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Disclaimer: the usual

much thanx to my beta-bud and partner in smut crime, mandy. she inspired this little tale so it definitely goes out to her. as for the plot, the rec files said i'm short on centre involvement and i took that as a compliment. the centre and jarod's pretends don't really interest me so if you're looking for a good story centered around those themes, this read won't leave you satisfied. if you're looking for some good ole fashioned miss parker and jarod sweet, hot monkey-love, i do my very best.

c'mon now. it's me, it's me, it's NC-17





Graceland
by Keeper March







I have a bruise on my shoulder, right where the ball meets the socket, that looks like Elvis circa the '68 Comeback Special. Don't ask. I'm not sure where it's from, but I know it's there and has been there for a week, because when I roll over in my sleep, I'm startled awake by the pressure I put on it. Sydney wants some psychoanalytic reason for the bags under my eyes.

There isn't one. All I know is The King keeps me up at night.

Corporate jet. A mile up, on route to Jarod's latest lair. I know he's not there, but I get a perverse thrill imagining all these trips go towards my frequent flyer mileage. If they did, I could fly to the moon and back. First woman to smoke on Mars. I'm all alone in the belly of the silver bird. Sydney's been battling a cold; Broots couldn't get away from Debbie.

I don't press it. Just because I have no obligations doesn't mean I should drag them with me on my quest to eradicate my expense budget. I didn't even bring a sweeper team. Everyone else is so preoccupied that no one questions this anymore. Daddy and I have mutually given up on each other. Lyle sees more of an opportunity in sticking around the Centre, greasing the palms close to home.

I take these trips to forget and remember. Forget who I am and remember what I was. Not that my former self was the greatest thing, but at least she was real. There's something beautiful about misguided conviction.

Touchdown on the tarmac and welcome to Miami. At least it's not the middle of the day. I tell the jet to wait here and the fresh-faced pilot doesn't even have to nod. He's played this game with me before. I briefly wonder if he has a wife and kids waiting for him sullenly back in Blue Cove, if he rants about the crazy bitch who criss-crosses the country and comes back with nothing. I hope he has a hobby. Needlepoint or reading, something to take up the hours he spends in limbo.

No limo, just a nice rental. Enterprise probably has me on their Christmas list. I'll be surprised if I don't get a gift basket from them. Because it's Miami, the rentals lean more towards the breezy and fun. You'll get a Taurus in Ohio but a Miata in Miami. I opt for the blue convertible. No sense wasting the weather.

I drive to Jarod's latest lair. I don't even unholster my gun. I just walk in and ask for a red notebook.

"You Miss Parker?"

"The one and only."

"How'd you know? About the red notebook, I mean?"

"Same script, different cast."

"Huh?" the man behind the desk asks, handing it over.

"Don't worry about it. And you can save your speech on what a great guy Jarod is and how he helped you out. I'm sure he is and I'm sure he did."

Extended pause.

"He wasn't that great a guy. Kinda gave me the creeps with all the stuff he didn't know. I almost thought he was retarded."

This makes me chuckle and I lower my sunglasses and look at the guy in the eyes.

"You just made my week with that one," I say and slap down a $50 bill.

I could fly home tonight. All I am anyway is a librarian. I collect red notebooks and pass them on to whoever upstairs wants to check them out. I look down at my fingers clutching the leather binding and notice how white they are. Almost sickly. "Fuck it. I'm gonna work on my tan."

I jump in the car and dial up the jet.

"Is this the pilot?"

"Yes, Miss Parker."

"What's your name?"

"Simon Presley, ma'am." Elvis on my shoulder does a little pelvic shake at the coincidence.

"Simon, do you have a wife and kids?"

Extended pause.

"No, ma'am. That's why I took this assignment. I log a lot of air miles and see a lot of places. Plus it gives me time to work on my novel while I wait."

Score one for M.P.

"I'm going to stick around here for a while. You can fly home and then have to turn around and fly back when I request or you can get a Centre-paid hotel room on the beach. Your call."

Another extended pause.

"I'd like a hotel room."

