Miguel knew she understood what he was referring to, but indulged her by nodding rather than correcting her for trying to stall for time. With a slow pull of air in through her nose, Kandy rubbed between her collar bones for a moment whilst still holding his gaze.
If he was going to stare at her, she was going to stare right back. There had been times when Kandy wondered if perhaps Miguel had his own special little talents. If they were anything like hers, he had played it off very well that the information either was easily sussed out like she had just done or instead hadn’t registered or resonated with him at all. Considering the situation they currently found themselves in, she reasoned it would be better to wait for a time when he was less defensive to ask him directly about it. What he did with food was beyond just culinary skill and absolutely counted as a gift in the kitchen. But the more time went on, the more Kandy felt like her aloof and alluring Scorpio was keeping a few things from her.
“Tell me, conejita.”
Yea, Kandajha, tell him. You wanna run your mouth to him about all the things you happily would let him do to you — tell this grown ass man what some of those things are.
“No me hagas repetir la pregunta, conejita.” As playful as the cadence in his speech might have been on the surface, it was understood that it really was more of a warning. He wanted to know and she was going to enlighten him one way or another.
“Free hour is up! Give me money or get the fuck out!” Outside the restaurant’s upstairs office, Manny sighed and pounded his fist on the locked door to get Kandy and Miguel’s attention.
Without warning, the door swung open and Kandy slipped past Miguel’s cousin giggling as she galloped down the stairs. Turning slightly to watch her go, he noticed all those curls were no longer tied up in a ponytail but free, full, and flowing. A few seconds after, Miguel stepped up to the threshold of the door in his tank top and dress pants. The crisply ironed shirt and suit-matching tie from earlier were nowhere to be seen.
The five foot seven and rather stocky looking half of the pair stared at his younger cousin while Miguel took the liberty of nicking a cigarette from the pack in Manny’s front shirt pocket poking out above his apron.
“You tall ass, lean ass, suave ass motherfucker.” Passing the half torn matchbook to him, Manny watched as he lit up the cigarette.
Gesturing with the Marlboro, Miguel exhaled the smoke to the side. “Don’t tell Irma?”
Kandy found herself standing outside the private upstairs office listening to Miguel become more and more heated with the guy on the phone. She sighed and closed her eyes whilst resting her head against the door frame. Seeing him on top of her, her hands in his hair, the initial str– Stop it. You have no fucking idea who this guy is and you can’t wait to be under him? Getting worked the fuck out, yes.I’m a grown ass woman and if I wanna f– He could be dangerous, Kandy. He’s not going to hurt me. He could be dangerous for you in ways you haven’t considered.
She was over waiting and arguing with herself. Walking in abruptly, she paused just long enough to lock the door and then started fishing her phone out of her bag. Miguel immediately turned still, tempered his tone, and cleared his throat. The cursing in English and Spanish stopped as well. Smoothing down his dress shirt, he felt caught out for how out of pocket he was being. It was clear he was still stuck in the stage of trying to present the best image of himself to her rather than the most forthright. Not even the smallest acknowledgement of his presence was given by her as she walked through the office, in between him at the desk on her left and the couch on her right.
What is she doing? His dark gaze followed Kandy as she frustratedly yanked a cable out of a zipper pocket on her bag to plug into the aux port of the stereo system mounted in the far wall. She didn’t know if there were speakers in the other areas of the restaurant, but she couldn’t have cared less. A few taps to the illuminated screen of her phone later, the device was left with her bag and tennis shoes. Pitching the gum in the rubbish bin, she stepped barefoot up onto the cushion of the chair across from him before hopping off of it and onto the desk.
Cassandra remained quiet as she stared at her now folded hands. With some reluctance she pulled her arms back just enough to separate her fingers from each other and examine her slender digits. A flex of her joints and all ten curled like claws before they were relaxed back into a natural position with a slight curve in their pose.
“Just for saying that, they’re gonna kill you and then Cicero.”
“And then me and then Asher and then probably Kand–”
“I don’t intend on telling them.” A quicker tighter clenching of her grip formed fists for a few seconds before she released them and looked over at her half-sister, “Do you?”
Up went those ash brows, the blonde was quite surprised that Sandra managed to ask the question. This was the woman who didn’t dare ask for help or admissions of loyalty from anyone. The potential refusals or silence itself would have been too much for her. Yet here she was in her kitchen asking her sibling to finally pick a side. And to do so convincingly. A remarkable shift.
“Gray said they may be considering doing a deal with Sandulf.” Angie’s hands ran through her own hair to smooth down some of the sections before she retied her bob into a short ponytail. “You know what that means for me and for Asher.”
And here Cassandra was, laying on her kitchen floor staring at a clump of dog hair she had somehow missed whenever the last time was that she had swept. What have you done, Cassandra? What have you done? It wasn’t Zoraida’s voice that she heard echoing within her thoughts, but rather her own.
