In the morning, Miranda showered and dressed for work as usual, carefully pinning her hair up into a neat french twist after drying it, then applying her makeup. Damon stayed flopped on his stomach in her bed, and she often glanced over at him through the bathroom door. He seemed to be experiencing a comedown, and based off the times that she’s had to work with drug addicts, she guessed that he had been using cocaine the day before. She didn’t dare ask for a confirmation, though.
As she was pulling on her shoes, Damon rose and went for the kitchen, helping himself to a bag of chips and drinking milk straight from the carton. Miranda had to clench her jaw to keep from protesting, but made a mental note to avoid using any more of it for herself.
“What time is it?” he asked, finally looking over in her direction.
“Eight-thirty,” she replied, turning away as she pulled on her coat. “I need to get to work.”
“Hold up.” Damon came over to her, and reached inside her coat to fasten the top button on her blouse, then said, “Have a good day.”
Miranda looked at him quizzically. “Are you being serious?”
“If you want to hang around and make coffee, I’m not going to stop you.” Damon shrugged. “But you’re not much use to me if you aren’t a lawyer.”
“That’s all I am to you, isn’t it.” Miranda looked down as she bit her lip. Despite the circumstances that had brought him there, she was privately glad that she hadn’t gone through the night alone, and her heart was latching onto him as the one who had been there for her. She wanted to matter to him in a meaningful way that didn’t revolve around her career.
“It’s better for you this way.” Damon looked at her with a surprisingly sincere expression. “I sent the one person I ever loved to jail for a crime she didn’t commit, because I was too selfish to care about her wellbeing – and that was one of the nicer things I did to her.” He laughed at the way Miranda’s head jerked in surprise, and added, “I’m not that delusional.”
“If you loved her, then why did you do that?”
Again, Damon shrugged as he returned to snacking from the bag of chips. “It’s just what I do.”
“I gotta go,” Miranda said hurriedly, grabbing her bag and practically scampering out the door. Out in her car, she reached up to undo the top button again, but stopped at the memory of Damon’s fingers touching her shirt. “Dammit girl! Pull yourself together!” she hissed through her teeth, smacking the steering wheel with her palm. “Damon is blackmailing you! Stop acting so pathetic!” She pulled the button open, looked at her reflection in the rearview mirror, then fastened it back up with a scowl; she looked more professional like that anyway.
The next step was to make it through the work day without anyone guessing that there was anything different in her life.
Alone, Damon continued his hunt for food, pulling a few eggs out of the fridge and a frying pan from the cupboard. He quickly scrambled the eggs up, doused them in salt and ketchup, then sat down to watch Miranda’s ugly goldfish as he ate; there was something mesmerizing about the way its eyes protruded from its head to stare upwards.
He left the dirty dishes in the kitchen when he was finished, and grabbed his bag to take it into the bedroom, where he got down on the floor and felt the underside of Miranda’s box spring. Satisfied, he pulled a switchblade out of his pocket to cut a small slit, then transferred a small baggie of powder and a memory card to the hiding spot.
There were still a couple of hours left before Damon’s shift at the construction site, so he dumped his dirty clothes into the laundry machine then headed for the shower. He was meticulous about grooming, and was soon freshly washed, shaved, and wearing clean clothes, leaving the damp towel on the bathroom floor with a smirk.
The day passed by uneventfully. Damon continued to work hard, spending most of the time thinking about his daughter and wondering what sort of person she was destined to become. He idly hoped that she would have all of Alice’s good qualities, and none of his bad.
He arrived back at the condo before Miranda, and began rifling through her closet until he found something that he thought looked satisfactory. Then he sent her a text message asking where she was. After two minutes, he called, immediately asking, “Where are you?”
“At the office – I’m finishing up,” Miranda replied. “I’ve got some files to finish reading, and …”
“No.” Damon cut her off. “We’re going out. If you have more work to do, bring it home and finish it later.”
“I don’t usually do that …” Miranda hedged.
“I assume that you don’t usually fuck your clients either, but we’ve already crossed that line. Make your excuses, and come home.” He hung up, then lounged on the bed playing with his phone as he waited. Twenty minutes later, Miranda banged the door open and dropped a stack of paperwork on the coffee table. She looked haggard, and she glowered at Damon as he approached her.
“I hope you’re happy,” she snapped. “I had to tell everyone that I wasn’t feeling well, and after my performance today, I’m sure they were glad to be rid of me.”
He studied her up and down, then took her by her wrist and pulled her to him. Miranda protested and weakly pushed him away, but Damon grabbed her chin to hold her still. “I want you,” he said before he kissed her. When he pulled away, Miranda had a tear running down her cheek, that she quickly rubbed away. “I want you to take your hair down and wear it loose. Also, I’ve laid a dress out on the bed for you, so go get changed.”
