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Authors: J. L. Merrow

Tags: #Nightmare

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BOOK: Fall Hard
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Reassured, I plunged into him up to the hilt. God, he felt good. Impossibly tight, the heat coming off him in waves so intense I wouldn’t have been surprised if the tree on his back had burst into flame. His head hung low between his braced arms, and Yggdrasil’s leaves seemed to rustle as his shoulders flexed. I could smell the damp earth of the forest, mixed in with the salt of our mingled sweat.

I felt like a god, pounding into this strong, handsome Viking. Or maybe we were both gods, at play in the halls of Asgard. I pitied the poor mortals left behind in Midgard, never to know this heady ecstasy. The only sound was our grunts and the rhythmic slap of my balls against his arse. Knowing I couldn’t hold out much longer against this level of intensity, I reached around to take him in hand. Viggo’s cock was scalding hot and hard as the iron that forged Thor’s hammer. He cursed, a constant stream of Icelandic that I hoped was meant as encouragement because I was physically incapable of stopping now. He gave one last, strained shout—and clenched around me as his cock pulsed, spurting out long streams of come that splattered loudly against the metal wall.

It was too much. I came too, my balls emptying themselves with such force I was half surprised the recoil didn’t knock me on my arse. Viggo collapsed against the wall with a metallic thud, and I sagged on top of him, my arms wrapped around his magnificent chest and my face pressed to Yggdrasil’s branches. Both our chests were heaving, our skin slippery with sweat.

Viggo pushed himself, and me, away from the wall, and he twisted in my arms until we were chest-to-chest once more. He was laughing. “What?” I asked suspiciously.

“You. You make love like a Viking.” He traced the line of my jaw with a gentle gesture at odds with his size and strength, and his grin faded.

His sobered expression filled me with inexplicable unease. Had this meant more to him than it had to me? I wasn’t even sure what it
had
meant to me. “Had we… Were we lovers before? No—look at me.”

His gaze, which had dropped away, came slowly to meet mine. His blue eyes seemed shuttered—or at least, I couldn’t read them. “What do you think?”

I swallowed. “I had a lover. Sven. I wouldn’t have cheated on him.” Who was I trying to convince here?

“Then you and I can’t have been lovers, can we?”

Was he mocking me? I pushed away from him. The sweat was rapidly cooling on my skin, chilling my blood. In a minute, I’d start to shiver, so I grabbed for my shirt on the damp, gritty floor.

“What were we, then?” I demanded, pulling the ice-cold garment over my head. About to pull up my underwear and trousers, I realised I was still wearing the condom. After taking it off my now thoroughly limp dick, I dropped it on the floor. Viggo could pick it up if he wanted, or leave there to shock the next batch of tourists to come through here. I didn’t give a damn.

“We were friends, of course.”

“No. You’re lying to me. I wouldn’t—” I bit back my words as I jammed my arms into the sleeves of my jacket, checked I had my wallet and turned to go.

“Paul!” Viggo clutched my arm. “Paul. Wait. I’m sorry.”

“We weren’t friends, okay?” I couldn’t have said why I was so sure, but the painful certainty cut through me like an axe. Was it guilt again?

“You’ve remembered?”

If only it were that simple. “No,” I said harshly. A shiver racked my frame, taking me by surprise.

“Paul…” Viggo moved forwards, his arms lifted to embrace me.

I wanted to let him—wanted to take comfort and warmth from his solid, almost-familiar form. How could I, though, with Sven lying cold in his grave?

“I’ve got to go,” I said, not looking at Viggo.

I heard him sigh. “You’ll call me?” he asked, his tone sad.

“I’ll call you,” I promised, not knowing if I lied, and fled.

Chapter Eight

Mags looked up from her work with a smile. “Oh, I wasn’t expecting you back in today. Did you have a good time?”

“Fine.” I snapped it out—then regretted it instantly. “Sorry. It was… It was a bit awkward, that’s all.”

