Greg, Mary, and Jordan stood and gawked at the Romanian castle stuck into a nearby hillside. Greg gave the driver ten euros and the little car sped away, leaving the three alone on an old stone road in the middle of a dense forest. They could see the castle, just not a way to it.
“Greg, call him, we’re probably in the wrong place.” Greg’s fiancée, Mary, couldn’t wait to see their friend Stephen, she was anxious, nervous. Her cousin Jordan felt nervous too, but more so because she hadn’t seen Stephen in years.
“I can’t get service.” They decided to walk through the woods in the general direction of the castle.
“He said there was another road that lead right up to…” Greg was interrupted by a scream from Mary. He looked back and saw Stephen in full cape and fangs with a massive grin on his face. Jordan jumped him, hugged him and screeched. Greg laughed:
“Steve, that’s the shabbiest costume I’ve ever seen.” He went down to his friend and shook his hand between Jordan’s arm and leg. Jordan released him, he hugged Mary.
“Sorry for scaring you, Mary.” She was a little shaken up by his sudden entrance.
“That was a cheap scare, you had months to plan…” He let go of her long, thin body.
“Let me show you my new home.” Stephen put his arm around Jordan’s waist and took them through some shrubbery and out onto a path.
“This is unreal, man…” Greg’s mouth hung open as he took in the white stone, the spires, the whole feel of it.
“Let’s go inside, Leah will get mad if we stay out too long. I’ll show you the outside later.” Jordan itched at the name, she knew it was his girlfriend.
They went into a sort of living room he had set up. The castle looked modern enough inside, very European, not at all like the museum castles they’d seen in France and England. It was so massive it still had rundown parts, crumbling walls, rooms that were worthless for various reasons.
“Everyone, this is Leah. Leah, this is Mary, Greg, and Jordan, some of my oldest friends.” Leah kissed each on the cheek, smiled.
“The drive up is nice, yes?” The girls nodded at the immaculate French woman. She was stunning, Jordan thought she was probably older than Stephen, maybe even in her thirties. Mary was uncomfortable with how well dressed the woman was. She thought her breasts must be fake, they were too perfect.
“Stephen, the gourds?” An older man appeared in the room, Stephen nodded and the man disappeared.
“We’re growing pumpkins, kids! Everyone will carve a jack-o-lantern. These Romanians haven’t caught on yet. Anyway, I have to go down with Glad and make sure they take the right ones. Be back in a few.” He left the room, Leah offered them a drink. She brought back wine, poured everyone a glass.
“So, Leah, Steve says you’re a journalist?” She nodded.
“Yes, but not this last year…I’ve lost myself, too much fun.” She referred to her year living with Stephen.
“How did you meet Stephen?” Jordan wanted to know if she had staying power, was going to find out as much as possible about the woman.
“I was at a festival in another part of Wallachia, doing research for a travel column. I saw him playing with the children first — I was curious, why an American was in rural Rumania. He talked to me, pretended he was fluent in French — he knew enough to make me laugh. I still don’t know how he tricked me into coming to his castle.” Leah smiled to herself.
“Do you work for a French paper?” Greg wanted to figure her out too, whether she was about his best friend’s money or what. She shook her head.
“No, I worked for an Austrian paper. They fired me because I haven’t been back.” Stephen returned with two pumpkins.
“Glad put the others in the kitchen — you want to carve a pumpkin with us?” Leah smiled, declined.
“No, no, I won’t be carving your pumpkins tonight. It’s nice to meet you all, I have a little work to attend.” The girls giggled, Leah pecked him on the mouth before she left. Stephen set the pumpkins on a table.
“She’s too French for Halloween, wouldn’t be caught dead celebrating an American holiday.”
“We’ll celebrate Halloween with you.” He hugged Jordan. The foursome talked about back home, rehashed all the old stories, what had transpired the few years since they’d seen each other. Greg got him alone first while the girls dug out their pumpkins in one of the massive kitchens.
“So, you sick of your hundred million dollar castle yet?” Stephen smirked at his best friend.
“This isn’t America, I don’t know the language, have to be nice and invite everyone in, give people presents…but hey, the taxes are ridiculously low.” Greg laughed.
“I can’t fathom the taxes on some hundred million dollar pad in New York.”
“I’ll move back eventually, but every thing is near ideal right now. Everything should be right with you — you’re gonna marry our Mary this summer, right?” Greg nodded. Mary was always something between him and Stephen. She never exactly dated Stephen, but there were the times when he and Mary weren’t bahis firmaları together that he thought Stephen might be moving in between them.
