Ready or Not – FTH Covers Contd.

So I’m back with more covers for F.T.H. Seems like all I have time for at present! Will keep working on getting it right with the covers while compiling the whole story from start to finish. There’ll be the prologue that readers on the blog missed out on. Several other scenes that had to be cut out will be filled back in for the book. Which means a bigger – and hopefully better – “From the Heart” story.

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

So I took some advice and toned down the nudity in the cover photo. The female model looks covered better this way. They do say less is more! Have to say I’m glad with the way it turned out; adds to the mystery!

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Ready or not, I’m going to push forward with bringing this out in ebook form asap! Naturally I want every paragraph and chapter to be just right. But is it ever going to be as 100% ready as I want it to be? Maybe not. But if I keep stalling, only goodness knows when or if I’ll ever get it done!

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Independent publishing isn’t for everyone. Sometimes it’s just less hassle submitting a manuscript to an ebook publisher. I haven’t given myself the opportunity to try the latter. There was simply never the right time or the right publisher to go, whichever one of my genres I was aiming to bring out. With independent publishing, it’s somewhat of a struggle but in a feel-good way. You just commit yourself to the knowledge that it’s all up to you now.

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Considering the length of the story itself, I’ve been toying with the chance to split into two parts. Quality and quantity – even though I do say so myself! I’m still considering whether to keep the story with its characters and names remaining the same as in the original, or reworking it into something interracial or even, entirely different culturally. When it gets to that bridge, I’ll cross it. For now, the editing and such gives me a long way to go.

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At least I feel like I’m getting closer and closer to my goal – which is far more than I could say for myself last year or last month! Really glad I can share the journey’s progress right here and I appreciate all the support, both on and off the blog!

The Reinvention – F.T.H.

What if it was “From the Heart” – just not like you’ve ever seen it?

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It feels like I owe it to readers, new and returning to take the “From the Heart” story to a new dimension. Characters, locations and themes switched up, transformed. Taking them – and me – out of my comfort zone. Making this work, flawlessly.

It won’t be the first time I’ve changed up my stories to suit other genres or cultural settings. My characters can be anything readers want them to be. And I think Feyi and Lanre need a total makeover. So does their story!

I’m having an awesome time working on cover ideas for this. I can’t get enough of this photo. I want it to do anything I want. I also want it to look great for the story that’s going to be nothing like its originator.

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Not going to say much more, except that I’m putting some serious elbow grease into this. Which means time for updating the blog might be slim! Will post up some tidbits from “The Token” soon because I can feel some serious vexation from some of the blog readers about why the story isn’t moving along fast enough. Totally not my fault!

Some stories take days to write. Some take months or years. Some never get finished. It’s just a gamble you take when you start that first paragraph or chapter. You just never know where it will lead.

Much as a writer loves to write for the appreciation, sometimes even that doesn’t give fulfillment. Still, we write. And believe. In the mean time, I’m taking “From the Heart” – or as I like to call it, “Something From the Heart” to places it’s never been. I hope you’ll all be there to follow its journey!

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Ebook Cover Design FTH

More cover ideas…Releasing this title mainly for the fans :D It has more detailed chapters and the steamy scenes are…well, I’ll leave you to judge when you get to read it!

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Too saucy? I can’t help but what to make it draw attention from the first glance. Kind of like a cover that would appeal to me if I was out to click on the book.

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When it comes to personal taste, I do like some male eye candy on covers of books. Which means following the now over-played trend of using a shirtless, muscle-bound hunk on the cover or an urbane-looking hottie in a three-piece suit.

Not really using any professional cover design tools for these yet. Still getting round how to use Photoshop, Gimp and even the Paint application in Windows. So the fonts need a lot of work!

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I’m busy trying out angles and fonts with this particular female model, but I’m hunting for other possible model photos to fit the heroine in the story. Getting black cover models for erotic romance e-book covers isn’t as easy as it would seem. Most of the models are already popularly used on interracial/multicultural e-books and it’s a task to find a new or unique face.