"O.K. I'll call ahead and book you a room and the Fontainebleau. Take a taxi or rent a car on the corporate account."

"Umm, I?"

"Spit it out, Mr. Presley."

"I won't get in trouble for this, will I?"

"If I had asked that question before every opportunity I had for a good time arose, I'd be a nun by now. Go with your gut, son. The reservations are there for you. I don't care either way, just stick close to your cell phone, got it?"

"Yes, Miss Parker and-"
"Don't thank me. Gratitude doesn't suit me."

I check into my hotel but not before I go on a little shopping spree.

I'm whisked away to the penthouse. The bellboy's checking out my legs. I'm not sure if I should be amused or annoyed. The doors quietly open and he can't look me in the face but I see the blush creeping up his neck. I'll take amused for $500, Monty.

My room is spacious and white and like a million rooms I've been in before.

"Monty," I call before the bellboy leaves and even though that's not his name, he turns around.

"Order me dinner."

"What would you like, Ma'am?"

"Surprise me," I say as I slip into the bathroom. When I return, there's lobster and steak and salad and what I imagine is everything the hotel has to offer. Monty must have thought it was best to cover all the bases. I sample everything, a bite here, a nibble there.

It's all good but all unoriginal. The lobster's like every lobster I've ever had. When I've eaten enough, I put on my latest purchase, a little black dress that's barely there and get ready to go out.

Club-hopping. Under the garish neon a hundred bodies jockey for space, pressed together in the swell of damp skin-on-skin. It's been too long since I let myself go. I wade into the throng and start to gyrate. It has indeed been too long.

Fate is a funny thing. Fate and chance. He's here. Jarod is here when he should be miles away. The one day I've decided to forget the Centre, he falls into my lap. Now comes the decision. Pretend like I don't see him or resume the role.

I am a creature of habit.

With every step towards him, my anger, my frustration builds. He has his back to me and I grasp him on the shoulder.

"Jarod," I say, very calmly but my fingers are a vise grip, pinching into his shoulder.

"Parker," he says turning into me and grabbing me about the hips. He's got a vise grip too and I notice this right before he thrusts my hips towards his. He quickly lowers his head and his lips meet mine in a bruising kiss that shocks me. He pulls back slightly and whispers, "What are you doing here? You're supposed to collect the notebook and head back to the Centre."

Still shocked at the kiss and the grip I retort, "Unlucky for you I broke the pattern."

"Unlucky for both of us."

"Are you going to come quietly or do we have to create a scene?"

"The Centre is the least of your problems now. You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into." And I can see the fear in his eyes but I don't entirely buy it.

"Jarod, who's this?" asks a dark-haired, mustached gentleman in his mid-forties.

"She's a friend."

And the possibility that Jarod is going to blow me off and escape flits across my mind and I reply with a winning smile, "I'm his girlfriend."

Try to shake me now, wonder-boy. His fingers dig into my hip even more.

"His girlfriend?" the man asks. "Will you be staying with us, too?"

I didn't think it was possible for those fingers to get tighter but amazingly, they do. I know I shouldn't say it, that's obviously what the fingers don't want me to do, but I'm not letting him or his phalanges of death out of my site.

"Of course."

He's raging on the inside. No one else in the limo can tell but he's just seething. I don't know if it's because I've got him or because I'm pretending to be his girlfriend.

"So, Miss ??" the fat cat asks.

"Parker."

"First name?"

"Just Parker."

"Hmm. How long have you and Jarod been together?"

"We're on-again, off-again."

"So I guess we caught the two of you in an on-again."

"You did indeed, Mr.??"

"Tores. Just Tores, Just Parker."

I smile at him again and Jarod just stares out the window as we pull to the gates of an enormous terra cotta mansion.

"Nice little place you got here, Tores."

"Well, it's just a place to hang my hat."

We exit the limo and Jarod says he'll see Tores in the morning. I don't even get a chance to exchange "goodnight" before Jarod drags me up the steps and practically throws me into his suite.

"What the hell?"

