The next Monday, Hope was in meetings all morning, but listening to the senior partners nit-pick design issues, projects and deadlines was insufficient to dispel the haze of happiness she felt whenever her thoughts strayed to Daniel.
Around her wrist was a stunning watch, the slim face encrusted with beautiful stones, a gift from him, and it was the most beautiful watch she’d ever owned.
“Nice watch,” Agnes said admiringly when she returned to her desk after the meeting.
Hope smiled and gave the watch another loving glance. “Thank you.”
“You’re glowing,” Agnes noted.
“Yes.” She peered closely at Hope’s face. “Man kind of glowing.”
Hope guffawed. “That’s different from ordinary glowing?”
Agnes nodded. “Yes now. Anyway,” She lowered her voice. “Someone was telling me she saw you and Daniel Amadi over the weekend.” She gave Hope a measuring look. “When are you going to tell me what’s up?”
Hope sighed. “I don’t know what’s up for sure yet.” There was a part of her that wanted to hold everything about Daniel close to her heart–as if sharing what was happening between them would diminish it somehow. “We just went out a couple of times.”
Agnes raised her brows. “Girl…you have to play your cards right o! You know he’s a catch.”
“I like him,” Hope said. “I don’t care about him being a catch or whatever. I really like him.”
Agnes let out a long breath. “Don’t fall in love too quickly though. This one that you’re liking him. With these men, it always pays to guard your heart. Make sure emotionally you’re the one on top.”
“I don’t even know what that means.” Hope laughed, though she was thinking about it. She knew she was falling for Daniel. She knew she was steadily getting to that point where losing him would hurt, like really hurt. She knew he was attracted to her, but how did he feel?
“How about you,” Hope asked Agnes, changing the subject, “What’s been going on with you? Did you ever hear from that full package guy?”
“Kola, his name was Kola. I finally called him and he gave me some lame excuses about work and being busy. I think he has a wife or a fiancée or something.” She rolled her eyes.
Hope sighed. “Dating in this town is a minefield.”
Agnes nodded, then smiled. “I’ve moved on sha. I’ve started seeing someone else. I’ll tell you about him, but I don’t think it’s serious. Maybe casual is what I need at this point, really. I’m tired of trying for love.”
Hope wasn’t convinced that was the best way to move on, but she didn’t want to lecture Agnes. “As long as you’re happy,” she offered.
Agnes shrugged. “I’m okay.”
Daniel had called earlier to invite her to his office for lunch, so at noon, Hope took the elevator up.
He was seated at his desk, and he got up as soon as she entered, walking toward her and pulling her in for a hug before stepping back to look her over. “You look beautiful.”
“I look stressed,” Hope replied. “I’ve been in meetings all day.
“Me too, but you still look prettier than me.” He ran his hands down her arms. When he got to her hands he lifted them up to his lips, then grinned when he saw she was wearing the watch. “Do you like it?”
“Are you kidding? I love it.”
He smiled, then led her to the seating area, where two plush leather sofas surrounded a low glass table. “I’ve already ordered lunch,” he said. “Jollof rice.”
“Ah!” Hope giggled. “Our national pride.”
They were talking about the merits of Jollof versus fried rice when there was a knock and his assistant opened the door, letting the food delivery person into the office. The guy disappeared after setting the food on the table and receiving his tip. Daniel opened the dishes and Hope realised how hungry she was. There was Jollof, fried chicken, plantains, and fresh juice, and it was delicious.
Later, Hope went over to the wall to wall windows to admire the view of water glistening in the afternoon sun. From that distance, it was impossible to see the debris and pollution that was obvious when you saw the lagoon waters up close. From the height, it just looked beautiful.
She felt Daniel come up behind her, felt the heat of his body as he stood behind her. She closed her eyes, feeling her breath quicken. Her heart sped up as she waited for him to say something, do something.
His hands touched her nape, and she shivered when he moved her hair aside and laid a soft kiss on her neck. He was driving her crazy and she was sure he knew it. She wanted to turn around and throw all caution to the wind, discard any doubts and surrender to the pleasure she knew she would find in his arms.
