Chapter 8
Meeting Mrs. Kjellberg

Felix quickly pulls himself out of me, making me wince. In a panic, he sits up on the bed and throws the used condom in the wastebasket.

"Come on Elizabeth, we need to get dressed; that's if you want to meet my mother."

He leaps off the bed and pulls on his jeans; no underwear! I struggle to sit up but my hands are still tied up.

"Felix, I can't move," I hiss.

Grinning, he leans down and undoes the tie. The woven pattern of the tie has made an indentation around both of my wrists. Wow...sexy. He gazes at me. He's amused, his blue eyes dancing with cheerfulness. He quickly kisses me on my forehead and beams at me.

"Another first," he acknowledges, but I have no idea what he's talking about.

"I don't have any clean clothes in here," I say as I'm filled with sudden panic, and considering what I've just experienced, I'm finding the panic very overwhelming. Felix's mother! Holy shit! I have no clean clothes, and she just about walked in on us. "Maybe I should just stay in here," I suggest.

"Oh no, you don't," Felix threatens. "You can wear something of mine."

He quickly throws on a white t-shirt and runs his hands through his just-fucked hair. In spite of my panicky anxiety, I lose my train of thought. His beauty is absolutely derailing.

"Elizabeth, you could be wearing a garbage bag and you would still look lovely. Please don't worry. I'd really like you to meet my mother. Get dressed and I'll go downstairs to calm her down." His eyes take on a serious look. "I expect you to be out of this room and downstairs in five minutes, otherwise I'll come back up here and drag you out myself in whatever you're wearing. My t-shirts are in this drawer and my shirts are in the closet. Help yourself." He eyes me speculatively for a moment, then quickly leaves the room.

Holy shit. Felix's mother. This is so much more than I bargained for. Perhaps meeting her will help put a little piece of the puzzle together. It might help me understand why Felix is the way he is. Suddenly, I want to meet her. Shit! What do I wear? I pick up my blouse off the floor, and I'm relieved that it survived the night with no wrinkles. I find my bra underneath the bed and dress quickly. I rifle through Felix's chest of drawers and come across a pair of his boxer briefs. After pulling on a pair of the tight black Calvin Klein's, I put my jeans on and my tennis shoes.

Dashing into the bathroom, I stare at my big too-bright eyes, my flushed face, and my hair. Shit, my hair! Holy crap. Just-fucked pigtails do not suit me either. I hunt in the drawers for a brush and find a comb. It will have to do. I take the pigtails out and quickly brush out my hair while I despair at my clothes. Maybe I should take Felix up on his offer to buy me clothes. My subconscious purses her lips at me and mouths the word "ho." I ignore her and find one of Felix's jackets in the closet. I shrug it on quickly, pleased that the cuffs cover the woven patterns on my wrists from his tie. I take one last anxious glance at myself in the mirror. This will have to do for now. I leave the bedroom and make my way downstairs to the living room.

"Here she is." Felix stands from where he's lounging on the couch.

His expression is warm. The middle aged sandy-haired Swedish woman beside him turns and beams at me with a full megawatt smile. She stands, too. She's impeccably dressed in a gray pencil skirt, a black shirt, and a gray business jacket with matching heels. She looks groomed, elegant, beautiful, and I mentally kick myself, knowing that I look like complete shit.

"Mother, this is Elizabeth Callahan. Elizabeth, this is my mother, Sabine Kjellberg."

Mrs. Kjellberg holds out her hand to me. "It's a pleasure to meet you," she says in a thick Swedish accent, and if I'm not mistaken, there is wonder and maybe stunned relief in her voice and a warm glow in her green eyes.

I grasp her hand in mine, and shake it, returning the warm smile. "Mrs. Kjellberg," I murmur.

"Please call me, Sabine," she grins. "So how did you two meet?" She looks questioningly at Felix, unable to hide her curiosity.

