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Beneath the Silence Sample #3

Unedited and subject to change.

A tentative release date has been determined, but I'm not ready to announce it yet.

Stay tuned and enjoy!

I need to forget everything for a while.

That was all I focus on as I walked with a slight limp into the doors of my favorite lounge, Dani’s.

I needed to find a reprieve that didn’t have anything to do with fighting, my family or my debt. Everything was an emotional drain and I needed an escape. I needed something to relieve the always-mounting pressure before I cracked under the weight. Lord knows if I fell apart, everything and everyone else would come tumbling down on top of me.

Outside of fighting, there weren’t a lot of options available for stress relief, so I settled on getting a drink. Or four.

Normally I was a stickler about what I put in my body, I never smoking and not drink excessively. I limited sweets, sodas, and carb-rich foods unless I was trying to pack on a quick few pounds to stay in my weight class.

But tonight, I decided to indulge by drowning my troubles in the bottom of a glass. I deserved it.

I hadn’t even bothered to change out of the black midriff hoodie and cut off shorts I wore. Compared to the other women’s dresses and heels, I was severely underdressed but I didn’t give a damn.

While the bartender fixed my drink, I scanned the room, committing the exit points to memory before my perusal screeched to a halt when my gaze landed on a very familiar figure sitting in a booth near the back.

Like always, he was clad in all black and his eyes were firmly locked on me.

My lips twitched as I paid for the drink then made a beeline for his table.

“You followed me here?” I asked, pretending not to be flattered by the slow sweep of his gaze.

It lingered on my exposed abs then dropped to the expanse of thigh protruding from my shorts before sweeping back up to meet mine. “Not this time.”

Him actually responding rendered me speechless and I took the moment to observe him up close.

Hooded lids. Bushy, almost unruly brows. Smooth lips nestled between a full beard. And piercing, nearly black eyes set in an expressionless face. I could never tire of looking at him. Not when everything about this man was so damn intriguing.

“Can I join you?”

He watched me through narrowed lids as if trying to determine my intent before a subtle chin dip gestured towards the empty space on the opposite side of the booth.

As I sat, I bumped my leg against his purposely underneath the table. He didn’t react nor did he pull away, but I felt his focus sharpen. Like a predator that was suddenly on alert.

So I did it again.

This time, he palmed my thigh beneath the table, squeezing lightly.

While a flirty smirk lifted my lips, my underwear flooded from the weight of his hand. I shouldn’t want him so bad. Not this soon and especially not when I knew next to nothing about him.

But my body didn’t get the memo and my nipples hardened beneath my bra when instead of lifting his hand, he slid it down the length of my thigh, squeezing my knee before pulling his hand back.

“What are you drinking?”

He lifted a cup holding clear liquid. “Water.”

Of course, he didn’t explain why he was sitting in a bar drinking water but I smirked anyway. My legs slipped between his and I couldn’t help the laugh that burst free when his brows lifted slowly.

“You’re going to make me work for it, huh?”

The subtle twitch of his lip revealed his humor but he didn’t acknowledge my teasing. “Your leg okay?”

Shock rendered me speechless for a moment. I couldn’t believe he’d notice the slight limp I’d tried to mask. But then I frowned, unable to tell whether he’d asked out of genuine concern. So, I shrugged, downplaying the familiar, throbbing pain. I’d be good in a few hours.

“Occupational hazard.” I tilted my head. “Why do you ask?”

He remained silent, watching me without answering as if it was completely normal.

He really didn’t give a fuck about how awkward or uncomfortable people might be by his intimidating stare and silence.

Thankfully, it didn’t bother me.

I didn’t mind him keeping his words close to the chest. I wanted to earn them, anyway. I wanted to have him intentionally gift them to me because I’d know we’d made it past whatever weird stage we were currently in once he did.

We were obviously still strangers, yet this inexplicable pull kept making itself known.

And tonight, I was throwing caution to the wind, fully ready to act on it. It could be a bad idea, especially with his close friend being a client of mine.

But for once, I was going to be selfish and go after what I wanted. Hell, I was long overdue for indulging in something that pleased me.

I sipped from my glass, trying to remain as aloof as him under the pressure of his quiet scrutiny. “You intrigue me, Hakeem.” I offered after a few more moments of silence. “And that’s not something that happens often.”

I didn’t expect anything besides more of his silent staring. So it shocked me yet again when he leaned forward, dropping his gaze to my throat, lingering there before sucking me back in the deep, dark pools of his eyes. “You intrigue me too, Eden.” He admitted quietly.

Before what he said could sink in, he stood and slipped from the booth.

This time, I struggled to find the right words as he stood next to my side of the table. I reclined, tilting my head back when he reached out and thumbed my chin.

My mouth parted in shock and he took advantage of the moment, gliding that same digit gently across my bottom lip.

“G’night.” Then he walked off, leaving a deep sense of disappointment behind with each step he took towards the exit.

I kept my gaze on him, waiting to see if he’d turn back or gesture for me to follow. But all he did was stop to exchange a quick word with Dani’s owner, Keith, before continuing his departure without a glance back.

I was well-versed in letdowns and rejection, so I shrugged it off, forcing myself to appear unbothered as I continued sipping from my glass.

Guess I’ll be spending tonight alone.



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