Nathan stopped by his secretary’s desk. “Ameze let me know when Lawani calls to confirm the arrival of the goods.”
“Yes Sir.” The slim fair complexioned girl smiled bobbing her head.
He joined her where she was waiting at the entrance door. “I’d be deeply wounded if you tell me you’ve never been to any of our Elegance stores.” He said.
“Oh I’ve visited Elegance Surulere once with Kike and her ex.” She stepped through the door as he opened it for her.
“Ha, the cheating-lying-son-of-a-blah blah blah ex.”
Valerie laughed. “Not that ex. This is the highly-immature-self-centred-son-of-a-blah blah blah ex.”
“Aha. And, these… titles, they earned them after they messed up though, not before?”
“Oh definitely after.”
He gave a heartfelt sigh. “That’s comforting to know.”
Her eyes twinkled mischievously. “Not to worry if you… mess up… I promise we’ll find you a nice suitable title.”
“I was afraid of that.”
“So what did you think of Elegance Surulere?”
“Looking for compliments?” She teased.
“Begging for them.”
She laughed. “Oh well, what did I think? In one word – Elegant.”
“Oh please tell me more, I’m Oliver Twist.” He made a begging sign with his hands.
She punched him on the arm. “Greedy. But honestly, it was the classiest clothing store I’ve ever seen; way beyond classy, like totally elegant.”
She followed him through a black gate into semi-bright passageway. “The well-ordered and rarely seen stylish apparel display, was what struck us the most. How easily accessible everything was – well-structured and simply remarkable.”
They stopped in front of another gate.
“You are about to enter into the MEN’S Floor.” He informed her smiling. “Let’s see if we can to live up to that rarely seen image.” He pushed back the gate and opened the glass door. “After you, mi lady.”
She smiled as she stepped gingerly into a spacious brilliantly-lit black and white marble tiled floor that was partitioned in three by a gold brown three-quarters high and wide charcoal-black painted wall.
“Wow!” Valerie exclaimed instantly awed. “This is absolutely amazing.” She turned to give him a quick smile. “You just officially earned the rarely seen title forever.”
Nathan grinned. “Thank you.” Giving a bow. “Let the tour begin then.”
Then tour involved going through the extraordinarily spacious floor with its three classily equipped and luminously-lit sub-floors.
Each floor had a glittering bold sign just above the wide entrance door – CASUALS, THE EXECUTIVE and FOOTWEAR.
Valerie walked through each floor in a wide-eyed-totally-impressed state, oohing, commenting, and oohing again.
The red and black three-sided mahogany slat-wall kiosks set in the middle of the floors for clothing display were same as in Elegance Surulere and so also were the wooden rectangular and squarish retail-tables stacked with neatly folded clothes.
But unlike the beautiful stainless steel shelves laid against the walls at the Surulere store, this store had magnificently constructed and vividly lit in-walled shelves and hangers displaying designer clothes and footwear. Shelves were labelled by designer names – ARMANI, HUGO BOSS, RALPH LAUREN, DKNY, PIERRE CARDIN, NEXT, CALVIN KLEIN, ZARA, H&M and so on.
Nathan watched, amused as Valerie walked through the store an appreciative smile plastered over her face, oblivious to the drooling stares from customers and sales attendants alike.
That didn’t surprise him, this was a woman who was somewhat unconscious of the effect her long curvaceous build had on men, what surprised him though was the jealous twinges he suffered.
He silently heaved a sigh of with relief when they finally stepped through the exit door. Christ, he’d almost felt like decking the pot-bellied middle-aged Casanova who’d abandoned the Calvin Klein suit he’d been looking at, to drool all over her.
But it was Valerie’s indifferent response to the man’s open overtures that had saved the situation.
“I’ve just been blown away. Wow! And double wow.” She grinned widely.
He returned her grin. “That amazing, huh?”
“Totally amazing… I mean like… who did your interior decorations?”
“Would you believe me if I tell you Duncan did the design?” He asked walking beside her down the stairs.
Valerie’s brows shot up.
“Uh hmm.” He nodded smiling. “Duncan did – drew the design, oversaw the constructions and laying out of equipment… everything.”
“And where did you say he works again?
He laughed. “I know. He should own his own interior decorating and design company. I keep telling him… he keeps hesitating.”
“Not ready, I guess.” He shrugged.
Valerie opened her mouth to argue, then she stopped herself. She understood not being ready herself. Kike and Mama Bee had been encouraging her to open her own jewellery shop – start selling more of her beaded and handcrafted jewelleries. But she’d always hesitated, feeling a certain unpreparedness.
