The Arrangement (An Alternative Love Romance)

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Bonding Time

Selene didn’t own much. A dufflebag and a backpack held everything she possessed. The vast majority was clothing, though she had an extra pair of shoes. The backpack contained her personal papers and records, along with a few cards from people she’d known along the way. Her toiletries were minimal, including only the very basics and a single bottle of perfume someone had given her a few years ago. Since she only wore a little for work, it had lasted a fair while, though she had been using the oil they’d bought from the market of late.

Nick had carefully guarded his expression when she packed up her things. He was dismayed at just how meager they were. Not to mention that much of it was far more well-worn than he’d realized before. Most of the jeans had holes in the knees and many shirts were thin enough you could almost call them threadbare. He didn’t pay any attention to her undergarments, though he had no doubt they could all use replacement as well.

“Do you want me to come with you to go shopping with Rachel,” he asked once they’d returned to the penthouse. “You may need someone to help carry things,” he teased as he watched her put her few things away.

“Oh, I probably won’t get much,” she answered.

Nick smirked. “Oh, yes you will. You need everything and Rachel will want to hit a lot of shops,” he told her. “Besides, I expect there to be a few grand spent, minimum.”

Selene looked at him with a startled expression. She opened her mouth to say something, but it seemed that it didn’t work at first. “A few thousand,” she finally exclaimed. “I can’t spend that kind of money!”

Nick raised a brow. “I’m paying for it. You have a minimum I expect you to buy, but no limit. These stores charge more for things, so it won’t be as hard as you think. And no looking at price… you know what,” he asked rhetorically, “I’m coming.”

Selene narrowed her eyes at him. “Why?”

“Because you’ll be watching the prices. I’ve already gathered you’re pretty frugal, but you don’t need to be with my card.”

Selene sighed and rolled her eyes. “I just don’t need a lot.”

“Well, things are different now. You need a fair bit of things to be convincing as my girlfriend, remember,” he reminded her. “You’ve always had to struggle. Let me provide you with everything. It will allow you to save up all the income you’ll be getting so you have yourself a nest egg for the future.”

A resigned sigh escaped her and she walked over to sit next to him on the bed. “It’s hard to even think about depending on anyone,” she admitted, staring at her are feet as she stretched out her toes, then curled them. “It’s mot safe.”

“I know it’s hard. You trust me, don’t you?”

She chewed on the corner of her bottom lip a moment before she nodded. “To a degree.”

As much as those words stung, he understood that these things took time. He’d been warned by others and he’d made his own observations over the last few months. While he’d not had experience with anyone who’d been traumatized, Nick was determined to learn everything he would need to know to have the tools to help her the right way. All that pain was still right there, under the surface. It was time she had the chance to heal.

A call to his previous mentor was in order, he decided. In the world of BDSM, many have suffered abuses, including at the hands of those posing as Dominants who were only interested in their own pleasure. That was against everything BDSM was supposed to be. The man was likely to have experience with survivors, or know someone who does. The same principles that would be used with a submissive who was in the lifestyle would apply to Selene.

“Trust me enough that I consider this as part of my end of our contract, ok,” he asked gently. “I really want to do this for you.”

Selene glanced back up at him and nodded. “Ok. Thank you.”

Nick wrapped an arm around her with a smile, pulling her closer so he could kiss the top of her head. “No, thank you. My life has been better since I’ve had you in it. I’m learning how to enjoy the little things and I don’t feel as stressed.”

“That’s good,” she replied with a smile. “I’m glad I’ve been helping you. Being too stressed isn’t good for you.”

He chuckled and squeezed her again. “So, we’re all good?”

Selene nodded and leaned into him. “Yep. I hope your friend Rachel knows the right kind of stuff to wear. I’ve only ever had jeans, t-shirts, sweats, and those legging things I have.”

“Trust me, the woman knows her clothes. And her shoes… and all the other whatnots you girls need,” he confirmed. “You’ll probably get enough to make a dent on the space in your wardrobe,” he teased, glancing toward the open doors.

“Ugh,” she groaned, flopping her head back over his arm. “That’s a lot.”

“Well, we will have the entire day.”

Selene pulled away to twist in place to face him fully. “A whole day shopping? Are you kidding me? Why the hell does anyone need an entire day?”

Nick cracked up at the incredulous expression and tone in her voice, making it higher pitched than normal. “Sweetheart, I think you underestimate how women who are well-off can shop. Rachel could spend an entire month shopping. She probably already has. Don’t worry… I’ll make it up to you.”

“You’d better,” she grumbled, flopping back.

Nick looked down at her and felt the desire beginning to grow. The memory of her beneath him flashed in his mind and he closed his eyes a moment. It took him a minute to regain his composure, and when he looked back at her, she was watching him with a curious expression.

“What was with the face?”

“Sorry. I just remembered this morning,” he admitted with a sly grin.

Her cheeks became more like the color of mahogany instead of the usual cinnamon tone and he knew he’d gotten her. Her eyes shifted away.

