Friday, May 9, 2003
Early May in Southern Alberta… By now you’d think I would be used to this city and its nigh-schizophrenic weather. It had been nearly a decade since my family left the coast of BC, hopped the mountains, and landed in Calgary. Here, I had witnessed it snow at least once in every month of the year.
A light sprinkling in the dead of night that melts almost as soon as it hits is one thing. Being stuck on a bus waiting to go home from the mall because of a sudden whiteout blizzard? I can’t say I had been expecting that when I’d left the house.
Daytime travel was not my thing. Since graduating high school two years ago, I had been dragging my heels and working graveyards at the local Timmy’s to (in theory) save money for university. I seemed to be stalled with that, but I liked the quiet of the night shift. Tam always ragged on me about playing vampire, only going out at night. She teased me about being so goth, I’d burst into a cloud of ash if the sunlight so much as touched me. Not that her ass was any less lily-white than mine, and she wore five times the black eyeliner I did.
Every spring, my father would pull all the pamphlets and program lists for secondary education that he could find, leaving them casually at my place at the table. When I was 18, he’d been sure I would go straight to the U of C. Now that I was 20, it was beginning to reek of desperation; Mount Royal, SAIT, ACAD, Bow Valley, University of Lethbridge, even U of A pamphlets for up in Edmonton; anything and everything he could think of. It’s not that my parents wanted me out of the house; in fact, they’d started getting restless and tried to become more involved with my life when my brother Rhys moved out last year. That had thankfully died down, and I was allowed to stick to my pattern.
Go to bed at around 9 in the morning, wake up around 5 at night. Bug Alaric on the phone or skip across the street to joke around and listen to something deeply electronic on the massive stereo in his basement. Trade the occasional insult with Tam when she showed up. Get kicked out so they could make wild, animalistic love (her words, not mine). Get depressed and curse the day I ever introduced the two…
About once a month, I’d call or visit Vesta at the psych ward. That would end now, since they were letting her out into her mother’s care today. After two years in the bloody place. The first time she’d disappeared (been dragged down the school halls by the nice men in white, hissing, screaming, biting, scratching and kicking) she’d only been gone for six months. It had been ’99, just after Columbine. I’m honestly surprised that she was the only one of us committed after that.
Then there was Tristan. He’d been gone for two years as well, doing unreasonably hard time for a carjacking. I saw him about once every six months, when my brother deigned to pick me up and drive me out there during visiting hours. Tris never said much, mostly just looked disdainful and offered a few acerbic comments here and there. He would only ever perk up when I spoke about my talks with Vesta. His deep, complex brown eyes would spark, showing the hints of gold and ruby that I was rarely ever close enough to see. Then he would just settle back down, roll his eyes, pretend he really didn’t have any of those emotions that had been boiling over.
Tris was like that. He’d built himself shields of rock, ice, and steel long before Ves and I had ever met him. I sometimes wondered if he knew who he was underneath that anymore.
Last I’d heard, today was his release too. It was eerie how closely he and Ves matched sometimes.
My bus had finally, after two hours, made its way from Chinook to Riverbend. I had to fight to open the back door at my stop, pushing snow out of the way. When I took my first step out, I lost my legs up to the knee. I couldn’t help giggling. The fact that I had to stomp around like Godzilla attacking Tokyo just to get one foot in front of the other didn’t help this little giggle-fit of mine.
I growled and pounced and roared, not so secretly glad that there was no one here to see me make a total ass of myself. Well, maybe it would be nice to have Alaric here. He was tall enough that Godzilla-stomping wouldn’t be in order, but I knew he would play along anyway.
My bag o’ goodies was literally dragging on the snow behind me. I thought of my poor, poor tub of hair dye and the stack of CDs I’d plundered HMV for. At least the latter were wrapped in plastic. And waiting…waiting…tempting me.
Not expecting a blizzard, I hadn’t thought to bring my discman. I mean, who knew the journey could possibly take so long? And so Nightwish’s Century Child, Nine Inch Nails’ Still, and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (the remastered version) were bumping along dejectedly behind me.
