This story was written for the Never Ever Happily Ever After Contest. Thanks to Nitareality and Loss4Words81 for hosting, and to BellaFlan for honorably mentioning me :)

Thanks to my lovely friends TeamEdwardTSA, beta extraordinnaire and equal-opportunities Cullen groupie, and Twanza, pre-reader and peddler of dark Jasper fantasies.

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight.

o o o

"Get out of here."

I pull the blankets away roughly and shove her a little too hard on her naked shoulder.

She stirs, confused, her blonde hair matted against her sleepy face, her makeup smudged, her eyes unfocused, still intoxicated.

"Get out, I said!" My voice is loud, spiteful. Her eyes open completely and, as she comprehends my harsh command, surprise and humiliation flood her pretty features. Slowly at first and then with hurried movements, as if scared, she lifts herself up and collects her scattered clothes before heading into the bathroom.

As she walks away from the bed I see the fresh redness on her hips and thighs: it'll be bruised tomorrow. For a moment a rush of desire tempts me to order her back to bed, to exact some more pleasure from her. She wouldn't fight me; she would probably enjoy it. She might fight and enjoy it at the same time.

I close my eyes and run a hand through my short hair, pushing those thoughts back and reinstating control for as long as it takes for the blonde to re-emerge, fully dressed, hair slicked back and eyes downcast. She stops for a second, probably wondering whether she should say something, trying to hold on to some semblance of pride.

"It was a good fuck Jane, but I want you out of here now. And make sure you lock the door behind you."

My words echo in the vast apartment; her cheeks color— could she be the one to rebel and fight back? Does she have it in her? But just as soon as I think that maybe, maybe I've underestimated her, she spins on her heels and hastily makes her way out. I hear the door close and her fast, running steps down the corridor.

Kate. Her name is Kate, and this is the last I'll ever see of her.

o o o

"Everything's ready, we've checked the figures again under different scenarios, the decks are printed and bound, the lawyers are comfortable, and Credit are ok to go ahead. Now we just have to get them to sign."

I let out a short, humourless laugh. "Don't worry Felix, they'll sign."

They sign. Of course they do. They always do.

A thrill, a small one, the euphoria of the kill. But it's fleeting, too fleeting, and immediately I want more. I need more.

I lean back against my chair, closing my eyes to rebalance, focusing my mind so I can rebuild the armor of blank composure that's temporarily slipped off. It only takes a few moments and the blinding, irrational hunger dies down.

o o o

The light on my phone flashes.

"Alice is on the line"

"I'll call her back."

"Sorry, but she says it's important."

I sigh. I can't say no to Alice. I hate this about her, about me.

"Hello darling. How are you?" Her voice is shrill and unnaturally high— she must have already had her ten a.m. hit. She says something about a party and a new restaurant and a new bag she just had to buy. My mind is blank as she rattles on. "Yes. That's fine, darling, sounds terrific. Leave the details with Heidi and I'll be there." My other line is flashing and I can no longer afford to let her rattle on with her inanities. "Love you too, darling."

At the end of the day, Heidi comes in to take my papers and give me my itinerary for the evening. She lingers on a minute too long, sways her hips just a little too wide, then bends to retrieve something invisible from the floor. She thinks she's subtle, but she's just fucking cheap.

Heidi has a nice ass, and she knows it. The kind of ass that's begging to be fucked. She's practically asking out loud, and I let my mind wander to a very plausible scenario in which I'll bend her over the desk, her panties around her ankles, her skirt ripped open, her delectable round ass sticking up, red and raw from my unforgiving hands. But much as I'd love to teach her a lesson or two about begging and fucking, I know better than to mix pleasure at work. Too dangerous, too amateurish. I've learned my lesson.

Don't mix your thrills.

A shame, though. Nice ass.

o o o

"Who's that?" my first day on the trading floor, noise and crowds and rows and rows of screens. My computer alone has four, and a phone with about a million buttons that I'm sure will take months to be able to master. I'm intimidated and unnervingly shy, and I'm not used to being shy. Peter is my senior by about 6 months, and I envy his cocky demeanour even as I see right through it.

"Who? Oh, that." He laughs knowingly. "Forget her, buddy."

"What do you mean? I just want to know who she is." I can't peel my eyes away from the exotic, insanely charismatic woman who's standing a few feet away from me, her black eyes fixed unwaveringly over the six men in front of her giving her some kind of presentation. She listens intently and then delivers a brief verdict, before turning down towards her screen, dismissing them. Even though I have no idea what she said I can tell from their posture and their faces that she destroyed them. Women are a rarity on trading floors, but this—this woman who just exudes power and charisma- this is something else entirely.

