An oppressive weight pressed my body hard against the mattress beneath me. Panic began to grow, quickly threatening to overwhelm me. My heart rate escalated when I became aware of a large hand clamped tightly over my mouth, pressing so hard the inside of my lip began to bleed as the edge of my bottom teeth cut in to it from the pressure, leaving me with a bitter taste of copper on my tongue. Long, strong fingers were digging ferociously in to my cheeks, so hard I knew there would be small bruises from the force.
Fear and self-preservation kicked in, making me react.
Thrashing my legs around beneath the sheet I tried valiantly to shift the weight from on top of me, the hand over my mouth muffling my screams that were trying to get out and lodging them in the back of my throat. My heart raced, pounding in my chest. I whimpered, realizing my attempts were futile against his weight as tears of regret gathered in the corners of my eyes, overflowing until they trickled down the side of my cheeks and dripped into my hair and the sheet beneath.
It hadn’t always been like this.
He hadn’t always been like this.
For one brief second, I felt great sadness, for what could have been.
My breathing became erratic and I felt his weight shift slightly. A glimmer of hope began to grow, slightly easing the rising flow of panic welling through me, until I realized he’d only shifted enough to pull at the sheet covering my body.
That realization quickly extinguished that small glimmer, snuffing it out as quickly as blowing out a candle. The sheet removed, I was left naked and shivering, but not from the cool air of the room caressing my skin. It was outright fear.
Why? The question had been asked, but I’d never received an answer.
His free hand captured my left wrist in a vice-like grip that I knew I’d never pull out of. His superior strength won out, forcing my arm down the side of my body where he immediately clamped a bent knee on top of my palm, crushing my fingers beneath his weight.
I didn’t think my eyes could widen any more. But they did.
He repeated the action with my right wrist, despite my efforts to fight against him. I was no match for him---I never had been. I heard the swish of his leather belt as he tore it out of the loops of his black denim jeans like the warning hiss of a snake before it struck.
The determined look in his eyes as he threaded one end of the belt beneath my neck turned my blood to ice as it coursed through my veins. I watched with disbelief while the corners of his mouth turned up in a slight smirk when he put the end through the buckle and pulled. It constricted around my throat, so tight I thought he was going to crush my windpipe, leaving me gasping for every slight bit of air I could find.
He removed his hand slowly from my mouth and lowered his head to whisper in my ear. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end under his breath.
“Don’t scream, Cherub. Or I’ll pull harder. Understand?”
As if to remonstrate, the belt tightened for a brief moment and I nodded, expediently conveying my willingness to comply. The tightness around my throat eased off a little and I drew a deep breath, expanding my lungs to capacity.
He moved his knees off my hands and I instinctively flexed my sore fingers on both hands as he slid down the length of my body, his hips hovering over mine while he used his kneeto wedge between my closed legs, forcing them to part as I grappled with the hand holding the belt firmly around my throat.
Trying to pry his fingers from the grip he had on the belt infuriated him. The sickening thud as his fist connected to the left side of my face, crashing against my cheek stunned me into letting go of his fingers. Once more I tasted blood. I saw stars behind my eyelids, brilliant flashes of white dotting like a kaleidoscope, and felt the rising of my flesh as it swelled and throbbed. Fuck, that hurt!
Fumbling with his one free hand, he released the button of his jeans, and drew the zip down, pushing them down over his hips to gather just above his knees. He held his erection in his free hand and positioned his swollen smooth head at my entrance as he lowered himself down on top of me.
Leering down at me, his face was just inches away from my eyes. I could smell the familiar peppermint on his breath as his lustful eyes held my terrified gaze. He rocked the head of his cock up through my channel, ready to plunge. Distracted from his hold on the belt, the pressure around my throat eased off.
Taking one last lungful of air, I screamed as loud as I possibly could.
Bathed in perspiration, my skin glistened. The surface of my body felt clammy. My lungs heaved and my heart thumped wildly against my ribs. Each rapid beat shook my body, escalating the sound through my ears as I heard the blood rushing through my veins. As I sat up on my bed, gasping as if I’d just finished running a grueling marathon, the door of my bedroom burst open, flooding the room with light.
“Sammi? You ok?” Toni’s breathless voice, full of concern, demanded an answer.
I couldn’t answer. I was still trying to catch my breath. So I bobbed my head quickly, nodding. Fuck you Nathan.
Toni quickly crossed to the bed and sat next to me, gathering me in her arms, saying nothing. She just held me while my tears flowed freely down my cheeks and dripped off the end of my chin on to her shoulder. Her hand rubbed slowly and calmly up and down my back.
