Cash pushed Rachel against the bed so forcefully that it hurt and worried her. She frowned and told him, "Take it easy, will you? If you've still got some anger to work out, I think sex can, and should, wait..."

Cash scowled, surprising her. "Don't ever tell me what I can or cannot do. You do it in front of the court, you will not do it in the bedroom..." To her stunned surprise, Cash struck her with his open hand - firmly enough to cause consciousness to blur for a moment.

Rachel could only lie, dizzy and shaken, as her husband reached under their bed and produced a stake that had apparently been placed there earlier. The agony of the wood piercing her heart went almost unnoticed, as it was nearly drowned out by sudden thought. Oh my god, I was right! All of Rachel's unspoken fears of Cash suddenly bloomed.

Cash circled around the bed, an entirely unfamiliar and unpleasant smile upon his face. "Poor, poor Rachel, you always did have a problem with being held captive didn't you?"

Rachel was unable to speak as panic and anger flooded her mind. She had never been staked before, and the paralysis fueled her growing panic and anger.

He continued. "I mean, being held here,unable to move, it must be quite terrifying." He looked at her, smiling slowly. "Show me what it's like..." he ordered her. Rachel could feel the touch on her mind that indicated a telepathic communication between them. She tried to force herself to think of blank stucco walls, and failed as Cash pulled her close, and kissed her. It was like kissing a corpse, but the tumult in her mind was perfectly satisfying. "You have no idea what's truly going on do you?" he asked rhetorically. "I wouldn't expect it, a neonate and all..."

Rachel's mind was an incoherent mix of resentment, anger and fear. What has gotten into him? How did he manage-

"I thought it only fitting..." he announced. "Cash takes my head and I take his his bride on the wedding night." Realization flooded her, along with the mindless panic that she knew to be Rotschreck - for a moment, she was almost grateful for the wooden shaft in her chest.'s Gratiano...

Cash watched her critically for a moment, aware of her incipient frenzy, waiting for it to diffuse. A few moments later, he sighed theatrically. "You see ever since Cash had his little bully boy Wisdom take me out... I've been planning this." He ran his hand along her thigh. "Spirits have this one advantage...It's called possession..."

At this touch, Rachel's temper snapped. But you're not strong enough to take me on even terms, bastard. She thought angrily, knowing he would hear.

He glared at her. "Please don't try to goad me. It won't work."

Who's goading? Rachel retorted. I'm just being honest. she hoped that she was able to hide her relief that this apparently was not Cash.

Cash shrugged. "I have you..." he lay down on top of her. "Right where I want you." Rachel tried not to listen to him. "I've been skinriding Cash for quite some time now." He grabbed her face firmly, almost cracking bone. "Learning all of your secrets, your desires, fears." he said intently. "I 've been with you through all of your intimate moments... and oh!" he moved against her, a horribly familiar imitation of their intimacy. "What a ride it's been!" He paused to savor the fear and disgust in her mind. "He loves you, yes...but you're right... he doesn't trust you..."

Rachel's thoughts were racing, one over another. Motherfuckerificouldevenmoveright nowyoubastard...

Cash slapped her across the face. Once again, consciousness threatened to leave and Rachel almost wished it would. "But you can't so the point is moot...isn't it?"

I'vegottagetfreesometime....oh shit....Somewhat belatedly, Rachel realized that she might not survive this encounter, if Gratiano was really as angry as he appeared.

"You see with all the problems that Cash's father caused...And your little boyfriend..." his tone was that of a teasing child. "Oh did you know that Cash thinks that you secretly loved Paul?"

At the mention of that name, Rachel's anger became so hot, it was cold. Well, that doesn't matter, now, she thought stiffly

Cash laughed. "It would have been...interesting if he had survived this evening, but as it is, it makes things a little easier, too."

Rachel braced herself for another blow. You've already shown you like things easy.

Cash shrugged. "I'm here with you aren't I?"

So either I'm easy - which seems to be no surprise to you - or you're a coward...she thought recklessly.

Cash ignored that. "How hard was it for you to run off with Paul on your wedding night? Did you

think about it for all of...two seconds?"

I was forced. She protested, fighting shame, anger and a tiny frisson of erotic memory.

Cash had grown claws, and one sharp finger drew a trail across Rachel's stomach. "Yes, that's your convenient excuse isn't it?"

Horror and fury fought for dominance. It's the truth! She insisted, blocking out a tiny internal voice that suggested otherwise. Dammit, let me go!

"Cash is going to thank me I'm sure... You were right about your worth when you first met him...Nothing" he painfully scraped the flesh of her inner forearm and grabbed her hand. "I've learned quite a bit about you..." he smiled, enjoying the fear he found in her mind. He began to slowly bend back the thumb upon her right hand. Rachel wanted to twist away from him, to tear out his eyes, but couldn't manage even the smallest twitch. The frustration that caused was tremendous and fueled her anger.

. "Tell me... how you feel about Paul, and what Cash did to him. If I like your answer I may stop." His teasing smile suggested otherwise as he continued to pull on her thumb.

