afraid that I was too drunk to even take up to my room and leave alone. I was so far past caring that caring was a pinprick of light so far behind me that the shine of it never touched my ass.
The next morning I woke up in my own bed, crawled to the toilet, and threw up for about fifteen minutes. Bill showed up almost immediately, watched me while I paid for the misdeeds of the previous evening, then handed me some orange juice and aspirin. Which I gratefully took and drank. And, of course, threw back up a minute or two later. He was still waiting in the doorway, had more aspirin, and water this time.
I finally kept it down. Liz sent her apologies, but had a final, or she'd be here. I absolutely understood that. Everyone was real, real sorry, and wanted me to know that they were pulling for me. Antonio had specifically asked that Liz text him when I was back up, he wanted to come see me if I'd permit it. I managed to let Bill know, once my stomach again agreed to be a team player in terms of my body, to do that. Then I went back to bed. As he helped me to bed, Bill told me, for what it was worth, that Mitch had a really bad accident when he was moving his stuff out of the dorm and he was downtown in Kelso General, probably for a week or two. Broke some bones, but nothing life threatening. And no, nobody knew anything about it, and no, nobody did it to him. A genuine accident. But he was going to miss graduation.
Damn. Pity. Then again, that meant there'd be weak spots that'd be easier to re-break.
I woke up about an hour later, felt human (achy human), hungry. I wandered downstairs to find Antonio sitting on the couch. I realized what had happened and apologized profusely for his wait, which he dismissed. Yeah, I took it pretty bad, he told me, but maybe this would help. He tried to give it to me last night, but I was already passed out when he got back with it. He was supposed to wait until next week, but he figured people would understand. He handed me a legal-size envelope.
It was from Meraz Holdings, all official on bond paper, company letterhead, all that. It offered me a junior partnership in their legal division, about thirty percent more money than I had any hope of making at Caughman, and my choice of start dates any time in the next three months.
I was speechless. "I don't know what to say…"
"Say yes. Stay with me."
"I'm not anybody's sex slave anymore. If you're expecting to continue that…"
He just rolled his eyes and sighed. It occurred to me that he'd never liked that either. "There are no preconditions. If it doesn't work out," he paused to make sure I knew he meant both ways, "just quit and leave. It's me, Lara. I hated that crap from the start. I don't want you as a sex slave." He looked at me, saw the passing flash of hurt in my eyes, knowing what I did like to do. "Much. Except when appropriate. With you." He ran out of words. "Dammit, you know what I mean…"
"What about Mom and Dad?"
He nodded at the envelope. "On that money? You can visit them lots." Well, yes, he had a point.
"But what about Mitch? He'll…"
Antonio nodded. "Yeah, Mitch." He pulled out his phone, dialed a number. Once the other side picked up he handed it to me. "It's Mitch. He's been wanting to talk to you."
It was him, from his hospital bed. I was shocked, but glad to hear he was awake and talking.
"Hey Lara!" He began. You could hear it in his voice, a bit scared, a bit tired. "I just wanted to ask you to forgive me for everything I've done to you." I nearly dropped the phone. "I know what I said before, but things have changed, and if I never come to your mind or Antonio's, that's all good by me. I sure as hell will never do anything to put myself there."
I was speechless for a second. The thought fleeted through my mind of saying something different, but under these circumstances there was only one thing to say. "Of course, Mitch. What happened?"
"Well, I was moving out, taking my stuff down the stairwell, you know my dorm room was on the fourth floor. Well, I ran into some really nice guys. Big Italian guys. Huge, really. They asked me about my future plans, you know, if I had any plans to keep up with any of my classmates after we graduated. Then they helped me down the stairs, if you know what I mean. A full flight and a half."
My heart sank in my throat, and my knees started feeling weak. I had wanted some way out of what he said he was planning, but nearly killing him, in my heart of hearts, previous drunken fantasies notwithstanding, was way out of my intended scope.
"It gets better." He continued. "They were really nice about it, though, asked me to make sure I apologized to you. And to let everyone else on the team know what happened. I have. You have a reeealy nice life, Lara, because nobody on the team is going to cause you an ounce of trouble now. Ever. Ever. *Ever*."
I could hear him stop to catch his breath. "But they were really nice guys, really considerate, you know. Professionals, maybe. They had already called the ambulance, and waited until it was pretty much in the dorm parking lot. The EMTs were there so fast I almost didn't have time to bleed. Much."
"I'm so glad you're ok," I finally managed to get out, "and I swear to God I had nothing to do with this."
"Oh, I believe you, Lara. Honestly and truly. I got that part pretty well figured out."
"What about your job with Stratham?" I asked him.
"Well, because I'm going to be in the hospital for two months, they gave that job to someone else. But it's all working out pretty wonderfully, imagine that. Stratham, believe it or not, has another job they're holding for me, starts in about ten weeks, but it's in Austin, not in L.A. Yeah. When I called them up to tell them I was in the hospital it was almost as if they already had it worked out. Go figure. Same exact pay, pretty much the same gig. Closer to home, too. And more money, really, because it's not La La Land. I can live with that. And you know, in exchange for me not making a stink about my accident, the school has agreed to pay one hundred percent of my medical bills. I mean, free long distance, internet, and premium cable. Yeah, missing graduation is a bitch, but, wow. I guess if you're going to be stuck in a hospital bed, this is about as good as it gets, huh? I hurt like hell, but the doctor says I'll be skiing by December, no problems. So I guess, all in all I'm a lucky guy."
"Sure sounds like it to me." I agreed, at an almost complete loss for something to say.
"Yeah, funny thing, I don't think Stratham has an office within 500 miles of Manhattan. At least none I've heard of." I didn't believe that on a factual basis for a second, but I understood what he was saying. "Well, it's been good talking to you, Lara, and good to know you. Have fun in Midtown and say hi to Antonio for me, ok?"
"I will. Believe me I will."
"Good. Talk to you again sometime." There was a pause, almost panicked. "Maybe not." He hung up.
I just stood there, holding the phone in my hand for what seemed like about five minutes. Antonio took the phone out of my frozen hand and waited for me. Then I broke out of it and slowly shook my head. He gave a little, suppressed smile, and shook his too.
"Yeah, well, that's just Uncle Tony and Uncle Lido. They *do* really like you, but sometimes they can go a little overboard."
"They did a little research on you, found out about the parties. They tried to warn me about it, but I told them you were being blackmailed and the minute you got out of school that would all stop. I told them I knew all about it and still wanted you. And yeah, they know all kinds of people. When they fix something…" He just stared at me with his lopsided grin. Then he shrugged. "You know…"
I let go the breath I didn't know I was holding, a long, deep exhale. "Yeah. I'll have to remember to say thank you to them. And not to piss them off."
He pushed a hand at me dismissively. "Nah, they're sweet on you, think you're the world. But it's always good to say thank you." He looked up and smiled. "You hungry yet?"