Chapter 3 — Cupid’s Chokehold

The Reserve : Unfolding – Chapter 3 — Cupid’s Chokehold

Vanessa’s business was very much cloak and dagger. She never met or interacted with clients in public. The events were just a gateway, a way for someone to slip her a message and then disappear into the crowd. Tamia always described it as spy work, she pictured Vanessa as an undercover agent infiltrating crime rings. Even though the work was just as dangerous and each interaction put her life at risk, she always got a rush from it. She enjoyed the passcodes and secret meeting rooms.

When explaining the purpose of these events, she often equated them to dating; nothing is more important than a great first impression on a first date. Dress to impress, make sure all eyes are on you when you walk into a room. Good communication is key, so speak in their native tongue if you can. Go there with clear intention, know if you are planning to commit or if you wish to make it a one-time thing. But be unapologetic, never back down and if they can’t handle you full on, then they aren’t worth taking to bed, in any sense.

She did her best to avoid operating in a pattern. She never arrived to any event at the same time. Sometimes an hour late and other times even later when she wasn’t sure she could trust the client. Never early, a lady never gets there first and if your date is impatient, they are not worth your time.

Vanessa arrived in her Aston Martin One-77. She did her best to wait it out but this time anxiety got the best of her and she only managed to arrive 40 minutes after the set time of arrival. She was worried that Tamia might feel out of place or do something that would draw too much attention to her. If she could get there hopefully before the client recognises her, she could possibly postpone the transaction and leave with Tamia. 

She parked her car and locked the doors. Before walking to the entrance, she bent over, pretending to have dropped something on the floor. She hid the key to the car behind the tyre of the front passenger’s side. As much as Vanessa was the one trying to take on new clients, she had a reputation for turning down anyone whom she did not find interesting. So sometimes in an attempt to woo her, they would invite her to spend a few days with them to show off their operations, hoping it would entice her to agree to the partnership. Vanessa was the best in the game and they all wanted her services. In the unlikely case she couldn’t go back home after a meeting, she and Malik developed a system. Vanessa would hide the key somewhere and disclose the location thereof to Malik. If she wasn’t seen or heard from 3 hours after going to meet the client, Malik would drive her car home.

Vanessa walked up to the bouncer, showed him her invite and then pointed to her car. He nodded in approval and moved to the side. As she walked in, she took a moment to admire the mansion. The marble floors, sculptures and paintings were breath-taking. She really liked the giant chandelier and the winding staircase. It was a beautiful sight and even though she had seen better, she couldn’t deny that the owner had some taste.

The foyer opened up to three passageways and a waitress. She handed Vanessa a glass of champagne and instructed her to go to the end of the middle passage. The further down she went, the louder the music got. It was a typical strategy pulled by hosts; throw the party by the pool and force guests to go through the house, a way to compellingly impress everyone with what they have. It was rich people’s way of fishing for compliments. Vanessa always felt that it was tacky because money talks and wealth whispers.

All initial meetings were normally blind dates. Everyone operated under their aliases, it was important to protect them from the eyes of the law. Clients hardly came to these events in person, they would send liaisons to scope out who they felt was best for the job. In order to recognise one another, they would have different signals. This was also for clients to differentiate between service providers. Vanessa was not the only one in the business but she was the most popular new comer. The reason she and Tamia had to avoid one another at the party was because if one of her competitors found out she had any attachments, they would try to hurt Tamia to get revenge against Vanessa for any clients they missed out on.

The guests were all seated around the swimming pool. The area was set up like a lounge; sofas and cocktail tables around the pool and the dance floor behind the sofas. In some sections, men were smoking cigars with whiskey in hand while beautiful women stood around them rubbing their shoulders. These were the type of men Kami called Runaways, men with money and probably married, who came to such events to run away from their wives or families to have responsibility free fun. The women varied in both ethnicity and waist size. Some of them wore bikinis while others wore tight fitting dresses and they pranced around the pool or danced near the DJ booth. Vanessa knew most of them were merely eye candy to whet the appetites of the men. 

