This is a work of fiction intended for adults only, as it contains explicit scenes not appropriate for minors. By continuing to read, you are acknowledging you are of legal age to do so. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2012 by AJ Rose
Ty watched as Veronica pulled into his driveway and spent a moment rummaging in her front seat before hurrying up his front walk. Before she could knock, he opened the door and stood aside to let her in, his face white and his hands fidgety. Veronica spied Grady sitting at the table in the dining area, his fingers laced and warring with each other. When she came in, he looked up.
“Okay, she’s here, Ty. Call the police now.” Grady said, rising and shoving his hands in his pockets.
“The police?” Veronica asked. “Seriously, Ty. What’s going on?” He’d told her very little over the phone. Ty noted the rude sneer she directed at Grady. “And what’s he doing here? I thought you were through with him.” Grady sneered back.
Ty pinched the bridge of his nose before. “He’s here because I want him here, Veronica. This mess concerns him, too.” He wondered briefly if it was a mistake having them in the same room. Veronica had never made it a secret that she thought Grady had been an asshole to him, but it was too late now. Frankly, he’d only called her because she was a take charge kind of person and he and Grady were reeling from what they’d found. He needed her objectivity to help him figure this out. Well, she had been objective until he slept with her. “Please, can we just go with the current situation and worry about the pissing contest later?” Grady looked innocent, as if to say, Hey, I’m just reacting to her.
Veronica pursed her lips, then nodded. “Okay, so what has you so freaked out?”
Ty guided her to the couch and explained everything, starting with the faked pictures, which he had the grace not to foist on her. When she asked to see them, he told her it was better she not. She gave him a look but simply nodded, her concern showing more and more as he spoke. He then went on to tell her that he suspected more to it, explaining the account problems, the rumors, all of it designed to separate him from everyone to whom he felt close. “I think someone wanted me to be alone, alienating me from everyone I knew, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I’ve gotten no calls, no letters or emails, no one telling me just what the fuck it is they want from me.” He blew out a breath, frustrated, a pinch of fear in his expression. “You’re the only other person I trust right now, and I thought you might have some idea.”
She took his hands, ignoring the look she got from Grady. “Ty, I think Grady is right. You have to call the police. Even if no one’s contacted you, this is dangerous. Whoever did this is clearly not right in the head. The camera you found is proof enough that someone’s been in your house and that right there is a crime. Did you look for any more cameras?” Her tone soothed him, and he appreciated it more than she knew.
“No, we didn’t look. We didn’t want to mess something up if the police do get involved.”
“Do you want me to call them? You don’t look too steady right now. Either of you.” She turned to Grady, too, who looked a little green around the edges. “Why don’t you sit, Grady? I’ll call the police and make you both some tea. I have a feeling this is going to be a long day, and your nerves are already shot, looks like.” She stood, magnanimously gestured to Grady to take her place beside Ty on the couch, and after a reassuring hand on Ty’s shoulder, she disappeared into the kitchen, pulling her phone from her pocket on the way.
Ty turned to Grady then, a helpless look on his face. “She’s good at taking control of things,” he mumbled. “Thought we could both use someone who is cool under pressure right now.”
Grady kept his face neutral. “Veronica, huh? Where’d you meet her?” They could hear mumbling from the kitchen as Veronica made the call to the police, then the sound of a tea kettle being filled.
Ty just looked at his hands. “Grocery store. She performed an intervention on me.”
Grady snorted. “But you never needed one.”
Looking helplessly into Grady’s face, Ty’s eyes were miserable. “By that time, I did,” he said quietly. He felt like he’d come so far in the last several weeks, that he’d had his life back under control, but finding that camera had regressed him to the mess he’d been the day Veronica stopped him in the store, and instinctively, he’d reached out to her again. Yet here was Grady, swallowing his own pride and admitting he was wrong for ending them, willing to give Ty the time to figure things out. They’d talked some before Veronica arrived, and Grady made it clear that he’d done what he’d come to see Ty about, and yes, he wanted Ty back but wouldn’t push. Ty sat, his face lowered, so beyond confused that he could feel the jittery urge to reach for a bottle, something he hadn’t felt for weeks. He hated himself for it.
