Have you been enjoying this blog serial so far? I have another episode for you from my co-author, J. Wake, who writes in Malik’s perspective.
Be sure to catch up on Episode 3 first if you have not yet.
And if you like dark romance or romantic suspense, please consider beta reading Crystal’s Crucible for me. This is the 3rd Phoebe Braddock Book, but it can be read as a standalone. For for more information and to apply, please click the big red button below the main blog post.
Now for the continuation of this tale…
Malik awoke to harsh sunlight stabbing through the blinds in Elise Marshall’s bedroom, and the sticky feeling of rising heat. He allowed himself a smile as he remembered being practically begged by the completely gorgeous and only lightly trashed hostess to join her upstairs alone at the end of the previous night. He had taken his time removing her from that tight little black cocktail dress, and at her request had not been gentle afterwards. The party outside the bedroom had been loud enough to warrant a visit from a local patrol – a courtesy call only luckily, since Malik knew the officers personally – but he was certain they had made themselves heard, nonetheless.
He turned. Elise was already up, presumably. Not quite how I pictured the night going, running into the Princess like that. I got so turned on I couldn’t wait. I meant to scope the place, take care of any business with people there, and head back home with any girls who looked good and willing. That way I could have my fun, and wake up ready for work in the morni—
It was at this point in Malik’s cognitive wheel-spinning that Elise entered, holding two huge, mismatched coffee mugs, and opening the slightly ajar door with one bare foot. She, dressed in light pink cotton pyjamas, looked fresh, bright, and glowing, her medium-length blonde hair still sexily ruffled in an 80s-Meg Ryan sort of way. ‘Morning, sunshine’.
‘Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…’ Malik was scurrying, trying to put together his clothes and effects to leave for work in a hurry. ‘I’m gonna be late for work…is that other coffee for me?’
‘Yes. Because you were amazing last night, and because I’m amazing all the time, I made you coffee.’ Malik snatched his up, nodding and gesturing gratefully in lieu of using words, and gulped it down quickly as he scoured the room. Elise yawned, amused. ‘Your pants are over there’.
Malik did, in fact, make it to work on time with the aid of caffeine, some calculated speeding, a drive-through breakfast, and a spray-on shower. There was no opportunity to examine his appearance in anything other than the rear-view of his car, but that was enough to tell him he should be wearing sunglasses to work that day.
He pulled into the staff carpark at the workshop, noticing that he had still beaten Chris in to work (the perks of being indispensable, he supposed) but Alison’s white Corolla was already there. He steeled himself and walked into the office with as much indifferent confidence as he was able to muster while wearing sunnies indoors and smelling like a weird combination of spilt bourbon and Lynx Africa. The shop owner, William, was in, but characteristically and mercifully too distracted by emails to notice. Alison was already working on a car in the shop, and did not say anything, but gave Malik The Look as he entered, Alison’s nonverbal way of saying: ‘Busy now, but there will be words later’. Malik got to work, and during a couple of the more mundane tasks, his mind wandered back to last night.
‘I own this town’, I’d told her, and the baffled expression had been priceless. Who was that guy she was drooling at? Oh, yeah. Grayson. Because of course he was. Leave it to her to turn her own life into a tacky romance novel. Was I bluffing? Well, yes and no. Holding down a normal job, making plenty of money on the side dealing a few recreational goods, offering protection to people in my network as long as they’re on side, and staying friendly with the local cop shop all at once ain’t too far off the mark, not in Moonlake. Still, I really let things slip last night. Elise got to me – no – fucking Shortcake got to me. I had a deal on with Brenno and I left it unfinished. Gonna have to follow that up tonight…Malik glanced at the wall clock. Oh, look. 2:30. Time for Alison to finally kick me in the balls over lunch.
‘You went to Elise’s party.’
In the workshop lunchroom, Malik did not consider denying it. He had only just taken his sunglasses off. He reeked of sweat, in addition to the rest. Besides which, there were probably photos already up on Facebook tagging him at the scene of the crime. He remained deadpan. ‘Yup.’
‘So much for keeping your fucking head down.’ Alison went on. ‘Please try to remember that not every police officer in this town is in your pocket, and the ones that aren’t are waiting for you to slip up. That’s why you promised me: no more fucking around, at least for the next couple of weeks.’
‘Alison.’ Malik started.
‘You didn’t last two days.’
‘That’s enough!’ Malik protested, and the violent irritation in his voice cut through and stopped Alison sharp. He held out his work-dirty, brown arm, one of many constant reminders to him of his difference in his family’s new home country. ‘You see this skin tone? When can I afford the privilege of being visible again, Alison? When will they not be “closely watching”? When will they not be “concerned for my welfare”? I like what I’ve got going here. I really do. But it’s stressful, and sometimes I need a little fun.’
Alison Crane’s countenance softened into something Malik recognised as the face of his old school friend, who liked him and cared about him. She was only slightly shorter than Malik, muscularly built, with big brown eyes and long, messy brown hair stuffed up under a baseball cap at work. Not ‘sexy’, as Malik’s usual standard went, but handsome, pretty, and of immeasurable value to Malik as a woman who did not objectify him in the way others did – not to mention the way he objectified other women. ‘I know,’ she said. ‘I just also know you’re not helping your situation. But I’ll let that go for now.’ She brightened and took her phone out. ‘So, I saw some of the photos from the party…’ She was bringing them up as she spoke. ‘…is this vision of too-good-for-us loveliness in red who I think it is? Danika’s back?’
‘Yup. I think that photo was taken as I was telling her whose town she just landed in. I wish there was a photo of her reaction.’
‘Ohhhhh.’ Alison suddenly sounded wearied. ‘So the old knives are back out, huh?’
‘What of it?’
‘It’s just…there’s a lot of tension between you two. Not friendly, obviously. But you guys do really need to fuck it out, and soon.’
Caught off-guard, Malik scrambled to recover his composure. ‘That’s not going to happen.’
‘Why not? You don’t wanna fuck her?’
Again. Control. ‘No.’
‘You sure?’ Alison looked at the photo on her phone again. ‘I kinda want to.’
Knowing Alison, Malik figured the only way he could make her let this go would be to make her laugh. He put on her favourite funny voice, the one they had always used as kids to make fun of the snobs from the rich school; an affected British accent which for Malik landed somewhere between John Cleese and Anthony Stewart Head. ‘Oh well, of course, it would have been splendid to take the opportunity to make love…’ Malik deliberately emphasised the distinction, earning him an amused raised eyebrow from Alison, ‘…however, regrettably, when the moment arose for me to have the condom delivered on a silver platter, the butler was simply nowhere to be seen.’
That did it. Malik checked his own phone for the time while Alison snorted her approval. Dear God. Was that really only fifteen minutes?