Consequences Fan Fiction

Consequences Fan Fiction

Status: Finished

Genre: Thrillers

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Thrillers

Summary

This is a fan fiction based off of The Consequences Series by Aleatha Romig

Summary

This is a fan fiction based off of The Consequences Series by Aleatha Romig

Content

Submitted: February 23, 2016

A A A | A A A

Content

Submitted: February 23, 2016

A A A

A A A


DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVENT READ AT LEAST THE FIRST BOOK OF THE CONSEQUENCES SERIES BY ALEATHA ROMIG, CONSEQUENCES, WHICH IS CURRENTLY FREE ON IBOOKS AND OTHER EBOOK PLATFORMS.
 
Consequences Fan Fiction
 
Two and a half years ago, she had one goal: Survival
Now, she had a new one: Revenge
 
Thirteen months after Claire's arrest, her buzzer sounded. The buzzer meant that she needed to go to her door. She'd received something, usually a package. This time a guard informed her she had a visitor. Her presence was immediately required in the visitor area.
 
Claire curiously followed the guard down the halls and through multiple gates: each one locking, unlocking, and making the electronic beep sound. She wasn't sure who her visitor could be. It was the middle of a school day. Emily would be teaching.
 
Wearing her prison clothes, she entered a room to find a man that she didn't recognize. His shaggy blonde hair was combed back. His blue eyes brightened as he smiled.
 
“Hello Ms. Nichols,” he greeted. “I am Agent Baldwin with the FBI. Please have a seat.”
 
Claire obeyed, sitting on the hard chair.
 
“I would like to ask you some questions regarding your ex-husband,” Agent Baldwin continued.
 
“I didn't try to murder him,” Claire responded.
 
“I know,” he assured.
 
“I'm sorry,” Claire said, confused by his words. “I don't understand. If you know that I didn't try to murder Ton... Mr. Rawlings, then what do you want to ask me?”
 
“Mr. Rawlings is our prime suspect in several murders,” Agent Baldwin explained. “Including your grandfather's.”
 
“My grandfather died from natural causes,” Claire lied. She knew the truth. Anthony's box of secrets had given her that. However, she wasn't sure if she wanted the FBI to know that she knew.
 
“You should know that the FBI can protect you from your ex husband,” he said.
 
“Why would I need protecting from Mr. Rawlings?” Claire questioned. She was fishing, wanting to know how much he knew.
 
“Do you remember the preliminary brief that your lawyer, Mr. Task, wrote for your trial?” Agent Baldwin asked.
 
“Yes,” Claire responded, remembering the detailed content.
 
“A copy of that brief was anonymously emailed to me a couple of days ago,” Agent Baldwin explained.
 
Claire sighed and leaned back in her chair. She needed to think about her options. Agent Baldwin could be the answer to her prayers. He could help her get the revenge that she dreamed of. However, if Anthony learned that she had helped Agent Baldwin there would be negative consequences.
 
“We can protect you,” Agent Baldwin repeated.
 
“What about my sister and her husband?” Claire asked. “Can you protect them as well.”
 
“I can talk to my superiors about their protection,” he responded.
 
“I will need to think about this,” Claire stated, knowing that this could not be an impulsive decision. “However, I won't be sharing any information until my sister and brother-in-law are protected.”
 
“I understand,” Agent Baldwin replied. “I will talk to my superiors and come back next week. Is that alright?”
 
“I will see you next week Agent Baldwin,” Claire said.
 
* * *
 
The following week Claire's buzzer sounded again. She followed the guard, expecting to find Agent Baldwin waiting for her. Instead, she saw Jane Allyson sitting at the table.
 
“Jane, I'm surprised to see you. Why are you here?” Claire asked.
 
Jane waited until the guard had left before she answered. “There is new evidence in your case,” she explained with a smile. “Evidence that proves your innocence!”
 
Jane's smile suddenly morphed into confusion as the door to the visitor's room opened again. Claire looked up to see Brent walk in. She half-expected Tony to follow, but Brent was alone.
 
“Hello Claire,” Brent greeted. His lips were smiling, but there was sadness in his eyes.
 
“What are you doing here?” Jane asked, moving between Claire and Brent.
 
Brent ignored Jane and directed his words towards Claire. “As I'm sure Ms. Allyson has informed you, there is new evidence in your case that proves your innocence. Mr. Rawlings would like to offer you my services in order to obtain your release,” Brent explained.
 
