9: Prim, Pretty Thing

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Not the soul that’s whitest
Wakens love the sweetest:
When the heart is lightest
Oft the charm is fleetest

George William Russell, “Light and Dark”

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The turn onto his street cues the tightening in my gut, the rush of pulse and adrenaline. My fingers flex around the wheel, my foot trembling in its place on the brake.

His home perches regally on the large, sloping lawn ahead, and I slow down.

Father’s money has purchased me this: the number on the mailbox in front of me.

This is where he lives.

This is where he is.

This is where I want to be.

Visions of surprising him pass through my brain, neurons running rapid-fire through each scenario and its possible outcome. All of them end with him discovering the black lace beneath my dark trench coat before pinning me to the wall, to the bed, to the floor. Pressing and pulling and piercing. Mine.

The car glides smoothly up the drive.

Park and open and one stiletto on the ground before I hear it:

“Isabella?”

He looks shocked, but men so often do when a woman takes control.

“Jacob,” I breathe with a smile.

+.+.+.+

Edward Cullen is a wanted man.

Two women have him cornered after accosting him on his way to the bar, rushing for him in a whirlwind of bulimia and Bvlgari jewelry. They’re all barely-teenage tits and coed cunts wrapped in the glittering sheen of silicon and wealth, tight dresses and tan skin.

From my vantage point at our table, I can see Edward’s eyes as he is apparently unable to stop scanning the shapely collection of limbs in front of him. The girls notice too, preening at the attention.

“Want me to set their extensions on fire?” the redhead beside me asks. Victoria, I remember.

She’s beautiful, just like everyone else in Edward Cullen’s cortege, but there’s something wild about her. Something different, something desperate.

“No need,” I reply calmly.

“You sure?”

I nod and sip my drink.

“Look, I don’t want to offend you, but this wouldn’t be the first time Edward’s switched partners in the middle of a dance. He’s never been one to shy away from moving on to blonder pastures.”

Her skeletal fingers belie her smirk, her easy words, trembling as they clutch her glass.

“I’m sure that’s true. Regardless, he’s leaving with me.”

Across the room, the girls laugh uproariously at something he’s told them.

“I don’t know how you’re so calm,” Victoria mutters. “You’re either confident, naïve or crazy.”

I smile, and my eyes do not leave him. “I’m not naive.”

+.+.+.+

Years ago, the majesty of our family sailboat “Horus” became confined to the dock, as time and stress and business added lines to my father’s face, and weight to his shoulders.

Father spoke less of ancient legends and sailing and more of things I neither understood nor cared for: fundraising and lobbying and polling and the trends among his clients’ constituencies.

“It’s all about winning,” he told everyone, over and over again, as my mother smiled and nodded and posed when appropriate, hosting parties and moving through money like Horus through the Bay… as I stared longingly at the horizon, searching for the sea.

+.+.+.+

A slim, manicured hand is running down the lapel of Edward Cullen’s jacket. I know better than to expect him to remove it.

“So where did Edward find you?” Victoria asks.

“We met at a fundraiser a few weeks ago.”

“Bootleg?”

“That’s right.”

“What did he say to you? How did he get you to come out with him?”

I raise an eyebrow at her. “He asked.”

“I’ll bet he did. He must not have wasted any time picking you up,” she sighs heavily, exhaling oxygenated whiskey into my face. “Pretty little thing like you. That’s what he said, you know, to Alice.”

“Who is Alice?”

“Sister. She’s his sister. He told her about Tanya.”

“What about Tanya?”

“He wasn’t—” she hiccoughs. “He ditched her at the Bootleg Ball for someone—hey, was that you?”

“Probably.”

“He ditched her for some girl, he said she was pretty. Prim. ‘Prim and pretty,’ that’s what he said. Alice—” hiccough “lost her shit when she found out.”

“Oh?”

“Tanya’s her best friend. She’s supposed to be with Edward, I think.” She reaches out to stroke my cheek. “Your skin is so smooth.”

“Thank you,” I reply.

“Has he fucked you yet? I’ll bet he has. He always does. They always let him.” Her eyes narrow, her fingers stroking down over my face before tightening slightly on the side of my neck. “You let him, didn’t you?”

My fingers encircle her wrist as I smile, bringing her hand to my lips, pressing a kiss onto her palm. “Have you let him?” I ask against her skin.

“Once,” she whispers, misery and intoxication staring back at me.

“And Tanya Denault?”

She nods.

Perhaps she deserves pity for the way she’s been used, for her sad, hollow gaze, for the desperation in the way her other hand is running slowly up my thigh. She moves closer.

“So smooth,” she mouths.

Perhaps she deserves pity, but she’s only earned my disgust.

