☠ Chapter Twenty-Five ☠
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
One Week Later
I knock lightly on Zayn's front door, reaching for the doorknob and twisting it. I push the door open a little, peeking my head into his house. "Zayn?" I call him out, unsure if I should just walk into his house or not. He knew I was coming, it's Christmas and we promised we'd get together today to exchange gifts. Today was also the day when I'd share my news about my trip to New York. I'm not sure how he'll take the news, especially since it's really last minute, but I hope he's excited to take the trip with me. Plus I'm sure if he's not interested in coming I know for a fact that Zoe would love to come.
I decide to just enter the house and so I take a step in, turning around once I'm in the doorway to wave at Louis and Zoe who are parked in the driveway, making sure I get in the house safe. They dropped me off here on their way to some dinner at Zoe's parents house. Louis was finally meeting her parents today and he seemed nervous as h ell. But good for them, it was a big step and they were taking it together.
I'm hoping a trip together for Zayn and I will be somewhat equivalent to the step they were taking. I'm praying that Zayn doesn't act irrationally and just accepts the trip for what it is: an insane opportunity for me.
I slowly take steps into the house, "Zayn?" I call out his name again and Sky comes running around the corner, greeting me with small wet kisses. "Don't worry, I got you something too," I say to her, holding a small wrapped gift to her nose. She sniffs it obliviously, not realizing what's behind the paper. "Where's Zayn, Sky? Find Zayn." I tell her.
She turns then, running towards his bedroom. I follow behind her, unable to keep up. I watch as she turns into his bedroom and so I follow. I knock lightly on the door, "Zayn?" I ask as I begin to push it open.
I hear quick steps as he runs towards the door, blocking me from entering. "Babygirl, hey," he says as he runs his fingers through his hair. He's shirtless and I find myself still gawking at his body even though I've already seen it so many times before.
"Hey," I smile. "What're you doing?"
He sighs and scratches at the back of his head. “I-,” he seems a little flustered.
"Is everything okay?" I frown a little.
"Yeah, I–I'm sorry. This is a little embarrassing . . . I'm just finishing wrapping your gift. I didn't want you to think I'm an a sshole for not wrapping it earlier," he chuckles lightly.
I grab his hand, "don't worry about it. I'm not thinking that at all."
He smiles a tad. His lanky finger points at the gift in my hands, "for me? Babygirl, nothing could ever top the gift you've already given me."
"Which is . . ."
I open my mouth to speak but find myself a little speechless. He smiles at me and I return the gesture, leaning up on my tippy toes to place a kiss to his lips. It takes him a little off guard, but he's quick to kiss me right back.
"Merry Christmas," he breathes once we pull apart.
"Merry Christmas. I'll leave you to finish your wrapping."
He smiles and so I turn away from the door and head down the hallway. I notice that Zayn has placed a small tree in the corner of the living room and decorated it with coloured lights and a star on the top. I can't help the small smile that tugs at my lips. It's absolutely adorable that he did something like that, and I can't help but imagine the times when we'll get to decorate the tree together in the future.
Not to mention the fact that it was adorable that he was embarrassed to have been caught wrapping my present. I hope whatever he got me isn't too big. We promised we wouldn't buy anything too big. I place the gifts I brought underneath the tree. Then again I kind of broke the rule about nothing too big. I ended up spending about $200 on Zayn's present.
I walk into the kitchen and grab a bottle of wine. I pull two glasses out of the upper cupboard and pour red wine into both glasses. I'm not even sure if Zayn drinks wine, but I have a feeling he does, considering he has an entire wine cooler filled with wine in his kitchen.
I sip on the wine in silence for about another minute before Sky saunters around the corner, wagging her little docked tail before walking over to the living room to rest in her bed. Not long after, Zayn appears from the hallway with two wrapped gifts in his hands. "Hi," he says very cutesy. He's wearing a tight fitting grey short sleeve shirt, much to my disliking. I'd much rather he walk around shirtless . . . everywhere.
He looks over to the tree, "I see you've seen my lil' tree."
"Yes, and I got a gift for Sky which is under the tree too."
"Oh, s hit! Right! I got her something too," he smiles. He's really smiley all of the sudden. What's with all the smiling? Does he just really love Christmas? He places the gifts underneath the tree and sprints downstairs to the garage.
I wonder where his mom is and why he doesn't spend Christmas with her. I know he said she's a police officer, so maybe her job is really busy? Maybe she spends it with his dad? I've never even heard about his father. As it is, I've barely heard about his mother. Literally the only thing I know about her is that she's an officer.
