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Treason Ch. 02

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We were in the Capitol. Jonathan was the Captain again, and it was the Captain who pushed me none-too-gently out of the carriage, and I stumbled and fell and scraped my shoulder on the pavement, and he pulled me up by my elbow and marched me into the courthouse.

I had been to the Capitol several times, but I’d never seen any of the courthouses, although I knew that each district had one.

This one was an imposing stone building standing tall amongst wooden shops, with a bell tower rising high from the center. The Captain pulled me into a courtroom, and sat me on a three-legged stool in the center of the room, and fastened my cuffs to a ring at the back of the stool. Frustrated, I managed to elbow him in the leg before he stepped backwards. I wasn’t planning on trying to escape, but it he didn’t have to make me feel so damn helpless.

In front of me was a massive carved wooden desk — on a platform, as though they thought the desk itself was not imposing enough — and behind it sat a middle-aged man in a crimson robe, leafing through the papers in front of him.

“Marja Pala Mansard,” he said. Apparently you get to hear your full name a lot in the criminal justice system.

“Yes,” I said.

He had a copy of my paper in front of him, and he held it at arm’s length between his thumb and forefinger, an expression of distaste on his face. “You are the person responsible for the publication of this… trash?”

My breath caught in my throat. Am I going to take a stand here, I wondered?

“It’s not trash,” I heard myself saying. “Sir.”

Apparently I was going to take a stand.


Jonathan stood in the back of the courtroom, arms folded across his chest, leaning against the wall, next to the bailiff. Red, who was an old friend — they’d been at the Academy together — gave him a sidelong glance.

“Not your job to stick around,” he murmured.

“Just want to see what happens.”


A pause.

“You mess her up like that?”


“She any good?”

Jonathan merely nodded, although he could have laughed out loud. Was she any good? She had completely undone him. She had left him dizzy and gasping for breath. She had thoroughly astonished him, and he was fascinated with her.

He had meant only to amuse himself. After all, prisoners weren’t really people — they were just things, things that had ended up on the wrong side of the system, things that would soon be dead or enslaved or indentured. And being on warrant-duty was a chore, so if you arrested someone you were attracted to, anything you did on the trip back was just one of the perks of being in the Guard.

Jonathan had always been aroused by a woman kneeling before him, helpless, looking up at him with wide eyes. But he rarely played with any of the attractive women he arrested — they were usually too frightened, or too naïve, to have any fun with. Although there had been one extraordinarily luscious girl he had picked up for counterfeiting money. He’d made her strip, slowly, one piece of clothing at a time, and she had enjoyed it as much as he did. And then he’d taken her with his clothes still on, enjoying that little thrill of power, and she’d reciprocated, riding him as hard as he rode her. That had been a good day.

But Marja! He paused for a moment, remembering her delicate little tongue sliding up and down his cock, remembering his cum slowly trickling down her breasts. There had been a moment — he had felt it when it happened, he could pinpoint it exactly — when she had given herself over to him. She had surrendered, fully and completely. Not everyone knew how to find that space. Not everyone was capable of finding that space. But she had given herself over to him, and it had been intoxicating.

He could also point to the moment it had left her. He had spent himself, and flung himself back on the bench, and they had looked at each other as though their gazes were as tactile as her lips on his flesh, and he had watched the triumph fade from her eyes, and it was replaced with anger and fear and hatred and shame, and he didn’t like it.

He had missed whatever else Marja had said, and the Magistrate was giving the sentence. “I pronounce you guilty on all counts. As such, your life is forfeit to the state. In view of your youth, I will not condemn you to death. However, you are to be flogged, and then sold into an indentured servitude of seven years at the public auction next week. This is so that you may productively contribute to society, and thereby make amends for your misdeeds, so far as you are able.”

Marja collapsed. It looked like she had fainted. Jonathan watched silently as a couple of officers carried her out of the courtroom.

Well, it was none of his concern now.


Five minutes later, Jonathan strode into the clerk’s office. “I want to see the records for one of the proceedings this afternoon. Mansard.”

The clerk sighed with the ancient sigh that civil servants have passed down for generations. It is a weary, resigned sigh, one that says, “Let me tear myself away from my present exhausting task in order to help you with your similarly exhausting but frivolous request.”

“Authorization,” he said.

Jonathan put his icon on the desk.

