Page 21

With one firm hand, I guided Maximus’s cock into me, which elicited a lustful groan out of him. I didn’t feel any pain, I didn’t feel much of anything except a surge of energy spreading apart my insides. I kissed him violently and gyrated my hips into a fast, steady rhythm, which caused more of his moaning to fil my mouth.

He tried to pul back and, gasping for breath and not wanting to come just yet, he pleaded, “Slow down.”

I laughed to myself and raked my nails down his chest now. Harder.

“Ow,” he cried out, and dipped his chin to exam his chest where three bleeding lines were apparent.

I leaned forward and cackled in his ear. “Pussy.”

He paused at that for a second.

“Who are you?” he whispered.

I lifted my head and stared at him, my thrusting slowing down.

“Who do you want me to be?” I answered.

He frowned and I felt another surge sweep through me, pushing my control to the outer edges of my mind. I almost said I was sorry but it didn’t come out in time and I took a swipe at his face with my hand. I left four scratches behind that slowly began to seep blood from his cheekbone.

Grinning at his shock and the damage I inflicted, I lifted my other arm. I knew I could do better. He deserved better.

They all did.

Before I could do anything, though, his arm shot up and gripped my wrist so tightly that my hand folded open like a limp flower.

“That’s enough,” he growled, and with all of his strength he flipped me over so he was on top. I squirmed beneath him and had the idea that if I wanted to, I could throw him clear across the room. But something inside made me relent and the fire inside began to smolder as I felt control and reality flow back through my muscles.

We were both breathing hard, our faces nearly touching, his eyes sparkled with conflict as they looked into mine.

The blood began to gather at the middle of the cuts on his face and chest, threatening to drip onto me. It made me feel a bit sick, something I hadn’t felt when I was administering the damage.

“I’m all for fun, Perry,” he said. “But sometimes I like to play nice too.”

He gave me a small smile. The raise in his cheeks caused a drop of blood to fal on my own face. I grimaced and my face grew flush from embarrassment instead of lust.

What the fuck had just gotten into me?

“I’m sorry,” I said softly. I was ashamed.

“Darlin,’ no apologies. Different fucks for different ducks, as they say. Let’s nicer to each other. Take it slower.”

He took his thumb and wiped away the splash of his blood on my cheek. “Now we’re even.”

I managed to laugh at that. Then he kissed me and we started all over again. The rush of anger and the uncontrol able surges of power I felt earlier were merciful y kept at bay. We took it slower this time. I couldn’t come because I was too afraid to let go this time around but it was nice. And something I desperately needed. Who knew that lack of sex would lead to violence? But the slower pace seemed to satisfy him, as he ultimately came in torrents. As he pul ed out, peeled off the ful condom and lay down on the sheets beside me, I made a mental note not to go so long without getting laid.

Before I got too comfortable I hopped out of bed and did an awkward, naked scurry out of his bedroom and into the hal way, where I grabbed my bag and quickly slipped on my pajamas in the bathroom.

By the time I came back into the bedroom, Maximus was deep under the covers and snoring slightly. Figures.

I got in beside him and turned my body in his direction, wanting to feel safe and close. As the traffic continued outside on the I-5, I fel asleep with a sense of bewilderment and a smirk of satisfaction on my face.

“You liked that, didn’t you?”

My mind was a swirling pool of oil and shadows. I opened my eyes in time for a cold, wet breeze to brush against my face. It was the dead of night and I was standing on the same alcove by the river where Maximus and I had first made out. Only now I was standing on the thick, stone railing that lined the edge. The river sparkled in the dark ebb and flow beneath my bare feet. In the distance there was a clanging of church bel s that never ceased.

“You want to lose control.”

I careful y turned my head to the side without upsetting my balance. Abby was standing a few feet away, leaning forward on the cool stone, dressed in only a light pink sundress that ruffled in the winter breeze. She was looking down at the river; her eyes matched the water, dark pools of obsidian.

“You could just jump in, you know?”

“I’m dreaming,” I said thickly, my voice sounding like it was coming from far away.

“You’l have all the time in the world to dream when you’re dead.”

She lifted her head and I saw that her eyes weren’t black. They just weren’t there. Like the pig’s head, her eyebal s were gone, leaving only dark, roughly cut sockets behind.

“What do you want from me?” I asked her in my surreal state. My tongue stil felt swol en and too big to move. It was then I realized my body had moved one inch closer to the edge of the railing. I was moving without realizing it.

“We want you,” she said simply. Her voice hummed like electrical wires.

“Who is we?” I went an inch closer and my stomach churned.

She walked over in her white heels that made a sharp noise with each footfal , even though she was floating a few inches above the ground. She stopped and looked back at the river. The clanging of the bel s was growing louder.

“I don’t know his name…”


“I don’t know it’s name.” She looked up at me sharply.

“But I was promised.”

