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Alana exhales again, her eyes wide.

“You’re kidding me.”

I shake my head.

“No, I’m not. I saw the girls with my own eyes, and I don’t think they wanted to be there. I didn’t talk to them of course, but I could just tell.”

My buddy’s eyes are as wide as saucers.

“That’s insane. And I know you don’t want to hear it, Mich, but at least what you went through was for a good cause. I mean, sex trafficking is a big deal and you know that a lot of girls are trafficked through New York, so it’s a good thing that these people got shut down.” She offers a tentative smile. “And you were a part of stopping them, hon. You should be proud.”

I want to argue with her, but I’ve spent the last week on a couch, moping while trying to rationalize my anger. I’ve been trying to put all the blame on Ben, but Alana’s right. Everything he did was for the greater good, and hopefully, we freed at least one girl from the chains of bondage.

I take a deep breath.

“Yeah, but you don’t know all of it, Laney,” I say in a low voice. “While I was with Ben, I performed for them. It turns out there were cameras, and … well, let’s just say I got really nasty, and now everyone knows.”

Alana shoots me a look.

“Who knows?”

I shrug helplessly.

“I think all of law enforcement, to be honest. Ben told me he was wearing an ear piece too, so there’s probably sound as well as visual. I’m so humiliated because they didn’t just see me naked, Laney. They saw me doing all sorts of nasty things. Sexual things.”

My friend pauses, looking thoughtful.

“Yeah, that could be embarrassing.”

I nod, tears springing to my eyes again.

“Yeah, right? I mean, why didn’t Ben tell me?”

Alana takes my hand.

“Because he couldn’t, honey. You were both a part of something bigger, and he couldn’t let the cat out of the bag by revealing his identity. He probably needed you to act the part too, just to convince the mobsters that whatever it was he was doing was real. I don’t think he had a choice, Mich.”

Looking down at my belly, I think about everything the future might hold for me, and gently cradle the soft roundness.

“Yeah, but it just hurts,” I say in a low voice. “If my life wasn’t crazy enough, this just makes it all the worse.”

Alana reaches for my hand, and squeezes gently.

“You’ve been through a lot with your mental illness, the involuntary commitment, and now this. But I know you can make it through, Michelle. You have to, especially for your child.”

I gasp.

“You can tell?”

My best friend shakes her head.

“Not visually, because you’re in sweats girlfriend. But I could tell from your gestures. No woman touches her tummy like that unless they’re expecting.”

Gently, I rub my hands over my belly, cradling it, and then look at Alana and nod.

“You’re right. I am pregnant,” I say in a low voice. “I just found out for sure earlier this week, but I suspected it before. I was feeling a little off, although it was nothing serious. Plus, Ben and I were careful most of the time, but sometimes we got carried away and forgot to grab the condoms. It happened more than once,” I confess.

Alana gives me a hug.

“Even once is enough, Mich. But what are you going to do?”

I shake my head.

“I have no idea.”

My buddy nods.

“Well at the very least, you should tell Ben, right? I know the pregnancy wasn’t planned, and you feel hurt right now, but it doesn’t sound like Ben’s actually a bad guy. He was doing what he had to do to save those girls, and being a cop isn’t easy, even in the best of circumstances. I think you can find it in yourself to look past whatever it is. Just think about the girls you saved, and that should keep you on track.”

I take a deep, shuddering breath.

“Yes, I’ll think of Jessica,” I say.

“Who?” Alana asks.

I turn to her.

“There was a young red-headed woman up for sale that night, and I know she didn’t want to be there. I’ll keep her in mind.”

My friend nods, taking my hand again.

“Think of Jessica and the baby then,” Alana murmurs. “And you’ll be fine.”

With that, I wipe away a stray tear because I know my buddy’s right. There are bigger things in the world than me, myself, and I, as well as whatever perceived humiliations I’ve undergone. There are women who’ve been beaten, subjugated, and worse, and if I want to change the world into a better place for my child, then I need to be the bigger person and move on.



I feel terrible and stare at the empty glass before me. The liquor’s already gone and I’m tempted to call for another, but Michelle asked to meet today and immediately I said yes. After all, I haven’t heard from the gorgeous woman in a week now, and I was afraid we were done for good.

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