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Cruel.

(The Billionaire Bitch Trilogy #1)


An Erotic Story


By Kiki Wellington


Copyright © 2013 by Kiki Wellington. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission from the author.


Cruel. is a 16,600 word work of fiction by Kiki Wellington. All names, characters, and events are products of her libidinous imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


From the Author:

ADULTS ONLY PLEASE. Cruel. contains sexually explicit material and adult language. This story is not appropriate for children and may be offensive to some readers.























The Billionaire Bitch Trilogy

Billionaire oil heiress Elle Anderton is desperate to protect her heart—and her trust fund. Darren Phillips is equally desperate to prove that his love for her is real. When they get into a power struggle for what they really want, they find that desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Billionaire Bitch Trilogy contains the following erotic stories:

Cruel.

The jig was up: After living as a struggling artist for over a year, Elle Anderton’s secret—she’s really an heir to the Anderton Oil fortune—is revealed. Though her boyfriend is livid about her lies, he starts to understand why she needed them. But when Elle suggests a series of love tests to prove that Darren isn’t after her billion dollar trust fund, will his understanding have its limits?

Unusual.

Oil heiress Elle Anderton has been testing her boyfriend with kinky love games to prove that he’s not after her family’s billions. And as time wears on, the test takes them both to sexual places they’ve never gone before and some of their strangest fantasies become reality.

Punishment.

Although billionaire oil heiress Elle Anderton has become engaged to Darren, she still feels compelled to put him to the ultimate love test to prove he’s not interested in her fortune. But as their sexual power struggle continues, the tables of control keep on turning until they’re both satisfied they belong together.


















EXCERPT:


I didn't say a word. I just moved toward him and locked my lips with his. They were soft, warm, sweet. He lifted up to put his arms around me, but I pushed him back down. I stood up over him, swinging my hips from side to side as I slowly took off my panties and let them fall on top of his face. He was hard; he had been for a while. I had no idea that pretending to be a computer desk could be so arousing. Though he'd never come out and say it, I knew that he'd been as turned on as I was during that episode.


I wasted no time positioning my wet snatch over Darren's willing shaft. From just one second of having his mushroom tip touch my wetness, I felt an electricity surge throughout my body. He felt it too; he closed his eyes and moaned, waiting for me to enthusiastically ride him until he exploded between my thighs.


And I obliged. My hot box was begging for it, so I quickly sunk his hardness inside of me, allowing him to fill me up with every throbbing inch. I bounced up and down along his shaft, throwing my head back in wild abandon as he tickled my walls. He grabbed my hips and thrust himself upward, filling me up even more, making me want to scream in painful ecstasy as his erection tore me to pieces. Within a minute, my walls contracted around him, holding on to him for dear life until it couldn't move anymore.

























The mail slipped out of my hands, and I quickly squatted down to intercept Darren's inevitable act of chivalry. Don't get me wrong, I love that Darren wants to take care of me, but in this case, I knew the tendency was going to do more harm than good.


Darren dove down and grabbed the stack of envelopes before I got the chance. "Please don't look at them, please don't look at them, please don't look at them," I nervously thought. But this brand of subtle ESP never works.


He looked at one envelope and did a double take. He flipped to the next envelope. And then the next. And then the next. By the time he had gone through them all, he first looked puzzled, and then agitated.


"Anderton?"


I tried to grab the stack of mail, but he yanked it up over his head so I couldn't reach it.


"Didn't you tell me that was a typo?"


I had indeed. I was usually very vigilant about hiding things that had my real name on them, but one drunken night, I emptied my pockets and left my license on top of the dresser in full view, where the name "Elle Anderton" was exposed for him to see. I told him it was a typo, and that I didn't have the energy to deal with the DMV to fix it. I explained there was no reason to get all worked up over one letter in my last name.


"Umm..." was all my mouth would allow me to say.


I thought I would pass out. I knew after being with Darren for over a year that we were going to have the conversation one way or another. But I wasn't ready to have the conversation, and I definitely wasn't ready to have it like this. Now it seemed my mail had betrayed me and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.


"Well?"


"Yeah, I told you it was a typo."


"I guess all of these have typos too," Darren said, waving the envelopes over his head. "I guess the phone company, the utility company, and all the credit card companies also made the same mistake?"


I shook my head. "Obviously not," I whispered, shifting my eyes downward to stare at a thread in the carpet coming undone.


"Well, what the fuck is going on? Did you really lie to me about your own name?"


"Technically."


"So I've known you for almost two years, and the entire time you've been lying to me about your name?"


"I guess," I whispered, shrugging my shoulders and obsessing about the unraveling rug.


"Why on earth would you say your name was Elle Anderson when it's Elle Anderton? If you're going to lie about your name, what's the point in lying about one letter?"


You may be wondering the exact same thing. It may sound silly to lie about one letter in my name, but for me that one letter meant everything. Changing that T to an S meant I could be myself, unencumbered by my past and other people's preconceptions. It meant that people really looked at me, not my family, and accepted me—or not—based on what I showed them, rather than a history I inherited in some gene pool lottery. When I started calling myself Anderson, the S stood for salvation and it was the best thing I had ever done.


"Darren, it's not a big deal."