"That's Maria Jones. Head of Research. And I know what you're thinking, but forget it. She's not interested in boys." I raise my eyebrow, titillated by the possibility I think he's hinting at. But Peter continues: "Not interested in girls, either, before you get hard. All she cares about is power. Sex doesn't figure unless it's with a Managing Director." My expression must betray my uneasiness at what he's implying, because he feels the need to add quickly: "Or so I've heard."

Hear-says. Rumors. It doesn't take me long to figure out that's the real currency we trade in this place.

I learn to use the phones; I learn to use the screens. I learn the lingo and what pleases my boss. Within a few months I think I've learned everything there is to learn about this place and my shyness dissipates. I learn to swear and drink hard- harder than I ever have, even in my college days. I learn to make money, and to kiss ass- then I learn to kiss the right ass. I'm going places, I'm a high-flyer, and the thrill of easy money and easy fucking and easy alcohol and easy coke is making me constantly high.

I'm Aro's golden boy, his protégé, his bitch.

She takes notice of me then. She looks at me during the morning meeting, singles me out as she delivers her daily strategy briefings, and those are the moments that I'm highest of all.

She's got black eyes and black, long, straight hair, so thick and glossy I want to grab it and bite it to see if it's alive. She wears tight skirts and impossibly high heels, and through her black tights I can see the outline of toned, hard muscles, and I fantasize about those legs and those heels and those plump, pale lips of hers all day long.

Maria is a mystery, an enigma. She can silence a room with a small hand movement, and rouse thirty men to concerted activity with a handful of words. She's respected, feared, and probably hated by most. She rarely smiles, and never, ever relaxes.

The rumors about her are vicious, cruel, extravagant. She's a dominatrix at night, she blows the CEO before the morning call; she's slept her way to the top. She's frigid. She's had countless analysts fired for sexual harassment.

The whole trading floor shudders and shivers with repressed lust for this formidable, scary woman. And I burn for her hardest of all: obsessively, compulsively, constantly.

o o o

The party is just like all the ones before it, the trendy new restaurant just like all the restaurants that were trendy before it. I go to parties like this all the time, in London, New York, Dubai, Paris. If I close my eyes I don't know where I am.

Alice loves this easy, superficial crowd- they're all like her: rich, spoiled, chemically enhanced. She flits from person to person, chatting excitedly, downing one cocktail after another, giggling hysterically over God knows what. She kisses me ostentatiously once or twice, just to make sure she's staked her claim on me, as if the sixty thousand dollar diamond she's wearing on her left hand was not enough.

Later that night, after I've taken her home and put her to bed, she grabs my shirt and pulls herself up, her face stopping just inches from mine. Her eyes are huge and unfocused, unnaturally bright, her pupils distorted and dilated. She looks monstrous.

"Where are you, Jasper?" Her face is serious, her voice a rough strangled whisper.

"I'm right here Alice, go to sleep." I try to brush her off but she clutches to me with a strength I didn't know she had.

"No, baby… where are you? Who's there? Who are you, Jasper?" She holds my gaze for too fucking long, long enough to freak me out. Finally she collapses in a fit of high-pitched giggles and rolls onto the mattress, away from me.

"Wanna blowjob baby?" she slurs into the pillow before her eyes close and she passes out.

That's the Alice I know. The Alice I can work with.

She wants money, parties, shiny things and endless pills. She wants to be in control of my social life. I want her daddy's connections and her dependable, non-threatening vacuity. Sex, intimacy, insight… they were never part of the equation, never part of our deal.

We're a match made in heaven.

o o o

I get myself off watching porn on the Internet. I hate this crap, it makes me feel like a loser, like a teenager, but tonight it'll have to do.

I'm awake, too awake, too buzzed, dissatisfied. I need more from this evening and there's nothing in this apartment that will give it to me. And in this dark, this void, lies the danger. The laptop is still open, the keyboard casting an inviting green light in the darkness of the living room. I don't want to, I want not to, but I do. The pull is too strong, and I Google her.

Maria Jones.

Nothing. Nothing new. It's as if she's fallen off the face of the Earth.

I shut my mind, refuse to think of her, refuse to remember her, refuse to think of where she is, what she's doing.