The editing awaiting me will be killing!! I’m aiming for 12 titles out over the next few months, hopefully! Stories that have been shared on the site as well as others I’ve got on file will be finally getting released. Can hardly wait to see the whole lot in e-book form, ready to be downloaded by those who enjoy Nigerian erotic romance or just a good, hot read!

‘From the Heart Project’ – The Journey Begins

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Let’s Do This…!
Mostly I’m the type that needs that extra push. And once I get motivated there’s going to be no stopping me. That’s why I’m making July-August my go-to month for working on From the Heart project.

Many have been wondering the when and how of my stuff finally coming out. Well, it’s now or never! I’m totally shedding my laid-back attitude whereby I get more propelled to finish clients’ projects while leaving mine to suffer. Now I’m ready for some me-time. And this time I mean it!

So, first off, I’ve been playing around with covers. I’m sort of your usual DIY person that likes to just do things her way. I’m getting a hang of a lot of things like design and formatting, just so I can get things right the first time.

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I’ll be chronicling my ‘journey’ – much like a diary of sorts. Just so I keep on track and don’t lose focus! Thanks to everyone pushing me finally do this. I don’t know. Jitters, procrastination….so many factors. Now there’s just no excuse.

I’ve played around with ideas on how I’d like to package the stories used on my blog. How to rework them – whether to switch them into multicultural titles, make them different and new – or which pen name of mine to use? So many possibilities!

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I know a few visitors to the blog were concerned when many of the former posts from Saving Sasha, From the Heart and Flawed were taken down. This had to be done to allow for these stories to be put out in published form, which meant they could no longer be available free online. Hopefully everyone will be looking forward all the more to seeing many of these blog favorites re-channeled and enhanced to the fullest.

I’ll keep us updated. Till then, check out one of the e-book covers I’m tentatively considering for the story From the Heart – ‘our’ personal fave!

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More than a Crush 6 – Closure

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Closure

The lecture had ended, and the chattering students rose and made their way out of the hall in groups and pairs. One of such pairs was Oby and Zaynab.

Both girls headed for the exit, to be called to a stop by Oby’s boyfriend, Jeta.

He was in another department, and already in his final year. A bulky, good-looking guy who topped both the swimming and track teams – and who adored Oby like crazy.

They’d met early on that year and already their relationship was waxing strong. Oby leaped and hugged him joyously.

“Jeta! What are you doing here?” she cried with an ear-splitting grin.

He grinned just as hugely. “Hey babe. My class finished early so I snuck in at the back to wait for yours to finish so we could hang out someplace.”

“So you’ve been waiting for me?” she teased, her eyes glowing with pleasure.

“Anything for my boo. It was just for a few minutes, anyway. Hi, Zaynab,” he said with warmth to the other girl.

Zaynab smiled. “Hello, Jeta. Look, you guys don’t worry about me. I’ll be on my way to the library. Have fun,” she said, waving to them as she went off in quick, easy strides.

Oby let out a deep sigh. “Bye, Zee,” she said but her friend was already a long distance away. She turned to Jeta with a sad shake of her head. “Poor Zaynab. She tries to hide it but I know she’s suffering inside, ever since Jimi left.”

“Ohh,” Jeta said with a nod. “That ex-boyfriend of hers you told me about? The one who left for the UK six months ago?”

“Yeah. It’s so obvious she still hasn’t got over him. I mean look at her; she has no social life to speak of. She buries herself in her studies and doesn’t want to hook up with anyone new. It’s like she’s lost all interest in romance.”

“Looks like she really had it bad for that Jimi guy,” Jeta said understandingly. “Sometimes it’s hard to let go of that first, great love. Not for a long while anyway. Stop worrying about Zaynab, Oby. She wouldn’t be happy knowing she’s caused you so much concern. Feel like some ice-cream?”

