A Modern Day Cinderella

Belinda moved effortlessly through the crowd, her dress clinging to her body just long enough to capture the attention of the men before flowing freely. She knew she looked perfect; beautiful without being overbearing, sexy without being slutty, available without being out there. She was the envy of every woman and the desire of every man. She worked the room, a smile here, an air kiss there, and despite being uninvited, she knew she would never be asked to leave. She also knew full well she could have any man in the room but she only had eyes for one. 

She wasn’t alone in that, this was like a modern day Cinderella and Prince Charming was why every woman was here, but Belinda knew she would be the one the slipper fitted that night, and yes, that was a euphemism. 

Some of the invited ones were hoping to snare the prince for a husband, Belinda could spot them a mile off; needy, overly made up and a look of hope in their eyes that was extinguished as soon as they saw her. They’d soon be casting their nets in shallower water.

The other invited women were with husbands, but still hoping that tonight they’d catch the ‘prince’s’ eye before sneaking away from their husbands at a later date to satisfy their desires. They also recognised Belinda for what she was, so their attention remained on their husbands tonight.

The other uninvited guests were whores; high-class hookers hoping 'prince charming' would be willing to pay for it tonight. It was said that he prefered to pay so that there would be no misunderstandings. If the rumours were to be believed, one, two or three of them could make enough money to have a six-week holiday somewhere very nice indeed. Better dressed than the wannabe wives, Belinda recognised them by the dead in their eyes; this was work and nothing else. Their dreams of a mountain of coke was soon snuffed out though. They knew as soon as they saw Belinda sashay through the room that they too would be looking around for less expensive prizes; still wealthy enough to make the evening worthwhile but certainly not the jackpot. 

Belinda wasn’t a wannabe wife, lover or trick, no Belinda was a thief. Over the next few days she would take maybe half a million pound from the ‘prince’. Take is the wrong word, she wouldn’t take his money, she’d accept it. He’d shower her with anything she asked for then, then when she got bored she’d disappear. But unlike Cinderella she’d make sure she didn’t leave a tell tale slipper behind so that the love-struck ‘prince’ could find her.

Belinda took a glass of champagne from a passing tray and smiled in the direction of the ‘prince’. Job done! She knew that was all it would take. She watched him talk to his lackeys and them look in her direction. Within minutes he was making his way over and all the other women in the room were making other plans.

The next three days were an orgy of sex and spending sprees, he wanted to buy her clothes but she skilfully manoeuvred him towards items with resale value. Jewellery, watches, sunglasses, perfumes, he was a willing shopper and his credit card knew no limits.

But a girl can only do so much faking, so on day three she made her excuses, packed and left. She promised him with all her heart she’d be back soon, she gave him her number and email address, he called her so she had his number, (and it check it wasn't a fake), they kissed like teenagers, tears running down her face and then she hailed a cab, not looking back, so that the ‘prince’ wouldn’t see her smiling.

She sat in the taxi putting her regular sim card in her phone, subtly dropping the disposable one  out of the window.  Then she called her brother, ‘Vinny, I got diamonds, you got cash?’
‘I’ve always got cash.’
‘Great, I’ll be with you in a day or two.’ 
Belinda smiled, she was at it again and it was working a treat. It’s funny how she just so happened to be in the same hotel as one of the richest men in Central Asia on his first of only 2 nights in the country. Selim  was the 7th most eligible bachelor in the world but he was known to be keen to come off that list. He was looking for someone beautiful, intelligent, and sophisticated and he thought he might have just found her in Belinda. To celebrate  he was ordering champagne like it was lemonade but Belinda noticed that he wasn’t drinking too much himself. Typical 40 year old man who thinks he on a promise she thought to herself, get the girl drunk but stay clear headed enough to be able to perform. Luckily Belinda had a gift; she could drink champagne all night long and never feel in the slightest bit tipsy. So if Selim thought he was about to drink her under the table, he had another thing coming.

She could act tipsy though, acting was another gift and she was playing her part now. Her giggles, the little touches on the shoulder and on the knee, the little wave as she went to the toilet were all doing the trick. They’d only met an hour before but already Selim was like putty in her hand.

The next two days were like a lost weekend in a hotel in Amsterdam. Selim was like a stallion between the sheets; strong, skilled and with a voracious appetite. Enjoying it though she was, Belinda was beginning to fret that they would never go shopping. The sex was all well and good but she wasn't in it for that, she was here for the money. She needn’t have worried though, the shop was about to come to her.

