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Playing With Fire Part 2
by aesera champion
04/12/07
Not For Sale
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Mercedes stepped into Matt’s house. It was larger than Jason’s and Adrienne’s. She looked at Matt, giving him a small smile as he brought her bags inside.

“I can bring out the rest of your stuff tomorrow.” Mercedes glanced at him.

“I didn’t know you were so rich.” She smiled slightly, embarrassed by her frankness.

“It’s actually from my father. He left me a lot after he died a few years ago.”

“I’m sorry.” She whispered. Matt looked away.

“Don’t worry about it.” Mercedes changed the subject

“I don’t have to stay here.”

“I want you to.” He then led her to an upstairs room. “Is this room o.k.?” She looked around, her eyes falling on the marble floor, the queen size bed and the stereo.

“Sorry. It’s not ready. I didn’t expect-”

“No. This’ll be fine.” She put her bags down, raising her eyes to look at him.

“Thanks. This means a lot.” Matt stared at her, mesmerized by her dark eyes.

“It’s nothing.” He whispered, surprised when she touched his lips with hers. He crushed her in his arms, returning her kiss with a passionate desire he didn’t know he was capable of feeling. He felt a fire build inside him as her arms wrapped around him, her fingers playing games along his spine. Matt licked the inside of her mouth, his tongue reveling in her sweetness. “You’re so beautiful.” He looked down, suddenly realizing her quivering body and the tears in her eyes.

“What if he wants me back? What if he wants the baby?”

“We’ll work it out.” He looked into her upturned gaze, wiping one of her tears with his thumb. “I promise.”

“I feel so dirty. I’m so ashamed.” Mercedes watched him, looking for some change in his pitying expression. “Some of the first nights I was there…I encouraged him. I didn’t believe he would actually go through with it. I…I just wanted to see if he would.”

“When he… did, was he forceful?”

“He wanted me so badly from the first few times when I’d denied him. He told me to let to him or…” She looked away from him, ashamed. Matt waited. “He said he saw us together. He won’t hesitate to use that against us now.”

“He won’t.”

“How do you know?” She whispered.

“If he does, I’ll tell them what he did to you.”

***

-Morning of the next day-

Matt sat at his wooden breakfast table, slowly drinking his coffee. Glancing at his digital clock he read 10:06 a.m. Mercedes was still in her room. He wondered if he should wake her. He was glad it was Saturday. The pressures of Monday still loomed ahead but at least he could concentrate on the problems now at hand. He didn’t deny he liked having Mercedes here. The way she needed someone appealed to his protective personality. Matt was only too eager to do so. He was surprised by a sudden scream that seemed to come from Mercedes’ room. Running up the stars and through the hall, he reached her bed, started to see her kicking and thrashing wildly, her eyes closed. He gripped her shoulders, murmuring softly. Her eyes flashed open, staring at him, her chest heaving in apprehension.

“Matt?” Her voice was soft, strangely quiet. He gripped her hands holding them to him.

“I’m here.”

“I was… I was just having a bad dream I guess.” Almost unconsciously he bent closer to her.

“Want to talk about it?” He whispered. Mercedes hesitated.

“He was coming back for me.” Tears streamed down her face as a sob escaped her lips. Matt smoothed the black waves away from her face, his fingers gently caressing her lips. He heard her breathing quicken as his lips slowly closed on hers. Her lips tasted sweet mixed with the saltiness of her tears. She slid her tongue into his mouth; pleased at the way he shuddered in approval. He pulled himself away from her lips, burying his face into the crevice of her neck. His hands ran through her hair, taking pleasure in the silky feel of her.

“I need you so badly.” Mercedes pulled away, reminded of another time someone had told her that. Jason. Matt looked at her, a mix of confusion and shame on his face. “Mercedes I’m sorry if I hurt you.” She looked at him. She honestly wanted to accept him, but how could she? She felt suddenly sick as a wave of nausea hit her. Struggling to ignore it, she took a deep breath.

“You… You didn’t.” Matt watched, startled as she pushed him away and made a sudden dash for the bathroom. He got up quickly to follow her, a wave of gentleness welling inside him as he saw her form bent over the toilet, her muscles clenching as she threw up, tears forming in her eyes. She took a few nervous breaths before wiping them away, struggling to control herself as Matt gently cradled her in his arms and carried her limp body back to bed.

“Feel better?”

“Mhmm.” He brushed his lips softly against hers.

“I’ll bring you something to eat.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“You have to eat something.” He looked into her eyes, imploring her. “How about some soup?” Matt saw her hesitate, and then shake her head, raising her body slowly up off the bed.

“I'm going to change.” She murmured softly.

“Want a bubble bath.” Matt was rewarded by a slight smile on her part.

