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    Call Girl Cheerleaders 30-39 (complete)

    Hope no one minds ... but here is the complete set of chapters 30-39 ;)


    CHAPTER THIRTY
    --------------

    Whatever Giselle's parents were thinking, neither of them showed up at the house again. Giselle settled in as well as could be expected, and my concerns about worsening Hayley's mood proved unfounded. She didn't improve, mind you--but neither did she get any worse.

    I did my best to make sure she knew we all cared about her, and I kept telling myself that it would simply take time. She might have been on the cusp of womanhood (sixteen was older nowadays than it had been when I was her age), but she had undergone a couple of major upheavals, and it was unrealistic not to expect her to be affected.

    Marianne fell happily into her role as the "mama-san" of the household, taking over some of Elizabeth's responsibilities toward Hayley and working to keep everything running smoothly. Giselle, for her part, carried her end of the load. Recognizing that it was important for her self-esteem, I accepted the twenty-five bucks a week she insisted on giving me out of her salary from working at a nearby ********. It might have been lunch money for me, but it meant something to her, so I took it.

    A couple of weeks later, Hayley asked me to come to a pep rally at their school to watch her cheer. The school's basketball team had just made the playoffs, and both squads would be there. So Friday morning, I took a couple of hours off and drove over to their school.

    I wasn't sure what to expect, but when I got to the gym, I saw a small group of parents sitting at one end of the bleachers. I found a seat near the top. Luckily, Giselle's father didn't appear to be there.

    The J.V. squad came out first, and Hayley led them in a series of cheers, doing their best to rev up the students. I noticed her smiling at me a few times, and when they were done, she gave me a little wave.
    Marianne and the varsity girls came out next, and as she was leading the squad in a cheer, I had a sudden flashback to my own high school days. Sitting on a bleacher much like this one, forlornly watching Beth Dunbar dance and prance around our gym. Knowing that my feelings for her were pathetic and pathetically unrequited, but unable to control them. I didn't know what to call it now--irony, poetic justice, or coincidence--but here I sat having both her daughters madly in love with me and eagerly climbing into my bed.

    I wondered, not for the first time, if I should ever tell Marianne the whole truth. I wanted to, simply because I didn't like keeping secrets from her, but I had no idea how she would react. A sister-sister trio appeared to be no big deal to her. Mother-daughter would probably be something else, even if I had never so much as laid a finger on Beth Dunbar, on her shiny Marcia Brady hair and her overloaded sweaters. I had *wanted* to, that and so much more, and that might be the important element to Marianne.
    I came out of my retrospection to realize that someone nearby was glaring at me. It took me a moment or two to recognize him: Randy, Marianne's ex-boyfriend, who sat a few rows down. He maintained the glare for another second or two, then looked away.
    When the pep rally finally broke up, Marianne gave me a wink and ran off with the other cheerleaders. She and Hayley knew better than to approach me in front of everyone -- we had discussed the importance of discretion -- so I wasn't disappointed with their limited attentions. I filed out of the gym with the parents and student and went back to work.
    I had a very demanding job, and I normally ate lunch at my desk, even on days when I hadn't spent two hours out of the office on personal business. I was buried in a pile of SEC disclosures and due diligence reports around twelve-fifteen when my intercom buzzed.
    "Yeah?"
    "Steve, there's a Tiffany Michaels here to see you."
    Whoa, I thought. Some kind of emergency?
    "Send her back."
    Tiffany appeared in my office about a minute later. She wore jeans and a spandex cowl-neck T-shirt, but more importantly she also wore a sly grin that eased my concern, whatever she was doing here in the middle of the day. She closed the door behind her.
    "Hi, Steve."
    "Tiff. Dare I ask what you're doing here this time of day?"
    "I'm here on orders from your girlfriend."
    My jaw dropped slightly.
    "Oh."
    "I asked her to give me something really wild and daring to do. A slave thing, you know? So she told me to come here and give you a bj. And I have to carry your cum back to school in my mouth and show it to her afterwards."
    I gulped.
    "I'm pretty busy here."
    She stepped around my desk and pushed her way between my thighs.
    "I'll be quick."
    Not waiting for anything else, she dropped to her knees and unzipped my slacks. I glanced at the door, then at the windows to my office. I had a big corner suite with floor-to-ceiling windows, but thankfully the outside was heavily polarized. My real concern was someone walking in on this.
    Tiffany found my dick and sucked it into her mouth. I was completely limp at first, still half in shock, but she went to work getting me up. I leaned back in my chair and put my hands on her head. As I began to erect, she worked on me more purposefully, long smooth strokes to the back of her throat, holding it there until she started to gag, then dragging her teeth over the underside as she withdrew. Up and down she went like that for several minutes. She held the base of my erection with one hand and played with my balls with the other.
    As she felt me growing close, she began doing a little dance and flutter over the head with her tongue, spinning it around, then plunging back down as far as she could go. I groaned, my hands turning to fists in her hair. She withdrew a little, holding just the head between her lips and tongue, and began sucking and bobbing rapidly. This eager lingual massage soon had me on the brink. I gasped, convulsing in my chair, and spurted off into her mouth. She sucked it up as it came, pumping out the last bits with her fist.
    She leaned back, smiling, and returned my deflating dick to my pants. She zipped me up and stood.
    "Thanks," I gasped. She smiled as best she could with a mouthful of semen, gave me a little wave, and left.
    I had caught my breath after a few minutes and tried to get back to work. At two-fifty, my intercom buzzed again.
    "Marianne," the receptionist said. She knew about our relationship, just not how young my girlfriend really was. I picked up the phone.
    "Hey."
    "Did you like your little present?"
    I laughed softly.
    "You could say that."
    "She was jonesing for me really hard this morning, you know, doing her slave flirting thing. She wanted me to give her something daring to do. So I thought of you."
    "Did she really go all the way back to school with, um..."
    She giggled.
    "Yep. I told her to come back with a mouthful of cum or it didn't count. I don't know how she managed to do it, but she did. That was her lunch today. That and a Diet Coke. She didn't get back in time for anything else."
    "Jesus."
    "She had fun. She really gets off on this stuff."
    "I've noticed."
    "I'll let you go. I've got to get to class. I love you."
    "You too, Kitten."
    I got home that night to find the three girls ****** dinner. I kissed each one in turn and got myself a beer from the fridge. Marianne looked up from the salad she was ******.
    "Babe? You know that our Spring Break is in a week, don't you?"
    "You're going up to see your mother. There's no discussion about that."
    "I know, but you're coming with us, right?"
    "You need some quality time with your mom. I don't want to get in the way of that."
    She and Hayley looked at me entreatingly.
    "Babe, you know she lives in the dorm," Marianne went on. "We can't stay with her. We have to get a hotel room anyway. Can't you just come with us, just to be there? You won't have to do anything."
    "Clear it with your mom first. And don't lean on her about it."
    "I already did. She doesn't mind. She wants to see you too. I called up there and found us a room near the campus."
    "I can stay here and housesit," Giselle said. "I won't, like, throw a party or anything."
    "Okay. I guess that will work."
    Marianne and Hayley both smiled.
    "Thanks."
    After dinner, I called the hotel Marianne had found and got a suite with enough room for all three of us. I also called Elizabeth to touch base, and she assured me that she didn't mind having me up there. I wondered how she had gotten to this apparent friendliness from initially wanting to castrate me. It occurred to me that it might be some form of rationalization, since having me in her daughters' lives allowed her to free herself from hers and pursue a long-suppressed desire. Then again, she might just like me after all.
    That Friday, I returned home to find Marianne, Hayley, and Tiffany lounging around the den watching television.
    "Where's Giselle?"
    "She and Ashley went out," Marianne said. "What do you feel like doing?"
    "I'm a little punchy. I'd rather just hang out at home tonight."
    "That's cool," Hayley said. "We couldn't decide what to do either."
    "Wanna order a pizza?" Marianne asked.
    "Sure. Go for it."
    I went upstairs to change clothes, and when I returned, Marianne and Hayley hadn't moved, but Tiffany was on the floor in front of the TV set, poking through the adult videos. She looked up when I came in, face tinged ever so slightly with embarrassment.
    "Porno night?" I asked.
    "Could we?"
    "I'm down with it," Marianne said. "Pick something out."
    I squatted down next to Tiffany and rooted through the collection. Given her predilections, I had an idea about what might be good tonight. Buried in the back, as I hadn't watched it in years, was Andrew Blake's "House of Dreams," a random, artsy exploration of BDSM.
    I put in the tape and sat down on the couch between Marianne and Hayley. Marianne pulled me back to lie against her chest, and Hayley lay back against me. Tiffany took the chair across the room as the tape started.
    The movie was framed as long dream sequence, with the main female character moving from one kinky encounter to the next, fantasizing about being both a Domme and a sub. Marianne and Hayley found it amusing, Hayley more than Marianne, but Tiffany was positively transfixed. I nudged Marianne about a third of the way through. She smiled and hugged me.
    "Knew it," she said softly.
    The pizza arrived while the movie was still going, and we ate as we watched the rest of it. It finally ended just before nine.
    Marianne sat up behind me and stretched. She turned slowly toward Tiffany and leered.
    "Did you like that, slave?"
    Tiffany glanced over at us, and though she was already very turned on, I could see the aroused flush on her chest deepening.
    "Yes."
    "Go get into uniform. I need you tonight."
    Tiffany practically jumped off the chair and went for her purse. She carried it into the downstairs bathroom and shut the door. Hayley watched her leave and then looked back at us, eyes wide with fascination.
    "What is she doing?"
    "You'll see. Do you want her?"
    Hayley quivered very slightly.
    "You mean--"
    "Do you want her to fuck you? Eat you out? Something like that? She will if I tell her to."
    Hayley gulped.
    "Um. Sure."
    "Get up. Stand over there."
    Hayley got off the couch and stood in the center of the room. Tiffany emerged a few moments later, having stripped completely naked. She wore nothing but the nipple clips, her clit leash, and a deeply aroused flush.
    She came up to the couch, but Marianne waved her off.
    "Give your leash to Hayley."
    She did.
    "Now undress her."
    Tiffany helped Hayley out of her clothes, and Hayley was soon as naked as she was. She grinned at us nervously, then turned to Tiffany.
    "Eat me."
    Tiffany dropped to her knees in front of her. Hayley spread her legs a few inches, and Tiffany reached up to take Hayley's butt in her hands.
    Marianne and I lay together, watching Tiffany's tongue working busily in Hayley's blonde pussy. Hayley was soon groping at Tiffany's head and moaning, rocking her hips back and forth. Tiffany was short enough that she had to tip her head back to get her tongue in position, and that gave us a perfect view of what she was doing.
    We watched for a few minutes as Hayley grew closer and closer to orgasm. The scent of arousal, Hayley's and Tiffany's, was thick in the air, as thick as Hayley's ragged breathing. Marianne squirmed under me, and I sat up. She wriggled out of her top, then her jeans, and got to her feet.
    Hayley cried out, legs buckling, holding Tiffany's face tightly against her sex. She shook in orgasm for as long as she could stand it before staggering backwards and collapsing into the armchair behind her. Tiffany smiled, wiping her mouth quickly, and looked toward Marianne.
    "My turn. Come here."
    Tiffany turned around and crawled up in front of Marianne. Marianne stepped forward over her mouth, and Tiffany was soon back to work.
    I stood and removed my clothes, watching Marianne groping at her breasts, hanging her head back and gasping at what Tiffany was doing. I glanced at Hayley, who was resting in the armchair, watching them languidly.
    Tiffany's tongue was blur against Marianne's clit and labia, and she brought her to orgasm in a only a minute or two. Marianne struggled to remain standing, gripping Tiffany's hair in her hands, refusing to let her stop. Finally she jerked away, lost her balance, and dropped unsteadily to the floor.
    "Shit. Shit."
    Tiffany glanced at me, grinning at what she had done and waiting to see what I wanted. I had a feeling that Marianne had some kind of script in mind, so I stayed where I was. I could see between Tiffany's thighs from where I stood, and she looked so wet and turned on that she was probably dripping onto the carpet.
    Hayley slid to the floor and crawled up next to Tiffany, sitting back on her ankles as Tiffany was doing. She ran her fingers through Tiffany's hair a few times, then leaned forward to kiss her. Tiffany let her, not moving, but returning the kiss. Hayley leaned further forward, pushing Tiffany onto her back, and crawled above her.
    She broke the kiss after a few more seconds, and slid down to suckle at Tiffany's pierced nipples. Tiffany moaned softly and put her arms over Hayley.
    Marianne rose up on her knees and slithered over in front of me.
    "Having fun?"
    "Always."
    She took my erection in one hand and pulled it to her mouth. She sucked on me rapidly, tormenting me mercilessly with that damned stud in her tongue. She looked up at me the entire time, watching my reaction to what she was doing. I had to grit my teeth and tighten the muscles in my legs to keep from losing my balance.
    Behind her, Hayley had descended between Tiffany's thighs, and was now doing her best to return the favor. Her tongue fluttered slowly but steadily over Tiffany's bald sex, flicking at the stud, pushing it back and forth. Tiffany was writhing on her back, pinching and pulling on the studs in her nipples.
    Marianne suddenly withdrew.
    "Go fuck her."
    "Who?"
    "Hayley. Right now."
    She pushed me toward her sister and then crawled over toward Tiffany. As I positioned myself behind Hayley and slipped between her firm thighs, Marianne threw her leg over Tiffany's head and squatted down on her mouth.
    Thus I got to watch this daisy chain in front of me as I thrust into Hayley, Hayley eating Tiffany, Tiffany eating Marianne while still punishing her nipples with her fingers. Marianne was facing me, and her eyes bored into mine, trying to join with me through the bodies between us. Hayley was soon bucking back at me, and Tiffany began to thrash between the two blondes. She shrieked and came hard, but only broke her rhythm eating Marianne for a few seconds. I felt Hayley's fingers brushing my balls as she played with herself.
    Marianne suddenly leaned forward over Tiffany, pushing her head down next to Hayley's. The two girls were now eating Tiffany in unison, two tongues thrashing at her clit from different directions. It only lasted a few more seconds though, before Marianne reared back again, gripping her big breasts, and came all over Tiffany's face.
    That was too much for me, and I cried out myself, pounding Hayley's butt from behind. I shuddered, spurting off inside her, just as I felt her coming around me. I pushed her forward onto Tiffany as I coasted down, and Marianne leaned forward to kiss me.
    She frenched me deeply for a few seconds before giggling.
    "That was fun."
    I could only grunt at her. I pulled out of Hayley and rolled over onto my back. Marianne flopped down next to me. I watched as Tiffany pulled Hayley up to her mouth and lapped up the cum that was oozing down her thighs. When she had it all, she dug her tongue into Hayley, seeking the rest of it. Hayley giggled, shivering over her.
    Marianne leaned over to whisper to me, smiling.
    "Tiff is under standing orders not to let your cum go to waste. If you don't come in her mouth, she's supposed to clean it up from wherever you did."
    I laughed softly, watching her work. When she was done, Hayley flopped over and lay across my chest. Tiffany got up and went to get a bottle of water from the refrigerator, which we then passed around. The satisfied grin on Tiffany's face told me more or less what I needed to know, that whatever she was getting out of this weird relationship with Marianne, she was clearly enjoying herself.
    Marianne stood up and stretched.
    "Let's go upstairs."
    The rest of us got up and followed her up to the master suite. I lay down on the bed watching them, and Hayley sat next to me. Tiffany stood in the center of the room awaiting instructions. Marianne seemed to have something in mind, so I stayed where I was.
    She motioned to Tiffany, who dropped to her knees and closed with my girlfriend. Marianne reached down to caress Tiffany's head as she began eating her again. A little tremor ran through Marianne's body, but she remained where she was, smiling at me.
    Suddenly she stepped back.
    "Go get on the bed, on your hands and knees next to Steve."
    Tiffany complied at once, climbing onto the mattress and kneeling on all fours. Marianne came around the side and lay down, reversing herself next to Tiffany. Getting the point, Tiffany crawled above her so they were in a sixty-nine position. The two of them immediately began eating each other.
    I glanced at Hayley, who was just grinning in amusement, then back at Tiffany. I lay on my side to watch her eating Marianne. She pulled her hair around to clear my view and positioned herself so I could see. Her tongue spun and fluttered around Marianne's clit, and she used a free finger to fuck her gently. I couldn't see what Marianne was doing, but she had her hands up on Tiffany's butt, holding her closely.
    A minute or two of this show was enough to restore my erection. I pulled on Marianne's legs, trying to get the two girls diagonal on the bed. Marianne seemed to know what I had in mind, and she squirmed over a few feet. Tiffany moved with her. I crawled up between Marianne's legs, and Tiffany took my cock and guided it into Marianne. I twisted myself to the side to allow Tiffany room to continue what she was doing. Marianne let out a groan from between Tiffany's thighs as I slipped into her.
    I had forgotten about Hayley until she jumped off the bed, giggling, and ran into the dressing area. I had no idea what she was up to, and I was too distracted from the feel of Marianne around me (not to mention the sight of Tiffany licking busily away at the pussy I was fucking) to think much about it.
    About a minute later, Hayley reappeared, and I let out a laugh. She was wearing the strap-on dildo, and she climbed onto the bed at the opposite end. I heard Marianne laughing, but she helped Hayley slip the dildo into Tiffany.
    Now I was fucking Marianne, Hayley was fucking Tiffany, and Tiffany and Marianne were frantically eating each other. I grabbed Marianne's buttocks, lifting her up as I thrust at her, and Hayley vigorously pumped Tiffany's ass, ****** her head bump against my abdomen. Watching this perverse scene in front of me was too much, and I rapidly lost myself in the sights and sensations.
    Marianne began thrashing in orgasm not long into it, and Tiffany joined her moments later. I looked up at Hayley, whose face was fogged in arousal. She seemed on the brink of orgasm herself, and a second later I saw why. Marianne had one hand up between Hayley's legs, obviously fingering her as she fucked Tiffany. Hayley and I stared at each other as we neared our release, and when she cried out, pounding Tiffany's buttocks, I groaned out loud and poured myself into her sister.
    One by one, we fell away from this mass coupling. Tiffany moved up the bed, crawling around between Marianne's thighs to lap up the cum that oozed out of her. Marianne lay motionless on her back as Tiffany licked and probed at her sex, holding one hand on Tiffany's head. But when my cum had all disappeared into Tiffany's mouth and she slowed her attentions and tried to withdraw, Marianne stopped her. Getting the point, Tiffany went instantly back to work. Marianne whimpered, pulling her closer, and after a minute or two of rapid tongue-lashing, she lifted off the bed one last time in orgasm.
    We rested for a few minutes, laughing over what Hayley had done with the strap-on. The girls eventually got dressed, and I went in to kiss Hayley good night while Marianne showed Tiffany out.
    "That was a lot of fun," she said.
    "You doing better? Not so sad anymore?"
    She nodded slightly.
    "I still miss my mom."
    "We're going up to see her next week. You'll have all the time with her you want."
    "I know. Thanks for coming with us."
    "How are things at school? Giselle mentioned a while back that you're getting some teasing because of our living arrangements."
    She looked away from, shrugging.
    "It's no big. I can deal with it."
    "You know I'm around whenever you need me."
    "Yeah. Thanks."
    I kissed her and went back into the master bedroom. Marianne was lying in bed with a conflicted look on her face.
    "Something up?"
    She didn't look at me right away. Then she rolled on her side to face me.
    "I'm having an 'X-Files' moment. But I should have expected this."
    "Something bad?"
    "That depends on your perspective. It's... a complication more than a problem. It's kind of neat in a way. But it's still a complication."
    "Enough. Spill it."
    She sighed.
    "Tiffany... just now, on the way out... she told me she loved me."
    Now I got it.
    "Oh."
    "Right. Not friend-love, you understand. Love-love. 'I want to jump your bones for the next fifty years'-kind of love."
    "She meant it?"
    "I saw it in her eyes. She meant it. I guess this little mistress- slave thing we have going has really gotten to her. I think I've pushed some serious buttons inside her with it."
    "How did it happen? What did you tell her?"
    "We were just at the front door, and I was going, 'I'll call you tomorrow' or something, and she took my hand and squeezed it. Then she looks at me all puppy-dog eyed and says, 'I love you.' I was in shock at first. She knew she had caught me by surprise, so I don't think she was hurt by that. But what *could* I tell her? Of course I told her I loved her too."
    "Do you?"
    She rolled on her back and exhaled in frustration.
    "God. As if I don't already have to divide my emotions between you and Hayley and Giselle. I certainly love her in a best-friend, I've-known- you-since-grade-school kind of way. Beyond that... I don't know. This routine we've gotten into is a lot of fun, and I enjoy being with her. God knows I don't want to hurt her. But love... that's a whole different story. I've never been in love with a girl. How do I even know if I am?"
    "I don't know if it's significantly different than loving someone of the opposite sex. Not that I have any experience at it myself."
    "But you know what love is, right?"
    "Love, to me, is a willingness to take direct action to place someone else's happiness above your own. To make real sacrifices for their sake. It's not just a bundle of feelings."
    She smiled.
    "That's how I know you love me and Hayley." She laughed softly. "And I guess that works for Tiffany loving me. I don't know. I need to think about this."
    "But it doesn't bother you?"
    "No. Why should it? Like I said, it's kind of neat. I just need to decide what I'm feeling."
    I hugged her.
    "Okay. Sleep on it."
    She stayed in my arms, and I turned out the light a few minutes later.


    CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE
    ------------------

    Spring Break began a week later. After school that Friday, we left Giselle in charge of the house and drove up the coast to Santa Cruz. This was Spring Break week for U.C. as well, and the roads were clogged with students fleeing both the campus near our house and the one in Santa Cruz. I had gotten us a room in a resort in the hills above the city, overlooking Monterey Bay.
    We checked in just before seven and called Elizabeth from the room. She was going to meet us for dinner in the main building, and the girls spent the next half-hour or so getting ready. I could tell from their excited chatter and concern over their look for the evening that they were really looking forward to this, and I had to stifle a sensation of guilt. But was I really keeping them away from Elizabeth? This crazy living arrangement of ours was her damned idea.
    When we reached the lobby, Elizabeth was already there waiting for us. The girls ran to her with a squeal, and the three of them hugged each other tightly. I came up more slowly behind them, not wanting to intrude. They hugged and kissed and clucked over each other for about ten or fifteen seconds before finally letting go. Elizabeth put out her hand. I extended mine, and she squeezed it.
    "How are you, Steve?"
    "Good. You?"
    "Wonderful. It's so good to see you guys."
    Hayley and Marianne each took one of her hands, and we walked toward the restaurant. I had made reservations, and we were soon seated at a corner table overlooking the bay.
    For most of the dinner, the women were engrossed in each other, and I stayed out of it. Marianne was clearly happy to see her mother, but it was Hayley who displayed the most dramatic change, beaming and giggling and laughing about everything they talked about. I thought again about my suggestion to Marianne. About moving up here. Marianne wasn't the one who really needed this; it was Hayley who was simply too young to be separated from her mother. Marianne was on the verge of going to college herself, and absent my involvement, would probably have moved out fairly soon anyway.
    It would be a big step. I had understated the effect that moving would have on my job. I would, most likely, have to leave the firm I was with, or at the very least change my relationship with them. I was not quite wealthy enough yet to retire, not the way I wanted to. And the nice real estate in this area was not cheap. But--I kept coming back to the feeling that I owed it to Marianne and Hayley. God knew they had given enough of themselves to me.
    We stayed at the restaurant very late and then wandered aimlessly around the hotel grounds. Only when Elizabeth insisted that she was exhausted and needed to sleep did the girls agree to let her go home. We made plans to get together the next morning and then went up to the room.
    I had, at Marianne and Hayley's request, gotten a single king bed. They flopped onto the mattress together and continued discussing their mother and what they wanted to do this week while I got undressed.
    For the next few days, the girls visited with Elizabeth while I explored Santa Cruz on my own. Marianne initially wanted me to come along with them, but she didn't need much convincing that they deserved some time alone.
    While they were with their mother, I was checking out the local real estate. I quickly discovered that what I really wanted was simply out of my price range right now. I had always had this dream of retiring to a ranch somewhere along the coastline, where I could sit on the porch and watch the sun set over the ocean, and, just maybe, watch my future wife and children riding a horse around the yard. That was still a ways off, and if I wanted to move up here, it wasn't going to happen now. The hard part was that if I left my job to move to Santa Cruz, I might never get to the point of being able to afford that ranch.
    What had I told Marianne? Love was a willingness to take direct action to place someone else's happiness above your own. How much did I really love the two of them? Enough to give up that dream?
    As much as I tried to fight it, I knew the answer was yes.
    Thursday afternoon, I was taking a nap in the sun on the patio outside our room when I was awoken by the feel of someone's lips pressing against my own. I opened my eyes to see Marianne standing over me, kissing me.
    "Hi."
    "Hey. You guys get back already?"
    She smiled.
    "No. Mom and Hayley wanted to go shopping down by the boardwalk. I told them was too tired, which is true. But I also wanted a little time alone with you."
    She sat in my lap and leaned against me. I put my arms around her.
    "What have you been doing all this time while we've been out with Mom?" she asked a minute later.
    "It's a secret."
    She giggled.
    "I love secrets. Tell me."
    "You can't tell Hayley. Not yet, not until I'm sure this can happen."
    "What is it?"
    "I've been pricing the local real estate."
    She sat up, amazement spreading across her face.
    "Really?"
    "Really. But there is a problem. I wasn't entirely truthful with you about my job. If we move up here, I'll probably have to leave. At the very least, I'm not going to be ****** the same amount of money I am now."
    Her forehead creased slightly.
    "Would it be that much less?"
    "It depends on a few things I would have to work out with them. But we're talking about anything from a 25% cut in pay to being completely unemployed. I could, conceivably, transfer to the San Francisco office and commute from down here, in which case my job wouldn't much change. But that would be tough on all of us."
    "That's a long way."
    "Some people do it. But it is."
    She sighed and looked past me toward the ocean.
    "I'd be seeing more of Mom and less of you."
    "Right. Possibly a lot less."
    "What would happen if you quit? Or found something to do for less money?"
    "We would still be comfortable. But there's another issue."
    I explained about my retirement idea, and what I wanted to do with the ranch. Her eyes took on a wistful glow.
    "That would be pretty neat. I'd love to live in a place like that. I know Hayley would too. We would have horses and animals and stuff like that?"
    "That's the idea."
    She didn't say anything for a few moments.
    "I don't want you to give up that dream for our sakes."
    "I don't want you to give up your mother for my sake."
    She curled back up on my chest and took my hand between hers. She kissed it softly.
    "We don't have to decide now, do we?"
    "I guess not."
    We lay together for a few minutes before she began kissing my neck. I rolled over, holding her beside me, and kissed her nose.
    "They'll probably be back soon," she said. "So if you wanna..."
    I grinned.
    "I wanna."
    She giggled, and I kissed her again. We were much too exposed on this patio, so after a few minutes, I picked her up and carried her inside to the bed. We wriggled out of our clothes in a few minutes, kissing and fondling each other. I played with her big breasts until I had her nipples standing out like little pebbles. She took my erection in her hand and stroked it softly as I explored her body.
    She sat up suddenly beside me and bent down to take me in her mouth. She bobbed slowly, working her tongue and its stud against me. Her breasts hung down as she bent over me, and I reached under her to tweak her nipples. When I reached further in, finding her moistening blonde mound, she giggled around my cock and withdrew.
    "I love you so much."
    "I love you too, Kitten."
    I rolled her on her back and kissed my way down her body, suckling each nipple once, greeting the kitten tattoo at her bikini line, then finally settling between her thighs. She let me lick at her for only a minute or two before pulling at my arms, wanting me on her and in her. I obliged.
    I sank slowly into her wetness as she wrapped her legs around my butt. I kissed her deeply as I filled her, ****** her whimper through her nose.
    Having her mother around had changed the mood for our first few days in Santa Cruz, and we had not made love in almost a week. So this was simple, take-out sex. I could hold off only until I felt her back arching under me, felt the tremors of her sex around my erection. I drove into her as far as I could go, spurting deeply inside her belly.
    She sighed contentedly as I lay on top of her.
    "Mmm. I missed you."
    "I missed you, too."
    She looked up at me, smiling.
    "I will live wherever I have to, as long as I have you."
    "I think that's my line."
    She laughed softly.
    "We'll work it out. Somehow."
    We cleaned up and got dressed none too soon, for Hayley and Elizabeth arrived soon afterward. I saw Elizabeth's nose wrinkling when she walked in the room, and I watched the corners of her mouth crease slightly in amusement as she glanced at the bed (which was still made, but now rather rumpled). We exchanged a look, but that was all.
    The next day, we all went down to Monterey to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium was housed in an old cannery building, and the local environmentalists liked to showcase the place as a successful transition from industry to eco-tourism. We spent an hour or two walking around and looking at the exhibits before going out back to watch the staff feeding the sea lions when the tide came in.
    I stayed near the back with Elizabeth as the girls pressed in with the other spectators to watch. I quietly explained my idea about moving up here, but she was shaking her head before I even finished.
    "No, Steve. I can't let you do this. Buying them cars is one thing. Even that is far more than you ever needed to be doing for them. But I cannot let you quit your job and sell your house just for them."
    "You can see how they are. They really miss you. Hayley especially."
    "I know that. But there are things in life you simply have to deal with. I knew this was going to be a sacrifice. So did they. I would not have done it had they rejected the idea."
    "Marianne wants to go to school up here. What do we do then?"
    "I don't know. I have nowhere to put them. I am living, very frugally, off a part-time job and my half of the proceeds from our house. I cannot afford even a two-bedroom apartment, not the kind of place the girls would tolerate living in."
    I thought of offering to help, except that I knew she would never accept it and that even ****** the offer would offend her.
    "You know them pretty well now. Do you think they would be happy going from your house to sharing a bedroom in a ratty little apartment outside campus?"
    That much was obvious.
    "No."
    "I need for them to stay with you, at least for now. They may not realize it, but it's for their own good."
    "We could move to San Francisco. Or somewhere closer where I wouldn't disrupt my job."
    She shook her head again.
    "No. I'm sorry."
    I sighed.
    "Okay."
    She rubbed my shoulder and then leaned in to kiss my cheek. Despite everything that was going on at that moment, a million things that were more important, the seventeen-year-old Steve in the bowels of my mind turned a cartwheel. ("Beth Dunbar kissed me! She finally kissed me!") But I did my best to ignore him.
    "It means a lot to me that you'd make the offer. But I can't let you do it."
    I nodded, watching Marianne and Hayley squealing and laughing as they were splashed by one of the sea lions. Maybe some of this happiness would come back with them. Maybe.
    That night, after eating dinner with Elizabeth in the hotel restaurant, the three of us were lying in bed watching television. Hayley lay beside me, head on my chest, while Marianne painted her toenails.
    "When are we going back?" Hayley asked.
    "Sunday morning. You guys have got homework to do."
    "I wish we could stay."
    Marianne glanced at me.
    "Me too," I said. "But your mother needs to be able to concentrate on school."
    Hayley didn't catch, or wasn't watching, the concerned look in Marianne's eyes. I shook my head at her slowly, and she looked back toward the television a second later.
    "We can come up again this summer, right?"
    "Definitely."
    Hayley was quiet for a few moments.
    "Do you think we could ever move up here?"
    Marianne's head shot back around.
    "It would be tough, Little Kit. I don't know what I would do about my job."
    "You've got a lot of money already, don't you?"
    "I do. But not enough to retire on."
    Marianne finally spoke up.
    "It would be really hard to make it work, short stuff. And Mom needs her space right now."
    Hayley whimpered, frowning, and I tried to hug her. But she pulled away from me and rolled over to her side of the bed, curling up and staring away from us. I glanced at Marianne, who rubbed my leg sympathetically.
    The phone rang about ten minutes later. I reached over toward the nightstand and picked it up.
    "Hello?"
    "Steve? It's Giselle."
    "Hi. What's up?"
    "Have you been checking your messages today?"
    "The voice mail? No."
    "Well there are about six messages from some guy from your work. I think his name was Jake. He was really excited about something."
    "Whoa. What did he say?"
    I heard her rustling around the phone.
    "I tried to write this down, but I don't know if I got it right. It was about something like Nesterm or
    Nestern."
    My heart skipped a beat.
    "NexTerm?"
    "Yeah, that was it."
    "Oh, God."
    "What's wrong? Is it bad?"
    "Uh, don't worry about it. I need to go call him back. Thanks."
    "No problem. Bye."
    I hung up and jumped for my Palm V organizer. I didn't know Jake's home number off the top of my head, but I found it soon enough. When I went back, I noticed Marianne staring at me strangely.
    "What was that?"
    "I need to make a phone call."
    It would have taken too long to explain. This was either very good--or very, very bad.
    Jake answered on the third ring.
    "Hey, Jake, it's Steve. What's going on?"
    He laughed.
    "Oh, man, did you hear?"
    "No. I'm on vacation. I haven't been in touch."
    "It's about your little project, the one you told me about and I stupidly neglected to buy in on."
    "What happened?"
    "Cisco is buying them out, man. They made the offer this morning."
    "Oh, Jesus."
    "'Oh, Jesus' is right. You know what the damn offer was? Forty!"
    Oh, my God. My million-dollar investment had just turned into four overnight.
    "You think they'll get it?"
    "No way in hell. It's shot up twenty points already. It closed at thirty-three and three-eighths this afternoon."
    "Holy shit."
    He laughed.
    "I should have listened to you, man."
    "I guess so."
    "If you don't mind my asking, how much have you got?"
    "Uh, about a hundred thousand."
    "Damn. That should be some nice pocket change. Be enough to pay off your mortgage, I bet."
    I realized what he was thinking.
    "Uh, Jake, I was talking shares, not dollars."
    Silence. Then--
    "Are telling me you have a hundred fucking thousand shares of NexTerm?"
    "Thereabouts."
    He laughed in disbelief.
    "Jesus *Christ,* man! What were you thinking?"
    "I don't know."
    "Well, you hit the fucking *******, Steve. You just hit the fucking *******."


    CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO
    ------------------

    "What was all that about?" Marianne asked when I finally hung up the phone.
    I shook my head as if it wasn't anything important. It was way too soon to tell them about this.
    "Some problem at work. I'll deal with it when we get back."
    Saturday was our last full day there, and I could see Hayley falling back into her depression as the day went on. I tried to comfort her, but she wasn't in the mood for it and avoided me. We spent much of the day walking around the Santa Cruz boardwalk and then had dinner back at the hotel.
    Not wanting to risk generating unrealistic expectations, I managed to avoid spilling the secret about NexTerm. But if Hayley was in a funk about having to go home, I was in a lather of anticipation about what would happen on Monday when the market opened.
    Sunday morning we got up early and packed in silence. Hayley spoke to me only once, when the "express checkout" statement appeared under our door. She picked it up and walked over to me with it.
    "What is this?"
    "The bill. So we can just sign off on it and go."
    Elizabeth showed up to see us off, and the girls cried and hugged her repeatedly before we finally left around ten. Hayley went straight to her room when we got home and stayed there until dinnertime. Marianne spent the rest of the day working on accumulated homework while I tried to digest the development with NexTerm.
    Cisco was unlikely to get them for forty or anything close to it. For a buyout like this, the NexTerm board of directors would most likely insist on a price higher than it had ever traded at, which meant at least 63. The problem was that that might be more than Cisco wanted to spend.
    I got up early Monday morning to check the market activity in New York. NexTerm was already up to 35 1/4 and trading heavily. I could bail out now and make a tidy profit of about two-and-a-half million, although the capital gains taxes would take a chunk of that. I wanted more, though.
    I sat there staring at my computer screen, watching the prices scroll along the bottom. Cisco was up too; the analysts seemed to like the acquisition idea. If I held on, and the deal went through, it would probably involve some kind of stock swap, and I would end up with a pile of Cisco in exchange, which was a pretty nice thing to have these days. I had a bunch of it already.
    "What are you doing?"
    I turned around to see Marianne behind me in her nightshirt, blonde hair sticking in every direction, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
    "I just needed to check something before I went to work."
    She turned around, still half-asleep, and went back to the bedroom. I got up a minute later and began getting dressed for work.
    I came home that afternoon to find Marianne and Tiffany lying out by the pool. Both of them were topless. Marianne had on a bright yellow thong, and Tiffany sat next to her in patterned bottoms, rubbing suntan oil over Marianne's chest.
    "Guys."
    "Hi, Steve."
    I kissed Marianne hello, and she looked up at me with amusement in her eyes.
    "I decided that it's time to start working on my tan again. Tiffany came over to help."
    "Don't get burned."
    "I have Tiff to rub sunburn lotion on me if it happens."
    They exchanged a look, and I knew then that what Marianne had told me about a few weeks before was true. A slight linger in the glance, something secret passing between them, a little curve to Tiffany's lips. Then Tiffany looked up at me, eyes bright and full of life. The studs in her nipples glinted in the sun.
    "Do you want me to get you anything, Steve?"
    "A beer wouldn't hurt. I need to go change."
    She hopped off her chair and preceded me into the house. When I came back down to the pool, there was a Sam Adams waiting for me on the table beside Marianne. I lay down in the chair across from Tiffany as she finished oiling up my girlfriend.
    "You guys should be hearing about college soon, right?"
    Marianne nodded.
    "Any day now."
    "Marianne and I applied to some of the same places," Tiffany said.
    "I think we've settled on UCSC as the first choice?" I asked.
    "Yeah," Marianne said. "However we work it out."
    "Wouldn't it be cool if we both got in together?"
    She glanced at Tiffany, smiling.
    "That would be pretty cool. I wonder if they have a sex slave sorority we could join."
    They both laughed, but when the laughter subsided, they noticed me watching them. Tiffany's face darkened slightly.
    "Um, Steve, look. I'm not trying to muscle in on your thing with Marianne. She told me that you're number one with her, and I can accept that."
    I exhaled slowly.
    "Okay."
    "I don't want to break you up. I know she loves you and that you make her happy. I'm not trying to take her away from you."
    Marianne took her hand and then mine.
    "We had room in our lives for Giselle. Don't we have room for Tiffany, too?"
    I laughed softly.
    "She'd have to sleep on the couch. I think we've run out of bedrooms."
    "I didn't mean like it that. I meant--"
    "I know. But I think so. If it's what you want, we can make it work."
    "It is."
    "Thanks."
    Tiffany came over and hugged me.
    "Thanks, Steve."
    Tiffany stayed for dinner, and with graduation two months away, she and Marianne appeared to be in no mood to bother with their homework, what little they had.
    "I feel like doing something weird tonight," Marianne said after the dishes were done.
    "Like what?"
    She grinned slyly.
    "Do you remember that first afternoon I came over here, when you mentioned something about a strip bar?"
    "Oh. Yeah. Why?"
    "Could we go?"
    "We?"
    "You, me, and Tiffany. It's eighteen and over, right?"
    "Well, not the topless bars, but the nude bars, yeah, since they can't serve alcohol. You really want to do this?"
    "I think it would be cool. Me and Tiff could get dressed up and all these guys would be drooling over us."
    My stomach did a flip-flop.
    "I don't want you spontaneously tearing your clothes off. Never mind that we'd get thrown out, I'm not interested in exposing you in a place like that."
    She smiled again.
    "Not me. Tiffany. I'll dress classy, but I'm going to dress her in full slut mode, on her leash. It will just be a tease. We won't do anything stupid."
    "Does she know about this?"
    "We talked about it. She's hot for it."
    "Monday is going to be a slow night."
    "I know. That's cool. That way we won't be totally outnumbered."
    I chuckled.
    "Okay. Let's do it then. This sounds like fun."
    Marianne found Tiffany, and I went up to Hayley's room to tell her we were going out. She was a little shocked at the idea, but displayed no disappointment at being left out. She claimed to have too much homework to do anyway.
    I found Marianne and Tiffany in the master suite. Marianne was down to bra-and-panties, and Tiffany was nude. They were poking through Marianne's clothes and deciding what to wear.
    "What is this place like?" Tiffany asked. "I've never even been near something like this."
    "Picture twenty men staring catatonically at some bleached blonde with breast implants and no pubic hair as she dances around exposing herself. That's about all it is. It's far less exciting than you might think. Half the time it's as erotic as watching a pelvic exam."
    "You mean the guys aren't hooting and hollering and all that?"
    "Never seen it. I don't know what it is about those places, but I've never seen anyone really go crazy. They just sit there and stare at the girls."
    "Wow."
    "Have you been to a lot of them?" Marianne asked.
    "Now and then, when I got lonely and horny. But it's a bad habit. I probably went about once or twice a year before I met you."
    "The girls just dance around on the stage?"
    "That and they'll do private dances for another fifty bucks. You go in the back with them and they'll writhe around with you on a couch."
    "That's not illegal?" Tiffany asked.
    "I think it is some places. Not everywhere. The idea is that they can touch you, but you can't touch them. In reality, a lot of mutual touching goes on. It all depends on how comfortable the girls are about it."
    Marianne was pensive a moment.
    "Do you think they'd do a private dance with us?"
    "With a girl? I bet some of them would. They certainly have no problem doing two-girl private dances."
    Tiffany giggled.
    "You did that?"
    I tried not to blush.
    "On occasion."
    "What do they do?"
    "Depends on the girls. Some of them will just simulate having sex, others will really get into it."
    "Seriously? They'll eat each other out right in front of you?"
    "Sometimes."
    They giggled nervously at each other before returning to the clothes. They fiddled around in the closet for another few minutes before settling on Tiffany's outfit. Marianne began with black stockings and a garter belt, then a black leather microskirt that stopped right at the stocking tops. If Tiffany stood perfectly still, the stockings were not really visible, but if she moved at all--let alone sat down-- they immediately came out from under the leather.
    Tiffany grew more and more excited as Marianne dressed her, and I watched her chest flushing and her nipples growing hard around their silver studs.
    Marianne examined her for a moment longer before reaching into the closet. She extracted a green silk blouse, which she had Tiffany put on and tie up under her breasts. The fabric was thin and clingy enough to make Tiffany's nipples and her piercings blatantly obvious. Marianne fastened one button so that Tiffany was not completely falling out of it.
    "What do you think?"
    "Nipple clips."
    "You think so?"
    "Why not?"
    Marianne found the nipple clips and reached into the blouse to attach them. Now Tiffany had a silver chain suspended across her cleavage.
    "Perfect," Marianne said. "What about me?"
    I thought for a moment.
    "What about those white stretch pants you have? And that leather top with the tassels?"
    "Mmm. Good idea."
    She stripped off her bra and replaced her panties with a tiny little thong. Once back in her closet, she donned this pair of stretch pants I had seen her wear a few times. The fabric was some cotton-lycra blend, tight enough to define the crack of her butt, and they were low- cut enough that her kitten tat was visible just below her bikini line.
    The top was a sort of tan leather corset/vest that laced up across her breasts, pushing them up and together. It reached down only to about the bottom of her rib cage, but dozens of little leather tassels hung across the front. It was a good Domme look without being completely out there about it. The two of them finished up with their hair and make-up, and we left.
    This strip bar was in the seedier section of town, well away from the tourist and retirement areas near the beach. It wasn't far from the University, and I knew (from prior experience) that they got a lot of traffic from the students.
    I stopped on the way to get a big wad of cash, but we got there just after nine. The bouncer gave Marianne and Tiffany (and her clit leash) only a mild glance as I paid the cover.
    Tension lined the faces of both girls as we stepped into the club, however much they were trying to act nonchalant. The lights were low except around the pit, and loud, thumping dance music overlaid everything. Only about ten or fifteen men were inside, nothing like the crowds they got on the weekends. Up on the stage, a thin brunette with painfully huge breasts (they looked about to burst from the implants) danced around the pole. She braced her leg on the rail and used one hand to pull apart her labia for a man at the edge. He stared at her blankly.
    Out in the club, a half dozen of the girls moved around, dressed in slinky outfits, soliciting private dances. A few of them noticed us, smiled, and went back to work.
    One by one, the men in the club noticed Marianne and Tiffany. I saw no discernible reactions in their faces, but several of them stared openly, especially at the silver chain running from Marianne's hand up under Tiffany's skirt.
    A waitress appeared and guided us to a table near the pit. There was a two-drink minimum here, and I ordered two bottles of mineral water and four Diet Cokes.
    The girls sat rigidly beside me, eyes fixed on the stage.
    "Is anyone staring at us?" Marianne asked quietly.
    "A few. But don't forget you're not naked. You aren't the reason they're here."
    In truth, by this point, most of the men were looking back toward the pit. We still got idle glances and occasional stares, but that was all.
    "No one is going to bother you," I said. "At worst, they'll just keeping watching us."
    Gradually, the two of them began to relax and look around. Tiffany got into it faster than Marianne did, but soon they were bobbing their heads to the music and watching the girls on the stage. I watched the dancers circulating in the club, and though most of them looked in our direction from time to time, none of them came over.
    The girls would dance down to their thongs for one song, then naked for another. After each song, you were supposed to tip them a buck or two, and I gave Marianne and Tiffany a roll of ones for tips. I wasn't sure if this was turning them on at all, but they seemed to be having fun, whispering comments to each other or giggling when the dancers got close or bent over to expose themselves to us.
    "You know, you're right," Marianne said after we had been there about ten minutes.
    "About what?"
    "The guys here. They're like, all stoned or something. I can't believe this."
    "I told you."
    I looked back up at the girl in the pit. She was a cute blonde--maybe twenty or so--with a trim, athletic body (and no implants, which I liked). The gold ring through her clit twinkled in the blinking lights above.
    She was working her way around the pit, giving each patron a good look at her, and when she got to us, she smiled broadly--a fairly genuine smile, which told me she had probably been doing this for a while. She crawled up to the rail in front of Tiffany, leaning out of the pit, and stuck her tits in Tiffany's face. Tiffany watched her, wide-eyed, but didn't move.
    The girl glanced down at us, and I saw her eyes widening at Tiffany's clit leash. Then she rolled over, spreading her legs almost ninety degrees apart in front of Marianne. She stared directly at my girlfriend--who was watching raptly--and fingered herself for a few seconds. Then she rolled over again, stuck her butt in my face briefly, and moved on to the next patron.
    When her dance was over, we all tipped her. She smiled and thanked us, then went into the back.
    We were watching another dancer about five minutes later when the blonde girl reappeared at our side, dressed in a long, sheer gown. She leaned in between us, smiling.
    "Hi. I'm Kathy."
    "Steve. This is Marianne and Tiffany."
    "You guys having fun?"
    I noticed a stud in her tongue as she spoke.
    "So far. This is their first time in a place like this."
    She laughed.
    "So what do you think? Pretty wild, huh?"
    Marianne giggled nervously, but Tiffany answered.
    "I like it."
    "Would you guys care for a private dance?"
    The girls glanced at each other.
    "With us?" Marianne asked.
    "Any of you."
    "What about all of us?"
    She smiled.
    "It's one at a time. But if the other two of you wanted to watch, that would be okay." She looked at me. "Have you been here before?"
    "Yes. I know the rules."
    "Okay. Who's it going to be?"
    "Tiffany," Marianne said.
    Kathy smiled at her.
    "Cool. I like all those piercings you've got. I'm guessing that leash is attached to one?"
    Tiffany smiled nervously.
    "Yeah. Thanks."
    Kathy reached for the leash, and Marianne handed it to her with a grin. She led us to the back, where a curtain concealed the private dance cubicles. We stood in a clump waiting for the current song to end. Kathy examined the leash for a moment, then gave it a playful tug, ****** Tiffany giggle.
    For the first time, I saw looks of real interest from some of the men, and I knew they were wondering just what we were about to do. Frankly, I was wondering that myself.
    When the song ended, Kathy pulled the curtain aside and led us into the back, still holding Tiffany's leash. The cubicle we ended up in was about eight feet by ten feet, with a cheap vinyl sofa taking up most of the space. On the opposite wall was a mirror. I peeled two hundred- dollar bills off the roll in my pocket and handed them to Kathy, who smiled.
    "Four dances?"
    "Take your time."
    She guided Tiffany to the couch and had her sit down. Marianne and I stood back to watch, and she took my hand. Kathy pulled off the sheer gown she wore, and climbed onto the couch to straddle Tiffany's legs. She was saying something to her, and though I couldn't quite hear it over the music, I knew the gist of it: Relax, let me do everything.
    Tiffany leaned back on the couch, still tense, but excited, as Kathy began to writhe against her. She kissed her tenderly, moving her hands over Tiffany's breasts. She spent the first few minutes just rubbing herself against the other girl or bracing her leg on the back of the couch to display her shaved pussy.
    As the first song began to end, Kathy slid to the floor in front of her, and reached up to untie the knot in Tiffany's blouse. She undid the one button and spread the blouse open. Marianne's hand squeezed mine tightly.
    Kathy extended her tongue, exposing the stud, and wiggled it over Tiffany's left nipple, clicking their studs together. Then she sucked nipple and stud into her mouth. She looked back at us, smiling around Tiffany's tit, then withdrew. She performed the same operation on Tiffany's other breast.
    Tiffany was breathing heavily now, eyes closed, arms spread out on the back of the couch. Kathy continued to suck on her nipples or play with her breasts for about a minute. Then she withdrew, and reached down to spread Tiffany's legs. Marianne squeezed my hand again, and I was getting some serious butterflies in my stomach by this point.
    Kathy spread Tiffany's thighs widely apart, and pushed up her skirt. When she saw that Tiffany had nothing on underneath, she looked back at us, pretending to be surprised. She turned back to Tiffany, who was panting in agitation now, and reached out to tweak her clit stud. She removed the leash, and then, very slowly, bent forward, watching our reaction the entire time.
    She couldn't really be about to do this, I thought. Even if I had seen a lot of the girls here eating each other out. Tiffany was a customer. That should have made a difference, right?
    But she did it anyway.
    Extending her tongue into a point, she began to lick Tiffany's clit very lightly. Tiffany let out a soft cry at the first contact. Kathy wiggled Tiffany's clit stud, pressing her tongue stud against it. She gave it a long, slow, lick, then began eating her more deliberately.
    I realized, from Kathy's cool manner, that this was just a show to her. I had no doubt that she didn't intend to get Tiffany off--except that she hadn't reckoned with Tiffany's state of excitement. Less than thirty seconds into this, Tiffany convulsed, let out a squeak, and shuddered in orgasm. I saw a tiny spark of surprise in Kathy's eyes, but she was good--she didn't stop. She pretended to be into this, and did her best to finish Tiffany off. Then she withdrew, climbing up to kiss the other girl.
    The second song had just ended, and Kathy stood, smiling at us. She extended her hand to Marianne, who gasped slightly. She glanced at me, and I nodded.
    Kathy led Marianne to the couch, where Tiffany was still recovering. Tiffany slid to one end but stayed there. Marianne was still in a state of shock at what she had seen, and Kathy caressed her face and hair, trying to calm her down. She kissed Marianne softly, then took Marianne's hands. She held them against her breasts, and though she let Marianne feel her, she kept her hold on her wrists.
    Then she began moving against Marianne, rubbing her naked body against my girlfriend. Marianne's head had fallen back, and her breathing was rapid and heavy. Kathy caressed her breasts a few times, squeezing them.
    Toward the end of the third song, as she had done with Tiffany, she began to unlace Marianne's top. Marianne was shivering nervously by now, and when Kathy took one of Marianne's big breasts in her mouth, she let out a little cry and put her arms around Kathy's shoulders.
    By now, my cock was so hard I thought it might explode. But there was nothing I could do.
    Kathy suckled Marianne's breasts for nearly a minute, and I wondered if she was going to pull Marianne's pants off and eat her like she had done with Tiffany. But she apparently had something else in mind.
    I noticed, probably well after it happened, that one of Kathy's hands was now between Marianne's legs, rubbing her firmly through the fabric of her pants. She continued to suck on Marianne's nipples and caress her with her other hand.
    Maybe this sort of thing went on a lot with the male customers (I recalled that on prior visits, some of the girls had tried to give me vague handjobs through my pants). Maybe getting Tiffany off had set a precedent. Maybe Kathy was just getting into this. But she definitely appeared to be trying to bring Marianne to orgasm.
    It didn't take a lot of work. Marianne was soon humping her hips up at Kathy's hand, and Kathy responded by rubbing faster. She looked over at me, licking her lips lasciviously as her hand moved rapidly between my girlfriend's legs. Finally, Marianne began to shudder and her legs began to shake, and a second later, she came in Kathy's arms.
    Kathy had somehow timed this perfectly. As Marianne coasted down, the last song came to an end. She withdrew from Marianne and stood.
    "Would you like another one? Maybe for you?"
    I looked down at the two drained girls on the couch. Marianne wiped the sweat from her forehead and tried to catch her breath. Though Kathy was certainly very pretty, what I really wanted to do was take Marianne and Tiffany home and fuck the daylights out of both of them.
    "I think we're good. Thanks."
    She smiled and helped the girls to their feet, pulled her dress back on, then led us out. She gave each of us a peck on the lips.
    "Thanks. Have a nice night."
    The two girls clung to my arms.
    "What now?" Marianne asked.
    "Home. I'm so hard it hurts."
    She giggled, and we went straight out to the car. As soon as we were on the road, Marianne reached into my lap to fondle my aching erection.
    "Poor baby. Having to watch all that with no one to help you. I bet I know what you need."
    As Tiffany watched, wide-eyed, from the back seat, Marianne bent over into my lap and began freeing my penis. As soon as it was exposed, it disappeared into her mouth. I grunted, gasping. I had been too turned on for too long to stand very much of this, and Marianne was not trying to hold me off at all. She bobbed rapidly, massaging the stud in her tongue against the head, doing all the little things she knew I liked.
    I had to pull off the road. I cried out, grabbing at her hair as she sucked on my cock like she wanted to take it off. The cum boiled in my groin, and then it was erupting out of me like Mount St. Helens, one painful spurt after another. Marianne continued sucking at me until it was all out, until I could finally stand to have her stop.
    She leaned back, swallowing, and smiled as I melted into my seat.
    "Better now?"
    I nodded weakly.
    "Uh-huh."
    She giggled.
    "Take us home."
    As it happened, the three of us were too drained by that adventure to do much of anything when we got back, and Tiffany went home about an hour later. Marianne and I went to bed.
    The next day, NexTerm was up to forty-one, and Cisco and the board of directors were reported to be in negotiations. I spent most of the day trying to work without checking the NASDAQ quote marquee on my computer screen every ten seconds.
    At three o'clock, my intercom buzzed. It was Jake.
    "Steve, you got your TV on?"
    I had a television in my office because I often needed to check CNN or Financial News during the day.
    "No."
    "Get it on, CNN, now."
    I found the remote buried under a pile of crap in the corner of my desk. I switched on the set.
    "--had no immediate reaction to the offer. A Cisco spokesman complained that IBM was coming in, quote, 'Much too late on this deal,' and that their interference might prevent the entire transaction from closing."
    "What?" I asked Jake. "What the hell is IBM doing?"
    He laughed through the intercom.
    "They made an offer of fifty-four for NexTerm. Cisco is having a cow."
    A bidding war. Dear God Almighty.
    "Fifty-four? Did I hear that right?"
    "Yes. Check your ticker."
    I glanced at my screen. A few seconds later, 5,000 shares of NexTerm rolled past at 49 3/8.
    "Jesus."


    CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
    --------------------

    Somehow I got through the rest of the day without losing my mind. NexTerm closed at 56 5/8. Marianne and Hayley were out by the pool when I got home, but I gave them scarcely a glance as I ran up to my office. I logged into my company network and prepared a sell order for the next morning.
    I sat there with my finger on the mouse, trying to make myself send it in. But I couldn't do it. The deal could still fall apart, leaving me with nothing. But if it went through, it would happen at a lot higher than fifty-six. I could be losing a million bucks or more with one click of the mouse.
    After a few minutes, I canceled the order and shut off my computer. Marianne appeared in the doorway, wearing nothing but her yellow thong. Her perfect breasts were already tinted a pale pink with sunburn.
    "Is something wrong?"
    "Not exactly."
    "You know, you've been acting really, really weird ever since we got back from Santa Cruz."
    "I know. I'm sorry."
    "So what is it?"
    "I can't tell you now. Right now, it's nothing. I don't want to get your hopes up."
    Her eyebrows creased.
    "Is it bad?"
    "No. It's potentially very good, but it hasn't happened yet."
    "But you can't tell me about it?"
    "I'd rather wait until it's solidified more."
    She pursed her lips.
    "Okay."
    I reached for her.
    "Come here."
    She climbed into my lap, straddling me and putting her arms around my neck. I played with her breasts for a couple of seconds.
    "You're getting a little burned here."
    "I burn, then I tan. I don't want any tan lines this year."
    I slipped a finger under the waistband of her thong.
    "What about this, then?"
    "I can live with that. But I don't want lines around my back and shoulders. That way I can wear those slinky dresses you like."
    I kissed her, then pulled a breast up to my mouth, tasting suntan oil.
    "How's your sister doing?"
    "Still depressed. But maybe a little better."
    "And you?"
    "I'm happy. It was nice to see Mom, but I understand how it has to be."
    I kissed her other breast, ****** her squirm. A little giggle escaped her lips. I reached under her with one hand, pressing a finger against the bottom of her thong, where her labia bulged against the fabric.
    "Mmm. I like that."
    "I know."
    I hooked my thumb under the elastic, pulling it aside. A prickly nest of blonde pubes was soon in my hand. My middle finger slid slowly inside her. She inhaled sharply, pressing her forehead tightly against mine.
    "Where is Hayley?" I managed.
    "Still down by the pool," she gasped.
    I undid my slacks with my free hand, and Marianne reached for my erection as soon as it was exposed. She pulled it into place and settled down onto me as I held her thong to the side. We both groaned as I sank into her, and then she was kissing me passionately.
    She rode me eagerly, rolling her hips back and forth, ****** the chair rock against my desk. I pulled her breasts to my mouth, sucking on one, then the other. She held my head close to her chest, moaning. Her movements sped, and little whimpers were soon flowing out her nostrils. I held her tight butt in my hands, trying to help her (since she had me pinned down quite securely), and within a minute or two she was shuddering in my arms. She bit at my shoulder as her climax peaked. Then she let out a long breath, relaxing against me.
    "You didn't come," she said after a few moments.
    "No."
    She held my shoulders, leaning back.
    "On the floor."
    I half-stood, still connected, and picked her up. We lay on the floor, and I began driving rapidly into her as she bit at my ear and whispered random perversions. I let out a groan and erupted inside her very quickly. I lay on top of her as she stroked my back.
    "Steve?"
    "Hmm?"
    "This summer... once school is out... could Tiffany move in with us?"
    I lifted up to look at her.
    "How? Where is she going to sleep?"
    She glanced timidly around my office but said nothing. I sighed.
    "Oh."
    "There's room in the bedroom for your desk and your computer, isn't there? We could put it in the sitting area by the window."
    "Giselle *and* Tiffany?"
    "Would it be a problem?"
    "Was this your idea or hers?"
    "Ours. We were just talking about it."
    She stared up at me with her pretty blue eyes.
    "Steve, I've realized that I do love her. I really would like to have her living with us."
    "This isn't a change in our relationship?"
    "No. Tiffany understands that. She'd just be another kitten for our cathouse."
    I laughed weakly.
    "Oh, God."
    I reflected that if this NexTerm thing went through, the circumstances were going to be very different anyway.
    "Okay. I'll give it some thought."
    She hugged me tightly.
    "Thanks."
    NexTerm opened at 58 the next morning and continued climbing. At noon, Cisco came back with a counteroffer of 65, which was three points more than NexTerm had ever traded at. We were in serious deal territory now, and I suspected that it would close one way or another--if it was going to--very soon.
    It did.
    Cisco, IBM, and NexTerm apparently stayed up through the night fighting it out, and early the next morning, when I turned on CNN, I found myself watching an impromptu press conference outside the NexTerm offices in Sunnyvale. Cisco had prevailed. The deal had closed at 85, all of it to be paid for with Cisco stock. A high price maybe, but from one perspective it was nothing but paper anyway. Cisco certainly had enough market value to swallow a company like NexTerm without burping.
    I didn't really come back to earth until I realized I was sitting out by the pool in my boxer shorts, and Marianne was standing in front of me trying to get my attention.
    "Steve? *What* is going on? You are going to tell me now!"
    I looked up at her dizzily.
    "Sit down."
    She did. I tried to explain as best I could. Her face got very pale as she listened to me.
    "So what does this mean?"
    "It means... that in a few days, I am going to get almost nine million dollars in Cisco stock transferred into my account. Stock that is probably going to increase rapidly in value in the future."
    Her eyes swelled.
    "Nine million dollars?"
    "Yes. It means I can retire. We can buy the ranch and the horses and everything. We can move to Santa Cruz and do everything we talked about."
    Her jaw was shaking violently now, and a tear ran down her cheek. She gasped for breath against her agitation.
    "We can?"
    "Yes, Kitten, we can."
    She let out a joyful squeal and threw her arms around my neck, hugging me so tightly that pain shot down my back. A moment later, she pried herself free from my arms and jumped up, taking my hand.
    "We have to tell Hayley."
    She dragged me upstairs in a half-run, and we burst into Hayley's room. She had just emerged from the shower and wore nothing but a towel. She jumped back in surprise.
    "Hey!"
    Marianne ignored her look of outrage and grabbed her arm. The story rushed out in a flood, and Hayley's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates.
    "We could move?" she said softly when Marianne finally stopped to catch her breath.
    "Yes!" Marianne said.
    "To a ranch?"
    "Yes!"
    "It's what I'm thinking of," I said.
    "Could... could we get a horse?"
    "A half-dozen of them if you want. That's the idea."
    She began to cry.
    "We could move."
    "We'll be near Mom," Marianne said. "I'll go to school there, if, please God I get in, and Steve will retire. Everything will be perfect."
    Hayley hugged her, sobbing in joy, then hugged me. I saw something out of the corner of my eye and realized Giselle was standing in the doorway.
    "What's going on?"
    Marianne excitedly explained what had happened. Giselle's face dropped slightly, and she looked at me.
    "You guys are going to move?"
    "But you can come with us," Marianne said. "We'll get a really big house and you and Tiffany and Mom and all of us can live together."
    I laughed, holding up my hands.
    "Whoa. Wait. Let's not run too far ahead of ourselves here."
    "But Steve, she's living with us now anyway. You said Tiffany could move in. What difference would it make if we're here or in Santa Cruz?"
    She had a point.
    "At the very least, I don't know what your mother will want to do."
    "But could she?"
    "I guess so. I really don't know if she'll be comfortable doing it, though."
    Hayley squeezed my hand tightly.
    "But if she does, can she, please?"
    I laughed.
    "Okay. Yes."
    She squealed, hugging me tightly. I just shook my head in amazement.
    April flew by in a blur. My NexTerm stock converted to Cisco, which shot up another five points after the deal. I was now worth just over thirteen million dollars. I called an estate realtor in Monterey and asked him to begin looking for potential ranches for us to buy. I gave notice at work, telling my boss I would retire in June.
    Elizabeth went into shock at the news, but after I explained my reasoning and that I had planned this for a long time, she broke down and cried. She said she had to think about moving in with us, but that it was a possibility.
    Marianne got into UCSC, provoking a hysterical phone call to her mother. Tiffany got in a week later. Giselle had planned to go to the Cal State campus nearby, but she began looking into the possibility of going to school up north. Ashley had already applied to Stanford (the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, as it happened, was a friend of mine from B-school, so I wrote her a nice letter of recommendation), and if she got in, she would not be very far away.
    Hayley simply bounced giddily around the house, forever about to burst with happiness. She called her mother frequently to gush over what had happened and had already picked out a name for her horse.
    The prom came and went, and the girls mutually agreed to simply blow it off, not wanting to create a scene by bringing me. Blowing it off created something of a stir anyway, but not as much as my showing up at the dance would have.
    The first weekend in May, we drove back up to Santa Cruz to see the properties the realtor had found for us. I had told him $4-5 million, 40+ acres, horse-ready, with at least seven bedrooms, views optional but preferred. With that sort of price tag, we got the red carpet treatment from the moment we arrived. Elizabeth met us at his office, where we found a limo waiting for us.
    The first place we went was, well... nice. Nothing special, but nice. The house was big but worn-out and needed work, and the land was pretty but just didn't turn me on enough. The second place was simply too small. Also nice, but just too small.
    After lunch (which the realtor paid for), we looked at another property near the beach, which was the most disappointing of all. It had good views of the ocean, but they were disrupted by all the commercial development along the water. Not something I wanted to spend my retirement looking at.
    We set out for the last place just after three o'clock, driving out of Santa Cruz and into the hills. All of us were feeling a little down after three straight disappointments, and I detected an edge of panic in the realtor's voice, as he sensed his six-figure commission slipping away. But he seemed excited about this last possibility or was at least trying to act that way.
    We finally turned off Highway 17 onto a little back road that ran through several stands of coastal redwoods. A mile down the road, we stopped in front of a tall stone gate, where a bearded, heavyset man in overalls waited for us, standing beside a mud-splattered pick-up truck.
    "That's the caretaker."
    He leaned out of the limo window and talked briefly to the man, who then went back to his truck and opened the gate.
    "This place belongs to an old California family," the realtor went on. "The matriarch apparently just passed away. They're having to sell it because of the estate taxes and because her kids couldn't agree on what to do with it."
    I nodded vaguely, as he had been telling us stories like this all day. We followed the road up through the redwoods, and when the trees finally thinned out, we got a good look at the property.
    "Oh, wow," Hayley said.
    Elizabeth leaned against the window, sighing.
    "Oh, my."
    What else to say? It was love at first sight.
    The property was a good fifty acres, and we couldn't see all of it right away. The road ran through a broad meadow, wooden ranch fences on both sides. The land looked almost virgin -- uncultivated, unmolested, unspoiled. Up ahead was the ranch house, a sprawling two-story building that looked like something out of "Bonanza." Behind it was the horse barn and what looked like a guesthouse, and around the other side was a six-car garage. Beyond the house, the land rolled downhill into another stand of virgin redwoods, and the Pacific Ocean glittered off in the distance. The view at sunset had to be breathtaking, and it was awe-inspiring even now.
    "There's a creek that runs through this place, apparently," the realtor said. "There's supposed to be a nice waterfall toward the back of the property."
    The girls bounced around in the limo, trying to take it all in at once. We pulled up in front of the house, and they burst out of the side door. Hayley ran up to the fence and climbed up on the lower rung.
    "Look at all this! This is huge!"
    Marianne half-ran, half-jumped around the side of the house to look at the barn.
    "Where are the horses?"
    "There aren't any here now," the realtor said. "The family has pretty much moved everything out. But I think the barn has space for eight or ten of them."
    Hayley ran up beside us, and the two girls ran across the yard to look into the barn. The realtor turned to Elizabeth and me. He seemed to have assumed that we were married, and, not wanting to have to explain things that were none of his business, I hadn't tried to change his mind.
    "Shall we go inside?"
    It was everything I had fantasized about -- not the trendy "ranch-style" furnishings that were in vogue these days but real antique furniture and decor, and all of it very well-maintained despite its age. The front door led into a broad two-story foyer with a staircase leading up to the second floor. To the left was the huge main room with a vast stone fireplace and windows looking out on the pasture. Three elk heads hung on the walls. To the other side was the dining room with another fireplace and enough room to feed twenty people at once.
    The main room led into a library and study with floor to ceiling built- in bookcases on every wall. To my surprise, quite a few books were still on the shelves.
    "Is the family going to move this stuff out?"
    He shook his head.
    "What you see is what you get. Apparently they don't want a lot of this. My understanding is that they've already removed what they want. As you can probably imagine, most of this furniture wouldn't really work anywhere else."
    "It's beautiful," Elizabeth said.
    He nodded in his solicitous realtor fashion.
    "Isn't it?"
    Beyond the library was a hallway leading to the rear wing, where we found three large bedrooms with more of the same. In the back of the house, behind the library and kitchen, was another sitting room with windows facing the barn and the back porch, which led to a swimming pool, the guest house beyond that, and looked out onto the trees and the ocean.
    My one concern with this place was the kitchen, which I feared might be something out of the 1940's, but my fears proved unfounded. It had been remodeled within the last few years, and did not look to me to need any more work. It already had enough modern equipment to feed an army and a nice little breakfast nook that looked onto the meadow outside.
    Hayley and Marianne came running across the backyard and burst into the rear den a moment later. I could see bits of hay all over their clothes.
    "You should see the barn," Marianne gushed, "it's so neat. It's got all this old farm stuff all over the place."
    "And it has a loft and like ten stalls for the horses," Hayley said. "We climbed up there and looked out. You can see like forever."
    Elizabeth and I exchanged a glance, which the realtor caught and probably thought he understood.
    The upstairs was just as nice, and the master suite was simply beyond description. It had a large sitting area between the bed and the bathroom, and its own wraparound deck above the rear porch. The view from the deck was worth the purchase price alone. Marianne hugged me as she looked out across the property.
    "Is this it?"
    "I think this is it."
    We looked at the rest of the property (it did indeed have a pretty creek and waterfall back in the trees, and we found yet another building--the caretaker's cottage--around behind the barn), but we were more or less sold on it already. The sun had begun to set by the time we were ready to leave, and we stood on the rear porch watching it go down.
    "Should I tell the owners you're prepared to make an offer?" the realtor asked.
    I nodded.
    "Yeah. Let's do it."
    We went out to celebrate that night, and the girls chattered non-stop about all the things they wanted to do. Hayley pestered Elizabeth about living with us until I patted her arm to get her to calm down.
    "Let's take one thing at a time."
    "It's a beautiful place, honey," Elizabeth said, "but there's a lot I need to think about."
    I got Elizabeth alone after dinner after the girls decided they wanted to take an evening swim in the hotel pool. We walked around the grounds looking down at the lights of Santa Cruz.
    "You don't have to decide about this tonight or even this month. But you really are welcome to move in with us."
    She sighed.
    "I would like to. But I keep feeling like there may not be room for me in this thing you have going on with Marianne and her friends."
    "It's up to you. I'm fine either way. But you know the girls would like to have you."
    "It's just that I only know how to live with them as their mother. Not as part of this household you're putting together."
    "Marianne is really the one putting it together. Somehow I woke up one morning to discover that half her friends were moving in with us."
    She smiled and touched my arm.
    "I know. I'm not passing judgment on you. I have a rather unconventional lifestyle myself right now."
    We walked another minute in silence when I had an idea.
    "You know... if you wanted... you could live in the guest house. Make it your own place instead of having just a room in ours."
    She stopped short, and I watched her jaw dropping slowly as she digested this proposal. She didn't say anything for a few moments.
    "I could do that."
    "Would that be enough of a boundary?"
    "Yes. But still very close to Marianne and Hayley."
    "You're welcome to it. Even with Tiffany and Giselle living with us, we're still going to have four spare bedrooms in the main house."
    "I think... I think I would like to do that."
    "Then it's done."
    She smiled broadly.
    "Thank you."
    We unveiled the idea to Marianne and Hayley when we returned to the room, provoking a lot of shrieking and excitement. I went over to the realtor's office the next morning and filled out my formal offer for the property. He called back that night with a counteroffer from the owner's agent, which I told him I wanted to sleep on.
    We said good bye to Elizabeth and went home that night, since the girls had school the next morning. I called the realtor from work with another offer, and he called back after lunch to tell me it had been accepted. He Fed Ex'd the sales agreement to me the next morning, and we closed the deal at $4,250,000. I liquidated the funds out of my investment account and sent it to the escrow company. After capital gains taxes, moving costs, new furniture, and various and sundry other minor expenses (not to mention the horses and a certain sports car I was now thinking of buying), I would have just under eight million to retire on, most of it in Cisco stock.
    Enough to live a pretty good life.
    And, just maybe, raise a family on.

    CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR
    -------------------

    Graduation arrived in June, and Elizabeth came down from Santa Cruz. With Giselle now living in the guestroom, Elizabeth got a hotel room nearby. We had closed escrow on the ranch a few weeks before, and she had already moved into the guesthouse. She and I had been coordinating the cleaning and furnishings with a decorator I had hired (and whom I had scouring flea markets and swap meets all over Northern California to find antiques to match what was already in the house).
    The only significant change I was ****** was rewiring the phone lines with a multi-terminal DSL connection and adding recessed wiring and speakers for a house-wide stereo and entertainment system.
    The school held graduation on the football field, and Elizabeth, Hayley, and I took our seats in the bleachers with the other parents and family. The graduates wore bright blue gowns, and when they filed in, the girls waved to us on the way to their seats.
    My eyes glazed over through most of the speeches, but we cheered wildly when Marianne finally got her diploma. She waved at us again as Elizabeth shot off about ten pictures in a row.
    Finally it was over. Marianne ran excitedly around the field posing for pictures with us, her friends, and other random students. I met Tiffany's parents, who didn't seem particularly fazed about her moving in with us. I expected she hadn't filled them in on a lot of the details. I watched for Giselle's father but didn't see him.
    We went out to lunch, and Marianne then went out for the afternoon with her friends while the other three of us went home. Elizabeth and I spent a few hours going over the details for the house while Hayley listened or watched television.
    "What are we going to do about the horses?" she asked around four- thirty.
    "I don't know, Little Kit. I haven't had time to give it much thought. I'm sure there are some ranches up there we can look at once we're there."
    "Well, see, I was thinking. I heard about this service that rescues horses that are going to be destroyed. You know, like old racehorses or ones that can't work anymore. I thought that would be better than buying new ones. So those horses could retire like you're doing instead of being killed. It's not like we're going to do anything but ride them around, right?"
    I exchanged a glance with Elizabeth, who was smiling.
    "I think that's a great idea. Find out what you can, and I'll give them a call."
    Hayley hugged me quickly.
    "Thanks."
    With graduation and school behind us, we began the laborious process of moving up to the ranch. Although there was no point in rearranging my office now, Tiffany moved in anyway, sleeping on the couch for the few days it would take us to pack up and leave. The girls had their rooms packed up fairly quickly, and we spent the remaining time sifting through twenty years of bachelor junk and deciding what to take and what to trash.
    I threw out more than I might have expected, as I realized that I wanted to replace a lot of it. Most of the china, glasses, and silverware, old mismatched sets I had had for ten years or more, went to charity, as did most of the sheets and towels. I finally threw out my old college beer bottle collection. The neon Budweiser sign I had been saving for years stayed--I wanted to hang that in the barn.
    The further back we got, the more time we spent reviewing memorabilia from my college days, laughing over pictures of me with long hair, wearing this Black Sabbath T-shirt I had to be surgically removed from one summer, or posing with my friends and a few bongs at some party.
    "I can't wait for college," Giselle said wistfully at one point.
    "Me too," Marianne said. "It's going to be so cool."
    "It's not all parties," I said. "I did have to study and go to class now and then."
    They giggled, but I could tell they didn't believe me. They would learn soon enough.
    By the third day of packing, we were down to the odds and ends, most of which we threw out. That afternoon, I finally called a halt to the operation.
    "I think we're done here. What's left is trash. Go relax; we've got a big day tomorrow."
    The girls high-fived each other, and all of them, except Marianne, went out to the pool. With shrieks and laughter, they all jumped in wearing their clothes. I got a beer from the refrigerator and leaned against the counter to rest.
    Marianne followed me in, hopping up onto the counter under the window.
    "I can't believe this is really going to happen. Tomorrow night, we're going to be sleeping at the ranch."
    "Yep."
    "Are you excited?"
    "Definitely. I've waited a long time for this."
    "You've earned it. Hayley and I are getting you a housewarming present, but it's a surprise."
    I chuckled.
    "Thanks. I can't wait."
    "I hope you like it. I think it's really cute."
    "I'm sure I will."
    I took a swig of beer.
    "There's something I want to do today, and I'd like you to come along."
    "What is it?"
    "Another surprise. It's basically a present to myself."
    "Ooo. Now?"
    "I want to get cleaned up first. This isn't something I can do in this state."
    "Okay. I'll jump in the shower really quick too."
    We went upstairs, showered, and dressed. When I was done, I looked out the window to see that Hayley, Tiffany, Ashley, and Giselle had stripped out of their clothes and now cavorted nakedly around the backyard. I wavered for a moment, thinking about going down to join them, but I knew I had to do this today or wait at least another week.
    Marianne emerged from the dressing area in a white cotton blouse, knotted at her waist, and a denim skirt.
    "Is this okay?"
    "Wonderful."
    We descended to the pool, where I explained that we were going out for a few hours.
    "You guys behave, okay?"
    That remark engendered a lot of giggles and glances.
    "Have fun, whatever it is you're doing," Giselle said.
    Marianne followed me out to the garage, and we got into my Mercedes.
    "Are you going to tell me what this is now?"
    "I'm buying a new car to go with the new ranch."
    Her face lit up.
    "Oh, cool! What?"
    "You'll see."
    She giggled and bounced around in her seat as I drove down toward the beach. When I pulled into my destination, a very upscale and exclusive European dealership, she let out an excited squeal.
    "I knew it! What are you going to get?"
    "Something I've wanted since I was your age."
    We pulled into a parking space, and Marianne hopped out of the car. This was primarily a Jaguar dealership, but they also carried several other lines of European sports cars. Marianne's eyes bulged as she looked around at the Porsches, Ferraris, and (a few) Lamborghinis lining the lot, and to honest, my heart was beating faster in my chest the longer we were there.
    I was only interested in the Italians, and that was where we headed. A salesman came out to speak to us a few minutes after we were there.
    "Can I help you with anything?"
    "I have an appointment. Steven Chandler."
    "Certainly. Just a moment."
    He went inside, and about a minute later, the salesman I had talked to a few days before emerged from the showroom. Since this place sold cars costing upwards of $250,000, they didn't like to deal with people right off the street, and they were certainly not about to let someone test drive any these frightfully expensive exotics without checking them out thoroughly beforehand.
    The salesman shook my hand and smiled warmly, but professionally, at Marianne.
    "Mr. Chandler, good afternoon. I'm Bill Jabobs. We spoke on the phone the other day."
    "This is Marianne."
    "Nice to meet you," she said.
    "And you. I believe you wanted to look at the 355 and the Diablo?"
    "Right."
    With Marianne following us, he took us to the Lamborghinis. They had only two, and though they were extremely sexy cars, something about them just didn't grab me.
    After looking over the two cars for a few minutes, I glanced at Marianne. She seemed excited, but not precisely thrilled.
    "This is a little over the top, maybe," I said.
    She nodded.
    "It's not really you."
    "Let's look at the others," I said to Jacobs.
    He nodded and led us across the lot to a row of Ferraris. He gave us a little spiel about the car, then let us climb inside one. Marianne got into the passenger seat, so flushed with excitement that I thought she might burst.
    I moved around to get comfortable, inhaling the scent of the leather. Oh, boy. I was actually going to do this. I took the steering wheel in my hands and gripped it tightly.
    Jacobs handed me the keys.
    "Start her up."
    I did. A deep, throaty rumble ran through the car. I pressed on the gas a few times, and the engine whined as it revved up.
    "This is quite a car," he said.
    I nodded. Marianne giggled, wanting to say something but unable to get anything coherent out.
    "Could we look at the others? I'm not sure about this color scheme."
    "Sure."
    I shut off the engine, and we climbed out. They had five 355s on the lot, two of them convertibles. One of the Spyders was cherry red, the other one shameless, in-your-face, banana yellow. I stopped next to the yellow one, and Marianne beamed.
    "Kind of the same color as mine."
    I nodded, swallowing hard. Jacobs went inside and returned with the keys.
    Marianne took a few deep breaths once we were inside it.
    "This is your car and your thing, but... it would be really, really neat if you got a convertible."
    Jacobs showed me how to put the top down, and I stretched out in the seat. Goddamn it, but this was a great car.
    "Can we take it for a spin?"
    "Sure."
    I started it up and backed carefully out of the space. Giving myself a *lot* of spare room, I pulled out into traffic. The shifter took some getting used to, since it was mounted in a very narrow gate, but I soon had the car up to speed. Marianne put her arms above her head, letting her hair fly loose in the breeze.
    "Woo!"
    The Ferrari handled differently from anything I had ever driven before, seeming to cling to the road and transmit every bump and seam in the pavement through the steering wheel. The slightest pressure on the accelerator sent the engine howling into the upper reaches of the tachometer.
    "How is it?"
    "Incredible."
    She squealed, gripping my arm tightly.
    "This is the hottest thing I have ever been in. You have to get this. Please."
    "I think I'm going to."
    She shook with excitement, laughing and squealing at the same time. The traffic cleared up ahead of us, and I used the opening to swing around and return to the dealership. By the time we got back, I was basically sold.
    Jacobs was waiting patiently.
    "How was it?"
    "Great. I, uh... I think we're going to do it."
    "Wonderful. Congratulations."
    He shook my hand, and Marianne let out another squeal, hugging me tightly. We went inside to close the deal. Though it took some time to work out the details, particularly trading in my Mercedes, about ninety minutes later I walked out as the proud owner of a new Ferrari 355 Spyder convertible.
    We climbed back into the car, Marianne still giggling in excitement.
    "I can't believe this," she gushed. "I cannot believe this. I've never even sat in a Ferrari before, let alone known anyone who owned one."
    "I can't believe it either."
    "Do you... um... think I could ever drive it?"
    I laughed giddily.
    "I don't know. We'll see."
    She leaned across the middle and hugged me again. I started the car and drove off the lot.
    I didn't want to go home right away. I took the car down to the Pacific Coast Highway and opened up it, racing north out of town. Marianne beamed at me as we drove along. The sun was starting set in front of us, and I thought that if there was a better place to be at that moment, I didn't know where it was. Owning a car like this should be enough. Driving it around with a girl like Marianne in the passenger seat was just too much--"gilding the lily" was a phrase that popped into my mind.
    The engine was loud when we were up to highway speeds, but it was the sweetest sound I had ever heard. Everyone we passed craned their heads around to get a good look at the car, slowing down or speeding up to come along side. Marianne laughed at this and stood up in her seat, grabbing the windshield to steady herself. Her hair streamed out behind her.
    "Be careful."
    She laughed.
    "I love you!"
    "I love you, too."
    I pulled her back into the car and pressed down on the gas. Good God-- this thing had so much power to spare that it was almost obscene. I had never experienced this much top-end acceleration. I downshifted, and the Ferrari leapt forward like a gazelle, roaring past a hundred in about two seconds. Thank God the road was straight, because I almost lost control of the car with that little maneuver. I eased off the gas, shifting up, and I could hear the engine popping as it slowed down.
    Marianne laughed, looking behind us at the cars we had raced past.
    "This thing is really fast."
    "No kidding."
    Not wanting to get a ticket or crack the thing up half an hour after buying it, I dropped back to a more sedate speed. The sun was just about to hit the water off to the west, and I realized we were passing through the state park north of town. I swung off at the next exit.
    "Where are we going?"
    "I feel like parking and watching the sunset."
    She smiled at me and rubbed my thigh. I drove into the park, and within a few minutes I found a spot overlooking the beach. I could still feel the vibrations of the engine running through me even after I parked and shut off the car. Marianne reached over and took my hand.
    "The next sunset we watch will be from the back porch."
    "Yep."
    "I keep thinking that something awful has to happen. It's not fair to be this happy."
    "You've gone through a lot. You deserve it."
    She leaned over and laid her head on my shoulder. I put my arm around her and held her as we watched the sun sinking beneath the horizon.
    "Babe?"
    "Hmm?"
    "Do you ever think about the future? Us, I mean."
    "All the time."
    She nuzzled me.
    "What do you think?"
    "I want you in my life. I don't want to lay a lot of expectations on you, though. You're still young, and you have your whole life ahead of you."
    "I was just thinking. I read something once about how guys who aren't married at forty probably never will."
    My stomach twitched.
    "I want to get married someday," I said. "I do. I would have done it, I just never met the right girl."
    "You've dated a lot, though, right? So you pretty much know what you want now."
    "She's sitting right beside me."
    She made a contented little noise and pressed herself against me.
    "But what if you had met me when you were eighteen? If you felt the same thing, but you hadn't had all this experience. How would you know what you wanted to do?"
    She was talking about herself, obviously, but I went along with her scenario.
    "It's a tough question. Perspective is worth a lot. I guess I'm a lot more secure in how I feel for you because of it. But I would have loved you just as much as eighteen. I'm just not sure what you would have thought of me."
    She laughed softly.
    "We would have hooked up somehow. I know that."
    She sighed.
    "One moment I'm sure I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Then I get scared because I feel so young for such a commitment. And then I feel guilty for thinking things like that when I love you so much."
    I hugged her.
    "It's normal. I'm not asking you for a life-long commitment tonight. We can do that when, and only when, you feel ready for it."
    She was quiet for a few moments.
    "Thanks."
    I squeezed her again.
    "Anytime."
    We drove home about ten minutes later, and Marianne ran in the house to tell the other girls about the Ferrari. We found them largely dressed, whatever they had been up to while we were gone, and they ran back out to the driveway, shrieking and gasping over the car. I promised to take them all for rides when we got up to Santa Cruz.
    Since all the food was packed up or thrown out, we ordered a couple of pizzas for dinner. Ashley spent the night with Giselle in her room, and Tiffany slept on the couch. Marianne and I finally went to bed after eleven. When I climbed under the sheets, I discovered that she was naked. She cuddled with me, pressing her body against mine.
    "I though you'd be tired," I said.
    "I am. But it's our last night in this house."
    We snuggled together, warm under the covers. We fondled each other for a few minutes, just enjoying our mutual nudity. Marianne giggled when I reached between her legs. She was already quite wet. I rolled her on her back, sliding under the blanket. I took a breast in my mouth as my fingers played between her thighs. Another squirt of moisture emerged onto my hand, and I began masturbating her slowly. She moaned, then pushed my head off her breasts, down her abdomen.
    I resisted at first, kissing my way down, licking the kitten at her hip. She pulled my head between her thighs and pushed her wet sex up at my mouth.
    I sucked her clit between my lips, ****** her convulse, then slipped my tongue into her. I tried to make love to her with it, pushing it in deeply and wiggling it around, tasting her sweet fluids. Then I pulled it out, sliding it up against her clit. I repeated the action, tongue deeply into her, then up between her labia. She whimpered, clawing at my shoulders, as I fell into a rhythm. Her hips rolled under me, moving with me, and her breathing was now rough and ragged.
    A few minutes of this were all it took before I felt the tremors beginning her abdomen. Her stomach muscles twitched once, twice, then her hands clamped down on mine. Her back arched, and a low feline whine escaped her lips as she shuddered under my attentions. As it peaked, she pushed me away with a soft cry. I kissed her sex one last time and slid up beside her.
    She hugged me briefly before disappearing under the covers to return the favor. I felt her bobbing slowly over me, working her lips against the head and her tongue stud against the underside. One hand held the base of my cock, the other gently pulled on my balls. She rolled her head around to increase the friction as she bobbed over me, and I had to reach down to hold her head.
    She would have taken me all the way had I wanted to, but I needed to be inside her. I pulled her off, and she straddled me immediately, sitting back to swallow me into her belly. She pulled her knees up to my side and lowered herself down to kiss me, smiling.
    "Hi."
    "Hey, Kitten."
    She squeezed me slowly, rhythmically, but didn't otherwise move.
    "You meant what you said tonight?"
    "All of it. But what do you mean?"
    "That you do want to get married some day?"
    "As long as it's to you. But remember what I said. No pressure. Nothing until you're ready."
    She looked down at me, eyes as full of love as they could ever be.
    "If I could... I would stay like this forever. This is all I ever need. You and me, together."
    "Me too, Kitten."
    "I love you so much."
    "I love you too."
    We made love slowly for another hour, then slept.
    The moving truck arrived at seven a.m., and I did my best to direct traffic. Marianne went down the hill to Starbucks to get some coffee for everyone, and the other girls did what they could to help.
    We were about halfway done, and I was in the kitchen checking the cabinets for anything we missed when I heard Hayley shouting from the front of the house.
    "What?! No! Let go of me!"
    I dropped what I was doing and ran out to see what was going on. The reality of it was clear immediately--there was really no arguing with the image that was burning into the back of my brain--but it took a few moments for it to really register.
    An unpleasant-looking woman I didn't recognize was standing in the foyer trying to take Hayley's arm. Hayley was having none of it, trying to back away. Standing with the woman were a pair of police officers. Marianne was trying to get to Hayley, but the woman was holding her off.
    The woman saw me and pointed.
    "That's him."
    The two officers approached me.
    "Are you Steven Chandler?" one of them asked.
    "Yes. What is this about?"
    "I have a warrant for your arrest. Violation of Penal Code section 261.5."
    "What the hell is that?"
    "Unlawful sexual contact with a minor. Statutory rape, in other words."


    CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE
    -------------------

    The officers handcuffed me and took me out to their cruiser as Hayley and Marianne went into hysterics. I was in shock until I looked back toward the house and saw the officers and the woman physically dragging Hayley, gone completely berserk, out the front door.
    I had never been a particularly emotional person--I was never the sort of guy who wore his heart on his sleeve. All my life, I tended bottle up my emotions, only letting them out with people I really trusted.
    Marianne was one of them. Hayley was another. And when I saw the two officers struggling with her and finally shoving her down onto the front lawn to handcuff her, I lost it. Some primal protective impulse, something rising out of the brain stem, took control of my body. I thrashed around in my seat. I rolled on my back and kicked at the side window. I screamed at them--I didn't even know what I was saying, if I was even doing anything other than howl in powerless outrage.
    Outside the car, Marianne had jumped on one officer's back, trying to get him off Hayley. He reared back, throwing her onto the ground. The other officer had succeeded in handcuffing Hayley, and he dragged her to her feet and over to the woman's car. She looked toward me in desperation, eyes pleading for help, and had I been physically able to burst out of the squad car after her, I would have.
    The other officer was threatening Marianne, who lay on the ground holding her arm in pain. He shook his finger at her angrily, and only now did he notice what was going on in their cruiser.
    He stalked up to the window I was still kicking at.
    "Knock that shit off, goddamnit!"
    I heard sirens approaching, and another squad car came screeching up to the house a minute later. Marianne was still lying on the lawn crying, and Giselle and Tiffany had come out of the house to help her. The two officers stood warily in the driveway watching them as two more burst out of the backup unit that had just arrived.
    By now, the neighbors had emerged from their houses to watch. The woman, whoever she was, stood by her car, and I stared at her murderously. She met my gaze only once, giving me a look of disdain before turning away. The situation had calmed down now with both Hayley and me locked up, and the four officers milled around discussing what to do. I waited for them to arrest Marianne for attacking one of them, but they seemed content with a stern lecture. Finally they began packing up to leave.
    Marianne struggled to her feet and came up to the police car, still crying, and pressed her face against the window.
    "Call your mother!" I yelled. "Call your mother, okay?"
    She continued sobbing against the window, incoherent with grief, until we pulled away from the house.
    They took me downtown, booked me, then let me call Brian. They stuck me in a holding cell, where I sat for several hours with some other unsavory characters. Just after three o'clock, the deputies abruptly let me out of the cell, telling me that I was being released. I found Brian waiting for me when they returned my possessions.
    "Man, I tell you, I've seen some lame cases in my day, but this one takes the cake."
    "What did you find out? What's going on?"
    "You've been released, for now. The D.A. is still trying to decide whether to file charges."
    "Seriously?"
    "Seriously. But let me ask you something. Do you know a kid named Randy Donahue?"
    I groaned.
    "Oh, shit. Yes. He's Marianne's ex-boyfriend."
    "Well, he is alleging that you confessed to having sex with Hayley, to him."
    "What?!"
    "That's what the ADA I talked to said. Apparently he went to the Family and Child Services office downtown and reported it earlier this week. They assigned that uptight bitch who grabbed Hayley--I talked to her too, and Jesus, I feel sorry for that woman's husband, if she's got one--and she sent the SWAT team over to your house."
    I followed Brian to his car as he explained all this.
    "Do you know what they did with Hayley?"
    "No. They won't tell me. DFCS has her, and I don't know what they're going to do with her. I called your house and talked to Marianne, who is still a mess. She said their mother is on her way down, but I get the distinct impression that DFCS isn't going to just release Hayley to her."
    "What do you mean?"
    "That woman seems to have a major bug up her butt about your living arrangements. All she told me was that she wanted talk to Mrs. Mulcahey."
    I got into his car, and we drove back toward my house.
    "What's going to happen now?"
    "I'm not sure. Normally, the ADA would have gone to the grand jury to get an indictment by now. She's apparently still weighing her options, which is why they let you go. They have to charge you within 48 hours or turn you loose, and I guess she needs more time than that. But this is going to be ugly however it comes out."
    I sighed.
    "It's ugly already."
    When we pulled up, Marianne came running out of the house and jumped into my arms, sobbing. I held her tightly, trying not to think too hard about everything crashing down around our heads.
    The move, obviously, was suspended, although the movers finished loading their truck and left. It was that or have them unload everything, and I saw no point in that. I was probably in denial, but I couldn't bring myself to make that decision. Marianne, Giselle, and I went to a hotel, and Tiffany went home.
    Elizabeth arrived at seven, and despite an hour on the phone, was unable to get a straight answer out of anyone about where Hayley was. The woman on the case refused to tell Elizabeth anything until she talked to her the next day. Elizabeth and Marianne then cried in each others' arms for twenty minutes.
    I half expected Elizabeth to blame me for this (and it was my fault, right?) but instead she seemed to be blaming herself. She went with Brian the next morning to talk to the woman at DFCS, and they returned two hours later without Hayley. Elizabeth went to her room to cry without saying a word, and I sat down with Brian.
    He shook his head slowly.
    "When this all over, I'm going to buy that woman a new broom, because she's wearing out the one she's got very fast."
    "What happened?"
    "They won't tell us a thing about Hayley except that she's being held somewhere in protective custody. Can you believe that shit? Protective custody from her own damn mother."
    "They think she's in on this."
    "Essentially. They don't like the fact that she was letting Hayley and Marianne live with you."
    "What do they know?"
    "They know shit. All they've got is that kid, but unfortunately, that's enough to grab Hayley temporarily. My guess is that they may hold on to her until the trial."
    "Can they do that?" Marianne asked.
    "Yes. They can. Once they get an indictment, they have good cause to keep her away from the rest of you. They'll have to let me interview her before the trial, but they don't have to let anyone else see her unless they feel like it."
    I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. Hayley was being punished the worst here, and she was supposedly the victim.
    "So what do we do?"
    "We wait. I need to talk to the ADA. Assuming they file charges, I suspect they'll be amenable to some kind of deal, if that's what you're willing to do."
    Marianne jumped in before I could respond.
    "No! No deals! Steve didn't do anything wrong. Randy is just doing this to get back at him, and me, for dumping him."
    Brian looked at me, and I nodded slowly. He sighed.
    "Okay. No deals. But you realize that if you get convicted, you are looking at some serious jail time here? Because of the large age difference."
    "Yes. I know."
    Brian went back to his office, and the four of us sat numbly around our rooms. Nobody seemed inclined to talk about what had happened.
    Brian called me the next morning to tell me he had met with the ADA on the case. She was apparently a woman he had faced before.
    "She's a pro," he said, "but that's good. She'll play it straight, which some other ADA's I've worked with might not have. We could have done a lot worse."
    Nothing much happened for several days, during which I had to have the movers put my stuff in storage, since none of us could go up to Santa Cruz to let them into the new house. Four days after my arrest, Brian called the hotel and asked us to come down to his office for a meeting. Marianne, Elizabeth, and I showed up at one, and he showed us into his conference room.
    "Okay. We have had a very odd development here. You recall what I said about the ADA going to the grand jury to get an indictment?"
    "Yes."
    "Well, she's not going to do that. She has, instead, asked for a preliminary hearing."
    "What's the difference?" Elizabeth asked.
    "A lot." He looked down at his legal pad and tapped his pencil a few times. "To back up a little, in any criminal case, the ADA has to get a ruling that there is probable cause for a trial before they can go any further. That's essentially what an indictment is, and there are two ways of getting it. The first, and most common, is going to the grand jury, where the ADA can put together whatever case she likes, present whatever evidence she wants, without our participation. We have no right to be present or to introduce evidence, and though you are not required to testify, if you chose to do so, you have no right to have an attorney present."
    "That's so unfair," Marianne said.
    Brian nodded, grinning.
    "Speaking as a defense attorney, I'll agree with you. But that is how it's been for several hundred years. The idea is that since your guilt is not in question, only the issue of probable cause, you don't need as many protections."
    "But she's not doing that?" I asked.
    "No. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, she would, but this time she's not. It's two ways of skinning the same cat, but a preliminary hearing is a completely different animal. It's conducted more like a mini-trial. The rules of evidence and procedure are still significantly relaxed, but we will get to cross-examine her witnesses and present our own exculpatory evidence, and the ruling will be made by a judge instead of a bunch of naive housewives and retirees who'll believe anything the ADA tells them. It's a much fairer proceeding, which is why ADA's hate them. Since California brought the grand jury back a few years ago, the preliminary hearing has almost become extinct."
    "So why is she doing it?"
    He paused again.
    "This is only speculation, mind you, but I get the distinct impression that she is not wild about this case. We may be dealing with a matter of internal county politics. You have to understand that the DA's office and the DFCS usually work very closely together, not just on molestation cases but custody issues, child support, and a whole raft of other things. We've come a long way from the witch-hunt mentality of the 80's and early 90's, but that much hasn't changed. The ADA is not going to piss them off if she can avoid it. So rather than just declining to prosecute a lame case, which this is, she'll do the hearing. That way, if the judge says no deal, she can blame him instead of taking any responsibility for dropping the case."
    My head began to buzz. I answered him more intensely than I meant to.
    "So you think this is all just a sham?"
    He shook his head.
    "No. That is not what I'm saying. She will do her job and do her best to get an indictment, and if she gets it, she will put you on trial. I am just saying that I sense she won't be too heartbroken if she loses."
    "What makes you think she doesn't like the case?" Marianne asked.
    "Statutory rape tends to be very simple, because there is usually one issue and one issue only. Did Steve have sex with a minor? Everything else, consent, intent, who thought what about whom, all of that is irrelevant. That Hayley is under 18 isn't in dispute, so all the ADA has to do is prove he slept with her. Right now, all she has is Randy. Because I know, and I will bet you any amount of money, that Hayley is not cooperating.
    "The ADA has to have talked to her by now, and it's obvious as hell that Hayley won't tell them what they want to hear. If she had, we would not be sitting here. That would be the whole case, and the ADA would have already gone to the grand jury. The fact that we are doing this hearing tells me that she hasn't got much else to go on. That, and the fact that they won't let us at her."
    I realized what he was saying.
    "They're leaning on her to get her to cooperate," I said angrily. "She's the *victim,* and they're leaning on *her* to confess."
    He nodded slowly.
    "It's been known to happen. Oh, I'm sure they've rationalized it by telling themselves that she's in denial and that they're trying to help her escape from the spell you have her under, but my distinct feeling is that they are doing just that."
    Elizabeth let out a sob and began crying into her hands.
    "Oh, my God! My baby!"
    Marianne tried to comfort her, and Elizabeth leaned over to cry on her shoulder. I had to take a few moments to collect myself.
    "So what do we do now?"
    "I'm going to get to work on preparing for the hearing. You won't have to testify, and I strongly advise you not to even consider it, but Marianne and Elizabeth will almost certainly be subpoenaed. Probably Tiffany and Giselle also. They'll put Randy on the stand and Hayley too, though my guess is that they'll save her for last. Partly because she's the main witness, but also because it will give them the maximum amount of time to get her to crack."
    "Jesus."
    He nodded.
    "This ground zero of our justice system, Steve. No one ever said it was pretty."
    The hearing took place a few days later. Brian had prepped us all thoroughly, and I had talked with the girls myself in private. I pointed out that Brian thought only that I was sleeping with Marianne and knew nothing about anything else that had gone on. Since all of them would have to commit perjury to get us out of this, that fact could not change. If Brian knew the whole truth, he would have no choice but to withdraw from the case, since he could not ethically allow the girls to get up on the stand and perjure themselves.
    I dressed in my best suit, having to dig it out of storage, and I went with Brian into the courthouse and up to the courtroom. The others would have to wait in the hallway to be called as witnesses.
    The ADA was a pretty blonde woman of about thirty-five. Her shoulder length hair was pinned back with a silver clip, and she wore a trim navy suit. Beside her, at the prosecutor's table, was the woman from DFCS. We exchanged steely glares when I entered the room and thereafter ignored each other.
    The ADA got up first and gave a short opening statement about what she intended to do and what evidence she had. Brian followed by pointing out that the whole case rested on hearsay testimony from someone with an axe to grind.
    A few days before, I had had what I thought was a revelation about Randy's testimony, namely that, as Brian was now explaining, everything he said was hearsay. Brian calmly informed me that that didn't much help us, for a couple of reasons. First, hearsay was admissible in a preliminary hearing, and second, even if it weren't, his testimony fit into an exception known as admissions against interest -- the idea being that I wouldn't have made such a statement to Randy were it not the truth. I tried to point out that that said nothing about whether Randy was ****** the whole thing up, but Brian explained that the question of Randy's veracity was an issue for the jury, not the judge. After that, I just gave up and let him do his job.
    As Brian had predicted, Randy was the first witness. He gave me a barely concealed glance of triumph when he took the stand.
    The ADA began with a few foundational issues, then turned to the case.
    "How do you know Mr. Chandler?"
    "He's dating my ex-girlfriend."
    "Who is your ex-girlfriend?"
    "Marianne Mulcahey. Hayley's sister."
    "When did you first meet Mr. Chandler?"
    "I don't recall the exact date. It was some time last September."
    "And what was the occasion?"
    "I was angry about Marianne dumping me. I went over to tell him to stay away from her."
    Brian glanced at me, and I nodded. He had told me that the ADA would almost certainly explore Randy's motivations before we could do it, as a means of defusing any impeachment of his testimony.
    "You were angry with Mr. Chandler?"
    "Yes."
    "Did you go his house again?"
    "Yes."
    "When?"
    "About a month or two later."
    "And what was the occasion?"
    "Pretty much the same thing. I was upset at losing Marianne. I went there to yell at him."
    "Was there another time you went to Mr. Chandler's house?"
    "Yes. Back in March."
    The hairs on my neck rose. Randy had not been back to my house since that drunken incident last fall. I took Brian's pen and wrote "B.S." on his legal pad.
    "Why were you there?"
    "I had heard some things about what was going on. That Marianne and Hayley had moved in with them. I was worried about them."
    The ADA's face tightened slightly, and I could tell she didn't quite believe that. But she went on. I noticed that Randy was now carefully avoiding my gaze.
    "What occurred when you arrived at the house?"
    "Mr. Chandler answered the door."
    "Was anyone else there?"
    "Yes. I saw Hayley standing behind him."
    "Did you see anything unusual about her?"
    "Yes. She appeared to be wearing nothing but her panties and a short T- shirt. Like she had just gotten out of bed."
    Brian jerked back in his seat.
    "Objection. The witness has no personal knowledge of that fact. That is pure speculation."
    "We're in a preliminary hearing here, your Honor," the ADA said.
    The judge nodded to Brian.
    "The point is made, counsel. Proceed."
    She turned back to Randy.
    "Did Mr. Chandler say anything to you?"
    "Yes. I told him what I thought of him, that he was just using the girls, and he laughed at me. He said 'Yeah, I use them every damn night.'"
    "Those were his exact words?"
    "Yes."
    "And what did you take that to mean?"
    "That he was having sex with both Marianne and Hayley."
    "Did Hayley have any reaction to that statement?"
    "No. She didn't act like it was anything unusual."
    Brian spoke up again.
    "Objection. We're back into the speculation again, your Honor."
    The ADA just turned back to Randy.
    "How did she react, if at all? Specifically."
    "She didn't react. She just stood there smiling at me like she--" He stopped, glancing at Brian. "She seemed to think it was all funny."
    The ADA stepped back.
    "I have nothing further."
    She sat down, and Brian got to his feet.
    "Randy, you don't like Mr. Chandler, do you?"
    "No."
    "You're mad at him because he took Marianne away from you, aren't you?"
    "Yes."
    "You would like to see him in jail, wouldn't you?"
    "Yes."
    "You were intoxicated on at least one of these occasions when you showed up at Mr. Chandler's house, weren't you?"
    He glanced at the ADA, whose face darkened. She apparently wasn't aware of that fact. Randy gulped.
    "Yes I was."
    "And you aren't old enough to drink, are you?"
    "Um. No."
    Brian paused and glanced down at his legal pad.
    "I want to talk about the alleged conversation you had with Mr. Chandler in March. Do you recall the date on which it occurred?"
    "Yes. It was March 28th."
    Several sets of eyebrows went up around the courtroom.
    "You recall that specifically?"
    "Yes. Because it was right before I went on vacation."
    "What time of day was it?"
    "Nighttime. Maybe eight o'clock."
    Brian glanced at me, then the ADA, then back at his pad. He sat down.
    "That's all I have."
    The ADA stood up again.
    "Randy, were you intoxicated when you visited Mr. Chandler's house on March 28?"
    "No, I wasn't."
    She gave us a triumphant glance and sat down. I looked at Brian, who rolled his eyes in defeat. o much for that point.
    The next witness was the woman from DFCS. She gave me a steely, disdainful glare when she climbed into the witness seat. The ADA spent a few minutes going over who she was and what she did before getting to the main issues.
    "Can you describe your first meeting with Randy Donahue?"
    "He showed up on the afternoon of June 12th, telling the receptionist that he had to speak with a social worker about something important. They sent him into my office."
    "How would you describe his manner?"
    "He was nervous. This clearly something that had been eating at him for a long time."
    I gritted my teeth. No shit, I wanted to say.
    "And what did Randy tell you?"
    "He told me about Mr. Chandler, and that his ex-girlfriend and her sister were living with him. He said that Mr. Chandler had confessed to having sex with both of them."
    "And what did you do in response to this?"
    "I explored the issue with him for about an hour. However disgusting I found Mr. Chandler's relationship with Marianne, I told him we could not do anything about that, but that any contact between Mr. Chandler and Hayley was illegal. The more he told me, the angrier I got, especially when he explained about their mother having left the girls with Mr. Chandler. I realized this was a situation we had to act on immediately, for Hayley's sake."
    "And what action did you take?"
    "I contacted the Sheriff's Department and discussed the case with them. We went out there the next day. They arrested Mr. Chandler, and I removed Hayley from the household."
    "You've had an opportunity to examine Hayley, have you not?"
    "Yes. She's clearly traumatized by her experience with Mr. Chandler. It's going to take a very long time for her to recover from this."
    "What do you base this opinion on?"
    "She's still in denial about what she experienced. She's been very hostile and uncooperative."
    "Is such behavior unusual?"
    "Not at all. Quite often in such situations, especially when the victim has been living with her abuser, she will initially deny everything in an attempt to protect him."
    "But you are confident that Mr. Chandler was having sexual intercourse with Hayley?"
    "There is no doubt in my mind about that fact."
    The ADA smiled at us.
    "I have nothing else."
    Brian stood up as she sat down.
    "Ms. Marcus, you were not entirely accurate when you described your 'removal' of Hayley from Mr. Chandler's presence, were you?"
    She sniffed.
    "I don't know what you mean."
    "In fact, she was so uncooperative that the police had to throw her down on the ground and handcuff her, didn't they?"
    "As I said, she is very traumatized by Mr. Chandler's treatment of her. Such behavior is not uncommon. He has such a hold over her that I was not surprised by what happened."
    "But that is indeed what occurred?"
    "Yes."
    "She even spat in your face during this incident, didn't she?"
    The woman squirmed slightly.
    "Yes."
    "Is it in fact possible that Hayley has not been abused, and that she was just trying to defend herself from being dragged away from her family and friends?"
    "Not from my assessment of this case."
    "But it's possible?"
    "I suppose anything is possible. But it's extremely unlikely."
    "Hayley has denied having any sexual contact with Mr. Chandler, hasn't she?"
    "As I said, she's in denial. That will change."
    "You're certain of that?"
    "Yes."
    "Based on what?"
    "My experience in previous cases."
    Brian fidgeted with his legal pad, then sat down.
    The ADA then called Marianne. She stepped into the courtroom, and per Brian's instructions, avoided greeting me or looking at me too hard. She wore a demure white dress and little or no makeup.
    "How do you know Mr. Chandler?"
    "We've been dating for about a year. I'm living with him now."
    "Have you had sexual intercourse with him?"
    She quivered for a moment.
    "Yes."
    "How many times?"
    She looked up at the judge.
    "Do I have to answer that?"
    The judge nodded.
    "Um. I don't know. I haven't been counting."
    "More than 10 times?"
    "Yes."
    "More than 20?"
    "Your Honor, I have trouble seeing the relevance of this," Brian said.
    "So do I," he responded. "Let's move along, Ms. Haywood."
    "When was the first time?"
    "October 22."
    "Last year? You remember the date?"
    "Yes. Because it was three days after my eighteenth birthday."
    Out of the corner of my eye, I looked over at Brian very carefully. He had gone stock still, and I knew why. Marianne had just perjured herself, and he knew it.
    Haywood fidgeted with her legal pad for a few seconds.
    "Do you recall when Mr. Chandler first met your sister Hayley?"
    "Yes. I brought her over one afternoon to use the pool."
    "You brought her over frequently after that?"
    "Yes."
    "How many times?"
    "A few times a week maybe."
    "Did the three of you ever go out together in the evenings?"
    "Yes."
    "On dates?"
    "For dinner. I don't know if you could call it dates."
    She flipped through her pad for a second.
    "Mr. Chandler bought your sister a new car, did he not?"
    "Yes."
    "He bought you one as well, didn't he?"
    "For our birthdays."
    "Just out of friendship?"
    Marianne gulped, glancing at me.
    "More than that."
    "Your sister is in love with Mr. Chandler, isn't she?"
    Brian spoke up.
    "Your Honor, that's pretty darned ambiguous. There are a lot of different types of love."
    "I'm going to explore this fully," Haywood said.
    "Proceed, then," the judge said.
    She looked back to Marianne, who inhaled slowly.
    "Yes she is."
    "And, just to be clear, we're talking about romantic love, aren't we?"
    "She loves him in a lot of ways. He's done a lot for us."
    "And to you, yes?"
    Brian jumped out of his chair.
    "Your *Honor*."
    The judge glared down at the ADA.
    "I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that, Ms. Haywood."
    She didn't appear fazed, and continued.
    "Hayley began living with you at some point, didn't she?"
    "Yes. When our mother moved away. But she had her own room. It wasn't like you're implying."
    "But would you say that her feelings for him deepened once she was living with him?"
    Marianne took a slow breath.
    "Yes."
    "Did you ever hear her say, 'I love you' to Mr. Chandler?"
    Marianne gulped.
    "Yes."
    "On more than one occasion?"
    "Yes."
    Haywood looked at my table triumphantly.
    "I have nothing further."
    Brian stood up.
    "I really have only one question, Marianne. To your knowledge, did Mr. Chandler ever have sexual intercourse with your sister Hayley?"
    "No, he did not."
    Brian sat down, and Haywood stood back up.
    "Were there ever occasions when Hayley and Mr. Chandler were alone together?"
    Marianne glanced at me, worry etched all over her face. But she couldn't deny a question like that without destroying her credibility, not since Haywood had established that Hayley was living with us.
    "Yes."
    "So they could have had sex without your knowledge?"
    I watched her eyes filling with tears, and I nodded. Haywood had boxed her in very neatly.
    "Yes," she said very quietly.
    "That's all I have."
    Marianne left the courtroom crying quietly, and I looked over at Brian. He simply scratched methodically at his legal pad with his chin in his hand.
    This was not going well.


    CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX
    ------------------

    When Marianne was gone, Haywood called Giselle to the stand.
    "How do you know Hayley?"
    "I'm friends with her sister. She was also on the J.V. cheerleading squad last year."
    "And you were on the varsity?"
    "Yes."
    "How did you meet Mr. Chandler?"
    "I came over to his house one night with Marianne."
    "Were there ever occasions when you were at his house that Hayley was also present?"
    "Yes."
    "How would you characterize their relationship?"
    "They're very close, especially since her father went to jail. She had a crush on him at first. I think she really loves him now. But it looks more to me like she's adopted him as a surrogate father."
    Haywood didn't seem to like that response, so she moved on to something else.
    "Mr. Chandler has a thing for young girls, doesn't he?"
    Brian spoke up instantly.
    "Your Honor, can we dispense with the innuendo here and stick to the facts?"
    "I'm going to establish this," Haywood said.
    "Do so," the judge said.
    She turned back to Giselle, who fidgeted for a moment.
    "I don't know what you mean."
    "Are you aware that he is having sex with Marianne?"
    "Yes."
    "You are living with him right now, aren't you?"
    "I was renting a room from him."
    "For how much?"
    "Twenty-five a week. It's all I can afford."
    "What prompted you to move in with him?"
    "I got into a fight with my folks. I wanted out. Marianne and Steve had an extra room, and she offered to let me stay there."
    Haywood paused a moment or two to collect her thoughts.
    "On more than one occasion, Mr. Chandler has hosted parties for your cheerleading squad, hasn't he?"
    Giselle squirmed for a moment.
    "Yes."
    "Did anything sexual ever occur at these parties?"
    Giselle gasped slightly, and her breathing accelerated. Haywood sensed it instantly, and closed in for the kill.
    "Giselle, I'll remind you that you are under oath here."
    "Okay," Giselle squeaked.
    "Did anything sexual ever occur at these parties?"
    Giselle looked at me in terror, and I nodded. I couldn't stand to see her trapped like this.
    "Yes."
    "Such as?"
    Giselle gasped for breath a few times.
    "Um."
    "Go on."
    "I -- a couple of times -- I had sex with Marianne. And with two other girls on the squad."
    Haywood's eyes widened.
    "You had sex with *Marianne*?"
    "Yes."
    "In front of Mr. Chandler?"
    "Yes."
    She glanced at me in shock, then looked back at Giselle. But that brief break gave Giselle just enough time to regain her wits.
    "Did you ever have sex with Mr. Chandler?"
    "No."
    "Did he have sex with any of the other girls?"
    "No."
    "He just had you put on a show for him?"
    "It wasn't that cheap. We all liked him."
    The ADA laughed weakly.
    "Apparently so."
    She paused for a second or two, looking at her pad.
    "Was Hayley ever present at these parties?"
    "No."
    "Never?"
    "Never."
    Haywood fumed for a second, seeming to sense that she had somehow missed an opportunity here.
    "I think that's all I have."
    Brian stood up.
    "To your knowledge, did Mr. Chandler ever have sex with Hayley?"
    "No, he did not."
    Giselle stepped down, and Haywood called Tiffany to the stand. She gave her foundation only the bare minimum before pouncing on Giselle's accidental confession.
    "Have you ever had sex with Marianne Mulcahey?"
    Tiffany gasped, and her eyes swelled in shock.
    "Uh." She glanced at us, thrown completely off-balance. "How--"
    "Just answer the question. And remember that you are under oath here."
    Tiffany gulped.
    "Yes."
    "In front of Mr. Chandler?"
    "Yes."
    "Have you ever had sex with Mr. Chandler?"
    Still too flustered to think straight, she answered.
    "Yes."
    "On what occasions?"
    "I don't remember."
    Haywood's eyebrows went up.
    "You don't remember?"
    "I mean, I don't--there were a lot--"
    "There were a lot of occasions?"
    Trapped now, Tiffany could only blather forth what she knew. My teeth went on edge, seeing the entire case collapsing.
    "Uh. Yeah."
    "When was the first time?"
    "Uh. Last year."
    "Was Marianne aware of this?"
    "Yes. It was her idea."
    Haywood again glanced at me in disbelief.
    "It was *her* idea for you to have sex with her boyfriend?"
    "Yeah, I mean, we've kind of got this thing were she tells me what to do, and I do it."
    "And she tells you to have sex with Mr. Chandler?"
    I put my face in my hands, unable to watch any more of this.
    "Yes."
    Haywood had to pause a moment to compose herself.
    "Have you ever had sex with Hayley Mulcahey?"
    Everything in the world seemed to pause on a precipice. If Tiffany answered this truthfully, the rest of it would probably come spilling out as well. But the mention of Hayley's name seemed to strike something inside of Tiffany, and she regained a modicum of poise.
    "No."
    "No?"
    "No."
    Haywood clearly didn't know whether to believe this.
    "Was Hayley ever present when you had sex with Marianne?"
    "No."
    Haywood's hands clenched, then relaxed. She took a deep breath.
    "Tiffany, how old are you?"
    "Eighteen."
    "When was your eighteenth birthday?"
    "Last December."
    "Was this before or after--"
    "Before. Before I had sex with Steve."
    Haywood paused again, frustrated. She rubbed her forehead for a moment.
    "How would you characterize Mr. Chandler's relationship with Hayley?"
    "They're really close. He's kind of become her father since her dad got busted. But that's all it is, as far as I know."
    Haywood exhaled slowly. She stared at her legal pad for a few moments.
    "I have nothing else."
    Brian remained seated.
    "I don't have anything."
    "Is this a good time to break for lunch?" the judge asked.
    Haywood nodded.
    "I have only one more witness, but her testimony will take a while."
    The judge nodded. No need to ask who it was.
    "We're adjoined until one-fifteen."
    Brian and I walked slowly out of the courtroom. Marianne and the others were waiting. She hugged me tightly, trying not to cry. Giselle looked like she wanted to melt into the floor rather than face me, and Tiffany didn't look much happier. Elizabeth stood at the back of the group next to Ashley, a haggard expression on her face. The seven of us went downstairs to the cafeteria.
    When we were in the elevator, I glanced at Brian, who did not look pleased.
    "You might have mentioned some of this to me," he said coldly.
    "I didn't think it was relevant. Hayley wasn't involved."
    "It does not fucking help us." He fumed for a second or two. "Is there anything else I should know about?"
    "Not that I can think of."
    He didn't appear to believe me, but then, I was lying anyway.
    We ate lunch in silence while Brian planned for that afternoon. I tried to think back over that morning for any straws to grasp at. Randy was lying, but that hardly seemed to matter anymore. And we couldn't prove it. Could we?
    Something clicked in my head, something he had said. I didn't know what to do with it, though, or even if it meant anything. I couldn't remember the details I needed. So much of it seemed to be just my word against his, and I could not testify under these circumstances now, not with what had come out that morning. Haywood would eviscerate me.
    What I needed was just one hard piece of physical evidence that would establish Randy's prevarication. And a moment later, I had an idea.
    I cornered Marianne outside cafeteria and explained what wanted to do.
    "Do you think it will help?"
    "I don't know. I have to look at it to see. But I need you to go home and get it, pronto."
    She nodded.
    "Okay. I'll get back as soon as I can."
    I gave her the keys to my Jeep, and she ran for the parking lot.
    The rest of us went back up to the courtroom and reassembled. The bailiff let us back in at one-fifteen, and the judge returned a few minutes later. Haywood stood to resume her case.
    "The People call Hayley Mulcahey."
    I hadn't seen her in the hallway, and I wondered where they were keeping her. A second later, I had my answer. She came in from the side door, the one they used for incarcerated defendants, with the woman from DFCS at her side.
    I almost didn't recognize her.
    Hayley, despite being sixteen, often acted younger, frequently playing the younger sister act to the hilt and not trying to be particularly mature. When she was happy, it came out as playfulness; when she was upset, it came out as pique.
    Neither was in evidence today. She looked -- I struggled for the right description -- hardened. That was a good word, but it didn't encapsulate the entire change in her. She had been hurt, deeply. The innocence was gone. The bright mirth I always saw in her eyes had been replaced by a cold fury. She looked a lot older than sixteen.
    I wanted to leap out of my chair and strangle the woman beside her.
    Hayley took the stand, and to my surprise, she didn't look at me. As I watched her glaring at Haywood, daring her to say something, I realized why. The other girls had often looked at me for moral support. Hayley didn't appear to need any. She was here to do battle, on her own terms, but I couldn't help but tremble at the sight of this. What chance did she stand against an experienced prosecutor?
    Haywood stood beside her.
    "Please state your full name for the record."
    "Hayley Ruth Mulcahey."
    "What is your birthdate?"
    "March 3rd, 1983."
    She spoke with a cold, methodical precision that sent chills down my spine.
    "So you're sixteen?"
    "Yes."
    "Are you acquainted with Steven Chandler?"
    "Yes."
    "When did you first meet him?"
    "It was last fall. I don't recall the date."
    "What was the occasion?"
    "Marianne brought me over to his house. We went swimming in Steve's pool."
    "Did you visit his house on other occasions?"
    "Yes, I did."
    "Were you aware at the time that Marianne was having sex with Steve?"
    "Yes. They started sleeping together after she turned eighteen."
    Haywood's jaw tightened. Miss number one.
    "And how did you become aware of this?"
    "Marianne told me."
    "The two of you discussed her sex life?"
    "Yes. Quite often."
    Every answer was quick, sharp, and without hesitation. I looked at Brian, who was watching this intently.
    "Did she ever discuss with you that she was having sex with her friends on the cheerleading squad?"
    "Yes."
    "You were aware that Marianne was having lesbian sex with these other girls, Tiffany, Giselle, and Ashley?"
    "Yes."
    Haywood paused, smiling.
    "Did she ever tell you that Steve had had sex with Tiffany?"
    "Yes. We talked about everything they were doing."
    I shivered in my seat and looked at Brian. He just shook his head slowly and picked up his pen. "This is going nowhere," he wrote. "She hasn't laid a glove on her yet."
    "So you were aware of these orgies that were going on at Steve's house, even after you moved in?"
    Brian sat up.
    "Objection. That's a compound question."
    The judge nodded at the ADA.
    "Break it up, Ms. Haywood."
    Haywood paused a moment, then turned back to Hayley.
    "You were aware of these orgies?"
    "Yes."
    "After you moved in?"
    Hayley glared up at her.
    "Nothing happened after I moved in."
    "Nothing happened? They came to a halt after that?"
    "Nothing happened while I was in the house. If it happened when I was out, I don't know."
    Haywood turned away from her, staring at her legal pad, then spun around.
    "Hayley, are you in love with Steve?"
    She answered immediately.
    "Yes, I am."
    Haywood smiled.
    "What are we talking about here? Puppy love, friend love, I'd-like-to- marry-you-love?
    "I love him in a lot of ways. I had a big crush on him in the beginning. He wasn't like other grown-ups I knew. He treated me like a person. He talked to me like he thought I had a brain. He didn't patronize me. I know he cares about me, and believe me that's something considering the life I've had to live. My own father cares a lot less about me than Steve does.
    "When my father went to jail, Steve was the only one who was really there to support me. He was there, every day, when I needed a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to. He's even been paying for the therapist I've been seeing. Marianne cares, but she has her own issues to deal with. Even my mother had to get out of town. So, yes I love him. I might have killed myself by now without him."
    Haywood had to pause a few moments to absorb this, and frankly, so did I.
    "But are you saying that you... I mean, would you... this is romantic love we're talking about here?"
    "Your Honor, she's answered the question," Brian said. "This is just badgering at this point."
    Hayley didn't wait for a ruling.
    "Yes it is. But I know that Marianne comes first with him. I would never try to disrupt that."
    Haywood paused again, and this time she stared at her legal pad for a good ten seconds.
    "Hayley, are you a virgin?"
    "No, I am not."
    "And who have you had sex with?"
    Hayley took a deep breath, glanced nervously around the courtroom, and answered.
    "Randy Donahue."


    CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN
    --------------------

    After Hayley's revelation, everyone--and I mean everyone--in the courtroom gasped, including the judge. Haywood did a double take.
    "I'm sorry?"
    "Randy Donahue. I have had sex with Randy Donahue."
    Brian nudged me, and I saw that he had written "WTF??" on his legal pad in big letters. I shrugged. I had no clue either.
    Haywood was unable to compose herself for a few moments.
    "You have had sex with Randy Donahue?"
    "Yes, I have. On several occasions."
    Had I not known any better (and I did, right?) I would have sworn she was telling the truth. Her delivery had the same calm, careful tone that she had established from the beginning.
    Haywood should have dropped this line of questioning immediately. But, whether out of shock or curiosity, she was unable to leave bad enough alone.
    "What were the occasions?"
    "After Marianne broke up with him, he began coming after me. I think he just wanted what he thought was the next best thing. I was flattered at first. He was a senior on the football team and I was a just a sophomore cheerleader. He got more serious about it this spring. He talked me into sleeping with him in February, a couple of times. But by then I was sick of him, and I could see why Marianne dumped him. So I told him off, that I didn't want to see him again. He didn't take it very well."
    "What do you mean?"
    "He got really upset. He threatened me. He said he was going to make me and Marianne sorry that we had dumped him. And I guess he has."
    Haywood tried to catch her breath, looking wearily around the courtroom and pursing her lips. She closed her eyes slowly.
    "I don't think I have anything else."
    Brian stood up.
    "Your Honor, since this is the most important witness, I'd like to take a few minutes to prepare."
    "Very well. We'll take a ten-minute recess."
    Hayley remained where she was. I tried to catch her eyes, but she simply sat there, head down, staring at her hands. Brian sat next to me flipping through his notes. I got up after a few minutes and went out to look for Marianne. There was no sign of her.
    Elizabeth, Tiffany, and Giselle were all waiting. I tried to fill them in on what happened.
    "How is she doing?" Elizabeth asked.
    "Good. But I can tell this has been very hard on her. I don't want to think about what she's been going through."
    I stood nervously in the hallway as the minutes ticked past. No Marianne. Finally the bailiff stuck his head out the door.
    "They're getting ready to go again."
    I sighed, turning toward the courtroom. Then I heard rapid footsteps in the hallway outside. I turned to see Marianne running up to me with a few folded sheets of paper in her hands. She shoved them at me.
    "Are we okay?"
    "I think so."
    I kissed her quickly and went inside. Brian was waiting, and I showed him what I had. He looked it over briefly, nodding.
    Then he stood, and Hayley looked toward him.
    "Hayley, I'm sorry about all this. I really have only a couple of questions."
    "Okay."
    "Have you ever had sexual intercourse with Steven Chandler?"
    "No."
    "Do you recall where you were on the evening of March 28?"
    "Um. No."
    "I'm going to show you something that may help."
    He unfolded the papers and handed them to her. She looked them over for a few seconds, and for the first time that afternoon, I saw signs of life filling her eyes.
    "Do you recognize that document that I have just handed to you?"
    "Yes!"
    "Have you seen that before?"
    "Yes!"
    "Can you identify it for me?"
    "Yes! It's the bill from when we were in Santa Cruz over Spring Break. I saw it when they shoved it under our door."
    "And having reviewed that document, is your recollection refreshed as to where you were on the evening of March 28?"
    "Yes! We were in Santa Cruz visiting my Mom!"
    "Would you look at the first line of the statement, where it lists the date and time of check-in? Can you read that for me?"
    "Yes. It says March 28, 7:03 p.m."
    "And on March 28, at 7:03 p.m., you, Marianne, and Steve Chandler were in Santa Cruz checking in to the Chaminade Resort?"
    "Yes!"
    "So you could not have been here, at Steve's house, as Mr. Donahue has alleged?"
    "No!"
    Haywood got to her feet.
    "Brian, could I see that?"
    He turned to her, but before he could hand it to her, the judge motioned to him. Brian handed the statement across the judge's bench. The judge reviewed it for a few seconds before handing it back. Brian gave it to Haywood, and she sat on the edge of her table looking it over. The woman from DFCS got to her feet and leaned over Haywood's shoulder.
    Finally Haywood handed the bill back to Brian.
    "Are you entering this into evidence, counsel?" the judge asked.
    "Yes, your Honor."
    Brian turned back to Hayley.
    "Just so we're clear, has Randy Donahue ever been to Mr. Chandler's house while you were present?"
    "Yes. But the only time I'm aware of was last fall. He was drunk and just came over to yell at Marianne and Steve."
    "And never since then."
    "No."
    Brian turned to Haywood.
    "That's all I have."
    Hayley stepped down, a nervous smile on her face. I gave her a subtle wink as she left the courtroom with the woman from DFCS.
    When she was gone, Haywood stood up slowly.
    "Your Honor, the People rest."
    The judge nodded, looking to Brian.
    "Counsel, do you need another break?"
    "No, your Honor, we're ready to go. The defense calls Elizabeth Mulcahey."
    The bailiff retrieved Elizabeth from the hallway. She took the stand, and Brian began his examination.
    "How are you related to Hayley?"
    "She's my daughter."
    "How are you acquainted with Mr. Chandler?"
    "Until a few months ago, I and my soon-to-be-ex-husband lived several doors down from him. I knew him from high school, but we hadn't met again recently until Marianne told me she was dating him."
    "And how did that come about?"
    "She stayed out all night one night and did not come back until the next morning. When we asked where she had been, she told us the whole story."
    "Including the fact that she was having sex with Mr. Chandler?"
    "Yes. Although she insisted that they had not begun sleeping together until she turned eighteen."
    "And you believed her?"
    "Yes."
    "What was your reaction to this revelation?"
    "I was extremely upset. Mr. Chandler is older than I am, by a few months. I found their relationship, at least at first, shocking and unacceptable."
    "But your opinion changed?"
    "Yes, it did. As I got to know Mr. Chandler better, and as I began to see just how deep their feelings were for each other, my opposition faded. I realized that he was actually better for her than any of the boys she had been dating. Steve respected her as a person, which is not something I could say about any of her prior boyfriends."
    "Such as Randy Donahue?"
    "Such as Randy."
    "And you feel this way despite the age difference between Steve and Marianne?"
    "Yes. I had always thought Marianne would be better off with someone older. She has never had much of a relationship with her father. Steve has given her the support and guidance she never got from my husband."
    "Let's talk about him for a moment. You are getting a divorce, are you not?"
    "Yes, I am."
    "Why?"
    "Among other things, because he is in prison for statutory rape. He was unfaithful many times in the past, but his arrest was the last straw. I decided that I, and the girls, deserved more."
    "Where are you living now?"
    "Santa Cruz. I'm attending the University of California there."
    "What did you do with your daughters when you moved away?"
    "I let them move in with Steve."
    "Why?"
    "Because I did not want to take them out of school and uproot them simply because I needed a change in my life. Because I trusted Steve, and I knew they were both very close to him. Because I knew he could take care of them and give them the guidance I could not."
    "You didn't see anything unusual in leaving your two teenage daughters with a man you had known only a few months?"
    "I knew it was unusual, but such was my trust in Steve and my belief that they would be safe and happy with him that I was not worried. He has lived up to that trust and more."
    "You didn't see anything wrong with having Hayley living with Marianne's boyfriend?"
    "I thought she was mature enough to understand the realities of it. As I said, I knew she liked Steve. I was not worried about her."
    "You care about Hayley's welfare and emotional health?"
    "More than anything in the world."
    "And you would not have left Hayley with Steve if were you worried about her getting hurt?"
    "Never."
    "And, being in the process of divorcing a man who had been caught in flagrante delicto with a girl of Hayley's age, would you have then turned around and allowed Hayley to live with someone who possessed the moral failings that your husband is in prison for?"
    "Never in a million years."
    "To your knowledge, has Hayley ever had sexual intercourse with Steven Chandler?"
    "To my knowledge, no."
    Brian turned to Haywood and smiled.
    "Your witness."
    Haywood stood up slowly and regarded her legal pad for a moment.
    "You have been inside Mr. Chandler's house on only a few occasions, correct?"
    "That's correct."
    "So would it be fair to say that a lot could be going on there that you aren't aware of?"
    "Unless both my daughters have been lying to me, no."
    "Meaning what?"
    "Meaning that I speak to them on a regular basis, and they tell me what is going on in their lives."
    "But you admit that they might be lying about what has been going on?"
    "I think I know when my daughters are lying to me."
    Haywood fidgeted for a moment or two and flipped through her notes.
    "Are you aware that your daughter Marianne is a lesbian?"
    "She is not a lesbian. She's quite clearly bisexual, and yes I am aware of that."
    Haywood blinked a few times in surprise.
    "You are."
    "Yes, I am. I am a lesbian myself. Marianne and I have discussed that issue quite a few times."
    Haywood's jaw dropped even further, and she looked down at her notes.
    "You... I thought you were married."
    "I was. It's part of why I'm getting a divorce."
    "Does Hayley know?"
    "Yes, she does."
    "Do you discuss Hayley's sex life as well?"
    "As far as I know, she doesn't have one."
    "Were you aware of her relationship with Randy?"
    Elizabeth shifted in her seat, glancing briefly at me.
    "No, I was not."
    "Does Hayley..." Haywood paused again and studied her notes for a few seconds. "Strike that. Mrs. Mulcahey, I just want to get clear on one thing. You saw nothing wrong with allowing your two teenage daughters to live with a forty-one-year-old man you hardly knew? One who was already sleeping with Marianne and engaging in these bouts of group sex? Nothing wrong with that at all?"
    Before Elizabeth could answer, Brian spoke up.
    "Your Honor, Mrs. Mulcahey's parenting decisions are not at issue here. I don't see how her judgment or lack thereof is at all probative of whether Mr. Chandler had sex with Hayley."
    The judge looked down at Haywood expectantly.
    "Your Honor, I think much of what we just heard constitutes character evidence," she responded. "I think the defense has opened the door to such a question."
    The judge glanced at his notes for a second and then looked up.
    "I'll allow it. But let's try to stay on track here, people."
    Haywood turned back to Elizabeth, who squirmed in her seat.
    "I think I've explained my rationale sufficiently."
    The ADA was pensive for a few moments, then sat down.
    "I don't think I have anything else."
    "Redirect?" the judge ask Brian.
    "No, your Honor."
    Elizabeth stepped down, and Brian stood up again.
    "Your Honor, the defense rests."
    The judge turned back to Haywood, who stood up as well.
    "Could we take a break? I don't know yet whether I need to call any rebuttal witnesses."
    The judge nodded.
    "Very well. We'll come back in fifteen minutes."
    Brian and I regrouped with the others in the hallway, and we spent a few minutes updating them.
    "So how do you think we're doing?" I finally asked.
    He shrugged.
    "Hard to tell. All depends on how uptight the judge is, and how much the idea of you romping with a bunch of cheerleaders offends him. He may be inclined to think that there is some fire underneath all this smoke. But if he sticks to the cold facts we've brought out, we should win."
    "I didn't see a lot of logic in Haywood's examination toward the end."
    "Remember what I said about her being a pro? She's one of those few prosecutors who takes her responsibility toward the truth--not just getting a conviction--seriously. I think she really does want to know what went on, at this point. Otherwise she would have left Elizabeth alone. There really wasn't much she could have done to help her case."
    "But she was trying to make Elizabeth look bad."
    He grinned.
    "She's still a prosecutor. I don't think she could quite resist asking that question."
    We milled around in the hallway until the bailiff called us back in. Haywood rose when we were all in her seats.
    "Your Honor, the People have nothing further to present."
    The judge nodded.
    "Are we prepared for closing arguments?"
    Brian stood up.
    "Yes, your Honor."
    "Proceed then."
    Brian spent about ten minutes going over our case, pointing out that every witness who would have had personal knowledge of my supposed relationship with Hayley had denied its existence, and that Randy's testimony had been thoroughly impeached. When he was done, Haywood began her pitch, trying to point out that all of our witnesses had motives to protect me, and that the one disinterested witness, the woman from DFCS, had conclusively opined in favor of my guilt. Then she sat down, and the judge pushed some papers around on his bench for a few moments.
    "All right," he said finally. "We're in recess until tomorrow morning, when I should have my decision."
    It was close to five o'clock by this point, so I took all of them out to dinner. The girls peppered Brian with random questions while we ate.
    "I hope Hayley is doing all right," I said to Elizabeth.
    She sighed.
    "How did she seem?"
    "She did great, but I can tell she's under a lot of stress. I just hate what this is doing to her. I don't know if I'm ever going to forgive myself for letting this happen."
    She put her hand over mine.
    "Don't shoulder all the blame. There's plenty to go around."
    "But we should have seen this coming. Giselle warned me a few months ago that the kids at school had been talking about Hayley's apparent lack of a social life. That she wasn't dating anyone."
    "Steve, you can't let your lives revolve around other people's gossip. I don't know what you could have done."
    I looked at her for a few seconds, and she managed a smile.
    "You know," I said, "I got a chill down my spine when Brian asked about your ex-husband, about his 'moral failings.' I hadn't really thought about that, but it seems that there are fewer differences between Charles and me than I would like to think."
    Elizabeth sighed.
    "And you think I was lying about what I said? About trusting my daughters with you?"
    "Were you?"
    "Not a bit. My God, Steve, you don't know Charles at all, or you would never say anything like that. What made Charles's affairs so disgusting was that I knew he didn't respect those girls. He was just using them, like kleenex. He didn't care about them at all. He just went from one to another, charming off one pair of panties and then moving on to the next. If I really thought there was even an ounce of Charles in you, I would have turned you in myself a long time ago. It's precisely because I know you love and respect and care about Marianne and Hayley that I'm on your side here."
    She squeezed my hand, and I nodded.
    "Thanks."
    "You have to stay out of jail, okay?"
    I laughed softly.
    "I'm doing my best."
    We went back to the hotel after that and dispersed to our rooms. Marianne lay quietly in bed beside me, holding my hand as we watched television.
    "We're going to lose tomorrow, aren't we?"
    I rolled over to face her.
    "Keep your hopes up. It hasn't happened yet."
    She sniffled.
    "Everything was going so well. I was so happy. I've never been happier in all my life than I was these past few months." She took a ragged breath and began sob. "I just knew it couldn't last. I just knew it!"
    I took her into my arms, hugging her tightly as she cried against my shoulder.
    "Come on, Kitten. Hang in there. We'll get through this somehow."
    I held her until her tears finally dried up about ten minutes later. She remained tightly against me, face hot and damp against my neck.
    Eventually I reached behind me to turn out the lights. Marianne kept her grip on me as I fell asleep. I awoke rather soon afterward, realizing that she was caressing me. Then she kissed my neck gently.
    "Feeling any better?"
    She shook her head.
    "Make love to me."
    I returned the kiss and slowly undressed her. When we were naked together, she snuggled against me, rubbing her naked body against mine. I felt her sex hot and damp against my thigh. She took my erection in her hand and stroked it slowly as we kissed. I played with her full breasts for a few minutes until I had her nipples hard against my palms.
    Marianne rolled slowly on her back, pulling me on top of her. I crawled between her thighs and slipped into her gently.
    "I love you," I said.
    She pulled my face down and kissed me passionately. I began to move in her, and her body rolled with my thrusts. When I lifted up on my arms, she drew herself up with me, ****** a fulcrum of her pubis, pressing herself tightly against me. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders and clung to me, moaning, as we rocked back and forth.
    "Whatever happens," she gasped, "I'm yours, forever. I'll wait. If you go to jail, I'll wait for you. Nothing will ever keep us apart."
    I fastened my mouth to hers, sucking on her tongue. She pulled her legs up and wrapped them around my butt. She whimpered as I drove rapidly into her, biting at my shoulder. When she began to shudder against me, spiking her hips back at mine, I let loose. I drove mercilessly into her spasming sex, groaning out loud, and as her climax peaked around me, I crossed the threshold to orgasm and spurted deeply inside her.
    We were resting quietly together when I heard a knock on the adjoining door.
    "It's Giselle," a quiet voice said.
    "Come in," Marianne said.
    The door opened, and Giselle came in the room, wearing her pajamas. She shut it behind her and came over to us. Marianne sat up, still naked, and pushed her hair back over her head.
    "What's up?"
    An embarrassed look shot over Giselle's face.
    "I, um, I heard you guys. And I realized I was feeling really lonely and scared."
    Marianne pulled back the covers.
    "You can sleep with us if you want. There's room."
    "Thanks."
    Giselle lay down between us, facing me, and Marianne spooned with her. I put my arm over both of them.
    "Is Mom awake?" Marianne asked.
    "I don't think so. If she heard you, I couldn't tell."
    I caressed Giselle's face tenderly in the darkness.
    "I hope Hayley is okay," she said.
    "Me too."
    "If they hurt her," Marianne said, "I'm going to make them pay for it."
    "She's tough," I said. "I was really impressed with her today."
    The three of us snuggled together under the covers and fell asleep a while later.
    I didn't sleep very well, and I woke at dawn. I rose carefully from beside Marianne and Giselle, leaving them balled up together like a pair of girls ten years younger. I pulled on my boxers and went out to the balcony, looking across the city toward the ocean. Today might be the end of this disaster or just the beginning. Either my life would get quickly back on track, or it would be permanently derailed. I couldn't even think about being convicted of statutory rape--just being on trial would be bad enough.
    I kept thinking back to that afternoon by the pool, when Marianne had first mentioned her sister, wanting to know if I was interested in meeting her. What would have happened had I said no? What would my life be like now?
    Nowhere near as fulfilling, I realized. However horrible this experience had been, I knew--I felt this in the depths of my soul--that I was better off for having known Hayley. I wanted to think she was better off for having known me, but that was harder to be sure of.
    A lot could still happen to her. That was what really hurt -- not that I might one day be labeled a sex offender -- but that Hayley would be put through months or years of horror because of what we had shared. They might even put her in foster care rather than release her to Elizabeth. Her punishment would be worse than mine. Not for the first time did I curse the hypocrisy of this system she was caught up in.
    I heard the glass door slide open, and Marianne emerged from the room.
    "Are you okay?" she asked.
    "I've been better."
    She came up behind me and hugged me.
    "Everything will be all right. I just know it. I dreamt that the judge let you go. We were all together and happy at the ranch."
    "Dreams don't always come true."
    "Mine do. When I dream them like I did this morning. I just get these feelings sometimes."
    "What other things have you felt?"
    "I dreamt that Mom and Dad would get a divorce. When we were first going out, I dreamt that I would move in with you. There were some other things, but they haven't happened yet."
    "Like what?"
    She didn't answer me right away.
    "I dreamt that I would have a baby with you."
    I turned around to face her.
    "You did?"
    "Yes. But it also felt like it was a long way off. So I don't think it will happen any time soon."
    "This isn't the best time for it."
    She hugged me.
    "I know."
    We returned to the courthouse that morning. Brian and I took our places at the defense table, and the others sat in the gallery behind us. At the other sat Haywood and the woman from DFCS.
    We stood when the judge arrived, and I tried to read the look on his face. I didn't like what I saw. He cleared his throat and began.
    "This was not an easy decision to make. I must say that none of what I heard yesterday struck me in the least bit admirable or pleasant. I have two teenage daughters myself, and I cannot imagine a setting I would less prefer to have them placed in than Mr. Chandler's household."
    He looked down at me sternly.
    "Sir, I do not ordinarily make these sorts of pronouncements from this bench, but I must say that I find your choice of lifestyle abhorrent in the extreme. A man of your age and station should not be cavorting with girls young enough to his daughters. One alone would be bad enough; that you have somehow drawn five of them into your orbit simply astounds me."
    Now he looked back toward the gallery at Elizabeth.
    "Madam, everything I have just said applies equally to you. What possessed you to leave your daughters behind with Mr. Chandler is utterly beyond my conception. It was an abdication of your parental responsibilities the likes of which I have only rarely seen in my career as a judge.
    "The fact that you may not see anything wrong with Mr. Chandler's behavior does not absolve you of responsibility for their moral education. I recognize that you had a limited amount of control over Marianne's life choices, but you were under no such restrictions with Hayley. What example you thought you were setting for her, I cannot for the life of me imagine."
    He paused and took a deep breath.
    "Be that as it may. However much it pains me to say this, I have found insufficient evidence to bind Mr. Chandler over for trial."
    I heard gasps and soft cries of relief behind me, and Brian reached over to shake my shoulder as I sat there in shock.
    "As Mr. Chandler's counsel ably pointed out, none of what I heard yesterday is sufficiently probative of the existence of a sexual relationship between his client and Hayley Mulcahey. Even taken in the light most favorable to the prosecution, I cannot allow this matter to proceed solely on the obviously shaky testimony of Randy Donahue. The weight of evidence militates against any such holding."
    I managed to glance across the aisle at the other table. Haywood sat there rubbing her forehead. The other woman glared up at the judge murderously. I felt a smile creasing my lips and forced it away.
    Brian stood.
    "Yes, counsel?"
    "In light of this ruling, I would like to petition the court for an immediate order releasing Hayley to her mother."
    The woman from DFCS tried to speak up, but Haywood cut her off. The two women began arguing quietly, though I could not quite understand what they were saying. Everyone in the courtroom watched the scene unfolding at the prosecutor's table.
    Finally, the woman from DFCS smacked her hands on the table and dropped back into her seat. She crossed her arms and looked away from Haywood.
    The ADA stood up, straightening her back slowly.
    "The People have no objection to that, your Honor."
    The judge nodded.
    "So ordered. Where is she?"
    "She's at the county children's home."
    "Very well. She is to be released to her mother immediately."
    I was in a daze for a long time afterward as Brian shook my hand and the woman all hugged me and celebrated. We eventually made our way back to our respective cars and drove across town to the children's home. Although it took about half an hour to get things processed, Hayley finally burst through one of the rear doors into the lobby.
    When she saw us, she uncorked a squeal that was probably heard in Hawaii. She ran toward us, and we all came together in a group hug. She cried in her mother's arms, then mine. She hugged me so tightly I had trouble breathing.
    "Is it over?" she sobbed.
    "Yes, baby. It's over."


    CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT
    --------------------

    The horses were what did it.
    Never mind the Ferrari, the house, the ranch itself, all the girls moving in--what really did it for me was the horses. When the last two arrived from the rescue service, when we had all six happily browsing in the pasture, and I could look over the tack and harness in the barn with the knowledge that all this was mine, that was when it really hit me: I was rich, I was retired, and I was more fortunate than I ever had any right to expect.
    We had had the housewarming party a few days before that, a simple affair with just the seven of us. Ashley was staying with us for the summer, though she planned to move into the dorms at Stanford when school started in the fall. Elizabeth whipped up a meal in our vast new kitchen, and we sat around the back patio eating and talking about all the things that had happened.
    When the meal was over, Marianne and Hayley brought out their present, something enormous--a good ten feet long, whatever it was--wrapped in butcher paper. They set it in front of me as the others cleared a spot on the table.
    "I really hope you like this," Marianne said. "We spent a lot of time designing it."
    The rest of them seemed to know the secret, so I tore off the wrapping. It took me a few moments to figure out what it really was.
    "We thought you could hang it over the gate, down by the road," Hayley said.
    It was a big wrought iron sign, about twelve feet long, spelling out "The Kitten Ranch" in foot-high letters. Welded to the bottom, inside a big circle, was a wrought iron cat face.
    I very was touched. I had never even thought about something like this, but it was simply too appropriate.
    "It's cute. It's really, really cute. Thanks."
    I hugged both them, ****** them giggle. The caretaker and I hung the thing over the gate the next day, and whatever thoughts he might have had about it, he kept to himself. I had agreed to keep him on to help out around the ranch, and I didn't think he was about to risk offending his new employers, especially since I had replaced his battered Chevy pickup with a new Dodge Ram 2500.
    When we had arrived up here after the end of the hearing, Hayley and I had gone out to the horse rescue service to pick out the ones we wanted. I was so impressed with their operation that I wrote them a check for a $10,000 donation over and above the costs for the horses. With two of their people helping us, Hayley and I picked six horses they thought would be best for us. Her favorite proved to be a chestnut quarter horse mare, a retired rodeo horse, which she named Belle.
    I took her out to lunch at a little deli down the street afterwards. A few people gave the Ferrari a glance or two, but this was a gentrified area with a lot of big ranches, and such things were not that uncommon. The waitress took us to a table out on the front patio, and we sat together under a stand of eucalyptus trees.
    "That was pretty neat," I said.
    She nodded, though she didn't meet my gaze.
    "It feels good to be able to help those horses," she said. "I can't wait to ride them."
    "It should be fun."
    She nodded again, still staring blankly out across the road. Though she had been animated that morning, I could tell that it was going to take some time for her to get over her horrible experience with the DFCS. I reached out and rubbed her shoulder.
    "Just try to think about the future, Little Kit. The past is the past. We have a lot to be happy about now."
    "I know."
    "I'm really proud of you. You did good."
    "I wish I hadn't had to lie at the hearing. Why do they have to make what we have, seem so awful and dirty?"
    "I don't know. Life isn't always fair."
    "I wish I could have just told the truth."
    "I know. But sometimes the truth isn't always the best, however bad that may sound. There are times, few and far in between though they may be, that lying is the better course. Don't forget that Randy was lying, too. And that woman, though she was right about what we were doing, she was all wrong about what really mattered."
    She nodded again, and I went on.
    "If you had to make something up, you did about as well as anyone could have. Telling them you had slept with Randy was a brilliant idea."
    She looked down, and her face turned slightly grey. Her eyes closed, and her lips tightened.
    Chilled suddenly, I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder.
    "Baby? What's wrong?"
    She took a deep breath.
    "It wasn't... it wasn't just an idea."
    My jaw dropped, and now she looked up at me.
    "I didn't sleep with him. But there's something you don't know about."
    "What?"
    "I wasn't lying about him coming after me. He did, especially this spring. The lie was that I didn't want anything to do with him. I knew too much about him from Marianne, never mind what I had with you. That was the reason I ran and hid that night when he showed up drunk. Because I was afraid of what he might do if he found both of us there."
    She paused to catch her breath.
    "One afternoon... back in April... after cheerleading practice... he cornered me by the bleachers. He grabbed my arm and pulled me under them. He was calling me and Marianne all kinds of names. He pushed me to the ground and tried to get on top of me."
    My heart was pounding my chest by now.
    "I think... I think he would have raped me if I hadn't been able to get free. I kneed him in the balls when he tried to force my legs open. I just got up and ran."
    I took her and hugged her tightly.
    "Oh, my God. Baby, why couldn't you tell me?"
    She sniffed.
    "Because I knew you would have gone straight out after him and killed him. And I didn't want to get you in trouble."
    She was right, of course. I would have done exactly that.
    "He didn't really hurt me. I was just a little bruised. I was more scared than anything. But after that, there was always something really scary in his eyes whenever I saw him. I knew he was going to do something. So when this happened, I knew why. Blaming it on him the way I did was the only thing I could think of."
    I hugged her again.
    "And you did great. And whatever happens, I will never let anyone hurt you like that again."
    To my surprise, she pushed herself from my grip.
    "No. Steve, I want you to listen for a second. If there is anything I have learned from what happened last month, it's that I have to be able to take care of myself. I can't keep relying on other people to do it for me. I love you more than anything, and I know you care about me, but... please don't take this the wrong way... you have to stop treating me like I'm your daughter. You don't treat Marianne like that."
    I couldn't answer her right away. I exhaled slowly.
    "You're right. I don't."
    "I don't want to be your daughter. I want to be your lover. The two are not compatible. If this thing we have at the ranch is going to work, you need to understand that."
    "Okay. I think I do. I'll try to remember that."
    She leaned over and hugged me.
    "Thanks."
    And so, that day the last two horses arrived, Hayley saddled up Belle and I saddled up the Arabian, and the two of us went for a ride around the ranch. We rode all the way around the perimeter fence, through the trees, finally stopping at the waterfall in back. We dismounted and let the horses bend down to the creek to drink.
    Hayley was wearing jodhpurs and riding boots with a loose white blouse, and I couldn't help admiring her tight little butt as she stroked Belle's flank.
    She saw me watching her and smiled.
    "You like these pants?"
    "They look good on you."
    "But they'd look better off?"
    I smiled. Whatever she had lost in innocence, she had gained in directness. She was more like Marianne now than ever.
    "Come here."
    She walked over to me and put her arms around my waist. I reached down and stroked her butt over the tight fabric. Her blue eye twinkled as she looked up at me.
    "Do you think the horses would mind if we had a little fun?" she asked.
    "I doubt they'd pay attention."
    This was the first time we had been together since my arrest. I hadn't wanted to push anything on her, wanting to wait until she was ready. And now she was, but in a way I hadn't expected.
    We fell down together onto the moss beside the creek, kissing and fondling each other. She rolled me on my back and straddled me in those tight jodhpurs, reaching up to unbutton her blouse. I ran my hands up her torso and opened her bra, taking her big breasts in my hands. She held my arms close to her body, sighing.
    Then she bent forward to kiss me, rubbing herself against my erection. I gripped her butt tightly in my hands as she unbuttoned my shirt and then my jeans. She kissed her way down my chest, and when she reached my boxers, she looked up at me, smiling.
    "I'm going to get my tongue pierced. I know you like that stud Marianne has."
    "Don't do it just for me, Little Kit."
    "Why not? I love you, and you've done so much for me. I want to do something for you."
    I smiled.
    "Okay."
    She slid my boxers down and took me into her mouth. I let her bob slowly over me, massaging me with her lips and tongue, until I couldn't stand it any longer. I pulled her back up, kissing her deeply and reaching for her pants. She helped me get them off and then fell over onto her back.
    She was dripping wet already, and I was inside her with a single thrust. She grunted as I bottomed out, gripping my back, then bit at my earlobe.
    "No one else has ever fucked me," she moaned. "And no one else ever will."
    I groaned, driving into her as she began writhing under me like a cat -- or a kitten, I reflected. It was quick and hard and dirty (and not only because we were doing it on the bare earth). Hayley moved her legs back and forth against me, rolling her hips with each thrust. She bit at my shoulder, moaning again.
    "Tell me you love me."
    "I love you," I gasped. "I love you. I love you."
    "I'm not your daughter. Your daughter couldn't do this to you."
    With a heave, she rolled the two of us over and straddled me. I gripped her buttocks in my hands as she pounded herself down on my erection. I held her close, kissing her breasts as they bounced above me. Hayley let out a shriek, startling the horses, and her hands clawed at my arms. A second later, she began to shudder, coming like freight train, and the sight and feel and smell of it were too much for me. I arched my back, driving myself up, and erupted into her.
    We lay together quietly on the creek bank afterwards, and she nuzzled my neck.
    "Mmm. That was great."
    "It was pretty good."
    She sat up a little.
    "I wasn't watching the horses. Were they okay?"
    "They got a little spooked when you came. But they seem all right."
    She grinned evilly.
    "Couldn't help it. Came too hard."
    "I noticed."
    She hugged me again. A few minutes later, we got dressed and completed our ride.
    Life was good. I had no concerns beyond the state of the ranch. When I felt like it, I would log in to my brokerage and play around with my investments. I still had a mountain of Cisco stock, but I planned to diversify eventually, slowly enough that the capital gains taxes wouldn't hit me all at once.
    Elizabeth remade the guesthouse into her house, and she spent most of her time out there studying, though she usually joined us for dinner. Marianne and Hayley were in and out of there all day, and it seemed like we had set up enough of a boundary for all of us to be comfortable.
    With nothing else to distract them, Tiffany and Marianne went hard into their mistress-slave routine. One afternoon, after we had been at the ranch about three weeks, I looked out of the window of the library to see Marianne riding her horse around the pasture, with Tiffany running beside her on some kind of leash--stark naked.
    Thank God it was the caretaker's day off. I went out front and walked across the driveway to the front pasture. Marianne had her horse in a trot as Tiffany ran alongside, though they were simply going in circles. I leaned against the fence at the edge of the field to watch. Marianne saw me after a few seconds and rode over.
    I realized as they approached that Tiffany had on something much more elaborate than a dog leash. It looked like a miniature bridle, sized for a human being. She had a bit between her teeth, and to that were attached the reins that Marianne held in her hand. The bridle even had a leather cap with a long black feathered plume coming out the top. Tiffany's wrists were buckled securely to a belt at her waist, and she wore tall black leather boots on her feet. A black dildo with a long horsetail protruded from between her buttocks, and from her nipples and clitoris hung little silver bells that tinkled as they approached.
    Marianne gave me an evil grin.
    "What do you think? Do you like my new pony?"
    She held Tiffany's reins in the same hand she used to control her horse, and in the other was a long buggy whip. I could see a crisscross of red welts all over Tiffany's butt.
    "My God. Where did you get all that?"
    "From this bondage store down by Boardwalk. Isn't it cool?"
    Tiffany grinned at me around her bridle, and I could see now that her sex and inner thighs were glistening wet in arousal. She was almost dripping onto the ground.
    "Go get your horse," Marianne said. "Let's take her for a ride."
    Laughing to myself, I went back to the barn. The two of them were waiting when I returned on the Arabian. We rode slowly around the property as Tiffany trotted between us. The horsetail in her butt twitched back and forth as she hopped along. Every now and then, Marianne would snap her buggy whip at Tiffany's behind, ****** her jump and prance.
    "I'm afraid to ask where you got the idea for this," I said.
    "Tiff and I were web-surfing the other night, and we found this site run by a woman who's really into submission. She had a whole section on ponygirl bondage. Tiff almost had an orgasm just looking at it. So I called around to see if there was any place nearby that sold this stuff. We went out and bought it this morning."
    "Looks like she's enjoying herself."
    Marianne giggled, then whipped Tiffany again. Tiffany made a horse noise and shook the plume on her head.
    "Yep."
    We concluded the ride about twenty minutes later and returned the horses to the barn. Tiffany remained in her ponygirl gear, and Marianne led her into the house and up to the master suite.
    "Help me get all this off her."
    We undressed her carefully. In the confined air of our bedroom, the smell of Tiffany's arousal was overpowering. Her entire pubic area and her inner thighs halfway down her knees were wet and sticky. She stood unsteadily between us, eyes fogged in excitement. Marianne led her to the bed and laid her on her back. Then she knelt between Tiffany's thighs and began licking her gently.
    Tiffany came in an instant.
    She cried out, convulsing, and grabbed at Marianne's head with both hands. Her entire body lifted up off the bed in release, shuddering as if she were having a stroke. Marianne held tightly onto her buttocks, continuing pleasure her. Tiffany shook and thrashed around in orgasm for at least ten seconds, until finally, in a spastic series of convulsions, the sensations peaked and she collapsed back onto the bed.
    Marianne withdrew, wiping her mouth, and grinned at me.
    "Do you want her? I don't think she'd even notice right now."
    "I'm all right."
    "No. I want you to fuck her. Come on, I'll help."
    She dropped to her knees and opened my pants. I was already halfway erect from watching all this, and Marianne rapidly had me at full attention with her mouth. Then she stood and led me to the bed, where Tiffany lay half-dead from that massive orgasm. Still mostly clothed, I crawled between her legs and slipped into her sopping wet pussy.
    She moved as I entered her, reaching for me weakly. Beside us, Marianne was rapidly stripping out of her riding clothes, and as soon as she was naked, she climbed onto the bed and squatted over Tiffany's mouth. Tiffany licked up at her as best she could as I fucked her.
    Tiffany was so wet that I had to thrust at her roughly to get any friction, but she didn't seem to mind. She humped herself at me as she ate Marianne, reaching up to caress Marianne's buttocks. Her tongue probed and fluttered against Marianne's sex, and Marianne rolled her hips over Tiffany's mouth.
    A minute or two into this, Marianne reversed herself to face me. She took my face in her hands, and we kissed deeply for a few seconds. Then she braced herself against me and put her head on my shoulder. When she came a few minutes later, she bit at my neck, whimpering softly. The feel of her coming in my arms was enough to push me over the edge, and I came into Tiffany like a fire hose.
    When I withdrew and fell to the side, Marianne lay forward over Tiffany. She bent down, extending her tongue to catch my cum as it ran out. She slurped it up and then reversed herself, kissing Tiffany and spitting my cum into her mouth. Tiffany giggled but took it. Marianne saw my look of amusement and leaned back, still straddling her friend.
    "Those are the rules," she said grinning. "I told you. All cum in this house ends up with her."
    "Protein and vitamins," Tiffany said.
    I laughed weakly.
    "Right."
    Life at the Kitten Ranch was proving to be a lot of fun.
    I got dressed and went back down to the library while the two girls went to take a shower. I had been reviewing the books the previous owners had left behind, finding a great many interesting works, some of them at least a hundred years old. Why they hadn't wanted them was beyond me, but I wasn't complaining.
    I had been down there about half an hour, reading in the easy chair by the window, when I heard someone yelling in the back bedroom wing, which was just down the hall from the library. Ashley and Giselle's rooms were back there, and I recognized their voices, though I couldn't quite make out what they were saying. But whatever it was, they were both upset about something.
    I heard a door slam a few seconds later, and Giselle stalked past out in the hallway. She caught my gaze and stopped short, then stepped into the library, shutting the door hard behind her. She let out a frustrated growl and put her face in her hands.
    "Something wrong?"
    "Nothing. Everything. Fuck."
    "Anything you want to talk about?"
    She whimpered through her fingers and then came over toward me. She sat on the ottoman in front of my chair and put her face back in her hands.
    I glanced toward the door, listening for Ashley, but heard nothing. I put my book down on the table beside me and leaned forward, rubbing Giselle's shoulder.
    "You okay?"
    "No."
    I waited for her to fill me in, if indeed she was going to. Finally, she let out a sigh and leaned back.
    "I was afraid of this. I just knew this was going to happen."
    "What's wrong?"
    "Ashley is having problems with our little commune arrangement here. She's getting really possessive on me, you know? She wants me to stop doing anything with anyone but her, and I told her I wasn't going to."
    "Ah. I see."
    "Right. You know that she's only here because I am, right?"
    "I don't know. I hadn't much thought about that, to be honest."
    "She is. She's been trying to talk me into getting a place together near Stanford so we can still be together once school starts. I told her, 'Why the hell would I want to move out of this great house into a little apartment?' and she got all upset."
    "That was the fight just now?"
    "That and more. She wants me to commit to being a lesbian, permanently, with her, now, and I just can't do that. I'm only eighteen. I can't make a commitment like that yet."
    "You shouldn't have to."
    "And I told her that, and she said that meant I didn't really love her. She said I'd do it if I did. What am I supposed to say to that?"
    "Do you?"
    "Love her? I think so. But..." She sighed again. "Maybe she's right. I don't love her enough to give up everything else. Except that I don't know if I could love *anyone* enough to do that right now. I'm still, you know, growing as a person and all, and I need some space for that."
    "I don't think that's too much to ask her to understand."
    She turned to me and hugged me tightly. She took a ragged breath.
    "Marianne... is *so* fucking lucky. You are about ten times more understanding than any guy I have ever met. I mean, I know what you want from her, for the future, and you could be laying all kinds of crap on her and pressuring her to do stuff and messing with her head, but you aren't. You just let her make her own decisions in her own time." She sniffed. "That's all I want from Ashley, and she won't give it to me."
    I rubbed her back.
    "I'm sorry."
    She took another breath and leaned back, wiping her eyes.
    "Thanks. I better go back and talk to her."
    I rubbed her arm.
    "Anytime."
    She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and left. Whatever was going on after that, I didn't hear any more fights.
    After dinner that night, I went out on the master bedroom deck and lay in the big rope hammock I had strung between the wall and one of the posts. I thought about what Giselle had said. I *did* want certain things from Marianne eventually, and I *could* have been more direct about it. But was I being too direct already?
    I wanted to marry her someday, but I wanted her to do it because she wanted to spend the rest of her life with me, not because she wasn't sure what she wanted and thought I just knew what was best for her. I thought I had been trying to give her enough space, but also I knew that my desires were not invisible. We had said as much to each other. She knew I wanted to marry her. What if she just gave in one day because she was worried about disappointing me? I simply couldn't get a grip on it.
    I heard someone inside the house, and a moment later, she was leaning out of the door.
    "Babe? What are you doing?"
    "Thinking."
    "What about?"
    "Things."
    "Good things?"
    "Yes."
    She walked up to me, smiling tenderly.
    "I know that look in your eye. You're thinking about a big rock on my finger and half a dozen kids running around."
    I laughed softly.
    "I'm sorry. I can't help it."
    She climbed into the hammock and sat in my lap, straddling me and laying her hands on my shoulders. Her blue eyes swelled with emotion as she looked at me.
    "Baby, I've been thinking about this. Very hard. And as much as it hurts to say this, I don't think I can marry you. I'm sorry."


    CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE
    -------------------

    I think my heart must have stopped for a few seconds. Marianne's expression suddenly melted, and she hugged me tightly.
    "I'm sorry. That came out all wrong. It's not that I don't want to marry you. It's that I don't see how I can."
    I gasped for breath.
    "Kitten, this isn't something we have to do now or even within the next five years. I've told you repeatedly, this is a decision for the future. You don't have to make up your mind tonight."
    She leaned back, caressing my face rapidly.
    "No. That's not what it's about. If it were just us, I'd marry you this instant. But it's not."
    She paused for a second or two, eyes watering.
    "Baby, if we get married... what happens to Hayley?"
    "Well... she... I mean, what has to happen? Nothing has to. She'll still be here."
    "But we'll be cutting her out. Maybe not physically, but emotionally. It would be erecting this barrier that she wasn't allowed over. I just can't do that to her. Not now. Not when she loves you like she does."
    "I keep telling you, we don't have to do this now. It's for the future. Who knows what things are going be like five years from now?"
    She sat back on my knees, face darkening. She stared hard at me for several seconds.
    "She's right. You still don't really believe she loves you. You still think she's going to grow out of this."
    I groaned in frustration.
    "Kitten, you were sixteen not so long ago. You know what it's like."
    "Yes. I do," she said angrily, "and that is not what she's going through. This isn't a case of puppy love."
    She slid out of the hammock suddenly and backed up, glaring at me.
    "God! After everything she went through to keep your ass out of jail, you still don't get it!"
    I stood up, reaching for, but she pulled her arm away.
    "Get away from me. I can't believe this shit!"
    She shot another glare at me, then ran out of the room, sobbing. I stood there, dying on the inside, for another few seconds before going after her. But she was gone, wherever she had run off to.
    I returned to the room, falling heavily back onto the bed. What hurt the most at that moment was the knowledge that Marianne was right. I did honestly believe that Hayley believed she loved me, but in the back of my mind, I couldn't shake the feeling that she was going to come out of it at some point, whether suddenly or gradually. It all came down to that patronizing refrain, "She's only sixteen." But Marianne was only eighteen, and I had no such doubts about her. Did two years make that much difference?
    She had a valid point about what Hayley had done for me -- a very, very valid point. Love was a willingness to make real sacrifices for the person you loved -- that was what I had said to Marianne a few months before. Well, Hayley had probably made more profound sacrifices for my sake than I had ever made for hers.
    All I had done was throw a lot of money around. She had endured two weeks in the clutches of the DFCS, locked away from everyone who cared about her, and had still retained enough presence of mind to concoct a story to get my ass out of the sling. All for no other reason than that she couldn't bear to see me go to jail because of what we had shared.
    It would have been understatement to say I felt like a six-foot-tall pile of shit at that moment.
    I sat up slowly. I didn't know where Marianne had gone off to, but I could hear Hayley listening to her stereo in her room at the end of the hall.
    I walked slowly down there, listening to the bubble-gum pop music echoing up and down the hallway -- one of those cookie-cutter boy bands I could never keep straight. When I reached her room, I found her lying on her stomach in bed, wearing just T-shirt and panties, reading a magazine. One calf was up in the air and her foot twitched to the beat of the song.
    The image was totally Marianne; it was just the way she used to lounge around my house when we were first dating. Hayley was now, I realized, not that much younger than Marianne had been the day she showed up at my door pretending to sell magazines.
    "Hey."
    She looked up.
    "Hi. What's up?"
    I had worried about her hearing my fight with Marianne, but obviously our voices hadn't risen above the level of her music.
    I walked to the end of the bed, squatting down to the level of her beautiful face. She looked at me
    curiously.
    "What?"
    "I don't think I ever thanked you for saving my butt."
    She smiled.
    "It wasn't all that much."
    "It was. You went through something no one should have to endure, and it only just dawned on me that you were doing it all for me."
    Her eyes shone, and her smiled broadened.
    "Because I love you."
    "I know. I maybe didn't know that for sure at one point, but I know it now, Little Kit. No one has ever done something like that for me before, put their ass so completely on the line for me. I know the DFCS was really leaning on you. You could have saved yourself and told them what they wanted to hear, but you didn't."
    "I could never have done that. I would have saved myself and lost you. What would that have gotten me?"
    I smiled.
    "Martyr status. Maybe not much else."
    "Fuck martyr status. I don't want to be a victim. I just want to be me. Why is it legal for me to sleep with Randy but illegal for me to sleep with you? How can I be mentally capable of ****** the decision to sleep with someone who's seventeen, but not capable of deciding to sleep with someone who's forty-one?"
    "I don't know. I don't make the rules."
    "Well, the rules suck."
    I laughed.
    "I won't argue with you there. I just want you to know I appreciate what you did."
    She smiled.
    "You're welcome."
    I leaned in and kissed her nose.
    "Where's Marianne?" she asked.
    "I'm not sure."
    "Could I sleep with you guys tonight?"
    "I'll ask her. But I think so."
    "Thanks."
    I got up and went looking for her sister. After twenty minutes of searching, I finally found her sitting in the back of one of the spare stalls in the barn. She looked up at me when I came in, eyes red.
    "I'm sorry," I said. "You were right. I'm an ass."
    She smiled weakly.
    "Hayley really loves you."
    "I know that. Maybe I didn't quite get it until tonight, but I do now."
    I sat down next to her, putting my arm around her, and she leaned against me.
    "I don't like being mad at you."
    "I deserved it this time." I exhaled slowly. "I talked to Hayley, and I officially thanked her for saving my butt."
    Marianne laughed softly.
    "You know," I went on, "the two of you are almost like two sides of the same coin. She gets more like you every day."
    "Mom says that, too. She said she's starting to have trouble telling us apart."
    I hugged her.
    "Anyway. About what we were talking about before I made an idiot out of myself."
    She nodded.
    "Getting married. I meant what I said. I can't cut Hayley out of our lives like that."
    "I can't marry both of you. Not legally, anyway."
    One of the horses snorted and pawed at the floor of its stall. Marianne glanced over, then back at me.
    "I can't marry Tiffany, even though I know she'd do it. That doesn't mean we can't have some kind of commitment."
    "It's not marriage."
    "Aren't there ways you can do everything else but? Legally, I mean. As far as the property rights and ********* rights and all that go?"
    "Yeah. There are."
    "And we could have some kind of unofficial ceremony, with the three of us. I've heard of people doing that."
    "I supposed we could."
    "I want to bring Hayley *into* our lives. Not cut her out."
    "You're talking about some kind of polygamous household."
    "Well, isn't that what we have now?"
    "Not something quite that official. And you're forgetting that Hayley can't legally enter any kind of contract, marital or not, until she's eighteen."
    "But when she was eighteen?"
    I sat back a bit from her and looked down into her eyes.
    "Are you really serious about this?"
    "I'm just thinking. For the future. To plan it out somehow. Is that wrong?"
    "No. I guess not."
    She hugged me.
    "I don't want to freak you out. I know this is all a long way off. But I can't take you away from Hayley like that. Not after what she went through for you. And for me too, when you think about it. I could have lost you too."
    "Okay. Something to think about, I guess."
    We got up and walked back to the house, holding hands. When we got to the bedroom, I stopped and kissed her forehead.
    "Hayley wants to spend the night in here."
    She nodded.
    "I'll go get her."
    Marianne went down the hall, and the two of them returned a few moments later as I was brushing my teeth. Marianne shut the door behind them, and then came up behind Hayley and hugged her. Hayley giggled, hugging Marianne's arms in return.
    "What?"
    "I love you, short stuff."
    A surprised look shot through Hayley's eyes for a moment, then she smiled.
    "I love you too."
    Marianne rested her chin on Hayley's shoulder, not letting her go, and looked at me.
    "And we both love that hunk over there."
    Hayley giggled again.
    "Yep."
    They helped each other out of their clothes and climbed into bed, waiting for me. I rinsed out the toothpaste, turned out the lights, and joined them.
    We began just by snuggling and cuddling with each other. I kissed each of them in turn, fondling Hayley with my left hand, Marianne with my right, and comparing the two as I lay on my back. They giggled as I played with them, trying to both kiss me at once, then sliding up further to smother me with their big tits. I reached down, taking a neatly trimmed blonde pussy in each hand. I explored gently, finding them both wet already. I slipped my middle fingers into them. They felt, as near as I could tell, identical.
    Marianne withdrew from my face and slipped under the covers. Hayley joined her a second later. Then they were both kissing and sucking on my erection, and only the stud in Marianne's tongue allowed me to tell them apart--and if Hayley was serious about her offer, I would soon not even have that.
    I lay still, holding their heads, and just wallowed in the sensations of having two mouths slurping and sucking my cock. They passed it back and forth, bobbing slowly for about five seconds each, then ran their tongues up and down opposite sides of me. I could hear them giggling to each other under the sheets as they worked.
    Eventually I couldn't take it any longer, and I pulled them up. They came out from under the covers and kissed me in turn.
    "Did you like that?" Marianne asked.
    "Too much."
    "You know what would be really neat?" Hayley asked. "Even if it's also kind of weird."
    "What?"
    "If you had two dicks. One for each of us."
    Marianne shrieked with laughter and shoved her playfully.
    "I think that's probably not going to happen," I said.
    "I know. But it would still be neat."
    Marianne suddenly froze, gripping my arm.
    "No. Wait. He could. Not two real ones, but what about the strap-on?"
    Hayley gasped.
    "Yeah! Would that work?"
    "Let's see."
    Marianne leapt out of bed and ran for the dresser across the room. She dug into the bottom drawer where we kept our collection of toys.
    "I'm not so sure about this," I said.
    "Just try it," she said.
    She made me get out of bed, and the two of them pulled the dildo into place. At first, it ended up directly over my dick, but Marianne fiddled with the straps for about a minute until she had it hanging low enough. It felt awkward, but it might just work.
    "So how do we do this?" Hayley asked.
    "I don't know. Maybe us on top."
    I lay back on the bed, and the two of them climbed above me. Marianne got in front, backing down onto my erection, and Hayley got behind her, trying to position herself over the dildo. Despite twenty seconds of squirming, they couldn't quite do it.
    "I don't think this is working," Marianne said.
    She slid off of me, to my profound disappointment.
    "The angle is all wrong. How else could we do it?" Hayley asked.
    "If I was on top?" I asked.
    "How?" Hayley asked.
    "Maybe..." Marianne mused for a moment. "If you lay on your back, and I got over you."
    Something uncertain passed over Hayley's face for a second.
    "If you lay on top of me?"
    "That's about the only I can see it working. Let's at least try it."
    Hayley lay down flat, and Marianne straddled her, getting her pussy lined up with Hayley's, then lowered herself down. I got behind her, trying to find the right angle to enter them both. Several hands were between us trying to help. Marianne had to push herself completely down, pressing herself against her sister, before we were all lined up.
    Then I pushed into her, and I felt the dildo sliding into Hayley. Both of them moaned softly.
    "Oh, God," Hayley said.
    "It's working," Marianne gasped.
    I withdrew, then thrust in again. At first, it felt only little different from simply ****** love to Marianne from behind, the only difference being the pressure of the dildo against my balls. But as the girls began to move with me, and each other, the sensations began to intensify.
    Marianne lay flat against Hayley, head on her shoulder, as I made love to them. Hayley's arms came up around her sister, hugging her. I bent forward to kiss her, and Marianne turned her head to join the kiss. Both of them were moaning and whimpering under me, Marianne pushing back against my cock, Hayley lifting her hips up at me and her sister.
    We soon developed a slow rhythm, and I realized that they were rubbing their pussies together as I moved in and out of them. I could feel them grinding against each other, and I wasn't even sure they knew what they were doing. With the angle I had to maintain, it was all I could do just to get inside them. I couldn't generate any friction against their clits, so they were apparently taking care of that themselves.
    The three of us were soon moving faster, rocking back and forth, gasping with the exertion. Marianne began to rock back at me rapidly, grinding down hard against her sister. She arched her back and let out a soft cry. A deep shudder ran through her body, and then suddenly Hayley was coming too, lifting herself off the bed under us, groping at my body and Marianne's. I felt the two of them shaking under me, and drove rapidly into them. I grunted, convulsed, then spurted off helplessly inside Marianne.
    I withdrew as soon as I could and rolled off to lie beside them. But Marianne stayed where she was, and I could see her still slowly rubbing herself against Hayley. Then she sat up, pushing her hair back over her head. I couldn't quite tell in the darkness, but she looked a little uncomfortable, whatever the reason.
    Hayley rolled onto my shoulder.
    "That was cool."
    "Yeah."
    Marianne crawled up on top of me, folding her arms over my chest and resting her chin on top of them.
    "How was it for you?"
    "Very weird. But fun."
    "That thing takes some getting used to."
    "I guess so."
    She helped me get it off, then lay beside me, opposite her sister. We held each other quietly for a little while before Marianne began writhing against me again. She soon disappeared under the sheets and set about restoring my erection. Hayley lay on my chest, nuzzling my neck as I felt her sister slowly sucking on my cock, massaging me with the stud in her tongue.
    I pulled Hayley up further to kiss her, and for a few minutes we necked and played with each other while Marianne continued blowing me. Soon she had produced an excellent hard-on and sat up, pulling back the sheets.
    She nudged Hayley.
    "Your turn."
    ****** one of her little contented noises, Hayley slithered over me, planting her knees on either side of my waist, and backed up onto my cock. I felt Marianne reaching between us to guide me in.
    Hayley sat back, letting herself settle down entirely onto me. I put my hands on her thighs and thrust upwards.
    "Mmm," she said. "That's a lot better than a rubber one."
    Marianne came up behind her, hugging Hayley as she moved slowly up and down. She smiled at me over her sister's shoulder, and slid her hands up Hayley's torso, cupping her full breasts in her hands.
    Hayley dug herself down at me as Marianne began tweaking her nipples, and giggled softly.
    "Harder."
    I watched Marianne pinching Hayley's nipples more deliberately, and Hayley twitched above me, moaning. I rolled my hips with her movements, thrusting up into her as far as I could get. She rocked slowly back and forth.
    We all knew each other's rhythms very well by now, and we soon had Hayley nearing her release. She humped herself at me rapidly as Marianne continued rolling her nipples between her fingers. I held myself up against her, keeping the angle as sharp as possible, and a few moments later, Hayley let out a squeak and shuddered in orgasm. Then she threw herself forward across my chest.
    I caressed her back slowly as she caught her breath. Marianne lay down beside us. Hayley continued to thrust slowly at me for a few seconds, then lifted up to rub noses with me, Eskimo style.
    "I love you."
    "You too, Little Kit."
    "You didn't come?"
    "Not yet. It's okay."
    She reached under me to hold my shoulders, and then rolled to her side, pulling me on top of her. We rolled over right next to Marianne, who snuggled against us.
    I rose off Hayley's body and began moving slowly in her. She was so wet and warm by now that I could just close my eyes and luxuriate in the feel of her. She stroked my waist slowly, moving her hips with my thrusts and laying her legs over mine. I looked down at her, and at Marianne lying beside her. Marianne's hand came up and began caressing Hayley's breasts as she had been doing. Hayley reached out, putting her arm around Marianne, and Marianne slid closer, laying her head across Hayley's chest under me.
    I closed my eyes again, just enjoying being inside this girl I loved so much. I wasn't very close to coming yet, and I could concentrate on being with her. When I looked down again a minute later, it took me a moment or two to realize what I was seeing.
    Marianne had hardly moved, but she was now sucking lightly on Hayley's right nipple, flicking her tongue back and forth. Hayley lay quietly under us, still holding Marianne with one arm. Marianne wasn't looking at me, and she lifted her head up a little to change the angle. Then she sucked Hayley's nipple completely into her mouth.
    Hayley whimpered, pushing her hips up at me, and I sped my thrusts. She rolled her body with me, groping at me with her other arm. Hayley let out another little cry, and I could feel the pre-orgasmic quivers beginning in her belly. I groaned, thrusting faster as I watched the scene before me. Marianne was now tweaking the nipple she wasn't sucking, and Hayley was still holding her closely.
    As I felt the cum starting to boil in my groin, as I could feel the tremors of incipient orgasm at the base of my cock, Hayley spiked up at me with a sharp cry, clawing at my arm. Her wet, heated sex squeezed my erection rhythmically, shuddering, and I cried out, stabbing the last bit of myself into her. The cum shot out of me in an almost painful stream, as if I were discharging bolts of lighting. I shook in orgasm for nearly five seconds before collapsing onto Hayley's quivering body. Marianne withdrew enough to let me lay flat on her sister, but embraced us both tightly.
    I withdrew only far enough to lie between them. The three of us held each other and fell asleep.
    I awoke with the sun the next morning. I stretched, bumping into a body beside me. I snuggled with it, taking a full breast in my hand. She responded by pressing herself against me, and I realized as I came more fully awake that it was Hayley.
    "Mmm," she mumbled. "Sleepy."
    I turned my head. The remainder of the bed was empty. I listened for the shower, but heard nothing.
    I sat up and scratched my head. Hayley rolled over, burying herself under the sheets. I was still too out of it to want to get up, so I lay back beside her and spooned with her. She pushed back against me and bumped into my morning erection. Matters progressed naturally from there, and a few sweaty, if enjoyable minutes later, she was lying across my chest trying to catch her breath.
    "Doing it in the morning is fun."
    "Yep."
    "Where's Marianne?"
    "I don't know. I guess she got up early."
    "Last night was really great. I know we have to make room for each other... but I'd like to spend the night with you guys more often."
    "Talk to her about it. I have no objections."
    She giggled.
    "I bet you don't."
    Hayley got up to take a shower, and I pulled on some jeans and a T- shirt. I found Giselle in the kitchen ****** some coffee.
    "Hey."
    "Hi."
    "You seen Marianne?"
    "No. I just got up."
    I looked out the back window, seeing nothing. A peek out the front window produced no clues either. I found my shoes and went for a walk.
    The caretaker was cleaning out the stables, and I stuck my head into the barn to see if he knew anything. He was a grizzled, good-natured fellow in his mid-fifties.
    "Hey Tony, have you seen Marianne?"
    "Saw her taking a walk back into the woods about ten minutes ago. Back by the creek. Looked upset about something."
    I got the impression that he knew more than he was saying, but I didn't push it. Feeling puzzled, but increasingly curious, I walked across the back pasture toward the rear of the ranch.
    I found her sitting on a rock beside the waterfall. She had her knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. She looked over when I approached but didn't move.
    I sat on the rock beside her.
    "Hi," she said weakly.
    "Something you want to talk about?"
    She looked back at the water.
    "I realized something last night. Something that really scares me, because I'm not sure where it's coming from."
    "What is it? What's wrong?"
    She took a deep breath.
    "I have the hots for my sister. I don't know why, but I do."

  2. #2
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