Surprisingly, I was most looking forward to Bat Out of Hell. I knew it more or less off by heart already, but I’d never gotten around to actually buying the CD. The vinyl in the basement was scratched to hell from all the ill treatment it had seen when I was a child. I was looking forward to something without pops and hisses.
Looking forward to hearing Jim Steinman’s voice, in all its purity and seduction, on the wolf-with-roses dialogue. As a kid in the basement, I’d just thought he had a really cool, smooth, tremulous voice. Growing up, I’d realized the heat and fire of it and the words had crept into a new awareness in my heart (and, fine, other places too). There was a lure in those throaty whispers that made me catch my breath even as I dragged myself forward through the snow.
I was no longer in the mood for monster-growls and childish giggles.
My house was close, and there was a slowly collapsing path marking my way behind me. There was easily two feet of snow in the driveway, with more being added as the wet stuff on the roof released its hold. There was even still snow coming down from the sky, but it was very light, melting in my hair and on my face on impact.
I could only imagine what I looked like; shoulder-length burgundy hair dripping in spirals, deep racoon smudges of black eye liner and wine eye shadow pooling under my eyes. A quick swipe across my lipstick would probably allow me to make a pretty good impression of the Crow. Y’know, if Brandon Lee had been a five foot two girl with blue eyes.
I smirked as I tracked up the front walk, shrugged out of my muppet-fur coat (oh, the horror!) and shook it out violently. I was blinded by the flurry of sleet that came off of it. The thing would be dripping for weeks. I kicked my boots clear of snow against the front stoop as well as I could, but my olive drab cargos were coated up to my knees so the entire thing was a moot point.
Once inside, I ducked through the closet to the laundry room. “You home?”
My mother called an affirmative from the living room. As a more formal greeting, she informed me that the shovel was in the garage.
I rolled my eyes and grabbed the CD player that was stashed on top of the dryer for garage work. It only took a few minutes to set it up in the garage with Bat Out of Hell, blasting loud enough that I’d be able to hear it clearly at the end of the driveway. Then I grabbed a shovel and went to work.
With the snow standing halfway up my thighs in some places, it was a difficult task. It was heavy and wet, and the little bits of snow still trailing from the sky were not helping anything. I lost myself into a rhythm, zoning out to Todd Rundgren’s incredible guitar skills as Meat Loaf wailed out a story of the fiery life and tortured death of a boy on a motorcycle.
I was soaked to the skin. I may have even been pruning. My shirt, which had once paid proper obeisance to Depeche Mode’s Exciter (but had since been shredded nearly to death in a fit of boredom) was so heavy with water that it made movement difficult. I was glad for the strangely warm air and silently willed the snow to melt before I finished.
I will admit that my giggling, Godzilla-stomping self was tempted to just fall over in the snow and make angels (until I sank too far and smothered in my own self-induced avalanche). Something about these huge, wet snow drifts was tugging at me, begging me to just throw the shovel down and make a total ass of myself. So. Tempting.
My supposedly adult-self persevered and I stuck to shovel duty.
The CD played a full time through and I wasn’t even half done. I’d stopped paying attention and had missed the wolf-with-roses dialogue. The disappointment was only a quick twinge; I knew it would be back again in about ten minutes. As I stuck my shovel in the snow and rested against it, trying to catch my breath, my eye was caught instead by the sight of someone else travailing through the streets against the odds.
It was a boy, maybe five nine, his brown hair hanging at least to his chin, longer in some places. The uneven cut was grungy but cute and probably looked a lot better when it wasn’t dripping all down his black leather trench.
Or maybe not.
His face was almost hidden behind it and there wasn’t a trace of his forehead visible. His coat was knee length and trailing on the snow behind him as he moved through the sodden mess way too easily. It was almost like the heat of his body was melting a clear path for him as he went.
I was wracked by unexpected shivers as I watched him. Deep, long since empty places inside me were reacting just to the sight of him walking through the snow. I forced myself to pick up my shovel and go back to work, letting my hair hang in front of my face so I could observe side-long.
