Lilith’s Apple
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Woman in an Armchair, Gustav Klimt, 1897-8

 

That night, the sky was full of stars but no moon. Leon tapped against the railing of the

balcony gently, the uneasy pit growing in his stomach as the fragrant cold breeze that carried the sweet aroma of the night-blooming jasmine rose a trail of goosebumps on his skin. Who knew that a text from an unknown number that said, "Go downstairs, waiting for you in the secluded corner to the right ;)" would have put Leon in a quandary. Not a quandary, no, but rather a state of uncertainty. With a deep sigh, the man put his phone away, walking back inside.

 

It was someone he knew. But whom? Several questions loomed in his mind as he walked

through the smoke-billowed room of the bar, the sounds of people chattering and the

silverware clanking blocked out. But once he reached the 'secluded corner to the right', all

his racing thoughts came to a halt.

 

There she was seated at the table. Aanya. She hadn't changed one bit, not even the cut of her hair, the slight smirk or the glint of mischief in her eyes. Nothing. She was precisely how Leon remembered her to be. Of course, one year cannot change a person much. She was in a little purple dress, the satin material hugged her in all the right places, and the deep neckline gave him a hint of what was underneath. Her hair was let loose- it was dark and wavy with soft caramel highlights- giving her face a more warm tone. But one year...One whole year of not seeing her, one entire year of her completely disappearing from his life, and here she was, back again, looking at him as if they had parted ways just yesterday.

 

"Would you like to sit down?" Aanya's voice pulled him out of his trance. The man struggled with keeping a straight face, pushing down a strong urge to let his eyes wander over her a little more and drink in everything about her, while the girl gave a soft chuckle. The waitress poured him some of the wine on the table and excused herself, leaving the couple alone.

 

"Long time," Aanya said, taking a small sip of her wine. It was today, after spending two

whole nights with her a year ago that Leon realised that she was left-handed. It never struck him that she used her same left hand to smoke and to touch him. That was when he quickly noted something: He knew nothing about her, except for the soft skin of her neck, the ravine of her breasts, her soft belly, the delicate but sharp curve of her waists, and her voice of pure gold. But she knew some things, or perhaps many things about him, like how she had expected to see him here at the little 'party' which a mutual acquaintance had so kindly hosted. It almost scared him- both the mysteriousness of this woman and her ability to read him like an open book.

 

It was like the floodgates had been opened: A rush of memories and emotions. He

remembered her leaving their hotel room that day. In Malibu. She was in her white summer

dress, her hair flowing back as the summer breeze gently gushed past her, and the rays of

sunlight danced on her olive skin. And it was the last time he had seen her: She had disappeared from his life like a ghost. She had left nothing behind- not an email, not her number, city, company - nothing. All he knew was her name.

 

"It's so good to see you." He reached for her hand across the table. "Where have you been?" He rubbed her knuckles gently with his thumb while she tensed lightly. Her smile dropped as she pulled away from him and set her hands on her lap. "Good. You?"

The same sing-song tone within her voice sent waves of nostalgia of that sweet night. But this time, there was a hint of aloofness in it, or so he thought.

 

Leon straightened up, unsure of why her reply was so curt and short. "You never answered my question." Aanya's eyes glanced at the table briefly before meeting his again. "Not a message, nothing. You were-"

 

"I had my reasons." Her face was blank. Her words had no emotions. "Anyway. I work at Irons, close to your office."

 

"That publishing house?" Leon asked with an uncertain expression, to which she nodded her head. The girl pulled out a tiny napkin and slid it to him through the side closer to the wall. He placed his hand on it, their fingertips touched lightly. Leon looked between the pink laced napkin and her face in doubt until she gave a slow nod with the smirk returning to her face. But before he could ask or make a move, she pulled her hand back while leaning closer to the man.

 

"Don't lose it." She muttered, giving him a small smile. And with that, she got up and left,

leaving the man alone with his mind running through a chaotic mess of thoughts. But in that moment, he got a glimpse of the old Aanya, the one he saw that day, pushing a napkin to him that had the keycard to her room. And just like that day, he could feel himself give in to her cryptic mind games, no matter how hard he had tried to resist. Without wasting another second, Leon followed suit.

 

The drive to the hotel was a relatively quiet and anxious one for Leon. Nervousness or

excitement - he never knew which. It could have been a mixture of both. It was baffling

how Leon, the man who knew how to make women's hearts skip a beat with sparkling eyes, was now feeling all wobbly and confused with Aanya- the only woman who could exert absolute control over him.

 

The hotel was much better than he expected it to be. His suit helped him blend in with the

crowd without raising any eyebrows. Leon watched as the elevator buttons lit up with each passing floor. His hand on his chin unconsciously ran over his stubble. The elevator dinged and opened to an empty hallway, he followed the path until he reached the room that matched his key. Taking a deep breath and putting his thoughts to rest, the man entered.

 

There stood Aanya, her back to Leon, watching the city's night lights out of her window. She turned around, her eyes hovering over Leon's form before taking a few steps towards the kitchenette. "You're late." She grabbed two glasses and poured in some whiskey. "Straight or...?" She turned to look at Leon with a questioning look. "Neat, please." He said, taking a seat on the couch. The girl turned back, pouring out drinks for both of them. While she was busy with that, Leon took the opportunity to fully appreciate how the satin of her dress clung to her, accentuating each delicate curve of her body. He could see the swing of her hips with each step she took until she finally sat down next to him- slowly and gracefully. Beautifully.

