Catch a Fallen Star
Copyright 2023 Lorenzo Marks.
All rights reserved.
All characters depicted in this work of fiction are 18 years of age or older.
“Good evening folks, and welcome! My first guest tonight has been in the spotlight so much recently that she hardly needs an introduction. Not only is she a Primetime Emmy Award nominee, but she has also just embarked on a singing career with her first recording due for release in the summer—and on top of all that she’s also here tonight to talk about her upcoming debut novel! So will you please give a warm welcome to People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman of the Year—Miss Ashlee Meagan Spencer!”
As the audience rose in applause, Pig reached for the remote and muted the sound. After a typically staged delay, Ashlee appeared from behind the curtains and accepted the adulation of her fans. As ever, she looked mind-blowingly gorgeous.
Without the clutter of background noise, it was easier for Pig to focus on her face as he tried to grasp exactly what it was that made her so different from the rest. She had opted for a kind of country retro look today, clad in a simple high neckline dolly dress and brown leather ankle booties. As she perched herself demurely on the edge of her hostess’s couch, the hem of her dress rode up high enough to give the viewers a brief glimpse of lightly tanned bare thigh.
Clever! Innocent but sexy. All she needs now is a floppy hat and a posy of wildflowers! The sweet teenager next door that you simply can’t take your eyes off! Every middle-aged man’s guilt-ridden fantasy!
Even though Pig knew from his contacts at the television studio that Ashlee’s wardrobe had been specially chosen by her savvy personal assistant, Cassie Riddle, the desired effect wouldn’t have been half as convincing if it weren’t for the effortless way that Ashlee carried it off.
Her girly, impish smile, punctuated with little parentheses that formed on either side of her rosebud lips, her earnest, sparkling blue eyes, the way she flicked at her blonde hair and kept her bare knees coyly pressed together, all combined to exhibit an aura of freshness and honesty without obscuring the raw sensuality that smoldered underneath.
It was pure public image of course, but Ashlee didn’t have to work at it. Pig guessed that she would have learned at a very young age how to manipulate people with her natural beauty and charm. What power to be able to wield!
And it was precisely because of that subtle but unquestionable aura of omnipotence, that he obsessed about her night and day. Nobody was that perfect, and Pig was convinced that under the right conditions she could be transformed into an obedient whore, stripped of her dignity and pride, and willing—if not happy—to cater to her master’s every deviant whim. Of course, Pig saw himself as that master, and alone in his bed with his dick in his hand, he regularly visualized her naked and forced to perform the most despicable and vile sexual acts, her angelic face awash with tears of shame and humiliation!
He evidently wasn’t alone in this fantasy because among the hundreds of pictures of her that he had downloaded from the internet were dozens of celebrity fakes—digitally altered mock-ups with Ashlee’s head superimposed onto the nude body of a porn model, legs splayed, an erect penis in her hand or mouth, often wearing a dog collar or maybe a pair of fishnet stockings and fuck-me heels.
Entertaining jerk-off material perhaps, but ultimately dissatisfying in the obvious knowledge that the erect nipples and the wet, open pussies didn’t really belong to Ashlee. Even a couple of rare, grainy, long range paparazzi shots of the hot young actress in a bikini revealed little of her hidden delights, except to frustratingly confirm that her body looked as well-toned and shapely as he had always imagined.
On the television screen Ashlee was now holding up a copy of her book, a young adult novel about an impossibly sweet heroine clearly modeled upon the author herself. Another vehicle to further enhance her virginal reputation, certainly ghostwritten, but what did that matter to her adoring public? In today’s world of tattooed, spike-haired divas and young actresses constantly in and out of rehab, Ashlee was a breath of fresh air, a welcome role model for the nation’s jaded and cynical youth.
The talk show hostess put the book to one side, and Pig turned up the sound.
“—I wish you the best of luck with it. Now before we close, I’d like to ask you something that I’m sure everybody watching would love to know—what’s going on with you and Tom Gates?”
Caught off guard, Ashlee’s smile faltered briefly, and a charming pinkish hue filled her cheeks. Recovering quickly, she said, “It’s nothing serious. We work together of course, but we’re just friends.”
“Friends? There have been rumors of quiet lunch breaks together off set. And what about that leaked photograph that’s been circulating on the internet of you and Tom kissing? Pretty hard evidence, if you ask me! Come on Ashlee, please tell us—is there a romance blossoming here?”
The mostly female live audience began yelling and hooting at that, causing Ashlee to flush even more. Shaking her head, she said, “No, it’s not like that at all.”
Somebody shouted, “Are you in love, Ashlee?” which prompted another noisy outburst. When the audience had settled down again, the hostess said, “So? Ashlee and Tom—are they an item?”
