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Chief Koko paced the room restlessly, his potbelly jiggling with each step he took. He was worried sick and frustrated was an understatement of how he felt at the moment. Another member of his gang had died under mysterious circumstances and that left him looking for a replacement. He had a deadline to meet and the way they were going, he doubted he would meet the deadline if he didn’t find someone else soon.

Unfortunately, his business partners in the United States weren’t so lenient, if he didn’t deliver like they had discussed, it would be trouble for him.

He didn’t want to get them angry. It was in his best interest not to.

After pacing the room for what seemed like eternity, he suddenly realised what he had to do, find someone else quick. And he knew who that person was going to be, but first he had to call her and arrange a meeting.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Mercy was feeding her little daughter at home when her phone rang, she stretched her right hand towards the direction of the phone, she picked it up and was excited to see who the caller was.

It was Chief Koko,  she was broke at the moment and she needed to buy new clothes for her daughter, so his call was more than welcome.

“Chief good evening” she said, the smile on her face was priceless.

“Mercy, I want to see you now. Meet me at the hotel”

Mercy was happy Chief had called for a meeting but she didn’t know what to do about her baby, she wasn’t working now and so Aisha couldn’t help her out. She really wanted to see Chief but she also worried about where to put her little one.

She really was torn.

“Hello…” She heard him say. “Didn’t you hear me? I said I want to see you now”

She noticed he sounded slightly angry and she wondered why, but again she thought maybe he was angry she would make him wait. Chief Koko never liked to be kept waiting, that was one thing she knew very well about him.

“I heard you Chief, its just that I don’t know where to put my baby and…”

He didn’t let her finish, “leave the child with your neighbours and get here now!” He thundered and that was the last she heard from him before the line went dead.

The chief was really angry and she wondered why as she hurriedly packed the rest of the baby’s food away, ready to leave the house.

There was only one way to find out why he needed her so desperately at such a late time at night and why he sounded so angry, and she was willing to go through that way.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There was silence in the spacious Fowler library,  Jaiye looked at his father, still in shock and then looked from his brothers to his kid sister.

Were they all in support of the ridiculous idea their sister just proposed and their father just agreed to?

He looked at Oluchi and she seemed shocked…displeased seemed to be the word, she was literally gaping at his father.  The lawyer just concentrated on his phone as if he didn’t just hear the most ridiculous statement in the history of the world.

Jaiye sighed, putting his hands in his pockets, and assuming his calmest demeanour he faced his father and said, “Dad, I can’t do that. Marriage for me is certainly not like this, I won’t marry to cover up Jare’s stupidity”

“But you are doing it for the family, for your mother. Not Jare”. His father was serious, very serious.

“Do you know what this news would do to Adele if it gets out? She would be devastated.  Remember what it did to her when she initially learnt of Jare’s homosexuality”

The Fowler patriach was playing on his emotions and as much as he respected his father, he hated that. Jare had given the family reasons to worry but he shouldn’t be the one to atone for his sins, he certainly wasn’t going to marry a woman he had barely met because he wanted her to never say a word of their family secret to anyone ever.

“I can’t do this Dad. I’m not in love with her and I don’t know her well enough” Jaiye said and Jire smiled.

“Let’s find another way out please, this marriage idea is ludicrous” Jire quipped and Jaiye was instantly relieved. The fact that someone else agreed with him was a huge relief and he knew he wouldn’t have to fight this cause for long.

“I agree” it was Jide speaking now. “Jare was stupid, he knew better than doing what he did where he did it. Jaiye shouldn’t be paying for that by marrying the woman who stumbled on the family secret. Its a very dangerous thing to do. There certainly can be a way out asides forced marriage and blackmail”

“Okay” their father conceded and Oluchi found herself relaxing. She didn’t want Jaiye to marry Nene, she didn’t want him to marry anybody, she wanted him to marry her.

“Let’s pay her off” Jire suggested and everyone agreed instantly.

“That’s a great idea. A million naira should be enough” Jide added and got his brothers’ approval.

“But what if she comes back asking for more, you know trying to use the information she has to blackmail us?” Joan inquired

“Then we’ll have to play dirty with her and that one she can’t win” it was the family lawyer speaking now, everyone agreed with him including Jide Fowler snr.

“Jaiyejeje, you are the one who knows that woman, so you would be the one offering her this money” the family patriach stated, Jaiye nodded.  That wasn’t a herculean task, he could do that.

“And son,” his father paused for emphasis, he knew what was coming next was to be taken seriously and he waited for it, “be as convincing as possible and let her know the Fowlers don’t play games”

Jaiye understood that perfectly and he knew how to convey the message perfectly.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nene was sound asleep on the couch when he returned some thirty minutes later, she was curled up like a cat while she slept peacefully like a baby. He felt sorry for how badly her evening had turned out; it was just supposed to be her helping out with meetings and a thank you dinner from him afterwards. But it had all gone south from the moment she discovered his brother doing the unthinkable at the Fowler hotel.

