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Aching for more than a one-night stand? Then you'll savor these five tales of tender love. The Bad Girls of Erotica are back, and this time they're revealing their sensitive sides. Snuggle up with this collection of passionate encounters, magical mysteries, and love where you least expect it. Because even bad girls know: kinky sex can be fun, but sweet romance is even better!~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~Gaelic GoddessNo one grieved for Mick Phelan when he died. The old lawyer had been a terrible father and a horrible man, poisoning his children with his hate.But an unexpected inheritance was waiting for his grandson Thomas. An Irish goddess who Mick had ensnared decades ago showed up on his doorstep, begging him to free her from bondage.Now Tom and Rhiannon must navigate a treacherous road. Will their growing attraction for one another allow them to part the mists of time and release her from slavery? Or will Rhiannon be bound forever, a fate worse than death for this Gaelic Goddess? Girl FightFour lives. Innumerable secrets. A tragedy that binds them all... - Sara: A survivor of longtime sexual abuse, she is a girl with a shattered past who has, since childhood, fought for her life. Literally. - Tanya: The most invisible girl in school, she cuts to ease the pain of her life. And things are only getting worse. - Antonio: A man with a heart just as massive as his libido, he is trapped in a relationship built on unrequited love; a fact that is slowly breaking his heart and driving him insane. - Fatima: A girl hellbent on revenge. Though popular and social, she is slowly decaying over the secrets that she holds.Tragedy brought them together, lust makes them inseparable, and love just might be the only thing that can save their lives...Destiny's DesireDestiny has every reason to hate menher mother is the infamous pornstar Serena Siren, and she despises every part of her mother's flamboyant lifestyle. But all that changes when a gorgeous injured man stumbles on her remote cabin in the middle of a violent storm, and Destiny must care for him. Passion flares between them, and intrigue crumbles her resistance when she catches him masturbating. Now she's determined to learn the truth about sex, starting with a hot anal reaming that will rock her entire world! One Weekend With My Best Friend's FatherLindsey's always had a crush on Richard, the kind and dashing widower who lives next door. Of course, Richard also happens to be her best friend's father... The two of them have always been flirtatious, but when an accident on a hiking trip compels them to share a sleeping bag, they can't keep their hands off each other! That's What Friends Are ForWhen he was younger, Justin promised his mother he would be nothing like his womanizing cheat of a father. Part of that promise included waiting to lose his virginity until he met the right girl. Now 18, Justin is finally going to have his first time! His mother is going away for the weekend, and his hot blonde girlfriend, Jen, promises she is going to come over and spend the weekend with him.Things are looking good for Justin except that his best friend, tomboy Samantha, doesn't trust Jen, and thinks Justin is making a mistake. "Sam" turns out to be right when Justin finds out Jen has been sleeping around on him, and he's heartbroken and frustrated. But he won't be for long, because Sam says she is on her way to cheer him up.When she arrives, Justin is surprised to find his normally plain friend beautiful and dressed to kill. The surprise continues when Sam tells him that she would be happy to be his first lover. After all, won't best friends do anything for each other?
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~~ All characters in this anthology are over 18. ~~
One Weekend With My Best Friend’s Father
That’s What Friends Are For
By Alana Church
What do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom on the ocean?
A good start.
The funeral was beautiful, and almost everyone was smiling.
The dead man’s employers were smiling. They would never have to rely again on Mick Phelan’s courtroom savvy, his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago city politics, his ability to negotiate the twisted and labyrinthine world where law, corruption, and crime all met. They would regret his loss, but there were dozens of mob lawyers in Chicago, and Mick had been an unsavory sort even for them.
Plus, they wouldn’t have to pay the bastard’s bills anymore.
The dead man’s enemies were smiling. They wouldn’t have to watch, grim-faced and disgusted, as he twisted and abused the law for his own ends, and those of his clients; one more tool to amass obscene wealth and to keep murderers, extortionists, kidnappers, and thieves out of jail. A special envoy from the D.A.’s office was there. Just to make sure, it was said, that the fucking prick was actually dead.
The dead man’s co-workers were smiling. They filed by the casket, one at a time, and if any of them shed a tear over the man who made their working days a misery and their holidays a hell, no one noticed.
The dead man’s relatives were smiling, the ones who bothered to come. The ones who were sober enough to drive to the church. The ones who could stomach the charade. The ones who hadn’t been broken by him.
Like Tom’s father.
Tom Phelan sat in the pew beside his mother, his face carved from stone, as he remembered his gentle, decent father, who had been driven to drink, drugs, and death by the monster who now lay in a rosewood casket in a cathedral.
All Tom had left of Doug Phelan were photographs and memories.
He gripped his mother’s hand hard as the bishop launched into a litany of Mick Phelan’s imaginary virtues. His lips bent in a humorless smile as he wondered exactly how much money the sanctimonious bastard had been paid to say the funeral mass.
Why don’t his vestments catch fire? he wondered bitterly. Why doesn’t the cross itself burn rather than witness such an obscenity? Beside him, a tear escaped Kathleen Morris Phelan’s eye and hung, jewel-like, on her cheek below her black veil, and Tom knew she was thinking of his father, too.
Four years, Dad, Tom thought. If you could have just held on for four more years, you could be here with us.
But Doug Phelan, driven beyond the breaking point by his tyrannical father, had committed suicide with a bottle of pills in his office late one night, no longer able to endure the abuse heaped on him by his own kin, and unable, due to Mick Phelan’s powerful connections, to break away and find work of his own.
Kathleen had finally done what Doug had been unable to do, removing herself entirely from Chicago and relocating to Iowa, where she found work as a librarian. Tom, then in his senior year at Northwestern, had taken the devil’s bargain and his grandfather’s money, and had entered law school the following year.
He grinned now in honest happiness.
If you knew what I intend to do with my degree you’d be screaming in hell, you old bastard.
Actually, I hope you’re screaming anyway.
He realized that he had daydreamed through the end of the homily and the final hymn, and that the pallbearers were filing forward. He walked up to join them. He took his place at the middle of the now-closed casket, opposite his cousin, Scott, the smell of cheap whiskey around him like a cloud.
