Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any similarities to the original characters or themes from the books or media franchise are used here for entertainment purposes only. All original elements to this story are mine. Please don't claim it for your own. Stealing ain't cool, m'kay?

I wrote and posted this story over a year ago, but took it down when FFn started pulling fics. I decided to put it back up. You don't have to review it, I just want it back in the public domain here for as long as it can be ;)

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains dark themes including extreme emotional anguish caused by past physical abuse, as well as present and somewhat intense BDSM scenes. I strongly encourage you to think about how each of these things might affect you before continuing. This contest was titled "Beyond the Pale" for a reason, people. Really think about this. Thank you.

The sounds of their voices carry across the short distance between buildings and it brings back memories of a time long ago; memories that should remain buried but don't.

Any attempt to block the sounds is futile: hands over ears, hiding beneath a pillow, loud music … none of it works and it's maddening.

"You'll do as I tell you to," he barks, causing something dark inside of me to stir.

Behind closed eyelids, his face pushes through the darkness. His dark eyes menacing and angry as he prepares to strike. It takes an immense amount of strength to suppress him back down where he belongs. He doesn't go easily though, clawing desperately in an attempt to be freed. He can't be though, because if he is… Well, it's not good. Ever.

Unable to block them out, curiosity takes over until I'm by the window, slowly pulling the curtain back to catch a glimpse of what is going on across the way. It is beyond wrong, but the temptation is strong. As they come into view, the man can be seen towering over his possession—that's really the only way to describe what the beautiful red-haired woman is to him, because from what's been witnessed of their relationship over time, she's clearly not his equal. The gleam in his eyes is chilling and no good can possibly come of it; that much is painfully clear. They stand like this for a while, neither one saying a word, just glaring at each other as he backs her against the window.

"You know what happens when you don't fucking listen," he growls loudly, leaning in until their faces are only inches apart. It's a phrase I've heard before, and it makes me whimper with fear.

Even from here, the slight tremble of her body can be seen, and the dread coursing through my veins is crippling. How can it not be? He's terrifying with his blue eyes as hard and cold as ice, and his sandy hair disheveled as though he'd just taken a run through the forest. The line of his jaw is hard and angular, made to appear even more so whenever he clenches it at his companion.

What's about to happen isn't a shock given how he is looking at her. He starts to get a little grabby with her and a cold sweat breaks out all over my body, the faint voice I've worked so hard to bury all these years making itself known. "Watch," he says before he begins to taunt me. It takes real effort to ignore him and the threats he's started doling out, but eventually he's barely a whisper in my mind as my eyes remain glued on the couple across the way.

She says something, but it's quiet and I can't hear her. She's always sure to keep her eyes from the man in front of her, almost as though she's afraid of what she's going to see—and she should be.

In turn, he responds to her, but again it's not audible as they've lowered their voices, but the look in his eyes continues to tell me that whatever it was couldn't have been sweet or apologetic. His actions only cement my theory as he leans in, wrapping a hand around her throat. From here, it's obvious he isn't gripping her too hard, but it's no less paralyzing. My own throat feels tight from the memories that come back in a flash, and his breath can almost be felt fanning over my cheek. Goosebumps arise as the hair all over my body stands on end and bile churns in my stomach when I feel the familiar and ghost-like grip on me.

The faint sound of fabric tearing catches my attention and I am horrified to see that he's torn her blouse open with his free hand and is now in the process of raising her black skirt over her hips. My mouth opens to cry out, but the only sound that escapes is a strangled squeak as my entire body remains frozen in fear.

I want to turn away from what I am witnessing as he forces himself on her. She doesn't fight back, almost as though she's so used to this that she's just given up. It's a feeling I know all too well.

Her body is still pressed against the windowpane, her legs up around his waist, and his hand is still firmly wrapped around her slender neck as he continues to … do what he is doing to her. I am absolutely horrified and sick with myself when my body reacts almost positively to what is happening to this woman—only further confirming just how extremely fucked up I am because of my past.

Because of him.

Why can't I stop watching? Why can't I pick up the phone or call out for help? My entire body is paralyzed as I watch this scene play out across the alley. It's wrong, and I know that. The only reaction I seem to be capable of is crying for this woman because I'm weak. Powerless.

It never used to be this way. I used to be popular, loved by all and, more importantly, strong … until he took that away from me.

Suddenly, I am filled with relief and confusion when he leans in and presses his lips firmly to hers, his hips stuttering through the end of his climax. It not only comforts me that she seems to be okay as he releases his hold on her throat, but baffles me because she smiles lazily—almost euphorically—as she rubs at the dark red handprint around her neck.

Then his icy blue eyes lock on my frozen form, and I gasp before yanking the curtains shut. Sharp breaths fill the apartment as I fall to my knees, unsure what to make of the look in his eyes, or the smile on his face when our eyes connected.

~*… T.t.L.G …*~

Days have gone by, and I haven't heard anything from their apartment, but it doesn't mean it doesn't haunt my every thought or dream. The way his eyes burned as they caught mine that night sends shivers up my spine constantly, and I can't shake the feeling that maybe there was something behind that smile. I'm aware that this is a ridiculous thought and that the probability of him really seeing me is low.

Completely lost in my thoughts, I wrap my arms around myself as I feel that chill—even in the ninety-five degree weather we are experiencing. My eyes are cast down, so I don't even see the person I accidentally bump into until we're both on the ground picking up the contents of her purse.

"I'm so sorry," I tell her, reaching for her lip-gloss and wallet. As I hand it to her, I bring my eyes up to hers and gasp when recognition blares brightly in my mind.

Red hair. Pale green eyes. Faint discolouration around her neck where her hair doesn't seem to cover and her make-up has failed.

"Don't even worry about it," she says kindly, retrieving her belongings from me and shoving them back in her handbag. "Hey, do I know you?" I shake my head vehemently, feeling almost dizzy from it. "No, I do…" She seems to ponder this for a moment before she, too, has a moment of clarity. "You're my neighbour from across the alley!"

"Oh, uh, am I?" I ask dumbly before nodding. "Yeah, I think you're right."

We stand up and she laughs. Up close, she's even more beautiful than I've noticed before. It's not just her physical appearance that's attractive, but the way she carries herself too. After what I'd witnessed, how was it she was this put together when I was … well, not.