He advances on me and I get into fighting stance but he just lifts a finger to his lips, glares, and goes into the bathroom. I hear the shower start and a second later he flings open the door and grabs my hand. He walks right into the running shower, clothing and all, and pulls me in with him.

"Hey!" I yell. "What the fuck is wrong with you?

"What's wrong with me? Can't you just leave well enough alone? You were always getting me in trouble when we were kids and now is no different," he says as he spits out mouthfuls of water.

"Did you think I'd just let this opportunity to capture you slip through my fingers?" I ask as the shower spray pelts the top of my head. "And why the hell are we in the shower?"

He's really mad now, that tick in his jaw is going like Riverdance.

"It's the only place that may not be bugged. And even if it is, it would be hard to hear over the running water."

"What the hell do you mean by ?bugged'?"

"You just stepped into the biggest pretend of my life. That nice man you met downstairs, the one whose shower we're standing in, he's Dante Tores. The biggest crime boss drug dealer in Miami. He's virtually untouchable but I've finally got into his inner circle and was going to bring him down this weekend until you showed up."

By now we're both soaked to the bone. So much for my little black dress.

Jarod's black shirt is clinging to him and I've blocked most of the direct spray so I'm sure it's a tad colder in his half of the stall. His erect nipples would indicate as much. He looks at my eyes which have strayed down to his chest, then down at his own chest and groans. He quickly strips off his shirt and flings it over the shower door. I hear it land with a wet ?flop' on the bathroom floor. I look at him in shock as he begins to unbuckle his pants.

"What are you doing?"

"Just because the sound's compromised doesn't mean the cameras are. Tores is going to expect us to conduct ourselves in a manner befitting our'"on-again relationship' as you put it."

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Well if you don't like it, turn around." I turn around so that the shower head is spraying directly into my face. I close my eyes, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out what the next flop I hear on the floor is. Then, Jarod reaches for the zipper to my dress.

"Hey, stop that," I say over my shoulder.

"You got yourself into this, but I'm going to see to it that you don't get killed under my watch," Jarod says as he unzips my dress all of the way.

I slink out of it and ask, "Why not just write me out of your little pretend then?"

He kneels to pick up my dress as I turn and he's eye level with where my panties would be, if my now-ruined dress was the sort that one wore panties with.

"Tores will think you're too valuable to let go. He'll keep you close to him as collateral in case I can't be trusted," he whispers awfully close to my upper thigh.

I turn back around as he rises and hear my dress join his clothing. I lean my forehead against the cool tile under the showerhead. With my eyes closed I mutter, "Dammit. Of all the unfortunate ways to find your ass, getting trapped in one of your pretends must take the cake."

He doesn't have to tell me what kind of man Tores is, what he'll do when he finds out Jarod's double-crossed him. I feel Jarod place his hands on the tile beside my head. I pull back at the intimate contact; pull back right against his chest. He rests his head on my shoulder, the right one, which is sans the King.

"I'm sorry," he whispers.

"Sorry enough to walk back into the Centre with me?"

I can feel him smirk.

"The Centre's a board game compared to what could happen if I blow this. At least at the Centre our lives have some value."

He lowers one arm and wraps it around my waist.

"What are you doing?" I ask, more than a little confused.

"Giving the camera a show." I know that he means to distance himself from me, to make it seem like he's doing this for some invisible watcher's benefit, but I also know his erection pressed into my lower back ain't being caught on Candid Camera. And for some reason, the fact that I can still get to him intrigues me. I know I'm playing with fire but I can't help it so I grind my ass into his crotch. Both of his hands come to grip my hips and he whispers into my ear, not the least bit amused himself, "There's this thing called overkill."

"What's the matter, Jarod? I'm just getting into the spirit of the pretend."

"Stop it right now. Don't open up a door you have no intention of walking through."

"How do you know my intentions?" I ask.

He forcibly turns me around, gripping my upper arms and pulling them between our chests.

"You were a cock tease at fourteen, why should thirty-four be any different?"

My hand shoots out and connects with his cheek before I can think.

