Suspiciously Obedient

Page 11

Murmured voices in a back room told him that Lydia was here, and his heart began to pound against his pecs, against his bones, the ribs desperate to expand enough to accommodate the swell of his need. This need was different, not driven by the blood that rushed to his southern parts, but rather blood that pumped through his veins, coursing through, transporting a deep, soulful desire to spend his remaining decades with her. Building a life with Lydia was all that mattered right now. Matt Jones had forged a wonderful beginning with her. Could Michael Bournham take over and make a lifetime happen?

Her form appeared suddenly at the end of a long hallway, and her shoulders told him exactly how she felt, squared and lifted high, her breasts resting beautifully above the swell of her waist and hips. She wore a soft, blue flannel set of pajamas, casual and relaxed. He wanted mornings with her, coffee at the breakfast table, lounging in bed reading the paper. Bed. A day in bed with her could get him through decades of life if that were all he had. A nagging memory of being in this apartment just last night, of being in her bed, of the invitation to enter her world as much as he had entered her body, all snapped shut the second she opened her mouth.

“No camera crew?” she said. “Mike, you’re slipping.”

Mike. The way she said his name with such acid tones forced a hot ball of lead into his belly, choking his throat. Only she could have this effect on him. No woman ever had—then again, he’d never made love to a woman on video and had it go viral. After a billion people watch you make love, where do you hide? Lydia was trying her damnedest here in this apartment in Cambridge.

Silver hair followed by China-blue eyes filled the room, sucking the air out of her lungs and making all the blood in her body rush to her V. There stood Michael Bournham, his body encased in some sort of shimmery gray t-shirt, made from an impossibly fine fabric, and jeans that looked painted on by Michelangelo himself. Sunglasses hung from a strap around his neck, and his look was of such intensity that the rest of the world melted away, breaking apart molecule by molecule as everything converged into one, simple atom.


“Lydia,” he said, and his voice seemed different. Smokier. More commanding. In her heart she knew this was Matt. Matt Jones. The same man she'd hated, then grudgingly liked, then pined for, and finally submitted to—eagerly. No different today than two days ago, aside from eye and hair color. He wasn't worth the strange reaction her body and brain elicited, electric thrumming creating a frequency that pounded away at her pulse, her thoughts, her heart.

Being Michael Bournham should have meant absolutely nothing. Her hands had stroked this man. Her mouth had kissed this man. Her body had accepted this man into her, thrusting and urgent and fevered and hot, pushing and bucking for more of him.

His skin was the same, sandy hair sprinkled in all the right places. In the closet, in the elevator, in his office, in her own damn bed, those hands had touched her flesh, alternating between tender and coarse with powerful caresses, the ability to shift from one state to the other an exquisite, almost divine, gift.

Metamorphosis went both ways then, no? If he could change touch so easily, why not identity?

Who had she really fucked, after all? Ah. That was the $64,000 question.

Aim higher, Lydia.

The billion-dollar question. Everyone knew about Michael Bournham's quest for his billion-dollar empire. Everyone. From mail room guys to senior vice-presidents, the austerity measures at Bournham Industries over the past eighteen months had been all about him. A contract signed in his blood, practically, with the board of directors had made headlines for weeks, garnering stories in The Economist, Wall Street Journal—even Rolling Stone had done a feature on him and his ballsy move.

What part did she play in this race to drive profits high enough to win his bet? A viral sex tape might smear his reputation, but in the end he'd just be labeled a bad boy, another renegade playboy rolling in more money than God. Publicity, though—that was gold. Getting the Bournham name in the news, on YouTube (hell, YouPorn), increasing branding by a social media factor of hundreds—the value of fucking her on camera was, well…


Priceless precisely because she had no price tag. What he had done happened with her full consent—the physical act, that is.

The taping?

That violated her to the bone.

“I am so, so sorry,” he rasped, voice shaking with emotion. Not nervous; guys like Michael Bournham were never nervous. They were in complete control every fucking second of their lives, right? Letting them get “caught” on tape was all about micromanaging every second of his time with her. Fake, fake, fake—it had all been a giant ruse, Matt Jones’ attraction to her, his intensity in the elevator, those warm arms around her in the supply closet, hot mouth on her clit, his rod driving her open and pounding her to ecstasy. What else was on tape? In some editing room in LA was an assistant splicing together more film of their intimate encounters, ready to run on the E! channel? Would she be the subject of a Tosh monologue? Or was she going to be The Daily Show’s Moment of Zen?

Sorry? He was sorry? If Michael Bournham had used her to ride a social media wave so great she would be “sex-tape girl” well into her golden years, the subject of ridicule on Fark, SomethingAwful, Reddit and beyond, then she really only had one choice, as he watched her, eyes hawk like and predatory, clearly here with one purpose: to win her over.

Her choice, though, was to stay the course. What she needed to do was to follow his final order as her boss.