 

"Cheers," she said and clinked her glass against his. She drank a little and sucked on her lower lip, biting it a little. She turned to him with an amused expression. "Take a picture, Leon. It'll last longer." Leon coughed to clear his burning throat. "Funny." He set his drink on the side, turning back to her. "Tell me, where did you disappear that day?"

 

"I didn't disappear, Leon." She gave out a dark chuckle, brushing a strand of her hair away from her face. "You never did your homework."

 

Leon looked at her, bewildered. But that was Aanya, and she was known for playing with words and never giving a straight-up response. "Alright then. What do you do?"

 

"Why do you want to know? To poach me from Irons?" Aanya asked playfully, taking the empty glass from Leon's hand, letting her fingers graze over his skin. The man had to fight with his inner urges to grab the woman's face and kiss her.

 

"Wouldn't that be delightful?" He said, making the girl laugh—an elegant laugh, like the gentle chiming of the wind bells. And somehow, that laugh went perfectly well with her summery floral smell- like the first of the pleasant spring breeze, intoxicating and tranquil. "But really, what is it?" Leon asked, raising an eyebrow.

 

"I'm an executive assistant." She said, her expression suddenly changing from playful to serious. "I'm glad you could make it to the party." Aanya smiled, taking the glasses and walking back to the kitchenette. She pulled her phone and dialled something. His phone rang.

 

"Save it, that's my number."

 

Leon stared at Aanya, beautiful and real and right in front of him. She was giving him her

number. His mouth was left agape until he forced himself back to reality, turning to her. "How did you-"

 

"I have my ways, Leon." She smirked, setting the phone on the counter and walking towards him. The tapping of her black stilettos on the floor echoed in the room, each step was louder than the last, and then they stopped. Warmth with the scent of cherries radiated towards him until he felt her hand on his chin, and she turned his head to face her.

 

"Advice for you, Leon." she said, her breath hot on his skin, "All those thoughts dancing

around in your mind," Her finger slowly traced down his throat. It landed on his tie, tugging

it lightly pulled him closer. The whole time, she had her almond-shaped eyes deeply pierced in his baby blue ones, not breaking it even for a second. "Don't think about it." She whispered with a smile, inching closer to his face, their lips just a short breath apart. "Take it or leave it." She looked up at him with big, dark, lustful eyes waiting for him to make a move. Leon couldn't take it anymore. He grabbed her face in both of his hands and kissed her, despite his inner self telling him that it was wrong. All he wanted at that moment was to melt into her. And he got it.

 

Leon was so intoxicated by her that he didn't argue or fight for dominance when Aanya took control. Her hands were on his shoulders, pushing him backwards. Her hand grabbed a fistful of his hair, pulling him in harder as her tongue intertwined with his. He was consumed by his need to be close to her. His free hand travelled to the back of her dress, slowly pulling it off while she made her way through his shirt buttons and down to his pants. She was extremely precise with her movements, something that made Leon curious about her past. However, that could be a story for another day.

 

Aanya spoke into his mouth as his breath quickened. "I never thanked you properly for getting me dinner that day." Leon chuckled, biting her lower lip as the memories of their dinner rushed into his mind. It was nothing big. Just him and Aanya on that giant bed with some delectable sushi and colas. It was the loveliest date he'd been on and a memory he loved to relive: Not just the food, but the entire night. Sensual and...happy.

 

Leon was ravenous for her, pulling her face back to his. Sloppy and rough kisses with loud

grunts filled the empty room. The dim lighting was perfect not to irritate his eyes that were

getting half-lidded due to the arousal.

 

As much as Leon would have prefered something more than just sex with her, he didn't want to let go. He had been craving for her- she was like an obsession. A drug that he could never get enough of. And that was enough for him- this closeness and intimacy that they shared. 'And two can play this game,' He thought, smirking into her neck, sucking the bruised skin harder and harder as the sounds of her moaning rang in his ears, her hands entangling itself in his hair.

 

Aanya pulled back to look at her lover, who was a complete mess. Leon stared at the woman who was now left in her black lace lingerie set. Her dress was left in purple ripples pooling on the floor, right next to the foot of the bed. She got off his lap to stand in front of him, almost as if daring him to go and push her into the bed. She was too good at this, and all he could do was stare at her in awe: She was beautiful and confident- something that was both magnetic yet intimidating. He stared at her- head to toe, each curve and each well-sculpted muscle - burning into his mind.

 

"Shall we?" Aanya's voice broke Leon's chain of thoughts. She gestured to the bed with a

wave of her hand - slow, crisp, and graceful. She didn't have to wait for another second. He was already all over her, needily and hungrily. He rushed towards her, afraid to lose this moment. Afraid to lose her to a lonely, cold night.

 

-

 

The following day, Leon woke to the bright sun shining on his face. He rolled on his side,

away from the light. Running one hand through his hair, he reached for her side of the bed

with his other hand, yawning a lazy 'Good Morning'. But when his hand landed on the soft

mattress, he opened his eyes to an empty bed with only him in it. She was nowhere to be seen - an empty, cold room.

 

He pulled out his phone with a frustrated sigh, opening the notification to an unread message from Aanya.

 

'Check Out is at 12. 💕'

 

He relaxed back into the plush pillow, smiling lazily at the text.

 

Same old Aanya.

 

-

 

It had been one week since Aanya last texted him. One whole week of nothing but radio silence from her end. They had been meeting in secret on and off for a couple of nights the past month, and their moonlight trysts were primarily physical. Always physical. She never talked about her work or her private life- they were always waved off as 'same old' or 'boring'. Leon didn't even know if they had any mutual acquaintance with the level of privacy that she wrapped herself in, except for a few who hardly knew her besides being an eloquent woman with a pretty face. It seemed so shallow. 

