**So, some of you may be disappointed by the spoiler that this chapter does NOT feature the premiere…however, I think a great deal of you may be relieved to know that the M rating comes into play here. Too soon? Maybe. Tell me what you think. I couldn't devise a way to keep anything moving without letting them have a romp already. The premiere is next, pinky promise. Feedback is immensely appreciated! Hope you all like it!**
Nothing… not a ghost of a whisper…not a single noise…but for his even breathing and the spine-tingling sound of the razor dragging slowly along his jaw, leaving a trail of silk where salt and pepper had been. Delicate streaks of soap mark the places the blade forgot, glistening like dewy gossamer. Steam hovers thickly long after the faucet is stopped, heightening the subtle fragrance of fine brandy and the consuming aroma that is uniquely Hans Landa. The hint of cloves sends her mind reeling to a buried winter evening…
Her father's large hands help her tiny fingers to push the dried blooms into the exotic orange fruit…the rind breaks, spilling sweet juice, and making her hands sticky. A more beautiful pomander never existed, he says proudly. He had kissed her on the nose before setting her creation on the windowsill, where it would gleam fragrantly in the morning sun…
A whiff of gun oil dissolves her childhood reminiscence and thrusts her into another recollection: her first memory of Landa…she would never forget it because it was also the last memory of her father.
Jacob Dreyfus's large, warm hands frantically trying to staunch the gurgling blood, gushing from the many holes in his chest…Jacob's mouth, gaping: spraying blood from his punctured lungs…her father's frightened eyes as he saw the bloody mess his family had become…her father's final, silent pleas for her to run, as breath abandoned his battered body…
It takes another hand, large like her father's; stilling hers, before she realizes that the sharp object there is shaking dangerously.
"Second thoughts?" His voice is wry and husky—almost daring her.
Unable to produce sound just yet, she shrugs in a non-committal way.
"Finish it," comes his cool command.
Her mind is a war zone of emotion, but her body responds easily to his voice. She cannot see him well, though, and uses her free arm to snake around his neck and rest on his hard chest, giving her proper leverage to survey the last careful strokes of the blade. This is the closest she has ever been to him, now, with her bare arm pressed to his exposed chest. Despite the hurt tugging at her throat and the confusion buzzing in her ears, there is something transfixing about the proximity. A more soothing scent, that of amber, puts not memories in her mind…but ideas. Strange flashes of hands and legs…of mouths…things she doesn't want to think about…or admit…
It is hard work trying to force her breathing to match his. Her heart gallops strangely, on an off-beat and seeing as she can't seem to control her thoughts, she'll settle for minding her inhaling and exhaling. This fresh fracture in her soul…this rift divides an old repulsion and a new magnetism. Why is it suddenly so difficult to attach conviction and emotion to the hate that buzzes in her brain? It was not always so! There had been a time when she knew who Landa was and what she felt about him. Hadn't there? The facts hadn't changed: he was still a murderer and a foul dog! Why couldn't someone explain that to blush creeping up her cheekbones or her erratic cardiovascular system?
"You're very quiet—what are you thinking about?" He pulls her arm from him, raising gooseflesh from the sudden deprivation of heat. Now facing her and the mirror, he runs his fingers over her handiwork, perfecting what little she missed.
"You have a scar on your back," she says evasively, eyeing the raised tissue covering his left shoulder.
"Hmm. Yes," he murmurs, glancing over at it, "It was hollow point. That is why the wound looks so large…there were many fragments to remove."
"You were shot? I thought you were a medic?"
A moment while he splashes water on his face and dries meticulously.
"Yes, I completed a…" his voice falters almost imperceptibly at her curious touch. His gaze is hot on her fingers as she explores the thick scar tissue, imagining how excruciating the gunshot had to have been. Knowing him, he wasn't even anesthetized for the extraction; it must've been Hell.
"…a rotation. But I also served in combat; one does not enter the S.S. as Hitler's personal bloodhound. Like any hierarchy, I had to move up." She nods her head in understanding and drops her hand, suddenly embarrassed and angry that she should even be remotely interested in his past. Landa does not seem to notice, however, and pats his clean-shaven jaw in appreciation. "You did a very fine job. Have you ever shaved a man's face before?"
Shoshanna shakes her head.
"Well, there is a first time for everything, yes?" Mischief lights his blue eyes, making her forget how to breathe again.