"Well," she says after we share an extremely awkward moment of silence. "Thanks. Maybe I'll see you around?"

She is just starting to walk away when my mouth moves without getting clearance from my brain. "I've seen what he does to you," I blurt out, immediately slapping my hands over my mouth and clenching my teeth shut.

Slowly, she turns around, her eyes wide, but not as horrified as I figured they should be having just been told that someone has borne witness to the abuse she's been suffering. "Y—you have?" I nod. "Well, that's deeply embarrassing."

I'm confused and also a little mad that she feels it's embarrassing that her being assaulted has been made public—well, as public as one person is. She must see how puzzled I am because she takes three quick steps forward, shaking her head. "Oh, no! It's not what you think—not even close, I promise."

I remember saying that when my parents saw the first bruises… "He loves me," I'd told them. I still can't believe I ever fell for it.

"You didn't … call someone, did you?" She appears very concerned for his well-being. I shake my head, unable to say anything since I couldn't trust my mouth or my brain at that moment.

"Look, do you have time to go somewhere and talk?" she asks. "I know we don't even know each other, but I feel like I should explain as best I can."

I'm not sure why—morbid curiosity, maybe—but I go with her to a little café just around the corner and we order a couple of Frappuccinos and sit outside in the warmth of the sun.

Victoria, as she's introduced herself, goes on to explain that she's not in an abusive relationship. I outwardly scoff at her, telling her that those are the classic words of a victim. It's weird, but she seems genuinely offended by my words. Okay, so maybe not so weird; I was pretty snarky.

Leaning forward, she lowers her voice to a whisper, and it's not until she speaks that I fully understand why. "Have you ever heard of BDSM? You know, bondage and discipline, dominance & submission, sadism & masochism?" I nod, only vaguely aware since it's not really something I ever considered—especially given my past. "Well, that's what that was—what we are." She pauses and waits for me to say something, but I can't find words. "I'm James' submissive."

"Why?" My voice is strangled, unable to contemplate why someone would willingly let someone control them that way. In any way.

Victoria smiles, her beautiful blue eyes glazing over as she seems to be remembering something. "I guess I just like it when he's in control. The look in his eyes when we're acting out a scene… It's not for everyone, I suppose," she concludes with a light laugh before picking up her drink and taking a pull from the straw.

"So, he gets off on having the power." Not really a big shocker, as I had known one other guy to be the same—the only difference was that it wasn't always consensual in my case. "But what do you get out of it?"

"It's hard to explain properly," she tells me with a small smile. "I guess I like that I'm giving myself over to him completely. Keep in mind, it's not just me that has to trust in him implicitly, he has to trust me to tell him when I've reached my limits. And I do; I trust him like I've never trusted anyone else."

Victoria must see something in my eyes as I stare at her, because they soften almost empathetically. "I'm sorry," she says suddenly, reaching over and placing a hand over mine. "This is clearly upsetting you. I only wanted to explain that what is going on between James and me is one hundred percent consensual. He loves me and I love him. Our lifestyle isn't exactly conventional—well, to some people; I tend to think there are a lot more of us out there than anyone really knows—but it's who we are." She offers me a wink and I can feel myself blush.

"You seem like a really sweet girl, and I hope I was able to convince you that James isn't a bad guy." The tone of her voice is soft and genuine. "Maybe we can get together sometime—to hang out." Reaching into her purse, she grabs a piece of paper and a pen and jots down her phone and apartment numbers before sliding it across the table for me to have. "Feel free to stop by anytime, okay?"

Picking up the paper, I stare at it as Victoria walks away. It's weird, but all I seem to be able to think about is the dominant look in James' eyes that night I saw them. It takes me a while to fully recognize why I can't seem to get it out of my mind, but eventually, I do.

And it terrifies me.

~*… T.t.L.G …*~

It takes all the courage I can muster to go to their apartment and ask Victoria if we can talk. I'm not even really sure what it is I hope to accomplish—well, I have an idea, but I'm not sure if it's even in the realm of possibilities.

Upon first glance, everything appears quite normal as she leads me to the small kitchen. I'm not sure why this surprises me; maybe because after Victoria's confession, I expected black walls, leather whips and chain shackles. Once seated at the table, I eye the window I had seen them out of less than a week ago. My cheeks warm from embarrassment at having misconstrued what was truly going on.

"What do you mean?" Victoria asks after I begin to tell her bits and pieces about why I am here.

I've been here for a half hour already, trying to explain to her what it is I desire, and I'm doing a poor job of it because I honestly can't believe it myself.

Without going into too much detail about how it was I became the person I was, I tried to explain that I was tired of being weak and pushed around by everyone in my life. Victoria remained silent, smiling and nodding as she listened raptly and sipping her tea.

"I'm tired of being … I don't know … the victim," I tell her.

This shocks her. "Oh, honey, you realize that's not what this is about, right? I'm no one's victim."

Immediately I feel stupid, having just offended her. "No, I know—I think. I just want to find that confidence I once had. To be in control. And I think this is the only way to accomplish that."

"Sooo, you want to be the one in control? To become a Domme?" she asks, raising an eyebrow, and I nod almost hesitantly, suddenly wishing I seemed a little surer in my own conviction.

She understands what it is I say I need and then says she'll talk to James about it and get back to me. I'm not sure why, but the idea of her talking to him freaks me out—probably because I think he's going to outright reject the idea.

I am stunned to hear my phone ring later that night as I sit in the dark on my couch. It's Victoria and she's invited me over in an hour to talk with James about what it is I think I'm looking for out of this lifestyle. The thought is scary, considering I've never met the man before and I'm supposed to tell him about the darkest desires I've ever had.

Three knocks on the door is all it takes before it opens and I am face to face with Victoria's partner—with James. After introducing myself, he steps out of the way so I can come in.

"So," James says from behind me. "Vic tells me that she had to explain a few things to you?" I nod, still looking throughout the apartment. When I turn around again, I see him leaning against the wall, smiling, as he looks me up and down. It's not in a creepy, leering way, but almost like he's sizing me up for … something.

