Chapter 10A Chapter by Nicole
This chapter really is the turning point for the novel and I'm a little intimidated by what's going to come next. A lot is going to start happening in a short amount of time.
As my medical profession matured, I embarked upon a new realm of study that had been my private passion for quite sometime. Of course, the sacred laws set down by Mother forbade the blatant exploration of this subject. But I am one frequently associated with anarchy, heresy, and general stupidity and so it should come as no surprise that I ignored any deterrence I received, and pursued very intensive studies into the nature of my species; particularly into the peculiar nature of our venomous bite on the night of the full moon.
My interest was not in the lore or myth that surrounded it, but rather in scientific measurements of it and factual evidence behind it. Fortunately, I had the perfect set of dual specimens to examine at my leisure; Katia and myself. I recorded every ounce of research I performed, drawing saliva and blood samples as the months progressed and carefully tracking hormonal, blood pressure, body temperature, and other various bodily changes day by day. By the end of my studies, I had produced some rather interesting results that shed new light upon our venomous saliva that was only potent on the night of the full moon.
I was able to deduce that it is a hormone, which I’ve named lupugen, is directly related to the production of the venom that causes the transmission of our genetic construct into a host. It is almost like a disease in the way it behaves, and it only becomes prevalent on that single night every month. Its cycle directly influences mood swings, body temperatures, and the amount of adrenaline in a Lycan individual at any given time.
When a victim is bitten on the night when the lupugen hormone level is extremely high, the saliva becomes the transmittal fluid for an extremely complex virus that acts almost like an uncommonly aggressive cancer. On the one hand, the virus destroys body tissue containing normal human DNA and yet, in the same turn and nearly just as quickly, it rebuilds the tissue with Lycan DNA. The transformation is unbelievably painful and gruesome, lasting nearly 24 hours and often killing the host before the change can be fully completed.
In females, the lupugen hormone is at a much higher level all the time but especially on the night of the full moon. I recorded surprisingly higher levels in Katia than in myself and, while I was unable to test this theory, I am led to believe that the increased potency of her saliva compared to mine would mean that a host bitten by a venomous female would have a quicker, more violent transformation but a higher probability of survival since the transformation would be fairly quick.
In myself, I noted that the lupugen hormone is hardly prevalent at all during the month apart from that one night of the full moon when it appears to be barely high enough to cause transmission of what I can only call the Lycanthropic virus. I can only deduce that this would mean individuals bitten by an infected male would be changed more slowly, with intense pain but with a much higher fatality rate.
From the samples I took of our blood and saliva where lupugen was commonly present, I had been working towards producing an effective “anti-venom,” for lack of a better term. I sought to create complex that could stop and counteract the effects of the Lycanthropic virus. It was difficult, without the ability to test it on infected subjects often enough to establish my progress periodically. But being in a positing in the ER where I frequently came into contact with victims of trauma, I did have a enough chance encounters with those who had been unknowingly infected to test my anti-venom in an attempt to spare their lives, since the chances of survival are typically so low.
What I created could only be called crude at best, without the proper means to fully test it. But I had enough instances of success that I believed that I had finally come up with a complex that did, at the very least, stop the progression of the virus and give the human tissue a chance to repair itself.
Unfortunately, after receiving a few carefully obscure observations by some of Mother’s agents, I was discouraged from continuing my research any further and took all of my findings carefully into concealment and protected storage under my own watchful eye. To continue was to put Katia’s life at risk and I was not willing to jeopardize her discovery by the agents and daughters of Mother for my research. It was bittersweet to stop after how far I’d come and how close I was to obtaining both the answers I sought and an effective anti-venom, but as long as Katia was under my care, I vowed I would not take up those studies again.
The melodious alarm on her phone awoke Charly at an hour before 6 and she bathed and dressed carefully, applying more than her usual amount of makeup and taking the initiative to dress herself in something decidedly more fashionable. She paired a sleeveless lavender dress that came to her knees with a white knit sweater and a pair of stylish sandals. Her reflection was met with a furious little puff of exasperation at the wild curls in her gold hair that refused to arrange themselves the way she wanted.
The second alarm on her phone announced that it was now 6 and she slipped it into a brown leather purse that she rarely ever carried, looping it swiftly over her shoulder and quietly creeping downstairs. The house was dark and quiet, the sun just now beginning to rise. Her father and Sam would be up soon and she was pleased to be leaving before either of them was dressed and moving about the house.
She snapped her coat off of the rack before the front door and swept hastily out of the house, pausing while she locked the door behind her. No sooner had she turned about when she spotted a robustly muscled black car crouched in the driveway. The headlights looked like narrowed eyes and the window tinting refused to allow her to see who was inside through the weak morning light. It certainly wasn’t the car Randolf and Katia had left in the night before.
Charly approached it carefully, unsure until the driver’s window slid down to reveal Randolf’s amused smirk behind the steering wheel. “We’re taking my car today.” He affirmed for her and she rounded the vehicle to sit in the passenger’s side.
The backseat was curiously empty and she cast him a questioning stare after she’d buckled herself into the expensive leather seat. “Where is Katia?”
“Allow me to apologize for our ruse, it was necessary if this was going to work.” He chuckled lightly, wheeling the fiercely powerful sports car around in the driveway as they left. “We aren’t going shopping today and Katia will not be joining us. I hope you aren’t too disappointed.”
Charly was speechless at first, baffled although she’d suspected that the two of them had been up to something from the very beginning. “Where are we going then?”
“This is a date, Miss Charlotte. We’re going to do an assortment of ridiculous things, since you revealed to me that you do indeed enjoy them, and then have lunch together.” He glanced at her where she at in the adjacent seat, “Does this sound agreeable to you?”
With her cheeks pinched with embarrassed rosy color, Charly nodded and laughed a little, looking out the window as the scenery blurred past. “I suppose I’ll have to be pleased with it. You’ve left me with little choice. You went to so much trouble to deceive my parents; how could I refuse?”
“Good.” He sounded satisfied if not a little smug.
“I take it we won’t be purchasing any clothes for Katia, after all.” She sighed, looking disdainfully at the dress she’d worn especially for the occasion.
Randolf laughed again, all too amused as he looked down at her. His casual smiles and admiring glances made her cheeks burn and she fidgeted in her lap. “Katia could not fit another shred of fabric in her closet if she tried.”
“Am I allowed to know where we’re going, if not to Canon City?” She asked with renewed resolve.
He was quick in his response, “Absolutely not. It would ruin everything and Katia has gone to a great deal of trouble to plan this. We’ve been ordered to enjoy ourselves and not to talk about your parents or Westcliffe.”
“What about asking questions?” She quipped, amending his list for her own purposes.
He shrugged where he sat, hardly seeming to be focused on his driving at all as the car picked up speed on the long, featureless paved roads outside of Westcliffe’s town limits. “That hardly seems fair, since this is our first date. But if you insist, I won’t ask too many questions and you don’t have to answer a single one if you don’t want to.”
Charly couldn’t argue with that, though she’d only intended to jab him in jest with her comment in the first place. Every bit of anxiety and harrowing loneliness she’d felt was now instantly resolved as she rode with him, exchanging their witty conversations and discussing Katia’s infatuation with Kim that had likely caused Charly’s phone bill to skyrocket.
They talked casually, bantering back and forth until she finally took notice that they were not making the correct turn to go to Canon City. She’d been right to assume that they weren’t headed for whatever entertainment Canon City had to offer. The road they were on went through to Pueblo and no matter how she asked him, Randolf was resolved not to divulge their destination to her in any way. She was utterly vexed by his determination but could not help but admire it.
“Is a surprise so terrible?” He asked her when they arrived in the city of Pueblo, making a hasty drive towards the Pueblo Memorial Airport. It had only taken an hour to make the drive in his sleek black car that smelled like expensive Italian leather. She felt dirty just sitting in its warm, conforming seats.
“Possibly.” She exhaled the word against the car’s windowpane, fingers gripping anxiously at the seatbelt that crossed her chest. She had never seen an airplane as big as the ones that were parked here, much less ridden on one, and her heartbeat fluttered with a swell of panic as she turned back to sit rigidly in her seat. “Randolf, are we flying somewhere?” Her voice sounded faint and breathless.
He swiftly parked the fierce black car in the airport’s parking lot, hands still resting on the steering wheel as he looked down to her once more.
“Are you afraid of flying?” He sounded concerned.
Charly took another unsteady breath. “I’m not certain.”
A large, startlingly warm hand reached across the seat to touch her chin and slowly turn her face to look at him. It was enough to distract her from the sound of roaring jet engines beyond the car. His eerie colorless eyes were careful but ardent and he smiled gently, calm and constant in his presence and the surety of his touch.
“Trust me, Miss Charlotte. I will return you to your parents house entirely safe and intact, on that you have my word.” His tone was rich and savored of that eloquent German accent. Charly knew that its effect upon her was, while perhaps not being as flamboyant, near the same blushing giddy response that had come from her mother.
He rounded the car swiftly to open the door for her, offering hand to aid in hoisting herself from his robust car that sat so low to the ground. The wind from the tarmac caught in her hair and puffed it about her, filling her skirt and causing her to squint as she emerged. The feel of his hand made her face color further, the strange warmth there stirring memories of the touch of his lips. He moved her with no sign of exertion, looking down to her with so gentle a smile and pressed the broad palm of his hand against the small of her back as he guided her towards the runway.
Randolf led to her to where a small, sleek jet was parked, a man dressed in pilot’s attire standing beside a moveable staircase that led up into the plane’s open door. She was certain that there could not possibly be any color in her face now, even for how Randolf had made her blush. The small jet’s engines hummed with life and power that made her tremble at such a sound. She had never heard it apart from the occasional scream of a large jetliner far up in the sky that passed over Westcliffe now and again.
Randolf smiled at the pilot, shaking hands with him and announcing that they were ready to depart. The pilot, a young handsome man with angelic green eyes and a disarming country smile, shook Charly’s hand as well and followed them both up the staircase to shut the hatch door behind them.
The jet’s interior hardly looked like anything Charly had pictured or seen on television. There were no tightly packed rows of seats, but rather the interior was laid out much like a hotel room of sorts. It was astoundingly lavish and Charly was timid to touch any of the fine couches set along the length of the plane. There was a spacious bathroom, a bedroom separated from the rest of the cabin by two sliding doors, and a den area with an attached bar.
Randolf removed his blazer, unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt and setting his jacket on the arm of one of the couches as he went to the bar to pour two glasses of what appeared to be orange juice.
“Don’t be nervous.” He said with a curious smile, turning around with a glass in each hand, “Have a seat, please, and make yourself at home. Our flight will be about 3 hours so I thought we might have some breakfast.”
Charly swallowed against stiffness in her throat, hedging delicately towards the couch to sit with her legs mashed very neatly together. She took the glass of juice from him, sipping at it once and then content to stare in private awe at the beautiful crystal glass he’d served it in.
“I did not realize you owned a jet.” She staggered through a comment that was as much like herself as she was able to behave.
He chuckled at that, sitting on the couch beside her, while careful not to touch her, and sipped at his own glass for a moment. “I don’t. This is actually my sister’s private jet. She works for Vogue in New York as one of the editors, amongst other things, and is always very generous to her family members.”
“I see.” Charly quirked a quizzical brow at him, “How is it that you can do this on such short notice? What about your job? If you are a doctor, shouldn’t you be on call?”
Randolf smiled knowingly and swirled his glass, seeming to find something silently wrong with the juice. Or perhaps he just wasn’t a juice person.
“My reputation allows me a lot more freedom than most doctors my age.” He said with a small degree of hesitance, “But there are a few things about me, Miss Charlotte, that are better left unspoken at the moment. Please do not take this as a slight to you, that is not my intention. But as I’m sure you don’t wish to reveal to me your entire life’s history, so I’ll veil myself a little until mutual trust is verified.”
Her dark jade eyes narrowed a bit upon him and she pursed her lips slightly. “There are a lot of things you haven’t told me, Randolf. Don’t think for an instant that I’m not aware of that.”
“I would not insult your intelligence by assuming that, Miss Charlotte.” He shifted nervously in his seat and chuckled hoarsely. “Now, if it pleases you, I should like to ask a question.”
Charly turned her eyes down into her glass of orange juice and nodded, “Ask, then.”
Randolf’s head canted to the side a bit, watching her carefully such that she nearly felt the touch of his gaze against her skin. It made her skin prickle and her cheeks bloom with a renewed pink hue.
“How did Sam come to live at your house?” He inquired at last, his tone veiling ravenous interest behind a casual and disinterested tone.
