He had gotten back to their hotel room and found her gone. She had taken only her handbag and phone with her. The suitcase she’d brought along had still been in the closet. He had tried her number—over and over—but it had remained switched off. He had looked everywhere he could think of that night for her. When he couldn’t find her, he’d returned to spend the night at the hotel and had taken the first flight back to Praia the next morning.
Still with no news of her and her number not going through, Dominic was beginning to feel overwhelming fear. What if she had run out of the hotel in the state of mind he’d left her and come to some harm? If something happened to her, could he ever forgive himself?
He hadn’t expected to find her gone. He hadn’t expected to return from his calls and the long walk he’d taken to cleaong walk he’d taken to clear his head to find her gone and her number unreachable.
He had been so mad at her. Dear Lord, surely he had reason to be?
When she’d confessed her love for him, he’d suddenly realised, there and then, that he too had fallen in love with her. He had realised that the incomprehensible emotions swirling inside him for days now were feelings of love. He hadn’t recognised them for what they were because he’d never felt that way for any woman. And he had called her meu amor—my love—something he’d never called any woman ever in his life.
He had just realised he was in love, and only minutes later had come to another realisation, that he was in love with a lie. She hadn’t been the woman he’d believed her to be all along. She had lied and deceived him. And realising that, he had felt anger that sprung mostly from the pain and hurt of being made a fool of by the one he loved.
He had been angry, furious and for that moment, his love had tasted like hate in his heart. He’d wanted to hate her. To wrench her violently from his heart and love her no more.
Yet he couldn’t.
After his calls and he’d decided he needed a walk to clear his head and to clarify his emotions, he’d realised as he walked—and cussed—that he was in love with her for life. He loved her and he’ll forever love her.
And right there and then, he’d also realised that he was happy—proud—be her first. He might never appreciate her lies but he somehow understood it then and he’d found himself relishing the thought that she was all his. He wouldn’t have to share her with his brother or with any other man. He’d returned to the hotel to tell her that—but she was gone.
And now, he was torn between fresh feelings of anger at her impatience and at himself for making her think he was unforgivably angry with her. But it wasn’t only anger gnawing through him right now, fear and helplessness also vised their grip around his heart.
“You mean you went around the Island and couldn’t find her anywhere?”
His mother’s question broke into Dominic’s thoughts and irritated him because he wasn’t in the mood for tedious repetitions.
But still he repeated himself. “Yes, mama, I looked everywhere we went to—places I never took her to—practically the entire Island and she was nowhere to be found. And the damnable thing is that her number is switched off!”
“Well, it will be if she is looking to get away from you.” Mia grumbled, glaring at him. “But really, where could she have gone to? And at that time of the night too. She knows no one in Sal. She can’t even speak Portuguese. Did she have much money with her?”
Dear Lord, the questions women ask! “I don’t know, mama! I don’t snoop through my wife’s purse to inquire into its content.” Impatience and helplessness made Dominic snap. “I don’t know how much cash she carries around—if any. Or if she just has her credit cards.”
“That snappy Kojo-Edwards temper of yours is how we ended up here clueless as to where she is.” Mia snapped back. “You shouldn’t have left her alone like that. Not without properly sorting things out.”
“Good Lord, mama, I didn’t leave her. I only stepped out to make calls! I just got the news about Tobi and there were arrangements to make. I needed to speak to you!” He threw up his hands in exasperation. Trust women to always cast the blame on the man! “And did you even hear anything I said? Did you understand it? She lied to me, mama.” It hurt afresh because of the sting of his mother’s blame. “Damn it, she lied to us. She wasn’t… isn’t Tobi’s mother. She never knew my brother. There was no need for us to have gotten married.”
“So now you regret your marriage?” The question was quietly asked. “Even after you found her a virgin and knew her to be in love with you, you can still regret your union with her?”
He’d never thought he would regret marrying Kaine, even when the goal had been solely to bring home his nephew. He hadn’t thought deeply about what the outcome of such a coldly contracted union would be but he’d never believed it would be an act he would ever regret.
