Valerie brows furrowed in a frown as she debated between the olive-green dress and the multi-coloured print dress.
Grimacing she tossed the olive-green dress on the bed.
“Kike, I’m not discussing appropriate panties and bra with you.” She spoke into the phone balanced skilfully between her left shoulder and her angled head.
“Like always, I don’t even see how that matters.” She neatly folded the multi-coloured print dress into the black leather handbag. “I am going to spend the day with the man and his family not jump into bed with him.”
Kike was lying face down on the rumpled bed, legs raised backward to knee level and crossed. “Oh darling, don’t sound so self-righteous.” A wolfish grin on her face. “Like you haven’t thought of jumping into bed with the gorgeous Nate Phillips… I know I have.”
“Girl, get your suspicious ugly mind out of the gutters.” Kike scolded loftily. “I meant you and Nate … not me and Nate. Like that’s ever going to happen, duh.”
She huffed out a deep breath. “Well don’t blame me, with the way you think about sex these days…”
“You know what they say, those who can’t have it, dream about it.”
“Never heard of that saying.”
“Only because you never listen to me.”
Valerie chuckled. “Well, I’m listening to you now. So tell me how’s the weekend going?” She walked to the dresser to pick up her make-up bag, opening it to cross-check its contents before tossing it in the handbag.
“You mean the three-day torture you left me to suffer alone?”
“Can’t be that bad.” She dragged out the red slippers from her shoe rack.
“Yes it can.” Kike replied turning to sink her back into the soft, yielding mattress. “After yesterday’s evening woe-unto-that-over-pampered-Igbo-boy half-hour…”
Valerie laughed recalling Kike’s detailed account of that half-hour last night.
“…she spent the next hour recommending eligible bachelors in the neighbourhood and beyond.” Kike continued grimacing. “With Lanre leading the pack.”
“Geez, not Lanre again.” Valerie groaned.
Mammy had been recommending the good Dr. Lanre as the prefect man for either of them for the last two years. And their he’s-not-our-type and We-are-not-in-love-with-him excuses had been a total waste of time since Mammy continued to sing his suitability with every single visit.
“But of course.” Kike said. “As long as our dear Dr. Lanre is still single, there’s never going to be any peace for us… for me now, since you are already free.”
“Free? How do you mean?”
“Mama Bee told her about your Nathan.”
“Oh God, but why?” Valerie wailed.
“Oh, just sharing the good news I guess.” Kike replied tapping her feet on the bed. “And so you should know, she says that you’d better sink your tentacles into that good Christian man if you know what is good for you.”
“She said that?” Valerie eyes rounded in horror.
“Uh hmm.” Kike nodded her head smiling gleefully. “She’d be telling you herself when she calls you later.”
Valerie sighed, walking to the mirror. “Yikes! I didn’t go, yet I’m still going to get the talk.”
Kike laughed, stretching her legs leisurely on the bed. “Relax babe, it’s not as if you are going to be stupid enough to allow our hawt Nathan to escape, right?”
“He’s a man with a mind of his own not some poppet I get to pull on a string, Kike.”
“He’s a man who’s got the hots for you… and that is all it takes.”
“I’m not …” The sound of the doorbell cut her off. “He’s here.” She lowered her voice as if Nathan could hear her.
“Ha, go get him, Tigress. And as always bring back details.”
Valerie giggled and clicked off the call.
She walked to the door combing her hand through her dark, wavy, chocolate-brown hair.
“Sorry if I kept you waiting but had to round up a few things.” She said smiling brightly. She stepped aside to allow him in.
Nathan sauntered in looking all-male in diesel denim shorts and charcoal grey three-quarters sleeved baseball T-shirt.
Oh my, Valerie thought involuntarily, yummy. She took her time making sure the door was properly secured to hide the naughty smile on her face.
She turned to find Nathan grinning at her with a roguish light in his dark eyes. “What?”
“I saw that.” He said giving her a knowing smile.