“Thanks. That would feel great.” He walked into her expansive bathroom and turned on the faucet, letting the warm water run into the raspberry bubble bath. He was surprised by a soft warm touch on his right arm. Mercedes looked at him. “I’ve got it from here.” She walked up to the sink and pulled her black waves up into a bun. She felt her body go weak as his arms went around the front of her waist, his hands finding the firm curves of her body. Matt felt his insides melt at Mercedes’ soft smile, but he didn’t want to go too far with her.

“I’ll leave you alone now. I’m going to start lunch.” He felt her eyes on him until he left the room, making his way to the kitchen.

Mercedes stripped herself, sighing softly as she stepped into the hot water, enveloping herself in its warm forgetfulness. The smell of the raspberry bubbles slowly took away her nausea as she relaxed, closing her eyes.

***

Twenty minutes later, Mercedes stepped from the tub, pulling a soft white towel around her body and brushing her thick black hair. She changed into a pair of jeans a black corset top. Sitting down on her bed, she opened her laptop computer, getting ready to work on a project for school. She was so engrossed in her work; she didn’t notice the quiet knock at her door. Matt walked inside to find her sitting on her bed, furiously typing on her computer.

“Feel better?” Mercedes jumped in surprise, looking up to see Matt, an amused look on his face.

“Yah. Thanks for asking.” She didn’t say anything as he sat on the bed, his eyes piercing through her. She did her best to ignore him, but couldn’t stop her face from heating up as a soft redness crept up towards her cheeks.

“I just came to tell you lunch is ready. Feeling hungry yet?” Mercedes nodded.

“I’m starving.” Matt smiled, making a small shudder run down her spine. She saved her document and turned off the laptop, walking with Matt downstairs towards the dining room. She sat down, quickly devouring the sandwich and fruit. She drank the glass of milk, smiling in embarrassment as Matt stared at her, one eyebrow raised.

“Wow. You weren’t joking when you said you were starving.” He began to clear the dishes from the table, stopped by a hand on his shoulder.

“No. Let me.”

“Mercedes, it’s fine. Just sit down.”

“I want to.” She reached up, lightly brushing his lips with her finger as he moved to say something. “Please.” She whispered. Matt nodded, trying to ignore the feelings she was evoking in him. Mercedes smiled, taking the dishes from him and putting them in the sink, quickly washing and drying them, trying to ignore Matt’s gaze on her.

“Want to watch a movie? The weathers not good enough to do anything outside.” Mercedes looked out the window. Rain pelted against the windows and the walls of the house, the dark clouds covering the sun.

“Sure. What do you have?”

“Lots of stuff.”

“Whatever you want is fine with me.”

“No. You pick.” He saw her smile slightly.

“Fine.” Mercedes thought a moment. “Anything old is fine by me.”

“How about Alfred Hitchcock.”

“Sure. Do you mind if we watch it?”

“Sure.” They walked into the living room. Mercedes sat down on the couch as Matt pushed the DVD into DVD player, switching off the light. He sat down on the couch, surprising Mercedes by pulling her onto his lap. She leaned against him, her head pressing against his chest. She smiled as his hands wrapped around her waist, drawing her close to him, pulling her into the curve of his body. Matt heard Mercedes suck in her breath softly as he leaned down and kissed the curve of her neck. She pulled away slightly, turning to look at him.

“Watch the movie.”

“Do you want me to stop?” He nuzzled her neck, making her giggle softly.

“Yes. I do.” She smiled at his disappointed expression. “Later.” She whispered. As the movie continued, Matt became aware of Mercedes’ limp body and even breathing. He smiled as she snuggled closer to him, her eyes closed in sleep. Switching off the movie, he carried her upstairs.

***

Jason switched off the car, careful not to alert the people in the house in front of him of his presence. He motioned to the man sitting in the passengers seat next to him.

“She’s here.”

“This is the house? How long has she been with him?”

“About a month now.”

“Why didn’t you contact me sooner?” His angry voice rose above a whisper.

“I meant for it to be a surprise. How was I supposed to know he’d kidnap her before I could hand her over to you.”

“If he’s done anything to hurt my daughter, you will pay.” Jason smirked at the hard tone in the billionaire’s voice.

“You’re a little late for that. He’s already sexually offended her.”

“How do you know of this?”

“I saw them together just before he took off with her.” Jason saw anger flash in the Carson’s dark eyes.

“Something must be done.” He looked at Jason. “Now.” He moved to open the door. Jason put a restraining hand on his arm.

“Now is not the time. We must wait until we have more evidence against him.”

