I worked my way through a section of my new novel, piece by piece yesterday, stopping frequently to accommodate the demands — I mean, needs, of my five year old daughter. I think the breaks may have helped, though, because each time I came back to the part I was struggling with, I was fresh. I am in new territory, having moved past a previously drafted scene, and entering the high middle of the story. Here is the result; the part I struggled with came after the asterisks:
Her eyes closed as his mouth covered hers, yielding to the hand that cupped her face and tilted it back. Her fingers touched his chest, exploring the contours of the warm muscle hidden under the soft flannel work shirt, and heat blossomed between her thighs as she felt his heartbeat quicken. He moved closer, settling into the space between her legs as their kiss deepened. Rayvin released the wall, abandoning herself to his embrace and the pleasing shivers coursing through her body. Her skin tingled and flamed under his touch. She angled her head to open her mouth more for him, seeking his tongue with her own. Surrounded by the warmth of his light, she took as much as he was able to give, running her hand up the worn leather of his jacket to fist in his hair, encouraging him as sensation pulsed in compelling rhythm from deep in her centre. She savored his response, forgetting everything but the way he was pulling her tightly into his body, changing the angle of his head to plunder her mouth more fully, teasing her tongue with his own as his hands worked their way down the sides of her body, thumbs gently tracing the roundness of her swelling breasts under her sweater, following the curve of her waist to the hem of the garment, until she rocked against him and gasped. He released her mouth, looking at her for a soul-shattering moment of honesty and hunger and burning intensity, before ravishing her neck with burning kisses, using tongue and teeth to taste every inch of flesh from the sensitive lobe of her ear to the juncture of neck and shoulder, pulling her sweater away to reach further down. She couldn’t breathe, but could only hold him closer, putting one leg around his thigh and rock against him in a primal, instinctive move that she was powerless to resist. He was taking her, and she was willingly following – or was she pushing him, and he the follower to her desire? His hand was on the bare skin of her waist, gooseflesh rising in the contrast between the heat of his touch and the cold of the air. She wanted to feel his fingers move higher, was already imagining what it would feel like when they circled her nipples, wanted to push the jacket away and mould his own perfect body with her palms, wanted his mouth on her skin, could see them moving together, naked and sweaty with passion, driving each other to the limits of their bodies and beyond –
They sprang apart. Father Jonas, hatted, scarfed, and mittened in anachronistically baby blue, was standing a few feet away, turned in profile. A small terrier, in matching baby blue knitted sweater, had lifted its leg against the lamppost, and was watching him with disinterest as it urinated. The minister’s face, however, was clearly struggling between amusement and disapproval. Grant stepped back, coughing slightly, and buttoned up his coat. It wasn’t quite long enough to cover the bulge noticeable in the crotch. “Evening, Father,” he nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets.
The older man nodded abruptly, cleared his throat again, and clicked his tongue at his dog. “Any more news about those animal disappearances, Corporal? Some of my congregation are quite upset at the loss of their pets, and others are fearful of their own going missing.” He turned slightly, cocking a brow at Michaels. “I hope our tax dollars are going to good use in this matter? Whoever might attack an innocent creature of God might turn on children, or the elderly, next.” His eyes flicked toward Rayvin, before he turned to walk away. “Violence of this sort must not be tolerated in our community, my boy. We must all be vigilant.”
Rayvin was surprised to hear a low growl coming from Grant’s throat. She saw him clench his jaw for a fraction of a second. “Hold up, there, please. Patrick -” He strode forward to catch up with the minister, who halted for a moment to wait. They paced slowly down to the corner, speaking in hurried, harsh whispers. Finally, the blue knitted cap tilted once, in what might have been a nod. He continued on his way, while Grant turned back with a look of grim satisfaction on his face. And froze.
Rayvin was gone.
* * *
Rayvin was halfway home before she realized that she still didn’t have the necklace for Andrea.
“Damn, damn, damn,” she cursed herself, striding quickly up the steeply graded hill toward her block. She stopped, considering her options. The bleak light of the waning moon was swiftly disappearing behind scudding clouds, driven by a steady wind that had changed from refreshing to chill; the streetlights provided small islands of illumination which only served to make the darkness between them more total. Se did not feel safe, but she did not detect any threats around her. Certainly not of the power and intensity that had overcome her in the restaurant.
