Actions

Work Header

Part-Time Past Time

Chapter Text

The Godfreys were… strange.  That’s what everyone said.  Of course, no one would outright confess their opinion, for the Godfreys were—as the name implied—gods that walked amongst the occupants of Hemlock Grove.  And, how they worshiped them!

“You’re so lucky to work for the Godfreys, Poppi!”  “I wish I were in your shoes!”  “What’s it like working for THE Roman Godfrey?”

            She had heard the statements for the majority of her life, and she had never understood the excitement.  Picture-perfect families envied the Godfreys for their money, but she thought it ironic since she knew Olivia Godfrey (who might as well be regarded as the queen) strove for that very same picture-perfect-family image.  She knew perfectly well what happened behind closed doors, and it was for that reason that she didn’t follow the crowd. 

Regardless, she kept their secrets, for it wasn’t her business, and she wasn’t the attention-seeking type.  Not to mention, Poppi had the joy of being born into a line that had been subservient to the Godfreys for years.  Since her mother and father had passed, she was now the sole survivor. 

So, as she heard a variation of one of the statements, she simply smiled, nodded, and then walked off.  Due to the encounter, her short, allotted time for the library had run up; consequently, she had to abandon her search for a book in order to start on her afternoon chores.  Today, one of those chores was grocery shopping, which was five chores in itself since Olivia was strict on brands and certain types of produce.

Due to Olivia’s tastes, Poppi had to visit every single supermarket in Hemlock Grove, plus the local farmer’s market.  So, by the time she was finished, she was booking it to make it back to the Godfrey mansion before Olivia did. 

So much for getting a head start, she thought, rounding a corner to take a short-cut. 

The bitter thought was punctuated and accompanied by dread as she came face to face with a cherry-red Jag.  Not to mention, its occupants were quite busy, and Poppi received an unwanted eye-full.  Thankfully, it was over soon enough, and the female exited, fixing her skirt with one hand while the other held a wad of cash. 

Her eyes followed the brunette for a moment before returning to the inhabitant of the Jag.  Full lips wrapped around a long thumb as green eyes scanned the space before him with a gaze that could only be described as predatory.  Roman Godfrey, the Prince of Hemlock Grove.

His face was the personified image of a Roman sculpture.  Due to those looks and his vintage car, he was no stranger to blowing more than just money.  Half of Hemlock Grove High was convinced that the teen could walk on water.  Hell, he practically made panties disappear with just a flick of his cat-eye-colored eyes and a twitch of those pouty lips. 

Just as the thought floated about in her mind, those very green orbs darted in her direction, and she was ensnared.  His gaze narrowed on her as that pink tongue danced across the pad of his thumb, licking the last of the unknown substance away. 

Helplessly, she watched the action, but it wasn’t from starry-eyed feelings that the others experienced; no, as always, it was mere curiosity.  The pull she felt was similar to that a person experiences when viewing art.  It was just a matter of wanting to know the deeper meaning of the painting. 

With that in mind, she found the will to shake off the stupor, adjusting the grocery sacks in her hands before continuing on her way. 

 

<><><><><><><><><><><><><> 

Upon returning home, Poppi realized she merely beat Olivia’s F150, and she didn’t miss a beat to scurry into the kitchen and unload the bounty.  She had just tossed the last bag and grabbed a pan to prepare dinner when Olivia’s heels sounded on the linoleum. 

“Poppi?  What are you doing?” 

She turned to address the white-clad woman with an arched brow.  “Pardon?”

“Didn’t I tell you?  Roman and I will be out tonight.  I’m taking him shopping for clothes.  There’s no need to cook tonight.”

“What about Shelley?”

Her ebony eyes flicked to the side.  “Ah, yes.  I suppose you will need to cook, then.”  She pursed her lips, crinkling her nose before waving her hand exasperatedly.  “Prepare the lasagna dish that you make, I suppose.  Shelley adores it.”

Poppi gave her a small smile and a nod before returning to her task.  She barely began her process before she heard someone approaching from behind.  Her smile broadened before she turned to look up at the tall girl.

“Hi, Shelley.”

The friendly giant returned Poppi’s smile with one of her own before waving with one of her wrapped hands. 

“Did your mom tell you what I’m making?”

Shelley shook her head, and Poppi gave a mock gasp.  “Well, I suppose I shouldn’t tell then.  It might ruin the surprise.”

A small grunt left Shelley’s lips in protest, to which Poppi replied with a sassy hand-to-the-hip.  “All right.  Fine, fine.  We’re having the lasagna dish, but it’ll have to be our secret, ok?  No one else can know because then everyone else will try to stay for dinner.”

A silent giggle before Shelley finally nodded in agreement. 

“All right.  Hand me those noodles, Seashell.”

She finished prepping the dish with help from Shelley before retiring to sit at the table.   

“So, are you excited about the first day tomorrow?”

Shelley tilted her head from side to side.

Poppi made a face.  “Why so?”

Shelley typed before the automated voice said, “People.”

“Ah, well, that’s because they don’t understand you.  They don’t understand how your heart is filled with warmth and…” she trailed off, gently bopping her nose, resulting in a soft blue glow, “light.”

The two girls shared smiles.  “Besides, I’ll be the one weirdo reading in the corner during lunch if you need someone to talk to.”

Shelley paused to type.  “Roman, too?”

Poppi paused but nodded.  “Yes… Roman will be there, too.  Don’t worry about those people,” she said, patting Shelley’s bandaged hand. 

Shelley nodded with a bright grin, which Poppi returned.

“Now, what are you gonna wear tomorrow?”

There was a pause before Shelley presented a picture of an outfit on a mannequin.  Poppi smirked.  “Well, you definitely have me beat.  I’m gonna look like I’m dressed in a potato sack.”  In reality, the statement wasn’t far from the truth since she hadn’t gone shopping in a few years.  Nevertheless, her loss was a smile for Shelley, and that was enough for her.

The two chuckled but were cut off as Roman came bustling into the kitchen.  “What are you two so cheery about?” he asked, brushing Shelley’s cheek in passing before leaning up against the counter.  “What smells so good?”

Poppi and Shelley exchanged a glance before she replied, “Just talking about girl stuff.  And, that’s nothi—Hey! Don’t look in there!”  She bolted from her chair, moving to keep Roman from opening the oven door.  The two bumped hips as they fought for dominance.  “Roman, no!” she pleaded, struggling to muffle a giggle.

It was too late.  “You evil witch,” he muttered upon realizing what the dish was inside.  “The one night…”  He turned his attention towards Shelley.  “And you were just going to keep this from me.”  A shake of his head.  “You women wound me,” he sighed, smacking a hand over his heart. 

She couldn’t help but roll her eyes.  “We’ll leave a square.”

As he looked down on her with those green eyes, she was reminded of the times when they would play as children in the big castle.  Back then, it was ok to pretend.  Now, they were older and had to assume their roles.  She learned quickly that it was easier that way, but at times like this, it was hard to remember the rules she placed for herself.

“Darling.”  The two blinked as Olivia’s voice filled the kitchen once again.  Her eyes darted between the two of them before settling on Roman.  “You’re going to be late.  Best get a move on.”

Roman nodded, his Adam’s apple bobbing once before he tore his eyes from her.  With that, he left, and Poppi kicked herself for letting her guard down.  Times have changed, she thought, remembering the car fiasco she had witnessed earlier.  He wasn’t her friend anymore.  Their relationship was soon to be strictly professional when he became of age, and Olivia was all too quick to reiterate that point with a stern look.

Chapter Text

Roman Godfrey was a troubled boy.  It was always clear to her, ever since she witnessed him finding the body of his father.  He was merely six, and she was approaching five.  She had watched from behind a corner as Roman’s eyes remained transfixed on the dead man.

            It was a horrid sight—blood everywhere and half of Senior Godfrey’s brains spilled out upon the pristine rug.  Roman didn’t cry.  Instead, he slowly lifted his gaze to her, eyes wide as saucers, before murmuring, “Such a mess.  Mother will be angry.”

            Her first reaction was to hug him, for that had always made him feel better.  At least it did when he scraped his knee, she had reasoned.

            Roman remained still, almost limp in her hold as his eyes fell back to his father.  She reached up, cupping her hand over his eyes, whispering, “Don’t look.”  That’s what mommy always tells me when something is bad.

            “Roman, darling, come here.”  The voice was clear of emotion.  Instead, it seemed as if Olivia was merely comforting Roman for stubbing his toe.  Roman’s face remained downcast as he approached his mother, to which she responded by scooping him up in her arms and smoothing his hair.

            “It’s all right.  You’re so much stronger than he was,” she cooed.

            All the while Poppi couldn’t help but wonder why Olivia didn’t stop Mr. Godfrey.  In fact, she recalled that Olivia only watched the scene unfold.

            Poppi blinked the memory away as she turned the door knob to the bathroom.  As she was lost deep in her thoughts, she hardly noticed the clothes strewn on the floor.  It wasn’t until she heard a splash of water that she noticed the young man in the tub. 

            She took in the white powder that littered his upper lip and a vanity mirror balanced between his legs.  He brought a cigarette to his lips as he watched her beneath lazy lids.  She watched in fascination as he made beautiful patterns with the smoke. 

Yes, Roman was a troubled young man, she thought, eyes falling to the pile of white powder. 

It was only when he arched a brow as his cheeks hollowed that she had the sense to avert her eyes.  “S-sorry,” she stuttered out, making a quick retreat from the bathroom. 

            Out of all the bathrooms in this monstrous house!

            Thankfully, she didn’t get as much of a show as she did the previous day.  She tried for another bathroom, and, luckily for her, it was accessible.

            Meanwhile, Roman was still soaking in the warm water.  In his chemically-induced stupor, he had watched the domestic worker scramble out of the bathroom with amusement.  He couldn’t find the energy to understand what the big fucking deal was.  They had basically grown up together and, if he recalled correctly, shared the same bathwater on more than one occasion. 

The way she regarded him, though… as if he was nothing to her at all than a piece to be admired briefly before moving on.  It was definitely a change of pace, considering that everywhere he went he turned heads and held their fascination.  She was quite a peculiar one. 

He shrugged the thought off as he realized his thinking was ruining his brief high.  His lips puckered, and he blew an O-shaped smoke ring.  Funny how it resembled that same symbol…

            His attention was captivated when he faintly detected a car pulling up to the house.  He leapt from the water, ignoring the fact that he was soaking the floor, to catch a glance of the visitor.  Despite a bitter flare within him, a smirk spread across his lips.  “Seems mommy dearest has a visitor,” he muttered, watching as his Uncle Norman entered the greenhouse. 

<><><><><><><><><><><><> 

            High school was the worst.  She had concluded on this thought upon arriving to the prison.  Its inmates were ruthless creatures, and the teachers could care less what they did to each other. 

She had walked with Shelley to school, seeing as Olivia had a meeting, and she dared not ask Roman after their earlier encounter.  And to prove her conclusion, as soon as they walked down the halls, people began their mockery. 

Poppi thought it ironic that the town kissed the asses of Olivia and Roman but never Shelley.  She was always regarded as the third wheel.  And, she detested how people thought they deserved a gold star for being nice to her when Roman was around. 

She gritted her teeth, wanting to shield Shelley from all their negative energies; alas, she was forced to endure them throughout the day as was Shelley. 

As the two started to walk home, Poppi caught sight of a new boy in passing.  Of course, he stared as they passed, and she noticed that Shelley’s face glowed slightly.  His brows rose in surprise at Shelley’s reaction and height, but it wasn’t in resentment.  His crystal blue eyes then fell to Poppi, and she took the opportunity to notice his appearance.

He seemed to have an Earth-Bound meets punk vibe going on—not that she was protesting.  She thought he was rather appealing with his facial shape and shoulder-length chestnut hair. 

“Hey.  Wait up!”

She turned, coming face to chest with the new kid.  He lifted his hand, gesturing towards Shelley.  “Uh… Does she actually—ya know… glow?”

She eyed him skeptically, moving in a defensive stance before Shelley, which was quite humorous since Shelley towered above her.  He caught her drift and raised his hands in surrender.  “Believe me, I’m the last person that’s gonna make fun of someone else.”

Seeing that he was genuine in his response, she nodded slowly.  “Yeah, Shel is a very special being,” she said, glancing up at Shelley.  Sure enough, Shelley’s face beamed a light azure glow.

He cracked a grin as he watched her.  “Cool.”  He then extended his hand to the two of them, and Poppi briefly noted that his middle finger and pointer finger were the same size.  His words echoed in her head.  She had read enough fantasy novels and overheard enough stories from her parents to know his heritage. 

“Peter Rumancek,” he said with a slight bow to Shelley. 

He then turned to Poppi, and she took his hand to introduce Shelley and herself, feeling a tingle that confirmed her theory.  “Gypsy werewolf, right?” she questioned.

His brows rose briefly, eyes darting about before he donned a poker face.  “What?”

“Your jewelry.  My family use to tell me stories, and I’ve seen the symbols before.”  She halfway lied to conceal how she truly knew.  She shrugged as if it was no big deal.  “Your secret’s safe with me.”

Her response further perplexed him.  He couldn’t understand how a human could know, especially when he couldn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.  Perhaps, there was more about her, especially since she hung out with a strange, beautiful creature.   

“Hey, sis.” 

The voice snapped them both to attention as Peter raised his eyes to the tall teen with dirty blond hair.  Roman, I think.  He recalled the eye-war they had had earlier before turning his attention back to the girl.  She seemed just as taken off-guard as he. 

Roman’s brows drew together as he sent Peter a look before shaking his head.  “Come on.  We’re leaving,” Roman said, grabbing her hand.

