XII. Kaphiri, Part 2
Kaphiri lived in Dastara, on the Suva side of the river. Shantreyl was surprised to see him driving into what was a sketchy part of town and was even more surprised when he pulled up to what looked like a derelict building.
“Where are we, Kaphiri?”
“You live here? In this abandoned building? In this part of town??”
“I do. Don’t freak out. It’s not what you think.” He pushed a button that was attached to his visor; a garage door opened and a light came on. Shantreyl stared stupidly as he wheeled the Chevelle inside, parking it between the Mustang and a snow white BMW. He got out of the car and walked around to help Shantreyl out. The garage door closed.
“Come on,” he said, holding her hand. “The garage light stays on for two minutes. We’re going in there,” he said, pointing to a door.
“All right,” she said. They walked to the door and Kaphiri opened in, ushering her inside. He closed the door and led her into the room.
“Lights,” Kaphiri said, and once the room illuminated, Shantreyl found herself in an enormous room. There was a large kitchen off to one side, full of stainless steel appliances, and on the other side, a den with a giant TV, two couches and some end tables. There were shelves full of DVDs and books. He had an X-Box and a Playstation hooked up. There was some abstract art on the walls. The windows were large and high.
“What kind of place was this?” Shantreyl asked as she put her purse on one of the end tables.
“It used to be a chocolate factory. I bought it some years back when it foreclosed and had it renovated. Yes, the outside of the building looks abandoned and I prefer it that way.” He pointed to a stairwell. “That way.”
Shantreyl walked up the stairs. “You don’t worry about people trying to break in?”
“I have hidden cameras everywhere and other security measures in place. And anyone who tries to break in while I’m here is going to have a very bad day.”
“How many floors are there?”
“Three. Stop at the second one.”
Shantreyl entered the second floor and her gasp was audible. It was a library of music and even more books. There was a couch, table and lamp on both ends of the floor. She turned around. On the other side of the room were Kaphiri’s baby grand piano and his other instruments. Tucked into one corner was a small recording studio. She looked at him.
“Do you actually record music?”
“Yes, but only for myself.”
She nodded and continued to survey the enormous room. I could spend all day in here, she thought.
She walked further into the giant room, making her way over to the wall of vinyl music. There was a record player on a table between two of the shelves. Shantreyl stared at one of the shelves, running her fingers along the spines to try and discern how the albums were organized.
Kaphiri’s voice, near to her ear, made her jump. “They’re organized by genre, then decade, then alphabetical order by artist name. The code is right there in the upper right corner.”
Shantreyl looked closer. “How long did it take you to organize them?”
“Three or four months. Nobody touches them, so it’s not something I have to worry about doing again.”
Shantreyl snatched her hand away. “Sorry.”
Kaphiri, right behind her, put her hand back on the shelf. “You’re all right,” he said in a low voice. “Anything you want to listen to?”
She took a deep breath, catching his scent. “I don’t even know where to start. What genre is this shelf?”
“This is 1970s soul. I’ll pick something for you.” He randomly selected an album and removed the record. Kaphiri put the record on the record player and turned up the volume. It was the Bar-Kays’ Too Hot to Stop!
Shantreyl grinned as the title track came on. “Oh I LOVE this song! I listen it all the time, especially at work!”
In a few moments, Shantreyl was dancing to the infectious funky beat. She turned to face Kaphiri, who was leaning against one of the shelves, watching her. She wasn’t the least bit shy about dancing in front of him. She wasn’t shy about very much. He appreciated it.
When you see her, when you experience her, you will understand.
Kaphiri totally understood Malcolm’s attraction to her. Compared to the rest, Shantreyl was real, alive, fun and uninhibited…especially in front of him. He liked that.
“Come dance with me,” she said, waving him over.
“I’m fine watching you.”
“Oh come on! Malcolm already told me you know how to dance!”
“I don’t feel like it. I’m okay with this.”
“Your loss,” she teased, dancing and singing along with the track until the song ended. Then Shantreyl walked to the record player and pulled the needle off the record just as the next song was about to play.
“Why’d you stop?” he asked.
She pointed at the luminous Shadd piano. “Will you play for me?”
He smiled at her. “Absolutely.”
Once seated at the piano, Kaphiri sat for a moment in thought. Then he looked at her. She leaned her head against his shoulder, eyes closed.
“Are you still smelling me?”
“I am indeed. As long as you keep on wearing this scent, I will keep on breathing you. I can’t help myself. You smell good. It does things to me.”
He said, “Anything in particular you want to hear?”
“Play something you think I might know.”