“Nightmare?” She asked gently in my ear. I nodded, my chin banging against her shoulder as I did. “Him?” The disdain in her voice was clear as she asked, sure she already knew the answer before she gave voice to the question. Again I nodded, this time my chin digging in to the flesh of her shoulder. “You haven’t had one for a while.”
“S-S-sorry I woke you…” I managed to apologize in a faltering voice. Toni’s little chuckle make her shoulders shake against my chest.
“Honey, you’d have woken the dead with that one.” I groaned and buried my head in the side of her neck, my voice muffled as I spoke.
“Was it really that bad?”
“Yeah…it really was.” She conceded. I gave her a quick squeeze and lifted my head, pulling back and out of her comforting arms.
“Tone, I’m fine…why don’t you try and get some more sleep?”
Her alert eyes held my gaze as I rubbed at my temple. “Getting a migraine?”
I nodded as I continued to rub, trying to stave off the inevitable but knowing it wouldn’t help. I almost always ended up with one after my nightmares.
“I know it’s my turn to drive this week Tone, but I think you might have to when we leave.”
Toni nodded in agreement as she got up off the bed and looked down at me. “Don’t worry about that, Honey. You gonna take some of your medication?”
I nodded slowly with a heavy sigh. “Might have to I think.” I knew if I dwelled on it, as I usually did, my migraine would escalate to epic proportions, and the only thing that would help to ease the intensity of it would be to take a couple of my tablets. However they made me drowsy and I didn’t trust myself to drive when I’d taken them. Toni patted the side of my leg in a motherly way.
“Take them. Get some more sleep. I’ll drive.” She paused near the door, turning back to me before she disappeared. “You sure you’re going to be fine?” She asked again.
“I’m sure Tone.”
Satisfied with my answer, she gave another quick nod before she left my room and closed the door behind her, leaving me to my thoughts.
I scrambled over to the edge of my bed and eased open the drawer of my cabinet. I stared at the pills, grimacing a little as my head pounded even more. Disgustedly reaching for them I popped two out of their little silver foil and in to the palm of my hand. I undid the lid on the bottle of water sitting on the cabinet top before I bought my palm up and threw the two tablets in my mouth, swallowing mouthful after mouthful of water to wash them down.
As I lay back on the bed, waiting for them to work their magic, memories began to flood my mind.
I’d been naïve, young, stupid, and probably had the word gullible written in big black letters across my forehead, the day Nathan and I met. I
wasn’t to know that my world would be turned completely upside down and inside out---never to be the same again.
It had been over four years, but I could still remember every detail, every conversation, everything ever done, as if it were yesterday.
It was still so raw.
He had been a patient in the hospital where I worked in the kitchen. It had been a fill-in job, until I’d managed to find something more suitable, to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.
Looking back, I had been ripe for the picking.
An easy target. Young and innocent.
And in hindsight, so fucking stupid.
He’d spoken to me that first time I’d taken the meal trolley up to the ward where he was staying, as he passed me in the corridor. I had no idea why he was in that ward. And I’d wished fervently a million times over during the last four years that he’d never been there in the first place.
All I’d seen was the drop-dead gorgeous, was-probably-a-model guy taking the time out to inquire about my day. His smouldering deep gray eyes travelled casually over me as we spoke. His gaze made my skin tingle as they swept over me, as if he’d reached out a hand and trailed a finger over me, yet hadn’t touched me at all. Excitement ignited and raced up my spine.
He was older. He was a lot older.
At seventeen, anyone older than thirty was ancient. If I’d had to hazard a guess, I would have said he was right up there. But his smoking hot body belied his age.
The flimsy gowns they gave the patients to wear sometimes didn’t leave much to the imagination. It amazed me that they walked around the corridors of the hospital in those things. There would be no way I would have. Yet it didn’t seem to worry the handsome stranger standing in front of me in the slightest.
“Will you be delivering my meals?” His voice swam over my senses like caramel over ice-cream. I coughed and averted my eyes as my face started to burn.
“Oh no sir, I only bring the trolley up to the ward.” I’d felt so light-headed when he sulked and appeared to be disappointed, and would have swooned had I not slumped against the wall behind me as he nodded and I watched his tight bare ass leave the corridor. It had taken several minutes before I could resume pushing the meal
trolley down the corridor, in the opposite direction.
During the next shift that I worked, I was asked to make a special delivery. It seemed I had been requested to deliver the meals straight to a private room.
He was shirtless, wearing silk drawstring sleeping pants that hung low over his hips. His magnificently rippled abs were bare and temptingly on display.
