Nathan steered the car into the spacious Chop N’ Munch parking lot, following patiently the parking attendant directions.
They all got down, a bubbling excited Toinette leading the way. A quick glance around the slightly crowded parking lot, clearly told her that changing her mind and wearing instead her high-waist jeans trousers with a long sleeved tucked-in T-shirt had been a good call. This was a posh place she decided.
“Not bad.” Nathan commented surveying with critical eyes the front elevation two storey building with a red bold Chop N’ Munch signature covering the top centre of the building.
“Yeah, it’s really nice.” Duncan nodded. “Shall we go in then?”
Toinette was already ahead of them, opening the oak door with its art designed glass centre, she stepped into a narrow passage that led into a fully packed orange brown and tan dining room.
Most of the customers, either eating or just gisting, were in casual jeans and company polo shirts or T-shirts, with a few others in smart looking suits or native attires.
She was just about to ask her father where they’d be sitting when she a noticed lady in black jeans and a Chop N’ Munch white T-shirt approaching them. She was beaming like she’d just won a huge lottery.
“Sir?” She said tentatively focusing her 100 watts smile on Nathan. “I was asked to take you to your table once you arrived.”
He looked down at the wide smiling lips and adoring eyes. “Really? Thanks. After you then.”
She continued to stare up at him with star-glazed eyes.
“Ha… would we be sitting here?” He pointed to the dining hall just beside them. “Excuse me…” Her name tag said Doreen. “Doreen?”
Doreen flushed with pleasure, Nate Phillips had just said her name. “Ah… sorry please, forgive my manners. This way please.” She gestured to a flight of stairs at the end of the narrow passage.
“I just envy the effect you have on ladies.” Duncan said in a low tone as they followed her up the marble stairs.
“Shut up, Dunc.”
She led them through a swinging door into a dining hall totally different from the one downstairs.
For starters there were just a couple of people in here and the tables had more spaces between them. The two and three-seater sofa armchairs round rectangular mahogany tables with their mix of burgundy, lilac, teal, lavender, red, turquoise, pastel pink, orange, plum and white coloured sofas made the room not only colourful but also gave it a warm, dreamy look.
She seated them on a pastel pink and lavender combo table.
Toinette gave a delighted laugh. “My favourite colour.” She cried sliding onto the pink coloured sofa.
Her father sat with her while Duncan took the opposite seat.
“I’ll just get you the wine menu.” Doreen told them still all smiles.
“Doesn’t she remind of… Nina?” Duncan wondered. “Just less teeth.”
Nathan shook his head at him.
Kike was looking relaxed and happy watching with smiling eyes as Valerie conversed with a prospective customer on the phone. She was nodding now as continued speaking in her precise yet pleasant voice.
“Mrs Akin-Williams, believe me when I say that you have absolutely nothing to worry about. At Chop N’ Munch Catering we make it our business to provide flawless service to our clients. Our work is carried out in a transparent manner and above all we offer time bound deliveries.”
Ooh, you are being reeled in Mrs Akin-Williams, Kike thought smiling gleefully.
She simply enjoyed it when Valerie talked in her poised-meticulously-clear-cut voice. Which she always used when she was speaking to a potential client whether face-to-face or over the phone. It never failed to win them over. As it was obviously doing now.
Valerie’s voice was a little less clear-cut now but still poised as she smiled and said. “Definitely ma’am, you can be rest assured of the highest quality mouth-watering African and international recipes. And yes our staff is completely professional and totally reliable.”
She listened a bit, then nodded. “You have nothing to fear. All you have to do is say the word and we simply take over and deliver.”
She listened again and rounded off the call with. “Monday sounds great. Our Rep will be there to speak with you and get your specifications. Thank you so much, ma’am. And do have a great weekend.”
She dropped the phone on the desk with a well satisfied smile on her face.
“I see you just got us another client.” Kike remarked drumming her feet against the desk.
“Not just one, two.” Valerie’s smile was smug and satisfied.
“Wow! You got the Adewale’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary party.” Kike shot to her feet and did a twist dance.
“Oh my God, girl that is awesome. Unbelievably awesome. I didn’t think we’ll get them, I mean not with the competition out there.” She threw Valerie a teasing smile. “But I know what that cool, magic voice does to them.”
Valerie laughed. She was so pleased with herself. The Adewale’s hadn’t been easy but she’d managed it.
“I don’t know about magic voice though.” She grinned. “But you, my girl have some work to do Monday when you meet Mrs Akin-Williams to discuss business and finalize things with her.” She walked round her desk to Kike’s passing her a sheet of paper. “That’s her office address right there. Apparently she’s the big boss lady of one of the city’s leading estate management offices.”
Kike took the paper. “I love big boss ladies, it’s what I want to be when I grow up.”
Valerie chuckled and sauntered over to the water dispenser, she needed a cold drink of water after such long hours on the phone.
Kike watched her, eyes dancing with mischief. “Girl, aren’t you looking mighty special for a Friday? I mean you are looking incredibly sexy in that figure-hugging slim jeans and alluring silk top you got on.”
Valerie tossed the disposable cup into the bin, exhaling deeply as she did so. “Kike, I’ve worn this jeans before and this silk top too, so don’t start with your naughtiness.”
“Oh yes you have.” Kike agreed winking, she was enjoying herself. “But never in this same absolutely sexy manner. Not being naughty, just saying me likey.”
Valerie snorted. “Get back to work, troublemaker. I haven’t got time for you now.”
Kike chortled. Then picked up her phone when it beeped.
Valerie watched from her desk as Kike’s smile widened. “A love message from Marc.” She guessed.
“No. Something much more pleasurable.” Kike winked.
