Pretty Baby Ch. 05byslyc_willie©
(Author's Note: This installment contains some very graphic and painful imagery that may be offensive to some readers. Such events depicted are not intended to excite or arouse; rather, they further the plot of the story)
Part Five: Betrayal and Retribution
I was still in a daze after coming back from Lake Tahoe. Making love with Erin and Ross had been the most incredible erotic experience of my life. I only had to close my eyes, and I felt like I was back at that little villa, tasting them both. Never had I been so fulfilled and satisfied.
The first day of the semester was the following week, so I decided to hold off until I was settled in and got a feel for my classes before accepting dates. Julie and I went shopping for books and new clothes, and while I offered to pay for some of her purchases, she refused. I understood why, and didn't push the issue.
The day before classes started, I was sitting on my couch, nothing on but a long wrinkled T-shirt, when a thunderous pounding sounded at the door.
I gasped and jumped up, looking through the peep hole. I only had to see the thick shock of silver hair to know who it was. I turned the locks and deadbolt—
Ian shoved the door open and stormed past me into my apartment, making me gasp and stumble back, slapping a hand to my chest. I stared after him with fear and apprehension.
He whirled about in my living room, gritting his teeth. I had never seen Ian show emotion before, and the display was intimidating.
"How could you?" he asked gruffly.
I stared at him a moment, my fear vanishing, replaced with annoyance. I shoved the door closed and glared at him. "Well, hello to you, too," I snapped.
"My . . . daughter," he said with some difficulty.
I brushed past him, shooting him an acidic, cocky look. "Yeah? What about her?"
He stared after me as I headed to the kitchen and took a bottle of strawberry vodka from the freezer. I could feel his eyes on my back as I poured some into a glass, adding some Diet Coke. I turned back around, a mix of emotions whirling in my mind.
Ian was glaring, but as my eyes met his, he looked away. He pulled off his jacket, tossed it on the couch as if my apartment was his. He was dressed in a suit, something I rarely saw him in. He pulled at his tie, grunting and grimacing, finally ripping it off. I tried not to show my amusement at the spectacle, and hid my smile by lifting my glass.
He hurled the tie aside, paced back and forth with his hands on his hips. "Do you know what my daughter's middle name is?"
I sipped my drink, licked my lips. "No."
I finally faced me. "Riley," he said. "Erin. Riley. Holloway." He enunciated each word carefully, meaningfully. "Rebecca and I named her after her grandfather. Bet you didn't know that."
I shook my head, looking down into my drink.
"He was a great man. He started the family fortune by purchasing two piece-of-shit little newspapers and turning them into giants. I started off in the mail room at less than a dollar an hour. I earned my way up, even though I was the old man's son. I had to prove to him that I could take over the business once I was old enough."
I lowered my glass. "And now you're a pimp," I said.
Ian's features twisted. "You don't know what I am!" he roared, making me flinch. I almost dropped my glass. I had never seen Ian angry before, never even close to it. This new side frightened me.
He whirled away, pacing again. He ran his hands through his silver hair. "Do you have any idea what I'm worth?" he asked at last. The chaotic pattern of the conversation confused me.
A few crude responses came to mind. I decided not to say anything.
"One-hundred and twenty-seven million dollars, last I checked," he said, but he didn't seem particularly proud of the figure. "A good portion of that stands to be inherited by my children, Michael and Erin. Of course, you've never met Michael. He's been in Asia for the last two years. But Erin . . . Erin you know pretty well, don't you?"
I lowered my glass, feeling ashamed. "I . . . I didn't know it was her," I said.
"No, you wouldn't," he said, his voice calm again, yet still forceful, still strong, as he stepped closer. "Not until you got there. Not until you saw her. I know you two met before. You could have said no, Alyssa. You could have refused."
I lifted my eyes, felt a surge of defiance as I boldly met his gaze. "You're not gonna make me feel guilty about making love to your daughter, Ian," I said.
My words stung, I knew. I had wanted them to. He winced, turned away. I could tell he was struggling with his thoughts, but couldn't imagine what was truly going through his mind.
"And is that really the reason she . . . contacted you?" he asked.
I laughed sharply. "No, actually, she wanted to have a wild threesome with me and her fiancé," I said, rudely enjoying the way I was getting to him. "Man, we fucked all weekend long! I'm surprised you can't tell, 'cause I sure as hell—"
"Enough!" he barked.
