Two Can Play: Introducing First Interracial BWWM Romance!

Hello everyone!

First off, big up to Malaika! Thanks for buying my books!

Also, thank you Kemi for leaving candid reviews on some of my titles. I hope everyone gets to take a look at the published works soon. Sometimes I pinch myself just to make sure it’s not just a dream…

Remember Saving Sasha, Twisted and No Ordinary Girl? These stories were born right here on Babyrocka! And now they are L I V E on Amazon! To find these and other future titles, visit here!! Continue reading “Two Can Play: Introducing First Interracial BWWM Romance!”

Flawed – Out in October 2016!

 

flawed01The Night of Betrayal

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. . .

***

“Hello, Abae.”

 

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.

 

“Hungry?”

 

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. . .

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The Token – Mastered by Passion

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The layer of panic had never cloaked their village so darkly.

The patriarchs of both the Habu and Batata clan met with their sons and topmost officials. “The news of the raids have spread wide. The next settlement to be struck seems to be the Wambe village. They have sent for help. We have to heed their call.”

The consent around the room was unanimous. But then Ikaka Habu turned to his old comrade Banjo Batata. “My friend, this is not your concern and we can’t ask you to risk your safety in this way. As the king has directed, my sons and I will join with the best warriors and help with these raids and kidnappings. You should return to the Western lands and let them know of this just in case the trouble spreads.”

Banjo was shaking his head. “You dishonor me if you believe I would turn my back when I can be of help. I will send for more fighters from our homelands while I join in ridding our lands of this scourge from the foreign attackers.”

There was much back and forth, till Banjo finally agreed it would be prudent to return to their western kingdom and warn of the strange raids. In addition, he promised to return with a sizable army to help with the cause.

Preparations for the Batata’s departure began, as well as readiness for the Habu’s to join their fellow warriors to head for the nearby villages to face the intruders, before the threat reached their own lands.

“We will leave many warriors to guard our homestead while we are gone, so you need not worry,” Ikaka was saying to his young wife some time later as they met in her quarters.

Saleya felt relieved at such reassurance. Knowing that the grown men of the family would be leaving for battle soon had unsettled her somewhat. Much as she was glad that the Batata’s were at last ending their visit, she still worried about the latest news.

“I’m more concerned about you, going out to battle at such short notice,” she whispered, turning to her husband with a wavering smile.

“Don’t be, dear wife,” Ikaka said, gathering her curvy, petite frame into his muscular arms. “I will have my able sons with me. And we’ll be back before you know it. We must let these intruders see that we will cower beneath them. We will fight to protect our own.” Continue reading “The Token – Mastered by Passion”

The Token – In Word and Deed

He’d asked her what she wanted, so she told him the truth.

“I want what you want,” she said, voice husky yet sure. She looked up slowly as the words spilled from her lips like honeyed ribbons. “That is what I desire the most; to do all in my power to serve your every command. I want to please you and only you, my lord.”

Ola could see Danga’s eyes darken to black at her soft declaration. She held his gaze without flinching while inside, she quaked at the heated coals of his stare.

“Come here.”

His voice was an alien rasp that sent cold and hot shivers down her smile. Ola didn’t rise to her feet but instead moved ahead on her hands and knees, closing the distance between them while never breaking eye contact. The moment she reached him, he amazed her by how swiftly he moved – lunging forward and grabbing her wrist to tug her unto him.

“Ohh!” Ola exclaimed, shocked to find herself pressed hard on top of him, his hand on the small of her back holding her in place. She squirmed, unable to explain how heat became liquid and coursed like quicksilver through her system. She stared down into his face and was lost within the inky pools of his hooded eyes.

“Don’t move,” he said, and Ola instantly stopped her panicked writhing. The fates save her! Every inch of him felt like burning steel underneath her slighter, softer frame. Unknowingly, her hands had lifted to brace against his broad chest and she wanted to spring away as if stung. Ola didn’t even want to process why his sudden closeness had her breath torn from her.

“Sweet little bird,” Danga said almost thoughtfully, lifting a hand to smooth his fingers down her cheek. “Do you even know what it means to please a man like me.”

“I want to learn.” Ola’s voice was a mere whisper. She watched as his eyes followed the path of his fingers trailing down her throat to skim across her shoulder blades.

Her audacity unnerved her but this was her survival instinct kicking in. Danga was the center of her universe in this moment. Only he could save her. And only he could break her.

He chuckled, a deep rumble in his chest. “You’ve already learned much since the last time we were alone in a room,” he noted with amusement. “You’re no longer afraid of me, for one.”

Wrong, thought Ola. And yet she said, “The only thing I fear is doing something to anger you – or being unable to fulfil your every wish. Once I saw that I was given to you tonight I knew exactly what I needed to do to prove my eagerness to submit completely to you.”

“Hmm,” he said lightly, stroking his fingertips back and forth on her bare arm as his downcast lids hid his inner thoughts. Danga’s casual, almost absent-minded touch ripped a sensuous hole within the base of her stomach and Ola almost couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.

His next words imprinted on her brain like a branding iron.

