“Daddy, can I get a tattoo when I turn thirteen?”
Folarin’s fingers froze over his laptop as he looked daggers at his daughter. Cyrus, just coming in from the kitchen, chuckled. He plumped down beside Folarin, feasting on a couple of drumsticks.
“What the hell would you want a tattoo for?” Folarin probed.
Vanessa had been going through a Complete Fashion magazine. She spread open a page and showed it to her father.
“Oge Okoye has tattoos and I think she’s really fine, so can I have one?”
“Nessa, you don’t need tattoos to be beautiful.”
“But Mommy always says you’re handsome and you have all these tattoos.”
“My tattoos are an expression of my beliefs and also they signify certain milestones in my life. Come let me show you.”
He put his laptop aside as his daughter hurdled closer.
“I had this one when your mom had you,” he explained, pointing at a tattoo on his arm that replicated Vanessa’s first thumbprint as a baby. After that, he went on to explain what the other ones meant.
“Cool.” The nine-year-old grinned when he was done. “So can I have one when I turn thirteen?”
“No. Tattoos are for adults. And when I say adults, I mean from twenty-one,” he added, leaving a stare on Cyrus.
From outside, a familiar sound made Folarin sit up. “Your mom is home. Quick, turn off the lights.”
“Must we? Really?” Cyrus grumbled.
Vanessa, in the same mood as Folarin, went to get the light switch while Folarin handed Cyrus a pair of maracas. He held out a stadium horn and Vanessa took a paper horn.
“Remind me what this is all about again?” Cyrus whined. Folarin smiled secretly. He wasn’t telling. Having taken a whole semester learning psychology back in school, he knew a couple of things about messing with the mind of a guilty person. He was going to have fun screwing with Christie mentally. It was the best way to keep him preoccupied while he closely monitored her activities.
He heard the door handle turn and what followed was the familiar creak that came with the front door opening. He saw her silhouette in the dark, feminine and perfect. He could tell she had loosened her hair. It spread out fully and fell across her shoulder. Even with everything she had done to hurt him, the thought of kissing her came on strong.
The lights went on.
Christie clutched her chest in fright, her other hand still on the light switch. The sounds of horns and maracas died down as she remained standing like one who had seen a ghost.
“What is wrong with you people? How can you scare somebody like that?”
“Not my idea.” Cyrus flung his instrument. “Welcome.”
He disappeared into his room. Vanessa ran to her and held her in a tight hug but Christie did not let up. Folarin watched her features. It was too much apprehension for something as little as a surprise welcome.
“Don’t be angry. We just wanted to surprise you,” Vanessa explained. “You always say you like surprises.”
“I do but this was… I don’t know. Maybe too much?”
She tousled her daughter’s hair. “I bought you something from Accra.”
Folarin’s brows shot up.
“I mean, Beijing,” Christie quickly corrected. Only then did she look into Folarin’s eyes. He had a smile waiting. Her return smile was guilty. It made him sad. That first look was important. If she had aced it, he would have doubted his suspicions.
“But I’ll give you what I bought tomorrow, Nessa. Now, I am tired and I need to eat and sleep. Tomorrow, we’ll do some Easter shopping, just us girls, and you can show me your report booklet. You did well, didn’t you?”
Vanessa shook her head. “Maths was bad. I think my teacher hates us. He gives us all these things in exams that he doesn’t teach us. It’s like he wants us to fail.”
Christie looked at Folarin for help.
“Nessa, time for bed. You can talk to Mommy about this tomorrow.”
Folarin dragged his daughter away from the sitting room and walked her to her bedroom door.
“Mommy doesn’t like surprises,” she said. “We should not do another one for her. She could have a heart attack and die.”
“I saw it in a movie. This fat woman took off her clothes and her neighbor just fell down and died. The doctor said he had a heart attack. Cyrus said it was a boob attack and I was like, seriously?”
Folarin stifled a laugh. Vanessa had her days when she was quiet and cut everyone off. Then she had days like this one when she was adorable, with her mother’s wit and twinkling eyes. Folarin was scared that a divorce, if it ever came to that, would destroy her.
Yes, he had thought that far, but it scared him more to think that he could ever lose Christie.
“Oya go and sleep.”
“Ó dà àárọ, daddy.”
“Ó dà àárọ̀, sweetheart.”
Folarin made sure she was in bed before he went to his bedroom. Christie was out of her clothes, save for her panty. She was standing before her idea wall. It was a huge board she erected on one of the walls. On it she wrote all the great ideas she ever came up with; many of them were the most popular ads ever on TV and radio.