"I'm terribly sorry if what you saw upset or confused you," he goes on to say, indicating for me to have a seat at the table.

I look around, silently wondering where Victoria is, because I thought for sure she'd be here for this discussion. James is very intuitive and picks up on this almost immediately. "I told Vic I would need to talk with you alone. I hope that's all right." I swallow thickly, but nod once. "Tell me a bit about your past. If we're going to bring you into this lifestyle, I need to know you a little better. It's the only way to build a foundation based on trust."

So, I begin to tell him where I grew up, a little about my family, I even make mention of some of the boyfriends I've had in the past. Some.

This seems to sate James' thirst for knowledge on all things "me," and soon he starts explaining to me how this arrangement would work—should we decide to proceed.

It shocks and frightens me when he tells me I would need to be "trained." Apparently, what this means is I would basically assume the role of his submissive while he dominated me. I ask why such a thing is necessary, terrified that being put in that situation might unleash every painful memory I've worked so hard to repress.

"It's the only way for you to fully understand what it is you expect of your subs and how to properly care for them," he explains carefully, his eyes dancing back and forth between my own. I know in an instant he catches a flicker of what it is I can't let him see … can't let anyone see. "Will this be a problem?"

I take a beat before finally shaking my head, even forcing a smile to my face. "Not at all. When can we start?" I'm surprised at how little my voice shakes, because inside I'm a trembling mess.

Seemingly pleased by my response, James stands up, indicating I should do the same before leading me toward the door. "We'll begin this weekend. Be here at seven p.m. sharp on Friday evening. We'll be waiting."

Slowly, I nod before saying goodnight and heading for the elevator. Once the cool night air hits my face upon exiting the building, I start to fully realize exactly what it is I've agreed to. Instead of gaining the power and the confidence I so desperately craved, I willingly just signed it over to James.

My heart hammers in my chest, the sound of the blood pumping through my veins blocking out all of the city noise as I head for my place. It's not until I'm safely locked in my apartment that I feel my stomach churn, and I rush to the bathroom where I proceed to empty its contents into the toilet.

Pulling myself up to the counter and running the cold water, I stare at my pale, sickly complexion and push my long brown hair from my sweaty face. "What the fuck have I gotten myself into?" I ask.

~*… T.t.L.G …*~

It's six fifty-seven on Friday night and I'm standing outside their apartment door, too paralyzed with fear and apprehension to raise my hand to knock.

It isn't that I don't know what to expect; over the last few days, Victoria and I have spoken. While she doesn't know what exactly James has planned for tonight, she did tell me to be sure I stated any hard limits before tonight.

Finally finding the courage, I raise my arm and rap once on the door. It flies open only seconds later and I see Victoria's radiant face before me. She's stunning, as always, dressed in a deep turquoise satin robe that is in direct contrast with her creamy skin tone. Her fiery red hair hangs in loose curls down her back and over her shoulders, framing her face, and her eyes are simply alight with happiness and possibly excitement.

Her demeanor sets me slightly at ease, and I smile back as she steps aside, pulling the door open for me to enter. I enter the apartment and, for some reason, am shocked that it appears the same as the other night. I'm not sure why I expect it to be different, perhaps because tonight's visit is quite a bit different than before?

The farther I walk into the apartment, I am made aware of James' absence. Victoria offers to take my coat as I continue to look around for him, I guess in hopes that I'll maybe be able to foresee what to expect.

"It's part of the scene," Victoria explains quietly, somehow knowing exactly what it is I am doing. "I'm to get you ready and take you to him."

I laugh dryly. "What? Like some kind of virginal sacrifice?" I joke.

She laughs in kind, only it sounds more genuine than my nervous one. "Something like that." She winks. "Come on, I'll take you to get prepared."

Once inside her large bathroom, she continues to primp me. It used to be that I was one to take a bit of pride in my appearance, but after everything that had happened, I just wanted to blend in in hopes that no one would notice me ever again. I grew my hair out long in an effort to curtain myself from the world so no one would take notice. My clothing choices over the years became baggier and baggier so that men wouldn't ogle me. I had essentially lost who I was as a person entirely, and it wasn't until meeting Victoria that I grew determined enough to find her again.

"You really do have the most expressive brown eyes," Victoria tells me, peering over my shoulder and into the mirror. "I bet if I looked close enough, I could see right into your soul."

This makes me nervous and I instantly cast my eyes down as she runs her fingers through my long tresses. I don't want her to see into my soul, because if she does, she's sure to find what I don't want her to.

"You know, honey," she says, pulling my hair back into a ponytail—something James apparently requires at times, "you'd look amazing with short hair."

I smile, keeping my face down, but drawing my eyes back to the mirror to catch hers, still sparkling and friendly. "Thanks. It used to be short … years ago."

"Oh?" I nod. "What made you decide to grow it out? Not that it isn't lovely." She's quick to tack that last part on, probably because she doesn't want to offend me—not that she does.

"I, um, just needed a change," I tell her.

She sees through me; she always does. "You were trying to hide behind it." I shrug with one shoulder, not really answering her with a yes or no, but she knew.

Slowly, she moves to my side. "You know, if there's something you need to talk about before I take you to James, please do. The first time can be intense and I don't want it to scare you off."

I smile again, this time hoping it's a little more genuine. "I'm fine. Really."

After tearing off the tags, Victoria hands me a white satin robe. "Strip down and put this on," she instructs. "It's almost time."

My palms sweat as I reach for the robe, turning away from her as I pull my clothes from my body and fold them neatly. I've got goosebumps all over my body, but not from being cold. No, it's sheer nervousness. The reality of what's about to happen has sunk in and my stomach is flipping around like a fish out of water.

Victoria leads me from the bathroom and down the hall to a closed door. Reaching into her robe's pocket, she retrieves a key and releases the lock, allowing me to enter first. It's shrouded in near-darkness, but I can still see everything since there are low-lit lamps and flickering candles everywhere.

And then everything goes blank.

