No one would call her “hard” though, to see her now. In tatters, her eyes red from crying as she sat huddled in her favourite chair, waiting for Nonso to arrive. She sorely regretted allowing him to come over, wasn’t sure she needed his company after all. The last several months played through her mind, and it all seemed too incredible. She’d been chosen to handle the MetroGold deal alongside Kade; this partnership had gained her more pay and prestige at AdSolute.
It had all been smooth sailing, professionally and personally. With Kade’s help, they’d gained ground, and it had been all in the bag. But then Nonso burst into the scene – and within weeks, she’d lost Kade, and with him, her hold on the deal of her career. She felt like a kid again, crying because she’d failed. And she never failed, absolutely hated to lose at anything.
I hope you’re happy now, Kade, where ever you are, she thought bitterly.
Well, Kade was far from happy, if she but knew it. He was driving in his car along the Mainland Bridge with was, thankfully, only lightly held up with traffic. His face, half shielded by a pair of tinted sunglasses, had the other half shadowed with a scowl. It had become almost a fixture to his expression in the past week – and he had no one to blame but himself. He had to stop letting everything get to him, had to chill out with all the stuff that was going on in his life right then.
I think I need a vacation, he mused, just as his phone beeped. He answered the call via his hands-free, surprised at the unexpected female voice on the other end.
“Nnenna! What a surprise to hear from you. It’s been weeks, hasn’t it?”
“Feels like months,” she told him with playful accusation. “I think we rang off with you promising to keep in touch. But I guess you’ve been too busy.”
“Mad busy,” he assured her, quite apologetic. “So how have you been?”
“Okay,” was her casual reply. “I’ve been busy too. I just felt like ringing you up, make sure you’re cool. We totally miss having you around, Kade. Really.”
“I miss you guys too. The whole motley crew.” They chuckled in unison.
“Yeah, and now with Ms Sasha out of the picture, we’re all beginning to finally get some harmony – ,” Nnenna was saying, only for him to cut her off.
“What do you mean, out of the picture?” He frowned.
“Oh, didn’t you hear? Sasha was fired. About a week ago. It was a messy affair.”
Kade reflexively slowed his driving, even as his mind raced. “Of course I didn’t hear. What really happened?”
“What did you expect?” Nnenna quizzed. “The moment you left, you should have known this would be the outcome. She cost us our biggest contract. She cost us our best member of staff to boot. She deserved what she got, and more.”
“Goodness,” he breathed, very much bemused. He had to get the whole picture. “Look, Nnenna, can we meet? I mean, for lunch or something. I’m driving close to your office, I could pick you up in fifteen minutes.”
On the other end, Nnenna smiled craftily. She knew that one mention of Sasha would do the trick. “Um. . . ok, I’ll be waiting down in the car park.”
“Fifteen minutes,” he repeated, ending the call and taking the sharp turn that would lead him in the direction of the offices of AdSolute. She was there waiting, like she said, and when she got into the car next to him, leaned across to give him a kiss on the cheek.
“You look great, Kade. They must be treating you very well at ZanziCorp,” she commented as she did up her seatbelt.
His smile was somewhat twisted. “Thanks, Nnenna. You’re not looking bad yourself. In fact, you seem quite bubbly.”
She grinned, pushing back the long hair from her face. “Like I told you on the phone, Kade dear, with the shadow of that witch Sasha gone, everything is back to normal at the office. There’s nothing like a positive atmosphere to bring out the best in staff. It has brought out the best in me, too. I got promoted a few days ago, you know.”
“Congratulations,” he nodded, brimming with a lot of questions, but knew he’d have to wait till the right time. He’d always sensed that there had been some rivalry between Sasha and Nnenna, but he hadn’t known Nnenna had felt so threatened by Sasha, until now. She sounded positively smug and self-satisfied right then, and he sighed inwardly. Sasha just had a way of making enemies, he realised.
