It was Mark idea to go to their parents on the weekend. He needed to rest and there was the right place to go.
Mary had others plans but the prospect of a quiet weekend in her mother’s house and her good cocking made her change her mind.
Dominick heard about the weekend, and as he was considered a member of the family he felt free to invite himself to join them. Normally Mark enjoyed his friend’s company, but since Dominick was hanging around with Mary, he was not very happy to have him for the weekend. On Saturday morning they left San Francisco.
Mary had in mind to go for a walk up to the hills, to visit her other favourite spot.
“I’m going for a walk,” she told the others after lunch.
“How about some company?” Dominick offered.
“If you are up for a long walk, you are welcome. It will be nice to have some company.”
“What do you mean by a long walk? Where are you going?” he asked a little bit suspiciously.
“I mean at least one hour and a half walking up and back. I’ll take this trail that starts near the house and walk up the hills. From there we have a beautiful view of the lake and the city.”
“I’m in,” Dominick said.
“Mark, Bia, you want to come?”
“No thanks, we prefer to stay here. Why don’t you stay and we can do something together?”
“I want to go for a walk. I’m going to pack some things for us.”
Mary packed her backpack according to a recommended list for a trail hike, water, food, chocolates and other items.
Dominick gasped as Mary return with her backpack.
“I thought we were going for a walk, not camping. Or did you change your mind?”
“No. We’re going to be back by the end of the day, before it gets dark. Don’t worry!”
They walked slowly the trail in the forest taking time to enjoy the nature. Sometimes the forest was so dense with tall trees that the sunlight barely passed between them and it was a little cold.
“Dad and Mark know another track, it’s faster, but the trail is not well-marked. I don’t know it well. I’ve taken it once with them and alone I’d be afraid of getting lost. Along here, I think I could find the way back in the dark.” Mary didn’t really believe what she had said; she knew that her sense of direction was terrible.
They stopped now and then for water and for Mary taking pictures.
Dominick put the backpack on the ground and rubbed his shoulders. He gave Mary a bottle of water and took one for himself.
“Mary what did you put in this backpack? Are you planning to stay until next week?”
“Don’t be silly, of course not.” She took a swig from the bottle. “You don’t need to carry it all the time.” She took the backpack. “If we share it will be easier.”
The trail angled up more steeply, meaning that they were almost at the top. Suddenly the bright light hit them, making them blink. Dominick shielded his eyes with the flat of his hand. The view was dazzling. Above them the blue sky with some white clouds moving lazily, below the lake with its green water reflecting, like a mirror, the surrounding mountains and trees.
“This is the other place you said you like it, isn’t it?”
“Yes, this is the place. It is beautiful, isn’t it?” She stretched out her hand in front of her showing the place.
“I think I need to thank you!” He had a seductive smile on his face.
“Why?” Mary saw no reason for him to thank her. She looked at him, but couldn’t hold her gaze for long; she looked away from that perfect face.
“Well, for the hike, for showing me your favorite places.” He put one arm around her shoulder. “You are teaching me to appreciate things that I never paid attention to before. I can’t say which place is more beautiful. This view is fantastic.”
“I’m glad you like it!”
“I want to come here again.”
“That won’t be a problem; whenever the weather allows we can come.”
They sat side by side very close, their shoulders touching. Mary inhaled his perfume, closed her eyes for a second. She raised her hand to touch his face, instead she touched his hair.
‘You have something in your hair.’ she took a small twig from his hair.
Being so close to him disturbed her. It would be simple if she weren’t afraid to get involved with him, with anyone. She hated being so weak and not being able to overcome what Robert had done to her. She pressed her lips together and wrapped herself in her thoughts.
Dominick watched her and tried to decipher the expression she had on her face, but he could not. Mary had the ability to hide her emotions. He could see a shadow of sadness in her eyes and maybe anger.
“Why do you come here? Is it just for the scenery or the pleasure of walking?”
“I like the view, the walk. Here I’m isolated from the world. I know it exists because I see the city down there, but here I am protected.”
“Does anyone else know your hiding place?”
“All the family knows this place. We used to come here as children with my grandfather or my father. It became my hiding place after what happened to me.” This time the words came out fast and she didn’t have time to mask the effects they had caused. Mary looked away from Dominick and she let the anger and sadness come out.
“What happened?” Dominick noticed the change, Mary tensed; her hands began to shake and became clammy with cold sweat. This was not a subject she liked to talk about; even though a year had passed it was still very painful.
“I shouldn’t have asked, I’m sorry!”