"Elizabeth interviewed me for the student paper for USF because I'm conferring the degrees there this week."

Shit. I'd completely forgotten about graduation.

"So are you graduating this week?" Sabine asks.

I smile. "Yes."

My cell phone begins to ring, interrupting our conversation. It must be Lily.

"Excuse me for just a moment," I say.

I turn and leave the room and walk into the kitchen. Not checking the number, I lean against the breakfast bar.

"Lily?"

"Mamma mia! Elizabeth!"

Holy crap, it's Vinnie! He sounds desperate.

"Where have you been?" he asks. "I've been trying to contact you. I need to see you, to apologize for my behavior on Friday. Why haven't you been returning my calls?"

"Look Vinnie, now's not a good time." I glance across the lobby and into the living room where Felix is watching me impassively as he murmurs something to his mother. I walk over to the dining area and out of sight.

"Where are you?" Vinnie whines. "Lily has been so evasive."

"I'm in Sacramento," I reply.

"What are you doing in Sacramento? Are you with that Swedish guy from YouTube?"

"Yes. Look Vinnie, I can't talk right now. I'll call you later, okay?" I hang up.

I walk back into the living room and Sabine is in a full flow conversation with Felix.

"...and Kamilla is back from Paris, too," she says. "Your father and her are at a hotel in town, and your brother's should be here by tonight. I was thinking that we could all go out to dinner tonight, but I can see that you have other plans, and I don't want to interrupt your day."

"No, I can make it for dinner tonight," Felix says. "I just have to drive Elizabeth back to San Francisco."

Sabine smiles. "Alright darling, I'll see you tonight," she says. "Elizabeth, it's been such a pleasure meeting you. I do hope we meet again." She holds out her hand to me, her eyes glowing, and we shake.

Gathering up her long black coat, she turns to Felix, offering him her cheek. He kisses her briefly and I notice that she doesn't touch him. Clark appears from somewhere.

"Mrs. Kjellberg?" he asks.

Sabine smiles. "Thank you, Clark," she says.

He escorts her from the room and into the lobby, disappearing down the hall to the front door. Clark was here the whole time? How long has he been here? Where has he been?

Felix stares at me.

"So was that the photographer calling?" he asks.

Crap.

"Yes," I reply.

"What did he want?"

"Just to apologize for what happened on Friday."

Felix narrows his eyes. "I see," he says simply.

Clark reappears. "Mr. Kjellberg, the car is ready for you."

"Thank you Clark," Felix says.

Clark nods at me. "Miss. Callahan."

I smile sweetly back at him, and he turns and leaves.

"Does he live here?" I ask, looking over at Felix.

"Yes." His tone is clipped. What on Earth is his problem?

Heading over to his desk, Felix looks through a folder and retrieves a manila envelope. He walks back towards me, moving with easy grace. Damn, he is beautiful.

"This is the contract," he says, handing me the envelope. "Read it, and we'll discuss it next weekend. May I suggest you do some research, so you know what's involved." He pauses for a second. "That's if you agree, and I really hope you do," he adds, his tone much softer. "You have a computer, right?"

I nod. "Yes."

He grins. "Good. Gather your things and we'll drive back to San Francisco, and grab some lunch on the way. I need to get dressed."

"I'm just going to make a quick call," I murmur. I need to hear Lily's voice.

Felix frowns. "The photographer?" His jaw clenches and his eyes burn. "I don't like sharing, Miss. Callahan. Remember that."

His quiet, chilling Swedish tone is a warning, and with one long, cold look at me, he turns and leaves the living room, heading back upstairs.

What the hell is up with him? I just want to call Lily. I want to call after Felix, but his sudden change of mood has left me paralyzed. What happened to the generous, relaxed, and care free smiling Swedish man who was making love to me not half an hour ago?


"Ready to go?" Felix asks as head into the lobby toward the front door.

