Six Months Earlier
“Mr. Malik, it’s so nice to meet you,” I smiled politely at the attractive man standing before me.
He was wearing a dark suit with a crisp white dress shirt underneath it. There was no tie and the shirt was unbuttoned to his mid-chest letting a few beauty marks peek out at me. His dark eyes held a mystery behind them that I was sure I never had a chance of unraveling. His short tuft of dark hair was perfectly styled into an organized mess on the top of his head, making him actually look his age in that respect. Everything else made him look like a hard-hitting thirty-something business man, when he was only twenty-four.
Zayn Malik made his first million for his father’s company at the ripe age of twenty-one and the family fortune only continued to grow from there, making him into the business mogul he was today.
“Miss Mason, is it? The pleasure’s all mine,” Mr. Malik told me, smiling surreptitiously as he shook my hand when I walked into the large great room of his expansive apartment in the sky.
“Call me Katherine. Or Kat. Or Katy. Pretty much anything but Miss Mason,” I said with a blush as he offered me a seat in the chair across from him.
“I prefer the formality of your surname, if you don’t mind,” he said pursing his lips tightly, and I thought for a moment that I might have offended him, until he cleared his throat.
“So, Miss Mason. I trust you’ve read over the contract, your list of duties and everything that is expected of you,” he said, continuing on with the post-interview. I nodded politely as I tried not to gawk over the beautiful man sitting before me. His British accent was like music to my ears in the drab mix-up of East Coast accents I heard on a daily basis, due to living in the hustle and bustle of New York City.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Uh… what is a non-disclosure agreement?” I asked tentatively. I felt like an idiot. But I was taught to be sure of what I’m signing when I’m signing it.
His lips turned up into the hint of a smirk and I couldn’t help but notice it was the first time I saw any type of humor on his face. Did he think I was ridiculous?
“An NDA is just a formality—” he began.
“Yeah, but what is it?” I asked, cutting him off mid-sentence.
“Patience, Miss Mason,” he snapped, and I immediately sat up a little straighter. Did he just scold me?
“I was about to get to the reasoning for the NDA,” he said, eyeing me and I nodded submissively at him as my cheeks blushed rapidly.
“A non-disclosure agreement is for my protection…” he began again, and I wanted to ask why he needed protecting from a girl like me, but I knew not to after his lashing out.
“I am a very wealthy, very powerful man. You will be cleaning every inch of this apartment in which you are bound to come across some things I’d rather not have become public knowledge. A non-disclosure agreement keeps you from leaking any information you learn of to the press, whether it be pending patents, anything relating to the business, or other things involving my personal life,” he explained to me, speaking in slow, smooth syllables as if every word held such meaning, such power.
My mind immediately wondered what the other things he was referring to were. This man was such a mystery already. Did he have a whole slew of illegitimate children he took care of financially? Was he gay? Ooh, was he gay? That would be juicy. Britain’s most eligible bachelor – hell, America’s most eligible bachelor being gay would rock the shit out of the media. And then I was quickly brought back to the present, remembering I was about to sign this NDA we spoke of, and the media would never find out of his parenthood or sexual preference if either were the case.
“Look it all over, Miss Mason. If it is not for you, it was a pleasure to meet you. If you decide this is something you can do, then I look forward to our business relationship,” he said eyeing me.
“I’m ready,” I told him immediately, surprising even myself.
“You’re ready? Surely you haven’t read over the entire contract, Miss Mason,” he asked, giving me a bold look.
“I read them all last night. Every inch of the paperwork you overnighted to me. All I need to read is the non-disclosure agreement, in which you haven’t given me yet,” I told him, feeling a sense of pride that I mildly shocked this man.
“That’s very thorough of you, Miss Mason. I like attentiveness,” he said, cocking his eyebrow at me.
And with that one little acknowledgement, I felt a pulling deep inside of me – an ache beginning to ravage me at the thought of this insanely attractive man. Oh Lord, what was he doing to me?
“Mr. Higgins,” Mr. Malik snapped, and the suited man who had shown me into the room was now coming up behind the chair I was sitting in, startling me completely.
“Yes, sir,” the man answered immediately.
“I need an NDA printed up now,” he snapped at the man.
“Right away, sir. Miss Mason’s is already waiting with her file, sir,” Mr. Higgins nodded.
“Very well. Bring it in here,” Mr. Malik said curtly, and the man moved swiftly out of the room to do his bosses bidding.
“Is it always so formal?” I grumbled under my breath, wondering for a moment if I was the right type of person to fill the position and work for this man.