Damn it, and now I’d missed the dialogue again. I was only peripherally aware of the music anymore. My entire being was trying to draw me toward that spot of darkness in the sea of white. I told my libido to shut the hell up and turned my back on him fully. It hadn’t been that long since my last fling. Not that they were ever anything but flings, not since I accidentally introduced Alaric to the love of his life. It was their third anniversary today, and I tried not to gloat to myself that this snow would probably ruin whatever they had planned.
I got through three more shovelfuls before a sharp tingle in the air made me twist around. My personal bubble was epically proportioned so it was a shock to find the boy now only a couple of feet away from me. How could he have possibly snuck up in this snow? My eyes drifted down to the trail behind him, glazed smooth on the sides. The trail I’d left behind? It definitely didn’t look like that. As my eyes turned up and I realized I was gawking stupidly at him, I reached back for my shovel so I had something to secure myself. I couldn’t even make my mouth form a single question. Y’know, like “who are you? What do you want? Why are you here?” (What are you?)
He smirked, a quick twitch of his lips. His mouth was full, his top lip perfectly bowed. God, I couldn’t look there. I jerked my eyes up and accidentally met his. Green. Dangerously. Chemically. The most beautiful toxic spill I had ever seen.
“Looks like you may need some help.” The voice was silk over razor wire, confident and cocky, maybe a little lazy, maybe a little too Steinman for my own personal comfort. If I didn’t already have a death-grip on my shovel, I think I may have sunk down to my knees.
“I’m managing.” In my head, it came out fierce and snappish. My ears told me another story entirely.
“You look a bit worse for wear.” He flashed a grin through his trailing hair. Now that was definitely lazy. Smug. Way too self-assured.
“Can’t say any better of you,” I muttered, yanking my eyes away. I was not behaving in any way I would have expected. This was just some boy. I’d gone through more than enough of them in my quest to replace Alaric. Even ‘fallen in love’ with a few, but that had never gone smoothly.
He laughed and flicked his hair back out of his eyes, sending water through the air. His bangs never left his forehead. “Crazy weather.”
The statement was so ludicrously obvious that I found myself staring at him again. More questions I couldn’t ask (where did you come from? why me?) flitted across my mind.
“You got an extra shovel?”
Before I could say or do anything, he was crunching through the snow towards my garage. I stared at the normal tracks he’d left in the snow. When I looked back for the oddly glazed (melted!) ones in the street, they had already started to cave in.
“I figure it’s worth my time to help out some poor chick knee-deep in snow who’s got good taste in music.” He was already back from the garage. I hadn’t heard him approaching while I was turned away.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, the real me (not this dazed, startled creature I had become) wondered if his comment had been about my shirt and its nod to the wonders of Depeche, or the wailing of early Meat Loaf emanating from the garage behind us.
Almost as if he’d read that background thought, he continued: “Must say, Martin Gore and Jim Steinman are an interesting mix.”
“What are you—” I couldn’t finish the question. Or maybe I had. I felt trapped, stupid; a rabbit freezing as the hawk swoops in.
He smiled softly. It was jarring. “Scared?” As I fumbled for words, or even breath, he cocked his head toward the garage. “This the remastered?”
I opened my mouth in a stymied attempt to speak again. How could he pick that up so easily? Then, because I had to do something to fight this burning crush of shame that was rising up in me, I answered. “Yeh.” The clipped non-word was all I could manage.
“I love how you pick up so many more nuances than you could before, especially with headphones. You listened with them yet? You can hear the wet sounds when they talk, the gravel in Steinman’s voice, that delicate promise of fire and danger.”
I stared at the snow beside him, trying to will him to shut up—trying to will myself to wake up. Somehow I doubted he was trying to strike up a normal conversation, and I had this sinking feeling that he was staring straight into my soul.
The only solution I could think of was to turn my back and keep shovelling. There was this silent void-space behind me, too close, creeping into the edges of my mind with insidious flame. My choices seemed to be to hyperventilate or stop breathing; for a while, I held my breath.
