Claimed By Daddy by Lucky Moon

 

CHAPTER ONE

1

ANNIKA

‘Wow. That dress makes you look really…. mature, Annika.’ Brenda gives me an acidic look, with a smile so sharp it could cut my dress to shreds. ‘Do you need help with any of that stuff?’

I must look insane right now. I’m clutching a steaming cup of latte in my left hand, and I’ve got a stack of papers underneath my right shoulder. There’s a pen clamped between my teeth and I’m got my handbag firmly wedged between my knees.

‘Thank you, Brenda,’ I answer, curtly, past my pen. ‘I’m fine, thank you.’ I wish I could think of something equally back-handed to spit back at her, but I just can’t. Especially before I’ve had any coffee.

I wish I didn’t have to walk past Brenda Bryce’s desk to get to my own workstation. Not only is she here before me every single fricking day, but she never, ever fails to makes some kind of snarky comment about the way I look. I waddle past her with about as much dignity as I can muster (not much), and continue to my desk.

Truth is, the reason Brenda’s so dang irritating is because of how perfect she is. Amazing at her job. Absolutely gorgeous. Immaculately dressed. If she wasn’t so dang mean to me all the time, she’d actually be someone I might look up to.

I wonder what today will bring. No doubt, I’ll be reporting on celebrity sightings and writing vacuous stories about fashion and sport. Ugh, I must sound so bitter.

Well, I guess I am bitter. Just a little bit.

See, back in the good old days, the days before Trent Linus became the editor of the Denver Chronicle, I was the lead crime reporter at the paper. It often happens that when a new editor takes over the running of a paper there’s a reshuffle of the reporting staff. Trent brought Brenda across from his old paper in New York and installed her in my old job.

Technically, I was promoted. My new job title is Features Editor, but the truth is I just write up whatever crappy stories no one else wants to deal with.

Lost animals? Give it to the Features Editor.

D-list celeb spotted in a BBQ joint in town? Sounds like the perfect job for Annika.

Local news anchor suffered a wardrobe malfunction live on air? The Features Editor would love to hear about it.

I reach my desk and put my coffee down, before dumping the stack of old papers down next to my keyboard. There’s a flashing red light on the phone next to my computer. A message. Already. Ugh. I wonder which of the disgruntled maniacs who call me on a regular basis to discuss insane conspiracy theories I’m going to have to speak to this morning. I part my legs and my handbag falls to the floor.

‘OK, Annika, time to work.’ Talking to myself is one of about a bazillion bad habits I have. I do it all the time, have done ever since I was a kid. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always struggled to get a boyfriend, although honestly, it’s probably not the thing that’s held me back the most.

I pick up the phone and press a couple buttons to access my voice-mail. I’m surprised to hear that it’s not a disgruntled local’s voice I hear, it’s Trent.

‘Annika, I want you in my office soon as you get in this morning. I’ve got something to talk to you about. Something exciting.’

That’s it. How mysterious! Could it be that I’m actually going to be allowed to report on something worthwhile for once?

Brent’s office is all the way across the news floor. A lot of newspaper offices around the country have down-sized over the past decade or so. Print media is in decline, after all. Not the Denver Chronicle, though. Thanks to a robust early adoption of on-line journalism, we’ve managed to retain the vast majority of our staff. It means that we still have a huge, traditional news floor, with dozens of desks clustered around TV screens covered in rolling news coverage. I’m fairly young — only twenty-seven — but I get a sense of the history of this place. It was why I was so excited to join, straight out of college. Now though, I feel as though I’m adrift, with no hopes for the future.

I knock sharply on the door to Trent’s office, and he responds almost immediately.

‘Come in!’

The smell of the office is oppressive. Trent isn’t meant to smoke in here, but it doesn’t stop him. No one on the staff wants to challenge him on any of his behavior. He’s always got a cigar on the go, and the acrid stench of the dark black smoke stinks out the entire place.

He’s smoking right now, and fumes from his Cuban sting my eyes as soon as I step in.

‘Annika, good to see you,’ he says in his brash, perpetually impatient voice. ‘Take a seat. I’ve got an exciting opportunity to discuss.’ He gestures to the beat-up old chair in front of his desk. I sit down, a little awkward. I’ve not had much time alone with Trent since he joined the paper.

‘That sounds good,’ I say, but I sound unsure.

Trent smiles. He’s got a strange face — leather skin and a short, bristly mustache under his thick, crooked nose. Whenever I see him smile, it never seems as though he’s sincerely happy, and this smile is no exception. He just looks even more cynical than he did before.

