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Old 07-26-2015, 11:12 PM   #1
Forgotten_Futures
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Default Ex-Cess (BBW, SWG)

Ex-Cess -
by Forgotten_Futures



[Author's notes: Started working on this back in the middle of 2010, based entirely on a dream I had - which makes it on the fairly-fantastical side - which I have no idea what was the source material for. Its goal morphed several times and I have no interest in going back through to unify it, but none of the plot segues break the thing and so it shall stand as it is. The title is my usual word-play, and refers to the original direction the story was to take (and still mostly does, though the exact path changed). The POV is first person limited omniscience - Michael is "I", but the reader is still aware of Rachel's behaviors -and her thoughts - which Michael is not, where it benefits the story. The character of Michael is basically me, though less inherently paranoid. Rachel is an amalgamation of people I know and knew, and, to an extent, me.

I kind of thought I'd posted this already; I'm a little surprised that I didn't. It's 39 pages Size 12 Arial. I guess... enjoy?

Oh, yes, there's a few lines of profanity near the end. Sorry?]



“I'm very glad to have this opportunity. I assure you I will make the best of it, try to breathe some life back into this community.” I extended my hand and the businesswoman standing a foot or so away took it, giving a surprisingly firm shake.

“And I'm glad to have someone occupying the space again - though I'd be remiss if I didn't point out all the others who have tried and failed.” The woman in question just happened to be landlord of the moderately large building I'd just wrapped up plans to rent. It was time for a new venture, and this time around my choice was to open a retail store in a less-fortunate area not far from where I lived.

I took a moment to appraise the woman once more; medium height, fair skin, blond. Smart-but-inexpensive suit. She possessed the air of someone who visited the gym regularly, but was not altogether fit and trim. Her manner was pleasant, charming, but not what I looked for in a woman. She appeared to sense this, and kept conversation strictly business.

“I'll have crews in here tomorrow, if that's okay?”

“Just as long as I see the rental fee in my bank account within seven days. Normally I wouldn't give that long, but your reputation gives reason to trust you further.”

We began to walk towards the doors at the corner of the building. “I thank you for the compliment. Believe me when I say, you will not regret this decision.”

We exited in tandem, taking turns holding open the twin entryway doors for each other, and split off to our cars. Despite my wealth, I drove an economy-class sports coupe; the landlord's car was clearly worth more, and stood out in the relatively run-down neighborhood. I unlocked the door, sat down, and started the car before I noticed her.

Stretched out on the back seat, bundled up in blankets to ward off the day's cold, I wouldn't have noticed her if I hadn't been looking. She was entirely unassuming in appearance - peaceful, despite looking very dirty and malnourished. It took me a moment to realize she was asleep, and probably wasn't aware of my presence.

My first thought was as to how she'd gotten there. The car looked fairly low-class on the outside and inside, but the electronics were quite sophisticated. The fob hanging off the key-ring contained a passive RFID chip. If the car had last been unlocked without the fob and the fob left an approximately 2-meter radius around the car's outer edge, all the doors locked. The system also had code-locks as a backup, in case the fob's battery died, or for some reason an authorized user needed to get in without the fob on their person.

Too, they should not have been able to be picked. While one could access the car proper from the trunk, the rear hatch behaved like a third door, and did not even possess an external lock. There was no conceivable way she could have gotten inside.

While I was pondering her existence in the back seat of my vehicle, the landlord pulled her car out of the lot and drove off. I should leave, too. But that would be kidnapping, wouldn't it? No one would believe a derelict had fallen asleep in my car. I could hardly believe it myself. Cautiously, as though afraid she were actually a bomb that would blow up at the slightest provocation, I reached out and touched her shoulder.

Her eyes fluttered open almost immediately. My guess was that she'd trained herself to ignore the noise of the 'burbs, but react instantly to human contact. Instantly she shied back from my touch, her eyes wide with fear and worry. She had miscalculated, falling asleep in the back of a car where both the doors were up front; she was cornered, at my mercy, and quite possibly doomed. Yet she did not scream, did not panic. It seemed she was waiting for me to make my move.

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. I just wanted to let you know, I'm leaving now. You're welcome to stay put if you'd like, but if you'd rather stay here you'll need to get out.” I kept my tone on the kind side of neutral. I had no reason to harm her, and hoped she felt the same way. I was as aware of my predicament as she was - if harm was her goal, I would not likely make it out of the car before she did as she intended.

She swallowed once, looked about as though expecting a trap, then her lips parted. Her voice was dry, scratchy - she was probably thirsty, and not in the best health. “You... don't mind?”

“Well, asking first would have been nice, but I'm hardly going to turn away someone who needs help, even if it's just shelter from a particularly cold Spring day.” I paused for a moment, putting my thoughts in order. “Are you aware who I am?”

She shook her head; I sensed no deception. “Doesn't really matter, I suppose. Anyway,” I turned back around to face forwards, “you're welcome to come to my place and stay the night if you want. Otherwise, there's the door. I'm not stopping you.”

“...Do you mind if I sleep for the ride?”

“Not at all. I'll try not to make any hard stops.” Grinning as I said this, I pulled out of the lot and started off to my house.

I say 'house' somewhat loosely. It's on the scale of a very small mansion, and a very custom build. Built into a mound of rock, it has only one floor visible from the front or sides, which gives it the appearance of a simple one-story home atop a hill. The driveway is carved between two steep slopes, preventing view of the back yard from the road. A 2-car garage and workshop area open onto an expanse of blacktop at the end of the driveway, while a large, partly greenhouse'd garden extends back from the blacktop square. A gentle, paved slope works its way up from the blacktop, along the side of the house, up to where the above-ground bit can be accessed through the front door. A third story is sandwiched between the two. Scads of outdoor LED lighting is both obvious and cleverly concealed. All the windows are polycarbonate, and the siding is anodized aluminum.

Pulling up to the back of the house, I shut off the car and turned to my unplanned passenger. “We're here.”

Edging up into a seated position, she looked at the 3-story rear wall of my home, the third floor mostly obscured by a large deck supported on columns.

“Well, come on, no sense staying out here.” I suited action to words by sliding the driver's seat forwards, permitting her room to exit.

Looking somewhat intimidated, she crawled out from the back and out the driver's side door after me, pulling her blanket with her. I got my first relatively good look at her now.

She was a mess, and I finally realized the smell that had been in the air was also coming from her. Her hair was clumped and greasy, such that I couldn't be sure of the color. Her skin was dirty, she was emaciated, and appeared pale for someone who probably spent more time outside than most in the civilized world. Her facial expression was drawn out, weak, vulnerable, but her eyes were hard and fierce.

It also became obvious that she had, indeed, been stretched out on the seat. She was short, definitely below five feet tall, but not disproportioned or anything. She looked kind of like a taller-than-average halfling. Compared to my towering 6' 4” frame, she must have felt tiny. She didn't seem to have any extra nervousness about it, however.

“Let's get you inside and cleaned up. I doubt I have anything in your size, but I can at least get your clothes washed while you shower. We'll get you something to eat and then settled for the night if you'd like.”

She regarded me calmly, surprisingly okay with the situation, despite how blatantly odd it was. I wondered if she even cared enough that I might have nefarious purposes in mind, that rape would be worth a shower and a good meal, and death might be preferable to all three. “Why are you doing this?”

“I'm not really sure, to be honest. I just... feel like doing things, sometimes.”

She tilted her head, much like a puppy dog, then shrugged. “If you say so.”

I wondered, for a moment, if something was up, but dismissed it. “Come on, this way.” Unlocking the door, I led her in from the ground floor. She followed me up a flight of stairs, where I led her into a room off the hallway. “This' the bathroom. Toss your stuff out in the hall and I'll pick it up in a few minutes. Soap and shampoo are readily available in the cabinets around the edge of the room. I've got a good selection, just use what you prefer most.” I turned to leave and had almost made it out when something soft whacked me in the back of the head. It took me a second to realize the implications, which was almost too long to prevent me from turning around.

“You're curious. Most people would probably have raped me by now, or at least groped me. But you're concerned for my modesty.” She chuckled, softly, “Don't worry about the clothes. I don't mind going naked for a bit... if you don't mind me doing so.”

I resisted the urge to turn around and look. “What purpose would it serve to have not taken advantage of you so far, just to turn around and see you nude now?”

“Does it really matter? I don't care. You're already being nicer to me than anyone's been in years. I can't really repay you any other way.”

I felt my face heat. “How dare you suggest I-” my protest cut off as I realized what she'd just done. Having goaded me into turning around by playing my own interests against me, I was now looking upon her naked form. She simply stood there; no sexy pose, no flirtatious expression, nothing more than a young woman, in my bathroom, mere feet away, and who just happened to be wearing nothing at all. I sighed. “Promise you'll keep the neutral aura?”

“You've got it, sir.” She grinned, turned, and stepped into the shower.

Her nonchalance finally getting to me, I had to admit, she had a nice figure. Granted, she was skinny to the point of having zero sex appeal, but I could see she had wide hips, and looked to possess a form I'd find most alluring with some meat on it. Scooping up her stuff as rivulets of hot water began rinsing off the grime, I about-faced and strode out of the bathroom. Refusing to simply let her walk about nude without any other choice, I headed for the laundry room.

It was about an hour later, as we sat down to dinner, that I found myself eating my thoughts. Eschewing the clean (but still bedraggled) clothing, I found my guest, whose name I still had not asked, seated opposite me nude as a jay bird. I'd made pasta, which she opted to complement with butter and fresh Parmesan, where I had ground beef in well-flavored tomato sauce.

Her attitude surprised me. And, far from being unnerved, I was actually comfortable. Perhaps it was the latent trust, reinforced by the fact she felt safe enough to be naked in front of me. Perhaps it was simply that she looked so defenseless, but lacked that fragile innocence that is at once intriguing and disturbing. Or maybe it was that spark I'd first felt, when I saw her in the back of my car, that told me she was something more.

She finished her small bowl of pasta and leaned back in the dining chair. “Full?”

“Understatement. Been a while since I've eaten food this good.”