There were women who dominated certain sections of the pool area, some with women they fancied and some with younger men. Kami normally classified them into two categories, the Players and the Fishers. The Players were those who wanted someone to toy with. Usually it was someone younger, someone they could control. The Fishers on the other hand, were those seeking a distraction, someone to entertain them for the night and they would release back into the world by morning.

Despite being in similar tax brackets, these two groups could never frolic with one another. The men could not stand the idea of women who could survive on their own and the women refused to give the men the opportunity to try and tame them. 

Of course, there were others too, the outliers. Some nouveau riche who somehow managed to land an invite. A friend of a friend who had the right connections.

Vanessa wanted to avoid engaging with outliers especially because some of them were her competitors.

Vanessa walked across the patio and made her way to the bar. She walked past gambling tables, stacks of money and different kinds of drugs. As she took a seat at the bar, she wondered how Tamia was doing. How is she handling all of this?

Before she could order a drink, the bartender served her a dirty martini. She looked at him and shook her head, signalling that she didn’t order it, but the bartender whispered in her ear that the drink was ordered for her by a guy at the end of the bar. She looked over and saw a handsome, tall, dark man who clearly had wealth and was a gentleman in nature. Vanessa smiled and walked over to the Good Samaritan who bought her a drink. She had just gotten to the party and was bored, no Tamia or Kami in sight. She thought maybe a little fun before meeting the client would not hurt.

Hi”, he said, while holding out his hand, “You don’t seem like the type to drink a martini.

I’m not, so why did you get it for me?”, she said, while taking a seat across this gentleman.

I was hoping you wouldn’t like it and maybe that would prompt you to walk over and reject my drink. You’d be firm but gentle in your rejection and I would…

… and you would then offer to buy me my preferred drink or use some corny pick up line? So, manipulation.” Vanessa stood up and turned around to walk away.

Actually, no. I was going to tell you a joke. A knock-knock joke.

A knock-knock joke?”, she said with a giggle.

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Someone”, he said while signalling the bartender to come over.  

Someone who?

Someone who wants to get to know you better.

The bartender walked over with an old-fashioned and placed it in front of Vanessa.

She let out a soft chuckle. She didn’t find the joke funny but she enjoyed the effort put into the charade. She could tell he was a good guy, the type to go to church on Sundays and make a generous tithe in the offering basket. 

I’m here, so what’s next?”, Vanessa spoke in a low whisper, so that he would have to lean in to hear her clearly.

She could tell he was actively stumbling on his thoughts. Every time he would almost compliment her looks, he would catch himself.

You are beau… Brilliant. You are brilliant.

He had a kind smile despite trying to be assertive. He was witty and that made the flirting pleasurable. One drink turned into two, conversations about life experiences and views on international politics. He had a lot to say but was also a good listener. His attention was fully focused on Vanessa until they walked in. His eyes fixated on the woman who had just entered with her entourage. 

It wasn’t unexpected, Kami had that effect on a lot of men. She had a body that would drive men to war and tonight her supermodel frame dressed in her tight leather pants and a skimpy red bralette top, with red timberland heels, was enough to make any man go mad. It wasn’t just her ‘would-be suitor’ who was captivated by them, everyone in the room shifted their focus and an announcement was made over the intercom. 

All guests have arrived.” 

That was the signal for the hunt to begin. Protocol was that liaisons could not approach anyone until all guests were accounted for. Vanessa stood up again to leave but he put his hand on her arm, trying to make her stay. 

You don’t have to leave. She’s not more beautiful than you.”, he said, looking broken-hearted. 

You know, there is nothing impressive about trying to tear down another woman. She is beautiful. It’s her truth.

I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said that.” He was embarrassed.

Vanessa knew he wouldn’t just let it go, she knew she had to do something that would make him leave her alone. 

