“HE kissed you?”
Ima sighed at the astonishment in Fejiro’s voice. She had done nothing but think about the kiss since getting home from the airport and still unable to figure out why he would kiss her left her as stunned as Fejiro clearly was.
“Yes, he did. He escorted me to my room after our dinner and then requested that I offer him a nightcap. It would have been impolite to refuse, I thought.” Ima shrugged. “So, I invited him in and offered him a soft drink. He made some trivial talks; like he was just filling in empty silences. Then he said goodnight, walked closer to me and kissed me.”
“Just like that?” Fejiro’s eyes were round with amazement.
“Just like that. Out of the blue.” It hadn’t been entirely out of the blue since she’d anticipated it, but Ima wasn’t prepared to admit that.
“Ah! This is baffling. Did he like put the moves on you during dinner?”
“No. Well, he was conversational. He asked me questions and then told me about himself; his failed marriage. But that was all.”
“He told you about his marriage? Like about his ex-wife?”
“Well, yes. A little.” She didn’t plan on breaking any confidences. Ima at least considered it confidential what he had told her about his marriage and ex-wife. “They weren’t married for long and their marriage broke up because of certain things she did.”
“Certain things like what?”
“Frankly, Fejiro, that’s their private wahala. It takes two to make a relationship work or fail, in my opinion.”
“So, you didn’t think he was telling you the truth?”
“Actually, I got the feeling he was being completely honest. But the thing is him telling me about her doesn’t explain why he kissed me.” Ima turned from the sink where she’d been doing the dishes and joined Fejiro on the kitchen table. “She started out as his PA. He wasn’t working with Pacific Edge then, of course, but she was his PA before becoming his wife.”
“Seriously, she was his PA that ended up his wife, then ex-wife and he kissed you, who is now his PA?” Fejiro clucked her tongue. “I don’t know if this is good or bad, or if this man is trying to take advantage of you or something. Did it feel like harassment when he kissed you? I mean, did you feel like this was sexual harassment from your boss?”
Ima shook her head. “No, it didn’t feel that way. He didn’t ask if he could kiss me. But he didn’t force himself on me. Well, not technically.”
“Okay. But did you enjoy it?”
“We have to establish the facts here, babe.” Fejiro defended with a chuckle. “He kissed you. It didn’t feel like he was sexually harassing you. The next thing naturally should be: did you like the kiss?”
“What kind of a question is that?”
“A valid question.” Fejiro pinned a hard stare on her. “Stop prevaricating and answer the question. Did you enjoy the kiss?”
“Did I… Christ!” Ima snorted out a laugh and shook her head. “You’re a case, Fejiro. Fine, I’ll answer. Yes, I did. It wasn’t a long kiss, or what you’d consider a deep kiss, but I liked the feel of his lips against mine. The brief tangle of his tongue with mine.”
“Oh my! That just got me.” Fejiro clutched her hand against her chest. “‘the tangle of his tongue with mine.’ How romantic. How sensual. How erotic. I wonder why this kind of thing never happens to me. Why can’t I be working for a good looking boss who would kiss me out of the blue and tangle his tongue with mine, eh?”
“Seriously? It’s now a romantic tale to you, abi?” Ima hissed and shook her head at her. “Well, it’s not to me. I feel confused and uncomfortable. I mean, this morning he went about business like nothing that unusual didn’t happen between us. He made no mention of it; showed no indication like he even recalled kissing me and just spurted out orders like he used to. I almost started asking myself if I’m certain I didn’t imagine the whole thing.”
“Well, one of two things are likely in play here.” Back to earth again, Fejiro tried to reason. “He’s still your workaholic megalomaniac boss, so tossing out orders and going about business is still his thing. Two, his kissing you may have been an impulsive act. You know, a spur of the moment thing he didn’t quite think through, and now, wishes to forget.”
“Okay.” Ima wasn’t sure she liked her analysis. “So, it’s either he’s just being his usual ‘boss’ self, or he acted without thought and now regrets his action.”
“Yeah, could be any of that.”
“Hmm.” No, she didn’t like the analysis at all. “So, what do I do now?”
Ima hissed. “About the kiss! Do I just forget it and pretend like it never happened? Or do I confront him about it?”
“Now, that’s a tough question.” Fejiro considered it for a moment and came up with no answer. “I don’t know. Which would you prefer to do?”