I wish she were dead.

o o o

Dark and smoke and loud music, and flashing lights and drink and laughter and bodies and credit cards changing hands and the boys are loud, so loud, going for the kill; the girls hot and flushed and wanting, begging to be killed.

And through it all, through the gyrating pulsating mass of bodies and sweat and desire and money spent and money craved; through it all, her eyes. Her eyes, still and piercing. Her hands, slowly and methodically lighting a cigarette. Her mouth, sucking and puffing. Her head, nodding ever so slightly, calling. Calling me.

I walk up to her and she stands up, without looking back. She walks, her hips swaying imperceptibly to the music, and I follow, my will surrendered, my ego evaporated already. At her command. At her mercy.

I follow her.

I follow her into a cab, where no words are exchanged.

I follow her to her apartment, to her bed.

I follow her into silent undressing, and when she speaks I think my head will explode alongside my pulsating cock. I' m a contradiction of want and desire and trembling fear.

"I like you, pretty boy. Now let's see whether currencies and interest rates are all you're good at. Show me what you can do."

What I can do apparently is fuck. Fuck like an animal.

Insatiable, unquenchable, demeaning, Maria wants it all, and wants it harder, and faster, and deeper.

And again, and again, and again.

She rides me with her eyes wide open, and digs her fingers in my chest: "Open your eyes. Open your eyes, Jasper, look at me. Look at me."

She hurts me with sharp nails and razor-edged teeth, she marks me without scruples. And I want it, I crave it, I beg for it.

Scratch me, bite me, make me yours.

I look at her, as I precipitate into an abyss of sensation, her wiry tan body over mine and her small solid breasts and sharp clavicles almost driving me to insanity; I look until the sweat pools in my eyes and nothing is real anymore, and still she punishes me with her wild thrusting as she seeks and demands her ecstasy, and finally her body stills, her wild black hair falling on her face as she finally closes her eyes and hisses a deep, throaty rant.

I'm hers.

I'm hers that first night, and all the nights that follow. All the days she just looks at me through screaming phones and flicking screens, every time she just nods and I just follow her.

I want her to use me, to feed on me, to destroy me. I want to be egoless, soul-less, pure body and pure strength.

Whatever she needs, whatever she wants of me, whoever she wants me to be.

She climbs out of bed, a cigarette on her lips as she walks naked and without any hint of self-consciousness to her ensuite bathroom. I look at her, transfixed and disgusted, as she sits on the toilet, door wide open, a hint of amusement on her lips.

"What? Never seen a woman pissing?"

She laughs and the noise is sweet and obscene, like the scent of a putrefying lily.

o o o

"So what's the deal?" I survey the room, the tired tense faces of people who've been working around the clock, armed with reams of papers, presentations, figures, phones and blackberries buzzing of their pockets.

There is a moment of hesitation until Felix speaks up.

"We've done the due diligence and we think the company is viable. We'd have to pump a ton of cash into it initially, but the assets are okay and with a strong show of confidence on our part the brand is still salvageable. The investment will repay itself in about three years… less if we can twist the Government's arm and get a tax rebate to sweeten the deal, which I think is likely."

His words echo in the crowded room.

I don't say anything, and if Felix expected me to say something he doesn't show it. He resumes talking, more hesitantly now.

"But if we want to buy a going concern we've gotta move fast. The liquidators are already in the building. We turn our backs on the deal and they'll file for Chapter 11 first thing in the morning. I reckon we've got two hours before it all goes under."

I raise an eyebrow.

"There's no one else on this, you sure?"

Felix shakes his head. "We're the only ones who've been able to do anything close to a proper due diligence."

Five pairs of eyes are fixed on me as I ponder my choice, and it doesn't take long to pronounce it.

"The deal is off. Make the call"

Felix nods, unflinching, and the room lets out a collective sigh.

The next day, as soon as the bankruptcy is confirmed, I buy their best assets for a fucking song. No employees, no healthcare bills, no pensions to pay out, no shareholders to keep sweet: just prime beautiful real estate at 10 cents in the dollar.

Best fucking deal of my fucking career. And the thrill, this time, is the real thing— poisonous, polluting, and fucking delicious.

As the nameless, faceless girl works on my dick that night, some kind of peace descends upon me, the fury and the hunger momentarily silenced, the thirst quenched, my head as empty and echoing as my soul.

o o o

The first time, I don't even notice. I'm exhausted and spent and pathetically grateful she's not kicking me out of bed as soon as we're done.

