Soren placed his hand on the rising welt. “Good to see you too, Lexi.”
For another moment, you glared into his eyes, grey and emotionless as they always were when he was angry with you. “Darren!” The men at the bar turned away from the flickering shades of a football game in low grade black and white to watch a six-foot, four-inch, muscle-bound man emerge from the kitchens. “Get him out of here,” you said coldly, nodding your head in Soren’s direction.
From the store room, you could hear a thud in the alleyway.
“Can I get you a drink?” Days later, your mind was finally free of Soren, or maybe it was the man standing before you, broad shoulders and a smile that could kill, that had distracted your every sense.
“No …” There was a moment’s pause as he combed your bookshelf with his eyes. You loved a man who could read. Then again, there generally wasn’t time to find out. “Thank you.” He added as an afterthought, surveying the leather-bound volumes. “You’ve got some interesting titles here.”
“Oh … just a selection I put out for Halloween.” A half-choked giggle squeaked out of your throat. “I picked them up at a great little holiday décor shop in London.” Nice recovery…
A moment’s quick thinking knocked the quizzical look off of his face. Dragging your finger across his jawbone, you pressed your frame closer to him, drawing his attention far from your spell books. “So … if you didn’t come up here for a drink, what is it that you wanted?”
There was a soft tink!
as a stray button bounced off of the rim of your wine glass. So much for that blouse.
Back arched, fingers smelling vaguely of beer nuts lacing through your hair, and the feeling of falling overwhelmed your nerves as you dove, head first, into the pool of sensations awaiting you. The number 8 floated through your head as someone else’s tongue trailed the most delicate patches of skin
“This is your life, then?” Soren was standing at the foot of your bed, twirling your wand in his hand. For a moment, you were terrified, but glancing to your right, you sighed deeply; never before had a stranger brought you so much peace. I didn’t sleep with him you repeated to yourself again and again as you watched Soren’s shadowed face. “You’ve come home every night this week with a different man.” He started in again, quietly this time. His tone was even. “Frankly, most of them aren’t even that attractive. You serve drinks at a pub to a bunch of Muggles.” He spat the words at you, sounding just like your mother. The grey orbs that had once been warm, inviting, and deep looked at you, now a cold, bottomless ocean. “Alexis, you had it. You had it. You had everything and you left?”
He seemed to want to continue speaking, but in a flash you were on your feet. “Yeah, Soren. I left.” Your voice took on a sardonic, angry tone. “And apparently I have to keep going or I’m never going to get away from you.” Gripping frantically at the satin robe draping over a nearby chair, you switched on a lamp.
The light that burst from beneath the shade illuminated your figure briefly.
Soren didn’t turn away. On the contrary, he stepped forward, sidled up to you, and taking hold of your hand, pulled you close to his chest, a finger to your lips. Once again, you found yourself dizzied, drinking in his scent.
Paralyzed by his touch, you followed him obediently to the living room, not objecting as he shot a stunning spell at your previous companion. You were met by coffee at the breakfast nook.
Paige spit mango smoothie all over the peanut shell strewn floor. “He’s back!?”
“With a vengeance … or something.” She looked quizzically at you as you downed a shot, making a foul face when you replaced the glass on the bar. Your only friend in the area, she had heard it all—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the really sordid details of the exceptionally good. “He wants me to go back.”
Where you had expected friendly outrage, Paige stared resolutely at the rough wood and took another sip of her drink
“What?” Silence. “What?!”
“Nothing … I just …” Silence. “It might be a good thing.” Her voice was sheepish, quiet, and coy. Your eyes widened, and as she began to embark on her reasoning, you reached out for the nearby bottle and poured yourself another drink. “Look around, Alexis. You’ve got nothing in the Muggle world. We’re witches. I don’t have a choice; this pays the bills until I can afford to open my own shop, but you have a chance. You have an investment fund for crying out loud. Your parents will give you the money to open that little gallery you’ve been talking about.” Sensing your fury and the unmitigated look of shock, she spoke more quickly, letting her words slur together. “You only have one more exam before you’ll have your Auror certification and its Stealth and Concealment. If you finish that up, you could work at the Ministry for a few years and afford to open your gallery on your own. It’s just something to consider …” Paige added placatingly, seizing a push broom.
“Oh, screw it!” and with a swish of your wand, the floor was pristinely clean. “Lock up on your way out.” You said in as husky a tone as you could muster, heading for the door.
