Sometime during the night, I'm awakened by a sharp knock. It's thick and rough, someone with an attitude. I'd bet anything it's Nikita.
"Go away!" I shout, rolling over in bed. I grab the pillow and bury my head, wanting to keep the muffled sounds at bay.
"Lucy, open up!"
What could he possibly want? Hasn't he tortured me enough?
I ignore him.
Although, that doesn't make his fist cease pounding against the front door. He's going to wake the neighbors. Good. Maybe someone will call the cops and file a noise complaint, and he'll leave.
Thunder cracks overhead, and the wind picks up speed. The windows rattle, but it isn't from Nikita.
My stomach clenches, and I climb out of bed, wanting to see what is happening.
There are several downed branches in the parking lot, including one which toppled Nikita's SUV, shattering the windshield. How the hell did I sleep through that?
I unlock the front door and step aside. "I don't have my phone," I say. If he's trying to contact a tow truck, I'm not going to be much use.
He slams the door shut behind himself and pushes me away from the windows. "Get in the bathroom."
"What are you doing?" I step backward with every step he takes toward me. When I'm close to the bathroom door, he yanks my arm and shoves me into the bathroom, joining me before shutting the door behind himself.
Is he out of his mind?
I shouldn't have let him into the motel room.
"Stay away from me!" I grab my electric toothbrush and hold it up as a knife.
He raises an eyebrow, amused. "The radio mentioned a tornado. Relax. I'm not interested in torturing you."
He seemed to have other ideas earlier when he imprisoned me. "Are you sure about that?" I quip.
Nikita's gaze travels down my body as he notices my pajamas. The flannel bottoms are plush and have tiny koalas printed all over them. "Didn't take you for the furry animal-loving type."
"What does that mean? You don't know anything about me."
"You're right. I don't." Nikita doesn't take the bait. He folds his arms across his chest, and his back rests against the door to the bathroom, blocking any chance of escape.
But he's not being lewd or forcing me to do some unmentionable sexual act with him.
"Were you planning on staking out my motel all night?" I ask. Doesn't he have someplace better to be?
"Just keeping an eye on you." Nikita pins me with his stare.
"Well, I don't need your help."
The lights go out. There's no flicker, no warning. Darkness consumes the tiny space. I fumble as I stalk forward, searching for the switch on the wall.
Did Nikita shut off the light, or did the storm?
There's no window in the bathroom, not even a speck of light. His hands are rough and warm as I knock into him in the small space. The edge of the sink digs at my back.
"Careful," he warns. There's rustling as he digs into his jacket or pants pocket, retrieving his cell phone.
"Turn the lights back on!" I demand.
"I can't do that," he says and flips on the flashlight on his cell phone. "But I can grant you light. If you wish for it."
There's a hint of humor in his tone. He's not a genie, and this isn't a fairytale. I'm locked in a cheap motel bathroom with a monster. It feels more like the beginning of a horror movie, but I hate horror films—or anything remotely scary.
He shines the light from the phone's flashlight on the floor before turning it upwards. It's bright but not nearly as blinding as I expect.
How much longer do I have to stay locked in the bathroom with him? Although it could be worse, he hasn't physically imprisoned me. I think he's trying to protect me, but I'm not sure why, considering how the day went down.
The wind outside rattles and whirls, but the motel structure stands. I'm half-expecting a tornado to rip through and take us out, but Nikita is calm, and I'm gripping the edge of the sink at my back.
"Think it's safe to get out of here?" I ask.
There's still no light, not that I care. I plan to climb back under the covers the minute Nikita is out of my room.
When will that be? I got a glimpse at his SUV earlier, and with the window smashed and the front-end dented, it may not be drivable.
"Stay here," Nikita warns and slips out of the bathroom, taking his phone.
He shuts the door, and the darkness consumes every inch of me. My breathing catches in my throat, and I fumble forward for the door. I've never been claustrophobic but I've always feared the dark. It was never so bad that I had to keep a nightlight on while sleeping, but there's a trickle of light.
It's complete darkness in the bathroom, and I don't like it.
With my hands out in front of me, I stumble for the door, find the light switch, flick it into the off position while I grabble for the door.
When I feel the cold wood, I grab the handle, yank it open and hurry out, slamming into Nikita's chest.
"You can't listen," he mutters under his breath. "The worst of the storm looks like it's passed us."
"Good." I breathe a sigh of relief. The room, while dark, has enough light to make me comfortable. "I'd like to go back to sleep."
"By all means, don't let me stop you." He heads toward the dinky chair by the door and lets his butt fall into it. He shuts off the flashlight on his phone, no longer needing to see in front of him.
"I wasn't inviting you to stay." I'm a bit terse and, more than anything, tired.
Nikita glances around like he's trying to figure out where he can go. "Did you see my vehicle?" He points at the front door. "The engine sputters, and I can't see a damn thing through the windshield. I'll call for a tow, but no one is coming out until the weather eases back up, especially if I'm not already on the road."
He's right, but it doesn't mean he has to stay here, in my room.
"Can't you go to the lobby? Or see if another room is vacant?"
"I could, but I'm not going to do that," Nikita says. He doesn't budge from his position on the mustard chair. The furniture isn't the least bit appealing; it was probably from the seventies, and it hasn't been reupholstered. He's lucky if it's been cleaned.
"You're going to keep me up instead." I fold my arms across my chest. I want him gone.
Nikita smirks. "You have a bed; go to sleep." He glances at the screen on his cell phone, tapping away, ignoring my stare.
When he doesn't get up or move from his position on the chair, I stalk toward the bed and throw back the covers. "Don't get any ideas."
I climb under the sheets. The bed is cold, and I shiver, pulling the covers up to my chin. I want to bury myself under the blankets and pretend this day never happened.
* * *