She smirked wryly at him and took her time with theatrics as she drank more of her juice and shrugged her shoulders lightly. “He is the last person in the world I’d want to talk about, Randolf. But if you must know, he is the son of one of my father’s friends. My father is from Denver, originally, and so Sam and his father live there still. My father started hiring Sam when he was in high school to come spend summers at our farm and help with the work. At first my parents’ intentions were benign, hoping that he’d be a good playmate for me and glad to have his help. But my mother recognized what she believed to be a golden and singular opportunity to match us up for all eternity. Unfortunately, Sam was not as appalled by this as I was and whatever friendship we had developed was soon dissolved. Sam was a good boy and he’s grown into a fine, handsome, and essentially good man. But I have no affections for him in the way that he should like, despite how much easier my life would be if I did.” Charly spoke the last bit with a strong flavor of winded despair and finished her juice, cradling the empty glass in her hands and staring down into it.
Randolf appeared satisfied, if not sympathetic, and nodded slowly as he studied her. “Hearts change, Miss Charlotte, and he won’t pine after you forever. He will move on and leave you in peace and be better for it.”
He spoke those words with such certainty that it made her look up with a vexed brow. It was nearly as though he’d been speaking of himself and she felt a nagging at the corner of her heart to think that there had once been another woman that he had pursued who had rejected him as coldly as she rejected Sam. To think of the situation turned that way made her mind reel in enlightened sympathy for both Sam and Randolf.
“What would you like for breakfast? There is not an infinite variety of options, I’m afraid, but I can offer you a choice between an english muffin, a fruit parfait, or a bagel with several flavors of cream cheese.” Randolf amended the awkward silence quickly, standing to go rummage through the cabinets around the bar.
“Fruit would be nice.” She said in a quiet tone that ebbed to silence as the jet began to move and the hum of the engines increased in volume.
The pilot’s voice came over the intercom in the cabin, announcing that they would be taking off shortly and to remain in their seats until they had reached altitude.
Randolf had already prepared the parfait for her and set it into her hands, another crystal stemmed glass with chilled yogurt, freshly diced fruit, and pleasing clusters of granola that she ate out of nervousness rather than hunger. Randolf sat beside her once more, arms resting on the back of the couch and one ankle crossed over his knee. He sighed, leaning his head against the back of the couch as they took off.
Charly did well not to squeal or whimper, but her hands were gripped about her knees so tightly that her knuckles where white and her heart pattered busily in her chest. The sensation of free falling made her stomach flip and flutter and she shrank back against Randolf’s side instinctually as the plane took smoothly to the air.
This must have pleased him because he wrapped his arm around her securely and smiled, watching her as if she mystified him. As if he cherished this and every moment in a way that she didn’t understand.
“Katia is extremely fond of you,” He commented as the plan leveled out at last, the pilot giving them permission over the intercom to move about freely now.
“She’s a very sweet girl.” She replied, “My mother believes it is a shame that you should have to take care of a dependent at your age. I hope I was not speaking out of place, but I told her you probably didn’t feel that way.”
“You would be right.” He answered with a perk of his brow and a signifying pat of his hand upon her shoulder, “Katia and I have learned a lot from each other and living together has been…very beneficial for both of us. I could not have turned her away when she was brought to me and, despite her age, she’s proven to be far wiser than I am in some cases. I would have not been able to assemble the courage to renew my feelings to you without her insistence. Sometimes it is a lot simpler to be a coward.”
Charly laughed in agreement and leaned her head gently against him, the slightest gesture of affection. “I’m very glad you did. I was afraid that I had ruined whatever chance I had once had at getting to know you this way.”
Randolf’s smile of contentment was audible in his voice, though she couldn’t see his bewitching face. “Life has a peculiar way of giving us second chances when we least expect it.”
The flight passed quickly as they talked, exchanging light conversation and subtle affectionate gestures until at last they landed and the pilot came into the cabin to open the hatch and bid them farewell.
Charly was less squeamish and grinned at the handsome pilot, shaking his hand once more but with less hesitance this time. He waved them off as they descended the staircase down onto the runway.
The air was so evidently different that Charly looked about with eyes squinted into the brilliant sunlight and skin tingling against the warm, humid wind.
“Where are we?” She gasped breathlessly, holding onto Randolf’s arm with one arm and following him across the runway to where a taxi was waiting to pick them up outside the terminal.
