What had he been thinking acting like a passion-dim-witted fool?
That was the question that had preoccupied Dominic’s mind all night—well, all night after he’d calmed down long enough to start using his head again.
He had wanted her, and why not? He was a man and she was quite a beautiful woman. But he hadn’t been thinking. That he knew. For if he had been, he’d have remembered that she was not exactly his type of woman. He’d have remembered she’d obviously been his brother’s type enough for them to make a baby together, and he’d have remembered that their marriage had been an impromptu act of convenience, no feelings involved.
If he had been thinking he’d have remembered all that and he’d have squashed his lustful emotions, not yielded to them. He’d have had the good sense not to try to ply her with drinks.
Good heavens! He was disgusted with himself thinking about that now.
He’d always had any woman he wanted and he’d never needed to have her inebriated first before he could do so.
He enjoyed women—a certain type of women. Innocent-looking—or pretentiously innocent-looking types like Kaine weren’t that type. Unsophisticated, style-less and a little bit too provincial weren’t his type. She was too simple, too staid—too strait-laced for his liking. In fact, given her prudishness, he was baffled as to how she fell for his Don-Juan little brother and even had a baby for him.
Naivety or accomplished mercenary?
Dominic wasn’t sure. He found her too confusing to be sure. But one thing he was sure of was that they were married—whatever the reason—and married now, they had duties to each other. She was his now. His, she would stay. That was the way of things in the Kojo-Edwards family. A man got married once and he stayed married. And he’d be damned if he was going to stay married living like a celibate monk.
He tossed down the paper he hadn’t been reading and pushed up from the couch where he’d slept, squaring his shoulders determinedly as he strode towards the bedroom suite where she still slept—or still pretended to be asleep.
But he didn’t think it was pretence when he stood by the bed moments later. She was curled up on her right side, a hand resting under her cheek and the other lying loosely over little Tobi whom she’d picked from his cot and taken into bed with her.
She looked so untouched the way her eyelids closed without a crease and tresses of her hair waved over her cheek and her forehead. It was mystifying how she managed to look that innocent and yet had her son lying beside her.
Which only proves that looks can be deceiving, Dominic mused, clearing his throat noisily to rouse her. But she only made a soft sound and moved her body ever so lightly.
And because he didn’t care for the quick tightness he felt, Dominic reached down and tapped her comforter-covered foot. “Kaine.” She made the sound again, so he gave her a jab. “Kaine!”
Her eyes fluttered severally before they opened and focused on him. Then she sprang up. “What are you doing here?”
“And good morning to you too, dear wife.” Dominic flashed a derisive smile. “It’s daybreak, the sun is already up, the birds are singing and this is when you leave the comfort of your bed to heat my water, set out my clothes and make my breakfast.”
She gaped at him.
So he sighed, too early for bad jokes, then. “You know, I believe I read somewhere that babies are taught independence when they’re allowed to sleep on their own cot and not beside their parents… or in this case, parent.”
She pulled the comforter up. “We’ve always slept together since… since he was born.” She eyed him warily. “Good morning. Sorry, I slept late. I don’t think I slept on time last night and…” she broke off and shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t usually talk before I brush my teeth and I’m uncomfortable doing so now—”
“Nothing to be uncomfortable about, it’s all part of the sidekicks of being married.” Dominic was enjoying the fact that she was more uncomfortable with him being inside the room while she was still in bed. “And as for you having always slept with Tobi, that will stop now as you have someone else who’s meant to take that place.”
“I…” Again she shook her head. “Will you please give me a few minutes to brush, bath, dress up and then I can attend to your needs?”
“You want to attend to my needs?” His eyes sparkled with devious mischief.
“I meant… I meant those things you listed.” She gestured, looking thoroughly embarrassed. “Your water, clothes and… and um, your breakfast. You’re right, I should have woken up on time to get them ready.”
“Ah, you meant those needs. I thought you meant my other needs.” And because he could see her discomfiture amplify, Dominic decided to have mercy on her. “And I was just teasing about those particular needs of mine. This is a hotel and those things are at our beck and call. But should we have been back at home, I’d still not expect you to do them for me. We’ve got servants for that.”
