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"Calm down, Zakira, just calm down."
The words replayed themselves again and again. She practically chanted the phrase in the silent hallway, lit only by the myriad of Christmas candles lining the walls.
For weeks, the terrible, yet familiar nightmare had intruded on Zakira Badu's dreams. There was no way she would get back to sleep anytime soon. She hurried down the black carpeted stairway, rubbing her hands across the sleeves of her short, pink satin robe. The kitchen was only a short distance away, and a cup of warm milk was always the perfect remedy for sleeplessness. Zakira's small feet padded the plush carpeting. Several tendrils of her naturally thick, waist-length hair were matted against her temple and neck. She tugged at the clinging locks and sighed. The dreaded dream was having the worst effect on her. The frazzled nerves and edgy moods were both frightening and frustrating.
The lower level of the lovely Richmond, Virginia, home was dark except for the electric holiday candles arranged in every corner of the living room and along the hallway that led to the kitchen.
The spacious state-of-the-art kitchen was void of any light, but that didn't faze Zakira. She spent most of her time in that portion of the house. In a matter of minutes, she had the refrigerator door open, quickly selected a carton of milk from one of the side shelves and kicked the stainless steel door shut. From the overhead pan rack, she grabbed a small gold-bottomed pot and headed to the stove.
Once the milk was set to warm, Zakira leaned back against the oak kitchen island. She hugged her petite form and watched the stove burner turn orange from the searing heat. Then, closing her eyes, she allowed her thoughts to return to the disturbing dream.
The same nightmare had haunted her for weeks and she could not understand it. The strange thing was that the "nightmare" really wasn't that at all. It was more of a vision. A recurring vision. In a candlelit room was a man dressed in black and lying flat on some surface that she could not make out. The man's identity remained a mystery. The closer she moved to the unfamiliar form, the more out of focus it became.
Uttering a low groan, Zakira pushed her hands through her hair and massaged her scalp. She was so engrossed by her dark thoughts that she did not hear the front door open and shut. The sound of another body moving around the house went unnoticed.
The milk on the stove had finally simmered long enough. Zakira removed it as though in a daze. She set the pot aside and was reaching for a mug, when a pair of arms extended out of the darkness to envelop her in a steely embrace. Zakira forgot everything and began to struggle as her captor lifted her from the polished hardwood floor.
Zakira's legs and arms flew wildly as she tried to wrench herself out of the iron hold. Her breath caught in her throat and prevented her from screaming. Her shock, combined with the pungent aroma from the man's leather jacket, overwhelmed her ability to fight harder.
The man placed her atop the wooden counter and, from there, Zakira bravely looked into the face of her attacker. When she spied the wide, white grin and shoulder-length dreadlocks, she raised her hand and placed a cracking slap to the man's face.
"You damn fool!" she breathed.
Surprised by his wife's actions, Malik Badu brought one large hand to the side of his handsome, dark face. He massaged his cheek, until the slight sting had vanished. "Zakira, what"
"What the hell are you doing, sneaking in here like that?" she cried, pounding her fists against the front of Malik's jacket. "Do you know how much you scared me?"
Malik rubbed his hands along the side of Zakira's thighs. "Shh baby doll, I'm sorry," he soothed.
"You should be! I really don't need you playin'
'Let's attack Zakira' tonight. Especially, when I just had one of those damn dreams," she finished, wiping a tear from her cheek.
Malik bowed his head, his long lashes closing over his grayish-black gaze. "Come here," he said softly, pulling Zakira against him and rocking her slowly. When her breathing had returned to normal, he pulled away and glanced behind him. "Is that what the milk is for?"
Zakira nodded. Malik's gaze narrowed as he cupped his wife's dark chocolate oval face and pressed a soft kiss to her full lips. He smiled, hearing her soft moan when the kiss became more heated.
Zakira tilted her head back and opened her eyes. Malik broke the kiss to trail his lips down the side of her neck. His hands ventured beneath the satiny material of her robe. She squeezed his shoulders when she felt his hands grasp her buttocks tightly as he lifted her from the counter.
"Forget the milk," he whispered in her ear and pulled her even closer. "I know a better way."
Instinctively, Zakira locked her legs around his lean waist as he carried her from the kitchen. Her hands pushed the heavy leather jacket from her husband's broad shoulders. It fell to the floor and was forgotten while they journeyed upstairs.
Only a few moments seemed to pass before Zakira felt herself being lowered onto the bed. Slowly and seductively, Malik unbuttoned her thin nightshirt and pushed it from her slender shoulders. His intense stare trailed across every inch of newly exposed skin, as though her nude body were a sight unfamiliar to him. His strong fingers curled around the waistband of the lacy panties she wore and he tugged them away.
Malik, however, had yet to remove his own clothes. He simply leaned across Zakira and massaged her soft skin.
"Mal " she whispered, throwing both arms above her head and closing her eyes to savor his touch. The caress made her forget everything, except how wonderful she felt at that moment.