A knock on the hotel room door was followed by an army of people bringing in all manner of things. As the army retreated, two women appeared who began to dress and undress Belinda with a military precision. They put her in a range of posh frocks with all the accessories to match. Belinda didn’t make a choice; Selim either nodded his approval or said a sharp no. The dresses that he approved were put in the vast wardrobe, the jewellery on the dresser. When the women left, Selim stood up, kissed Belinda and spoke.
‘I must go now, but I want you to come to my country, say you will.’ There was a look of desperation in his eyes that almost made Belinda pity him.
‘All of this is for you. Take it but come to me.’ He handed her a plane ticket for 2 days later.
‘First class.’
‘Of course I will darling.’ Belinda said with a smile that looked so genuine that it would have fooled anyone. ‘I love you.’ She whispered as she stroked his face gently.

Belinda looked around the room, Selim was gone but the riches remained. She packed the new suitcase he’d left her, tore up the plane ticket and switched sim cards leaving the one with his details sinking down to the bottom of the ice bucket. She smiled to herself as she waited for her brother to answer the phone. She’d keep the real silk stockings Selim had bought her, they might come in handy, but the rest of the stuff her brother could deal with for the right price, especially the diamonds, Vinny loved the diamonds.

Selim’s driver shook his head. They’d been at the airport for 2 hours but there’d been no sign of the girl. Selim’s money bought power, the power to see the passenger list of the flight she’d been booked on. But his driver had just discovered there was no one on the flight with her name. Selim took out his phone and called the number she’d given him for the 15th time since he'd left that hotel room. Again it went straight to voicemail. Selim was beginning to realise he’d been played, deceived, ripped off. He felt his blood boil but outwardly he remained calm. She didn’t know who she was dealing with. No one ripped him off, no one made him look a fool. He’d hunt that bitch down, find her and teach her a lesson she’d never forget. 
Vinny put a large gin and tonic down in front of his sister and a glass of champagne in front of Eleanora and  then went back to the bar for his own drink. He’d been watching his sister from the bar as he ordered the drinks. She was good. Even here she was aware there were rich men around who she could persuade to part company with their money. The way she flicked her hair, smiled and laughed were all carefully crafted to attract the casual onlooker.
She was telling the story of her latest conquest, some poor mug called Selim  who was begging her to go to Kazakhstan or Turkmenistan or somewhere.
‘You’re just a posh hooker really’ Vinny teased her.
Belinda bristled, she hated when Vinny called her that but she had to be careful knowing what Eleanora’s former profession was.
‘I’m not a hooker, I don’t sleep with them for money, I sleep with them cos they’re fit, the sex is a perk.’
Vinny smiled ‘You just be careful. One of these days you are gonna get into trouble.’
‘Never!’ Belinda flashed her professional smile, a smile that Vinny was sure could get her off the hook even if she did get caught.
‘And anyway hark who’s talking,’ it was Belinda’s turn to tease and Vinny’s turn to bristle. I’m not the one who nearly got killed, by his own boss, twice.’
Vinny put his arms out, ‘but I’m still here aren’t I?

Vinny wasn’t the only one impressed by Belinda’s smile. Temur watched her closely. He could see why Selim  had fallen so hopelessly in love; she had everything. But Temur was armed with the knowledge that she was a heartless, thieving bitch which made him immune to her charms, or did it? Temur pressed a button on his phone and sent a text message that simply read ‘Found her.’

Selim  read the message and smiled. Since the ‘no show’ at the airport he’d had worked tirelessly to track her down. He’d called in all the favours he could. He wasn’t going to let her get away scot-free and with his contacts and his money he knew he’d find her. She obviously thought that she was toying with some amateur but she didn’t know what she had let herself in for. He knew he would find her, the only problem was what to do now that he had; he didn’t know if to shoot her or marry her. People who crossed him usually ended up dead but people who crossed him didn’t have that beautiful smile. He threw the phone in the air and caught it and then started to make arrangements. He needed to get on a plane as soon as possible. 