“What more is needed? You saw them together, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I am only one man.” The clouds pulled away from the moon, shedding more light on them. “We’d better go.” He drove away, careful not to look suspicious by doing so too quickly. Things were going just as he’d planned. Mercedes’ father would do anything for his daughter. Jason practically had him doing whatever he wanted. When he saw his daughter pregnant, he would immediately suspect her “sexual offender.” With a little polite persuasion, Jason would keep Mercedes from revealing the truth. Inside, only she would know he was the father. He would offer to marry her, covering up her pre-marital pregnancy, which would of course be considered a scandal if found out. Being the heiress to a considerable fortune, Mercedes would have the media chasing after her. An impromptu pregnancy would only make things harder. Her father would never want something like this to scathe his own reputation and that of his daughter’s. Jason would have no trouble persuading him into letting her marry. Who better than the man who’d saved her from poverty stricken Mexico. Of course Adrienne would have to be removed. It was a shame about the baby, but he couldn’t afford to think about that. He would have to kill her quietly, maybe make it look like a suicide. By the time he was married to Mercedes and living someplace else, Carson would have to disappear as well, making his vast fortune Mercedes’, and in turn Jason’s. Of course her teacher could testify against him in court, but with a little luck, no one would think him more than the deranged sex offender Jason clamed him to be. Mercedes would obviously also say things against him, but with her baby’s life on the line, Jason didn’t think she’d risk it. Their baby was the key to this whole operation. By the time Carson was dead, Jason would have complete control over Mercedes and the money.

***

Mercedes sat on the black leather couch in the living room, the light from the blazing fireplace in her eyes as she concentrated on a difficult calculus problem. It was nearly a month since she’d first come to Matt’s house, but everything seemed to be running smoothly. The principle had his suspicions, but he could prove nothing since it wasn’t he who’d seen her and Matt drive away after school together, just another student. It had taken a while, but she’d finally learned to relax. The threat of Jason coming for her was no longer her first thought in the morning. It no longer haunted her every dream at night. She felt so dirty when she thought about how he’d actually made her desire him, even if just for a little while. Mercedes wiped the thought from her head, once again erasing her paper in frustration.

“Need some help?” Mercedes jumped at the voice behind her. Matt smiled at her surprised reaction, coming around the couch to sit next to her.

“I guess you could say that.” She smiled ruefully, handing him the book and paper she’d been working on and pointing to the problem she was having trouble with.

“How do you feel about finals next week.” He pointed out the problem with her answer. She nodded, leaning over to make the corrections to the problem.

“O.k. I guess. I definitley need to study more for my American History class.” She blew off the eraser dust from her paper. “Otherwise, I’m good.”

“I’ll be glad when this school year is over with. Then we can relax.” His smile of anticipation dissolved at the look on Mercedes’ face.

“Matt, about that. I think I should go back to Mexico at the end of the year, or at least get my own apartment. I could get a-”

“It’s fine. Don’t feel like you’re inconveniencing me.”

“Matt, I can’t stay. It wouldn’t be right. Besides, I-” She broke off as he kissed her, forcing her mouth open before shoving tongue in her mouth, delighting in her sweet taste. He felt her shiver slightly, for once not in complete control of herself. He broke away, looking into her eyes.

“I’m in love with you, Mercedes.” He wiped away a tear that had suddenly sprung into her eyes. “If you don’t love me then-”

“It’s not that. I love you. It’s just…” Her voice trailed off as she turned her face away from him. “I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I don’t want you to love me just because I’m alone.” Mercedes looked into his eyes, searching quietly for a truth there. Matt cupped her cheek in his hand.

“You’re not alone. I love you because of so many things. I can talk to you the way I can’t talk to my friends or my parents. I feel things when I’m with you.” He pulled her to him. “Beautiful things.” He leaned down to kiss her, his muscles tensing when their lips met, as if illustrating his feelings for her. Mercedes wrapped her arms around his neck, pushing him down against the couch cushions. She giggled at his surprised reaction, bringing her face down and kissing him again, this time forcing his moth open so she could explore with her tongue. Matt quickly recovered, moving to extract his revenge. Mercedes shrieked as he pulled himself out from under her and pinned her down. She murmured in pleasure as he kissed her neck, slowly moving back up to her lips. The doorbell rang, interrupting their quiet reverie. Mercedes looked towards the open window.

“You should get that.” She whispered. Matt turned her face back to him.

“Ignore it.” He murmured. After a few moments it rang again. Matt swore, pulling himself away from Mercedes and going to answer the door. He returned a few moments later. “It was just some guy wanting to sell something.” Mercedes looked at the clock.

“At this hour?”

“Yah, I know. He sure had a nerve.” He leaned down to kiss her again, but she brushed him away, sitting up and pulling her long hair up into a ponytail.

“I have to study, and I think I remember seeing a huge stack of papers to grade by your desk.” She smiled at his disappointed look and moved to get back to her homework, trying not to think of the day she would have to leave him.

***

Mercedes sat in the cafeteria, struggling to not throw up at the strange smells around her. Her friends Sarah and Gabriella stopped their chatter, looking into their friend’s pale face. Sarah spoke up first.

“Mercedes, you barely eat anymore. Is something the problem?” Mercedes gave a shaky smile, hoping to sound convincing.

