Effie sighed, stroking the soft leather coat of the stranger. Her hand skimmed up over his broad chest, and gripped the edge of the headboard, holding on as he stretched out over her, rolling his hips against her nakedness. She jerked awake from her dream, holding her breath, startled registering unfamiliar surroundings, and panicking. The abstract, erotic dream had her puzzled as her mind tried to piece together reality. A shaft of light cut the darkness of the room she was in, and she could just make out shirts hanging in a neat row in a closet. She was on a rather comfortable pillow-top mattress, laying between very expensive, soft cotton sheets. High thread count, Egyptian. Washed to perfection. She cursed, recalling the events that had brought her here to this strange place.
The light bisecting the room was enough to find the bedside table, and the lamp. Searching for the on switch took her a few seconds, and yanked on a small chain, turning on the bulb, and flooding the room with light. “Whoa! Nice room.”
She rose up on her hands, taking in the full effect, wondering what time it was, and spied a clock over her left shoulder on another low, flat panelled bedside table. Two am flared back. She lay back down, and squirmed one way, then another, burrowing into the comfort, and sighing appreciatively. She inhaled, stretching her limbs, felt the high leather headboard behind her, and then moaned deeply catching the heady scent of cologne.
The movement and the heat of her body had triggered the scent imbued in the threads of the shirt she was wearing. Another expensive item from a High Street shop. This bloke had money to spend. She gasped, sitting up, realizing tall, dark and handsome had undressed her, and redressed her in one of his own shirts. “Wow…” Fear coiled in her gut, and wondered if he had done more in her unconscious state. Taking a mental stock of her body, she found nothing that would suggest he had taken advantage of her.
Shyly, she tentatively lifted the collar of the shirt, and sniffed. That initial sniff turned into a deep inhalation, recalling the raven hair, the silver, green eyes of her hero stranger. She sighed, mouthing, another wow. Woods and spice, perhaps a bit of the sea mixed in. Expensive distillation. The scents were comforting, quickly calming her anxiety, and fear. Funny, she wasn’t really afraid, more like cautious. Stranger, or not, he felt somehow familiar, but she couldn't place him. She mumbled to herself as she bent her legs, and grasped her knees, burying her nose into the fabric of the shirt, "Whatever soap or cologne you're using I've got to have some of this…”
The room was decorated in a partial minimalistic design. The walls were a soft light sand color with several tasteful black and white photographs in black frames of various scenes of Scottish cities, landscape, and seascapes. She turned and looked over her shoulder, and a turbulent sculpture of aged driftwood hung on the wall above the headboard. The bed frame was covered in the same leather as the headboard, and sat low upon a dark slate floor.
Tall, dark, and handsome had brought her to his place. Why here? Why not some hotel? Why did he steal her away from the Concert Hall? “Ah…” Remembering her little plea to him, and the reason why had her shivering anew. Her stepfather. Andreas Fornault’s face emerged in her mind, of him sitting in a seat, just off the center of the concert hall. Plain as day with that evil smirk on his face, his piercing aquamarine eyes challenging her. Somehow he had found her, found a way to construct a clever threat to cause maximum chaos. Initial images of the audience beginning to run for the exits sifted into her mind, and she prayed fervently no one had been injured.
Effie wished she could remember more, but her own body’s reaction to the terror sent her sprawling into a faint. The last few months had been exhausting, and anxiety filled for her concert series. Now those hopes were destroyed. Ticket sales would plummet, and cancellations assured. Not with someone stalking her, and creating a threat to her fans. Her manager Larry Pfisner would be livid. They had tried to keep a lid on the nasties, but not with the intellect and possessiveness of Andreas Fornault. He was too good at what he did. Had been all her life.
Her shoulders fell, realizing her efforts to disappear, to escape him had been for nothing. Larry was good at his job, one of the best in the business, and she had left her security up to his knowledge. He was controlling ever aspect, commanding her at every turn. And she hated that squat little man with his pudgy features, and beady black eyes. But he had never gone up against a man like her stepfather. This just confirmed all the recent threatening letters she had been receiving, explained who had sent them. Someone had lied to her about his death, about the fatal wound that she had supposedly inflicted upon his face, and neck. Andreas Fornault had risen from the dead to continue his want to possess her body and soul. That was more than a sobering thought, that scared her to the center of her very spirit. She might not survive another encounter.