Meanwhile, Zaynab had just reached her locker, about to get that notebook she’ll need for studying in the library. She planned to spend at least two hours working on some of her assignments before heading for the dorm.

Opening the locker, she reached for the bulky notebook only to freeze at the sight of what lay at the bottom.

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Her heart seemed to stop beating. She almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing. A blue, folded square piece of notepaper. Lying there, just the way it always used to do all those months ago…almost like a century before.

But how…?

At first, she thought that it could possibly be just one of the old ones she still kept jealously, sometimes inside her books so that when she was alone in class or in the library she could read them with an aching heart and eyes that itched with unshed tears.

She had to find out. Snatching up the piece of paper she unfolded it with shaky fingers.

It took her moments to realize it was a note with a verse she’d never seen before, because she knew the contents of every ‘love note’ Jimi ever gave her by heart.

Uncaring of the students milling about in the busy hallway, she read out in a breathless murmur,

“Everyone has a reason why they were made and you, my
Beautiful Golden eyes were made for me. Yours, Jimi.”

The note slipped from her nerveless fingers.

The next second she was wondering who was responsible for this cruel prank. Why would anyone wish to hurt her so deeply? Slipping this note in through the bottom slit of her locker just like Jimi used to do back then when she thought they came from a secret admirer. Now Zaynab tried to rack her brain thinking of how many of her friends had known about the love notes. But the only person she could think of whas Oby. But why would Oby…

“Hello, Zaynab.”

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That voice…

It sounded deeper, just that bit thicker and filled with masculine heat. leaving Zaynab in no confusion as to who it was. Who it could only be.

Zaynab whirled around in shock, and when she found Jimi standing there her world went blank white.

“Whoa,” Jimi said with faint amusement, catching her with an arm around her shoulders as she swayed on her feet.

“I’m not a ghost or some apparition so don’t you go passing out on me,” he joked. “Let’s go somewhere private okay, sweetheart?”

Sweetheart? The warm, silken endearment almost unraveled her just like his unexpected appearance had done. Zaynab didn’t – couldn’t speak, but could only let Jimi lead her, after closing her locker shut and picking up the fallen note, away to the nearby department cafeteria which was thankfully only half-filled.

He sat them in the coziest corner available, his hand never letting go of hers, even as she seemed to grip his so tightly she felt sure she was cutting off the blood circulation in his fingers.

Jimi smiled a little self-consciously at the way she was looking at him. He seemed oblivious to how much male magnetism he exuded, so much that others in the vicinity couldn’t help but keep sending them looks of interest.

He’d changed, of course. His tall, lithe frame had become more broadly muscled; his chest seemed expansive in the midnight-black Polo shirt he wore over his blue jeans and his jawline had firmed considerably giving him an undeniably virile aspect that left Zaynab more breathless than ever.

Had he been working out? Maybe he’d taken up some kind of sport? Because he looked fit as hell. And hot. More than ever before. No one would be mistaking him for a ‘geek’ now, no way.

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At last, Zaynab broke out of her daze as a server came to ask them if they wanted anything, and Jimi ordered them both a soda.

Then he turned to Zaynab to ask if that was okay, and she could only nod mutely, her eyes busy tracing the movement of his firm, inviting looking lips.

Oh, hell. There was no getting over how ready she was to take a huge bite out of him right then. Just like wanting to pinch herself to make sure he was real. Jimi was back.

It was almost too incredible to fathom.

“Jimi, what…how?” she finally managed to let out.

He held up a hand, cutting in gently, “Before you ask me anything, Zaynab, I’d first of all like to tell you, from the bottom of my heart, that I’m so, so sorry.”

She looked down at their interlaced fingers, a sudden shyness coming over her. “You’re sorry? What for? I’m the one who let you down by going to the ball with…”

“Forget the stupid ball,” he said, squeezing on her fingers gently. “That’s not what I came all this way to see you about. I was wrong to have judged you; no matter what I shouldn’t have believed the worst. I should have guessed you weren’t doing it of your own free will.”

