Title: Stress Relief (Or how I learned to let go and love bondage)
Book 7: Reverberations.
Series: Light, Water, Muses. An alternate universe for a variety of television series. See disclaimers below.
Rating: R, for disturbing content.
WARNING: In this story are descriptions of horrible child abuse. Yes, it has to do with the larger story.
Category: Part of the Light, Water and Muses saga. Takes place in 1997, and is a prologue of several characters introduced in Rapids.
Pairings: Jo and Michael.
General Disclaimer: This site contains stories between mature, consenting adult females. All characters are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Disclaimer: “Law & Order: SVU,” the characters, and situations depicted are respectively the property of Wolf Films, Universal Network Television, and NBC. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. This site is in no way affiliated with “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC, or any representatives of the actors.
Disclaimer: “Facts of Life,” produced by Embassy Pictures Corporation and TAT Communications Company. Created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon.
Disclaimer: “Third Watch,” A brief cameo from Alex Taylor and Bobby Caffney. A Warner Brothers and John Wells Production.
Summary: Jo loses control, but finds a safe haven she’s always wanted.
++ Gabriel ++
Despite the seriousness of the situation, I couldn’t help but be amazed as I watched Fenris. I don’t know what it was about these two cops, Jo in particular, but they had somehow gotten seriously under her skin. Don’t get me wrong, Polniaczek and Benson have a special place in my heart, after all it had been my unworthy carcass they’d rescued. I’d be forever in debt to them for placing themselves between my battered body and the toughs that didn’t like ‘my kind’.
My partner had done her usual thorough research before planning their reward. What she found intrigued her. Benson was handled with kid gloves, not any real punishment, just a nice, hard, thorough ride to the brass ring. We’d pushed her slightly, but true to Fenris’ predictions, Olivia had balked at anything more than being held down and being carefully ganged up on. Not that she hadn’t enjoyed herself, we are professionals after all. It was a hell a lot of fun, and we were at her disposal until she was done with us.
Polniaczek had been another story. My partner had reveled in the Bronx native’s responses. I’d rarely seen Fenris lose herself in anyone like she had with this one. And despite her tough exterior, Jo had flourished under Fenris’s strong hand. Even the young pups, so proud that they had been allowed to join us, had sensed the odd synergy between the New York cop and the mighty Archangel Michael.
I was frankly shocked when my partner had given them those passes. There was no way the two officers had any idea just how VIP they actually were.
Unlike most work nights, we had lingered in the main office long after we would have normally gone about the nightly business, the local news the focus of our attention. Although she’d hid it well, I saw the worry in Michael’s eye as we watched the news. Those poor kids… The images were haunting. The report had dredged up bad memories for Leslie and Pai, and they were still hiding in the kitchens for comfort. There but for the grace of God, and KC, they would still be in a similar kind of hell.
When Jo had come out of the building at the last child’s side and climbed into the ambulance, Fenris had straightened up in her seat. Then Olivia had walked out, and the two of us remained focused on the screen. Only when the shaken reporter began repeating herself, did Fen switch the set off and gruffly got the two of us back to work.
Several hours later, I was on the phone with the Boiler Room, nearly in a shouting match with the idiot manager there. Finally reaching a compromise, I snapped the mobile shut and sighed heavily. Being the prince of a modern kingdom could be wearisome sometimes.
I was hard pressed not to snarl into the damn thing when it trilled at me again. Only this time, it was the Jousting Club, and the brief conversation with Tony. The distant horrors of the earlier television news had suddenly become very, very personal. My phone was a marvel of technology, and had a few really neat tricks. The most important one was being able to get a hold of my partner with absolute security.
“Fen, we have a situation. It seems Polniaczek is at the Jousting Club, and there’s trouble brewing.” There was a long, heavy quiet, where I could hear Michael’s breathing grow just that tiny bit heavier.
“So, she’s not handling this well,” she murmured softly, and I was once again honored by this powerful woman’s trust in me. There were very, very few who she let her guard down with. “I want all the information you can get on that case on the west side, and get Benson on the phone.”
“If you think it’s worth checking out, I can hold down the fort for the night.”
“Yes, that’ll be the plan for tonight. I’m heading over the to the Jousting Club now, and I’ll try to get a hold of Olivia. Call Ian in just in case, I’ve got Ben with me.”
“I’m on it.”
++ Jo ++
There are parts of my life I’ve never told anyone about. Things I’ve done that I’m not proud of and things that are just no one’s damn business but my own.
I was fifteen when Jimmie Vinzetti attacked a friend of mine. He thought that all Beth needed was a good fuck to ‘cure’ her. And that once ‘cured’, she’d stop corrupting his sister Ruth with her ‘unnatural’ urges.
Ruth had wanted to kill him but I knew that Beth needed her. I made sure she stayed put and hunted her brother down. The lesson started with a lead pipe to his knees to drop him before switching to my bare hands. My then-boyfriend Eddie pulled me off, but only after I’d made sure it would be a long time, if ever, before Jimmie enjoyed sex again.