‘Trust me,’ he says, ‘this is gonna be right up your street.’ He opens up a drawer in his desk and takes out a folder, then he throws it across the desk to me. I pick it up, but before I’ve even had a chance to read it, Trent says, ‘Ever heard of Adult Babies?’

Oh crap. The blood in my veins feels like it’s turned to ice. Does Trent know about me?

‘Ugh, yeah, I’ve heard of them.’

‘Remember a couple months ago, there was that story about the Jackal gang? Those two civilians and a country bumpkin sheriff brought down the head of the biggest criminal organization in Colorado?’

Oh thank God. He doesn’t know about me. ‘Ah, I see what you’re getting it. Those men are part of some kind of Adult Baby community out of Little Creek, right?’

‘That’s it,’ he says, clearly happy to see that I know what he’s talking about. I glance down at the papers in my hand now, and see that it’s the edition from the day of the gang bust. ‘Imagine a group of perverts living in some kind of filthy sex-cult in our state.’

I’m not surprised by Trent’s take on the situation. He’s a nasty man, and he’s got no time for anyone he perceives as ‘weird’ or ‘different’.

‘Yeah, I guess maybe it might be a little worrying for our readers.’ I try to be as diplomatic as I can.

‘A little worrying? It’s immoral, what they do. Grown women, wearing diapers? Man, pretending to be their fathers?’

‘I don’t think the men actually pretend to be the fathers, sir.’

He eyes me with suspicion. ‘Course they do.’

‘Right.’

Truth is, I actually know quite a bit about the Daddy Dom Little Girl subculture. I’ve done lots of research into it over the years. And not just out of professional curiosity. See, I’ve never found a man dominant enough for me, and for a while, I wondered whether I might be happier in a Sub/Care-giver relationship. And if it weren’t for my shame, I might have taken the research a little bit further…

‘Anyway, I got a call from one of the freaks. Apparently, ever since we published our story, they’ve been having trouble. Local people — understandably concerned — have been making their concerns known.’

‘You mean people have been harassing them?’

‘I don’t know the details,’ he waves his hand dismissively. ‘Anyway, he suggested that we send a reporter to get the real story of their community. So I thought I’d send you.’

My heart pounds in my chest. ‘Me?’

‘Yeah. You like stories about sex and crime, don’t you? You miss your life on the crime desk?’

‘Well, I guess so, bu-’

‘Then this is perfect. You go there, uncover all the filthy secrets, dish the dirt on all the perverts living in sin together, then you write the story of the century!’ He looks so excited he’s virtually foaming at the mouth.

‘You want me to write a hit-piece?’

‘Exactly!’ He grins that joyless grin of his again.

This all feels so off to me. I know that people would lap up an article like this — exposing the ‘freaks’ in our midst. Scandal and fear sells. But I don’t want to be that kind of reporter. I don’t want to whip people up into a frenzy, especially when innocent Littles could get hurt.

‘I don’t think I can do it,’ I say.

Trent looks at me with so much confusion I might as well have just said I’m a giant floating dog. ‘What the fuck do you mean?’

‘I mean, I don’t want to do it. I don’t think those people are the freaks you think they are. I think they’re just normal people trying to live normal lives.’

‘Bullshit,’ he says. ‘You’re honestly telling me that you don’t find the thought of grown people wearing diapers and pretending to be children to be fucked-up?’

‘I don’t,’ I say. ‘In fact, I can kind of understand it. Modern life is so weird and relentless and miserable, I can totally relate to the idea of wanting to relive your childhood. And I don’t even think that age-play has to be sexual. It can just be a relaxation thing.’

He snorts. ‘Of course it’s sexual. It’s degenerate. It’s an abomination.’ He sighs, then draws air sharply between his teeth. ‘Well, I guess I’m just gonna have send Brenda to cover it. She’ll do a good job for me.’

Oh crap. If he sends Brenda, she’ll tear those people apart. His little lap dog will do exactly what Trent tells her.

‘Fine,’ I say, quickly, ‘I’ll do it. I’ll go.’

He grins a sickly grin. ‘Lovely.’

As I walk back to my desk, I see Brenda looking over her computer at me. A thought hits me: why did Trent ask me to do this at all? Why didn’t he just ask Brenda to do it in the first place?

Thing is though, if I knew the real truth behind it, I would never have agreed to the story.