Six Months Earlier
“Mr. Malik, it’s so nice to meet you,” Katherine said, smiling politely at the attractive man standing in front of her.
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 her. His dark eyes held a mystery behind them that she was sure she 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 her, smiling surreptitiously as he shook her hand when she 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,” she said with a blush as he offered her 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 she thought for a moment she 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. Katherine nodded politely as she tried not to gawk over the beautiful man sitting in front of her. His British accent was like music to her ears in the drab mix-up of East Coast accents she 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?” She asked tentatively. She felt like an idiot. But she was taught to be sure of what she is signing when she is signing it.
His lips turned up into the hint of a smirk and Katherine couldn’t help but notice it was the first time she saw any type of humor on his face. Did he think she was ridiculous?
“An NDA is just a formality—” he began.
“Yeah, but what is it?” She asked, cutting him off mid-sentence.
“Patience, Miss Mason,” he snapped, and she immediately sat up a little straighter. Did he just scold her?
“I was about to get to the reasoning for the NDA,” he said, eyeing her and she nodded submissively at him as her cheeks blushed rapidly.
“A non-disclosure agreement is for my protection…” he began again, and Katherine wanted to ask why he needed protecting from a girl like her, but she knew not to interrupt 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, speaking in slow, smooth syllables as if every word held such meaning, such power.
Katherine’s mind immediately wondered what the other things he was referring to were. He 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 Katherine was quickly brought back to the present, remembering she was about to sign the NDA they 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 her.
“I’m ready,” she told him immediately, surprising even herself.
“You’re ready? Surely you haven’t read over the entire contract, Miss Mason,” he asked, giving her 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,” she told him, feeling a sense of pride that she mildly shocked him.
“That’s very thorough of you, Miss Mason. I like attentiveness,” he said, cocking his eyebrow at her.
And with that one little acknowledgement, Katherine felt a pulling deep inside of her – an ache beginning to ravage her at the thought of this insanely attractive man. Oh Lord, what was he doing to her?
“Mr. Higgins,” Mr. Malik snapped, and the suited man who showed her into the room was now coming up behind the chair she was sitting in, startling her 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?” Katherine grumbled under her breath, wondering for a moment if she 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?” Katherine questioned to herself.
“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 her.
Expected? As if she didn’t have a choice in the matter. Such a confusing contradiction. She must stay professional, yet make herself at home? He obviously hadn’t seen her at home. She most definitely could never be her 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 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—” Katherine said, cutting him off once again. His eyes flared slightly, and she 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,” she told him. His eyes blazed into hers for a few moments before he nodded once.
“Good,” he said quietly as his eyes flickered up to the doorway behind her.
“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 her, handing the contract over.
“Read it over, Miss Mason. If you agree to the terms, you will move in this weekend,” he said, giving her a softer smile than he gave Mr. Higgins. She nodded silently, grabbing the paperwork from him.
As she read over the contract, she felt Zayn’s eyes boring into her, making her squirm slightly in her seat. What was so interesting about a girl reading over a piece of paper? Once she read every last word on the agreement, she looked up at him, and he looked hopeful.
“Do you have a pen, sir?” She 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 her.
Katherine took the pen and signed on the dotted line, making her 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 her wonder why on earth he only hired one personal housekeeper instead of an army. Dear god. Did one person really need all this space?
She also found out quickly she 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 her over her mishandling of his possessions. But something told her he held back his anger with her on the subject, and she wondered if maybe it was the lax atmosphere Zayn was striving for at home that he mention during her post interview. She wasn’t quite sure. She saw the anger in his eyes, but something held him back from completely ripping her a new one.
One day when she was putting away his laundry in his massive closet – which probably was the entire square footage of her last studio apartment – she came across some items she was certain would be condemned to the non-disclosure list.
Her 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. Her mouth went completely dry as her 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 her wonder if he really was gay. She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, her eyes still glued to the equipment. She had to admit, every single particle in her lower regions began tingling at the sight of the devious instruments. What kind of kinky fuck was he? She was more than a little curious.
“Miss Mason,” she heard Zayn’s stern voice.
“Oh, FUCK!” She gasped, slamming the drawer shut, jumping to face him.
Her heart was beating in her throat as she 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,” she stammered, moving toward the laundry basket, smoothing the hair out of her face, feeling more flustered than she ever felt in her entire life.
“It is your job,” he said evenly.
“But, I mean… I’m sorry. I-I… no judgment,” she stammered, holding her hand over her 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 she couldn’t help the massive blush that gripped her face.
“You… you don’t have to explain, sir,” she told him, waving her 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,” she told him.
“You haven’t been able to look me in the eye since,” he pointed out. She looked up at him tentatively.
“I’m sorry,” she 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 her.
“That must be why I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement then,” she said sarcastically, immediately regretting the words as they fell from her lips. He let out low chuckle, finding amusement in her words, and it caught her off guard at how genuine it sounded. She 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 her.
