by Barbara W. Klaser
van skids off a snowy mountain road. . . .
Tess returns home to bury her dead. There an old flame rekindles, promising the warmth of a winter romance, while Tess begins to suspect her family was murdered.
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ELEVEN YEARS AGO
"You should've turned there, to get to my house."
"I know." The young man in the driver's seat kept his gaze on the road.
"Where are we going?"
"My place." He shot her a grin full of straight teeth. "It's early yet."
He was incredibly good looking. Why couldn't she like him? That would make her parents happy, and make this not such a wasted evening. She wouldn't feel guilty about agreeing to go out with him in the first place. It had been dishonest to accept his invitation merely to please her parents, in an attempt to make them less suspicious of her. Why, to gain their trust, did she have to commit this lie?
She glimpsed the name on the mailbox as he turned into an asphalt driveway. This must be his parents' house, this grand structure at least four times the size of her own home. There were no other cars in the driveway. "Are your parents here?"
"They're out of town with my sisters." He shot her another grin, this one clearly intended to be seductive, an implication of shared conspiracy. A conspiracy she didn't share, or want to.
"I live here." He parked in front of a guest cottage, a hundred feet or so from the main house. It was a miniature replica of the larger structure.
"Do you have a telephone in there? I need to check in with my parents. They wanted me home by ten." She didn't like that he'd brought her here without asking her first.
"Your dad said eleven." He narrowed his eyes.
"I don't think my mom knew he said eleven. I should call, and I have to get home soon."
When they entered the little house, he put his keys on a table by the door and pointed her toward the sofa. "Make yourself comfortable in here, while I get us something to drink."
She put her purse down next to his keys. "No soda or caffeine for me, please. Maybe ice water." She headed for the phone on the desk in the front room.
He paused in his kitchen doorway and pursed his lips. "How about a glass of wine. Don't tell me you've never had alcohol? You're nearly eighteen."
She shrugged. "I have to be up early for work tomorrow." Besides, she was sure her parents hadn't urged her to go out with him so she could drink. That was the last thing they'd intended, and if this was a test she intended to pass.
While he was in the kitchen she quickly phoned her mother and let her know where she was. Then she phoned a friend. "Do you have the keys to the van tonight?"
"If I page you from this number, will you come get me? This doesn't feel right." She gave her friend the number and directions.
"Okay, but you're the only girl I know who wouldn't be thrilled to go out with him."
When he returned with their drinks she was seated on the sofa staring at the painting over his mantle, a particularly gruesome hunting scene. He brought her a tumbler of ice water and a glass of red wine. "In case you change your mind." He nodded toward the painting. "Like it?"
"It's not my kind of thing. Do you hunt?" She had friends who hunted, but she'd failed to ever understand their attraction to the sport.
"Since I was a kid, every chance I get." He sat beside her and leaned over to kiss her.
She turned her cheek to meet his lips. "I don't kiss on the first date."
He stared at her as if she'd spoken a foreign language. "My dad gave me the impression you were a wild child, that I was supposed to tame you."
"He said that?"
"Not exactly, but my mom heard your parents are worried that you're hanging out with a bad crowd--some kind of Satanists who always dress in black?"
She sighed, tired of how people twisted things. "I've been dating a guy who's a Pagan. That's not the same thing as a Satanist. He believes in a God and a Goddess, and in following the cycles of nature. My parents don't understand anyone who doesn't believe the same way they do. He wears black a lot because it's his preference, not because of his religion. He's an artist. So am I."
Her date nodded, but the vacant look in his eyes made her pretty sure he didn't understand. "I thought you'd at least give me a kiss after I bought you dinner. Just following the cycles of nature." He grinned.
"If you wanted me to pay for my dinner, you should've said so. I'll pay my share now." She started to get up for her purse.
He chuckled and took her hand. "Will you relax? I was joking. Sit here with me, have a sip of wine. We'll just talk for a while if you want."
She sat back, thinking maybe she wasn't being fair. She resigned herself to an hour more of his company before it would be polite to insist he take her home. The water glass looked cloudy and she wondered how good a dishwasher he was. She decided a sip or two of the wine wouldn't hurt, and she picked it up.
"Cheers." He raised his glass and clinked it against hers, then sipped his. "You're a senior next year, right? What will you do when you graduate?"
It was the first time tonight he'd shown any interest in her plans. He'd spent most of the time talking about himself. The wine was bitter and astringent. She took a sip and put it down.
"I'm going to college on the East Coast. After that I want to travel, see the world outside Cedar Creek. I'll come back eventually and open my own business here, maybe a bakery."
He shook his head. "Once I leave I'm not coming back."
"Not even to visit your family?"
He didn't answer. He stroked her forearm and studied her face. "You're pretty. I never noticed you when we were younger. I wonder why. What if I just kiss your hand?" He raised her hand to his lips.
She giggled, she couldn't help it. Was he serious, or mocking her? He made a low, growling noise, his eyes darkening. He kissed her hand again, then the inside of her forearm. It made her tingle inside, in spite of herself. He stroked her hair, and a moment later her cheek.
He gently raised her wine glass to her lips, and she sipped again, then again, deliberately taking the smallest possible sips, deciding he could be charming when he made the attempt. She took the glass from him, and only pretended to sip after that. She was beginning to relax. In fact she thought the wine must be stronger than normal, because it made her fuzzy headed after a few sips.
