He was in love with her. He’d known that a long time. And he’d been dying to tell her for just as long. But he couldn’t just say it. It just won’t come out of his mouth. He opened his mouth to say it and then something else stumbled out. It was maddening—and shameful. A grown ass man can’t tell the woman he loved he was in love with her. Shame!
Now he wanted to propose to her too.
Theodore sighed and felt the ring box he had in his pocket. God, how was he going to say it—ask her? He started stuttering anytime he thought of it, how were the right words supposed to leave his lips? What were the perfect words to ask the woman you loved to share the rest of your life with you?
He lifted his tablet off the cushy sofa and opened the Google webpage. His fingers moving rapidly across the onscreen keypad, he entered his query—top 10 ways to propose to a woman? A string of responses dropped down and he punched open the first one.
Be yourself. Was the first recommendation. Theodore shook his head. That’s not going to work. Not when he was likely to trip over his tongue. He scrolled to the next recommendation—Candle lit dinner. Now this one had possibilities. She loved romantic ambiances. She loved candles glowing and lighting up the dark. Maybe out on her patio. A special bottle of wine. But that was too regular. They’d done it a couple of times now; it was fresh every new time, but still…
He shook his head and went for the third recommendation. Place where you first met. The Union Marble House? Heck no! That’d be so… ordinary. So unromantic. So lacklustre. So… public. She wouldn’t like that. She was the private-moments type. She’d want to be alone with her man and have them gazing into each other’s eyes, holding hands and then hear him ask her.
So why doesn’t he do that? Right here and now?
“Sorry. I got cornered by a call from mum.” She strolled in from the kitchen, carting a tray of drinks. “She needs my help with something, so I’ll have to cut short our time together.” She pulled a face and then grinned. “But we have the movie date, so I’m not so put out.” She set his drink on the coffee table beside him and reached for his tablet. “Anything trending online?”
Theodore snatched back the tablet, fought down the quick flush and tried a blasé smile. “Oh, just the regular.” He set the phone to his left and picked his drink, gulped instead of sip.
“Really?” Her eyes were narrowed and she was eyeing him with a studying look. “Theodore, are you hiding your tablet from me?”
“Hmm?” He set down the glass and aimed a big smile. “Hiding my tablet? No. It’s here.” He gave the device a pat. “So your step-mum wants to see you now?”
“What’s on the tablet, Theodore?”
He stared at her unblinking eyes and felt his tongue roll to the roof of his mouth. “What’s… on it? Like information?”
Kome held out her hand. “Give me the tablet, Theodore.”
“Give you… my tablet?” His hand covered around its edge and his heart began to thud. “Like right now?”
“Right this very minute.”
“Um…” Heck no! That wasn’t going to happen. The wonders list page was still open. “Why?”
“Why?” She dropped her hand and angled her head. Her eyes went even narrower. “Are you hiding something from me, Theodore?”
“Hiding something—like on the tablet?” He shook his head. “Nope. Are you hiding something from me, Kome?” Okay, that was a stupid question.
Her lips puckered forward and then shifted slowly to the side. “Is there something you should be telling me, Theodore?”
Oh God! Women, even when they were not your mother, had the same mother-power to pin you down and demand you confess to them. Theodore was sure the dampness he could feel on his forehead was sweat, and it felt heated. “I got nothing to say.” He blurted out.
“Mmm-hmm.” Her lips even rucked together the more.
God, where did they learn to do that puckering thing with their lips? His sisters were masters in the art of lips-puckering, and it never failed to unnerve him.
“You’re not doubting me, are you, Kome?” Didn’t someone say attack was the best defence?
“Doubt you? No.” She gave her head a definite shake. “Know you’re up to something? Yes. Wondering what that something is? Yes. Plan to find out before this day is over? Mega yes.”
“I love you.” He blanched immediately he heard his own words. “Oh dear Lord…”
But she cut him off with her loud shriek. “What!” Then she flung her arms about him. “You finally said it.” She pulled back, kissed him on his mouth, and flung herself back against him, wrapping her arms about him. “I’ve been waiting—since forever.” she giggled and squeezed tighter the hands around his neck. “I told Ted if you didn’t say something soon, I was going to beat it out of you. Told him that just last night. He gave me his straight-eyed look and I knew he wasn’t rooting for me. He’s decided he’s on your side.” She giggled again and hugged him even tighter.