Her cheeks glowing, Ashlee grinned and shrugged. “Maybe. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
The look in her eyes said it all, and as the crowd erupted into wild applause, Pig switched off the television and gripped the remote until his knuckles turned white.
As usual, Cassie Riddle awoke ten minutes before her alarm went off. Five twenty—force of habit. She lay still for a while, watching as the gathering dawn slowly illuminated the box bedroom she occupied at the back of Ashlee’s luxury townhouse.
She hadn’t slept well. The gray cloud of depression that had hung over her since Ashlee’s talk show appearance the previous night was now accompanied by a nagging, dull knot twisting inside her stomach.
It had been inevitable that Ashlee would develop a close working relationship with Tom Gates, her new co-star on the hit series Falling In Love With Lisa, but Cassie hadn’t been overly concerned. In show business, this kind of thing went with the territory, and with their glamorous good looks and emerging popularity, it was only a matter of time before the media attempted to sell the idea that their on-screen romance had turned into the real thing.
But at no time had Ashlee ever indicated to Cassie that there was anything special about Tom, and that was why her tacit admission that she had feelings for him had come as such a shock. In front of the whole country, too! Why hadn’t Cassie suspected anything? She was at Ashlee’s beck and call twenty-four hours a day and spent most of them in close proximity to her, and yet she hadn’t noticed anything about her boss’s behavior to suggest that she had actually fallen for the handsome young actor!
Apart from the unexpectedly intense emotional pain, Cassie also felt humiliated. The offhand treatment, the careless and hurtful remarks, the unrequited love, and simply being taken for granted for the past three years, all of that she could cope with—as long as it was Cassie alone who took care of Ashlee’s daily needs.
There had been moments when Cassie longed to display her true feelings for Ashlee, but she had seen and heard enough about her to know that to do so might result in termination of her employment. Cassie definitely didn’t want to risk that!
Ashlee was simply not that way inclined—which until now had been fine with Cassie because it had always been just the two of them together in private. For three years she had allowed her love to secretly blossom for the beautiful starlet, foolishly harboring the hope that Ashlee might one day understand just how much Cassie cared about her and, who knew, might just reciprocate her feelings. In the meantime, Cassie had contented herself with covert glimpses of Ashlee changing her clothes in her bedroom, the occasional accidental brush of her hand against Ashlee’s breast or thigh, and the always intoxicating scent of her whenever they sat together on the couch going through Ashlee’s scripts.
Now Cassie realized just how foolish she had been for not seeing the truth. Ashlee wasn’t interested in her and never would be. She was a self-centered—yes, Cassie could allow herself to say the word now—bitch! And now that Tom Gates was apparently on the scene, she would most likely discard Cassie like an old, unwanted toy. Suddenly the future had become a desolate and lonely place.
Cassie willed herself out of bed and stood in front of the mirror. Slipping out of her nightie, she examined her nude body from top to bottom. Her mousy hair, cut into a plain bob, didn’t exactly embellish her drab features. Even Ashlee—when she had bothered to notice—had told Cassie that she needed a more youthful style, clearly oblivious to the real reason why Cassie preferred this boyish look.
Her lean body naturally accentuated this image—ribs visible under her pale skin, tiny adolescent breasts with small brown nubs, a flat belly and narrow hips, and a tight, apple butt. The only part of Cassie’s body that might have drawn attention was her highly prominent vulva, which was hidden under a rich triangle of black pubic hair.
Cassie knew she wasn’t exactly ugly, but constantly standing in Ashlee’s radiant glow only served to emphasize how far down the pecking order she was. She sighed, berating herself for even imagining that a plain Jane like herself could evenly remotely interest someone like Ashlee Meagan Spencer!
She showered in the small bathroom along the hallway and then dressed in a crisp, gray business suit with a knee-length skirt because Ashlee didn’t like her to wear pants in public. Too butch, Ashlee had told her.
In the kitchen, Maria the housekeeper already had Ashlee’s favorite decaf percolating, and seeing Cassie, took a coffee mug down from its hook.
“Give me five minutes,” Cassie said, waving a packet of cigarettes. She stepped out into the yard, and after moving a safe distance away from the house, lit up and inhaled deeply.
Ashlee, who was a health nut in the extreme, abhorred smoking and would not permit it in her house. In fact, if she ever saw Cassie smoking anywhere, she would always reprimand her about her disgusting habit!
Furtively glancing behind her, Cassie caught Maria smiling through the window and she nodded at her conspiratorially before turning away to survey the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean below.
Although Ashlee was not yet a millionaire, she was definitely on her way there, and being the sensible orphan-girl that she was, her first major financial purchase had been this sumptuous townhouse on the coast.
At first, when Ashlee had suggested that she move in to be more readily available, Cassie had been honored and thrilled. Not only would she be under the same roof as this ravishing woman, but she would be living in such salubrious conditions as she had never experienced before. With Tom Gates now in the frame however, those feelings of excitement and promise seemed a lifetime away.
