Thats right everyone-I'm baaaaack!!

Bet you thought i abandoned this story. Well i didnt! Just sorry i didnt get this out sooner. Wish it was longer but the next chappie's coming and it'll be the meat and potatoes you've been waiting for!

Thank you to all who've been so patient with me!! Kisses!!

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Chap 19.

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"You look nice." Zoy offered politely as Ami came slowly down the spiral staircase of his home, her pale blue column dress emphasizing black lashed, azure colored eyes and her petite but sweetly rounded figure.

Ami cleared her throat discreetly. "Thank you." She answered stiffly, running short, manicured nails down her dress to smooth out the fabric. She was dreading tonight with all her might, but couldn't find the courage to tell Zoy she didn't want to go.

Things had been so strained between them lately.

"I hired a car for us tonight, thought we might as well make a night of it." Zoy told her, as he wandered over to the bar in his living room, wearing a sharp business suit and looking dangerously sexy but somehow remote. He pulled out a glass and a bottle of scotch. "Care for a drink?" He asked.

She watched his eyebrow cock as he waited for her answer, and hated that she felt like he was somehow laughing at her or looking down on her. Like he knew she disapproved of his drinking before the evening had even started but didn't dare say anything. After all, what right did she have? She wasn't his wife, only his current bed partner, right?

"No thank you." She replied softly.

"So polite." Zoy mocked faintly as he poured himself a drink. "Don't worry little mouse, I have no intention of getting shit faced drunk tonight. Just trying to loosen up before this damn dinner party. I'm surprised you don't need some 'dutch courage' to face Beryl." His expression became faintly bored. "Expecting me to slay your dragons for you, no doubt."

"No, I just prefer to have a clear head when dealing with her." Ami disputed in cool tones. But her heart was aching. How could they have gone from being passionate lovers to wary opponents in such a short amount of time? She would rather still be loving him from afar and not knowing what she was missing, than to have a taste of paradise and have it shrivel up and die before her eyes like this. It was heart breakingly painful.

"Well, Saint Ami has spoken. Did you hear that Zeus, boy? I've been put in my place now, haven't I?" He asked, directing his snide comments to the German Sheppard that lay at Ami's feet, wagging his tail uncertainly at Zoy's tone.

"Don't be glib." She censored him primly, her glossy mouth in a pale shade of red frowning at him.

"Darling Ami." He chuckled, the sound hard. "That frown, and incidentally that lipstick doesn't do you justice. Don't worry; I'll behave myself this evening."

She stiffly rose from the loveseat she had been occupying and crossed to the bathroom just off the hallway and closed the door behind her. Wiping the lipstick off, she dug through her purse for the nude color she wore most often. It was subtle but did the trick.

Studying her reflection in the mirror, she noted that her hair was doing as it was supposed to, thankfully. The glossy black mass shone in the mirror, reflecting that faint blue sheen of health. One side of her hair was pinned back and tucked behind her ear, showing off a pair of sapphire earrings Zoy had brought for her as a gift.

At the time, she had been so flattered and pleased to receive it. Now they were just another reminder of how he gave his women the send off with jewelry when he was finished with them.

Was he finished with her? And if so, why didn't she leave now and spare herself the humiliation?

"Because I love him" She told her reflections softly, watching herself with a detached air and knowing she would stay until the bitter end, no matter how much it hurt.

With a sigh, she knew she couldn't hide in the bathroom forever. She opened the door and crossed to the bar where Zoy stood. Determined to make an effort to be pleasant, she tried for a genuine smile. "I changed my mind. May I have a glass of sherry?"

Zoy stared hard at her for a moment. Then answered gruffly. "Sure." He turned to the task, his head bent slightly so their eyes did not meet.

Just looking at her made him ache. She was so damn lovely, so sweet and giving. What the hell was his problem? Why did he continue to hurt her like this?

But he knew the answer. It was because she was slipping away from him and he had no idea how to stop her. Those ridiculous accusations of Beryl's played over and over again in his head, gaining a foothold in his mind and wearing down his resolve. Held him back from saying the words that he was dying to say. To tell her that he wanted her for more than just the short term. More than just a passionate woman in his bed, he wanted permanency and a future together.

What if she really was using him though? The pain that accompanied that thought caused his head to throb and his heart to clench in fear. It wouldn't be the first time a woman had looked at him with dollar signs in his eyes, and in fact it was a the norm for the redheads he dated.

But the idea might be using him was crushing and he was afraid to ask, terrified to find out the answer.

In time, he would he grow to hate her for using him, when he felt so strongly for her, and she only wanting him for what he could give her.

Was this love? He wondered to himself as he handed her the drink and watched as she sipped slowly and appreciatively. She was so dainty, he wanted to reach out and trace the delicate features of her face, to see those deep blue eyes focused solely on him, to hear that sweet mouth gasp in pleasure as he pulled her close for a devastating kiss. Drugging her senses with desire, pulling her close, into the cradle of his thighs and slowly, torturously sliding off her dress and letting it fall to the grown so he could feel her warm, satiny skin against hi-

"What?" He asked, realizing she was speaking and that he had not heard a word of it, lost in his own fantasies.

