by Amber Jane
How far would you go to repay a debt for a friend?
The street was deserted, just as Cass expected. Closing her jacket tightly and sidestepping the puddles left after the storm she hurried along the empty street toward her destination. It was well past midnight and drizzling on a thoroughly miserable November night. The few trees that still retained their leaves held them close to the ground, bowing to the ripping wind and cold sleets of rain. Even the moon was just a sliver of light, hiding in the folds of the dark and patchy sky. The light in the small convenience store shone like a beacon among lifeless houses, a welcome sight in the wake of the passing storm. She ducked under the awning just as a slight figure separated itself from the wall and launched at her.
"Thank God you are here!" Cass barely retained her balance as she strove to separate herself from the wet and shaking girl now clinging to her.
"Yes, I am here. What did you expect? You call me in the middle of the night, you are hysterical, and you want me to meet you in this godforsaken dump. Are you all right? What happened? And why are you here in the first place? You are blocks from your dorm."
The girl looked up at her friend and gave her a weepy smile, saying again, "You came."
Cass sighed with defeat. "I can't be mad at you. I think I'll just wait for you to regain your senses and calm down before I get an explanation. Come on, lets get out of this weather."
Half an hour later both were safely ensconced in Cass' warm living room, sipping hot chocolate.
"All right, Lina, spill it. What did you do this time?"
The younger girl flinched at her friend's words but she knew that once she related her trouble the words would only get worse.
"Cass, it wasn't my fault, really." She chanced a glance at her friend's face and the raised eyebrows didn't leave any room for doubt of her friend's thoughts. The mocking tone confirmed it.
"No, of course not. Let me guess, you were kidnapped, no, wait... you were drugged, better yet, you were under the influence of a mind control device." Cass sighed and folded her hands in front of her as if in prayer, "Lina, just tell me what happened, I promise I'll try to help if I can." That is after I yell at you, she added silently.
The younger girl seemed to consider her options for a moment. She looked almost ready to cry and finally the words came tumbling out.
"Cass, I was at a party. With Steve." She raised a conciliatory hand, palm forward as if to stem the tide of rebuke, and hastened to add, "I know you don't like him and you are right, I should have listened to you." The hard look in her friend's eyes forced her back to the story. "There was a lot of drinking and..." Lina seemed to shrink further into the couch. Her voice was barely audible when she went on.
"The punch was spiked. I didn't realize what was happening until it was too late." She shuddered and continued, "Cass, we were playing cards. For money," she added a shade lower. "I... I lost a lot but I kept playing, hoping to get it back. No one was taking the bets seriously, but then at the end I was the one with the largest losses. The party broke up into playing groups by then and most of the people left, but Steve was still there. He insisted that the stakes were real and that I had to pay the bank." She stopped and glanced at her friend.
Cass was sitting forward in her chair, her palms pressed to her temples. Silence hung over them for a few minutes; finally Cass looked up and asked,
"All right, how much is it?"
Lina was shaking her head even before Cass finished her question.
"You don't understand." She looked utterly miserable. "It's not possible to repay."
"Come on Lina, what is it? One, two hundred? It can't be that bad. Whom do you owe it to anyway?"
"Steve and some of his buddies. And Cass, it's much worse than that," she stammered and added almost in a whisper, "About fifty times worse."
"Good Lord!" Cass sucked in her breath. "You lost over five thousand dollars?!"
Lina was nodding unhappily. "A little over fifty three hundred, in fact." She looked up and finally burst into tears.
Cass could withstand anything her friend pulled but her tears. She jumped off the chair and sat down on the couch hugging the crying girl.
"Hush, Lina. Don't cry, we'll figure something out. Did you try talking to them? Explaining that you didn't have that kind of money?" All the anger at her friend's foolishness was gone, replaced by the hated feeling of helplessness and loss of control. Lina sniffled onto her friend's shoulder and raised her tearstained face.