 

There were days when Leon even doubted if any of this was worth it. Yet, he couldn't let her go. He could never get enough of her- he wanted to savour every moment with her as if it was their last. She was an enigma, a mystery he yearned to solve. He wanted to unveil her bit by bit- dwell deeper into her heart. But it was always a futile attempt. She was too good at charming the man, capable of making him lose himself in her and almost making him feel as if he had her within his arms. But just as he would start to get cosy, she would be gone.

 

Leon rubbed his face in frustration. He was beyond unsure of his current situation, and he

wanted to find a way out. One week. One damn week of silence. Just as he was about to give up on their little midnight rendezvous, the screen lit up with a notification from Aanya. Without wasting another second, he opened it immediately, his heart racing at full speed as he read the text.

 

'Come over. Dinner is on me.'

 

There was the location of her home not too far away from his place.

 

His smile widened; he was grinning from ear to ear. Back to being a high school boy in

love...

 

-

 

Thirty minutes later, he stood in front of her room, waiting for her to open up. And there she stood, with an oversized black sweatshirt and sweatpants, with her hair messily tied up into a bun. She had remnants of makeup, a little smudged maybe. But to Leon, she looked as beautiful as ever. A part of him loved the little transition from a poised, elegant woman to a cute homely girl. 'Maybe she has started trusting me,' he thought, hoping it was true. "Come on in." She smiled, stepping aside. He walked past her, landing a soft peck on her forehead, making him gush a little. How he wished he could walk into his home like this, with her by the door smiling brightly.

 

Her little home was different than he imagined it to be. He thought her home to be a rather posh one; a Victorian-inspired one since she did seem like a prim and prissy person. Lots of plants and creepers, a vast library, mural art on her walls, and many hanging quote plates. A lovely home. 

 

"Smells good. What is it?" Leon sat on the couch while she sat next to him, her legs pulled up on the sofa. The soft fluffy rug below tickled his feet as he inhaled the aromatic perfumy scent of her home. The girl smiled cheekily, waving towards the little tea table in front of them. It was pizza. Leon rubbed the back of his neck, letting out an embarrassed laugh making the girl giggle softly. Cute.

 

The duo enjoyed their dinner with a bit of small talk followed by a euphoric love making

session. Leon was at the top of the world today. It was the first time he heard and teased

Aanya till she was a whimpering mess - close to one. As usual, she took control immediately. She was a hard woman to tease, and he found it hard to not keep his hands off her. Despite it starting as gentle and sensual, the sex turned forceful and relentless, almost as if she was trying to fight out her stress and anger. And that was okay because it made her open up a little about her private life - her college life, to be specific.

 

"Why did you quit  Drama?" Leon had asked Aanya, who was naked and tucked under the fluffy blanket, resting her face up on the sinfully plush pillows. The man forced an arm under her, allowing her to rest her head against his arm so that he could feel her warmth while his eyes studied a few band posters in her bedroom, lit up by the fairy lights in the shape of flowers around them. ‘Black Sabbath. Not bad.’

 

His grip on her shoulder was firm yet gentle, while his thumb gently rubbed along her

collarbone. As the girl contemplated his question, she leaned in closer, as if they were something more than just lovers.

 

"The same reason you left football," She smirked, making the man shake his head. "But really. I couldn't keep dwindling in the masquerades. I had to build a life for myself- strong

and fast." It was understandable. Like him, she too had to give up a passion- a tough choice to be made for a better life, given their past circumstances. That made sense as to why he loved her company. Like him, Aanya, too, had faced quite a few hardships (possibly), including letting go of something she loved. He always felt at ease with the girl. He never pretended to be someone else- he could just let himself loose. And she was a good listener, which was a bonus for him. But of course, there were times when she could turn him into a delirious mess - something that bothered him to no end. 

 

"How's your boss treating you?"

 

Aanya tilted her head towards him, eyeing him carefully. "Careful, Leon." She said playfully

yet laced with an undertone of caution. He turned away, swallowing down the bubbling

impatience that started rising again. Sometimes he wished he could crack open her beautiful skull to dig into her inner thoughts and secrets. Her obscure and cryptic mind- it bothered him. Terrified him. She was a walking conundrum, ready to drill her sharp claws deep into his heart and tear it out. Well, the claws were already in. 

 

"I just asked because you told me that your boss was getting on your last nerve back in

 Malibu." Leon sighed, rubbing his tired eyes. 

 

"Mhmm...He is just an annoying, senile, old man." She turned towards him, giving him a smile that screamed, 'That's all you'll get.' And he obliged like a good little lost puppy. It was worth a try. Well, atleast he knew that her boss was old and senile. Or was he?

 

Aanya turned to rest on her back while her eyes mindlessly traced the patterns on

the ceiling. Her hair splayed messily against the plush pillows while the orange tint of the

dimmed light bathed her honeyed skin, a warm glow radiating off her form. Her pink lips, soft and full and the way the delicate curve of her cupid’s bow is set is a cliche of the ideal feminine beauty.  'Damn, she's beautiful.'

 

Aanya smiled in delight as she felt Leon's lips on her flushed neck. She arched her back, a

sugary moan escaping from her lips while he sucked on her sensitive skin, trailing downwards. He slowly grazed on the soft skin with his teeth and let out a soft grunt as he felt her nails digging deeper into his shoulder blades, deep enough to bruise it.