Poppi barely had a chance to say goodbye as Roman practically dragged her and Shelley to the parking lot where some chick was standing by his car.  Her blood boiled as she noticed the girl sending snide glances towards Shelley.  Not only that, but she was slightly ticked that Roman had rudely dragged her away from Peter.  What was his deal anyway? 

She had only taken six steps when she realized that the prince was still walking beside her.  “Wanna ride?”

She kept her gaze on the space before her.  “No.  Thank you, though.”

“You know, you always say that,” he replied, continuing to languidly walk beside her brisk pace.  “Why is that?  You’re not actually proud, are you?”  The question was laced with mockery and cruelness, but Poppi didn’t exactly expect any different from him, for it was all a matter of deflection.  

“No.  Just seems like a nice day for a walk.  Right, Seashell?”

He scoffed, rolling his eyes.  “You always spout that shit, even when it rains.”

She didn’t reply.

“Come on, pup.”

The nickname caused her to pause for a moment as she recalled the first time he had used it.  He coined it for her because she could never be still for too long, and he declared she wiggled too much like a puppy.  It felt wrong now since they were no longer children.  It was for that very same reason that she refused his offer again, speeding up her pace even more. 

“Why not?” he pressed, seeming to become agitated.

How to say that she didn’t want to inhale sex the entire ride back to the mansion?  She’d rather arrive late at the house and take her chances with Olivia.  He persisted once more, and she finally let out, “Why don’t you give Shelley a ride if you’re not too busy.”  She made air quotes as she emphasized the word with a glance towards the girl of the day.

When she saw that he froze in following her, she grabbed Shelley’s bandaged hand and started towards the mansion.  She halfway expected him to still be on her tail, but to her luck, he was already getting in the car with the girl.

Shelley looked between the two with a confused expression, but Poppi reassured her with a smile.

<><><><><><><><><><> 

            He didn’t understand his emotions.  A part of him reasoned that it was because her rejection had angered and embarrassed him.  That’s how it had been as of late; she always rejected him, ignored him, or turned away.  The previous night took him off guard because it was the first time she had shown some semblance that they had ever even known each other. 

He didn’t understand what had happened.  He always considered her a bosom companion when he was younger.  Then again, when freshman year started, he had tried to fit in, and that meant ditching things of the past.  Perhaps that was why she was so cold towards him.  Now he was a senior and simply didn’t give a fuck. 

            Perhaps there was reasoning in this as to why he had yet to fuck the starry-eyed girl in his passenger seat.  For the longest time, he had just driven down some winding dirt road lost in his thoughts.  The girl tried everything to capture his attention, talking about this and that.  Finally, after nearly an hour and a half of trying, she had given up and suggested giving him head. 

            He shrugged his shoulders, not really caring what she did; she made a face.  Nevertheless, there she was fooling with the zipper of his pants.  She unzipped his pants before pulling out his member.  Flicking her hair over her shoulder, she set out to impress him.  He felt her exaggerated moan rumble through him, but it did nothing for him.  He honestly wasn’t in the mood after the earlier event, and it frustrated him because it made no sense.

            As she finished with a lick of her lips, his mood soured even more as he deemed her too sloppy.  It didn’t help matters that he found himself parked in front of his mansion.  “Shee-it,” he muttered, eyes darting to the garage to find that Olivia had yet to arrive home.  At least something was going right today. 

            He had an epiphany, as brief and childish as it was.  Still, even he wasn’t that low.  So, he settled on getting the girl next to him high.  Might as well give her an A for effort.

            “Stay here.  I’m gonna go get something.”

            “But, Roman,” she playfully drawled.

            His eyes caught hers, darkening as he reiterated, “Stay.  Here.”

            “I’ll stay,” she deadpanned.

            He turned from her and entered the house.  The only sound that could be heard came from Shelley’s room.  She had on some rock & roll jam.  He began to ascend the stairs, wiping the blood from his nose as he did so.  As he approached his room, he could hear someone singing along to Shelley’s music.

“I need blood in the cut…”

She kept on, and he found himself slowly approaching the room—the bathroom, to be exact—in which it came from.  He briefly noted the state of the house, deducing that Poppi must have already done the chores.  She even had dinner almost ready, judging from the smell.

His feet were silent as they brought him to the source.  Poppi was sitting on the edge of the tub, her feet in the water.  She was dressed in pajama shorts and a spaghetti-strapped tank top.  It didn’t take long for him to realize that she was shaving her legs, and for some time, he found himself entranced as he watched her movements.

The mirror had become foggy, he noted, as steam brushed against it.  Her small hands ran along her smooth legs, spreading more of the strawberry-scented shaving cream.  He even found it, dare he say, erotic.  His eyes widened as another sweet scent filled his nostrils.

Poppi hissed as the razor cut a small patch of skin, resulting in blood trickling down her calf.  “Shoot,” she muttered, fumbling for a towel. 

Roman knew he should have left, especially since she was about to turn around.  Except, he simply couldn’t.  His feet wouldn’t move.  Instead, all he could do was focus on the line of blood trailing down her skin.  For a moment, he could have sworn that he could taste it since the aroma was so powerful.  The experience cost him his hiding spot as a shaky inhale left his lips. 

She immediately heard it, and those eyes of hers widened as a doe’s would upon realizing the predator has been watching her.  A scenario flashed before his eyes—one that he himself was slightly disturbed by—in that silent, palpable moment. 

He saw himself charging her, pulling her away from the tub, before holding her down against that floor.  He imagined himself licking that intoxicating fluid away—

Roman backed away, face turning pale as he blinked twice.  Without another word, he all but sprinted down the stairs, taking two at a time before finding himself back in his car.  He was so wrapped up in what had just happened that when the girl spoke, he felt his joints almost snap like rubber bands.

“So… where is it?”

He looked at her as if she had two heads.  “What?”

“The stuff,” she said as if it were obvious.

He shook his head, cranking the car.  “Fuck it.  I have a better idea.”

Five minutes later, he had her in the backseat, legs tossed at various angles as he pounded into her.  The pace was exactly where he liked it; yet, something was missing.  He lowered his mouth to her chest and bit down hard.  The girl protested with a whine but then arched up into it.  He went lower and nibbled her breast, which caused her to let out a slew of moans.  He groaned in irritation as he realized she wasn’t going to last long.  So, he managed to get a couple of more thrusts in before she came undone. 

He leaned back on his haunches, lighting a cigarette.  Meanwhile, the girl was still writhing beneath him.  How tedious

She finally came down from her high to sit up.  She glanced at Roman with a drunk, silly smirk.  “You really are something, Godfrey,” she giggled, clasping her bra.  She noticed the bite marks on her chest, frowning slightly.  “Shit, Roman.  Do you realize how much make-up it’s gonna take to cover this up?”

He shrugged, exhaling a puff of smoke.  “No more then you usually wear, I assume.”

She scoffed, rolling her eyes whilst he moved to the front seat.  She barely managed to join him before he sped off.  All the while, he couldn’t help but feel disappointed that he wasn’t tasting that sweet blood of Poppi’s.

Chapter Text

            Her damn heart refused to be still. 

            For the past hour, she had come to be propped up against the tub and curled up on the bathroom floor.  Her eyes had remained glued to the dripping faucet, her eyes watching as each droplet dripped into the now-cold water.  It seemed her heart produced numerous beats within the tempo set by the drops.  Her leg had long been forgotten, although she vaguely remembered dressing the cut at one point. 

            He had been watching her.  The realization unnerved her.  It was the look in his eyes.  His eyes weren’t his own.  Viridescent orbs had melted into something dark—something lustful. 

It was the way he looked at all his conquests.  She was no stranger to seeing that lustful look in his eyes, but she had never been on the receiving end of his attentions.  She couldn’t recall that level of… hunger.  He had seemed animalistic, as if he meant to attack her like he did those football players that had picked on her and Shelley. 

Since she had been on the receiving end, it was the first time that she actually feared him.

The faint sound of sniffling mixed with heavy wheezes pierced through her thoughts, overpowering the dripping-background noise.  Realizing what was happening, she drained the tub and rushed to the source.

“…a young student was found disemboweled…”

The words met her ears before her eyes registered Brook Bluebell’s picture.  Her lips parted as she read that an animal was believed to have killed her. 

Poppi tried to comfort Shelley whilst gathering as much information as she could from the news report.  Unfortunately, it was to no avail.

“What the fuck did you do to her?”

Poppi spun around with wide eyes to see that Roman had returned.  His clothing was disheveled, and he had already shed his shirt in favor of his undershirt.  With a moment of mind overload, she wasn’t fast enough to respond, and in a blink of an eye he had forced her away from Shelley.

He sent Poppi a glower before turning off the news and soothing Shelley.  “It’s ok.  I’m here.”

Poppi didn’t know what else to do.  Roman had made her feel useless and out of place.  So, she hurried to the kitchen to finish dinner.  She waited… and waited.  No one ever came down, and Olivia had yet to come home.  Consequently, she wrapped up the food, cleaned the kitchen, and then went to bed. 

<><><><><><><><><><><> 

Hemlock Grove seemed like a ghost town, for all its businesses had closed unexpectedly as a result of the attack.  The hype was even worse at school. 

            Poppi saw Peter watching the scene before them.  She had heard a bunch of people talking about him.  Currently, three freshman girls were suggesting that he had killed Brooke.  Consequently, he looked as if his day was off to a bad start. 

            “Morning,” she greeted.

            Peter seemed to hesitate for a moment before returning the greeting. 

            “I know how it is,” she said.  “They can all be quite cruel.”

            He leaned his head back against the locker.  “I highly doubt you do—what with being under the protection of the Godfreys.”

            She scoffed.  “Believe me, it’s not as glamorous as you think.”  Her boots suddenly captured her attention.  “If anything, it makes things harder,” she admitted softly before snapping out of her trailing thoughts.  “Anyway, you practically have one foot out the door unlike us mere mortals,” she sardonically lilted with a roll of her eyes. 

            The corner of his lips tipped up.  “Guess I’ll suck it up, then.”

            She mimicked the reaction, nibbling her lips slightly before starting off for class. 

            The day passed rather slowly, seeming to drag out every miserable, tearful moment.  She was the first to admit that it was horrible, but some of these people didn’t even know the girl and were dramatically mourning her.  In her opinion, it seemed insulting to the deceased’s memory. 

            “…mauled by an animal…”

            The phrase echoed in her mind, and she briefly considered if Peter had any involvement with the girl’s murder, especially after discovering his heritage and hearing Olivia’s negative opinion of his family the previous night.  Then again, Poppi wasn’t one to assume.  If living with the Godfreys had taught her anything, it was to not judge books by their covers. 

            The bell sounded, and she collected her things to return home.  Being as Olivia had found time to pick up Shelley, Poppi was left to walk home alone.  She ran through the motions of completing chores before deciding to get ready for bed since she wouldn’t have to prepare dinner. 

            After a quick shower, she sat with her legs crossed atop her bed whilst combing her hair.  She pulled out her phone, seeing that Letha had already inquired whether or not she would be attending the memorial service.  As rude as it seemed, she felt it would have been even ruder going since she hardly knew Brooke.  She responded, and the two began to converse.  Letha had just brought up the subject of Peter when Poppi felt another presence in the room. 

She glanced up with a fright as Roman hovered over her sitting form.  His eyes had obviously been reading the texts between Letha and her.  For how long, she didn’t know. 

“Mom says that Romancek kid is filth.”

“Perhaps to you.  I found him rather pleasant.  He’s… different,” she provided with a shrug. 

He sneered at her.  “How typical of you.  You’ve always been too easy to please.”

Poppi didn’t take offense.  It was typical Roman behavior.  Apparently, her reaction didn’t appease him, though, for he pushed the matter.

“I don’t want you or Shelley talking to him.  At least not until I figure out what his deal is.”

Poppi arched a brow at this.  “What?”

He looked at her as if she were daft.  “Don’t talk to the gypsy,” he reiterated.

“Yeah, I heard you, but I don't think it's any of your business who I associate myself with.”

“You work for us; you represent this family.  Don’t need the help degrading us.”

At this, she snapped.  “Since when did you decide to become concerned?”  Four years of treating her like chopped liver, and he suddenly wants to make her business his own? 

He lowered himself to her height before moving to hover over her until she was practically on her back.  She willed herself to shrink back as far as possible in order to keep some semblance of space between them.  His arms caged her beneath him, hands braced on either side of her head.   Her elbows were the only thing that kept her propped up, and even they were beginning to fail as she registered that his belt buckle was digging into her left thigh.  His face hovered mere inches above her own as he regarded her with a mocking smirk.

“Foolish pup.  You’re mistaken.  I just don’t want you doing anything reckless to disgrace this family like your mother did.”

Poppi’s eyes widened and then narrowed.  Her self-control was dwindling, and she was beginning to not care about who he was.  He, of course, registered this and exploited it. 

“Guess her bed got chilly after your old man—”

He was interrupted by a sharp slap, and it took both of them off guard.  He gave her a few inches of space, clutching his cheek.  There’s that feist.

He chuckled, presenting her with a view of his white teeth.  In the next instance, he had her damp hair wrapped around his fist, giving it a hard tug until she was forced to look up at him.  She gritted her teeth whilst growling his name—just like when they fought as children. 

“Careful, puppy,” he warned, hand trailing down her stomach.

Her muscles clenched as his hand continued to trail down her thigh, and she wiggled to get out from beneath him.  Of course, with half his weight on her, she was as good as paralyzed.  When his hand finally stopped it was directly above her covered cut.  There was a slight stinging before he cautioned her, “Remember what we discussed.”  Then, he was gone.

It was all too late, and she was far too horrified when she realized that he had ripped her Band-Aid off, leaving behind a reopened wound. 