I nod, uncertain. He's resumed his distant and polite persona. I notice that he is carrying a leather duffel bag. Why does he need that? Perhaps he's staying in San Francisco, and then I remember graduation. Oh that's right, he'll be there on Thursday. He's wearing a blue dress shirt with a black blazer and black dress pants. He certainly doesn't look like a YouTuber in these clothes. He looks more like an important business man from a big major company. I sigh inwardly, wishing I had a tenth of his poise. He's so calm and controlled. I frown, recalling his outburst about Vinnie.

Clark is hovering about outside when we walk out. I look up and notice that he is standing by a gray Audi R8. Whoa. That is an awesome car.

"Have a safe trip, Mr. Kjellberg. Miss. Callahan." Clark looks kindly at me, though perhaps there's a hint of pity in his eyes.

He must know that I've succumbed to Mr. Kjellberg's dubious sexual habits. I frown at the thought. I have no comparison, and I can't even ask Lily. This is something that I'm going to have to address with Felix.

"Nice car," I murmur as Felix climbs into the driver seat.

He glances over at me and grins. "I know," he says,

For a split second, sweet, young, carefree Felix is back. Oh my. It warms my heart to see him smile. He looks excited as he starts the engine and heads down the gravel path. Turning on the car stereo, A Flock of Seagulls surrounds us as 'Space Age Love Song' starts to play. Ooh, I love this band. I feel like I've traveled back to the 1980s.

"Gotta love these guys." He grins at me as the car heads down the road.

Along the sidewalks, people stare at us as we drive through the streets. For a moment, I think it's because they see that I'm with the famous YouTuber. But then a very paranoid part of me thinks that everyone is looking at me, knowing what I've been doing during the last twelve hours, but finally I realize it's the car. Felix seems oblivious and lost in his own little world.

The traffic is light and soon we're heading towards San Francisco. I smile, listening to the lyrics. Felix glances over at me. He's got his sunglasses on so I can't see his expression. His mouth twitches slightly, and he reaches over and places his hand on my knee, squeezing gently. My breathing hitches and my heart goes wild.

"Hungry?" he asks.

I'm hungry for you.

"Yeah I am a little," I say.

He smiles. "I know a great place," he says. "We'll stop there."

He squeezes my knee again, and then returns his hand to the steering wheel as he puts his foot down on the gas pedal. The engine roars and I'm pressed into the back of my seat. Wow, this car can really move.

We stop at a small intimate restaurant just a mile outside San Francisco. The decor is very modern: comfortable chairs and tables with tablecloths. On every table, there are vases of wild flowers.

"I haven't been here in a while. We don't get a choice in what we get to order; they cook whatever they've caught or gathered.

Felix raises his eyebrows in mock horror, and I laugh at his expression.

"I'm kidding," I say.

He grins and rolls his eyes. The waitress takes our drinks order. She flushes a beet red and her mouth drops open when she see's Felix. She avoids eye contact and hides her blushing cheeks under her long blonde bangs.

"Two glasses of the Pinot Grigio," Felix says with a voice of authority.

The waiter scribbles down the order on her pad of paper and scurries off. I look up at Felix and notice that he is watching me impassively.

"My mother liked you," he murmurs.

"Really?" His words make me blush with pleasure.

He grins. "Oh yes. She always thought I was gay."

My mouth drops open and I remember that question from the interview. I cringe inwardly at the memory as my inner goddess flushes with embarrassment and hides behind the couch.

"Why did she think that you were gay?" I whisper.

"Because she's never seen me with a girl."

"Oh. Not even none of the seventeen subs?"

He smiles. "You remembered. No, none of the seventeen."

"Oh."

"You know, Elizabeth, it's been a weekend of firsts for me, too," he says quietly.

I raise my eyebrows. "It has?"

Felix nods. "I've never slept with anyone, never had sex in my bed, never introduced a woman to my mother, never played video games with my subs. What are you doing to me?" His blue eyes burn and the intensity takes my breath away.