 

"Leon..." She breathed out, holding his neck to steady herself. Oh, how he loved the way his name rolled out of her tongue. "I need a little favour."

 

"What do you need, Aanya?" He spoke against her chest, a slight smirk on his lips. The

barriers were finally tumbling down. She pulled his face up sharply, making him look at her.

 

"I am in a little bit of a mess," Her finger trailed around his jawline while her eyes were

fixated on his lush lips. "There's this person who has been...very inappropriate with me,

especially in the last few months." Leon tilted his face to the right while he half-heartedly

listened to her. "The thing is, he is an important...an important patron of the company, and I can't shoo him away." The man smiled, while on the inside, he was leaping up with joy.

Aanya - the confident, intimidating, and ruthless Aanya needed his help teaching a man to not fiddle with what's not his! But then, he didn't want to give in easily like that. He tried to push his luck by playing around with her. After all, as he had thought earlier, two can play this game.

 

"The way I see it, you have two choices: You carry on a little while and wait for the right

moment to attack him. The other choice is you quit. Leave the company and never look back. Start fresh elsewhere." She looked at him with an unreadable expression, but Leon swore that somewhere he saw her softening a little.

 

"Could you help me get out of this mess?"

 

"I could so long as it doesn't compromise my work." He said in a calm tone, gazing into her

doe-like eyes."I suggest you pick option number two." Leon was prepared for her to tell him to fuck off, a way to gain an advantage over him. She was always used to demanding and getting whatever she wanted. Of course, he wouldn't take it personally, it was just that she wanted to take command of the situation, but wouldn't it be boring if he just gave her

everything on a platter?

 

"You want me to leave my job? Stay penniless?" She muttered softly, turning away from him, her eyes going back to the ceiling. Leon stayed quiet momentarily, lost between a mental battle of either giving in to Aanya's games or bending the rules a little so that he, too, could enjoy the game just as much as she does. "But it's for your safety." He looked at her, pushing away the wisps of her stray hair that stuck to her skin. "Do I know this guy?"

 

She shrugged lightly, her eyes still fixated on the ceiling, observing the cracks. "I don't know. His name is Brian. Brian Muller." Leon shook his head sideways. Finally turning towards Aanya, he pushed a strand of stray hair away from her face. "I'll see what I can do."

 

Aanya's smirk widened as her eyes glinted with a devilish mischievousness. She was plotting something. But he didn't want to try and focus or predict her next move. In this moment, where the two lovers were wrapped in each others' warmth and comfort, he wondered if he should just spill the raw words of emotions that churned in his head - about her, about them.

 

But he knew better than to put those thoughts out to her. Instead, he held her and roughly

kissed her until the wave of sentiments washed off him. He pressed his lips to hers with raw passion, and she pulled him closer to her as if answering his thoughts through unspoken words. Once he slowly felt himself regain his composure, he pulled away, knowing that all was well. She sat up, climbing on top of him as his hands slowly moved to her waist, helping her balance herself. She kissed his collarbone, slowly trailing towards his chest while her hand was firmly planted on his stomach, pushing him back into the mattress. He sighed in pleasure, feeling a trail of goosebumps and heat left behind by Aanya's lips.

 

But there was still a fear of how things would go ahead in the future for him- their little game, the new rogue player and how it would end. But that night, he didn't want to think about it. He shook off the nagging thoughts as he felt Aanya's lips on his washboard abs. For now, she was his sweet getaway from the gloomy reality of their situation.

 

-

 

It was a pleasant morning that day. Warm sunlight poured into the cold walls of the office, the hustle and bustle of the streets long forgotten as Leon drowned himself into the beats of AC/DC's music blasting in his ears. Heaps of important documents were littered all over the man's table, and the screen light of his computer pierced into his swollen eyes. Pulling the earphones out in frustration, Leon rubbed his tired eyes and let out a huff until the irritating rings of his telephone buzzed.

 

"Uh, Sir! There's someone here to see you, she says she has an appointment, but I don't think it was sched-" Leon's eyes widened in surprise while his heart raced. There could only be one person who's capable of pulling that stunt.

 

"Who's she" Leon ran his hand through his hair, listening to the muffled sounds of the girl

 asking the name of the unexpected visitor.

 

"Um, her name's Aanya-"

 

"Send her in." With that, he slammed the phone back down. A part of him was excited about her unannounced arrival; a part was worried about the uncertainty she brought with her - definitely trouble.

 

Without a polite knock or even a peek, the door slammed open and was shut with an equally loud crash. 'What a brilliant way to grab attention, Aanya.'

 

"Aanya! What a pleasant surprise." Leon smirked as Aanya kept her neutral expression on, underneath which was a bare scowl.

 

"Let's leave the pleasantries." She said as she approached him. Her stomping got louder with each step as she got closer. "Do something about him, Leon." She placed her hands on his table and leaned into him, keeping a respectful distance yet close enough to feel their breaths intermingling. 

 

Leon observed the girl for a moment. She was panting, her face was flustered, her neatly tied hair had loose strands hanging from everywhere, and her lipstick was slightly smudged if looked closer. Her black dress had a few creases that she hadn't smoothened out. She was definitely in a hurry.

 

"Brian. He knows."

 

“Huh. Clever man,” Leon shrugged, making Aanya roll her eyes.

 

"His tantrums are getting out of hand. Do something about him," Leon studied Aanya for a moment, tilting his head slightly as if in thought. 