Chapter Text

Sleep was hard to succumb to.  Poppi twisted and turned in her sheets, throwing them on and off her as she struggled to get comfortable.  This routine continued until she finally gave up, releasing a sigh and flinging the covers off her to prop herself up. 

            Her fingers rubbed at her eyes before running through her hair.  It was then that she heard it—the creaking of a floorboard.  It was so silent and so quick, but she could instantly distinguish it.  Her heart stuttered, and she froze.  Holding her breath, she strained to hear another sound—anything.  The silence was deafening, and for a moment, she could only hear her heart pounding in her ears. 

She slowly glanced up, unable to see anything since her room was shrouded in darkness.  Another creak, and she was immediately fumbling for her lamp.  Upon finding the switch and flicking it, the bulb flickered before giving out.

            “Shit, shit, shit,” she whispered, pushing herself back against her headboard. 

            Get ahold of yourself, she scolded herself.  She tried to calm her pounding heart so that she could focus on the room.  If she tried to picture her room, she could get out of there even in the dark.  Ok, just get off the bed and run straight for the door.  But someone’s in the room!  If need to, grab the fallen shoe on the floor to hurl at them. 

            Her mental bickering was interrupted when she noticed a long shadow in the corner of her room.  Her eyes remained glued to it as she remained perfectly still. 

            “He-hello,” she stuttered.

            No response.  She swallowed, blinking several times to clear the image away but to no avail.  With each blink, the shadow came closer in distorted sequences like a zoetrope.  She wanted to scream, but no sound left her throat even when she tried.  Her eyes could only watch in horror as the figure crept to the edge of her bed.  It only stood there for a moment, and she knew that it was staring at her.

            She couldn’t make out any details of it, though.  And, in the next sequence, she found herself choking as its cold hand wrapped itself around her throat.  Yet, it wasn’t a hand.  It slithered, and it hissed like a snake.  She couldn’t cough; she couldn’t breathe.  She could only stare at nothing, lips parted in a silent scream. 

 

            Coughs, gasps, and a thunderous heart flooded her senses as she woke.  It took her several moments to realize that she was the one having the fit.  Wild eyes surveyed the area around her while tensed joints and a muddled brain tried to process if she should take on fight or flight.  When the fog cleared, she realized she was safe in her room.  There was no figure. 

            “Just the dream again,” she growled, flopping back onto her pillow.  Her eyes traced the cracks in the attic ceiling as she combed her fingers through sweat-dampened hair.  She needed to stop having the dream.  She couldn’t even understand it, for it was the same thing for the past two weeks.  The thing that bothered her the most was that it was so real.  So real that every morning when she woke from it, she would find her fingertips trailing to her neck at the memory of the cold grasp.   

            She shivered once, sucked in a breath, and moved to get ready for the day. 

As illustrated in “The Twa Corbies,” life went on.  That’s how death worked.  It struck without warning, and everyone would shed the necessary tears.  Then, the name disappears, and everyone goes on with his or her lives as if it never happened. 

Brooke’s death was no exception, and it later became overshadowed by the Homecoming Dance.  From Poppi’s perspective, everything was back to normal.  In fact, she found herself in the same monotonous swing.  Wake up, go to school, go back to the Godfrey’s, clean, sleep, repeat. 

She found herself distracted from taking notes as her anatomy teacher droned on about blood cells.  At some point, she even nodded off.  It was the kind of doze where one is still locked between worlds, for she could still faintly hear the lecture, but she couldn’t ignore the flashes of dreamlike sensations.  Blood.  She could smell it—taste it even.  She could feel it run down her throat—the copper tang—as she smeared it across her skin, forming a single symbol... 

She jolted to attention; her eyes immediately went to her hand where she had been unconsciously tracing a symbol with her pen.  Upon taking in the circular snake symbol, she dropped her pen—a cold sweat breaking over her as she remembered her dream.

Apparently, her teacher had been trying to capture her attention for the past minute.  Not to mention, the entire class was now staring at her. 

“Um, I—may I run to the restroom?”

She hardly waited for a response before bolting towards the nearest bathroom.  Upon busting through the door, she immediately headed for the closest vacant stall that she could.  She panted over the toilet as if she were about to be sick.  She wanted to be sick to get the lingering copper taste out of her mouth. 

What the hell?!  The thought screamed in her mind as she dry-heaved.  She then changed her mind when she felt dizzy, opting instead to lean against the door to take deep breaths.  When she spiraled down from her frenzy, she finally noticed the obnoxiously loud whine mixed with the distinct sound of… slurping.

“Oh, oh, oh.”  Each was louder than the last, and Poppi could only wager who was in the other stall. 

No fucking way, she thought, shaking her head.  Her face scrunched up in disgust before she flew out of the bathroom like a bat from hell. 

Her escape was interrupted when she threw herself out the door only to land on top of a firm figure.  “Damn,” she heard the groan before she realized who it belonged to.

Beneath her was Peter Rumancek, and she had managed to knock them both down to where she was straddling his hips.  He looked up at her with those crystal blue eyes before finally managing to look down at their position.

“I’m so sorry,” she finally managed to get out.

He shrugged.  “I mean, I’m not complaining.  I just wished you had given me a notice,” he teased, and she couldn’t help but laugh as a blush eased from her cheeks.

However, it was back in place when she heard a clearing of someone’s throat.  She and Peter both glanced up to find Letha staring at them with wide eyes and a quirked brow.  It was also then that Poppi realized that the sound of the girl in the bathroom were still audible. 

“This is… This is exactly what it looks like,” Peter finally said. 

Letha just rolled her eyes and walked on.  With Letha gone, the two finally made it to their feet.  Peter casted one more glance at the door before following Poppi as she quickly moved from the scene. 

“So, were you…?”  He trailed off, nodding his head towards the door that she had bolted from.

“No,” she gasped, vigorously shaking her head.

Peter made an ‘ah’ face before silence fell over them.  They walked through a few more halls before Poppi realized that neither of them was leading; both were following the other.  It seemed Peter came to the same conclusion because he asked, “Where are you off to?”

“Oh, I…” she sighed.  “I was in anatomy, but I kinda… ran out.”

“Ah, I hear ya.  Hated anatomy.”  They walked a couple of paces.  “So, you going back?”

She shrugged.  “I should, but…”  She trailed off and shook her head. 

His lips tugged into a grin.  “Well, milady, can I interest you in accompanying me to the stairway?”

Something about his easy-going nature made her agree before she could give it much thought. So, there they were, perched on the top step closest to the exit—the quickest escape should a teacher walk in.

“So, I notice you carry a sketchbook around.  You draw?”  Poppi asked as they settled in. 

Peter shrugged.  “It’s something to do.  More like doodling.”  He handed it to her.  “You can look if ya want.”  He wavered for a moment.  “Well, perhaps not.  You do seem a little weakhearted.”

She rolled her eyes, shouldering him before snatching it from him.  His chuckle lingered in her ear as she began to flip through the pages.  Some of the drawing seemed urgent in their nature.  The subject matter often involved death or decay.  There were a couple of skull heads—both human, cow, and canine.  She paused at the canine skeleton drawing.  “Is this you?”

He hesitated a moment before replying, “No.  That’s uh—that’s my grandfather.”

She nodded, continuing to flip through the pages.  “I’d love to see it in person,” she quietly marveled, fingertips tracing over the deep lines in one of the close-up sketches of a wolf’s skull.  Peter watched her, admiring her face of wonder.  She was a curious one; then again, she did hang out with the Godfreys. 

His eyes lowered, and it was then that he noticed the symbol on her right wrist.  Before he could stop himself, he was reaching out to grab her wrist, causing her to pause in her movements.  When she saw what had captured his interest, her face paled.  His warm fingers ran across the symbol that she had unconsciously traced with her pen earlier.

“Where did you see this?”

She swallowed, eyes lowering to the floor.  “I—I’ve had dreams about it.”

Her eyes raised to find that he was still analyzing her.  It seemed he was internally debating something before he grabbed his sketchbook and thumbed through the pages.  He stopped on one before moving closer until the sketchbook was between them.  His long index fingernail pointed to one of the drawings.

“I’ve been seeing this in my dreams, as well.”

“What is it?” she replied.

“It’s an ouroboros.  It’s a good omen.”

She stared at the circular patterns before muttering, “Is it?”

Peter heard her, but he didn’t reply as the final bell rang.  Instead, he opted to walk her to her locker.  Along the way, they talked about a couple of common interests before landing on comparing books they had read. 

“I wouldn’t take you for a bookworm,” Poppi teased, exchanging her books at her locker.

Peter leaned against the locker beside hers.  He placed a hand over his heart as if she wounded him.  “Well, Poppi, I didn’t take you for someone that judges books by their covers.”

She rolled her eyes.  “Oh, whatever.”

The two smirked at each other before their attention was stolen as Shelley walked up.  “Hey, seashell!” Poppi greeted.

Shelly smiled before waving at Peter. 

“Well, hello,” he said.  Peter conversed with Shelly, but Poppi’s attention was elsewhere as she picked up someone snickering, “Look at the band of freaks.”

Her blood boiled, but she locked her jaw and tried to ignore it.  However, she almost jumped out of her skin when she felt a presence behind her.

“Get your fucking hands off my sister.”

Poppi didn’t turn around.  She didn’t need to.  Instead, she watched as Peter stared down the person behind her.  There was a moment of tension before the voice behind her said, “Just kidding, man.”

Another bout of silence before Roman fully joined their circle.  “So, you need a ride home?” he asked Peter.

“What?  With you?” Peter responded.

Roman shrugged.  “Suit yourself.”  He turned his attention to Poppi.  “What about you and Shel?”

She paused a moment, glancing at Shelly.  It would be cruel to make her walk today.  They had been walking all week.  She swallowed before nodding.  “Yeah.”

Peter spoke up.  “If you got room, I’ll take you up.”

Roman’s green eyes darted slowly between Peter and Poppi.  Finally, his lips pursed and tipped up.  “Course.  We’ll have a nice car-full.  Come on.”

The girls took to the back, letting Peter sit up front with Roman.  So Shelly wouldn’t have to slouch (and to show off his car to Peter), Roman let the roof down.  Consequently, they were speeding down the winding roads with their hair flying in all directions. 

Poppi leaned her head, watching Shelly’s look of pure joy and listening to Roman and Peter geeking out about the car.  It was then that they briefly exchanged tales of their moms. 

“Ya know, they say living with a single mom makes you like more sensitive to chicks and stuff.”

“Well, I’m a sensitive guy,” Peter chuckled.

The rest of the ride droned on.  Poppi took note of the roads they took as she enjoyed the ride.  Before long, they arrive at Peter’s house.  It was quaint, but it had a nice cabin-in-the-woods vibe to it. 

“Yep, this is me.  Thanks for the ride.”  He got out of the car, slinging his satchel back over him.  He said his goodbyes to Shelly before turning to Poppi. 

“Bye, Peter,” she sighed with a small wave and a sleepy smile.

“See ya later.  Try to stop dreaming about me and get some sleep,” he murmured, reciprocating her smile.  Despite rolling her eyes, she couldn't help but beam at his words.  Her mood was dampered, though, when she caught Roman glowering at her.

The ride to the mansion was quiet.  Shelly kept looking back and forth, raising her stylus to type something before thinking better of it.  Poppi could feel Roman’s sudden sour mood, but it couldn’t be help.  So, she enjoyed the rest of the ride, relishing in the sensation of the wind whipping through her hair. 

The moment the car stopped, she wasted no time in entering the house.  As soon as she stepped across the threshold, she hurried to her room to change into more comfortable clothes.  Once she did so, she pulled her hair back from her face before returning downstairs. 

As she stepped onto the last step, Roman was closing the house door behind him.  Their gazes locked for a moment, and Poppi couldn’t tell if he was still in one of his moods.  Due to this, she reasoned that continuing her tasks was the safest solution. 

Roman, however, had different plans, for his tall form trailed behind her as she began her routine.  She shot several glances behind her as he observed her wash her hands.  He even watched as she began to shape patties for dinner.  She was aware that he was only mere inches from her, and he was honestly making her nervous.  Nevertheless, she pretended that it didn’t bother her.  After five minutes of it, it began to irritate her as she thought, ‘Does he not have anything better to do?’

“Wash your hands.”

“What?” he asked.

“Wash your hands.  You’ve been standing there for too long; I’m putting you to work.”

One of his blond brows raised, but he actually obeyed her words.  Once he did so, she moved the pile of unshaped meat between them.  “Start shaping.”

He hesitated for a moment before grabbing a handful.  She found it rather amusing as he would glance at her when he thought she wasn’t looking so that he could mimic her movements.  When she patted her last one, he was still working on his, and she decided to take that moment to smirk at how focused he was on the simple task.

A raise of his eyes caught her staring, and it was then that he became conscious that she was watching him.  “The fuck you looking at?”

She couldn’t help but release a chuckle as she shook her head.  “Nothing, nothing.” She reached out her hand to collect the shaped patty.  “Looks pretty good.  If I didn’t know better, I would think this is the work of a professional chef.”

He rolled his eyes, thumping her on her forehead.  With a grin, she swatted his hand away before moving to season the meat and place it in the oven.  Even after that, he still tagged along as she began to fold clothes.  

She sat down in the floor of the living room as she usually did and began to sort clothes into piles.  Meanwhile, Roman stood in the room as if he weren't the owner of it.  He seemed unsure of what to do and almost uncomfortable.  Poppi paused in her moments, realizing that this is one of the first times that he has actually taken a moment to sit in his own living room.  Usually, it was off to his room the few moments he was actually at the manor.  Finally, he took a seat in an armchair to watch her.

Always above me, she thought, noting the fact he had to sit on the furniture rather than the floor. 

She heard Roman clear his throat and shift, which resulted in her glancing up at him.