He didn’t want to wake her, he didn’t like to wake anyone and so he sat near her and just watched her sleep. She was a pretty sight even as she stirred in her sleep now and if he had been an artist, he’d have taken his time to draw the fine details of her face and body. He gently brushed a strand of hair on her face with his finger and softly tucked it behind her ear. she smiled as if she knew what he was doing and liked it.

He stared at her lips and wondered who kissed it, if she had a boyfriend and most importantly, what her story was. All he knew right now was that she was a single mother and that she had a sister who was sleeping with a dangerous man.

He had agreed with his father and brothers to pay Nene off, it was what they had decided and what he would do. However, he wasn’t just expected to dash her the money to go off forever. He was supposed to befriend her first, then give her the money so she wouldn’t feel like she was being bribed even though in reality, she was being bribed.

Jo interrupted his thoughts immediately she emerged through the library doors.

“She’s sleeping already” she noted. Her brother nodded in response. “Poor child, she has had such a day. If that was me watching Jare acting like an idiot, I’d have puked”

Jaiye chuckled. If only Jo knew that Nene actually “puked”.

He gently carried Nene off the couch and she stirred in his arms, “I’m going home” he informed his sister.

“What about her?” Jo asked about Nene.

“She would sleep in a guest room in my house,  tomorrow we would talk about what she saw and the money.”

Jo nodded.

“Goodnight Jo” he said and sauntered off the sitting room area, towards the exit of the magnificient house.

“Goodnight Jay”

It wasn’t until when he reached the exit that Nene stirred and slowly opened her eyes.

“I got you” Jaiye told her and smiling, she slowly closed her eyes and went back to sleep.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The aroma of toast and fried eggs wafted through the air and into the room, she tossed and turned and eventually opened her eyes, the rumble in her stomach reminded her that it was time to feed and she knew she wouldn’t mind that which she could smell.

She sat up in bed and scanned the room, the huge bed was in the middle of the room and there was a bedside telephone sitting on a stool near it.

A giant sized mirror stood on the wall near the wardrobe and near a shoe rack. The walls were painted cream and a chandelier hung from the ceiling, the temperature of the room was cool thanks to the AC on the wall.

Jaiye had brought her to his home last night after such a tiring day and she had to admit, she had never slept better.

She rolled off the bed and was about stepping out of the room when her phone rang, it was her mother. She suddenly remembered that she should have returned her phone call like she promised the day before.

“Hello mummy”

Nene’s mother didn’t have time for pleasantries, she launched into the crux of the matter in her signature way. “Ohunene! Una no know say you suppose don call me?! Whish kain nonsense be dat? I come dey wait for here!”

“Mummy, I dey for meeting yesterday. And na for night we finish…” Her mind wandered to the day before and the drama that happened, her heart beat faster when she remembered Jare and his lover.

“And when meeting end, your hand no fit carry fone call your mama?”

Nene knew it was a lost cause trying to explain to her mother, so she simply said “sorry”.

“Your sister don lost. Mercy don lost. She call you?”

Nene frowned. Mercy didn’t have to call her, Mercy was with her.

“Mercy dey my house. She has been with me for weeks now. She said her husband was beating her and she ran away from him.” Nene explained and then added, “mummy, why didn’t you and brother Godwin do anything? Did you want him to kill her?”

“I no sabi all dis one o! I go…” Nene’s mother kept shouting and cursing from the other end but her attention was divided when she heard a knock on the door. She opened the door and let Jaiye in. He was dressed in a plain white tee and jeans, he looked great even when he wasn’t trying.

“Let me call you back mummy” she said to her mother and hung up, ignoring the old woman’s shouts.

“I hope you slept well?” He asked her and she nodded. “Like I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be travelling to Abuja today, the meeting should have been this morning but I had it rescheduled to evening. However, my personal assistant can’t make it but you did a good job covering for her yesterday and I wouldn’t mind if you could do same today. So do you want to come along?”

Nene wanted to scream yes, but she knew she had to be calm and composed. She didn’t want to look so desperate.

“It would be fun Nene. And we would get to hangout and discuss the reason we scheduled a meeting in the first place” the reason being helping her financially with her baby.

She nodded, “but I don’t have any of my things here.”

“I would have the company driver take you home to pick a few things.”

Nene answered with a nod.

“But first, you must have breakfast. Come” he slipped his hand into hers and led her out of the room.

His dining room comprised of a square glass table with just four chairs around it, but that wasn’t where they were headed. He led her into the kitchen, where there was another dining table, with four chairs just like the one in the dining room, she realised he had placed her breakfast in a tray for her.