"It's not a big deal?" he started yelling at me. I hated when he yelled at me. It didn't happen often, but on the rare occasions when he lost his temper like this, the boom in his voice was enough to make me shrivel into the fetal position and try to disappear. "What the fuck? We've been together over a year and I don't even know your fucking name?"


I couldn't respond. It was getting ugly, and I knew it was only going to get worse.


"Elle, what kind of bullshit is this?"


"Trust me, it's not a big deal. It's like...having a pseudonym. People know you by one name, but on your official documents, the name is something else."


"So this is about your artwork?"


"I don't know. Maybe."


"That still doesn't explain why you didn't tell me about it."


"I'm sorry. You're right. I should have told you my real name was Anderton. Can we just forget this now and go on about our day?"


I wanted so much for him to grab my hand and walk out the door with me, forgetting about the mail, forgetting about my name, forgetting that the conversation ever happened. But as they say, you can't unring the bell.


***


Things were so much easier in the beginning, but then again, they usually are. Look down the road of every relationship that ever went south and you'll find two people who were ecstatically happy with each other, and passionately in love, long before their detour.


I met him at a dance class. I know the instructor and it turns out it was a setup all along. They knew it, but I didn't. She just said how much fun it would be for me to learn how to salsa dance. Darren had been in her class the week before without a partner. The minute Elizabeth saw him, she knew he'd be the perfect dance partner for me. So when I arrived at the class with no partner, and Darren was also partnerless, we immediately got together by default.


They say you can tell how good a man will be in bed by how he dances. In this case, if I'd judged Darren's lovemaking abilities based on what I saw in class, I never would have gone out with him, much less slept with him. Mind you, I'm no twinkle toes myself, but to say Darren has two left feet would be an insult to everyone with that particular affliction. He simply could not get his feet to cooperate with him. But he was such a good sport about it, I found him endearing. Even though with just about every move he mashed on my toes, he was so cute and funny and charming that I couldn't help but enjoy his company. Butterfly wings tickled my insides whenever he looked at me. It made no difference to me that he ruined a new pair of heels. I was just so happy to be around him, I knew I wanted to dance with him every day for the rest of my life.


Elizabeth was pleased with our chemistry. Every time she came over to see how we were doing—and to show us what we were doing wrong—she had a huge smile on her face. And when we walked to the coat room hand-in-hand that night, she was absolutely beaming.


"What did I tell you, Darren?"


"You were right! Elle really is the perfect dance partner."


I looked back and forth at them smiling at each other and knew I'd been set up. And I was happy about it, despite my blind date phobia. Even though I'd stumbled into a first date I wasn't aware of, I couldn't have been happier with her choice.


Elizabeth laughed. "See, Elle, I knew if I told you I wanted to set you up with somebody, you wouldn't have come. But this way, I got to introduce you to a great guy and you learned how to dance. Well...kind of."


We didn't want the evening to end with salsa and sore feet, so we went to dinner when we left. The conversation flowed so smoothly, it was as if we'd known each other for years. Everything was so easy with him, and I could just be myself. He talked about his job as a biochemistry researcher at a local university. I talked about my artwork. We talked about past relationships, philosophy, and our ideas about love, life, and the whole world. We talked about everything and it was effortless. But once we started talking about family, I froze. I didn't want to lie to him because I liked him so much, but how could I tell him? Everybody knew who they were. And the minute he realized it, I knew the dynamic between us would instantly change.


So by the time Darren asked, "What's your last name by the way, Elle?" I immediately went to my recently formed identity—the one I conceived after my last boyfriend had taken my money and my friend, along with my heart.


"Anderson," I said excitedly, knowing there would be no judgment when he heard it.


"Mine is Philips," he said as he grabbed my hand and interlaced his fingers with mine.


After dinner, I brought him back to my place. It's not a socially acceptable thing to do as an Anderton, but as an Anderson, I could do whatever I wanted. And what I wanted to do that night was Darren.


He was impressed by my artistic abilities. He admired all of my works in progress, and told me how talented and wonderful he thought I was. It had been a long time since I'd been complimented like that, and I ate it up like Halloween candy.


"If you liked what I can do with paint on a canvas, you'll love what I can do with paint in the bedroom," I said coyly, grabbing his hand and leading the way.


"Oh, really?" he asked with a look of horny anticipation plastered across his face.


"Really," I said, pushing his back down onto the bed. I pulled a jar of edible strawberry paint and a brush out of my dresser, showing off what I had in store for him. I dropped down on my knees in front of him, caressing Darren's legs up and down while resting my head on his crotch. He started breathing heavily and stroking my hair. I felt his cock start to rise up against my cheek.


"You certainly work fast, Elle," he sighed as I started undoing his zipper with my teeth.


"Is there any other way to work?" I laughed. I unfastened his button and slowly worked on pulling his pants down until they were resting on top of his shoes. "But, if you're not enjoying this—"


"I didn't say that," he moaned, encouraging me to start sucking his cock.


Darren gazed at me with excitement as he watched me take off each of his shoes and neatly store them underneath the bed. I worked on each of his pant legs, and then his underwear, until they were in a heap on the floor next to me. I opened the paint jar and dipped the brush inside, about to begin my masterpiece of lust.


"What is that anyway?" Darren asked, impatiently waiting for me to do something, anything, that involved his cock.