“You’re so helpful, you know that?” Ima said sarcastically and rolled her eyes at her quick grin. “I think I’m just going to let it go. If it’s an impulsive act he doesn’t plan on repeating, well, there’s no need for me to blow it out of proportion. We’ll both just pretend like it never happened. Besides, this kind of thing has a way of being more embarrassing for the woman when it becomes public. People just have a way of making it look like the woman always invites such unwanted attention to herself.”
“And it wouldn’t be right to say that it was unwanted attention when you liked the kiss.” Fejiro pointed out.
“Thanks for reminding me.” Ima shot her a glare before getting up. “I’m going to watch TV and today, we’re watching what I want. I’m not in the mood for any of soppy movies.”
“Those soppy movies are what gives me the hope that one day true love and true love’s first kiss will find me.” Fejiro sighed as she followed her out of the kitchen.
“I hear you.” Ima snorted.
BOTH of them going on the trip together had been because he’d wanted to punish her for calling him a workaholic megalomaniac. It wasn’t as if the insult had offended him. He hadn’t really considered it an insult and had been momentarily amused seeing her vent like that. But since she thought that he was a slave-driver and obsessed with power, he’d decided to make sure she stayed very busy with pointless work and to know that she was just because he had the power to make her so.
But he had had dinner with her, talked with her and had kissed her and now Tekena wasn’t sure if his mission was accomplished, or if he just started something he would later regret.
He had wanted to kiss her. From the moment she had opened her door and he’d seen her wearing those shorts and tank top, he’d wanted to kiss her. And spending the evening in her company had only deepened that desire.
Unsuitable. That’s what he’d considered her the first time she’d walked into his office and he’d taken a look at her. He had been right because he had ended up doing something he’d sworn to himself that he would never do again: be in a romantic relationship with his personal assistant.
And he wanted a romantic relationship with her. He, at least, wanted to kiss her again and do more than kiss her, Tekena mused, and then turned up his gaze when his office door opened and she walked in.
She was wearing a peach coloured shirt with puff sleeves, tucked into a black pencil skirt. He preferred very formal professional looks himself and had been tempted to order that she dressed only in that way. But her semi-formal wears were amazingly put together and they suited her. More than a complete formal look would, Tekena thought.
“Here’s the report, sir. Lanre says that the supplies have been made and work can begin tomorrow on the site.”
She was acting like nothing happened. She’s been acting that way all day, keeping her tone cordial, her actions dutiful and her expression blank of whatever might be going on inside of her. That impressed Tekena, that she didn’t see this as something to take advantage of.
“Good.” He dropped the report on his desk, rose and sidled around his desk to the opposite side. “Did you have a good rest at home yesterday?”
The question, and his coming to stand beside her, unnerved Ima. “Ah, yes. I had a good rest. Thank you, sir.”
“Do you want me to apologise for the kiss?”
“I don’t know.” Ima moistened her lips, clasped her hands together. “It shouldn’t have happened and I think we should both forget it.”
Tekena slid one hand into his pocket, studied her with thoughtful eyes. “You mean you’re not outraged that your boss kissed you without permission?”
“I am more of shocked, I think.” Though his closeness disconcerted her, Ima made herself look at him. “I don’t understand where that action sprang from. Or why.”
“I can’t say that I do myself. In fact, I am shocked that I would do such a thing after years of prohibiting myself from ever doing so again. But I can’t say that I’ve regretted doing it either.” He took another step closer to her and was faintly amused that she backed away. “I wanted to kiss you, Ima. And when I did, I sensed that you wanted me to. Or maybe I’m being the chauvinistic male saying that to assuage any guilty conscience.”
“Sir, I don’t think we should be doing something like this. You’re my boss. It’s against company’s policy.”
“Meaning if we were not working together, you wouldn’t mind something like this happening between us?”
“I don’t know. We are working together, so that speculation is unnecessary.” Ima tried to calm her fluttering nerves. “You shouldn’t have kissed me, sir. And whether I enjoyed it or not, that remains the fact.”
“Did you enjoy it?” Tekena flicked his eyes to her lips. They wore their usual light brown shade. “Did you enjoy it when I kissed you, Ima?”
