When Abae meets the best friend of Chuma, her boyfriend, she finds herself fatally attracted to his silent, arresting good looks and dangerous magnetism. And when she realized that he just might feel the same way about her, she decided that caution was key. But then, the heart is willing, but the flesh is very, very weak. . .
Abae whirled round at the sound of that deep, velvety-black voice, almost dropping the serving tray she held, so shocked to find Lucas standing there in front of her. He was wearing an open-necked white shirt tucked into dark pants, his casual look doing extra things for his almost scorching manly charm.
“Lucas!” she exclaimed, incapable of hiding how glad she was to see him. What was he doing here, she wondered with joyful amazement, even as she became conscious of the provocative image she portrayed in her tight-fitting black skirt which barely covered half her thighs, and the frothy pink blouse she wore. He didn’t seem to tower over her so much now, not when she was standing in strappy black six-inch heels.
It was an overall ridiculous costume, she’d always felt, but there was nothing she could do about it, since all the waitresses had to wear it. However, for some reason, she was pleased he was seeing her like this, looking so feminine and grown up.
The fact that he was much older than she was, with him being thirty to her twenty-two years, had her wanting him to view her as someone more matured and not “girlish”, which was how Chuma saw her, she knew. He still bought her teddy bears and candy as presents!
“It’s so nice to see you here,” she gushed, her smile bright, warm. “Do you want a drink or something?”
“Yeah, sure,” he was saying as he took an empty table, his own smile wide. “But only if you join me.”
She shook her head, flashing a grin. “I’m still working – but I go off at ten pm. Think you can wait that long?” she teased, then thought frantically, Oh gosh why did I say it like that? Why on earth should she ask Lucas to wait for her? She was sure he’d be wondering at her audacity.
And yet, she felt inordinately pleased when he said he wouldn’t mind at all. Giving him one more of her nicest smiles, she went to get the drink he’d ordered, telling herself firmly that she was not adding an extra sway to her full hips as she walked away, though she was aware his gaze was following her.
As the night drew on she found it hard to concentrate on her duties, conscious of his eyes on her more than a few times – but she managed to get her work done without spilling or breaking anything, which was a relief to her. That particular night was usually the busiest of the week and she had enough to keep her hands full and her legs moving, and as her closing time drew nearer she started counted down the minutes till she could clock out – and then suddenly, things went terribly wrong. . .
Lucas was startled when he heard what he thought was Abae’s voice shriek, from somewhere across the crowded, noisy room. He’d been unable to tear his eyes from her all evening, but somehow she’d got lost among the tables she was serving and he’d lost sight of her. Now, jumping to his feet, he looked in the direction the sound had come from, and sure enough there she was, rubbing at her bottom with her eyes scowling at a fat, balding man seated at the table next to her.
Lucas’ eyes saw red as he realized that the man must have smacked her bottom, and was now still leering as Abae bent to place his drink on his table, unaware of the amount of cleavage she was displaying in her low-cut blouse. Lucas heard the man chuckle degradingly, his eyes roving all over her body like she was a slab of meat. “Nice tush and great tits, babe. You look like someone who can give a man a good time. How about it, hon? And I don’t mind paying for it.”
Abae ignored him, removing the empty glass from his table and placing it on her tray, turning away when he added on a sneer, “Aaw, come on, cutie, don’t be like that. I can tell you know how to get real freaky – “
Lucas wasn’t even sure how he got there but the next moment he was clamping the man’s collar in both his fists and hauling the twit out of his chair.
“Hey!” the idiot exclaimed, his big eyes bulging in fury – but was cut off by the left hook Lucas swung into his face, which sent him crashing back unto the table. It split right through the middle under his fat weight, and he groaned aloud in pain.
Abae was rooted to the spot, her mouth falling open in astonishment, as Lucas then picked up a filled glass of beer from another client’s table and slowly poured it all over the drunk’s head as he lay sprawled in the debris.
“That should cool you off,” Lucas muttered, looking down at the man who seemed incapable of doing much else but blink foolishly as beer dripped from him in wet, flowing rivulets. Lucas went to dump the empty glass at the bar, where the bar tender stood staring with wide eyes. Peeling off several crisp bills, Lucas dumped those too in front of the gaping man.
“And this should take care of the damage,” he added curtly, right before he grabbed the bemused-looking Abae by the arm and practically dragging her out of the now silent bar. No one tried to stop them.
