A/N: This is the result of another challenge from Priscilla Shay.
The challenge was:
1. Set in Romania
i. Johnny Depp
ii. Red Chevy
iii. A Seinfeld reference
- One-shot -
That was the first word to come to my mind as I pulled to a stop, not bothering to side the red Chevy. It wasn't as if I could cause a traffic jam at the top of a Romanian Carpathian mountain.
I paused at the thought, wondering if I would indeed run into any other humans during this short trip.
"Probably not," I decided out loud, watching my breath mist in the cold. "Hopefully not."
The mountain was relatively flat at the top, convincing me my fear of rolling off was ill-based. It had not snowed much that season, so I could still see patches of brown rock peeking through the light layer of snow on the ground.
And - my favourite part of all - was the mountain I could see in the near distance. It rose higher than the mountain I was on, and a few wispy clouds hovered in between; they almost looked close enough to touch.
Releasing the brake, I began driving again, wincing as the truck jolted into movement. The Chevy had not been my first choice in vehicles at the rental place, but the owner had laughed at my request to rent a luxury car.
"Up mountain?" he'd asked incredulously in his broken English. "In snow?" Then he'd turned to his teenage nephew, muttered something in Romanian, and then they'd proceeded to laugh together.
When they'd finished, the teenager had pointed out - in better English - the flaws in my plan. "This snow?" he'd said. "My uncle, he says you will..." He paused and frowned as he tried to remember the word, making hand motions in the meantime.
"Fall?" I guessed.
"Yes. Yes, fall. He says you will fall off mountain." He walked over to the Chevy and patted its rusted hood. "This car? Good tires," he kicked them in demonstration. "It will help you not die."
Not dying had seemed like a good idea at the time, so I'd agreed to listen to their advice.
It was just too bad that, along with the 'good tires', the vehicle did not come with some kind of jostle-free device.
As if sensing my thoughts, the Chevy gave a small lurch, making me panic and grab the wheel tighter. By the time I convinced myself things were under control and bothered to truly look at my surroundings, I realized that I was coming closer to a small cottage.
I slowed in advance, scared that I might slide and crash into the wooden structure, and parked beside the side of the building.
"Here's to forgetting," I muttered to myself, pulling the keys out of the ignition and shoving the truck's door open at the same time.
I had one large suitcase in the backseat of the truck, so I opened the door and leaned in to pick it up. A blue sticky-tab scrunched under the retractable handle caught my attention.
"Come have good time," I read out loud. "Love Alin." There was a number written under it. I snorted and shoved the paper in my jeans pocket.
That was what my life had come down to - getting hit on by Romanians teenagers who were young enough that I would land in jail for statutory rape if I even fiddled with the notion.
Finally grabbing my suitcase - the smaller one in the front could wait - I slammed the truck door closed and walked into the cottage. As I'd been told, the door was unlocked and the room looked newly restocked - based on the pile of wood sitting by the small fireplace, anyhow.
"Quaint," I muttered, looking around the room. I could see three rooms branching off the main one - a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom; none had doors, so I could see into them from my spot at the main doorway.
This place was a completely new scene for me. 'Quaint' was the last adjective I'd use to describe the million-dollar mansion my father owned and I'd grown up in. And 'quaint' was definitely not what my condo had been - the one I'd lived in a few weeks ago earlier, before-
I shook the thought out of my head. There was no use in me being at this quaint little cottage in the middle - or rather top - of a completely different continent if I was going to forget the reason I was there.
Which was, quite simply, to forget.
The cottage was surprisingly warm on the inside, despite the fire not burning, so I kicked off my boots - leaving the thick socks on - and walked over to build a small fire. It took a few minutes longer than I'd expected, but in the end I had a small blaze going.
"Thank the Lord for YouTube," I muttered, walking the cheery flames dance. "Self-help at your fingertips. Dummies Guide for the Internet-Savvy. Fire-building for the rich heiress."