“It's nothing special, you don't have to-”

“No, really. I don't blame you for not knowing. You've got this nice house and everything, I can't expect you to know what being homeless is like. It's been a while since I've had anything you could call 'food', rather than mere sustenance.”

I let that one digest, then radically changed the subject. “You've got a pretty good vocabulary, you know, considering..”

She nodded, deferring the point. “I know. Thank you for not putting surprise in your tone; I was well educated, I just... fell on hard times. And slipped through the cracks of my family's hands. Assuming they even know who I am, anymore...”

“I.. I'm sorry. But that's actually a good point. Who are you?”

“Rachel Winsmeyer. Rach for 'short'.” She chuckled at her own self-targeting joke. “And you would be?”

“Michael Irlken. Mike, for, 'short'.” I threw in air quotes to emphasize the joke.

“Hey, what makes you think you can make jokes at the expense of my height?”

“You just did.”

She shrugged, “touchè.”

There was silence for a moment as I struggled to find something else to say. “Uhh, so, is there anything else you'd like?”

“If you mean food, then the list is too long to name, but realistically I can't eat any more right now.”

“Anything else? It's a little early for sleeping.”

“Show me your garden?”

“You'll have to put your clothes on.”

She looked at the clothes, draped over the back of a chair. “...never mind then.”

“What exactly is your revulsion to clothing? Or is it just that clothing?”

“Just those. They feel wrong in here, in this... splendor. I mean, look at them. They're rags, they look like crap, don't feel much better. I'd rather be naked than wear those in here.”

“So... you'd wear other clothes in here... if they were nice and new?”

“I ...wait. You've been kind enough already, I really couldn't ask-”

“You didn't, I did. Would you?”

She looked at the floor between her knees, as though in shame, but she answered honestly. “If you must. I can't stop you.”

Suddenly aware I may have crossed a line, I started to stand up, in order to walk around to her. “My generosity is... revolting to you, isn't it?”

Her eyes teared up, her shoulders began shaking with sobs. “It hurts to admit... that I need it. I don't like charity. I want to - to work for it myself. To deserve it.”

I reached her chair, reached up to brush her cheek, “but you do deserve-”

“Don't touch me!” She screamed, pushing my arms away and backpedaling, falling out of the chair but continuing to move away until her back was against the wall. “I don't deserve anything! I'm crap, you hear me, worthless low-life crap!” She glared through a sudden wall of tears, daring me to contradict her. Every fiber of my being wanted to hold her, to comfort her even if it meant being torn to ribbons in the process. But I held back. How does one comfort someone who claims to hate it?

Pulling open a door to reveal a set of stairs leading to the top floor, I cocked my head, nodding their direction. “Well, get your filthy butt upstairs and into bed then. Or is a bed too good for crap like you?”

Her voice was ice. “Yes, sir.” But she complied, pulling herself up from the floor and marching up the stairs. She'd won, or so she thought. So what if I was being nice? She was still worthless, this didn't change it any. Even I thought she was filth under everything else.

I got the sense she was trying to protect herself from my kind intentions; appreciating it, but refusing to admit it... almost as if doing so would make it go away that much sooner.

I spent a few minutes putting the remains of dinner away. Rachel's bowl was nearly spotless, the only evidence it had held anything a thin film of butter lining the inside. I noticed my own bowl, bits and pieces still lingering, and felt guilty enough to finish them off. I was tempted to stick the dishes in the dishwasher, but in a moment of humility I washed them by hand. There was maybe an hour of light left in the evening, and I needed to check my garden, preferably without having to run the brighter outdoor lights too long.

The garden took care of itself, for the most part. I'd seen to that myself, jury rigging systems together and in some cases creating new objects in order to achieve the ends I wanted. It was a mostly natural system, with the more pest and disease susceptible plants inside climate-controlled greenhouses which shielded them from pest bugs, while a small fleet of natural pest predators kept a constant patrol for anything that managed to get in on the few instances unfiltered air was allowed to enter the controlled environments. The whole garden complex, such as it were, was possibly worth more than the house itself in terms of material.

Thus, my tasks were mostly pruning and harvesting, and right now strawberries were the crop to pick. I wondered if Rachel would like some fresh strawberries at breakfast, as I picked a few big, succulent fruits off the squat, winter-loving plants. I worked for the next hour, the heat sensors, aware of my presence due the large signature, turning the lights on and slowly up, as the optical sensors atop the greenhouse I was in at the moment registered the sunlight waning. Several times throughout the work session I felt like I was being watched, but never saw anything as I glanced back towards the house.

I collected and put away my tools and headed back to the house, a muted glow in the air all around, pressure sensors lighting the actual path before me. I took a quick shower and headed up to the top floor. Checking on Rachel in the guest room, I was comforted to see her head above the covers, hair still a bit of a mess but looking better than when she'd first arrived. Closing the door softly, I headed to my own bedroom, stripped, and crawled into bed.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:14 PM   #2
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The next morning I awoke with the sun having not yet risen and pulled on a pair of athletic shorts and a T-shirt, immediately heading downstairs to the kitchen. Rachel's clothes were still draped over the chair where she'd left them last night. Cutting up the fresh strawberries I'd picked, mindful of the small appetite Rachel had evidenced the night before, I arranged the slices on a plate and drizzled them with syrup. Carrying the plate upstairs along with a fork, I knocked on the guest room door. When there was no answer, I knocked again, louder. When there was still no answer, I slowly turned the door knob and pushed the door open. The bed was empty, and the sheet was also missing.

I took a couple steps into the room, cursing under my breath, when something caught the corner of my eye. A fluttering whiteness out on the deck. Grinning, I crossed the room and stepped out to join my guest.

“The rear of your house faces due east.”

“In a few minutes, the sun will rise just behind the garden.” I placed the strawberries in front of her on the wide railing, where she'd propped her elbows. Bracing myself on my hands, I looked down at her from the side. She was wrapped loosely in the bedsheet, a silent concession to my insistence she wear something outside. Or perhaps just sensitivity to the chill morning breeze.

“Surprised I'm still here?”

“Not quite. Happy, though. I thought you might slip out on me once I fell asleep.”

She turned to face me. “Please forgive me my outburst last night. This is all so unusual. I don't want to seem ungrateful, I'm just...”

“I'm not going to ask anything of you, if that's what you're getting at.” I pointed to the strawberries, “please, eat.”

“Strawberries... one of my favorites. Thank you.” She picked up the fork and began ferrying red slices of fruit from the plate to her mouth. This forestalled further conversation, and in the meantime, the sun rose. “You know, it's hard to see a sunrise from inside a city. Most of it gets obscured by the buildings.”

She was asking to stay. I could feel it. She wouldn't outright say it, but the comments she kept making... She likes it here. She likes the trust. I think. “Hey, uh, Rachel... I have to head into town today, open up the building and supervise the remodeling for a few hours at least. Will you be okay while I'm gone?”

The question seemed to take her by surprise, not least the part where I didn't tell her I was sticking her back where she'd come from. “I.. umm... I don't want to impose. You've done so much already, I really-”

“I'm not kicking you out. I'm not preventing you from leaving, but if you want to stay... my home is open for as long as you'd like.”

“You're being nice to me again...”

“No, nice would be leaving the door to the second floor unlocked. Oh, one more thing.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a plastic card. “Temporary credit card. Hundred dollars. Buy yourself some clothes. Keep it simple and comfy. Also, no 'false modesty' please.”

“'False modesty'?”

“Partial button downs, gauzy fabrics... anything that could easily be made to stop covering what it covers in its current state. And especially those stupid tops with fasteners never designed to actually be closed.”

“So... no lingerie, then?”

“Yeah, no lingerie. Zip-ups, oddly, don't bother me, though.”

She smirked, “duly noted, sir.” She hesitated a moment, “although... if I can't get to the kitchen I can't have lunch ready for you when you get back.”

“So, you're requesting access to the second floor then?”

“N-not for my benefit. I'm not worthy. I'm crap, remember?”

“Of course. Now, you better wash your filthy hands before you touch my food, got it?”

“Yes, sir.” This last was clear, precise, not joking or flirty.

“I'll be back for lunch then. I expect to see you in the kitchen, ready for me. Is that clear?”

“Perfectly sir. You won't be disappointed.”

Stepping back inside, I unlocked the door to the second floor, and walked to the front door. I'd left my car out on the blacktop, so there was little reason to walk through the house. “I certainly hope not.”

As I got in my car and drove off, I couldn't help but wonder if I'd just left my house in the hands of a jackal. We'll just have to see what she does, won't we?
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:15 PM   #3
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Rachel waited until she heard the engine hum dissipate in the distance before immediately springing into action. The first thing she did was to drop the sheet in the guest bedroom and head down to the bathroom on the second floor. Turning on the water, she stepped inside the shower and gave herself a thorough scrubbing. It took her an hour and left her skin somewhat pruned, but she got every last bit of 'worthless' off her and down the drain. Her hair was soft and shined for the first time since she'd dropped out of college, when her scholarship ran out and student loans had forced her to cut and run. They had repossessed everything, kicking her out on the streets with nothing but her name and a social security number. She'd been chaining from one crap job to another ever since, even stooping so low as to enter the porn industry for a few months before deciding she wasn't that desperate.

Foraging around for a rubber band, she pulled her hair back into a pony tail. The guest bedroom had a computer in it with a basic, restricted access account set up for guests. She logged on and spent an hour browsing, eventually picking an ensemble that gave her some basic choices while maximizing the value of Mike's temporary credit card. She was careful to keep everything relatively plain; conservative, but not dowdy or boring. She debated having it shipped faster, but decided it was better to get more substance. He hadn't seemed to mind her going naked thus far - a few more days wouldn't kill him.

She had to admit, she had lied. She knew full well who he was, knew how much he was worth. She would've thought, before meeting him, that would have meant something to her. Opportunity, a chance to get her old life back, a chance to get out of poverty. His generosity had put her right in the lap of his wealth; she could rob him blind and disappear if she so chose. But she didn't. As tempting as it was...