She was scribbling down a fresh idea when Folarin came in.
“You don’t seem tired for someone who just flew in from Beijing.”
“Naa, I’m good. Body and mind high on inspiration.”
“Are you hungry?”
“Not really. So I was thinking… Will you come to church with me on Sunday?”
Christie turned, covering the tip of her pen. “Baby, it’s Easter. Please.”
“I have a thing on that day.”
“A thing?” She moseyed to the mini-fridge they had in the room where they kept chocolate, wine and water for binging purposes.
“Nothing serious. Work related.”
She bent over, squirreling out her favorite chocolate bars from the fridge.
Folarin was turned on seeing her in that position – then he remembered his conversation with Salma and agreed that he most likely wasn’t normal. Christie had probably been in that position with Raji taking her from behind. Why was he not as angry at her as he had been two days ago? Why did he maintain this cold, unruffled attitude over the whole thing?
He walked over and held her by the waist. She straightened up.
“Báwo ni iṣẹ́” she asked.
“Work is nauseating, sweetie.”
His lips pressed into her shoulder.
“How was your trip?”
“Tiring. You know how China can be. Half the world is there and they all look alike and you’re bumping into them everywhere…”
“But did you have fun?”
“Was Raji with you?”
She had been chewing on a piece of chocolate. At his question, she stopped.
“Why would Raji be with me?”
“You guys always travel together. Besides, Salma tried calling his lines and couldn’t get through.”
“He wasn’t with me. I don’t know where he went to but he came back yesterday.”
Christie pushed chocolate through Folarin’s lips. He turned her around and they kissed, swapping chocolate through their tongues. He dug his hand through her panty, pushing one side of it below her bum before lifting her off the floor. She giggled and wrapped her legs around him.
“I missed you,” she whispered.
They went towards the bed. He laid her on her back.
“We need wine,” he said.
“No, we need you inside me now-now.”
He walked to the fridge and went for a bottle of wine and a cork opener.
“Just come,” Christie begged hungrily. The guilt she had come home with still claimed residence in her eyes. Her laughter was overly-emphatic, showing too much teeth. Folarin’s cheeks dimpled and the corners of his eyes creased in a sad expression. Christie was displaying hints of her infidelity. She was struggling to push away the guilt with awesome sex. It was her way of telling herself she still loved him.
In the past, sex between them had often been spearheaded by him, even though it always turned out great. She used to be too tired to initiate anything, often complaining and letting him do all the work. But out of the blue, everything changed.
She now wanted him at random places, at odd times, with crazy, new positions and multiple orgasms. He had been happy for the change, thanking whatever gods of sex that existed for bringing his wife back. It was excruciating and emasculating now to think his friend was responsible for that change.
“Folarin, pretty please… come.”
Folarin walked over to the bed and Christie dragged him down to it. The suddenness of her action made the wine bottle slip off his grip and to the floor where it shattered. She stopped for a second, but then laughter erupted from her. He allowed her the moment and when she was done, she sent her hand down his shorts.
“So let’s role-play.”
“And who will I be today?”
“A married man.”
“I am a married man.”
“No, you’re not you. You’re the husband to another woman. And I’m the wife to another man. We’re both having an affair.”
“That sounds like fun.”
“It is.” She broke out in giggles as he slammed her down on the bed and kissed her belly button.
“Well, enjoy it for as long as it lasts,” he said before sending his mouth lower.
Lade had never seen Manny this angry before. In fact, nobody had ever seen him this angry. Their mutual friends, Lulu and Susan, stood in stunned silence as he paced about the busy sitting area of a community hospital where Lade was waiting for a doctor.
But Manny wasn’t just pacing about; he was laying out expletives at Tayo, who was absent, promising to take his life when next he came across him.
Lade, tired of begging him to be calm, sat in pain. Bruises marked her face and hands. Her left side was sore and the pillow Lulu had given her to rest on, wasn’t offering much comfort. She was desperate for pain medication, and maybe something that would make her forget that Tayo had actually hurt her. It had happened about an hour ago, but the incident still haunted her.
The rage on his face when she told him she was leaving him. The hate that followed the rage. The look that turned him into a being she didn’t recognize. The way he went at her like a bull on steroids.
That hadn’t been Tayo. Not her husband. That was someone else…someone strange. Not her Tayo.
“Oga, I will send you out o! This is your last warning! If you don’t keep quiet, I will send you out!”
