Kaine felt like she was a helpless spectator watching a poorly written screenplay. They were at the Registry and waiting for their turn to take their vows. It seemed so surreal that she should be at a Registry waiting to exchange marriage vows with a man she’d met just two days ago.
She’d spent the entire night asking herself—and God—if she really knew what she was doing. There had been no answer, none that was satisfying. None that made her feel more at peace with what she was about to do. She’d begged God for a miracle that Dominic would call her and say he’d had a rethink and there was no need for them to marry. She’d prayed that, by some divinely prompted miracle, Anwuli would return and stop her from entering into this covenant that already felt like a noose around her neck.
But her prayers—desperate as they were—hadn’t been answered. When morning came, she’d had to face the fact that there was no choice, none other that made sense to her except to marry Dominic Kojo-Edwards and to continue to pretend that she was her sister and the mother of her sister’s son.
She’d wanted to wear black for the ceremony. It had, after all, felt like her life was over and she was going to her own funeral. But Juliet had vehemently protested and had dug out her box-pleated, just-below-the-knees, high-neckline rose-pink dress. It was the best dress in her wardrobe and ironically, it had been a last-Christmas gift from Anwuli. As were the three-inch heeled sandals Juliet had forced onto her feet.
She felt ridiculous standing at the halls of a seemingly ordinary public office wearing a girlish dress and having a rose-shaped clip fastened to her hair. The clip, like the silver choker and tiny studs on her ears were gifts from Juliet. She’d given them to her that morning and had brushed aside her protests with a jocular—it’s my big sister’s right.
It had almost made her weep, hearing her say that. Anwuli had always been her big sister, even though there was only a year’s difference between them. She had looked up to her, admired her—wished she’d had her single-minded drive, her fearlessness to pursue whatever she wanted. She’d always thought that when she finally met the man God had designed for her, the man of her dreams, and was marrying him, that it would be Anwuli standing next to her as her chief bridesmaid.
But that was not to be. She was getting married—to keep Anwuli’s baby with her—and her sister was faraway, God knows where, searching for a man who was dead.
What an irony!
“He seems to be so good with babies. I mean look at the way he is holding Tobi and smiling down at him.”
Kaine jolted out of her thoughts at Juliet’s comment. She shifted her gaze to where Dominic was standing with the baby. He’d requested to carry him upon their arrival and then he’d strolled off with him once she handed him over. He balanced him on one hand now and used the other to snap a picture, then he mouthed some words and beamed a smile.
“They look like father and son.” Juliet commented. “I guess he and his brother must have really looked alike.”
Kaine made a sound of agreement. She was too preoccupied with watching how natural he looked holding the baby and cooing words to him. It made him look different. The usual arrogance and aloofness had deserted his face and he was smiling, widely, and making silly noises. She wondered if she would ever like him.
And as if Juliet read her thought, she said next. “I think he might possess a likeable personality.”
Kaine didn’t know. She’d told him, rudely, that she doubted it when he’d said that he was yesterday. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to like him.
“He’d been very friendly when he met us at your house. In short, the way he’d flashed that smile and bowed his head when he shook my hands, I felt like I was meeting a royal, extremely courteous personality.” Her husband cleared his throat and she laughed. “Udo, you know what I mean jor. He acted like a real gentleman—you know, the type we watch in movies. And I just have to say this, he is so handsome. My God, no wonder Tobi is such a gorgeous baby. The Kojo-Edwards men must be great looking.”
“And I am relieved it wasn’t you Anwuli left her baby with or I’m in trouble.” Udo grumbled, an amiable smile on his face despite his grumble.
“Go and rest jor. You know I’m Oba-no-dey-go-transfer where you’re concerned. You’re so silent.” Juliet shifted her gaze to her. “I guess you’re worried.”
“It is natural for her to be.” Udo said. “But worrying never solved anything. You’ve made a decision and it’s best if you face it squarely and trust everything else to God.”
