Lauren’s palms sweated as she checked her makeup in the mirror. I hope this date goes well. David is so hot. There’s just something about him. She’d been interested in David for weeks now, but hadn’t realized he’d noticed her too until he’d sidled up to her at the company picnic, planted one hand on her ass, and whispered into her ear, “We should go out sometime.”
It was sort of an arrogant way to ask for a first date, but at least it was better than the dishonest pick-up lines she normally heard. It seemed like guys rehearsed the lines in front of the mirror and just used them on anything in a skirt. They all had the same fake smile. At least David’s ass squeeze was something different. Most guys would’ve been way too afraid to try something like that at her uber-sexual harassment aware Crap Computer Company, where “We Care About You!”
Lauren didn’t fit into the size zero world, and she couldn’t figure out what David saw in her, but she felt sexy as she stood in front of the mirror in pantyhose and her best black bra.
David rang the doorbell exactly at seven o’clock, and she grabbed her purse from the table before answering the door. He stood in the doorway, wreathed in shadows. His khaki pants and white button down shirt emphasized his wiry muscles and Lauren’s mouth went dry. I really hope I don’t screw this up.
He held out a bouquet of orange roses. She fumbled with them before taking them. “Oh, thanks. I’m just going to uh, put these in water.”
“Can I come in?” he asked.
“Sure. Of course.” She opened the door wider and turned away, walking into the kitchen. “Did you, uh…want a drink before we go?”
His voice came from much closer than she expected. “No thanks.”
She jolted a little. Taking the flowers out of the cellophane wrapper, she cut the stems under running water and arranged them in a crystal vase. “Thank you. They’re beautiful.”
“So are you,” he replied.
Lauren blushed. Yeah, right.
After helping her into the car, he got into the driver’s side and pressed a button. Classical music wafted out from the speakers. “That’s pretty. What is it?”
They lapsed into silence, and she fidgeted, pulling down her skirt and wondering if she was exposing too much of her pudgy thighs. The skirt and heels that made her look sexy when she stood up exposed more of her leg than she expected sitting down.
“Relax,” he said, and put his hand on her thigh. He gave it a squeeze.
“Why did you ask me out?” she blurted. Stupid, stupid. You’re not supposed to ask questions like that on a first date.
He laughed, but she didn’t think he was laughing at her. “I knew from the first time I met you that you were someone special. I think that you’re exactly what I’m looking for.”
She was grateful for the darkness as heat rose to her face. “I don’t know what you mean.”
A shiver ran down her spine at his words, and she felt like he was referring to a private joke she didn’t quite get. He’s not what you thought he was, a voice in her head whispered.
“Where are we going?” Lauren asked.
He grinned and glanced over at her. “It’s a surprise. I’m hoping you like it.”
She shivered again. No dim restaurant and holding hands for this first date. She’d indulged in a fantasy of them sitting side by side in a little booth, heads close, whispering, with him slipping his hand up her skirt to tease her. She was starting to think that nothing she expected would happen today, and wondered if that would be good or bad.
She glanced over at David’s profile. Good. Probably good. The silence stretched out and grated on Lauren’s nerves. Normally she didn’t mind the quiet, but she was off balance tonight. What did people talk about on first dates? “You, uh, like classical music?” Well, duh! She hurried to cover her dumb statement. “What other music do you like?”
David tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. “I mostly stick to classical. I find the music pretty inspirational.” He smiled that secret smile again, and Lauren narrowed her eyes. “What music do you like?”
“In general, I just prefer things pretty quiet. Though I could definitely see myself getting used to this.” Did I just sound that desperate? Like, hint, hint, I want to date again. Lame, Lauren. Lame.
They didn’t speak again, and a few minutes later, David pulled off the main road into a wooded area. His car bounced a little as they made their way down the lane to a cabin surrounded by cars. Music and light streamed from the cabin. There goes my fantasy of a romantic dinner for two.
They walked up the wooden stairs to the cabin door, and David pushed it open. The pumping bass and screeching guitar got louder. A headache crept in behind Lauren’s eyes, but she forced herself to smile.
About ten people milled around. Several people gyrated to the music, red plastic cups in hand. “Let’s grab a drink.” David took her hand, and the feel of his warm hand in hers was almost enough to make up for the terrible noise that passed for music.
“David!” a man shouted. He put his hand out, as if to shake David’s hand, and when David put his hand out, the man slapped his palm and then shook once, firmly. “How you doing, man?”
“Great, Mike. You?”
“Ah, working hard, you know. Who’s this pretty lady?” Mike eyed her as if she were something tasty for the grill.
“This is Lauren.”
She stuck out her hand, and Mike shook hands with her a little less enthusiastically than he had with David. Mike put a hand on Lauren’s back and guided them to the kitchen. “Grab some drinks.”