“Do you actually fold her underwear?” he asked, sounding perplexed by the idea.

“Yeah, Olivia’s orders.”  She paused before sending him a mischievous grin.  “Don’t look so uncomfortable, Roman.  I fold your drawers, too.”

“Figures you’d be into that,” he muttered, shaking his head.  “So, you do all of this… every day?”

She shrugged, tilting her head side to side.  “Depends on the day, but yeah.”

“How… boring,” he finally resolved.

Another shrug before she dared to tease him.  She shouldn’t have done so, but she was so caught up in the moment that she forgot how things had been between them.  “Mmm.  I doubt you’ve ever even attempted to do any of this before today.”

His brows knitted together.  “You saying I can’t do it?” he asked, an accusation lingering in his tone.

Poppi smirked, shaking her head.  “I know you can, Roman.  It’s just a matter of if you will,” she clarified.  Her face sobered when she saw his dark expression. 

“What’s the point?  Only people that have nothing to do and are going nowhere have time for this shit.”

And like that, the spell was broken.  She snapped to reality, remembering their positions.  Her anger briefly flared, and it was on the tip of her tongue to spout her plans to get away from this place upon graduation, but she didn’t dare.  He didn’t deserve to know and did not need to know.  Then, her anger dissipated when she realized that his words weren’t anything new.  It was how he saw her now—how he was meant to see her now.  It was exactly why she had to keep reminding herself not to engage him.  He wasn’t the Roman from her childhood anymore.

That didn’t mean he wasn’t allowed to engage her, though, and she had to call on all her patience when he had to be an ass and point out every speck of dust throughout the week.  Poppi was thorough in cleaning, and she prided herself on that.  But, Roman…

One day he came home right after school, which was becoming unusually common.  He had started to ascend the stairs but came to a stop.  As soon as he noticed her, he spun on his feet before slowly prowling towards her.  He stopped at the threshold of the kitchen, choosing to lean against the doorframe.  His lips parted a few times, and she watched from the corner of her eye as he watched her mop the floor.  She had chosen not to make it known that she noticed his presence, though, since she had reassumed her stance after his latest actions. 

His voice finally came out after a few minutes.  “You hear about the Halloween dance?”

She gave him a single nod but refrained from sparing him a glance. 

 He continued as if she hadn’t halfway blown him off. “Yeah… Letha was babbling about it.”  Another pause.  “You going?” 

His voice carried disinterest, which almost made her look up in suspicion.  What was it to him if she went or not?  Nevertheless, she shook her head, still focusing on her task. 

Roman breathed a scoff.  “Come on.  What could you possibly have better to do?”

She flinched but hid it by lifting her shoulders in a shrug. 

From the corner of her eye, she saw his brows knit together.  There was a long bout of silence, and the only sound that could be heard was the sloshing of the mop as it glided over the tiles.  Yes, she had denied the prince an answer.  Due to the palpable tension, she braced herself for another snide remark. 

To her surprise, he said nothing.  Instead, he simply sauntered towards the fridge, brushing pass her to grab a bottle of water from the fridge.  She was almost shocked—almost.  That is, until she realized her bare feet were wet and the dirty mop water had spilled across the very areas that she had already scrubbed!

All she could do was gaze at the dirtied water in horror.  Olivia was due to arrive soon, and Roman had made a mess of the floor! 

“Mmm, well, I guess you’re definitely not going now.  She’s gonna shit a cow seeing the floor like this,” he pointed out from above her.  He was right behind her; his breath even fanned over the sweat-dampened curls at the base of her neck when he spoke.  He then ran a finger along a fixture above them before clicking his tongue, lowering his face mere inches from the side of hers.  “Oh, dear,” he dramatically sighed, sending a gust of air down her neck. 

She could feel his eyes drilling holes into the side of her face, but she kept her gaze forward.  She could feel the warmth of his body, the cotton-clad chest brushing against her back.  “It seems the floor isn’t the only spot you missed, either,” he murmured in her ear, lingering for a moment to inhale.  He slowly pulled himself away from her, making a point to step over the fallen bucket as he left wet footprints in his wake.

Even though he had left, his presence still lingered, and her lungs felt constricted.  She lowered her gaze to the blanched knuckles that gripped the mop handle.

Chapter Text

          “You look awful.”

            Poppi blinked once, the blurry image of her reflected face slowly focusing.  Behind her, Letha was sewing a pair of white wings onto the back of Poppi’s dress.

            “Mmm.  Thanks.”  Her voice came out scratchily from the back of her throat. 

            Ignoring her, Letha ordered, “All right.  Get up; let me see what’s left to do.”

            She obeyed, rising to her feet to stand before Letha.  The white gown she had on fell mere inches above her toes, and the long silk sleeves hung off just enough to reveal the tops of her bare shoulders.  Letha dug around in the boutique bag before producing a pair of gold sandal and a matching halo. 

            As she moved to fix the piece in Poppi’s hair, Poppi couldn’t help but ask, “What exactly are you scheming, Leth?”

            “It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?  You’re an angel,” she pointed out with a beaming grin.

            “From one of your ‘angel’ books?” Poppi teased.  Even still, she couldn’t help feeling self-conscious.  The dress was long and modest; however, the way the thin material clung to her hips and chest, made her feel less heavenly.  “What kind of angel are you going for?” she asked, tugging at the clinging material to no avail. 

“The guardian ones depicted in those Renaissance paintings.  You know—the ones where the angels are all nymph-like?”

“Yeah, well I’d rather not show the entire school my birthday suit like they do.”

Letha swatted her hands away, rolling her eyes.  “Please.  It’s going to be dark, and I told you that you could wear underclothes.”

“Letha, you gave me Band-Aids and a thong!”

            Letha shrugged, “Well, it’s that or nothing.”  Poppi scrunched up her face to give her a look, and Letha added, “Hey, you were the one that told me to pick out something for you.  I offered for you to come with me and Roman, but no.”  Letha paused for a moment, adjusting pieces of hair to frame the halo. 

There was a reason to her absence in costume shopping, especially if Roman was present.  He was part of the reason she had planned to hide out at Letha’s (Plus, she needed a night to herself!).  As of late, being around him was becoming too much to handle.  He was everywhere, and she couldn’t seem to put enough distance between them.  At first, she thought it was merely coincidence, and for the most part, it was; however, when the occurrences repeated…

            Strike one occurred a few days prior when she had to check out of school to run dire errands for Olivia.  While taking the abandoned stairway, she stopped short at a corner when she heard some rather risqué noises coming from the lower levels.  She hesitated only a moment before a glance at her clock made her gut up.  Her bravery and vigor were short-lived upon forcing herself from her corner, for beneath her was the young god screwing a senior girl’s brains out.  A second glance revealed that the girl was the shining star of the HGHS choir, and Poppi was forced to hear all the falsettos Roman made the girl hit. 

She had seen plenty of Roman’s affairs; however, this time was rather different.  Even though the girl’s pants and obscene noises were the only things audible, Roman looked up as if he could hear her.  His green eyes widened but then narrowed. 

Poppi watched as his hands tightened their grip on the girl’s thighs.  His hips moved back slowly before he thrust forth—deeper and harder—and a pleasure-filled cry from the girl followed.  But, Roman seemingly mistook Poppi’s mortified silence for apathy.  It seemed he wasn’t satisfied that she hadn’t made an ideal reaction.  The pleasure of the girl he held didn’t matter; as he picked up his pace and barred his teeth at Poppi, he was apparently determined to get a reaction from her. 

Poppi paled.  It wasn’t the action; it was the fact that she felt it.  His gaze was predatory like the time he had caught her accidentally cutting her leg with a razor.  A wave of vertigo hit her, and she had to clutch her head and lean against a wall.  He, however, focused on her as if she and the girl’s positions were switched.   

Roman continued to watch her as he slipped the girl’s tank-top straps down her slender shoulders and ran his teeth along her exposed skin.  He wavered before he bit down on the girl’s flesh.

Poppi physically jolted, and she was briefly unsure whether she or the choir girl had shrieked.  Her hand flew to her own shoulder to touch the mark, only to feel unblemished skin.  Her lips parted in confusion as the ghost bite burned into her skin. 

His lips tipped into that smirk that made her heart seize in her throat.  Unable to tear her eyes away, she quietly stumbled her way back up the stairs. 

And it didn’t stop there.  That afternoon, she went into his room to drop off his laundry, busying herself to purge the day from her mind.  When she placed the clothes into his dressers, she found her ripped-off Band-Aid—blood-crusted and all—tucked next to some knickknacks.  She was disgusted, but she reasoned with herself that he must have forgotten about it after their argument.  She forced herself to disregard the fact that the incident occurred more than a month ago and that the Band-Aid seemed like a trophy amongst his underwear. 

“Come to dig through my underwear?”

She spun around to find that Roman was in the room.  A part of her wondered how long he had been standing there, but it was overshadowed as he took two steps forwards until they were eye to chest.  In turn, she was forced to crane her neck.  The small bit of air between them was heavy, but the bandage in her fingers brought her back to reality.

Dumbly, she held it up between them.  He looked at it for a moment before returning his gaze to her.  “What?” 

She didn’t expect an alibi; therefore, why was she at a loss for words at his lack of one?

“You… kept it…”

He shrugged.  “Souvenir.”  His body leaned forward, caging her against his dresser.  Instinctively, she shrank back as far as she could, but he was inescapable.  He cocked his head to the side, letting his eyes trail slowly over her face.  “Did you enjoy the show today?”

She shot him a disgusted look, and he returned it with one filled with barely-harbored ire.  “Don’t give me that,” he rumbled, shaking his head.  “You’re the pervert here.” 

Her eyes widened to the size of saucers as she gawked at him, and her jaw dropped at his audacity. 

If possible, he moved even closer to where she could feel his breath fanning against her forehead.  “You should pencil it in.  A nice fucking would do you good.  Take off all that… tightness.”

At that, she pushed pass him and darted the hell out of his room. 

He was becoming increasingly uncomfortable for her to be around.  However, she didn’t want to jump to conclusions.  Roman had always been an ass to her—teasing her and what not.  But, it had always been something about how dumb she was being or how her problems were insignificant.  When he hit his freshman year, he would ignore her, or he would treat her like shit.  There was no middle ground.  Over the years, she didn’t take any of it to heart; she had come to ignore his words and actions—well, most of them—and write it off as another quirk for working for the Godfreys. 

But she couldn’t forget the way he looked at her…

Her focus was brought back when Letha did a spin in front of her.  Apparently, Letha had opted to go for a 1920s flapper look.  She did a prissy turn before looking over her shoulder.  “What do you think?”

“It looks good, but is your dad really going to let you go out like that?”

Letha rolled her eyes, waving her off.  “Gosh, you can be such an old lady sometimes.”

Poppi pursed her lips.  “Well, if this old lady had her way, we’d be staying in to binge B-rated horror flicks and gorge ourselves on candy corn.”

“Later, my love.  This is my first year to get to go to one, and it’s Roman’s last.  It’s the last time the trio is gonna be together!”

Poppi tossed herself onto the bed, groaning, and Letha almost had a stroke when Poppi’s halo briefly wobbled.  “Lethaaaaaaa, Roman doesn’t care if I go.  Just leave me here with the candy corn.”

Letha pulled her up so that she wouldn’t mess up her hair or halo.  “I don’t know where you got this idea that Roman hates your guts.”

Releasing a sigh, Poppi replied, “I know it’s hard for your perfect mind to comprehend,” she trailed off, shooting Letha a cheeky grin, to which Letha rolled her eyes, “but Roman and I…  He grew up.  I’m nothing more to him than a house servant.”

“He considers you a friend.  He sticks up for you.”

“You forget that it was Shelly he was defending.  I just happened to also be there.”

“That’s not true.  You know how Roman is.  He’s just… distant.”

“Meh, agree to disagree.”  Before Letha could make another remark, Poppi was on her feet and moving towards the door.  “Come on; let’s head out.  I wanna get this thing over with ASAP.”

The two treaded down the stairs to the kitchen where Letha’s parents were discussing some sort of paperwork.  Letha did a spin in front of the two, inquiring, “How do I look?”

Both just stared at her before her dad responded, “You’re really going?”

Letha shot Poppi a nervous glance before quickly masking it by rushing up to kiss her parents goodbye.  “It’s still me, Dad.”

There was a honk outside, and Poppi glanced out the window to see Roman leaning against his car.  She mentally cursed before sending Letha an exasperated look.

“I told you that Roman’s escorting us," Letha explained.

“What?  He’s not coming to the door?” her mom questioned in disbelief.

“It’s Roman, Mom.  Not a date.”

They said their goodbyes before Letha tugged Poppi out the door.  Poppi could feel her heart plummeting as they came closer.  She knew she would eventually see him, but she hadn’t expected it to be so early in the night.  She kept her eyes averted as she climbed into the backseat; all the while Letha and Roman exchanged greetings and cracks. 

As Roman sped off, she could only hope that the night would go by faster.  All the while she tried to motivate herself by mentally chanting, ‘Sleepover, a night off, candy corn, scary movies,’ over and over.

<><><><><><><><><><><> 

            Poppi’s stomach churned as she stepped into the gym.  Too many people.  It wasn’t a grand turn-out, but it wasn’t a drag, either.  The only good thing about the thin dress she wore was that she felt a semblance of ventilation in the oven-like gym. 

This wasn’t her scene; she had never even been to a party before in her life.  I shouldn’t be here.  I should be showered, in bed, and reading my book. 

            She turned her gaze to see her accomplices.  The spotlight bounced off of Letha’s shiny flapper outfit in passing, and she looked amazing. Poppi had always admired how Letha could adapt to anything—how she could pull off anything.  She seemed like such a ray of sunlight.  Some may call it jealousy, but Poppi’s feelings were genuine.  She loved Letha like a sister she never had. 