And damn that Grant Michaels! What was she thinking, kissing him? She’d practically thrown herself at him, after all that self-talk about keeping her distance, and in front of a witness who was no doubt on the phone right now, like the gossip he’d been when she was young. Rayvin’s nails bit into the flesh of her palms as she increased her pace, ignoring the burning in her thighs. Sweat trickled in a cold line down her back. Stupid man. Stupid woman, letting her hormones lead the way. She hadn’t made that kind of mistake since high school. She remembered the consequences of that little diversion quite well. So not only would she now have to be on guard against a vampire, she also had to watch her own emotions. She could not afford to be distracted. This time, the consequences would be a hundred times worse.
A cold gust sent icy fingers down her neck; she hunched her shoulders, breathing heavily as she trudged uphill. Her face felt hot. Her senses on high alert, her heart skipped a beat when, rounding a corner, a pair of ghoulish faces wriggled and danced before her. It took her a minute to recognize the cheap Hallowe’en decorations, dangling on fishing line from the bare branches of a birch tree. There was another layer to the problem — Samhain closing in fast, more conventionally Hallowe’en. It looked like the neighbourhood was expecting trick or treaters in a few days, though she hadn’t yet noticed any children. She shuddered, looking over her shoulder and hugging her jacket more closely. She didn’t want to think about the horror that could happen on that night, of all nights, if she couldn’t pull herself together and focus on the problem.
If this was a movie, she reflected, she’d already have a plan of attack, or a group of friends to help out. Then again, in a movie, the heroine would never do something so stupid as go for a walk alone, in the dark, with a monster on the prowl. She almost wished that she had waited and accepted the ride home from Grant Michaels. It was so cold, she could almost see her breath; her fingers were numb, though she could feel the beads of sweat on her forehead before they were kissed away by the north wind.
That night with Jason had been like this. Really dark, really cold, the scent of snow on the air. She didn’t want to remember. Gritting her teeth, Rayvin attempted to dodge the memories as she walked. She didn’t want to think about the past, but the visions were coming back in spite of her efforts to block them.
There was the old bus bench, for the now-defunct transportation service. That was where she had met Jason for their date.
She hadn’t wanted a guy coming to her door to pick her up; she is an independent woman at seventeen. She’d never had a boyfriend, or a real date for that matter, but her life is not going to be a cliche. Rayvin had chosen to wear her favourite pair of black jeans, a tight-fitting black turtleneck, and a delightfully thick blue woollen shawl she’d scored when rummaging around the Salvation Army store downtown, with Andrea. Rayvin had also managed to find gloves and a beret in a checked pattern, shot through with a blue that closely matched her shawl. She had left her hair down, and liked the way that the blues set off its red, auburn, and golden tones. She had even, at Andrea’s insistence, put on a little makeup, applying a hint of eyeliner and a dusting of shadow. She looks good, and she knows it, but it is still gratifying to hear Jason exclaim as he approaches, “Wow! You look gorgeous — sophisticated.” He is wearing his hockey jacket over a cream crew neck sweater, dark blue jeans, clean running shoes. He lifts his brown flat-peak ball cap off his forehead, feigning the need to get a better look at her. She knows it is silly, but she feels flattered, just the same. It is nice that a good-looking boy thinks she is pretty. At that moment, it hurts a little less that the guy she really prefers wouldn’t even talk to her. She preens as he whistles, uncrossing her legs and standing up to accept the rose he offers. Who cares if Grant Michaels isn’t interested, she thinks, inhaling the faint scent of the flower. She smiles at Jason over its red petals. The muted glow of the setting October sun softens the edges of the world, and for once she feels almost completely happy.
Lost in the ghosts of her past, Rayvin’s pace slowed. She dawdled at the playground at the next intersection, crossing the street to sit on a damp wooden swing. Fog was gathering from the shrubs and empty trees that bordered the small square lot; a few lights shone from neighbouring houses, friendly yellow glows that offered some comfort. This was the place where she’d first seen Grant, when they were children. It was also the place where, on the way to the movie, Jason had taken her hand and tried to kiss her cheek.
“Nothing. I’m sorry, I — I’m not used to this.”