“Congratulations. You’re a Captain. That’s not authorization.”

Jonathan smiled, a full smile, and even Marja would have known that was dangerous. “I’m the arresting officer. And I’m taking a personal interest. And if you don’t bring me those documents, I will personally break every finger on your left hand.”

Shortly afterward he was sitting in a cafe across the street, leafing through Marja’s file. He merely skimmed the data reports — really? She was twenty-eight? — and he didn’t even bother with the routine forms and verifications. He was looking for something specific.

When he found it, he glanced over the headlines.

Then he went back and read the articles.

Then he read them again. Carefully.

The little bitch was good. She could gather data. She could verify data. She could write, and write well, damn her. And she could put it all together into four pages that described the worst parts of the country, the worst abuses, the most distressing and problematic situations. In fact, his little stunt in the carriage was exactly the kind of thing she’d indignantly report. She’d call it — what was the phrase? — “a shameful and misogynistic abuse of power.”

But it wasn’t treason.


The cell was small, and dark, and underground. A torch sputtered fitfully in the hallway, casting shadows of the bars across the room. There was a cot in one corner, and I was laying on it, hugging my knees to my chest. I wished I hadn’t fainted. It was so girly. And more importantly, I had sprained my wrist against the shackles when I fell over.

For a while I had tried, unsuccessfully, to convince myself that being sold into service was better than being dead. The Magistrate might talk about contributing to society, but I was young, and female, and not unattractive. I knew what an indentured servitude would mean.

Now I just stared at the wall, my mind blank.

I heard the door unlock behind me, and then lock again after someone entered the room. I didn’t bother to see who it was.

“You need to eat,” said Jonathan.

I turned and looked at him. He was leaning against the far wall, arms folded over his chest, and he pushed the untouched tray of food towards me with one foot.

“I’m not hungry,” I said.

I couldn’t tell in the dimness, but it looked like he rolled his eyes. “I’m holding you to your promise to obey me. Eat something.”

Wearily, I sat up on the cot and took a piece of bread. He waited until I had finished it. I was reaching for another — the taste had brought my appetite back — when he said, “Have you ever seen a public flogging?”

I froze, staring at him, and I gave a tiny shake of my head.

“It’s not pretty,” he said. “It’s similar to a sailor being whipped at sea. They use a cat o’ nine tails with bits of shell embedded in the ends of the braids. It practically rips the flesh off your back. You may die from the loss of blood. If you don’t, it will take weeks to heal, and you’ll have the scars for life.”

Fear and rage welled up inside me, but I was tired of feeling afraid, so I chose the anger. In one motion I jumped up, grabbed the food tray, and threw it as hard as I could in his direction. Soup and bread flew everywhere and the dishes smashed to the ground.

“How DARE you!” I screamed. “How dare you come in here and torment me? What do you want from me? Do you want me to cry, beg, grovel? You malicious bastard, I hope you rot in hell!”

I had to stop for breath there, and Jonathan just stood there blinking at me.

“It’s not enough that you had to use me, humiliate me, you have to come and gloat over my punishment? Get out! GET OUT!”

But he had recovered himself by then, and he swept down on me, pushing me flat on my back on the bed, one hand covering my mouth and the other arm pinning my hands down. “You stupid little bitch, do you want everyone in the building to hear you? I am trying to help you!” he hissed.

But my outburst had opened the floodgates, and I was crying too hard to stop. So he gathered me into his arms, and he held my head to his shoulder while I sobbed uncontrollably, letting out all the fear and frustration that had been building inside.

After a time I was able to pull myself together. I wiped my eyes and my nose on what was rapidly becoming the tattered remains of my dress, and I pushed Jonathan away resentfully.

“I’m sorry,” he said gently. “I really am here to help you. I didn’t think you’d trust me…”

“I don’t trust you,” I snapped.

“…and so,” he continued, “I thought that you’d be more likely to come with me if you were too afraid to stay here.”

I scowled. “Well, congratulations on a job well done.”

He gave that almost-smile again, one corner of his mouth quirking up. Silence hung in the air for a few minutes before I had the courage to ask.

“So. Was it all true?”


I shuddered, my eyes filling with tears.

“But I can help.”

I looked up at him. “Explain.”