            Poppi smiled as Letha beamed at her surroundings before her eyes trailed to the Adonis on her arm.  Roman’s face matched Poppi’s.  Both admired Letha, and dammit, if her smile wasn’t contagious.  She apparently had stared too long—long enough for Roman to catch her eye, and she promptly turned away as Letha snatched them both towards the dance floor. 

            “Come on! Don’t leave a girl hanging!”  Letha beckoned to her accomplices as she began to dance.

Poppi couldn’t dance, but she knew the dances that instructed what to do, for she had practiced the songs when she was younger and cared about fitting in.  Unfortunately for her, none of those songs were currently playing.  So, she had to just watch Letha.

“Poppi!  You better start dancing!  Peter might come!”

She shot Letha a look.  “Whatever.  This isn’t his thing.”

“What makes you say that?  I gave him a flyer.  He seemed like he was really thinking about coming!”

Roman suddenly butted in.  “I doubt it.  He’s kind of weird.”  Poppi didn’t miss the scowl that crossed Roman’s lips as he mentioned Peter.

She didn’t have to dwell on it for too long because those very songs that she knew dances to were beginning to play, so it took her no time to get in the swing.  It took another song before Poppi began to let her freak flag fly and dance like no one was watching.

            She and Letha were dancing their hearts out, bouncing and bobbing about.  They clutched each other whilst they mocked the lovers during the slow songs.  Their faces were sore as they tried to suppress their giggles—to no avail—during the serious songs about eternal love.  It became so hard that the two broke into obnoxious giggles as they broke away from one another.  Letha managed to conceal her outburst by muffling her laughter in Roman’s shoulder as she took him as her partner for the rest of the song. 

            “We really shouldn’t make fun of them!” Letha called to her.

            Poppi grinned.  “I would never, Letha,” she mockingly chided her.  “If anything, I envy them.”

            “Oh, really?” she asked, sarcasm dripping off each word. 

            Poppi managed a straight face.  “Oh, yes.  I envy their illusion of everlasting love.”

            Letha shot her a strange look.  “What?  Don’t you believe in love?”

Poppi’s lips parted to reply but froze when she noticed that Roman was staring her down, awaiting her answer, as well.  It took her several moments to regain her thoughts before she lowered her eyes back to Letha. 

She broke the tension with a shrug and a chuckle.  “Haven’t ever given it much thought.  I mean…sure, I guess.  It’s just… I’ve never seen it, ya know.”

Letha brought her hand to her forehead as if she were fainting.  “Oh, but the hammering hearts—”

“Signs of a heart attack,” Poppi bluntly interjected.

Roman snorted, and Letha frowned at the two of them before releasing a tired sigh.  “Well, I’m gonna go get some water.  These ankles need to rest!”  She pulled Poppi towards Roman until the two were pressed against one another. 

“Letha!” Poppi gasped, shooting her a look as she tried to back away from him. 

“Save my spot before one of the pretty girls steals him away.”  Once she was sure Poppi wasn’t moving, she scampered towards the refreshments. 

Poppi watched her, wishing she had thought to join her.  However, she was able to back away from him as she found that Roman was solely focused on Letha.  Poppi followed his gaze and found Letha had engaged in conversation with an underclassman.  Her attention was then caught by Ashley Valentine as she approached the two with her crew in tow.  Roman, on the other hand, still failed to notice the new arrivals as he made some silent remark about the kid being a “waste of conception.”

 “Are you just going to talk about boys all night, or do you wanna dance?” she teased, looking up at his towering frame. 

While Poppi did not care for Ashley, she had to admire her boldness and confidence.  Ashley was one that never noticed Shelly unless Roman was around.  She could be a nice girl when the right people were watching.  To Poppi, however, she had always been a mean girl with the remarks about her clothing and the occasional foot in the aisle that would “accidentally” trip her.  To think it was all because she envied Poppi for getting to live under the same roof as Roman Godfrey. 

She was jerked out of her thoughts when Roman yanked her away from the group and towards a more secluded area of the dancefloor.  A brief glance over her shoulder revealed Ashley glaring daggers into Poppi’s soul.  

He placed his hands on her upper waist, and she tensed, mouth falling open to protest.   “Roman, what—what are you doing?”

“What’s it look like we’re doing?”

“Roman—”

“Relax, will ya?” he scolded her as he led her into a slow sway.  “And close your mouth before one of these guys shoves his dick in.”

His crudeness did nothing to pacify her, but she snapped her chops closed at the picture.  She tried to dig up an excuse to get out of her predicament and tried, “Letha shouldn’t be long.  We don’t have to dance—”

“We used to dance like this all the time as kids.  What’s the big fucking deal now?”

Her response died on her lips before she lowered her eyes at the memory.  Olivia had pushed Roman to take dancing lessons for three years since he was ten.  As children, many evenings were spent in the ballroom of the old mansion.  Roman would often use her as a substitute dance partner while practicing. Poppi did her best to keep up, and even though she wasn’t the one taking lessons, she would practice.  She wanted it to be perfect for when she helped Roman practice that way she wouldn’t hinder him.  She always envied how his tall frame could gracefully glide.  Roman would always laugh at her attempts to keep up with his long-legged movements. 

One time, to tease her, he moved as fast as he could during a waltz.  The poor girl was unable to keep up and ended up tripping and toppling to the floor.  He laughed at her until he noticed the tears streaming down her cheeks. 

“You hurt?” he had asked.

“No,” she choked out, cheeks turning a bright shade of red.

“Well, come on.  Let’s do it again.  Try not to trip this time.”

She turned away from him and shook her head.  “I don’t want to.”

He scoffed at her.  “Why not?”

Her form was silent, and he couldn’t see her face.  A smirk splayed across his lips as he lowered himself down next to her before he reached out to poke her.  He paused a moment before repeating the action.  “Why not?”  She moved away from him, but he persisted, asking the same question repeatedly with each poke.

She finally snapped and smacked his hand away from her.  “Because you did that on purpose, Roman!”

He was taken off guard by her outburst, and, in the process, he had shrunk away.  However, when the moment passed, he slowly moved back towards her.  He hesitated, opening and closing his mouth twice as he tried to find the right words.

“Pup?” 

No answer.

Inhaling deeply, he gave it another attempt.  “Look, I-I won’t do it again.  Can we try it again?”

“Find someone else.”  Her voice came out muffled since she had covered her face with her hands.

Roman swallowed.  “But… I don’t want to dance with anyone else.”  He lowered his head before calling her name softly and reaching out to touch her. 

She said something, but he couldn’t hear her.

“What?”  

“What’s the magic word?”  Her voice came out clearer. 

“I’m not saying it.”

“Fine,” she said, lifting her shoulders in an indifferent shrug. 

“Fiiiiiiiiiiine,” Roman groaned.  “Please.”

“Please what?”

At this point, he was glaring at her huddled form.  He let out a sigh.  “Will you please dance with me?”

And like that, her head popped up, and she had on a big grin.  Roman shook his head, moving to his feet before tugging her to her feet.  After that, he altered his routines to accommodate for her shorter height.

Poppi blinked and focused in on the older Roman in front of her.  “I’m surprised you even remember that,” she finally admitted.

“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked as if she were ridiculous for thinking otherwise. 

She shrugged, still not meeting his gaze.

“You can be so stupid sometimes,” he muttered, green eyes flicking towards the other dancers. 

Her eyes darted up, and she snatched herself from him.  “You’re one to talk.” 

Without looking back, she strode towards the nearest exit.  Lockdown and Letha be damned; she wasn’t going to stay in there with him for another minute.  She didn’t even want to come tonight, much less get berated by Roman.  Heaven knows, she gets enough of that on a daily schedule. 

“Wait, I didn’t mean—stop, dammit!”  He huffed, snatching her wrist to stop her from leaving the gym.  She fought against him, trying to tear her wrist from him.  His grip was iron tight, though, and she panicked as each tug brought the risk of breaking it.

“Let me go, Roman,” she demanded.  She was surprised at how calm she sounded.  Then again, she was trying to avoid making a scene.    

In response, he only took advantage of her attempts and tugged her back to him.  Consequently, her hands were trapped between their flushed bodies and her face was pressed into his shoulder.  Her body was paralyzed and awkward in his hold.  She thought about biting his shoulder to get him to release her, but his voice stopped her

“God, stop being so fucking sensitive!”  He punctuated the words by squeezing her tightly, as if it would squeeze sense into her.  His lips lowered to her ear as he softly commanded, "Stay." 

Her body was almost dazed as she tried to wrap her mind around what was happening.  Bite his shoulder!  She tried to make herself do it, but she found herself still.  It was strange that her body moved with his in sync.  Why was she letting him hold her like this?

Her muddled brain couldn’t come up with an excuse; instead, she found herself relaxing in his hold.  Her fingers unfurled against his lapels, and she marveled at the fabric beneath her fingertips.  Odd that she could be so out of touch and yet still so sensitive to all that was happening.  She could faintly hear the slow song playing in the distance.  The red, blue, and green lights coupled with the psychedelic music created a euphoric environment, and she almost thought she was in a dream with how smoothly they moved.  Not to mention that his hold was so warm and familiar.  His warmth seeped right through the thin dress she wore.  She could feel his hands slowly loosen as she calmed.  It was almost like they were children dancing in the mansion again.  Same warm arms…

A single peek over his shoulder revealed all the girls staring at them and whispering amongst themselves.  And like that, she came spiraling down.  The music seemed louder as her the haze drifted from her sense.  This wasn’t that Roman anymore.  She wasn’t that girl anymore. 

As she sobered, she tried to escape.  “I don’t like dancing,” she lamely supplied in a whisper.  It was so soft that she almost wondered if she had really said it.  However, she regained control of her muscles, and she slowly began pushing against him.

His eyes bore into her own, and he only gave her a slow blink. He then looked at the semblance of space between them.  “Yet you’ve been dancing all night with Letha with that big, stupid grin on your face.”  He paused for a moment.  “It’s funny, too, ‘cause when I asked, you said you weren’t even coming.  Guess it’s only when I ask, huh?”

Before she could think of anything to say, Letha popped up.  “Hey, guys.”

Neither replied as they stared one another down.  Finally, Roman broke away and grabbed Letha’s hand.  “Let’s get outta here.  I’m so bored; place makes me wanna commit suicide.”

Letha shot a questioning look back at Poppi, but she didn’t offer any closure.  Instead, she just followed behind them and got in the car.  Roman sported the same mood until he broke out a flask.  After a couple of sips, Poppi lost count.  She decided if she was to die at the hands of a drunk driver, she’d rather already be asleep.  Besides, if they did live, she would be spending the rest of the night at Letha’s house.  Olivia wouldn’t be home for the rest of the weekend; Shelly was at the clinic, and Poppi would be far away from Roman.  She found comfort in the first and last part before she closed her eyes, focused in on the music that played, and drifted off.

Sleepover, a night off, candy corn, scary movies.

Chapter Text

            When Poppi woke, she found herself in her bed.  Odd…  She didn’t remember getting out of Roman’s car.  Plus, she should have been at Letha’s by now.  

            Her hands felt the area around her before reaching out towards the bedside table.  The search, however, was futile, and she fumbled for the lamp switch.  With a sluggish flick of the switch, the attic room was bathed in a dim glow.  In all honesty, it was no better than the darkness, but it was something. 

            She was still in her costume, and she wasn’t wearing any underclothes, so there was no way she had hidden it there.  With the smidge of light, she did a full scan of her bed, the table, and even underneath the bed. 

            “Looking for this?”

            She yelped and bolted upright on the bed, eyes darting straight to the owner.  When her sight adjusted, she found Roman sitting in the corner of her room.  Her phone dangled between his thumb and forefinger.

            “Jesus, Roman.  You scared the daylights out of me,” she muttered, trying to calm her hammering heart. 

            Without commenting, he pulled out his flask, and Poppi briefly observed how his Adam’s apple bobbed with every sip.  She finally found her voice.

            “How’d I get here?”

            “I carried you.”

            “Why would you do that?”

            “’Thank you’ is the appropriate response.”

            “Where’s Letha?”

            A sigh escaped his lips as he took another sip.  He swirled the contents around, and his eyes remained captivated by the slow whirling of the container.  “Home.”

            Poppi’s brows drew together.  “But I was supposed to spend the night with her tonight.”

            “Yeah?”  Roman waved his hand about the room.  “Well, it seems your plans have changed.”

            “But how?”

            “I told her Olivia wants your ass here.”

            “But Olivia and Shelly aren’t going to be here for the weekend.  I told Olivia about this last week!”  She stood, anger piquing as she sprang off the bed towards him.  “I need to call Olivia and Letha.”  When she reached for her phone, he snatched it away from her.  Poppi was momentarily taken aback as she watched his grip flex around the phone.  His eyes were trained on the device, and it seemed as if he were debating crushing it in his fist.  

She noted the dark circles lining his eyes, and it finally registered that he was drunk.  Nevertheless, she outstretched her hand once more, speaking slowly and cautiously.  “Roman… Give me my phone.”

            His smirk was the first thing that crept over his features before he patronizingly raised his eyes to her.  “I wouldn’t worry about Letha.  She didn’t take the news too hard.  In fact, she wasn’t bothered at all.”

            Poppi drew back her hand at his words.  “What—”  She broke off, and his words clicked.  “Olivia didn’t say that, did she?”  She paused, examining Roman’s unrelenting gaze.  “Roman, why… why would you tell Letha that?”

“You know, you probably weren’t even going to Letha’s.  You were probably going to go see the gypsy trash.  I know it just broke your heart that he wasn’t at the dance.”

