January comes and goes. Back at APYR and Crestview School, Taïga and Derek keeps a polite distance. Taïga doesn’t come to their room to paint anymore, except on nights when she knows Derek is training. Teddy doesn’t want to interfere in their business, so he’s having a hard time, as he loves them both.
On the 14th of February, Loki’s father, Ernest Simmingway is putting in an appearance at the Appaloosa Plains Public Library to sign his new book which was released right in time for Valentine’s Day. Taïga hurries there after school to ask the famous writer for news from Loki.
But at the library she’s got a surprise waiting for her. An impatient Loki lifts her up and twirls her laughing around.
Derek frowns. ‘Who the hell is that!?!’ I’m sure I’ve seen that guy somewhere…
Maisy is well informed as she has spent the whole day at the library, queuing with her mother to have a book signed. ‘It’s Ernest Simmingway’s son, from Fairview Heights.’
‘Fairview Heights?’ New Year’s Eve! The guy that made Taïga blush! He leans forward with a grim expression on his face.
‘Chill it, Der.’ Cruz taps his shoulder. ‘It’s probably just a classmate.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Derek sneers. ‘And since when do you kiss your classmates…?’
Teddy tries to calm his brother. ‘Well, in France they…’
Derek glances at Teddy. ‘… full on the goddamned lips?’ With an irritated shrug he shakes Cruz’s hand off his shoulder…
I wonder how long it will take before they notice I’m here. He stares malevolently at Loki for a second or two. OK, time is up. I’ll take the moron outside and…
‘What are you doing?’ Taïga crosses her arms and glares at Derek.
Derek glares back. ‘That was my question.’
Loki looks inquiringly at Taïga. ‘What’s going on here?’
Both Derek and Taïga answers at the same time. ‘Nothing.’
‘I’m Loki. Loki Simmingway.’ The redheaded guy gently pushes Taïga behind him, staking his claim. ‘I’m Taïga’s boyfriend.’
‘Boyfriend? Really?’ Derek lifts an eyebrow and with obvious disdain he finally decides to take Loki’s outstretched hand. ‘Well… I’m Derek.’ He looks expectantly at Loki who shows no reaction. He doesn’t know who I am!?! Derek glances at Taïga over Loki’s shoulder and smiles grimly. ‘I’m… her supervisor. Her jailer, sort of.’
‘Derek!’ Taïga mouths.
But Derek is having too much fun, annoying Taïga. ‘We’ll have to put the ankle bracelet back on if you continue sneaking out to meet your boyfriends like this!’ Derek doesn’t miss the fact that Loki ties his hands into fists. Good. He’s got the message…
Loki strains to be civilized. ‘Nice to meet you. And don’t worry, I’ll get her back home tonight before curfew.’
What!?! ‘She’s not going anywhere.’ Not with you, she isn’t, nor with anybody else!
‘C’mon, Der. Loki wants to take me out to dinner.’
How stupid do you think I am? Dinner and more if affinity. No way is that schmuck wining and dining Taïga.
‘And my dad will be there, so she’ll be safe.’ Loki adds.
Safe? The only one she’s safe with is me… Hmmm. Although…
‘Great, I’m sure Chuck will say yes!’
Derek just stares at her. ‘But I didn’t say…’
‘C’mon Loki! Let’s go see your father, and I’ll call Chuck Hobbles so they can talk!’ Taïga grabs Loki’s hand and drags him away, glancing triumphantly at Derek over her shoulder.
But Chuck Hobbles wanted to meet with the famous writer before agreeing to let them take Taïga to dinner. So Taïga and Loki settle down on one of the couches to catch up while they’re waiting for Chuck to get there. The talking gets a little out of hand, as the library assistant soon points out.
‘This is a library! Not a club!’ Miss Blackburn is working herself up. ‘And take your feet off the couch, young man!’
Usually Derek can’t stand snotty Miss Blackburn, but now he’s mentally clapping his hands. Yeah. Get your hands off her… Or I’ll do it for you!