Zaynab looked up quickly. “You know the truth?”

“Yes,” was his quiet reply. “Oby wrote to me a few months ago and told me.”

At Zaynab’s accusing look, he explained, “It was only once and no, she had no idea I’d be coming back. And I never intended to. But when my dad called me a few weeks after I left and told me about your visit, I was almost tempted to dump everything I’d started up in UK and just come home – damn the consequences.”

Before he could continue, their drinks arrived and Zaynab used to few moments interlude to gather her scattered wits as Jimi’s words sank in slowly.

Once more they were alone, and he continued deeply, “Waiting these past several months for the chance to return was the toughest period of my life. When I heard you actually came over to my house looking for me…” He paused and shrugged, his handsome face creasing in half-concealed pain. “I didn’t care anymore about how or why we parted. I just wanted you back.”

Zaynab’s heart was plummeting, then rising into clouds of pleasure she didn’t dare give voice to, only able to stare at Jimi’s face as he went on speaking.

“I never thought I’d hear from you again, so that little proof that you still cared was enough to keep me going all that time I was away.”

“But why didn’t you call, or write me? There’s the email you know. Even posting a letter would have been nice,” Zaynab couldn’t help muttering, hurt.

“And say what?” Jimi asked gently. “What I needed to say, I wanted to do it face to face; I wanted to look into your eyes, your lovely, golden eyes when I told you I still loved you, and I’d come back even from the ends of the world to wherever you were. No matter how long it took to get there.”

He drew up her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to her knuckles as Zaynab had to avert her eyes for a moment to veil her tears; a mixture of joy and pain.

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She hunted blinding in her bag for tissues with her free hand, only to have Jimi hand her a snow-white handkerchief, which she took, thanking him as she self-consciously blew her nose. At last she breathed, “But…oh gosh, Jimi. Have you any clue how I’ve suffered these past months? Blaming myself, knowing I handled things all wrong and acted like a silly child – and all this time, one word from you would have made the difference. I’ve been so hellishly lonely,” she finished on a faded breath, as she fought back a sob.

His hand over hers was comforting, intensely possessive. “I’m here now, ready to do whatever I need to do to make it up to you,” he said softly, before looking piercingly into her eyes. “So…you’re saying there hasn’t been anyone else? Not then – and not now?”

Zaynab’s gaze fixed on him with an expression that seemed to say, Do you need to ask?, but moments later she found her voice enough to whisper, “Not ever. Like you once said…my feelings for you weren’t so easy to snap out of. Even after the way you left the country without even telling me.” Her eyes shadowed, unable to hold back that final hurting wound.

Jimi pressed more tender, appeasing kisses to the slim knuckles of her hand. “I’m sorry, Zaynab, but back then I wasn’t thinking straight. That would episode with the ball and you going with Nnamdi and then the things we said that night…I was left with the notion that you didn’t love me and never had; I’d always been second-best compared to Nnamdi and I just…it hurt. When I saw the chance to turn my back on it all, I took it. I thought not being anywhere near where I’d be constantly reminded of you would ease the pain. But it didn’t. I told myself you’d move on perfectly without me. I also managed to convince myself you were just an infatuation I’d soon grow out of. But not a chance.”

He suddenly grinned; that boyish flash of white seeming to brighten up the room and reminding Zaynab so achingly of the first Jimi she’d met as he added, “Looks like my ‘crush’ is going to be a perpetual one.”

Zaynab gazed at him adoringly.

“I love you, Jimi. I don’t think I ever really told you that. And every day for the past many months I’ve prayed and dreamed of how I’d never get tired of telling you those words, if only you’d come back.”

His smile faded, replaced by a look so vividly passionate that Zaynab felt a tingling flame shoot up and down her spine, making her belly quiver.