Landa uses her stunned silence to gather his articles of clothing scattered across the bathroom and fold them neatly, but not don them. He seems oblivious to the fact that he is half-naked, which is more than Shoshanna can say. Why doesn't he at least put a shirt on: another ploy to test her? If only it wasn't so effective…she can't help but memorize every distinct understated abdominal muscle as he bends to pick up his coat…the way his forearms flex softly to fold the shirt…how the light glints from his defined shoulders as he sits and braces himself contently on the edge of the freestanding tub. Perhaps if he put his shirt on, she could feel all the venom she used to feel.
"I must say, for a woman who scarcely wants for words…you're unusually reserved. Dreaming up another assassination attempt, are we?"
"No…" His cordiality is suspect. She had tried to cut his throat and here he sits, no more upset than if by an amusing practical joke
"Fresh out? Pity—I rather enjoy our little scuffles. Violence becomes you," he purrs. An unfamiliar sense of pride quivers in her belly. There is a struggle to force her mouth to remain in a hard line, though she cannot snuff the crimson that blooms on her cheeks and chest. The Jew Hunter's mouth curves into knowing smirk and he cocks his head slyly. "Well, what then?"
"I was thinking about how…well, I was wondering where you'd gone."
"I don't enjoy repeating myself…so it frustrates me to have to tell you—again—that I was working."
"Last I checked, my memory is still excellent," she snaps, regaining some fire. "I was referring to where you were, specifically, geographically."
"Why should that matter to you?" he queries, unimpressed by her acidity.
"I was just curious about what could've garnered you attention so, that you could forget about a captive rotting away while you played detective."
"Why you should think for a second that I would care for your well-being is beyond me. I bought you some pretty things to wear and fixed your boo-boo…I fail to see the significance. I like my things to look nice and be whole…that doesn't mean I'll abandon my duties to entertain you."
"Your things?! I am not a thing, Hans!"
She had just said his first name, for the first time…and what's worse, during a spat akin to a lover's quarrel. All the heat is gone from the room, and she swears her core temperature just plummeted twenty degrees. No, no, no…this whole situation is becoming far too familiar. He is The Jew Hunter…The Jew Hunter…not Colonel, not Landa and definitely not Hans. Yet the insidious name had rolled off her tongue like velvet. And it had felt good; it had felt honest. When did things change so much that condemning him felt like a lie? He killed her family!!! Why doesn't that sting as much anymore?
His eyes are molten and he regards her as though she is some magnificent creation. A damn had broken and spilled forth uncharted waters. For the moment, she is drowning in his glowing satisfaction. Everything about him exudes victory: his arrogant posture, his tongue resting against his top teeth. He is speechless, but he is boasting all the same.
"I—I mean—what I meant was…you drag me here but then you just leave me for days, without any explanation. If you aren't going to kill me, then you might as well do something with me!"
"What do you have in mind exactly?" The sultry edge to his voice sends a jolt of electricity from the bottom of her spine, all the way up and shocks the corners of her jaw. Teeth clamp shut audibly, and he smirks at the sound. In an instant she is as burning as she had been freezing. This insufferable man is wreaking havoc on her body's homeostasis!
"Well, you—ask your questions, already, and turn me loose! How are you supposed to get what you want out of me, if you're off doing God knows what?"
"Indeed. How am I supposed to get what I want?"
Everything keeps coming out wrong! She can hardly reorient herself, if he continues to twist everything she says…so she lapses into silence.
Landa recognizes her defeat and continues where he left off, "At any rate I didn't 'leave you for days.' I checked on you every night; every one—all thirteen of them. You are quite the animated dreamer, actually. I don't think I've ever heard a lady use such colorful words. And I must admit, I was surprised to hear my name figure so prominently in your nighttime fantasies."
"You were spying on me!"
"A kidnapper's perk, I suppose. Which is it, though, did you want me here or not?"
"I—I don't even talk in my sleep," comes her confused and frustrated denial.
"I assure you Mademoiselle—you do." Landa's superior smile is torture, in more ways than one. She scrambles to change the subject.
"What do you mean thirteen, anyway? It cannot have been two weeks since we last spoke," she croaks.
"Have you even looked in the mirror? Have you tried flexing your wrist? It has most definitely been two weeks, ma chère. Private Zoller's premier is tomorrow evening, in fact."
