I stood out on the balcony, breathing in the night air, trying not to cry while talking to Chris. His voice soothed me but he was being so serious. It didn't help that he was thousands of miles away in another country. “He won't take me home,” I whispered with a strained voice, tears threatening. My free hand wrapped around the cold steel of the railing, grounding myself in the moment.
“Just stay calm, Sadie. Stay calm.” He was trying, bless him, but even after uncountable years of best-friendship, not even Chris could help.
“I don't know where I am.” I choked on a sob. I doubted Daniel would come outside, but it didn't matter anyway. The three huge pit bulls downstairs would probably tear me apart before I could even think of a way to get beyond the high walls around the property. A shiver coursed through my bones.
“Sadie, you okay? You should come inside.” Daniel stuck his head out of the door and leered, eyes crawling from my toes up to my head of messy sea-water curls. “It's freezing out here, God.” The beach and dinner outing had turned into a nightmare. Having spent all day with a group of friends, Daniel had offered to take me home. Sun-drunk, I had agreed and dozed off in the front seat.
I'd known him for years. He was a friend of a friend and one of those random people I hadn't considered much of anything – least of all dangerous.
Being driven through a series of off-roads until I had no idea where I was had been the furthest thing from my mind. The motel looked like any other really nice house from the outside. It was white washed and two storeys up with a winding staircase at the front, French doors, a wrap-around balcony and a line of trees off to one side. But I hardly took those details in, too busy noticing what was missing.
There were no roadsigns, few street lights and no name to show that we were at a place of... business. The handsome building stood on a quiet street in an otherwise run down residential area. When we had parked, the owner had grabbed his angry dogs long enough for us to run up those beautiful, winding steps.
My stomach sank as that fact set in. We hadn't checked in. Daniel hadn't paid. There was no record of where I was at all.
“I want to go home,” was the only response I could come up with. He rolled his eyes and disappeared again. Inside was the last place I wanted to go, but I knew that staying out here wouldn't help anything.
“Fucking-” Chris started, having heard the exchange.
“I'll call you back, Chris.”
“What? No. I don't know where I am, that doesn't make any sense.”
Chris sighed, going silent for a beat before telling me to call him back soon.
I straightened up and walked into the room. Despite the sketchy area we were in, it was clean and tastefully decorated. The carpet was plush, the bathroom sparkling and the bar fully stocked. Daniel was stretched out on the bed, watching TV. I perched on the couch and he sat up with a smile. He was handsome, I'd give him that, with perfect teeth and tightly curling hair that framed his dark eyes. But my stomach turned uncomfortably when he wrapped his fingers around my arms and dragged me onto the bed beside him. My heart was thundering in my chest.
“You're beautiful, you know that girl?” He ran his fingers along my face. As gentle as his touch was, it made me want to vomit. “Let me love you, Sadie.”
“No.” I turned my face away a little when his finger tips brushed over my lips. “Please I just need to go. I don't want to be here and-”
“Nah.” He shook his head. “We've been playing this game for months. It's time. You'll love it.” His mouth covered mine and I froze. His tongue worked its way between my lips and then between my teeth. My body was shoved against the carved bed-head and I grunted, roughly shaking my head and breaking the one-sided kiss.
He slapped me and I blanked for a few seconds. Blood flushed my stinging face and my ears burned.
“Stop!” It was the only word I could form and I yelled it over and over as he slammed my body flat into the bed and grabbed at my dress. Rough palms attacked my breasts as his invasive tongue swept over mine. I tasted blood and salty tears when he bit my bottom lip.
Insistent knocking at the door made him swear and stand up. I adjusted my dress, recognizing the owner of the place. The muscular man glanced at me and then glared at Daniel. “Get the fuck out, man. Leave.” He dropped some cash on the floor. I thought Daniel was going to lose it, but he just growled and walked out, leaving the money and not even looking back on me. The dogs went crazy, rattling their chains, their barking only drowned out by Daniel's car as it peeled off.