That was the first time I ever slept with anyone, using Eddie to forget who I was and what I’d done. For me it was release of all the cooped-up energy, but to Eddie it meant forever. That started the path of self-improvement that led to the Navy and an unrelenting need to ‘take care of me’. When he showed up at Eastland, well on the way to being all grown up, I was stunned. The marriage proposal seemed like the right thing at the time, and my ticket out of a place where I still felt I didn’t belong.
It didn’t help that I felt so guilty for using him before.
I really should thank Mrs. G once again for talking me out of that particular mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I cared for Eddie a lot. He was a good friend who really did love me, but it would have been a slow death to be married to him.
Years later, Blair of all people, saved me from a college jock that had spiked my coke with one of those damned date rape drugs. The night is still so fuzzy, that I don’t know how she got to me in time. There are vague memories of her punching him right in the nose. The only reason I remember that at all, is because it was so funny watching her dance around, shaking her aching fist.
Because of the drugs, I have no real recollection of how we ended up at one of her parent’s houses. Just vague images and feelings. The first real memory I have started about a day and a half later. I woke up, bleary and dry-mouthed like I hadn’t tasted water in a year. Blair was nearby, shrugging back into her clothes, a typical outfit, that had strangely seen better days. In a forced, neutral tone, she explained what had happened at the party, and that she’d been keeping me occupied and out of trouble for the better part of thirty-six hours. That was it, she told me to let myself out and vanished in a perfumed cloud.
Leaving me with more questions than answers. Leaving me with feelings and physical sensations I couldn’t explain.
Because we were still on spring break, but I couldn’t face Blair or the others, I headed home to the city and hooked up with some old friends. Beth and Ruth’s couch was my haven, because I couldn’t explain to Ma why I was suddenly in town. My dreams were filled with phantom sensations, impossibly soft lips on mine, blonde hair sliding through my fingers, bodies twining together. Each night I woke up gasping Blair’s name.
The real question was… were these really just dreams?
My confusion over the dreams and my anger at having let myself be caught like that had me snapping at everyone. Ruth decided that something had to be done about my mood so they dragged me out to a club that had just opened down in Manhattan called House of Cards.
Talk about an eye opener! It appeared that in this place, anything went. Seriously, anything.
Every couple and combo mingled freely. Gay, het, triads, and just plain quickie slap and tickle. It ranged all across the numerical scale. The music was deafening and I soon found myself dancing, sandwiched between the girls. I let myself go that night, hardly leaving the dance floor. Ruth and Beth ended the night by taking me to their bed. They later explained that part of the night was purely for stress relief; the rest was showing their gratitude for accepting them and keeping Ruth out of jail.
Over time, the bouts of causal sex became habit and pattern. Something would overwhelm me and I’d find someone to forget myself with. It didn’t always work. There weren’t many that I could truly let go and get lost with. Only a handful fit that description. The last person I had used that way was Liv, and though we had fun, we both decided that we didn’t want to risk our friendship over sex. ‘Sides, she was more like a sister than a fuck buddy.
After a day like today, I knew what I needed. That old habit and pattern required tending.
There were only a few people I was pretty sure could help me forget and all of them were unavailable. The girls were a one-time thing, Blair was a dream, Liv was out of the question, and the last… was the addictive and unfathomable Michael.
I’d been fighting the urge to track her down and beg for her attention again for six months now. Under the stress burning through me, the need was like dying of thirst in a desert. But I forced myself to shake it off, because tonight I needed to be in charge. Tonight I needed to feel warm flesh against me, wrapped around me, until there was quiet within.
Tonight, I needed to hunt.
But that didn’t mean that the image of that sexy smile would leave me, and I rubbed at my aching eyes.
So here I was, leaning against a door in a sex club, my trick from the bar on her knees in front of me, trying her damnest to get me off, but it wasn’t working. I’m not forgetting anything. I know exactly where I am, how I got here, and what happened.
This day was seriously starting to piss me off.
++ Michael ++
Merde, what a mess!
Glaring at the cell phone, like all this was the device’s fault, I reviewed what had happened so far. Calling Liv earlier, I had lost count of the rings before she finally picked up. From word one, it was obvious that she was deep in a bottle of something strong enough to peel paint. The story that the reporter told was so much worse in Liv’s quavering monotone. My poor girls.
Dammit, what was it about Olivia Benson and especially Jo Polniaczek, that got under my skin?
Hating feeling so vulnerable, I snatched up the hideously expensive phone and dialed the combination that again connected me with my partner. “’Ello,” he mocked in a thicker accent than usual. Damn the man, it still made me smile. “What’s the plan then, luv?”
“Olivia doesn’t sound well. I need you to collect the pups and go take care of her. Once I get a fix on what’s going on with Jo, I’ll send Ben to back Ian up, so he doesn’t have to be in charge long, because I know how he hates it.” A faint chuckle almost made me smile, but not quite. “And make certain he knows about that conference call from Shanghai at 0200 hours. The notes he’ll need are in the usual folder on the mainframe.”