Goosebumps covered Claire's skin as chills ran down her spine. An offer that she couldn't refuse. Obviously, Tony had something to do with her sudden release but she wasn't sure why. It didn't make sense.
 
“You can tell Mr. Rawlings that Ms. Nichols doesn't need his assistance,” Jane scoffed.
 
Brent stared at Claire, waiting for her answer.
 
“I'd like a minute alone with Ms. Allyson before I make my decision,” Claire responded.
 
“Of course,” Brent nodded. “Mr. Rawlings would also like me to inform you that he is waiting for you outside.”
 
Claire understood. Keeping Anthony waiting would not lead to positive consequences.
 
Jane waited for Brent to step out of the room before turning towards Claire. “You're not thinking of going back to him are you?” Jane asked, disbelief evident in her voice.
 
“Do you have a pen and paper?” Claire asked, taking a seat at the table. Her eyes flicked towards the video camera in the corner of the room. Understanding filled Jane's eyes as she nodded. She took out a pen and a small pad of paper, setting them on the table in front of Claire.
 
Claire quickly scribbled her note and handed it to Jane.
 
Thank you for everything, but I have to go. Who knows what Tony will do if I don't. I have one last favor to ask of you. Please contact Agent Baldwin with the FBI. Tell him to hack into Mr. Rawlings' security cameras. Tell him NOT to rescue me until he has all the evidence he needs to put Anthony in jail for the rest of his life. I know that I will be punished and am prepared to handle whatever he throws at me.
 
“Thank you, Jane, but I believe that I will be using Mr. Simmons services going forward. Please send him back in,” Claire said. Her voice sounded strong, but her hands trembled with nerves. Her heart ached with terror at the thought of what Tony would do to her when they reached his estate, but she knew that she had to do it. It was the only way.
 
Jane frowned, obviously debating whether or not she should allow her client to go through with the plan. Eventually she nodded, collected her things, and left the room.
 
Moments later, Brent rejoined Claire. She sat quietly as Brent explained what the next few hours would be like. First they had to go to the courthouse where a judge would officially release Claire from her sentence. Then Claire and Anthony would make a statement to the press. And then, finally, she would be free.
 
Claire thought that they definitely had different definitions of the word 'free'.
 
After changing into a gray business dress that Brent had brought, Claire followed him through the halls towards the exit of the prison. He explained that normally she would have had to ride to the courthouse in a prison van, but since Anthony was such an upstanding member of society the court had agreed to allow her to ride with him.
 
A guard had already collected her belongings from her cell and met them at the exit. Claire was handed a small bag containing the clothes and jewelry she was wearing on the day of her arrest.
 
Her breath hitched as Brent opened the door that lead to her freedom. The first thing she saw was Tony. He was leaning against the side of his limousine, his dark eyes targeting her the instant she stepped outside.
 
Tony pushed himself off of the limo and walked towards Claire. His eyes were black. Her body involuntarily tensed as he wrapped her in his arms.
 
“My dear, Claire,” Tony said as he took as step back. “Words can not describe how sorry I am for not believing you when you said that you were innocent. If you could find it in your heart to forgive me, I promise to spend the rest of my life making it up to you.”
 
Claire knew that it was a practiced speech; not one spoken for her but for appearances. Securing a mask that she hadn't worn in a while, Claire replied, “Of course, Tony. You were sick and all of the signs pointed to me. You can't be blamed for thinking the same thing that everyone else thought.”
 
It took all of her strength not to pull away when he leaned down and kissed her. She wasn't sure if her mask was strong enough to hide her disgust.
 
“Let's get to the courthouse and make your freedom official. I want to take you home and earn your forgiveness,” Tony said, offering his arm as an escort to the vehicle.
 
Claire knew that she had to do something; something to ensure that she would be punished upon their arrival to the estate. If she behaved too well, he might forget the whole thing and then Agent Baldwin wouldn't get his evidence. Of course, that wasn't true. Tony was like an elephant; he never forgot anything.
 
“Tony,” Claire tutted. “Taking a limousine to the courthouse?”
 
“I thought that you would enjoy riding in style,” Tony responded curtly.
 
“Oh, I would,” Claire agreed. “I just would have preferred the Mercedes Benz.”
 