I tried not to stare. I tried really hard.
In spite of my trying, something that perfect, that tantalizing, man that was hard to ignore and I found myself sneaking furtive looks his way at every opportunity. His sly smile and quiet
chuckle indicated I may not have been very successful in my efforts, which in turn painted my face a decidedly crimson shade of embarrassment!
In hindsight, I immensely regretted taking that job.
In fact, I would go so far as to say it was the biggest mistake of my life up to that point.
With a sigh I settled back underneath the doona, my eyelids drooping heavily. My memories began to fade as the medication kicked in, and I couldn’t fight any longer to stay awake, succumbing to the beckoning blackness.
Groaning, I reached out and hit the snooze button on the alarm buzzing incessantly on the top of the bedside cabinet.
Just five more minutes!
Three times I hit the snooze button before I decided that if I didn’t get out of bed right then I would make both of us late for work. And if I did that, Toni would skin me alive! Literally.
With bed hair, and still wearing the oversized t-shirt that I slept in, I wandered out to the kitchen and found Toni already up. She was impeccably dressed with her make-up done and hair arranged, warming her hands around a hot cup of already brewed coffee.
“Morning.” I mumbled as I shuffled past her and to the coffee machine.
“You look like shit.”
Toni never sugar-coated her observations. I found her refreshing. Others found her rude. At least I knew if I asked if my ass looked big in a pair of jeans I was contemplating on purchasing, she would give me an honest answer, irrespective of whether it was an answer I wanted to hear or not --- it would at least be the truth.
Truth was important to me. I hated liars.
I’d had enough people in my short life who were more than willing to lie, and after the last big doozie, I’d decided there was no room in my life for people such as them.
Looking over my mug at her, I took a sip of coffee before I answered. “Gee, thanks for that. I’d hate to see what you’d say if I looked really bad!”
She snorted as she lifted her mug to her mouth. “You know what I’d say. I’m honest!”
A smile tugged at the corners of my lips. “And that’s exactly why I love you Tone.”
She smiled back and took another sip. “Can you be ready in twenty?”
Didn’t give me much time, but I could do it. “Yep.”
I took one more tablet before I left for work. There was still a dull ache in the back of my head and I erred on the side of caution. There were two types of pain I hated to tolerate---headaches and toothaches. I wasn’t going to give it the chance to get any worse than it was.
Nip it in the bud---that was my motto these days. For absolutely everything.
As she manoeuvred through the morning peak hour on the freeway, switching and jumping from lane to lane, in and out of the speeding traffic faster than I would ever attempt at any time and giving me a heart attack in the process, she was babbling on about plans for the night.
“We’re going to that new club tonight. You wanna come?”
Lucifer’s Den. What a name for a club. It provoked visions of decadence and debauchery, men and women dressed in red leather and horns sticking out of their heads. She had been talking of nothing but this new club for the last few weeks as opening night got closer and closer.
Considering her offer for a moment I shrugged my shoulders. “Maybe.”
She knew me well. Sometimes too well.
“You can’t let him dictate how you live your life, you know.” Her voice was soft as she spoke.
“I know Toni…I just…I wish these bloody nightmares would stop.”
A comfortable silence fell between us.
“If my migraine doesn’t get any worse than it is now, and if I decide to come out with you, we’ll have to catch a taxi so I can have a few drinks.”
A slow smirk crossed her lips. “What? You drink?”
I was normally the designated driver. Everyone who knew me knew I wasn’t a drinker. At least not any more. My taste for alcohol had diminished to below zero after my experience and everyone knew they could rely on me to get us all safely from one point to another on our nights out.
“Ha! I knew I could convince you to cave!”
She looked so pleased with herself, taking it as a win to her for changing my mind. I knew she wouldn’t have given up easily and had decided it was easier to cave now rather than later.
Entering the building, Toni took her place behind the reception desk as I continued on to my office dreading the amount of paperwork I knew was going to be on my desk when I opened the door.
Thank God today is over.
Picking up my bag I joined Toni in reception. Looking up with the phone to her ear as I approached she held up one finger, indicating she’d be another minute or so. Finally ending the call she flicked the switchboard over to night switch.
“Let’s go Sammi. Our weekend has now officially begun!”
She practically floated with excitement. Grinning at her enthusiasm I followed her out. Thank god my migraine had dissipated. I worship those tablets!
Weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway Toni told me of our plans for the night. I just concentrated on not wincing when she got too close to bumpers. I gripped the sides of the seat so hard that I was sure I would end up leaving finger marks indented in them.