“The law specifies a whipping,” he said. “But it doesn’t say when, or where, or how. I can have you released from jail into my custody. And I can take you somewhere else to be whipped. It still won’t be pleasant…” he stopped and thought for a second and then said, “well, it probably won’t be pleasant. But there won’t be any blood, and you’ll recover in a day or two, as opposed to weeks. You’ll be whipped. You won’t be flogged.”

“What about . . . afterwards?”

He shook his head. “I can’t do anything about that.” And I closed my eyes and I let that tiny flicker of hope flutter away.

“Will you come with me?” he asked.


“Best get it over with.”

I swallowed and nodded.

“Very well.”

He unlocked the door and I followed him up the steps at the end of the hall, blinking in the brighter torchlight, even though it was evening now and becoming dark outside. Jonathan signed for me with the officer at the front desk, who winked at him. Well, I suppose that if I were going to fuck a prisoner, I wouldn’t do it in that horrible little cell either. The officer handed me a cloak from behind his desk, for which I was very grateful, as I was barely decent at this point. Then Jonathan took my elbow and we stepped out into the street.

I suppose it was only natural that my first thought would be of escape. Jonathan tightened his grip on my arm.

“I would find you in less than two minutes. And I would be very, very angry.”

So I pushed all thoughts of freedom into the very back of my mind, and I let him lead me down the streets. After all, it wasn’t as though I had anywhere to run to.

After some time, we stopped in front of an unidentified, decrepit wooden door tucked into the corner of an alleyway.

“What sort of place is this?” I asked.

“It’s a club.”

“A club. Where people are whipped.”

“Sometimes, yes.”

“And at other times?”

“At other times, people are teased, or fucked, or spanked, or tied up, or merely made to give pleasure in a variety of ways.”

Oh. That kind of club.

I took a deep breath. “I’m not sure I can do this.”

He looked down at me. “Sweetness, it really will be much better this way.”

“And I suppose the fact that you’re clearly going to enjoy this has nothing to do with it.” I wanted to say that with icy anger but it came out as more of a pout.

Again there was the merest hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth. “Well, that’s certainly an added bonus.”

I sighed. “Let’s go in.”


I didn’t have a clear idea of what to expect. But I certainly didn’t expect a cramped little bookstore, with a very attractive but modestly-dressed woman sitting at a little table off to the side. She glanced up from her book as we entered.

“Good evening, Captain,” she said.


“Do you need any help?”

He took off his ring. “Just this.”

She nodded, and took the ring, and returned in a moment with a collar. I wanted to back away, but the Captain’s firm gaze held me in place. He was definitely the Captain again, and while Jonathan had earned a bit of trust, the Captain was still a rather frightening enigma. I kept eye contact with him while Delilah took my cloak, fastened the collar around my neck, and handed him the key. His ring was strung on a fine chain connected to both sides of the collar, and it lay nestled in the hollow at the base of my neck.

“My dress…” I murmured, trying to tuck the bodice around to cover myself. It was completely ruined, and, being a seamstress, I’d know. It was torn at several seams, and it was still stained with his semen, and it hung off one shoulder, baring my cleavage and showing half my corset and chemise.

“Leave it,” he said.


“Leave it,” he commanded. “I like remembering what you did to me.” I flushed and dropped my hands to my sides.

He nodded in approval. “Let’s go.” And taking my hand, he led me through the back of the shop down a few stairs, and into a dim passageway.

The passage turned a corner and opened into a large room. In the center of the room there was a large fire-pit, and people in various states of undress lounged around it on sofas and pillows. There were masters and mistresses, and there were slave-boys and slave-girls, but sometimes you had to look carefully to see which was which. On one settee, a girl draped in golden chains was massaging the shoulders of the woman sitting in front of her — the woman was on the floor, and wearing a very simple gown, but it was clear that she had the power. Another woman in an elegant robe was lounging in the other corner of the couch, and she idly caressed the hair of the man who knelt at her feet. Two women were laying on the floor, kissing and cuddling and giggling, and I thought they were equals until one of them sent the other off to be punished.

The room was roughly circular, with several mysterious hallways leading off to goodness knows where, and there were also four small alcoves. They each had a different device inside, and they were open to the room so that everyone could watch the scene taking place inside. There was a little crowd gathered around the alcove currently being used, so I couldn’t see what was happening, but I heard cries of pain, and moans of pleasure, and I swallowed and tried to breathe.