Next thing Abae knew she was bundled in his car and driving off with furious wheels from the building of the club, and only then did she find the voice to splutter out in dazed accusation, “Lucas! Oh my gosh what did you just do? I’ll lose my job. And that mess…”
“Don’t worry, I paid more than enough to cover the damage, if that’s what’s bothering you,” he said, his voice gruff. “Not that I think it should. I mean the things that bloody drunk did and said was enough for me to smash up the whole place if I was so inclined!”
Abae sighed angrily. “What he did? Lucas, that sort of thing happens all the time – !”
“It does?” he barked in furious surprise. “That’s it! You’re not going back to work there, is that clear?”
She gasped, dazed and annoyed at the same time. “You can’t tell me what to do; you’re not my boyfriend! And that reminds me – could you turn around and take me back? I’m expecting Chuma . . .”
He sent her a frown. “Didn’t I tell you? He had to go on an unexpected trip today, and flew out this morning. He said he tried to call you all day but your line was unavailable. He asked me to come round and make sure you’ll be okay. I guess he knew what he was talking about!” His lips were a thin, angry line.
Ignoring his sarcastic words, she moaned, “Lucas, I need that job!” She felt foolish now for thinking that Lucas had just happened to come by, or that he’d somehow found out she worked there and came round simply to see her. And she felt surprised that Chuma would send Lucas to meet her in his place. It was true her phone had been off; she’d been dumb enough to let it get wet earlier that morning while she’d been in the kitchen, and had left it to dry. He really needn’t have bothered to trouble Lucas, since she would definitely have rung him later once she was through with work.
But then it wasn’t only Chuma who had sprung a surprise, it seemed. She recalled in detail the way Lucas had acted just a few minutes ago back at the bar, when he’d toppled that man with a blow for molesting her. He hadn’t acted like the cool, detached Lucas she was used to – and she had to admit, it had been a kind of thrill to see that macho, tough side of him.
Right then, though, she was mad. Furious at the prospect that he many just have lost her the one good means she had of supplementing the funds she had for school and other expenses and bills. She really wanted to scream right then but settled for folding her hands in an angry sulk.
“You can come work for me, then,” he said simply. “I’m moving to Lagos in a few weeks to set up my firm. I’ll give you a job.”
“As what?” she scoffed, “A cleaner or something? Because I can’t see any other prospects for me in your high-and-mighty law firm. Well, thanks but no. And thanks too for ruining my whole night! I really hope you’re happy now.”
Without warning, Lucas jerked the car to an abrupt halt, the force of it throwing her forward and then back against the seat. Thankfully the seat-belt stopped her from cracking her head against the glass, and she watched in confusion as, with precise movements, he turned off the ignition and twisted in his chair to face her, his expression thunder-like.
“Correct me if I’m wrong,” he mused, “But is this your own special way of thanking me for rescuing you from that debasing situation? Because I really think I did you a favor back there. Or – don’t tell me – you actually get a kick from men pawing you?”
The crack of the hard slap resounded in the confines of the car like a gunshot, and moments after she hit him in spontaneous anger, Abae shrank back against the door in fear and shock when she realized just what she’d done. She stared, appalled, at his rigid profile, his face turned to the side and revealing the faint marks rising on his smooth, clear skin.
He faced her again and she bit her lip in dismay at the cold, silent fury that turned his warm, brown eyes into chilling pebbles. Scared to think of what he would do, she found herself turning and hastily fumbling with the car door’s handle before stumbling out, ignoring Lucas’ shout for her to stop. She bolted away from the car, her heels clacking loudly on the deserted, partially lit road. She didn’t even know where the heck she was going, she only knew that she had to get the hell away from Lucas. He’d looked so incensed that she hadn’t been sure what he was capable of and she certainly hadn’t wanted to find out. . .
But she was slowed down by the tightness of her miniskirt and her excessively high heels, and she swore furiously under her breath but didn’t stop, aware that he could be right behind her. She quickened her pace and yet it wasn’t long before she was pulled to a stop by Lucas.
They were both breathing hard from the exertion, and Lucas twisted her round to face him, his grip on her firm to keep her in place. “Why the heck did you do that!” he snapped, his brows joined in a straight, angry line. “Were you afraid I was going to hit you back?”
She wasn’t sure now just what she’d been afraid of, but it had seemed like a good idea back then to get the hell out of his way. But deep down she knew that he’d be the last one to raise his hand against a woman; she’d just been so ashamed for acting so violent. She’d never ever in her life smacked any one’s face before and she’d regretted it the instant she’d done it.
