Chapter 9: Hangover
Great Prophet Isaiah! This awakening is hitting me hard in the head. My eyelids feel like they are made of lead, my mouth is stuffed with sand and my stomach is on the super quick spin program. At least it’s quiet and dark here.
And where is here exactly? I fight with my reluctant eyelids and I open them. Standard issue ceiling that can be anything from a cheap hotel to a jail cell. I make an effort to get up but the world spins faster than even Dead or Alive ever dreamt of.
“Take it easy.”
That voice...That soft, deep voice. Runner. My eyes suddenly snap open and I lift my torso in a move that comes to bite me in the ass. I get seriously dizzy and light-headed and my eyes instinctively close back down.
“I said,” I feel a pair of strong arms around me, “take it easy.”
I open my mouth but there is no way coherent words will come out of that vast desert so I shut it before I start croaking like a frog.
“You need to drink water, Magda. I will pull you up just a little.”
I fight with all I’ve got and I slowly open my eyes again and try to focus. When I finally do, I see that I am in a room with shut windows and simple furniture and an open door to a bathroom. But my interest in decoration fades when my eyes fall on Runner. He is shirtless – again - and it takes me a few seconds to appreciate all his broad, hairy chest and the long cross hanging around his neck. That cross... A flash memory comes to me but I can’t focus clearly.
I look up and meet his warm eyes. His hair is tousled and his thick eyebrows are knit as he regards me with worry. Ava, Lysa and Iris were so so so wrong. This man is the most handsome man, not only amongst the Riders but ever!
“Magda, drink the water!” Runner orders agitated and I comply.
I sip the water and take the Advil he is offering me. I have been hit hard in the ring and woke up in the hospital but this... I never thought that the innocent-looking cocktails with their umbrellas and fruits and plastic monkeys could do such damage. Of course, I was taking antibiotics and that didn’t help.
There’s the croak I’ve been fearing. This is so embarrassing! Here he is looking like a real-life Adonis and I am dazed and perhaps smelly and god knows what else. But then again, he was there when I was tied to a wall when I was first brought in, screaming and kicking so this is probably the best he has ever seen me.
“You’re in my room,” he says suddenly too pre-occupied with the water bottle he is holding.
Did we...? I remember almost nothing from last night. I was at the escort and we drunk and danced and then we were arguing which of our men... Correction! They were arguing which of their men is the most handsome and Ava practically shoved us in her car but not before Lysa grabbed a bottle of rum and we drunk more on our way to the clubhouse and then...blank.
This is why the prophets warned against the damn alcohol. Because you drink and do stupid things and you end up naked like Noah and your sons are embarrassed and one of them might have stuck up your ass – yes, I read the Bible and I suspect what Ham did to his father. Not the time for theological inner discussions! I yell internally. I am in Runner’s room! In his bed!
“Why?” I am instantly sober.
OK, this is not looking good. Not good at all. I check quickly under the covers and I see that I am naked underneath a black “Riders of Tyr” t-shirt. I glance up with wide eyes and Runner shrugs.
“That is not an answer,” I panic. “You can’t say that I am in your room, in what looks like one of your t-shirts and just shrug! Oh, god, please tell me that we didn’t...” I wave between us ducking his look.
I bury my face in my hands in embarrassment and I avoid his eyes. This is so fucking confusing and bad.
“God, please tell no,” I say mostly to myself. “I was drunk for crying out loud!” I look up to him.
Runner gets up and stands by the bed, forcing me to look up. All the way up, from the loose, torn jeans up to his long neck, from the deep V-shape of his abs up to those unruly curls. Sweet Mother Mary, I pray for strength cause suddenly having sex with him feels like the best idea ever. Especially as Runner looks down with a dark, heavy look verging on angry which should scare me if it didn’t make him look hotter.
I get it. I am probably accusing him of something without even giving him the chance to talk. I owe the guy more so I nod and keep my mouth shut for once and he seems to read my action correctly.
“You came with the girls. You weren’t feeling well.”
“I wasn’t feeling well?”
Runner takes a few steps back and sits on a big, comfy leather armchair. He throws a pillow he has there on the floor and sits on the sheet that is thrown over the armchair. He looks back to me, his finger tracing his bottom lip. Another flash. I frown in confusion but he beats me to it.
