In the house, Valerie strutted off to do whatever with Toinette and Chidinma, leaving him mercifully alone to shower. The second he was in the safety of his bedroom, Nathan heaved out a hot breath.
Thankful he’d left the air conditioner on, he turned it up. He needed to cool his head, chill his drumming hot blood. Geez! Just one look at her and he’d gone mindless… pitiful.
Tossing off his clothes, he gratefully dived into the shower, allowing the cold water to cool, calm and soothe his spiking nerves.
He was dragging on a black cotton slacks when a tentative knock came from the door. He knew it was Valerie. He turned to stare at her, feeling like the man again, as she sashayed into the room.
Valerie felt a little unnerved seeing him bare-chested. Dang, he looked so utterly… manly.
A wave of heat skimmed through her as she watched him drag on the forest-green T-shirt he’d picked from the closet.
Managing to remain aloof, she ambled over to the black leather sofa and gratefully dropped into it.
This wasn’t her first time in his bedroom. They’d kissed and cuddled in here a couple of times, so why was she beginning to feel somewhat… stifled?
“Everyone is at the dining table.” she said in a chatty voice. “But I don’t think they’ll be waiting for you… or me for that matter.” She gave a cheery laugh. “The veggie sauce looked too delicious for any such delays.”
Nathan gave a perfunctory nod. “Okay.” It pleased him to see her all flustered and nervous, yeah he’s certainly the man.
“It’s a little windy outside, looks like it’s going to rain.” She chattered on. “I didn’t bring a nightwear…” She laughed, it sounded a little breathless. “I mean I didn’t really plan to stay. But with the rain coming and all…” She gave another laugh, her voice trailing off.
“I’m sure Chidinma can find you something to wear… should it rain.”
He sounded so cool, so controlled. “Of course. Should it rain and I’m forced to stay.”
Nathan stifled a chuckle.
She tossed him a quick glance at the muffled sound. But he was just sitting there on the perfectly made bed, saying nothing more, just watching her with.
She got to her feet, restless of a sudden. Strolled towards him, and halted just at the edge of the bed.
“I travelled to Asaba. Went for my Uncle Emeka’s burial ceremony.” She told him quietly, eyes glued to his face.
The quiet response didn’t surprise, she knew Kike had told him. “I decided to after Mama Bee came over and talked sense into me.” She laughed, it sounded hoarse and brittle.
Nathan said nothing, just continued watching her.
“I went on Thursday, stayed for the wake-keep and then the internment service.” She went on diffidently. “I actually stayed longer than I’d planned… only returned yesterday afternoon.”
“And how was it?”
“Fine, I guess.” She gave a soft laugh. “Like wake-keeps and burials usually are, this side of the world – huge party, eating, drinking, dancing – the usual celebration of a life well spent.”
His lips curved in a small smile. “I meant seeing your aunt – your Uncle’s wife and cousins, other relatives. How was it for you?”
She saw the concern in the dark eyes. And her eyes brimmed, of course he’d been worried about her.
“It wasn’t what I’d prepared myself for.” She began quietly. “It was much more. It was so… unexpected. So like a… miracle.” She edged closer. “I saw my father’s cousin first, Aunty Ofunne. And it just hit me… that all the anger and bitterness were pointless, irrelevant. And in that instant, everything changed.”
Nathan watched as she dropped down beside him. Her eyes spoke more to him – the light and life in them – told him she had changed.
“Aunty Buchi, Uncle Emeka’s wife, took one look at me and broke down and cried.” She shook her head, still marvelled by it all. “We all cried. My cousins, Aunty Buchi, Aunty Ofunne, everyone. Somehow you could see, just see how unexpected my coming was.” She laughed.
It was a soft sound – free and soft.
He understood the freedom.
“It felt good to be inside my father’s house, my grandmother’s bedroom.” The tears shone in her eyes. “It felt good to be in that yard again… to be around them again.”
Valerie stopped and looked into his eyes, saw the soft smile around his lips. “I am sorry.” She said softly.
Instantly the guarded expression returned to his eyes.
“I am very sorry. I behaved badly. I acted rashly, thoughtlessly, insensitively.”
Nathan shook his head, the hurt still there at the background. “You threw my love back in my face. You tossed it aside like it was… nothing. You hurt me.”
The hurt was now visible in his dark eyes.
Valerie saw it and somehow it hurt her that she’d been responsible for it. “I am really sorry for that. For treating your love like it was nothing… like it meant nothing to me.” She bit her lips as she felt the tears threaten.