“I’m happy for you, buddy. All I have is Glad and the Romanians.” Greg was curious.
“What about Leah? She’s a dime, man.”
“She misses the city, her career and all that. I’m gonna have to send her home. She’s too French — too much to handle.”
“I see. Jordan practically broke out in tears when Mary told her about Leah.”
“I haven’t really spoken to her since I saw her at Mary’s party a few years back.”
“Steve, she’s loved you since high school, you know that. Just don’t make her cry this time.” Greg knocked his friend on the shoulder, they went into the kitchen.
“You two are making a mess in here, Marina is going to have my balls if she sees this.” They had orange pulp all over the table, their hands, smocks, a little on the floor.
“Who’s that?” Jordan was younger than them. Stephen still thought of her as the Freshman cheerleader he took to a couple school dances; the girl he had a thing for but couldn’t be with.
“Marina is Glad’s wife, she doesn’t speak any English and she hates me.”
“No one on Earth hates you, Stephen.” Mary smiled her flirty little smile at him, he wondered whether Greg knew what they had done in Italy…
“Glad loves me, he takes care of the outside. Marina and her daughter, Marica, keep everything right on the inside.” The two men watched the girls finish their pumpkins. Glad came up to say that Greg and the girls’ bags had arrived. Greg and Mary insisted on going down and bringing the bags up. When they left, Jordan sat silently on her stool and watched Stephen.
“Hey Princess, you like my castle or what?” She shook her head, her face flushed whenever she was alone with him.
“Sorry, your princess is in another castle.” He laughed.
“I still think about you all the time, JJ.” She pouted.
“You haven’t called me or sent an email in forever. I was surprised when Greg and Mary invited me to come, worried…”
“I don’t use the Internet or have a cell, but I guess I could’ve written you. You don’t even know how you broke my heart last time I saw you…” She stood up and leaned over the counter toward him.
“I remember the last time I saw you, you weren’t very friendly toward me. I thought, ‘Gee, my Stephen’s all rich now and he doesn’t want to talk to me.'”
“Jordan, I hadn’t seen you in a while, when I saw you that night I practically choked on my own tongue. You were all grown up, womanly, but you were with some guy.” Her college boyfriend, she was with him for two years, had broken up with him when they graduated.
“No one’s ever been jealous over me… Were you jealous, Stephen?”
“Yes. I knew I was going to see you that night and I wanted to take you home with me. I was so happy, my whole life’s work complete by age twenty-five…but then I saw you with someone, looking all sexy, it broke my heart.”
“I can’t believe no one told me this! Greg must’ve known? The two of you were always fighting over Mary’s virginity. I thought you’d never want me for real.” Greg and Mary returned with the bags. He situated his guests in their rooms. He put Greg and Mary on the other side of the castle, kept Jordan close.
“Where’s Leah?” He watched Jordan unpack some of her things in her room.
“She’s working on a novel, maybe. She won’t let me see any of it.”
“In your room?”
“No, she has her own room, stays up all night drinking and typing away.”
“So, if I get scared of ghosts tonight there’s a spot free in your bed?” He nodded, smiled. She had decided during their discussion in the kitchen that she was going to try and land him, Leah or not. She hugged him when she was finished. He lead her back out to a common room where Greg and Mary appeared. They sat around and talked, they were interrupted by a fair-haired Romanian girl in the doorway.
“Hey, Marica, what’s up?” She took a few steps in.
“Stefan, Mama will serve dinner at six.” She turned, he jumped up and grabbed her arm.
“Wait, Marica, I want you to meet my friends from America.” She smiled at them when he introduced her to each.
“Marica, they thought my costume sucked, but you thought it was pretty close to the real thing, right?” The teenager shook her head.
“No, no, strigoi do not wear capes.” Everyone laughed. Marica scurried away.
“Wow, she’s pretty, Stephen.” Mary looked a little jealous when she said it, smiled when she realized.
“Yeah, she is, but I’ve only proposed to her like two or three times this week.” Greg laughed, Jordan didn’t.
“She’s what sixteen, seventeen?” Jordan was irritated.
“No, she’s nineteen, she graduated high school. We have plenty of talks, she’s not scared of me anymore, she asks a million questions.” Greg got up and walked the room, he was going to grill his friend about the gorgeous Romanian.
“Stephen, I know the females are in the room, but you have to tell me if you’ve slept with her.” kaçak iddaa Mary kicked him in the shin.
“Ah, come on! I know the two of you were thinking it.”