Nothing was certain, she knew. She was supposed to have graduated college and been a successful businesswoman. Quite possibly on par with the guy whose house she was now in. Look where that “guarantee” had gotten her. But this seemed different. He was determined to help her, to make her life better, to bequeath a substantial amount of trust and kindness on someone who didn't deserve any of what she was getting.

She sat back in the comfy desk chair, dug her elbows into the soft leather arm rests, cupped her head in her hands, and wept. Why was he doing this for her? Did he see something she didn't? People didn't just help strangers out like this! If he was looking for an easy mark he could easily have gone for someone who made their living that way. Maybe he wanted her to feel beholden to him first? The thought made her shudder, and brought a fresh wave of tears. How much more could he give before he decided to collect?

And, perhaps more importantly, was she willing to take that chance?

Her stomach gurgled, working happily on breakfast, but not quite satisfied nonetheless. She looked down at it and smirked. How quickly old habits resurfaced.

She had been serious last night when she said she was full. In fact, she'd absolutely stuffed herself, packing her poor malnourished tummy with as much food as she possibly could, forcing herself to finish the helping he'd given her, even when she was contentedly full about halfway through. Perhaps she'd gone to too much effort to persuade him of her appetite. The breakfast he'd brought her, while delicious, was barely enough food to get her this far into the day. While she had every intention of giving him that lunch she'd promised, her real reason for wanting kitchen access was to quell her own hunger.

Stealing into the spacious kitchen, she raided cabinets, taking stock of what he had to offer them both. It was not long before she had a good range of fresh and packaged items on the center island counter top. Having learned to cook for herself as early as middle school, she could have been a chef if she'd chosen that path. It may well have worked out better for her, but that was dwelling on the past, and would not serve her well right now.

Pulling a good cut of steak from the freezer, she sliced and dry rubbed it with a variety of potent herbs and spices, meanwhile simmering a rich broth spiked with a different set of flavors on the stove. The intense aromas filled the air, and she had to take a break from cooking to find something to snack on. Some Ritz crackers, sandwiched with creamy peanut butter, did the trick. She ate just enough to feel full, wanting to save some room for the lunch she had planned.

Humming to herself, she reduced the heat on the stove and placed the refrigerated slices of meat in an array around the pan of broth. The meat cooked slowly, absorbing the flavors of the broth and mixing them with the herbs worked into its fibrous flesh. When the meat was done she pulled it out with tongs and let it rest on a platter, covering this with a towel to keep in most of the heat. Much of the remaining broth was transferred to a heavy stone casserole dish, where she used it to make couscous as a complement to the meat. She wished she could raid the garden for some greens, but she wasn't sure she'd be allowed, and she lacked the clothing to do so, unless she were to cave and wear the rags she'd come in on. Out there, I am crap, I am filth, I have no worth. Here, here I am someone. I will not wear rags. As long as he let her stay here, she would be someone.

She had just gotten everything to the dining table when she heard him come in upstairs. She hadn't been paying attention, hadn't heard the car. She felt she should go greet him, but remembered what he'd said. It was like a little role-play only they would understand, and she was abiding by the rules. For now.

“Smells good, what did you make?” he came into the kitchen, his face only just registering her unclothed state before he sat down, as though coming home to a naked young woman were a normal, everyday occurrence.

“It doesn't really have a name. It's based on Mongolian techniques, with a healthy dose of American melting-pot cooking doctrine.” As she spoke, he took a slice of meat and put it on his plate. He must have thought it looked tender, because he tried cutting it with his fork, succeeding, and took a bite. Spooning some couscous onto his plate, he forked in some of that as well, making appreciative sounds.

“Delicious. One thing though... do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Rather than be insulted, she was curious as to what he had in mind. He had, after all, just given her a high compliment.

Standing from the table, he went over to the stove where her pan sat with the rest of the broth in it. Pulling a small bowl and a canister from a cabinet, he poured the broth into the bowl and slowly added something - flour - from the canister, stirring slowly to produce a thick gravy. Bringing the bowl to the table, he spooned the gravy over his meat, using it to adhere the couscous to it. Taking a bite of this new setup, he grinned. “Try it.”

She needed no prompting, and despite the fullness still in her stomach, she took a slice of the steak and prepared it the way he had his. They sat together, eating in silence, and Rachel surprised herself by having seconds. He politely gave her a chance at the last of the six slices, then took it for himself. There was no obvious way he could tell she'd eaten beforehand, unless he were to pay undue attention to her middle. It was just a little rounded out - if she'd been clothed he wouldn't have noticed it at all, but in her naked state it might become apparent.

“Absolutely delicious. I just may have to keep you around for that.”

“You'd let someone like me tend to your kitchen? I'm flattered. I thought most people kept my kind of filth away from their food.”

“That, my dear, is what the bathroom is for. Which, if I'm not mistaken, you put to good use today.” He ran a critical eye over what he could see of her body, above the table. With all the dirt scrubbed off her skin she looked somehow even more frail than before, especially since she was still painfully thin. Her hair was a little on the lifeless side, but finally free of grime, and no longer clumped together like a bad gel job.

“I don't mean to take advantage of your generosity, sir. If you'd have preferred me staying dirty I would have.”

“Not at all. Be clean, be comfortable. I meant it when I said my house is open to you.” Rachel seemed at a loss for words, or at least unwilling to respond. “Well, I have some work I must get done today, so I'll be in my study upstairs. Feel free to entertain yourself as you see fit. There is one locked door on this level - that's the server room. I don't let anyone in there, so please don't feel underprivileged or something.”

“Yes, sir.” Rachel watched her host head upstairs. She was lucky, she reflected, to have met such a man. Not even her own family had been this open, this trusting. Standing from her chair, being a little careful due the fullness of her stomach, she cleared the table of dishes, scooping the remaining couscous into a Gladware container for refrigeration, along with the gravy. As a borderline subconscious concession to her repeated assertions of her worthlessness, she took the time to hand wash everything she'd gotten dirty in making and serving lunch, rather than use the dishwasher. The dishwasher was for privileged people; she had no rights to be using it.

Setting the washed silverware, dishes, and pan in a drainer to dry, she planted her hands on her sides, yelping briefly from the cold water on her bare flesh. Drying her hands on the cloth towel hanging off the handle of the cabinets below the sink, she decided she'd take her host up on his offer and do a little exploring inside the house.

Taking a quick look around before going back for details, she quickly realized there were not all that many rooms, just a few large ones and plenty of walk in storage areas. The house was not altogether large, but very specialized. On this floor she counted the kitchen, the dining area, a locked door she assumed was the server room, a room with eight fully-fit computers, the bathroom she'd washed in twice now, a theater room with a dozen seats and a 10-foot screen, and 4 closets absolutely packed with categorized goods.

The kitchen itself was perhaps 16'x24', though she'd have had to get a tape measurer to verify that. The periphery was lined with tasteful wood cabinets and drawers topped with flat-surfaced black aluminum counters. She found it interesting that the counters were at varying heights, as though they'd been designed with different users or purposes in mind. In the middle of the rear wall was the appliance cluster - a large fridge/freezer with ice and water dispensers, dishwasher, trash compactor, and oven with stovetop. The microwave was built into a solid column of wood in the exact center of all these items. They all bore stainless steel facades, and had a narrow cabinet and drawer as a buffer between each.

Roughly in the center of the room was a squashed, U-shaped island, brimming with double-sided cabinets, ample counter space, and a range top at each end. A cluster of stools were on the outer edge of the widest section of the island, and pots, pans, and cooking utensils hung from the ceiling above the counter space. Searching the cabinets and drawers, she found every cooking object a person could ever use, and some things she'd never seen before. Either this guy liked to cook, or he simply liked being prepared for anything.

The dining room was good sized, but the table only sat six. It was relatively plain compared to the kitchen; simple pine, lacquered for durability, with cushioned chairs built of the same material and in the same style. There was a small buffet with classier silverware and dishes along the side wall.

The room with the computers didn't really interest her much. She had a good idea that her host would go on at length about the whole setup if she asked, and she just might do that, if only to make him think she cared. She wondered if he had friends who came over to play, and what they'd say if they saw her. She supposed that was part of why Mike had wanted her to get clothes; he still didn't seem to mind her going around the house naked when it was just the two of them.

Next up was the bathroom. Despite having spent so much time in here already, she hadn't really paid much attention to it. She was surprised at what she had missed when she took the time to notice.

Just inside the door was a small changing area with padded benches flanking her as she stepped in and through. The walls here had hooks on them for hanging clothing or towels. The shower was open - that she'd noticed - with multiple heads coming together into a powerful, drenching spray. The floor had a very slight bowl shape, leading down to a sunken drain in the center of the columns supporting the shower heads. Each column had a space for soap, shampoo, and other toiletries, and a towel hanging on each side.

Around the edge of the room were three stations of sorts - cabinets, drawers, and counter tops with sinks in them. The bases were lacquered wood again, though the counters appeared to be acrylic or fiberglass. Above each was a mirror, and Rachel found her gaze drawn to her reflection. It was the first good look she'd gotten of herself, and she was amazed and frightened by how thin she was. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so slim, and couldn't honestly recall if that was because it had been a while, or because it had never happened. The paleness of her skin, her hollow cheeks... she couldn't see herself letting someone who looked like this into their home. She was mere steps away from looking ghoulish - her teeth were yellowed and her hair was so unhealthy. She couldn't stand any more of that, and left the room quickly, fighting to hold back tears.

She passed the theater on her way back to the stairs, but was too distraught to pay it any mind. Racing up the stairs, stumbling and slamming into the wall a couple times, she careened through the first floor, into the guest room, and fell onto the bed, sobbing openly into the mass of pillows. How could anyone want to let me stay in their house? He must have plans for me, he must. In the midst of her sobbing, she didn't notice as Mike entered the room, concerned over the racket.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:16 PM   #4
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Making his way up to his study, Mike pondered the situation, and the enigma of his guest. 'You can't run a business on good intentions.' That's what his colleagues always said, the other business people around him who owned this place or that store or some entire chain out in the midwest. They kept saying it even now, when he'd built his own small empire trusting people more than most ever would. Had it bitten him in the backside? Yes. But it was interesting how his subordinates felt a stronger sense of responsibility towards him, towards the company, and thieves were given no quarter, even by their own coworkers.