“OK, boys,” whispered his only living uncle, Mark. “Let’s get the old sonofabitch to the cemetery and plant him deep. Otherwise he might decide to come back.”
Tom shuddered. As one, the men lifted the casket and walked it down the aisle. He kept his eyes forward, but as they passed out of the nave and towards the vestibule, he saw her for the first time, sitting in the last pew.
She was dressed all in black, as most of the women at the service were. The dress, while severe in cut and shape, clung so closely to her finely-sculpted curves that it might as well have been painted on her body. Her hair was black, as dark as tar, and in fell like a waving river over her milk-pale shoulders to the middle of her back.
But it was her eyes that caught and held Tom’s. Midnight blue, they watched him and the casket he held with a gaze that mingled hope and despair.
Tom shivered and wrenched his eyes away from her. Her eyes reminded him of drug addicts he had seen on the streets of Chicago. Hating their lives, fearing even more the idea of living without their dependency.
“Tom!” Mark hissed. “Pay attention, dammit!”
Tom started. Somehow his walk had angled toward the mysterious woman, and he had pulled the rest of the bearers off line. He quickly snapped his eyes forward and adjusted his stride, putting the casket back on track.
At the base of the steps the hearse waited, rear door open. Tom helped slide the coffin into it, then stepped aside. Mark closed the door firmly, and they all shook hands, already beginning to sweat in the unseasonable May heat. Around them, people filed out of the church and scattered to their cars.
One chapter ends, another begins, Tom thought sourly. At least we don’t have to do this bullshit again at the cemetery. The family had flatly refused to have another ceremony at the gravesite, and Mick Phelan would be interred with no one but gravediggers to keep him company.
He wandered over to his mother, who was accepting condolences from those who didn't know any better. As he approached, a fat man in an expensive suit was talking to her, his equally chubby wife at his side.
“...such a great loss to the legal community. And to your family, as well, I'm sure. May I offer my most sincere sympathies.”
Tom's mother smiled stiffly, but he had caught the subtle lean backward, as if she was about to turn and run. He stepped forward quickly, his body firm against his mother's shoulder, subtly supporting her.
“Alderman Kroeger! What a surprise! I didn't know they let convicted criminals out of jail to attend funerals.”
Kroeger's eyes turned flinty. “The sentence was reduced to parole, young man. I am allowed to leave my home under certain circumstances, such as this.”
“Yes, so I'd heard. How fortunate for you that you had such a good advocate. Most public officials who are found with a stash of child pornography aren't nearly so lucky, especially when they are also the subjects of a federal bribery investigation.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice to a loud whisper, sure to attract the attention of those nearby. “Tell me. How did Gramps make those charges go away? Who did you guys pay off? The feds? The judge? The prosecutor?
“Oh well,” he said with a mirthless grin to Kroeger's outraged glare. “It is Chicago, after all. This entire town stinks of corruption and scandal.”
He turned to his mother. “Everyone seems to be clearing out. What do you say we take off?”
“Gladly,” said Kathleen. She turned away from the Kroegers with a nod that was barely polite, and they left to find Tom's car.
“Good God, I'm glad that's over,” his mother groaned as they entered Tom's small apartment in Evanston. She kicked out of her heels and collapsed in a heap on his recliner, closing her eyes wearily.
At nearly fifty years old, Kathleen Phelan still retained some of the good looks which had attracted Tom's father, but her face was lined and careworn before her time, and her rich brown hair bore many streaks of gray. Years of fighting a losing battle against Doug's depression and alcoholism had aged her. Despite her love for her husband, his death was in some ways a blessing, as it gave her the chance to escape her father-in-law's influence and start over. She was happier now than she had been since the first days of her marriage, and she would no more think of moving back to Chicago than she would of going to the moon.
“How long are you going to stay?” Tom asked.
She cracked one eye. “Tonight. Then I am getting the hell out of this damn town, and if I ever come back here, you have my permission to put me in the loony bin.”
“Come on, Mom. Chicago's not so bad. We've got lots of good stuff here. The lake, Second City, sports...”
“Crime, traffic, corruption, pollution. I'll take the stink of an Iowa pig farm any day over what you've got here. When are you going to get out of this pit, Tom?”
“I take the bar exam in three weeks. I've already got job interviews lined up after that. Hopefully I will be gone and away from Dad's side of the family by the time the lease here is up at the end of June.”
“Good,” she said firmly. “I don't know when the old fuck's will is going to be read, but you have my permission to act on my behalf. I'm smarter than to expect anything from him. I hope you are, too,” she said, cocking an eyebrow.
Tom nodded. “It wouldn't surprise me to see that he left all his money to the NRA or the John Birch Society just to screw everyone one last time,” he said. “And we know we were never his favorite people. Hell, he might have not written a will at all, just for the fun of watching everyone go for each others' throats.
“But there's so much to get rid of if it goes to probate. The house in Chicago and the one on Lake Geneva. The cars. The contents of the houses. Money. Art. Other property. Christ, it could get tied up in court for years. God only knows who he appointed as the executor, if he did it at all. It sure as hell wasn't me.”
“All the more reason to stay out of it, kiddo,” Kathleen said as she rose to her feet. “I'm going to take a shower, and then you can take me out to eat and we can forget about all of this.
“One thing Iowa doesn't have,” she said with a grin, “is decent sushi. So get ready for volcano rolls, sashimi, and chopsticks.”
The next day, Tom woke up late. He wandered into his tiny kitchen, dressed only in a pair of boxers and a light t-shirt, and saw a note from his mother on the counter, written in blue ink on the back of one of his bar exam prep forms.
Good morning, sleepyhead. I woke up early and didn't feel like hanging around. I'm leaving for home. Sorry to cut and run while you are still asleep, but you know how it is for me. Give me a call when you wake up. I'll be on I-80 and back in Des Moines before you know it.
All my love,
He ran outdoors, hoping to catch her before she drove off, but her car was gone from the curb in front of the apartment building. From the tone of the note, she had probably woken up around sunrise. His couch wasn't exactly conducive to long, leisurely naps.