When I felt his presence recede and heard him starting in on the snow, I gulped air. The square of clear driveway I was standing in would become my fortress of solitude. I would become stoic, ball up, and quit reacting like this to some random boy—some good fucking Samaritan—who had kindly decided to help me in this arduous task.
The CD made another round and I was no longer sure if it was snow or sweat that made every inch of fabric on me cling to my body. Everything was so surreal and I pushed my consciousness into the familiar music, building a wall against my awareness of the boy behind me.
The first song ended, Rory Dodd’s beautiful voice soaring on the last notes. My grip on reality was strengthening and I encouraged myself to think about the music. I wondered why Rory had never been given a solo album by Steinman. His voice was better, purer, than Meat Loaf’s by far. Maybe it was just not dramatically Wagnerian enough to really make Steinman tick.
Then I held my breath again. Now was not the right time to be paying attention to the music. My half of the driveway was almost clear. I could taste the escape in the air. I couldn’t—I couldn’t—stand here in the presence of that boy and hear this exchange.
“On a hot summer’s night—”
And I gasped as I realized it wasn’t just Steinman’s voice; the boy had joined him, and somehow I could feel his presence too near to me again even though he hadn’t made a sound.
“—would you offer your throat—”
I hunched my shoulders as my entire back tingled with a nervous energy that was going to drive me insane. The shovel’s haft became my only anchor in reality again.
“—to the wolf with the red roses?”
I almost fell over as his voice quieted and I felt him retreat. Ellen Foley’s reply was lost somewhere in the CD player behind me. I did my best to get back to work, just clearing the driveway of snow. Focus inward, ignore the voices heavy with anticipation, ignore the burning presence behind me. Focus. (Would you offer your throat?) Focus, clarity.
(Would you offer?)
But my mind was drawn back by Steinman’s voice. The way he whispered “yes,” so desperate yet fluid.
At least the boy wasn’t trying to accompany it this time.
I just breathed and felt my body mechanically move until Steinman’s final comeback. It broke the spell, straightened my spine, and washed some of the frenzied panic out of me.
“I bet you say that to all of the boys.”
I whipped around and found the strange boy contemplating, waiting. The ludicrous burst of 1970’s sax from the speaker snapped me fully back to reality and gave me the guts to say something I would have if it was just any other boy standing there. “It’s still part of the come-on.” I met his eyes—instantly regretted it—but grit my teeth and held my ground.
“What was that?” He quirked one eyebrow, amused.
“The last line. The way he says it… The hiss at the end of ‘boys.’ He’s not turning her down. He’s egging her on.”
“Yeh?” He threw my half-word from earlier back at me.
“Yeh.” I would not be cowed. This entire thing with him, the snow, the nearly hallucinatory turn my life had taken…I was going to put an end to that. “It’s like—” I let go of my shovel, which supported itself in one of the last snow banks on my side “—it’s like…” I was suddenly aware that I had to choose my next words very, very carefully. But then again, how could I possibly say this carefully? Any other boy, and I would use my surety in my musical interpretation to come on to him. Any other boy, and I wouldn’t risk the chance of having my sanity scalded from me. “It’s like after he’s done seducing her and she says yes… If he would then put his arms around her, pull her close, and just murmur in her ear…slut.” My face was suddenly burning and I felt like I was in junior high all over again. “She’d swoon.”
The boy raised his brows. His eyes drifted over my face, and when his lip quirked I knew he was amused by the blush that was hot enough to melt the entire day’s snowfall.
“No, seriously.” My hands were working themselves into knots and I was helpless to stop them, but I still barrelled on. “If he just came up on the street and called her a slut, he’d be slapped so hard he’d fall down. But it’s the way he says it. It’s not an insult, it’s more—” A tremor had started in my core and I tried to look away from the boy but was completely unable. “It’s a control.” My voice broke. I swallowed and tried to breathe but he was just standing there and his amusement was taking on darker edges. I stumbled on, unable to stop now. The words were almost being drawn out against their will. “He’s not saying she’ll go around sleeping with everyone else. He’s just saying she’s now more than willing to do anything for him. His slut.”
