'You stupid BASTARDS!'
Tiffany Hale's outburst had stunned the production crew around her, and beyond them, the audience of silver-haired pensioners more accustomed to the gentle ribaldry of afternoon game show banter than the invectives now firing in all directions. Not surprising, really: most people only knew her as the sweet young London girl with a mane of honey-blonde hair, peachy skin and to-die-for figure, the one who'd lost the latest Pop Tart TV competition, but had won the nation's hearts with her humour and bright disposition.
Neither of which appeared on display today. Granted, this gig - a last-minute panel replacement for Tom Baker on the popular wordplay game show Bon Mot - may not exactly have been playing to her strengths. But was that her fault? Her new agent had booked her on it without her consent, and they were messing up her day left, right and centre: no Evian in her dressing room, no camera shots of her new Manolo Blahnik dress and shoes.
And now... 'What kind of a BLOODY crap operation is this? Can't you fuckers do ANYTHING right?' Her limbs shook with rage, her face crimson with apoplexy, and when the poor director reached out to her as he tried to explain why they needed to re-film several scenes for technical reasons, she looked ready to punch him.
In reality, she wouldn't have, being a natural coward, but she basked with intense satisfaction. She'd always had a temper, just bubbling under the surface, from those tedious days mopping up at the Save Mart for next to nothing, and those tedious nights singing karaoke in her local pub and fucking spotty loser boyfriends in the back seats of their cars.
But then Pop Tarts came along, and now she was Somebody: Celebrity, Capital C, and when she got mad, people jumped to accommodate her! She had a CD single coming out, wore the most expensive outfits, rubbed shoulders with footballers and soap stars... she was on the Top of the World, Ma!
And she was going to stay there, by keeping her feet planted firmly on everyone below her.
The director glanced to the sidelines, silently entreating assistance from the mousey girl with the glasses, curly black hair and gamine figure in a business suit, visibly working up the courage to approach and intercede in the fracas. When she did, her voice almost squeaked. 'Tiff, these things happen in television production; it's best just to grin and bear it.'
It was Melanie Jackson, the girl Tiffany's manager had assigned as her personal assistant - and would-be controller. But Tiffany had the measure of her; Mel had one major weakness.
Mel fancied the arse off of Tiffany.
Tiffany had kissed and fondled girlfriends as a teenager, when token Sapphistry had been chic and rebellious and attention-getting, and more than once had masturbated to lesbian fantasies, but otherwise she wasn't inclined that way. But that didn't stop her from using her charms on Mel when required - though today, she felt less than charming. 'Fuck off back to the corner, you flat-chested little bitch! Don't you know who I am?'
'She knows, Tiffany. She knows.'
Tiffany turned to the unexpected but familiar voice of the legendary Albus Greene, former West End stage tenor, now manager of rising stars like Tiffany. He approached, arms outstretched as if ready to encompass the tension in the air before him. 'These fine people only want you to look your best for the public who adore you.'
Greene was a broad-faced, broad-chested bear of a man in his mid-fifties, his ursine appearance accentuated by his trademarked brown astrakhan coat, russet beard and slicked-back matching hair, always reminding Tiffany of that guy who played the Hawkman in Flash Gordon. He looked to the director. 'Stephen, may we please take thirty minutes? Her blood sugar's low.'
Thankfully the director clutched at that tenuous straw and agreed. Greene gently but firmly took Tiffany by the elbow and guided her out of the studio and down the labyrinthine corridors, with Mel in tow.
Tiffany strode with confidence down the hall, now with her closest ally on hand. 'Miserable selfish cunts, wasting my time like this... you saw them!'
Greene never answered. And so Tiffany continued. 'And as for Melanie, I hope you teach her a lesson about talking to me like that-'
'Lessons will be leaned, ' he assured her.
The dressing room was warm, generic, like all the others in the building: narrow, with flanking rows of mirrors and facing makeup tables littered with bottles and makeup kits, some armless chairs, a portable clothes rail, and an old-fashioned long, low, leather-capped wooden bench.
Greene nodded to Mel. 'Lock the door.'
As the girl complied, Tiffany turned in place, confusion evident in her expression. 'Albus?'
'You will address me as Sir, or Mr Greene from now on.' He reached into his coat and withdrew a treble-folded sheath of papers. 'See these? Your contracts to me. I remind you once again of the Good Behaviour clause in them - the one I explained in detail to you when I took you into my stable, how important it was for my reputation for only managing stars and potential stars who can act professionally.
