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Authors: Alessandra Torre

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Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1
CHAPTER 2
CHAPTER 3
CHAPTER 4
CHAPTER 5
CHAPTER 6
CHAPTER 7
CHAPTER 8
CHAPTER 9
CHAPTER 10
CHAPTER 11
CHAPTER 12
CHAPTER 13
CHAPTER 14
CHAPTER 15

This story is a work of fiction. Things portrayed in this eBook are either fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2013 Alessandra Torre

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Cover photo by Miguel Kilantang Jr

When Jennifer Kinsley appears on Nathan Dumont’s arm, all of Palm Beach society pays attention. Dumont’s beautiful new fiancée is the picture of grace, decades of breeding radiating from a thin frame that wears her vintage Chanel effortlessly. But, despite the powerful machine that is Google, no one can find her family history, her private school chums, or her expensively hidden skeletons in couture closets. Jennifer Kinsley is a mystery, plucked from obscurity and placed on the arm of Nathan Dumont, heir to the Dumont shipping empire. All that the press, or the viewers at home can determine is that this is one couple who is madly and deeply in love. All that it takes is one look into Dumont’s eyes to know that this playboy has found his soul mate in life.

-New York Times, Summer Edition, Hank Wallace reporting

It is all a lie. Every part of my day, whether it be in front of the camera or at home. Home. A horrible word for this ten thousand square feet structure of glass and stone. Home is where my heart gets ripped out, trampled on, and then patched back together with expensive band-aids, beating a little weaker with every cycle. Home is where I wait for him to return, and hate myself for listening for his car.

CHAPTER 1

“J
ennifer?” I look at my new ID dubiously.

Is there a problem? Drew asks dryly.

I frown, trying to decide upon an answer to his question. “I don’t know. I just never really pictured myself as a Jennifer.” Jennifers play tennis, like pink, and draw hearts in notebooks. I have already spent twenty-six years straddled with the girly disaster that was Candy. If I am going to get a new name, I want it to be strong, with a backbone. Like Alexis. Or Jinx.
Shit. I’ve obviously spent too much time in a strip club.
“Do I get a choice?”

“No.” He smiles thinly, his grin all sharp teeth, no humor in its grimace.

I sigh. “Then Jennifer it is.”

“Nathan has already decided that you will be referred to as Jenny.”

Jenny
. I puff out my cheeks in exasperation.
Even worse
.

My name is only part of the problem. I stare at the racks of designer clothes, designed for someone other than young vixens with a body worth showing off. According to my new workout regime, delivered by an energetic ball of annoyance named Beth, I will be having my ass kicked for two hours a day, twice a week. Following that schedule, and my new diet (also delivered in irritating cheerful fashion), I will be down a dress size within thirty days. What is the point of all of that hell if it is going to be hidden by three layers of couture?

I flip through the racks, every hanger holding some variation of the same thing. Classic colors. High necklines. Low hemlines. Cardigans — a whole freaking shelf of them. Lace. Panty Hose. I shudder, grabbing the panty hose packages and tossing them in the general direction of a trashcan. My wardrobe has been cheerfully delivered by Rosit Fenton — a forty-ish bald, round, gay man — whose outfit contains more color than this entire wardrobe combined. He also supplies me with a book.

“When you flip through the book you will see the outfit selections,” he drones in a nasally tone that reeks of dignity and culture. “Each outfit has a number, shown here.” He points to a giant number, placed to the side of a blouse, so big and clear it looks like it was created for a six-year-old. “The numbers correspond to a hanger. So all you need to do is pull the hangers and you will have your outfit!” He closes the book with a sharp crack, smiling at me in a way that is typically reserved for those of a lesser intellect.

I don’t need a book that matches blah with blah; I can master that disaster all on my own. I force a smile, trying to present an exterior that is gracious and refined. “Thank you.”

And so begins my first day as Jenny — polite, reserved, Jenny. I grit my teeth at the name.

CHAPTER 2

Word: 5 letters; second letter is ‘U’.

Clue: something justice will not erase.

I
smile at my father. He is weak, the monitors showing dismal results that I am now an expert in. My eyes flit between his weak face and the numbers, numbers that constantly change, never giving me a moment’s rest. There’ll be a moment of brief elation, followed by a heartbeat of despair. I see these numbers in my sleep, they dominate my dreams, always traveling in the wrong direction, my breaths quickening as they increase, incessantly beeping at a rate that parallels my heart.

