From the Cutting Room Floor

Ever wonder WTF was James Rader and Taylor Fuller thinking as they spun out of control and Nora became more NORA? Now, you can be in the know. Consider it a treat for the lean times. There’s even snippets of a love scene thrown in for some color…so to speak.

 

Kelli and Williams

 

A throat cleared loudly, yanking Kelli into present reality. Scowling at the interruption, she looked up to see Williams’s smiling face.

“Is there something you wanted?” Kelli grumbled.

“I’ve been staring at you the past ten minutes.”

“That’s not healthy.” She countered quickly.

“Uh huh. Thought you were going to drool on yourself a time or two. I was concerned.”

“I don’t remember you being this irritating.” Kelli hissed.

“A man can change.”

“Do you have a point?” Kelli asked.

“Dirty thoughts?”

“Oh come on! I’d like boring old Williams back please.”

“Hey!” He paused. “So obviously I’m doing a good job.”

Kelli slumped in her chair and stared at him incredulously. Her mouth twitched.

“I saw that.” His grin was triumphant.

 

***

Kelli pulled on the latex gloves as she neared the police tape. She ignored the rumble of the crowd that lingered in the park and focused on the work ahead. She flashed her badge and stepped under the barrier.

“I wonder how much evidence has been destroyed. This is a park. Too many people come through here. It has to be compromised.” Kelli grumbled. “So not the way I wanted to start my Monday.”

Williams snorted. “Silver lining…at least it won’t be boring. Maybe this will actually be a hard one. Help get you back in the swing of things.”

“We’ll see.” Kelli mumbled and yawned. She approached the scene with practiced nonchalance. The detective was far from indifferent. She learned a long time ago that a certain level of detachment was needed in order to maintain a level of sanity after some of the things she’d seen.

They weaved through the throng of CSU staff to get to the actual victim. The medical examiner squatted near the body of a young man.

Astute green eyes took in everything at a glance; the positioning, the lack of blood; the peculiar look of his clothing and the expression frozen on the victim’s face. Still, by force of habit, Kelli asked. “What do we have?”

Dr. Susan Harper stood and grinned in that macabre way she often did. This woman enjoyed her job. She was several inches shorter than the detective and every time they talked, Dr. Harper stood on her toes in an attempt to meet Kelli’s height. She was doing it now. “Dead guy with a knife sticking out of his chest.”

Kelli rolled her eyes. “You don’t say.”

“Yes, well. Let’s start with the obvious. You know he wasn’t killed here. His clothes are turned inside out and he has on two different shoes.” Dr. Harper added. “Judging by rigor this one is pretty fresh. Less than three hours.”

“My bet is the actual stabbing happened someplace close, and the fact it’s a knife sticking out of his chest? Crime of passion.” Williams offered.

Kelli continued to study the body. “With his clothes just thrown back on that way, I’d say there’s a good chance you might be right. Any ID?”

“Strangely, yes. Meet Mr. Robert Treymore.” The medical examiner answered.

Williams sighed. “Told you. Amateur mistake number one, leaving identification.”

“I know right?” Kelli countered. She glanced at Robert’s driver’s license. He was barely twenty one. To someone it made sense to kill him, but to Kelli there was no rhyme or reason good enough.

”Yep” Williams asked.

“Mmm,” Kelli murmured. “When the canvassing unit is done here, let’s get them to his neighborhood and shake some trees.”

“That was already on my mind.”

“We should also put him in the system and see if anything pops up on him.”

“God damn we must be twins.” Williams grinned.

Kelli eyed him, studying him from head to toe. “Uh, no.”

Williams released an exasperated sigh. “Now you’re just being obtuse.”

“More coffee might cure that.” Kelli smirked.

“Actually coffee has been known to disorient. It can also heighten forgetfulness and anxiety.” Dr. Harper interjected with a smug grin.

Kelli stared.

Williams snorted.

“That’s so not the point, Doc.” The redhead added.

“It was just information I wanted to share.”

“Well thanks, I feel enriched.” Kelli snarked, but she found herself grinning. She didn’t know why she hadn’t seen it before. For some reason, the ME, even though she was quirkier, reminded her of Nora social awkwardness and all. Nora, in that form, was always appealing. However, Kelli was totally enamored with the newest version of the blonde as well.

“You’re grinning like an idiot in the middle of a crime scene. Are you aware?” Williams leaned toward her and asked in a stage whisper.

