A swirl of orange and red hues filled her vision as Sansa adjusted the rear view mirror of her car. Speeding down the unfamiliar country road, she cranked up the volume of her stereo, needing to feel the music pump through her veins. She was running late to meet Arya and Sandor at the haunted corn maze and was feeling frazzled.
Having got held up at work, she was still in uniform, something she wasn’t thrilled about. A short tight black skirt with black suspenders and a plain low-cut white tee would not have been her first choice to go prancing around at night in a corn field. She didn’t even have a jacket in her car. Her hair was in a side French braid and thankfully her make up was still in place. She hoped she didn’t smell too bad from busting her ass at the cafe all afternoon, a quick lift and sniff under her arm told her she was fine though. It was days like these, where they were short staffed and slammed all day that Sansa yearned to walk out and just cruise on her trust fund. She was almost done with college though and then she could say goodbye to the barista/waitress life for good.
She quickly texted Arya that she was five minutes away according to Google Maps. Almost immediately she received a message back saying they were about to get seats for the hay ride and to hurry because they would leave her ass behind. Sansa groaned aloud. “Thanks sweet sister for your care and consideration.” Complaining to the empty car.
She almost wished she would have just stayed home and binged tv, but she needed to do something social. Usually she just hung out with Arya while she worked at the bar, but Arya and Sandor decided to take the night off and attend this Halloween corn maze thing. During her years in college she found herself pulling away from her friends, other trust fund babies that were more interested in partying instead of studying. Now her only close friend was her sister. It was nice and comfortable mostly, even if her sister teased her relentlessly at times. At least she knew she could trust Arya whole heartedly. Arya’s boss, Sandor would also be there tonight. She wouldn’t call him a friend necessarily, he was Arya’s friend who merely put up with Sansa when she’d hang out at the bar. But they were the only two people she really spoke to outside of school and work these days. So she’d like to think of him as a friend, even if he didn’t.
Sandor was an honest to God enigma if she ever met one. She was both excited and nervous at the chance of spending time with him outside of his bar. He was the generally the King of mixed signals and Sansa prayed tonight they’d be operating on the same wavelength. She was in no mood to be on the receiving end of one of his tongue lashings.
Their relationship has been quite turbulent at times. Sometimes the man would waive her tab for the night if she was stressed over something. He would always scare off the creeps before they crossed a line. He defended her if Arya was starting to lay it on too thick. It was small stuff he would do or say to show that he cared in his own way.
But then other times he could berate her, like the one time she ever used Tinder to meet a guy. He gave her a nasty ear full for that. Or for doing all the work on a group project and not speaking up about it, calling her a pushover. Once he even kicked her and Ramsey out of the bar mid drink. That had caught her off guard and royally pissed Ramsey off, which of course he took out on her later. Then, when Sandor had found out that Ramsey had been abusing her, he had called her stupid for not leaving him sooner. He was so mean to her after that, she’d called him cruel, he called himself honest. Even now he was still hot and cold with her. She never new what she’d be walking into with him.
When he was in a good mood though, it was great, always a fun and pleasant evening. Those nights were her favorite. When she could get him to crack a smile or chuckle even just a little. It felt like winning the lottery. She wished those nights weren’t so rare. If she could spend more time at his bar, maybe she’d see him smile more, but that really wasn’t possible with her schedule. Also, he probably didn’t want her hanging around distracting Arya more than she already did.
She silently wondered if he had always held some sort of grudge against her over their initial introduction. However, she was much too chicken to ever broach the subject, especially after his stern warning. Turning down another long seemingly endless country road, she thought back to that night.
——Two years ago ——
She had worn a short, tight fire red dress with black Louboutin’s to visit Arya at work. Being 22 and single, she wouldn’t mind a little extra attention tonight. Of course she immediately regretted it once she walked in and saw it was more of a dive situation. Her sister only laughed loudly at her expense upon seeing her from across the room. She had purposefully left out the kind of clientele the place catered too. That little witch.
There were a decent number of people around. Several older gentlemen in practically the same flannel shirt, playing pool off to the side. A few lone drinkers at the bar top, obviously working class regulars. A couple of middle aged women dancing together next to a jukebox. And a few tables filled with younger customers, but nobody looking nearly as dressed up as her.
She sat at the bar with a grimace when Sandor came up to her. “Are you a lost Little Bird?” He rasped without a scowl.