“Having you under me like that, those sounds you make… I have to admit I have rarely been so turned on,” he told her, the tone of his voice lowering. “I see you laying down like that and I just want to…. do so many things to you.”

Selene propped up on her elbows. “Better?”

“A little,” he acknowledged. “Can I ask you how you feel about what happened this morning? I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, so I don’t want to do anything you aren’t ok with. If you aren’t ok with it, I need to know and I won’t do that again.”

She couldn’t quite meet his eyes, but she did look in his direction. “It… I enjoyed it,” she admitted shyly. “I wasn’t even afraid. Usually it scares me.”

Nick laid down on his side, propped up on his elbow. He reached out and touched her hair, running the thick strands between his fingers.

“If I ever get too forward, you let me know, alright? If I ever make you uncomfortable or anything else, you tell me and I will stop. No matter what is happening, the moment you need me to stop, it stops, understand,” he questioned firmly. “I will always respect your wishes and your boundaries. You set the rules and the limits.”

Selene gave him a soft smile. “I appreciate that. It’s strange, but I don’t feel afraid of you hurting me. I even feel safe around you.”

Nick’s hand paused, then slid to brush his knuckles along the side of her face. “I am really glad to hear that. I want you to know you are safe with me. I’m not the kind of man who hurts women. It’s a coward’s way.”

“Nick, why are you so nice to me?”

Nick sighed and pulled his hand away. A slight frown marred his brow as he thought of a way to explain the reasons he hardly understood himself. “It’s hard to explain. Something about you draws me in and I feel the need to do whatever I can to make you happy. I want to see that smile every day; the one that lights up your entire face and eyes. You are so breathtaking when you smile like that,” he told her, scanning her face for a reaction. “It’s one of the reasons I love that picture they put in the paper. You are just glowing.”

Selene’s smile was shy. That was the second time he’d seen that look, and he knew that was unusual. She always seemed so completely confident. Nick realized suddenly that he’d broken through some of her walls and he was beginning to see the real Selene. Something swelled in his chest and he felt a sense of happiness at the achievement. He’d worked hard to build this slowly and this was the first sign of significant progress.

“I really like you, Nick. I hope you’re always like this,” she said with a slight downturn of her lips. “A lot of people are only nice at first, then they change when they get you into a vulnerable position. I don’t know if this is going to be different, but I… I like this town and my job. I don’t want to have to run anymore.”

“I don’t blame you, honey. You’ve had a life of more pain than I can imagine. It’s time you get to live your life without fear and I will do anything to see that happen,” he explained gently. “You are far too special and too good a person to have to live like that. This is the first step to permanent freedom.”

A smile formed again, her eyes meeting his again. They were bright and jewel-like, showing a percentage of that inner light.

“I appreciate this a lot, Nick. I really mean it. This is the first time I’ve even had the slightest bit of hope,” she confessed softly. “I am still afraid you’ll change your mind and I’ll have to leave, though,” she added in a voice that held an edge of strong emotion. “No one ever sticks to what they say. You’re the first person I don’t think they can buy.”

“Buy?”

Selene looked away and nodded once. “Yeah. A couple times they paid people I thought were friends money to find out where I lived or even to help them kidnap me. Dad says he’s got some possible buyers. White men like little brown girls, he told me. My size makes me look younger, so I’ll still appeal to some of the men who like them underage.”

Nick’s heart stopped. Dear god, what kind of people were these? “Why does your mother go along with this,” he asked, trying to control his rising anger.

Selene shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s not like she wasn’t sort of there. She was married to my father when she was 14. He was in his 30’s.”

“Geezus. Where the hell do these sick people come from,” Nick asked in barely restrained outrage and disgust. “What the fuck is wr…,” he paused when he saw the fearful look on her face, causing him to quickly calm himself back down. “I didn’t mean to yell. It enrages me what they’ve done and gotten away with to this point.”

“I know. It’s ok,” Selene answered quietly. “I get it.”

“How about we go eat? Dottie made us something special, she said.”

“Oh,” Selene perked up. “What is it?”

“Let’s go find out,” he said with a chuckle, rising off the bed.

They ate and enjoyed a delicious dessert, then went into the living room to watch a movie. Selene again asked Nick to sleep with her that night. This time, they had the chance to change into clothes more suitable for sleeping in. While it was difficult for Nick with the thinner material between them, with her in his arms, he fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.

The next few days required some adjustments as they worked to settle into a routine. The evenings were easier, since she worked until late. While the penthouse was only a dozen blocks from the restaurant, Nick still insisted on picking her up at night. The rides were a bit different now, as it seemed Nick was happy to take her straight home. They would eat, hang out for a while, then go to sleep.

On Thursday, Nick woke her up at 8 am. While not thrilled about being up early, she already knew that today was going to be a long day. After taking a long, hot shower, she dressed in her usual attire before she stepped out to join Nick in the kitchen. Before reaching the room, she heard the sound of bubbly laughter and a woman’s cheery voice.

