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About the lack of sneaky peeks from this last chapter, my sincerest apologies! I've worked 3 weeks straight on 12 hour shifts and my brain is a little melted. I jist submitted my time card, which read 161.5 hours for the last two weeks. I have a list though and those of you who reviewed last time will get something Extra Special. I'll pinky swear on it.


"What men value in this world is not rights but privileges."

-H. L. Mencken


A week had gone by since we'd started our new evening routine. Every morning when I woke up, things felt more and more surreal. This morning was no different. Alice down the rabbit hole was a good descriptor to my current reality.

I felt like I had whiplash. We'd gone from him treating me like I was a horse he was trying to break to us having evening drinks and chatting like normal people.

Had we really talk about all those things?

I'd asked myself all week: 'Had he really meant it when he said he wanted to build a routine and play twenty questions?'

To his credit, he'd unknowingly answered the unasked question with a resounding yes. It would be a relief both mentally and physically but that didn't mean that I trusted it yet despite the fact that it had been a week. Perhaps another one would help solidify things in my brain.

In the back of my mind I was waiting to inadvertently come across some question that made him angry enough to put me across his knee again or end it entirely.

There was another more pressing issue, however, that dominated my thoughts as of late.

That stool, even though it was a thousand times better than being on my knees all day, was beginning to cause physical problems. Like the back pain I'd only ever experienced when Renee and I had had to share the worst mattress I'd ever encountered until she got her tax return back one year.

I'd felt a bit of vindication when she allowed me to set fire to it in the back yard after I'd done some odd jobs to save up for a burn permit.

Sometimes I'd lay down in the floor and put my legs up on the stool to try to ease the discomfort if he wasn't meeting with someone.

Mentally, it was all starting to get to me, only going to a couple of rooms of the house almost every day for however long I'd been here was eating at me like a prisoner subjected to solitary confinement. Add the Zumba in a different part of the house, going to the library with the goons and sometimes going to the living room with Char was helping but not enough since there was no regularity to it.

I didn't know if it was because the house was still mimicking a living, breathing organism and he didn't trust me to only be unmonitored in the hallway to and from the kitchen or if he didn't trust the other people in the house. The only other time I was alone was when I was in the bathroom or in our bedroom.

No.

Not OUR bedroom.

His bedroom.

HIS.

Ugh, I'd been here far too long. It made me stop all my other swirling thoughts and I wondered if I'd accidentally slipped up beforehand and not caught it. That made me even crabbier.

With a huff, I got up and looked for my clothes that were selected and laid out for me every day. I looked all around HIS bedroom and in HIS bathroom.

Nothing.

Nada.

I wasn't going out in my pajamas. Only one thing left to do really.

Into the closet I went. It'd been a while since I'd been in here to actually look around. There hadn't been a need. Everything had been chosen for me. I came into the closet once a day for pajamas that lived in a specific drawer..

Everything got touched and looked at all over again. There were a few new additions here and there. The one that caught my eye was a super soft black and coral maxi dress. It was black from the top to a few inches under the bust, then it was solid coral to the hem. The fabric was on the thick side and a bit stretchy.

Before anyone could realize their snafu and come to correct it I snatched it off the hanger and ripped open the underwear drawers.

Pawing through the piles of panties I found a pair of seamless black boyshorts. Onto the maxi dress they went.

The bras were laid out almost like in a lingerie store that stored stock in drawers or on tables. All of them in three compartmentalized lines, neatly laid out in an almost overlapping fashion. The bra in the front was slightly overlapping the bra behind it just by the tips of the cups with the straps tucked down inside the cup itself.

Somebody had storage issues.

My eyes slid over and decided on a black bandeau bra that seemed to match the boyshorts. It had molded cups, seemed supportive, and best of all, it should be comfortable.

Bingo.

Out it slipped from the stack and onto the pile it went. I closed everything back up and retreated back out to get ready.

Quick as lightning the underwear went on and then the dress. It was so comfortable. The top stayed up all on its own, no drawstring or straps need. Just the wide elastic band that lay flat inside the material above my breasts.