"I'm going to create a work of art," I laughed. I slowly dipped the brush into the jar again, thinking about how much I wanted his cock inside my pussy. I got more and more excited and wet by the second.


I took the wet brush out of the jar and grabbed Darren's huge dick in my hand. I started slowly stroking him, watching the pleasure on his face and teasing him about what I would do next. I traced circles around Darren's cock until it looked like a huge sexual candy cane waiting for me to take it deep in my mouth and suck it.


Darren caressed my shoulders, admiring me as I painted his thick, hard flesh. "Oh, so this is the bedroom artwork you do," he laughed. "It looks like it should be erected in front of a barber shop or something."


As he continued watching me curiously, I continued painting his hard on until I got to the tip. Then I carefully rested the paint brush inside the jar and put them on the nightstand. He moaned impatiently for me to suck him off until every last drop of come had squirted into my throat. I slowly took the tip of his cock into my mouth, licking off the strawberry paint and watching his growing satisfaction.


"Oh, Elle," Darren sighed as he watched me taking more and more of his sweet candy stick into my mouth. "Oh, that feels so good, baby."


His feedback made me horny and encouraged me to work even harder on his cock. I took every inch of him into my throat, savoring the taste of strawberry paint until he entirely filled up my mouth. I squeezed my cheeks as hard as I could, making him moan even more. Then I started moving my mouth up and down his shaft as he tightly gripped the top of my shoulders. I rested my hands on his chest, inching up toward his nipples so I could pinch them until they got as hard as his cock.


"Oh, baby," he said as he watched me bobbing up and down his cock faster and faster. He clenched his hands tightly against my shoulders, and I continued pinching on his hard nipples trying to make him come inside my mouth. I took my hands off his nipples and deeply stuck one of my fingers in his asshole. I prodded his ass with my finger in and out, until Darren couldn't stand it anymore and shot a wad of come into my cheeks. His hot fluid mixed with the strawberry paint and I sucked him until I had consumed every last drop of him. When I was satisfied he was done, I got up from my knees and started to pull my dress over my head. Darren admired my body as I gave him a slow, deliberate striptease—throwing my dress on the floor, then my stockings, then my bra, then my underwear. I laid down next to him and spread my legs, hoping he would instinctively know what I needed him to do.


"You're so beautiful, Elle," Darren said, slowly climbing on top of me and kissing my neck. His cock rested between my legs and my pussy began to tingle being so close to him. But that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted his mouth...all over me. I wanted him to suck on my wet bud and fuck my cunt senseless with his tongue. I wanted him to taste my flavored paint mixed with my pussy juices, and lap me up until there was nothing left.


"Do you know what I want?" I whispered in his ear.


He rested his hand on my cheek and kissed me tenderly. It was lovely. But still, it wasn't what I wanted.


"Nice try," I giggled when he was done.


"How about this?" asked Darren right before burying his face against my neck, nibbling on my hot skin. His hands traveled down to my willing tits and he cupped them enthusiastically, squeezing them and handling my nipples with his thumb. "Is that better?"


"Not quite," I said. I pointed toward the edible paint on the nightstand that waited for him to create a masterpiece on my body.


Darren lifted the jar of paint and stared at it as if it was an alien. "I don't know about this; I'm not sure I have the artistic chops that you do."


I spread my legs wide, encouraging him to go for it—to paint me, lick me, make me come all over his gorgeous face.


Darren dipped the brush in the paint, dripping some on my sheets, and then opened my pussy lips wide. I got so wet with anticipation, thinking of him putting his mouth all over me. My thighs were on fire and felt like they were about to explode. He admired the look of my pussy for a minute before firmly placing the paint brush on top of my burning clit. The cool paint against my hot sex made me want to jump out of my skin. I couldn't wait to feel his mouth against my willing pussy, sucking strawberry off me until I exploded against his hungry lips. He painted circles around my pussy, each time taking a second to admire his work before dipping the brush into the jar again. He flashed a crooked smile and wrinkled his nose.


"I'm not sure that I did as good a job as you did on me," he said as if I was about to grade his paper. “But then again, I'd like to think I have a lot more raw material to work with down there."


We both burst out laughing.


"I'll tell you what: Why don't you just shut up and fuck me with your tongue, then we'll call it even."


Darren had a huge grin on his face and our eyes locked for a second. Then, he buried his face between my legs and started furiously licking the paint off my pussy like a man possessed. I arched my back to get a good look at him working on me, enjoying every second of his wet tongue against my clit. His face was an absolute mess—a combination of paint and pussy juices drenched his stubble. I thought it was about the most adorable thing I'd ever seen. I closed my eyes and laid flat on my back again, resting my hand on top of his head as he worked my pussy like a student sucking up for extra credit. And as far as I was concerned, his performance had been an A++. His attention to detail—licking every inch of my folds, once, twice, three times for good measure to make sure he didn't miss a spot—was also making the grade. I writhed my hips up against his mouth, and he picked up the pace of his tongue lashing. The faster I moved, the faster he licked. And the faster his licked me, the faster my hips thrust up against his face. We kept up this game of one-upmanship until I exploded with come all over him. He lapped me up one last time, then came up for air.