“Excuse me?” She was taken aback. She looked left and right.
“Either you’re lost or you’re a whore. And if you’re a whore, you can turn that ass around and walk right out that door. This ain’t that kind of establishment.”
“I beg your pardon, but I am NOT a whore.” Her cheeks tinged pink.
Sandor shrugged. “Lost then?”
“I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Perhaps you should not be so rude to your customers.” How dare he be such a brute, he didn’t even know her!
“Ahh, but see, you are not a customer are ya? So far all you’ve done is take up space and get on my nerves.”
“Didn’t know simply existing could annoy someone.” She grumbled as she slammed a twenty on the counter. Sliding it across the bar and she demanding a drink.
“Guess I gotta be nice now. The Little Bird bought a drink with her very own money. Perhaps she’s not a working girl after all.” He said mockingly and pushed the drink towards her. Bending down, his breath mingled with hers. “I see you trying to hustle anything from these fools, I won’t hesitate to throw you out on your ass and ruin that pretty dress of yours.” He took her money and gave her change.
Arya walked by at that very moment, on her way to another customer. “Spending daddy’s money are ya know?” She threw the words over her shoulder without stopping.
“You can shut your mouth, you brat!” Sansa yelled through clenched teeth. “I’m gonna make you pay for this!” Of letting her make a fool of herself.
“Retract those claws Little Bird. I’ll not have you be a bitch to my staff.” He continued on with his cleaning, speaking calmly. “Yell at me all you want, but not any of the rest of them, or we’ll have a problem.”
“Seems like we already do. Besides, she deserved it!” She just about whined. “It’s my money and she knows it! She’s just trying to make me angry or embarrassed, or...I don’t know.” She crosses her arms with a scowl.
“Looks like it’s working.” He looked her up and down. The red blush spreading across her chest. Then looking confused. “And how is she supposed to know it’s...”
“Sandor!” Arya shouted coming up behind him and slapping him hard on the back, making him flinch. “My sisters very pretty, isn’t she? Whatchya got her blushing about?”
Sandors face morphed into disgust and disbelief, he spoke slowly. “You’re joking. She’s your sister?” He looked back and forth between the opposites. “I don’t buy that for a minute.”
“I know, you’d never guess.” She shrugged offhandedly. “What are you guys talking about?”
Sansa stared him down. “Yes. What are we talking about?” Before Sandor could speak, she continued on. “Someone has it in their thick skull that I am a lady of the night!”
“Well San, the dress doesn’t exactly help your cause on that one.” Her flippant tone was not appreciated in the least.
“You could have told me it was a dive bar you worked at!” She glared at her sister in contempt. “And this is NOT the dress of a prostitute!”
Arya laughed whole heartedly. “I could have mentioned something sure, but this is so much more fun.”
The comment caused Sandor to crack the tiniest of smiles before turning away and leaving the sisters be. Sansa rolled her eyes and moved on, telling Arya about her job interview at the café and her class project.
The night went on and Sansa was checking her phone when a man came and sat next to her. He started up friendly enough conversation, but she wasn’t interested. She tried to give short answers, but he didn’t take the hint. His body was entirely too close, he motioned for Sandor to come over.
“Hey buddy, get me a Scotch and soda and another drink for this pretty lady.” His thin lipped smile sent chills down her spine.
Sansa tried declining politely, but the man spoke over her and to Sandor.
“Make hers a double.” He clicked his tongue. “My Lady looks troubled tonight. Let’s loosen her up a bit, yeah?”
She looked away frustrated. “I don’t need another drink, thank you though.”
“It’s okay, it’s on me. I’ll take good care of ya.” He twirled a piece of her hair around his slender fingers.
“She said she didn’t want another drink.” Sandor stated, resting his hands onto the bar top.
“I didn’t ask for your commentary.” The guy scoffed.
“I don’t serve women who don’t want to be served.” His voice was low, a warning.
“Here.” He took out his wallet and laid a hundred dollar bill on the bar top. “Now, if you’d kindly get our drinks.”
“Oh would you look at that, it’s closing time.” His eyes never leaving the strangers.
“Seriously?” The guy looked around at the moderately busy room.
“Deadly.” He growled. “I suggest you make your exit quickly.”
The man looked to Sansa, but she just looked down. He shook his head and pushed himself off his chair in a tantrum. “Fuck you, you filthy dog! Keep your whore for all I care!”