“Roger, your Grace. Take good care of Jo, an’ leave Liv to us.”
“You’re the best, Gabe.”
“Aye luv. Goodnight.”
Six months ago, I had almost lost that beloved partner of mine, the warm and funny soul that kept me grounded and I loved like a brother. Ian and Ben still sometimes cringe when they see me with that certain look in my eye. I’d reamed both of them, in more ways than one, for leaving Gabe alone that night. Even the eternally stoic and unflappable Ben had nearly wept tears for my mercy. It didn’t matter that Gabe had practically chased the bigger men off. No bodyguard left his job. Ever. They knew that better than anyone, they were my best two, extensions of the Sword empire, Urial and Rafael to my Michael and his Gabriel.
To be fair, I’d nearly throttled Brann for leaving the others, giving him hell long past the bruises fading. When he told me the story of what had happened, I already had plans for the two women cops who had saved his bacon.
Within days, Ben and Ian handed me their reports.
Benson’s life was remarkable in that, as bad as her conception was, she had for all intents and purposes, a pretty normal childhood. The only abnormalities were her mother’s drinking and her single-minded determination to become a police officer.
As for Polniaczek, I felt compelled to meet this walking bundle of contradictions. The first time I saw her in the flesh, I realized that the pictures my people had provided hadn’t done her justice. Of course the uniform helped. How I love a woman in uniform!
So, I invited them to lunch.
For better or worse, Olivia wasn’t available, but I got to spend the whole afternoon, and well into the evening, with Jo. It was vaguely surprising and hugely entertaining when the married woman started to flirt with me. I was hard pressed to restrain myself from taking the bait. Flatly, with as little emotion as I could muster, I made my offer to the woman and secretly reveled in the look on her face. Although intrigued, she wasn’t sure about accepting. So, I told her to think about it and promptly dropped the subject.
That long afternoon still makes me smile, memories of getting to know Jo, watching her shy and intrigued by turns. Upon taking my leave, I pressed my advantage, tasting her sweet mouth, lost in the taste and feel of her. I think that the example of the pleasures I could offer her had just as much effect on me as her.
Jo called the next day.
With her help in making plans that wouldn’t have Olivia running screaming into the night, the event was set up. And what an event it was! A fine dinner with Pai and Boot holding attendance to our every need. A slow seduction that grew in intensity until I felt nearly eclipsed by the pleasure. It was Jo in particular that was my poison of choice that night, her taste and smell and feel. She was a sweet sin I have been eager to try again.
Gabe was so surprised when I gave them the VIP cards. I still can’t explain what impulse led me to do it. No, that wasn’t the truth at all. It was bait that I really hoped that they would take.
Shaking off the lingering fog of memory, I strode briskly into the Jousting Club through the side entrance and caught Tony’s eye. He nodded acknowledgement and handed the bar to his assistant before joining me in the shadows. “She came down about twenty minutes ago. I haven’t seen Sally yet, the girl she took upstairs, but Tim hasn’t pushed the panic button yet, so…”
Nodding distractedly, I watched Jo for a moment. She was a pained figure, hunched over the bar, staring at her beer as though it contained all the secrets of the universe. Several shot glasses on the bar top detailed the current plotline. Those sapphire eyes rose to the mirror behind the bar, as if she had no control over the movement. Following her gaze, I saw that she was watching a couple in one of the booths. Danni and Sammy were regulars to many of my clubs, and hard-core roll-players. Tonight they looked to be the stereotypical fem/butch couple. Only the roles were reversed this night, with Danni’s white-blonde buzz cut fluffed up prettily and that lanky frame dressed in streetwalker chic. Sammy’s Japanese good looks did credit to her skater boi getup.
Sammy grabbed a handful of blond hair and pulled her mate in for a bruising kiss.
I swear I could hear Jo growl from where I stood.
Shaking off a sense of foreboding, I waved Tony back to the bar and went upstairs to talk to the girl.
++ Gabriel ++
Olivia refused to answer the entry buzzer so I sent Pai to charm one of the neighbors, an elderly woman with a mass of groceries in a wheeled cart. In a few minutes she waved triumphantly from the doorway and let us boys in. At Liv’s door, she used one of her more unsavory talents to pick the lock and the door swung open. We entered cautiously; after all, you can’t be to careful breaking into someone’s home when you know they have a gun, no matter how good your intentions.
The rooms were dark, but the starlight and the glow of the City that Never Sleeps, lit Olivia’s stillness where she sat near the window. There was no acknowledgement of our presence, of the light from the outside hall, of my voice when I whispered her name. Curled in an overstuffed chair, she was the very picture of despondency. Gesturing for the pups to stay put, I went to Liv, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
With a jerk, dark eyes flew up to meet mine, hazy with alcohol, tears and pain. “Gabriel? What are you doing here? How did you get in here?”
I knelt next to her, taking her hands in mine. “We’re here to take care of you.”
Those bleary eyes took in the silent sentinels of Pai and Boot, before looking back at me. “I don’t think I’m much company right now. Wanna drink?” She waved a hand at the nearly empty bottle next to her.