His condition has improved only slightly since my last evening at the Crystal Palace. Nathan had him moved to a nicer facility called Crestridge; Dad now has a private, corner room with windows that open to a bloom-filled garden. I visited him three times before his move, enough times to realize the marked difference between the two facilities. His other doctors didn’t have time to answer my questions, giving my father a cursory glance as they made hurried adjustments to his chart. The new doctors are patient, informative, sometimes spending a half hour with us discussing minute changes in his condition. It is through their gentle answers that I am fully realizing the bleak situation: we need a miracle. Unless things change, one by one his systems will fail, machines stepping in to do their part, and my father will slip away forever.

I grip his hand, grateful to feel a response, a tightening of his fingers around mine. “Hey beautiful,” he whispers.

“Hey Daddy. How’s your day going?”

“You know me. Just fighting off the ladies.” He smiles at me, the motion breaking my heart in its lighthearted attempt.

“So I’ve heard. Janice at the front desk is positively glowing about you. Try to let her down easily.”

He laughs, a loose sound that turns into a cough, his hand tightening around mine as his body tenses. I hold my frown at bay, patting his hand gently. “I brought the crossword puzzle. I’m stuck on a few. Think you could help me out?”

He swallows hard, his eyes watering slightly, and nods, releasing my hand and gesturing for me to continue. I grin, reaching into my bag and pulling out a worn book, the second we have done. Our first book was one for beginners, the clues ridiculously easy. This one is for intermediate puzzlers, and we are moving through it at a much slower pace. I can’t pick up the book without fearing that we will never finish it. It, like everything else in my visits, is a bittersweet reminder of the time I have wasted, and how little we have left.

I keep my voice low, giving him clues and waiting as he thinks. His pauses lengthen, and during one long break, I open the windows in his room, bringing in fresh air and the scent of lilies. A few times he dozes off, then awakens again, his hand reaching out in a panic for my own.

I spend all day there, as I do every Wednesday. My first visit occurred just eight days after I signed the document and agreed to marry Nathan.

I fidgeted nervously in the waiting room, fingering the ends of my hair. My head felt light, my waist-length tresses cut into a sophisticated bob, with my hair dyed the color of dark chocolate. My hair hadn’t been brown since I was twelve. I had spent the last week in a beauty boot camp, my entire body worked over by a team of experts.

Nails:
My false tips removed, glossy pale polish now covering short, manicured nails.

Skin:
I am no longer allowed to tan artificially. I have been exfoliated and moisturized within an inch of my life, a new layer of spray tan applied weekly.

Eyes:
My lashes are being thickened and extended by a treatment I apply three times a day. I now wear color-enhancing contacts, which turn my dull eyes into a smoky almond that catches the light.

Teeth:
Three shades lighter.

Wrinkles:
Gone, courtesy of Botox injections.

Cellulite:
Gone, courtesy of some crazy electrode machine that shook my ass so hard my teeth chattered.

Any delicate hair not on my head:
Ripped off by a sadistic Chinese woman who wielded a wax stick freely. She used care on my eyebrows; everything else went into the trash via white squares of pain.

Breasts:
Deemed acceptable.

Wardrobe:
A seamstress arrived, measured every inch of my body, and then returned four days later with Rosit Fenton and a moving van. The clothing rack that Rosit had originally delivered was compounded upon four men spending two hours unloading the van and filling the guesthouse closets, and Rosit barking orders while massacring a clipboard full of notes.

I watched from the couch, a book in hand, trying to release the tension that was building between my shoulder blades. As it turned out, handing over control of your life can be quite stressful, no matter how much of an improvement it is making.

It was lonely — the glamification of my life — without a partner in crime. I could have enjoyed it so much more — the beauty treatments, the clothes, the forty-six pairs of designer shoes. Yes, in a weak moment of elation, I counted them.

The first week was my training in all things manners and etiquette. Nathan allowed me this day of freedom, away from any coaches and lessons, for my first visit with my father. He agreed that Wednesday will be set aside as a visitation day — this day to be the first of many, depending on my father’s condition. What was unsaid: how long this agreement would matter. How long I would have a father to visit. I was blinking back tears when the nurse called my name.