 

“I thought you are a resourceful woman with some very fascinating tricks up her sleeve,” His smile turned into a smirk as he watched her look at him unamused. Aanya took a deep breath in as she leaned over the table, her lips turning upwards into a small smile.

 

“Unfortunately, I have run out of tricks,” She chewed on the inner flesh of her lower lip, her eyes still fixated on Leon. “And I could really use your help for this magic show,” she said, her voice getting deeper and raspy towards the end of the sentence. 

 

"And what if I refuse to help?" Leon asked while he tried his best to ignore the dangerous look in her dark, hypnotic eyes that made him feel as if he would be trapped in a never-ending abyss. 

 

Aanya never looked angry or irritated. She smiled smugly, her eyebrow raised as if impressed by Leon’s newfound boldness. 

 

"You have been observing me, Leon. Why don't you tell me what I would do if you refused? You know what I'm capable of, I'm sure."

 

"Actually, I am trying to figure that out," Leon said, grabbing a pen nearby, tapping on it. "But I'd doubt you'd hold anything against me if that's what you're hinting at."

 

"What makes you think I haven't already?" This caught Leon's full attention and focus. What would that be? It wasn't anything about his personal life, that was for sure. Nothing about his work either. Then that leaves to…'Clever girl', Leon thought. She truly did know about the kind of effect she had on Leon, and she struck it perfectly. Bullseye. 

 

Leon stood up and walked around her, grazing her with his shirt sleeve as if by accident while she turned to see him. Placing a hand against her lower back, he pushed her a little backward, making her stumble lightly on the table. She was cornered. He leaned in against her ear and whispered, "Alright. Why don't you go and play with him, hm? Maybe entertain him a little. Once you get under his skin, I'll make sure that the leash stays on him."

 

Aanya created a little space between them while her hands lingered on his chest and a slight smirk danced on her lips. She was excited about the dangerous game they were playing. So was he. It was as if he offered her the key to the shackles to break free and do as she wished. Perhaps he could get in trouble for treading dangerous waters with her, but he was going to bite down each part of her game. After all, what is life without any risks?

 

"That won't be difficult. But, do I have your word?" Leon kept his gaze steady on her as if

trying to bare her with just his eyes. She was slowly letting him in, and he was going to

savour every intimate moment she would offer. Instead of answering, he tilted her chin and pulled her softly, his lips lightly pressing against hers. He could feel her tense under him but almost melt into the kiss, her body wanting to succumb to that sweet release she had been craving for. She teased him with the swipe of her tongue, but the pair was brought back to reality by an intruding knock at the door. 'Christ's sake! What impeccable timing!' Aanya placed a hand on his chest and gently pushed him away with a devious smile on her lips. She knew his answer.

 

'I wonder what your next move would be,' Leon thought, with an amorous glint in his eyes

while pushing his thumb to her lower lip, pulling it down and letting it snap back up again. Aanya just grinned like a child who was up to some sort of mischief and left.

 

Leon pulled out his phone and dialled in a number, patiently waiting for the person on the other line to pick up.

 

"Yeah, Leon here. Brian Muller from Irons. Fetch his details for me - everything you can get your hands on."

 

-

 

Once again, the annoying buzz of the phone that echoed through the otherwise empty room caught Leon's attention as he reached for it with an angry huff. It was a Saturday night and a weekend. He didn't bother looking at the caller id while answering it with a ‘hello’, which made him flinch since it was louder and ruder than intended.

 

"Leon, I'm being attacked in my house by the guy you said you would put your leash on. If anything happens to me, I will make sure that you pay for this shit. Get rid of the son of a bitch, now!" It was Aanya. Her tone was harsh and venomous, laced with fear. And she was whispering. Fucking Brian. "Also, we need to fucking talk."

 

Leon let out a growl as he harshly dialled a number and waited for the receiver to pick up as he kept tapping his foot, glaring daggers at the wall. "Plan B. Get rid of him. Clean kill. No evidence. Oh, and make sure the girl gets out of that place." 

 

"I'm on it."

 

With that, Leon sent a quick text to Aanya, updating her about the situation and harshly threw his phone on the couch as soon as he was done with it.

 

"Fuck." He muttered, pinching his nose bridge. Killing Brian Mullers was a risk and definitely a risk. But it was not the first time that someone was killed on command. With the added advantage that the killer was an old acquaintance and a cop, Leon knew that the case would be closed without much hassle. Another brownie point was that it would send a message to Aanya about their game's power dynamics - he is more powerful and resourceful than her. It was a winning move. A giant leap to victory. 

 

Leon let out a quiet chuckle as he read the notification on his phone. The murder was done, it was covered up, and Aanya was out of the scene. The pieces were falling into place slowly, and the victory flag was close. So close. 

 

-

 

As discussed the night before, Leon walked to the motel room where Aanya had agreed to

meet him. A cheap one, somewhere on the city outskirts. 'She must have been spooked

enough to go to a place where she's least expected.' He knocked on the door gently, taking a deep breath in. The smell of freshly cooked eggs and bacon filled his nose as the door opened to reveal Aanya in a tank top and jeans. And she looked a little pissed. Very pissed. Leon pecked her nose with a chuckle, hearing a light scoff from the girl as she slammed the door behind him.

 

"Breakfast? Coffee?" Aanya asked, kneeling next to the tea table.

 

"Just coffee, thank you." She nodded as she focused on making his coffee while taking little bites of her eggs.

 

"I thought we had an agreement." She said, finally breaking the silence, handing his cup to

him. Leon took a small sip, feeling the hot liquid burning his throat, his eyes focused entirely on the girl. He reached into his back pocket, pulling out a couple of pictures. He handed them over to Aanya. He could see emotions on her face for the first time - though it was more worry and shock.

