Author: Trom DeGrey
Tara pulled the Mustang up in front of a quiet nondescript building a few blocks north of the docks. There was no sign out front, no line, not even a bouncer.
"Are you sure about this?" Willow asked, eyeing things skeptically.
"Yeah," Tara answered with more confidence than she felt. She'd never gone in through the front door.
Turning to her, Willow said, "I thought you said you'd never been in here before."
Tara looked Willow square in the eye and dodged her like a veteran politician. "Look, Willow, I know we don't have the best history," she admitted, "and I've done nothing to earn it, but you're just gonna have to trust me on this one."
Willow sighed unhappily, looking back at the building. Tara gave a quick thought to dumping the whole charade and just making a phone call, but she wanted to believe in Willow. She wanted to believe the other woman would take the extra step to solve this case and maybe save some lives.
Yeah, this had started off as Tara's little joke, a way to get the uptight detective's knickers in a bind and a couple of nice bedtime visuals for herself, but Tara realized with a jolt that this had just become more serious. This silly test of character had just become important and Tara desperately wanted Willow to pass. She needed her to pass.
She hoped a little honesty, something from her heart, would help. "Willow, I would never knowingly let you walk blindly into a dangerous situation," she said. "I know the Accountant and she's very particular about how her businesses are run. This place will be clean and safe. Our only concern is one of Fin's people catching onto us."
Willow hated it. She hated all of it. She hated that Tara was looking for a missing kid, she hated that there might be a white slavery ring in her city, she hated this damned outfit, but most of all, she hated that not only did she have to trust Tara Maclay, godammit, she wanted to trust her.
Just keep your head screwed on straight. It's just for one more night. You're not that person anymore. You won't even be here that long.
Taking a deep breath, Willow dug through her bag and then turned in her seat toward Tara. "Lean this way," she whispered.
Tara complied, a bit surprised at having convinced Willow so quickly. She had been watching her animated face closely. Tara wondered at the silences she had seen Willow fall into sometimes. Just what is going on in that brain?
"What's this?" Tara asked as Willow smeared a cool gel above her eyebrows and then on her cheeks.
"Cosmetic adhesive," Willow said, producing a black cat-eye mask and pressing it firmly to Tara's face. "I don't know how mixed this club will be," she said, applying the gel to her own face and then settling a matching mask. "If we're one of the only same sex couples in here, we're going to stand out anyway. At least this way, we aren't as readily identifiable," she explained.
"So, do you know the rules of the culture?" she asked. Tara just shrugged. "Okay," Willow said, "easy enough. Just follow my lead. Don't talk to anyone unless it at least looks like I've given you permission. No one else should touch you or speak to you either unless they ask me first, but if it happens just let me know. I'll take care of it. Hopefully, we won't be in here long enough to find any trouble. If we have to sit down, either stand or kneel next to me." Willow chewed the inside of her cheek for a moment. "I think that's all we'll really have to worry about," she said finally. Breathe.
Tara gawked slightly. "You really know this shit, dontcha?" she said, thoroughly amused.
Willow frowned and shrugged. "It was part of the job," she said. "I worked inside this community for six months. People who get off on this don't bother me. It's the illegal stuff and the occasional head case you can run into in a place like this that makes my skin crawl." Just a job. It was just a job.
Tara leaned in close. "So, are you trying to tell me there might be a little more dom in you that just the outfit?" she purred.
Willow studied Tara. The blue mischief in her eyes stood out even more surrounded by black make-up and the mask. Willow desperately wanted to wipe that smirk off Tara's face. She had let herself get freaked out earlier; she couldn't do that again. Just keep it under control. You're not her anymore. Letting a slow smoldering smile curl her lips, Willow moved over until their noses were almost touching. "Are you prepared to find out?" she whispered.
An old fashioned stare-down ensued, neither woman willing to back down. The air in the car grew thick and Tara could feel herself start to sweat in the rubber tank top.
Willow slowly cocked an eyebrow; she could see Tara wavering. She was going to win.
Tara finally broke eye contact and leaned back to her side of the car. Willow smirked. "So, any ideas on how we get in to see the Accountant?" she asked in a breezy tone.
"Right," Tara mumbled, struggling to recover from her head-on collision with Mistress Willow. She certainly passed that test. In fact, give that young lady an A+, she thought. And give me detention with her after school.
