Kaine was on the phone with Juliet. She’d called just to find out how they were and to let her know that she and Baby Tobi were doing fine as well, but somehow the matter of Dominic’s unexpected and disturbingly increasing interest in her ha come up. She wasn’t entirely surprised that it did, not when the matter preyed on her mind all day and was making her act belligerent in desperate self-defence.
“That was expected, you must know that, Kaine.” Juliet was saying. “He is a man after all and the most natural instinct in men is to pursue, hunt down and possess. Sex is second nature to them. Besides, you’re a beautiful young woman and also, his wife now—so, showing his interest in you is not unusual.”
“But not this soon!” Kaine protested. “I mean, we only got married yesterday and it wasn’t even a for-love-and-passion kind of marriage. We only got married just so we can both keep Baby Tobi without anyone losing. You know that, Juliet.”
“I do. And despite the seemingly cold reason for your getting married, the fact still remains that you’re married and as a married couple—especially newly-wedded couple—sexual interest is only natural.”
Kaine didn’t like the continuous insistence that it was natural for him to be suddenly interested in her. Weren’t people first supposed to date and get to know each other before any inclinations towards sex?
“Juliet, are not men who so easily show their interest in a woman considered philanderers? Isn’t he showing the trait of a ladies’-man?” Kaine spoke aloud her fear. “Does that fact that I am now his wife mean that he gets to feel differently from one day to the next? And what about me? What about my own feelings? Am I expected to just fall in line with his new-found desires just because he is my husband?”
There was a long sigh before Juliet responded. “Oh Kaine, I keep forgetting that you’re such an innocent. You’ve led such a sheltered life and have no experience whatsoever when it comes to relationships and to men.”
“And what has that got to do with anything?” Kaine frowned, not quite sure she liked being regarded as naïve.
Juliet’s quick chuckle floated down the line. “I’m not being critical, so chill, dear lady. Your having kept yourself thus far is quite estimable and it’s something I always admired about you.” She paused as if to let that sink in, then went on. “Anyway, I only meant that your not having been exposed to the ways of men makes it difficult to understand why Dominic is suddenly acting the way he is. And just so you know, it is not all that sudden in fact. I am sure that he must have been struck by your beauty from the moment he met you and only acted aloof because of the situation. I mean you were supposedly his late brother’s girlfriend.”
“And I am still supposedly that.” Kaine grabbed on the defence line. “That is still what I am to him, his late brother’s girlfriend who had a child for him, which is exactly why it’s questionable that he wants to… to sleep with me and expects me to wholeheartedly fall into bed with him. What kind of a man wants to sleep with his late brother’s girlfriend? Doesn’t it show some measure of duplicity in his nature?”
“Again, I’ll point out that you’re now his wife.” Juliet replied. “And maybe, it’s not entirely right that he should so soon pursue you but like I said earlier, it is expected, it is natural. He is a man and you’re his wife. You two are legally married and whatever it is that you may have supposedly had with his brother is over. Tobi is gone and you’re now his, that is how he will see it. That is how the world would look at it.”
“That is not how I see it, Juliet. This is something I never expected… at least, not this soon.” Kaine inhaled and tried to coordinate her thoughts. “I guess I knew it would eventually be inevitable for us to…” she lifted her shoulders. It wasn’t always easy for her to talk about sex. It wasn’t even easy to think about it without feeling self-conscious. “My problem is that I think he might be showing this quick interest in me because he somehow believes that I am a girl who just ensnared his brother for monetary gains. He did say as much the first time we met.” She pointed out. “He thinks—or did think then—that I sent a mail to his brother demanding to be compensated for the birth of Baby Tobi…”
“Maybe he thinks that because Anwuli might have implied that in her mail.”
“He thinks that because that is how wealthy men think—that every woman is after them because of their wealth!” Kaine defended sharply, not willing to believe that Anwuli could be so mercenary. “He is rich and so he thinks that everyone wants money and wealth.”
“We all want money and wealth, Kaine. I most certainly do and I don’t mind having a huge chunk of it too.” Juliet said with a chuckle.
