New to Quest Five?
The stories are best enjoyed when read in order beginning with May 1, 2009.

Welcome To Quest Five
Allison Beaumont is having trouble finding a job after college until one day the wealthy and powerful Joseph Candle offers her a job at his rather unusual corporation, where mistakes can lead to bare bottomed spankings. Adopting the alias of Virginia West, she joins four highly skilled colleagues, racing around the globe in search of mysterious treasures, but wherever she goes, trouble is sure to follow.
Note: Some stories contain scenes of a sexual nature, corporal punishment, non-consensual corporal punishment, and strong language which some reader's may find offensive. If you feel this material might be inappropriate for you please move on to another blog by clicking the next blog link at the top of the page.

October 1, 2009

Thawing Out: The Breakwater

There is a place along the coast where the water crashes against a man made rock wall they call a breakwater, protecting a small harbor filled with sailing ships and yachts owned by people with too much money and too little time. I was a teenager the first time I walked in the streets of the small nearby town and from the moment I saw the breakwater, I fell in love with everything around it. A boy with an overly confident smile and a physique to match had shown me the path leading to it and from there we'd spent the afternoon sitting on the rocks and watching the tide roll in while sailing ships made their way home, tacking from side to side in the narrow passage created by the rocks. The boy was cute and we had a few months of happiness following our chance meeting but even after the boy was gone, the place remained and its magic remained as strong as it was on that very first meeting. Whenever I need a peaceful moment to reflect on the troubles in my life, I eventually find my way to the rocks, the waves and the sunsets.

It seemed the perfect place to go when, after moving into my new apartment, I needed some serenity. I didn't plan it out specifically but I locked my door and slipped into my car, driving to wherever it would take me and thinking there was no place it could take me that was far enough away. Moving out was supposed to give me more freedom and independence from my parents but in the days since I made the decision, they'd been more involved than ever. Mom had insisted on personally checking out every place I visited and Dad was right there as well, flashlight in hand, looking for leaks, bugs, and anything else that could go bump in the day or night. What should have been a decision of my very own quickly became another compromise that consisted of me surrendering everything I wanted to everything they thought I needed. In the end the apartment was anything but home to me.

My thoughts were focused on those oddities of my life and the reasons why I would allow my parents, or anyone for that matter, to tell me so explicitly how, and where, to live my life. The car drove itself and when it stopped in the parking lot across from the harbor, I blinked and smiled like waking up from a bad dream to a beautiful day. I left the car behind and made my way down the dirt path to the breakwater and wandered out until all I could see before me was the Pacific Ocean. There, in the midst of sea spray and a cool breeze, I sat down on the worn rocks and allowed the waves to wet my feet after setting my socks and shoes aside.

In the distance I could see sailing ships on the horizon making use of the ample winds. I longed to be out there on the deck of one of those ships, making my way to a gentle nowhere, guided only by the wind and the sea. It seemed a much simpler and infinitely more peaceful life than the one I'd stumbled into. What perplexed me more than anything was why I had given no consideration to leaving Q5, but instead had chose to turn the rest of my life upside down. It was a conscious choice though and I knew without any doubt it was necessary if I was to remain with Q5. I never quite believed in the dangerous side of my job until it was a proven fact and quite possibly too late. Now, having survived the danger, I realized the only way to truly protect those I loved was to separate myself from them. Like the breakwater, living on my own would hopefully create a safe harbor for what really mattered, but it would only work if I stayed away. If they got too close then I would be as much a threat to them as the rocks would be to the hulls of the ships docked in the harbor.

The sunlight sparkled like gold on the water as it dipped below the horizon. In the sky above, white clouds turned pink and the blue sky morphed into hues of red, orange, and purple. The water closest to me seemed almost dark green in color but where the sun and water met it appeared to turn into liquid gold. I had seen the effect many times over the years I had been coming to the breakwater, but this time I noticed it differently than I ever had before. There was a shape to the light reflecting off the water and I recognized it as an upside down pyramid with its tip pointing almost straight at me, and on the horizon, the edge of the world, was its base. I wonder if this phenomenon fueled the imagination of early man and led to the construction of those wonders around the world or if, having seen things so utterly impossible, I am seeing mysteries in every trick of light. There is probably a little truth in both points of view.

"I thought I'd find you here." Cherise said from off to my right and a little ways behind me.

I glanced away from the spectacular view to smile at my friend. It was the first time I had seen her since taking on my new job. Every time I had thought about calling her, something else had happened to keep me away as though fate was conspiring to keep me away. Maybe on some level I was more afraid of her seeing through my lies and half truths than anyone else and so I had stayed away to avoid seeing the knowledge reflected back at me in her eyes.

