The Arrangement (An Alternative Love Romance)

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A New Friend

Rachel hadn’t slacked on anything. Selene had received a nourishing hair treatment that made her hair feel like silk. The stylist had decided her hair was perfect long, but had added some very subtle highlights and soft layers to add body. The mani-pedi was strange to Selene, having never had anyone touching her feet or messing with her nails before.

The shopping was the hardest part for Selene. Not only were most of the clothes a bit awkward, but she didn’t feel entirely comfortable in most of them. She did have to admit that when she looked in the mirror, though, that she looked really good in most of what Rachel picked out. Of course. She selected some things herself, mostly the casual and comfy items: jeans, tees, sweats, and that kind of thing. She fell in love with a few t-shirt style dresses, some tunics, and other dressy casual clothing.

It was the lingerie store that became the problem. They’d barely entered the store when a strappy teddy without a crotch caught her eye and her heart lodged in her throat. Flashbacks filled her mind and vision, leaving her frozen as she relived the terror. The men, the smell of alcohol, cigarettes, and sex – the faces of other children in pain or simply resigned and defeated. The hopelessness… then she could feel the pain hit her. She could see their faces and hear their voices as they taunted or praised her, the inhumane way they used her for their own enjoyment, the way she was pushed aside like trash when they were through.

Nick had seen Selene freeze and the color drain from her face. He followed her line of sight and spotted the display of the more naughty apparel. It took him a moment before he realized that she must be having a panic attack. Something with the lingerie must have triggered something. Seeking a private area, he pulled her away from the display so it was out of her line of sight. Rachel, looking deeply concerned, showed Nick the large dressing rooms when he could take Selene for some privacy. As much as she wanted to, Rachel neither asked or said anything. She mouthed to Nick she would be nearby while he aided Selene.

Nick sat her down on the bench. Tears had begun streaming down her face. Pain, fear, and despair crossed her visage in turn. He didn’t know what to do, so he made a quick call to his friend and fellow Dom.

“Something’s wrong. We can into the lingerie store and she began staring at the naughty lingerie and just froze. She’s crying, but it’s like she’s not even here,” he explained quickly, barely containing his own panic. “What do I do?”

“Slow down. You can’t help her if you’re worked up. Take a deep breath,” he instructed calmly. He waited until he could hear Nick take a deep breath. “Ok, is this the girl with the past trauma?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, it sounds like a flashback or something. It’s kind of like a waking dream, except you’re reliving one of your worst memories. Is she breathing steadily?”

Nick reached over and took her hand before he looked at her stomach. “Yes. A little quick, but she’s not hyperventilating. What do I do?”

“Remember how to pull a sub back,” he asked after a moment’s thought.

“Yes.”

“Do that. Just remember, you’re a man. Men have hurt her. She may not feel comfortable with you being too close, so don’t take it personally.”

“Got it. Thanks,” he finished before he quickly hung up.

Nick maneuvered Selene until he was sitting with her on his lap. He wrapped his arms loosely around her and began speaking quietly in her ear. It didn’t take him long to begin saying comforting words. He told her she was safe, that he had her, that it was over and she was safe.

“I am here, sweetheart. I have you. It’ll all be ok, honey. I won’t let anyone hurt you. Please, Selene, come back to me, sweetheart. I’ll never let anyone hurt you. Come here, Selene… I promise you’re safe with me.”

Rachel, as curious as she had to have been, left them alone. Nick was grateful for that, and continued to talk to Selene in a low whisper. He began to rock her gently, cradling her as if she were a small child. His voice remained steady, providing her with something stable to grip from the depths of her mind, so he could pull her out and bring her back to where she was safe.

A little bit at a time, the tears stopped and her eyes grew more focused. Nick kept talking to her softly, all the while keeping his hold relaxed in case she felt the need to pull away. He didn’t want her to feel trapped. Eventually, she returned fully, looking around in a moment of fright as she began to realize where she was. Her eyes met Nick’s, then she relaxed into him. Her body was shaking as she cried almost silently, her fingers wrapping around wads of his shirt.

Relieved, Nick silently sent out a thank you to whatever force might be out there. She needed to let it out and grieve, so he simply stroked her hair and held her closely. No words were needed or even appropriate. He wouldn’t give her pointless platitudes. She’d been traumatized and he already had figured out it wouldn’t just be ok. This would take time and it wasn’t going to be ok for a long time. Too much pain had been inflicted, and deep wounds don’t heal quickly, if at all. Time does not heal all wounds.