“This is San Diego.” Randolf answered her, unveiling this portion of his scheme to her at last.
“We’re in California.” She repeated, not as a question, but rather to hear herself verify it out loud.
Randolf’s persona was puffed with pride, walking beside her and opening the cab door for her, “You said you wanted to see the ocean.” He stated that fact with such smug certainty that Charly felt a very childish urge to stick her tongue out at him.
He rounded the cab to sit next to her in the back, requesting that the driver take them to the Bahia Resort Hotel, and settling in for the drive. It proved to be a short one and Charly was speechless the entire way, gaping out the window at the massive buildings that glistened under the tropical sun. Palm trees waved their fronds freely in the wind and people dressed in city fashions walked the sidewalks, skateboarded, rollerbladed, and chatted on street corners. San Diego had an entirely different personality, smell, taste, and touch that permeated her senses and kept her spellbound until the cab stopped at last outside the resort.
She saw it then and opened the car door before Randolf could do it for her, climbing out of the cab and finding her breath was snatched away by a blast of warm, salty wind. The ocean was so much larger, so much more powerful than any movie or photo could depict. Its sound was musical and its smell was entrancing.
Randolf came to stand beside her, one hand in his pocket and the other holding his blazer that was slung casually over his shoulder. For a moment he simply stood there, allowing her to take it all in, before he finally dared to speak.
“Perhaps we should go see it then? It would be a shame to come this far and not get to lie in the sand, as you said you wished to do.” He grinned, pulling his hand from his pocket and offering it to her so that he might lead her to the resort’s private beach.
The sand was as white and pure as sugar and Charly paused as they reached the boardwalk to pull off her shoes and carry them in her free hand. It squeaked musically under her feet as she waded in the sand, eyes drawn to the vivid blue water than seemed to continue on forever. The ocean’s wind never ceased, never broke for an instant, and it bathed her skin with salty mist the nearer she got to the shore.
“I don’t think anyone else has ever had a first date like this.” She laughed, dropping her shoes and pulling off her white knit sweater and leaving them both in the sand as she went to touch her toes to the cold, foamy water.
“It’s so cold!” She exclaimed, bending to touch her fingers to it so that she might taste the water, “And salty!”
“I’m glad you like it.” Randolf said, standing beside her ankle-deep in the water. He’d shucked off his dress shoes and socks as well, rolling his pant legs up to his knees and leaving his blazer and shoes with her things.
Waves rolled past them and lapped at their legs and she walked with him in the water, holding fastly to his hand as if it were a tether. He never let go except to splash her once and she chased him up onto the beach to lie in the sand, feeling the sun’s powerful presence sending pulsing rays of heat to her skin.
Randolf sat in the sand very close to her, watching her as was his habit and laughing when she sat up and had to shake the sand from her hair.
“You’ll be picking it out of your scalp for the next week.” He warned her, leaning in to brush some of her unruly gold curls from her face.
There was a look of want in his eyes that made her chest buzz with anxiety and her insides burn with an unfamiliar warmth. His lips did not need to speak what his silver eyes articulated so well and she reached to grasp the collar of his shirt, pulling him into her lips and twisting her fingers into his dark hair. His hand cradled her head as he opened his lips against hers, welcoming her touch and answering it fervently.
“Thank you, Randolf.” She spoke breathlessly against the burning heat of his lips, attempting to articulate her own affection with her dark green eyes the way he had. “All this…it, means more to me than I could ever express to you.”
He bore no bemused smile upon that handsome visage as he touched his fingertips to the soft skin of her jaw line and met her gaze with unfathomable clarity.
“Your happiness means more to me than I could ever express, Charlotte.” He phrased every word with solidity that she would have never doubted, “I would like to ensure that you remain happy, so long as you permit me to be close to you.”
Charly did not know what to make of those words but she had no opportunity to question them then. He rose and helped her up, taking her again to the water’s edge to show her how they might find seashells and make sandcastles near the water.
Lunch hour bade them gather up their things and he led her to the resort’s outdoor café, decorated with lavish green palms and traditional southwestern designs, where they were seated in ornate black iron chairs on the patio.