Tony's step faltered as Brent scurried to his own car, pretending not to have heard the comment. Eric opened the door of the limo and Claire slid into the seat. Tony followed.
 
As soon as they were outside of the prison gates, Tony exploded. One hand tangled in Claire's hair, pulling her head back, while the other wrapped around her neck, pressing her against the seat.
 
“What did it say?” he asked through gritted teeth, his face mere inches from hers. Claire could see the hatred in his eyes. The love that he had once felt for her was obviously gone. That thought scared her more than anything. If he truly hated her, what would stop him from crossing the line and killing her? Agent Baldwin would get his evidence, but she would be dead.
 
“What did what say?” Claire questioned, immediately reprimanding herself for answering his question with a question.
 
His grip in her hair tightened. “The note that you gave Ms. Allyson,” he growled.
 
The fact that he had seen her give Jane the note didn't shock Claire. She had an excuse ready. “I asked her to call Emily for me,” she lied. “I wasn't sure that you would let me and I didn't want Emily to learn of my release from the reporters.”
 
A sly smile formed on Tony's lips. He released his hold and pulled out his cell phone. “You're right,” he said. “Emily should hear the good news from you.”
 
Claire's eyes narrowed as she searched for the motive behind his sudden generosity.
 
“But, you should know that if you say anything inappropriate to your sister, the judge, or the press, Emily's name will be added to the list of murders that Agent Baldwin investigates. Don't disappoint me, Claire,” Tony warned as he dialed Emily's number.
 
Suddenly, the quick release from prison made sense. Tony knew about Agent Baldwin. He couldn't risk her speaking to Agent Baldwin again.
 
“She didn't answer,” Tony said, bringing Claire back to the present. “You will have to leave a message.”
 
“Emily,” Claire said, her voice shaking as she thought about the possible consequences of her words. “This is Claire. I have some good news. New evidence has been found that proves my innocence. I am being released from jail. More good news... I am with Tony. We are trying to fix things between us and I will be unreachable for a little while we work on our relationship. I promise to call you when things start to calm down. Love you, sis.”
 
Tony disconnected the call. “I'm glad to see that you can still manage to follow some rules,” Tony praised as he tucked a strand of hair behind Claire's ear. “But I still think that a review is necessary.”
 
* * *
 
Listening to the judge apologize for how the justice system had failed her was like listening to Tony's speech about appearances. It took a lot of effort on Claire's part to stop herself from rolling her eyes. Luckily, her mask was secure.
 
The time that they spent in front of the press was easy. All Claire had to do was stand by Tony's side and appear to be grateful and loving. She played her role well.
 
Tony had told her once that positive decisions would lead to positive consequences. There was no reward for her performance.
 
Claire stared out the window, watching the scenery as it passed. Without warning, Tony's hand wrapped around the back of her neck, turning her to face him. Claire realized that the divider between them and Eric had been closed.
 
“I believe that it is time to remind you of your duties,” Tony stated.
 
Claire's heartbeat quickened as Tony unzipped his slacks. Flashbacks of his dominance raced through her mind. She wasn't ready to experience that again.
 
In the limousine there were no cameras. Her submission wouldn't even be for a good cause.
 
“I was under the impression that my debt was paid,” Claire said. She braced her hands against the seat of the car, pulling away from his grip ever so slightly.
 
In one swift motion, Tony pinned one of Claire's wrists behind her back. Her face scrunched up in pain.
 
“Claire,” he tutted as he lowered her face towards his crotch. “The lawyer's fees, the expedited release, the new evidence... It all adds up. Now, I suggest that you stop arguing. I've already reminded you of the rules and rule number one is to do as you are told.”
 
* * *
 
Tony released his hold on Claire as they pulled up the estate. He waited for Claire to compose herself before exiting the vehicle.
 
The act that he had just forced her to perform wasn't for sexual gratification. It's sole purpose was to humiliate Claire and remind her of his dominance. Tony achieved his goal.
 
As Claire stepped out of the vehicle, she took in the overwhelming massiveness of the mansion. She remembered what an effective prison it was; how it had so easily held her captive for so long. The thought of reentering that hell took her breath away. She reminded herself that it wouldn't be for long.
 
Claire realized that Tony had started walking. He was already at the door. She hurried to catch up to him. Eric followed closely behind her.
 
Cindy opened the door and greeted them. “Welcome home, Miss Claire,” she said.
 