They filled cups with beer from the metal keg on the counter. Lauren sipped, hoping the beer would convince her she was having a good time. Even being with David didn’t make the noise less annoying. At least it wasn’t crowded.
David and Lauren leaned against the counter, sipping in silence. Several more people came up to David. The men slapped his shoulder or shook his hand, and the women kissed him. Lauren’s blood boiled. Maybe the kisses were casual, but she still felt as if the women should be more respectful of his date.
They mingled, talked, and ate hors d’oeuvres. Lauren fought boredom. David kept his hand at the small of her back as he chatted. Several of the other guests tried to draw her into conversation, but her disappointment with the evening didn’t let her get very interested. David’s secret smile stayed pasted to his lips. It had intrigued her at first, but annoyed her as the night went on.
“How do you know these people?” Lauren asked, knowing she sounded snippier than she wanted to.
“I went to school with Mike about a million years ago. The rest I’ve met as time goes on.”
He turned to get her another beer, and she took a sip. “This tastes funny. Did you put something in it?”
His grin widened. “Maybe.”
She fought the urge to throw it at him. “What did you put in here? Why would you put something in my drink?”
He shrugged and looked a bit sheepish. “I just didn’t know if it was your first time.”
“First time?” She gaped at him. “I’ve had sex before. You think you need to slip me something so I’ll sleep with you?” She shook her head. “We’re done here.”
“No.” He tried not to laugh, but still looked horrified. “No, not sex. Not that I don’t want to have sex with you. Of course I do. You’re beautiful. But that’s not what I meant. I just…”
“I’m not beautiful. Don’t screw with me.”
His expression turned dark. “Who told you you’re not beautiful? I’d like to have five minutes alone with him.”
She took a step back as a thrill raced through her.
Something primitive and terrifying flashed in his eyes. He clenched his jaw. “You don’t have to be afraid of me. We’re soul mates.”
Lauren’s mouth dropped open. “What? We just met. What are you talking about?”
“I knew from the first time I met you that we were meant to be together. I don’t know if you’re ready to hear it yet. But I believe it.”
“So why the drugs?”
He leaned over and kissed her. She let herself fall into the kiss and wondered if she even cared what he put into the drink.
“The drugs are to make it a little easier for you to accept what’s going to happen this evening.”
She put the drink aside and met his eyes. “I’ll get through it without whatever you put in my drink.”
He laughed and gave her a firm kiss on the lips. “You’re not supposed to even be able to taste it. I knew I was right about you.”
Mike came into the kitchen and Lauren sprang away from David as if they’d just been caught in flagrante delicto.
Mike laughed. “Most everyone has cleared out. I think it’s time for tequila shots.”
David laughed. “I’ll slice the lime.”
He grabbed two limes from the refrigerator, a plastic cutting board, and a knife from the wooden block.
“I don’t like tequila,” Lauren said.
David shrugged. “You don’t have to drink it. Do beer shots if you want. But come sit with all of us.”
Four people were settled around a table in the living room, talking too loud and laughing too much. Lauren’s headache pounded like a living thing trying to get out.
Mike poured a shot and pushed it toward Lauren. She shook her head and pushed it back. “Oh, come on. You have to do one.”
David put his hand over Mike’s as Mike pushed the shot back toward Lauren again. “She doesn’t want one.”
Mike looked like he wanted to argue, but then shrugged and he shoved the shot to another woman.
“Is this everyone that’s left?” David asked.
“Yeah,” Mike replied, doing another shot. “Everyone else is lame and went home early, I guess.”
“Well, now the fun can really start.”
Mike scowled. “That’s right, buddy!”
Leaning over with the knife he used to cut the lime, David sliced the throat of the woman sitting next to him.
For a moment, no one moved. Then at once, the other three people at the table started screaming and shouting. Mike moved toward David, and David plunged the knife into the bigger man’s stomach. A woman tripped as she tried to run away.
Lauren watched, as if from a distance. Numbness cloaked her, and she wondered if it were the drugs. Then she remembered that she hadn’t had any drugs. David had wanted her to have some because he didn’t know if it was her “first time.” Is this what he meant?
The second man tried to help the fallen woman up, and David ducked low and sliced. The man screamed and clutched his ankle. The woman on the ground covered her face and sobbed.
“Lauren. Hey, Lauren.”
She looked up and met David’s eyes. The secret smile was still on his face, and his eyes gleamed. “There’s some duct tape in the drawer in the kitchen. Be a sweetheart and grab it for me, would you?”
Lauren stood up automatically and wandered into the kitchen. She looked through the drawers and realized that she wasn’t seeing anything in them. Taking several deep breaths, she forced herself to slow down and made another search, finding the duct tape quickly this time. On her way out, she grabbed a knife from the wooden block.
Hurrying back into the living room, she found the scene the same as when she’d left it. The woman continued to cower at David’s feet, and the man still clutched his ankle, sobbing. He was also bleeding from several stomach wounds, and Lauren guessed he’d probably tried to get away. Despite the blood on his white shirt, David still looked handsome.
