When English student Alice Preda meets campus heartthrob Damian Novac, she develops the heaviest crush ever. She joins him and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains, hoping to get close to him, but this choice will change her life abruptly.
When the train derails in high snow, the group of students seeks refuge at a cottage deep in the woods, but soon they start losing their minds and dying. Alice and Damian are among the survivors and return home, but the nightmare is far from over. She discovers that a shady corporation which 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, Alice can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?
See Prologue here.
Every breath hurt as if my sternum had been smashed with a rock. The blur cleared to Ruxandra’s face, her dark chocolate eyes wide and worried above mine.
“She’s awake!” She called. More faces popped into the picture, looming above her head.
I tried to get up on my elbows, but the pain punched full force into my chest. With a groan that hurt too, I fell back on something soft that smelled of piss.
“Don’t strain yourself.”
“It hurts,” I whispered.
“It’s the CPR. Damian might’ve pressed too hard on your chest.”
Ruxandra smiled. “He launched after you when you fell. He carried you here, too.” There was a glint of do-you-realize-what-this-means in her eyes.
Carried me . . . an open-mouthed, blue and cold almost-corpse. Shame sent another stab through my chest. I looked down at myself, and saw I was wrapped in two coats – my own and a new fat one, my scalp itching under what could’ve been a busby, yet none of it helped much. I still shivered as she tucked me under a blanket, leaving my arms out.
Muttering and shadows twirled around, only Ruxandra’s fine-boned, olive-skinned face constant in the picture. I registered a friendly, “Water by the bed,” and George’s, “Bug off, here’s the vodka.” Someone placed a candle on a nightstand by my head, as if I were dying. Still, candles were the only source of light in the room as far as I could tell – causing the eerie shadow play.
One by one the shadows cleared and left me in my best friend’s care, now that I was out of danger and required no more of their attention. It was then that my chest felt a bit lighter and I tried for breathed words again.
“Damian … CPR?”
Ruxandra threw me a glance, her hands rubbing mine.
“Med school, remember?”
This was turning overkill – breaking down the train door, jumping after me, cradling me to shelter, and now it turned out he’d brought me back to life, too. As far as I knew, cheesy Superman days were over and I suspected Ruxandra made fun of me, adding fuel to my crush.
“Playing hero,” I whispered.
Her head turned in the opposite direction – maybe the door. My socks got hitched off, and something hot pressed to the naked soles of my icy feet. The feeling was beyond unpleasant, like needles stinging in my flesh.
“Rux, wha – ?” I managed and lifted my head. My very tongue froze.
Damian held a bottle of warm water at my feet, his hand covering both of them. He didn’t wear his coat, only the gray pullover that complimented his athletic body and those dark jeans that hinted at his strong legs. While I looked a mess. I scrunched my eyes shut as he began kneading my toes. I’m not seeing this! I’m not seeing this!
“A train off track and frozen mountains are no playground,” he scolded in that deep voice of his. So he’d heard my mockery. I wanted back in my snow grave.
“Will you take over from here?” Ruxandra addressed him – agile on the first opportunity to give us some time alone, I figured. “I’m afraid George will drown in all that vodka he saved, if he misses me for too long.”
I kept my eyes shut as they probably exchanged nods or rather headshakes. I didn’t want to roger Damian’s affronted refusal to watch over an ungrateful wreck. It was only when I heard the door creak shut that I opened one eye, as if peeking at an incoming blow.
Damian flipped the blanket aside and sat on the bed, diving into the mattress.
“May I lay with you? You’ll warm up faster,” he said softly, his tone yet amused.
Lay with me? Speechless, I nodded.
He stretched by my side, lifting my head with a huge hand and slipping an arm under the nape of my neck. Our eyes locked and my mind stuck on how rare the color of his was. Special, weirdly so. Every morning I saw a dull, washed-out nuance of blue in the mirror, I saw brown, green and every combination thereof often around, but I’d never seen that pale green as if looked at through crystal, creating an irresistible contrast to . . . I couldn’t quite identify what. I imagined his eyes flash with some kind of madness, like a demon’s. Maybe they did so when he was angry. And I could make him angry right now. I could jolt up and press my lips on his, taking him by surprise.
But I made it only as far as resting my head on his arm that felt like concrete under a layer of fluffy pullover, and putting a hand on his chest – broad and a bit too bulky. My neck soon hurt. He had the physique of a bodybuilder, but I doubted as a med student and working for a living he had much time on his hands to hit the gym often enough for that. So he must’ve been practicing some hardcore sport for a long time, but I didn’t dare ask. He smelled of wood and warmth and Christmas fairy tales coming true.