To maliciously obey.

“Did you get what you wanted?” she asked, struck by how different he was from Matt Jones—and yet, this was the same man.

“Get what I wanted?” he asked, pretending to be confused. As if Michael Bournham would ever be confused.

“Quit playing games. You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she said.

“What I want is you.”

“No. What you want is money.” He flinched. She continued. “Everyone knows that. Everyone, Mr. Bournham. From the guy who cleans the shit off the toilets to your executive assistant and everyone in between, and I’m one of the in-betweens.” She felt her face stretch in an angry, bitter smile. “Your deal with the board; your deadline is coming up, so everyone’s known that all these stupid cost-cutting measures for the past eighteen months—all of the ‘we can’t afford to give you raises,’ ‘we can’t afford to give you bonuses,’ ‘we can’t afford to give you regular toilet paper that’s not made in Poland’—all of it so you could make your goal with the board, your bet. So apparently, I’m part of the wager?”

“You’re part of nothing.”

“Nothing,” she said. Now she was pissed. “I’m part of nothing.” She nodded and smiled, a cynical grin. “That’s right. I’m nothing to you. I’m actually less than nothing, aren’t I?”

He tried to interrupt her, but she held out a palm. “I’m less than nothing because you used me. You knew those cameras were rolling. You let me make love to Matt Jones in the office. You teased, you taunted, you seduced, you led me on and I broke. I broke,” she said, shrugging, sighing deeply and shaking her head.

And then she looked him straight in the eye. “I broke. I fell for someone you created, I fell for a guy I thought was smart and funny and intelligent and caring, and who actually might give a damn about me and treat me like an equal with respect and with mutual attraction.”

She looked him over, top to bottom. “Same guy, same body, but it turns out you spun that out of thin air so you could gain your notoriety and get the name of Bournham Industries all over every web platform, every media outlet, and boost your profits, huh?”

His eyes widened. “You think that?”

“Oh, I’m right, aren’t I?”

“God, no,” he gasped, the sound unnerving her. Michael Bournham didn't show this kind of authenticity, this vulnerability. Who in the hell was standing before her? That was what made this all so terrifying, the betrayal so cruel.

Because she had no idea who she had fallen in love with.

“Of course I am. You did it,” she scoffed, trying to bury the tears that threatened to come forth in a righteous anger that was in all-too-abundant supply. “You seduced me. I let you. I'm no victim here, though,” she said, cutting off his attempt to speak. Pacing in the living room, very aware of her frumpy blue jammies, she decided to go for it. Just say it all. Why not? Matt Jones was dead.

The man before her wasn't Matt Jones, right?


“Congratufuckinglations, Mike. Can I call you Mike? Do your friends call you Mike?” Her laugh was sharp and bitter. “You got fucked on video and now a billion people get to watch me go as bare and raw and real as I've ever been with a man. Call it a deflowering of sorts. You popped my sex-tape cherry.”

Wild and furious, in love and hating it, she let him have the full wrath of all her emotions. Grandma and Krysta might be in the next room but she didn't give a shit anymore. Let the world hear it all.

Might as well, right? They'd seen it already.

“I started to fall for you, Matt—Mike. Fuck!” she screamed. “I don't even know what to call you.”

“Asshole would be a good start, it would appear,” he said dryly.

A laugh bubbled up to the surface, unwelcome and involuntary. God damn it. It made it harder to be angry. How could she remain pissed when he had chased her down, tried to catch her, and now he really was here, taking it all like a man, and…what?

Why was he here?

“Why’re you really here?” she asked.

Michael Bournham paused. She couldn’t call him Mike in her head and she certainly couldn’t think of him as Matt any longer. Rolling his tongue between his cheek and his gums, his jaw tensed and he was so accessible in that moment, yet so distant. Her apartment felt like a dungeon, knowing that her grandma and Krysta were in the back room whispering furiously with each other, though giving them the privacy that they needed, she felt self-conscious.

Just over a day. He'd left her apartment in the middle of the night and just over a day later her life had exploded. She’d rested in his arms, cuddled up to him after the most exquisite lovemaking of her life. The video poisoned everything. She’d never sleep in that bed without thinking about his touch, his arms. How had he changed so quickly? Her eyes raked over him. The green eyes were gone, now blue. Brown hair—gone. Now it was a strange silver color, not quite the shade the famous Michael Bournham wore, but rather a strange, odd combination of his real hair and his identity as Matt. The man had physically changed himself to deceive. How could she know that he wouldn’t emotionally change himself to commit a far greater betrayal?

Finally, he rallied and seemed to think of something to say. Taking two shockingly tentative steps toward her, his hands seem to tremble and finally he planted them on his hips, one leg bent, the gesture uncertain. “I’m here first of all to say that I’m sorry.”

“You said that already,” she snapped.

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