Joanne reached the bottom of the fire stairs and went down the dock, trailing her right hand along the brick wall of the plant to keep her bearings. Although she’d seen several of the demonstrations in which swimmers played games with the creatures in the lake and knew they wouldn’t harm her deliberately if she fell in, she wanted nothing to do with the “unnatural brutes,” as Mom called them. Near the entrance to the viewing pavilion more steps led down to the sand where Chase had said he’d be waiting to guide her to the place he’d made ready.
At the end of the building she angled toward the pavilion and suddenly there he was. She reached out to the darker shadow of his body and the yearning she felt when she wasn’t with him turned to happiness. But in the same moment part of her held back; although this was Chase, her sweet lover, his body was stiff, unwelcoming. Then everything was all right when he pulled her against his familiar bulk and his erection poked her belly.
He breathed in her ear, “You’re here oh God you’re finally here” as he guided her into the pavilion, evidently unwilling in his urgency to go down to the beach to make love as he’d said they would. Flattered, she let him take her with him to the floor, her body supple with desire, yet she remained somewhat anxious. But she was being held with gentleness as if she were precious to him and she realized he was trembling, almost shuddering with tension. Amazed she could have such an effect, she stroked his cheek.
He pulled back from her, still whispering, “I’ve been waiting so long, this has to go well, you mustn’t be frightened.”
“I’m not frightened,” she assured him, also whispering to share his intensity. Her other hand found his penis. She might have expected he’d already have put on a condom. He always planned ahead.
At her touch he inhaled sharply and jerked away. “No, we mustn’t hurry,” he said, his voice strangled. He reached past her and fumbled for something in the darkness.
The smell of chocolate reached her and she giggled because she’d had the same idea but had left her thermos of hot chocolate on the railing at the top of the fire stairs. She was touched he’d brought her favorite beverage.
“I know how much you love this.” He slid a hand beneath her head to raise it and held a cup to her lips. “I tried to make it the way you like it but it seems very strong. Tell me it doesn’t taste bitter.”
Needing him, trembling now as he was but respectful of his self-control and kindness in not wanting to rush her, she took a deep swallow. The chocolate had cooled and tasted unpleasant. It wasn’t bitter but had a heavy, artificial citrus undertaste. He must have used the mix he’d been bringing to motels so she could have hot chocolate for breakfast. Because he’d bought it for her especially she hadn’t told him she didn’t care for it or that she hadn’t opened the container of it he’d given her to take to the break room in the security office. Tonight he’d made the chocolate much too strong.
Propped on an elbow she drained the cup to show appreciation for his thoughtfulness in bringing it and avoid giving him an excuse for further delay. “It’s delicious,” she said.
As she took the cup from his hand to put it beside her on the floor, she realized he had on plastic gloves; that was why his hand behind her head felt strange against her neck. Her mobile was gone. Could it have slipped out of its holster? Had he taken it? Alarmed now, she reached for her baton but she was lying on it. She tried to sit up, pushing a hand against his solid torso.
“Stop that,” he said in a hard voice she’d never heard from him. He forced her flat and lowered himself onto her. His erection poked her leg. He was heavy; she couldn’t move. She tried to scream although no one would hear her, to pull her hands free to jam her thumbs in his eyes the way she’d been taught in self-defense practice but she felt drowsy and her arms and legs lacked strength. José, help me, she thought. José was home in bed, sick.
Chase raised his body from hers but pinned her hands on the floor and rested a knee on her legs, as if waiting for something. She had to get free of him; she didn’t like this. Sometimes he did such dumb things. She was very angry.
The anger passed as she began to understand. He’d given her something to help her enjoy sex more; that was it. Whatever it was had lifted her into a daze in which she didn’t care that the floor was dirty and stank of mold or that the citrus undertaste of the chocolate lingered in her mouth and made her feel like vomiting. She couldn’t help it, she was drifting off.
She awoke—immediately she thought—trying to get her breath. He still was holding her down. She tried to push him away but fell asleep.
She awoke again because she needed to cough but couldn’t. Breathing was so hard now, why was that? She felt lightheaded and had to sleep some more. . . .
Her lungs wouldn’t expand; this was the worst feeling she’d ever had. What was happening? Why did he keep holding her down when he should be doing something to help her breathe? Fighting to pull air into her lungs and stay awake, again she made another effort to free herself. He was heavy, strong, she couldn’t breathe, she had to sleep. As she lost consciousness her mouth formed the words, “Don’t do this, I love you,” but no sound came.
Themes of novels by M. Ferguson Powers reflect the author’s varied interests, including preservation of the natural world and its creatures;