The waitress arrives with our glasses of wine, and I immediately take a quick sip. Is he opening up to me or just making a causal observation?

"I really enjoyed this weekend," I murmur.

He narrows his eyes. "Stop biting that lip, Elizabeth," he growls. His eyes soften. "Yes, I enjoyed this weekend too," he adds.

"And what is vanilla sex?" I ask, as I try to distract myself from the intense, burning, sexy look that he's giving me.

He laughs. "It's just straight-forward sex, Elizabeth. No toys and no add-ons." He shrugs. "You know...well, actually you don't, but that's what it means."

"Oh." I thought it was chocolate fudge brownie sex that we had, with a cherry on top. But hey, what do I know?

The waitress brings us soup and we both stare at it.

"This is nettle soup," the waitress informs us before turning and flouncing back towards the kitchen.

I take a small taste of the soup. It's delicious. Felix and I look up at each other at the same with relief. I giggle, and he cocks his head to one side.

"That is such a lovely sound," he murmurs. "It was especially lovely when you giggled during sex today."

I blush a rosy red at the memory of him kissing me all over my body.

"Uh, why have you never had vanilla sex before?" I ask, intrigued. "Have you always done...er, what you've been doing?"

He nods slowly. "Sort of." His voice is wary. He frowns for a moment as if thinking of what to say. Then he glances up at me, his expression impassive. "One of my mother's friends seduced me when I was fourteen."

My eyes widen. "Oh." Holy shit, that is young!

"She had very unique tastes," he says softly. "I was her submissive for five years." He shrugs.

"Oh." My brain has frozen, stunned into inactivity by this admission.

"So I do know what it involves, Elizabeth." His eyes glow with insight.

I stare at the Swedish man before me, unable to articulate anything. Even my subconscious has fallen silent and all that can be heard is a cricket.

"I didn't really have a normal introduction to sex," he continues.

My curiosity has kicked in big time.

"So you never really dated anyone?" I ask.

"No." He shakes his head to emphasize the point.

The waitress returns to take our bowls, interrupting us for a moment.

"How come?" I ask when she's gone.

He smiles sardonically. "Do you really want to know why?"

"Yes."

"I wasn't really interested in dating. She was all I wanted, needed. And besides, she would have beaten the shit out of me if I left her." He smiles fondly at the memory.

Oh, this is way too much information, but I want to know more.

"So if she was a friend of your mother's, how old was she?"

Felix smirks. "Old enough to know better. She was also married at the time, too."

Holy crap!

"Do you still see her?"

He nods. "Yes."

"What's her name?"

"Rika Andreassen," he answers.

"Do you two still have sex?" I flush at my own question.

"No." He shakes his head and smiles indulgently at me. "She's a very good friend."

"Oh. Does your mother know?"

He gives me a don't-be-stupid stare. Oh, of course she doesn't know.

The waitress returns with venison, but my appetite has vanished. What a revelation. Felix the submissive. Holy shit. I take another large sip of the Pinot Grigio. Jeez, all these revelations, it's so much to think about. I need time to process this, when I'm on my own, and not when I'm distracted by his presence.

"Was it full time?" I'm confused.

"Sometimes it was full time since I didn't see her all the time. It was...difficult. After all, I was in school and then I started my YouTube career. Eat up, Elizabeth."

"I'm not really hungry, Felix." I am reeling from all your disclosure.

His expression turns serious. "Eat," he says quietly, too quietly that his tone sounds threatening.

I stare at him. "Give me a moment," I mutter quietly.

He blinks a couple of times as if in confusion. "Okay," he murmurs, and continues with his meal.

This is what it will be like if I sign, him ordering me around and if I so much as disobey his commands, I'll be punished. I frown. Do I really want this? I expected to have a normal relationship with him but I guess that won't be happening. Reaching for my knife and fork, I cut into the venison. It's very tasty.