He slouched back up the stairs to his apartment, with nothing to look forward to other than another day of studying for the bar.
Fortunately for him, life had other plans. When he opened his door, he was stunned to see the woman from the funeral, fully nude, knelt in supplication on the carpet in his sparse living room. As he entered, she raised a tear-streaked face to his gaze.
“Please, don't send me away,” she said.
Her skin was pale, as pale as bone, or moonbeams on snow. But her hair was the black as a raven's wing, and her deep-set eyes were the blue of a winter sky at twilight. Her lips were full and red, and her body was made for love.
Tom looked at her face and figure, and desired her beyond all measure. He wanted to gather her in his arms and to sooth away her fears. He wanted to protect her and to ravish her, both at the same time.
He took a step towards her, and stopped, as she backed away from him fearfully, crawling backwards on her hands and knees. He raised his hands to show that he meant her no harm, and then paused, taken aback by the sheer strangeness of the situation.
He frowned. “Who the heck are you? And how the hell did you get into my apartment?”
She bent her head down, touching her forehead down to the carpet, not unlike a religious fanatic giving obeisance to an unpleasant god.
“I am yours,” she said, her voice scraped raw with loathing and grief.
“I. Am. Yours,” she repeated slowly and distinctly. “By the laws of inheritance, I pass into your ownership. Unless you choose to send me away. If that be your choice, I then have no recourse than to go to your cousins, and give myself over to them.”
Tom was half-tempted to open the door and demand that this crazy woman leave. But, “To Scott and Sean?” Tom shook his head. They were the twin sons of his Uncle Matthew, a pig of a man who had died of a stroke six years ago. The sons were no better than the father, and it was only by some miracle they had been sober enough to help carry the casket yesterday.
God only knew what they would do to this woman, should she turn up in their house.
“Listen,” he said, shaking his head. “I don't know who you are or where you came from, but I can't talk to you like this. Stand up and I'll find something for you to wear.”
“My master is kind.”
Tom shot her a look as he went into his bedroom. Her voice had been deeply ironic, and her intelligent eyes held the slightest glimpse of amusement behind her fear.
He pulled a Cubs t-shirt and a pair of sleeping shorts out of his bureau, then walked back into his living room, and stopped, jaw flapping uselessly.
The woman was now standing, but she was no longer naked. Instead, she was dressed in pale green lingerie, the color of new leaves in spring. Stockings caressed the flesh of her legs, then gave way to a garter belt and panties which girdled her slim hips. Above, a delicate lace bra held and lifted her high, firm breasts. Her hair was now bound with green ribbons to match her garments, falling in a braid to the small of her back.
“Does this not please my master?” she asked, eyes cast demurely low. “Perhaps another choice would suit.”
There was a ripple in the air, and she appeared again, this time dressed in the severe black habit of a nun. Then another, and she was a French maid, complete with feather duster. Then still another, and she was dressed as Marilyn Monroe in the famous photograph, hands vainly seeking to control her skirt, dark blue eyes looking at him wickedly over one shoulder.
Tom collapsed onto his sofa. “Please, stop,” he groaned, covering his eyes with his hand. He held out the clothes. “And please, put these on so we can talk.”
“He serves me with his own hands,” she murmured, her voice low. “My master is gracious.”
“Stop calling me that!”
She jumped backward, face fearful, as he snapped at her. He dared to look up, and she was dressed in the clothes he had handed to her. He rubbed his face with his hands.
“I am no one's master. I am a man, and my name is Tom. Please, call me by my name.” He waited until she nodded, her black hair, free again, hiding her face from him.
“Now,” he said, his voice gentle. “Suppose you start by telling me what your name is, and what you are doing here, in my apartment.”
The woman took a deep breath, then raised her face bravely to his and met his eyes.
“My name is Rhiannon. Or Riona. I am the youngest and least-regarded daughter of Brigid, daughter of the Dagda, High King of the Tuatha De Danann.”
Tom Phelan passed out.
When he regained consciousness, he found himself looking at the ceiling of the apartment, his head pillowed by something warm and soft. He turned to the side, and blinked, realizing his head was cradled on Rhiannon's thighs, his face only bare inches from her groin. He scrambled to his feet, blushing fiercely. She remained on the sofa, eyebrows pulled together in a frown.
“You're of the the Tuatha? One of the Sidhe? The fair folk? What the heck are you doing in Chicago?” Tom's head spun. Of his grandfather's redeeming qualities, which were not many, his vast knowledge of Irish folklore and mythology was the best. On the few nights when he was in a mellow mood, he would occasionally tell tales from the “old country” as he called it, even though he was a third-generation Irishman and the Phelans hadn't lived in Ireland since before the turn of the twentieth century. Stories of the Tuatha and the Sidhe were prominent among them.
“Your grandfather happened,” she said, her voice low and hating.
“As the youngest child of my mother, I was wild and foolish, and enamored of humans and the devices they wrought for easing their lives. How clever I thought them! So, more often than I should, I left the safety of Tyr-Na-Nog and ventured into the mortal realm.
“It was there that I met him, one night nearly fifty years ago. A storm had come up out of the west, and my beautiful white horse Sneachta was lame and tired. I was wet and weary and afraid.
“He drove up in his car as we walked by the side of the road. He was visiting Ireland at that time, and offered me a place to stay and stabling for Sneachta. But he was laying a trap.”
“I am told he could be a charming bastard, back when he was a younger man,” Tom murmured. Rhiannon nodded.
“The High King alone knows how he guessed my name and lineage. He was every inch a gentleman that night, but in the morning I made a terrible mistake. As we ate our morning meal, I thanked him for his care.”
She shuddered. “Oh, Tom. The look in his eye when I spoke those words! It was as if a ravening beast had been given form in a human body. He knew too much of us. When I thanked him he smiled, and invoked the ancient ways; that by thanking him I owed him a debt.”
“It is dangerous to thank the Tuatha,” Tom recalled. “And if a human is ever thanked by one, that is a sign of great favor, as it puts the Tuatha at one's call.”
