“I’m offering you everything I have to give, Sebastian,” she murmurs. “Is that really worth exchanging for, as you say, going out to movies like a couple? Conventional dating?”
It sounds so childishly silly and trivial when she says it. Like condoms, or soda with a meal. Beneath her. I shake my head no again.
“You see, I’ve made a number of concessions with you already. Sharing my bed with you, for one thing. I’m not sure I can keep capitulating my hard limits this way.”
“You didn’t like us… sleeping together?”
“On the contrary.” Her eyes flicker. Oh, shit, there’s something else, something she’s not telling me. My poor, lost girl is there, and I reach out to her.
“Lark, what is it?” I blurt, longing to take her hand in mine, hold her close in my arms.
“Eat.” She’s brusque now, the control-freak, back in charge.
“I’m not hungry anymore,” I whisper. The mere thought of food, even, is choking me.
“Sebastian….” she growls a warning.
“Lark, I- I just can’t.”
I shake my head once more.
“Eat! I won’t tell you again! I refuse to have a juvenile battle of wills with you!”
“You said I can say no to things,” I say. “Didn’t you?”
“And you said you would submit, be obedient. Didn’t you? Just last night?”
“I said I’d try, and I am-”
“Are you? Truly? Or are you just continuing to fight me every step of the way, topping from the bottom, for your own enjoyment?”
Topping from the bottom? Huh? What does that even mean?
“Eat. Your. Dinner,” she repeats in the same scolding voice, eyes narrowing, an irritatingly smug, arrogant, private smile on her lips. Oh, she loves being the one in charge at all times, way too much!
“I haven’t signed anything yet,” I point out with a smirk of my own. “So you can’t make me.”
I hear the hiss of her sucking in her breath. Slowly, she lays her silverware down, but her eyes, ice-blue now, and sharp as lasers, never leave mine.
Ohhhhh shitballs. I think I’ve really, really fucked up this time.
“Is. That. So?” She’s still spacing her words out with heavy sarcasm. Like a queen, an avenging angel, she rises slowly from her chair. She lifts her hand, and, in a flash, I remember my dream, remember her slapping my face in a quick, sharp motion. Is she going to do that now, for real?
I whimper and close my eyes, bracing for the assault.
It doesn’t come.
After a moment, I realize I can hear us both breathing heavily. Me in fear. Her in fury.
My eyelashes flutter as I dare to peak at her again. Oh, is this why she has that rule about her boys not looking her in the eye? I can see her rage, but also, the unbearable pain and anguish that contorts her exquisite features.
“It is taking all of the self-control I possess to not beat the fuck out of you like you fucking deserve, Sebastian Stone, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to take you to eat at quality restaurants with me, you will do so and accept it gladly!” She is breathing heavily. “You say you want to date, and yet whenever I attempt to go out with you, it’s still not enough, and you continue to defy me! Why isn’t this enough for you, Bash? Why?”
She sounds like she’s in agony.
Bash. It always literally melts my heart when I hear her say my nickname, use the name that indicates we are close and familiar.
“Enough!” she snaps. “Fine. If you are finished with your meal and can’t eat any more, then so be it!” She storms to the door of the room and flings it open, and three different servers come rushing over.
“We are done here,” she says with cold command. “Have my car and driver brought around, and our coats brought immediately.”
“Yes, madam! Yes, indeed!”
My ears are ringing and my heart palpitates with raw fear. My hands shaking and clenching. This is new territory, and it’s terrifying. I have no idea what might happen next.
With an icy, steady stride, she leaves me to follow her as she storms to the front doors of the restaurant. Hastily, I scamper after her, fumbling as one of the servers tries to hand me my leather jacket. Blind with fear and humiliation, I follow her as the black old man chauffeur pulls the car around to the front of the restaurant. Before he or one of the restaurant staff can do so, Lark has already flung open the back door. “Get. In.” It’s an ice-cold sibilation.
I obey without hesitation, scrambling into the back seat of the luxurious town car, and cowering, shaking, in the back seat, waiting to see what will happen next.
She gets in too, but does not look at me or touch me in any way. She is frozen in that impenetrable hauteur of effulgent rage.
I’m shaking. Oh, God. This is it. This is the end. I’ve completely ruined everything.
I wrap my arms around myself to fight off the chill of terror–or maybe it is the iciness of Lark’s anger at me.
With a few taps at the control panel, Lark has switched on the car’s sound system, and music begins pouring out of the speakers. She turns the volume up even louder.
Fuck. It’s Mozart’s “Der Hölle Rache.” Lark is pissed. I close my eyes again as the furious soprano pounds forth. The music shakes my soul almost as much as Lark’s anger… and my own fear at what I’ve done.