He knew half of them were jealous of her driven nature and her success – while the other half were prickled because she never let anyone close to her. He’d had a relationship with her, ill-fated though it had been, and there had been moments when he’d positively loathed her – but they were all overshadowed by the deep love for her he’d had, that had only grown, not dissipated, as the affair had continued.
They drove to a reputable restaurant close by, and ordered lunch. He promptly got down to asking her all that had been happening.
“You know, I could lose my job too if I was seen discussing all this with you,” she declared, waving her fork in the air, her eyes twinkling. “But I really thought you knew all about it. Don’t you keep in touch with Sasha at all?”
He shook his head. “She came to see me at my office a few months ago, but that was it. So you’re saying Gab fired her?”
Nnenna nodded. “Just like that. Once we found out we’d lost the deal, we knew she was out. She was devastated.” Nnenna’s teeth flashed again, her glee obvious. She saw Kade shake his head at her, and shrugged. “Oh come on, Kade, she was hardly Miss Congeniality. She never cared what anyone thought of her. And you. . . you got your perfect revenge, selling out to ZanziCorp. You’re more to blame than anyone.”
She saw her words had wounded him somehow, and she reached out a hand to hold his comfortingly. “What she did to you, Kade, was unforgivable. With the way you loved her, she could have treated you better. But she was inexcusably mean. No one blamed you for the way you got back on her. She more than deserved it. It almost made up for us losing the contract, seeing her brought to her knees like that. You had the last laugh, that’s for sure. . .”
“I didn’t do it,” he cut suddenly into her words, and she paused so it could sink in.
“What do you mean?”
He looked up at her, his face expressionless. “I backed out. I told them if they wanted the deal, I couldn’t help them. So you see, I had nothing to do with it. They clinched MetroGold without my help. I promise you that.”
Nnenna withdrew, her eyes wide. “Then how. . .?”
“I’m as surprised as you. They must have found a way around the loopholes. Anyway, there was nothing I could do to stop them.”
She let out a dazed breath, though her eyes were concerned as they held his. “But you aren’t in trouble, are you? Since you refused to help?”
“Don’t worry, my job isn’t in jeopardy, if that’s what you’re asking. In a way, they seemed to find my decision. . . honourable. No one likes a traitor anyway.”
She was silent for a moment, then sighed deeply. “Well, I guess the dust will settle soon enough. There might be another big contract like MetroGold’s – and then there might not. But I’m glad to see that life goes on after Sasha Pierce,” she finished somewhat bitterly, even as she watched his face with interest.
“You’re still in love with her, aren’t you?” she pried with the same resentment. “Even after all she did to you, how she used you. That’s why you didn’t go through with the contract. Because you didn’t want her to get hurt. You thought MetroGold will settle for our deal. But ZanziCorp had more balls than we all gave them credit for, don’t they? They worked it all out in the end.”
“I just wish I knew how,” Kade said thoughtfully, an irritable expression on his face as he pushed his plate away.
“You didn’t answer my question, Kade,” she said with cold pride, and he looked up to see the look on her face. And then he understood.
He found himself shrugging. “What was it you said again? Life goes on? Well, you’re right. She hurt me really bad, but I’m over that. And that was the reason I opted out of the deal. It would have been belittling for her, or anyone, to think that I wanted to take out some grand “revenge”. I’m not a beast, Nnenna.”
“I always knew that,” she said, her expression softening. “That’s why I. . . well, you know how I feel about you.”
He looked somewhat embarrassed now. “Nnenna. . .”
“Oh, I know. Just friends. It’s ok. You’re probably too good for me, anyway.”
“I wouldn’t say that. . .”
“No, I’m saying it,” she sighed. “You don’t seem to know what you’re worth – and I’m not talking career-wise.” A grin flashed across her beautiful, fair-as-milk face. “And it’s not just your looks, either. Kade, you’re a fantastic person; someone any woman in her rightful mind would want to hold on to for keeps.” Then she shook her head sadly. “Sasha is a fool.”
“Let’s forget about all that, ok?” he said, picking up his cutlery. “Now let’s polish off this delicious food.”