I smiled with satisfaction as my body jerked on the bed. Darren came up and nestled his body against mine. He kissed me tenderly, his tongue sharing all of the slick, slippery goodness that he'd lapped up from between my legs.


"I know I'm not an artist like you are, but how did I do?" he whispered in my ear.


I threw my arms around his neck. "You get an A for effort—at the very least. Although I may need a repeat performance to know for sure."


There would be many more repeat performances that night and in the weeks to come. I loved everything about us during that time. I know, I know—what's not to love about the honeymoon period of a relationship? It's the time we're supposed to be perfect in each other's eyes, the time when being around each other is as important as the air we breathe and the food we eat. But still, whenever I thought about it, all I could do was lament what was to come. I knew we'd have our problems one day, I knew things wouldn't always be so perfect, but I desperately wanted to go back to that magical place and be those magical people again.


***


"Anderton," he mumbled. I could see the Rolodex flipping in his brain, which was exactly what I didn't want to happen. All I could do was silently pray that the elephant residing in the steel trap of Darren's mind had gone to sleep that day. I knew he knew the name—everybody knows the name—and eventually he would figure out where he'd heard it.


"Come on, Darren," I said, pulling on his arm to distract him. "Let's go to the park and have a good time like we planned."


He didn't budge. When Darren got fixated on solving a problem, he wouldn't stop until it was cracked.


"Anderton, Anderton, Anderton," he mumbled. Then his eyes lit up with recognition and I knew he had figured it out.


"Come on, Darren, let's go have that picnic we were talking about. Who cares what my name is?"


"Anderton as in Anderton Oil?"


The jig was up. He knew who I was. He knew who my family was. And now the S that had given me so much freedom had become the T I desperately wanted to run away from.


"You're related to the oil Andertons?"


"You might say I share some DNA with them."


"Some DNA and billions of dollars, right? So you're rich? And this whole thing about struggling to make a living on artwork commissions was a lie?"


"Not exactly. I do my best to support myself with my work. But—."


"But you don't have to."


"No," I sighed. "I don't have to."


"Because you're a billionaire? And you have a big, juicy trust fund I take it."


"Yes," I whispered. "But I hardly ever touch it. I told you, I'm trying to support myself with artwork."


"Elle, I really don't know how to take this. I don't care if you lie to your customers about your real name to get a little artistic street cred. But this is me we're talking about. If I can't even trust you to tell me your real name, how can I trust you at all?"


"I never lied to you about who I am."


"You didn't lie to me about who you are?" Darren yelled at the top of his lungs. "You led me to believe you were this starving, bohemian artist with so much heart and soul and it turns out you're just a dilettante trust fund baby."


"That's not true! I never lied to you about who I was on the inside. I just kept my background a secret because I knew this would happen if you found out about my family."


"Oh, right, because the lowly university biochemist is going to discriminate against you for being a billionaire from the wrong side of the tracks!"


"Stop calling me that! I don't want my family's money defining who I am!"


"Oh, poor little rich girl! Pull out the fucking violins!"


"See? This is why I lie about my last name. Either people dismiss me or they become way too interested. Either way, they're not seeing me for who I really am."


"Who are you really?"


I walked toward him and tried to touch him, but he pushed me away.


"I'm somebody who studied art and wants to create beautiful things for a living. I'm somebody who's been in love with you from the second I saw you. I'm somebody who wants to spend the rest of her life with you."


"And you're somebody who didn't love me enough to tell me her real name or where she came from."


"I'm somebody who wanted to love you without all this other bullshit getting in the way."


"Well, it's in the way now," Darren said, turning around to leave. I followed after him, trying to get a hold of him, but he resisted my pleading touch.


"Darren! Darren!" I cried out as he marched toward the front door. "Wait!"


"What?"


I grabbed his hand before he could get a firm grasp of the doorknob. "Where are you going?"


"I'm getting away from the rarefied air in here before I choke on it!"


"Darren, please talk to me."


"I can't; I have to process all this. I need to go."


"Well, where does this leave us?"


He shook his head, and quickly jerked open the door. "I don't know, Elle. I really don't. I need some time to think."


"Okay," I sighed. "I'll give you all the time you need."


***


"I think you did the right thing, Elle," my cousin Leah said as she hugged me. "We can't be too careful with these guys. You know that. Look what happened with my first husband."


Leah's tale of warning was known throughout the family all too well. Her ex-husband had the charm that Leah looked for in a man, and the pedigree her parents looked for in a son-in-law. Anthony was the son of a congressman, he'd gone to Ivy, and was ready to take over the world armed with an MBA and a cocky attitude. Her parents couldn't wait to get him involved in the family company, and Anthony couldn't wait to get his grubby, little hands all over the family money. And once he had been firmly planted inside the company's finances, Leah didn't exist to him anymore—and he started sticking his hands, and his cock, in every cookie jar he could find.


But it wasn't Anthony's infidelities that had enraged the Andertons; he got unceremoniously thrown out of the family when he stuck his hand in the oil well. Despite the fact that everyone knew Leah was miserable in her marriage, and they'd gone through several trial separations, the family still encouraged her to stay with him so they could reap the benefits of his family's political connections. It wasn't until the embezzlement got exposed that Leah felt free to show Anthony the door for good.


