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Chapter One

Being Their Baby by Korey Mae JohnsonSophie Lynn Benny checked her face in the mirror and sighed after glancing at her reflection. The lawyers were going to have a serious problem with her if they saw her looking so “unprofessional”…and today she certainly did. She hadn’t, nor could she afford, any more makeup to cover the bruises on her eye, cheek, and lip.

It didn’t matter, really. She wasn’t actually going to get fired because her face was black and blue. She was more likely to get fired because she was sleeping in the attic of the business complex like some homeless person.

Losing two jobs in one week? That sounded a lot like her luck.

She rolled her eyes at herself and at her stupid life. Most of the people she worked with wouldn’t care about her getting canned; after working there for nearly two years, her boss still thought her name was “Stephanie,” for God’s sake. She could come in deformed and she would doubt that man would notice. It was the lawyers in the building that didn’t like grungy chicks. They were one-hundred percent about perception, and Sophie knew that having a teenager running around with a mangled face wasn’t going to make them swell with pride.

C’mon, Soph—you’re not the crypt keeper or anything, she granted herself. She had gotten to shower. The complex did have facilities for their employees who liked to ride in on their bicycles. And since it was January, there were very few of those; she’d washed herself without anyone seeing her.

As soon as she walked into the mail room and clocked in, she saw her boss coming through the door. “You’re here early, Stephanie,” her boss grunted, as if he was annoyed by it.

“Yeah…” She cleared her throat, trying to scrounge together a little bit of extra courage. She didn’t have her second job anymore, she had a slew of extra expenses, and she needed more work. “Look, do you have any extra hours—doing anything—that I can pick up?”

“Not at your pay grade,” he grunted, and found the donut his fat fingers were looking for.

She was desperate enough for money that she said, “Well, as long as I get extra work, I don’t mind doing something for less than someone else would. All I need is the extra hours.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind, either, but the union would. Can’t have you do something for less money than they’re supposed to get.”

“I was thinking, though…I’ve been here for about two years now. Is there any hope for a rai—?”

“No,” her boss assured, sitting at his desk.

“Okay…Any jobs maybe I could move up to that make more?”

“No.”

“Are you sure? Because I—”

“Did you already punch in?” Her boss looked annoyed.

“Yeah,” she chirped.

“Then you’re wasting my time. You’re on the clock.” He waved his hairy knuckles toward the door. “Mail. Now. Get.”

Sophie trudged out to the main foyer and collected the mail that the post office left in huge vats, and loaded them onto her cart, stewing.

There was no way for her to get ahead; when she first got this job here, she thought she was smarter than the average bear! All the other high school dropouts were working in McDonalds or at the local KFC.

Now, it was beginning to feel like even though she wasn’t covered with chicken fat, fast food would have been the way to go. She might have been a manager by now, making twelve dollars an hour, with all the extra hours she could shake a fist at!

By the afternoon, she had managed to steep herself into a depression. She had been turning her situation around in her mind all morning and, for the life of her, she couldn’t see any light at the end of this depressingly long and dark tunnel. It seemed like she might be stuck in this rut for quite a while. Her meager thousand-dollar-a-month salary couldn’t buy her both a place to live and basic essentials, could it?

She’d be lucky if she found anyone on the planet who would rent to her—a just-turned eighteen-year-old with no money, no savings, no credit card, no references. Although she could save money on not eating; after last night when her stepdad punched her in the mouth with all the strength the dock-worked man had in his arm, she lost the ability to eat solid foods without crying a little. She seemed to have a tooth that was all wrong.

She rolled her mail cart through the cubicles, eventually stopping at the offices. She frowned, feeling a nervous tug-of-war going within her stomach as she eyed the plaque on the door that bore very intimidating gold letters:

ELIZABETH R. BUTTON, Esq.

SENIOR PARTNER

There was something about Elizabeth Button that always gave Sophie pause. Elizabeth might have come from a different planet than Sophie. How both of them worked in the same building was probably against the laws of modern science that claimed that things as different as they were would explode in a burst of energy whenever they came into contact.

Elizabeth was high-class, important, and what the newspapers called, “The Devil in Red Heels.” She was a genius in the courtroom, and because of that the woman was extremely affluent, and she dressed and spoke that way.

