Now this is the lucky number – 13. Haha! Here goes part 13 of my upcoming – FREE for one week – novel “The Executioner”, a big chunk of which I promised to publish online on this blog. Here is me keeping my promises. Will reveal a glimpse into the approved cover soon, so stay tuned: the sexy villain, fog and all, as they so lovely say. BROAD GRIN. Go all through to the end of this post. There’s a surprise for YOU! So here we go.
When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly. When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?
Tony stayed until after the last class that evening. He waited for us every break. He must’ve really wanted to redeem himself. I decided to give him a chance, only not the kind he would’ve wanted and expected, for sure.
“Listen, Tony,” I cut off his blabbering, smile broad, eyes soft, hand light on his shoulder, all rounded enough to convey the show as far as to the corner Damian’s group had gathered in. “Let us talk about this in a more comfortable place. Standing tables aren’t exactly suitable for long stories, so why don’t we go to Portofino?”
Surprised by my friendliness Tony agreed, babbling and grinning at the same time. But, contrary to what I’d expected, Damian didn’t follow us to the cozy restaurant on the corner between campus and the main road.
It was already evening. The place felt as welcoming as ever, the orange walls adorned with paintings of fishermen throwing nets in calm seas as hospitable as the broad tables laid with shell-shaped dishes. Ruxandra was pretty creative when it came to stories, so she even gave him details about this imaginary peasant granny who’d fed us homemade bread and roasted pork. It felt a bit like the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, with Rux often displaying a disturbed expression as if she remembered watching someone being chained and stuffed with food, then sliced open.
Tony made himself smaller and smaller in his chair, eyes wide like onions as he constantly expected a sharp edge to the story that Rux’s glowering and tone threatened with. Soon unable to put up with the game I myself had initiated, I suggested we continued some other time. “It’s getting late,” was the lame excuse. Plus, after an hour at the restaurant Damian still hadn’t made his entry, which meant that my attempt at making him jealous had failed. But, as we emerged from Portofino there it was, his 98’ BMW 3rd series, black with dark windows, parked by the restaurant.
Damian himself was nowhere to be seen, yet for a moment I hoped with all I had that he’d somehow been watching us, concealed, eating his heart out in jealousy. But the theory shattered when Damian appeared with Svetlana and two laughing couples from the neighbored gas station. They’d most probably had their dinner at the Hey fast food, a modern furnished place, loved by many of our fellow students. For some reason Ruxandra dragged me out of the way that very moment.
The bus ride home allowed Tony the opportunity to talk about himself. He’d sold his car to pay for his last year of studies at a private – and bad – university, and now he no longer lived with his mom, but with three friends in a rented apartment at the Lighthouse. I don’t remember details, since I was drowning in morbid jealousy, my mind spinning around Damian. I felt powerless at the thought of him and Svetlana, and used at how he’d had me give his blade a hand job last night.
Tony accompanied us to the gate. I wasn’t even angry with him anymore. Tonight he’d been merely an instrument that had failed its purpose and I honestly didn’t have the slightest feeling of guilt about it. He’d used me in far more vile ways, so this was the least he could do for me – accept my returning the favor.
Ruxandra didn’t explain why she’d dragged me after her from the Portofino until a week later, which passed with me overthinking Damian’s words and actions from our short moment of intimacy on the Marvimex evening. She sent Tony for coffee – poor guy was going out of his way visiting every day on campus – and bent sideward to me. She spat the words quickly in my ear.
“Don’t look now, but Novac’s been watching you. Whenever you glance at him, he looks away.”
And once again butterfly wings flapped like crazy in my stomach.
“He’s sure wondering what’s the deal with Tony,” I sneered. “He already made it clear he means to protect me, he owes it to Dad. As he does keeping his whore warm.”
“Listen, I don’t have the time to deal with your frustration, but know this: Last week at the Portofino I made you look away from him on purpose. No matter how well versed he is and how detached he managed to appear, I had a feeling he knew exactly where you were at any given time. I was right. Whenever you turn your eyes from him, his settle on you. He even followed the fucking bus every night, Alice.”
Another flapping of butterfly wings that I struggled to repress.
“That only confirms what I told you. He’s playing the bodyguard.”
“Oh, yeah? Even here, in the full cafeteria, where nothing can happen? When you’re with your back at him, he’s drinking you in. It’s growing more obvious by the day. Even Svetlana noticed.”
