Disclaimer! Please note that this chapter contains sexual references and may not be suitable for younger readers
January comes and goes. Back at APYR and while at Crestview School, Taïga and Derek keep a polite distance. Taïga doesn’t come to their room to paint anymore, except on nights when she knows Derek has practice. Teddy loves them both and doesn’t want to interfere in their business, so he’s having a hard time. Taïga has told Teddy about Linn’s crush on his brother, secretly happy that she doesn’t have to tell him herself – it’s bad enough as it is just trying to avoid him.
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 say hi and ask the famous writer for news from Loki. She knows Derek is probably there too, the seniors are working on a special graduation project at the library, but she won’t let his presence stop her.
At the library she’s got a surprise waiting for her. An impatient Loki lifts her up as soon as she gets inside and twirls her laughing around.
‘Hey! Put me down before Mrs. Blackburn comes!’ she giggles. ‘Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?’
‘I wanted to surprise you. But I’ve texted you about fifty times since we got here. I was starting to think you were dodging me on purpose.
‘I forgot my cell at home,’ Taïga says out of breath. ‘It’s so good to see you. How’s everyone?’
Derek frowns, recognizing Taïga’s voice he looks over the divider to see what the fuss is about. ‘Who the hell is that!?!’ he blurts out, even though he recognizes the ginger from the New Year’s Eve video.
Maisy in his English class is well informed as she has spent the whole afternoon at the library, queuing with her mother to have a book signed. ‘It’s Ernest Simmingway’s son, from Fairview Heights. Mom’s a great fan of his dad-’
‘Fairview Heights, huh? So that’s him…’ Derek adds thoughtfully.
‘Who?’ Cruz asks, pushing down his sunglasses to check Taïga and Loki out.
‘Forget it.’ He can’t really tell Cruz it’s the guy who made Taïga blush guiltily on FaceTime.
‘Can I take your seat? I just have to check something,’ Teddy asks.
‘Huh? Sure…’ Derek stands, starting to log out while his brother slides down on his vacated chair. He glances at the couple briefly and does a double-take. They are kissing! Leaning forward with a grim expression on his face, he violently hits the log out button.
‘Chill it, Der.’ Cruz taps his shoulder. ‘It’s probably just a classmate.’
‘Oh, yeah?’ Derek sneers. ‘And since when are you kissing your classmates?’
Teddy tries to calm his brother. Peeking discreetly over the opaque glass separation, he says ‘Well, in France they-’
Derek glances at Teddy. ‘-full on the goddamned mouth?’ He puckers his mouth tapping it with his index to make his point. With an irritated shrug he shakes Cruz’s hand off his shoulder. ‘If he doesn’t let go of her, I’ll take the ginger moron outside and-’
‘Don’t do anything stupid, Der,’ Teddy whispers loudly after him.
Derek stops a few feet away and leans against the bookcase, waiting for the lovebirds to acknowledge him. Staring malevolently at Loki for a second or two, he decides enough is enough.
‘OK, time’s up,’ he announces.
‘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 answer at the same time, ‘Nothing.’
Derek looks questioningly at Taïga, who mutters, ‘He’s a classmate of mine,’ feeling extremely annoyed and awkward.
‘I’m Loki. Loki Simmingway.’ The redheaded guy lets go of her waist and reaches out his hand. He pushes her gently 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. The damn guy doesn’t know who he is? She hasn’t mentioned him? He glances at Taïga over Loki’s shoulder and smiles grimly. ‘I’m… err… her supervisor. Keeping an eye on her, sort of.’
‘Derek!’ Taïga mouths, willing him to be quiet.
But Derek is hell-bent on annoying Taïga. He nods towards her legs. ‘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 how Loki’s hands tie into tight 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,’ Derek says deadpan. Not with you, she isn’t, nor with anybody else.
‘C’mon, Der. Loki wants to take me out to dinner.’
He glares at her. ‘How stupid do you think I am?’ Dinner and more if affinity. No way is that schmuck wining and dining my girl.
‘My dad will be there, so she’ll be safe,’ Loki adds.
‘Safe?’ Derek repeats, not tearing his eyes from Taïga’s. The only one she’s safe with is me… Hmmm. Although… His lips twitches at the thought.
Taïga takes that for a yes. ‘Great, I’m sure Chuck will confirm!’
Derek just stares at her. ‘But I didn’t say-’
‘It doesn’t matter what you have to say. C’mon Loki! Let’s go see your father, and I’ll call Chuck Hobbles so they can talk this over.’ Taïga grabs Loki’s hand and drags him away, glancing triumphantly at Derek over her shoulder.
Chuck Hobbles wants to meet with the famous writer before agreeing to let them take Taïga out to dinner. While they wait for Chuck to get there, they settle down on one of the couches to catch up.. The talking gets a little out of hand, as the library assistant soon points out.
‘This is a library! Not a… a… 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!
The library is closing for the public exceptionally early and Chuck authorizes them all to go to the “Waterhole” before heading home. He wants to have a word with both Loki and his father about their plans for the night before giving his consent.
