It was the guy from the game, who had kept grinning at me across the table. He now stood near the door of the room, blocking my way out, his hands in his pockets and a grin still on his face. He looked younger than most of the others there – maybe seventeen or eighteen. Too close to tell. Thin blond stubble covered his cheeks and jaw, in contrast to Hunter's dark hair.
Hunter, where are you? It was almost like a prayer, as I forced myself to smile at the guy.
There was something in his eyes I really didn't like, as they remained fixed on my face. But it was like he was struggling not to move them. They were blood shot, too, and I remembered he had barely spoken during the game. He took a slow step forward, sniffing as he did so, and studying his face, I came to conclusion he was on something.
Not that I would know. I had never really seen anyone on something before. But there was an air of not-quite-there with this guy, the feeling that he wasn't locked into reality like everyone else.
My stomach churned.
"Hey," he said, his voice as slow as his step had been.
"Hi!" I chirped. "Bathroom's free!" I announced, stupidly, desperate to say something.
Hunter, Hunter, Hunter, I chanted in my head, forcing myself to think he was maybe downstairs, that he would be up any second to grin at me and wrap me in his arms.
"You okay?" the guy asked, like we were friends who had bumped into each other in the street.
"Fine!" I nodded, eagerly, like I was trying to prove I was as fine as fine could be. Yep. Just perfectly fine in this room with a strange guy who was staring at me like I was….was….was….
Not in a sexual way, either.
He really did look like he wanted to eat me.
Another shiver darted up my spine, as the thought of far out stories reached my mind. Wasn't there that guy, Aiden had told me about, who had been found eating some other guy's face?
He'd been on drugs, the stories said.
Was this guy on the same thing?
I stepped back when he moved forward, finding my back against the wall. Shit. His grin stretched, revealing teeth that were off-white. His tongue came out, licking his lips, and when he stepped forward again he stumbled. I managed to move, but his hand landed beside my head.
His body was nearly against mine.
"My boyfriend's going to be here in a minute," I muttered, stumbling badly over my words. He tilted his head to one side, studying me. He sniffed again. Suddenly his hand was up, fingers stroking my hair.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.
"Err, thanks. Look, I really should get downstairs, I…"
He slid forward even more, and I found myself glancing downwards, trying not to look at his face. His breath was rank, stinking of something I couldn't put my finger on.
"My boyfriend…" It came out as a whimper.
Sweat was building on my head, and I felt the churning in my stomach again. The room swarm, swirling around me as tears leaked from my eyes.
He opened his mouth, and his breath hit me full force.
The door swung open as I found the strength from God knows where and pushed him back. His mouth turned into a sneer as I whirled, trying to get into the bathroom. His hand snapped onto my wrist and I turned to face him, just in time for the vomit fighting its way out of me.
It splattered on his shirt and trousers, and began to drip down.
I ended up against the wall again, eyes wide and hand over my mouth.
"What the fuck?" he growled, eyes snapping up and locking on me. I was shaking, trying hard not to laugh or cry.
He lunged forward and I finally looked over his shoulders.
Two shapes came barrelling into the room, one of them grabbing the guy and yanking him back as the other pulled his fist back.
"No!" I screeched, shaking my head as the first threw the guy to the floor, wincing at the small of vomit. Hunter lowered his hand, looking angrier than I had ever seen him.
"Are you okay?" Dave spun around, staring at me. "Shit, Sophia. I'm so sorry. The girls said you'd come up here and I noticed he was gone and then Hunter turned up…"
Hunter moved forward, staring at me. "Are you all right?"
I shook my head, the tears rolling out. "I…" I was going to say I'm going to be sick, but didn't need to. I just turned and this time managed to make the bathroom. On my knees, I threw up the last of whatever I had eaten or drunk in the last forty-eight hours.
As water streamed down my face and my throat burned, I felt a hand on my back, rubbing gently. Another hand wrapped around my hair, pulling it back.
He didn't say anything until I had finished.