Then again, he knows nothing of my family. He's probably wondering why I'm not spending Christmas with my family.
Zayn comes up the stairs with a massive box in his arms. "Oh my god! Is that all for Sky?" I ask as I run to him to help him out.
"Maybe," he smiles again. I'm enjoying his smiley side too much. I reach for a corner of the box but he brushes it aside, "don't worry, I got it. Grab the wine glasses and sit down on the couch."
I head for the glasses and by the time I arrive at the couch he's already sitting down, waiting. I place the glasses onto the coffee table and grab my gifts from under the tree, placing them down onto the table.
Zayn presses a button on a remote and the fireplace lights up beautifully. I sit down on the couch. "No," he says. He reaches his arms out towards me. "Closer," he pats the cushion beside him and I do as I'm told. I sit beside him and he's quick to grab hold of my ankles and pull them up and over his lap. "Sky, come." She puts her ears up before sauntering over to Zayn and hopping up on the couch beside him, tucking into his side eagerly.
"What's with you?" I ask, curious.
His hands softly massage at my thighs. He shrugs his shoulders, "guess I'm in the holiday spirit." He reaches for his wine and takes a sip. "Oh," he licks the remnants of wine off his lips and places the glass back down, "how'd that meeting with your advisor go?"
"Really good, actually . . . but how about we talk about that after."
"Eager, are we?" He licks his lips again and I take the time to appreciate the sight. It shouldn't turn me on as much as it does, but something about it makes my stomach stir with anticipation. His lips are distracting me and I'm suddenly staring at them. He takes note of it, "shall we?" He points towards the gifts.
"You first," I say, resting my head on his shoulder. He places a light kiss to the top of my head and then reaches forward for the gift. He tosses it around in his hands a little. "What is it?" He asks.
I smack his chest playfully, "just open it, silly. But open the card after." His chest vibrates a little with laughter.
"After? Seems a little unorthodox," he teases.
"Just do it Zayn."
I watch his lanky fingers tug at the wrapping paper. He pulls it all off, revealing a small car shaped box. I watch his lips curl into a small smirk when he reads my handwriting. On the side of the car I'd written Skyline. He carefully opens the delicate box, releasing a black ring. He stares at it for a moment before pulling it out of the box. "Wow," he breathes. The ring is engraved with the tread of a tire, fitting for someone who loves cars just as much as he. On the inner side of the ring is a single initial, Z.
"I had it custom made," I say, my head still resting against his shoulder.
He slips it on his finger. I'm so thankful that it actually fits. "This is actually really cool babygirl. Thank you, I love it." He smiles before placing a delicate kiss to my lips. He reaches for the card, and I pull his hand away lightly.
"Later," I remind him.
I reach for the gift he gave me. "Oh, open the smaller one first," he says. I do what he says, reaching for the small wrapped box. I tear away at the paper quickly, revealing a Tiffany box. I gasp, knowing already that it's too much.
"Zayn," I murmur as I pull apart the bow, yanking off the top quickly. His hand rubs over my back as he watches intently. Another gasp falls from my lips once I take in the sight of what's inside the box. It's a beautiful rose shaped diamond necklace. I carefully hold it within my hands as if it's going to break the second I touch it.
"The woman in the store helped me pick it out," he whispers in my ear. "Do you like it?"
I'm still staring at the beautiful piece of jewelry in my small hands. "Zayn, this is too much . . . We promised nothing big, and yes I broke that rule, but you broke it so much more. This is too expensive!"
He squeezes the skin on my hip lightly, "no, it isn't. You'll offend me if you don't accept it."
"Zayn," I plead. I haven't taken my eyes off the beautiful piece of jewelry since I've pulled it out of the box. "Did you make it?"
"I chose it out of the display in the store. Elizabeth or Emily or Erica – I can't remember her name . . . she helped me choose it."
A little part of me feels a little disappointed that he didn't pick it out by himself, but the fact that he even chose something as beautiful as this takes my breath away. And I guess it's pretty cute that he asked a woman for her opinion to be sure I'd like it.
"Do you like it?" He whispers in my ear again. He pushes the hair away from my neck and places a small kiss there. I nod my head. "Let's put it on, yeah?" I undo the little latch and Zayn grabs hold of it as I hold my hair back.
I look down at the necklace as he's fiddling with the small piece. "God, it's beautiful," I breathe.