Lade managed to lift the eye that had been lucky enough to escape Tayo’s wrath and saw a motherly figure standing before her.
“Oya, give me your hand, my dear. The doctor will see you now.”
Lulu and the nurse helped Lade up. She could walk but each movement came with pain. Resting her weight on both ladies, she was led to an office where a tired doctor, listening to the radio on his phone, ushered them in. She was placed on an exam table. Lulu was asked to leave.
The doctor asked routine questions about how she got her bruises. It was difficult for Lade to expound. With each word, a tear came. It was still hard to think that Tayo had actually been violent with her.
“So he locked you in the house because you supported his mother?” the nurse asked.
“Na wa o. And then when he came back from work, he decided to beat you?”
“No. We had another argument and that was when he hit me.”
“What did you tell him that made him beat you like this?”
Lade didn’t like the insinuation in the woman’s voice, even though she blamed herself for pushing Tayo over the edge. She had been rude and mouthy and called him names for the first time in their marriage. She had told him she wanted nothing to do with him and was going to do well on her own. She recalled how he had begged her to stop talking, using a quiet but menacing tone, repeating himself over and over as she kept on with her rant. She had pushed him. The fault wasn’t entirely his.
“I didn’t do anything,” she said to the nurse.
Lade did not reply. The doctor had pressed two fingers into her side. She cringed as a feverish tremor passed through her.
“Lie down, madam, but take off your blouse first.”
Lade obeyed his orders and lay down. The light above her was bright and hurt her injured eye. The other eye tried to focus but there were dots and little transparent worms in her view.
Outside, someone was groaning in pain. The sound of the radio in the doctor’s room was getting fainter. The table beneath Lade rocked gently as if she was being carried by giant arms.
“Doctor, she’s bleeding…”
The nurse’s voice floated above her.
She saw his face, smiling at her. He was telling her how sorry he was.
Everything went dark.
“The quickest cure for a fever is a cold shower, Andre. Get in there and pour water on your body.”
Andre pushed his hands into his pockets and stood stubbornly before Toni’s bathroom. She was picking up that he enjoyed being pigheaded for fun. She wondered how his mother had coped with him as a child.
“All I need is a pair of paracetamol pills and some of that spicy stew, vegetables and rice you promised.”
“Uhn-uhn. We’ll do it my way because I am your nurse. You will go in there and have that cold shower and then you can have anything else you want.”
He was holding out a rubber ducky he had picked from her washbasin. He squeezed it and it squealed. He continued squeezing until the sound drove her wild. She snatched the toy off his hand.
“I’m going to send you home if I tell you one more time to get into that bathroom and you disobey my orders. You won’t eat any rice or get to play chess with me.”
He unbuttoned his shirt and revealed a toned physique she had fantasized about in passing a couple of times.
He slapped the shirt onto her hands. Next, he went for his belt buckle. She heard him unzip his fly, and then she looked away. But the only thing that fell into her hands was his belt.
“You want me to take this off as well?” he questioned. He was already shoving down his denim.
“No. What is wrong with you? Just go in there.”
She turned around as he disappeared into the bathroom. Not long after, she heard the shower. Obviously, he had left the door open.
Toni laid his stuff on her dressing stool. She picked her phone from the table and called Leticia.
“Babe…” Leticia yawned. “Wetin dey?”
“I’m good,” Toni answered, carting down her skirt. “Just came in from the office. Your boyfriend included me in you people’s brainstorming nonsense.”
“For the BMW thing?”
“So how are them momsie?”
“Them dey. Loading me with food and prayers.”
“You need both.” Toni put Leticia on speakerphone and took off her blouse. “So guess who is sleeping over tonight.”
There was a pause.
Leticia screamed, causing Toni to fall into this sheepish smile that was now associated with mentions and thoughts of Andre.
“Lower your voice.”
“He’s there with you?”
“No. He’s in the bathroom.”
“Already? Have you guys…?”
“Not yet?” Disappointment colored the question.
Toni’s bra followed the rest of her clothes to the floor.
“If I hear that you allowed that man out of that house and nothing happened between two of you, Antonia, I swear, I will not talk to you until the end of Easter.”
“You know me. If I want to do, I’ll do. Nothing will stop me. Right now, I’m undecided.”
“You better be decided. Em… I have to go. Momsie is calling us for night prayers.”
“We’ll talk tomorrow.”
Toni’s screen lit up as the call terminated. She slipped into a shorter skirt, a crop top and discarded her dirty clothes in a laundry basket just near the bathroom. She couldn’t help taking a peep. What she saw both disappointed and pleased her.