“Your love means everything. It is everything to me. It is my strength and my support.” She looked down at her hands, clasped and unclasped them. “Your love… so freely given, is absolutely everything to me.”
Nathan almost stretched out his hand to wipe away the tears that trickled down her cheeks. But he held back. He needed her to understand, to know that yes he loved her but she was never to take that love for granted and he needed her love too. Needed to hear her say it too.
“Love is a free gift Valerie, but should never be taken for granted or seen as a weakness.”
She shook her head. “I know. And I do not think you weak or less of a man because you love me and tell me continuously without my responding alike.” She drew closer to him, took his right hand. They felt warm.
“Forgive me.” She said simply. “I love you.” Her eyes held his in a steady warm gaze. “I love you… with all my heart.”
A glow of warmth filled Nathan. The hurt and pain slid from his eyes. He’d so longed to hear those words and they came now washing him with their heat and fervour.
Valerie saw his eyes brighten and glow with pure love. She felt herself lighten and glow under their warm gaze.
“I love you.” She said again, her lips curved in a smile. “I love you so, so much. I’ve loved you for a long time now. I was just too scared to tell you, too afraid to be so vulnerable.” She touched his cheeks. “But I can now. I can say it now – I love you.”
“And about bloody time too.” He laughed. He drew her into his arms, held her for a minute. Let their heartbeats drum and beat together – a unified force.
Then he pushed back, looked into her eyes and then whispered those words she’d never tire of hearing. “I love you. I always will. Forever and always – I love you.”
He ran his hands, slowly and gently down her arms and stopped at her waist. Valerie gave an involuntary quiver as a slow trail of current slaked through her.
His eyes held hers, dark pools of love and passion that looked into her very soul and seemed to lead the way into his own soul.
Her breath hitched as he leaned in toward her, his heaving chest pressing lightly against her breasts. She could feel his heart, hopping and thudding like a fast-moving train.
And like the sensual feeling of soft musical lyrics, her entire body tingled when his mouth closed over hers.
Nathan tasted her like he’d never done before – slowly, ardently, reverently… possessively. With his tongue and lips he claimed her as his own.
Valerie felt raw, vibrant passion rush through her. It was tortuously intense and strong. She revelled in its power and strength. As his tongue intertwined and rolled with hers, she tasted the promise – of love, constancy, fidelity – of forever.
This here was the healing she needed. The perfect touch that can remould the broken pieces of her heart.
Lightly grazing his teeth over her lower-lip, he drew back gently kissing her temple, her brows and her dainty nose.
“Marry me.” He said softly.
Valerie’s eyes flustered open, amazement shining through them.
Then her lips curved in a mischievous smile. “Well, about bloody time too.” She said cheekily.
“I will take that as a yes.” Nathan laughed.
“Make that a yes, yes and a forever YES.” Valerie told him, grinning widely.
He kissed beaming mouth. “God, I can’t wait to make you truly mine.” He breathed. “I haven’t been able to think straight since you slammed your smouldering hot body into mine.”
“You slammed into me, Mister.” She poked him on the chest.
“Yeah, I may have slammed into your body that day, but you slammed your way straight into my heart, the minute you froze me up with the snotty, frosty tone.” He nibbled her lips. “I’m a sucker for frosty, bone-chilling, husky voices.”
Valerie felt the shivers glide down her back as he nibbled and teased. “Just so we are clear… you are yet to slam into my body.” She told him in a provocative whisper.
Nathan gave a low groan at the tantalizing, throaty whisper. “Just give me a couple of months to make things right and then you’ll be having your fill of me really slamming my way, slowly and permanently into you.”
“I’ll never have my fill of you.” She whispered, eyes sultry and promising.
“And that is a promise I plan to hold you to… forever.” He gave her a last kiss, then grabbed her hands. “How about us going downstairs and you practicing your wife duties by serving me my dinner?” He asked with a devious wink.
“Just said yes and he’s already acting bossy.” She smacked him on the ass. “How typically African.”
Nathan gave a lusty laugh. “Ha, grabbing my ass indecently at last.” He whispered lasciviously. “Hmm, I love bold, brazen women.”
Valerie threw back her head in a hearty laugh.
He watched her gorgeous face crinkle in laughter and felt like the luckiest man in the world. “I love you, Valerie Chibuike, you light up my life.”
He took her lips in a lingering, toe-curling kiss, before opening the door and hand-in-hand, they strolled together down the stairs.
Valerie felt everything settle inside of her and she knew that she was finally home.
NB- Love is a feeling we express when we really know someone is worth it. Always try to put a smile on someone’s face everyday.
Life’s too short…so we should make every minute count. 💗