“I’m here for you, Selene. Anything you need,” he told her as the shaking began to slow. “I give you my word that no matter what happens between us, I will always be here for you.”

Selene wiped her face with her hands, scrubbing the tears away. She nodded to Nick’s statement, managing a husky ‘thank you’.

“No thanks needed, honey. I’m just glad you feel safe enough that you can allow me to help you in whatever way I can,” he admitted. “I may not know a lot about trauma, but I am going to find out everything I can in order to help you heal, ok?”

Selene looked back up at him, her eyes filling with tears again. He had touched her somewhere deep inside and a spark of hope lit up and began to burn.

“Thank you, Nick. I don’t understand how I got so lucky, but I’m really glad I met you,” she said in a voice full of emotion. She wrapped her arms around him.

Nick held her more tightly. “I’m the lucky one. You are so incredibly special.”

It took her a little while longer to gather herself, but eventually she pulled away and got to her feet. Nick stood with her, pressing a kiss to her forehead before he straightened his shirt. When he saw her about to apologize, he put a finger over her lips.

“Never apologize. I don’t care about the shirt. R more important than some material,” he told her with a slight grin.

She smiled back, giving Nick a good feeling. He’d managed to get her through this. A sense of pride filled him, but he was still concerned.

“Do we need to go home? If you want to, we’ll go. I don’t want you out here shopping if you don’t feel up to it,” he told her as he carefully pushed her hair back from her face.

“I think I’ll be ok,” she told him after a moment’s thought. “I think I’m ok now.”

Nick nodded and gave her a reassuring smile. “If you’re sure.”

“What about your friend,” she whispered, suddenly looking panicked again.

“Don’t worry about Rachel. She’ll be fine. You trust me?”

Selene looked into Nick’s eyes, then nodded.

“Good. Now, let’s go rescue the store from Rachel,” he joked, reaching to unlock the door and open. He waited for Selene to step out before hew did.

Rachel approached as they exited and handed Selene two bras. “Try these on and tell me which fits better,” she instructed with a grin. “I think I have your size right, but I want to make sure. You are a C cup, am I right?”

Selene gave her a slight smile, nodding as she took the bras from Rachel. She retreated back into the changing room to try them on. While she wasn’t used to the frills that came with the fancier bras, she had to admit they were more comfortable than her old ones and certainly looked better. One was a little tight, so when she exited, she let Rachel know.

“Good. Now, I picked out a number of things I know you’ll like – some plain things for work and some nicer things for going out, plus the body tape and pasties you’ll need for some of the designer gowns we wear to the big social events,” Rachel explained.

Selene found herself grateful for Rachel. She acted as though nothing had happened, allowing Selene to avoid the awkward ‘what happened’ and ‘are you ok’ conversations. However, the last bit had her a little confused.

“Body tape and pasties?”

Rachel grinned and lead Selene over to the bras. “Many gowns don’t allow you to wear bras, sometimes not even underwear. The pasties keep your nipples covered and will help keeo them from showing. The body tape is used to hold your boobs in place and keep your strapless gowns from slipping down. I’ll help you with all of this when the time comes,” she concluded, placing the unwanted bra back where she got it.

The rest of the lingerie shopping didn’t take long, and Nick made sure to keep Selene away from the erotic lingerie, even blocking her view of it to keep her from having any further issues. He wasn’t sure if she realized what he was doing, but he wasn’t going to take any chances. One episode was more than enough.

They had to rush to get to the cosmetics consult. While Selene was inside with Rachel, Nick remained outside. He pulled out his phone and made a call. He needed to thank someone.

“Tom, thank you,” he said into the phone after the man answered. “It worked. She’s ok now. Can we meet soon? I may be a bit over my head, so I need some advice.”

He heard the sound of something being moved around in the background. “What about tomorrow? Can you do lunch with me? I have some resources for you, too. This kind of trauma needs the intervention of professionals, but you can’t push her to accept the help.”

Nick nodded slowly to himself. “Yeah. Tomorrow? I can do any day next week, too, except for Thursday.”

“Tomorrow works. You want to go to Paul’s?”

“She works there,” Nick reminded him.

“That’s fine. I’d like to get a look at her, anyways. Anyone who’s gotten your attention like this makes me highly curious,” Tom responded, the smile coming through in his tone. “Just remember, this could take years, so you have to be certain you are ready to make that kind of commitment.”

“I’m all in,” Nick confirmed. “I don’t know what it is, but I want to be here for her every step of the way. She needs someone to put her first.”