"There is something else," she stammered. Cass groaned inwardly. Lina continued, "I mean a good something... I guess. Steve and his buddies were talking about this man while we played. When I told them I couldn't pay they started getting really angry, but then Steve mentioned that man again and something about a trade-off. They finally agreed that they'll forget the debt if I..." She drew a deep breath and blurted out, "If I slept with him."
Cass reeled back. "You can't be serious! You are ..."
"I know, I know, but I didn't tell them anything. Even Steve doesn't know. I told them I'd give them my decision by noon tomorrow. Either the money or..."
Cass frowned. "It doesn't make sense. Why would they forego that amount of money for someone else's night of fun?" She looked at Lina closely and saw that the girl was fidgeting nervously, her hands pleating the tassels on the pillow in her lap. "Lina, you are not telling me everything. Come on, I need to know what we are up against."
"Well, this man... apparently they owe him for something but he won't take money as payment, so they want to use this as a repayment." She paused and continued a shade quieter, "the money really doesn't mean much to them. Two of them push dope on campus, this is nothing compared to what they make in a couple of good days."
"So," Cass said slowly, still reeling from the shock, "this was all done for the benefit of their debt to this guy. To lure you into losing enough money to cooperate. What the hell did he do for them? And why you anyway?"
"Ah, I knew we would get to that SOB sooner or later. So, he told them about you and..."
Lina was nodding again. Cass leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes, willing herself to wake up and discover that all of this was just one bad dream. She was almost five years older than her friend and had gotten in her share of scrapes in the past, but nothing like this. She opened her eyes to find Lina staring at her lap, misery clear on her pale face. She forced herself to get a grip and said,
"All right. Let's review our options. Lina, are you listening?"
Lina looked up, tears once again clouding her beautiful green eyes.
"Stop crying." Cass gentled her voice. "We'll figure something out."
After an hour of debate and consideration they were not a step closer to the solution. Even combining their meager resources wouldn't give them the needed amount. Risking non-payment was too dangerous. The decision was not a choice at all, it was simply take it or leave it.
Cass got up to make more hot chocolate. When she came back she saw that Lina dozed off on the couch. Sighing she took a blanket off her bed and covered the girl. She needed time to think and Lina needed to sleep it off. Questions still remained. Who was this man? What sort of a debt was worth that kind of money? And most importantly, what to do about Lina?
Cass took her hot chocolate and walked over to stand by the window. She turned off the lights plunging the room into darkness and simultaneously flooding it with shadows. Sighing again, she looked out at the forbidding outlines of the city. Her apartment was on the fifteenth floor and the dark city spread its domain before her windows. She sat down on the windowsill, hugging her knees and pressing one cheek against the coolness of the glass. The rain picked up again and was now pattering softly against her window. With the exception of an occasional bright window the neighborhood slept. Her building was the tallest for miles, very conspicuous among the lower apartment complexes and private houses. She liked the singularity of it, the uniqueness of her home.
Looking at the silent houses she wondered again what she would say to Lina when the girl woke up. The solution was staring her right in the face but she needed more facts and a stiff drink before accepting it as the only way out. Cass swallowed the last of her hot chocolate and leaned back against the wall. Lina was a virgin and she had to remain that way. At nineteen she still hadn't met the man she wanted to share herself with. Cass respected that and in some ways envied her friend's firm stand. It amazed her at times that while being so steadfast on some issues Lina could be that helpless and naive in others. The evening's debacle being an extreme but powerful example.
Finally Cass drifted off to sleep only to wake up barely two hours later to the shrill buzzing of her alarm. She scrambled to shut it off and resetting it for ten a.m. dropped onto her bed, exhausted and sleepy. She woke up again a few minutes before ten and went back to the living room to check on Lina.
"Good morning." Cass forced herself to sound cheerful even though her thoughts were still anything but that.
"Morning? Oh, God, what time is it? Noon ..."
"Noon is still two hours away. Listen Lina, I've come up with something but I need some answers first or it won't work."