Kaine looked at both of them, grateful that they were they with her. They made her feel stronger by just being there. She didn’t know if she could have found the strength to go through this without them. She’d had to tell Aunty Colette and Aunty Nne that she was travelling with Tobi and wasn’t sure when she’d be back. It was the only story—lie— she could think of.
“You’re right, Uncle Udo, worrying won’t solve anything. Besides, it’s too late for me to start worrying.” She forced herself to smile. “I can’t believe I’m finally stepping out of this state and even leaving Nigeria.”
“Maybe you’ll meet Anwuli at Accra.” Juliet said. “Maybe you’ll hear something about where they are shooting that movie and you’ll be able to contact her.”
Somehow Kaine doubted that. “Maybe.” She agreed, keeping the smile in place.
A couple and their witnesses came flooding out of a room and Dominic gestured to her.
Kaine inhaled and blew out the breath. “Okay, here we go.”
It was a brief ceremony. Nothing like the type she’d ever attended and nothing like the one she’d always dreamed of. Once it ended, Dominic insisted they had to leave immediately if they wanted to meet up with their flight in Benin.
“Call me, please. When you people arrive Lagos, whatever happens, any time—all the time, call me.” Juliet embraced her and held her tightly for a long moment. “We’ll be praying for you. Don’t worry and don’t be sad. Try to be happy. You did the only thing you could do, okay?”
Kaine nodded, smiled through her tears. “Thank you for being my friend and my family. Please once in a while, just help me sweep up the house until Anwuli comes back.”
“I will, I promise.” Juliet stepped back, brushed off her tears. “Stop crying. It’s your wedding day, no matter what.”
Kaine nodded as she turned to Udo.
“If God allowed this to happen it’s because he has a plan somewhere in this for you, Kaine.” He told her. “This thing you did was selfless and God will surely reward you for it, you hear?”
She nodded, blinked. “Thank you, Uncle Udo.” She gave him a hug. “God bless you both.”
She gave them one last look and then turned to walk to the SUV Dominic had obviously hired. He was already on the backseat with a sleeping Tobi in his arms. Kaine got in and he ordered the driver to move.
“Let me carry him.” She reached for the baby.
“Don’t worry he’s already asleep.”
But Kaine still slipped the baby off his hand and cradled him to her chest. She needed to feel the warmth of a loved one against her. Despite her assurances to Juliet and Uncle Udo that she wouldn’t worry, she was worried—and she was scared.
“I always wonder why women cry at weddings.” He said conversationally.
Kaine blinked and turned to him. He had a faint smile on his face. “I don’t know why others cry, but I cried now because I am forced to live my family and the life that I know to embark on a journey I don’t know how it will end.”
“A journey you don’t know how it will end?” Dominic snorted out a laugh. “You make it sound like we just did something dangerous or forbidden. We only got married, Kaine. People do it all the time, and it always ends same way, with the couple parting either through death or by an agreed separation—divorce.”
Kaine eyed him. “I suppose you believe in divorce.”
“You suppose wrongly.” He smiled, adjusted in his seat. “I don’t believe in divorce. We were brought up to abhor it. My mother is Catholic and so it’s an abomination to her.”
“And you, what are you?”
“Hmm?” He stared at her with a puzzled frown.
“Are you also a Catholic like your mother?” Kaine asked.
“I am.” He nodded. “My entire family are Catholics. You?”
“I’m Anglican.” They didn’t even belong to same denomination and neither had known that. What kind of marriage was this?
“Close enough.” He sounded like he didn’t care.
Kaine supposed he wouldn’t. Just like he didn’t care that he was marrying a woman who’d supposedly had a child for his late brother. His family didn’t believe in divorce but they obviously didn’t mind arranged marriages or forcing people to marry them.
“You look sad.”
The observation pushed the mild annoyance she’d started to feel to the surface. “Am I supposed to look happy?”
Dominic lifted his shoulders in a lazy, nonchalant movement. “Most people are happy on their wedding day.”
“Most people were not forced to marry someone they just met two days ago.”
“You were not forced to marry me. You made the choice to do so of your own accord.”
Kaine glared at him. “And what other choice did I have?”
“Hand over my nephew and continue with your life.”
