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?You are staring at him again.? Liz quickly looked down at the spreadsheet and hoped she would not blush. ?Don?t worry, he did not see you.? Liz gave Mike a quick kick under the table. He had been invaluable on this trip and she was sorry he was going to stay on at the London office. But the chance to move to his grandparents? estate and oversee their care in the final years and thus inherit the lands was too much to pass up. He had inherited money from his mother?s family and now his father?s family was providing the land. He had loved being her assistant, but she did not blame him for throwing it all away for a life of luxury. He laughed when she called it a castle, but by any American standard, it was a castle. All he had to do was complete one project for the company, and he was free to marry his London girlfriend.

?So gentlemen, I believe we have an agreement?? Liz could use her voice to command respect, even among a room where she was the only woman. With no objection, she turned the meeting over to Mike. Now she could casually feast upon the delicious Reginald Anthony Peter Smythe, the marketing director for the London office. He was wearing a subtle pinstripe suit, hair groomed perfectly and she was not sure, but thought she could smell him from across the table. He was somewhere in his mid-forties and she imagined his hand running up and down her thigh while freeing her thick, waist length hair from the French twist she always wore. But she had been in London for two weeks and he had only spoken professionally to her. If only it were he that was going to live in the castle instead of Mike.

The meeting ended just around teatime and all decided to go from drinks to celebrate. Liz found herself distracted at the pub, not because she was going back to the States, but because Reg had not even come up to chat with her. So she decided to make her move. As she approached, Reg turned toward her. ?Liz, excellent work today. It is a shame you will be leaving us. I would have liked to get to know you better. You are an amazing woman, the kind of woman that excites me. But you see, I never mix work and pleasure.
Don?t think I did not see you watching me since the first day you arrived?
Tough luck, right? Can I get you a refill?? He glanced away.

?Thanks, vodka tonic. Do you mean this whole time, you knew?? Liz knew she was blushing. ?Wow, had I known, I would have stayed over a couple of days.
But now, I can?t change my plans. Not unless something out of my control were to keep me here!?

Reg laughed and put his glass down. ?Be careful what you wish for.? He kissed her cheek, ?Have a safe trip home, if fate does not intervene!? And with that, he was gone. Liz sat there alone with her drink and tried not to think about what could have been. All around her was laughter and enjoyment, but she could only think of Reg.

?Pound for your thoughts?? Mike appeared on the stool next to her.

?Are you practicing your London-ese already??

?Yes, pip pip and jolly ho!?

Liz laughed. Mike could always make her laugh. At 37, he was two years older than she and had come up through the company, starting at the proverbial mailroom. While his mother?s family had money, they did not approve of her marriage and tied up the funds in a trust fund for him, only to come due upon the death of both parents. So he had not gone to college, but he had drive and a strong work ethic. And that is all Liz cared about. He had several chances to advance in the company, but stayed as her assistant. His reason was that he would rather have a job he loved and work with people he got along with instead of hating a job that provided lots of money. And Liz was grateful because he took care of every detail. Many times he made plans for her before she knew she wanted to do them herself. She even caught him one day forging her signature, of course for something she would have signed anyway.

?Actually, I got a call and have to get home to check on Gran. But I came to get a farewell hug.? Liz was getting drunk, but managed to stand up and they said their goodbyes. But she would be back in a few months for his wedding; he said it wouldn?t happen without her. She watched him walk out the door and she thought of the replacement she had hired. There would never be another Mike.

As the evening wore on, Liz sobered up a bit and decided to call it a night.
Because it was a lovely evening and her hotel was just a short distance away, she decided to walk. The evening air was brisk and she loved the way her heels sounded on the stones below her feet. There is nobody else here but me, and maybe a few ghosts, she thought. As she neared the end of the street, she came up to a parked van. Just as she started to walk by it, the door flew open and hands drug her inside. She felt a cloth over her face and she could smell something very sweet. With that, all went black.

Liz was on her side when she woke. She wondered what time it was and if she had time to get a little more sleep before she left for the airport. But as she reached over for the clock, she felt the shackles on her wrist. She sat up with a bolt and realized she was chained to the bed. She called out to the darkness, but there was only a slight hum. This went on for what seemed for hours until she heard footsteps. The door opened, and somebody came toward her with a tray, using the light from the hall to find the table. She asked what was happening, but the person just turned and walked out. When the door shut, the lights in the room came on. It looked like an old wine cellar, but without the racks. There was a bed in the middle of the room and a table and chair, all looking like they were salvaged from an old infirmary. The bed coverings were mismatched, but smelled clean. There were some magazines and a remote control on the table and a TV in the corner. The only lights were florescent lights mounted on the ceiling. The chains were long enough to let Liz get to the table and sit down and to the toilet on the other side of the bed. Since the meal was a sandwich and chips, and based on her growling stomach, she assumed it was at least lunchtime.
Habitually, she looked at her arm and found her watch was gone, as was all of her jewelry. At that point, she decided not to eat, but crawled back in bed and plot her escape.

