From The Heart-The Man, The Monster

She hated him, but that didn’t stop her wanting him…

Feyi stared sightlessly into the dark depths of her coffee.

Trying to wrap her head around the whirlwind her life had become was a very hard thing to do. Only months ago, her father had died in a plane crash. Then came the daunting prospect of facing a life of penury thanks to all the debts left behind. And the only one who could help her was the vengeful Lanre Vaughn.

As if that wasn’t enough problems, she was now faced with the choice of being his wife.

It was barely two nights ago that he’d dropped his latest bombshell. Marry to him, or lose everything.

Of course, she’d told him to go to hell.

He had merely chuckled with hard humour. “That, Feyi, would be exactly what you’ll be facing if you don’t change your mind. The kind of power I have to make your life more of a misery than it already is. All I need to do is call in all those loans and your candy-floss world will come crashing down.”

He’d regarded her pale, stony expression with a taunting smile. “What have you got to lose anyway? I really can’t see you roughing it up. Pampered all your life, the centre of attention…you’ll be like fish out of water without the trappings of luxury you’ve been used to.”

Feyi had bit on her lip, realising suddenly that crazily enough, she was actually considering his unexpected proposition. This was far, far more than just being used and discarded for his pleasure as she had thought was his intention. “But…Why on earth would you want to marry me?” she could still remember asking him in deep confusion. After all, it was obvious he despised her, loathed her. Unless…?

As if reading her mind, he sent her a scathing glance. “If you think there’s one sliver of a chance that I’m in love with you still, forget it,” he said coldly. “Let’s just say for a guy who’d picked his way up from the bottom, I always fancied the idea of marrying into…class.” His lips curled in biting sarcasm. “And although your family has lost its financial standing, the Daniels’ name opens doors still. I found out the hard way that though I’m rich and successful, people still think of me as that kid from the streets. So I’m thinking marrying you will get me up a rung or two.”

“I’d never have pictured you for a social climber,” was her own mocking comment. “And do you really think I believe your silly excuse? I know the truth; you want to prolong my suffering, and as your wife, you’ll have ample chance to subject me to repeated acts of cruelty. That’s why I’d rather die than marry you.”

He merely shrugged. “You have that choice. But be warned, Feyi; I always have my way. No matter what, I usually get what I want.”

And he wants me, Feyi thought with utter despair as she pushed her coffee to the side. What man would act with such blind, cold hatred? And what kind of man would turn down the offer she had so helplessly made that night?

She recalled with shame the way she had lain beneath him, the fight melted out of her. She had been ready – no, waiting, for him to claim her; so deeply had she submitted to his unerringly sensual dominance. Her near instant, feminine surrender had been enough to teach her that though she loathed him as a person, she lusted for him as a man.

But then he’d done the unexpected, and with obvious disdain, had rejected her. This from a man who’d given her the impression from the start that his main desire was to bed her at all costs. She was beginning to believe he was a little insane.

And yet, she knew she was going to marry him.

In that instant, she realised it was the only thing she could do. He’d given her only that weekend to make up her mind. By tomorrow, she would face him with her answer.

God help me, she prayed silently, scrubbing at her face with trembling fingers. There was no use wishing she could turn back time, erase that horrible night when she’d met Lanre – the man who held her fate, and that of her mother, in his cruel hands.

He would carry out his threat, she had no doubt of that. Everything would be taken from them. Not that Feyi cared about the luxury or money like he’d said; she wasn’t afraid of being poor. But her mother…could Feyi let her go through any more heartache, so soon after losing her husband of so many years? A fall from riches to rags could easily kill her, Feyi feared.

I’m trapped, she told herself with a sinking heart. Which ever road she took there would be no place to run…

***

She was back inside his office the next day. And when she calmly gave him her answer as she sat stiffly behind his desk, she searched his face for any kind of triumph. There was none. If anything, it was unreadable.

Her eyes darted in suspicion as he rose to his feet to stand in front of her.

“Don’t look so fatalistic,” he murmured, regarding her with his perpetually hard eyes. “Marriage to me can’t turn out to be such an ordeal, can it?”

“Oh, something tells me it’s going to be far, far worse,” she couldn’t help biting out. His gaze narrowed, and she almost jumped when he moved, but it was only to lean forward, supporting his hands on the armrests of her chair so that their eyes were level.

“Really?” he mused. “Then I might as well start off giving you a demonstration…”

When she shrank back from his descending lips, he merely smiled thinly, slanting his head in readiness to kiss her. She sagged in relief when his door suddenly burst open and someone stalked in.