Sure enough, a sidelong glance into the ruined mirror reveals a face free of bruises or swelling; a perfect face, framed in wild tresses. Had it really been two weeks? She moves to unwind the bandage from her wrist, but Landa is already there: carefully divesting her forearm of the gauze. She can feel it before he's done: the stiffness and distant ache. The bone is whole, fragile, but whole. Two fingers glide up her tender forearm, tracing the blue veins there. He puts pressure on a vein, pushes the blood from it and then releases the pressure, watching intently as the blue color courses back into place. He chuckles as if at some private joke and locks eyes with her.
"You make the mistake of thinking that all of my questions are the kind that need to be asked. Observation is a very powerful tool of detection. In a very short time, you've changed; right before my eyes, and watching you fight that change has been immensely amusing. But since you're so keen on answering my questions…Where did hide after I let you go. How did you end up at the cinema?"
The switch in topic jars her and chokes a laugh from her throat.
"That's what you want to know? You want to know how I spent my life on the run???"
"Yes," he puts pressure on her wrist again, a little too much pressure, smothering her circulation. "Yes, that is precisely what I care to know."
"Ah, ouch…I'll tell you, I will. It's just that, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. It's not even a thrilling story."
"I'm breathless, all the same…" he hisses, placing his hands on the counter, millimeters away from either of her hips; effectively locking her up in a Landa-cage. Faces mere inches apart, she swallows nervously, while he drums his fingers impatiently on the marble.
"I didn't stop running until I reached the small wood on the outskirts of LaPadite's farm. I was afraid to leave the cover of the trees, I thought you would surely be there waiting for me…but after a few days, I couldn't find any more berries to eat and I decided that that I would rather die by fire than by starvation. So, I stepped out in the sun and when I realized I was alone, made my way to a barn a few miles east of the LaPadite's. I stowed away with the horses, but must've passed out from hunger because I came to in a bed, in the country cottage of the Mimieux's. Jean-Pierre and Ada were an older couple, but they had no children. Perhaps that is why they took pity on me. They never asked me any questions, except for the invitation to come back to Paris with them—to help run their cinema. Jean-Pierre and Ada gave me a new life, and after a year or so, I began to feel human again. And that's all of it," Shoshanna concludes with a sigh.
"What about the projectionist? You didn't say anything about him."
"Perhaps, because that is none of your business…you asked me how I came to be at the cinema; and I told you."
"Awfully guarded about the Negro, aren't you?" he needles.
"I guess I have a difficult time discussing Marcel with you, considering you threw him in Fredrick's war path," at last, a familiar anger bubbles within her.
"Yes…Fredrick. I wonder how you must've behaved to make him believe you wanted him…a few teasing caresses…" Slowly his hand slides up over her hip, and down her thigh and slips dangerously inward…curving before the place where her legs are clenched together. His mouth is poised over hers, sinfully close, but still un-touching. He whispers to her lips, "…Like this perhaps…"
Breathing ragged, and her eyes clamped shut…she can no longer feel the anger. She can only feel Hans Landa as his other hand flutters over her navel, up her ribcage…up…
"How did you do it, Shoshanna?" he hums and smiles at her gasp when his hand finally cups her breast urgently. "How did you throw yourself at a Nazi?"
Landa's hands are instantly gone from her body, and massaging his cheek instead.
"There she is," he chuckles, spitting blood on the tile. Her hand is throbbing, but he acts as though he barely felt a tap.
"How dare y " she begins to screech.
"Oh, but I do…and I have not one reservation about playing your way."
His hands are a blur and she is mystified when her bottom is lifted an inch or so from the counter and suspended in mid air. Her eyes follow the stabbing pain in her arms, up above her head to the discomfort in her wrists. In seconds, The Jew Hunter has literally strung her up to the sturdy light fixture using a familiar multi-purpose belt.
"Let me down!!!" She screams.
"You hit me," he points out.
"You called me a whore!!!"
"I never said those words, and I never will," he answers innocently.
"Semantics!" she hisses.
"But an important distinction! Besides, you did not slap me out of anger—if you can call that a slap! You slapped me because you didn't want me to stop, did you? Are you frightened, Shoshanna?"
