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Reflections and Revelations
Daniel smiled as he watched Casey. They were in Sam Goodie’s, and she was looking through the CDs; for what, he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure that she knew either. But she was looking anyway, her hips moving slightly to the beat of the music that came from speakers in the ceiling. Breakfast had been fun; she had been full of laughter and she had been playful, pouring the different flavors of syrup on her fingers for him to sample. She seemed like her old self again, that flash of insecurity gone now. Maybe, he thought to himself, he'd just imagined it. No, his mind argued, something is bothering her. Something that she’s having trouble hiding now.
He crossed his arms over his chest, leaned against one of the display racks and watched her. She tossed her hair back over her shoulder as she reached for a CD. She read the back, returned it to its appropriate place, moved on.
Two young men standing just down the aisle had noticed her, Daniel realized. A grin on his face, he continued to watch. The young men moved closer, the one with the black beard was now beside her.
"Hi," Blackbeard said, grinning at her.
Daniel’s grin widened at the look of surprise on her face when the stranger spoke to her. She immediately began to look around. When her eyes found him, locked with his for just a second, he could see her visibly relax. The sudden flash of fear in her eyes concerned him. What was that about?
Casey was surprised when the young man beside her spoke. Where was Daniel? Usually when he was with her men didn’t bother her. That’s why she was having so much fun today. There he was, just leaning there, looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. His blue eyes were filled with love, and her heart beat her love against her ribs when he smiled at her. She smiled back. "Oh, hi," she finally said, glancing up at the stranger beside her. She hated being rude, and all he had done so far was say hi.
"Not many people in here today," the young man said.
"No, but then, it’s a weekday," Casey replied.
"True. So, what brings you here on a weekday?" The young man had taken a step, bringing him closer, almost invading her personal space.
Casey took half a step backwards. "My Husband," she answered, a friendly smile on her face.
Daniel almost laughed at the crestfallen look on Blackbeard’s face. That’s right, buddy, he thought. That beautiful woman is mine. All mine. She probably hasn’t even looked at your face. Even if she has, she won’t remember it as long as it takes us to leave here.
"Oh. Cool," the young man answered. "Well, good luck finding what you’re looking for." He moved to rejoin his friend.
She looked up at Daniel, and for a moment, that look flashed in her eyes again. For just a brief second, she looked as if she were going to cry. "I didn’t do anything, really," she said softly, not looking at him.
"What?" he asked. What the hell was that supposed to mean? Daniel wondered.
"I didn’t do anything to make him talk to me," she whispered.
"Babe, I know that. I was standing right here. Can’t blame the guy. You’re beautiful. You’re sexy. No guy who’s breathing and likes girls is going to pass up the chance to at least say hello to you," Daniel responded, a smile on his face.
A look of panic crossed her features. Without a word she strode past him and into the wide corridor of the mall.
He caught up with her outside the door. She was standing there, staring into the window at the displays, her arms wrapped around herself tightly, her entire body shaking visibly. "Casey, babe, what’s wrong?"
"I’m a slut," she whispered.
Daniel looked hard at her. She had said something similar last night, well, early this morning…
"Daniel, can I ask you something?" There was something in her eyes. Fear?
"Sure, babe. You know you can ask me anything."
"Do you think…well…am I a…slut…because of what we did? Am I a slut ‘cause I liked it?"
He couldn’t help but laugh. "No babe, you’re not a slut. Nothing that we do to show our love to one another could ever make you a slut."
Her smile had been one of relief. But now there was doubt, fear in her eyes. Daniel felt as if he had been hit with a brick when realization flooded his mind. Someone, somewhere, had told her that she was a slut because men were attracted to her. Probably had told her that she was a slut if she enjoyed sex. Ex-husband Kenny? Or did this go back even further? She hadn’t been afraid before, what had triggered all of this?
He put his arm around her shoulders. She leaned against him, slid her arm around his waist. Her body was still trembling. "Looks like it could snow some more. How about we go pick up some Chinese, and sit in front of a great big fire?" Maybe there she would relax enough that he could find out what was going on.
She smiled up at him. "Sounds heavenly," she replied. Yes, please, take me home, she thought. Get me away from these people, these men who look at me that way. Let me prove to you that I love only you. Let me prove that even if I’m a slut, I can still be a good wife.
She was smiling, but there was something in the depths of her eyes; fear, panic, something he couldn’t identify. He pulled her closer, laid his lips against her hair. He had a sudden feeling that he was on the verge of losing her. His heart constricted in his chest. He was going to find out what was going on. No way in hell was he letting her go.