“Saw what?” She asked eyes widened in puzzlement.
“The way you checked me out.” Nathan snickered.
Her mouth dropped open. “I … didn’t … wasn’t …” She stuttered.
“Oh, no need to apologize.” Nathan cut her off smoothly giving her a devilish wink. “I checked you out too… so I guess we are even.”
She stared at him confused whether to laugh or hit him.
Deciding he deserved a knock, she punched him on the arm. “You really do think you are charming, don’t you?”
“Only because you think so.” Nathan smirked then raised his hand to block off another blow. “But if it makes you feel better, I think you are looking more gorgeous than I am in that incredibly sexy straight-fit shorts and tunic tank top.”
“Well… I didn’t know you wore straight fitting shorts and tunic tank tops. Hmm, wonder how they fit your… curves.”
Valerie let her eyes run over him flirtatiously, stopped at the hips before returning to his laughing dark eyes.
Nathan’s broad shoulders shook as he laughed. “Damn, you slay me.” His voice rumbled as he strolled to the sofa.
Valerie’s felt her stomach clutch at the rumbling sound. No, you slay me, she thought, and we’ve got to move before I fall at your feet.
“Would you like a drink? Or should I just grab my handbag and then we can hit the road?” She asked.
“Grab the handbag and let’s hit the road. Toinette’s impatient to see you.”
“Okay. Give me a moment.” She dashed into her bedroom. First blew out a hot breath, then proceeded to switch off the lights and other gadgets. Picking up her handbag, she shut the door behind her.
After some twenty-five minutes on the not-so-busy Saturday traffic, Nathan slowed down in front of a black gate and drove through it, as it automatically slithered open.
“Wow!” Valerie exclaimed as he sped across the grey interlocked driveway leading up to a fully detached silver-grey quartzite brush walled house.
She was utterly amazed with the expanse of land. There were at least two plots on each side of the driveway.
She looked around her. This was luxury, she thought.
Nathan turned left, and the driveway led them straight into the garage.
It was a dim-grey painted interlocked room that can comfortably house six cars, Valerie observed as she got down from the car.
Nathan had parked his van beside a metallic-blue SUV.
“This is your family house?” She asked in an awed whisper.
“No. This is the family garage. The family house is through that way.” Nathan responded with a wink. “Ouch.” He cried rubbing his hand where she’d hit him with her handbag. “You do enjoy hitting me, don’t you?”
“You deserve every hit.”
He shook his head. “I’m keeping my distance from now on. And what have you got in that bag… stones?”
Valerie squinted her eyes. “Just lead the way, Abayomi-Phillips.” Holding the handbag to him threateningly.
“Now I’m being taken hostage in my own home.” He said with a doleful look. And taking the curve he slmmed right into Toinette, who cried out.
“Watch where you are going, dad.”
“And physically abused by my own daughter.” He gave a mournful sigh causing Valerie to giggle.
“Aunty Valerie.” Toinette flung herself into Valerie’s arms. “It’s so nice to see you, welcome to our home.” She said grinning from ear to ear.
Valerie hugged her back, smiling warmly. “Thanks for having me.”
“It’s our pleasure.” She took the handbag from Valerie. “Let me help you with the bag. Aunty Sochi and Uncle are already waiting to meet you, and also Effi.”
Toinette chatted away breezily as she led the way to the main house. “Such a pity Aunty Kike could not come but I quite understand. As I always tell daddy… families come first.”
Nathan and Valerie exchanged an amused look.
“And you are absolutely correct.” Valerie agreed nodding solemnly. “Family is really very important.” She pushed down the clenching feeling, not today.
“Come right in.” Toinette invited drawing side the open panel slide door.
Valerie strode through the slide door into a luminously-lit serene and lavishly furnished living room.
The first thing that struck her wide assessing eyes was the deep walnut wooden ceiling and flooring that gave the room a slick polished appearance.