She moved closer to him and seductively whispered into his ear, “Give me your hand.

She took his hand and placed it on her waist then started moving it lower down. She could see by his face that he was shocked at first, but the lower she led his hand, the more excited he became. Vanessa moved her hand all the way down to her garter. 

Quickly his excitement turned back to shock and his face turned cold. She smiled, kissed him on the cheek and walked back to the other side of the bar after saying “Maybe in another life.

Vanessa enjoyed the feeling of cold metal touching her thigh. Her 9mm was more important to her than any handbag she owned. It offered her security. Before learning how to run the business, Kami taught her the importance of having a gun.

Kami basically taught her everything she knew, from how to dress to how to entice clients. Vanessa was never one to flaunt her wealth, she always told Tamia that if the occasion didn’t require too much noise; a nonverbal message was enough. Vanessa hardly wore jewellery, she said she hated the admin of having to take it off but for this event, she put on her best priceless antiques.

She sat down and composed herself, making sure that her back was turned towards her friends. This was her way of reminding Tamia to avoid contact at all costs.

Tamia was like a kid in a candy store. She felt Vanessa downplayed how amazing her world really was. When she first walked out to the pool she started scouting for Vanessa. She saw the watch shinning on her wrist, the jewellery on her neck and the man who wanted nothing but for Vanessa to care to remember his name. 

The Kami, Tamia and Malik sat down in the lounge area. Kami seemed to know everyone; they would flock to her whenever they caught sight of her. 

It was the small things Tamia paid attention to; in this environment race meant nothing, money was everything. When you have money, you have power and the nicer things in life are not things you earn or deserve but rather they are things owed to you and served to you on a silver platter. 

She watched as multiple men and women approached Vanessa, each trying to get her attention. Some approaching her with a drink in hand and others making gestures to the bartender as they got closer. Tamia was almost certain that Vanessa and the bartender were having wagers on who would be the one to take her home that night. He would either walk or tilt his head to the side just before a candidate would get within talking distance. 

This went on for a few minutes until a man came by and tapped Vanessa on her left shoulder and whispered something into her ear, just as she was about to take a sip of her drink. Tamia figured that had to be the signal because Vanessa quickly stood up and pretended to know the man. She fixed herself up and started following him as he led the way.

As Vanessa was leaving, she and Kami crossed eyes. Kami knew that meant the man who had just approached her was the liaison and the plan was now in motion but also that Tamia was now her responsibility and Vanessa expected Kami to keep her safe.

The liaison led Vanessa back into the house and then down one of the other passageways, both walking slowly and in total silence. They kept quiet as they passed several rooms that sounded like sex and other sins, rooms where they couldn’t distinguish between screams and moans, as well as rooms where they both knew they were glad they weren’t invited to. Some of the guests left the doors open, it was clear they enjoyed an audience.

He didn’t say much during the walk, their communication was limited to sighs of relief, or grunts.

He led her to the roof top where a helicopter was waiting. He helped her get in and bid her farewell as it took off. Vanessa looked down and said a silent goodbye while looking to see her friends sitting by the pool. The music was too loud for anyone to hear the blades spin as the helicopter took off but not loud enough to drown the sound of her heart beating.

As much as she was used to this life, going to an undisclosed location to meet a total stranger was something that could make any woman uncomfortable and even though she couldn’t make out what Tamia and Kami were saying, she looked on hoping her friends were discussing how they wish her well as she completes her transaction.

Vanessa was flown to a private airport then told to board a private jet that would fly her to her final destination.

***

Tamia, Tamia, Tamiiiaaaa…”, Kami snapped her fingers in Tamia’s face, wondering why she was being unresponsive. 

… sorry Malik, Vanessa didn’t tell me her friend was so rude. Some people just aren’t raised right… Malik has been trying to talk to you.”, she said, annoyed, her arms crossed.

Uhm, please forgive me, I just have a lot on my mind. What were you saying Malik?”, Tamia asked as politely as possible, trying to not embarrass herself any further. 