Swallowing, she broke into the smoldering spell to ask timidly, “Um…so just how long are you back home for?:

“I was able to get two weeks off to make the trip,” he told her with a smile. “I just couldn’t wait till the Summer break. Now I’ll be visiting as often as I can – plus for every holiday. I’m barely over six hours away. We’ll never be far apart for long, I promise. And when you’re finished with your course down here, you’ll definitely be joining me in England where we’ll start planning our wedding.”

“Mmm hmmm Jimi, now slow down,” Zaynab teased, regaining a little of her old self. “You haven’t even proposed yet, remember?”

His gaze darkened with that special heat she’d come to love that sent chills of excitement coiling in her belly. “I thought I had, when I told you in my little note that you were made for me. And I forgot to add one more thing…That I was made just for you, too.”

And Jimi leaned closer to the breathless Zaynab’s lips to seal each word with a kiss….

** ** **

Up Next…

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More Than a Crush…5

“Zaynab?”

Zaynab lifted her head from where it had been buried in her pillow, and looked up bleary-eyed at Oby who had just returned from the ‘ball’.

A glance at the wall showed it was past 1 a.m.

“Oby, you’re back,” Zaynab sniffed, sitting up as her friend settled on the edge of her bed, looking into Zaynab’s tear-stained face.

“What happened, Zaynab? You simply disappeared after they announced the winners for the awards,” Oby said gently. “And you’ve been crying. Are you okay?”

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“No, I’m not okay,” Zaynab said stoically. “I’m dying. My life is over. I think I want to kill myself.”

Oby burst out in good-natured laughter. “Whoa – you sound very melodramatic, girl. Just what happened tonight? Are you mad because Jimi brought someone else to the ball? Don’t tell me you couldn’t see it was all just a set-up. I heard that when Busola found out that Nnamdi was taking you to the ball, she went to Jimi and practically begged him to escort her. You don’t have to hold it against him…”

“Oh please,” Zaynab cut in bitterly. “You’re always making Jimi sound like some blameless saint. Well don’t bother trying to fix us back together this time because we’re through. After tonight I never want to see him again!”

Oby stared at her. “But…”

“I said it’s over,” Zaynab said with cool finality. “And do me the favour of never mentioning his name around me again.”

So saying, she punched her pillow into shape and turned to face the wall, effectively putting an end to the conversation.

Shrugging, her friend began to change out of her clothes. It had been a long night and she was tired. Maybe later Zaynab would have calmed down and would begin to see things in a new light. She hoped.

*

But Zaynab did not change her mind. In the few weeks that followed before school closed for the semester, Zaynab never brought up the topic and Oby knew enough to let sleeping dogs lie. Maybe she’d read things wrong and those two were not really meant to be together after all, thought Oby…

Almost two months later, just a few days before the beginning of the new school session, Zaynab bumped into Busola at a popular fast-food outlet. Zaynab was about to walk past when Busola stopped her with a hand on her arm.

“Zaynab, wait a minute,” she said with a tentative smile and Zaynab paused, looking at her warily.

Busola sighed. “Look, I know you and I never got to be friends…but I have to tell you – I understand why you went to the ball with Nnamdi instead of Jimi.”

Zaynab folded her arms. “And who told you?”

“Nnamdi,” Busola replied, and then smiled when she saw the surprise on Zaynab’s face. Busola went on with a slightly sheepish tone, “We’ve made up. On the night of the ball. He felt so guilty for the way he threatened you. He confessed to me that he never would have done anything to Jimi. He only wanted to scare you into doing what he wanted.”

“Well,” sighed Zaynab. “Whatever the reasons, it’s too late now. Jimi and I broke up ages ago.”

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“I’m sorry to hear that,” Busola said softly. “I know how much he cared about you. I’m sure you must have heard how I pleaded with him to take me to the ball?” Her smile was wry. “Well, he didn’t want to do it, knowing it would hurt you. But I convinced him that it would be the only way for him to get you back.”

