He walked out of the club, nodding to the bundled up security at the door while wishing them a good weekend, and strode into the cold night. There were more shadows than lights, and the crunchy crusting of snow and ice on the sidewalk contrasted with the black slickness of the pavement. His steady gait toward the canal bridge gave no indication that he cared about the footing or the weather. Confidence and purpose guided him over the broken concrete sidewalk, past the boarded up shopfronts and retracted awnings, and to the water’s edge.
Her breath puffed out in a cloud of icy crystals in front of her fur hood, and she watched him marching to her. Maybe it was silly, to meet him like this, but he wasn’t in town very often and she wanted to… Heather made herself stop thinking about what she might want from him. He didn’t know her, not really, and their online flirting was only barely enough to form an opinion of one another. Besides, she was still working hard to make her current long term relationship work.
But there was something more here, beyond just their dubious perusal of each other and the way he stalked her and she fed him scraps to keep him encouraged. It was right in front of her eyes. She stood with the lights from the market behind her, intentionally cloaked and blending into the shadows, but he came to her with an unerring sense of her presence. Heather realized she was gloating a bit. Leading him to her. Drawing him out. Hunting. Again.
They were both predators, but for Heather this was her element. She could feel the slow pulse of the city as the canal trickled through the locks. This was the home she chose for now, though she was far from the place she called home. But he was just passing through, always on the move, and never settled in. Heather watched with hidden eyes as he paused for a moment, right by the canal, and then crossed the glinting blacktop and came to her. His leather jacket was still hanging open in the front, and the street lamps at the end of the bridge bathed him in soft light. A cloud of steam was wafting from his shoulders and head, and when he nodded to Heather her eyes saw the illusory shape around him nod as well. He was solid and rugged but his illusory extension was swift and amorphous. Both forms approached her, and she prepared for him with her hands shoved deep in her pockets to keep them warm.
He called her a lovely lioness. But he referred to himself as a monster. She adored his optimism.
Pleasantries. Greetings after months apart. The reality of Heather’s lips and face, and her hair hidden under the hood. He was surprised she had put out the cigarette as soon as he left the club. That red glowing ember would have been a beacon to guide him, but now that he was here it was clear her hands had been freezing. Standing on the stone path next to the canal, the closed up patio of the coffee shop behind him, Erik looked at her bundled up formless shape. He laughed.
“Oh,” she whispered, “you’re lovely.”
He laughed harder, the sound of it echoing down the passageway and skipping over the black water. The sound of him filled the empty spaces and the cold night. It brought the stars into him, and he felt his connection to everything filling him with cold power. He didn’t need to hide his hands or his face from winter’s icy claws. He took Heather by the shoulders, her heavy coat smooth and artificial under his fingers, running his hands down to her forearms while leaning in close, and kissed her cold cheeks with his warm lips. “Ah, the lioness, so far from her native Africa.” He kissed her nose, skipping any formality, being tender if silly, and added, “I’ve missed getting in trouble with you.”
Heather was a very pragmatic woman. She didn’t take her hands from her pockets, nor expose herself to the cold. But she didn’t fight his warm breath on her face and his questionable intentions either. “Somewhere warm, you said. Nearby?” She wasn’t looking forward to another chilling night bus ride. He had a room, walking distance from the night club, and it would be warm inside. Even her feet were chilled from waiting for him to finish dancing, to notice her text message, and to come to her side.
“Of course,” Erik replied. “Holiday Inn, right along the canal and then a jog to the left to get to the entrance.” He nodded toward the cobblestone bridge that angled across the canal not far ahead of them. “In the morning we can slip and slide our way over that stone legacy and get some hot breakfast.”
He hooked his hand through the crook of her elbow, her coat hissing as his leather sleeve rubbed the poly-fabric, and they walked together over the glazing of snow and ice. Erik never shook nor shivered, and Heather never protested nor complained. They were the only souls out in the night, or so it seemed, and Camden Town was sleeping all around them.
The lobby was brightly lit with a fake holiday tree and the usual hotel lounge accessories. For a moment, Heather licked her lips while glancing at the bar, but it was shut. Erik led them to the elevator, and it wasn’t until they were in that steel coffin and ascending that Heather took her hands from her pockets. He waited and was rewarded when she pushed back her fur lined hood and grinned at him while shaking her short hair free of it.
The lift stopped, but he blocked her way when the doors opened. “A kiss,” he murmured. She acquiesced and when their tongues met, they shared moist heat while his cold goatee and mustache roughed up her lips and chin. He backed away slowly, guiding her out of the elevator without breaking their tender contact, and then pulled Heather to his chest. There was subtle coercion, his fingers running through her hair and his hand on her hip, but Heather knew she could break away at any moment.
She didn’t. He tasted of something sweet – cola perhaps – and she was breathing in the fresh scent of his perspiration now that he was out of the cold. Heather nipped his lip, catching it in her teeth then releasing his flesh, and tangled her tongue with his when he cautiously explored her mouth. His face was so very cold, and Heather imagined he might thaw and melt in the warm corridor. His whiskers were rough but he was being too gentle, too easy, too… boring.
And Erik knew it. He broke their kiss and winked at her. “Now that the soft stuff is out of the way, how about I invite you back to my room?” His dark brown eyes were twinkling, and there was trouble written all over his grin. Her hand was already in his, but she hung back. “Oh.” He looked her over. “You know this could ruin everything. If my secrets ever got out… if anyone knew the truth about me… then…” He shook his head melodramatically.
Heather wasn’t prepared for the ambush that followed. He had sucked her in, lured her into thinking she was safe with his boring boyish kisses and the beginning of some cocked up pickup line. But then he moved like lightning, stepping into her legs and tipping her off balance. Heather clawed at Erik to keep on her feet and he used that to bend and tuck his shoulder into her abdomen and then scoop her into the air. Her coat let out a rush like it was exhaling, and then it crumpled against her torso. Her head swung out and nearly struck the wall, and her feet definitely made contact with something solid. But she was left silently punching his back and kicking his thighs while Erik hefted her onto his shoulder. Heather felt the blood rush to her head and then her ribs and guts were being crushed by her own weight bending her in half. Erik’s firm grip balanced her in place on the solid perch of his shoulder. Heather struggled while being mindful of the precarious way Erik moved underneath her as he began to walk.
“Yeah,” he said with ease while marching down the hallway, “I didn’t think you would scream.” He spoke easily as if tossing a full grown woman over his shoulder was an everyday effortless thing. “You get a fair fight once we’re in the room. Plus some wine for after since you are awfully tense.”
She kept kicking for good measure, but it was halfhearted at best. This was no longer boring. And a lioness could bide her time and choose her battles. Heather deliberately ignored the heat pulsing within her sex and focused on breathing steadily so she didn’t give Erik the satisfaction of knowing he’d gotten the upper hand. Riding his shoulder was uncomfortable, but it would tire him out and give her an edge soon enough.