The flippant response infuriated her. She felt like slapping him. Dear God, and she’d been wondering if she would ever like him? It was clear to her now, she hated him. She hated that he was always so arrogant and so blasé and so—so maddening. No, she would never like him. That was certain.
Deciding a conversation between was impossible, she adjusted on her seat, cradled Tobi closer to her chest and focused her eyes on the window. This was her first time going to Benin anyway, so studying the sweeping-by scenery wouldn’t be boring at all for her.
Neither of them spoke again until they arrived the Benin Airport.
“I’ll take the bags. You hold onto Tobi.” Dominic said after he’d settled the driver.
Kaine said nothing, only settled the baby against her shoulder and followed him into the airport. She’s never been in an airport before and she didn’t want to make a fool of herself, or give her unsophisticated self away, so she stuck closely to him as they hurried down the smoothly-tiled and brightly-lit lounge, doing her best not to gawk at the glittering stores, the completely-at-ease people chatting or sweeping by as quickly as they were.
They stopped at the Fly-aero counter and joined the short line there.
“We barely made it.” He murmured, a crease drawing his brows together.
Again she said nothing, just very casually focused her eyes to her left, imitating the offhand expression she saw on some of the faces around her. Her heart was thudding almost erratically against her ribs and she was only grateful she had Tobi in her arms to make her appear normal and not as nervous and ill-at-ease as she felt.
She’d never been in a plane before. Well, how could she if she’d never once been in an airport. All she knew about airports and planes, she’d either read in books or from tales Anwuli shared with her. And Anwuli had said she’d met people—mostly first-timers—who were airsick. Some start feeling dizzy once the plane took off and others, nauseous.
Kaine dearly hoped she wasn’t one of those types. She sorely hated to embarrass herself.
But she needn’t have worried, she later realised after their take-off. Once inside the plane and she was seated, strapped on her seatbelt—which had been a momentary tug-of-war—and the plane had taken off, she’d felt no dizziness and absolutely no nausea. Her ears had started ringing for a few seconds, but it had been so brief and so mild that she hadn’t worried.
Once they touched down in Lagos, disembarked and he’d gotten another cab to take them to the hotel where he’d made reservation for them, Dominic pulled out his tablet to attend to some mails. There were messages from Camilla but he ignored them. He’d switched off his phones, so he was sure she’d tried to call him and only sent the messages when she couldn’t get through.
He didn’t want to think about her now. He answered some important mails, sent a message to his mother and then shut off the tablet. He turned to the woman beside him. It seemed odd to call her a woman when she looked very much like a teenage girl in the pleated, sleeveless, high-neck pink dress she was wearing.
Her choice of wedding gown. It looked good enough though. It wasn’t high fashion but it wasn’t shabby either. It suited her, somewhat. She always had this look of an innocent and the dress only heightened that mien of innocence. She’d pulled off the heels she was wearing whilst they’d been on their way to Benin and exchanged them with a pair of black flats.
He had a feeling she wasn’t used to heels. She’d walked well in them, carried her tall build without swaying or stumbling but she’d sighed with relief as she slipped them off. She had also pulled off the neck choker she’d worn at the wedding. He’d thought they so rightly suited her long, slim neck. Now, it was bare and angled as she stared out of her window.
With her neck angled, her hair which was clipped up and left to tail down ponytail fashion, trailed down and caressed her nape. Her hair was pitch black, natural—colour-wise and everything. She didn’t wear extensions—at least she hadn’t worn one since he met her. Dominic figured she didn’t need one, her natural hair was long enough, full enough, healthy and rich enough. And like the choker, it suited her.
He felt like touching it now and the surprising temptation made him shift and clear his throat. “You must be hungry. Maybe we could have shared some refreshments with your friends if we didn’t have to hurry to meet our flight. Cake and drinks, maybe.”
“It wasn’t a real wedding, so cake is not expected.” She murmured, glancing at him before quickly shifting back her gaze to the window.
Dominic frowned. “It was a real wedding, Kaine. We exchanged vows, got pronounced husband and wife, signed marriage certificates and right now, we are both wearing wedding bands. It doesn’t get any realer than that.”