“You really don’t remember anything?”
“No,” I shake my head and fall back on my pillows.
“You were pretty drunk. And let’s say that there is a reason I am not wearing my boots.”
I look at him and he is smiling. Facepalm time. I do just that. Hide my face in my hands. I puked on him. I puked on the one man I have ever found hot in my life. Hooray! The bright side is that he probably wasn’t into sexy times. Having a girl turn your boots into a vomitorium, kind of kills the mood.
“Don’t worry,” he laughs. “Tar is taking care of that. That’s what thralls are for. So, you were sick and the rest of the girls were...indisposed at the time.”
I have another flash. Lysa is on the bar kissing with Vik, Rage drags Iris down the hall, holding her in his arms, her legs wrapped around him and Ava pushes Bjorn back in his chair while he looks at her as if he won the lottery. And me...What am I doing? Probably puking rum and lime in a charming way.
“I am sorry, Runner.”
“As I said. It’s OK,” he sounds a bit angered.
I would be too if I had to take care of a boot-puking girl instead of making out with a woman. It was a bachelor party after all and I doubt men like him spend bachelor party nights alone. Or any other night for that matter.
“My clothes?” I need to get out of here.
“Clothes? You were wearing a swimsuit and a freaking handkerchief,” Runner says and his look turns a bit deeper.
“Yeah, those,” I am struggling to look away.
“They probably need incineration but I had Tar give it a go.”
“Who...Uhm...You took care of me?”
Silence. I dare look up to him and he has placed his elbows on the arms of the chair and twined them under his chin. His eyes are narrowed and laden with more than I can take so I clear my throat to keep in check.
“I did,” he shrugs. “I took off your clothes and gave you a cold bath and then put you in bed.”
All hot thoughts leave my brain and there is only thing I hear: I was helpless at the mercy of a man that touched me and saw me naked. It took 8 years of psychotherapy just to be able to function as a normal human being. As normal as people like Salome and me could ever be that is. 8 long years to be able to walk among people without screaming. I gave a promise to myself to never be helpless again. Not again, never again. Dread fills me and disgust, so much that I groan.
“I slept on the armchair,” his voice is soothing. “I would never touch you.”
His soft yet imperative tone makes me focus on him. When I do, his face melts into a boyish expression.
“I mean, not never never,” he is at a loss for words. “I meant if you wanted... I would touch you. I would like to touch you... What I want to say is that you are touchable but not while...”
Seeing a man like Runner lose his words like that is the best remedy for past nightmares coming to haunt you. I tighten my lips to keep them from bursting into a full-blown laughter and I shake my head in a very sympathetic way. He chuckles and runs his fingers through his curls and he is so cute! Ohgodohgodohgod! I should have never talked to him, Now, I am going deeper and deeper and deeper and instead of being scared, I never want this to end!
“I’ll get you breakfast,” he gets up.
“I would prefer a pair of...something so I can get up. I don’t like feeling helpless.”
“Right,” that dark look is back.
He regards me sullenly for a few seconds and then he moves to a wardrobe. He shuffles through it and throws a pair of super tight jean shorts on the bed. That’s not his.
“I got no shoes and you came in...” he swallows, “barefoot.”
He throws me an unpacked pair of panties as well. I look at the shorts as if they have said something incredibly insulting. That’s one hell of a pair of tight shorts. A pair that was filled by a nice, round and more importantly by a willing-to-be-fucked-by-Runner ass.
“What the hell did she leave in?” I can’t hold back.
“Why should I care?”
“And the underwear?”
“I’ve had complaints,” he smirks.
I frown. At this, he leans in and locks his eyes in mine. My skin is prickled and I grab the sheets by the tension I feel.
“Co...complaints?” I don’t like this heavy silence.
His lips twist in a wicked smile and he glances down my lips before licking his own. King Solomon, I want him closer. There is no way to deny this. He could push me back in the mattress and take me and I wouldn’t put up a fight.
“I like to rip them off,” Runner breaths on my face.
I stop breathing and time stops too. I try to fight it away but the image of Runner naked over me, ripping apart my panties before... Stop it! Now. Instead, I choose to focus on the fact that women walk in here and leave without their clothes. The thought that there was a woman in here, in this very bed, that took off those slutty jeans and crawled into bed with Runner, makes me boil inside.
