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Authors: Rebecca Berto

Entwine (7 page)

BOOK: Entwine
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“I’m just some guy to you?” he replied.

“Sure, call it that. Just some guy to me.”

He snickered and stared at her lips. Sarah felt naked, then, under his eyes. Like he was piercing through, deep inside, and she desperately wanted to know what it was he was seeing.

Meeting her gaze, he said, “Brown. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know, but at least now you know. You?”

“Hot pink.” She rolled her eyes, grinning. “Take from that what you will. And yes, I also have two pairs of hot pink pumps. One is studded, one is suede.”

“Hmm,” Malik mumbled. He drew in closer, and inhaled so close to her cheek that she felt it on the little hairs on her skin. Touching his lips just behind her ear, he left them there for a moment, and whispered, “I’d like to see you in them, see if that colour should be a favourite of mine, too.” And, finally, he gave her the kiss she’d wanted.

But why did she imagine herself naked like that?

Facing her, he said, “I’m a divorce lawyer. Makes for,” and he paused the slightest bit, “
interesting
relationships in life.”

“They all are too scared to marry you or stick around, are they?” Sarah asked.

“Who?”

“The women. Fear you’ll fuck them over?”

Sarah brought her hand to her mouth. Too bad she’d swore, and said all that before she’d thought to stop herself. What would he think of her now? “Oh my God. I didn’t … damn.”

“Hey.” He held her shoulder gently, looking up at her tilted head. “Never said I hated a girl who has a tongue on her.”

Sarah bit her lip, and allowed her eyes to gaze into his. If he kept on this way, she’d be undressed and in his bed at his command within no time.

It wasn’t like Sarah hadn’t slept with a guy within a few days of meeting him before, but she wasn’t a one-night stand girl, and she couldn’t imagine why a man as confident, sexy and capable as Malik would stick around for a little, too young girl on the first day of her job, who seemed far from his type.

She managed words, and replied, “Good to know.”

“Sarah?” he said. Knowing he was saying that—her very name—made a thrill pass over her. She wondered if he didn’t see her again, if she’d remember him saying that. The deep timbre to his voice and the way he uttered the letters.

“I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t lead a girl on, and no one has ever been hurt with unrealistic expectations or been tricked with me. I’d only ask a girl to move in with me, in the same way I’d only ask her to see a movie: if I meant it, and wanted her company.”

Damn, if that didn’t do a number on her thoughts. And as if she needed any more mind twisting from this guy. He didn’t have to do any of those tricks. She did that to herself just by being in his presence, with any type of attention he graced upon her. She knew he didn’t mean to do any of this, but Sarah had made her own mind up. She needed him to see her longer, and to see her again.
And again
.

She asked, feeling for clues. “And what do you expect from me?”

“You.”

“Easy to say.”

He shook his head, a little nudge from left to right. “You shouldn’t find it hard to be yourself. You’re beautiful, inside and out.”

“Ha!” she cried. “But you barely know me.”

“Well, I can tell. You caught my attention and haven’t unhooked me since. I’m just dangling, Sarah. At your mercy.”

That caught her attention. What rubbish was he saying? She was the little lovesick puppy, vying for his attention. She needed him to keep doing everything that he was doing, and more. She was just a girl, pretty enough, and easy for him.

“I want to know …”

He nodded then waited, while she chewed on her words. “Why me? What’s here,” she said, gesturing down herself, “that interests you?”

If he could work his way out of that clear hint towards physical value without stumbling or looking awkward, she’d probably believe him.

“The first thing I noticed about you was your innocence. Girls who pursue me make it blatant. You didn’t want to seem that way. They ask what I do for a living in one breath and start pretending to not realise they’re rubbing their chests at me in the next breath. I deal with lots of acts in my line of work and in my life, and there was something pure in you I craved. Something like a magnet I was drawn to.”

Sarah’s eyes were big and unblinking, so Malik added, “Truly, you have no idea how many girls are ‘excited to start our lives together’.” He ticked off one finger. “I’m not even in a relationship with them when they announce this, and,” he ticks off another finger, “I may be a guy but I have brains enough to replace that bullshit with the synonym ‘house’. They move in and they get a share of my assets if they’ve stuck by me long enough.”

