This week, I’ll be sharing the first encounter between Vincent Mba and Yemi Okeke from Unexpected Love, one of the stories from the anthology, Be My Valentine published by @LoveAfricaPress.
A sound at the door jarred her from her musings. She turned towards the entrance, and her heart lurched.
A good-looking, athletic man dressed in an impeccable black blazer walked in. His skin was smooth toffee brown, his head shaved bald, and a well-groomed beard and moustache surrounded perfectly shaped full lips.
Embarrassed to be focusing on his mouth, she jerked her attention up to his eyes, and her breath trapped in her chest. Stunning intense dark eyes. No man had the right to have such thick and curly eye lashes without using a mascara, or wonderfully carved eyebrows that should be on a woman.
“Yemi Okeke? You are the orthopaedic surgeon, Yemi Okeke?”
The man’s deep baritone voice flooded the room. Such a sexy sound. Her throat went dry, screaming hoarsely from a sudden need for water.
“Yes, I am.” She nodded, surprised to see the spark of recognition reflected in the man’s eyes. She hadn’t met him before. Had she? Although there was something vaguely familiar about him, she couldn’t quite place it. “I have a meeting with the board of directors … or Mr. Mba.”
“I am Mr. Mba,” he said with a smile. “Vincent Mba.”
“Oh, hello, sir.”
Butterflies skittered all over her tummy, making her even more nervous now that she realised he was indeed the man she was here to meet. What a stunning male specimen. And young, too. Probably less than thirty. He was certainly nothing like what she’d expected a hospital manager to look like.
“Vincent. I hate people calling me ‘sir’.”
He lowered his eyes to her left hand briefly and then held her gaze.
“Hmm … Seems like the fool still didn’t man up and wife you?” he said, broadening his grin.
“What?” Her forehead furrowed in confusion, unsure she had heard properly.
“Oh … I was there in the restaurant … you know, when you proposed to your boyfriend of six years.”
Blood drained from her brain, making her feel lightheaded. She quickly pulled out a seat and slumped on it.
So much for having a fresh start in Lagos.
I hope you enjoyed reading. Please leave a comment.
This week I’ll be sharing the scene from The Governor’s Wife where Philip sees Ogonna again for the first time in seven years— seven years after she abandoned him.
Although not their first time meeting, it is a dramatic encounter after years of not seeing each other.
A few seconds later, Philip glanced up at the sound of his office door opening. At first, he thought he was seeing things—hallucinating—and his heart dive-bombed in his chest. It simply couldn’t be. Philip blinked, and opened his eyes again. It was…it really was Ogonna. Walking into his office like a hurricane about to upend his life. Again.
Time stood still as he took her in, almost greedily. Stunning. As always. Tall and slender with smooth ebony skin. With her heart-shaped face and deep brown hue, he’d often told her she looked like the Nollywood actress Genevieve Nnaji. Her hair was shorter now, styled in a fashionable bob, bringing attention to her fine facial features—nicely carved eyebrows over large charcoal eyes, a cute nose, and that mouth. Oh God—full and pouty lips, coated with a startling bright crimson tint that contrasted sharply with her skin tone.
Philip’s heart continued to fibrillate violently in his ribcage, his body immobilized by the shock of seeing her again. Unexpectedly. Unprepared.
For self-preservation, he had avoided any news about Ogonna. He hadn’t wanted to hear about her happily living a blissful life with the governor who could buy her the world. He prohibited close pals from even mentioning her, had cut off most of his friends from university precisely to avoid running into anyone offering information about her.
When he had inadvertently seen a photo of her standing beside her husband on the front page of a newspaper last year, smile bright as the sun and looking like she’d won the lottery, he’d experienced weeks of intermittent heart palpitation episodes that had made him physically ill. Panic attacks, the doctor had diagnosed.
He’d managed to get over that period after months of isolating himself. Now, within a few seconds of seeing her again, his pulse jerked uncontrollably, his breathing became laboured, frighteningly similar to how he’d felt then.