            Her jaw clenched, but she managed to keep her tone level as she spoke.  “Don’t call him that.”

            His brows raised, and he forced out a laugh.  “Ah.  So, you are fucking him.”  He paused, examining her reddening face.  “Oh, yeah.  I forgot.  You’re still clinging to that little V-card,” he stated, making a ‘V’ with his fingers.  He shrugged, letting his fingers fall to his lap as he sank further into the chair.  “I’ve never been one for rumors, anyway.”

            Her features seized in contempt, and he responded with a sour look. 

“And there you go… judging me with those eyes.”  Another pull from his flask.  “Frankly, I can’t understand what you could possibly have—”

“Why did you tell Letha that Olivia wanted me to stay here?”  Poppi rephrased, raising her voice to block out whatever he was going to say.

“Woah, turn it down—”

“Why did you tell Letha?” she repeated, losing her patience. 

He was silent, which only fueled her rising anger.  His long index finger tapped the opening of the bottle as a strained smile spread across his lips.  “I’d prefer to discuss why you didn’t tell me that you’re leaving.”

Her jaw slackened, and, for a moment, all that could.be heard was the gentle tapping.  “How did you find out about that?”

“I do have ears.  It wasn’t hard to hear you spilling your plans to mother dear.”  He leaned forward, looking up at her beneath long lashes.  “Studying abroad off your family’s lifelong savings.  My, it seems you have a bright future ahead of you.  I bet your pops is just rolling in his grave,” he exaggeratingly chirped.  His fake smile vanished.  “Have you told Shelly?”

Poppi wavered before slowly shaking her head. 

“Were you even going to?”

“Look, I—”

“And what about me?”

“What about you, Roman?” 

He scoffed.  “You never thought to tell me.”

“Because it’s none of your business what I do!”  she exclaimed.

He was on his feet in a flash, backing her up into the foot of her bed.  A dry grin was painted on his lips as he slowly shook his head once.  He leaned down to where his eyes were level to hers.  “Your family has been slaves to mine for generations.  Everything you do is my business.”  He pulled away until he was back to his full height. 

She finally found her voice—blood roaring in her ears as a fiery chill swept along her spine.  “I don’t know where you heard that, but I only work for your mother, Roman.”

He snickered at her words, and she became aware of the warmth of his hand seeping through the thin material of her dress.  “No, silly puppy.  The wicked witch can’t live forever.  I get it all.”  He spoke slowly, letting it sink in as he ticked off, “The money… the house… and everything else that comes with it.”  His grin widened.  “Do you know what that includes?”

His face was mere inches from hers as he brought his hand up to show her the small stone within his ring.  When her eyes adopted that wide-eyed expression, a sadistic thrill shot up his spine.  It was intoxicating. 

“It’s funny; I always wondered why my ability never worked on you while we were growing up.  Then I came across this in Dad’s stuff; thought it was just another shitty heirloom until I did my research.  Seems your lineage isn’t that far a stretch from the gypsy’s.”

“Roman, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

His face lifted in amusement.  “Really?  Seems I’ve been doing a pretty good job as of late.  You’ve been rather obedient, pup.”  His fingers moved to capture her chin, and she immediately tried to snatch herself away.  He foresaw her reaction and growled, “Don’t resist me.”  It was the warning pinch coupled with the inability to move that forced a small gasp from her lips.  All she could do was look up at him.

He pushed her dead-weight form until she flopped onto the bed.  She immediately attempted to crawl away, but something drew her back to the spot he placed her in.  Her movements were sluggish, and she released a frustrated groan that came out as more of a whimper.  It was a private war with her own body. 

“Always pulling away from me, but not now.  You can’t fight this.”  Roman lowered himself to settle near her hips with his long legs dangling off the side of the bed.  For a mere moment, it reminded her of how her father would do when she had nightmares—how he would come in and tell her stories until she could slip back into sleep.  Except, this wasn’t like that.  It used to be a show of comfort, but all she felt now was fear—fear of the unknown, fear of Roman…

His fingers came up to trail about her face, neck, and shoulders.  “I know you’ve seen it—felt it, even.  The pull.”  He punctuated the last word by letting his fist fall to the hem of her dress before pushing it upwards. 

The cool tips of his fingers brushed against her thigh in passing, and Poppi’s struggling was renewed.  While she fought against the invisible binds, her body remained still, awaiting his next move. 

As the material reached her naval, Roman leaned back to examine the sight before him. Her hands itched to tug the material down, but the extremities remained useless. 

“My, my.  Perhaps you were going to see him.  Wearing nothing underneath…  Offering yourself like a fucking present.”

Tears were beginning to well in her eyes at the humiliation as she frantically shook her head.  “No, it’s not like that!  Letha—”

He interrupted her, releasing a bitter laugh.  “Now you want to blame my dear cousin for your whoring around?!”  He shook his head.  “No, I think you just take after your mother.”

Her teeth gnashed together, and her eyes were like daggers.  Yet, none of the words that she wanted to say would escape.  His lips pulled back from his teeth in a wolfish grin as he watched the internal struggle etched into her facial features. 

“Since you’re so eager tonight, I’ll take it,” he rumbled before ripping the dress and the attached wings completely off her. 

Inside, she was fighting—swinging, kicking, biting, and cursing—against each of his actions.  On the outside, though, she was a ragdoll, bending in any way he chose. 

Roman then began to strip.  His coat had been abandoned long before she woke.  Now, he only focused on impatiently tugging at the buttons of his shirt before moving to his belt.  All the while she could only watch as he pulled his bottoms off.  Her eyes darted away before she could see anything.  She didn’t want to see him like that.  Despite everything, she was still trying to cling to the image of the old Roman. 

That was when it struck her.  He was just drunk.  If she could appeal to whatever sober part left in his mind, perhaps she could convince him to stop or release her. 

She looked back up to him as he began to lower himself next to her.  “Roman, don’t do this.  You’re just drunk.”

For a moment, she wondered if she even spoke, for he showed no indication that he heard her.  Instead, he moved to hover above her.  His knee cap moved to spread her legs apart, and she could only let him. 

“This is just a misunderstanding.  You’re just upset.  You’re just drunk and need to sleep it off.”

He flashed her a cheeky snigger.  “Actually, I’ve never felt better,” he contradicted.

“B-but, you—you can’t because y-you d-don’t even like me.”  Her breathing was picking up, and the tears were starting up again. 

He never paused adjusting her as he chastised, “Foolish little pup.  I don’t have to feel anything to fuck you.”

His words were like a punch to the gut, and that’s when it clicked.  He was going to do it.  The moment his palm caressed her hip, she internally jolted as he began to position himself.  Her heart picked up, and the need to fight was overwhelming.  But, she couldn’t.  All she could do was plead as the sign of his arousal brushed against her thigh. 

“Roman, please!  Don’t do it!  Don’t!  Plea—” 

The slew of jumbled words died in her throat as he tore her open.  Her eyes snapped closed as her lips opened to screech.  The sound never escaped because there was no air in her lungs to breathe.  It was almost like drowning.  The wish to suffocate amidst the pain was appealing, especially when her senses were overloaded upon breaking the surface.

His breathy hiss filled her ears when she was ripped back to reality.  He stilled above her for a millisecond before slowly retreating.  In her naïve mind, she thought he had changed his mind.  The notion, however, went out the window when he rammed himself back into her, pulling an audible scream from her throat. 

“Stop!  Stop!  Stop!”  She pleaded the word like a prayer, but it would never come through her lips.  His voice echoed in her head as she remembered his order.  Don’t resist me.

            There was no stopping him.  She was trapped in her own body to endure it.  He was brutal, plowing through any resistance she had left.  Each thrust resulted in more agony and her eyelids clamped tighter.  She realized she wasn’t adjusting, and he wasn’t going to stop.  With her eyes still closed, she whimpered.

            She almost believed he didn’t hear her.  The sound was so weak that she almost didn’t recognize it herself.  However, he must have heard, for he slowed down until he almost stopped.  He called her name once, but she kept her eyes closed, apprehensive as to what would happen next.

            He called to her again, letting his hand cup her cheek.  When she registered the softening of his touch, she hesitantly looked up at him.  His features were blurred by unshed tears, and she blinked furiously until she could make out his green eyes tracing over her face.  She couldn’t read his expression as he brought his thumb to swipe at the tear slithering down her cheek.  His thrusts had turned gentle, and he began to slowly sink deeper into her with ease.    

            “Is this better?”  he whispered, letting his hand brush stray hair from her face.

            She couldn’t speak.  She wanted to scream at him.  Of course, it wasn’t better!  It didn’t matter what he did; he couldn’t make it better!  She didn’t want him to be gentle.  She didn’t want him at all.  She just wanted him to leave.  However, her voice refused to convey any of that.  Her lips parted as she gazed up at him before nodding her head. 

            He offered her a smile before taking her limp hands between his.  His movements inside her were still soft as he let his thumb brush over her knuckles.  He then leaned in until his lips were near her ear.  “Well, this isn’t about you.”

            As soon as the words left his mouth, he pinned her hands above her head before continuing his brutality.  His other free hand went behind her rear, angling her so he could go deeper.  He moved quickly and urgently for what felt like an eternity. 

After some time had passed, she noticed his movements were becoming sloppy and shallow.  Her hope rose at the possibility of him tiring.  His next words came out between breaths, and she could feel each huff pour over her neck.  “You’re selfish.” Hard thrust.  “You were supposed to put this family first, but all you care about—”  Thrust.  “—is yourself.”  Her tears began anew at his words, the renewed sting, and the pressure she didn’t want to feel. 

It happened before she realized what was happening.  She felt warmth shoot through her, but it wasn’t because of her own release.  It was his, and it was announced with a groan as he slowly came to still his movements again. 

She, on the other hand, only felt fire and ice.  She couldn’t describe it.  Her skin was flushed and burning, but somehow, she felt cold.  And, she couldn’t tell if it was his groan or her own shudders that caused the vibrations in her bones. 

            His next words were contradicting to his previous actions as he cooed, “Shh shh.  It’s ok.”  He patted her hair as she bit her bottom lip to silence her petrified sobs.  “Despite your lack of participation, I still got off.”  He rotated his hips forth before painstakingly inching himself out of her.  She closed her eyes once more, so she wouldn’t have to see as he pulled away.

            He took his warmth with him, and she was left to suffer the cold.  Her teeth ground together to cease the shaking.  Instead, she forced herself to focus on the dipping of the bed.  He was leaving; everything was going to be ok.  She just had to hold herself together until he left.  But, apparently Roman had different plans.

            Her eyes flew open as she felt his hands on her knees to reopen her legs.  “B-but I thought you were done,” she protested, heart picking up its pace once again.

            “Well, unlike you, I’m prepared to be selfless.”  He began stuffing pillows beneath her hips until her lower half was elevated. 

            “Roman?  What are you…”

Wordlessly, he fluffed the pillows for effect before crouching at her pelvis.  His shoulders provided the perfect wedge to widen her legs as he pushed his hair back from his face before lowering his face.  His eyes took in the destruction he had made, and ____ could have sworn she saw a shiver rake through his hulking frame.  Horror filled her veins as she realized his intentions.  She tried to squirm away, but she was still under the hold.  Her body froze when she felt his warm tongue lap at her inner thighs.  She wanted to look away, but it was like a train wreck, for she was forced to watch him lick up the blood that streaked her skin. 

            “R-Roman.  Just leave.  You don’t have to—”

            He tsked as he finished cleaning her thighs.  “So un-fucking-grateful,” he muttered before his fingers moved to hold her lips open. 

The air only briefly brushed against her before his mouth descended against her entrance, and she released a shaky noise that even she couldn’t quite decipher.  She didn’t know how to feel about the foreign feeling or the messed-up situation she was in, especially when his tongue darted forth, rewarding Roman with a shift of her hips as she bit down another noise.  He felt and tasted her reaction, and it spurred him to continue his assault.  His lips soon found the little bundle of nerves, and he nipped at it, causing her hips to buck up against her own accord. 

Roman snickered against her, giving the skin another tug before going back to lap up as much of her substance as he could.  His tongue probed her, going in as deep as he could to receive the sweet honey that he craved.  Between his bloodlust, he managed to catch a glimpse of her scrunched-up eyes and her parted lips.

His free hand slithered up until the heel of his palm pressed against her lower abdomen.  The sudden contact startled her and forced her eyes open.  Her brows drew together until he began to massage the area.  His touch was soft as he applied pressure in slow circles, which resulted in a tiny mewl as it heightened the sensation she was already experiencing.

“It’s much better this way—when you don’t resist.  Don’t you think?”

Her lips parted to deny, but he cut her off by continuing his ministrations.  How was he making her stomach do that?  Was it the massages?  It didn’t matter because she stiffened, and the world around her blurred as she spiraled down. 

His slurping seemed louder when her senses slowly focused in.  She looked down at him as he gave her a long, final lick.  He then dipped two fingers inside her to coat them with the leftover blood.  She flinched, and her stomach churned when he used the hot scarlet to draw a circular symbol upon her stomach. 

Shock turned to revulsion on her features as Roman took the soiled fingers into his mouth.  His cheeks hallowed before he pulled the cleaned digits out, licking his lips and moaning softly.  “Mmm mmm mmm.”

Dark eyes narrowed on her as he sighed, “Sweetest cherry I’ve ever tasted.”

            “You’re disgusting,” she rasped between the urge to gag.

He frowned at her.  “What?  You didn’t like your consolation prize?”

            She shook her eyes, incredulously looking at him with nausea.  “No!  It was awful!”

            He rolled his eyes before quirking a brow.  “Really?  ‘Cause you didn’t have a problem getting off.”

