Love Meets You part 2

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15.

* Mason *

“How do you know Clover doesn’t want to see you?”

Mason frowned at Aurora from across the table in the hospital cafeteria, “It’s been four days. Has she even asked for me after you told her I’m here?”

She glanced away from his penetrating stare, confirming his girlfriend’s brush-off. “Well, no, but she’s having a rough time since that asshole Agent Mercer got her so freaked out they had to tranquilize her ass.” Aurora had looked shaken when she found him that day, “She was saying all sorts of nasty stuff to the staff. I’ve never seen her like that before.”

Mason twisted a plastic spork someone left behind until it snapped in his hand, “Bentley fucked with her mind. It will not stop because she’s free of his influence. They might do a psych hold if she isn’t better by Friday.”

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” Aurora covered her tired eyes. He saw how much the woman loved her friend by the way she seemed as heartbroken as he was by what happened to Clover.

He could’ve just visited Clover. No one was stopping him, but he didn’t know what he would do if she threw him out. He cursed the fact he foolishly thought Bentley would come back into his life without setting it on fire. If she hadn’t worked for Mason, none of this would have taken place, but he selfishly refused to accept rejection. They basked in a minute’s worth of happiness before Bentley kidnapped her, but after his conversations with Dash, knew patience was the key to re-establishing their relationship.

“Don’t,” Aurora was now giving him a perceptive gaze, “It’s not your fault Bentley did this to her. I don’t care she met him through you and she doesn’t either. That’s not how she’s wired. Whatever he did, you had no way of knowing.”

Didn’t he? He weakly nodded, hoping she dropped the subject. Dash had given him sage advice about how fucked up Clover would be, only he wanted to hold her until she felt safe again. His absence from the office did nothing to bring them closer.

“Do you want to visit her Mason?”

“Yes,” he didn’t hesitate, “But I won’t. Not until she calls for me first. Is there anything you need? I already handled Clover’s apartment and billing situation.”

She raised a brow, “Oh? Okay, well, I offered to let her stay with me, but she hasn’t given me an answer. She shouldn’t be alone, right?”

He tamped down rising frustration. “True. I can’t delay work any longer. My business partner’s not equipped to handle some stuff, plus we’re in the middle of…” he trailed off, knowing it didn’t matter, “If she asks for me, I’m a phone call away.”

She sighed at his response, “Are you sure? Maybe if she knows she has more support, it’ll help?”

He stood abruptly, “You should go check on her. Contact me if either of you needs anything, yeah?”

After tossing the uneaten sandwich Aurora had been kind enough to buy him for lunch, he jumped into his car. He couldn’t focus on SENSES, troubled by Clover’s recovery. His head was a wreck. He went home, showered, then laid down to get some rest before catching up on work. Peter was sympathetic to his predicament, but their multi-million dollar project demanded his full attention.

Dash reported the day before that Bentley kept Clover in a dog cage. A Goddamn fucking cage, as if she were an animal. There was a stack of crime scene photos, but he hadn’t the courage to go through them. He was a coward. For Clover, he thought there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her, but he failed her over and over.

He would pay her bills, even subsidize Aurora if it meant Clover was secure. His tired eyes stared at the ceiling, wishing he knew where Bentley had crawled off to. The Feds had yet to catch a single one of those sick son-of-bitches.

Giving up on sleep, he padded into his home office, switching on the coffeemaker in the built-in bar. He kept little booze, but coffee was life. He smiled to himself, recalling how Clover always seemed to read his mind when he needed an espresso fix.

Sitting heavily behind his desk, he swiveled to face the window, noting the rosy sunset. Would Clover ever see the gorgeous view from his place? Why had he waited to bring her home? With a heavy heart, he turned back around, spending the next few hours mindlessly answering emails, and informed the new secretary he planned to return.

The following morning at the office felt like a farce. The women whispered in packs, while Diane gave him odd looks when she didn’t think he noticed. He became irritated and kept checking his phone, but no one sent updates about Clover.

Peter walked in his office around four, closing the door, “Hey Mason, glad to see your back. You are back, right?”

He curtly nodded, focusing on the forms in his hands, “Have a seat and let’s set up the last few investor meetings. Where’s Mila?”

“I wanted to check if you were doing okay before I called her in,” he cleared his throat, “How is Clover?”

Mason gritted his teeth, “Still in recovery. Call Mila, let’s hammer this out.”

Peter clicked his fingers, making him look up, “Dammit Mason, you don’t have to pretend with me. What Bentley has done is so completely fucked it’s not even fair to say he’s human. After we launch SENSES, you can take all the time you need with Clover.”