So not what I expected. At all.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” She frowned. Who was that money hungry? “I’m just cautious with guys, is all. My dad had a long hidden affair with another woman for years, and Mum and I found out when I was a teenager. Just made me cautious of every guy since. You never know, you know? Only get one heart.”

“Gotta take care of it,” he added.

“Yep.”

His tone had changed, but Sarah couldn’t pick at exactly what it was. She watched the bus stop and realised everyone had left, and three new people were waiting now. She hadn’t noticed a thing.

Malik. Him and his charms.

It was just then she realised she knew nothing, and yet everything about this guy. She could reel off her exes jobs, cars, surnames, parents’ jobs, future aspirations. She couldn’t do all that with Malik, but she did feel more like herself than she had with any other guy. She didn’t want to shut guys out, but she hadn’t figured out how to stop hurting, or how to be herself around them.

“So, we know lots about me. What about you, Malik, divorce lawyer? Do you have a girlfriend, wife or kids?”

“I think you know the answer to that.”

She nodded. “No wife, absolutely not. Not a girlfriend, but that doesn’t answer if you’re dating anyone. And kids. Possible.”

Malik smiled. “You’re good. I’m single, free, unattached but with a kid.” He brought Sarah to him with a simple finger under her chin. She came easily, resting her hands on his thigh. Malik pressed a full kiss on her lips. Opening his eyes, she had to blink a few times to get used to him being so close. Her mind spun. This close, his intensity made her dizzy. “And do you want me?”

How did Sarah reply to that? Did she “want” him? Hell yes. Should she say so? “I think you know the answer to that,” she replied.

“Where to next, then?”

 

• • •

 

NOW

 

It was quarter to ten when they’d decided what to do. As much as Sarah was excited at the thought of ending up in his bed, she had enough brains to figure out that, once he had that, she’d have nothing left to keep him hooked. He was too good to lose so quickly. Plus, she didn’t want to act like a kid straight out of university. She wanted to be an accomplished woman, far from the desperate urges of a fresh teenager that she really had inside.

“Crown Casino,” she repeated after him. “The place that never sleeps.”

“Yup.”

Sarah, in the course of the last few hours, had theorised several fantasies about what she could do to hang onto Malik for one more moment. His house? Too suggestive. A café? Too hard to find one open late on a weeknight. And anywhere outside wasn’t an option, now it was dark. But Crown was where it all happened. She loved the big square pillars that would fire up at midnight, the flame sweeping high, and the heat hot enough to feel even from three storeys down. She loved the sound of the slot machines clicking over; the staff at the tables handing cards. The bustle.

Money, restaurants, shopping, hotels, entertainment, gambling; it was all there.

Malik took her hand, and they walked to the parking lot. She was beside him, and he standing by her, like a protective boyfriend, and she wondered again what he would end up being to her.

When they crossed at the lights, she thought about his car parked in the parking lot ahead, and started guessing what he drove. Audi, she decided. He’d be the type to drive a European car. Audis were sleek, fast, and luxurious. That, and they were pricey, and he seemed established enough that he’d have no issues spending that cash.

“Just here,” he pointed.

Pointed to a Ford. Her face must have paled, because he smirked. “I’m a Ford guy. Did you expect a Holden?”

Fords were for families, young guys and girls, car enthusiasts. Ford was an everyman car, for lots of regular people.

“No, no, it’s just … I don’t know.”

“A BMW? A Ferrari?”

She tutted, moving around the car—away from him.

“XR6 Turbo, special edition. Can’t do better, in my opinion.”

Sarah sat on the passenger seat and quietly enjoyed this turnout. She wasn’t sure a guy who would spend half the price of a little apartment was the right type to have long-term. It was when Malik belted himself in the driver seat, started the engine, reversed, and took off with fast precision that she decided she loved this true-to-heart guy who was passionate enough about an Australian car favourite. Just enough cockiness to please, yet not too little to care.

By the time they were a bit into their drive, traffic was scarce. Malik asked if she wanted to put on a particular playlist, but she didn’t mind, so they stuck with the radio, volume turned low.

