The Arrangement (An Alternative Love Romance)

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Better Days

The trip to the facility was a difficult, yet heartening experience. Seeing the many faces of the abuse victims was hard. Nick’s heart broke at some of what he saw, for in spite of the healing touch of the various workers, they had all been thoroughly traumatized. You could see it in some of their eyes. Some of them even bore brands that marked them as slaves. In spite of their hardships, however, the resilience they showed was inspiring. With daily therapy, group counseling, and scheduled activities, many of the children were again being children.

Selene had a harder time with it. While she loved what they were doing and the hope they were providing, Nick knew seeing so many children who’d been hurt like she had was devastating. As if they somehow knew, a few of the children gave her hugs and words of encouragement. In spite of their situation, they could feel the pain she felt, even if that pain was more for them than herself. She spent over three hours in the center of a circle of the children, talking about whatever they wanted her to.

Nick stood back and talked with the project leader. He learned that, from her experience, this type of thing could be incredibly healing on both sides. They had proof that what they’d dealt with had been worth it, and they could see that they could have a good life of their own. They could find a place where they were wanted and loved and build a future. It was hope, something that they desperately needed. Being rescued was only the first step in a long road.

Before they left, Nick had a check cut to the organization, donating $5 million to help fund their efforts. They also arranged for the kids to receive a truckload of stuffed animals, toys, books, and clothing. While they didn’t stick around to see how that went, the phone call that was received told them everything they needed to know. The children calling thank you and the laughter would stay with them forever.

Back at home, life slowly returned to normal. They still had security and Selene did not go anywhere without an escort, but it was as normal as they could get. Three days before Valentine’s Day, the news about the international sex ring bust hit the papers. The reporters who’d received the packages months earlier had released the story first when they were given the advanced press release, then a formal press conference was held two days later.

Some very lucky children are celebrating something extra special this Valentine’s Day. After being trafficked in an international child sex ring for varying years, some 200 children have been rescued in recent, coordinated raids on homes and business on nearly every continent. The FBI and lead Federal Prosecutor Robin Lange help a press conference this morning…

Fortunately, Selene’s name remained out of it, and they were getting no unusual attention. She did find herself being photographed at times when she was out and about or with Nick, but it mostly seemed to be related to pieces speculating about their upcoming wedding. The preparations for that consumed a significant amount of her day-to-day. While the wedding ceremony itself was not hard to plan, it was all the other things that she hadn’t thought about that consumed most of her time.

So many details – fonts, textures, colors, shades, glass styles, plates, silverware, tablecloths, patterns, napkins, napkin rings – and the list went on. Fortunately, she had the help of a number of experienced hands to make it less stressful. When she had to, she would stop by Nick’s office to get his opinions on things. He had told her to feel free to choose what she wanted, but when she couldn’t decide, Nick would sit down with her and give her his input. If he couldn’t decide, Keesha was their back-up, and happy to do it.

Nick took her to the Bahamas for her birthday, where they spent a weekend splashing in the ocean and running across the sand like a couple of teenage lovers. Nick talked her into her first-ever bikini, showing her off around the island to prove to her that she was physically beautiful – and not just to him. It was fun, romantic, and provided them a much-needed break from everything. The sunshine and warm weather certainly didn’t hurt either of them, either.

They came back refreshed and revitalized. It allowed them to tackle everything with renewed vigor, an unstoppable force when they worked as a team. There were legal and financial issues to deal with before the wedding, business trips, gift shopping, and Selene spent a couple days a week working for a few hours with a friend of Mrs. Robinson, Gladys, who ran a charity that focused on domestic violence. Both of them had long days, and even the weekends were largely filled with things they had to do together.

This left them with less time for sexual activities, but they never allowed a lack of intimacy to exist. They always ate dinner together, either at home or in the apartment, and they always spent at least an hour’s time with Selene in his lap, talking about whatever was on their minds. They tried to never sleep apart, even on the few occasions when they got into a disagreement. Unlike many couples, however, they didn’t argue. They talked things out until they’d either come to a resolution or agreed they couldn’t see eye-to-eye on whatever subject it was. Part of their bond created a level of respect for each other that didn’t allow for hostile exchanges.

While Selene was increasingly independent, she was still very cautious. While there was no indication anything was wrong, she was still always looking over her shoulder. While Ahmed was still down, her new primary bodyguard was named Jack, who was a former Marine and a combat veteran. He was a bit rough around the edges, but he took his job seriously. He’d been there that night, and he’d grown to respect the couple. He was also full of stories and sarcasm that helped ease her tension. Still, there was a part of her who never quite felt safe out in public. She was exposed, and she’d had to start taking anxiety medication to help her deal.

Therapy was continuing, though at times Selene found it incredibly hard. Nick came to join her in a few appointments when he was needed, but he usually simply waited outside; offering support without interference. Still, she was making progress.

On top of this, Ahmed’s sister, Safiya, had been relocated to a nice facility in the city where she was re-evaluated and had adjustments made to her medication and therapy instructions. She was also improving and seemed much happier in her new environment. Twice, she’d gotten a day pass where she went out with Ahmed or Ahmed and Selene, which also seemed to help lift her spirits. The hope was to eventually move her into the guest house where Ahmed was now living. Safiya was planning to visit the house on her next free day – after the wedding.