“Mr. Higgins is head of my security team. Our business relationship is formal for a reason – to keep me safe. There cannot be any slip-ups in his line of work. The second he lets his guard down because he has become my friend is a second that could be a danger to my life,” he snapped.
He was speaking like he had death threats on his life every damn day. Surely in his line of work, it was not life threatening.
“You will be working in my home. A home that is perfectly secure. I expect professionalism, although your rules are a bit more lax than those of my security team,” he further explained.
“Lax?” I questioned to myself.
“Although a professional relationship will be kept at all times, I am aware this will be your home now too, Miss Mason. And one cannot lead a happy life if they are not comfortable. So by all means, you will be expected to make yourself at home,” he told me.
Expected? As if I didn’t have a choice in the matter. Such a confusing contradiction. I must stay professional, yet make myself at home? He obviously has never seen me at home. I most definitely could never be my normal self in this vast mansion of an apartment.
“You will have your own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen area, which are in the east wing of the apartment. You will be expected to prepare the meals, in which you are more than welcome to eat – so as long as I have and all of my guests have eaten from it first. You will be expected to clean and do the laundry…” he began explaining.
“With all due respect, sir—” I said cutting him off once again. His eyes flared slightly, and I made a mental note to never interrupt him again.
“What is it, Miss Mason?” he asked firmly.
“What you’re explaining has already been imprinted in my brain from the reading of the contract I did prior to this interview. I have full detailed knowledge of everything that is expected of me and I accept your terms and conditions,” I told him. His eyes blazed into mine for a few moments before he nodded once.
“Good,” he said quietly as his eyes flickered up to the doorway behind me.
“The non-disclosure agreement, sir,” Mr. Higgins said, walking toward Mr. Malik with the paperwork in his hands.
“Thank you,” Zayn said, giving him a pressed smile before his vision was back on me, handing the contract over.
“Read it over, Miss Mason. If you agree to the terms, you will move in this weekend,” he said, giving me a softer smile than he gave Mr. Higgins. I nodded silently, grabbing the paperwork from him.
As I read over the contract, I felt Zayn’s eyes boring into me, making me squirm slightly in my seat. What was so interesting about a girl reading over a piece of paper? Once I read every last word on the agreement, I looked up at him, and he looked hopeful.
“Do you have a pen, sir?” I asked him. He cleared his throat as he thrust his hand into the inside breast pocket of his blazer.
“Here,” he said, offering up a very expensive looking silver pen to me.
I took the pen and signed on the dotted line, making my employment to Mr. Malik, business tycoon billionaire, official.
It was an eye opening experience working for Zayn Malik. The sheer size of his apartment made me wonder why on earth he only hired one personal housekeeper instead of an army. My god. Did one person really need all this space?
I also found out quickly I needed to have a keen eye while washing his garments – learning this only after ruining a $2,000 Armani blazer by washing it in the spin cycle. It was safe to say Mr. Malik was less than pleased with me over my mishandling of his possessions. But something told me he held back his anger with me on the subject, and I wondered if maybe it was the lax atmosphere Zayn was striving for at home that he mention during my post interview. I wasn’t quite sure. I saw the anger in his eyes, but something held him back from completely ripping me a new one.
One day when I was putting away his laundry in his massive closet – which probably was the entire square footage of my last studio apartment – I came across some items I was certain would be condemned to the non-disclosure list.
My face blushed rapidly after opening up a drawer of neatly placed sexual instruments all in a row – arranging from various vibrating toys to anal beads to whips and even handcuffs. My mouth went completely dry as my eyes scanned over the perversion of the drawer. Along with the toys, there was also a very large box of condoms and a hefty bottle of lube, which made me wonder if he really was gay. I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, my eyes still glued to the equipment. I had to admit, every single particle in my lower regions began tingling at the sight of the devious instruments. What kind of kinky fuck was he? I was more than a little curious.
“Miss Mason,” I heard Zayn’s stern voice.
“Oh, FUCK!” I gasped, slamming the drawer shut, jumping to face him.
My heart was beating in my throat as I stood in front of him, cheeks rapidly blushing, caught red handed.
“I see you’ve been… exploring,” he said, keeping his face completely cool.
“I-I… I was putting away laundry, sir. I’m sorry. My god, I’m sorry. I didn’t… I didn’t mean to snoop. I’m so sorry,” I said, moving toward the laundry basket, smoothing the hair out of my face, feeling more flustered than I ever felt in my entire life.
“It is your job,” he said evenly.
“But, I mean… I’m sorry. I-I… no judgment,” I said holding my hand over my heart, unable to meet his eyes.