Grady tightened his jaw but said nothing, simply reaching over and taking Ty’s hands. Ty held on tight, Grady’s hands so familiar to him, but it had been months since he’d felt them, touched them, that day notwithstanding, and he realized he wanted it to be Grady he needed, not Veronica. He wanted what he and Grady had before, but he didn’t know if he could trust it. And he didn’t want to hurt Veronica after what happened between them. When she came back into the room from the kitchen holding two steaming mugs, Ty quickly dropped Grady’s hands. Grady swallowed hard, and Ty knew then that Grady knew he’d been moving on, or trying to. What a fine mess you’re in, Stull.
“They’re on their way,” Veronica said, handing them each a mug and sitting in the chair by the window, folding her legs beneath her. “They didn’t say much of anything over the phone, just that a detective would be coming out shortly, as well as a forensic expert to see what they could tell about a break in.”
Ty nodded, gratefully sipping his tea, seeing Grady doing the same in the periphery of his vision. “They say how long before they get… they ge…” His mouth wouldn’t work, so he tried the tea again, but it felt as if the mug was filled with cement. He couldn’t hold it up, even with both hands. He heard splashing sounds as Grady’s mug slipped to the floor and tea cascaded over their feet. The last thing he was aware of was Grady’s weight slumping against him as darkness enfolded his vision.
Ty came around slow, his neck creaking as he raised his head and blinked until his blurry vision cleared. His bedroom. Squinting, his eyes fell on Veronica, who lounged in one of the chairs from the kitchen table, leaning it back on two legs, her feet resting on the dresser, her head lolling back with her hair flowing in waves toward the floor. She was eating an apple.
He went to reach for her and couldn’t. His limbs felt heavy, and he looked down, his mind slowly registering the fact that he was in another of the kitchen chairs, with strips of silver duct tape swathed across his midsection, immobilizing his arms at his sides, his ankles similarly taped to the legs of the chair. He had a whopping headache and the sight of his restraints left him dumbfounded. Looking around, he saw Grady, identically taped to another kitchen chair, several feet away from him, his silky dark hair obscuring most of his face. He was still unconscious.
“Vee?” Ty’s mouth was full of cotton, and he wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep. So tired, the weight of it pulled at him. If he hadn’t been trussed up like a damsel in distress, he’d have curled up beside the sleeping Grady and worried about what had knocked him out later.
Grady. Wrong. This is wrong. His brain tried to kick in, and when it finally registered that what was done to him was also done to Grady, he skidded into full wakefulness, his heart stuttering as he looked at Grady again.
“Prince Charming. You’re awake.” Veronica slammed the legs her chair back to the floor and turned to him, a sly smile on her face. “I was wondering how much longer you’d be out. It’s been the whole fucking day. Sun’s almost set. Jesus, you boys are serious light weights. Well, at least in the substances arena. You’re fucking heavy to be dragging around all by my wee little lonesome. I see your excess baggage over there is even more susceptible to chemical influence than you are.”
Confusion painted itself all over Ty’s face as he tried to put her words in a context he could understand. Substances? Dragging them around?
“Veronica, my brain’s still foggy. What are you talking about? Where are the police?”
“Oh, they’re not coming.” She shook her head cheerily, smiling at him. “I never called them. Just made you two a nice hot cup of tea, and loaded it with oral anesthetic from the good doctors’ offices. It’s the good stuff from the OR.”
Grady groaned. He raised his head, eyes squinted shut in pain, and Ty watched him as realization of their predicament dawned on him.
“Grady,” he croaked, and Grady’s eyes, haunted as they were, found him, seared him to his core. “I’m here, Grady.”
“Shut up, Ty,” Veronica said calmly. “You don’t get to talk. All I’ve done is listen to you blah blah blah over how much your life sucks and how fucked up it was, how none of it was your fault. Get over it, Princess. People have it so much worse than you, you don’t even know.” She stalked him, a cat circling her prey, and when she reached him, she pinched his cheek. “But you know what? It was your face that I focused on; your face that kept me going; those gorgeous blue eyes that helped me keep my own eyes on the prize. You, baby.” She bent at the waist to kiss him, and he was too stunned to react. “I’ve done so much for you, all without any recognition. Like you said earlier, I took no credit. Well, that bill has come due, Ty.”