~*… T.t.L.G …*~

My hand is shaking as I try to slip the key into the lock on my apartment door. My double vision and dizziness doesn't seem to help matters as I use my other hand to try and steady it. When I'm finally successful, I push the door open before stumbling over the threshold, barely coherent enough to lock the deadbolt behind me before flopping down on my couch. As soon as my backside connects with the soft cushions, I wince and shift more onto my side. I'm with it enough to know that the entire weekend has gone by, and every muscle in my body aches with fatigue. While I can't remember everything that happened with perfect clarity, the faint bruises on my backside and around my wrists paint an impressionistic Monet of my time with James and Victoria.

My eyes follow Victoria as she moves to the centre of the room, eyeing me expectantly. "You'll kneel here," she says simply. "This is where you'll wait for him to come to you."

"W—where will you be?" I ask, not sure whether it will be better or worse if she stays. I mean, James is her partner and Dominant, after all.

She smiles, and this calms me to a degree. "I'll remain in the room unless James orders me away. Don't worry, he won't allow things to go beyond what you can't handle."

I open my mouth to question this when his footsteps can be heard. "He'll explain," she rushes to tell me before nodding toward my spot and dropping her head as she backs away from me.

Sucking in a deep breath, I kneel to the hard floor and wait. The seconds it takes him to open the door feels like days, but eventually the door closes and I hear his feet padding across the floor.

"Good evening, ladies." Victoria remains silent, so I follow her lead. "Now, before we begin tonight's scene, I need to ask our newest playmate a few questions and explain the rules. Look at me."

Swallowing thickly, I raise my eyes to his. Their ice blue colour makes me shiver slightly, but I try to keep it as unnoticeable as possible. I look over his rough features; the hard cut of his jaw, his longish sandy blond hair that has been pulled back into a low ponytail and the contours of his naked upper body.

Suddenly his eyes soften, almost as though he can see how nervous I am. "Relax," he coos, reaching out and letting his fingers trail along my cheek. I nod, holding his stare. "I need to ask again if there are any hard limits." I look at him with furrowed eyebrows. "Anything you absolutely won't do or can't handle." I only shake my head in response.

"As is standard practice, we use a very simple safe word system during our scenes. Red ends the scene immediately. If at any point you feel like you can't handle it, you say this one word and everything stops. Absolutely everything. No questions, no repercussions." I nod my understanding. "Yellow indicates you're reaching your limits, but are allowing me to proceed slowly and with caution. And green, well, green means go." He even laughs a little at the end and it makes me smile and feel a little better about all of this.

Brief flashes of silver shackles dangling from the ceiling and the faint sound of his hand slapping my backside when I'd cried out without consent rush through my mind. Even though I knew what to expect, I don't think I was emotionally sound enough to deal with it. Of course, knowing that I held the power to stop the scene if I felt it was going too far made me feel so much better about my decision, and I decided that maybe it wouldn't be so bad. And it wasn't … at times.

"She's pretty, isn't she, kitten?" James says, assumedly to Victoria.

"Yes, sir," Victoria answers softly. "Very pretty."

James fingers trailing along the edge of my left shoulder and toward my neck caused me to jump slightly. "Easy, little one." His tone is firm, and more of a warning than anything. It's easy to tell the difference.

I'm unsure what it is he plans to do, but remind myself that this is what I wanted … needed.

"Kitten, it seems our new friend is a tad nervous, why don't you come and make her feel a little more comfortable?" James suggests, throwing me off entirely.

"It would be my pleasure, sir," Victoria agrees quietly. Almost immediately, I can hear her soft footfalls on the wooden floor as she crosses the room.

"Stand, little one," James instructs me firmly, and I am quick to listen. I know enough not to disobey anyone anymore.

By the time I am on my feet, Victoria is in front of me, naked from head to toe. It isn't until she takes a small step forward, her full breasts brushing against my own, that I fully understand what it is James meant before. Slowly, Victoria raises a hand and cups my face, her thumb moving softly over my cheek as she lowers her lips to mine.

"Breathe," she whispers, her warm breath fanning across my face, before kissing me tenderly.

I haven't experienced pleasure at another's hand in a long time, and that first night, I came to realize just how much I'd missed it.

I moan a little louder, and before I know it, James' hand comes up and grips my neck just below my chin—not too tight, just enough to pull my lips from Victoria's and hold me still—and I grunt through the sharp upward turn of my face.

"Unless you've been given permission to do so, you will remain silent," he growls in my ear before slipping his hand between my legs and running it back and forth.

I know he can sense just how close to release I am already, so he slows his movements until it's bordering on torturous. "Just to remind you, little one, your orgasms belong to me. If you cry out or come without consent, you will be punished. Are we clear?"

Swallowing thickly against his palm, I nod. "Y-yes, sir," I say, mimicking what I'd heard Victoria call him several times. The position is all-too familiar, and soon enough the one voice I don't need to hear right now is making itself known. Sure, he's quiet, but he's a persistent bastard.

That first scene with James was pretty tame compared to the one the following night. I assume he was taking it easy on me, trying not to push me too far on our first night together. Saturday night, from what I remember, was a little more extreme. That's when he used the shackles, and also when I'd made the mistake of crying out without his permission for the second time that weekend. He was less forgiving that time.

The punishment wasn't too severe; I received five strikes with his hand. Victoria told me later that he normally would have used the paddle too, but because it was my first offence and one of my first scenes that he wanted to ease me into it. I guess I should feel privileged. I don't.

Hot tears roll down my cheeks, and I'm choking back sobs as I try to figure out why I ever thought this was a good idea. How could I think that this was the path that would lead me to my former self?

As has been happening all weekend, the voice comes back and answers my silent question; he's been a more present since all of this started, and it's beginning to make me feel a little unstable. "Because deep down, you know you need it. Need … me."

There is a part of me that thinks maybe the voice is right—that maybe I do need him. I don't want to believe it, though, because if I do, then there is no hope for moving on with my life. I find a reserve of strength and push the voice back before addressing it firmly. "No. I don't."

This seems to quiet him for the moment, and I'm happy about this.

The problem is, I know he won't be quiet for long.

There was a routine set in place from the moment I stepped into that dark room. During the week, Victoria and I talk; we even go shopping and hang out like we're old friends. To be honest, it's nice having someone in my life that I can talk to; it's been just me for so long. Then, every Friday at six, I am expected to show up at their apartment and be ready for our scene by seven. I always spend the weekend there, submitting my body to James the entire time I'm there, and unlike that first weekend, I remember every experience. The difference is I've learned how I'm expected to react, which makes it easier. I just hope that it's enough to convince them.