"How do you like working for Aro?" Her voice wakes me up from the post-coital near coma I've fallen into.

Nothing could be further from my mind than my boss at this stage, and I laugh, surprised.

"Aro is… great. So talented. I'm learning so much from him."

It's true. I'm learning make a shit-ton of money and how to be a heartless motherfucker, and I'm learning from the best.

"Yeah? He seems to trust you." Maria's face is focused and alert, and it makes me uneasy, but I don't quite know why.

I shrug. "I guess." I can feel myself getting hard again and I really don't want to keep talking about work. I roll into her and try to pull her close, but she pushes me away.

"Tell me about the Nola deal."

And I'd tell her about anything if it means she'll let me touch her.

As the weeks go by she asks more, and I tell her more. Intuitively, I know it's all wrong—she shouldn't be asking, and I sure as fuck shouldn't be talking. But when it comes to Maria I'm powerless to resist.

And then I start to see it, confusedly at first, then completely clearly. She's using all the information I'm feeding her to get closer to Aro, surround him, and at first I think she wants to undercut him, to overpower him.

Then it hits me and when it does, it's enough to send me spinning. Aro and Maria—they are the same. Two faces of the same coin, two halves of the same ruthlessly efficient money-making machine. She knew this already of course, but he was too busy hating and fearing her to realize. But as she gets closer and closer to him, as she shows him what she knows and what she can do with what she knows, then he sees it too. Alone, they're formidable, but together? Together they're fucking invincible.

And I… I am just a puppet, a tool in her calculated strategy.

She calls me less and less, ignores me when I seek her out.

"We're done here, pretty boy." She's given me the gift of one last pity fuck, and she's turning me out.

I shake my head, still refusing to comprehend, to accept what is all too clear.

"No, Maria…. I'm not done. You can't kick me out." My voice is cracking and I'm ashamed of how easily I'm pleading, begging, debasing myself. "Please… you can't. You know we're good, things are good, no need to change them. You said it yourself, we're good…"

Her face is immobile, but her eyes lose some of their customary intensity.

"Look, Jasper. I gotta admit you've blown my expectations in many ways. You're clever, and you're handsome, and you've got more charisma than you know what to do with it. You'll go far."

I'm getting angry now. Her patronizing tone is humiliating and she has no right to do that. I get out of bed and stand naked next to it, towering over her.

"Don't give me this little speech, as if you've been doing me some kind of favor, training me up or some shit! You've used me and now you've got all you want you're kicking me out? Be honest, you know it's not true. I'm more than that. We're more than that!" An edge of hysteria is creeping into my voice, making it high-pitched and feminine. I hate my weakness, hate her for having made me this weak.

She laughs. She fucking laughs, and when she looks back at me her eyes are again fiery and dangerous.

"And what, exactly, do you think we've been doing? Tell me? Why else would have I bothered to spend months with you? You think you are so special? You think there aren't hundreds just like you? You think you fuck better than everyone else, you think you are better any everyone else?"

My fists curl up tight and I have to exercise all my self-control not to shout or hit something.

"WE, Maria, WE are better than anyone else. You can pretend it doesn't matter, and maybe it doesn't matter to you now, but fuck! You're deluding yourself if you think this is nothing!"

I stop and swallow, feeling panic rising inside me.

"We could be more, Maria. We could be different. You know that. We could. I can be your equal, if you let me."

She turns around, so all I can see is her black shiny hair and the curve of her shoulders.

When she speaks, it is facing the wall, and her voice sounds tired, almost strained.

"This kind of sentimental talk will get you nowhere. You have a good head, use it. Forget you have a dick, forget you have a heart. Your brain is your only friend."

Long moments pass with no other sound than the rhythmic thumping of my heart and her quiet breathing.

"Get out." I hardly know her voice now: it's small and weary. I want to reach out and hold her and hit her and force her to take it all back.

I don't move.

"Get out of here, I said. Be a man, show some dignity."

She doesn't even turn around as I leave her room, her apartment, her life.

o o o

The laptop taunts me as I walk in the door that night… still open, still on. I don't even try to resist it tonight.

Maria Jones.

Still nothing.

So I Google him, instead. As if I didn't already know everything there is to know.