Selim  sat in the car waiting patiently. His two goons were primed and ready, Selim  knew they were experts but there was still a few nerves around. They’d done this type of thing many times before but never in a foreign country. Back home no one ever saw anything but here the stakes were higher, there might be a do-gooder passing by who would stop and help or someone ready to take down the registration number and phone the police. Selim  certainly didn’t have a ‘get out of jail free card’ here like he did back home.
It was a simple procedure. They’d wait till she came out of her building and then the goons would sidle up to her while the car drew along side. In a blink of an eye, the quarry would be ushered into the car with no fuss, no drama. Experience told them that the element of surprise and the speed of action usually rendered the target speechless for long enough to make it all look so innocent.  That was usually, but this time Selim  knew that this girl was no ordinary victim; she was made of a different stock. She might not come so quietly.

But Selim  needn’t have worried. His men were good and within seconds of spotting her, Belinda was sitting next to him in the back of his Limo.  If there was one thing that surprised him though, it was her reaction. The next step in the process was to use a sedative to knock out the victim but Selim  always liked to wait a few minutes before administering the drug. Just so the captive had a chance to see who had taken them and realise what was happening. In those few moments victims tended to kick and scream but Belinda was calm, like she’d been expecting him. She appraised him with eyes that sent a shiver down his spine, part lust, part fear. Gone were the loving, sexy eyes that had seduced him weeks before. Now those same eyes were filled with… Selim wanted to say hate but it wasn’t hate. Was it contempt, pity, scorn or just a confidence that this would be over soon?

What had he been expecting? Certainly not a welcoming party in her eyes, but not quite the cold, calculating stare he was getting now.   It didn’t last long though, one of the goons stuck the needle in her leg and Belinda was soon sleeping like a baby.

Belinda flitted in an out of consciousness for the next few hours. But now she lay wide wake on a palatial bed in a room that was probably bigger than her whole apartment. She tried to put together the vague memories into some order.  She remembered the goons and the car and Selim . Bloody Selim , she should have known that that fool would come back for her. He’d pretended to be hard as nails but was putty in her hand during the weekend they’d spent together. She looked around and wondered where she was. She had memories of airports so guessed she may have been brought to his god forsaken country somewhere in Central Asia. She swore quietly to herself – she always knew she played a dangerous game but thought herself immune to the dangers.

What did he want though? If he’d wanted to kill her, she’d be dead by now so that left either punishment or marriage. Marriage? She looked at her hand, there was a bloody ring on her finger. Memories were beginning to surface, she tried to fish them out of the whirlpool of her brain.  Shit, shit, shit the bastard had drugged her and married her.    

The door opened and she saw the unmistakable figure of Selim  come into the room; her husband! She hated the bastard, wanted to gouge his eyes out. He watched her watch him and smiled. She had to calm down, she had to be smart. She was on his territory now. If she attacked him, she’d be dead within minutes. No this required a different tack. If she’d used her beauty to get herself into this mess, then she could use it to buy her freedom. And after all Selim  was one of the better lovers, so it could be fun.
But she wouldn’t give it away, not straight away anyway but she’d tease him and please him and manipulate him and before he’d know it, she’d be gone again.

‘Luck be a lady tonight.’ Belinda hummed as she busied herself in the bathroom making herself beautiful for Selim. It’d been two weeks since she found herself in a Central Asian Republic being kept prisoner by her captor and new husband. In those two weeks she had skilfully manipulated Selim so that he was not so much a captor as captivated. It was a strange kidnap anyway. How many hostages spend their time padding round a luxury mansion being waited on hand and foot, having use of the pool, the gym and the sauna as well as the stables? How many hostages had personal shoppers bringing luxury goods to their home? How many hostages had a perfect gentleman as their captor? Selim was obviously a tough guy when it came to business but a real softy when it came to women. He obviously wanted her, wanted to rediscover the delights of that perfect body, but he was chivalrous, caring and kind. Respectful of her need to acclimatise to the situation, he’d not forced himself on her but was waiting until she was ready. She was beginning to like him, was that Stockholm syndrome? He reminded her of her brother Vinny, tough on the outside but sweet and sentimental, okay maybe not sweet but certainly romantic at heart. The only real inconvenience of this whole abduction was no phone and no internet, but she could survive that, for now.
Selim had two special advisers, Temur and Serik who went everywhere with him. They were a mix of bodyguard, PA and friends. Serik was easily the sexiest man Belinda had ever seen, his handsome features always made her look twice. But it was Temur she was really interested in; he was her passport out of here. She could tell by the way he looked at her, that she could wrap him round her little finger. He tried not to, but his eyes undressed her at every opportunity and after they’d finished undressing her, they did things that would require an 18 certificate. She always made sure her clothing was just a little loose when he was around.

