The Arrangement (An Alternative Love Romance)

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Trouble in the New Year

After Tom and Gail left, Nick and Selene had a few days to themselves before Rachel showed up, The next day, everyone was there and they had another round of gifts being exchanged. They had a nice dinner, then they gathered in the living room to visit with each other. They celebrated at midnight, then everyone began packing so they could leave the next day.

It was almost sundown when Ahmed appeared for the first time. He and Nick went off to another room to talk, drawing Selene’s curiosity. She ended up heading to the office door, glancing in. When she looked, Ahmed was speaking.

“...package showed up. They saw a man bring it to your building, but he was just a courier, apparently. It’s been left unopened, but the agent said the writing was the same as the photo of the other one.”

Nick looked over and spotted Selene. He waved her over and motioned for Ahmed to continue. He draped his arms around Selene as the man continued.

“We also identified one of the people watching your building,” he added, glancing briefly at Selene. “His name is Ernie Baker. Long list of offenses for mostly petty crimes, but he’s linked to some other very shady people.”

“Any luck finding her parents,” Nick asked.

Ahmed glanced at her again before shaking his head. “Nothing yet. If they get within ten miles of either of you, though, and we’ll know it. The FBI supplied us with a few more recent photos from surveillance cameras. They haven’t said where they came from, just that they were about three years old.”

Selene shuddered at the thought of the people who she’d called her parents. “They will wait until they can find out if someone would be willing to sell me out.”

Ahmed eyed her for a moment. “What if that doesn’t work?”

“A snatch and run,” she told him flatly.

Ahmed nodded and turned his dark eyes back to Nick. “It’s only a matter of time at this point. I’ve already laid out a few plans if it is necessary to make a run for it. We have a few safe houses around the state if it gets bad. Though, I am not expecting that to be necessary.”

“Don’t be so sure of that,” Selene warned them both. “I’ve narrowly missed getting caught or killed more than once.”

Ahmed sighed quietly, looking troubled, though he said nothing for a few moments. “My sister was trafficked,” he told Selene. “I managed to save her, but she was never the same afterward. I have tried to protect others from this and have run several rescue missions. I volunteered for this job because of it,” he informed her. “No one should go through that.”

Selene found herself smiling softly at him. “Thank you. For me and the others.”

Ahmed smiled and bowed his head, seeming to be embarrassed by the praise.

The rest of the discussion faded away as she thought about the people who’d tried to destroy her. They’d failed. She squeezed Nick’s hand, feeling an intense appreciation for all that he’d done. Now, he’d even arranged things so that she was financially independent, even from him. While it was difficult to fully wrap her head around, she’d read the papers over carefully. Nearly 800 thousand dollars lay between two separate accounts, and there was an open line of credit that was automatically paid from her account every month. The bank had confirmed everything – she’d even been assigned a personal banker who would work exclusively with her. On top of it all, the accounts all drew interest every month.

When she did the calculations, with her income, she was making enough she could live without touching much of the balance each month. She also could easily buy a place, a car… anything she needed. Nick had set her up for life. It was more than she could have ever imagined. The money was making her think about things she had never considered before. If she didn’t have to run anymore, she could go to school, maybe get a degree. There were new things open to her that were never possible before.

In her wildest dreams, she never could have imagined ever being in this position.

A few days later, Selene and Nick were sitting in their penthouse living room with their lawyers and the two FBI agents. The envelope was on the table. There were more pictures and a CD with video clips of Selene, over the course of years, mostly drugged while various scenes played out. Selene had not looked at the pictures or video, and appreciated the care everyone took to be professional while seeing her in such a vulnerable state.

While they didn’t know exactly where they were, the FBI believed her parents were in the state somewhere. It didn’t terrify Selene as much as it would have any other time. Nick had changed that. Plus, she was never really alone, either. Even with her brief walks to work, there were at least two people from two different agencies watching. It gave her a sense of security she’d never had before, though that didn’t mean she wasn’t attentive. Survival instincts kept her on high alert for any danger. They were closing in, she could feel it.

Nick helped keep her settled, though. He took her shopping to a store that sold a lot of revealing clothes. They spent hours picking out different things and trying them on. After that, they went to a sex store that sold everything from standard dildos to harnesses and latex bodysuits. Nick and she picked up a few things to try out, taking input from the gal that worked the store. One thing Nick selected on his own, and Selene was totally baffled.