Andre was under the shower – still in his denim. She had hoped he’d be naked. Nonetheless, the sight was for sore eyes. He was toned for days; his pelvic muscle, which formed a V bearing down, made her uncomfortable but in a pleasurable way.
“Aunty, you want to join me?”
His voice made her dash away. She hurried to the kitchen to prepare a late dinner.
Lade opened her eyes. Manny was seated beside her. She had hoped it would be Tayo.
“Hi,” she murmured.
Manny dumped his phone aside and drew closer. “Hey, luv.”
“Please don’t tell me I’m on admission.” She looked around, picking the settings of a private hospital room.
“They had to. You almost lost the baby.”
Lade didn’t respond. She noted that he had said ‘the baby’ and not ‘your baby’.
“Did Tayo call me?”
“No. And even if he did, neither Lulu nor I would have answered.”
Lade tried to move her hand but saw that she was intubated.
“I hate this.”
“I know luv but you’ll be out of here tomorrow. I promise.”
He leaned over and kissed her lips. She wished it was Tayo kissing her. She badly wanted to see him, to hear him say he was sorry, and that he loved her and hadn’t meant to hit her.
“There was a yellow envelope I told Lulu to help me pick when you guys came to the house to get me. Is she still with it?”
“The one with two thousand pounds and a note from your mother-in-law?”
Manny lifted himself off his chair and took out the mentioned envelope from his back pocket. He passed it over to her.
“Lulu will keep it safe for you.”
“It’s the note I want.”
Manny helped take out a folded piece of white paper from the envelope. Lade spread it open and re-assimilated the information Joyce had left with her.
I have cancer and I am dying. But Tayo does not need to know this. I don’t want him to accept me just because I am ill.
Everything I own is to be shared between him, Dapo, you and my lost daughter, Antonia Braithwaite. She owns the bulk of my inheritance. Yes, I have found her and she’s done so well for herself. I am proud. But I’m too much of a coward to approach her. I fear that she might hate me as her brothers do. So, I am leaving you with this huge responsibility of looking for her and telling her all about me. If your conversation with her goes well and she is enthusiastic about meeting me, I will fly back to Lagos and reunite with her. But if she isn’t, it will be fine with me.
Take care of the baby you’re carrying. Don’t ask me how I know you’re pregnant. I have not lost my motherly instincts.
I love you, Omolade, and I will miss you. Please be careful with Tayo. I sense some vicious tendencies in him. I do hope I am wrong. But I have counseled many a gentleman like him and the signs are too conspicuous to be ignored. Still, I hope I am wrong. No mother wants to think her son is a monster. Do make sure you have someone you can always run to should things turn terribly. My best recommendation will be Antonia. From her photos, she seems nice, although I might just be a hopeful mother.
Do take care of yourself, my darling.
Lade folded back the paper in half. She looked up to find Manny staring at her intently.
“I need your help finding someone, Manuel.”
He flashed his teeth. “This drug is really getting you high. You called me Manuel. Do you remember when last you called me that?”
Lade tried not to remember. It had been the night they had sex. She was high on alcohol and told him ‘Manuel’ sounded sexier than ‘Manny’.
“Stop being silly.”
“Aww, you’re so cute when you’re sick and trying to be serious but your speech slurs.”
She stared at him with a tired expression.
“Okay, go on.”
“Her name is Antonia Braithwaite.”
“Why are you looking for her?”
“No questions. Just help me. I don’t know anything else about her.”
“Fine. I’ll help. Anything else Manuel can do for you, La Princessa?”
“Shut up. I’m sleepy.”
“I have good news for you.” Manny stroked her fingers. “I spoke to the director of my movie and you are getting a callback.”
“Really?” she asked slowly, finding it hard to smile.
“Yes. They loved you and they want to see you do your thing once more. And I know you will get the role.”
“Thank you, Manny.”
“And once you do, baby, nothing will stop you. That bastard will not even dare. And I swear, Lade, if I see Tayo in this town, he will regret ever touching you.”
Lade couldn’t defend Tayo. Her eyes felt heavy again. She shut them and found sleep.
Salma woke up, startled. The room was pitch-black and for a moment she panicked. But she remembered where she was and the indulgence of the room she had slept in. Her breath let down slowly and she lay down again, feeling the fluffiness of the mattress beneath her.