“What?” Zaynab breathed, confused.

“I knew that Nnamdi would go crazy seeing me with someone else and would come begging on his knees – which he eventually did,” Busola said, with a typically feminine laugh of satisfaction, before sobering as she added, “So…Jimi wanted to be around to comfort you when Nnamdi would leave you and return to me. I guess he had this funny idea that you still loved Nnamdi. You don’t, do you?”

Zaynab could only shake her head mutely, her thoughts too jumbled up to form a reply. Busola sighed deeply in relief.

“Well, that sure takes a load off my mind,” Busola said. “But…were you serious? When you said you and Jimi have really broken up?”

“Yes,” Zaynab muttered, as the pain she’d held in check for the past two months almost burst to the surface. “It happened that same night of the ball. I guess we said a few things in anger and now there’s no way to take them all back.”

“That can’t be true,” Busola said kindly, and took Zaynab’s hand in a compelling grip. “I know I may be the last person you’d want to take any advice from, but I think you should go see Jimi and talk things out with him. I’m sure he’ll understand once you explained everything to him.”

“I don’t know,” Zaynab murmured with a doubtful frown. She could still remember the distant, granite-hard look in Jimi’s eyes and knew she didn’t stand a chance.

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But she did know Busola was right. She had to at least explain things to Jimi. He might not take her back, but he would probably stop thinking the worst of her at least.

So the next day Zaynab found herself standing on the doorstep of Jimi’s home and ringing the bell.

Her heart was pounding like crazy. Would he slam the door in my face, she wondered. Or would he welcome her in with open arms?

It wasn’t Jimi who finally opened the door. Zaynab looked up at the tall, casually dressed man who had a striking resemblance to Jimi and she instantly knew it was his dad.

He was wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a grey-speckled beard that gave him a scholarly look. She could remember Jimi once mentioning that his dad was a professor who’d once lectured in one of the federal-run universities before he retired.

She smiled up at him shyly. “Good day sir. You must be Mr. Samuel.”

He regarded her with curiosity. “That’s right. And you are?”

“Um…my name’s Zaynab. I’m here to see Jimi. I’m uh…a classmate of his.”

“Oh, I see,” the older man said deeply. “Please come in.”

“Thank you, sir.” Zaynab followed him into the well-furnished living room.

“Take a seat,” he offered, and asked her if she’d like anything to drink.

Settling into the chair Mr. Samuel indicated, Zaynab politely refused a drink, feeling a certain confusion at Mr. Samuel’s demeanour. There was something that seemed off but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

At last, Mr. Samuel cleared his throat. “Urrrm…you say you’re Jimi’s friend from school. Hmm. Well I’m sorry but you just missed him. He travelled abroad for further studies a week ago.”

Zaynab stiffened. At first the words didn’t make sense, but then she found the voice to blurt out, “That can’t be possible.”

Mr. Samuel shrugged. “It was somewhat impromptu, I’m afraid. One of his uncles sent for him many months ago, asking if Jimi would stay with him in England and finish his schooling there,” the older man explained.

“At first Jimi declined, saying he’d settled well in his new uni down here. But then out of the blue, Jimi returned home on holiday two months ago and wrote his uncle saying he’d like to go over after all. Well, since Jimi was born in England it wasn’t difficult to prepare his papers and in a month he was gone. His mother and I were happy for him of course. He’ll have better opportunities there but…something tells me he left something of inestimable value behind,” Mr. Samuel finished, regarding the pretty girl before him shrewdly.

Now he understood why his son had acted so strangely ever since he came home from school. He’d been surprised when Jimi announced that he’d changed his mind about leaving the country. But now Mr. Samuel could tell it might just have something to do with this Zaynab.

“Let me guess,” he said gently to her when she simply sat there as if transfixed. “You and Jimi were more than just classmates.”