“I…” The look in his eyes. The steady, scrutinising stare in them pulled her to say the truth. “Yes, I did. But it doesn’t mean we should repeat it. We should just forget it and let things go back to normal.”
“You mean back to the workaholic megalomaniac boss and his overworked personal assistant normal situation?”
The open amusement in his eyes caused Ima smile. “I was hoping back to half an hour lunch break and closing around seven p.m. normal.”
“That’s possible.” He itched to kiss her now. The desperate need buzzed like a wasp inside him. “But I don’t think that will change anything. We’ve opened a door, Ima. And sometimes, you can’t close a door back until you walk through it.”
“We don’t have to walk through it, sir. We can just ignore the door and pretend it’s not there.” The look in his eyes was hypnotic. The voice that told her to flee wasn’t loud enough.
“I don’t like to pretend. I hate pretence.” He slipped his hand out of his pocket, took her own and drew her closer. “I want to kiss you, Ima, and I’m going to.”
“Yes. I mean, no.” Ima gave her befuddled head a shake. “I don’t think we should, sir.”
“Tekena. And I think we should. We desperately want to.” He lowered his head, hovered his lips over hers a moment and then clamped them on the slightly parted mounds.
Desire sprung to life inside of him and took over his senses. Tekena didn’t think; whether because he didn’t want to or because he couldn’t, he didn’t ask himself. He pulled her to him, shifted his mouth and deepened the kiss, his tongue finding hers and entwining in a passionate copulation.
Ima clung to him; to the sides of his suit actually. She stopped waiting for him to kiss and kissed him back. She sucked in his lower lip and nibbled gently on it. Then trembled when he let out a ragged breath and his hand tightened around her.
“Have dinner with me.” Tekena groaned the words against her mouth.
“I don’t think I should, sir.” It was a lying response since she stroked her teeth over his lip.
“Tekena. Have dinner with me this evening, Ima.” Tekena raised his head, looked into her eyes. “I want to spend time with you. This is not a joke for me. I’m not playing with you. I want to be with you.”
His expression was sincere. Ima could see that. “This is against company’s policy. We shouldn’t be doing this, sir.”
“It’s either you find my name distasteful or you’re headstrong. I’m going with headstrong though seeing as you persist in protesting against what is clearly inevitable.” Tekena loosened his hold on her, took two steps back from the temptation of her passionate look. “I know it’s against company’s policy, Ima. But I still want to be with you. Just dinner. We’ll close before seven and I’ll drive you home afterwards.”
Ima stared at him, considered it. She wanted to be with him too, and not just across a dinner table. “Okay. Yes to dinner.”
Her mouth curved with a sassy smile. “Another thank you. Good, sir. And you are welcome.” She turned and started towards the door. “You have a three o’clock meeting with the MD. That’s in fifteen minutes, I believe.”
Tekena threw a glance at the clock on his wall. It was two forty-five. “Get me the City Central files then. That’s what he’ll be wanting to talk about, smart Aleck.” He ordered.
But a small smile was playing about his mouth as he returned to his chair.
AFTER he announced the close of work for the day at six-thirty, Tekena waited for her to complete shutting down and locking up shelves and drawers before they strolled out of the building together.
Ima felt very self-conscious as she got into his car, a coffee coloured Honda Crosstour.
“I didn’t notice that you’d sent Ali home. We didn’t work very late today.” She knew he often asked his driver to bring his car and go park the official car evenings they worked late.
“He brought in the key while you went to Accounts.” Tekena pulled into the highway before he cast her a quick glance. “I thought you would prefer us alone and not having a third wheel.”
“I guess I do.” Ima confessed.
“You don’t have to be uncomfortable about this, Ima. Technically, we’re not doing anything wrong. We are two adults who are free to pursue a romantic relationship if we want to.”
“Except that we are two adults who work for the same company that would frown on a romantic relationship if we pursue one.” Ima countered and then let out a sigh. “Office romance makes me uncomfortable. I don’t approve of it. It gets embarrassing when colleagues know, and then awkward when the relationship ends badly.”
“And you foresee a bad end for us?”
“I don’t know. We haven’t officially started anything yet.”
“You don’t call us kissing twice starting something?” Tekena asked, amused by her insistent denial.
Ima shrugged. “We can still chalk up the kisses as impulsive acts we didn’t think through.”
