Season 2, Episode 13
Hot, heavy breathing. Frantic fingertips grazing sensitive flesh. Danika’s core exploded under the pressure of pent-up frustration. With a moan, she rolled onto her side, bedsheets tangling around her bare legs as she continued to pleasure herself in that blissful state between the dreamworld and reality. The very recent memory of Malik’s luscious lips fed her imagination as she spiralled through another orgasm.
‘You are quite a sight to behold, my angel.’ The gruff voice startled her, ripping her out of euphoria and dumping her in a waking nightmare.
Sitting bolt upright, she snarled at the man sitting in her reading chair. ‘What the fuck, Hayden? How did you get into my room?’ She distinctly remembered locking her windows and door the night before.
One of his brows arched. ‘You greatly underestimate me, Danni. There isn’t a lock in this world that will keep me away from you.’
She shuddered, recognising the truth in his threat. ‘Except for those in prison, surely.’
A full-bellied laugh erupted from him, adding to his unhinged essence. ‘You’re dreaming if you think I’ll ever see the inside of a gaol cell. But no, not even those would hold me if it ever came to that. Besides, handcuffs don’t exactly suit my aesthetic.’ Rising from his seat, he crossed the room and straddled her. ‘I’d rather talk about restraining you.’ To emphasise his point, his hands circled her wrists and shoved them up against the bedhead. The oppressive position brought his obvious arousal far to close to her naked vulnerability; his grey chinos doing nothing to protect her from his desire. ‘Sure you want to wait until our wedding night? At this rate, your hand will grow tired of your sexual appetite.’
Terror thudded in her veins and drummed in her ears as his tongue traced the pulse in her neck. ‘I’m sure. Just think how much sweeter it will be for waiting,’ she replied in her most saccharine voice.
‘I’m happy to wait the few short weeks it will take to make you mine, especially if you keep giving me shows like this. It’s your own sanity I worry about. Will you cope okay without crawling into Brennan’s bed in the meantime?’
Biting her lip, she swallowed the snide remark about her mental health that hovered on the tip of her tongue. If the plan to save her from this marriage failed, she would welcome lunacy if it allowed her to escape Hayden’s cruelty. ‘I’ll manage,’ she rasped, more so from her parched throat, but pleased that it made her sound wanton.
‘Good girl,’ he purred in her ear, his thumbs rubbing against the pulse in her wrists as his hungry gaze dropped to her bare breasts.
‘Was there something else you wanted from me, my love? Or are you just here to perve on me?’
Dragging his eyes languidly back to hers, one side of his mouth curled into a sly grin. ‘As a matter of fact, there is. With our engagement party less than a week out, I think you ought to start practicing our kisses, to make them appear credible. Bonus points if you end up convincing me.’
She sucked in a breath. ‘You want to kiss me, like right now?’
He chuckled. ‘Is that so hard to believe, given your current state of undress,’ he thrust his erection against her. ‘Especially considering my own affliction.’
‘Your degree of arousal is what concerns me,’ she replied meekly. ‘What if you lose control of your senses?’
‘I won’t,’ he growled. ‘Not unless you beg me to. Don’t worry, my fallen angel. Your lack of virtue is safe with me. Now kiss me.’
Closing her eyes, she pictured Malik, superimposing her memories of him upon her current situation. Finding his lips, she parted hers ever so slightly at first, enjoying the tantalising taste of mint and the electricity that sizzled between them. When his hands released her wrists to cup her face, she opened her mouth to his probing tongue. Giving into her desperation, she egged him on with her own savage attack, relishing the way he devoured her with the same reckless abandon. Before she knew it, she was writhing against the bulge in his pants and falling over the edge into oblivion.
‘Consider me convinced.’ Hayden’s breathless voice broke the spell.
Glancing down at the mess she had made; shame rose like bile in her throat. She had let her imagination get the better of her. At least the method acting she had learnt at university was paying off. ‘Sorry about your pants.’
Cradling her chin, he lifted her gaze to meet the lascivious fire burning in his. ‘Don’t ever apologise for coming like that, not with me. I don’t care if you ruin my most expensive suits with your delicious pleasure. Now if you’ll excuse me a moment, I have my own needs to take care of.’ Striding across the room, he locked himself in her ensuite bathroom; his regard for her boundaries baffling her. As much as the sight would have sickened her, she would have let him rub one out in front of her just to play along.
Maybe that would be pushing the limits of his own willpower too far. Whatever his reason, she felt thankful that he had spared her. She took this opportunity to slip into a silk dressing gown, to recover a modicum of modesty before he returned.