He was glad Rachel had stayed for this long. He hoped, fervently, that she would stay longer. He knew not what it was he saw in her - to be perfectly honest, what he saw disgusted him - but he felt drawn to her nonetheless. He had to play it carefully though. She was not used to this kind of treatment; rather, she was used to abuse by others. He saw it in her eyes, constantly. She may not have even been aware the look was there, but he knew it well. He saw it in the eyes of customers, of workers used to the way other business types did things. It was a familiar look, but not a welcome one.

He would have to win Rachel over the hard way, but he looked forward to the challenge. He just hoped he could get her to put on some weight soon, especially if she was going to keep walking around nude. Though, he had to admit, walking around nude might become a problem for him if she gained enough to be attractive.

Pushing these thoughts aside, he sat down and began rifling through reports, some online, some print, some official, some very much not. He watched everything, compared everything. He was willing to give his employees more freedom, but sometimes it became a case of giving them the rope with which to hang themselves, and he was always looking for a noose in the reports. Today, however, everything appeared to be in order. It looked like he might be able to get some gardening in before it was time for dinner. He was just starting to get up in order to change in his room when there was a loud thud, followed by another and the sound of someone crying.

Startled, frightened, and concerned over the source of the noise, he exited the study just in time to see Rachel stumble into the guest bedroom. Hurrying after her, he entered the room - she had not closed the door on her way in - and stood there for a moment, watching her sob into the pillows. The great, wracking heaves shook her body like a young tree in a strong wind. Quietly, trying not to startle her, he crossed the room and knelt by the side of the bed. Reaching out a hand towards her shoulder, he touched her lightly. “Hey, what's wrong?”

She recoiled from the touch like his fingers had carried a static charge, rolling up on her side, which would have put her off the bed if this weren't a queen mattress. “What, come to console me when I'm broken, come to exact payment for letting me stay here?” Her eyes were red, cheeks puffy and wet. The look on her face could have melted steel, yet she shrank back, trying somewhat futilely to cover herself with the bedsheets and pillows.

He hesitated for just a second, which perhaps was a bad thing to do. But he didn't want to deny it outright - he did want to console her. But what did she - a light went off in his head. “Is that why you think I'm being nice to you? You think I want to screw you or something?”

“W-what else could you w-want from me? I d-don't have a-anyth-thing else.” He could tell by her tone she believed what she said. This was not the roleplaying he had become accustomed to. She was convinced he intended to take her for letting her stay here.

“Rachel...” he sighed, “If all I wanted was to get laid, do you really think I'd...” he cut off, not wanting to risk insulting her.

She got what he was saying though, despite her hysterics. “Risk a dirty girl? Who knows, maybe you like that. Pick us up off the streets, bring us home, wait until we break down and cry? Well, come on, I'm right here, come lick my salty tears while you - Hey, don't you turn around on me!”

Completing a one-eighty, he leaned back against the edge of the bed. She's nuts! 'Maybe you like that.' That's crazier than my business model! “Why are you crying?”

“Like you care, you horny bastard?”

The scorn evident in her tone cut deep, provoking a counter response from him in similar fashion. He considered abandoning his efforts not to insult her, tell her just how little the sight of her got him on, but he anticipated her answer to his question and knew it would only make her feel worse about something she already had little, if any, control over. “Tell me why you're crying.” He waited for her reply.

There was a pause, then her sobs became stronger. “I l-look h-h-horrib-b-ble. I'm a f-f-freak.”

The response came automatically, offhand, and as usual his quick tongue got him in trouble. “Well, frankly, that's pretty understandable, I mean-” he cut off as he realized just how bad that had sounded. He turned around quickly to find her looking at him with a new kind of horror, as though he had just slapped her across the face. “Oh hell, I didn't mean that.” She turned away from him, curling up in a ball and bawling even more. “Rachel!” He reached up and put a hand on her back. She flinched, but did not move away. He let it rest there in silence for several minutes, feeling her body shake with the sobs. How easy it was to feel her bones... “Rachel...” So much for not insulting her...

She uncurled herself, rolled, over, and looked at him. “W-what?” She sniffed, probably expecting him to insult her again.

“How long has it been since you ate a real, good meal? How long since you knew the comfort of a warm bed, the cleansing power of water that didn't come from the sky, or a puddle on the ground?”

She continued to sob, though the tears were flowing more slowly now. “Th-three, m-maybe f-four years. W-why?”

“Rachel, your appearance is a result of your circumstances. You look horrible because your life has been horrible. I'm sorry if I insulted you. I'm sorry you feel bad about the way you look. I can do only one thing about that.”

“W-what's th-that?” She looked up, hopeful.

“I can let you stay here. You can eat as you please, spend every night in this comfy bed, greet every morning with a smile and a hot shower.”

“And I w-won't look h-horrible anymore?”

He smiled, gently. “No, you won't. I guarantee you, in a few weeks you'll look in that mirror and see a beautiful, healthy young woman staring back at you, with gorgeous blond hair, creamy white skin, and far fewer visible bones.” He grinned, “how do you like the sound of that?”

“It sounds too good to be true... but I can't let you-”

His expression hardened once more, the smile replaced with a frown, and he watched her fight the instinct to recoil. “There is no 'let' in this, except the one where I let you have all these things, because I feel like it. Rachel, I sense promise in you. I would be a horrible person if I didn't give it a chance to shine.”

She cast her eyes downwards, towards her feet, about the only way she could tilt them and get him out of her field of view. “But... how can I repay you?”

“Make the most of what I offer. Help around the house. Cook, clean, make home life a little less boring just by being here.

Her shoulders shook again, not with a sob this time, but with a weak, mirthless chuckle. “How can I do that? I'm boredom incarnate.”

“No, you're not.” He put a hand under her chin, pushed her head up a little to look her in the eyes. “In just a short 24 hours I'm already more interested in being home than I was shortly before that. Work and the garden are no longer the most interesting things in my life.”

She grinned, a silly, childish grin. “You find me interesting, and yet you don't want to bang me?”

Standing abruptly, he walked towards the door. “I never said that... I just don't want it to be as payment for anything.” He closed the door on his way out, leaving Rachel to lay in stunned silence with that thought bouncing around in her skull. The admission was even more unexpected than the method, and actually destabilized her mental state further while she worked out the implications.

So, he is being nice to me for a reason. Now, should I be flattered that a guy is letting me shack up in hopes I'll grow to like him, or insulted that he thinks it takes so little to foster love? She had to admit, though, his kindness was endearing, and she was drawn to him for it. She couldn't resolve whether or not it was a general thing or because it was her. Would I feel the same way I do about him if it were someone else? If I were a privileged young woman - say, a friend of his, privy to this - would I feel the same sense of endearment? Would I like him because he was being so kind to her... the way I like him being so kind to me?

She rolled off the bed, suddenly feeling the need for fresh air. Wrapping the bedsheet around herself, she stepped out onto the deck and went directly to the railing. She was surprised to note that her host was walking the path to his garden, and she watched him from her perch three stories up, longing to stride along the same pathway, work with him in tending the plants which, she realized, would be helping to nourish her for the foreseeable future. I'll give it a chance. I could do worse, she reasoned. Placing her elbows on the railing of the deck, she settled in to watch Mike out in the garden.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:17 PM   #5
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Murphy's Law commonly states that, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time.”

Rachel had been living in Mike's house for two weeks when the phone call came. He'd gone out for his usual daily site survey of the building renovation and she was just getting lunch on the table, wondering why he hadn't gotten home yet. He was usually pretty punctual about these sorts of things; she'd been getting the impression he did it more for her benefit than anything else.

She let the phone ring until the answering machine kicked in; she felt out of place picking up the phone here, half expecting it to cause her host problems if business colleagues started asking who the woman on the other end of the line was, especially since he'd made it clear they were not in a relationship. She was a guest in his home, nothing more. Yet.

“Good afternoon, this is the Rochborough City Hospital, calling for Rachel Winsmeyer, on behalf of Michael Irlken. We would appreciate-” The machine cut off as Rachel grabbed the nearest cordless off it's wall-mounted base, fumbling for the 'On' button. She wasn't really sure why she was picking up - simply hearing what she had so far had her thoughts in such a jumble she didn't expect she could be coherent in a conversation. Oh my god is he hurt how bad is he okay why are they calling me I can't do anything oh my god oh my god!

“H-hello?”

“Is this Rachel Winsmeyer?”

“Y-yes. Yes. It is.” Her mind blanked for a moment and she grasped empty air for her next words. “How may I - err, can I help you?”

“Miss Winsmeyer, our patient insisted we call you, in order to notify you of his condition. Are you sitting down?”

He's dead... She dropped, almost bonelessly, to the floor. Her new life, crushed, just like that. Back to the streets for you, little girl. She was vaguely aware of a voice coming from the thing in her hand... “I'm sorry, what was that?”

“The news isn't too bad, but experience teaches. Seated positions and empty hands are usually a good thing.”

“N-not too bad?”

“Michael was involved in a car accident approximately four hours ago.” Not long after he left this morning. He didn't even make it to the store. I wonder why no one's called yet. “Initial reports indicate another vehicle crossed into his lane and collided head-on with his car. Both drivers are here and have had surgery. Michael is resting in a room with both legs broken. He has indicated a wish to see you.” Broken legs. Broken legs! She made it sound like... broken legs... Tears of joy welled up in the corners of her eyes and began tracing down her cheeks.

“I'm sorry, but I don't have a car, I have no way of getting there.”

“We can send someone to pick you up. The patient has indicated willingness to charter this service on your behalf.”

“I... I'll be ready shortly.”

“Glad to hear it. Michael has informed us of the layout of his property. The driver will wait for you in the rear.”