“Thank you, Cindy,” Claire responded. She looked around the room for Catherine. Claire had been excited to reconnect with her.
 
Tony walked towards his office and Claire rushed to keep up. “Where is Catherine?” she asked.
 
“Eric, please escort Ms. Nichols up to her room,” Tony ordered without stopping to look at them. “I have work to do.”
 
Claire's heart pounded. The thought of hearing that damn beep made her panic. She tried to appear strong.
 
“Tony,” Claire implored, grabbing Tony's arm to stop his movements.
 
Immediately, the back of his hand struck her cheek with enough force to knock her off of her feet. He quickly grabbed her hair and dragged her into his office. Slamming the door, he turned the lock. No one would disturb them.
 
Tony released Claire's hair and walked over to his desk, taking out a bottle of whiskey. “We've reviewed the rules and your duties. Now I believe that it is time to remind you of the consequences,” Tony said as he poured himself a drink. “Undress and lie face down.”
 
Claire's trembling intensified as she worked to obey. She knew what was about to happen. She heard the distinct sound of Tony's belt as it passed through each loop. Her body involuntarily tensed as she waited for the pain.
 
Claire managed to hold back her scream as the first lash landed across her back. The second followed shortly after. Claire hoped that Agent Baldwin was able to hack his way in the security system. She needed to believe that her pain was for a good cause.
 
The strikes came one after another. Claire muffled her screams against her arm. Tony's lack of restraint terrified her. It reminded her of her accident.
 
“You did this to yourself,” Tony chided, finally setting the belt down on his desk. He took another drink. “Rule number one is to do as you are told. I told you to go to your room. Did you?”
 
“No,” Claire responded, silent tears flowing down her cheeks. She knew her lines. “I did not do as I was told and actions have consequences.”
 
“Get dressed,” Tony ordered, picking up that undergarments that the prison had given Claire and moving them out of her reach. “Go to your suite and clean yourself up. Do not leave your suite until I decide.”
 
Claire quickly stepped into the dress. She winced as she stood, the skin on her back sore and raw.
 
Tony led her to the door of his office by her arm. Opening the door, he handed Claire off to Eric. Claire didn't attempt to protest when Eric's hand replaced Tony's around her arm.
 
The walk up to Claire's suite was silent. Eric obviously knew what had happened. Claire was having trouble hiding her discomfort.
 
Claire expected the beep to sound when Eric opened her door, but it didn't. The heavy feeling of helplessness settled into her chest as she stepped into the suite. Eric closed the door without a word. The lack of the beep caused a shiver to run down Claire's spine.
 
The test was an obvious one. The door was not locked but Tony had specifically told her not to leave her suite. If she disobeyed there would be painful consequences.
 
Claire stayed strong in front of the cameras. She didn't want Agent Baldwin to think that she couldn't handle Tony's punishments. But could she? Had Agent Baldwin been successful in hacking into the cameras? Had he even received her message? She had to reassure herself that Jane would do whatever it took to get the message to Agent Baldwin.
 
Claire didn't break down until she was safely in her bathroom, away from the cameras. She showered quickly. The water felt like needles stabbing the sensitive welts across her back.
 
Wrapped in a towel, Claire walked through her suite to the closet. She was immediately surprised with how little clothes occupied it's space. It dawned on Claire that Tony hadn't had as much time to prepare for her arrival as he had the last time that he held her captive.
 
Claire dressed for dinner. It was still two hours away, but what was the point in getting dressed only to change later? She styled her hair and applied her makeup. She appeared perfect. She appeared as though she had never left.
 
The cameras had already captured Tony's abuse. She needed them to capture his confession to the murders. That wouldn't happen unless she played by his rules.
 
* * *
 
Eighteen days. It had been eighteen days since she arrived at the estate. Not only had she not been allowed to leave her suite, she hadn't had any visitors either.
 
At first, Claire thought that Tony was trying to recreate the isolation that he had made her suffer several years before during his trip to Europe. Her meals arrived and her room was cleaned as if by magic, similar to before. The difference was the lack of entertainment. The television set had been removed from her suite and the selections on the bookshelf were limited.
 
But, if it was a recreation, the isolation would have ended after thirteen days. It had gone on for far too long. Still, each night she expected Tony to join her for dinner. She dressed appropriately and was always ready by five. He never came.
 
