"Imagine my surprise," Mercedes purrs when Justin arrives for their appointment, "When I saw you as a guest at my own party. And as my intern's boyfriend of all things. I must know, where did someone like you find someone like her?"
Justin's fists clench instinctively, and it takes all his self-control to hold them at his side. "You don't know anything about me, and you do NOT speak her name in my presence."
Mercedes chortles deep in her throat, "Our session hasn't even started yet, Justin darling, and you're already in role," she says, "But, before we begin, I'd like to re-negotiate our arrangement here. It seems to me that I do know something about you, something you wouldn't want your upper class girlfriend to know about. You know what I want from you...and if I don't get it, it might just happen that Eleanor finds out what you really are, what you do for a living."
"You're trying to blackmail me for sex?" Justin is too angry to laugh. He could just tell Mercedes that her threat is meaningless, that Eleanor already knows what he does for a living, but he knows better than to lay his cards on the table like that. Let her think she has leverage, let her play her bad hand and lose. "You do realize that telling her what I do would expose your own proclivities to your intern, don't you?"
Mercedes frowns; she hadn't thought this through.
"This is business, you understand?" Justin says forcefully, "I'm here to get a job done. I have other clients, easily as rich as you are. I don't need you, Mercedes, and I will drop you if you don't let this go."
Mercedes returns to her gallery that afternoon in a foul mood. Justin was right, she can't expose him to Eleanor without exposing herself, and that's not something she's prepared to do. But she can't stop herself from expressing her anger about what transpired in her afternoon session in some veiled way.
"I can't believe you brought that...boyfriend...of yours along to my event," she complains, "My guests were among the wealthiest and most important people in the city, and you bring that...that trash to mingle with them."
Eleanor frowns, wondering where this is coming frown, Justin didn't even talk to anyone, and she doubts anyone even noticed he was there. "I'm sorry, Mercedes, I didn't realize..." she apologizes weakly, not knowing what she's apologizing for.
Mercedes waves her hand impatiently, "No matter," she says, trying to get control of herself. It won't do to get over emotional in front of the girl.
"I have something I need to discuss with you," Eleanor says, worried that this might not be the best time for it. But she spent the afternoon steeling herself for this, and if she doesn't do it now, her will to do it might fade. "The semester is ending in a week. And my internship ends with it. If I'm going to stay in the city, I'll need a paid position."
Mercedes grins with wicked glee. Her first instinct is to send the girl packing, leaving Justin bereft of his precious Eleanor. But that would be nothing more than revenge, which, while sweet, would do nothing to get her what she really wants. No, what she needs is leverage, and it occurs to her that taking Eleanor on as a paid employee would give her exactly that. When she holds the power to fire his girlfriend over his head...yes, Mercedes thinks, it's too perfect. And there's also the fact that Eleanor pretty much runs this gallery, leaving Mercedes free to do whatever she likes while being recognized by her peers for contribution to the the city's cultural life. "Of course, Eleanor, let's go into my office where we can negotiate a salary for you."
"She bitched me out for bringing you to her party," Eleanor says, looking up from her term paper, "I have no idea what got up her ass; she was fine with it before."
Justin can't meet her eyes. There are confidentiality agreements with his clients, and his career rides on keeping their dirty secrets. But he doesn't like keeping this from Eleanor, not telling feels like lying. "How important is that internship to you?" he asks, "You could quit, couldn't you?"
"Quit?" Eleanor asks, "Why would I want to quit?"
"I don't like the way she treats you," Justin says, "You shouldn't put up with it."
"Oh," Eleanor laughs, "She is a bitch, and I know I complain about her a lot, but really, she's not even there most of the time. And I actually like the work."
"I have some news," she says, getting up from her seat, "My internship is over when the semester ends. So I asked Mercedes for a job, a real job. And I got it."
"That gives her even more power over you," Justin observes, already seeing how Mercedes is going to try to use it against him.
"Not every relationship is about power exchange," she laughs, "She'll just be paying me to do what I'm already doing for free. And the money means I can stay in L.A. over the summer."
"You were going to leave?" Justin chokes. This is news to him.
"My mother hated the idea of me going to school out here to begin with," Eleanor explains, "She wanted me in an Ivy league school. And she most definitely expects me home for the summer. But with this job, I'l be able to pay my rent, and stay out here."
"Princess, if you ever need money, you just have to ask me," he says, "I won't lose you just because of money issues."
"That's sweet, Tiger," she says, "But I've been dependent on my mother's wealth all my life, I won't be dependent on you, too. I've got a job, and I'm going to pay my own way."
Special thanks to misukisu of Virtual Artisan for making Justin's fabulous new bondage vest.