“I'll be waiting.” The line clicked off. Both legs broken. She couldn't help but smirk. She imagined he'd be asking her to take care of him while he healed. She would, of course. She could think of no better way to repay him for his kindness the past 14 days. Not to mention that she'd still be living here on his dollar even while doing the day-to-day things he couldn't anymore. She wondered if he'd still be able to get to his garden. He'd begun letting her help out down there, but it would be lonely without him, she'd feel like she was trespassing in his sanctuary or something.

I can think about this later. She had to get dressed, and there was this lunch to deal with. Clothing first.

After the interesting conversation she and her host had had 13 days prior, at which point he had openly acknowledged an interest in her as a female, things in the house had actually become less strained, rather than more awkward. It was as though his admission had made it more right for her to go about the house in the nude, completely dismissing what little self consciousness she'd felt about it, simultaneously banishing his fears that she'd misinterpret his intentions as a result of her nakedness. It helped that he wasn't a “horn dog” about it - he actually appeared to be more comfortable when she was naked than the few instances thus far she had worn clothes, most of which had involved the garden.

Dressing was quick and easy. She had already showered for the day, combing her hair out even though she didn't exactly have anyone to impress. As for clothing, she'd mostly gotten simple, loose, “formless” apparel - which was to say, multiple colors of the same velour sweat suit. She'd pretty much anticipated “growth”, in the form of gaining at least enough weight to be healthy again, and hadn't wanted to bother with concrete clothing sizes until she had some idea what her size was going to be.

Clad for public appearances, or as close to it as her meager wardrobe allowed, she decided to try for a quick bite while she waited for the driver from the hospital.

She'd kept lunch simple, as usual, though by no means common grade. Chicken cutlets, trimmed of fat, seasoned and herbed and cooked in a light lemon-butter sauce. She had learned, within the first week, about how much she and her host were likely to eat in a single meal, and cooked accordingly, neither of them being terribly interested in leftovers, and both quite capable of preparing something at the drop of a hat. Thus she found herself facing a mild, but seemingly important, dilemma.

Having finished the cutlet she'd intended for herself in a short fifteen minutes, the second cutlet stared at her from the serving dish. Her ride to the hospital had not yet arrived. Should she leave it for Mike later, or force herself to eat it - clean the plate, so to speak?

Thinking about it, she reflected that Mike would likely be missing his own ability to cook too much to settle for reheated food, and the chicken was quite good. Moving furtively, establishing in her mind that this was okay, despite appearances - failing to leave food for her host - she began to transfer the second cutlet to her plate, then decided to leave it on the platter, the better to keep it coated with sauce.

She dove into the food, conflicting emotions playing with her mind. She must hide the evidence, leave no trace of her sin. I really don't have the room for this. Wasting fresh food, how could she? So good though, it's been so long. It was just one cutlet, how could he possibly care? This won't last, gotta enjoy it while I can. Better to eat it now than save it for later. I can't take advantage of him, or he'll kick me out! Can't have leftovers. All those days, weeks, months hungry. Never again, never again!

The world seemed to go out of focus, not snapping back until her fork scraped the bottom of the empty platter. She felt very full - not quite stuffed, but definitely uncomfortable, even in these nonrestrictive clothes. She looked down and saw the jacket top draping over her tummy, rounded out against the backdrop of her still quite-skinny body. Something was nagging in the back of her head, something she'd been doing before this.

A horn sounded nearby, startling her and reminding her of the ride, the hospital, the accident. Scrambling off the chair, she headed for the stairs, lamenting the dirty dishes on the table. She would have to deal with them when she got back. Might as well get used to it - with her host unable to move about on his own, she would likely find herself stopping in the middle of things quite often.

Doing her level best to make herself presentable, hoping against hope that her face wasn't a mess - passing the bathroom, she checked the mirror and saw this was the case - Rachel dashed down to the bottom floor and straight outside, hearing the door shut behind her and wondering briefly how she was supposed to lock it without a house key. But the car was there, and she wouldn't gain anything by fretting over something which she had no ability to control. She climbed in the back seat, and they were off.

Just shy of a half hour later, the car arrived at the local hospital, pulling up to the front to let her out. She thanked the driver, who assured her payment was taken care of, and made her way inside. Approaching the receptionist's desk in the lobby, she gave her name and destination, learning that her host was on the third floor in room 332. A short elevator ride delivered her thence, and she focused all her attention on keeping calm as she entered the room.

Mike was in a hospital bed, his legs held in a raised position by a pair of slings suspended from the ceiling and fastened about his ankles. Each leg was a solid cast from mid-thigh on downwards, and the bedsheets were hung off him in an odd fashion. A nurse looked up as she came in, beckoning her over to the bedside.

“Glad you could come on such short notice,” Mike quipped. Very much awake and extremely bored, he was glad to see her for many reasons, not the least of which being the potential for conversation with an equally sarcastic individual as himself.

He had been pleased, after having dropped his, “I do want to have sex with you,” bomb on Rachel, that she had responded not with awkwardness but had, over the subsequent days, loosened up and become more herself and less a random individual who happened to bear the name Rachel Winsmeyer. It had pleased him even further to note that her flirtatious nature was not the only thing the two had in common, and he had seen the first glimmers of the basis for his attraction to her.

The bomb itself was an old thing, something he'd come to realize years ago. In dealings with his friends - and, occasionally, with colleagues (the two categories rarely overlapped) - he had noted that relations with females seemed to become easier once it had been declared, openly or otherwise, that nothing either they or he could say or do in the course of their relationship would never be interpreted in a sexual context by the other. In admitting such a thing, they were essentially agreeing to throw discretion to the wind and be themselves, even if that meant dirty or otherwise suggestive comments, gestures, or noises were exchanged between them. Rachel's flirtation, both in unguarded moments and in careful roleplay, had laid the floor for this agreement, along with her prolonged nudity habit. When he had not objected to either and countered her flirting with his own, the statement had been made all but openly. His admission of interest in her had been the final step, and with that out of the way neither of them felt the least bit restricted towards the other, a situation which had been emulated in relationships with other females, but never so perfectly as in that which he shared with Rachel.

“Well, you know, having my alone time disrupted is nothing I'm not used to.” The nurses in earshot flushed at this comment, assuming something completely out of context, but he knew she was referring to her life on the streets before he'd met her. “So, what's this I hear about you injuring two objects rather important to maneuverability?”

He could tell she was laying it on thick, more for the benefit of the hospital staff than him, as the difference in their last names had to have been noted by some. His name was hardly unknown, so the staff were being treated to a well-known person being sassed out by a commoner - the tabloids would be singing tomorrow. “Would it be too much to openly refer to you as my concubine?”

“I think they can draw that conclusion themselves, though I daresay you've just earned someone a bonus 'quoting' you on that. Come on, let's get you home before you start saying useful things.”

He relented, letting her sign the necessary paperwork to be allowed to remove him from the hospital (there was more of it on account of her lack of familial status concerning him), and within the hour they were bound for his house in an ambulance.

Due to the extent of his injuries, he would be unable to use a wheel chair or crutches, and so he was transferred directly to his bed immediately upon arriving home. He would spend the next few months there, Rachel tending to things around the house while he kept himself occupied with business and computer games, the latter being something he'd not paid attention to for years now. He had several laptops and would be ordering a new one with the most up-to-date equipment to keep him from going stir crazy. Had he known about this in advance, he would have set up a mobile connection to his home server (he kept the most sensitive parts as a wired LAN), but he knew Rachel wasn't up to the task and he didn't trust anyone else with his system passwords in order to set up such a thing now.

Before long, the ambulance and its staff had departed, leaving Rachel alone in a richly furnished house with a semi-invalid on whose generosity and kindness she had been living there for a short while. The prospect was enough to leave her feeling somewhat giddy, in spite of the work she knew would face her in the coming weeks in order to continue to stay in this man's home. She turned and left the guest bedroom - for the time being, her bedroom - and had just passed Mike's door when she heard him call her.

“Rachel, if you have a minute, I would like to talk with you about some things.”

“Certainly, milord.” She walked into the room and stood at the foot of the bed, dutifully waiting for orders. She was to be his slave - willing, perhaps, but bound nonetheless. It was a situation she found most pleasing.

“Bring me that laptop from my desk. I would like to show you some things that you may find necessary in your new role.” He accepted the laptop as she held it out to him, then patted the large, open space to his right side. The King-sized mattress was quite large for him alone, a fact she had noticed before, but had decided not to comment on. “Please, sit next to me, it will be easier if you watch what I am doing as I do it.”

“But... but I am not worthy to join you in bed, lord. My filth will soil your clean sheets.” It was clear to him from her tone that she was role-playing again, perhaps reverting to a solid concept - that of worthlessness and servitude - as a result of the unusual circumstances she faced? She had not been living with him long enough for him to properly evaluate her psychological state, but it was plain she was not entirely capable of coping in traumatic situations. Which, when he reflected on it, only made her calm acceptance of his initial offer make even less sense than it, or the offer itself, had been at the time he'd made it.

“Nonsense, my bed is no more off limits to you than the rest of my house. Come, I won't bite.”

“Yes, Lord.” Her face wore a smile, but he sensed trepidation in her movements. Did she think he was going to take advantage of her, use his injury as an excuse to create a sexually driven quid pro quo situation?

He was forced out of his thoughts as the bed shifted, and Rachel's relatively meager weight settled itself beside him. She had gained a little in the past couple weeks - less than she might have, but then, she'd been regaining a decent appetite slowly, rather than gorging herself on his dollar. His opinion on the matter was virtually indifferent, though he knew his tastes, and secretly longed to glimpse her after an exceptionally filling meal. With her inherent thinness, a packed belly would be all the more visible than it would if she were already gilt with soft, supple fat, and he would have liked to experience that vision while she was still skinny enough to embody it.

As it was, her body was of minimal distraction, and with her seated just outside of his vision it was even less so. However, her presence was still obvious to him - he felt her just inches from his side, smelled her in the air, sensed her nakedness - and this comforted him, where many would be insufferably aroused by it.