Taïga has been sitting on needles, watching the door for Loki. She is so nervous. What if Chuck doesn’t let her go out tonight? That would definitely make Derek happy, and she doesn’t want him to think he’s winning whatever battle they are fighting.
The barmaid, Honey Darnell, asks him something and he willingly steps behind the bar, moonlighting for her. He tries to distract Taïga from fixing the goddamned door, juggling with the bottles, serving some cocktail or another but she ignores him on purpose. She just glances distractedly at him, apparently thinking that Zac Whipsnake’s bad jokes are more fun than him expertly throwing a bottle in the air. Honey is soon back from whatever she had to do and starts flirting outrageously with him. He glances at Taïga, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
It would serve her right if the guy doesn’t show up, he thinks meanly. He has almost started to believe Loki won’t show up, when the door bursts open on him and Elspeth who’s giggling at something he just said.
‘Hi guys!’ Taïga slides down from her barstool, throwing an exultant glance at Derek.
Loki takes advantage of her turning slightly away, skipping his arm around her slim waist and nudging her neck. He kisses her cheek, whispering something that makes Taïga blush and smile.
Moron… Derek thinks, fighting the urge to walk up and pry the arms away.
Instead he walks past them and out onto the porch where he leans against the railing, staring into the night with unseeing eyes.
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…’ She dries her hands, waiting for him to say something, but he just stands there, silently looking her over.
‘What are you doing here?’ she says nervously. ‘How will you explain being in the ladies room if someone comes? 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!’
Wide-eyed she stares into Derek’s ice blue eyes in the mirror. ‘You’re hurting me Derek! Let go of me!’ she croaks, terrified by the expression on her own face. Her flushed cheeks are burning and her eyes are dark with anticipation. Trembling she leans towards his broad chest, unable to break eye contact.
He whispers in her ear. ‘See, huh? You can’t say it…’ He draws his thumb slowly along her smooth chin, making her gasp. ‘… because you don’t believe it.’ Abruptly he lets go of her.
Leaning against the edge of the washbasin, Taïga rests her hot forehead against the cool glass of the mirror, jumping slightly when the door slams shut. Flustered, she turns the tap on, letting the ice-cold water run over her hands in an unsuccessful attempt at cooling her off.
‘Why does he get to me like this?’ she mutters.
‘Because you’re attracted to him, darling,’ an anonymous voice answers from one of the stalls, making her turn off the tap and blushing rush outside.
She runs straight into Loki.
‘I got worried…’ He smiles a little embarrassed smile. ‘Did you talk to Derek?’
‘Derek? No. Why?’ She bites her tongue, ashamed of lying to him.
‘Nothing. I thought he followed you outside…’ Loki pulls her towards him and is leaning 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 his silhouette lurking in the shadows until he shrugs and hands in pockets saunters back inside. His attitude makes her boil with frustration and pent up anger. ‘He so… so… snotty! And arrogant! And-’
Loki interrupts her. ‘True. But he’s right, you know. It’s freezing out here.’ He puts his arm around her guiding her inside.
They join the other APYR teens who are having hot chocolate in the tiny lounge. Grabbing a cup each, they sit on a couch, cuddling and talking. Loki seems to hit it off with Thomas, who finally talks about something else than computers but after a while Loki lowers his voice, whispering in her ear, ‘I think it’s a waste of time sitting here, talking to your “friends”… Can’t we sneak away somewhere more… err… private?’
Taïga bites her lip and gazes up at him. ‘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.
He watches Loki head downstairs, and swiftly blocks the passage when Taïga tries to leave.
‘Don’t you dare ask me to pay you to get through?’ she asks, incredulous.
‘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, being not just a little annoyed at him making her waste her time.
With an angry sigh she blurts out, ‘OK. But just so you let me through, right? They’re leaving early tomorrow morning. Happy now? Chuck said it was all right 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?’ she hisses, her face drawn and pale.
Breathing heavily they glare at each other for several seconds before Taïga finally breaks their staring match and pushing past him runs downstairs before he sees how close she is to crying.
Ernest Simmingway is pulling up in front of the Waterhole just as Taïga comes rushing through the door. She’s boiling inside, worked-up over Derek’s attitude and what he just said to her.
‘I’ll show him…’
‘Are you OK?’ Loki flips off his cell and steadies her with a hand on her elbow, looking into her tear filled eyes.
‘Yeah, I just slammed into something on my way downstairs. Where are we going?’
‘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 winks, opening the car door for her. ‘They’ll be busy catching up on old times, so I think we can get away early. Just the two of us…’
Derek is seething. He can still feel the sting after the vicious impact of her open palm, but it’s not so much about the pain – it’s about the gesture.
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 touch her… Crap! I can’t just wait for her till she comes home… No, I can’t do that…
The sound of the car doors slamming shut wakes him from his somber thoughts and sparks him into action. Taking the stairs in a few steps, he walks purposefully back into the bar area of the hangout.
I’m in need of a drink. Or two. And company… Or just get wasted…
‘Just give me a beer, will you, Honey?’