I didn’t call ahead and warn my father of my arrival. I had intended it to be a surprise, a wonderful burst of light that would make his day. I walked into the room, my eyes clear, my smile bright, one designer heel stepping in front of another, past an intubated woman and through the curtain that hid my father.

He glanced at me briefly then stared. Puzzlement first, and then a crumbling, body caving as he reached out shaky arms, fumbling hands, gripping my shoulders and watery eyes staring into my own. “Candace,” he whispered, confusion in his tone. “Oh, Candace.” His arms held me close with a fierceness that alarmed me, his need so great, a man who had been neglected for too long. A sob caught me off guard, loud in the room, ugly in its wail, and it took a moment for me to realize that it was coming from my body. I was suddenly wracked with too many emotions, guilt dominant, squashing all of the rest in its fight to the front.

This man, who had been so strong on our phone calls — so light-hearted and nonchalant.

“Sweetie, I’m fine.”

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll fight this.”

“The ladies at the hospital have been spoiling me rotten.”

This man, who was gripping me as if I was his lifeline. His only child, a child who had abandoned him in his time of need. I’d been four short hours away, lying to my father, inventing a life that didn’t exist so that I could excuse my lack of visitation. Ashamed of my job, ashamed of my life, my selfishness had left him to die a lonely death.

At that point, that horrible moment when I realized all the ways I had failed him, I knew I made the right decision. I would sign my soul to the devil if it meant that I could, in some way, right my shortcomings as a daughter. He was my father, and I vowed to become more worthy of his love.

At seven, Pam comes in, gently knocking on the door. I sit, watching my father sleep, a tray with our dinner sitting to the side.

“I’m sorry, but time’s up. We have to start night rounds.”

I nod, stretching as I stand, meeting her kind eyes with a grateful smile. “Thank you Pam. For everything. He speaks so highly of you.”

She beams, clasping her hands together before her generous bosom. “He is one of our favorites, and lucky to have a daughter like you.”

I force a smile, hoping that it looks authentic. This staff knows me as I am now. A devoted daughter, willing to authorize any expense to ensure her father’s comfort and well-being. The previous, state-run facility knows the truth. They know that he was alone during the first six months of his sickness. They know the lonely old man whose insurance was running out, the one whose daughter didn’t bother to visit, or even send flowers. Actually, according to the blank faces and irritable responses I received on my first visit — they don’t know him at all. He was a bed number, one of hundreds. The week that I spent there, before Nathan was able to move him, made me appreciate Crestridge so much more. I appreciate their false view of me, and the genuine care, love, and attention that they show to Dad. With every visit, with every bond that renews between him and I — the guilt lessens. I can’t make up for six months of neglect. But I am trying as hard as I can.

CHAPTER 3

Word: 3 letters; comprised of two vowels

Clue: the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious

A
s the private plane moves closer to home, my nerves tighten. I can physically feel them, a bundle of nerve endings being twisted, tighter and tighter, bulging and straining, testing the limits of their strength. I spend all week looking forward to Wednesdays. And I spend all week nervous about Wednesday night.

I walk off the plane, the press blissfully absent, the FBO empty, save one aircraft handler who flashes me a friendly smile. “Good evening, Ms. Dumont.”

“Good evening.” I walk through the empty lobby, heading down a long hall that will lead to the exit, my heels echoing on the wood floor. Fifty steps to my car. Seven miles to the house. An unknown duration ‘til his hands.

Honestly, I have nothing to dread — nothing to fret and panic and work myself up over. When he reaches for me, when his hands travel over my skin and his mouth claims my own, I melt. I enjoy every second of his touch. I think my dread is more for my heart. With every experience with him, I guard it fiercely. And with every experience, I feel it crack a little more. On Wednesday nights, I am at my weakest — my heart warm and grateful for the opportunities he has afforded me and my father. On these nights, I can feel it, the warm tendrils of emotion slipping uninvited into my heart.

I reach for the handle of my car, a sleek black Mercedes, the car sensing the key’s proximity and unlocking at my touch. Then the large iron gates are opening, and I am heading home. Home sweet home.