At one end of the room there was a row of white marble columns, and at the top of each column there was a lamp — a real lamp, actual electric lighting. I’d only seen power once before, so for me, this was the height of decadence.

Even more interesting, there was also a person in front of each column. Some were men, some women. They were dressed in sheer white silk, blindfolded with a white satin band, and wearing a golden collar that was hooked to a ring fastened into the marble. Their wrists were not bound, but every one of them held their hands clasped behind them, their heads tilted slightly downwards in deference, their feet in third position, like a dancer. As I watched, an older gentleman, who had been deliberating between two rather lovely specimens, made his choice. He unhooked the collar of a young, exotic-looking male, and led him down one of the hallways.

I had imagined things, the kind of things one imagines in the dead of night, but I had never thought that anything like this happened in real life.

“The ones in white belong to the club,” the Captain said. “Some of them permanently, and some just for tonight. Anyone may use them.” I glanced up at him in fear and he said, “Don’t worry. This marks you as mine.” And he caught hold of his ring around my neck and pulled me close to him.

“Afraid?” he asked.



I blushed, which was apparently all the answer he needed. He led me to a couch near the center of the room and gently sat me down, taking for himself a chair opposite me. A girl approached us with a tray of drinks in one hand. Like the submissives chained to the columns, she was dressed in nothing but a sheer white shift that clung to her body, covering everything and revealing everything. I couldn’t help staring at the way the fabric brushed across her nipples. The Captain took a glass of wine from the tray and handed it to me. “Thank you,” I whispered. My mouth had gone dry. He sat forward in his chair, elbows on knees and hands clasped under his chin, watching me intently.

I took a sip of wine. “Are– are you going to do it?”

He nodded.

“Where?” I asked, my eyes darting around the room, taking in the various means of restraint in the different corners, and all the instruments of punishment hanging on the walls.

He nodded towards one alcove in particular, where there stood a sawhorse made of dark polished wood, with rings at the sides and base, and chains hanging from the ceiling. I felt a thrill of panic.

“With what?”

“I haven’t decided yet.” He looked around the room, considering. “But whatever I choose, Sweetness, I’m going to mark you as mine. I’m going to lay burning red stripes all over your perfect little white ass. And at least half the people here will be watching. Bringing someone in for their first whipping is something of an event. It’s like losing your virginity. And from the way you were able to suck me so beautifully, I’d say that’s something you’ve already lost.”

There were probably a hundred different responses that speech could have evoked from me, but all I could think was that Jonathan would never have said that.

He was still watching me with that disconcerting, evaluating look. I was frightened, but I couldn’t deny that it was exhilarating to be the focus of such intense attention. When he was the Captain, I could feel power and command radiate from his very presence.

“Bryce?” the Captain called.

This was to an older, portly gentleman with the bearing of an aristocrat, standing near the fire, looking into the flames, with a boy sitting cross-legged beside him.

He turned with a genuine smile on his face. “It’s a pleasure to see you, Captain,” he said, walking towards us. “It’s been too long.”

He gave the Captain a solid handshake before turning to look at me. “My goodness. Congratulations, my friend; she’s simply exquisite.” He drew one finger down my cheek until it was under my chin, and he tilted my face up to look at him. I didn’t know what was expected, and I didn’t want to make the Captain ashamed of me. I dropped my eyes and stayed very still.

“Absolutely exquisite,” he murmured again. “May I borrow her?”

“Actually,” said the Captain, “I was hoping to borrow the Prince. She’s going to be whipped, but this is her first time. I’d like him to give her her bearings.”

“You’re joking. She’s a novice?”

“Completely and entirely.”

Bryce stood back and looked at me. “One day, my dear, I’ll convince your dear Captain to part with you for an evening. But for now, do please enjoy your first visit to my club.” He made a small bow and walked away, pausing to send his boy — the Prince, apparently — in our direction.

The Captain kissed me on the forehead and walked away. The Prince sat cross-legged on the floor and pulled me down from the couch to sit with him.

The Prince wasn’t really a boy at all. His figure and face were youthful, but when you looked into his eyes, you knew he was an old soul, and you couldn’t figure out how old he actually was at all. But dear sweet mother of the saints, he was gorgeous. He was like a child of the gods, with perfectly chiseled features, blonde hair that curled just slightly, beautiful lips that looked like he was always about to laugh.