Breakfast was french toast, friend eggs and sausages with a glass of pineapple juice, it looked delicious and she was hungry.

Like a gentleman, he pulled out a chair for her to sit, she muttered her gratitude and dug into her food as soon as she sat down.

“That’s my speciality by the way.” He said to her as she had a taste of the egg.

“Its not such a big deal shey you know?” She replied and he smiled.

“Maybe its not but I make it very well.”

She ate half of the food before she spoke next, “so what else do you know how to make apart from this simple breakfast?”

Jaiye giggled, “nothing really. Okay, I make really nice sauce for spaghetti and white rice. That’s all. Jare is the cook in the house”

Nene swallowed hard and his smile froze. Jare’s name shouldn’t have come up.”I’m sorry about that…I…I know you saw something you wish you could forget last night…”

She touched his hand, “its okay”

He nodded.

“Have you had breakfast?” She inquired.

“Yes. I eat as I cook. So that’s the remnant of my breakfast in your plate.” He said, a smile dancing around his eyes.

Nene’s heart skipped a beat, she liked the man. At least the physical part of the man, it made her squirm, it made her quite nervous and it made her heart race.

“Ever been to an African bar?” He asked and she shook her head as she took a sip of her juice.

“Okay, we would visit one of my best african bars in Abuja. You’d love it”.

Nene nodded, she looked forward to it.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Nene wished she had seen Mercy at home when she went to pick clothes for Abuja, but she made a mental note to call her. Mercy should have at least called home to tell them why she ran, instead of staying at hers and leaving the others worried.

She shut the door to the sleek Range Rover, Jaiye had told his driver to bring her in. The driver had told her to sit in the back but she’d chosen the front seat instead, something Jaiye found amusing and different. But truth be told, she didn’t think she was in anyway a part of a social class higher than the driver.

She directed him to her office now, she needed to tell her boss she would be away for the day. She had rehearsed her lies and excuses and she knew it would work, the man didn’t care if she went to the bottom of the atlantic anyway, she was just doing the right thing.

She ran into Tolu at the reception and she waltzed past her, ignoring her curious looks. After she had told her boss she had to travel to her hometown to see her sick mother, she collided into Tolu at the carpark.

Tolu was eyeing Jaiye’s Range and then looked to her, “interesting Miss Nene. You seem to be using this pussy well. Very impressive”

Nene was slighted, but she kept quiet.

“All these to lay your hands on that secret ehn? I like your style, I never knew you had it this much in you.” She inched closer to Nene, “get this news for us very fast sha, our viewers are getting tired.”

Nene shook her head, rolled her eyes and headed for the car.

Tolu watched the car zoom out of the compound, picked her phone and made a quick call.

“Ahmed, that your pen that records videos and conversations? Yes that one, I need it”.

She smiled wryly as the call ended, Nene had no idea what was coming.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The flight to Abuja was the best time Nene had ever had, she was sick though, she was flying for the first time and she felt like throwing up immediately they started flying.

Jaiye held her hands through it and helped her calm down. He even went late for his meeting because of her.

After the meeting, they visited the African bar he had promised. It was made solely of bamboo, adire materials hung as the curtains and the tables and chairs were made of bamboo and mahogany. On the tables were small african pots, in them were cowries and sea shells. Playing there as they walked in was a Beautiful Nubia number, Jaiye draped an arm around her shoulder and held her close.

She watched him greet his very powerful friends and Nene watched them respond and greet her with so much respect. This was what it felt like to move with people in the high class, she noted. And she had to admit it felt very good. It made her feel so damn special, never in her life had she felt so special.

He danced with her all night, told her jokes and eventually got her tipsy.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you if anything happens” he promised when she hesitated at first. And she believed him as they took cup after cup of the alcoholic drink they were served.

When they got back to his hotel suite, he led her in as she giggled like a little girl, thanks to the alcohol.

“You are beautiful” he said to her and she kept giggling.

“You’re handsome Jaiye” she said to him.

“Oh I am?” He asked. And she nodded. She threw her arms around his neck and he raised her chin with his finger, she stopped giggling then, the space between them was small and the atmosphere was charged.

“Can I kiss you?” He asked and she nodded slowly. Then he planted wet kisses on her lips first, after which he teased her lips with his tongue, gently he parted the lips and took charge of her mouth, like it was his business and like he was the only one in charge.

Nene’s phone stopped them. It was Mercy.

“I’m sorry I have to take this” she said to Jaiye. He nodded in response. “Hello Mercy”

“Hello sister. I’m at the airport, on my way to overseas…America. Please take care of my baby,I left her with Aunty Maggie. I will be back very soon” and the line went dead.

“Christ Jesus!” Nene exclaimed in utter shock.

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