Ami frowned in irritation and repeated her comment. "I said; how long do you suppose this dinner party will last? I'm scheduled for surgery in the morning and don't want to be out too late."

He shrugged carelessly. "Probably only until midnight or one, no later." He responded, pouring more scotch, despite his promise not to overindulge.

She watched as he took a long drink, trying to tamper down anger and worry. "Zoy, that's rather late, don't you think? I was hoping to be home by 11."

Zoy felt a surge of annoyance. "Look Ami, tonight is important to me, I'm counting on you to be by my side, to be supportive." Recklessly, he finished the rest of his drink in a quick gulp. "You can manage that for just one night, cant you?" He demanded sarcastically as he slammed the glass onto the counter of the bar.

Ami closed her eyes wearily. But instead of answered with 'Of course Zoy' as she had intended, she was surprised to hear herself snap back; "My work is important too Zoy. It's vital that I be top of my game in the morning, the surgery's scheduled for 6 and the poor woman's terrified as it is!"

"You don't think tonight's important?" He barked. "Damn it baby, instead of saving just one person at a time, this new addition could save thousands of lives! Surely you can do that just for one night Ami." Part of him knew he was being unreasonable, but he couldn't seem to stop pushing her, testing her.

But his slip up, however unintentional softened her. He'd called her baby, and it was her undoing. Hearing the soft endearment uttered, even though it was said angrily, melted her resolve and she capitulated. "Of course I can Zoy." She spoke quietly. Her eyes met and held his and she added deliberately. "For you I can."

A muscle in his jaw twitched as he clenched his teeth at the emotion in her voice and the fiery anger began to seep from his gaze. "Ami, I-" The ring of the doorbell interrupted him.

She turned to the door, glad for the chance to escape. Had he had been about to tell her that their relationship had run its course, that tonight was the last night she would have to accompany him on one of his social excursions? "That's probably the chauffer." She said as she hurried to answer the summons.

Zoy sighed to himself. "Damn it baby." He said again, but this time softly so that she didn't hear. He was losing her and he didn't know how to stop this whole train wreck that was their relationship. He gripped his whiskey glass tightly, then forced himself to loosen his hold, and push it back onto the counter. He strode to the door, saw the eager young chauffer for the car he had hired for the night blushing as he spoke to the beautiful vision that was his Ami.

"Let's go." He ordered as he walked past them both, out into the chilly night.

He turned to see the man, well boy really, helping Ami into her coat, and felt a pang of anger and jealously stab through him. "I said let's go!" He repeated strongly, wanting the boy away from her, and the young man jumped slightly and hurried to open the door for Zoy, abandoning Ami to finish putting her coat on herself.

Zoy gave a small smile of sour satisfaction. At least the kid knew who paid the bills around here. Ami neared the car and he opened the back door for her himself, dismissing the chauffer to the driver's side where he belonged. "After you, my dear." Zoy sneered faintly, feeling raw emotions and burning alcohol churning his gut and stirring up complicated feelings. He held out a hand to help her in.

She put her small hand in his larger one, and squeezed it gently. "Thank you Zoy." She said, meeting his gaze and trying to see past the mocking voice to the real man, the Zoy she loved inside.

With an impatient huff that disguised his sudden need to grab her close and pull her back into the house, far away from the long night ahead, he released her hand. "We don't have time for games Ami." He muttered. And she finally let go, and lowered herself into the car, where he followed, pulling the door shut behind them.

The two sat side by side in the cold leather interior of the limo, dimly illuminated to showcase the expensive luxury. But neither noticed, both sitting silently, turning their mind over yet another argument and the fact that they had a long evening ahead and Beryl to contend with.

Ami prayed they would make it through the night, and still come out a couple at the end of it.

Zoy wished the night were already over, and they were back in his bed, with the lights out and no words between them. It seemed to be the only place they could get along without fighting anymore.

The limo pulled smoothly out of the driveway and headed towards their destination.

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Finally! Beryl thought with immense satisfaction. The night of the dinner party had arrived.

At her high-rise condo where she was hosting the small get together, Beryl stood in front of her mirror, running her hands over the gold silkiness of her dress that made the most of her striking figure. With her cloud of burnt umber hair, the slinky dress that oozed sexuality and expertly made up face, she was the very image of a dangerous but alluring predator. Zoy didn't stand a chance, she thought gleefully. He would be back in her bed before nightfall, begging her to forgive him for straying with that awful Ami…

A knock on the door interrupted her musings. Beryl glanced at her watch and saw that it was too early for her company to arrive, so it must be her 'mystery guest, waiting in the wings'. With an evil grin she glided to the door and opened it wide. "Tallia, darling!" She cooed in greeting, smacking air kiss near her cheeks. "How adorable you look!"

"Why thank you." The tiny brunette breathed shyly in her softest voice, eyes lowered, face demure.