“She’s not a fucking whore.” Then in a flash Sandor had came from around the back of the bar, chest puffed and fists clenching. His face in a snarl. It didn’t take any more than that before the guy decided to quite literally run out the place. Sandor stood there for several moments breathing heavily from the surge of rage coursing through him. Eyes trained on the wooden door ahead.
“Thank you.” Her voice quiet. Her skin was flushed from the whirlwind encounter. Watching Sandor switch to being fiercely protective had caused a spark to ignite inside her that was a pleasant surprise. From his muscles rippling through his tight black shirt as he flexed, the low growl that came from the back of his throat, his unwaivering strength and domination of the situation. He was one hundred percent raw, unfiltered man and she suddenly wanted, no, needed a piece of him. He turned to face her, his face filled with anger.
“Why didn’t you stand up for yourself?” He spat at her.
Her mouth parted in surprise. “I...I don’t know, I got scared and I just shut down.” She looked down ashamed.
“Well don’t next time. Learn to defend yourself.”
Her breathing sped up and she felt irate. She stood up, making herself taller as if she could intimidate him. “Easy for you to say, look at you!” She motioned over his body with her hand.
“Yes, it is rather frightening, isn’t it?” He was seething, she could feel the anger rolling off of him. “Do you think I depend on my bloody mangled face exclusively to scare every shithead away? No, I still know how to fight, how to defend myself.”
“I didn’t...I didn’t mean you were frightening to look at. I meant that you’re so big and...muscular.” Finishing lamely. She turned red, losing all her fight. Embarrassed that her words were misconstrued.
“Sure.” He shook his head in disappointment. The fight had drained from him and he turned away, walking straight to his office.
For the next half hour she downed two more drinks and talked to Arya about what had happened. She felt terrible, especially since he had just stood up for her. Even though her and Sandor had a rocky start this evening, she knew he was a good guy overall. Arya was always raving about how awesome he was. She knew all about his scars and hardships from her sister and now she’d made him feel as if she were throwing them in his face. A face that wasn’t even all that bad really, once you got over the initial shock. She actually found him oddly handsome, and there was no way a person could be disappointed with that body of his, right? She bet he looked downright edible underneath those clothes, all hard and rough, hairy and...big. She squeezed her thighs together at the image and let her fantasies run free while finished up her drink.
She hopped off the barstool with determination. Swaying a little from the excess alcohol and made her way to where he had holed himeself off. She knocked lightly and pushed the cracked door open.
The room was small and cluttered. He turned in his chair and looked up to her. His face, now donned with black rimmed glasses, seemed displeased that it was her standing there instead of an employee.
“What do you want?” He grumbled tiredly while writing down different figures on a long receipt.
“To talk to you.” She squeezed in and shut the door. “I’m sorry if you misunderstood me. I honestly didn’t mean what you thought I meant.”
“Right.” After a few moments he turned to her, took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re not done, I see.”
She reached out to touch his shoulder and he jumped, then ground out a warning. “Don’t touch me.”
“I’m so sorry. That was rude of me.” She was doing everything wrong. She started losing the confidence that the drinks had brought. Her eyes scanned the walls that were filled with various papers on liquor laws, schedules, checklists and the like. She spied the cream colored metal cabinets and wondered what they held. His desk was just as messy and cluttered as the walls. How could he get any work done in here?
“What more do you want girl?” His voice increasingly inpatient. “You’ve said your peace. Now get out of here before I make you regret ever stepping foot in here.”
“I want you to believe me!” She snapped back to focus, making serious eye contact.
“Well tough shit, you can’t always get what you want, Princess.”
“Can you please just drop the attitude for five seconds?” She threw her hands up. “I know your not a bad guy, so can you stop being so mean to me and talk to me like a normal person. I’m being sincere here!”
He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. “You don’t know shit about me.”
“I know more than you think and I’m not afraid of you.” She was feeling braver by the second.
He stood and loomed over her. Even in her heels she had to crane her neck to meet his eyes. His breath was evened and measured. “Maybe you should be, Little Bird. You think that little sister of yours really knows me, for true? Knows what I’m capable of, what I’ve done?” His upper lip curled. “No, Little Bird, you should very afraid of me.”