She cleared her throat, trying to bring her mind back to the job. "I have an acquaintance that's a bartender here," she managed. "Name's Andi. Big girl, red hair, grey eyes. If anyone can get us through the Accountant's front door, I'd say it'd be her."
"Acquaintance?" Willow asked, doing her best to look all sugary innocence.
"Yeah," Tara snapped. "What about it?"
Willow just shrugged and gave her a cheeky smile. She unbuttoned and contorted out of her coat, pulled a chain and cat-o'-nine tails in the same red as Tara's top out of her bag and said, "Let's go then."
A paid cover and discreet pat down brought them from the front hallway into a dimly lit but luxuriously appointed anteroom. The two women could feel more than hear the low throbbing bass coming from the club on the other side of the interior door. Willow checked over her appearance in one of the full-length mirrors. She could feel the excitement beginning to churn inside her. Keep it together. An hour at the most. Willow could also see Tara in the reflection, leaning against one of the red velvet-lined walls and not so discreetly checking out her ass.
That will not do.
Willow was determined to be an equal partner in this case, not just some damned tagalong with a few police connections. She had let Tara rattle her earlier, but had gained a measure of revenge. Now it appeared that Tara was trying to gain the upper hand back.
Willow looked at herself in the mirror again. No, she wouldn't let that happen, not here. I own her here. Once they were face to face with the Accountant she'd let Tara do most of the talking, but until then? This was her domain and if Tara wanted to play these kinds of games then, by god, Willow would play to win.
She turned sharply and stalked over to where Tara was lounging against the wall. "Stand up straight," she whispered.
Tara did so, but not without the curling of the left corner of her mouth. As Willow fussed with her outfit, Tara made no bones about helping herself to a large visual helping of Mistress Willow. She was determined to make Willow understand that her triumph in the car was small and short-lived. She was top dog in this investigation.
Willow reached around to the back of Tara's head to fiddle with her hair, knowing full well Tara was looking down her bustier.
Time to pull out the big guns, Willow thought, smirking slightly at her bad pun. Prepare to have that irritating little crooked grin wiped right off your face.
She stepped back slightly and turned Tara's collar around until the D-ring was in front. "Do you remember everything I told you?" she asked.
"Mmhmm," Tara replied absently. She was too busy tracing Willow's lips with her eyes to really listen.
Willow snapped the chain onto the D-ring. "You said Andi has red hair and grey eyes. You also said she was a big girl. Does that mean tall or heavy?" she asked, her tone all business.
Tara never heard the warning howl from her inner demon. Instead, she looked up into Willow's green eyes, making sure she was watching exactly what Tara was doing. "Both," she sighed and ran her eyes down Willow's long pale neck and over her creamy shoulders.
It made Willow squirm inside, but she held tight to her resolve. She'd let Tara have a good look, let her think she was winning this contest. Yeah, she'd let her have her little moment in the sun, because Willow was about to change the rules.
Tara finally looked up from her visual tour. "Are we ready, Mistress?" she asked, her tone a teasing condescension.
Are you ready? Willow's smile was a wicked one. "Actually," she purred, "there's one more thing."
Tara was surprised, but didn't protest when Willow gently pushed her hands behind her back and used the other end of the chain to clip the wrist cuffs together.
Willow's eyes never wavered from Tara's, daring her to challenge her. She suddenly pushed herself up hard against Tara, pinning her to the wall.
"Wha?" Tara gasped.
Willow smiled down at her, enjoying every bit of her height advantage. Her green eyes glittered with a predatory confidence as she took hold of the end of the chain nearest the collar and slowly pulled Tara's head up and away from her, exposing neck and collarbone. Willow watched as Tara swallowed hard and her full lips parted slightly. She put her lips against Tara's ear.
"This won't hurt," she whispered. "Much."
Tara exhaled sharply. Willow's breath and heat moving ever so slowly down her neck caused shivers to rocket through her body. She whimpered and began to squirm when she felt first Willow's lips and then her tongue on the hollow just above her collarbone. Her breathing became more ragged. Tara squeezed her eyes shut as her body betrayed her.
A stronger tremor rolled through her as Willow's warm breath danced over the wet spot on her skin. "You see, a girl has to mark her territory," she heard Willow whisper.