That uniform was going to be ruined pretty soon, and I cast my attention back to the cubs. “Pai, why don’t you take Liv here and get her cleaned up.”
A nod of that party-colored head and she was on it. “Yes sir,” she obeyed and gently coaxed Liv out of her chair to lead her to the bedroom.
“Alright Boot, go see what you can whip up for food. I think it’s a safe bet that she hasn’t eaten anything yet.”
A quick, “yes sir,” and Leslie was off to investigate the kitchen to see what he had to work with, returning quickly with a distasteful look in his eye. “Not much to work with, but I can order out.”
“No, have the driver take you the market. Nothing fancy, boy, just some good, warm comfort food.” With a nod, he slipped out. The sudden quiet of the apartment was broken by the sound of rushing water, and I clicked on a few lights to get a good look at the apartment.
There was nothing distinctive about the small apartment. There were a million of these in New York. The living area opened up into a kitchenette, and the doorway that Pai had vanished into led to a bedroom. “Right then, let’s get started,” I muttered to myself before starting to tidy up.
In the trash was a freshly emptied tequila bottle and I scooped it up, feeling my friend’s pain. “Oh luv. Don’t do this to yourself.”
++ Pai ++
My heart was breaking at the lost look on Olivia’s face. She barely seemed to notice me as she stood unsteadily next to her bed. “Olivia?” I whispered and she looked almost surprised to see me there. “Why don’t you get undressed and I’ll go get a bath ready for you. Okay?”
With only a faint nod, Liv reached for the buttons on her uniform, but suddenly paused. “It wasn’t enough,” she murmured, smoothing shaking hands over the fabric. “It never seems to be enough.”
It was hard to walk away, but she shook it off and began to strip as though she couldn’t get out of the uniform fast enough. In the bathroom, I started the tub filling and looked around the small space. There were a couple of bottles, one containing a soothing bath oil that was perfect for Liv’s needs. Aspirin from the medicine chest and a cup of water sent me back to my charge.
It took some real effort to ignore all that naked skin, because she was quite possibly the second sexiest woman I had ever known. “I’ve got a bath and some aspirin for you, c’mon,” I coaxed and offered the pills and water. They went down without a whisper of complaint, and Liv allowed me to draw her into the bathroom. A little more gentle cajoling had her in the steaming water and I turned to leave, stopped short by urgent hands on my sleeve.
“Don’t go,” was the whimpering plea. She looked so lost.
“I’ll be back, I promise.” I gently pulled away and found something comfortable to put her in when she was done.
In the bathroom, I found her watching the door for me. Beneath that lost gaze, I undressed and she moved forward to allow me into the tub behind her. It was a guilty pleasure to have her lean back trustingly into me. The crush I’d developed for the woman in my arms that night more than five months ago showed no signs of abating. There was no chance with her, I knew that, but I’d happily take what I could get. A tremor echoed through the powerful body and I pulled her into me tighter. The dam was beginning to crack.
++ Michael ++
Once again Jo had surprised me. Sally was bound tightly, bent over the foot of the bed. It wasn’t a comfortable position to be left in for even a short period of time. There were several strap marks on her otherwise unblemished skin and I could hear the hum of what I bet my eye teeth was a vibrator. That ass was dancing erratically, trying desperately to find some relief, but the position Sally had been left in didn’t allow for satisfaction. I ran a finger along one of the welts and she let out a loud gasp before begging to be fucked, beaten, anything.
“Tell me what happened,” was my cool, unemotional question as I continued to follow the marks on her body with my finger.
Between moans and gasps, Sally confessed about Tony trying to warn her off, about how Jo had pulled her away from working between the brunette’s legs before tying her to the bed and taking a strap to her. “Then she just stopped and left,” she sobbed in her frustration.
“What made her stop? Did she or you say anything before she left?”
“She was saying how mad she was that I couldn’t make her forget, so I begged her to teach me a lesson.”
That was enough for me and I leaned over to grab the girl’s hair and yank her head back so she could see the dangerous gleam in my intimidating eyes. “The next time Tony takes the time to warn you, be smart and listen.” A sharp smack on her ass and I was gone. Yelling wafted up the stairs, and I quickly realized that the voice was Jo’s, and her accent was thick enough to be nearly indecipherable.
“I’m tellin’ ya’, no one, and I mean no one does that to Blair!”
I could hear the bewilderment in Sammy’s voice as I bounded down the steps and skidded around the corner. “Who the fuck is Blair?”
Sure enough, there was Jo, faced off with Sammy. A quick glance at Danni got me thinking. In the low light and with plenty of alcohol, the blonde could bear a passing resemblance to the picture of Miss Warner that I had received from my investigators. The problem is that the blonde’s real name is Daniel and he’s one hell of a cross-dresser.
As I materialized dramatically from the shadows, Sammy saw me and relaxed in relief. Jo saw that as an opportunity and cocked her arm back for a swing. In a quick, efficient maneuver, I hooked her elbow and spun her around to face me. Poor baby, her face changed from anger to shock to confusion. “Michael?” She whispered, her agitation deflating before my eyes. “I was… She…” A glance around and her eyes stopped at Danni as if seeing him for the first time. “You’re not Blair.”