The red stilettos she always wore were her calling card. They weren’t just casually red—they were hot-rod red. She didn’t need heels; Elizabeth was easily six feet tall without them. Her brown hair was flawless and always pinned tightly back in a perfect bun. Her nails were long and French-manicured to perfection. Her eyebrows were arched, her cheekbones were high and pronounced, and her neck was swan-like. She was like the queen of the supermodels, only she had an old-school aristocracy feel about her.

Sophie always felt bad about herself when Elizabeth was near. In comparison, Sophie was a frumpy, awkward, sad little creature who didn’t even seem to belong to the same species. There was nothing Sophie wanted to do more than to hate Elizabeth Button.

That was just the problem. It was impossible to hate Elizabeth Button; despite Sophie’s presence in the building for over two years, Ms. Button was the only person who knew her name was Sophie—actually, Sophia. Even more so, she was the only person in the building who would seek Sophie out to talk to her.

Sophie sighed; it was odd to admit to herself that she had sort of a schoolgirl crush on Elizabeth Button, but only because she wasn’t a lesbian. If Sophie could describe herself, she’d say she was only gay for Elizabeth. The woman made Sophie’s stomach feel like butterflies were on parade. Elizabeth was a goddess.

The problem today was that Sophie didn’t want to see her; Elizabeth was too much of a nice person…when she wasn’t being a lawyer, at least. She didn’t seem content to just sit on her pedestal above the rest of human civilization; she was one of those people who’d try to get involved. She would take one look at Sophie’s face and make a big stink about it. As it was, she had taken an interest in Sophie, enough to constantly say annoying things like, “You let me know the instant you need anything! Anything at all.

Just like all upper-class successful people, Elizabeth didn’t mean she wanted to be bothered with Sophie’s problems. Elizabeth just wanted to hear happy things and good news. And she would…just as soon as Sophie had experienced some good fortune to report.

She pursed her lips together, as if that would help make a package by Elizabeth Button not be on her mail cart. Of course, Elizabeth had a huge package and all the wishing in the world wasn’t going to make it disappear.

Sophie saw that Elizabeth’s secretary was busy pushing back her cuticles on her fingernails diligently, and that Elizabeth’s office was closed. Sophie wheeled her cart over and saw through the small window on the office door that Elizabeth was on the phone. This was good—Elizabeth would be too busy, so Sophie could just leave her mail and her package with the secretary. “So,” Sophie said with a smirk, “can I leave this with you?”

“No,” her secretary replied, rotating her fingers around before she pulled out a nail file. “You can go in. It’s nothing too important.”

Sophie rolled her eyes and decided that she’d just go in, drop the package on the empty chair across from Elizabeth, turn, and go. It was more than possible to go in and then leave without Elizabeth barely even looking in her direction—it worked when Sophie had done it with all the other lawyers in the building.

She grabbed all the mail and the package, and quietly opened the door.

Just as Sophie had placed the package where she’d planned to and was heading back out with her fingers just grazing the door handle, the conversation behind her broke. “Sophia,” Elizabeth’s firm voice said, “not so fast.”

Sophie stilled, shrinking away from the door as if the gravity in the entire room had just doubled. She’d been so, so close to getting away without a fuss.

“Well, it’s not as though you hate your job,” she was saying on the other line. “Pick up the extra game. Really. We can do Thanksgiving on Wednesday night instead. Tell Josh to work the holiday, too. We’ll all work and then we’ll all get together off at the same time. It’s not a big deal.” She paused and juggled the receiver in her hand. “You too.”

Sophie heard Elizabeth hang up the phone and turned the “good side” of her face toward her just as Elizabeth said, “Sophia!” There was a note of friendly happiness to her tone. “Sit down.”

“Actually, I have a lot of deliveries to make here. And photocopies, and then I have to take lunch orders from everybody, and you know, I’m pressed for time. Busy, busy, busy…” Sophie hedged, wrapping her hand around the door handle again.

“I’m busy too,” Elizabeth replied, her voice far firmer than it was a moment ago, “that’s why I don’t like repeating myself. Now sit.”

“No time,” Sophie tried again, opening the door.

“Are you avoiding me?” she asked. “Come on, kiddo. I didn’t get to chat with you yesterday. Tell me how your birthday went! Eighteen’s big! Did you do anything fun?”