When the library exceptionally closes at 5, they all go to the “Waterhole” to play some pool. Chuck showed up a bit late and insisted on having a word with both Loki and his father. Taïga has been sitting on needles, watching the door and purposely ignoring Derek who tries to distract her, moonlighting as a barman. Taïga is so nervous Chuck won’t let her go out tonight… Derek has almost started to believe Loki won’t show up, when the door bursts open on him and Elspeth who giggles at something he just said.
‘Hi guys!’ Taïga glides down from her chair, throwing an exultant glance at Derek.
Loki hugs Taïga from behind, kissing her cheek and whispering something that makes Taïga blush and smile.
Why didn’t she tell me she had… has… a boyfriend? She’s just a kid, she shouldn’t date! At least not a boring guy like that. He closes his eyes and tries to breathe calmly, but the vision of Taïga in the redheaded guy’s arms is etched onto his eyelids. Derek slaps his fist into the fence, making his hand bleed. The pain and the cool winter air helps him calm down. A little… He can hear Taïga wash her hands in the ladies room behind him. Well… Here goes nothing…
Taïga almost jumps out of her skin when she catches sight of Derek in the mirror.
‘God, you scared me, Derek! I didn’t hear you come in…’ Derek looks at her without saying anything. ‘What are you doing here?’ She says nervously. ‘How will you explain being in the ladies room if someone comes?’ She seems a little flustered. ‘And don’t say you needed the bathroom!’
He takes a deep breath. ‘I have to stop you from making a mistake, Taïga.’
‘A mistake?’ She seems truly intrigued.
‘Can’t you see that guy’s not for you? He’s…’ He hesitates and Taïga tilts her head, waiting for him to continue. Bah! I must make her understand… ‘He can’t give you what you need.’
‘What do you know about what I need? I like him, Derek. He’s sweet and tender and he makes me feel happy and secure.’
‘Happy and secure?’ Derek rubs his eyes. What about desire that drives you mad? All consuming passion? Need that threatens to push you over the edge? ‘You don’t get it, do you?’
‘Look at yourself!’ He forces her around towards the mirror, holding her against him in a firm grip, pushing her chin up. ‘Look!’
‘Say it!’ His voice is hoarse. ‘Say that you love him!’
She stares into Derek’s ice blue eyes in the mirror but it’s seeing the expression on her own face that scares her. ‘You’re hurting me Derek! Let go of me!’
He whispers in her ear. ‘See, huh? You can’t say it…’ He draws his thumb slowly along her chin. ‘… because you don’t believe it…’
Abruptly he lets go of her and leaves. Taïga leans against the edge of the washbasin and scrutinizes her face. Her cheeks are burning and her eyes are dark with anticipation. Flustered, she washes her hands again before going outside…
She runs straight into Loki outside. ‘I got worried…’ He smiles a little embarrassed smile. ‘Did you talk to Derek?’
‘Derek? No. Why?’ She bites her tongue. Why did I just lie?
‘Nothing. I thought he followed you outside…’ Loki pulls her towards him and leans in for a kiss when Derek’s voice from the darkness behind them makes them both jump.
‘You should get inside. It’s cold out here.’
Taïga stares malevolently at him until he shrugs and hands in pockets saunters back inside. Taïga’s boiling. He so… so… snotty! And arrogant! And…
Loki interrupts her thoughts. ‘He’s right, you know. It’s freezing out here.’ He puts his arm around her and they walk inside.
‘I think it’s a waste of time sitting here, talking to your “friends”… Can’t we sneak away somewhere more… private?’
Taïga bites her lip and gazes up at Loki. ‘I don’t know… Your dad will be here any minute now.’
She catches Derek watching them and changes her mind. ‘But I guess we can wait for him outside… I’ll just have to get my coat first.’
Loki kisses her cheek. ‘I’ll wait for you downstairs.’
Elspeth has been talking nonstop to Derek, touching his arm now and then, but he hasn’t listened to a word. He’s been too busy trying not to glare at Taïga and Loki, without success.
But when Taïga tries to leave, Derek blocks the passage.
‘Don’t you dare ask me to pay you to get through?’
‘I won’t. But I have to admit the thought crossed my mind.’ He looks at her with a cocky smile and Taïga crosses her arms defensively.
