“Is that right?” Kome let out a soft laugh as her toes curled at the effect of his voice crooning into her ear. He was telling her that he was thinking about her. “Guess what?” She whispered, tracing those curled toes along her sofa. “I am thinking about you too.”
“Oh my, you make me want to turn Declan into dust just to get rid of him.” He murmured with a wishful sigh. “I want to be with you. That is greedy since we were just together last night—but I can’t help it. You make me greedy for your company, Kome Douglas.”
“I am greedier, for I want more than just your company.” A derisive snort came from the seat next to the sofa but Kome ignored Linda. “Come over later.” She invited impulsively. “I’ll get rid of Linda and make us dinner. How does sweet potatoes fries and chicken gravy sauce sound to you?”
“My mouth is watering.” He said with a soft moan that made her smile. “Seven all right?”
“Seven perfect. See you then, Theodore.” She blew a kiss into the mouthpiece and waited a breath before setting down the phone. “Gosh, he makes me go mush by just hearing his voice.”
“Please tell me you’re not serious about that guy, Kome.” Linda turned on the plush armchair to rest eyes filled with distaste at her.
“About Theodore?” Kome chuckled, still feeling all soppy from having just spoken with him. “Oh, I am very serious about him. And he is quite serious about me, that I can assure you.”
“You don’t need to assure me about that, I can tell.” Linda’s mouth twisted into a cynical line. “In case you are too mawkish-brained to see what is clear as light, that man is only with you because of who you are. As a matter of fact, that is why he is so serious about you. You’re an investment to him. A long-term investment he surely plans to cash in.”
“Good God, Linda, you can be so cynical!” Kome made a tsk and rose from the sofa to pick the plate of cookies. They needed more. “It is actually sad how you judge people like they are only mindless money-grubbing beings. Because you know what? People are generally not like that. No doubt there are people who value money more than relationships and the persons in their lives, but not everyone is like that.”
“And I am guessing you think this… this—”
“Careful, Linda, I won’t tolerate you insulting Theodore in any way at all.” Kome warned in her most quiet tone. It was her zero-tolerance tone. “You will use his name when you wish to refer to him, or don’t refer to him at all.”
“Good heavens! Kome, you are so hyper over this man.” Linda let out a hiss, dumped the empty bottle of wine in the bin and marched over to the refrigerator to grab another. “Christ, Kome! This is not the type of man you should be hanging out with. Notice how the gossip blogs went gaga over catching a glimpse of you two at the movie premier last week? That is the kind of thing a man like him wants—cheap publicity from dating a millionaire’s daughter. Kome, get it real. This man is only with you because of who you are, nothing more.”
“Theodore’s least interest is my money. He doesn’t care how much of it I have, where they are invested, or how much interests every investment yields.” Kome strolled back into the living room and back to her sofa. “He even told me he believed in the almighty pre-nup.”
“He’s already talking pre-nups? See where he’s headed, Kome? Not interested in your money my ass!” Linda muttered something under her breath, snapped off the cork of the bottle of wine and started filling her glass. “He doesn’t believe in any goddamn pre-nup—how could he? That idea barely exists in Nigeria. He’s just buttering you up, Kome. Sweet-talking you until he can lay his hands on your millions and starts syphoning every single penny.”
“No, he is not, Linda.” Kome disagreed. “Only lazy men go after a woman for her money, and Theodore is the most hardworking man I ever met. He has dreams, ambitions, and he is not waiting on anyone’s wealth, in any form whatsoever, to make them come true. He is independent, self-sufficient and he is a man with a great deal of self-respect. And in case in all the years we have known each other you did not realise this, let me clarify this for you—I am not some kind of dim-witted woman who would not know when a man is with her for her or for her money. I am not the kind to be taken advantage of, or the kind to be easily fleeced.”
“And you think the women who have been fleeced, as you put it, did not think that they were too intelligent to be swindled?” Linda scoffed. “Please Kome, realise that these guys are smooth players. They are pros in this kind of game—”
“And I am telling you, Theodore isn’t that kind of man.” Kome snapped, getting irritated. “And you know what else, Linda? I believe in what is mine being my husband’s. When I am married I will want to share all of me—all of me—with my husband, and that includes whatever money I have. Just as I would expect him to share whatever he has with me, so I expect it of myself to share all of my possessions with him. That is the kind of love I believe in. That is the kind of marriage I envision for myself.”
“Then I’m sorry for you, for this man is going to reap where he did not sow and you won’t realise what an awful mistake you’re making until it is too late and he has left you penniless.”
Kome stared at her. And then let out a deep belly laugh. “Oh my God, Linda you’re such a cynic and with no faith at all in the good that can be found in others. Linda, Theodore is the sweetest man there is, so thoughtful, so kind—he is always surprising me with gifts. Like every single morning, there’s always a surprise package from him, no matter how little. And when I give something back to him, he never stops protesting and is always embarrassed. He seriously goes red-cheeked when I give him presents. He believes in a man taking care of his woman.”