“Lanre, one of these days that secretary of yours will certainly get it-”

Both Feyi and Lanre turned to the open doorway, where a tall, elegantly dressed woman stopped short in her stride at the sight of them. Feyi’s eyes widened in curiosity; the woman was very beautiful, in a hard, glossy way, her clothes and accessories reeking of high style and expense. She had bottle-green eyes – probably contacts, Feyi guessed – and they were virtually rolling in their sockets as they darted from Lanre to Feyi.

His secretary stumbled in just then, but he waved her out, even as he straightened to face the woman who’d barged in.

“Ada, you’re here. Well, I guess that means you’ll be the first to congratulate me on my good news,” he said mildly.

“What good news?” the woman called Ada said with a frown. “And who’s this girl, Lanre? What’s going on?”

“I..I think I’d like to be leaving now,” Feyi mumbled, about to rise, but Lanre’s hand shot out to push her back in her seat.

“Not yet, darling,” he said with a hard, ironic smile. She bit back her retort, sinking back as he continued, “Not when I haven’t even made introductions. Ada, meet Feyi Daniels, my fiancee. And Feyi, this is Ada Obi.”

Your what? Feyi just managed to stop herself from asking. As if she couldn’t guess. His mistress, girlfriend? From the murderous look on the woman’s face, she certainly wasn’t a casual acquaintance.

“Is this some kind of sick joke?” she snarled, her eyes fixed on him.

“I don’t joke, Ada. You should know better,” he replied chillingly. “As a matter of fact, Feyi just accepted my proposal minutes ago, and we’ll soon be getting married.”

Feyi heard the woman gasp as if shot, and suddenly began to feel sorry for the woman. At least, now Feyi knew that Lanre could be cruel to other people and not just her. He really was a heartless bastard.

“How..how could you do this to me, Lanre?” she cried.

“I’m not doing anything to you,” he said with an innocent shrug. “I’m getting married, is all. It’s okay if you can’t accept that simple fact.”

“Of course I can’t!” Ada Obi exclaimed, before turning beady, slitted eyes to Feyi, who stiffened defensively.

“I’ve seen you somewhere before..,” Ada began thoughtfully, then snapped her fingers. “That’s it! You’re the girl in the papers, whose father died in that plane crash! I remember Lanre mentioning he met you once…”

Feyi couldn’t help flinching, wondering when they must have discussed her in this manner, and what Lanre must have said about her. But that didn’t matter right then, not when the woman started a tirade about how could Lanre dump her, after giving him everything, her heart, her love…

“Love, Ada?” Lanre cut in, laughing cynically. “I seriously doubt you ever really loved me, any more than I loved you. Maybe this wasn’t the way to break things off with you, but there it is. It’s up to you to bow out gracefully with your pride intact, or…” He shrugged in nonchalance.

“I appreciate your concern,” Ada replied sarcastically, seeming to gather her dignity about her like a cloak. “Well, you wanted my congratulations, Lanre. You can have them. But I hope that one day, someone puts you through the same kind of pain you’ve made me suffer.”

“She already has,” Lanre murmured as Ada slammed out of the office moments later. He was looking at Feyi when he said this, and she blinked.

Ignoring this last statement, she broke out of his grip, rising from her chair to face him squarely. “You just had to be so unfeeling, didn’t you?”

“Was I?” he mused, turning to the side table and unearthing a bottle of dark liquor. He got some ice from the concealed fridge, and topped a glass, drawling, “Don’t tell me you feel sorry for her. Believe me, Ada can handle herself. And besides…it was the only way to get rid of her.”

“Really?” Feyi asked, her tone coldly conversational. “And was there any true need to?”

He sent her a cutting glance, taking a sip from his glass before replying, “Not that I need to explain my actions to you…but considering I’m about to delve into matrimony, a mistress hanging around is the last thing I need.”

“My, what steep morals!” Feyi scorned, waving her hands in the air dramatically. “Trust me, I don’t care if you keep your lovers. Ours won’t be a normal marriage anyway, so please, feel free to keep whomever you wish in your bed. No need to act a saint on my account.”

His movements were quick, deliberate, as in moments he’d thunked down his glass and come before her, his lips curled in a snarl. “The last thing I am is a saint, Feyi. And for the record, we’re having a normal marriage as any. And…if by any chance I ever find you keeping anyone else in your bed but me, I’ll wring your pretty neck.”

His tone was soft, almost caressing, but the menace in them rang hard and true. She shivered with the feeling that he probably meant each word.