She finished her cigarette, and after spraying her mouth with breath freshener, went inside to collect Ashlee’s coffee and her MacBook Air laptop. She climbed the polished mahogany staircase and opened the bedroom door. The princess was still asleep, her lustrous blonde tresses flowing over pink satin pillows.
Cassie quietly placed the coffee and laptop on the bedside table and hovered over the sleeping beauty for a moment, taking in the delicate lines of her beautiful face before allowing her eyes to travel down to Ashlee’s gently undulating cleavage. She longed to run her fingers over that smooth, flawless skin, but sadly it seemed that privilege was now reserved for Tom fucking Gates!
What a terrible waste, Cassie thought. The was no arguing that Tom was a very attractive man, and a successful soap actor himself, but the guy just came across as so shallow. If Ashlee really did have to date a man, Cassie could have suggested any number of better alternatives among the rich and famous. The stunning young starlet could pick whoever she wanted, after all.
She was just pondering the unpleasant possibility of whether they may have already had sex together when Ashlee, with her eyes still closed, said, “Cassie, must you really watch me like that?”
Cassie immediately turned pink, and stammered, “I-I’m sorry, Ashlee. You just looked so peaceful, and it seemed such a shame to disturb you.”
“Well,” Ashlee said, opening her eyes and propping herself up against the headboard. “That’s not what I pay you for, is it?”
“No, Ashlee,” Cassie mumbled, handing her the laptop. “The latest script has arrived.”
“Okay. Well I’ve got a busy schedule today, so you’d better get cracking, okay?”
Dismissively, Ashlee turned her attention to her laptop, and taking her cue, Cassie returned to the kitchen. With her own coffee in front of her, she opened her own laptop and started one of her daily tasks of scanning Ashlee’s fan mail. She opened Ashlee’s public email account and saw that over two hundred messages had arrived overnight, most of them undoubtedly asking for details of Ashlee’s budding romance. There were a few sad proposals of marriage, and then there were the myriad daily requests for guest appearances at various charity functions, all of which would be forwarded to Ashlee’s agent, Jordan Louise.
She rapidly scrolled down, sending cut-and-paste answers to some, deleting or blocking others, filing some for answering later—and then she saw an email she had secretly been waiting for—Ashlee’s stalker!
For several weeks now, an anonymous pervert who went by the peculiar moniker of Pig, had been sending Ashlee detailed descriptions of the disgusting things he wanted to do to her, and each time she had read them, Cassie had found herself becoming unexpectedly and increasingly aroused. There were often other similar obscene messages in Ashlee’s inbox, but for some reason, Cassie had found this vile man’s vivid and filthy imagination strangely fascinating.
Why these disgustingly detailed expositions had triggered this reaction, Cassie could not guess, but before deleting them along with the others, she had secretly copied their contents to a secure file. For some time now, Cassie had contented herself by curling up in bed, re-reading Pig’s filthy passages, and visualizing Ashlee tied up and moaning in pain and humiliation as this faceless man subjected her to endless hours of his sexual torment.
But today’s message contained a far more immediate and sinister threat, and one that, given the latest development in Ashlee’s personal life, planted the unexpected seed of a deliciously immoral idea into Cassie’s troubled mind. And as she delved into his latest electronic tirade, Cassie realized that she and this obviously disturbed man had a lot more in common than she had at first thought.
“And that’s a wrap! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” said Mike Dandy, the show’s producer.
Ashlee breathed an inward sigh of relief. Another episode of Falling In Love With Lisa out of the way. Even though it was the launch pad to her rapidly spiraling career, the sickly-sweet love story-cum-comedy was beginning to make her stomach turn. Why did the American public lap up such insipid tripe?
As always, Ashlee found herself surrounded by groveling supplicants after shooting was over.
“Great stuff, Ashlee!”
“They’re going to adore this episode!”
“You looked even more beautiful than ever!”
“You were so convincing! You made me laugh and cry all at the same time!”
Ashlee really could have done without all this shit. She had a headache, she wanted to get to her gym and health spa, and this overwhelming fuss was once again beginning to wear her down. She managed to maintain her trademark smile while searching for Cassie among the crowd. In truth, she reveled in being the center of attention, but only when it suited her—and right now she was just looking forward to some alone time, working out to keep her body in perfect shape, followed by a relaxing sauna and massage.
“This way, Ashlee,” she heard Cassie say, and turned to find that her assistant had magically appeared at her side.
Thank God! The love-struck dyke comes to the rescue again!
They slipped out of the crowd to the back of the set, and down a stairwell which led out onto a secluded alley. Obviously, clever little Cassie had found this private escape route so Ashlee could avoid any hopefully waiting fans. The alley was empty except for a parked SUV with its driver standing beside the open rear door.
