I came to Civitella having just finished a draft of a novel about a man who becomes a human trafficker to support his family. I didn’t know what I’d work on here, but next thing I knew I was writing a love story. Girl meets boy, falls in lust, falls in love, get pregnant, family, tragedy: that kind of thing. But that’s later. This is earlier. Reykjavík, Iceland.
In the rental car on the way into the city, Caitlin tried to clear her head so that she could devote all her energy and attention to Aran and enjoy this special bond they had, whatever it was. She didn’t have much experience in random hookups, which had always been a point of pride as far as she’d been concerned until now, but now she wished she’d been more of a slut, because this stinging dread that accompanied the burn of just being near him was unfamiliar to her. It was the dread that she was doing something wrong, which she was. She was cheating on Bradley, and here things had only just started to be good between them, after all their breakups and makeups. Before she left on this trip, she decided that maybe at last she had forgotten about Aran. Or that she hadn’t forgotten about him, because that would be impossible, but she’d accepted the fact that she’d never see him again and also accepted that Bradley, despite his faults, was the man she’d spend her life with. And yet now here she was in a compact rental car speeding through the most devastatingly lovely landscape she’d ever seen in her life, at once harsh and volcanic and lush and green and sensuous. It was like being in outer space and with the early-morning sunlight and the bite of the cold and the steam rising from the earth that was where she decided they were, some foreign planet that had not yet been discovered and named and catalogued by astrologists and would remain secret for as long as they were both alive.
“Pull over,” she said at one point. The drive to the city seemed interminable. Maybe an hour had passed since they left the airport. The monstrosity of the Blue Lagoon and the neighboring power plant was no longer visible in the rearview mirror. In its place was just a vague pluming of steam and heat. In the phantasmagoric light, it could have been a fire raging off in the distance.
“Here? There’s no pull-off. There isn’t even a shoulder.”
“Yes, here,” she said. She no longer cared about anything else. “Now.”
Before he had the car out of gear, she attacked him. She was insatiable. She had never been very acrobatic, and she was wearing jeans she normally had to take pains peeling off, since she’d put on a little weight recently, and then there were her shoes, which were riddled with buckles and given the length of the heels would probably have been considered weapons in some countries, although not on this new planet. Somehow, before he knew what she was doing, she managed to shed her clothes. Wearing only her panties, which were already soaked, she catapulted herself into his chair, squeezing herself between him and the steering wheel, and with a hunger she hadn’t felt in a long time, if ever, she unzipped him. He felt so familiar inside her, and yet the viciousness with which he tore into her as she lowered herself down over him was unfamiliar and painful and amazing. It took just moments for her to feel him dripping down her thighs.
When she was finished with him, they were both out of breath. She collapsed on top of him and maybe drifted off. But when she was able at last to control her limbs enough to peel herself off him, he was still hard. This time he came in her mouth. She had never tasted anything so sweet and bitter and addictive and perfect. She wanted more. She needed all of him all at once. They stopped twice more before they reached Reykjavik and found a hotel that had a room for them. Although the website Aran was supposed to take photos for had made a reservation for him and paid in advance, he had lost the details and was so wrapped up in her it didn’t occur to him that all he had to do was email the editor, who was an old college roommate. When they were finally locked away in the privacy of their hotel room, which was far from the center of the city, they didn’t leave for two days.