When it came to his job Ejaife Godfrey preferred to leave no room for failure. After the meeting with the chairman and the business operations manager, he had another with his project coordinator and construction engineer. Then he sat down at his desk to study progress reports on ongoing projects.
He came from a long line of builders. His father liked to say so. Listening to his stories, to his grandfather’s before he passed on, Ejaife dreamed of working with his hands to raise structures. Then he won the scholarship to study civil engineering at the Madonna University, and uncovered in himself a bigger passion. A love for the planning, the overseeing, the mind work more than the manual labour that went into construction. His dream became to manage projects, to direct and deliver them.
For the last eight years he’d geared his career toward that vision, and he could at last say he was living the dream at Ducal Enterprises.
Or he could be living the dream if he didn’t have Frannie Duke in his face.
Why did she make him feel like he had to prove himself to her?
Or worse, like she owned a part of him he’d relinquished to her years ago?
With a muttered curse, Ejaife reared back in his chair to glare at the MPP file he had open on his laptop. Darn it all, he was a grown-ass man of thirty-five, not an easily impressed young buck in his twenties. Frannie Duke had no hold on him, because he’d never give her the power. He was at Ducal to drive forward his career, not to lose himself to a woman who probably thought the male population of the world should worship at her feet.
At the rap and swishing noise of the door, he looked up, and quickly slid on his mask when the subject of his thoughts strolled in.
She never walked like she was in a hurry, and never dawdled. Always on heels, while at work at least, her gait was precise and confident. Add alluring to the list, Ejaife decided, inevitable heat pooling in his gut at the almost imperceptible sway of her body.
Did she have to wear that darned beige suit with its impossibly tight fit today when they had a meeting?
But then, all of her office wears as far as he had seen turned her into a life image of the perfect-figured woman.
The image he had in his head–and wished he didn’t.
“May I help you?” he asked, and did not invite her to sit because he didn’t want her long in his office.
“Hello, Jaife. I would have waited to be announced, but your assistant was not on seat.”
“She had to see the HR Manager.”
“Hmm. Well, this here is a hardcopy of the final budget plan for the Red Velvet project. Look through and append your signature accordingly.” She set the folder on his desk.
“You could have had your assistant deliver it.”
“I figured I’d kill two birds with a stone. I’m curious as to why you don’t like me.”
Was she serious?
She was, because her dark-brown sculpted eyebrows were slightly arched in question, her gaze held his, and not a hint of a smile touched her mud red painted lips.
“Is there any reason I should?”
“I could think of a few.” A spark of laughter teased her eyes. “You don’t mince words, do you?”
“You asked a direct question and got a direct answer.” As he found her entirely too disturbing, his voice turned brusque. “Is there anything else?”
“I got a counter question, not an answer at all. Some would consider it a defensive response. If you’ll excuse me? I’ve papers on my table to go through before the close of work.”
What was she playing at today? Ejaife asked himself when the door shut behind her. She ignored him as much as he did her, and only entered his office when a meeting demanded it.
Now she wanted to know why he didn’t like her?
Ejaife hated that he hadn’t given her a direct answer in truth. He didn’t like her, because he considered her a spoiled rich heiress with a self-inflated ego.
There was no argument she was good at her job, darn good as shown by the alliances she’d just gained for the company. But behind the brilliant, competent mind still existed that bumptious little missy from way back.
So, no. He wasn’t going to play whatever mind game she was after. He had his goals, she had…whatever it was she had, and the two of them had absolutely nothing in common. He was going to make sure it stayed that way.
Ejaife went back to work, and because he’d been distracted, and worried he might be again, he worked well after closing hours. It was a few minutes to seven when he made his way to the company’s parking lot.
What the…Frannie Duke had her back leaned against the rear door of his car.
His car, not hers. Was she stalking him now?
“Do you know what tomorrow is?” she asked, in a voice that made it sound like the most important question.
“Other than Tuesday, 14 February 2023? No.” He unlocked the car, opened the front door, but didn’t climb in.
Because it would have been blatantly rude to do so.
“Valentine’s Day. It’s an annual celebration of romance and love.”
He hadn’t thought of it, because he never did unless he was dating, and he wasn’t.
“Thank you for the information. Now I wonder what you want me to do with it.”
“I want you to spend the evening with me. But only if you don’t have a special someone in your life.”
It wasn’t the first time a woman was making a move on him, and usually he enjoyed it. Usually, when that woman wasn’t Frannie Duke.
“You’re asking me out on a date?”
“You frown like I made you an indecent proposal.” Like a true menace, she grinned. “I’ve no significant other at present and have no desire to be alone tomorrow. If you’re in the same boat, I’m asking us to spend the evening together–drinks, dinner and sex. For one night.”
His body tightened and he actually felt a tingling flush over his skin. “A one night stand. That’s how you want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and simply because you’re not involved with anyone at the moment.”
“You disapprove. Huh.” She moved to stand in front of him, watching him with a half amused, half quizzical stare. “Would your reaction be the same if I were a man making same invitation to a girl?”
“Yes. Your gender is not the problem.”
“What is, then?”
They’d never before had this little distance between them. She was within reach, in the way he’d always wanted her to be.
Not always. Once–he’d once wanted her to be.
“It’s a capricious request. Feeling lonely is not an excuse to jump on the first available man.”
“Is that a confirmation that you’re uninvolved and available?”
“Do you mind backing up? I’m not entirely indifferent to you, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
“An odd way to say you find me attractive.” With a chuckle, she shifted few steps to his side. “I find you attractive, too. I wouldn’t make the invitation otherwise. We’ll limit it to one night because neither of us like the other. Give it a thought tonight and let me know your answer tomorrow. Good evening.”
“My answer is no.”
“Hmm, it’s your loss.” She wandered around to her car. “I would have made it a truly memorable night.”
She got behind her steering wheel and drove out of the parking lot.
Drinks, dinner, and sex. For one night.
He could have said yes. There was a time all he thought about was having Frannie in his bed, or being in hers. If only for a night.
But he’d said no, because he didn’t subscribe to one night stands. And, because, in spite of this long-drawn lust he had for her, he didn’t want Frannie. Not anymore.
Or perhaps he didn’t want her just for a night.
Ejaife cursed her for messing with his head as he got in his car. A darn good day, and she had to ruin it.
e-book available on OKADABOOKS & BAMBOOKS