“Where are we?” My sternum hurt with every word, but I had to derail his attention before my bold growing thoughts showed somehow.
“A cottage in restoration. The train fell off track too far from Predeal and this is the first lodging we found. There’s no phone signal so deep in the mountains to call for help, so we had to make do.”
Yes, off track, this was the second time he mentioned it.
“That was my first thought, but I was wrong. Earthquakes aren’t common in these parts of the Carpathians. They tried to pull the train forward through the snow and it slipped off.” There was a pensive touch in his words. It suited that deep, velvety voice of his.
I looked down at the shape of our legs under the blanket, thinking of what to say next to keep the conversation going. Damian began stroking the side of my torso over the coat, his hand close to my breast. It made the blood race through my veins.
“So, did you only punch me or . . . mouth to mouth, too?” I couldn’t believe the pain I put my ribcage through only to say the stupidest thing ever.
“Didn’t come to that, don’t worry. You spat out snow turned to water during the chest compressions.”
“Oh . . . Sorry.”
He laughed. “You sure didn’t get the finest education at home.”
“No. I did not.”
I searched for something else to say, but my mind was stuck in the awareness of him, of his breath on my forehead.
“Try to get some rest,” he said, as if he sensed my inner struggle. “Talking might be difficult for some hours, maybe even days.”
Now that was bad news. Ruxandra would surely hunger for every detail of what happened in this room and I wouldn’t be able to deliver, which counted as high treason regardless of excuse.
Guitar tones slowly filled the silence. They were just as out of tune as the hoarse male voice that accompanied them, but it made not speaking more comfortable and I thought it relaxed Damian too. I closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep, but his body so close to mine made it impossible. His chest rose and fell as he breathed, and I wondered relentlessly what he felt, what he thought of. What he thought of me.
He still stroked me, so maybe he’d give in to easy sex. In the end, he’d saved my life and maybe he even expected such as a sign of gratitude. Maybe he waited for me to make the first move, yet I needed a cover in case it went wrong.
Faking sporadic sighs from the world of dreams, I let my body snake on Damian’s. Since I was supposed to be asleep I couldn’t be held accountable for it, but the feel of his muscles under the pullover made my breath intensify, which may have exposed me. His rhythm quickened a little too, but, as I risked a glance through my lashes, his jaw rippled. He was angry.
I stopped moving, but it seemed he’d already made a decision. Though he withdrew his arm carefully from under my head, as soon as that was done he jumped off the bed like a gazelle and closed the door behind him. I opened my eyes, tears of shame dripping on the pillow.
With only the drunken version of “Dust in the Wind” to keep me company, more dark thoughts crept into my head. What if he was into Svetlana after all? Or maybe into another? He could surely pick and choose with as good as the entire campus drooling over him. And what if he only wanted to be friends with me? Greedy for the shaft in his pants I’d probably lost that now too, which made my chest hurt as much as sniveling did.
Unable to put up with my own company anymore I threw the blanket aside, groped for my socks and boots and followed the music down a narrow corridor. It led to what looked like the main chamber of an old rustic lodge with wooden furniture, carpets on the walls and a terracotta stove.
With power out, candles were the only source of light here too, making the snow clinging to the windows glitter like in fairy tales. More drunken voices now joined the bearded singer’s and people chained together with hands on each other’s shoulders swayed left and right.
I spotted Damian across the room. He sat on a windowsill, his booted feet on the back of a wooden bench. With elbows on his knees, he planted me a steel scowl from under knitted eyebrows.
My severely bruised ego screamed, “Hide!” and I hurried to mingle in, trying to find Ruxandra. She danced in a lush embrace with George, who hurried to get rid of me by introducing me to Svetlana “Beauty-Queen” properly. My lips sucked lemon as I saw Damian’s coat hanging on her bony shoulders – so I wasn’t the only lady whom he aided in distress.
Maneuvered into it by George, I sat with her by the stove. She returned to a conversation with her friends and made a show of how she ignored me, meaning that every time I opened my mouth, she’d go ahead and ask one of the others about the parties at the dorms that she’d missed – probably ‘cause of her sugar daddy – or introduce some cheap gossip with, “Oh yeah, did you hear that . . .”
I tried talking to an older guy with wiry curls and a dirty coat he wouldn’t take off, but he soon switched to the other side of the human circle. After about an hour, when everybody else sprang to their feet and cheered at the first tantalizing tunes of a bouncing round dance, Svetlana and I were left alone for some awkward moments.