Drew waits for me by the entrance, glancing at his watch as I park the car in front. “He’s been waiting,” he says quietly, opening the door as I approach.

“Our flight hit some weather, so we had to go around it.” My words travel with me as I step inside, and my steps stop as I see Nathan standing by the large windows, his back to me, his eyes on the cityscape. I glance at Drew, a question in my eyes. His expression gives nothing away, and I set my purse down, passing my keys to Drew.

“Mr. Dumont, I’ll park the Missus’s car. Will you need me for anything else?”

“Yes.” My eyes close briefly at that response, hoping that tonight isn’t like other nights, where Drew has stood by while we have fucked, his purpose unknown to anyone but Nathan. Saying that, I know the purpose. Control. It is a food that Nathan feeds on, devours with a vulgarity that clashes with his smooth exterior. He wants to control me, and he wants an audience — an audience that he controls in the process. I always wonder what Drew is thinking, what thoughts go through his head when I am with Nathan. He feigns disinterest, his head cast to the side or down to the floor in a preoccupied, respectful manner. But sometimes, when my head flips back, or when Nathan suddenly spins me around, I catch his eyes on me. Burning green eyes that pin me in place. And in that fire, in that intense stare, I think I see arousal. I think I see want.

Nathan continues, gesturing with a hand to the back lawn. “Wait for me in back. I want to spend some time with Jenny, then I will meet you out there.”

From my peripheral I see Drew nod, see him turn as he leaves, hear the purr of my engine as he takes my car to the garage. Tomorrow it will be detailed back to showroom condition.

“How is your father?”

I smile. “He’s okay. He is very grateful for the new facility. Thank you for moving him.”

“Have they discovered what is wrong with him?”

Nothing. Nothing is wrong with him. He is perfect
. “No.”

He steps away from the window, moving to a chair and settling into it, setting his drink on the table. His eyes watch me as I move around the couch, stopping before him. I wait for the command, my body tightening, the silk of my panties already beginning to stick between my legs.

“Come here.” He slides a little lower in the chair, his head against the white leather, his chin tilted up, blue eyes staring out from chiseled masculinity.

I move closer, his legs coming together, then I am straddling him, my skirt pushed up, his hands reaching around me to pull down the zipper. I lean forward, my fingers loosening his tie, his hands gently gripping my waist, his eyes on mine as my fingers work, neither of us saying anything in this moment.

I love his eyes. They are the only way I can read him. His body gives so little away; he controls his emotions so well. But his eyes are traitorous to his carefully maintained control. They blaze when he is angry, they soften when he is yielding, and they grow heavy with need when he is aroused.

Right now, he is aroused. I don’t need his eyes to know that. I can feel it underneath me, straining against the fabric of his dress pants.

His fingers move to the buttons of my cardigan, thumbing the small pearls as he releases them, one by one, his large hands slipping underneath and palming my breasts through the thin fabric of my camisole, the sensation causing a shiver to ripple through me. He yanks at the last button, the pearl popping off, causing a giggle to rise in my throat. Then the silk blend is tossed aside, his hands pulling and tugging on my cami until it joins the cardigan, and my upper half is bare before him.

“No bra?” he questions, a dark look in his eyes and his hands move, brushing across my nipples, their skin puckering in the cool room.

I shake my head, biting my lower lip, stifling a gasp as his hands grip the weight of me, one breast in each hand, his eyes taking on a gleam of ownership. He pushes with his hands, communicating his desire, and I begin to move my hips, my lace and silk mound grinding over him, the want beneath my panties visible through the fabric.

I need to see more of him, the desire taking over me, causing me to pant softly. My fingers tremble as they move, unbuttoning his shirt, spreading it open so that my hands can explore his skin. I lean forward, lowering my mouth to his hot surface, skimming my tongue and teeth over the hard planes of his chest. His pelvis unexpectedly tilts, pushing me higher ‘til our faces are level, and his mouth is on mine.

I get lost in his kisses. It is the one moment when I communicate with him freely, my mouth recklessly pouring out emotions that are best contained. Our tongues have no filter, the heat of our kisses lighting a fire between us that can only be put out with his cock. I reach down, my frantic hands grasping and pulling on leather, clasp, a button and zipper, moving in hurried motions until I have him in my hand, hard and ready, his skin stretched tight, moisture already present at his tip.