They pulled up at a red light, and Sarah felt the tension. “How come you didn’t tell me your name at first?”

“I’ve been thinking the same as you.”

“Well,
Malik
, I asked first.”

He chuckled at that. “Few things. I assumed you’d have a boyfriend. Assumed you wanted to keep to yourself, and then the right time never came up to ask. I didn’t think you’d be in to me. But, mostly, I assumed even if you were, I’m over the hill for someone as amazing as you.”

“That was more than a few.”

“Can’t help that you make me feel many things.”

Sarah didn’t have the confidence to even reply her thanks, so she nodded and hoped he’d see from his peripheral vision. Sarah was freaked, but not in a bad way. No matter how she tried to describe him in her head, the best she could do was a New York male model, minus the attitude, mixed with the personality of a CEO. And both of those weren’t in Sarah’s circles. Not even close to her world.

She’d never moved suburbs. In fact, once her parents split up, her dad moved to the other side of the suburb. Sarah went to one primary school, one high school, one uni and had one job as a register girl at a clothing store before she had her first day in the real world, today.

It didn’t matter that she didn’t know Malik’s history; he still came from a different world.

He glanced at her, then back to the road. “So, you going to make me suffer in silence, waiting?”

“No,” she shook her head.
Be cool
. “I’m not ready to say why yet.”

“Seriously?”

Yes,
she was serious that she couldn’t tell him what she was thinking. She wasn’t ready for him to run off frightened, not now or ever.

“I’m not usually a relationship guy,” he said, after so much silence Sarah had settled to barely hum the tune of the current song on the radio. “I used to be, but that was years ago, and I haven’t had a girl in my own bed in eight years. Besides my own daughter, when she was smaller. So, no, no girls in my bed. Girls in my house? Yup. Just never overnight.

“I wasn’t always like that. Lucy’s mum was meant to be a keeper, but guess it wasn’t meant to be. I can’t afford a broken heart. Mortgage, child support, my job to support clients with a broken heart … I see it and have experienced it and life is better now than it was before.”

Sarah gulped. If that wasn’t opening up, she couldn’t say what was. She couldn’t decide if it was worse if he were a player or like this, but then, she felt bad for assuming he’d play girls around. He’d just told her otherwise, anyway.

Still, she couldn’t pick his type. Now, she knew, and it seemed worse like this. Not because he had a little girl, because Sarah would be delighted to meet her, but because of his habits. His learnt way-of-life meant she was sure she’d never be the one who would change him.

She realised two things were wrong with that. She was attracted to Malik because of the way he was. Changing him would not only be selfish, but also to her detriment. The other thing was, she wasn’t a kid anymore. Sarah well and truly knew that only characters in movies “changed” a man. Life didn’t work like that. Her dad married her mum, had an affair with Alyssa Fawnheart for years, moved onto Jessica Stone, and after them, all the women blended into one blonde skinny prototype. Her dad had said the whole time he “just knew” the current girlfriend would be the one.

Life wasn’t fair, but it was how it was.

Trying not to hesitate, Sarah took a deep breath and exhaled. “It’s not meant to happen that way, is it?”

Malik had expected a different answer, just as much as Sarah had. But Sarah was more mature than her friends. She’d heard “I’m so sorry to hear that” and “It’ll all work out” one hundred times too many, and they were weak answers coming from a person who didn’t care enough to say a fitting response.

She went on, “We’re meant to have the one dad stick by family, a wife who’ll be forever. In the end, we have to make do with how it all breaks apart and find a way to put it back together enough to be happy with it and move on.”

“I haven’t had one person who’s replied anything like that,” Malik said.

“Happy to be your first.”

They had driven into the outer city, and were getting closer to Crown now. The roads were denser than where they’d taken off from the train station, and everything was brighter here: signs, lights, cars. It was a clue they were getting closer to their destination, and it made Sarah’s muscles tighten, anxious at the thought of getting there, anxious at the thought of driving forever.

“Here,” he said softly, holding out his hand.

Sarah took it, and a calm drifted over her. She relaxed into the contours of the leather seat, and turned only her head to gaze at Malik.

BOOK: Entwine
3.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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