The day went by so fast.
After an internal tour, which had revealed the impeccable taste of Mrs Anthonia Abayomi-Phillips, Nathan had taken her outside and led her through every inch of the amazing scenery which surrounded their home.
Valerie was wowed at the beauty of neatly trimmed and stone-tiled flower beds and nicely levelled green lawn.
The whole yard glowed with pacific ambiance. There was a waterproof forest-green hexagon gazebo with wooden seats and a table, where according to Nathan, lovely afternoons and evenings were spent underneath the cool shade of the silky leaves of the large mimosa tree.
The spacious yard also contained a three-bedroom BQ for Aunty Sochi and Uncle Udochi and self-contained apartment for Effi.
During the fun-filled breakfast, eaten in the gazebo, Valerie discovered that the Abayomi-Phillip’s household was one where love, family and friendship were held in the highest regard. It was so easy to forget she was a guest.
They just pulled her in. Everyone had a crazy story to share about the other person. The unwritten law of the place of master and servants were non-existent in this home – friendship, generosity and love seemed to bridge that gap.
She stood now at the milk-brown shutters of the kitchen window, the cool, slightly-windy evening air flowing in. The courtyard with its black slate-rust stone-tiled paths was boosted by two sweaty men crunched over a flower pot, clipping and trimming.
Aunty Sochi was dishing out the ogbono soup for dinner into a big white serving-dish. She watched as Valerie stared out into the courtyard, covertly looking at Nathan.
“He does enjoy playing with dirt… like most men.” Aunty Sochi commented.
Valerie jerked, startled. She hadn’t noticed that Aunty Sochi had come to stand beside her by the window. “Ah…You said?”
“Nathan.” Aunty Sochi smiled. “He just loves the soil like most men.”
Valerie flushed. She felt like she’d been caught in the act. “I wasn’t staring at Nathan… err… I mean…” She stopped when she saw knowing smile on Aunty Sochi’s face. “I guess you caught me.” She gave a self-conscious laugh.
Aunty Sochi laughed. “You know, I used to stand by the kitchen window a long time ago and just stare…” She confided. “… long and hard at Udo. Secretly enjoying the gleam of his sweaty muscled back under the bright sunny skies.”
She turned to smile at her. “And it always embarrassed me when Mummy, Nathan’s mum, would catch me and tease me about it.”
Valerie relaxed under the warm understanding gaze. “I guess it’s hard not to look when one is feeling …” Her voice trailed off, as she bit her lips.
Aunty Sochi nodded her head sagely. “It always starts with a feeling… for everyone.” She gave her a wink. “Just don’t think you are the only one… feeling.”
She gave her a soft pat on the back and turned. “How about helping me set the table for dinner? While I go bully those men into washing up and changing for dinner.”
Valerie grinned. “Could you bully Nathan a little more?” Devious glint in her eyes.
Aunty Sochi smiled widely. “You can count on it.” She promised strolling through the kitchen back door.
Valerie watch as she sauntered over to where the men were squatted, said something to them, tossing her head snottily, then leaning towards a bewildered Nathan, proceeded to grab him by the ears, gesturing to his mud stained T-shirt as she did.
Nathan’s loud ‘ouch’ had Valerie’s sensuous lips curving in smile of pleasure. Turning from the kitchen window she picked up the dished soup and went ahead to set the table.
They’d finished dinner and were in the kitchen when the sudden blasting sound of rain hitting the roof came loud and thundering.
Valerie turned dismayed eyes to Nathan who was dropping his dishes into the sink. “Oh no, I was just about to suggest you drive me home given the darkening windy weather.”
“Well, I guess you will have to forget about going home.” Aunty Sochi said in a matter-of-fact tone, drawing down the window shutters as the rain thudded even louder on the roof.
“Oh, but I can’t… sleep over.” Valerie protested. “I mean I didn’t come prepared for it, I’ve already changed into the spare dress I brought after my bathe.” She turned appealing eyes to Nathan. “You won’t mind driving me back in the rain, would you?”
“Of course he would.” Aunty Sochi interjected. “The rain is just too heavy for driving. This is not an emergency… so you are staying.” Giving Valerie a non-disputable stare.
“Oh but …” Valerie began.
But Toinette interrupted her. “Aunty Valerie, forget it o. Don’t bother arguing with Aunty Sochi, that’s her full-final-stop voice and nobody can change it, at all.” She gave a wise nod. “Besides, me sef I want you to stay, so we can gist some more and maybe watch another movie.”
“And she’s not staying so you can gist and watch movies.” Aunty Sochi turned stern eyes on Toinette. “You are going to finish clearing the table and hit your books. I believe you have two assignments awaiting your smart attention.”
Toinette merely nodded saying in a quiet voice. “That’s exactly what I meant by Aunty Valerie and me gisting. One of the assignments is a composition entitled – The Nigerian society and the Working class woman–; I was just saying she could help me with the assignment by talking to me as a working class woman in Nigeria.”
With that she turned toward the door, then as if it just came to her, turned again and added. “And about the movie, I simply meant she, Aunty Valerie that is, can maybe watch another movie since she’s staying.”
With a toss of her braided head she swept through the oak door.
The three adults looked at each other and collapsed in laughter.
“That’s my smart daughter.” Nathan grinned. “Never easily ousted.”