“These past couple weeks, you've been doing things around the house for me, cooking and cleaning mostly while I was out, giving me someone to talk to while I was home, but ultimately, control of the house has remained mine. Now that I am stuck here, however, it is time for you to learn what my intelligent house can do for yourself.”

“Intelligent house?” In spite of what she knew of this man from the news, and what she'd learned in fourteen days, Rachel snorted at the term. “What, you're telling me this place thinks?”

“No. I suppose the wording is poor, but it's really no worse than the Europeans and their 'Smart Car'. What I mean to say is that, the entire house, all its functionality, is controlled by a computer.”

“The sever room I can't enter?”

“Precisely.” Mike noted with some curiosity - and quite a bit more relief - that Rachel had slipped back out of the “slave” mentality, and was conversing with him once more as an equal, although she clearly was a student in this particular conversation. “All the lights, locks, electrical equipment, plumbing, ventilation, you name it, the computer can be used to control it.”

“So why can't you just keep it all running from here?”

“Well, I can, and I do, but what if you need to do something I can't see? Yes, we could relay information back and forth, but I believe you are smart enough to handle this, despite your professed technical illiterateness, and therefore I would rather you be prepared and capable.” He neglected to mention, but expected her to hear it nonetheless, that it also meant placing yet more trust in her - giving her yet another chance to make him regret his kindness. Or further convince him he was right to take her in.

He spent the next few hours showing her everything she could possibly accomplish with just the basic interface – nevermind ad-hoc scripting and other such code. The basic tour should have actually been a lot shorter, but she surprised him by getting really into it. Neither of them noticed dinner time coming and going, so they were very suddenly starved when a pause in the tutelage allowed them both to notice such concerns.

"My Lord, I'm sorry, I'll go-"

"Calm down, Rachel. We got too involved in our work. It happens. You have no more fault in this than I do."

"B-but, I'm here to-"

"It's all right, Rachel. I'm not mad. Please, calm down. Everything's fine."

Rachel declined to respond, but he could see tears forming in her pretty little eyes. "Would it make you happier if I let you go cook now?" She nodded, slowly, not really committing to it all that strongly. "What if I order you?" The nod was stronger this time. Mike sighed deeply, "alright, wench, I order you to go downstairs and cook us a meal. It better not take too long, understand, your master is hungry." He took no pleasure in this, but if it made her happy...

"Yes, my Lord. I shall penalize myself for the tardiness." She turned to leave.

"No. I order you to consume a normal meal. The same amount as myself. You've gone with too little for far too long."

"But-"

"You question your Lord and Master?" he went the extra mile by furrowing his brow, scowling at her as her protest died mid-breath.

"N-no, my Lord. It shall be as you say."

"You will eat here, as well. With me, as usual."

She hesitated, but did not argue the point. "Yes, Lord. By your leave?"

"Yes, go, remove yourself from my sight for now." Rachel left, her shoulders hunched over in a position of servitude, her aura broadcasting the same feelings. Would he never get her on equal footing? Could he love her when she insisted on being his slave?

Honest shame prominent in her mind, Rachel quickly made her way to the kitchen. She was supposed to be taking care of this man who had been so nice to her, and already she was failing. Much as she disliked the idea of cooking something as simple as pasta - despite how often Mike cooked it for himself - it was the optimal choice at the moment, given timing issues. So, on the stove went a pot of water, a much smaller one joining it for the purpose of sauce making. She combined butter and olive oil, added a nice helping of garlic, powdered onion, and parsley. She chose angel hair, which would cook quickly, and provide a large surface area per pound of cooked pasta. Breaking the base sticks in half, as she had learned from her new master, she dropped them in the boiling water. A few minutes later, drained and transferred to a bowl, she topped it with the sauce and freshly grated Parmesan. The serving bowl went onto a platter along with two smaller bowls, forks and spoons for both of them, and additional cheese. The platter was a bit heavy for her, but she managed, and got it up the stairs without any problems.

“Smells delicious.”

She knew well enough to accept a complement, regardless of how she viewed herself in this situation. Setting the platter down on an empty section of Mike's desk, she turned and bowed slightly in his direction. “Thank you, sir.” She turned back, and filled both bowls to the brim. She would need to push herself to finish all of this, but she would take him at his word. He set aside his laptop, clearing the folding desk set in front of him, and she placed his bowl on it, along with the dish of extra cheese. Hers had enough on it already, so she would not need to add more, but he might want to.

She watched as he eyed his bowl, surreptitiously looking at her bowl and comparing the amount of content. He said nothing, but the slightest smile tugged at his mouth. She found this incredibly odd, but could not think of any particular reason for it, and let it pass. They ate in silence, both of them really too hungry to waste time speaking; Rachel was also focusing extra hard on eating, trying to pack as much of it down as she could before her brain registered her as being full. Her appetite was not yet big enough to consume this whole dish on sheer hunger alone. At one point, she became vaguely aware that Mike had finished and was watching her. She told herself his stare was disapproval at her failure not only to have dinner ready on time, but to fail to eat what he commanded her to. The thought nearly broke her, but she had come to like it here so much, that she was afraid anything might get her kicked out. She was still essentially a stranger in his home, and though he insisted that he liked having her there, she refused to believe that alone could make up for stupid mistakes.

Finally, she set down the bowl. She was extremely full, very uncomfortable. She was having some trouble breathing, and her bulging tummy was clearly visible, though partly because she was still quite thin. She caught Mike looking at her, that trace of a smile on his face again, and realized she should be cleaning up. She started to move off the chair she was seated in, but he held up a hand.

“You really pushed yourself there. I'm sorry, if I'd realized you weren't up to such a task I wouldn't have told you to do so. So now, I want you to rest. The dishes can wait.”

“Yes, sir,” the words came out breathy, forced out with her exhales. She was really quite stuffed. It had been at least five years since she'd been this full. The thought brought a smile to her face, remembering the girl she had been before her college misadventure. She'd been a spoiled brat, and kind of chunky too. Her parents' money and power had benefits, but they also severely reduced her pool of friends, and most of the ones left weren't worth spending time with anyhow. Food became her escape, and she ate with abandon. Only her naturally fast metabolism had saved her from being a total cow. That same metabolism, however, had made her the nearly skeletal thing Mike found in the back seat of his car that one day, which seemed so long ago, but was really not a long time at all. She was still reminiscing when she fell asleep.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:20 PM   #6
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Mike watched the sleeping Rachel, impressed at how much she had put away, how much effort she had put into it. He felt a little bad about goading her the way he had, and promised himself it would not happen again. He'd just wanted to see her belly while she was still so thin, and see her belly he did. Still... he wouldn't do it again. He honestly liked Rachel, and this had been a somewhat mean trick to play on her. Though, he reflected, it wasn't nearly as bad as the trick someone else had played on her.

It had been a few days ago, at the store. Remodeling was going well, and he had stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. He had been surprised to see someone he recognized. Even more surprised, when it finally dawned on him who the man standing outside really was.

“Joel.”

“Mike. How are things. Heard you were fixing this place up, looking to add it to your little empire.”

“Hey, I get far enough ahead, I like to step back and help out where it's needed. Roots, and all that.”

“I hear you. Still. You're lucky your shareholders don't throw a fit.”

“I have enough shareholders who are confident in my ability to turn a profit on a regular basis, to let me run the company the way I see fit. Not my fault you and everyone else out there has ups and downs; nor the fact the mantra of the shareholders causes them, and subsequently results in less control for you owners.”

“Don't I know it. I wanted a place mid-city, but I couldn't convince the board that the security risk would be worth it.”

“It is risky. This' gonna be the only store I know of with polycarbonate windows and type-III hard anodized aluminum frames.”

“I don't really know what that is, but I've seen your abuse tests on the stuff, so I can understand your point.”

“When we're done here, you could drive a compact into the building and you'd maybe scratch the window. Total the car though.”

“Hope it works out for you.” Joel turned to walk back to his car.

“By the way, Joel, I ran into your daughter. Rachel.”

Joel froze mid-step, barely keeping himself from falling. “Rachel, you say? How is she?”

I considered my answer for a moment, not wanting to give too much away. I thought, now, that I might have understood what was going on, but I wasn't sure enough to trust him and tell him where she was at the time. “She looked like she'd learned some hard life lessons.”

Joel's shoulders slumped, he appeared to die where he stood. I wondered if he was about to burst into tears. “Where did you see her?”

“Right around here, actually. Wouldn't be too surprised if I see her in the new shop some time.”

“Fancy that.” He turned to look at me again, and his eyes truly were those of a dead man. At least, I could wager, he regretted leaving his daughter to fend for herself. “If you see her...”

“I'll find some way to let her know.”

“We all do stupid things, Mike. We think they're a good idea, but they just aren't.”

“I know, Joel. I know.” I was a little curious why he didn't seem interested in making up for his mistake in person, but I could see how Rachel might not be willing to forgive him, especially if she learned the neglect had been intentional. Joel picked that moment to get into his car and drive off, leaving me alone with my thoughts, wondering whether or not I should tell Rachel, and how she might react if I did.

Now, watching her peacefully nap after a such a large meal - a meal I'd practically forced on her - I couldn't bring myself to tell her such a thing. She was happy here, happy and cared for and cared about. It would be unconscionable to reintroduce such an unhappy period in her life, unless it was absolutely necessary she know.

No, I would not tell her. And I would hope her old man stayed away, because that could seriously effect my plans.

A message popped up on my screen, the job-site coordinator who had been dispatched in my place was checking in. I nodded with approval, recognizing the man as someone I could trust in the field during such a critical period. Among other things, his message informed me that the audio and video uplinks would be set up within the hour, at which point he really would become little more than a coordinator. I could run things from home almost as well as I had in person. The only real difference was the lack of tactile sensation for the work being performed. I could not touch it and judge whether or not it was to spec; I had to rely on someone else' senses and perceptions on the matter. Not exactly something I was used to.

By the time Rachel woke up, work had finished for the day, and I was just mucking about online. Her eyes opened slowly, as she adjusted to consciousness again, becoming aware of her surroundings. Suddenly, her eyes shot open with comprehension, her voice hurtling forth in a profound gasp.

