"Tara, did he ever touch you?"
Tara visibly flinched at Willow's question, as if the words physically walked up and slapped her across the face. She saw Willow reach out to place a hand on her knee, and she shrunk back into the couch to avoid the touch. "No. Don't make me go there."
"Did he, did he hurt you?" Willow whispered.
Tara's shaking was worse, and when Willow tried to reach out again she pushed her away. They sat there, frozen like statues, for an eternity.
"No." Tara's declaration was the sigh that shattered through the tightness that had wrapped around her heart. "He almost did, but I fought back. I was so scared."
And then she felt it. The rush of relief as the burden she had carried inside her for years finally crumbled. Was it shame or helplessness? Denial or disgust that made her box away the events that helped shape who she was? She straightened in her seat and took Willow's hands in hers. Time to face the past.
It started when she was told to deliver the documents to the client of the law firm. She struggled on foot to haul the heavy bankers boxes to the address given, City Hall as it turned out. A cocky dark-haired girl around her age met her at the reception and took her to a conference room. The girl didn't offer to help her with the boxes but walked behind Tara along a long narrow corridor. Later, she learnt that the girl's name was Faith and her ass had been given a thorough appraisal during the walk.
She tried to shrink into the walls when she entered the large function room with an imposing mahogany table in the center and flanked by dozens of chairs. The Mayor and his cohorts were busy making laws and thinking of means to squeeze more tax money from unsuspecting citizens. Aides were walking in and out, or working in clusters at the side. Tara had to stick around, since she had to wait for some of the documents to be signed back.
"Well come on, don't just stand there. Make yourself useful while you're here. Why don't you help young Alan there check the inventory," the Mayor looked Tara up and down and remarked. It was said kindly, and Tara felt less intimidated. Over the next few hours she helped out with various clerical tasks.
When the mayor heard that she had gotten into trouble with her supervisor because of how late she returned to the office, he made a personal appearance to vouch for her. The attention made her even more of an outcast in the mailroom. Shortly after, he asked for her to be seconded officially to City Hall as a junior assistant and there was no turning back. She was so grateful she cried all night in her tiny apartment. She wanted to tell Willow, but her friend's indifference last time they met had thrown her, and she didn't feel like anyone in the world cared about her anymore. Tears of joy turned into tears of loneliness that night. It was when she promised herself that she would make it big by herself, even if it meant going to any lengths.
She got used to Faith's crude scrutiny and off-color remarks quickly -- making sure she never gave the girl the chance to stare at her cleavage, not maintaining eye-contact, taking cover behind other colleagues. The girl, although young in age, was obviously the mayor's hired muscle and not to be crossed. Tara had lived in a semi-hostile environment at Aunt Marie's long enough to instantly recognize the hierarchy of command within the mayor's coterie. She, Tara, was in the basement car park.
The first time he made a move unnerved her. It was an imperceptible, almost gentle, caress along the length of her arm. One touch, up her wrist to her shoulder, then back down. Though to observers the mayor had simply accidentally bumped into her in a crowded elevator, she knew it was no fluke. It also didn't happen again, and she tried to brush the memory away.
When the offer, no -- command, came to move to New York, she jumped at the chance. The bustle of New York city excited her, but soon homesickness caught up, even though she had no real home. The only place she felt at home was when she was with Wi-- she swiftly buried that train of thought. She knew what his primary business was in New York, wasn't afraid to face it and was even able to find several thin strands of friendship within the dysfunctional club family.
One day several months later, Lilah Morgan sought her out and explained about the Suite. It was a promotion as well as recognition of talent and a job well-done. Staff on the floor vied for the opportunity to be invited up to the penthouse. But because of the sensitive nature of the work up there, new confidentiality agreements had to be put in place. Tara signed everything the lawyer placed in front of her and that night, dressed in a pale cream off-the-shoulder evening gown that had been delivered to her apartment and with her heart pounding out of control, she stepped into the elevator.
She had no illusions about what was about to transpire. Any lengths, she kept reminding herself.
He had her stand in the middle of his reception room while he walked a full circle around her, his eyes undressing her up and down. She stood very still, with hands clasped at her side as she had been instructed. He made a small sound of approval.
His hand on her bare shoulder was cold and she choked back a cry.