“Yeah, just like her father.” Aunty Sochi sniffed.
Then turning to smile at the still anxious Valerie. “Relax my dear, we’ve got a spare bedroom, so you got nothing to worry about.” She gave her a mischievous wink and headed for the door.
“You two enjoy the cool wet weather as you finish the dishes. I’m going in to watch a romantic movie with my husband… looks like the weather calls for it.”
Valerie and Nathan did the dishes amid an atmosphere of sparking lightening and smothering under currents, which Valerie feared wasn’t just as a result of the blasting torrents of rain.
She spent the other part of rainy night gisting Toinette about her experience as a working woman in Nigeria.
And if their gist swayed into talks about costume jewellery making and fashion in general, they both decided it was a throwing-more-light approach on the Nigerian working class woman.
Nathan was so engrossed by the soft tune he was playing on the keyboard, he didn’t hear her enter the studio.
Valerie watched as his lean-muscled dark fingers glided smoothly over the gleaming black keyboard, and remembered how warm and strong he’d felt when they’d held her hands in his office.
His eyes were closed giving his chiselled face a dark appealing attractiveness in the mutedly lit studio.
Nathan opened his eyes and they locked into Valerie’s luminously intense ones. Her heart-shaped lips were slightly parted.
“Valerie.” His voice sounded hoarse and deep, even in his own ears. His fingers faltered on the keyboard.
That seemed to snap Valerie back to reality. She licked her dry lips and tried to clear her clogged mind with a shake of her head.
“Toinette told me you’d be here.” She said sounding a little croaky. She stepped forward, then faltered under the intense dark eyes. “You didn’t show me this room earlier.” She stated trying to lighten the atmosphere. “Why? Is this some kind of secret chamber?”
Nathan watched as she turned and wandered gingerly round his not-so-big basement studio.
He raised his fingers from the keyboard to run them through his low cut hair. Damn, he’d been dreaming about her even as he’d played earlier – dreaming of her being in here, being with him …
“This is a beautiful studio.” Valerie’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Wood flooring as usual.” She gave him a smile. “Mahogany tables and leather seats.” She walked round the studio, her eyes bright with admiration.
“This gorgeous looking… Yamaha piano… actually make that, awe-inspiring Yamaha piano.” She walked to where the acoustic guitar lay against the charcoal grey wall. “And this …” She arched her brows.
“Acoustic guitar.” Nathan supplied in a deep rumbling voice, getting up to go sit in front of the piano. “And this here, is a baby grand piano.” He ran his hand over the tobacco sunburnt body. “What you call a horizontal piano.” He tapped a key and shrill sound clattered.
“Looks amazing. The whole place does.”
The deep roar of thunder blast and lightning strikes sent her running across the room to dive down beside him.
A little embarrassed, she stood up, hands folded across the chest. She should have brought along her cotton short-sleeved jacket since she knew she’d be wearing this broad strapped dress, she thought, feeling a little self-conscious.
Nathan patted the space beside him. “It’s okay, you can sit.” He invited. Getting up to take off his jean jacket.
Valerie looked at the space a little dubiously. Wouldn’t that be from fry pan to fire, given the rioting butterflies in her tummy? She wondered. But all that logic soon flew out the window, when another roar of thunder blasted. She literally threw herself into his arms.
A little self-conscious, she sat upright, clearing her throat as she said. “Stupid girly reaction, jumping and clinging because of a little thunder and lightning.”
Nathan merely drew her a little closer and he laid the jean jacket over her shoulder. “Understandable human reaction given the really bad-tempered storm and a mad lightning strikes.”
Valerie looked at him; his dark eyes were warm and thoughtful. God, it would be so easy to fall for this man, so easy.
Quickly turning her eyes to the piano she asked. “What were you doing here all alone – hiding?” She tapped the white piano keys lightly.
“Thinking about you.”
Her head swung round, eyes gazing into dark deep penetrating ones. Her heartbeat pummelled against her chest. Light-brown eyes widened, then darkened. Her heart-shaped lips parted of their own accord.
“I’ve been thinking about you, Valerie.” Nathan’s deep voice crooned sending multiple lightning strikes gushing through her. “I can’t seem to stop thinking about you.” He leaned closer. “I don’t want to stop thinking about you.”
He stared into her eyes, darkened by desire.
Her lips quivered ever so slightly, but she didn’t move, couldn’t move.
He moved. Angling his head, he leant forward and took her lips.
Valerie felt the gentle stroke, it slithered from her lips down to her spine. A tender, tentative stroke. Her lips tingled. Her heart skidded to a stop. Involuntarily she shut her eyes. And leaned into him.
Nathan saw her close her eyes. Heard her draw in deep, ragged breath. Felt her body shudder against his.
He allowed his lips to dance over hers, coaxing their sweet-tasting lusciousness with his tongue. Light. Gentle. Tender. Probing – his tongue pried them open, and slide in. Desire ripped through him as he let himself sink deep into the kiss, his own eyes drooping shut.
Her heartbeats raced against his own, or was it his against hers? It was hard to tell as they clung together, bodies glued as one.
When the thunder roared and lightning struck again, neither noticed as their lips stayed merged and tongues continued to entwine in an ancient and everlasting dance of passion.
To be continued…