 

"He had these with him," The girl glanced at him briefly before turning back to the pictures.

They were pictures of Aanya and Leon together. They were just strolling around, somewhere they walked out of the motel, and a few half-dressed pictures of Aanya. "And he reeked of alcohol. Possibly drugs too."

 

"I'd like to talk to him," Aanya's voice was shaky, and her lips quivered slightly. Her fingers

 trembled slightly as she stared at the pictures, especially the ones of her.

 

"Not possible."

 

"Why not?" The girl looked at him, bewildered.

 

"Well...You're the one who told me to 'Get rid of the son of a bitch', now, hmm?" Leon hid his playful smirk with the sipping of his coffee while her eyes searched all over his face for any signs of lies. She rested her head on her hands, gently squeezing her forehead, before looking up at him again.

 

"So, is it trouble?"

 

"Not quite."

 

"How so?" Aanya asked, shoving a spoonful of fried eggs.

 

"I'm not the one who killed him."

 

"So, basically, you're some sort of a mafia." The girl smiled, leaning onto the table.

 

"Nah. I just have contacts with cops." She looked at him, not satisfied with his replies as she dug into her plate. And with that, Leon finally felt a victorious confidence surging through his veins. He was taking the lead in their game.

 

"You still didn't answer my first question." She said, biting into her bacon. "I thought we had an agreement."

 

"You mistook our agreement. I didn't promise to protect you from him. I only promised to

 manage his wild tantrums." Aanya shrugged her shoulders, and her eyes fixated on the table as she whispered, “fair enough”.

 

"But you accepted my orders," The girl said with a devilish smile, peering up at him.

 

"And aren't you a grateful damsel, going on dates with other men and coming to me for help," Leon sneered. The girl let out a dark chuckle, and she walked towards him, taking a seat on the handle of the couch.

 

"Jealousy doesn't suit you, Leon," Aanya muttered, grazing over the man's cheek with her

finger, "And you've been spying on me, eh?"

 

Leon smirked lightly, looking up at her. "No, no," Aanya tilted her face lightly, confused."I

think we're past giving into each other’s pretence and sham." 

 

Leon stood up, flexing his arm a little, relieving a strained muscle. "And Brian. He's not just...a patron, right?"

 

"He was an inappropriate stalker too, as you know now ." Aanya shrugged with a bored expression. Leon's eyes landed on Aanya's neck, where there was a trail of hickies covered by her hair.

 

"Mhmm...and is that where your story ends, Aanya?"

 

Aanya stood up, walking towards Leon with a small smile. She placed a hand on his chest,

slowly trailing towards his neck, making the man shudder lightly. "Oh, Leon." she purred,

grabbing the crisp fabric of his shirt and stroking it gently. A gruff 'mhmhm' escaped his

throat, low and curious. Her fingertips played with his collar button, fondling with the black

circular plastic. She leaned into his face, her lips brushing past his lightly. "None of your

fucking business." With that, Aanya slapped him on the chest and almost turned away. But before she could take her hand back, his hand grasped hers and pulled her back. He inhaled her scent deeply, only to realise that she smelt like someone else. His breath snagged as his grip on the girl's wrist tightened.

 

"Careful, Aanya. Unlike a few others, I do bite." He raised his other hand and pulled her

harshly. His fingers grasped her jaw firmly. He turned her head to the side and tugged at the material of her top, pulling it down, revealing the hickeys peppered along her collarbone. "Fresh. Only a day or two old," His fingers brushed past the bruises, feeling the girl shudder lightly under his touch. Aanya tried to pull her hand back, and Leon didn't fight it. He let her go instantly, making the girl stumble lightly. "Careful who you mingle with."

 

"Whom I sleep with is none of your business, Leon." The girl growled slowly, glaring at him. Leon's lips upturned slightly into a grin, irking the girl further.

 

"Oh, this isn't about your other dalliances," He mused, pointing to her collarbone and reaching for the bottle of water.

 

"I don't know what you're talking about." Aanya shrugged; her eyes trailed behind the man

observing his every gesture. "Out with it, NOW," She placed her hands on her hips with a

huff, her cheeks puffed lightly.

 

Leon pulled out his phone, tapping on it a few times before turning the screen towards the

girl. Aanya's eyes widened momentarily, but she quickly shifted back to her calm demeanour. There were pictures of her and Brian's private chats- some sexual, vulgar, and none professional. "So you were spying on me." She crossed her hands over her chest and looked at him in disappointment.

 

"Nope, just looking out for you."

 

"Leon." She sighed, irritated, her hand rubbing her forehead in frustration. "I don't need you to play bodyguard for me. Now figure out a way to fix this mess."

 

Aanya gave Leon a disgusted look as she walked past him towards the door. But before she could reach it, Leon squeezed Aanya's jaw tightly and spun her around to face him. He immediately pushed her against the wall, her back firmly planted on it, and he pinned her hands and leaned towards her. The girl tried to fidget around and pull her hands off, but all in vain.

 

"You cannot just order me around and expect me to follow you around like a little lost

puppy." Aanya stared into Leon's eyes, her lips slowly curling into a smirk that did aggravate him.

 

"Leon, you're already a lost puppy that's latched onto me," She chuckled, not minding Leon's tightening grip on her wrist. "Now, if you let me go, I can help you get out of the mess, and you can walk away from a free man. This will be our little secret."

 

There was some chatter going on outside of the room, making Leon look towards the door.