Those tortured eyes returned to mine and I gently touched her face. “It’s going to be okay. I promise.” The tears came then, washing bright over the blue. Not wanting her to break down in front of so many people, I tucked her under my arm in a loose headlock and addressed the confused couple that had been inadvertently dragged into this drama. “My deepest apologies. It’s been a long, horrible day for her. Your evening is on the house.” I called over to the bar. “Tony, re-key their card for room five.” My attention returned to the couple. “With my compliments.”
Danni had a thoughtful look on his face. “I thought I recognized you from the TV this afternoon. You’re one of the cops that found those kids.” Jo cringed against me while Danni and Sammy shared a loaded look.
“This whole misunderstanding is already forgotten,” Sammy said formally and I nodded in acknowledgement before turning to leave.
“You may want to enjoy the room soon, I don’t know how long your ‘gift’ can hold out.”
On the couple’s speculative shared glance, I gripped Jo tighter and took our leave of the Jousting Club.
++ Gabriel ++
“Ah,” I sighed lustily and leaned back into the couch and Leslie’s slender body. “That was excellent as always, boy.”
“Thank you, sir,” he sighed and nuzzled my temple.
Liv hadn’t eaten much of the cornbread, macaroni and cheese and savory hotdogs, but a little was better than nothing, and there was some color back in her face. Once again, she was in that overstuffed chair, with one knee drawn up under her chin. This time, Pai sat adoringly at her feet, occasionally stroking the bare toes in comfort.
We’d been patiently waiting the woman out, letting her work through her own mental barriers and start unloading. The slow erosion was an inexorable as the tears rolling down her cheeks. “All those poor kids, their lives are ruined.”
Pai interrupted, “No, their lives were saved.”
“Saved?” Liv sneered harshly and I hated that she could make Pai flinch. “How? Those kids are going to have to live with this for the rest of their lives. How is that saving them?”
“They’ll never get over it, not really,” Leslie added softly, his body relaxed and yet tense. “But with help, they will get past it.”
“How do you know? I don’t see how anyone could get past that.”
Pai’s soft comment fell like a lead plate into the quiet. If this all weren’t so serious, I’d have laughed at the stunned look on Olivia’s face.
After a nod from Boot, Pai started talking. “I don’t know if you knew this, but Leslie and I grew up in Hong Kong. I was born in a whorehouse, to a third generation prostitute. The old woman that ran the place made sure that us kids weren’t touched.” Pai chuckled fondly. “I remember her screaming in Cantonese at some dumb bastard that had the nerve to ask for one of us. We did odd jobs around the place and she made sure that we learned the basics, you know, reading and math and stuff. One day, she got sick and her son took over.” Her sadness was a palatable thing and I reached out stocking toes to rub her knee. “He was a real piece of work.”
Touching my ankle gratefully, Pai smiled wanly and drew her knees up to rest her chin there, echoing Liv’s pose.
“He put some of us older kids to work on our backs. It was that or be kicked out. Hong Kong is a bad city to be alone in, so we mostly went along with it, no matter how much we hated it, or how bad we were roughed up. One day this man showed up and I was forced to go with him.”
Olivia wasn’t quite comprehending all of this through the alcohol, but she was catching up fast. Softly, Boot took up the thread of the story. “I lived with my uncle in Hong Kong. He was a real old-fashioned British bastard that believed in the ‘divine right’ of the empire and all that archaic bullshit.” Both pups snorted and rolled their eyes in tandem, making me smile despite the situation. “So, he decided that I needed to be taught how to be a ‘real man’, and bought me Pai.” Another perfectly timed pair of eye rolls even cracked a near-smile from the more alert Olivia. “But you know how it is, some people buy you presents just so they can borrow them.”
“Shit,” Liv swore and Pai rubbed her cheek along the woman’s shin in comfort while Leslie continued.
“It wasn’t a shock really, he’d been molesting me for years. After a couple months, we decided that we had to get out of there, so we came up with a plan. The old bastard had no idea that I’d been watching him and one afternoon when he was out, we broke into his safe, took all the money and stuff out of it, and ran.”
Once again, the tale was tagged-teamed off and Pai began speaking. “We had stolen enough to last us for years, if we handled it right. But no, we were stupid little shits and blew it all in less than a year. We started offering our services in some of the seedier clubs. You know, sex and petty thievery for food, a place to crash, things like that.”
I was proud of the cubs as I watched them draw Olivia out of her shell. As they regaled her with the tales of their misadventures, I thought back to nearly two and half years earlier.
KC, head of the Suit of Spades, had been called to Hong Kong by an old friend of hers. It seems that her friend had gotten sick and while she was in the hospital getting treated, her bastard of a son had run rampant with her ‘business’. She wanted our help to find some of her lost kids.