“Yep.” Kelli’s smile widened.

“Well, unless you’re going to share, can you stop? It’s kinda freaky.”

“Maybe.” Kelli answered, but she didn’t know if she actually could. It was odd to be around such a garish loss of life and suddenly feel surrounded by light.

“Uh huh. Carry on then.” Williams added.

Dr. Harper eyed them both silently for a few seconds before clapping abruptly. “So nice to have you back Detective. You do make things interesting.” The doctor murmured as she turned away. She waved one of her staff over, and refocused her attention back to the situation at hand.

“That woman is so…very strange.” Williams mumbled.

They shared a quiet moment of agreement.

”Let’s grab a couple people from CSU. Vic’s place isn’t far from here.” Kelli stated.

“Afterward, coffee is on me.” Williams added.

“Bet your ass it is.”

***

Covering her mouth, Kelli yawned again as they pulled into the police parking garage. The uniforms weren’t far behind with the confessed killer sitting amicably in their back seat.

.”Guess I was wrong about this being a hard one,” Williams sounded disappointed.

“Not everybody can be a criminal mastermind. If it’s any consolation, at least your hunch was right.”

“True. So, what’s up with you? Late night? That’s the second time you’ve almost swallowed your head.”

“Long weekend,” Kelli murmured as she got out of the car.

“Antony?” Williams fell in line beside her as they headed to the elevator.

“Yeah, that’s a given, but there were a lot of good things too.”

A brow crawled up his forehead. “Oh really?” Williams lowered his voice an octave and leaned in.

Kelli rolled her eyes. “Must you make it sound dirty?”

“You mean it wasn’t?” He sounded disappointed.

“I know you’re trying to be hip and everything, but you and the lesbian fantasy thing? It’s not selling.”

“Now, you’ve just hurt my feelings.” Williams mocked.

“Uh huh.”

“So what did you do for your nasty free weekend?”

“Hung out with Nora mostly.”

Both eyebrows rose this time. “And that didn’t get nasty?”

Kelli punched him in the shoulder. “Stop it! Or I’m telling Travis you’re trying to steal his vibe.”

“The last week or so has been rocky. I’m just trying to relate to the new you more. To make you feel more at home, I almost wore a pink tie, and you know, last time I looked, I am black.”

Kelli stared. “Yeahh but you’re old man black. Travis has that strong young buck thing going.”

Williams glared right back. “Somehow, that sounds racist.”

Kelli smirked. “It’s true. I’m pretty sure if you didn’t wear Old Spice you’d smell like peppermint and mothballs.”

“Sometimes, I really don’t like you.”

 

***

Kelli started on the report as soon as she sat down at her desk. Within five minutes, her thoughts wandered toward Nora and stayed. Starting with Friday, the weekend had been like old times, but at the same time it was vastly different. The moments of acknowledged distance were dissipating and being replaced by instances of closeness that had not existed before. She embraced them. Her heart had the audacity to flutter and swell. Kelli smiled inwardly as recent memories assailed her.


 

Kelli and Nora

 

Kelli’s pupils dilated and her breathing which had barely returned to normal went ragged again. Nora drew the detective into a kiss that was all tongue. She raked her nails down Kelli’s back enjoying the resulting shiver.

The detective exhaled unsteadily. ”Mmm, how—?”

Making sure she was being watched, Nora licked her lips, and Kelli groaned in understanding and anticipation. She tried to dislodge herself from the doctor’s hold, but Nora shook her head.

“Let me.”

Kelli was pliant, allowing her body to be guided and moved in the direction the doctor demanded. Nora wanted to close her eyes and savor the feel of moist flesh bathing her torso, but she didn’t want to miss a thing.

When Kelli reached her destination, she grabbed hold of the headboard and peered down at Nora through her parted thighs. If the amount of wetness Kelli left behind was any indicator, the detective needed this as well. It was then that Nora understood that Kelli’s trust was far reaching. This position left her more exposed, giving Nora the opportunity to observe every flaw. With eager eyes, Nora followed the lines of Kelli’s body, and all she saw was perfection: taut muscle and glistening skin. Kelli’s chest heaved. The detective’s breasts and their brown hardened tips stood out proudly. Reaching up, Nora covered them with her hands, kneading roughly then plucking at turgid nipples.