"Oh god," Tara gasped, finally understanding what Willow was going to do. She began to shake as Willow teased her skin with her mouth again. Tara strained forward as best she could, all thoughts of reasserting her authority completely gone, any thoughts of wrestling loose never forming.
Willow pulled back slightly when Tara pushed out toward her. She could stop this. She could stop this right now. Marking was never necessary, but Willow had done it before and she couldn't make herself step away now. Which one of us wants this more? she wondered. Tara so obviously wanting it assured Willow a victory in their battle of wills.
But something called to Willow. Something she thought she had buried.
Tara couldn't make herself be still. She could feel Willow's breath on her neck. What the hell is she waiting for? Tara was coming apart. Suddenly, she felt Willow's teeth against her ear. "Do you want it?" came the whispered question. A shudder bolted through her and she let out a soft groan. Oh god, please don't make me say it.
She whimpered when she felt another nip on her jaw. Willow's whispered voice came back to her ear again. "One word: Yes or no. You can end this however you want, Tara."
Tara's eyes flew open. All she could see was the red velvet of the walls disappearing up toward the ceiling into darkness. She couldn't look into Willow's eyes and see if she was serious or not. She couldn't look for some bit of green-eyed arrogance to give her strength. All she could see was red velvet; all she could hear was her own labored breathing, the blood roaring in her ears and Willow's quiet voice.
"Do you want it?" she heard her ask again and this time felt the nip on the soft spot of skin Willow had been teasing all along. Tara let out a half sob and twisted underneath Willow's weight. She swallowed at the lump in her throat. Yes, she wanted it. More than that, she needed it. She needed it from Willow.
"Say it, Tara. Say it." She felt her walls crumble under Willow's soft voice.
"Yesssss," she hissed.
Air rushed from Tara's lungs as Willow pressed herself up even tighter, forcing her thigh between Tara's and biting down on her throat. Tara sucked in a ragged breath, the pain from Willow's mouth and the pleasure from her thigh combusting in her center. Tara writhed, trying to push her hips against Willow and pull her shackled hands apart.
She groaned in frustration. Willow had her pinned. The burning pain at her neck increased, causing the throbbing between her legs to grow nearly unbearable. She squeezed her eyes shut again, awash in the most intense ache she had ever felt. Her breathing began to come out in sobs of need.
"Please, Willow, please," she gasped, having no real idea what she was begging for. Anything, as long as it came from Willow.
The pressure on her neck and between her thighs increased. Tara could feel herself racing for the edge. She cried out.
And then it was gone.
Tara's knees buckled and she collapsed to the floor. The chain slapped dully against her chest and Tara could only stare at it dumbly. Her lungs burned and her head swam. What the hell?
She slowly raised her head to look up at Willow. She was breathing hard too, her lips wet from marking her territory, but she was towering over Tara with her hands on her hips, looking every inch the angry dominatrix. Tara felt her lower lip start to quiver.
The Mistress stalked over and hauled Tara to her feet. Tara could only look at her with wide blue eyes, wondering what had just happened. She felt Willow reach behind her and unshackle her hands. They swung limply to her sides. She was close enough to smell powder and see the fine sheen of sweat on Willow's skin. She could have leaned forward and buried her face in Willow's neck.
But Tara stayed still.
"Enough games, Maclay," she heard Willow rasp. "You know the Accountant. When we get in to see her you can take over, but until then, I lead us through this. Got it? No more power plays."
Tara felt the fog begin to clear some from her head. Oh, yeah, they were here for something. She managed to jerk her head in agreement. She followed silently as Willow picked up the chain and led her through the interior door and into the club proper.
Willow stopped a few feet in to look around. The lights were low and a sultry house beat vibrated through the place. She closed her eyes for a moment and let the tremor of old pleasures ripple through her. She opened her eyes again and looked at the dance floor where there were couples and groups of every mix imaginable. Willow was surprised by the absence of strobing lights and smoke. She felt Tara's heat move up against her left shoulder. Turning her head slightly, Willow said, "You weren't kidding. I've never seen a place this…" Willow searched for the right word. "Subdued," she settled on. She spotted the long bar along the back wall and one of the bartenders immediately stood out to her. "Is that Andi?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah," Tara rasped.