She took some time in nodding, and when she did a glimmer of tears appeared in her brightly colored eyes.

“You two had a fight, I take it?” he continued, keeping his tone calm and encouraging to get her to confide in him.

“Yes,” she suddenly sobbed, forgetting herself as she burst into tears, saying, “But he didn’t have to simply jet out of the country without even saying goodbye! He could have at least had the decency to tell me he was leaving…”

“I’m sorry my dear,” Mr. Samuel said with fatherly kindness as she cried into her cupped hands, her young shoulders trembling with emotion. “But I think maybe he was hurt too. And probably didn’t think it would matter to you. Look, I’ll give you the address you can write him, okay?”

Zaynab could only shake her head. What would be the point? If he could leave the way he had, then there was nothing left to say. Yet she felt unable to keep from wailing helplessly, “Does this mean I’ll never see him again?”

Mr. Samuel didn’t know how to respond to that. “He’s only meant to stay a few years and finish his degree but I’ll expect he’ll want to visit during the holidays. But it’s up to him really whether he chooses to stay or not.”

Zaynab drew in a deep breath and nodded, managing to regain some calm. She hated herself for breaking down like a ten-year old. And in front of Jimi’s father at that. But the news that Jimi was thousands of miles away had shattered her whole world. So now, it was well and truly over. Throughout the holiday weeks she’d kept away from any chance of running into him, avoiding all those hang-outs she’d been sure they’d get to meet by chance. And yet inwardly, she’d consoled herself that once school started there’d be some way to get them back together. They were in the same class and virtually had the same group of friends after all, she’d reasoned. She’d been so sure he’d suffer enough over the vacation without her, so much that seeing her again would make him come begging to have her back. She almost laughed in self-derision when she thought of all those new and eye-popping outfits she’d got for school in which she’d been so sure that he wouldn’t be able to resist her. But all her plans seemed childish and downright pathetic now.

Her mind flashed back to that moment when they’d first spoken; Jimi handing her that misplaced textbook. Joining her and Oby underneath the tree to give them those tutorials. That warm, breath-catching smile when he told her he loved her; the heat in his touch when he held her hand during their walks round campus during the breezy evenings. The taste of passionate addiction on his lips when he kissed her like he could never stop. And those many secret written notes of poetry where he’d poured out his heart to a girl who never even knew how much he’d come to matter to her – those love messages that had started it all.

It was special times like those she was never going to forget. But how much comfort could memories give?

Something told Zaynab that for her, memories were never going to be enough.

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More than a Crush 4 continued

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Jimi’s gold-knotted tie gave him a rakish air that was hard to ignore. His shirt was a startling white, contrasting handsomely with his chocolate skin.

Jimi and Busola looked fabulous together, and it made Zaynab’s gut wrench with jealousy. Nnamdi must have felt the same because Zaynab noticed how he was staring at the newly arrived couple. There was a furious look on his face as he watched them take photos with a group of friends. And in that moment, Zaynab realized why Nnamdi had forced her into coming with him to the ball.

He must have had a fight with Busola, and he’d wanted to make her jealous by taking someone else as his date to the ball. Obviously, Busola had paid him back in his own coin.

Suddenly, Zaynab felt sick to her stomach; because right then she had to watch Jimi lead Busola over to the dance floor where he held her close as they moved to the music.

How could he be so cruel, wondered Zaynab with a painfully tight chest. Hurtful as it was, she couldn’t seem to tear her eyes from them. Couldn’t he see he was hurting her?

Nnamdi gave her no time to suffer, as he practically dragged her off to dance as well. Zaynab knew full well he was using her to get back at Busola but she didn’t care. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.

She endured the dancing for a while before telling Nnamdi she was tired and wanted to go home.

He gripped her arm, whispering fiercely in her ear, “Don’t you dare. You can’t walk out on me now.”

Zaynab snatched her arm angrily away, not caring who was watching. “I can do whatever I please. You’re not going to use me to fight your battles.”