A sigh of disappointment escaped her lips when he ended the delightful massage. He replaced his hands with his mouth. Zakira moaned shamelessly beneath the touch of his wide, sensuous mouth gliding across her body.
Beginning with the column of her neck, he moved downward. Zakira still had her arms thrown overhead and gasped when she felt his lips pressing sweet kisses into the softly scented pit of her arm.
"Malik please " she urged, as she tried tugging his sweater over his back.
In response, he pulled her hands away and pressed them to her sides. "Shh," he soothed, his warm breath fluttering against her skin.
She arched her body closer to his mouth. Long, heavy dreads grazed her skin when his lips touched the hardened tip of her breast. He released his grip on her wrists, and she instantly pushed her fingers through his hair.
Malik squeezed one breast as his lips feasted on the other. The simple, erotic caress robbed Zakira of her breath. She desperately wanted to feel his bare skin against hers. Once again, she moved her hands over his gray wool sweater. Suddenly, she requested that he undress by tugging at his broad shoulders.
A roguish grin touched Malik's gorgeous face and he again pinned Zakira's hands to her sides. He continued the caress, his lips moving onward from her breast to trail her flat stomach. Zakira's hips rose from the bed when she felt Malik's mouth touching the center of her body. Her lips parted as she pushed her head deeper into the pillows and enjoyed the caress.
The intensity of the kiss increased moment by moment. The expertise of the intimate caress was overwhelming. He knew exactly how his wife of three years liked to be touched. He never hesitated to give her what she wanted. In many ways, he played the willing slave in their bedroom. Every sexual request or fantasy was eagerly granted.
The soft groans expressed on Zakira's part soon turned to cries of pleasure. Malik never veered from his task and Zakira was soon experiencing an intense orgasm. He finally pulled away and watched her quiver from the incredible sensations coursing through her.
"Wipe that grin off your face," Zakira ordered later, without opening her eyes. She could envision Malik sitting above her, still fully clothed and smiling.
Of course, she was right. Malik continued to grin as he watched Zakira yawn before she drifted back to sleep.
Slowly and carefully, so he would not awaken her, he eased off the bed and headed to the bathroom. Once the door was closed behind him, he began to disrobe. Pulling the heavy sweater away from his chiseled torso, thoughts of Zakira filled his mind. Lord, how he loved that woman. She was his life, and he prayed he never lost her. Moreover, he prayed she never lost him.
A lazy smile brightened Zakira's face when she woke the next morning in her husband's arms. She was surprised that they had slept so soundly, especially when they usually woke in a tangle of covers, arms and legs. Not wanting to disturb the moment, she snuggled deeper into Malik's embrace and sighed.
Malik woke the instant he felt Zakira wiggling against him. When his grip tightened on her arm, she looked up.
"Morning," she whispered, pressing a soft kiss to the strong line of his jaw.
His haunting gray tinged stare narrowed. "Tell me about this dream."
"Malik " she sighed, trying to pull away.
"Zakira " he repeated in a warning tone, as he tightened his hold.
She grimaced and closed her eyes. "Baby, what does it matter now? I feel a lot better this morning."
"What about tonight?" Malik challenged, a slight frown beginning to form between his thick black brows.
She seemed to consider his question for a moment. Then she tensed and tried to sit up.
Malik, however, had made up his mind. He wasn't going to let her get away so easily this time.
"Let me go," she softly ordered when he pinned her beneath him on the bed.
His grip was unyielding. "Zaki, do you realize you were so caught up in that damn dream last night, that you didn't even hear me come in the house? Now we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but either way I'm gonna find out what's upsetting you."
Zakira's huge brown eyes searched Malik's narrowed darker ones. What she saw there convinced her he would not let up until she came clean. Finally, she nodded and he released his hold on her. She sat up in bed and focused her gaze on the burgundy-and-black comforter covering the bed.
"Um it's really just a vision or something." Malik rolled his eyes. "Zakira " he said once again. His tone warned her to be truthful.
She raised her hands defensively. "It is. I swear it. I see a man laid out, dressed in black. There're candles everywhere. Unfortunately, the closer I come to him, the foggier the scene becomes."
"And that's it?" Malik questioned as he propped himself on an elbow and watched her.
Zakira nodded. "That's it. I guess it freaks me out so much because it all just looks so eerie, you know?"
He shrugged one huge shoulder and pushed himself to a sitting position. "I think maybe you just saw a movie or something that scared you," he reasoned.
Zakira was not convinced. "I've never been spooked by a movie before. I don't see why that would bother me now."
"There's always a first time," Malik decided, watching Zakira consider the possibility. A small smirk tugged at his mouth and he leaned forward to press a kiss to her mouth.
"So, what time are we leaving on Thursday?" Zakira asked, turning on her stomach and resting her head on Malik's pillow. She watched him pull back the covers and get out of bed.