“That’s just the thing you first need to understand,” Danga murmured. “No one ‘gives’ me anything. I take what’s mine. And you, Ola, are indeed all mine from tonight. Whoever tries to interfere with that again will not be forgiven. No one toys with my property, not if they want to live.”

Ola was unable to hold back a bone-deep shiver. He looked up to spear her with those compelling black eyes. Crushed to him as she was, with her breast flattened against his chest and an unmistakable evidence of his arousal jutting into the crevice of her trembling thighs, Ola knew she was mere moments from discovering the extent of being claimed by Danga – in word and deed…

Flawed – Teaser

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Open the window of your heart and let love shine in…

*
Abae had fought him all the way. Deprived him of the fatherhood of his child for three years. She was still the woman – the one woman, he’d fallen in love with and only one thing remained: to make them a family.

Spending time with his son had been the greatest gift life could give him. But if he could get to win Abae’s trust and love again, that wouldn’t hurt either. In fact it would do him a world of good.

Three months ago he’d walked into the kitchen and confronted Abae about her son’s paternity. And found out the truth that Jonny was his all along. Lucas would never forget how that felt. A mixture of injustice and elation. They’d made something beautiful; something pure and untouched from what Abae was convinced had been wicked and wrong.

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Her guilt had almost destroyed them both. He’d walked away because the only way he could stay sane was to never see her again. Not when she could never be his. But almost four years later, fate had made their paths to cross in ways that pointed to only one conclusion: maybe they could try again.

Seeing the pleasure in Jonny’s eyes when Lucas came visiting, was enough to keep Lucas wanting and hoping for more. He’d always loved kids but had never thought of the time he’d have any of his own. Had never imagined he’d settle down since he’d been so sure love and happiness were forever a myth for him.

He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone. Abae was the one for him – he’d known that in his gut from the first time he’d set eyes on her. She’d belonged to someone else – his best friend no less. Did that haunt him every single day? Yes. But second chances and redemption were things he hoped he deserved after so many years of suffering for his brash mistakes. What would it take to make Abae believe the same?

Already, he could feel her defences breaking down. She loved how he was around Jonny. She knew the boy needed a father; needed the love a proper family could give. They had not just themselves to think about now. Jonny deserved a home, and parents who cared for him. So far Lucas had held back with Abae, letting her set the pace. But tonight, he was going to take that bold step on the road to forever….

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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…

From the Heart – “The Proposition”

He had a dangerous proposition…

“You seem…uneasy, Miss Daniels,” he was saying, his aristocratic, timbered voice tinged with concern. “Is everything alright?”

Feyi nodded hastily, gathering up as much composure as she could after such a rude shock. She could barely meet his penetrating gaze, and forced herself to say as normally as she could, “Yes, I..I’m fine. I was just, well, expecting someone…a bit older,” she finished somewhat lamely, though it was the truth, in a way. Lanre Vaughn seemed quite young for a bank vice chairman.

With each second that passed, she fully expected him to suddenly point an accusing finger of recognition at her, and then the game would be up. But nothing happened. So far…

“Well, I’m sorry you’re disappointed,” he said with a faintly humorous smile, and Feyi tried to convince herself it was all genuine. No one was that good an actor, she figured. She hoped not anyway. Continue reading “From the Heart – “The Proposition””

All New – “The Token”

“Given away” to settle a long-standing family debt, Ola is a young, strong-willed woman who in time learns that even in captivity, her heart would always roam free..

I

How could Father do this to me? Ola thought in despair as she stood with bowed head in the midst of the men. They  were five in number, the Habu brothers, and then, a little far off, her own two brothers. Her father stood close beside her, his hand on her arm.

“Accept this as a token of our appreciation,” she heard her father say to the eldest of the brothers, who was also the tallest and broadest – and darkest. She could hardly look at any of them. She was more concerned with her father’s words, spoken in a hushed, reverent tone. “This”? Was that what she had become? She certainly felt less than human right then; felt something like a sheep being led to the slaughter – or worse still, a bag of grain bartered in the market-place. It felt terrible.

“You did well, Farmer Kuku,” the eldest said, his voice deep and rumbling like rocks off a steep hillside. She shivered at the mere sound of it, just as his gaze, piercing and long, fell on her. She dared not raise her eyes to meet it, but she felt it all the same. Once more, she shivered in the chill of the moon-lit evening.

The eldest brother went on, “The plots of farm land you bought from us remain yours now. And the loan, the debt, is cleared.  I guess you can sleep better tonight with the knowledge of this.”

Kuku her father laughed nervously. “My whole family will sleep better tonight, Danga Habu. And we thank you for your generosity.”

Thank him? Ola thought with anger, her eyes flashing for a second up at her father. He wasn’t the one giving away his youngest daughter! Why should her family be thankful ? Ola decided her father had got the worse end of the bargain –  and he’d never know it. Okay, so her family owed the Habus ten bags of cowries for the three plots of farmlands they had bought on credit ten years ago. Ola had only been nine at the time. Her father had hoped to pay back the debt in two years, but bad crops and several family misfortunes had driven them to such level of need that they had, and were still, unable to pay the debt. And so, her father had offered her as a “token”. The Habus accepted the bid, and here she was.