She held the duct tape out to him.
He glanced at the knife, then back at her. “What are you going to do with that thing?”
She followed his eyes to the knife clutched in her hand and shrugged, feeling suddenly shy.
“Come here,” he ordered, beckoning with the knife.
Heart racing, she walked toward him. He pulled her in for a kiss. Her toes curled by the time he broke the kiss. “I know what you want,” he whispered.
Taking the tape from her hand, he leaned over the sobbing woman and grabbed her bicep. “Come on, get up.” His voice sounded gentle, and after more urging, the woman responded and stood at his direction. He taped her hands behind her back and taped her to the chair. David looked up at Lauren. “Do you want her gagged?”
Lauren shook her head quickly, eyes wide.
After he secured the woman, he taped the man’s hands and feet together. The man fought, but blood loss made him sluggish.
David went to the stereo and flipped off the music. “You prefer no music, right?” Without waiting for an answer, he went back out to the kitchen and grabbed two glasses and a bottle of wine. Lauren stood in the middle of the room, gripping the knife, not really sure what to do.
“Please. Please!” the woman sobbed.
Lauren looked at her, eyes wide.
David came back in and sat on the couch. He patted the seat beside him and poured two glasses of wine. He put the wine bottle on the coffee table and leaned back. After a brief hesitation, Lauren walked over and sat down. She looked at the knife, then put it on the coffee table and sat back with her own glass of wine.
David stretched his arm over her shoulders. “So, tell the truth. Have you ever killed anyone before?”
Lauren shook her head. “Not a person.”
Lauren shrugged and tried to sound casual. “Stray cats, dogs, that kind of thing.”
David sounded far away as he reminisced. “Yeah, I started that way too, but I killed my first woman during sex. She liked it rough, and I ended up choking her. Once you have your first kill, you can’t go back.” He squeezed her shoulder. “I’d be much more careful with you, Lauren. I’ve never met a woman like you. I knew from the first moment I met you. I saw it in those beautiful eyes.”
“I always thought there was something wrong with me,” she whispered.
He shook his head and turned her so she faced him. “There’s nothing wrong with you. Not a single thing.”
“I’m so glad you found me,” she said. Feeling bolder, she straddled his lap and kissed him deeply with the sound of the woman’s pleas in the background. When she broke the kiss, she snuggled against his chest as he stroked her hair with a feather light touch.
“Oh God, please don’t do this. Please let me go. I won’t tell anyone, I swear. Please.”
Lauren looked up at David and frowned. “She’s really starting to get on my nerves.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I usually gag them and put on some classical music. We can try it that way next time.”
“Give me one second to get something out of my car.” He went outside, and for a second, Lauren thought he was going to leave without her. Instead, he brought in a small paper bag and fished white rose petals out, spreading them around. “I thought these would look nice with all the red.”
The woman had started to sound hoarse.
“Ready for your first?”
Lauren smiled and slid off the couch. She grabbed the knife and walked over to the woman. David sat on the couch, sipping his wine and smiling. Lauren used the knife to make little cuts in the woman’s arm, her chest, her cheek. After several minutes of her screaming and whimpering, Lauren grabbed the duct tape and slapped it over the woman’s mouth. Much better. She continued making tiny cuts, enjoying the blood flowing. After a long time, the woman stopped responding, and Lauren got ready to plunge the knife into her stomach.
“Wait!” David ordered, pulling himself off the couch. He grabbed his knife and hurried over.
David smiled sheepishly. “I thought we could do the first one together.” He aimed his knife at the man’s belly and looked at her.
She smiled and blew him a kiss.
“On three then. One… two… three…”
Their eyes still locked, they plunged their knives in at the same moment, and Lauren felt pleasure wash over her. She shivered.
David was at her side in an instant, gripping her arms. “Cold?”
“No. I don’t think I’ll ever be cold again. Not with you here.”
They sat back on the couch, sipping wine and enjoying watching the woman and man bleed out. Stomach wounds were a painful death, and watching it was better than TV. When they finished the wine, David said, “It’s time to clean up now.”
Lauren looked around. “Our fingerprints are everywhere.”
“I’m usually more careful, but this first time, I wanted it to be decadent for you. So, we’re going to burn it down. I have gas and spare clothes in the car for both of us, and we’re going to shower here and burn it all.”
“You’re so thoughtful.”
“I wanted it to be just perfect. Was it okay for you?”
Lauren felt warmed by the uncertainty in his voice. She stood on tiptoes and brushed a kiss over his lips. “It was just perfect,” she whispered against them.
When Lauren went into the bathroom to shower, she glanced in the mirror and marveled at the change in her appearance. She was beautiful. And she had her own secret smile now. She was finally free.
Her lips curved and her eyes sparkled.
David would never look at another woman.
She would make sure of it.
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