They got to the entrance door into the LADIES Floor, but just as Valerie was about to push open the door, Nathan stopped her.
“Em… you know it’s not necessary to go in there… I mean you’ve seen the Ladies Floor of Elegance Surulere and also the Men’s Floor here… they are practically all the same.”
Valerie eyed him. He looked ill at ease, very much ill at ease. Her lips curved. Ha, the indecent ass-grabbing experiences, huh? And wouldn’t it be fun to torture him?
“You are not worried about… awe-struck stares, high-pitched shrieks, incoherent babblings, excited hugs and pecks and … what was it again…?” She leaned forward and whispered. “Indecent ass-grabbing?”
“You remember that, huh?”
“Great. And you are not going to let me escape, right?”
She shook her head.
“I thought so. Would it help if I promise to surrender all that I have and am to you, just so we don’t cross that door?”
Again she shook her head.
“I thought so too.” He squared his shoulders to Valerie’s amusement, inhaled deeply. “Okay, I’m ready to be laid out on the sacrificial table and slaughtered.”
She laughed merrily. “Oh come on, don’t tell me you are a coward?”
At his bland stare. She chuckled and winked. “Would it help if I promise not to allow anyone grab your ass indecently?”
He snorted. “Yeah right. Let’s just go in and get this over with.”
He pushed open the door, and a twinkling merry-eyed Valerie walked in and proceeded to enjoy not only the beautiful setting but also torturing a really self-conscious Nathan.
When they stepped out some twenty minutes later, Nathan felt all flushed and frazzled.
“You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” He growled at a glowing Valerie.
“You mean purposely dragging you through every floor and gazing at every display while you endured winks from bold body-grazing females?” She asked eyes twinkling. “Yes, I do believe I did.”
He looked at her fun-filled eyes and shook his head his lips curving in a smile. “You are a mischievous little devil, aren’t you?”
“Oh, but it wasn’t that bad… I do say my presence saved you some ass-grabbing attention.”
He roared with laughter. “Naughty you.” Then sobering up, he said. “Oh Valerie, you’ve brought sunshine into an overworked man’s life, thank you.”
Valerie winked. “Pleasure was all mine.”
“Hey, how about you and Kike come over this Saturday, spend the whole day with Toinette, me and the rest of the family? Would have said Duncan too, but he is out of town on a business trip.”
“Not possible. Kike is travelling to Ibadan with Mama Bee tomorrow to spend the weekend with Mammy.”
“Oh. You are not going with them?
“Not this time. Now that I’ve hit the big three O, Mammy will spend the better part of the weekend exhorting me on the drawbacks of marrying late; and the other part, trying to fix me up with every prospective male within sight.”
He chuckled. “Ha, so you are actually absconding, huh?”
“More like just buying time. Kike is cross with me, said I’m leaving her alone in the lion’s den…” She pursed her lips. “Oh well, I’ve got to get back to the restaurant now before my crimes are multiplied.”
“Em…” She hesitated though not sure why.
“Please don’t say no. I’d love to see you and so would Toinette… It’ll be fun. Say yes please?” He looked at her with mournful puppy eyes. “I’ve got a Scrabble board?”
She smiled. “Okay, okay, no need to look so desperate. I’ll come. But be sure to lay out the red carpet.”
“It’s all dusted up and waiting to be laid. And…” The sound of his phone vibrating interrupted him. “Excuse me.” He gave an apologetic smile as he raised his hand to his ears, listened for a moment then dropped his hand.
“Problem?” Valerie asked seeing his frown.
“God, I’m so sorry I can’t drive you back… I’m really sorry …”
“But what’s the problem?” She interrupted. “Who was that?”
“My secretary, the shipment we were expecting just arrived. I need to meet with the custom agent now.” He sighed.
“Problem is… I wanted to drive you back… spend more time with you.”
Something tickled inside her. “Nathan, it’s okay. You’ve got a meeting and I’ve interrupted your work long enough…”
She shook her head to stop his protests. “Besides I’m coming over in two days, right?”
“I should at least get you a taxi.”
She arched her brow. “Do I look helpless to you?” The quick raise of his hand in surrender got her smiling.
She nudged him towards the building. “Go back to work Mr. Boss… you don’t get paid to stand around chatting with women.”
“This woman is really worth the risk.” He grinned.
She snorted and waved him off. “Off with you, flatterer. See you Saturday.”
Nathan watched her walk away with a rueful smile before dashing back into the building to deal with custom agents and their wahala.
To be continued…