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She gaped at him from where she stood across him in the room. The night before, she had heard him say something about marriage. Or, like she told herself when she woke up – she had imagined he said that.
For some reason, she had believed she dreamt it, that it was not real. Never had she thought it was his voice she heard for real before drifting off into sleep.
He wanted to marry her?
“I cannot marry you, you killed my father.”
“I do not want to marry you either.”
The idea was beginning to seem less appealing. He was not the type of man to hurry into marriage. His mother had plans to make him settle with a certain Peju back in Tede. And he had waved it aside. So getting married was not something he wanted to do.
However, he was trying to save this woman. Why he felt the need to, he didn’t know, neither did he understand. However, he wanted to care for her and to protect her so badly, he would do anything to ensure nothing bad happened to her – including marrying her.
“So why are you marrying me if you do not want to?”
“Many people get married without wanting to. I am sure you have a betrothed who you don’t like but would have married anyway.” When he started to mention the existence of a betrothed, it was to drive home his point. However, as he continued to speak, he realized he wanted to know if she had someone waiting for her back at home.
If she cared for him. If the impending wedding between them would change anything.
“But I will marry him ten times over you!” she replied and there was his answer.
“So you do have a betrothed.”
She shrugged, “What does it matter?”
“You are right, it wouldn’t matter after this morning.”
He turned to leave when she stood in his way, “What is your game plan? Do you think you would rule if you marry me?”
He smirked, “That is a brilliant idea I never thought of but Princess,” he stroked her cheek gently with his fingers, “I fight for my throne, I don’t buy it.”
They locked gazes, both looking into each other’s eyes with so many questions they didn’t have answers to. At first, his eyes had settled on her luscious lips but slowly, they had found their way into her brown eyes.
Unwilling to let another moment pass without knowing what those lips tasted like, he leaned forward. But as he was about to cover her mouth with his, his mother burst in.
She was fuming and she also looked exhausted and unprepared. She seemed like she had been dragged out of bed and was given no room to prepare before she came to Saki.
Oyelese was not joking.
“What is this nonsense I hear about marrying the enemy?”
If she saw his companion, she did not act like it. With her gaze fixed on her son, her hands on her hips, she waited for answers.
“Maami, why did they drag you out here like this?”
“This is not enough reason to be dragged? You are about to destroy all our lives!”
“I am saving it.”
“Saving our lives by marrying her?!” Only then did she acknowledge Adeola and it was with a finger pointed in her direction, disdain on her face.
“Oyelese has other plans that will have us all killed faster,” he turned and faced Adeola who was listening with rapt attention. “Please, could you excuse us?”
“While you are talking about me? I think not.” She said stubbornly, willing to remain while her fate was being decided. If she couldn’t sit with the men to hear, she could remain here and find out their entire plan.
“I am not sure you want to hear any of the things that would be said.” He said calmly.
“I want to.”
He shrugged, looking at his mother who was still awaiting his excuse. “Oyelese wants her maimed, maami.” Adeola gasped.
Both mother and son ignored her, “You could have found other options.”
“Like what? We heard they were planning to attack. It is a surprise they haven’t made it here yet.”
“And you think marriage would solve this somehow?”
He nodded, “Yes. If we send them pieces of her one after the other like the men want, they would attack viciously.”
“And if you marry her they would hand you the throne and eat meat with you?” His mother inquired, incredulous.
“No. But it would buy us time.”
His mother held his gaze for a long time, as if to see if something was wrong with him. Oyekunle knew that look; it was the one she gave him when he was down with fever. He had seen a lot of it as a little boy.
“Is this sorcery?” she asked calmly, like Oyelese had asked him the night before.
He sighed in frustration, “I am with my senses.” He replied.
“I will not believe that until I speak to some of the best medicine men in Saki.” And with that she left.
Silence fell upon the room long after his mother was gone. He was about to exit when his companion spoke to him, “Why are you protecting me?”
He shrugged. He honestly didn’t know. And he wished he did. Not just so he could provide her with an answer, but because he also needed to know himself.
“My brother will come for your head if he hears you married me.”
“I am not scared of your brother. On the contrary, I am scared for what my friends can do to you.”