“What’s that for?”

“It’s a strap-on designed for men.” He leaned in and whispered. “When you’re ready, it will let me take you in both ways at the same time.”

For a few seconds, a sense of panic overwhelmed her. Flashes flickered through her mind. She felt Nick’s warmth envelop her and heard his voice, reassuring her.

“It’s not something we jump into. We test things out a bit at a time. Remember, nothing happens unless you are ok with it,” he said quietly. “I think you will enjoy it and I would like to try it with you eventually.”

Selene calmed down, remembering she was safe. Nick wouldn’t hurt her. Still, the idea scared her. She wasn’t certain if she could try it or not.

“I don’t know,” she murmured. “It scares me.”

Nick kissed her forehead. “I’m not saying you have to. I just want you to consider it. Part of what a Dom does is push his sub’s limits and helps her explore new things. A little at a time, like we’ve been doing pretty much everything else, ok?”

Selene nodded reluctantly, but she remembered what Gail has said. Tom had done things she wasn’t comfortable with, but it had somehow healed her. He gave her back the power she’d lost. If she allowed it, Nick might be able to do the same for her.

“It scares me, but I trust you,” she decided.

“That’s my girl,” he said warmly. “We’ll take it slow.”

The lingerie area was studiously avoided, Nick even tried to keep the area out of her line of vision. After the last incident, he wanted to avoid another if possible. One day it might be possible for that to not bother her, but one thing at a time. After a lengthy talk with Gail and Tom on Christmas, he now had a bit of a plan. His reading had basically told him the same thing: exposing a person to the thing they feared under controlled conditions was the best way to help overcome that fear. So, that was what he would do.

If she was going to truly be happy, she needed the tools to move forward and become the woman she was capable of. With or without him, he wanted what was best for her. What was best for her was to have the chance to heal. It had never been allowed her, so he was going to make sure she got it. Maybe, he could eventually even get her into therapy so a professional could help her with those things he could not, but he already knew she was not ready for that just yet.

Nick had plans for celebrating Valentine’s. Selene had to work, but he’d planned something special for when she got home. He’d gotten some massage oil and had bath bombs for her to have a luxurious bath that Rachel had suggested. With a little nice wine, some soft music, the plan was all about helping her relax. When they reached their floor and stepped off the elevator, though, those plans all went out the window.

Ahmed, wearing a shoulder holster, stood with his gun pointed at a man who was standing against the wall with his hands up. A police officer was patting the man down. Nick pulled Selene close to him, keeping her away from whoever the stranger was. Before he could block her from view, the man turned his head. As soon as his eyes landed on Selene, a sickening smile twisted his lips.

“Hello, precious. My, how you’ve grown,” he leered. “Is your snatch still sweet?”

Nick looked back to see Selene looking ashen. Her eyes locked on the man as she stood completely still, as if frozen in place. Nick shielded her from the man’s view just before Ahmed dealt him a punch to one of his kidneys.

“Shut the fuck up or I’ll feed your baby rapist dick to you,” he warned.

The officer glanced at Ahmed with a frown, but said nothing, simply forcing the other man’s hands behind his back as he cuffed him. Apparently, a little too tightly, since the man complained. The cop shoved him against the wall.

“You going to let him get away with hitting me,” the man protested.

“I didn’t see anything,” the cop responded. He looked at Nick. “Did you see anything?”

Nick shook his head. “Nope. I saw nothing out of line at all.”

The cop nodded, looking back at the cuffed man. “See? Nothing happened.”

“Little precious Lena – your Daddy is coming,” the man taunted. “He has been missing his little princess. Oh, you’re in for fun soon.”

Nick was ready to beat the man to death, but he’d barely started speaking when Nick covered her ears and began maneuvering her to the penthouse. He needed to get her away from the human filth who had clearly known her from a long time ago. Nothing else needed to be said. Just before they got in the door, the elevator opened and two people wearing FBI jackets came out. Ahmed’s nod told him he would handle that so he could take care of Selene.