“A healthy sex life is rewarding. Not only to the body, but to the mind as well,” he spoke freely, and I couldn’t help the massive blush that gripped my face.
“You… you don’t have to explain, sir,” I told him, waving my hand through the air.
“Is what you saw that upsetting to you, Miss Mason?” he asked curiously.
“Upsetting? No. I just… I’m just… you startled me,” I told him.
“You haven’t been able to look me in the eye since,” he pointed out. I looked up at him tentatively.
“I’m sorry,” I told him again.
“Enough apologizing. I am confident enough in myself to not be embarrassed by the way I lead my personal life,” he told me.
“That must be why I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement then,” I said sarcastically, immediately regretting the words as they fell from my lips. He let out low chuckle with my words, and it caught me off guard at how genuine it sounded. I actually made him laugh.
“You see now, Miss Mason, although I am confident enough in what I do in my personal time, that doesn’t mean I would like it displayed through the media for the entire world to see,” he explained as he smirked at me.
“I’m sorry. I spoke out of line. I have no filter. I’m sorry,” I said, continuing to apologize.
“Do I intimidate you, Miss Mason?” He asked, cocking his eyebrow.
“More than you’ll ever know, sir,” I breathed quietly.
“Although I do enjoy having the upper hand, I do want us to co-exist quite fluently here. I do not want you to be afraid of me,” he told me.
“I’m not afraid,” I said immediately.
“I want you to feel comfortable,” he elaborated.
“That will take some getting used to, sir,” I replied.
“As it should. But I think you just had an eye-opening look into my life, and I hope it puts me on a new level with you,” he told her evenly. Was he joking? He was more intimidating now than ever before.
We stood in silence for a few moments, his gaze burning into my flesh, and I still couldn’t look up at him.
“I’d hate to keep you,” he said finally, stepping out of the way of the closet doorway.
I nodded once, gripping the empty laundry basket in my hands as I moved swiftly toward the door.
“Always a pleasure, Miss Mason,” he said finally, just as I fled the room.
“Dinner is ready, Zayn – erm, Mr. Malik,” I said as I stood in the doorway of his study.
He looked up at me with an icy stare, and I couldn’t help but swallow back a large gulp. I always seemed to do that. I was always calling him Zayn when I shouldn’t be, much to his chagrin. I’d never get used to the name formalities. He nodded his head once, and I knew I was being dismissed.
I already set his place at the center island counter – where he preferred to eat, rather than at the vast dining room table that seemed to look much larger with only one place setting. His life seemed so lonely as it was, I couldn’t bear to add to it in any way.
When I heard Zayn’s expensive dress shoes clipping across the hardwood floor, I turned to smile at him. He didn’t return it, he just kept his eyes coolly on me as he sat down in his usual chair at the island.
“I made lasagna. I hope you like Italian,” I told him quietly as I set his plate in front of him. He nodded once, not really showing me whether he was a fan of the dish or not. I hated the fact that he was so damn hard to read.
I stared at him, feeling the anxiety growing inside of me. It seemed like I could never say the right thing or do the right thing to appease him.
“Lasagna is fine, Miss Mason,” he said, letting the hint of a smile ghosted across his lips. His dark eyes seemed to come to life with the smile, and it nearly left me breathless.
It made him actually look his age when he smile. Like the years just melted away from his exterior. I silently wondered what else made this man smile, and if I had a chance of ever seeing a genuine, eye-crinkling, teeth-flashing, giddy smile come from him. I was certain a smile from that man was a treasure in its own – so few and far between. I wondered if he’d ever been in love. Was there anyone who had the pleasure of seeing that smile every day? Whoever they were, I was sure, obviously hadn’t been aware of the gift they had.
Then my mind cut to his drawer full of deviant toys and my cheeks flushed immediately. But there was also a pulling in the pit of my stomach and the quickening of my heartbeat at the thought. Why did the thought of this man in any sexual situation turn me to mush? Maybe because he was probably the most attractive man I ever laid my sights on – and he was a billionaire. His personality could use some work, but those other qualities were shining straight through to my libido.
“Thank you for the lasagna,” he told me politely.
“You’re very welcome, Zayn – er, sir… Mr. Malik,” I stammered, feeling flustered once again in his presence. A smirk tugged up his lips and I felt slightly faint, knowing I needed to depart from his presence before I offered myself up to him like some common whore.
“Enjoy,” I said quickly, and began making my way out of the kitchen.
“Katherine—” Zayn said, stopping me dead in my tracks. Oh my god, he used my name – my real name.
“Mr. Malik?” I questioned as I turned back to him.
“Join me,” he offered, pulling out the chair next to him.