He pulls me down, my hands quickly positioning him beneath me, tugging wet panties aside for his entrance. His mouth reluctantly releases me, his eyes watching me hungrily, fixed on my face as he thrusts up and into me.

My skirt is pulled over my head and thrown aside, his hands running through my hair and gripping it tightly, pulling it slightly so that my neck is exposed to his mouth.

As his lips kiss and caress my neck, I groan beneath his touch, his hands and hips lifting and pumping, taking me on a wave of pleasure until he has had his fill. And when it is time, when he buries me deeply onto his cock, his mouth finding mine, his moan against my mouth. He gives one last shuddering thrust into my hot core, my thoughts flicker to Drew and how this must look through the glass walls of the house.

CHAPTER 4

Word: 9 letters; last letter is ‘S’

Clue: a child’s game often possesses twenty of these

B
oredom is a dangerous bitch. Boredom allows the mind to wander, gives credence to idle thoughts, and gives legs to dangerous ideas. Boredom seems to be item number one on my daily agenda.

7:00 AM: Wake up.

7:15 AM: Shower and dress. Be prepared in case Nathan wants sex before work.

8:30 AM: Eat breakfast, which consists of only items preapproved by Beth, evil bitch that she is.

9:00 AM: Boredom begins.

10:00 AM: Boredom continues.

11:00 AM: Still bored.

12:00 PM: Lunch, unless I get wild and push it to 1:00 PM.

12:30 PM: Nap, which is often interrupted by landscaper noise.

2:30 PM: Twice-weekly personal training/torture session with Beth.

4:30 PM: Shower and dress. Wait for the sound of Nathan’s car.

Some nights he doesn’t return. I sit in the guesthouse with the doors open so that I will hear his car. I sit and wait, the television on low, a magazine or book ignored in my hands. If he doesn’t return by eight, I eat. At ten, I close the curtains.

Not that curtains have ever stopped him. Neither has the lock on my door, a lock that every employee of the house seems to have a key for. Drew and Mark think nothing of walking right into my house, regardless of the hour or of my state of dress. Nathan has never made the short trek to my home. He has never set foot in my room, never seen the pile of clothes that dominates the large walk-in closet, never seen my books or movies or perfume bottles. When he wants me, he sends Drew or Mark to fetch me. Like I am another employee of the house, which in a sense, I am. We are all here to serve a purpose. I fuck, Drew handles our personal security and travel arrangements, and Mark is Nathan’s personal bitch. The man seems to demand an audience, never calm unless surrounded by someone.

“He’s not really in danger, is he?” It is the boredom that makes me speak, too many thoughts flitting around my head, one pushing unannounced to the surface. I sit at the kitchen island, munching on a carrot. It’s too cold, like someone’s changed the refrigerator’s temperature control and frozen everything solid.

Drew regards me carefully from his place by the fridge. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, look at you. You’re supposed to be his security, right?” I hop off the stool and walk to the fridge, pulling open the door and searching hopefully for some bit of yumminess that Beth might have overlooked.

“Among other things.”

“So if he’s in danger, then who’s protecting him right now?”

“Mark is with him.”

I roll my eyes. “I know that Mark is
with
him, but Mark isn’t like you — all tough and dangerous. Mark just takes up space, with a build that is mildly intimidating.”

“Are you done eating? You should return to the guesthouse.”

“Stop calling it the guesthouse. I’m the only one there, and I’m not a guest.”

“Okay, time to return to
your
house.”

“Why can’t I stay here? Why do I have to be locked away in there all day?” I pull out a bottle of juice and shut the fridge, twisting the cap as I lean against the island. “Nathan works in development, right? Hotels, resorts, apartment complexes?”

He says nothing, which my boredom takes as an excuse to run free. “Development isn’t dangerous. If it weren’t for his last name, no one would even know who he is. Half the time he doesn’t even lock the front door.”

“Your point?”

I shrug, taking a swig of icy mango. “Just seems like you are expendable.”

“Let me worry about that.”

“And what’s with making me sleep outside? Why can’t I hang out in the house during the day? Or sleep in his bed at night?”

“Do you
want
to sleep in his bed at night?”