He smiles and squeezes her hand, walking backwards in front of her. “I refuse to believe that you’re shy.”
She hangs her head, embarrassed. “Actually, half the time I don’t even know what to say to people. I start to speak and a frog comes out, my voice is all rough and sounds stupid. So I guess I am shy, a bit.”
“Well, you don’t have to be shy around me. I like you,” Jason offers, halting them both and coming closer. “I like you a lot. You’re so beautiful, way more than any other girls at school. Some guys are jealous that you’re out with me tonight.”
“Really?” Rayvin perks up. “Which guys?”
Jason puts a finger to his chin, considering. “Oh, man, you want a list? There’s Devon, Chris, Harley, Paul, Grant–”
“Grant has a girlfriend.”
“Naw, they broke up a while ago.” He moves in closer. Their chests are almost touching. She can smell the end of an expensive cologne on his skin. Mouthwash on his breath. But more, Rayvin feels his energy. It makes her shiver a little. Naturally, he misunderstands and puts his arm around her, thinking she is cold. She forces herself to relax under the gentle pressure of his embrace. He doesn’t know about her gifts, he is just trying to be nice. She is supposed to like being held by a boy, isn’t she? So why does she want to push him off, put a lot of distance between them, and end the date right now?
She decides to play it cool; she is probably over-thinking the situation.
“Really? Well, that’s too bad for her, he’s a great guy.”
“Yeah, he’s the best. Hey, you don’t like him or anything, do you?” Jason drops his arm and peers at her in the dusk. Rayvin is grateful for the lack of light, hiding the blush she can feel heating on her cheeks.
“I just know that you guys are friends, and that he’s always really nice. Let’s go, or we’ll miss the start of the movie.” And please, please just leave it at that, she begs inwardly, tugging on his hand.
Rayvin couldn’t remember why she’d even accepted his date in the first place. Her breath was starting to show now, in little puffs of smoky condensation, as she gently moved back and forth on the swing. In the daylight, you could see the highway bridge from here, with the walking path on its southern side. It crossed a dried riverbed that was a combination of rocks, shrubs, and muddy marsh; it flooded occasionally in the spring but was relatively dry for the rest of the year. She watched as a car drove over the bridge, its headlights washing the road with a broad cone of pale yellow light, briefly illuminating a couple locked in embrace. Rayvin let the swing still, alone in the dark and the cold. The wind moving in the skeletal trees was a faint sigh. The mist rose nearly to Rayvin’s knees, blanketing the smallest shrubs, the teeter-totter and the bottom steps of the long metal slide; shadows moved and drifted at the edges of her vision. Her fingers were so cold on the metal chains of the swing, she could barely move them. Dimly, as though from a great distance in her mind, she felt another hand touch hers. Someone peeling her fingers away from their hold on the swing, clasping them in a firm, yet gentle hold that chilled her to the bone. Slowly, she turned and looked up.
Memory swam up and took hold of her again, meshing with the shock of recognition that lasted only a moment as the man pulled her to her feet.
“Jason?” she whispered, unbelievingly. Was this real?
During the movie, which is more violent than she’d cared for, she’s disappointed and more than a little pissed when Jason removes a flask from his inner coat pocket and adds some of the contents to his pop. Then, to her intense disgust, he opens the circular plastic top of her drink and gives her a dollop as well. It smells like rum.
“Why did you do that?” she whispers, refusing to take it from him.
“Come on, relax,” Jason whispers back, grinning. He leans against her, putting his arm around her shoulders again. “You’re way too tense.” He winks, taking a liberal sip with the straw.
And then she understands. “You know, Andrea’s mom always tells me that I expect the best of people. She tells me that it’s not a bad thing, but that I need to be prepared to also meet the worst. And I have to tell you, I understand completely what she meant.” Rayvin shrugs his arm away, looking at him. “How much have you had to drink tonight?”
“Enough to have some fun…if you came out more often, you’d know that.” She catches the flash of a sneer across his face.