The house was huge, fully decorated, with furniture and electronics in every room. When Folarin had called the amount the owner placed for rent, Salma whistled. Her reaction got Folarin laughing.
“Raji taught me that.”
“Yeah. I was bad at it, so he took one whole evening with bottles of water to teach me how to whistle like a dude.”
She had caught herself smiling at the memory her story conjured and drew out a fast frown.
“So why is the house all decorated like people once lived here?”
“People once lived here. Exactly eight months ago, the owner of the house lost his wife in a car accident. They both used to live here.”
“Sad.” Salma looked around. Long brown drapes with bronze ornaments brought warmth to the large living room they stood in.
“So where is the widower, your friend?”
“He lives up north and sometimes out of the country. He doesn’t want the house anymore. He wants to lease it out with everything in it. But you’re welcome to stay for as long as you want.”
“Just a week.” Salma stared up a grand staircase. “But why won’t he just sell the house?”
“It belonged to his late wife. She was the rich one.” Folarin smiled. “He and I have a lot in common.”
“Let me take you upstairs…”
Salma blinked as the first blob of sweat broke through the thin skin on her forehead. She hated to sweat. From the first day she walked into Raji’s house until the present, she had slept under comfortable conditions. Every night, with the air conditioner on at low temperature. And when she got too cold, he always wrapped her in his arms; including the times when she had shut him out.
She turned to her side on the strange but comfortable bed. She couldn’t deny how much she missed him. Her eyes went wet at the thought.
Salma sprang up to ward off an impending emotional moment. She let her feet to the floor and felt the cool of the marble finishing beneath her disappear fast. She hurried to the nearest window and parted heavy drapes. The windows were dusty and stained with fingerprints. She opened them. A mild draft of air blew in. It wasn’t enough to satisfy her, so she did the same with the other windows. Ultimately, the room was cool enough, but she was thirsty for a drink of water.
Wrapping her robe securely around her, Salma used the torchlight on her phone to find her way out. She came out to a long hallway, dark and eerie. Hurrying towards the stairs, she kept the light to the floor. Silence reigned in the quiet walls. Nothing Salma was uncomfortable with. Her home, although way smaller, was silent and hollow most of the time. She had learned to embrace the aloneness that often met her when the children left for school each day.
It was no different from this.
Salma approached the staircase and suddenly felt a presence behind her. She spun around too fast, losing her footing. The result was a quick slide. She lost her balance and found herself falling backwards. In a flash, she saw a vision of how terrible her fall would be.
She screamed and tried to grope the bannister but her hand was grasped by something else – fleshy and human. The thing stretched out and snatched her up by the waist, pulling her into a man’s body. She felt her own body being dragged away from the stairs to more reliable ground, and then let go.
Salma placed her hand on her chest to slow heavy breaths.
“Are you okay?” a voice, lazy and nonchalant, asked. Salma lifted her eyes to find the face of a man she couldn’t see quite clearly. He wore a black jalabia, long and regal.
“You must be Salma,” he said in a northern accent.
“Who are you?” she asked, still shaken.
“Ahmed. I own this house.”
“Folarin didn’t tell me you’ll be here.”
“I just came in. Lost my wallet, so I couldn’t stay in a hotel. Sorry for scaring you.”
It was still hard to see his face in the dark.
“You were going downstairs. You wanted something?”
“Just go back in. I’ll tell the maid to bring it up to you. Sorry, the gen is bad for lack of use. We’ll have to wait for NEPA.”
Salma watched him turn away and wondered what the pain of losing one’s spouse to death felt like.
Toni thought she saw a nude man walk across her room.
Or maybe she was still dreaming.
She shut her eyes and opened it again and he was no longer there. She went back to sleep.
A while later she woke up and remembered why a nude man was in her room. At the memory, she smiled. If Leticia was around, she would be smiling with her, but it would be for nothing – because she had done nothing with Andre.
But there had been sex in the air. Heavy and overpowering, starting from the moment they both stepped out of her car the previous night, and he walked her to her door.
“In American movies, I would give you a kiss on the cheek and leave,” he said.
“What’s stopping you?”
“In French movies, we would be making out right here before we decide to stumble in and finish it off on the nearest wall. In Korean movies, nothing would happen but a year later, we would have a kid.”
Toni laughed. Andre gave his mischievous smile, watching her.
“What about Nigerian movies?”
“Ah. We’ll be in bed by now, our legs bumping against each other beneath a blanket.”
She blushed. His description had been uttered slowly, laced with sexual undertones. She followed his lead.