Beryl cackled delightedly. "Darling, don't waste your acting chops on me. The main course will be here soon enough!"

Tallia broke into a wide malicious grin, dangerous mischief lighting her eyes. "Well? What do you think?" She asked in a cocky voice, full of arrogance as she pirouetted for her hostess's approval.

"Perfect." Beryl replied instantly, smiling like a cat who got the cream. "Those two won't know what hit him. Now let's go over the plan one more time…."

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At the airport nearby, Charles Kraus waved his hand around for a taxi all the while holding his cell phone tightly to his ear. "Yes, dear. Of course dear." He agreed genially, as his wife gently reminded him to check his messages when he got into the hotel and to be sure to call and wish their granddaughter a happy 17th birthday. He promised to do so, and listed to a few more of her wifely reminders before she had to run to answer the door and they disconnected the call.

Guilt rolled over him in waves and fear was a painful greasy ball in his gut. Why the hell he ever gotten involved with that scheming opportunist Beryl?

He loved his wife, was dedicated to her, crazy about her, she was everything to him! He was a powerful, wealthy man and she gentled him, brought out his soft side, was always reminding him to relax, to stop and smell the roses.

So what had possessed him four years ago to sleep with that poisonous viper?

Beryl had known exactly what she was doing too, displaying her fiendishly rounded curves in his face at the hotel where she had run into him, coming onto him that night as he sat in the bar of the hotel's restaurant, nursing a scotch and feeling surly over a botched business deal.

She'd boldly slipped her hand into his lap, stroking him, teasing and tantalizing until, in a moment of weakness, he'd taken her back to his room for a night of debauchery.

The morning after had dawned obscenely bright and weighed down with guilt over what he had done, betrayed his loving, sweet wife and he'd tried to escape and just forget the whole thing. Throwing a few hundred dollar bills on the nightstand, he'd hurried out before she'd awakened, sick with himself for what he had done.

But he hadn't been able to get away so easily. Beryl had known who he was when she'd seduced him. Had known he was an important, rich man when she'd slept with him and had planned to use his indiscretion against him, and she had done so and continued to-without remorse.

Now, he was stuck in this hellish nightmare from which there was no waking. Beryl had only to crook her finger and he had no choice to come running, or she would tell his wife every sordid detail from that night.

The thought of his wife's stricken features, the pain as his dear, gentle Anna was forced to listen to Beryl's delightfully wicked retelling of their lustful bedroom antics was enough to launch another roll of nausea in his stomach. A powerful spasm of fear at losing his wife caused him to catch his breath sharply. He couldn't do that do her. Wouldn't do it.

As a cab pulled up and he jumped in, he wondered again why he didn't just confess everything to his wife, and extricate himself from Beryl's tight fisted grip. But he knew the answer to that-he couldn't take a chance of losing his sweet, dear Anna.

After that one night together, he refused to sleep with Beryl again, but she continued to keep him at her beck and call, ruthlessly using his name, power and wealth for her own purposes, and he continued to run and appease her. He would never again be free.

But, he consoled himself vaguely; at least he still had his darling Anna to return to, so he would do as he was told. And that included attending the dinner party Beryl had ordered him to be present for, and would play the part she told him to play.

He just hoped he could keep his revulsion and fear of her hidden from Beryl, or there would be hell to pay.

A cab jerked up to the curb, and he opened the door, flinging his overnight bag in and folded his large form into the back seat. He barked out Beryl's address to the cabbie and sat back, brooking over the night ahead.

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Greg stood before the floor length mirror that was part of the matching set of his bedroom suite. He straightened his tie and ran a hand through his hair, thinking he looked pretty damn good. He pulled off his glasses and polished them with a handkerchief, before tucking it back into his pocket.

Turning, he asked his bedmate for a second opinion. "So, what do you think Kristy?"

The teenager who had been his captive for a couple weeks now merely closed her eyes, trying to block out the sight of him. She was tied between two of the bedposts, her arms pulled high, her legs spread obscenely, as he had arranged them.

Greg grinned, boyishly charming. "Ah, kids today. What do you know about fashion? I'll have you know this is a Lagerfeld tie."

Her head lolled back, weary from so much pain and degradation that she couldn't find the strength to respond. No matter how she answered it would be wrong and only upset him anyway.

He shrugged at her non answer, anticipating the evening too much to get upset. Zoy was going to suffer tonight. It was only the beginning, and Ami was the means to do it.

With glee, he rubbed his hands together, then turned and tossed the limp figure on his bed a two fingered salute. "Don't wait up for me." He told her over his shoulder as he left.

Kristy only sighed in relief and closed her eyes, grateful for the small reprieve.

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Back at Beryl's place, there was a sharp knock on the door. Gliding to the foyer, Beryl peeked through the peep hole and saw her guests of honor waiting out in the hall waiting for admittance, the first to arrive. She couldn't help but notice that Ami and Zoy seemed to be standing a small distance apart from each other and she grinned in delight.

"It's time." She said to herself in satisfaction, as she reached out to open the door and welcome them in.

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TBC!!!