With a scowl, I picked up my suitcase and dropped it on the solid wood table sitting smack-dab in the middle of the room. It was surround by three very lived-in chairs - two armchairs and one love-seat. After sitting on each chair to decide which one was the least comfortable, I unzipped my suitcase and began taking out piles and piles of books.
Each of these was put onto the least comfortable chair for future use as there was no handy shelf in the room that I could use in its stead.
What remained in my suitcase were a few pairs of sweaters, and I picked those up and carried them into the bedroom.
The bed was enormous - or so it seemed in the tiny room. It looked like a king-size, and the wooden supports and headboard were of the same gorgeous wood as the cottage itself.
"An upside, finally!" I exclaimed to myself, stepping around the bed to the mirrored dresser. There was no closest in the room, so I opened the drawers and shoved the sweaters in.
Before going back to get the other suitcase, I walked into the kitchen to make sure I had enough food to last me the week I was planning to stay.
I stopped in the archway, blown away.
After walking through the rest of the house - which was so rustic I was afraid squirrels were going to come visit - the kitchen was like walking into a chef's wildest dream. The appliances were stainless steel and shining as if freshly installed. The floor had pale-brown ceramic tiles and there was an island in the middle of the kitchen made of marble of the same colour.
As for the appliances themselves, there were the usual ones - fridge, stove, oven, microwave, grinder - but there were a bunch more that I couldn't even begin to identify...but I could have sworn there was an ice-cream maker in the corner.
"Man, there must be a serious generator powering this place."
Not bothering to resist, I walked inside and ran my fingers over all the surfaces. At the fridge handle, my fingers curved and tugged, revealing five glorious shelves of food products.
From milk to vegetables to maple syrup to frozen dinners to...was that a pomegranate? Either way, I was covered, and there was no way I was going to starve the week away.
Finally feeling a little at home, I made my way outside to grab my other suitcase before I got too comfortable in the warmth.
It took less than a half hour to unpack all my clothes from the smaller bag, and within an hour later I was sitting with my legs up on the love-seat, a fruit cocktail in one hand and a paperback held delicately between the fingers of the other.
This was the peace I had complained to my friends about needing. At the thought, I made a mental note to send my friend Charlene a big thank you present for offering up the cottage for my little sabbatical.
I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up hearing the door being jostled.
The wind? I asked myself, glancing at my hand and noting with relief that I'd finished the drink before falling asleep. It would have been a pain to clean up the sticky concoction.
The door shook again, bringing me out of my thoughts. It definitely did not sound like the wind this time.
"Hello?" I called out, setting my book and glass down and standing up.
Because I was watching the door, I saw the doorknob twist back and forth. There was definitely somebody on the other side.
And, before I could so much as think of reacting, the doorknob turned one final time - only this time the door opened inward, letting the biting wind into the cottage.
There, in the doorway, stood a man I hadn't seen in months.
"Logan?" I asked dubiously. I was pretty sure it was him, but the only part of him I could see was his eyes; the rest of him was bundled up to defend against the cold.
Those eyes studied me calmly from head to toe before their owner turned and slammed the door shut behind him.
The cottage shook with the force.
Before I could open my mouth to chastise him, he unwound the black scarf covering his face. His scowl told me he wasn't happy about something.
"If it isn't Miss. Blanche," Logan said, sliding a large backpack off his shoulders, letting it thud to the ground painfully. "Hiding from the paparazzi, are we?"
My pleasure at hearing my name roll off his tongue - he was one of the few to pronounce it correctly - disappeared and my lips pressed together of their own accord. "No," I responded shortly. "Just a well-needed break from life."
"That's funny," he continued drably, "the last article I read was sympathizing with you over the fact that you didn't have a life."
"Logan," I said in warning, "just stop. I'm not in the mood to be taunted."
Again, he stood and watched my face. He must have seen from my expression how desperate I was to change the topic, so thankfully he did. "Charlene sent you, I presume?"
