He just kept talking. She nodded and smiled when appropriate and tried to think of ways to get back to the house before he tried anything resembling seduction. “I remember your story from years ago,” he said, giving her pause. “You wrote about your picnic in the woods with Richard. I never knew it was true.”
A picnic in the woods. Richard had taken her into the forest for a moonlight picnic. She never wrote that it was a picnic. Richard must have mentioned it to Alex at some point. She felt her chest tighten. What else did he know, or believe he knew?
“Oh, Alex, that was fiction. An exaggeration for its own sake.”
“You don’t have to soften it, Rory. I know the truth.”
Sighing, she rolled her eyes. He wasn’t listening to her. This time the sky was blue.
When Richard had stopped, she remembered how the trees had seemingly curled over the two of them, their branches arching up and coming down as if they were claws pausing in their attack. The branches weren’t menacing now, not when they were covered in green leaves.
Alex was waiting. “Are you all right?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not feeling that well.”
“Is it because I mentioned Richard?”
She shook her head. “No. That was a long time ago. I’m past that. Alex, I’d like to go back now. I think all of this is catching up with me. I’m getting a terrible headache.”
“You know,” he said, moving behind her and putting his arms around her shoulders. “Perhaps it’s time I tell you my surprise.”
“That would be nice, Alex, but you’ve too much already,” she said, trying to pull away.
He was too strong for her. His hands ran down her arms and captured her hands. He held them tightly to keep her in place, kissed her neck, then whispered in her ear.
“Rory, I did something for you. Something wonderful. I know you’ll appreciate it. I just know it.” His kisses were trailing along her shoulder and neck now. “I love you, Rory. You and I were meant to be together.”
“Let me go, Alex.”
“Let me prove it first, darling.”
No, no, no! she shook her head, unable to form her denial. A picnic in the woods. Just like Richard.
“I’d never force you, darling. When I tell you what I did, you’ll have me willingly. I just know it.”
She shook her head again, fighting the rising hysteria. What have I done? Dear God, what have I done?
“Alex, no!” she cried, trying to pull free and failing.
“You and me, right here,” he said, his voice getting harsher. “Don’t fight me. We’ll make love, Rory. You have to understand, I did this for you. You have to thank me.”
“NO!” Rory’s scream finally exploded from her as he wrestled her to the ground.
“You don’t understand, Rory! I love you! I did this for you!”
He face was inches from hers as he pinned her down. “I did this, all of this, for you! I had it all figured out, we would come up here and have a picnic and it would be everything that your first one wasn’t! I wanted to make the bad memories go away!”
“I don’t love you!”
He slapped her. “Shut up.” He looked at her then, his expression unreadable. “I knew you’d say that. But it doesn’t matter now, Rory. I saw you the other night, fucking that bastard Ransome on your couch. You didn’t even have the brains to close your curtains. I thought you were smarter than that, Rory. I thought you were better than that.”
“Alex, please, listen to me!”
“You’re not allowed to talk now, princess.” He moved swiftly, closing his hand around her neck. “Now be a good girl and quit fighting me. I can’t make you happy if you make me kill you.” His free hand came up to caress her cheeks, right then left, while the other threatened to crush her windpipe. His fingers traced her features. “Who would have thought that you’d grow up to look so good? You were such a little nobody. Not nearly as exciting as Julie. Too bad she had to die so young.
“I’ll make it good for you, if you let me. When we make love, it will heal you. Richard will never haunt you again. He’s dead, Rory. I killed him for you. Just like you hoped, though it wasn’t a ‘guilty death by his own hand’ as you wrote it would be. I had to help him along.” The terror on her face delighted him.
Smiling with pride, he continued. “I knew you’d like that. I know, too, that you have a morbid streak, so you’ll like this next part even more.” He leaned down to breathe his next words into her ear.
“I’m going to have you right here, Rory. We’ll make love. Right here. On his grave.”