I fell quiet, but I didn't back down. I kept my eyes on him, fuming.
"Her fiancé, huh?" he said, and jerked his cell phone out of his pocket. "Well, he sure as hell won't be once I'm done with him."
My anger blazed. "Don't! You! Dare!" I screeched, the pitch of my voice almost high enough to shatter glass.
Ian snapped his head in my direction, looking shocked, surprised, maybe even intimidated. He blinked, his face blank.
"What do you think it was all about, Ian?" I cried, slamming my drink down on the counter, spilling half it's contents. I all but charged Ian as I came around the breakfast bar of my kitchen, shoving my finger toward him. My words came rapid-fire from my mouth: "You think I'm after your fucking money? Or, you think Erin and I cooked something up to get at you, huh? To get back at Daddy for cheating on Mom and being a fucking pimp? Well, we didn't! She asked for me! But let me tell you, you self-impressed, I-know-what's-good-for-everybody mother fucker! She sure as fuck would have a reason to hate you! I sure as hell do!"
I spun away, then turned back and kept going, pouring it all out: "God damn it! You're so fucking infuriating, you know that? You act like you've got all the answers, but you really don't know shit! It's all numbers and business with you, isn't it? You really don't give a God damn, up-the-ass fuck about anyone, do you? It's all about Ian Holloway! The great and wonderful Ian Holloway, like you're the fucking Wizard of Oz or something!"
I stopped my tirade, glaring at him, then looked down, folding my arms under my breasts.
His voice was strangely calm. "Alyssa—"
"Fuck you," I spat, as a last, frustrated stab.
He sighed. "Are you done?"
I huffed, squeezing my arms. "Yeah, I'm done."
Ian breathed out heavily, turned away from me. He was quiet for a long time, facing away from me, running his hands through his hair, standing with his hands on his hips, fiddling with his titanium watch. He finally fell onto my couch, took up my cigarettes and lit one.
"This was never a business I wanted to get into," he said off-handedly.
"Then why did you?" I asked.
"About eight years ago," he said, almost as if talking to himself. "I was driving home from work, late at night. No, correction: I wasn't driving. I was in the back. Anyway, there was some construction on the highway, so my driver, Sam, got off the highway and took some back roads. I trusted him to know where he was going."
Ian tapped ash off his cigarette, pulled on it, made a smoke ring. He watched it dissipate in the air.
"We stopped at a light," he continued. He laughed sharply. "It was a really long light. I looked out through the windows, and I saw this pretty young woman, standing on the corner. Long, dark hair, tight jeans, just the barest of tops to keep her modest. She was smoking a cigarette, waving at the cars passing by. Once in a while, she'd look my way."
I listened to him, watching his face, remaining silent.
"I'll never . . . I'll never understand why, but I rolled down the window. I didn't say anything. But she noticed. Boy, did she notice! She was over there in a flash! She looked . . . so pretty, but so . . . desperate."
Ian sighed again, smoked his cigarette, flicked off some more ash over my crystal ashtray. "She got inside just before the light turned green and Sam took off. I always had the feeling he didn't like having her in the car. Anyway, we talked a little bit, then she gave me a price, and . . . well . . . ."
I moved closer, got on my knees on the floor beside him. I had never seen Ian like this. I had never seen him so . . . human. I looked away, took up one of my cigarettes as Ian went on with his story.
"Afterwards, she gave me her phone number, but I really didn't think about her too much after that. Not for a couple of weeks, until I saw her again, on the same street, in almost the same clothes. It was almost like a compulsion. I had to pick her up.
"This time, it was just me. No driver. And she . . . she was a lot more friendly. She wanted to go back to her place. I said, 'sure.'"
Ian gave me a little smile, not one of condescension, but one that told me he was entrusting me with something.
"I never felt bad about being with her," Ian said. "Sure, society says I should have been. I was a married man, after all. In sixteen years, I never stepped out on my wife. Not once. Other men in my circle, within two, three years . . . they all had mistresses. It was just . . . part of life. Part of our world."
"Girls are trophy wives and guys have affairs," I said, recalling Erin's words.
Ian smiled ruefully. "Yeah," he said, then suddenly jabbed at his chest and gave me an emphatic look. "But I never gave in!"
I stared up into his eyes. "Yes, you did," I said softly.
His self-righteousness vanished. "Yeah," he said. "I did. And I hated myself for it, for a while, even though I loved every . . . every damn moment."