Kelli’s moan rumbled through her body. She gazed at Nora. Eyes were dark with need and encouragement. Then, Kelli’s hips rolled forward, pulling Nora’s gaze to their apex. The detective was flushed, swollen and utterly drenched. The blonde whimpered at the sight. Her mouth watered. Unable to deny herself…unable to deny them both, she dragged her tongue through copious wetness.

“Nora!”

Nora’s thighs clenched at the taste and Kelli’s reaction. Careful to avoid Kelli’s still sensitive clit, she bathed each fold with her tongue before slipping deep inside. Liquid heat coated her face and dribbled onto her chin. Kelli’s strangled cry was loud enough to reach muffled ears. Nora groaned. She speared her tongue, hoping, wanting to go deeper.

Kelli’s hips lowered and jut feverishly. Thighs clamped around the doctor’s head. Nora didn’t care if she drowned…if she suffocated. Still, she abandoned the detective’s breasts to grasp roving hips. Her fingertips dug into Kelli’s buttocks in an attempt to control her movements. Her tongue slathered teasingly over throbbing flesh before plunging inside again and again.

Kelli’s entire body trembled.

Nora’s lips finally brushed over Kelli’s clit. Her tongue snaked out, gaining force and momentum with each flick. When she applied suction, Kelli’s body went decidedly rigid before convulsions tore her apart. She cried out hoarsely and continued to whimper as each wave overtook her.

Nora lapped softly, enjoying the aftershocks that riddled Kelli’s body. The detective groaned and wrapped a hand in the doctor’s hair. She pulled slightly, wordlessly asking for a reprieve. Nora gave it to her. Sluggishly, Kelli fell to the other side of the bed. The blonde’s own arousal beckoned, but this was enough for now. She turned to the side, watching the detective fight for breath as she tried to gain control of her own.


 

Insight into James Rader and Taylor Fuller

 

Dr. James Rader wiped a hand over his face hoping to brush away the embarrassment. “Look, I’m sorry Taylor. I don’t know where that came from. I didn’t mean to say her name.”

The tall willowy blonde glared at him as she pulled on her scrub top in rushed jerky movements. “Seriously, you need help. She’s a cold fish, and I’m nothing like her.” She stopped as if a realization dawned. “That’s it isn’t it? That whole aloof ice queen thing? You thought you were gonna be the one to crack it?”

James looked away. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Taylor laughed. “Whatever. How could you be in love—”

“I’m not!”

“Obsessed then?”

He glanced back at her, making a quick decision to save face…to save himself. “She’s the one who won’t leave me alone this time, and she’s been riding my ass because I won’t give her what she wants.”

Taylor’s eyes narrowed.

“I’m serious. Ask the ICU nurses. They saw her the other day. I practically had to shake her off.”

“Doesn’t make sense for you to call out her name…”

“Think about it. It does. She’s hot and all over me. It’s hard not to think about.” He licked his lips. “I bet she wants me bad enough to do anything I say. The things we could do—”

“We?” Taylor asked.

“The three of us together. It wouldn’t be the first time. Dr. Whitmore is into some kinky stuff.”

“Really?” Taylor’s eyes lit up as if she had learned the best secret.

“Oh yeah.” James muttered adding fuel to a fire. He watched it burn unsure how to stop it.

“It’s always the quiet ones, but you’re out of luck. I don’t like women that way.” She finished dressing and leaned over to kiss him. “Later.”

He watched her leave the on call room. James sat in the semi-darkness. With a few words, he had salvaged himself, his reputation, but in the same breath he belittled a brilliant woman. “Shit.” James released a shaky breath and wondered what had happened to him. A few months ago, he had a fiancé and plenty on the side, and now, he was floundering. This was not him. At least, it was not who he used to be. Rumors were already rampant about Nora, and he just added to them. There was only one way to go here, and without pause, James chose the coward’s way. He could reunite with Nora and keep his flailing reputation if he just tried harder. After all there hadn’t really been a time in his life where he didn’t get what he wanted. There was no reason for that to be different now even if he had to play a little dirty.

***

James jiggled the knob to yet another on call room. He sighed in relief when it opened and the person he had been searching for was inside.

Taylor paced angrily. Her cheeks were flushed, and if looks could kill. “Can you believe that bitch?”

He searched for plausible explanations, where he would seem the victor or the victim. Presently, either one would do. “She’s jealous of you. Did you see it?”

Taylor stopped and stared. “Should I be worried? That woman could ruin my career. Maybe I should go over her head—”

“No,” Her words caused a slight panic. He swallowed down the acid that ate as his throat. “I’ll figure something out.” James reached out, snaking a hand across her shoulders.