His amusement was swallowed by the darkness—hungry, pervasive, engulfing—and one of my hands reached out to grab the shovel as I almost lost my footing.
I grit my teeth, grinding them so hard that my jaw hurt. I forced anger up inside me; at least it would be able to feed off the burning chaos that was consuming my psyche. “Forget it.” I purposely misread his silence as dissent and lashed out—much more weakly than I’d intended—with all the disdain I could muster. “You’ve apparently never been with a girl. I think most have had a time where that word would get them going. You just have to use it right.”
“Just wondering…” The boy crossed the invisible barrier from his side of the driveway. Pins and needles—possibly electrified by a taser—were coursing over me and I was cursing myself over and over. I could have just shut up, just shut the fuck up, but no.
“I’m just not exactly clear,” he intoned as he stepped way too far into my personal space, “on what exactly is right.” I was trapped again. I wanted—needed—to turn away, to run, to be anywhere but here.
“I mean…” He shrugged, the roll of his shoulders drawing new wet streaks from his hair down his leather jacket. “You weren’t speaking very expressively.” That slight quirk of lips again, cocky and dangerous. “Can’t get the entire point like that. So I’m just wondering…” He licked his lips. There was a pitch black spike piercing his tongue. It didn’t look plastic—more like onyx.
In my mind, I followed through on my impulse to at least step back from him, but I was anchored to the spot. I could do nothing but watch him, completely out of control. Before I could blink, he had closed the distance between us. My only reaction was a slight squeak that I’m sure was supposed to have been a scream. Before I could think or feel or even try to move, he had one arm around me. His wet leather trench should have been freezing, but he seemed to emanate fire from his core.
He pulled me in close and I was helpless. I sank into him completely against my own will (and better judgement), one burning cheek cooling only marginally against his wet shirt.
Then his lips—still moist—brushed my ear. I think my heart stopped. Maybe I actually died for a moment; ceased to exist in this overwhelming presence, burned up in the fire of his personal power. That was before he opened his mouth, and I could hear every tiny little wet sound his tongue made. His breath was burning hot against me. I couldn’t take much more of this—my entire being would unravel and burst into flame if I didn’t get away. Then he murmured, seductively, hypnotically: “slut.”
If he wasn’t supporting me, I would have hit the ground. I think I may have actually fainted. A rush of heat seared through me and the world went black for a moment.
Maybe I whimpered. Maybe the breath that escaped my lips was a useless “oh,” trying to comprehend or express for even a second what he was doing to me. Suddenly I was gasping for air, my skin tingling, my brain screaming at me to get away (to give in).
Suddenly he wasn’t there and I was on my knees in the rivulets of water snaking down the driveway. My hand managed to close onto the shovel again and I almost sobbed in relief. (Disappointment?)
He laughed softly and even though I couldn’t look at him, I knew he was on his side of the driveway again, moving one relentless shovelful after another.
My senses slowly returned and I numbly went back to the job. What else could I do?
The CD was somehow over; it didn’t repeat again when it reached the end. And then somehow there was no more snow on the driveway. I was starting to get myself back, pieces at a time. I stared at the damp, dark grey concrete and sorted through my fractured soul.
When he spoke again, he sounded…normal? As if nothing that had happened before now had even been real. Just a 20-something boy who’d stepped in to help out of the goodness of his heart. It spun me. “I guess it would be traditional to ask for a warm drink or something in repayment for shovelling, but I’m actually overheating.”
I’d fucking say.
“You got something like iced tea?”
His request was so glaringly simple that my polite Canadian instincts kicked in before my brain could shut me down. “Oh. Yeah. Yes. We do.” I moved past him, suddenly aware that my mother was in the house. Yes. Good. Okay. Yes. He couldn’t do anything once we crossed that threshold. His power over me would be gone. I would blink and suddenly my feet would be planted firmly in reality again.
I somehow managed to hang the shovel back where it belonged and darted into the laundry room. I grabbed a couple folded towels from on top of the washer and immediately draped one over my shoulders, attacking my hair with the other.