Giving Cassandra a moment to collect herself, Anzhelina folded in the blade of her knife and tucked it back into its hiding place. Satisfied that she had put her sister in the right frame of mind to receive the message, the blonde stepped forward and began snapping her fingers in front of Sandra’s face.
“Hey, hey! Focus.” Angie’s tone was indifferent to the writhing going on underneath her.
It hurt a lot less than Sandra expected. However, it did surprise her that the assault had such an impact on her breathing. Her chest was left feeling as if it was hydrolocked like one of the many poor souls who foolishly forged ahead on a flooded Bayshore Boulevard. The risk of danger had looked deceptively minimal. Was she bleeding into her chest cavity? Was the increase in fluid preventing air from filling and expanding her lungs? Is that what was happening? Thunk-thunk, thunkthunkthunk. The arrhythmia pounded against the inside of her ribs and triggered a half cough seizing her lungs again as she struggled still to breathe. Could blood be pouring out of her that quickly? Maybe she was already in shock. Her arms felt so heavy, like lead really. The buzzing tingle that swept over her shoulders, down those languid limbs, and ended in her fingertips almost made it feel like there had been an assault on her nervous system. She had to question whether she had any control whatsoever over them, yet somehow she managed to pull them in tighter around her midsection.
“Hey, hey, sorry I’m late.” Kandajha in her delightfully vibrant athletic wear had sprinted across the wooden boardwalk to the deck where her aunt, Cassandra was admiring the view of Old Tampa Bay.
With the rather large cup of coffee nearly to her burgundy lips, Cassandra paused just enough to lean to the side to accept the kiss to her temple from her twenty-one year old niece. She was the walking image of Spring regardless of whatever month was on the calendar. Cotton candy pink lips and nails, black and Robin’s Egg blue stretch leggings and top, a koolaid purple zip-up hoodie and a pair of Sketchers that somehow incorporated all the aforementioned colours. That beautiful mane of thick chocolate curls was tossed over to one side and looked just as beautiful and voluminous as ever. Kandy was pure sunshine and vitality.
“I’m surprised they let you through wearing that getup.” The corners of Cassandra’s darkly painted mouth perked slightly as the pair shared a knowing little smile with each other. “Looks like the kid at the front of house still fancies you. Are you finally going to let him take you out then?”
Kandy brought her chair around more to Sandra’s side to afford herself a better view of the quiet beach and serene waters just a few hops away. Plopping down in the chair, she folded her hands in her lap and propped her feet up under the table on the chair position across from them. A somewhat heavy sigh came from the young girl.
“That’s my sigh of disdain. Is he not quite your thing?” Sandra perked a brow taking a healthy drink of the dark roast seasoned only with a pinch of salt.
Grey. eyes lazily opened allowing Tuesday’s mid-morning sun to sear through the sliver of Sandra’s retinas that her eyelids had reluctantly exposed. A grumble was muffled as she turned her features into the musty, but still technically clean pillow that had been kept warm by the side of her face. Sweet relief washed over her as darkness flooded her sight. Light was the enemy at this point, but it hadn’t always been. In fact, the way the light blossomed into a healthy glow through the open white-painted Plantation shutters within the room was one of the reasons why she had purchased the Hyde Park bungalow in South Tampa. Above was the soft strumming of the large ceiling fan accompanied by the intermittent clink of its pull chain dancing against its frosted glass light fixtures shaped like lilies. Still, her body nagged at her.
Wearing a pair of lightweight cotton drawstring pyjama pants and her favourite oversized University of Miami t-shirt, she managed to find the perfect temperature for the bed sheet to be pulled up around her shoulders. With the air conditioning set to seventy-two and the fan going, anything exposed was frosty whilst everything under cover remained slightly toasty. Maybe if she just lay there quietly for a few minutes her body would relent as she drifted back off to sleep. Turning her face so that her cheek could cuddle into the pillow, a lighter shade of darkness now pressed into her covered vision. With her left arm and leg tossed across a large U-shaped pillow that was as long as she was tall, Sandra gripped the comfy cushion and waited for rest to retake her.
The pressure and pains in her lower abdomen persisted and the brunette sighed frustratedly. Sandra had to go to the bathroom. She wasn’t about to lay in her own piss as this would’ve ruined the very lovely mattress that had been serving up cloud nine relaxation for the last few weeks. It was the most plush of jail cells this side of a padded room. The house was silent and still all but for the ceiling fan and the circulating air via the handler hidden in a closet on another floor. She had missed the pleasant melodies of the morning birds hopping along their branches in the massive Oak tree planted just outside in the front yard. Even in the state she was in, the pleasantness of the birds’ songs was still able to touch her heart as her headboard shared a wall with them. Sometimes this was a welcomed moment of brightness. On other days, like this one, she was relieved to have not heard them at all. Something so sweet and free as birds proved to be too painful in certain moments.