"There's a spare toothbrush in the kitchen cabinet," Dave called. "The yellow one."
Hunter shuffled back as I pulled myself to my feet, and before I could even get myself sorted out, he had reached into the cabinet and was handing me the toothbrush. With a grateful weak smile, I began to ran the tap and put the toothpaste on.
I scrubbed, pressing down hard on my teeth to get out every small drop of vomit that was clinging to my teeth.
After I'd finished, my teeth still didn't feel quite as clean as I would have liked. I gripped the toothbrush in my hand, as I turned to face Hunter. My eyes were still watering, and suddenly I wished more than anything that he wasn't here.
"Are you okay?"
"You want some water?"
I nodded. "And vodka. And coke."
"Should you keep drinking?"
I shrugged, before using the back of my free hand to wipe across my eyes. "It…it wasn't the drink that made me sick…" Okay, maybe it had contributed to it, but it wasn't the thing that had sent my stomach into doing twists and turns that were more suited to being on a rollercoaster.
"Okay." Gently, he took the toothbrush from my hand and put it back in the kitchen cabinet. I figured Dave would throw it out in the morning, but for now it was nice to know it was there, just in case. Hunter wrapped an arm around my shoulders and gently lead me out of the room.
Dave was standing guard, his arms crossed as he stared down at the other guy, now curled up and sleeping – or passed out – on the floor. Hunter's grip on me tightened, just slightly, as Dave looked up.
"I really am sorry," he said.
"You have some odd friends." His face flushed a deep red, and feeling bad, I added, "but most of them are really nice." A shaky smile, as I found myself leaning just slightly into Hunter. My skin had been running hot when I had been throwing up, but now I could feel it cooling down, and suddenly felt desperate for that water Hunter had promised me.
And for the vodka and coke, too.
"He's one of my brother's mates," Dave explained. "Most of those playing Ring of Fire are, too. But yeah, they're cool." His gaze fell, fixing on the guy. "He…he's actually a really good guy, most of the time, when he's not on something."
I scoffed, unable to help it. "I'll believe it when I see it."
He sighed. "Look, I'm going to get one of the guys to take him home, okay? Promise. No one will mind, they know what he's like. But you better get down stairs. I bet the girls are worried about you, if the others have told them anything about him."
"Sure," I muttered, and left the room with Hunter, but not before flashing Dave a quick smile. He was a nice guy – nicer than I'd ever thought, really.
And I'd been in most of his classes for the last six years, barely even paying attention to him. How many of the good guys – and girls – at school were there who I didn't know?
Olivia and Faye were standing at the bottom of the stairs. Both of them jerked their heads around as I began to climb down with Hunter. Relief flashed across their faces.
"You okay?" Faye asked, stepping forward as I came off the stairs and nodded.
Hunter kissed the top of my head. "I'll grab that water."
The girl from the game stepped out of the dining room, as Hunter headed down the corridor to the kitchen. I had my arms wrapped around myself, and watched as she stepped forward and smiled gently.
"Fine." Christ, I was fed up of that word.
"Okay, good. Look…we should have noticed he slipped out. And I'm really sorry we didn't. He wasn't too…creepy, was he?"
"I threw up on him."
She burst into sudden laughter, leaning against the wall as a wide grin planted itself on her face. "Oh, God, you are officially my favourite person. He deserved it. Hope it bloody well teaches him a lesson."
I smiled back, and this time it was just a normal, real smile.
She nodded her head towards the door. "You want to come back in and play?"
Hunter appeared, holding water in one hand and a vodka and coke in the other. "What do you think?" I asked. "Ring of Fire?"
"Yeah, if you want."
"Great!" The girl glanced towards him, studying him like she was trying to place him. She probably was. "You Holly's little brother?"
A red blush appeared on his cheeks. "Yeah."
Her eyes darted to me, and she gave an almost approving nod. "Well, treat her right, kid, because she's got a whole lot of people in there looking out for her now." She winked at me before twirling around and stepping back into the room. This time, it was my cheeks that were red. Olivia and Faye glanced at me, smiled and followed the girl in. Hunter handed the drinks to me.