But over the past month you seem to have done all in your power to ruin that reputation. That unfortunate incident at Planet Hollywood, hitting that waitress? That bag of cocaine found in your flat? Your ignorant comments about the Pop Tart judges, myfriends?' He sighed and shook his head sadly. 'I'd hoped you'd settle down on your own before now. And today, to receive a tip from an associate working here, to come and witness your rudeness first-hand-'
'Albus, it's not my fault-'
'SILENCE!' It was the loudest Greene had ever spoken in her presence, and Tiffany reacted as if he'd slapped her across the face. He had a reputation for ruthlessness beyond his ebullience, a quality Tiffany thought would be useful in securing her the best deals, but never expected to be on the receiving end.
Her mouth dried up with all her protests and evasions, as he continued. 'Foolish little hellion, you've been so fortunate, given breaks others could only dream of. And you're squandering them away! Well, you're not the first spoiled brat I've taken into my stable, and I'm well-prepared to deal with you.'
He indicated the contract. 'I have sufficient evidence on hand to invoke the penalties described herein: I can halt the release of your single, demand the return of the monies paid to you since, even keep you from leaving or earning money elsewhere! Do you perceive the precariousness of your position now?'
Shaking in place, Tiffany tried to reply, but could only tremble. He couldn't, he wouldn't- she was a star!
He proceeded. 'Fame is fleeting, like a candle; if you don't keep it constantly fed, it dies.' He waved the contract before her again. 'You want to return to obscurity? To being a nobody again, in that little street and that little life of yours?'
'I- Alb- Mr Greene-' Her voice was like a mouse's squeak now, the tears streaming freely, genuinely down the sides of her face. Her world, her house-of-cards world was falling apart with just a few choice words. Suddenly the Ego Had Landed, a deflated balloon plummeting to Earth, and the prima donna had become a chastised girl. 'I- I- I'm- I'm sorry-'
'What was that?'
Tiffany breathed in with a choked sob as she murmured, 'Mr Greene, I'm... I'm sorry. For my behaviour. Please forgive me.'
'I see. And are you ready to do as I say, without question or hesitation or protest? And to accept the consequences of your doing otherwise?'
'Y-Yes.' There was an intensity in the air between them, an acknowledgement of the resumption of authority. She knew now that if she was on top, it was only because he put her there, and kept her there. And she had to remember that.
Greene pocketed the contract. 'I believe I'll go easy on you, with your initial punishment. But first things first.' Greene turned to Mel now. 'You, my dear Melanie, have failed in your duty to protect my property, keep her from scandal and self-harm. And you failed to alert me, on more than one occasion, about your inability to keep a tight rein on her. I understand why, but your infatuation should not have distracted you from your work. You know what to do.'
And with that, Mel began to undress.
Tiffany's indignation at being referred to as property was immediately forgotten, as she watched the girl disrobe, casting aside her clothes to the floor without hesitation, only once or twice glancing over at Tiffany, perhaps embarrassed - no, she wasn't. She was... defiant? As if she knew something Tiffany didn't - but would soon learn.
Meanwhile Greene was unbuttoning his huge coat, and once done revealed hanging from the inside a short, thin bamboo switch, unhooking it and holding it in his huge hand. His already-formidable presence grew more intimidating, as if he was back onstage, portraying some stern father figure in a Victorian melodrama.
When she was ready, Mel just stood there, naked but for her glasses, her hands at her sides, revealing her small, round breasts with dark pink nipples, and neat mahogany bush. Tiffany stood close, felt like she was only centimetres away, and for the first time regretted previous insults hurled at the girl, acknowledging how attractive she was. She couldn't look away this time, not like those times when she could only take furtive, curious glances at other women in changing rooms and the like.
Greene made no indication of the PA's naked state, however, merely cut the air with the switch. 'Now, bend over the table.'
Wordlessly the girl complied. Tiffany stood there, frightened, confused, yet acutely curious; her face was taut as she watched Greene approach from around the table, lightly tapping Mel on the cheeks as he went by, saying, 'Spread them wider. Wider.' Then Greene looked up enigmatically at Tiffany, motioning for her to draw closer.
'I don't just keep my stable of talent under control, but my staff as well, ' he informed her, rather unnecessarily. 'No hard feelings, no resentment afterwards. You will soon understand. But until then, watch and learn; she will thank me after each blow, as you must.'
Then he stepped back. He held the switch in his hand as if born to it, but Tiffany was focused on his intended target, the girl's pale, fleshy cheeks, the beaut mark just over the left buttock, and the dark crescent between exposed, waiting. Then Greene raised the switch and swung out, striking Mel's buttocks with a loud snap that seemed to fill the room, making the girl shudder, before he thanked Greene, as he had instructed.