Kaphiri thought for a moment and then started playing and Shantreyl looked down at the piano keys. He had nice hands. She smiled as she recognized the tune.
“Harlem’s Nocturne,” she said. “I hate that it’s so short.”
He looked at her and abruptly began to play something else. “What about this?”
She listened for about a minute. “Ummm… ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues.’ Classic track.”
Immediately, Kaphiri began to play another song. “Name this one.”
Shantreyl listened for a couple of moments, closing her eyes again. Without warning, she began to sing. Kaphiri looked at her but continued to play, pleasantly surprised at her singing voice. Malcolm hadn’t mentioned that she knew how to sing and he wondered if his friend knew about it.
Shantreyl sang with her eyes shut and her head still on his shoulder. “Love of my life, don’t leave me…you’ve taken my love and now desert me…love of my life, can’t you see…bring it back, bring it back…don’t take it away from me because…you don’t know what it means to me…” She paused and sighed. “I love Queen.”
Kaphiri stopped playing. “So do I.”
She ran her fingers along one of his hands. “Are you going to finish playing?”
“I will if you finish singing.”
She patted his arm. “Play away then, my friend.”
When the song was finished a couple of minutes later, Kaphiri asked, “Do you want to see the top floor?”
“I may as well,” she said. “It’s your bedroom, I’m sure.”
“That and something else I think you’ll find interesting.”
“Do you have a bathroom on this floor?”
“There’s one on every floor, in the same area.” He pointed to a door near the stairwell. “Over there.”
Shantreyl got up and went to use the bathroom. Kaphiri whipped out his phone and sent a text to Malcolm.
All’s well in the meeting?
A moment or two later, his phone chirped.
It’s finally over. How is Shantreyl?
She’s good. We’re at my house right now. I took her to Indigo for lunch.
Did she like it?
She did. We’re here because she wanted to see my music collection.
Did she ask to see anything else?
Kaphiri smiled at the phone.
Not yet. Do you want to see her before she goes home or should I drop her off at her car?
I don’t think I’ll be able to swing it. I’ll call her tonight after she gets home. Thanks for taking care of her today.
No problem. By the way, did you know she could sing?
Sing. As in, she’s got a set of pipes. I was playing the piano for her and she just jumped in with some killer vocals.
No, I didn’t know that.
You should ask her to sing something one day. She’s got a beautiful voice.
I will. Anything else I need to know about?
No. I think she had a good day.
She didn’t seem irritated or annoyed that she had to be with you instead of me?
Not in the least.
Good, good. Okay then, back to work for me. I’ll see you in a few hours or are you going to go straight to the Fountain?
If you don’t need me, I’m going to the Fountain.
Shantreyl came out of the bathroom, adjusting her clothes. “Okay, show me where the magic happens.”
Kaphiri smiled at her, got up, and took her hand. “Depends on how you define magic.”
He led her up the stairs to the top floor. As expected, his bedroom was on one side of the room and the other side contained a series of cabinets with glass doors. Across from the cabinets was a variety of exercise equipment. Shantreyl squinted as he led her over to the cabinets. They were full of weapons.
“This is my armory,” he said. “I don’t know if Malcolm told you, but I used to be an Army Ranger. I was in the military for over ten years; I enlisted after I graduated from college. I’m a collector.”
Shantreyl was staring at a gun that was damn near as long as she was tall. “What is this?”
“That’s a Barrett M82A1.”
“And this one?” She pointed to the one beneath it.
“That one is an Armalite AR-50.”
“You like big guns,” she said.
“Not just big ones. Keep walking.”
She began walking down the length of the room, staring at all of the guns in the cases. He had big ones, medium-sized ones and small ones.
“Did you like it? Being in the military?”
“I was very good at what I did and I appreciate everything I learned in the Army. It’s been a useful skill set.”
She stopped and gazed at a rack of handguns. He had to have at least ten in this case alone. “How does being an Army Ranger help you run a casino?”
Kaphiri was staring at the back of her neck and cupped his hand around it, giving her a gentle squeeze. “You’d be surprised, Shantreyl. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I learned a completely different set of negotiating tactics that, combined along with Malcolm’s abilities, have made us fairly wealthy men. Malcolm can convince people of things using his words; I can do the same using my actions.”
Shantreyl closed her eyes at the feel of his hand around her neck. Everything tingled. “Do I want to know what that means?”
Kaphiri squeezed again. “I don’t know. Do you?”
She closed her eyes as he massaged her neck. “Do you have knives too?”