Dominick moved his hand to touch her, to hug her, but stopped.
Mary got up quickly, turned her back on him. She avoided looking at him; if she dared to look at him she would not be able to bury the terrible memories again.
“Well Dominick, I would like…”
The words just did not come out; she felt the tears burning her eyes. She didn’t want to cry, not in front of him and she had promised herself not to drop any more tears. She swallowed, her throat was suddenly dry, and she managed to control herself.
“You know Dominick; there are things we cannot change so it’s better not to talk about what happened. Past is past.” Her gaze was distant.
Thick dark clouds hid the sun and covered the blue sky turning it gray.
Dominick remained silent weighing her words, while she continued looking at the lake, staring at the empty space, still fighting back the tears.
“We need to understand what happened in the past, confront it, and then we can go on,” he said hoping he could help her.
“You are right, but…”
“It’s hard, sometimes too hard,” he finished for her.
Mary turned to face him with a faint smile.
“You speak like you already had a bad experience.”
“Well, who never had one? It depends on how bad they were.” Dominick didn’t insist. It made her sad and he didn’t want that. “I think a storm is coming, look how dark the sky is. It’s time to go back.”
“Yes, we’d better.” She looked at her watch. “It’s late, we should have already left. I am not sure if we’re going to make it before the rain starts.”
The strong and cold wind bent the trees and twisted the dry leaves around.
“We can’t stay in the woods in this weather, it’s dangerous.” Mary pulled her coat against her body. “The cabin isn’t far from here, if we run, maybe we can make it before starts raining. We’ll be safe there.”
They ran to the cabin, which was about a quarter-mile from where they were. Lightning sliced the sky and the sound of thunder was deafening. Thick drops started to fall, splashing on their faces. They reached the cabin completely wet. Mary took the key from under a loose board on the floor near the door.
“What an adventure!” Captivated by her beauty Dominick looked at her face lit by a smile.
“I thought we would make it before the rain.” Thick drops dripped from her hair, Dominick removed a lock of hair that had fallen on her face. He let his fingers lingered there.
“You need to change these wet clothes. Look at you, you are trembling.”
Dominick rubbed Mary’s arms in an attempt to warm her. He wanted to embrace her but she turned and walked to the other room.
“I’ll build the fire while you look for something dry to wear.”
She found some folded blankets on one of the shelves and also some clothes. The clothes must be Bernard’s. Mary was cold; she took off her wet clothes quickly, grabbed a shirt and pants and got dressed. The shirt was big, and the pants were wide and long. She had to fasten them with her belt so they wouldn’t fall. She wrapped herself in a blanket and returned to the other room taking clothes and a blanket for Dominick.
Dominick had already taken off his shirt, and she couldn’t stop looking at his well-built body. She lowered her eyes in an attempt to hide her embarrassment as she gave him the clothes.
“They are probably a little big, but they’re dry. Look how they are on me.” She gestured showing how the clothes fit on her. Dominick couldn’t help but laugh, she was very funny with her baggy clothes.
“That’s not fair!” she protested.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.” He wasn’t cold but he changed anyway. ”Do you think we will get back home today?”
She turned his back on him and busied herself for not watching him in his briefs. “I don’t know; we have to wait until the rain passes. If it’s not too late maybe we’ll have a chance to go back.”
“Mark and your family will be worried about us,” Dominick remembered.
“They will. When the storm passes we’ll get a better signal and I’ll call them.” While she spoke she checked her cell phone for a connection.
“Apparently we’re going to spend the night here.”
“If the rain doesn’t pass soon, I think it will be safer.” Mary didn’t like the possibility of spending the night with Dominick in the cabin. She feared what might happen between them. Mary improvised a place to hang the wet clothes by the fire.
“Who takes care of this cabin? Who uses it?”
“Dad uses it when he goes hunting with friends and they always keep it in order. By the way, these clothes are my father’s. This trail is not part of the tourist route. As you see, it’s very close to our house. These lands belong to my father’s family,” she explained. “Are you hungry?”
“I’m starving. Is there anything to eat here?” Dominick looked around and saw the backpack, and he understood why it was so heavy.
Mary followed his gaze. “I think you are not going to complain about having carried it!”
“Now I’m beginning to understand. Backpack ready, cell phone, chose the path which gives access to the cabin. You planned this, Mary Walker. You want to keep me hostage here.” Dominick had fun playing with Mary.
The light coming from the fireplace lit the room dimly. He didn’t see a blush run over her cheeks.