His tone gives me pause, and I set the drink on the counter. “It’d be nice not to sleep alone at night.”

I mean the comment to be lighthearted, a flippant response that will be ignored. But he says nothing, and an awkward silence stretches between us in the big kitchen. I pick at the wrapper of my juice. “How long you worked for Nathan?”

He crosses his arms and shoots me a pained look. “Why the sudden questions?”

I crunch happily on a carrot in a way that I know he will find exasperating. “Answer one of them, and I’ll go on my little way like a good girl.”

“Which one?”

I think, grabbing a fresh handful of orange sticks. “Is he really in any danger?”

“Wealthy men are always in danger. Now,
move
.” He ends the order with some form of a snarl, emphasizing the last word and unfolding his arms, like he is going to forcibly remove me from the kitchen.

I laugh, popping a new carrot into my mouth and bumping my hip against him as I round the island and head to my prison. “Fine … but your answer sucked. I’ll get you with a better question tomorrow.”

He glowers at me, a look that would have terrified me two months ago. Now, it causes me to beam — this brief bit of human interaction is well worth the sexy death stare.

CHAPTER 5

Word: 9 letters; second letter is ‘E’

Clue: an act of open resistance to an established ruler

I
need a hobby. The marital agreement states that I can have a hobby, as long as the hobby doesn’t interfere with my wifely duties. Nathan’s schedule seems to reliably keep him out of the house from nine to five. It shouldn’t be that difficult for me to find a hobby that will fit during that window. The agreement also states that I may have friends, but it is pretty hard to find friends when living in the middle of a neighborhood designed to keep neighbors at a five-acre distance. I check my watch. 9:04 AM. Nathan should have left by now. His schedule is precise, a subtle indicator of his controlling tendencies. According to Mark, he leaves by 9:00 so that is he able to be at his desk by 9:30.

Last weekend, we flew to Napa Valley to attend a charity benefit. Three days spent in wine country. Nathan was mobbed the moment our plane landed, men and women alike flocking to his side, pulling on his arm, whispering into his ear, and laughing at his jokes. He transformed before my eyes, an easy grin stretching across his face, a casual and affable elegance his new façade. I was shocked, my jaw literally dropping as I stared at this mystery who was anyone but my husband.

He maintained this exterior for three days straight, entertaining scores of society bluebloods, telling stories I have never heard, bidding on extravagant auction items, his arm draped lovingly around my shoulder. He planted soft kisses on my neck in the presence of others and ran his fingers lightly over my arm as if he couldn’t touch me enough. I saw the glances, the swoons from other woman.
She is so lucky. They are so in love.
They didn’t know the truth. That when he would lean in and whisper in my ear his words were anything but romantic.
Stop fidgeting. Uncross your legs. The woman to your right is Paula — pay her more attention
. I behaved, I smiled, I made the proper social gestures, and said the correct things. I beamed at Nathan, laughed at his stories, and accepted his loving gestures as if they were often and normal. And in the evenings, when the door to our two-bedroom suite closed, he would reward me. On the soft bed, against the wall, in the shower. On my back, on my knees, standing, and with his mouth. When you subtracted his whispered orders, the separate bedrooms, and the false exteriors, it was the best weekend of my life.

We returned four days ago, the plane landing with a soft bump that woke me from my nap. I stretched and smiled over at Nathan, glancing out the window and seeing the familiar FBO. “We home?”

He nodded without looking at me, unbuckling his belt and moving to the front. That was Sunday, and we haven’t spoken since. The first day, I dismissed it as nothing, my weekend high keeping a smile on my face, a bounce in my step. Drew watched me closely that day, his eyes narrowed, his gaze unwary. The second day I began to wonder if something was wrong, sitting in my glass box ‘til midnight waiting to be beckoned. Now, on day four, it seems clear. I am being punished for something.

9:06 AM: His hard glare pins me in the doorway as soon as I slide open the glass door. He stands in the kitchen, the island between us, six feet of gorgeous constrained by a custom suit. I can see the anger in his eyes, his face turning into a scowl as he mutters something to Drew. Drew makes a sharp gesture with his head, the message clear, and I step backward, pulling the glass sliding door closed, the summer heat settling around me like a hot, scratchy sweater. I stand there for a moment, feeling the sun stare down on me like a prissy schoolteacher.
Bad Jennifer. Get out, Jennifer
.