Toni liked to be in control, and she was good at it. All I knew was that we would be starting the night at Lucifer’s Den. Whether we stayed there the whole night or moved on elsewhere was to be decided after spending some time in the club, seeing what it had to offer.
“Who’s coming tonight?” Probably just all the usual crew, but it didn’t hurt to ask.
Toni rattled off the names of the girls meeting us there. Kiara, a secretary at a law firm was also a netball teammate of Toni’s. Sally worked as a personal trainer at one of the local gyms. Dawn was a clerk at a spare parts company. Leanne had a position as a check out chick down at the local supermarket while Phoebe was a receptionist at a dental surgery. We’re a diverse group but we have loads of fun when we all get together.
“You want to ring Elaine and see if she wants to join us?”
“No, she’s going away with her parents this weekend.”
Elaine had been my friend since early childhood---then more like a sister to me when I could no longer live with the stress and false accusations that had finally been flung at me by my own mother. The last time I’d seen my mother, her face had been twisted with fury as she spat her hateful accusations at me that I was flaunting myself, tempting her husband---my step-father---out of her bed and into mine and calling me a whore.
It hadn’t been my fault that I’d developed quickly and filled out where I was supposed to, as I thinned down everywhere else. But mother had decided that it had been my fault when she’d caught her husband wanking off as he peeked through the door while I was showering one night.
Shaking from the abuse and in tears I’d packed what I could carry in my arms and moved in with Elaine and her family. The saddest part was that I had to leave my twin step-brothers behind. Sometimes, I missed them so much. I didn’t allow myself to think about them too often.
Elaine had settled well amongst our friends on her return to the city four years ago, when I’d needed her support the most.
Opening the front door Toni flounced off to the shower, flippantly asking me over her shoulder to order a taxi for 8pm as she passed through the bathroom door. Damn it! She spent forever in the bathroom under the hot water! Finally I was freshly showered with a towel wrapped around me. She’d left me just enough hot water.
I grabbed my makeup bag, taking it with me to my room. Surveying myself in my full length mirror I couldn’t decide between wearing pants or skirt with a blouse. What about a simple dress? Maybe go with the dress. Even though it was probably going to be cold in the night air, the club should be warm enough.
I settled on a tight emerald green mini with a plunging neckline and low cut at the back, exposing my smooth tanned skin temptingly as it plunged downward.
Although why I bothered I didn’t know.
The Ice Queen. That’s what my close circle of friends had affectionately dubbed me. I dressed to please myself and had lived up to my nickname for four years now. That wasn’t likely to change any time soon.
Gathering my long black hair up in my hands, I twisted and turned in front of the mirror. Hmmm, up or down? With the skin of my back exposed, I decided on up, a long pony tail hanging straight down the middle of my back. It gave me a simple and refined look.
Should I be daring and go without underwear? A shiver of excitement ran through my core at the thought. Deciding I wasn’t quite that game, I settled on a thin lace, light green-coloured thong. It was daring enough to be wearing the revealing dress in the first place and I would be doubly uncomfortable without underwear.
Toni gave the taxi driver the address of Lucifer’s Den and it wasn’t long before we arrived. There were people everywhere. Groaning, I knew it was going to be crowded inside. Handing the driver a fifty to pay for the fare, I joined Dawn, Toni and Kiara who were patiently waiting on the sidewalk after he handed me a few coins in change.
“The girls rang and they’re running late.” She lifted her wrist and quickly checked her watch. ”But they should be here soon.”
Kiara was extremely articulate when she spoke, pronouncing every word correctly and clearly. It probably came from working in the stiff upper-lip environment of her job at the law firm. She started talking animatedly about some new hot client that had come in to the firm where she worked, and that’s about the point that I automatically tuned out. The excitement level in her voice as she babbled on and on about the guy indicated she was more than a little interested in this new client. And not from a work point of view.
I feigned interest, a slight groan here and there as she spoke, but really, I had no interest whatsoever at all. As far as I was concerned, the words hot and guy put together spelled trouble, with a capital T! Every hot guy had ulterior motives. And none of them were good! All of them seemed to be tarred with the same brush.
“Oh---finally!” Kiara voiced her annoyance. Looking in the direction of her gaze I saw the others approaching, and we entered the club as
a large group after being checked out by security at the door.
Holy shit! This place is packed.
My heart rate escalated up a notch. Anxiety started to take hold. Not overwhelmingly, but it started to gather strength the further we proceeded in to the club. I hated crowded
places. Groaning, I knew this was going to be a long night. Why in the hell did I have to cave? The smile of anticipation on Toni’s face didn’t reassure me one bit.
Yep. This night is going to drag!