Her discomfiture lifted as a frowned puckered her forehead. “You have servants? Hmm. Anyway, I should do them because I am your wife and it is my duty—”
“That particular duty is not required of you, not now and possibly, not at any other time in the future.” Dominic broke in. He wasn’t in mood to get into arguments. Not today. “But I’ll leave you to get out of bed—seeing as you are scared stiff to do so in front of me—and you should rouse my darling nephew too. We’ve got a full day ahead of us, so chop-chop, dear wife.”
“I am not scared stiff to get out of bed in front of you and stop calling me dear wife, my name is Kaine!”
Dominic grinned at her peeved expression. “I see we’re already acting like man and wife. Hope we get to do that in other ways too. Up with you, dear wife, or I just might be forced to share the bathroom with you.”
Dominic laughed at her flabbergasted expression as he turned to stroll out of the room. Maybe marriage, even their just-for-convenience own, wasn’t such a bad thing. It certainly was proving to have its upside.
Dominic discovered Kaine wasn’t one of those women who fussed over their looks. She was in the bathroom for only a few minutes and spent even less of that meagre amount of time to garb herself. And she didn’t dally either with the baby’s bathing and feeding.
Another upside, he thought. A wife who was the on-the-clock type.
They were now at the breakfast table. She’d begged that they order in, so he’d done so.
“Nice dress.” He said, chewing on a piece of apple as he studied her.
“It’s just a simple dress.” She dismissed, her eyes on Tobi as he played on the floor, stuck between pillows she’d positioned around him.
“It’s still nice.” He meant the compliment. It was again not high-fashion but it was pretty in its simplicity and the round-neck, fitted bodice cotton dress looked nice on her.
“Ah… thank you.” She didn’t look like she believed him though. “You said something about us having a full day earlier in—earlier. What did you mean?”
“Just that. We’ve got a full day ahead of us, going out as a family.”
“Going out to where?” Kaine frowned.
“Out into the city of Lagos.” Dominic replied with a mysterious smile. He had no intention of telling her his plans and giving her the chance to argue unnecessarily about them. “Eat up. We’re starting off that full day now.”
“Why can’t you tell me where we’re going? That way I’d know…”
“Kaine, one of the duties of a wife is to obey her husband, and I am your husband. Hmm.” He sent her a sunny smile, ignored her glare and her grumble as he wiped his hands, pushed to his feet and reached down for his nephew. “Come on, wife, we’ve got to hit the road.”
“I’ve told you to stop calling me that!” She snapped, rising too. “My name is Kaine, use it!”
“Gosh, she’s nagging me already, what do you think of that, buddy?” Dominic crooned to the baby in his arms. He got a big smile as a response. “There, he thinks it’s hilarious… and so do I.” He flashed her a smile and gestured to the door. “Let’s go, sweet wife.”
She only hissed and marched off to the room to grab her handbag and the baby’s bag. “If you call me that one more time, I’ll smack your head.” She warned crossly as they went through the door. “And shouldn’t we have waited for someone to come clear off the dishes?”
“No, we shouldn’t have. And I’d have warned you to resist smacking me.” Dominic retorted, his own glare warning. “And curb that violent habit of yours, babies quickly imbibe habits, you know.”
“I’m not violent! I’ve never hit anyone in front of Baby Tobi before.”
“You’ve hit me. And that sure is a trait of well-hidden violence.”
She only scowled at him and tightened her mouth as they rode the elevator.
They had the car ready as he’d ordered. Dominic waited for her to get in and then joined her in the backseat. “To Slot, please.” He said to the chauffeur.
“Slot? Where’s that?” Kaine wanted to know.
He spared her a glance. “Done sulking?”
“I wasn’t sulking, I’m not a child.” She glared at him.
“Actually, you don’t look much older than a child. Well, a teenage child.” Dominic adjusted his head to focus fully on her. “How old are you, by the way?”
“Isn’t there supposed to be some rule that a man doesn’t ask a lady her age?”
“Do you believe in that rule?” Dominic countered, amused by her pouting glare.
