Shortly after nightfall, we find our way to a nice bar in the better part of town. Cassia’s choice. She’s been calling the shots since before the movie.
“I used to sing in a bar and restaurant,” she says from the passenger’s seat. “When I lived in New York.”
“Really?” I ask, trying to sound surprised.
People come and go from the building in front of us all dressed in casual slacks and nice sweaters and long coats, couples arm in arm, some vaguely tipsy as they leave and make their way to their cars in the parking lot.
Cassia watches them in a soundless, thoughtful manner; her memory of her time singing in New York surely playing through her mind.
She looks over and smiles. “Yeah, I sang. It was my job, though.”
I smile in return.
“I bet you have a beautiful voice.” The most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard.
Cassia looks down at her hands in her lap, her face turning red underneath that soft skin.
Then she giggles and says with a grin, “OK, yeah, I am pretty good,” but is immediately embarrassed by the confession.
Leaning over the console toward her, I cup her chin in my hand and close my lips around hers, stealing her breath away. I can’t stop. I’ve missed you. I don’t want to. But you’re not you anymore. I should stop, because I know that nothing good can come from this. But I can’t.
There has to be a way.
The kiss breaks. I stare into her soft brown eyes, savoring the taste of her mouth lingering on my lips.
It’s all an illusion—No…it’s not.
“Fredrik,” I hear her voice say, but it’s faint at first while I’m locked in my own fighting thoughts. “Is something wrong?”
I snap out of it.
She smiles at me curiously. “Why don’t we go inside?” she asks about the bar just feet from us.
Suddenly, I have a new plan. And this time I’m going to make it work. I look at her in silent contemplation, and within a matter of seconds I know what I have to do.
“How about we skip the bar,” I suggest, kissing her lightly on the lips. “I think I’d rather spend the rest of the night alone with you. We can kick back and watch TV. We can soak in a warm bath together.” Anything but the bar. Anything but what might help bring back more memories. The night Greta took off her shackle and they danced and sang to Connie Francis was the night that Cassia got her memories back. Memories I never expected, but nonetheless.
Cassia smiles. “OK,” she says without reluctance or question. “Then let’s go home.”
Home. Seraphina has come home.
I never imagined feeling this way about anyone. Seraphina will always be a part of me, but this part of her that I’ll likely never understand, has been filling the holes in my soul that have been empty since I was a boy, ever since the day I brought her here. The holes that Seraphina’s darker half could not fill. I’ve never known light. Only darkness. I’ve never experienced tenderness or frailty or compassion, until Cassia. How can one person be so many things? Wear so many faces? Accommodate so many desires?
I give Greta another full day off and I spend the next day with Cassia as well. And then the next. But by the end of the weekend, something much deeper than frustration begins to grow within me. Resentment of the truth? Knowing that what I want so badly, in reality I can’t have? And to make matters worse, I begin to realize that just because something good is standing in front of me, I can’t so easily forget who I really am inside. The need to pacify my vengeance and bloodlust is growing strong again—stronger now that my darkness feels threatened by something more powerful that is trying to hold me back, to keep me from being me. And the only thing that’ll quiet the brutal voice in the back of my mind is to find an unwilling participant and do what I do best.
I’m trying so very hard to ignore it.
Cassia sits beside me on the arm of the leather chair in my living room. Her fingers wind gently in top of my dark hair.
“Can I ask you something?” she says suggestively as I’m glimpsing her naked thighs on the thick chair arm beside me.
“Of course,” I tell her.
I keep my eyes on the iPad in front of me on the coffee table, trying not to let myself become distracted by her.
But like ignoring my dark side, that’s not so easy to do.
“How did you make love to Seraphina?”
My eyes shut in a soft, brief moment of regret. Cassia’s fingers continue to wind through my hair, sending shivers down the back of my neck.
“I think it’s better we don’t talk about her.” I run my fingertip over the screen, pretending to be pre-occupied. But all I can think about is the way her skin smells and how warm her hip is pressed against my arm.
“What was she like? In bed, I mean.”
“Cassia—.” I stop myself from sounding angry and let my breath out in a heavy sigh. “Please, you promised you wouldn’t do this.”
She slides off the chair arm and straddles my lap.
I swell uncomfortably beneath the fabric of my pants, but I can’t will myself to readjust it because I don’t want to move her even an inch from my lap. She’s wearing a gray tank top with no bra and a small tight pair of pink cotton panties. I glimpse down between her legs spread with her thighs on either side of me, her knees pressed into the cushion, and my head begins to spin with need.
“Fredrik…please.” She softens her gaze to the point of frowning and I fight not to be putty in her f**king hands. “The way you were with me all the times before—you were different. Sometimes rough, other times you looked at me before you took me as if you were fighting something inside. Something predatory, primal.” She moves her little hips on my lap with purpose. I can’t breathe. “You were always holding something back with me. And now…,” she leans inward and slides her tongue between my lips once. I can’t see through my tingling eyelids. “…now you treat me with such frailty.”
“Would you prefer that I didn’t?” I ask with a purpose of my own—I want to make her feel guilty so she’ll drop this. “What, you don’t like it?”
She pulls away from my lips and tilts her head dejectedly to one side. “No, no, I do.” She rests her hands on my shirt-covered chest. “Sometimes I feel like I could come just when you touch me. I never want you to change. I need you to be the way you are. The way you make me feel…I’ve never felt it before.”