"So is this what our, uh, relationship will be like?" I whisper. "You ordering me around?" I can't quite bring myself to look him in the eyes.

"Yes," he murmurs.

"I see."

"And what's more is that you'll want me to," he adds, his voice low.

I really doubt that. I slice another piece of venison, holding it against my mouth.

"This is a really big step," I murmur, and eat.

"It is." He closes his eyes briefly. When he opens them, they are wide and grave. "Elizabeth, I know how nervous you must be feeling about all this, but you have to go with your gut. Do the research and read the contract so you have a bigger understanding in all the stuff that we'll be doing together. I'm happy to discuss any aspect. I'll be in San Francisco until Friday if you want to talk about it before hand." His words are coming at me in a rush. "Call me, and maybe we can have dinner, say Wednesday? I really want this to work. In fact, I've never wanted anything as much as I want this to work."

His burning sincerity, his longing is reflected in his eyes. But this is what I don't understand. Why me? Why not one of the seventeen? Oh no... Will that be me; a number? Am I number eighteen?

"What happened to the seventeen?" I blurt out.

He raises his eyebrows in surprise, then looks resigned and shakes his head.

"Various things, but it boils down to..." He pauses, struggling to find an answer. "Incompatibility." He shrugs.

"And you think that I might be compatible with you?" I ask.

Felix nods. "Yes."

"So you're not seeing any of them anymore?"

"No, Elizabeth, I'm not. I am monogamous in all my relationships."

Oh. This is news.

"I see."

"Do the research, Elizabeth," he says. "And you can talk to Lily for further details on sex, but just don't mention what you and I are doing together. I wouldn't want her to spread the news all over YouTube."

Lily isn't like that. She's not a gossiper. I put my knife and fork down. I cannot eat any more.

"That's it?" he asks. "That's all you're going to eat?"

I nod and stare at him impassively. Felix narrows his eyes at me but chooses not to say anything. I breathe a small sigh of relief. My stomach is churning with all this new information, and I'm feeling a little lightheaded from the wine. I watch as Felix devours everything on his plate. He eats like a horse. He must work out to stay in such great shape. The memory of his beautiful naked body comes unbidden to my mind. The image is totally distracting, and I squirm uncomfortably. He glances up at me and I blush under his gaze.

"I'd give anything to know what you're thinking about right now," he murmurs, his accent low and husky.

I blush at his tone and he gives me a wicked sexy smile. Oh my.

"I bet I can guess," he teases softly.

"I'm glad you can't read my mind." I grin.

"Your mind, no, but your body; that I've gotten to know quite well since yesterday." His voice is suggestive.

How does he switch so quickly from one mood to the next? He's so mercurial that it's hard to keep up.

Felix motions for the waitress and asks for the check. Once he's paid, he stands up from the table and holds out his hand.

"Come." Taking his hand in mine, he leads me back to the car. This contact, flesh to flesh, it's what is so unexpected from him, being normal and intimate. I can't reconcile this ordinary, tender gesture with what he wants to do with me in that room...the Red Room of Pain.

The drive back to San Francisco is quiet, both of us lost in our own thoughts. When he parks outside my house, it's almost five in the evening. I can see that the lights are on so Lily must be home. Felix switches off the engine, and I realize that I'm going to have to leave him.

"Would you like to come in?" I ask. I don't want him to go. I want to prolong our time together.

"No. I have that dinner with my family tonight," he says simply as he gazes at me, his expression mesmerizing.

I stare down at my hands and knot my fingers together. Suddenly I feel emotional. He's leaving. Looking up at him, I reach over and caress his cheek. He leans his face into my touch and closes his eyes. When he opens them, his eyes are soft. He takes my hand and slowly pulls it to his mouth, tenderly kissing the back of my hand in such an old-fashioned, sweet gesture. My heart leaps into my mouth.

"Thank you for this wonderful weekend, Elizabeth. It's been the best. Wednesday? I'll pick you up from work," he says softly.