“God, I hope so.” Taylor sagged in relief. “And what was with her and that woman? It was weird. They seemed…close.”

Taylor’s observations confirmed his rising suspicion. James had been sure he was seeing things. Anxiety wrapped around him, leaving him breathless. He tried vehemently to hide it.

“Maybe she’s jumping the fence completely, and she’ll leave us alone.”

“Yeah, we’ll see.” James hoped the words didn’t sound as wooden to her as they did to his ears.

“I’d better go look busy for now. Meet you in here at lunch?”

James nodded and watched her go. He practically threw himself into a nearby chair. Covering his face with his hands, guilt clawed at him, but it was only momentary. He couldn’t remember ever trying this hard for anything. He did a quick internal evaluation of the man he was becoming and realized that he couldn’t tell if the changes were a positive or a deficit. For an instant, this scared him. Then, rationalization grabbed hold. In the end, if he got what he wanted, it was all that mattered. All of this lay on Nora’s shoulders. She ruined him. One taste sent him back for more, and even that left him ravenous. Because of that hunger, he’d lost so much. He was at least entitled a glimpse of what was underneath Nora’s thick skin. A sense of urgency enveloped him, pushing him to try harder.

 

***

 

James stood still as he perused the chart, but using his peripheral vision, he also studied his colleague. Nora was done with him that much had been made clear. He’d seen something in her eyes. A part of him wanted to approach her, but he stayed the rebellion inside his body. Harassment was a four letter word, and he didn’t want it anywhere near his personnel file.

He flipped the page. Nora looked different, and he couldn’t put his finger on what it was exactly that had changed. Regardless, it made her even more alluring. His gaze was diverted as someone brushed his hand. Glancing upward, a slow smile spread across his face, matching the one he was receiving. The nurse winked at him. It bolstered James that he was so desired. It should have made him feel ten feet tall. The nurse circled from behind the desk, leaving her colleague sitting and on the phone. She paused and stared before swiveling hips disappeared further down the hall. James snapped the chart closed and glanced discreetly to the right, Nora was moving away from his line of sight, but he knew where she was going. His vision tunneled for a moment before it righted itself. Nora had a friend, and he wasn’t sure he liked that. He’d made his decision concerning Nora days ago, but he was still unsure of the logistics. If he couldn’t have Nora, he would ruin her, taking away what she valued most, her reputation.

A throat cleared, pulling him from his woolgathering, James turned toward the sound to see the nurse waiting for him at the end of the hall. He grinned in her direction and ordered his feet to move.

***

Taylor peered at James. “Why am I doing this again? Least of all why am I doing it for you? Not sure I like you using me to soothe your ego. Despite the bullshit you’ve been trying to hand me, she doesn’t want you. Get over it.”

James held her gaze and closed the distance between them. He could have brought up feelings and loyalty, but that wasn’t what got them here. He could have answered her questions directly. He chose not to. “You’re here because you want to be, and you know it. She singles you out and treats you like crap. After all of this, you can be at the top of the food chain, and I can get you there.”

She turned away and walked toward the mirror in the on call room. Their eyes held through the reflective surface. James saw doubt, but he also saw confirmation of the sharks they had grown to be. “I’ll back you up don’t worry. It will make your case stronger to have a witness.”

Taylor sighed. “She is a colossal bitch to me, true, and I’m tired of it. Just because I’m fucking you doesn’t make me less of a doctor. How did you come up with this anyway? I’ve been so freaked by the whole thing I forgot to ask.”

“At first, I thought about setting Nora up for sexual impropriety with Kelli MacCabe since they’ve become so friendly, but she’s my patient—”

“Yeah, too many holes in that plan.” Taylor interrupted.

“It would never stick,” James agreed. “But sexual harassment of a lowly resident could do some serious damage especially when you already started circulating the rumor. Nora needs to be put in her place. She thumbs her nose at everyone and I’m tired of being on the receiving end of her superiority complex. Dr. Whitmore needs to be taken down a peg or two.”

“Fuck you. There’s nothing low about me. I’m one if not the best of the third years, and this could end me.” Taylor hissed, but behind the angry indignation was a calculating glimmer. She titled her head and peered at him for several seconds.

James eased up to her from behind. “It could end us both, but if we do it right, it could make us. I’m in line to be an attending and one word from me could make you chief resident. Nora has her place here and so do I. They love me here.”