The boy came in behind me and I threw another towel at him with as much force as I could. Tried not to watch as he peeled his leather trench off and went about getting the worst of the melt off of his clothes.
“That took a while.” Mom. Reality. Sanity.
“Not as long as it could have.” I stepped into the kitchen in sock feet, dripping on the floor. There was only so much I could do with a towel at this point.
She glanced up from where she sat, doing the day’s crossword. Her eyes flicked to the boy then to me. The instant smile and light in her eyes brought the burning back into my cheeks.
“This is…” I stumbled on the quick excuse or introduction I was about to make. “A good Samaritan who saw the major task I had in shovelling and offered his help. So, y’know, I kind of figured I’d repay him with something to drink. Or something.”
“You’re daughter’s got great taste in music.”
Mom was giving me a look. I could almost see future grandchildren dancing in her eyes. How could she not feel the danger in the air?
“Yeah, so,” I stumbled on, “I’m just going to find some iced tea or something…” And potentially dump an entire bottle of vodka in it to take the edge off. I focused on the puddle collecting around my feet—anything other than the boy.
“What’s your name?” The was my mother.
I actually turned around to look at him. Toby? That was so…innocent? “Toby.” I was tasting his name without meaning to.
He looked amused that I’d had to repeat it. “And I never caught your name,” he reminded me.
“Mercedes, actually,” my mother put in with some annoyance. If she had wanted to call me Mercy, that’s what she would have named me.
“Cool, cool. I like it.” His eyes flashed, green fire. “Mercy. Perfect.”
My mother shifted a little in her seat. She folded up the paper and stood. “I’m going to have to go out driving in this to pick your father up. He took the C-train and they’re still snowed under. You kids behave?”
My heart sank. I couldn’t quite manage to put coherent words together as she gathered her purse and coat and headed out the garage door.
“Convenient,” Toby murmured.
And there was no way in hell that I was going to believe he had anything to do with her leaving. No.
I was lost. In an act of desperation, I walked to the fridge to complete the task we had supposedly come in here for. “Iced tea,” I muttered to myself, trying to find something solid or stable to hold onto.
He rolled his eyes and took hold of my wrist, stalling me in my steps. “C’mon now.” He lifted my hand and traced over the veins in the back of it. “You know better.” Another sly quirk of his lips as he raised my hand to his mouth, first kissing it then tracing the same path as his finger with his tongue ring. The point was wickedly sharp. He stepped around me, leading me by my captive hand up the stairs. I couldn’t do anything but follow, caught up in the wave of his momentum.
He dropped my hand when we reached the loft, looking at the closed doors. “Which one?”
I shook my head, unable to dissent vocally. Annoyance flashed across his face as he chose wrong—it was only the bathroom. The next door he tried was mine. And for the first time, I got to see him genuinely surprised.
He stepped in gingerly, nudging a pile of clothes with his toe. “I thought that rooms traditionally had floors.”
My voice found its way back from wherever it had been cowering. “Maybe someone forgot to include it in the design for mine,” I muttered. “If you don’t like it—” Then it was gone again. (If you don’t like it, go away.)
“No, it’s…homey. In a strange way. Inviting. If a bit forbidding. Perfect.” He grinned and turned back to me. He clicked his tongue ring against his top teeth. “So, floor covered with clothes, wall covered with posters. Did the original design of this place offend you that much?”
“Must have.” I somehow kept my voice level.
He took long, careful steps over the mess. If his foot met resistance, he drew back and tried again. He made his way to my bed like this, where he tossed himself down, getting the sheets damp instantly. “Hm. Old mattress. Comfy, in that used kind of way.”
With him an entire room away from me, I was able to straighten up. “Get out.” I was in the room but the door was open. I yanked it as far open as it would go.
“Don’t want to talk about Steinman?” He crossed his legs, staring up at the ceiling.
“Toby…please. Get out.”
“I think the Steinmaster’s the most blatant pop icon when it comes to S&M, y’know.” He lolled his head over to look at me, eyes flicking over my shirt. “Well, if you disregard Depeche Mode.