Paige followed you to the stairwell but didn’t chase you to street level.
It’s not her fault you told yourself as you tucked your hands deeper into your pockets, pulling your jacket closer. Pressing forward against the wind, your mind retraced everything she had said.
Jesus was silhouetted in your doorway. “Oh, screw it!”
You said for the second time that evening and on an impulse, turned left, the night wind sweeping your hair across your eyes.
You walked until dawn, the pink and orange hues of sunrise tinting the world a more loving shade than you had seen in a long time.
Taking a deep breath and clutching your hands tightly around the coffee you’d purchased, you turned your feet toward your flat, resolved to apologize to Paige when you saw her at work.
“What? No man last night? Or did you go to his place?”
A familiar voice pounded against your ear drums as you entered your dark flat.
“Bloody hell, Soren! I put a colloportus charm on this place!”
“I know, and it was a downright good one. It almost delayed my entry by about five minutes.”
Condescending asshole you fumed.
“Any charm you can put on it …” He was approaching you slowly, watching your eyes resolutely, and yet you had the distinct impression he wasn’t seeing your t-shirt, at least, not on your body. “I can take off.”
“Suggestive language, a little?”
He was practically on top of you now, so close that you could taste his cologne. His breath warmed the sensitive skin of your neck as he whispered into your ear. “Only if you want it to be.”
For a moment, the spell he’d held you under in years passed took over. You could feel his rough, leathery fingers roaming your skin—taste the sweat when you bit into his shoulder, willing silence—and sense the Egyptian cotton between your fingers. In a fleeting instant, the trance was broken as he switched on the lights.
“Lexi, come home.”
Slamming your keys down on the counter and dropping your purse beside them, you pushed past him, willing yourself to ignore the firm muscle you have dug your nails into so many times. “Look around! This is my home!” In part, your fury came from his insistence that you join him, from everyone’s insistence, but more, and you hated to admit it, from the way he always managed to intoxicate you.
“Is it?” He spoke softly to you now, the way he used to.
“Yeah, it is.” Matching his tone of sincerity, you tried to catch his gaze.
As he let himself out, you noticed the small relic he’d placed on your table, your grandfather’s watch.
“Alexandra Marie Vogel! You will sit still for this meal and you will do it now!”
“Mum! You’re pulling my hair!”
A 16 year old Alexis sat before you, the pale pink party dress you remembered so well partially hidden beneath white Italian lace dress robes. Behind her, a full staff of house elves were bustling about the dining room. There were plates of food floating about the kitchen, taper candles suspended in the air above them, and fairies littering the front lawn.
“Go wait by the door. The James’ and the Stockholms should be arriving shortly.” A stern woman barked at the young girl. “Please make a good impression! The Stockholms are fine people and their son is one of the few suitable boys in the area.” She added venomously.
You woke with a start—the pimple-faced Stockholm boy and the young, attractive, witty, bright man vivid in your mind. It was that night that your grandfather gave Soren his watch. It was then that they sealed a deal, regardless of your mother’s wishes.
You rolled your eyes remembering the night they took the fun out of it. It was the last time you’d bothered to sneak out a window with him or spend an evening staring at the stars on the patio. It was also the evening you set your resolve not to go home when you took your final exam.
Fumbling around on the nightstand for a moment, you ran your fingers across the watch face, listening to the precision ticking that had signified all things safe and secure.
As you drifted back to sleep, the watch slipped safely into your palm, and you fell back into the dream.
You opened your eyes slightly and then closed them again. You’d been dreaming about Soren again. You could hear him speaking to you in the soft tones of old and feel the familiar rich cotton of his linens wrapped around your body.
It was funny; the heavy feeling in your limbs made you certain you were awake, but you could still hear him and feel his fingers on your skin. His hand was resting on your shoulder, fingers tracing the exposed skin.
As you pried your sleepy eyes open, Soren’s face came into view. Distantly, you registered that he wasn’t supposed to be there, but then again, you didn’t recall redecorating either. For another second, this seemed odd, but before you knew it, the strong, soft lips you knew too well were pressing against your own. Gently, you smiled and then, full realization hitting you, panicked.
As Soren drew away, he smiled, gently pried the watch from your closed fingers, and conjured a small pile of clothes.
You looked around what you knew to be Soren’s flat in utter terror, his parting words running through your mind. ”I knew you’d come home.”