What was she up to now? Valerie wondered with a frown.
“So you wanna go for lunch and put that sexy-looking outfit into some use?” Kike asked raising her brows suggestively.
“Lunch?” Valerie frowned. She was definitely up to something. “I already had some snacks, so no.”
Kike went round her desk, sauntered over to Valerie’s, dragged her laptop from her, clicked the Hibernate button.
“Girls, snack is junk food, don’t you know any better? Come on, let’s get some real food into that gorgeous body.” She dragged a protesting Valerie to her feet.
“Kike, for heaven’s sakes!” Valerie swore as she pulled her through the door into the hallway.
Her protests ceased when they stepped into the upstairs dining hall and her eyes slammed into Nathan’s.
Nathan was just about to raise his glass and make a toast when he saw Valerie walk in, or better put, dragged in by a grinning Kike.
He stared at her, hands still raised. She was looking incredibly amazing in trendy slim blue jeans that accentuated her long legs and curves. Her mushroom sleeveless silk blouse with the knotted front v-neckline clung seductively to her slim body. On her feet were glossy black ballerina-styled pumps with a cute bow-string in front.
She looked unbelievably gorgeous.
Valerie stepped forward, doing her best not to stumble under his intense stare. She wasn’t pulled by Kike anymore. The unflinchingly, intense dark eyes seemed to be pulling her. Nathan was looking all-male in dark brown chinos, light cream T-shirt and a blazer.
What was it about this man that got her all jittery and empty-minded?
She followed a self-satisfied grinning Kike to the table and managing to tear her gaze from Nathan’s, smiled warmly at Toinette. “Hello Toinette. Welcome to Chop N’ Munch.”
“Good evening, Aunty.” Toinette greeted smiling brightly admiring the long black enamel and bead necklace with its matching dangle earrings.
“Hello.” She smiled at Duncan, who returned her smile. Then turning to Nathan with a cool smile she said. “Hi. You might want to put down your hand.” She nodded to his still raised hand.
Nathan simply grinned. “You look simply hot in that jeans.” He said.
Duncan choked on his drink. “A little less embarrassing, Pal.” He muttered.
Kike who’d taken a seat right beside Duncan laughed merrily. “I just love a man who goes straight to the point.”
Valerie was grateful that she wasn’t as fair as her mother had been, else they’d all have seen she was blushing.
All the same she felt flushed all over and had to clear her throat before responding in a calm cool voice. “Thank you.”
“Have a seat, Valerie.” Kike flashed a winsome smile. “Could you allow her enter, Nathan, so she could sit close to Toinette?”
Valerie glared at her. Conniving little devil.
“But of course.” Nathan stepped aside, all smiles and innocence.
She reluctantly slide in, smiling at a beaming Toinette as she sat down.
Kike raised her head to see a widely smiling Doreen approaching to take their orders. “Ha, now we can all order and settle down to a really scrumptious African delicacy.”
The late lunch cum early dinner date turned out to be a fun affair.
Nathan and Duncan regaled the ladies with hilarious if somewhat outlandish stories of their youth.
Kike in turn shared the story of how her mother and herself had started their restaurant business from a students’ canteen at the University of Lagos, Akoka campus. After which they’d opened a small eatery along Ikorodu road, where Valerie had joined them, before moving to Allen avenue six years to open Chop N’ Munch.
A fashion-crazed Toinette had drilled Valerie about her collection of beautiful costume jewelleries, albeit having seen only two. They were all pleasantly surprised, except Kike of course, to know that Valerie made them herself.
All in all, it was a gay affair.
As they walked out the door of the restaurant, a little more than an hour later, Duncan held Toinette’s hand as they walked side-by-side Kike, allowing a still-over-the-moon Nathan to walk ahead with Valerie.
He turned to the skinny looking woman black slim jeans and Tommy Hilfiger maroon polo-dress, she wasn’t his type at all, too boyish. Yet he couldn’t help but like her affable, sunny nature. “That was the best meal I’ve eaten in long while.” He smiled at her.
Kike smiled cheerfully at the fair-skinned man. obviously of mixed-parentage, in sky-blue shirt and black pants. Such a pity she’d didn’t go for fair men, because this one didn’t look bad at all. “We at CM say a big thank you.” She said with a slight courtesy.
“I enjoyed it too.” Toinette quipped. “Next time we come, I’m going to order the Spaghetti Surprise and Peppered Snails.”
“You’ve got so much in those takeaway packs in your hands and yet you are already salivating for a next time. Greedy.” Duncan pronounced giving her a playful poke on the ribs.
Nathan stopped a few feet from his car.
Valerie glanced at the sterling, grey metallic Ford Edge Limited SUV. “Nice car.” She commented mildly.
“Thanks.” Nathan nodded slipped his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he cast a glance over his shoulders at the group drawing closer.
He shouldn’t be feeling nervous and like a stumbling teenager. But he was, darn it. “Valerie … err … I’m going to be out of town next Monday and will be gone for at least ten days. Actually going to Abuja … boring business trip.” He cleared his throat. “I’d like you to have dinner with me tomorrow.”
He continued. “Please don’t say no. I seem unable to stop thinking about you. And I’d really like to focus next week on my job.” His lips curved in a charming smile.
Valerie stared at the side dimple.
She wanted to say no, she should say no. She was so unprepared for a relationship right now, especially with a very attractive man like Nathaniel Abayomi-Phillips.
“Okay.” She heard herself saying. “We are catering a birthday party tomorrow, so I suppose I’d be free say from seven p.m.” She returned his smile.
What the heck, it was just dinner after all… besides hadn’t she promised herself she will begin to enjoy life more?
To be continued…