If you’re new to the story, please read the prologue here.
This work is my first draft and thus unedited, so may be subject to changes.
What felt like an hour later – which was only ten minutes – Xander’s friend had come back. Which I was just thankful for something to interrupt the awkward silence that had engulfed us. I was nervously waiting in the silence, and standing in a dark street with a guy I barely knew. And Xander had the guy’s knife in his hand.
At some point after I had managed to sit down on the hard cold floor, Xander had gone over to the knife Devon had placed carefully in the middle of the street. He had walked back over to me, standing next to me, hovering strangely and not even leaning against the wall, while turning the knife over in his hands like it was natural to him.
After the adrenaline in my body had dissolved and my heart rate was back to a relatively normal rhythm, I felt stunned. I had just been involved in an attempted mugging. I realised afterwards the seriousness of what happened. Someone could have died. The guy had a knife. And I even intervened. The guy had swung round to face me, his eyes wide and half-crazed, and he could have easily stabbed me if Xander wasn’t quick enough to disarm him.
Devon walked up to Xander wordlessly with his hands out in front of him, holding something in his palms.
“What are you-?” Xander said, breaking the silence and I looked up to see Devon for the first time.
“I got ice,” Devon said when he stopped next to Xander and myself. He looked down at the contents of his hands. His face was still pale and he looked dazed like he wasn’t even consciously with us anymore. It was like he was a walking zombie. He didn’t even notice the absurdity of what he was doing and how he looked.
“You got ice?” Xander quizzed. “And brought it in the palms of your hands?”
Devon looked up at Xander with a worried expression and looked like he was about to cry or scream or something.
I suddenly burst out laughing. It was such an absurd situation. Devon was just standing there with a pile of ice in his outstretched hands and offering it to Xander like he was offering baby Jesus something holy. Forget gold, frankincense and myrrh, ice from Devon was much more precious.
What made me laugh though was the idea of Devon going into the bar and asking for ice. I had an image of the bar tender’s face as he just placed ice into Devon’s outstretched hands, while curiously watching his pale zombie expression and wondering if he was on drugs or something.
“Do you want me to…?” Devon started and went to walk away.
“No, Devon, just stay there!” Xander sighed and put the knife on the floor. I was wiping an escaped tear from my eye. Although I was unsure if it was a tear of humour, a tear from pain, or a tear from shock. I did feel a build-up of pressure in my chest that felt like it was about to burst at any minute, but I couldn’t cry around Xander, I didn’t feel comfortable.
“Give the ice to Jo,” Xander ordered as he started to take off his blazer.
Devon walked up to me and handed me the ice, I held out my hands curiously while watching Xander. He had passed Devon his grey blazer the moment the ice left his possession and was starting to undo the black shirt underneath.
“What are you doing?” I asked curiously.
But Xander didn’t answer, the shirt was unbuttoned and there was a black vest underneath. I could see some more skin that was originally hidden from the shirt and blazer. His collar bones were sharp and defined, and I could see a few dark hairs just below his neck and disappearing underneath the collar of his black vest. The black vest was tight on his torso and I could see an outline of curves on his body. Needless to say I was obviously attracted to the guy in front of me, but now even more due to his body. I felt warm suddenly. I had cooled down earlier after the adrenaline had worn off, even getting a little cold as the temperature was dropping outside. But just one glance at Xander in just a vest and trousers and I was instantly warm again.
When Xander tugged off the shirt, one arm at a time, he passed that too to Devon. Devon just stood there staring in a blank surprise with Xander’s blazer, and now his black shirt, over his arm. I couldn’t help by stare at Xander either, I was unable to take my eyes off him as I took in his large bare arms. He was a large guy underneath the suit. I knew that already though. But I was expecting to see a guy who was ripped, muscular with veins popping out from his arms. I’ve seen my fair share of men like that. The guys that went to the gym every day and posed in front of mirrors and took photos of their muscles. Xander, however, was just a naturally large guy. Large arms that you would struggle to get both your hands around, large shoulders to match. He was a bit muscular, I could see that when he stretched and flexed and I could see it on his chest too, but he didn’t have those hideous veins popping out of his skin and large uncomfortable lines. It was as if he was born that way. I had a random urge to wrap my arms around him, to see what it was like to hug him and feel his skin on mine.
A second later I almost gasped as he pulled off the vest too. I was aware of how quiet the street was around us, and I was aware that I was staring at him. I just wasn’t sure where else to put my eyes anymore. I could feeling myself getting warmer as I took in his large frame. He certainly wasn’t ripped like those narcissistic guys in the gym. He did have a definition on his chest, but he didn’t have a large six pack, it was just smooth and flat. A trail of hair which connected up to the hair on his chest and disappeared past the belt on his trousers. I tried to focus on what he was doing, but it was no use. I had caught sight of an ugly red and round scar on Xander’s chest. It was clearly visible behind the light sprinkling of hairs on his chest, clashing dangerously with his slightly tanned skin. There was also a very large one running down his right forearm, it ran nearly the whole length of his arm, I was even sure I saw another one running parallel on the other side. But before I was able to ask about either, I heard a ripping sound. Xander had ripped the vest.
“What are you doing?” I asked curiously, taking my eyes off his chest, stomach and scars and looked at the ripped fabric in his hands.
Xander then walked over to me – I tried not to look too affected by his close proximity – with a piece of ripped fabric and held it out in his hand. “Put the ice in this.”
I silently obeyed, putting the ice in the bit of fabric and he wrapped it up before handing it to me.
He didn’t offer to put the ice on my foot himself, he let me do that. Instead, after I placed the makeshift icepack on my foot and feeling a cold shiver run up my leg, sending goose bumps up it too, he wandered over to where the knife was on the floor and picked it up.
I watched curiously and silently as he started to wipe the knife with what was left of the vest. The next minute he had walked over to a bin and thrown the offensive thing into it. I heard a large ‘clang’ as it clearly hit the metal from within and he calmly walked back over to me and Devon, the rest of his shirt being shoved into his trousers’ pocket.
“Why did you just do that?” I asked, trying desperately to look him in the eye and not stare at his body.
“To get rid of my prints,” he said calmly, “I don’t want anything linked to me.”
I gulped. What he said really hit me. It sounded like he was the one who was the perpetrator, not a victim.
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Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue