Suspiciously Obedient

Page 30

The music had dulled his ears, leaving him with not quite a ringing sensation, but a box of white noise in each ear canal, making it hard to pick up on subtle sounds. Lydia tried to whisper something to him surreptitiously, and he was completely unable to understand it. Whatever message she tried to convey, he would have to run through this scenario without it. Time to get blunt.

“Siggi, the lady has already indicated that she has no interest in you. You need to leave.”

“What, you want to fuck her first?” Siggi showed no signs of backing down, chest forward like a peacock, ready to battle for his woman. Short of a fan of blue and green silvery feathers, Siggi could have contended for one of the top spots at any major zoo worldwide. Come to think of it, he looked a little bit like that performer in Berlin. Perhaps a bit more attractive.

They were well matched, as tall as each other, with a similar build if you ignored the extra muscle on the other guy. Jeremy wondered if his reflexes were faster. Probably, given the amount of alcohol this guy had to have ingested. All of this ran through his mind at a breakneck speed as he processed exactly what to do next.

Lydia stepped away from under his arm and planted her fists on her hips, looking up at the two of them. Standing between them, she glared at Siggi. “Go away,” she said simply.

The guy laughed. “Why shouldn’t I get a piece of you, all the other men you work with do.”

“First of all,” she said, stamping one foot, “even if I did sleep with men at the office, you would not be one of them, and there’s no right to sleep with a woman, period.”

Siggi rolled his eyes.

“Second of all”—Jeremy could hear her voice losing heart as her anemic attempts to stand up for herself seemed to weaken—“you’re totally not my type.”

Siggi’s eyes raked over Jeremy from top to bottom. “Oh, clearly,” he said sarcastically.

Lydia pointed one finger at Jeremy. “You think I’m sleeping with him?” and then pointed a different finger at Siggi. It wasn't her index finger.

“He’s sitting here threatening me—”

“I’m not threatening you,” Jeremy interrupted.

“Whatever,” Siggi said, “I don’t know what game you two are playing, I just want in on some of that ass.”

And that’s when something in Jeremy snapped. It wasn’t the words, it was the grab, Siggi’s hand going for the luscious swell of Lydia’s hip, the slow curve down between that magical place where hip became buttock, and the hand was millimeters away from contact when the force of Jeremy’s tightly closed fist connected with Siggi’s jaw.

The mandible moved out of place in slow motion before Jeremy’s eyes, like some sort of Mythbusters show combined with World’s Dumbest Criminals. If he were the star in the episode, it would have shown slow-mo over and over again, his middle knuckle burying into Siggi’s mandible, the movement of the slack jaw muscles, and then his head crashing down onto Lydia’s shoulder as his legs bent, then weakened under him, no longer holding the six-and-a-half-foot frame, falling down directly on Lydia, knocking her to the ground and pinning her there.

Why was it that every time Jeremy tried to be a hero he just fucked things up? The only one remaining standing, Jeremy gawked at the scene on the ground at his feet. Lydia couldn’t breathe, taken aback by the shock of what had just happened, while Siggi lay, either unconscious or semiconscious, breathing in a strange snoring pattern, and yet moaning at the same time.

Last time Jeremy had heard someone snore and moan in their sleep had been in Vienna, watching a bedmate have a sex dream. A strange squeaking noise came from Lydia’s mouth. The big guy’s hand was planted on her breast, clamped like a claw on a vulture. She was on her side, he was on top of her, and the tangle of legs, and arms, and torsos was oddly artistic. Jeremy just stood there, marveling at the odd sort of beauty of it all.

“Oh…my…God,” Lydia gasped, “get…him…off…me.”

Stupefied, Jeremy just stared.

She lifted one hip, and then, sort of rocking her pelvis, managed to roll the enormous torso of the out-cold offender off of her. Jeremy reached out, shook himself from his trance, and with one heave, pulled her up to her feet.

She bounced up and then back to earth, staring down at the man, her shirt disheveled from his unconscious grope. “You flattened him.” She looked at him with wide eyes and ran one hand through her long, silky hair.

“Yes.” Jeremy was as surprised as her. He’d never done that to a human being before. The throbbing in his knuckles was an authentic reminder of the fact that he had done it, in fact. He wished that there had been a camera crew here for this, so that Michael Bournham could witness Jeremy’s triumph. Why waste a good camera crew on some viral sex tape when you could document a knockout like this?

“What do we do?” Lydia asked. A small crowd of onlookers had gathered around Siggi’s sleeping form. He was breathing in and out, and there was a faint, pinkish bruise on his jaw that would likely turn purple over a time.

“He’s alive. He’s breathing. I think we let him sit there like the piece of trash that he is.” Their eyes locked and they burst into laughter. Jeremy took her hand and bent down, eye to eye. “You okay?” he asked.