“I’m sorry. I spoke out of line. I have no filter. I’m sorry,” she said, continuing to apologize.
“Do I intimidate you, Miss Mason?” He asked, cocking his eyebrow.
“More than you’ll ever know, sir,” she 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 her.
“I’m not afraid,” she said immediately.
“I want you to feel comfortable,” he elaborated.
“That will take some getting used to, sir,” she 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 her flesh, and she 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.
She nodded once, gripping the empty laundry basket in her hands as she moved swiftly toward the door.
“Always a pleasure, Miss Mason,” he said finally, just as she fled the room.
“Dinner is ready, Zayn – erm, Mr. Malik,” Katherine said as she stood in the doorway of his study.
He looked up at her with an icy stare, and she couldn’t help but swallow back a large gulp. She always seemed to do that. She was always calling him Zayn when she shouldn’t be, much to his chagrin. She would never get used to the name formalities. He nodded his head once, and she knew she was being dismissed.
She 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, Katherine couldn’t bear to add to it in any way.
When she heard Zayn’s expensive dress shoes clipping across the hardwood floor, she turned to smile at him. He didn’t return it, he just kept his eyes coolly on her as he sat down in his usual chair at the island.
“I made lasagna. I hope you like Italian,” she told him quietly as she set his plate in front of him. He nodded once, not really showing her whether he was a fan of the dish or not. She hated the fact that he was so damn hard to read.
Katherine stared at him, feeling the anxiety growing inside of her. It seemed like she could never say the right thing or do the right thing to appease him.
“Lasagna is fine, Miss Mason,” he said finally, 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 her breathless.
It made him actually look his age when he smiled. Like the years just melted away from his exterior. Katherine silently wondered what else made this man smile, and if she had a chance of ever seeing a genuine, eye-crinkling, teeth-flashing, giddy smile come from him. She was certain a smile from him was a treasure in its own – so few and far between. She wondered if he’d ever been in love. Was there anyone who had the pleasure of seeing that smile every day? Whoever they were, she was sure, obviously hadn’t been aware of the gift they had.
Then her mind cut to his drawer full of deviant toys and her cheeks flushed immediately. But there was also a pulling in the pit of her stomach and the quickening of her heartbeat at the thought. Why did the thought of this man in any sexual situation turn her to mush? Maybe because he was probably the most attractive man she ever laid her sights on – and he was a billionaire. His personality could use some work, but those other qualities were shining straight through to her libido.
“Thank you for the lasagna,” he told her politely.
“You’re very welcome, Zayn – er, sir… Mr. Malik,” she stammered, feeling flustered once again in his presence. A smirk tugged up his lips and she felt slightly faint, knowing she needed to depart from his presence before she offered herself up to him like some common whore.
“Enjoy,” she said quickly, and began making her way out of the kitchen.
“Katherine—” Zayn said, stopping her dead in my tracks. Oh my god, he used her name – her real name.
“Mr. Malik?” She questioned as she turned back to him.
“Join me,” he offered, pulling out the chair next to him.
Her heart fluttered in her chest. Did he just ask what she thought he did?
“Join you?” She questioned, as if she didn’t hear him properly. She was certain she didn’t.
“Surely you’ve made more than one helping. You have to eat, am I right?” He asked.
“I suppose,” she said, nodding timidly.
“Join me,” he said once again.
She took a hesitant step forward, but she wasn’t sure what to do. Should she take the seat? Should she dish up her own dinner? Or should she just run for the hills?
“Katherine, sit,” he said, standing up, pulling out the chair further for her. Her eyebrows furrowed but she did what he asked of her, sitting down in the chair next to his. She watched as Zayn moved into the kitchen, grabbing a plate from the cupboard.
“No, Zayn. Let me. Please,” Katherine said, standing up to move toward the kitchen.
“Sit,” he said sternly, sending her a look just as stern. She immediately dropped into the chair, nearly cowering under his stare.
She watched as he removed the lid from the lasagna pan and scooped some onto the plate. He even went as far as to prepare her a salad, and top the meal off with a bread stick. She 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. Her heart flourished in her chest for him. But only momentarily before he turned, looking at her with the same stern look as previously, causing her to sit frozen in her seat.
“Please, eat,” he told her as he set the plate in front of her.
“I could have done that,” she grumbled as he moved to retrieve her cutlery and a napkin.
“I am perfectly capable of being a gentleman. I asked you to have dinner with me,” he told her as he set the silverware out in front of her.
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
“Would you like a glass of wine, Miss Mason?” He asked. Oh, it was back to Miss Mason now?
“Please,” she said quietly.
She watched as he poured her a glass of red wine and refilled his own glass before finally taking his seat once again.
“Your food is probably cold now,” she commented.