“Look down there.” He pointed at the cabinets further down the wall. “Open your eyes.”
She walked down and gasped at the array of bladed weapons on the shelves. Like his gun collection, there were small blades, medium blades, large blades and some swords. Shantreyl stepped closer when she saw a switchblade that reminded her of Mary Jane.
“See something you like?” Kaphiri asked.
She pointed. “That switchblade. My friend Renee has one just like it. She named it Mary Jane. She made me take it to the club that night for protection.”
“Do you want to hold it?”
“No, that’s all right. It looks just like Mary Jane.”
Kaphiri opened the cabinet, took the knife off its holder and handed it to her. “Did you have to use Mary Jane that night?”
Shantreyl blushed when she thought about what Malcolm did with the knife. She looked at the blade. Kaphiri watched her face bloom with color and was curious. “What happened? Did you have to use it on Malcolm?”
Shantreyl looked at Kaphiri and pressed the button, releasing a shiny six-inch blade. “Did he tell you about that night?”
“He told me that you two had a one night stand, but he didn’t mention that you pulled a knife on him.” The thought of it made him chuckle.
“Actually,” she said, blushing even more, unable to believe she was telling Kaphiri this, “he…used it on me.”
Kaphiri stared at her as if he’d been hit over the head.
Shantreyl continued to speak as she examined the blade, unable to help herself, “He ran it over my skin and…other places…and it was…I was…it was an enormous, unexpected turn-on.” She covered her mouth, but then said, “I can’t believe I just told you that. Please keep it to yourself. Matter of fact, forget I said anything at all.”
Kaphiri continued to stare at her. All kinds of things were running through his mind.
“Please, don’t tell Malcolm what I told you. I’d hate for him to think that I can’t keep our secrets secret. I don’t know what possessed me to share that with you.”
He nodded and held out his hand. “Whatever you want, Shantreyl. Do you want to keep that or what?”
She gave him back the knife. “No, no. It’s yours and I don’t really have a need for a bladed weapon.”
“In this city? I disagree. Do you know how to use a gun?”
“I’m scared of guns, so no.”
“The way to cure that is to learn how to use one. I can teach you how.”
“Which of the many, many guns that you have is your favorite?”
“None of the ones that you saw. I keep a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson in my nightstand drawer. My mother gave it to me when I was eight. She taught me how to use it.”
“Your mother gave you a revolver when you were eight? When I was eight, I got dolls and tea sets and coloring books and clothes.”
“I grew up in a fairly violent world, Shantreyl. I learned to protect myself at an early age. Do you want to learn how to use a gun?”
“Another time, maybe?”
“Another time it is. And don’t think I’m going to forget. You should learn how to protect yourself, especially if you’re serious about being with Malcolm.”
“What does that mean?”
“Not everyone we work with or employ is a gentleman or even a lady, but we don’t employ them based on that characteristic alone. You’re going to the cookout on Sunday, right?”
“You’ll see what I mean.”
“All right then,” she said, looking at her phone. “It’s almost eight and I’m kind of tired, so can we go?”
“Of course,” he said, taking her hand.
As they walked down the stairs, Shantreyl asked, “Do you have someone to clean up for you?”
“No. I do it myself. I don’t need strangers snooping around and messing with my stuff. I wouldn’t handle that well. Luckily, my mother taught me how to keep house.”
“I get that,” Shantreyl said as they made it to the first floor. “But I’d get a housekeeper real quick if I could afford one.”
Kaphiri walked over to the door that they came in through first. There was a key rack next to it. He looked at her. “You’ve taken a ride in Candy. Do you want to take a ride in Maxine or in Bree?”
She walked over to him and stood behind him, taking quick sniffs. “Let me guess. Maxine’s the ‘Stang and Bree is the BMW?”
“You guess correctly. Alliteration is always fun. Which one?”
“Maxine, of course.”
Kaphiri turned suddenly and bumped into Shantreyl, knocking her to the floor. Quickly, he squatted next to her and helped her up.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know you were right behind me. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “It was my fault. I was smelling you again.”
“I’ll stop wearing it if it means keeping you unharmed. Malcolm would never forgive me if you were injured in my presence.”
“Don’t you dare!” she said. “It’s powerful and it has an effect on me.”
Kaphiri got Shantreyl to her feet and looked at her. “Dare I ask about the effect?”
She smiled at him. “I hope you don’t think I’m a loose woman or a hoe or anything like that, but the way you smell is an absolute aphrodisiac and I’m so horny right now. I need Malcolm. Take me to Malcolm.”