I nodded and walked away from him to drop onto my previous spot on the love-seat. "I wanted to be somewhere I wasn't bothered, and Charlene said this was the perfect place. It was."
The past-tense wasn't lost on him and he smirked as he removed his jacket and boots. After hanging them on the wall-hooks - beside my own stuff - he walked over to drop onto the remaining armchair. "Eager to leave now?"
I rubbed my face wearily. "What are you doing here Logan? I thought you were out buying Jupiter or something."
Logan smiled. "Alas, Jupiter rejected me - they said all the money in the world isn't equal to their dignity." The smile remained. "Besides, I was actually doing business in Britain - it's not too far from there to here. And," he continued, "this is my family's property - not just my sister's. I come here all the time after European business deals to just unwind." His smile turned wolfish and a little patronizing. "Would you like to help me...unwind, Blanche?"
"Because you didn't seem to mind last time."
I dropped my head into my hands in defeat. I'd known the topic would come up when I next saw Logan, but the last thing I'd expected - or prepared for - was to see him on the top of a Romanian mountain. "Fine. You want to talk about it? We'll talk about it." My eyes lifted to meet his and I saw that he looked a tad amused by my reaction. I ignored it. "Yes, I tried to seduce you the last time we saw each other. Yes, I succeeded. And yes, I was gone when you woke up. And yes," I emphasized angrily, "I announced my engagement to Raymond the next afternoon. Just deal with it Logan, because I sure as hell am dealing with it now!"
Logan's lips were still turned up, but I could see the carefully-contained fury in his hazel eyes. "Oh yes," he said with deceptive calm, "I think I recall something like that."
"Waking up, looking forward to seeing the shock and confusion on your face...anticipating the excuses you were going to sputter." He grinned coldly. "I think the most likely excuse would have been that you were drunk."
I shook my head. "No, I wasn't. I was perfectly sober that night - not a drop of alcohol in me."
He snorted. "Wow. Honesty, from you? I would call the press if we weren't at the top of a mountain."
That did it for me. Seeing him again was a jolt to my system, but hearing him speak like that...? I swallowed hard and turned away as a traitorous tear crept down my cheek.
"Blanche?" his voice was hesitant.
I swiped a hand across my cheek to get rid of the tear streaks. "Just give me a few minutes," I asked him. "I'll clear out of here as fast as I can."
"It's your place." I stood up and walked over to the bedroom, resigned to packing. My suitcases were lined up beside the dresser and I tossed the smaller one on the bed before pulling things out of the drawers.
Logan was nowhere to be seen - or heard, for that matter - while I finished packing. The tears were flowing freely by that point, memories having surfaced, and I haphazardly thew things into the bags. Wrinkles were the last thing on my mind.
I dragged the two bags into the main room to see Logan still sitting in the same spot. Not wanting to go near him, not having a choice, I carried the larger bag to the table and opened it to begin piling my books inside.
"What is with all these books?" he asked.
I glanced at Logan to see him craning his head to read the titles. "I stopped having sex," I responded, not able to resist the line.
He looked up and I was surprised to see a genuine smile on his face. "Good one," he admitted. His smile grew wider. "How about we get you back in practice?"
"You don't have to try and ease the tension," I told him quietly. "It was my fault and, if anything, I should be the one making the effort. Besides, I'm leaving."
Logan stood up and stretched, drawing my eyes to the hint of muscles defined through his thin sweater. "You're right," he said, making me quickly avert my eyes, "it was your fault, and it is up to you to make the effort. However, you're going to want to put," he stepped over to me and took the book from my hand to read its cover, "Solitude and all your other books down because you're not leaving."
I resisted the urge to curve my body against his and took a step back. "What do you mean?" I asked wryly. "Don't tell me a snowstorm started and we're stranded up here."
He laughed. "Oh Blankie, you really have to take your nose out of those novels of yours."
My throat tightened at his old nickname for me. The last time I'd heard it from his lips was a year ago - the night I'd seduced and left him. "Why can't I leave, Logan?"