"Fuck you," I say as I exit the shower and he thinks I don't hear him when he mutters, "That's what I'm trying to avoid."

His room has the biggest, widest bed I've ever seen. It's as large as two double beds placed together. It should give us more than enough room not to touch each other. I'm still pissed at his earlier comment, but I also know why he said it. There are certain complications that are best left avoided. I crawl into bed in just my panties and bra and once I'm under the covers, I toss the bra. Jarod pulls back the covers and prepares for bedtime in his boxer briefs. The Grand Canyon lies between us. I don't expect us to come within an arm's length of each other all night.

The sun's streaming through the blinds of the window and so much for good intentions. Through the course of the night the Canyon turned into a crack in the sidewalk. I'm sleeping on my stomach, turned at my waist with my legs stacked on top of each other as I always do and my head it nestled almost under his arm. He's got one leg lodged in between mine and my arm has snaked its way over his chest. I suppose now is not the best time to play those sexual games I'm so good at, but I figure if I'm gonna end up dead at the bottom of some drug dealer's pool, I might as well live for the simple pleasures. And baiting Jarod is more than a simple pleasure.

My hand starts rubbing circles on Jarod's stomach. It's nice and hard and corrugated in just the right way. I run my finger in between every muscle and lo and behold, there's the waistband to Jarod's undies. One finger under the elastic won't hurt. I rub one finger just under the elastic and figure if one's good, why not the whole hand. My palm is pressed against his skin, from hipbone to hipbone. My fingers can feel the start of his springy pubic hair. Just a little more and I'll have him right where I want him, in the palm of my hand. I don't know if his mind is awake but other parts of him are certainly beginning to rise. I curl my hand around the thick, thick base and it's both hard and velvety soft, a dichotomy that I've missed. I inch my hand further down, expecting to encounter the tip at any moment, but I keep going. The longer the wait, the greater my shock. Jarod's been hiding his light under a bushel and it's one hell of a forest fire. I'm still trying to convert palm lengths to inches when I hear him ask, "What are you doing?"

"My hand slipped," I say, feigning innocence.

"All the way under my briefs and around my penis?"

"Yes," I whisper as I continue to stroke him. His already hard cock grows a little harder and I marvel at its size. His breathing has become erratic and he's trying to hide it, to be subtle, but I can feel him gently buck into my hand on each down sweep.

"Do you know what you're doing?"

I don't dignify that comment with a response. I'm pretty sure I know what I'm doing and I'm pretty sure he's along for the ride.

"You're playing with fire." I see we're back to the fire motif. Again, I have no response but I don't stop what I'm doing either.

"What do you want with me?" he asks on a sigh and I still my movements for a moment and raise up to look him in the eye. Just then, the door opens. I quickly pull my hand away from him and roll over away from the open door. I wince as The King reminds me he hasn't yet left the building.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Jarod," the little Hispanic maid says, "but Mr. Tores wanted me to remind you about the morning meeting."

"Thank you," Jarod says and his voice isn't the least bit shaky.

I hear the door close and roll back over to face him. He leans toward me like he's about to kiss me and instead nuzzles my ear and says, "Don't try that again."

***

Jarod gets ready to go to his meeting and I lounge under the sheets trying to catch up on my sleep. I tell myself I'm just going to close my eyes for a minute but when I wake up, Jarod's gone and has been for a while.

The morning has quickly faded into noon and there comes a point when any more sleep is nauseating. I get up and look around the closets and find that Jarod has left me some clothing. Or maybe I've gotten lucky and the former occupant was my size. I don't dwell on why she left in such a hurry. I don't exactly share her tastes but the white Capri pants and pink sleeveless blouse will do. I find a pair of white sandals and slip them on. They're a size too big but beggar's can't be chooser's.

I make my way downstairs and into the kitchen. The maid that disturbed us this morning is there and the fact that there's a stranger snooping around the house doesn't faze her at all. She must be used to unexpected guests.

I sneak an apple from her and make my way outside. Tores is by the pool, sitting at a patio table, talking on the phone. He silently waves me over and I walk to where he is.