She woke to the sound of the door opening. The lights were off in the room and the person removed the tray, again, saying nothing. And again, after the door shut, the lights came back on. This was the same pattern for the next three meals. Finally, hunger and thirst got the better of Liz and she broke down and ate the sandwich and chips. For the next meal, she was rewarded with a small piece of cake with her sandwich. At the end of the meal, she suddenly felt sleepy and barely made it back to the bed. She woke to discover that her bed had been changed and she had been bathed.
Additionally, her hair had been washed and legs and armpits shaved. She felt like a woman again, but she must have been drugged to sleep through all of that. Now she started getting angry! Was anyone looking for her? Surely when she did not show up at the office, they would have notified the police?
Surely Mike would have been contacted by now and he would have told her about the pub and Reg.

REG!! What was it he said? Liz tried to remember? ?be careful what you wish for?? was that it? Was it Reg? Surely not? But he did say ….

Her thoughts were interrupted by the lights going out and the person walking in with another tray. But Liz was livid! ?How dare you do this to me? You have my jewelry, what else do you want? Are you going to rape me? If you are, get it over with and let me go! Just take me out in a field and release me. I have not seen your face and there is nothing here that can connect you. You must let me go!? There was no response as the person turned and walked through the door. ?Come back here, damn you! I am not finished with you! I want out of here!? She was screaming so loudly that she could
hardly be understood. Without thinking, she dove into the cake. Within five minutes, she was asleep.

When she woke, Liz found herself duct taped to the chair, with a gag in her mouth. There were bright lights shining in her face and someone was sitting behind the lights. The figure put out a cigarette on the floor and walked toward her. The person was wearing loose fitting clothing and panty hose over the face with a ski mask on top of that. Only when it spoke did she realize it was a man. With a thick German accent, the soothing voice said, ?So you choose to behave like a little girl, throwing a temper tantrum, demanding your way. You will have to be treated like a little girl. Little girls don?t always brush their hair and it gets many knots. So their mothers keep their hair short. I see your mother has let your hair get too long. We must not have that!?

With that, he moved in front of the lights and Liz saw the pair of scissors on the table. She looked into his eyes and glared at him. But suddenly, she realized he was not kidding and pleaded with him to stop as best she could with the muzzle in place. He picked up the scissors and pulled her hair behind her. As he stood running his fingers through her hair, he seemed to pause. ?I bet you are sorry you acted up, aren?t you? You don?t want me to cut off your pretty hair, do you? Well, you are forgiven, but you still take your punishment.? Liz vowed not to cry and pulled her shoulders back in a defiant stance. ?So you have a will after all?? He jerked her head back and she heard the dreaded crunch of the scissors. As the hair on the right side was freed from his grip by the scissors, she tried to turn and look at him.
When he finished a moment later, he held her hair above her head and let it fall in her face. She fought hard not to cry, and then realized there was not much cut. ?Yes, I only took a few inches. It still falls to below your bra strap. But I know how to punish you if you act up again.? He cut the tape so she was only restrained by the chains. With that, the man turned off the floor lights and stormed out off the room.
For the next week, there was no verbal contact between Liz and the man. But Liz was used to being in control and having human interaction; she could stand no more. He brought her breakfast in and she slapped him as he leaned over the table. He walked away without a word, but Liz threw the chair at the closing door. ?Reg, I know that is you!!! Just let me go. I promise I won?t press charges. Please!!? When the next meal arrived, he returned the chair to the table and did not even look at her. After he left, she started on the chips, thinking about how to get free of the chains. But suddenly she felt odd and fell to the floor.

She woke to the familiar chair and duct tape. This time, the man was pacing the floor. ?Once again, you have defied me. You act like a five year old instead of a woman in her thirties. I gave you a warning. You are a smart woman, or so I was lead to believe. But I have not seen evidence of intelligence.? He rushed over to her and without warning, sliced off a lock of her hair, just about shoulder length. He held in front of her face. ?This is for a woman, but you are a little girl!? He angrily chopped at her hair, but still leaving hair about shoulder length. Still, Liz did not cry.

He sat down in front of her. ?I don?t want to do this, but if you don?t behave like an adult, I have to punish you like I would a child.? At that, he reached for her thigh and Liz instantly pulled away. ?You see, you see?
No woman would pull away from her lover!? Liz glared at the man. ?Yes, you will be my lover! But you will do it willingly.? He grabbed her hair and sheared off a piece just above her jaw. With the same anger as before, he cut. He held her head as moved the scissors against her head, cutting straight across. He then yanked the hair on the base of her neck as she felt the scissors on her skin. He only slowing down as he cut the bangs. ?I want you to see the hair being cut. Look! LOOK! Don?t close your eyes!? Liz watched the hair fall down her shirt. He cut the tape and with that, he was gone. She shook her head to try to figure out what was left, and without a mirror, she imagined she looked like Catherine Zeta-Jones did in Chicago.

But a moment later, he was back. He had a box and went behind her but she could not tell what he was doing. Too soon, that question was answered.
Something mechanical came on and he pushed her head down. As soon as they touched her skin, she knew they were hair clippers. He shoved them up her neck, over and over again. The vibration felt strangely soothing, but the fact that she was not in control and did not know what was happening infuriated her. She started struggling and the noise stopped.