For a moment, Miranda considered defying him, then caved under the weight of his gaze. As she slunk to the bedroom, she reminded herself that Damon had promised to keep her safe in exchange for her obedience, and that satisfying his every demand was more a matter of self-preservation than anything else. He had video that could destroy her career in an instant if it ever got out, after all.
The dress on the bed was one that she had purchased on impulse for a blind date that hadn’t panned out, black, sleeveless, and featuring slit in the knee-length skirt that ran up to her thigh. She wondered why Damon had chosen it as she put it on, then pulled all the bobby pins out of her hair and gave it a quick brush. When she looked in the mirror, Miranda felt as if she could pass for someone else.
Damon drove her car again, and took them back to the bar. This time he only allowed her one beer, but after the fool she had made of herself, Miranda didn’t want anything more. It was him who coaxed her into making small talk, probing her with questions about her day until she finally vented.
“I was so distracted that I kept forgetting things, basic things, and I could tell that everyone was losing patience with me. I looked like an absolute idiot!”
Damon held her hand across the table as he listened, slowly rubbing her skin with his thumb. “So? Fuck them.”
“Excuse me?” Miranda narrowed her eyes. “I’m talking about my career, so I can’t just ‘fuck them’. My entire life could be on the line if I lose my edge.”
Damon shrugged. “Suit yourself, but that sounds like a miserable way to live.”
Then what do you think I should do?” Miranda snapped.
Damon thought for a moment, then answered, “Play pool.”
He stood, and pulled her along with him over to the pool tables. “Do you know how?” he asked, handing her a cue.
“No,” Miranda said, flabbergasted. “What has this got to do with anything?”
“I’ll teach you then.” Damon set the balls up in the triangle, then placed the cue ball in position. “Pool is convenient for grifting, so I’ve gotten good at it. You see, I like to come into places like this and act like a pretentious prick who doesn’t know one way from another, and guys will practically line up to bet against me.” He paused as he searched for the chalk, then carefully rubbed it on the end of his pool stick. “I’ll even throw a game or two, to really cinch the image in. Then, when the big money is on the line, I show them what I can do.” He studied the table for a second, then tapped the cue ball to break, sending the colored balls rolling around on the table.
“So? What does that have to do with anything?” Miranda huffed, folding her arms.
“So if I’m too busy angsting about everyone else, I lose.” Damon motioned for Miranda to come over, and put his arms around her as he helped her position the cue. “Today, you threw the game, and when it’s to your advantage, you’ll show them your real skills.”
Miranda laughed slightly. “That’s got to be the lousiest metaphor I’ve ever heard. But fine then, fuck them.”
“Go ahead and hit the ball now,” Damon instructed. Miranda gave it a shot, and the cue ball spun off in an unexpected direction, causing Miranda to frown.
Damon, however, chuckled. “You hit the side.”
“I didn’t expect it to be so hard,” she admitted, feeling flustered.
He pulled her back into him as he whispered in her ear, “And playing pool is difficult, too.” Miranda blushed deeply.
Damon continued teaching Miranda, who despite her best efforts never seemed to get the hang of it, with calculating out the angles or the amount of force needed to bounce the balls where she wanted them to go. Still, she liked the way Damon’s hands rested on her body as he told her what to do, and the way he smiled at her made it easy to forget about her bad day. Maybe, just maybe, she misunderstand his methods and way of thinking …
Once they were home, Damon immediately pushed her towards the bedroom and pinned her down on the bed, murmuring, “I said I was going to teach you how to fuck, remember?”
Miranda’s heart pounded as a conflict of emotions swirled around inside her. She was both a little hurt and excited, and not at all certain if she should go along with him. Though the glint in his eyes implied that she didn’t have much of a choice, and it was easier to surrender than risk upsetting him.
Damon slowly kissed her neck, then said in a low purr, “First and foremost, I’m not interested in pegging, so don’t act like that’s what you’re fantasizing about in your mind; leave all of that empowerment shit at the office.”
“Excuse me?” Miranda said indignantly. “That’s not –” she began, but Damon stopped her by gripping a handful of her hair and directing her to look up at him.
“You should be eagerly receptive.”
For a moment she couldn’t breathe. The strength that Damon easily exerted over her made her feel small, yet also somehow free, as if he was shouldering her burdens in her stead in exchange for her compliance. It was an eternity before her chest rose, and she was able to get the word out, “How?”
“Act like you want to get fucked. Use your legs, hips, arms, mouth, and voice all to beg to have me inside of you.”
“I don’t want to act like a slut,” she protested, which made Damon smirk.
“What do you think you’ve been doing all along? This isn’t even our first time.” He slid his hand along her leg and up her thigh, stopping just underneath the edge of her skirt.
“What about me? Don’t I need to be turned on?”
That made Damon laugh out loud. “Why do you think I’ve been feeling you up all night? You didn’t seriously believe that I wanted to give you some heartwarmingly stupid analogy about playing pool for the sake of your feelings?”
Miranda’s lips moved to pout, so Damon very lightly kissed them.
“Let’s begin lesson one: eagerness and desire.”