There's been the odd occurrence during our scenes where I hear the taunting whispers, but I'm able to ignore them and make it through the weekend until I deal with everything.

The weeks keep getting easier, and James tells me that he thinks I might be ready soon. I can't even describe how happy I was upon hearing that. To know that I am so close to achieving what I had originally set out to do is thrilling.

Putting the finishing touches on my makeup, I smooth my hair back into my low ponytail and remind myself how close I am. I'm hoping this will be my last weekend as a submissive, and that James and Victoria are pleased enough to allow me to show them all I've learned under James' tutelage.

I arrive at their door with twenty minutes to spare, and Victoria is happy to see that I'm mostly ready. Seeing I only have to change before we go to the room and wait for James, she takes my hand and leads me to the kitchen for a glass of wine. It's kind of become a routine we have every Friday night.

"Has he said anything?" I ask, curious to know if this would be my last weekend in this role.

Vic just shakes her head and winks. "Not to me, but I think you've forgotten I'm not privy to that information either."

"Not even during the week?" It's the first I've heard about how their arrangement might go seven days a week.

"Sometimes," she responds. "Since he started working with you, I've been submitting more during the week."

I am floored to find out that my training has interfered with their lifestyle. "I'm so sorry."

Victoria laughs. "Don't be! I'm certainly not. It's been great. Submitting myself to him during the week isn't new—it happens more times than not—it's just becoming a little more regular." She takes the last sip of her wine and looks at the glowing green numbers on the stove. "Shit! We have to get changed."

When my eyes catch the time, I choke on the sip I had just taken and slam my own glass down on the granite countertop. We have exactly one minute—quite possibly less. I have never been late for a scene and I definitely don't want to start now. I can't even imagine the punishment for this offence.

We're stripping our shirts and undoing out pants as we race down the hall. James can surely hear us wherever he is waiting, and this terrifies me.

By the time we've pulled our satin robes on and raced to the room we're to wait, it's two minutes past seven. I'm hoping we've got a few minutes leeway, but the panicked look in Vic's eyes tells me something else entirely. Whatever awaits us isn't going to be good.

James isn't here yet, which isn't surprising since he would never arrive before us. It's not how he plays. Before he can arrive, I quickly kneel in the spot that I've been doing so in every time we're in here and I wait while Victoria stands next to the door with her eyes cast down. I don't even get a chance to calm my pounding heart before the door opens behind me, and I jump with a start when it slams almost immediately.

"Is it not expected for you to be on time?" he demands without so much as a greeting.

It's a question that we both know the answer to, so I am unsure if I should respond aloud. Victoria wastes no time replying, clearly having more experience than me. "It is. We're terribly sorry," she says in a voice barely above a whisper.

He stops moving toward me, and it takes everything in me to not turn and see why. The energy in the room is so very different than it has been in weeks past, and I don't like it one bit.

"And what, pre-tell, would be the reason, kitten?" he asks Victoria firmly.

"It was my fault," she says, taking all the blame upon herself. "I figured we had enough time, and we got talking and just lost track of the hour. I am deeply sorry."

A heavy silence fills the already charged room. I close my eyes and pray that I'm dreaming because I honestly don't know how I'm going to handle my first chastisement. Then he speaks, his voice bordering on a low growl, and my heart falls into the pit of my stomach. "Bench. Now."

I lift my backside off my heels and am just about to stand when I hear Victoria's bare feet padding across the hardwood floors. I inhale a shaky breath when I see her feet pass through my line of sight and head to the corner where the bench is located. I keep my eyes down, because I'm certain I don't want to hear this, let alone see it.

I try to block out the sounds of what I assume is a paddle coming down on her bare flesh. I try to block out the sounds of her trembling voice as it counts out her strikes. Of course, as I retreat into the sanctuary of my own mind, all I hear is that sinister voice repeating, "You're next" over and over and over again. What makes it worse is I know he's right.

Sure enough, as James excuses Victoria to her quarters for the rest of the evening—something I know can't be good—he calls upon me. I fight back a whimper and push myself onto trembling legs, slowly making my way toward him.

Sharp images of hands and fists striking me repeatedly flash in my mind. They're from my past, I know this, but I can't help but relate them to what's about to happen to me. I didn't want this. I don't want this.

"But you deserve it," the voice tells me as I position myself over the bench, gripping the legs tightly in my hands and bracing myself for the first blow.

A large part of me knows I only have to say the word and this whole thing ends. But wouldn't that make me weak? I have already been through so much with James and Victoria, it would be stupid to safe word when I'm so damn close to the ultimate goal. No, I'm going to stick it out. I mean, how bad can it be? Surely I've experienced worse.

"Do you understand why you're here, little one?" I nod, not trusting my voice enough to speak. His silence, though, clearly indicates he expects me to answer vocally.

"Because I was late in arriving for tonight's scene," I tell him, trying to control the waver in my voice and failing miserably.

The first smack on the flesh of my ass startles me and I shriek. I know he's using his bare hand first, warming me up before he moves on to something more extreme. He slaps me five times and with every strike, I picture him. Remember how his hand felt across my cheek. How my eye felt like it was going to pop right out of its socket from the force. Then the bruise that covered the entire left side of my face.

The first of several tears falls, but I don't make a sound; James won't know if I'm quiet.

The room falls silent and I suck in a breath, assuming that I'm about to receive my realpunishment. I'm shocked when James hand moves in a circular motion a few times before leaving my stinging skin. The action confuses me. It's almost like he … cares.

"He doesn't." The voice is so clear in my mind, and it's not until I open my clenched eyes that I see the dark eyes from my past before me. My skin crawls as we lock eyes and I fight back a gasp. I recognize the look on his face instantly: he's enjoying the pained look in my eyes. He revels in it.

Even though my eyes are locked on the ones before me, I am continually aware of my surroundings and how quickly things could change if I'm not careful. And just like that, I'm proven right the minute James' hand wraps around my ponytail and yanks my head back. There are no more soothing circles being rubbed on my backside, just the sharp prickles of pain shooting through my head, starting at the roots and working their way down to my toes. While it hurts, I'm surprised to find it quite … titillating. Especially given the current situation.

