They walked in silence for the first few minutes, thoughts running riot in Dunni’s mind. She was beginning to come to terms with her attraction to the handsome hunk walking beside her, but she wished she’d met him in different circumstances. She sometimes imagined they’d clashed in a boardroom on different sides of the table, the heat sparking between them as they vied for a high profile account. For weeks they would ignore themselves, only giving in after she had won the client. Then he would invite her for a drink, forgive her for besting him, and they would find out how much they had in common, which would include Suya.
“So who’s the wrapped suya for?” Babs asked. “Some young children around?”
“None of mine, if that’s what you’re asking,” Dunni replied, “they’re for my parents and me too.” She smiled at the thought of eating the tasty meat again.
Dunni waved the rest of his words away. She was in too much of a good mood to be offended, and she knew he meant no harm. Most Nigerians usually wrapped bits of what they had at an outing for the children back at home, and her father actually still did it.
As their destination came into view, Babs stopped and turned towards her.
“How can we see again? I am here for only a week more, you know.”
“Why should I care about that?” she asked flippantly even though her heart began to thud in her chest as he took her hands in his. This time, she did not pull away, hoping to wean her body of the novelty of him. Her palms tingled in his, almost like they were pulling her whole body towards him. She stepped back deliberately, but left her hands where they were.
He covered the small distance between them in one step. “Don’t tell me you don’t know.”
Before she could reply, he ducked down and kissed her. It was a brief kiss, nothing more than him touching his lips to hers, but as she watched him lick his lips like he had just finished a delicious meal, a slow heat bloomed in her. The now familiar smile stretched across his face as if he recognized the look on her face, and he moved in close again.
Dunni was now ready for him, and pulled away from the arms he was about to wrap around her waist.
“No more kisses.”
“What?” Babs leaned back, “You can’t be serious.”
Dunni looked quickly up into his face to see if he was annoyed, but he was smiling wider.
“You can’t kiss me like you did in my father’s office and then say no more,” his voice went low and caressing, as his thumb rubbed back and forth over the lines in her palm. “I still think of that kiss, you know. You don’t want to know about the dreams I’ve had. Hot, sweaty…”
“Enough!” Dunni turned away, scrabbling to hold on to her defenses. It would be so easy to give in to his seduction, but he was so wrong for her. There couldn’t have been a worse place and time as well.
“Tell me the truth.” He came to stand beside her, waiting till she looked at him before continuing, “Would you really have nothing to do with me?”
She blurted out the thought foremost on her mind. “You’re so wrong!”
Immediately the words escaped, Dunni knew she had to gather her wits. It wouldn’t do to expose herself so much to him. She had two more weeks left in Nigeria and she had to remember that her father was her main reason for being here. After her vacation, her life was back in the United States. She shook her head as she recalled his earlier words. The guy was only giving them one week, while she was building castles in the air. In that moment, a way to keep him away occurred to her. As she turned it over in her mind, his voice interrupted.
“How do you mean? You’re here on vacation, and I have some days off to play with as well. We’ve both determined the attraction between us, and I for one can’t wait to explore it fully.”
“You mean you want us to get married?” Dunni threw down the challenge and faced him. She almost smiled as he seemed to jump a foot.
“What?” he snapped.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I’m home to find a husband. So, unless you’ll take me up on the offer, then no thanks, I can’t start an affair with you.”
She enjoyed the sight of the little o his open mouth framed as she plowed on. “I don’t have enough time as it is, so that would just be a distraction.”
He finally pursed his lips, and spoke. “Are you toying with me?”
Dunni couldn’t help laughing at that stage. “Why would I do that? You can ask your father if you doubt me. My mother introduced me to him on Christmas day. Didn’t you wonder what I was doing in his office with that woman?”
“Mrs. Sofola? Go on,” he urged when she did not say anything else.
In the darkness, his deep-set dark eyes had a hypnotic quality that she found hard to resist. Dunni wondered if she was not talking too much. What had started as a way to get him off her back was turning into a catharsis of her frustrations with her mother’s manipulations.
“Talk to me, Dunni.”
Now that they’d spent more time together, he was far from the cocky lothario she had imagined that first time she saw him. While his handsome sexiness was undeniable, he also had a softer, more compassionate side, the side that she had seen as they chatted with his brother at the suya spot. She exhaled gustily, going on to tell him about the needling from everyone about her non-married status, and how her mother had decided it was time she did something about it. “Well, she and Mrs. Sofola have agreed that I am to marry her son.”
“And you will? Marry this man, I mean.”
Dunni nodded, looking away. Of course she would do no such thing. But if this would keep Babs away from her, she would use it.
“Do you know him?” she asked in the silence that followed.
He shook his head, slowly. “I’ve met Mrs. Sofola a couple of times through my father but I don’t know her children. But does it matter who he is? You don’t look to me like the type of daughter that would do something just because her mother wants it.”
“And how would you know that?” Dunni flung her braids behind her.
“That tells me,” he gestured at her hand, still at her shoulder. “And have you forgotten so soon how we met, and the names you called me?”
As he spoke, a twitch pulled at his lips and Dunni smiled back at him. Echoes of their first meeting washed over her and at that moment she felt closer to him than she’d felt to anyone for a long while, except maybe to her family. In the next moment his arms were around her waist, cradling her close to his chest.
“I want you so much,” he murmured into her hair, his breath fanning her ear. “Give us a chance and I swear you won’t regret it.”
Their bodies were flush against each other and she felt the evidence of that desire against her lower tummy. His heart hammered against her breast but as far as she knew he felt only one thing and one thing alone for her, and that was not enough. She believed in love, and she knew Babs was the kind of man she could lose herself in. She closed her eyes as he drew her closer to him, blowing softly against her neck and moving his hands up and down her arms, barely touching her skin. When those large warm hands moved over her shoulders to cup her chin, she knew she had to be strong and push down her own feelings, or she would be lost.
Dunni took hold of his wrists and pulled them slowly away from her face.
“I stand by my words.”
“Really?” Babs asked, “even after what has just happened?”
“Yes.” Her voice was low as she walked away, not looking back when he called her name. She was glad to push open the gate to her parent’s and then close it, putting the feel of his eyes on her back, behind her.