Kaine sighed, her mouth curving into a smile. “I know everybody needs money but not everyone pursues it as if it’s a do-or-die thing. Juliet, Nick is the kind of man who thinks money is a solution to most problems—look at how he forced me to get rid of my Nokia phone and my clothes without even caring that these are things I might be attached to.” She was still peeved that he’d browbeat her into giving up her entire clothes and her phone to the young chambermaid who usually cleaned their suite.
It wasn’t as if she was upset at having to give them over to the young girl, it was just that he didn’t even give her a chance to make that choice herself. Arrogant prig!
“Kaine, if that is one of the reasons you expect me to condemn the man, you lie.” Juliet laughed. “Come on, babe, he got you an iPhone? I don’t even know what that handset looks like. Ahn-ahn, Kaine, that is not a crime. You’re his wife now and you belong now to a certain social status… even this my Techno better pass that your Nokia wey you dey hala for sef.” She teased in Pidgin English.
“As for changing your wardrobe… before nko? You want to travel all the way to Cape Verde looking like a housemaid he’s bringing from Nigeria? And you want those people to think that we Nigerians are poverty-stricken? Abeg, forget that thing jor. You’re now a rep o… na you go dey represent Nigeria when una arrive there, you no know?”
“Represent fire!” Kaine dismissed, chuckling a little. “Well, maybe getting me all these stuff wasn’t a crime but I feel like he’s trying to buy me—to buy my affection. And honestly, Juliet, I am not prepared for this… I am not prepared to allow a man…”
“I know you’re not.” Juliet said when her voice trailed off. “And it is especially hard for you because of the circumstances of your union. But Kaine, it is something that is inevitable. You can’t keep rejecting him. He’s…” she broke off. Then murmured. “Hold on.” Seemed to be listening to a voice in the background, then spoke after about a minute. “Okay, your Uncle Udo says you should talk to Dominic.”
“Talk to him? How? About what?” Kaine frowned.
“Hold on for him. Let him explain himself.” Juliet said.
There was a moment’s static, then Udo came on-line. “Kaine, how now?”
“Good afternoon, Uncle Udo.” Kaine greeted.
“Afternoon, dear.” Udo responded. “I came in at what I supposed must have been the middle of your conversation with Juliet and from what she was saying I kind of caught the gist of the matter. Look, I don’t want you to feel embarrassed that I am butting in here, but I’m a man and I know what appeals to a man… at least most men.”
There was a momentary silence in which Kaine felt her cheeks heat with the embarrassment she’d been cautioned not to feel.
“Juliet was right, men are naturally inclined to seek sex.” Udo continued. “Dominic is a man and he is only acting as a man would. You’re a fine lady…” he broke off and there was a murmur in the background, then he chuckled. “Madam here says you’re more than fine… don’t mind her, I’m sure you get my meaning. Anyway, what I was saying is that Dominic is only acting according to his nature. It might look like it’s too soon for you, and maybe it is, but there’s really no time for such things especially when a man and a woman are married.
My suggestion is that you talk to him. I met the man. He might have appeared a little haughty in his manner of doing things but he looked like a very reasonable human being to me. While you may be looking at what he did—marry you whom he thought and still thinks is his late brother’s girlfriend—as something negative, I actually see the good in that singular act.”
“There’s good in his forcing me to marry him?”
“Actually Kaine, he didn’t force you to marry him. There was a choice—not an acceptable one.” Udo hurriedly added. “But still there was, and you chose to marry him and to go with him to his home. But what I’m actually saying is that what he did was somehow selfless if you think about it. Whether he was following his mother’s orders or just acting on his own sentiments, he offered to marry a woman he barely knew just so he can offer a home to his late brother’s son. He did it because it was the only way he can bring home his brother’s son and have him take his place in his father’s house.