She turned and grabbed the chair she’d been sitting in, flipping it around to face them and straddling it, arms crossed on the back. “You,” she hissed at Grady. “You just don’t fucking go away. You’re like cancer. Once you take hold, you just grow, impossible to cut out, not that I haven’t tried. Those photos should have kept you away for good. Are you a fucking masochist, looking at them again? Well, I have a solution to you, Sir Baggage.” She grabbed the remote for the TV hanging on the wall over Ty’s dresser and hit a button, bringing the screen to life.
Ty and Grady’s eyes mirrored each other, growing wide as they focused on the images, the two of them fighting, Grady throwing a box of condoms at Ty and slamming the bathroom door in his face. The perspective of the video was entirely different than that of the still photos. Wildly, Ty looked around to pinpoint where the camera was, and Veronica sneered at him, pointing to the vent in the ceiling on the side of the room opposite the duct where they’d found the first camera. The scene played out silently on the TV as they went from fighting to making up. Grady closed his eyes, his nostrils flaring with his ragged breathing.
“You will watch, asshole,” Veronica snapped, and Grady’s eyes flew open as she charged him, grabbed a handful of his hair, and yanked his head up, forcing his face toward the screen. “And if you keep your eyes closed, I’ll make you listen.” Another press of a button and the audio filled the room, Ty’s voice fierce but soft. No one loves me like you do. And I love you like I’ve never loved anyone. Don’t you forget it.
“See, Stull, that’s where you’re wrong. I can love you better than he ever could. Look what all I’ve done for you! I’ve weeded out the people in your life who aren’t true friends. I’ve sobered you up. I’ve given you reason to get out of bed. And I expedited his leaving you, which would have happened anyway, and I made sure I was around to pick up the pieces.” She smiled triumphantly, pausing the TV, Grady and Ty’s faces frozen in ecstasy. “Grady walked away from you, Ty. Over a lie. He wouldn’t even listen to you. He walked away from this,” she gestured to the screen.
Tapping her teeth with the remote, she seemed to lose herself in thought. Ty looked over at Grady, whose face was a mask of fury, glaring at Veronica with such venom that Ty thought he could have burned holes through her skin.
“So. My solution to the Grady problem is this. I obviously can’t keep you both here without someone getting all detectivey and looking for you. For Ty, that wouldn’t be a problem, seeing as no one bothers with him anymore. But you.” She glared at Grady. “I haven’t ruined your career. Yet. But I will, if you don’t do exactly as I say. I have the means.” Veronica sauntered over to her unnoticed laptop on top of Ty’s dresser and opened it, the sleeping screen coming to life with a swipe of the mouse, clicking a few options, and again, Ty’s voice filled the room.
Oh, come on. You can’t possibly believe this, right? Grady, you know me. I swore to you that you’re the only one I want. And I told you Marcus isn’t an option even if you and I weren’t together.
Grady’s pain filled voice echoed. Get out.
Veronica halted the file on her computer, turning back to them with a gleam in her eye. “Yes, Grady, baby. I have your place wired, too. In fact, Ty, your attic is full of equipment worth more than the value of your entire house. Not to mention the mini-fridge and sleeping roll. Oh yes, this has been a long term plan, so you can see my level of commitment. That should tell you something, Grady. I’m not about to let you ruin what I’ve worked so hard to build.”
“What do you want?” Ty whispered, his eyes filled with loathing and pain.
“Just you, baby,” Veronica answered sweetly. She gave him a predatory smile, then swiped her hand down her face, miming wiping off the expression. The face he was used to seeing on her emerged, as did the completely stable sounding voice. “I’ll go back to this full time, so you can stand to be around me, and we’ll be together, until you die, Ty.”
“You’re crazy! he shouted at her, spittle flecking his lips, his eyes flashing blue fire of hatred.
“You didn’t think that last night when you were fucking me, Ty.” She turned back to her computer, a few mouse clicks, and the TV flickered with a different image, the living room and Veronica splayed across Ty’s lap, Ty clearly enjoying himself.