She searched his eyes for real malice, but found none. There was fire in them for sure, but she swore it was not hatred towards her. “I’m not afraid of you. You won’t hurt me.” She bit her red stained lip and threw caution to the wind. Closing her eyes, she leaned forward and arched her neck upwards. But before she could make contact, he spoke almost hesitantly.
“What are you doing?” His steely eyes softened a fraction.
“Proving to you that you don’t frighten me. Quite the opposite actually.” Her lips were so close. “You were so brave out there, Sandor.” Her words whispered against his mouth as she went in for the kill.
He inched back before their lips touched and spoke without heat. “There was nothing brave about chasing a rat out of my bar.” She opened her eyes, confused and he continued on. “I’m not some buggering knight here to rescue you.” He stepped another pace back. “I can smell the liquor on your breath. Go back out there and have your sister take you home.” He sat down with his back to her, picking up his pen and placing his glasses back on. “I would suggest you never speak of this.”
She sighed at the memory. They never did speak of it. He had turned her on that night, gave her butterflies and an arsenal of dirty thoughts in that short span of time. He was different than every other boy or man she had ever fancied, physically and mentally. It turned her world upside down and the rejection of it all stung. It was all terribly embarrassing. After that she settled into a somewhat friendly acquaintance and customer and everything was just fine.
She pulled into the dirt filled road, following the makeshift signs to park. She worried her bottom lip. Sandor and Arya hung out often, the two of them were so alike it was irritating sometimes. Arya had tried to get her to tag along with them for various events, but she knew she would just feel like a third wheel and only, so she had always declined. Hopefully she wouldn’t unintentionally do something to provoke one of Sandors foul moods.
After parking her car, rushing to the entrance and paying her fee, she saw the tractor with the hay filled wagon attached just across the way. It was full of people and the brake lights gleamed bright as the sun was nearly fully set now. Glancing around, the whole place looked a lot scarier than she had anticipated. Never having been to a haunted corn maze before, she had no idea the effort that was put in. There were people in demented looking costumes guarding the maze. Fake cobwebs lined large sections of the outer maze and the barn area. Lights of purple, green and orange lined around various poles and haystacks, doorways and spooky displays. The whole area above them was a crisscross of Edison bulbs. She saw there was a station near the barn that sold hot apple cider and made a mental note to stop there before hitting up the maze. She suddenly heard her sister calling her name and waving her arm around like a mad man.
The tractor was about to take off without her. She started running across the dirty terrain and made it just as the worker was about to close the wagons hatch. She spotted Sandor sitting closest to the hatch. He looked extra nice tonight, wearing a dark grey sweater and dark blue jeans. She stood in front of him now, breathing hard, trying to figure out how to gracefully climb aboard. Realizing her internal struggle, Sandor offered out his large hand and pulled her up with little effort. Looking around she saw there were no empty seats for her. She cursed under her breath and her hands fiddled with her suspenders anxiously.
“Why don’t you perch yourself right here, Little Bird?” Sandor spoke up while patting his knee.
She looked down to his thick thigh and rough inviting hand. Her mouth went dry. Before she could begin to vocalize an answer, he grabbed her arm pulling her down. She blushed at the contact, looking away and not saying a word, suddenly very hot and tongue tied. The tractor took off with a jolt and Sansa was thrust backwards, her limbs flailing in the most unladylike fashion. Luckily, Sandor was quick to action, securing a hand on her leg and wrapping an arm around her waist, pulling her thin frame further up his thigh. She stopped firmly against his solid chest. His oversized palm settled onto the backside of her hip, steadying her, sending tingly little flutters through her. It took every effort to focus on breathing normal. His hand felt like fire upon her bare leg, each slight movement from it shot bolts of electricity straight to her belly. She was grateful for the darkness. Damn him and his mouth-watering masculinity!
“Could you have cut it ANY closer San?” Arya spoke up jokingly while sliding her phone in her pocket and taking a sip from her red cup.
“I’m sorry! Work was an absolute nightmare.” She went on about rude customers and inconsiderate coworkers while trying to ignore the warm hands encased around her hip bone and naked thigh. She really wished for pants in this moment. “Anyways, it was a horrible day and I really am sorry I’m so late.”
Arya shrugged her body, relaxed. “Don’t worry about it, you’re here. I’m just glad you finally didn’t bail on me for something.” She offered out her cup. “Wanna drink of my apple cider?”
