I blame it all on his smile. I would never have gotten involved in this ridiculous, dangerous, and frankly infuriating, business if I hadn't seen that damned magnetic smile of his.
It was like one of those stupid scenes in romantic movies. You know, where the two main characters' eyes meet across a crowded place. The crowded place was the train station. It was loud there with people talking, yelling, laughing, and crying while barely heard announcements screeched overhead. It was hot too, the heating mixing with the combined body heat of what seemed like hundreds of people. Not that I was complaining. I hate the cold and there was still snow on the ground outside.
He was leaning against one of the square columns on the far end and I was looking for track two. I turned and saw him there, smiling down at something he was reading.
I froze. I could almost feel the pull of his curved lips as they tried to draw me in. As if he sensed my gaze, he looked up and met my eyes. Just like in the damn movies. I blushed and looked away. I mean, it is rude to stare.
When I glanced back up his smile was wider and he was pushing off from the column. I ducked my head and began hurrying off. He'd probably seen the person he was waiting for behind me, I rationalized as I dodged my way towards the other end of the station.
I had almost reached the map of the station when I was jerked to a halt. I whipped around to find the smiling man holding my wrist. I stared again, caught off guard and partially hypnotized by the flash of those white teeth.
After a moment, I managed to shake myself out of my daze. I looked down at my wrist then back up at him. "Umm…can I help you?"
He chuckled. "No. But I think I might be able to help you. You look like you're lost."
I could feel redness creeping back into my cheeks and I looked down at my black winter boots. "I'm looking for track two."
"Really? Well no problem. I'll take you where you need to go."
Before I could protest, or do anything but jerk my head up to stare again, he sauntered off, dragging me behind him. I stumbled and had to half hop a couple of steps to get my balance and to keep up with him. He was taller than me, almost everyone is, and I barely came up to his shoulder so I still had to half-jog to keep up with his walking pace.
"If you just point me in the right direction I can get there myself," I told him.
He looked down, his smile, which I would soon learn rarely left his face, widening. "Oh no. I couldn't possibly do that. Now I think we had better hurry. The train will be leaving soon." He began walking faster and I had to actually jog to keep pace or risk being dragged across the floor.
Running behind him, all I could see was his partially flared coat flapping around his legs as we sped down the stairs that led to the track. I could hear the warning whistle of the train along with the chatter of the crowd. Under the glare of the conductor we threw ourselves onto the train.
"This way," the smiler said, again pulling me along. We went through three cars before we found an empty pair of chairs in the mostly deserted middle car. Using a flourishing gesture, the man indicated I should take the window seat. I shrugged, I figured the view might be decent, and sat down as the train began to pull away.
I watched him follow suit, leaning back into the seat and stretching his arms out over his head. 'I don't think we've introduced ourselves," I said.
He turned to look at me, eyes widening momentarily before his smile regained control. "My name is Pierce. Pierce Braxton if you want my full name."
I smiled back. "Eliana Parks," I told him, holding my hand out.
Pierce's blue eyes became mischievous. He grabbed my hand and kissed the back of it. I snatched it back and gave him a severe look. "You're supposed to shake it."
"You do things your way and I'll do them mine."
I shook my head. "Thanks though. I would have missed the train if it weren't for you. I clearly wasn't paying attention to the time."
He chuckled. "Oh don't mention it. We're going the same way after all."
I frowned a little. "How do you know that? I didn't tell you where I was going."
"We're on the same train," he pointed out, eyes closed but with his mouth stretched out into a wicked grin.
"Oh." Before I could ask him anything more, the conductor stopped in front of us.
"Tickets," he said, holding his rough hand palm up.
I dug around in my purse and pulled out my wallet. After a moment or two of fighting with the zipper, damn thing had broken again, I handed the conductor my ticket. He looked down at it, then frowned. Then he looked at me. "This ticket is for the eleven thirty going to Frozen Falls."
"Yes. Is there a problem?"
"This is the eleven-ten heading for Sky City. You're on the wrong train lady."
I could feel my jaw dropping as I stared at the conductor. A muffled cough-like sound from Pierce made me look at him. He winked at me before saying to the conductor "By some happy circumstance I have two tickets. Here you are my good sir."
Watching Pierce hand the conductor the two tickets my brain slowly began breaking through the shock. By the time the conductor had shuffled off, I was glaring at Pierce. "You," I hissed, eyes narrowed. "You did this on purpose! I told you I was looking for track two."
My anger seemed to amuse him further. "And I told you I'd take you where you need to go. There's nothing in Frozen Falls. Sky City is where things are happening."
"I don't care where things are happening. I'm meeting my mom's cousin in Frozen Falls!"
Pierce covered his grin with one hand while his eyes danced. "Well now you're coming with me to Sky City. I promise you'll like it."
"What makes you think I'm going to go anywhere with you after this stunt?"
Now he turned his eyes on me and his whole face took on the predatory look of a hawk. "Because I'm not giving you a choice."
I choked. "You're kidnapping me?"
"That is one way to put it. I would prefer, forcefully introducing you to a better life."
I could only stare at him.
His smile relaxed into something more good-natured. "C'mon now. Things'll turn out great. You'll do better in Sky City. I'm never wrong about these things. Here, have this."
I looked down at the bottle of water for several moments before taking it from him. As I twisted the cap off I said "Don't think this fixes things. As soon as we get to Sky City I'm catching the next train back to Frozen Falls. And I may or may not call the cops while I'm at it."
Pierce shrugged, looking unconcerned as he turned to watch out fellow passengers. I glared at the brown hair covering the back of his head before taking a long swallow of the water. I realized after the first sip how thirsty I was, I hadn't had anything to drink since early that morning, and I practically chugged the whole bottle.
Finished, I jammed the bottle into the cup holder. Pierce turned back around at the crinkling sound of empty plastic. Seeing the empty bottle, he began laughing. Actually laughing. Not the little chuckles I'd heard before.
"What's so funny?" I asked as the trained lurched around a bend.
"You. You're so naïve. I can't believe you drank the whole bottle," he said as he continued to laugh.
I turned slowly to look at the empty bottle feeling the train jerk again. Except it wasn't the train. It was me. My eyes began to cloud over and I felt my whole body getting heavier and heavier. I tried to struggle, to open my mouth, anything, but there was nothing I could do. As the blackness swallowed me, all I could hear was Pierce's laughter echoing in my ears.