“What are you doing here?” he sputtered, jumping to his feet. His annoyance wasn’t just with her, but with himself…for his weakness, for allowing her mere presence to destabilise him. “I was expecting Funmi Adelaja.”
“Hello, Philip,” Ogonna answered. Her gaze slowly swept over him, widening in guileless admiration.
An intense surge of anger rose up inside him. Ogonna had no right to look at him this way, no right to walk into his life again like a beautiful apparition and mess with the armour he’d carefully constructed around his emotions after her betrayal.
“I haven’t scheduled a meeting with you. If you need to see me, book an appointment with my secretary. This slot is allocated to Funmi Adelaja.”
Her breath hitched sharply. She appeared startled by his gruff tone. He was determined to ignore it.
“I am a busy man with no time for drop-ins.”
“I have an appointment, Phil, I’m not a drop-in.”
He must have been mistaken thinking his demeanour had startled her. She sounded calm, together, and completely unfazed by his dismissal. Which made him even angrier.
Phil? Phil? Is she kidding? How dare she call him Phil as if they were old friends catching up over lunch.
“Philip. My name is Philip to you,” he snapped. “Actually, scratch that. You may call me Mr. Adamu.”
She heaved a deep sigh before she spoke again. “Mr. Adamu, I have an appointment with you. I booked it under the name Funmi Adelaja…because I didn’t think you would want to see me—”
“You’re right as hell about that,” he cut in. Pointing to the door, he added in a biting tone, “This meeting is over. Please leave now, before I call for security.”
She didn’t budge.
“Listen, Phil…Mr. Adamu. I know we have our differences, but I’m here strictly on business, to discuss renting the property I’m interested in.”
“Differences? Is that what you call cheating on me and running off to marry the next money pot that crossed your path? Does your husband know you are here? Or do you cheat on him, too? I thought you live in Ebonyi state. What are you doing in Abuja?”
A pained expression crossed her face. For a moment, Philip felt himself weaken. Even after all these years, despite his rage, her pain got to him. Clenching his jaw tightly, he pushed the emotion aside. Anger was his weapon. He needed his fury, so he didn’t crumble in front of her.
“My husband doesn’t know where I am. Or maybe he does. It matters little. We are getting a divorce.” Her soft voice brought his mind back.
Silence. The air in the room seemed to have been sucked away, leaving Philip feeling a little dizzy. Divorce? When? Why? He shook his head rapidly to clear it. He shouldn’t be even remotely interested. Nor should the news be flooding his senses with profound joy. Ogonna’s marital status was no longer a concern to him.
“Now, isn’t that something. Found a richer one, have you?” His lips tilted into a sardonic smile. “Frankly, I don’t care about you or your life, Ogonna. So, like I said before…leave.”
Her jaw dropped open, a shocked gasp escaping her parted lips. “Won’t you even hear what I have to say? I need this property.”
“What part of I don’t care didn’t you get? Nothing you have to say interests me in the least. I won’t rent to you. Ever. So, you’d best spend this time looking elsewhere.”
“You think I didn’t search for an alternative, Phil…Mr Adamu? I really need this, please,” she said in a broken voice, the last sentence a shrill, frantic plea.
Philip suddenly burst into humourless laughter. “Good God, how ironic. I remember asking you not to marry the governor years ago. Pleading with you…just like this. Desperate. But you did it anyway. Now, here you are, begging—”
“I’m not begging for anything,” Ogonna interrupted him tersely, flashing dark eyes at him. She squared her shoulders, lifting her chin with the spirited confidence he’d always known her to have. “I’m interested in renting…and I will be paying.”
“Well, I don’t need or want your money.” He pointed to the door again. “Leave now or I truly will call security.”
“You don’t even know why I need the property.”
“Don’t know. Don’t care. Out!”