            “That wasn’t—”

            He seized her hair, tugging it back until she looked up at him.  “Say ‘thank you, Roman.’”

            And just like that, the words tumbled out of her mouth, but they weren’t hers.  He smirked at her.  “That’s more like it.” 

            He rose to his feet to redress.  “I’ve been rather patient with you as of late.  Now that I have your attention, here’s how it’s going to go,” he started, buttoning the last button.  “You’re not going to tell anyone about what happened tonight.  It’s not like anyone would believe you, anyway, but…”  He trailed off, flashing the ring to her.  “You get the idea.”  He zipped his pants and buckled his belt. 

            He surveyed the room, pocketing his flask before tossing her phone to her.  It landed somewhere beside her, but it didn’t really phase her.  All she could do was wait for him to leave.  He took a pull from the flask, making his way to the door.  His hand stopped on the handle before he turned to look over his shoulder.  He took in her pent-up form and smirked. 

“I’m glad we’ve cleared the air.”

With that he left. 

Poppi sat in the exact same spot, listening for his footsteps to carry him down the attic stairs.  She listened until she could no longer hear him.  Even then, she still didn’t move.  She just stared at the door.  After what felt like hours, she finally found it in herself to get up. 

She had to move slowly, and even then, it still hurt.  She clutched her lower abdomen, hunching over for a moment at the pain.  She felt more fluids trickle down her leg, but she didn’t want to acknowledge what they were.  Instead, she hurried to grab the sheet to catch the liquids before they landed on the hardwood.  She cringed as she wrapped the soaked linen around her body.

Taking a deep breath, she hobbled out the door and down the steps.  All the while, she kept her legs clenched together so that nothing would fall on the steps.  God help her if she got the staircase filthy, and Olivia came home to find it. 

The bathroom had never seemed so far away, and when she finally reached it, she hurried to close and lock the door behind her.  Once she did so, she started the shower.  As she reached for a wash rag, her eyes caught her reflection.

Her halo (how had it survived?) was askew, bent, and tangled in her hair.  She was definitely a distressed angel now.  Hell, she was probably a fallen angel.  Her fingers ripped the offending piece from her hair, and she didn’t even register how it pulled her hair.  She let it fall to the floor before snatching up the rag.

When she stepped into the stream, she quickly moved to wash herself.  She would flinch when she touched a certain area, but she quickly continued in order to ignore it.  After washing and scrubbing herself twice, she finally stepped out and wrapped herself in a towel.

After taking care of the bleeding, she remained in the bathroom for a few minutes with her ear pressed against the door.  She strained to hear any sound whatsoever.  After she ensured the coast was clear, she returned to her room, locked the door, and dressed. 

When she crawled into bed, she found that she couldn’t sink into sleep.  Instead, she only stared into space all night.  Any noise snapped her to attention, and she would instinctively reach for a book to fling. 

When the sun rose the next morning, she had devised a plan.  She just had to get through the rest of the weekend.

Chapter Text

           

           Shelly always prided herself as an early-bird.  Each morning, her routine consisted of showering, pulling on her wig, dressing herself, and brushing her teeth.  All of this was done an hour before Poppi would come to collect her, for Shelly enjoyed time to herself to prepare for the day.  So, when she was awakened by Poppi, her initial thought was that she had somehow overslept.  However, a glance out the window assured her that it wasn’t even dawn.  This caused Shelly to regard her with a perplexed look.  

            “Hey.” 

            Shelly’s brows knitted together when she picked up how the single word seemed to have been coarsely ripped from her throat.  Was she shaking?  Before Shelly could reach for her phone to convey her concerns, Poppi began to speak.

            “I thought we could get an early start this morning.  Maybe take… take a walk or… I don’t know—sit in the library after getting a quick bite?”

            Shelly couldn’t help but stare at the girl as if she had sprouted another head.  It wasn’t that Poppi never took her anywhere; it’s just their adventures were always after school.  Poppi was usually up trying to complete some of her chores before school. 

            “I mean… since Olivia’s not home yet, I thought I’d ditch cooking this morning, and we could just go to that little coffee shop by the bookstore.  Maybe peruse some books, too.” 

            Something told Shelly that something was wrong.  The light circles beneath her eyes were another indication.  Then again, maybe she was just tired.  She did work a lot, and Shelly always felt bad about all the things her mother made Poppi do.  Shaking off the nagging feeling, Shelly typed in her consent.

<><><><><><><> 

           Life was a monotony in Hemlock Grove.  Sure, there was the occasional murder here and there, but, at the end of the day, the excitement dies.  Nothing remains.  The flings, the white lines, and the booze made each day pass faster.  Of course, they also made the days blur together, making it hard to distinguish what happened when or if it, in fact, did happen.  It never bothered Roman because he either didn’t remember or, if he did, didn’t care enough to worry about it.

            The weekend felt like a long trip filled with fragmented, dreamlike shapes.  The last thing he fully remembered was getting pissed—at what, he couldn’t remember.   Whatever it was must have been resolved because he felt amazing as his long, naked limbs stretched and sought out the coolness of the morning sheets.  He sighed once, letting his head tip back to stretch out the small kink. 

            All this time he had yet to open his eyes as scattered visions filled his sleep-dulled head.  Warmth.  Softness.  Melting into it all until his heart felt as if it were swelling in his stomach.  Rich, sweet copper upon his tongue.  Just the memory made him lick his lips as if phantom traces still existed.  It was hers. 

            His eyes opened, the realization hitting him hard.  The previous day was more vivid; he was a little sober by that time.  He had gone to follow up on his request… and for something else...  He couldn’t remember what the second one was, but he had definitely seen Peter change into a fucking wolf before eating his own skin and tissue.  That was one thing he couldn’t un-see, especially since he had been coming down.  Past that, only fragments remained.

            What day was it? 

            He rolled over, feeling for his phone.  Upon retrieving it from his pants’ pocket, he released a puff of air as he found it to be dead.  He tossed the useless device to the side before dragging himself from bed and towards the window.

            His eyes blinked rapidly at the intrusion of light, and his face scrunched up as he tried to make out the scene below.  The workers were trimming the hedges and bushes.  It was Monday.  Two days gone… lost in the hazy abyss.

            He found himself back to questioning why he had woken to the taste of Poppi’s blood. 

            There was the dance.  When did he start drinking?  Oh, yeah.  When he saw that little shit talking to Letha.  Poppi was there.  They danced.  He got pissed off.  What did she say?  He couldn’t remember.  Then he found out Letha was pregnant.  More alcohol followed.  Then there was that unnerving wacko.  Poppi was already asleep when he dropped Letha off.  

            He didn't remember anything afterwards.  Was it just a dream--a tantalizing blood dream?  He would remember doing something reckless.  Unless…

            His eyes landed on the small, empty bags that once held his white secret.  Two were empty.  And from the empty bottle of alcohol on his dresser, he knew he had more than likely drunk generously. 

            “Sheeeeit,” he muttered, dragging a hand over his face.  Nothing lined up, and it was too much for him to sort through. 

            He went downstairs, noting that the house was cleaned as it was every morning.  Shelly, his mom, and Poppi had already left.  Everything was the same.  Figuring there was no use in fretting over the unknown, he hopped in the shower, making sure his face was shaved before getting dressed.  He had already missed an hour of school.  Staying at home was tempting, but he found himself pulling into the school parking lot ten minutes later.   

            “For you, mummy,” he announced to the air, recalling his mother rant about how he needed to start acting like an adult. 

<><><><><><><> 

            Poppi was paranoid.  With every step she took, a quick glance over her shoulder would follow.  At the café, she was unable to bring herself to eat the breakfast pastry that she ordered.  She ended up giving it to Shelly as she turned her attention to the door.  Their location, one of the back tables of the establishment, had specifically been chosen for two reasons: so that no one would notice them and to make a quick escape if necessary. 

            Sitting through her main classes was torturous.  Her leg bobbed up and down at an inhuman speed as she went through the motions.  Her lip served as a pin cushion to her teeth whilst her eyes flitted between the teacher and whatever time-telling device was in the room.

            Noon finally hit, and she didn’t even bother signing out.  It’s not like anyone would check or care enough to report her in her afternoon elective classes.  So, as soon as the bell rang, she skipped lunch and bolted out the back entrance.

            The walk to her destination seemed shorter than usual; then again, she didn’t really have a standard of comparison.  She had never had a reason to visit the place.  Her feet carried her past all the cubicles and prying eyes.  She could feel their eyes on her, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.  Her eyes briefly locked on the door’s name plate—Annette Franks, County Clerk—before she barged in.

            The middle-aged woman with a short blond bob pushed herself back from her computer as she took notice to the girl's presence.  “Can I help you?”

            The words that toppled from her mouth were scrambled but resembled, “My parents. Their will.”

            She quirked a brow.  “And you are?”

            Poppi managed to take a breath to gather enough composure to reply.

            Annette turned to her computer, poking at the keys with a pencil before she took to scrolling through the database.  Her eyes squinted at the screen before trailing to Poppi.  “You’re the Godfreys’ help.”

            Instead of replying, she urged the clerk to focus on the file as politely as she could manage.

            Annette leaned back in her chair at the request.  “I can’t do that.”

            “What?”

            “The beneficiary must be present to see the file.”

            “But, I’m the beneficiary.  It’s my parents’ will.”

            “Apparently not.”

            “Well, who is the beneficiary, then?!”

            Annette sighed.  “I cannot give you any information or access without the beneficiary.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do have other matters I must attend to.”  Annette turned away to busy herself on her computer, signaling that she was through with the girl. 

            How she came to stand before the mansion was unknown to her.  Or, for that matter, how she came to walk in on Olivia and Norman redressing after one of their affairs. 

            “Why can’t I see the will?”

            The question flew off her tongue, seeming more like a demand.  It was too late by the time she realized she was taking such a tone with her employer.  It didn’t matter, though.  Her emotions were still in check, and she could have been a lot more dramatic.

            Norman was a deer caught in headlights; Poppi couldn’t be bothered by it.  She knew, and Olivia knew it, too.  It was just one of the many secrets she had to keep for this damned house.

            “Have you gone mad?”  Olivia’s voice cut through her thoughts, and she focused on the woman’s irritated face.

            “My parents’ will.  Why is it that I cannot see it?”

            Norman shifted uncomfortably in the silence, unable to figure out which arm he wanted to drape his jacket over.  Finally, he cleared his throat, muttering something along the lines of, “I’ll see myself out.”  He slipped past Poppi, leaving her and Olivia alone.

            Olivia sighed.  “Have to ruin everything, don’t you?  Just like your mother.”  The jab was uttered, but Poppi knew Olivia meant for it to be heard, especially when she flicked those beady eyes up at her with the gleam.  The same gleam as his.  “Where’s Shelly?  In your madness did you forget my daughter?”

            “Where is the will, Olivia?”  she pushed out through gritted teeth.  It all felt too familiar.  The questioning… the secrets…  She shook the thoughts from her mind before she could dive further down into that dark place.

            Olivia merely watched her the entire time—her gaze calculating.  “Where did this come from?  I told you about the will.”

            “Olivia, that’s my family’s earnings.  Where are they?”

            Amusement painted Olivia’s features.  “Your mother was the one to sign them over to us when your father died.  For financial stability purposes.  It was up to JR when you would get them.  Now that he’s dead,” she trailed off, shrugging her shoulders.  “I guess it’s up to me when you get them.”  Olivia rose to her feet, slowly making her way to the girl. 

            “With that said, do you think I’m inclined to give someone something when she hasn’t earned it?  When she leaves my daughter at that prison—alone?  Or someone that interrupts a very important meeting?”

            By that time, Olivia was towering above her, and Poppi couldn’t help but swallow as she had to look up.  The story was on the tip of her tongue; she wanted to tell Olivia the things that her son had done—why she needed the money.  But she couldn’t. 

            “We had a deal.  At the end of the year, it’s all yours,” Olivia reminded her in a low voice.

            “Olivia, please…”

            “A deal is a deal.  My hands are tied, and so are yours.”

            She was right, and that’s what crushed her.

            Olivia tsked.  “There’s no use in having such a sour face.  There’s nothing either of us can do.  Might as well get used to it.  In the meantime, you can start on supper.”

            For the second time that day, she was dismissed and left with even more questions.  She left the room in a stupor.  A part of her wanted to go against Olivia, but the logical part of her knew better.  She didn’t want to deal with her wrath, as well, because she already felt overloaded for the day. 

            As she passed Shelly’s room, she heard faint sniffling.  She paused, feeling her heart fall.  Something had happened to Shelly, and she hadn’t been there.  She failed to protect her. 

            “Shell…” The name was a whisper on her lips as she entered the room.

            She froze when she noted the figure rubbing Shelly’s hair as he comforted her.  Those eyes saw her, and a warning look was shot her way.  Her body screamed for her to get the hell out, and she listened.  

<><><><><><><> 

            She was there, and, in a blink of an eye, she was gone.  He wanted to comfort Shelly, but he was furious, as well.  Something commanded him to give chase, and he did.  His long legs carried him down the hall, and he followed her at a brisk stride.  His fury was rising, and that voice inside of him was growling… snarling.  When he latched onto her, he was ready to lash out with words, but he was stunned as images flooded his mind.

            It started with a lie.  Letha seemed hesitant but finally relented.  He rushed home, sending glances to the backseat.  Thoughts poured through his mind, and he didn’t even realize he was going a hundred miles until he turned a sharp curve. 

            He parked his car and went to wake her up but thought better of it.  Instead, he bent down and gathered her into his arms.  Her head rolled to rest on his right breast, and he froze for only a moment before spotting her phone.  He grabbed it, as well, pocketing the device before taking her upstairs and placing her on her bed. 