The tension pressed hard on me, so I decided to try for small talk. I managed to bring a cheesy, “So, not exactly what we had in mind for lodging, huh?” and, “Are you originally from Constanta or only studying there?” about my lips. Though Svetlana was as popular as anyone ever got, I hadn’t been particularly interested in her background until now.
Looking away from me and with disdain in her voice, she said her dad was from Serbia and I instinctively mentioned my mother’s American heritage.
“You’re American?” the older guy with wiry curls bounced in, his voice too loud. His drunken eyes sparked at me as if I’d suddenly turned into an exotic dancer – a remarkable shift.
Heads turned, Hector’s fingers tangled in the guitar cords, and I immediately regretted having touched on the subject.
“That would be an overstatement,” I muttered.
“How can you overstate origin?” Svetlana sneered. She looked daggers at me, so it wasn’t hard to tell she hated my stealing the spotlight, especially for one of her own reasons to be special.
“My dad studied in the States. Met my mom. She followed back to Romania. I’m a half-breed.” I glared at her and then at Mr. Nosy.
“So your mom’s the American maiden and your dad the knight from Draculean lands?” He gave me a deep-lined, unshaven grin that failed to be charming.
I nodded, eager to get the subject behind me and to gag his big mouth.
“The States, huh? In those times?” Svetlana tried harder to splash me with mud. “How did he pass Ceausescu’s dogs?”
I hadn’t seen that coming. I was cornered, and forging lies would’ve eventually put me in even worse light – it had before.
“It was Ceausescu’s dogs who sent him there.”
Complete silence. My eyes flew over to Damian. He watched with arms folded across his chest, his eyes narrow. For a moment there I hoped he’d jump to my rescue again, but he remained as immovable as stone.
“Tiberius Preda? He is your father?” The older guy whispered.
Shit . . .
I nodded and the guy’s mouth popped open. My dad’s name was notorious enough to mean heavy moneybags to everyone there.
“So, you’re rich daddy’s girl,” Svetlana confirmed my hunch, laughing like in kindergarten. I wanted to slap her, but she was taller and stronger, so I feared the aftershock. Not my hot-blooded friend’s case, though.
“Listen, hottie,” Ruxandra placed herself before Svetlana, her tone cutting, all signs of fun and liquor-conditioned euphoria gone from her face. “Alice didn’t make the sacrifice she made for anybody to still treat her like a social mutant.”
Svetlana glowered back at Ruxandra, more pissed off by the intervention than taken aback. Seeing them face each other felt like a slap on the back of my head – they couldn’t be more different and yet more alike. Both what society would doubtlessly label “Beauty-Queens”, head-turners, one of them blonde and coltish, made for the catwalk, the other brunette, fiery and well-toned. While I was a bad joke.
Driven by the pressure that built up in my head I didn’t wait for the outcome of their confrontation. I dragged myself out the door with face in my palms, fighting to keep back tears and unable to fathom how I could’ve been so stupid to mention my roots so easily, especially to someone who so obviously resented me. The cool air on the porch dried my eyes, but also painted a sharp picture of my situation – lame and hopeless.
The lodge stood somewhere high and close to the woods, countless fir branches warped with snow marking the contours of endless hills, a full moon hanging low in the sky. A beautiful place. A setting for Beauty and the Beast. For fairy tales Mom used to read to me on cozy winter nights by an adorned tree. I’d fall asleep in my pink pajamas, clutching Judy the Monkey to my chest and dreaming of a prince in a fairy tale of my own. Yet my story turned out to be so much different.
I sank my hands in the snow on the porch and splashed it like water on my face, hoping the sting would cast both Damian’s rejection and Svetlana’s laughter to the back of my mind. It did for but a second.
“So, daddy issues?” Damian’s voice made me jump to my feet.
He’d popped out of nowhere by my side. I refused to let my surprise show with clueless blinking or gaping, but gave the first answer that crossed my mind.
“I’m sorry I startled you.”
“Do I appear startled?” I attempted to sheath it.
He looked down at me, those eyes so pale and striking a shiver coursed down my spine. “More like a kid playing ostrich in the snow.”
A kid. That’s what I am to you, too, then. I clenched my teeth and didn’t reply.
“Ruxandra said something about sacrifices,” he mused after a short pause. He sounded as interested as anyone ever got.
“Ruxandra spoke without thinking.”
“And without your consent. Still, I think she acted out of admiration.”