"I needed to get away." I said.

The explanation was weak and I hoped she wouldn't call me on it. She deserved better after all the years we've been friends and I didn't have better. She sat down next to me, kicking off her own shoes and wrapping an arm around my shoulders. I guess I looked like I needed a hug or maybe she did. I had to remind myself that the world does not revolve solely around me. I wrapped my own arm around her lower back and leaned into her until our cheeks touched. We stayed like that in silence until the sun finished sinking and night settled onto our little corner of the world.

"A little birdie told me you got an apartment." Cherise said.

"After all this time, you're still listening to birds?" I asked.

"Well there is this invention called a cellphone but it seems some people don't use them. Birds are at least reliable." She replied.

"I'm sorry." I said.

She was right. I had left her in the dark and there had been opportunities I could have at least called, but I'd excused them all away and told myself I'd make it up later. We put our shoes back on and stood up on the rocks to make our way back to land. On the way, later became now and I did my best.

"I was going to call you tomorrow and see if you wanted to do something." I said.

She nodded but it was more like a, sure, yeah, whatever, kind of nod that said she didn't believe one word of the fiction I spewed as truth.

"No time like the present. Let's go out." She said.

I looked down at myself. Even in the dim light of the moon I looked more like a starving student than a woman. Gray sweat pants with brown knees from all the dust on the moving boxes, topped with a black sports bra that probably looked more gray than black. I hadn't even bothered with makeup for the day and my hair was wound up and clipped to the back of my head, leaving me looking a good ten years older than I was if not more. Compared to Cherise's skintight black jeans and red halter, not to mention her perfect face and softly curled hair, I was nothing short of a monster. I'd be lucky if we made it to the parking lot without some well-meaning guy trying to save her from me.

"You didn't go blind or something did you?" I asked.

"I didn't say we couldn't stop by that fancy new apartment of yours first." She replied.

I got the hint. Not that it was much of a hint, more of the whack you in the face with a two by four, suggestion. She wanted to see the place and naturally, she was a touch annoyed to have to ask. On a different day I might have made her work for it a little more but I was in a giving mood after enjoying my little piece of serenity.

"Did that birdie give you an address or do you need to follow me close?" I asked.

"I got the address, but I'll follow close anyway. " She said.

It didn't take long to wind our way through the local streets and back to the freeway. From there it was a relatively short sprint to the exit for my new home. My new home, that has a nice ring to it when said like that. There was independence in those words and it was mine. Maybe the place wasn't quite so bad after all. Does it really matter who picked it as long as it is mine and mine alone? I think not and what I think is all that matters at my place.

The physical community my home resides within in is surrounded by a wrought iron fence, painted brown instead of black to look more impressive and less like protection from a bad neighborhood. This feature was of paramount importance to my Dad as well as the 24 hour guard at the entry gate who checked ID's and guest passes before allowing anyone onto the premises. The actual reality of security was likely far less than the appearance, but if it let my Dad sleep better at night, I suppose it was worth it.

On my "executive assistant" salary I couldn't afford any of the really nice apartments, but getting inside a nicer community was important to Mom because she had to be able to gossip about my new living arrangement and hold her head up high at the same time. For me it meant looking longingly at the nice private garages as I pulled into my rickety carport and gazing longingly at my neighbors' two and three bedroom places while walking passed them to my tiny one bedroom. Of course Mom had to point out the fact I only had one bedroom so far for my entire life and this place offered me a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, far more than I'm used to and probably more than I need, at least in Mom's fixed opinion.

My key was a tight fit in the lock and required a little in and out movement in order to get it just right to unlock the door. The door didn't squeak as I pushed it open but it did slam to a rather sudden stop against the wall before I remembered how tight the space was. I flipped the lights on and was once again amazed at how little space there was from the front door to the bedroom. It was like four steps in any direction took you to a wall or another supposed room. The main part of the apartment was essentially living room and kitchen with only a small breakfast bar separating the two. Straight ahead from the front door were two doors with only a sliver of wall between them. The one on the right was my bedroom the one on the left was the bathroom. It occurred to me that with the doors open I could literally spit from the doorway to any part of my home, not that I was thinking of doing so, cause that would be gross.

"I think we'll both fit in here but if either of us gains any weight it could be a problem getting out. " I said.

Cherise walked in ahead of me at my gesture. She stopped about two steps in and turned around in a circle, clearly inspecting every nook and cranny, because they were all visible from her vantage point. I followed her in and closed the door, thankful neither of us were claustrophobic. As I tried to squeeze passed her on my way to take a quick shower, she dropped a hand on each of my shoulders and gave me her best attempt at a somber face.

"How on earth did you find such a place?" She asked.