But did he now regret it?
She’d asked him same question with shocked, pained, tear-filled eyes. But he’d still been too angry , too hurt himself, to answer her rightly.
He let out a long weary sigh, slogged to the seat beside his mother’s and dropped into it. “How can I regret ever meeting and marrying the woman who will become the love of my life, mama?”
“Ah, meu querido.” Mia’s eyes clouded instantly with affection and she took for his hand. “My firstborn son finally realises he has fallen in love. The evening you dashed out of here like a jealous fool, I knew she had captured your heart and each time I saw her eyes light up at your presence, I knew without the merest doubt that you too had her heart.”
“Her deception hurt me, mama. I am overjoyed to be her first… but still, she could have trusted me. Isn’t trust a part of love?” The pain his heart had felt even as he claimed her as his dug deep. “If she was afraid when I threatened to take the baby and if that fear pushed her to exchange vows with me under deception, what about afterwards? After we came back here. After we started getting to know one another. After I showed my desire for her… couldn’t she trust me then? Why did she never confide in me? In you, if she feared me.”
“She is young. Innocent, naïve. Possibly scared, especially after her heart became involved.” Mia rubbed his hand. “I was always struck by that very perceptible innocence but I thought it the innocence of a pure heart. She was wrong to have lied to us and I know how much you stand against lies… don’t we all?”
She chuckled as she raised her hand and caressed his cheek. “Maybe she’d wanted to tell us and fear had stopped her. Maybe she had tried… I don’t know. And we will never know unless we bring her back to explain to us. She hurt your heart but I’m thinking you must have broken hers for her to run away like she did.”
“We had a fight. I was still too angry; too devastated by my discovery.” Dominic shook his head. “Then the news about Tobi came and I… I couldn’t think straight. Not then. After I spoke to you, I walked for some time and tried to rethink things. I came back so we could talk again but she was gone.”
“She ran away. Foolish girl!” Mia pursed her lips in faint disapproval. “She could fight for her sister’s baby but cannot fight for her heart.”
“I want her back, mama. This hurt me but I love her. I never planned to; never thought I would but I do and I can’t—won’t do without her.”
“A Kojo-Edwards loves once, loves truly and loves forever.” Mia smiled tenderly at him. “How proud your papa would be right now. You protected your family and now you’ve found a good woman.”
“He would be proud too that his other son has been found.” He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “I know it broke your heart when we believed we had lost him. You’re happy now, aren’t you, sweet mama?”
“I shall even be happier when I smack that rascally brother of yours so hard he won’t ever think to do crazy things.” Mia clucked her tongue, then let out a rich laugh. “Of course, I am happy and I will be happier yet when we find our Kaine and bring her home. I don’t know what kind of a woman her sister is to leave her baby son—I reserve my judgment until later—but I know that the one who protected him with all she’s got is a great woman. And she deserves our forgiveness.” She looked into his eyes. “She deserves your wholehearted forgiveness, my gallant Nico.”
“I guess she does. But dear God, where can she be?” Desperation gnawed his insides.
And as if in response to his question his phone chose that moment to ring.
He pulled it out of his trousers’ left pocket and then his eyes narrowed at the caller id. “It’s Kanny.” He murmured. Why hadn’t he thought of him? That was the only other person Kaine knew here and was friendly with.
He punched the answer key and lifted the phone to his ear. “Yes, Kanny?” He listened quietly and then he nodded. “Thank you, Kanny. I’ll be there right away.”
He ended the call and turned to his mother. “Kaine is at Kanny’s. She’s planning to take the flight to Dakar today.” He got up. “I have to go and get my one-way thinking and impulsive wife, mama. But I wonder now if it’s forgiveness she needs or a lesson?” He bent and kissed her cheek. “See you later, mama.”
“Which ever you decide to give her, give in love.” Mia called in a laughing voice.