A A A A A A
Casey stared out the window as they drove. Daniel had ordered their food on his cell phone, it was ready when they stopped to pick it up. Now they were going home. She shivered slightly. He must have noticed, because he adjusted the heat, then took her hand in his, lifting it gently to his lips. The action nearly broke her resolve not to cry. She had to tell him. She couldn’t hide it any longer. He had to know about her. Probably already did. Then…she took an unsteady breath. Then she could only hope that he would still love her. She'd thought she could hide, that being in Colorado would make a difference. For awhile she had been so happy. So free. Just like she had briefly been in Tacoma. All it had taken was to see that woman…the one who looked like her adoptive mother…for the past to come crashing down on her. The knowledge of what she was. That she could never change. Look at her behavior for the past, how many years?…that was the ‘proof in the pudding’, wasn’t it? Once a slut, always a slut. Little whore. Always flaunting herself. Even when she never meant to. She had trained herself to ignore men to the point she honestly didn’t even see them anymore. But they still looked at her. Talked to her. Can’t cry. Mustn’t cry.
Daniel built a fire while she cleared off the coffee table and arranged their food on it. They leaned back against the sofa, watching the flames, sharing their meal. He noticed she wasn’t eating much. She loved General Tsao’s chicken, now she was merely pushing it around in the container. With a sigh, he took the container from her, put it and his on the table, and pulled her to lean against him. "Babe, something is wrong. I know it. I can see it in your eyes. Can you tell me about it?"
Casey leaned against him, breathed deep of his scent, took comfort from his arms. She trembled, then sighed. "I guess it was bound to come out sooner or later. You probably already know."
"Know what, babe?"
"That I’m a slut. A whore." Her voice broke slightly.
Daniel sat up, took her face between his hands and looked at her. "Who in the hell fed you that line of shit?"
Her heart leapt in her throat at his words. Did she dare hope? "I…the way I…uh…look…the way I act…I’m…I’m a-" she stopped when he put his finger on her lips.
"Don’t you dare say that word again. You are not a slut. You sure as hell aren’t a whore!" Daniel was getting angry. If he found out that Kenny bastard had done this, he was going to find that sorry SOB and tear him limb from limb! "You're beautiful. Yes, you’re damned sexy. You have an incredible, delightful sense of humor. You’re so full of life and sunshine that people flock to be near you. None of that makes you…what you said," He told her, not even willing to use that damned word himself.
Tears spilled from her eyes, down her cheeks. She reached trembling fingers up to touch his face. "You really don’t think…you really…"
He caught her hand and held it to his lips. "Babe, I love you so much it hurts. I don’t understand how you could think that I would think such terrible things about you. Just because of the way you look…because of the incredible fire that burns so bright in you? Please, Casey, tell me who told you this…who hurt you this badly? Who told you that you're…that? Please tell me." So I can kill him…or her, his mind added.
She moved away from him, pulled her legs up against her chest. She was surprised when Daniel stood up and positioned himself so that he was behind her, her back against his chest, his arms and legs around her. She leaned back against him, relaxed, let his comfort surround her, give her strength. She took a deep breath. "You know I’m adopted."
Daniel wasn’t about to let her pull away from him, physically or emotionally. He rested his chin on her shoulder. "I know," he said softly.
"Well…it-" her voice choked, tears slid down her cheeks. "That woman at the grocery store…she looked…it…I…"
"Take your time, babe. We have all the time we need," he whispered, his fingers wiping the tears from her skin.
She sighed. "I was five when she and Dad adopted me. I don’t really remember much about where I was. Just bits and pieces. Like a hospital. It was an orphanage, some sort of institution, I guess. I don’t know that I was happy there, but I don’t remember being unhappy. I remember the first time I saw them. The sister took me into this big office, and they were there. He looked nice, but she looked…scary," Casey said. "She had this…look...angry look...on her face."
Daniel nodded, knowing that she would feel the movement against her shoulder.
"The sister told me that these people were going to be my new mommy and daddy. I was so excited. I guess I was hopping up and down, and the woman started frowning at me, and told me that good little girls should always behave like little ladies."
Daniel blanched. What the hell kind of woman would get upset at a five-year-old’s exuberance, especially an orphan who has just learned that she’d been adopted?