“Where’s Ben?” Ashlee asked. They had come in a chauffeured Mercedes Sedan that morning, provided by their usual executive car service.
“Last minute cancellation,” Cassie said. “This is the best I could do at short notice.”
“Well, it will have to do,” Ashlee sniffed, barely acknowledging the new driver as she climbed in.
Cassie joined her boss in the back and said, “Straight to Sunrise Health Club on Park Drive. You know where it is?”
“I’ll find it in no time, ma’am,” the driver smiled as he tapped the information into the dashboard phone. My name’s John, by the way.”
“That’s nice,” Ashlee said. “Does this thing have a minibar? I’d kill for a Perrier right now.”
As they pulled out into the bright California sunshine, “Ashlee took a long drink from the bottle that Cassie had just handed her and glancing up, noticed that John was watching her in the rearview mirror.
“Eyes on the road, John,” she said, at the same time noting that there was something vaguely familiar about his face.
“Sorry, Miss Spencer,” John said. “You’re my first celebrity, is all.”
Jesus! Just what I need! Ashlee groaned inwardly. A groupie for a chauffeur!
“Yes, well we’re no different to anyone else,” she said. “But I would prefer it if you got me to the club in one piece.”
“Of course, ma’am, you’re in safe hands with me. I’m a qualified advanced driver. And just so you are aware, I’m close protection certified, I hold a black belt in jujitsu, and I’m a licensed firearm carrier. And in the highly unlikely event that worse should come to worst, I was also trained as a paramedic with the Fourth Battalion in Afghanistan, so I guarantee you’ll come to no harm as long as I’m around, ma’am.”
Ashlee gave Cassie a sidelong look. “Really, Cassie? Where do you get them from?”
Cassie shrugged apologetically. “Like I said, short notice.”
Ashlee finished her mineral water and waved the empty bottle in Cassie’s direction. Her temple was throbbing harder now, and she closed her eyes.
“I’m taking a quick nap,” she said. “Make sure Captain America here doesn’t kill us all on the way.”
“Don’t worry,” Cassie said. “He told me that he has taken a special interest in your future welfare.”
Ashlee was going to ask her assistant what she meant by that unusual remark, but she was suddenly feeling quite tired. As sleep rapidly descended upon her, it occurred to her where she had seen John before—he was that creepy security guard at the television studio who had once asked her to sign a publicity photo, wasn’t he—?
As Pig carried Ashlee up the stairs to her bedroom, he felt his cock rapidly stiffening. This was a moment that he had been dreaming about for a long time, and now with his left arm under her neck, her sumptuous golden locks tickling his forearm, and his right arm supporting her bare legs, he drank in the flowery scent of her as her eyelids fluttered under a deep, drug-induced sleep.
He couldn’t quite believe that he had gained access to her private residence so easily, but he knew that life could sometimes reward you in unexpected ways if you focused on something hard enough, and on this occasion it had come in the form of Cassie Riddle.
When she had first emailed him, he had smelled a trap and quickly deleted the anonymous email address he had been using. In hindsight, the barrage of indecent messages he had sent had been rash and foolish, but Pig had been unable to stop himself. Simply standing by at the studio while Ashlee remained the center of attention had been too much for him to bear. He had figured that whether she read the messages or not, it had at least been some form of contact.
He had been especially cautious at the studio the next day, staying alert for anybody that might be watching him, but the day had passed without event. Emboldened by this and still curious, he had opened another email account and sent a somewhat non-committal response before signing off once again as Pig.
Cassie hadn’t responded immediately, and he feared that he may have lost his chance, but then she had replied—Do you really want her? I can help you if you are serious.
Still not convinced that this wasn’t an elaborate ploy to ensnare him, Pig had confirmed that his threats were not just idle fantasies, and that he had the skills and means to make them happen.
And that was the truth. Back in his former military life, through somewhat fortuitous circumstances he had spent three months at a remote black site in Kandahar Province, assisting a shady CIA operative in the re-education of a female Italian journalist who had been on the verge of exposing their unethical interrogation methods. By the time they were finished with her, this previously tenacious investigator had been transformed into a pliable automaton, emotionally and mentally crushed, and quite willing to do or say anything that they wanted.
Pig had learned much about the art and science of human mind control during this time, and the heady images of this olive-skinned beauty crawling around naked on a leash in a dusty courtyard, or kneeling for hours inside a tiny, cramped cage, had remained lucidly in his mind long after the controversial operation had quietly moved on.
After a couple more cautious emails, Pig finally succeeded in coaxing Cassie into revealing her identity, and it was then that he recalled seeing her escorting Ashlee around at the studio—an unfashionable, but not totally unattractive young woman with a constant frown of worry on her face.