“Are you familiar with Nietzsche?” I ask her.

I am the very picture of unsurprised when she shakes her head no.

“He once said, ‘The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.'”

She stares at me blankly, and I sigh.

You’re not worthy of him, I think.

Weak, whiny, wanton.

“Show me how to not care,” she slurs, her head lolling drunkenly against the back of the booth. “Show me how to be cold.”

+.+.+.+

The new city beckons like a bad influence, and my first evening in TriBeCa is spent huddled into a Donna Karan white wool double-face coat as I stroll down Worth Street, exploring the neighborhood and nearby Columbus Park.

My nanny Ilse had brought me here as a child once, filling my days with activity as my parents made the most of their business visit with city leaders. I’d loved it then, the greenery a brilliant backdrop to people practicing tai chi and soccer. Breakdancers mingled with mahjong players and I’d savored my Zen Butter as Ilse tried to shield me looking at the bums.

They’re not clean, she’d whispered urgently. They’ll ask for money. Stop staring.

Unshaven and filthy, one of the homeless men stares back and begins to move closer, closer, close enough for me to see a bead of sweat run down his temple. He’s overdressed for the summer heat.

Beside me, Ilse tensed. “I have no money,” she preemptively declared.

He ignored her, stopping a few feet away and crouching down to look me in the eye. I met his gaze unblinkingly.

And he began to laugh.

“I see you,” he wheezed. “I see your pretty little heart. You’re marked. You’re marked!”

“Get away from us,” Ilse commanded, but I could hear the tremor in her voice.

“One of me,” he continued. “One of the cold ones. Another one of me. Passion! Passion! You’ll die for your passion!”

Horrified, Ilse hurried me away, but still I looked back, fascinated as he announced to all what he’d seen in my eyes.

“Marked! A little girl marked. It’s not right, but it’s real. Passion! She’ll die for her passion! The luckiest unlucky passionate one…”

“You’ll not tell your parents about this, Liebchen?” Ilse asked worriedly as we left the park. “You’ll forget all about it, won’t you? They’ll worry so and I did not know he would speak to us, filthy man—”

I assured her I would not tell, but I did not forget him.

And now I stand, and remember, in the spot where he’d declared me marked.

+.+.+.+

He returns to the table with a small smile and an apology for taking so long.

“I saw some old friends,” he explains, and I nod. Something in my face holds his attention, however, and he eyes me with something like apprehension.

“We’ve just been talking about you,” I inform him.

The apprehension grows. “Nothing too bad, I hope.”

“I’ve heard that I’m pretty and prim.”

He grins, relaxing, and slides closer to me. “It’s true,” he whispers into my ear. “Pretty, prim thing. You still look like you’re a good little girl, you know. Even in those shoes.”

I smile, thinking of the future, of all the ways I’ll claim him.

Beside me, Victoria laughs bitterly.

+.+.+.+

The walking from my stroll in the park whets my appetite for a drink, and the “Apotheke” sign above a bar on Doyers Street draws me in. I step inside, my eyes adjusting to the darkened room as I peel off my gloves and search for a place to sit.

Twenty minutes later, I’m halfway through my drink when the 19th-century-inspired absinthe-den-aesthetic of the bar begins to seem less eccentric. The establishment is small; an L-shaped room lined with Victorian-style couches and small tea tables. The close proximity to the other patrons allows me to enjoy the conversations that are happening all around. I listen to the voices of these people, chatty and comfortable in their element.

Those who are not cut loose or set adrift. Those who belong here.

I’m pondering the merits of ordering another drink when a mêlée by the bar attracts my attention. I turn my head to ascertain the source of the commotion.

+.+.+.+

Danger and play, I think, as his hand rests on my lower back to escort me out of the club. We make our farewells and he helps me into my coat.

“Cold?” he asks as we step outside.

“Always.”

“You know,” he says, grinning. “I have a fireplace.”

He looks at me steadily, and I wonder how many women have seen the architectural marvel that I’m sure is his fireplace. How many women he’s engaged, just like this.

They always let him, Victoria said.

I mull over the information I’ve gained by watching him tonight. Observe, gather, assimilate. And now, amend.

“I’d like to see it,” I inform him evenly.

His grin grows even wider.

+.+.+.+

The first time I lay eyes on him that night, I think of the desires of Nietzsche’s true man.

His trim, six foot-odd frame is at a disadvantage to the large man currently pressing him into the wall by his throat. Even from behind his assailant, I can tell he’s well-dressed.

“Fucking get off,” he manages to say to the oaf that has him pinned.

“Apologize to my girlfriend!” Ah. It speaks.

Security appears, the three men attempting to ascertain who is at fault. The patrons in the immediate vicinity of the near-brawl quickly learn two things:

First, that the burly man does not appreciate Armani-clad barflys attempting to seduce his girl. “He kissed her!” he yells.