“No. I’m fine.” Gabriella didn’t look as if she believed her.

“Are you-” She almost jumped in surprise at Mercedes’ sudden interruption.

“No.” Her eyes tore into theirs.

“Sorry. It’s just there’s some rumors going around about you and Mr. Taylor. Amy said she saw the two of you-”

“I know.” Suddenly exhausted, Mercedes closed her eyes, kneading her aching head with her fingers. She got off her chair, motioning to the two to stay where they were.

“I’ll be right back. I just need to go to the nurse for an Advil.” She walked until she reached the Calculus classroom. She stopped at the sound of loud voices. One was Matt’s and the other sounded like Mr. Morgan, the principal.

“There is nothing going on between us.”

“I want to believe you, Matthew, but I can’t ignore the reports of the students here. More than one has said she’s seen you taking Mercedes to your car.”

“You believe them over me.” It was a statement, not a question.

“I have no choice but to believe them. This wouldn’t be the first time something’s happened between one of our teachers and a student.” Mercedes heard a pause. She had to strain to hear the next sentence. “I don’t want to see you fired, Matthew, but I’ve got to do my job. I can’t just leave these rumors alone.” Another pause.

“Is their anything else?” Matt’s voice sounded low, angry.

“Yes. Our school nurse told me. She isn’t sure, but… she thinks Mercedes is…pregnant.” When Matt finally spoke up his voice sounded like ice.

“Why the hell would she have any reason to assume that?”

“Mercedes constantly visits her. She said she complains of headaches, nausea and stomach cramps. Every teacher comments on how many bathroom breaks she takes, and a few students have even testified to hearing her throw up.” He paused briefly. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed this.” Matt didn’t say anything. “Look, Matthew. Mercedes is an excellent student. The best we have in fact. I would be a shame if you were mistreating her in any way.” Matt finally spoke up.

“I would never do anything to hurt her.” Mercedes heard a sigh.

“I guess that concludes our conversation.” She heard footsteps and jerked away from the door, running towards the end of the hall. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the principal exit the room. She waited a while and then rushed back to the room, but not before another strong feeling of nausea hit her. Mercedes paused for a moment, trying to get a hold of her dizziness. When it didn’t go away, she chose to ignore it, twisting the doorknob to the room. Matt was sitting on his chair, looking down at his desk and rubbing his forehead. He looked up when he saw her, his small smile disappearing at her pale expression.

“What is it?” He rose to meet her, his tone concerned.

“I…I heard your conversation.” He moved to touch her, but she pulled away. “No.
I’m not going to do anymore to jeopardize your place here.” Mercedes closed her eyes momentarily, still struggling to overcome her sick feeling. “I… I should go.” She felt her body go weak before everything went black.

***

Matt quickly reached out to catch Mercedes before she could hit the floor. Her limp body made no movement as he carried her over to his chair, setting her down gently. About a minute later, her eyes fluttered open.

“What… what happened?” She gripped the hand he held out, struggling to pull herself up.

“You fainted.” Mercedes only nodded.

“I should go. Lunch is almost over.”

“You should rest. Go see the nurse.” She shook her head, moving to rise.

“No. She’s already suspicious.”

“Then let me take you home.”

“Now? No way. That is, unless you want someone to see us.” Mercedes looked at him. “I’ll be fine.”

“You always say that, but you’re not.” Without meaning to, he raised his voice, taking hold of her shoulders and shaking her. “Would you just stop trying to hide your true feelings from me?”

“I don’t need this right now.” A sob escaped her throat.

“Mercedes… I’m sorry.” She tried to pull away, but he held her firmly.

“No. Don’t apologize.” She complied when he pulled her closer, pressing herself against him, fighting back tears. He murmured softly into her silky dark hair, stopping in shock as the doorknob suddenly turned. Matt felt Mercedes tense in his arms as the door suddenly opened. She stared, shocked, at Sarah. “Sarah I-”

“So you are with him.” She turned away, disgusted. Mercedes pulled away from Matt.

“It’s not what it looks like. Nothing’s happened.” Sarah looked at her. When she spoke, her tone was sarcastic.

“Nothing’s happened. Then why did you lie to us? Why are you sick?”

“I…I’m sorry I lied, but nothing’s happened.” She pulled Sarah around to look at her. “Please. Just believe me.” Her voice was pleading. Matt spoke up.

“Sarah, trust me. Nothing’s going on.” Sarah looked as if she were trying to decipher between what her instincts told her and what her friend was saying. She looked at Mercedes.

“Then why are you pregnant?” Her voice was quiet, disappointed.

“It’s not… it’s not Matt’s baby.”

“Whose is it then.”

“It’s…my… my step-fathers’.” She looked up into Sarah’s face, ashamed.