The next stage was to meet her in person. Pig had gone about this in the same clandestine way, first arranging to meet her in a shopping mall, observing from a distance to make sure nobody else was lurking around, then texting her mobile to move her on to a new location and then repeating the process again until he was absolutely certain that she was acting alone.
Finally, when he had her sitting on a quiet park bench, he had come out from behind a tree and joined her. During this, and another subsequent meeting, he had decided that she was genuine about this, and when he had learned why, it had all fallen into place – the woman was a lesbian, and she was clearly as obsessed with Ashlee as he was! The deal she was offering was as simple as it was titillating—if he indeed had the ability to train and brainwash Ashlee as he claimed, then they would get to share her as their common slave.
The idea was outrageous, highly risky, and if he was honest, considerably overambitious, but Pig was hooked. The prospect of having Ashlee at his beck and call and obeying his every command—something which millions of like-minded men surely fantasized about every day—was too delectable to resist. And the idea of letting Cassie have her way with Ashlee didn’t bother him at all. In fact, he thought that Cassie wasn’t a bad looker herself, and he made a note to try to convince her to let him join in with their lesbian trysts.
An added incentive of course was Ashlee’s money, as Cassie had pointed out. Enslaving her would also mean taking control of her already quite sizable financial assets! There would of course, be complications once Ashlee’s new personal life started to emerge, but management agents, studio directors and lawyers could all be kept at bay provided Ashlee was under his total control. If she didn’t want to file a complaint, there would be absolutely nothing that they could do, no matter how suspicious they might be. And with no immediate family in the wings, there was little likelihood that anybody would try to interfere through a power of attorney hearing.
So the deal had been struck, the abduction arranged, and now here he was, standing over Ashlee Meagan Spencer in her very own bedroom with his bag of pharmaceutical tricks, ready to initiate the long process of transforming Ashlee into a shamefaced, self-loathing submissive, conditioned to perform the most depraved acts at his bidding!
“Are you sure you know what you are doing?” Cassie asked anxiously, as she watched Pig insert the needle into Ashlee’s median cubital vein. Although she had committed herself to this venture because of the awesome possibilities it held, she was suddenly reminded of how very little she knew about this man, and the thought of Ashlee dying in her own bed suddenly gripped her with a vice-like panic!
“Relax,” Pig said, taping the catheter in place. “I told you I’ve done this many times before.”
He certainly looked professional enough, with sterile gloves on his hands, and a paper surgical mask covering the lower part of his face. Beside him was an IV stand which was now steadily dispensing a carefully regulated cocktail of drugs into Ashlee’s bloodstream.
Cassie’s eyes returned to the myriad plastic containers, glass bottles, vials, laminate pouches, and piles of blister packs. Esoteric names such as Rohypnol, phencyclidine, sodium amytal, lycergic acid, scopolamine, and sodium pentothal seemed to lift from their labels and spin before her very eyes!
Poor Ashlee, Cassie thought. She’s spent her entire life eating healthy, keeping fit, a non-smoking, moderate drinker, and now her body is going to be pumped full of all kinds of mind twisting narcotics!
Despite her empathy, Cassie couldn’t suppress a little flutter of exhilaration as she studied her desirable boss’s sleeping form. Up until now, she hadn’t fully convinced herself that this was really going to happen, but there was no denying now that the mysterious Pig was the real deal!
Even though he had not so far done anything to ring any alarm bells, the possibility that he might double-cross her hadn’t escaped Cassie, and she had taken the precaution of slipping a pepper spray canister into her pants pocket. After all, if he was capable of cynically turning Ashlee into a walking puppet, why not Cassie as well? But then again, he had so far trusted her as much as she had him, and for now she felt relatively comfortable around him.
“Well, that should do it for now,” Pig said, pulling off his gloves. “She will have to stay on the IV for another two hours before I proceed to the next stage.”
“What happens then?” Cassie asked.
“Ashlee will by then be rendered into a semiconscious state, leaving her subconscious mind open to the verbal suggestions that I will give her.”
“And that’s it? Then she’ll be ours?”
“Not quite,” Pig smiled. “It will require two more of these sessions in order to completely alter her inner psyche. And that will only provide the foundation for the weeks of psychological remodeling she will undergo.”
Even though they had already discussed their plan in detail, it had occurred to Cassie that if Ashlee was out of circulation for any length of time, it was bound to be noticed.
She said, “What about her work? Ashlee’s a high-profile celebrity. People will start missing her within hours.”
“You will call in on her behalf tomorrow and explain that she is suffering from influenza. I will ensure that she awakes with the necessary symptoms for the sake of authenticity. After that, you will secretly lace Ashlee’s food and drinks with a mixture of barbiturates and amphetamines and other compounds that I have already prepared for you. The dosages will keep Ashlee in a mentally vulnerable state, although she will appear alert and vibrant to outside observers.”
“What if she suspects something?”