Sansa took the cup and drank with a grin. When the warm liquid passed her lips she almost spit it out. She looked around feeling guilty. “This is NOT apple cider!” She seethed quietly and shoved the cup at her sister.
Her companions laughed. “Sansa, I assure you that’s apple cider.” Arya gave her a sly grin. “Just with a little extra something.”
“A lot of extra something.” Sandor coughed. “I saw that pour you did.”
“Come on San, live a little. Drink the drink. Let loose.” Arya waved the cup in front of her face. “Stop being such a goody goody.”
“I’m not a goody goody.” She rolled her eyes. “I can’t help that I work and have to study. I don’t have time to get drunk every weekend.”
“Such a proper little Lady.” Sandor rasped while smirking.
Sansa huffed in annoyance and suddenly the hand on her hip didn’t feel as nice. She squirmed a little, trying nonchalantly to break free, but he grasped tighter. His thumb sliding over the fabric of her shirt, loosening it from its tucked position in the back. Her eyes widened.
“It’s admirable.” He spoke almost softly. “What you do, juggling work and school .Unlike the bloody wolf girl over here.” He tossed a knowing glance at Arya who was shoveling popcorn into her mouth.
Sansa relaxed into his arm again and his thumb rubbed a small circle on her bare thigh. She swallowed thickly.
“Hey! I work hard at the bar!” Arya scolded after swallowing her popcorn.
“Aye, you’re one of the best bartenders I’ve ever worked with.” Sandor agreed. “But you should go to school. Get an education, have a back up plan.”
“Ugh.” She groaned, letting her head fall back dramatically. “Stop trying to be my dad.”
“I may be old, but I’m not THAT old, you little shit.” He growled. “Be more responsible for your life and I wouldn’t need to push you.”
“Call me dad one more time and I will spill your insides right here, right now.”
“Whatever you say pops.”
Ignoring Arya’s petulance, he looked to Sansa. “How did you not kill this thing growing up?”
“I suppose because I’m not a murderer?” She smiled lopsided.
“Anyone can be a killer if the person pushes them enough.”
“Really Sandor?” Sansa smiled wide. “The girl is five two and weighs as much as a sack of potatoes. How is she going to push ANYONE over the edge?”
“Her mental game is strong.” He looked back over to Arya who was tossing popcorn in her mouth. Not bothering to close it whilst chewing. Locking eyes with Sansa, his voice grew quiet and flirtatious. “I might need some protecting.” His thumb found its way under the small opening in the back of her shirt that he had loosened. Grazing the soft skin of her lower back. Her smile faded and she flushed red. “Would you protect me, Little Bird?”
Arya threw a handful of popcorn at their faces breaking whatever spell that was and then broke out her phone again. Yellow and white puffed kernels littered their laps and Sansas hair. Sandor plucked it from her red tresses and popped them into his mouth. Sansa watched him as he did this, mesmerized. Her head was spinning, it was all almost too much. His eyes held a heated desire, one that she’d never really seen from him before. His hand squeezed around her hip in dominance and she let out a helpless wimper as he adjusted her body. Her skirt inched a little higher when he did this. She was so stunned by his behavior, he could have stripped her naked and she wouldn’t have batted an eye.
“Just making sure you don’t fall.” He smiled devilishly as the rough pad of his thumb continued to caress her lower back.
“Where is this thing taking us anyway?” Sansa sputtered out, shaking away the lust filled fog and clearing her throat.
“Pumpkin patch, duh.” Arya answered while finishing up a text. “We pick out some pumpkins, put our name on them and pick it up at the end.”
“Then we do the corn maze?” She tried to turn her thoughts to anything but the man holding her. Just keep talking, she told herself.
“Yeah. Gendry is suppose to meet us by that time.” She sipped from her Apple cider mixed drink.
“Oh I didn't realize he was coming.” She said absentmindedly, looking around at the small group of people, hoping nobody noticed how turned on she was or Sandor’s outward seductive behavior.
The tractor stopped and everyone stood up to make their way out. Sandor offered his hand to Sansa, but ignored Arya. Not that the younger sister minded, she was already leaping out from the side.
Arya handed her partially drank cup over to Sansa. “Finish this. I need a break, already had one before this waiting on your slow ass.” She clapped her hands together. “Alright, I need to concentrate and find my pumpkin!” The girl scanned the orange dotted ground, she was clearly on a mission. She set off, yelling over her shoulder. “See you two losers later!”