I didn’t have a mental filter any more. I’d been through too much that day to be able to watch what I said. “You’re so beautiful,” I whispered.

The Prince smiled. “So they say.” And he took my hands in his and gave them a friendly squeeze.

“Now. I heard the Captain say you’ve never been whipped before. So, what did he do with you? There must have been something, or he wouldn’t have brought you here.”

“Um,” I said. I’m so eloquent in stressful situations. “Um. He arrested me. In Tull. And, um, while we were coming here, I was handcuffed, and he made me, um, it was a thing. There was me, and there was him, and I made him come, and that was it. And then, um, they said –” my mind shied away from the sentencing, I couldn’t go there — “but he said it wouldn’t be as bad if I came here, so I came here.”

“So. After the Captain arrested you, he made you suck him off. And he’s going to whip you here. So that you don’t have to be flogged.”

I decided that the Prince was very smart, if he could figure that out from the jumble of words I’d just spilled. I nodded.

“For the Captain to have brought you here –” the Prince was choosing his words carefully — “there must have been a moment where you, well, liked what happened in the carriage.”

“Yes. There was a moment.”

“How did it make you feel?”

I looked up at him. “I felt free.”

The Prince smiled. “All right, Sweetness. Don’t worry. You’re going to be just fine.

“Now, here’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to take you over to the whipping bench, and you’re going to undress, and I’m going to tie you up. When the Captain whips you, it’s going to hurt. Actually, with the Captain, it’s probably going to hurt like fucking hell. And there’s no safe word. You can’t make it stop. You have to take it until he decides he’s finished.

“But some people can find ecstasy there. So try to find the ecstasy. And even if you can’t, it’s far better than the alternative. All right?”

I nodded.

“So. Come with me.”

We walked to the alcove and I stepped up to the bench. It was like a sawhorse — a plank resting on two sets of triangular legs — but the wood was dark and polished, and the plank was padded, and the legs had rings and ropes on them.

“Dress off, I think,” said the Prince. “It has a nice bedraggled quality, but it’ll get in the way. Corset off, too. You can leave the chemise.”

I wasn’t really thinking any more. I let the dress fall to the floor, and he unlaced my corset so I could slip it off. My chemise was short and sheer, and, rather irrelevantly, I wished I hadn’t added that bit of lace to the hem. It seemed so out of place.

“Spread your legs,” said the Prince, and I did, one foot pressed against each leg of the bench. He took the ropes fastened on each side, and he wrapped the ropes twice around each ankle before securing them to the rings on the other side of the legs.

Then he stood in front of me, with another length of rope in his hands, and he deftly wound it around my wrists, his hands making complicated knots with the ease of long practice. He connected the rope to one of the chains, and it was attached to the ceiling a little way in front of me, so that I was leaning forward over the bench, my chemise riding up so that I might as well have been wearing nothing. “If you hold on to the chain, it’ll take some of the pressure off the ropes,” he said, and then tightened the chain so I didn’t have any slack at all.

The Prince adjusted the electric lamp to shine even more brightly in my little alcove, and I blinked. The brightness meant that I couldn’t see out into the darkness of the room beyond, but I thought I heard the noises of people gathering.

I tested the ropes. I didn’t want to look like I was struggling, but I did want to know how much give I had to work with. The answer was practically none. I was strung up tightly enough that I couldn’t even bend my knees, and I could only shift my hips about an inch or so against the bench. A lot of my weight was on my hip-bones and I was awfully glad for the padding, although the irony of a comfortable whipping bench was not lost on me.

This was it. This was actually happening.

I don’t know how long the Captain let me just stand there. It must have been at least ten minutes. Or maybe it was just five. My thoughts were spinning so quickly that I lost all sense of time. I closed my eyes, letting my head hang down between my arms, focusing on the feeling of the chain between my hands, the ropes around my ankles, my hips against the bench. I could almost lose myself in the peacefulness of it.

With no warning, there was a resounding smack on my right ass cheek. I squeaked and jumped, suddenly at full attention. I felt a hand massage where I’d been smacked, taking away a little of the sting.

This was it. This was actually happening.

The Captain walked around and stood in front of me. He had a paddle in one hand and a riding crop in the other. He put the riding crop in my mouth, between my teeth.

“First, the paddle,” he said. “And then, when you drop it, the crop.”