“Even if she does, after I have finished with her initial programming today, she will no longer have the strength of mind to challenge you. You’ll be surprised at how easy it will be to influence her decisions from now on. Put it to the test without being too obvious about it.”
“And then what?” Cassie asked, a shiver of delight running up her spine.
“You won’t be seeing me at all over the next week. It’s important that we both go back to our normal routines in the early stages. I will contact you when it’s time to initiate the next session. Patience, Cassie. Everything is under control. All you have to do is follow my instructions to the letter.”
Pig had already explained how their teamwork was imperative to the implementation of this diabolical scheme. Cassie knew all of Ashlee’s movements in advance of course, so whichever drug enhancement needed to be added to her food or drink would all depend on how Pig wanted Ashlee to behave in any given situation. The idea, he had said, was to have Ashlee slowly but surely dismantle her own carefully constructed reputation in the public eye, while at the same time forcing her to become increasingly dependent upon himself and Cassie.
That way, no matter what others may suspect—Tom Gates, Jordan Louise, Mike Dandy—Ashlee would be subliminally compelled to reject all offers of outside assistance should they arise. At least, that was the plan.
Drifting in and out of delirium, shivering from the cold with her head almost splitting in two, Ashlee wondered if she was going to die! Her feverish dreams were so vivid that she couldn’t differentiate between sleep and consciousness. Her continuing nightmare was a tormenting loop that placed her in the back of the cheap SUV driven by that spooky security guard, John. The details of her imaginary circumstances eluded her febrile mind, but she knew that she was in an almost desperate need to be somewhere, her protestations falling on deaf ears however, as the stupid jerk kept driving her round and round in pointless circles. And his incessant talking! Over and over, repeating himself again and again! She would have screamed at him to shut up if she’d only had an ounce of strength to do so.
She opened her eyes and spied a glass of water on the nightstand. Her tongue felt like it had doubled in size inside her dry mouth and as she reached for the glass, her weak fingers knocked it to the floor.
“Cassie!” she croaked, the vibrations of her voice sending an electric bolt through her skull.
Her body began to shake violently under the duvet, and she pulled her knees up to her chest. She couldn’t understand how she had gotten this ill so quickly. Could it be food poisoning? She’d had a green salad, yogurt, and mineral water for lunch, that much she could remember, but there was something bothering her, nagging away at the back of her mind, although she was unable to pinpoint what it was. Everything seemed to keep zooming back to Pig’s insistent voice, and his intense, dark features remained imprinted in her mind every time she closed her eyes.
Pig? Why did I just call him that? He said his name was John.
“Ashlee? How are you feeling?”
Craning her neck, Ashlee was unexpectedly pleased to see her loyal assistant appearing by the side of her bed.
“Water—thirsty—” Ashlee squeaked.
She lowered her raw eyelids as she felt Cassie arms shifting her into a semi-sitting position. There was the sound of gurgling water and then the cool rim of the glass touched her lips.
“Little sips, Ashlee,” Cassie said.
Ordinarily, Ashlee would have been quite indignant about being treated like an invalid, but she currently felt so helpless that she was grateful for the assistance. An ice cool towel was pressed against her forehead, and she heard Cassie say, “You’ve had a fever but the worst of it is over now.”
“How long have I been out of it?” Ashlee said.
“Almost twenty-four hours. I was about to call an ambulance at one point, but your temperature started to settle.”
“I’ve lost a whole day?”
“Don’t worry, I’ve notified the studio—and Jordan of course—and your bookstore promo had to be rescheduled, but no real harm done. It’s probably a good thing, in a way. You’ve been pushing yourself so hard lately. Perhaps your body just demanded a rest. It was lucky we had John here to carry you inside.”
John? Pig? His unnerving expression. His incessant chatter.
“Where is he?” Ashlee said, her eyes anxiously searching the room.
“He’s gone, of course.”
“But he was here, wasn’t he? In my room?” Ashlee said, aware now that she was only dressed in a damp, sheer nightie.
“You were unconscious, Ashlee,” Cassie said calmly. “I asked him to help us.”
“Did he—was he here when you undressed me?”
“Don’t be silly!” Cassie said, open mouthed. “Why would you even think that?”
Ashlee had to admit that she wasn’t thinking rationally. Of course, Cassie would never have allowed that to happen. And yet, she couldn’t disentangle herself from the persistent idea that John had been sitting here talking to her while she lay in an undignified delirious sweat—for a very long time!
At six am, Pig punched his timecard, greeted the arriving guards who were starting their shift, and went out into the fresh morning air. He crossed the parking lot and climbed into his SUV, and it was only when he had passed though the studio’s front gates that he allowed himself a smile of satisfaction.
He had been on tenterhooks all night, half-expecting a call from the chief of security, or worse, a visit from unsmiling men in dark suits, keen to ask him about his dubious past in Afghanistan. There was no rational reason for this, but now that his plan was in motion, he couldn’t stop himself from wondering if there was anything that he had overlooked.