The big day seemed to rush toward them, and there was still an endless stream of things to get done.

The bridesmaids dresses started off with a basic style, then would be modified. Each woman chose her color – Gail wearing blue, Angie wearing green, and Rachael had opted for gold. Each dress would have the other two colors worked into the modifications. They were going with woodland ‘goddesses’ sort of look, so all would wear circlets, and foot jewelry instead of shoes. Each would be a little different, with Selene’s being a bit grander, of course.

For her dress, she’d been presented with a design for an alabaster sheath dress with a beaded, sheer overlay. It was simple, yet regal. It had been designed with a side split that reached mid-thigh, and would allow more movement to the hem as she walked up the grassy isle. She would wear a sheer piece of material that draped down and behind her with small strings to attach it to her wrists, almost creating the illusion of wings. It, too, was beaded, in a design matching that on the dress. It was stunning.

The groomsmen were doing something similar, though it would be their vest colors that would vary. They were going to be dressed in high-collar, open-necked, with ruffled cuffs on the long sleeves. Then there were beaded vests and what Selene called pirate pants with knee high boots. Nick offered to have them all wear swords to complete the whole fantasy look, but Selene laughed him off.

They had to do the tastings, which Nick and Selene brought Gail, Tom, and Rachael along for. They had to choose between multiple cake flavors, as well as finalizing the design, and the dinner menu. They had to consider allergies as well, so there were alternatives, including a vegetarian protein option. There were wine pairings, the alcohol lists for the bar, and non-alcoholic options for those who could not or did not want to drink.

The hardest part for Selene were the guest gifts. Shopping for gifts for their friends who were part of the wedding party was relatively easy, since she knew everyone’s tastes. The guest list topped out at just over 500 people, most of whom RSVPed back with a plus one, making the total nearly a thousand people. With it being hyped in the papers and social circles as the wedding of the year, they also had to include some members of the press, adding another 20 people to their total.

All staff were being thoroughly screened ahead of time – requiring background checks before they were approved to work the event. While things were quiet, they knew a single mistake could turn things sideways. The guest list was checked, too, and anyone who was suspicious was flagged, but nothing serious showed up. The reporters were screened, and two cameramen were excluded from the list, requiring them to be replaced.

By the time they were a week away from the wedding, it seemed everything was essentially dealt with. Since neither had living family, the rehearsal was a fairly small affair, consisting of only a dozen people. They opted to eat out afterward, going to one of the nicest restaurants in the city. That was when Selene was presented with the final part of her wedding outfit.

Something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue.

For the old item, Mrs. Robinson gifted her an antique silver bouquet holder that had been in her family for generations. She told Selene she considered her like a daughter, and wanted her to have it to pass on to her own daughter or daughter-in-law one day. For the something new, Rachael presented her with a pair of diamond earrings that looked like leaves, pierced in the bottom and wrapping up around the side of her ear, just past halfway to the top of her ear. For her something borrowed, Angie presented her with a gorgeous bracelet that was big enough for Selene to put it halfway up her forearm. For the something blue, Nick presented her a delicate pearl and sapphire necklace that was part of his mother’s collection. The center sapphire was over four carats, the teardrop shaped stone resting just below her collarbones.

Now, they were ready. Everything was set.

The following night they held the bachelor and bachelorette parties, holding them in side-by-side VIP rooms at a popular nightclub. While there were no lap dances, there were strippers that danced and hung out with both sides of the party. In spite of the efforts of their friends, the couple met and talked several times through the night, unable to stay away from each other for the whole of the four hours the party lasted.

The morning of the wedding, the two were pulled apart first thing and taken to their designated areas to get ready. It was 7 hours of hell for Selene, largely because she wasn’t crazy about all the pampering and fussing over her. Someone did skin treatments while someone else did her nails. Then there was nearly 2 hours for the elaborate hairdo, and another half hour for make-up, then helping her get dresses and add the jewelry. Then there were final touches and the wait for the limos. The gals all wore slippers to the limo that would be removed at the destination. They would then go to the hall for the reception. They’d change there, then join the party.

Selene opted for a dress almost identical to the wedding dress, just without all the beading and a slightly different lace. Since they were auctioning the wedding dress off to raise money to the organization helping trafficked children, she didn’t want to risk getting anything on it to avoid any stains. After all, that was part of what of why the media was being included and part of what the press for the last few months had been about.

The hardest decision was the isle walk. They decided the men would meet them just past where the chairs ended, taking each of the ladies to their spot next to the grapevine arch where the vows would be exchanged. Selene would walk up alone, meeting Nick as the others had, where he would walk with her to the altar. It was a bit of a twist, but they felt that it was more significant they walked together to show their unity in all things.

Since both Gail and Angie’s husbands were groomsmen, they had to find a third to even the pairs. Nick chose Ahmed, for he had become almost like family over the last year and some of their lives. Mrs. Robinson was standing in as the mother of the bride, and Dottie stood in for Nick’s. She’d been almost like an Aunt as the years had passed, and both of them thought it was appropriate. Like Ahmed, she was like family: employee or not.