My eyes widen as I feel the warmth of James' body covering my exposed back, and his warm breath wafts over my ear and cheek as he growls into my ear. "I have expectations, and being punctual is one of them." I swallow thickly, afraid to speak. Afraid to move. "Are we clear?" All I can do is nod my response against his firm grip on my hair. "In this room, you do as I say. You. Are. Mine."

A deep, sinister laugh fills the room, coming from the apparition in front of me, and my entire body slumps against the bench in defeat. I'm his, I repeat to myself, hearing James' words over and over in my head so many times that they eventually change in tenor until they mirror that of the man in front of me.

They are words I'd heard once too often, and ones I will never forget.

The two voices are now harmonizing in my head, and I feel like I'm going completely crazy. What brings me out of my fog is the cool wooden paddle connecting with my backside. I count because Victoria did, working really hard to keep the quiver in my voice from being heard.

All I can hear are the two voices repeating the same words over and over in my head. I'm lost to it and am suddenly unaware of what's going on. When I come to, James' hands are gently easing my body off the bench, holding me upright. I think I'm saying something, but I can't make sense of anything at all right away. It's not until James stops us at the door and hands me my robe that I register the words coming from my mouth.

"I'm his," I say quietly as the soft satin envelops me. The worry in James' blue eyes is strong as he pulls me back into his side and escorts me to my room where he quickly draws a bath. I sit on the edge of the tub and barely see through my hazy periphery as he tests the water pouring from the spout several times before shutting it off and submerging us both.

"Shhh," he soothes from behind me, stroking my hair with his hand as he holds me against him.

I suddenly realize that I'm teetering on the border of Crazytown, so I quickly sit up and wrap my arms around my knees. The sudden movement against the hard porcelain tub reminds me of the pain in my backside, but I need to make him see that I'm fine. That I can do this. That I'm strong.

"Um," I begin, trying to find the words to explain what the hell just happened with me. "Sorry."


I sigh, resting my cheek on my knee and looking back at him. "All of it. I understand what happened. I think I just…"

James smiles. "It was your first. I get it. Everyone reacts a little differently. I need you to understand, I don't relish punishing you, but it's part of what I am. What you want to be."

His words strike a chord somewhere deep, and I choke on a gasp. Was that what I wanted?

I'm not able to think more about it because James leans forward and kisses my shoulder. "Let's get you cleaned up and into bed. You should rest."

I nod. "Okay, but would you mind leaving me for a bit?" I know I'm probably out of bounds by requesting anything, given my place, but I need space from everything. Everyone. Naturally, he looks at me questioningly. "I'm fine. I swear. I just need to process everything."

It takes a bit of convincing, but James eventually agrees to leave me in solitude. After wrapping a fluffy white towel around his lower half, he leaves the room and comes back in with a metal tin of medicated cooling balm. For my ass, apparently. I'm nowhere near ready to let anyone touch my sore backside, so I assure him I'll handle the aftercare, tacking on an "if that's okay with you?" for good measure, because I don't want to upset him.

Once James has left the room, I drain it, turning the shower on as hot as I can handle it. I step beneath the spray and grab my loofah, scrubbing my body roughly with it until it's red and raw. When the scrubbing does little to bury the memories of my past that have flared up like wildfire, I crumble to the shower floor, wrapping my arms around my legs as I cry into my knees.

"Thought you could escape me, huh? Never forget, I'm always with you, sweetheart…"

~*… T.t.L.G …*~

I push my way through the door in a zombie-like state, not unlike that first time I returned home from James and Victoria's house. Saturday was difficult, having to continue to submit to James after what happened Friday, but I was able to push my way through. I tried not to think of what happened, instead finding solace locked way in the back of my mind.

That wasn't to say that I didn't see or hear or feel what all was going on around me. James still wasn't happy about us being late, and I firmly believe the only reason he took it easy on me was because of my newness to the lifestyle.

A lifestyle I now questioned.

While I know I want to regain my former confidence and find the power I had been stripped of, when James said, "It's part of what I am. What you want to be," I found myself stunned. How is that any better than what I had been subjected to so many years ago? Could I hurt someone the way I had been hurt? Why didn't I think all of this through?

"Because deep down, this is who you are. You didn't think that you'd ever truly be rid of me … did you?"

I ignore him—or try to—and start to visualize a future Where I'm standing over a faceless submissive who's upset me. I try to imagine flogging him or her, seeing the fear and pain in their eyes, and I feel ill because James told me before I left that he would be handing his control over to me. Fully.

"Don't fight it, baby girl," he tells me as I shove past his apparition. "Embrace it. I told you what we had was forever."

My stomach rolls and I run for the bathroom where I immediately begin to dry-heave into the toilet until the muscles in my back ache from the repetitiveness of it all. When I'm sure I'm not going to be sick, I try to stand, finding it hard to on my shaking legs. I figure that another shower is in order to cleanse my body and soul of everything it's been through.

I strip down, and as I make my way toward the shower stall, I catch a glimpse of something dark in the mirror. It stops me in my tracks and I move in and turn around to get a closer look. As I turn, I notice the deep welts covering the ivory flesh of my ass. It's an angry looking wound, dark in the middle and already turning purple and black as it spreads outward. I can already tell that it rivals any other bruises I've endured in the past.

"Mmm," he hums. When my eyes flicker up to his reflection as he approaches from behind me, I watch as he reaches out and I can almost feel his ghostly fingers move up and down the length of my arm while his eyes fall to my bare backside. "The man is an artist."

For some reason, instead of wilting like a delicate flower like I would have in the past, my jaw hardens. I glance back up, catching the cold, hard look in my own eyes, and I exhale loudly. I'm angry. I shouldn't be; I know this. It was all part of the scene. A scene I agreed to months ago. However, logic doesn't seem to make a dent in the strong emotions I've finally awakened.

I won't be weak. I'm no one's victim. It's time to reclaim my life. This is what I tell myself over and over again.