“Don’t worry; I won’t even look at another man,” was her sarcastic reply which almost choked her own throat. She could just imagine what it would mean being the wife to someone like Lanre. A lifelong nightmare – that was if she would survive it…

“Good,” he drawled with a nod of approval. And then he actually smiled, reaching for her just as she stepped away. “Now…about that demonstration I was about to give you before we were so rudely interrupted…”

Feyi’s heart pounded strongly against her chest as he pulled her close, his hands gripping her shoulders. She pushed her palms against his formidable chest, which did not budge an inch.

“I…trust me, I don’t need it,” she heard herself stammer, eyes drawn to his lips: firm, yet full bottomed, with the potential to cause havoc to her frayed senses. No, she definitely did not need to be kissed by Lanre right then.

“Perhaps not,” he uttered beneath his breath,”…But I certainly do…”

And, leaving her reeling in confusion at his words, he shoved her even closer against his rigid frame so that they fitted together like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – and then he took her lips roughly. She tasted the dark heat of brandy on his tongue as he pushed it past her helplessly parted lips, and even as his kiss burst her into flames, she wondered at his constant contradictions.

He either wanted her or he didn’t. But even as she debated that thought, something told her that maybe he did want her, but in his perverse way, would rather do all he could to defy it than give in completely.

But it suddenly didn’t matter to her as a woman if Lanre desired her or not – because he hated her. And she was struck with the new realization that this was the last thing she wanted him to do. She wished with all her heart that somehow, in an instant, all that animosity could be turned into the exact opposite.

Hating herself for her emotional weakness, she fought against him, struggling within his hold till reluctantly, he drew back, breaking the kiss. She wrenched herself from his embrace, rubbing the back of her palm pointedly across her lips in distaste. “That’s your demonstration? Wish I could say it was enjoyable, but I’d be lying.”

He regarded her silently for a moment, then huffed, turning to go behind his desk. “That was simply a reminder, Feyi, to let you know that you belong to me now. I’m sure it’s not something you’d easily forget,” he threw back.

If only he knew how deeply his words cut. There was no way Feyi could ever let him see how she felt for allowing herself to be bought, as it were. Snatching up her bag, she squared her shoulders as she calmly met his eyes. “Well, you don’t own me yet, Lanre. And I promise you, I’ll strain till the last moment to ensure I have absolutely no other alternative before I finally shackle myself to a monster like you.”

And with those brave, biting words, she left.

TBA – Mode of Exchange

Every woman needs a man who can make her feel like sixteen again…

Jo couldn’t believe she was even considering it. She had to be crazy.

But the minute she’d walked out of the lift and seen Jetta standing there, the wildest idea suddenly struck her.

She knew she should be kicking herself for even thinking it, and yet…

Well, for one thing, he was great looking, and dressed well. Clothes just seemed to hang so well on his tall, well-built frame. He oozed masculinity so effortlessly, and stood out easily from any other guy in the room. She was convinced: Jetta Freeman was 100% hunk material. Not that she knew so much about such stuff. She hadn’t been in a proper relationship in years – and she wasn’t sure she even knew how “dating” went these days. But then, she had no time now to “date” anyone, had she? She needed to get married, pronto. And it was about time she found her first likely candidate… Continue reading “TBA – Mode of Exchange”

TBA – She Will II

They weren’t really each other’s type. Or so it seemed….

Jo lay back against her recliner and sighed with contentment. Next to her was a long, cool glass of her favourite drink. The weather was mild, and through her sunglasses she gazed up at the sky which was a perfect blue and white tapestry.

She was dressed in a trendy and somewhat skimpy bikini as she sat close to the hotel’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. Jo had felt the need to experience some of the moderate sun on her bare skin for a change. Besides, the pool wasn’t so crowded that time of day, so there was no need to feel self-conscious.

Reaching for her cold, tall glass of fresh juice, she took a long sip before placing it down and sitting back again. This is the life, she thought, lifting her iPod and scrolling to the latest best-seller e-book she’d been reading since yesterday. To think it had been months since she’d read anything apart from business reports and newspapers. But since her vacation began a week ago, Jo had started to get back to enjoying the many things she’d deprived herself for so long. Things like having fun, living. Gosh, she’d missed those.