Rhiannon's eyes warmed slightly as Tom followed her story. “And as I was young and stupid and did not think anyone would dare do me harm, I agreed. He asked me to meet him three nights hence, and we would settle the account.”
“And you agreed?” his voice was disbelieving.
“I had no choice,” she said, meeting his eyes miserably. “I was bound by honor.
“Mick Phelan, however,” her mouth twisted, “was not.”
“I came on the third night. And he had a contract with him. A piece of paper, he said, which would record what was owed. What did I care for scribbles on parchment, I thought. And I took up the pen and signed my name, and my life ended.”
“Oh, God,” Tom moaned. While Mick's main calling had been as a criminal defense attorney, his skill with contracts was legendary. Long, convoluted, and impenetrable, they could be read by a dozen different people in a dozen different ways. He had heard rumors that one of his grandfather's contracts had caused a lawsuit that lasted eleven years and drove two independent arbitrators into retirement.
“What did the contract say?”
“That I was his,” she said simply, as Tom raised his head and looked at her in horror. She met his eyes bleakly. “His until the day he died. And then I would pass to his blood-kin. And so on. Forever.
“And while I was his, I would serve him in any way he chose. Cook his meals. Clean his house. Service him sexually. Oh, yes,” she said as his stomach heaved. “He invoked that clause many, many times. Why else do you think I appeared before you this way? It was how he preferred I greet him when he came home every night.”
“Every night?” Tom whispered.
She nodded. “For forty-eight years.
“I tried to fight it, once he told me what I had done. I invoked my power and appealed to the High King himself. And he followed, gloating. And my own kin ruled against me, invoking the honor of the Tuatha. Saying that I had thanked him and acknowledged a debt owed of my own free will, and that I had been under no duress when I signed the contract.
“The High King told me that a mortal's life was short, when compared to the Tuatha, and since I was so taken with mortals, I might use the time usefully, to learn more about them.
“Fools. They did not look under Phelan's pleasant facade to see the monster who wore his form. So I was forced to come away with him.
“I have been his slave since that day.”
Tom took her hand, no desire in him now, only horror and pity.
“So why are you here?”
Rhiannon raised her brows, arching delicately. “You are your grandfather's heir. Your grandfather had three male children, did he not?”
Tom nodded. “My Uncle Matthew, my father, and my Uncle Mark.”
“Matthew would have been the heir. But he died.” Her lips curled in vicious satisfaction. “Your father would have been next. But he killed himself, poor man.” Her hand squeezed his in sympathy.
“What about Uncle Mark?” Tom asked. “Wouldn't he be next?”
“He was,” she said. “But I have learned a thing or two. Once your grandfather grew ill I set myself to the task of choosing who my next mast...” she caught herself. “Who I needed to hold my contract. It had to be you, Tom. You are the only male Phelan who I had thought might be able to withstand the temptation to make himself a master.
“And you have, wonderful man,” she said, daring to place her hand on his cheek. “So I had to rig the game.
“When I appeared to your uncle, is was not as I appeared to you. I came into his house early this morning, screaming and wild, throwing things at him and breaking everything I could see.
“He had no idea who I was, and demanded that I leave his house.
“That was enough,” she shrugged. “He had refused my service and cast me out. You were the next one in line.”
“But what if I do that? And the twins? Wouldn't you be free?”
“Tom, would you wager the next sixty or seventy years of your life on Scott and Sean doing the right thing?” Her lips curled in mockery.
“I took a gamble with your uncle, because the reward outweighed the risk. He is a cowardly drunk with no offspring. I will not roll dice when it means that I may be forced to spend decades with those two pieces of filth.”
Tom nodded grimly. Three years younger than him, Sean and Scott had already racked up five arrests between them, including one for sexual assault and a DUI. He would not care to place a bet on how Matthew's poisonous sons would react to the thought of having Rhiannon as their own.
“OK. So you came to me. How did you know I would be any better than the evil twins or Uncle Mark?”
“Because of your father. And your grandmother. And much later, your mother.” As Tom blinked in confusion she explained. “Your grandmother, Mary, could tell soon enough that your Uncle Matthew was just as vile as your grandfather. So she put all her efforts into her second child, your father. Before she ran away, she gave Dougal the strength of will and character he needed to survive. For a while. I was sorry to hear of his death. Very sorry. I had put all of my hopes into him, you see? I had watched over him, silent and invisible at your grandfather's order, while I watched him grow. Every day I woke with the prayer that somehow both Mick and Matthew had died, and that Dougal now held my contract.
“When Matthew died, choking on his own bile, it was the happiest I had been in decades. By Nuada's Arm! If somehow I could have reached out to your father, convinced him to be strong, to ease his pain...but I could not.
“And then he died by his own hand, driven to despair by your grandfather's hate. If it was possible, I would have killed myself that day. But then I thought of you. Your grandfather had spoken of you, on occasion, and never well. So that gave me some hope,” she said with a wry smile.
“But then I heard you had taken his money and agreed to become a lawyer,” she stated angrily, eyes fierce with condemnation. “How could you? After seeing what he did to poor Dougal, how could you agree to follow that path?”
Tom raised his brows. “I bet on his death,” he said simply. “My father didn't leave us much. When Mick came to me with his offer, he was already in poor health. I made the gamble that he would die before I had the chance to work for him and have to take a case that would put me under his thumb forever.
“It was a close-run thing,” he acknowledged. “If the sick old bastard could have hung on for another six months I'd probably be as trapped as Dad was. But I am free and clear with a degree from a good school, and I can go into the branch of law that I really want.”
“Which is?” she asked, voice low and dangerous.
“Environmental law,” he said simply. “There are companies that are...are defiling our planet, for no more reason than that they are rich and the government has crippled itself. I can't fix the whole world by myself, but I can give it a fucking good try.”
She smiled at him, and he found himself drawn to the dark pools of her glorious eyes. God, he thought, I could sink into them and drown.
“Care for the wide green world,” she said softly. “Now that is a noble purpose indeed.”
Tom drummed his fingers nervously. Several hours had passed, but he had not grown used to Rhiannon's presence.