“Like I said, they’re pros in this kind of game, Kome. The only kind of rich girl marries poor boy and it’s for real love I believe in are the ones that happen in the sentimental pages of romance novels.” Linda picked a cookie, tossed it in her mouth and stretched back into the armchair. “Anyway, I can’t for the life of me understand why you would choose a man with serious weight issues to be with at all. I mean, these guys are usually weak in bed. They are known to have like microscopic winkies and no stamina at all. I can’t tolerate a man who won’t give me real satisfaction, uh-uh.”
Kome laughed. “Well, Theodore does give me satisfaction. And no, we haven’t had sex yet.” She added at Linda’s quick glance. “Theodore is a devout Christian and he believes in waiting sex till the wedding night.”
“Oh-oh, that is a sure sign of a man who can’t deliver.” Linda snorted. “Girl, na one-chance you enter so. If his lack of money and no class don’t have you picking your running shoes, let this I-am-born-again crappy excuse send you to your heels oh.”
“Nothing is sending me to my heels about Theodore, Linda. I’ve been waiting for a man like him a long long time and now I’ve found him, I’m only waiting for the final deal.” Kome sent her a wink and then laughed at her hiss. “You need to seriously loosen up, girlfriend. There are good men out there and they don’t all wear Hugo Boss.”
“Then they are not good enough.” Linda retorted tartly.
“I can’t believe that woman is still keeping you around.” Declan said as Theodore slipped his phone back into his pocket. “I thought she’d be done with you by now, but it’s been two months—man, you must be giving her some good sexual healing.”
Theodore tossed him a severe look. “We have not had sex. Our relationship is more meaningful than that.”
“She’s not been in your bed all this time?” Declan let out a low whistle. “Oh God, I knew it. She’s not serious about you. She probably doesn’t even believe you two are in a relationship.”
“We are in a relationship and we both know it.”
“Dude, I don’t mean to burst the bubble you are swimming in, but if our millionaire lady hasn’t been in your bed, then she probably just considers you,” Declan lifted his hands and crooked his thumbs, “just a friend. And frankly, pal, that might not be such a bad deal because it’s way better than having her use you for just get-off services.”
“Could you stop talking about her like that?” Theodore demanded, annoyed and hating that they were discussing Kome at all. “She is not that kind of woman—I mean, not the easy-to-lay kind. She’s a lady, and an open-hearted, sensitive one at that. If we are not having sex, it’s because we prefer to wait. And contrary to general crude belief, sex isn’t the defining factor in a relationship.”
“Chill, man, I’m not trying to talk down on Kome. Jeez, I know her too. I know she is friendly, nice and a thousand times less uptight than most of these rich heiresses.” Declan exhaled and shook his head. “I just don’t think she feels the same about you as you do her, Theo. For heaven’s sake, she is C.A. Douglas’s daughter and she runs one of his companies! You think they are going to welcome you arms wide-open into their home?”
“Actually, I have met C.A. Douglas and he was courteous, friendly and with no airs at all. And his wife, Kome’s step-mum? She was all gentility, friendliness and made me feel totally welcome in their home. So, I daresay that I have been welcomed arms wide-open to their home already.”
“And on this fine occasion, did Kome introduce you as her man? Did she say, ‘daddy, meet my boyfriend, Theodore Malik. He’s just the Financial Comptroller at Loanan’?”
She hadn’t said that. She’d introduced him as a ‘special friend’. “Why are you so against my relationship with Kome, Declan?” Theodore queried instead, avoiding the nibble of worry that had ticked off. “What do you have against her?”
“Absolutely nothing. I, in fact, like her. Like I said, she is nice and not all class-uptight.” Declan sighed. “Look, man, I am only worried about you. You have fallen big time for this lady and—” he let out another sigh and lifted his shoulders. “It can’t end well for you, Theo. The wealthy and middle class don’t mix very well. You’re going to end up hurt and hurt in a big bad way.”
“I love her, Declan.” Theodore said quietly. And wished his heart flutter so with worry.
“That is why I know this isn’t going to end well for you, man.” Declan said, his worry plain on his face. “Just let her go. Put her out of your mind, forget her.”
“I can’t. I don’t want to.” Theodore thought of her and the love in his heart almost overwhelmed him. “I want to propose to her. I already have the ring.”
“Oh, dear Lord, please don’t do that.” Declan looked thoroughly horrified. “She would say no and that would totally destroy you.”
“What if she says yes?” Theodore wanted to believe she would—he did believe it. At least, his heart did. “She might. I feel like she’s in love with me too.”
“Has she said that to you—that she’s in love with you?”
No, she hasn’t. Neither of them has used the big L word yet.
“Your silence tells me she hasn’t.” Declan said quietly. “Listen to me, Theo, I know you love this woman but I don’t think your feelings are reciprocated. Maybe she’s sweet on you, you know, feels some kind of attraction and probably likes you. But that is it and that won’t be enough to ever say yes to any marriage proposal from you. You and her are worlds apart, man, and no matter how nice she is and how friendly and genteel are parents are, that’d be playing in their minds when marriage is mentioned. That, for people like that, is a deal breaker.”
Theodore said nothing, just stared at the near mute television screen, his attention not at all on the news relay going on on the CNN channel.
When he saw her later that evening for their dinner date at her home, when she slipped into his arms and offered him a welcome kiss, he told himself he shouldn’t be worrying.