One more week of this, Jo mused, and she may not want to go back. And then her heart tripped for a moment, as she realised that if she didn’t do what her father’s will had stipulated and soon, then she might have nothing to go back to…

Yep – her “man-hunt” was the one thing that could cramp her otherwise perfect holiday. The truth was that her mother had been right, and she’d met plenty of young, eligible men since her arrival in the Gambian Greatstone hotel and towers. She’d gone on a few dates, done some serious socializing. The results had been far from encouraging. The men were always good-looking, charming, and intelligent. And yet, there was still always something missing. Jo knew she didn’t have the time or inclination to be picky, but still, a girl could hope, right? The man of her dreams could just walk up to her right at that moment and…

“Josephine?”

Jo went still at the sound of her name, shocked because no one, except her parents, ever called her that. She saw the great shadow that fell over her body, and looked up very slowly. Her eyes ran over the most gorgeous, toned and manly legs she’d ever seen grace a pair of shorts, then past the half-open white shirt which displayed a smooth, well-defined torso and pecs. And then, smack up into the handsome face of Jeta Freeman.

“You!” she growled, her initial female interest dwindling as she recognised the tall hunk of manliness standing above her. His lips slanted in a smile, which revealed a cute set of dimples in each chiselled cheek. That was about all that was “cute” about him, though, was her reluctant admission. The rest of him spelled grown man – gorgeous, take-a-bite-of-him grown. Blast it, she didn’t want to think of him that way! Why on earth hadn’t she noticed all this before?

Perhaps, she mused, because she never really used to “see” people; just mainly looked through them. Jo was beginning to realise what a self-absorbed individual she could be sometimes – and that was one more thing about herself she needed to change.

“So…enjoying your holiday?” he asked, his tone cordial.

Jo finally managed to regain her composure, fiddling a little nervously with her sunglasses as she said with cool courtesy, “Oh yes, thank you. What a..surprise to see you.”

“I was thinking the exact same thing. May I?” he said, indicating the lounger next to hers. She couldn’t very well refuse, and so nodded mutely. This was so weird, she thought, glancing his way and wondering why she was suddenly so hot and bothered. So he was serious eye candy – big deal. She’d meant a lot of handsome men lately, some far more than him. So why was her heart beginning to pound at his sudden nearness? He was seated facing her now, his elbows resting on his bare knees as he leaned forward slightly.

“I’m sorry if I startled you just now, when I walked up,” he was saying, his voice slightly humorous. “It’s just that, I noticed you from back there where I was sitting, and I decided to come over and say hello.”

“Uh…well,” Jo struggled for something to say, wishing her head didn’t feel stuffed with cotton wool just then. For heavens’ sake! she chided herself. He wasn’t the first half-dressed man she’d seen, she told herself. She really needed to behave and keep her suddenly rampaging female hormones in check…

“I guess you turning up was something of a shock,” she finally said, hands waving airily. “I mean, who would have thought? I know this is a popular retreat for many Nigerians, but still…”

Jeta found that he’d stopped really listening about half a minute ago, letting his gaze slide over her curvy, smooth as velvet honey-skinned body. Unblemished, her skin seemed to glow in the sun’s forgiving light. Her legs seemed endless, and were shapely and fine. She had on a pair of orange-coloured wedges on her feet. He let his eyes travel past her concave belly and up to where her bikini top barely held her firm looking and generous boobs in place. So this is what she was hiding under that suit, he thought with deep masculine appreciation at what his eyes beheld.

He had to snap back to attention when she suddenly swung her feet off the recliner and unto the ground so that they now sat face to face. He looked up and smiled charmingly, realising that she’d been aware of his scrutiny.

“I hope you’re enjoying the view,” she said a little sarcastically, propping her arms behind her which thrust out her bust a little more. She’d seen him checking her out. And damnit it had felt freaking hot! But she still thought he was a jerk. She hadn’t forgotten the way he’d acted at the seminar, not one bit. She tossed her loose shoulder-length curls a little haughtily as she held his gaze.

Jeta tipped his head with a wry curve to his lips, letting her see that her innuendo wasn’t lost on him. However, he chose to misunderstand her, as he looked about him with a nod. “Oh yeah, definitely. This is a beautiful place, very opulent yet…so close to nature. Lots of trees, birds, fresh air.” He turned to her again, his smile warm. “I think it’s really great that we happen to be staying at the same hotel here in the Gambia. Just this morning I was thinking about that Creekview project and how…”

“Now, now, Mr Freeman,” she said with a reproving smile, “What I had planned for my vacation was in the way of leisure, not business. That’s why you’re here, I assume? To enjoy yourself?”

Jeta concealed a grimace at her words. It was only the third day since he’d checked in, and he was already starting to cringe at the bill he was running up. Not to mention his constant worrying about the business back home and how to get it back on track before it was too late. Everything cost an arm and a leg here, and it was beginning to tell on his tight budget. Enjoy himself, she said? Hardly possible.