Anger seeps through me in waves, commingling with frustration and leaving me furious.
Why is he so difficult? Am I that irritating? My mere presence that unbearable to his peace of mind?
My clothes, the proper blend of luxury and sex, are suddenly thick and constricting, the tight wool-blend top ridiculous in the summer humidity. I feel a sudden surge of recklessness, pushed relentlessly by the wave of hot claustrophobia that seizes my entire body. I yank at the sleeveless turtleneck, pulling it over my head, feeling a moment of euphoria when the hot fabric hits the white pavers. My skirt follows, one quick zip down. I stare at my nude thigh-high lace stockings, ridiculous given the fact that they were put on solely for his eyes. There’s no need for stockings in June, slid on in the pathetic hope that he might, on this day, grant me a session with his cock. I slip out of my heels, rolling the expensive sheer fabric down my long legs, flipping my head up to find him and Drew staring at me through the glass, an expression of horror on Drew’s face. Nathan simply watches, a cold look of disinterest in his eyes.
Oh, look. There is my wife. Throwing a temper tantrum in front of the staff.

I stare into his eyes, my body covered by only a sheer shelf bra and a barely existent thong. I can only hope my eyes communicate the fury radiating through my body, my hurt at his neglect, at his snub of me and the corner of his world that I inhabit. Then, I dive.

The water shocks me. I am forbidden from the pool, my hair stylist repeatedly preaching the harm that chlorine will cause to my now-expensive tresses. Nathan agreed, adding a new rule to my long list.
No swimming
. So I am unprepared for its cool embrace, the smooth grip of moisture that instantly refreshes my sticky skin, sliding bubbles across my surface. I come up for air, the sun’s heat suddenly friendly and warm on my face, tickling me as it slides droplets of water off my face. Then I duck back into the underwater world and don’t come up for quite some time.

Laps
. I swim until my muscles cramp, ache, and then cramp again. I am filled with glee at my insubordination, my first act of rebellion incredible in its release. The water drinks my aggression, my hatred, my anger toward the black beauty that is Nathan. At the end of each lap, on my backward spin, I peer through the clear water, my eyes searching for a body at the edge of the pool, someone who will admonish me, order me to get out of the pool, perhaps even Nathan. But lap after lap, no one is there, and so I continue. Laps. Until I am gasping for breath, and my heart is thudding against my chest, my legs and arms deliciously exhausted.

I drag myself from the water, lying back on the warm pavers of the pool deck, my eyes closing, a smile crossing my features. Nathan would find some way to punish me, perhaps more coldness, more nights where I fall asleep waiting for his call. But this act, this childish strip down and swim, was worth it. I needed the moment of backbone — at a time when I feel I am losing all the pieces that make me, me.

There, in the warm sun, my skin and lingerie drying out above tired muscles, my exhausted body relaxes, and under the dark stare of Nathan, I fall asleep.

CHAPTER 6

Word: 6 letters

Clue: the opposite of reward

I
am in my house, curled up on the couch, reading, when Drew speaks.

“Mr. Dumont is requesting you.”

The sudden words startle me, and I jump, turning to glare at him. “Can’t you knock?”

He says nothing, his hands in his pockets, and I turn back to my book, my mind processing what this means. Nathan, home in the middle of the day. Requesting me. He has never requested me for anything but sex. After four days of ignoring me, I break a rule, and now he is here, asking for me. In the middle of the day.

“Mr. Dumont — ”

“I know. Is requesting me.” I stand, tossing the book aside. “Should I get dressed?”

His eyes travel over my silk robe, cinched at the waist over nothing but me, the fabric sticking to my skin, still wet from my after-swim shower. “No. I’m sure that will be fine.”

I nod silently, taking the time to take a sip from my glass of ice water, preparing myself for Nathan, butterflies starting a nervous dance in my belly.

In the background, the roar of a weed eater begins.

Nathan is a man possessed, grabbing me the moment I enter the room, his hands tight on my arms, my robe’s thin silk doing nothing to prevent what will be bruises. I drop the cool exterior, the mask that I adorned before stepping into this house, and look at him in panic.