“Master! I'm so sorry, I fell asleep, I'll-”

“It's okay, Rachel, I told you the dishes could wait. You had a large meal, you had every right to take a nap. However, now it is time for work again.”

“Yes, sir.”

“I need you to clean up from dinner and go check the garden. I will monitor you from here.”

“Yes, sir,” she repeated, but this time with a faint smile.

“Then, I would like you to shower, spend some time doing whatever you'd like, and head to bed at a decent time. You'll have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“Yes, master. Thank you.” She bowed slightly, then turned and left the room.

It was going to be a long recovery.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:22 PM   #7
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Things settled into a routine, and before long I almost began to forget Rachel was a new addition to my life and living environment. I held long daily video sessions with the on-site remodel coordinator and build team, doing my best to oversee the work without actually being there. This I interspersed with the usual review of company operations, as well as the sort of computer gaming I hadn't allowed myself time to enjoy in nearly a decade - about the time I'd taken control of the company, for that matter.

Life was, relatively speaking, good - if one were to ignore the fact I was basically bedridden. After four weeks the casts were removed and replaced with complicated, stiff strap-on boot-like items which allowed me some freedom of movement, but were a pain to walk in and so I stuck to the first floor. In that time Rachel maintained the house and cared for me like I was an elderly invalid, giving me sponge baths and helping me with other biological needs in ways I was probably less comfortable about than she. I regularly forgot she had spent much of the recent past homeless, living in questionable conditions and likely suffering such indignities as made dealing with my waste production - and its results - reasonable, by comparison.

I was quietly thrilled with Rachel's slow, but steady, weight gain as she worked her way back to a healthy state of being. Her small size meant every new pound showed itself much more readily than it would have on my frame - and oh, these weeks of sloth must have been wreaking havoc on my physique. She ate well, though by no means to excess, making good use of the garden, my pantry, and her not-inconsiderable cooking skills to keep us both well fed and properly nourished.

Yes, I would say that Rachel lived up to my trust quite well, another one of my success stories, although I would never publicize this one, nor talk about it amongst my fellow businessmen, not least due to the circumstances under which this story started. There was one incident, however...

It was a few weeks into my recovery. It was the evening, after dinner, and Rachel was out back at the garden, as usual for that time of day (it seems she and I are both very routine-oriented). I could tell by her idle chatter over the network, in addition to the video feed from the cameras in the green house, which I'd informed her about, that she still felt like she was violating the place, being in there on her own. The days were not yet long enough to finish work out there without resorting to bringing the lights up, and so it was that she had just stepped out onto the walkway when a stranger approached her, a human male I was not acquainted with...
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:23 PM   #8
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“Sean!” Rachel exclaimed, surprised at the appearance of one of her old “street friends”, though she would never have used the term “friend” in regards to this man under any other circumstance. Instantly, emotions flooded her, emotions like apprehension, trepidation, fear, and a small but noticeable dose of disgust.

“Rachel. It's been a while. It wasn't easy tracking you here.”

“I don't imagine it was,” Rachel replied, chewing on her thoughts. Could Mike hear her, out here? There were certain details about her, and her past, she would rather he not know about - never know about, preferably, though she would settle for simply keeping those facts a secret for the time being. “How did you?”

“Uh-uh-uh, you know the rules. A wise man never reveals his sources.” Sean paced in a semi-circle around her, about 3 walkway panels away. “You've cleaned up, Rachel. You moochin' off this guy, or is he paying you for your... services?”

“I'm not like that, Sean, and you know it. I don't know why, but he's been letting me live with him.”

“I see that hasn't stopped you from enjoying it.” Sean stopped, turned toward the house, then back again. “I don't suppose you'd be willing to help an old friend? Share the wealth, as it were?”

And this was part of why Sean was most definitely not her friend. “No, Sean. He trusts me, a hell of a lot more than most people in my life ever have. I'm not about to betray that kind of trust.”

“You wound me, Rachel. I wasn't asking you to rob his bank account, just... a little something to make the days brighter.” As he spoke, he took a step toward her, and Rachel made her move. Keying the greenhouse door, she took a quick step backward, shutting the door in front of her. The electronic latch clicked, separating her from Sean - though she was now trapped.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:27 PM   #9
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I heard the latch click shut, then ragged breathing.

“Rachel? What's wrong?” I tried to keep the bark of command from my tone, but some of it leaked through.

“Call the cops.” She replied, a slight wail to her voice. “He's bad news. I'll explain later.”

Rachel couldn't have known it, of course, but I'd called the police as soon as I saw the guy. The fact I didn't like the way he looked, or the rigidity of Rachel's posture at his appearance, were secondaries to the fact an unknown person was trespassing on my property. I would have done the same thing if Rachel had invited him - and then had a very long talk with her about whose place this was and how she would behave if she wanted to remain here.

“On it. Are you okay?”

“I'm fine,” she said, her voice shaky, “I just need some time to calm down. I'll be okay; he can't get in here.”

“Okay, just get to the center of the greenhouse and sit down. Try and hide behind some of the plants. I'm not going to tell the police you weren't here, but it would be easier for me if they don't see you.” The last thing I wanted at this juncture was to have Rachel identified and her presence here outed to people I couldn't trust - people like her father, Joel Winsmeyer.

In a different window, I saw the first police car pull around the corner faster than was prudent and swing into my driveway. Flipping on the overheads all the way to the back, I also brought up the spotlight and trained it on the intruder, who was still hovering near the greenhouse, the video suggesting he was screaming in rage. The cops had approached with lights and sirens off, as I'd requested, and he only now spun to find his exit cut off by incoming law enforcement, though I imagine he had to squint - I was not skimping on the output power of that beam right now.

The officers deployed and fanned out, fully cutting him off from escape, then closed in. He was apprehended without a fight, though the sergeant I spoke to afterward noted he ranted continuously about how, “'Rachel' set him up,” and he, “hadn't done anything wrong.” I told them to take him in for trespassing and I'd get back to them if anything else developed.

Only after the cars had all left and everything quieted down once more did I reopen communications with Rachel out in the greenhouse. “Rachel? They're gone. It's safe, now.”

“Is it really?” her voice came back after a few moments, barely controlled sobs behind the words, “my haven is ruined. If he found me here, others might, too.”

“Exactly who is he?” I queried. This was starting to get a bit weird.

“Someone from my past.” She sighed audibly, then continued, her voice firmer. “I'll come inside. This is going to take some explaining.”
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:38 PM   #10
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“You what?” I yelled, the potency of my outburst causing her to shrink back into the chair in which she sat, at the foot of my bed, clearly nervous but trying to keep the overt effects to a minimum.

“To be fair,” she replied, her voice shaking. I decided I'd let her finish the thought before roaring at her some more. “To be fair, when we planned it, I hadn't known I would actually like you. I'd thought you were just another rich asshole. Like my father.”

My mouth snapped shut on the retort I'd had planned, then a grin briefly split my face at the last line. “Your father, huh?” Sighing, I shook my head as though to clear it. The comment about her father had disarmed much of the rage I felt at her revelation - to be sure, I was still quite angry, but I was no longer about to kick her back out on her sorry ass. “So let me get this straight: You conspired with a known convict to attempt to gain my trust so you could steal from me?”

“It wasn't my idea! I only agreed to it because he promised he'd stop abusing me if I went along with his plan.”

“Did he?” I asked, raising my eyebrow. I knew how this kind of thing usually played out, and so her response took me completely off guard.

“Never got to find out,” she shrugged, “the plan kind of got... disrupted.”

To her credit, it took me a few moments to figure that one out. “Winding up in the back seat of my car wasn't the way you'd intended to introduce yourself to me.”

“I had been studying for a business degree. I'm aware of your business model - it was one of the case studies we had in college. I thought I could present myself as a local asset, work my way into your organization...”

“Manager of the new store? Not a position I give out to new hires. Assistant manager, possibly. Or a supervisory role. Still, a decent plan, on the face of it.” I stroked my chin, where a beard had begun to grow. “Still, the car thing. That happened... how?” I finished, moving my hand to the side and raising the first two fingers, leaving the last two curled down from the last stroke.

Rachel's posture became rigid again, her face a mask of uncertainties. I am about to make more than just Mike angry with me. Oh, Sean, you asshole, why did you have to ruin everything? “I...” she threw up her hands, either exasperated or capitulating, I couldn't be sure which. “One of the women at the soup kitchen I regularly turned to for “basic sustenance” got to know me. Seemed to think we'd get on well, but knew you'd be suspicious of her if she introduced us... or if her hand was at all obvious in our meeting.”

It was a very short list of people who knew the code to unlock the doors of my car - a code I resolved to change as soon as I could get to my car again - and thus, comprehension on my part was achieved rather quickly. “Mari.”

Rachel sat bolt upright, stunned. “In one! Damn, so much for not being obvious.”

“Well, it helps that Mari is one of my two ex-girlfriends, and that we still get along very well.”

“What?! She never-”

“Told you that? Well, one of the reasons we're still on good terms is that she's discrete. Very good about keeping secrets.”

The silence hung for several moments before Rachel made as if to stand. “Well, I guess I'd better get going. It's been nice, really-”

“Wait wait wait, I'm not done with you yet. Sit back down.” Whether due to lingering effects of our role-playing or because she knew I couldn't actually restrain her, she returned to her chair, her posture relaxed, but respectful.

“First point: You've dropped two bombshells on me and I've only gotten in one, and since turnabout is fair play... It just so happens that I encountered your father at the store a few days before my car accident.”

Rachel's eyes widened; she leaned forward in the chair, her hands gripping the bedspread. When she spoke, her voice was full of pain and ache. “What- what did you say to him? Does he know I'm here?”

“No, he doesn't know you're here. I was pointedly vague about the details, though I did tell him I'd seen you - honestly hadn't made the connection when you first told me your name. Not sure why, Winsmeyer isn't a particularly common surname. He was pretty broken up about it. Definitely seemed to regret cutting you off financially when you floundered.”