I grab the jeans and I fist them, almost letting my anger loose and tear them apart. But I don’t. I take one deep breath and pin him with a look. I got no right or business to be mad or jealous or have any other feeling towards Runner than mild gratitude. So, I will keep being mildly grateful while keeping an eye on an ass that could fit these jeans so I can beat the shit out of it! Great job on not being mad.
“A little privacy?” I demand.
“Don’t you think it’s a little late for that?”
“No,” my face turns into an icy cold mask.
I don’t know how this man takes his women, but compliant and easy is not the flavor I provide. I think. But what I do know is that if he won’t leave the room in two minutes, we’ll have a real problem.
“Sure,” he mockingly bows pointing at the bathroom. “I got fresh towels in there and a brand-new toothbrush. If you take a shower, watch your leg. Close the door when you leave.”
That’s all he says, grabs a white sleeveless tee off the armchair and his cut, throws them on and walks outside in angry strides. I let out a breath of air and get up slowly. I should be happy that he did as I asked but then why do I feel shitty? Maybe because that’s a default in my life.
I hop to the bathroom and I let my eye wander on all the things that are his. Not so many things here, just some folded towels on the sink and a toothbrush. I throw water on my face and glance at the mirror. For the first time in my life, I am looking at a mirror not to practice my fight moves but to see if... If I am beautiful. I never wanted to be, I hated when boys and men gave me their attention though I used it to get Jack do my bidding. And look how great that turned out.
I wipe my face and brush my teeth before slipping those jeans on, making sure I don’t disturb my bandages. They seem fresh and clean so I guess I got one more thing to be thankful to Runner for. I glance at the shower. A sudden image of him holding me naked, letting water on my body, probably making sure my leg stays dry in his usual, caring way. And then his big hands on me, cleaning my wound, touching the skin on my thighs.
I want him to come back, open the door and lock it behind him and then walk up to me as I am leaning on the sink. In my fantasy, his body is against mine, his lips on my lips, his hands where I need them.
No! I scream in my head and remove my hands from where I dreamt his would be. What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve had sex. I didn’t like it but I wouldn’t let that son of a bitch of a father take that away. But I never enjoyed it. My mind was always struggling to keep me from screaming or break a neck when I was touched. But with Runner...
I finish up as quickly as I can and leave the room behind. The more I stay here, the more dangerous it is for me. Before I go out, I look down and see that the oversized t-shirt covers those jeans. I don’t want to walk around in those but I don’t want people to think that I am naked underneath either so I tie a knot on one side then I go out the corridor and follow my nose to the kitchen.
It’s a big space with state of the art appliances, a big breakfast island, and a large, wooden table. Ava is at the table with Bjorn and they play with their daughter that laughs lightly. Iris sits on Rage’s lap and toys with his mohawk while he nibbles on her neck. At least Lysa and Vik seem to be in the same miserable condition as I am. Runner is nowhere to be seen.
“Having our parties so far before the wedding was the best idea ever, princess,” Vik downs what seems Alka Seltzer.
Lysa holds her head and nods while Vik massages her neck with his free hand. I sense movement and I see a Rider cook enormous quantities of food with extreme ease.
“Oh, good morning, Magda,” Iris is the first to notice that I am here. “Coffee? Wood can make you something to eat,” she points at the one cooking and then turns to him. “Sure you don’t need any help by the way?” Iris asks.
“He doesn’t,” Rage traps his Valkyrie in his arms while eyeing Wood warningly.
I turn to the man and he watches the couple with a deep hurt look. He swallows, closes his eyes, tenses his jaw and then comes back to me as if nothing transpired. He winks at me behind a mountain of bacon and a ton of scrambled eggs and he offers me a plate. That’s when I see the Navy Seals tatt on his arm. I know this guy! That man led the assault to Jack’s warehouse. And he is serving me breakfast! Riders can be quite vindictive and very forgiving at the same time.
“Thanks,” I smile awkwardly. “It looks delicious. Uhm...”
“Can I have a little bit more bacon?”