She moved her shoulders. “Maybe not. But you belong to the world where they say such things.”
“And what world would that be?”
Again, her shoulders budged. “The wealthy people’s glamorous and sophisticated world where they can get everything they want.”
“You think the wealthy have everything they want?
“Maybe not everything. But they certainly have a good deal more of what they want than ordinary, poor folks like me are able to.”
Dominic studied her. She wasn’t looking at him directly but he could see she was aware of him… of his closeness and it made her ill at ease. She wasn’t so oblivious to him as she liked to pretend, he decided. The thought soothed his ego.
“You’re not one of the ordinary poor folks, not anymore. Now, you belong to the wealthy sophisticated world. Maybe here you’ll learn that everyone—whatever their social status—never really get half of what they want. And that is simply life.”
She shifted her head to look at him. “I’ll always be simple Kaine. Money and positions don’t matter that much to me.” Then she smiled faintly. “But maybe you’re right, maybe none of us ever gets even half of what we want here on earth. And maybe God made it so, because if we did, someone else will be paying the price for those acquired wants.”
“You like being philosophical, don’t you?” Dominic stared at the thoughtfulness in her eyes. He suddenly had a feeling that she would never lose her earthiness. That she’d always possess that simplicity that gave her the look of innocence. “You think deeply about things and worry about them, don’t you?”
“Who doesn’t?” She countered, shifting her eyes forward again. “But my father used to say that there wasn’t any need to trouble one’s self with worrying when worry never solved anything.”
“Your father was a wise man then.” Dominic murmured.
“He was a believer. I don’t mean like Christian-faith-based believer.” She explained, glancing at him. “Though he was a Christian, of course. But he was a believer in things. He believed in people changing, in situations turning for the better—he believed in dreams coming true. Unfortunately, most of his never did before he died.”
There was a note of sadness in her voice and Dominic understood it. The pain of losing her father the year before was still fresh. His own father had been dead eight years and still, he missed him.
“You’re still here, his flesh and blood. You’re meant to live out those dreams he believed in.” He said softly. “I’m sure most of them were aspirations for you—parents are like that.” He added with a smile. “So, you’ll make them come true for him.”
“He wanted me to go the university. Even go further than just a first degree.” She let out a chuckle. “Well, I guess that dream is gone now, me being married and all.”
“And why should it be? Education is not just for the single.” Dominic frowned a little. “If you want to go back to school, you should. You decide when you want to go, where you want to school and we’ll make the arrangements.”
“I can’t allow you to pay for my education!” She sputtered.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. Protesting against money surely cannot be a pretence. It was an in-grained habit she has—an annoying, exhausting one.
“Kaine, you just said it, you’re married—to me. And as your husband, I get to take care of you now in place of your father.”
“But nothing!” He cut her off. “It is a fact and it is the way it’s going to be from now on—I will be taking care of you. No arguments.”
“I hate it when you’re high-handed.” She grumbled.
“I know. Which is why I enjoy being so.” He sent her a cheerful smile and nodded when the chauffeur started slowing down. “I think we just arrived our first destination.”
She forgot her glaring and spun around to stare out of her window. “We have? What’s this place?”
Dominic didn’t bother to respond, just gestured for her to get down when the car stopped and followed her out. “This way.” He said, balancing his nephew against his shoulder as he led the way inside the phone and computer accessories store.
“You want to buy another phone?” Kaine asked, once they were inside the store.
“I do—for you.” Dominic stopped to survey the store.
“For me? Why? I don’t need a phone!”
He saw the section he was aiming for. “Let’s go. And you need a phone, a smartphone.”
“If I thought I needed a smartphone I would have bought one.” She hissed as she kept step with him. “Well, of course I can’t afford one—”
She glared at him. “I can’t afford one but I don’t need one all the same. I have my simple Nokia phone here because all I do is make calls and send text messages. I don’t even listen to music on it.”
“Now you’ll be able to do that and much more.” Dominic told her cheerfully, stopping in front of a sales-rep. “Now, shush and let me handle this.”
“Stop trying to control me!” She ground out.