Their meal was served and they talked, leaning across the table into the light of the little iron-wrought lantern that sat on the tabletop between them. Randolf was generous with candid tales from his career in the local ER, more so than usual. The sense of intimacy that now passed between them made his answers less ambiguous and his stories more entertaining. This pleased Charly immensely and she took more liberties to volunteer more about herself as well. He hardly had to ask her anything through the entire lunch’s conversation as she felt far more inclined to supply her own stories and opinions than she ordinarily did.
“How did you learn about this place?” She asked casually, stirring a bowl of seafood pasta to wind noodles onto the prongs of her fork.
Randolf answered with a sigh, leaning on his elbow and hardly seeming interested in his steak, cooked extra rare, at all. “It was Ima’s suggestion, actually. She recommended I come here several years ago to take a vacation. I’ve never allowed the opportunity until now. But I’m glad I still had the name of the place; I’m pleased with it.”
Charly’s brow furrowed curiously, “Ima?”
“My sister.” He clarified, “The same one who lent me the airplane.”
She nodded in acknowledgement and went back to nibbling at her food. “She is generous. It must be nice to have such conveniently wealthy relatives.”
Randolf seemed to take particular interest in that statement and swirled his glass of wine, looking at her candidly before he spoke. “What of your relatives? Do you know where your family came from?”
“No.” Charly pretended not to notice his interest but she was indeed very perplexed that this was now the second time he’d taken the opportunity to inquire about her family history. It was strange that he should be so interested in something that seemed rather irrelevant to her. “My mother’s family has lived there in Westcliffe for many generations but my father’s family is from all over the place. I’m not sure if they were immigrants or where they came from originally. I doubt my father even knows; he’s not very sentimental and neither are the relatives on his side of the family.”
“Family heritage and bloodlines used to be very important,” Randolf mused, sounding as though he were recalling some fond memory, “They still are in some European countries.”
His tone vexed her greatly and she crinkled her brow a little, canting her head to the side as she dared to counter his statement. “I would say that social classes depend more on wealth now, rather than family history.”
“Has it ever been any different? Money has a way of staying in a family, though strangely not so often in America. Odd, isn’t it? The land of equal opportunity.” Randolf grinned as though he knew something she didn’t. It struck a chord on her nerves directly.
“Is that why you are so interested in my family heritage? I assure you, I do not descend from any royalty that I’m aware of.” Charly’s tone savored of slight annoyance.
He laughed and shook his head, leaning across the table to touch her hand apologetically, “Your family heritage, monetarily, is of no interest to me. My curiosity is merely that. And I might point that it was you, rather than me, who was initially concerned with what you perceived to be our difference in social class.”
Charly was confused but before she could inquire about his meaning, he amended his statement with further explanation, “You explained that your initial rejection of me was due to the fact that you believed a man of my status would be better suited by a woman that was equal in that regard.”
She nodded slightly, seeing his point and remembering what she had said and how she had felt. While only delicately, she had begun to change her mind about it. “I am a farmer’s daughter. I don’t have any airplanes or houses on the beach.”
Randolf smirked and rested his chin in his palm as he looked at her fondly, “Neither do I. I have a dusty old house that someone left to me in a will. Also a niece that might have a future as a dating consultant.”
Her cheeks flushed prettily and she laughed at herself and her own feeblemindedness. To remember how she’d felt then, how she had considered herself to be so unworthy of his attention, it made her feel very foolish and petty. Almost immediately he found herself ensnared by a feeling like warm water that touched every part in a comforting way. She found solace in his face and security in his smile and the touch of his warm hands. She felt herself begin to trust him fully.
Randolf’s expression twitched a bit, watching her and appearing to detect a change in the reflections of her eyes. It must have resounded so fully from every part of her and he chuckled, as if with relief.
They wore the sunlight down walking on the beach and finding seashells on the shore. Charly delighted in the schools of tiny fish that gleamed through the clear water like herds of flowing needles. Her skin felt vibrant and alive under the warmth of the sun and moist, salty wind from over the sea.
Randolf allowed her time to herself to revel in it, watching her at a distance but never going very far. He was stoic against the creamy orange sky, dark black hair blown in the wind and fierce brow furrowed into the glare of the setting sun.
She found herself in the reflections of his strange silver eyes, held against the strong, heated expanse of his chest as they danced to the subtle music of three men playing the steel drums. Candles and light twinkled against the night sky, hanging from palm trees and the large white canopy set out on the beach behind the resort.