Normally I didn't fawn in front of a mirror. I wouldn't have called this fawning but I took a moment to admire what I'd chosen. Partially because I chose it and partially because it was really comfortable and not bad on the eyes.

My hair was the next thing on the list but there were no instructions on the vanity and none to be found in the bathroom.

Messy bun it was then. Hopefully he didn't get exasperated and redo it.

Lastly, the bane of my new existence.

The collar.

If I ever got the chance I would burn this thing just like I burned that mattress except I would use the whole of a big bottle of lighter fluid. I would dig a hole, chuck this in there, uncap the lid and dump almost all of it in there with it. Then I would lay a trail with the remainder and light it from way, way back.

The fantasy of it gave me enough strength to put it on. One day, I thought towards it, you will be nothing but ashes in the bottom of a hole that I will then fill with cement.

At least that obnoxious bell that had originally been on it had been taken off some time ago.

Better to go ahead and get it over with I mentally grumbled, pulling it around my neck and fastening it.

All was quiet, the house was sleeping still. The light pushing through the curtains and spilling on the hardwood floor was a soft, cool looking light. It must be pretty early.

The drinks must have really helped me relax lately. I hadn't slept that well in months. Not since I was drugged in the beginning with that damned hot chocolate, actually.

I crept down the hall on the balls of my feet, making as little noise as possible. The handle to Jasper's office door turned silently and the hinges made not one squeak.

There was something different this morning. Jasper wasn't where he always was, for one. For two, where my stool usually sat was an oversized, high backed wingback chair that was thickly tufted on the back cushion. It matched my stool in color, wood and fabric type. Once I looked more closely, I spotted it stashed underneath the chair itself.

It looked dreadfully comfortable. I walked around it, running my hands across the top and down the side. I used the poke method to check out all the padding. It made me wonder who was coming that he would be setting up a chair like this for. Hopefully not some woman. Even if I was stuck being his slave I didn't want to watch him flirt.

The click of the door sent me spinning around with mild panic. If it was anyone outside my miniscule circle I was most likely screwed.

The tension drained back out of my shoulders and the pterodactyls in my stomach calmed again.

I'd never been so relieved to see Jasper walking across the room. He was dressed in gray today with the exception of a white dress shirt and a black leather belt. It was obvious that the slacks and waistcoat had been tailored specifically to him. The matching coat rested across the back of his chair. He had on black dress socks and had his favorite handmade Italian leather cowboy boots stashed under his desk. Thanks to Carlisle and his fancy leather dress shoes, I also knew that they had a French toe. Aside from that, all I knew was that there were at minimum a couple of zeroes on the price tag.

That meant that I didn't touch them. With my track record something bad would likely happen to them. Then he'd take off that belt and tan my hide with it in order to get a new pair made.

"Do you like your knew chair?" he asked, dispelling my thoughts.

"This is mine?" wow, I wondered what I did to deserve a new chair in his eyes.

"Yes, unless you don't want it, then I'll have someone take it-"

"Nonononono! I love it. Thank you," I rushed out.

Hell to the no was someone taking my new chair.

I had been so sure that Hell on Earth would reign before I thanked this man genuinely for anything like this. It had been easy to say as much then but I had since learned the hard way that you can't say what you would do for sure until you've walked that mile.

The feel of creeping fire told me I was blushing. I was definitely appreciative. My back would stop hurting and I could actually be comfortable while I was stuck in here. No way was I going to give the impression that it wasn't wanted.

"You're welcome. Your attitude has improved a lot over the past couple of weeks and I felt that you deserved some rewards for it," he said, circling around his desk and taking his own seat.

He pulled out the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a blue box. Not just any blue box though. Tiffany Blue. I'd been the recipient of a Tiffany box only once before, as a gift for graduation from Carlisle and Esme.

It had been a Color by the Yard bracelet with a green aventurine cabochon. To remind me of home and my family, they said, while I was in the desert.

Never had I been so glad for a maxi dress. It hid the tension in my legs and torso that he would immediately question. It felt like Flotsam and Jetsam had found my stomach and spiraled themselves around it nice and tightly.