Honey raises an eyebrow, trying to judge his age. She knows he’s a senior, but being at APYR he can’t be over eighteen. He meets her eyes, and she recognizes the look in them for having seen it many times before. She takes the risk and decides he can’t be underage.
‘Just one, then.’ She takes in his somber expression, starting to fill a glass. ‘Drowning your sorrows won’t solve anything, you know.’
‘And a root beer for me! Please.’ Teddy saves Derek from answering. Turning toward his brother, he asks, ‘So what happened? Taïga seemed furious when she left.’
Teddy raises a brow, surreptitiously gazing at the red mark which is already fading on his brother’s cheek. ‘Nothing, huh?’ Grabbing his glass with root beer, he clinks it with Derek’s. ‘Here’s to … err…’
Teddy knows when to leave his brother alone, and now is such a moment. Even though he’s itching to find out what happened, he stays on safe ground, small talking about sports the time to finish off their drinks.
Teddy checks his watch pushing back his chair. ‘Chief that beer, we gotta leave. Curfew, you know.’
‘I’ll catch up. Later…’ Derek drains his beer motioning for a refill.
Honey watches Teddy leave with a thoughtful frown on her well made-up face. She hands Derek his beer, asking him 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…’
‘Hell, 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, but listens patiently to Derek ranting about Taïga, making sure his glass is filled and passing from beer to bourbon. 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 the kind of guy who beats around the bush…’
‘Nah…’ He shakes his head, chuckling. ‘She’s just a kid, not my kind at all.’ He empties his bourbon.
‘And what’s your kind?’ she asks coyly. Taking the empty glass her fingers accidentally brush his, and they lock eyes. Derek breaks the gaze first, letting his eyes roam over her, lasting at her generous bosom. 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,’ Derek protests.
‘Blue Law, son. And you’re the last client… Have you checked his ID, Honey?’
‘I know him. It’s Johnny Johnson’s err… 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, letting the engine run.
‘Yeah. Here we are…’ Derek reaches out and cuts the engine.
She doesn’t finish her sentence – Derek is turning towards her with a wicked smile. ‘Wanna see the horses?’
‘Now? In the middle of the night?’
‘Yeah. That’s the point. Let’s take the party to the barn.’
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…’ silencing 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 smooth, hard chest, moving down over his abs, following his happy trail. She unbuttons the first button of his jeans, letting her hand slip inside his underwear, making him groan in anticipation.
‘I… want you… so badly…’ his words come out between gasps. ‘Oh, Taïga…’
His eyes pop open and he looks at Honey a little dazed. ‘Oh, shit…’ He lifts her up, carrying her with her legs wrapped around his narrow hips. He puts her down on some hay bales, struggling to open her jeans, but she pushes his hands away and quickly undoes her belt while he pulls off first her boots, then her jeans. Eagerly she sits up, grabbing his head and drawing him in, kissing him. Derek fumbles for something in his pocket, then he freezes.
‘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, sluddering slightly. ‘Go away, kiddo… this is X-rated…’
But Taïga is petrified. As if hypnotized she stares at the scene in front of her. A flustered, half-naked Mrs. Darnell is lying spread-eagled on some hay bales, with Derek between her legs. He’s bare-chested and still wearing his jeans riding low on his hips but there’s no doubt of what was going to take place if she hadn’t walked in on them.
Her eyes focuses on Derek and she swallows a big lump in her throat.
‘Or maybe you wanna come?’ He snickers at the pun, wiggling his eyebrows wickedly. His face gets serious again, his eyes menacing slits as he challenges her, ‘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 forty – she could be his mother! 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…’
‘Nah…’ Derek tears the package with his teeth. Honey gasps at the sight of him rolling the condom on. She reaches for him, kissing him hungrily and he banishes all thoughts of Taïga from his head…
A half hour later, Honey picks her scattered clothes up and gets dressed. ‘We had a good time, didn’t we?’ she asks, buttoning her shirt.
‘Are you sure you’ve got my number?’
‘Uh-huh.’ She bends down to kiss him goodbye, but ashamed of what he’s just done, he turns his head, offering his cheek. ‘See you around, Honey.’
The sound of her truck driving away draws him out of his drunken torpor. Fumbling for his sweater he pulls it on. It’s filled with straw but he doesn’t care. ‘Now where’s the dang bottle?’
He finds it and takes a swig before a little unsteadily climbing down the ladder…
The night is cold and it has just started snowing again. Wanting to turn but being too drunk to succeed, Derek runs until he falls in the deep snow. Automatically his arms and legs starts to flail and he makes a snow angel, like when he was a kid. Like he did with Taïga before he screwed it all up. Again. 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…
The pole star catches his eye, glinting through the layers of greyness.
“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.
*Keat’s Last Sonnet
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 hands before sitting down on a cold stone.
‘Freaking cold… Crap! 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 that is usually kept at bay with alcohol, but is now tugging at his insides… He has learned to fight the terrifying feeling with all means, but tonight it’s a release.
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 and it scatters against the stones.
‘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.
Lastly, as the dark clouds slowly clear away revealing the full moon, a dark force rips through him in wave after wave of excruciating pain.
Derek is finally taken…
Part II – End of Chapter 08