“I don’t act impulsively.” Tekena retorted. “I may not premeditate every action I take, but they’re never impulsive when I do them. I kissed you because I wanted to; both times. I will do so again because I will want to kiss you again.”
“Well, you may not be impulsive, but an action may turn out a mistake even when it was thoroughly thought through.”
“True. But I never back away from something I want because I fear it might turn out a mistake.” Tekena slowed behind the Toyota Corolla at the gradual build of a minor hold up and looked at her. “Relax. We’ll actually have fun, if you do.”
Ima nodded and exhaled. He had a point. She had already agreed to have dinner with him, so there was no need to make it an unbearable experience just because she was worrying over something that hasn’t ‘technically’ started between them.
It was the Utazi Restaurant and Café he chose for their dinner date. Ima had not been there before and liked the look and feel of it. She found she liked the food too after they’d placed their orders.
“It all seems sudden though that we are here having dinner together and contemplating an amorous relationship.” She mused aloud.
“Why?” Tekena had decided he liked her slightly husky voice.
“Well, only about six weeks ago you were warning me not to get any ideas where you are concerned and even warning me off your friend.”
“I warned you off Levi because I didn’t want you becoming his girl.”
The answer sent a faint thrill into her. But Ima only frowned. “Why? I didn’t think you’d taken any notice of me back then.”
“I took notice of you the moment you walked into my office.” Tekena met her eyes. “And I saw you took notice of me too, ergo the warning—delivered actually to both of us, not just to you.”
“Oh.” Ima studied his face. His expression was relaxed. He looked approachable, humane. Striking, her mind thought like it’d done that first day. “Well, that warning made it quite easy to overlook seeing you as a man, while the demanding schedule you foisted on us put me in a place where I could only see you as…”
“A workaholic megalomaniac.” Tekena completed for her.
Since a small smile curved the side of his mouth, Ima chuckled. “I don’t really think you’re a megalomaniac. That was just ranting borne out of frustration.”
Tekena lifted his eyebrows. “Oh, but you think I’m a workaholic?”
“You are, sir.”
“I will make you work until ten p.m. all through next week if you call me sir one more time.”
Ima laughed. “It’s not easy to make the shift. Maybe it would be better, for both of us, if I didn’t entirely relax into using your name.”
“I like your laugh. It’s like your voice, subtly throaty and deep.”
“Thank you.” Ima felt self-conscious enough at the compliment to bite her lower lip. “But you, you don’t laugh. I’ve never seen you do so. Your eyes lighten up with amusement; often times, a touch cynically. Your mouth make slight movements like it wants to laugh but you won’t let it. Why don’t you ever laugh?”
“Because then my guard is down and I always keep my guard up.” Tekena looked at her. “Except now, I’m letting it down for you. I don’t talk about myself in this way either with anyone. A little with Levi. But mostly, I’m closed off.”
“Were you always like this or was it after she hurt you?”
“I’ve never been much of the open type. It’s always been to those who I desire closeness with that I open myself to.” Tekena wiped his mouth, reached for his glass of wine. “But after the divorce, I sort of closed myself off to women. I’ve not been in a serious relationship since my divorce. I considered that I was unprepared to be, so didn’t delve into any.”
“Do you think you’re prepared to be now?”
“I would like to find that out with you, Ima. I’m not going to lie to you and make this look like some looking glass love thing. There’s no need for either of us to lie and pretend with each other when the truth is easier.” Tekena said. “I am attracted to you. I was almost from the get-go and I’ve been fighting hard against it. I don’t want to fight it anymore. I want to know you. I want to be with you. I want to share something meaningful with you. But I want you to want this too. Do you?”
He was a direct man. He hit the nail on the head straight out and he would value anyone who did the same with him, Ima realised.
“I’m nervous about this. I am worried about going into a romantic relationship with my boss. I am afraid I might end up with a sack. I am worried how this might end between us.” She inhaled, offered him a smile. “But I am also attracted to you. Have been almost from the get-go too and have warned myself to keep my eyes to myself and away from you.”
His mouth twitched with a smile.
“I don’t think I can keep my eyes off you anymore. So, yes, I would like to know you too and I would really like to share something meaningful with you.”
“Would it embarrass you if I leaned across the table and kissed you?”
Her heart fluttered. “Uh, yes. Unfortunately, it will.”
