After Hans left I redid all the locks and hastily changed my blouse. Then, because Megan was due to arrive at any minute, I grabbed my jacket, my purse, a manga and a chocolate bar and scurried out of my apartment.
For the first time that I can remember, leaving the apartment was a relief. It’s my home, and it’s small and cozy and I have no illusions about my safety there. If some deranged thug wanted to come crashing in, the big glass patio door wasn’t going to stop him. But now I had to worry about bogeymen and goblins just crawling out from under my bed or lurking in my closet? At least the thug would announce his presence. Glass is loud when it shatters.
The worst part of it was that if these ‘faery’ beings really did feed on fear and superstition then I must be a freaking smorgasbord. I mean… I know they say it’s not really paranoia if someone actually is after you, but that didn’t help my case at all. Firstly, because I was paranoid – and always have been – and secondly because knowing it might be justified just made it worse. I couldn’t focus on my book because I was too busy wondering when I was going to be snatched up and enslaved into a life of perpetual terror for the feeding pleasure of sinister fae creatures.
Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to chase Hans off. The shadows in the bushes around the apartments seemed darker, and I felt an itch between my shoulders like I was being watched. I couldn’t remember if that guy who used to live next door had ever so slightly pointed ears or not – hadn’t he worn a cap a lot? Maybe the chupacabracorn wasn’t my worst case scenario there.
I wondered what they would do to me if they grabbed me – which was a mistake because my imagination is always far too eager to dig deep and answer that sort of question.
By the time Megan’s car pulled into her usual spot, I was a wreck. My over active imagination was treating me to wild speculation about being forced to attend hobgoblin speed dating nights. Buzzers going off every five minutes. Hundreds of strangers roaming around, all gnarl-toothed, scaly-skinned Paleolithic barbarians. Having to talk to each and every one – a new introduction to a new stranger every five minutes! An alarm I couldn’t stop every five minutes. And all the while that I desperately tried to make conversation they’d leer and make inappropriate comments and gnash their teeth like I looked edible, but if they nibbled a finger they’d take it off at the knuckle.
Oh, and I’d be naked. Because being social with and around strangers is always worse when you’re naked.
But at the end of the night I’d just be left there, waiting for the next night, because the hobgoblins would all just go gangbang the nymph who was sitting three tables down from me, since none of the superficial bastards could tell a good thing when she was freaking out right in front of them.
And then, of course, the whole thing would play out again the next night. And so on. Forever.
When Megan’s car pulled into our lot I ran out to it before she’d even parked. She had to hit the door locks a few times because I kept yanking the handle too soon. But then I was in the passenger seat, and I slammed the door shut behind me, and Megan was staring at me in wide-eyed concern.
“Abby,” she said while I fumbled with the seatbelt, “Are you okay?”
The seatbelt firmly clicked in place and I looked over at Megan. I might have been a little teary eyed. Megan always took care of me. Now she was taking care of me in ways she didn’t even know about. Megan didn’t believe in monsters. While I was with her I was safe.
“I’m fine,” I said; and the weird thing was: I was. I was with Megan, and that made me safe, and that made all my frantic anxiety just melt away. She doesn’t even know how good a friend she is. It made me feel a little guilty. Talk about taking advantage of a friend – I’d used her as a buffer between strangers before, and now I was using her to keep the faeries at bay, too. But then again, strangers versus nightmare beings that lived on fear and existed to stir up misery… was there really a difference there?
“I’m just a little stressed out,” I said. “I want to get to work and get today – get this year – over with.”
Megan chuckled and put the car back in gear. “Sorry,” she said. “Was your date really that rough? When you never called for a rescue I thought you two might have hit it off.”
I swallowed. At least that was part of my evening I could talk about. “I forgot my phone,” I said. “I mean: I left it in my purse in the booth when I went to the restroom.” Which was when I was supposed to call Megan if I’d been freaking out – which I had been.
“Oh, sweetie!” Megan said. She knows me well enough to put two and two together. “I’m so sorry. What happened? He wasn’t a jerk, was he?”
I shook my head. He wasn’t a jerk, he was a werewolf. Was that worse? I didn’t actually mind the wolf part – though that might not last if he ever turned into the ravening full moon variety. “He wasn’t,” I assured her. “I was kind of bitchy, though.” I’d been so in his face he’d had to bite me to make me back off. “And then I made him take me home before we even ate,” I said. “It was bad.” I’d been a complete freak about it.