She sighed, leaning closer to his touch. He let the kiss linger then straightened and came to stand beside her.
“It’s a nice view,” Hope said, her voice breathy.
He smiled. “I was thinking the same thing just a few moments ago.”
At first, she was puzzled, then realized that he was talking about the view when he was standing behind her, looking at her. She chuckled. “I’m glad you like what you saw.”
He was silent for a long moment, then turned to face her. “I’m not playing around with you,” he said softly. “I’m not a guy who likes to waste my time. I’m here with you right now, because this is where I want to be, and you’re who I want to be with. I want to know that you feel the same way.”
Hope took a soft breath. “I’m not playing around either.” She took a step toward him and placed a hand on his arm. “This is where I want to be.”
He nodded and pulled her into his arms. His lips lingered over hers, firm, unhurried. She melted against him, almost wishing that she didn’t have to return to her office.
On the way back to her floor, she wondered what the conversation meant for their relationship. As conversations about commitment went, they hadn’t actually clarified what they were now. Dating? Exclusive? Serious?
She sighed, ignoring the speculative eyes from Ladi and Joy when she entered the reception. They’d probably heard something about her and Daniel and were bursting with curiosity. She went to her workstation, deciding that whatever the questions about her relationship with Daniel, they would resolve themselves. For now, she was just too happy to waste any time on something as useless as worrying.
There was no time to worry, to say the truth. When Hope wasn’t working, she and Daniel were together, either for lunch or dinner, or talking on the phone. They both had a busy week, so when he suggested a weekend getaway, she was more than willing.
“Just your passport,” he said when she asked him what she needed to bring, but on Thursday night she packed a weekend bag, with a few clothes, swimwear, nightclothes and lingerie.
On Friday morning, Daniel’s driver came over to the house to pick her up. He couldn’t come by himself because of a few loose ends to tie up so he could forget about work during the weekend. He was so busy, they didn’t see each other all day. Hope didn’t mind, she had a lot of work to get through too. She worked late into the evening, trying not to be distracted by the ball of excitement in her belly just waiting to explode. After most people had left for the day, she saw his name flashing on her phone.
“Ready?” he asked without preamble.
Daniel laughed. “I’ve been ready all week.”
They met on the ground floor but waited till they were both in the back seat of his car to reach for each other and exchange a gentle kiss.
“I’ve missed you all day,” Daniel said.
“You’ve got me all weekend,” Hope replied.
“You’re right.” He grinned wolfishly. “I should steal you away more often.”
She didn’t say anything in reply, only leaned into his arms and closed her eyes. She wouldn’t mind being stolen away anytime he wanted.
They drove toward the airport, going to one of the charter companies where, on the tarmac, a small charter plane was waiting. Their destination was Seychelles. She’d never been there but knew enough to expect beautiful beaches and delicious seafood.
“We’re going to be flying all night,” Daniel said after the smooth take-off. They were seated opposite each other so she could devour him with her eyes without having to crane her neck. He looked incredibly delicious with the first two buttons of his shirt undone. “Do you want something to eat now, or do you want to go to sleep?”
I want to look at you, Hope thought. “We could just talk,” she said instead, “and snack.”
He nodded. “I’ll probably doze off midway through all that though,” he said, smiling apologetically. “I’m already trying not to succumb to exhaustion.”
“I can imagine,” Hope smiled sympathetically.
A hostess came in with a tray of drinks, then disappeared and returned with chocolates, cookies and fruit. Daniel popped a candied date into his mouth. “These are good,” he said.
“Have you been to the Seychelles before?” Hope asked, mildly curious. She knew he travelled a lot, but mainly for work.
He nodded. “A couple of times.”
Hope gave him a sidelong glance. “Alone?”
He grinned and lounged back in his seat. “Are you asking me if I’ve ever been there…with another girl?”
Hope frowned. “No…I mean…I…Yes, I guess. Have you been there with another girl?”