“Unnecessary,” he snapped, annoyed he couldn’t confide in his friend, “Let’s get on with it, yeah?”

Peter sighed, pushed up his glasses, then texted Mila to join them. It was late at night when he left the building. He sat behind the wheel of his car, undecided if he should head to the hospital.

He drove home, hoping Clover reached out soon.


* Clover *

No fucking way in hell were they sticking her in the same psych ward Reese populated.

Dr. Peel and Agent Rhee threatened a psychiatric evaluation after her freak out, and she became a model patient overnight. Sure, she wanted a jab at vengeance towards the little bitch who stabbed her, but she wasn’t crazy, just pissed off. Clover refused to elaborate on why she had a meltdown, and Rhee chirped ongoing therapy would do her good. She played along, seething over the fact the agents didn’t really care about her well-being. Catching bad guys, their goal, and she a means to an end.

“Thank fuck you’re getting out of here,” Aurora grinned at her, “I set up my spare room last night. It’s my office, but I moved my shit around so I can work in my bedroom.”

“You rock, but what about my apartment?” Clover scratched at the thin bandage on her chest as the forming scab poked against it, “They’re probably selling off my stuff as we speak.”

“Oh… um, it’s all taken care of,” Aurora picked up the tote bag and filled it with random hospital paraphernalia, “How about we pick up pizza for your first night out?”

She rolled her eyes at her friend’s cute attempt at misdirection, “You act as if I can’t read you like a magazine, bitch. Mason’s paying my bills, isn’t he?”

Aurora tossed back her dark hair, “Yeah, okay, he is, but let him. The guy is a complete wreck, Clover.”

She pulled on her socks, “Such a wreck he won’t visit?”

“Wrong!” Aurora sat next to her, “He wouldn’t want me telling you this, but he blames himself. He said he wanted you to ask to see him. The man cares about you girl but thinks you hate him. Hell, do you?”

Clover hadn’t a chance to consider much of anything because the FBI had been on her ass for the last week. At some point, she needed to confront Mason. Everything was just too raw right now. No, it was better if she kept her distance. She couldn’t take the pity she knew would be in those warm honey eyes.

Tears came unbidden and Aurora held her as she was prone to do these days, “No, but he’ll resent me after he hears what I did with Bentley! Do… do you think he’ll wait?”

“Time will tell,” she scoffed, “You’re a beautiful force of nature and he’d be stupid to throw you away. Now come on, finish dressing. They’ll be bringing those release papers soon. Are you ready to eat greasy fast food again?”

Clover smiled in agreement, grateful to have Aurora in her corner.


* * * * * *

“Oh yes, honey darling, I love sitting on your face… Mhmm… Do I taste good? Shit! Soon, I’ll be twerking on that enormous cock you have…. Of course, I want it in my ass! Make my hole gap, big boy!”

Clover stifled a laugh with her palm as she moved past Aurora’s shut bedroom door where she worked. The walls were thin and she couldn’t believe the stuff she’d overheard over the last two weeks coming from her friend’s mouth. Now she knew without a doubt she could never do her job.

Picking up her purse with new everything inside, she dashed outside to Aurora’s car. The undercover officer nodded to her from the nondescript sedan parked across the street. When she’d found out they’d assigned her a guard, a weight lift off her shoulders. Grey assured her they wouldn’t interfere with her daily routine and to not contact them directly unless under duress. They were there to protect her and to catch Bentley or any others who might come after her.

She had been seeing a nice therapist named Angela Stone three times a week who was older with a sense of humor. Clover immediately took to her. Today she was determined to discuss issues she’d avoided. Angela had the patients of a saint but asked for a list of her emotions towards Bentley. The assignment caused terrible dreams, but she persevered.

“Good afternoon Clover,” Angela didn’t have a secretary since she practiced out of her home. She specialized in victims of human trafficking and Clover had at first felt she did not belong in that category, but Angela explained what she’d seen and had done to her made her no less of a victim than the other men and women she helped. “Tea today or soda?”

Clover sat on the plush cream-colored sofa in Angela’s bright and airy sunroom, “You already have tea out. Never drank it much before coming here.”

She chuckled, waving for her to choose a flavor, “How’s your week going?”

Clover shuffled the packets, “Hard. Aurora thought someone was killing me in my sleep.”

“Nightmares? Still refusing medication?”

She picked a honey vanilla tea bag and poured hot water from the kettle into a delicate china cup, “I don’t need them. I keep telling myself I was only with him for a few weeks, hell, I was alone most of the time.”

“Clover, what you went through was traumatic and coping with the emotional aftermath an essential part of recovery.”

“I get it. I wrote in my diary yesterday, but tore the page up.”