He saw the stars in her eyes and capitalized on it. “The reward is worth the risk, and I know you. You’re scared, but you love the danger of it.”

Taylor’s somber expression shifted toward a slow smirk. “Possibly.”

James glanced at his watch. “It’s time to go. It’s probably not a good thing to keep the Chief of Surgery waiting.”

Taylor nodded and squared her shoulders.

“Remember, it’s okay to be intimidated and look it in this situation. A little meekness could go a long way. She doesn’t know you. It’ll be an easy sell.” James squeezed her shoulders.

 

***

Taylor sat in the chair directly in front of the Chief of Surgery’s desk. She took a discreet cleansing breath and called upon the lessons from the stupid drama class taken in college. Clasping her hands in her lap, she wrung them once for effect and tensed her shoulders. She did her best to keep her expression neutral. Now wasn’t the time for emotion, and she didn’t want it to seem over the top.

“Ms. Fuller, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad one that your name has never crossed my desk.” Dr. Lisa Gagne’s accent was a thick southern drawl. She sang her words.

Taylor was silent. The woman across from her was intimidating on another level all together. Even though she teemed with vitality, she was an older, smaller in stature than Taylor, giving her a boost in confidence. Ebony tresses were piled at the top of her head, making her look severe. She reminded her of Nora turned up a few more notches. Taylor swallowed down the burst of irritation.

“I see.” Dr. Gagne leaned back in her chair. It creaked in protest. She canted her head to the side and peered at Taylor like she was put off by her silence. “Do you need a minute? You seem out of sorts.”

Taylor swallowed. “I don’t know where to begin.”

“Let’s get it at the beginnin’. You have a problem. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”

“I came to this hospital because it’s one of the best, but I don’t know if I can deal with it anymore.”

Dr. Gagne leaned forward, obviously interested. Her brow furrowed. “Go on.”

“The past couple of months have been hell. I don’t know what I did. She’s never treated me that way before. I have to beg for a chance to assist, but she won’t let me in on any of her surgeries. She puts me down in front of patients.” Taylor looked away and exhaled shakily.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be on Dr. Rader’s service, but she even yanked me off it just last week and put me in the clinic. I still don’t know why. That’s when she started propositioning me.”

“Let’s pause right there, please. This is more than a complaint.”

Taylor nodded slowly.

“May I ask who this is regardin’?”

“Dr. Nora Whitmore.”

It was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

Dr. Gagne wiped all expression from her face. “Before we go further, I’m gonna need to get someone from HR over here and make this official.”

A deep seated satisfaction uncurled in Taylor’s belly. “I understand.”

“Let me assure you that you have the right to voice your accusation without fear of retaliation from the hospital or its employees. I will not deter you in anyway, regardin’ your story. I am not here to pass judgment. Consider this an impartial forum.”

Taylor wrung her hands again and relaxed her posture. “Yes, ma’am.”

 

***

James licked the sweat from his upper lip and peered at this watch. Nerves assailed him making even the loose fitting chinos and dress shirt feel confining. He was sure that Taylor had been in there way too long. He leaned against the wall between the supply of gauze pads and surgical tape. It wasn’t the best place to wait things out, but they both agreed that it was strategic and away from their usual on call room. They needed to meet, but they didn’t need to be seen together. Given hindsight, he surmised that somewhere away from the hospital would have been better. His heart thudded heavily, and James tried to swallow past the thickness forming in his throat.

The closet door opened. James pushed himself against the wall as far as he could go.

“It’s me.”

He released a relieved breath. “What the hell, Taylor?”

“Relax, I think she bought it. At first, when I brought up Dr. Whitmore it was like her whole face froze over, but the more I talked the more she listened. She called in an HR person in to make it a formal complaint.”

They were quiet for several seconds.

“We did it.” James actually felt giddy. There was something about seeing his plan unfurl. “We need to wait a day maybe two and I’ll go do my part.”

Taylor stared at him. “There’s no going back now is there?”

James shook his head and muttered, “No.”

“You’d better deliver on what you promised, or I swear to God—”

“I will. Don’t worry.”

Taylor glared.

***

 

Blinking weary gritty eyes, James peered at the broken screen of his cell phone. It had been destroyed after Taylor’s second attempt to call. The glass was dark with a myriad of cracks and lines that rivaled the most sophisticated spider webs. He had incapacitated his home phone as well. The choice not to communicate gave him the illusion that the day prior was far removed. Rader pressed the heel of his hands against burning eyes. It had been a sleepless night, and he in no way welcomed the morning creeping in around the curtains.