Almost certainly, by the time Ashlee was ready to employ him as her personal bodyguard, there would be plenty of concerned friends and associates wanting to know why she had chosen him specifically. That would all be handled with Cassie’s help, along with Ashlee’s subtly enforced cooperation.
But when Ashlee’s stock later began to fall as her behavior deteriorated, there would inevitably be inquiries into the mysterious new man in her life. Suspicious folk would wonder what had triggered her rapid change in personality, and Pig’s unexpected arrival on the scene might cause them to wonder if there was a common link, so for now Pig had decided to distance himself from Ashlee and Cassie until it was time for the next round of drug-induced psychological reprogramming.
He ran his mind back over the day of Ashlee’s abduction. As part of the security team, it had been simple enough for him to disconnect the single hardwired close circuit camera in the alley without being seen, before bringing his SUV round back. Right on cue, Cassie had secretly hustled Ashlee outside and they had all driven off without arousing any suspicion. When they had reached the parking lot gates, Pig had shown his security clearance, and the guard hadn’t even bothered to check the back seat where Pig’s two female passengers were hidden behind one-way tinted glass windows.
None of this was failsafe of course, but with Cassie on his side, Pig figured that should anybody eventually join the dots, he would already be firmly ensconced in Ashlee’s household and the young celebrity would by then be malleable enough to tell any inquisitive visitors whatever he wanted her to.
The trick now was to keep a low profile and trust Cassie to secretly administer his carefully prescribed dosages of uppers and downers into Ashlee’s food and drink without arousing her suspicions. After a short period of apparent normality, the fun could then begin.
Cassie emptied the plastic sachet of yellow powder into a glass of pomegranate juice, stirred it in thoroughly, placed the glass on a tray alongside a bouquet of flowers, and went up to the starlet’s bedroom.
Ashlee was back to her annoying, bossy self, which actually came as something of a relief to Cassie after the events of the past two days. Despite her pent-up bitterness, Cassie had been a little disturbed at seeing the normally healthy actress looking so drawn and fragile. Even though Pig had assured her that Ashlee was in no long-term physical danger from her narcotic infusions, Cassie had fretted constantly while her employer had languished in her sick bed.
Now, as Ashlee reeled off a list of tasks while surrounded by dozens of bunches of flowers and get well soon cards sent in by adoring fans, Cassie realized she needn’t have worried. Listening to Ashlee talking on her phone while gesticulating for Cassie to put the tray on the nightstand, it felt like the bizarre events of the past forty-eight hours had never happened.
Even so, Cassie was well aware that Pig had already deeply implanted the first seeds of Ashlee’s mental and emotional reconditioning. There would initially only be subtle changes in Ashlee’s behavior, Pig had explained the previous day before ushering Cassie out of the bedroom so he could spend the next four hours quietly talking to his unwitting patient. This was where the important work was to be done—repeated suggestions that bypassed Ashlee’s rational conscious mind, creating a new mindset and implanting fears and phobias, cravings and desires, where none had existed before.
In a way, it all seemed rather unfair to Cassie. After all, wasn’t everybody’s personality shaped by their early experiences in life? And if a person had encountered adversity—in Ashlee’s case, abandonment by her father, the death of her mother—and yet still managed to come through it as a competent, level-headed, and ambitious young adult, then surely it was her right to be that person, because quite simply, that was who she had turned out to be!
But if Pig was to be believed, he had the capability to take a perfectly well-adjusted person, and turn them, for example, into a manic depressive with suicidal tendencies, or perhaps transform someone that was academically bright into a slow-witted idiot. The implications were endless! According to Pig, it was even possible to tamper with an individual’s deeply-set belief systems, including politics, religion, social morals, even their sexual persuasion—the latter being something that Cassie was particularly interested in, of course!
And the part that fascinated her the most was that there could be no recourse for the victim even if outsiders did suspect something was wrong, because the very nature of her malady would be impossible to detect! People change, you are who you are, not who you were, or might one day become, and ultimately everybody reacts only to what they see in front of them, because after all, actions speak louder than words. This was the cruel fate in store for Ashlee, but far from repulsing Cassie, it filled her with a stomach warming, toe-curling throb of arousal!
She lingered nearby while Ashlee completed her call, feeling a twinge of nostalgia for her brief spell of power during which she had been administering to Ashlee’s needs. Then again, she reminded herself, if everything went according to plan she would have a whole lifetime ahead of her in which Ashlee would be hers to do with as she pleased—what a turnaround that would be!
Maybe I’m not completely over my illness, Ashlee thought as she pushed the half-eaten bowl of chopped, fresh fruit away from her. She picked up a slice of whole wheat toast, contemplated it a moment, and then dropped it back on its plate.