He came in front of her. ?You have passion, anger, wildness, all pent up inside. Are you ready to release it?? With that, he took the gag out of her mouth to kiss her. As he reached to remove his mask, she responded by spitting at him. He rose, looked at her and slapped her. The pain caused tears to well up in her eyes. ?So be it.? He threw her across the bed and drug her so she was face down with her head hanging over the side of the bed. With his full weight on her, the noise started again. This time, the vibrations did not stop at the bottom of her head, but kept going up and across the top of her head. Liz looked in horror as she saw sheets of hair rain down in front of her face. Again and again, the vibrations brought more hair to the floor in front of her. There was a definite anger in the man, and there was no gentleness coming from him. He pushed the clippers hard against her head. Liz kicked and tried to fight him, but there was no stopping him. Suddenly, the noise stopped. He got off the bed and was gone.

For the next five days, there were no words spoken between them. On the sixth, he brought in the dinner tray and she saw the clippers. ?Your hair is growing out. It needs to be cut.? He reached down to plug them in.

?It can?t get any shorter! Reg, why are you doing this to me?? He slapped her and she flew across the bed. Within three seconds, he had her pinned down, head again over the side of the bed and began cutting. This time, she found the rhythm of the clippers soothing, especially since he was not pushing so hard.

This same scenario happened each week for two months. One day, he walked in and when she saw the clippers, she simply went to the chair. ?It is no use fighting you. If you are not Reg, then he put you up to this. I just want out of here and to go home. If I behave, will you let me go home?? There was no defiance in her voice, nor was there any word from her captor. Just cutting.

Another month went by and she started making small talk, about nothing really, but trying to get him to talk to her. Even though he did not say a word, she felt his touch grow more gentle each time. In the fifth month of captivity, Liz noticed that two weeks had gone by and there had been no haircut. She discovered that she had started to look forward to the weekly head shaves and did not want them to stop. One day, she asked him why they had stopped. ?Because you started acting like an adult, you no longer needed to be punished.?

?I know I must be crazy, but I like the feel of the clippers and your gentle touch. I look forward to seeing you. But what I don?t understand is why am I here? You said I would be your lover, but have not raped me. You have not even seduced me. I find myself thinking about waking up in your bed or even in here, but in your arms. I love your scent, your touch, the sound of your voice. Don?t you see, I want to be your lover! You have worked your way into my heart, I want you, but you deny my freedom and you deny me your body!?
Liz started to cry for the first time. He turned around and walked out.

She woke and did not even open her eyes. She knew what she would see; she knew what her day would be like, and how it would end. It had not changed for months. He had not talked to her since she begged hi
m to be her lover so many weeks ago. But she realized that something was different ? the pillow was soft. She opened her eyes and saw the morning sun bathing the room with its first rays. She did not recognize the room and told herself it was a dream. But as she got out of bed and stumped her toe, the pain told her it was not a dream. She was not shackled and was in a stylish gown. She walked around the room and went out to the balcony, from where she saw beautiful lawns and rolling hills almost as far as she could see. She did not want to move, treasuring the first fresh air and sunlight she had seen in so many months.

Suddenly, there was a gentle kiss at the nape of her neck. She turned and there was Mike. She was speechless. ?Liz, you always saw me as a coworker, never someone you could be romantically linked with. I inherited this estate from my grandparents three years ago. I knew you would never leave the business world willingly. As your faithful assistant, people believed anything I told them. I had submitted your resignation by the time you arrived in London, and as your assistant, I intercepted all messages that made any reference to you leaving. So the night you disappeared, nobody was expecting you. I had already closed out your apartment, and since you did not have family or any really close friends, a short email here and there, kept up the illusion. So you see, nobody was looking for you.?

Liz sat down, all blood drained from her face. ?How.. how .. how could you?
You ruined my life. I have nothing to go back to. No job, no apartment, no life. How could you??

Mike put his arms around her shoulders. ?You did not have a life. You had work, work and work. You never took a vacation, you never dated anyone for more than two dates, you pushed all your close friends away. I am offering you a life of luxury. We can go anywhere, do anything, have children, watch them grown and have children of their own. Of course, you can go to the police. You are free.? Mike walked back into the room. Liz followed him in the room where Mike was putting some clothes on the bed for her. ?You will need these.?

Liz picked up the dress, resolved to ruin his life and to sue him for every penny he had. Anger began to fill every ounce of her body, As she started toward the hallway, she froze. She slowly turned toward the bathroom and saw Mike standing in the bathroom door. He turned off the clippers. ?It has been a couple of months since you had a haircut, hasn?t it?? She smiled, walked toward him, and pulled him to the bed. All of the passion and wildness came out and shortly, both were spent. She turned to him, ?So what about that haircut??

The next morning, Mike wrote a note to his cousin, stationed in Germany. It read, ?Paul, Glad you enjoyed your visit here last September. Just wanted to let you know that the CIA did not waste money on teaching you brainwashing techniques. See you soon, Mike?

Readers: Thanks to so many of you who wrote, asking for more. The emails helped me to change my mind and start writing again. I will keep writing as long as I keep hearing from you.

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