“And that puzzles you, I gather?”
“It intrigues me.”
“Of course it does.” I snorted, bitterness on the tip of my tongue. “I didn’t discover insulin or appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so you don’t think I deserve admiration.”
“Is that a statement or a question?” His eyes glinted like pale emerald. I turned away, gazing in the distance and faking cold indifference to his looks.
“All right then, here it is,” I said. The mountainous landscape with its winter charm made for a confessional state of mind, and I’d already made a fool of myself, so it couldn’t get any worse than that. “My dad is a man of wealth and influence, but I guess his name already told you that. A parent’s success can weigh heavy on the kid’s shoulders, you know? Everybody expects so much of you. I could live with it up to a certain point but then, on a drinking night with his friends, my ex bragged about intending to marry me for my dowry. I heard about that, but refused to believe it. So I decided to have myself removed from my father’s will as well as from his list of heirs, just to prove everybody that Tony wasn’t a jackass. The only thing I kept was my last name, certain it would soon change anyway. But Tony left me a short while later, of course.” I coughed out the last words and grimaced at the pain in my chest.
“So you gave up your inheritance to clear his honor?”
“You make it sound as if I were a hero.”
“I’m sure Ruxandra shares my point of view.”
“Ruxandra and I have known each other for some years now. She’d taken me under her wing before this stunt.”
“So she didn’t need reasons to like you.”
“No. She didn’t.” I turned and stared at him, surprised at his finesse and drawn ever deeper into his scrutinizing gaze. Just yesterday I would’ve done anything for such an opportunity to spend time alone with my crush, but now was the worst moment to be exposed to him. I must’ve looked a complete mess huddled in two dirty coats, with crazy hair, knotting my skeletal fingers like some underage witch. Plus that, taken with an inexplicable sense of trust, I’d just admitted how lame I was. I hurried to derail his focus.
“How about you?”
“What about me?”
“What’s your story? I mean . . . Truth be told, you’re quite popular, yet few people know anything about you.”
He smiled that weird, animal smile of his. “Have you inquired and been left wanting?”
“Oh, you have a way of putting things . . .”
“I merely adjust to my interlocutor.”
“And a strong memory, master Novac.”
“Did anybody tell you that or did you draw your own conclusion?”
“I thought it was my turn to ask questions.” I tried to sound cool, waving a finger at him. He took a step closer, his stare steady on my face.
“I’m not done,” he said. “This Tony guy, you must’ve loved him to sacrifice everything you did.”
“Is that a statement or a question?” I muttered, my eyes locked on his sculptured lips, craving to raise my hand and touch them.
“And if it were a question?” he continued softly, as if he wanted to seduce the answer out of me.
“I’d withhold answer.” Don’t ask where the words came from, for I do not know. All I knew was that I had to resist him.
“You don’t want to go there?” he whispered.
“Is this an interrogation?”
“Does it feel like such?”
“It feels shrinky.”
“Oh, that’s by no means what I intended.”
“Do you have a problem with shrinking?”
“Are we changing parts, with you as the inquisitor?”
“We are.” Boy, am I tough. I felt suddenly proud of myself. But something told me Damian Novac would by no means put up with my inversing poles, therefore I waited for him to crush my will. The prospect was thrilling, but the blow never came. He indulged me.
“As long as it satisfies you.”
Satisfies . . . “So? Is it contempt for doctors I sensed there?”
“I’m a step away from the Hippocratic Oath, Alice, so no. It just wasn’t my intention to go shrinky on you. You probably don’t need that.”
“What do you think I need?”
“I don’t presume to know. That’s why I’m asking questions.”
My heart skipped a beat. The handsome barbarian who’d followed me to the porch turned out to be a shrewd scholar who messed with my head – an irresistible combination that shouldn’t exist. I prayed to God the map of my desires – that had everything to do with this refined beast – didn’t display on my face. Intensity oozed from his focused gaze, something that predicted danger.
“Asking questions is a shrink’s job. Why take on it with me?” I whispered, trying to lose the foreboding feeling. His towering closeness heated up my blood so much that the winter night had no effect anymore. I felt hot and cornered by a wild beast. But the spell scattered to the four winds when the front door burst open as if thrown off by draft.
Svetlana appeared in the frame, wrapped in a shabby quilt that didn’t succeed in reducing her attractiveness. Her hair flowed dyed platinum down her chest, her golden catlike eyes glimmering under thick lashes. Truly a beauty queen by any standard. She extended her arm to offer Damian the piece of brown clothing that hung on it.