“Fenris found us in a club in a really bad part of Hong Kong,” Boot chuckled. “She was impressed with our moves and, under orders from KC, the boss lady, tried to lure us out.”
“I regret now that we made it so difficult,” Pai added wryly and we boys swallowed chuckles.
“We knew that Fenris was up to something, and we were skittish, so she sent in Daddy here to charm us out of hiding. It still took a couple of days, and we didn’t relent until Pai found out that the old woman wanted to see her.”
“I had no idea that she was still alive…” Pai reminisced and shook off the melancholy. “She made KC promise to get me out of Hong Kong and keep me out of the business. Sooooo, we found ourselves in the hands of the Spades and shipped off to the US and school.” The absolute disgust in her tone and the pair of wrinkled noses actually made Liv smile oh-so-faintly. “See, I wouldn’t leave Leslie, ‘cause we’re inseparable and Daddy here loves him anyway, so it’s all good. I have to admit,” the girl’s voice dropped to a conspiratorial stage whisper. “We made their lives rough at first. Man, we would go snooping in places that even made the boss wolf cringe.”
Abruptly realizing that she was being disrespectful, Pai hunched down and smiled apologetically at me.
“It’s true,” I sighed, and was relieved that Olivia’s eyes came immediately to my face. “They were hellions, no doubt of that. Fenris and I were forever dragging them out of places that even we were wary of. Bless their sweet little hearts, they had no frame of reference for acceptable behavior. There was no putting the genie back in the bottle with these pups, I assure you.” They both grinned cheekily and Liv’s mood notched up just a bit more. “In the meantime, Fen and I have grown to adore them both. They’ve also proven to be wonderful students in just about everything they put their minds to.” A slight flush colored Liv’s cheeks, making the rest of us chuckle. “There’s that too. But don’t forget that Leslie here just made you a gourmet meal from bare basics and you’ve never gotten a massage from Pai. Or a lap dance for that matter.”
“You’ve mentioned several things I don’t understand,” she hedged hesitantly, obviously uncertain how much I would appreciate her prying. Nodding in encouragement, I again reached out toes to poke affectionately at Pai.
“KC? Spades? Fenris?”
“KC is the head of our organization, the Swords. In some circles we’re also known as the Spades, like the cards.” Understanding dawned on Olivia’s face. Wonder if she’d figure out that the cards reference meant that there were at least four groups. “Fenris is another nickname of Michael’s, an older, fonder one. My match was Brann, a Celtic name that means raven.”
“Fenris…” Olivia mused thoughtfully. “I know that name from somewhere.”
“Fenris is the mythical wolf from Nordic mythology. The great, hellish beast chained to two great stones for all eternity. When Fenris one day escapes, Ragnarok will begin, the classic end of the world.”
“That’s quite an image,” Olivia breathed and we all chuckled before she yawned hugely. With relief, I saw my chance to wind the conversation down. If she found out just how young the pups were, particularly Pai, she’d blow a gasket. While Pai has more experience than most, she is by US law, still jailbait.
Now, it was time to bundle Olivia off to bed. The pups dragged her off with much cajoling and puppyish flirting, and by the time I went to check on them, they were in a big dog pile. Our poor friend was sound asleep, curled along Pai’s side with Leslie along her back to protect her. Unable to resist the allure of the friendly scene, I plopped down and nestled into Leslie, tossing an arm over the girls and let the warmth drug all of us to sleep.
++ Jo ++
Well Polniaczek, you’ve really done it now, I berated myself internally. Ensconced in Michael’s gentle, but implacable hold, I was taken from the source of my most recent humiliation. The gentleman at the side of the really fancy wheels at the curb, drew open the door and waited for us to climb in.
Suddenly, I was panicking. “No thanks, I can get home on my own,” came out squeaky and strained even to my ears, accompanied by a buzz like bad speakers in a movie theater. Jerking away from Michael’s arm, I nearly ran the man down, recoiling from his touch on back and arm.
“Ma’am?” He sounded worried.
“Don’t worry, I’ve done my stupid shit for the day, I won’t be driving.” Was that my voice? Was I acting this brainless and out of control? My voice went on without input from any intelligence on my part. “The subway’s a few blocks from here, I’ll take it home.”
That familiar, strong hand grabbed me roughly and tossed me against the side of the car. Amber eyes glowed wild in the ambient light of the New York night.
“Please Michael,” I begged, feeling myself completely unraveling. “Let me go.”
“Jo, get in the car,” was the order, in a voice that was uncompromising, yet strangely tender and I felt the tears roll down my face as I looked in those wolf-like eyes. Too worn out to fight her, I crawled in to the far side and leaned my head against the window. As the car pulled away I found myself fighting the urge to throw myself into Michael’s arms. “Jo,” my name sounded like an endearment in that warm tone, and suddenly, it was too much. Before either of us knew it, I was in her lap, bawling as though the world had ended. God, I could love this woman. It would be so easy. She just held me, making no attempt at words.
Strong arms and her warm smell, the soft and firm press of her body was my haven as the horror and discordant events of my recent and past history washed over me in a blinding tide.