Willow looked back over her shoulder at Tara who still looked dazed and breathless. Yep, I win. Willow's lips curved in a sexy smile and she ran her hand along Tara's cheek and jaw. "Let's go talk to her," she purred.
Tara struggled to pull her brains together as Willow led her fluidly through the crowd toward the bar. She knew the events of tonight thus far would keep her up forever trying to figure out what the hell had happened, but she had to get it in gear to keep Andi from blowing her game. She had to think fast and talk faster, but right now she felt like she was floating in molasses. Tara jerked to a stop when she felt a hand on the wet, newly sore spot near her left collar bone.
Willow turned when she felt the slight tug on the chain. Tara looked panicked, her eyes begging Willow to come back and get her out of the situation. An impossibly tall blonde in a long white leather skirt, matching heels and nothing else had stopped Tara and was fingering Willow's mark.
Willow felt the other snap into place and she shook out her cat-o'-nine-tails, prepared to add stripes to the other woman's bare back. She stalked back toward them and as she raised her right arm to strike, she glanced at Tara who's eyes had widened even more.
Willow stopped, suddenly aware of what she was about to do. You're scaring the hell out of Tara. She felt the other slip back under the surface, and lowered her arm. Instead, she pulled Tara to her and moved the blonde's hand from Tara's throat with the handle of her cat-o'-nine-tails. "She's lovely, isn't she?" she said with a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "She's also mine."
The other woman raised her hand in a gesture of surrender. "My apologies, Mistress," she said. "It's just been a while since I've seen a mark like that one."
Willow prayed she wasn't blushing. Most Masters that did mark marked with tattoos or brands, but she had been known while undercover for marking in this very direct and personal way. Part of her feared being recognized, but she answered honestly anyway. Willow just wanted this woman away from Tara. "It's a bit of a signature," she said and let her face harden to a glare.
The other woman's eyes widened. "Then please do forgive me," she said and disappeared into the crowd on the dance floor.
Willow turned to Tara. "Are you okay?" she whispered in her ear.
"Y-y-y-es," Tara stuttered. "I just d-d-idn't know w-w-what to d-do."
Willow stepped back slightly and looked into Tara's eyes. She rubbed her thumb over Tara's right cheek. "You did just what I told you to," she said. "We're fine. Can you keep going?"
Tara nodded and began following Willow again. She took a deep breath. She had thought Willow was going to start beating the other woman, but something had stopped her, arrested the impulse in mid-execution. I am so in over my head, she thought. But what was it about Willow and this mark that scared that woman off?
They found an open spot at one end of the bar. Andi walked up to them and addressed Willow. "Mistress, what might I get for you and yours?" she asked.
Tara was turned slightly away from the barkeep, not wanting her to recognize her right away. She kept her eyes locked on Willow, waiting for what she wasn't entirely certain. Willow smiled sweetly at the bartender and then looked pointedly at Tara. She gestured her head toward Andi, giving Tara the go ahead to speak with her. Willow leaned back against the bar and looked out casually, letting it appear as if she was allowing her sub to do the work of ordering.
Andi turned to Tara who leaned in close and let her ex get a good look. Andi's gunmetal grey eyes nearly popped out of her head. Tara quickly shook her head , thankful that Willow's back was turned. She made a split second decision and decided the truth would get her further in this particular situation.
"You know what a shit I am, right?" she said just loud enough for Andi to hear. The other woman nodded with a knowing smirk. "Well, it hit the fan over here and this is what the splatter pattern looks like," Tara said. Andi thinned her lips to suppress her laughter. Tara looked at her with pleading eyes. "We need to see her," she said.
Andi sighed and shook her head. "I'll see what I can do," she said. Tara watched as the buxom redhead quickly mixed two Tequila Sunrises and brought them back over. Willow turned back toward her and Andi again addressed her directly. "With my compliments, Mistress," she said, her eyes twinkling with mischief. "I can't imagine what it's going to take to train that one. I should be able to fulfill your other request as well, but it may be a little bit. Please make yourself comfortable and one of the boys should be along shortly," she said.
"Thank you," Willow said, liking the bartender and wondering what her relationship was or had been with Tara. She watched as Andi walked over and pulled a red phone out from under the counter and began speaking. Willow turned back to a fidgeting Tara. "Relax," she said. "Grab our drinks and let's find a place to sit."