Against my better judgment, I'm completely lost in the vengeful look in my eyes, and I don't notice when my hand wraps around the smooth, cold metal until the first slice has been made. I inhale a breath of relief as the first long wisp of dark brown hair falls into the sink. Followed by another. And another. I don't stop cutting until my hair is short, and when it's as even as I can get it, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Whether it was my hair that seemed to be weighing me down or the fact that the old me had been dormant for so many years is unknown. All I know is I finally feel … free.

"Aaaah." I look back up into his eyes and his hands both come up and wrap around my upper arms. "Welcome back, baby girl."

The right side of my mouth twists up into a smirk and I see a gleam in my eyes I haven't seen in years. He's right. I'm most definitely back. Only this time I refuse to let myself fall.

Ever again.

~*…T.t.L.G …*~

The week goes by, but I haven't spoken to James or Victoria. I tell myself it's in preparation for tonight. To get into the mindset of a Domme as this will be my first scene. It's probably the wrong way to go about it.

James does call that afternoon, wanting to be sure I am ready for tonight. I assure him I am. Over the last few days I've been able to come to terms with what happened and I tell myself I'm fine. But one look at me and anyone can tell that's just not the case. My hair is gone, left short and practically untamable, and I have full-out conversations with the ghost of my past. Yeah, definitely not fine.

It's ten to six when I arrive. I run my fingers through my cropped 'do and raise my hand to knock. Since I'll be carrying out my first scene in their home, the events leading up to it will be different.

When the door opens, I'm met by both Victoria and James. Their smiles are wide, eyes excited as they look me over. They take in the low v-cut neckline of my sleeveless shirt before moving their eyes down to my tight black skinny jeans and my peep-toe shoes with the metal stiletto heel. It's not until they finally bring their gaze back up to my face and hair that they seem stunned. Victoria's the first to address it.

"Y—you cut your hair."

Nervous, I smile and bring my hand up to play with the short strands at the nape of my neck. "Yeah. I thought it was time for a change."

They exchange a look between them before James smiles warmly and pulls me into the apartment. "Well, I like it."

"Me, too." Victoria agrees soon after.

"Me, too," that voice says as well, following me through the doorway and into the kitchen. "It really takes me back." I ignore him, because to acknowledge him gives him the power. And tonight is when I take it back.

James suggests a glass of wine before we get started, and I have to agree because my nerves are rattled and I can't seem to shake the voice. He hasn't been taunting me like days past, which has been nice, but it's still unsettling. It's like he's just lying in wait before he strikes. I'm not too far gone to know that my train of thought is insane.

When it's time, we set our glasses in the sink and Victoria goes off to her quarters while James leads me to the room he was using these last months. It's basic—a spare room, I presume—just a bed, dresser and a night table. He tells me to wait here until seven, which is when Victoria and he will be waiting in the other room. It's when he tells me that he'll be acting as a submissive too that my mouth gapes. I expected Victoria to play the part while James watched on to make sure everything was going okay, but I never expected that I would be dominating the man who dominated me. More-over, I never expected to be so excited by the possibility.

Left alone in the silence of this room, I pace back and forth.

"Nervous?" he asks, perching himself on the edge of the bed.

I shrug, refusing to look at him; it's bad enough I acknowledge him verbally. "A little. After everything I've been through, I'm just not sure I'm cut out for this role. I thought I was … thought it was how I was going to get my strength back … but now?"

He only laughs, and this makes me angry, so I ignore him entirely until it's time for me to go. I make it to just outside the door and reach for the knob before my body freezes for a moment as I consider not going through with it.

Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath and turn the doorknob, pushing the door open. In the middle of the room, kneeling on the floor where I once did, are James and Victoria. Stark naked.

I take another cleansing breath and the familiar scent of leather triggers my memories from the last time I was in here, and my eyes shoot to the whipping bench. I feel the same anger I felt on Sunday, and I can almost hear the sounds of the paddle connecting over and over again with my ass.

"Yesssss," he hisses.

I shake my head and proceed across the floor to them, the loud click of my heels echoing off the walls. Their heads remain bowed in submission as I try to find the words that will begin the scene. Like James did on my first night, I decide to start with the basics.

"Good evening," I begin. Neither of them flinches, nor do they seem nervous. In fact, I think I even see a hint of a smile twisting the corners of James' lips. I continue. "Now, before we begin I'd like to know if either of you has any hard limits." I look between them both as they slowly raise their heads. "Anything you absolutely won't do or can't handle?" Smiling, they shake their heads.

"We will keep the safe word system we set up in the beginning. Red, yellow, green." They both nod their understanding, and suddenly I'm back to lost. What is it I should do? Why hadn't I thought this through before tonight?

I glance around the room, hoping something will speak to me, when they land on the two pairs of shackles hanging from the ceiling. "On your feet," I command. "Move over to the chains."

They do as they're told and I stand on the tips of my toes to chain James up first. I even blindfold him with one of the scarves I grabbed from the cabinet as I followed them here. As I click Victoria's second cuff, I see the dark eyes that have been haunting me for weeks as he peers over her shoulder and down her naked body. It makes me forget about her blindfold.

"She's pretty. Her skin looks so soft. I bet it turns real pink after…"

"Stop," I whisper, clenching my eyes shut to block him out.

"What?" Victoria questions and I slip right back into my role.

Pinching her chin between my thumb and forefinger, I hold her gaze with mine. "I'm pretty sure I haven't given permission for you to speak," I snarl, shocking even myself at how venomous my words are. She nods against my grip slowly, and her eyes seem to be shining with excitement.

"She let it happen, you know," the voice says, moving around both of us until his head is resting on my shoulder. "She could have ended it before he hit you. Hell, she probably made you late on purpose. She's probably jealous that her boyfriend has been sticking it to you. I know I'm not overly thrilled about it."

I swallow thickly. Part of me tries to let his words roll off my back because they can't possibly be true, but the part of my brain that will always belong to him—believe him—tells me he's right. Without thinking, my hand slips down until it wraps around her throat and I lean in to kiss her.

She's welcoming of the affection, her lips moving with mine and opening until our tongues are sliding against each other. She's making the sweetest sounds that I barely hear over the clinking of the chains above her head, and then she sounds like she's choking. My eyes open to find hers are wide open and full of fear. Her mouth opens in a silent cry for help, moving very slightly as if she's trying to say something. It takes me leaning in really close to realize she is.