She said nothing.
And he found himself getting annoyed. She acted like he’d put a gun to her head and demanded she marry him. She’d had a choice for heaven’s sake but had insisted she couldn’t part with the baby. And now, she had the poor little mite clutched to her chest like she was afraid he’d be wrenched away from her.
He scowled and turned to his own window, hoping they’d soon arrive their hotel. He felt stifled being beside her and having her treat him like he was the enemy.
He was her husband now, for heaven’s sake!
Dominic shut his eyes. He didn’t really blame her. He couldn’t really blame her. All of this has been like one roller-coaster ride and with more lows than highs. Good heavens, one minute he’d been a single man with no plans whatsoever to be tied down and the next he was married and to a woman his little brother had dated—and impregnated.
It was too much. For him too.
But it had to be done. It was a duty, and he’d done his duty. That was that.
Kaine’s eyes rounded and almost popped when the driver veered off the expressway and into the hotel with Sheraton boldly displayed at the top. So, this was Sheraton? They were going to stay at the prestigious Sheraton Hotel?
They got down from the car and a young man—she supposed he’d be a bellboy as the ones she read of in novels—rushed over to help them with their suitcases as they walked into the hotel. Kaine felt like she was Cinderella entering into the Palace for the ball. She wanted to ooh and ah and wow but she could only clamp her mouth shut and pray she doesn’t stutter when anyone spoke to her.
Of course Dominic looked completely at home. This would be his natural milieu, the world he came from and was used to. He smoothly introduced them—Mr and Mrs Dominic Kojo-Edwards—like they’d been married for longer than a mere couple of hours and that it had been a natural enough event.
If she was dazzled by the lobby, the elevator—which had made her feel like she was riding up to heaven on the wings of an angel—Kaine was twice, no thrice as much dazzled when they entered their bedroom. No, suite.
Kaine had never seen luxury or known it but she recognised it when she entered into it. Their suite was exquisite. It spoke luxury, ultra-luxury and it looked it and felt it. It was as if they’d rented an apartment instead of a hotel room. There was a living room, well-furnished and a dining area and then the astonishingly furnished bedroom.
This must be a king-size bed, Kaine thought gawking at the gigantic-sized bed. Five people could comfortably sleep on it and wouldn’t have to worry about brushing against each other, she decided.
While she gazed and gawked, Dominic seemed preoccupied with talking with the hotel staff who’d walked them to their suite. When he was done and the man had left, he joined her in the bedroom. Kaine was standing by the window, enjoying the amazing view.
“I made arrangements for them to send a babysitter later. That way we could dine in one of the restaurants and not have to worry about Tobi.”
Kaine spun around. “I can’t leave Tobi with a babysitter. We don’t know who this person is. What if something happens to him?”
“Nothing will happen to him. You can’t hold onto him and watch over him all the time, Kaine.” He tugged at his tie and slipped it off. “Besides, the person is one of the hotel’s staff and the manager assured me that she is trustworthy.”
“I don’t like this, Nick.” Kaine shook her head. “I’m not comfortable—”
“Thing is you’re used to taking care of him all alone and that is making you panicky.” He shook off his jacket. “But that will soon change as soon as we get back home. You’ll find there are too many people willing to help with his care and you’ll get more time to yourself.”
“I don’t need more time to myself.” Because he’d started flicking off the button of his white shirt, she shifted back and marched towards the living room. She suddenly felt warm. “In any case, why can’t we order in? I’m sure we can do that.”
“We can but we are not going to.” He marched to the closet and pulled out a hanger. “We just wedded and today is our first evening together. We might not have celebrated with friends and family, but I think we should do so together.”
“It’s not really—”
“Don’t start with that not-a-real-wedding talk, Kaine.” He interrupted. “I’ve made the arrangements and we’re going to dine out. So, I suggest you put down that baby, have your bath or something and relax. You can order some lunch. I’m going to make some calls.”
And with that he stepped out of the suite.