I raised my eyebrows wondering when the other shoe would drop. She couldn't seriously think my little cardboard box was a nice place to live. On top of which I was pretty sure she had looked at the very community before finding her own place and she definitely hadn't even considered any place other than where she was.

"I didn't think it was physically possible to live in a smaller hole than mine." She said, with the beginnings of a giggle on her lips.

"I'm sure it won't be quite so tight once I get unpacked." I said.

"At least it's yours, right?" Cherise said.

"For the next six months at least." I said.

"Maybe you'll be ready to move up by then." She said with a hopeful smile.

"I'm ready to move up now." I replied.

She laughed at me. I was serious though. Not for the first time I thought about the condo Mr. Candle was renting under the name of Virginia West and wondered why I wasn't living there. Surely, he would have no objections to it but there was the matter of family and friends visiting. No way in hell would they believe my cover story if they saw me in a place like that and worse, the condo was in Virginia's name and she was a target for unsavory people who would love to find out who my friends and family were. No, tempting as the place was, I had to keep the separation in place if I was going to keep working at Q5.

It took me a half hour to get ready and that was rushing things along and Cherise helping out with my hair and picking out the perfect outfit to go with hers. As we walked out the door the only difference between us was her halter was red and mine was a deep blue. That and my heels were only two inches, I can't walk in the three inch spikes and even if I could the blisters aren't worth it. Besides, I'm tall enough anyway.

Cherise drove us to our favorite Mexican restaurant and bar with a beach view and all night patio seating. Naturally we sat outside, ordered two giant Strawberry Margaritas and a half dozen tacos, two each of carne asada, carnitas, and pollo, that's steak, pork and chicken to the uninitiated. The waiter dropped us a basket of fresh hot tortilla chips and a couple of bowls of salsa while we waited for the rest. It wouldn't be long, it never was, but the chips were always good.

A nearby patio heater provided a little warmth to offset the cool breeze coming in off the ocean and the dim patio lights were complimented with a small white candle burning in the center of the table. It was a peaceful setting and with the right company it would have been romantic, but with just us it was as close to sharing a hot bath as we were going to get. The Margaritas arrived with colorful paper parasols hanging out over the edge of the glass and a whole strawberry hanging on its toothpick handle. I slid the strawberry into my mouth and decided it had been way too long since we'd done anything like this. Cherise's smile told me she was thinking the same thing.

"Anything new with you?" I asked.

"Same as always. Keep waiting for that promotion and every time I get close, it moves a little farther away." She said.

"Sucks." I said, with sympathy swallowed as I sipped at my Margarita.

"I'll live. I'm looking elsewhere and seems like things might be getting better so who know maybe I'll get the promotion and then some when I find the right employer." She said.

"It's a plan. If you find anything really good you'll have to let me know." I said.

She would expect I'd be interested, but it felt weird saying it aloud when I knew I didn't mean it at all. I wished her all the best without a doubt, but for me, I already had a good job and I wasn't ready to move on from it. Probably crazy considering it almost got me killed and more than once.

"So what about you?" She asked.

"What about me?"

"I heard something about a new man in your life."

"Mark." I said. "It was exciting while it lasted but it's over."



"So he's like a stalker?" She asked.

The question threw me. There was implication behind the words but it made no sense to me at all.

"No. What are you talking about?" I said.

"Well he was asking your Mom about you when I showed up. " Cherise said. "I got the impression your Mom liked him but your Dad didn't, which means he's probably a good guy."

I laughed. It wasn't necessarily funny but it was sadly true. Laughing about it made some of the pain slip away and so that's how I deal. Unfortunately, my ribs are still healing from my excursion in the Philippines and laughing made them hurt which made my eyes tear up for a moment and my laughter to stop abruptly while my hand grabbed helplessly at the source of the pain. Cherise noticed.

"What happened?" She said, dropping Mark as a subject.

"Nothing." I said.

"Bullshit." She said.

We stared at each other until I had to look away. She was right and she knew it and I couldn't meet her gaze for that long when I knew I was lying to her. This is the both the best and worst thing about having friends that know you better than you know yourself.

"I was in a car accident." I said.

It was truth at least. Maybe not whole truth but enough truth I didn't feel bad about lying about it. Cherise would completely freak if she knew the whole story and so I knew I couldn't tell her because after she calmed down from freaking out she'd freak my Mom out and then Mom would get to Dad and then it would all come back around to me. That's my circle of life.

"Was your boss driving? If he was reckless or drunk or something you know you could sue. Hay, even if he wasn't you could still sue, I mean it was a business trip and all that right?" Cherise said.

"I was driving." I said. "And if you tell either of my parents I'll be sure to mention that weekend in Mexico to your Dad."

