Her whole body was tingling with pleasure. Hope stretched and opened her eyes, her lips curving at the memories from the night before. She reached for Daniel, but he wasn’t lying beside her.
She drew herself up to a sitting position just as he walked in through the door that led to the dressing room. Hope pulled in a breath. He was already dressed for work in a perfect dark suit that made her want to drag him back into the bed.
“Hey,” she said softly.
“You’re awake.” He came over to the bed and laid a gentle kiss on her lips. She was wearing his t-shirt, one she’d found in the dressing room when she visited the bathroom sometime in the night. It was much too big for her, but she loved it. “This suits you,” Daniel said with a smile, fingering the hem.
She laughed. “I wish you didn’t have to go to work. You could have done like me and taken the day off.”
“I’m the boss,” he said. “When I take a day off, everybody takes a day off, and the world descends into chaos.”
She giggled at the melodrama, then sighed. “I had a great time.”
“Will you be here when I get back?” He sounded hopeful.
Hope hesitated. She’d planned to leave sometime in the afternoon, to go home and get ready for work the next day, but… “I’ll stay if you want me to.”
He grinned. “I want you to. I’ll take you home when I get back, okay?”
“Okay.” Her fingers found his tie and she caressed the soft silk for a few moments, then she pulled him down for another kiss. “I’ll be waiting,” she promised.
She spent the day happily doing nothing. She lounged around the house, explored, and enjoyed the exquisite meals Daniel’s cook served for breakfast and lunch. She watched a couple of movies and read a book on the Kindle app on her phone while waiting for Daniel to return.
He finally did, early in the evening. Hope didn’t hear him drive in, so when he walked into the balcony she was filled with pleasant surprise and barely held herself back from throwing herself into his arms.
“You’re back early,” she said, walking into his embrace. He had taken off his jacket, leaving only his snowy white cotton shirt. She ran her hands over the crisp material and inhaled his cologne.
“I couldn’t wait to see you,” he said, smiling wryly. “It’s a testament to my self-control that I didn’t come back earlier. The wait was worth it though. Coming home to you is the stuff of fantasies.”
Hope laughed. “You should have returned as soon as it crossed your mind,” she said. “I wish you didn’t have so much self-control.”
“I’m barely holding on to it.” He lifted her into his arms, and she wrapped her legs around him, holding on as he carried her to his bedroom.
It was a few hours later before they finally drove over to the mainland. As the car idled in front of her gate, Hope was flooded with an intense desire to stay with him–to stop the magical weekend from finally coming to an end, and it seemed like he felt the same way. He held her hand in his, his fingers stroking hers.
“I don’t want to go inside,” Hope whispered.
“We could go back.” Daniel met her gaze and she knew he was serious.
“It’s like you want my parents to disown me,” she replied with a small laugh. She’d told her mother she was travelling out of the country for a weekend of rest, but she hadn’t offered details and surprisingly, her mother hadn’t asked, except to say Hope was to let her know when she arrived at her destination and make sure her sister knew where she was and with whom.
“They won’t disown you,” Daniel said kissing her palm. “They know you’re in good hands.”
Hope smiled. “I miss you already,” she said softly.
He kissed her again, then squeezed her hand. “I feel exactly the same way.”
“You’re really glowing,” Agnes told her the next day in the office, there was a slight note of envy in her voice.
Hope smiled at her, about to make a quip about Agnes’s remark, but noticed that her friend’s eyes were red-rimmed like she had been crying.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
Agnes shook her head. “I’m so not.”
Hope frowned. “Do you want to tell me about it?”
“I need to talk to someone,” Agnes said. “Seriously. Or else I’ll think I’m going mad or that there’s something wrong with me.”
Hope looked around the office. It was almost lunchtime. “You know what? I’m going to order snacks so we don’t have to go out for lunch, then we can go to the waiting area in the ground floor lobby. Nobody will hear us there.”
Agnes agreed, and as soon as people started getting up for lunch, they both went down to the main lobby. The waiting area had a lot of cosy settees which Hope had used more than once, and she led Agnes to one of the more secluded seating areas.
“Okay,” she said, once they were seated. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
Agnes sighed. “You know I started seeing someone some time ago, and after we hooked up he just…he didn’t call me again.”
The ‘full package guy’ Hope remembered. She nodded. “…but you said you’d moved on to someone else.”
“Yes,” Agnes nodded. “The thing is…there was this other guy. I met him here, though we didn’t really talk…I’m sure I told you about him…one day when I was going on about a cute guy I saw in the office…with lips like sugar?” She looked at Hope trying to see if she remembered.
Hope felt something like dread unfurl in her stomach, but she remained silent.
“He only said hi,” Agnes continued, “and gave me his card. Then I saw him again at Greg’s baby’s party, you remember that day?”
Charles, Hope thought. It had to be Charles. “I remember,” she said quietly.
Agnes went on. “We flirted a bit at the party, but I still didn’t call him, though he was really hot. Then after Kola never called me back…I finally called him. I just wanted to do something fun, to help me forget, you know?”
Hope could only nod, dreading the direction the story was going.
“His name is Charles, by the way.” Agnes’ face had a faraway look for a moment, as if, even now, she was remembering Charles with pleasure. The look was quickly replaced with a hurt expression. “I called him. It was a weekday, I remember. We talked…he was in a meeting, but he told me to come over to his office and I went…waited for him, then we went to his place. I think he had to discharge some other girl, but I wasn’t surprised. Hot guys like that…there’s always a girl, you know?”