"Have a seat, Parker," he says once he gets off the phone. "What do you think of mi casa?"

I want to tell him it's very Miami Vice but think better of it.

"It's lovely," I gush.

"So, tell me about you and Mr. Scott."

"You mean Jarod? We run into each other a lot. We're nothing permanent."

"Do you know a lot about each other."

I smile, I know he's looking for information, an inside tip as it were.

"When we get together, there's not a lot of talking going on. Besides, I'm not he kind of woman that asks a lot of questions."

"That's the best kind of woman to be," he gives me his most charming smile, but it's just really serpentine.

"Tores-," Jarod says as he rounds the corner of the patio. "What the hell are you doing down here? You should be up in your room."

He's really mad but more than that, he's a little scared. Now's not the time to push this.

"I'm sorry, honey. I just came down for some lunch."

"Yeah, well, you'll eat when I tell you to eat and you won't leave that room unless I tell you to, got it?"

He's pushing it now and I'm very ready to explode but I remember this is all part of the pretend.

"I'm sorry," I pout. "I'll go upstairs right now."

I leave but not before he shouts at me, "Just don't push me."

***

I'm upstairs furiously pacing. Naked testosterone is disgusting, especially when directed at me. I expect Jarod to come through the door but the only person I see for the next seven hours is the maid. I'm ready to tear into Jarod when she comes in bringing a late lunch. I'm bored and frustrated and with each passing minute, my anger builds. I expected to spend this weekend on the beach or at the pool, not holed up in a drug dealer's house channel surfing. I get so bored I make Elvis sing "Suspicious Minds" to me. It's real easy to get delusional after a while.

When he finally comes into our suite, my fury is damn near biblical.

Cameras be damned.

"Where the hell have you been?"

"It's better that you not know the details," he says in a clipped voice.

"Fuck the details. You got me into this mess but I can damn well get myself out," I say, reaching for the door handle. He grabs me by the upper arm and flings me away from the door and over near the bed. With his hands on his hips he asks, "And just how do you expect to do that? You gonna walk out of here? Think for a minute, woman."

"I've had seven hours to think. And what's with all this macho shit? You in a my-dick-is-bigger-than-your contest?"

"We both know how big my dick is," he says with another one of his smirks.

"Oh yeah," I say, moving to stand toe-to-toe with him. "You're such the conquering hero," I croon. "I could kick your ass," I say with a shove to his chest.

He staggers a step back and just glares at me.

"You better stop these little games, little girl," he says as he turns away from me. Parker Pet Peeve #84: Being called "Little Girl."

"Hey," I shout, as I shove him in the back. "Face me like a man, lab rat."

He turns back towards me. He has a dangerous look in his eye but I'm not about to let him see that I think he could ever qualify as "dangerous." We just stand there for two breaths, glaring at each other.

"You want me to face you like a man?" he asks. His voice low and laced with menace. "You want me to fight you like a man?" he says with a small push to my shoulder, right on my Elvis bruise. I draw the line at fucking with The King.

I hold my ground and tell him, my voice low and what I hope is dangerous, "You aren't man enough to take me." He just looks at me for a second, slightly shakes his head, lets out a snort and then makes a move to shove me again. But I'm too quick for all that. I use his momentum to turn him around and grab one arm and wrench it behind his back. I've got him in a neat little submission hold.

Round One: Parker

I lean against his back and whisper in his ear, "That the best you got?"

He goes slack for a minute and says, "Not even." With that, he uses his free hand to grab one of my legs and lifts it. It's either keep holding onto his arm or go crashing to the floor so I opt to keep my grip. He anticipates this and quickly walks backward and topples onto the bed.

I'm pinned under him in what has to be the most awkward position known to man. This gives him the moment he needs to pull his arm away from my grip and roll over so that we're facing each other. We struggle for control of each other's hands and finally he comes out the winner, having clasped my wrists in his hands.

Round Two: Jarod

We're both out of breath and impossibly turned on. I can feel his erection, hard and insistent, right against my crotch. He grinds it in just the right place and asks, "This man enough for you?"