"Reeee—" Her voice is so hoarse I can barely hear it, but I know what it is she's trying to say before her eyes shut and her body stops struggling. I don't release my hold on her neck, not even when her head slumps forward. Instead, I feel her pulse weaken against my palm until it stops altogether.

I pull them back, staring at my open hands with wide eyes as a smile begins to form. It isn't until I hear chains to my right that I'm pulled from the madness that's clouded my head. I turn to see James is turning his head and rubbing his face on his bicep in an attempt to raise the blindfold, so I decide to stop him.

"Leave it," I command firmly, not entirely sure what it is I plan to do now.

"Kill him, too. Do to him what you couldn't do to me. Exact your revenge against the both of us," I'm told. "You know, if it wasn't for him, I never would have come back into your life. Doesn't that get under that supple skin of yours, baby girl?" My skin crawls when his ghostly fingers trail up my arm and my breath stutters when he cups my neck.

His words register with every part of my mind. He's completely right. It wasn't until I saw James and Victoria that night so many months ago that I started hearing the voices. He is to blame. He must be punished.

Quietly, I move across the room to the cabinet and peruse its contents. I'm disappointed to see that among all the kinky sex toys and floggers that nothing is really calling to me. I keep looking, though, even picking up a few things to see if feeling them helps.

"What did you do?!" James' furious voice startles me and I drop the wooden flogger to the floor with a bang. I turn around to see that he's worked the blindfold off and has twisted himself around to see Victoria's lifeless body hanging from the chains.

I grab the ball gag and run over to where he's struggling against his restraints, his head snapping back and forth between me and his dead girlfriend. "Unchain me, NOW!" he roars.

"Ah ah ah," I say, coming to a stop in front of him. He continues to thrash against his chains and is trying to advance on me enough to maybe knock me over. He's unsuccessful in whatever it is he's trying to do, so I don't worry. "You didn't say the magic word." And just as the word "red" starts to form on his tongue, I slip the ball gag in his mouth and fasten it tightly behind his head.

I can tell he's shouting "red" around the ball gag, but I pretend not to hear it, instead looking at him. Tears are streaming from his eyes and over his cheeks as he looks at Victoria. I should probably feel bad, but I think it's too late for that now.

"This is your fault," I tell him. It's my accusation that gets his full attention. The sadness leaves his forehead the minute our eyes lock, and all I see is rage. "I belong to no one."


I turn to the voice, acknowledging him for the first time in front of others. "Shut up," I growl quietly before returning my attention to James—who looks utterly afraid and confused by what just happened. "I was free from him until I met the two of you. You made me believe that by being with the two of you that I could find myself again, but all I found was him."

"Hmm?" James mumbles around the gag before going on to say something else I don't understand—and honestly, don't care to.

"Well, it ends tonight. For the first time, I feel in control of everything … of who I am." I take one more look around the room, because I know I'm not strong enough to strangle James the way I did Victoria. It's not until I take one step forward and hear the loud click that I remember my heels.

James seems confused and a little afraid as I bend down and undo them, taking them off and tossing only one aside. I examine the heel, smiling when I realize they'll do the job nicely. "You punished me for speaking out without consent. Well, I don't recall giving you permission, either."

"Hmmf kmmf Vmmfowia!" I can't be sure, but I think he's told me that I killed Victoria.

I laugh dryly, looking back over at her. "Yeah. I did. You realize she made me late on purpose that day, right? That she was jealous of how you were fucking me."

"Hmmm?" James is shaking his head violently, trying to tell me that I'm wrong. But I know I'm not.

"That's right, baby girl. Don't believe him."

I strike without another word, hitting him across the face with the back of my shoe. The heel only leaves a slight scrape on his cheek, having not been the main part of the shoe to connect. It bleeds a little and I look at it curiously. He blinks a few times, probably trying to clear the haze in his head before standing up straight again. I waste no time in delivering another blow, this time being sure the heel does what I want it to do.

The gash in his chest is deep, probably needing stitches, and oozes bright red liquid down his torso. I know I shouldn't be enjoying this, but I am.

He's pleading around the red gag now, the tears coming on a little more freely, but this only makes me laugh as I strike again. Over and over and over again, I slash the metal spike into his skin, watching as it sprays and trickles down his paling skin. He's stopped struggling at some point, his body slumping forward weakly, and I can feel the strength in my arms fading. His body is covered in sweat beneath all the blood. Based on the pool of blood surrounding him, I'd guess he's only minutes from death. I watch as he coughs and sputters around the gag, trace amounts of blood seeping out the corner of his mouth.

There's one more thing I need to do before he dies in order to find myself.

I drop the shoe with a soft splat as it hits the puddle of blood I'm standing in and step forward. The sticky liquid displaces beneath my foot, squishing between my toes, but I don't care. I reach up and unlock the chains around his wrists, letting him fall to the floor hard. When he doesn't attempt to move or get up, I know I have to act fast to get what I want. What I deserve after everything.

I bend down and release the strap holding the gag in place and tug it from his mouth. Gasping in a deep breath, James sputters on it and coughs up even more blood than before.

"Why, little one?" he rasps.

"I belong to no one," I repeat loudly, straightening back up and staring down at his still body. I lost my identity years ago, and I was determined to get it back at whatever cost necessary. "I have a name. Say it. Say my name, bitch!"

James coughs again as his pale eyes meet mine one last time. "A—Alice." And that's it. The room is quiet, no more coughing or sputtering. No more clinking of chains or muffled cries for help. Even the voices have gone.

There's just silence.

The minute he says my name, I feel an immense weight lift from my shoulders. It's the first time I have been acknowledged during a moment of power—even if that power was taken from someone more powerful the same way it was stolen from me.

As I look down at the dead body at my feet, I know that what I've done is wrong. While I feel vindicated, I am fully aware of what I have to do next.

I take a few steps back to the small side table against the wall and grab the cordless phone there. I press the buttons without even looking at the glowing numbers and hold it to my ear, listening to the shrill ringing before a sweet voice fills my head.

"Evenin'," it greets. "Detective Whitlock, here. How can I help you?"

I swallow thickly before answering. "You need to come quickly. There's been a murder."

The End