“Westcliffe is going to feel so small after this.” Charly whispered, eyes drawn to stare at the other couples who danced and laughed to the carefree tropical music.
“Westcliffe is small.” Randolf agreed, “But I’ve found that small isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it becomes a comfort to have a little nook of the world that belongs to you.”
He cast a dazzling smile down to her, guiding her slowly through a set of footwork that was unfamiliar to her. She stumbled through it, laughing at herself and leaning her cheek against chest.
The night brought chilly winds from across the sea and Randolf wrapped her in his blazer, asserting that he was warm enough without it. Charly, now exceedingly familiar with the temperature of his skin, did not doubt that in the slightest.
She walked alongside him to where another cab awaited them to take them back to the airport. Sadness was prevalent upon her face as she watched her reflection ripple across the city lights in San Diego in the car window. So bittersweet was the sense of calmness about her that she became afraid that if she spoke she might shed tears for how her soul did long to remain here, beyond the stony prison of Westcliffe.
Randolf sat very near to her, holding onto one of her hands and weaving his broad fingers in between hers. He spoke not a word and for that Charly was immensely gratefully, eyes drawn up the sides of the skyscrapers’ whose hundreds of windows mirrored a dark night sky.
“Sometimes it takes a great many years to miss the place you call home.” Randolf said in a low voice as the cab pulled up to the airport, “But you will miss it. I had not found my home until I came to Dervyshire Park. Now I am glad for it.”
Charly looked at him with green eyes full of wonder and endearment, managing a small nod in reply.
The plane ride back to Westcliffe felt tragically brief and Charly sat beside Randolf on the couch in the cabin, her legs draped intimately over his while she leaned against his side. He held her close there with one arm and his chin resting atop her head. By the rustling of his breath in her hair, she knew he was smelling of her now and again which made all the hairs on her thin arms stand on end. She feared for how close they’d become in such a short time, but that fear surrendered fully to feelings of excitement.
She looked down to her hand resting in his open palm, marveling at the length of his fingers and the size of his hand that might more than swallow hers. He was a largely built, tall man. Being so close against the heat that radiated from his skin, she was certain she could sense how strong he was. Stronger than any man she’d ever known.
The plane landed smoothly and Charly was drawn up out of a deep sleep, tucked against Randolf’s side under the protection of his arm. He stirred, rousing her from a foggy state and pressing warm lips against her temple.
“What time is it?” She mumbled, willing her weary bones to stand and gathering her things.
Randolf settled his blazer back around her shoulders snuggly, “Late. Your father would be none too happy to know I had kept you out so late if for nothing else than my enjoyment.”
“My father is hardly happy with anything, you cannot claim to be a specific source of his determination to be displeased with everything.” Charly mused sleepily, “The later the better; everyone will have gone to bed already.”
He made no reply, following behind her as they stepped off the plane. He paused only moment to offer his thanks and a handshake to the pilot, pulling his car keys from his pocket and unlocking his ferocious black car.
Inside, Charly was pleased to feel the cool leather on her skin and wrapped his blazer around her snuggly. She stole a deep sniff of the collar, eyelids fluttering at his deeply musky smell.
“Warm enough?” He asked once he’d cranked the car and dallied with the heat settings on the air conditioner.
Charly smiled at him drowsily from the passenger’s seat, “Yes.”
The drive went unbearably swiftly and Charly strained to keep herself awake for the duration. Never had she experienced such a sense of calmness and inner serenity. There was no mystery as to it’s source and Charly grieved to think that she should retire into her own cold bed with nothing to look forward to but her mother’s interrogations and Sam’s scrutinizing glares the following morning. Her stomach thrilled along with her heartbeat to wonder if she should ask to be taken back to his house instead, but she hardly thought that Randolf would have agreed to that. He didn’t seem the sort and Charly, having no more experience in the game of amour, wasn’t sure she was the sort either. But the idea of remaining with him, pulled into his gravitational field of warmth and peace, was a pleasing concept for her to entertain.
Westcliffe looked nearly ghostly under the relentless pale light of the moon. So brilliant was the milky white saucer that she could see the all the dark figures of trees and barns out in the fields. She leaned against the car’s window, looking up to the moon’s pearly surface, its shape only a bit more than a half circle, as it bathed the valley in silver.