I hated gifts, always had. I appreciated the thought behind them, always. Growing up poor though made me feel like a charity case with my usual inability to reciprocate the gesture. Unless it was a handmade gift. Handmade gifts I could do.

Anything that came from that box, from him, I would never be able to repay or reciprocate.

"I suppose you noticed that no clothes had been laid out this morning," he said, setting the box next to his mousepad.

"Yes Sir," I replied.

"That is your second reward. Unless we're going to some event that you're unsure of the dress code for or something special, you shall be allowed to choose your own clothing from your closet. For the most part, your hair is your own to style unless we're having special guests or going to an event. Then it shall be styled for you. You will be able to give limited input. Should you need special supplies or equipment, make a list, discuss it with Charlotte and it will be yours," he paused, turning to the box.

Excitement didn't bubble behind my breastbone, glee didn't loosen Flotsam or Jetsam from my insides. It was more of a relief that slipped down my spine and radiated outwards. Like dread had a tendency to do except this was pleasant.

What should be a normal activity to everyone else was a gift to me. Sure, they weren't clothes that I had bought, but it was a step up. I was getting to make choices of my own again. Very small ones, mind you, but it was better than the way things had been when I had no choices and discomfort was more the norm. Aka, before today.

Without waiting for me to talk or express my gratitude, which he probably wasn't waiting on anyway, he picked the box up and turned to face me.

"Come and kneel, right here," he said, pointing to just in front of his knees.

It rankled still, having to kneel for him. However, I sorely did not want to lose the privileges I had just been granted. It had been a little over a couple of weeks since I'd been spanked in front of Makenna and Bal and I did not want a replay.

So I did as I was told with little hesitation, being sure to pull my dress up to above my knees when I did. I had no interest giving him a show by being klutzy. He waited until I had everything situated and was back to paying attention to him.

His eyes, normally hard and cold or angry and demanding, were now none of those. He was looking at me like he looked at Peter or Charlotte when we were around them.

"Very good. Now, for the last thing. I've had this for a very long time but I didn't think you'd appreciate it in any capacity until now," he said, opening the box and turning it around for me to look at.

There was more in the box than I had anticipated. There were two necklaces with circular inch and a half pendants. Instead of the normal circle shape making the empty middle, these were oval shaped and they each had a simple 'J' charm dangling from the silk cords inside them. What really got my attention, and also caused Flotsam and Jetsam to simultaneously squeeze and squirm, was that one was covered in diamonds and one was simple and solid. Intuition said they were platinum, with assistance from the clues gathered from this house, all the antiques, the priceless art, and the library. Hell he even had a Bentley Coupe. From the taste of everything here, he wouldn't pick gold and certainly not silver.

"I know you're not much for the flashy, or the expensive. Or even gifts in general. The diamond covered one was a gift from my parents for 'one day'. The other one, I bought. The flashy one can be saved for special occasions. The other will replace the collar you're wearing now," he said.

He sat the box in my hands while I was still gobsmacked and unbuckled the collar, tossing it into the Drawer of Wonders. Out came the solid pendant necklace and over my head it went. He settled it onto my manubrium, making sure that that the cord wouldn't dig into my neck.

Thanks to Edward and Jacob I knew the anatomical name for the bone at the top of my sternum.

The two of them had gotten caught riding motorcycles recklessly and without a license at La Push after Esme strictly forbade them from it. Riding with Sam was fine but the others were too rowdy and impulsive for her to trust. So as punishment Carlisle made them learn every bone in the body after Esme went on and on about how they could have broken every one of them with their recklessness. He figured repetition would help the learning along, so they had to write down the name of each and every bone fifty times each. They didn't get to enjoy any more of the summer until they were complete. He informed them they would thank him when they got to Anatomy and Physiology in college.

The sudden memory made me want to laugh and in turn loosened up the coils around my heart and intestines.

I came back to myself.

It was comfortable. Less heavy than I'd anticipated but still solid. And cold. I could feel the J pendant all on its own cooling my skin inside the oval. I had the urge to look down but knew I'd only be able to see part of it if any. It was better than the other collar by far. The cord length was perfect for its purpose. This would clearly be seen even with the modest tops in the closet.