Tara managed to snag the two glasses before Willow pulled her away by her chain. Tara was eternally grateful that Willow was moving leisurely through the crowd as balancing the drinks and watching the hypnotic sway of Willow's hips was wreaking havoc with her equilibrium.
Willow finally settled in a plush leather chair with a full view of the dance floor. She collapsed into it and crossed her legs. Tara looked at her for guidance, relieved when Willow gestured toward the low table next to her and then to the floor by her legs. Tara set the drinks down and knelt next to Willow. She took a deep breath.
Her head was still spinning from being marked and her legs still felt like rubber underneath her. It felt good to get off her feet. She looked out toward the dance floor hoping for a distraction.
There was none to be found.
The slow throbbing beat lent itself to the kind of dancing that was as close to sex in public as you could get without being arrested. Tara quickly looked away only to get an eyeful of Mistress Willow looking bored as she ran her hand over the handle of her cat-o'-nine tails.
Tara felt the heat gurgling up from her center again as she watched. Willow extended the fingers of her right hand back, running just her palm in absent circles over the fat rounded end of the handle. Tara had a clear vision of that same palm running those same circles over her breast. She closed her eyes, feeling her breath becoming ragged again.
She opened her eyes again to see just Willow's middle finger running in light circles over the end of the handle. First slow, then faster, Tara could feel that finger rubbing those circles over her swollen clit. She hung her head and groaned, squeezing her thighs together hoping for some bit of relief.
She rolled her head back and opened her eyes, looking blindly at the colored lights above. She brought her head back down, unable to keep herself from focusing on Willow's busy hand. She was squeezing the handle in a slow rough rhythm now. Tara dropped her head to her chest again with a whimper. She could feel tears of frustration forming. A hot hand on the back of her neck made her jump.
Willow had leaned forward to rub Tara's neck, her green eyes glittering and heavy lidded. Tara closed her eyes and relaxed into the strong massaging hand. She purred like a kitten and some of the tension ebbed away from her belly. She felt Willow's warm breath on her cheek. "Are you alright?" Willow whispered.
Tara nodded, unable to form words. She turned her head so that her cheek touched Willow's. She heard Willow's sharp intake of breath and froze, petrified that Willow would become angry and sit back. Tara whimpered when Willow let out a slow breath and rubbed her own face against Tara's.
Willow turned and pressed her face into the side of Tara's. She refused to let herself think about what she was doing and just feel; feel the warmth of Tara's flesh under her lips. She rubbed her mouth lightly over Tara's jaw line, swallowing when she heard her whimper again. She moved her hand from Tara's neck to her chin and turned her face so she could look into her eyes.
Willow gasped as they opened and she saw the passion that had darkened Tara's blue eyes to coastal storm clouds. She looked down at Tara's trembling lower lip and leaned a fraction closer. Their breath mixed as Willow's eyes traveled back up to Tara's. She saw a desperation there that she felt echo in her own core.
"Excuse me, Mistress."
Willow pulled back just enough to take in the largest, most muscular pair of thighs she had ever seen in her life. She leaned back further and released Tara's chin, following those thighs up across black leather shorts, rippling abs and a defined, hairless chest to a chiseled chin and dark blonde hair.
"I apologize for the interruption, Mistress," he said. "But Head Mistress will see you and your pet now."
Willow sat back completely in her seat and took a deep breath, clearing the heavy, humid fog she was in. "Right," she croaked. She looked over at Tara who looked confused and a little frightened. "Let's go," she said and gave the chain a light tug.
The jerk of the chain at her neck brought Tara crashing back into the reality of her situation.
It was all completely out of control.
Her character test for Willow had turned into something that would send her running for a psychiatrist in the morning. She had practically begged Willow to take her in the anteroom and then had lost track of the whole world except for Willow's hand and mouth on her skin. Tara stood on badly shaking legs.
Willow stood with her and followed the Head Mistress' servant without another word or glance back at Tara. She had no idea what the hell she thought she had been doing, but even after fighting with Tara to be an equal in this, Willow was glad that her part in leading this game was nearly over.