“It’s just fine, thank you,” he told her, looking at her from the corner of his eye as he took a bite.
They ate in quiet synchronicity and she wondered what the hell he was thinking. She could feel his eyes on her every once in a while and it only made her question his reasoning over and over. Why tonight of all nights did he ask her to have dinner with him? She had been working for him for weeks now. Was it because she found his little deviant stash of sex toys?
She looked at him from the corner of her eye, and much to her surprise, he was already looking over at her, his half-emptied wine glass in his hand. He did nothing to look away when she caught him gazing at her. She looked away quickly, only to find his eyes again moments later – still staring.
“Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Malik?” She asked boldly.
“No,” he said nonchalantly as he took a sip of his wine, still looking at her.
“There must be something on your mind,” she pressed, grabbing her own glass to take a sip.
She watched as his tongue darted out, wetting his pink lips, and the mindless act tugged at her 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. Her eyebrows heightened with his words.
“I am correct to assume you don’t have a boyfriend?” He asked.
“No, no. I don’t,” she said bashfully as she looked down at her hands. Was it written all over her face? Her 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,” she 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. I don’t need a man to keep me happy,” she 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 her, 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?” Katherine retorted, trying purposely to be as audacious as he had been. He smirked bashfully at her, setting his wine glass down.
“Is it because you’re gay?” She questioned, realizing too late that she took it too far. His eyes shot up to hers, smoldering – staring straight into her soul.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped, bringing her hand up to her lips.
“Is that what you think?” He asked evenly.
“I-I don’t know,” she said quietly.
“No, Katherine. I am not gay,” he said coolly, using her first name once again.
“Your mood is very erratic,” she pointed out, looking into his eyes. The wine was causing her to speak her thoughts out loud, freely.
“And this is why you think I’m gay?” He smirked at her.
“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,” she explained.
“I suppose it is a bit… irregular,” he agreed.
“I don’t know what to think when I am around you,” she admitted, drinking up the last of her wine. She 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,” she pointed out, setting her empty wine glass down on the countertop. His eyes narrowed, showering her with said stare-down prematurely.
“See. There it is,” she 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 her, and she 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,” she retorted with a smile, and he laughed out loud. Her blood tingled inside her veins at the sound.
“Haphazard character,” he said of himself, and she couldn’t help but giggle again.
Zayn’s smile faded, yet he still watched her, his eyes wider than usual, filled with wonder and, she could swear, longing. It sent a lightning strike through her whole body. Did Zayn Malik really just look at her like that?
The clearing of his throat snapped her out of her 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,” she said, looking down at her empty plate timidly.
She didn’t know whether or not he would scold her if she were to get up and clear the dishes. It was her job after all. She decided she might as well just do it and get it over with. She loaded her hands with both their dishes and brought them over to the opposite kitchen counter from where Zayn was filling their glasses. He looked over at her tentatively, but didn’t say a thing as she began scrapping what was left on the plates into the garbage can. She rinsed the dishes quickly and placed them into the dishwasher.
“Here you go, Miss Mason,” he told her, offering her the glass.
“Thank you,” she said, taking a sip immediately as she pressed her backside against the kitchen counter. Zayn did the same against the adjacent counter, looking over at her.
“I’m not used to this, Miss Mason,” he told her cryptically.
“What?” She asked, knitting her eyebrows in question as she took another sip of her wine.
“Being attracted to someone who I employ,” he said bluntly, and she nearly spit out her mouthful. Trying to keep herself from ejecting the liquid, she quickly took it down her throat, choking on it.
“Are you alright, Katherine?” He asked, stepping toward her, placing his hand softly on her back.
“I’m… I’m fine,” she coughed, trying to regain her composure. Her eyes looked up into his watchful ones as she thought about his confession. Her 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 her boss.
“I uh… yes. Yes, it really is,” she told him, nodding her 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 her, his voice growing lower, more husky.
Her 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 her.
“You’re not sure of what to do?” She 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. Her breathing hitched with his words.
“You don’t seem like a man who usually blurs such lines,” she managed to say.
“You can see my dilemma,” he said smoothly.
What the hell was she supposed to say? Fuck me now? He was her boss, for Christ’s sake. What the hell were they going to say to each other in the morning? Oh, sir. Allow me to make the bed you just fucked me in. Seriously, though.
“Surely you have enough self-control to push back your… urges?” Katherine questioned, glancing timidly up into his prying eyes.
He took a step back from her, looking at her with the most confusing look on his face. Did she offend him? A part of her wanted to tell him just how easily one look from him turned her 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 she was certain she did offend him by not offering herself 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 she was willingly giving up the opportunity. That either made her really smart or a complete idiot. And honestly, she knew it was the latter, without a doubt.
“Goodnight, Miss Mason,” he said quickly before he turned toward the hallway.
“Goodnight, Zayn,” she said quietly, watching him leave, using his first name on purpose.