Ian pulled on his cigarette again. "Rebecca found out about it. I expected her to be angry. I wanted her to hate me, I guess. But she didn't. You know what she told me?"
I looked into his face as he gazed upon me, his features revealing as much of his pain as he would allow. "What?" I asked.
Ian swallowed down tears. "She told me to 'be careful,'" he said. He laughed harshly. "'Use protection.' That wasn't what I needed to hear. I needed to hear that it was wrong, that she wanted me to stop seeing . . . her. That . . . that I wasn't being a good father. Anything! But Rebecca just shrugged it off. She accepted it."
"And you kept seeing that girl," I said.
Ian nodded. "Yeah," he said with a nod. "Two, three, four times a week. She was a sexy girl. A smart girl. She didn't try to trap me into anything; she knew she couldn't. But she did have an idea."
I nodded, understanding. "To start a business," I said.
Ian gave me a funny smile, touched my face. "Maybe that's why I . . . you remind me so much of her, the way she used to be," he said. "But in so many ways, you're . . . different. Better."
I touched Ian's leg. "It was Cleo, wasn't it?" I asked.
Ian nodded slowly. "Yes, it was." He touched my face, smiling upon me with such affection that I couldn't think of anything to say.
"I may have been around the world more than once," he said. "But I've only been in love three times. I've had my heart broken twice. I don't . . . I don't think I can handle a third time."
I swallowed my emotions, tried to stay calm. "Who broke your heart, Ian?" I asked, feeling the film of tears on my eyes, despite my efforts.
His eyes were dark and steady, yet I could see the conflict behind them, the pain. "My wife," he said. "When she didn't care enough to hate me. And Cleo, when she didn't love me enough to ask me to leave."
"A-and the third?" I asked, my words coming out in shuddering breaths. "H-has she broken your heart?"
Ian's face was stoic once more. His eyes were hard and guarded as he stared into mine. "Not yet," he said, in a strained voice. "And I hope she never does."
I trembled, sniffed up my tears. "Sh-she won't," I said in a small voice.
Ian didn't say anything more. Taking up his jacket, finding his tie, he headed to the door. "I hope you're right," he said, then stepped out into the cool night air.
I stared at the door for a long time, long after Ian was gone. Tears streamed down my face, soaked into my shirt.
"I won't break your heart, Ian," I said. "I promise."
I didn't talk to Ian about that night, nor did I ever bring it up with Cleo. But Ian's tale revealed my 'madam' in a different light. Cleo was still my friend, and would always be so, but now I knew something about her, something cold and venomous. I decided to be a little less trusting of her, and stop thinking of her as my 'big sister.'
Once I started dating again, about a week after the start of classes, I returned to my routine of seeing four men a week. Most were gracious men who only wanted the company of a pretty young girl to make them feel desirable again. A few, however, were rough and looked to me as little more than a means to vent their frustrations.
It really didn't matter to me, when it came down to it. Fucking was fucking. I loved it all.
Most people dress up in crazy costumes for Halloween. The rich just put on expensive masks and do what they always do.
I really didn't want to take a date on Halloween night, preferring to hang out with Julie and my other friends, go to a house party, hell, maybe even mess around with a boy or two. The youngest man I'd had sex with had been Ross, and for some reason, I was itching to be with a guy my age.
Alas, Cleo called and said that Arliss Montgomery was back in town, and he had asked for me. There was some posh gala downtown that he was attending, and he wanted me to go with him. I hemmed and hawed, then thought about how deliciously naughty he had been the last time . . . I realized I couldn't say no.
So I put on my black evening gown and a white shawl, and James took me to meet my lover at his hotel. Damn, Arliss looked gorgeous in his tailored tuxedo. I met him in his room, and he kissed my hand, letting me in. The way he looked at me, with remembrance of our last time together . . . if he had told me to get on my knees, I would have been down there faster than you could say 'blow job.'
Instead, he handed me a feathered French mask, attached to a long, skinny handle, showed me his own. I giggled at the sight of the white plastic mask he would be wearing. It had a really long, smooth nose, more than reminiscent of an erect penis. I could tell he had the same kinky thoughts about it as I did.
"I was thinking about you when I picked it out," he said with a wink.
I rubbed my body against his suggestively. "And after tonight, you'll never look at it the same way again," I promised.