It wasn't that she was irritating, or drew attention to herself. It was that she was always there. Whenever he glanced up from his books, she always seemed positioned precisely in the right place to catch his eye.
He sighed and rubbed his face, smiling ruefully
If I can't deal with this for one afternoon, imagine how I will feel after forty or fifty years. What could the senile old prick have been thinking, to bind an immortal to his service? He's lucky they didn't turn him into a charcoal briquet.
A contract runs two ways. What did it say?
He got up and went into the kitchen, where he poured himself a glass of tea.
“Yes, Tom?” she answered.
Well, at least I have broken her of this 'Yes, Master,' crap. Otherwise I would be thinking I was trapped in an old episode of 'I Dream of Genie'”
“You signed a contract. Do you still have it, or a copy?”
“Of course,” she said. “It is there on your desk.”
Tom blinked. He would have sworn the desk had been empty of everything except legal pads and empty bottles of Diet Mountain Dew. He sat down in his chair and began to leaf through the papers.
Not too long, Thank God. He had heard stories of contracts that were as long and as indecipherable as dissertations on Marxist philosophy. This one, by contrast, seemed relatively short.
“What are you looking for?” she asked.
He swung his feet up so that his chair tilted back and his legs rested on the corner of his desk, only a good sneeze away from falling over backwards.
“A contract is an agreement between two parties. In this case, between yourself and my grandfather. You signed away your freedom. However, the second party, in this case the disgusting bastard who was buried yesterday, also had to agree to something.
“Even in the days where slavery was legal in this country, slave-owners had certain responsibilities. They weren't written out in something as legally binding as a contract, of course, but they were still there. Food. Clothing. Some semblance of shelter. Somewhere in this contract has to be language which describes what Grandpa Mick was trading in exchange for your service.
“And if we can find out what it is, then we can break it.”
Rhiannon's face lit with joy, and for a splintered instant he thought she would embrace him. But then the pall of despair fell back over her.
“My family looked, Tom. They could find nothing.”
“Your family,” he said loftily, “was not trained in the traditions of the American legal system.” He grinned. “I am. If it's there, I 'll find it.”
She nodded and walked away, aimlessly pacing between his kitchen and his small living room.
She doesn't believe me. No. She doesn't trust me. And why should she? All that she has known at the hands of my family is shame, betrayal and abuse.
A thought struck him. “Rhiannon,” he said, holding out his now-empty glass. “Could you fill this back up with tea, please?”
She took the glass from his hand and walked back to the kitchen, eerily silent. When she returned with his refill he looked her square in the eyes.
“Thank you,” he said, making sure his words were clear and distinct.
Her eyes widened as she stared at him. Her legs shook, and she abruptly sat down, collapsing onto the worn beige carpet.
“Stupid, foolish mortal,” she breathed. “What have you done?”
“What I had to do,” he replied. “I have power over you. Too much power. Power I don't want. If we are ever going to deal with each other fairly, we need to do so as equals.
“I can't make myself your slave. And I don't want to. But by thanking you, I have shown my trust in you. That you won't abuse the power you have over me. As I hope,” he said softly, “you trust I won't abuse the power I have over you.”
Her lips trembled, and suddenly her eyes overflowed with tears. She sobbed bitterly, shaking, huddling on the floor.
Awkwardly, unsure of his actions, Tom slid off the chair and gathered her in his arms, trying to comfort her. Unsure of where to put his hands, he settled for stroking her back.
You could take her now, a disgusting, loathsome part of his mind chuckled. Was it him, or did it bear his grandfather's voice? You can enslave a person by kindness as much as by cruelty. Treat her well, and it will be such a change from her prior life that she won't even realize she is still a prisoner.
Uncertain of what action to take, Tom hesitantly patted Rhiannon on the back as she sobbed into his chest, soaking his shirt with her tears. Her dark hair spilled over his hand as he tried to soothe her. Unwillingly, he noted that she wasn’t wearing a bra, and as she clung close to him, the collar of her shirt gaped open, allowing him to see deep into her cleavage.
To his discomfort and embarrassment, he found that he was growing erect inside his shorts. Her physical beauty and her emotional need spoke to a protective urge within him. Nervously, he tried to hide his arousal.
Go away, he told it angrily. The last thing she needs to see is me with a hard-on. It’ll just remind her of my grandfather.
He turned his body so that they sat side-by-side, his arm around her shoulders. Wiping her eyes, Rhiannon pulled away from him, and he let her go with a feeling of relief, adjusting himself quickly when she momentarily looked away.
“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes with the tail of her t-shirt, momentarily exposing the flat curves of her belly. Tom glanced aside. The pale skin of her face was blotchy and flushed, and she was still heart-stoppingly beautiful.
“Don’t worry about it,” he replied. “I think you’re entitled to a good cry every now and then. If I had spent nearly fifty years with Mick,” he continued, “I wouldn’t be crying. I’d be dead. Because I would have killed myself, like my dad.”
“Don’t talk like that!” she said fiercely. “If I had been capable of suicide, I would have. But it was hope that kept me from despair all those years. Hope that your father, and later, you, would be able to release me from this imprisonment.”
“Well, if I’m going to do that, I better get to work,” said Tom, reluctantly moving away from her. He sat down again at his desk, and got to work.
Three hours later, Tom slapped the contract on the desk with a grimace of frustration.
It was everything he feared it would be; clear in some places, maddeningly opaque in others, and disgusting throughout. It was comprehensive in how it detailed the ways in which Rhiannon was to be completely subservient to Mick’s desires. There was no act too petty, no degradation too small, no humiliation too great, that was not meticulously written down and made horrifically clear. It was obvious that he had seen a golden opportunity to impose all of his perverse desires on Rhiannon, and had not shied away from doing so.
If there’s a worse place than hell, I hope he's in it.
He rubbed his tired eyes with his hands. On the sofa, Rhiannon looked up from a book, face hopeful.
He shook his head. “Nothing yet, I’m afraid,” Her face fell. “I read the whole damn thing straight through, hoping something would jump out at me. I should have known better than to think it would be something obvious or easy.
