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“Because I was a pet,” I say in a dull voice.

Ben nods, his expression ashamed.

“Yes, as a pet,” he acknowledges. “You were the perfect mix of sassy and spunky, yet docile as well. You behaved beautifully and lent credibility to the Ben Culver persona.”

I look down at the carpet, my heart thudding.

“So I was nothing but a prop.”

Ben shakes his head, his eyes pained.

“Yes and no. You were part of the disguise, but it was an important disguise crafted in order to save others. You know the girl we saw, the redheaded one named Jessica? We’ve been tracking her for a year. She was reported missing by her family in Florida more than a year ago, and we believe she was kidnapped near her hometown and then brought to New York to be sold tonight. It happens to innocent young women more often than you think, and we were determined to bust the Sim brothers once and for all tonight. To catch them red-handed if you will, and you helped us do that, Michelle.” His voice is urgent, and yet I still can’t believe what’s happened. After all, I feel terrible for Jessica, but why didn’t he tell me?”

“So what now?” I ask in a low voice.

Ben takes a deep breath, reaching for my hands, but I resist.

“What do you mean?” he asks, his expression wary.

“I risked my life. I was lied to.”

He nods.

“I know, and I appreciate your understanding, honey. NYPD and the people of New York appreciate it. Those women you saved appreciate it.”

I nod, swallowing hard.

“Yes, but everyone knows about me now, don’t they? Your boss, your co-workers, probably everyone in uniform within fifty miles. They all know that I’m the slut from Club Z who slams a goddamn flute into my pussy for fun!”

His expression is stricken as he looks at the floor.

“Yes, I was going to mention that,” he says in a quiet voice. “They do know. I was wearing a wire, and there are cameras in the house. Yes, law enforcement saw your performance in the stake-out room, but they know it was just part of a job. Although you may not believe it, they actually don’t care. I swear they don’t because they’re professionals.”

I lose it then, screeching at him.

“Yeah, but what about me? Total strangers saw! They saw me acting like a filthy slut, slamming a flute into my goddamn ass and pussy! OMG, I’m going to be humiliated forever!” I scream while hurling a throw pillow at him. “Your fucking buddies have me on tape with a flute jammed in my anus! What the fuck? I hate you!”

With that, I descend on Ben in a flurry of fists. Tears stream down my face as I take out my anger and rage on him. After all, I’ve just escaped death, found out that my lover is a fake, and also been told that my dirtiest moments were witnessed by countless strangers who are probably laughing their asses off at my display. Sure, it’s all the name of “justice,” but what the fuck do I care about that right now?

“You used me!” I scream. “I was used heartlessly, and all for this!”

Ben tries to calm me down, his expression anguished as he defends himself from my pitiful blows.

“Please honey, it was all for the greater good,” he pleads as he continues to parry my flailing fists. “Think about all the women you saved!”

But at this moment, I don’t care.

“No. No. I can’t. I can’t do this. How can I ever trust you? You lied to me non-stop, all the time, without thinking twice. I was just a toy! A fucked up little plaything to be tossed around like I mean nothing!”

Ben shakes his head, still trying to defend himself.

“Please, baby,” he pleads. “I know this is a shock, but I’m telling you the truth now. I’m laying it out there, and I want you to know everything, every single detail, and I swear I’ll never lie to you again. Please, Michelle.”

I let out another anguished scream as the final piece of my heart breaks off, my soul shattered. Tears continue to fall, but now I turn away, curling into myself while sobbing on the sofa.

“I wish I could believe that, but I can’t. Now please, just let me leave.”

Vaguely, I hear Ben dialing a car service as I dissolve in sobs once more. After a few minutes, my tears slow somewhat and I pick myself up. My emotions are raw, and my senses muffled. But I stalk outside, refusing to meet Ben’s eyes, before taking the elevator down to the lobby.

Then, once I’m ensconced in an Uber, I fall apart once more. My heart feels like it’s breaking all over again because everything in my life is a lie. But most of all, the man I love isn’t even the person I thought he was. Where do I go from here? My life is in shambles, and I have no idea what to do.

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