Dominic decided that he might have to add spanking to whatever he was giving as he strode through the front door, for the sleepless night and heart pain she’d caused him.
Kaine sat alone in Kanayo’s living room. He had gone out; to round up arrangements for her flight, he’d said.
She didn’t want to go. She’d spent a sleepless night in Kanayo’s guest bedroom. A sleepless, tearful night. It seemed once the human body was awakened to the pleasures of another’s passionate touches, it yearned unceasingly for them. She had lain under the bed covers, her body a cold fever of unquenchable desire, longing for Dominic’s kisses, his tender hands—his lovemaking. She had woken up—meagre hours after drifting off—and the desire to race to the Koji-Edwards’ villa and fling herself into his arms had been a temptation almost impossible to resist.
And when Kanayo had asked her if she hadn’t had a rethink, she’d almost told him to take her home. But she’d remembered the way Dominic had looked at her like he hated her and she’d shaken her head.
Now as she awaited Kanayo’s return, she wondered what he might have done when he returned to the hotel room and found her gone.
Had he been relieved to see the wife he should not have married gone? Had he looked for her? Had he been worried? Was he worried now? Were they all worried—Mama, Catia, Raquel, the entire household? Would they miss her after they find out she’d gone back to her home country?
She had written two letters—one for Nick and the other for mama. Kanayo had instructions to deliver them after she’d boarded her flight. She hoped that after they read her letters, they would come to understand her motive and maybe even forgive her. She’d told Nick in his letter that he was free to divorce her. She wouldn’t contest it and would never demand anything from him. That might break their family tradition of never having a divorce, but she supposed he’d be too relieved to be rid of her to care.
She won’t be relieved though. She would never be relieved or happy to lose him. He had changed her life. He had come into it so suddenly and changed it completely. Her heart was no more her own and neither was her body. They both belonged to him and longed only for him. Maybe this was why Anwuli had to leave to go after the one she loved. She would run after Dominic too, if she believed he loved her even half as much as she did him.
She heard the creaking sound of the front door and hastily swiped off her eyes and plastered on a calm smile. She wanted to remain calm and courageous before Kanayo.
But it wasn’t Kanayo who entered the living room. It was Dominic.
“He called you.” She wasn’t asking a question for she knew it could only be Kanayo who’d have told him she was there.
“He did.” Dominic strolled into the room in short measured steps.
He looked tired, like he too hadn’t had much sleep during the night. But despite the lines of fatigue, he looked carelessly handsome in the Khaki trousers and Polo shirt with his hair a messy mop on his head.
Kaine wished she could just jump to her feet and run into his arms. And beg him to tell her he’d forgiven her and everything would be all right. But she couldn’t. Instead she stared at him as she wondered why he had come. Wasn’t he relieved she was willing to leave?
“So, this is where you spent the night.” He looked casually around. “Odd that I have only been here once—when Kanayo was sick with a severe flu about two years ago. He’s redecorated. Nice.” He faced her, smiled faintly. “Did you have a good night, wife of mine?”
Was he still trying to punish her? To hurt her? “No, I didn’t.” She said truthfully. No more lies for the rest of her life. Not if she can help it. “Why are you here? I was going to leave quietly; without making any trouble. I know divorce is forbidden in your family—”
“I’m glad you remember that, so that makes your desire to leave pointless. May I sit?” He gestured to the space on the couch beside her.
Annoyed by his interruption and his apparent lack of seriousness, Kaine glared at him. “You can sit but not on this couch. Sit elsewhere.”
“Ah, bad tempered this morning, aren’t you? Would it be the result of a long sleepless night longing for your husband?” He sent her a wicked grin.
What the heck was he up? Had he suddenly forgiven her? Or was he just there to toy with her emotions?
Too weary to squabble, Kaine sighed and said wearily. “Why are you here, Nick? I lied to you and you said you hated lies, why have you come then? Are you looking to make me pay for my deception?”