Would you like a drink? I can walk you to the bar. We’re not as special as Kami…”, he said sarcastically, “… We have to fetch our own drinks, people don’t randomly bring them to us.

Malik stood up and held out his hand. As Tamia stood up and took her first step, she tripped but he caught her before she fell to the ground.

She leaned into his outstretched arms and took a whiff of his cologne. Malik was her definition of handsome, well-kept dreadlocks, full lips, milk chocolate skin and a jawline that could cut straight into her soul. She spent most of the ride to the party trying to avoid making eye contact with him. What Kami mistook for rudeness was Tamia being overwhelmed by her surroundings. But now she was a bee and Malik was the honey, she was hypnotised by him. 

A few jokes and a couple of drinks later she was sitting on his lap. The chemistry they sparked could only be compared to a forest meeting a flame, nothing could put them out. She felt he was mature for his age, she was used to dating older men but would gladly settle for this 30-year old. He was a great conversationalist and a gentleman. He had a firm grip on her ass, rubbing on her every few minutes. 

Tamia had forgotten where she was, she forgot about the parade of indiscretions around her and was caught in the magic that was Malik. Magic. That was the only way she could describe what was happening to her. Under normal circumstances a female sitting on a man’s lap was an invitation to have sex. Even though it wasn’t her intention to be so easy, she would not say no had he asked or just took it. 

She actually wondered if he was the type to ask.

Every now and then other women interrupted their social isolation, offering not-so-subtle advances but blatant invitations to rock his entire world. Malik would dismiss them, especially those who seemed overly motivated. 

When the last waitress brought a napkin with her number on, Tamia pocketed it quietly hoping Malik wouldn’t notice.

He could sense Tamia’s irritation even though she tried hiding it behind a smile. To centre herself, she would lightly bite the bottom of her lip and suck on it. Malik found it attractive and wondered what it would be like to see her angry but never wanted to be the reason for it. Eventually they were allowed isolation again. 

They were talking about which cartoons they loved watching in their childhood. It was random and he was enjoying it, it was innocent… refreshing. 

What do you mean Courage The Cowardly Dog was about drug addicts?” Tamia laughed. 

The whole show didn’t make sense and the old lady was always possessed, like they were tripping on some bad drugs.” Malik explained. 

Now that you mention it, it was weir…

Tamia loved being kissed mid-sentence, as cheesy as it was, it was something she really loved but would never openly admit to.

He ambushed her lips, it was a forceful rough kiss, and not your typical soft first kiss, yet enjoyable. It didn’t last long and she was panting like she just finished working out.

He gave her a gentle look and asked, “Want to watch some cartoons?

Malik took her hand and led her to the parking lot. 

Tamia was ready, she had never had sex in a car before. She watched as Malik took the key from the hiding place. 

Like a gentleman, he opened the back-passenger door for her and followed her in, pulled out his phone and started streaming an episode of Courage The Cowardly Dog.

 She thought this was all foreplay and that maybe he was just waiting for the car lights to dim, that he would evenly turn the cartoon off and use the phone to play music while he devoured her. She wanted it, she needed it. She needed to get him out of her system so his magic could no longer work on her.

Tamia flirted and hinted like crazy, something she would normally never have to do. But Malik continued to watch the cartoons, acting as if there was no sexual tension.

Malik enjoyed the fact that he was getting a rise out of her. He found her frustration sexy. 

He wasn’t going to have sex with her at the party, he knew he didn’t want her to be just another girl on his list. He believed that Tamia was a good girl and she didn’t need to be hanging around such dirty lowlifes even if they were rich. 

Around 3am, he drove her home. 

He didn’t ask her for her number or do anything romantic in nature. He waited for Tamia to enter the house and then sent Vanessa a text saying Tamia was home, safe and sound then drove off.

Chapter 4 : Nights Like These (Out November 5th)

Jade Novelist ©️ 2021

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