After reeling from her divorce for a few years, Leah found love with someone who didn't have the pedigree, didn't have the Ivy League education, and didn't come with the Anderton family seal of approval.


And she couldn't be happier.


So when it came to matters of money and love, I always looked to Leah for advice.


"I don't know, Leah," I said, sobbing and resting my head on her shoulder. "Darren was so mad that I lied to him. I know I did it for a good reason, but I keep thinking about what I would do in his shoes. I wouldn't be happy about it either."


"Do I have to remind you about Jonathan?"


"No," I whimpered on her shoulder. "But Darren's not like that."


Of course, I thought Jonathan wasn't like that either until he suckered me out of $100,000 and left me for one of my friends.


"I said the same thing about Anthony and look where it got me. They're all not like that...until they are."


"So how did you do it? How did you find a good guy to love you just for you? I look at your marriage and I know that's what I want."


Leah took my hand and led me to the couch, the regular meeting place for our heart-to-hearts.


"C.U.P.," Leah said, stroking my hair and smiling at me.


"A cup?"


Leah laughed. "No, C.U.P."


"I don't follow." I couldn't help but chuckle because I knew this would lead to a really good story, and I couldn't wait to hear something to take my mind off of Darren.


"Wait a minute; I have something to show you," Leah said, darting out of sight. I twiddled my fingers, trying to occupy myself so my mind wouldn't drift toward thoughts of him. Leah came back with a stack of composition notebooks. She slid next to me, and rested the notebooks proudly on her lap.


"What's this?"


"The C.U.P. diaries," she said, giggling and flipping through one of the notebooks as if she was looking at a photo album.


"What on earth does that mean?"


"Cruel and unusual punishment," she beamed.


"Um...are we really talking about Supreme Court rulings right now?" I laughed.


"Tom and I like to call it the three stages of love. At least it was for our love. I was in the same boat as you—dating a civilian so to speak—and I wanted to marry him, but I had to figure out if he really loved me and not the money."


"Well, doesn't a prenup accomplish that?"


"Not really. You can always find a good ambulance chaser to bust open a prenup. And if it protects us at all, it only helps if we get divorced. Once they have their hand in the till, you know as well as I do they can get whatever they want with enough time and charm. Look at how many guys have taken money out of your pocket. One hundred bucks here, a thousand there, and the next thing you know, they're hitting you up for money all the time. And figuring out creative ways to steal it from you."


"Yeah, you're right. I still don't understand what you're talking about though."


"Cruel and unusual punishment is a series of love tests I did to make sure Tom really loved me. I figured if he would put up with all that crap from me, he had to."


"Seriously? What are we talking about here? That BDSM stuff or something?"


"Yeah. I mean, it can be. It doesn't necessarily have to be."


"And Tom agreed to that?"


"Yeah. He wanted to marry me, but he had to prove himself first."


"But how did you know he wouldn't do it and still go after your money anyway? You didn't make it a secret about who you were. The Anderton name still comes with a ton of baggage. That's why I've been lying about it."


"Yeah, but you remember the ego that Anthony had on him. He would never have gone for anything like this—he would've just gone out and looked for the next trust fund baby he could find. I figure if you're strong enough to go through these tests, you're man enough to take care of a woman the way she should be taken care of. It really weeds out the Anthonys of the world."


"So Tom let you basically abuse him?"


She laughed. "It's not abuse; it's domination. And he agreed to the terms. And if I was doing something that he wanted me to stop, he'd let me know."


"That's a little crazy, don't you think?"


"Maybe, but it's no more crazy than what our mothers go through—dealing with cheating, gambling, drinking, and who knows what other bullshit."


She did have a point. My father makes no secret about the fact that he fucks the maid and his secretary. Even though my mother tries to stay positive, tries to see the good in him, and tries to hold her head up high, I know it hurts her to her core that he's constantly humiliating her.


"Well, I can't deny that our mothers have resigned themselves to some pretty shabby treatment in their marriages."


"Exactly! And I did too for a while. That's why I had to save myself from all that crap," Leah said as she handed me some notebooks. "When you read through this, I think you'll agree it's the recipe for a happy relationship."


I started to cry again. "That's assuming Darren will even speak to me. It's been over a week and I haven't heard anything from him."


"He's just blowing off steam because his ego got bruised. He'll be back. I see the way he looks at you. He worships the ground you walk on. And this," Leah said patting the notebooks, "will make him show it!"


"Are you sure? You didn't see him. He was so angry when he left."


"I'm positive! You don't have to worry about him never contacting you again. You have to worry about what you're going to do when he does."


"And this system of yours is supposed to help me?"


"See for yourself."


I wiped my eyes and looked at the stack of notebooks. Each one had a name on the cover. Some were called "Cruel.," some were called "Unusual.," and some were called "Punishment."


"What are the periods at the end for?"


"To remind me that if Tom gave me a lot of shit about the test, I would have to put a period on the relationship and move on."


"Wow. You don't fuck around."


"You don't know the half of it," she laughed, tapping her fingers on the books.


I flipped through the pages, trying to decipher her chicken scratch handwriting underneath the water that occupied my weary, heavy eyelids. As I read bits and pieces, my eyes got wide with wonder, and I saw things I would never have expected from Leah and her husband. She wrote about spankings, handcuffs, verbal degradation, sex with different partners, you name it. I glanced over at her and she had a huge look of absolute pride on her face.