Why? To prove I could match wits with her? Was it worth it?
I hear my own quavery sigh. No.
We both say nothing as the chauffeur drives us swiftly back to the airfield. Mozart is replaced by “O Fortuna.” Shit, shit, shit, shit. I wait until the last furious notes start to fade before I dare to move.
“Lark,” I whisper, choked. I reach an icy-cold hand to touch hers, but she snatches it away, jaw clenched. “I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” Her face is a blank, impassive. Cold. Utterly emotionless. It’s like the real her, the lost little girl I know is in there, is locked away in a tower, and I have to reach her! I have to get a response from her! “Please, Lark,” I beg. “I’ll do anythin-”
It’s like its own kind of slap in the face. I sink back into my corner of the car, trying to choke back a wail of loss, trying to hold back tears, as the car moves down the road and around a curve where the airfield, with Lark’s helicopter, is silhouetted against the night sky. The moon, which had been shining brightly on us as we arrived, is now veiled with ominous clouds, and the wind has picked up.
Carter has come forward to open the car door, and even before Lark is all the way out, she is already pronouncing in a firm yet somehow menacing voice, “Carter, I will be flying back. Take the car, and call Grover and tell him to meet us at the Portland landing.”
“Yes, madam. All externals are done, and flight plans are filed.” Carter bustles off to confer briefly with the chauffeur, and, quicker than I can believe, she’s in the car and they are driving us away, leaving Lark and me standing here in front of the helicopter.
Lark turns on me. “Sebastian, get in.”
Get in… the helicopter? With her? With her flying us back, in this magnificent, towering rage?
No! I scream inside, but I can’t say it. This whole thing is because I said no, after all. I need to find a better way.
“Lark,” I begin, softly, my eyes clinging imploringly to hers, begging her to understand, “why don’t we-”
“Get in immediately, Sebastian,” she hisses to me. “I will not say it again.”
My legs are like Jell-O. Do I have any real choice?
I force myself to get into the flying contraption, shaking worse than before as Lark gets in and starts switching things on and pushing buttons.
“Put your seatbelt on,” she snaps, and I obey. The chopper’s rotors start to spin, and it feels like the whole world is shaking. “Tower, this is Nightingale Bravo, cleared for takeoff,” she barks into the mic or whatever it is, and a disembodied voice from the tower agrees that we are clear to go.
I want to vomit, to cry. I hear my own low mewling moan as the machine rises into the air at Lark’s command, dipping and turning and pitching.
Oh, God. Is she angry enough at me to… fly us into the ocean? Take me somewhere else, kidnap me, like she joked about before?
Crash us into the side of a building or mountain? Just to prove her point?
Visions of every movie-crash I’ve ever seen crowd my addled brain, and I huddle in my seat, shaking harder than ever before as Lark plays the ‘copter’s controls with a cold fury, moving the levers and stick in sharp motions, accelerating and ascending the machine like a demon. Or an avenging angel, I think again.
She is in charge now, in every way. My life is in her hands. And we both know it.
Tears are streaking my cheeks, although I don’t realize it as I cower back, arms wrapped tight around myself. The helicopter dips to one side, and I hear myself cry out involuntarily. Is this it? Is Lark about to send us into a murder-suicide crash of fiery proportions, exploding in the dark night-
I’m panting and shaking, unable to do anything but what she wills. My fingers grip the seat’s hand rests until they feel bruised, and I can taste bile.
I’m sorry, Lark. Please, let’s talk about this. Please don’t be angry at me. I don’t want to fight with you. I want to make you happy!
Let her see. Let her see that I’m not going to fight her. Let her see that she doesn’t need to take it this far to get me to listen, to obey if that’s what she needs-
I jump at the crackle of static from the radio. “Nightingale Bravo, you are two miles from the runway-”
The technical babble fills my head, meaningless phrases like “clear to land” and “fly standard pattern.”
We’re almost back to Portland, back home. Am I going to survive this, after all?
I pry my eyes open, and see the lights of downtown in the distance. Surely she’s not going to send us crashing into Hawthorne Bridge? I don’t think so, but….
Still, I’m not able to breathe semi-normally until she angles the helicopter with professional precision onto the helipad where we left just a few hours ago. Her face is still stony and unapproachable, but calmer, somewhat, now.
The noise of the rotor blades finally slows down, thankfully, but this means I can hear my own ragged breathing louder than ever. I’m shaking and sweaty, like I’ve just run a marathon. Or been thoroughly and expertly fucked by Lark Blackwood, my Id points out snarkily from a poolside lawn chair.