Hope nodded. “I know.” There was a roiling ball of disgust in her belly, for Charles, for the kind of slimy human he was. Somehow, she was sure Agnes was talking about the day Charles had kept her waiting in the office. He’d kept her waiting for hours, without bothering to call and cancel, because he’d found someone who was willing to give him the sex he wanted without ‘needing some time’ or having a past with him to be fussy about.
“Anyway,” Agnes continued. “I just wanted to feel attractive after being dumped.” She shrugged, “It’s not as if I wanted anything from him.”
Hope tried not to react. She couldn’t believe that even for a moment she’d thought that maybe he had changed, that maybe he deserved another chance.
She closed her eyes, putting aside everything she was feeling, so she could listen to Agnes and muster the sympathy to offer her. It’s wasn’t like she’d known about Charles and Hope’s history, so it really wasn’t her fault.
“After that, I saw him a couple of times,” Agnes continued. “As I said, it was just a casual thing. I know his type of guy. I knew he probably had other girls, but I’d been to his house a couple of times and there was no sign at all that he was married.”
“So, what happened?” Hope asked gently.
“About a week ago, he stopped taking me to his house. I didn’t think anything about it. I just thought…change of scenery you know? Then last night, we went to this guest house here in VI. He paid for a night, but he said he had to leave around eleven because one of his younger siblings was visiting and he didn’t want her spending the night alone at his place…”
Jeez! Hope thought. He didn’t even have any younger siblings.
“Anyway, we ordered room service and when they brought the order, two babes followed the waiter inside the room.” She shook her head and her eyes watered again. “Hope, one of them was his wife. She rained insults on the both of us. She took pictures of us. I felt so ashamed. She told me I was a prostitute, that I should go and test myself for STDs. She said some things to him too, accused him of sleeping around when she was in the US having their baby. Then her friend threw me out. I had to put on my clothes in the corridor and find my way home by myself at that time of the night.”
Hope swallowed the rage building in her belly. She reached for Agnes hand and pulled her into a hug. “Sweetie, I’m so sorry, but it wasn’t your fault. He didn’t tell you he was married.”
“But I feel so…” she shook her head. “Am I cursed? Why do I always attract the demons? I feel so humiliated, seriously. I never want to see another man again for as long as I live.”
“You’re not cursed,” Hope said. “I wish I had known you were seeing him. I’d have told you…I know him from way back, Agnes, and he’s a liar, and an asshole. He’s the one who cheated on his wife. You didn’t know so you didn’t do anything wrong.”
She was thinking how easy it would have been for her to be in the same situation. How it could have been her, caught in an intimate position with Charles. He said his wife left, but he omitted to say she left temporarily to have a baby abroad. God! What a liar he was.
She spent the next few minutes comforting Agnes, who had convinced herself that she was at fault and that there was something about her that attracted the worst kind of guys.
When they returned to the office, their snacks were cold, but Hope was glad to see Agnes mood hadn’t affected her appetite. With any luck, the pain wouldn’t last too long and Agnes would get over Charles and the humiliation he always served to the women who made the mistake of falling for him.
She didn’t think much about Charles for the next few days. Agnes seemed to have put it behind her, and Hope was much too occupied with Daniel anyway.
They spent every free moment together and Hope had never been so happy. It was almost surreal. He showed her off to his friends and family like she was the most perfect woman in the world, and it helped that her own family liked him too and didn’t hesitate to tell Hope so.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” he told her one Friday evening. They were in his office. He was leaning on his desk while she stood between his legs, leaning into his embrace. He was planning to work late so she had come to say goodnight.
“Are you for real?” Hope laughed. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”
“I can think of a couple of things,” he teased. “How do you feel about coming to a party this weekend?”
“Briggs uncle’s sixtieth birthday.” Briggs was a close friend of his, who Hope had met a few times. “It’s going to be at the family house. Just a good old owanbe.”
She laughed, knowing what that meant, food and drinks till late into the night and lively music from a live band.
“I feel like I’d like to go.”
“So, it’s a date then,” he dropped a kiss on her lips. “I really wish I didn’t have to work tonight, but tomorrow, I’m going to be all yours.”
“I get the feeling,” Hope told him. She’d had to make conscious effort to prioritise her work when all she wanted to do was to be with him every minute of the day. “I’ll see you…tomorrow,” she said softly.
Daniel released her from his arms, watching as she picked up her bag. “You don’t have to walk down with me,” she told him when she saw that he was planning to do just that. “We’ll probably spend another hour talking in the car park and you won’t get any work done.”
He sighed but there was a small smile playingon his lips. She blew him a kiss and walked to the door.
“Hope,” he said, stopping her.
She turned around. “Yes, Daniel?”
“I love you.” His voice was quiet, serious.
Her heart swelled and air filled her lungs in a sweet rush. “I love you too,” she replied.
They stood smiling at each other for a very long moment. “I’m going,” Hope said after a while, still smiling.
“I know I should let you,” Daniel said, “but…” He started to move toward her but Hope put up a hand to stop him.
“Tomorrow,” she said firmly, a promise in her voice. She blew him another kiss then left the office, closing the door behind her. As she walked to her car, she almost felt as if she was floating.