“Mercedes. I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t-”

“It’s fine. Just don’t tell anyone. O.k.?” Sarah nodded.

“You look sick. Why don’t you go home?"

“I’m glad someone agrees with me.” Matt smiled softly into Mercedes’ tired face.

“I’ll take you home. I still have a while before my lunch break ends because there’s a study hall today.” He breathed a sigh of relief when she nodded softly. He then turned to Sarah. “Will you go with her to get her stuff?”

“Sure.” She helped Mercedes out of the room and went with her to the senior lockers, returning in a few minutes.

“I’ll take it from here. Thanks Sarah. You’ve helped a lot.” She smiled.

“No problem.” She smiled reassuringly at Mercedes before leaving the classroom. Matt turned to her.

“Do you think you can make it out to the car by yourself? I’ll go another way and meet you there.” Mercedes nodded weakly.

“Sure.” She gathered her things before making her way out of a back door. Matt grabbed his keys and left out of the front door, walking quickly towards the back exit of the school. When he got to the car, he saw Mercedes was already there. He quickly unlocked the door before anyone could spot them. After stepping in himself, he helped her with her bag and extra books.

“Did you sign out at the desk?”

“Mhmm.” Mercedes stepped into the car; sitting down next to him and leaning her head back against the seat.

“Did anyone ask why you were leaving?”

“No.” She gave a rueful laugh, “I guess they saw how sick I looked.” She closed her eyes as Matt started the car. By the time they reached the house, she was fast asleep. Matt carried her things inside before returning for her, gingerly carrying her through the house to her room. Mercedes opened her eyes as he laid her in the bed, her soft smile warming him.

“Thanks.” She murmured. He kissed her forehead after pulling off her shoes and drawing her blanket over her body.

“Go to sleep. I’ll be home in a little while.” He walked out of the room and quietly closed the door before returning to his car and driving back to Sacred Hearts. He made it back to his room just before the bell rang for the end of study hall. Luckily no one seemed to think he’d been out for more than a simple lunch break.

***

When Matt returned, the house was silent. He went upstairs to check on Mercedes, surprised to find her still sleeping. She must have changed because she no longer wore her uniform, only a tight fitting, grey camisole and black, silk pajama pants, rolled to show off the part of her slim waist not covered by the top. Her hair was still unbound, arranged almost perfectly around her. Her dark lips formed a serene smile as he kissed her forehead, as if sensing him there. Mercedes stirred softly as he kissed her lips before her eyes fluttered open softly.

“You’re back already?” Her red lips spread open in a yawn as she lay on her back, stretching her tired body.

“Missed you, too.” Matt laughed as he leaned over to kiss her again. He had to pull away before he went to far. He pulled out some books and papers he’d been holding.

“Sarah gave me these.” He handed them to her. “She said it’s the stuff you missed.” Mercedes took them, smiling.

“Thanks.” She whispered. Matt got up from his seat on the bed.

“Are you feeling any better?” He sounded concerned for her.

“Yah. Pretty much.” She pulled herself up from the bed. “I’m still a little tired though.”

“You need to get more sleep.” She nodded absently. Matt knew she wasn’t going to take him up on the suggestion.

“I’m going to start dinner. Any preferences?”

“Nope. Anything’s o.k.” Mercedes grabbed her brush and started combing out the tangles in her hair. “I’ll be right down to help.”

“It’s just some leftovers.”

“I’ll set the table then.” She smiled, satisfied at his defeated expression. As she set out the plates, Mercedes heard him groan. “What is it?”

“I was wrong. There are no leftovers. Now I’ve got to go get something.”

“I can get it.”

“No. That’s fine.” He grabbed his coat. “I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.”

“O.k.” Mercedes smiled as he kissed her before closing the door on his way out. Feeling suddenly dizzy, she walked to the couch, leaning back against the cousions and closing her eyes. She was beginning to drift off when the doorbell rang. She opened her eyes, rubbing her forehead slowly as she made her way to the door. Opening it, she was surprised to see an older guy standing on the front porch. He turned around at the sound of the opening door, his eyes widening at the site of her.

“Mercedes?” He whispered as if overcome by emotion. Mercedes stared at him, confused.

“Yes?”

“You…you look so much like your mother.”

“Excuse me?”

“You-”

“I think you’re mixing me up with someone-” She moved to close the door. He stuck his hand out to stop her.

“No. Mercedes. I’m… I’m your father.” Mercedes stared at him, momentarily forgetting her voice.

“What?”

“I’m your-” Panic began to take over her body as his hand grasped her arm.

“Please, stop.” She struggled to wrench herself from his grip.

“Just listen to me!” His voice rose as his patience began to ebb away. “When you were just a little girl you were taken from me. I have spent my whole life searching-”

“You actually expect me to walk away with a total stranger?”

“Yes.” He looked at her, his tense features softening. “If we are to get away from him we must.” He proceeded to pull her out of the house.