"I immediately stood still, I remember being terrified that I had made her angry and that she wouldn’t want me. The man, Dad, looked at her funny, and shook his head, but he didn’t say anything. That was the way it went…he’d give her that look, but he never said anything. He tried to run interference between us, but…except for making sure that I always had the Walkman he bought me, he never…" She shook her head. "She and I never did bond. I wasn’t the perfect little blonde angel she wanted. I heard her say that on the phone one day. No matter how hard I tried, I was always getting dirty, and ripping my dresses; I loved climbing trees and playing ball and making mud pies-"
Daniel grinned at the image of her as a child.
"-but I was supposed to be this little princess who never got dirty, who always played ‘nice’ with her dolls…I only took the head off because I wanted to know how the eyes worked," she said.
Daniel chuckled out loud.
"I didn’t realize that if you comb a doll’s hair too much it will come out. I got yelled at a lot. Got my fair share of spankings, too. I got in so much trouble the day I decided I wanted to be Wonder Woman. I took one of her good tablecloths, I didn’t realize it was a good one, found a safety pin, and turned it into my cape. Then I got a piece of rope from the garage, it was my Truth Lariat, and I climbed up on top of the garage with the neighbor boy, he was Superman, and just before we could jump off…we were going to fly, you see…Dad drove up."
Daniel was laughing now. "That had to be something to see."
Casey smiled. "I guess it would be. Dad was grinning, and told me to jump into his arms. I did, but when we turned around she was standing there, and she was so angry. She yanked me out of Dad’s arms, and spanked me all the way into the house. She told me I was going to be the death of her, and all she had ever wanted was a quiet good little girl, and that she wished she’d never signed the papers to adopt me. I spent the rest of the day and that night locked in my room. I didn’t even get dinner that night. She came in to make sure I was in my pajamas and told me again that I was a bad, dirty little girl, and that she wished she’d never found me."
"Goddamn bitch!" It was out before Daniel could stop it.
Casey grinned. "My feelings exactly. Only not at the time. I cried, and told her I was sorry, and that I could be a good girl…gods, I remember that for a week I actually managed that. She was so happy, kept telling me what a good little girl I was. I might have been good, but I was dying inside. I remember that very well." She took a deep breath, shivered as memories locked away for years began to flood her mind. Daniel pulled her tighter against his chest, locking her in his embrace. She let her hands roam over his arms.
"I was seven when they adopted Sheryl. She was blonde too, big blue eyes. She was everything I wasn’t. She was always clean, always played quietly in her room…she was boring as hell! She never wanted to do anything with me. But she and…her…were thick as thieves. I was never allowed to help bake cookies. Sheryl helped all the time. I was so jealous of Sheryl that I took scissors and cut all her hair off. I got sent to Grandma Rose’s for the rest of the summer for that. Best thing that ever happened to me. Grandma Rose not only let me climb trees, she had a neighbor build me a tree house. She helped me make mud pies. And when I wanted to be Wonder Woman, she bought the outfit for me. Goddess, I loved her," Casey sighed. "I loved being with Grandma Rose. I spent a lot of time with her; I was always doing something that made…her…crazy." Casey took a deep breath. "That’s the way it went while I grew up. It got worse once I…developed. She was always heavy, and Sheryl was too. Too damned many cookies I think. But I was always skinny, and she didn’t seem to care whether I ate or not. I’d get angry, and refuse to eat dinner, so she’d just take my plate and send me to my room." She could feel Daniel stiffen behind her.
"You were just a kid, for crying out loud," he said.
"Yeah, well… Anyway, I kept growing, reached 5’7" while Sheryl stayed at 5’3". She kept gaining weight, she had to start wearing a bra before I did. But when I developed, well, it looked like I had more than she did. Guys were starting to notice me, and they would call and come around. That’s when she informed me that I was a slut. Guys only flock around girls who are sluts."
Daniel flinched. From the way Casey was telling him this, he could tell that she had accepted her adoptive mother’s opinion. He was going to change that. She was not going to harbor the belief that she was any kind of slut!
"I made a lot of friends in school…I was always making people laugh. I like making people laugh. I enjoyed school so much that I would intentionally get into trouble so that I could have detention. That was time I didn’t have to spend at home. She refused to let me or Sheryl do anything…she took us to school, she picked us up…we never left the house without her. We didn’t get to go to Girl Scouts because she said that little ladies didn’t need to do things like camping. Guess she never realized there was more to scouts than camping. I was sixteen when I started rebelling. She and I would have a fight, and I’d leave the house, and when I’d come home, all the doors and windows would be locked. Dad made sure there were blankets in the garage, and that the back garage door was open. I spent a lot of nights in that garage. Then Sheryl saw me kissing my boyfriend. She went home and told…her."