So, Kaine, you’re not the only one who made a sacrifice here, Dominic did too. We don’t know if there is a woman back home for him or not, but he chose to marry you and do what is right for his nephew. That makes me see that he is a man who is thoughtful and compassionate and a man who will listen to reason. And so, you should appeal to these qualities in him. Talk to him. Let him know it’s still too soon for you to let him in. Ask him to give you time and on your own, try to get to know him and to prepare yourself for what will eventually happen.”
“How much time should I request for, Uncle Udo? Because I don’t know how soon… or if I’ll ever be prepared to… to be with him.”
“You will be.” Udo assured with certainty. “You’re human and it is only human to seek comfort—and pleasure in another human. And he too is a fine looking man and whether you admit it or not, the more time you spend time with him, the more you will find him attractive… that is if you don’t already.” He added teasingly.
Kaine opened her mouth to deny that she didn’t but clamped it shut because that would be blatantly lying.
“So, talk to him.” Udo went on. “And while you do so, consider how you might want to tell him the truth about who you are…”
“I can’t tell him that!” Kaine protested, shocked at the suggestion. “If I tell him that now, he will just have the marriage annulled or something and take Baby Tobi from me. Besides, he will hate me for deceiving him and won’t ever listen to any plea I might make. Ah no, I can’t tell him. I’m not sure if I ever can. At least, not until Anwuli returns and can defend her baby.”
“Kaine, you’ll have to tell him one day. You can’t live a lie forever. You can’t even live it for too long, the truth always has a way of coming out, believe me.” Udo made a dismissive sound. “In any case, let’s focus on the matter at hand for now. I recommend you talk to him. Find a plausible reason why you will need time and then appeal to his humanity. I’m sure he’ll listen to you and back off for some time. Okay, I’ve said my piece, let me hand the phone back to your friend… ah, she said she’s your big sister… oya, big sis, take over.”
Kaine chuckled and listened as Juliet came back on the line. They talked for another two minutes about general gossip and all such trivialities and then she finally ended the call.
A plausible reason, she thought as she strolled into the room to check on the sleeping Baby Tobi, and what reason can be plausible? What reason would be believable?
He’d wanted them to dine out again but she’d pleaded—as she’d done in the morning—that they have their food brought to them instead. She wouldn’t have minded going down to the restaurant to eat but she was worried that in that seductively tranquil ambiance she would once again forget herself and indulge in too much wine. And inebriated, she might not be able to make her appeal, though she was hoping… no, praying that she wouldn’t have to.
She watched him now as he sat across of her, his head bent as he expertly cut into the drumstick on his plate with his fork and knife. He was casually dressed, a simple enough Polo shirt and black pants, yet the informal dressing took nothing away from his good looks. It only served to heighten it instead. His curly dark hair was left in a somewhat tousled disorder and he had this shadow facial hair like he hadn’t shaved that morning. He should look unkempt, yet he looked scruffily attractive.
It must be the way he filled out the Polo shirt. The broad shoulders and lean, muscular long hands. The allure of his full, dimpled-on-the-sides mouth and the beauty of his light brown eyes—which were now on her.
Kaine dropped her gaze and focused on her plate. “This chicken is so tender and succulent. You can taste every spice used in each mouthful.” She was certain she’d praised the food before but it was all she could think to say now. She only hoped he couldn’t notice her embarrassment.
Dear Lord, why did she keep looking at him?
“It is indeed.” His smooth deep voice sounded amused. He knew she’d been ogling him and was finding it funny, the dratted man! “I love your look tonight. I love the way you have your hair pulled up, it shows off your lovely long neck and your pretty but stubborn jutted chin.”
Kaine raised her head. “You think my chin is stubborn?” She chose not to respond to the compliments as they unsettled more than they pleased her.
“I think you’re stubborn and it shows on your chin.” His eyes were as amused as his tone. “But I also think you’re mostly using that part of you as a self-defence mechanism… trying to evade what is inevitable.”
Kaine swallowed, he was talking about sex. Was this when she should begin to appeal to that his supposed humanity? And what does she even say? “I don’t think I’m stubborn at all.” She heard herself say since no other thought would come to mind. “In fact, most people regard me as easy-going and rather docile.”