“Him?” This time Mercedes succeeded in pulling away from him, struggling to ignore the pounding of the migraine in her head.

“The man who holds you here.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what you mean.” He didn’t seem to hear her.

“We must leave now!” He grabbed hold of her body, shocked by its sudden limpness. Her eyes were closed, and the sound of her breathing was faint. Quickly bringing her back in the house, he gently laid her on the couch, careful not to hurt her too much.

Carson looked at his daughter, enamored by her beautiful features. She looked just like his late wife, her mother. He brushed her cheek with the back of his hand, marveling at the softness of her skin and the fullness of her deep red lips. Her thick black hair fell in soft waves all the way down to her slim waist. Carson sighed. He hadn’t meant to scare her; he was just anxious to have his daughter back in his care. If what Jason said was true about this man who held her, she was caught in a grave situation. His head snapped up at the sound of a car in the driveway, and the quick footsteps of someone.

“Mercedes!” Someone whose voice he couldn’t recognize neared the house. Carson only managed to grab his daughter’s body before he saw a man run into the open door.

***

Matt barely even took a moment to take in the scene in front of him: an unknown man with Mercedes’ limp, motionless body in his arms.

“Put her down.” The stranger made no move to do as he was commanded. Matt saw determination as well as fear in his black eyes.

“I'm her father, and you, sir, deserve nothing less than life imprisonment for what you’ve done to her.” Matt opened his mouth to speak just as Mercedes murmured softy in her father’s arms. When she spoke, her voice was barely higher than a whisper.

“Matt?” He took a few steps towards her.

“Don’t touch her.” Mercedes eyes sprung open at the sound of a familiar, yet unidentifiable voice in the room. Matt saw her body tense as her eyes took in the face of her captor.

“Why-” Carson interrupted her.

“It’s o.k. Mercedes. He can’t do anything else to you.”

“Matt, what’s he talking about?” Mercedes felt her body beginning to tremble. She looked at Carson, fear written all over her face. “Just let me go… please.” She burst into tears when his grip on her tightened. Both men looked at her. Matt swiftly walked towards her, catching Carson off guard when he grabbed Mercedes, pulling her shaking body into his own arms.

“Give me back my daughter you bastard or I swear I’ll kill you.”

“I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing here. Do you honestly think I’d give Mercedes up to a total stranger?”

“You can’t want her anymore. You’ve already used her. Just give her to me and-” Mercedes interrupted, her voice weak though determined.

“Matt didn’t do anything to me.”

“What?”

“He didn’t use me.”

“There is no reason you should try to save him.”

“He is the only person here can actually make me feel like I’m someone special, not something to be used at my own expense.” She paused, looking at Carson so he could see the truth. “I love him.”

The room went completely silent. Carson looked at his daughter. She looked perfectly happy where she was: in her offender’s arms. Carson had seen how the panic disappeared from her face when he’d taken her from him. He saw how she melted when he kissed her. Mercedes interrupted his reverie. When she spoke her words were not directed towards him.

“Matt…I need to-” Matt nodded, quickly letting her down so she could go to the bathroom where she quickly threw up. Carson looked at Matt.

“Is she sick?”

“She’s pregnant.” Matt saw fury in the other mans dark eyes.

“Did you do it?”

“I would never do anything to hurt Mercedes.” Carson didn’t respond so Matt turned the conversation towards a different direction.

“What proof have you that you’re her father?” Carson pulled out his I.D. Matt looked at it, surprised.

“You’re Carson Hughes?” Matt sounded doubtful.

“I am.”

“You’re really Mercedes’ father?” Carson nodded, remaining silent for a moment more.

“If you did anything to her-”

“I don’t know where you’re getting the idea that I’m the one who’s hurt her. I took her away from that kind of environment.”

“Who, may I ask then, is the name of the man whose done this to her.” Matt ignored the mocking tone in the other man’s voice.

“Jason Bennet.” He saw Carson’s face freeze, his eyes staring through him as if trying to determine whether or not he was telling the truth.

“You’re sure of this?”

“You sound like you know Jason. What connections would you have with a guy like him?” Carson didn’t answer.

“I’ll leave my daughter with you until tomorrow. I think I can trust you, and Mercedes looks like she could use some more sleep.” He left the room abruptly, walking out the door and back to his black Jaguar parked in the driveway, leaving Matt puzzled as to his sudden change in his behavior.

***

Jason grasped Adrienne’s waist with one hand while running his other one down the naked perfection of her body. She was beautiful, though nowhere near as gorgeous as Mercedes. She was also more timid. Her responses to his kisses and the way she touched him were innocent, nowhere near as experienced as Mercedes’. She wanted him; that was clear enough, but Matt couldn’t help but think of her as just another vent for his frustrations.