"You and Tom are really into this stuff?"


"Oh, Elle, those are just the beginning of what we're into."


"I don't know if I'll be able to look Tom in the face again after seeing this."


"Don't worry about it. Most of this stuff doesn't involve his face anyway," she laughed.


"He enjoyed this? He liked being tied up and having you whip him?"


"Not really at first. At first he was just doing it to make me happy and prove that he loved me before we got married. I tried to think of things that my son of a bitch ex-husband would be way too proud to do. I was hesitant about doing some of it at first—I read about it in an advice column of all places—but I thought it was worth a try, since I was worried that Tom might come after my money. And once we got into it, we both started to get off on it."


I shook my head in disbelief. My cousin whipping someone? I couldn't even begin to fathom it. This was the same Leah who can spend a half-hour at a four-way stop because she's so polite, she lets everybody pass through before she does? I guess it's true that you never really know what goes on behind closed doors.


"I don't know about this, Leah. I can't imagine Darren ever agreeing to anything like that."


"That's the point! If he doesn't agree to it, maybe he doesn't love you as much as he says he does."


"I'm not sure that's true. I don't think a lot of people would agree to this."


"Yeah, but if he really wants to be with you the way he says he does, he'll do it. Tom did it. He thought it was weird at first too, and now we're still doing some of that stuff. You'd be surprised at the hell a man will let you put him through when he really loves you."


"I suppose."


"Trust me on this one, Elle. We've been burned too many times not to be careful. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. And women in our position have to make sure that we weed out the riffraff."


I nodded as my brain revisited every check I ever wrote to a man, every loan that never got repaid, every time I heard "It'll just be this one time, baby." There's a high cost for sleeping with lowlifes, that's for sure.


"That's true."


"So, when Darren comes around, and we both know he will, just run the idea passed him. Everything I did with Tom was something he allowed me to do. And if he didn't want something to happen, we had a password to stop it. Of course, it turns out Tom is so kinky he never used it," Leah laughed.


As I drove home from my cousin's house that night, I thought about everything she said. She let me borrow a couple of her notebooks, and said I could see the rest of them anytime. I was surprised Leah was into that type of stuff, but what surprised me more was I was becoming intrigued by it. Maybe there was something to it—mixing a little bit of pain with your pleasure—and if Darren would agree to be on the receiving end of some of this, I'd have to assume that he really did love me.


Of course, I was assuming he really would forgive me. And my chest clenched up tight when I thought of the possibility that he never would.


***


Leah had an uncanny way of always being right—about everything. After she'd gotten divorced, it was almost like she became a crystal ball when it came to matters of love and life and everything in between. But I suppose that's what happens when you crawl out of the darkest period of your life and live to tell the tale. Still, although I did keep a glimmer of hope lit up in the back of my mind and refused to extinguish it—no matter what my friends told me about fish in the sea—I was still skeptical about whether Leah was right about Darren.


I was pleasantly surprised, actually ecstatic, when she was right. He called me one afternoon and told me he wanted to come over and talk after work. In the interest of playing love games, I considered holding him off—telling him I needed to wash my hair or something. But Leah warned me about playing games—at least games that weren't of the C.U.P. variety. Plus, I tried that hard to get shit with my ex, with many of my exes, and it turned out even though I was playing hard to get, my money was quite easy to get.


So I decided to play it straight, just like Leah told me to. I twitched with nervousness all afternoon, wondering what he would say to me and what I would say to him, and how we would resolve things at the end of the conversation. Was he coming over to break up with me? Did he hate my guts and never wanted to see me again? Would I be surprised if he did? Could I even blame him? If the tables had been turned, wouldn't I have been just as angry and disappointed as he was?


On the other hand, why did he wait so long to be in touch? Was he coming back for me or coming back for my money? Maybe the idea of being with a poor little rich girl didn't sound so bad after all.


I trembled when I heard him unlock my front door. I considered changing the locks when we weren't speaking—or going to his place and demanding my keys back while throwing his keys into his face—but that felt like giving up, and I wasn't ready to do that. My heart pounded as I heard his footsteps coming closer to the living room. I held on to one of the pillows on my couch, using it as a security blanket, a buffer between us that would protect me from getting my heart broken. I rocked back and forth and closed my eyes until I heard his voice.


"Hi," was all he said before sitting down at the other end of the couch.


I nodded. I bit my lip and waited for the worst to happen.


"Look, I don't know where to start," he said matter-of-factly.


"I get it," I whispered. "You want to break up because I lied to you. Let's just do it and get it over with."


I expected him to take that opportunity to quickly rip the bandage right off of our relationship, leave my keys on the couch, and leave my life for good.


But he didn't.


"Well, at this point that would be the easy way out wouldn't it?" he said flatly.


"Would it? You didn't speak to me at all for two whole weeks."


"I know. I probably shouldn't have waited so long. I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. I feel like I don't know who I've been with for almost two years."


"That's not true! I told you everything—everything that matters to me."


"Except that little part about you being an oil Anderton and having a billion dollar trust fund."


"Like I said, I told you everything that mattered to me."