My hands are shaking so hard I can barely undo the safety harness. I stumble with watery legs as I get out of the helicopter, trying to catch my breath.
Instead of Carter, it is Grover waiting like a sentinel at the elevator.
“Good evening, madam, sir. Welcome back.” He says nothing about my disheveled appearance, nor Lark’s ice-cold-hot anger. He pushes buttons and the industrial elevator whisks us down to the parking garage again, where I recognize the gleaming Bentley that Carter drove the first night I met Lark on the mountainside, our surprise ride on the Ducati.
Oh, Lark… can’t we be like that again?
I briefly wonder how Carter is going to get home in the C-Class silver Mercedes that she drove us here in, still parked nearby, but then I decide it’s none of my business.
“Take Mr. Stone home first, Grover,” Lark commands, and my stomach free-falls yet again.
It isn’t until we have both been closed in the cozy quiet of the Bentley’s back seat that I dare once more to look into Lark’s face, terrified of what I will see there.
Holy shit. She’s already staring at me, eyes two laser-points of blue fire.
I draw in a slow, deep breath of shock and awe.
“Are you still angry with me?” I finally ask in a contrite murmur.
“Angry?” She repeats the word as if she’s never heard it before, and is considering its possibilities. “Angry? Is that what I am, Sebastian? Angry?”
Oh, gracious fuck, what am I supposed to do now?
“I’m sorry,” I whisper penitently. I gaze at her. Lark, my beautiful obsession, angry, but so very, very beautiful.
“You promised me you’d try, Sebastian.”
“I know. I am. Honest.” I gulp. “Please don’t be mad at me, Lark.”
She draws in a breath, then lets it out again, never taking her eyes from mine. “I swear, you would try the patience of a saint.” Briefly, and for the first time since we left the restaurant, she touches me, brushing her knuckles lightly over my cheek. I hear my breath hitch. “Consider it a warning, Bash,” she says. The words have menace, but the way she says my name feels like a caress. “You wouldn’t like me if I really got angry with you.
“So considered.” I pause a heartbeat, and then admit, my voice shaking, “You scare me when you are angry like that, Lark. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
“I’m scared too, Sebastian.”
What? This is a baffling revelation. “You are?”
She glances at me again. “You… have quite an affect on me, too, you know.”
“You do. Why do you think I am completely incapable of leaving you alone, despite everything?”
I sigh tremulously. Unhappiness seems to have rooted dark and deep in my soul. “Maybe… maybe I’m just not… cut out for this kind of thing. The obedience,” I add, my voice shaking. “But I am trying. I’m trying to be what you want, Lark. I just don’t know if I can.”
“I think you can be,” she murmurs, a hoarse rasp in her voice. Longing? Vulnerability?
The car slows, and I realize we are arriving at my apartment building. Already? So soon?
It feels like everything between she and I, this whole conversation, is unfinished.
I glance up at our windows, noting that everything is dark, before I gather the tattered remains of my courage. “Why don’t you… come up with me?” I ask her. “We can talk this over more. Besides, you’ve never been to my place before. And I think Aiden is out with Ariana?”
She glances at me. “He is. I made sure he was.”
“You did?” I don’t know why I’m surprised. Of course she did. Control freak!
“However, I don’t think that is a good idea.”
“No?” I bleat. Oh, fuck.
“No. I have to go.”
“Will you be all right?”
“Sure. Yeah,” I say. It’s not entirely true, but I don’t trust myself to say more. What I really want is to throw myself at her elegant red-soled pumps, begging her to stay, to talk, to forgive me my trespasses and sins.
Instead, with a shaky sigh, I resign myself to my lonely, bitter fate. When Grover opens the car door, I get out.
“Have a good orientation at your new job tomorrow,” Lark adds.
Wow. I didn’t think she’d remembered?
“Thanks,” I mutter. “Thanks for… everything. Dinner, I mean. Even though- Still, I really did enjoy- I-”
“Good night, Sebastian,” she says with finality.
My breath lodges in my throat again.
“I’ll see you tomorrow night. This weekend,” she adds, and my heart begins to beat after momentary failure. After everything, our trial weekend is still on! For that, at least, I can be grateful.
I manage half a smile, and turn away. But even as I let myself in our building, I can hear the car idling.
She’s waiting for me to get inside, looking out for me, I realize, and turn back to the tinted windows. I can’t see her, but I know she’s there, and the thought provides a measure of comfort. I lift my hand in a wave as the car pulls away.
MBO Soundtrack: Edda Moser, “Der Hölle Rache”