Her eyes flicked to the woman, and mine followed. Indeed, she was glaring at me, while Damian talked to another campus heartthrob, Gino Bogza – the blond Elven Prince, how I liked to call him.
“Rux, he’s just keeping an eye on me, making sure I don’t roll on my back and fall like a baby just when he’s not looking or something.” I let my shoulders slump, tired and hopeless. “I’m just gonna wait until this is all over. Dad is with the R.I.S., protected, Hector’s on the case, and I . . . I’m giving up. We’re not gonna be able to solve anything where the police and the R.I.S. can’t. BioDhrome, the Executioner, Damian, these are huge fish . . .”
“You’re talking gibberish,” Ruxandra interrupted. “Don’t you think we can help if we share what we know?”
“I don’t know what to think anymore . . .”
“Here’s what we’ll do. I’m gonna go see Hector. Maybe we do know a bit more than he does, and maybe we could put together what we have. And I’ll ask about your Dad, too.”
“No. Damian said Dad is safe as long I don’t try to find him. We might be followed if Hector takes us to his hideout.”
“You might be followed. You’re his daughter and possibly still BioDhrome’s target. Maybe you were their target all along, if we are to trust the R.I.S. and your lover boy, which is the sound thing to do.”
“He’s not my lover boy,” I snapped.
“Stop that. You’re crazy about him and he’s crazy about you. He watches your every move, which means he won’t bother wondering where I am. I don’t matter to him or BioDhrome, so nobody will follow me. And I swear, if I have the slightest feeling I’m being tailed, I’ll abort mission.”
I nodded with a heavy heart and let her go. But after Ruxandra leaked out of the cafeteria, leaving me in Tony’s company, I also saw the downside. My ex wasn’t getting off my back anytime soon, now that we were alone.
He refused to go to his university and waited for me in the cafeteria on the next break too. I would’ve loved to know Damian’s reaction to this, but every time I glanced at him he happened to look away. Frustrating. Then I had the most brilliant idea to lose Tony, whose constant presence was starting to get on my nerves. I decided to attend Dr. Anton Barbu’s Educational Psychology class from 18.00 P.M. I originally intended to skip today, since it was late and already dark outside, but since Damian would apparently follow the bus home at any hour, I should’ve been safe.
“I can wait,” Tony said.
“No, don’t. We might stay for debates after class. It could get really late.”
“Then just call me when you’re done.”
“Okay, I will,” I lied with a smile.
It relieved me to see him walk out, but I was certain he’d wait outside for at least half an hour to make sure this wasn’t a strategy of mine to lose him. Tony and I had been a couple for over three years and I knew all too well that behind this fresh contact façade he was still a patronizing bastard.
The cafeteria was now a more pleasant venue with only a few students left, rain trickling down the tall nightly windows, and dimming lights. To my dismay, as I glanced to the place where Damian should’ve been, it was empty. He’d left. A chill went through my chest. I looked at my cell – Still enough battery for a few hours. If panic took me, I could still call Officer Sorescu, Mom or Ruxandra.
Despite the late hour and the scarce attendance, Dr. Barbu’s lectures always took place in a great aula, its amphitheater shape reminding me of ancient Greek plays. I loved attending seminars and lectures in these halls, wood-paneled symbols of history. A thin man in a tweed suit, bald on top of his head but with jet-black hair on the sides, the proud bearer of a Poirot-style mustache, Dr. Barbu always made an impression. A famous and infamous psychiatrist whose name reverberated as far as the Sorbonne, he intimidated not only us, but also the living shit out of the Rector. I guess that’s how he got the monopoly over the psych classes of all faculties.
He had everybody’s attention in a matter of seconds, and not because his lecture was fascinating – as you might falsely expect from psych classes – but because all people present desperately needed to pass his exam. Now that was a difficult task. His phrasing was complicated both in speech and writing, so we mostly strained to get just passing grades, while attendance added a few points. Right before the clock above his lectern struck the end of class, while I was already gathering my stuff, one sentence apparently spoken louder and clearer than all others before it sent a power current up my nape.
“More on gene-generated compulsions, their manifestations and how to identify them in Dr. Nathaniel Sinclair’s ‘Facets of the Nuclein’, available at the city library.”
My head snapped up. The professor was just writing the book’s title down a list on the blackboard. Recognition smacked me full in the head. I’d read five pages of a book written by Dr. Nathaniel Sinclair up in the mountains. The book had belonged to Marius Iordache.
To be continued . . .
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