“Ah…” Theodore slowly brought his hands up and very slowly circled them around her. “I am guessing you are not objectionable to my being in love with you? Like head over heels, mindlessly, crazily in love with you?”
Kome inched back. Slid up her hands and framed his face. She was beaming. “Objectionable? Heck no! You are my soul-mate, Theodore, and I love you. I loved you even before I really knew you. How crazy is that?”
“Perfect crazy.” Theodore kissed her. “I love you with all my heart. So much it scares me.”
“Nothing to be scared of. You and me, we belong together.” She kissed him again.
Ask her. His heart whispered the thought. His head echoed it. His tongue rolled to the roof of his mouth and camped there.
And her phone rang.
“Oh, that must be mum. I told her I’d be on my way soon. She’s just making sure since she knows you’re here.” Kome chuckled and slid out the phone from the square pocket of her check dress. “Yeah, mum, I’m leaving him and coming to you.” She laughed and winked at Theodore. “I’ve got super-hot news for you. Mmm-Hmm.” She nodded at something her step-mum said and grinned. “See ya in a bit.” She set down the phone, gave him a quick kiss and a quick hug. “I got to run off. Mum’s impatient. Tonight. Tonight we will stay in each other’s arms and savour this moment.”
“Tonight.” He promised, rose with her. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“You’re the best thing that happens to me every day.” She whispered and then kissed him again and pulled him towards the door. “Let’s save some sweetness for tonight.”
“I’m going to ask her tonight. I can’t wait another day. She loves me.” Theodore bubbled with uncontainable excitement beside Declan as he waited for his pizza. “Can you believe that? Kome Douglas is in love with me. My God!”
“I am still staggered that she said those words to you.” Declan took the pizza pack and stepped away from the line. “I can’t believe such things happen. I take back every thing I ever said to you and just roll back my tongue in my mouth. She’s the real deal. Like the major real deal. Happy for you, man.”
Theodore grinned at the back pat. “I am more than happy for me. Exhilarated for me.” He chuckled and almost stopped to do a spot-dance where he was but checked himself. “I don’t know how to ask her though. She said we’d cuddle together and savour the moment. It’s not even yet three months since we started dating, maybe she’d think it is too soon if I proposed tonight.”
“Too soon? Uh-uh, I don’t think so.” Declan shook his head and aimed his hand to unlock his car. “She said she’d been waiting forever for you to tell her you loved her, right? Well, I can bet my last penny, she’s been waiting just as long for you to pop the question.”
“You think?” Theodore stared at him over the room of the car.
“Hey? It’s Theodore, right?”
Theodore swung his head around and swallowed a sigh at the sight of Linda, Kome’s girlfriend. They’ve met thrice now and each time, she was always the mega snob who liked to pretend she forgets his name.
“Hello, Linda.” He turned fully and gave her a friendly enough smile. She was Kome’s friend.
“Hi.” She flicked a glance at Declan and when the other said nothing to her, returned her gaze on him with a snotty flip of her hair. “Getting pizza?” She asked, her tone patronizing. “Shouldn’t that be off your menu list?”
“I put it back on when a certain amazing woman told me I shouldn’t be worrying about my weight.” Theodore returned with a genial smile.
A chuckle came from Declan.
Linda tightened her lips. “That woman would be Kome, right. Think she’s really serious about you, Theodore?”
“I don’t think, I know.”
She snorted out a laugh. “Please, don’t be delusional. Your type could never match a woman like Kome Douglas. She is way, way above your class.”
“I don’t have a type, Linda.” Theodore consciously loosened the knots of irritation and held on to his smile. “And Kome is not above me. We belong to different social classes, yes, but she is not above me. I consider her too good for me though. I’ve never known a more selfless, generous and loving woman in my life.”
“Touching words. I almost want to believe them.” Linda scoffed. “Your plans won’t work. Trust me. C.A. Douglas will see through them and he’ll never hand his daughter over to a…” her tone, and eyes, turned condescending, “man like you.”
His stomach walls clenched, as did his fists. But Theodore maintained the cool smile. “I think you judge people by your own standards, Linda, and that is so wrong. Still, we will have to wait and see how the future pans out.”
“I see you don’t deny your plan is to marry Kome.” She taunted.
“Of course he doesn’t deny it.” Declan spoke from behind him. “He loves Kome and she loves him right back.”