“I’ve thought up quite a number of ways on the drive down here to make you pay and I think I’m going to carry out each one of them.” He slid down beside, grinned when she glared at him and shifted away. “Want to know what punishments I thought of, querida?”
He called her querida and he was looking at her in that amused, teasing manner. Kaine felt her heart begin to thud. “I don’t know. I only know I’m sorry I lied to you and wished I never did.”
He reached out his hand and caught the tear that slipped from her eyes. “I hate lies but now I’m glad you lied to me.” His hand caressed her cheek. “Do you know why, querida?”
Oh never stop calling me that, her heart silently begged. “Why?” She croaked aloud.
He drew closer, raised his other hand and cupped her face. “Because I’d rather be married to you than be still single with my nephew here with us.”
“You’d rather be married to me?” Oh God, surely this was a miracle? This has to be a gift from God. “You don’t regret our marriage anymore?”
“I never did.” He trailed a finger across her lower lip. “I was just too angry and too hurt. But you didn’t give me a chance to get over my anger and pain before you ran off.”
“You looked at me like you hated me, Nick.” Even now that hurt. “I didn’t think you will ever forgive me.”
“I didn’t hate you. I could never hate you. What you saw in my eyes was the anger and the hurt my poor heart was feeling.”
She blinked, sniffed. “Your heart was hurt? Why?”
Dominic angled his head, a small smile played about his mouth. “Why do you think, querida? I had a terrible night. A night I should be rejoicing because my brother was back from the dead, I spent in anguish, worrying about my runaway wife.”
“You were in anguish?” Hope soared and gave wings to the love that dwelled in her heart for him. “So, you spent the night longing for your wife?”
He let out a rumbling laugh. “I did. It is one of the reasons I shall be punishing you.”
“Oh.” She bit her lips. Her tears were quickly drying up. “And what are these punishments you have in mind? I am curious to know.”
“First tell me again you love me. I want to hear you say it over and over again.”
And she wanted to keep telling him what her heart would forever feel.
“I love you, Nick.” And because she was beginning to feel confident that everything was going to be all right, she drew closer and slipped her hands around him. “I love you, meu querido. I love you with all of my heart.”
“No.” She shook her head. “I want what you called me last night. I think it meant more.”
He grinned. “It did, meu amor—my love. I don’t know all that love means but I know I want you with me always and I never want to lose you. I have fallen under your sweet, innocent spell and I never want to find the antidote. You are what my heart has been seeking without my knowing it, meu amor. And now I’ve found you, I’ll keep you with me forever.”
Kaine’s eyes filled and she didn’t bother to stop the tears. Her heart was singing melodies of love and joy. “Oh Nick, I must be the most blessed woman on earth to have found a man like you. I promise that I will always love you and be true to you. And I will never again lie to you.”
“Ah, trying to be sneaky… I won’t allow it.” He tweaked her nose and grinned. “You’re serving all of my punishments, promise of repentance or not. And the first is that you come home with me and never again plan to leave without my permission.”
“I think I can serve that punishment.” Kaine beamed, the joy in her heart uncontainable.
“Second is that you and I are going on a month long honeymoon as soon as I can get home my rascally brother whom my mother is waiting to slap silly.”
“Oh God, mama, she must be mad at me!” Kaine exclaimed, looking at once contrite.
“She is, for your running away from us. But wait until you see her before you start making penance.” He lifted her up and into his arms. “My other punishments, I will tell you as time goes on. They are lifetime punishments, you see. You must spend a lifetime with me to complete your penance.”
“That long? How scary!” She nuzzled against him, breathed in his scent and tingled at his soft caresses. “So, when do we get to the part where I make penance with plenty kisses?”
Dominic laughed. “That is not a punishment. That is my pleasure.” And he bent his head and covered her mouth with his own, kissing her with passionate tenderness.
Kaine felt her heart leap and then settle to a steady beat. And with the slow, steady beats, knew she had found her resting place forever.
*** ~~~ ***
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