My heart fluttered in my chest. Did he just ask what I think he did?
“Join you?” I questioned, as if I didn’t hear him properly. I was certain I didn’t.
“Surely you’ve made more than one helping. You have to eat, am I right?” He asked.
“I suppose,” I said, nodding timidly.
“Join me,” he said once again.
I took a hesitant step forward, but I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I take the seat? Should I dish up my own dinner? Or should I just run for the hills?
“Katherine, sit,” he said, standing up, pulling out the chair further for me. My eyebrows furrowed but I did what he asked of me, sitting down in the chair next to his. I watched as Zayn moved into the kitchen, grabbing a plate from the cupboard.
“No, Zayn. Let me. Please,” I said, standing up to move toward the kitchen.
“Sit,” he said sternly, sending me a look just as stern. I immediately dropped into the chair, nearly cowering under his stare.
I watched as he removed the lid from the lasagna pan and scooped some onto the plate. He even went as far as to prepare me a salad, and top the meal off with a bread stick. I was in awe of him. He was the billionaire that paid people to do everything for him and he was preparing a plate for his housekeeper. My heart flourished in my chest for him. But only momentarily before he turned, looking at me with the same stern look as previously, causing me to sit frozen in my seat.
“Please, eat,” he told me as he set the plate in front of me.
“I could have done that,” I grumbled as he moved to retrieve me cutlery and a napkin.
“I am perfectly capable of being a gentleman. I asked you to have dinner with me,” he told me as he set the silverware out in front of me.
“Thank you,” I said quietly.
“Would you like a glass of wine, Miss Mason?” He asked. Oh, it was back to Miss Mason now?
“Please,” I said quietly.
I watched as he poured me a glass of red wine and refilled his own glass before finally taking his seat once again.
“Your food is probably cold now,” I commented.
“It’s just fine, thank you,” he told me, looking at me from the corner of his eye as he took a bite.
We ate in quiet synchronicity and I wondered what the hell he was thinking. I could feel his eyes on me every once in a while and it only made me question his reasoning over and over. Why tonight of all nights did he ask me to have dinner with him? I had been working for him for weeks now. Was it because I found his little deviant stash of sex toys?
I looked at him from the corner of my eye, and much to my surprise, he was already looking over at me, his half-emptied wine glass in his hand. He did nothing to look away when I caught him gazing at me. I looked away quickly, only to find his eyes again moments later – still staring.
“Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Malik?” I asked boldly.
“No,” he said nonchalantly as he took a sip of his wine, still looking at me.
“There must be something on your mind,” I pressed, grabbing my own glass to take a sip.
I watched as his tongue darted out, wetting his pink lips, and the mindless act tugged at my insides. Oh, this man was infuriatingly sexy.
His eyebrows furrowed in question seconds before he started speaking.
“What made a girl like you – someone so attractive, so appealing to so many men, I’m sure – take on a job of this nature? One where you’re entrapped in my fortress in the sky as a live-in housekeeper rather than living a normal life with a boyfriend or a love interest?” He questioned brazenly. My eyebrows heightened with his words.
“I am correct to assume you don’t have a boyfriend?” He asked.
“No, no. I don’t,” I said bashfully as I looked down at my hands. Was it written all over my face? My body language?
“So what made you take on a job like this, where you’re assured not to have the time for a healthy dating life?” He asked, cocking his eyebrow.
“I’m not a prisoner here, Mr. Malik,” I snapped.
“As I very well know, Miss Mason,” He replied smoothly.
“If you must know, I am just not at the place in my life where I need a man to keep me happy,” I told him, unable to look back into his eyes.
“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, Miss Mason. It was just a curious question. I’d like us to get to know one another better,” he told me, taking another sip of his wine.
“Alright. Well, Mr. Malik, why is it that you do not have a girlfriend or a wife to share your life with?” I retorted, trying purposely to be as audacious as he had been. He smirked bashfully at me, setting his wine glass down.
“Is it because you’re gay?” I questioned, realizing too late that I took it too far. His eyes shot up to mine, smoldering – staring straight into my soul.
“I’m sorry,” I gasped, bringing my hand up to my lips.
“Is that what you think?” He asked evenly.
“I-I don’t know,” I said quietly.
“No, Katherine. I am not gay,” he said coolly, using my first name once again.
“Your mood is very erratic,” I pointed out, looking into his eyes. The wine was causing me to speak my thoughts out loud, freely.
“And this is why you think I’m gay?” He smirked at me.
“No. I was just making a point. You’re mood changes so quickly. One second I’m Miss Mason and then next you’re calling me by my first name,” I explained.