"Wednesday," I whisper.

He kisses my hand once more and places it back in my lap. He climbs out of the car, comes around to my side, and opens the passenger-side door for me. Why do I suddenly feel so sad? A lump forms in my throat. I don't want him to see me like this. Fixing a smile on my face, I clamber out of the car and head up the path towards the deck, knowing that I'll have to face Lily with all her questions. I turn and gaze at him midway. Keep your chin up, Callahan, I chide myself.

"Oh, and by the way... I'm wearing your underwear."

I give him a small grin and pull up the waistband of the boxer briefs I'm wearing so he can see. Felix's mouth drops open, shocked. What a great reaction. My mood shifts immediately, and I sashay into the house, feeling proud as part of me wants to jump up and punch the air. YES! My inner goddess is thrilled.

Lily is in the living room on her computer.

"You're back. Where's Felix? How are you?" Her voice is fevered and anxious as she bounds up to me and grabs my shoulders to analyze my face before I've had a chance to say hello.

Crap. I have to deal with Lily's persistence and tenacity, and I'm in possession of a signed legal document saying that I can't talk. It's not a healthy mix.

"Well, how was it? I couldn't stop thinking about you, after Ian left, that is." She grins very mischievously.

I can't help by smile at her concern and her burning curiosity, but suddenly I feel shy about telling her the details. I blush. It was very private. All of it. Seeing and knowing what Felix has to hide. But I have to give her some details, otherwise she won't leave me alone until I do.

"It was very good, Lily. Amazing, too," I say quietly, trying to hide my embarrassed tell-all smile.

"Really?"

"I don't have anything to compare it to, do I?" I shrug apologetically.

She grins. "Did he make you come?"

Holy crap. She's so blunt. I go scarlet.

"Yes," I mumble.

Lily pulls me over to the couch and we sit. She clasps my hands.

"That is good." Lily smiles. "It was your first time, too. Wow, how would have thought that your first time would be with the famous Pewdiepie of YouTube. Felix must really know what he's doing."

Oh, Lily, if only you knew.

"My first time was horrid," she continues, making a sad comedy face.

"Oh?"

"You remember Billy DeMarco from our sophomore year, right?" she asks.

"Yeah," I say.

"We did it junior year and he was rough. I wasn't ready. We were both drunk. You know; the typical teenage post-prom disaster." She shudders. "Ugh; it took me months before I decided to have another go at it. You were right to wait."

"Lily that sounds awful," I say. "And Billy was so nice, too."

Lily looks wistful.

"Yeah, took almost a year to have my first orgasm through penetrative sex. But here you are on your first time."

I smile shyly. My inner goddess sits in the lotus position looking serene except for the sly, self-congratulatory smile on her face.

"I'm glad you lost your virginity to someone who knows his ass from his elbow." She winks at me. "So when are you seeing him again?"

"Wednesday. We're going out to dinner."

"So do you still like him?" she asks.

"Yes," I say. "But I'm not sure about our future."

"Why's that?"

"He complicated, Lily. You know; he inhabits a very different world to mine." Great excuse. Believable, too. Much better than: He's got a Red Room of Pain, and he wants to make me his sex slave.

"Oh, please, don't let this be about his YouTube career, Elizabeth. Ian told me that's kinda unusual for Felix to date anyone."

"Really?" My voice goes up several octaves.

Too obvious, Callahan! My subconscious is glaring at me, wagging her long, skinny finger, then morphs into the scales of justice to remind what could happen if I disclose too much. Ha...what's he going to do; take all my money? I must remember to Google search "penalties for breaching a nondisclosure agreement" while I'm doing the rest of my research. It's like I've been given a school assignment. Perhaps I'll be graded on it. I blush, remembering my A plus for this morning's bath experiment.

"Elizabeth, what is it?" Lily asks, interrupting my reverie.