Emerging from the bathroom, his eyes scanned her from head to toe. ‘I imagine you’ll be wanting to freshen up before you start packing.’
‘Packing?’ she queried, wondering if she heard correctly.
‘That’s right, angel. The main reason for my visit was to help you pack your things. You’ll be moving into our new house next weekend. I have some empty boxes in my car.’
She blinked a few times to process his words, to let her new predicament sink in. ‘Uh, yeah, I’ll definitely need a shower before I do anything else today.’ Her arm brushed against his as she passed him on her way to the bathroom.
The moment she reached the door, his hand coiled around her arm like a python, gripping her tight. ‘I’ll join you. I need to wash myself after your beautiful display, plus it will give us another chance to practice kissing.’ He winked at her, filling her stomach with pebbles of dread.
So much for respecting my boundaries, she sighed, accepting her fate.
After swallowing more than just her pride that morning, Danika was able to sweet-talk Hayden into sending her a copy of the engagement party guest list before he left her house with a car full of her stuff late in the afternoon. The moment he had left, she inhaled the sweet relief of his absence, breathing it in like she had been starving for oxygen. Then there was dinner with her parents, a painstaking marathon where they would not shut up about wedding plans.
The one saving grace was knowing that her mum didn’t mean a word she said. Estelle played her part of the excited mother-of-the-bride perfectly. ‘I know Hayden offered to do most of the planning for you, but I insisted he let us organise the colour scheme and decorations. I have a few ideas I’d like to run past you tonight. What do you say, dear?’
She grinned at her mother. ‘Actually, before we get ahead of ourselves, I have some ideas for the engagement party I want to discuss with you. Hayden gave me a copy of the guest list.’ Turning to Sterling, she placed an endearing hand on his arm. ‘I hope you don’t mind, Dad, but I need another girly night with Mum. I know this stuff will likely bore you—’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ he insisted, waving her concern away. ‘I have some work to do at the observatory tonight, anyway.’
A hint of guilt cinched her chest. ‘Oh, I hope I’m not missing anything important at work?’
‘Not at all,’ Sterling replied with a shake of his head. ‘I’ll catch you up tomorrow.’
As soon as the door closed behind Sterling, Estelle rushed Danika down into the basement, which Estelle had set up as a craft studio. An odd choice, Danika had always thought, considering the lack of natural sunlight, but now she was beginning to understand the true purpose of the space. Without windows, the place was only accessible via the one door, plus there was less chance of prying eyes.
As if reading her mind, Estelle drew close and whispered. ‘I check this space regularly for bugs and hidden cameras. It’s always been clean, but I’ll double check before we talk more.’ Retrieving a high-tech device with blinking lights and a LED display, she swept it over every surface while Danika made herself comfortable in a gas-lift chair. ‘We’re safe.’ She sat in the seat next to Danika. ‘I’m impressed you got that guest list so easily.’
‘Just don’t ask what it took to butter him up,’ she deadpanned.
Estelle cringed. ‘Believe me, I know. Those Country Club men are all a bunch of deviants.’
Her brows rocketed towards the heavens. ‘Huh. I can’t believe I never made that connection until now. Hayden was always tight with Dad back in the day. I recall the way they would disappear together whenever we visited the Country Club, leaving us girls to our own devices for hours.’
Nodding, Estelle opened a laptop and waited for it to boot up. ‘Their secret men’s business. I used to think it strange how they had separate club rooms for men and women, that was until I stumbled upon the debauchery they indulged in. My money’s on Sterling going there, rather than the Observatory tonight.’
She shuddered at the thought. ‘Seems like a golden opportunity to call a meeting with our allies.’
‘My thoughts exactly,’ Estelle agreed. ‘Here,’ she handed Danika a burner phone, ‘call Brennan first, see if he can confirm Hayden’s preoccupation.’
Brennan answered on the third dial tone, ‘Officer Lamey speaking.’ The distinct tremor of a thumping bass line rumbled beneath the sound of background chatter.
‘Hey’ It’s Danni. Can we talk?’
‘Just a moment, please.’ The line went silent as she waited. ‘Hey, sorry about that. I needed to find a quiet spot. What’s up?’
‘Are you at the Country Club with Dad and Hayden?’ she asked outright.
Brennan’s coughing and spluttering almost deafened her before she moved the phone away from her ear slightly. ‘How the fuck do you know about the Club?’
She shrugged, forgetting that he could not see her. ‘Mum told me. So is that a yes?’
‘Yeah, they’re here. Why do you ask?’
‘Just wanted to be sure of their distraction. Do you think you could head over to my place? We’re having a meeting tonight.’