"I hid your keys," he responded impishly. "And mine too, in case you were up for stealing my car."
"Why?" I demanded. "You're not exactly happy with me, so why would you trap me up here?"
Something flickered in his eyes, only to disappear when he blinked. "You owe me an explanation, Blanche, and I know from experience that letting you leave now means we'll never end up having this conversation."
"Explanation for what?" I asked angrily.
Logan took a step towards me, bringing our bodies closer. "You know what," he growled.
"No, Logan," I said, taking an equal step away, "I don't know what."
"Fine." He took another step forward, I took another backward....and found myself against the wooden wall that served as a barrier between the main room and the bedroom. "I told you that night that I loved you, that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. Why, for God's sake, did you go off the next morning and get engaged to that asshole?"
And so, in the end, it turned out that it was his ego that was smarting. "I'd already agreed to marry him-"
"Then why'd you sleep with me?" he shouted, his hands making a loud sound as he slapped them onto the wall to block me in. "What, was I some jolly roll in the proverbial hay before you had to settle for being the fiancée of a prissy and stuck-up snob?"
"Yes!" I yelled. "Yes, you were!" And it was the truth, as horrible a person as it made me. "The chemistry between us was always there - even when we were in our early teens and Charlene and I used to run around wrecking havoc in your life. I wanted to know that it was all a fluke, that the reason I felt more strongly towards you than Raymond was because I'd known you longer and the sexual tension had time to build!" I choked out a laugh. "And you know what? I was proved wrong. I woke up that morning knowing I was wrong, that Raymond wasn't my One. That you were the one I loved." I sighed. "Logan, give me my keys."
Instead, he ducked his head and took my lips in a searing kiss. His mouth was brutal in its assault but I matched it. There was no pain when it came to Logan, no matter how hard he pushed me, no matter how hard he tried to make me break.
"You gave this up for him?" he demanded when he pulled away. "Why couldn't you have just told him you changed your mind?"
I stared at his chest. "He found out about us. I went to tell him the next morning that the engagement was off and not to make it public...but he had the press there already. I couldn't do anything."
"A simple 'no' would have sufficed," Logan snapped, stalking away from me. "Who cares what the press thinks? Besides, you were with him for a year!" He snorted and turned back to stare at me. "That's why you're here, isn't it? To mope over losing such a delightful catch?"
"That 'delightful catch' was blackmailing my father!" I shouted. The tears started flowing again and I slid down the wall to bury my head in my knees. "My step-mother's a floozy, but she's a rich floozy. Dad only married her for her shares in the company, and he didn't care who she was seeing on the side as long as she was discreet about it. Again, she's a floozy, so she had no idea when she was set up by Raymond." I sighed. "He had video footage of her."
Logan began pacing off his frustration. "So what, you were the sacrifice? Your father decided to throw you to the wolf to keep his reputation intact?"
"No. No," I repeated, looking up at him. "I was interested in Raymond before the blackmailing started. Even when he prematurely announced the engagement to the press, I thought he was just being overly-eager. It wasn't until a few days later, when I was trying to find a way to break up with him, that he turned to threats. He told me he knew that you and I had slept together...that I was going to try and break off the engagement. Then he showed me the video and I wanted to kill him." My fingers clenched painfully. "In this economy, the last thing dad could afford was to lose his reputation. And losing his reputation would probably have finished him off for good."
It was no secret that my father was very ill, having been in and out of hospital many times for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other stress-related occurrences.
"Why you?" he demanded. "Was it the money?"
I snorted and pulled myself up to stand. "Fame. It was for the fame. Yes," I admitted, "he wanted the money too, but he wanted the fame of being the partner of a heiress who flits around doing everything. And, as we both know, with fame comes money. I mean, he's done literally hundreds of interviews with all kinds of newspapers, TV shows, magazines, and even tabloids! Do you know how much that amounts to in money?"