"Not as beautiful as you," he whispers, placing another quick kiss to the back of my neck. I blush furiously. I'm not used to him being this affectionate with me. That's not to say I'm not enjoying every second of it, it just feels like maybe he's compensating for something bad that he's done or is going to do. I know I shouldn't feel that way, but in the pit of my stomach, I do. I try to push the feeling away, but it's unsuccessful.
"Thank you, I love it." I say, leaning forward to peck his lips. His hand squeezes my thigh lightly as he nods towards the larger wrapped gift.
"Go on," he says with a smile.
I greedily grab it and desperately pull the paper away from the object inside, revealing a canvas. It's the painting of me. The painting I first saw the night when Zayn and I cooked dinner together, only for him to leave early, resulting in me getting severely drunk by myself.
I run my fingers over the colours, taking it in. It's a beautiful painting, and though I've seen it before, I still find my mouth falling open a little with surprise. I'm speechless again, caressing the tough cloth underneath my fingertips. I can feel Zayn's eyes on me, and his hand softly rubs my back.
"Do you like it, love?" He asks.
I nod my head, "yes, it's–wow . . . did you make it?" I already know the answer, but I ask the question anyways because I want to hear him talk about it. I want him to share with me.
He nods his head, "yeah. I was thinking about this . . . Imagining what it'd be like." He runs his hand slightly up my skirt, revealing the rose tattoo inked into my thigh. His fingers caress the skin, sending electricity through my veins. "I like it," he says quietly. "You should get more tattoos, they're s exy on you."
I smirk at his comment, "really now?"
He notices the smile now tugging at my lips and he smirks. His hand moves upwards on my thigh, teasing me. "Yes," he breathes. My breath hitches in my throat. "Very f ucking s exy."
He darts forward and places wet kisses up my neck quickly. His lips latch themselves to the skin covering my collarbone, drawing blood to the surface. There's already a bruise there from last week, but it's been slowly fading. After he's done he bites the skin on my chin lightly. I fist my fingers in his hair and his lips find mine. Without delay, Zayn's tongue pushes past my lips. The stubble on his chin tickles my face, but it's a feeling I'm used to. A feeling that I relate to Zayn. It's comfortable. My mind is already clouded with lust and all he's doing is kissing me, but that is the effect he has on me.
His hands lift the back of my shirt up and he dances his fingers up and down my spine. I lean into his addictive touch. He runs his tongue across my bottom lip and I shudder. I'm already a mess underneath his touch. He pulls away from me, slowly running his thumb over my swollen lower lip.
"I–" I try to say something but my voice fails me. I clear my throat as Zayn's lips curl into a crooked smirk. "I'm already thinking of getting another tattoo, I'm just not sure what of yet."
"Well good," he's still smirking at me.
Sky barks at the two of us and so we both look at her. She's standing with her front paws resting on Zayn's thigh. "Would you like for her to open your gift first?" He asks me.
I shrug my shoulders, "sure. It doesn't matter whose she opens first." Zayn reaches for my gift and tears a small section, peeling a little piece back.
"Here Sky," he points the small torn away piece towards Sky's mouth. She grabs the piece and pulls lightly, quickly spitting the paper out of her mouth. She's so focused on the small pieces that Zayn rips for her that she goes cross-eyed trying to look at them at the tip of her nose. It's adorable but I can tell Zayn's getting impatient waiting for her, nonetheless he waits for her to rip each piece by herself. Sky nudges the bag of dog treats and Zayn quickly opens the bag, giving her a few of them. She takes them greedily, barely chewing them before swallowing.
"Do you want to unwrap Sky's other gift? If she unwraps that thing we'll be here until next Christmas." Zayn says as he chuckles. Sky jumps off the couch and sits eagerly at Zayn's feet.
"Yeah, okay." I laugh too because it's true. I take a quick sip of wine.
I reach for the paper and quickly unwrap Sky's gift. I knock the box over onto its side and Sky runs into it and begins pulling out gift after gift. After a minute Zayn gets impatient and pulls everything out of the box. On the floor rests a pink spiked collar, a few knotted ropes, some rubber balls, a few tennis balls, and a whole hoard of squeaky animal toys. There's even a little squeaky car toy. Sky immediately goes for the car toy.
"That's my girl," Zayn says as he smiles at her.
I reach for the pink spiked collar, holding it up to Zayn. "This just totally isn't even tough looking because it's pink."
He laughs genuinely before grabbing it from between my hands. He bends over and wraps the collar around Sky's neck. When he's done, she stands up and walks over to us, squeaking her little car toy. She looks adorable.