Sophie gave a resigned sigh and closed the door.

There was no use hiding it. Sophie slowly turned toward Elizabeth, where the woman was posing herself for some good news, like she wanted to hear about a party where everyone drank tea, ate cakes, and wore pretty dresses.

Sophie guessed that that was how they celebrated birthdays in Cape Cod, where Elizabeth was from. Again—Cape Cod might as well have been a whole other planet than Southie.

She sat down and turned her face fully to Liz, thinking she was going to look squarely on as if she was proud to have endured her rough life. But she ended up losing her nerve, down-casting her eyes, and chewing on her bottom lip a little. When Elizabeth gasped, Sophie flinched with shame.

Elizabeth shot up from her chair and walked around to the other side of the desk to grab Sophie’s chin with her fingers in a way that was both firm and gentle. “What happened to you?” she demanded.

“Nothing,” Sophie assured, trying to sound more blasé than nervous. “It’s cool. Nothin’ to worry about. I’ve taken care of it.”

“Who did this to you?” Liz snapped, sounding angry at something, but Sophie wasn’t sure at what or with whom. Sophie could already tell that the old, reliable “I fell” excuse wasn’t going to cut the mustard with Liz.

Sophie tried it anyway. “Nothin’,” she lied, straightening her shoulders with confidence she didn’t really have. “I fell, that’s all.”

Elizabeth’s lips puckered slightly as if Sophie was a poodle who’d just piddled on her red stilettos. “Young lady,” Elizabeth scolded like a stern headmistress. “I will not have anyone look me right in my face and lie to me. Now, who did this?”

Sophie dropped her eyes to the floor again, her cheeks heating. “My stepdad,” she mumbled, nearly inaudibly.

She’d apparently heard it anyway and acted as badly as Sophie anticipated, because Liz stomped back around the desk and picked up the phone.

“But it’s okay, because—” Sophie said, waving her hands in front of her.

“It’s not okay, Sophia,” she retorted, punching her finger down on the number pad. “You’re a high schooler! I’m calling protective services.” She put the phone to her shoulder.

Sophie jumped up from her chair, grabbed the phone, and hung it up in a single, swift movement, crying, “I’m eighteen, Liz. Nobody gives a rat! The only thing you can do is get someone to bully my stepdad, and that’d backfire on me. Let me just lie low and figure out my own life.”

“What?” Liz challenged. “And let you go back to a place where they abuse you? Is this the first time this has happened?”

“That’s none of your business,” Sophie found herself gritting. Liz frowned at her, looking suddenly very sad and taken aback. Sophie shook her head and changed her tone. “I’m a big girl. I can deal with this. And I moved out after; I got a new place, and I’m good. Leave it be.”

Elizabeth looked at her long and hard in the way children might do when trying to solve Magic-Eye posters. Sophie could nearly hear the gears in her brain churn as she worked through Sophie’s situation.

Sophie puffed out her chest, hoping that what she wanted, which was no big stink to be thrown, was what Elizabeth wanted as well.

Finally, Elizabeth sighed, loudly and unhappily. “I don’t like bastards thinking they can get away with stuff like that!” she huffed. “Why would he do this to you? Did you get bad grades in school or something?”

Sophie tilted her head to the side and raised an eyebrow. She was unsure if Elizabeth had gripped reality hard enough today. “Um…Miss Button,” Sophie said. “I haven’t gone to school for, like, two years now. They can’t make you go after sixteen.” Sophie had never said anything before about this, positive that Elizabeth couldn’t have possibly been thinking Sophie was actually attending school, because she was at the office all day long and she had mentioned that she worked in the evenings at her second job.

Elizabeth’s face began to pale with sympathy and sadness. Sophie firmed up her bottom lip, hating that look. The woman really had thought that Sophie was on the college track, and now she had the nerve to be disappointed about the obvious reality she had been ignoring.

Sophie sighed and opened her hands as if physically grasping at patience. “Look, Steve—my stepdad—just saw that I had some stuff, you know, because of the gift card you got me. He sort of went off the deep end, and I’m used to it. I can handle myself.”