He laughed. “And if I have, you’d be jealous?”
Hope shrugged, then sighed. “Maybe. That’s weird, isn’t it?”
He shook his head. “I’m jealous of every man you’ve ever smiled at,” he said lightly. “Now, that’s weird.”
Hope laughed, delighted despite herself.
“I haven’t been here with another girl,” he added seriously “I don’t have a habit of flying girls out of the country for weekends of debauchery.”
Weekends of debauchery. Hope bit her lower lip and met his gaze from under lowered lashes. “Is that what this is? A weekend of debauchery?”
He replied with an unreadable smile and popped another date in his mouth. “Enjoy your feast,” he said, still smiling. “I’m going to sleep for a while.”
Hope slept too, and when she woke up, the sky outside was lightening to grey. Daniel was looking at her, a tender expression on his face. She smiled at him. “Hey you,” she said softly.
“Hey you,” he replied.
She stretched. “How much longer?”
“About an hour.” He got up and came to sit beside her. “You look beautiful when you sleep,” he said softly.
“I don’t snore and drool?”
He shrugged. “I didn’t notice that, though I wouldn’t mind.”
They talked for a while, then as their destination approached, took turns to freshen up in the bathroom before preparing for landing. The journey through the airport was a breeze and before long, they were in a hired car heading for their hotel.
Exhaustion had set in again after the flight, so Hope didn’t really pay attention during the check-in at the hotel. They were staying a beautiful cabin that was right on the beach, and even in the morning light, Hope could see how lovely it was, especially with the soothing sounds of the surf. One of the hotel personnel brought their luggage to the cabin then left them alone.
“Do you like it,” Daniel asked, busying himself with transferring their bags to the closet which adjoined the bathroom.
“I love it,” Hope exclaimed.
He smiled. “Why don’t you take a shower while I order breakfast,” he said. “I’m ravenous.”
Hope was too. She went to the bathroom and after a warm, relaxing shower changed into a comfortable tank top and loose lounge shorts. She knew they were probably not going to go out all morning, since they were both tired from the flight, so there was no point in dressing up just yet.
While they waited for breakfast, Daniel took a shower too. He emerged a few minutes later wearing a ribbed vest and grey sweatpants. Hope caught herself staring and closed her mouth. The combination of everything people said about grey sweatpants and Daniel’s ridiculous sexiness was enough temptation to make her consider disgracing her lineage. She concentrated on the food instead–a feast of French toast, eggs, pancakes, coffee and fresh orange juice. By the time she was full, her eyes were drooping.
“You should get some sleep,” Daniel said. “In the afternoon, we can go and explore the beach.”
“You don’t mind?” she asked, sure that his idea of a weekend getaway wasn’t a companion who couldn’t keep her eyes open.
“Why would I?” he frowned. “I don’t want you staggering around exhausted instead of enjoying yourself.”
Hope didn’t need any further urging. She burrowed into the softness of the king-sized bed and in seconds, she was fast asleep.
When she opened her eyes, Daniel was beside her on the bed, asleep too. Her gaze landed first on his broad chest, then his handsome face, so peaceful in repose. She’d always thought it was a cliché in books when women talked about how boyish and innocent men looked while they slept, but it was true. She lifted a finger and touched it to his lips. They twitched slightly, but he didn’t wake up.
She moved closer to him, turning around so her back was burrowed into his chest and sighed when he brought his arm over her stomach and pulled her into his body. She felt safe, comfortable and warm in his arms, and she almost drifted off to sleep again.
“Do you want to start exploring now,” he asked, his voice slightly rough with sleep.
She could think of a lot of things she wanted to explore. “Yes,” she replied breathily.
They walked on the beach, then basked in the sun on lounge chairs, before having lunch in one of the cool lounges in the hotel. In the evening, they went to the town and visited a few shops before returning to the hotel for dinner and an exhausted sleep.
For the next day, Daniel had booked a couple’s massage, and after that, it was more of the same–the beach, food and the most relaxing experience Hope had enjoyed since she could remember.