Logan laughed bitterly. "Yes, I do happen to know." He strode over to stand in front of me. "And why didn't you tell me? We could have-"
"-done what?" I spat out. "Only he knew where the video was! My dad could be an asshole in the business world - and hell, in his marriage - but he was a good father to me. I was his number one priority and he wouldn't have let me do this if he had known about it in the first place."
He cupped my chin with his palm and lifted it so I met his eyes. "Is that why your father killed him? He found out?"
My eyes overflowed again. "Yes."
We stared at each other while tears ran down my face, and then he pulled me into his chest and held on while I sobbed. When I finally gained control of myself, I realized we were on the love-seat, with me on Logan's lap.
"Feeling better?" he asked gently.
I nodded and dropped my head onto his shoulder.
We sat in silence for at least an hour before Logan spoke again. "I hate to ask, Blanche, but-"
"No," I said, lifting my head. "No, he didn't touch me. Not after you and I were together." He looked skeptical. "Honestly Logan, he didn't. I told him I'd tolerate his bullshit in public, but one wrong move and I would castrate him and feed it to our neighbour's dog."
He chuckled and nuzzled the top of my head. "What about your father?" he asked eventually.
I shook my head sadly. "He confessed. Guilty on account of first-degree murder. It was premeditated." I crawled off his lap to sit beside him. "Honestly Logan...what are you doing here?"
"I read about Raymond's murder and your father's arrest on the newspaper," he admitted sheepishly. "It took one call to Charlene and a whole lot of cajoling on my part to get her to tell me you'd just climbed on a plane to come here. And here we are now."
"After what I did?"
Logan looked away. "I'm not a saint, Blankie. I thought you were happy with him, with Raymond, and that your father had killed him despite it." His fingers reached out to twine with mine. "I thought I'd find you crying here over his death, and I wanted to be here to rub salt on the wound. I came here to torment you, Blanche, like you'd tormented me for the last few years."
And despite how despicable his intentions had been, I couldn't bring myself to feel angry. Instead, I focused in on his last sentence. "Few years?"
"Did you think it was a coincidence I showed up everywhere you were? That I was suddenly nice to my sister, offering rides to her and her friends?" He frowned. "And then you started dating that asshole."
"He asked me out, you didn't."
Logan snorted. "Don't think I don't regret that because, believe me, that's right there on top of my list of regrets." He pulled on our joined hands to bring me back onto his lap. "So what do we do from here?"
"I think the thing to do is to enjoy the ride while you're on it."
He snorted again. "Johnny Depp?"
I was pleasantly shocked to hear him make the connection. "Yes! How'd you-"
"Let's just skip to the ride, shall we?" he interrupted, looking a little embarrassed.
Before I could comment, however, his hands wandered down to play with my waist. Our lips met as I felt one hand slide into my jeans pocket, securing me against his chest. Not that I wanted to move away in the first place.
"What's this?" he asked suddenly, pulling something out of my pocket. It was a small piece of blue paper. "Who's Alin?"
I threw back my head and laughed at the jealousy evident in his tone.
"Blanche," he said warningly.
"Oh come here you!" I grabbed him around the neck and busied myself exploring his face with my lips.
The blue sticky-tab fluttered from his fingers and onto the floor; forgotten.
A/N: This one was a lot more serious than most of my stories...I started off thinking of just trapping them up on the mountain and letting them hash things out for a period of a week or so (and maybe even make a trip down to visit the town), but it took off on its own and this was the final product.
Did Logan forgive Blanche too easily? Maybe, but think about it - she's been through a lot, and she has reasons for not bringing him into it. She makes it clear she wanted to leave Raymond for Logan, but circumstances forced her to give Logan up; yes, they have unresolved issues to go over, but why let that block their chances of finally having a relationship?
* I do not own Chevrolet. In fact, I do not even own a Chevy.
* The quotes about books and sex are from Seinfeld; I did not make them up.
* The line about enjoying the ride is quoted from Johnny Depp.
Oh, and the Carpathian mountains rock. (Pun not intended.)