"Is it comfortable?" he asked, putting the other one back away.

I squirmed a bit, seeing if it would dig in with the motion, "Yes Sir. Much better than the other. Thank you."

There was no doubt that they were beautiful. I just hated feeling like I owed him anything when I knew that I didn't.

"You're welcome. Here, I thought you might find this interesting. I didn't know if you'd read it yet," he said, handing me another thick hardback book.

He turned to his computer and began machine gunning the keyboard, clearly dismissing me.

I looked at the cover. Crime and Punishment. I hadn't read that book in years.

When I was growing up I was never censored in what I read.

One day when I was 6th grade we had went as a class to the library to check out books with our English teacher. I had read most of the books at my level and had begun to branch out. The sight of the red and cream colored book on the self is what originally drew my eye. All the other books on the shelf were plain and drab colorwise, making it stick out like a sore thumb.

I didn't ask my teacher if I could read it and the Librarian was easy to bypass. There was an automated checkout system for those who knew how to use it. This was also before they came up with the idea to try to implement restrictions within the checkout system in an effort to make students stay within the bounds of "age appropriate material". Mrs. Fisk was busy with so many of the other students that by the time we were all lined up our teacher was rushing us out the door, else we'd be late for the next class.

It had been a hard read for me back then. Not so much the words used, because I had a gigantic dictionary and far reaching vocabulary, but the themes and the brutality. I'd had to put the book down a few times and come back to it. My curiosity didn't allow me to abandon it. I had to know if he would be punished. I also didn't understand the history surrounding the book at the time.

When I got to high school the book was required on the summer reading list for my tenth grade College Prep class. I remembered parts of it and read enough Cliffnotes that I didn't have to reread it again. We only ended up discussing it a couple of days in class. Mainly focusing on the historical influence because we'd pawned off the time we should have devoted to it to a classic trilogy that the entire class found fascinating after reading and discussing the first book.

I had already moved to my chair and wedged myself in a corner as I meandered down memory lane. It was so, so comfortable, as if it had already had the stiffness worked out of it and broken in. It looked like an antique so that was probably the case.

After the first chapter I turned on my selective hearing, immersing myself in the book. I found it familiar, yet this time I had such a deeper understanding that it was like watching a movie the second or third time and noticing so much you hadn't before.

Charlotte had dropped off breakfast, per Jasper's request so we didn't have to go downstairs until lunchtime. Food was a complete afterthought at this point.

Sonia had just stopped in the doorway in her silk gutter finery with the ridiculous train and the immense crinoline taking up excessive space when a terrifying racket exploded into being.

There stood Jasper, on his feet. His chair had crashed to the ground about the time he had started screaming at whomever was on the other end of the phone. He turned just enough for me to be able to see his face. It was a dark red in his rage. You could see his pulse pounding in his neck and for a moment I worried about him having either a stroke or a heart attack or even passing out and damaging something on the way down.

The last thing I remember seeing was his eyes. They were as feral as human eyes could be, he was so lost in his rage. I faintly recalled the crash of a desk lamp when I found myself suddenly in the kitchen.

Was there an earthquake going on too? Everything was shaking.

Charlotte appeared in my line of sight and grasped ahold of me tightly. Oh wait, it was me that was shaking.

I picked up enough of her question to comprehend that she had asked what had happened and what was going on and parts of many other questions that ceased to register. What was happening to me?

I was passed off to Peter who came from who knows where.

He wrapped his arm around me and led me to the living room, guiding me down onto the couch. The other arm came around and he pulled me tightly against him, rocking slowly. I wasn't certain how long we were there but when I returned from wherever I had mentally gone he was still rocking me and repeating 'It's going to be ok' over and over. I felt safe again, being squished against him and reassured. Safe enough anyway to come back from my Internal Bunker Against Crazy.

A deep, heaved breath made him look at me.

"Thank God. I was wondering if you were going to come back to us there for a bit. Now, are you physically hurt?" he asked, his relief obvious.

"What do you mean? What happened?" I remembered the lamp breaking but just a couple of snippets afterward.