"See, Elle, this is where you're not understanding where I'm coming from. If I don't even know your real name and I don't even know anything about your family and your background, how can you possibly say that I know you? From where I sit, I don't know anything about you. And that's the problem. It's not that you lied to me about money. It's that you lied period. Don't you get that?"


I sighed. I got it. And I also got that if I even attempted to explain myself I'd come off as a rich, spoiled brat who didn't know anything about the real world and having real-world problems. I felt so frustrated all I could do was cry. There was nowhere else for me to go emotionally. I felt like anything I said would be wrong.


Darren moved closer to me on the couch, letting his arm rest against mine. "Please don't do that. You know I'm not trying to hurt you. I'm just trying to understand why you did what you did. And I'm trying to get you to understand why it matters."


"My last boyfriend," I whispered. "Jonathan. He was the last one, the last straw, the last in a long line of men who heard the name Anderton and saw me as a human cash machine."


"You mean the one who cheated on you with your friend?"


I nodded. Little droplets of water continued to embrace my cheeks, no matter how fast I wiped them away. "Yeah. He cheated on me with my friend Trisha. But not before taking me for $100,000. Rumor has it he used that money to buy her an engagement ring."


"I'm sorry you went through that. I just wish you'd told me this a lot sooner."


I got up from the couch, looking down into Darren's eyes. "Wait a minute. I have something to show you."


I grabbed a scrapbook hiding behind a row of dusty novels on my bookshelf that hadn't been opened since I graduated college. I sat back down next to him, our legs and arms instinctively coming together like two magnets, and opened the book to some clippings. I watched him looking at headlines, hoping he was beginning to understand.


Anderton in-law embezzles millions. Anderton oil family embroiled in embezzlement scandal. Andertons disgraced by thieving son-in-law.


There were dozens of them just like it. When the news of what Anthony did got out, it was as if barrels of ink got unleashed on my family.


Darren squeezed my hand. "I'm sorry. I feel like such a jerk right now."


"I just don't want to go through anything like that. I saw what it did to Leah. I felt what it did to me. I'm not pretending I have the same kinds of problems that most people do. I know how fortunate and blessed I am, but it just makes it easy for other people to take advantage."


"I get that, Elle. I really do. But it sticks in my craw that after all this time together, you still wouldn't have told me unless I found out on my own. The fact that you didn't trust me enough to tell me the truth pisses me the fuck off."


"I know. But I honestly didn't think it would matter. It didn't have anything to do with us."


"We talked about getting married. Didn't you think I was going to find out eventually? Didn't you think I'd figure it out when I met your parents?"


"I figured I'd burn that bridge when I got to it. It's not like we're rushing to the altar or anything.


"I should have known something was up when you kept giving me excuses about meeting your parents, even after you'd already met mine."


"I wouldn't worry too much about that."


"Why? I'm not good enough for them?"


"Oh, please," I blurted out. "I'm barely good enough for my parents. And we don't speak that often anyway."


"Well, it still doesn't change the fact that you lied about them."


"Darren, there were so many times I wanted to tell you the truth...but I couldn't. The longer I hid it from you, the harder it got. I guess I just wanted it to go away."


"I'm not interested in your money, Elle. I may not be a billionaire, or even a millionaire, but I make a good living. And up until a couple weeks ago, you were a struggling artist as far as I knew."


"I know."


"I've paid for a lot of the things we've done together. And don't get me wrong, I love doing things for you. But—"


"But you want your money back?"


"Don't be fucking insulting about it. I do things for you because I love you."


"I know. I'm sorry."


"What I was going to say was you acted as though you needed certain things. I feel like you've been playing me the whole time."


"No, I don't need money, Darren. I need you. I need you to love me."


"I do love you. That's why I'm so angry with you right now. I mean, what else did you lie to me about?"


"That's it. No, I didn't tell you who my family was. But I told you all about them. I told you my cousin Leah was like a sister to me and that she'd been through an awful divorce. I told you my boyfriend before you cheated on me with my friend and broke me down emotionally."


"And your parents?"


"Everything I told you about my parents is true. My father cheats on my mother and everybody knows it. She looks the other way to keep the family together. My brother is still an asshole and we barely have any contact with each other. My father still favors my brother because he only wanted a boy. My parents had their heir and I'm their spare."


My head dropped down into my hands. Darren put his arm around me and gently rubbed my back to show his support and concern. It reminded me of how much I longed for his touch when we were apart. But it also made me wonder what took him so long.


"I'm sorry, Elle."


"I'm sorry too," I whispered, resting my head on his shoulder. "I didn't mean to lie to you. I really didn't. But if there's one thing my family has taught me, it's that love doesn't come easy."


"I guess when you're looking in from the outside, you assume people with tons of money have perfect lives."


I shook my head. "No. I think that's part of the reason I wanted to be somebody else. I never fit in with them anyway. Leah's an outcast too, which is why we're so close. But she has a leg up on me since she does work for the company. I haven't done that since I interned for my dad in high school."


"Leah works at Anderton Oil? I thought you told me she works for a small business."


"No, that's not what I said. I said she works for a family business. I just didn't tell you it was our family's business."


"I see."


"I know it sounds bad, but after everything I've told you about Leah's ex-husband and my exes, can you understand why I didn't want this to be an issue between us? I just wanted the chance for a fresh start. I wanted the chance to be happy."