"Get off me, wonder boy. You wouldn't know what to do with it if I let you."

"I know 92 ways to make you come. I think I know what to do with it."

His arrogance astounds me. It adds fuel to my fire and gives me the strength to flip him over. I'm on top now but he still has my wrists and his hands are big enough that he can hold both of them in one hand. I'm trying so hard to get my hands loose that I don't even notice that he's ripped my shirt off until it's too late. I'm straddling him in borrowed Capri pants with my chest naked to the eye. My eyes widen in shock but I'm not about to let my nudity get to me. We pause for a moment and he just stares at my chest and of course the nipples would pick a time like now to harden.

Traitors.

He gives me a yank and I topple forwards, my breast at his mouth. He has a second to nuzzle them before I struggle to pull away again. He doubles his efforts to get to my breasts, succeeds in latching on to one for a few moments and when I finally pull back again, I see the red mark I'm sure will bruise up. Furious, I elbow him in the face, giving me the advantage I need to climb off him. I decide to take some of his shirt with me for good measure. You know, tit for tat.

I'm back with both feet on the carpet and he's lying on the bed. He slowly stands up to face me again, he shirt open and torn. He decides to take the rest of it off and now we're both bare-chested. He smiles at me and softly says, "If that's the way you want it." He comes at me again and I connect with his shoulder as he simultaneously connects with my thigh. Another bruise will join The King. I've got a regular Memphis Mafia developing.

I was going high, he was going low, but we both end up on our knees on the floor. I collapse on one knee as I swing the other out and into a kick that gets him right in the stomach. He rolls, but as he does he manages to grab my ankle and pull me to him. I turn to get away and grab on to the side of the bed. He follows close behind and sandwiches me between his chest and the side of the mattress. We're both kneeling again and even as I struggle I can feel how hard he is against my lower back. He grabs my wrists again in one hand and with the other unzips the side zipper on my pants. When YKK hits the end of the track, he lays down more rail and decides to just rip my pants. I can feel the cool breeze from the air conditioner caress my naked ass. I hear him unbuckle his belt and then lower his zipper. I think he's bluffing but I'm not 100% sure. There's no way he'd do it.

The percentage goes from 100 to 0 as he wraps his arm around me waist, quickly lifts me up and impales me on his huge cock. I close my eyes at the sensation of being incredibly stretched. It's a feeling so unfamiliar yet recognizable that I don't have time to protest. All thought of struggle momentarily stops and we're both just suspended there, neither of us moving.

He releases my hands and I dig them into the comforter on the bed. A thousand conflicting emotions and ideas run through my head. I'm saved from a course of action when he whispers in my ear, "Fast or slow?"

"Just fuck me if you're going to do it," I say in a low voice.

He grabs me about the hips and raises me as he lowershimself. Just the tip is still in me and for a moment I think that he's going to back down. Not a chance. His thrust is so hard and sure that I gasp. He doesn't stop, he doesn't unduly pause. He slams into me fast and furious. And wouldn't you know it, he finds just the right spot.

"I'm inside you," he says. "No one else but me."

I come on a whimper, holding my breath, as I shudder all around him. He bites into my shoulder, right where the ball meets the socket, the one without Elvis, though. I don't know how I know it but he's still hard inside me, he hasn't come yet. Size and stamina; quite the lethal combination.

I still haven't come down from the most explosive orgasm I've ever had. My body's still tingling and twitching as he slowly pulls out and picks me up and puts me on the bed. He lays me on my back, but not before he removes what's left of my pants and then his. Our shoes have long ago been discarded. I wonder if he's going to leave or if he's going to clean me up or, god forbid, if he's going to want to cuddle. I don't have to wait long for a decision because he crawls on top of me. My internal muscles still haven't bounced back when I feel him penetrate me again.

"What are you doing?" I ask as I grip his shoulders.

"You wanted it fast. I want it slow."

He inches out of me and just as slowly he goes back in. It's a pleasure so intense it borders on pain. It might even be a pain so intense it crosses over to the pleasurable. And it's not just the size of him, it's that he's now working a different angle on my still taut muscles. Of course the size is a factor too.