But he kept his smile pinned in place as he finally replied, “Yes, of course, you’re very correct. However, I see no harm in mixing a little business with pleasure. In any case, I would love to take you out to dinner tonight. Would you do me the honour of joining me? There’s a pretty awesome local restaurant and bar not a half hour’s drive from the hotel.”

Jo’s instinct was to blurt out a firm “No” – Like, seriously? Did he think she’d even consider going on a date with him?

But then the strangest thing happened. She looked into his deep, dark brown eyes with the nicely crinkling skin in the corners, his grin flashing an engaging white. Jo finally had to admit it to herself, no matter how much it irked: she was attracted to him. Deeply. It could be the muscles on display, or his careless, forward charm, but she was curious. What did this all mean? She figured it wouldn’t be amiss to spend an evening with him and find out.

She smiled sweetly at him, seeing his surprised look. “Hmm, that sounds fab, actually. So..seven fifteen pm, downstairs in the lobby. I’ll meet you there.” And with that, she straightened her glasses more firmly on the tip of her pert nose, rose fluidly to her feet, and walked away with the grace of a catwalk model.

Jeta stared after her, knowing that even as he admired her tiny waist and the rounded curves of her bottom in the skimpy bikini, he was feeling pissed off. She really was annoying, he decided. He couldn’t be sure if she was doing it deliberately, or that this was just her way. Stuck up and yet sexy – Jeta wasn’t sure he liked the mix. True, she’d agreed to go out with him later, but why did he suddenly feel like he’d been manoeuvred? There was no doubt about it; he’d have to take extra care with his temper and make sure that he’d spend an entire evening without giving in to the urge to take her by the throat and…

He shook off those murderous yet tempting images, and decided that he too, would leave the pool side, which was starting to heat up as the sun brightened into noon. He figured he’d get some rest up in his room, and then prepare for his date from hell…

****

Jeta fully expected her to be late. Wasn’t that fashionable? And wasn’t that a female prerogative? He sighed, standing there in the palatial hotel lobby at a few minutes to seven fifteen. He shoved his hands into the pocket of his trousers and wondered if he hadn’t better just sit down, take up a magazine and…

The elevator across from him slid open at that moment, and she emerged.

Jeta hadn’t expected to be caught unaware by Jo Sanda, not again. This was the third time in a row she was making him look at her like she’d just dropped from the sky. At the seminar, in her buttoned-up skirt suit, she’d been hot. Earlier that day, in her almost-there swimwear, she’d set his blood pumping. And tonight…damn, she was on fire.

And maybe that had a lot to do with the red, clinging dress she wore. It was cut perfectly to suit her hour-glass figure, the length reaching a little past her knees. She wore a pair of “killer’ red heels which made her feet look like they were made for having sex in. Ooh boy, Jeta thought, blinking. She had only just appeared and already he was thinking of the bad, bad things he wanted to do to her. Her face was as gorgeous as the rest of her, expertly made up, with her hair sleek and tied pack to display her lovely cheekbones with more prominence. Jeta had to remind himself to breathe, and not act like a complete idiot. Everyone else in the lobby seemed to be turning and staring at her, but she didn’t seem to notice, stepping out of the lift as she held on to her beaded black clutch.

She smiled once she noticed him standing there, and strode over with that hip-swaying walk of hers that made his mouth go dry. She came up to him, and he was at once enveloped in her perfume, a light, wafting scent that brought to mind dark, satin sheets covered in blood-red rose petals and a naked Jo spread all over them…

Seriously dude, behave, he warned himself. She’s a walking bombshell – get over it!
and yet he knew that calling upon his reserves of common sense weren’t going to do him much good where Ms Jo Sanda was concerned…

“Wow,” he heard himself say deeply at last, forgetting to be sensible. And then he was glad, because he was rewarded by the most genuine smile she’d ever given him.

“Hmm..that’s got to be the best response I’ve had so far,” she said, head tipped to one side as she regarded him admiringly. “I must say you don’t look bad yourself. Very…dashing.”

He bowed slightly in acknowledgement. “Thank you, you’re too kind,” he replied, and they both shared humorous chuckles. “So…shall we leave now? There’s a hotel taxi to take us around to where we want to go.”

“Perfect,” she said, nodding, and he instinctively took her arm as they walked in the direction of the hotel exit. Jeta was no longer feeling as pessimistic about the dinner date as he’d been all day. In fact, if anything he was looking forward to it with a passion…