“I’m so sorry,” Megan said again – even though none of my neurotic tendencies were her fault. “I really thought the two of you would click once you got past introductions. Why didn’t you call me when you got home? I could’ve stopped for ice cream on my way over and commiserated to salvage the evening.”
“No,” I protested. Mostly because as far as I’m aware Megan has never had a bad date, and any commiseration on her part would have been awkward and forced. But also: “There’s no way,” I said. “The walls in there are too thin. He’d have heard if I called from the bathroom.” Especially since he was a werewolf and had – at least – a superhuman sense of smell. Hearing was probably pretty high up there, too.
Megan made the appropriate assumption. “You invited him in?!” She gasped – and since she knew me as well as she does, the incredulity was entirely deserved.
“We had all those leftovers and I was hungry!” I protested defensively. Megan laughed.
“Well, since he accepted I guess I was right to peg him as subby,” Megan teased. “Being bitchy probably helped you there.”
I shook my head emphatically. “No way,” I said. “The man is controlled, sure, but definitely not submissive.” I thought about what I knew about bondage and snorted. The only way I could see Hans in a collar was if he was in wolf form and wanted walkies. “His type is the passionate, possessive, fiery sort,” I explained. “Which I’m totally not, but there seems to have been some confusion there. Anyway, we had dinner and mostly just talked. And that was it.” Yeah. No world-altering revelations included.
“Mostly?” Megan asked, and I winced. “What else?”
“Uh…” I said. Because apparently the only time I can’t make shit up is when I want to do it on purpose.
“Come on,” Megan cajoled. “I’ve told you all my embarrassing stories. Sharing makes it better, so spill.”
I flushed. Megan was perfectly comfortable sharing her ‘stories’ with her best friend – but her stories weren’t embarrassing. They were hot. Except that didn’t make it fair for me not to reciprocate, did it? Especially since normally I would be begging her for advice. But what was normal about making out with a werewolf?!
“Um,” I said. I had to go with the truth. The normal parts. It wouldn’t be fair otherwise, and Megan had too much experience with me to be taken in by anything I could possibly make up, anyway. Assuming I wasn’t drawing a fictional blank – which I was at the moment. “We might have made out a little,” I confessed. That was the normal part. Except that it had involved, you know: me. And a werewolf.
Megan whistled. “Abby, you minx! And here you had me worried that the evening was a bust. Oh, that wasn’t the bad part, was it? I mean, you liked it, right? He wasn’t all slobbery, was he?”
I blushed harder. I could still remember my shoulders scraping against the door and Hans’ hands on my ass as he hitched me up so he wouldn’t have to stoop to peruse my body with his lips. “It was good,” I squeaked, and admitting that was horrible because now I had a whole new level of not normal to worry about.
I mean, what kind of person likes that? The only frame of reference I had was Megan – and while I know she’s done some pretty kinky stuff, I also know she’s pretty ‘take it or leave it’ about just about everything. Honestly, after hearing her describe everything she’s done, I’m pretty sure she gets off on getting her partner off, so if it’s good for him it’s good for her. But me? I’d passed on vanilla. I’d insisted Hans be aggressive, and baited him to be rough, and… hell, I’d flat out told him I’d wanted my clothes torn off and invited him to do it.
Admittedly, he’d thought I was talking about something else at the time, but I knew what I’d meant. What kind of woman wants that? Shoot: I was terrified of sex. And all the things I’d wanted Hans to do had been terrifying… so when the hell had being terrified become sexy?
There was something seriously wrong with me.
“Can we talk about this later?” I asked – and I felt kind of shitty about doing it. “I haven’t had time to figure out how I feel about it myself, yet.” Which was true – but more to the point, hopefully a reprieve would give me the time to figure out what was safe to say about it.
“Of course,” Megan said. She’s so understanding. Whenever she finds whatever she’s looking for in her long term relationship, I hope that guy appreciates how crazy lucky he is.
“Thanks,” I said. Then I bit my lip and stared out the window, watching the houses flicker by as quickly as my thoughts. I wondered which ones had monsters in them. But this time, I wasn’t just wondering about the human ones – the kidnappers and thieves and serial killers and murderous sadists. It was a whole new world out there, and I had no idea how to cope with that –so I did my best to focus on the short term.
I had to figure out how to protect myself from faeries. How to stop baiting Hans. What to say to Megan about wanting Hans to take the bait… and how to keep her the hell away from Mr. Salvatore. Somehow I felt that today – just today – was going to make this one hell of a long year.