The urge to turn towards a camera and beg Agent Baldwin for rescue was overwhelming. Claire had to remain strong, but that wouldn't happen in solitary confinement. It was her weakness and Tony knew it.
 
Gathering her courage, Claire made up her mind. If Tony wouldn't come to her suite willingly, she would make him. If she could get him to confess, the punishment would be worth the reward.
 
Turning on her heel, she walked from the balcony windows to the door of her suite. Claire held her breath as she turned the handle. The door swung open with ease. Poking her head out, she peered down the hallway. It was deserted.
 
She sat down on the floor in front of the door. Claire was still in her suite. No rules had been broken. It was a loophole; one that she knew would anger Tony. Silently, she waited.
 
When Tony didn't immediately come to her, Claire assumed that he was busy. Too busy to check the cameras and realize what she had done. However, as the hours ticked away, she knew. She knew that he knew what she had done. He was simply ignoring it. She had to do something that he couldn't ignore.
 
She stood with confidence and placed one foot in the hallway while the other remained in her room. It felt childish, but technically she hadn't left her suite. Plus, it would certainly get his attention.
 
Within minutes, he was in the hallway; his black eyes moving towards her with determination. Claire's breathing hitched as she backed into the suite. Tony entered shortly after, slamming the door behind him. He stalked towards her, ready to strike.
 
“Good evening, Anton,” Claire said. Her words stopped Tony his is tracks. “So nice of you to finally join me.”
 
Tony remained silent. Claire watched the internal battle rage within her ex-husband. Externally, Tony remained stoic and fought for control.
 
“It is customary for one person to respond to the greeting of another,” Claire reminded. She knew that she was pushing the limits, but the smart remark was irresistible.
 
Tony's eyes intensified as he glared at Claire. “Good evening, Claire,” he replied. “My name is Anthony, but you may still address me as Tony.”
 
“That's very gentlemanly of you,” Claire retorted. “Do you not think that, as your wife, I deserved to know that your true name was Anton Rawls?”
 
“Where could you possibly come up with such a story?” he asked with a deceivingly calm voice.
 
“Why, Anton, it was in your box of confessions,” she answered.
 
Tony stared in utter shock and disbelief. “I assure you,” he said. “I have no idea what you're saying.”
 
“The information that you sent me in prison,” Claire explained, now just as confused as Tony seemed to be. “Are you saying that you didn't send me a box of information?”
 
He didn't need to answer; his expression spoke louder than words. “I did not send you anything while you were in prison,” he managed to articulate. Tony took a seat at the table, his anger momentarily forgotten. “What was in this box?”
 
“There were pictures, articles, and a letter. It all explained that your birth name was Anton Rawls; you changed it after the death of your grandfather and parents,” Claire informed. If Tony hadn't sent her the information, then who did?
 
“Was it handwritten? Where is it?” Tony asked. “I'd like to see it.”
 
“Yes, the note was handwritten. I thought that it looked like your writing. It wasn't signed, but you never sign anything. You can't see it,” Claire exhaled. “I burned it.”
 
“You what?” Tony laughed.
 
Squaring her shoulders, Claire repeated, “I burned it, all of it. I took it to the incinerator at the prison and watched it burn.”
 
He stared for a moment and exclaimed, “You're serious! You have no proof of anything you just said? You burned it.”
 
Claire could only nod.
 
Tony's shoulders relaxed. The tension that glued his muscles together, dissipated before her eyes. Still, his eyes remained black.
 
“The information in that box led me to believe that you murdered my grandparents as well as my parents,” Claire said, trying to make her voice sound stronger than she felt. “Is it true?”
 
Instead of answering, Tony stood. Claire watched in horror as he removed his belt. She had known that she was going to be punished before she opened the door. It was the choice that she made. However, the reward she had expected – Tony's confession – hadn't come. Claire certainly hadn't expected Tony to use the belt on her again.
 
“What are you doing?” Claire asked.
 
“This discussion is closed. Now, undress and lie face down,” Tony ordered. “I believe that this form of punishment has proven to be effective for you in the past.”
 
“I don't need to be punished,” Claire meekly declared.
 
“You broke the rules, Claire,” Tony tutted. “Negative actions result in negative consequences. We've been over this.”
 
“Technically, since I kept one foot inside my room I never actually left the suite which means that I didn't break any rules,” Claire argued.
 
