Twenty minutes after setting off, the weary and slightly confused taxi driver pulled up outside the cabin as the snow fell faster, soft flakes dancing over his windscreen as fast as the wipers could push them away. When Tala scrabbled for the twenty-pound note tucked behind her phone's case, Raphael paid the driver and pulled her out of the car with a laugh and a shiver.
"Holy shit, it's cold!" he cried, his teeth chattering. One hand was curled around Tala's elbow as she tried to untie the keyring from her bra strap. It had been easy to get on, but not quite so easy to remove. The metal snagged the fabric and it was a difficult angle for her to see what she was doing.
"Shit," she muttered, huddling against him in the doorway. She was as stubborn as a mule, determined not to give up the effort but she was a lightweight and two beers seemed to have gone to her head. Or, rather, her fingers.
"Here." Raphael squinted at the keyring, deftly slipping his nail between the split ring to slide it off the strap, and he presented her with the key and a triumphant grin. "Magic hands," he said, wiggling his fingers at her. Tala's cheeks heated up, though the night sky hid her blush. She took the key from him and let them into the cabin, stumbling into the warmth that greeted her like an old friend.
"Bit warmer in here," she said, kicking off her shoes before she could track snow through the cabin. Raphael copied her, almost losing his balance when he tried to shake off his lace-ups, and she grabbed him by the wrist before he could fall and knock a painting off the wall. He laughed. She gave him a look.
"Something tells me you had more than four drinks," she said, though she was feeling a bit tipsy herself.
Tala was a lightweight. She had never been able to handle much alcohol. Her school friends had always teased her about it but she had never seen it as a bad thing: a night out as a lightweight was a cheap affair, when she got buzzed off a couple of pints the way her friends felt the effect after a great deal more. While they forked out on vodka to mix into their orange or Coke, she was perfectly happy with beer or cider.
Wine was her favourite. A single glass helped to loosen the knots in her head; after two, she often found herself soft and grinning. Only once had she ever thrown up after drinking too much, when she had allowed a loose cannon of an ex friend to mix her drinks at a party. Never since then had she allowed anyone but her most trusted friends serve her alcohol.
Raphael chuckled as he followed her to the kitchen. "I may not be very good at counting," he said. "Maybe the opposite of four."
"What's the opposite of four? Minus four?" She raised her eyebrows at him, a cheeky smile growing on her lips. Flicking on the light, she headed for the bread bin and took out a couple of slices, dropping them into the toaster.
"Um ... I think it's eight. Eight is the opposite of four." He held up his hand, smiling at her as though she was a piece of art that he couldn't tear his eyes from. His gaze was fixed on her, his hazel eyes spreading warmth through her body. "Don't quote me on that," he said. "I have ... shit, what do I have?"