Nick helped her out of her jacket and shoes, then took her to her room to help her get changed. The entire time, she moved like a robot, her expression blank and her eyes far away. She responded to nothing he said, but he kept talking. Nick got her pot box and guided her to the living room. He called Tom as soon as he got her sat down and settled in his lap. In spite of his outward demeanor, Nick was terrified. Something was terribly wrong and he didn’t know what to do. He needed help.

Tom was clearly sleeping when he’d called from the groggy sound to his voice. Though, when he heard Nick talking, he woke up quickly.

“Whoa, whoa. Slow down. What happened?”

Nick took a breath and explained that they’d come home to find a trespasser who’d known Selene from childhood and had taunted her about her father coming for her. That she’d gone pale and almost catatonic.

“Fuck. Treat it like subspace. She’s in there somewhere, but I’ll guess she needs to feel safe to come out of it. Do you want us to come,” he offered without a second thought.

Nick looked down at her and shook his head. “No, I think… I hope I can handle this… I hope. There’s… “

“Give it a try. Give us a half hour, then we’ll be there. If nothing else, having more people she feels safer around might give her that added security,” Tom said decisively. “Plus, you’ll have some back-up there. I’ll be armed when I arrive, too.”

“Thanks Tom,” was all Nick could say.

“Just keep talking to her, Nick. She loves you and she trusts you. it’ll be your voice that will most likely draw her back out.”

After they disconnected, Nick cradled her against him more closely. “My sweet Selene, I’m here. The bad guy is gone. He can’t hurt you. No one will get to you – I have you. Just like I promised, baby, I’m here, keeping you safe. I love you, Selene. You are everything to me. Please come back, sweetheart. I need you. Come on, sweetheart. Come back to me.”

When someone hit the doorbell, Nick lay Selene on the couch, then hurried to get the door. Ahmed was there with the agents they’d been working with. He waved them in, glancing out to see the cop and everyone else was gone. Nick shut the door and looked at Ahmed.

“What the hell is going on and how did the fuck get so close to my house,” he demanded angrily, keeping his voice down to not disturb Selene.

“He snuck in through the parking garage,” one of the agents explained. “Followed a car in and came up through the stairwell.”

“How the hell did that happen? Isn’t the staircase secured?”

“It was tampered with,” Ahmed explained. “But I had cameras installed in the stairwells and the hallways, so he was caught before he actually had a chance to try to get into your place.”

Nick shook his head, not believing what he was hearing. “It shouldn’t have been possible for him to get up here.”

“I agree,” Agent Mills stated. “So, we think you need to be relocated to a new location.”

Nick looked between them and shook his head. “Selene is traumatized by seeing that guy. Right now, she needs to feel safe and she needs to be in an environment she feels comfortable. I’m not going to upset her any further by tossing her into some strange environment.”

“This won’t be the only time someone comes at you guys here. They’ll try at her job, too,” Agent Holloway told him.

“What makes you say that,” Nick asked, growing impatient to get back to Selene.

“The kiddy raper said as much,” Ahmed interjected. “He said there was some kind of reward to whoever brings her to them,” he stated, looking at the agent in annoyance.

Nick groaned and rubbed a hand over his face. “Ahmed, I want someone at and another watching the door at all hours. Selene is never to be out in public without at least 1 man on her and 2 watching. If at all possible, I won’t have her out without me. They aren’t getting her.”

Ahmed nodded. “I would like to set up inside the penthouse. I just need somewhere out of the way to set up my monitors to track the cameras I set up. It will put me inside if anyone manages to get that far again.”

“Use the library. There are a couple small bedrooms back there, too.”

Nick turned to the agents. “It would be easier to secure this place than relocate. I can’t just put our lives on pause. She needs the routine and I can’t do everything from home.”

The two men shared a look as if in silent communication with each other.

“All right,” Agent Mills responded. “But, we’d like to put a tracking device on her. Just in case the worst happens.”

Nick nodded slowly. “That sounds reasonable.”

“I’ll get a tech guy to come set something up tomorrow afternoon before she goes to work,” Holloway answered. “Take care of her, would you,” he added. “We will go interview this guy and see what we can find out. We’ll update you in the afternoon.”

“Thank you,” Nick answered, shaking their hands before they left.

Nick looked at Ahmed. “Tom and Gail are coming. Wait until they get here so I can take care of Selene?”