She stiffened, staring at him in startled disbelief. He noticed tears fill her eyes and his stomach tumbled. Not once in their thirteen years together had he ever made her cry. A part of him wanted to apologise, take her in his arms and comfort her. But another part needed to hurt her, make her feel the pain she’d put him through when she’d deserted him. No true explanation, no remorse, leaving him to draw his own conclusions about their breakup—that he wasn’t good enough, rich enough. What other conclusion would one draw when she’d left him to marry a wealthy governor? The old wounds resurfaced, igniting his resentment.
“Leave my office, Ogonna,” he said in a low hoarse whisper.
Their eyes locked for a few moments, hers wet and shiny. A muscle in her jaw worked, as though with the effort of fighting tears. She’d lost—the tears came anyway.
Philip gripped the edge of his desk so tightly that he heard a crackling sound from his knuckles as he fought back the instinct to embrace her. How could he be so angry with her and still ache to take her in his arms? Why did she continue to have this much power over him?
Strong arms engulfed her as she hit her head against a rigid wall. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a wall. It felt like firm chest muscles. The alluring aroma of maleness and cologne that filled her nostrils tightened her chest. She inhaled deeply. She had died and gone to heaven in the arms of Angel Michael. Rita buried her face in his chest, and she felt the pounding of his heart against her cheeks.
“Angel Michael,” Rita whispered, resting her face against his broad chest, feeling safe in the arms that carried her. This was heaven. “Thank you, Angel Michael.”
“Bloody hell! You scared the shit out of me! What the hell is wrong with you!” The voice that barked at her was gruff. Her eyes snapped open. That was definitely not the voice or words of an angel.
“Who are you? Let go of me!” Rita screamed, suddenly aware of her surroundings. She had not jumped off the bridge as she had intended, and a stranger held her in his arms, refusing to let her go.
“Let go of me!” she cried again, hitting the stranger on his back. He neither responded to her command nor flinched from the force of her blows. He simply turned, holding her firmly in his arms and began moving towards a vehicle.
“Let me go, please,” Rita pleaded, alarmed. Reality set in; she was being abducted by this man. “Please let me go. Who are you?” The man still did not respond. She began to panic, really panic. She was alone. No one knew where she was. She immediately regretted locking Tango back in the bungalow. If this man took her somewhere and killed her, nobody would even know where to find her.
“Do you know who I am?” Rita’s panic-stricken voice rang out again. “I am Senator Obaseki’s daughter. My father will have you killed.” Anger replaced her fear. “Let me go! Do you hear me? My father is very rich…”
He remained silent as he carried her to the black car parked at the other end of the bridge. Rita noticed the opened front door of the vehicle, but before she could say anything more, he slammed it shut with his foot.
The stranger yanked open the door to the backseat and dumped her inside. She tried to kick him away, but he held her legs together and pulled out a rope from the floor of the car. Keeping her legs bound with ease, he tied the rope around her ankles and knotted it. Rita’s arms flapped about, throwing punches at the man in a state of terror. She hit him anywhere she could find his flesh, but he didn’t duck or flinch.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small knife. Rita’s eyes widened. She held both hands above her head in surrender, temporarily immobilised by fear. “Please don’t kill me. I’ll give you money. Name your price. Whatever amount you want, I’ll give you.” His facial expression was indifferent, as if unimpressed by her declaration. Without even looking up at her, he used the knife to cut the rope and placed it back in his pocket.
After securing the rope on her ankles, he retrieved another rope from somewhere in the car and reached for her forearm. He captured one forearm in his large hand and aimed for her other hand. Rita didn’t make it easy for him, aimlessly flailing her free hand around, trying to elude his grasp.
“What do you want? Money? I can give you up to ten million Naira today if you let me go.” She searched his face anxiously for a sign that he heard what she’d just said. There was no emotion there. His focus was aiming for her hand. Fear gripped her insides. This was not about money. This man didn’t need her money. And that was frightening. What did he want? Was he a rapist? A ritualist?
“Give me your hand,” he muttered in a low voice. Rita continued to evade his attempt to gather her hands together. “I don’t want to hurt you. Just give me your hand.”