Kaine frowned at the door he’d just walked through. She didn’t like the idea of having to leave her baby with a total stranger and even more, she didn’t like the idea of him bossing her around.
Couldn’t he ask her opinion before making his darned plans?
Irritated, she swung around to storm into the bedroom. But seeing again the sheer beauty that surrounded her, she forgot her mad and decided she would make some calls too—to Juliet, to dazzle her with tales of where she was at the moment.
It was seven p.m. when they went down for their dinner. Kaine hadn’t exactly had anything befitting to wear, so she’d resorted to the midi, black shift dress she’d contemplated wearing for the wedding, and matched it with the silver heeled sandals she’d worn for the wedding and its clutch purse.
She might not look spectacular like the ladies at the other tables in the restaurant, but Kaine knew she looked better than okay. And even more, she’d relaxed enough about leaving Tobi that she was truly enjoying herself.
He’d ordered for her. He’d asked if he could and she had, with secret relieve, granted him the permission to do so. And it had been the wise thing to do because he seemed to be some kind of connoisseur of food and wine. She’d never tasted foods so delicious and a wine equally as delicious and intoxicating. Its inebriating power forced away all her shyness, chased away her neurosis and soon loosened her tongue.
“So, in which city of Ghana does your family really live?” Kaine sipped her wine and wondered how come her glass was emptying again.
“In Ghana?” He was watching her with dark amused eyes. Kaine thought he was the most handsome man in the room. “My family don’t live in Ghana. We are from Ghana—my father was. But we don’t live there.”
She angled her head, blinked. “Oh. So, where do you live?”
“Cape Verde.” He reached for the bottle of wine, topped off her glass. “You know Cape Verde? It’s a compilation of Islands and we live in one of them—Santiago. Precisely in Praia. We are into wines—we own a vineyard in Cape Verde, in Chã das Caldeiras actually. We have another in MariaIva. That is in Brazil, where my mother comes from.”
“Your mother is Brazilian?”
Dominic nodded. “My father met her in Paranà while he was working at her family’s winery. They fell in love, got married and soon, they moved to Cape Verde and started their own winery.”
“Aw.” Kaine thought it was a romantic story.
Dominic smiled. “But my mother inherited one of her family’s vineyards and so, they had that other one in MariaIva. Our wine—Melhor—doesn’t do too badly in the market but we are mostly into bars and we own a hotel in Praia, La Quinta.”
“Sounds so interesting.” She was married to a part Ghanaian, part Brazilian man, it should be romantic. It should be romantic that she was sitting across of him and drinking delicious wine.
“I guess it is.” He sipped his wine. “Looks like Tobi never told you much about the family.”
“Hmm?” Kaine blinked, tried to focus her thoughts. “Ah…” she lifted her shoulders. “Well, we didn’t really know each other that long.”
“Hmm.” Dominic took another slow sip. “We haven’t known each other that long too yet you’ve managed to ask me all these questions.”
Kaine stared at him. At least she tried to even though her eyes seemed blurry, kind off. “I’m sorry if my questions appeared nosy.” She said stiffly.
He shook his head. “They weren’t. And I wasn’t criticising, just making an observation. So, I looked you up on Facebook but didn’t find any Kaine or Anwuli Nwaolisa that was you.”
Kaine reached for her glass of wine again, she took a gulp. Wished she hadn’t finished off her desert so fast. “I’m not on Facebook.”
That was the truth. She wasn’t on Facebook, or on any other social media network. But Anwuli was, under a name she’d coined.
“You’re not?” His dark eyes seemed to be compelling her to keep her eyes on his. “I don’t do much social media myself. Can be exhausting.”
She nodded. What could she say? And why the heck was she feeling warmer and warmer as the seconds passed? They were in an air-conditioned hall for Christ’s sake! It was all the wine she’d had, it’s making her feel—weird.
Gosh, he was so handsome and his mouth was so full and… sexy.
Dear God, why was she looking at his mouth? And thinking it was sexy? Kaine lifted the wineglass and as she took another long sip, she realised she’d emptied it once again.