"What? What have you come up with?"
"Patience." Cass smiled. "Tell me, does this man know who you are? I mean does he know whom to expect?"
"I don't know." Lina frowned. "Why? I suppose Steve may have told him... You are thinking of sending someone in my place? But that wouldn't work, I mean, no one in their right mind would..." Suddenly a flash of insight seared through her still sleepy mind. "No! Oh, no, are you out of your mind? I'd never let you ..."
Cass splayed her palms out in front of her in supplication and pressed on,
"Be reasonable, Lina, we have no other choice. You cannot possibly sacrifice your virginity for this whereas I..."
"Whereas you what? How can you even suggest this?"
"Lina." Cass' quiet voice overrode her friend's indignation. "Lina, listen to me. Unlike you, I am not a virgin and I am also not in a relationship right now. I am a free person to do and act as I wish. Don't think of this in terms of sacrifices, but even if you do, you must admit that for me it's less of a sacrifice than for you."
Lina was silent, staring hopefully at her friend; bewilderment and gratitude clear on her pale face. Finally she whispered, "You would do this for me? I don't deserve you. I'll never forgive myself for my stupidity and for not listening to you about Steve. I... "
"Lina, stop it." Cass' sharp voice stemmed the tide of recriminations. "We all make mistakes. I can help and I will. Don't make me out to be a saint over this. I know you would do the same for me if the circumstances were reversed. Don't fret over it anymore." All business now, she added, "It's time to call that weasel Steve. See if you can maneuver him into not telling the guy what you look like or we'll be in trouble."
Half an hour later the meeting was arranged. Lina, or rather Cass, was to go to the address Steve gave them and meet the man there at ten o'clock that evening. She was to spend the night and the debt would be paid. Cass was careful to record the conversation on tape of her answering machine just in case Steve decided to renege on it later. There was one problem though. Steve had already told the guy that the girl had long light auburn hair and green eyes. Lina was on the verge of crying again when she told Cass, but Cass only shook her head and told her not to worry.
In the next few hours they bought a light auburn longhair wig to cover Cass' short chestnut haircut and a pack of colored eye lenses. They also visited a shoe store and bought a pair of high-heeled boots to make up for their difference in height. Since they weren't sure what else Steve may have told the guy they decided to do as much as possible to make Cass look like Lina. Finally after eating a quick dinner Cass tried on the whole outfit. Staring at her reflection she decided that she couldn't possibly be the pale-faced stranger in the mirror. She did look more like Lina now, except she was still slightly shorter but in the dark it wouldn't be possible to tell. She had a wide brimmed hat left over from a Halloween a few years back and she pulled the hat on now, hiding her face in its shadows.
"Cass, you look great." Lina smiled, her smile a bit pained, but sincere.
Finally after a few more hours of strained anticipation it was time to go. It would take Cass at least fifteen minutes to walk to the apartment complex where she was to meet the man. Cass sighed as she picked up the umbrella and turned to hug Lina.
"Listen, don't worry about me, okay? I'll be fine." She smiled, the smile looking out of place on her strained face.
"I'll be fine," she said again, trying to convince herself as much as Lina. "Just think of this as a blind date that will end in a one night stand." A ghost of a smile appeared on Lina's face and Cass smiled in response. Finally they hugged good-bye and Cass stepped out into the night.
The rain was light but steady and the new shoes forced her to walk slower than usual. As she passed the familiar houses she forcibly blocked out the fears that kept interfering. In the end she gave in and felt the flood of tension engulf her as all the thoughts of what could happen swamped her conscience making her feel lightheaded and slightly nauseous. The desire to turn back grew exponentially with each step and Cass felt fear literally clog her throat as she found herself in front of the apartment complex. Drawing a deep breath she walked up to the designated building and pressed the doorbell. The soft buzz of the lock answered almost immediately and she found herself climbing the stairs to the third floor. The door to his apartment was ajar and she saw soft light streaming through the crevices around the door. Before she even touched the door it slid open and she came face to face with him.
