Gideon by Nicole Riddley is now available to read on Galatea, a reading app recognized by BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the go-to place for explosive new romance novels. Keep scrolling to read the first chapters or download the app for the full version.
22-year-old Layla, a human in a family of werewolves, has been trying to be independent her whole life. But after taking a shift from a sick coworker, she ends up in a house that smells so impossibly good that she blacks out. When she comes to, she finds herself in the client’s bed, and he’s returned home…
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Chapter 5 - Deep Trouble
“No, I’m not coming home this weekend. Mom, don’t send Kaleb over to pick me up,” I tell my mom as I struggle to push open the office door of Elly Maid’s Cleaning Service with the phone wedged between my ear and my shoulder and my hands full of books and a large cup of coffee.
“I told you…Mom! Mom! I’m not coming home… Bye, Mom! Mom! I have to go now. Bye!” I hang up.
Gosh! My mom is persistent.
She wants me home again this weekend and, of course, Kofi’s going to be there again.
He’s there all the time now—so much that I think they should charge him rent. I keep telling her no, but I know she’s going to call me up again soon to try to change my mind.
I’m trying hard not to be a pushover. What happened last weekend with Kofi just goes to show what a big pushover I am. I’ve been one all my life.
I know this, but I keep giving in—especially to my family. Sarah keeps telling me that I need to grow a backbone.
I’m actually thinking of going on a date this weekend. Derek, one of the guys from my class this morning, asked me out today. We made plans to go out a couple of times before, but I kept canceling on him because my mom managed to nag me enough to go home for the weekend.
I’m surprised he asked me again after the whole donut cream pie debacle. I need to stay strong and not give in to my mom this time. My stupid reaction to the smell at the penthouse convinced me enough that I need to go out on a date ASAP.
“You look rough,” Jess comments when she sees me.
“Hi, to you too, Jess, and thank you! You look nice too,” I tell her as I place all my books, my camera bag, and my messenger bag on a table.
I’m still sleepy even after the gallon of coffee I had after class. I’m so tired, I feel like a zombie.
“Good afternoon, Layla,” says Sarah. “Didn’t you get any sleep when you got home this morning?”
“Good afternoon, Sarah. Layla is not here right now. She’s dead. This is a gallon of coffee speaking,” I tell her.
I look at Sarah almost enviously. She’s looking fresh—like she just had a good night’s sleep.
“I got about three hours of sleep this morning before I had to work again.” Plus, I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since I cleaned the penthouse.
The scent is haunting me.
Sarah smiles and shakes her head. “Maybe we should consider applying for the job waitressing at that club across the building we were cleaning up last night. I bet the pay is better.”
“I bet the uniform is skimpier,” I tell her.
“I bet the tip is better,” counters Sarah.
“Hey, did you hear?” says Jess, whispering.
Oh, it’s gossip time. I move away but Sarah leans in.
“This is nothing juicy,” Jess says, glancing at me. She knows my aversion to gossip. “Marnie was called in yesterday to meet with the resident of the penthouse she’s been cleaning.”
My ears perk up. My heart jumps in my chest suddenly and I feel my stomach bottom out at the mention of the penthouse.
“If it’s nothing juicy, why are we whispering?” asks Sarah.
“Marnie’s in there with Beth right now,” replies Jess, tipping her head toward Beth’s office door.
“So, what happened?” asks Sarah. “Did she pawn their silverware? Did she scratch their furniture?”
“The guy just wanted to thank her for doing a great job,” informs Jess. “I heard there’s a large tip involved.”
“Wait, isn’t that the place that you cleaned up for her the other day, Layla?” asks Sarah. “If there’s a tip, why aren’t you getting any of it?”
Wow, a large tip on top of an already big tip left after every cleaning day? I shrug my shoulders.
“Maybe because I just cleaned it one time. She’s been doing it over a week now.”
“That’s just once or twice more than you did. Besides, if you screwed things up, just that one time, I bet you’d be getting into trouble. Not her. So why not share the credit?” Sarah doesn’t look too happy. “Come on, Layla, you have to demand what’s yours.”
I don’t know about that. I don’t feel like I have the right to demand anything, especially when I already got my tip the other day.
“You know how Beth is. Marnie’s her favorite employee,” says Jess when she sees how uncomfortable I look.
The door to Beth’s office swings open and Marnie walks out, followed by Beth.
“Watch, she’s going to rub it in our faces,” whispers Jess.
“Hey, girls,” says Marnie. She looks more cheerful than usual today despite her runny red nose and funny sounding voice.
“Girls, yesterday one of our clients expressed his appreciation to our Marnie for her hard work and dedication. I expect you to emulate her work ethic,” says Beth. “I’m proud of you. Good job, Marnie.”
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Sarah kicks my foot from behind. I know what she’s meaning to tell me but I shake my head.
Last night, she was making fun of how Beth talks about our job as if we’re climbing up the corporate ladder. I was defending Beth last night.
Now I’m not feeling like defending Beth at all. I’m feeling a bit ticked off. First off, I want to meet the resident of the penthouse.
That scent is calling to me.