But Temur was the future, for now Belinda had work to do on Selim.  Tonight she’d let him sample her delights… if he was a good boy. She’d been on at Selim for a couple of day to take her to Paris. She was going stir crazy in the mansion and needed some proper retail therapy. (She didn’t mention that she also knew that Vinny could get to Paris at the drop of a hat.) Selim had not been that keen, so tonight she was going to use her feminine charm to force the issue. She looked at herself in the mirror and nodded happily, she’d soon be on a plane to France. 

Selim looked happier than even before. 
‘So Paris darling?’ Belinda said in a breathless voice. 
‘Yes my love, anything for you.’
Selim said he’d book it after his business trip but Belinda was insistent.
‘Let’s book it now’ she pleaded with him, kissing his belly and giving him eyes so dirty they’d get her a visit from the thought police. 
Selim got out his phone, punched in a number and spoke quickly in the local language. He killed the call, and told Belinda they’d be in Paris on Saturday night. 

The next morning Belinda watched him pack.
‘And how long will you be away?’
‘Just 2 days.’
‘And what am I supposed to do?’
‘Well Serik is coming with me but Temur is staying here to look after a few things. If you need anything, just ask him.’
Belinda smiled, that was what she wanted to hear. Everything was falling nicely into place.

As soon as Selim left, Belinda put on her bikini and headed for the pool. She had to move fast, she only had two days. She jumped into the cold water and splashed around for a while before climbing out and making a show of drying herself off, rubbing every part of her body with the towel. She knew Temur would be watching her from somewhere. She lay in the hot sun for the best part of an with her bra strap unclasped but was disappointed that she wasn’t joined by Selim’s special advisor. She sauntered back to her room, it was time for Plan B. She called Temur and asked him to bring her some food.
She let the bikini fall to the floor in the middle of the room and put on her dressing gown.  When Temur saw the swimsuit, he’d know she was naked under the towelling robe. Surely he wouldn’t be able to resist.
But it was not Temur who brought the food. A middle-aged woman came in with a tray, instinctively picking up the bikini and hanging it up on her way out. Temur was obviously avoiding her, maybe with the cat being away he was making sure the mice weren’t even in the least bit tempted to play. How could she get him to come to her?

She lay on the bed thinking, for the plan to work she had to get to Temur, but she couldn’t do that if he was playing hard to get. What would certainly get Temur to come? Fear! She phoned him again.
‘Temur are you, are you avoiding me?’
‘No, I’m busy I have things to do.’
‘Selim said you’d look after me, keep me company. I’m bored.’ Belinda was using her spoilt little girl’s voice.
‘I need to finish something.’
‘I don’t think Selim would be happy if he knew you were ignoring me.’
‘I’ll be there in 30 minutes.’
Belinda put the phone down and smiled. Men, she thought to herself, all as stupid as each other.

Belinda opened a bottle of champagne and took a few sips while waiting for her prey. Temur arrived in exactly 30 minutes. He looked nervous, unsure, vulnerable. Belinda was going to eat him alive and he wouldn’t even know it.
‘So what can I do for you?’ He said with a tremble in his voice.
‘Just sit with me, drink with me, talk to me.’
Belinda was still dressed in the towelling robe but the belt was loose and she made sure there were glimpses of skin at every move.
They chatted for a while about nothing before Belinda began her planned conversation.
‘I like it here,’ she said. ‘I really like your boss, he’s so sweet isn’t he?’ Belinda’s face was the epitome of innocence. ‘And then having you and Salik here too, what I lucky girl I am being surrounded by three such wonderful gentlemen. She lightly stroked Temur’s face and smiled. Temur blushed, sweat appeared on his forehead, his breath quickened just a little.
‘But,’ Belinda bit her bottom lip and hesitated. She looked like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. ‘But I am worried about my little brother. He’ll be worried about me, he doesn’t know where I am, or what’s happened. I just wish…’ she let her voice trail off and her eyes glaze with tears. She sniffed and took a mouthful of fizz, pulling one knee up over her chin, the material of the gown falling off it exposing her long bare legs.
‘Do you want to call him.’ Temur had his phone stretched out towards her.
‘Can I? What about Selim?’
‘Our little secret.’ Temur blushed again.
Belinda took the phone and tapped in Vinny’s special number. She then confidently headed to the bathroom and locked the door, leaving Temur looking slightly worried.
She was in there for about 5 minutes before coming out completely naked.
‘Another little secret’ she said as she danced around in front of him before placing a small kiss on his cheek and putting the phone into his hand. ‘Now go’ she said ‘before the other staff get suspicious.’
Temur tore himself away from the naked beauty of Belinda and made himself scarce. He was playing a dangerous game but that body, that smile, those eyes all made it worth it.