“Please, let me go, then. I have money. Loads of money I could give you today if you let me go.” Her voice became desperate. “Please…”
“Give me your hand now,” he said again. This time, there was an authoritative ring to his words that made her heart jump. Rita offered her other hand to him.
While he tied her wrists together, Rita studied him silently, trying to recall if she had met him before. His glossy skin was a deep mahogany hue that she would have found appealing under different circumstances. He had a long face with piercing large eyes below thick well-carved eyebrows. His nose was long with flared nostrils, and his full lips stood out amongst his precisely trimmed facial hair. Closely cropped smooth curls crowned his head, tapering to thin sideburns.
Her frantic mind search for previous encounters with this man came up empty. She hadn’t met him before, had she? Was this personal? He was a tall, muscular man with a commanding presence that she would not easily forget had their paths crossed. No, she hadn’t met him before. She was sure of that.
“Please let me go, I haven’t done anything to you, have I? I don’t know you, do I? Please let me go…please…I can give you money.”
He didn’t look up or even acknowledge her statement. He used the same knife from his pocket to cut the ends of the rope that secured her wrists before replacing it in his pocket.
Glancing up at her, he ran a thumb over her bound wrist.
“Does this hurt?” he asked in a tone that Rita would have described as compassionate were she not tied hands and feet in the back seat of his car. It took a moment for her to realise that he was referring to the rope on her wrists. Rita shook her head.
“Good…” He brushed his hand over his face. “Listen, Princess. I don’t want to hurt you. If you do exactly as I say, you will be fine,” he warned her. His intonation was a rich baritone that cracked at the end of his sentence.
“What do you want? Are you a ritualist? I can give you money if you are a ritualist… Name the amount…you don’t have to do anything to me. Please. I’ll pay double whatever they are offering you.”
He laughed in response. The sound of his laughter reverberated in the air. Not replying to her comment, he slammed the car door shut and walked over to the driver’s seat and sat down.
“You are a rapist, then. A big man like you… Do you have to resort to rape to have sex? So, you can’t manage to find a girl to convince to sleep with you? You should be ashamed of yourself!”
He remained silent. Rita’s fear intensified. Her throat tightened with tears. She was going to die. This man was going to rape her, kill her and leave her body somewhere nobody would ever find. And it was all her fault. Oh, God. Why did I lock Tango inside the bungalow?
“Where are you taking me? Please don’t hurt me…please…” Rita’s tone wavered. Tears fell down her eyes.
Her plea seemed to touch him, and she noticed him pause his movements. He glanced at the rare-view mirror and their gazes linked. “I promise I won’t hurt you, okay?” he said gently. Rita watched him open the glove compartment and pull out a small syringe. He took out a tiny needle from a box in there, tore away the packet, and attached it to the end of the syringe. “This is the only thing that will hurt. But just like a sharp sting, like a mosquito bite. Nothing dramatic.”
Rita could barely hear what he was saying. Her needle phobia kicked in. Blood drained from her head, causing her to feel dizzy. Wide eyes with dread and her gaze focused on the advancing needle, she remained paralysed, so scared that she didn’t even feel the sharp sting of the needle as it pierced the skin of her arm. All she could feel was the blood pounding in her ears.
“You will soon become light-headed,” the man continued in a deep voice. “And then slowly fall asleep. Don’t worry; it’s a low dose, so you will be fine when you wake up, Rita.”
Rita? He had called her by name. She was not a random victim. This man knew her name.
“How do you know my name? Why are you doing this? Who are you?” The man did not reply. He started the car, pulled out of the side road where they were, and drove towards the main road.
More questions formed in Rita’s head. But her brain became fuzzy, and slowly, just as the man had warned, her eyes grew heavy. The questions whirled around in her brain in disjointed circles until she could no longer keep her eyes open or her mind alert. Heaving a deep sigh, Rita gave in to the darkness that claimed her. But not before she noticed the flash of regret that touched the stranger’s sharp eyes.