"I get that, Elle. But if you're serious about having a fresh start now, you have to be straight with me...about everything. No more lies. No more half-truths and playing with semantics. From this moment on, we have to be one hundred percent honest with each other. Otherwise, I don't see how this is going to work."


I squeezed him tightly against me. "I can do that. But—"


"But what?"


"But there's this part of me—I'm not accusing you—that wonders what your motivation is."


"Why would you say that? How could I have been after money I didn't know you had?"


"But you know about it now."


"So?"


"So you didn't speak to me for two weeks!"


"I admit I shouldn't have stayed away so long. But I had to clear my head. It's a lot of shit you dumped on me."


"I just can't help but wonder if we would be having this conversation if I were really a starving artist who lied to you about her name and background."


"Of course we would!"


"I really want to believe that."


"Well...I don't know what else I can do if you won't trust me."


"I think there's something you can do."


"What? I want to work things out, so I'll do anything. Do you mean you want to go to couples counseling?"


"Not exactly."


"What then?"


"I was talking to Leah and she suggested that we do something, just to be sure about our feelings for each other. It would just put my mind at ease. I'll do what you want and I'll tell you anything you want to know. But I just need you to do something for me. Leah did it with her husband and they've been happy together ever since."


"What are you talking about?"


"It's a test. I guess you could call it a game...just to make sure that you really love me."


"Um...okay."


"I'll do some things to you from time to time that may be a little bit...unpleasant."


"Unpleasant?"


"You know, I might be a little bit...abusive. But you don't have to do anything you don't want to. We could have a word that stops it whenever you want. Just let me be mean to you for a little while. And if you can take it, then I know that you really love me."


"And if I don't?"


I hadn't considered that. I know Leah said she'd walk away from Tom if he balked about C.U.P. too much, but I wasn't prepared to draw that hard line in the sand yet.


"I was hoping that wasn't going to be an issue. I don't think it'll be that bad. Leah said her and Tom have actually enjoyed the games they've played over the years. It brought them closer together."


Darren had a blank stare, which made me nervous. I could just see him weighing his options, and I was afraid the mental scale wouldn't tip in my favor.


"Okay...but I'm not going to play this game with you forever. And you have to keep your end of the bargain about always being honest with me. If I find out you're lying again, all bets are off and I'll be done."


I was relieved. "Of course! There should be no more secrets between us. And it won't be forever."


"So what do you have in mind?"


"Well, Leah gave me some diaries to read about it. They're sex games. I may call you some nasty names from time to time, maybe do something with a whip...you know, stuff like that. I'm still learning about it, and Leah's convinced it'll be a good thing for us in the end."


"So you want to abuse me?"


"Not abuse. Domination."


"How often?"


"I don't know. A couple of times a week maybe. I haven't ironed out the details yet."


"And how will I know when you want to do it?"


"I'll say something mean to you. I'll call you a worm. And I'll make you call me Miss Anderton."


"And if I don't want you to do something?"


"You'll tell me to stop by the word...caterpillar. And then I'll stop."


"So, this is some S&M type of stuff?"


"Something like that."


"And Leah is into this? She doesn't strike me as the type. Tom doesn't either for that matter."


I started giggling. "I thought the same thing when she brought it up! But she said it's worked wonders on her relationship and gave her the courage and confidence to love again after her divorce. She figured if he would put up with this stuff, he obviously loved her. And after Anthony, she definitely needed to feel loved."


"I can see that. I'll humor you for a little while, but don't think I'll do this forever."


"That's fair. It would make me feel better."


"Okay...Miss Anderton. I'll do it."


***


"Elle, I'm so excited for you!"


"You are?"


"Absolutely! This is going to be really good for your relationship."


"I hope you're right, Leah. But some of this stuff in your journals...I just don't know about it. I don't think I could go through with it."


"You'd be surprised what you can do in the heat of the moment. I have a feeling you're going to get a lot out of it."


"How so?"


"Well, first off it's going to bring you two closer together. Plus, it's going to help you exorcise the demons you have lurking around."


"Really?"


"Absolutely! When I was able to experience the unconditional love I needed, I was able to get passed the ghosts of our family dysfunction. Now I don't worry about that stuff anymore."


"But you still work for the company."


"I work there; I don't live it. Not like your brother."


I rolled my eyes. "Oh God, don't get me started on Lloyd."


"I know. I mean, I love him—he's my cousin and all—but honestly he can be such a douchebag when he puts his mind to it. You're lucky you didn't cave in to the pressure to work there."


"Yeah, other than ducking slings and arrows from my parents' eyes every time they look at me, everything's fine."


"Still, you're making a life for yourself on your own terms. I mean, I've done the same thing for the most part—but I have to admit, getting a big, fat juicy paycheck every week is pretty good too. Sure, I could live off the trust, but what's the fun in that? What am I going to do? Sit around at the club all day with my mother? I got the kind of job I wanted, mostly on my own terms. At least I made it clear I won't get involved in the politics of the company. I don't give a shit about that stuff."


"That's probably the best way to handle it. Let the boys duke it out for control. Of course, it's not like our dads are going to retire anytime soon anyway. If Lloyd thinks he's going to take over, he'll have to kill a couple people first."


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