“You’re protecting your enemy from your friends.”
“I am protecting you from your enemies.”
She was confused. “But my brother and I are your enemies…”
“I have never been afraid of your brother. But I am afraid of what my friends can do to you.” He sighed when he realized how hard it seemed for her to comprehend why he was trying to save her. “Have you seen the land? That was your father. These people want blood and your blood will gratify them. However, they are not thinking. If they were, they would know your blood isn’t what will give them the revenge they want.”
“So whose blood is it that will provide this revenge they thirst for?”
“Your brother’s; everybody and anybody considered a heir to the throne.”
Adeola’s gaze fell. “Don’t kill my brother.” She pleaded. Her brother did not have the heart for war and she couldn’t bear losing another member of her family to the senseless battle.
“This is war.”
She moved closer, her eyes teary “I know. But you devised a way out for me! Do same for my brother!”
“Your brother wants my blood.”
She fell silent. Her breathing had become heavier, he noticed and he felt if he listened hard enough, he would hear her heart beat.
She was too close to him he realized. And he told himself if she stepped any closer, he would not be able to control himself. He had tried all he could so far already. It was becoming harder to stand so close to her without reaching for her the way he desperately wanted to.
“I would do everything within my power to keep you safe,” his voice had become raspy, his body threatening to betray him.
“I…” his lips crushed into hers. Fueled with a deep hunger to know her, he searched for her tongue, probing for more even when she gave. She tasted as sweet as he thought she would. The deliciousness of her lips sucking him in and losing him when she opened up.
She threw her arms around his neck and he held her tightly by the waist.
The woman had him undone and he knew this kiss was a huge mistake.
He had started and now, stopping would be almost impossible.
When Oyelese saw the mother of the man he had formed a brotherly bond with emerging from his Hut, he hurried towards her, expectant.
“What did he say?” he inquired, worried that the man had not changed his mind.
And when Oyekunle’s mother’s face fell, his fears came true. So he walked past her and headed for his Hut.
The joke had to cease. They were in a war and were trying to bring their enemies down, not exchange marital vows and make love!
The devastation in his land was a reminder of what Adeola’s father had done to them. How was he to face his people and tell them he would be organizing a wedding ceremony with the daughter of the man who ruined their lives in his own compound?
Bursting in through the door, his eyes beheld the most shocking thing yet – Oyekunle was holding the enemy in his arms, kissing her like his life depended on it.
He waited for a while, letting his anger die a bit, because he knew it couldn’t die completely no matter how hard he tried.
“Oyekunle,” he called finally, when he figured he had waited enough.
The man tore himself away from the kiss and faced him. At first, when Oyekunle had announced his decision to marry the woman he now kissed passionately, he had been worried he had been bewitched. But now, as he stood face to face with the man he had known since he was a little boy, he knew this was all him.
And he knew that this was more threatening than witchcraft.
Because, a man could be cured of witchcraft by the best medicine men in the land. What he couldn’t be cured of, was falling deeply in love.
“May I have a word with you?” he asked and Adeola, shy, excused them.
Oyekunle tried to steady the pace at which his heart raced. He wanted more of the woman he just tasted; he wanted to kiss her again, to feel the warmth of her skin, the feel of her full breasts. He wanted to make love to her slowly, passionately and carefully. He wanted to handle her with care, to spill his seed inside of her. He wanted to do everything in his head to her over and over again until she couldn’t take it anymore.
And he wondered if she wanted him too. She had seemed like it earlier when he kissed her but he knew he would only want it if she did too. There was no fun making love to a woman who was not ready to experience the passion with him.
“So this thing is serious?” Oyelese asked him, his brows furrowed into a frown.
Oyekunle shook his head, “No.”
“But you still want to marry her.”
“Yes. If I do, her family won’t react…”
“Are you in love with her?”
“Of course not. You know why this must be done.”
Oyelese fell silent for a minute before he said, “I will never understand this insane decision but I will support you as my brother.”
Oyekunle offered a half smile, relieved to have his brother on his side. “Thank you.”
And as Oyelese turned to go, Oyekunle asked him, “I want to get married tomorrow morning. Can we proceed with the preparations immediately?”
To which Oyelese replied, “Of course.”