“Later on tonight I’ll go through it one line at a time. But I don’t think that will do much good. Then I’ll read it through again. Sometimes if you can find…find the rhythm of a legal document, things that you don’t notice at first will fall into place.
“Right now, though, I’m going to take a shower. I feel like I’ve walked through a sewer.”
“Not a sewer,” she said softly. “Just his mind.”
“Like there’s a difference,” he muttered, and went into his bedroom and closed the door.
Thirty minutes later, showered, shaved, and dressed, he stood in front of the wasteland that was his refrigerator.
Should have had Mom help you with the grocery shopping like she suggested, he thought. Nothing but pot-pies, frozen pizza, and tater tots as far as the eye can see.
“Rhiannon, can I ask you a question?”
“Without being too crude about it, what are your…physical needs? Do you eat? Sleep? Will you need to use my…plumbing facilities?”
Rhiannon smiled, showing a dimple in her cheek. “I enjoy eating very much. It was the one physical pleasure that Mick didn’t take away from me. Sometimes he would take me out for dinner, when he wanted to impress someone. Of course,” she said, her face falling into shadowed lines, “those nights usually ended very badly for me.
“I can sleep if I wish, and if I eat I will certainly need to use your toilet. And if you do not want me to stink,” she said with another small smile, “I will need to use your shower as well.”
“All right, then,” he said, closing the door of the fridge. “We are going out to eat. How much time,” he asked, turning around, “do you need to get…”
In the time between he spoke and the time he turned around, she had somehow changed her clothes from a simple t-shirt and shorts to a stunning evening gown. Blue and silver, it fell nearly to her ankles. Seemingly held up by nothing more than pure thoughts and good intentions, it cradled her breasts in front, then fell away in the rear as she spun for his enjoyment, the fabric dipping in a deep vee to the small of her back. Her hair was gathered and held at the top of her head, small tendrils artfully allowed to escape and to curl around her cheeks. She wore little jewelry, but a strand of pearls collared her delicate throat. A pair of high-heeled shoes in shades of black and silver completed the ensemble.
“Do you like it?” she asked, blushing faintly.
“It’s…very nice.” The words came out in a strangled rasp. “But it’s a little fancy for what I have in mind. Maybe you’d like to wear something a little less…eye-catching?”
Rhiannon lifted her eyebrows, but nodded her acceptance. From the twinkle in her eye, Tom began to suspect she was enjoying the way her presence unsettled him.
All the better, he thought. The less she fears me the happier I am going to be. I won’t be able to handle it if she’s afraid to talk to me, or constantly shying away.
When he looked back, she was dressed much more appropriately, though she was no less beautiful. She wore a plain white t-shirt, cut off just above her waist, with a faded pair of hip-hugging blue jeans which left a tantalizing strip of her stomach and back exposed. As he followed her out the door, trying to pry his eyes from the delightful view of her rear, he sighed to himself.
Well, I suppose the next best thing to going to bed with an Irish goddess is living with one
He took her to Portillo’s, a Chicago burger chain he loved. Standing in the heat and the noise of the restaurant, people thronging around them, she grasped his hand hard, on the verge of panic.
He gently eased her forward to the head of the line as their turn came to order. “What would you like?” he asked softly.
Her eyes darted from side to side, resting for a moment on the menu, then to his face. “It has been so long,” she said, voice quivering. “Can you help me?”
Idiot! He snarled at himself. Brilliant idea! Take a woman who hasn’t been able to make a choice of her own for fifty years to a restaurant! Moron!
He smiled at her, squeezing her hand in apology, then addressed the server, who was waiting impatiently.
“One double-cheeseburger, American, onions, pickles, lettuce, no tomato, add bacon. One cheeseburger, American with everything. One large fries. One large onion rings. One large chocolate shake. One medium diet Coke.” She nodded and rang up the order. Taking the receipt, he and Rhiannon moved to the side so that the next customer could order.
“Everything’s so…loud here,” she said quietly. Her voice was nervous, almost fearful.
He smiled at her. “That’s why a lot of people like it. You can come here and have a conversation without being worried that everyone is listening to you.”
Her look was pensive. “Privacy in a crowd. Hmm.”
Their order was quickly up, and Tom and Rhiannon wove their way through the tables to a semi-private booth at the back. Rhiannon looked apprehensive as Tom unwrapped the food and tipped the fries and onion rings out onto the tray.
“Here,” he said, handing her a hamburger. “This one is yours.”
She frowned at him. “Why this one and not that one?” she asked, pointing her chin at his double.
“Because your burger has tomatoes on it. And I don’t like tomatoes. And my burger has bacon, because bacon is awesome,” he grinned.
“Well, you could have gotten me bacon on my burger, too,” she scowled.
Good, he thought. She’s starting to stand up for herself. He wasn’t stupid enough to think that decades of abuse could be reversed in hours, days, or even weeks. But the sooner she stopped seeing him as an authority figure and started seeing him as an ally in their mission to break the contract, the happier he would be. The memory of the groveling subservience with which she had greeted him earlier in the day made him cringe.
He sighed theatrically and pulled a couple of strips of bacon off his burger and handed them to her with a deep nod of his head, almost a bow. “Happy now?”
She smiled and lifted the bun to place the bacon on her sandwich. Tentatively, she took a bite, then ate with growing enthusiasm.
“Good, huh?” He took an onion ring and crunched it happily, making a low sound of satisfaction. Rhiannon tried one as well, and wrinkled her nose.
“Too greasy,” she said.
“That's why we have napkins,” he replied, and put one to good use, wiping off his hands and picking up his burger.
By the time they were done, Rhiannon had decided she quite liked onion rings after all, and had eaten all of hers and half of his. Cheerfully grumbling, Tom wiped the last of his fries through a pool of mustard and finished his shake.
“Ready to go home?” he asked.
Rhiannon started, then blinked. “Yes. Definitely.”
By the time they got back to his apartment, it was nearly dark, the late spring day slowly turning towards night.
“I'm going to pop in a movie,” he said. “Would you like to watch with me?”
She smiled. “Before I was captured, I used to love watching the movies your people made. I tried to tell my family about them. About how it was human magic. But they just laughed.”