Tom hesitated before he answered. “Very well. Tomorrow at Paul’s. Can you do 11?”

“That will work,” Nick confirmed. “I’ll meet you there.”

“Enjoy the rest of the shopping,” Tom joked with sarcasm.

Nick groaned before saying good-bye and ended the call. He made a few more calls before Rachel and Selene emerged. She didn’t appear to have any make-up on, so he wasn’t sure how it went. They were carrying several bags, so it couldn’t have gone too badly. Nick stuffed his hands in his pockets and strolled over.

“So, how’d it go?”

“I have to take classes,” Selene muttered crossly.

Nick’s confusion was clear. “What?”

“She doesn’t know anything about cosmetics, so Trina offered her some lessons to teach her the essentials,” Rachel explained. “Though, Trina also said she’d be willing to come fix her up for events.”

“Really? Well, that will be handy,” Nick said, looking back at Selene.

“She loves Selene’s skin color and she is excited about experimenting with colors on her,” Rachel said enthusiastically.

Selene sighed, looking around as if seeking an escape. “Could we do the formal stuff another time? I am pretty well done for the day.”

Rachel’s head bobbed. Sure! There isn’t anything on for another few weeks. I can make appointments with a few top stores for next week, if you’re up for it.”

Selene glanced at Nick. His encouraging nod was all she needed before she sighed and nodded. “Ok. I am off on Thursdays.”

“Oh, that’s perfect. Thursdays are usually pretty open. Tuesdays, too.”

“So what is all this,” Nick asked, motioning to the bags.

“Apparently, this is a ‘starter kit’,” Selene told him. “I don’t even know what half this stuff is,” she added with a frown. “I have only used lip balm or gloss once in a while.”

“Trust me, dear, you will get used to it and you may even like it once you see what you can do with yourself,” Rachel stated confidently.”You can almost turn yourself into a completely different person with the right effects. So, next is shoes!”

Laden with bags, it was most than four hours later when they all reached the penthouse. It took two trips to bring everything up, but soon the bags were all piled in Selene’s closet. While the clothes would largely need to be washed first, the new items would help fill in some of the empty space, including some of the shoe racks.

Rachel helped her sort the washable from the dry cleaning items, remove tags, and put things away. Afterward, Rachel helped her set up the vanity with her cosmetics, her hair products, as well as the lotions and fragrances. Next was the accessories. Rachel showed her how to store things and helped her set up how Selene wanted her closet-slash-dressing room wanted it laid out so she could keep track of where things were.

Afterward, Rachel looked around the bedroom with a strange look on her face. “You know, this room doesn’t feel at all like you.”

Selene shrugged and looked around. “It’s a room.”

“It’s never just a room, sweetie. It’s your personal space. It should be your sanctuary and a reflection of you,” Rachel explained with exasperation. “We need to redecorate.”

Selene shook her head. “It’s not my place. I don’t want to mess up Nick’s stuff.”

Rachel rolled her eyes dramatically. “Oh, please. Nick is so not going to care. He adores you. I bet he’d let you redo the whole apartment.”

“I don’t think...”

Rachel’s look stopped her. “You may not realize this, but when Nick goes in, he goes all in. He’s in with you.”

“I don’t want to take advantage,” Selene protested. “He’s already done a lot.”

Rachel waved it away. “Nick can afford it. Besides, nothing’s been changed around here in years. It really could be freshened up.”

“I don’t know the first thing...”

“I’ll help you,” Rachel volunteered before Selene could finish. “I can bring some books by and we can look over some things and find what styles you like and what colors you prefer.”

With a sigh, Selene nodded. “Ok.”

Rachel sat on the bed and looked at Selene thoughtfully. “You need to learn how we do things if you’re going to be convincing. There are certain… behaviors and actions that are expected. You and Nick are supposedly serious. That means you have to put your touch on his place. It’s kind of a status thing. Marking your territory and whatnot.”

Selene just looked at her blankly.

“Oh, boy,” Rachel said as she fully accepted that Nick really wasn’t joking about the woman’s disinterest in money and flash. “You haven’t got the slightest interest in any of it, do you? The money, the fancy clothes, the frills and benefits...”

Selene shrugged and wrapped her arms around herself. “It’s not mine. Even if it was, I don’t see the point in all of it.”

“There isn’t really a point to it,” Rachel advised her. “It’s all about appearances. In our world, they’re everything. Especially with reporters and paparazzo wandering around trying to photograph you all the time. The public expects perfection, and everyone else is just trying to outdo each other for accolades. You’re going to have to learn the game if you’re going to play the part, but people won’t expect as much from you at first…,” Rachel paused ans bit her lip as she considered how to say the next part.