"You sure you're all right?"
I tilted the water back, enjoying the freezing cold relief it brought to my mouth. "Yeah, I am, really. Just…shaken. I had no idea what he wanted from me, Hunter."
He slid closer to me, kissed my head again. "I should have been here sooner. I'm sorry."
"If you had been, you most likely wouldn't have been looking for me," I replied. "I'm just glad you're here now. Come on."
With that, we headed in. Silently I prayed that someone else would get the jug this time.
X X X
I was back to happily giggling by the time I pulled out my forth card. The seats had shifted while people had come and gone from the toilet, or just buggered off to socialise somewhere else in the house. But they had been quickly replaced, and the table was full. I sat beside Hunter, squeezed close to him and almost on his lap. Not that he seemed to mind. Every so often, his fingers would brush against my back or thigh and a shiver would go through me.
Olivia sat opposite me, beside the girl whose name, I had finally found out, was Stacey. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Faye, too. She had squeezed herself between two cute Uni guys, one of which we had found out was studying Film.
And he had complemented Faye on her choice for 'Categories' in the first game.
Clearly, while I was upstairs taking care of business, throwing up and being rescued by Hunter and Dave, they were busy making friends.
I pulled out a two, and quickly downed two fingers. The buzz in my head was back, and I was enjoying myself. And why not? I was happy, my friends were happy, Hunter seemed happy and that creep had been dragged out by one of the guys.
Aiden's not happy. The thought was unbidden and very much wanted, and suddenly I was wondering what he was up to, what he was doing with his Friday night.
I pulled out my phone and sent him a quick text.
Hey Aid! What you up 2? X
The simple act was enough to make me feel just a bit better, as Waterfall was announced and the countdown began.
This time, there were a lot less cards left when the King came up. Stacey had already rearranged the circle – with the permission of everyone gathered – and the King was pulled out by one of the guys sitting by Faye. He drunk the jug quickly, as we cheered him on.
Stacey took out her phone, checked it and glanced around. "Who's coming to town then?"
I glanced around as quite a lot of the people nodded. Faye's face fell, and Olivia suddenly became interested in the table.
"What about you?" Stacey asked, eyes darting from me to Faye to Olivia.
"We wouldn't get in anywhere," Olivia said, as always the voice of reason.
"Bullshit," Stacey drawled, grinning as she studied me. "You'll be fine. Anyway, I know the bouncer where we're going. Quick word in his ear and he'll let you in."
Hunter shifted beside me. "What do you think?" I asked, glancing at him. He shrugged.
"It's up to you, babe."
Olivia and Faye both looked at me. They wanted to go, it was written all over their faces. But if Hunter didn't go, I wasn't going to, and I didn't think they'd go without me.
"Don't worry if you don't want to," Stacey said, smiling at me. "It's your mate's party – we just came for a bit of pre-drinking beforehand, that's all."
"Getting home…" I muttered, weakly, trying to think of almost any reason to decline.
"You can stay at mine," she offered. "My housemates have gone home for the weekend, so I've got like three spare rooms. Or, well, there'll be a few people heading back this way. You could always jump in a taxi with them."
I glanced from Olivia to Faye and back again, as Stacey's finger hovered over her phone. "Okay," I said, grinning at her and tearing my eyes away from my friends' excited faces. "I'm up for it."
"Yeah!" Faye nodded, and Olivia along with her. Stacey laughed.
"Awesome, right then, I'll call a taxi."
Hunter's hand was on the small of my back, and I knew he wasn't that excited about it. But my friends were, and so was I; I was going to a club for the first time ever, and I was determined to make it a good night.
A/N: As per usual, all feedback is appreciated and reviews are returned. Hope as always that you're enjoying is. And if you have a moment, please have a look at the poll on my profile page. Your votes will all count towards what I'm going to be working on next.