Her house’s tin roof shone under the light and Randolf stopped the car in the driveway, leaving it to purr in place as he opened the passenger door for her and helped her out of the car.
Charly noticed the difference in his expression and demeanor immediately. There was no serene smile upon his face as he looked into the darkness all about them, as if he were watching for someone or looking for something. There was no affection or intimacy in his touch as he guided her towards the front porch, a hand forcefully upon the center of her back to urge her briskly forward. His jaw was set and his lips were pinched into a tense, nearly furious frown. She saw his nostrils flare a bit, his dark brows furrowed into the most terrifying expression she’d ever seen him make.
Only once did she glance back over her shoulder, grasping at his arm suddenly as the figure of a woman stepped in front of the light from the headlights on Randolf’s car. The woman stood there, hands on her cocked hips, her dark silhouette drenched in an essence of what Charly could only discern to be danger.
“Randolf.” A woman’s voice spoke, making every hair on Charly’s body stand on end. The tone was so curt and cold, like the snap of a whip in the frozen air.
He stopped suddenly, hand upon the small of Charly’s back forcing around to stand behind him. His robust form seemed to go solid, muscled chest panting visibly beneath his white shirt.
“Valaerie.” He answered in a tone that was unmistakably disgusted.
The woman’s voice chuckled and she strode towards them, the moonlight allowing a better view of her features as she drew nearer.
Never had Charly beheld such a person with eyes as pale as blue diamonds and hair the color of morning snow. The woman was tall, nearly as tall as Randolf, with a perfectly shaped figure of lean muscle and generous curves. Her hair hung like a sheet of white satin, flawless and straight down her back, and her delicate features were pouty and sultry. Charly knew nothing of designer clothing, but there was no mistaking that what the woman wore was expensive. It hardly covered what needed to be concealed and yet she did not shiver or show any sign that she was aware of the elements. Heels so high that they might have made any runway model cringe crunched lightly on the gravel drive until she stood, looking pointedly at Randolf for a long, silent moment. Her beauty was as powerful as it was venomous.
The woman’s bottomless pale eyes narrowed upon Charly suddenly and, simultaneously, Randolf’s body jerked into a slight crouch.
Never had Charly seen such an expression of violence and wrath upon his face and she gripped tightly at his sleeve, tugging on it sternly. “We should go inside, Randolf. It’s very late.”
Randolf did not speak and Charly felt her heartbeat hasten, fear becoming realized as she chance a look up to meet Valaerie’s stare.
The woman smirked suddenly, nothing at all friendly in her face as she reached forward to grasp the end of Randolf’s tie and let it drag through her fingers until she snatched the end of it and jerked it hard enough to make him gasp faintly.
“I want you to come with me for the night, Randolf.” The woman spoke, narrowing her eyes upon the end of his tie and looking slowly back up to his face. She licked her lips carefully, pointedly, “Do we…understand each other?”
Charly’s sense of self preservation betrayed her and she balked out loud, stepping away from Randolf’s side to behold the woman whom she had feared she might one day meet; a woman of the same social and aesthetic caliber as Randolf.
“You cannot be serious.” She wasn’t looking at Valaerie more, but rather to Randolf who’s expression was as tumultuous as an oncoming storm. He did not look to Charly as she spoke, eyes locked upon the white-haired young woman’s sultry expressions.
“Randolf, would you like an opportunity to explain this to me?” Charly tried again, losing a bit of her fire as the man she had come to trust made no effort to appease the situation or clarify what, exactly, was happening.
“Time for you to go home now, little girl.” Valaerie’s foreign-toned tongue was twisted with subliminal intention that Charly read all too clearly.
With a hesitant step back towards her house, Charly felt an overwhelming sense of numbness and pain break forth from her breast, absorbing her entire being in a matter of seconds. “Randolf?” She spoke in a breathless whimper, hoping for some response.
He still did not stir or move where he stood, eyes locked upon Valaerie’s face in an unblinking stare. But his mouth spoke words that sent splinters of agony across Charly’s face like that of a porcelain doll cast cruelly upon the ground.
“Go home, Charlotte.”
© 2010 Nicole
Wichita Falls, TX
AboutA Numerical Overview: 1) I am physically incapable of keeping any plant alive. I have killed two bonsai trees and a cactus so far as well as the few potted plants I've bought from walmart over seve.. more..