“I suppose it is a bit… irregular,” he agreed.
“I don’t know what to think when I am around you,” I admitted, drinking up the last of my wine. I didn’t know how to feel either.
“I guess it’s just a quirk of my haphazard character,” he told her.
“Like right now, you’re making jokes. No doubt a minute from now I’ll get a cool stare-down from you,” I pointed out, setting my empty wine glass down on the countertop. His eyes narrowed, showering me with said stare-down prematurely.
“See. There it is,” I giggled, and a smile tugged up his lips.
“I suppose you will just have to walk on egg-shells around me until you’ve figured out the depths of my character, Miss Mason,” he told me, and I couldn’t tell if he was joking or completely serious, despite the smirk on his face.
“Well now, that goes against the make-yourself-at-home spiel you preached to me when I started this job,” I retorted, with a smile, and he laughed out loud. My blood tingled inside my veins at the sound.
“Haphazard character,” he said, pointing back at himself, and I couldn’t help but giggle again.
Zayn’s smile faded, yet he still watched me, his eyes wider than usual, filled with wonder and, I swear, longing. It sent a lightning strike through my whole body. Did Zayn Malik really just look at me like that?
The clearing of his throat snapped me out of my head, and seconds later he was pulling himself to his feet.
“Would you like some more wine, Miss Mason?” He asked, his voice cool and professional once again.
“Please,” I said, looking down at my empty plate timidly.
I didn’t know whether or not he would scold me if I were to get up and clear the dishes. It was my job after all. I decided I might as well just do it and get it over with. I loaded my hands with both our dishes and brought them over to the opposite kitchen counter from where Zayn was filling our glasses. He looked over at me tentatively, but didn’t say a thing as I began scrapping what was left on the plates into the garbage can. I rinsed the dishes quickly and placed them into the dishwasher.
“Here you go, Miss Mason,” he told me, offering me the glass.
“Thank you,” I said, taking a sip immediately as I pressed my backside against the kitchen counter. Zayn did the same against the adjacent counter, looking over at me.
“I’m not used to this, Miss Mason,” he told me cryptically.
“What?” I asked, knitting my eyebrows in question as I took another sip of my wine.
“Being attracted to someone who I employ,” he said bluntly, and I nearly spit out my mouthful. Trying to keep myself from ejecting the liquid, I quickly took it down my throat, choking on it.
“Are you alright, Katherine?” He asked, stepping toward me, placing his hand softly on my back.
“I’m… I’m fine,” I coughed, trying to regain my composure. My eyes looked up into his watchful ones as I thought about his confession. My cheeks flushed immediately.
“Is it so surprising, that I’m attracted to you?” He asked, still speaking freely as if he had no filter, as if he wasn’t my boss.
“I uh… yes. Yes, it really is,” I told him, nodding my head in disbelief.
“You are very attractive to me. And I had my initial questions about whether or not I should hire you because of that. But I hired you anyway,” he told me, his voice growing lower, more husky.
My insides warmed immediately to him – or rather they turned from lukewarm to scolding hot in an instant.
“And now I’m not sure of what to do,” he said lowly, his amorous stare focused solely on me.
“You’re not sure of what to do?” I choked out, looking up at him timidly.
“I’ve never had such conflicting thoughts, Miss Mason. I am a man who gets what he wants,” he said as his voice grew with desire. My breathing hitched with his words.
“You don’t seem like a man who usually blurs such lines,” I managed to say.
“You can see my dilemma,” he said smoothly.
What the hell was I supposed to say? Fuck me now? I mean, Jesus Christ, he was my boss. What the hell were we going to say to each other in the morning? Oh, sir. Allow me to make the bed you just fucked me in. I mean, what the hell?
“Surely you have enough self-control to push back your… urges?” I questioned, glancing timidly up into his prying eyes.
He took a step back from me, looking at me with the most confusing look on his face. Did I offend him? A part of me wanted to tell him just how easily one look from him turned me on. The thought of bruising this powerful man’s ego was almost unbearable.
Zayn tipped his head back, gulping down the remainder of his wine before setting it on to the countertop.
“I think I’ll go to bed,” he said matter-of-factly, and I was certain I had offended him by not offering myself up to him on a silver platter like he was used to.
I’m sure there was a long list of woman who would happily jump into bed with this man – who have happily jumped into bed with this man, and I was willingly giving up the opportunity. That either made me really smart or a complete idiot. And honestly, I knew it was the latter, without a doubt.
“Goodnight, Miss Mason,” he said quickly before he turned toward the hallway.
“Goodnight, Zayn,” I said quietly, watching him leave, using his first name on purpose