The hurt lines on her face smoothed out, leaving only worry. “Did something happen?” She drew in a sharp breath. “Was it the river? I should have realised…”

“Mags, no. It’s not your fault. It’s just…” I baulked at the idea of telling her about Viggo. Certainly I couldn’t tell her
everything
. But she was still waiting. “Viggo confuses me,” I admitted finally.

She coloured. “Did he, um… No, it’s none of my business.”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “You’re my friend.” But I didn’t explain why Viggo made me uneasy, and she didn’t ask again.

Would she have known if I’d been having an affair? Would I have told her? Might she have guessed? “God, I hate this!” I exploded, my fist clenched but stopping just short of thumping Mags’s desk.

“Paul…” Mags’s face clouded with anxiety—then cleared. She stood. “Come on. Let’s go get a cup of tea and a biscuit.”

“I only just got back to work,” I protested weakly.

“Well, I could do with a break. Come on. Keep me company.” She took my arm, the warmth of her hand and the English-country-garden scent of her perfume grounding me, and gave a gentle tug. “Come on.”

I let her lead me away to the cafeteria, and we sat down with our drinks at a table near the window, looking out over the car park. We were only a stone’s throw from the sea, here, but our view was blocked by the other University buildings. I took a sip from the mug she passed me and suppressed a grimace. It was every bit as bad as a cup of tea Gretchen might have made. But the warm mug felt good in my hands, and somehow the greasy, over-sweet taste was soothing. Mags didn’t seem to expect me to talk, just started to tell me about her nieces and nephews and their teenage trials, and gradually the tension eased out of me.

“You’re a good friend,” I said, when she appeared to have reached the end of her saga. “I’m not at all sure I deserve you.”

“Why—what have you done?” Alex’s voice grated in my ears like the jangle of an alarm clock, and I felt an unpleasant jolt in my stomach at being caught unawares.

Mags turned. “Oh, Paul was just being silly. But nice.”

Alex pulled out a chair. Its legs rasped on the floor.

“Hey, Mags, you’re looking great. You should wear warm colours more often.”

I turned automatically to see what had prompted the compliment. Mags had blushed as pink as her blouse, but she looked pleased. I supposed the colour did suit her, now he’d mentioned it, but I couldn’t shake my annoyance at his interruption—and his obvious attempts to charm.

“Listen, Paul, I’ve been thinking,” he carried on, oblivious to my black looks. “How about you and me hit the tourist trail while I’m here?”

I laughed, incredulous. “If you’re looking for a tour guide, I suggest you try the tourist office. I
don’t remember
anything about my previous time here.”

Alex rubbed the back of his neck and smiled at me. I found it disarming in spite of myself. “Well, you see, that was kind of my point. Sorry if I’m coming over as kind of tactless, here, but I figured you’d want to do your sight-seeing over again. Hey, you never know, it might jog that memory of yours. Anyhow, if you’re up for it, I’d be glad of the company.”

“I… Maybe. I’ll think about it.” I gave an awkward shrug. “My leg isn’t really up to a lot of walking yet.”

“So we’ll stick to the places that are accessible by car. Hey, maybe a soak in the Blue Lagoon—”


No
.” I said it rather too vehemently for politeness, but the thought of stripping off, letting him see my scars, was anything but appealing. I hadn’t even stripped off for Viggo when we’d had sex down by the river. I should call him, I thought suddenly.

Mags was staring at me. So was Alex.

“I… Maybe we could take a trip to Geysir. Something like that,” I offered unwillingly.

He smiled. “Cool. Although I gotta tell you, I’ve seen Old Faithful and the Steamboat in Yellowstone. These Icelandic waterspouts are going to have to be pretty damn impressive to beat that.”

“You Americans. You always have to be the biggest and best at everything.” Mags’s tone was teasing.

“Hey, can I help it if we just
are
?” He said it with a goofy smile to undermine his own braggadocio. “Are you free at the weekends, then, Paul? Or maybe a day during the week? I’m easy.” I half expected him to wink at me, turn it into innuendo, but he restrained himself.

Or perhaps, of course, he just wasn’t quite so smitten with my dubious charms as I’d been telling myself. “I don’t have any classes to teach at the moment, so I suppose I could take a couple of hours out any time,” I said, trying not to sound as reluctant as I felt. “But don’t you have classes to go to?”