“Did you feel better afterward?” Clover shrugged in response, stirring in sugar, “Okay… where should we start?”

Lifting her eyes, she saw the woman primly seated across from her, fingers laced over her crossed knee. She had a gray bob and dressed like a hip grandmother in a flared skirt and blouse. Angela’s face was compassionate and open. She scribbled nothing down during their sessions, giving her full attention always.

“He treated me as if I were a long-lost lover,” her cheeks heated, “He hit me once, but after my stint in the cage, he became overly gentle. He made me feel…” Wanted. Lustful. Adored.

“Take your time,” Angela picked up her teacup and saucer, “Bentley established early on any wrongdoings on your part guaranteed violence towards the other captives. It’s a control tactic. You lashed out anyway, right?”

“Yes,” she swallowed hard, “I ended up in the dog kennel because I refused to listen.”

“Have you come to the realization lashing out and what he considered offensive wouldn’t have mattered? He would have found a reason to put you there. He utilized hypnosis while you were in there. We talked about this.”

“I couldn’t stay impartial,” she angrily stood, pacing the brightly lit space, “I reacted poorly.”

Angela sipped her tea, “You thought if you played along he would treat you better and it worked. I’m sure the girls had the same idea. Getting angry over the fact you protected yourself will only hinder what we’re working towards here.”

“And what is that?” she snapped, “I’m a mess. I can’t sleep without the lights on and jump at nothing. I almost attacked my friend when she forgot to knock on my bedroom door!”

“Did you finish your homework?” Angela ignored her outburst.

“Yup.”

“Can you tell me what Bentley elicited?”

“Not much,” she lied, retaking her seat, “He gave me orgasms. He made me feel scared. Abandoned.”

“By isolating you while making you believe he kept you safe?” Clover nodded, and she continued, “Did he turn predator or companion?”

“Both,” she rubbed her lips together, “He used my body’s reactions against me. Our conversations were personal while he primed my mind to expect his touch. When he said I could go to dinner with the others, that’s when our dynamic changed. I wanted to escape, but also knew they’d notice he enjoyed my company more.”

Angela’s eyes brightened. Clover never admitted she hadn’t cared if the other women became jealous before. She pretended only the men capable of harming her. Colossal mistake, obviously.

“Reese did to me what I had planned for Bentley,” her tone dripped with disdain, “I imagined stabbing him more than once with those stupid steak knives. We made out in front of a man getting a blow job from Delia, and I didn’t fight him. He swore if I accepted his affection, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for me.”

“Those are Bentley’s words, not truths.”

She grimaced, “I know.”

Angela smiled warmly at her, “We haven’t discussed Mason lately. Do you want to?”

She shook her head in shame, “Every day I tell myself to call him, or something. He’s paying my rent, yet I’m unwilling to pick up the damn phone. They told me if it weren’t for him, Bentley would’ve taken me from the hospital.”

“He seems kind.”

“He is. I hate that he foots my bills but…”

“What’s holding you back?” Angela spread her palms, “It’s been several weeks, and you’re ready to return to your apartment. How about starting with a text?”

“Like what, thanks for noticing your psycho friend dumped me at an abandoned building after his equally psychotic pet stabbed me?”

“Oh, are we using sarcasm today?”

She smirked, “Just feeling it out.”

“Well, a simple thank you might suffice,” Angela dryly countered, “Texting is a start, but I maintain you can’t really connect with a person through electronics.”

“Uh, millions of people have met The One on the internet, Angie.”

She waved a dismissive hand, “You said it yourself, it’s not right to let Mason fund your life while giving nothing back.”

She almost responded in annoyance, but Angela deserved an honest reply. “I never asked for handouts. Mason knew Bentley was up to shady shit but didn’t warn me, so this is his penance. Bentley drugged him or he never would’ve touched Reese, but by leaving it up to me to make the first move, it screams guilt. I witnessed two women shipped off to fuck knows where because he didn’t stand up and say, ’hey, Bentley kidnaps customers from Love Meets You and sell them to perverts’.

“You’re insinuating he placed you in danger. Why?”

Clover ran a palm over her face, “I told you, he begged me to stay away from Bentley.”

“Perhaps he was jealous?”

“He had me delete the fucking app! He knew!”

“I think it would bring you a lot of peace and closure if you spoke to Mason.”

“Is that your final answer?” she deadpanned.

Angela sighed and nodded, “It is. I’ll see you in a few days. Try to write in your journal more and at least consider what we’ve discussed.”

“Aargh, why are you so sensible!”

Her lips twitched, “My ex-boyfriends would disagree. Come here, you know the drill.”

Clover stood, and they hugged it out. Her therapist was the best.

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