"I was working on a grocery list at the table when you came thundering down the stairs. You were little over half way when you slipped and bounced the rest of the way down. When you hit the tile you jumped straight back up like it hadn't happened and ran in the kitchen. Then you just froze. You were pale and trembling so hard I thought you were going to fall over. I asked you a slew questions but all you could do was stand there and shake. I squalled for Peter and we brought you in here," Charlotte explained worriedly.

Peter turned me back towards him, "What happened Bella? What do you remember?"

"The last thing I really remember was that I was in my new chair, reading. Then he started screaming and smashed a lamp, the next thing I knew I was in the kitchen, then I was here," I explained.

Peter and Charlotte looked at one another. Her eyes were wide enough to see the white all the way around her iris. It was obvious that there was no explanation needed for who 'he' was.

"Stay here, both of you," Peter demanded as he leapt off the couch and went thundering towards Jasper's office.

Charlotte took up Peter's post, squishing me against her smaller, softer self. I needed no encouragement to return the embrace.

I was lucky, I supposed, that I didn't get tangled up in the hem or skirt of my dress on the way down and break my neck or show off my underwear to passersby.

The quiet stretched on. Five minutes. Fifteen minutes. Then two sets of feet were heard thundering down the stairs and down the hallway, a door slamming shut, then silence again.

Charlotte made to get up when my panic kicked back in. Klaxons were alarming in my head. Peter said stay, Peter said stay!

My mental voice had apparently become my actual voice when I wasn't paying attention because she was then promising me that she wasn't going to leave the room.

When she finally got me to stop being an anchor she got back up and tiptoed over to the doorway, peeking around the frame and looking down the hall before coming back.

"They're in Peter's office. Let's go-" Charlotte started to suggest before I started to tailspin again.

"No! Peter said stay, Peter said stay!" we had been told to stay here, we had to stay here.

I was petrified, first by Jasper's reaction and then by Peter's reaction. Suggesting we go against what he said was the same as pulling the fire alarm in my brain. I had been under so much mental strain that it wasn't surprising that hysteria was just around the corner, waiting to hop on top of me like Stephen King's Pennywise. The tidal wave of emotions crashing through me coupled with my currently unsteady mental state didn't leave much room for rational thought. In my mind, if we stayed, we were safe. Danger lurked right outside the doorframe.

"Okokokok, calm down! Calm. Down. We'll stay right here," she soothed as she ran her hands up and down my arms.

My stressed system marginally calmed again and I crossed back over to just this side of sanity.

"Now, while there's nobody around let's take a look and see if you visibly damaged anything," she requested.

We were staying here, so I could do that. The muscles in my back, shoulders, hips and especially my butt protested angrily when I stood. My face must have done the talking.

"No surprise that you're sore, now let's take a look," She said, pulling them hem up to my waist.

We both looked up and down my legs, hips, feet and butt area. There were several angry looking dark red blotches up and down the back of me and a few down the outside of my left leg. I must have hit some of the iron balusters and one of the thick newels at the bottom. I suspected a corner impact from the looks of one of the spots that was already starting to turn black. The biggest mark went from the small of my back, down the right butt cheek and a few inches down my thigh.

"You must have bounced down and smacked the tile primarily right here and banged up the other leg in the process. For a second I thought you were going to turn and roll down," she said.

She was wide eyed and ran a finger as light as she could over a couple. I gave an involuntary hiss and she immediately stopped. Instead she poked at my toes, knees and along my hips. Everything seemed ok. Hopefully I would just walk away from this with bruising and soreness.

"When they come back out we'll get you a muscle relaxer and some ice to put on this big spot, she promised.

She sat down and I went to sit with her until pain shot from my lower back down. The adrenaline was all burned off now and I could start to feel the damage. I eased back down onto the couch to lay on my stomach. Char stuffed a fluffy cushion under my head and flipped the tv on. The noise cut out some of the tenseness the stifling silence had caused. I ignored the flashing of the tv scenes, instead focusing on her talented fingers stroking through my hair. Exhaustion crept up fast and before I knew it, I was asleep.