“Docile?” He let out laugh. And she found herself momentarily distracted by the way the side dimples curved inside. “Kaine, you’re anything but docile. If anyone ever told you, you were, they either lied to you or they didn’t know you well enough. Docile.” He chuckled again, shook his head and lifted another forkful of chicken into his mouth.
Kaine consciously focused her gaze on the wineglass she’d just lifted and took a slow sip; reminded herself not to take too much and set the glass down.
“Actually, I am really mild and usually even-tempered.” She knew that her display of temper since they’d met and particularly this morning when she was all defensive must be the reason for his disbelief. “I am so docile and almost pliable that every time my father had suggested I stayed back home instead of going out to learn a skill since school wasn’t forthcoming, I succumbed without any arguments. I never protested any of his decisions even though I felt differently.”
“Maybe you didn’t because you never felt strongly about those things… about learning a skill. Maybe like him, you believed school was the best thing for you.” Dominic took a paper-napkin and wiped his mouth. “That is why you never made any objections. But you do so now and you do so vehemently. You even hit me and threatened to do so again just to make your point. That, dear wife of mine, is a clear evidence that you’re not at all docile or at least, not entirely so.”
Kaine remembered what he’d called her in the morning. She wasn’t sure if she rightly recalled the words but they had sounded sweeter than the ones he’d just said. Of course, she hadn’t been in the mood to admit it in the morning when he’d teased her about it and she surely wasn’t ready now to admit that him calling her ‘dear wife’ kind of tickled her—which of course was why she clutched onto her defences since the feelings he seemed to elicit with those words scared her.
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I fight when I am passionate about something.” She conceded, not wanting to argue. The friendlier they were, the easier it would be to appeal to his humanity. “Anyway, it’s twenty-one.” She said after a pause, deciding to change the subject.
“What is twenty-one?”
She looked at him. “My age. You asked this morning. I am twenty-one.”
“Ha, you’re now willing to let the secret out of the bag.” His brown eyes twinkled. “You don’t look it, you know.”
“I don’t look my age?” Kaine frowned. “You still mean I look like a child, right?”
“I mean you look younger. And it’s a compliment; no woman wants to look her age.” He gave her a smile. “But it’s a compliment that is also a fact, you look younger than twenty-one, you look about eighteen… maybe even younger. Makes me wonder how you must have looked when my brother met you.”
“Oh.” Kaine didn’t know what to say. But she certainly didn’t want to discuss a brother she never knew, so again she changed the subject. “So, when are leaving for Praia. And I would be needing a passport, right? I mean… I lost my passport… among other things last year. So, I’ll be needing a new one.”
Oh God, why did she choose a topic where she had to lie? But it was an unavoidable lie, wasn’t it? Kaine reminded herself, she very well couldn’t have told him that she’d never owned a passport when he must think she met her brother outside this country. But she has to start limiting the lies, or else it will make forgiveness harder when the time to confess the truth comes.
“That’s not a problem, I know one or two persons at the Immigration office. The passport can be ready in a day or two. And we’ll start heading home when it is.” Dominic broke into her thoughts. “How did you two meet by the way, my brother and you?”
“Huh?” Kaine struggled with her scattered thoughts.
“You and Tobi, where did you meet?”
He wasn’t going to be distracted from that particular subject, Kaine saw from the curiosity in his eyes. “Ah… well, I got a chance to work for this movie producer—not a popular one.” She added hastily. “I only worked briefly with him as his personal assistant kind of.” Movie producer have personal assistants, don’t they? “He was shooting a movie in Johannesburg, so I went with the cast and crew and—well, that is where I met your brother. One night, some of the cast and crew went out for drinks at a bar and that’s how we met… he was there that night.” That much at least was the truth.
“He must have been scoping the place.” Dominic said, his expression suddenly melancholic. “He liked doing that, you know. Being the one to travel around, get a feel of a new city, a new town. Scope out the competition, find out what edge La Quinta can have over others. He liked scoping out women too.” He laughed a little at this.