All the way to the apartment Cass tried to picture him, but she knew nothing of him except his gender and thus she gave up. Now as she looked at him she realized that nothing she could have imagined would have prepared her for him. He was dressed entirely in black and the first impression she had of him was that of a large sated cat toying with his next victim. He was tall, almost a foot taller than she was even in heels. Powerfully built, but slim at the same time, no bulging muscles. His hair was dark brown, almost chestnut like Cass' natural color. She couldn't tell what color his eyes were because his face was in the shadow, but they had to be dark, for now they appeared an almost bluish black in the soft darkness of the hallway. Cass felt his eyes run down the length of her body and back up to meet her gaze. He drew the door further ajar and stepped aside to let her pass. She walked into the apartment and stopped uncertain of where to go next. Neither has yet spoken, but finally he broke the silence.
Cass nodded mutely, still throwing worried glances around the apartment.
He cocked his head to the side in question and then laughed. The sound was so unexpected that Cass jumped, dropping her purse.
"I am sorry," he managed, still laughing, "I didn't mean to startle you. You are expecting perhaps your friend Steve? There is no one else here, we are alone. After all, you are my gift and I don't like to share what's mine."
She should have felt relived, but for some reason that didn't allay her fears noticeably. She did force herself to stop staring and clasped her hands together to keep them from shaking.
"Please, come in." He gestured toward the spacious living room. "May I take your jacket? Your hat too, although I must admit it looks quite good on you." Cass handed him her jacket and took the hat off carefully, still uncertain of how well the wig sat on her. She watched as he hung her things and found herself admiring his lithe movements. He turned back to her and saw her staring at him.
"So, what does your thorough assessment tell you about me?" There was a hint of smile in his voice and she felt relief at his light mood.
"You are different."
"Different from what you expected or different from your friend Steve and his buddies."
"Steve is not my friend and I don't even know his buddies." She caught herself in time and added hastily, "I mean I met them at the party, but I don't know them."
"Ah, yes, the party." He gestured for her to sit down and sat across from her on the other couch.
"Tell me, how does a young lady lose over five thousand dollars in a card game? For that matter, why are you involved with scum like Steve?" His voice was bland but Cass saw distaste in his eyes when he mentioned Steve's name.
"I am not involved with him!" She almost jumped off the couch in indignation, too late remembering that the real Lina is supposed to be dating Steve. His raised eyebrows and the unspoken question in his eyes brought her down to earth in a jolt. She did jump off the couch then. "Please, why don't we just get it over with? I didn't come her to socialize with you."
He looked up at her and then said quietly,
"Sit down. As I said, you are my gift, my property so to speak, at least for tonight," he saw her stiffen but continued unruffled, "thus if I choose to spend the entire night talking to you, that's what we will do. Now, would you like some wine?"
Cass sat down and nodded mutely, still angry at his words. He went to the kitchen and she heard the gentle tinkling of glasses. Get a grip, she thought in despair, God forbid he finds out the truth. Being left alone for a few minutes gave her a chance to compose her thoughts and by the time he returned with two glasses of sparkling wine she was ready to face him again.
"I trust you have nothing against white wine." She shook her head and took the glass from him. The wine was quite good and as the cool liquid trickled down her throat she felt herself relax further.
"Where were we? Ah, yes, I was asking you about your gambling." He leaned back on his couch and looked at her expectantly.
Cass took another sip of wine and met his gaze. "I don't gamble. The punch at the party was spiked and I was buzzed, thus the losses. Besides I didn't think the bets counted until Steve told me that they did." He must have sensed the loathing in her voice when she spoke about Steve because he leaned forward and said,
"You know, it's funny, but you seem to hold Steve in dislike. Yet, he told me that you were his girlfriend. Strange contradiction, don't you think?"
Cass bit her lip, castigating herself for her transparent nature, but replied easily enough.
