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.