He only grinned and spoke to the young man who was eyeing them curiously.
It didn’t take long for him to be given what he requested for and for them to start heading back to the car.
“You bought an iPhone and iPad? Whatever for? Did you even stop to wonder if I know how to use these types of… of gadgets?”
Dominic threw back his head and laughed at the term. “Gosh, you’re something, Kaine, I swear it. Never a dull moment with you.” He grinned at her glare. “No need to panic, sweet wife, I’m here to teach you. We’ll bond over learning the intricacies of smart gadgets.”
“I meant to say devices.” She muttered, looking miffed.
“Oh, gadget works just fine. And you can stop complaining now and say with a huge smile, thank-you-Nick.”
Her mouth twitched before she muttered. “Thank you, Nick.”
“You’re welcome, Kaine. Now, off to our next destination.”
“We’re going somewhere else?” She asked as she settled in her seat and took Tobi from him. “Where?”
Dominic called out the name of a boutique the Hotel Manager had recommended to the chauffeur and exhaled before turning to her. “We’re going clothes shopping—every woman’s dream.”
“Clothes for me or clothes for you?”
Her voice sounded dangerously muted. “For you, minha querida esposa.” He told her with a sunny smile.
A crease formed on her forehead. “What’s that? What did you call me in Portuguese?”
“Same thing I’ve been calling you all morning—my dear wife. I just thought it’d sound sweeter to you if I said it in Portuguese.”
“Well, it didn’t!” She snapped and when he chuckled, she scowled at him. “And stop distracting me from the issue. I want to know why you think I should be shopping for clothes when I have my own clothes.”
“Because you need a change of wardrobe.” Dominic retorted, glanced at the phone vibrating on his hand and cut the incoming call. “I’m not disparaging the clothes you have… before you jump down my throat. I just know you need… how to put it delicately? Contemporary wears.”
“You mean I don’t look good enough as a Kojo-Edwards wife, hmm?”
Her eyes were shooting daggers at him and because he was sorely tempted to kiss her tightened lips, Dominic switched his gaze to the baby playing on her laps. “Did you hear me say that, buddy?”
The baby made a sound, grinned at him. “You see, he confirms I never said that.” He returned his gaze to her. “Kaine, you are a beautiful woman. You look good enough to be any man’s wife, and glad I am to be that lucky man.” He sent her a flourish wink.
But had to mutter a cuss as his phone started buzzing again.
“You’ve been cutting off calls since we got into that store. If you know you don’t want to pick people’s calls, why bring the phone along?” Kaine asked as he cut the call again.
“Because I only plan on taking important calls. But if troubles you, dear wife, I’ll just turn off the phone altogether.” And he did just that.
“The name is Kaine. Why do you persist in using that… that annoying term?”
“Because I know you secretly like it.”
She snorted loudly and turned away.
Dominic only grinned and handed over the switched-off phone to his nephew.
In her office at the La Quinta in Praia, Camilla swore explicitly in Portuguese as she tossed her phone on a pile of papers lying over her glass-top desk.
“Goddamn it!” She swore again in English, pushed to her feet and began to pace the plush furnished office.
She had been calling him over and over, and over again since morning but he’d been either ignoring his calls or rudely cutting them off. And now when she tried again, the phone was switched off it said.
How dare he treat her like this? How dare he ignore her calls… never replied her messages—and what the heck was he still doing in Nigeria?
He hadn’t told her anything except that there was an emergency he needed to attend to before he travelled and now, when she expected he’d already be back, he wasn’t and he wasn’t wanting to talk to her either.
Camilla knew he was avoiding her. Her feminine instincts told her that. But why, that was what she couldn’t fathom. She would have gone over to the house and spoken to his mother but she knew the old woman didn’t quite like her. She didn’t want her for her son. She wanted saints for her precious boys.
Well, just one boy now the other had gone off and gotten himself killed, Camilla thought crossly, pushing a hand through her hair.