“You know what I’m talking about, Miss High and Mighty, always thinking you’re too good to come down to the level of the ordinary people.” He laughs softly, his eyes narrowing. “People think you’re a hermit, you know. You never come out of your cave. This is how we have fun, Ray. If you want to have a good time in Talbot, this is it. If you’re too good for it, then no-one will ever want to talk to you, or ask you out again. Or maybe you like being alone all the time?” He leans in closer, pressing her back against the arm of the seat. She turns her head, but that is a mistake. He puts his lips close to her ear. The alcohol on his breath makes her head swim. “You think I haven’t noticed the way you look at me, the way you look down at me, and my friends? You’re gonna get cross-eyed, looking down your nose all the time the way you do.”
Rayvin’s head was swimming. Memories were coming at her, faster than she could process them.
Rayvin pushing him out of the way, leaving the theatre proper; Jason catching up to her in the lobby and grabbing her arm.
The hands on her arms felt too real to be part of her memory.
“I figured, enough was enough. You’re so hot, you drive everyone crazy, and all you do is walk around like you don’t even care. No-one else thinks they’ve even got a shot! Wait until I tell them I got you — I’ll be their hero.” Rayvin grows cold as she realizes that Jason isn’t drunk, not in the slightest. Her mother, long ago, might have termed it ‘warmed up’. He is still in complete control.
Rayvin’s fear was paralyzing her. Why was the smell of his cologne still so strong?
She breaks his grip and tears out of the lobby, blinding running down the street. She knows he is following her, has seen him running at track and field with Grant, on the basketball court, in soccer…she cannot outrun an athlete.
Rayvin’s eyes were open, but blind. The harsh breathing was not hers. The hands gripped her to the point of pain, pinning her arms to her sides.
Past the movie theatre, the stores are closed, and the street turns into local highway. She hears his pounding footsteps, outstripping the frantic beat of her heart. He is gaining. Maybe, if she can get to the bridge and over it, find a place to hide —
Cold breath raised goosebumps on her skin, as sharp nails dug into her sides. With a flash of insight, Rayvin wrenched herself back to reality. The physical sensations she was feeling were not in her mind. She shook her head, blinking, as her neck was nuzzled by something icy and foreign. Her gasp halted the movement, but the man held her even closer as he raised his head to look into her face.
This had to be a bad dream. She was still lost in time.
She struggled briefly, not understanding. Jason was paralyzed, but he was standing right next to her. Jason despised her, but was holding her like they were lovers. The past and the present had meshed in some sick, twisted way that made her question her sanity.
And then, in the next moment, a flash of bright light illuminated the playground, accompanied by the low growl of an engine. Rayvin fell, whatever support she had been experiencing abruptly vanishing. The engine died, but the light remained, blinding her once more, until a familiar silhouette strode forward and crouched before her, shielding her eyes from the worst of the brightness.
“You left so fast, you forgot this,” Grant said, holding up a small golden charm on a matching chain. “Are you all right?”
Lying on the cold-hardened sand, bewildered, Rayvin stared up at him. “You followed me?”
“Well, yeah. It’s not safe to walk home alone right now, you know.” He offered a hand. Rayvin ignored it, rolling onto her knees before standing. “Why won’t you let me help you?” She heard the hurt and exasperation in his tone, which were harder to dismiss. Brushing the dirt from her clothes, she took a deep breath, thinking about how best to answer him.
“I think you’re right,” she finally responded, looking at him directly. “It’s not safe to be out here alone. And I didn’t mean to offend you just now. I’ve been on my own for a long time, I’ve had to take care of myself in a lot of ways. I’m not used to someone offering to help me.”
“And I know I haven’t made it easy for you, in the last twenty-four hours.” Grant paused, putting the necklace back into a small plastic pouch. He held it out for Rayvn to take. “Or for the last ten years. Maybe we should talk about that. I don’t want to fight. There’s been enough of that already.”
Rayvin exhaled. Whatever she’d just been through, mind trip or not, his presence was healing her. His gaze, his aura, told her that he was absolutely sincere. And that he was interested in her, in more ways than one. Her own body responded immediately to this discovery, a warmth spreading out from her centre that erased the lingering traces of an icy touch. Part of her hesitated, but another part wanted to take the chance. Maybe he was right — ten years was long enough to hold onto the resentment, hurt, confusion. If she was going to be able to save Andrea, she had to clear her conscience. That was the logical course. That could be her justification.
He held out his hand again.
Illogically, she just wanted to be with him.
“Let’s go to my place.” Rayvin offered, taking his hand. “But I don’t have any coffee.”