‘Why are those two with us?’ Belinda asked. She knew the answer and actually was pleased that they were, but she had to keep up the act. ‘Not the most romantic is it?’
They were in one of the nicest hotel rooms Belinda had ever seen. It was wealthy but not over the top, nothing ostentatious, nothing tacky, just Parisian class.
‘Well, I have some business to take care of so one of those two can take care of you, make sure you spend my money wisely.’ Selim smiled and winked. Belinda knew it was to make sure she didn’t escape, but she was willing to play along with his game. She planted a little kiss on his cheek that promised oh so much.
 ‘In fact,’ Selim said, ‘I need an hour or two this afternoon, so why don’t you take Serik shopping and Temur and I can stay here to work.’
That was wrong, she needed Temur to go shopping with her not Serik.
Belinda bit her lip.
‘What’s wrong?’ Selim asked.
‘It’s um … nothing.’
‘C’mon tell me.’
‘it’s just, I don’t like Serik, the way he looks at me. It’s …it’s creepy, I think he wants me.’
‘Really?’ Selim looked genuinely surprised. ‘Well okay, you take Temur then.’
Belinda smiled; Selim had said the magic words. He picked up the phone and summoned the two goons into the room.
‘Change of plan gents, Temur you’re going with Belinda, Serik, you’re staying here with me.’
Belinda thought she could trace the slightest blush on Temur’s face but he was controlling his emotions pretty well. She smiled and went over to him linking arms and skipping out of the room. Hiding in broad daylight.

In the lift down to the ground floor she smiled at Temur.
‘Underwear’ she said ‘ Lingerie. You are going to help me choose.’
Temur blushed properly now.
‘In fact let’s pretend you’re my husband, it could be fun.’ Temur was bright red.
‘Our little secret. But first can I use your phone?’
Temur meekly handed the phone to Belinda who shot off a text message at speed before passing it back and linking arms with Temur again.
In the shop Belinda’s demeanour changed a little. She was still flirtatious with Temur but was now teasing him. ‘You shouldn’t look at me like that’ she chastised him. ‘What would Selim say if he could see those eyes?’ She asked when she knew the shop assistants were in earshot.
‘We don’t need to worry about Selim,’ Temur said growing in confidence.
Bingo thought Belinda. 
‘Don’t touch’ she said loudly more for the rest of the shop than for Temur.  She smiled at Temur with wicked eyes full of Belinda promise. 

When they got back to the hotel the police were everywhere. The concierge nodded towards them and before they could ask what was going on they were intercepted by a policeman and taken to a private room.  As the police explained what had happened Belinda broke down.
‘My Selim, no please no, tell me he’s alive.’ the policewoman shook her head and Belinda wailed. She was so convincing she even began to believe it herself. Meanwhile Temur was bemused. He’d just been told that his boss and lifelong friend had been shot dead at point blank range but this woman who had been forced into marrying Selim was acting like she’d lost her childhood sweetheart.
Just then there was a knock on the door, another policewoman entered and the two coppers spoke in fast French. Two uniformed officers then came in and took an increasingly confused Temur away.

The original policewoman turned back to her, ‘Have a little while to rest but then we will need to question you. Okay?’
Belinda nodded and sobbed and wiped a way a tear.
The questioning was typical, do you know who would want to do this to your husband? Did he have any enemies? Belinda played the innocent, heartbroken wife. Then the question got round to her relationship with Temur.
‘Relationship? What relationship? He was just my bodyguard.’
‘Do you think he thought it was more than that?’
‘No! Well he’s quite flirtatious, I think he likes me.’ Belinda said innocently.
‘Do you think he would kill his boss?’
‘No, how could he? He was with me?’
‘We found a phone next to the bodies.  We think the killer dropped it. It had one call and a message that came from Temur’s phone.’
‘No? Temur? he wouldn’t do that. No.’ She wiped her nose with a tissue. ‘Oh!’ she looked like she’d just remembered something.
‘What is it?’
‘In the shop, earlier. He said we don’t need to worry about Selim, he must’ve meant...’
Belinda broke into tears again. ‘Poor Selim, betrayed by his own best friend.’

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