Kaine saw how much he must have loved his brother. How much he must miss him now and realised that Uncle Udo had been right. He too made this sacrifice so that his brother’s only son could be home with them—with a family who will surely love him as they’d loved his father.
“You must miss him a lot.” She murmured, wishing she could touch him and somehow comfort him.
He looked at her, nodded. “I do. We were very close. I guess we had to be, we were our parents’ only children. Now it’s just me and my mother. Well, there’s Tobi now—another Tobi.” Again he laughed. “And there’s you.”
Kaine dropped her eyes from his sudden intense ones. “I understand how you feel, I also lost my father and then my sister…” She broke off and cursed her nervous brain for making her blurt things out.
“You had a sister? I thought you said you were an only child?” He was frowning at her.
“I meant Juliet. I was going to say—and then my sister and I had to separate because of this marriage.” Dear God, she was becoming an expert in lying, when will it all end? “Juliet and Uncle Udo, her husband, and their two kids are all the family I have left. So, I miss them… like you must miss your brother. I mean, it’s not the same since they’re alive and…”
“I understand what you mean.” Dominic interjected. There was faint speculation in his eyes though he nodded and smiled. “We always miss the ones we love when they are not with us, whether temporarily or on a permanent basis. But you don’t have to fear, once we’re settled in Praia, they can come visit, all of them.”
Kaine looked at him, saw again that thoughtful quality Uncle Udo spoke about. “That would have been nice, except they can’t afford to—I mean the fare.”
“We’ll be taking care of that since we’re inviting them. By extension, they’re family now anyway, so they get to be treated as such.”
Kaine stared at him. “By we, you mean you’ll be paying their fares if they were to come?”
“By we, I meant you and I, Kaine.” He held her eyes in a steady gaze. “We’re a family now. What is mine is now completely yours. You’re a Kojo-Edwards now. Anyway changing the subject, Kaine—is that like a full name or a diminutive of a longer name?”
She was relieved at the change of subject. This entire side of him was making her feeling things she shouldn’t be. “It’s Kainebi. Well, actually, Kainebinudo. That’s the full name, it means let us leave in peace.”
“Interesting. Love the meaning.” Dominic grinned. “I love your name, the sound of it, the meaning. It sounds better than Anwuli.”
“Thank you.” Kaine stared helplessly at the electrifying intensity of his brown eyes. If she knew him very well… if she dared find the courage, she would have told him he had such beautiful eyes. But instead, she shifted her own eyes and murmured. “Ah, I think I’m done. Should I call reception for them to come pick the dishes?”
“You can, I’m done too.” The amusement was back in his voice.
Kaine avoided his eyes as she pushed back her chair, got up and went to make the call. Thereafter, she escaped into the room on the pretext of checking up on Baby Tobi and remained there until someone came for their dishes.
She was contemplating returning to the mini parlour to join him when she felt his presence behind her and turned to find him watching the sleeping baby with affectionate eyes.
“He is so beautiful.” Dominic murmured. “He looks so much like Tobi—like my brother. Like his father. I didn’t quite see it that very first time but now, I see it more and more every day, the clear resemblance.”
Kaine swallowed her nervousness and nodded. “Yes, his features are daily becoming more prominent so it’s easy to see how he looks like… Tobi.” And like you, she added silently.
“I’m glad he’s coming home with me, Kaine. I’m happy to be taking him home to his father’s house.” His gaze had shifted to her. “And I thank you for allowing it happen this way, without us having to fight in court over him. Thank you.”
She nodded, swallowed and wondered why her heartbeat has picked up. “I am glad it happened this way too. That we didn’t have to fight over him.”
He moved closer. “I want to kiss you. And I don’t know why.”
He didn’t let her finish, not that she knew what she was going to say. But he stopped her words by leaning over and crushing his mouth against hers. Kaine felt her heart slam against her chest and then began to jump.
Whether out of joy or out of fear, she didn’t know, she only knew that somehow, without thinking, she’d leaned forward and into him too and had reached out her hands and held onto his sides. His utterly masculine cologne teased her senses and overwhelmed every good sense that told her to push back and break the kiss.
