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Chapter 14| Mind Games

We'd been in this car for about an hour and a half now, driving through nothing but green and. Where exactly did this man live? I never pegged Malachai for a man of the woods, nothing about him suggested it, but I guess you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, right?

I was a city girl through and through, but the view was beautiful, everything about it was captivating. I had the urge to sink my feet in the rich soil as I stroked the soft petals of the flora that adorned the forest grounds.

I found peace in the bird's song as it reverberated through the forest, lulling me into a sense of calm, beckoning sleep the sleep which had evaded me these past two days.

48 hours. Two days of the most intense sex of my life with this god of man sitting across from me. I barely slept, I hardly ate, though I wasn't hungry, at least not in the way I should be, and I was so sore.

48 hours later, and here I was, sitting in the back of his car on the way to his place with a bag stuffed full of clothes. What the hell was I thinking?

Truth is, I wasn't thinking, I let Malachai scare me into coming, though to be honest that in and of itself was sexy.

I'm crazy, I know I am because nobody in their right mind would find that attractive, and yet here I am reminiscing on these last 48 hours, plotting on ways to lure him into bed once we get to his place.

As the memories of the last two nights came to mind, I thought of Jeff. Poor Jeff, I'd have to get him something. I don't care if that partition was soundproof, there's no way he didn't hear or at least know what was happening.

There was a part of me that was mortified, but at the moment he hadn't even crossed my mind. That was the effect of Malachai Rendell, he made you throw all caution to the wind without sparing a second thought.

I wonder how often Jeff has had to endure this? The rational part of me knew that Malachai had his share of females, but my irrational side was getting the best of me.

The moment we shared in this car, the one directly responsible for my current predicament-had he shared that with other women? The thought of Malachai with other women was infuriating.

48 hours and you're already getting possessive, Amina? What the hell?

"You're dickmatized," my conscience whispered with a snicker; there she was, I had been waiting for her to chime in.

"How are you?" he asked, interrupting my thoughts.

I turned from the window to face him, "Tired. Sore. Hungry," I replied.

He laughed, "I'll be sure to have something prepared for you by the time we get there, how does steak sound?"

"With mashed potatoes and corn on the cob?" I asked, the excitement far too evident in my voice.

"If you wish," he said with a chuckle.

"I do."

"Then you shall have it."

"I mean, it's the least you could do seeing as though you waged psychological warfare against me to get me here."

I should have just said thank you and let that be the end of it, but who was I kidding? Petty was my middle name, and I had no intention on letting Malachai off the hook anytime soon.

"I don't know what you're talking about, " he said, breaking eye contact with me to look through his phone. It would seem Malachai was two steps ahead of me, skillfully circumventing the argument I wanted to have, the questions I wanted to ask. Smart man.

Who is Michael Cirini? What the hell does he want with me? And what was Malachai involved in that he could have any sort of association with this man?

I know I agreed to come, deep down I wanted to, but I felt like I was tricked into making this decision when my mind had already been made up. In 48 hours, I'd learned three things about this man; Malachai Rendell was dominant, his sexual prowess unmatched, and mind games were his specialty.

"Sure you don't," was all I said before looking back outside the window.

~~~~

After another 30 minutes of the forest, we had finally reached civilization. I called it that due to its stark difference from the isolated greenery we drove through.

The dirt path we traversed to get here had disappeared, replaced with asphalt, and while there was still a lot of greenery present, there were homes, sidewalks, shops, diners, pubs, and most importantly, people.

It was a quaint town that felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, but at least it was inhabited. I'll admit I had been slightly worried about the absence of people or cars our entire way here.

How tragic would it have been if Malachai were some psychotic serial killer?

After another 10 minutes, we pulled up to a massive mansion. My jaw dropped, was this where he lived?

Before I could ask, Malachai was out of the car with my carry-on in hand as he waited for me to get out of the care. At the top of the steps waited a man and two women. Who were they?

As we ascended the steps, Malachai took my hand in his, providing me with the comfort I hadn't realized I needed. To say their presence wasn't a bit nerve-racking would be a lie, I didn't think I was going to meet anyone during my stay here, and quite frankly I did not prepare for that.

"Amina," Malachai said, diverting my attention from the three people that stood before us, "This is Faye and Chrisette, my sisters. This is my good friend Balfore." We shook hands as we exchanged pleasantries.

"It's so nice to meet you," both girls said at the same time.

While I could see the resemblance, the exuberance they portrayed was nonexistent in their brother from what I'd seen thus far. It was like they were moments away from bouncing off the walls, and I couldn't tell if it was because of me or if they were always like this.

"Can you tell how excited we are?" Faye asked as she looped an arm around mine. Chrisette soon held my free arm captive as we made our way inside, leaving Malachai and Balfore to their hushed conversation that I was straining my ears to hear. Why all the secrecy?

It was of no use though, the twins made it practically impossible. Faye continued, "Don't mind us, it's just been so long since Malachai has brought someone home." I smiled.

Oh? How long?

Faye continued, "We're just happy that he has a chance to move on. Things haven't been easy for him, you know?"

No. I didn't know.

Chrisette nodded in agreement as they both looked to me awaiting my reply, but I didn't have one.

My baffled expression must have been enough to let them know that I had no idea what they were talking about.

"Oh!" Faye said as a hand came over her mouth in shock, she whispered, "I must have spoken too soon."

"Girls," Malachai called out, causing us all to jump in surprise as he rounded the corner and entered the kitchen. I tried but failed to keep my expression neutral. When I looked at his sisters though, they had crashed and burned in that department far worse than I had.

He paused, looking at us with those intense eyes, attempting to discern what we had been talking about before he came in, I wouldn't budge though, and I prayed Chrisette and Faye would not either.

"Behave...please," he said before giving each of them a measured look.

"Of course, Malachai," they both said in unison.

He looked at me, "I'm sorry, Amina I have to leave."

"Wait, you gave me all this trouble about coming here to leave?"

"No, I'll still be on the grounds, I just have to see to an issue and I'll be back with you shortly, okay?"

I didn't need him to hold my hand, it's not like I couldn't survive a few minutes without him, but this was unfamiliar territory, with far too many people for the little that I had seen. I rolled my eyes before I sighed, "Fine, but make it quick, I didn't come all this way to be abandoned," I pouted.

"Don't pout, you won't be alone, you have my sisters to keep you company."

Such great company, I thought to myself.

"Faye, Chrisette, I already put her order in with the chef, it should be ready soon, see to it that she eats." They nodded in reply; do they do everything in unison?

His attention immediately snapped to the entrance, and I turned to see Balfore give Malachai a sharp nod. Gently, he turned me to him, and kissed me on the forehead, "I'll be back," he said before they left.

Odd.

Faye looked to me just as she put her phone away, "It seems like we have some time before your meal is ready, do you want to take a quick tour? The pack, I mean the house is a bit large, so it's easy to get lost if you don't know where you're going."

A bit? I chose to nod as I feared my verbal reply would have a ruder delivery than intended.