"It's true, I was his girlfriend, but after yesterday that no longer applies. I don't wish to see him again and I'll straighten him out about our relationship as soon as I see him again."
"Funny that you should say that. He said he might drop by to say hello, and in fact I expect him any minute now." He rose nonchalantly and took a step toward her.
Cass gasped and jumped up, the wine sloshing over the rim of the glass and onto the front of her blouse. She felt her face drain of color and stared at him nonplussed.
"I thought there is more here than meets the eye." His quiet voice brought her back to reality. He took the glass out of her nerveless fingers and set it on the coffee table. Gently he pressed her back down onto the sofa and sat down, turning sideways so that he could face her. "Forgive me for obviously scaring you, but I detest being lied to." He raised her chin on his fingers and leaning toward her asked,
"All right, the truth, what is going on here?"
Cass could still feel herself trembling. She drew a deep breath and whispered, "Nothing. What do you mean?"
He leaned back and she saw by the hard set of his mouth that he was furious. "Let me tell you what I mean. I think that you are a hooker, someone that the real Lina hired to replace her for tonight."
Her outraged gasp stopped him short of whatever else he was going to say.
"How dare you?!" She jumped up and actually stomped her foot. "I will not sit here and have you insult me. You..."
He was on his feet in an instant, gripping her shoulders. His voice was deceptively mild when he asked,
"How dare I? You are lying to me, actually mixing truth and lies, and you are not very good at it. I want to know who you are and why you are here instead of Steve's actual girlfriend. Either you tell me the truth or I will call Steve and invite him over, for that matter, I'll invite his buddies as well, who knows, they might wish to have some fun too."
Cass stared at him. All of a sudden she felt deflated, completely drained. It was supposed to be easy; unpleasant but easy and now she made a complete mess of things. Silently she asked Lina's forgiveness and out loud requested,
"Let me go," after a brief hesitation she added, "I'll tell you the truth."
He released her and she rolled her shoulders to get the feeling back to the part where his fingers left her numb. Both lowered themselves back on the couch and she began her explanation.
"You are right, I am not Lina," he was about to speak at that, but she pressed her palm to his chest, her eyes begging him to wait, "please, just give me a chance to explain." He leaned back and motioned for her to continue. "My name is Cass and I am Lina's best friend. She was dating Steve, on and off, but she didn't know about his involvement with..." she stopped, uncertain if he knew about the drugs. He filled in the blank, "Drugs, dope, etc. Go on." She sighed and continued, "Lina went with him to a party last night and what I told you about the party is true. She can't drink hard liquor, she gets drunk immediately, but she drank the punch and she didn't really know what was going on until she sobered up and by then she was out a lot of money. Steve and his buddies pressured her into either paying up or sleeping with you. She came to me late last night, asking for help, but even between the two of us we still didn't have enough money to pay off the debt, so it really wasn't a choice at all." She raised her eyes to his and waited for his reaction.
He didn't say anything at first. Cass began to worry at his continued silence and finally asked,
"Do you belive me?"
He spoke slowly and deliberately, choosing his words with care.
"Yes, actually, I do believe you. But I think there is more to this than you are telling me. Your story doesn't explain why she isn't here paying off the debt? Why you?"
Cass realized there was no hope for it. "Lina... Lina is a virgin." She saw him start in disbelief.
"Surely you don't expect me to believe that?"
"Please," Cass implored, "I am telling you the truth. There is no reason for me to lie anymore, I've already told you the one thing that I should have guarded as a secret. Lina is a virgin by her own choosing. She is a beautiful girl, but she hasn't yet found anyone to share herself with. She is my best friend, I couldn't just sit by and watch her give this gift to someone she didn't know for something as stupid as a card game debt." She saw that he still wasn't convinced and added, "Lina is younger than I am and I've always found myself watching out for her, so that's why I am here and not she. That's the truth," she finished on a deep sigh.