Vaguely, she recalled reading in novels that it was men who were overwhelmed by the scent of a woman and wondered if it was her innocence that made her this intensely aware of him. Was it her innocence that made her push against him and curl her hands around his back as she sought the warmth of his body? Was it her innocence that made her moan as his tongue tangled with hers and his teeth softly nibbled her lower lip? Was it her innocence that made her respond with careless abandon forgetting that she was supposed to talk to him and ask for time?
But as if that last thought was a drench of cold water, Kaine snapped out of her bedazzled state and struggled to push out of his arms. “No! No, we shouldn’t be doing this.” She dropped her hands from around his waist. “Baby Tobi is here… and, we don’t really know each other…”
“Stop this, Kaine!” He cut her off, his expression more disappointed than angry as he looked at her. “We are married. We have a right to do this.”
“I am not used to doing… things like this…” Kaine felt self-conscious.
But he didn’t notice her embarrassment and only snorted out a derisive laugh. “Come now, Kaine, we both know you’ve been kissed before and that you’ve done more just kissing. That baby lying right on that bed is evidence of that. So, let’s not pretend innocence, please.”
The mockery in his tone hurt her but Kaine could not blame him for it. She’d given him the impression he was working with and she has to deal with it. “I am not claiming innocence and I know we are married and that… that us having sex is your right…”
“It is also your right, Kaine. And you can’t deny that you desire me at some level after that kiss.” He made an impatiently gesture with his hand. “You responded to me, Kaine. You responded to my kiss. You feel something for me, don’t deny it.”
She couldn’t. She felt something for him, though she didn’t know what. But still, she couldn’t yet bring herself to sleep with him. “I’m not denying anything. I guess I feel something for you… but I just can’t do this yet. I…” she stepped back, searched her head for that plausible reason. “I still feel something for your brother.” May God forgive her for all the lies. “I am still in love with your brother. And you look so much like him… so, I guess I… I feel the way I do because of that.”
She saw the analytical look in his eyes and knew he was considering her words. He was considering the plausibility of her excuse. “I really loved your brother. I really loved Tobi.” Kaine pressed on, using what Anwuli had told her as her own feelings. “I know I must seem like a loose woman sleeping with a man I wasn’t married to and then having a child for him… but I truly loved Tobi. That is why I had the baby, because I loved him so much and I wanted a part of him to remain with me.”
She blinked back the tears she knew were there not because of any emotions for a man she never knew but because of the lies she was telling the man she was having feeling she couldn’t explain for.
“Nick, I know it’s your right to touch me and to… to have sex with me.” She bit her lips and forced herself to meet his eyes. “But I am asking you to please give me time. I need time—to get over Tobi. To accept his death… to mourn him. And then time to get to know you. We just met some six days ago for heaven’s sake, I can’t be expected to so easily fall into bed with you! I am not that kind of woman, believe me.” She allowed her eyes to plead with his, to coax and to convince. “Just give me some time to get used to us being married. Let me get to know you and let this one thing happen naturally between us, please?”
For a long moment he didn’t speak, just stared at her and studied her with searching eyes. Then finally he nodded. “Okay. You need time? I’ll give you time. You’re probably right, we need to get to know each other. And so you should know, I am not looking to usurp my brother. If he were alive, I would never approach you. Never. But he is dead and you’re now my wife and I find myself powerlessly attracted to you. I don’t want to be but I am and I feel that you are to me too.”
He smiled a little and stepped back. “But it’s okay, we will give ourselves time—but not indefinitely and not for too long. I am a man and I’ve got needs and I can promise you that when you finally let me, I can satisfy the needs you have neatly hidden inside you.”
He winked and took another step back. “So, sleep alone with my little nephew. But know that I won’t be sleeping on a couch when we get back home. You’ll have to learn to make space for me in your bed, minha querida.”
Kaine exhaled after he strode out of the room and sank into the bed. Not indefinitely and not for too long—how much time was that for Christ’s sake?
*** ~~~ ***
Minha querida: My Sweetheart