And second, the Armani-clad barfly in question has no such qualms regarding his own behavior.

“Teach your girl some manners or put her on a leash,” he snaps in reply, the very picture of unrepentant. “She kissed me.”

And there are more shoves, and more shouts, and after another minute of arguing the brawny man and his girlfriend begin a grandiose, invective-filled departure, as Barfly looks on impassively.

“Fuck you, Cullen!” the man shouts as they exit.

The man called Cullen only smirks, and as he turns back to the bar his eyes catch mine for a brief second.

I see him, I think. I see him.

He is elegant angles and striking slopes and contrasts, sharply shadowed bone structure and brilliant bright eyes. But beyond all of this, there is a flatness; he is beauty, but also boredom.

He’s not fully turned away before I know that I am destined to be his danger and play.

+.+.+.+

As promised, his fireplace is beautiful.

And he is persistent.

“Have another drink,” he laughs, playfully winding an arm around my waist and pulling me closer while brandishing his glass in the opposite hand. “For me, Bella No-name.”

“No, thank you,” I reply, twisting in his tight grasp. His hand slides further up my ribs, a finger shy of my breast.

“For me,” he repeats.

“I can’t imagine why you’re so insistent on getting me drunk,” I sigh. “I’m already here.”

“That’s right. And you don’t go places you don’t want to be.”

I silence the moan his touch elicits as his hand slides upward and home, closing around my breast and squeezing gently.

“You need another drink because,” he whispers against me. “You need to relax.”

“Hm. Do I?”

“Yes.”

“I feel relaxed.”

“No, you’re not. You say you are but you’re not.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes,” he repeats with another squeeze. “Such a goddamn ice princess, but look at this,” he groans, feeling my pebbled nipple beneath the silk of my shirt and the lace of my bra. “You could be so warm. You want to be warm. Feel it.”

“I’m not warm?”

“Not warm enough,” he breathes. “You’re so calm. Untouchable.”

“You’re touching me now.”

“Do you like it?”

“Mmhm.”

“I want to see you wild. I want to see you lose control.”

Be careful, I think.

Give in, he whispers against me, and the wetness between my legs is ready for him, for this game to be over.

Take him.

Take him.

Take him.

I wrap my fingers around the wrist under my breast, loosening his hold as I turn and step slightly away from him. I look up into his face just in time to see disappointment.

He’s not drunk, but he’s had enough to let down his guard.

And I can read him perfectly like this.

“You want me to lose control?” I ask in a low voice.

He nods, his mouth parting the slightest bit. I can see his tongue just barely lick his top lip.

“You’re a spoiled little boy, do you know that? Trying to get me drunk just to have your way.” My hand grabs his other wrist, pushing his half-full drink up to his mouth. Relaxed, he complies, his hooded eyes watching me, watching me, watching me.

A heady thing, to be watched.

“Drink,” I command. “Drink until it’s gone.”

He hesitates.

“Drink. Or I’m leaving.”

He brings the tumbler to his lips and tilts back his head as he drains the glass with a grimace. I stare at the movement of his throat as he swallows, fighting back the twitching of my fingers.

Let us go there, they beg. Let us touch.

He sets the glass down on the bar with a loud thud, licking his lips, his arms reaching for me.

I thread an arm around his neck and pull him down to me, forcing him to bend his knees slightly. My other hand travels down his chest to the hardness contained in his trousers.

“Ah,” he breathes into my mouth, and kisses me.

He tastes of scotch and smoke and money, hot and wet and him and I pull him closer, fingers in his hair and around him, straining into my hand. His lips move over mine with more enthusiasm than precision, his hands slide down and around and pull me against him and I kiss him back, nipping at his mouth and swallowing his moans.

I’ve waited. I’ve waited so long and the coldness retreats into the background as I melt, I melt, I melt. The fire is a dangerous servant, a fearful master and it overtakes me, its flames licking us both as I taste him.

“You brought me here to fuck me,” I whisper into his mouth, and he huffs a soft laugh, thrusting up into my hand.

“We have a winner,” he retorts.

He’s hard, his chest rising and falling rapidly, his pupils dilated as he stares longingly into my face. He’s played his game, as I am playing mine, and he thinks he’s about to claim his prize.

With a yank, I cruelly twist my hand around him, the flames climbing higher inside as he gasps, as his smirk melts into a flinch and his face transforms into something else, something startled.

“Shit,” he yelps, and grows harder in my grasp.

“Good boy,” I murmur.

Prim, pretty thing, he’d whispered into my hair, and I’d smiled.

But now I’m going to make him scream.

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About hollelujah
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