“And Ivoirian movies? How do they do it?”
“With twists and turns… and then maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow morning and discover that your heart is taken and I’m nowhere to be found.”
“Trust me, no man can take my heart. There’s actually nothing there…”
He didn’t smile, even though she did. Instead he sneezed.
“Come in, let me treat that cold and fever.”
“Do you want me, Toni?” he asked from nowhere.
Toni sucked her lips in under a blush. “Why are you like this?”
She tried to look into his eyes, but she couldn’t. She was not like this with other men. There was just something different about him.
“Just say it. Say you want me, Toni.”
She wanted him but he wasn’t making things easy.
“Am I making it difficult for you? You want me to simplify?”
She nodded. He took a step forward and put his lips close to hers. He breathed in loud enough for her to hear.
“Your lips smell sweet.”
He kissed her in a slow manner, as if searching for something. The first few strokes of his lips against hers got her, but just as she was leaning forward for more, he withdrew, seriousness on his face.
He made a turn.
“Stay.” She held his hand before it left her body.
“You’re sure you want that?”
“Forget my health and the fact that I need you to take care of me. It’s all a ploy. We both know that… I just want to be sure of what we’re getting into. I like things defined. And I think you do too – unless you want to toy with me.”
“Then what do you want from me?”
“For once, I don’t know,” she replied honestly. And maybe Andre believed her because that confession was all it took to have him in her house and in her bedroom. But he did not sleep with her because neither of them had protection. Andre hadn’t been intimate with anyone in a while and didn’t have need for condoms; Toni had a rule of not bringing her men into her home and hence didn’t see why she should keep any form of protection. In frustration, they gave up the idea of sex after ransacking Leticia’s bedroom and not finding a condom.
However, there were intense kisses, feverish caresses and full nudity. They talked for most of the night, energized by wine and food. She thought he had an amazing body. He was crazy about her breasts. They were the next most beautiful things on her body other than her eyes.
But they talked about other things apart from body parts, and fell asleep spooning.
Toni awoke fully at half past ten, alone and with the smell of Andre’s perfume around her. As a skilled mistress, she was never caught by her men in a less-than fresh moments. She was always clean, sweet-smelling and alluring.
After a pampering shower, she came out and changed into a simple, sunny dress, letting her hair up in a knotted chignon. When she stepped out to the sitting room, she saw Andre, seated and watching the news. He was having a drink of her special ginger and honey tea, and of course he was naked, having soaked his denim and briefs the night before.
But other than that, his nakedness was something she would have to get used to as he had told her. He was an unapologetic nudist.
He looked at her. “Morning. So I was thinking that I should leave since I feel better (thank you) but I just can’t get over the fact that you are circumcised.”
“What a way to start a conversation in the morning. Are you always so random?”
“So I’ve been told. Back to the topic about your clitoral disposition. Or in this case, indisposition…”
“It is not indisposed, Fabrice. It’s still there, just with the hood missing. Well, you saw it.”
“So you’ve had orgasms in the hands of only one man?”
“And all the others were doing what?”
She chuckled. “They didn’t even notice anything different.”
“Wow. Men are idiots. I saw it at first glance.”
He winked. “And I want so badly to test my skills.”
Toni started towards the kitchen but a knock on the door stopped her.
“You should go inside,” she whispered to Andre as she went for the door. He ignored her.
She looked through the peephole and saw Mark standing outside.
“Do I really need to go in?” Andre asked. “Or you’re going out?”
“Erm…” a naughty idea hit her. “Stay.”
She unlocked the door with an inviting smile. “Hi, Mark.”
He pursed his lips for a kiss but she moved away.
“I’ve come for that special thanks you wanted to give me on Thurs…”
His smile vanished as he spotted Andre.
“Dude.” Andre raised his mug in greeting. Mark responded with a half-nod.
“What’s this?” he asked Toni undertone.
“Um…Andre, meet Mark, my ex.”
“And Mark, that’s Andre. He’s my boyfriend.”
Mark focused, not on Andre, but on Toni.
“Technically, I am not,” Andre responded. Toni swiveled at him. “Seeing that we haven’t had sex yet. I can promise you that. But I can’t promise you that it would remain that way the instant you leave here. We’re in the process oiling things up.”
Toni bit hard into her lower lip to hide back a grin.
“Okay,” Mark grumbled through tightened lips. He turned around and walked out.
“What is wrong with you?” Toni asked, giggling.
Andre didn’t seem to hear her. He had gone back to what he was watching on TV.
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