I shuddered all over and clenched my teeth tightly on the crop. And he walked away and I couldn’t see him any more.

The paddle landed with a sharp sting, and he worked it on me evenly, first one side and then the other, in a steady rhythm. It hurt, damn him, and I let out a little cry every time it hit me. Occasionally he slapped against the tender skin of my inner thigh, exposed to him because my feet were tied so far apart, and that hurt even more. I couldn’t help straining against the ropes, although I knew it was useless. And I kept the crop very firmly between my teeth.

He sped up, spanking me with the paddle both forehand and backhand, and I realized that he’d just been warming up, toying with me, even. Each individual smack was bearable, but having no time to recover between blows was torture. The pain built to a ringing crescendo. Soon I was crying, and I wanted to plead for mercy, beg him to stop, but I didn’t dare try to speak for fear of dropping the riding crop. So I hung there, sobbing, as the blows from the paddle burned my backside and made my flesh feel like it was on fire.

The pain kept coming, for I don’t know how long, and then suddenly, mercifully, wonderfully, he stopped. I tried to breathe, grateful beyond imagining for the reprieve. He drifted his fingernails lightly down my backside, and I jumped, startled by how delicious that touch felt on my sensitive skin.

And then, harder than I’d thought possible, the paddle landed on my ass again, with all the force of his double-handed swing behind it, and I gave a loud cry, sobbing and crying and whimpering. I was past any thoughts of pride. I could only hold on to the chain between my hands with all my might, and endure, and hope that it might soon be over.

A few moments passed, and then a few moments more. Then there was another stinging blow, even harder than one before, and I screamed and sobbed again. This new torture was much worse than the steady spanking he’d been giving me. I was quivering with fear, close to hysterical, not knowing when the paddle would fall again. Each moment of dreadful anticipation was almost as bad as the pain itself.

Again, there was a hard, stinging blow. I let out something between a scream and a sob, I couldn’t help it, it was involuntary, and the riding crop fell from my mouth onto the soft carpeting below.

Very slowly, the Captain walked around in front of me, and very slowly, he knelt and picked up the crop from the floor.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“Not yet,” he said. “But you will be.”

I barely had time to breathe before the crop hit me, on the tender skin just above my knees. It was a different kind of pain; it hit deeper, as though it was striking me under my skin, directly on my muscles. The paddle could sting, leaving my ass throbbing with heat. The crop was going to leave welts, and bruises.

It hit me again, directly above the first blow, and then again, just above that. I realized that the Captain was going to systematically work his way from the knees upwards, and I cried, thinking of what that would mean when he got to my ass, already unbelievably sensitive from the spanking I’d just received.

It was small comfort that I could speak now. I mostly said “please, no,” and “I’m sorry,” in various permutations. It made no difference. I still couldn’t move, and the blows still fell.

And then, right at that moment where I really, truly didn’t think I could take any more, I slipped into that beautiful, peaceful space. There was nothing I could do, and that meant that I didn’t have to worry any more. The pain was irrelevant. My master wanted to whip me, and he was whipping me, and everything was so beautifully simple.

I didn’t know what I was doing, although the Prince told me later that it sounded like I was at climax, and I’ve never yet known him to lie. I only knew that I had transcended the pain. Nothing hurt any more. The riding crop hit me again and again, and part of me knew that it was hurting, and part of me knew that I was still crying, but I only felt a sublime peace.

Eventually the pain stopped, and someone untied my wrists and ankles, and I simply fell to the floor. I wasn’t really in the real world. Someone lifted me up into his arms — oh, it was the Captain, said the tiny bit of logic left in my head — and he sat down and held me in his arms and I shook all over and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t even think. I just sat, shaking, as the fog in my head slowly lifted.

Eventually I realized that he was speaking. “Shh. I’m so proud of you. Everything’s all right. Shh. I’m so proud of you. Everything’s all right.” He was saying it over and over, and I wanted to cry, I was so exhausted from that strange place I’d been to, but I couldn’t stop shaking.

He carried me upstairs, out of the club, and then upstairs again past the little bookstore. He was Jonathan again. He took me into a bedroom, and he laid me down, and he laid down beside me.

“Marja,” he murmured, “you are the most amazing woman I have ever met.”

But I think I was asleep even before he laid me on the bed. So maybe I just imagined that.

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