For a few minutes neither one of them said anything. Finally he spoke:
"I am assuming that you may be wearing some things that are not usually part of your appearance. If that is the case I want you to go to my bedroom and do whatever it is that you need to do to appear as yourself. We'll continue this when you come back." He started to rise but her hand on his arm stopped him.
"Wait," the worry was etched in her fine eyes, "please, will you tell Steve about this? I... I'll do anything you would have had Lina do, just don't tell those men about it. Lina can't pay the debt." No emotion reflected on his features. Cass pressed on, "Please, let me repay it for her. I'll do anything, just tell me what you want."
He got up and turned back to look at Cass. "I just did," he said softly. He picked up the glasses and walked into the kitchen without a backward glance.
Cass sighed, took her purse and walked to the room he pointed out as his bedroom. Closing the door after her, she flicked on the light and looked around. A large bed stood along the right wall dominating the room. Bay windows hung with cheerful curtains occupied most of the wall opposite the door. A couple of chairs along with two night tables and a beautiful landscape over the bed completed the furnishings and gave the room an airy and cheerful atmosphere. Cass looked around for a mirror but ended up using the dark window to judge her reflection. Soon she disposed of the wig and the lenses and managed to brush her hair out to its usual shape. Finally she was ready to go back out. She opened the door to find him standing there.
"That didn't take long." He took in her new appearance and nodded. "Somehow all that red hair looked out of place on you, but the green eyes were nice, although the chocolate brown suits you better."
He motioned toward the room and asked, "What do you think?"
"It's very open and very neat."
"You sound surprised."
"Not too many people I know keep their rooms clean, especially men." She turned to him and added, "but no, I am not really surprised. Somehow I expected you to be different."
"Well, I'll take that as a compliment." He walked into the room and pulled the door shut behind him. Cass watched him finger the wig abandoned on a chair and once again she felt uncertain about what she was going to do. She cleared her throat and asked softly,
"Are we going to stay here?"
He turned to her, "Would you have preferred the couch?"
She shook her head and took an uncertain step toward him. He remained motionless, waiting for her to come to him. When she was just a foot away he placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her to the window and taking his place behind her. Cass felt the heat of his body, although he wasn't touching her, except for her shoulders where his palms rested lightly, his thumbs caressing the base of her neck. Suddenly his hands left her and she turned around in time to see him walk over to the light switch and flick it off, plunging the room into darkness. She turned back to the window when he rejoined her.
"May I ask you a question?" Her voice was soft and diffident, uncertain of his reaction.
"How do you know Steve and his buddies? I mean, what did you do for them that they owe you a favor?"
He was silent for a moment before replying with a question of his own.
"What do you think I did?"
Cass found herself in a quandary. On one hand she had an idea, but on the other hand, she didn't wish to offend him if she were wrong.
"I don't know," she replied honestly. Turning around to face him she continued, "I had an idea when Lina first told me about this, but now I am not so sure."
"What did you think?"
Cass shook her head. "No, I won't tell you, I have no wish to offend you."
"Or, perhaps you are afraid that your guess may prove right?"
She looked up at him, wondering if he perhaps guessed that she thought he was somehow involved with the drugs. Finally she turned back to the window, unwilling to risk showing him what she thought. His window opened to a small park and she watched the darkened rows of flowerbeds that surrounded a little fountain in the center of the oasis.
His quiet voice brought her back to reality. "I had the misfortune of saving Pete's life. He is one of Steve's buddies. Apparently his life was worth something to them because they tried to reward me. As you know I refused money, but they were set on repaying me, thus this whole charade with your friend."
Cass started to turn around to face him again, but his hands stayed her movements and kept her where she was. He stepped closer and she felt him against the length of her body.
"Your friend would have been safe with me. I wouldn't have taken her to bed, a virgin or not. Nor would I have told Steve about it. Truth be told I would have been grateful to have the damned debt out of the way, for I wish to have nothing further to do with either him or his friends." He halted, waiting for her reaction.