Linda swung her eyes to him, and they flashed with annoyance. “And wouldn’t this be a case of birds of a feather?” She sneered.
“No, Theodore is a better man than I am. A man who deserves Kome. A man who was prepared to take a chance no matter what the odds were.” Declan’s voice was quiet, with respect and affection. “Me, on the other hand, usually believed everyone should stay in their place.”
“Then you wouldn’t be wrong, Mr…?” Linda arched her eyebrows.
“Declan.” Declan supplied. “But no, I’ve decided that I was wrong. And it is all thanks to your friend, Kome. She’s made me see that in matters of love, and maybe in other things, a man and a woman are just people, no difference, no class, nothing separates them, not if they love one another. And Theodore and Kome do that—they love each other.”
“Love?” Linda let out a derisive laugh. “You guys are pros, aren’t you? Pros at charming rich women, getting them hoodwinked and swindling them, right?”
“Met those types, haven’t you?” Something in Declan’s voice shot up Theodore’s eyebrows as he silently listened to the exchange. “What did they do? Broke your heart?”
“My heart?” Linda let out a hiss. “Like I’d allow anyone beneath me a mile close to me.” She flung back her hair and stepped back. “I am only sorry for Kome. She’s so gullible. Pity.”
And with that she strutted off. Her heels clinking on the concrete ground as she marched, nose in the air, towards the Pizzeria’s entrance.
“See that type?” Declan asked, his eyes still turned in her direction even after she’d disappeared inside. “That type is the reason I was bent on warning you off Kome.”
“Aha.” Theodore watched him with studying eyes. “You thought her beautiful, didn’t you?”
“Thought her beautiful?” Declan scoffed, pulled open his car door and dived inside. “Please. She is so not my type. Not my type.”
“Okay.” Theodore acquiesced and shut his own door. But he knew that look in Declan’s eyes.
He was impatient to see her, and so he went early to pick her up for their movie date.
She was outside her gates, seeing off Alex Osaki-Daniel. Something kicked against his stomach walls, it wasn’t jealousy, Theodore knew that. He trusted Kome too much to be jealous—or even more truthfully, he sort of understood her relationship with Alex Osaki-Daniel well enough to not get a jealous rising from seeing her with him.
The kick against his stomach walls wasn’t jealousy. It was due to a sudden reminder of what Linda had said. Will C.A. Douglas really welcome a man like him for husband for his daughter when men like Alex Osaki-Daniel were available?
And wasn’t a man like Alex better for her?
“Hey, Theodore.” She turned from the disappearing taillights and aimed an alluring smile at him. “You rightly timed me. I just got back minutes ago. Mum and I spent longer time together.”
Theodore wished her smile didn’t always want to make him sweep her into his arms. “Looks like Alex rightly timed you too.” Oh God, why did those stupid words tumble out of his mouth?
“Hmm?” She cast a glance at the street and then back at him. “Oh, he was lucky to have me driving in just as he was about to drive out.”
“Lucky him.” There was no need for the gnawing pain at the pit of his stomach, Theodore told himself. Yet he couldn’t erase it, or the heaviness that suddenly loomed over him.
Kome hung her head and looked at him with somewhat narrowed eyes. “Yeah, lucky him. He needed to some info on the project DAC is handling for his family’s company. Not beginning to have a problem with me being friends with Alex, are you, Theodore?”
“No.” Theodore felt ashamed of his behaviour. But that didn’t eliminate the fear that had been lingering and that had now taken root. “I don’t have a problem with you having any kind of friends, I guess I was just—” he broke off and stepped back. “He is more like the type who should be with you, isn’t he?”
“Is he?” Kome frowned. “What do you mean by that, Theodore?”
“Nothing.” God, what is wrong with you, Theodore? “Just that he’d be better for you, wouldn’t he? He’s a millionaire, you’re a millionaire…” he shrugged. “You both have same background. No class difference.”
“No class difference? Are you suffering from some kind of belated self-esteem issues, Theodore?” Her narrowed eyes turned puzzled.
“I—” He was being stupid. Crazy. Yet the nag that she deserved better lingered. If he loved her he’d want better—the best for her. “I should go. I’m sorry.”
“No, you stop right there, Theodore Malik!” Kome ordered, her tone annoyed. “You get back here and you tell me what the heck is the matter with you!”
Theodore turned, looked at her standing, hands on her hips, eyes blazing under the night lights and his heart swamped with love for her.