Effie hung her head on her folded arms, and silently cried, knowing her concert series was now defunct, and her life hanging on a thin filament of existence. She had finally had the confidence to reach out and achieve her full potential. This had been the first time she had had several of her own pieces in the program, and before the attack, had only the fear of the potential reviews to contend with, not some maniac hell bent on ruining her life. “Damn you Andreas, damn you to hell. Why can’t you leave me alone?”
The stranger’s face swam before her vision, and her dream replayed in her mind. She had felt the rock hard contours of his muscles beneath her fingers, had felt the strength of his arms, and broad shoulders as he had cradled her close to his body. She moaned again, cradling her head, “Did you really ask him if he was your dream? Effie!”
That one dream that lingered long after all her other ones had dissipated into the ether. Even now her mind played with variations. The thought of his touch excited and frightened her. Effie’s head shot up. Maybe he was the answer to her dilemma. Of finally ridding her life of Andreas’s presence. “NO! You can’t do that Effie. You know what that man is capable of. You can’t let anyone else die by his hands.” But what if her stranger won, what if he defeated Andreas and sent him packing? Found a way to put him behind bars for the rest of her life?
Her dream took on a whole new meaning as it played in her mind. Effie wanted to nuzzle into the crook of his neck again, and inhale that warm spicy scent that seemed to linger about his shirt. She wanted to smell the fragrance on him. She lifted the other pillow on the bed, and the scent permeated the pillow case. She rolled down, and over to the other side. The scent lingered here, beneath her touch and she buried into the sheets, wrapping the duvet about her, cocooning into the warmth her body created.
Maybe this was her dream and if it was, she would like to remain, never wake up as long as her stranger walked through that door, return to this bed and stayed. Where the hell was he? Who was he? A flash of an image of her stepfather sitting in the audience, standing and pointing at her cast ice water over her erotic dream. The dark stranger had carried her way from that monster, and was it too much to hope for salvation? There had been very little in her life, maybe just this once.
Andreas Fornault had not aged or changed one bit since the last time she had seen him. Well, all except the livid scar that marked his skin. She had been totally immersed in her music and not cast her eyes to the audience. She had been taught not to look, to focus her attention completely on her instrument, and what she was doing. The lighting had been constructed to cloak them in total darkness, and that had allowed him to sneak into the audience and hide in plain sight. Just like him to wait till that moment when her eyes would be cast to the audience to scare her. She shivered and pulled the goose down comforter closer. All of the images of her horrid childhood came flooding back.
Her mother on her knees scrubbing their kitchen floor, washing away the blood with stringent bleach. Margaret Fornault holding a frozen pack of peas against her cheek to stave off the swelling of her blackened eye after fighting with her drunken stepfather. The shouting that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The red rimmed eyes and sour breath of Andreas bending down and saying hello as she sat at the dining room table doing homework. The squeeze of a shoulder that turned into intense petting as she sat across from her mother, and that monster. The embarrassment of his actions, the show, with his sea-green eyes focused on her. Those sexual actions she understood as an adult, but not as a child.
Her mother pushing her into a room and locking her in to protect her from his advances as she grew older. The antiseptic smell of the police station and sitting there on a bench as her mother paid his bail. The thud of her mother's body hitting the hallway floor, and the screech of the window frame as she opened the window to flee into the night. The bloody paring knife in her shaking hand, and Fornault withering in pain on the floor, yelling at her. The anger, the frustration, the terror, and the deep revulsion churning her stomach even now. The threats levied against her in a court of law. The loneliness of her life in the big city without friends or family, afraid to go out, and enjoy her life.
Effie closed her eyes, shook her head to clear her mind, and stall the tears that ran down her cheeks. Why had Andreas come back into her life? Why now after all this time? Her life had been going so well, she was making a name for herself, and hoped to go international. She had left that nightmare behind, and what he had done to her. Ten years he had stolen from her, and she was still trying to recover a degree of normalcy sixteen years later.
Fornault was back to steal her life all over again. His parting words sixteen years ago ghosted up through her mind as he was led away by the authorities. "Someday bitch, I will have you just like I had your Mama. And you will get yours for what you did to me."
She pulled the duvet over her head and retreated into her own imagination; the one thing that had saved her from going mad. No, she could not do that. She wasn't ten anymore. She needed to do something and maybe the fates had put the dark stranger in her path to help her. She would have to play this carefully. Not many men stuck around once they learned what had happened to her, and what she had done. Especially, after what she had done to her stepfather. She sighed and let her mind empty. She couldn't do anything till he returned, and so closed her eyes, and fell back to sleep.