‘Let me pass.’
‘Why should I? Where are you going?’
‘I’m having dinner with Loki and his dad, you know that.’
‘His dad isn’t here yet.’
‘Well, he’ll be here soon enough.’
Derek changes the subject. ‘How long are they staying?’
‘It’s none of your business.’ Derek looks at her, waiting. Taïga taps her feet. ‘OK. They’re leaving early tomorrow morning. Happy now? Chuck said it was OK to have dinner, and Loki will drive me home tonight. We only have this evening together, it’s Valentine’s Day and I want it to be nice! Now let me through and stop acting like my dad!!!’
Derek doesn’t know why he’s suddenly overwhelmed by a primitive need to hurt her. ‘I thought you didn’t have one! He should spank some sense into you!’
Her reaction is immediate and Derek is surprised by the violent slap on his cheek. ‘How dare you?’
They just stare at each other for several seconds before Taïga finally pushes past him and runs downstairs.
Ernest Simmingway drives up in front of the Waterhole as Taïga comes rushing down the stairs. She’s boiling inside. How dare he talk to me like that!?! I’ll show him…
‘Are you OK? Dad’s taking us to Kim Gould’s Steakhouse. We’ll meet up with Gavin Pinkerton, an old friend of Dad’s from Bridgeport…’ He blinks at her. ‘And I think we can get away early…’
Damn her! God knows what what’s-his-name-again will try tonight. I can just imagine her in his car, snuggling up close… Letting that moron… Gosh! I’ll wait for her… No, I won’t… I’m in need of a drink. And company… Or get drunk. Or why not both…
‘Just give me a beer, will you.’
‘Your uncle’s still here, so I guess it’s OK. But drowning your sorrows won’t solve anything.’ Honey starts to fill a glass.
‘And a root beer for me! Please!’ Teddy turns toward his brother. ‘So what happened? Taïga seemed furious when she left.’
‘Nothing happened.’ Teddy raises a brow. He knows when to leave his brother alone, and now is such a moment. They small talk about sports, the time to finish their drinks.
Teddy pushes back his chair. ‘Chief that beer! We’ve got to leave! Curfew you know.’
‘I’ll catch up… Later…’ Derek drains his beer and asks for another one. Honey watches Teddy leave, and then asks Derek if everything’s all right.
‘Yeah.’ He hesitates, but barmaids has a thing about them that makes you want to spill your sorrows. ‘It’s just a girl… I don’t know how to handle her. Everything I say comes out wrong. Or she misinterprets…’
‘Heavens, no! She’s just a friend, or rather she was… When we were kids, you know. But she’s changed… She’s in with the wrong crowd at school, and her boyfriend’s an ass…’
Honey doesn’t say anything, she listens patiently to Derek telling her about Taïga, making sure his glass is filled. When he finishes, she nods.
‘I think you’re more than attracted to her. Why don’t you tell her? Or show her? You don’t seem to be a shy kind of guy…’
‘Nah…’ He shakes his head. ‘She’s not my kind, she’s just a kid.’
‘And what’s your kind?’ she asks coyly.
Derek puts down his 5th beer, and lets his gaze run her over, lingering at her ample chest. Decidedly, Honey has got more and more attractive for each beer he’d had. He smiles his naughty smile. ‘Blonde, leggy… mature.’
Honey blushes. They’re interrupted by the sheriff. ‘We’re closing, young man.’
‘But it’s not even midnight yet!’
‘Blue Law, son. And you’re the last client… Have you checked his ID, Honey?’
‘I know him. It’s Johnny Johnson’s nephew…’
‘Maybe you should drop him off on your way home, Honey. I don’t think he should hit the roads in his state…’
‘Here we are.’ Honey stops at the curb.
‘Yeah. Here we are…’ Derek reaches out and cuts the engine.
‘Hey! Don’t…’ She doesn’t finish her sentence. Derek is turning towards her with a wicked smile.
‘Wanna see the horses?’
‘Now? It’s midnight.’
‘Yeah. That’s the point. It’s midnight.’