He stepped behind her and she felt him against the small of her back.
He traced his hands up both her arms in tandem, leaving a trail of goosebumps along her skin.
When he pushed her hair aside to nip her neck, she stiffened. Then she turned away.
His hands gripped her arms tight, bruising her as he tried to force her again. She squirmed and struggled even as he was trying to drag her to the bedroom.
She fought him hard. He was strong, but she was slippery. He had her pinned down, but she used her knees. He was determined to dominate her, but she never gave up.
Ultimately his strength was greater than her resilience. One tired and wrong move later, he held her down, his full weight crushing her resistance from her. Still she tried to pull away, but she had nothing left.
He slapped her roughly and ripped part of her dress, leaving her exposed and vulnerable. Her eyes were still defiant, but she knew she had lost.
His eyes grew dilated and his mouth twisted in a grimace that made him look like a demon. With an animalistic cry of possession he leaned in --
-- and stopped.
She wasn't sure if she was supposed to breathe. She wanted to cry, but didn't dare make a sound. She was shaking inside, but only her lips trembled.
He rocked back and sat on the floor as if stupefied. Then slowly he took off his jacket, handed it to her and motioned for her to put it on. Without looking at her he climbed to his feet and stood with his back to her.
"If you ever say a single word to anyone about what happened, I will go after you. No one fights me, and those who do never get away with it. I expect ... no, I demand complete submission. Either obey me unconditionally or die. You are someone special, Tara. Now go."
She never knew why he stopped. He never gave a reason. But she knew that he would always have a hold on her; just as somehow she would always have a hold on him.
"You're the strongest person I know," Willow said. "I think he sensed that."
Tara wiped the tears from her face. "I wasn't strong. Now I am, because I have you."
"You're already strong, and don't argue."
Tara felt drained. She had face a part of her past she had wanted gone, but it took a lot out of her. "I need you," she breathed. And then Willow's lips were on hers. She opened her mouth and invited Willow inside, to give her strength and the reassurance that yes, she was loved. Willow's tongue lovingly passed over every needy nerve, leaving her feeling thoroughly kissed. Willow didn't possess, she treasured; she didn't demand, she shared; and it helped banish the memories of those harrowing events.
There was still the issue of the signatories and the accounts. She broke off the satisfying kiss and burrowed herself into Willow's embrace. Her thoughts turned back to her employer. "I thought he was a good guy. Yes he had people in his pocket and he took away the innocence of countless girls, but I was willing to overlook that because in a twisted way we were a family. More so than my own flesh and blood. Now I think he took advantage of the silence."
"You're not responsible for others." Willow's eyes were full of sympathy, and she was slowly stroking Tara's back in consolation.
"I know I'm not the only one. But if more had resisted, had spoken up ..." Tara's fist slammed down on the couch as she thought about all that she had seen. Small rumors and tiny events that never seemed to be significant. It seemed to be his modus operandi, as it was only when she stepped back and looked at the full picture objectively that she realized how corrupted the enterprise was.
"He's very powerful," Willow pointed out.
Tara thought hard. "He has to be stopped."
"Yep, we should call the police."
"What can they do? There won't be any evidence."
"They'll find it somehow."
"No they won't. They don't know what they're looking for. But I do."
"I have access to office files, if it's there I'll find them."
Willow took in Tara's determination. It was very different from the broken, sobbing mess earlier. And you were the one who pushed her to that, don't be so proud of yourself. "We go tonight?"
"Not we, me."
"You're an outsider, Will. It'll be suspicious. This is something only I can do, and don't argue."
Willow wanted to argue. It was dangerous. "What if you're discovered?"
"I'm in and out of the office all the time, it's nothing different."
"I'm sorry. For not telling you about his threat, for being an asshole, for not trusting you."
Tara paused. With so much that had occurred that night, their earlier argument had been forgotten. She stood up, leaving Willow still seated on the couch. "Well, make sure you think about what you need to repent, because you're due a big spanking. When I come back, you're going to be my slave all night because I'll need to be serviced," she said.
Willow's brain normally worked at superhuman speeds, but it immediately became addled and melted as she tried to reconcile "spanking" and "serviced" against the sudden onset of arousal and anticipation that cursed all through her body.
"Till tonight then," she managed to squeak out.