James reached for the few drops remaining in the bottle of Maker’s Mark and downed it for continuity’s sake, greeting the morning with alcohol just as he did the night. He was ruined. He had to be. Several times during the evening, his eyes closed, and when they reopened, Rader held fervently onto the hope that it had all been some awful dream. Still, the knots in his stomach and the panic that had his chest in a vice told a much different story. Sitting up on the couch, he glanced around his condo taking everything in with one nervous sweep. He saw nothing. His sight was focused inward, searching for answers.

Everything was crumbling around him, but the larger chucks of disaster had yet to shake free. They would in time. He could run. James scoffed at the idea. He didn’t have the money or the means to do so, let along start all over. Frustration usurped the anxiety and gave way to a seething strong enough to burn his throat. With one hand still wrapped around the bottle of whiskey, he squeezed until his fingers cramped. It wasn’t enough. With a mighty shout he threw the bottle across the room. It shattered impressively on the far wall. His ire swirled pinpointing Nora and snaking around Taylor before it turned inward.

Suddenly, the door rattled loud enough to shake the hinges.

“Open the door you stupid fucker!” Taylor hissed.

It had taken her longer than he thought it would to appear. Mechanically, he rose from the couch, heading toward the entrance. Within seconds of turning the lock, the door flew open.

“Did you think I wouldn’t find out where you live? What were you going to do? Hide until all this shit piles on top of me!?”

Rader stared at her as he closed the door. His gaze was unwavering. Taylor’s fury and frantic nerves were painted clearly on her face. He watched silently as she began to pace and flail right in front of him.

“You…you need to tell them that all of this was your idea. One of us should come out of this clean. I mean…what were you thinking?! Why couldn’t you just plead the fifth or something! Shit! You forced me into this. Yeah, just tell them you forced me into this, and I can tell them how scared I was—”

Something inside him broke as she droned on. All she had to do was listen, and they could have come out on the other side of this unscathed. Instead, she belittled. She insulted. She ripped the skin from his very bones with each word she spoke. There was no way James was going to let this continue. . “No.” His tone was gentle, deceptive.

“I knew you were going to fuck this up! I knew it. If it’s not anything involving your cock…” Taylor continued as if she hadn’t heard him.

“I said NO!” James shouted. He felt that one word resonate in his very being. It bolstered him. Perhaps the alcohol helped. Or, it could have been the complete loss of his dignity the day before, but he was unable to contain himself any longer, anger exploded outward with brutal force.

At first she gasped and paused. “Who the fuck do you think—”

Then, his hands were around her throat. No words could escape. There were just desperate raspy sounds. Taylor flopped around like a rag doll, but James…James felt some semblance of power returning. It burst within him like warm light. He felt satisfaction.

Taylor clawed at his hand, but Rader continued to squeeze, tightening his hold in increments. He leaned toward her until their faces were almost touching. “You are the one who fucked this up, and you will fix it.” He hissed. “I don’t care what lie you come up with to explain it all away, but it won’t involve me!”

James shook her. Taylor’s head snapped backward. Her body bowed and curved in a garish pantomime of a romantic swoon. She pulled on his fingertips. The terror in Taylor’s eyes fed him. He hadn’t realized that he was starving before for validation and understanding, but he did realize, if it wasn’t given, he had to take it. Rader brushed his lips over hers, whispering into her mouth, “Do we understand each other?”

Taylor whimpered.

“If you even think about opening that pretty little mouth of yours before the deposition to anyone you’ll regret it. I’ll bury you.” He paused for effect. ”Plus, I’ll be there…for moral support.” James added as an afterthought.

She whimpered again.

“Believe me?” James kissed her for the second time.

Taylor gave some semblance of a nod. Abruptly, he let her go. She fell to the floor gasping and clutching her throat. She looked up at him with new eyes…accepting, frightened eyes. “I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all I’ve ever asked of you Dr. Fuller.” For a few more hours, Rader could wallow in the delusion that he could somehow redirect the perfect storm headed his way. He refused to believe it was over. It couldn’t be. He quieted the whispers to the contrary that lingered in the back of his mind. The frenzy that had colored his world red a few minutes ago seeped slowly from him. Reaching a new level of reprehensible, he was horrified at his actions, but he had long ago reached the point of no return.

***

 

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