That gift-card was the single most generous gift Sophie had ever gotten from anyone. The temperatures this year had been record-breaking, and Elizabeth had been obliged to give Sophie a birthday gift of unusual size: she had handed Sophie an envelope with a five-hundred-dollar gift certificate to Kohl’s, with instructions that Sophie had to buy a new coat with it, since all it seemed she owned was an old hoodie (which was a correct assessment). Although Sophie was normally loath to accept charity, she was also extremely happy about the prospect of buying something that was both warm and new. She bought a coat and saved the rest for later, unable to make any decisions about what to get. Once Steve saw her wearing a jacket so obviously not from a secondhand store, the evening turned into a full-scale inquisition pretty fast. In the end, he’d demanded that she give him the rest of her gift.

After she had refused and clutched her wallet like it was life support, Steve had smacked her a few times before he let fly a punch, and then taken it out of Sophie’s hands. Her mother had just watched the whole exchange with a jealous glare, as if Sophie had been keeping it from her, too.

“He took it from you, didn’t he?” Elizabeth quickly pieced together.

“After I got my jacket,” she assured, not mentioning how her stepfather had thrown it into the dumpster, just to spite her. Sophie had had to dig it out and mourn at the old beer and lunchmeat stains on it.

Elizabeth shook her head, ran her fingers over her temples like she had a headache, and then dropped her arms altogether, looking incredulous. “I am so, so sorry, Sophie,” she told her, and then began to fish for her wallet in her purse. “How can I help?”

Sophie stifled an eye roll. This was also one of the things she feared Elizabeth would do—waste even more money on her. “No, I’m cool! Really, I got a place! Besides, I meant to move out soon, anyway; it’s not like I had an open invitation to stay at Mom’s as long as I wanted or anything.”

“How much?” Elizabeth clarified, ignoring her.

“I’m not accepting anything else,” Sophie refused stubbornly, even tensing her shoulders and crossing her arms in front of her.

Elizabeth looked up, challenging her for a long, frightening moment with her stare. Sophie did a good job at not pissing her pants from it, so Elizabeth just shook her head with exasperation and pulled a card out of her purse—in lieu of her wallet—and handed it to Sophie. “Take it,” she instructed as Sophie kept her arms crossed, yet leaned forward to suspiciously inspect it.

To avoid another stare-down, Sophie pinched the card between two fingers and brought it up to her face. It had Elizabeth’s personal number on it. Sophie flushed, feeling quite honored, since Elizabeth was sort of a celebrity, yet she actually trusted a girl on the other side of the tracks with her contact information.

Sophie would never, ever use it, of course, but the gesture wasn’t lost on her.

Elizabeth looked very somber. “That has my cell and my home phone number on it, Sophie. If you need anything—ever—I want you to swallow your pride and call me. Day or night. Got it?”

Sophie nodded and turned the card around in her hands like one would an ornament or a knickknack they thought was quite clever.

Elizabeth pointed one of her nails in Sophie’s face. “Put it in your pocket before I tattoo that number to your forehead.”

Sophie immediately complied, stuffing the card into her jeans’ back pocket. “Can I go back to work now?” Sophie asked wearily, as if she’d been put upon by Elizabeth’s concern.

“Yes, but I’ll be checking up on you,” Elizabeth announced; it sounded very much like a threat. In the next moment her eyes softened from their normal intensity. “Don’t try to avoid me just because I care, okay?”

Sophie nodded. “Yes, Ma’am…Thanks,” she added shyly, and then hightailed it out of the room.


One Week Later

“I’ve never said it before, but after commentating for three games in a row, I’m really hating football.” Charlie put his big, solid arm around Liz and pulled her against his chest as she sat on the sofa, clicking through emails on her cellphone with frustration. “After I saw the Cowboys spank the Packers like little schoolgirls, I really just wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. But my makeup girl told me she’d kill me if I did that.”

Liz gave a hum in reply to pretend she was listening to him. She was in no mood to laugh; it had been days since Liz had seen hide or hair of Sophie. The week had been short because of Thanksgiving for the office, but Sophie hadn’t come in at all. She hadn’t called in; she had just disappeared.

Charlie leaned over, trying to entice a kiss out of her. She pecked his lips dutifully and then rested her head against him, even though she wasn’t a particularly cuddly person.

They used to share a girlfriend—one that used to give Charlie all the cuddles that he required. That relationship had ended last month, and now the man seemed to be going through withdrawals; he was trying to cuddle on her far more than she’d remembered him doing in the past.