Nick all but met her at the doorway with a fresh cup of hot coffee made just the way she liked it. With a nod of thanks, she sat down at the breakfast table and sipped her drink.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us,” a tall, auburn-haired woman said with a raised brow.

Nick chuckled and shook his head. “Let her finish at least half that cup. She works late, so she’s usually not up this early,” he explained. “Trust me.”

The woman nodded with an aha look. “Poor girl. I’m sorry to get you up so earlier,” she said apologetically to Selene. “It’s just going to be a full day and I wanted to make sure we had time for all of the important things.”

Selene grunted and shrugged.

Nick laughed and looked back at the woman. “I told you, Rachel. Give her a few minutes.”

Rachel laughed softly. “It’s fine. I made up a couple of appointments for a manicure and at a salon to give your hair some TLC. I also have a cosmetic consultant appointment for you to 3. I have the best lady who will know exactly what will look best on you. I have to admit that I’m so jealous of your complexion, though. You could probably get away with a hint of blush and a dash of lip color for your everyday look. You’re just so naturally stunning,” she babbled to Selene. “Honestly, Nick, this girl is going to make the other women jealous as hell. And so tiny! I’ll find a good tailor to handle her clothing alterations. I imagine some things will need to be shortened a bit, especially the gowns. Don’t want her to trip. We can find some heels that will help boost her height. Even a couple inches of platform will make a big impact.”

“Easy, Rachel. You’re going to burn her out before we leave the house,” Nick told her while wearing a grin. “Selene’s not much for shopping, so don’t scare her, either.”

“Well,” Rachel said slowly, “that’s why I only plan on us hitting 7 stores. Casual clothes, dressy casual, dressy, lingerie, shoes, bags, then accessories. I figure we can hold off on formal gowns until you are ready to start accepting invitations again,” she directed at Nick.

“I just didn’t want to go alone. I am tired of women hanging on or chasing after me. That last blond was the last straw.”

“Oh, that cheap slut,” she exclaimed with a roll of her eyes. “I can’t believe you almost had to call the cops. What a freak.”

Nick nodded slowly, sucking in a deep breath. “Yeah – the woman was certainly a piece of work. I don’t understand these women who can’t take no for an answer.”

Rachel shrugged. “Ego and desperation, dear. Some women can’t accept others don’t see them the way they want them to. They have this delusion they are better than they are. Plus, you’re rich. That draws all the fleas out.”

Selene almost snorted her coffee out her nose and burst into laughter. “Fleas,” she managed. “That’s great!”

Rachel smiled proudly. “Oh! I made her laugh! I like her already.”

Nick chuckled, glancing over at Selene, who was finishing the rest of her coffee, though she paused a few times to laugh to herself a bit more. He nodded to Rachel.

“I think that was a winner.”

“Good. I like a gal with a healthy sense of humor. Nick says you haven’t had access to a lot of money,” Rachel informed Selene, “so I’m going to walk you through everything. I’ll even teach you how to deal with snooty salespeople. So, what ethnicity are you,” she continued curiously. “Your skin tone is fabulous. You are going to look good in so many colors!”

“Native American, mostly. My father was half white,” Selene answered. Her gaze drifted to Nick. She started to say something, but Rachel spoke up excitedly first.

“Oh! How cool! Well, you’re absolutely stunning. Those bright green eyes just pop out. I bet emerald would look fabulous on you.”

Selene chuckled and looked back at Nick. He only shrugged.

“She’s never had a filter,” he explained.

“Nope, I sure haven’t,” Rachel agreed with a dramatic nod. “That part of my brain is missing, or so my father says.”

Selene went to get herself more coffee, grinning.

“I have a feeling you two are going to get along fine,” Nick decided.

“Of course we are, Nicholas. And we’re going to have a lot of fun,” Rachel informed him, wearing the same happy smile that she was well known for. “I am actually quite excited to get to know her. There aren’t many people you speak so highly about.”

Selene raised a brow and looked at Nick questioningly.

“Oh, don’t worry, dear. He only told me about how much fun he has with you and how he’s been so much less stressed. Frankly, I’m impressed,” Rachel confided. “Nick’s never been less stressed. I think he was born that way.”

Selene couldn’t help but laugh. It was clear this woman was both friendly and high energy, with a good sense of humor. She already liked her personality, though she suspected the woman could wear out the average person. While she might be in for a long day, no doubt it would be rather enjoyable.

“I swear, Nick, you have the best coffee,” Rachel exclaimed as she placed her empty cup aside. “Though, any more and I will be bouncing off the walls!”

Nick chuckled at her, glancing at Selene. “I am pretty sure you are always bouncing off the walls.”

Rachel gave them a serious look. “This is nothing compared to me with 3 cups of coffee,” she told him. “It’s worse than a sugar high.”

“Like a ferret on crack with ADD,” Selene queried with a grin.

“What’s a ferret?”

“A small weasel that people keep as pets. They can’t hold their attention on anything more than a few seconds before they are on to the next thing,” Selene explained.

Rachel considered that before she nodded. “That sounds about right.”

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