The two of us sit on the couch, my legs are still draped over Zayn's. We sit there staring at Sky as if we're proud parents. She's hyperactively running around the coffee table while frantically squeaking the little car. Zayn and I cradle our wine glasses, occasionally sipping on them while watching her. I take a moment to play with Zayn's hand and the new ring on his finger.
Eventually Zayn breaks the silence, "I saw your painting."
"Painting?" I ask, confused at first.
He sips on his wine quickly before responding, "yeah I found it in my art room. I love it."
"I uh–" I blush, "thanks."
"Did you see it when you walked in?" He places his wine glass down on the table and turns towards me.
"See what?" I ask, obliviously. He takes my wine glass from my hands and places it down onto the coffee table beside his. He turns even further then, pointing to the wall behind us – the wall that is left of the front door when you first walk in. When my eyes take in the sight of my painting hung up on the wall in a pretty frame my hands move to cover my mouth. Somehow in my hurry to see Zayn when I first entered the house I missed the fact that my painting is now on the wall.
I look at Zayn with wide eyes, "you hung it up?"
He reaches forward and caresses the skin of my hip, "I love it. Of course I hung it up."
I feel the sudden urge to hug him and my body jolts towards his, and I wrap my arms around him. He chuckles at first but eventually he tucks his chin into the crook of my neck. I take a deep breath, trying to inhale his scent. I want to remember every little detail of this evening because it's the closest thing to perfect I've ever experienced. "Thank you Zayn, that's one of the nicest things anyone's ever done for me." I pull him closer.
He doesn't say anything, I just hear him inhale deeply and then we pull apart. I place a quick peck to his lips and then reach for the envelope that he still has to open. "Here."
He takes it gently from my hands, "what is it?" He asks again.
"Don't do that again . . . just open it!"
He laughs genuinely again – the laugh where his eyes crinkle up and his mouth falls open. A smile overwhelms my features. I can't help it. When he genuinely laughs like that it's enough to make my heart skip a beat. It's beautiful and I'd like to see it more often.
He begins pulling away at the paper of the envelope. He doesn't open it logically – he shreds the paper. His lanky fingers pull two homemade plane tickets out. His eyebrows furrow together as he reads over what's been written on them. "New York?" He asks me. His eyes dart quickly to mine and then back down to the paper in his hands.
"Yeah, it's for school. Remember how I said things went well with my advisor?" He doesn't respond, he just stares at me and so I continue. "Well I've been offered to go and meet a couple that want me to cook for them. They live in New York and they offered to fly me out for a few days to meet them, and then come January I'll be cooking for them . . . if they like me. But don't worry," I reassure him, "they said they're moving to Miami, so I wouldn't be staying in New York or anything. They'd have moved here before January, they just want to meet with me beforehand to get to know me. They actually asked for me personally so it's a huge honor and I want you to come with me to meet them. Plus it’s a safety thing . . . I don’t want to go to New York to meet a bunch of strangers by myself. But if you don't want to go or something then I'd ask Zoe."
He stays quiet and looks back down at the ticket. "Tomorrow?" He asks, surprised, "we'd leave tomorrow?"
"We'd? Does that mean you’ll come with me?" I ask.
He scratches the back of his head and looks back at his hands, "I mean, this is a huge opportunity for you, right?" I nod my head. "We'd just have to make arrangements for Sky . . ."
"Wait . . ." I adjust myself on the couch in front of him, "are you saying . . ."
"Yes, I'll go to New York with you."
I end up a squealing mess as I tackle him on the couch, pushing him onto his back. My lips find his and I kiss him. Sky barks playfully and squeaks her toy. When I look at her, she's got her bum in the air and her little tail's wagging like crazy. Zayn extends his arm out towards her and she steps forward, placing the car toy in his hand. He squeaks it and she takes a step back. He tosses it to the other end of the living room and she furiously chases after it.
"So, about her . . ." I point to Sky with my thumb. I'm still laying on top of Zayn, but he doesn't seem to mind. "Louis said he'd stay here. So did Zoe. But not together because I don't trust those two together." I can imagine them ending up having s ex together in Zayn's bed and just . . . gross.
"I could see if my mom would take her. I'm not sure if I trust them to be freely roaming around here," Zayn says as he looks around the house. "I'll talk to her."
"Okay," I say. I sit up and finish off the remainder of wine in my glass. "Louis said he'd take us to the airport."