The entire room was a bevy of style and sophistication. From the metallic-gold shaggy rug encircled by light-cream leather sofas to the sea-green and floral white curtains billowing like a mist on the open slide windows and the double glass French door.
Style, she thought turning to smile shyly at Nathan as Toinette dashed through a divider wall that led into a mini living room and then through another slide door.
“You have a very beautiful home.” Valerie said, her light-brown eyes glowing with appreciation.
“Thank you.” Nathan smiled enjoying the way her eyes glowed appreciatively. “And you will get to see the rest of the house after you’ve been swamped.”
Valerie’s brows shut up but she had to put paid to whatever she was going to say when she heard a rustling sound behind her. She turned towards the mini parlour to see a fair complexioned pretty lady bustling in through the side door.
Aunty Sochi took one look at the very tall, very lovely young lady smiling shyly at her and instantly understood why
Nathan had been so distracted and excited these past few weeks.
“Good morning, Ma.” Valerie greeted trying hard not to fidget under the woman’s open appraisal.
“Good morning dear.” Aunty Sochi responded smiling. She turned to the grinning Nathan. “And are you going to introduce us, Nathan or just stand there smiling like a love-sick puppy?” She asked dryly.
Valerie flushed, her cheeks tingeing in embarrassment.
Nathan only threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Valerie, your day here will expose you to the torture and harassment I suffer in the hands of the women of this household.”
Aunty Sochi snorted.
“Valerie, meet the woman who next to my mother bullied me from childhood to adulthood and still does… as you can see. Nathan made the introductions. “And Aunty Sochi, this here is the dazzling beauty that has been distracting me for nearly two months now.”
Valerie gave him a light punch on the arm.
“And she loves hitting me too.”
“A wise woman then.” Aunty Sochi retorted, smiling warmly at Valerie. “You are welcome to our home.”
Valerie smiled back, bending to give her a hug. “Thank you all for having me.”
“And I hope I will get a hug too?” A deep voice boomed from behind them.
She raised her head to see a huge, bulky man marching towards them with a wide roguish grin on his dark, wide face.
Aunty Sochi shook her head. “Unfortunately my dear Valerie, your day here will expose you to garrulous men of all age and size.” Turning to the bulky man she said in the same dry tone she’d used when talking to Nathan. “Get a grip, Udo, before you scare our guest.”
The man only laughed raucously. Beaming widely at Valerie, he said. “So you are the famous Valerie, eh? My Toinette was absolutely correct when she said you looked like a supermodel.” Turning to Nathan he slapped him on the back.
“You’ve got good eyes, eh my boy?”
“She looks amazing, doesn’t she?” Nathan grinned. “Valerie, this is Uncle Udochi, Aunty Sochi’s husband and my surrogate father.”
“Good morning sir.” Valerie greeted smiling. But the big man grabbed her into his large arms, squeezing her in a bear hug.
“You are highly welcome Valerie.” His voice boomed in her ears.
“Thank you.” Valerie responded trying not to squirm.
Toinette burst into the room again, hand-in-hand with a smiling fair complexioned young boy.
“Aunty Valerie, this is Effi.” She announced pushing the bashful young boy forward.
Valerie pulled out of the embrace to smile at the young boy with the girlish name. He was probably in his early twenties.
“Good morning Aunty, welcome.” Effi greeted smiling a little shyly.
“His full name is Effiong.” Nathan said as if reading her mind. “But we all call him Effi here in the house.”
“Ha. Sounds nice.” And girlish, but she kept that thought to herself.
“Okay people, you’ve gaped and grinned enough for one morning.” Aunty Sochi said in a brisk authoritative voice.
“Now you can all get back to your duties. Breakfast will be served in an hour. And I want everyone bathed and clean by then.”
Everyone obeyed instantly, including Toinette, who rushed off with a see-you-later wink.
Valerie was left with Nathan.
“Come along, I’ll show you the rest of the house.” He said taking her hand.
To be continued…