When it came time, Selene was struggling to not just run down the isle and jump into Nick’s arms. With all the colorful flowers lining the aisle, the canopy of leaves above with the sunlight filtering through, and the lush grass under her feet, it was almost as fantastical as the vision had been. With all eyes and cameras on her, Selene glided toward him with graceful steps. The breeze increased the movement of her gown as she moved and brushed across her skin. But even with so many people there, her eyes were for Nick. She almost laughed when she saw the circlet he wore, making him look like a king of some sort. Smiling like crazy, she took his hand and let him guide her to the judge who had agreed to officiate their ceremony, who was dressed in a robe that fit within the wedding colors Mrs. Robinson had arranged for him to wear.

He joked it was the nicest robe he’d ever worn, causing everyone within earshot to laugh.

Then, the ceremony began. For the couple, it alternately seemed to take forever and speed by. Before they knew it, they were locked in a tender, passionate kiss. They hardly registered the cheers and applause until Paul cleared his throat. They turned and gave everyone a wave before they then walked back down the aisle together to a waiting limo.

Finally alone, Nick marveled at his bride.

“You look amazing. I think I forgot how to breathe there for a little while when I finally saw you.” He picked up her hand to see the two rings that now adorned her finger. “And now you are my wife. It’s hard to believe.”

Selene smiled and squeezed his hand. “Was it everything you hoped?”

“I would have married you in my boxer if it would have made you happy,” he admitted. “Was it everything you had hoped?”

“I wasn’t sure about all of it, but it was really amazing,” she told him, still smiling. “It was really like a fantasy. I liked the touch of the crown,” she teased, motioning to his head. “I almost started laughing.”

Nick grinned. “Rachael suggested it. I thought it was silly at first, but when she explained what you guys were wearing, I gave in.”

“It was a great touch.”

“I’m glad you liked it.”

“We’re married,” Selene said as if in wonder. “Husband and wife. I never imagined I would ever be able to have that.”

“And how do you feel about that?”

“I feel amazing,” she told him before kissing his cheek. “You’ve made every dream I never dared to dream come true. One of these days, we’ll have kids too, and make our own family. It’s just… surreal.”

“I told you, Selene. I’ll never let you go. I will always want you, and I will always want you to be happy.” He paused a moment. “Mrs. Selene Saber. That does sound good.”

“Wow, that’s right! I’ll have to learn to sign my name different now.”

“Damn straight.”

When Selene leaned into him, Nick raised his arm so she could nestle herself into his side. Smiling contentedly, she closed her eyes and tested out the name a few times.

“I like it,” she decided. “Much better than my old one.”

The reception was a busy, noisy affair with lots of conversation, food, drink, and dancing. There was the bouquet toss, then a garter toss, followed by cake cutting and more gifts. Hundreds made it a point to congratulate them or wish them well. There were also lots of compliments, and questions about where this or that had come from. While it was fun, it was also tiring. After having been up since 5 AM, by 10 PM, Selene was ready to go. So, the couple made their grand exit to retire to a hotel room for the night.

They took a brief honeymoon to Romania, visiting some of the old castles and churches. Since it wasn’t a tourist hotspot, there weren’t all the extra crowds to deal with. Selene decided they were really missing out, for the country was stunning with both stunning landscapes and a combination of building styles that showed the many influences over the region during the centuries. She hated to leave, but Nick had to get back to work and she had responsibilities, too. Before they left, however, Nick contacted a few people who could connect them to the best person to help them find a nice place there. He said it would be his wedding gift to her. Selene was both surprised, excited, and amazed at how wonderful Nick kept proving himself to be.

In early August, Selene was told her testimony would not likely be needed due to the sheer volume of evidence that had been collected. They had managed to get charges on the vast majority of the people arrested, and her parents had numerous charges related to the girl they’d had when they were arrested. It was recommended she did not appear at any of the trials just in case she was needed for one reason or another.

The cabin had been repaired and sold. Instead, they chose a lovely Victorian in south eastern New Hampshire with a large property. Selene made regular trips to check on the restoration and renovation work being done, as well s to handle the decorating and furnishings. When she was back home, her time was largely spent working with one charity or another.

While she was away, they would video chat every night. Some of those night, Nick instructed her how he wanted her to touch herself while he watched everything. He wanted a show and to remind her who she belonged to, leaving her panting and satisfied from doing everything he wished to please him. He sometimes required her to do something during the day, including leaving a toy inside that he could control through his phone. Throughout the day, it would go off and it was all she could do at times not to show to everyone around her what was going on. Sometimes he would push her so close to the edge, then make her stop, not allowing her to orgasm, sometimes for days. Then, nearly the moment she was home, he would take her and give her the orgasm she’d been needing, nearly causing her at times to black out from it’s intensity.

Nick, meanwhile, was working to expand his business into other countries and broadening his interests. It required some trips both around the country and overseas, most of which Selene accompanied him for. It allowed her to see things she wouldn’t have, otherwise, giving her broader view of the world around them. Before they knew it, the year passed and the holidays came around.

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