"I'm just remembering something that Felix said."

"You look different," Lily says fondly.

"I feel different. And sore," I confess.

"Sore?"

"Only a little bit," I flush.

"Me, too. Men," she says in mock disgust. "They're animals."

We both laugh

"You're sore?" I exclaim.

Lily grins. "Yes...overuse."

I giggle.

"Tell me about Ian the overuser," I ask when I've stopped giggling. Oh, I can feel myself relaxing for the first time since I was in line at the bar; before the phone call that started all this and when I was admiring Mr. Kjellberg from afar. Happy, uncomplicated days.

Lily blushes. Oh my. Lillian Ava De Luca goes all Elizabeth Francesca Callahan on me. She gives me a dewy-eyed look. I've never seen her react this way to a man before. Especially for someone from YouTube. My jaw drops to the floor. Where's Lily and what have you done with her?

"Oh, Elizabeth," she gushes. "He's just so...everything. And when we...oh...it was really good." She can hardly string a sentence together.

"I think you're trying to tell me that you really like him."

She nods, grinning like a total lunatic. "And I'm seeing him again on Saturday. I gotta tell you that I'm so glad that you went and did that interview for me when I was sick. If I would've canceled, neither of us would be where we are today."

I nod. "That's true," I say. "So what did you and Ian do last night?"

She cocks her head at me and raises her eyebrows in a what-do-you-think-stupid look.

"Pretty much what you and Felix did, but we had dinner first." She grins at me. "Are you okay really? You look kind of overwhelmed."

"I feel overwhelmed," I say. "Felix is very intense."

"But he was good to you, right?" she asks.

"Yes," I reassure her. "I'm really hungry, shall I cook?"

She nods and returns to her laptop.

"So what do you want me to do with those books that he sent you?" she asks.

"I'm going to return them to him."

Lily raises her eyebrows. "Really?"

"It's a completely over-the-top gift. I can't accept them, especially now." I grin at Lily and she nods.

"I understand. A couple of letters came for you, and Vinnie has been calling every hour on the hour. He sounded really desperate to talk to you."

"I'll call him," I mutter. If I tell Lily about what Vinnie did, she'll have him for breakfast.

I collect the letters from the dining table and open them.

"Hey, I have interviews!" I exclaim, my eyes widening in surprise. "The week after this one for a publishing company!"

"For which publishing house?"

"For both of them!" I reply gleefully.

Lily smiles brightly. "See, I told you your GPA would open doors, Elizabeth."

Lily, of course, already has an internship set up at The San Francisco Chronicle.

"How does Ian feel about you going away?" I ask.

Lily sighs and heads into the kitchen, and for the first time this evening, she's disconsolate.

"He's understanding. Part of me doesn't want to go, but it's tempting to lie in the sun for a couple of weeks. Besides, mom is hanging in there, thinking that this will be our very last family vacation before Antonio and I head off into the real world."

I have never US soil. Lily is off to Cancun with her parents, her brother Antonio and her sister Brooklyn, for three whole weeks. I'll be without Lily in the house. Both Antonio and Brooklyn have been traveling the world since they graduated from college. While on vacation in Germany a few years ago, Brooklyn had met someone and they had gotten married a year later. I wonder briefly if I'll get to see them before they all leave for vacation. Antonio is such a great guy. The phone rings, jolting me from my reverie.

"That must be Vinnie," Lily says.

I sigh, knowing that I have to talk to him. I grab the phone.

"Hi," I answer.

"Elizabeth, you're back!" Vinnie shouts his relief at me through the phone.

I roll my eyes at the phone. "Obviously." Sarcasm drips from my voice.

He's silent for a moment.

"Can I see you?" he asks. "I'm really sorry about what happened Friday night. I was drunk...and you...well. Elizabeth, please forgive me."

"Of course, I forgive you Vinnie. Just don't do it again. You know I don't feel that way about you."