“You'll have to tell me about them soon,” he said. He popped a DVD into his one luxury, a home theater system with a large-screen high-def TV and surround-sound. As the opening credits of “The Fellowship of the Ring” came up, he dimmed the lights.
Rhiannon was immediately entranced. She asked him soft questions about the movie, and the idyllic images of the Shire made her sigh happily. Soon, however, she was nodding off to sleep. Tom paused the movie and turned the TV off.
“Let's get you ready for bed,” he said quietly. He went into his linen closet and pulled out pillows, sheets, and a heavy afghan that his Grandmother Morris had knitted. Working quickly, he made up a bed for Rhiannon on the sofa.
“I don't care what you say,” Rhiannon said, talking through a deep yawn. “I still think Gandalf was stupid to let Saruman trick him like that.”
“Mmm hmmm,” he murmured. “I'll be going to bed in a little bit as well. If you need to use the bathroom, you'll have to go through my bedroom, but don't worry, I'm a heavy sleeper. And I'll leave a light on so you don't hurt yourself in the dark. Do you need anything else?”
“No, Tom,” she said. She paused, then reached out and held his hand. “Thank you for your care of me.”
He looked at his feet, but could think of nothing to say. Finally he looked up, muttered “Goodnight,” and went into his bedroom.
He read for a while, but could not concentrate on his book. His mind constantly turned over the bizarre occurrences of the day.
Twenty-four hours ago all you had to worry about was passing the bar exam, he thought bemusedly. Now you have an immortal Irish goddess sleeping on your couch.
And the contract! How could he break it and free her? As lovely as Rhiannon was, he did not fancy her as a permanent guest. She was too strange. Too odd. It was like going to a pet store to buy a cat and coming home with a leopard.
His mind ran over the clauses of the contract, seeking a escape, some way to render it void.
It has to be in there.
He couldn't see it yet. But I will.
Fuck it. I'm going to sleep.
Making sure the night-light in the bathroom was shining, he turned off his lamp and went to sleep.
It was the screams that woke him.
High, shrill, and piercing, they drilled into his head with frantic force. He clawed his way up into consciousness and staggered out into the living room, half-expecting Rhiannon to be fighting off a burglar or rapist.
She was, but only in her mind. Huddled into a naked ball on the couch, the blankets kicked onto the floor, she screamed as if her heart would break, caught in the terrible grip of a nightmare.
“No. No. No! Please, Mick, have mercy. Please! Stop hurting me. I will do whatever you want. Just stop hurting me!”
His heart aching with pity, Tom crouched by the sofa, easing her fisted hands open, speaking softly to her, hoping to reach her through her suffering.
“Wake up, Rhiannon. Wake up. I'm here. I'm here. Mick is dead and gone and buried. You're alive. Wake up. Please, wake up.”
At length, her cries stilled and her eyes fluttered open.
“Tom?” Her voice was as soft and confused as a young child's.
“I'm here. It was a nightmare. He's dead. He can't hurt you any more.”
She shuddered, a deep, bone-wracking spasm, clutching his hands. “By Lugh's Spear! I wish he was alive just so I could have the pleasure of killing him.”
“Do you...do you want to talk about it?”
Her face was solemn as she looked at him. She shook her head. “Let me forget. And have it be forgotten. There are some things you do not need to know, young one.” She reached an arm down to pull her blanket off the floor, exposing her chest.
Tom looked at her and gasped in shock. He rocked back on his heels, the blood draining out of his face, leaving him light-headed with horror.
Seen nude, Rhiannon looked like an anatomically incorrect doll. Her gorgeous breasts had no nipples. Instead, a smooth expanse of barren flesh covered her mounds. Her pubic area was similarly disfigured. In the area where a human woman's labia was, instead there was only the smallest hole, suitable only for excretion.
Eyes blank with dismay, he looked at Rhiannon. She smiled bitterly.
“A gift of your grandfather. Even in death I cannot escape him.
“He was determined that I would never find any joy from our relationship. Or even from myself. So he ordered me to change my body. I was forced to emasculate myself. To take away the parts of a woman's body that I could use for my own pleasure. My nipples. My nether lips.” She blushed. “My woman's bud.
“Only when he ordered was I allowed to have them. And that was seldom. Most-times, he would simply order me to please him with my mouth. Or he would take me from the rear, causing as much pain as he could, then leave.”
Tom's eyes swam with tears, dripping onto her hands as he held them.
“I was an object. A receptacle. Something that could be used to slake his lusts, but would never be able to find pleasure in return.”
“God damn the man. Damn him to hell. Damn him for eternity,” Tom whispered, loathing the very blood that he shared.
“He made you do this to yourself?”
A sudden, fierce joy swept through him. “Then I can undo it?”
“Yes, Tom, you can.”
“You order me to. Or ask, if you are feeling polite.” Her lips quivered uncertainly.
Tom took a deep breath. “Rhiannon, I ask that you return your body to the form that most pleases you.”
Rhiannon's head snapped back and she gave a low moan. She stumbled unsteadily to her feet, hunched around her middle, bracing one hand on the arm of the couch. As he looked on, wide-eyed, a golden glow began to form around her body, centered on her breasts and her groin. He was forced to turn away, his eyes spouting tears, the light too bright to face.
Rhiannon gave a sudden shout, piercing and clear, and with a last flash, quick as a bolt of lightning, the light went out, leaving them again in the dim light of his living room. Blinking, Tom turned to look at Rhiannon.
She was standing by the sofa, a look of astonished wonder on her face. In her hands, she cupped her breasts. But they were not the blank, featureless orbs of only a few moments ago, as incapable of supporting life as a stone. Instead, they were now capped by pale nipples, the flesh the delicate pink of coral.
Weeping openly, she stepped into his view, and his eyes were drawn irresistibly to the junction of her thighs. There, a delicately-trimmed patch of black hair could be seen, and below it, the lips of her labia, only a few shades darker than her nipples..
“By all the gods above and below, I thank you, Thomas Phelan,” she said. She sank down onto his sofa and leaned back, one hand softly fingering the mound of her breast, the other softly stroking her belly, the fingers roaming toward the swell of her pubis.