Tara followed Willow mutely through the crowd, once again trying to pull herself together for the coming storm. The game was about to end. She knew the Accountant would blow her cover and Willow would know that Tara had played her to get her into an uncomfortable position. That Tara had been the one to end up being the most uncomfortable wouldn't make any difference. She tried to just breathe and get her heart rate under control before they got upstairs.
The three came to a long industrial staircase in the back corner of the club. The metal railing reflected the shifting colors of the dance floor lights in a dull rainbow. Willow turned to Tara, removed the chain from her collar and gestured for her to follow the servant up. "It's your show now," she whispered. Tara only nodded and began the ascent with Willow right behind her.
They entered a large dark room at the top of the steps and the sound of the club was shut off when the door closed behind them. The entire left wall of the office was darkened one way glass that looked out over the dance floor. Red velvet lined the rest of the walls and an assortment of whips, chains and other bondage items decorated the wall to their right. A dark oak desk dominated the far wall and a slim woman with what Willow suspected was dyed blonde hair sat behind it, flanked by the blonde servant that had retrieved them and his identical twin.
The Accountant was dressed in red pvc which highlighted her tan even in the dim lighting of the room. Willow found her narrow features and sharp eyes made her attractive, though not traffic stopping beautiful. The Accountant leaned forward and squinted as if not certain as to what she was seeing.
"Maclay?" she asked, her tone incredulous. "Is that you under there?"
Tara raised her right hand just enough to waggle her fingers in an embarrassed wave. The Accountant got up from her desk and marched around it. Willow saw that the red corset was matched with red pvc pants that laced up the side and five inch red stiletto heels. Nice shoes, she thought idly.
"Maclay?" the Accountant repeated, her voice rising to disbelief.
"Hi Anya," Tara said meekly.
Anya burst out laughing. "This is too good! One of you go get my camera," she ordered, waving over her shoulder at the twins, one of whom promptly left via a back door. "What the hell are you doing?" she asked, still laughing. "Why the get-up? Why didn't you just come in through the back door like always?" She leaned in closer to Tara. "Oh, my god! Are marked?"
Tara swallowed hard and forced herself not to look to her right as she felt Willow stiffen. "Anya, this is Willow Rosenberg," she said in a rush. "We're working on a case together and we need some information." She grimaced at the waver in her voice. Anger was already coming off of Willow in waves.
Anya looked over and regarded Willow as if seeing her for the first time. She stepped over and into her personal space. Their respective heels made them equals in height and Willow stood her ground. Anya squinted again. "Willow Rosenberg," she muttered. "Vice squad? The Kink bust, right?" she said.
Willow panicked for a moment, thinking of Tara's words about Anya throwing them out if she knew Willow was a cop. But then it occurred to her that Tara had lied about this entire scenario thus far, so she nodded in affirmation.
Anya nodded once. "I was glad to see that dump finally closed down," she said. "Gives people like me a bad name. Did you go by a trade name?" she asked, her tone conversational.
Willow risked a glance at Tara who was all eyes forward. Willow sighed and tried not to grit her teeth. Of all the times for her to lie to me. "The Scarlet Witch," she said, feeling the blush creep into her cheeks at the mention of her undercover persona.
Anya's eyes widened. "Really?" she gasped. "You're the Scarlet Witch? Do you still work the clubs?" she asked.
Willow started. "No!" she blurted. "No," she repeated, more calm. "It was just an undercover assignment." I left her behind. She's gone.
"Would you consider working as a dom again?" Anya asked. "There's an awful lot of money to be made. I've heard a lot of good things about your work," she said.
Tara coughed. Willow wanted to climb under a rock. "No," she said in a mortified whisper. "It was just an assignment." Just a job. She's gone.
Anya shrugged and turned away. "Too bad," she said as she went back behind her desk and plopped into the seat. "Give me a call if you change your mind. Money, money, money," she said, rubbing her fingertips together. She turned back to Tara. "So, what's this information you need?"
Tara cleared her throat. "Fin," she said. "All we have is a name and a missing kid. One of your couriers told us you know the name."
Anya frowned. "I know of the name," she corrected. "I don't know who or what Fin is. Only that they're moving huge amounts of money through the city. They're paying for trucks, large warehouses and plenty of hush money."
"Can you give us details?" Willow asked.
Anya regarded the two of them for a moment and then crossed her arms. "Just what do I get out of all of this?" she demanded.