Tekena gave a nod, buried the desire—for another time. “All right. But should you ever suffer the temptation to lean across a table and kiss me, know that I would never mind, no matter when or where we are.”
“Okay.” Ima murmured and wished she could toss aside her prudish self-consciousness and do just that.
“Stop eyeing my lips lustfully if you are not going to do anything to them. I think it’s rude.” Tekena ordered.
Ima flushed and lowered her eyes. “There’s plenty I could do to them. Like clip them together with a peg for always tossing out orders.”
“You wouldn’t dare, not if you don’t want me to paddle your bottom.”
“I would. And I can paddle yours backside too.”
“No, it’s not when it’s Tekena I’m sitting with, not my boss.” Ima retorted, tongue in cheek.
“Finally, she managed it.” Tekena curved his mouth and allowed a full smile to shape it. “Pity you don’t like to be kissed in a restaurant’s dining room.”
The look in his eyes, smouldering with passion, sent a suffusion of heat through her.
“I think I’m going to learn to stop being such a prude soon.” She murmured.
“Good. I can’t wait.”
She chuckled. “You have a nice smile. It makes your face come alive.”
“I guess I’ll have to smile more for you.” And because this was what he could only content himself with, Tekena reached over and touched the hand she laid on the table.
Ima let her fingers entwine with his as she went back to her dinner.
HE brought her home as he promised.
“Dare I kiss you in the dark interior of my car?” Tekena teased.
Ima chuckled. “Yes, please.”
Tekena leaned over and kissed her. “Thank you for a lovely evening.”
“I had a lovely time too.” And because here she could be bold, she kissed him too. “Goodnight, Tekena. Drive safe.”
“I always do.” Tekena rubbed a hand underneath her chin before he pulled back. “Don’t be late for work tomorrow, Ima.”
“No, I won’t be, sir.” She smiled, opened the car door and got down.
Then she walked into the yard after he drove off.
“Welcome back.” Fejiro greeted when she strolled inside their flat.
“Thank you.” Ima sent her a smile, lowered on the couch and slipped off her shoes.
“I fried up some sweet potatoes and eggs; left you some in the pot.” Fejiro informed her, eyes glued on her phone.
“I’ve had dinner.” Ima paused, allowed the thrilling feeling rustling inside her to settle. “Tekena and I went out to dinner. At Utazi Restaurant. He was the one that brought me home now.”
“Shuu!” Fejiro tossed aside her phone and gaped at her. “It’s like that already?”
“He says he’s attracted to me and wants to be with me.” That still dazed her. “He has this direct way of talking, doesn’t beat about the bush, and I feel can I trust him. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being overly excited or something. But I like him. I am attracted to him. Have been since the first day and just ignoring it because of his warning. Fejiro, I want to be with him too.”
“Wow, this is fast track romance.” Fejiro was positively dazzled. “Only yesterday you were worried what his kiss might mean and today, you two are having dinner and sharing more kisses, I’m sure. Jesu! Why do romantic stuffs like this never happen to me? Babe, this might be the beginning of happily ever after for you, you know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to think that far ahead. I want to take this one step at a time.” Ima thought it would be wiser, especially for her. “But frankly, I’m not very comfortable with this being an office romance thing, Fejiro. I’ve always warned myself not to get involved in such workplace romantic liaisons.”
“What is wrong with workplace romantic liaisons, as you call it?” Fejiro asked and rolled her eyes. “Ima, don’t start over-thinking this abeg. Be your usual cheerful self and just enjoy this romantic journey. Do you know how many people met their spouses in their workplaces?”
“Spouses kè?” Ima let out a loud laugh. “We haven’t gotten there yet, Miss Romantic, and might not get there.”
“And why not?”
“Because shit sometimes happens in life.” Ima retorted and got up. “I’m off to bathe and turn in. I might be having a secret love affair with the man, but he’s still my boss. Which means the work status quo remains.”
“I don’t think shit is going to happen about this love affair, babe.” Fejiro countered. “I smell tru.e love in the making and you know I have a nose for these things, right?”
“Yeah, when they’re happening in the pages of some romance novel.” Ima scoffed.
But she unconsciously crossed her fingers as she headed to her bedroom. She wouldn’t mind if this turned out to be true love. No, she wouldn’t at all.
ALL BUSINESS… coming 16 May 2018