“Em… I’m tired.” She yawned for good measure. “It’s been a long day. I… we should go back to the room. Maybe Baby Tobi is already fretting for me.”
“If you’re tired, then we must turn in.” But his amused eyes said they didn’t buy her lie. He gestured for the waiter.
When they got back to their suite, Baby Tobi was asleep, in the small cot Dominic had had ordered him. They thanked the babysitter and Dominic paid her.
“Want another drink? Some chocolate? Anything?”
Kaine stared at him. Alone with him now, without Baby Tobi in her arms, she felt suddenly nervous. “No, no, I’m fine.” She glanced at the massive bed. “Ah…” Was he going to sleep there with her?
Her earlier thought of five people sleeping comfortably in it sounded ridiculous now.
“You’re so beautiful.”
She whirled her head around. He’d come closer without her noticing. She stumbled back. “Em… thank you.” Her heart was skipping—no, gyrating about inside her chest. “Nick…”
They spoke at the same time.
Kaine bit her lip. “I think—well, we should go to bed. I mean… where are…”she broke off, jolting as his hand reached out and touched her cheek. “Nick…”
He drew closer and his other hand came up to frame her face. His eyes were— smouldering would be the word they’d use in a romance novel. They seemed to be heated and burning with desire. With hot passion.
Kaine felt her mouth part, but no word came from it. She saw his part and saw him curve his head and then he covered her parted mouth with his own.
Her first thought was I am being kissed. And her second, well, there wasn’t much of a second because she couldn’t think. She could only feel, and she felt his mouth—his lips dance over hers, skim over them, caress them, taste them and then sink into them.
She heard the long, low, vibrating sound and she didn’t know it came from her until it rolled out of her again—and again.
Her hands were trembling by her side and she didn’t know what to do with them. She felt like grabbing hold of something, like he was grabbing hold of her, pulling her against his chest and pressing her into him. She could feel his body trembling too… or was it hers that was causing both of them to shake?
Kaine didn’t know. She only knew that she was being kissed, for the first time in her life, and the kiss—or was it something else?—was sending warmth and wetness in between in legs, right into her very core.
His grabbing hand had pulled the clip off her hair and it now tumbled down her shoulders with his hands running through them. She felt electric shock-waves as his fingers trailed through her hair and touched her scalp. The sound vibrated from her again and her hands, of their own accord, grabbed hold of his shirt.
A deeper sound came, from him this time. “Kaine. Gosh, Kaine.” His lips left hers, trailed along her cheek, her neck. He buried it there and then slipped his hand down her thighs and scooped her off her feet.
The moment her back touched the bed, her eyes fluttered open and she found his watching her. “Kaine.” He groaned again, kissed her jaw.
But she remembered—this wasn’t real. Nothing between them was real and nothing should be happening between them. “No! No, stop it. This is wrong!”
“What?” He shifted back a little, gaped at her.
She rolled out from under him. “We shouldn’t be doing this. We are not really married.”
“We are married!” He bellowed, then swore and pushed up to his feet. “You stop with this nonsense and—”
Kaine struggled to her feet. “It isn’t nonsense. I never expected this. We only got married so we can both be with Baby Tobi… it’s not a real marriage.”
“It is a real marriage!” He snarled, glaring at her with furious eyes. “We are married and this marriage is real. I am your husband and you are my wife. We are a couple now—a married couple. And that means we get to do things that married couples do. I am your husband, Kaine, and I have my rights as your husband and I want those rights fulfilled.” He grabbed her hand, yanked her close and kissed her forcefully, then pushed her away before she could struggle. “Enjoy sleeping alone for the last time, dear wife.”
And he turned and stormed out of the room.
Kaine pressed a hand to her whirling head and staggered down into the bed. She raised a hand and touched her lips. They still felt so warm and it was odd how it felt like they were yearning for his.
It was odd and it scared her. She had accepted this marriage proposal without thinking what it really meant, what it really involved. She had always promised herself that she would only give herself—every part of herself—to her husband… to her husband who loves and cherishes her.
But Dominic didn’t love her. He didn’t love her and she didn’t love him.
What was she going to do now?