But his attention turned back to the girl pinned under him. "You still don't realise the trouble

you have gotten yourself into, have you?" He said, leaning towards her.

 

"No. Care to enlighten me?"

 

"Unless I tell the man who killed Brian to spread the word of his death, no one's going to

know what happened, except for the three of us. Also, fraternisation is against your company policy."

 

"Ugh, what's your point?" Aanya rolled her eyes.

 

"Why don't you guess the point? I thought you were a smart, cunning woman who knew how the world works." Aanya gave a deadpan expression to Leon, shaking her head lightly. The two of them stared at each other for a few seconds until the woman took a deep breath, breaking the silence.

 

"Well, why don't you end this melodramatic suspense and tell me what your point is?"

 

"My point is, you are fucked. You and Brian were involved in an intimate relationship, and he is your boss, not just a patron or a stalker." Leon said. His eyes gleamed in excitement as if he had just won tickets to the front row of his favourite game.

 

"You are clearly out of your mind. You just want to see me at your mercy, kissing your feet,

and begging for forgiveness, don't you." Aanya spat, finally pushing the man off her. "Well,

guess what? I am not going to give you that pleasure, so you can go and fuck yourself."

 

"We're not done talking."

 

"Oh, we don't have anything more to talk about. This thing between you and me," She said, pointing between them both, "It's over."

 

"And I'm gonna enjoy your pretty face covered in tears when you're kicked out of that

 company."

 

Aanya scoffed at the man and gave a soft laugh, her hands on either side of her hips. "You selfish coward. You kill my boss, you read our texts, and you try to put me in trouble." She

looked at Leon with disgust and contempt that brought an acrid taste to his mouth. It wasn't supposed to affect him that much, then why did it? She was a good fuck, and that was it. He can always get another one, better than her.  But he felt nothing, only anger in that moment. Anger seething through his body, ready to break anything in his way. Including Aanya.

 

"Now, Leon. Get out of here. And do whatever you want." She said, pointing towards the

door. "But remember one thing. You will forever be a lost spineless dog." She said, walking

away from Leon.

 

That afternoon, Leon got back to his apartment, breathing heavily. Worry wrapped around him like a lasso placed on him by Aanya - and it tightened every time he thought about their fight. There was something about Aanya that triggered a primal reaction out of him. It was strange, like a growling furious Titan about to be uncapped from its chains.

 

It frightened him. It suffocated him.

 

How gauche is it to think that Aanya would have so much power over him, even when she

wasn't around? Enough to elicit fear, anger, and desperation in him.

 

But Leon swore that he did see a glint of fear in her eyes. And he would act on it soon. He would.

 

-

 

Two weeks had passed silently ever since their fallout. No text, nothing. Silence. It was like a cold snap - dull, gloomy, and bleak. Leon was pretty irritable, ever since the second week of their silence.

 

It finally dawned on Leon that Aanya was the only person who could make him walk around feeling like a fool that had lost his aim. She was the only one who could make him feel like a chagrin donkey. That was when he decided he had had enough.

 

It was as if he was going through a period of withdrawal without Aanya. She was an addiction.  An obsession.

 

What was worse was that Aanya was now a living source of terror - free and unfettered. It was like walking into fire, blindfolded and unaware of what lay ahead. But he'd rather walk into the firepit than lose her, shackled and caged somewhere away from him. Somewhere he cannot see her, touch her, smell her, or hear her. Obsession it indeed was - something just as risky as walking into the fire. Yet, he succumbed to it, despite knowing the diabolical consequences.

 

After all, without obsession, humanity wouldn't have been able to fulfil its magnificent

achievements created in the middle of the babel of the world. But it was this very obsession that led most people to insanity, engulfed by the bogus idea of greatness.

 

Obsession is dangerous. But thrilling. 

 

He entered the cafe, where she surprisingly agreed to meet him when he texted her the day before. Or she just didn't want him to be the loose end anymore. Maybe make it up to him. But she was there, towards the window, in a buttoned-up blue dress, lost in a book, 'Gone With the Wind.'

 

A classic. Story of a Southern Belle, who goes by the name Scarlet (how ironic! She was

indeed the Scarlet woman!) and her pursuit for self-satisfaction with her beau, Rhett Butler (Once again, the irony of his surname- Butler! Slave to beauty!). 'No wonder she loves this

game.'

 

"Hello Aanya," eyes that were glued to the yellowing pages of the book in her dainty hands looked up to him. A coy smile etched across her face with come-hither eyes that sparkled

brightly. Leon returned the smile - genial and cheery as he took a seat across from her. A wave of contentment washed over him as he breathed in the air poisoned by her scent -

contaminating his nose, once again with the rise of the familiar bodily reactions: Quickened heartbeat, dilated pupils, slight dizziness, and sweat, all masked behind the face of a calm and collected man.

 

"How have you been?"

 

"Fine, I guess," Aanya closed the book and pushed it to the side, placing her hands on the

table. "So, why did you want to see me?"

 

"Just...missed an old friend," The girl gave out a hearty chuckle, pushing away the wisps of her stray locks that tickled her eye.

 

"Friend? Interesting." That one statement was enough to change the entire atmosphere

between them, the weight of their mutual mendaciousness coming down on both of them,

suffocating them a little.

 

It was like playing a game of chess - each move had to be calculated, strategically perfect.

There was no gambling. There was no chance of taking the risk of giving in to the siren's

song.

 

"Alright," The man leaned back, swallowing down the lump in his throat. No more beating

around the bush. "I was looking out for you."