He sighs heavily, sadly. "I know, Elizabeth. I just thought if I kissed you, it might change how you feel about me."

"Vinnie, I love you dearly, you mean so much to me. You're like a brother I never had. That's not going to change. You know that." I hate to let him down, but it's the truth.

"So you're with him now? The guy from YouTube?" His tone is full of disdain.

"Vinnie, I'm not with anyone."

"But you spent the night with him," he states.

"That's none of your business!" I scold him.

"Is it because he has money?"

"Vincenzo! How dare you!" I shout, stunned by his audacity.

"I'm sorry," he apologizes.

I really can't deal with his petty jealousy now. I know he's hurt, but my plate is overflowing in having to deal with Felix Kjellberg.

"Maybe we can have coffee or something tomorrow. I'll call you." I am conciliatory. Vinnie is my friend, and I'm very fond of him. But right now, I don't need this.

"Tomorrow, then. You'll call?" The hope in his voice twists my heart with sadness.

"Yes. Good night, Vinnie." I hang up, not waiting for his response.

"What was that all about?" Lily demands. She has her hands on her hips and decide that honesty is the best policy. She's looking more intractable than ever.

"Vinnie made a pass at me on Friday."

"Did he really?" she asks in disbelief. "What was he thinking?" She shakes her head and returns to her laptop.

A half an hour later, Lily and I sit down at the dinner to eat my specialty dish, spaghetti and meatballs. Lily opens a bottle of wine and we sit and watch TV. And for the first time this weekend, I eat my first unhurried, no-nagging, peaceful meal. What is it about Felix and food? Lily clears the dishes and when she's done washing them, the phone rings. It's Ian. Lily winks at me and skips off to her bedroom like an excited fourteen year old fangirl. I know she's supposed to be writing her valedictorian speech, but it seems Ian is more important.

I take another slug of the wine and flick through the TV channels, but deep down I know I'm procrastinating. Burning a bright red hole in the side of my purse is that contract that Felix gave to me to read through. I put my head in my hands. Vinnie and Felix. They both want something from me. Vinnie is easy to deal with. He has a great sense of humor, he's sweet and kind. But Felix...Felix takes a whole different league of handling and of understanding. Part of me wants to run and hide. What am I going to do? His beautiful blue eyes and that intense smoldering stare comes into my mind, and my body tightens at the thought. I gasp. He's not even here and I'm turned on. It can't be about sex, can it? I recall his gentle banter this morning and the way he laughed in such a care-free way when I played that video game with him.

He's such a complicated person. And now I have an insight as to why. A young man deprived of his adolescence, sexually abused by some evil Rika Andreassen figure. It's no wonder he's old before his time. My heart fills with sadness at the thought of what he must have been through. I'm to naive to know exactly what, but the research should shed some light. But do I really want to know? Do I really want to explore this world I know nothing about? It's such a big step.

If I hadn't met Felix, I'd still be sweetly and blissfully oblivious to everything around me. My mind drifts to last night and this morning, and the incredible, sensual sexuality I'd experienced. Do I want to say good-bye to that? Hell, no! my subconscious screams at me. My inner goddess nods silently in agreement with her.

Lily wanders back into the living room, grinning from ear to ear. Perhaps she's in love. I gape at her. I've never seen her behave like this.

"Elizabeth, I'm off to bed. I'm pretty tired."

"Yeah, me too," I say.

She hugs me.

"I'm glad you're back in one piece. There's something about Felix," she adds quietly.

I give her a small, reassuring smile, all the while thinking...How the hell does she know? This is what is going to make her a terrific journalist.

Gathering my purse, I head upstairs to my bedroom. I am weary from all the carnal exertions of the last few days and the utter dilemma that I'm faced with. Sitting down on my bed, I retrieve the manila envelope from my bag. Do I really want to the extent of Felix's depravity? It's so daunting. I take a deep breath, and with butterflies in my stomach, I open the envelope...


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