“Promised what?”

One inch gone.

Abby smiled. As her mouth parted, two wasps flew out from it and up into the sky, their drones fading into the sound of the bel s.

“Promised you.”

My feet were now hanging over the edge of the rail, the water churning furiously below like a raging whirlpool ready to swal ow me whole. It all pulsed with each clang of the unseen bel s.

I took one last glance at Abby.

“Why me?”

Even with empty eye sockets, she managed to look surprised.

“Because it wasn’t my fault I died,” she said like I was an idiot. “It was his.”

“Revenge,” I whispered. The breeze took my words and carried them over the waves.

My feet moved another inch. There was nothing left to support me. I didn’t even swing my arms to save my balance. I just fel silently to the side like an unsupported pil ar, down, down, down to a river with teeth and black, lapping tongues.


Even though I woke up the next morning to the tongue- melting smel of bacon wafting in from Maximus’s kitchen and bright sunlight streaming in through the windows, the vague recol ection of my dream was enough to maintain a low level of creepiness. I lay back in bed, listening to Maximus whistle Johnny Cash’s “Understand Your Man”, and pushed the dark and moldy images out of my head. I kept seeing the fathomless river rushing to greet me, a whirlpool for a hungry mouth, the sound of indignation in Abby’s metal ic, Minnesota voice. The promise someone – something – had made to her. The promise to have me.

I shuddered despite the warmth of the bedroom and was relieved when Maximus cal ed out from the kitchen, “Do I hear you stirring in there, sunshine? Breakfast is ready.”

I smiled at his effortless tone and eased myself out of bed. My muscles, especial y my thighs and arms, ached from their unexpected usage last night. Everything else though felt OK and I was in no pain.

I swung my legs out from under the covers. I started to lower my feet to the floor but paused. Something was amiss.

I lifted one leg and peered at the bottom of my foot. It was rubbed black with dirt.

My other foot looked exactly the same. I anxiously lifted back the covers. The area where my feet had been had scatterings of dirt across it, like I had gone on an epic walk in my bare feet and crawled back into bed without cleaning myself off.

A vicious knot formed in the pit of my stomach. Last night had to have been a dream. I mean, I wasn’t wet. And I certainly wasn’t dead.


“Coming,” I said unable to control the warble in my voice.

I quickly brushed all the dirt off of the sheets and tucked the cover back down. I vigorously rubbed my feet against the grey carpeting, glad that the scratchy cheapness and forgiving color would hide the evidence. I couldn’t explain why, but I didn’t want Maximus to know about this. Not yet, at any rate.

He had laid out a white robe on top of my duffel bag, so I pul ed it on and walked out into the rest of the apartment.

The newness and generic quality of the factory-churned apartment no longer made me feel safe. How could I be safe when I was leaving places like this in the middle of the night and going on little night hikes?

“Are you all right? You look a bit pale,” Maximus said as I came into the kitchen. He flipped two slices of bacon onto a plate of eggs and toast and nudged it toward me with his elbow. “That’s all for you, sunshine.”

“Thank you,” I said with as much graciousness I could muster. I took the plate and sniffed at it with appreciation.

“I’m just a bit…tired.”

He nodded with a smile and twisted around to grab some salt from the spice rack. It was then I saw his face, the four thin, scabbing scratches that stretched from his cheekbone down to the side of his mouth.

I gulped and gripped the plate extra hard so I wouldn’t drop it.

He raised his brow at me, then his lips twitched sheepishly. “Oh right, my face. I’m tel ing you Perry-”

“I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed, cutting him off. I put the plate on the counter with a clatter and reached up for his face, gently pressing my fingers along the cuts. It actual y suited him, adding an additional layer of ruggedness and mystique, but it stil shamed me. I wasn’t that violent of a person, and I’d never been rough during sex before.

He grabbed my hand and kissed it, his eyes never leaving my face. He didn’t seem mad or put-off but it didn’t make me feel any better. “No worries. I reckon I probably deserved it.”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt you,” I told him. But as soon as those words left my mouth I was second-guessing them.

He shrugged and gave my hand a squeeze. “I wouldn’t blame you. But, hey, sometimes the first time is bit wishy- washy. I reckon we’l find our groove.”

Placing a kiss on my cheek, he sprinkled extra salt on his eggs and took it to the table. The thing was, I didn’t know if there would even be another time to find our groove.

Now that it was the next morning and the steam and lust from the night had died down, I couldn’t spend too much time having a relationship with Maximus. I didn’t even know if I wanted one. Maybe I just wanted to get laid. What I did know what there was something much larger I needed to concentrate on.

I sat down across from him and helped myself to a pot of fresh-brewed coffee.

“How close are we to a library?” I asked him between sips.

“You’re the Portland native, little lady,” he pointed out as he cradled the mug in his large hands. “Going to do some reading, are we?”