They walk to the stables without talking. As soon as Derek has helped Honey up onto the landing where the hay is stacked, he slouches against the hay bales and looks at her, smirking.
‘So here we are, Mrs. Darnell.’ He beckons her towards him and she’s drawn in like a fly towards he light.
‘Maybe we shouldn’t…’
He pushes her back against the hay. ‘I definitely think we should…’ He silences her lame protests with a kiss.
He closes his eyes and gives in to the feeling of Honey’s expert kissing. But in his mind it’s Taïga he’s holding in his arms.
She pulls his t-shirt off and lets her hands roam over his lithe muscular body, making him groan with anticipation.
‘I… want you… so badly…’ his words come out between gasps.
‘Ohmygod! What are you doing!?!’ A shocked Taïga, back from her dinner with Loki, can’t believe her eyes. She heard noise from the landing when she came in to check on the horses but now she regrets being curious.
‘What do you think we’re doing?’ Derek sneers. ‘Go away, kiddo… this is X-rated…’
But Taïga is petrified. She stares at Derek and swallows a big lump in her throat. His eyes are menacing slits as he squints at her.
‘Or maybe you wanna come? Roll in the hay with us?’
Taïga gasps. His words snap her out of her state of shock and she turns on her heels and flees, tears streaming down her cheeks. How could he!?! With Mrs. Darnell of all people? She’s so old! She must be at least 20 years older than him! Talk about robbing the cradle! And with Elspeth pregnant! Gods how I hate him! And her!
‘She won’t be back…’ Derek murmurs.
‘Now where were we?’ Honey pulls his face towards her. ‘Let me help you with that…’ She kisses him hungrily and he banishes all thoughts of Taïga from his head…
A half hour later, Honey picks her clothes up and gets dressed. ‘We had a good time, didn’t we?’
‘Are you sure you’ve got my number?’
She bends down to kiss Derek, but he turns his head, offering his cheek. OhmyGod, what have I done… ‘See you around, Honey.’ He fumbles for his sweater and pulls it on. It’s filled with straw but he doesn’t care. Where is the darn bottle? He finds it and takes a swig. He waits for the sound of Honey’s truck driving away before a little unsteadily climbing down the ladder…
Derek runs until he falls in the deep snow. The night is cold and it has just started to snow again. Automatically his arms and legs starts to flail and he makes a snow angel, like when he was a kid. Panting he lies staring up at the sky, watching the snowflakes whirl and slowly fall around him. I wonder how long it takes to get buried in snow… A lone star catches his eye, glinting against the darkening sky.
“Awake forever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever — or else swoon to death.”
He scoffs, takes a swig from the bottle and almost chokes.
Swearing he scrambles to his feet.
‘Here’s to you!’ He raises his bottle before taking another swig. ‘Freakin’ destiny,’ he mutters to himself.
He brushes away the snow with his bare hand before sitting down on a cold stone.
‘Freaking cold… Damn! Colder than a witch’s tits…’ He laughs to himself, swigging from the bottle.
He blows on his hands to warm them. Guzzling from the bottle he can feel the heat from the alcohol spreading through his body. He’s starting to feel dizzy and he blinks and shakes his head to clear it. A familiar feeling is creeping back, a feeling he’s learned to fight even at full moons…
But tonight he won’t fight. He falls on his knees in the snow in front of the snow angel.
‘Come and take me,’ he whispers. ‘I don’t care anymore… If I can’t have her…’
He drains the last drop from the bottle and shakes it upside down.
Unsteadily he stands up. ‘If I can’t have her…’ he slurs. ‘Nothing matters anymore!’
He throws away the bottle as hard as he can.
‘Do you hear me?’ he screams at the top of his lungs, tugging at his clothes, shredding them. ‘NOTHING MATTERS!’ He turns around, gesticulating towards the sky. ‘So c’mon! What are you waiting for!?! Take me! TAKE MEEEEEE!’
Out of breath, he closes his eyes and waits.
And as the dark clouds slowly clear away, revealing the full moon, a dark force rips through him in wave after wave of excruciating pain…
And Derek is finally taken…
Part II – End of Chapter 08