The next week, they had dinner together every day till the middle of the week when Daniel had to leave the country on business, but they spoke every day, sometimes until very late into the night. Hope didn’t mind, she would have sacrificed every wink of sleep just to keep hearing his voice.
“This one that you’re always on the phone nowadays,” her mother said one evening as Hope walked into the house, her phone at her ear. She’d had Daniel on speaker for most of the drive home and she was only just now saying goodbye to him.
“Good evening, mama mia,” Hope said, grinning happily. She gave her mother a hug and started to run up the stairs.
Patience followed her, standing at the foot of the stairs as Hope ascended. “So, you won’t tell me anything?” she said expectantly. “Grace has already given me some details, you know.”
Hope stopped walking, thinking of ways to kill her sister. “What did Grace tell you?”
Her mother shrugged. “Nothing serious o, just that you were interested in someone…”
“Why did she tell you?” Hope moaned, imagining her mother planning weddings and generally marrying her off prematurely.
“Why won’t she tell me?” Patience countered. “Anyway, I can see by the way you’ve been smiling up and down that she’s right.”
“Gahhhh!” Hope groaned, leaving her mother and going to her room. She just wanted time to get to know the guy. The last thing she needed was someone feeding ideas into her head.
Not that she minded the kind of outcome her mother was anticipating. Daniel was great…He was handsome, funny, attractive, sexy…but he was also, rich, very rich, and very eligible. There were probably countless other girls reading meaning into anything he said to them, hoping that he meant more or wanted more. She didn’t want to set her mind on him and end up feeling dejected or discarded.
…but she was falling for him. In fact, she had gone past falling, and it made her both fearful and excited.
By Friday, she was suffering from mental and physical exhaustion and couldn’t wait for the weekend. Daniel would be back and she couldn’t wait to see him. They’d been chatting on and off all day, and towards closing time, she got another message from him.
When are you leaving?
Okay. Can you do me a favour.
*thinking face* Anything?
*smiley face* Just tell me what you want.
She was still waiting for a reply when her phone rang. It was him.
“I got a delivery at my office, and I was wondering if you could pick it up. I’ll get it from you tomorrow, since I have zero intention of coming near the office at all this weekend.”
Hope wondered why he didn’t just get one of his staff to take it over to his house, but she was sure he had his reasons. “No problem,” she replied. “I’ll go up and pick it up on my way out.”
“My assistant will meet you at the reception, okay? So, you don’t get lost.”
She rolled her eyes. “Very funny.”
When she was ready, she freshened her makeup and went out to the lobby, then took the lift to the floor that housed the main entrance to the offices of DaxTech, Daniel’s company. She approached the glass reception desk, where a receptionist was already smiling at her, but before she got there the main glass doors leading into the office were pushed open and a slender guy in a suit appeared, making directly for her.
“I’m Tobi, Daniel’s assistant. Welcome. He asked me to wait for you. Just follow me, I’ll take you to his office.”
Hope allowed him to lead her into the office. Through a glass partition, she could see a lot of workspaces, and she wondered how many people Daniel employed. Tobi led her to a small branched-off lobby, where a single elevator waited. He pressed the call button and soon they were on their way up.
The lift opened into the penthouse floor, into a small reception where the girl at the desk waved them through. Beyond that was a large office, where about four people sat at their desks, and a pair of frosted glass doors which she guessed, led to Daniel’s office.
She wondered why he hadn’t just asked Tobi to give her the package–whatever it was–at the reception. The thought was still on her mind when Tobi opened the door to the office and stood back to let her through.
She stepped in, awed by the spacious office, the large desk, the plush arrangement of office furniture, the large screen opposite the desk that seemed to show a blow-up of some computer program, the spectacular view of the lagoon, and more than anything else, Daniel, standing by the wall to wall glass windows, smiling at her and looking very pleased with himself.
“You’re back,” Hope exclaimed, unable to stop her legs from hurrying toward him. He closed the distance quickly with his long legs, and in moments she was in his arms, in a sweet hug that felt just right–as if their bodies had been made to fit into each other. “Why didn’t you tell me you were here?” she scolded.
“I wanted to surprise you.” he laughed. “Seems I succeeded.”
“You did,” Hope laughed. “It’s so great to see you,” she added softly.
His chest rose and one hand moved along her back. Then, holding her hand, he moved back towards the desk and perched lightly on the edge.
“I missed you too,” he said, relieving her of her handbag and setting it on the desk.
Hope smiled. “Why aren’t you at home, resting or something.”
He shrugged. “I had a few things to check, and I wanted to see you.”
Hope felt a rush of pleasure filling her heart and suffusing her body. “Well, now you have,” she said. “I hope you’re pleased.”
His eyes glinted. “Very pleased.”
The way he said the words made her stomach clench. She was standing in front of him, close enough to feel the heat radiating from his body even in the air-conditioned interior of the office. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. She could feel his exhaustion, and she wanted to step closer and put her arms around him. She could imagine it, his head resting on her chest, the spice of his cologne in her nose…
She took a breath to steady herself. “Your office is fantastic, very impressive.”
“You must be so tired,” Hope added, thinking of his long flight. She touched his cheek, her hand lingering. “Have you had anything to eat?”
He smiled. “Just before you came. What I need now is sleep. My driver is waiting to take me home.” He smiled wryly. “I just don’t want to leave you yet.”
“You’re making me feel very special,” Hope said.
“Then I’m doing something right,” he replied.