“I thought I’d bring your coat,” she addressed him without even throwing me a look. “You’ll need it, if you plan on staying out here long.” There was a drop of scorn in her voice. Maybe she did have a claim on Damian after all. I swallowed the lump that formed in my throat at the idea.
“Thank you,” Damian said, relieving the weight of his coat off her arm. “You shouldn’t have, though. I was just bringing the girl back in.”
“You go ahead,” I said. Damian had already turned his tall, V-shaped back at me and taken a few steps to the door, making anger and defiance fire up in my stomach. I wouldn’t follow this handsome master like an insignificant, nameless slave, especially not after he’d turned his attention away. “I’ll stay here a while, enjoy the quiet.”
Purpose achieved. Damian made a half-spin and looked down at me, a glint of surprise in his eyes. I couldn’t believe he thought me completely under his spell just after sharing an overly platonic hour in bed and exchanging not thirty minutes worth of dialogue. Maybe he thought I’d follow him like a tail-wriggling dog now, hoping that he’d throw me another bone.
“The wind’s taking up. A blizzard coming, maybe,” he insisted.
A defiant grin curled my mouth. “The door’s not that far away. I’ll make it through before anything sweeps me off my feet.”
Damian seemed to get the hint. He frowned and shook his head, just slightly like at an errant child as he held the door for Svetlana and followed in.
I stood again alone on the porch. The wind blew sharply through my hair indeed, the cold penetrating to my bones. Maybe it had moments before too, but Damian’s presence had kept me from perceiving it. I looked out in the distance, shivering at the void that built up inside me as strings of white fell from the sky faster and faster, hatching the dark horizon. As the wheezing intensified, announcing the blizzard racing closer, I had this sudden feeling that something was terribly wrong. The finest hairs stood all along my arms as a winter gush flapped through my hair. I braced myself and hurried inside.
It was difficult to keep my head up when I walked back into the candlelit, lukewarm main room. Damian stood with his group of boisterous friends, keeping a reserved smile on as they laughed and tempted him with liquor. He seemed relieved to see me, but maybe it was just in my head – he looked at me just once. Hardly a surprise, considering my competition. Svetlana danced like a sexy snake around the bearded singer and in Damian’s field of vision, probably spurred by vodka and scotch.
I spotted Ruxandra and George on a sheepskin and sat by them. They offered me a plastic cup of white wine thinned with snow – maybe Cotnari, but the label had been peeled off the bottle, so I couldn’t tell for sure. They insisted I accepted a refill and ignored the palm I held up to stop them. Same drill for another refill, as George kept laughing and asking uncomfortable questions like whom I planned to “bed” tonight if Damian wasn’t available, despite Ruxandra’s constantly admonishing him. I dodged him off as well as I could, my eyes darting from Damian to Svetlana.
The wine didn’t manage to get me drunk, but caused an ugly headache as her dance took ever more sensual turns. Other girls accompanied her, their lids heavy from drinking and their moves erratic and ridiculous. But Svetlana . . . she danced like a professional ballerina in elastic jeans and tight wool top, throwing her platinum hair back with lascivious moves, spinning and stretching to the bearded singer’s guitar and voice. You can leave your hat on, Joe Cocker. Couldn’t be better. All that training with the mobster sure gave results.
Probably too controlled to watch with a hanging tongue like the others, Damian resorted to throwing her glances once in a while, sipping from his own plastic cup. She kept looking at him, smiling and winking every time she caught his eye, but he knitted his brows, as if something grew heavier on his mind with every minute. Soon, as the blizzard began raging, he made his way to the window, looking as if his mind left the lodge, focused on some disturbing stream of thought. His jaw hardened, making his profile seem carved in stone. Good God, was he handsome . . .
Redirecting my eyes and mind somewhere else almost hurt. I drank cup after cup of oily wine, switching my attention to the bets George and Ruxandra placed on who was going to crack and touch Svetlana first.
“Bet ya five cups on Biker,” George babbled.
It took only a glance in the direction of his not too discretely pointed finger to realize he talked about the older guy with wiry curls who’d brought up my dad’s name earlier, and who now sat drinking and grinning a lecherous grin too close to Svetlana’s dancing legs.
“A whole bottle it’ll be Hector,” Ruxandra said, gesturing to the bearded singer with her cup.
“You’ll fall in a coma only if you think of drinking that much,” George mocked, slipping a skinny arm around her shoulders.