Rachel felt what little strength she had left draining out of her. I don't know, she said simply. I wasn't conscious.

Cash frowned darkly. "Wrong answer!" With a deliberate slowness, his claws sank into the flesh of Rachel's hand and tore away her thumb.

The bone twisting pain was strangely counterpointed by the complete inability to express discomfort. The need to cry out thrashed around uselessly inside her mind. Truth, she insisted frantically. I don't know what he did. All I know is that Cash killed him - and you know how he felt about that...

Cash poked the wound upon Rachel's hand. "I mean, afterwards. Now that he has killed you lover in a fit of rage....How do you feel? Do you hate him, at least a little bit?" He ran a claw across the crease of her wrist, his other hand massaged her breast. For the first time in many years, Rachel wanted to vomit. "I want Cash to know just how strong your feelings were."

Rachel knew that both honesty and falsehood would have serious consequences. However, she was beginning to doubt that she would survive long enough to face the consequences of telling the truth, and the penalty for lying was seeping blood into the floor beside her. She sighed, inwardly. How did I feel about Viersan? She finally said. I hated him and wanted him...Cash I love too much to hate. The gloating triumph on Cash/Gratiano's face disgusted her, but she forced herself to continue. With Viersan, it was dangerous...and compelling...with Cash, it was stable, but now...She stopped suddenly, fearing that too much truth could hurt her, still.

Cash nodded. "Very good. Now you know the rules." He tweaked her intact thumb painfully. "You can keep that one." Instead, he took the index finger of her left hand and bent it back, just to the point of discomfort. Rachel found it impossible to repress a sudden thought. Of course, that's assuming that you're not just Cash gone psycho and using a convenient excuse which I really hope isn't true.

Cash raised an eyebrow, apparently he had heard her and released the captive digit. "I may be Cash, you're right.... I do know an awful lot, don't I? It seems trust is a very low commodity in this marriage on both sides...isn't it?"

Rachel barely heard him. Hellhellhell could be Cash using a convenient excuse could be gratiano could be someone what, trust is a low part of my life!

"I don't think I'm helping much. I think I'm just doing a few things that Cash could never admit to..." Cash moved her thighs apart, bit his way across her belly.

Rachel's mind screamed. Get away from me!

Cash shook his head. "Why? You've never had a problem with power games before." He licked the inside of her thigh. "Paul knew that. Next question..." he announced, moving up and resting his chin upon her stomach. "Was there any time that you went to Paul willingly?"

Yes. She admitted.

"Since you became serious with Cash?" His clawed fingers were now stroking her face. Rachel wished she could just shudder. Yes.

He smiled, the familiar face and unfamiliar hatred tearing Rachel up inside. "Well, now we both know, don't we Cash? Oh," he laughed. "I think we're getting somewhere." He thought for a moment. "Your turn." he said. "Ask me anything, I know all about him, now."

Rachel reined in her temper. I don't have anything to ask him, she said tightly, but then. You're really Gratiano? A desperate whisper.

Cash seemed surprised by the question. "Of course...but maybe I'm lying." Is he playing us for fools?

"Cash? In what way?" he seemed genuinely curious.

I've always feared that...that he's somehow managing to lie to everyone...even me. Rachel admitted.

Cash moved on top of her, and toyed with her stake, idly. "Oh, but that's part of both of your jobs now - lying - isn't it? He has his secrets. Ask your grand protector of humanity what happened at Pryce Savings and Loan... ask him why he really left the Anarchs." he sneered.

Rachel clamped down on misguided temptation. No. If Cash wants to tell me that, he will. She regretted broaching the subject. Forget it. If Cash wants to tell me, he will...assuming I live through this...

That last thought was ignored. "Oh, but you asked, didn't you? While he was vulnerable and he's always going to remember that. And...other things..." he moved against her, another moment of twisted sexuality. Rachel couldn't even pretend to hide the disgust and fear that inhabited her mind. Shades of past nightmares flitted through her mind. She hoped Gratiano didn't notice that.

Cash got up and once again reached beneath the bed. "I've been anticipating this evening for quite a while." he admitted. "So I went to the trouble of gathering a few...necessary items." He held up several spools of steel wire within her line of sight. "See, now that I've told you what I need to tell you, I'm going to have some fun." He took her arms and carefully lashed her wrists to the bed's headboard. "This is a titanium alloy. I don't think even you can break it, little bird." he smiled. "But you're welcome to try. That's why I'm tying you up." he licked her arm from wrist to elbow. "Being staked is all well and good for conversation, but for more athletic fun...well...I'm not into strict necrophilia." Rachel's thoughts left the realm of coherence for one long moment. "Oh, don't tell me you're surprised." Gratiano admonished her. "As I said, Cash took my head, so I'm going to take his head and his bride." Now her legs were tied down, spread apart on the bed. "Of course, somebody else beat me to that idea." he frowned. "I'm rather angry about that, but I suppose I can work that out."