How rich, and successful, and reclusive he is. The wildly successful hedge fund, the Texas Ranch, heavily guarded. No parties, no pictures, no nothing. Just money, money, money. The merest sketch of a private life, just enough to reopen the old wound:

"Aaron "Aro" Volturi, Married M. Jones in 2002; three children".

o o o

When Aro and Maria announce their departure from the company, taking with them the biggest clients and the most lucrative deals, everyone is shell-shocked. Everyone but me. No one saw it coming, but I did, and I know what part I played in all of this. It makes me feel sick.

I want to hide, lock myself in a basement bathroom stall and vomit up the bile that's rising up in my throat, but I force myself to stay rooted to the spot as they slowly, triumphantly collect their things and walk through the silent trading floor. I force myself to stare right at her and, when she passes me, she briefly turns toward me. And what I see there—the cold, triumphant stillness of her eyes; the satisfied, sated curve of her mouth; the calculated, terrifying way she moves her body— what I see there becomes my new reason for living.

o o o

I walk into the large, silent apartment. I survey all my possessions—the collector's art; the high-end gadgets; the designer furniture; the heiress sleeping in my bed—and nothing I see, nothing I touch does anything to assuage the anxiety I now feel pressing against my ribs, pushing against my stomach, invading every empty corner of my being.

I slide open the large window and step onto the balcony, surveying the still-buzzing city below.

I let my imagination run wild, like many times before. I imagine bumping into her at a party, at an airport. At first I'll pretend not to recognize her, I'll make her come to me, I'll make her work for my recognition. She'll pretend not to care, but I'll know it hurts.

She'd be older, dried up. I imagine that pregnancy and childbirth have not been kind to her, wiry arms and a soft belly transforming her into a caricature of the woman she once was. I imagine her hair thinner and her face distorted by grotesque surgical interventions. I imagine those eyes of hers even harder and emptier.

I imagine pill bottles rattling in her handbag just to get her through the day.

I imagine how she'd see me, beg me for it. I'd make her beg, oh how I'd make her beg. I'd make her beg for my cock, beg to suck it and that's all I'd let her do, she who always laughed at me—"No way I'm blowing you, you've got your cheap sorority girls for that shit, boy"—but now that's all she'd get, and she'd have to work hard, so hard for it.

I picture her naked and I imagine not wanting her anymore, feeling repelled by her.

Older, sadder, and I'd see right through her, right through her freaky confidence, right through her unnatural ambition and her unashamed hunger.

o o o

What were you hungry for, Maria? For sex, or power, or money? Was it really only that? And do you have it now? Was it worth it?

I'd be cruel to you now, like you were with me. You made me your puppet, you made me do your bidding, you used me and discarded me. I did everything- I gave you everything. My body, my soul, my future, and you took it all, greedy and immoral, laughing all the way, just a pawn in your quest for more territory, more victims, more glory.

And did you get it? What was the ultimate prize? Was that really it? Him? You disgusted me then, and you disgust me now. So cheap, so predictable, weren't you supposed to be different? Above it all?

I fantasize about rejecting you, about hurting you. I long to show you how strong I am now, how I can leave bruises on your skin and scars on your heart. How I'm richer and more successful than him, and you've played your cards all wrong.

I'd call you a whore, a freak, a monster, and you'd agree, and beg me to fuck you just one more time, because no one else can fuck you like I do, and no one else ever has, and no one else ever will.

In this fantasy of mine, I feel victorious, powerful, immortal. Vindicated, healed.

o o o

And yet on nights like this one, when I'm alone and cold and nothing, nothing can fill that screaming void inside… on nights like these, when the noise of the city finally dies down and the clamouring of those around me subsides and their demands and promises and offers disappear into the dark… on those nights I imagine what it would be like to touch you.

I wonder whether age has made you softer, and smoother, whether it's turned your harsh scalding touch into a soothing, gentle one.

I wonder whether you've suffered and you've broken, whether you'd always suffered and were always broken. I could have helped you, then, if you'd let me. I could have loved you.

I could still love, back then.

I wonder whether your body can now give as well as take, whether the fire that you unleashed over me could still warm me up and ignite me, whether I could feel alive again.

I was alive, back then.

I remember the way your skin smelled, and I long to touch it again, to run my fingers through your hair, to lie on top of you and hold your hands down while you laugh, crazed, wild, free.

o o o

You taught me to surrender and in doing so taught me how to fight: to kill, to dominate, and to enjoy every moment of the chase. This fight is all that's left of you, and I fight on, even though I know now that this war cannot be won.

I am your soldier, your victim and your battleground.