“Everything okay, Ashlee?” Cassie asked from across the kitchen table.
“Not hungry,” Ashlee mumbled.
The disconcerting truth was however, that she did want something to eat—but just not this bland stuff. She couldn’t figure herself out. All her life, she had been obsessive about her diet and always regarded breakfast as her favorite and most important meal of the day. Cereal, yogurt, fruit, nuts, lean eggs, these had been her staple since she was a young girl, and until now she had relished her early morning meal.
But today for some unexplained reason, she found herself craving—and this was something she had never hungered for before—a fried cook up! Images of streaky bacon dripping with fat, fried eggs over greasy French toast, mushrooms, and hash browns! The thought of all those calories and high cholesterol made her feel sick, and yet at the same time, her mouth was salivating!
What the hell is wrong with me? Where did these vile yearnings come from?
Dieting, keeping fit, taking care of her body inside and out, these things had never been a struggle for her. They came as naturally as fine-tuning her unquestionable beauty. She didn’t regard healthy eating as a chore but a pleasure, but right now Ashlee was experienced a nagging doubt about the strength of her willpower. If, at that moment, Maria had laid a plate heaped with egg, bacon and sausages in front of her, Ashlee didn’t think she would have been able to stop herself from tucking in! The realization frightened her, because it was the first time in her life that she had ever felt as though she wasn’t in control of herself.
Unsettled, she grimaced as she sipped on her green tea and said, “What time is the fundraiser, Cassie?”
“Eleven. Ben will be here in half an hour.”
“Oh,” Ashlee said, “Isn’t Pig picking us up?”
“Pig?” Cassie asked, looking up from her iPad.
Even as the words left her lips, Ashlee had no idea where they came from! What was this preoccupation with this ridiculous name Pig all about? She loved Ben their regular driver, and deeply trusted him and the agency he worked for. The Mercedes Sedan he drove was state of the art and the hallmark of luxury. Why in God’s name was she asking after that toady-eyed loser Pig and his shitty little SUV?
“I-I meant John, the replacement driver when I fell ill,” Ashlee said quickly.
Did I really call him Pig?
“I didn’t think you wanted to use his services again,” Cassie said. “You weren’t very impressed with him, as I recall.”
“No I wasn’t, I-I just meant that I want you to thank him for assisting me when I passed out, that’s all,” Ashlee blustered.
“Oh, I see,” Cassie said, narrowing her eyes. “Well, I could always call his agency if you like.”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” Ashlee said, and she was sure she was blushing slightly now. “Perhaps you could send him over some flowers or something? Maybe a free pass to the studio set?”
Why am I even saying this? It’s not as if he saved my life or anything!
And then she remembered.
“Wait a minute. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t he already work at the studio as a security guard?”
“Yes, he does,” Cassie said. “I was referred to him when I was trying to arrange alternative transportation in a hurry. But I’m sure he’ll be delighted to hear from you—he told me he’s a huge fan.”
“Thank you, Cass,” Ashlee said—and then for some unimaginable reason, she promptly leaned across the table and kissed Cassie lightly on the lips!
Aghast, Ashlee immediately pulled away and slumped back in her chair, and for a moment they both stared at each other in stunned silence.
What the hell did I just do? Ashlee thought in a panic.
“I-I’m so sorry!” she stammered. “I have no idea what just came over me!”
Cassie, looking far from offended, said, “It’s okay. Really.”
“No, but I mean I never intended—” Ashlee could feel her cheeks burning with shame.
“I understand,” Cassie smiled. “Forget about it, Ashlee. Okay?”
Still shocked at her own behavior, Ashlee merely nodded and stared intently into her teacup. It was the first time in their working relationship that she had ever apologized to her assistant, but the kiss had been wholly inappropriate! Where had that even come from? And the fact that Cassie was a raging dyke made it all the worse!
Trying to gather a semblance of decorum, Ashlee cleared her throat and said, “Would you lay out some clothes for me, please? Something suitable for the fundraiser—well, why am I telling you this? You know what to do.”
“Of course, Ashlee,” Cassie beamed, and rose to her feet looking like a girl who had just won the lottery.
When she was alone, Ashlee tried to calm herself. Was she losing her mind? The spontaneous kiss had been embarrassing enough, but there was something far worse that was troubling her—when their lips had made contact, to her dismay, she had been aware of a warm and rather pleasant throbbing sensation in her lower belly!
This was insane! Ashlee had never been prone to homosexual tendencies in her life, not even experimentally as an adolescent! And nothing had changed there as far as she was concerned. Even if it had, she didn’t find Cassie at all attractive, and she had never even remotely considered her in that light. In fact, Ashlee had always found her employee’s obvious lesbianism rather amusing, if in a pitiable kind of way.
But if that was the case, then why had her own body just reacted in such a shamefully exciting way?
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