"You wouldn't dare." She said.

"Then you better not, because bluffing, I'm not." I said.

"Hot rodding on foreign soil eh?" She asked.

"Flipped a convertible on city streets." I said.

"Damn. Company rental or yours?" She asked.

"Company." I lied.

There was no reason to mention the car was stolen as well although Cherise would undoubtedly have been impressed with that tidbit.

"Must be nice. I go somewhere and get a rental and it's the smallest compact on the lot." She said.

"Quondam doesn't do anything small." I said.

It was true enough. The two of us spent years chattering away about the excesses of corporations like Quondam. The amount of money they wasted alone on fancy cars, suites and private jets was astounding and more than enough to feed a starving nation in Africa. Once upon a time that mattered to me and somewhere in my soul it still did but not in the same way. Maybe it was bad to be wasteful but the responsibility for taking care of the planet and the people that call it home belongs to everyone, not just corporations and politicians.

"Cracked ribs?" She asked.

I nodded in the affirmative.

"How many?" She asked.

"Three." I said.

"And you were lifting boxes up and down those stairs?" She asked.

I nodded again.

"Have I told you, you're an idiot lately?" She asked.

"Not in a few weeks." I said.

"Well then, you are an idiot." She said, stressing the words as if they were a written sign on my forehead.

"Thanks, I feel so much better now that we've cleared that up." I said.

"Why didn't you just tell your parents? It's not like they can do anything to you now that you've got your own place." She said.

I wasn't so confident of that fact, but it had nothing to do with my decision to keep the information from them.

"They would worry. They already think bad things about my job and if they knew I'd done something like that, they'd never sleep unless I called them every night." I said.

"Not that I don't want to know every detail about your brush with death, but I'm actually much more interested in Mark." She said.

I nearly had a panic attack because of her wording, but of course she thought rolling the car was my brush with death and in a way it was but it had nothing on that moment when I heard a gunshot and thought the bullet had my name on it. That was a moment she would never know about.

"What about Mark? He showed up in the Philippines and things seemed to be going good but then all of the sudden he got weird, like he thought he needed to impress me or something and then he just left without really talking to me." I said.

'What do you mean?" She asked.

"I mean when he said goodbye it had more of a finality to it than an I'll see you later tone." I said.

"So what was he doing at your parents' house?"

"I don't know."

"Maybe you should call him." She suggested.

"He can call me if he wants to talk." I said.

"Babe, I've been calling you for two weeks and all I ever get is your voice mail. If your Mom hadn't filled me in on things I'd have given up on you myself." She said.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"When was the last time you answered your phone?" She asked.

Suddenly, I realized the problem. I'd been carrying around my work phone since I got it but my old phone, the one my friends and family would call was sitting in the bottom of my purse and most likely with a dead battery. I hadn't even thought about it, but Cherise's comment reminded me and much as I wanted to lay blame elsewhere, it was all my fault. Living two lives was complicated and forgetting I had two phones to keep charged, on, and answered was probably just one of many things I wasn't doing right.

I scrambled through my purse and pulled out the dead phone, dropping it on the table in front of me. Cherise looked at me with a questioning gaze and I closed my eyes wondering how I was going to explain it so that I didn't sound crazy or like a complete ditz.

"I lost my charger and I couldn't find a replacement over there. I guess by the time I made it back home I'd just got so used to not having my phone, I forgot about it completely." I said.

"Maybe you could cut the guy a little slack then?" She asked but it was more like a suggestion.

"Maybe." I conceded.

"Tomorrow morning go and get yourself a charger and then call him as soon as you plug it in. I'll bet he's been leaving you messages for days." She said.

"So you met him and like him?" I asked, changing the subject slightly.

"What's not to like?" She said. "You blow it with him and don't be surprised if I call him."

She wasn't serious, neither of us would ever do such a thing to the other but her point was well taken. Mark was for all intents a good guy. What happened to us over there wasn't his fault and while he was no Tom Clark or Dr. Michaels, he handled himself well enough in a very difficult situation. In fact, he had and clearly still was, protecting my secret and that alone was definitely worth giving him the benefit of any doubt.

"I'll call him tomorrow." I promised.


  1. Today's chapter was a really nice change of pace. I'm glad to see Mark is still in the game and I'm looking forward to seeing how he will fit into Allison's personal life. It's a shame he didn't get in touch with her early enough to help her move.

  2. Ashley, great to see Alison living a fairly normal life, with non gun toting female friends.
    Great change of pace, love it.
    Warm hugs,

  3. Awesome story. real good description of the scene on the rocks... good to see Allison has a good friend in Cherise, really enjoyed this chapter. Thanks, Great Job(writing)