She shook out the long, wavy dark-brown length to make sure she hadn’t pulled any tress out of place in her agitation. She was a woman who liked to look all-together no matter the time, the place or the state of her mind. She was a woman who liked to be admired and enjoyed being the centre of attention—anyone’s attention but particularly, a man’s. She was a woman who enjoyed beauty and beautiful things and who delighted in the pleasures of the things en-vogue.
It was why she’d modified the spelling of her name from the Portuguese style ‘Camila’ to the popular, more acceptable English style, Camilla. It was why she’d added ‘e’ to the end of her pet-name—Camie. Instead of just Cami as a Portuguese would call it.
She liked beautiful things. She liked being that beautiful thing and she liked earning the approval that went with people indulging themselves in something that was beautiful.
The reason for her being with Dominic Kojo-Edwards.
Of course, having him lose himself in her and take pleasure in doing just that wasn’t the only reason. Dominic had the looks, he had the refinement and he had the wealth and connections that she wanted… needed for her happiness.
And now, he was ignoring her. Camilla stopped her pacing and frowned down at her Givenchy ankle-strap platform sandals. She needed to do something, she cannot afford to allow him begin to drift away from her when she’d just started to get his full attention.
She shifted her frown to the door when it squished open. And then the frown lifted.
“Kanny, do you ever knock? One of these days, you’ll find me in a compromising position and you’ll be mightily embarrassed.”
Kanayo Nduka let out a deep-throated laugh. Camilla liked his laugh, it was full, strong, and manly. She liked the look of him too. He was a big-built man, dark with the complexion of a true African and brawny as one who often frequented the gym was bound to look. She liked the look of him, liked him—but he didn’t have the things she needed for her happiness.
Such a pity!
“You, my Camie, will be the one who’ll be embarrassed if I find you in an uncompromising position.” He said, coming forward to slide into her visitor’s seat. “And why are you standing there by the way?”
“I was thinking.” She told him, going around her desk to resume her seat. “Why are you here, yourself? No business at the bar?” He was the Bar Manager at the Hotel.
“This time of the morning? Hardly.” Kanayo settled more comfortably into his seat. “But you’re prevaricating and we both know it. I caught the worried lines before your dazzling smile took over that gorgeous face of yours, what gives?”
Camilla smiled because she liked the fluid way he always complimented her like he wasn’t really meaning to. “What is a woman’s biggest problem that can bring worried lines into her gorgeous face?” She wasn’t prevaricating now. This was a guessing-game they usually played.
“She lost a chance to buy spectacular Louboutin shoes?” Kanayo winked.
Camilla chuckled. “That would send me into depression not bring worry lines. My problem is Dominic.”
“Ah, the lover.” Kanayo’s dark eyes gleamed with understanding. “You miss him?”
“Yes, I miss him but he does not miss me, obviously.” Because the thought of him ignoring her calls still irked, Camilla expelled a long breath. “He has been avoiding my calls. And now he’s switched off his phone. I can’t reach him and I don’t quite know what he’s doing in Nigeria.”
“Oh please, neither Melhor nor La Quinta is in Nigeria.” Camilla dismissed the supposition. “I don’t even know what he went to do there. I mean what is in that Nigeria for heaven’s sake?”
“Great food. Great culture. Great tourist attractions. Great people. Beautiful women.” Kanayo added the last bit with a teasing wink.
“Besteira!” Camilla dismissed in Portuguese. She was too confident in her own beauty to be threatened by any other woman’s. “I want him back, Kanny. I want him back here with me, back in my arms. Back in my bed. He is mine, Kanny. And he stays mine.”
“I don’t think the boss is a man ready to settle with one woman yet, Camie. He’s still got his roving eyes on.” Kanayo said.
“I know he looks at the ladies. Takes one to bed every now and then.” Camilla shrugged because that wasn’t important to her. Not at the moment, at least. “But he always comes back to me. He has been doing so constantly for the last six months and I won’t let him slip through my fingers not when I’d just gotten him.” Her hazel-coloured eyes flashed with determined glint as she said this.
Whatever had Dominic occupied in Nigeria, she was going to toss it out his mind once he gets back home, Camilla vowed to herself.
*** ~~~ ***
Minha querida esposa: My dear wife