“I can take a break,” he said with an easy shrug.

It seemed I’d run out of excuses. I stood. “Okay, I’ll have a look at my schedule and get back to you. Anyway, it’s time I got some work done today. I’ll see you later, Mags.”

 

 

“You should give Alex a chance,” Mags chided me softly the next time I saw her. “He’s only trying to be nice.
And
he’s only here for the summer, so why not be friendly? It’s only for a couple of weeks.”

“I’m giving him a chance. I said I’d go with him to Geysir, didn’t I?”

“And you looked
so
enthusiastic about it.”

I made a face. “There’s just something about him… I don’t know what it is,” I finished weakly.

“I think he’s lovely.” Her cheeks went a little pink.

“He tries too hard,” I said without even knowing I’d thought that until it was out there in the open.

“He’s American. They’re not the same as we terribly repressed British, you know.”

“I bet Sven was.” Again, my mouth was faster than my thoughts.

“Sven was…” She sighed. “He wasn’t like Alex, I’ll give you that. Well, not on the surface, anyway.”

“But underneath?” I prodded, hoping to get to grips with my own poorly defined sense of unease about Alex.

Mags gestured helplessly.

“He’s too intense, isn’t he?” I mused aloud. “Alex, I mean. You get the feeling there’s more to what he says than…than what he says. You said Sven was intense,” I reminded her.

“Yes, but…Sven
was
, and Alex really isn’t like that,” she protested.

“What about Viggo?” I asked, changing tack. “Did you like him when you met him?”

“Well, yes,” she said, as if it was a foregone conclusion. “Anyway, stop changing the subject. Why don’t you take Alex to Geysir tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow?” I repeated blankly. “Mags, I just
took
half a day out.”

“So? Semester hasn’t started yet, and I know you haven’t got anything in your diary until the meeting on Wednesday. Isn’t settling in more important?”

“I’m not sure going out with Alex really fits under the heading of ‘settling in’,” I muttered.

“You’ll enjoy it.” For a moment, Mags sounded just like Gretchen. I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes with an ironic
Yes, Mum
that she might not have found very complimentary.

“Okay, I’ll do it, all right?” I said instead. It was worth it to see her smile.

 

 

That evening, I did some more sorting through boxes. I started with the one that held pictures—the novelty of uncluttered walls had worn off, and the flat was starting to look a little bare.

The frames held an eclectic bunch of images. I smiled to find my old friend Egil Skallagrimsson in there, a reproduction of the iconic illustration from a seventeenth-century manuscript. It showed Egil as a thickset, heavy-browed man, firmly clutching a weapon in each hand as he glared suspiciously over his shoulder. I took that one out, intending to hang it in the living room. There was also an enlarged photo of a landscape that looked teasingly familiar. It was clearly Icelandic. If there’s anywhere else in the world with that combination of grey, volcanic rock and scrubby grass beneath glowering mountains, I’ve yet to see it. A long, low bridge stretched across a fjord to a small town that hunkered down against the bitter Icelandic winds, its buildings gleaming white in the sun. I felt a physical pull towards the place, a homesickness for this landscape I didn’t even recognise.

There was no clue on the frame, or even on the back of the photo when I extracted it, as to where this place was. I snapped a picture with my phone, meaning to take it into work and ask Mags. Maybe the place held a special significance for me? If so, I wanted to go there. I hung the landscape on a nail left in the wall by a previous tenant and, realising I had no tools, contented myself with propping Egil on a shelf where he could glower out at Mags’s spider plant.

My zeal for unpacking having by now evaporated, and guiltily aware I should have done this sooner, I phoned Gretchen.

She answered on the first ring. I imagined her curled up in a corner of the sofa, her phone resting on the arm and a mug of milky tea at her elbow while she flicked through the TV channels. “Paul? Finally. I was getting worried.”

“I’m in Iceland, not the North Pole.” I found myself rolling my eyes as if we were teenagers again. “Did you think I’d been parboiled in a geyser or something?”

BOOK: Fall Hard
10.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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