And he kept it up, shifting slightly in place to deliver the next blow. And as Tiffany continued to witness, her incipient unease gave way to an unexpected excitement, and an excitement that was not just reflecting the obvious arousal being raised in Mel, to judge from her reactions, her moans and shudders. Tiffany watched raptly as Greene's handiwork brought about dark red stripes across Mel's buttocks. How much more could she take? Ten more? Fifty? A hundred?
Almost sadly, she would never learn, since Greene stepped back and said, 'Enough.'
Tiffany watched Mel straighten, her face flushed, her nipples erect, her hand resting almost subconsciously against her crotch, her fingers cupped as if to support her sex's apparent engorged state. She breathed heavily from the exhaustion, and from her arousal; for that matter, so did Tiffany. When she spoke again, it was raspy, blissful. 'Thank you again, Mr Greene. May I show my gratitude in any other way?'
'That would be welcome, my dear.'
Now she drew closer to Greene, facing and kneeling before him, reaching up and unzipping the fly of his trousers, before withdrawing Greene's cock: thick and pale, the foreskin drawn back to reveal a fat, glistening head. And without further ado Mel took it in her mouth, swallowing it deeply, her cheeks pulling in rhythmically, drawing back, then swallowing again, occasionally pulling back until only his cockhead was in her mouth, and her tiny hand reached up and gently milked his slick shaft.
Tiffany's mouth had dried, and her eyes felt as if they'd were latched open. But she was struck less by the raw scene before her than by the casual reaction from Greene to an act that Tiffany knew, from personal experience, ordinarily turned men into quivering wrecks. But from the way Greene stood there, still holding his switch in one hand at his side, not even putting his free hand on Mel's head to direct her, it was as if Mel were polishing his shoes instead of his staff.
And her shock must have been discernible, because Greene met Tiffany's stare. 'You believe she is forced to do this? No, my dear little delinquent, this is offered of her own accord, a gesture of her respect towards me.'
Mel, still sucking on Greene, made a noise that would have been agreement - if her mouth wasn't full. Then the sound became a steady, rising hum as her sucking motions increased, and she visibly swallowed several times. Greene's body shuddered ever slightly, and he almost swayed as he closed his eyes for a moment. Then he sighed, patted Mel's head and murmured, 'Thank you, my dear.'
Mel smiled and withdrew from him, licked her lips and replied, while glancing at Tiffany. 'You're welcome, sir.' And the look she gave Tiffany was not one of shame, but superiority.
Greene tucked away his still-erect, saliva-shiny staff. 'Right, now for our undisciplined young star-to-be: Strip.'
He said it so casually, Tiffany almost didn't respond, until Greene added, 'So, there is a limit to your supposed contrition. Do you still have the £42,000 advanced to you?'
Before she even acknowledged it to herself, Tiffany's fingers were moving to quickly obey, shakily unzipping the side of her dress, glancing around, as if the reflections of herself on either side were actually witnesses. But there was only the silent, still-naked Mel in the room with them, a fully interested onlooker, as Tiffany had been; the girl had moved to a nearby chair, swung it around and straddled it fully, making a sound as her tenderised flesh touched the leather-padded seat.
Greene's eyes meanwhile were on Tiffany every step of the way, deliberately increasing her discomfort; Tiffany was still visibly shaking, but her skin was flushed in a pleasing colour. She stepped out of her dress, cast it onto an adjacent chair; she wore no bra, just her black thong, tights and shoes. She paused, breathed in sharply, her arms wrapped across her chest.
'I didn't say you can stop, ' Greene informed her. 'The rest, now.'
Tiffany swallowed, and bent forward and removed her shoes, then peeled off her tights, and finally, after a caught breath, her thong. The air felt cool and dry on her now-exposed skin, and she felt unaccountably locked onto a path she'd never expected or desired.
'Straighten up. Face me.'
Tiffany obeyed, one arm draped across her breasts, the other hand framing her bush. It was difficult not to cry, or to ignore the unexpected scent of sex upon her like sweat, and a moistness from something other than sweat.
'Such modesty, ' Greene murmured. 'A pity you were not as shy last week, when you drunkenly flashed your breasts at that magazine photographer - or did you think I would not find out about that? Put your hands at your sides; my property hides nothing from me.'
She obeyed, unable to look back at Mel, whom she was certain was staring back unashamedly. She tried to pretend that she was in some high-class clothing shop dressing room, being fitted, or a photographer's studio.
No, it didn't work.