He bit her neck before returning to her lips, hungrily plunging his tongue into her mouth. Adrienne murmured softly as he turned her over and kissed her lower waist. Jason couldn’t help but remember Mercedes at that point. Her soft skin, the silky sweetness of her lips, the hot feeling of her body. He felt himself beginning to sweat as he pressed himself harder against Adrienne in a desperate effort to remember what it felt like to be with Mercedes. She felt nothing like her. Jason pulled away, frustrated.

“What’s the matter?” She murmured.

“Nothing. I-” A series of hard pounding knocks at the door interrupted him. He groaned, irritated as he pulled himself off the bed and walked lazily to the door. The maid, a heavy sleeper, obviously hadn’t heard it. Jason walked down the stairs and opened the door, not bothering to erase the angry look from his face. He was surprised to see Carson standing at the door, his face anything but tranquil. Jason rubbed his forehead, trying to think of a reason as to why he was there. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“In saw Mercedes tonight.” Jason looked at the older man, his face a mixture of emotions, one of them fear.

“I told you to wait until we had more evidence against him.”

“My daughter is in danger. Did you actually think I’d wait? You said he violated her. I thought that would be enough evidence for me to go after him.”

“You jeopardize everything.” Carson didn’t respond.

“He said you did it.” Jason froze, but only for a moment.

“What?”

“He said you violated her.” Jason laughed, sarcastically.

“And you believed him.”

“No. But I did see the way Mercedes responds to him. I did see the way he trusts her. She could leave at any time and come back here.” Carson stepped closer to him. “Why doesn’t she, Jason? Why does she stay with a man whom you claim abuses her?" Jason stared at him, unable to come up with an appropriate comeback.

“He’s obviously put her under some kind of threat.”

“I saw the way she clings to-”

“She depends on him.” His voice was loud, frustrated.

“I’m not so sure.” He turned away, leaving Jason standing at the door. “The only one I will trust in this matter is my daughter.” Carson looked back. “She will tell me which one of you defiled her.”


***

-Evening- 2 days later-

Matt watched Mercedes as she reclined against him on the black leather couch. Her eyelids drifting partially closed as she struggled to stay awake. He smiled as she finally drifted off and relaxed in his lap, her features serene. He switched off the TV just as Mercedes murmured softly in his arms, her eyes remaining closed. He leaned over to kiss her, softly caressing her lips with his before attacking them more passionately. Mercedes’ spine tingled in pleasure as Matt’s forced his tongue into her mouth, softly exploring the warm crevices of her mouth, gently waking her from her dreamless reverie. She opened her eyes, laying back against the couch, pulling him down with her so he was on top of her. Mercedes slowly licked her lips, enamoring him with the sensuous movements of her tongue. She smiled, closing her eyes as kissed her neck, his hands trailing up and down her waist, slowly moving under her shirt and caressing her bare skin.

Matt smiled as Mercedes’ breathing quickened, enjoying her quickening pulse under his lips. He found he liked to tease her. She caught him off guard, her hands grabbing his as they trailed farther up her body. She looked at him, bringing one hand to her neck and the other to her mouth, slowly parting her lips and placing two of his fingers between them and licking them with her tongue. Matt felt his breath quicken, his control quickly ebbing away. Mercedes smiled at his confused expression, taking his fingers from her mouth and letting her full red lips caress his palm before bringing his face down to hers, letting her lips meet his. Matt felt pleasure curse down his spine as she pressed her lips against his. He didn’t give her time to finish, instead returned her kiss with equal passion before moving back down to her neck, his hands resuming their original path up her waist. Mercedes gently pushed him away, turning around so her back was to him. She closed her eyes as his hands began to caress her lower waist, gently kneading her smooth skin with his fingers before replacing them with his lips. He moved back up, licking her warm flesh. She tasted so good, like strawberries. Matt felt her sigh in pleasure under him, allowing him complete use of her body.

A knock at the door startled them both. Matt pulled away from Mercedes, swearing vilely. She giggled, pulling away from under him and straitening her clothes. Smiling sensuously, she raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.

“Aren’t you going to get that?” He nodded reluctantly, walking towards the door. Opening the door, he was surprised to see Jason.

“I’m surprised you had the guts to show up here.” Jason laughed sarcastically.

“I’m here to reclaim something that belongs to me.”

“Mercedes has no wish to return with you.”

“She’s my daughter.” His words were hard, unfeeling. Matt interrupted him with a cold laugh.

“As believable as that sounds, Mercedes’ is not your daughter. Her real father came by for her yesterday.”

“Then why isn’t she with him?” Matt ignored the question.

“Why are you here?”

“Carson knows I did it.”

“So you admit it; just like that.”