 

"From what?" Aanya leaned in, gritting through her teeth, yet keeping the devilish smile on

her face. "Or are you looking out for yourself? Making sure that I'm not plotting something

behind you, now that you are the Golden Boy of the cops." Each word she spat was laced

with a venomous fury.

 

"If I were so golden, you'd be rotting in some cold metallic room, Aanya," Leon said, not

wiping off his smile either. Good thing they chose a public space - God knows what would

have happened in a private room. 23 stabs for the Golden boy from the brute? Very likely,

evident from the rage that was bubbling inside her, toned down by her calm demeanour.

 

"And I'm sure you're going to use that card. What do you want, Leon?" The girl looked at

him, her smile now curved into a thin line of her lips. 'You.' How badly he wanted to say that, despite the rational side of him telling not to give in, telling him to get up and walk away. Never look back.

 

"Why do you think I'd want something from you?"

 

"Because you are an asshole."

 

Leon ignored the insult with a deep breath. "As I said, I'm here only to see an old friend. I

don’t want or need anything from you."

 

"Cut the bullshit, Leon," She growled, low and dangerous. "What. Do. You. Want."

 

"I just wanted to check up on you." Leon shrugged. Aanya turned red, and she was aware of it. She sipped some water, her red lipstick staining the transparent glass. She smiled lightly again, interlacing her fingers together.

 

"Well, your friend is fine. I am done here."

 

"I never said we are." Aanya looked at Leon, livid. "You're in my box, and I run this show.

So, I suggest you not leave unless I say we're done." The man said with a dangerous

undercurrent in his voice.

 

"You do not call the shots here."

 

"Oh, I do."

 

“Says who?” 

 

"Says me and all the fucking evidence I have to take you down," Leon said, like the final strike of a gavel. It was time she understood that he had won the victory flag, and she had to. Or was it him unknowingly acknowledging his obsession that was lurking somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind? That without her in his box, it was...empty? 

 

A weakness? 

 

“There is clearly no point to this conversation, Leon.”

 

“You haven’t even listened to the point.” Aanya let out a ‘hmph’, her irritation rising. 

 

“Let me guess. Your point is for me to stay on your leash now that you’ve killed my boss. Is that it?”

 

“Not leash, but I was thinking of something gentler. But for your own good.”

 

“My good or yours?” She asked, her hand curled into a fist, ready to blow a punch anytime soon. 

 

"You're ridiculous, Aanya. Like I said earlier, I am just looking out for you." He lied. It was a lie. He wasn't just 'looking out' for her. He was trying to get her. His trophy. "And I am sure that your company wouldn't be thrilled after hearing this wonderful scandal about you and Brian. Interesting headlines if word gets out on the murder too, right?"

 

"Are you threatening me, Leon?"

 

"I haven't pulled the trigger yet." Aanya's lips curled into a malicious grin, catching Leon

 off-guard.

 

"Fine. Pull the damn trigger, Leon." Leon's eyes narrowed down at the girl's sudden smugness. He looked at her, searching for any hint or answers in her face until his eyes landed on her left hand. Her ring finger had a small diamond-studded band on it. Aanya smirked, knowing where Leon was looking. "You think you're so cunning." A long, heavy,

 and brutal pause passed with Aanya's unwavering smirk.

 

The girl raised her left hand, her diamond ring gleaming in its full radiance. "Leon. If only

 you weren't so full of yourself." Aanya slid her hand towards Leon, caressing his knuckles softly, making the man shudder. "I was trying to break off the engagement with Brian - one of the reasons why he started getting all violent. Also, we were supposed to get married the next day." The girl gave a fake pout. "Your friend, whoever the hell he was, pulled Brian away from the door and from there, it was both of your silly acts. Killing him."

 

The girl pulled her hand back, looking at him, the smirk resurfacing on her face. "You robbed me of my wedding night, Leon!" He felt uncomfortable, as if the noose around his neck tightened, and his stomach felt sick.

 

"Your texts and phone call is still with -" Aanya gave another hearty laugh interrupting the

 man, earning a few glances from the people nearby.

 

"And what?" Aanya shook her head lightly, looking at Leon judgingly. "I had to leave the company by the end of the month, that was yesterday. Got a better offer elsewhere."

 

"If I had sent the pictures of your text and that phone call to your employer, what would you

have done?"

 

Aanya gave a dumbfounded expression. "Nothing. I was always clear from the trouble." She sighed briefly. "You brought this upon yourself, and I only asked you to help me out, not to kill him. And you went further with reading our texts. So whose fault is it exactly?"

 

Aanya stood up, placing a couple of bills and waving to the waitress. "My hands are clean, Leon." She said, her fingertips grazing over her ring. "You better think about getting the red off your ledger."

 

Leon stared at the ring, his stomach feeling vertiginous, the knots tightening up. The tables were flipped, his cards turned against him. The realisation that the entire time he was being toyed with rang in his head like gunshots - raucous and harsh. The whole sequence of the 'missed red flags' unfurled in front of his eyes. He lost, humiliatingly and ridiculously.

 

Before walking away, Aanya leaned into Leon, tapping his nose lightly. "Checkmate." She winked, leaving the man alone to his train of chaotic thoughts.

 

Wave the white flag or go down with the sinking ship?

ABOUT THE WRITER 

Prima Pradeep

Prima is a creative writer who loves to write stories, poems and compilations of events. A blogger herself, her blog, the Whimsywisp, speaks about an undergraduate's journey into the adult world. When she is not writing, she likes to read, thrillers and murder mysteries being her favourites.