"We're flying in a private jet, by the way."
"Really? These people are that rich? They actually offered you their jet?" He asks, a little stunned.
I shrug, "I guess so."
He places his hand on my knee and then places a kiss to my lips, "I'm going to go call my mom and start packing."
I smile, happy to know that he actually seems a little excited. "Okay," I say meekly.
The night was spent helping Zayn pack a little for our trip. We had to pack enough for the three days we'd be spending there. Not to mention that we'd had to pack the warmest clothes he owned . . . considering it's winter in NYC, which meant cold . . . and snow. Wardrobe-wise I don't think either of us were ready for snow.
After we'd finished packing Zayn up, he'd made arrangements for Sky. He called his mother several times, but she never bothered to pick up the phone. So Zayn and I decided it best to send her to a kind of doggy-hotel where we knew she'd get the right treatment. It wasn’t some kennel, it was a fancy company, literally called the Miami Doggy Hotel where dogs could stay in luxury. Zayn insisted she feel safe. Plus the people there would follow our guidelines for her. She was still a puppy and so instilling rules and behaviours in her now was crucial . . . we couldn't just leave her in the hands of anybody.
After all that was done Zayn took me back to campus and helped me pack. It was the first time he'd even been in my dorm room. He was friskily offering to pack my panties and bras for me, which made it take probably double the time it should have taken me. When we'd finally finished packing my suitcase, he took me back to his place and we fell asleep.
The private jet was probably the craziest thing either of us had ever experienced. It was massive and so luxurious. Flying coach will forever be a disappointment to me now. We were even offered champagne on the flight and Zayn and I revelled in it.
Eventually after a few hours of Zayn and I watching a stream of movies together the pilot announced we'd be landing and my heart leapt into my throat. We made our way off the plane where a fancy car had been waiting for us. A driver took us quickly through the streets of New York. I watched out the window in awe at the amount of people, lights, buildings and cars everywhere. It was all new and exciting to me. By the time we pulled up to the house I had fallen asleep and Zayn had to wake me.
I feel Zayn's hand on my thigh and he shakes it a little. "Babygirl, wake up. We're here." He brushes hair out of my face.
I mumble incoherently and Zayn shakes me again. "It's hot in here," I mumble out.
"I know. I had the driver turn the heat up. You were shaking," Zayn explains.
"Oh," I rub sleep out of my eyes.
The driver opens up my door. "Miss Hawthorne . . . Mister Malik." He extends his arm, offering it to me. I grab hold and hop out the car.
"F uck, it's cold," I rub my hands up and down my arms.
Once Zayn steps out of the car I hear him curse and he begins doing the same as me, despite the fact that we're both wearing two sweaters and a jacket.
"I'll bring your luggage to the house," the driver says and then he heads towards the rear of the car to fetch our luggage. I'm too tired to argue with him, otherwise I'd say we can carry our own luggage.
Zayn wraps him arm around my waist and we walk together. The place is huge. It's a mansion. It's so big that there's a colossal fountain out front. We walk to the front door together feeling totally out of place.
When we finally reach the door I ring the doorbell. After a few moments the door slowly begins to open and I recognize a familiar face.
"Arielle," he says, looking at me. He's cradling a wine glass in-between his stubby fingers. "Zayn," he nods in his direction. He looks different. He's shaved his hair; it's now a buzz cut, and he's clean shaven. It makes him look much younger. "Please, come in." Zayn and I reluctantly step into the mansion together.
"We’re here to see Jamie and Sydney Price. Where are they?" I say, harshly.
He extends his hand towards me, "hello dear, I'm Jamie Price. Would you like to meet my wife? Dear!" He calls out for his presumed wife. I ignore his hand and eventually he retracts it.
I clench my fists together so tightly that I'm scared one of my fingers will pop out of place. Jamie Price is Chef Wilson. He tricked me.
I feel like an idiot.
Of course he'd do something like this. I was stupid enough to believe that he'd actually done me a favour. Zayn's chest is rising quickly beside me and I know that it's taking everything within him right now to not cave Chef's nose in.
"Honey!" Chef yells out again.
"I'm coming!" She yells out.
It's then that she walks around the corner with her own wine glass in hand. I swear that my heart stops beating in my chest. What kind of sick game is he playing? I nearly start hyperventilating and I feel Zayn's eyes turn to me.
She flicks her now blonde hair over shoulder. It's perfect. It always is.
"Arielle," she greets me with a wicked smirk.
A/N: *screams in turdy seven languages*