Kaphiri closed his eyes for a moment. “I’m sorry, Shantreyl, but I can’t. I texted him. He’s still very busy. I’m going to take you to your car so you can go home.”
Shantreyl put a hand on Kaphiri’s cheek. “You’ve been nothing but a perfect gentleman, Kaphiri. Thank you for babysitting me again. I had a good time.” Without thought, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed his lips. Once she realized what she was doing, she stopped and stepped back.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to do that.”
Kaphiri stared at her and then grabbed her around the waist. He picked her up and sat her on the counter by the door so that she was at the right height and gazed into her eyes. A lock of her hair flopped over in her face and he gently tucked it behind her ear.
“I hope you didn’t mean that apology,” he said and kissed her.
She put her hands on his cheeks and he felt her kissing him in return. Several moments passed before she pulled away.
“Whooooo!” Shantreyl said, shaking her hands. Her lips and her scalp were on fire. “My lord…”
Kaphiri cupped her chin and ran his thumb over her lips. “You didn’t mean it, did you?”
Shantreyl fanned herself. “I want to mean it because I’m your best friend’s girl and I have no business kissing you. I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing. I was just…reacting.” Kaphiri was a better kisser than her boyfriend and she felt a kind of way about it.
Kaphiri thumbed her lip again. Shantreyl closed her eyes and owned up to her desire. She said in a low voice, “Kaphiri, every time you touch me, I tingle. I need to stay away from you. This isn’t fair to Malcolm.”
“If you’re worried about him bambina, don’t be,” he said and kissed her again. This time, Shantreyl let him lead. She wasn’t about to win this battle; her attraction to the man was far too strong. He was an exceptional kisser and his hands were on her waist, making her skin prickle in the most deviant of ways.
When he let up, she stared into his eyes and touched his hand. “You’d better take me back to my car. Malcolm told me that one of the things he needed from me was loyalty, and I am—I’m trying to be—loyal. I don’t want to hurt him. I have real feelings for him.”
“One more,” Kaphiri said, caressing her face. “One more kiss.”
Shantreyl kissed him once more, deciding to indulge this one setback to its fullest so that it would never happen again. Kaphiri had an incredible mouth and she could lose herself in lust. She put her arms around his neck and his hands went up her back.
After a few moments, she broke the kiss and placed a tiny one on his nose. She wiped the remnants of her lip gloss off his lips. “I need to leave now, Kaphiri. You know how far a kiss can go…and it can’t go there. I’m crazy about Malcolm.” It was true.
“I know,” he said. He helped her off the counter, grabbed the keys to the Mustang and said, “Lights off.” The room darkened and they walked out to the garage.
As they drove back to the Vermilion, Shantreyl said, “I’ve been parked in the parking deck since three-fifteen. How much is that going to cost me?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I’ll park my car and walk you to yours. You will exit the parking deck and I’ll speak to the attendant, and then you can drop me off at the front of the hotel. We’ll see about getting you a parking pass and access to the private garage.”
“Okay,” she said. “Thank you.”
The ride back to the hotel was mostly in silence. The events of the day ran through Shantreyl’s mind and she looked at Kaphiri, driving the ‘Stang with one hand. What was he thinking? Was he frustrated with her? Was he annoyed?
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” she asked.
“Of course not,” he replied. “I’m just thinking about that kiss, and you may as well know that I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of the night.”
“I hope I haven’t caused you any problems,” she said. “I have to be fair to Malcolm. I care about him.”
“Any problems you’ve caused can be easily solved. Don’t worry about it, all right? You didn’t do anything wrong and if you’re feeling guilty about kissing me, you can blame it on me.”
“That’s not right,” she said. “I’m the one who initiated it.”
“I don’t want you worrying your pretty head about that. I can be the villain if need be.”
Shantreyl nodded. “Okay.”
A little while later, Shantreyl was in her Lexus, driving back to Siren Heights, chastising herself. She had practically made out with Kaphiri and she was irritated that she enjoyed it. She was an absolute fool to kiss Kaphiri in the way that she had, but she couldn’t help it. Shantreyl couldn’t help being attracted to him. She wished that she were with Malcolm so that she could take out her frustrations on him, but that wasn’t about to happen.
Once Shantreyl arrived home, she texted Malcolm and told him that she’d had a good time and that she’d talk to him the next day. That night, she dreamed of Kaphiri’s kiss and all the wonderful things it could have led to. She allowed herself that one night to fantasize about another man, and she would make it up to Malcolm on Sunday.
Lyrics to “Love of My Life” written and performed by Freddie Mercury. No infringement intended.