The guy frowned in my direction. “You have a friend you can call?”
Mason showed up about half an hour after getting directions from the owner, who had left me to wait in the room upstairs. Hearing the engine, I barely registered my sprint from the couch and into my friend's strong arms. The hug was tight and secure. I pressed my face into his chest, both of us ignoring the noisy dogs.
When we broke apart, he stared down at me. Mason's tall, slim figure loomed almost menacingly, but when I realized that my heart was racing and my ears were burning, I knew it wasn't because I felt threatened.
I got into the car in silence. Mase was tense. I could always tell. His angry dark eyes kept flitting back and forth between me and the road. Piano fingers gripped the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles went pale and his mouth was set in a hard line, only breaking to ask if I was okay.
“I'm okay. Thanks for coming, Mase.”
“Better me than any of your other shady friends,” he bit out. I tried not to feel insulted. He maintained a super small circle of friends and had never been in love with my wider and far more sociable crowd. “Did you even know that guy?”
“I thought I did.”
He sighed and glanced over. “Did he touch you? Do we need to hunt him down?”
I chuckled but he remained serious. “He... like he kissed me and started to... but nothing happened.”
“I swear.” My stomach complained suddenly. What a time to be hungry, though considering the nausea I'd given into earlier, I shouldn't have been surprised.
“Let's get something to eat.” Another twenty minutes later and we were pulled up in the parking lot of a 24 hours Wendy's and digging in. The radio coloured the background to our sparse chatter, but that's how it always was with Mason. He didn't waste words.
After gulping down the last of his drink, he turned in his seat to face me, folding a long, lean leg under his body. “What happened, Sadie? We've been dancing around it for too long.”
Clouds were parted overhead, framing a glorious half moon and glittering stars. Slouched in the passenger seat with my legs stretched out, swallowed in one of his sweatshirts, I felt comfortable and unwilling to go back through the day. Forgetting about it totally would have been the most ideal thing but... He deserves more than that.
“We went to the beach,” I started, staring outside, avoiding his eyes at any cost. “It was a group of us. He was supposed to take me home but-”
“Take you home? You let random people like that know where you live?”
“We can't all be paranoid!” I spun to face him.
“Maybe if you were you would have been safe.” As cold as his words were, concern tinted his tone. I sniffled, holding back tears and his dark eyes softened. “Keep going.”
I pouted but his gaze chipped away at my faux-stubbornness and I huffed and kept going. “It was four of us. We went to the beach this morning, had lunch and dinner. He dropped everyone home and I live the farthest so I was like sure, take me last.” I sighed. “I fell asleep.”
“When I woke up I didn't know where we were and he wouldn't say. He just kept turning until we got to that place. And the dogs and the noise and I just...I didn't have a choice, Mase.”
He was livid, fists clenched and eyes narrowed. Part of me was thrilled that he was being so protective. Part of me was sickened by everything.
“So,” I finished up, “I called Chris.” He nodded knowingly. I wasn't surprised. “Then went inside to try to get him to take me home and... he didn't want to.”
“Okay,” he exhaled. I think we were both surprised when he slumped back into the seat, releasing himself from the stiff position he had been holding while I spoke. “God, Sadie. You know what could have happened to you tonight?”
“If I know?” In spite of everything, an uncontrollable giggle escaped. Mason scowled and I glanced away before meeting his eyes again, winding some damp, curly hair around my finger. “I'm really really glad you came-” When my voice broke he wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me over, angling my face into his neck.
“You're okay, Sadie. You're safe.” Our eyes met and his widened uncharacteristically. “Your mouth.” His thumb and fore finger angled my head this way and that a few times, checking for other bruises before scanning my chest and darting decently across my legs. I blushed, barely able to murmur that I was fine before leaning back into the passenger seat again.
“I'm okay, really. That's the worst of it.”
His expression announced the doubt that he refused to vocalize. “Do you want to head home?”
I nodded, flashing a smile and buckling my seatbelt.