Secondly, Marnie gets to choose where she’d like to work. I bet Sarah and Jess could’ve done just as well, if not better, if they were given the chance. Both of them could use the money, especially Sarah, who is a single mother.
“So, you’re back to work now?” I ask Marnie.
“She would love to but not yet,” answers Beth. “Not until she’s fully recovered. I don’t want her to be spreading germs around our client’s home.”
As if to prove the point, Marnie lets out a big sneeze. Then she blows her nose into the Kleenex. It sounds like a mighty elephant blowing its trunk, only wetter…and slobberier.
Jess scrunches her face and looks at Sarah.
Okay. I don’t need to hear her say that out loud to know what it means.
“Well, you’re still going to be cleaning the penthouse today, Layla. I have a few things to do first. I’ll be out in a minute, girls,” says Beth, already walking back to her office.
She’s dropping us off at the places we’re cleaning today. “Go home and get plenty of rest, Marnie. I’ll see you later.”
“Later, Beth,” replies Marnie.
“I heard you had mono,” I blurt out.
She swivels her head to look at me. Her cheerful face turns ugly and her red face turns redder at my remark.
She reminds me of that girl in The Exorcist. I catch Jess trying not to smile too wide and Sarah smirking behind her.
See? This is why I hate listening to gossip.
“I don’t have mono.” She glares at me. “Anyway, I met the penthouse’s resident yesterday.”
She turns to Jess and Sarah, smiling again now. Usually, she doesn’t smile or talk much to us unless to say something catty.
“You should’ve seen him…he’s so hot. Like off the charts hot. Like, oh my God he’s hot! He must be very rich too…like a millionaire or something.” She stops to sneeze again, before continuing..
“I think he’s a foreigner. He has this hot accent…but then again, with a face and a body like that, he could sound like Kermit the frog and I’d still find him attractive. Unfortunately, he’s living with his girlfriend or a fiancée or something like that.”
“Are you sure? You sure it’s not his sister?” I ask her suddenly. I didn’t mean to say that out loud. Marnie gives me a funny look.
“Of course I’m sure. She came home while we were talking and she’s gorgeous. A sister wouldn’t be calling him ‘darling’ and kissing him like that.”
My heart sinks in my chest and my stomach feels hollow. For some reason, I felt like he was mine. I was hoping that the other room was occupied by his sister or his cousin.
How stupid of me.
Even if he’s single, there’s no way a man like that would give a woman like me a second glance. No way!
“Oh well…even if he’s not single, I’d still climb him like a tree if I had the chance,” she continues.
The next morning, I returned to the client`s apartment to clean again.
No, my memory didn’t exaggerate the amazing scent that I smelled yesterday.
If anything, it actually smells better than I remember.
I cleaned up the whole place, except for this room. I’ve decided to clean his bedroom last because that amazing scent is the strongest here. I still have a lot to do. I have to clean the bathroom, dust, change the bedding, vacuum the floor…
I step in, dragging the vacuum cleaner with me. The deeper I walk in, the more affected I am by the scent. My breathing is labored, my heart is pounding fast, and my stomach is doing somersaults.
My body thrums like a live wire.
I’ve never felt so excited yet so at peace all at once. I crave this feeling when I’m not here. My heart is longing for…something or someone. I don’t know anymore.
My brain is telling me that this is crazy but my body isn’t listening.
I lie down on the bed. I press my nose into the pillow and take a deep breath. Oh God…that scent. I want to swim in it. I want to immerse my whole being in that scent.
Breathing in. Breathing in.
Just a minute longer…so calming, so soft…
My eyelids feel so heavy. Just one more minute…
Something is touching my face, my neck…so light and soft, just a whisper of a touch. My whole body hums in delight.
My eyelids flutter open to look into a pair of bright golden-yellow eyes. So beautiful. So mesmerizing. So unusual. So intense. So focused on me.
I’m horrified as realization and reality break through my dream-like haze.
I’m in deep trouble.
I’ve fallen asleep in a client’s bed! Now I’m still lying on it while having a staring contest with the hot owner of said bed.
I’m going to lose my job! No—Beth is going to kill me!
I quickly roll away from him, but as soon as I move away, I hear him growl.
Dangerous and hot. It’s a raw, animalistic rumble that makes me freeze.
It’s a warning, and something in me listens.
He crawls onto the bed after me with his intense golden eyes locked on mine. He looks mesmerizing, like a predator slowly cornering its prey, and I’m that stupid prey who dares not move a muscle. My instinct is telling me that running away would be bad for me.
Besides, he’s really hot and smells awesome.
Wait, what? Stupid instinct.
He crawls on top of me. I gulp loudly as his weight presses down on me. I’m enveloped in his addictive, amazing, masculine smell. I can almost hear my own erratic heartbeat in my ears.
My stomach hollows out as if I were on a roller coaster, dipping down from a great height.
My breathing is fast and ragged.
It’s part fear and part excitement.
I take in his features. His high cheekbones. His chiseled angular jaw.
His plump pink lips.
His straight nose with strong, thick eyebrows, and his straight, bronze-colored hair has streaks of highlights from the sun.
But most of all, those unusual golden-yellow eyes framed by thick, dark eyelashes.
Staring down at me like I’m the most delicious thing he’s ever seen.
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