Grady let out a whimper and squeezed his eyes shut. Ty’s shoulders slumped. Grady wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. Resolute, Ty steeled his voice. “Veronica, I’ll do whatever you want. Just let Grady go. He doesn’t deserve this.”
“He doesn’t deserve YOU!” she screamed, her face reddening. “Walking around with that sanctimonious vocabulary, getting into brain wars with you like he’s actually better than you. How could you fall for someone so vapid and full of themselves, Ty? I just don’t get it.” She shook herself. “It doesn’t matter now. You can explain all that to me later, after he’s gone.”
Ty’s eyes went wide. “Gone how?” There was genuine fear in his voice.
“Relax, I’m not going to kill him unless I have to. I’m going to let him go.” Her voice was bright, chipper, and utterly devoid of humanity. The speed her moods changed gave Ty whiplash. She turned back to Grady, dragging her chair to sit directly in front of him. He stared at her, unblinking, appearing calm and collected, but Ty knew better. Grady was barely keeping it together, and he feared that the second she released him, Grady would launch himself at her, and there’d be blood on Grady’s hands.
All because of me. Ty thought. Because I brought her here today.
“Yep. I’m gonna let you go, Baggage. On one condition. You walk out of here, and out of Ty’s life forever. I have your house wired. I have your cell phone tapped into.” She pointed to his pocket, the outline of his phone obvious within it. “I know all your identity information and can fuck up your accounts so fast you would have no way of knowing until it’s too late. I will know if you go to the police. And if you do, this,” she pointed to the TV, flipping the picture back to the still shot of Grady and Ty together, “will land on TMZ, E!, ONTD, and anyone else who might be interested. You guys were so careful of your relationship getting out, so guarded with who knew your secret. There’s speculation all over the internet, but none of it has any proof. I have that proof. And I will use it to ruin you.” She pushed her face inches from Grady’s as she said those last two words, staring him down. Grady just stared back, squaring off despite his immobility.
Veronica stepped away, grabbed a bag Ty hadn’t noticed near the dresser, and heaved it onto the bed. He watched as she dug out a pocket knife and a small pouch which clinked when she set it carefully on the duvet. She withdrew a syringe, took off the needle cover and turned, jabbing it into Ty’s neck.
“What the fuck!” he shouted.
“That’s full of potassium chloride, Ty. Doctors for parents has its privileges.” With one hand, she held the syringe steady, her thumb nowhere near the plunger, and with the other, she used the knife to cut the duct tape off his hand. “Pull the rest of the tape off. Carefully,” she warned, hawkish eyes on his every move as he carefully freed himself. “Stand up,” she said, guiding him over the puddle of silver tape at his feet. He was taller than she was, so he had to lean awkwardly to the side to keep her hand steady on the needle in his neck. “Overdose of potassium chloride interferes with the electrical impulses of your heart, which then stops beating. Fast. Don’t worry, it’s not painful, I don’t think. But it is certainly effective.” She walked Ty over to stand in front of Grady.
“Okay, Grady. Ty is going to take off your tape, and you’re going to leave now and never come back. Right?” Grady glared and clenched his jaw.
“You sick bitch.”
Veronica rolled her eyes. “That the best you’ve got? Tell me you will walk out of here,” she enunciated clearly. “You won’t go to the police, and you will never look back. Or I will drop him right here.”
Grady looked helplessly at Ty, his eyes filling with tears. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Grady, no. It’s fine. I’ll be fine, especially knowing you’re not mixed up in this shit.” Ty put on a brave face, even smiled. Inside, his heart clenched, and he briefly wondered if Veronica had pushed the potassium chloride into his bloodstream anyway. He realized after a few seconds and he was still breathing that it was simply his heart shattering into a thousand pieces. He wanted Grady to go, to get out while he could, but the desire left him numb.
“Well? I’m waiting,” Veronica said impatiently.
Through clenched teeth, Grady growled, “I will leave. For good.”
Smiling beatifically, Veronica said, “Go ahead, Ty. Nothing funny, or after I kill you, this knife will still come in handy for Grady. What would that pretty face look like all cut up?” She laid the flat of the knife against Grady’s cheek, and he froze. Ty had to close his eyes to keep the image from branding into his brain.
“Veronica, please,” Ty whispered. “Nothing funny. I promise.”