We went to the convention center in a rented limo, and arrived amid all the flashing lights of the paparazzi that one would expect at a Hollywood movie opening. I walked beside Arliss up the red carpet, blinking and flinching at the flashes going off around us. I felt like I was hanging off the arm of a prince as Arliss waved and nodded with professional courtesy to those who called his name.
"Hey! Hey, honey! What's your name?" someone called. A photographer, waving frantically at me.
"Yvette," I said, loud enough for him to hear. I giggled. Flashbulbs popped.
"Yvette what?" someone else asked.
I just smiled coyly. Just Yvette, I thought.
Arliss chuckled once we got past the gauntlet. His strong hand was on my back. "I don't know if I should be proud or jealous," he said, fitting his mask over his face. I guess men's masks were fixed, and women had to hold theirs up by the handle. "They were more interested in you than me."
I gave him an exaggerated pout, giggling again at the mask. The long, slightly curved nose was more than a little sexually suggestive. "Aw, poor baby," I said. "I'll massage your ego later."
He grinned from under the gleaming white mask. "Massage whatever you want, baby," he said. "I don't have anywhere to be tomorrow."
I breathed in with arousal at the thought of staying up all night with Arliss, testing the limits of his sexual stamina . . . waking up late in the morning together . . . .
There were thousands of attendees at the gala, all of them in tuxedos and gowns and wearing masks. A small string orchestra was set up in the middle of the main room, beneath a large banner in black and orange that read, "Tenth Annual Halloween Charity Ball." And beneath those words: "Proceeds to benefit Muscular Dystrophy Association or America."
"At least it's a good cause this year," mused Arliss. "Last year, it was for the building of a new art center. Damn project still hasn't gotten off the ground."
I smiled up at him. "So, are you moving here, or not?" I asked him. "You've been back and forth from Florida for the last three years."
He smirked. "Been checking up on me?"
I shrugged. "Let's just say I'm curious."
His eyes studied mine. "If I did move here," he said carefully. "I'd like to spend more time with you."
I bit my lip, feeling a swell of excitement. "I'd like that," I said earnestly.
Arliss kept me close as we made the rounds. We met businessmen and lawyers, politicians and diplomats. Some I had seen before; some I had dated before. A couple of the ones I knew on a more intimate level gave me wistful looks as they tried not to betray just how well they knew me. Especially those with their wives. They regarded Arliss with some measure of jealousy, knowing what he was in for. I was feeling appropriately naughty.
We danced a little, and I was grateful for the lessons provided by Cleo and Anne. Maybe I didn't know the Foxtrot from the Charleston, but I knew a few steps, enough not to embarrass myself, or Arliss. We had some champagne, took advantage of the seafood buffet – I was really starting to develop a taste for caviar – and generally enjoyed ourselves.
"Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention, please!"
The music stopped, and everyone looked to the center of the floor, where the mayor stood on a small dais. He held out his hands, graciously accepting the light applause as he was recognized.
"I would like to thank you all for coming out tonight and leaving all the little ghouls at home."
Some courteous laughter rose from the crowd.
"What a putz," muttered Arliss as he clapped.
I snorted, almost spitting out my champagne, laughing quietly.
"But, seriously, thank you, thank you, thank you all, for digging deep in your pockets for this worthy cause. As you know, MDA has . . . ."
The mayor prattled on, giving his speech. I wasn't really paying attention. The false honesty of politics held no attraction for me. I looked around at the crowd, fiddling with my mask, sipping champagne, admiring some of the others' masks, the dresses and jewelry of the women. I recognized a few other escorts I had seen before at such functions, wondering if they were Ian's girls or members of a different agency . . . .
And then I saw him. Staring right at me from across the room.
I breathed in sharply. It had been so long since I had seen him, but never could I forget his face. He had a blank expression, stoic, almost emotionless. He had one hand in the pocket of his tuxedo pants, the other holding a white mask. He seemed to be alone, even though he was surrounded by people.
I couldn't help but stare at him, feeling a mixture of emotions stirring in my mind: the love, the affection we had shared, the pain of his leaving . . . .
Everything else was shut out from my senses. I heard nothing but my own heartbeat, saw nothing but Gary. I felt a sudden urge to go to him, to be with him and tell him I was sorry, to throw away everything and pick up where we had left off. I suddenly felt the absence of the ring he had given me, the diamond bracelet engraved with our love. My heart rose in my throat and my knees felt weak.