She sighed. “Go home and get some rest. And then tomorrow,” she gave him a small smile. “You can spend the whole day making me feel special.” She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. His hands encircled her waist and he pulled her closer, deepening the kiss. She felt pleasure flood her body, pleasure and desire. When he released her, they were both breathing deeply.
“Hope.” He said her name, very softly.
She closed her eyes and swallowed. “Yes.”
“You’re driving me crazy.” He took her hand in his and kissed it gently, then got up from the desk. “Come on,” he said. “I’ll walk with you to your car.”
He held her hand all the way down to the car park. At her car, he kissed her again. “Tomorrow,” he said softly, there was a promise in the way he said the words.
Hope nodded. “I can’t wait.”
The next day, she was awake early, surprising her mother by coming downstairs and helping with the Saturday chores.
“Are you sure you don’t need to rest,” Patience asked her as Hope dusted and arranged shelves in the kitchen. “I know how hard you work and how tired you must be.”
Hope shook her head. “I have some excess energy this morning.”
Truth was, she was excited. She’d hardly been able to get a wink of sleep. She’d spend the entire night looking forward to seeing Daniel and gorging on the memory of the kisses they’d shared.
After all the chores were done, she went to her room to take a shower. When she came back down for breakfast, her father was in the living room, obviously surprised to see her up.
“Are you going out?” he asked.
“I guessed as much,” he said. “The way you’re looking happy, I know it’s not the thought of spending the day with your mother and me that’s making you so excited.”
Hope laughed. “But daddy, I like staying at home with you guys.”
“Don’t like it too much,” he cautioned. “We’re already talking about evicting you so we can enjoy our old age.”
After breakfast, she went upstairs to her room. She’d already set out her clothes for the day, a light green dress in loose jersey fabric with a belt at the waist, and jewelled wedges that showed off her gleaming red pedicure. As she contemplated the outfit, her phone rang.
“When should I come to pick you up,” Daniel said on the phone. He sounded well-rested and full of energy.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t still be asleep?” Hope asked, “recovering from all the stress and whatnot?”
He chuckled. “I’d rather see you.”
“Okayyy… thanks.” Hope smiled. “Now I’m blushing all over the place.”
“Kind of,” she replied. “You can start coming now. I’ll be ready in about half an hour.”
She changed from the t-shirt and loose shorts she was wearing into the clothes she’d laid out, then brushed her hair. She didn’t apply a lot of makeup, just lip-gloss, brow pencil, eyeliner and mascara. She liked the finished effect, sweet and understated.
Daniel still hadn’t called her to tell her he had arrived, and she wondered how long it would take before he got to the house. She slid on her shoes and decided to go downstairs, so he wouldn’t have long to wait when he finally came.
She got to the head of the stairs and was startled to hear his voice in the living room. He was talking with her dad. She frowned, her heart skipping a beat as she wondered if her parents were giving him the boyfriend interrogation.
In the living room, Daniel was seated on one of the sofas, looking at ease as he answered a question her father asked. They were talking about data storage technology, and he was explaining some detail to her father, who looked, very interested. Her mother, perched on her favourite seat, was assessing him covertly with an expression Hope was very familiar with.
“Good morning,” Hope said, pausing at the archway that led into the room. She turned a puzzled glance towards Daniel. “You didn’t tell me you had arrived.”
Her mother smiled at her. “I was just about to send Justina to get you. Your friend is telling us about his company,” she added in a pleased voice.
Hope hid a grimace. She could almost hear the wedding bells ringing inside her mother’s head.
“I’m ready,” she said pointedly, looking at Daniel. He smiled and got up, making a quick small bow as he extended a hand towards her father, then her mother. “It was nice meeting you sir, madam,” he said deferentially.
“Same here,” Hope heard her father say.
She waved awkwardly at her parents then followed Daniel out of the house. He was wearing slim pants and a short-sleeved shirt, and as always, he looked delicious. His car was parked inside the compound and Hope wondered why she hadn’t heard him drive in.
“I thought you were going call me when you got here,” she said.
He shrugged. “The gateman opened the gates as soon as he saw my car, so I came in. It seemed rude to be inside the compound and not come inside to say hi to your parents, at least.” He looked at her as he unlocked the car and opened the passenger door for her. “Did you not want me to meet your parents?”
Hope frowned. “No, that’s not it. I just…It’s kind of early for you to be getting the boyfriend interrogation.”
He looked nonplussed, then laughed and closed the door, going over to the driver’s side. “I didn’t get the boyfriend interrogation, whatever that is. Your parents couldn’t have been nicer.”
“Ha!” Hope scoffed, unconvinced.
“Anyway, don’t you think I can handle a few questions from your parents?”
She sighed. “Of course.” It wasn’t him she was worried about. It was herself. She didn’t want her parents to decide that they liked him when she didn’t know yet exactly where they were going with their relationship. If things didn’t work out, she didn’t want questions, or disappointment from her family to compound the disappointment she’d be feeling.
He put on the radio while he drove. It was tuned to a local radio station, and as the hosts talked and made jokes, she listened with half an ear, silently watching Daniel, the way his fingers played with the wheel, the angle of his jaw, the way his body seemed to lounge even as he drove.
His eyes skipped to her, and he raised a brow. “What are you thinking,” he asked, his gaze going back to the road.
“Nothing,” Hope replied.
“You were looking at me for so long and thinking nothing?” he looked disappointed. “Maybe I need to work on my game.”
Hope laughed. “Your game is perfect.”
He grinned and one hand left the wheel to squeeze hers, just for one sweet moment, then it was back on the wheel. “I knew I was doing something right,” he said.
Yes, you are, Hope thought silently. You’re doing everything right.