"How old was…is Sheryl?" Daniel asked. He refused to comment on her being locked out of her home. If he did, he might say something he’d regret. Or not.
"She’s a year younger than me. I knew that she and her boyfriend were having sex, because I walked in on them. She had gone to the store, and there Sheryl was, banging Brad Thorton in her bed. I never said a word. But, according to my…to her, I was a slut and a whore for kissing Ricky. When she asked if I had liked kissing him, and I said yes, she started screaming that only whores enjoyed that kind of thing. She said that she had known from the beginning that I was a slut…a whore. She wanted to kick me out, but for once Dad stood up to her."
"Gee, big of him," Daniel said, unable to keep the sarcasm from his voice. Casey squeezed his hands in hers.
"If Grandma Rose had still been alive, I imagine he would have just sent me to live with her. She wasn’t, so…" she shrugged. "I managed to get good enough grades, got a scholarship and went to Western U in Bellingham. It was great, I got to live in the dorm, I was away from Sheryl, who spied and tattled all the time, and I was away from…her. She'd started calling me 'The Slut' and 'Little Whore'."
Daniel heard the capital letters on the awful names. He cringed at what those names could…and did…do to a fragile teen’s psyche.
"I always knew my…she… was different…"
"You mean psychotic, don’t you?" Daniel didn’t bother trying to disguise the anger in his voice.
Casey twisted around and looked at him. "You’re right. Nobody could do the things she did to a child and not be." She turned this thought over in her mind. It formed a crack in the fear that had held her prisoner for so long
"Go on, babe, I’m listening."
"I never got to finish college, my scholarships ran out, and my grades weren’t that good. I wasn’t partying all the time, honest! I was working all the time. I worked at the library on campus, and waited tables at a local steak house. I was working forty hours a week just at the restaurant. I decided that what I really wanted was just a life of my own. So I left Western, went to a local business school, and got a two year degree in office administration. Then I found a good job. I had it until-" she broke off.
"Until you were abducted," he said softly.
She nodded. "I had worked my way up to office manager."
"So where does Kenny fit into all of this?"
Casey laughed, but the sound lacked mirth. "Oh, that was one of the worst days of my life, although I didn’t think so then. Kelley and I worked together, we were absolutely best friends. We shared an apartment, one bedroom, twin beds. We both talked a good game, but we were both virgins. I loved to flirt and dance and have fun, but I always tried to let the guys around know that I wasn’t interested in anything really happening. I would never even let a guy touch me, let alone kiss me. I was trying so hard not to be slut, a whore. There were rumors that Kelley and I were…lesbians. Kept a lot of the jerks from bothering us," Casey admitted with a giggle.
"Anyway, one night I met Kenny at this club we used to go to a lot. He was good looking, lots of fun, and easy to talk to. He told me that he wasn’t looking for any kind of a relationship, and I told him I wasn’t either. For six months we were just good buddies. We had so much fun together. Then he found out that I was a virgin. He changed, started treating me…differently. Went out of his way to be sweet, he basically started courting me. I was too stupid to realize that while he was…courting me…he was still putting notches on his bedpost. Too stupid to realize that I was a challenge, that all he really wanted was to take my virginity. Eventually he wore me down, and when he proposed, I said yes. He insisted on meeting my folks, and he actually asked my dad for permission to marry me. He charmed…her, to the point that when I filed for divorce she told me that if I followed through, not to come home, that he was a saint to marry me at all, and to put up with me, I was such a slut and a whore. You see, he convinced her that I was the one who was cheating on him, not visa versa."
"What made you file for divorce?" Daniel asked.
"I came home from work, caught him in bed with our neighbor. Worst part, he didn’t even miss a stroke, he just asked me to join them!"
Daniel groaned. He was definitely going to find this guy and kill him.
"She and I got into this big fight, right there at the courthouse, when I went in to get my divorce. She screamed at me that I was a slut and a whore and told me that I deserved whatever pain I got in life. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since. I used to call Dad every once in awhile, but I could tell that he was uncomfortable talking to me. So I quit bothering him."
Daniel winced at the fact that this sweet, beautiful woman would feel that she was bothering her father with her phone calls. He pulled her closer.
She took a shuddering breath. "So, now you know."
"Babe, I want you to listen to me, listen very carefully, okay?"
This had to be said face to face. He turned her around, so that she was facing him. He stretched his long legs out, let her straddle him, then wreathed her face with his hands. He held her eyes with his own. "Never, ever, at any time have you been a slut or a whore. Never. Ever. You're beautiful. I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. You are sexy. You are sensual. You have the most wicked sense of humor I’ve ever known. You’re brave. You’re smart. You can light up a room with your smile. None of those things makes you anything but an incredible woman. You are not a slut. Say that Casey. Say it."