“No, of course not,” she said quickly in reply, her voice low and subdued as she lowered her head in humiliation when she realized how dumb she’d acted in the last few minutes. So much for her wanting him to see her as an advanced, smart woman. . .
The fingers he placed under her chin were gentle as they tipped her face up so she had to look up at him. He seemed far from angry, which was a relief, and yet Abae couldn’t help wincing a little as the street light overhead cast over his face. It showed the marks her fingers had left on his chocolatey skin, which though fading now, still made her heart ache at the thought that she’d caused him even the most minimal pain.
“I know you could never hurt me, Lucas,” she added with deep conviction in her voice, gazing up at him. “And I didn’t mean to hurt you, either.”
He shook his head, grinning suddenly. “It stung, but only a little,” he murmured, and Abae felt her heart lurch as slowly, his smile faded, leaving a dangerously deep look in his dark, thick lashed eyes. Many a girl would kill for lashes like those, she thought absent-mindedly, even as her fingers lifted of their own will to smooth against the side of his face she’d smacked, her touch tender.
How could I have even borne to hit him like that, she asked herself achingly, when he already means so much to me?
“Oh, Lucas,” she breathed, half in dismay, as she inwardly succumbed to the truth that had nagged her ever since she’d turned around and seen him earlier that evening. Her happiness; the thrill, she felt when ever she knew he was near, made it quite obvious to her that she had fallen for him. Hard. And there was no way to put a stop to it. . .
She didn’t know what else to do then, but to replace her caressing fingers on his face with her lips, as if to kiss the spot better. She heard his swift intake of breath at her intimate touch, his own fingers tightening hard on her waist almost painfully. Thrilled by his response, she grew bold, and, holding both sides of his face, raised herself higher on her toes and locked her lips with his.
It was the boldest move Abae had ever made in her life. Never had she initiated a kiss, and certainly not with a man she barely even knew. But Lucas was different. Lucas was everything.
In those few magically precious moments, she kissed him fiercely, hungrily, not even giving him the chance to respond. Just the taste of his lips. . it was everything she’d ever imagined – and secretly dreamed – it would be, ever since the night before. She ate into him with all the pent-up craving she’d had for him from the start, driving them both crazy with her wickedly thrusting tongue. Lucas was holding on to her waist so tight she was sure he’d leave bruises – and it didn’t matter, not when he was pressing her so close that she realized just what her kisses were doing to him.
Slowly, reluctantly, she finally broke her lips from his. She looked up into his now incredibly tender eyes, and felt her heart melt into even more irretrievable pieces. “I’m really sorry I was mad at you,” she said, half-smiling, “You were only trying to help.”
“No, I’m sorry,” he replied, his hands falling to his sides as they both struggled within them to curb the raging flames between them. They were still there, beneath the surface, out of sight – but no less alive than before.
“I had no right to butt in the way I did,” he added, shaking his head. “Just that . . . when I saw that clown disrespecting you, I went berserk. Maybe I still haven’t got rid of that “street boy” streak of mine.”
“It’s OK, Lucas, really,” she smiled even wider now, still warm from their recent sweet encounter. All she could really think of was that she was madly in love for the first time in her twenty-two year old life and it felt good. More than good, in fact. Great.
Moments later they were walking back to the car and getting in. A companionable silence fell between them as he drove, the wild storm of a few minutes ago now stilled into a blissful calm. It was weird to Abae how everything suddenly seemed brighter, sharper, sweeter around her: as if, suddenly, she could see the world and everything, clearer and better than before. . .
“Have you had dinner?” he asked suddenly, as they drove into a main road.
“No,” she replied.
For you, sure, she was thinking, but only smiled and said “yes”, for food. Anything to spend more time with him. He nodded, and drove on in silence as he concentrated on the road ahead. Abae couldn’t help stealing swift little glances at him, wondering if he was feeling the same emotional rush as she felt? He had to be, or else. . .why was he still with her? Or was it just because Chuma had asked him to look out for her that night?
For the first time, Abae actually gave her boyfriend a thought – and felt a pang of guilt. She had just kissed his best friend: and with more passion, more enjoyment, than she’d ever felt with him. She knew that she had betrayed him somehow, but tried not to think on it overmuch, intent on prolonging these special moments with Lucas, sure that they may never get the chance to be this close again. . .