“Of course,” Ahmed answered, motioning down the hallway.

Nick took his queue and hurried back to her. When she wasn’t where he left her, Nick almost panicked. He searched the room quickly before he was going to check their rooms. He didn’t need to, though. Selene was curled up on her side, knees to her chest, in the corner of the room behind a chair. Nick almost dropped to his knees in relief. There was a wild, panicky look on her face, so he knew he had to be careful.

“Sweetheart, hey,” he whispered as he approached her slowly. “I’m sorry I left you alone for so long. I was talking to the police and Ahmed. They took the man away – he’s gone. You’re safe, sweetheart.”

She trembled, but the only other movement was her eyes following him as he neared.

“It’s me, baby. It’s Nick. I won’t hurt you. Do you remember? I love you, sweetheart. I promised to protect you and I’m not stopping. I’m not leaving you to fight this alone. You’re safe here. Remember?”

He continued talking softly, edging closer to her until he was near enough to touch her. He began to stroke her hair gently. “Oh, honey. I’m so sorry you had to see him. I’m so sorry. He’s gone now, and you’re safe. You’re safe, baby. I’m here. I’ve got you.”

Slowly, her trembling eased and she shifted toward him. As she struggled to sit up, Nick reached out and hoisted her onto his lap. He looked into her eyes, seeing she was back from wherever she’d gone to.

“God, honey, I was so scared,” he breathed, holding her close and rocking her gently. He rubbed a hand up and down her back. “I was afraid I’d lost you for a minute. Oh, I am so sorry I left you alone. Are you ok, baby?”

Selene swallowed, nodding once after she scanned the room.

“Good. Tom and Gail should be here any time. Ahmed’s going to set up in the library so there’s someone on this side of the door, plus someone outside. You’re totally protected. None of them can get to you,” he assured her, watching her face for the slight changes in expression. “You are safe, Selene.”

Selene looked up at him, the corners of her mouth turned downward. “They’re gonna send someone else,” she whispered. “It won’t stop. It’ll never stop.”

“Listen to me,” Nick stated sternly, “they will be stopped. If the police can’t do it, we will deal with it another way,” Nick stated with an edge to his voice. “I won’t allow this to go on indefinitely. It will be stopped, one way or another.”

The hard line of his jaw and the clenching of his teeth informed Selene of his raw anger. His arms around her tightened as if he could shield her just by keeping her near. She curled her head under his chin.

“Ok,” she answered softly, sniffling.

“You are mine, sweetheart. Not a possession or an object. You are my heart. You are the sun in the morning and the air I breath. I would fight to the death if I had to in order to keep you safe,” he murmured in her hair.

“I love you, Nick,” she answered in a small, vulnerable voice.

“I love you, too, baby. More than anything,” he admitted, closing his eyes as he just held her, needing the comfort of her in his arms as much as she needed his strength.

Tom and Gail arrived shortly afterward. With Ahmed, they all discussed how to keep Selene safe and prevent her from being alone. The biggest concern was that they would try to catch her off guard a her size, she wouldn’t have much chance to fight an attacker off. She knew nothing about self-defense, and it wasn’t something you could teach someone in a few days. So, they planned out a schedule where one or more of them would be with her at all times, no matter where she went. They managed to set it up where either Tom or Nick would be with her, with Ahmed as back-up. The biggest reason for that was that Selene was still uncertain around Ahmed, since they’d not had time to get acquainted.

To his credit, Ahmed seemed completely accepting of this and appeared to even appreciate their efforts. He admitted that he recalled how terrified his sister was of men for years afterward, and if keeping her comfortable meant there were others around, he was all for it. As he said, keeping her feeling safe was almost as important as actually keeping her safe. In his words, this experience was traumatic enough that they didn’t need to add any more stress on her. Her mental well-being was a priority in all of this.

The best part was that they had a full day to get everything in order. Since Selene had worked Valentine’s, Paul had given her the next day off so that she and Nick could do their own thing. They were going to use the time to their advantage.

The final part was getting in touch with the security company and having the stairwell entrances re-secured and additional cameras installed. Nick was going to lock the building down as securely as possible. This would include guards now posted at the entrance to the parking garage. No one was sneaking in that way again.

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