I ignored him and focused on something that I could think through. “You’ve heard Dream Engine?” It was a dark, chaotic, sensual musical that Steinman had written when he was in university. It had gotten him kicked out of university.
“Dream What?” He shook his head, a flicker of annoyance passing over his eyes again. “Nah. I’m just talking the whole fire and passion, pure obsession of the moment. No one’s that devoted without a master to be devoted to. And I quote: ‘And I never knew how enslaved I was kneeling in the chains of my master.’”
“For Crying Out Loud,” I murmured.
“Yeh.” That word again. “And the whole ‘would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses’ thing.”
Even as an off-hand comment, the words caught me. I was pressed into the corner of the entrance alcove, both hands on the wall to keep me upright.
“His songs are all total dominance or total submission.” His eyes took me in slowly, up my legs, lingering where my torn and sodden shirt clung to me, finally resting on my face. “Ever noticed?”
I didn’t—couldn’t—respond. Not verbally. I couldn’t help but think that of course I had. And of course…he knew.
“Which do you prefer?” His eyes were travelling back down slowly.
I tried not to understand the question. My heart was tripping at blind panic speed.
Patiently, he rephrased the question. “Are you a sub or dom?”
“I—” No words. No thought. No movement. (Don’t give him something he can use.)
He sat up suddenly, swinging his legs over the edge of the mattress. “Sub or dom? Everyone’s gotta be one or the other.”
“Or both?” I was shocked at myself.
He shrugged. “Sure.” The thought of both obviously did nothing for him.
He was scanning the floor and something caught his eye. I realized what it was before he reached down for it. I froze, knowing there was only one interesting thing that wasn’t safely tucked away. It was new. I’d been hoping to get some fling at The Warehouse this weekend to break it in.
In his hands, he held up my pair of leather cuffs. His eyes flashed. “Oh, you are sooo sub.”
I clenched my teeth, intentionally biting my cheek to try to bring some sharpness or awareness to me. “Wouldn’t the fact that I own them make me a dom?”
He shook his head. “Nah. It’s all over you. Sub, sub, sub.” He swung the leather cuffs once and they jangled as the buckles swept together. I nearly jumped a foot in the air. “Besides.” He stepped across to my desk and pulled something out of a pile of random junk jewelry and leather accents bought at Charisma. “You’ve got a nice ‘n’ sturdy five-ring bondage bracelet. Talk about incriminating evidence.”
I closed my eyes. The blush had probably crept out of my cheeks and down my neck by now. “What do you want?”
“I want you to quit hiding in the doorway and come over here.” He dropped the bracelet with a chink of metal rings. I opened my eyes, fighting my body against it the entire way. I didn’t have a choice. The look on his face was innocuous, inviting even.
I took a breath. All my instincts screamed to run and I used that to fuel another short vocal burst. “Every instinct says I can’t trust you.” If I didn’t come down from this tingling wave of anxiety (elation?) soon, the very core of my being would just cease to exist.
“Do they, now.” He glanced down at the cuffs dangling from his left hand. His eyes burned back up at me through his lashes. “I’d run with those instincts if I were you.”
“Reverse psychology isn’t going to work on me.” There was blood in my mouth; I’d torn my cheek in the effort to ground myself.
“Huh. So explain why the door’s closed.”
I looked beside me. I…couldn’t have shut it. It was farther than an arm’s length away. Panic alarms were going off in my head. I tried to smother them, to think clearly. “I—”
“Mercy…” A swift jerk of his wrist and there was the jarring noise of buckles coming together. “Mercy.” He stalked slowly across the room, moving so fluidly I couldn’t reconcile it. “Wanna beg for mercy?”
His eyes were burning, burning, burning with a chemical fire. Like no eyes I had ever seen. I was lost in them as he came closer, closer, finally stopping too near to me. I was in a corner; I had nowhere to go. He dangled the cuffs in front of my face, only inches away. “You have a boy to use these with?”