She'd risen early this morning to work in the kitchen at the resort, and it was near her usual bedtime, maybe that was why she felt drowsy. She yawned, and when he got up to put on some music, she leaned back on the sofa. She found herself looking at that painting on the far wall again. Still finding it revolting, she closed her eyes.
It took her several seconds to realize he had his arms around her, and was kissing her lips forcefully, his tongue in her mouth, and one hand inside her blouse. He'd rearranged himself and eased her back on the couch. She was lying under him. He started unbuttoning her blouse. She couldn't get enough air.
"Wait." She started to sit up, feeling lightheaded, though she was certain she'd only had a few sips of the wine.
Instead of listening to her, he yanked her blouse open, tearing it.
He dove his hands inside her bra.
Alarm spread through her. She tried to fight his hands off. "No! I said no!" She tried to move away, but he was strong and heavy, with nearly his full weight on her. She struggled harder, and he grasped her wrists tightly, his legs pinning hers to the couch. "No!"
He wasn't listening, or responding to her words, and he was stronger. He removed her shoes, pulled up her skirt and tugged at her panties. "Relax," he said, his tone short, urgent, demanding.
"Let me go!" She fought him. It hurt now to struggle. He gripped her wrists tightly with one hand above her head.
"Should've had more wine," he snarled, breathing fast.
His phone rang, and he ignored it, continuing to struggle with her. It rang again.
"That's my mother, calling to check on me."
He paused and glared at her.
"She doesn't trust me, I told you. She'll keep calling, and if she doesn't reach me, she'll come looking for me."
"She'll think I'm driving you home."
Seconds later the phone had stopped ringing, and she knew he wasn't going to let her go. Not before he got what he wanted. She had to think.
She stopped struggling and lay still. He looked her in the eye, suspicious. She made out to be drowsy, remembering how her baby brother looked when sleep overtook him. She let her eyes close, pretending to fall asleep. She was certain now that he'd drugged the wine, probably the cloudy water, too, and she hoped he'd think it had taken its full intended effect. He sat still, on top of her, with his grip loosening on her wrists. Testing her? She slackened every muscle in her body and felt drowsy again. Whatever the drug was, it was potent. She didn't remember drinking much of the wine, yet she had to grapple to keep her feigned sleep from drowsing into the real thing.
He believed her act, finally, and let go of her wrists. She let one arm drop, then lay perfectly still, willing her muscles to relax. He lifted her skirt, and it was all she could do not to go rigid or fight him, as he took her panties off. Finally he moved farther away, until he wasn't touching any part of her but her legs. She took a deep, slow breath as she cracked her eyes open, feeling sleep tug at her in spite of her fear. He was turned the other way, slipping off his own shoes, unzipping his pants.
Several seconds later he moved a foot or so away from her. He'd pulled a condom packet out and was opening it with his teeth. Now he had his pants down to his knees and was lifting a leg to remove them.
He snatched at her blouse as she moved, tearing it more.
She kept going. She ran to the door and grabbed her purse and his keys before he could catch his balance and move far.
She ran. She had no idea how fast he would be, but he looked athletic and he could slip his shoes back on, while hers were still on the floor beside his sofa. She kept running, barefoot, wondering only briefly what objects her feet struck as she moved, running as fast as her legs and her newest surge of adrenaline could carry her.
When she heard his car turn onto the road, she realized he must have had a spare key. A rise of alarm sent her into the woods, out of sight of the road. There she couldn't move nearly as fast, but she kept going, keeping herself out of sight of the road. He passed her.
A moment later he'd turned around and was heading more slowly back in her direction. He shone a flashlight into the woods, first on one side then the other, as he moved slowly up the road.
She stood out of sight behind a large tree and some brush, breathing hard, again fighting sleepiness. She gripped his keys so tightly they dug into the flesh of her hand. She kept the keys tightly balled so they didn't make a noise, and placed them on the ground near her feet, afraid to let them jingle, afraid to breathe too loudly.
How long would it take her to get home on foot? Could she make it through the woods? How far was it to her house? She was too confused, her thoughts scrambling with her fear and the drug. How would she find her way in the dark?
He passed her a second time with his light. She started through the woods in what she hoped was the direction of the resort, staying as close to the road as she dared, to avoid getting more disoriented.
He must've given up, because after his second sweep with the light he didn't come back. Had he gone on into town?
She walked, less panicked now, her adrenaline surplus gradually fading. Her feet hurt. Her wrists ached where he'd gripped her. She became aware that her blouse was ripped and wouldn't button. It hung open, exposing her lace bra. Her skirt was rumpled and crooked; her panties were back at his house. Her hair was a ragged mess, falling down around her face and neck, lopsided and tangled. Her hands shook whenever she tried to hold her blouse together. She gave up and concentrated instead on where she was going, and on blinking away the tears that threatened to blur her vision.
Finally she heard another vehicle on the road. Not his car, but something big. Its headlights were higher off the ground and wider apart. She moved out and waved at it.
It was the van from the resort. It stopped beside her, and she opened the door. Her friend was driving.
"My God, what happened? Hurry and get in. I got to feeling weird about your call, and I called you back, but no one answered. I decided to drive out this way. There's a blanket in the back."
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|All characters and events in the novels on this website are fictitious, they are solely products of the author's imagination. Any similarity to real persons or events is purely coincidental.||
Copyright (c) 2004 Barbara W. Klaser. All rights reserved