‘I’m sure I can spin something about police business coming up. I’ll be there in twenty.’
‘Perfect. See you then.’ After disconnecting, she sent a text to the other guys, telling them to get to her place at the same time. ‘What about Taylor? She’s still hiding in the city.’
‘I’m sure Brennan can fill her in afterwards. He knows where her safehouse is.’ Estelle loaded up a video surveillance app on the laptop and upon closer inspection, Danika realised the footage showed her house and surrounds. ‘I’m preparing to loop the video feed for the time leading up to our guests’ arrival, Estelle explained. ‘I’ll do it again when they leave. That way, your dad and Hayden will be none the wiser.’
Danika shook her head. ‘When did you turn into a spy-mum?’
Laughing, Estelle continued to work her magic on the computer. ‘I’ve always been tech savvy. It’s one of the qualities that attracted Sterling to me in the first place.’
Grinning, a new wave of respect for Estelle blossomed in her heart. ‘Those skills could prove invaluable in our plans.’
‘I’m sure they will,’ Estelle agreed.
As her group of unlikely allies, minus one, assembled in the basement she exchanged a heated glance with Malik. The sight of his mouth, a welcome reminder of the recent moment they had shared.
Those sinful lips quirked upwards in a crooked smile as he approached her. ‘Evening, princess. Something on your mind?’
‘There’s plenty on my mind. Were you fishing for something specific?’
‘This is a convenient little hideaway your mum’s got here,’ he observed, glancing around and halting when his eyes landed on the large sofa. ‘Do you think she’ll let us borrow it when the meeting’s done?’
‘Probably,’ she admitted with flushed cheeks. ‘But it could be risky. I don’t know when Dad—I mean Sterling—plans on returning home.’
Drawing closer, Malik’s tickled her neck with his breath. ‘You could always put your guard dog on duty.’ He gestured toward Brennan.
‘Does this mean you trust him now?’
‘Not on my life,’ he huffed. ‘But I doubt he’d do anything to hurt you. I know devoted puppy eyes when I see ’em.’
‘Okay, kids, we don’t have all night, so let’s get on with it,’ Estelle commanded as she swivelled in her seat to face them all. ‘Danni has given me the guest list for the party, so I’m going open it on the laptop and project it to the television on the wall. Plan is to divide the list among ourselves. I’ll then copy your individual files to your own phones so that you can spend the rest of the week digging up as much dirt as possible. If anyone comes up squeaky clean, or unknown, you’ll need to befriend them at the party and find out how they know the “happy” couple. Any questions?’
Grayson raised his hand, as if in school.
‘I thought you were a teacher, not a student,’ Malik scoffed.
‘It’s called manners,’ Grayson retorted.
‘What’s the question, dear?’ Estelle asked.
‘How exactly do I dig up this dirt? I don’t have access to any confidential files.’
‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way,’ Estelle replied with a wink. ‘I’ll get you access to whatever you need.’
Grayson gaped at her, while Malik cleared his throat. ‘So uh, princess, when were you planning to tell us we have a hacker on the team?’
‘This is news to me.’ She stared at her mother in awe. ‘Looping camera feeds on your own home surveillance network is one thing, but hacking secure servers? Are you sure you’re up to this, Mum?’
‘There’s only one way to find out,’ Estelle replied, stunning them all into silence for a moment. ‘So here’s the list. Straight up, I can see a bunch of police, so it makes sense for Brennan to take them….’
As Estelle worked her way methodically down the list, Danika stood between Malik and Brennan, each of them drawing her eye from time-to-time by subtly brushing their fingers against her hands. Before long, her core ached with a need she knew she would not be able to satisfy on her own. When the last file was transferring, she sat beside Estelle and broached the delicate topic with a whisper, ‘So, uh, Mum… Would you mind if Malik and I had some alone time down here?’
Estelle gave her a knowing smile. ‘So long as he leaves before Sterling gets home.’
‘Um, guys, about that,’ Brennan interrupted, pointing to the television screen with surveillance on the front of the house. The black and white feed showed Sterling arriving home in his Astra.
‘Shoot! Danni and Grayson, head up to the front lounge room,’ Estelle directed. ‘Malik and Brennan, I’m afraid you’ll have to hide down here until I can safely usher you both out.’
‘Promise me you won’t kill each other,’ Danika insisted, eyeing Malik and Brennan sceptically.
Brennan raised his hands in supplication. ‘You have my word.’
When Malik refused to answer, she glared at him.
‘Yeah, fine,’ he conceded.
She exchanged one last glance with the other two members of her little love triangle, before dashing upstairs.
Copyright © 2022 L. Starla & J. Wake