“She went with me to this resort on the Black Sea for a week last summer… I couldn’t get anything more than a few kisses from her. Glad says I can marry her when she turns twenty-one, but I think he’s messing with me. Basically, I’ve no Romanian game.” The girls’ faces lightened at his inability to connect.
“They let you take her to a resort?” Jordan was as curious as Greg.
“They trust her, know she isn’t going to let me do anything. They’re like family, I’ve lived with them for a couple years now. You should see her and Leah, they absolutely hate each other; it’s all passive aggressive looks and comments, very European.” They laughed.
Stephen took his friends to the main dining room, it was probably the flashiest room in the house, decorated and set for them to enjoy dinner. Leah appeared, sat at Stephen’s side, talked casually with the girls.
“Shopping in Rumania isn’t as horrid as it sounds. We’ll go this week?” Each girl nodded, they were intimidated by her. When Marica brought Leah her food she didn’t thank or even acknowledge her — that brought her down a notch in the American girls’ eyes. Dinner was uneventful, they made plans to walk around the grounds of the castle.
“Hold my hand.” Leah came with them to Jordan’s dismay. Stephen showed them all sorts of interesting things about the structure as the sun set. It was getting chilly so they went back inside.
“Stephen, I’m going to bed, you’ll come up, yes?” He nodded. Leah left the foursome in front of the fireplace that Greg and Stephen were trying to light.
“It’s going to get cold real quick, we should get this fire started. The rooms are smaller and heated well, but the larger rooms get brutal at night, even in the fall.” Finally, they got the fire lit, sat on sofas and chatted.
“Stephen, show me where the bathroom is.” Mary asked meekly, Jordan giggled.
“She’s scared of vampires, Steve.” She hit Greg and got up.
“Come on, I’ll get us something to drink while we’re down there.” They went down a flight of stairs, he took Mary into one of the modern bathrooms. He went in with her, turned the light on and pointed some things out. They stared at each other for a moment.
“Oh, I can’t stay?” She giggled. He left, waited for her to finish. She came out minutes later. He hugged her to him, she didn’t resist.
“I miss your smell.” He stroked her hair and cheeks.
“Don’t hug me too long, they won’t like it.” He kissed both of her cheeks and her neck, she sighed.
“You told Greg about Italy?” She wavered, looked worried.
“I told him enough…” Stephen thought that was an enigmatic response to a simple question.
“You were broken up, you don’t have to tell him about us, but if he finds out…” She pushed him away.
“Let’s go to the kitchen, Stephen.” He didn’t touch her again, they got some juice and wine and returned to their friends. Not long after, Marica appeared with a bundle of blankets.
“Stefan, we are going to bed. It is cold?” He got up and took them from her, gave one to Greg and Mary, tossed one to Jordan. They thanked Marica, told her ‘goodnight’ and when she left Stephen followed her out into the hall. He grabbed her hand, she giggled and backed up against the wall.
“I don’t like it when you go all the way down to your family rooms at night. I want you to have one of the nice bedrooms next to mine.” She shook her head.
“I was a baby in my family rooms, a little girl — it is my home.” He brushed her soft, blond hair away from her hazel eyes. She was a rare Romanian, near angelic.
“I’m going to give you the castle when I move back home.” She giggled, blushed in the little light.
“Stefan, I don’t want the castle, just my family rooms.”
“Your parents will stay here and retire. I’ll hire another family to care for them, you’ll come with me to America.” She wanted him to mean what he said, but she knew foreigners couldn’t be trusted.
“My family will miss me, my Papa will always work.” He kissed her hands.
“They’ll be happy, we’ll bring them babies, spend the summers here.” She smiled and hugged him tight, got out of his grasp and ran down the hall. The minute conversation seemed to last an eternity to him, he was infatuated with Marica — so infatuated that he had begun to believe his promises to her. He returned to his friends, they smiled back at him, asked him why he looked so happy.
“Its been a long day, we should get to bed.” They all agreed, he sent Greg and Mary off, walked arm in arm with Jordan to their rooms.
“I still can’t believe you live here.”
“I can’t really believe it.” They stopped at her door, she was ready for a long kiss, but he only pecked her mouth.
“You want to tuck me in, Stephen?” He smiled.
“Yes, but I shouldn’t, Leah’s in my room…” She felt sick to her stomach.
“I kaçak bahis understand.”
“I love you, Jordan. Goodnight.” She smiled, hugged him and went into her room.