Apparently, Charlie could sense there was something wrong, so he said, “I know. I miss Lacey, too,” as he petted Liz’s arm.

“That’s actually not what’s bothering me,” she mumbled distantly. Truthfully, she’d known Lacey would leave them for quite some time before the event occurred, and so the official “dumping” had filled Liz with relief more than anything else. She hadn’t even thought about the girl the entire month, although she knew Charlie was obviously still broken up about it.

Honestly, Liz had been surprised that Lacey had stayed with them for two whole years. Lacey had been sexually oriented as straight more than Liz would have preferred. Anytime Liz had braved anything sexual with Lacey, the girl would tense up too much, which had made Liz feel a bit self-conscious.

Elizabeth had always prided herself on being bisexual. She had no more preference for one sex over the other. In fact, she would have missed having a girlfriend if she only had a boyfriend, and vice-versa. That was why both Charlie and his brother, Josh, had never truly seemed like enough…she needed a girl. A submissive girl, in fact, that she could control and dominate, which was why she had gotten so easily swept up in the age-play stuff that Charlie had introduced her to years ago.

“All right,” Charlie said with an amused grunt, “spill.” He sat a little straighter. He seemed very excited to hear about anything not-Lacey. Boy, her leaving Charlie for a vanilla guy must have really kicked Charlie in the gut!

“Sophia didn’t show up at work yesterday,” Elizabeth divulged with a sigh, “and it’s not like her.”

“Sophia…” Charlie drawled, eyeing the ceiling thoughtfully. “Sophia…Wait—that’s the sixteen-year-old mail-girl, right?”

Liz straightened and arched her eyebrow at him. “The kid’s not a vampire. She’s aged, you know. She just turned eighteen last week, and then she didn’t come to work. She didn’t even call in sick; she didn’t call in at all. She’s not the type of girl to just fall off the face of the earth.”

“Well, kids her age aren’t exactly reliable,” Charlie replied. “She’s probably out having fun.”

Fun? I guarantee you she wouldn’t know fun if it bit her on the ass. She can’t afford fun. That girl is too poor to buy a bra! She’s living alone, she’s estranged from her parents, she’s practically invisible to everyone else at work; I know she doesn’t have any friends there. She’s not even allowed to die since she can’t afford her own funeral!” Liz huffed angrily. She wasn’t angry at Charlie, just at the world they lived in. A world that could put a girl like that at its mercy at such a young age…

Happy for an ear to rant to, Liz told him about Sophie’s abuse, and the fact that she wouldn’t take any of Liz’s money (except that one case with the birthday gift card, which had gone awry). Sophie had apparently dropped out of school midway through her sophomore year to work; so she had no real future…No friends, no connections, nothing.

“Hm,” Charlie grunted with a deep frown. “And I didn’t think I could have been any more depressed than I was five minutes ago.” He winced. “And the fuckwad just took her gift card? What kind of depraved asshole—?”

“I know,” Liz agreed, putting up her hands.

“Why don’t you call her?” Charlie asked next.

“I don’t even think she owns a phone,” Liz lamented. “Even if she did, though, you can bet your shirt she wouldn’t give me her number. She’s as stubborn as a goat! There’s no way in hell to get a hold of her…If something happened, nobody would probably even notice but me, and there’d be nothing I could do about it.”

Charlie rubbed his callused hands over her shoulders, shushing her soothingly. She hadn’t realized it until then, but Elizabeth was shaking. She was startled at her own reaction; she never got this upset.

“It’s okay, honey. She’ll turn up,” he assured her.

“I just hate not being able to do anything,” Liz admitted. She knew that Charlie would understand at least that much of her feelings. He’d known that Liz was a control freak since they were small children playing in the sandbox, where she kept demanding that he make his sandcastles “the proper way.”

Charlie continued to massage her shoulders, turning her back toward him to give him better access at her stiff muscles. She felt Charlie begin to kiss her neck, and then his voice purred in her ear, “You know what you need to do? Relax. When you can’t do anything, then you need to find a way to take your mind off of it.” He obviously wanted to take his mind off his own matters, because he unbuttoned the top of her blouse and cupped one of her breasts through her lacy bra. Quickly, his fingers moved around the barrier and found her taut, attention-starved nipples.

Damn Charlie—he knew her breasts were her weakness! All it took was the littlest tweak of her nipples and she would turn into putty in his hands. There had been a reason why she hadn’t found the reason to find another man other than Charlie or Josh…rather, Elizabeth had a complete lack of reasons to go searching for another man. Why would she need a new man when Charlie and Josh knew her inside and out? Both of them knew every trick in the book that could get her cumming and screaming to the rafters every time without fail.

He laid her backwards until she was sprawled out on the sofa. He took her red nipples into his mouth and began to flick his tongue over them as he released himself from the confines of his pants. It was all about her tonight, apparently, because he batted her hands away from his stiff cock and continued rubbing and sucking and making her melt into the furniture.

Her mind began to change; her body was slowly charging into “the mood.” Hoping that tonight he’d actually let her dominate him, she pushed back, growling eagerly and wanting to mount him. “I’m gonna ride you like a lazy horse.”

Her tactic didn’t work; apparently he was in no mood to let her take the reins, which was normal for Charlie. “What do you think this is, your birthday?” Charlie growled back. They both pushed and clasped each other until they fell onto the carpet. He wrestled her until he had her pinned face-down on the floor. “Now, raise up your ass to me like a good little slut who needs my cum inside of her.”

She’d lost her virginity after a wrestling match with him when they were teenagers. Ever since, that’s how sex for them was: one trying to dominate the other. Their battling hadn’t lasted long—Charlie joined the football team, and after enough weight-training to make even Arnold Schwarzenegger cringe, Charlie could always win and pin her into the position he wanted with stellar speed and efficiency.

She didn’t raise up her ass for him. “You’re such a bastard,” she grumbled into the carpet under her chin.

He gave her a firm swat on her backside. “Up,” he repeated, “or it’s going right into that sexy bottom.”

For a moment, Elizabeth considered that threat as possibly something she wanted. The short-lived pain from the anal penetration would definitely keep her mind in the present, and away from Sophie. Yet, Liz never did very well when being dominated to that extent; it would give Charlie too much satisfaction. With her shoulders still pinned to the rug, she dragged herself up to her knees so that her bottom stuck in the air.

She felt the wide mushroom-head of his cock rub up and down her damp entrance. “Mmm, yeah. Nice and ready. You like this,” he rumbled heatedly. Charlie was the nicest person on the planet, but he did have a rougher side, and he loved dirty talk.

“Fuck me already,” she gritted.

“I want you begging a little better than that. It’s sounding to my ears like you’re giving me orders. That’s not how we roll, is it? Now, tell me how much you want my cock in your pussy.” He tightened his grip on her wrists and pushed her body more into the rug with his elbow.

“Fuck my pussy, Charlie. Hard…Please,” she added at the end, knowing he would tease her for a century until she finally said “please.”

With a firm push, he slid his entire length roughly into her, making her both moan and gasp at the same time. He moved his hands to her hips and slammed her bottom against his groin again and again. He was swearing at her; calling her a whore, a slut, a “cum dumpster,” and she was loving it. She was always surprised that she did, but she did. Especially when she was feeling a little out of control within her life, she liked to be degraded a bit in bed. It was sexy and taboo for her; it was different from the nearly comical levels of praise she received everywhere else.

He put his hands back up to her nipples and pulled at them. She moaned loudly, chirping with pain and delight at the same time. “Don’t you dare cum,” he said. She never knew what a man felt during sex, but he must have felt something like she did; he must have felt her building close to her release. “I want to fuck this pussy until you cry. Don’t cum.”

Defiantly, she came anyway. “Fuck!” he growled as her muscles milked him over and over until he began to expand and contract. He wasn’t humping her now; he had stopped in a last-ditch effort. There was no stopping once he started, though. Defeated, he began to pull her hips back again, cumming deep into her, filling her with his liquid warmth.

He nipped at her shoulder, falling slightly on top of her, yet keeping his weight off of her body with his arms on each on each side. “You’re such a brat, you know that?” he chuckled behind her. “I was ready for a marathon!”

“Hey, it wasn’t me tugging on the nips,” she replied casually, less than sorry. He rolled over to her side and put an arm under her, and she let her body meld against his naked body and chest. She combed her fingers through his light layer of chest hair. “Should we move it to bed?”