I love bacon. “Father” never let me and Salome have any and when I got out in the world it was the first thing I wanted to taste. Wood chuckles heartily and puts more on my plate and I am glad that he doesn’t even seem to notice that half my ass is hanging out of these damn shorts.
“I like you already,” he smiles at me.
I nod and I look around. Do I get to sit with the rest of them? There are Riders and their Valkyries and I am nobody to the club. Not exactly nobody. I had Daniel kidnapped and Lysa dragged down into an elaborate scheme so I could kill her but I am not sure which is the right table for that. If I was not feeling so uncomfortable, I would laugh at the ironic, comic turn my life has taken.
“Spend some quality time with your daughter, big guy,” Ava passes the baby to Bjorn and gets up. “Bride-to-be,” she motions Lysa to the empty breakfast island and takes me and Iris by the arm.
I sit down and I dive into the very much needed food but I feel Ava’s eyes on me. Iris is smiling softly but patiently and - thank God - Lysa is back to being hang-overed to mind me.
“So, did we reach a verdict, ladies?” Ava smiles.
“What verdict?” Lysa is in despair.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the hottest of them all?”
I look down at my plate and stuff my mouth so as to avoid this conversation. Thinking of Runner is worst than facing Lysa, Daniel and all my guilts. If I pretend that this is not affecting me, maybe Ava will lay off her KGB interrogation.
I cough and spit out half-eaten bacon in my plate. Cool, I clean myself up still avoiding Ava.
“Well, I stand by my decision,” Lysa seems unaware of what’s going on. “Vik was so hot and sexy up on that bar...”
“One might think that from up there you would have the perfect view on a preeeetty hot scene last night,” Ava interrupts.
“Oh, god. We didn’t offer a live sex show, did we?” Lysa looks around agitated.
“Nope,” Ava turns to me.
I chew my food and swallow but Ava still eyes me as if waiting from me to add something. Is she talking about me puking on Runner’s shoes? Oh, god no. Let me finish breakfast and then I can be embarrassed with a full, eased stomach.
“What?” I wave my fork. “So, I puked on Runner’s shoes. Haha. Funny. Bad-ass girl can’t handle her liquor. Good morning to you, too.”
“You did what?” Lysa smiles.
“No no no,” Ava leans closer. “I am talking about what happened before you puked on his boots. And ruined my hot moment with Bjorn, by the way. Though we should be used to puking right now. Αnyway...”
Before? The cross, his arms, his warm breath. His fingers are touching my lips. They are tracing the tattoo on my back. Close, too close. I drop the fork. My heart beat races so fast it can measure nanoseconds.
“Magda?” Iris touches my arm.
I remember! I kissed him! I kissed Runner. I pulled him down by that cross and I kissed him. And he kissed me back. He really, really kissed me back. Why didn’t he tell me?
“What is going on?” Lysa demands.
“I...” I stutter. “I...”
“Oh, come on,” Ava exasperates. “She and Runner kissed.”
“WHAT?” Lysa and Iris jump up causing everyone in the kitchen turn to us.
“What?” Lysa asks again.
“You heard her,” it’s my turn to hide my head in my hands.
“How did this happen? Did he come to you? What did he say? Was it good?” Lysa is sober instantly.
“Wow, slow down with the third-degree. I barely remember it happened.”
“Well, being the designated driver of the night, I can inform you that poor Runner was minding his own business when our girl here sassed her way there, rubbed against him, pulled him by his cross and kissed his lights out,” Ava reports triumphantly. “And then spilled her guts on his boots.”
“Fuck, I missed that! Damn, I am never drinking again!” Lysa hits her hand on the table.
“With you, princess,” Vik chuckles, “but keep it down.”
“Sorry, babe, but Magda...”
“Nope,” I react fast and shut her mouth with my palm.
Bjorn and Vik look at us and then at each other and shrug. Only Rage is bent over a sketchbook and works without looking up.
“Are you crazy?” I whisper. “Don’t tell anyone.”
“I am pretty sure that there were quite a few people in,” Ava says.
“Besides, if you ask me, Runner seemed pretty sober.”
I squeeze my eyes together as if that would save me from the shame I feel. I kissed Runner! And the worst part? I don’t remember it as clearly as I’d like. What a freaking fool.