“Fine,” Tony conceded, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “I promise that that one foot will remain untouched by this belt. However, the rest of your body did break my rules. I've asked you, twice now, to undress and lie down. Do not make me ask again.”
 
Her training kicked in. All that was left to do was obey and pray for mercy.
 
A long while later, when Tony had decided that Claire's punishment was through, she heard him set the belt on the table. Claire laid on the floor. Her fingernails gripped the soft carpet as she worked to breathe through the burning pain that covered her body.
 
Tony had methodically moved his belt across her body, punishing every inch of her that had left the suite. He had, however, kept his promise and had left that one foot untouched by the belt.
 
“Stand up,” Tony ordered. Not waiting for her to obey, he grabbed Clair's arm and pulled her to her feet.
 
The rush of blood made Claire's head spin.
 
“I believe that it's time for you to repay some debt,” he said, pushing Claire onto the mattress.
 
“No,” Claire begged, her voice hoarse. “Please, Tony. I'm too sore.”
 
“Whose fault is it that you are sore?” he asked, removing his clothes.
 
“It's my fault,” Claire answered, choking back her sobs. The bravery that she had possessed earlier that evening had vanished.
 
“That's correct, Claire,” Tony said. “Now, what is my number one rule?”
 
“It is to do as you say,” Claire responded.
 
“Good. Now, are you going to behave or do I need to restrain you?” he asked.
 
“I will behave,” Claire whispered.
 
“Good girl,” Tony praised, joining her on the bed.
 
Time passed slowly in Claire's world. Tony was not at all gentle when taking his payment. Screams had erupted from Claire's throat more than once. She struggled to stay compliant. The urge to fight him was so strong.
 
Claire waited until Tony had redressed and was headed for the door before she spoke again.
 
“Tony,” she quietly called.
 
“Yes, Claire?” he asked, turning to look at her.
 
“You told me once, that you are a busy man and that if I want something, I need to ask,” Claire started. Tony motioned for her to continue. “It's been eighteen days, Tony. May I please leave my suite?”
 
“No,” he answered.
 
“How long do you expect me to stay in here?” Claire asked, trying to hide the anguish in her voice.
 
“I believe that the judge sentenced you to seven years for attempting to murder me,” Tony replied. “You have only served two of those years.”
 
His words knocked the breath of out her chest. “You plan to keep me in this suite for five years?” Claire questioned, her voice raising an octave.
 
“Don't be fooled, Claire,” Tony warned. “Your cell may have changed, but the sentence remains the same.”
 
“This isn't like last time,” Claire argued, moving to sit up. “People know about me. They know that I am here. How many more days before they start asking questions?”
 
Blackness dominated Tony's glare. “Go and clean yourself up,” he ordered, opening the door. “You look disgusting.”
 
She heard the distinctive beep as the door closed. The test was over. She had failed.
 
* * *
 
The answer to the question that she had posed to Tony was twelve days. It was twelve more days before people started asking questions; or at least until Tony had been forced to answer them.
 
During those twelve days, Claire had been required to pay off a portion of her debt each night and each night Tony had found new ways to hurt her. Of course, he was careful not to leave marks.
 
At the end of each session, Claire asked him about the death of her family. The question was only met with punishment. The discussion had been closed and she didn't have the authority to reopen it. Still, the answer to that question was the key to her freedom. It was worth the punishment.
 
So when Tony entered her suite on the twelfth day, that's what Claire assumed that he wanted; another payment. She couldn't stop the trembling of her hands as she closed her book and set it on the table.
 
“You have a visitor,” Tony stated calmly.
 
Claire's heart leapt at the thought of human contact. Tony, of course, wasn't human.
 
“Who is it?” Claire asked as she stood. Who would he possibly allow Claire to see?
 
“Courtney,” Tony replied. “I told her that you weren't ready for visitors, that you are still adjusting to life outside of prison, but she insisted. You're attire will have to do. She is waiting for us downstairs.” Tony held his hand out towards Claire, expecting her to take it.
 
An idea popped into her head. Before she could think about the consequences, she said, “No.”
 
“No?” Tony questioned, black taking over his stare.
 
“I don't want to see Courtney,” Claire answered. Tony moved towards her. “Unless...”
 
“Unless?” Tony asked, stopping his movements.
 