Cass was breathless. She tried to turn around again and this time his hands didn't hold her back.
"You lied to me! You..."
"Lied to you? Me? I think, you have that backwards, my dear. I wasn't the one pretending to be someone else. I have simply allowed you to believe that I am who you thought I was, nothing more, nothing less. You on the other hand... well, no matter now. The charade is over, now that all the cards are on the table, the rules have changed." He watched Cass get a hold of herself and shrug his hands off herself. She walked the length of the room, still furious at herself and at him. Finally she turned to face him and asked,
"So, what happens now?"
"Now you can get undressed and get some sleep. I'll see you in the morning." With those words he turned and stepped out of the room, leaving Cass bewildered, mouth agape, in the middle of his bedroom.
The words were out of Cass' mouth before he had a chance to close the door behind him.
"Why don't you want to sleep with me?" She was instantly mortified and shocked at herself. She actually clamped her hand over her mouth as if to stop more shocking thoughts from spilling out. He turned around, pure astonishment clear on his handsome face. He took in her flushed face, trembling lips, and eyes pooling over with tears and in three steps he was across the room, holding her in his arms.
"You silly fool," he whispered gently, "the last thing you should be worried about is my desire to seduce you. You are very attractive, but the circumstances under which you came to be here would stand in the way if anything were to happen." He raised her blushing face from his chest and kissed her gently on the forehead. "Mutual enjoyment cannot be coerced or ordered or given out of obligation. I would never put someone through that."
Cass was still flustered over her comment, but she managed to look at him when she said, "I am sorry. I don't know what came over me. I mean, I didn't mean to ask you that. I just..."
He cut her off. "I know, you were just confused and your thoughts gained control of your mouth." His thumbs caressed her cheeks as he held her face in his palms. "Don't worry about it. Just get some sleep, all right?"
Cass lowered her head and nodded against his chest. His lips touched her forehead again lightly and then he was out of the room, gently shutting the door. Cass stumbled over to the bed and started to get undressed. Without realizing it, she took everything off, so used she was to sleeping naked at home. His bed was very large and she soon found herself curled up among the numerous covers and pillows. Exhaustion, both mental and physical, tugged at her, but still sleep wouldn't come. Finally she fell into fitful sleep but woke up barely half an hour later from a nightmare. Unwilling to go back to sleep she wrapped one of the covers around herself and crept out of the room to the kitchen. Her feet ground to a halt in the living room.
The couch was folded out and he was asleep on the makeshift bed. Cass felt her breath catch in her throat as she watched him. He was naked, the light cover slipped down to his thighs during the night. He was sleeping on his back, one arm over his head, the other out to the side. Dark locks of hair fell on his forehead and he was frowning in his sleep. Cass knew she should turn right around and go back to her room, yet she stood there, mesmerized by the statuesque aura about him. He sighed deeply in his sleep and suddenly his eyes flicked open. He scanned her figure slowly and finally asked in a voice groggy from sleep,
"Do you want some company?"
As if from afar, Cass saw herself nodding, saw him get up, take her hand and lead her back to his bedroom. Once there, she snapped out of her daze and pulled back slightly, "I... I don't ..." He touched his finger to her lips. "Shhh, just sleep, nothing else."
He got in bed and closed his eyes until the bed gave way and he felt her sliding in next to him. Turning sideways he put his arms around her and to his astonishment didn't encounter any cloth separating them. Cass stiffened when his arms tensed around her, but his hands stayed firmly in the middle of her back, not straying anywhere. Cass began to relax when he spoke for the last time that evening.
"Cass, I'd like to see you again."
Cass suddenly felt lightheaded, but found that she was smiling.
"I'd like that. There is only one problem." She laughed softly. "I don't know your name."
She felt him laughing quietly against her hair and then he replied,
"Michael. My name is Michael."
Kissing his throat lightly, she whispered, "Good night, Michael."
"Good night, Cass."