"Like hell I am!!! I don't even know what to feel anymore! I can't get your miserable face out of my head! All I want to do is hate you! But you won't let me! I know how I'm supposed to think, but I just can't anymore! You ask me to betray everything I've ever held dear! You sit there with your Goddamned irresistible face, and smile in a way that makes my head swim, and strut around half naked, spouting profound truths about me…forcing me into some kind of self-realization! But it's too much! I can't just forget who I am! I can't! I'll die first! Stop it! Just stop! Stop making me want you!"
"Are you through?" he drawls.
"Are you going to kick me if I approach you?"
Armed with his crooked smile and dimples, he crosses over to the panting woman. Brushing tangles back from her glistening face, he runs his thumb across her mouth, dips the finger between her lips—narrowly avoiding her teeth—and paints her pout glossy before licking his finger clean. The low noise that rumbles from his throat sends her into a minor convulsion, and he chuckles throatily at the sight of her.
"Listen well, ma chère, for I may only say this once: I can appreciate how confusing this has all been for you. You are not the only one who has struggled against their better judgment. True, that you are a Jew and I am a Nazi. However, those titles may be little more than that—your so-called ascribed status? You cling to the idea only because you don't know how to be without it. As for my loyalties, they lie solely in what serves me best: puzzles and detection. Do I care for the Jews? Not in the slightest. Can you honestly say you care either? The supposed atrocities that I lay claim to are, indeed, part of my whole, and I do not regret a single thing. Either you will accept all of me or you'll have none of me. I can say only this: you have transfixed me in a way unprecedented and unimaginable; clouded my mind and taken root in my very body. That said; do not make the foolish error in underestimating my ability to snap your lovely neck at any time. I do have my limits. I don't expect any answers from you now; in fact, I don't want to hear a word out of your mouth. The decision is yours…but I'm still going to kiss you."
His mouth descends on hers: crushing and urgent, yet warm. Alarms sounding in her head and resistance pounding in her throat, she tries to throw him off of her by arching her back and thrashing against the restraint. The attempt serves only to push their chests together, spurring him on. His soft lips are ceaseless and coaxing. She tries to kick him, but he slides deftly between her legs and throws the flailing limbs around his hips. She turns her head, accomplishing nothing other than to allow him access to her throat. As his tongue glides slowly over the ridges of her trachea, she growls in frustration, squirming futilely.
"I expected more from you…you can do much better than that," his patronizing whisper tickles her earlobe and arouses a ferocity she didn't know existed. Somehow she is kissing him back: kissing him, yet trying to hurt him. Their mouths move violently against one another, she can almost feel the bruises tomorrow will bring. The pain in her arms is suddenly welcome, and she clenches her legs pressing Landa's hips further into her pelvis. His enthusiasm is obvious, and a feral cry rips from her throat when he grinds into her. Buttons pop, and his teeth nip playfully at her décolletage. His mouth feels so amazing that she doesn't care who she is, or what is right or wrong. All she can think, is how sinful his mouth and hands are, and that if she can't have every bit of him, she'll surely burst into flame.
"Hans…get me to the bed, now! She croaks between strangled breaths.
Needing no further encouragement, he yanks the belt free and supports her entirely on his own. The angry red ligature marks on her wrist send her into a lustful frenzy. Locking all four limbs around him, she digs her fingernails deep into his shoulder blades, doing her worst to draw blood. Landa crosses over to the bed in four impatient strides and flings her on the mattress. All too quickly, yet not fast enough, he tugs the dress over her head and claws the undergarments from her body. The both of them are shaking forcefully, but the movement of her hand along his taut abdomen to his trousers, is fluid—as is the removal of said garment.
When at last there is nothing between the two, but furious wanting, he sidles between her welcoming legs. He waits for insistent permission to shroud her eyes and captures her mouth with his once more before crossing the final threshold.
There is no greater feeling than the sensation of Hans Landa inside of her. All of the waiting and tension makes the movements of their hips even more profound. There is no other pleasure, nothing more consuming…or so she thought…until his body entices an ecstasy from her very core that shatters any control she has left: leaving her lips and teeth anchored to his neck and her body quivering around him. Blessed waves of bliss crash over her long after his hips stop moving and she wonders if the pleasure will ever wane.
She is still basking in her contentment when he cloaks her exhausted form in a sheet and wraps his arms around her. Her mind begs sluggish questions while she caresses his forearm: all along the lines of, "What now?" She doesn't have any answers. Yet that does little to annoy her, here and now, enveloped in the arms of a hunter.