Now it was Rachel's turn to be pissed. No, “pissed” as a term does not sufficiently describe her reaction. Rachel was positively livid. “He did WHAT?! That fucking son of a bitch hung me out to dry? His own fucking daughter?! What the hell?” She was up now, pacing back and forth. I had to fight to keep a grin from my face. Mari had been completely right, but this was not the right time to be showing overt mirth over an unrelated issue to the one at hand. “Oh, when I get my hands on him, I'll, I'll-”

She cut off as I reached out, sliding my arm around her waist and pulling her toward the bed, toward me. “Thank him, for indirectly making you the kind of person I want to do this to?” I said, then gently pulled her head down and kissed her.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:45 PM   #11
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“You only stated one point.”

“Huh?”

“Before, you said, 'First point'. Normally, when people do that, it means they have more than one thing to say, but each one is sufficiently in-depth to warrant explicitly stating that you are saying multiple things.”

I gazed at the intelligent, beautiful young woman tucked into my bed alongside me for several seconds, uncomprehending. It had been some time since I'd had sex, and Rachel had been fantastic. I confess, my brain was not yet back to full, working order. “Oh! Right. My second point was that I'm still stuck in bed, and I'd really hate to have to try and find someone else trustworthy to take your place if you left.”

“And?”

“And I really can't wait to see Mari's reaction to this new development,” I grinned, kissing her and pulling her body against mine more strongly.

“Is that your way of asking me to keep living with you?”

“Was I too subtle?”

Glowering, she punched me in the shoulder, then wrapped her arms around me and we made out again, before falling asleep in each others' arms.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:48 PM   #12
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“What are we going to do about Sean?” It was breakfast the next morning. Rachel made us pancakes, which we were busy enjoying with a nice bowl of fresh strawberries from the garden.

“I think... I have an idea.”

Rachel paused, waiting for me to continue. When I didn't, her brow furrowed.

“If we word it well, we should be able to peg him for aggravated sexual assault, trespassing, and conspiracy to commit robbery.”

“Won't I get charged with the third thing myself?”

“Well, conspiracy charges aren't that big a deal. It's just icing for the other two. Especially since the police found a knife on him last night, we can definitely argue premeditation on that. For you, though, I'm pretty sure I can request a lighter sentence. Something like... house arrest. Especially since you effectively signed a verbal contract under duress, which renders said contract void.”

She threw back her head, laughing, and I was unable to resist gently stroking her exposed throat. Her laughter cut off, transitioning abruptly to a soft purr. When I finally decided to stop, she tilted her head down once more, a spark of desire in her eyes. “Sounds kind of like punishing a kid by sending him to his room - where several of his toys and books happen to be.”

“Doesn't it just,” I assented, grinning. Where had this sudden romance come from? I'd known I was interested in her - the fact she was smart, attractive, and interesting had become obvious well before this point - but I thought we had defused any sexual tension very early on in this cohabitation. Moreover, the fact Rachel still chose, on occasion, to parade about the house naked had led me to believe she was fine with the way things were. Now, out of nowhere, she was this lusty fiend, and here I was, reciprocating on every point. I could not wait to thank Mari for delivering this angel of sin into my life.

“And what about us?”

“What about us?” I replied, attempting to be coy but unable to erase the shit-eating grin from my face. Rachel spit me with her sexy glower, and then we leaned toward each other for a quick kiss. “I think that says enough, don't you?”

“Quite,” she replied simply, licking her lips. I noticed the empty plate and bowl, and the slight roundness to her tummy which bore mute testament to how well she'd eaten that meal.

“Don't worry. I'm not letting you go anywhere, not now.”

“Good. Because there is nowhere I'd rather be.”
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:48 PM   #13
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Now, of course, some of you are wondering why a careful, paranoid sort like me would simply accept Rachel's story about Mari arranging our first meeting. And well you should, because I wouldn't have believed it myself, if not for the simple fact that she could not have hacked her way into my car, not with a single code failure resulting in immediate lockdown and activation of the panic system. Someone had gotten her in there, and the only reasonable someone for that to be was Mari.

But of course, I really did have every intention of confirming the story with Mari herself, as soon as I was ambulatory again. Until then I would simply enjoy Rachel's company in a new light. Once someone from my inner circle vetted her story, then we could start getting serious. It wasn't like I was going to let Rachel into the secure areas of my life as easily as I took her into my bed.
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Old 07-26-2015, 11:52 PM   #14
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I opened the door to reveal a woman I'd known - to varying degrees - for some time. She smiled and looked me in the eye, which at her height was pretty easy to do. “It's good to see you up and about.”

I stepped forward and pulled her into a quick hug. Her soft body squished and spread against mine, which, despite the time spent bedridden lately, was still pretty toned and hard. “It's good to see you, period. Come on in.”

I couldn't help looking back as Mari stepped through the doorway. No matter how many times I saw it, the sight of her comically wide hips nearly filling the opening would always intrigue and enthrall me. “At least your stares are appreciative.”

I looked up into her eyes again and grinned. “And well they should be, for a woman of your caliber.”

“Flirt.”

“Always.”

Mari smiled, then changed the subject. “So, who's this long term guest I've heard tell of?”

“You can meet her for yourself. She's in the kitchen.”

Rachel turned towards us as we entered the spacious kitchen, a flash of surprised recognition gracing her pretty features, cooking utensil nearly falling from her hand. “Mari?!”

Amusement found purchase on my own face as the other woman mimicked Rachel's expression almost exactly. “Rachel?!” Hands on hips, Mari turned to face me. “You never told me this was the new woman in your life!”

I flushed at Mari's choice of words, noting that Rachel's cheeks colored a little as well. Cheeks no longer sunken, but becoming full, a little round even. “I'm... missing something.”

“I volunteer at a homeless shelter...” Mari prompted gently.

Sparing a glance at Rachel, I finished her sentence. “And Rachel used to be homeless. Of course, that makes sense when you point it out, but I'd never put the two points together otherwise. So, do you two know each other well?”

“Well enough. We were wondering what happened to you, Rachel. It's good to see it wasn't anything bad.”

“I wouldn't go that far, Mari – I had to clean the place and bathe his lazy ass for the last two months.”

'Well enough,' was clearly an understatement if these two were ganging up on me in such a fashion. “Hey, now.” The two broke into open laughter. “I'm pretty sure I've said it already, but, thank you for looking after me and my home while I was recuperating, Rachel. It means a lot.”

“It was the least I could do, considering what you did for me.” I knew Rachel's dropping of the Master/Slave role play deference was partly because Mari was there, but she'd been using it less and less as time wore on anyhow. Somewhere in the nearly three-month period in which she'd been living with me, she'd finally started to think of us as somewhat equals. As much as I had come to enjoy the role play, I was far happier to see her relaxing and getting comfortable.

“Granted, but still, you didn't have to put up with it, to stay. So, thank you.”

The room was silent for several long seconds. I caught Mari looking at Rachel, hard, felt tension building in the air. I was just about to say something when Rachel broke the awkward silence. Her voice was quiet, almost a whisper. Her facial expression was pleasant, but her tone belied the pain she felt uttering the next three words. “You... you're welcome.”

Spontaneously, I reached over and pulled her to my side. My fingers dug in slightly to the soft flesh I'd begun to see around her middle, and I felt myself coming to attention. Mari, more familiar with my mannerisms than just about anyone, noticed the look on my face and flashed a smug smile. Rachel made a show of resisting the attempt to hug her, but eventually gave in and 'allowed' it. Paying no attention to what was going on around me, I was surprised when Mari's arm settled on the side Rachel was not leaning against; she had decided to join the hug as well. My erection surged at the touch of her soft, plush middle, but she was used to this from our time together, as well as every time she hugged me since we'd mutually broken up.

Looking down at Rachel, I could see her snuggling against Mari's plush, squishy body. She clearly admired it, too, in her own way. Playfully, I squeezed her side, causing her to look up at me questioningly. “Lunch?”

“Oh!” Instantly, she broke from the hug and returned to the stove, from which intoxicating aromas issued from multiple pots and pans.

The three of us chatted randomly while Rachel cooked, a relatively simple take on Chicken Florentine. The food was delicious and suitably filling; as usual, Rachel cleaned her plate. She stood, making her way around the table to collect the dishes.

“So, Mari, I had something I wanted to talk to you about,” I quipped, flashing Rachel a hand signal behind my back. Thus far, it seemed as though Mari had not caught on to our charade, a spin on the role-playing my relationship with Rachel had started with, platonically, now being used to draw Mari into an ambush.

“Oh?” Mari responded, curious.

Just then, Rachel leaned around me to grab my plate - and suddenly, her lips were on mine, the world fading out of existence for a short time as I surrendered my soul, my very existence, to her desire, and she to mine.

Breaking the kiss, I cast my glance across the table at Mari. Rachel, too, stood looking at our mutual friend, one hand on the table, the other clutching my shoulder - somewhat possessively, I noted, peripherally.

Mari was floored. Her mouth worked soundlessly for a few seconds, then a single word issued forth. “Wow.”

“You were right.”

“Yes... I suppose I was.” Either my ears were deceiving me, or that was a hint of jealousy in Mari's tone. Apparently, it was one thing for her to hook her ex up with someone, and another thing altogether to see that relationship flourish. Rachel, it seemed, also picked up on Mari's tone, for she sidled a little closer to me, her hand sliding off my shoulder and down my back.

“Woah, hey, not like that, please? I'm certainly not going to go to the trouble of setting one of my best friends up with the woman I think is his soul mate and then sabotage it. I'm just...”

I opened my mouth to speak, but Rachel beat me to it. “You're a good friend, Mari, and I sincerely hope nothing ever changes that. But this man is mine. I am happier than I could have ever imagined, and the devil herself could not hope to come between us.” I looked up to find Rachel gazing down at me, affection and longing competing for dominance in her eyes. I smiled, slipping my arm around her waist and pulling her a little closer. The devil herself indeed.
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Old 07-27-2015, 09:48 PM   #15
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Wow, what a read! Thank you.
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Old 02-17-2016, 11:10 AM   #16
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This is brilliant!
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