“Well I didn’t plan to tell you.” She tried to sound disappointed. “Not to mention the rain at the right time!” Mary laughed nervously. It was becoming increasingly difficult to resist the charm that radiated from Dominick. Especially when he smiled and his smile spread across his face. She was hypnotized.
“That was something. I couldn’t have done better.”
They stood in front of the fireplace, facing each other. The fire warmed the room making it cosy. The sound of the rain falling on the roof and the crackle of the fire provided a moment of intimacy.
Dominick looked straight into Mary’s eyes. “Mary, I like being with you.”
She looked away and lowered her head disconcerted. Dominick gently took her face in his hands, lifting it. His gaze met hers. The warm touch of his hand and the intensity of his green eyes made her heart thump erratically. She wondered if he had noticed.
“I like you. You attract me in so many ways.” he whispered. Mary attracted him in many ways, but mostly her shy and unprotected manner. He wanted to know if she felt the same. He searched the answer in her eyes. He found indecision struggling with desire.
Still holding her face in his hands his lips touched hers lightly. Mary felt like she was floating. She could no longer resist the urge to touch his face; to feel his lips touching hers. He moved his hands from her face and enveloped her in a hug, bringing her body against him.
“I longed for this,” he whispered and his mouth covered hers hungrily. She gave herself to the passion of his kiss. He let her go off him for a minute and seeing her parted lips, he once more took her lips. His body reacting to hers, as his avid hands touched her.
As if a thunderbolt had hit Mary, she pulled away from him. Her heart beat madly and her head spun. She had never kissed with such intensity, with so much desire. This is crazy, she thought. Fear got the better of her. They were silent for a while, looking at each other, breathing hard.
“I am sorry, I should have not… Mary I…,” His voice was soft and low, trying to sound sorry, but his eyes betrayed him, he wanted that kiss and more. He wanted her badly. He touched her face; she stepped back and braced herself. He wanted to kiss her, feel her close to him again, but her uneasy expression told him not to.
“Mary I…” he began but the words died in his throat.
Dominick was confused himself. How could he explain what he didn’t know or understand? He wanted to tell her that he could not stop thinking of her. He wanted to say, to ask her so many things, but he couldn’t find the right words. She hadn’t helped him, she kissed him back and then she backed away.
“It’s okay; you don’t need to apologize or explain anything. You didn’t kiss alone. I let you kiss me and I kissed you back.” Mary tried to keep her voice steady, but she was trembling. She could not define her emotions. She wanted to explain the whirlwind of emotions she felt but like Dominick, she could not find the words, or the words didn’t come out of her mouth, suffocated by fear.
“You’re shaking!” Dominick held Mary’s cold hands and took her to sit by the fire. He put the blanket on her back and sat next to her putting his arm around her. She let him take care of her and laid her head on his shoulder, and concentrated on the fire crackling in the fireplace and the rain pelting against the window.
“You need to drink something to warm you.”
He poured coffee into a Styrofoam cup and gave it to her.
“Thanks.” She held it with both hands. She drank from the hot liquid and it relaxed her nerves a little.
Dominick sat down and put his arm around her shoulder again. “Are you feeling better? Give me your hands!” He took her hands in his. “Now they’re warm and you are not shaking.”
“Yes doctor, I’m feeling better, thank you!”
Mary regained control of her emotions, she could speak naturally, or at least she thought she could. She got up, taking care to stay wrapped in the blanket.
“You said that you were starving. How about having a sandwich?” She took the sandwiches out of the backpack and put them on the counter. She took care to keep the counter between them. They ate in silence, both immersed in their own thoughts. Afraid that her expression would betray her, Mary kept her head down, not daring to look at him. Against her will she was falling for Dominick. A mistake, a big mistake but she couldn’t help it. Everything about him pleased and attracted her. Especially the way he looked at her and his seductive and engaging smile.
In the core of her heart she wished to have more than his friendship and now that she had the chance, she recoiled. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She was not the one night stand type, maybe if she were it would be simple. She wished she could get out of that cabin; spending the night with him would not help her.
Dominick got impatient with her silence. He felt helpless when she closed herself in her own world. “I’ll give a pizza for your thoughts?”
She didn’t hear and he had to repeat.
“Ah! My thoughts are that important? Are they worth only a pizza?” She made an offended face at being worth so little.
“You have no idea how much I like pizza,” It was just something to say. He wanted her to talk about what she was thinking. “Sometimes you get so immersed in your own thoughts that the world can fall on your head and you won’t even notice. I already said this to you.” He gave her his best engaging and irresistible smile.