He stepped back to admire his work for a second. "Yes I think that will do. What do you think, dearest?" for a moment his manner was that of the Cash Rachel knew and that scared her all the more. "Well, it doesn't really matter what you think." he admitted. He reached over and twisted the stake protruding from her chest. The sensation was uniquely uncomfortable. Rachel could feel the sharpened end moving against the inside of her spine. Gratiano smiled again. "A long shaft between the breasts. How phallic. I suppose I could make something of that, but I've got things better than wood at my disposal." he teased.

In one swift movement, he pulled the stake free and watched Rachel struggle for several moments. True to what he had said, the metal wire creaked but did not break. Spreadeagled, Rachel could not gain the leverage she would need to break either the wire or the bedstead to which she was tied. After a short time, she stopped and lay still, glaring at her husband.

"That's good." he soothed her. "Now, I have this-" he held up a ball gag. "But I'd rather not use it, for reasons I'm sure you can guess at. So keep those sharp teeth of yours away from my skin or else I'll feed you your fingers and other flesh, besides."

He rejoined her in the bed and entered her sharply, enjoying her grimace of pain. She tried to turn her face away, only to have him painfully jerk her head towards him. "Oh no, little bird, keep looking at me." he insisted. "This is about my pleasure and revenge, not yours."

Rachel bit her tongue so hard it bled. "Tell me, is this anything like what you had with that freak, Viersan?" he asked conversationally, thrusting slowly.

Rather than reply, Rachel moved against him, trying to roll him off her body. He only laughed at this. "Oh yeah, baby. Rock and roll." and sank beclawed fingers into her back to retain his purchase.

"Oh, I bet it is." He declared, reaching into her mind again. Rachel sensed his presence and tried to banish memories of her liason with Viersan two weeks ago. Irrepressible memories of similar restraint, but a far more enjoyable encounter came to her mind.

He laughed. "It is! Well, almost...Rachel, I wouldn't have guessed." he commented. "So you like it rough?" He moved against her firmly, causing her to gasp through clenched teeth. "Good." the strength behind his motions increased perceptibly. "After all, I'm sure you'll survive." he chuckled. "Tell me how you feel, darling." another moment of the real Cash, suddenly belied. "I want to hear you, and if I don't get what I want...."

Rachel stubbornly closed her mouth and resisted the urge to gasp at the pain and loathing he caused.

"Oh, tut tut, little bird." Gratiano chided. "Punishment time." he moved above her, his teeth leaving a raking track from her shoulder to her wrist. He licked her bound left hand, wire and all, and easily bit away her index finger. The ragged flesh was clenched between his teeth as he grinned at her. He spit it upon her stomach and the clammy touch caused her to thrash about until it slid onto the bedsheets. "I don't see why you're so, ah, attached to them." he commented. "They're not terribly pretty, are they?" he smiled faintly. "But the rest of you...." he pushed into her again. "Oh, that's good." he sighed. "Just fantastic. I've really enjoyed you." he told her. "For a little Muslim girl, you sure can fuck." his pace increased.

Rachel's pain escaped her clenched teeth and once again she tried to look away. "No, no, I've told you once..." his clawed hand reached up her arm and Rachel reluctantly returned her gaze to him. The familiar face made things that much worse. "Good girl." he nodded. "As I was saying, you feel so good, so tight. I don't think Cash realizes you must have been a virgin when you were Embraced. How does that feel - the first time every night?"

Rachel growled. "Not as bad as you hope." and spit in his face. He struck her, open handed, across her face, his claws leaving gashes. He felt her pain at that and smiled. "Maybe. But this is going to be so much" a sharp bite upon her breast. "fun. A virgin every night of the week. I wonder if I can remove all your previous memories of sex?" he mused. "I suppose I can try...later."

Rachel turned her thoughts inward and dazedly tried to consider her options. There weren't many. It was too hard to even comprehend the situation as something like this ghoulish doppelganger of her husband casually raped her. She wanted to retreat into insanity or incoherence, but could not. Gratiano moved against her sharply, so hard she though she felt bones cracking. At that, she finally screamed. "That's better." he said, tightly. "I said I wanted to hear you." The next few moments were punctuated only by Rachel's moans.

His pace increased with her pain, and she feared she would break. His hands twisted into her hair - something that sometimes brought a modicum of pleasure in other circumstances - and, as she felt this creature coming inside her, he kissed her again, greedily sucking her blood from her tongue. She was so wearied and hurt that she did not even think of trying to hurt him back. He looked at her, bemused, as if surprised by her fear and the bloody tears on her face. He smiled at that, moved away from her and took a celphone from his jacket which lay upon the floor. He dialed a number and waited.

"Scratch... the little bird has been nabbed I'll meet you at the location." He looked back at Rachel. "Take your time though...I want to finish my honeymoon."

Rachel tried to push away the memory of a nightmare as Cash returned to their bed, and failed. All I deserve, and all I can get...echoed in her mind throughout the bloody evening...


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