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Pen Your Pride

A/N: Super busy day at work. Trying to find time to type and upload for you guys. Not sure I will get to announce winner and post dress that Alice will wear. BUT I will post whatever I have done and just update the rest later. So by the time this chapter is done, the winner will have their spoiler of choice!

YES the first little section is a la Salali's POV but it's brief and then back to Alice's. I try to keep it in her POV at all times but I switch it out for effect. There's a very emotional chapter coming up where I switch it entirely to a first person POV, so you'll be reading it as if you were that character. But not yet. You'll see ;)

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As good as it felt for Alice to be in Malcolm's arms, right then them being together was a bad thing. Officer Bradley and the new SSA Investigator Taylor had come to discuss Stuart's disappearance and possible retaliation against Alice. The two authority figures had gone to the apartment, expecting to find Alice there, and when they hadn't, Salali had gone with them downtown to try and stall for time. She knew where Malcolm would have taken Alice once he found her. She just wished that there had been some way to warn Alice without sounding suspicious, and in that case, the large Native woman was pissed off that the phone hadn't been working properly. She knew that there had been budget cuts in the police force but at least hteir phones could work!

Alice and Malcolm were cuddled up on his couch with the t.v on. He was holding her to him, letting the physical warmth of his body offer her comfort. Ace's fear was understandable; Stuart had spent most of her life terrorizing and violating her, now that she's finally found people willing to believe and help her, it was destroying his life. His parents were being investigated, he was under suspicion and likely to be charged with statutory rape and assault. His father was likely to be charged with child abuse, they were being sued by the SSA and the media was starting to sniff around them, so the neighbors and their workmates all knew what had been happening in their household. Knowing how determined Stuart would be for revenge, Alice wasn't breaking down like she expected. She'd had her freak out and gotten over it. Whatever Stuart tried to do to her, she would be prepared to handle it.

There was a brisk rap at the door. Malcolm reluctantly left Alice's side to go check who it was. Ace saw his shoulders stiffen in surprise and he turned to her and mouthed 'cops'. She sat up straighter and started to fix at her rumpled uniform, wondering what was going on. Malcolm opened the door to Officer Bradley and a new SSA Investigator. There was obvious suspicion on both of their faces; the fact that young Alice was here alone with a grown man like Malcolm.

Alice stood up and walked over as if she had no awareness of hteir suspicion. It was hard to act wholly innocent but surprisingly she pulled it off well. The stern looking SSA Investigator frowned, no longer quite so certain there was something untoward happening here. Ace knew she'd have to waylay any suspicion about her and Malcolm entirely or their lives together would soon be cut short.

"Officer Bradley, Agent...?" Alice made her salutations an introduction.

"Taylor, Investigator Taylor." he introduced, reaching a hand out to shake. Alice felt his grip test hers, neither too hard or too limp. His hand was cool and dry, a perfect politician's grasp.

"I've heard the b****** might be gunning for me." Alice stated bluntly. She'd gotten a sense that Investigator Taylor would respond better to directness than coy ignorance. Malcolm gave her a startled and alarmed look but kept quiet. He trusted her judgement and she felt like glowing at the compliment; but right now she had to act like there was no inappropriate relationship between them.

"That is correct Ms. Spade." Taylor affirmed, a reassessing glint in his eyes. She wasn't the fearful victim he'd been expecting. Alice had found an inner strength that let her determine to not live in fear any longer. Stuart would likely come after her and try to hurt her and there wasn't a whole lot the police or anyone could do while he was just under suspicion and wanted for questioning. If he came to hurt her, Alice could only hope he was caught in the act, and try to survive. So she was afraid, rightly so, but she was refusing to let that fear control her life. Officer Bradley and Investigator Taylor came in to discuss hat actions they could take on hteir end of things and explain the legal limitations placed on them at this time. They also wanted to go over the actions Alice could take to increase her own safety. Of course, things got off on the wrong foot when the first thing out of Malcolm's mouth was:

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