Reginald joined the swarming Ahmadu Bello Way traffic with an expression that narrowed his eyes to slits and tightened his mouth into a forbidden line. Tough-skinned, career-focused, straight-to-the-top-of-the-ladder workaholic women like Ms Alexandra rattled his teeth. They were like armadillo lizards—hard, thorny and doggedly defensive. They traipsed the business world in a fierce spirit of competitiveness, contending with their male counterparts with tenacious determination to outdo him instead of being at home making a home and a hearth for him.

He grunted in self-derision at the being at home part. He didn’t really care for the sit-at-home homemaker kind of woman. If anything, he preferred a woman with ambition and a career. Problem was women like Alexandra Iguodaro had way-too-much ambition. Their go-getting, single-minded drive was such that they lose their femininity and end up remorselessly calculating like the men they compete and work with.

Of course, to be fair, Alexandra had been pushed into the competitive world of advertising by an over-indulgent father, who believed that it was time for his only child to take over the helm of affairs of a first-rate advertising firm.

And again to be fair, since she’d taken over three years ago, Raven Heights has risen to become one of the two paramount advertising firms in Nigeria. Of course the other was his company, Silver Lining. Which undeniably made them rivals.

He didn’t mind the rivalry, or even the fact that his arch-rival was a woman. Truth be told, he found Alexandra Iguodaro an admirable competitor. She was, after all, quite pretty with her trim, toned body, possessed a brilliant mind and was, without any apologies, a dedicated advertising guru.

It was just that he was a traditional male. Not a cave man—just traditional. He believed a woman should be female—soft, harmonious, tender and accessible. Have a career, yet be content and happy in her femininity. He preferred his women to be like… Ama.

Some of the tightness around his mouth loosened and a faint smile curved the full lips as he glided down the Third Mainland Bridge. Now, Ama was the ideal woman. She was his epitome of true femininity, of real womanliness. He’d known her the better part of his life. Their fathers ran in the same business circle and their mothers related well enough. He’d even schooled with her oldest brother at the Stanford School of Business. Of course then, she’d only been a gangly looking cute girl and he hadn’t really paid any attention.

But his attention had been caught some six years ago when he’d driven his lady-love, at the time, to a dressmaker’s shop. The dressmaker had turned out to be Ama, and he’d been shocked to find that she had turned into this curvy length of amazing loveliness. He had wanted her from that very instant, and he had, of course, gone after her. But he was soon to realise that she was one of those no-sex-until-marriage kind of girls, and she was the real deal—all untouched and chaste.

Much as he’d wanted to make her solely his, he hadn’t been prepared to trade in his freedom then and since he still had blood flowing in his veins, he’d had to let her go and they’d become good friends instead.

That was until two years ago when unable to bear the thought of any other man having her, he’d requested that they try again as a couple. But a second try hadn’t worked out either. For much as he’d tried his damndest to be the attentive, faithful partner, temptations out there had made it impossible.

So, after failing again and again, and realising that she deserved better than a workaholic never-has-enough-time unfaithful partner, he’d broken off with her and once again, they’d reverted to the just-friends zone. And they’d been in that zone for the last eight months.

But all of that would be changing tonight, Reginald thought and smiled as he rode the straight tarred road towards his Magodo Estate home. He was ready now. He’s done sowing his royal oaths and he was prepared to clip on that eternal noose, by walking down the aisle with Ama.

His mind threaded to the silver box safe in the breast-pocket of his dark grey blazer and he inhaled past the involuntary clutch beneath his navel. He could do it. He was going to do it. He’d carefully planned their dinner tonight at the Southern Sun because he knew tonight was going to be the night. Tonight, he’ll make both their dreams come true.

Certain and satisfied, he honked and waited patiently for the gates to be drawn open by his security guard. Seeing Ama’s Honda N-Box on the driveway, his smile bloomed and so did the feeling of certainty and satisfaction.

He practically jogged to the front door of the three-bedroom fully-detached house.

The door slid before he rang the bell.

“Welcome, sir.” His man-of-all-work housekeeper, Kwame, greeted and took the briefcase he handed over. “Aunty Ama is here.”

“I know, Kwame. I saw her car outside.” He brushed past him into the living room.

Amarachi Ekwenem rose to her feet, a contrast glowing fairness in the light-grey painted room with its chocolate-brown sofas. The violet floral print dress she had on was perfectly filled out by her magnificent curvaceous body. Her hair was pulled back from her face and revealed a striking oval face that brightened in a warm smile as Reginald strode towards her.

“Good evening, Reggie.” She greeted, her voice soft and finely accented.

“Hey you, couldn’t you wait for me to come pick you up?” Reginald lightly chided and drew her into his arms for a hug.

The thoroughly feminine scent of her perfume teased his nostrils as he curved his head to give her a peck on the cheek, and for the briefest second, Reginald was tempted to do more than just kiss her cheek. But he knew Ama went defensive whenever he became passionate.

“Not that you’re not looking gorgeous, as usual.” He drew back to give her print dress a once-over. “But I was hoping to see something a little more glamorous for our dinner date.”

 “Sorry if I pre-empted our date.” Ama lowered back into the three-seater sofa. “But I need to talk with you.”