"I am not a slut," she said slowly.
"Say it again, babe. You are not a slut."
"I am not a slut." Tears formed in her eyes, one rolled down her cheek, over his fingers.
"Again. Believe it when you say it."
"I am not a slut." Her heart was pounding against her ribs. What she had known all of her life began to force it’s way to the front of her brain. It further cracked the fear that held her trapped. She wasn’t a slut! She wasn’t a whore!
"Keep saying it, babe," Daniel whispered. He watched her eyes, watched the battle that raged in her soul. "You are not a slut."
"I am not a slut…I am not a slut. I am not a slut!"
"That’s right. You are not a slut. You never have been. You never will be." Daniel lowered his head; his lips, his mouth, conveying his message to her body. She was shaking, her lips trembled beneath his. He gently pushed her head onto his shoulder. "Cry it out, babe. And when the tears are gone, you’ll be free of this, I promise. It can’t hurt you anymore. She can’t hurt you anymore." One hand held her neck, holding her against him, the other worked slowly up and down her back.
Casey felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. She hiccupped a sob, then a wail of pain escaped from her, the sound tearing at his heart. Tears of pain, of anger, of freedom, of joy, coursed over her cheeks. Daniel’s shirt was wet from her tears. His own face was wet as he held her while she cried.
Eventually the sobs abated. Each breath still brought a shiver, but she had stopped crying. Damn, what this woman has endured, he thought, pulling her closer. What a testament to her spirit that she was as open, as honest, as friendly, as happy as she was. God, how he loved her!
"So, I’m not a slut?"
He caught the hint of a smile in her words. "Not even close. Not even in the same galaxy."
"Not even when I dress like one and act like one?"
"If you’re talking about last night, you weren’t and you didn’t."
She pulled away from him, looked into his eyes, a smile just barely lifting the corners of her sweet lips. "No?"
"Last night you were my Fantasy Angel. My Wife. The woman I love more than life itself. A woman who, for whatever reason, loves me enough to have offered me the most precious gift a man could receive…herself. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you gave me, Casey. Never. I can only hope to try to be worthy of you."
Her eyes widened at his words. The green depths reflected the love that pounded in her veins. "Oh, Daniel, I love you so much!" She kissed him, her trembling lips offering more than her words ever could.
He kissed her back, slanted his mouth over hers and slid his tongue into her sweet mouth. He held her close, tasting her…the taste familiar and right and all that he ever needed. He deepened the kiss, trying to tell her with his lips, his tongue, what words didn’t seem capable of conveying. When at last he pulled away from her, he was content that she had received the message. "I love you, Casey. Don’t you ever forget that."
She shook her head. "I won’t. I can’t." She snuggled against him. "So it’s not slutty to say I enjoyed last night?
"Nope. Did you?"
"Oh, yes," she breathed, leaving no doubt in his mind that she had enjoyed their night as much as he had.
"Ever be willing to try it again?" He asked, his heart pounding in his chest, his groin already tightening.
Wench, he thought, grinning. "Any or all of it."
"Oh, I think I could be convinced. Of any or all of it."
"Now you’re just being a tease," he said, working his fingers against her ribs, delighting in her squeal and laughter.
Her hands were against his ribs, poking and squeezing, making him jerk and laugh. They continued to tickle one another until they were out of breath.
"Daniel, I promise to ask this only once, okay?" She said, once she had caught her breath.
"Does it bother you that I enjoyed…you know…" she said, suddenly shy.
A wicked grin crossed his face. "Does it bother me that you enjoyed me pounding into your sweet backdoor? No, it doesn’t. It makes me…excited…that you enjoyed it."
She shivered, this time from the thought of what they might do…again. "So, you wouldn’t mind…uh…doing it again?"
His heart nearly stopped, his breath caught in his throat. "Mind? Oh hell no! Anytime you want, babe."
It was his turn to shiver. He pulled himself to his feet, and offered her his hand. "I have to ask you a question, and I want an honest answer."
"Did it hurt you at all? Did it bring back any…unpleasant memories? I want the truth, Casey."
"No memories. We were making love, Daniel, nothing could penetrate my mind but our love. It didn’t hurt…well, just for a few seconds when you first went in…but honest, it was nothing, really."
He looked at her for a moment, then nodded, satisfied with her answer. He took her hand and led her to the bedroom.
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