He is a ball of barely restrained emotion; his breath is coming in short, controlled bursts, his expressions dark, the lines in his face heavy and pronounced. He pushes me over to the leather chaise lounge, until I am on my back and he is towering over me, his hands in fists.

“Nathan, please,” I gasp, moving away from him, my robe open around my legs.

“You think this is a game?” he hisses. “Our marriage, our agreement?”

I open my mouth, searching for something to say, not understanding his anger. Was this over the pool? My little ridiculous swim?

He leans closer, ‘til his mouth is inches from mine, ‘til his breath is hot on my skin. “Answer me.”

I wet my lips. “No,” I whisper.

“No, what?” he snarls, yanking the sash on my robe, the silk moving easily under his strength.

“No, it’s not a game.” I keep my face timid, my voice soft, but inside my teeth bare and my claws flex. No, it’s
not
a game; this is my
life
, my worth, my sanity. For a man who doesn’t like games, he should throw out the rules and stop keeping score of who is ahead in the I’m-in-control race. His eyes are hard on mine and staring in them tells me exactly how furious he is. I have never seen him this angry — have never seen this level of emotion from him in any way. It lights a fire in my belly, knowing that I have elicited this response, knowing that he
cares
enough to be mad.

He reaches forward, gripping the back of my neck and pulling me up, pressing his mouth roughly to mine as he pulls open my robe, baring my body to him. It is not a kiss. It is a domination — strong movements of his tongue that tease, taste, and torment my tongue. He nips my bottom lip, fucks me with his tongue, then gently kisses my swollen lips, taking one final journey of my mouth before he pulls off.

I open my eyes, expecting a softer Nathan above me, expecting the change in his kiss to reflect the forgiveness that had occurred. His fists have loosened, those hands now running rampant over my body, my robe fully open, my legs parted with his knee. His face has calmed, the deep lines faded, the set of his mouth relaxed. But his eyes betray him. His eyes show the fierce anger that still burns brightly. And I know. I know that my punishment is not over.

These depths of fire flicker to the backyard, then return to me, and I understand. This is how he will punish me — public humiliation — putting me on display while he fucks me senseless. He will remind me of where I came from, treat me like the whore that I — that one night — was.

And he does. He makes me stand, naked before the window, my palms to the glass, his hands on my ass cheeks, fucking me so hard that my breasts bounce from the impact. I feel the sting of his hand against my ass, while his words spit out hard and unforgiving, “You belong to me. You are mine.”

The landscapers, bless their hearts, keep their eyes low, focus on their work. But I know they see. They see when he forces me to my knees, his hand firm on my head, my bare body before his clothed one. They see when I take his cock deep down my throat, my body shaking from the effort, when my back contracts and I gag. They see when his thighs flex, his eyes close, and he fills my throat with satisfaction.

But that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it I am ashamed to say, ashamed to admit to myself. The worst is that, even at the height of it, even when I felt their eyes, and hated Nathan’s demands, I was aroused. Panting in my pussy, moisture dripping down my leg, aroused. I moaned when he spanked me. I begged for more as he fucked me. I looked into his eyes and asked for his cum.

I know. I am as screwed up as he is.

CHAPTER 7

Word: 10 letters; the last letter is ‘N’

Clue: a ____________ slip is often required at school

O
ur agreement states that sex will only be asked for once a day, today’s quota already filled. Nathan is a man of regulations, our agreement one that he follows to the letter. I have still dressed in expectation of his return from work. It is silly, vain hopes that a simple clothing change will recapture some normalcy in a day that has already gone so wrong. And ten minutes after I hear the growl of Nathan’s car, Drew walks in, his eyes noticing everything, doing a sweep of my body, my face, my nervous smile.

He steps close, closer than I am comfortable with, the glass walls placing everything I do under a microscope. “Are you okay?”

I glance to the house, nodding, Nathan’s frame absent from my view of the great room. Drew reaches forward, his hand startling me, and fingers the end of my blunt cut, examining its dark strands. “I liked it better when it was longer.”

I nod silently, mesmerized by the flecks of gold in his green eyes, surprised at his nearness, at the intensity of his stare.
So did I.
I liked the weight of the hair against my back, its protection against my neck, the variety of styles I used, the way it spun out when I turned. Now I have one singular look. Refined elegance. Blah.