Time passed in a blur, as the car moved through the city. In keeping with the theme of the night, my mouth ran off on it’s own and I found myself telling her everything. Not just the children in that awful hellhole, but Jamie’s phone call and the unforgivable thing I’d said to Liv.
Throughout the exhausting rant, Michael cuddled me like a child, stroking my head and rubbing my neck and back. It was hard to believe that this powerful woman was here with me like this. Didn’t she have better things to do? Yet, even as that weak, whiny part of me asked the question, I basked in her attention.
Michael remained silent and comforting until I started talking about the kids. Specifically, when I found myself reminiscing about the charms on Gloria’s bracelet.
“Those charms. Were any of the clubs brown? Like leather? Or possibly a dark gray?”
“Um…yeah. One was brown and I think it had a feather attached to it.”
She was silent a moment longer, her mind obviously working busily, then she took a deep breath. “What happened at the Jousting Club? Why did you stop the scene with Sally?”
It wasn’t at all what I had expected and I started to pull away, but Michael only gave me a tiny bit of space. Pain and confusion echoed through my soul again, and I ground the heel of one hand into my eyes. “She asked me to, ‘teach her a lesson’. That’s what that bastard was doing to Gloria when we busted in. ‘Teaching her a lesson.’ I was doing the same thing he’d…”
“Jo, stop it,” was the tender, but implacable reply, her eyes flashing. “You are not him.” One hand moved to curl around my cheek, and I gratefully leaned into the touch. “That young woman isn’t Gloria and you didn’t force her to do anything.”
Perhaps that was all I really needed, someone sane, and not a part of my hellish night, to tell me that everything would be okay. Just as I comforted Gloria, I needed someone to comfort me. Part of me wanted to resist, to not need the relief this wonderful woman offered .
Aw, fuck it.
With a softly sighed, “thank you,” I leaned into her body once more, pressing my nose into her throat. Our twined bodies settled back into the upholstery and I was content. Another period of time passed and suddenly I realized that the car hadn’t merely stopped, but the engine was silent as well. Looking around, I realized that I had no idea where we were.
“You’re staying with me tonight.” Michael explained and it was no longer surprising how relieved I was. The driver opened the door again and I was tugged out into a parking garage. Michael again tucked me under her arm and followed the man to an elevator. Part of me noted how he moved, every sense alert, his steps light, hands loose and ready at his side. A bodyguard, I realized suddenly. Somehow, I hadn’t thought about it, but I knew that Michael was a powerful woman and a bodyguard fit her.
Once again, I felt like an adopted mongrel dog from the filthy streets.
++ Michael ++
This had been a torturous night. As much as I wanted to get to know Jo better, this would not have been one of my choices of circumstance. Those poor, innocent kids, and my poor, sweet Jo.
Already a mass of contradictions, this situation was pushing Jo into behavior that I’d bet few would recognize. Hell, it’s not I like I knew her that well. A mutual fascination, some incendiary chemistry and a lot of fantasizing hardly made a relationship.
Though it shocked the hell out of me that I think I really wanted that.
Ben did his job with discrete silence, checking the elevator and staring blandly at the doors once they were closed. It gave us girls some measure of privacy, and I took Jo’s hand in mine. That dark head rested wearily against my shoulder. Intimacy. For someone that helped run a sex-industry based empire, I had rare experiences with true intimacy. The trusting weight of this woman against my side felt real damn close.
At the top, I hung back and let Ben get out and do his job. As unlikely as a break-in was, his job was to make sure it was safe. Besides, it let me hug Jo close, feeling her body relax further. The tentative search of that fine mouth surprised, but pleased me. The woman was a great kisser, and I was quickly lost in her.
If Ben made a sound, I didn’t hear it, but there he was, standing just out of reach with an eyebrow up. Shaking off my carnal need, I tugged Jo into the penthouse to Ben’s quiet, “it’s clear, and the dogs are locked up. Goodnight.”
It was a gorgeous space that I had spent years getting just right. Not to mention slowly buying up the rest of the building it resided on top of. “Welcome to my home.”
Owl-eyed, Jo looked around the great room with something like awe. It looked almost unfinished and museum-like in its stark lines of glass, concrete and steel, but I had spent time and a fortune in decorating the place. Paint, rugs, furnishings and artwork warmed the space.
Jo only distractedly shook her head, then passed and flashed me a hot, almost shy look. This was more the woman I remembered! With no words, I was drawn to her, taking the smaller body in my arms, kissing her once again. Before we got too involved, I dragged her up the open staircase to the living space at the top.
“I’ll give you the fifty-cent tour later,” I promised. “Right now, there’s something I need to share.”
Past the closet and my office, and then a quick left led to our destination. This was perhaps my favorite indulgence and I was surprised by how eager I suddenly was to share it. The look on Jo’s face was worth it, as we passed through the rinse tunnel, a long hall of all tile surfaces and multiple shower heads.
The short tour had been punctuated with sounds and soft exclamations from Jo, finally bursting into coherence in the sprawling bathing area. “Fer’ cryin’ out loud! How may people can you get in there?”