“I could do this every weekend,” she told Daniel when it was time to leave. “I could do this every day, in fact.”
“Stick with me,” he replied with a wink.
As if she wouldn’t. Hope went to him, walking into the circle of his arms. “I wish we had more time,” she whispered, meeting his eyes.
He lowered his head and kissed her. Hope moaned. Being around him all weekend had felt like being slowly ignited, and her body was at a fever pitch. She lifted her hands to wrap around his neck, her eyes closing as her body melted into his. The naked hunger and desire in his kiss demanded a response that came from deep within her body. She wanted everything. She wanted to give him everything.
It took a while to hear the knock on the door, and when he finally lifted his lips from hers, Hope was unsteady on her feet.
Daniel’s chest rose. Hope could feel the tension in his muscles, she could feel the wild thudding of his heart, and she felt him, pressed against her, the unmistakable evidence of how much he wanted her. It made her almost unwilling to let go of him, even for a moment, but the knock was to tell them their car was ready, and soon after they were on their way back to the airport.
They talked for most of the flight back to Lagos, seated side by side. Desire lingered just under the surface, and as they talked and held hands across the seats, Hope felt as if he was already making love to her, only with words instead of his body.
She dozed off in the car on the way to his house, only awakening as they entered the gates. They were both quiet as they walked inside. The driver took their things upstairs while Daniel’s cook laid out a light dinner on the balcony. After the meal, there was a sudden power cut, and soon after, the hum of power generators filled the air.
“Lagos,” Hope said, smiling. She was standing at the balustrade looking out at the evening view. Water and lights. Daniel remained seated, watching her.
“But you missed it,” he said.
“I did.” She laughed. “It’s not my fault. We all have a love/hate relationship with this city.”
He stood up, and Hope’s heart thudded as he walked over to join her, standing close beside her. Wordlessly, she turned to him and in the next moment, she was in his arms, kissing again, hungry and desperate with the desire of the last few hours that had banked until it finally burst into flame.
“Don’t stop,” she whispered, when his lips trailed to her neck. Don’t ever stop, she added silently. Her heart felt tender and full, and fervent desire swelled in her belly. His hands on her body felt like they were igniting her skin. He pressed her body flush against him and she heard herself moan.
He pulled away, and she reached for him, unwilling to stop.
“Hope,” his voice was rough.
She swallowed. “Yes…”
“If I don’t let you go now, I’m not going to let you go tonight.”
The words were supposed to make her think, make her consider leaving, but they only took the flames of her desire and turned it into a raging explosion of need.
“I don’t intend to go anywhere,” she replied, meeting his gaze.
She expected him to kiss her again, but he didn’t, instead, he lifted her in his arms as if she weighed nothing, then he was carrying her, away from the balcony, through a short hallway, and into his bedroom.
He laid her gently on the bed and covered her body with his, leaning most of his weight on his elbow as they kissed.
“Hope,” he said her name, at some point, the way he always did, as if the feel of her name on his lips was something that brought him pleasure. She responded by drawing his lips down to covers hers again.
Being with him was like a feast of the senses. Every touch, every taste was a new, intensely pleasurable experience. She surrendered herself to him, revelling in the feel of his beautiful, powerful body. He explored her with his hands, his lips, his tongue, and she’d never wanted anything the way she wanted him.
When he finally surged into her, the pleasure was indescribable. Her body tightened and exploded and still, he was there, perfection personified, his every movement designed to fill her with helpless pleasure He gave her his strength and his love and every inch he had to give, pushing her over the precipice of mindless ecstasy.
Later, she lay with her head on his chest while he stroked her hair. There was no sound except for the low hum from the cooling vent.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
Hope smiled and looked at him. “How happy I am.”
He rolled so she was lying on her back and he was looming over her. “I still have a lot of happiness to give,” he said with a grin.
Hope lifted her head and kissed him. “What are you waiting for?” she breathed.
In response, he kissed her and they didn’t talk much for the rest of the night.