Face flaming, he stood and walked toward his bedroom door. This was too intense. Too private. He felt like he had stumbled across a woman giving birth, or soulmates sharing their first kiss.
He halted in his tracks.
“Thomas,” she said, her voice low and vibrant.
“Yes?” He said, but did not turn to face her.
“I would like it very much if you stayed here with me,” she said.
“Are you sure?” he said nervously.
“Very much so. Who better to witness when Rhiannon, Goddess of fertility and the harvest, reclaims part of her legacy, than the one who made it possible?”
Tom nodded jerkily and sat down on the recliner, angled to face her. “If you are sure. But if you decide you would like me to leave, just say so.”
She smiled at him in thanks, then stretched luxuriously, hands high above her head, her breasts standing out proudly from her chest, then lay down lengthwise on the couch. She flung one leg up on the headrest, and the other she allowed to droop to the floor.
“It’s been so long, Tom. So long since I have taken any pleasure in my body.” Her mouth curled in a smile. “We are a randy bunch, you know. Mick could have hardly gained a more complete victory over me than by denying me this. But as you said, he is gone, and I am alive.”
Her eyes half-closed, she stroked the swells of her breasts, reveling in the rebirth of her centers of sexual pleasure. Her nerves, newly awakened, sent soft jolts of joy into her mind.
Tom watched, entranced, as she aroused herself, her hands playing on the curves of her body. He did not think he had ever seen anything more beautiful. From her chest her hands slowly slid down the soft curve of her white belly, combing through the short black hair crowning the rise of her mons. They paused briefly, then sank south, framing the sweet swell of her sex, the tips of her fingers teasing the inside of her thighs.
Tom sniffed the air of his apartment. There was a new scent, tangible even through the soft cool breeze which ruffled the curtains of his living room. Dark, rich, and earthy, it spoke of good red wine, and the sweetness of fruit, fresh off of vine or tree. The smell of meat, cooking on a grill, and of new-mown grass under a warm summer sun.
“Ohh…” Rhiannon moaned softly. Tom looked back at her. The lips of her divine sheath had parted, and a finger wet itself in her glistening folds. “I’ve missed this so much. To have it given back to me, when you could have withheld it…It is like water to a woman dying of thirst. Like a fresh loaf to a man perishing of starvation. Like the embrace of a loving mother to a weeping child.”
Despite himself, his lips quirked. “Do your people always speak in threes?” he asked.
“I tell you three times,” she breathed, “and what I tell you three times is true.” In her hand, a pink nipple peaked, standing erect and turgid. Her fingers toyed with it, and to Tom’s shock, a glistening drop of milk appeared on the tip. She gathered the wetness in her fingers, then raised them to her mouth, moaning as she took her essence within her again.
“That’s…interesting,” he said. “I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty sure that human women don’t…lactate…unless they are pregnant or nursing.”
“I am not,” she reminded him, “a human woman. The milk of the Tuatha has many powers. But it is not my place to reveal them now.”
Tom nodded his understanding and shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. The sight of Rhiannon taking in her own breast-milk had him almost painfully erect. He chewed on his cheek, fighting the urge to go to her, to strip off his clothes and embrace her, to fall to his knees and beg her for the blessing of her love.
Don’t be stupid. Just because she asked you to witness this doesn't mean she wants you. Hell, it could be her way of taunting your bloodline. A sign of victory.
As he pondered this issue, Rhiannon’s hands and fingers worked on her body, their motions more frantic. As he watched, the lips of her sex opened to her probing fingers, the bud of her clitoris boldly peeping out from under its hood. Her skin blushed a deeper shade of pink, her breasts and groin growing flushed with blood and passion. Her legs spread, and suddenly Rhiannon’s stiff fingers were plunging into her cleft, her thumb circling her dewy love-button.
“Oh, Danu’s Tits!” she groaned, her voice deep and raspy. Her breath grew quicker, almost panting, and her fingers blurred as Tom watched, entranced, his cock an aching bar within his boxers, fluid leaking to stain the fabric dark.
Suddenly she stopped, muscles locked, head coming up as she strained forward, the muscles of her belly rippling like a still lake in a stiff breeze. From her mouth came a keening, high-pitched wail, then she fell back, boneless, sweat glistening on her chest and thighs.
“By the Dagda himself, I needed that,” she said softly. She caught his startled glance, and smiled. “Go fifty years without being able to pleasure yourself, boyo, and see what happens to you when you get the ability back.”
Tom snorted nervous laughter. “Fifty years? There were times when I was a teenager when I couldn’t go fifty minutes!”
Rhiannon laughed aloud, sweaty strands of hair sticking to her face.
Tom stood and walked to her. He saw her eyes drop to his groin, then look up, a trace of fear re-entering her eyes.
Damn him, he thought bitterly. How long will it take before she doesn't cringe away every time I come close to her? His motions slow, he took one of her hands and squeezed it gently. “I am going back to bed. Good night. Sleep well.”
Tom woke the next morning to the sound of Rhiannon experiencing another thundering orgasm.
He lay in bed, the blood pounding in his veins, his cock tenting his boxers lewdly, as Rhiannon's soft wails came through the door separating their rooms.
Lips pinched tight in frustration, he looked at his dick and sighed. He briefly considered the possibility of pulling his boxers down and pleasuring himself then and there, but decided against it. It seemed to be the worst sort of voyeurism to masturbate to the sound of Rhiannon's climax.
Instead, he got out of bed and showered, using copious amounts of cold water to try to cool the fire in his groin. Only marginally successful, he examined his body while he was toweling off.
Not completely disgusting, he thought as he shaved. While he might never be chosen as a model for GQ, his skin was clear and unblemished, his features even and regular. A mop of sandy blond hair, in need of a cutting, framed his face. He grimaced as he pinched his middle, where a few pounds had drifted south to settle around his waist.
Gonna need to lay off the Portillo's for a while. And get back to the gym. I can't wait until I pass the freaking bar and not have to study all damn day.
Of course, by then, you'll be a grunt at a law firm and be working eighteen-hour days. Hooray.
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