“You will probably deal with some prejudices as well. Some of these people are just real pricks. I hope you have thick skin. Nick and I will try to shield you, but...”

“It won’t e the first time I’ve dealt with racists and bigots before,” Selene interrupted. “I’ve been the only Native girl around most of my life. I’ve also been fed the ‘you are so exotic-looking’ line before a few dozen times.”

“That’s a bad thing?”

Selene eyed her with her lips pressed together, then nodded. “It’s a way of saying ‘You’re not white, but I still find you attractive and want to fuck you so I can rag to my friends’. They want to ‘experience’ another flavor of woman. It’s rather insulting. It’s not like I’m the only Native woman.”

Rachel nodded and blew air upward into her bangs. “That’s rather shitty. Guys actually pick you up because of your skin color?”

Selene nodded. “Yeah, and it blows. They don’t care about me; they see me as an object to play with and discard as they choose.”

Rachel offered a sympathetic smile. “At least you know with Nick around, no one will bother you too much. You’ll have to deal with some catty, snarky, snooty bitches and some seriously arrogant assholes, but you will find there are some pretty cool people around. Many are deeply invested into charitable causes – and not all for the image boost or tax write-offs. I can help introduce you to some of them. At least then you’ll know some people ahead of time.”

Selene gave her a slight, but thankful smile. “That would actually be pretty nice.”

Rachel flashed a happy grin. “That’s excellent. I’ll get with Nick on your schedule so I can plan this out. I’m thinking three weeks from now, ok?”

“That works for me.”

“Good. I hate to do this, Selene, but I do have to go. I have a date tonight and I want to be perfect. I intend on getting laid,” shew whispered conspiratorially.

Selene’s laugh brought a wide smile from Rachel. She patted Selene n the back.

“You’re a nice gal. I don’t think Nick could have found a better woman to keep him company, either,” she admitted. “He seems really taken with you. I hope this works out – just…,” Rachel paused a second before continuing, “try not to break his heart, please? He’s never taken to any woman like he seems to be taking to you.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Selene asked with a hint of confusion.

“Oh, honey. Nick has never really let any of his ‘girlfriends’ stay, and he certainly never asks them to move in. He clearly adores you,” Rachel told her. “He won’t push, but if you aren’t into him, be gentle, ok?”

“I think you misunderstand,” Selene began before she was interrupted.

“I’ve known Nick for close to 20 years, Selene. I know when he’s got his eye on someone and he’s certainly got his full attention on you.”

“We’re just friends,” Selene added dismissively.

Rachel stared at her for a long moment before she shook her head with an amused smile. “I can promise you that Nicholas wants far more than friendship, dear. You just haven’t seen the way he looks at you. His face lights up when he sees you. I’ve never seen his eyes sparkle like that or seen him smile so much. I think it’s great. He needs someone who’ll be good to him.”

“I think you might have misunderstood,” Selene said slowly. “We aren’t together or anything for real. We’re just friends.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “You keep telling yourself that.”

Selene scoffed. “I’m way younger than him and a long way from being sophisticated or having a clue about all this ‘rich people stuff’,” she said with a glance at Rachel. “This isn’t my life. This is his life and your life. I’m just a fill-in to play a part.”

A smirk crossed Rachel’s lips. “You might be surprised. You might be putting on an act as his girlfriend, but you are a long way from a fill-in. Trust me, you’ll meet the real actresses soon enough. These women are ruthless, too. Power and money-hungry. They will do anything to try to catch their personal wallet.”

“That sounds like they don’t care about the man at all,” Selene commented with a frown.

“Oh, they don’t,” Rachel confirmed. “He could e 20 or 100 and they will go for him if he’s got the money they want. They might try to befriend you, too, in order to get close to Nick,” she informed her. “You’ll want to be careful who you get friendly with.”

Selene chuckled. “I doubt that’s going to be much of a problem. I’m not exactly quick to make friends. I don’t trust anyone.”

Rachel studied her before nodding. “Good. Stay that way. But trust me,” she added with a grin. “I think you’re pretty amazing and Nick clearly cares a lot about you. As far as I’m concerned, that makes you special in my book.”

Selene couldn’t help the warm smile at Rachel’s words. Few people had ever been so quick to show her approval. “I appreciate that. I feel lucky to have Nick as my friend.”

A secretive smile crossed Rachel’s lips, but this time she didn’t say anything. Selene would have to figure it out on her own in time.

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