He's looking at me with this intensity that I've never seen in another person's eyes. It scares me.

"Stop, Jarod," I choke out. "Stop."

He doesn't. He keeps the same languid rhythm, all the while focused in on me.

"What do you want from me?" he asks.

"Please, stop," I whisper but he still keeps his unhurried pace.

On every pull out I ask him to stop. On every slow slide forward I ask again. I close my eyes and I hear him tell me to open my eyes and look at him. I lift my lids and resume our visual connection.

"What do you want?" he asks again, this time against my mouth. I whisper, "Don't," and I don't even have to say stop because he knows it's coming and he opens his mouth a little to trap my breath. Our lips never touch. I just breathe the words "Don't stop" into him over and over.

I thought my muscles were already tapped out and there was no way I could climax again but apparently the old girls still have some kick in them. I'm about to come and I claw at his back and I just know he's about to come too.

He lifts one of my legs and wraps it around his lower back just as he goes deeper than he or anyone else has been before. This time we come simultaneously and he not once, not even for a millisecond loses his focus on my eyes.

Final Tally: Draw

Sleep of the dead. We're both exhausted and slumber overtakes us quickly.

***

I wake up before him and decide I should shower even though it's 3 in the morning. I have a hell of a time walking to the bathroom. There's a comforting soreness with each step. I turn on the taps and just let the warm water wash over me. I survey my new collection of welts and know without a doubt that they'll bruise up. I ache all over and in some places I thought I'd never ache again.

I close my eyes under the spray and am startled when I hear him come into the stall. He's standing behind me and I want to turn around and face him, but I also wish like hell he would leave me alone to hash all this out. He snuggles his face into my left shoulder, chin-to-chin with The King.

If he tells me he loves me I'll have to kill him.

"I'm sorry," he says. Not unexpected, but thankfully the lesser of two evils.

"It's O.K.," I say, struggling for words. Being a bitch has its purpose, but I don't think I should play that role to its fullest just yet. "We've been dancing around each other for years. It was inevitable." There, I'm trying to give us each on out for our actions.

"No," he says. "Not for earlier, for this." I feel the sting in my buttocks and quickly turn around to see him holding a syringe.

"What the hell?"

"It's my plan for getting you out of here safely. It's also a pretty good plan to avoid a return to the Centre," he says somewhat sheepishly.

"You bastard," I say as the bathroom tiles begin to blend together. He steadies me in my last moments of consciousness and lifts me into his arms before my world fades to black.

I peel my face away from the white leather I'm resting on. Apparently a thousand elephants decided to perform the pachyderm production of "Stomp!" in my head. Even groaning is a ring of Dante's hell. The Italian writer, not the drug dealer. Then it all comes back to me. Walking in on Jarod's pretend, the in-between, the lab rat drugging me, etc. I shoot up and quickly realize that's a mistake.

"Uhhmm, Miss Parker?"

I look up to find the Centre's pilot, Mr. Presley, staring at me.

"What the hell happened? Where am I?" I ask groggily.

"You're in the Centre's jet. I got a call to meet you here two days ago. You've been out since I came but there was a note beside you telling me not to worry, that you'd wake up soon."

"Two days? That asshole knocked me out for two days. If I ever find him I really will kill him," I groan. I look around through squinted lids and find today's paper on the coffee table. The headline reads, "Drug Lord Brought Down." At least all of this was worth something.

"Take us back to Blue Cove, Mr. Presley," I say as I slump down again on the sofa. My right shoulder connects with the cushions and I wince at the sting. Raising up again, a pull back the sleeve of the t-shirt I'm wearing (yes, it has the phrase "Who's the man?" printed on it. Clever.) I get a look the new bruise on my right shoulder. It reminds me of Elvis circa "Jailhouse Rock." The perfect companion for my Elvis circa the '68 Comeback Special. With so many damn Elvis', I'm a regular Graceland.






Feedback: beyond appreciated or i'll think i'm the only person who likes these sort of things.

Sequel: WSM











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