~~~~

This house was massive, so much so that a tour in one day felt impossible, I would never remember my way around here. Bearing that in mind, I made it a point to memorize the important places-the kitchen, the bathroom, and the exit.

My room, however, would have to wait until Malachai got back. The twins were adamant about letting him decide where I'd lay my head despite there being several guest rooms to choose from.

It was a beautiful home, from the kitchen to the upstairs suites to the patio, you could tell that no expense was spared. It was cozy but still managed to have the feel of a museum.

The craftsmanship of the furniture alone was enough to make me want to treat each item as though it was irreplaceable.

Apart from its striking beauty, one thing I did notice was all the people, they were everywhere. A few in the kitchen, another group in the living room, another group on the patio overlooking the very large back yard.

I kept getting both odd and curious looks, some looking at me as though I didn't belong while some looked at me as though baffled by my presence, and then there were some, quite a few actually who sniffed me.

"So does everyone live here?" I asked as we walked the expanse of the backyard.

"Not everyone," Faye replied, "This is the main house where we all hang out throughout the day. Eventually, the majority go home though."

I nodded.

"But a few of us do live here," Chrisette chimed in as she walked ahead.

"Oh? Like who?" My curiosity spiked.

"We do, and our brother of course, oh and Balfore as well as Malachai's council,"

"Council?" I questioned

She paused mid-stride as though caught off guard, "Just a few people who help him out with very important projects, " she said slowly, the struggle to piece together a solid story evident. "It's easier if they live here, they can convene faster, " she said in haste.

"Oh? So what does your brother do for-"

"Looks like your food is ready," Faye interjected, "We should get back before it gets cold, Martha does hate to be kept waiting."

Both of them rushed along ahead of me leaving me to follow. I was on my way back to the kitchen as I pondered the peculiarity of this place when a sharp pang hit me. I suppressed the yelp that wanted out, as I checked for any signs of injury but couldn't find any.

I don't know why or how I knew that it wasn't my pain, I only knew it was Malachai's. Fraught with worry, I could hardly contemplate the validity of my assumption. I was on the move, I hadn't the faintest idea of his whereabouts, but I needed to find him.

Instinct guided my feet, the pain increasing the closer I got. My anxiety reached an all-time high, I could hear the blood rush in my ears as my heart pounded in my chest. I entered the forest without a second thought, knowing I would find him here.

"Find him, find him" my conscience chanted, my breathing grew erratic, tears threatening to spill from my eyes, what was wrong with him? Was he okay? Was he safe?

Oh God, I couldn't go through this again. Images of Aaron's body lying in the middle of our living room flashed before me. Is that what awaited me in the forest?

As I approached the edge of the clearing, a ferocious growl boomed through the forest over vicious snarls and hissing. What the hell was I about to walk into?

"That's cheating and you know it, Cirini," a familiar voice shouted.

Cirini. Was he here for me? Fear overrode my system as I stood frozen to the spot. Frantically, my eyes searched for shelter, anything to hide me from this man.

Luckily I found a hiding spot in the dense thicket that lay just before the clearing, what was he doing here?

"You know what the law states when it comes to dueling. No weaponry, hand to hand combat only," the familiar voice shouted again.

"Oh hush now Balfore, you know I've never been one to follow the rules," his tone laden with mischief. He paused, then tilted his nose towards the sky, taking in a lungful of air, and a devious smile took over his countenance.

"And now for the real show, ladies and gentlemen, Amina, darling, would you come forth?"

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