“Ola, go now,” her father said softly to her now, and by “go”, she was sure she knew what he meant. But she couldn’t move.

“You belong to the Habus now,” Kuku added to his young daughter, his voice gentle. “They are your new family.”

Ola gulped, and at last, forced herself to look up, up at the men in front of her.  She knew them all – or at least, knew of them. Huge brutes of men, sons of the powerful second-in-command to the chief of their village. They were a rich, influential family with many sons and even more daughters. Their father had many wives and an equal number of concubines, some of which had been given as gifts or “tokens” to the family. As she had just been given. And she couldn’t help wondering, whose concubine she was to be. There had been no talk of marriage so obviously she was not to be wifed to any of them. She had not been told much of anything at all, but she was old enough to know that she wasn’t joining the Habu family as an additional sister!  No, for all she knew, she would be taken as their servant or maid to one of the wives. She was a poor farmer’s daughter after all. What other use could she ever be to them?

“Come, Ola.”

It was Danga who spoke, and she turned slowly to him. He stood mere yards away, his hand outstretched. She didn’t want him or any of them to know how much her heart quaked and fell at the thought of having to go with them. Without a backward glance at her father or brothers, she took one step, and then another, to Danga. He took her arm, and drew her to his side. She barely reached past his elbow, tall as she was. She still could not look at him, or any of them.  Danga’s large hand encircled her slender arm and already, she felt like a prisoner in shackles.

Somehow, from that day, she knew she’d never be free again.

*****

“You have to eat, girl,” Danga said, nodding to the dish placed next to her. She was in his chamber, a large hut well-lit and furnished with a downy bed of skins. She sat on the mat on the floor, her head bowed, her feet tucked beneath her. She hadn’t looked up at him since she’d been brought to his room.

She shook her head, her throat too choked with swallowed tears to speak.

He grunted, then came to her side, crooking a finger beneath her chin and lifting it so she was forced to meet his eyes. He was annoyed by the glistening moisture he saw in the dark pools of her eyes.  She was crying! “You are very lovely. How old are you?” She swallowed, and he said more harshly, “How old, Ola?”

“I. . I am nineteen,” she said at last, her tone lifeless. Her gaze fell from his face, discomfited by the intensity of his gaze upon her. He was a handsome man with dark brows and sculpted, firm lips. His head was smooth-shaven as was his broad jaw. But none of this detracted from the looming, dark presence and the aura of power that emanated from him. Ola felt like a mouse in the den of a tiger.

“A woman already,” he said appreciatively. His hand left her chin to smooth over her bare shoulder. He felt her flinch at his touch. “A virgin, of course. Your father assured me of that.”

She felt some of her fury return, and she lifted her head to meet his eyes defiantly. “Of course,” she spat. “I wouldn’t be much of a gift if I wasn’t, now would I?”

He chuckled, glad to see she had at last come to life. He wasn’t much taken with her earlier morose aspect. “Oh, I don’t know. Your youth and beauty would have sufficed for us. But I am glad that at least, we got you in, should I say, good condition.” His white teeth flashed in a grin. It was the most feral thing Ola had ever seen. Every thing about him, she felt, seemed untamed,  raw. She shivered to think what he could do to her if he had a mind to be cruel.

“You know why you’re here, don’t you?” he asked quietly.

She shrugged. “My family owed you money. I was given in exchange for that. I’m not a child, Danga.” She said his name boldly, and he liked the sound of it from her lips. And what lips, he thought with narrowed eyes. Full and soft looking, they beckoned to him to crush them beneath his. Just as her almond-shaped eyes told him to go to hell.

“No, apart from that,” he said, waving her words aside. “Here, in my chamber. You know why I took you.”

Her bravado slipped at this, and she did not reply because she honestly couldn’t. His ensuing laugh was somewhat mocking. “Aah, you don’t know.  But of course, no one told you. You are to be mine, Ola, in every way. My plaything, my servant – and what ever else I choose. And when I tire of you, then maybe, I can pass you to any of my younger brothers. Or all of them, in fact. They are not averse to sharing.” He shrugged. The look on her face was almost comical, but he refrained from laughing. She had to know what she was in for.

“You are fortunate, you know,” he said musingly. “My father was very interested in adding you to his league of concubines.  Even though he is well past sixty, he would have been able to wear you out in a week.”

“And I guess you – and your brothers – are more humane,” she said through gritted teeth.

His lids lowered, and his hand slid from her shoulder to tug at the front fastening of her strapless tunic. She drew in air as she felt his fingers graze her now exposed cleavage, her heart pounding like a sledgehammer. “Trust me, Ola; you would find it more. . . pleasurable, to serve at my young, virile loins, and my brothers, too, than at my father’s – capable though he still is.” He chuckled again.

Ola did not see the humour in his words. “I don’t think “pleasure” would ever be a feature between me or any of your clan,” she said bitterly. His smile faded.

“Don’t be too sure of that, lovely Ola,” he murmured, his eyes narrowed to slits. “You have a sharp tongue on you. I’m sure I can find a way to put it to better use tonight.” And with those words, he ripped the bodice of her dress apart.