Willow glared at Tara who began to fidget. "Um," Tara said, but didn't continue.
Anya sat forward and looked at Tara, outraged. "Are you seriously telling me you expected to come in here and get important information from me and not have anything for me in return?"
Tara shrugged. "I thought getting a good laugh over the outfit would be enough," Tara admitted.
Anya leaned back in her seat and crossed her arms again. "Well, you thought wrong," she said.
Willow looked at Tara again who seemed to be floundering. This time she did grit her teeth. She is so going to pay for this. "How often do you get raided?" she asked.
Anya huffed. "Once a month," she said, irritated. "I run a very clean place. You'd think the cops would know that by now," she said, throwing her hands up.
"What if I could make that go away for a while?" Willow offered.
Anya leaned forward again. "How long?" she asked, opportunity dancing in her hazel eyes.
"Three or four months?"
"Six," Anya countered.
"Done," Willow replied without hesitation.
Anya slammed her fist on her desk. "Damn! I should have gone for nine." She leaned back with a sigh. "Fine. Fin. Here's what I know: They've hired three box trucks from Bartelli Trucking and two warehouses somewhere on the north dock. Bribes abound. I can't even keep track of them all, and what it's all for, I have no idea. Very tight lipped operation."
The two women let the new information soak in for a moment until Anya's servant walked back in carrying a small digital camera. Anya reached for it with a giggle. She quickly snapped a picture before either woman could protest.
"What the hell are you going to do with that?" Tara demanded.
Anya gave her a sultry smile. "Frame it and keep it next to my bed." She waved at the two of them. "You got what you came for. Why don't you two go downstairs and have a good time? You're certainly dressed for it," she said with another giggle.
Willow turned and snapped the chain back onto Tara's collar. She opened the door without another word. "Willow, think about doing some moonlighting here!" Anya called after them.
They walked down the steps, through the club and out into the anteroom without a word between them. Once behind the door to the club, Willow removed the chain again and removed Tara's collar and cuffs. "Let's get out of here," she rasped. The total betrayal of trust that had just transpired was beginning to settle in her gut. What amount of my sanity did I just risk for her little joke?
Tara said nothing. She had put this charade together to rattle Willow and give herself a good laugh, but what had actually transpired had left her bewildered and hating herself. They climbed into the Mustang and sat in a tense silence for a moment. Tara watched Willow pull her coat back on and deposit the restraints and cat-o'-nine tails in her bag. "Willow -"
"Not a word," Willow ground out, the threat laying heavy in her voice. "Just take me home." Tara swallowed her apology and her guilt and started the car. She gritted her teeth when Willow reached across and slowly pulled the cat-eye mask from her face. It would have hurt more if Willow had pulled it off quickly and Tara found herself wishing Willow had done just that. What the hell is your malfunction? she wondered. Why are you getting all bent out of shape over this? This was supposed to give you a few laughs. Who cares how she feels? Tara sighed as she pulled the car away from the curb and pointed them toward Willow's apartment.
Willow leaned back against the door inside her apartment and took a deep breath. She would not cry. But she couldn't understand why Tara had decided to lie to her. "Did she think it would be funny?" she asked her hall ceiling. Willow shook her head and snorted. "Joke was on her," she mumbled.
She clomped down the hall and went into her bedroom, feeling exhausted and wanting nothing more than to get out of her hated outfit, take a shower and soak her aching feet. The last thing she wanted to think about was Tara Maclay.
But Willow couldn't seem to shake her from her thoughts.
I bet she doesn't underestimate me again, she thought as she removed her platform boots. She struggled with the rubber shorts and flopped back on her bed when she finally got them off. What else will she lie to me about? Willow frowned at that thought and sat up, rolling off her fishnet stockings. We need to come to an understanding, she decided. Willow pulled at the strings on her bustier and began to unlace it. She stretched her back and shoulders when she was free of the garment and padded to the bathroom. If she wants to be an asshole, that's one thing, she thought as the water in the shower warmed up. But we aren't going to get anything solved if she wants to keep things from me and test me all the time. Willow climbed in and sighed as the blissfully hot water washed away most of her tension. We'll just have to have a meeting of the minds tomorrow. Willow smiled. And my mind's bigger.