“Freely. He still has no proof. What you say does not matter. It only matters what Mercedes knows. She knows her baby is mine, and with a little harmless persuasion she won’t tell anyone.” He looked around Matt’s shoulders to Mercedes, who had only recently appeared in the hallway. He smiled. “Isn’t that right, my love? With our baby’s life on the line, you wouldn’t dare breathe a word; because that would make you a murderer.” Mercedes stared at him, trying to comprehend on how to answer.

“You would kill our baby and then call me the murderer?” Jason stepped inside, and despite Matt’s restraining arm, Mercedes stepped closer. He reached out to caress her cheek, but she veered away sharply.

“No, my love.” He whispered. “You would kill it. You could… have an abortion.” He saw the look on her face and laughed. “Of course you need not do this if you convince your father that I’ve done nothing to you.” He knew Mercedes would never kill her baby. He knew she would feel she had no choice but to do as he commanded.

“I could tell him everything.” Now things were taking a different turn.

“You could.” He paused. “You could if you want me following you after I finish my prison sentence. You could if you want me to kill you myself.” Mercedes sucked in her breath involuntarily, then quickly composed herself, but not before Jason spotted fear in her eyes.

“You wouldn’t.”

“Watch me.” He reached out to grab Mercedes, his fist landing squarely into Matt’s face, momentarily knocking him out.

“What are you doing?” Mercedes screamed as he pulled her out the door.

“You’re going to tell your father I saved you from another raping.” He shoved her in the car.

“I can’t.”

“Do you want me to-”

“Kill me then.” Her voice was more controlled than her features. “I won’t accuse him of something you did.” Jason stared at her, beginning to see the truth in her eyes. He knew she meant what she said. He’d known her long enough to understand she wouldn’t change her mind no mater what form of torture he used to extract what he wanted from her.

“You’re of no use to me then.” Before she could react, Jason knocked her out, quickly driving the car towards a nearby deserted riverbank. He pulled her out of the car as he decided where to dump her. He could feel his desire quickly rising at the closeness of her body, wishing she was conscious so he could rape her one more time. Jason stepped closer towards the muddy bank. Much to his chagrin, he slipped, dropping Mercedes along the muddy water. Swearing, Jason ran his dirty hands through his hair. He hadn’t meant for that to happen. All he’d wanted was for it to look like Matt had left her for dead here. Instead, he’d probably only succeeded in killing the baby, his ticket to Mercedes. Sighing, Jason walked back to the car. He couldn’t afford to think about that now. Looking around quickly, he stepped in the car and turned on the motor, swiftly driving out of the area.

***

Carson stepped out of his black Jaguar, walking quickly when he saw the front door to the house was open. Matt lay in the doorway, a thin stream of blood, running down his lower lip, his eyes closed. Carson shook him, not caring if he was in any way injured. Matt slowly opened his eyes, his confused expression infuriating the other man.

“Where the hell is my daughter?” Matt rubbed his head, sitting up slowly.

“Jason. He took her.” Suddenly realizing the truth, he pulled himself up, ignoring his sudden spell of dizziness. “I’ve got to find her.” Carson held him back, his eyes cold.

“You’re taking me with you.” He paused. “If anything happened-”

“We’ll find her.” He pulled his coat out of the closet by the front door, running out to his mustang in the driveway. Yanking open the front door, he stepped in, quickly starting the car as Carson joined him on the passengers side. They were just driving down the roads when Carson’s phone rang. Looking at it, he could tell by the phone number it was Jason.

“What is it?” His voice was gruff.

“I’ve found your daughter.” Carson straightened visibly, his interests peaked.

“Where is she?” Jason ignored the question.”

“Looks like someone just dropped her down here.”

“Where are you?”

“Down by the steep bank near the woods. By the-”

“I know where that is.” Carson barked. He paused. “Is she… hurt?"

“She’s got a bad bruise on her head, and she’s knocked out.”

“I’ll be there.” His voice was strangely quiet. He hung up and stared ahead. Matt spoke up.

“Well?”

“She’s by that creek a few roads down near the woods. You know where that is?” Matt nodded. In a matter of minutes they were there. Matt jumped out of the car and raced the several hundred feet towards the creek. He stopped near the edge of the steep muddy bank, glancing over to see Jason bent over Mercedes’ still body. He looked up at the sound of Matt’s approaching footsteps.

“She’s unconscious.” Matt paid no attention to him, and instead bent over towards her body, gently stroking her mud stained cheek. Carson came up behind them, still panting from the long run. He knelt down besides Mercedes, moving to lift her. Matt put out a restraining hand.

“Don’t touch her! She shouldn’t be moved in this condition.” Mercedes stirred softly at that moment, moaning at the pain in her head. She murmured softly as her eyes fluttered open. Matt bent closer towards her, trying desperately to find out what she was saying.

“What is it, Mercedes?"

“Where am I?” Her voice was weak. She looked at Matt. “Do I know you?” Matt pulled away from her, his face grim.

“She doesn’t remember.” He looked at Jason, but his face betrayed nothing.

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