“Really?” Reginald sat beside her. “Something we couldn’t discuss over dinner?”

“Something I’d rather discuss with you here.”

He noted the disquiet in her eyes. “What is it?” His forehead furrowed in a frown. “Is something wrong? Is it about the Mira Daniels wedding contract? Don’t tell me she cancelled on you. God knows these celebrity types can be a little more than whimsical.”

“No, it’s not about Mira.” Ama shook her head. “I still have the wedding contract. At least, nothing was changed when we spoke this afternoon.”

“Okay.” His frown deepened because the worry remained in her eyes. “What’s got you spooked then?”

Ama’s tummy involuntarily churned and she rubbed a hand over it. She was a woman who lived in horror of confrontations and face-offs. And though this shouldn’t result in one, something told her it wasn’t going to be a pat-on-the-back situation either once she told him. And she had to tell him. She had to let him know that she wasn’t available anymore.

So, taking a calming breath, she ventured quietly. “You do remember Kenneth?”

“Kenneth?” Reginald mulled over the name. “Oh, the Photographer?”

She stilled the temptation to explain that Ken was much more than a photographer. This wasn’t the time. “I’m glad you remember him.”

Reginald shrugged. “Vaguely really. What about him?” A thought struck. Ama has been working with the photographer for design photos for her website and fashion magazine for some weeks now. “Has he been giving you trouble? Breaking his contract with you?” The knight in shining armour glowered within him. “Just tell me what he’s done and I…”

“No! He hasn’t done anything wrong.”

“Has he been…”

“Reggie.” Ama gently touched his hand. “I came here this evening because I wanted to tell you, to let you know in person that I’ve fallen in love with him.”

Reginald stared at her. “With…?”

“Kenneth. I am in love with Ken.”

“What!”

She sighed. Here comes the no-pat-on-the-back part. “Reggie, I told you about him. I’ve been telling you about him for some time now.”

“You told me you’d hired him to work on the website photos with you.” Reginald growled.

“We’ve been going out for the last four months and I did tell you about it.”

“He’s a photographer, so I thought you were busy working with him, not falling in love with him.” He sprang up, shock, impatience and anger storming against each other, and confounding him. “Jesus, Ama, he’s a fucking photographer!”

“He’s not just a photographer. He’s a renowned professional photographer, videographer and runs his very own Event’s centre.” Ama defended hotly, pushing to her feet too.

“Halleluiah! The man has a career, my bad.” He dipped a mocking bow, then threw up his hands in exasperation. “You’ve known him, what—two months and you think you are in love with him? Come on, Ama.”

“I’ve known him about five months now and longevity is not the issue here. It doesn’t matter if I’ve known him five months or five days, I love him.”

“Love?” Reginald scoffed at the term. “You think love is some heady rush of emotions that hits you unexpectedly and takes your breath away?”

Ama stared into the furious dark eyes and couldn’t stop her lips from curving in a tender smile. “Yes, I do, Reggie. He looks into my eyes and really takes my breath away.”

“Jesus!” Reginald gaped at her in stupefaction. “What about us, Ama? Aren’t we supposed to be in a relationship?”

“Are we, Reginald?” Ama asked quietly. “You broke up our relationship for the second time eight months ago, remember?”

“And that gave you the right to… to… fall in love with the next guy you met?”

“If my memory serves me right, you’ve been with at least three women in those eight months.” Ama reminded.

“Yes, but…” The sudden arch of her eyebrows cut off that particular argument. So he tried another route. “Five months is too short a time to know if you are in love, Ama.”

“I’m twenty-nine, not nineteen, Reggie.”

“And it’s not about age either. Thinking they are in love makes the smartest people act stupid.” He argued, desperate, furious… and panicked. “Ama, if you think I’m going to allow some camera-wheedling photographer take advantage of your innocence…”

“He’s not taking advantage of my innocence, Reggie.”

He started to argue, then stopped and narrowed his eyes. “Have you… slept with him?”

“Reginald! Of course not!” Her eyes flashed with reproof. “You know my stand on that.”

A flood of relief rushed through him. At least the bagger hasn’t yet touched what was his. Relieved and realising he needed to be rational, he drew a deep breath in. “Ama, I know I haven’t really been attentive these past few months and I…”

“This isn’t about you, Reggie.” Ama cut in gently. “This is about me. I’m in love, Reggie. I know you think you and I are meant to be, but we’ve tried two times and failed, so obviously that’s not the case. I’m in love with Kenneth. I’ve never been in love like this before.” Her soft mouth curled with a beguiling smile. “And I’m really hoping you’ll come to be happy for me. In time.”

She stepped forward and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see myself out.” She murmured. Then bent to retrieve her purse and walked to the door and out of it.

Reginald stared even after the door clicked shut. He listened to her call out a goodnight greeting to Kwame, then to the clicking sounds of her heels resounding on the pavement, then to the humming sound of her car receding into the night. Finally, when silence reigned supreme, he staggered down on the sofa and stared with eyes that saw nothing as shock and disbelief stormed his mind.

She… Ama was in love?

With another man?

“Damn you Kenneth fucking whatever!”

The curse snarled out of his mouth and he snatched and threw a sofa pillow to vent the sudden fury that coursed through him.