“No. It’s only midnight on a Thursday,” he protested. “We’re thirty-two, not eighty.”

She giggled. “Should we move it to the sofa, then?”

He raised his head off the ground, looked over at the sofa, appraised it, and then groaned. “Nah,” he said, dropping his head back against the fuzzy faux-fur rug. “Too far.”

“It’s two feet away,” she reminded.

“Exactly. Two feet too far.” He took a deep breath. “Liz? Marry me.” He wasn’t asking—he was just stating it like it’d be a fun thing to do together, like going to get ice cream.

“We are married, honey,” Liz reminded. “Just informally.”

“Well, let’s make it formal,” he retorted, surely knowing she’d say no, and she did. She’d been saying no since he first suggested they get married when they were eighteen. Then at nineteen. Then after he won his first national title when he was twenty, then again after he graduated college, again when she graduated law school, and then pretty much whenever he felt like it after that. “I’d keep it open,” he assured with a snort of frustration. “You could date other people. I just wouldn’t. I’m never going to do the daddy thing again—with anyone.”

“That’s what you always say,” she said, and it was. Lacey wasn’t the first girlfriend he played a “daddy” to, and after every breakup he always announced that he was done with the age-play lifestyle. “The answer is still no, though. Besides, you know I get off on the ‘mommy’ thing…Unless you’d like a mommy?” she hinted with a mischievous spark in her eye.

“No,” he told her sternly. “Honey, I don’t even like you on top.” Charlie was a dominant man in every sense of the word; this she’d always known about him.

“Your loss,” she assured with a shrug. “Your brother never complained.”

“Yeah, well, Josh likes it any way he can get it,” he reminded her with a laugh. “But yes, I know that you’re the best at everything you do, including sex. It’s what you’re known for.” He sighed and let the room fill with silence for nearly a minute before he resumed talking. “I’m serious, though. No more ‘little girls.’ I’m through.”

She kissed his chest, knowing that he felt his heart had been stomped on by Lacey, who was twenty-seven, but had played the part of a seven-year-old who loved sitting on her daddy’s lap or being bent tail-up over it for being a naughty little girl. Charlie had taken care of her, cuddled her, and even dressed her up like she was a doll. He had a serious fetish for age-play, and one of the upstairs bedrooms was packed with toys and little-girl clothes in extra-large sizes. Charlie also liked that lifestyle to be twenty-four/seven. He didn’t like the girl ever not calling him “Daddy”; once he had a role with someone, he kept it.

“Well, I don’t know if I’m through,” she said stubbornly. “We’re not all going vanilla just because of you.”

He rolled his eyes toward her with annoyance. “Fine, you can bring home whoever you want. But I’m not doing it anymore.”

“Fine,” she said, and got off the floor to walk to the bathroom.

He sat up on his elbow and watched her walk. “You know how sexy you look with my cum dripping down your thighs?” he asked.

She gave a snort and threw him a chiding look over her shoulder. “You’re a romantic, Charlie,” she said sardonically.

Charlie gave a laugh and eventually got up as well. The two watched some TV and drank wine together. Eventually, they watched through the window as Charlie’s brother carried a woman on his shoulder, caveman-style, into his guest house, pausing to give them a thumbs up.

After that, Charlie carried Liz into his bedroom, just to prove to her that he could still easily do it (despite having five shoulder surgeries). They fell asleep, only awakening when Liz’s cellphone, which she had placed on Charlie’s nightstand, started to vibrate.

Charlie glared at the clock. “What kind of asshole calls at four o’clock on a holiday?” he demanded.

“Might be a client,” she sighed, and picked up the call from an unknown number. “Hello?”

“Um…Hi, Miss Button.” Sophie’s voice was childlike enough that Liz knew it immediately.

Liz sat up in bed, already alarmed.

“I’m really, really sorry I’m waking you up this morning, but I didn’t know what time you were getting up, and I pegged you for one of those really early risers so I was sort of hoping I’d catch you sort of not-asleep…” she immediately rambled, sounding more squeaky and nervous with every word.

“Sophia, what’s wrong?”

Sophie’s groan sounded pain-filled. “Everything,” she moaned.

Liz took a deep breath. “What’s everything?

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