I couldn’t help a smile. They looked like a freckled frog and a fiery princess in love. Ruxandra was tall and sinewy, her olive skin healthy and smooth. The firm buns and boobs, the high cheekbones and bad girl eyebrows made her crazy sexy, while her long-lashed, bitter chocolate eyes exuded mysterious wit. I often compared her to the fiery gypsy Carmen, enhanced with the brains of Virginia Wolf.
“You’re underestimating me, Georgey,” she retorted in a seductive mock-tone, “I’m afraid it’ll be you singing naked in the snow if you take just another sip.”
Truth be told, George did already have some difficulty rounding his words and his gaze was foggy, his eyes deep-set in his long, narrow face. The sandy hair looked like a mop on top of his head, disheveled as if he hadn’t combed it in weeks. Welcome to the club.
“We’re both too impaired for activities as extreme as betting,” he said with a peace-making wave of his hand. “Let’s stick to black runs.”
Joke aside he kissed her, taking her lips between his thirstily. I tried to look away, but it’d been almost a year since my own lips had been touched and longing kept me staring and feeling like a pervert. I cleared my voice, sick with myself. George drew away with a crooked grin and an apologetic shrug.
“Besides,” he turned to Ruxandra again, “Svetlana only has eyes for Novac.”
“You promised to teach me poker, George,” Ruxandra interrupted before he could add more damage to my jealous blush, and motioned with her chin to a smoking and cards playing group well over their thirties. “Let’s join.”
I didn’t get the rules and George’s tongue-knotting explanations weren’t any help. None of us had much money, so the loser had to take off a piece of clothing each lost round. After I got stripped to my jersey, which got me shivering, I decided to call it a night and made for the small chamber we called bedroom, straining not to glance at Damian.
The leftovers of some candles lay around in pooled wax. Only now did I notice the beds – four of them – were mere bunks, probably with straw under the grey, dirty sheets. Maybe they’d served for construction workers until late autumn. But since the place had been abandoned over the winter, humidity had infested it with the smell of mold. The cinder was weak in the terracotta stove.
I dropped on the same bunk I’d lay on with Damian, sniffing for his scent and wishing for the “Crime and Punishment” that I’d lost on the train. The good old Russian novel could transport me now in another dimension even more pitiful than ours, where the hero would take another face but Novac’s. He’d be battered by fate, cracked and not as handsome, but he’d do. I closed my eyes and relied on my imagination to picture him, but that only sent my head spinning like a carousel. Sleep came in spurts and then fled completely as people began trickling into the room. I counted eight from under half-closed eyelids – still better than counting sheep. Then more followed.
Some sticky woman cuddled behind me, stepping on my legs when I resisted her siege and stiffly held on to my position by the edge. She stank of alcohol and I eventually recognized her as one of the “intruders” – people from the train who’d come to the same shelter, but weren’t part of our group, like the Biker who’d exposed my connection to Tiberius Preda.
The other bunks were quickly taken, and the rest huddled on jackets and sheepskins on the floor. None of them thought of feeding the fire, relying on the body heat of their partners or friends to keep warm, as I relied on the lady’s who now snored charmingly by my side. The blizzard intensified, whipping against the window, draught tugging at my forehead. It was a steady roar that mingled with drunken moaning – a couple sure did it on the floor.
“Stop!” the girl said, loud enough for me and everyone else in the room to hear if they were awake. She sounded familiar, but not familiar enough for me to identify her.
“Aw, you like it rough, then?” The man’s voice was not only too thick, but also feverish, matching his snogging on her skin.
“Get off me, you fuckin’ dog!”
My eyes snapped wide open, searching for the scene. All I could see were the girl’s white wool arms and long denim legs moving, my brain editing the meaning of it – she was trying to protect herself. A few others sprang from their sleeping places, while some mumbled groggy-headed.
A guy managed to light a candle after repeated attempts – I could tell by the lighter sparks and cusses – and, as he brought it close to the screaming girl, I gaped in smitten disbelief.
Svetlana’s face was drawn with fear. The rings around her now bulb-like eyes were deep trenches and her top was torn, revealing small, white breasts with pointy nipples.
Others from the main room burst in. I took a few shy steps toward the scene when a man ripped from the bundle, using the confusion to walk casually to the door. His contour was big – maybe a fleshy person, yet not exactly fat – and I knew on the spot it was the Biker who’d watched Svetlana dance. The same man who’d spoken up my father’s name. As I knew he was her aggressor. With a cry I drew attention and pointed at him, but what followed left me stunned and sweating.
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