“Unless, you answer my questions regarding my family,” Claire said.
 
“You seem to be forgetting who is in control,” Tony growled. “I don't allow ultimatums.”
 
“It doesn't appear that you have a choice,” Claire replied, crossing her arms over her chest. “Unless, you want me to tell Courtney that I am being held against my will.”
 
“I will make you a counter offer,” Tony declared. “Courtney is waiting. We do not have time for this discussion now. However, I give you my word that after Courtney is gone I will answer your questions.”
 
“Your word?” Claire scoffed.
 
“It's your only option, Claire,” Tony said, holding out his hand once more.
 
Inhaling a deep breath, Claire nodded and took his hand. “I probably shouldn't, but I am going to trust you to keep your word. I am going to trust you to give me the answers that I need,” she responded.
 
Tony led Claire through the mansion down to the sitting room.
 
Just before Courtney came into view, Tony leaned down and warned, “Keep it short. Don't disappoint me.”
 
Courtney's eyes welled with tears as she stood and walked to Claire. No words were spoken as they embraced.
 
“I'll leave you two alone,” Tony said.
 
When Claire looked back, he was gone.
 
“I'm sorry,” Courtney cried. “I'm so sorry.”
 
Claire shook her head, unable to form a verbal response.
 
“I always knew that you were innocent,” Courtney continued. “I should have fought for you.”
 
“You did what could at the time,” Claire assured.
 
“I'm sorry that I barged in on you like this,” Courtney apologized.
 
“No,” Claire argued. “I'm glad that you did. I don't know if Tony told you or not, but I'm still trying to readjust to life outside of prison. Honestly, with everything that was said about me while I was incarcerated, I wanted to stay at home and hide. I didn't know if people would truly believe that I was innocent. Thank you for proving me wrong. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
 
“I can't stay,” Courtney said, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “I just had to see you; had to apologize. Maybe the four of us could get together soon?”
 
“I would like that,” Claire replied with a smile. Claire followed Courtney to the door. “I'll speak to Tony about it.”
 
As Courtney walked out to her car, Tony walked up behind Claire and wrapped his arm around her. “Goodbye Courtney,” he called.
 
The door closed. Without having to be told, Claire followed Tony back to her suite. As much as she wanted to argue, she knew that it would be counter productive.
 
Inside the suite, Tony and Claire sat at the table. The conversation that followed was direct. There was no point in beating around the bush.
 
“I am a man of my word,” Tony said. “What are your questions?”
 
“Did you murder my parents?” Claire asked. Her body involuntarily tensed as she waited for the pain that usually followed that question.
 
“I paid for them to have an accident,” Tony honestly replied.
 
The pain she felt wasn't physical; it was emotional. She may have thought that he was a murderer, but to have it confirmed broke her heart. She had once loved the man who killed her parents.
 
Compartmentalize.
 
Claire's pain turned to triumph as she realized that she had won; beaten him at his own game. She had gotten his confession, on tape. It was only a matter of time before Agent Baldwin rescued her and arrested Tony.
 
“Did you murder my grandparents?” she continued.
 
“No,” he responded. “By the time that I had the money to pay for someone's death, your grandparents had already died from natural causes.”
 
“Thank you for your honesty,” Claire said, standing and moving towards the fireplace. After Tony's confession, Claire needed space.
 
“As I recall, I didn't have a choice,” Tony mused. “However, since I am being honest, there is something else that I think you should know.”
 
“What is that?” Claire asked.
 
“Shortly after you arrived at the estate someone tried to hack into my surveillance system,” Tony calmly stated.
 
The blood drained from her face as Claire took in his words. Tony knew her plan. He had known it all along.
 
“You'll be happy to know that my anti virus software was able to fend off the voyeur and that my team has strengthened the system's security since then,” he continued.
 
Nothing! Agent Baldwin had seen nothing. The past month of torture had been in vain. Claire;s legs went weak and her body sank the floor.
 
“This voyeur, although quite persistent, has not been able to gain access to any video feed,” Tony clarified as he stood and walked to the door. “But don't worry. I am still able to enjoy our movies. Tomorrow, since you deserve a reward for your performance with Courtney, I will take you down to the theater and we can watch one together.”
 
Tony's sadistic smile was the last thing that Claire saw before the door to her suite closed. The beep signaled that it was locked.
 
She hadn't won. She had lost.
 
THE END


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