He came back out to find her standing by the fire, a distant look in place of that smile he’d come to appreciate so much.
He crept up to her without a word and whispered in her ear; “I’d give anything to be the reason behind that look”.
She turned around sharply and almost lost her balance, in the process nudging the glasses in his hands and spilling a good bit of the cocktails he’d fixed on both of them.
“Oh no!” She exclaimed, hands moving in an attempt to clean up the mess she’d caused on her dress and on his chest.
Maleek quickly placed the glass in his right hand on the mantle of the fireplace and grabbed her left hand sharply.
“You need to stop touching me like that Zee”, he said slow and deep. But that was a blatant lie. Right there, the only thing he wanted was more of her touch and more so on his throbbing man, but there was no way he could venture there now; not just yet.
Zara snatched her other hand as though she’d been burnt after taking one look into his eyes. Maleek could tell that what she saw there intrigued her immensely, but she was wise enough not to push it.
“Sorry. I…I didn’t mean to..”, she sputtered.
“Never mind. I’ll come clean this up and get you another glass. Do you need that dried a bit? If you don’t mind that is…” Maleek asked with a pointed look at her cobalt blue silk dress, now darkened by wet blotches across her breasts and stomach. His breath caught in his throat as he noticed her taut nipples through the wet fabric. He could already picture what they’d look like, naked.
“No please. I’ll just keep standing by the fire. It should dry up quickly”.
Without a word Maleek walked off into the kitchen. Only one other person had ever ignited emotions of such intensity in him and that was more than 8 years ago. Almost a decade had gone by since life and the consequences of his selfish decisions had ripped her away from his reach forever. And here he was fighting off demons from the past simply because of a touch from Zara. Trouble looms again Maleek, he muttered to himself. The one time he felt this way about a woman he dared to let in, he lost her. Every time he dared to care about anybody else, they were taken away right before his eyes.
He cared about Zara, no doubt. But he’d rather save her than lose her. He cared enough not to risk her life as well; hers and her daughter’s. He thought today was the day he’d finally open up to who he really was and hope to end the nightmare of loneliness and secrecy. But his feelings had grown deeper than he’d thought. And that meant he had to do all he could to protect her; even if it meant staying away from her and the little girl he’d come to love.
Lost in thought, Maleek did not notice Zara entering. She stood in the doorway for a while, watching as he seemed to have an internal struggle. Whatever it was, it was taking its toll on him because she’d never read the kind of body language he had now. His fists were clenched on the kitchen counter and he had his head bent the whole time, locs cascading over his shoulders and face. She also noticed his shoulders heave a few times.
Maybe I could help, Zara thought as she walked up to him slowly. She reached out and touched his shoulder. As if he was defending himself from an attacker, Maleek swung around and trapped her hand in an iron-tight grip, trapping her between his hard body and the kitchen counter. His eyes darkened with a haunted look. Zara winced in pain and Maleek immediately snapped out of the dark daze that had pushed him.
“Oh no Zee…I’m so so sorry. I don’t know why I did that”, he said remorsefully, gripping the sides of her face and kissing her forehead. He pulled her into his arms and felt her body freeze against his. He had scared her. Without meaning to he had shown a side of him he’d not wanted her to see; at least not until she knew everything and fully understood.
He pulled back and looked into her face, searching those eyes for any hope that her fears would soon pass. He stroked her face lightly and pulled her close once more.
She froze midway and pushed herself away from him and started heading back to the living room. Mid-stride towards the door she turned around. “I don’t know what just happened to you and I won’t ask. I think you should be alone right now; have some time to yourself to figure out what’s bothering you. So please, take me home”.
Maleek watched as she walked out and chided himself for his being so stupid. But she was right. He needed to be alone. He had to think. He had to know exactly what to do next to take away the fear he’d inadvertently raised within her, and at the same time keep a safe distance for her safety.
Plagued by his thoughts, Maleek wished Zara would say something. But she stayed silent till he brought the car to a halt outside her apartment and he spoke.
“Zara…please forgive me. And try to forget what just happened. I didn’t meant to ruin the night”.
“I understand Maleek. Just walk me to the door please,” she responded in a brittle tone.
Maleek ushered her to her door and stood guard as she unlocked it. Before she could enter, he held on to her right arm and pulled her in for a long, hard kiss; invading her mouth with his tongue, pouring out most of what he’d felt all night.
He pulled away as abruptly as he’d started and walked backwards to his car, leaving Zara with a mixture of shock, fear and excitement from the kiss, and uncertainty from his words.
“Good night Zee. I’ll make things right. I’ll grant your request to know me and make you understand. Just give me some time. Please.”
Zara watched as his taillights disappeared into the darkness, wondering just how much time it would take and if she’d see him again anytime soon…