“I think so,” she said, her voice breathy. Her hands shook and he worried that she might be in a bit of shock.

“Let’s go,” he said, “I know a good place for a cup of coffee,” and then, pulling her hand, they ran down the street, Jeremy in the lead, to take her back to his guest house.

Lydia ran down the cobblestone streets in a state of bewilderment. What the hell had just happened? Five minutes ago she was inside the nightclub with the pounding of the techno beat taking over, and now she was running down cobblestone streets in Reykjavik, away from a man Jeremy had just assaulted, but who had been in the process of assaulting her.

No one had ever decked a guy on her behalf. She’d been fortunate enough never to need to try to do it herself. A swell of something feminine, primitive, oddly animalistic, and nurturing mixed inside her. The trope of having her honor defended by a man who would beat another man up for her made her gag with feminist outrage at it. She felt proud that Jeremy had done that. What exactly was the feeling? How do you feel pride over having someone else beat someone up for you?

The name for whatever she was feeling was convoluted and messy, and as she worked to catch her breath on their run, Jeremy mercifully slowed down, his long legs taking in one step where she needed two. She didn’t recognize the neighborhood that they were in, though she knew two or three parallel streets over she would.

“Where are we going?” she asked, catching her breath in great whoops.

“My place,” he said quietly. “I have a coffee maker and we can have a snack there and hang out, and…”

“And..?” she said, stretching the word out. It was more an accusation than a question.

“And just talk.”

She halted on the street in front of a small tailor’s shop next to a bookstore. Both were unlit, giving the night a dead sort of appearance, as if they could be in the 1880s as easily as in the 2010s. “Jeremy, let me be clear. This is not one of those situations where the guy beats up the villain and the girl sleeps with him in gratitude.”

His face fell. “It’s not?”


“How do you…” he started to protest. “How do you even know I want to sleep with you?”

“Because you’re a man,” she said slowly, drawing the words out. She didn’t think his face could fall further than it had, and yet somehow he managed it.

“Oh,” he said, quietly, “good point.”

Her body was humming with adrenaline and the buzz of the bizarreness of the entire situation. Siggi had come on to her in the nightclub. Siggi had assumed that she slept with anybody at the office. The whispers and the poor treatment at work, it all added up to someone there either suspecting or knowing that she was the girl from the video. It was so strong here, and yet back home she assumed that everyone assumed that it had been Diane. Her savior of sorts had taken all of the responsibility.

Now she knew she had also taken all of the credit for the original idea, and that Mike had nothing to do with that. Not that Diane had anything to do with it either—she was just an attention whore. What any of that had to do with Jeremy, standing in front of her, openly acknowledging that he wanted to sleep with her, she didn’t know. And yet, somehow, it all mixed into one big pot of messiness that rumbled around. A stew of confusion inside her heart and her mind, and right now, her body. It wanted Jeremy. Her body stood before him, panting and alight, on fire with the fear, and the attraction, and the alcohol, and so many other factors that made her think that all she would need to do is to take one step forward, to let him know that yes, she would like to sleep with him, too. One gesture, one look, one glimpse, one kiss and she could start something new, but would she?

“Why do you want to sleep with me?”

“Lydia, that’s like asking a guy why he wants to breathe.”

He was so tall, and big, and long, and friendly, like a golden retriever in human form. And yet, she saw the swelling on his knuckles, the confusion in his eyes, tinged with a sort of disbelief that he’d actually punched her coworker out. She got the impression that guys like Jeremy didn’t go around beating people up very often. In fact, he was more of an ubergeek than a jock. He reminded her of her brother Miles back home, the only one perceptive enough to figure out what had gone wrong, and probably the type to punch out a guy like Siggi, too, when push came to shove. If she took one step closer, if her hand touched his arm, if she tipped her face up just right to look at Jeremy, she could have him, she knew it. If.

“How ’bout that coffee, Lydia?” He held his hands up in a gesture of protest, palms facing her. “Just coffee,” he said slowly.

“Just coffee?” she questioned.

“I swear, and maybe some salt licorice, if you’ll let me add it in.”

“In the coffee?”

They started to amble slowly back in the same direction he’d taken her in.

“No, I don’t drink it that way, although I’m sure there’s some coffee shop that does that. I’ve eaten stranger things here, though.”

“Did you go to that restaurant where all they have is the pickled fish?”

For the next three minutes, Jeremy talked about nothing but the culinary quirks of Reykjavik. His guest house was considerably nicer than hers, though none of them were particularly formal in this area. His looked like a sleek late ’6’s or early ’70s, slim lines kind of place, while hers was definitely more from the earlier half of the twentieth century. His room wasn’t much bigger than hers, though he had a small couch, and a little sitting area, a pseudo-living room that would serve the purpose they needed. His bed was a double and neatly made, and it called out to her. A shout-out of possibilities that she could access at will.

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