When Stephen opened his bedroom door he saw Leah in his bed, half uncovered and asleep. She wore the hottest tiny black lingerie, he could see her nipples poking through the fabric. He undressed, got in bed and she stirred, said something in French he didn’t understand.
“Go back to sleep.” She opened her eyes wider.
“I was waiting for you, Stephen. I wanted to show you my new costume.” She sat up, pulled the sheet revealing her bare belly and the tiniest thong. He leaned down and kissed her taut belly, she pushed his head lower…
The next morning Mary was itching to jog, she usually ran three times a week and wanted to get out and exercise. Greg and Stephen were at the breakfast table with her.
“Stephen, I really want to run this morning, Greg won’t.” She pouted at Greg.
“I’ll run with you, I have a path I usually take.” Mary looked at Greg, he shrugged his shoulders.
“You two can jog, I don’t want to. I’ll wait for Jordan to get up. Maybe we’ll find a secret passage to Stephen’s dungeon while you’re out.”
“Who’s in your dungeon, Stephen?” Mary touched his arm, he shivered.
“Girls I take out on jogs…” She giggled. They went back to their rooms and changed. Stephen took Mary out into the cool October air.
“It’s so pretty out here, Stephen.” They were headed toward the woods, Stephen wanted to show her some different things on the property.
“Greg doesn’t ever run with me, I wish he would.”
“Leah brags that she hasn’t run since elementary school.” They kept a brisk pace into the forest.
“Stephen, are her boobs real?” He looked at her and smiled. She felt a little embarrassed for asking.
“No, but they look great, very natural.” Mary felt inadequate when she thought of her tiny AA cup boobs jiggling in her sports bra. She looked down, her bulky sweatshirt pretty much made them disappear. He watched her check herself out.
“But they’re still not as good as the real thing.” She smiled at him. They jogged in silence through the forest.
“Up past the lake I wanna show you my cabin.” She eyed him suspiciously.
“What you use it for?”
“It’s a hunting cabin. All the public officials in town come up and hunt on the land here. I let some of them stay there.”
“Oh.” He lead her around the lake and up an incline. Mary saw the cabin, it was more of a chalet, very Swiss looking. She was an architect, very intrigued by it. She stopped running, walked around the structure.
“This was built by an Austrian?” He nodded.
“It’s gorgeous, can we go in?” She was excited, it was a Swiss chalet built in an Austrian style — in Romania. He unlocked the door, guided her in by the elbow. He let her wander around the posh cabin. She was interested in all the woodwork, especially in the bedroom.
“This headboard is amazing, Stephen.” She ran her fingers over the leafy inlay. He kicked his shoes off and lay on the bed.
“This is my favorite bed, it’s comfy.” She looked at him, curious. She kicked her shoes off and lay next to him. He watched her look around the room.
“This is such a nice place, how old is it?” He ran his fingers down her arm.
“Eighty years, maybe.” She turned to face him, he was stroking her arm and running his fingers through her long brown hair.
“We can’t…not again.” She looked worried, but she didn’t get up.
“Best night of my life…you in Italy, beautiful.” She held his cheek.
“I’ve slept with him since. I wanted to make it up to him. He makes me happy, Stephen.” Stephen felt a pang of jealousy, that she’d given her body to his friend after he’d taken her virginity.
“He’ll be mad, but he can’t hold it against you, you were broken up for months.” He moved his hand from her arm and held her hip. He continued:
“I wouldn’t try and wreck you and Greg, I love you both. But you’ll have to tell him, he’ll find out one way or another.”
“You think he’ll want to marry me if he knows?”
“Yes, he might hate me for it, but he’ll forgive you.” He leaned over and kissed her naked shoulder. Her sweatshirt collar was stretched from the position they were in, revealing her collar bone. He kissed her neck, she squirmed and gently pushed him away.
“Stephen, we’re all gross from running, let’s just lie here for a bit.” He pulled her to him by her hip, wrapped his other arm around her.
“If you and Greg don’t get married, marry me.” She had big, expressive blue eyes, she stared into him.
“Don’t say that…” He finally kissed her mouth, she half-kissed him back.
“I’d drop anyone to be with you, there’s no one so perfect for me as you.” She blushed, let him kiss and nibble her mouth.
“I don’t know why you even like me, Stephen. I’m not as sexy as Leah or Jordan, or anyone I’ve ever seen you with.” He rubbed her ass over her tight cotton pants, she sighed.
“I was thinking of you when I was with Leah last night, wishing it was your body I was kissing.” She dug her nails into his arm when he mentioned his girlfriend’s name. He caressed her, was more demanding with his hands.