“Looks like you’re fighting a battle of your own,” he mocked, throwing a meaningful glance at Jimi. He saw her face go pale and he softened. “At least, wait till they announce the Belle and Beau of the ball, okay?”

Zaynab made to say no, but then nodded reluctantly. She knew that was the biggest part of the evening; and with how narcissistic Nnamdi was, he’d be hellbent on knowing if he won the title. She let out a ragged sigh of defeat. It was just one more ordeal she had to face before it would all be over…

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Time had never passed so slowly, or so tortuously. Everyone else seemed to be having the time of their lives. The food, music and the joyous atmosphere overhanging the surroundings didn’t help to improve the plunging sensation in Zaynab’s heart. Going through the motions with a smile on her face was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do.

Ad even when eventually, the crown for Belle and Beau was won by Nnamdi and her Zaynab felt far from thrilled. There was nothing she wanted more than to fling the tiara from her head and stomp it to pieces. What an empty victory, thought Zaynab as tears spilled from her eyes. Everyone seemed to mistake them for tears of joy. If only they knew the misery she was choking from inside.

It wasn’t over yet, though. Because Jimi and Busola had been given the Best Dressed couple award – and Zaynab stared in horror as, once they received their prize they shared a brief, clinging kiss that sent the crowd cheering.

Zaynab gasped, her jaw going slack with dismayed shock. Beside her, she could feel Nnamdi seething and she prayed he wasn’t going to carry out his threat to deal with Jimi after this. Hmm, Jimi was really playing with fire mused the equally furious Zaynab. Come to think of it, before Nnamdi got his hands on Jimi, she’d wring Jimi’s neck herself for doing this to her. This was the final straw!

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There was just so much she could take. She’d had enough. She spun to face Nnamdi and said through gritted teeth, “I’m done here.” And before he could stop her she left him, surrounded as ever by his adoring clique. She headed blindly for the exit and was out of the room in moments.

She drew in deep, hacking breaths once she got outside, grateful for the cool, silent night air away from the noise and energy of that fiasco of a ball. She couldn’t wait to get home and dissolve into the buckets of tears she felt welling up inside her. But just as she made to head off she heard a familiar voice call her name from behind.

Zaynab glanced quickly over her shoulder and found Jimi had followed her outside. Her face hardened as she spun around to face him with flashing eyes. “What do you want?” she spat.

“Zaynab, I…,” he began hesitantly, but then blurted, “Where are you going?”

“Don’t tell me you actually care,” she said with biting sarcasm, only to choke out the next words as her hurt feelings came rising to the surface, “Why did you have to kiss her, Jimi?”

For that split second he looked just as shattered as she felt – but just as quickly, his face hardened and his eyes went cold.

“Don’t tell me you really care,” he replied mockingly, throwing her words back at her and making her flinch. “You’re the one who chose Nnamdi. Surely you weren’t expecting me to moon over you for the rest of my life, were you?”

In that second Zaynab would have gladly slapped him. Instead, her billowing hurt and anger made her say what she knew would cause him the same amount of pain.

“Oh sure, I chose Nnamdi,” she sneered in her most bitchy tone. “I guess I was sick of having a puppy that drooled over me and followed me around. Besides, only with Nnamdi could I stand a real chance of being picked Belle of the Ball.

In any other situation, Zaynab would have actually laughed at her own dumb-sounding excuse. But Jimi must have taken her little speech seriously, because something seemed to die in his eyes as he looked down at her with an expression almost like pity.

“And I guess you got your wish, huh?” Jimi murmured in a toneless voice. He shook his head somewhat self-deprecatingly. “I should have listened to everybody when they warned me about you. I guess they were right; all that glitters just isn’t gold.”

Before Zaynab could think up a reply to that, Jimi had turned and walked off back into the building, leaving behind an anguished and totally devastated Zaynab.

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