My low chuckle made Jo shiver, and I reached around her to press a well-known sequence on the control pad. Instantly, the hall we had just passed through was filled with the rush of water like a sudden summer storm. While I was so close, I nuzzled into the dark hair and teased her some more.
“That, my dear, is something you’ll have to find out for yourself. Now why don’t you get started and I’ll join you in a bit.”
Fear flashed across Jo’s face, despite the carnal gasp in her throat. That was my cue to spin her around and haul her close. Ravishing her mouth the way I’d been craving to do since spying her at the bar, I lost myself in her. Everything else faded away for the moment, my whole world was in the feel of that fine mouth, and the firm curve of her ass in my hands. Her hands coiled into my long tresses as she responded so beautifully.
Needing air, I finally pulled away, but it wasn’t so bad, because Jo, mewling seductively, latched onto my neck to suckle. Wrapping a handful of dark hair around my fist, I tugged her head back to stare wolfishly into those crystalline eyes. “I want you naked and wet when I get back.”
Jo whimpered and I grinned. Yep, I still had the right stuff!
++ Steph ++
This meeting would never end! Jane and I had been swimming upstream against the chaos of trying to get a new underage club open in our main territory here in Chicago. We traded a guiltily relieved look as the phone buzzed urgently. “Tarzan, ma’am, Fenris is on line two,” the speaker said.
“Thank you, Sally,” the Amazon Queen of Clubs replied and reached back over her head to blindly poke buttons. “Fenris, good to hear from you.”
“Always a pleasure, Jane,” purred that distinctive, sexy voice and I grinned.
“What can we do for you?”
“We, as we Amazons, or we as in you’re not alone?”
That was when I noticed the brittle stress hiding beneath the woman’s characteristic calm. A bad feeling skittered up my spine, echoed in Jane’s brilliant aquamarine eyes. “Steph is here as well.”
“That’s fine. I need your help.”
“Anything, you know that.”
A harsh, almost disgusted sigh blew through the little speaker and that bad feeling deepened. “Some bastard was running a flop house with kids for sex. A pair of my favorites busted the place. One of the kids was wearing tokens of the House of Clubs.”
There was no containing the expletive as it burst from my throat. “Mother fucker.”
Jane’s dark expression bode ill for the perpetrators of this crime.
Fenris cleared her throat noisily before continuing. There was something dark and dangerous in her tone that made me shiver. “The child’s name is Gloria Parkins. She’s ten, going on eleven, and from New Orleans. Her Aunt Kali gave her the club and feather tokens. The Feds will have this case by morning, and I want to find the aunt before they do.”
Grateful to have something to do, I moved over to the computer and began a search through the reports from our New Orleans chapters. Sure enough, it brought up a three month old notice. “Okay, here it is. Kali’s real name is Nicole Parkins, and yes, she’s one of ours. She tried to report her niece missing but the cops down there wouldn’t file because the girl was last reported with her mother. Kali’s been trying to get custody of Gloria for years,” I sped-read through the extensive file that Kali had left on the Amazon central mainframe. “The girl’s father is in jail for the next twenty-five or so and her mother is a junkie. The system down there refused to permanently remove the girl from her mother’s care. ‘Sanctity of the family’ and all that crap.”
I didn’t quite catch what Jane muttered under her breath, but I could make several guesses. “We’ll get Kali on the next plane to New York,” she growled and I nodded in acknowledgment. “How bad is it?”
“About as bad as it can get,” Fenris replied in a voice just as dangerous as Jane’s expression. “All the kids have been abused badly. One of the son-of-a-bitches they have in custody gave up enough information that they took down another group about an hour ago but he’s withholding any more information until he’s secured a deal. These bastards seem to be almost as organized as we are.” The cold fury in her voice made me shiver again.
Jane was silent a moment. “I want these fuckers taken down.”
“The House of Spades will help in any way we can. Have your Amazons start in New Orleans. I have Swords tearing things apart up here.” Fenris paused a moment. “Jane, the kid did you proud. Started a little fire, smashed out a window and started screaming for help. If it wasn’t for her, they might have never been found.”
“Thanks Fen. I’ll let you know the moment we find anything more out on our end.”
“Will do. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You two have a decent night.”
Decent was about the best we could hope for after this nasty reminder about how sick the human species could be. Murmuring goodnight, Jane smacked the phone and ran her fingers through her hair. “They wouldn’t even file the report?”
“The mother claimed to have cleaned up her act and had a new boyfriend that was going to take her away to something better,” I sighed heavily, continuing to read from the files. “That and the social worker that had the case didn’t like our lifestyle.”
“We don’t show good ‘Christian values’, you know the rhetoric. We should all be married and taking care of our husbands. Once she filed her report it was all over. Kali tried to appeal but by the time she could get someone to listen, Gloria was gone.”
“And they left a child with a repeat drug abuser who got her involved in this horror,” Jane groaned and despondently threw herself back into her low chair. “Dear lord, save us from the nut job fringe of your followers.”