She took the knife away as he very carefully sank to his knees. His eyes raked his ex-lover, wanting to memorize him before he walked out forever. Veronica knelt with Ty to keep her hand steady on the needle, watching as his shaky hands worked at the tape. She even used the knife to cut through some of the tape to help him, all the while, her eyes darting between them, ready for any sudden moves. When Grady was free, he stood, fingers rubbing his wrists to coax circulation back into them.
“You first, Grady.” She tilted her head to the hallway and Ty stood again, awkwardly bent over to accommodate her.
Grady walked, the set of his shoulders and pace the same as a man being led to his execution. Grady’s glance over his shoulder as they followed nearly undid Ty, the sorrow and anguish etched deeply on Grady’s dark features. The hallway seemed to distort, swirling around him, every step they took one step closer to the end of the rest of his life, a life devoid of the man he loved. But knowing Grady was breathing, able to live and love and work again, kept Ty moving forward. He could endure anything, for Grady’s sake. In the foyer, Veronica pulled Ty to the side so anyone out walking their dog on the street couldn’t look in the open door and see them. Grady turned one last time, his hand on the knob, his eyes filled with agony beyond comprehension.
“I love you, Ty.”
He turned the knob, yanked the door wide open, and stepped out, pulling it shut with a finality that robbed Ty of breath, of his will to live.
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*more incoherent murmurings of rage*
You know, it is pretty standard for the bad guy in stories to lay all of their cards on the table once they feel sure of themselves. If I was a bad guy, I wouldn’t do that. Gloating usually means ruining whatever chance the bad guy has of getting away with what they’ve done. I wonder if there is some other creative theme that can be used wherein the bad guy still gets caught, but she/he doesn’t lay out all of their cards like that.
AJ Rose said:
I think villains, especially this one, like to brag about all their efforts. Veronica spent the better part of a year planning this. Obsessing for longer. And keeping quiet the whole time. She’s so close to her goal now, and she wants some goddamned credit for everything she’s done. She wants Ty to marvel at the effort she’s gone through for him, not to mention that she doesn’t think she can fail.
But you bring up an excellent point. I’ll remember that for future stories.
W. Lotus said:
That’s a good point about wanting some admiration for her planning and restraint. I, too, would assume a person that smart in such a twisted way, particularly someone who goes to such great lengths to get someone’s attention, would be dying for admiration for all they’ve done. There’s got to be research into the criminal mind to either back up or disprove our assumption.
AJ Rose said:
Criminal mind, yes. Stalking as a subset of that, no. The biggest problem is that countries and even some states differ in the definition of stalking, so common behaviors are harder to catalog because they’re not documented well.
Another problem is reporting. Stalking shames the victim somewhat, and goes reported only 25% of the time, with only 12% of those going through the legal system. So there aren’t a lot of stalkers in custody to study.
Also, believe it or not, only in the most extreme cases does stalking escalate to violence. Those people tend to have psychological disorders that contribute.
As for the general criminal mind, I don’t think most criminals are smart enough to keep from bragging. Or they probably wouldn’t be criminals in the first place. Too smart for that.
I will say the inspiration for this story came from a case in Kansas where a guy broke into a woman’s house and lived in her attic for months, just watching her. Stealing mail and food. And even had a small TV up there. Creeeeeeepy.
W. Lotus said:
*shudders* Sounds like the bragging thing isn’t just a neat plot resolver, after all.
AJ Rose said:
In this case, no. I did some research on stalking in general before writing it so I got Veronica’s characterization right, because her thought process is so far outside my normal thinking. Thank god.
Courtney S said:
PLEASE tell me Grady will come up with a way to put this crazy biznitch down. I’m ready to “handle some business” myself right about now…lol
AJ Rose said:
You’ll find out tomorrow.
*snickers* I love how into this you are. Thank you for commenting to tell me so.
Courtney S said:
I was reading today’s chapter on my lunch break & had to stop myself from yelling at my phone because I was so aggravated at her…lol
I am so tense about this manipulative villain! Which means I’m having a blast reading this! She is so violent that I would like a spectacular fall for her crazy self. Something with fire and bullets, and perhaps some radiation….