She didn’t contest him, after all he was right. This was the way she found to hide her feelings after the kidnapping. Nobody could see her suffering behind the mask she learned to wear. And it was her way to avoid questions and contact with people. At that very moment she didn’t want him to know that she was struggling with the desire to kiss him again but she was too scared to let go.
“In case you didn’t notice, I’m still here!”
As if it was possible not be aware of your presence, she thought “I know.”
“Look, instead of you jumping to wrong conclusions, why don’t we talk about what is going on between us? Why don’t you talk openly to me?”
Tell you that like a silly teenager I have fallen for you? You’re going to laugh on me, she thought.
Then she answered him. “There is nothing to talk about. There is nothing going on between us.” She looked at him defiantly and he held her gaze. The warmth and the brightness in her eyes betrayed her. He saw it and didn’t let her go.
“We went out. We like to be together. We kissed, and you tell that there’s nothing going on?”
She rose from her chair and walked to the door. ‘Liking being with you doesn’t mean that there are something going on between us. And a kiss means nothing.” she opened the door and a gust of cold wind hit her face making her shiver. She tightened the blanket around her body.
He watched her intently. No point in insisting she would not talk to him.
“Is there any chance of going back today?”
“The rain stopped, but it is dark, better to wait until tomorrow.”
“Did you check your cell phone?”
“I’m doing it right now.” She continued with her back to him. She got a signal and called Mark. He wasn’t happy with the idea that his sister would spend the night in the cabin with Dominick.
“Mark and Dad will meet us here tomorrow. Dad thinks it is better to use the other trail, the one I don’t know well. He said it’s safer.”
“Well, since we are going to spend the night here, let me make ourselves more comfortable. I’ll put the mattress in front of the fire.”
Dominick gave up talking to her; he lay down and was asleep in no time. Mary sat in front of the fire wrapped in her blanket. She took the poker and started playing with the logs. She couldn’t sleep, her mind was spinning and being near him didn’t help.
Finally, tiredness won out and she fell in a restless asleep. She dreamed about the days she was held hostage. In her nightmare she was in the dark room, and she was haunted by Robert, but he had Dominick’s face. The morning light coming through the window woke her from her terror.
She took the dried clothes; folded Dominick’s T-shirt and his jeans and left them beside him. He was sleeping peacefully; no nightmare haunted him. The images of her bad dream disappeared instantly and the image of their kiss took place. She shivered with the recollection of his mouth devouring hers.
Dominick turned to his side and she quickly went to the other room. She changed her clothes and went outside. The rain had stopped and the sun was fighting its way through thick clouds. Relieved of being outside the cabin, she took a deep breath inhaling the fresh air. Soon Mark and her father would arrive and she would go home and forget the kiss, her life would continue as before. She would not go out with Dominick anymore.
Dominick woke up and found his clothes beside him. He raised himself up on one elbow and looked for Mary.
“Mary?” He called her loudly as he stood up. She didn’t answer. He opened the door and found her sitting on the porch.
“Good morning,” Even with his disheveled hair and sleepy face he was irresistible.
“I didn’t see you.”
“You thought that I’d left you alone. I’m not that bad. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, very well. And you got some sleep?”
They went in.
“Liar, look at you. You didn’t sleep at all.”
“Hungry?” She changed the subject. “We have some sandwiches.”
“Not really, but I’d like to have a coffee.”
“Sorry but you’ll have to wait until we get back home.”
Dominick took a chair and sat down. Mary placed a sandwich in front of him and took another for herself, but she didn’t sit down to eat. She took a bite of it and paced around the room.
“Mary, can you please sit down and eat.”
“I have to finish packing and put things in order here. Mark and Dad will be here soon,” she answered without looking at him.
“Come on, we have plenty of time. I’ll help you.” He rose from his chair and walked to her.
She was almost packing her head in the backpack trying to avoid him.
“Mary, talk to me.” He said and held her arm. “Stop avoiding me.”
“I’m not avoiding you. I have nothing to say.” She yanked her arm from his light grip, took the blankets and walked angrily to the other room.
He walked after her. “About yesterday, I want to say…”
She turned to face him. “There’s nothing to be said.” She pressed her lips together and shoved the blankets in their place.
“Maybe you don’t but I have something to say,” he replied ignoring her irritation. “Can you at least listen to me?”
“It was a kiss. You kissed me; I kissed you back, period. Not a big deal.”
He gave up, there was no away to make her listen to him or make her talk about it. Dominick didn’t understand why she made everything so difficult and why he still insisted in being with her. The more she resisted, the more he wanted her.