“Would it matter if I did?” The words were breathed out in a pathetic hiss trying not to turn into a whimper.
The cuffs lowered and his face was dangerously close to mine, those impossible eyes burning into me. “Wanna know how bad I’m being.” That simple, as if it really did matter to him. “You have a boy?” His cheek brushed against mine. I was sliding down the wall—couldn’t help it, had no control at all—but was stopped when he grabbed me under the arms and pulled me upright. He moved his right arm behind my back and rubbed his face against mine like a contented cat. “Well?”
“No.” It came out strangled. I kept my hand pressed into the wall now in an effort not to reach out to him.
He tsked and kissed my feverish cheek, trailing the wickedly sharp tongue ring down it and then my neck. He tossed the cuffs back at the bed, where they landed with a clatter. His now-free hand moved down the other side of my neck, trailed down my chest, then cupped around my right breast. I wanted to scream, but the reasons were becoming muddy.
I was responding without wanting to. Short moans were escaping me with every breath I let out. I tried to tell myself it was fear. Yeh. Fear. While my entire body wanted to arch into him, I pushed as far into the corner as his arm behind my back would allow.
There was something seriously wrong here.
The panic alarms were back and shriller than ever, but slowly his touch was choking back their call. He pressed his body against me and worked one of his legs between mine. He lifted me up the wall until I was at eye level with him. That green inferno flickered over my face and a satisfied smile spread across his lips. Before I could think or breathe, his lips were on mine. I could feel his body respond immediately as he tasted the blood. His kisses were sharp and sweet, dangerous with that spike through his tongue.
Both his hands now traced down the inside of my arms, bringing nerves shrieking to life. “Even if you say no,” he murmured lazily against my lips, “I think we’ll be up here for a while.”
Toby drew back slowly, taking me by the wrists. “Are you going to be a good girl and come to the bed?” His eyes flashed. “Going to be a good little slut?” The word hissed out from his mouth. My eyes closed and I nearly swooned. He pulled me into him before I lost my footing entirely. He led me almost gently across the room. When he released me, I fell onto the bed simply because there was nothing else I could do.
He coaxed me back up into a sitting position. I had my back turned to him and stared out the window. There was nothing but desolate white out there. His hands gripped my shoulders tightly. He rubbed his cheek through my hair, trailing his forehead against the back of my head and there was…something…there. Before I could make sense of it, his hands were under my t-shirt, pulling it over my head and off my arms.
That’s when I started to feel just how much his skin burned. As he undid the clasps of my bra, I felt the ice of his fingernails and I almost collapsed again.
My reactions seemed to amuse him. He laughed softly as he nuzzled my back, kissing my spine. He traced down it with his tongue ring…and then something else. Something sharper, sharp enough to leave scratches in my skin. Something that couldn’t be there.
He brought my hands together in front of me, finally capturing them in the leather cuffs. My hands turned uselessly on instinct, then I was gasping and falling back into him as his hands closed over my breasts. His fingers danced and twisted over my nipples in ways I had only dreamed during my darkest, horniest nights. Then they clamped down cruelly. I did scream then.
He pushed me down on the bed, satisfaction at eliciting that reaction just pouring off of him. And then…I finally saw what was wrong. The something that shouldn’t be there. The somethings. Hiding behind his hair, on his forehead. Two little nubs of yellowish bone.
Toby had horns.
My eyes filled with tears but my body was aching with a hunger I wouldn’t have acknowledged as possible before today. I knew what he was. I didn’t have to ask. It seemed improper to ask. Some girls prayed to Heaven for all their greatest, wildest wishes to come true. While I had never prayed to Hell, I had never exactly tried to dissuade what it may send.
So there he was, with eyes of green fire. His grin was malicious and amorous and satisfied. I had no choice. I gave up. I gave in.
 Meat Loaf. “You Took the Words Right Out of my Mouth.” Bat Out of Hell. Cleveland International/Epic, 1977.
 Meat Loaf. “For Crying Out Loud.” Bat Out of Hell. Cleveland Imtermational/Epic, 1977.