            He was going to leave her until he caught sight of how she slept.  Letha did a brilliant job with the costume; Poppi did look angelic in that moment.  She was so peaceful; the defensive lines that creased her features during the day were smoothened in sleep.  Her hair was splayed out against the pillow with the halo nestled at the top of her head.  Her lashes lightly rested against her full cheeks, and did he detect a blush?  The material of her dress clung to her form, outlining the swell of her breasts and hips.  And, her lips… so full and pink, and his mind could have sworn they were slightly puckered.

            She had always been decent looking.  Hell, he had overheard countless stories of what the jocks would do if only given the chance.  She didn’t see it, though.  Then again, it’s not like he let the opportunity arise what with threatening each of them. 

            He lowered himself to sit beside her, eyes trailing over her face.  What sober part was left told him to back away and go to bed.  But, he didn’t listen.  Instead, he brought his hand up to push stray strands away from her face.  He didn’t stop there, though, and he let his fingers trail down her temple, thumb brushing over her cheek, before coming to rest on her plump lips.  So soft…

            The vibration of her phone in his pocket kicked him out of his trance, and he yanked his hand back, shaking his head at his actions.  He pulled the device out of his pocket, and, out of habit, glanced at the screen.  His eyes narrowed at the screen, and he felt something seize up within him. 

            Peter fucking Rumancek.  Roman’s eyes scanned the message, reading that Peter invited Poppi to witness his transformation since she had wanted to see it.  His finger tapped the screen twice, and, before he could register his actions, he had deleted the message and repocketed the phone. 

            A wave of emotions overcame him.  The same feelings that had swept over him when Letha revealed she was pregnant.  And, when she woke, he unleashed those dark emotions, taking what was rightfully his. 

            Roman’s lips parted, his eyes darting from Poppi’s wide, scared eyes to his unforgiving grip on her upper arm.  His grip loosened enough so that she could pull herself away.  She didn’t look back or hesitate.  She ran.

Chapter Text

 

 

            I am not a coward.

            Sure, she made certain Roman was out of sight when she moved about school and the house.  She wasn’t a coward, though, she reasoned; she just didn’t want to see him.  The longer she could prevent interacting with him, the longer she could keep telling herself that it was all just a horrible, awful nightmare.  The pain and the crimson-soaked pads and bed sheets were gone, and she continued to lie to herself, reasoning that their absence erased the night away. 

            No one noticed any changes in her behavior because she refused to show it after her confrontation with Olivia.  She knew Olivia was right.  There was no use in being depressed when she couldn’t do anything about it.  Olivia would not be any help, and Poppi didn’t really have any friends besides Letha and Shelly.  But, Poppi couldn’t bear to see what they would think of her, especially since they adored Roman.  And, Peter… As much as it pained her, they were only acquaintances that had been approaching the status of friends.  So, even if she could spill her guts and rat out Roman, she would have no one to tell it to. 

            Since Shelly had an appointment that afternoon, Poppi was using the stairwell to make a quick escape before school let out.  She had only opened the door when she overheard a muffled, heated discussion that came to an abrupt halt upon her intrusion.  The narrow space smelled of cigarettes, and when she looked up, a thin cloud of smoke slightly obscured the two figures at the top of the stairwell.  Of course, it wasn’t heavy enough to hide Peter and Roman.  Her eyes went to Peter who appeared as caught off guard as she was.  Nevertheless, his parted lips settled into a smile as he recognized her, and he gave her a wave with a slight motion of his hand.  She itched to return it, but her eyes flicked to Roman.  He may have just been innocently focusing in on her through the thin layer of smoke, but in the heat of the moment, she couldn’t handle it, and she retreated through the door she had emerged from.

            She rushed home by taking an alternate (unfortunately longer) route.  Once inside the mansion, she rushed through her chores, took a shower, and locked herself in her room.  She was slowly sinking into slumber and the comfort of her clean linens when a shrill ringing pierced the silence.  Her heart lurched in her chest as she sprung forth, searching for the source of the offending sound.  Her eyes fell on the vibrating phone on her bedside table, and she quickly examined the caller ID before recognizing the picture of a cross-eyed Letha with ice cream on her nose. 

            She answered the phone, sputtering a greeting.

            “Hey, Poppi.  You ok?”

            Her heart began to slow its hammering, but it still rang in her ears as she managed to make her reply convincing.  “Yeah, I was just… taking a small nap.”

            “Oh, I’m sorry I woke you up.”

            “Nah, it’s fine.”  There was silence, and Poppi was certain Letha was trying to calculate Poppi’s state.  “So, what’s up?” Poppi asked, attempting to dodge Letha’s probing. 

            “Oh!  I have some news.  I was going to tell you the night of the dance, but you were asleep, and Roman said Olivia wanted you back at the house.”

            Poppi paused, feeling the aggravation bubbling within her as she was reminded of Roman’s lie.  “Yeah… sorry about that.  It—uh… it really sucked,” she forced out around a sudden lump in her throat.

            “Well, don’t worry about it.  I’m sure we can hang out some other time.  Anyways, don’t freak out, ok?”

            “W-what do you mean?” Poppi asked, apprehension and dread rising as she began to suspect Letha knew something. 

            “I’m pregnant.”

            The sudden answer caught Poppi off guard, hurling her out of her ever-descending thoughts and fears.  Her brows knitted together as she processed and repeated the words in her head.  “What?”

            “I’m pregnant,” she repeated.

            Silence passed between the two as Poppi was still reeling from the scenario she had fabricated.  Not to mention, Letha just dumped the news on her in her muddled state.

            “Well, say something,” Letha scoffed.

            “I… Wow.  How did—when did this happen?”  Who did it? is what Poppi meant to ask, but the question didn’t come out.  Poppi knew that even though Letha was beautiful, she wasn’t easy, and she wasn’t one to put out.  Not only that, but Letha hadn’t disclosed any mystery man to Poppi… unless, of course, Letha was keeping him a secret.

            “It was an angel,” she replied.

            What the hell?  The thought was formed before she could process it as her lips spoke, “A what?”

            Letha sighed.  “An angel, Poppi.  Don’t tell me you don’t believe me, either.”

            “No, no.  That’s… not it.”  It was, but Poppi didn’t let on that is was.  Never had any of her family members chronicled coming across an angel.  They were far too rare, and even so, angels were usually celibate.  But, Letha's angel-craze made sense now.  The costume... the books...

            “Well, what is it then?”

            Poppi shook her head as if Letha could see her.  “It’s nothing.  I’m just processing.  Are you… Have you told your parents?”

            “Yeah.  Only you, Mom, Dad, Aunt Olivia, and Roman know.  Although, Roman didn’t take it too well at first.”

            Something didn’t sit well with Poppi.  It made her rather uneasy that Roman found out that night, and she wondered if it had been the cause behind his foul state that night he…  She snapped her eyes closed, shoving the thoughts away before the memories could sneak in.

            “Speaking of Roman… I’m worried about him, especially after Friday night.  He called me a minute ago, and he was acting kind of weird.  Told him I couldn’t hang out because I’m at the baby doctor right now.”

            “I’m sure he’s fine."

            “Even so, could you… could you check on him?  I’ll owe you big time.  I just don’t want Aunt Olivia to go because… I don’t know.  You know as well as I that it can get tense.”

            “No.”  Poppi realized how quickly the reply came and how it was harshly delivered.  “I mean, I can’t.  I… don’t know where he is, and it’s not like I have a car.”

            “Please, Poppi.  I’ll—”

            Letha’s voice was cut off as Poppi’s phone beeped, indicating she had another call coming through.  “Hang on, Leth.”

            She answered the call before checking the ID, and she instantly regretted it as Olivia’s crisp accent assaulted her ears.  “Where are you?”

            “I’m at the mansion.”

            Olivia sighed.  “Well, you’re closer than I am.  I need you to pick up Roman.”

            “What?”

            She huffed under her breath.  “Pick up Roman from that godawful tavern on Walker Road.”

            “Olivia, I don’t have a car.”

            “For God’s sake, Poppi.  Use the spare in the garage!”

            With that, the phone clicked, and Letha’s call reappeared.  Poppi’s lips opened, closed, opened, and then closed before she settled on, “I have to go.”

            Before Letha could reply, Poppi hung up and sat in shock for only a moment before her legs carried her to the garage.  Her fingers grabbed the keys, and before long, she was driving down the winding backroads.  Under any other circumstances she would be nervous about driving the Godfrey’s spare car, but her mind was wrapped up in more pressing matters.

            It seemed only seconds before she pulled the car into the graveled parking lot of the bar.  Stepping out of the car, she locked it before approaching the door.  Through the glass, she spotted Roman at the bar.  An elderly man had him by the collar, and Poppi knew the man was about to sock Roman.  As much as she wanted it to be, she knew Olivia would have her ass hanging on the wall if she brought back a beat-up Roman. 

            She pulled the doors open before clearing her throat.  The old man cocked her a side-eyed glare, and Poppi spoke up before she lost her nerve.  She forced herself to channel the bitchiness of Olivia as she said, “Be my guest, but you’ll have to deal with Olivia.”

            The man eyed her before grunting and releasing Roman with a shove.  Poppi could only watch as Roman barely caught himself on the bar.  Olivia told her to pick Roman up; she didn’t say shit about helping him.  But, looking at him, she realized that he was too wasted.  He still hadn’t looked at her, for his glassy gaze was still focused on a void that only he could see. 

            The bartender looked at her with sympathy as she approached Roman.  “Want some help?”

            Poppi wanted to take him up on his offer; she didn’t want to be here, much less touch him to help him to the car.  But, it wouldn’t be right to ask him to abandon the bar to help her.  “No, it… it’s fine,” she lied.  “Thank you,” she added as she stomached her nerves to touch him.

            He was right there; yet, she couldn’t bring herself to grab him.  Touch him!  Her self-command pushed her to reach out and grab the back of his shirt before she took his sleeve to sling his arm around her shoulders. 

            It took her some time to lug his towering frame to the car, but once she did, she managed to prop him against the car while she fumbled with the keys to unlock the passenger door.  She then proceeded to load him into the car and buckle his seatbelt before she began the ride back to the mansion.

            The ride was silent, but Poppi was a ball of nerves.  It had only been four, perhaps three, days ago, and this was the first time she had to be in his presence for an extended amount of time.  Of course, there was the previous day, but she had managed to escape his clutches, and whether he remembered what he did, she still didn’t know. 

            Thankfully, the ride was equally short back, but now she had to lug him to his room.  As she killed the engine, she briefly pondered leaving him in the car for Olivia to deal with, but, of course, her job would never be that simple, especially when Roman grabbed for the handle and barely managed to hit the grass—instead of the leather interior of the car—with his vomit. 

            Poppi leaned her head against the headrest, closing her eyes and mentally cursing her luck before getting out just as he finished.  She stepped over the vomit and struggled to get him to step over it, as well, before leading him up the stairs. 

            She took a detour to the bathroom as she noticed he was suppressing the urge to gag again.  Lowering him to the floor, she let him clamor to the toilet and release the rest of his stomach’s contents.  As he flushed and began to brush his teeth, she filled him a cup of water, dampened a washrag, and grabbed some Ibuprofen from the medicine cabinet above the sink. 

            After he brushed his teeth, she led him to his room before letting him flop onto his bed just as he let her do that night.  She clinched her jaw at the memory, handing him two pills and the glass of water.  He took it, still in his daze, before swallowing the pills.  She removed the glass from his unsteady hold before placing it—resisting the urge to slam it—on the bedside table.  Fuck the coasters, she thought, silently flipping off Olivia as she pressed the rag to Roman’s forehead.  Once it was there, she turned to leave.

            Before she could take a step, she froze as Roman’s hand reached out and grabbed her wrist.  It was a gentle hold, but Poppi didn’t care.  He was touching her, and it was searing her skin.  She pulled away like she had been scalded, glancing up to see his droopy eyes were on her. 

            She held her wrist, rubbing at the spot as if it would remove his phantom touch.  They watched each other, but neither made a move to speak.  Finally, Roman murmured, “Did the wicked witch send you?”

            Poppi didn’t answer, and she searched his hand for the ring.  Sure enough, it rested on the long, slim ring finger of his right hand.  She yanked her eyes from it and focused on him before his sobering gaze could process what had briefly captured her attention.

            Roman quirked a brow as she refused him an answer.  He must have been sobering because he scoffed at her silence before dragging a hand over his face.  “Ah, I see.  You’re back to ignoring me.  We both know how that turned out.  Don’t forget who you—”

            She sprung forth until she was in his face, pure wrath coated each syllable as she bit out, “I don’t owe you anything.”

            She had only let her guard down for a mere moment to stand up to him, but it was enough time for Roman.  Her words had only echoed in her ears before Roman snatched her by her wrist, bringing her dangerously closer to his face.  She tugged against him, but he held her in a firm hold.  Roman watched as she tried not to panic—as she set those lips of hers into a determined line.  His brows were drawn as if he were preparing to rage; his lips were set to growl back at her, but her jaw was set, and she wasn’t backing down.  I’m not a coward.

            As quickly as his features turned sour, they shifted to an at-ease look.  His brows relaxed, his lips twisted into a lazy smirk, and his eyes lightened to a blueish hue as they slowly trailed her face.  “All right, pup.  I’ll play.”  He released her, and she quickly stumbled back with her eyes trained on him.  “I’ll let you believe the shit she’s fed you and those little lies you keep telling yourself.” 

            Before she could respond, she heard the front door open and the clicking of Olivia’s heels against the hardwood floor.  Poppi took two more steps away from him before she made her escape. 

Roman watched her go and listened as she escaped like a mouse to what she believed was her haven.  He lit a cigarette, taking a long pull before exhaling.  A slow grin returned to his lips as he murmured, “For now.”